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Perhaps the hardest task of the student of religious phenomena is to fathom the depths of personality in which religious ideas originate or take root. When we have gathered all the possible facts of heredity and environment there still remains this greatest thing of all, personality, to account for, or rather, to describe and value as best we may. The large majority of Mr. Dowie's contemporaries are quick in their judgment of him, pronouncing him "a charlatan," "a faker," "a fanatic," "a humbug;" "an actor," "a blackguard," "an impostor." But this will not answer, at least until we have shown good reason for coming to such conclusions, since, during all ages of the Christian Church men have risen as leaders of sects who have since been similarly vilified or estimated by their contemporaries, and who, as we judge them now impartially, are seen to be characters from whom mixed influences have come; who have done good as well as harm.

It will hardly do to call John Brown a prophet of righteousness, and yet there was some method in his madness which compels us to regard him as more than a fanatic.

However, in estimating a man of the past we secure as best we can the clearly expressed opinions of his contemporaries, both enemies and friends, and eliminating the co-efficient of prejudice when we can ascertain its extent, we arrive at a balanced valuation. We must then note the streams of influence; the institutions and ideas which he originated or deflected, or checked. There can be little doubt that the press as a voice of public opinion would make short work of Mr. Dowie and pronounce him all bad and his influence inimical to society. A fair sample of this estimate of the man and his




work; one which would receive the hearty amen of the vast majority in the Christian Churches, appeared in the New York Examiner of October 22nd, 1903, as an editorial. It goes briefly into the further problem of the people Mr. Dowie leads and intimates what may be reasons for his great power over so large a group of people:




There are a number of good reasons for Dowie's failure in New York, not the least among them being that he is a bore. The Overseer of Zion really has nothing to say, and says that nothing so stupidly that a few minutes of him suffice to tire ordinarily intelligent people. ...

There is no mystery about Dowie's success as a "leader and organizer of men," as to which so much is written. You have but to see the men he leads in order to understand him. They are as inferior physically as mentally. Hardly without exception they are weak-framed, dull-witted creatures of the sort who crave a master as a dog does. Dowie at Zion City is the one-eyed King in the country of blind men. He has abounding vigor, limitless egotism and the exhaustless impudence of the born fakir. And like all born fakirs, he is as greedy as shameless.

It does Dowie too much honor to suspect him of fanaticism. There is no sincerity to the man, except in his determination to keep up and increase the fine business he has established. He knows that the world is rich in fools, and he is forever working to get them to enlist in his tithe-paying army. The larger his army grows the easier it is to add to it, for the desire to join a parading, singing, and especially a uniformed host, rises strongly in the unattached nonentity when the brass-banding procession passes. To be one of a sharply bossed and thoroughly drilled corps is a relief and a delight to the flabby and ignorant, since it exempts them from the effort to boss themselves.

Dowie is a conscious humbug, whose platform arts do not rise at all above those of the less ambitious and more sensitive fakirs who sell patent medicines at night under gasoline torches on the street comers of country towns. The seeming furies in which he throws himself are transparently calculated. They seem to be his chief stock in trade. If he has capacity for connected and sustained discourse, he has not shown it in New York. The burst of simulated rage at the newspapers and the clergy are by way of advertisement. He is aware that the expectation of hearing him revile eminent persons and belch squalid vituperation at the press will draw crowds. The kind of notice that he gets from the newspapers, of which he affects to complain, is precisely the kind of notice he desires and fishes for. He loves notoriety for its own sake, aside from the money it




brings him. To have the center of the stage In the presence of a great crowd, even though that crowd views him with contemptuous curiosity and aversion, is to him what a bottle is to a drunkard. He could not endure obscurity.

Of mountainous vanity, Dowie is destitute of pride, and long ago parted with self-respect. His love of power is a debasing passion. Since as a regular clergyman he could not rise to distinction, he has sought conspicuousness and power by becoming a shouting mountebank, and struts at the head of his Falstaffian army, gorgeous as a drum major. The drunkard may prefer champagne, but if champagne is not to be had he will drink the drippings of beer kegs.

His experience in the pulpit and as a pastor in the days before he became depraved into what he is gives Dowie special knowledge of how to insult Christian men and women in their tenderest feelings and to provoke retort from the clergy, which means advertisement, and advertisement is what this repulsive charlatan lives by.

It is creditable to the intelligence and moral sense of New York that failure complete, humiliating and, let it be hoped, smashing, has come to this preacher whose own prominence and profit are his only gospel. Dowie in seeking a metropolitan triumph has but pilloried himself. It is seen that he has no message to humanity; that he is a posturing and bellowing pretender, that he is without intellect, or eloquence, or wit, or zeal for anything save his own glorification as the leader of a band of human misfits that would follow any leader who cared to shout orders to them. It is true that he has business ability, which is not a rare talent, but it is combined with the cunning and effrontery of the professional fraud.

A coarse-grained, low-minded, shame-bereft money-greedy adventurer, playing one minute the ecstatic dervish, the next the foul-mouthed, furious, blackguard-that is Dowie, and all there is to Dowie. New York has wondered and laughed, and finally been overcome with a disgust in which there is, and can be, mingled no pity, except for the dupes of so gross and rapacious an impostor.


This may seem hard, but for a man who has been accustomed to the kindly spirit usually shown by a speaker in the presence of an audience, doing him the favor of giving him a hearing, it does not seem unjust, although it is not a correct judgment of his character in all respects. It makes no allowance for the element of self-deception. *


* The appearance of Mr. Dowie. In Everybody's Magazine 9: 567, I. K. Friedman says: "His appearance despite the shortness of his frame, his tendency to fatness, his bow legs and his baldness is rather attractive. He really wears the aspect of benevolence and looks the patriarch. ... His shoulders are straight and ample, his eyes bright and piercing, his beard white and flowing. Of his appearance he is extremely vain, showing that he is just as human as those who would cure by methods less divine, and he keeps the official photographer of Zion busy by his constant posing - now in this position, now in that before the untiring eye of the camera. ... His religion is the only ancient institution Dowie will tolerate; in all else he is rigidly up to the hour. Professing a contempt for secular institutions and worldly literature he yet inconsistently sends daughter and son to the best among our American Universities. ... The things rendered unto Elijah the Second are shrewdly invested by Elijah the Restorer for the benefit of John Alexander Dowie. ... His hobby is the collection of rare old English magazines that his more worthy forbears delighted in. His home in Zion City built in the English style of architecture is lavishly furnished, there is a stable full of costly equipages. A summer home across the lake is maintained in great luxury. Indeed the man's vanity and love of ostentation find an outlet in innumerable forms of gaudy and expressive display. By way of justification he is said to have once remarked that the Pope of Rome is surrounded by the best that earth can afford and there is no reason why the Overseer of the C. C. C. should be left a whit behind. ... His private life has been in accordance with the strictest and most conventional moral laws." (This was the uniform belief of the public so far as I could discover  as well as his people, with perhaps the intimation of certain irregularities in the use of Zion money, and overbearing tyranny, by those driven out of Zion until the transfer of the property by Overseer Voliva and the return of Mr. Dowie from Mexico. Then the charges of immorality were first hinted by the usurping officers of Zion.) "One is told of the Restorer's physical cowardice hid under an air of bravado, of his fear of lightning and thunder. Constantly near him is a body guard of strong men, and he maintains a vigilant secret service department."




If character and spirit are revealed in the words used to express thoughts, Mr. Dowie is to say the least an extraordinary man, for one has but to hear him once, to learn that he is a master of the vilest invectives, the most offensive billingsgate; that the elemental passions of anger, pride, hate, selfishness are still uncontrolled in him only a casual observer would clearly see.

It is interesting to notice his chopped, interjectory style of speaking, and cull out a few of his choicest abusive terms.




An analysis of this large output of indecent epithets shows poverty of invention, but earnestness in utterance. A New York editor has pointed out that in his Madison Square Garden harangues there are at least thirty-five epithets used, eleven, or thirty per cent, being variations of the uncomplimentary designation of an adversary as "a dog," "Cur," "hound," "dirty yellow dogs," "dirty hungry dogs," "stupid dogs," hungry filthy curs," give an idea of what use Mr. Dowie makes of this term. The animal kingdom is further drawn on until it is almost incredible that any audience of ordinarily decent people could tolerate his spoken address. "Flies," "rats," "lice," "maggots," "pigs," "swine," with certain variation, frequently occur in his speeches.*

Lacking in inventiveness he time after time uses a form of epithet grown familiar to all who go to hear him, "stink pot," "whiskey pot," "beer pot," and "drug pot.”  This is sufficient to indicate that the language of the gutter falls readily from the lips of Mr. Dowie. (It is true that the worst of these terms occur in the later years of his ministry, being the outcome in part, at least, of the opposition and abuse and ridicule to which the "prophet" has been subjected. In addition however to indicating lack of poise and true self-possession, they show the degeneracy or tendency to degeneracy of his moral character. This point is discussed more fully later.

It is generally conceded that a man's writings are more carefully worded and furnish materials for estimating the man's guarded moments. They show him when studied by true methods of criticism, as he is willing to be known. Mr. Dowie's publications are less tinctured with such foulness, but they breathe a spirit of braggadocio, of conceit, of absolute confidence in himself, of presumption, and of shamelessness. **


*  Mrs. Dowie told me that during his New York visitation he very greatly overworked being on the go from 5 a. m. until midnight taking charge  of three large meetings each day and that his irritability was to be accounted for at least partially by this fact.


** The evolution or devolution of his character is reflected in his words, plans and achievements.




His pamphlet "The Gospel of Divine Healing and How I came to preach it," quoted in full on pages 30-33 takes us into an atmosphere entirely different from his spoken discourse.

Compared with other personal statements, those of men whose sincerity and worth are undoubted, this pamphlet certainly carries a tone of sincerity and an atmosphere of truth. As to the question of the healing it describes no facts are at hand, but from the statement he has given, this man evidently felt himself discovering, and using effectively, a power which is not ordinarily claimed, and in a tone of perfect confidence says he has found Christ's power to heal, "just the same today." The reverence, fair degree of modesty, earnestness, and absolute confidence, indicate that in beginning his ministry of healing as he terms it, Mr. Dowie was sincere, and felt that he possessed a real message which he was bound to proclaim.

When he appeared in America in 1888 he came to spread belief in divine healing by a personal ministry, and healing was the main element in his preaching, although he was at that time quite bald, a sign of imperfect health. * I am aware that there is a difference of opinion at this point, but the statement that hair disease indicates imperfect health and ought to be included in "all diseases" is certainly true. He then knew that healing of all manner of sickness and disease was an impossibility, for he did not heal himself of this disease of the scalp. ** What


* "The Dr. suffers from dyspepsia and frequently can't keep his food down, but the rank and file don't know this. I was driving with him once on Lake Shore drive and he had to part company with his dinner over the side of the carriage." (Letter from former Lace Factory Manager - extract.) It is hardly to be questioned that in addition to his baldness, and the wearing of glasses, that Mr. Dowie has been far from well at times, although making constantly the public statement that he was an entirely well man. This recent sickness of his in which he has had the attendance of a physician is not the first instance in which he has not been able to make his extravagant claims for divine healing good in his own case.


** In the incident of his daughter's death Mr. Dowie does not appear consistent with his claims that all manner of sickness and disease can be healed, but of course this happened much later - in 1902. He says: "The only sad loss I have had was when one dear child was dead before I got to her." Here is an untruth and an inconsistency - his daughter was not dead, but lingered some time after he reached her side - twelve hours - in any case he knew of her accident and claims that healing can be accomplished at a distance.




influence this knowledge had on his moral nature, it is not possible to say, but it must have been toward the blunting of his conscience, if he reflected upon its inconsistency with his teachings. Perhaps however this was not a drawback to his full belief - and honest belief, in his teaching concerning divine healing.

The success which attended his preaching of divine healing and the number of persons ready and eager to hear, changed his purpose of passing through the United States and returning to Melbourne. Mr. Dowie was an opportunist at this stage of his career - his success emboldened him. He succeeded in securing a large following, in arresting public attention and had widespread newspaper notoriety. When the idea of calling his followers out of the churches into a distinct organization took hold of him is not known, but he feels his way carefully, and with an insight that is remarkable, times every movement to the state of preparedness of his followers. The cleverness of the man is revealed in the skill with which he handles his affairs during the period of organization. While he knew what the claims were that in time he would make, he shrewdly conceals it under a veil of modesty, and what can hardly fail to appear as false humility when the later stupendous claims are made. *


* The question naturally arises, why was Mr. Dowie able to persuade a sufficient following to leave the existing religious organizations to accept his doctrines and submit to his plans. The same question is answered in respect to Joseph Smith and the rise of Mormonism in "The Founder of Mormonism," Chapter II, I. W. Riley, in so far as it relates to conditions favorable to Smith existing in western New York at the time of his visions. We will discuss it under the heading, The People of Zion.




In his address of January 22, 1896,* he sets forth the Divine organization of the church. I Cor. 12:28 reads: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." He says "Now then, what is the way of perfect wisdom as to the order of the church? What is the first office God has established?" Answer," Apostles." The second?" "Prophets." "The third?" "Teachers." "Now then, did God form a church with these officers?" "He did." "Is that the order of the church of God?" "It is." "Does the church of God ever alter?" "No." "Can the church of God be acceptable to Christ if it is not organized after His own order?" "No." **

"Now the question arises, is the Apostolic office a perpetual one?" ... "I affirm that the church cannot be changed and cannot be Catholic unless it is Apostolic. The apostolic office must be declared as belonging to the church, if we shall form a church and it shall be declared to be a perpetual office. It is our duty to declare that the church of God shall eventually and as speedily as possible, be so organized. We have nothing to do with consequences. God will call his apostles in his own time and way by the Holy Spirit."

An exposition of the idea of the permanence of the apostolic, prophetic and teaching office follows, in which Mr. Dowie asserts that every apostle was also a prophet and a teacher.*** In the address of February 5, 1896, he says in speaking of the continuance of inspiration, "In regard to this, I say, that if I


* Reprints of Report of First and Second Conference held in 1896 looking towards the formation of the C. C. C., L. of H., Vol. 15, No. 21. p. 209.


** The people respond in unison - a common way he has of securing approbation in anything whatever he has in mind. It is remarkable with what promptness and unanimity his people reply to his questions. All this is a general line of evidence for believing them highly suggestible.  See Chapter People of Zion.


*** L. of H., September 10, 1904, pp. 709×10.




am God's minister in this matter, and I write to you something that is in accord with Scripture, then you are bound to receive that just as much as if the Apostle Paul wrote it. You will please to observe my qualifications. If I write to you something that is in perfect accord with the word of God I have just as much right to write that as the Apostle Paul had to write. Not to add to the word of God, but to explain and apply it."

Rev. Dr. Burns asks the question, "Are we then to understand if there should be some future apostles, that we are to build upon them, as upon the First Apostles?"

          Mr. Dowie: ...  "The same organization is just as necessary today as it was nineteen centuries ago. That is the position." Mr. Marsh. "If we are worthy of the office, the office will come to us, and if we are not, it won't."

Mr. Dowie: "I am not claiming any office; no man has heard me claim any office. I am a teacher and have taken no other place. I have not stood here claiming to be recognized as a prophet. I have not stood here claiming to be recognized as an apostle. I have stood here as an authoritative teacher. If I am a leader, I am a leader. If I am a teacher, I am a teacher. If I am a prophet, I am a prophet. If I am an apostle, I am an apostle. I am so whether you recognize it or not. I am so whether I recognize it or not. I am just what God made me, and at this moment I claim no prophetic or apostolic office power. I said in my first address, distinctly and positively, that I did not see the apostles."

Mr. Calverly then makes quite a speech and among other things says * "In regard to one point: I remember Dr. Dowie saying in a kind of sad and gloomy way; 'I don't know that I can see any of the apostles yet,' but I think I can see one, and I think he is the chief of modern apostles," looking to Dr. Dowie amid great applause. **


* L. of H. Vol. 15, No. 21, pp. 717×18.


** Notice the consummate skill of Mr. Dowie as a "Promoter." He edited of course all reports from which the quotations are taken.




Dr. Dowie: "I have not the slightest idea, not the slightest, but that our dear Brother Calverly spoke with that perfect honesty which has always characterized him, and that 'he would not have been guilty, for a moment, of flattery. I would despise a man who would attempt to flatter me, and I do not imply, for a moment, but what Brother Calverly was perfectly honest in proclaiming me to be an apostle."

"But I am too perfectly honest when with no mock humility I say to you, from my heart, I do not think I have reached a deep enough depth of true humility, ... for the high office of apostle, such as he had reached who would say and mean it too, ‘I am less than the least of all saints, and not worthy to be called an apostle.’   But if my good Lord can ever get me low enough in self-abasement, and self-effacement, to be truly what I want to be, and hope in a measure I am, ‘a servant of the servants of the Lord,’ why then I should be an apostle by really becoming the servant of all. ... If I should be called to that office, I feel I should be called in the depth of my heart to die. I do not think I am afraid to die for Christ; I live for him. ... I do not know if any persons here have got a notion in their minds that the apostolic office means a high pompous position, wearing a tiara and swaying a scepter, if so they are entirely wrong. It means a high position truly, but the power of one who can take the lowest place." This really seems like humor in the light of subsequent developments. If Mr. Dowie has ever shown any real humility, either before or after it has not been very evident to most impartial readers of the Leaves of Healing, or hearers of Mr. Dowie.

"I think some of you have got a very false conception of power in the church of God. Power in the church of God is not like power in the government of the United States, where a man climbs to the top of a pyramid of his fellows to the acme of his ambition, and there makes it fulfill his personal pride and purpose. Power in the church of God is shown in this, that a man shall get lower, and lower, and lower, until he can put his very spirit, soul and body underneath




the miseries and at the feet of a sin-cursed and disease-smitten humanity and live and die for it - this is what I understand by Apostolic office." (Great applause.)

From these quotations, which are made at length purposely to show Mr. Dowie's spirit, we see that he affects an unwillingness to be more than a teacher, and claims no prophetic power. True, some of his people would go ahead of him and regard him as an apostle, but by prophet and apostle his followers did not then understand what Mr. Dowie had in mind. In time be would claim to be Elijah the Restorer, and the First Apostle, really standing in the place of Christ to the Christian Catholic Church of his organizing.

We can almost look into his mind and say he knew this to be the outcome and that he hypocritically feigned a lowliness that shrunk back from this place of power, when his every subsequent action has shown him to thirst for authority and power. The wonder is that his followers, even the more intelligent of his officers, (excepting an occasional objector, who is summarily dealt with and dismissed from Zion) accepted his absolutism as perfectly right and proper.* Mr. Dowie in 1896 may have "doubted whereunto this thing would grow," but to whatever extent it did grow he was clearly determined to be the head. Every element introduced into the reports are calculated to strengthen his hold upon a people already inclined to have him for a leader. Added to great patience in biding his time is a shrewdness bordering upon hypocrisy, which led an unwary following, step by step, to the place where they must accept the alternative of renouncing him entirely, or giving him more authority, until he came to be strong enough to assume absolute authority, and then point back to the beginning of his movement and show that such had been the drift of events from the first. It is analogous to the way the claim of papal infallibility was supported after the dogma


* Since writing this I learned from Mrs. Dowie that there has been an undercurrent of objection although no one seemed to dare oppose him openly.




had been enunciated, and is a familiar phenomenon in history. *


* There was a significant remark made by Mr. Dowie in this same Conference, Feb. 5, 1896. (L. of H., September 10, 1904, p. 715) showing his shrewdness: "My address upon organization, and the basis of organization as set forth in the address of January 22, 1896, are open, not for discussion by those who are not prepared to associate themselves with us, because we have not any time to hear them, but for any intelligent remarks, and for questions, by those who are in sympathy with us, and who have a desire, if they can see with us, to go forward in the organization of this church." Here we see that one who was not in full sympathy with the movement was not to speak. It has been demonstrated time and again that if a leader of any  movement can prevent dissenting voices being heard, the appearance of unanimity will bring many, otherwise undecided, into the movement.  Mr. Dowie was ever awake to psychological moments for presenting his plans, and always saw to it that the atmosphere would favor his, projects. A friend of mine was compelled to leave a divine healing meeting of Mr. Dowie's because he said plainly, when asked, that he didn't believe in such healings at all.



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