HOLY ORDER OF MANS
HOLY ORDER OF MANS (HOOM) TIMELINE
1904 (April 18) Earl Wilbur Blighton was born in Rochester, New York.
1968 The Holy Order of MANS was founded in San Francisco, California.
1974 (April 11) Blighton died in Pacifica, California.
1978 Vincent Rossi and Patricia Rossi assumed the positions of permanent Co-directors General.
1984 The Holy Order of MANS begins moving toward Eastern Orthodoxy.
1988 The Holy Order of MANS was received into the autocephalous Archdiocese of Queens, New York and became Christ the Savior Brotherhood (CSB).
Earl Wilbur Blighton was born in Rochester, New York on April 18, 1904. He was exposed to both Free Methodism and Roman Catholicism during his younger years in Rochester and also participated in Spiritualist, Masonic, and New Thought groups. Perhaps as a result of these early Masonic and Catholic influences (his first marriage was to a Roman Catholic), he later formulated rites and practices for the Holy Order of MANS that resonated with both Masonic and Roman Catholic ritualism. Blighton’s third son from his first marriage became a Catholic priest.
During the 1940s Blighton worked as a draftsman and engineer for the General Railway Signal Company and the Rochester Telephone Company. He also helped build radio stations for the United States Navy and designed optical instruments for Eastman Kodak. Blighton invented an electrical apparatus that he called the ultra theory ray machine. By irradiating patients with a sequence of colored light, he gained some success as a spiritual healer. Ultimately, this work led to his arrest and conviction for practicing medicine without a license in 1946.
During the late 1940s, Blighton migrated to the West Coast and became involved with region’s cultic milieu, including Spiritualism, the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, UFO groups, the Christian Yoga Church, and various alternative healing groups. The core of the Holy Order of MANS was formed in 1966 from a small group of men and women who gathered to hear Blighton teach classes in “esoteric Christianity” (Lucas 1995:2). The group drew its early membership from the hippie counterculture that engulfed the San Francisco area between 1965 and 1970. Like many young people during that decade, Blighton’s followers sought authentic spiritual awakening, community, and service outreach. Blighton incorporated the Holy Order of MANS in 1968 in San Francisco.
Blighton organized his group along the lines of Catholic teaching orders such as the Jesuits and Franciscans and borrowed beliefs and practices from Hindu traditions, Rosicrucianism, New Thought, and Catholicism. Between 1969 and 1974, he established mission stations and training centers in sixty cities and forty-eight states. The group’s members took monastic vows of poverty, obedience, chastity, service, and humility, wore a distinctive clerical garb, practiced regular fasting, and held all assets in common. Unlike traditional Catholic monasteries, however, order “brotherhouses” were coeducational, elevated women to the priesthood, and embraced spiritual practices from non-Christian sources.
In 1971, the order opened Raphael House, a shelter for the homeless and for women and children fleeing abusive living conditions, in San Francisco. This service initiative helped spark a movement across the United States to establish anonymous shelters for victims of domestic violence. The shelter helped garner much positive coverage for the order in the press, culminating in the proclamation by Mayor Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco that the week of November 22-28 was “Raphael House Week.” Raphael Houses are still in operation today in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, although they now operate as independent non-profit organizations. Raphael House in Portland is a multi-faceted domestic violence agency dedicated to fighting the causes and effects of intimate partner violence in a variety of ways. It offers emergency shelter in a confidential location, a 24-hour in-house crisis line, transitional housing and advocacy programs, non-residential advocacy in partnership with the Portland Police Bureau, and also works to bring an end to violence through community outreach and education.
Blighton’s final years saw three developments that would have a significant impact on the order’s future. First, in 1972, Blighton created the Book of Activity. This privately published booklet epitomized Blighton’s millenarian, restorationist, and initiatory spiritual vision. Members accepted this book as the direct revelation of Jesus Christ for the coming New Age. They assumed that one day it would be considered sacred scripture. Renunciate members attended Book of Activity classes every Saturday morning, where the text was interpreted and discussed. Second, by the end of 1972, the group further refined its organizational structures and mission centers, and developed new outreach programs, including the Discipleship Movement and the Christian Communities. This development was to increase membership in the movement by drawing in lay individuals and families. Third, in 1973, the order’s headquarters in San Francisco was firebombed, and Blighton received two death threats. These hostile acts instilled a sense of vulnerability in the order’s leadership and shocked members who were used to friendly ties with the larger community because of the group’s successful service projects.
Blighton’s sudden death in 1974 precipitated a four-year leadership crisis in the order. A succession of “master-teachers” (the movement’s highest level of spiritual attainment) took charge of the group and attempted to impress upon it their own personal interpretation of Blighton’s teachings. This period of instability did not impede recruitment, however. In 1977, the entire movement reached its height of membership at about 3,000. Also during this period, international centers opened in London, Bordeaux, San Sebastian, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The uncertainty of this leadership crisis ended when, in summer 1978, Vincent and Patricia Rossi had become permanent Co-directors General.
Vincent Rossi was an erudite former Roman Catholic pre-seminarian who had worked as a Chinese language specialist with the Intelligence Section of the U.S. Navy. In early public statements following his installation as Director General, Rossi articulately stated Blighton’s Gnostic and New Age vision of the order’s mission. He contended that Jesus was calling humanity to a new understanding of Christian doctrine, an understanding based on “living Revelation” and freed from past symbols, dogmas, and scriptures. Though Jesus was the “very form of God Incarnate” and was due the utmost respect, he was not to be worshiped as the one God. The order’s updated mission, according to Rossi, was to present the teachings of Christ in an inclusive manner in the dawning millennial age. These universal teachings would lead Christians beyond traditional religious conceptions and forms to a state in which seekers would find their true being in the “Father-Mother God.” As part of this mission, the order would seek to remove the barriers that separated humankind, including those erected in Jesus’ name.
Rossi’s initiatives began to move the order’s public and private identity away from its Rosicrucian/Theosophical origins and towards mainstream Christianity. After flirtations with Protestant evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism, Rossi directed the group to study Eastern Orthodox Christianity. This directive followed Rossi’s personal conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy during the early 1980s. At the same time, Rossi consolidated the group into ten large communities in the United States and Europe and began to downplay its system of esoteric spirituality. Between 1982 and 1986, the brotherhood focused its energies on the preservation of the “authentic cultural traditions of ancient Christianity,” the celebration of seasonal festivals, and the creation of alternative schools for its children based on traditional Christian principles (Lucas 1995:166-94).
With the assistance of a Russian Orthodox monk, Herman Podmoshensky, Rossi orchestrated a gradual conversion of order members to Russian Orthodoxy. Siobhan Houston writes, “when (Podmoshensky) came in contact with the Holy Order of MANS in 1983, he provided the strong charismatic presence and definite direction which the group so desperately needed” (Gerjevic 1999:2). Blighton’s spiritual system was replaced with Orthodox doctrines and rituals. Following several years of negotiations with various Orthodox jurisdictions, the order was received into the autocephalous Archdiocese of Queens, New York, in 1988 by Metropolitan Pangratios Vrionis. The brotherhood’s remaining 750 members were re-baptized and became Christ the Savior Brotherhood (CSB). They proclaimed their new mission as “bringing the light and truth of Orthodox Christianity to the spiritually perishing peoples of these darkening and crucial times” (Lucas 1995:195-231).
The order’s decision to become Orthodox led to a steady loss of both members and cohesion during the 1990s. The community began to disintegrate with the disbanding of its monastic brotherhood and the consolidation of its membership into nuclear families. Another problem was the non-recognition of Pangratios’ archdiocese by the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the main legitimating body for Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. In the late 1990s, following documented proof of Pangratios’ conviction for sodomy with minors, CSB member communities distanced themselves from the Archdiocese of Queens and negotiated acceptance into SCOBA-approved Orthodox jurisdictions throughout the United States. Although some members have joined the Serbian Orthodox Church or the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, most CSB parishes have been received into communion with the Orthodox Church in America. A number of small splinter groups also formed after 1990.
HOOM had a fluid belief system that underwent considerable change as the movement developed over time. The system was a peculiar combination of Western esotericism, apocalyptic millennialism, Christian monasticism, New Thought philosophy, and Yogic initiatory practices.
Blighton developed his system of esoteric spirituality from numerous sources. These included the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucia (AMORC), a Rosicrucian-style organization whose headquarters is in San Jose, California. Blighton incorporated two AMORC teachings into the Holy Order of MANS belief system. The first was that there are two selves, an inner, subconscious self, and a conscious outer self. AMORC taught its members exercises designed to help them receive “wisdom” from the inner self. They used mental concentration and visualization exercises to cultivate this inner wisdom. The second AMORC teaching important to Blighton was the belief in “psychic centers” or chakras, a teaching originally derived from Hindu yogic practices. Chakras were believed to be the areas in the body where the soul’s energy frequencies were assimilated into the physical body. The three most important chakra centers for the spiritual aspirant were said to correspond with the pituitary body, the pineal gland, and the solar plexus.
A second source of Blighton’s beliefs was the Christian Yoga Church. Blighton began attending classes with this group in 1963 in San Francisco and shortly thereafter moved to the church’s monastery in Virginia City, Nevada. At the monastery Blighton was educated in the practices of Kriya Yoga. This form of yoga uses breathing exercises, concentration exercises, and chakra manipulation to help a student reach “illumination” and “self-realization.” Illumination was an experience of “divine light” within the body while self-realization was a direct, unitive experience of the “Divine Self,” the Ground of Being (Lucas 1995:21). While at the group’s monastery, Blighton, following intense practice, experienced a powerful spiritual awakening that he described as a light energy that descended through his brain and filled his body.
While Blighton still called his group the Science of Man Church, in 1967-1968 he began to create the forms and customs that would become distinctive characteristics of the Holy Order of MANS. The 30 to 40 members of the Science of Man Church regularly referred to Blighton as “Father” and they were asked to wear black clerical garb and groom themselves in a more conventional manner (Lucas 1995:30). A normal part of member training was “street patrols” (1995:31). These strolls through different districts of San Francisco were initiated so that students could apply the theoretical knowledge they gained from Blighton’s classes in real life situations. The students, dressed in their black clerical suits, would walk around low-income or crime-filled neighborhoods visualizing a pulse of light radiating through it. “Street patrols” would become a standard practice for order students (1995:32).
A combination of Christian and Masonic/Rosicrucian symbols began to emerge in the belief system of the Science of Man Church by the spring of 1967. Blighton saw symbolism as a means for demonstrating spiritual mastery over the physical environment. He taught that the material or spiritual conditions that a person sought in their lives could be gained through the visualization of esoteric symbols on the mental plane and by speaking the “word of power” (Lucas 1995:38). Blighton thought that all things in the universe were first derived from the circle, square, and triangle. The circle represented the Godhead and “the unity of all things” (1995:39). The triangle represented the process of creation. The square represented the “material plane” (1995:39). The symbol for the order became a triangle within a circle within a square.
In 1967, Blighton wrote The Golden Force, in which he outlined the central thrust of his early teachings, the “universal law” of mental dynamics. Blighton asserted that this law was “the great formula which the Creator set in the Solar Pattern of the Universe so that His creations would have freedom” (Lucas 1995:39). Blighton believed that this teaching had been purposely omitted from conventional Christian churches, even though Blighton claimed it was “taught by the Master Jesus” (1995:39). Blighton saw educating mainstream Christianity about this “universal law” as one of the order’s main missions.
Also in 1967, Blighton started to use his Thursday evening classes for spiritual séances. The room was completely dark, except for candlelight, and the member’s chairs were formed into a circle. During these séances, Blighton would both receive and give “psychic messages” (Lucas 1995:39) As the Holy Order of MANS evolved, members would come to believe that these messages were from Jesus Christ himself. Many beliefs of the order were derived from these messages.
Blighton received two messages in March, 1967 that had a strong millenarian tone. The first message implied that the Earth was entering a time of spiritual transformation. Blighton believed that it was his duty to prepare society’s outcasts for this new age. The second message talked about what the coming spiritual transformation entailed. Blighton explained that the Earth’s “psychospiritual” atmosphere was being supercharged with the light of the sun and the “light of Christ.” He saw this as a planetary “illumination” that would result in a molecular transformation of the earth and its life forms. Blighton believed that a person had to go through advanced spiritual training to live productively in this new era. It was the order’s mission to inform as many persons as possible concerning this cosmic “illumination” and to prepare them to function in the transformed world through “solar” initiations administered by order priests (Lucas 1995:40).
A short message in June, 1968 from Blighton’s spirit guides provides evidence of the Holy Order of MANS millenarian/restorationist orientation during its founding years. The message stated that the Apostles, Paul of Tarsus, Jesus’ women followers, and members of the Essene sect had been reincarnated in the present era. Working through the Holy Order of MANS, these souls had returned to earth to prepare humankind for a new spiritual dispensation. Blighton’s students came to believe that their teacher was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul.
Several important changes in doctrine and ritual occurred between 1968 and 1972. On July 24, 1968, Blighton and his wife, Helen Ruth Blighton, filed the official bylaws of the Holy Order of MANS with the state of California. These bylaws described the order’s purpose, structure, and sacramental forms. The bylaws stated that the purposes of the group were to “preserve the ancient Christian wisdom teachings for the coming generation, fulfill a mission revealed by the Higher Order of the Holy Cross, and establish brother houses, seminaries, missions, youth guidance centers, and clinics” (Lucas 1995:48). Blighton also wanted to make it abundantly clear in the bylaws that the Holy Order of MANS was to be nonsectarian, apolitical, and universally tolerant. The bylaws stated that the religion of the future would be a universal “way of light” based on the “All encompassing Brotherhood of Man” (1995:50). This religion of the future would be taught by “the next Christ,” who would “be born free from relationships with any organization, sect, religion, dogma, or movement” (1995: 50). The new age would be marked by the unification of humanity through the overcoming of religious, political, and ethnic divisions. The bylaws stated that the order’s mission would be accomplished by starting centers for the training of students in “spiritual disciplines and charitable service” (1995:50-51). Blighton believed that individuals were able to create the spiritual and material conditions they desired. The bylaws state, “We accept man as an evolving being of unlimited resources and unlimited expansion” (1995:51).
Blighton also claimed that the order’s system of sacramental initiation had always existed, but that the inhabitants of the earth had forgotten “the true nature and function” of the sacraments (Lucas 1995:52). Thus, one of the central purposes of the Holy Order of MANS was to restore these sacramental forms. Blighton believed that this could be accomplished by bringing together ancient wisdom and the discoveries of modern science. He contended that the first step in the restoration of the sacraments would be to re-form an authentic priestly hierarchy and claimed he had received the cosmic authority to ordain priests directly from Jesus Christ. This newly constituted priestly hierarchy would bring back the truths of esoteric Christianity to mainstream denominations.
The rite of priestly ordination was elaborately developed in the Holy Order of MANS. First, the candidate was dissolved of all past and future karma and was cut from all earthly ties. Second, the candidate acknowledged an eternal vow of priestly service by accepting the “Rod of Power” and a white cord (Lucas 1995:53-54). Third, the lights in the chapel were cut except for a single beam of light centered on the candidate. Fourth, the candidate kneeled before Blighton and received a gold ring that had a circle, triangle, and square raised on its surface. Finally, the new priest was recognized as a “universal servant to all humanity” and a “minister-priest in the Holy Order of MANS, under the Divine Order of Melchizedek” (1995:53-54). Ordained order priests were believed to be elite a member of the cosmic “Order of the Golden Cross.” They were not tied to any political or religious affiliation, and their only allegiance was to the “Great Christos” or “Lord of the Sun” (1995:54). A priest was freed, by Christ, from the wheel of karma but was obligated to remain in the Order of the Golden Cross for seven incarnations.
From 1969-1972 Blighton’s sermons, along with other elements of the movement, became more permeated with traditional Christian symbolism and doctrines. Blighton didn’t completely abandon his esoteric teachings; he merely expressed them in more traditionally Christian language. Examples of this Christianization process included Blighton’s use of New Testament readings in his sermons, an increased emphasis on the observance of Lent, the use of Christian iconography in movement publications, and the announcement in 1972 that baptism had become a mandatory rite for all members.
In the two years before Blighton’s death in 1974, there were two important additions to the group’s main beliefs. The first, as described earlier, was the addition of the Book of Activity (1972) to the group’s list of sacred texts. The Book of Activity is a summation of Blighton’s millenarian, restorationist, and initiatory vision. It was widely believed to be the direct words of Jesus Christ, which would one day be incorporated into the Bible’s Book of Acts. The second change was the group’s new emphasis on Mary, the mother of Jesus. This shift was congruent Blighton’s view that women would be raised to their “rightful spiritual position” in the emerging new age. By emphasizing Mary, the order was attempting to redefine the role of women. Evidence for this development can be seen in Blighton’s ordination of 52 female priests during this period as well as the creation of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Mary suborder.
During the six years following Blighton’s death the order went through numerous changes. By 1975, the group had adopted, in public forums, an evangelical Christian tone. Paul Anderson, a MANS member, asserted to a Maine newspaper reporter that the group believed in the “trinity, the gospel, spiritual healing, baptism, communion, and confession”(Lucas 1995:145-46). This new evangelical tone reflected the rise of evangelical rhetoric and visibility in the larger culture of late 1970s America. This was a period when public figures such as Jimmy Carter and Bob Dylan proclaimed their beliefs in born-again Christianity. However, internally, the order continued to teach its ecumenical, esoteric, and initiatory teachings.
Daily life in the order’s urban centers became more comfortable and recreational after Blighton’s passing, with members watching TV and movies, listening to soft rock music, dancing, and occasionally using marijuana. The order’s membership became more dominated by life-vowed members by 1976. This led to a period of intensified individual vocational and relationship explorations. The organization developed more life-vowed programs, which included “family” missions. These missions consisted of two or more families moving to a city where the order wasn’t represented, and developing social-service projects. This growing trend of marriages and independent missions led to a loss of group cohesion according to many former members.
By 1978, the Holy Order of MANS had begun to abandon Blighton’s original spiritual teachings. First, the order jettisoned its Rosicrucian-style discourse in public and private teachings. Second, by late 1979, Blighton’s Tree of Life lessons were withdrawn from circulation and replaced with a curriculum that included mainstream Christian authors like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C. S. Lewis, Richard Foster, and Juan Carlos Ortiz. Third, the order’s distinctive green-covered books on esoteric Christianity were withdrawn from circulation. Fourth, the brotherhood’s advanced initiatory rites became less prominent both publicly and privately.
Between 1980 and 1990, the order’s beliefs and practices mutated dramatically. The lay discipleship group evolved into “the Order of the Disciples.” The purpose of this group was to “sacramentalize” society’s “householder” dimension. The persons in this group lived “a fully committed life” of Christian discipleship “in the world” (Lucas 1995:171-72). The Esoteric Council changed its name to “Apostolic Council.” The MANS acronym, which had garnered negative public perception for its occult resonances, was now translated into terms “that would communicate the group’s essential character in a language acceptable to mainstream Christian professionals” (1995:173). The term now was explained as an acronym for the Greek words mysterion, agape, nous, and sophia and translated as the “mystery of divine love revealed through the mind of Christ which brings wisdom” (1995:173).
Director-General Vincent Rossi also took steps to protect the group from anticult and countercult attacks by emphasizing the order’s Christian beliefs and mission. He stated that unlike so-called “cults,” the Holy Order of MANS had no “extra-scriptural source of authority” and did not economically enslave its members (Lucas 1995:173). Following Rossi’s conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, he engineered a subliminal catechesis for the group’s remaining members. In this process he gradually substituted Orthodox beliefs and practices for Blighton’s Rosicrucian/Theosophical spiritual system. By the time the order was received into the Orthodox Church in 1988, it had completely abandoned its original esoteric and new age worldview and transmogrified into a sectarian Orthodox community.
There were four central rituals in the HOOM. These include baptism, communion, illumination, and self-realization.
Baptism was believed to mark the aspirant’s entry upon the “universal path of initiation” (Lucas 1995:55). Through baptism, the student declared his/her commitment to Christ. Blighton stated that baptism brought the “Christ Force” into a person’s body (1995:55). The rite would also set into action a “lunar current.” This lunar current would remove the “effects of past error” from the person’s physical body (1995:55). There were four steps to the Order’s baptismal rite. First, the initiate spent time in solitary retrospection. Next, he/she made a full confession of past errors to the priest. Third, the initiate acknowledged their commitment to Christ and was anointed with oil on the forehead in the shape of a cross. Finally, the physical senses were prepared to receive transmissions from “the other realm of creation” (1995:55). At the conclusion of the ceremony, Psalm 23 was read.
Communion was the foundation of the order’s daily ritual life. During communion, the attributes and consciousness of Jesus Christ were infused into the kneeling communicant as s/he received the consecrated bread and wine. This rite was formulated following a 1967 revelation to Blighton.
During the rite of illumination, a “new body of light” was planted inside an initiate’s physical body. The steps of the rite were kept secret, but it usually was performed at night because the magnetic forces were said to be stronger at night. First the initiate spent a time in meditation. Second, the priest created an opening in the body for the cosmic light to enter. Finally, after initiates received the light, they spent a 24-hour period in seclusion (Lucas 1995: 58).
The rite or self-realization was even more arcane than illumination. At least one order teacher later described the rite as a neo-shamanic rending of an etheric veil that surrounded the core of the initiate’s inner being. After the rite was performed, the “realized being” was believed able to receive communication directly from the “Godhead” within (Lucas 1995:59).
The order’s governing structure consisted of a main decision-making body, the Esoteric Council (over which Blighton presided as Director General), and various other ranks including the “master teachers,” brother teachers, priests, ministers, life-vowed brothers, and novices. During the group’s founding decade, it also expanded its outreach to include a lay discipleship movement and lay families (Christian Communities) who were interested in practicing the order’s path of esoteric spirituality. Blighton also created two “sub-orders,” the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Mary, and the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light, to provide intermediate training for members of the renunciate brotherhood. Members of the sub-orders performed community service, practiced distinctive Marian devotions, and engaged in missionary outreach.
In the 1980s, the Esoteric Council became the Apostolic Council, with Co-Directors General still retaining ultimate authority over the order’s hierarchy.
The Holy Order of MANS, like many new religious groups, became a target of cult allegations by the anti-cult movement, and primarily countercult organizations. A 1972 article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted Blighton’s unquestioned authority in the movement as well as the vows of poverty and obedience order members took. The article also questioned Blighton’s ordination certificate, which it claimed was issued by a diploma mill in Florida. However, the most significant issue that confronted HOOM was the formation of a variety of schismatic groups. These groups include the Gnostic Order of Christ, the Science of Man, the American Temple, the Servants of the Way, and the Foundation of Christ Church.
The Holy Order of MANS was briefly caught up in the cult controversy of the late 1970s. On November 18, 1978, the first reports of the Jonestown mass suicide-murder reached the national media. Within a short time, the cultural context in America with regard to new religions changed from one of tolerance and curiosity to one of suspicion and hostility. The anticult movement used the national mood of fear and revulsion at the Jonestown events to intensify its efforts to convince government institutions to regulate “dangerous cults.” The order appeared on the “cult lists” of such leading countercult groups as the Christian Research Institute and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. To make matters worse, the brotherhood began to experience increasing member defections and a steep drop in recruitment rates.
In response to this crisis, Vincent Rossi initiated a strong defense of the order in various public forums. The culmination of these efforts was Rossi’s 1980 article in the order’s journal, Epiphany. Titled “By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them: Proclaiming the Spiritual Authenticity of the Holy Order of MANS in a Counterfeit Age,” the article laid out a passionate apology that defended the order’s Christian pedigree as well as its ecumenical foundations. Rossi declared that the brotherhood’s purpose was to develop a Christian community built around the worship of God, discipleship to Christ, and service to the world. The order, he claimed, lived “within the norms of the Christian Tradition.” Rossi also inaugurated a search for precedents in the history of Christianity for what the brotherhood was attempting to accomplish in the world.
Among the successor groups, the Christ the Savior Brotherhood (CSB) is the Orthodox remnant of the original Holy Order of MANS. Director General Vincent Rossi, after undergoing a personal conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, led the order into communion with the autocephalous Orthodox Archdiocese of Queens, New York. This Orthodox conversion culminated in 1988 when 750 HOOM members converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. Christ the Savior Brotherhood was quite different from the original Holy Order of MANS. Phillip Lucas states in The Odyssey of a New Religion that “CSB repudiates the early order’s ecumenism and its corollary belief that all religions contain elements of truth. It has abandoned its Gnostic/Theosophical cosmology and Christology and adheres strictly to the doctrines of Eastern Orthodoxy” (Lucas 1995:248). In addition, Blighton’s revelations came to be viewed by CSB converts as “the effluvia of his own subconscious” and sometimes “the teachings of demons” (Lucas 1995:249).
Two additional changes CSB incorporated were: (1) The order’s sacramental rites were replaced by Orthodox liturgical forms, and (2) women were demoted from clerical positions, which went against HOOM’s gender-equal priestly hierarchy. The final change CSB underwent concerned Blighton’s millenarian beliefs. Lucas explains, “Blighton’s millennialism, which looked optimistically forward to a dawning age of spiritual illumination, has been supplanted by a sectarian form of Orthodox apocalypticism. This more pessimistic vision focuses on a coming Antichrist figure who will, it is believed, lead most of humankind to damnation” (Lucas 1995:249).
However, CSB retained several characteristics of the Holy Order of MANS. First, CSB remained committed to charitable service projects. Second, CSB continued to value the monastic ideal. Third, CSB continued to be interested in “initiation, light mysticism, and supernatural experience” (Lucas 1995:249). Lucas observes, “The fourth continuity relates to the movements’ dramaturgical and ceremonial tenor throughout its history” (1995:250). The Holy Order of MANS had a “nonstop parade” of ceremonies and rituals (1995:250). This HOOM ethos resonated well with the highly liturgical performances of Eastern Orthodoxy.
The original Christ the Savior Brotherhood website featured CSB’s mission, purpose, and membership. It declared, “Christ the Savior Brotherhood is dedicated to bringing the light and truth of Orthodox Christianity to the spiritually perishing peoples of these darkening and crucial times. Our primary purpose is to serve Christ our Lord and Saviour, and our fellow man.” Moreover, the website explained, “Membership in Christ the Savior Brotherhood is available to all adult baptized Orthodox Christians who wish to dedicate themselves to Christ through the mission and spiritual striving of the Brotherhood. Membership is perceived to be carried out in practice through participation in the work and striving of the Brotherhood, and not simply by association” (Christ the Saviour Brotherhood n.d.)
Today, Christ the Savior Brotherhood exists mainly as a non-profit organization that manages CSB real estate assets and promotes Orthodox culture and education. The brotherhood publishes Road to Emmaus: A Journal of Orthodox Faith and Culture, and about eight different books on Orthodox life and education. It also administers St. Paisius Missionary School, which sponsors retreats, conferences, and youth camps designed to awaken in souls zeal for the traditional Orthodox way of life.
The Gnostic Order of Christ was formed by former HOOM members on October 19, 1988. An older version of the Gnostic Order of Christ homepage stated that, “It is the mission of the Gnostic Order of Christ to continue the spiritual work that was begun by The Holy Order of MANS. We honor Father Paul as the founder of this present manifestation of the Western Path and we seek to follow the Path in a traditional manner suitable for this new era. We seek to be of service to mankind and to provide a spiritual foundation and support for those who find themselves seeking Enlightenment through the Western Tradition.”
The Gnostic Order of Christ differs from the Holy Order of MANS, as seen from the proceeding quotation, in that it has moved away from the Order’s eastern religious teachings, stressing instead the more traditional “Western Esoteric Path.” The new site reiterates this from the opening and states the Order’s desire to provide “a spiritual structure for those called to The Path of the Western Tradition of The Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek of The Order of the Holy Cross” (“History, Structure & Purpose” n.d.). The Gnostic Order states, “our spiritual practice consists of six elements: prayer, retrospection, meditation, contemplation, loving devotion, and loving action.” It hopes to establish “common places of worship, learning, and charitable works.” Its teachings including the Holy Bible and “other sacred literature” (“History, Structure & Purpose” n.d.). The order has replicated HOOM’s emphasis on Marian devotion with its Immaculate Heart Servants of Mary sub-order and Marian prayers and meditations.
The Science of Man church (SOM) was original group that Blighton founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1960s. The group did not keep its original name, opting instead for the Holy Order of MANS. During the Holy Order of MANS’ move toward Eastern Orthodoxy, Ruth Blighton broke away from the order and re-formed The Science of Man Church. She moved to Oregon in the mid 1980s and continued to function as a spiritual guide to those who remained faithful to Earl Blighton’s legacy. Ruth Blighton passed away in 2005.
The SOM website states, “The Science of Man continues to perpetuate the teachings of Dr. Blighton and endeavors to work towards the purpose of helping to unfold a more thorough understanding of the Universal Laws of the Creator, so that all might better manifest His Creation and thus promote peace and harmony among people everywhere” (“Science of Man” n.d.). The website also says, “It is our expressed purpose to bring forth the ancient Christian wisdom teachings as they were taught in the ancient of days” (“Science of Man” n.d.). And the church has kept the order’s original logo, the circle, triangle, and cross within a square. However, the modern version of the Science of Man church has also incorporated the phoenix in the symbol. The phoenix symbolizes “the overcoming of every partial death or change.” The Science of Man once claimed a network of former order priests throughout the United States. Its current website lists only a Rev. Donald Slakie in Scottsdale, Georgia.
The Foundation of Christ Church was a fourth splinter group of the Holy Order of MANS. The foundation’s website stated that “The Foundation of Christ is an organization of men and women who are called together to promote a more thorough understanding of the divine laws of God and of Creation, and the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ with the ancient Christian Mysteries, as a revealed teaching of this day, in accordance with the Testament and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that ‘All the mysteries shall be revealed” (“Foundation of Christ Church” n.d.). The site stated that the two purposes of the church are teaching of the universal law of creation and service to God by uniting all men and women.
The Foundation used the Tree of Life lessons as a means of educating and socializing its members. As articulated on its website, the foundation taught “the Tree of Life as taught by the ancients as a map of creation—showing channels or Paths leading from God to his Creation and back again. We have Bible Study and practice spiritual exercises designed to awaken the God-given Spiritual faculties within us.” Students learned “Bible Comprehension, and the Tools that God, your Father gave to you on the Heaven Plane before you came through your baptism into earth.” The official site for this offshoot no longer exists on the web.
The American Temple is the fifth splinter group of the Holy Order of MANS. This group continues to use some of Earl Blighton’s original teachings and the order’s religious writings. The temple seeks to learn why “life and all her varied and wide experiences are a continual unfolding of Revelation” (“Welcome to the American Temple” n.d.). The answer to this question, according to the temple, comes from a quote in the Holy Order of MANS’ Philosophy of Sacramental Initiation. This philosophy contends that, “Very simply, the Divine Spirit Consciousness, the Father-Mother Creator, brings the universe into being by reflection upon itself. The divine pattern is thus pictured throughout creation. Everywhere in the universe there is Spirit acting upon soul to create manifestation—spirit embodied in form” (“Welcome to the American Temple” n.d.).
A second teaching by Blighton that has remained influential in the American Temple is the focus on living symbolism. One important practice of the American Temple is chromotherapy. Chromotherapy is the use of different colors to treat medical ailments. The “Color Philosophy” part of Chromotherapy was edited by Blighton. The American Temple Web site explains, “In healing by color the subtlest and finest vibrations in nature are used instead of the coarse irritating vibrations of drugs and chemicals. The radiations of sunlight are absorbed by the nervous system and distributed by it and the blood stream to various parts of the body” (“Introduction to Chromotherapy Lessons” n.d.).
The American Temple believes that medical drugs leave “residues” in the human body. As the body attempts to free itself of these residues, more damage to the body is done. The American Temple web page devoted to chromotherapy states, “Color is the most attenuated form of energy that can be kept in an individual state that will do the work that needs to be done and leave no residue, as it is all free energy. There is no residue to contaminate the body, and it is the residue that keeps the body from feeling healthy” (“Introduction to Chromotherapy Lessons” n.d.). According to the temple, important guidelines to follow while undergoing chromotherapy include reducing meat consumption, avoiding tea and coffee, eliminating tobacco and alcohol, drinking water and fruit juices, avoiding sweeteners than contain sulfur dioxide, and avoiding chromotherapy treatments at sunrise or sunset and during lunar and solar eclipses.
This final order splinter group is headquartered in Oregon and led by Dominic Indra, a former order priest. According to its website, the group “ provides a living pathway to Esoteric Christian spiritual initiation in the Gnostic tradition. Baptism, Illumination, Self-Realization and Ordination are Solar Initiations that are available to all who give their lives in selfless service to the Mother/Father Creator through our Master Christ Jesus.” Moreover, “It is the purpose of Servants Of the WAY to make available the very specific teachings and transformative power of Christ Jesus. This path is known by various names including The Ancient Mystery Teachings, Hermetic Teachings, Grail Mysteries, Gnostic Christianity and Esoteric/Mystical Christianity. Servants Of the WAY is not a group or organization. There is nothing to join. There is no charge for the work we do. It is a source of Initiation into the WAY. We only wish to share the experiences we have gained over several decades of inner initiatory work and bring others into the WAY of Service ” (About Servants of the Way” n.d.).
The order’s legacy perhaps is best represented in three initiatives pioneered in its early history. The first is the Raphael House movement, which has led to a growing national awareness of domestic violence and the need for anonymous shelters for battered women and children. The second is Rossi’s Eleventh Commandment Fellowship, which was instrumental in the creation of the North American Conference on Christianity and Ecology and in the raising of ecological awareness among mainstream Christians. The third significant initiative is the order’s early advocacy of spiritual equality for women and its ordination of women to its priesthood. Many mainstream denominations now ordain women, including the Episcopalians and the Lutherans. Women also now play an increasingly influential role in Roman Catholic parishes, serving as parish administrators and liturgical leaders among other roles. Ironically, those members of the order who became Eastern Orthodox now promote this tradition’s proscription of women priests.
The order’s history also provides convincing evidence that the glue holding new religious communities together may be primarily affective in nature rather than ideological. Put another way, the many shifts in doctrine that characterize NRMs in their first generation do not necessarily threaten group cohesion if that cohesion is based on strong feelings of group solidarity and affection. Finally, the order’s history stands as a clear example of how NRMs are shaped by their surrounding cultural environment. Blighton’s mystical, nonsectarian and universalist spiritual vision reflected the innovative, tolerant, and experience-seeking mood of the 1960s and 1970s. In a similar manner, the exclusivist and traditionalist Christ the Savior brotherhood reflected the growing religious conservatism and demonization of liberalism that characterized 1980s’ America.
“ Welcome to the American Temple.” American Temple. Accessed from http://www.americantempleusa.org/1st-visit.html on 26 July 2012.
Blighton, Earl W. 1972. Book of Activity. Privately published by Holy Order of MANS.
“Christ the Savior Brotherhood.” Accessed from http://www.csborthodox.org/index.html on 26 July 2012.
“Foundation of Christ Church.” n.d. Accessed from http://millennium.fortunecity.com/ruthven/190/.
Gerjevic, Sandi. 1999. “A Saint’s Subjects.” Anchorage Daily News, February 1, p. 1.
“History, Structure & Purpose.” n.d. Gnostic Order of Christ. Accessed from http://www.gnosticorderofchrist.org/about/historypurpose.htm on 26 July 2012.
Holy Order of MANS. 1967. The Golden Force. Holy Order of MANS.
“Introduction to Chromotherapy Lessons.” n.d. American Temple Accessed from http://www.americantempleusa.org/newsletter/exercises/colors/pronaoscolors/chromotherapy.html on 27 July 2012.
Lucas, Phillip Charles. 1995. The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Lucas, Phillip Charles. 2004. “New Religious Movements and the ‘Acids’ of Postmodernity.” Nova Religio 8 (2): 28-47.
“Science of Man.” n.d. Science of Man. Accessed from http://www.scienceofman.org/home/index.html on 26 July 2012.
“About Servants of the Way. n.d. Servants of the Way. Accessed from http://www.meetup.com/Servants-of-the-Way/ on 27 July 2012.
Phillip Charles Lucas
28 July 2012