1846: Louis Antoine was born to a poor family in the province of Wallonia in Belgium. He was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church.
1858: Antoine made his first Holy Communion.
1858: Antoine was hired as a coal miner at the age of twelve.
1866: During a target training for reservists, Antoine accidentally killed a companion with his weapon. He was sentenced to eight days of prison.
1873: Antoine married Jeanne Collon.
1888: Antoine read Allan Kardec’s books and learnt spiritualist doctrine and practices.
1893: Antoine found a spiritualist group called “Les Vignerons du Seigneur” (The Wine Growers of the Lord).
1893: Antoine’s son passed away at the age of twenty. He then decided to cure the suffering people with the help of the spirits.
1896: Antoine published Le petit catéchisme spirite pour servir à l’instruction des enfants et des personnes ne connaissant pas le spiritisme, publié par la Société des Vignerons du Seigneur (The Little Catechism of Spiritualism for Children and the Ones Who Don’t Know About the Spiritualism).
1900: Antoine and his followers inaugurated a larger facility of The Wine Growers of the Lord.
1901: Antoine received about 100 sick persons per day.
1901: Antoine was sentenced to pay a sixty Francs fine and damages for the illegal practice of medicine. From this moment on, he modified his practice by giving up prescribing medication ordered by the spirits and only touching and praying for the suffering persons.
1905: Antoine’s followers published L’Enseignement d’Antoine Le Guérisseur (The Teaching of Antoine the Healer).
1906: Antoine founded “The New Spiritualism.” He called it L’École professionnelle de philosophie morale (The Vocational School of Moral Philosophy).
1906: Antoine published L’auréole de la conscience (The Halo of the Conscience).
1907: Antoine created the monthly review, The New Spiritualism.
1907: Antoine was tried again for the illegal practice of medicine. He was acquitted.
1908: Antoine published La revélation d’Antoine Le Généreux (The Revelation of Antoine the Generous).
1909: Antoine published Le couronnement de l’œuvre révélée (The Completion of the Revealed Works).
1910: Antoine founded a temple in his town of Jemeppe, Belgium where he launched his new religion named Antoinism by its followers. It had a ritual and its two last books were its credo. Louis Antoine was referred to as “The Father,” “Father,” or “Father Antoine” by his followers.
1911: Louis Antoine launched the periodical review untitled L’Unitif.
1912: Antoine informed his followers that his wife would inherit the leadership of his religion.
1912: Louis Antoine died.
1912: Antoine’s widow became the head of the Antoinist Church. She was named “The Mother” or simply “Mother.”
1923: The French Antoinists and the Belgian Antoinists became two distinct communities.
1924: In France, the Antoinist Church was recognized as a religion and thus benefited from tax advantages.
1925: In Belgium, the Antoinist Church was recognized as a philanthropic association and benefited from special advantages.
1929: The French and Belgian communities became financially independent.
1940: Louis Antoine’s widow and heir of the Antoinist Church died.
1940: The French and the Belgian branches of Antoinism parted because of their disagreement over the presence of portraits of “Father” and “Mother” Antoine in the temples.
1940: The temple of Tournai, in Belgium, was closed and was sold.
1958: The French branch chose Association cultuelle des desservants de France as its legal name, or Cultuelle antoiniste de France as its abbreviated name.
1971: The Belgian Antoinists abolished the position of “Representative of the Father” and replaced it with the function of “Moral Secretary.”
Antoinism is a religious movement founded in 1910 in Belgium by Louis Antoine (1846-1912). [Image at right] In the first part of his life, he lived as a poor laborer who tried to elevate his condition in life. He was born in Mons-Crotteux (Province of Liège) on June 7, 1846, the eldest of eight children. He received a Roman Catholic baptism and he was brought up in a Catholic tradition. He received his Holy Communion in 1858. Thereafter, he kept a religious faith and pursued his spiritual quest; by contrast, many people in his community lost their faith after becoming adults. At the age of twelve, he was hired in a coal mine. He disliked this job, and spent his free time reading books about sciences that he borrowed in popular libraries and at his previous school. One day, while he was praying in the mine, his oil lamp went out; so, he concluded that he had to give up this job. He subsequently was hired as a metallurgist worker in the steel company Cockerill, which was located in the small town of Seraing (Belgium). When he was twenty years old, he experienced a dramatic event. While engaged in target training as a reservist soldier, he accidently killed another soldier and so was jailed for eight days for poor maintenance of his weapon. During his time in jail, he prayed often, encouraged by a priest who interpreted this tragic event as “a test,” a word that Louis Antoine used frequently later in his teachings. After returning to civilian life, Antoine sought to increase his income by working abroad in the Cockerill factories, successively in Rurhort (Prussia), Hamborn (Westphalia) and Warshaw (Poland). On April 15, 1873, he married Jeanne Collon. She remained his wife until the end of his life and became his spiritual heir when he passed away. She traveled with him in Poland where she ran a boarding-home. She gave birth to a son, Louis Martin Antoine Joseph, baptized in the Catholic Church Saint-Jean of Hamborn.
When he was forty-two years old, Louis Antoine decided to settle down permanently in the small town of Jemeppe-sur-Meuse (Belgium). Thanks to his work and his wife’s, he built twenty houses whose rents provided him with a good income. But despite this comfortable life, he didn’t feel happy. He suffered of stomachaches and had a nervous breakdown. He experienced existential anguish and wondered about the meaning of life. He had doubts about the truths he had learned when he was young. At this time, he read the writings of the French author Émiles Raspail (1831-1887), who recommended popular medications. To cheer him up, a friend invited him to attend spiritualist sessions held in his town. These were a revelation to Antoine. He was excited with Allan Kardec’s (1804-1869) The Spirits’ Book (1857) (Kardec.1960), and he believed that he had discovered how the prayer worked. He was convinced that the spirit phenomena are scientific because they can be experienced. On watching his nephew, Pierre Dor, gaining “gifts” of mediumnity, he wished to become a spirit medium himself. His conversion to spiritism was the first step (1888-1893) in the founding of the Antoinist religion. Indeed, this religion developed in the two phases described in Geoffrey Nelson’s (1968) sociological typology: the rise of a “spontaneous cult” and the rise of a “charismatic cult.” During the first phase (1893-1905), Antoine, as a new medium, invited his friends to experiment with the “writing stream of consciousness” and to question the spirits. At that time, Allan Kardec’s doctrine was popular in Wallonia, and Louis Antoine’s group of spirit friends increased. They decided to create a legal association, the Grapewiners of the Lord, a name accepted by the spiritual guides. They drew an emblem: two vines embroidered with silver thread on black velvet, with the motto “We Are All Eleventh-Hour Laborers.” Through this dictum, they meant that the spiritism had come on earth to end the mission of Christ. At that time, Antoine suffered another tragic event. On April 23, 1893, his son died of an illness the doctors were unable to explain. Antoine gave his son a burial according to the spirit ritual, and through this act he signified his break with the Catholic Church. Furthermore, his sorrow plunged him into a deep meditation on illness and death. He doubted the existence of matter (like the idealist philosophers) and was convinced that health is the most important earthly good. Thus, he wished to help the sufferers via the spirits, and he questioned the spirit named “Doctor Carita” (a well-known figure in the spirit groups) who gave medical advice from the “Beyond Realm.” Later, Antoine found it more efficient to lay hands on those who were sick and use mesmerism. Furthermore, he began to show a special gift for predicting diseases, which enabled him to guess the organs to be mesmerized. At this time, he referred not only to the “Spirit’s Book” but also to the figure of Christ healing the sick in the Holy Scriptures. Overall, however, he was not interested in the Scriptures. So as to be better understood in his milieu, he published in 1896 Le petit catéchisme spirite pour servir à l’instruction des enfants et des personnes ne connaissant pas le spiritisme, publié par la Société des Vignerons du Seigneur (“The Little Catechism of Spiritualism for Children and the Ones Who Don’t Know About the Spiritualism”) (Antoine 1896).
This book was presented as the commandment by L’Esprit de Vérité (The Spirit of the Truth) et L’Esprit consolateur (The Consoling Spirit), other well-known figures of the afterlife. On the cover of this booklet, one can read that “the Wine Growers of the Lord heal the sicks, drive away the demons, raise the dead, speak with the dead, and provide for free what they receive for free.” By focusing on selfishness, they considered themselves in the religion and charitable area. On a social level, the spirit group started to proselytize. The members handed out flyers advertising public sessions that took place at Louis Antoine’s home on the first and third Sundays of the month. They also handed out Antoine’s “The Little Catechism of Spiritualism for Children and the Ones Who Don’t Know About the Spiritualism,” gave conferences and organized spectacular spirit funerals under their banner. The number of followers increased, and the groups multiplied. They took advantage of the workers’ distrust toward the Catholicism, which they considered as a religion too allied to the rich. In this milieu of spiritual excitement, Louis Antoine imposed his leadership. For example, during the public meetings, he was the only one who interpreted the messages from beyond received by the other spirit mediums because, he said, he had plenty of practice in this field. He proclaimed that he had a gift and a fluid that produced more effects than the conventional medicine. He was named the “Healer of Jemeppe.” In addition to his “healing fluid,” he prescribed to his patients a concoction made of fennel and lichen, called “Saint-Germain Tea.” He mesmerized water and small pieces of paper for the sick. He also gave health advice and recommended a vegetarian diet.
Antoine’s popularity as a healer led to controversy and charges of illegal practice of medicine in in 1900. This controversy led him to examine more closely the practice of the mesmerist touching and medication. Fortunately, he found in Léon Denis’s book, Dans l’Invisible (Into the unseen) (Denis 1904), the means to change his practice to avoid accusations of illegal practice of medicine. According to Léon Denis, a French theorist of Spiritism, the mesmerist healing doesn’t need mesmerist massage or medication, but only requires a great will to relieve the suffering of the human being, as long as there is a true calling of the soul by God. Indeed, the healer just needs to remain in a silent contemplation, alone with his patient, and to call the beneficent spirits to receive from them a healing fluid and transmit it to the sick. Thus, this fluid reaches the root of the disease and acts as a “regenerative wave” on the patient. His shift in perspective led him to focus on mutual faith of healer and patient rather than laying on of hands and medication. He concluded that the physical disorders were the effects of the “pleas and the imperfection of the soul.” From this point of view, he realized medication was useless, since it was only the materiel form of the faith of both the healer and the patient. And the latter might miss the healing because of his desire to consult a doctor, which was an obstacle to the spirit medium’s cure. Louis Antoine eventually applied without knowing it what the psychoanalysts named the “Freudian displacement.” Antoine nevertheless sought to associate himself with a doctor to find a way around the accusations of illegal practice of medicine, but without success. In 1907, Antoine faced a second set of legal charges but was acquitted in court. His practice continued to grow as he discovered he could also heal “from a distance” and began to do “group healing sessions,” which enabled him to care for a greater number of patients. This changed his practice dramatically.
From 1905 to 1912, Louis Antoine created a “charismatic cult” centered on his person and his uncommon gifts, when he added to his healing practice a teaching named “L’Enseignement moral” (“The Moral Teaching”). At that time, he was helped by two people on a practical level. First, by M. Delcroix, a teacher who was healed of laryngitis by Antoine, and thus decided to transcribe the latter’s speeches delivered under inspiration to his followers. Second, by M. Deregnaucourt, also healed by Antoine. Conveniently, he and with his wife decided to open a printshop near Antoine’s home, so as to print his writing papers dedicated to broad distribution. In 1905, Antoine’s speeches were published in a booklet entitled L’Enseignement (The Teaching) (Antoine 1905). In this publication, he delivered both a moral and a philosophic theory based on the non-existence of the matter and on the reincarnation. Indeed, he departed from the spiritism that he considered too much based on the human perception, which may lead to errors. Antoine also modified the ritual of his meetings: he replaced the prayers by a silent meditation. He also cancelled the reading of Allan Kardec’s writings. Sometime later, Louis Antoine, now messenger of a new doctrine, destroyed the stock of the booklets L’Enseignement, and transformed his meeting room into a temple with a rostrum. In 1906, he proclaimed his new doctrine named “The New Spiritualism” in his temple, dressed in a black levite (a black jacket used by orthodox Jews). He delivered a new conception of humanity and of sickness, as well as a new cosmology that was transcribed and published in his review: L’auréole de la Conscience (The Halo of the Conscience) (Antoine.1907), La Révélation d’Antoine Le Généreux (The Revelation of Antoine The Generous) (Antoine 1908), and Le Couronnement de L’œuvre Révélée (The Completion of the Revealed Works) (Antoine1909). His followers conducted a well-organized proselytizing through peddlers who sold his printed papers. He sold all his belongings and used the income for proselytization. From that time, his followers named him “Father” and named themselves “The Antoinists.” After a meditation retreat, on Easter Monday 1910, he initiated a new ritual: he laid on hands, standing at his rostrum. He named this the “opération Générale” (a kind of public blessing).
Because of the great number of his followers, he needed to repeat his new ritual five times. In August 1910, he dedicated a temple in his town of Jemeppe, [Image at right] and he sanctified the office. He allowed his male followers to wear a levite and a top hat as he used to do. His female followers were allowed to dress with a black skirt and a blackcap. The worship, now definitively established, was performed in a “general operation” the first four days of the week. To do so, Louis Antoine came from his adjacent home and took the stairs up to the rostrum on which there was the emblem of the “The Tree of Science and the Sight of the Evil” (a new understanding of the Tree of Good and Evil). He laid his hands on the attenders in order to spread “a benevolent fluid” on them. At this stage, it was realized that he had found a new religion, with its specific creed, and a community of followers. A great number of persons venerated him and named themselves “The Antoinists.” On the front of his temples, one could read: “Culte Antoiniste, 1910” (C 1910). At this time, he was more willing to preach his doctrine than to cure the sick. Feeling that he would die soon, he did a last spiritual retreat and ordered his wife to replace him in the offices. She could deliver the “general operation” in the rostrum, but at a lower level than his.
This meant that he wife would inherit of his religious mission after his death. “Mother,” as Louis Antoine’s followers named her, was well accepted by them. On the organizational level, Louis Antoine settled a council of followers in order to manage the movement after his death. His close friends tried without success to obtain a status of religion from the Belgian government, according to the Belgian jurisdiction. On June 1911, Louis Antoine launched a periodical review entitled L’Unitif with 6,000 subscribers. The first issue that sold 400,000. This periodical was meant to consolidate all his ollowers and his sympathizers. The periodical ceased to be published after Louis Antoine’s death, but the first issue has been continuously published and is available in the Antoinist temples. On June 1912, Louis Antoine bid farewell to his followers. He told them that his wife was the heir of his religion and that she had inherited his gifts. He foresaw that after her death, great healers would cure and keep his cult alive on his behalf. He died the day after. His biographers Robert Vivier and Debouxtay reported that over a 1,100 people gave him a last farewell, addressing his body. The group’s detractors predicted that the Antoinism would fall into oblivion after the death of its founder, but now we know that this prediction was unfounded. In fact, “Antoinism” kept developing. Although membership eventually slightly decreased at some point, the group didn’t disappear.
The period from the death of Louis Antoine through the present can be divided in two parts: first, the foundation of a “centralized cult” and its management by “Mother” and, second, the time of the routinization in which the Antoinist Church was governed by a committee of “desservants” (heads of a temple). This group used to designate one member to be a “representative of the Father,” except in Belgium where this function was cancelled in 1971.
When Antoine died, there were about 1,000 true members (who wore the Antoinist attire) and many sympathizers. There were two temples in Belgium and fifty-five reading rooms in which an adept could read the writings of Louis Antoine (twenty-nine reading rooms in Belgium, twenty-five in France and one in Brazil). In none of these did a desservant practice the “opération générale” as it had been done in a temple.
A reading room may be transformed into a temple if the number of followers meaningfully increases. “Mother” gave to the Antoinist Church its definitive shape. She succeeded the passage from the charismatic domination of her husband to the administrative domination by a committee. To do so, she used her inherited charisma. She laid down rules, she prevented schisms, and thus she maintained the unity of the movement. She closed the reading rooms where some readers gave their personal interpretation about Louis Antoine’s writings (1932). She set the ritual of the office, created short ceremonies for the important moments of life (like a “rite of passage”), such as birth, age of the Holy Communion or bar mitzvah (bat mitzva), wedding, burial. These ceremonies consisted solely of a short meditation (“élévation de pensée”) to put the person in the “good fluids” or, in the burial, to let the dead go toward a new life. She settled her husband’s writings as the only pillar of the movement. To affirm his spiritual leadership, she placed his photograph at the rostrum of the temple alongside her own photograph in order to emphasize the role of the women in the Antoinist Church. Her speeches and actions are related in a collection of books entitled Les Tomes and are available only to the desservants. Mother died on November 3, 1940.
The period following her death was quite comparable with other religious movements in which candidates to leadership compete and sometimes create schism. Both the Belgian branch and the French branch of the movement were managed by a board of administrators which elected a representative of the Father. Joseph Nihoul was the first representative in Belgium (November 4, 1940) until his death. In 1971, the Belgian administrative board removed this function, but the French board retained it. The Belgian board also suppressed the photographs of the founders, arguing that they reflected the material shape of the founders, whereas they are spiritual entities. Two Belgian temples (in Retinne and in Liège) didn’t accept the modifications and joined the French Antoinists (Dericquebourg1993a).
Louis Antoine’s doctrine includes a cosmology, a psychology and an ethics. First, Antoine created a dualistic and an idealist view of the Human and of the Universe. In his thought system, there are two worlds. First, there is the material world (i.e. “the world of the embodied” or the “tangible world”) governed by the laws of nature (“external laws”), which are the emanation of the will to live (instinct to live). Second, there is a spiritual world (named ”the world of the disembodied”), regulated by the “inner law” (named also “law of conscience,” “God’s law,” “ethics law”). Humans are at the crossroad of both worlds because they have a physical body and a divine soul. The human personality is dual since it has a “conscientious self” (the true self connected to God) and a “sensible self” with brain functions (imagination, cognition, perception, which enable the individual to understand the physical world). That is the human being. The soul is part of intelligence; thus, it is material. By contrast, the universe is activated by a “fluid” (a notion from Allan Kardec’s doctrine), which reminds us of the notion of mana, maga, orenda in native societies described by the ethnologists. In his mind, all is fluid. For example, our thoughts wear a “fluid of love” or a “fluid of hate” among people.
According to Antoine, Evil is not real, it is only a “dark fluid” (tenebrous fluid) imagined by the sensible self. The imagination and doubt are the cause of human sufferings because they lead us to believe in the reality of evil and matter. In principle, a very faithful person knows that the loving God could not have created Evil. Antoine reinterpreted original sin in the light of his dualism: material world/spiritual world. In his mind, Adam separated from the “divine conscience” in which he lived because he began to believe in the reality of the physical world, whereas it was only an image invented by his imagination. Thus, he parted with God. Then he suffered ordeals and invented the notions of good and evil. That view of the casting out of the Paradise shows how the human has invented morality (ethics), since this is based on good and bad. The biblical tree of the knowledge of good and evil is renamed by Louis Antoine “the tree of science and the sight of good and evil.” The Antoinist logo [Image at right] symbolizes these original errors. In the seven branches of the tree depicting the Seven Deadly Sins, there are two eyes which symbolize the sight of good and evil.
Second, Antoine preached a theory of the embodiment (reincarnation). When people die, the spirit leaves the body and wanders in the beyond world (au-delà), which is all around us. They meditate on their last life on earth. They examine the causes of their moral improvement and the causes of their moral regression. Consequently, they choose a new earthly life with fewer or more ordeals to correct the errors of their previous lives. But back on earth, they may have forgotten their good resolutions. Fortunately, they are helped in this new life on earth by a “guardian spirit” (guardian angel). Thanks to their transmigration (metempsychosis), the spirits get better and reach their goal, which is to enter into the “Divine Conscience” and identify with the “Divine Principle.” The cycle of rebirth (like the samsara in Buddhism) may continue on other planets but it excludes the embodiment in animals, minerals or plants.
Third, Antoine provided a method to fasten the evolution of the spirit named “The Moral Working” (“moral process”), which consist of “soul searching.” During a silent prayer, believers analyze their thoughts so as to be part of “progressive ideas” (i.e. the “improving ideas”). These come from the conscientiousness that moves us toward the “delivery” (“salvation”) of the spirit from the embodiment (like a Jivan-mukti) and the “regressive ideas” that drive us back on the way up to the delivery of the spirit. The former process creates an “etheric lighting fluid” (luminous fluid) and the later created a heavy dark fluid. This training of “know thyself” could enable humans to find their inner divine principles and to reach the “fluids of light and love.” However, no one is able to fasten the spiritual improvement of another against his will. The improvement comes in due time, in the present life or in a further life. God doesn’t oblige humans to be better, because he loves them “as they are.” Indeed, Antoine disagreed on teaching Sunday School out of the respect of the free will of the children.
This doctrine leads the Antoinists to adopt a specific attitude toward the social life in several ways. First, they affirm that all religions enable their followers to reach a high level of faith, and they all teach how to pray. Second, Antoine showed a skeptical attitude toward the value of the human groups. Indeed, they gather same-fluid people, and this fluid is the cement of the group. But because the members don’t evolve in the same way, some of them will necessarily be attracted by another group that is better suited with their moral level (a more adequate fluid). Antoine explains in this way the volatility of groups and organizations. Third, Antoine relativizes science because it doubts systematically and thus separates from the true knowledge obtained with the faith in God. Although both research the truth, the scientists’ method of doubt is opposed to the certainty of the faithful believer. Furthermore, science studies the matter that is only a dream of our imagination (intelligence). Finally, the scientific knowledge accumulated in our brain vanishes when we die, whereas humans capitalize their moral improvement during successive lives. Antoine expresses this difference between the two kinds of knowledge with that sentence difficult to translate in English: “Connaître n’est pas savoir.” Fourth, Antoine’s metaphysic doctrine relativizes the juridical law. Although these laws pursue great rationality, they are the shadow of the true moral (ethic) law that is dictated by our conscience. In sum, one is reminded of the philosopher Bergson who opposed an “open morality” dictated by our conscience to a “closed morality” with written orders invented by men. Antoine didn’t exhort members to follow the human laws because those are the products of the social earthly world. Everyone decides whether to obey the laws of their country.
Antoine proclaims an interpretation of the sickness and the healing. As in other healing churches, sickness is multidimensional. It is moral distress, misfortune, illness, physical and mental disorder. According to Antoine, the physical troubles originate in the increasing contamination of foods or by a “wounded soul” (i.e. a fault which is an act opposed to the “conscientious law” committed in the present life or during a previous life). Humans pay off the debts of their errors with illness or misfortune. Thus, humans may be cured by freeing themselves from those errors (for instance the false belief in the reality of evil) or doing a “moral work” as described above or on praying alone or with a healer to recover a loving healing fluid which awakens the sick individual’s faith and rejuvenates their being. So, sickness and distress have a silver lining since they offer an opportunity to better our spirituality (Dericquebourg 1993b). We also notice that the Antoinist cure doesn’t consist only in expelling the sickness (exorcism) but also in leading the human on the way of salvation (adorcism) (Vicente1967; Narinx1987; Bégot 1998a; Bégot 2000, 2008).
Louis Antoine summarized his teaching in ten principles. The “Ten Principles of Father” (Antoine.1979):
If you love me – you will not teach it to anyone – since you know that I reside – only in the breast of man. You cannot testify that there exists – a supreme goodness while you isolate me from your neighbor.
Do not believe in him who speaks to you of me – whose intention may be to convert you. – If you respect every belief – as well as he who has none – you know, in spite of your ignorance – more than he can tell you.
You cannot teach morality to anyone – that would be proof – that you are not doing good – because morality is not taught by words – but by example, and do not see evil in anything.
Never say that you are being charitable – to someone who seems miserable to you – that would be to imply – that I am without consideration, that I am not good – that I am a bad father – a miser – leaving his offspring hungry. – If you act toward your fellows – as a true brother – you are charitable only to yourself – this you must know. – Since nothing is good if it is not shared – you have only bestowed on him – the fulfillment of your duty.
Strive always to love him who says – he is ‘your enemy’ – it is for you to learn to know yourself – that I place him in your path. – But see the evil in yourself rather than in him – this will be the sovereign remedy.
When you seek to know the cause – of your sufferings – which you always rightly undergo – you will find it in the incompatibility of – intelligence and conscience – which establish between themselves terms of comparison. – You cannot feel the least suffering – unless it is to make you aware – that intelligence is opposed to conscience – this is what must not be forgotten.
Strive to understand yourself – for even the least suffering is due to your – intelligence which always wants to gain more – it makes of itself a stepping-stone for mercy – intending that everything be subordinate to it.
Do not let your intelligence be your master – which always seeks only to raise itself higher – more and more – it tramples conscience under foot – claiming that it is matter – that gives – the virtues – while it contains only misery – souls which you call -‘abandoned’ – which have acted only to satisfy – their intelligence which has led them astray.
Everything that is useful for you in the present – as well as for the future – if you do not doubt in any way – will be given to you over and above. – Improve yourself – you will recall the past – you will remember – that it has been said to you: ‘Knock, I will open to you – I am in the know-thyself…’
Do not think of always doing good – when a brother comes to you to your aid – you can act to the contrary – hinder his progress. – Know that a great trial – will be your recompense – if you humiliate him and compel respect. – When you want to act – never base yourself on your belief – because it can lead you astray – base yourself always on conscience – which wishes to direct you, it cannot deceive you.
The Antoinist worship includes offices and sessions of reading. There are also four memorial days in the year.
As already noted, the main office is the “opération Générale” (blessing of the attenders) delivered by the desservant at 10:00 AM, except on Saturdays. The adept rings a bell tree times and announces: “Father, do the operation: Those who have faith in him will be satisfied.” Then the desservant takes the stairs up to the rostrum, he or she raises his/her hand like a prayer and he/she concentrates, with eyes closed for about five minutes. It is a contemplation conducted in order to attain the benevolent fluid and to distribute it in the audience. Then the desservant says slowly to the adept sitting at the bottom of the rostrum: “Reading.” The adept then reads few pages of Louis Antoine’s writings, which constitute the holy texts of the Church. Then the adept says: “Brothers, in the name of Father. Thank you.” The office lasts about twenty minutes.
The reading session is at 7:00 PM every day except on Saturdays. An adept reads some pages of Louis Antoine’s books and thanks the auditors for being there.
In France, sessions of reading can be held in “reading rooms,” which are not temples because they are not sanctified. A reading room may become a temple if its number of listeners increases and if they prefer it.
The Antoinists respect the catholic feasts: All Saints’ Day, Christmas, Easter, Easter Monday, Ascension Day. Antoine retained these feasts because most of his followers were Catholics. The Antoinists have specific memory days: June 25 (death of Louis Antoine), November 3 (death of his wife), August 15 (to remember the opening day of the first temple in Jemeppe on August 15, 1911). Until 1937, the Antoinists organized a procession in the town on June 25.
The Antoinists practice also a simple ceremony of funeral in which they read the “Ten Principles” as the coffin is lowered into the grave.
The organization of the French and the Belgian branches differs a little. In France, the legal name of the Antoinist Church is Association culturelle des desservants de France (or in an abbreviated form, Culturelle Antoiniste de France) (1958). It is regulated internally by the law of 1905 on religious associations. Only the desservants are members of this association. The board of desservants chooses the new desservants from among the followers who wear the Antoinist clothes. It also may remove a desservant. The committee of desservants chooses from among the committee the Représentant du Père (the Representative of Father). He is in charge of the unity of the Antoinist Church, and his temple becomes Le Centre moral of the French Antoinist Church during his term. An administrative committee (president, treasurer, secretary) manages the practical and juridical aspects of the movement, and it carries out the commands of the committee of desservants. In France, the Antoinist Church is recognized as a religion and benefits from the fiscal advantages given to the religions by the revenue administration (Journal Officiel de la République Française, February 9, 1924).
In Belgium, Antoinism is regulated by the law on the ASBL (association without lucrative goal). It is not recognized as a religion but as a philanthropic association, and thus benefits from a fiscal advantage since 1925. The Belgian followers eliminated the function of Representative of Father and replaced it with the function of Secrétaire moral (moral secretary).
Both the French and Belgian Antoinist Church are legally separate entities and own their temples. Mother granted autonomy to the French branch in 1923. She asked the seven French temples to constitute each temple as a legal association. In 1929, she gave a financial autonomy to the French temples and, in 1931, she fully retired from French Antoinism. In 1945, all the French local associations sold their temples to the National Union of Antoinism, which was thus in charge of the maintenance of the temples, of building new temples and keeping the unity of the Church. Among the French representatives of Father, we note M. Jeannin (1962-1970), Mrs Jeannin (his wife, 1970-1974), M. Dambax (1974-1982), Mrs Dambax (his wife, 1974-1982), In Belgium, the representative was Nihoul (1940), and after as the moral secretary, M. Dumont, Mrs Ghislaine Dumont (daughter of the later, 1985).
It is clear that the organization of the Antoinist Church is not complex. In the Antoinist organization there are two main figures. The first is the desservant, who is usually a woman. Desservants are responsible for a temple and must be very knowledgeable about Louis Antoine’s teaching. They conduct the office and must feel the “inspiration,” which means that they catch the healing fluid on those who are sick on behalf of the founder. Worship is not limited to the liturgy, because they also cure the mind and the body, and they give moral help to distressed persons. To do so, they must have a “private charisma.” They choose, or expels if necessary, the adepts they associate with their worship. They designate the heads of the reading rooms linked to his temple (In France only). They must live in the temple where they receive the consulting persons night and day.
The second important Antoinist figure is the healer. In a healing church like the Antoinists’, healers are the keystone of the healing device (apparatus). Healers need to feel a personal calling and to be accepted by the church. First, they must have a vocation, i.e. an inspiration to relieve the sufferings of others and show them the way to the spiritual path. The persons being healed ought to be convinced that praying and conforming to the “Moral law” are the true remedies for the life’s challenges. They examine their wills with the desservant who is able to guess the abilities and the level of spirituality of the applicant. After having prayed alone, the desservant accepts or refuses the applicant’s request. In doing so, the desservant acts as the heir of the founder’s charisma and as the representative of the church. But it also may happen that the desservants calls adepts who have not proposed themselves to be healers.
When healers begin to receive consulting persons, they are helped by the desservant who is more experienced. In the Antoinist’s view, the practice of the spiritual healing increases the faith of the healer. In sum, the healers’ career begins with the faith in Louis Antoine’s teaching, then it continues with the will to retrieve the suffering, and then their initial faith increases along with his practice since they feel the fluids and observe their benevolent effects when they transmit them to the those who are sick. In her time, Mother created sessions of training in the spiritual healing in her temple of Jemeppe, but they didn’t last.
The Antoinist Church faced two major challenges across its history. One was medical and legal contestation of his healing practices as his popularity grew. On October 28, 1900, doctors accused him of the illegal practice of medicine, and on February 19, 1901, he was fined sixty Francs and sentenced to pay damages. After this conviction, Antoine became convinced that laying on of hands and medication were not necessary for healing; the then focused on faith of the healer and the patient. His followers and patients increased in number. By 1907, he was receiving 1,200 patients daily. However, despite his new religious practices, he was prosecuted again on June 15, 1907 due to the death of many children who died from enteritis in the neighbouring town. He was accused of causing their deaths while trying to cure them. In the end, he was acquitted by the court of justice. Antoine’s church faced no further significant medical or legal challenges.
The second challenge was schism. There were two. The first was initiated by Jousselin near Verviers (Belgium). It failed almost immediately. The second was initiated by a nephew of Louis Antoine: Pierre Dor (1862-1947). Both Antoine and Dor began to practice the spiritism at the same time, but Dor acquired gifts of spirit channeling before his uncle. Nevertheless, he became Antoine’s disciple when he began to deliver a teaching. However, Dor subsequently proclaimed himself to be the true revealer of the spirits and to be like John the Baptist prefiguring Jesus. For several years, Dor attempted unsuccessfully to become a recognized spiritual healer in Belgium and Russia. He finally was able to sustain a niche in Belgium, but his movement dissolved when he died in 1947 as he had not gathered a group off committed followers and had not identified a successor. Although neither schism was successful, as already noted, the French and Belgian wings of Antoinism did ultimately form separate, independent organizations.
Image #1: Photograph of Louis Antoine.
Image #2: Photograph of the first temple in the town of Jemeppe.
Image #3: The Antoinism logo.
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9 August 2018