The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps
Hobnobbing with the Nabobs
In May 1928, the Oxford University undergraduate newspaper Isis
carried an editorial demanding that "student leaders of the
semi-religious cult known as 'Buchmanism' be suspended from the
Frank Buchman switched the emphasis of his "house parties" from the
students to their parents, preferably very wealthy parents,
on both sides of the Atlantic.
Frank Buchman had a habit of seeking rich, famous, and powerful people
for his converts and followers.
Buchman called such people "big sinners", "keymen",
and "up-and-outers" (as opposed to down-and-outers), men
who could aid his cause by the influence of their names as well
as by the contents of their
Buchman's critics called his behavior "hobnobbing with the
Henry P. Van Dusen, of the Union Theological Seminary in New York,
wrote, "All his life, Dr. Buchman has paid an uncritical, almost
childish deference to people of birth or social position, especially
royalty or titled
Some people asked whether Frank Buchman was another Rasputin, trying to
insinuate himself into the royal courts of Europe.
The loyal Oxford Groupers defended Buchman's behavior, arguing that changing
one "big sinner" would influence hundreds or thousands of
Again, Frank Buchman believed that
society could be transformed from the top down — convert the leaders,
and the followers would follow.
Frank Buchman (center), with Prince Richard of Hesse (left), and an
unidentified African dignitary (right).
The heavy-set man who is standing immediately behind the African dignitary is Ray Foote Purdy.
The tall fellow (with his head half cut off) who is standing immediately
behind the Prince appears to be Peter Howard.
The man who is standing behind Buchman is unidentified.
Notice how giddy Frank Buchman was in so many of these photographs.
He was just deliriously happy much of the time,
(or at least while posing for publicity photographs,)
showing the pagans how much fun
religion was — unless someone dared to displease him by disobeying his orders, or
by criticizing him or his "movement",
at which time Buchman would
explode in a screaming rage.
Frank Buchman with the segregationist Governor Eugene Talmadge
of Georgia and his family at the theater, Atlanta, April 1942.
A few paragraphs from Frank Buchman's biography are revealing. This happened very early in
... in the manner of many young men who have newly left home, he was giving
his parents a glimpse of his ambitions. They were grandiose in the style of an
America saturated with the log-cabin-to-the-White-House philosophy of Horatio Alger,
200 million copies of whose books had been sold in the previous twenty-five years.
'A man in order to be great must do extraordinary things, not ordinary,' Buchman
wrote to his parents. 'By the grace of God, I intend to make the name of Buchman
shine forth. By earnest toil and labour I can accomplish it.' Dr Luther, he remarked,
had not written hymns until he was forty; and his own ambition was to be a famous
author and hymn-writer. 'Never before', he concluded, 'have I revealed my mind to
you like this but often I have laid awake and thought of all these
Not only did he take himself seriously, he also expected others to follow suit.
For example, he not infrequently chided his mother for the stationery she used
when writing to him. 'I hate to receive letters on such poor paper,' he told her
briskly. 'It looks so careless and I want to keep them. So please do me the favour
to use better paper in the future. Every woman ought to have good
'Don't feel hurt about the stationery question,' he added in another letter,
'I meant it in all kindness.'3 ...
Almost immediately he was invited to attend the wedding of Florence Thayer's sister
in Woonsocket, and he started to lay careful siege to his father's pocket-book.
It would, he told his parents, be a great education 'to see the beautiful decorations,
the people and the like', the chance of a life-time, in fact. He didn't expect ever
again to get an invitation to such a fine wedding because he had but one millionaire
family on his acquaintance list. The only other wedding he could expect to attend was
his own — 'that is if I ever marry a girl like Miss Thayer, who can afford
such a wedding'.
... So, having
asked her to send him his 'nose-pinchers'* — 'because they are more becoming'
— and having suggested that she might care to let the Allentown Chronicle
know of his visit to Woonsocket,9 which she did,
he set off for Rhode Island.
The occasion turned out to be all he could have hoped for. There was, he wrote his
parents, such a crowd watching that 'it took four policemen to keep the mob in
subjection'. The luncheon was excellent, with salads and oysters 'in every style',
words were inadequate to describe the pretty dresses; there were jewels and laces
galore; and a butler in full livery gave each of the departing guests a piece of
First, Buchman declared that he was going to succeed in life and make his
name big. It's all fine and well to succeed in the style of Horatio Alger, but
Buchman "succeeded" by mooching money off of other people all of his
life. Notice how he expected his imagined future fiancé's rich family to
pay for a lavish wedding for him. (Buchman never married.)
Then Buchman had the nerve to criticize his mother for not using the best
paper when writing letters to him. Buchman felt that he rated first-class stationary,
although he masked his snobbish attitudes by declaring that a fine lady should use
Then Buchman worried about his appearance and chose the eyeglasses that he
thought would be most flattering.
Then Buchman "suggested" to his mother that she call the newspaper
and report his activities. Buchman was such a publicity hound.
Then Buchman went to a millionaire's wedding party where he enjoyed the
excellent food, pretty dresses, jewels and laces, and liveried butlers serving
wedding cake. That was hardly the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. But that's the
lifestyle to which Frank Buchman aspired, and that's the lifestyle that Frank Buchman
pursued all of his life. Frank Buchman was like the original Robin Leech, always
inserting himself into the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Haakon Receives Dr. Buchman.
Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
OSLO, Nov. 6. — King Haakon today received in
audience Dr. Frank Buchman, founder of the Oxford
Group Movement, who has been heading a team of fifty
here for a fortnight. The group held a "house
party," which 1,000 persons attended. New York Times, November 8, 1934, page 16.
Queen Marie of Romania
When the Leviathan sailed to New York in early October
1926 with Queen Marie of Romania on board, Frank Buchman just
happened to be on board, and...
Passengers on the vessel were all equally delighted with their
royal traveling companion.
"She is a lovely and charming woman," said Senator
Walter E. Edge, who dined with her, accompanied by Mrs. Edge.
"I lunched with her once by command," said Mrs. Reginald
Vanderbilt. "All that I can say of her is that she is the
most delightful person you could possibly meet. She is very
informal and a brilliant conversationalist."
...At 8:30 she [Queen Marie] had breakfast in her suite, but she lunched at
the Captain's table in the main dining saloon. Each day one or
two quests were present. At her suggestion, they were invited
by Captain Hartley.
Among them were Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and her brother,
Richard W. Bolling; Senator and Mrs. Edge, Frederick Gimbel,
Mrs. Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Chase,
Frank Buchman, R. M. S. Bircham, the Hon. S. S. Dickson
and Miss Mary Lasker. The New York Times, October 19, 1926, page 4.
What is amusing is that immediately under that article in
The New York Times, another article with a slightly
different attitude appeared:
National and local officials, including Secretary of State Kellogg,
Governor Smith and Mayor Walker, were censured yesterday by
Municipal Court Justice Jacob Panken, Socialist candidate for
Governor, for what he termed "undue zest in grovelling before
the Queen of the most corruptly governed country of Europe." The New York Times, October 19, 1926, page 4.
Sometimes Frank Buchman's social climbing nerve was outrageous:
Frank N. D. Buchman, "Soul Surgeon" and "Anti-Auto-erotist" invited 150
persons to his Manhattan residence, last week, to meet Queen Marie,
to whom he was presented on the Leviathan a fortnight ago (TIME, Oct.
18). The Queen did not appear. Mr. Buchman wrote "Ambassador Hotel, to
meet Queen Marie" with a red pencil on 150 blank white cards. Then he
and his guests trooped to Her Majesty's apartments in the Hotel
Ambassador, presented their cards, were presented to the Queen. TIME magazine, June 27, 1932
Whenever Buchman got a rich and famous adherent,
he would publicize and exploit that person's name for all it was worth, in
order to attract more rich and famous people. In this way, Buchman
habitually exaggerated the scope and importance of his movement.
For a time, when in New York, he lived in considerable comfort in
a house in West 53rd Street belonging to John D. Rockefeller, jnr (but
leased to a Changed lady). Here, in 1926, he entertained Queen Marie
of Romania to tea; he invited two hundred other guests, including
eleven prominent citizens of Allentown
[Frank Buchman's home town], to meet her. Though this function
secured gratifying publicity, it does not seem to have been an unqualified
success: the Queen had a cold and did not stay long, and when (presumably
not within earshot of the two hundred other guests) she asked Buchman
to read her sins in her face, he promptly replied 'Pride and self-satisfaction'.
(This dashing remark offsets, rather endearingly, some of the perennial
accusations of snobbery; or perhaps Buchman had ascertained, before tea,
that his guest was not really a top queen.)
The lists of those attending Group functions in this period read like a
digest of the Social Register, Debrett, and the Almanach de Gotha.
Some of the richest American families were usually represented;
from the House of Lords would come Lord Addington, Lord Noel-Buxton,
or Lord Rochester; from Holland, Count John Bentinck; from all over Northern
Europe, an assortment of baronesses, including such splendidly Firbankian
figures as the Baroness de Watteville Berckheim, who was thought to be
of Latvian origin; from Austria, Baron Franckenstein;
Frau Katherine von Hanfstaengl, mother of
Hitler's favourite, 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl.
It cannot be assumed that all of these were Changed and dedicated Groupers,
but at least they had been induced to attend a Buchmanite house-party
or assembly or soirée; and theirs is the kind of name that
predominates in the Buchmanite guest-lists of the inter-war years... The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, pages 55-56.
Concluding a six-week visit to the U. S. (TIME, May 2), Dr. Frank Nathan
Daniel Buchman, "soul surgeon," set sail for England with 15
members of his "First Century Christian Fellowship." In Washington,
said he, Herbert Hoover received his party. To one meeting went Supreme
Court Justice Harlan Fiske Stone — Present at a meeting in Dearborn, Mich,
were Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford. Soul Surgeon Buchman said that his movement
had also interested Mrs. Thomas Alva Edison and Harvey Firestone. TIME magazine, June 27, 1932
In the summer of 1936, the first national assembly of the Oxford Group Movement
in Stockbridge, Massachusetts had in the guest registers names like
Mrs. Henry Ford, Mrs. Harry Guggenheim,
Emily Newell Blair,
Cleveland Dodge, Baroness de Watteville Berckheim, Carl Vrooman, Sir Philip Dundas,
Mrs. Henry Noble McCracken, and
At the Stockbridge, Massachusetts, assembly in 1936,
"the International Team" included Baroness de Watteville Berckheim,
Lord Addington at her right, Dr. Frank Buchman at her left, and Dr. Duys,
"the brilliant Hollander", at the extreme right.
In addition, Buchman boasted that his ideas were endorsed by Senator
Harry S Truman, Harry H. Woodring, Henry Ford, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Joe DiMaggio,
and New York Mayor Fiorello La
One historian dryly commented that it was unclear whether the rich and famous also
had to confess all of their sins to Frank Buchman. Perhaps they,
being rich and famous, got a special dispensation.
On a journey in the Middle East: Frank Buchman (left), with Lady Minto
(formerly Vicereine of India) and Cuthbert Bardsley (later Bishop of
Queen Marie of Romania
But when Buchman lost a royal admirer, he took it very hard.
(Narcissists just can't stand being made to
The withdrawal of Queen Marie from his New York tea was a public
embarrassment and a personal hurt for Buchman. His notes at the time reveal
how disconcerted he was and how much in need of inner reassurance:
'Regain your poise ... There is much to suffer ... Cheer up, go strong,
all is well. Forget it.' ...
Buchman drafted an immediate letter warning her against endangering
'the moral and spiritual development of her children'. On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, page 129.
Sometimes Frank Buchman's arrogance and narcissistic grossly-inflated
sense of self-importance bordered on the unbelievable.
Frank Buchman actually had the shameless audacity to tell Queen Marie that she
was endangering her children's spiritual welfare by not attending
any more of his tea parties. (That's the propaganda trick of
"Argue from Adverse
— warn that something terrible will happen if people don't do what you wish.)
But Queen Marie got the last word on the subject. Many years later,
interviewed her, and she said,
"I have met Buchman. I did not like him. He seemed to me to be a snob.
He spoke of God as if He were the oldest title in the Almanach de Gotha.
And all that business about telling one's sins in public — He wanted me ... me ... to
get up before my children and confess everything I had ever done! It is spiritual
nudism! Ça se ne fait pas." All I Could Never Be, Beverly Nichols, pages 255-256.
In his analysis of Buchmanism for Atlantic Monthly magazine,
Henry P. van Dusen wrote:
No feature of the Oxford Group Movement so strikes the casual observer or
furnishes such innocent merriment to friendly critics as its studious
attention to position, title, and social prestige. No meeting is properly
launched without its quota of patrons of rank and social standing.
No reference to the work is typical without its listing of the important
personages who have lately given their allegiance to it (or have expressed
some friendly interest in it) — generals and bishops and M.P.'s and counts
and baronets; or, failing these, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces,
cousins and aunts, or friends of generals, bishops, M.P.'s, counts, and
baronets. It is probable that no socially exclusive church ever made such
habitual and unblushing employment of the names of the great, the near-great,
the would-be-great, or the thought-to-be-great as the Oxford Group Movement.
Let it be said at once that this characteristic, likewise, proceeds directly
from Mr. Buchman. All his life long he has paid an uncritical, almost
childlike, deference to people of birth or social position, especially
royalty or titled nobility. I suspect this is partly due to his own
background; it is characteristic of many of humble but sterling birth
to hold the socially elite in quite false reverence — a mistake not so easy
for those more intimately acquainted with them. Partly it is the typical
attitude of conservative German Lutheranism.
Closely related is the association of the work with comfortable, even luxurious
living. It has long been Mr. Buchman's principle to stop only at the
most fashionable hotels, and usually to travel in first-cabin accomodations
on the most expensive liners. Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman:
Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen,
Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, pages 10-11.
Frank Buchman greets Gopal Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, when he arrives in London.
Frank Buchman (right), with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany (left), in
Los Angeles, January 1960.
This photograph and the one below, Buchman with Adenauer and Buchman with Schuman,
were really worked to death by the Moral Re-Armament propagandists. Those two photographs
were reprinted in one MRA book after another, always with comments about how much
Schuman and Adenauer admired Buchman, and what close friends they were.
If they were such great close friends, why did MRA seem to have so few photographs of
See, among others: Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967,
Robert Schuman, Foreign Affairs Minister of France, with Frank Buchman, at
a conference at Caux, Switzerland, September 1953.
That one conference seems to
have been the only time that they ever met. Notice their neckties in these pictures.
When Frank Buchman later set up his headquarters at Mackinac Island,
he even had a large fresco painted there, which showed Frank Buchman surrounded
by his "personal friends":
Louisa Lady Antrim ("lady in waiting to three Queens of England"),
Lord Athlone (Governor General of Canada), General John Pershing (Commander of American armies
in World War One), Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford, and Dr. Konrad Adenauer
(Chancellor of Germany after WWII).
The need to collect and be seen with many such famous, ultra-rich, powerful,
or noble 'personal friends' reveals a weak, insecure ego that tries to
compensate for its feelings of inferiority by basking in reflected glory —
in other words, somebody suffering from a narcissistic personality
Mackinac Island Mural
(Click on the image for a larger version.)
Notice the arrogance that was present even in the description of the mural. All of those people,
even a medieval cleric (who looks like Martin Luther) and Mahatma Gandhi all supposedly
"joined with Frank Buchman in the battle to put right what's wrong".
Not that they might have inspired Frank Buchman, since they came before him. No,
Frank had to be the leader, and they "joined with Frank" in his
"battle to put right what's wrong all over the world".
By the way, Tod Sloan was described there as a "leader of the unemployed in East London".
What the heck is that? Do unemployed people have leaders?
Do they usually get together and form organizations and elect leaders?
Or was Tod Sloan at that point just another unemployed guy?
At one point, Tod Sloan was a militant activist in labor causes,
and he campaigned for poor children to get meals and boots, but he quit
doing that when
he was "changed" by
the Oxford Group recruiters.
The MRA propagandists also awarded those goofy "leader of London's unemployed"
and "London labor leader"
titles to William Rowell,
even though he was just an unemployed man who never led any union.
The Buchmanites' habit of applying superlative labels to all of their
followers was another aspect of Frank Buchman's compulsion to associate with
the rich, famous, and powerful. Buchman apparently didn't like to see
himself as associating with, or attracting, the common rabble. Frank Buchman's
followers had to be the biggest, the brightest, and the best at everything, which
would again bolster Frank's weak ego.
"If the smartest and richest and best people in the world follow
me, then I must be right, right?
And if you are smart, you will follow me too, right?"
Geoffrey Williamson, a London journalist who visited the MRA center
in Caux, Switzerland, to investigate Frank Buchman and his organization,
noticed the same thing. Everybody there was introduced with a superlative label, even him.
He was promoted to "one of the leading journalists of London."
He said that while he found it very flattering, he felt that the title was inaccurate
and an exaggeration.117
I disliked the ceaseless barrage of flattery which poured from the
lips of most of the Buchmanites with about the same glibness as their sloganese.
Everyone and everything was always given an enthusiastic "build up."
I became accustomed to being introduced in grandiose terms.
"This is Mr Geoffrey Williamson — a writer from London whose words
go out to many millions of people,"
was one flowery introduction, but this was eclipsed by a Finnish Buchmanite
who greeted me with: "I hear you are a king among journalists."
These high-flights of imagination were embarrassing at first, but I grew used
to them and began to wonder how I should hear myself described next. The lowest
rank ascribed to me was "Leading Features Editor for a very powerful group."
Never once was I presented as a modest observer seeking facts.
So much, I thought, for the Buchmanite's code of "Absolute Honesty."
I could overlook this, but most of the "guides" had a manner that
was much too hearty. They were like a brisk games mistress greeting her
girls as they came off the hockey field. In a phrase of O. Henry's, they
were "too anxious to please, to please." Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the
Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament,
Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 88.
(Click on the image for a larger version.)
Another Mackinac Island mural showing Frank Buchman surrounded by famous people.
They tried to associate Frank Buchman with everything from Army generals to
foreign leaders to the flag and the dead Presidents on Mount Rushmore.
"The Mackinac Mural" — Frank N. D. Buchman — his
heritage and life commitment, by
Erling Roberts. It shows his fighting heritage and some of the men and women who
took their stand with him to restore the authority of God to men and nations.
Dr. Buchman was decorated by eight governments. His ancestors left Switzerland
in 1740 to settle in Pennsylvania where seven generations of Buchmans were buried.
Two of his relatives fought with Washington at Valley Forge.
Towering in the background is the massive Mt. Rushmore Memorial with the
historic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and
Abraham Lincoln, symbolizing the men who founded and maintained the U.S. on
the principles which Frank Buchman brought to life in our time. Preview Of A New World; How Frank Buchman Helped his country Move from isolation
To world responsibility; USA 1939-1946, Arthur Strong, page 315.
By the way, notice the language trick of speaking about "men and women who
took their stand with him to restore the authority of God to men and nations."
Restore? When was the previous time? When did God ever have such authority over the world?
When was there ever a perfect theocracy on Earth?
That is the propaganda trick of The Glittering Generality,
citing some imaginary wonderful time in the past.
At the time when the Roman
Catholic Church was the strongest in Europe, they had three Popes waging wars for the leadership of the Church,
and they burned millions of women as witches. And they burned astronomers for saying that the Earth revolved
around the Sun. And they burned Jews for being Jews. God sure wasn't in authority then.
So just what wonderful time is Arthur Stong really talking about?
Speaking of name-dropping, Frank Buchman also had a habit of collecting trophies —
that is, big name converts who were former atheists, labor union members, socialists,
Communists, or something like that. Buchman loved to show off his trophies — every house
party was another Show And Tell. Among the converts Frank routinely
showed off were:
Tod Sloan, former East London labor activist
Bill Pickle, former bootlegger at Pennsylvania State University
Bunny Austin, former Davis Cup tennis player
Mme. Irene Laure, former French socialist
John Riffe, Executive Vice President of the CIO labor union
Todd Sloan, the former labor activist, and Frank Buchman
Todd Sloan was the Oxford Group convert
who declared that he had made a mistake
when he campaigned to help the poor and homeless, and to get
schoolchildren meals and boots, because he had "made materialists out of them."
Irene and Victor Laure, French socialists whom Buchman "changed"
John Riffe, the union labor leader whom Buchman "changed", with Mrs. Thomas A. Edison,
the inventor's widow.
And then Buchman also showed off some more people who weren't quite
committed converts, but who had somehow, at some time or other, expressed
some sympathy for Frank's movement:
Senator Harry S Truman
Admiral Richard E. Byrd, polar explorer
General John Pershing
Former President Herbert Hoover
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford
Mrs. Thomas Edison
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany
Robert Schuman, Foreign Affairs Minister of France
Frank Buchman also had a habit of collecting endorsements. Whenever anybody said
something nice about Frank or his Group, his followers reprinted it and broadcast it far and
wide, often exaggerating it in the process, to make "the movement" look better.
When the London newspaper reporter A. J. Russell wrote a flattering article
about Frank Buchman and his Oxford Group "house parties",
Buchman mailed copies of it to nearly 10,000
Frank Buchman and his followers even collected endorsements from people who had not
praised Buchman or his Groups — like when, in 1938, Cardinal Hinsley, the leader of
all of the English Roman Catholics,
discovered that Frank Buchman's organization
was making propaganda use of a letter of praise of Buchmanism that was allegedly
written by Cardinal Hinsley, but which Cardinal Hinsley could not remember having
Narcissists are experts at showing off. Everything they do is calculated to make
the right impression. Conspicuous consumption is for them what religion is
for other people. Narcissists pursue the symbols of wealth, status, and power
with a fervor that is almost spiritual. They can talk for hours about objects
they own, the great things they've done or are going to do, and the
famous people they hang out with. Often, they exaggerate shamelessly... Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry,
Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 130.
Frank Buchman liked to count Mahatma Gandhi as another one of his many
famous friends and admirers. The Buchmanites declared that Frank Buchman
met Mahatma Gandhi in India in 1915, way back in the early days when they were
both young men, and that Gandhi had (supposedly)
said that Frank Buchman brought very high spirituality to India.
They claimed that Gandhi said,
"MRA is the best thing that ever came from the West to the East".
(Who knows when Gandhi allegedly said that. It couldn't have been in 1915, because
Frank Buchman didn't start using that name — "Moral Re-Armament",
"MRA" — until 1939.)
Was that really true — did Gandhi really say any such thing, or was that just another
one of Frank Buchman's self-aggrandizing lies?
This is the photograph that the Buchmanites claimed showed
Frank Buchman and Mahatma Gandhi walking together
on the beach in 1915.
I sincerely doubt that Mahatma Gandhi would have been all that enthusiastic about
Frank Buchman's flavor of religion. That alleged praise from Gandhi
sounds to me like just another Buchmanite fabrication.
I have found absolutely nothing to verify that Buchmanite claim —
I have never found anything about Frank Buchman or his philosophy in any
biography of Gandhi, or in any of Gandhi's writings, and I've looked.
If Gandhi really rated Frank Buchman's "spirituality"
as the greatest thing to come from the West, then
Frank Buchman should have at least gotten a few small mentions somewhere.
In addition, Gandhi was very clearly opposed to Frank Buchman's style of cultish
authoritarianism and emphasis on converting others to his own beliefs:
I am not interested in freeing India merely from the English yoke. I am bent upon
freeing India from any yoke whatsoever. I have no desire to exchange 'king log for king stork.'
== Mahatma Gandhi, June 12, 1924 All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 129.
That sounds like Gandhi wouldn't have really wanted the Indian people
to be brought under the yoke of Frank Buchman's "true dictatorship
of the living God", with Frank at the top of the power pyramid...
I disbelieve in the conversion of one person by another.
== Mahatma Gandhi All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 162.
I do not believe in people telling others of their faith, especially
with a view to conversion.
Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes
== Mahatma Gandhi, October 20, 1927. All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 55.
Well, that certainly rules out Frank Buchman's Oxford Group meetings with the
"sharing" of group confessions, and
Soul Surgeons insistently proselytizing and demanding confessions and
converting the vulnerable, and
The Five C's:
Confidence, Confession, Conviction, Conversion, and Conservation.
I know of no greater sin than to oppress the innocent in the name of God.
== Mahatma Gandhi, April 1947. All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 73.
Obviously, Gandhi had a very low opinion of oppressive cult religions
— "no greater sin".
So did Gandhi really praise Frank Buchman's fascist version of
"spirituality" as the best thing to come out of the West?
I don't think so.
In September of 1927, Frank Buchman wrote to Mrs. "Mother"
Tjader, another enthusiastic supporter, asking whether she
could arrange to have his name put into the New York Social Register.
"I feel for the work's sake this ought to be done," he told
Buchman also managed to get himself inserted into Who's Who,
where his autobiographies left something to be desired
in the way of Absolute Honesty.
For example, in the 1931 through 1938 editions of Who's Who, when Buchman was on
a patriotic jag in the days before World War Two,
he described his World War One activities as
"Served European War with a flying squadron, looking after war prisoners",
but he also claimed that he had
"made a tour of India, Korea, and Japan, 1915-16; toured in the Far East,
which left little time for participation in World War
And did "flying squadrons" in World War One even take or keep prisoners
of war? How could they? When one biplane shot down another,
the victorious pilot could not and did not capture the enemy pilot. Often,
the defeated pilot was shot up and died in the crash.
If he was lucky, he jumped out with a parachute. If he was very lucky, he was
over his own territory, and landed safely. If he was over enemy territory,
he was captured by the enemy army below. --By the "ground-pounders",
the infantry, not by the "flying squadron".
How could Buchman "Serve European war, looking after war prisoners"?
Did he enlist in the Army? (No.)
So what happened? Did he just wander onto some airfield at the front and
announce, "Hi. I'm a German-speaking Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania,
and I want to give aid and comfort to your German prisoners of war for a few weeks"?
And remember that Frank Buchman also claimed that in 1915, he was in India talking with
Mahatma Gandhi, who allegedly said that Frank Buchman brought a very high spirituality
In the 1931 edition of Who's Who, Frank Buchman claimed that he had
served in World War I in Europe. But he also claimed that he was in India, Korea, Japan,
and the Far East at the same time.
In 1939, with another world war imminent, that claim disappeared.
Likewise, in one of his radio speeches before World War II, Frank Buchman declared:
MRA is the great central revolutionary force. I was personally at war.
An experience of the Cross made me a new type of revolutionary.
Frank Buchman, speaking in a radio broadcast from KGEI San Francisco, and
WRUL Boston, 29 October 1939, quoted in Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman,
Um, just which war was that, Frank?
And remember that another Buchmanite wrote:
During the First World War he [Frank Buchman] got to know Sun-Yat-Sen, a great man
whose name is today respected both in Communist and Nationalist China.
Frank said to him: "The greatest evils in China are squeeze, concubinage and
gambling. You must build your new nation on firm moral foundations."
Sun-Yat-Sen said of this conversation: "Buchman told me the truth about
my country and myself." Fresh Hope for the World: Moral Re-Armament in Action,
edited and introduced by Gabriel Marcel, 1960,
translated from the French by Helen Hardinge, page 159.
So Frank Buchman was in China, allegedly teaching morality to Sun-Yat-Sen, at a
time when he said he was serving in the European War?
They couldn't even keep their stories straight.
Falsification of History
is another bad habit that Bill Wilson may have learned from Frank Buchman.
Bill's autobiographical stories also left a lot to be desired in the
Absolute Honesty department, like
How in the second edition of
the Big Book, Bill promoted himself from "Wall Street hustler" to
"New York stockbroker",
And how Bill denied in the Big Book that he had ever been
unfaithful to his wife
when he was really such an obnoxious philanderer, 13th-stepping every
pretty young thing in A.A., that some people, like Tom Powers, who was
the co-author with Bill of Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions,
quit A.A. in disgust over Bill's behavior,
And how Bill claimed to have been an icy intellectual, a conservative
atheist, and a skeptical scientist who was trained at a modern engineering
school, when he was really
just a superstitious
And how Bill wrote in the Big Book that his new "spiritual"
cure for alcoholism had
a seventy-five percent success rate,
with "hundreds recovered",
when he really had only between 40 and 70 sober A.A. members in the
whole world (even after two years of intense full-time recruiting, which
deceptive recruiting and
techniques), and a
failure rate with alcoholics worse than 95 percent.
(See pages 17 and XX in the foreword to the second edition.)
But sometimes Frank Buchman's social climbing habits backfired:
In one year he might be the host or guest of millionaires and royal
personages, and able to use their names or their money to advance
his cause — and then, in the same year, might come a sharp setback
or humiliating snub, such as that delivered in July, 1937, at a Foyle
literary luncheon in London, by Miss Margaret Rawlings, the actress.
She had been invited as the 'guest of honour' without realising that the
luncheon was in honour, too, of Buchman; and, despite intense advance
counter-pressure and the numbing impact of a floodlit para-military
parade of young Groupers, carrying banners, singing choruses and shouting
slogans, she had the courage to say, in front of 2,000 other guests —
many of them Buchmanites — that, to her, 'this public exposure of the
soul, this psychic exhibitionism, with its natural accompaniment of
sensual satisfaction', was 'as shocking, indecent and indelicate as
it would be if a man took all his clothes off in Piccadilly Circus'. The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 55.
(Many years later, Margaret Rawlings played "Countess Vereberg"
in the movie Roman Holiday,
where a cute unknown starlet named Audrey Hepburn suddenly became a
very famous Academy Award winner.)
And the wiley old politician President Franklin D. Roosevelt was far too
smart to get sucked into being used as a publicity tool by
Dr. Frank Buchman.
Buchman and his followers were forever chasing after
President Roosevelt, trying to get endorsements or receptions or speeches
from him, but Roosevelt always kept his
The Buchmanites even succeeded in talking a certain Senator
Harry S Truman into asking President Roosevelt to take part in a
"world radio" broadcast in December, 1939. Roosevelt
politely replied to Truman that he felt that it was not the time
to be pushing Buchman's plan for world
(Indeed. Buchman's plan would have left Hitler the overlord of
most of central Europe, including Germany, the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and
half of Poland.)
President Roosevelt did send one public relations message to
one of Buchman's Moral Re-Armament get-togethers, and the
Buchmanites distorted its meaning and claimed that Roosevelt
had endorsed Buchman's organization:
TO WORLD TO JOIN
IN MORAL REARMING
Message to Capital Meeting
Says Movement Cannot Fail
to Lessen Peril of War
PROGRAM WIDELY HAILED
Lehman, Pershing, Eden Among
Those Sending Endorsement
— Buchman Chief Speaker
By FRANK L. KLUCKHOHN
Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
WASHINGTON, June 4. — President Roosevelt, in a message tonight
to a National Meeting for Moral Rearmament held in
Constitution Hall here, called for worldwide support of the
Distinguished persons from many parts of this country and
the world, gathered to give their aid to the drive to mobilize
world opinion against war, heard the reading of messages
also from 206 members of the British House of Commons,
among them former Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden; twenty-three
senior members of the House of Lords, representatives of
eight other Parliaments, other American public officials...
Message From President
President Roosevelt's message, which was read by Senator Harry
S. Truman of Missouri, said:
"The underlying strength of the world must consist in
the moral fiber of her citizens. A program of moral rearmament
cannot fail, therefore, to lessen the danger of armed
conflict. Such moral rearmament, to be most highly
effective, must receive support on a world-wide basis." The New York Times, June 5, 1939, page 1.
The second headline and the first sentence of the article were incorrect.
President Roosevelt did not call for "worldwide support
of the movement."
In a neutral, carefully-worded piece of public relations fluff, President
Roosevelt merely endorsed the general idea of "moral re-armament"
(lower case), not Frank Buchman's organization
"Moral Re-Armament" or "the
Roosevelt's choice of those words was very careful and
very deliberate. He wished to endorse morality in general without endorsing
Frank Buchman's Moral Re-Armament in particular. Roosevelt re-wrote that
message several times, carefully choosing every word, seeking just the
right neutral tone.
Nevertheless, the Buchmanites immediately claimed that
President Roosevelt was also one of their supporters.
Tom Driberg reported that the lower-case "moral re-armament"
wording was very deliberate. President Roosevelt rewrote his message several times,
carefully adjusting the wording, until it projected just the right image
while refraining from actually endorsing Buchman or his organization.
(And some of the original drafts, in Roosevelt's handwriting, still exist
in his papers in his Presidential library, so historians can see how
President Roosevelt was thinking as he changed and reworded his message, seeking
just the right neutral tone.)
And then, when the Buchmanites nagged President Roosevelt for another
endorsement, and yet another, Roosevelt just kept sending them the same
message for every
Also notice how President Roosevelt said that,
"Such moral rearmament,
to be most highly effective, must receive support on a world-wide
In other words, one-sided peacefulness, like further appeasement of Hitler and
acquiescence to his demands, would not be effective.
Frank Buchman's simplistic self-criticizing "morality" works
only when both sides practice it, which Adolf Hitler did not do.
Such exaggerations of praise and endorsements were commonplace. When former President
Herbert Hoover spoke briefly and informally at an MRA luncheon
in December of 1938, saying that he
believed in "ethics and morality", the Buchmanites implied that
Herbert Hoover had also endorsed their
As Henry P. van Dusen reported:
In brief, a good word for the work, in the face of cruel slander, is
represented as convinced support. Attendance at a meeting as a curious
inquirer may forthwith be widely circulated so as to convey the impression
of full membership. The vaguest expression of sympathy is quoted as though
it were a declaration of complete approval. Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman:
Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen,
Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, page 15.
And Tom Driberg reported:
...Cardinal Cushing, of Boston, 'befriended' (it is his word) an MRA
team that he met in South America — probably in Brazil, where MRA has
been active for some years, with the aid of local ex-Communists.
He was to regret his friendliness. Too much was made of it in MRA propaganda,
and he was even quoted as saying that he would welcome the setting-up
of MRA centres in his own archdiocese. 'That's silly', he said,
repudiating the report and reiterating
the official Roman Catholic warning against MRA. The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 86.
Dr. Frank Buchman and Mae West
Even the famous actress Mae West was used in that manner.
When she seemed to have been bitten by the "get religion" bug,
she met with Frank Buchman and endorsed MRA.
The Buchmanites exploited her name for all it was worth,
and widely reprinted a picture of her posing with Frank Buchman while holding
a Moral Re-Armament book, and quoted her praising MRA or Frank Buchman.
But the New York Times writer B. R. Crisler
came up with one of the best lines when, in his spoof of Hollywood foolishness,
he awarded the title:
Profoundest Philosophical Reflection: Mae West's statement to Dr. Frank Buchman,
head of the Oxford Movement, on the occasion of their historical meeting:
"I owe all my success to the kind of thinking Moral Rearmament is." New York Times, "CIRCUS OF SUPERLATIVES",
B. R. Crisler, January 7, 1940, page 135.
(A less charitable person might have been tempted to comment that
the sexy, amply-endowed Miss Mae West's successful film career
was definitely not due to men thinking religious thoughts...)
"Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
"It's not the men in my life that counts — it's the life in my men."
"I used to be Snow White... but I drifted."
"Good sex is like good Bridge... If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand."
"Why don't you come on up and see me sometime... when I've got nothin' on but the radio."
"He who hesitates is a damned fool."
"When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before."
One of Mae West's biographers had a very different take on the encounter.
He wrote that Mae West was using Frank Buchman in a publicity stunt:
Universal's publicity department, remembering all the attention Mae and Billy Sunday
had reaped from their meeting, persuaded a famous but naïve religious leader to
come up and see her. Even a bemused B. R. Chrisler of The New York Times devoted
considerable space to this manipulation, commenting, "As startling in its way as the
Nazi-Soviet pact was the unexpected interview between Mae West and Dr. Frank Buchman,
the English theologue, who is the leader of the so-called Moral-Rearmament Movement
on the Pacific Coast."
Maneuvering Dr. Buchman onto a sofa beneath a nude painting of herself for the
benefit of photographers, Mae, effulgent in a sheer pink negligee, assured him that
she owed all her success to the kind of Moral Rearmament he represented.
The guileless Buchman replied: "You are a splendid character, Miss West. You have
done wonderful work, too, in pleasing and entertaining millions with your charming
Dr. Buchman apologized that he was an amateur at this kind of thing, but Mae told him
he was doing fine and inquired whether he had met W. C. Fields. Buchman hadn't, and
Mae regretted this, telling him, "Moral Rearmament is just what Bill needs. Give it
to him in a bottle and he'll go for it." Having scored all her points, Mae allowed
the press agents to escort Dr. Buchman back to a world in which he was more experienced. MAE WEST, a biography, George Eells and Stanley Musgrove, page 193.