Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book Six - The Church of the Quacks
In a certain city of America is a large building given up entirely to the whims of pretty ladies. Its floors are not floors but "Promenades," and have walls of glass behind which, as you stroll, you see bonnets from Paris and opera cloaks from London, furs from Alaska and blankets from Arizona, diamonds from South Africa and beads from the Philippines, grapes from Spain and cherries from Japan, fortune-tellers from Arabia and dancing- masters from Petrograd and "naturopaths" from Vienna. There are 73 shops, by actual count, containing everything that could be imagined or desired by a pretty lady, whether for her body, or for that vague stream of emotion she calls her "soul." One of the 73 shops is a "Metaphysical Library," having broad windows, and walls in pastel tints, and pretty vases with pink flowers, and pretty gray wicker chairs in which the reader will please to be seated, while we probe the mysteries of an activity widely spread throughout America, called "New Thought."
We begin with a shelf of magazines having mystical titles: Azoth; Master Mind; Aletheian; Words of Power; Qabalah; Comforter; Adept; Nautilus; True Word; Astrological Bulletin Unity; Uplift; Now. And then come shelves of pretty pamphlets, alluring to the eye and the purse; also shelves of imposing- looking volumes containing the lore and magic of a score of races and two score of centuries - together with the very newest manifestations of Yankee hustle and graft.
As in the case of Christian Science, these New Thoughters have a fundamental truth, which I would by no means wish to depreciate. It is a fact that the mysterious Source of our being is infinite, and that we are only at the beginning of our thinking about it. It is a fact that by appeal to it we can perform seeming miracles of mental and moral regeneration; we can stimulate the flow of nervous energy and of the blood, thus furthering the processes of bodily healing. But the fact that God is Infinite and Omnipotent does not bar the fact that He has certain ways of working, which He does not vary; and that it is our business to explore and understand these ways, instead of setting our fancies to work imagining other ways more agreeable to our semi-mentality.
Thus, for example, if we want to bread, it is God's decree that we shall plant wheat and harvest it, and grind and bake and distribute it. Under conditions prevailing at the moment, it appears to be His decree that as shall store the wheat in elevators, and ship it in freight cars, and buy it through a grain exchange, with capital borrowed from a national bank; in other words, that our daily bread shall be the plaything of exploiters and speculators, until such a time as we have the intelligence to form an effective political party and establish Industrial Democracy. But when you come to study the ways of God in the literature of the New Thought, do you find anything about the Millers' Trust and the Bakers' Trust and how to expropriate these agencies of starvation? You do not!
What you find is Bootstrap-lifting; you find gentlemen and lady practitioners shutting their eyes and lifting their hands and pronouncing Incantations in awe-inspiring voices - or in Capital Letters and LARGE TYPE: "God is infinite, God is All- Loving, GOD WILL PROVIDE. Bread is coming to you! Bread is coming to you!! BREAD IS COMING, TO YOU!!!"
You think this is exaggeration? If so, it is because you have never entered the building of the pretty ladies, and sat in the gray wicker chairs of the metaphysical library. One of the highest high-priestesses of the cults of New Nonsense is a lady named Elizabeth Towne, editor of "The Nautilus"; and Priestess Elizabeth tells you:
I believe the idea that money wants you and will help you to the right mental condition. Be a pot of honey and let it come.
I look over this Priestess' magazine, and find it full of testimonials and advertisements for the conjuring of prosperity. "Are you in the success sphere?" asks one exhorter; the next tells you "How to enter the silence. How to manifest what you desire. The secret of advancement." Another tells: "How a Failure at Sixty Won Sudden Success; From Poverty to $40,000 a year - a Lesson for Old and Young Alike." The lesson, it appears, is to pay $3.00 for a book called "Power of Will." And here is another book:
Master Key: Which can unlock the Secret Chamber of Success, can throw wide the doors which seem to bar men from the Treasure House of Nature, and bids those enter and partake Who are Wise enough to Understand and broad enough to Weigh the Evidence, firm enough to Follow their Own Judgment and Strong enough to Make the Sacrifice Exacted.
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