The A~tomic Christ: F.D.R.’s Search for the Secret Temple of the Christ Light
by William Henry. (pictured left)
Scala Dei, 2000, 333 pages.
D-ru-ids, Mongolia, and the Origin of the Atomic Bomb
by Stephen Cox
The thesis of this book, if I’ve got it right, is the following:
* That Franklin D. Roosevelt (president, 1933–1945) and Henry A. Wallace (secretary of agriculture, 1933–1941, vice-president, 1941–1945, secretary of commerce, 1945–1946) were disciples of the Perennial Philosophy or central tradition of world mysticism;
* That in the early 1930s Roosevelt and Wallace sponsored an expedition to central Asia, the purpose of which was to discover the current whereabouts of Jesus Christ;
* That this expedition was also a search for the Holy Grail, an object that Roosevelt had sought ever since he participated, as a young man, in an attempt to raise the famous treasure thought to be interred at Oak Island, off the eastern coast of Canada;
* That, once fully revealed, the secrets of the hidden Christ and the Holy Grail will demonstrate the nature of both the spiritual and the physical world, allowing an endless renewal of human life, the ability to travel from one “dimension” to another, and the means of releasing the inner power in all things;
* That, even partially revealed, these secrets have always been the source of physical and military power, a truth confirmed by the Roosevelt administration’s invention of the atomic bomb in the decade following its spiritual invasion of Mongolia.
Clearly, this is important news, and the author is well equipped to communicate it. He is a popular writer of books of this kind, and can often be heard on radio. I heard him on Whitley Strieber’s “Dreamland”; that’s why I bought this book, which has given me finite but significant hours of enjoyment.
The book has only one flaw. It is a major flaw, and it is very damaging, but I will get to it later. Right now, I want to talk about its virtues.
One of them is the virtue of quaintness. What can be quainter than Henry’s description of America at the start of FDR’s regime — or, as he puts it, “at the end of the Great Depression”:
Hopeless millions were out of work. . . . Everywhere there was hunger. Americans thought the world was coming to an end. They literally scratched to live. At the same time they begged for another chance. Their prayers began to be answered in March, 1933 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office as President of the United States.
Henry is “an investigative mythologist” practicing “the science of mythology.” I am not certain that I understand all the ramifications of this science, but I do know that it relies a lot on what he calls “the Language of the Birds.”
That’s quaint — almost as quaint as suggesting that the “Roosevelts may have been ancestors [he means descendants] of the . . . D-ru-ids [he means Druids] (possibly the family of the pharaoh Akhenaton)”; or that “the first A-bomb exploded within a days [sic] walk south of the Grand Canyon” (which is true, if you consider 300 miles a day’s walk); or that “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (“A New Order of the Ages”), the motto that appears on the great seal of the United States, should be rendered into English as “New Order or New Deal of the Ages”; or that the appearance of the great seal on U.S. currency in 1935 establishes the fact that the administration’s Asian expedition had returned with crucial spiritual knowledge.
And Henry’s methods are quaintness itself. He is “an investigative mythologist” practicing “the science of mythology.” I am not certain that I understand all the ramifications of this science, but I do know that it relies a lot on what he calls “the Language of the Birds. . . . This code equates words that sound alike in different languages, connecting word concepts by sound in English.” Henry never says exactly what birds have to do with it, but never mind. Once you understand the language, you will understand the affinity between the a~tom (atom) and the Egyptian god Aton; between the biblical Tree of Life, which, as it seems, was an elm tree, and “the word element,” which “stands for the first power, the first word or force which constitutes all physical matter”; and, finally, between the hieroglyphic letter “ru,” President Franklin ROOsevelt, and a man named Roerich (RUrik), whom Henry Wallace and Franklin ROOsevelt put in charge of their campaign in central Asia.
Now, this Roerich was a truly interesting fellow, and his presence as a character in this book provides another good reason for enjoying it. But we don’t need the Language of the Birds to understand him. Even the conventional historians whom Henry seems to think are hiding so much from us are onto him.
Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) was a Russian painter. Once the associate of famous people with rhyming names — Stravinsky, Nijinsky, and so on — he hightailed it out of Russia when he saw that the Bolsheviks were turning out to be bad for business. This did not prevent him from helping the Soviet government unload its looted works of art to buyers in the West.
Roerich was never a very good painter, but he was extremely prolific; and he was something better, in a way: He was a genius at getting other people to consider him a genius. He didn’t stop with painting. He dabbled in “peace” politics and succeeded in having himself nominated for the Nobel Prize — by the faculty of law at the Sorbonne, no less. He also dabbled in “Eastern” mysticism, of the Theosophical or anything-goes variety. He did more than dabble. He impressed impressionable people as the world’s greatest visionary and spiritual force.
Henry Wallace met Roerich in 1929 at the museum that Roerich had convinced his wealthy patrons to build for him in New York. Soon Wallace was floundering happily in the swamp of Roerichian metaphysics. There was a long, ridiculous correspondence, familiarly known to historians and professional enemies of the New Deal as the Guru Letters. “Dear Guru,” Wallace writes, “I have been thinking of you holding the casket — the sacred most precious casket. And I have thought of the New Country going forth to meet the seven stars under the sign of the three stars. And I have thought of the admonition ‘Await the Stone.'”
Oh, my! How shall we translate that? Let’s see . . . Consulting the Language of Birds, we find that the casket and the stone are, both of them, the Holy Grail, which, in turn, is Jesus Christ in his spiritual and possibly physical essence and existence. That’s what Mr. Henry thinks. What Mr. Wallace thought remains unknown, if he thought anything in particular.
Wallace’s discipleship to Roerich came to an unhappy end, for both the guru and his chela. In 1934, FDR and HAW sent an expedition to Mongolia to identify grasses useful to American agriculture. To the disgust of everyone who actually cared about Asiatic grasses, Wallace selected as leader of the expedition (you guessed it) Nicholas Roerich. When the expedition arrived in Asia, the Ag Department’s scientists did their job gathering plants, and their reputed leader wandered off on his own, making himself a political nuisance and embarrassment.
Roerich was still in Asia when, in 1935, a wealthy former disciple clued Wallace in on his idol’s true character. Wallace, who had abused and even fired lesser beings for trying to enlighten him on that subject, now turned against Roerich. Then he did the worst thing an American politician can do to an enemy: He notified the IRS that there was something fishy about his taxes. The IRS socked Roerich with a bill for $50,000, and Roerich decided to stay in Asia.
So much for Roerich. The strange literary progeny of the relationship, the Guru Letters, came into the possession of the Republicans, who were strongly tempted to use them against Wallace during the campaign of 1940; they refrained because the Democrats threatened to retaliate by using the Republican candidate’s extramarital romance against them. In 1948, when Wallace was running for president under the banner of the Progressive (i.e., Pro-communist) Party, conservative columnist Westbrook Pegler got the Guru Letters and publicized them. Wallace had been and continued to be thoroughly Clintonian in his treatment of the issue — lying, threatening, stonewalling — but this time it didn’t do much good. His reputation was permanently damaged, at least among people who still cared about Henry Wallace.
Well, that’s it; that’s the history. A brief, reliable treatment of the facts can be found in “American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace,” by John C. Culver and John Hyde (Norton, 2000, 656 pages). Culver and Hyde are good writers, even though they seem, for some reason, to be fond of Henry Wallace. William Henry is not a good writer. He isn’t even a good speller. But he deserves credit for bringing to light, once again, this bizarre chapter of American history. It’s exactly the kind of thing that one would expect to happen under a regime in which intellectual quackery was often the ticket to arbitrary power. It’s therefore a good historical and political lesson.
Of course, however, that’s not the point that Henry wants to make. He seems to realize that neither Wallace nor Roerich nor even Roosevelt was all that he might have been, but what the hell? Seen from the standpoint of eternity, petty moral and intellectual distinctions fade and vanish away. No moral, political, or religious differences seem to matter very much. Everyone you ever heard of was part of a long, benevolent conspiracy to restore the world of the gods. At least I think that’s what Henry means when he talks about “radicals”:
“Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin were radicals. Kennedy was a radical. Martin Luther King was a radical. So too was Ronald Reagan. They sought to revive the human spirit through the resurrection of an ancient pagan belief in a Golden Age, believing that in this act we could create a utopia. The Holy Grail is the center of this new Eden. Call it Camelot or the New Atlantis, it is the home of the gods on earth.”
It’s quaint and funny to think of Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan marching off to utopia, arm in arm with Washington and Franklin. It’s quaint and funny to wonder how they could all be so “radical,” yet all get along so well together. It’s quaint and funny to ponder the concept of a Holy Grail that is also “pagan.” But there’s something lacking here. It’s passion.
If there are fashions in delusion, and God knows, there are, the fashion represented by “The A~tomic Christ” is peculiarly bland. Nutball theories used to appeal to passion. Enraptured expectations of the millennium, panicky fears about invasions from outer space, embittered reveries about the destruction of the international bankers: those are things that make the heart pump harder. But unfortunately, what we have now, at least on this side of the prime meridian, is only an appeal to . . . “science.”
I recently listened to one of the radio programs that exist to purvey this kind of thing, and I heard someone elaborate, at very great length, a theory that the Ark of the Covenant was a machine for generating electricity. At one point, the host did something that hosts on these programs almost never do: He challenged his guest’s logic. What, he asked, would ancient people have done with a machine that generated energy? Good question. After all, there weren’t any power lines or anything. But the guest had an answer. Oh, he said, modern people think that everyone who lived in the past was stupid, but actually, those people were just as bright as we are. Brighter! Just look at all the health advantages offered by ancient Israel’s dietary laws! Ancient people were . . . scientific. Of course, that settled everything. There’s no arguing with science.
For Henry, too, it’s all scientific. The Holy Grail, the Tree of Life, the grand convocations of the gods of the ancient East — all the grand illusions boil down to nothing more than the scientific method. Christ was a scientist. Adam was a scientist. Roosevelt was a scientist. Henry is a scientist. Even mythology, once the expression of man’s deepest anxieties and most glorious fantasies, is now a “science.”
I suspect that this is one reason why people buy books like Henry’s. I suspect that they want their delusions to be packaged as nonthreatening, inclusive, once-over-lightly assertions that everything is roughly equal to everything else and that “science” is the measure of all. Of course, they are totally ignorant of what science really is, just as they are totally ignorant of the subtle differences between Christianity and paganism, or the ancient world and the modern, or Roosevelt and Reagan. But this is a secondary concern. The real problem is the strange lack of passion now apparent, even in craziness. In America today, it’s the bland leading the bland.
Stephen Cox is a professor of literature at the University of California in San Diego and author of “The Titanic Story.”
download William Henry interview on dreamland : 60 minutes, 7mb
P.S. (March 4th 2013): After lengthy deliberation it has been found beyond any shadow of a doubt that William Henry IS a ‘Git’. And my definition of a git is: a silly man who makes things up, as a profession, and pretends they have some relevance.