January 22, 2005
Lost Children Cult

Meet The Shalam Colony, a utopian community of orphans established in 1884 in New Mexico by a Dentist named John B. Newbrough.
Newbrough was also leader of a christian cult, The Faithists, who believed that Oahspe, a bible that Newbrough 'received' under spirit control, and in this bible is a plan to establish a coloony of lost children and then raise them under strict spiritual control to be leaders of a new spiritual age.
So goes the fiction of Newbrough that he invented for himself and tried to carry out. Reality was a little more harsh. First Newbrough has to find some children. He had plans for 300-500 children, but was never able to assemble a colony of more than 50. He and his wife advertised for lost children by putting out a crib, with a sign saying "Children Wanted and No Questions Asked.".

But the fiction is interesting. It's like a Cargo Cult version of the 'real' society's motiviation to build the 'real' religious institutions. One has to wonder if it was just because he wasn't a very clever cult leader that the Faithists disappeared, or if there is something fundamentally unsound in his ideas that isn't present in the succesful cults e.g. mormonism, or even my own lutheran protestant society.
There is something fundamentally interesting in that the space of religious cults also has a long tail. What it tells me, is that of all the purposes religion has in our lives, the most important one is that of identity. Of belonging. The more direct functions of the holy writ (e.g. answering the unanswerable) while on the face of it more important, are in fact not that important.

(I don't think this is a hoax by the way)

Posted by Claus at January 22, 2005 05:22 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments (post your own)

The highly regarded Shakers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakers) were indeed a 'cult' of orphaned children as they believed firmly in celibacy and ordaned new members only through adoption.

The tragic story was of course that this belief in celibacy eventually resulted in the extinction of the Shakers, as state-funded orphanages took over the role of caring for the children.

More successful has obviously been the strategy of the mormons who must conceive at least five children in order to reach the higher levels of heaven.
(Fortunatly you can spot a mormon at 200 meters distance: http://www.boneboy.com/costume/pictures/99wolfmm.jpg)

Posted by: Nikolaj Nyholm on February 10, 2005 7:11 PM

"Christian" is wrong. Newbrough was not one and his Faithists were not. His Oahspe revelation says Christianity was started by a false god and is one of the four heads of the "Beast".

Posted by: ZOR on December 31, 2007 12:53 AM

Your correction is obviously wrong.
First of all - he calls it a bible, which is specifically the name we give our Christian text.
Secondly, the holy ghost appears in his bible - a Christian invention. That he rejects the normal bible speaks only to his cultism. That his mythology - as whacked out as it is - is based on the christian mythology, seems clear.

Posted by: Claus Dahl on December 31, 2007 12:57 AM
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