With our society polarized as never before after the election, I thought it was appropriate to post this essay I wrote for the Interview With Spirit Show. A very important and unknown movement in U.S. history completely changed the meme structure in the US for twenty years prior to the U.S. entry into WW I, and has affected attitudes in this country for over a century. This is how it went.
What is the motivation behind a conspiracy theory? It’s an attempt to find a cause for important and significant events – not the chance occurrences that will happen in any city or country when millions of people are jostling up against each other, but significant historical happenings. The alternative is to simply believe that important historical events, like WW I and WW II, for example, “just happened.” Personally, I can’t live with that. It’s like saying, “the universe just sort of came into existence randomly.” Or, on a more mundane level, when the baseball comes smashing through your window and there’s a group of kids outside on the street hitting a ball, and you ask them, “who did it?” the answer is “nobody did it.” It just happened. Well, I personally believe that somebody or somebodies always “did it.”
Here is something from Dr. Talal Ghannam, from his book The Mystery of Numbers:
For … spiritualists, occultists, and the scientists and philosophers of the past … there is no place for chance and coincidence in the natural world, as everything is interconnected and endowed with meaning and purpose. When one believes that there is greater meaning and purpose behind existence, everything starts to have a deeper meaning, there is no such thing as mere consequence of chance or physical laws. In fact, these physical laws are now considered divine, put forth so as to achieve the ultimate meaning desired by a hidden intelligence.
Yes, and when we see something grotesque that manifests over an entire century – as in what happened during the twentieth century – we must also assume that there is intelligence behind these events as well. I will explain what I mean by grotesque.
I suppose, living in the timeline we live in now, that the subsequent unfolding of events in history from the past just seems “natural.” World War One and World War Two just happened I guess, as an inevitable and natural result of human evolution. There was no direction behind it, of course. But do we really believe that the murder of tens of millions of human beings was a natural evolution of human consciousness? That the world wars and the regional conflicts that have caused hundreds of millions of deaths over the past century are all entirely natural? No. I believe that the 20th century was entirely unnatural – and unless you take a step back and ask “Why did all this stuff happen?” you just accept it as being what was supposed to happen in the only way it could have happened.
One of the things that has intrigued me is the direction the flow of events took at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the nineteenth century there was a nascent and growing “spiritualist” movement in the US and in Britain. Influential authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rudolf Steiner, among others, promoted spiritual concepts, and the idea that human beings were more than their physical bodies. Interest in the occult and in paranormal phenomenon was growing among the general public around the turn of the twentieth century. And, of course, the genius Nikola Tesla was perfecting the wireless transmission of power and access to clean, abundant, so-called “free” energy.
This single event, if it would have been allowed to proceed, would have literally changed the face of history and made humanity energy-independent. It would have completely and utterly altered the progression of events in the 20th century. A rising interest in spiritual concepts would have provided the vibrational background in order for the new physics to take root in the general consciousness, and thrive. Instead, what happened in the twentieth century was the creation of a gigantic fossil-fuel empire based on scarcity, the creation of a worldwide central banking system that placed the control of currency (and to a large extent, influence over national economies) into the hands of privately-owned banks. And, of course, the twentieth century was the century of the world war and the mass slaughter of human beings. By the end of the twentieth century, humanity was operating under a paradigm of perpetual war and conflict, and the mis-allocation of resources that has left hundreds of millions of people hungry, perpetuated injustice and poverty, and has kept the human race fighting each other instead of coming together and recognizing our true potential. And we say there was no intelligence behind this sequence of events? That it all “just happened” because it was “history,” and, of course, history just IS.
Well, I ask, where did the human race go wrong? Again, you don't even see this unless you take a step back and begin to question why things happened the way they did. And sometimes, the answer is, it just happened naturally. But the turn away from the recognition of who we are and to a materialistic science that declares that each and every human being is just a piece of meat and that when we die we are dead, is a complete and total inversion of the truth. I'm sorry, ladies and germs, but that doesn't happen by accident.
Tesla’s Long Island facility, which was built at the turn of the twentieth century as a prototype to test the wireless transmission of power, saw its funding collapse, and the facility itself was bombed out of existence. And at the end of the nineteenth century up until 1916 or so (just before the US entry into WW I) a very powerful movement called Muscular Christianity militarized US society. This period of history is unknown to almost every American. It sure as hell was unknown to me! But a brilliant paper written by Ashley Furrow, of the University of Memphis, explains how this “Muscular Christianity” movement altered the educational and cultural landscape of the United States prior to its entry into WW I.
If you look for the deeper patterns as I do, you tend to become somewhat conspiratorial, just because the superficial explanations of those who write history don’t cut it for us. The big question I ask is: how did humanity get sidetracked from a growing spiritualist movement, and free, clean energy, to a century that established a paradigm of scarcity, and endless war and conflict? Well, some say that humanity was not ready for clean energy – but that is just an excuse. If Nikola Tesla had continued to receive funding, I believe he would have perfected the wireless transmission of power. Maybe some intelligence decided that this was not to be.
For me, the standard explanations just don’t cut it. President Woodrow Wilson, for example, the Democratic president during and prior to WW I, was adamantly opposed to the US entry into WW I, as was the vast majority of the US population. But his advisor, Colonel House, eventually persuaded the president to declare war on Germany in 1917, three years after the world war had begun, and just after the Muscular Christianity movement ended. Recall that the US did not enter WW II until two years after it began, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. In both cases the US, the world’s rising economic power, came late into these world conflicts – but we did enter these wars, despite reluctance by the people at home. And the genesis, I believe, for the militarization of US society came directly from the “Muscular Christianity” movement at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, which we are going to talk about on this show.
Muscular Christianity was a real movement, not some conspiracy theory. It was an attempt, I believe, to literally change the meme structure of the United States. It was an intelligent effort to modify the way people thought.
When Joe Schmoe puts up a video on You Tube and it goes viral, that’s one thing. Joe sends it to his friends Pete, Alice, Mike and Kathy, and they send it to their friends and pretty soon millions of people see it. That’s just a grassroots phenomenon, no big deal, and it dies out quickly like almost all fads or fashion. It’s something spontaneous, and not planned. But when you have the president of the United States, and influential writers and educators, all promoting something at once for two decades, that’s a movement. It might even be called a conspiracy, or “intelligent design,” if the goal was to create a different set of beliefs and alter the milieu in which action is to take place.
We talked about this before: the real action is on the mental plane, for thought and belief programs action. Is it a coincidence that this movement basically ended in 1916, just before the US entry into WW I? Maybe it is, I don’t know. But when we find out more about this movement, we’re going to see that this was a pivotal period in American history.
What I’m going to do is read from this excellent paper by Ashley Furrow, of the Dept. of Journalism at the University of Memphis. First of all, let’s define what the “Muscular Christianity” movement was all about, and how it came into existence. Ms. Furrow says,
Around the turn of the twentieth century, native-born, Anglo-Saxon Protestant men confronted several mounting trends. The rise of industrialization, the threat of massive immigration, the closing of the Western frontier, and the challenge of women joining the workplace and in politics seemed to threaten American notions of success and self-made manhood. A changing job market, with an increase of subordinate white-collar occupations, reduced the opportunities for the self-made man to rise from an apprenticeship and control his own business. American men endured the hopelessness of being just another cog in the machinery. In addition, men’s work in bureaucratic business environments had become more sedentary, draining the competitiveness and companionship from most professional experiences. A movement advocating a renewed “muscular Christianity” offered one response to this identity crisis. Coming into vogue during the Victorian era and continuing into the Progressive era, the prevailing ethos of muscular Christianity and rugged, assertive masculinity, gained enormous popularity in this changing environment.
Worried about the decline of Anglo-Saxon Protestant influence and control in an urbanizing, industrializing, and increasingly Catholic immigrant America—and influenced by such writers as psychologist G. Stanley Hall, who called for drawing on primal instincts to counter enervating intellectualism—President Theodore Roosevelt and others promoted the “strenuous life” as a way of imposing self-discipline and reasserting the interests of Protestant culture in America. The corresponding rise of organized sport in the United States during the Progressive era developed from the muscular Christianity movement, resulting in the formation of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and the Boy Scouts. A renewed emphasis on college athletics emerged from this movement, as indicated by the discursive constructs found in popular mass circulation magazines during the years 1896 to 1916.
OK, so that’s the origin of this movement, which was in existence for a period of twenty years. This was no fashion or fad: it was an organized attempt to alter the meme structure at America’s colleges and universities, and in the population as a whole, in order to promote 1) a martial attitude, 2) “manly men,” and 3) physical confrontation. The movement was based around and promoted the game of football, which at that time was even more violent than it is today. In 1905, for example, there were 18 deaths and 149 serious injuries on America’s college and university campuses, playing the game of football, an astonishing number considering that football had not near the popularity it does today (partially as a result of this movement!). The Muscular Christianity movement, in the popular magazines of the day (which was how information was transmitted during those days before the internet, the telephone, and instant messaging) glorified the battle and confrontation represented by football, and essentially sought to explain away the deaths on the field of play as being for the greater good of the country.
As Ms. Furrow states in her article:
Educational Review, a leading journal publishing a range of educational research, included an article in 1911 urging the abolition of football as an impossible intercollegiate sport. As an indication of the backward nature of the sport, David R. Porter, a major figure in the Young Men’s Christian Association, began with an anecdote about a head master at a large American school who said, “I had much rather a boy would be killed here occasionally than to turn out a lot of mollycoddles.”
This was in reference to no less a personage than the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who was an avid supporter of the Muscular Christianity movement, and college football. According to the article,
President Roosevelt, an avid supporter of football and its ability to produce courageous and honorable men, deemphasized the danger and roughness of certain college sports while praising their noble vigor, because he did not want a nation of ‘mollycoddles.’ While Roosevelt called for honor in the game, his oft-quoted motto was, “Don’t flinch, don’t foul, and hit the line hard.”
The Muscular Christianity movement praised and promoted a martial spirit during the run-up to World War One. As Ms. Furrow states in her article,
Popular magazine articles often framed college football in the context of a rising martial spirit, aligned with the ideals of muscular Christianity, as the United States pursued imperialist ambitions during and following its 1898 war with Spain. Describing the intensity of a college football game for The Outlook in 1909, H. Addington Bruce wrote, “A visitor from Mars, dropping in upon the scene, would be justified in assuming that some decisive conflict was in progress bearing vitally on the destinies of the Nation.” While written sarcastically, he made a good point. Nations had long been exposed to aggression from outside forces, against which they depended on the courage and prowess of their fighting population for protection. Hence, these martial qualities were cherished above all else in young American men. In discussing the psychology of football, Bruce argued that football met basic human needs, as it was the game most reminiscent of our ancestors’ early life. Athletics provided superb training for martial powers, which would win success and distinction in everyday life. While the Atlantic Monthly understood the general public’s questions regarding athletics, it urged readers to never forget its essential importance in education. As a result of the progress of civilization, young men were becoming lazy and depending too much on the luxuries and comforts of modern life. In 1914, the magazine claimed, “Among boys to-day athletics is the only systematic training for the sterner life, the only organized ‘moral equivalent of war.’” There was no other substitute for the hardships of generations past, and athletics served as an efficient and wholesome artificial discipline for the turbulent energies of youth.
The practice of athletics also encouraged aggressiveness, brutality, and the spirit of self-advancement. But courage was valued above all else, as it was the greatest asset in life and in football. In the midst of the 1905 college football crisis, G. Foster Sandford, the Yale football coach in 1905, reassured women and mothers across the country that the game had many redeeming qualities, namely the ability to foster a martial mentality in young men, and should be continued in college and universities across the United States. In the Woman’s Home Companion, he argued that the cowardly man would be shown up by football, “but like the soldier in his first battles, there are many men wavering between physical fear and courage. Football makes these men for all time sure of themselves.” Even if football players forgot their Greek and Latin, they would never lose the courage they developed on the gridiron. In 1904, providing another voice in opposition to athletic critics, the Reverend A. E. Colton, the father of a Boston high school football player, detailed in The Independent other moral benefits of the game; including patience, self-denial, self-control, submergence of self for the team, alertness, endurance, the joy of victory and sorrow of defeat, and physical perfection. Writing the article just before the opening of the 1904 college football season, he concluded, “The football gridiron is no stage; it is life.” (How’s that for a setup?) By playing football, young men would learn lessons on the football field that they could carry into life, including how to become a future leader of the United States. Everybody’s Magazine, a general interest magazine published from 1899 to 1929, commissioned Dr. William G. Anderson, the director of the Yale University gymnasium, to write an article detailing the process of becoming a college athlete at Yale. Distributed in July 1905—just one month before the fall football season began—the article followed a Yale freshman named Jackson in his quest to become a Yale football player, succeeding in the footsteps of his famous father. Beginning with an anecdote, the famous father showed no concern for his son’s safety as long as he played for his life and lived up to his father’s football reputation. Again, it was more important to make a college team than to be concerned about safety, because the identity of young men was wrapped up in being on the inside of college athletics.
Many educators and athletic advocates saw the game of football as the best outlet for martial instincts, explaining why Shailer Mathews, editor of The World To-Day, referred to the sport in 1905 as “amateur war.” Referring to the early football matches played from 1884 to 1900, the sport also offered an unlimited opportunity for “doing up your man,” as its rough and crude aspects were encouraged by players who baited each other on the field. The reason football demanded legislative restriction, Mathews argued, was easily understood given the encouragement its martial aspects received.
You’ll forgive me if I indulge myself in a little conspiracy talk here. Of course, I’m not claiming that the people behind the Muscular Christianity movement knew that WW I was going to start and were preparing the US for its later role as the world’s policeman in the twentieth century. But it sure is a funny coincidence, is it not? I have always wondered where the martial and military aspect of sports in America came from, and why US society is so militarized in the sense that the vast majority of the population sees nothing wrong with a Defense department that spends almost a trillion dollars each year and has troops in over 150 countries. Now I know. Again, this movement wasn’t some spontaneous thing that suddenly went viral, like a new fad or fashion. This was clearly a planned and conscious effort, over almost two decades (if you can believe this article) by important public figures to change the culture in the United States; to create a militaristic and martial spirit, to sublimate the feminine and to promote a masculinity based on physical prowess. It went alongside the establishment of the fossil fuel empire and the destruction of Tesla’s facility, and, of course, the creation of America’s privately-owned central bank, the Federal Reserve, after over 100 years of trying.
And what better way to establish a new, martial culture than to target our best and brightest, smart young men who would probably excel on the battlefield? Could it be just a coincidental historical movement that just happened to create a new meme structure as the twentieth century opened, a century that turned out to be the bloodiest in human history? A century that destroyed Tesla’s dream of free energy, and a growing spiritualist movement that may have brought true fourth level consciousness to the planet? Well, historians and others would probably laugh at what I‘m saying and shake their heads knowingly. “This guy is just another conspiracy nut,” they’d say.
And maybe they are right. But I know one thing: war is insanity; it’s the murder of our fellow human beings. And all wars are fought between elites at the top of government. And who fights these wars? Our young people, the future of our planet. But you have to convince young people to want to go to war first. You have to establish a culture of war, a martial and patriotic spirit in the culture. And that’s exactly what the Muscular Christianity movement was all about.
Here is Ms. Furrow again:
In line with the tenets of muscular Christianity, the inclusion of athletics into the schools created a more enjoyable environment for young men, who needed a distraction from academic life and other worldly diversions. H. Addington Bruce, writing for The Outlook in 1910, regarded athletics as the most moral way to expend excess energy, in contrast to such harmful vices as alcohol, drugs, gambling, or sex.
Oh, of course we don’t want young men and women having sex! And what’s this about sex being dirty and unclean? Where have we heard this before? If sex – the creation of another human being – is dirty and filthy, then a human being is also dirty and filthy. But who (or what) would have this point of view? That’s all I’m going to say about that… To continue,
Despite the fact that five years earlier football was being vilified for killing young men in record numbers, the college sport was branded as the “superb moral safety valve.” John Corbin, an assistant editor for Harper’s Magazine from 1897 to 1900, compared the actual training of college athletic teams to religion—a matter of loyal duty. An article in The Living Age, an eclectic weekly magazine published from 1844 to 1941—a publication history of almost 100 years—even suggested that football was a religious representation of the conflict among the elemental forces before order evolved from chaos, referencing the Biblical description of creation.
Wow. We are supposedly talking about a football game. It’s just football, right? No, clearly, this movement is much, much more than that: it’s building a new meme structure that will change the way people think and behave. When you are building a new meme structure, you have to create a different paradigm of thought. But you have to have something to build it on, however, and that is the existing culture. So bringing in religion, and martial thinking, and war metaphors, and physical confrontation in the game of football, leading to deaths and serious injuries – all without too much care to the people who are actually playing the game (which itself suggests that human beings aren’t really important, it’s the meme structure that’s important) – is building another culture on top of the existing one. OK, let’s continue with the article:
Appealing to the best characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon race, (it was argued) football fostered fair play, skill, and courage, rigorously testing the race’s fitness for survival. Popular magazines framed the value of football as an expression of Anglo-Saxon strength, and thus became the representative American college game. In a December 1900 article in The Living Age, W. Cameron Forbes, the Harvard football coach during the 1897 and 1898 seasons, referred to the game as “the dominant spirit of a dominant race, and to this it owes its popularity and its hopes of permanence.”
OK, “The dominant spirit of a dominant race,” “religious representation of the conflict among the elemental forces before order evolved from chaos, referencing the Biblical description of creation.” These are all-encompassing phrases that go to the heart of life itself, showing that this movement was indeed an attempt to change the culture in the United States. To continue:
Advocates of the game appealed to this sense of Anglo-Saxon pride, emphasizing that no man of this prominent race would abandon a game simply because it was rough. Disagreeing with the contrasting movement focusing on the evils of college athletics, these authors, within popular magazines, provided an alternative voice to push back and campaign for its benefits. Indeed, many felt football was a great game to make great men. In his history about the beginnings of American football in the Outing magazine, writer Dennie Myers (1882–1934) showed in 1905 that football was natural to man. But not just any man—Anglo-Saxon men—as the game had never been played by puny nations.
Perhaps the entire “superior race” idea, and its association with athletics (a la the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, in which the great Jessie Owens won against the German champion) didn’t come from the Nazis after all!
And finally, I’ll end with this from the article:
Military references and war metaphors were prevalent in these magazines, with authors equating football pads to armor and players to warriors, cadets, and gladiators. In November 1902, Lewis, a Harvard football coach from 1895 to 1906 and the first African-American to be selected as an All-American, highlighted for Outing readers the process of fielding a successful college football team, which was a year-round affair. He described for readers how to make a football team: “Its organization and development is not unlike the making of a miniature army.” In 1910, much like Lewis’ description of a football team, writer Daniel Grant Herring compared football to a military campaign:
“The advisory board is the War Office. The coaches are the officers of the General Staff. The captain and the quarterback are the commanders in the field. The players are the soldiers, and have just as much freedom of individual action and enjoyment as have common soldiers. The army—I mean the team—goes into winter quarters and takes the field in the proper season. As drill incessant is the lot of the soldier, so is it of the Varsity football player.”
Uh, yeah – but this is all just coincidental of course! In conclusion,the article says this:
College football was a fight, as its strategy and ethics mirrored those of war, including the importance of preparing for the conflict (game) far in advance of its arrival. Journalist George Marvin, writing in The Independent in 1913, described coaches and quarterbacks keeping their “council of war” long after the football season ends.[italics mine]
OK, so you get the point. What was amazing to me was the length and the power of this movement, and the conscious effort to martialize the attitudes of young people, and the general population. Historically speaking it was a perfect preparation for the militarization of American culture during the world wars, and the establishment of a global US military, which now has troops in over 150 countries.
The point is, in order to make this possible the vibrational ground has to be prepared in the mental plane. You have to alter attitudes of a whole lot of people. And that is what, apparently, this now obscure, but very important Muscular Christianity movement was all about. It found a resurgence after 1916, decades later, in the political activism of the religious right, which also supported America’s wars and a martial and patriotic spirit in the country. And then again in 2011, with the emergence of Tim Tebow as the exemplary Muscular Christian athlete, promoting religion, football, and Anglo-Saxon strength.
You can make up your own mind about this, folks. Perhaps there isn’t anything to it at all, but I don’t believe in coincidences. You might want to look up Muscular Christianity yourself. I chose Ms. Furrow’s paper because it is a juried and credentialed journal paper with references, and has appeared in a published academic book.
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Ken is a freelance writer and
editor who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Since
childhood, Ken has been thinking about the Big Picture
and how to increase spiritual understanding in the