When Prophecy Fails

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The book was required reading. Founder Herbert Armstrong had bombastically led his supporters to accept the year as the deadline for The Church to be whisked to a "Place of Safety" prior to the Great Tribulation, which would be followed by Christ's Return in When this failed, a number of followers had become disillusioned and left the organization, but a large percentage had not.

At the time, it did not occur to me to apply the information I was learning in the course to my own personal circumstances! But it surely did apply.

A Lesson In Cognitive Dissonance

In looking back and examining why I was not totally disillusioned by the disconfirmation in , I can only conclude it was because my husband and I had already invested so much of our time, efforts, and financial resources in the organization. The level of discomfort and confusion at the single event of the disconfirmation was not high enough to off- set what we viewed as positive aspects of our involvement.

These included our positive experiences in the organization; the level of doctrinal truth which we had thought we learned from the group and which we didn't believe was available elsewhere; and the many personal relationships which had been built with church members—which we knew would end if we were to leave the organization. This off- set was upset, however, in For details of the circumstances which led to our departure from the WCG, see our abbreviated auto biography elsewhere on this site. In summary, in that year there was a huge upheaval in the church leadership, with Herbert Armstrong disfellowshipping his own son Garner Ted, who had been the primary spokesman for the church on television and radio, and managing executive of most of its operations.

When I saw confusion all around me, when I saw outright lies published by the church Headquarters, when I saw mountains of evidence of corruption and greed and profligate extravagance and distortion of the facts, I was unable to just gloss it over in order to resolve the dissonance and bring my mind into a peaceful state again. I had to have answers. And even though the answers were painful, I found facing them more tolerable than staying in ignorance, and having my mind in a state of perpetual cognitive dissonance.

The same sort of internal politics that I experienced in the WCG and CGI, that forced me out of those groups, were rampant in these other groups. And thus thousands upon thousands of folks For if they had not, the presence of dissidents and their questions would have increased the level of cognitive dissonance present in the minds of those members who did not have immediate knowledge of the many issues.

Thus the "disconfirmations" presented by dissidents within these groups not only did not lead to reformation or dissolution of the groups, but rather the proselyting of the groups increased greatly after the dissidents were removed. The following is an excerpt from an article on prophetic speculation which I wrote in It gives further commentary and documentation on some of the points above. We think a spirit of reverent humility, and openness of mind, would be more becoming in those seeking to interpret a book like this. Why has it been so widely ignored among modern commentators?

I offer a possible answer: We live in confusing, troubling times. Sure answers to "what will happen next" give people a secure anchor in the stormy sea of life. In addition, being "in the know" about mysterious prophecies gives many people the heady feeling of being one of the "elite," an assurance that they are among "God's Chosen," which further strengthens their anchor. Amazingly, this desire for security is so strong that many teachers are even able to hedge their prophetic interpretations with "possiblies," "probablies," "maybe's"- and find that their followers filter out these words and hear only "thus sayeth the Lord.

Numerous articles and booklets were published by both groups about these events, complete with detailed chronological charts and sometimes gruesome line drawings of the coming horrors. The Worldwide Church even published a booklet in the 's titled " in Prophecy" which covered the prophecies regarding the "Great Tribulation" and the Battle of Armageddon.

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Of course, when came and went with no great cataclysm, the Worldwide leadership denied the title was ever meant to be taken as a "specific" prophecy. They claimed the title date was merely chosen as a "literary device," in response to a popular article in a secular publication which spoke glowingly of man's technological advances predicted for This was news to most of the members, who also remembered many sermons and articles and prophetic charts that all pointed to that date!

The same confusion reigned among Jehovah's Witnesses. According to reliable Bible chronology, Adam and Eve were created in B. This would leave only seven more years from the autumn of to complete 6, full years of human history. That seven year period will evidently finish in the autumn of the year How fitting it would be for God, following this pattern, to end man's misery after 6, years of human rule and follow it with His glorious Kingdom rule for a thousand years!

The lay members of that organization should certainly be forgiven for assuming that this article, along with many other articles, charts and sermons, was encouraging them to look to with expectation. But for them also, came and went with no cataclysm. And what was the response of the leadership of both organizations to this failure of prophetic interpretation? Yet some misunderstood and took it as a definite prophecy for a definite date.

This same general approach was adopted by the Witness leadership as well. As one member wrote after I have been associated as a baptized Witness well over 39 years and with Jehovah's help I will continue to be a loyal servant. But to say I am not disappointed would be untruthful, for, when I know my feelings regarding were fostered because of what I read in various publications, and then I am told in effect that I reached false conclusions on my own, that, I feel, is not being fair or honest.

One would think after such disappointments the lay members would be more wary. Although this is true for some, the desire of most to be reassured their leaders have an inside track on God's timetable encouraged the leaders of both organizations to continue resetting "possible" time interpretations of prophecies. This is not really surprising, as both organizations had successfully weathered many unfulfilled prophecies over a period of decades: The Witnesses had set many dates in their publications for the "probable" beginning of the Millenium, including, particularly, and Each "disappointment" led to some drop in membership, but most members soon developed "amnesia" about the incidents, and new proselytes were seldom aware of past Witness failures- and the organization soon picked up momentum in growth again.

For instance, in , the total U. Below is a chart showing the net change in membership for each year from then until If a group gains as many new members as it loses old members in one year, its net change in total membership for that year would be zero. Note the huge net increase for In that year, they gained enough new members to make up for any lost to death or disaffection, plus another 66, It would be logical to attribute this unusually high increase in total membership to the "urgency" of the door- to- door preaching by Witnesses who felt "The End" would come that year in the fall, and the panic effect this might have on susceptible converts who were frightened by the preaching into joining the ranks of those who claimed the only safety in the perilous times to come.

And note the rapid drop almost immediately! The trend down, starting in and hitting a "low" in , was likely directly related to the disillusionment and defection of many current members, deeply cutting into missionary efforts of the group. It was over fifteen years before the Internet allowed new prospective members to personally investigate claims of the organization via the Internet!

And even now, few may think to do so before getting deeply involved… so the current JW active membership those who go door to door with the JW message in the US is over 1 million, and over 7. We cannot imagine Hitler, ruler over a German nation twice as great in population as Italy, turning all his vast power over to Mussolini Possibly Hitler will die or be killed within the next eighteen months.

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  • Feb- Mar issue. Democracy went, yesterday, in England! And when the United States gets into the war And it is THEN Armageddon, we believe, must be at least [only] three or four years away It is part of God's prophesied plan that Britain shall be invaded and conquered It is in the prophesied course of the war that the main fighting shall be in the Mediterranean and the Near East. Armstrong's organization in the years after and prior to his death in did not grow with the kind of numbers the Jehovah's Witnesses have sustained, but, in spite of frequent repeats of the type of dogmatic mistakes quoted above, it did manage an impressive growth record for a small, obscure start: Attendance at the church's annual fall convention of the Feast of Tabernacles was a few hundred, held at one site, at the beginning of the 's.

    In the church announced an attendance of about , total , attending scores of sites around the world. For more details regarding the history of the WCG, see the profile of the organization elsewhere on this site. Observing these embarrassing failures, leaders of other church organizations which emphasize prophecy have become much more wary in recent years about setting any dates. What we shall accomplish we can not tell. But we wish to do our duty. Snow, who believed that the date of the Second Coming would be October 22, Although it might not seem possible for the enthusiasm and fervor to exceed what had already been shown in the first few months of , that is just what hap- pened.

    The two partial disconfirmations April 23, , and the end of the calendar year and one complete and unequivocal disconfirmation March 21, served simply to strengthen conviction that the Coming was near at hand and to increase the time and energy that Miller's adherents spent trying to convince others: Perhaps not so much from the preaching and writing of Snow, as from a deep conviction that the end of all things could not be far away, some of the believers in Northern New Hampshire, even before summer began, failed to plow their fields because the Lord would surely come "before another winter.

    This rapidly extended through the north of New England. By midsummer a new stimulus had been given to Millerism in New England. Backsliders were reclaimed, and new ardor controlled those Adventists who accepted Snow's reckon- ing, as they went out to proclaim the cry, "Behold, the Bride- groom Cometh, go ye out to meet Him. The leaders of the movement resisted it and counseled against it for a long time but to no avail. A Millerite editor, writing in retro- spect, commented: At first the definite time was generally opposed; but there seemed to be an irresistible power attending its proclamation, which prostrated all before it.

    It swept over the land with the velocity of a tornado, and it reached hearts in different and distant places almost simultaneously, and in a manner which can be ac- counted for only on the supposition that God was [in] it. The lecturers among the Adventists were the last to embrace the views of the time. It was not until within about two weeks of the commencement of the seventh month [about the first of October], that we were particularly impressed with the progress of the movement, when we had such a view of it, that to oppose it, or even to remain silent longer, seemed to us to be opposing the work of the Holy Spirit; and in entering upon the work with all our souls, we could but exclaim, "What were we, that we should resist God?

    Elder Boutelle describes the period thus: Every house was visited by them. A mighty effort through the Spirit and the word preached was made to bring sinners to re- pentance, and to have the wandering ones return. If there had been a time when an undesirable element could be kept out, it was now impossible to do so; and as a matter of fact the world was so near its end, as they claimed, whatever precautions were taken before seemed hardly worth while any longer.

    The editor of The Midnight Cry stated that in order to provide the literature needed they were keeping "four steam presses almost constantly in motion. An editorial in the final issue of The Midnight Cry proclaimed: Thousands may be lulled to sleep by hear- ing your actions say: The world to come is a vain shadow. If indispensable duty calls you into the world for a moment, go as a man would run to do a piece of work in the rain.

    Run and hasten through it, and let it be known that you leave it with alacrity for something better. Let your actions preach in the clearest tones: Many are leaving all to go out and warn the brethren and the world. In Philadelphia, thirteen volunteered at one meeting after hearing Brother Storrs to go out and sound the alarm. In both cities [New York and Philadelphia], stores are being closed, and they preach in tones the world understands, though they may not heed it. There were several reasons why the believers in a number of instances sold their possessions in part or in whole.

    First, they wished to have more money with which to support the cause. It took money to support four presses running constantly, pouring out literature on Millerism. Second, they wished to have all their dealings with their fellow men honorably concluded before the advent, including full payment of all their debts. Third, with the fervent love for others, which true religion certainly ought to generate in the hearts of men, Millerites who owed no debts themselves sought to help others pay their debts.

    This was the culminating disconfirmation and, at last, conviction was shattered and proselyting was stilled. The plight of the heavily committed followers was pitiable indeed. They had to bear the taunts and jeers of a hostile world and many were left pauperized. Their cruel disappointment and the hard- ship are well attested to.

    Nichol quotes two extracts from the writings of convinced believers that tell the sad story: It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept, and wept, till the day dawn. I mused in my own heart, saying, My advent experience has been the richest and brightest of all my Christian experience.

    If this had proved a failure, what was the rest of my Christian experience worth? Has the Bible proved a failure. Is all this but a cunningly devised fable? Is there no reality to our fondest hope and expectation of these things? And thus we had something to grieve and weep over, if all our fond hopes were lost. And as I said, we wept till the day dawn. No Advent Herald; no meetings as for- merly. Everyone felt lonely, with hardly a desire to speak to any- one. Still in the cold world! No deliverance— the Lord [had] not come! No words can express the feelings of disappointment of a true Adventist then.

    Those only who experienced it can enter into the subject as it was. It was a humiliating thing and we all felt it alike. It had taken three or perhaps four disconfirmations within a period of eighteen months, but this last one was too much. By the late spring of 1 it had virtually disappeared. The history of the Millerites shows again the phenomenon we have noted in our other examples. Although there is a limit be- yond which belief will not withstand disconfirmation, it is clear that the introduction of contrary evidence can serve to increase the conviction and enthusiasm of a believer.

    Historical records are replete with further instances of similar movements of a millennial or messianic character. Unfortunately for our purpose, however, in most instances the data which would be relevant to our hypotheses are totally absent. Even in cases where considerable data are available, there will frequently be some crucial point which is equivocal, thus destroying the cogent relevance to our hypotheses. The best instance of such a move- ment where there is one single controversial point on a crucial issue is the very beginnings of Christianity.

    None would ques- tion that the apostles fully believed in the things Jesus stood for and had altered their lives considerably because of this belief. Burkitt, for example, states that Peter, at one point, "exclaimed that he and his companions really had left all to follow Jesus. There is no denying that the apostles provided support for one another and that they went out to proselyte following the cruci- fixion of Jesus.

    Thus, we may accept as fact that the fifth condi- tion we mentioned is satisfied, and that there was a point at which proselyting increased. But the third and fourth conditions remain in doubt. Was there, in essence, something in the belief system that was amenable to clear and unequivocal disconfirmation and, if so, did such discon- firmation occur? In spite of many things which are not disputed, the major issue is shrouded in disagreement among various his- torians. More important, it is also clear that his disciples recognized him as such.

    For example, Scott states: But this is not all there is to it. Many authorities assert unequiv- ocally that it is precisely on this question that Jesus introduced new doctrine. Jesus and the apostles, these authorities state, did believe that the Messiah had to suffer and Jesus even predicted that he would die in Jerusalem. The authorities we have quoted from above accept this latter interpretation and, in fact, they are in the majority.

    But not all authorities agree. At the other extreme of interpre- tation is Graetz, who states: When the disciples of Jesus had somewhat recovered from the panic which came upon them at the time he was seized and exe- cuted, they re-assembled to mourn together over the death of their beloved Master. Still, the effect that Jesus produced upon the unenlightened masses must have been very powerful; for their faith in him, far from fading away like a dream, became more and more intense, their adoration of Jesus rising to the high- est pitch of enthusiasm.

    How could the Messiah be subject to pain? A suffering Messiah staggered them considerably, and this stumbling- block had to be overcome before a perfect and joyful belief could be reposed in him. It was at that moment probably that some writer relieved his own perplexities and quelled their doubts by referring to a prophecy in Isaiah, that "He will be taken from the land of the living, and will be wounded for the sins of his people. We do not know and cannot say. But this one unclarity makes the whole episode incon- clusive with respect to our hypotheses.

    There are many more historical examples we could describe at the risk of becoming repetitive and at the risk of using highly unreliable data. Let the examples we have already given suffice. We can now turn our attention to the question of why in- creased proselyting follows the disconfirmation of a prediction.

    How can we explain it and what are the factors that will deter- mine whether or not it will occur? Since our explanation will rest upon one derivation from a gen- eral theory, we will first state the bare essentials of the theory which are necessary for this derivation. The full theory has wide impli- cations and a variety of experiments have already been conducted to test derivations concerning such things as the consequences of decisions, the effects of producing forced compliance, and some patterns of voluntary exposure to new information.

    At this point, we shall draw out in detail only those implications that are relevant to the phenomenon of increased proselyting follow- ing disconfirmation of a prediction. For this purpose we shall introduce the concepts of consonance and dissonance. Two opinions, or beliefs, or items of knowledge are dissonam with each other if they do not fit together— that is, if they are inconsistent, or if, considering only the particular two items, one does not follow from the other.

    He may have many other opinions, beliefs, or items of knowledge that are consonant with continuing to smoke but the dissonance neverthe- less exists too. Dissonance produces discomfort and, correspondingly, there will arise pressures to reduce or eliminate the dissonance. At- tempts to reduce dissonance represent the observable manifesta- tions that dissonance exists. Such attempts may take any or all of three forms. The person may try to change one or more of the behefs, opinions, or behaviors involved in the dissonance; to ac- quire new information or beliefs that will increase the existing consonance and thus cause the total dissonance to be reduced; or to forget or reduce the importance of those cognitions that are in a dissonant relationship.

    If any of the above attempts are to be successful, they must meet with support from either the physical or the social environ- ment. In the absence of such support, the most determined efforts to reduce dissonance may be unsuccessful. The foregoing statement of the major ideas about dissonance and its reduction is a very brief one and, for that reason, it may be difficult to follow.

    We can perhaps make these ideas clearer to the reader by showing how they apply to the kind of social movement we have been discussing, and by pointing out how these ideas help to explain the curious phenomenon we have ob- served. Theoretically, what is the situation of the individual believer at the pre-disconfirmation stage of such a movement?

    He has a strongly held belief in a prediction — for example, that Christ will return — a belief that is supported by the other members of the movement. By way of preparation for the predicted event, he has engaged in many activities that are entirely consistent with his belief. In other words, most of the relations among relevant cog- nitions are, at this point, consonant. Now what is the effect of the disconfirmation, of the unequivo- cal fact that the prediction was wrong, upon the believer?

    The fact that the predicted events did not occur is dissonant with continuing to believe both the prediction and the remainder of the ideology of which the prediction was the central item. The failure of the prediction is also dissonant with all the actions that the believer took in preparation for its fulfillment. The magnitude of the dissonance will, of course, depend on the importance of the belief to the individual and on the magnitude of his prepara- tory activity. In the type of movement we have discussed, the central belief and its accompanying ideology are usually of crucial importance in the believers' lives and hence the dissonance is very strong — and very painful to tolerate.

    Accordingly we should expect to observe believers making determined efforts to eliminate the dis- sonance or, at least, to reduce its magnitude. How may they ac- complish this end? The dissonance would be largely eliminated if they discarded the belief that had been disconfirmed, ceased the behavior which had been initiated in preparation for the ful- fillment of the prediction, and returned to a more usual existence.

    Indeed, this pattern sometimes occurs and we have seen that it did happen to the Millerites after the last disconfirmation and to the Sabbataians after Zevi himself was converted to Islam. But frequently the behavioral commitment to the belief system is so strong that almost any other course of action is preferable. It may even be less painful to tolerate the dissonance than to discard the belief and admit one had been wrong.

    When that is the case, the dissonance cannot be eliminated by giving up the belief. Alternatively, the dissonance would be reduced or eliminated if the members of a movement effectively blind themselves to the fact that the prediction has not been fulfilled. But most people, including members of such movements, are in touch with reality and cannot simply blot out of their cognition such an unequivocal and undeniable fact. They can try to ignore it, however, and they usually do try. They may convince themselves that the date was wrong but that the prediction will, after all, be shortly confirmed; or they may even set another date as the Millerites did.

    Or believers may try to find reasonable explanations and very often they find ingenious ones. The Sabbataians, for example, convinced themselves when Zevi was jailed that the very fact that he was still alive proved he was the Messiah. Even after his conversion some stanch adherents claimed this, too, was part of the plan. Rationalization can reduce dissonance somewhat.

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    For rationalization to be fully effective, support from others is needed to make the explanation or the revision seem correct. Fortunately, the disappointed believer can usually turn to the others in the same movement, who have the same dissonance and the same pressures to reduce it. Support for the new explanation is, hence, forthcoming and the members of the movement can recover somewhat from the shock of the dis- confirmation. But whatever explanation is made it is still by itself not sufli- cient.

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    The dissonance is too important and though they may try to hide it, even from themselves, the believers still know that the prediction was false and all their preparations were in vain. The dissonance cannot be eliminated completely by denying or ration- alizing the disconfirmation. But there is a way in which the re- maining dissonance can be reduced.

    If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must, after all, be correct. Consider the extreme case: It is for this reason that we observe the increase in proselyting following disconfirmation. If the proselyting proves successful, then by gathering more ad- herents and effectively surrounding himself with supporters, the believer reduces dissonance to the point where he can live with it.

    In the light of this explanation of the phenomenon that prose- lyting increases as a result of a disconfirmation, let us take an- other, and more critical, look at the historical examples we have offered in evidence. There are a number of grounds for feeling unsatisfied with them as proof. It is an understandable lack, for the people col- lecting historical records were not concerned with our particular problem, but it is a lack nonetheless.

    Even our best documented example, the Millerites, contains little evidence on actual prose- lyting behavior, especially among the mass members. Statements about proselyting must be inferred largely from evidence about the number of adherents and the size and frequency of meetings.

    But such signs as these are dependent not only on the effort made to proselyte — the desire to convince others — but also on the effectiveness of the efforts and on the state of mind of prospective converts. Even where there is direct evidence about proselyting attempts, such as the number of speeches made, the fact that Miller and Himes traveled widely, or that the Millerite presses worked twenty-four hours a day, these are activities of the leaders. There is very little concrete evidence of the proselyting activities of the ordinary members, whose behavior is most significant for our purposes.

    Leaders of a social movement may, after all, have mo- tives other than simply their conviction that they have the truth. Should the movement disintegrate, they would lose prestige or other rewards. And if the Millerite case is inadequately documented for our purposes, our other examples are even more poorly supported. On the Sabbataian movement we have virtually no data concern- ing the initial disconfirmation in , for the very good reason that the movement attracted little attention and, hence, there were few records of it until it became very large and important.

    A second reason for considering historical data alone as inade- quate is the small likelihood that this kind of data could challenge our explanation. Suppose we could find record of a mass move- ment that had apparently collapsed immediately after disconfir- mation. In the absence of adequate measurement, we might well conjecture that the members' commitment to the belief was small — so small that the dissonance introduced by disconfirmation was enough to force the discarding of the belief.

    This would be a tenable contention since it is the results of proselyting efforts that generally find their way into historical records rather than the efforts themselves. There is a type of occurrence that would indeed disprove our explanation — namely, a movement whose members simply main- tained the same conviction after disconfirmation as they had be- fore and neither fell away from the movement nor increased their proselyting.

    But it is precisely such an occurrence that might very well go unnoticed by its contemporaries or by historians and never find its way into their annals. Since the likelihood of disproof through historical data is small, we cannot place much confidence in the supporting evidence from the same sources. The reader can then imagine the enthusi- asm with which we seized the opportunity to collect direct observational data about a group who appeared to believe in a prediction of catastrophe to occur in the near future. Direct observations made before, during, and after the disconfirmation would produce at least one case that was fully documented by trustworthy data directly relevant to our purpose.

    One day in late September the Lake City Herald carried a two- column story, on a back page, headlined: The body of the story expanded somewhat on these bare facts: Lake City will be destroyed by a flood from Great Lake just before davra, Dec. Marian Keech, of West School street, says the prophecy is not her own. It is the purport of many messages she has received by automatic writing, she says.

    The messages, according to Mrs. Keech, are sent to her by superior beings from a planet called 'Clarion. Keech reports she was told the flood will spread to form an inland sea stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, she says, a cataclysm will sub- merge the West Coast from Seattle, Wash. The story went on to report briefly the origin of Mrs.

    Keech's experiences and to quote several messages that seemed to indicate she had been chosen as a person to learn and transmit teachings from the "superior beings. Keech accom- panied the story. She appeared to be about fifty years of age, and she sat poised with pad and pencil in her lap, a slight, wiry woman with dark hair and intense, bright eyes. The story was not de- rogatory, nor did the reporter comment upon or interpret any of the information he had gathered. Keech's pronouncement made a specific prediction of a specific event, since she, at least, was publicly committed to belief in it, and since she apparently was interested to some extent in informing a wider public about it, this seemed to be an oppor- tunity to conduct a "fiield" test of the theoretical ideas to which the reader has been introduced.

    In early October two of the authors called on Mrs. Keech and tried to leam whether there were other convinced persons in her orbit of influence, whether they too believed in the specific pre- diction, and what commitments of time, energy, reputation, or material possessions they might be making in connection with the prediction. The results of this first visit encouraged us to go on. The three of us and some hired observers joined the group and, as participants, gathered data about the conviction, commitment, and proselyting activity of the individuals who were actively interested in Mrs.

    We tried to leam as much as possible about the events that had preceded the news story, and, of course, kept records of subsequent developments. The means by which the observers gained entree, maintained rapport, and collected data are fully described in the Appendix.

    The informa- tion collected about events before early October is retrospective. From October to early Janu- ary almost all the data are first-hand observations, with an occa- sional report of an event we did not cover directly but heard about later through someone in the group of believers who had been there at the time. The next three chapters are a narrative of events from the be- ginning of Mrs. Keech's automatic writing up to the crucial days in December just before the cataclysmic flood was expected. These chapters provide background material.

    They will intro- duce the members of the group, describe their personal histories, their involvement in the movement, and the preparations they made for the flood. We shall also describe the ideology accom- panying the prediction and some of the other influences to which the group was exposed. Such background is necessary to make understandable some of the behavior and the events that led up to the night of December Much of this material is not directly relevant to the theoretical theme of the book, but we hope that these details will re-create for the reader some of the vividness of these months.

    So it was with Mrs. Marian Keech, who awoke near dawn one morning in the early winter about a year before the events with which we are concerned. Without knowing why, I picked up a pencil and a pad that were lying on the table near my bed. My hand began to write in another handwriting. I looked at the handwriting and it was strangely familiar, but I knew it was not my own.

    I realized that somebody else was using my hand, and I said: I was much surprised to find that it was my father, who had passed away. Keech had had with the occult, either as an interested student or as a participant. At least fifteen years earlier, while living in New York, she had been invited by an Indian acquaintance to attend a lecture on theosophy. She was fasci- nated by what she heard, and deeply impressed with the pro- fundity of the lecturer's message. She attended several lectures on theosophy and, after each, picked up a mimeographed copy of the talk to study it more carefully.

    In the years following her exposure to theosophy, Mrs. She read the works of Godfre Ray King Guy Ballard , the founder of the I AM movement, and the idea that one might "walk in the light" of superior knowledge was communicated to her. During a lengthy convalescence she became absorbed in Oahspe, sub- titled "A Kosmon Bible.

    Oahspe challenges the orthodox Christian account of human downfall by setting forth a story of the division of mankind into two forces: Besides her quest for cosmic knowledge, Mrs. Keech sought insight into herself. She joined a dianetics group and was "cleared" by an auditor and friend who later took up residence in Mrs. Discussing this experience later, she remarked: My friends have helped me take myself back to the period of my birth — in fact, even before my birth. I can remember the day I was conceived. Keech explained that everyone knew his true identity when he was born, but, in growing up, lost this clear knowledge and, thus, his true self.

    One of the chief advances in Scientology, she felt, was that it not only made possible an understanding of the circumstances of an individual's conception and birth, but also gave access to knowledge of one's identity in earlier incarnations. At about the same time that she began to receive messages from nonterrestrial sources, Mrs. Keech had become actively interested in one of the major popular mysteries of our time —flying saucers. The connection between extraterrestrial messages and such visitors was probably immediately apparent to Mrs.

    With this background of esoteric knowledge, Mrs. Keech took her first active step into the occult when she transcribed her father's message. Like many beginnings, it was not especially im- pressive. It was a letter from her father to her mother giving some instructions to the latter for planting flowers that spring. There was a certain amount of information about her father's state of spiritual health, and a brief, and rather unclear, description of his present surroundings and his "way of life" in "the astral. They were written haltingly and contained many indecipherable words and perplexing neologisms.

    Keech concluded that the fault lay at least partially in her, and set herself the task of developing, through concentration, through prayers for help and guidance, and through constant, obedient practice, a higher level of skill in transcribing the messages from the spiritual realm. She soon learned that the world was populated with scoflters and unbelievers. At her father's command she had transmitted his first message to her mother, who answered by reprimanding her and ordering her to stop such nonsense or, at least, to stop inflict- ing it upon her living parent.

    Disheartened, but undeterred by this rebuff, Mrs. Keech continued to believe in her newly devel- oped ability. She accustomed herself to sit each day for a message, or a lesson, and spent many hours in bitter frustration, often plagued by doubt, as she tried to grasp the meaning of the words and phrases her pencil wrote.

    On some days there were no mes- sages at all. As she struggled, she gradually became aware that other beings or intelligences were trying to "get through to" her. I have always been inter- ested in my fellow men and I have always wanted to be of service to mankind. I don't mind telling you I prayed very diligently that I would not fall into the wrong hands. Keech apparently came to fear that she would "fall into the hands" of beings located in "the astral. Keech's prayers were answered. Within a short time she began to receive messages from a being who identified himself as "the Elder Brother" and informed her that her father was in con- siderable need of spiritual instruction in order that he might ad- vance to higher levels.

    Keech and the Elder Brother attempted to provide such instruction, but her father proved a recalcitrant pupil, overly concerned with the earthly affairs of those he had left behind. He was inattentive and mis- chievous, as is, apparently, the wont of astral spirits, and finally the Elder Brother gave up, instructing Mrs. Keech to turn her attention to a more feasible and important task — her own spiritual development.

    Gradually, as spring wore on, she developed greater and greater facility at receiving messages, while the number of her communi- cators increased. Besides the Elder Brother, she began to receive writings from other spiritual beings who dwelt on the planets Clarion and Cerus. Toward mid-April she began to receive com- munications from Sananda, who was destined to become her most important source of information and instruction, as well as her principal link with orthodox Christian revelation, for Sananda subsequently identified himself as the contemporary identity of the historical Jesus — his new name having been adopted with the beginning of the "new cycle" or age of light.

    In spite of her growing facility, Mrs. Keech was still concerned about her ability and fearful lest the superior beings abandon her as a promising pupil. On Easter morning her mind was set at ease on that point, however, when, just after she awakened at 7 a. The cares of the day cannot touch you. I will take care of the details. That is an earthly liaison duty before I come.

    That will be soon. I will come again to teach each of you. They that have told you that they do not believe shall see us when the time is right. Keech often commented upon the significance of this message and on the spiritual comfort she found in it. It was ap- parently the first unequivocal promise to her of instruction and guidance from those she came to call the Guardians; it assured her, in the Elder Brother's own words, that her writing was genu- inely from him, not from some inferior source; and it assured her again that she was to tell other mortals of her experiences in "extrasensory perception.

    This is the first indication we have of anything that might be construed as proselyting on her part. We may hazard the guess, from the message as well as from her own subsequent de- scription of this phase, that she did not tell very many people and was not very successful in convincing them that she was in- deed endowed with special powers of reception. Such messages, referring to proselyting, were infrequent during the spring. However, since attempts to proselyte followers are one of the main objects of concern in our study, we will do well to follow the thread of promptings to this end which are con- tained in Mrs.

    Keech's early messages, as well as to examine what we know of her behavior during this period. A few days after the Easter message Mrs. Keech received a commimication from one of Sananda's assistants promising to teach Mrs. Keech "Many truths you do not understand. This works like an accordian. When the con- densation leaves the carceious level of the ether or atmosphere levels that support a large light layer of marine life, it causes a barrier to be set up.

    Now that the bombs have broken that bar- rier we can break through. That is what your scientists call the sonic barrier. We have been trying to get through for many of your years, with alcetopes and the earling timer. Keech was advised in another message later the same day: Get a couple of learned friends that can stabilize you. Let them know what you are doing.

    Let them watch with you to see that you are not misunderstood. Share what you have with each other. Share all — and be enlight- ened — to those who are ready. Keech that her prayers for protection and guidance were being heard and answered, then instructed her: The world mind is still in lethargy. It does not want to awaken. Keech's own wishes rather than the will of superior beings on other planets, they tell us clearly enough that she was beginning to feel some urge to communicate the special knowledge she felt she possessed.

    But what did she do about these promptings.! Keech and the people who later surrounded her have been hazy about dates and places, and have sometimes contradicted not only each other but themselves. From our limited evidence, we can infer a few things, however. We know that she discussed her experiences with her husband, who was quite unreceptive.

    He simply went about his ordinary duties in the distributing company where he was a traffic manager, and did not allow the unusual events in his home to disturb in the slightest his daily routine. We can be fairly sure that she acted on the counsel of the Guardians to get a couple of friends and tell them what she was doing, for by June a female acquaintance from nearby Highvale was freely devoting time and energy to typing multiple copies of some of the more important messages Mrs, Keech had received.

    We know that it was through conversation with this woman that at least two of the most faithful of Mrs. Keech's followers learned about her. This same woman introduced Mrs. Keech to a small, informal circle of housewives who met in various Highvale homes to discuss dianetics, Scientology, metaphysics, and occult topics. At one or more such meetings, Mrs. Keech read extracts from her "lessons" and described how she received these messages.

    We have good reason to conclude that she was in intermittent contact with a second group of students of dianetics in downtown Lake City. Perhaps most important was the occasion when she discussed her writings with the lecturer and expert on the subject of flying saucers mentioned earlier. At one of his talks in Lake City, Mrs. Keech described her experiences and showed him some of the messages. He appears to have been impressed by her, for, some time later, while he was on a lecture tour that brought him to the Steel City Flying Saucer Club, he seems to have given Mrs.

    Keech a favorable notice. In particular, he talked about her work to Dr. Thomas Armstrong, a frequent attender at meetings of this club. Armstrong was a physician who Uved in Collegeville, a small community about one hundred miles from Steel City. Since he and his wife, Daisy, were to play highly prominent parts in the subsequent development of the group that gathered around Mrs.

    Keech, we shall say more about them and explain as best we can the route by which they became involved. For about five years they spread gospel and health, returning on furlough to the United States just at the out- break of World War II. The war prevented their return to the mission field until , when they again set out, with high hopes and ideals, and with three children. This time, however, they had an unpleasant sojourn — at least Daisy Armstrong did, for she suffered a "nervous collapse" as she once described it. Bedeviled by nightmares that featured violence and bloody death, she could not rid herself of the obsession that her loved ones were in im- minent danger of injury from sharp objects, especially knives, axes, swords, and the like.

    She had persistent dreams and fantasies of cuttings, stabbings, and beheadings. Even the simple tools on her husband's workbench had to be put out of sight, since they terrified her. Armstrong's anxieties did not yield to any of the attempts she and her husband made to overcome them. Although she rec- ognized her feelings as unreasonable, she could not will them away. Nor did her husband's reassurances, changes in the house- hold regimen, and a short vacation do any good. Even prayer did not help. The Armstrongs were especially distressed by this last disappointment. Armstrong once put it, they could not understand why they had been singled out for persecution by such malignant emotion; after all, they had always led a good life, had tried to do the right thing, and were certainly engaged in good works.

    The ideas they encountered in this literature, and discussed at length, seem to have opened their minds to possibilities that many people regard with incredulity. In they returned to the United States and Dr. His work there was evidently of a routine nature and left his mind and time free to continue explora- tion of esoteric literature. The Armstrongs continued to partici- pate in orthodox Christian religious activities.

    They attended a nondenominational Protestant church, where Dr. Armstrong or- ganized "The Seekers," a group for young people, principally college students, which met once a week to discuss ethical, reli- gious, metaphysical, and personal problems, always seeking truth. A tall man in his early forties, Dr. Armstrong had an air of ease and self-assurance that seemed to inspire confidence in his listeners. Any topic was grist for the Seekers' mill, so it may have been no surprise to most of the members when Dr. Armstrong began to show considerable interest in flying saucers.

    Just why his atten- tion was drawn to this phenomenon is not clear. But one winter he found reason to visit southern California.

    When Prophecy Fails

    This book related Adamski's meeting with a being who is alleged to have landed in a flying saucer near Desert Center, California. Adamski says that he talked with the man and his book contains a drawing of the footprints that the visitor left behind when he climbed back into the saucer and blasted off for Venus, his home base. Armstrong enjoyed a lengthy interview with Adamski and came away convinced that flying saucers were real, not illu- sory, that they came from other planets, and that they carried men, or beings, who were visiting the earth on missions of ex- ploration and observation. He also came away with an enlarged copy of the drawing of the Venusian footprints, whose curious interior markings seemed to him symbols of a mysterious sort.

    Her interpretation of the footprints forecast a rising of the submerged continents of Mu and Atlantis, an event that would be consistent with the flooding of the North Ameri- can continent. Much later on, in August, when Marian Keech received the prediction of a flood on December 21, Daisy Arm- strong emphasized that this prediction was all the more likely to be correct since her own interpretation, arrived at independently, was corroborative evidence.

    Sometime during late April or early May the Armstrongs learned of Mrs. Keech from the expert on flying saucers. The Armstrongs wrote to Mrs. Keech shortly thereafter, expressing an interest in her work and telling her something of their own explorations in the occult. Meanwhile, according to Mrs.

    Keech, she had received a mes- sage from Sananda to "Go to Collegeville. There is a child there to whom I am trying to get through with light. She seized upon the Armstrongs' letter with delight; it was too fitting to be a coincidence, she felt. This con- tact with people who had only yesterday been strangers in a town populated by strangers must have great signiflcance.

    She subse- quently decided that Daisy Armstrong was the "child" referred to in the instruction, a decision to which Mrs. Armstrong quickly assented since she felt that the Guardians had been trying to "get light through to her" for a long time and she felt that her own blindness and unreceptivity to these attempts had been the root of her "nervous collapse" in Egypt.

    From the initial contact, developments proceeded rapidly, and not even the two hundred miles between Lake Qty and College- ville inhibited the growth of a close friendship. Keech to return their visit. She spent the Fourth of July weekend in CoUegeville. The change in locale did not seem to interrupt the flow of communication from outer space. Keech's productivity remained high. She sometimes received as many as ten messages or "lessons" in a single day, and scarcely a day passed without a communique of some kind from outer space. The contents of these messages were diverse, and they covered a vast range of topics from brief descriptions of the physical en- vironment and diet on other planets to warnings and forebodings of war and destruction soon to plague the earth, intermingled with promises of enlightenment, joy, and unparalleled new ex- periences in store for those who would "listen and believe.

    It is difficult to give a clear, simple picture of the entire belief system as it is revealed in these messages. The ideology was not only complex, but also pliant, changing this way and that in response to new influences perhaps new people whom Mrs.

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    Keech met, or new publications she saw. For the purpose of pro- viding background, we shall set down the general propositions condensed from the messages, and iUustrate them by extracts from the writings themselves. Wherever possible, we shall pro- vide the "official" definitions of unfamiliar words or expressions, taken from the glossary provided by Mrs.

    Keech or from the usage current among believers at the time of our observations. The first proposition is that there is a universe of planets be- yond the solar system of the earth, which universe is at least par- tially inhabited by beings of superior intelligence, wisdom, and skill, possessing an enormously advanced technology. These be- ings bear some resemblance to humans but they exist at a higher "vibratory frequency" i. Keech on July 8 that "The Guardians are beings of the UN [intelligence of the Creator; mind of the High Self] who have risen to the density- seven or eight, who are UN as the Oneness with the Creator, who can and do create by the UN the casement or vehicle they chose to use in the seen.

    We are like the human beings of Earth and have much in common; though there are millions of years difference in our culture, we are still brothers. What we enjoy as natural everyday enjoyments, you of the world cannot yet imagine. We have weather — snow and rain. We adjust our bodies to the temperature. They say it is large sun spots. The various mediods of communication with the people of Earth can be explained by the various frequencies that we operate on. Our systems are very complicated to you; in reality they are very simple. I am coming via inter-conscious-perception, which you call telepathy It is our common means of communication and is used be- tween our own planet and all the others we have communication with.

    How many you ask? We cannot number them for you have not enough paper to write the s on. This is staggering to you, for we have been learning for millions of years. We know no death, as you do. It is as a cocoon turns into a moth — very consciously and voluntarily — iwActz we need or desire the change. We never go back to the former lear [our Earth body]. This communication is being re- corded by your thermin. It looks much like a large looking glass and your thoughts are recorded on it as quickly as you think.

    And we beam back our impulses in the form of magnetic energy. It is done with a celecoblet, something your scientists have not yet imaged. Keech in order to teach her — and, through her, other humans — those principles, ideas, and guides to right conduct that are necessary to advance the spiritual development of the human race and to prepare the people of the earth for certain changes that lie ahead.

    Keech was told that "It is ignorance of the Universal Laws that makes all the misery of the Earth"; and that "We see and know that you struggle in darkness and want to bring real Ught, for yours is the only planet that has war and hatred. We feel no sadness but are interested in the progress of the peo- ple of your Earth. We are all brothers. Need I tell you more. Keech with a report of prog- ress: You are coming to the end of the age of darkness.

    The light of the world shall be made manifest by the coming of the earlings. The earlings are the beings who are inhabiting the re- gions you call the atmosphere. The atmosphere is alive with beings of such a vibratory rate that the dense people of Earth cannot see them. Early in April Sananda said: It may be June when they land in West Virginia. We will land in various places, including West Virginia, the Carolinas, and Vermont. We have contacts there. We are trying to make arrangements for a party of six from Westinghouse to visit our territory.

    Is that a surprise to you? We have had people from your world with us. Two of them are now on our planet Union. They were there on Earth for a special mission. It gradually becomes apparent, as one leafs through the messages of that period, that the teaching of Mrs. Keech and the schemes for interplanetary exchange of per- sons have behind them the rationale of averting or mitigating an expected universal disaster.

    When Prophecy Fails - Wikipedia

    The earliest messages hint darkly of trouble ahead for the earth but they are vague in intent. On May 23, however, Sananda came right out and said: In several places, the Guardians promise Mrs. Keech that those who "instruct the people of Earth in slaughter" will meet a dark and awful justice soon, and warn: It is not until late August that the messages begin to warn her more directly of what is ahead for humanity.

    There are many other interesting lessons in the collection — far more than we have space to cite. In part the contents reflect the events of Mrs. Keech's daily life — the presence of guests and visitors in her home, the appearance of a new inquirer for whom there is almost always praise and promise of great things to come , or the disappearance of a former disciple usually with rueful comments from the Guardians on the difficulty of enlight- ening the people of the earth.

    There are messages of reassurance, of protection against "the dark forces" around her. There are fulminations against warmongers, scientists, nonbelievers, and ma- terialists. And there are many, many messages of exhortation: These qualities were often put to severe tests. From time to time the Guardians had given Mrs. Keech pre- dictions of specific future events, such as the landing of flying saucers and visits by space people.

    She had also been issued a number of "orders" to carry out simple tasks or to go to certain places. Thus, in April, Sananda told her: He has been on our planet for a brief stay. He will say to you: He came through the atmosphere on a beam of light. The strongest test of her convictions and her loy- alty to her teachers, however, came as a result of a prediction she received late in July.

    On the morning of July 23, Mrs. It will be as if the world was coming to an end at the field when the landing occurs. The operators will not believe their senses when they see the craft of outer space in the midst of the field. Keech got word to be at Lyons field — a military air base — by noon in order to witness the landing. A number of her acquaintances learned of her plan, ap- parently through the offices of the friend who was currently typing copies of the lessons.

    Keech subsequently made it plain that she had no intention of gathering a crowd for the occa- sion, yet she evidently did not regard her mission as a secret one. So I wasn't going to say anything about it. Armstrong and his wife were in Lake City at the time, as weekend guests of Mrs. Keech, and asked if they might accom- pany her.

    The three of them reached the field just before noon. Near the main gate of the field, the Armstrongs and Mrs. Keech were joined by another car or two of acquaintances, and the whole group sought out a lightly traveled road that bordered the field. Selecting a place that offered a good view of the runways and the sky, they parked and prepared to wait. Keech once said, in describing the incident. Keech became aware that an unknown man had approached the party. Although the road was long and straight and the fields bordering it offered neither cover nor concealment, she had not seen him walking toward them; it was as if he had materialized out of thin air.

    He crossed the highway toward the group and, as he drew nearer, she sensed something strange, almost eerie in his appearance and manner. She recalls a somewhat strange "look in his eye" and a curiously rigid bearing. One of the ladies in the party was alarmed, and urged Mrs.

    Keech to "be careful; that man is crazy. Keech felt only curiosity and sympathy for the stranger on this hot, dry road far from comfort or refreshment. From the back of her car she got a sandwich and a glass of fruit juice, and offered them to him, but he declined, slowly and politely. I asked him again, but he just said: Yet I wasn't on the beam.

    As we stood there looking in the sky for saucers, he would look up and then he would look at us, at me especially. After I had offered him food, he turned and walked away. I felt very sad. I didn't know why at the time. I thought 'what can I give him to eat? What else have we got that I can give him? As I reached it, I looked back and he was gone— just gone. He was no place to be seen.