The Cults of Frank Buchman 7

Buchman with Mrs.Edison. She and her husband respected Buchman.

Frank Buchman claimed that members of his Oxford Group could commune directly with God, day in and day out. He took the concept of a daily time set aside for Bible study and prayer,  and added the psychic scam method called automatic writing or spirit writing. He taught that, like a spirit medium channeling the dead, he and his adherents could channel God.

In automatic writing, the mark is instructed to hold a pen loosely in their hand over a notebook and let their mind wander. As thoughts come to them, they are urged to write down everything without question or analysis. The psychic con artist then declares that the mark has channeled a spirit, kind or spiteful. Buchman did exactly this, but told his followers the scribbled thoughts of their own subconscious was the voice of God.

Buchman called these thoughts divine guidance, and urged his followers to practice it constantly, to listen for that guidance each time they were faced with a decision. Obedience to those inner leanings was considered obedience to God, and not a few Buchmanites dropped out of Oxford to devote themselves fully to the Group.

In the Bible, no one talks to God in this way, freely and constantly. Prophets are rare exceptions and even they might only hear from God once or twice in a lifetime. As an atheist, I don’t consider an orthodox religion to be more “true”, but the odds it is a cult are greatly reduced. Cults hold unorthodox, heretical, and blasphemous beliefs like this blending of the occult with Christianity.

Groupists were notorious for breaking plans if they felt ” guided” to do so. “Group leaders were ‘guided’ to break important engagements while large gatherings of people sat waiting in confused ignorance,” wrote the author of “A Critique of Buchmanism,” in The Christian Century. In one egregious instance, a young Groupist mailed a letter of proposal to his sweetheart on a Friday, but by Monday felt “guided” to propose to someone else. They did not seem “guided” to honor commitments.

Coming soon: when members received conflicting guidance

One thought on “The Cults of Frank Buchman 7

  1. A Baptist pastor once held a youth meeting in which we were taught about automatic writing. I wonder if he knew about Buchman. It felt almost like a party game when we did it. Like when people hold seances at parties for an eerie thrill. So we had to try and “channel God”, write down what “God” was saying and then write a response to God and burn it so that he would receive its essence up in heaven 😛 I think even at the time when I was more believing, I had some sense that this was not meant to be taken too seriously and was something to make us feel as though God was really talking to us and really hearing us when we talked back. It didn’t actually occur to me at the time, that many Christians might regard this “game” as heretical.


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