Annie Riley Hale
(original) New York: National Health Foundation, 1926
Kissinger Publishing Rare Reprints
Paperback, 257 pages
“These Cults” has a subtitle:
“An Analysis of the Foibles of Dr. Morris Fishbein’s “Medical Follies” and an Indictment of Medical Practice in General, with a Non-Partisan Presentation of the Case for Drugless Schools of Healing, Comprising Essays on Homeopathy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic, The Abrams Method, Vivisection, Physical Culture, Christian Science, Medical Publicity, The Cost of Hospitalization and State Medicine.”
The long subtitle says it all, mostly.
Annie R. Hale was a researcher-journalist active nearly a century ago in America. She had already published “Rooseveltean Fact and Fable” and “The Natural Way to Health.” “These Cults” is a polemic against what Hale calls the “regular” medicine lauded in Dr. Morris Fishbein’s 1924 book that criticizes “healing cults” and drugless alternatives to allopathic, “scientific” medicine. Hale emphasizes her neutrality, but the reader soon grasps that the author has a bias—in one passage (p 165) she calls orthodox medicine’s use of quinine to treat malaria as a “barbarous stupidity.”
As dated as this book is, ninety years later the same debate continues between “regular” and alternative medicine. Some things have changed: Despite no evidence-based proof of their foundations, Osteopathy and Chiropractic have been mainstreamed as major insurance companies will pay for both, The Abrams Method has been all but forgotten though re-disguised, the science of medicine has advanced far beyond what Hale could have imagined, and the language describing this debate has evolved considerably.
Cult was less a pejorative term back then. Today in the 21st Century, cult tends to refer to eccentric devotional activities that may use abusive mind control techniques. Hale and others like Fishbein related cult to healing methods and rituals outside of the allopathic system. This older definition of cult emphasized healing by means of magic or ritual which carries over to religious cults that “heal” or “cleanse” the soul of sin. There is a direct correlation of cult to a method of healing, especially in the Christina sense. Jesus in the Western tradition often “saved” by healing as well as by forgiving sin. Ancient Jewish culture viewed disease as “sin” or a deserved curse from God, thus the “unclean” like lepers were not permitted in the Holy Temple. Hale mentions nothing about acupuncture or yoga which had not yet had a large impact on alternative psycho-spiritual healing trends.
Hale was an apologist for the healing cults of her day while recognizing certain limitations and variations among drugless remedies in her narrative. Protestant Christianity had a strong and direct influence on the new cults like Christian Science, Homeopathy, and Chiropractic. The prejudice among ‘these cults’ was that God or Jesus could heal anything at will, and if that will could be tapped through Mesmerism, the “science” of Christ, or some other metaphysical means, so much the better; better in Hale’s opinion because “regular” medicine of her day was killing people with serums, killing animals cruelly and in her view needlessly through vivisection, and refusing to recognize the health benefits of “Physical Culture,” the forerunner of our modern health spas that emphasize massage, exercise, aromatherapies, diet, and a “holistic” approach to well-being.
Hale asks on page 63: “Can it be because of its past and present close association with the ‘black arts’ of necromancy and vivisection, that ‘scientific medicine’ is opposed to Deity?” She notes that Dr. Fishbein indicted Osteopathy, for example, because founder Andrew Still “felt himself the recipient of a divine revelation.” (63) Of course, Fishbein was not anti-God per se, but he was against superstition and lack of evidence when making healing claims.
Nevertheless, Hale had a point. Modern science in her day tended to discount any use of a God force, and despite the great 19th Century advances in the science of medicine, many remedies and diagnostic technologies were crude and dangerous by comparison to what we have today. We only have to look at the advances of electric shock therapy or ECT, today a relatively safe and effective treatment for extreme cases of depression and mania.
Hale does skew her data, but her points are made: Many people died unnecessarily when surgeries, serums or inoculations, and other invasive techniques could not account for dangerous side effects, improper sanitation, and immune deficiencies. Physicians just did not know better. Hale points out that more people died of influenza under the care of “regular” doctors than died of influenza under the care of “cult” doctors. She does not cite specific studies to show the statistics. On the other hand, Hale discounts the benefits of inoculation with “cow pus” to treat small pox (p 252) altogether—she had no way of knowing that small pox would be practically eradicated by the 1970s in countries like India by way of “regular” inoculation campaigns and not by way of mind cure cults or traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Hale discusses “Psycho-Therapy or Mind Cure” of “Mesmer, Coué, and Mrs. Eddy” in Chapter IX. She names the “keynote to all mental and psychic therapy”—to the mental healing of Christian Science, the positive thinking aphorisms craze launched by Emile Coué, and the hypnotic approaches initiated by Anton Mesmer—in the words of “Hufeland, the great German philanthropist-physician”:
There is a region of the man which is never sick; to call out the reign of that region and make it supreme, is to make the sick man well. (Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, 1762-1836, coined the term macrobiotic and treated Goethe, Schiller, and other notables in his day. He was a member of the Illuminati as a Freemason.—Wikipedia).
The Abrams Method or “Electronic Reactions of Abrams” (ERA) deserves mention because, like Radionics, Psychiana, the “I AM” Activity, and other “vibrational” healing movements after it, Albert Abrams, M.D. (1864-1924) believed that “radiation” or electrical frequencies emitted from his many patented devices like the oscilloclast could somehow effect frequencies in the human body and cure diseases. Abrams called his technique of tapping the spine Spondylotherapy as a way of both diagnosing and treating a wide array of diseases. Many chiropractors adopted Spondylotherapy. He claimed that he could heal clients remotely with his ERA devices Devicewatch.org has this to say:
“Abrams made millions leasing his devices and was considered by the American Medical Association to be the "dean of gadget quacks." He claimed:
Hale defends Abrams to a fault claiming that his diagnoses were truly scientific but misunderstood. Hale uses Abrams’ popularity and huge success as a measure of the validity of his devices and healing theories.
Hale berates regular medicine for its arrogant manipulation of the sick by treating illness with mandated if dangerous methods as well as charging exorbitant sums. Hale was critical of government setting standards in medicine, especially when alternative drugless “cults” were deemed as ineffective superstitions by government. Hale indicates that regular medicine was in cahoots with government, thus feeding a popular conspiracy theory among devotees of the healing cults.
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The book has no index or reference guide. I do not expect many people to read this book, nor do I recommend it as a source of reliable information. My interest in reviewing it is more to point out the nature and history of the ongoing debate about cults. I had a good laugh now and then while reading this book, for example when Hale waxes righteously in her final argument: “The time has come (1923) when a majority of the lay world has pierced this pious disguise of the medical hierarchy; has learned also that much of its boasted “science” is about as scientific as the voodoo practices of an African witch doctor.”Consider using this space to introduce your page. Just click to add your own content.
review by Joe Szimhart, 2014
jszimhart @ windstream.net