Was Rutherford Mentally Ill?

by VM44 38 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • james_woods

    What I really know about technically "mentally ill" I know from watching Law and Order and staying in a Holiday Inn Express.

    However, from a layman's perspective:

    * He did some extremely irrational things. There was a huge amount of paranoia. While it is true that he hammered down others in his org, took it over, and profited from it enormously, great success in a madman's endeavor does not equate to sanity. Neither does being a powerful orator.

    * He suffered from both a massive ego, the inability to see through his own errors, and debilitating substance abuse.

    * His relationship with women was both strained, held in shadowy secrecy, and manifestly perverse.

    * His teachings and edicts, based on hate for almost all other peoples outside his own organization, have caused great harm to millions.

    * When he died, his own followers largely either failed to honor him, or were kept in the dark as to his funeral and burial.

    Whoops - silly me! Was I talking about the "Judge" Rutherford, or Adolph Hitler???

  • DannyHaszard
  • Mary
    Rutherford also goes into his conspiratorial ideas of how the Roman Catholic church was working with the Nazis to overthrow the governments of England and of the USA to bring in a totalitarian fascist government to both countries. These remarks sound like the ravings of someone who is not mentally all there.

    I don't know if he could be classified as not "mentally all there", but he was definitely was I would consider to be "paranoid" about virtually everything: he was paranoid and highly suspicious of the Catholic Church, the Jews, those who left the Organization when he stole the Presidency, Prohibition, Sex, Satan, Big Business, you name it. I think by today's standards, he's be considered paranoid/dillusional. And with his drinking problem, it probably just heightened his paranoia to the 10th degree.

  • M.J.

    Remember, Hitler was mentally ill and look what he accomplished.

    It became especially apparent in Hitler's last days.

    So it must have been with the Judge.

    Beth Sarim, anyone?

  • Leolaia

    Rutherford's conspiracy theories were definitely nutty. But was he a nutter? I'm not so sure. He may not have believed all the claptrap he wrote. The "return of the princes" rationale in the Beth Sarim affair at least looks like it was a cover story. I think his vendetta against the Catholic Church was aimed at exacting revenge for his imprisonment in 1918 -- which he blamed on Catholic opposition to the Finished Mystery and which greatly damaged his health. So did he say these things because he really believed that this world conspiracy was afoot, or because he knew his legions of Bible Students/JWs would believe anything he wrote and carry out his campaign against established religion? And I believe many who were attracted to the movement were mentally ill, and would have favorably responded to the message.

    Rather than being a paranoid schizophrenic (which he could have been, I'm not ruling it out), I think the evidence more clearly points to him being a sociopath. We are told that sociopaths are really not that uncommon in the population and they gravitate towards positions of power. Everything we know from Rutherford's career -- from his strong-arm tactics at attaining power to his obsession about Armageddon (which involved the literal execution of all his enemies) -- points to this. He also seemed to have been a megalomanic with his ego and self-importance (the whole world revolves around me). But even then I would hestitate in diagnosing someone no longer alive.

    As far as the paranoia about the Nazis was concerned, Rutherford was simply manipulating a fear already rampant throughout society. Fifth Column was not a term he invented, and the fear about secret Nazis plotting attacks against the US government was not much unlike the modern-day fear of more secret cells of Islamic terrorists with plans to do similar things. At the time, it seemed like a logical distinct possibility. The best evidence of the general paranoia in American society can be seen in the hysteria whipped up in October 31, 1938 during the broadcast of the War of the Worlds...a response widely believed to have been primed by fears of Nazi invasion. That was around the same time Rutherford made his "Face the Facts" talk (September 11th) and his letter to Mr. Cisler (October 19th), in which he claimed that Nazis were indeed going to successfully overthrow Britain and America.

  • lawrence

    YES! Deranged power hungry lunatic, a raving madman, who should have been sent to an institution. Instead, he built an empire based on fear and false prophecies.

  • M.J.
    who should have been sent to an institution.

    It was called Beth Sarim.

  • kwr

    Man did not invent radio, but discovered how to send and receive radio signals to be transmitted using electromagnetic force. Stars, Galaxies, pulsars and black holes have been transmitting radio waves for trillions of years.Unless we invent a new element we actually are discovering God's creation with each invention. Computers are created out of silicon that was another discovery of how God created the elements in the universe.

    As far as Rutherford being mentally ill he did not exhibit signs of any serious mental illness such as psychosis, he may have suffered from depression caused by abuse of alcohol which can impair the judgment of those abusing it. Being a leader in a religion can be a lonely job and I'm sure with the imprisonment & harassment he received as most JW's receive for their religious doctrine was a burden for him.

    I'm not a JW, but I don't subscribe to the JW's being evil psychopath's out to send people to hell with a false doctrine camp. The doctrine that there is no trinity is most likely true according to the Bible and their view that nationalism and war is wrong for believers is also shared by the Quakers and Mennonite sects.


  • stev

    There are other Bible Students whose mental stability has been questioned too - C. T. Russell, Clayton Woodworth, Paul S. L. Johnson. We could add cult leaders, and the founders of any religion we thought delusional, or claimed to be God's messenger. Anthony Storr wrote a book "Feet of Clay" about the psychology of gurus, and discussed Freud, Jung, and Jesus, and discussed the question of mental illness.

    There is sometimes a fine line between genius and madness. William Blake was considered to be mad by some of his contemporaries, but by others today he is a genius.

    Does delusional thinking cause mental illness, or does mental illness cause delusional thinking?

    It's possible for good people to believe delusions.

    It is more important to develop and use our critical thinking skills than to diagnose the mental illness of these leaders.

    If we consider them mentally ill, it might make it easier for us to excuse their abusive behavior.

    There are some religious leaders like George Fox, John Bunyan, Ellen White whose mentally stablity has been questioned but nevertheless it could argued they were a force for good in the world. Ellen White particularly is interesting because of her trances, and the possibility that these were caused by an early head injury.

    And there are religious fanatics who yet are lovable eccentrics like the Shakers, the early Quakers, the Amish, and the perhaps even the early Bible Students.

    As far as Rutherford goes, whether he was mentally ill or not, I personally have trouble finding something to like about him, and to find a redeeming quality. If there is such a thing as a cult leader, then he would be the classic textbook example.

    And as for his remarks about the radio and the Catholic Church - these might be have been only a reflection of his religious views. He probably saw the radio as a Millenial foregleam, and the Catholic Church as "mother of harlots".

  • james_woods

    So, so far, we have the following rough count:

    Rutherford was barking mad - I count three votes: VM44 (I think), myself, and M.J.

    Rutherford was likely crazy but not certifiable: L Toe, Leoilai, and probably others. <<< I think this one wins the opinion poll

    Rutherford was likely just a pathetic sociopathic fool: Maybe Lady Lee, others.

    Rutherford was likely an alchoholic eccentric genius who did a great deal of good: KW, I hope I am wrong -

    BTW, I am not so worried about the "Radio" comments...but the belief in the magical "Radio Biola" for cure of disease? Daniel and the men of Old coming back to Beth Sarim to ride around in the Caddy???

    Crazy as a LOON in mine own humble opinion.


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