Was Charles Russell delusional or just a con artist?

by keyser soze 25 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • steve2

    I have little doubt that Russell saw himself as having a pre-eminent role in "the Divine Plan of the ages" - but he would have also discovered how relatively easy it is for publicly expressed confidence in oneself to win converts. Humans have long been suckers for fellow humans who have the gift of the gab. We easily mistake someone's personal confidence for religious "certainty".

    There is a centuries-old Latin saying whose translation into English says, "The world loves to be deceived". It is ironic that the Witnesses would agree with this, but posit themselves as being above the tendency to be suckers for deception; yet, they, like the "world" at large, have fallen head over in love with their own peculiar set of delusions.

    So, back to Russell, he lived and breathed his role. But that is not to say that in his quieter moments - perhaps when his adoring followers were not around or when he did not have access to a mirror to preen himself - he did not have doubts.

    He died old and alone on a train journey during a speaking tour throughout the USA in 1916; he had seen 1914 come and go without the end he so confidently expected. Who knows what unsettling thoughts he had before death about how he had spent his life?

  • BluesBrother

    Or was he just a shrewd businessman who saw a market of disillusioned Christians who believed that Armageddon was imminent that he could exploit?

    My knowledge only comes from the WTS, so disprove it if you have any other evidence. I understand that he sold his family business and sank his money into The Watchtower. At his death he had little if anything of personal wealth. If that is so, he was hardly the shrewd businessman exploiting others for gain.

    Maybe it was all about power?, or maybe he was sincere ? We are not going to know his motives now, 98 years later

  • hamsterbait

    Con man and delusional.

    look at the measurements of the Great Pyramid. The main corridor was the right number of inches to prove 1914. But when that flopped the new edition of the Divine Plan just blithely put in place a new number of inches....

  • Finkelstein

    At his death he had little if anything of personal wealth.

    But he did have the wealth he cocooned into the WTS at his disposal at all times.

    So ???

    I think he got consumed in the adulation that he received from giving public talks and newspaper commentaries.

    He became in essence a public figure, popularized from his own perceived ideologies.

    The public ate it up and since he used the bible and the ever present belief in the bible to support those ideologies,

    he created a following toward himself and his publications.


    Certainly notoriety he never could have achieved from owning men's clothing stores to be sure.

  • Londo111

    My guess is that he started as a sincere but mistaken Adventist, but as he became successful and made money off Study In The Scriptures, amassed followers and acclaim, he got corrupted along the way. He lied under oath in court over the Solon Society and got caught red-handed. That was not the actions of a conscientious believer.

    Still, he would have been chagrined at knowing what the Judge, Knorr and Freddie would do to the movement.

  • OneEyedJoe

    He lied under oath in court over the Solon Society and got caught red-handed. That was not the actions of a conscientious believer.

    I don't know, sounds like theocratic warfare to me

  • Old Goat
    Old Goat

    I've read everything Russell wrote. I've read every book (pro and con) about him that I could find. My take is that he believed what he taught. Was he a fruitcake? Yes. Was he extraordinarily so? Not really. If you read the history of other late 19th Century religions you find similar nuttiness. The standard interpretation of the "faithful and wise servant" doctrine in Christendom was that it referred to the special divine choosing of clergymen. This is as much nonsense as Russell's doctrine.

    A conversation with Dr. de Vienne (one of the authors of Separate Identity) was eye-opening. She suggested to me that though his doctrine derived from Literalist, age to come belief, his approach mirrored that of Christian Mystics who were willing to see a personal divine choosing for themselves or their leaders. This seems reasonable. It's also insane and unscriptural. (Consider that my comment on the new faithful slave doctrine too.)

    He was a true believer willing to be misled by Confirmation Bias.

    I recommend reading: Clarke Garrett's Respectable Folly: Millenarians and the French Revolution in France and England. Good background in that book. It was published by Johns Hopkins U. Press. Interlibrary loan should locate it for you.

  • JWdaughter

    Didn't he sink his personal wealth into ventures which the courts would not touch so that his ex wife would not get any kind of settlement or alimony? It seems like (from what I remember) his reason for moving to NY had less to do with shipping issues than it did with getting out of the long arm of Pennsylvania law and his ex wife.

  • Separation of Powers
    Separation of Powers

    A little of both....

  • nykid

    I think he was delusional and sincerely believed in what he preached. I think some of the later leaders have/may have been con men but I think early on they sincerely believed they were doing the will of God.

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