• Reportage sur les Antoinistes (Albany NY Times Union 1936 - 0709)

    Strange New Cult of Belgian Faith Healers

    Reportage sur les Antoinistes (Albany NY Times Union 1936 - 0709)

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    The Antoinists who believe prayer will care everything but that intelligence
    is man's wrong enemy, and if you help
    another you may thwart the divine purpose.

    THE ANTOINISTS, a sect of more than a million faith healers, mostly in Belgium, pray to the soul of an old man dead since 1912, who had huge white whiskers but who was barely able to read and write.
        Members of the cult are convinced that all anyone has to do to be cured of any ailment whatever, is to go to one of their churches in Belgium, France or Holland, with sufficient faith in the goodness of the late Father Antoin. If the sick person does not get well or even feel any improvement that is because he hasn't sufficient faith. He then keeps right on attending services until his faith becomes sufficiently robust to bring results or he quits in despair.
        Some people must surely have believed that they were benefited or all these people, mostly very poor, would not be putting in so much time and even a little money. Unfortunately the cult gives out no statistics of names and addresses of cases because one is supposed to take everything on faith. Statistics are only for doubting-Thomases.
        Dr. Emile Coue achieved a fortune and world-fame by merely advising sick people to keep repeating: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” When one sad day, the good Coue got worse and worse and finally died, with his magic phrase on his Hips, the cult died with him.
        Not so with Father Antoin. Before that remarkable personage passed on, he left word that his spirit would come back and work as hard as ever curing believers through a successor, duly appointed by his widow. Though ignorant and illiterate, Father Antoin handed down among his precepts a startlingly new idea which undoubtedly never entered the head of any of the world's great thinkers.
        Most people have supposed that man's blunders and troubles came from not enough intelligence to handle them. Father Antoin actually cautioned his followers not to be too intelligent because he found intelligence likely to conflict with faith and conscience. It must be admitted that with only a little less intelligence the race would have remained in the unworried anthropoid ape stage and perhaps have become extinct long ago.
        Another of his rather novel thoughts is that in giving of money or any other form of charity to the needy, one takes on a great responsibility and should proceed with great caution, if at all. Otherwise one may be thwarting the plans of the Almighty to improve the afflicted person, through suffering by relieving him of his chance for improvement. Curing the sick by faith does not interfere with the Divine plan however, he thought, because the Divinity would not let the patient get well unless it would be good for him.
        This giving of charity is one of the instances where he thought intelligence dangerous. Intelligence, even of a fairly low order, would say that it could do no harm to hand a lot of breed and a bottle of milk to a hungry person. What would Father Antoin think of the billions being handed out in the United States for relief?
        The founder of the cult was the youngest and tallest of eleven children of Belgian coal miner and went to work early in the mines. The labor was too hard for him and often caused cramps. When these came upon him he would fall on his knees to pray loudly for strength and guidance. The strength did not come but he received guidance which caused him to take a less muscular job in an iron foundry.
        When he was about twenty-four, he began delving in spiritualism, causing some of his friends to criticize him. Annoyed at this, he left his native town of Liege, Belgium, and wandered around for the next ten years, visiting Germany, Prague and Warsaw. During this decade he seems to have taken up nearly all the world's well-known cults, including theosophy, but still remained a Catholic, which is not quite according to logic. This calls attention to another peculiarity. He often said:
        “I never quarrel with any faith. All faiths are equally good and the only real good in any of them is faith itself!”
        Returning from his travels, with the most impressive set of moustache, whiskers and beard in all Belgium, he was at once elected president of the Spiritualistic Association of Liege, and married a miner's daughter. There, due to his appearance and austere way he and his wife lived, shunning liquor, tobacco, coffee and meat he attracted much attention.
        He did not quarrel with the spiritualists but they quarreled with him because he seemed to be neglecting the spirits to go in for strange sorts of healing. The ghosts rented this so he stepped out and founded a cult of his own, the Antoinists. Anyone could come in and bring his religion with him, as long as on top of it he believed In Antoin and had faith that the founder could cure him of anything that ailed him.
        As long as the healing was done by “laying on of hands” and prayer. Antoin's was all right whether he got results or not. If patients failed to improve that was for lack of faith or because the deity had other plans and there was no use complaining about that. But he also took to prescribing a vegetable diet and finally medicine. The prescriptions he wrote out were in the form of weird hieroglyphics which neither druggist nor anyone else could decipher. He druggists however, filled them because they knew that all he wanted was a mild tonic with iron in it.
        Unfortunately, this was contrary to the law requiring that a person must have a license to practice medicine. Antoin was taken to court where the magistrate was astonished to find his court full of people eager to swear that they had been cured of every known deadly disease. The magistrate imposed a trifling fine but warned him to leave medicine to the regular doctors.
        Antoin then invited the entire medical fraternity to go into partnership with him. They would contribute the science and the drugs and he would contribute the faith. This grand combination and monopoly of all methods of healing was frustrated by the doctors, who would have nothing to do with it.
        That did not stop Antoin who now had given himself the title of Father. He went right ahead on faith alone and soon his followers were too numerous to have hands laid on them all. He therefore assembled them in crowds and waved his arms to the masses, which was supposed to have the same value, provided they had the requisite faith.
        For home treatment, in place of the forbidden medicine, he discovered that he could “magnetize” ordinary paper by passing his hand over it. The believing patient would take this home and when the pains came on, he would cut off a strip, plunge it in a glass of water and gulp it down before the “magnetism” escaped. If the pains did not go away, that showed what an unbeliever he was.
        His cures were not entirely among the poor and unschooled. The first Antoinist Temple in the little town of Jemeppe sur Meuse was largely paid for by the wealthy Liege family of Deregnancourt.
        A boy in that family had the habit of becoming paralyzed every time his parents crossed him. The doctors said he was just a spoiled child, a malingerer, with nothing the matter except a bad temper and all he needed was a swift kick. That information did no good perhaps because the prescribed treatment was not given. One day someone persuaded them to let Antoin try and the two were left alone with the door closed. What Father Antoin did has never been revealed but presently, so it is reported, the “paralyzed” patient burst out the door, his hair on end, and running like a deer. He not only was cured of the paralysis but became a model young man ever after.
        The Antoinists have no faith in doctors. On the other hand the doctors have some faith, not much in faith healers. They agree that faith will sometimes cure diseases of the body that are caused by derangements of the mind, such as shell shock. But it won't set a broken leg, cure s cancer or help an infection.
        At present Father Antoin's authorized chief representative on earth is Brother Hosias, an elderly man with a keen eye that indicates an intelligence which he, no doubt, regrets. Also he has a rather moderate-sized pair of side whiskers. A visitor to a Sunday service at the temple at Jemeppe sur Meuse describes it as follows:
        ”At ten o'clock I sit in the Temple of the Antoinints. It is crowded. Most of the men and women are dressed in the solemn black Sunday garb of the Antoinist sect. All of them have that peculiarly devout look which shows that they really believe this thing and each, on entering, remains for some moments in silent prayer. One who is in the know can tell from the length of the men's cloaks how long each has been a member and the amount of curl on the broad brim of his hat indicates his standing in the brotherhood.”
        An old man turning to the congregation makes the announcement: “Only those who believe will find satisfaction here.” At this moment the main door at the back opens wide. In the black robes and with clasped hands another elderly man enters and makes his way to the chancel. Brother Hosias himself; the earthly representative of Father Antoin.
        The Sunday service now conducted by Brother Hosias consists of three different parts. Putting himself into an “ecstatical trance,” he begins with a silent prayer. The congregation stands for three whole minutes staring at his trembling lip and clutched hands. After that another Brother mounts the chancel and reads about that which Father Antoin, while still on this plane of existence, dictated about the Goodness in Badness and the Badness in Goodness.
        Brother Hosias listens to this with a singularly blank expression. He has heard those words a thousand times before and many paragraphs seem to be almost devoid of meaning at least to the ordinary intelligence.
        When the reading is finished numbers are called. The sick persons who have these numbers go each with one of the brothers to cell. Here the priest goes into another trance-like prayer before a picture of the sainted Antoin, asking for a message on how to advise the patient.
        Some of the advice is the same for almost all cases. The sick and even the well must not eat anything but vegetables, cutting out even butter, eggs and milk. At all times they must keep in mind and obey the tenets of the Antoinist cult which are:

        1. Nobody is able to teach you anything about God. You have to find Him for yourself.
        2. Respect everyone who is a believer, in anything.
        3. Morals cannot be taught by words. Only your good example teaches others.
        4. To help the poor is not goodness but simply your duty in preference to yourself. Be careful, because you may thwart the divine purpose in causing this poverty.
        5. Try to love your enemies. It is the only way to get acquainted with your own true self.
        6. If your intelligence and your conscience are well-behaved, you will be free of all suffering.
        7. All suffering finds its origin in the overgrowing of intelligence over conscience.
        8. Do not let your intelligence be your tyrant. It trips up conscience.
        9. You find God if you recognize your true self.
        10. Your conscience is your only guide.

        The followers of Father Antoin de not claim that their faith-healing is in any way allied to miracles.
        The body, they say, but the reincarnation of the soul, and the diseases of the body they believe have been inflicted on humans to remind them of sins they have committed. Father Antoin repeatedly said his long experience had shown him that troubles of the spirit of the mind and conscience were very often accompanied by troubles of the body.

    Albany NY Times Union, 1936


        Un extrait traduit est à lire dans le billet suivant. Les images sont à retrouver dans la rubrique suivante.

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