I have breakfast out whenever possible, and as a result I’ve met some fascinating people. One, who has become a treasured friend, is author John Oliphant. John introduced me to his biography about Brother XII, the notorious sailor, seducer, swindler, occultist and spiritual cult leader, whose hutzpah had no bounds.
Oliphant’s well-researched true story of Brother XII is so intriguing, I keep giving my own copy of the book away and find myself again needing to buy another. Recently, after having given my last copy to my recuperating brother, who enjoys a good read, I had to borrow one from the library.
This saga of gold, sex and black magic, Brother XII’s dictatorial reign over his kingdom and the things he declared like: ‘I am the Messenger of the Fire, the Messenger of the Whirlwind, the Messenger of the Day of Adjustment. By the Wind ye shall mount to the Heavens — if ye be the children of discernment. But as for the stubborn and the deaf and the blind, the Wind of Destruction shall carry them away.’
Why do people believe this stuff? Why do any of us join cults? What makes us willing to follow smooth-talking leaders of questionable groups? Life IS precarious and we can long for a road map to follow — with someone else making the decisions we find difficult.
Brother XII, spouting what to me is nonsense, managed to recruit thousands. Obviously, for many, an unguided path is just too scary. However, far too many cult participants end up broke, in trouble, or like Jim Jones’ followers, dead….
In the late 1920s, Brother XII, born Edward Arthur Wilson, in Birmingham, England, started a ‘spiritual community’ south of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, on the West Coast of British Columbia. He had no trouble raising funds and easily attracted wealthy supporters including successful business men. Socialite Mary Connally, from North Carolina, was so entranced by Wilson that only three hours after meeting him, she wrote a cheque to him for $23,000. (A fortune in 1928.)
Roger Painter, the ‘Poultry King of Florida’ regularly sent Wilson cheques for five and ten thousand dollars. In 1929, he was summoned to the colony, arrived with $90,000 in cash and promptly turned it over to his guru! (That’s over a million dollars today.) Painter later regretted squandering his fortune on Brother XII. ‘Today, I don’t have a nickel, he got it all.’
In the end, the swindler who urged his flock to give up all their personal possessions ran off with about $400,000 — a fortune at the time. However, if I tell you the whole story, you’ll miss out on a fantastic read.
A little more about my friend John Oliphant: He was educated at the University of British Columbia, where his interest in history (which I share) and religious studies led him to research Brother XII’s life. John lives in Vancouver and continues writing for numerous publications. He lived and worked in Hong Kong for a number of years and remains a curious and constant world traveler and writer.
For more information on Brother XII: http://www.BrotherXII.com
Or, if you want to read the book — you can get it, enjoy it, and then review it on Amazon.