A World Beyond War
When Creative Initiative decided to suspend most of its regular
activities in 1975 so that it could throw its effort behind the drive to control nuclear
power plants, it unwittingly initiated a process that led to the second-most profound
change in the history of the movement. The first great transformation had taken place when
Emilia had her religious vision and the study group became a new religion. The second
change occurred in 1982 when the group decided to give up the religious activities that
had been developed over forty-five years and secularize the movement. This would appear to
be an unprecedented move for a religion. Religiously affiliated institutions, such as
colleges, sometimes become secularized, but for a "church" to divest itself of
all religious forms and functions, including the place of God in the organized structure,
Richard Rathbun and the New Generation
Because the ballot initiative to control nuclear energy was political,
as a tax-exempt foundation Creative Initiative was not permitted to become involved with
it. To comply with the restriction, they created a separate organization, Project
Survival, to carry, on the antinuclear effort. James Burch, the president of the Creative
Initiative Foundation, resigned that post so that he could direct Project Survival. A new
president was needed for the foundation, and Burch's place was filled by Rathbun's son,
Richard was Harry and Emilia's second child, born in 1940, seven years
after his sister Juana Beth. Following a brief period of doubts as a young adult, Juana
moved into the Creative Initiative inner circle and became very involved with her mother
in formulating the ceremonies of the New Religion period. She did not, however, have her
mother's charismatic personality and, in any event, a woman would not have been considered
an appropriate leader for the group. By the late 1970s, much of the control of the group
had shifted from women to men in accordance with their belief that women were the source
of new insights and understanding but men would carry those visions to fruition. Richard
was the apple of Emilia's eye, and she believed that he had the kind of spiritual
sensitivity and personal style that would enable him to lead the movement successfully.
Richard did not participate in the movement as he grew up. He did, of
course, absorb a great deal simply by virtue of being his parents' child. As a youngster
he went with them to seminars conducted by Sharman and then later to the summer seminars
they led. But Richard had a strong independent streak and remained as aloof from the
movement as possible, which was not too hard since he completed high school and most of
college before the group had begun their programs to involve children.
After graduating from Stanford, he joined the Peace Corps and worked in
a small Nepalese village for several years. His long road home took four more years of
travel through India and Africa with his wife Carolyn, who had traveled to Nepal to marry
him. Other than a staff position in the Peace Corps, he held his only regular job in South
Africa where he worked as an architect designing churches. He says that the experience
made him realize that he did not want to spend his life designing buildings because there
were more important issues to be dealt with. He thought about entering law school and then
going on in politics when he returned to the United States, but instead he rebuilt his
parents' home, which had been destroyed in a fire, and then took on the presidency of the
movement in 1975.
To some extent Harry and Emilia had viewed Richard as the heir apparent
to the leadership of the movement, and Richard and Carolyn say they have not had children
in part because they wish to avoid the possibility of a three-generation dynasty. Harry, no less than Emilia, thought that Richard had special
qualities that would allow him to lead.
"I truly believe that you have a destiny," Harry wrote to
Richard in 1971. "You have gifts by natural endowment which give you advantages that
cannot be learned." He went on to assure Ricahrd that, although he may have found
school work difficult, he did have "an attractiveness to people which is called
charisma." While Richard was trying to figure out what to do with his life, Harry was
continuously urging him to become active in the movement. "You have seen [i.e.
imagined] yourself as head of the country," Harry wrote to him. "This [movement]
could well lead to that but in a different way than through politics."
Harry's admiration for what he thought were Richard's special qualities
derived from the contrast that he saw between himself and his son. "The qualities you
inherited from your mother are a tremendous asset which will stand you in good
stead," he told Richard, thereby implying that those same qualities did not come from
him. In fact, Harry had doubts about his own abilitiesâan opinion not shared
by most of those who studied the gospels with him. Repeatedly, Harry referred to himself
as "passive" and as having an "inferiority complex" in his letters to
Richard, and asked for Richard's understanding for his failures as a father. Richard
apparently felt alienated from his father and felt that Harry's passivity was the result
of Emilia's domination. But Harry always insisted that his character weaknesses, if indeed
they were such, predated his marriage and that Emilia had been his guide to seeing his
problems and working his way out of them.
During Richard's six-year sojourn abroad, Harry suggested a number of
possible ways that he might find a place in the movement. At one point Harry thought
Richard could become an instructor in the AMR program, a series of personal development
courses for which higher than usual fees were charged and which the movement considered
opening to outsiders. Later, at the urging of the group, which had been impressed with
Richard's photographs, he suggested that Richard purchase a movie camera and take stock
footage that they could use in their various public presentations. Richard accepted that
suggestion and thus first became formally involved in Creative Initiative as a
At about the same time that Richard assumed the presidency, other new
faces began to appear in the inner leadership circle. Like the first generation, these new
leaders rose because of their fervent belief in the movement's philosophy and willingness
to commit themselves totally to its ends. They also had to get the consent of the senior
leadership including Emilia and Harry, who were giving up more and more of their influence
over Creative Initiative but remained the admired and respected founders.
Even with Richard as titular head of the movement, Emilia was uneasy
about the state of the New Religion. On the surface the group appears to have returned to
its traditional pattern in 1977 after the defeat of the nuclear-power ballot measure.
Although the usual courses, seminars, and community activities were resumed, Emilia said
she felt there was insufficient commitment on the part of those who were active in the
movement. The fervor of "totality" that had marked the 1960s and 1970s seemed to
be drying up. Perhaps the excursion into the political arena had diluted the singleness of
the religious purpose or perhaps Emilia's disappointment and regret were the feelings of a
leader in her old age recognizing that her life-long goals were not apt to be realized any
In 1978 Emilia told a group of high-level members, "These people,
this bunch is all we'll ever have. We must maximize these. We're supposed to have a
thousand by now, but we have to move with what we have."
Her remarks came after a dramatic attempt to rekindle community idealism. It had been more
than thirty years since the Rathbuns had branched out on their own, and more than fifteen
years since they had founded the New Religion of the Third Age, but still they had not
achieved the mystical one thousand totally dedicated people. From the earliest days of the
New Religion the group had made a thousand members their proximate goal. No one was sure
exactly what would happen if and when they had the thousand, but there was a widespread
belief that God would give them further instructions at that point. Despite the fact that
thousands of people had passed through their courses, no further instructions had come
because the goal of one thousand fourth-level members had never been reached. It had been
clear that something was needed to renew the sense of commitment and direction that had
marked the early years, and to resume progress toward gathering the thousand dedicated
At the end of 1977, Emilia and the inner leadership concluded that the
movement had to undergo a major reassessment to insure a greater commitment to totality.
"Too many people . . . have refused to make the basic religious decision and failed
to work the process in their own lives," they said. A notice announcing that
"our work is in serious crisis" was sent to all members in January 1978,
informing them that "as of today there is no longer a Creative Initiative
'community.' Only indi viduals. All meetings are cancelled. All specialties are disbanded.
The office will be closed indefinitely."
In fact the reality was less dramatic than the announcement. A skeleton
staff remained active to run introductory programs for new members, and there was never
any intention of actually dissolving the movement permanently. Rather, the action was
designed to revive the level of dedicationâit was Creative Initiative's
version of the Great Cultural Revolution, an attempt to artificially recreate the drama of
the original event for a generation that had not experienced it. It was also the way for
the group to purge itself of people who were then less totally dedicated to the cause. By
dissolving the organization and then having people reapply for membership, those with only
marginal commitment could be left behind without actually having to be expelled. Although
members say that nobody was ever asked to leave, six hundred people, one-third of the
membership, never returned to the group after the dissolution.
However heroic the cure, it does not seem to have worked. There were
fewer courses and fewer public activities in 1979 than in previous years, and fewer yet in
1980. The sense of crisis that leaders continued to feel was reflected in material for an
experimental advanced course on Jesus that was run in 1981. The introduction to the course
began (just one year before secularization) by affirming that "The teachings of Jesus
have always been the foundation upon which our work is based." The material went on
to say that during the previous several years it had become clear that
"disappointingly few of those who have been involved for a considerable length of
time in our 'process' have really entered the religious life." Something had to be
done to speed up the educational process and get people committed to a religious life in
which people would accept that "Jesus of Nazareth is the Supreme teacher,
demonstrator and exemplar of THE WAY."
The leaner, more dedicated movement that emerged after the dissolution
had not been the answer, and neither were the experimental Jesus courses tried in 1980 and
1981. The problem remained because it had not been properly identified. The real problem
was not a lack of commitment but an inability to grow. Creative Initiative, in the form it
had taken through the 1960s and 1970s, seems to have exhausted the reservoir of potential
members. Its focus on upper middle class whites and its continued demand for total
dedication to the group meant that it was unable to grow to the desired thousand totally
The major focus of Creative Initiatives' public activities in the
years after Project Survival continued to be on the ecology issues, specifically
Energyfast and on the Global 2000 project. They believed that by bringing the dangers that
threatened earth to peoples' attention, Creative Initiative could attract individuals who
would then continue their affiliation through involvement with the New Religion. Although
this focus on ecology did not work any better than previous devices for attracting new
people, in 1981 the ecology issue, the nuclear power issue, and the group's long-standing
antiwar position finally coalesced, and Creative Initiative found a new direction for a
new generation and a new era.
The Antiwar Tradition
The decision to focus exclusively on the antiwar issue had deep
antecedents. Opposition to war had been a significant motif in the Rathbuns' work since
Harry's high school valedictory address in 1911. With the coming of the atomic age in
1945, the possibility of manmade nuclear Armageddon became a recurring theme in the
movement's apocalyptic predictions. There was little that the movement could do in
opposition to war as long as they were a gospel study group but, after they became a sect
with a more complex set of social functions, new options were available.
Creative Initiative had always believed that women, as the creators of
life, were instinctively opposed to war. A piece that was clearly Emilia's, written
sometime in the late 1960s, declared, "Within woman, deeply buried, as fire is buried
at the center of the earth, exists an inborn, passionate desireâto live
without the fear of war." It was men who destroyed, and it was women's special
mission to transform men from warmakers to peacemakers. The same paper said, "We call
on men in every land, in every clime, to 'Build the Earth,' to stop the pain, to end the
rape, the killing, and turn the corner of the age; ascend the mountain, gain a broader
view." Thus, the movement's antiwar activity, like almost
everything else it did, was begun by the women.
The group's first organized antiwar activity came in 1967 when the women
sponsored a "minute for peace." Operating under the name "Woman to Woman
Building the Earth for the Children's Sake," about two hundred women and children
gathered at the Ferry Building in San Francisco three days before Christmas to sing
seasonal and peace songs and to observe "a minute of silence for the children's
sake." The positive response from people and extensive publicity from Bay Area
newspapers, television, and radio stations prompted them to expand their efforts.
In May, twenty-four members of the movement joined several hundred other
women in signing an advertisement published in the Palo Alto Times calling for
"an end to killing." Like the minute for peace, the advertisement was obviously
aimed at the war in Vietnam, although that conflict was not specifically mentioned. The
advertisement was actually placed by Another Mother for Peace and featured their logo and
slogan: "War is not healthy for children and other living things." In July a
delegation of movement women traveled to Los Angeles to see if Build the Earth and Another
Mother for Peace could cooperate in further antiwar efforts. No joint activities ensued
because some members of Build the Earth were suspicious that several women in Another
Mother for Peace "were connected with the Communist movement in this country."
Although they were concerned about American Communists, Creative
Initiative women were nevertheless willing to develop contacts with people from Communist
countries. The women in the movement met with visitors from Eastern Europe in 1969 and
again in 1970, stressing the importance of international friendship as a way to maintain
peace. The first event featured an international fashion show that was used to raise funds
for a visit by a delegation from the Czechoslovak Women's Council. Shirley Temple Black
provided the commentary. The following year a group of Build
the Earth women held dinners, receptions, and a public serenade for a contingent of Soviet
women whom they had invited to visit the United States when some of the Build the Earth
women had been on a visit to the Soviet Union.
Three years later, the group embarked on its most extreme activity in
the antiwar arena. On October 12, 1973, over five hundred women in rainbow-colored
costumes with long flowing skirts marched through San Francisco's Union Square carrying
placards calling for an end to the Arab-Israeli war. They visited the Israeli Consulate
and the Arab Information Center and presented their plea for peace in the Middle East.
Their unconventional approach did not stop with their costumes.
Distressed that the Arab-Israeli conflict might mean that "we could be on the brink
of World War III," they took a step that publicly revealed the depth of their
personal commitment and risked exposing themselves to charges of being a "cult"
and out of touch with reality. Having read that
the people on both sides were demanding blood, a number of women
decided during their drive up to the city to offer their own blood if that could prevent
innocent civilians from dying. Twenty of the women publicly offered to sacrifice their
lives to bring about a cease-fire. According to Virginia Fitton, probably the second most
influential woman leader behind Emilia herself, "to show our concern, 10 women have
offered their lives to each side to be shot to bring about the laying down of arms." If they hoped to shock the combatants with their commitment they
were partially successful since the Israeli consulate said he found the offer
"shocking." Although it was a spur of the moment decision, it did reflect the
commitment to totality that transformed people were supposed to exhibit.
A week later, six hundred men in business suits participated in a similar march, a sight
that was probably as unexpected as the rainbow-colored clothing of the women. Finally, in 1976, during the height of the fighting in Northern
Ireland, Build the Earth organized a march of two thousand members in San Francisco, in
support of the effort by Irish women to bring about an end to the conflict there.
Thus, when the forces of circumstance turned the group's attention to
the nuclear war issue in 1980, they had a long history of strong antiwar activity upon
which to draw. War, after all, was the most likely and most immediate threat to the
continued existence of the human race and, as a movement that viewed itself as a
counterforce to Armageddon, Creative Initiative found it easy to shift all their effort to
that single issue. Unlike all the previous single-purpose mobilizations, this one stuck.
They did not grow tired or disappointed and start looking for another cause to champion
because this time they burned their bridges behind them. By eliminating every organized
vestige of religious activity, they made the success of the new Beyond War effort the only
way to continue the life of the movement. Although older members of the group did not
reject the possibility of returning to a religious framework sometime in the future, most
of the younger people saw the shift as irreversible. What had been a New Religion for the
Third Age, was now a secular group working for peace.
The Decision to Secularize
At first, Beyond War was merely another new project for Creative
Initiative. It was not a separate entity, and all Creative Initiative's other courses and
religious activity were kept intact. Increasingly, however, the secular began to dominate
the religious. The collective religious activities, ceremonies, and rituals were gradually
dropped, but the theistic underpinning and individual religiosity were temporarily intact.
Most of the people from the Los Angeles area who attended a seminar with Harry and Emilia
in June 1983, well after Beyond War had begun, could still state that the experience had
deepened their religious commitment. "I have chosen to be identified with God,"
reported one person, "God is #1 in my life." Another wrote, "The change in
me was the feeling of having now found a goal for my lifeâdoing the will of
God . . . and bringing the Kingdom of God about on earth." Others spoke about the
seminar enhancing their understanding of the use of meditation and prayer.
As late as March 1985 general meetings of the Beyond War leaders at Ben Lomond were still
begun with prayers.
A transition was being made, nevertheless, and large numbers of new
people were becoming involved who had no background in the New Religion aspect of the
movement, and no attempt was made to indoctrinate them. Old-time Creative Initiative
activists could, and some did, celebrate the Sunday candle-lighting ceremony in their
homes, and they would hold hands and recite "the Shema of the New Age" when they
met together; but for the vast majority of people, the explicitly religious either
atrophied or was never there in the first place.
A number of the people who answered our questionnaire remarked sadly
that they regretted the end of the religious community. One woman wrote that she and her
family missed the "sense of direction we had as a group before" and that they
were "struggling a bit to figure out how we will sustain our spiritual/religious
lives." Another was actually bitter, calling himself
"disillusioned in the abrupt way in which Creative Initiative came to an end."
One moment, he complained, they were a community, the next they were just individuals. He
concluded, "I truly wonder if we ever really had the warm, loving relationship that I
thought we had." As these people's remarks make clear, in
the transition from Creative Initiative to Beyond War, the movement ceased to be a sect.
The positive social support that was so essential in maintaining sect membership vanished,
but then so did the need to repay the high cost of membership, because as a relatively
noncontroversial, nonreligious movement, the social cost of membership in Beyond War was
not nearly as high as that of Creative Initiative.
Several separate events had prompted the new focus on nuclear war.
First, a number of sources criticized the Global 2000 report as
concentrating on other ecological dangers but totally ignoring the threat of atomic
weapons. At the same time people in the movement were reading Jonathan Schell's
anti-nuclear-war articles in the New Yorker, "The Fate of the Earth." Even more important was the influence of the film, "The Last
Epidemic," featuring the ideas of Physicians for Social Responsibility and its
leader, Dr. Helen Caldicott. Simultaneously, but unknown to each other, groups in Palo
Alto and Los Angeles viewed the film and were moved to take some kind of action. Their newfound resolve to switch emphasis from ecology to nuclear
war was supported by the coincidental involvement of Caldicott in Creative Initiative.
Caldicott and her husband, William, had first attended a seminar in late
1975 and had been tremendously moved by the experience. She wrote to Harry and Emilia that
they both felt "as if a fresh wind had swept through our lives."
Three years later, she was still deeply involved in the movement. In an interview with the
New York Times, William Caldicott said of Creative Initiative, "It's become
the prime focus of our lives over the last few years, even more so than the nukes."
The reason for their involvement lay in the role that the group had played in saving their
marriage. Both agreed that had it not been for their participation in Creative Initiative
seminars, they would have been divorced. Demonstrating the influence of Creative
Initiative ideas, they explained that they had been hypocritical by going out and trying
to influence other people when their own marriage and family were a "mess."
Creative Initiative, they said, had taught them to be honest with each other and to
communicate their feelings. Finally, Helen Caldicott said that she had changed her
approach as a result of her experience with the movement. Previously she had worked out of
a feeling of hatred that, she said, only engendered hostility from the other side. Now she
was working through love.
At first, there was some effort to maintain a dual system with religious
ceremonies continuing for the old members while new members operated on a completely
secular basis. It was clear after a year or so that such an arrangement would never work.
New members would either be put off by the religious aspects of the work that the old
members were continuing or would feel excluded. In either case the two-tiered structure
would guarantee division and probably dissension. To resolve the issue, the ceremony
committee drew up a terminal ceremony, a ceremony to mark the end of ceremonies, and even
that was anticlimactic. Rather than meeting to bring closure to an era that had lasted
twenty years, the final ceremony, as described in chapter 3, was a meditation that each
person said individually. By doing so they were acknowledging that the movement was no
longer a community but a collection of individuals.
Relieved of its religious trappings, the movement was able to grow at a
rate it had only dreamed of previously. The group had always known that its unorthodox
beliefs had acted as a deterrent to new people who were otherwise in sympathy with its
social ideas, which is the reason it had always been reticent about explaining the
religious aspects of its work in public presentations. After 1982 it no longer needed to
downplay this dimension. Although people still wondered about what motivated the high
level of commitment participants exhibited, and Beyond War was still sometimes accused of
being a cult, what had been an arcane body of knowledge revealed in progressive stages no
longer existed, except in history. They could even sayâas they always had,
but this time more straightforwardlyâthat they had no guru or dominant leader
and all decisions were made "from the ground up."
The group still does not make a point of explaining its origins. In
fact, the major reservation that Creative Initiative leaders had about cooperating with us
on this study was the fear that newcomers to Beyond War, who greatly outnumber the
Creative Initiative veterans, might be put off by the details of its religious past.
Nevertheless, reporters writing about Beyond War are usually told that the group grew out
of Creative Initiative, a nondenominational, spiritual, personal-enrichment movement that
studied the teachings of Jesus as a man but not as a savior.
Virginia Fitton, one of the most senior Creative Initiative leaders, has gone so far as to
acknowledge that Creative Initiative was a religion "in the sense that it became a
way of life" and that members had eschewed alcohol and tobacco, although not on moral
When they get together, the Creative Initiative veterans will still
sometimes open their meetings with prayer and testimony, and a few of the people who have
been active in the movement since the earliest days of Creative Initiative still harbor
the hope that at the right time religion will return. Richard
Rathbun and others of the new generation of leaders, however, argue that Beyond War is
seeking the same goals as Creative Initiative and that the new movement, no less than the
old, is a way of loving and obeying the will of God. Therefore, they claim, it is
unnecessary to revive the religious forms so long as they are practicing the religious
The new organization is not a sect. It does not have a charismatic
leader. Due to ill health, Harry retired almost completely from active participation in
the five years before his death in 1987, and Emilia took on the role of revered but
less-active elder, although she can still totally dominate a meeting when she wants to
through the sheer force of her personality. Richard is the
president, and members often feel it is necessary to check with him before making
decisions. His ideas of the moment seem to dominate leadership thinking in much the way
that Emilia's did previously, but there is no sense of his having a connection to the
supranatural in the same way as his mother. Beyond War appears
to be, in fact, what Creative Initiative always said it was: a nebulous organization
without formal membership and with only the loosest of leadership.
So imprecise is their sense of organization that participants are
usually more comfortable describing what Beyond War is not . They say it is not
antimilitary, it is not pacifist, members are not activists, it is not a peace group.
Virginia Fitton says it is not even an organization but rather "more of an
organism." Functionally, Beyond War is profoundly
different from Creative Initiative because it does not provide its members with a
structured community. Informally, of course, so many people devoting so much time and
energy to a common cause inevitably develop some sense of community. But the feeling of
belonging that people have in Beyond War is more akin to that felt by members of any other
affinity group than that felt by members of a religious sect.
What ties Beyond War to its past is its philosophy. By dropping the
study of Jesus, the group has severed its most important link to the Sharman era. But it
retains many of the principles that had evolved from the study of Jesus as Teacher and, in
those ideas, the ideological tradition is still clearly visible. The presentation of those
principles has been denuded of the religious justifications and, in many cases, of the
underlying philosophical rationale as well. In this sense, the Beyond War approach is
similar to the introductory programs that were run by Creative Initiative, in which the
public was exposed to their ideas in nonreligious language. There is a significant
difference, however. In the Creative Initiative period, the pared-down version was used as
a foretaste of the richer feast to come. In the Beyond War period the philosophy as it is
presented to the public is all the philosophy there is. The gnostic approach of revealing
increasingly more arcane levels of knowledge is gone. The philosophy that is presented is,
nevertheless, almost entirely based on the ideas developed during the New Religion period.
Although they have been softened in most cases, they are still completely recognizable.
Both the old and the new movements are predicated on the assumption that
the world is traveling quickly down the road to total destruction. In Beyond War, this
apocalyptic vision is invariably presented by way of a quotation from Albert Einstein:
"The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking
and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." Not
only does the quotation contain the threat of worldwide destruction, but it also implies
the solution: all we need to do is change our mode of thinking to match the new mode of
destruction and we will be able to control it. "A new way of thinking" has
become Beyond War's operative slogan and is the current expression of the Creative
Initiative belief that the world could be saved by people who consciously decided to
change themselves and obey the will of God.
A new twist on the apocalyptic vision is the group's contention that
nuclear war is inevitable unless people change their way of thinking. Using the arguments
of one of their members, Professor Martin Hellman of Stanford, they contend that any
conflict, no matter how small, contains the potential for nuclear Armageddon because there
is always the danger of the great powers becoming involved. Hellman argues that each
conflict is like a spin of the chambers in a game of Russian roulette. No matter how small
the chance, no matter how many chambers there are in the theoretical gun, if the trigger
is pulled often enough there is a mathematical certainty that the gun will fire. The only way to stop this suicidal game, they contend, is to create
a world in which no conflicts are resolved through violence and, therefore, the trigger is
The essential premise of the belief system, going back to Sharman, was
the existence and goodness of God. Creative Initiative sought to prove this concept by
describing God as the first cause everywhere immanent in His creation. Indeed that
creation was of God and, therefore, creation was good. As a
secular movement, Beyond War cannot build its argument on a theistic premise, but it can,
and does, retain the monistic world view that derived from the assumption of God as first
cause. "We live on one planet with one life-support system. We all breathe the same
air, drink the same water. We are part of one human family," said the first edition
of the Beyond War handbook. The slogan, "We are one,"
has been revived and used in Beyond War work, and its implications have been pushed to new
limits. The handbook informed its readers, "Lift your tittle finger and the stars
moveâever so slightly, but they move. When the stars move, you are
affectedâever so slightly, but you are affected."
They conclude from this that no person and no nation can exist in isolation, and therefore
whatever harms anyone or anything on the planet harms everyone and everything.
In the Creative Initiative period scientific thinking in general and
evolution in particular played a large part in explaining how God's plan for humankind
worked. Obviously, without any explicit references to God or Jesus, the Beyond War
movement no longer has to justify either its theology, or its study of the gospels with
scientific rationalization because both have been eliminated. Both scientific terminology
and the central role of evolution nevertheless remain in the revised approach. Quotations
from prominent figures and analogous examples from science are presented as supporting
evidence in Beyond War publications, and the scientific examples are designed to make
their ideas appear more factual than theoretical.
Evolution is no longer presented as the method through which people can
become a new species in a third age. In fact, the whole concept of a third age or third
dispensation, has been dropped. Evolution is now presented as essential to obtaining the
"knowledge" that is the first step in a three-step process that has replaced the
old seven steps of Challenge to Change. The second step is "decision" and the
third is "action." Beyond War argues that most people lack the knowledge
necessary to insure survival and that the first place to look in order to gain the
necessary understanding is the process that produced us all, evolution. Evolution, as used
in Beyond War, is a pale shadow of the dynamic concept that underlay Creative Initiative.
They still argue that human beings need to continue to evolve in order to meet a changing
environment. But continued evolution is now usually described as the evolution of ideas
only. Almost all mention of mutations, new races, and rising to a new spiritual plane are
gone. Occasionally, however, echoes of the past do creep into
Beyond War presentations. Speaking to a large men's convocation in 1984, one leader said,
"we are in a peduncic between phylums on the tree of life. Other great phylum changes
have been unconscious. This one is different in kind in that it is a conscious
Gone too is any mention of the Kingdom of God. That specificallyeligious
phrase with its origins in the New Testament obviously has no place in a secular movement.
Yet a secularized version of the Kingdom of God is still the goal of the group. No name is
given to it, and it is referred to only tangentially, but the goal of the movement is
"a world beyond war," a world in which people will resolve their conflicts
creatively and without violence, a world in which they will see one another not as
potential enemies but as fellow partners in the process of improving the quality of life
on earth. To achieve their goal of a world in which no one casts another person as an
enemy, Beyond War explains that people have to expand beyond their particularistic
identification. This is the Beyond War analog of the process in Creative Initiative of
surrendering the individual ego. Particularistic "identification" is the new
word for "frame of reference."
Once people have understood and obtained the knowledge that human beings
can move forward by building on the ideas of others, that it is not necessary to pose
enemies and that conflicts can be resolved without violence, then they are ready to move
to the second step, "decision." "Decision" takes the place in Beyond
War of "transformation" in Creative Initiative. Transformation, however,
consisted of giving up the individual will to obey the will of God, whereas
"decision" involves only a determination to adopt what is now called "a new
way of thinking." Yet, since Beyond War believes that individuals cannot make the
"decision" until they have expanded beyond their personal identification, the
process is a parallel of the old Creative Initiative process.
There is an additional similarity between the old surrender to the will
of God and the new decision to move beyond warâtotality. "A true
decision must be total," the Beyond War handbook tells its readers. "Unless we
totally reject war as an old, obsolete approach, we will not discover how to move beyond
war." The decision is further described as one between "yes" and
"no" and between "life" and "death."
It is a version of positing the old good and evil dichotomy in which each person can only
decide totally yes or totally no; there is still no middle ground in the dualistic
universe. Choices are presented as the "old mode" and the "new mode."
The old mode consists of thinking in terms of limited identification, exclusiveness,
blaming enemies, killing, destroying, war, and extinction. The new mode is the opposite of
each of these, identification with the whole, inclusiveness, taking personal
responsibility, cooperation and building, rejecting war, and choosing life.Just as Creative Initiative members were expected to "live the
life" personally before they could do so collectively, so Beyond War people are told,
"A world beyond war is possible only if we make a personal commitment to live our
lives in accordance with the new mode of thinking." Then, reiterating a favorite
phrase from the earlier era, the handbook states, "The message and the messenger must
be consistent." Each person is asked to pledge that he or she will resolve conflict
without violence, maintain a spirit of goodwill, not become preoccupied with enemies, and
work with others to build a world beyond war. Group leaders
explain that members are expected to resolve conflicts both inside and outside the family
without resorting to confrontation and violence.
The heavy emphasis on marriage-for-life and the discouraging of single
members that existed in Creative Initiative has been toned down considerably. Single and
divorced people are welcome in the movement, but some participants still find a strong, if
informal, emphasis on couples and the family. One participant in a Beyond War meeting
found their philosophy "pervaded by a peculiarly fundamentalist mindsct about the
family." The talk about "family discipline," of strengthening spousal
relationships and doing something about the 50-percent divorce rate, all seemed to her
more akin to a traditional church than to an antiwar movement. She said she was queried no
fewer than three times about her own marital status and was told by one woman, "We
believe marriage is very, very important."
The ghost of Creative Initiative shows itself in other aspects of Beyond
War's view of the sexes. Although Jung is not mentioned in the new group's literature, the
ideas about gender differences were still being used until recently. One striking example
of the continued belief in distinct gender roles occurred in the 1984 convocations: one
for men and another for women. Participants at the women's convocation in Palo Alto and
similar symposia in other areas were told that they were participating in a "rite of
passage" for women that marked their new status as a women's collective that would
lead humankind to a new way of thinking. They were also told
that men and women had different moral imperatives, and that it was women's role to
"care for life and alleviate suffering."
The announcement for the men's meeting explained that in the past men
had gathered to hunt and to fight wars but that now they had to come together to become
"new warriors" for peace. In language that was very
reminiscent of Creative Initiative, one of the speakers told the audience, "After
sexism is stripped away, there is still something different [between men and women] and
they have important and different roles to play in any cohesive society."
To remind themselves of the pledge to resolve conflicts peacefully,
participants are asked to wear a small enamel pin in the shape of the earth. The little
card that comes with the pin says, "When you wear this pin, remember, pray or
meditate on this thought until it becomes a reality." The
reference to meditation and prayer on the pin card is one of the very few and faint echoes
of the religious era. Yet if one looks carefully they do show up here and there, in such
understated ways that only those familiar with the New Religion would catch the allusions.
They exist because the new movement is an evolutionary descendent of the old and both
vestigial and functional structures remain. After describing the process of deciding to
adopt the new way of thinking and apply it to daily life, for example, the handbook notes
that "only a few rare individuals in human history have held to these high
principles" but that "the future of the world depends on many people holding
these principles and working together." The reference to a
"few rare individuals" is an oblique reference to Jesus, and the second comment
about "people working together" in the same way as the few unique individuals is
an echo of the belief that the community was a collective messiah. Except that now, there
is no community in the old sense, only a collection of individuals trying to persuade
other individuals to think as they think.
The third step in the three-step process is "action." Beyond
War teaches that once individuals have changed their own personal ways of thinking they
need to move on to teach others how to do the same thing. As in Creative Initiative,
action consists of spreading the word. Defending this homocentric approach to social
change, the handbook asks rhetorically, "Are education and building agreement
action?" and answers "Absolutelyâeven though they are not usually
recognized as such." The argument here is the perfectly reasonable one that before
any kind of legislative action can be taken there has to be a popular consensus, or else,
like Prohibition, the law is bound to fail. Like Creative
Initiative, Beyond War specifically rejects the "illusion" that someone else (a
savior, a political leader) will prevent war and argues that the single person can make a
difference, so long as he or she works with others of like mind.
To explain how the new consensus in opposition to war will take hold,
Beyond War argues that a few "innovators" (previously called the "creative
minority") can hope to influence the entire nation. They cite research studies that
show if 5 percent of a population believes something the idea becomes
"imbedded," and when 20 percent accept a new idea it becomes
"unstoppable." Thus, it is the job of the innovators to try to convert that
first 5 percent, who in turn will keep the flame alive until the majority is eventually
won over. The conclusion it draws from this theory of social change is that Beyond War
needs to focus its energy on those people who are open to change and not "spend time
vainly trying to convince laggards." In order to get the
5-percent adoption rate, Beyond War estimates that its message may have to reach as much
as 50 percent of the population, and thus the essential task of the movement is getting
the message out to as many people as possible, but ideally to the "innovators"
and "early adopters" who are more open to new concepts.
Although it does not appear in their published material, members still use the geometric
progression model to encourage one another about the possibility of contacting huge
numbers of people. At one meeting, in fact, an optimistic member predicted that if they
could keep up their rate of contacts they will have reached over six million people by the
Since they believe that the way to move the world beyond war is to
educate as many people as possible, Beyond War has been organized from the beginning to be
an engine of growth. One of the earliest written plans for the new movement set the
familiar goal of building a base of a thousand people who would work to bring a world
beyond war. All early efforts, luncheons, presentations, interviews with national figures,
production of films and other materials, and creating the Beyond War Award, were aimed at
garnering that elusive thousand. This time, however, there was
no longer a multiyear course of study that had to be followed, people did not have to be
"identified" and go through an initiation process, and becoming active in the
new group did not involve the same high social costs as joining Creative Initiative. Thus
the magic number was quickly reached, and growth continued in leaps and bounds.
In 1984, Beyond War sent seventeen "missionary families" to
eleven states to begin local groups. These volunteers either retired or took leaves of
absence from their jobs so that they could devote full time to spreading the Beyond War
message. By 1985 more than four hundred people, including fifty men, worked as full-time
volunteers for the movement, and they had an active following of more than eighteen
thousand people in thirty-eight states.
Although Beyond War has brought in thousands of new members in the
last few years, the composition of the group, except for larger numbers of single people,
appears essentially unchanged. They are still mostly white, upper middle class people
looking for something to give their lives meaning.
Politically they seem to be mainstream liberals whose hearts are in the
right place but who have never actively participated in any kind of political movement.
Joining Beyond War allows them to make a commitment without getting them involved in
anything too controversial. Indeed, making the commitment sometimes seems more important
than the actual cause involved. Some of the members are "seekers" who have moved
on to Beoynd War after stops in other New Age organizations. Others are getting involved
for the first time, and the experiences they report sound more like religious conversions
than decisions to join a peace group. New members have said of their participation:
"A total change in the course of my life," "I've never been involved in
anything that makes me feel so whole," "I was looking for something larger than
myself to be part of." Their comments reflect a commitment
not to a movement but to a way of life, which, of course, is precisely what Beyond War
seeks. Like Creative Initiative, Beyond War is not a movement that has a specific social
or political agenda. It wants people to change their lives and believes that other social
and political changes will follow inevitably. In other words, Beyond War is still
homocentric, as the movement has been since the 1945 fight at Camp Minnesing.
For some participants Beyond War retains sectlike elements. Those
looking for a purpose in life join it for many of the same reasons people joined Creative
Initiative. Once in, they adopt many of the same ideas that were basic to the older
movement. Although Beyond War lacks Creative Initiative's theistic core, it functions like
a quasi-religion for many of its adherents. The philosophy still holds total commitment as
a theoretical ideal; people are still urged to adopt a new life style and a new way of
thinking; and some people still relate to the movement in a sectarian manner. Its ideology
guides their lives, and those who fully adopt it feel as if they have been given a new
purpose and direction. For these people, Beyond War becomes the center of their lives, and
they are as fully involved in attending and hosting meetings as were their predecessors in
If we go back, however, to the economic distinction between church and
sect, it becomes apparent that the emergence of Beyond War also marks a dramatic shift
toward the church end of the spectrum. In this model, the sect makes great demands on
people but also provides them with significant benefits. The church, however, neither asks
nor gives as much. In that sense, there is little in the economic definition of a church
that distinguishes it from most secular membership groups, and it was therefore inevitable
that when the religious Creative Initiative dissolved in favor of the secular Beyond War
it would become more "churchlike." Although some, perhaps many, Beyond War
activists find a sense of life-purpose in the group, deep dedication is no longer required
for affiliation. The tightly knit community of believers that provided spiritual and
temporal benefits in return for total commitment to the group is no more. Deep individual
involvement is still possible, but participation can also involve nothing more than
subscribing to the newsletter. There is no mechanism for either building or testing
Ironically, a recent analysis of Beyond War by scholars who were unaware
of its religious origins, criticized it for failing to have a basis in "firm ethics
based outside modern consciousness." "Secular humanism and the defense of
a privileged class are not strong places from which to offer a critique of present society
and fashion a vision of a redemptive community of the future," they concluded. Unknowingly they were criticizing the movement for failing to have
that which they had only recently discarded. On the one hand, this secularization has
allowed the movement to grow dramatically, but on the other hand, it has meant that they
can never be sure just who is with them and to what extent. From a tightly controlled
sect, they evolved into an open-structured New Age movement that stresses positive thought
and gives people a sense of being able to do something about the dangers that face the
world. Whether that will be enough to sustain the group over the long run remains to be