Monday, April 13, 2009

Week #12 Arthur Bell,Movie, Play or Comic Book

A couple of Thanksgivings ago I was staying at a cabin in Tahoe with my family. In the room I was staying in there was a Time/Life book about cults in america, I think it was from the “Mystery’s of the Unknown” series. Everyone went to sleep before me so I ended up reading the whole thing. 

What I discovered reading this book was that there was a major breakout of occultism centered in LA during the 1920’s. There where a few well known modern established religions that had there birth here such as the Nation of Islam and the Jehovah Witnesses but what really captured my attention was the more marginalized utopian cult’s that seemed to be popping up everywhere like “I AM” and the one I’m particularly fascinated with “Mankind United”.

What I found particularly interesting about these cults was there apparent sincerity. Money was taken and not accounted for, utopias where promised in return for long hours and never achieved, but through all this there was a distinct absence of the sexual exploitation and violence the seemed so tied up with the cult’s of the 60’s and 70’s. These Utopiasts of the 1920’s seemed to really believe in what they where doing, even if it was insane and inevitably lead to bankruptcy hearings.

As I noted before the one I’m really interested in doing some sort of story about is Mankind United (Later Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule) and particularly it’s founder and leader Arthur Bell. Arthur Bell appeared on the cult scene in the mid twenties with the release of his paperback pamphlet “Mankind United”. According to Mr. Bell there was a group of 10,000 families who have been conspiring since very early times to consolidate all the wealth in the wold and enslave the rest of us. In the envisioned future of these families, a group who the book called the Hidden Rulers, everyone would live in giant skyscrapers with the rulers living on the top floors and the rest living below.

The only reason the Hidden Rulers haven’t achieved there dystopian goals is that there is an equally old opposition, a group called only “the Sponsors” (Aparently short hand for there full name “Sponsors of The International Institute of Universal Research and Administration”). Through out history the Sponsors have operated entirely in secret foiling the Hidden Rulers from plans at every turn. There membership, although highly secret, is rumored to have included a couple of presidents and maybe even a few apostles. The Sponsors achieve there work in the world with the help of individual agents as well as there organization “The Universal Service Corporation”.

The Sponsors also have a plan for this world. A future classless Utopia where everyone works for four hours a day, four days a week, for four months a year. They have a forty day plan on how to achieve this heaven but it can only be announced to the world when Mankind United's membership reaches 200,000,000.

The public face of all of this. The man who spoke for the Sponsors as well as the Universal Service Corporation was the author of the book’ Arthur Bell. He served as there priest, recruiter and for all intensive porpoises avatar. He referred to himself as “the Voice”.

Besides his comparatively low level of sleaziness what really lit up my imagination about Arthur Bell and his cult was how close his ideas came to seeming right. Besides his childish proclivity for round numbers (10,000 families, 200,000,000 members, 4 hours, 4 days ect.) there’s no denying that over time money and power has been consolidating into the hands of fewer and fewer people. Plus with mechanization it’s appearing that shorter and shorter work hours may be the only way to go.

On top of these sort of generally accurate anxieties there was also the case of the Universal Service Corps.’ only publicized field activity; one where they destroyed a prototype of a device the hidden rulers wanted to place in everyones house, a screen, very much like a television, that would vibrate your eyeballs out of your head. Then in the beginning of WWII Arthur Bell was finally arrested by the infamous house on un-American activities for sedition. His crime was spreading literature that said that the war was a conspiracy to consolidate the world’s resources into the hands of a few countries. Which of coarse, with histories perspective, is what the war ended up doing.

Arthur Bell was completely insane of coarse. He believed there where tiny metal men who lived underground and did the bidding of the hidden rulers, he also claimed he could be in multiple physical places at the same time. Still I believe the best approach to a story about him would be to take it all as the truth even the things I just mentioned. I good story would start with the things we all see to be almost reasonable and then lead into the less easy to swallow ones.

Of coarse I’m not sure exactly what the story is I’d like to tell or even what medium is best for it. I’ve sat down and tried to write a few times but I don’t know where to start. I’ve done tons of research but I can’s seem to find a format for it. I do think it should be a film or a comic book since I think the visual aspect of the era would add a lot to it. If anyone else seems this is as ripe for exploration as I do I’d love to hear any ideas anyone has.

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