The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy

The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy

By Phillip Charles Lucas
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. Hardback, viii + 312 pages.

Every now and then a worthwhile book comes out but never gets the recognition it deserves. The Odyssey of New Religion is one such book. This is a book that many Theosophists should read because of its Theosophical overtones.

Why did the Holy Order of MANS (HOOM) exist for only about 22 years, whereas the Theosophical Society is still in existence more than 125 years after its founding? Both the Theosophical Society and HOOM had similar beginnings. Yet the small esoteric Christian community continued only by changing its mission and joining the larger Orthodox Christian community. Lucas's book tells the story of HOOM with skill, scholarship, and such grace that his sociological insights never get in the way of the unfolding story.

The Holy Order of MANS was founded by Earl Blighton (known as Father Paul) in 1968 in the San Francisco Bay area. The core group actually started two years earlier when Blighton taught a type of "esoteric Christianity." His message borrowed heavily from many alternative religions, but, as Lucas continually reminds us, it was primarily Rosicrucian and Theosophical in nature. Any Theosophist reading this book will recognize much of the Order's structure and teaching.

The group had a monastic image and its members wore clerical garb. Much of their early mission was service, charity, and missionary work, "for example, for homeless families and single mothers in shelters called 'Raphael House.'" The members, dressed in their clerical garb, would walk around crime-filled neighborhoods and visualize a ray of healing light. Blighton, judging from antidotal evidence, was a gifted psychic, like H. P. Blavatsky in the formative years of the Theosophical Society. Blighton wrote a "Tree of Life" series around which the "ancient Christian mysteries" were studied. About half of Lucas’s book explains the details of this early history.

Following Earl Blighton's death in 1974, the group's history became turbulent. After the usual power struggles that occur with the death of a charismatic leader, Andrew Rossi rook over and about 1978 began to lead the group from its Rosicrucian-Theosophical roots toward a more mainstream Christian identity. From a peak of about 3000 members in 1977, the membership began dropping. In 1988 Rossi led a mass conversion of 750 HOOM members into the Eastern Orthodox Church and changed the group's name to Christ the Savior Brotherhood.

In response to the question of why the Theosophical Society has lasted more than 125 years whereas HOOM had a 22-year existence, one of the relevant factors may be that the Society elects its officers on a regular schedule. The believers in the Holy Order of MANS did not have that option. One recalls Winston Churchill's observation that "democracy is the worst form of government' except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."


January/February 2002