I have become very interested in a gentleman named Father Divine ever since moving to Philadelphia. I won’t go into how I became so interested, but I did want to share a few facts about this fascinating figure.
- Father Divine, a.k.a Reverend Major Jealous Divine, was the founder and leader of a metaphysical group called the International Peace Mission Movement established in 1932.
(Read more after the jump!)
- Father Divine, whose place and date of birth are unknown (although historians speculate that he was born around 1876), was very much interested in New Thought and Christian Science philosophy.
- After preaching throughout Georgia as “The Messenger” with two other spiritual teachers, Father Divine left the group and declared himself to be the one true God.
- Rev. Divine thereafter gained a following of mostly women and taught his congregation to shun gender categorizations and to live in celibacy.
- Around 1814, Father Divine and his followers moved to Brooklyn, NY where they formed a commune in which drinking alcohol, sex, gambling, and smoking cigarettes were prohibited.
- In 1919, Father Divine moved his commune to an all-European-American community on Long Island, NY where he held lavish banquets for his followers and helped them find employment.
- While on Long Island, Father Divine was arrested for disturbing the peace. After paying his bail of $1,000, considered remarkable during the Depression, Father Divine’s popularity soared and he began speaking throughout New York.
- People from all over the country began following Father Divine whose northeast members came from largely middle-class, European-American communities. In 1932, Rev. Divine’s movement was established as the International Peace Mission Movement with branches in Los Angeles, CA and Seattle, WA, and members congregating in France, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia.
- Also in 1932, Father Divine moved to Harlem where he and his followers bought hotels, which they called “heavens”. In these heavens, members were able to live cheaply while they looked for employment. He also established small businesses such as clothing stores, gas stations and restaurants to provide services to the people at cheaper costs.
- After legal woes began to plague Father Divine, he fled to Philadelphia, PA to continue running his movement which was suffering from negative national publicity.
- In 1938, Howland Spencer sold his Krum Elbow property in Hyde Park County, NY to Father Divine who created more heavens for his followers who lived amongst fruit trees on the beautiful, fertile property. The property was located next to Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s estate. The move caused much uproar in the press.
- In 1953, a Father Divine devotee gifted him with a 72-acre French gothic manor, Woodmont, in the wealthy enclave of Gladwyne, PA. He died there in 1956, survived by his wife who became the head of the Peace Movement. His elaborate shrine can be found on the Woodmont grounds.
- In 1972, Jim Jones claimed that he was an incarnation of Father Divine and attempted unsuccessfully to take over the Peace Movement.
- Father Divine was a proponent of reparations for the African-American population, anti-lynching laws and social reform.
- Members of his Peace Movement can be found in countries all over the world such as Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and Nigeria.
- While the number of Father Divine’s followers remain in question, it has been estimated that he may have garnered several million devotees. Rev. Divine himself tallied his membership at 22 million.
(Sources: Wikipedia.com, encyclopedia.com, hudsonrivervalley.org, libertynet.org)
Eye-and-eye mantra: Be the woman you want to be at all times!
Copyright Ajua Hawkins 2013