Thursday, July 9, 2015

50 years ago: The death of William Dudley Pelley

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; I Timothy 4:1

On June 30, 1965, U.S. author and political activist William Dudley Pelley died at the age of 75. Mr. Pelley was a journalist and writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays, who claimed to have a near-death experience in 1928 in which he saw God and Jesus Christ, and received a commission to undertake the spiritual transformation of America. His travels in Russia as a correspondent during the Russian Civil War had left him with a hatred of Communism, and the beginning of the Depression in 1929 and Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany in 1933 led Mr. Pelley to create the Silver Legion of America, also known as "Silver Shirts," an extremist organization whose ideology included anti-Semitism, isolationism, pyramidology, and British Israelism. Although he claimed to have seen Jesus Christ, the Christ he saw was obviously a false one; Mr. Pelley's spirituality was occultic rather than Christian, and some of the original believers in the Ascended Master teachings in the "I AM" Activity in the 1930s were reportedly recruited from the Silver Legion.

Mr. Pelley founded the Christian Party and ran as its candidate for President of the United States in 1936. His criticism of the U.S. administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, especially in the aftermath of the December 7, 1941 attack by Japanese forces on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, led to charges of high treason and sedition against Mr. Pelley. The Silver Legion disappeared into obscurity as Mr. Pelley was imprisoned until being granted parole in 1952. Mr. Pelley became increasingly obscure himself as the years went on, and was almost completely forgotten by the time of his death.

The book The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War (1983) by Leo P. Ribuffo has a chapter on William Dudley Pelley, and I recommend that for further reading.

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