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American Cultural History And Cult of Matthias
There had been many changes occurs in terms of the progress of the economy, population and intellectual abilities during the 18th century and these could be considered as the possible reasons for the evolution of a fresh thinking in all the various spheres of life, and this pertains to religion as well. This was in complete a need for change and a great desire for bring about changes. To a certain extent, this was considered to bring about the end of earlier concepts of religion of pertaining to the thought that it can be handled only by the privileged classes also ended. This led to the emergence of certain new religious thinkers and practical leaders like that of Mathias as leaders like him could not have become popular religious figures in the previous era. The line of thinking of Matthias was very much different from that of the ideas and thoughts of the earlier leaders.
This was the age when the truth of what Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay named "The American Scholar" had to be thought about. It was felt by him that men around him saw the scholars as being impractical and recluses and thus unfit for doing any physical and practical work and may be thought of being like a penknife where an axe is needed to do the work. This is the reason why practical men feel the scholar to be of no benefit and since they are busy in speculation and seeing, they would not be able to carry it out. During that period of history, the clergy was considered to be the best among scholars shown their inferiority by being addressed directly as women. As scholars they were not supposed to listen to or speak in the language that ordinary men talk in, but talk in a language that was low and "more civilized" and possibly more suited to a woman. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Since they were scholars, they are often not considered important enough to be given consideration and not considered human enough to lead a normal life, but society promotes the concept that they should live outside society, in a celibate manner. This was the general feeling about scholars -- they were felt to be very important for society, and yet not a part of it. The scholar is not supposed to be capable of taking action and yet, if action is not taken what is the value of thought. Without acting on the thoughts that are given, the truth of the thought itself will never be known. Of many things in that age, society was very critical and one of that was sex. At the same time, it is important to understand that sex in itself cannot be bad. Thus viewing sex as evil is probably trying to defeat the purpose of life and sex in itself was then giving thinkers serious embarrassment. This brought up the concept that searching for pleasure was evil in itself and the results were then seen in the men of that time. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The picture is clear in view with the action of slave owners prevalent in those days. The slaves had been set free according to the laws of the time, but however action could be taken and this could be witnessed as when a slave was trying to shine his shoes since he wanted to go as per the promise given by the master, the master killed him by the struck of a blow. (The Project Gutenberg E-text of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth) Such cruel acts were the sort of actions that the men of those time took, and this is not permitted under any law nowadays, whether it is civil or ethical or religious. It is thus clear that a religious man during those days would not be in a position to take such a brutal action, and would hence be considered to be unsuited of becoming a householder.
Now it seems that this revival of public interest in this religious leader should be explained. It is not that this leader was the first or the last one to try his hand at reviving religion in United States. The authors of one book, "The Kingdom of Matthias" are historians in Universities and they are Johnson and Willentz. They have written this book about the revivalist movement that took place from the period 1820 to 1840. The entire country was then going through a period of religious revivalism, and it can be said that this was a reaction of the failure of being a part of the industrial revolution by many who took part in this movement. One of the main actors in this movement was Elijah Pierson. He was a merchant in New York and had tried his own hand at religious reform. (Amazon Book Review: The Kingdom of Matthias/a Story of Sex and Salvation in 19Th-Century America: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19Th-Centtury America)
One of the main reasons for Pierson's attempts at religion is said to be his attempts at getting his wife back after she had expired. He met Matthias and Matthias was not Matthias from birth, but born as Robert Matthews. According to the book, Matthias declared his own visions and soon took over the pulpit from which Pierson was earlier preaching. The main talk of Matthias was about an event that would take place and all those who did not believe in his religion would die. All believers in Matthias's philosophy would benefit in terms of finance. This is again a common enough method of getting interest. (Amazon Book Review: The Kingdom of Matthias/a Story of Sex and Salvation in 19Th-Century America: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19Th-Centtury America) One of the persons who gained great fame under this phenomenon of Matthias was Sojourner Truth and the views expressed by her are being taken as a measure of check against the stories in this book. (The Project Gutenberg E-text of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth)
Now let us look at the story of Matthias. He was born of Scotch parentage, but brought up from the beginning in Washington County, New York and was roughly 47 years old in the early 1930s. He had had a religious bringing up, among the Anti-Burghers who are a sect of Presbyterians. He started life to be a farmer and was busy with that occupation till he was eighteen years old, but independently developed the skill of a carpenter without any teaching for that art. He was also mechanically well trained. Then his life turned for the better and he got some property from his uncle, Robert Thompson and started business as a storekeeper. He also joined the Scottish Presbyterian Church and was viewed to be a respectable man. This was followed up by marriage and continuation of business in Cambridge and marriage in 1813. (The Mathias Delusion)
The problems came in 1816 when one of his speculations in a building failed and he did not get any support from the banks. This led to his arrival in New York, along with his family and restarting of his trade there. From 1830 started his interests in religion but he was considered to be only zealous, but then he succeeded in predicting the destruction of Albanians and their capital. At the same time he got an idea that he should not shave. This came to him when he was preparing to shave and had the Bible near him. He exclaimed "I have found it! I have found a text which proves that no man who shaves his beard can be a true Christian." This was probably the beginning of his next phase -- madness. (The Mathias Delusion)
He did not complete shaving and went for an address that he had promised. This address was different from the earlier ones and pronounced vengeance on the people around him, showed his new character, said that the laws of God were the only laws in the world and that he was to take possession of the world in the name of God. He then advised his wife to come away with him as he felt that the place where they were staying would be destroyed. The wife did not agree as Matthias called himself a Jew and the wife did not agree to be the wife of a Jew. Matthias left his wife, but now started receiving enough attention as his beard had grown and was thus heard in the streets. He then came and met Pierson. (The Mathias Delusion)
Their discussions were centered on the truth and Matthias gave various reasons for not shaving like his being a Jew and Adam also having a beard. Pierson also told Mathias his own experiences and finally came to some sort of an understanding as they both had similar sentiments. Then Matthias moved into the house of Pierson. This frightened Mr.…[continue]
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