While living in Portland, Oregon in the mid 1920’s, Frank Robinson had a “vision of the future” seeing himself at the head of a new religion, one based on I Corinthians 3:16: “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of God–and that the Spirit of God liveth in you?”
While working at the Corner Drug Store he continually jotted notes to himself, and on a Saturday night he locked his door, sat at his typewriter, and in the next thirty-six hours typed the first set of ten lessons for his unnamed religion. Borrowing about $2500 from several towns people, Robinson had the lessons printed and commenced advertising. According to the Psychiana Bulletin for April 1950, “Psychiana was chartered in the late fall of 1929 and the first Psychiana advertisement was placed shortly after the turn of the year.” Before long the advertisements for this new religion appeared in 700 newspapers, 86 magazines, and over 18 radio stations. Anyone answering one of these advertisements received approximately 67 pieces of literature over a 22 week span
In addition to the lessons, Dr. Robinson also developed a series of radio programs which were broadcast nationwide in the mid 1930’s. He attracted large crowds whenever he lectured and was also invited to speak to classes in religion at several college campuses, most notably to Dr. Marcus Bach’s classes at the University of Iowa.
In August 1955 Robinson’s widow and son delivered four sealed boxes to the Library. After a period of twenty-five years these boxes were opened
Psychiana was a New Thought denomination created in 1928 by Frank Bruce Robinson (1886–1948), with headquarters in Moscow, Idaho. It began and largely remained a mail-order enterprise, recruiting people through advertising in popular magazines and through direct mail solicitations.
The first advertisement for Psychiana, which Robinson himself penned and took around to local publishers in Spokane, Washington in 1929, featured a picture of Robinson with the headline, “I TALKED WITH GOD (yes I did, actually and literally).” Those who expressed an interest in Robinson’s promises of health, wealth, and happiness by responding to one of his ads were offered a series of bi-weekly lessons by mail on a subscription plan.
Thematically, Robinson’s ideas, as expressed in Psychiana, grew out of the metaphysical tradition and can be classified under the New Thought umbrella. Robinson adopted concepts such as affirmations, positive thinking, self-help and mental healing into Psychiana’s lessons and emphasized health and material prosperity as possible rewards for dedicated and hardworking Psychiana students.
Robinson said that the name he chose, “Psychiana,” came to him in a dream. He unabashedly referred to himself as a prophet, and envisioned his movement as becoming a worldwide, revolutionary spiritual force; at the same time, he made little effort to establish any kind of organizational structure beyond his headquarters office in Idaho, preferring to keep the operation strictly on a correspondence level.
Psychiana burgeoned during the Great Depression, but Robinson offended many of his contemporaries, not only by the “businesslike” nature of Psychiana, but also with his harsh criticisms of conventional Christianity.
Robinson had a penchant for mink coats and other trappings of wealth, and was accused of taking financial advantage of his followers. Mitch Horowitz devotes a chapter to Robinson in his 2009 book Occult America, writing that by all accounts Robinson was sincere in his devotion to Psychiana and truly believed he was offering useful guidance and advice. Additionally, writes Horowitz, Psychiana was wildly successful, but much of the movement’s income went to cover postage costs for mailing thousands of Psychiana pamphlets.
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