Moscow, ID: n.p. 1932. FIRST EDITION. Approximately 235 pp. on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper, single spaced typed throughout, in a folder. Twenty “lessons” (each 10-12 pages, more or less), plus 2 duplicates, plus a Psychiana Inc. Certificate of Approval issued to John W. McCormick, who has underlined (and crossed out) parts of many of the lessons, as well as annotated portions thereof. Item #15992
The complete twenty-course program for a “New Thought Religion,” one of spiritual enlightenment promising health, wealth and happiness through an alternative belief system, with the underlying premise being a rejection of all the major organized religions and a general embrace of modern science. Robinson endeavors to reason with tight logic, propounding a faith in the “Law of the Universe” that if subscribed to, would relieve many mundane cares and concerns. Each of the lessons contain a message of self-empowerment, positive thinking, self-affirmation and motivational cheerleading. Of interest, the two duplicate lessons (numbers 13 and 19) have printed cover sheets reading “Psychiana (The new psychological religion) advanced course Number One,” and also showing The Company’s printed logo as well as the logo reflecting membership in the NRA (???? – weird).
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. Robinson had his own printing presses and started a small publishing company, which offered many of his own books on various spiritual themes, as well as his memoir, The Strange Autobiography of Frank B. Robinson.
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.
Upon Robinson’s death in 1948, Psychiana’s operations were taken over by his wife, Pearl Robinson, and son, Alfred Robinson; however, the denomination’s success was so closely associated with Robinson and his personal style that it failed to survive for more than a few years after his demise.
Robinson was born in England, the eldest of four boys. He had a tough childhood, being beaten for the smallest of infractions by his father, who was a Reverend. His mother, however, encouraged him to cultivate his spirituality. The mother died when Robinson was only eight and the father remarried and the situation got worse. He moved to Canada and ultimately to Oregon, where he had his “vision of the future,” seeing himself at the head of a new religion. Without any doubt Robinson has been a pioneer in using media techniques (radio, speaking crusades and the development of correspondence courses) that brought him to build in less than 10 years the country’s eight-largest religion and the world’s largest mail order religion with an estimated 2 million subscription-based followers.