14 Dec Neville Goddard Research: Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter, Jr (Rev. Ike) and Neville Goddard
According to a Harvard Divinity School professor, it appears that Rev. Ike (Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter, Jr) acknowledged he was influenced by Neville Goddard.
Excerpts about Neville and Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter, Jr (Rev. Ike).
The Greening of the Gospel (and Black Body): Rev. Ike’s Gospel of Wealth and Post-Blackness Theology
by Jonathan L. Walton
Assistant professor, Harvard Divinity School
“Eikerenkoetter deﬁnitely had plenty of New Thought informed thinkers from which to pull. Besides prominent Spiritualist ministers previously noted, Charles Fillmore’s Prosperity (1936), Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937) and Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) were all perennial publishing favorites, and thus part of the religious air Eikerenkoetter breathed in Boston and New York City. Yet Eikerenkoetter later acknowledged that he was inﬂuenced distinctly by the teachings of a lesser-known New Thought teacher who lectured and published under the name Neville.
Neville Lancelot Goddard was born in 1905 on the island of Barbados in the British West Indies to Anglican parents. He immigrated to New York City at the age of seventeen to study theatre and dance, eventually touring for a decade as a ballet and ballroom dancer. In 1931 he embraced an Ethiopian born rabbi named Abdullah as a spiritual mentor. According to Neville, Abdullah trained him in scripture, Hebrew, the Kabbalah and varying forms of mysticism. Yet the most inﬂuential lesson involved the power of one’s own imagination. “Live as though you are there and that you shall be,” is the one line that underscored all of Neville’s subsequent teachings.
Neville’s primary source text was the Bible. His writings and lectures were peppered with scripture references and quotations. For Neville, the Bible rep- resented neither history nor fact, but rather ideals. Jesus was not a living man but an ideal of the characteristic attributes of the divine — attributes that all persons can achieve via self-creation. Scripture conveys metaphorical and allegorical meaning for persons to embrace. For instance, in a 1951 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Neville asserted that persons take the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” too literally; and, in the process, never comprehend a much deeper meaning. “If a man look upon any other man and estimates that man as less than himself,” Neville declares, “then he is stealing from the other. He is stealing the other’s birthright — that of equality.”
The biblically-informed, poetic nature of Neville’s prose extended Trine’s favored theme of ﬂow insofar as the message resonated with a cross-section of hearers. Neville believed humanity operated according to a primary law. All human desire may be realized, yet all reality will be actualized in the visible world according to human consciousness. Neville’s text Feeling Is the Secret begins with the line, “The world, and all within it, is man’s conditioned consciousness objectiﬁed.” In keeping with Trine’s aquatic metaphors, he proceeds to liken the conscious to a ﬂowing stream, which divides into the conscious and subconscious. The conscious is personal, selective and the realm of eﬀect. The subconscious is impersonal, nonselective and the realm of cause. “The conscious generates ideas and impresses these ideas on the subconscious; the subconscious receives ideas and gives form and expression to them.” These two parts of the conscious play gendered roles for Neville. The conscious (male) is generative in terms of feelings and ideas and thus sows seeds toward reproduction. Accordingly, the subconscious (female) gives expression to these ideas and is the “womb of creation.” Citing Ephesians 5 where Paul writes, “The husband is head of the wife,” Neville suggests that this “may not be true of man and woman in their earthly relationship but it is true of the conscious and the subconscious.” The feelings and ideas that extend from the former dictate and determine what the latter will actualize. Neville qualiﬁes the relationship between the two parts of consciousness in regards to the masculine conscious being the “head” over the female subconscious. The relationship is not that of a tyrant, but analogous to romantic love. In an especially problem- atic metaphor, yet indicative of the American postwar context, Nevile states, “The subconscious does serve man and faithfully gives form to his feelings. However, the subconscious has a distinct distaste for compulsion and responds to persuasion rather than to command; consequently, it resembles the beloved wife more than the servant.”
It is by and through this law and its operation that that “man has control over creation.” For Neville, according to this law, persons are able to “feel” themselves into the state they desire. Creation occurs in the subconscious animated by what persons think, believe and feel in the conscious mind. And the subconscious “never fails to express that which has been impressed upon it.” Thus Neville admonishes to “Be careful of your moods and feelings, for there is an unbroken connection between your feelings and the visible world.” At the root of all disease (dis-ease) is an “emotional disturbance” such as fear and doubt that the conscious impressed upon the unconscious. This is the reason Neville taught persons to profess, “I am healthy” or “I am wealthy” rather than “I will be” either of these states of feeling or being. To profess the latter is to confess in the conscious mind that one is not at the moment of utterance. Conversely, to feel and enact the object of one’s desire is to sow positive and productive seed within the subconscious. The feeling of desire alone is insufﬁcient. Persons must assume the feelings of being and having what one wants. “You never attract that which you want,” Neville contends, “but always attract that which you are. As a man [sic] is, so does he see.”
Eikerenkoetter’s philosophical indebtedness to Neville is apparent in his popular teaching series, “The Feeling Gets the Blessing.” Originally recorded some time in the 1970s, this six-part set has remained in circulation ever since.21 It includes the lessons, “Tell Your Feelings How to Feel,” “Tell Your Mind What to Think,” and “The Changeless Law.” Eikerenkoetter’s derivative appropriation of Neville coupled with creative appeals to scripture extends the belief that the subconscious mind is the source of all reality. In Tell Your Mind What to Think, the mind is divided into the gendered dimensions of the conscious and subconscious. The former feeds the latter ideas about poverty, sickness and lack, just as it can impress images of wealth and health. “You use the conscious mind to decide what you want. Then it (the conscious mind) deposits that seed with the wife, the subconscious.” Eikerenkoetter contends that there are many competing messages in the world speaking to the conscious mind making it imperative that persons exercise discipline and reject all negative ideas or emotions. This is what it means to have “mastery” over the conscious mind; the capacity to cancel out negative messages that pour into the conscious mind by arresting anything synonymous with doubt, dejection or despair. As an example Eikerenkoetter cites Joshua’s charge to the Children of Israel to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” in regards to the people devoting themselves to the God of Abraham or the “gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.”
The language of poverty, regardless of its intended use, makes negative impressions upon the subconscious that will inevitably manifest. Hence, the origin of Eikerenkoetter’s other well-known saying, “The best thing you can do for the poor is not be one of them.” Poverty, for Eikerenkoetter, had less to do with economic status or earnings among the poor. It involved self-identiﬁcation and self-conception that ultimately creates the conditions within the subconscious mind that subsequently determines one’s class position. He often used his mother as an example. Although she made only $65 per month, as he so often repeated, “she would have objected to being called poor.” In his view, civil rights leaders were frustrating their own ends by inundating the individual consciousnesses of the disaﬀected with terminology that debases rather than uplifts the human psyche. As he reﬂected back on this dynamic he asserted, “You’ve got to be careful with your self-image. And I saw that particularly during the 70s this danger of poverty and blackness becoming synonymous. And I couldn’t have any part of that.”
Such a concern with self-image provides further insight as to why Neville Goddard’s particular strand of New Thought metaphysics attracted Eikerenkoetter. Remember, for Neville, it was not simply about positive imagining toward personal transformation in the future, but positive representation in the moment. “I am” is a stronger feeling than “I will.” Or, put another way, “You never attract that which you want but always attract that which you are conscious of being.” If Eikerenkoetter was concerned with blackness being synonymous with poverty, then he used mass mediated frames to oﬀer an image of what it meant to transcend both. Like the photograph of Eikerenkoetter on the cover of New York Times Magazine, the plethora of pictures peppered throughout the pages of his Action! Magazine, or his own carefully constructed image on television, his sartorial ﬂamboyancy was intended to signify his positive self-conception. New Thought metaphysics rebuﬀed conceptual connections between blackness and poverty by providing philosophical justiﬁcation for honoriﬁc displays of wealth accumulation. And the hyper-visual tools and techniques of mass evangelism provided the means for Eikerenkoetter to put his philosophy on display. It’s not enough to positively think oneself out of the bondage of poverty. Persons must purchase themselves into power with an aesthetic performance of freedom. Eikerenkoetter’s conscious “feeling” and overt display of wealth did more than impress the idea of wealth upon his subconscious. It disentangled Eikerenkoetter’s body from negative racialized signiﬁcations that he seemed to believe would locate him within a community characterized by negative energy. If “Black means poor. Black means help me, boss, because I can’t do anything for myself,” as Eikerenkoetter was fond of saying, what is the alternative?
As one unashamedly resigned to shopping, Eikerenkoetter often held up purchasing power as both a symbol and by-product of positive self-image and thus freedom. Negative thoughts caused persons to walk by windows on 5th Avenue and say, “that’s not for me.” Conversely, persons attract luxury goods such as jewels, ﬁne clothing and cars by imagining themselves with them, and purchasing such goods whenever possible. In the words of Neville, “You never attract that which you want but always attract that which you are conscious of being.”33 Describing life in Ridgeland, Eikerenkoetter recalled, “I would pick up a stick and make the noise of a motor. In school between lessons I would take my notebook and draw all kinds of cars. The intellect didn’t know what was happening but these Rolls Royces were in me. They had to come out.” Eikerenkoetter’s inordinate emphasis on visible goods leads me to believe that despite the rhetoric of “feeling good” and “positive self-aﬃrmation,” consumption was a public performance of both intrinsic and extrinsic value. And when consumption is tied to freedom extrinsically, public acknowledgment becomes a precondition of value. Similar to metaphysical theories that posit perception as a prerequisite of existence — ”if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? — Eikerenkoetter appears to adhere to this kind of subjective idealism. Is one really consuming if no one
What is more, the teachings of Neville Goddard oﬀered the philosophical framework for Eikerenkoetter to both cognitively embrace and aesthetically embody a luxury-laden lifestyle. Yet, as this essay reveals, the very cultural practice of shoppers’s resignation in the forms of conspicuous consumption and fetishization of automotivity as an ultimate symbol of freedom actually locate Eikerenkoetter within, rather than outside of, a well-worn tradition of African American response to racial injustice. This may be why what some may have interpreted as gratuitous displays of wealth on the part of Eikerenkoetter had much a greater spiritual signiﬁcance for his followers. Eikerenkoetter’s embrace of money and material goods as a means of beating back the specter of racism resonated with a community well-versed in the ideal. For African Americans who have exhausted many diﬀerent options in attempts to live the “American Dream,” the prescription to “Live as though you are there and that you shall be,” seems just as good an idea as any other. It is no surprise, then, that the contemporary Word of Faith movement and its prevailing themes of “health and wealth” and post-racial Christian reconciliation continue to inﬂuence both classical Pentecostalism and mainline denominations alike.
Mentions Neville around 9:00
1. The Greening of the Gospel (and Black Body): Rev. Ike’s Gospel of Wealth and Post-Blackness Theology by Jonathan L. Walton Assistant professor, Harvard Divinity School PDF
The purpose of this essay is to explore Rev. Ike’s particular form of positive confession theology and self-representation in relationship to his own professed post-black identity. By fusing the conversionist elements of his Pentecostal roots with the Spiritualist teachings of metaphysics and New Thought philosophy, Rev. Ike oﬀered African Americans a theological vision of attaining material wealth while eﬀacing what he and many of his followers regarded as the multiple nega- tive cultural markers that blackness signiﬁed. This was not simply a theology that was preached from the pulpit; it was packaged and presented within media frames. Therefore, this essay will equally unveil and demystify the multiple aesthetic representations and conspicuous displays deployed by Eikerenkoetter, which reﬂect well-worn strategies on the part of the oppressed that connect understandings of citizenship and freedom with hyperconsumption.
On Sunday, March 9, 1975, The New York Times featured Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter, Jr. on the cover of its weekly magazine. The color photograph was an over-the-top, yet arresting image of the African American televangelist from New York City. Posing inside his Rolls Royce limousine, Eikerenkoetter’s left hand rests beneath his chin modeling a diamond-laden square pinky ring and a thick, gold nugget watch. A brown silk tie covered in golden ﬂeur-de-lis (the French symbol commonly associated with sainthood) complements his tailored brown pin-stripe suit. And his right hand, also bearing the weight of a large diamond ring, is wrapped around a black nineteenth-century walk- ing stick adorned by a gold handle — a gilded accessory that the energetic thirty-nine-year-old preacher hardly needed when parading across the pulpit of his Manhattan church with the ﬂair of, and physical resemblance to, leg- endary soul performer Jackie Wilson. The photograph encapsulates writer Clayton Riley’s ensuing ﬁve-page story, “The Golden Gospel of Rev. Ike.”
2. The golden gospel of Reverend Ike The NYT
4. Ike’s metaphysical book shelf