Walter Russell

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For the British painter, see Walter Westley Russell.
Walter Russell
Walter Russell.jpg
Born (1871-05-19)May 19, 1871
Boston, Massachusetts
Died May 19, 1963, age 92
Waynesboro, Virginia
Occupation Artist, illuminate, philosopher, builder, musician

Walter Bowman Russell (May 19, 1871 – May 19, 1963) was an American painter of the Boston School and a sculptor, an illuminate, a natural philosopher, a musician, an author and a builder. His lectures and writing place him firmly in the New Thought Movement.[1]

To the New York Herald Tribune, Russell was "the modern Leonardo," a Renaissance man for the twentieth century.[2]

There are two biographies of Walter Russell. The first is by non-sectarian religious writer Glenn Clark, who published The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe in 1946. Because Clark collaborated with Russell, the small book may be considered an authorized biography. It has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.[3] Another biography was published in 2011 (Second Edition in 2013) by Charles W. Hardy: A Worthy Messenger: the Life's Work of Walter Russell.[4] In addition, J.B. Yount III of Waynesboro, Virginia has written a biography of Lao Russell, whom he knew well.[5]

Thomas J. Watson of IBM was Russell's patron, and Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, his advocate in the media. The New York Times covered Russell's every public move and so provides an extensive paper trail.[6]


Born in Boston on May 19, 1871, to Nova Scotian immigrants, Russell left school at age 9 1/2 and went to work, then put himself through the Massachusetts Normal Art School. He interrupted his fourth year to spend three months in Paris at the Academie Julian. Biographer Glenn Clark identifies four instructors who prepared him for an art career: Albert Munsell and Ernest Major in Boston, Howard Pyle in Philadelphia, and Jean-Paul Laurens in Paris.[7]

In his youth, Russell earned money as a church organist and by leading small orchestras. His compositions, mostly waltzes, were acknowledged by Ignace Paderewski in Boston in 1891 or 1892, and on a later occasion by him in New York.[8]

"Mr. Russell eventually turned himself into one of the most self-made Americans since Benjamin Franklin."[9]

Before he left Boston in 1894, Russell married Helen Andrews (1874-1953) and traveled to Paris for their wedding trip and a second term for him at the Academie Julian.[10]

After their wedding trip, Russell and his wife settled in New York in 1894 and had two daughters. Russell's rise in New York was immediate; a reporter wrote in 1908, "Mr. Russell came here from Boston and at once became a great artistic success." [11]

Walter Russell's careers as an illustrator, correspondent in the Spanish–American War, child portrait painter and builder are detailed in several questionnaires he answered and submitted to Who's Who in America. [12]

He attracted widespread attention with his allegorical painting "The Might of Ages" in 1900. The painting represented the United States at the Turin international exhibition and won several awards.[13]

By 1903, Russell had published three children's books (The Sea Children, The Bending of the Twig, and The Age of Innocence) and qualified for the Authors Club, which he joined in 1902.

Russell made his mark as a builder, creating $30 million worth of top-quality cooperative apartments. He is credited with developing "cooperative ownership into an economically sound and workable principle." [14] The Hotel des Artistes on West 67th Street in Manhattan is considered his masterpiece.[15]

In the 1930s, Russell was employed by Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, as a motivational speaker for IBM employees. One of the employees wrote, "I consider Walter Russell's talk last night one of the finest I have ever heard. His informal talk on Personal Power created a burning desire within us to make greater use of the personal power we possess... every man present is a better man as a result of his inspiring message." [16] He was employed at IBM for twelve years, during which time he and Watson developed a new concept of utilitarian business ethics.[17]

At age 56 he turned to sculpture and fashioned portrait busts of Thomas Edison, General MacArthur, John Philip Sousa, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Charles Goodyear, and others. He rose to top rank as a sculptor. [18] He won the commissions for the Mark Twain Memorial (1934) and for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's The Four Freedoms (1943).

Russell became a leader in the Science of Man Movement when he was elected president of the Society of Arts and Sciences in 1927. His seven-year tenure generated many articles in the New York Times. The gold medals awarded by the Society were highly valued.[19]

As World War II approached, he moved into a top-floor studio at Carnegie Hall, where he lived alone (his estranged wife Helen lived in Connecticut). At the time, he was supervising the casting of the Four Freedoms. This was a low time that required a rejuvenation of his health and spirit. There were reports of his "egotism and self-aggrandizement" that bothered him.[20]

The Russell Cosmogony[edit]

In May 1921 Russell experienced a transformational revelatory event that he later described in a chapter called "The Story of My Illumining" in the 1950 edition of his Home Study Course. "During that period...I could perceive all motion," and was newly "aware of all things."[21] Russell used the terminology of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke in his book Cosmic Consciousness [22] to explain the phenomenon of "cosmic illumination." Later he wrote, "It will be remembered that no one who has ever had [the experience of illumination] has been able to explain it. I deem it my duty to the world to tell of it."[23] What was revealed to Russell "in the Light" is the subject matter of The Divine Iliad, published in two volumes in 1949.[24]

After five years of preparation, Russell was ready to challenge the field of theoretical physics with his new knowledge. He published The Universal One (1926) and The Russell Genero-Radiative Concept (1930) and defended his ideas in the pages of the New York Times in 1930-1931.[25]

From the debate with scientists came a tag-line for the Russell Cosmogony, the "Two-Way Universe" of gravitation and radiation. "Gravity and radiativity are opposite pressure conditions. They perpetually void themselves by giving to the other."[26] The ideas are further developed in The Secret of Light (1947) and A New Concept of the Universe (1953). Russell's Periodic Chart of the Elements (copyrighted in 1926) revealed the existence of new isotopes and elements (later known as Deuterium, Tritium, Neptunium, and Plutonium) and won him recognition for his contributions to science. The degree of Doctor of Science - not an honorary degree - from the American Academy of Sciences was conferred in 1941.[27] Russell's work was never rejected by bona fide scientists, but essentially was ignored by the scientific community.[28] "This lack of engagement by scientists is the reason for the barely concealed bitterness one can read as a subtext in Walter Russell's later letters."[29] However, Russell was close to Nikola Tesla in the 1930s and apparently influenced Tesla's views on the periodic table and radioactivity.[30] Russell wrote in 1954, "Tesla and I exchanged inspirations for many years."[31]

The Russell Cosmogony is a new concept of the universe, explaining the relationships among matter and energy, electricity and magnetism.[32] It describes the process of Creation, the nature of atomic and stellar systems, the Natural Laws that govern the universe (The Voidance Principle, the Law of Balance, etc.), and man's relation to God and the universe. An engineer who learned of the Russell Cosmogony in 1930 commented, "If Russell's theories are sound, they will be of utmost value, as he shows that there can be but one substance, and that the difference [among the elements] is a dimensional difference and not a difference of substance. In other words, if Russell's theories are right, transmutation can be reduced to a practical reality."[33]

Russell wrote that "the cardinal error of science" is "shutting the Creator out of his Creation."[34] Russell never referred to an anthropomorphic god, but rather wrote that "God is the invisible, motionless, sexless, undivided, and unconditioned white Magnetic Light of Mind"[35] which centers all things. "God is provable by laboratory methods," Russell wrote, "The locatable motionless Light which man calls magnetism is the Light which God IS."[36] He wrote that Religion and Science must come together in a New Age.[37]

With Lao Russell at Swannanoa in Virginia 1948-1963[edit]

Russell's life was changed by a phone call from Daisy (Cook) Stebbing in 1946. Daisy was an immigrant from England who was living in Boston. She had read Glenn Clark's book, "The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe." In 1948, Walter at age 77 divorced his first wife and married Daisy Stebbing age 44, amid some controversy. She changed her name to Lao (after Lao-Tzu, the Chinese illuminate) and they embarked on a cross-country automobile trip from Reno looking for a place to establish a museum for his work. They discovered Swannanoa, the estate of a railroad magnate, long abandoned, on a mountaintop outside of Waynesboro, Virginia.[38]

There they established the museum and the Walter Russell Foundation, and in 1957 the Commonwealth of Virginia granted a charter for the University of Science and Philosophy, a correspondence school with a home study course. Walter and Lao Russell collaborated on a number of books. The testing of atomic bombs in the atmosphere prompted them to publish "Atomic Suicide?" in 1957 in which they warned of grave consequences for the planet and for humankind if radioactivity was exploited as a world fuel. The Test-Ban Treaty of 1963 lessened the threat, but they maintained that the danger of the radioactive poisoning of the biosphere would remain a pressing issue. Walter Russell was productive up to his death in 1963. Lao died in 1988. Although the University left Swannanoa in 1998, Walter and Lao's books continue to enjoy brisk sales and worldwide distribution.

The Secret of Light[edit]

Russell wrote in 1947: "For within the secret of Light is vast knowledge not yet revealed to man. Light is all there is.[39] "If science knew what LIGHT actually IS, instead of the waves and corpuscles of incandescent suns which science now thinks it is, a new civilization would arise from that fact alone."[40] Russell asserted that neither light nor heat flows from one point of space to another. He stated the same of electricity and magnetism; that neither is a flow varying as the inverse of the square of the distance according to Coulomb's Law, but a reproduction as the inverse of the cube of space:

"Light only seems to travel. It is but one more of the countless illusions caused by wave motion. Waves of the ocean seem to traverse the ocean but they only appear to do so, for waves are pistons in the universal engines, and pistons operate up and down. Wave pistons of light, or of the ocean, operate radially and spirally inward and outward, toward and away from gravity. Waves of light do not travel. They reproduce each other from wave field to wave field of space. The planes of zero curvature, which bound all wave fields, act as mirrors to reflect light from one field into another. This sets up an appearance of light as traveling, which is pure illusion.[41]

"The sunlight we feel upon our bodies is not actual light from the sun. What actually is happening is that the sun is reproducing its own condition on the earth by extending the reproductions out through cold space into ever enlarging wave fields until those reproductions begin to converge again toward our center of gravity into ever smaller wave fields. The heat we feel and the light we see is dependent entirely upon the ability of the wave fields to reproduce the light and heat, and that ability is conditioned upon the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. If there were no moisture in the atmosphere, our bodies would carbonize from the heat thus reproduced. One cannot consistently think of that heat as direct rays of the sun, for that same sunlight was intensely cold during its reproduced journey through the immensely expanded wave fields of space between the sun and earth. The light and heat that appear to come from the star or sun have never left the star or sun. That which man sees as light and feels as heat is the reproduced counterpart of the light and heat that is its cause. The rate of vibration in a wave field depends upon its volume. Vibration in a wave field means the pulse of interchange between its compressed core and the space surrounding that core. A slow vibration in a large wave field would cool one’s body, or even freeze it, while fast pulsing interchange in extremely small wave fields could burn one’s body."[42]

Russell wrote in 1947: "Revelation of the nature of Light will be the inheritance of man in the coming New Age of greater comprehension."[43]

Russell and the New Age[edit]

Main article: New Age

The New Age Movement which emerged in the 1970s seems to be unrelated to Walter Russell's use of the term New Age. Walter Russell referred to a New Age in June 1932 when he answered questions for John Dittemore in a pamphlet about the Universal One (published in 1926), in 1943 in the draft to The Cosmic Plan (never published), in the Divine Iliad II in 1949 (p. 257), and in the New Concept of the Universe in February 1953. Russell saw a New Age coming in human relations, and "as transmutation slowly unfolds its new world for man"[44] and as a result of the marriage of Religion and Science.

Russell accepted Richard Maurice Bucke's premise that not only the human body, but also human consciousness, had evolved in stages, that human consciousness periodically made iterative leaps, such as that from animal awareness to rational self-awareness, many millennia ago. Russell believed that humankind was on the brink of making another key, evolutionary leap in consciousness. The next cycle of human evolution, said Bucke, would be from rational self-consciousness to spiritual super-consciousness on the order of that experienced by sages,artists and illuminates of the past 2,500 years, such as The Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Mohammed, the unknown author of the Bhagavad-Gita, Moses, Jesus, Zoroaster, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Emerson, Whitman etc. "Without these few illuminati, the world of man would still be primate."[45]

In 1947–48, Russell wrote: "This New Age is marking the dawn of a new world-thought. That new thought is a new cosmic concept of the value of man to man. The whole world is discovering that all mankind is one and that the unity of man is real – not just an abstract idea. Mankind is beginning to discover that the hurt of any man hurts every man, and, conversely, the uplift of any man uplifts every man."[46] Russell's students would be the "seeds" of the New Age.

Legacy of Walter Russell[edit]

Russell's Cosmogony is a work of natural philosophy, not science, but it has the ideas to transform Science; neither is Russell a theologian, but his cosmogony has the potential to transform Religion. British physicist Sir Oliver Lodge wrote (1929) that future investigations will result in "no merely material prospect that will be opening on our view, but some glimpse into a region of the universe which Science has never entered yet, but which has been sought from afar, and perhaps blindly apprehended, by painter and poet, by philosopher and saint."[47] Similarly, Friedrich Gottlieb Brieger (1872-1948), an associate of Russell in the 1930s, wrote, "Call [Walter Russell] a fantastic dreamer, if you will, But after all, we must believe in dreamers. Without them the realist would make scant progress and man would still be primitive.[48]


  • The Sea Children, 1901
  • The Bending of the Twig, 1903[49]
  • The Age of Innocence, 1904[50]
  • The Universal One, 1926
  • The Russell Genero-Radiative Concept or The Cyclic Theory of Continuous Motion, L. Middleditch Co., 1930
  • The Secret of Light, 1st ed., 1947, 3rd ed., Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1994, ISBN 1-879605-44-9
  • The Message of the Divine Iliad, vol. 1, 1948, vol. 2, 1949
  • The Book of Early Whisperings, 1949
  • The Home Study Course, ( with Lao Russell), 1st ed., 1950–52
  • Scientific Answer to Human Relations, ( with Lao Russell), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1951
  • A New Concept of the Universe, Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1953
  • Atomic Suicide?, ( with Lao Russell), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1957
  • The World Crisis: Its Explanation and Solution, ( with Lao Russell), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1958
  • The One-World Purpose, ( with Lao Russell), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1960

Books published after his death:

  • Think: The First Principle of Business Ethics, Univ of Science & Philosophy, 2nd ed., 2003, ISBN 1-879605-73-2
  • Your Day and Night, (excerpt from The Message of the Divine Iliad), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1993, ISBN 1-879605-09-0
  • The Sculptor Searches for Mark Twain's Immortality, (talk given 1934), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 1-879605-31-7
  • The Electric Nature of the Universe, (talk given 1936), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 1-879605-00-7
  • Space and the Hydrogen Age, (talk given 1939), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1989
  • The Immortality of Man, (talk given 1944), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 1-879605-33-3
  • The Fifth Kingdom Man, (talk given 1946), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 1-879605-01-5
  • Genius Inherent In Everyone, (talk given 1946), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1994, ISBN 1-879605-36-8
  • The Secret of Working Knowingly with God, (talk given 1946), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1993, ISBN 1-879605-38-4
  • The Self Multiplication Principle, (talk given 1946), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1993, ISBN 1-879605-39-2
  • The Meaning and Acquisition of Wealth, (talk given 1946), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1993, ISBN 1-879605-41-4
  • The Dawn of a New Day in Human Relations, (talk given 1951), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 1-879605-32-5
  • Caring for Your Physical & Spiritual Health, (talk given 1951), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1994, ISBN 1-879605-40-6
  • The Quest of the Grail, (unfinished manuscript), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 1-879605-02-3
  • Where Do I Go When I Die, ( with Lao Russell), (excerpts from other books), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1992, ISBN 1-879605-37-6
  • The Electrifying Power of Man-Woman Balance, (with Lao Russell), (is the same asThe One-World Purpose except 2 projects at the end of the book are missing), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1988


  1. ^ Braden, Charles S. Spirits in Rebellion: the Rise and Development of New Thought, p. 376, Southern Methodist University Press, 1963
  2. ^ New York Herald Tribune, p.22, May 20, 1963
  3. ^ Clark, Glenn, The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe, Table of Contents Page, 1946
  4. ^ Hardy, Charles W., A Worthy Messenger: the Life's Work of Walter Russell, 2011
  5. ^ Yount, J.B. III, Remembered for Love, Charlottesville, Virginia: The Howell Press, 2004.
  6. ^ Hardy, Charles W. (2011). A Worthy Messenger: The Life's Work of Walter Russell. Cosmic Books. p. viii. ISBN 978-0-615-88732-6. 
  7. ^ Clark, Glenn (1946). The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe. p. 15. 
  8. ^ Clark, Glenn (1946). The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe. p. 15. 
  9. ^ Newspaper clipping, 1955, in the Smithsonian American Art and National Portrait Gallery Library vertical file.
  10. ^ Hardy, Charles W. (2011). A Worthy Messenger: The Life's Work of Walter Russell. Cosmic Books. ISBN 978-0-615-88732-6. 
  11. ^ The Fort Worth Telegram, April 26, 1908, p.21
  12. ^ Who's Who Inc., Chicago, 1976, p.528
  13. ^ New York Herald, Sunday, February 23, 1902, p.16
  14. ^ New York Times, March 8, 1925, p. RE1
  15. ^ Alpern, Andrew, Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan, New York, Dover Publications, 1975, p. 49
  16. ^ Zollinger, J.E., "Letter to Vice-President Nichol, September 16, 1937", Archives of the University of Science and Philosophy, Afton, Virginia
  17. ^ "Think: The First Principle of Business Success", Laara Lindo and Yasuhiko Kimura, eds., Blacksburg, Virginia, University of Science and Philosophy, 2000, p. 109
  18. ^ New York Times, May 24, 1934, p. 10
  19. ^ New York Times, December 1, 1941, p. 21.
  20. ^ Yount, J.B. III, Remembered for Love, Charlottesville Virginia, Howell Press, 2004, p. 98-99, 119.
  21. ^ Home Study Course in Universal Law, Natural Science and Living Philosophy, 3rd edition, 1950, p. 95-116
  22. ^ Cosmic Consciousness, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1902
  23. ^ Russell, Walter, The Cosmic Plan [draft] (1943), p. 8.
  24. ^ Russell, Walter, Message of the Divine Iliad II, p. 33
  25. ^ Scientist and Artist Dispute Newton and Kepler Findings, New York Times, August 3, 1930, III, 2:5
  26. ^ Russell, Walter, The Secret of Light (1947), pp. 228-229.
  27. ^ Transcript, The American Academy of Sciences, Miami, Florida, November 21, 1941.
  28. ^ New York Herald Tribune, May 20, 1963, p. 22.
  29. ^ Hardy, Charles W. (2011). A Worthy Messenger: The Life's Work of Walter Russell. Cosmic Books. ISBN 978-0-615-88732-6. 
  30. ^ Seifer, Marc J., 1996, The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla, New York, Citadel Press, p. 424
  31. ^ Russell, Walter, Letter to Royal Lee, March 20, 1954
  32. ^ Russell, Walter, A New Concept of the Universe (1953), p. xi.
  33. ^ Kelsey, C. W., "Walter Russell and the Atom," Letter to the New York Sun March 5, 1930.
  34. ^ Russell, Walter, A New Concept of the Universe (1953), p. 6
  35. ^ Russell, Walter, "Atomic Suicide?" (1957), p. 106
  36. ^ Russell, Walter A New Concept of the Universe" (1953), p. 4.
  37. ^ Russell, Walter, The Message of the Divine Iliad, II, p. 95
  38. ^ "Artist to turn Virginia Mansion Into Museum of Own Creations," New York Times, October 30, 1948, p.10
  39. ^ Russell, Walter Secret of Light(1947,xi.
  40. ^ Russell, Walter A New Concept of the Universe(1953)'
  41. ^ Russell, Walter A New Concept of the Universe(1953)p.3
  42. ^ Russell, Walter The Secret of Light, p. 91, University of Science and Philosophy, University of Science and Philosophy, 1994, ISBN 1-879605-44-9 (originally published 1947)
  43. ^ Russell,Walter The Secret of Light(1947) xiii.
  44. ^ Russell, Walter, A New Concept of the Universe (1953)v.
  45. ^ Russell, Walter and Lao Home Study Course, p. 106.
  46. ^ Russell, Walter, Message of the Divine Iliad, vol. 2, p.69
  47. ^ Lodge, Sir Oliver, The Ether of Space. New York: Harper and Brothers,1929, pp.28-29(reprint by Forgotten Books)
  48. ^ Brieger, Friedrich, Publisher's Preface, The Universal One, 1926.
  49. ^ The Bending of the Twig by Walter Russell
  50. ^ The Age of Innocence by Walter Russell

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]