Walter Russell

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Walter Russell
Walter Russell.jpg
Born(1871-05-19)May 19, 1871
DiedMay 19, 1963(1963-05-19) (aged 92)
OccupationArtist, philosopher, builder, musician

Walter Bowman Russell (May 19, 1871 – May 19, 1963) was an impressionist American painter (of the Boston School), sculptor, natural philosopher, musician, author, and builder. The New York Herald Tribune called him "the modern Leonardo",[1] a Renaissance man for the twentieth century. Although considered by some a polymath, Russell was not an academician.

He has left a legacy that centers around his unique Cosmogony, or concept of the universe, having spent many years writing about the nature of humankind's relationship to the Universal One and the degrees of consciousness.


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 Académie 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.[2]

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.[2]

"Mr. Russell eventually turned himself into one of the most self-made Americans since Benjamin Franklin."[3] Before he left Boston in 1894, Russell married Helen Andrews (1874-1953).The couple traveled to Paris for their wedding trip and a second term for him at the Académie Julian.[4]

After their wedding trip, Russell and his wife settled in New York City in 1894 and had two daughters, Helen and Louise. 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."[5]

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.[6]

At age 29, 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.[7]

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."[8] The Hotel des Artistes on West 67th Street in Manhattan is considered his masterpiece. Designed by the architect George Mort Pollard, the building has been home to many of the famed and illustrious, including Noël Coward, Isadora Duncan, writer Fannie Hurst, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, Alexander Woollcott, and Norman Rockwell.[9]

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."[10] He was employed at IBM for twelve years, during which time he and Watson developed a new concept of utilitarian business ethics.[11]

At age 56 he turned to sculpture and fashioned portrait busts of Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, General MacArthur, John Philip Sousa, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Charles Goodyear, George Gershwin and others. He rose to top rank as a sculptor.[12] He won the commissions for the Mark Twain Memorial (1934) and for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms Monument (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.[13]

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.[14]

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."[15] Russell used the terminology of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke in his book Cosmic Consciousness [16] 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."[17] What was revealed to Russell "in the Light" is the subject matter of The Divine Iliad, published in two volumes in 1949.[18]

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.[19]

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."[20] The ideas are further developed in The Secret of Light (1947) and A New Concept of the Universe (1953).

The Russell Cosmogony is a new concept of the universe, explaining the relationship between matter and energy, and between electricity and magnetism.[21] It describes the process of Creation, the nature of atomic and stellar systems, the Natural Laws that govern the universe (The Voidance Principle, periodicity, 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."[22]

Russell wrote that "the cardinal error of science" is "shutting the Creator out of his Creation."[23] 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"[24] 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."[25] He wrote that Religion and Science must come together in a New Age.[26]

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, a former model and businesswoman, 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 workplace and a museum for his work. They discovered Swannanoa, the palatial estate of a railroad magnate, long abandoned, on a mountaintop outside of Waynesboro, Virginia.[27] The estate was not for sale, but they leased it for fifty years.

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 (In 2014, the charter was grandfathered back to 1948). 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 held that the danger of the radioactive poisoning of the biosphere would remain a pressing issue and they maintained that nuclear power plants contribute to global warming. 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.[28]

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.[29] "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."[30]> "Revelation of the nature of Light will be the inheritance of man in the coming New Age of greater comprehension."[31] When The Secret of Light was published, popular historian Dr. Francis Trevelyan (1877-1959) sent an unsolicited letter of praise. He wrote of the "tremendous magnitude of thought expressed in this little volume," and Walter Russell's "courage and vision" to explore the natural laws which science, hitherto, "has not attempted to define."[32]

Russell and the New Age[edit]

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), also 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,"as transmutation slowly unfolds its new world for man"[33] 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.[34] 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,[35]' such as Imhotep, Akhenaten, The Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tze, Mohammed, the unknown author of the Bhagavad-Gita, Moses, Jesus, Zoroaster, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Emerson, Eddy, Whitman etc. "Without these few illuminati, the world of man would still be primate."[36]

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."[37] Russell maintained that students of the Russell Cosmogony would be the "seeds" of the New Age.


  • The Sea Children, 1901
  • The Bending of the Twig, 1903[38]
  • The Age of Innocence, 1904[39]
  • 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 as The One-World Purpose except 2 projects at the end of the book are missing), Univ of Science & Philosophy, 1988


  1. ^ New York Herald Tribune, p.22, May 20, 1963
  2. ^ a b Clark, Glenn (1946). The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe. p. 15.
  3. ^ Newspaper clipping, 1955, in the Smithsonian American Art and National Portrait Gallery Library vertical file.
  4. ^ Hardy, Charles W. (2011). A Worthy Messenger: The Life's Work of Walter Russell. Cosmic Books. ISBN 978-0-615-88732-6.
  5. ^ The Fort Worth Telegram, April 26, 1908, p.21
  6. ^ Who's Who Inc., Chicago, 1976, p.528
  7. ^ New York Herald, Sunday, February 23, 1902, p.16
  8. ^ New York Times, March 8, 1925, p. RE1
  9. ^ Alpern, Andrew, Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan, New York, Dover Publications, 1975, p. 49
  10. ^ Zollinger, J.E., "Letter to Vice-President Nichol, September 16, 1937", Archives of the University of Science and Philosophy, Afton, Virginia
  11. ^ "Think: The First Principle of Business Success", Laara Lindo and Yasuhiko Kimura, eds., Blacksburg, Virginia, University of Science and Philosophy, 2000, p. 109
  12. ^ New York Times, May 24, 1934, p. 10
  13. ^ New York Times, December 1, 1941, p. 21.
  14. ^ Yount, J.B. III, Remembered for Love, Charlottesville Virginia, Howell Press, 2004, p. 98-99, 119.
  15. ^ Home Study Course in Universal Law, Natural Science and Living Philosophy, 3rd edition, 1950, p. 95-116
  16. ^ Cosmic Consciousness, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1902
  17. ^ Russell, Walter, The Cosmic Plan [draft] (1943), p. 8.
  18. ^ Russell, Walter, Message of the Divine Iliad II, p. 33
  19. ^ Scientist and Artist Dispute Newton and Kepler Findings, New York Times, August 3, 1930, III, 2:5
  20. ^ Russell, Walter, The Secret of Light (1947), pp. 228-229.
  21. ^ Russell, Walter, A New Concept of the Universe (1953), p. xi.
  22. ^ Kelsey, C. W., "Walter Russell and the Atom," Letter to the New York Sun March 5, 1930.
  23. ^ Russell, Walter, A New Concept of the Universe (1953), p. 6
  24. ^ Russell, Walter, "Atomic Suicide?" (1957), p. 106
  25. ^ Russell, Walter A New Concept of the Universe" (1953), p. 4.
  26. ^ Russell, Walter, The Message of the Divine Iliad, II, p. 95
  27. ^ "Artist to turn Virginia Mansion Into Museum of Own Creations," New York Times, October 30, 1948, p.10
  28. ^ Hudak, Michael, President Emeritus University of Science and Philosophy, December 14, 2015
  29. ^ Russell, Walter Secret of Light(1947,xi.
  30. ^ Russell, Walter A New Concept of the Universe(1953)'
  31. ^ Russell, Walter The Secret of Light(1947) xiii.
  32. ^ Trevelyan, Dr. Francis, "Letter to Walter Russell," March 1947.
  33. ^ Russell, Walter, A New Concept of the Universe (1953)v.
  34. ^ Bucke, Richard Maurice, Cosmic Consciousness (1901), introduction'
  35. ^ Bucke, Richard Maurice,Cosmic Consciousness(1901), p. 65-66.
  36. ^ Russell, Walter and Lao Home Study Course, p. 106.
  37. ^ Russell, Walter, Message of the Divine Iliad, vol. 2, p.69
  38. ^ The Bending of the Twig by Walter Russell
  39. ^ The Age of Innocence by Walter Russell

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]