In political terms and by July 1912, The Herald was expressing a commonplace anxiety, in that:
“We are suffering from a dearth of practical statesmanship…” and criticised “…the fooling away of precious time in Parliament.”
In an attempt to instil a semblance of Christ-Consciousness amongst the various fateful forces which had been in motion for generations; The Herald embraced the essentially forlorn manifesto of the European Unity League. (17)
In the course of events and in the words of The Herald:
“The opposing interests and obstacles were too strong; popular apathy was difficult to overcome; and the reactionary and less advanced Teuton race blocked the fulfilment of the great ideal in consequence of the misguidance of their ambitious and unscrupolous rulers.”
The Herald of the Golden Age; October, 1914.
Whilst the outbreak of war was vigorously lamented within the O.G.A. it was nonetheless regarded as a necessity “…in this struggle against organised exploitation and brute tyranny.” (Ibid.)
Matthew 26:52 was interpreted as containing a double-edged condition – whereby volunteer Britons would be required to facilitate the demise of Germany “hordes of marauders” that had “wantonly drawn the sword.” (18)
In general, the “Editorial Notes” of The Herald of the Golden Age admonished volunteers to seek service in the various Medical Corps and in the course of the conflict, Dr. Josiah Oldfield reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, in the 3rd Reserve East Anglian Field Ambulance Unit (19).
Yet a letter from a volunteer soldier which appeared in The Herald of the Golden Age, October 1914, was notable in its resolution:
“One day, no doubt, brotherly love will triumph over physical force; but unfortunately, it is not yet. I shall go into this war with no hatred in my heart, but with the feeling that I am taking part in a great and noble crusade against the forces of brutality and military domination.”
By January 1915, The Herald had consolidated the view that:
“The lesson that War means Hell upon Earth, both for victor and vanquished, is being indelibly inscribed on the scroll of history and on human consciousness. Men are learning that it is not now worth while under any circumstances, save in defence of hearth and home, or to redress intolerable wrongs which cannot otherwise be righted – that it costs too much in blood and treasure – that even from a “business” standpoint it is irrational and suicidal.”
The implications of international conflict upon the raison d’etre of an eschatological ministry were nonetheless surprisingly mixed. It was anticipated within the pages of The Herald of the Golden Age that widespread destruction and loss of life would nurture a generation which could cherish peace:
“Men would realise more than ever that Might is not Right, that the weak ones of the earth have equal rights with the strong, and that all needless shedding of blood belongs to the dark night that is passing rather than to the coming Day which will usher in a new era of fraternity, kindness and Goodwill.”
An obvious impasse had nonetheless arisen:
“The attention of the public is so focused upon the War, and the complications arising therefrom, that all questions of social reform are perforce standing somewhat in abeyance.”
A similar realisation was evident on the part of the O.G.A.’s mostly secular counterpart The Humanitarian League whose journal decried:
“…the continuance of a war which has, for the time made a widespread advocacy of humane principles well-nigh impossible.”
The Humanitarian; May, 1916.
In terms of actual Food Reform, the Ministry of Food had become the most influential body of any, to be tasked with inducing a national reduction in meat consumption. Throughout World War One vegetarian recipes became prevalent in popular periodicals and restaurants, in response to a request from the Ministry for the observance of “No Meat Days.”
Consequently, there was an increase in the sale of recipe books at the O.G.A. Headquarters, during 1915 which brought with it the remark that:
“The Food Reform Movement is now making rapid strides owing to the exigencies of the situation created by the war. Substitutes for flesh-food have to be found – whether people like it or not.” (20)
>However The Order also experienced a 40% increase in their publishing costs, as a result of the national war effort. The majority of orders which were received at Brompton Road were met with “sold-out” slips whilst the “loss or absence at the Front” of supporters and benefactors, led to the final appearance of The Herald of the Golden Age, October 1918.
Within a movement in decline…
The Order of the Golden Age recovered enough funds to release a handful of publications, including reprints of earlier titles, in 1922.
A new book entitled; Our real relationship to God – the lost ideal of Christianity – was written anonymously by Sidney H. Beard, in the style of earlier articles that had appeared in The Herald of the Golden Age. It was Beard’s contention that:
“We are still a long way from witnessing any real collective manifestation of Christianity on earth. But it is coming! The Great War has brought about the first complete recognition by mankind of the measureless gulf that stands between the “Christian” spirit, and that of camouflaged barbarism – between the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount and those of the jungle.”
The Order of the Golden Age may have been easily influenced by Sidney Beard’s leadership skills. However, their Provost – to use his original title – had failed them as a prophet on several occasions.
From the early 1900’s the readership of The Herald were being misled by mysticism. As an Honorary Member of the Psychical Research Society, since 1882, Beard spoke of:
“…the advent of that better time which is coming – the Spiritual Era and the restored ‘Golden Age’ – I would say; Be of good cheer, for the coming of Christ draweth nigh!
I have seen, I have heard, I have experienced that which justifies me in making this affirmation.”
The Herald of the Golden Age; July, 1903.
The “Editorial Notes” of The Herald of the Golden Age espoused consistent expectation that meat-eating would acquire the status of “bad form” within a matter of decades. Yet an altogether more pervasive prediction was outlined, only prior to the collapse of international relations which occurred in 1914:
“This great ideal (international peace) seems now to be within measurable distance of achievement…public opinion is the coming dictator of national policy and it grows more and more pacific, as enlightenment pours in from the higher spheres…
Peace, among the foremost nations of the Earth, will soon be realised as an actual and permanent fact.”