State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 86 December 2010


Chris Elmore
Rebuilding the Future: the Universal Science Group in Post-War Melbourne

IF WE BELIEVE, with Herder, in the idea of a Zeitgeist, meaning a generalised description for the mood or tendency of an historical era, then it will come as no surprise that periods following from times of war are most often characterised by a need in people's lives for a sense of peace, harmony and normalised living. A Zeitgeist of this type may be seen to have operated in Australia for the generation who experienced the horrors and disruption of both the First and the Second World Wars. Having lived through the disruptions and the horrors of world conflict, it is understandable that a post-war generation might desire above all a well-deserved period of physical and mental recuperation. If we combine this Zeitgeist with the often observed tendency of those sections of the middle class in Australian society with ample leisure time to engage in feats of self-betterment and the pursuit of 'higher things', then it might be said that we have a workable psycho-social explanation for the operation, during the 1940s and into the early 1950s of a Melbourne-based collective known as the Universal Science Group (USG). The surviving written records of this group have recently been donated to the State Library of Victoria.1
The bulk of the collection was found in the archives of the Uniting Church in Melbourne, but little is known of how the material got there. It is possible that one of the group's members 'returned' to a conventional religion after the USG disbanded around 1953. After having been delivered to the library in a number of old suitcases, the records were sorted and rehoused in sixteen archive boxes. Each box contains a number of manuscripts, now placed inside acid-free protective envelopes. Most items are bound memo books, often with individual loose pages tipped in. Some material is typed, often on loose pages originally held together with a steel pin (since removed for conservation reasons) in the top left corner.
The Universal Science Group was a small and dedicated group of friends and associates who met regularly to follow a course of alternative spiritual learning and healing based on the teachings of Dr Murdo MacDonald-Bayne (18871955), a Scottish lecturer and author who founded the College of Universal Science in Manchester during the 1930s and who spread his teachings with visits to, and residences in, various European and Commonwealth countries, including India, South Africa, Canada and Australia.2 The keynote for MacDonald-Bayne's teaching and the meetings of the USG at this time was to study principles for the solution of personal problems and for world reconstructed following the ravages of war, with its attendant disruption of personal integrity and social cohesion. In the words of an address delivered to one of
MacDonald-Bayne's groups in July of 1947, 'not only are the nations turned against each other, but every individual is full of antagonism . . . Mankind is virtually committing suicide'3 Luckily, hope was at hand, and it was the mission of MacDonald-Bayne and his followers to provide this hope. They offered a message that was rooted in particular historical circumstances but which (they felt) was relevant to the human condition no matter what the era. The records of this group offer a fascinating insight into an alternative self-help organisation whose activities paralleled, but did not cross, the spiritual teachings of the mainstream churches and other self-improvement societies of the time.


Murdo MacDonald-Bayne was an interesting man with a very particular caste of mind. He was born near Perthshire, Scotland, in 1887, making him a late Victorian and heir to an era that produced great scientific progress and raised great debate as to the changing status of established religion and orthodox belief. He was a sensitive and delicate child who grew up within the confines of a strictly religious family. At an early age he reported unusual psychic experiences, including a vision of Christ on a window pane and, later, hearing and seeing things not experienced by others, and an ability to somehow 'float' on air, all experiences which he later sought to explain in his study of Eastern yoga. He commenced mainstream medical studies but found himself out of sympathy with the attitudes and techniques he was being taught, claiming on one account that he found his studies 'too materialistic' and he was said to prefer more 'natural' methods of healing.4
He married in 1913 and two sons were born. He enrolled in the Highland Light Infantry during World War I, serving initially as a piper and later as a commissioned officer in France. He suffered a near-death experience when he was badly wounded and left for dead, being later discovered to be alive after a number of days in the open. He recovered from his wounds and finished the war in the Near East. He was demobilised in 1920 and initially took his family to Australia and then to New Zealand, but the children returned to Britain with his wife to pursue their education while he toured many countries as a lecturer on religion, spirituality and methods of healing. His healing techniques at this time may best be said to be based on psychological states of mind, such as visualisation and positive thinking, together with the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Details of his methods may be found in a number of books which he published around this time.5
Returning to England, he founded the College of Universal Science in Manchester some time in the early 1930s, where he continued to teach natural health and metaphysics, but continued to travel the world, teaching and lecturing. He was in Australia during 1931, and lectured on a range of topics.6 Whilst in Australia he formed a relationship with Charles Bailey, the well-known Australian spiritualist medium, and worked with him both in Australia and in Manchester.7 He was 'called' to South Africa some time in the late 1930s and left for Johannesburg with his sister, where he lectured
on spiritual topics, later starting a Healing Centre in Cape Town. From here he was again 'called', this time to Tibet, where he travelled extensively through what was then rugged and fairly inaccessible terrain, visiting a number of monasteries and meeting many religious teachers, whose methods of Eastern philosophy he studied. He wrote an account of his travels in two books and claimed to have mastered yogic techniques such as breath control and meditation, as well as a certain number of more controversial powers such as telepathy and out-of-body experiences.8 It is obvious from his lectures and published work after this time that the Tibetan experience had had a profound effect on his view of the world, his views on the nature of God and on his methods of spiritual and physical healing.
More travel to various Commonwealth countries and the USA followed, where his teaching and healing continued, including time in Melbourne, where he lectured on his experiences in Tibet, under the title, 'Mysterious Tibet – two illustrated talks in natural colours by Murdo MacDonald-Bayne'.9 Although no confirmation exists, this appears to be the time when he made contact with a group of Melbourne followers, including Joy Hall, who later went on to form the nucleus of the USG. He returned to South Africa and became a regular lecturer to moderately large audiences in Johannesburg and Pretoria, further developing his healing and writing activities. Various records of his lectures from this period remain, both as student lecture notes and on wire recordings (before the widespread use of magnetic tape). Many of these lectures have recently been reprinted and made available for distribution. MacDonald-Bayne was said to cut a charismatic presence in front of his audience. He himself claimed to lecture with divine assistance. At this time, he founded his College of Universal Science in South Africa and his healing 'Sanctuary'. From the Sanctuary arose the regular monthly letters which he wrote for world-wide distribution to his followers and these, too, have recently been collected and published by his latter-day followers.10
Although certainly charismatic, MacDonald-Bayne was probably never what you might call a 'crank'. He comes across in his writings and lectures as a sincere seeker after spiritual enlightenment and as sufficiently down-to-earth, never to claim divine or even guru status, preferring to offer what he termed 'impersonal direction' to his followers, by which he meant that he wished to avoid elevated status in their eyes and to remain a mere conduit for the transmission of eternal truths. Even if his opinions on the non-physical world sometimes stretch credibility, with their extended spiritual realms, their angels and 'masters', their mediumship, astral planes and more than occasional touches of Eastern esoterica, he was said to be approachable and good humoured, and to be generally relaxed in his attitude to life, although quite forceful when he lectured.11 He died in London of a heart attack, having returned there to see his family in 1955, but left an adoring company of followers who always lauded him as a great healer and spiritual teacher, even if, on occasions, their admiration veered somewhat towards the hagiographic.

Front cover of vol. I, no. 4 (March 1940) of The Voice of the Great White Brotherhood, a magazine issued in New Zealand to promote the ideas of Murdo MacDonald-Bryne. Universal Science Group Records, MS 13597.



Some time in the early 1940s, MacDonald-Bayne visited Melbourne in person to meet with supporters and friends, and to cultivate interest in his ideas. Amongst his supporters were Joy and Hugh Hall, and Joy's son from a previous marriage, Rex Roadknight, and Max Watkin, among others.12 These fortunate few who had met the master 'in his physical presence' went on to become founding members and leading lights in the Universal Science Group. Other members of the group presumably had to make do with the occasional spiritual visitation from the master, as distinct from seeing him in the flesh, a difference which was accepted and commented upon from time to time with not a trace of irony. If mailing list details of members are any guide, the suburbs from which the great majority of members hailed were solidly-established, well-heeled middle class areas of Melbourne, including Hawthorn, South Yarra, Brighton, Kew, North Balwyn, Camberwell, East St Kilda and Essendon, although a smattering also came from more working class suburbs like Oakleigh. Total numbers seem never to have exceeded about 130 members.
The Universal Science Group originally began as the 'New Life Group', officially founded in Melbourne during 1946, the first recorded committee meeting having taken place on 23 November at the house of Joy and Hugh Hall in St Georges Road, Elsternwick. True to MacDonald-Bayne's view that creeds and dogmas were an impediment to true knowledge of the divine, the New Life Group committee determined 'not to organize too much' and accepted the barest of Constitutions as a statement designed to 'fix the aims of the Group' and facilitate the achievement of its objective. The objective was spoken of as 'the realisation of our Oneness in Spirit and Brotherhood, finding perfect expression in the Group-Spirit, [sic] ruled by the Divine Father, and guided by our great founder and teacher Dr MacDonald-Bayne'.13 The group had great plans for future expansion, aiming to draw membership from the country, the other States of the Commonwealth, and to make arrangements for those prevented from attending by ill-health or distance. The group continued to function under this name until March 1948, when it was suggested, and unanimously voted, that they re-form under the name Universal Science Group. It was felt that, even though Dr MacDonald-Bayne had used both names from time to time, this was a much more appropriate description of the movement, since it 'distinguishes the Group from the numerous "new world movements" so prevalent in our midst'.14
With the new name came something of a break in the group's perception of their mission. Their new aims were stated as 'the upliftment [sic] of Humanity spiritually, mentally, and physically through Divine Love, Divine Wisdom, and Divine Understanding as taught by our Leader Dr M. MacDonald-Bayne'. However, this aim was now to be enacted by the hand of an initial Council of Twelve, who were regarded as 'Guardians' and to be taken in the belief that the work of these Guardians was 'spiritual rather than democratic'. This was supposed to move them into a state of closer
brotherhood and therefore facilitate the eventual succession of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The Group would now operate as a small nucleus of members, those who attended regularly and took a hand with group activities, and a longer tail of 'visitors', who were kept on the mailing list and informed of group activities. One can speculate from this that the group had either suffered a setback in terms of recruiting, and therefore needed to ensure closer ties between existing members, or had decided that the 'sacred trust' of their message (as they phrased it) had better be kept under watchful control. In either case, there are intimations here of exclusivity creeping into the organisation during the first two years, and a definite desire to distinguish themselves from the mass of humanity and the other common 'movements' prevalent at the time.15 So they were now a Council of members devoted to spiritual matters entirely and therefore took the logical step of dispensing with such worldly impediments as officebearers and other formal meeting protocols. Henceforth, meetings would be structured by feelings of goodwill and harmony amongst members.16


But if the name, membership and ambitions had changed, the practices of the group did not. Using models started in South Africa by MacDonald-Bayne himself, the group continued on with what they had started. They operated a 'healing circle', organised discussion groups on the Doctor's books, listened to lectures from fellow members who were 'inspired', and scheduled music and study evenings as a means of encouraging inspiration and creativity amongst the members. At some stage, a number of the members undertook the 'Masters Course', a series of study modules written by MacDonald-Bayne based on some of the things he had learned in Tibet.
One of the key activities that took place under the auspices of the USG, especially after the reorganisation and name change, was participation in the 'Sanctuary of the Silent Healing Power'. This was a sort of loose, worldwide network of healing circles under the direction of MacDonald-Bayne, who was then based in Johannesburg, and arising from his idea that 'it is the Spiritual Law which is the foundation of all healings which take place'.17 It was not to be thought that a local healing circle, such as the one in Melbourne, operated in isolation. In a revealing page-long hand-bill, presumably for distribution to interested parties, Joy Hall explained how this worldwide network was meant to function.18 The healing force was a Divine Power directed from the Infinite Source and assisted by many Helpers from the 'Inner Realm'. It operated as a wave directed at all those who opened themselves up to it. These waves operated 'at three-hourly intervals' so that, as the earth revolves, there is a continual wave of Healing Power sweeping around the globe 'dissolving the illusion of adverse conditions, and helping the reality of the true perfection to manifest'. In order to become receptive to this wave of healing power, the individual should (as the Doctor himself advocates) lie down and breathe deeply, maintaining divine thoughts. No special effort need be made; just relax
into the arms of the infinite. The wave was maintained by the efforts of circles such as the one in Melbourne whose members co-operated 'in radiating Love, Wisdom and Healing Power to help the world and raise the vibrations of the Human Consciousness'. Elsewhere, members refer to this technique as the process of 'broadcasting' or 'projecting' their vibrations when gathered together, whilst adopting a comfortable sitting position, feet on floor and spine erect, so as to maximise the emanations that would go to making up the worldwide wave.
While it might be easy to scoff at this technique when it is presented so baldly, it could be argued that it was no more nor less strange than the usual process of Christian intercessionary prayer (nor indeed the speculations of Medieval neo-Platonists) and was, in fact, just like the sort of thing that went on in mainstream churches every Sunday, albeit dressed in different conceptual garb. The elements unfamiliar to mainstream religion were the apparent regularity of the three-hourly waves, the assistance of spiritual 'Helpers' and the fact that they came from the 'Inner Realms', the existence of which amounted to a belief in a heirarchy of etheric planes beyond the physical. These Helpers from the Inner Realm, however, were 'no myth, but are as real as we are'. They are 'beings specially trained' and stand waiting for the call from humanity to assist in spreading the divine healing emanations. They will only act when called into service; they will never interfere with a person's free will, so a conscious request must be made for their assistance.19 It is clear that lists were compiled for each evening when the circle was to meet, consisting of the names of members and visitors requesting assistance. Those on the night's list were then given special attention by those 'broadcasting', as well as having their names forwarded by air mail to MacDonald-Bayne in Johannesburg. In return, the Doctor sent out his monthly newsletters worldwide, with words of encouragement and news of successful cures. In addition, a register was kept noting the name, address and ailment of anyone who had ever requested assistance. Finally, to complete the process, a report was kept of healing successes and notes taken of those still in need of additional help. It has to be averred that not all those on the register reported successful treatment by the methods of the 'silent healing power'.


A further activity of the USG was 'the teaching of the Truth according to Universal Laws and Principles'.20 The great truth, according to MacDonald-Bayne, was very straightforward. It amounted to the realisation and acceptance at the deepest levels of one's being that the individual human was a part of the great universal spirit, which we sometimes call God. In Indian philosophy this is known as the identity of the atman with the brahman and is one of the key defining features of brahminical Hinduism, and many occidental offshoots, such as Theosophy. From this one insight, philosophical corollaries are drawn regarding the nature of the human mind and the origin of the material world, which in turn lead to ethical imperatives. In MacDonald-Bayne's
version, 'The I AM – GOD is the inner Self which is perfect and cannot be made more perfect, but the me is the personal or the outer self, which is affected by our actions and thoughts'.21 The inner self that he talks of is seen as the real, spiritual nature of man because it is the god-like part of us that not only embodies the divine but uses its consciousness to mould and fashion the outer self, that is, the physical body and the physical substance of the world at large, in much the same way that Schopenhauer describes the world as the projection of the human will and its ideas. From this great truth, the universal laws and principles are said to follow. The Great Law is the way in which all of reality – the mind of God and its emanations, as MacDonald-Bayne would say – operates as an integrated and self-regulating system. Man is able to live a healthy, happy and fulfilled life if he perceives this reality and governs his thoughts and actions in accordance with its dictates. We know what these dictates are because our inner self, being perfect and god-like, gives us an image of the way things are, and therefore should be, at the deepest level. How far we acknowledge and act upon the 'great truth' and what it implies for us during our earthly existence becomes a measure of our spiritual progress. This spiritual progress he refers to on a number of occasions as 'a great Universal Science'.22
Many of the USG papers record lectures and study groups that were devoted to the understanding and elucidation of the above ideas. In one of the boxes from the collection, an index is given of various lectures delivered largely by group members, with some by MacDonald-Bayne.23 It records topics such as: the mental world and thought; healing power; spirit, mind and matter; absolute being; god the spirit; the reality of being; the inner and the outer; the power of divine consciousness; the material universe and substance; and consciousnes, intelligence and substance – all of them directly related to the ideas which formed the bedrock of MacDonald-Bayne's system of thought. Other topics relate to more obscure notions espoused by MacDonald-Bayne, such as cosmic colours and vibrations, world emanations, the creation and prophesy. Many of the boxes contain lecture notes from these and other lectures, taken by Rex Roadknight and others, from which it is easy to discern how MacDonald-Bayne's ideas were spread to group members.
While the main purpose behind the delivery of these lectures seems to have been to teach the key ideas of Macdonald-Bayne, another reason, no less important, may have been to develop group solidarity, or, in the words of one listener, 'the unfoldment of the group consciousness'. For some time, he avows, we have been forming such a consciousness:
At first nebulous, it gradually becomes moulded into form in much the same way as a Solar System is derived from the starry nebula and resolves itself into a central point, the Sun, with planets revolving around it. The central point or Sun is always the Divine Father . . . The Planets which revolve around it are the individuals comprising the group, recognising the Father's will as the Central Point.24
This idea of group conciousness proved to be an abiding concern of the members as it is mentioned many times in lectures, minutes of meetings and MacDonald-Bayne's own monthly newsletters. The choice of the sun and planets as a metaphor for group interaction and a god-centered universe was probably not accidental. MacDonald-Bayne believed that our nearest star was not merely a physical ball of fiery gases, but was 'the Life Intelligence in a form of energy expressing itself through Beings in the Sun'.25
Perhaps the most interesting and yet baffling aspect of this 'teaching of the Truth' in the USG was whether its members (and MacDonald-Bayne) continued to regard themselves as Christians. There is plenty of reference to Christ and Jesus, but there are times when MacDonald-Bayne talks as if Jesus is merely one of a number of superior religious and ethical teachers, or 'Masters', as he often refers to them, on a par with the yogic Masters he met in Tibet, and one of a company of higher spiritual beings who assist man to transcend the physical plane of existence. Jesus is no longer the Pauline figure who saves man through faith alone, but a figure who assists him to salvation through the acquisition of divine knowledge. Also, MacDonald-Bayne and his followers go very close to the Gnostic view that there are two separate realms, the spiritual as 'good' and the physical as 'bad', although perhaps a fairer comparison would be with Medieval Neo-Platonism where the physical world is seen as form impressed upon substance, or as the grossest and most crude form of higher 'vibrations' or 'emanations' from the Divine Mind. There are also useful comparisons to be made with Theosophy and Spiritualism, both of which have tenuous links to orthodox Christianity. This is an area that would reward more detailed study.


Even a quick browse through the cataloguer's contents notes for the USG Records will confirm that the group was, in some ways, as much a cultural study group as a spiritual one, although they would not have seen themselves to be such. Many of their activities involved poetry readings and listening to music. Music had to be classical only, never jazz or popular. Jazz music in particular, with its syncopated rhythms and unusual time signatures, was thought to irritate the mind rather than relax it, whereas classical music played an important role inducing the right frame of mind for spiritual pursuits and was often used before or during healing meetings or study sessions. Rex Roadknight was the main organising force in this aspect of proceedings.
The rationale for these activities presumably arose from MacDonald-Bayne's belief in the power of constructive emotions, which 'are those we feel when we hear beautiful music, a beautiful voice, a thrilling lecture, read an inspired book or when we love someone, when we admire qualities in others which we would like to have in ourselves, when we see beautiful flowers ...'.26 Allied to this, he was a great believer in the power of Inspiration (always spelled with a capital letter). This was a term meant both literally (in relation to the in-breathing of fresh air) and metaphorically, where God
himself, certain types of spirit helpers and other people on the physical plane could lead us to new insights and fresh experiences of spiritual worth. In The Yoga of the Christ, MacDonald-Bayne develops a doctrine of inspiration which defines it clearly as a passing beyond, a spiritual state: it is a relaxed and refined awareness of man's conditioned existence, of his physical limitations, his illusions, his habits and dogmas, all of which, in the very knowing of them, liberates the mind into a freer state. This, in turn, opens up the mind to the divine truth of existence. Only in this frame of mind can someone be said to experience Inspiration. Music and poetry of a high tone had an obvious role to play in preparing the mind for such a state, and both were used often at Group meetings.
Nor were group members unaware of the traditional esoteric view of music. For many centuries the 'music of the spheres' has been a pregnant phrase in esoteric science. It originally referred to an ethereal 'music' supposed by Pythagoras and other early mathematicians to be produced by the movements of the heavenly bodies, and was significant because it was thought to be perfectly harmonious. Later, it was a doctrine that postulated harmonious relationships between the planets based on speeds of revolution and distance from the earth. It was last expounded scientifically by Johannes Kepler in 1619, but continued to be used in a largely metaphorical sense by esoteric thinkers, and has survived down to the present as part of certain esoteric thought systems, such as Theosophy. Rex Roadknight, a talented musician and an intelligent commentator upon his craft, was able to develop a view of music along these lines. For him, music had very definite aesthetic and spiritual qualities. Music formed part of the study of Aesthetics, which itself is the study of the beautiful, but the beautiful is not designed to appeal to the senses alone; it is being used by the Divine as a medium for the development of the human races. Speaking of music, he says it is only the greatest classical composers of the Christian era who offer us this spiritual experience because only classical music is truly harmonious, and because it is 'controlled by spiritual forces which are controlled by the Divine Spirit'.27 Despite the Christian overlay, this is a view which accords very well with the best esoteric traditions.
Music and poetry were vitally important to the successful functioning of the group, with a number of members using it to structure and enhance their learning and healing activities. A clear example of this practice is the presentation that was prepared by three of the group's members which they entitled, 'Music and Poetry in the Service of Healing', and which consisted of a combined poetry reading and performance of musical items. Items were chosen from the works of Shakespeare, Chopin, Bach, Shelley, Schumann, and others of the highest rank. In accompanying notes, one of the organisers states that the purpose of the evening is 'to reveal the hidden secrets of the Universe' and to show just how simple it really is for man to 'live in the happy state, already bestowed on him by the Father, to enter the Universal Harmony'.28 At other times, a poetry reading followed by a discussion session was undertaken, once again, as a means of elevating the

A guru and his disciples: Murdo MacDonald-Bryne reading to a luminous Joy Hall, a pensive Rex Roadknight and an attentive Max Watkin. Universal Science Group Records, MS 13597.

mind and fitting it for spiritual purposes. For example, one of the memo books records a 'Keats programme' during which many of his sonnets were read and discussed. Some of the Records show that notes were taken about each poem as it was read aloud to the group. Each poem was thought to show the infinite source of all life, as the poet 'reached out into the Inner Realms and revealed aspects of Truth and Beauty' even beyond his own comprehension.29


Upon even a cursory examination of the material available, it is clear that the techniques and beliefs under which the USG operated were suffused throughout with the ideas of their mentor and inspiration, MacDonald-Bayne, but it is equally clear that the organisation and administration of the Group, as well as the original approach of some prominent members, gave it a wholly local character. Future scholars will no doubt explore these papers more thoroughly than is possible in this article, especially those interested in spiritual or religious matters, and some of the more extended lectures and
committee notes are of sufficient interest to be read with profit on their own. For this purpose, the library has compiled a set of content notes for the collection, so that topics of interest can be readily identified. There is also a case to be made that social historians will see in these papers evidence of the Zeitgeist with which we started this discussion. For the general reader or book and paper enthusiast, a quick look at some of this material would open the door on a past age of writing technologies, where pleasure is to be had from handling (in a physical sense) what amounts to a collection of historical ephemera, including copies of old magazines, 1940s-style exercise books, old typewritten sheets of foolscap (some with 'carbon copies'), and handwritten notes using indelible pencils and fountain pens which pre-date the ballpoint pen. In terms of communication methods, these have all become specimens of a past age, but may be looked at with wonder and nostalgia by later generations more used to digital text.
As to the content of the records, we find, predominently, lectures and lecture notes demonstrating how prayer, music, poetry and the study of correct ideas can heal and amplify the soul and the body. Also included are minutes and informal notes of meetings, treasurer's reports, a copy of the group's constitution, retained copies of publications (including MacDonald-Bayne's official magazines for world distribution), some notices clearly meant for publicity purposes, a small quantity of personal correspondence and some personal documents, mainly by Rex Roadknight, and some photographs. The photographs are particularly revealing, I think, of relationships within the group. One shows a seated MacDonald-Bayne reading from a notebook while at his feet sits Joy Hall, her eyes shining and her mind luminous with what she is hearing, next to a pensive Rex Roadknight, hand supporting his chin in the best tradition of Rodin's 'The Thinker', and an intense and attentive Max Watkin alongside. What little light there is falls on their faces, reflecting perhaps the spiritual illumination that each of the figures is seeking.
It is not known why the group folded or, indeed, if it was still active after 1953, the date when their records cease. Perhaps with the advent of the cold war, the mood of its members turned to the search for an external and universal peace rather than an internal one. And given the fact that the USG records were found in an old tin trunk in the archives of the Uniting Church, it is possible that some of its mainstays returned to conventional religion. Whatever the case, the members of the USG were nothing if not serious in their pursuit of truth, even if, perhaps, when it came to choosing their way, they chose (in the words of Robert Frost) 'the one less travelled by'.


Universal Science Group, Records 1940-1953, MS 13597, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria (hereinafter cited as 'Records'). See SLV News, no. 41, July-October, 2009, pp. 8-9, for the original announcement of the acquisition.


The 'Dr' that his followers frequently used when referring to MacDonald-Bayne appears to have been honorary, a mark of respect, rather than any officially bestowed title. MacDonald-Bayne did begin a university medical degree but never completed it. At least one of his biographers, however, claims that MacDonald-Bayne held both a Ph.D. and a D.D. No confirmation of these awards currently exists. See note 4, below.


Records, Box 13, Group 9, Address by MacDonald-Bayne, 14 July 1947, Johannesburg.


Biographical sketch by Paul Troxler of Pretoria, South Africa, a student of MacDonald-Bayne. The biography is available at Most of what we know about MacDonald-Bayne comes from his students and some interesting and unverifiable claims are often made about his life and his psychic powers, all of which are best treated with a certain amount of scholarly reserve. There is also a brief biographical article on MacDonald-Bayne on Wikipedia:


See, for example, his Spiritual and Mental Healing, London: L. N. Fowler, 1947. This is a published lecture series from material originally delivered in Johannesburg during 1945. The book went through four impressions between 1947 and 1964, its practical and down-to-earth advice proving to be very popular.


Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June, p. 1 and 25 June, 1931, p. 7, where MacDonald-Bayne advertised a series of lectures which promised a method of ensuring health, success and happiness. These lectures ran from 29 June to 3 July, and were typical of the sorts of topics he covered in Sydney and elsewhere.


Psychic News (UK), 13 August 1932. The fact that Bailey, as a medium, was reputedly caught out in fraudulent practices on a number of occasions does not seem to have diminished MacDonald-Bayne's support for him. They claimed that spirit voices spoke through Bailey, and that his apports were the most startling and cogent proof of his mediumistic powers. The two of them collaborated in the use of the so-called 'chastaphone', a small box-like device which, it was claimed, reduced the higher vibrations of the spirit universe to a level where they could be heard by mortal man. This was something of a forerunner to Wilhelm Reich's 'orgone accumulator', first built in 1940, except that Reich was trying to concentrate 'orgone', a sort of primordial cosmic energy which had both a physical and a spiritual aspect. It was later largely discredited after a famous experiment by Albert Einstein.


See his Beyond the Himalayas, London: L. N. Fowler, 1954, and The Yoga of the Christ, London: L. N. Fowler, [1955?]. A glance at these two texts will probably leave the normal Western reader agape at some of his claims. The style and content of these books are probably earnest and sincere as far as they go, but read like some fantastic travelogue which plays on the supposedly mysterious and mystical realm of Tibet, both physical and spiritual, which few Westerners had penetrated at that time, leaving many of his descriptions and claims regarding mystical practices unable to be independently verified.


Age (Melbourne), 29 March 1941, p. 4. His advertisement offers to show the reader 'the real lost horizon', in obvious reference to James Hilton's novel, The Lost Horizon (1933) or more likely, the 1937 film version, best remembered as the origin of 'Shangri La', a fictional monastery in the mountain recesses of Tibet.


One example is the internet site run by Lora Mendel out of Canada. She is apparently the current copyright holder for many of MacDonald-Bayne's books and lectures, some of which she has republished on line. See There is a New Zealand website dedicated to his writings and Mystica Publications Ltd, also based in New Zealand, has republished most if not all of MacDonald-Bayne's books plus issued CDs of his recorded lectures.


Troxler, op. cit. (note 4, above)


Joy Hall and her son Rex Roadknight were amongst the staunchest of MacDonald-Bayne's supporters, and two of the mainstays of the USG. Joyce Lesley Hall (nee Watkin) was born in 1900 and died in 1965. Her first marriage was to Leslie Alfred Roadknight in 1920, and they had two children, Rex Roadknight and Stephanie Roadknight (who died young). At the time of Rex's birth, they were living at Korumburra, Victoria. Her second marriage was to Hugh Perceval Hall in 1934, with issue Felicitie Elizabeth. After her second marriage and throughout the time when the USG operated, Joy and her husband Hugh Hall lived at 1 St George's Road Elsternwick, which was often used for USG meetings. See Victoria, Deaths Register, entry no. 27251/65. Rex Alfred Louis Roadknight, the son from Joy's first marriage, was born in 1921 and died relatively young, aged 46 in 1967 of heart failure. His occupation at the time of his death is recorded as 'Not any'. He resided at Williams Road, Olinda, Victoria, and remained unmarried throughout his life and died without issue. See Victoria, Deaths Register, entry no. 7816/67. (Note that, on this register entry, his mother's maiden name is wrongly recorded as Hall, which was in fact her name at the time of her second marriage.) Felicitie Hall, Joy and Hugh's daughter, was consulted for background material at the time when the USG Records were acquired by SLV, but was not available for consultation during the writing of this article.


Records, Box 13, Group 9, Committee Meetings Minute Book, pp. 2 and 4. Cf. a document headed 'Ideas on the future Work of the "New Life Group" Melbourne', dated November 1945, by H. Hershberg, which gives some background as to why the group might have adopted a minimal constitution and reduced organisational structure (Records, Box 5, Group 6).


Records, Box 13, Group 9, Committee Meetings Minute Book, pp. 106 and 107.


Records, Box 13, Group 8, Committee Meetings Minute Book, loose leaf, tipped in. There is some evidence that the hoped-for increase in community interest and boosted membership had not immediately taken place. See Records, Box 13, Group 8, Committee Meetings Minute Book, p. 98. There is also evidence that this was something of a membership 'culling' of non-participants and non-attenders. See Records, Box 13, Group 9.


Records, Box 13, Group 9, Council Meetings, 1947-52, Minutes for 26 January 1949 and Addendum, 'Paper to be read by Mrs [Joy] Hall'. This was the occasion on which the new arrangement was formally instituted and the old committee structure abandoned. One reason for this change of structure may have been to limit attendances at meetings, especially insofar as the group now saw themselves as part of a world-wide movement among MacDonald-Bayne's followers to set up local chapters of his 'Sanctuary of the Silent Healing Power'. It was probably felt that a small, dedicated group of committed devotees would muster more healing force than a more diverse and amorphous group.


Murdo MacDonald-Bayne, Spiritual and Mental Healing, London: L. N. Fowler and Co., 1947, pp. 9-10.


Records, Box 13, Group 7, Explanatory handbill for distribution, Official Healing Register.


Ibid. Handwritten notes accompanying the Official Healing Register.


Ibid. Explanatory handbill for distribution, Official Healing Register.


Murdo MacDonald-Bayne, The Higher Power You Can Use, Rpt, London: L. N. Fowler, 1964, p. 100.


See, for example, Murdo MacDonald-Bayne, Spiritual and Mental Healing, London: L. N. Fowler, 1947, p. 234. MacDonald-Bayne often develops his ideas in unexpected directions and often applies them to seemingly ludicrous extremes. This is so in relation to the idea of 'The Natural Law' when he claims that the Law is not fulfilled by the majority of people when they eat, and that they therefore eat in an unnatural way, because they 'take one or two chews and then swallow' without sufficient mastication (p. 15).


Records, Box 1, Group 20.


Records, Box 2, Group 8, Memo Book, p. [5]. This may have been written by Rex Roadknight.


See Murdo MacDonald-Bayne, Spiritual and Mental Healing, London: L. N. Fowler, 1947, p. 17.


Murdo MacDonald-Bayne, How to Relax and Revitalise Yourself, London: L. N. Fowler, 1952, p. 65.


Rex Roadknight, short article or note headed 'Aesthetics', Records, Box 5, Group 6. Cf. Manuscript notebook (probably in Rex Roadknight's hand), p. 1, headed 'Music is the highest form of occultism', found in Box 8, Group 7.


Records, Box 6, Group 23, Memo book, p. 3. The presenters were members Jessie Lureis, Phyllis Twining and Joy Hall.


Records, Box 2, Group 20, Memo book, p.1. Cf. Records, Box 7, Group 9.