When ‘Master Metaphysicians’ Tried To Raise An Immortal Baby

By Debra Kelly on Monday, January 5, 2015
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“I will have nothing to do with your immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity of speculating upon another.” —Lord Byron

In A Nutshell

According to James Schafer, head of the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians, the key to raising an immortal baby is diet and insulation from bad thoughts. His experimental baby, Baby Jean, only spent a year with him before her parents decided they wanted her back—not surprisingly. It was only a matter of a few more years before he was arrested and found guilty of fraud. Baby Jean returned to her parents and lived a relatively normal life, but Schafer and his wife committed suicide after his stint in Sing Sing.

The Whole Bushel

According to James Schafer, head and founder of the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians, he knew the secret to raising an immortal baby. And he was going to do just that, with Baby Jean.

Baby Jean came to the organization from parents who saw themselves as having little choice in the matter, as they weren’t able to adequately care for her. Their savior—and hers—seemed to come in the form of the charismatic Schafer.

Schafer took Jean home, and by “home” we mean the former Vanderbilt mansion. Located on Long Island, New York and renamed “Peace Haven” by the group, the mansion was to be not only her home, but the place where she would be raised to be the first immortal human.

As cults go, the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians was in the realm of being stranger than they were creepy. Attempts at forming an actual, tax-exempt organization were shot down by the State’s Supreme Court in a decision that was echoed by Time Magazine.

Some of their basic beliefs included the idea that meat was inherently bad for you, and that coffee and tea are equally off the list of approved foods. Smoking and alcohol were also bad for you, and diet was something that should be carefully controlled—so controlled that the members of the fraternity were given new guidelines every week. Everything was vegetarian, and there were no spices, vinegars, or mustards.

In order to join, the faithful needed to pay dues that the society called “love offerings.” The fee was $250 in 1940, which equates to a little bit over $4,000 in today’s economy. That wasn’t the only place that the money was coming from, either—invitations to see Baby Jean were also bringing in the cash. Kids could also get in on the action, becoming a part of his “Cosmic Network” through the donations of stamps.

In return, he issued certificates drawn on the Inexhaustible Bank of the Infinite in the Universal Mind that were payable in Ideas and Everything Desired With No Limitations.

The trick to raising an immortal baby wasn’t nearly as complicated as you might think it would be. Baby Jean had her own nursery and her own nurses, who were with her constantly and made sure she was never exposed to any negative thoughts. She would never know there was anything such as death or disease until she was old enough to understand that it was simply something that just didn’t need to happen to her. She was going to be raised within the philosophy, and when she was an adult, she would take over the organization as its immortal leader.

When she was 15 months old, her parents sued to have her back. In spite of his claims that he planned on adopting her, Schafer never did and she was reunited with her mother. And in spite of being sent detailed instructions, her mother took her off her immortality plan.

The idea of an immortal baby was just a part of Schafer’s plan. He also claimed that he could make things (and people) dematerialize, and that he could train willing participants to avoid the pitfalls of illness by the power of positive thoughts.

Positive thoughts couldn’t keep him out of jail, though, and not long after Baby Jean went back to her parents, Schafer went to Sing Sing. Unhappy former members had filed charges against him for fraud, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. Once he got out, he tried opening a correspondence school and founding a magazine about his beliefs, but nothing ever really took off.

In 1955, he and his wife committed suicide, leaving behind a note and instructions for their daughter to keep up their work. Baby Jean is grown and happily married, although she doesn’t talk about her immortality or her experiences with the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians.

Show Me The Proof

Museum of Hoaxes: Jean Gauntt, the Immortal Baby
The Milwaukee Journal: First Year of ‘Immortality’ Shows Baby Jean Is Normal