Books by John Maze

Released: June 19, 1995

A historian and a psychologist argue that esoteric spiritual beliefs governed the career of the enigmatic populist/progressive, Henry A. Wallace. Wallace (18881965) left an uneasy legacy to American history. Intellectual apologist for the progressive movement, an important secretary of agriculture and then vice president under Roosevelt, and Progressive Party candidate for president in 1948, Wallace is thought of today, if at all, as a well-intentioned though discredited internationalist who advocated accommodation with Stalinist Russia. Here White (History/Univ. of Sydney; FDR and the Press, not reviewed) and Maze (The Meaning of Behaviour, not reviewed) probe Wallace's personal papers and correspondence, as well as a 5,000-page transcript of interviews with him recorded in the early 1950s, to find a complex man whose love of humanity, abstract and concealed beneath a deep aloofness, found its roots in a unique system of spiritual beliefs. Wallace, the authors point out, was by training an agricultural scientist whose pragmatism stood him in good stead in his stint as head of the Department of Agriculture, where he was one of the New Deal's most accomplished activists. Nonetheless, he was also mystically inclined and endlessly explored the nexus among science, religious mysticism, and the quest for world peace and enlightenment. His coded correspondence with Russian mystic Nicholas Roerich, who advocated the protection of world cultural institutions in wartime, resulted in American support for a quixotic expedition by Roerich to Mongolia that embarrassed FDR. Despite some solid accomplishments as vice president — achievement of closer relations with Latin America, for instance — exposure of Wallace's ``Guru letters'' to Roerich and other indiscretions, contributed to the decision to drop Wallace from the ticket in 1944. He made a final run for president as the candidate of the Progressive Party in 1948; his antiCold War stance effectively ended his career. A rare examination of the life, accomplishments, and intellectual roots of an extraordinary though neglected figure. Read full book review >