Edmund Shaftesbury

Edmund Shaftesbury was the pseudonym of Webster Edgerly (1852–1926). Edgerly was a prolific writer on a variety of subjects, predominantly self-improvement (not limited to personal magnetism) and health. The following description is from Alfred Armstrong’s web site on Webster Edgerly.

Albert Webster Edgerly was a self-help guru, a crank and a racist bigot. Possessed of seemingly boundless energy, from his twenties until his death he wrote and published many books and founded a series of organizations dedicated to health and self-improvement, mainly under his pseudonym “Edmund (or Edmonde) Shaftesbury”. As the begetter of the “Ralston Health Club” he also used the name “Dr Everett Ralston”. 

In about 1900, William Danforth invited “Dr Ralston” to participate in his Purina Wholefood Company. At that time Edgerly’s Health Club had a sizeable following [according to this, over 800,000] and he was noted for his pronouncements on diet, which were compatible with Danforth’s own philosophy. The company took a new name, Ralston Purina, under which it still traded until relatively recently, when it was acquired by Nestlé. 

Edgerly attempted in 1905 to put his utopian ideas into practice when he founded a community of Ralstonites at “Ralston Heights”. As is ever the case with such endeavors, it was not a success. 

Edgerly also created “Ralstonism”, a “minor social movement” based on his writings, all of which was to enable the follower the ability to develop “personal magnetism” and the power over the thoughts of others, among other benefits. To quote Edgerly: 

“We believe that Ralstonism, since it is becoming universal, is as necessary as food, light or water. This movement is the grandest, noblest, and already the most far-reaching power that has originated in the present age. 

“Ralstonism is the grandest movement that man is capable of establishing”. 

Followers were encouraged to purchase the Ralstonism books, among other ways to progress in the hierarchy of the movement. 

Ralstonites were to follow strict dietary guidelines. … Correct diet and proper physical exercise would help reader attain “personal magnetism”, which would give them control over the thoughts of others. Much of the physical régime demanded moving in graceful curves and arcs and walking exclusively on the balls of one’s feet. Because sudden starts and stops and sharp angular movements caused a “leakage of vital force”, Ralstonites were to even pick marbles in continuous circles. There was a proper way to bathe (dry bath), gesture, sit, stand, sleep, talk and have sex. Edgerly claimed a scientific basis for all this. 

To that end, he started Ralson Heights in New Jersey with the intent of creating a community of Ralsonites. Unfortunately the community never materialized before his death and afterward much of the territory was sold off. 

Among the relevant books are: 

“Instantaneous Personal Magnetism” (1926)

“The Magnetism Books”

  1. “Advanced Magnetism” (?)
    Control of Others Through the Feelings 
  2. “Mental Magnetism” (1934)
    Mastery in All the Conflicts of Life
    A Study of the Seven Realms of Mind and Mastery in the Conflicts of Life 
  3. “Sex Magnetism” (1924)
    Private Lessons in the Cultivation of Magnetism of the Sexes
    Teaching the Development and Wonderful Enlargement of those Powers and Influences That Nature has Invented to Aid Every Human Life
    A review of this book can be found here.
  4. “Operations of the Other Mind” (1934)
    Gigantic Powers of the Human Brain
    Making Known the Unseen Powers of the Universe in Their Control Over Human Life 
  5. “Personal Magnetism” (1924)
    This book does not contain chapters; instead, it contains a series of steps required to develop the “personal magnetism” of the title.
    A review of this book can be found here.
  6. “Universal Magnetism — Volume I” (?)
  7. “Universal Magnetism — Volume II (?)
    Secret Lessons in Control of Self and Others 

“The College of Mental Studies”

  1. “Future Seeing and Destiny” (?)
    800 lessons in philosophy. 
  2. “The Great Psychic” (?)
    The Master Mind of the Universe 
  3. “Life Electricity” (?)
    Creation of Extra-ordinary Health-Vitality 
  4. “Thought Transference” (?)
    “Or The Radio-Activity of the Human Mind”
    “Based on the Newly Discovered Laws of RADIO-Communiction Between BRAIN and BRAIN
    Uses of Telepathy, Mind and Thought 
  5. “Goal of Creation” (?)
    The Temple of Great Achievements 
  6. “Yourself Behind Closed Doors” (?)
    The Sublimist Study of Self 

And even though I have a number of these books, many in fine printing, I haven’t really been able to read them. 

Many of his books remain in print to this day. A complete listing of all works by this author is found here.

Other References:

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