It is agreed by all, even those of other faiths, that Mother Thanks (research has revealed her birth name and background, but here we may acknowledge her belief that her old name and life were irrelevant to the work she was called to do) was a great woman, a living saint in her own time, and one of the great spiritual leaders of the XXth century. In our own time, when her message has become so familiar and Thankyouism so generally established, it is easy to forget how radical it was when first introduced: no dogma, no hierarchy, no liturgy save the disciplined everyday business of cultivating and expressing gratitude (and despite the claims of some sects, Mother Thanks's own expressions were various) to the Divine, or the One, or Love. These last two were the only names Mother Thanks employed.
It would be out of our way, however, to offer a history of Mother Thanks's movement during her lifetime, or of Mother Thanks's own spiritual journey. The reader is referred to I. Bickerstaff's comprehensive history, Giving Thanks; to W. Wizard's biography, Goodness Gracious; and the forthcoming selection of annotated primary sources, Thanks Be, which should be available from Exham Press, Miskatonic's new religious studies impression, later this year.
Before the Schism.
The scope of this article is only briefly to relate the history of the movement after Mother Thanks's death. Most laymen and outsiders will at least be familiar with the broad division between Wholists and Partists, which is nicely illustrated by the famous incident of Mother Thanks's funeral; but some further background should be provided before relating that all too common anecdote.
Those who would become the Wholists were those who met twice weekly with Mother Thanks in the famous Convention Hall to be guided by her in their personal search for occasions of gratefulness. Partists generally cast these as being only the rich and bored, who did not take Mother Thanks seriously. Tickets were, indeed, sold; but a substantial portion, usually from one-third to one-half, of the seats were reserved for "special populations": the homeless, terminally ill patients, schoolchildren, visiting congregations of other faiths, etc.; and many of those ticket-holders would by their writings and testimony make Mother Thanks the famous and revered figure she is today.
The origin of the Partists is less clear. Their motto—"Others sit and listen, we stand and seek"—is, as they tell it, their literal origin: the Partists were a small group of seekers whom Mother Thanks taught separately from the "Conventioners" (a term often used in early Partist documents to refer to Wholists), while standing, and to whom she conveyed a secret wisdom and message of which the masses were unworthy. Wholists say that the Partists were simply the Convention Hall cleaning staff, who took Mother Thanks's kind words for them as bearing secret significances. Few historians ascribe to either view; but most are agreed that the Partists probably originated among some kind of retinue or entourage to Mother Thanks.
Partists of all sects have a similar idea of how the schism took place. A party of Partists appeared during Mother Thanks's funeral and began, part by part, to offer thanks for Mother Thanks. Their enumeration of parts was sufficiently close and detailed to offend the priggish sensibilities of the Wholists, who ejected them. Wholists concede that there was an ejection, but claim it was only because the Partists had crowded around, and were blocking access to, Mother Thanks's coffin.
The Second Generation.
The sects of Thankyouism are divided by scholars into several generations. Assignment of particular sects, especially beyond the Second Generation, have been a matter of contention; but the scholarly consensus today is for, inasmuch as the record will support, a distinction between the actual emergence of organized sects, and the separate phenomenon of the emergence of a group of sects sufficiently similar to be classed together, but which did not originate by schism from an older sect corresponding to that class. Such ancestry can, however, be difficult to trace.
Second Generation Wholists.
The so-called Effusers—a name they do not apply to themselves, regarding themselves simply as the true Thankyouists and the direct heirs of Mother Thanks—claim to comprise a majority of Thankyouists, and are the most commonly encountered; most people will have seen a Thanking House or witnessed a High Thanking, and many Categorist devotions have been assimilated to other sects, and even other spiritual paths and traditions.
The distinction between High Thankers and Simple Thankers is not a reliable one. High Thankers gather on Wednesdays, usually in public parks, to pronounce, in a service usually lasting between two and three hours and enlisting the service of a chorus, a single, nonspecific, "Thank You." Simple Thankers gather on Thursdays in Thanking Houses (usually former storefronts, maintained empty) to say "Thanks" to one another, again nonspecifically, recognizing the One in each other. Syncretism is common, and High Thankers and Simple Thankers are often seen at one another's services; however, many Simple Thankers regard High Thankers as forgetting Mother Thanks's message, and many High Thankers regard Simple Thankers as somehow anti-social.
It is not certain, but generally agreed, that Categorists are the most common end-sect of Thankyouism (while still part of the most common generationally categoric—not Categorist—sect, Effusers). The only Second Generation sub-sect, however, is the so-called Historists, who ostensibly draw their categories of thanks from "history and natural language"; but the categories actually heard in a given Thanking Circle tend to be determined largely by their needs, the situation, and the composition of the group.
Some scholars do not believe that there ever existed such a thing as a unified Second Generation Quotist movement, but a survey of Thankyouism for the Endower Institute (whose founder's name represents a curious case of destiny fulfilled in the most obvious way), during the period of ten years between Mother Thanks's death and the Congress usually considered to constitute the period of the Second Generation, mentions:
Another, minor sect, call themselves Quotists. This sect asserts that it is the responsibility of each individual to establish for themselves a quota of thanks. Members of the sect meet weekly to report on the fulfillment of their quotas. Quotas are set for stated time periods, as so many thanks per day or week, or even in one's lifetime.
—J. Dandy, Endower Institute Report on the Demographics of Gratitudinousism, Appendix B: Known Sects. (Endower Institute Proceedings, 2005; Hoboken, New Jersey.)
However, oral histories have not confirmed that such a sect ever existed; it is, however, suggestive of the mechanism by which the many Third Generation Quotist sects, especially the shortest-lived, might have emerged.
Let it be noted that Quotists of whatever generation are closer in sympathy to Effuser than to Possessionists—themselves the inventors of the name Effusers. It is the belief of the Possessionists that one can offer thanks only for what in some sense one already has. During the Second Generation period Posessionists defined themselves only as a more conservative alternate to Effusers. It is said that at this time Possessionists would carefully compile "thanking books" of their posessions, but attempts to link these books to the compilations of the Bookers (q.v.) have so far failed.
Third Generation Wholists.
The period known as the Third Generation began in 2010 with the All-Thanks Congress, on the tenth aniversary of Mother Thanks's death. It was intended by its organizers, who managed to secure the presence of leaders, or serious representatives, of every Wholist or Partist Second Generation sect (largely by spreading the rumor that Mother Thanks was to be disinterred for the occasion, which every sect was eager to prevent), to foster fellow-feeling among all Thankers. It is here that the name "Thankyouism" was first used, although not officially adopted by the Congress. Indeed, the Congress did nothing officially, not even adjourn. The Congress served for the most part only, first, to re-inforce a sense of disparity between sects with well-articulated doctrines; and second, to set those sects not so well-defined on the struggle to define themselves which produced the schisms of the Third Generation.
"Historist" Categorism produced two sister sects in this period, the Scientists and the Psychists. Both groups arose as a rejection of the tolerance for supernatural phenomena in existing Categorist congregations. Both held it absurd to thank for what could not be real. Scientists, always with an eye to the latest data, use scientific categories from multiple disciplines—the biological kingdoms, the divisions of the periodic table, the states of matter, etc.—as the occasions on which thanks are to be offered. However, Scientists offering thanks with chemical categories must not be confused with the entirely distinct Third Generation Partist sect of Chemists (q.v.). Psychists base their thanks on what they apprehend (the choice varies between congregations) to be natural psychological categories. Some approach Kant, but most are loosely based on Jung. Psychists despise Scientists for their sterility; Scientists despise Psychists for their sentimentality; and Historists despise them both as unwholesome fanatics.
One of the most bitter divisions in the whole history of Thankyousim, of course, is the schism of the Possessionists into Accountants and Anticipators. These names are used strictly by outsiders; both sects call themselves Posessionists, and each other respectively, Slavers and Commies. They are divided over the significance of the word have. Anticipators believe that to have, it is enough to have the use of. Accountants believe that to have, one must actually own. Accountants accuse Anticipators of attacking the concept of property and thus inviting Communism; Anticipators point to Accountants' own willingnes to accept metaphorical concepts of ownership, as of children, to either mock their position as absurd, or now and then to seriously charge them with attempting to justify slavery with their maxim that "You can thank for nothing until you have thanked for what is yours."
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Third Generation Wholism is its extraordinary fecundity of sects which outsiders would group together as Quotists: the Dozeners, the Scorers, the Fourty-Twoers, even the short-lived Thousand-and-Oneërs. From this mileu only two viable sects emerged: the Diurnalists, whose quota is simply to give thanks for something every day; and the Thirtiers, whose quota is of 25 thanks every day—it is said there were originally thirty members of the sect, which derives from the old Hundreders, who made 99 thanks each day. There are signs of instability among the Thirtiers today around a dispute, very heated, over whether it is permissible, in whole or in part, and at what intervals, to re-use one's list of thanks, or whether one must start afresh every day. This dispute has not riven the sect so far, however, perhaps due to one aspect of its devotions which divides it from other Quotist sects: thanks are given silently.
Second Generation Partists.
The schisms of Partism have generally been more sudden, more bitter, and more public than those of Wholism. This is, it is generally agreed, because Partism spread mostly through college campuses.
The largest body of Partists is the Constructionists, rivalled by the Chemists, and infrequently vexed by the tiny and much-despised sect of Processists.
Chemists have always claimed that confining thanks to materials liberates all Thankers from oppressive discourses and worldviews, and allows all to come before the One without any artificial, socially imposed (whether rooted in education, wealth, or privilege) difference in quantities of thanks to be rendered. They further assert that their discipline promotes ecological and social-justice awareness by demonstrating the deep connectedness and likeness of all things.
Constructionists assert that Chemists dilute their thankfulness by removing it from the realm of the humanly perceptible. They adhere to the visible or relatable components of a thing's construction. Chemists assert that Constructionists' reliance on specialized knowledge (in anatomy, for example) makes their position contradictory, but Constructionists point out that even internal organs carry human-level associations as sources of disease. That is, not many people will have occasion to handle a pancreas (though all have felt a heart); but many will meet diabetics. Chemists would point out that insulin is the important thing here, not the pancreas itself. Public debates between Chemists and Constructionists, frequent as they are, tend to dissolve into this sort of chicken or egg problem.
(Late in both their lives, this author had the opportunity of conducting interviews with the great Dutch Molecularist (q.v.) Jan Dough and the great American Booker (q.v.) Onkel Ausamerika. When each discovered that this author was interviewing the other—they were being traeated in the same hospital—they used this author to relay messages to each other. It was only after both interview series had been concluded that this author looked over his notes and realized that the observations they had been exchanging on gestation, calcium accretion, cultural utility and feed value were, in fact, a literal chicken or egg debate. Both men had very dry senses of humor, and it never became clear whether this was a last debate in earnest or an elaborate joke at this author's expense.)
The origin of Processism is not clear. It was, according to some scholars, actually a First Generation sect, having been established during Mother Thanks's own life; but why the absence of any background confirms this notion is not clear. Processism was discovered by accident in 2025 flourishing in two very small towns in eastern Kansas. Each now practises its own variation of Processism, but it is generally agreed that there was, at least, at some point a single Second Generation form.
Third Generation Partists.
The schism of Constructionism, although the most important development of this period, is so extraordinary that we will consider it last.
The division of Chemists into Molecularists and Atomists seems, in retrospect, inevitable. The processes of thanking for each are practically irreconcileable; the difference in liturgy, insurmountable. Atomists, in congregation, repeat together a list of atomic constituents of the cosmos, the planet, the atmosphere, and the human frame, then diverge into private lists. (The opening of the Atomist Liturgy will be very familiar, even if its source is unknown, as it has frequently been set to music: "Thanks be for Hydrogen; for Silicon; for Oxygen; for Carbon. Hydrogen to Helium, thanks be; Helium to Oxygen, thanks be," etc.) Molecularists gather, traditionally, around a projector, though screens are sometimes used in Europe, and upon the display of a chemical formula—traditionally beginning with H20—antiphonally offer their thanks. This will happen three to four times a minute; still, the Molecularist ritual is much longer than the Atomist, and usually provided with at least one intermission.
Processism implies, generally, offering thanks for each step of the process by which something is made. When the two towns practising this sect were discovered, it was found that each had adopted a distinct form of Processism. One sect (inhabitants of Tweedledale), labelled somewhat unimaginatively Industrialism, offers thanks for each step of art by which something is made; this often means industrial methods and machinery, but may as well be artisanal or artistic. Humanists, the other sect (inhabitants of Tweedledun), offer thanks only for the people involved in making something. The schism was so bitter that not only do the towns have not traffic with one another, but as has been observed several times by researching, inhabitants of each town will shun inhabitants of the other town who visit. Where the sect crossed family lines, blood ties were cut, and in the center of each town a stone has been engraved with these names. Early researchers, to their alarm, took these for true mass graves. It has been lately decided by Tweedledale that Humanists engaging, publicly or privately, in the vexatious debate over Action or Actor, shall be exiled. Civil liberties groups circle, but the ordinance has yet to be enforced.
Some Guessers, or Old Constructionists, have gone so far as to call the Bookers a conspiracy of academics; but evidence suggests its informal beginnings were among white-collar workers who had to create lists of aspect of construction to be thankful for. These lists were often merged online, and eventually taken over by the purpose-created Grateful Institute, which is responsible for the maintenance of the so-called Book of Thanks, the print edition of which runs to over thirty volumes and is further the subject of a yearly supplement. Most Bookers, of course, have never even seen or consulted the full Book; they rely on a variety of easy abridgements, which make popular occasional gifts: The Little Book of the Thankful Marriage, The Chaplet of Grateful Grieving, etc., which many non-Thankyouists will have received or even given.
Outsiders tend to be remarkably ignorant of the divisions of Thankyouism, and many who should know better have concluded that they are an unfriendly lot after being rebuffed in their praise of a Booker abridgment to a High Thanker, or in their expression of support for declaring the Convention Hall an historic site to a Chemist, etc. It is important for outsiders to be able to distinguish among the sects of Thankyouism, and to be familiar with its remarkable history, if they expect to be able to understand the significance of its increasing prominence in today's culture and politics.