CHAPTER XXV — One Besetting Sin?
“Ernest, there’s just one thing the matter with you,” Clinton Bernard, associate editor of Good Business said to me one day when I was feeling frustrated by being told, regarding something I wanted to do, “We’ve never done it that way.”
“What’s that?” I asked absentmindedly.
“You should have been born a Fillmore.”
“It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” I responded.
But he had raised a point that I sometimes found difficult to be objective and impersonal about. The Fillmores had been doing very well without me—so well, in fact, that their work had excited my admiration to the extent that I felt it was a great privilege to be a member of the staff. I was only thirty-one when I came to headquarters as Youth's editor. They were justified in questioning any changes in methods that had brought them to the highest standards in the metaphysical field. I was young, brash, impatient. It was my problem, not theirs. But of course, I was “absolutely right—from my point of view.” Retta Chilcott was probably quite right in her observation, which I was so often to hear: “Ernest, there’s just one thing the matter with you,” and my inevitable query, “What’s that?” Her concept of the one thing was, “Your middle initial should have been I instead of C; I for Impatience, or perhaps Instantly.”
If I have one besetting sin, I suppose “impatience” would describe it. In the degree that I have overcome it is probably my greatest attainment in this long journey underneath the stars. My efforts appear in a worded prayer that it took me awhile to formulate, and much longer to embody. I hope it has helped some others as it has me:
Prayer For Patience
“O GOD, help me to be patient.
Help me to keep my vision and my poise as I work and prepare for the things that only work and preparation can bring. Help me to be patient with the mistakes and immature efforts of beginners. Help me to keep my thoughts upward and forward in times of waiting for the outcome of events in the life of those I love. Help me not only to endure but to appreciate the value of each day even when my thought and heart are leaping on ahead to coming events. Help me not to waste the days “in between”; Help me too to keep my poise when events move swiftly and threaten to engulf me; to be patient with my own shortcomings as with those of others, not in the spirit of resignation but of resolution.”
“Ernest, remember: your gifts make way for your good!” This admonition came from May Rowland, one of the great women in the Unity movement which is characterized by outstanding women, like Myrtle Fillmore, H. Emilie Cady, Imelda Shanklin, and (I must add) Norma Knight Jones and Sue Sikking. I think May said that to me only once, but it has rung in my ears through the years, even until now.
That we ever became such friends as we have is a source of gratitude and wonder to me. There was a sort of other-worldliness about her akin to that of Myrtle Fillmore but different. Myrtle emanated an aura of love; May an inward calm and serenity. May seemed to dwell in a world apart; it was such remarks as the one I’ve quoted that made me realize how “aware” of the outward activities and inward motivations of people around her she actually was.
As our various responsibilities brought us together more often she surprised me one day by a personal comment. “I’ve observed that no matter how many things you have to do, you always seem to find time for the individual who wants to ask you something or tell you something,” and whether this was a fact or not it made me want it to be. She followed the comment with a practical help. “The more any of us is called on to do, the more we need to pray. I want you to know that you are always welcome in the Silent Unity prayer room (an exception to the rule) whether there’s a meeting being held or not.” It was a privilege which I often claimed.
Silent Unity was not much like what I had imagined it to be. I had envisioned its personnel as an assembly of solemn silent figures—like what I thought a group of Trappist monks might be—sitting in endless prayer. Instead, as I entered the well-lighted workroom adjacent to the prayer chapel, my ears were assailed by the subdued clicking of scores of typewriters operated by men and women of all ages, but mostly young and attractive, modernly and variously clad, busily at work, and quite oblivious to my entrance.
Suddenly the sound of typing was penetrated by the musical tone of a ringing bell. Abruptly the sounds of typing ceased. The workers rose as of one accord and began silently filing into the Prayer Chapel to whose services I had been specially invited. It was time for united prayer, a ritual that was repeated several times a day. Between such stated services, individual workers took turns entering the chapel alone for an hour’s devotions.
Often following such a service I would return with May to her desk to see if she had some special word for me. She usually did; she seemed to know what help I needed better than consciously I did myself. “Keep knowing, Ernest, that He that is within you is greater than he that is in the world,” she might say.
Sometimes, too, she would invite me to spend a Saturday or holiday with her sister, Eve, and her, at their homes on Unity Ridge across the highway from Unity Village. May believed in exercise. She loved the outdoors. Often the three of us, our number often augmented by other guests, would go on hikes, pausing to admire a view, or to listen for a meadowlark’s song or catch sight of the brilliant plumage of a cardinal. Once, after a tornado had swept across the area she took me in her car and pointed out the path it had made across the countryside.
Egypt, Past and Present
On chill winter evenings we’d sit around an open fire at Villa Serena and talk about spiritual imponderables. We shared a belief in reincarnation and avowed that we must have been related in some forgotten past, probably in Egypt to which we were strongly attracted. We talked of making a trip to that ancient land together, and all of us got there, though at different times. May brought back more souvenirs from Egypt than anywhere else she had been, among them a likeness of the famous Nefertiti. I was struck by May’s facial resemblance to the ancient queen.
There is a curious sequel to this. In 1952 King Farouk was deposed. Some time later, the queen mother, Nazli Fouad, visited Los Angeles seeking help for a crippling back injury. Through her interest in Unity’s emphasis on spiritual healing we became friends. When a lecture trip brought May to Los Angeles I arranged a small dinner party that would bring the queen mother of Egypt and the director of Unity’s healing ministry together.
An accident to the queen mother while she was preparing for the dinner aggravated the old back injury and forced a cancellation of the meeting.
May was imperturbable. “Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, let us say some special prayers for the gracious lady who is a guest of our country,” was her response.
“You’re the most amazing person, ” I said. “Nothing ever disturbs you.”
May Defies a Tornado
“That’s a good affirmation, and I try to make it a fact as well as an ideal; but there was one instance when, I don’t mind telling you, I emphatically raised my voice in indignation.”
“It happened at the time of that tornado, whose path cut across the area. I was standing by the big view-window at home, looking over the darkening sky. I could see the tornado approaching from the southwest. It was heading right toward my house. Instead of running to a safer place as logically I should have, I stood there defiantly and cried out at it: ‘Get the hell out of here!’ It turned and veered off over an unpopulated area!”
“You actually said that?” I cried, bursting into uncontrollable laughter in which she joined. “It’s so unlike you!”
I don’t think it was only the tornado. She was, almost alone, holding steadfast for traditional ways of teaching Unity in the face of what seemed to her to be adverse encroachments. Facing the tornado was, perhaps, an instinctive symbolic action. It deepened my already deep affection for her.
Deep with good reason. She so often seemed to sense a need in me before I was aware of it myself. A little handwritten note from her would apprise me of this. She did not send greeting cards—at least not to me, nor give birthday presents or other token gifts, but those brief notes, often only a few words, were always timely, heart-warming reassuring. I hope that some of those I sent to her were as effective!
I Meet Another Great Lady
Manifold activities had liabilities, and some serendipities. One of my co-workers chided me for having too many irons in the fire. “How many would you say is too many?” I asked.
“More than you can keep hot,” he retorted.
“I don’t think you can say I am lukewarm about any of mine!” I responded,“And I’m grateful that so many people warm up to them.”
Taking on a series of national network broadcasts on the Columbia Church of the Air in those eventful years resulted in a rewarding friendship. It brought me in touch with Doctor Cady.
I had always wanted to know Doctor H. Emilie Cady.
From the time I was first introduced to her book, Lessons In Truth, my inquiries always met with what seemed to be evasions: she lived in retirement; she had been so beset by unscheduled visitors that she had asked the School not to give out her address to any of its readers. One of the earliest of these network broadcasts opened the way for me. I received a note from Doctor Cady. In her New York apartment she had happened to have the local CBS station tuned in at the time I was speaking. She had never heard a Unity message before, did not even have Unity books and magazines about, because the companion-housekeeper who looked after her mundane welfare was antagonistic to Unity, and couldn’t bear to see or hear an allusion to it. If ever I was in New York City could I find time to call on her?
Could I find time? I would make time, and did, very soon after. I was scheduled for my first trip to Europe, and wrote her of my plans. I prepared for my visit with her by arming myself with a deluxe copy of her book, and got some Unity friends to take me to her address.
“Wait for me. I doubt if I’ll be more than ten minutes or so,” I assured them, as I entered the building.
She greeted me warmly. She was a large woman, nearly as tall as I, with strong features and hands like a man’s, with long spatulate fingers that made me think of a surgeon’s. She had never been to Unity in Kansas City (or in New York for that matter); knew the Fillmores best by correspondence. When I described Mr. Fillmore to her she commented, “Oh, yes. He must have been the slightly lame little man that came to see me one time.”
She had been to most of the European areas I planned to visit and shared her memories with me. There was a physical problem for which she asked my prayers.
I found she was not too happy with recent editions of her book. She objected to the elaborate and technical list of questions following the final chapter, included for the benefit of students of the Correspondence Course.
“Why do they make it appear so hard? And the questions are not pertinent to my text. I don’t like to give copies to my friends.”
I was happy that I could do something about that through my status as editor-in-chief. “When another printing is scheduled, I’ll have as many copies as you can use bound without the questions,” (which I did). Then:
“I’ve brought a copy of your book with me. Would you autograph it for me?” I asked.
“Are you married?” she responded.
“No. But what difference does that make?”
“I thought I’d like to put a little love in it,” she anwered with a smile.
I still have that little book, inscribed, “With warm affection, H. Emilie Cady.”
My “ten minutes” had become an hour and a half.
I went on a more extended trip the following year, and saw Doctor Cady for a second visit. Her closing words to me were, “We shall always be friends, but this may be our last time together on this plane. I may make a change before long.”
She did—her journey into the next dimension.
© 1984, by Ronald and Beverly Potter
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.