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Ernest Wilson—If You Want To Enough

CHAPTER VII — Overtures

During the nine months I was in Galveston I received letters from representatives of five national metaphysical organizations inviting a visit and/or suggesting affiliation. Their more or less tenuous overtures may well have contributed to my growing feeling that I was not in my right place. I commented to John that if the church board would release me I would visit the five organizations while he was in Houston and we would meet and compare notes in San Diego.

So I met with the board, they accepted my resignation even though my year was not up. Attendance, interest, and income had improved. There would be no difficulty in getting a replacement. A local teacher would supply until my successor was chosen.

Responding to Letter Number One, I visited Unity School. Almost as soon as I entered its administration building at the world-famous address, 917 Tracy, Kansas City, Missouri, I knew the time was not right. The clicking sound of a dozen typewriters and the distant hum of printing presses assailed my ears. The scent of printers ink was vaguely in the air. I was overawed by the businesslike atmosphere. Counters and railings separated the people at work from the expansive public area. I approached a counter directly opposite from the entrance, where a young woman sat at a telephone switchboard, efficiently handling cords. She looked up at my approach and asked if she could help me. I told her I’d like to talk to someone about becoming a teacher or minister. It didn’t occur to me to ask to see Charles or Myrtle Fillmore, or Miss Shanklin, with whom I had corresponded.

It wasn’t until years later that I would write—in a Unity book—that it is usually easier to reach the head of the firm than a subordinate. I was directed to a woman seated in back of one of the railings. I told her my name, that I was a minister who had written some things for Unity, and would like to know the requirements for becoming a Unity minister.

She asked me, “Have you taken the Correspondence Course?” I didn’t know there was one.

“Read Lessons In Truth?” No.

“Read the Unity magazines?” Only a few issues.

“Read the publications, study Lessons In Truth, take the Correspondence Course, and we’ll pray about it.”

I did venture to ask if someone could show me through the buildings, and she told me a young man from the Prosperity Bank department would be glad to take me on a tour. That young man proved to be Frank Lynch, who soon dropped the name Frank in favor of his middle name, Richard. He not only took me on a guided tour—I was especially impressed by the printing department and bindery—but also took me to lunch at the cafeteria the School provided for the convenience of Unity workers and visitors from the nearby business section of the city. It was at that time housed in a frame building at the corner of Tenth Street on Tracy. No specific charge was placed on the food; guests were invited to place their own price on it. Some time later Richard Lynch became a Unity field lecturer and visited San Diego, where our acquaintance was renewed. He was the first of all the Unity leaders I was to know.

I felt grateful to Richard for his friendliness, but felt let down by the impersonality of the clerk’s responses to my inquiries.

They were logical responses, but at that point it seemed like what years later I was to call “the Hollywood brush-off” (don’t call us; we’ll call you). Come to think about it now, it worked out that way. About five years later, in 1924 Charles Fillmore invited me to come to headquarters and speak at the Summer Training School. I always think of that as my first visit to Unity School. That initial query didn’t count.

Letter Number Two was from Doctor Sidney Weltmer, founder of The Weltmer Institute of Suggestive Therapeutics in Nevada, Missouri. It was an invitation to visit the Institute, address their potential doctors, and consider a position that he thought might interest me.

I found how to go to Nevada, specifying the town, not the state.

It had to be by bus, so I phoned to let them know when I could get there, and arrived in the late afternoon.

An Anatomical Approach

Nevada (pronounced Ne-vay-dah, I learned) was a small town some eighty miles due south of Kansas City. The ride down through the pleasant countryside was dotted by many farms with houses perched on the higher spots and invariably surrounded by trees that offered some protection from the hot summer sun; a landscape picturesquely varied by numerous rocky outcroppings. The trip gave me a good opportunity to review what I had learned from John about Doctor Weltmer and his philosophy. They were long-time friends, and though it wasn’t mentioned in his letter, I guessed that it was John who had told him about me.

Weltmer, it seemed, believed in the power of prayer to heal. He believed in “the laying on of hands.” I recalled reading his little book, The Healing Hand, which presented his belief that in prayer which purpose was healing, the “healer” placed his hands on the patient, over the affected part of the body if that could be located, otherwise he clasped hands with the patient. An actual healing energy was imparted to the afflicted one—an energy which Doctor Weltmer called manefluvialism. Mane for hand, fluvial for flow. He also employed manipulation of the body, somewhat like osteopathy. This form of practice was legally authorized in only a few of the states. It was of course his ambition to have it universally recognized.

Back in 1912, so John told me, the Institute’s mail had been held by the postal authorities, on the claim that offering healing prayer by mail was using the mails to defraud. Weltmer took the case to the State Supreme Court, where the appeal was to be heard. The judge had a young son who was considered to be fatally ill, and past medical help. Doctor Weltmer offered to pray in his special way, and the youth recovered. The judge threw the case out of court. So the story went. John felt that this legal action established the legal acceptance of such movements as Unity, for which he had great respect.

The Institute was housed in a large two-story dwelling, set back from the street at an intersection in the center of town. Steps led to a wide porch, dotted with a number of chairs and a swing. The entry, framed with glass panels, opened on a reception hall, with a stairway on the left and double doors opening on a large room off to the right, that at a glance showed to be arranged as a lecture hall. A receptionist welcomed me, and got word to Ernest Weltmer, who she informed me was the manager of the School. He took me to a pleasant room on the second floor, assured me of his Father’s pleasure that I had accepted his invitation. I would meet him at dinner.

So began a busy week of meetings. Sidney Jr. was on leave from the M.I.T. in Boston, where he was specializing in hypnotherapy. I found him to be well versed in metaphysics. He considered the use of affirmations, as advocated by Unity, Divine Science and the Holmes brothers, Ernest and Fenwick, to be a form of autosuggestion, and he preferred to utilize them under that designation. “Our own errant thoughts, feelings and attitudes are the cause of most of our problems, and their displacement by more constructive ones are the cure. There is a power in man, comparable to electricity—maybe it is electricity—which use or misuse can exalt or destroy,” he declared.

Doctor Sidney (Senior) emanated and inspired confidence. I liked him immediately. After dinner he invited me to join him for coffee in a small sitting room, and outlined what he had in mind for me.

A Tempting Offer

He edited and published a monthly magazine. He was seeking a writer and editor who believed in the power of prayer to heal. He believed I might be the one. He’d like me to be his guest for a week, speak at one of the daily inspirational lecture meetings, which all the enrolled students attended, attend the rest and become familiar with the whole setup with the help of his two sons. It was an inspiring experience. Whatever I said in the discourse I gave must have made a favorable impression, for many years later when I had become a field lecturer and editor for Unity, I received and accepted an invitation to address the graduating class of young doctors and the guests who had come to congratulate them. To my great surprise they conferred upon me an honory degree of D.S.T.

It was near the end of my week’s visit that Ernest said, “There’s one aspect of our work that you haven’t seen. I’ve waited until you had become familiar with everything else. Now I’d like you to visit the dissection laboratory in our basement.”

I Wasn't Ready For Cadavers

I could smell the disinfectant—formaldehyde?—as soon as the basement door was opened. It became stronger as a door near the foot of the stairs opened into the laboratory, coupled with another underlying odor, the odor of death, which I think should remain undescribed. Something in me congealed. I couldn’t move in response to the instructor’s nod of welcome. I had never before seen a cadaver. How long I stood there I’ve no way of knowing, probably only a few minutes. My senses reeled, then suddenly cleared. I turned to Ernest, mumbled some word of thanks and somewhat unsteadily made my way up the stairs, wondering if I’d ever get the odor of death out of my lungs.

I knew it was important that the young men and women who would be manipulating human bodies in their practice should know all they could learn about anatomy, but I knew, too, that I was not ready for this approach to healing.

I left the Weltmers with appreciation of their hospitality and my promise to let them know whether I felt I could serve them—but in my heart I already knew the answer.

All this was brought vividly to my mind, when, having been called to resume my ministry to the Kansas City Unity Society in the 60’s, I was called to conduct a funeral service at a mortuary chapel in Nevada. As we approached the address we’d been given I experienced a strange feeling of familiarity. As my companion and I ascended the steps to the porch of the two-story frame house I knew we’d see a stairway to the left of the entry; and a wide opening to a spacious room to the right. It was the former home of the Weltmer Institute. Apparently it did not survive its first generation. I felt that it should have.

© 1984, by Ronald and Beverly Potter
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.