CHAPTER VIII — To Head a Secret Order
Letter Number Three was from Francese I. Rogers, leader pro tem of the Hermetic Brotherhood, inviting me to visit their international headquarters in Alameda, California across the Bay from San Francisco. I was surprised to find that not only Francese but the entire board membership was on hand to greet me. They explained that they would like to know me better. Would I submit to some simple tests that would indicate something of my spiritual background? Hesitantly I agreed. The “tests” that followed seemed to me too simple to justify that term, but were apparently very important to Hermetics. What was my astrological sign? Aries, Sagittarius rising. My birth numbers? 3-3-6. Name numbers? 9-3-11. Favorite color? Blue. Flower? Yellow rose. Favorite musical instrument? Violin. Tree? Eucalyptus. Hobbies? Painting, clay modelling. Sports? Tennis, roller skating. Amatory interests? Scattered. “When we have struck four gongs, tell us which tone you like best.” The lowest one.
They then asked me to withdraw to an adjoining garden room. After what seemed a very long time—maybe half an hour, they asked me to rejoin them.
With some apologies, but emphasizing they were faced with important decisions in the movement, the board president explained.
The long-time leader of the movement, whom he described as Elder Brother Phelan, had recently made his transition. They were awaiting guidance in choosing their next leader. Reports from John Ring and Mrs. Jordan suggested that I might be the spiritually chosen successor. My responses to the “tests” coupled with their own intuitive feelings confirmed this. Would I accept that leadership?
It was my turn to put questions. I found that they emphasized astrology strongly, not in the commercial sense, but for guidance in personal matters as well as worldwide affairs. They were eclectic in religious concepts, reverencing the spiritual revelations of all the great religious leaders of the past and present. Their own specific tenets derived from Hermes thrice greatest of Egypt.
I confessed to being overwhelmed by the honor they sought to bestow upon me. I would give it most worshipful and prayerful consideration. But in my heart I already knew the answer. I sensed a deep relationship to all these things. But they seemed to me to be more of the past than of the present or the future.
Most deeply of all, I felt that whatever mission I had in this life it was not to serve a man-made secret order. Whatever secrets there were to be were those locked in each human heart, destined not to remain hidden but to be brought forth into free expression.
An Analytical Approach
Letter Number Four took me to Los Angeles, and the theosophical community called Krotona up in the Hollywood Hills. By what seems coincidence, but more probably synchronicity, I was one day to dwell in a charming house close by. For the time, though, I had a pleasant fellowship with the workers at Krotona. I was prepared to like them, for following my first introduction to extrasensory experiences it was a learned Theosophist whose practical, even-minded approach to such matters helped me to keep steadier than I otherwise could have. It took me only a little while to realize that there is more than one path that leads to illumination. I discerned that there are at least three major paths that lead us into the kingdom: wisdom, love, and beauty. In none of the forms of faith with which I am familiar, is this designation exclusive; all overlap, but one is predominant.
It seemed quite clear that Theosophy followed the path of wisdom; quite clear that though my own path was not yet well-defined, I did not feel comfortable in a strictly mental atmosphere. It seemed cold and impersonal. I kept wanting to put warmth into it, in the form of humor, affection, playfulness of spirit.
So, though I was offered the opportunity to become a lecturer and teacher I knew that it was not for me.
The one place where I felt warmth and love at Krotona was in a little Gothic chapel. There was warmth in the redwood lumber from which it was fashioned; warmth in the quiet, modest greeting of a young priest I found working at the altar table, for the furnishings were not yet complete. He was, he told me, ordained in a sect I had not known, the Liberal Catholic Church. It traced its lineage back to Beirut in the second century after Christ. It was revived by the noted Theosophical writer and speaker, Charles Leadbeater, and evidently had an appeal for worshipfully minded students. The young priest, Charles Hampton, working to complete a modest place of worship, seemed to emanate an aura of spiritual grace. I sought him out again before leaving Krotona, and we expressed the mutual wish to meet again.
How many years later, this came about, is one of the colorful episodes of my ministry.
Mysticism and a Mystic
The Fifth Letter took me to Oceanside, California, part way down the Coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, the home of The Rosicrucian Fellowship.
I was to learn that there were at least five Rosicrucian organizations, and if I were playing the game of “To Tell the Truth” and were to ask the real Rosicrucian Orders to stand up, all five would do so.
Mr. Heindel was the founder of “The Fellowship,” and I had read the story about how, when he was doing some research in one of the great libraries of Germany, a supernatural visitor had appointed him to reactivate the fraternity that is said to have originated in Germany in the 15th century. Before I visited the Fellowship at Oceanside, Max Heindel had died, and his widow was directing its activities, which at the time were focussed on the erection of a new center of worship to be known as the Ecclesia. Discipline was strict. Hired workmen must not use intoxicants, must not smoke or use foul language during the building process. Similar rules applied to members in the fraternity, who were to conform to a vegetarian diet and be guided by the teachings in a textbook, The Cosmo-conception, and by astrological charts from which teachers in the Order would offer help.
Mrs. Heindel greeted me warmly, remarked that she had read some of my articles in Unity publications, and believed I would become as well-known as their best-known student, Manly Palmer Hall.
Manly Hall and I were about the same age, and both spoke from the platform of the Metaphysical Library in San Diego, for its founder, Celia B. Slocum. Some years later, after I had become a Unity minister and editor, I went to the Atheneum lecture hall in Kansas City to hear Mrs. Heindel speak about “the secrets of nature, and mysticism.” I lingered after the meeting to introduce myself and to remind her of my visit of several years back.
“Oh, yes, I remember you very well. And how are your wife and your two sons? They must be nearly grown up by now.”
“But I’m not married, and have no children, Mrs. Heindel. You have me confused with someone else.”
“No, no. I remember perfectly. And I’ve just read your latest article in Weekly Unity.” With that she turned from me to greet others waiting to speak to her.
There must be something about my karma that so identifies me. Something similar to this happened at Unity School. I had discovered “Ernest Wilson Candy” and thought it an amusing novelty on occasion to present a box of Ernest Wilson Candy to friends. I even had a casual exchange of letters with the candy man because of our sharing the same name. So one day, in my first year as a member of the staff at Unity, Mrs. Ernest Wilson (his wife) and their two sons visited headquarters and asked to see me.
Word spread through the workers at the School that I was not the bachelor I purported to be, but rather a husband and the father of two young men sons.
I was confronted with this “deception,” and I could only jokingly respond that somehow I had missed knowing all this, but was glad to know there were two young men I could count on to support me in years to come.
Following the Oceanside episode I returned gratefully to the beauty and serenity of San Diego, the little church, the remembered garden where I had first seen a fig tree and got an inkling to the mystery of the untimely fig tree of Matthew’s version of the incident.
John and I had both reached the same conclusion—that we should chart our own course, combine our common interests and modestly set about offering our own concepts of the great universal principles that consciously or otherwise, unite all Truth seekers.
But everything has to have a name, a label. “The word harmonial keeps recurring in my thought,” John volunteered. The word derived from the writings of the mystic, Andrew Jackson Davis, to which John had introduced me. He was a prolific writer, author of twenty-four books, expounding what he called “The Harmonial Philosophy,” very much akin to modern New Thought, the teachings of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and those of Edgar Cayce, but antedating them by half a century and more. Davis was born in 1826, and like Charles Fillmore and Cayce, never got beyond the eighth grade in formal education. As a youth he, like Cayce, had what nowadays would be called extrasensory perception. Through deep meditation he evoked much the same phenomena that Cayce was to call forth through self-induced hypnosis. He diagnosed illness of persons he had never seen, visited places strange to his normal state, spoke in languages he had never learned, and was affluent in medical and other scientific subjects.
“Ask a man what he thinks—about matters pertaining to the world about us, about his work, his neighborhood, people, the state of the world, how he intends to vote in the next election—and you will get at least an opinion.
“Ask him what he believes—about the mind, the soul, where we came from, whither we are going—and he is likely to respond by telling you what he does not believe, rather than what he does believe.”
I wrote these words many years after my brief visit to five movements presenting concepts to live by. I was more conscious of differences than likenesses; of what perhaps, they left out rather than included. Was it possible to form a movement that offered a definite viewpoint, yet left room to change and grow, to include the viewpoint of others? This was our impossible dream.
After much prayer we decided to call our ministry the harmonial philosophy, our organization The Harmonial Institute.
© 1984, by Ronald and Beverly Potter
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.