The Life of Ernest Holmes

The majority of the following material on the life of Ernest Holmes was gathered from a booklet entitled, Path of Discovery written by Rev. Scott Awbrey ( and published by United Church of Religious Science and used with permission.

“Our time should be devoted to knowing the Truth that sets humanity free from the problem of ignorance; that Truth which alone can bring enlightenment to the world, that war should cease, that people should live together in harmony because they have recognized the Divinity within each other.”

Who was Ernest Holmes? Where did he come from? And how is it that a man who had a distaste for organized religion becomes the founder of the Science of Mind movement?

In studying his life, our goal is not just to learn about the life of this man but to attempt to capture his consciousness knowing that that consciousness is the vitality of our teaching.

Ernest Holmes founded the international Religious Science movement and wrote The Science of Mind and numerous other books on metaphysics. He also founded the international monthly periodical, Science of Mind Magazine, which has been in continuous monthly publication since 1927 and has influenced millions of people. His Science of Mind teaching, recognized today as one of the leading viewpoints in modern metaphysics, is a spiritual philosophy that people throughout the world have come to know as a positive, supportive approach to life.

“There is a Divine urge within everyone to know more, to be more, and to express more, and I have found that the thing we are searching for is the thing we are searching with.”

“Out there in the vast reaches of outer space and here in the equally vast reaches of inner space, everything is in order. Our task is to begin to understand that the Universal Mind is resident everywhere, and also, of necessity, within us. Our prayer is that the Truth be made known, that it cannot fail to be revealed.”

Ernest Shurtleff Holmes was born January 21 1887, on a small farm near Lincoln, Maine. He was the youngest of nine sons. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a self-educated farmer. He was raised as a Baptist but his parents were not ordinary Baptists. They believed in the goodness of God, did not believe in a personal devil and urged all their children to come to religion with questioning minds.

Ernest Holmes was born in poverty. Hard economic times continued most of his early life. His father did not do well at farming or at attempting to raise sheep. Their farm had to be mortgaged. Later, when the bank foreclosed, the family moved into an abandoned farmhouse, beginning a nomadic life, which lasted for several years. During this period some of the boys, including Ernest, stayed with various relatives. Eventually, Ernest’s father landed a job in a logging camp and the family was reunited. However, after the time the family moved from the farm, Ernest never celebrated two birthdays in the same house.

The first real town Ernest Holmes lived in was Bethel, Maine. In this small community he had his first exposure to a life of more than farms and forests. Much of his youth was spent in Bethel, where he received his only formal education and encountered his first actual church.

As a young boy, Ernest Holmes began developing talents that would serve him throughout his life. Even before he learned to read, he acquired the skill of repeating passages almost word for word after hearing them read only once. Reading was a favorite pastime for all of the Holmes family members, but books were scarce during Ernest’s early years. Ernest’s mother would read aloud to the family from the King James Version every evening.

Philosophy and religion were the subjects about which Ernest’s parents read the most. They studied Henry Drummond, Natural Law in the Spiritual World, and from this developed a religious viewpoint more expansive than most people had in that era. Eventually the boys were also permitted to read Drummond’s writings. This was the first material on metaphysics ever read by Ernest Holmes.

Ernest’s parents would not tolerate the teaching of fear as part of religion. “Fortunately, I was brought up by a mother who refused to have fear taught in her family,”‘ he said. “New England, theologically, was pretty strict; but she was a wise woman and she determined we should never be taught there was anything to be afraid of….”

Ernest’s father would not stand for “hellfire” preaching. During one Sunday morning service, the local minister delivered a fiery sermon, declaring that all people were “worms of the dust, doomed to decay in the dust from which they had sprung.” Later, on the way home from church, Ernest’s father could not contain his anger. “Don’t be scared, boys, about worms of the dust,” he said. “You are not worms, and it’s a big lie. Jesus said, ‘Ye are gods and are like God if you keep it that way. Man was made by God. Any other story is lie.”

Ernest Holmes never subscribed to the popular idea of an eternal hell. “If there was one,” he once said as a teenager, “God would have to have a hand in it, and if He did have a hand in it, He wouldn’t be God. He would be the devil.” Later He loved to quote a story about Judge Troward’s view of the devil.

An old lady was incensed by hearing Judge Troward declare in a lecture that there was no such being as the Devil. When the lecture was over she indignantly challenged him. He looked at her and said, What do you want the Devil for, for yourself? Of course not, she replied. For your friends then or perhaps your enemies? Oh no, she said . Then what the devil do you want him for, madam?

Like all the family, Ernest Holmes became an avid reader. He loved mythology and read translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and The Last Days of Pompeii. Even at an early age, he loved poetry – one of his favorites was Longfellow’s Evangeline. Some years later he memorized Hiawatha and used it in dramatic recitals. His first public speech, which he presented at the age of six, was at one of Bethel’s church socials. A portion of his recital went as follows:

You’d scarce expect one of my age
To speak in public on the stage
And if I chance to fall below
Demosthenes and Cicero,
Don’t view me with a critic’s eye
But pass my imperfections by.

As a teenager, Ernest Holmes was widely known as “the eternal question mark.” He was curious about everything and asked innumerable questions. “From the beginning I was a nonconformist,” he said, “asking so many questions I drove my relatives crazy.”

All during his youth there was no indication that Ernest Holmes would become one of the great spiritual leaders of his time. He said many years later that he never felt a special calling, no hint of being singled out as a great teacher. He always insisted that his own understanding was the result of a natural growth and unfolding and that this evolution was available to all. His curiosity naturally followed him to church, where he continually questioned the ministers about their theology. His most often-used words were “why” and “how.”

In 1904, at the age of 17, Ernest Holmes entered a private preparatory school in Bethel and began studying English, Latin, mathematics, and history. He attempted to get a formal education and to understand the religious teachings of the day. After much questioning and contemplation, however, Ernest set his sights on a course of independent thinking, deciding his education was not to be derived from conventional means. He left school and formal education forever and became a student of life.

His heart was not so much in the classroom as it was in poetry, in nature, and in the contemplation of life. He spent most of his time reading poetry and driving a horse and buggy through the Maine woods. Alone in the countryside, he asked himself the questions, “What is God? Who am I? Why am I here?” He decided to find his answers in a larger city and moved to Boston in 1905 when he was 18 years old.

Ernest Holmes went to work for some relatives in their butcher business and grocery store. He worked mornings, evenings, and Saturdays so he could have his afternoons free for study in the large public library.

Ernest Holmes began attending church with his aunt but soon found himself questioning teachings of the church, particularly those which were dualistic in nature: heaven and hell, God and the devil, good and evil. “Belief in dualism was a part of the religion of the time,” Ernest said, “but I never did believe it, although I was just a kid when I went to Boston. I used to say to the minister, ‘How do you know there is a hell? I don’t believe it. He would answer, ‘Ernest, you mustn’t talk that way. It’s in the Bible.’ Then Ernest Holmes would ask, “Who wrote the Bible? If it’s in the Bible, then somebody made a mistake. Something inside me knows it isn’t true.”

While Ernest Holmes was visiting his brother, William, who had been a psychology student at Yale University and who had written on metaphysical subjects in school, he discovered a copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays. He read the book thoroughly over the next two days and a light came on for him. Another of Ernest’s brothers, Fenwicke, wrote of the incident years later. “It was at that moment that life really began for Ernest Holmes,” Fenwicke wrote. “He had entered the foreground of the Idea.”

Ernest Holmes not only read Emerson but he also talked with much excitement about Emerson’s ideas. It was the idea of an independence of mind that Ernest found so rich and vital in Emerson’s writings. The poet emphasized nonconformity, which Ernest loved, for independence had been Ernest’s trademark almost his entire life.

“Be yourself,” Emerson wrote. “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Ernest Holmes was 20 years old when he first read those words and he reveled in the spiritual freedom that Emerson offered.
Emerson said, “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across the mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” When Ernest Holmes read these words he knew he would not be afraid to recognize his inner genius and would dedicate his life to help bring out that same inner genius in all people.

“Reading Emerson was like drinking water to me,” Ernest once said. “I have studied him all my life. Reading Emerson for the first time, the first half-dozen lectures or essays, gave me a realization that in a certain sense every man has to interpret the universe in terms of his own thinking and personal relationships, and that in order to do it, he has to have faith and confidence in his own interpretation.”

This “individual interpretation” was a theme by which Ernest Holmes lived. Although he chose his own spiritual path and never veered from it, he was tolerant of the opinions and beliefs of others. He never criticized another person’s ideas.
“Every man becomes his own philosophy, his own institution, and what he has is conditioned by what he is. You are married to your soul for better or worse, for richer or poorer for life and death now and forever; and sometimes that thought frightened me; I didn’t always like myself, but I couldn’t get a divorce!”

Ernest Holmes believed that people share universality with all of life and that this unification gives all people a divine participation. “You yourself are an individualization of this thing,” he said. “There is a depth and meaning to your own being; if you can discover it, it will answer your own questions.”

With his discovery of Emerson, Ernest’s studies intensified. His quest for the truth led him to literature, art, science, philosophy, and religion. “I am my own authority. My reason and my intuition are as equal value with any other person.”

At this time Ernest Holmes was bothered by a nagging throat irritation. He came to believe it was caused by his concerns about how others might see him. He was worried about the opinions of others when he expressed his views. “Emerson taught me,” he said, “that I must have faith and confidence in my own interpretation of the universe and my relation to it.”

Now that he wasn’t afraid to voice his convictions, the throat irritation disappeared.” For the first time in my life I thought that whatever my purpose was, was due to something already within me.”

“It’s not that God has a purpose for us but that you and I have a purpose in God. You can’t escape the fact that you are here, something has to be done and you are the only one who can do anything about it”

Ernest Holmes did not believe in pink cloud metaphysics. The relative world exists as a factual reality. It is not an illusion. “The answer to life is not to develop a metaphysical system to explain why God is good but to live here and now in the goodness of God.”

When Ernest Holmes read Emerson’s Essay on Spiritual Laws he began to understand the true meaning of the soul. “There is an essence in each of us that remains pure and untouched, that can know neither deformity or pain. Only the finite can suffer for the infinite lies stretched in smiling repose.”

“When we have destroyed the God of the intellect and broken with the God of tradition, then God fills us with His Presence.” Stop defining God and simply let God be God in you.

And so from Emerson, Holmes embodied these three ideas.

1. We are our own spiritual authority.

2. There is a Godlike Essence in every person.

3. There is some kind of connection between our thoughts and what happens to us.

Later on the thoughts of Ernest Holmes were also influenced by the writings of Troward, Plotinus, William James, P.P. Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Walt Whitman, Meister Eckhart, St. Augustine, St. Teresa, Rufus Jones, Evelyn Underhill, Kipling, Wordsworth, Robert Browning and Sri Aurobindo.

In 1908, because of his great love for reading and speaking, Ernest Holmes enrolled in the Leland Powers School of Public Expression in Boston. Mrs. Powers, wife of the school’s founder, was a Christian Scientist and a reader in a Boston church. Ernest attended the church to hear her read and he became interested in the Christian Science philosophy. What most intrigued him was their concept of prayer. Although he agreed with much of the Christian Science philosophy, there were a number of things about the organization that he could not accept.

1. The belief that the physical universe is not real. Science of Mind teaches that the physical universe is real but is a derived reality, an effect emanating from the true reality of Spirit.

2. The unique spiritual authority of Mary Baker Eddy. Science of Mind teaches that every person has the ability to reveal spiritual truth, Ernest said, “No one whispered any revelation into my ear that is not available to every person.”

3. The idea of “mental malpractice”. Science of Mind teaches positive prayer and believes no one can do mental harm to anyone who is focused on the goodness of God.

4.  The authoritarian nature of the organization and the rigidity in its publications. Science of Mind is “open at the top”, always ready to receive new truth and new information about our world.

Ernest Holmes never became a Christian Scientist, but he did read the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, and began developing his own ideas about prayer, realizing that the answer to prayer lies in the mental attitude of the one who prays. “It is not God’s Mind that needs to be changed, but ours,” Ernest Holmes said. “God is to be looked upon as Love, impartial and universal; He answers all who pray with real faith, not in God alone but faith in the answer as well.”

Ernest Holmes concluded that if anyone could pray effectively, everyone could. “Anything anyone has ever done, anybody can do,” he said. “There can be no secrets in nature. This I have always believed. There is no special providence, no God who says, ‘I am going to tell you what I didn’t tell any others. ”

Through his studies he concluded there is a spiritual law or principle that could be called upon for healing, independent of any particular religious faith, and anyone could use it. “I intuitively felt that the affirmation of God’s goodness would heal the sick. I began with the belief that God is all and I never departed from it.

“If we do not like our outer circumstances, conditions, or our personality, the place to begin to change is right within our own mind.” Ernest believed that this is the basis of healing in all areas of one’s life.

“God is good from the start. You don’t have to win Any Presence or power over or convince any one. God is already convinced. The answer to the prayer is not out there somewhere. It is in the mental attitude of the one who prays. We always assume the goodness of God as the starting point.”

Ernest Holmes began to pray with others and would always begin with positive affirmations. ” I began to get the feeling deep inside me that there was a Divine Presence with whom I could commune but there was also a Divine Law which I could use. I even connected it up with Browning’s, ‘All’s Love, yet all is Law.'”

Later these concepts were more clearly developed to create a spiritual atmosphere in the mind of the practitioner in which the client gives the interior spiritual consent to be healed.

“You are to recognize that you are already whole, perfect and complete in essence and that you have the capacity to be whole, perfect and complete in manifestation regardless of what may be appearing as a relative condition. And it doesn’t matter how serious the condition is. There is no big or small in divine Mind be it a planet or a peanut.”

Ernest Holmes continued studying Emerson and began reading other metaphysical material. He left the Christian Science textbook for the writings of Christian Larson and a book by Ralph Waldo Trine, In Tune with the Infinite.

In 1909, at the age of 25, Ernest Holmes read Larson’s The Ideal Made Real, he was better able to comprehend Larson’s ideas after having read Emerson. He experienced a high spiritual feeling while reading Larson and was inspired to plunge more deeply into learning and practicing the art of mental treatment. Holmes learned three ideas from Larson that were to serve him well.

1. Prayer continues consciously or unconsciously all the time. Therefore we must learn to consciously pray without ceasing and behold the good in everyone and everything.

2. We can overcome negative relative conditions by learning to control our thoughts.

3. We are not victims of circumstance. We actually create the conditions in our life by the way we think about life.

But it was not until Ernest discovered and studied Troward that he developed a clear theory on how we become conscious co-creators with God.

While Ernest Holmes was pursuing his studies in Boston, his brother Fenwicke had been studying at the Hartford Theological Seminary, had become a Congregational minister and moved to Venice, California, to begin a new church. Mother Holmes went with Fenwicke and lived with him.

Ernest Holmes visited them in 1912 at the age of 25, liked California, and settled down there, assisting Fenwicke in his church. He helped Fenwicke in many areas, one of them being in the organization of the Junior Church. Mother Holmes also assisted in Fenwicke’s church, working for the community’s needy citizens and organizing fundraisers for the church. It was in a similar area many years later that she worked for the Institute of Religious Science.

Ernest Holmes went to work as a purchasing agent and playground director for the city of Venice a job he held for three years. The position provided him ample time to read. Discovering a metaphysical library in nearby Los Angeles, he continued to broaden his education. “I began to read and study everything I could get hold of,” he said.

Ernest Holmes discovered the writings of Thomas Troward, reading The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science and The Doré Lectures. Troward, an Englishman, was an nineteenth century judge in India, who approached mental science as one might expect of a person trained in the law. He stated his case, then logically proved it. Ernest liked the conclusive reasoning Troward employed in his discussions of metaphysics and felt the judge’s arguments confirmed his own theories.

“The thing I like about Troward is that he gives a scientific or logical explanation of whatever he claims,” Ernest said. “Take the idea of ‘unity,’ for example. He quotes from the ancient teachers of India, the Vedantists, saying that it is impossible to have two infinities, for if there were two, neither of them could be infinite. Therefore, there is only one.”

“Troward shows that if the originating Life Principle is infinite, or limitless, then the whole of Spirit must be present at every point in space at the same moment. It must be Omnipresent in its entirety…. All Spirit is concentrated at any point in space that we may fix our thought upon.”

Troward’s writings had a great impact on Ernest, who believed they were the closest thing to his own philosophy he had yet encountered. “Troward eclipsed anything I ever read,” Ernest once said. “In fact, I couldn’t help saying to myself, ‘This is exactly what I feel. This solves the problem of dualism. This is the Law. ” If it was Emerson who ignited the passion and poetry in Holmes, it was Troward who fueled the intellect.

From Troward, Ernest Holmes became convinced:

1. There is an impersonal Law of the universe that is creative.

2. We create our own dungeons or destiny by using the same creative power that created the universe.

3. Omnipresence. Wherever Spirit is at all the whole of Spirit must be. “There is not a spot where God is not.”

4. We can use this God Power within us consciously to change our life for the better.

Through Ernest’s studies of many great metaphysicians, he developed his own theory of prayer. He believed that the purpose of prayer was not to convince or persuade God to grant one’s desire, but rather to change one’s own consciousness. He felt that one’s true essence is Goodness, Wholeness, and Truth, and that people operate within a law of nature which is impersonal. Everyone may draw from this vast reservoir, Ernest believed. “God is more ready to give than we are to receive,” he said. He believed that one of the aspects of prayer is to put oneself into harmony with the divine Law of Life and Abundance, to allow the flowing of God’s Good to fill us.

“Never be astonished when prayer is answered; be surprised when It isn’t and find out where you went wrong.”

Ernest Holmes spent much of his twenties studying, reading, and learning about the consciousness of great healers and spiritual leaders. He knew intuitively, however, that all people used the same power. “I was convinced that Troward spoke for all schools of metaphysics when he said there is only One Mind in the universe and we use it.”

And so Ernest Holmes was formulating his own system, his own philosophy, which was evolving into a blend of metaphysics, psychology, and philosophy. It would incorporate the religious doctrines of East and West and include the teachings of Emerson, Troward, and other metaphysical authors.

Ernest Holmes opened an office as a “spiritual counselor in 1915, but didn’t have any business, so he became a purchasing agent for the city of Venice. He analyzed his mistake and concluded that a vision must contain pure motive and the timing must be right. Ernest knew what he wanted but instead of pushing he now was learning the art of patience and working with the flow of the universe.

What turned inner thought into outer dynamic growth was a seemingly small event. While Ernest was employed as a purchasing agent in Venice, a frequent visitor to his office noticed the metaphysical books on Ernest’s desk. After borrowing some of them, reading the material, and discussing it with Ernest, the man invited Ernest to his house to speak to a few friends about metaphysics. From this, his first actual talk on metaphysics, Ernest’s popularity as a speaker and authority on the subject grew rapidly. Soon, other people from around the area were inviting him to speak in their homes.

In 1916 a woman from Venice who had attended Ernest’s private lectures arranged for him to speak publicly at a metaphysical library in Los Angeles. When Ernest Holmes asked her what topic he should speak on, she replied, “What you have been talking about. You’re better than any of the people we hear there.”

Ernest Holmes decided to speak on Troward’s Edinburgh Lectures. Ernest learned that the library hall rented for $1 and that admission to a lecture was twenty-five cents. Some fifteen persons attended his lecture, and a few requested a private spiritual treatment session afterwards. Ernest earned $5.

That event marked the beginning of his remarkable career as a teacher of metaphysics and religion. Within two years he had given up his job with the city of Venice and was lecturing full time, speaking to thousands of people in Los Angeles.

Ernest Holmes and Fenwicke began publishing a metaphysical magazine, Uplift, in 1916. Ernest wrote monthly articles and treatments. The magazine began to draw clients to Ernest as a practitioner.

Ernest’s ministry had unofficially begun – without ceremony. He had attracted a following, was lecturing regularly, and was receiving personal clients for spiritual treatment. People also asked him to perform marriage ceremonies, but he did not have the legal authority to do so. He realized that he needed some kind of sanction to carry out all phases of his work, which could only happen by ordination through a recognized church.

Ernest Holmes had become acquainted with people in the Divine Science Church, and they suggested that he speak with officials of that organization. Upon examining the work he was doing, church officials ordained Ernest as a Divine Science minister. Fenwicke resigned from his own church in Venice in 1917 and joined Ernest’s work. The two brothers opened up offices in Los Angeles and lectured in various theaters. Ernest and Fenwicke were each giving as many as fifteen lectures per week in the Los Angeles area. Each also published his own first book in 1919. Ernest wrote Creative Mind and Fenwicke wrote The Law of Mind in Action. Both books were to be reprinted more than twenty times during the next forty years. In 1919 Ernest traveled east and gave a series of public lectures and classes in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities. His topics included “The One Law of Mind and Matter,” “The Law of Wholeness,” and “The Thought and the Thing.”

Even as Ernest Holmes became recognized as an authority on metaphysics, he continued his own education and in 1924 studied for a short time with Emma Curtis Hopkins. She had been an instructor of metaphysics and a guiding force for many spiritual teachers, including Charles and Myrtle Fillmore of Unity, the Brooks sisters of Divine Science, and others. Ernest was the last in a line of noted metaphysical leaders who came under the tutelage of this “teacher of teachers.”

Mrs. Hopkins introduced Ernest Holmes to mysticism, and he learned it was not something to fear but rather it was a deeper spiritual philosophy of life. Ernest had always known that he could contact the Infinite Presence within by becoming still and listening to the “inner voice.” He had already investigated psychic phenomena and he had read about the mystics when he wrote the Original Textbook of Science of Mind in 1922. But in Emma Curtis Hopkins he met and had classes with a true mystic. In this small 80-year-old spiritual teacher Ernest became grounded in the foundations of mysticism. He now clearly could teach the distinctions between mental science, which emphasized the psychological and spiritual science that relied on the spiritual and the mystical. He discovered that his teaching up to that point had been lacking the mystical element. He also realized that spiritual teachers often presented the law of cause and effect as psychological rather than spiritual, relying too greatly on denials and affirmations rather than on a realization of the Inner Presence.

According to his brother Fenwicke, after Ernest Holmes spent a year studying with Mrs. Hopkins all of the foundation for his life work was now present.

1. He learned of the transcendent majesty of God and the warmth of Spirit from Emerson.

2. He learned of the Immanence of the Ever-Present God and the impersonal Law from Troward.

3. He distinguished between the psychological and made contact with the mystical with the help of Emma Curtis Hopkins.

4. He had a rare gift and the raw talent from God to help individuals wake up to their divinity.

Ernest Holmes now was ready not to launch a psychological movement or philosophy but to create a unified spiritual movement bringing together the physical, the emotional, the mental and the spiritual into The Truth of Oneness.

He was only 5′ 3″ but had such a dynamic presence that he walked tall. He presented his religious philosophy with a certainty of one who knows, a philosopher first, minister only when forced upon him. He was a non-conforming, but reverent man. He had a reverence for God, for Life and Love. He was an unorthodox and an unpredictable man, with a sense of humor and gift of detachment. Ernest Holmes was very sentimental, especially regarding children and believed that children should grow up “with faith, not fear.”

Ernest Holmes began formulating his own ideas in regard to spiritual Truth, and answers to his questions of many years earlier were now surfacing. When asked for a description of God during one of his classes he replied that he looked upon God as “Infinite Presence, rather than a being with a face and the form of a man, sitting on a throne in Heaven. God is Intelligence or Mind everywhere present throughout the universe and beyond the universe. It has infinite personalness.”

Though Ernest Holmes enjoyed the lecture circuit, home for him was still Southern California and in 1925 he returned to Los Angeles, where he took up permanent residence. He began speaking at the Ambassador Hotel, which seated more than 600, and within months people were being turned away. A year later he moved to the Ebell Theater, which seated 1300. There, too, the theater became full within a year.

In 1922, Ernest Holmes began writing a summary of his philosophy in a book called, The Science of Mind. It was to become the “textbook” of Religious Science. He republished it in 1926 at the age of 39. Revised in 1938, the book is currently in its forty-fifth printing, has been translated into and published in German, French, and Japanese, and is the foundation of the Religious Science philosophy. Although many people have found spiritual answers through his teachings, Ernest frequently reminded them that he, himself, had not discovered any of the laws that govern the universe. He insisted that none of his ideas were new, but were simply a combination of the methods and systems of great philosophers and religious thinkers.

“I never had a revelation, final or otherwise, and the knowledge I’ve acquired was here on earth when I arrived and will still be available after I’ve shuffled off,” Ernest said “Whenever you find truth, it belongs to everybody .You can’t patent or copyright it. Truth isn’t a product of our thinking. It exists. You must have faith and confidence in your own interpretation of God, man and the universe.”

The first four chapters of The Science of Mind reveal the heart of Ernest’s teaching. “There is One Infinite Mind from which all things come,” he wrote. “This Mind is through, in and around man; It is the Only Mind there is, and every time man thinks he uses It. There is One Infinite Spirit, and every time man says, ‘I am,’ he proclaims It. There is One Infinite Substance, and every time man moves, he moves in It.”

By the time Ernest Holmes completed The Science of Mind, his following consisted of more than casual spectators. Many people were dedicated students of his philosophy, actively supporting his teaching. They began urging him to set up an organization and incorporate.

Ernest Holmes resisted initially, feeling that an organization would be restrictive. He insisted on the necessity of individual spiritual freedom, saying that Infinite Truth was not the exclusive property of any special group of people, and that his teaching was not a “final revelation.”

His students responded by saying that the Science of Mind philosophy would live far longer with an organizational structure to support it than it would as just a group of people sharing a common philosophy.

In February 1927, twenty years after Ernest Holmes began his path of self-education, he incorporated the Institute of Religious Science and School of Philosophy, Inc., as a nonprofit religious and educational organization. The Institute rented office space on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and lectures were presented at the nearby Ambassador Hotel. Ernest was 40 years old.

As the organization took form, however, Ernest made it clear that the founding of the Institute was not intended to promote Religious Science as a cure-all religion. He would not allow anyone to regard the Science of Mind message as infallible. Religious Science is shorn of dogmatism, freed from superstition, and open at the top for greater illumination, unbound and free,” Ernest said.

A few months after starting the Institute, Ernest Holmes began the monthly Science of Mind Magazine, the purpose of which was to inform its readers of “the subtle powers of mind and spirit, and to show how such powers may be consciously used for the betterment of the individual and the race.” The magazine’s readership grew continuously and today the magazine enjoys a worldwide circulation.

That same year was significant for another reason in Ernest’s life, for in 1927 he married Hazel Foster. Although Hazel had a promising operatic voice and studied music in Paris, she decided as a young woman that a public career was not for her. “An operatic career,” she said, “didn’t fit with my own wishes for a way of life.”

Hazel, who became a Religious Science practitioner and for years had an office next to Ernest’s at the Institute, was a beautiful, stately woman, who remained unruffled in all circumstances. Riding in their open car, Ernest and Hazel presented almost an amusing contrast. He wore a baseball cap, sport shirt with open collar, and a sports coat, while she sat primly wearing a stiff hat and white gloves.

Although Ernest Holmes and Hazel had no children of their own, they “adopted” scores of young people. Theirs was a large, loving family, and the comings and goings of people in their lives spanned almost half a century. They were deeply in love with each other for thirty years. Ernest and Hazel – not only in their work but in their social life as well – were part of the bustling activity of Southern California. They had the opportunity to be in contact with a great many people from different backgrounds, and the, number of people influenced by Ernest’s teachings grew.

Norman Vincent Peale, minister and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, studied Ernest’s teachings from the time he was a young man, and the two men became friends many years later. “Two things struck me forcibly when I came to know Ernest Holmes – his power as a speaker and as a personality. Ernest Holmes was a true student, a real scholar,” Dr. Peale said “but he was primarily a thinker. You couldn’t be with him long before finding this out because he was full of questions, always wanting to know something, constantly prodding, pumping, seeking for new ideas, new material for thought.”

Ernest Holmes and Albert Einstein had an opportunity to share ideas over dinner, where each spoke on science and abstract laws. Ernest shared with Dr. Einstein his views on world peace, saying that “permanent world peace is not an illusion but a potential possibility and an evolutionary imperative, and science will aid in that evolution.” He heard from Dr. Einstein many illustrations about principles, which affirm that “good” ultimately, must vindicate itself. “Give them time, and physicists and metaphysicists will use the same textbook,” Ernest said.

Actress and singer Peggy Lee discovered the Science of Mind and became a close friend of Ernest Holmes and Hazel. They “adopted me as one of those daughters they ‘didn’t have,’ ” she said. “Ernest Holmes was the greatest spiritual influence in my experience…. His teaching reached into every corner of my life.”

Ernest’s philosophy was also to be important to actress Rhonda Fleming. “He took the teachings of Jesus,” she said, “and presented them in an exciting, contemporary way that manifested tremendous feelings of love and joy. He was a lovable, wonderful, warm friend – very sweet and kind, yet also down-to-earth, very real, and most comfortable with life. He was always willing to take the time to have fun and be light about things and not take life so heavily – a secret of youth from which we could all benefit!”

And so Ernest Holmes and Hazel were deeply involved in many aspects of the culture of Southern California. They entertained and dined out frequently, attended the opera, the Hollywood Bowl, important openings and motion-picture premiers, and took their place at civic events.

Ernest Holmes enjoyed it all, but he preferred to gather friends in his home, serve home-cooked meals before a roaring fire, and rely upon conversation for entertainment. Ernest, however, did not often participate in idle chatter. He could converse with anyone, but what he most often wanted to talk about was Truth. He wanted to know others’ ideas and viewpoints. Ernest’s commitment was to know, express, and live the Truth, and this devotion was not a garment he donned only for special occasions. It was his life.

Once the organizational details of the Institute were completed, Ernest Holmes lost no time in returning to another great love in his life – teaching. His first class under the new structure consisted of thirty-five students, and Ernest used The Science of Mind as his textbook. He always taught the basics: that we are made in the image of God and are forever one with Infinite Life. He also taught about the Law of the universe and how we have complete access to it. “There is a Power for good in the universe greater than you are,” he frequently said, “and you can use it.”

Once, when asked to provide a concise definition of the Science of Mind teaching, he replied that it is a “correlation of laws of science, opinions of philosophy and revelations of religion applied to human needs and aspirations.”

Ernest Holmes spent a lifetime concerned with and involved with prayer and meditation. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the world was the technique of scientific prayer, which he called “spiritual mind treatment.” In an article in the January 1929 issue of Science of Mind Magazine entitled “Treatment – What, Why and How,” Ernest offered an explanation of this technique.

A treatment is for the purpose of changing one’s own consciousness, not to change the attitude of God. Quiet the mind and definitely state that faith and understanding are present. Mentally state and spiritually feel that a conscious and constructive Presence pervades all life. Affirm that the Spirit wills to respond and that It does respond. Sit quietly and believe. Now state your desire as simply as possible, using only such words as have a real meaning to you. Never try to use other people’s thought. You are alone with Cause, see to it that no denial of this thought enters your mind. As simply as you can, create a definite acceptance in the mind that you are being guided into paths of peace and abundance. Feel a response in your thought, feel that what you state is the truth about yourself. Affirm that you accept and believe and receive.

The original offices of the Institute housed Ernest and a growing staff, a library, lecture halls, and practitioner offices – and were the site for many classes, including those in psychology, philosophy, and the history of religions. Ernest attracted to the Institute many well-known teachers and scholars. One of the greatest influences on Ernest during his early days, Christian Larson, even became a member of the staff.

Professors of religion, psychology, and philosophy from USC, UCLA, and other universities taught at the Institute. The curriculum of philosophy, religion, psychology, and metaphysics was expanded to include human relations, creative thinking, and parapsychology.

Although Ernest Holmes had by this time taken his place as one of the great metaphysical thinkers of the time, he remained an ardent student. For a while he was the private pupil of Dr. Ralph Flewelling, director and founder of the School of Philosophy at USC. And later, Ernest frequently was a guest lecturer in Dr. Flewelling’s philosophy classes at the university.

In 1935 the organization was reincorporated as the Institute of Religious Science and Philosophy. That same year it acquired property at Sixth and New Hampshire Streets in Los Angeles, a beautiful building that had adequate space for administrative offices and classrooms. The site remains as the international headquarters for the organization, and long-range plans call for continuing development and expansion.

While the Institute had found a permanent home for its administrative offices, Ernest continued to hold Sunday services in various theaters in Los Angeles. Thousands of people were attending services, and even at the Wiltern Theatre, which seated more than 2800, many people were turned away each Sunday.

Graduates of Ernest’s classes also began teaching, and these extensions of the Institute became known as chapters, which eventually became churches of Religious Science. By 1943 there were eighteen such chapters, or churches, in addition to the Institute, and twenty practitioners were working at headquarters.

Expanding the audiences he reached, Ernest Holmes began a weekly radio program in 1949 entitled “This Thing Called Life”. And in 1956 a half-hour television program by the same name aired for a short time in the Los Angeles area. People would come from all over Southern California to hear Ernest explain the Science of Mind with warmth and humor and systematic logic, but what struck people the most was his conviction and sincerity. He believed what he said and put it into practice and dared his listeners to do the same.

In 1949 Ernest Holmes went to his good friend Dr. Robert Bitzer and asked Bitzer if he would incorporate the International Association of Religious Ministers. By this time there were over 60 churches in the movement, Ernest felt that two separate organizations working together were needed. The Institute would be in charge of education for the churches including the licensing and ordination of ministers, and the Association would handle the affairs between ministers and churches. This arrangement never did work out. In 1953 the Board of Trustees of the Institute insisted that all churches come under the authority of the Institute. 16 of the 69 churches refused to join the new organization and stayed with the Association. (IARSC) This group later changed their name to Religious Science International. (RSI)

Both organizations continue to teach the Science of Mind throughout the world. In 1967 the Church of Religious Science changed its name again to the United Church of Religious Science and continues to operate under that name today. In 1988, a third organization was formed called Affiliated New Thought Network. All three organizations are dedicated to teaching Science of Mind but approach issues of administration and local church autonomy differently. There have been some attempts to bring the three groups together but as of now they seem to be willing to accept their separate legal status while agreeing to work together for the common goal of promoting Science of Mind.

Ernest Holmes had become recognized internationally for his contribution to religious thought. Awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy by India’s Andhra Research University, he also received honorary degrees from several other institutions, including the California College of Medicine, the University of California at Irvine, and the Foundation Academic University of Spiritual Understanding in Venice, Italy. He was also recognized by the Association of the Humanitarian Grand Prize of Belgium and was named an honorary member of the Eugene Field Society, a national group of authors and journalists.

In 1957, at the age of 69, Ernest lost his beloved Hazel. She quietly passed away to the larger life of which he so often spoke. And though he taught that death does not have a permanent grip, but that “life still flows on with the currents of eternity,” Ernest found her passing extremely difficult. “I have always thought myself prepared for anything,” he said, “but I never thought it would be like this.”

In 1959, two years after Hazel’s death, Ernest Holmes began to subtly transfer his responsibilities and indulge in more quiet time. Some days he simply withdrew to his office and sat for hours in meditation and prayer. He attempted, however, to carry on as before in his daily life. He remained active at the Institute, still went out in the evenings, and invited friends to his home. Ernest never retired. He continued his writing, was a guest speaker in Religious Science pulpits coast to coast, dedicated new churches, and taught at the Institute.

Ernest Holmes finished two major projects just months before he passed on. In 1959 he and Fenwicke completed an epic poem, The Voice Celestial. It was in this book that Ernest seemed to find his greatest outlet for creative expression during his last years.

For some time, there was talk of constructing a grand church building adjacent to United Church headquarters, one that could accommodate large crowds for Sunday services. The dream was realized in 1960 when Founder’s Church of Religious Science was completed. Ernest presided over the dedication of the church in January of that year, just three months before he made his transition.

Personally, Ernest Holmes never wanted a church, and wasn’t interested in religion. He only wanted a teaching ministry. He never cared for choirs, soloist, or flowers in front of the lectern. He believed in some ritual but he stressed to keep the ritual simple and beautiful, at absolute minimum. The Founders Church was Bill Hornaday’s idea. Holmes resisted it as he resisted too much organization. “To evolve a higher understanding of the spiritual universe, humanity and the church must be free, open at the top.”

Ernest Holmes began with the central assumption that “nothing but good is going on out there in the vast reaches of outer space and here in the equally vast reaches of inner space. Everything is in order.”

Ernest Holmes did not believe in an anthropomorphic God, but in The Christ Consciousness, which Jesus demonstrated. He believed that the greatest gifts we have been given are consciousness and free will. Regarding traditional religions, he said, “It’s the bright ones they lose first. It’s the fault of old theology.”

Ernest Holmes believed religion needed to be approached like a science. When he taught his lectures seemed “illumined”. They first appeared ad-libbed until he found a theme of his liking. Then a creative obsession took over in his mind and he spoke in polished paragraphs, which could have been directly printed.

Ernest Holmes did not believe he was different from others but was human as anyone. Once when he got sick he stated that “It is possible for anybody to forget the way, it doesn’t matter how much he knows. I forgot a while back and got kind of sick, but now I’m remembering again and getting well again. It’s possible for anybody to block the channels through which the Living Presence expresses Itself.”

Ernest Holmes liked to say, “Can you afford the consequences of the way you are thinking?”

“The way we think is the way we act, and the way we act is what happens. Law in the universe lets you have what you want- disaster or delight.”

“Love, Law and Loyalty are all the organization we need. The only question we need to ask is this: Do we in our thought, attitude and the way we live bear witness to the living truth that God is all there is? Make that a policy. That’s all the creed you’ll ever need.”

“One individual with God is a totality, is a completeness, One opinion consistent with the Truth is not a positive statement, but an absolute fact. One announcement from the mind that knows, will set the world on fire.”

“Healing is the discovery of the Divinity within.”

“Science of Mind is based upon the teachings of Jesus and coordinated with philosophy, and other great thinkers of the ages and is destined to become the new religion for the new day.”

“In metaphysical practice we arrive at this conviction through a process of thinking. The process itself is not the conviction; it is the road that leads to it. The student must be willing to subject the mind to self-training until there comes into his thinking a clear realization of the truth which intuition, feeling and intellect must or may proclaim.”

“One should test the philosophy with intuition and intellect and the results will prove the theory.”

“This study calls for dedication, patience and an open-mind.”

A few times Ernest Holmes did speak of his transition. He said, ” I have a premonition that after I go someone will write my life story and when it comes there is the awful possibility of posthumous halos. I don’t wear one here and I don’t expect to in the hereafter. So make sure I am not beautified, glorified or deified and make sure I’m not vilified either.”

And when I go people are going to come to you and say, The most wonderful thing happened! Ernest appeared to me and talked to me.’ If that happens close the door in their face because it isn’t true. When I leave I’m going for good and I’m not coming back to talk about it. My work will be finished here. I know this planet as well as I want to. I don’t plan to come this way again.

In regards to his memorial service, he stated that he wouldn’t be there as he would be busy elsewhere.

In 1958 he ended a talk by saying, ” If I pass on tonight they can take everything I have ever written and toss it in the ashes. It’s going to be thrown there someday anyway. But two things will remain. There is a Presence and there is a Power in the universe, which constitute a dual unity of action and reaction and the polarity from which all things come. Learn to court the Presence by not only seeing God in everything and everybody but by feeling God all the time. Feel the Presence in the sacred place of your consciousness. Then use the Power. Your thoughts will change the conditions of your life.”

Ernest Holmes believed in the survival of consciousness, that spiritual evolution and immortality were synonymous and that Jesus, when honestly reported, meant exactly what he said. He believed that even though his wife went on to “another expression” that he would be with her again.

On April 7, 1960, Ernest passed to the next dimension. At the time of his death the number of Religious Science churches worldwide exceeded one hundred, and a Los Angeles newspaper referred to him as “one of America’s leading churchmen-philosophers.”

A few weeks before he passed on to a higher reality, Ernest spoke of his vision for the Science of Mind. “The human heart,” he said, “longs as a hungry man longs for bread, for spiritual food. It longs for that which will make it whole, and I think ‘ that’s what our teaching can do – reveal the Self to the self.”

Ernest Holmes is remembered for many things: his writings and teachings, his humor, and his great love for people, as well as his founding of Religious Science. Those who knew him personally also remember his absolute conviction of human Divinity and his commitment to sharing this high perspective with all people whose life he touched.

The One Spirit speaks Its Word. Emanating from the Word of One Spirit comes all creation. All creation contains the consciousness of the One Spirit. Consciousness evolves and as it evolves creation becomes more complex. Parts of the one creation which has evolved out of the one spirit has become self-consciousness. These self-conscious parts of creation appear to be individual but are actually individualizations of the One Spirit. They are learning that they can speak their word in conscious cooperation with the One Spirit and that they can co-create their reality. This is the beginning of true freedom.

I speak my word now as a conscious co-creator with the One Spirit. I speak my word of health, of harmony, of abundance and of loving relationships in all my affairs. I know wherever I go and whatever I do the loving Presence and Power of the One Spirit is with me. My life is blessed now and always.


Science of Mind Archives
and Library Foundation
100 Unity Circle South, Suite A
Lee’s Summit, MO 64086

Kathy Mastroianni

Executive Director

To donate to the Science of Mind® Archives and Library Foundation click the Donate button below.