Interview with Dr. Marilyn Leo
First Part of a Three-Part Interview with Dr. Marilyn Leo of the SOM Archives and Library.
Dr. Marilyn Leo has had a long, loving, and passionately involved path with Science of Mind since she was a young lady. She was the step-daughter of Reginald Armor [Reg], who was Ernest Holmes’ lifetime friend and colleague from the time he met Ernest as an umpire at the Venice City playground in 1915 when he was 12. Reginald Armor lived next door to Ernest, when he married Dr. Leo’s mother, Elsie, in 1943. Dr. Leo was just eight years old at the time.
QUESTION: WHAT DID YOU AND YOUR SISTERS THINK ABOUT YOUR MOM MARRYING A MINISTER? HAD YOUR FAMILY HAD ANY PRIOR RELIGIOUS OR CHURCH AFFILIATION BEFORE THE MARRIAGE TO REGINALD? OR AT JUST EIGHT YEARS OLD WERE YOU JUST TOO YOUNG TO HAVE ANY OPINION ABOUT YOUR MOM’S MARRIAGE AND YOUR NEW FAMILY?
Dr. Leo remembered, “Of Course, since Reginald was always on the platform on Sundays and teaching classes and attending board meetings, my mother brought my sister, Dorothy, age six, and me, at just eight, to church on Sundays. We would sit in the balcony with Hazel Holmes.”
“I believe that was when the Science of Mind was first brought to my life…not that I understood and even listened to everything Ernest said, but I do remember a lot of his antics. For example, every Mother’s Day he recited, “O’Mother of Mine” by Rudyard Kipling, and during the performance he would have tears running down his face. As everyone was really into it, he would stop and say something like, ‘Isn’t it awful to see a fat man cry?’ Ernest knew how to keep his audience’s attention. When he thought people were lost or sleepy, he might pull out a large handkerchief from his pocket and loudly blow his nose. This brought everyone to attention and laughter.”
Dr. Leo can’t remember meeting Ernest for the first time, but he was an everyday part of her childhood.“I can’t say I remember the first time I met Ernest. We lived adjacent to him, and he was in our home and we in his very often. His brother, Guy, also had a home on the Holmes’ property. Guy did remodeling to Reg’s house, and he added an additional room so that Dorothy and I had a bedroom along with Reg’s son, our step-brother, Reggie Jr. There was only one bathroom in the house, however. I remember Ernest as most people do—that he was fun, free of inhibitions, had a twinkle in his eyes, affectionate, loved to cook, and he would always share his latest dishes with us often bringing over a pot of stew or chili.”
DID YOU HAVE ANY DESIRE TO PURSUE SCIENCE OF MIND AS A PRACTITIONER, OR AS SERIOUS CHURCH MEMBER AS A YOUNG WOMAN? I BELIEVE YOU WERE BORN IN 1935, BUT YOUR DAD GAVE YOU THE SCHOLARSHIP TO THE COURSE, SCIENCE OF MIND 1 IN THE MID-1970S—WHEN YOU WERE IN YOUR 40S. SO DID YOU HAVE ANY CONNECTION OR IDENTIFICATION WITH THE CHURCH AT ALL DURING YOUR YOUTH, OR WERE YOU FOLLOWING ANOTHER PATH?
“Unfortunately, I did not ‘study’ Science of Mind until the 1970s. I was then ready to learn, however– I’m afraid I didn’t necessarily take the teachings to heart until the late 1970s when I returned to the teaching and did get serious about learning and living the principles. When I was in my teens, I would write short essays that were in alignment with SOM principles. And, also, about age, 20, I did the opening meditation at the flagpole at Asilomar. Reg always did it, but this particular day, it was my turn. I think he was hoping to excite my interest and get me more involved.”
DID YOU ATTEND A LOT OF THE EARLY RETREATS AT ASILOMAR? DID YOU WANT TO COME, OR WAS IT JUST SOMETHING EVERYONE DID IN THE FAMILY TO ACCOMPANY REV. ARMOR? IS THERE ANY MEMORY FROM THOSE EARLY RETREATS AT ASILOMAR THAT REALLY STANDS OUT?
I really respected Reg, as my step-father. He was always great about allowing us to choose whatever we wanted to believe. I remember I got very interested in the Virgin Mary for some reason. He had no judgment about my conclusions. I went to all the parties that my folks attended. Most of those parties were with Science of Mind folk, but I wasn’t that interested in the church at the time. I just went as part of the family. Ernest Holmes officiated at my sister’s wedding.
As an adult, Dr. Leo began to have a deeper personal connection with Science of Mind—not just as the daughter of a leader of the church, but her own connection and role in Science of Mind. “In the mid-1970’s, my father, Reginald Armor, gave me a scholarship to take the Science of Mind 1 class, which was a year-long course. Science of Mind 2 wasn’t available at the institute immediately afterward, so I went to the Beverly Hills Church to take “Science of Mind 3—the Consciousness Course”. Of course, that wasn’t really allowed to take them out of order like that, but I did it anyway. Normally, you had to take them in sequence. Then, in 1981 I was taking Science of Mind 2. In the spring of that year, I had married Rev. Richard Leo, and I moved to Santa Rosa where he was the minister of the church. I completed Science of Mind 2 with my husband, the minister, as my teacher. Some might think as his wife I might have experienced some favoritism, but let me tell you, it was harder than not being the minister’s wife. I experienced the opposite of favoritism!”
In our next installment, Dr. Marilyn Leo goes on to tell us about all the various roles she has served within the church, and how one of those roles led to her and her husband, Dr. Richard Leo, to establishing the Science of Mind Archives. In the final installment, Dr. Marilyn Leo describes how the Archives and Library got built into the complex and marvelous structure that we rely onto today—FROM SOME VARIOUS SEMI-FORGOTTEN PAPERS, BOOKS, AND FILES PILING UP IN UNUSED ROOMS. It is a wonderful story of how Love, Dedication, and Determination have used the Creative Mind to expand the Science of Mind!
Part 2 will be posted on Friday December 21, 2012.
Dr. Marilyn Leo