The First Practitioner’s Class
The first practitioner class that graduated was in 1927. The Archives has the original sign-up sheet of 34 students, signed in each one’s handwriting. At the top of the page, next to the plain notation of teacher, is Ernest Holmes’ signature.
Thirty-four practitioners who are long gone from this earthly realm, but their hard work, their enormous efforts to embrace a new teacher, a new philosophy, and new spiritual practices are still evident in the enormous growth and development, which are now seen in Centers for Spiritual Living around the world. All that is Science of Mind began with this first class, and if one searches through the Archives—you can still hear the ‘living’ words and acts of these often forgotten first practitioners. You can read and share their enthusiasm as young practitioners if you read the January 1928 edition—virtually all of them take part in the creation of that issue in some significant way.
Probably the most notable of this first class is Clarence Mayer. Dr. Arthur Vergara, in the October 2012 Creative Thought magazine wrote a wonderful article, “The Secret Pioneer” about Mayer describing in great detail his background, his work as a practitioner alone in Los Angeles in the early days of SOM, and his magnificent contribution of The Secrets of Metaphysics, to which the Archives has published a link. If you would like to read more from Clarence Mayer, look to the October 1950, article, “The Silence is Golden”—where he guides the reader about how to go into the Presence of God, and gives readers a directed treatment of exactly how to get to that place. In August of 1930 there is a marvelous treatment for obesity/underweight written by Mayer that still resonates today. Other poems and prayers of his are to be found in 1928 and 1929, and he was also associate editor of Science of Mind magazine for many years. He worked out of Rm. 12 in the early years, and evidence of his legacy is to be found all throughout Science of Mind magazine.
Right there at the top of the sign-up sheet is Anna Holmes, Ernest Holmes’ beloved mother and chief supporter. Anna Holmes holds the copyright on the original text of The Science of Mind, written in 1926—the version that was superseded by the later revised and expanded 1938 version. Ernest Holmes had early exposure to Christian Science practices and treatments, and one of his earliest healings was of Anna, of a heart disease. Anna lived until well into her mid-90’s. She is listed in the magazine as one of the eight original practitioners.
Above Anna Holmes’ name is another important figure in the early years of Science of Mind, Augusta Rundel—signed in as “Diane” Rundel—why Diane that is lost to us, perhaps a witticism given the quotation marks, but what is not lost to us is the good work she did in Religious Science. She was the Associate Editor of Science of Mind magazine, for a while the Registrar of the Department of Healing—what would one day become the World Ministry of Prayer. She was a well-known Los Angeles real estate agent and socialite, who even furnished Holmes’ first office. She even picked out his tailored suits. Most importantly, of course, she helped bring Holmes and his beloved wife, Hazel, together.
Way over on the edge of paper, almost unnoticed, is the signature of Isobel Poulin with the notation, “Her Book” after her name. The meaning of that notation is unknown, but again she was one of the original practitioners working out of the Institute of Religious Science in Room 4 three days a week. You can read a treatment she wrote in the January 1933 issue called, “Treatment of False Growth”. She was one of the first eight practitioners ever listed.
Further down on the first column is the name Helen Van Slyke. She contributed so much to the early years of Religious Science—it is hard to list it all. She ran the Emerson Study classes on Wednesday nights back in 1928; she wrote one of the first additional books ever published by the Institute entitled, Mountain Thought: Poems of Inspiration. For many years, Van Slyke was the Associate Editor of Science of Mind magazine, and you can read many of her poems sprinkled throughout various issues of the magazine. One of my favorites is entitled, “The Ever-Present Now” on pg. 5 of the January 1928 edition of The Religious Science Monthly—later, or course, renamed Science of Mind magazine.
Marie Francis Deal, also signed in on the first column, was also deeply involved in those early years. She, too, was one of the first eight practitioners working out of Rm. 15, and she ran the Saturday afternoon classes at the Institute in Mental Healing. In a 1928 article entitled, “God is All”, Deal writes deeply about Love: “Love is the basic principle of mental healing; so let us fill our consciousness with the Love of God until our whole Being is flooded with It, then when we approach this Indwelling Presence (by sensing our unity with It) our problems must and will be solved, for “Love never Faileth”.
Ivy Crane Shellhammer, right near the top of the second column, was also a contributor to those early issues of the magazine. Her article entitled, “The Process of Thought Creation” can also be found in that January 1928 issue. Most of Holmes’ treatments that are to be found do not include the step of gratitude or thanksgiving. In her article, Shellhammer explains the importance on adding gratitude into our treatments, and what that signifies to the Law: “Subjective Mind does not exact gratitude from the individual. The act of expressing gratitude is of value to us in that it keeps us from dissatisfied thought; keeps us from falling into the mistake of thinking supply is limited. The reaction of gratitude upon the individual mind produces faith…”
Mabel A. Langdonis right below Shellhammer, and she was responsible for much of the early outreach to the Junior members of the church. Under the name, Mrs. Stanley Langdon, she ran the Sunday morning Junior meetings, and she was listed at the Superintendent of the Junior Department along with a small lesson about the importance and life of Christ for junior readers to study that also appears in that January 1928 issue.
Ida May Skinner, too, contributed to that January, 1928 issue with a sweet poem called “New Year”.
Victor Vinton, or V.C.Vinton, as he signs in was not one of the original practitioners, but he appears as a practitioner working by phone in later issues of the magazine.
Emily Marshallmakes numerous contributions after graduating from this first practitioner class. She is responsible for Address on Sunday evenings from the Institute of Religious Science. She, also, is one of the ‘sacred eight’—those first practitioners ever mentioned. It is striking how deep and well-read and intense these early practitioners were when you read her article entitled, “The Message of Self-Expression”. She is writing about the monthly Axiom that is under consideration: Unchangeableness. And in the article, she quotes the Bible, the Upanishads; she talks of “maya” and “Sabbath Day consciousness”. Her thoughts and writings along with a classmates speak of such depth and seriousness that contradicts our image of the “giddy 1920’s flapper mentality”.
Anne Shipmangets special commendation in the foreword of the 1926 original version of Science of Mind, Holmes’ textbook. In it Holmes writes of her, “I wish to express special appreciation to Miss Anne Shipman, of Boston, Mass., without whose untiring efforts it is not probable that these manuscripts would have ever been gotten in shape for publication; and to my mother whose great faith in these teachings has inspired me with the hope and the belief that they may be of benefit to those who study them.” She seems to have assisted Holmes in the typing of his book.
William L. Barth becomes a practitioner in those early years of the Institute. And, he also assisted Holmes in lessons he wrote that are now available in book form called, The Science of Mind: A Complete Course of Lessons in Science of Mind and Spirit. He like Van Slyke ended up as an editor of Science of Mind magazine, and if you wish to read a really good article by him, check out the October 1950 issue of SOM magazine and read his article about a famous philosopher, Spinoza, a Jew cast out from Judaism when he had the audacity to explain that Judaism was not the only path to God, and to declare back in the 1400’s that God and Nature were identical.
Finally, Alberta Smith’s signature is buried at the bottom of the page. But, she like Louise Hayes and Jesse Jennings was the first Question and Answer columnist in the Science of Mind magazine. Her column ended up being called “The Question Box” and appeared in the early years of the magazine. Her columns were so popular that she and Ernest Holmes co-authored a book called, Questions and Answers on the Science of Mind that is available today through Amazon and published by Penguin Publishers that has published so many of the Science of Mind classics. Again, Alberta was one of the original eight practitioners.
Each class of practitioners makes their mark on the history of our organization, but this first place holds a special spot in our history. I am grateful for all of their hard work, which allowed me to take my place behind them as a practitioner.
Jeannette Quinn Bisbee is currently in the Online Spiritual Practitioner Program and will graduate in 2013. She loves the archives because she has recently moved to Canada where there are not any Centers for Spiritual Living nearby. She is, also, currently involved in a couple of book projects related to Science of Mind and looks forward to sharing more “posts” on the Science of Mind Archives and Library.