The Teaching Autobiography, Contents: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4
The Disruption Of The Second Circle
The disruption of the second circle was due to difficulties in my own personal life. When Elizabeth was born in England, Anthony's parents, who were over eighty, were still alive. His mother I liked, I thought she was tolerant and wise. His father, I found querulous and exacting, although he was devoted to his wife. There was a curious family history which I learnt from his mother. Anthony's grandfather was extremely wealthy but very eccentric in his views on marriage. He had two sons and one daughter and was against marriage for any of them. In spite of this, Anthony's father, the eldest son, married Caroline Devereux. There was nothing against the match, she belonged to a younger branch of a very distinguished family. But it brought him into disfavour with his father and in the early part of their married life, I think, there were financial restrictions.
Finally when his grandfather died, he left a peculiar will, in which his married son received £ 1000 a year for his lifetime but of which sum at his death, half returned to the estate. The remaining half was divided between his five children, Anthony being one, so that each received the small sum of £ 100 a year but at their death even this reverted to the estate. So that their children, the grandchildren of the eldest son, received nothing. The estate and its fortune was left to the bachelor uncle and maiden aunt. The rest of the story is like a penny dreadful novel. At one stage Anthony, himself a younger son was made his uncle's heir. This uncle later financed Anthony and a cousin to go to Canada. As might be expected their small capital soon vanished and they were left with the choice of taking any job, or of returning home. His cousin chose the latter, Anthony the former. He told me once that his first job had been to dig a cellar. His uncle then sent him a dictatorial letter telling him to recognise failure and come home.
I am glad Anthony preferred his independence although it cost him his inheritance. After working his way up into quite a good position in the Indian Civil Service, he rushed off to join the Canadian Mountain Rifles for the Boer war. When that was over, returning to England for a holiday, Anthony became again the pet boy of his uncle, who meant to reinstate him in his will. However he died first. The details were rather more dramatic than that but as it all happened long before we were married, I was more amused than disappointed. The real reason for resurrecting this old story is because, in the queerest fashion, Anthony now followed the pattern set by his grandfather.
When we left Africa for New Zealand, on the voyage, I set up a new precedent myself. I made friends with a young man. We both found a common interest in music. I had been given a portable gramophone with a few records as a parting present and was anxious to acquire more records. So Ian and I discussed this enthralling subject and at Melbourne he took me to a good music shop and helped me choose some. That night he asked Anthony and me to go with him to a concert. Anthony refused, expecting me to follow suit but contrary to his expectation I accepted and went, although I knew it was with his unexpressed disapproval. Quite unforeseen there woke up in me an urge to control, within reason, my own life and this seemed an opportunity to start. It was not a sentimental friendship. Ian must have been more than fifteen years younger than I and I knew he was engaged to an attractive girl in New Zealand whose photo he had shown me. I suppose I should have told Anthony all this but in such circumstances he made himself frozen and unapproachable, so I just went, fiercely backed up by Elizabeth. This pricked my conscience, for I did try hard not to let the children take sides.
I do not know whether it was the result of this act of independence or due to other causes, probably a mixture of both but dating from our arrival in Plymouth, there was a change in our relationship. Amongst other things his jealousy was transferred from me to Elizabeth which was unlucky for the peace of our family life but fortunate from the point of view of the Teaching. Before this change I cannot imagine myself being allowed a part of my life so completely my own. The subject of the circle was never discussed between us. Our farm life made it natural for us to find our amusements separately and I knew Anthony would be utterly antagonistic towards the whole outlook. In deference to his opinions which were agnostic and which I had once shared, I also never discussed the subject with the children.
The family unity steadily deteriorated as the children grew up. I thought then and I still think, they were good children. I have, I think, rather a detached attitude towards them and certainly recognised their various faults. But they were plucky and cheerful and not unduly selfish, especially Elizabeth who knew what kind of a life she would have had if we had remained in Africa. She never grumbled at our altered conditions, indeed they all adapted themselves happily to the strenuous and financially restricted life we now lived. Anthony did not. He did not care for New Zealand and could not accustom himself to his narrowed income. He took a mortgage on our property which only postponed the day when he would have to live within his pension. I recognised it was far more difficult for him than it was for us. If I had been older and had acquired the experience I now possess, I might have been able to exercise more influence. As it was, I became more and more the children's companion and less and less his, perpetually the buffer between their gay spirits and his disapproval.
I had the confidence of my children in their difficulties and regarded that as natural. It was John Bodley who pointed out that in his experience it was unusual between parents and this generation but if I held their confidence then, there was little outward show of respect between us. Elizabeth has just recalled an incident when Michael chased me all over the garden beds, whilst I, squealing wildly with apprehension, fled for dear life, appealing in vain to the girls who were helpless with laughter. Then Anthony's unexpected appearance on the scene and the instant change that took place, as under the cold wind of his disapproval, we were quickly brought back to sobriety. Indeed I think our worst times came when Michael left home to earn his own living and learn farming. That he found it difficult was another grievance. Anthony would not recognise it was the times, not Michael. His own youth was during the period of colonial expansion, whilst Michael struck the depression, with the added threat of the second world war that loomed ahead. I think he did well to keep himself in a job without ever asking for assistance.
In those years Susan and I were close companions. She shared my love of exploring the countryside and most of our spare time was spent together, going further and further afield, tramping the hills, or on our bicycles. Her father's bitter attitude distressed Susan very much and I think it harmed her more than the others. For although the trouble centred round Elizabeth, she was tougher and to some extent at the cost of hideous rows, stood up for her rights, whilst Susan and I would rather go without than face them. Anthony would not accept the fact that Elizabeth was adult now with the natural tendency to seek interests and companionship outside the family. To him with his twisted views, that was a sign of her degeneration, whilst I marvelled that she could be so content with the pleasures that were really very simple if compared with the African Society we had left. They consisted of picnics, tramps and during the vacations, a few small dances held at the homes of her friends. Each outing was grudged and there was a continual strain to keep the peace and yet let her accept these invitations which she needed to balance the daily labours she never shirked. Anthony took a dislike to any boy or man that paid her any attention whether he was sixteen or sixty. So it seemed inevitable when Elizabeth was twentytwo and wanted to become engaged that the occasion should create a crisis.
I do not want to recall that unhappy time; it is enough to say that time has justified her choice. I do not know of any couple better suited, one being the complement of the other. Now with their three children it is one of the happiest homes I stay in. I suppose it would have been difficult to have started housekeeping on less than they did, yet they always managed to have an attractive home and have long since emerged from that restricted beginning.
In the meantime Anthony issued an ultimatum. If Elizabeth married he would not allow her to return to her home. I replied that I would not stay in a home to which my children could not come. Elizabeth was married just before Christmas and I left home the following April. The intervening months were some of the most miserable and difficult I have ever had to live through. Anthony went away for the wedding which was held on our verandah with its wonderful view. It was a fine summer day and the roses and lilies in the garden were at their best. Naturally it was the quietest wedding possible but I think Elizabeth felt it was a happy start.
Some months before the wedding I had obtained the desire of my heart for Susan, then seventeen. She was offered a vacancy among the horticultural students at the Botanical Gardens at Dunedin. It was work she loved, and I had used every means I possessed to get her the chance, she having passed the necessary matriculation exam at College.
Anthony and I held the same views about many things and having agreed on the minimum allowance I thought I could manage on, saw no occasion in making our private differences more public than possible. So we agreed to give out my departure as a visit to Dunedin, in order to settle Susan there but between ourselves we felt the separation to be final.
I was bearing a double burden at that time. Running parallel with this trouble at home, the circle was threatened with disruption. The Mother thought that it and its interests were absorbing too much of John's attention to the detriment of his practice. She believed this and because it threatened the interests of her children, her attitude was understandable. I think she was wrong and did not make sufficient allowance for other factors, such as the influx into town of younger doctors and for the effect of the depression, then at its worst.
Although our circle was not a spiritualistic one, it had that form and had probably acquired that reputation. Any gossip about it could only be guesswork, because those concerned did not discuss it outside. But it was known long before even the first circle came into existence that John was interested in psychic matters. There has always been amongst the majority, a strong prejudice against these things. I suppose there always will be against anything new and not understood. To me it seems as if psychic matters should properly belong to a branch of science. Unfortunately the cases of deception and proved fraud amongst mediums who use their gift as a financial asset, have provided this antagonism with a definite object for distrust and derision and has probably obscured cases where true work has been done, which did not receive the same publicity.
I doubt very much if many or any patients of John's were lost through this cause. I think if there had been any real disapproval directed at our circle, I myself should have felt a difference in the attitude of my wide and varied circle of friends. On the contrary I was both touched and grateful to my friends in those difficult days, when expressed kindness and unexpressed sympathy was my lot.
Nevertheless that conviction of the Mother's did create a gulf between us and when she withdrew from the circle I was sorry and apprehensive on her account. Then it chanced that I spent my birthday with them as I had a year before. Previously they had made it a particularly bright and happy day but this time the Mother said something, which thank goodness I do not now even remember, that hurt me very deeply and the contrast of the two days struck a mind already deadly tired. I was very apprehensive about the future. I was afraid the allowance from Anthony might not be regular, might even cease. On that point I misjudged him. I meant to try to earn my own living and to save my allowance for my old age but I was over forty and had had no previous experience. So my reaction to that hurt was to feel it was not worth going on. It gave me the idea of taking my life. I have always thought that suicide was a personal matter and that an individual had a perfect right to decide for himself if he wished to live or not. A point that weighed with me was that the children were now independent of me. Michael was on his own, Elizabeth married and Susan safe for some years at work she loved. On the other hand I, in the future might become a burden to them.
I had once overheard a conversation between two men on the folly of resorting to the crude methods of arsenic, knife, or gun, by those wishing to take their life, when there were other much easier methods which, if no suspicion had been aroused, would evade detection. I obtained the drug suggested from a chemist without any difficulty and used it two days later. I had my charwoman in for the day then and Anthony was out. I had moved some heavy trunks and afterwards told her I felt a bit queer and was going to lie down. She expressed concern and I felt a bit mean for it was a deliberate deception but I felt it to be a necessary preparation.
I sat down on the steps leading to the garden, it was warm in the sunshine and I took the stuff. For a little while I was chiefly concerned with the pain of a burnt throat but this passed and I felt quiet and peaceful. It was a little strange to look at the flowers and listen to the birds and know it was for the last time. I did not feel I had done anything wrong. There was a choice and I had taken what I believed to be the best way out, so long as it was done in a manner which would not involve my family or friends in scandal. I am not arguing I was right, I know now why it is wrong but am just stating the attitude of my mind then.
I knew that soon I should feel sleepy and then I should fall into a sleep from which I should not awake. Then into this peace obtruded a thought which surprised me and upset everything, concern for Nicholas; I felt I was doing him harm in some way, letting him down. It annoyed me because of its apparent absurdity. If there was anyone I should be worrying about, it was Susan who would be left alone and would grieve. In those days I knew nothing of the relationship of Unity Conscious Minds, yet the thought distressed me and I tried to put it out of my mind as a fantasy. Next I was getting drowsy and went to lie down, glad that it was finished.
Whilst I was asleep Azrael came to me. There was no scolding, only compassion and complete understanding. He showed me the truth as it was. So far my life had been lived in preparation for my work. That work had only just begun. It was a design set by the Light for me to get the Teaching from the Thought World to earth. In taking my life I was refusing this opportunity. So because He had lived on earth, He was able to carry that burden for me over this 'breaking moment' but now with the knowledge of that truth and of His love, I must take it up again and go on.
I do not quite know how but from that experience I acquired an attitude of mind to meet disaster. I think it was Arrantees' gift never again to take life on earth with such heavy seriousness but to salt it with humour. I know this idea was born then, because I woke up to find my charwoman creeping in with a tray, set with a dainty tea and mixed with the gratitude I had to express to her, was a grim amusement. I laughed within myself at the pathos of my return. Tea! and back to earth again. This gift of Arrantees has made slow growth. It is only in recent years that I have learnt to apply it, not only to myself but to the affairs of others.
Then, that same evening, an incident occurred which set the seal on my new won sense of security. I had thought the best job I could tackle would be to find a family isolated in the country far from schools, who needed someone to teach their children. One of the friendships I had valued was with the head of Susan's College. She had given me an excellent testimonial, which she was in the position to do, because Susan had come straight from my teaching into their hands.
That day a visitor to the Bodley family, a Mrs Cameron, had chanced to discuss the problem of a neighbour of hers with them. She and her daughter ran a small school in the McKenzie Country but the daughter wanted to leave home for a year and the difficulty was for them to find a substitute.
That evening my telephone rang. It was Mrs Cameron to tell me about it but she added: "Although I am still willing to put you in touch with the school if you wish, I have been thinking the matter over and have been wondering if you would accept the position of companion help to me?" I expect the experience I had with her was good for me but I have wondered since why I so eagerly accepted it, when the school work in which I had had experience, would have been more congenial. Perhaps it was ignorance of what a companion help meant and the sense of having something settled that moved me, whilst the school was still uncertain. It was arranged there and then that I should join her in June. In the meantime Susan found me a room in Dunedin.
I was roughly three years down South. It seemed longer because of my varied experience there. I found the climate cold but I liked the people straight away. Yet that time was an exile. There was always a call from the North, although at that time I saw no road that led me back again.
When the Mother withdrew from the circle and I left home, there were only John and the Recorder left. They were sad at what seemed to be the end of the Circle. Then before I left we were told it was not ended and would not be unless we so willed it. We were also told there existed a plane on which Conscious Minds that were tuned to the same key, met and exchanged thought during sleep. Therefore ideas from the mind of one of us reached individuals and were remembered by them, even though we might never meet in the body. I do not think, tremendous though that information was, it carried much comfort to John or the Recorder at the time but they faithfully carried out any instruction given and met sometimes to hold the continuity, which I am sure was a good thing, even though it led to no apparent results. I learnt now the use of the many hours of boredom I had spent in which, under instruction I, had practised writing, sitting with a mind as blank as possible and writing down whatever came. It had been so little and what did come was nearly always in the nature of instructions so I had taken no interest in it. Now I often wrote bits of the Teaching and the records show we got more in this interval than in the second circle. The time of training was over, the work had begun. This correspondence was a great comfort to me, for John never failed to write once a week and often more, so that he literally kept the circle unbroken through those three years.
In June I went to Mrs Cameron. I was most anxious to make a success of my first job but the work was very hard and the cold intense in winter. I got up at 6.15 am and had only two hours rest after lunch, then the work continued until the last meal was washed up, when I was too tired to do more than sit by the fire for half an hour before turning in. Mrs Cameron's standard of housework would have done credit to a fully staffed hospital. She told me herself, if she found dust on the lintels of any house, she considered that housewife inefficient. It was a pity it was such an obsession. But for that I could have been content, for she was gentle, kind and sensitive to my difficulties and insistent, with visitors, of my position there as a friend.
The McKenzie Country is not unlike the high veldt of South Africa with its sweeping lines, its tawny tussock of grass showing the red earth between and its scraggy bushes but there was the added magic of high snow and ice mountains with their green and blue shadows. I loved it. It was typical of Mrs Cameron's kindness that I was lent a horse to ride and on my afternoon off, I went riding. It was on the first of these rides that I had an experience not to be forgotten. I had ridden over to the neighbouring little school for afternoon tea and had found the people there so friendly and interesting that I had much enjoyed the visit. Riding back in a trance of delight, watching the country under the slanting rays of the sun, I became aware that I was happy again and in surprise instinctively turned to Azrael with gratitude. Swift came the answering thought: "I will always carry your burdens when you come to me in trouble but it means so much to me to also share your joys."
The unexpected influx of a married daughter and her family made the work more than I could cope with. I wrote to three of my friends with no other complaint but the exact timetable of my work there. Their reactions were very different. The first admitted the work was very hard but suggested I should try and stick to it. The second advised me to leave immediately, not to stay another week under such conditions. The third suggested I should leave as soon as possible. That was from Ian Milne, the friend of the voyage out, now married with two small daughters and living in a cottage on his mother's land. They had meals in his mother's house and spent most of their time with her. In his letter he told me they were expecting a third child and that his wife would be glad of my help in the house until after Christmas when the child would be born. It sounded like heaven to me and a little later when it suited Mrs Cameron I went to them.
There was a contrast so sharp as to be almost absurd between the two homes. I do not mean that Ian's house was neglected, though I am sure, there was dust on the lintels but I did not have to look and see. The Cameron's for instance had meals to the tick of the clock and woe betide anyone a minute late. Their conversation was apt to be personal and detailed as it tends to be in such an isolated life, yet they had to me an odd interest in the doings and small details of the royal family, culled from magazines. Whereas here, as they straggled into breakfast all would glance at the newspaper first, probably discuss some international news till Ian bolted and his sister, who lived with them, tore off to teach in her school, then the rest of us would turn to the housework.
Although it was Mrs Milne's house, it felt like home to whoever was there. For Ian's mother was like that, wise and lovable. Although she must have been seventy then, she was the natural centre of attention and the others were happy to have it so. Gay and with a swift wit, yet I can see her, as I once did, sitting alone so still, in tears over the sorrows of children in a less fortunate land. Another time I would be laughing at her vigorously expressed indignation over some stupidity, her halo slipping for a moment and adorably human without it. I wish I had been different but I was lonely, unused to unhappiness and I took some harder knocks to teach me not to cast my shadow over others. I fear the greatest benefit they got from me, was the goodness that had prompted them to ask me there. At the new year I returned to Dunedin where I made some charming friends. Susan and I rented a flat for nine months whilst the owners went to England. So life flowed on, broken only by a visit from John, till another Christmas came round.
Then Susan and I had an exciting holiday going to the Homer Tunnel, then under construction. When we got there we stayed at one of the huts. After the first day, Tom, one of the guides there, made friends with us much to our advantage, for on the third day he took us climbing to the top of the Gertrude Saddle where it looks down onto the Milford Sound. It was a grey day and the snow seemed to melt invisibly into the clouds. As we stood on the top, I said what a lovely slide it would make from where we stood to a little hollow bowl of snow twenty feet below us. Tom replied "Yes it would be if you didn't go on over the edge, where there is a drop of a few thousand feet."
The next day was a rare day of blue sky and sunshine. Tom had to go to the Howden Hut and suggested we should go too because there were some fine tramps from there. The Howden Hut is beautifully situated near the edge of a small lake. We went to the Blue Lake, which that day lived up to its name, with the whole towering height of Mt Christian behind it. Next day the weather still holding, we walked along the track near to the top of one side of the Hollyford Valley. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever taken. Sometimes the track crossed a bare stretch of orange tufted grass and moss but mostly wound through bush. This fell away to far down below us where the Hollyford river twisted in and out, a white and silver thread at the bottom of the valley. On the other side the bush rose steeply until it merged into the black rocks and blue shadowed snow peaks of mountains serrated against the skyline. I also saw along this track, for the first time, the mountain flowers of New Zealand, growing in profusion. They are nearly all white but when falling in masses over some tiny waterfall or pushing through the rough grass in large clumps, their delicacy and purity against that wild background is amazing. I remember also a mother stoat crossing the track in front of us, followed by six comical little baby stoats. These are things one doesn't forget.