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
After that holiday, Susan and I moved into rooms and the time slipped by uneventfully until I heard Elizabeth had had a miscarriage and needed me. I went to where they lived in a little village on the West Coast. There was only a school, a coalmine, a post office and a handful of houses but I found it fascinating country. When I got there Elizabeth was about again but bitterly disappointed about losing the child. So we arranged I should stay on and help for some time. All went well the next time, although in the beginning we had a fright, which resulted in my keeping Elizabeth in bed for about six weeks. It was during this period of inactivity that she asked me if she might read the records of the sittings. They interested her so much that when the circle started again she joined it.
We settled down to a very happy nine months. In front of their house stretched lowish hills which separated us from the ocean. Further North these sloped down to a sandy spit, which curved round with a lighthouse at the end and formed the Western horn of Western Bay. In front of the house these hills fell into abrupt cliffs of grey rock, sheer for a hundred feet or more, which seemed queer on the landward side but which gave us a most impressive view. There was a track to the right of those cliffs over the top which led to the loveliest beach, cut off by cliffs to the South, then a fine reef of rocks and beyond, the long sandy beach of the spit. Here Paul, Elizabeth and I would sometimes take a picnic evening meal and Elizabeth and I would light a driftwood fire, whilst Paul would fish off the reef hoping for a snapper. After that, the quiet walk home over the hills by the light of the moon.
Beyond those cliffs there was a ridge leading on to the highest point of the range. It took about thirty minutes to get to the top and I went up every possible day. On the top you were almost surrounded by sea. To the left the coastline fell back in a series of bold headlines and rock strewn bays. To the right was our fishing bay and beyond that the spit with the ocean surf beating on one side and the waters of Western Bay lapping the other. But it was the view straight in front I liked best. There the ocean stretched unfettered to the horizon. It was never the same except for the white surf beating on the shore but of endless variety, changing in colour and mood under the spell of wind, cloud, or sun. There are three places that will always live in my heart, Pitch Hill with its heather and pines, in the land of my birth. Inhaca mysterious island of Africa and this, 'my hill' as I called it, for it had no name. These three places draw me with a pull that is surely not only of this one life.
Here during the next nine months I had two widely different but unusual experiences. At the week ends if it were fine, I would pack up food and go off for the day, partly to leave the young couple to themselves, partly because I very much enjoyed exploring that country. I decided once to go as far as possible along the seaward side of the spit which was broad at the base but narrowed far out. The landward side was boggy, with quicksands in places. On these walks I always took Elizabeth's dog 'Dick' with me. He was large and white, part Samoyed and part Collie. He was one of the most intelligent and companionable dogs I have ever known and very responsive to moods. To tease him sometimes Elizabeth and Paul would pretend to quarrel, he couldn't bear it and after barking madly round them, would give Paul a gentle nip as a warning to stop.
The country all round our house was bisected with sheep paths. Here I taught him a game. Dick loved to walk in front, so I lagged a little when he came to one of these forks and then shot down the one he hadn't taken. This flustered him terribly but he soon learnt that I did it on purpose and then I could only trick him if I caught him off guard. I pity anybody if they attacked any one of us he would have been a dangerous adversary, for there was weight behind even his playful rushes. Dick loved these walks as much as I did.
This time we left our beach and walked along the sands until we got out from under the shelter of the low hills at the base of the spit. It was very beautiful out there and I wondered why I did not feel more enthusiastic, as I went on I felt heavy and dull but put it down to lassitude after a bout of influenza and decided not to make a long day of it but to be content to reach a hummock lying ahead. Then my attention was drawn to the queer behaviour of Dick. Although full of character he was well trained and obedient and would walk to heel when told to but I only put him to heel if there were lambs with the sheep when we came over the hills. Now I noticed that Dick had put himself to heel. I snapped my fingers to release him but after a few minutes found him back again. He did this several times so I left him alone, wondering if he disliked the sand that was drifting along the beach with a faint hiss, driven by the prevailing westerly breeze. I didn't think it was strong or high enough to worry him but it was strange he should insist on walking close behind me. Neither Dick nor I seemed to be enjoying it much but I persisted in reaching the small sandhill I had marked out for lunch.
One of Dick's endearing traits was his behaviour whilst I had lunch. He would choose a spot and lie down a few yards away usually turning his back on me. I always saved him something from my lunch and when I had finished, he would take it with dignity but he never asked for it. This day he was quite different, I had hardly sat down when Dick crowded against me, almost on my lap. I pushed him off but he came back and looked so pleading and upset that I eventually let him stay on the edge of my skirt. Whilst I was eating I watched the sand drifting past. I thought if Dick and I got into one of those hollows we would soon be covered up and there we might lie till a storm uncovered us, perhaps in a month, perhaps a hundred years hence. Then I had a queer feeling of oppression and felt as if a procession of people were passing by but there was nothing but miles of sea and sand lying bare in the sunshine with occasional cloud shadows chasing across.
I wondered if the Maoris (7) who used to live all round this bay, had buried their dead out on this spit. Dick was still very restless and uneasy, so I decided to go back. It was a relief when I had turned to face home and I had a strong instinct not to turn and look back which I obeyed. Then Dick again held my attention. He had not only gone ahead but was streaking off as fast as he could go. I whistled him back; he stopped but after a minute went on again. He would not stay. This was unprecedented disobedience. I whistled several times but only made him pause. He would not return, so I let him be and followed as fast as I could walk. As soon as he left the spit and was on the beach under the hills again, Dick stood and waited for me and as soon as I came up, leapt up on me and apologised for leaving me, in every way he knew how. I wished he could tell me what he had felt out there. It was not the sand that worried him, for it still hissed along the beach and he took no notice of it. It is curious, just after writing this I repeated this story to a friend and he said he knew of at least one Maori burial there and thought it might have been a custom of theirs. I was also told that a Maori warrior had come from the North and had fought the local Maoris, finally driving them out to the spit where they were caught between his warriors and some he had sent in canoes along the spit. They had been practically wiped out. I had not sensed fighting but only people passing and a feeling of oppression and I had seen nothing
Before I go on to the other experience, I had better explain my own attitude to death. I do not think there has ever been a time when death did not seem pleasant to me. In the years of the circles when I was so often 'in touch' with the Thought World it became more than that. There was added an impatience with earth life, although I knew that was wrong and must be checked. Even now in this happy quiet backwater, when for me life has become passive again, death still stands for release. The necessary time at school will be over and I free to go home.
I have had three experiences of dying. In each case the death seemed to be my own. The first time it happened was, when I was returning home across those green hills from our beach. It was a perfect day, the sea a silver blue, as it is here on a rare windless day; it was September I think. It was very lovely and I kept on stopping to look back, once I stayed by an old burnt out stump and stood staring at the close cropped grass and the tiny three leafed clover in it. I must have 'gone away', because as I stood there, death came, quietly and peacefully with just a wistful regret for the life I was leaving. This surprised me as I had not expected regret, I knew then, I should not see another winter come.
The second occasion occurred years later and was much worse. It happened when I was in bed and lying awake in the dark. This time I met death with apprehension and came back very upset, with fear in my heart. I wrote to Nicholas about it and got a scolding letter in reply. He thought then that I had these experiences because I would think too much about death, that the wish was father to the thought but he pointed out it couldn't be me if I had died in fear. I cannot remember now if I realised that second time it was not my own death I endured. If I travel in time and enter the mind of another person, it is frightfully difficult, when one first returns, not to identify oneself with them, especially if the experience is concerned with death. That second experience came some six months before John Bodley died and later I learnt that it was his. The third time it happened it was again unpleasant because although there was no disturbance of mind, death was accompanied by a feeling of suffocation. That time it was the death of 'the Mother'.
It seemed rather hard that I should have these three foreshadowings of death as well as my own when it comes, because dying in itself is a strange lonely experience. I wrote years later something in this strain to Nicholas, for I have had no explanation of these three experiences. He replied that he thought that by entering their deaths, I had perhaps been able to help the three concerned. I hope he is right.
To return to my first experience. When I had it, it never occurred to my mind that it could concern anyone else, so I naturally accepted that it was a foreshadowing of my own death. It did not trouble me and I spoke to no one about it then, although I probably wrote to Nicholas about it. Yet this mistake did confuse my life for the next six months. I have never been allowed to see anything that could interfere with a decision of mine before it was taken, so it is possible that this misconception was deliberately not corrected. Had I known then it was the Mother's death, not my own I had experienced, I should have felt compelled to take the course I did, instead of following it of my own accord. For she died six months later in March, before 'winter came'.
It was at this time when John came over to spend a day with us, that he told me he was very anxious again about the Mother's health. She held, at that stage, what I think is a queer attitude of mind towards sickness. She told me later that she felt, her illness was unclean; that she should have been able to hold it at bay by the power of her own faith. At the time I felt concern at John's anxiety but I thought he was wrong. I did not feel it was possible we could both be nearing death and with my own foretold as I then believed, I did not think her life could be threatened.
Some weeks later the Mother told John she had discovered a lump under her arm. This alarmed him instantly and they held a long discussion which resulted in his coming to fetch me. He wanted to try for a repetition of the first cure made eight years ago. He brought me a letter from her which distressed me. In it she asked for forgiveness for her behaviour and for our misunderstanding and said she would be grateful if I would try to help her again. It upset me because I did not feel the need for an apology. I felt it was the nature of our patterns that had caused the trouble and that if there was any blame it rested equally on the three of us but I was happy to go back with him and forget the past.
The first couple of days were troubled, I had no directions and moreover in spite of her letter, there still seemed to be a barrier between the Mother and myself and while it existed, I knew nothing could be done. In the meantime John was fretting and wondering why I did not start. It was his impatience that brought matters to a head. He asked us both why we did not try for a healing and I was forced to explain. This drew a totally unexpected outburst from the Mother, who was a very fine woman and usually reserved. Now she gave way and expressed her personal feelings strongly, feelings she had hitherto denied existed, a denial I had been too ready to accept. I answered her, convincing her in part that she was wrong. John distressed, calmed her and suggested we should all three pray for help.
It is difficult to describe what followed. When others describe similar instances I cannot help feeling repelled and my instinct is, that touch with Azrael is personal and should not be reproduced. But unless I do, there is a gap here left without explanation.
I cannot pray to order, or indeed pray easily in the ordinary sense at all. I was alarmed and distressed, so that I found myself just calling Azrael again and again and He came. The Mother and I were instantly aware of His coming. There was peace and light, misunderstanding and darkness fled. Comforted we went upstairs together to seek healing and from that time until her death there was no shadow again between us.
She lay down and I sat as before lightly touching her arm. When we came back the Mother seemed happy but I knew that although healing could be reached, it had not yet happened and was not going to be easy like the first time. I knew definitely that this time it depended on all three of us, all three had to put this healing first, before any other wish or desire. On my own pattern I am as stupid and liable to error as any other person without my gift but for this one period, as far as I know, in little or bigger things, I did try to put the Mother first. I knew how important that was and felt the weight of the responsibility. During that time John also instantly followed any suggestion I made although that was not his nature. It was the Mother who did not see that a course she decided to follow was contrary to our instructions.
Her youngest son came home on leave. He knew nothing about the circle, the cure of her illness, or my connection with them. I think the Mother was anxious to keep him clear of all those things. It was more than enough that Nicholas was so interested. Whatever the reason she told me that she wished to stop our sitting together, whilst he was at home. I have never known whether I gave her physical help or not at these sittings. John thought that I did. When I touched her arm I was sometimes aware of a current like faint electricity passing between us but that was all. But I did know her suggestion was contrary to the only instruction we had been given. John to some extent shared my fear and spoke to the Mother of his anxiety. She herself was firm and cheerful about it, confident that her wish was right for herself and uninfluenced by our warning. It may seem wrong that an apparently unimportant conclusion, made in good faith, should turn the scales but as I have already said, I believe there is always some little thing, some personal antagonism that needs an effort to overcome before there can be access to this unknown power.
On the 17th. of December my granddaughter was born and that happy interlude with Elizabeth and Paul was over, never to be renewed because that school closed down and Paul was transferred to Kaituna and I returned to Dunedin. At first the news of the Mother was good but some weeks later there was a relapse. From the beginning of her illness to the end, all that medical knowledge could do, was done. I only stepped in when that aid had failed. In February they sent for me again and soon after I arrived, we had what I called the Mother's service (8). Only the Recorder, John, Nicholas and myself were present with the Mother. I knew it called for a supreme effort. Translating this effort into symbolic words, it meant we had to lift her up on the wings of thought. During it I gave the Mother a message from 'Mary' the world's Mother. There would be a thought from her to help. I called it 'a feather of pure gold'. I never had a very clear memory of this service. For some reason unknown to me, on that occasion, it was a severe physical strain and at the height of it, I felt a spasm contort my left side and a feeling of shame that a personal thing had intruded. Afterwards I went to rest and slept several hours but when the Mother said goodnight to me she added: "It was wonderful, whatever happens, that alone was worth while to me," and her words felt like a blessing.
For the rest of the time I was with them. I used to sit with her from midnight until about 6 am when John would bring us a cup of tea and take over, till the nurse came. She had to rest propped up with pillows. She mostly dozed but sometimes her head would fall forwards with a jerk and to prevent this I used to hold her forehead. I felt very near to her all this time. There were times when her breathing seemed to stop and when this occurred I noticed it was a fearful effort for her to start again. It woke her up and was most painful to watch. I think death came to her like that, she stopped and there was not that dreadful effort to start again because a fortnight after I left she died.
She seemed really better when I left and we were all hopeful. I returned to my work in Dunedin which I had left to go to the Mother. It was to amuse an old lady in a nursing home, who was partially paralysed after a stroke. I read to her, wrote her letters, or talked to her. I felt compelled to return as I had only been able to make temporary arrangements for her in my absence and her family, who were away in England, had trusted me with the job. But I do not like to remember that John told me later, the Mother had said to him, he should not have let me go.
When, a fortnight later a telegram came for me with the news of the Mother's death, it was a fearful shock. I think we all felt something had happened at her service and had jumped to the conclusion it was a cure. In the days that followed, the tension became almost unbearable. I had one letter after the other, with the same question. Had I any explanation? And I had no answer. My realisation now that the death I had experienced was not mine but the Mother's, did nothing to help. It made me feel I had been mislead and I wished I were free of the circle and all connected with it. Illogically this attitude did not include Azrael and I have noticed since, that others in our circle have felt coldly towards their Eternal Minds if things go wrong. This may be natural but it is a stupidity, for our Eternal Minds are under the direction of Azrael and Arrantees, who are the Light in personality. Therefore such a quarrel is a quarrel with God.
I think perhaps Nicholas is right and those three experiences of dying did enable me to help the three whose deaths I suffered. I have noticed that the part of my Conscious Mind that attains the Thought World, seems ever ready to take on responsibilities, which later the part of me which is Kath blunders over and whose acceptance, I fancy, might not be so unqualified. I believe now that if I had not experienced the Mother's death, I could not have given her her service and I know that her service led to an alteration not of body but of mind. That change not only brought her back into the circle she had voluntarily left but made the Teaching and its importance immediately available to her after her death.
Because it was the Mother who now came to my help. Remembrance of those distracted days has faded in detail but I know that almost at once I got into touch with the Mother. The first time I found my waking thought to be "I am closer to her now than I am to John or Nicholas", and then as my waking self took over, "but that is absurd". It was difficult for me to accept that but it is a sign to me if signs were needed, that we had indeed been in touch. I learnt from her now that with her new understanding, her wish was to help me and the Teaching where she could. It is difficult to give words to her thoughts but I was tremendously aware of a new attitude of interest and sympathy to which I most happily responded, even if, when I was awake, my attitude was one of surprise. Before she died she had asked me to do all I could for her girls, especially for one of them, but I learnt from her now, that she had already reached a wider vision. She knew I would not forget but she had already seen that one cannot greatly influence another's life, unless the patterns are woven together and that individuals have to make most of their progress themselves. I did not try to convey this touch to John or Nicholas and I think I was wise. It must have seemed even less credible to them then, than to my wakened self. Their natural expectation must have been that the Mother would be concerned for her own family, to whom she had been so devoted and who had been the centre of her life, rather than to the Teaching and the circle from which she had become estranged.
Later there was another most unusual thought from her, which made me seek financial aid from my family, which otherwise I should not have done. I did not use it for the purpose I expected to then, although in due course it was most generously sent. Later when the way opened for me to settle here, it made that course possible. Without it I could not have done so. I like to remember it was a thought of hers that led me here.
Before my pattern straightened out I tried to explain part of this to Nicholas but he could not accept it. It was the first time he did not 'see'. I do not blame him, I was pretty muddled myself. Anyhow it was against all reason and if he must understand by faith alone, I think he would fail.
(7) Maori' is the name for the indigenous people of New Zealand. Back to text.
(8) This sitting, held 03/03/1940, is reported in the 'Records of the Sittings and History of the Circles', ISBN 0-9583519-3-7. Back to text.