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John Stephenson
Virginia Stephenson
Sandra Stephenson
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John's Infinite Way History

Infinite Way history didn’t end with the passing of Joel S. Goldsmith. What Joel established was a spiritual movement that continues and grows today with new teachers bringing their experience and understanding of Christ Consciousness to the public. This is what Joel envisioned. My experience with Joel, and with those extraordinary women who carried on the message after his passing leads me to believe that he would celebrate the diverse and unique way his message is reaching the world.

I met Joel Goldsmith when I was fifteen, and it happened to be my birthday. My parents had already become involved with the Infinite Way and Joel and Emma were in Los Angeles at this time. Also in Los Angeles was Joyce Burns Glenn from Australia, a leader of Joel’s work in Sydney. Another student, Clair Lynch, who lived in Hollywood, wanted to bring my parents together with Ms. Glenn and the Goldsmiths, so she organized a party for them. When she found out it was my birthday it became a birthday party. This small group, the Stephenson’s, the Goldsmith’s, Claire and Joyce spent the afternoon together. Joel took a great interest in me. He wanted to know if I meditated; what I thought about it, how it affected me. Joel was interested in so many things, and he had strong opinions about the state of the country and about politics. That afternoon my impression of him changed from an imposing teacher and lecturer in the Christian Science mold to an engaging, interesting man who went out of his way to find out what interested me. At that party I literally sat at the feet of a master.

From that meeting on I became a serious student of the Infinite Way. I attended many open lectures in the Los Angeles area in 1960 and 1961. I read Joel’s books and meditated daily with my parents. In fact it was the book Practicing the Presence that saved my sanity when I went to a military school in Indiana in the summer of 1961. At that time I was fascinated with the Navy – my love of the sea and all – and my dream was to become a naval officer and go to Annapolis. My parents never tried to dissuade me from this, though they knew it wasn’t right for me. Instead they suggested I go to this school and see what military life was like. It was a rude awakening. Studying the book Practicing the Presence is how I got through the experience, and it taught me to rely on spiritual principles for my well-being and peace of mind. I began writing Joel regularly.

In 1962, when I was seventeen, I went to my first “closed class” in Hawaii – the 1962 Princess Kaiulani Class. Since it was in Hawaii, and since I was a surfer, my parents made me earn the money for my air ticket and the class tuition. They wanted to make sure I was dedicated to the spiritual purpose of the trip, but I had already decided I wanted that class experience. I wanted to understand the true nature of my being, and I wanted to experience the Christ Consciousness. After the Princess Kaiulani class ended Joel gave a small class in Kahului, Maui at the Masonic Lodge. In a session at that class my consciousness was opened and I understood the nature of “I”. No longer was what Moses revealed, and what Jesus taught veiled to me. Joel knew I had had the “experience.” I went up to him afterwards to confirm what had happened, tears rolling down my face, and Joel just smiled and nodded. Later that evening, at a Chinese restaurant, he remarked to my mother, “You won’t have to worry about him any more. He got it.”

After I had my spiritual opening with Joel, I continued writing him. It was my way of clarifying the unfoldment I was experiencing and sharing with Joel more of the poetry that was coming through me. At the same time my mother, Virginia Stephenson, began an intense study period with Joel.

Loneliness is not a thing
Which makes man sad and scared to sing.
Loneliness is happiness
Free from human anxious thougths.

Loneliness is Godliness
Quiet, sure, powerfull
Filled with love that is not felt
When mind is filled with busyness.

Quietness is loneliness
Silent with the symphony
That is not heard where minds are heard.
Quietness is Godliness.

Loneliness is at-one-ment
Filled with silence that is not earthly,
Crowned with peace that's filled with glory.
Loneliness is Godliness.

John Stephenson, 1961


When I arrived in Hawaii in August of 1963, Chic Shigamura, Daisy’s husband, took me out to buy a car. He was in the automobile business and knew I needed a station wagon to carry my surfboard. Other students from Daisy’s Study Center made sure my dormitory was suitable. I was even stopped on the mall of the campus by a college classmate who gave me an aloha shirt. I didn’t know the boy, but he was told by his auntie from Maui to look me up and give me this gift. His auntie was in the class where I had my experience. I couldn’t believe the love and aloha showed to me those first weeks at the university, and every experience went back to Joel and the Infinite Way community.

Here is what I remember of my first year as a Hawaii resident. Joel had quite a teaching schedule in the months of August, September, and into October. There were the Princess Kaiulani Sunday Series with talks in the afternoon. There were the luncheons at the Halekulani Hotel where he also talked. There were the Kailua Private Class talks usually held at Bessie Anderson’s house on the canal over looking the Mid Pacific golf course. Bessie was Emma’s friend and employee who maintained the recording studio and made the tapes at her house. I was at a great many of these talks in all three locations.

The Sunday series at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel took place in the Robert Louis Stevenson room, which took up half the top floor of the hotel. At that time it was the highest building in Waikiki. There was a terrace that ran the length of the room, and from there you could see all the surfing breaks of Waikiki. I remember checking out the surf during the breaks in Joel’s talks and wishing I could be in two places at once. Little did I know that I would be giving classes based on Joel's work in that same room some forty years later.

I’ll never forget the day, on another occasion, when the surf was exceptionally good and I was looking forward to an afternoon of surfing after one of Joel's morning talks at Daisy’s study center. Just as I was leaving Daisy came up to me and said that Joel wanted me to join them for lunch. After lunch Joel insisted that I drive over to Kailua and join the private class. I was obedient and put off surfing to another day. This became a regular pattern, and looking back on it today what a blessing it was to be in Joel’s consciousness as much as I was.

The luncheons at the Halekulani Hotel were always interesting. They were held in a covered outdoor area called "the house without a key." We looked out to a beautiful lawn that stretched down to a large Keawe tree at the edge of the sea. Today Hawaiian entertainment performs under that very tree every evening.

Joel had many visitors from abroad at these luncheons and the conversations were loud, joyous and stimulating. Then, after dessert, a moment would come when everyone grew silent. It was like a signal in consciousness because there was no tapping on a glass, or someone telling the others to be quiet. It was the fact that Joel was ready to continue teaching and spirit prepared the way. I saw that many times with Joel; a group would be talking where everybody was excited and wanted to share their latest experiences, and Joel would sit down somewhere and a moment later everybody would be quite and gather around him. Joel gave some of his most profound and practical messages at those times, when there were no tape recorders on and no one had organized a formal talk...

I remember the sessions at the Kailua Private Class would go on late into the afternoon. These sessions were intense. Joel had finished the series on Instructions for Teaching the Infinite Way, and he was now focused on his new message of 1963 which was all about mysticism. Joel gave his talks from Bessie’s screened in lanai. His students would sit around the room on bright Hawaiian print furniture; some would sit on the floor on pillows. This was my choice. I would put my pillow where I could look past Joel and watch the trade winds move through the coconut trees. It was at this time that I met Lorraine Sinkler, who came to the islands for a month of work with Joel.

Joel returned home from England in time for the Christmas holidays of 1963, and my parents and two grandmothers came over during my school break. There were Christmas and New Years’ parties, and Joel gave holiday talks at Daisy’s center. This was only a month after John Kennedy was assassinated and everybody felt down and discouraged over the state of the country and we were worried by the heightened threat of the Cold War and the Vietnam situation. Joel addressed these issues and reminded us of the importance of world work meditations. On New Years day of 1964 we all went over to Kailua where Joel and Emma held an open house.

I began wood carving in the New Year and became the apprenticed of one of the best known wood carvers in the islands. His name was Dick Banning and he was a student of Joel’s as well as a Masonic brother. Joel and Dick were not only brothers on the spiritual path, they were good friends. Both loved telling good stories. When they were together, and had any kind of audience, the stories would flow one after the other. One story that lingers concerned Dick’s driving. Anyone who had ridden with Dick knew that he needed an extra pair of eyes and wasn’t insulted at all when you yelled at him to watch out for that car, or reminded him that a truck was backing out of a driveway. Yet Dick would always pick up Joel and drive them to their monthly lodge meeting. This meant that Dick would drive down the Pali to Kailua to pick up Joel, and then drive back over the mountain out to Scholfield Barracks where their lodge met. Both men talked about how much they enjoyed being in a lodge of mostly military men. Joel would speak on the esoteric meaning of Masonry and the more transient nature of the lodge brothers gave him a new audience most every month. He also hoped that the men would take back to their home lodges the deeper meaning of Masonry.

But back to Dick’s driving; many of the students couldn’t understand why Joel would drive with Dick. They would even say this to Dick – who wasn’t at all sensitive about his poor driving reputation; in fact I think he enjoyed it. He told most of us what Joel would say every time he’d get into Dick’s car, “You drive and I’ll meditate.” Joel would then close his eyes and not open them until they reached their destination.

Joel did a lot of work in the islands the first half of 1964. The study center talks always had forty to fifty people at them; they filled the center. There were more talks in Kailua, talks at the “House Without a Key,” and on Maui, talks at the Maui Palms hotel in Kahului. Then Joel left on what would be his last trip. A group of us went down to see him off on the Lurline. He and Emma had leis up to their chins. When they finally went on board the ship, their stateroom was just a few decks above the water with large windows that slid open turning their room into a balcony with a great view. While at the pier, their balcony was the perfect perch for them to look down on us and bid us aloha. They threw streamers and we all held on to them until the streamers broke as the ship pulled away from the pier.

After Joel made his transition in London in 1964 a new era began with the five teachers. Emma and Lorraine did not want the student body to feel that the message would stop being given and they invited all five teachers who had spoken in Chicago in 1964 back to give a class in May of 1965. I wanted desperately to go to but my studies and budget didn’t allow it. I did attend the class Lorraine Sinkler gave in Waikiki shortly thereafter.

In 1968 I joined my dad’s business so that he could travel more with Virginia. Her teaching had expanded to include classes in Australia and New Zealand as well as Europe and the United States. Emma loved to travel with my parents. She opened doors for them with the students in Europe and “Down Under” and encouraged Virginia to “put it in your own words” as Joel had said so many times to his teachers.

In 1972 I embarked on a post-graduate three month tour of Europe that began with a series of classes given by Virginia. As usual, Emma accompanied my parents and I became Emma’s escort. We began in London. Emma was welcomed like the dowager. I watched how she received the students who wanted her recognition. She was so gracious and humble. Emma was always very stylish. Her manner was elegant, and she carried herself like someone who knew the secret of life, which she did. Even people who had no idea who she was treated her with much love and respect. She would smile and doors would open. In Nottingham she stunned us one morning by coming down to breakfast in her mink coat and hat. The hotel refused to turn on the boiler for heat; it was not yet the time of the year to do that even though it was freezing outside.

Emma’s presence at the classes set a certain tone. She always sat in the front row, usually better dressed than most of the students in the audience, and would meditate. She carried on in Virginia’s classes as she had in Joel’s, maintaining the atmosphere and giving her full attention to the lecture. I can see now that she was recognizing the Christ in all who came into her presence. I remember how important recognition was to Joel – how important it is to anyone giving a mystical class. Without the recognition of the Christ the spiritual union all are seeking doesn't take place. Recognizing the spiritual nature of a class is something everyone must do, from the audience by not personalizing the teacher, to the teachers who see only the Christ, not allowing personal sense into their consciousness, to the more seasoned students who support this recognition throughout the class. When the presence of the Christ is recognized, a receptive atmosphere is created and all are lifted into that consciousness and have a spiritual experience. Emma was a big part of that activity.

Emma also liked to dance. We spent a few days in Paris between classes and the four of us – my parents, Emma and me – booked a dinner-dancing cruise down the Seine. It was a warm autumn evening. The leaves of the sycamore trees lining the river had not yet changed color and all the bridges and buildings were beautifully lighted. After a beautiful gourmet dinner we all danced under the moon while gliding past Notre Dame and Isle de la Cite.

The following year I had a watershed experience in sailing to the islands of French Polynesia on a fifty-two foot yacht belonging to a student of the Infinite Way in Honolulu. It became a great spiritual initiation that brought into practice all that I had experienced since I first dedicated myself to the spiritual way of life. Emma was one of the people who saw us off. We left a couple of weeks after Virginia had completed a series of Infinite Way classes on Kauai and in Honolulu. I remember the day before our departure sitting with Virginia and Emma in their suite at the Kaimana Beach Hotel discussing whether or not I should go.

In preparing the boat for the trip I had injured my shoulder to the point where I couldn’t raise my arm over my head. I had asked both Virginia and Emma for spiritual help and I still hadn’t the full use of my arm the evening before we were to leave. There was a lot of turmoil at that time. Our departure had been delayed by the weather, and the owner was anxious to get under way before the hurricane season began. My dad had returned to California for his business, and that evening it was just the three of us who sat down to meditate at sunset. I remember that meditation vividly. A tremendous peace descended on us as the sun went behind the Waianae Mountains. It was one of those sunsets where the rays of light shot into the sky like a fan. It seemed everything stopped at that moment. Then my mother said, “This is going to be your initiation. You can choose not to go if you want.” Emma agreed, and told me it wasn’t necessary. But I had the inner sense that I needed to face this now, or I would face it later in my spiritual development. Not that I knew what was in store for me. But sailing the South Pacific was something I’d dreamed of my whole life. Paul Gauguin was my ideal of a painter seeking the truth. So I decided to go. With that decision all the pain left my shoulder.

Upon returning from the South Pacific I moved to Los Angeles in 1974 and began to collaborate with Sandra Nicholson on a writing project. Sandra and I had met in the early sixties. There were only a few young students who took classes from Joel at that time and we all knew each other. Sandra was close to Betty Lou Ettinger who had the Los Angeles Center and Sandra helped her with the registration at Joel’s 1963 and 1964 classes in Los Angeles. By this time Sandra had become close to Emma. We attended all the classes of the teachers who came through Los Angeles and supported them by volunteering to help in what ever capacity we could. We traveled to many of Virginia’s classes too. As always Emma was at these classes, and in the mid seventies, while in Los Angeles, Emma wanted to see where Sandra lived and where I lived. Sandra had just finished remodeling a beautiful house in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, and Emma, who loved architecture, enjoyed seeing what she had done. I lived in an apartment building that William Randolph Hurst built for Marion Davies. It was a classic Spanish style building with beautiful courtyards and fountains. Emma thoroughly enjoyed seeing my place too.

Not long after that visit Emma was placed in a home for seniors. We were fortunate to see her one last time there in that Los Angeles “home” before she was moved to Arizona where you needed her doctor’s permission to visit. It was shortly after this that things changed in the Infinite Way. Joel’s name was removed from the Monthly Letter and replaced by “The Infinite Way.” Emma’s daughter trademarked the name “The Infinite Way” and her attorneys sent out letters to the teachers who were giving Infinite Way classes and to those who maintained Infinite Way Study Centers instructing them to stop using the Infinite Way name. After a decade of having Infinite Way classes we removed that name from our literature. It didn’t change the nature of the classes. The principles Joel taught to his teachers continued to expand, and their teaching continued.

In 1984 the three teachers who continued giving classes around the world gave a joint class in Denver. Sandra and I had been traveling with Virginia and Arthur for two years, helping with the logistics of the classes, recording the lectures and selling Virginia’s tapes and pamphlets. We traveled with state of the art recording equipment and extra suitcases filled with tapes from prior classes. The students loved having a selection of tapes at the classes that they could listen to on the spot. Joel’s books were always available at the classes, and we would have had Joel’s tapes available too but we were not allowed. Sandra was often called upon to recommend tapes for people working on certain principles. She has a great ability to guide someone to a particular tape or a place in a book that answers their question. So we arrived in Denver fully prepared for a normal class meeting; this was actually the third stop on a six week tour.

Lorranie, John & Valborg, c1986

What we weren’t prepared for was the crowd. After picking up Lorraine and Valborg at the airport and taking them back to the hotel we were met by the local class organizers who were in a panic over the meeting room. Lorraine said it didn’t matter if it was a small class, but that wasn’t the problem. We had already outgrown our room and more people were arriving and calling wanting to come by the hour. Fortunately, by now, we were adept at dealing with the unexpected ways classes have of changing, and by the time the Friday night opening lecture began, Eileen, Lorraine and Virginia were seated on a beautiful high platform, surrounded with flowers and jointly speaking to about nine hundred people. This was the last joint meeting of Joel’s original teachers and the atmosphere and meaning of the class reminded the student body that we are one in the Christ consciousness. Nothing can divide the circle of Christhood, and though individually each had chosen a teacher to follow, in reality we all followed the one Christ message.

For the next twenty years Sandra and I accompanied Virginia on her lecture tours, assisting her with the logistics of travel, supporting her in the spirit, meditating with the students from around the world and recognizing that this message – the Christ message – is not personal. It cannot be confined or limited. It has raised up teachers, and those teachers have encouraged a new generation to carry on the message. This is the nature of mystical revelation, and as long as it is not veiled through personalization, it will find its free expression. What Joel expressed in 1963 is still true forty five years later –

“The only way in which this can be taught is first, that I have a revelation of it, keep it locked up secretly and sacredly within me until such time as I am showing it forth, and then, without advertising myself, you come to me. How you find me, that’s a mystery of God, and then you say, “You have something. Share it with me.”

The veil is if I should say, “I’m referring to Joel.” That veils it, and then it puts you in your place at my feet to worship me, and from then on the truth is lost, because you are worshipping outside of yourself, praying outside of yourself, looking for favors outside of yourself, believing there is someone who can give [to] you, or someone who can withhold from you.

Therefore, every time that truth has been revealed it has been given a name for the people to worship– not by the revelator – oh no. Anyone that high in consciousness would never personalize it. But someone, either through ignorance, or evil intent, decides to build a statue to Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and then, you see, the veil is on again.

This is the age in which Truth is revealing Itself in us, to us, through us, to each other. This is the age because, again, this message is not mine. I didn’t invent it, or discover it, or create it. It is a revelation, and nobody has given me a fortune to carry it around the world to you.

The responsibility that is on your shoulder is this – not that you ever go out into the world to teach it or preach it – that is an individual matter that is not for you to decide, but for God, but your responsibility lies in so living it that you demonstrate it, and that’s all.

From there on, the “I” which is your Divine Consciousness, which knoweth your need, will lead you into your rightful activity, if such there be for you. It will lead you into the way in which you should go.

This should show you why Divine Wisdom has revealed to me that there must never be an Infinite Way organization, because the moment there is there is either an individual, or a board of trustees, or a board of directors, and then they become the deciding factor as to where you shall live, and when, and what you shall do, and etc.

But, if you are left free, you may make some mistakes. Never be afraid of mistakes. Never, never. Make as many as you like. None of them will ever be fatal. Never.

1963 London Work, “The Unveiling”
Joel S. Goldsmith

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