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Virginia Stephenson's Experience In The Infinite Way Movement

Virginia Stephenson's story with Joel and the early days of the Infinite Way message has been told in bits and pieces during her more than forty years of teaching, and many of these experiences are recorded on her class tapes. But there has never been a complete history of her time with Joel and the others who carried on with The Infinite Way message. Now that generation is nearly gone from this world and it is time for those remaining to tell their stories. Anyone who knew and experienced Joel, studied with him and realized their spiritual birthright, as Virginia did, has a cempelling story to share.

This history has been compiled from four separate interviews with Virginia between November of 2007 and May of 2008. As in all histories, what is written is subjective, and what is presented here is Virginia’s perception of the events that formed the spiritual movement called The Infinite Way. It is not meant to discredit any other version of these events, but to add to the richness of the legacy left by Joel and his original teachers.

The Early Years

In 1951 Virginia went through class in Christian Science. As a life-long Christian Scientist, this was the step serious followers of the religion took to further their spiritual understanding. A year later her practitioner gave her a manuscript, “The Master Speaks,” by Joel Goldsmith, also a class taught Christian Scientist although at this time no longer part of the church. The manuscript appealed to Virginia. The language was more contemporary. The message, while having its roots in Christian Science, was more mystical. It addressed aspects of the spiritual way of life that the church did not. In the back of the manuscript was the address of a book seller in Beverly Hills that handled Goldsmith books and Virginia went there and bought everything he had published at that time.

Virginia, and her husband, Arthur, had just built a new house in Pacific Palisades, California and moved into it the summer of 1953. Virginia immediately became active in the small Christian Science church there which met at the Woman’s Club. The congregation was planning to build their own church on a lot they had purchased up the hill from the town center, and Virginia was voted onto the board of directors where she took part in the planning and construction of the new edifice.

With all of her involvement in the church, Virginia continued to study the work of Joel. She also began a three year Bible course with Edith Armstrong Hoyt who was one of the foremost Bible scholars at the time, and also a Christian Scientist. Mrs. Hoyt emphasized the spiritual revelations in scripture and taught how to distinguish them from the cultural and historical parts of the Bible. Combined with Virginia’s Christian Science study, working with Mrs. Hoyt revealed a new way of seeing scripture, one that emphasized the unfoldment in consciousness from law to grace. Joel’s writings reinforced this unfoldment from sense to soul, to use one of Mrs. Eddy’s statements. Virginia discovered in the Bible the foundation not only of Mrs. Eddy’s metaphysics – on which Joel built – but it gave reference to Joel’s mystical unfoldment.

For the next few years Virginia studied these books alone, sharing them only with her family. The church had been built. Virginia taught Sunday school and was also its superintendent. Even though it was a Christian Science practitioner who introduced her to Joel, and she suspected that there were a few people in the church who were reading him, the church frowned on studying spiritual material other than Mrs. Eddy’s. Virginia liked what was being added to her spiritual awareness through Goldsmith’s books, but she had no intention of leaving her Church. In fact, by 1959 she was being considered for the post of reader, and because of her healing work Mrs. Spangler, a well know teacher and practitioner, urged Virginia to put her name in the Journal as a practitioner. But a friend who attended the church changed that course.

This friend smoked, and because of that was refused membership in the church. She loved the Christian Science teaching, but she was hurt by the rejection and came to Virginia for help. By this time Joel’s books were read by Christian Scientists more openly and Virginia’s friend had read one. Virginia knew of a group in Brentwood that met to listen to tapes of Joel’s lectures and suggested that her friend investigate what they were about. Virginia’s friend reported back that the lecture was wonderful and the group welcoming and that Virginia should attend. When Virginia said that she didn’t think it would be right, given her position in the church and all, her friend bought a tape player of her own to Virginia and privately played one of Joel’s lectures for her.

“It was a 1959 New York Class lecture on the nature of I,” Virginia said. "Joel gave the body exercise and I had the realization that I am consciousness. When the tape was over I was weeping. Many onion skins of material concepts had been removed.”

Meeting Joel

Virginia’s friend wrote to Joel, telling him about Virginia. Joel wrote back to the friend stating that he wanted to begin a correspondence with Virginia. He was coming to Los Angeles for class work and hoped Virginia’s friend could arrange a meeting for them. That meeting took place at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles in February of 1960. After the cordialities, Joel asked Virginia what her definition of the “carnal mind” was. Virginia answered by quoting Mrs. Eddy, saying that it was “the sum total of all error; a term denoting nothingness.” Joel said for her to never forget that, and invited her to meditate. Virginia wondered, as she closed her eyes, if some phenomena were going to take place. Meditation was very new to America at this time, and in Christian Science Mrs. Eddy never used that term; it was always prayer, even though prayer in Christian Science was never petitioning God. Mrs. Eddy had warned her followers against Eastern occultism. So Virginia closed her eyes, not knowing if she was going to experience something different from her practice of silent prayer. What took place within her was a profound sense of peace; something she had always known. When the meditation ended Joel told her that she was a “swami.” When Virginia looked up what a swami was she discovered it meant a spiritual teacher that travels without purse or scrip. That struck Virginia as being a strange thing to say to her as she didn’t really like to travel. Perhaps Joel saw her destiny more clearly than she did.

Joel wanted Virginia to attend the class. Virginia was reluctant, not because she didn’t find Joel to be a wonderful teacher and light, but because of her loyalty to Christian Science. She was a class-taught Christian Scientist and going through class in that organization was a big commitment. Was this the same sort of commitment? And to whom would the commitment be made? She asked Joel if other Scientists attended his classes. He said they did. Virginia said she would think about it.

A class of Joel’s followed the following format: there were a number of public lectures around the area followed by a closed class of five days held every evening from eight to ten. Virginia attended some of the open classes, and when the time came for the closed class to begin, she joined that too. Lorraine Sinkler was in charge of the registration. When Virginia met Lorraine there was an immediate connection– a recognition of kindred spirits dedicated to the spiritual way of life and willing to be servants of the “most high.” This was the beginning of a long and loving relationship between Virginia and Lorraine and Lorraine’s sister Valborg.

Then, during a private appointment with Joel, he received a phone call. Virginia tried not to eavesdrop, but Joel didn’t step out of the room; he held his conversation right there in front of Virginia. This was unusual as Joel was a very polite and considerate man. It was as if he wanted Virginia to hear what he was saying to the person on the phone. When Joel hung up he asked Virginia if she knew to whom he was talking, and he mentioned the person’s name. Virginia didn’t know the name. Then when Joel described the person – one of a couple who regularly attended his classes, Virginia realized it was a couple from her church. She began to understand why Joel had had his conversation in front of her; it was to make a point.

“I see what you are getting at,” Virginia said. "They are always holding back in church, as if they are afraid to say what they really believe.”

“You can’t ride two horses,” Joel repeated.

At that time Virginia was president of the board of directors of her church, and she had been Sunday school superintendent, a Sunday school teacher and was constantly urged to put her name in the Christian Science Journal as a practitioner, but she decided to resign anyway. No one in the church could understand this. When she tendered her resignation, many of her church friends felt betrayed. Virginia would see these friends in the village or at the market and they would turn their backs on her. Her social invitations stopped. She thought her family suffered too, as the church had been a large part of their community involvement. But her husband and son were not nearly as affected as she was. They saw the freedom that came with no longer being associated with an organization, a church, and their spiritual development didn’t suffer; it actually benefited through daily meditation and applying mystical principles to daily life. Somehow the church marked all of them as being such-and-such, and now no one could pin a label on them. For Virginia, though, cutting the church ties was harder then she had anticipated. She still cared about the church and its function in the community. She eventually called Joel for help with this. Severing a relationship with a community that had been part of her life since she could remember was very difficult.

Joel told Virginia to drop the church – its problems, challenges and people from her consciousness. He told her that when any thought came to mind about the church and its congregation to give it no attention and see what would happen. If something is no longer in your consciousness it will no longer appear in your life. Virginia practiced this instruction and soon the church and its people never entered her mind. What’s more, she never ran into them again.

Joel was in Los Angeles two more times in 1960; later in the spring when he gave a class at the Wilshire-Ebell Club and in May when he gave a private class. In early 1961 Joel gave another series of classes in Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside, returning to Los Angeles in the autumn for another short class. Virginia participated in most of this work and found herself spending a lot of time with Joel, Emma and the students who were helping facilitate all of the classes and lectures. Joel invited Virginia to many meals after a class and to other informal meetings where a few close students would talk about things happening in the world, about movies, plays and modern music – the rock n roll phenomena that Joel’s generation didn’t consider music at all. A number of the women who would be the “original teachers” were also attended much of this work. Daisy Shigemura stayed with the Stephenson family in the Palisades, and Lorraine Sinkler and Eileen Bowden were at a number of these classes. Joel kept telling Virginia that she couldn’t ride two horses.

In 1962 shortly after the Los Angeles Study Center opened, Virginia volunteered to help. She was asked to teach the Bible by some of the students there and once a week she spent the entire day teaching a course on the Bible, meditating, and playing Joel’s tapes. This activity grew very successful and the Study Center was filled when Virginia was there. Joel held a lot of classes in Southern California in the spring of that year. There was another class in Riverside and San Diego, and then there were a series of classes at the Study Center itself, a Glendale class, the Los Angeles closed class held over the Easter holiday, and a one day class in Pacific Palisades where Virginia lived. Joel had heard how successful Virginia’s Bible teaching had been at the Study Center and he asked her if she would conduct an Easter service at the center for the students. Virginia was honored to do this.

That summer Virginia, Arthur and their son John went to Hawaii for Joel’s Princess Kaiulani class. Joel invited Virginia to speak at this class as he had seen the quality of her work in Los Angeles. He also invited Eileen Bowden to speak. It was a big class and Joel wanted plenty of spiritual activity for those attending. Daisy Shigemura, who had started the Infinite Way Study Center in Waikiki, had an on-going morning meditation that most of the students knew about. Eileen was to speak in the morning on raising children, and Virginia was to speak on the mysticism of the Bible in the afternoons. Virginia felt uncomfortable speaking before such a large group and gave Joel many excuses why she couldn’t. She didn’t have a Bible. No problem; Joel had one. She would be too nervous. Not to worry; probably only a few people would come. Eventually she did speak – every afternoon of the class. Joel was surprised, and pleased, that most of his students attended these afternoon sessions. Now he had another teacher who brought her unique talents to the message along with her expertise on the Bible.

There were many students who stayed a month in Hawaii for the Waikiki class, the Maui work, and the talks and luncheons that Joel gave in addition to the class work. The Stephenson family stayed the month, and at one of the Halekulani luncheons, where there were about forty people, Joel made the following comment; “You are all under The Infinite Way umbrella.” That comment set off warning signs in Virginia. There was no Infinite Way organization, so how could these students be under its umbrella? Were they under the umbrella of Joel’s consciousness? That would make Joel responsible for every one’s lives. Virginia had been very careful where she placed her commitment; it had always been to the Christ, not to an individual. Didn’t Joel teach that the very act of personalizing a spiritual message veiled it?

Virginia, Emma and Joel at Halekou, 1962

The next day when she went to visit Joel at his Halekou home, he was despondent. A plane bound for New Zealand had to return to Honolulu due to mechanical problems and it crashed upon landing. Most of the people survived, but a handful didn’t, including two students who had been at the Halekulani luncheon that very afternoon. Joel couldn’t understand how something like that could happen. He and Virginia talked at length about it, and Virginia brought up the comment he had made at the luncheon, that they all were under the Infinite Way umbrella. Did Joel want to take responsibility for the lives of the students in the movement? He didn’t and he realized that he had to set everyone free to rise and fall under their own awareness of spiritual consciousness.

They talked about what could be done. Virginia had been with the two New Zealand students often and discovered that they were new to the message and really didn’t know how to study it. They read books and listened to tapes, but was that really enough? She asked Joel how he developed his healing consciousness in Christian Science. That method of study required knowing the Bible and the relevant passages from Mrs. Eddy. It required action, not just passive reading or listening. Joel asked Virginia, “What would you do?” She suggested putting Bible lessons in the Monthly Letter that gave the scriptural foundation for the principles he taught and wrote about. Joel liked the idea and asked Virginia to work up some lessons. Virginia went back to the hotel and compiled a few lessons for their next meeting. When she presented them to Joel, he liked them and had Virginia prepare lessons for the entire year.

Virginia’s spiritual work grew tremendously after being with Joel in Hawaii. She continued speaking at the Los Angeles Study Center and was invited to give classes in San Francisco. This is recognized in a letter from Joel to Virginia in May of 1963.

“It is certainly wonderful to read the way California is opening, and of course you recognize now how true the principle of The Infinite Way is, that it is all a matter of consciousness, and above all things, a matter of the consciousness of the individual.

“Of course I approve of your class work in San Francisco, and I can tell you now that in advance I approve of any work that you may undertake and that I will at all times be wholeheartedly with you and in support of your every activity, regardless of where it might be. Do not hesitate to accept invitations that come to you of a serious nature, and where you yourself feel you can really be a blessing and a benediction, and always know that it shall be my joy to be spiritually and consciously with you every step. As you know, I do not say this lightly, and certainly I say it to very, very, very few, but where I say it, believe me, I mean it!”

In 1963 Virginia returned to Hawaii for a month of private study with Joel. She was offered an apartment and a car by a student leaving to the mainland for a month and she accepted. She met with Joel everyday, picking up his mail from the Pawaa Station in Honolulu and bringing it over the mountain to Kailua. During this month Virginia’s experience in mysticism deepened. Her daily contact with Joel profoundly affected her understanding of the spiritual nature of being. One day, when getting into a car with Joel in front of his Kailua home, Virginia experienced the incorporeal nature of Body and the Trinity. Joel saw this and was pleased. (This experience is described fully in her class titled “The Grand Colossus.”)

Back in Los Angeles Virginia felt it was time to stop the routine she had been in before her month in Hawaii with Joel. Her son left for Hawaii and the University there – something in itself that would change their close knit family. She knew he would find his spiritual family there, and she needed to establish her own work. Remembering Joel’s letter, she wanted to demonstrate the activity of consciousness, of her own individual consciousness and see where that would take her. She discontinued her weekly teaching at the Los Angeles Study Center and began holding meetings at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. There, she played Joel’s taped classes, talked on the Monthly Letter and taught her Bible Classes.

Virginia’s leaving the Los Angeles Study Center prompted this letter from Joel. It is from July, 1963, and Joel clarifies the freedom and independence he demanded of his teachers.

“I myself will not interfere in any student’s activity... The reason for this is that the moment one person has any authority over another person, or any responsibility for the activity of another person, you have organization, whether or not you incorporate it legally. The moment there is a head to anything, there is organization, and the very moment that one person is responsible for another, there is organization, and the only way that the message of The Infinite Way can be kept pure is for every individual to be responsible to himself or herself in God, and to be sure that their authority reaches nowhere at all outside of their own being. Even in helping other students to set up their own tape groups or other activities, no authority and no responsibility accompanies such an activity. Do not ask anyone to consult you about anything, but if anyone consults you of their own free will and accord, then your relationship to them could be advisory, but never authoritative, and never disciplinary. The moment anyone is asked to consult you we have an organized activity, and this we must not have, because this alone constitutes the purity of the message, in that each one is responsible only to the Father within.

“Well, we are in our new home, and I wish that you could see it, now that the furniture is in, and what a joy you would have in my office. This is really something worthwhile, but I am sure that you will eventually be seeing it and enjoying its atmosphere.

“Emma joins me in love to you and to the family.”

The Bible lessons had been in the Monthly Letter for over a year and Virginia was beginning to receive criticism for them. Those who had come from Christian Science felt they were returning to a practice they had outgrown. Others thought the lessons made The Infinite Way seem too much like Christian Science. Virginia wanted to stop doing them. They were a lot of work and if they were not appreciated, she would rather spend the time addressing some of the other aspects of her spiritual work. These criticisms must have reached Joel too, as he wrote the following letter in September of 1963.

“I have just received a letter from California saying that the writer understood that the Bible Lessons in the Monthly Letter might soon be discontinued, and asking me if it were not possible to be sure that these are continued because they are so important to them.

“This, of course, brought something immediately to my mind which I would like to share with you. When The Infinite Way was given to me in 1946, and then the thought of publishing a book was presented to me, I immediately rebelled at the very thought of it, because I felt that my activity was so successful as a Christian Science practitioner that surely there should be no reason to interrupt this activity and undertake something new, more especially something that would involve carrying a whole new message to the world. Eventually, however, this work was undertaken. Now, right from the start, probably everyone with whom I came in contact knew something-or-other that was wrong about my work or my approach, or my way of teaching, etc. One, of course, suggested that I never mention Christian Science, or Unity, or New Thought, and others felt that it would be good advertising to keep mentioning these. Others felt that I should never mention politics from the platform, but sort of act as though politics really did not exist at all. Others felt that I used the words God and Christ too much, and that the message would be much more acceptable if I refrained from these words. The original manuscripts that are actually the foundation of our book were bitterly opposed by many. Then the fact that I was so idealistic and did not charge for healing work and did not demand a specific fee for lecture work convinced others that my work must fail because of a lack of financial support, because it was so evident to them that nobody will give any money unless they are continuously hounded for it. When the subject of tapes was introduced I had the most bitter opposition of all, and I was told point blank by some of my very top students that I was going to ruin the activity of The Infinite Way with these tapes. The point that I would like to make is this, Virginia, that I paid absolutely no attention to any of these remarks, not even to take them seriously enough to think about them. I was receiving my instructions within, and my guidance, and my protection, and my supply; why, then, should I pay attention to “man whose breath is in his nostrils”?

“When you presented to me the subject of the Bible Lessons I consulted no one but the Father within, and then I acted on that impulse. That my inner guidance and instruction was complete and perfect is evident by the fact that it has been necessary to publish a tenth edition “Infinite Way” in England, and that so many copies of the tenth edition have been sold this year; I mean additional to the regular sales. Your work, then, on the Bible Lessons, has really fulfilled itself, has met a great need, and in turn, must bring to you a tremendous satisfaction. That there are undoubtedly hundreds of students who are not doing the Lesson and who are not interested in it must, of course, be true, but what is that to thee? “Follow thou Me.”

“The reason I am dictating this letter to you is this. I think it is necessary for you at this point to learn to follow completely your inner guidance, and give no heed to “man whose breath in is his nostrils”, and if necessary, be willing to make mistakes on your own, rather than to be successful on someone else’s advise.

“A whole new system of teaching is unfolding at the present moment which may be the successor to your Bible Lessons, but if so, I will not be ready for it until the opening of 1965.

“Our heartfelt greetings to you and to your family!”

Virginia’s Bible Lessons remained part of the Monthly Lesson through April of 1965.

In the spring of 1964 Joel was preparing for a major lecture tour. He said this to the group in Hawaii in May;

“A little now about our trip. In Portland, Seattle and Chicago, Mrs. Daisy Shigemura of Hawaii, Mrs. Eileen Bowden of Canada, Miss Lorene McClintock of New York, Mrs. Virginia Stephenson of California, and Miss Lorraine Sinkler of Chicago will be conducting Infinite Way teacher classes on meditation, spiritual healing, and ways and means of studying the monthly letter. These will be in addition to my own lecture and class work, so it will be a heavy program – but one that will bring forth a deep and rich consciousness. 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.’ Therefore as our Infinite Way group is lifted up, the spirit will go beyond the confines of the walls and reach human consciousness.

“In Europe our editor, Miss Lorraine Sinkler, will join Emma, Daisy Shigemura and me, and in addition to my lecture and class work there, Mrs. Shigemura and Miss Sinkler will have programs on meditation, healing work, and specific principles of daily living. Infinite Way teachers from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa will also join us in England, as will teachers from Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. Furthermore, about thirty students from the United States expect to be a part of our group in Europe, so there is going to be a tremendous uniting on this Infinite Way safari. Most of these are individuals who have dedicated themselves to meditation and to the understanding of God. The Infinite Way is really only a means to that end and, because their main goal is God realization, this way of life offers them that opportunity.”

Virginia met Joel and Emma in San Francisco prior to the Portland class. Joel and Arthur attended a meeting of the Grand Lodge of California, where Joel talked on esoteric Masonry. Virginia had a number of private meetings with him there and he told her to go back to Los Angeles and just meet them in Chicago.

Virginia did as Joel requested and returned to Los Angeles feeling that there were things going on with Joel and some of the other teachers that she was not privy to. All of the letters and sessions Virginia had with Joel kept reminding her of her freedom. The Infinite Way wasn’t an organization. There was nothing to belong to. So why were the feelings she was having reminding her of an organization? When she arrived in Chicago she found out.

Many things happened in Chicago surrounding Joel’s classes that were inspiring, disturbing and indicative of living between two worlds. There were rumors in the air concerning Joel’s teachers and many could see that Joel wasn’t well. His intended Infinite Way safari was plagued by the beasts of personal sense, jealousy and the instinct to organize into groups and factions.

Virginia arrived in Chicago with about thirty students from the Los Angeles area. The hotel where they were staying, and where the class was to be held, was filled with students from around the country. She didn’t see any of the other teachers when she arrived, and there was no note or invitation from Joel to let her know if anything was planned. The next day Virginia’s painting teacher, also an Infinite Way student in Chicago for the class took a group of her pupils to the Art Institute and gave them a private lesson on the artists and paintings she admired. Virginia loved it and she returned to the hotel inspired by the Impressionist painters, and thought what a wonderful connection there is between art and the spiritual life.

Upon Virginia’s return to the hotel there was a message waiting for her that Joel wanted to see her. When Virginia entered his room Joel was standing by the window looking out at the city. The atmosphere in the room was cool. Joel turned and walked toward Virginia. He was not at all interested in the wonderful time she had had at the Art Institute. He was disturbed by rumors that his teachers were positioning themselves to take over the Infinite Way when he was gone. Was this true? Virginia really had no response. She knew nothing about the rumor and asked if Joel believed it? Joel sat down and Virginia saw the burden he was carrying. She sat across from him, waiting in silence. His opposition to any form of organization was running up against those jealous of the five teachers and it was manifesting itself as an effort to define a hierarchy. There wasn’t a hierarchy in Virginia’s view, only like minded individuals expressing the one Christ consciousness, and Virginia was willing to walk away from it all if the Infinite Way denigrated into competing factions. She had benefited greatly from Joel’s teaching and totally agreed that the message functioned through individual consciousness, and the message would carry the messenger. Joel sighed, and admitted that he didn’t believe the rumors. He knew the spiritual integrity of those he had asked to teach, but there was another issue that weighed upon him that he couldn’t talk about, and he asked Virginia to go.

It seems that many times before a class the disrupting activities of the carnal mind come to the surface looking for a vehicle to cause havoc. Many spiritual teachers are aware of this and prepare themselves so that they don’t react and fall victim to its activity. At this class Joel had many temptations to draw him out of his inner peace and react on the human level.

That evening Lorraine invited Virginia to dinner; just the two of them. Lorraine had heard that Virginia was thinking of leaving and heading back to California. She begged Virginia not to go, saying that Joel needed all of their support. Then Lorraine told Virginia about the incident that had caused much of the melancholy people were sensing in Joel.

When Virginia heard this she felt great compassion for Joel. Lorraine was right; they had to support Joel spiritually. All of what Joel had taught them, about freedom, about the individual nature of consciousness and that each person is responsible for their own unfoldment, and about organization was being put to the test. All of these principles had to be put into practice. And there was no organization for someone to discredit. Virginia left the dinner agreeing with Lorraine that they would do all they could to keep the inner peace and practice forgiveness.

The next morning Eileen Bowden called Virginia and urgently needed to talk to her. They decided to meet for breakfast. Eileen said that she was going home. She had never seen Joel like this. Virginia told her what Lorraine had said the night before and Eileen began to understand. Virginia invited Eileen to join her and Lorraine in supporting Joel spiritually, and Eileen agreed.

The five teachers did speak at the Chicago class, and what the students witnessed was an incredible oneness of Spirit. Though the problems of “this world” swirled without, in the consciousness of the classes there was only one. Joel’s Infinite Way safari did take place; it just wasn’t exactly as he had imagined back in Hawaii. The movement didn’t fracture, and as Joel was preparing to leave for London he gathered his teachers and told them to go out into the world and teach. He asked Virginia to go to San Francisco every weekend from Los Angeles to assist a new student there establish the message. Virginia couldn’t do it every week, but did go once a month to support the activity. Joel asked the other teachers to fill in. Joel told them “do not be clones. Don’t repeat my words. Put the Message into your own words. What good is repeating what I’ve already said?” He felt that the books and tapes were there for everyone. Those who grasped the principles and understood what The Infinite Way was all about were told to give from their own spiritual unfoldment. It is Consciousness that carries them, the same Consciousness that carried Joel. As he said in work published in a 1975 Monthly Letter, about someone entering the spiritual work,

“A person’s demonstration is the activity of his state of consciousness, and an Infinite Way student must acknowledge this. ... The city has nothing to do with it; the tapes have nothing to do with it; the books have nothing to do with it; it is the consciousness of the individual that is the all-important factor. Take the consciousness of the individual away from these books and these tapes and all that is left is paper and print and tape. Consciousness is what does the work.” Joel also pointed out that the Bible has been available to the masses for centuries. If consciousness were part of that book then the sick would be healed, suffering eliminated and peace would prevail on earth. The principles and the words are all there. But it takes the consciousness of an individual to bring those principles alive and touch others. Consciousness does the work, but without the individual as the transparency for the Christ, nothing is manifested.

Less than a month after the Chicago class, Virginia gave a luncheon for a group of students – something she had never done. When they were together Virginia told them that she didn’t know why she had invited them to her house, but something in Consciousness impelled her to do it. In the middle of the meal Virginia received a call. It was Emma calling from London saying that Joel had made his transition. Everyone joined in meditation and now Virginia knew the purpose for the party; it was to celebrate Joel and honor him on his way.

Joel left fully supporting his teachers and expecting them to keep the Message alive. Whatever disappointment he had with the one teacher was not a disappointment with the others. In fact, he told Virginia that he saw how he could be more effective from the other side.

In 1965 Virginia moved her group from the hotel and opened a Study Center on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. Virginia’s schedule of teaching the mysticism of the Bible, reviewing the Monthly Letter and sometimes one of Joel’s books, and playing Joel’s taped classes brought in many new students to join those who had already been studying with Virginia. Her healing practice increased as well. All of this was typical of active centers, and it fulfilled a way of study that Joel considered important at the time. Lorraine Sinkler’s center in Chicago had similar activities. Virginia felt Joel working behind the scene, as he had said he would, and she felt secure in the rightness of her work, often remembering Joel’s letter to her; “...I can tell you now that in advance I approve of any work that you may undertake and that I will at all times be wholeheartedly with you and in support of your every activity.”

For nearly a year after Joel’s transition the teachers did their work within their own groups, perhaps some out of town classes – Lorraine did finish Joel’s work in Europe – and Virginia continued supplying the Monthly Letter with Bible Lessons. In the spring of 1965 Emma announced a class in Chicago given by the teachers who had taught with Joel in 1964. Here is what that announcement said:

Eileen, Lorene, Emma, Virginia, Lorraine; Chicago, 1965

In May, 1964, for the first time in the history of The Infinite Way, five Infinite Way teachers who for many years had worked closely with Joel were invited to speak to the students who were attending a special class being given by him at that time in Chicago. This was a memorable experience, one that none of the more than 500 students present will ever forget. Joel, himself, many times expressed his delight and joy at having these teachers join together for this special work, each one presenting some facet of The Infinite Way as it had unfolded to her.

Now, just a year later, once more these same five teachers have been invited to come to Chicago to share with one another and with all the students in a special class which will meet in Chicago on May 28, 29, 30, and 31...

Four of these teachers have accepted this invitation and this special class will, therefore, be conducted by:
Eileen Bowden, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Lorene McClintock, New York, New York
Lorraine Sinkler, Chicago, Illinois
Virginia Stephenson, Santa Monica, California

We are also happy to announce that Emma Goldsmith will be with us during this entire four-day class period.

That class began a period where Joel’s teachers spread out across the globe to nurture and support all of The Infinite Way groups no matter where they might be. As with the Chicago Teachers Class, the format of the classes changed. No longer were there days of open lectures leading up to a five day closed class given at night. Joel did this so working people could remain in town after work for the classes. Now the classes were given on weekends, or like the Chicago class, holiday weekends. The open lecture was on Friday night, and the closed class took place on Saturday and Sunday. There were extended classes, though, and both Virginia and Lorraine held retreat classes that lasted five days. Emma traveled regularly with the teachers and gave them her support in meditating with the students and conducting a tape session in the evenings.

In the July Monthly Letter Emma published her travel schedule. She was in Chicago until the middle of June with Lorraine, then to New York to spend time with Lorene McClintock. In July she was in northern England and Scotland, then in London for the month of August where Lorene joined her. Then she met Lorraine in San Francisco the beginning of September and they flew to New Zealand and Australia where Lorraine gave classes. She didn’t return home until the end of October.

Arthur & Virginia in Europe,
1968 Munich, Germany

Virginia continued her work in California, fulfilling Joel’s wish to travel monthly to San Francisco to support the work there. She and Arthur flew up every month. As Virginia traveled more, Arthur found a way to join her more often – as much as his business would allow. He was as dedicated to The Infinite Way as Virginia and played a huge role managing the logistics and business side of Virginia’s work as her travel and class schedule increased.

There were two more Teachers Classes in 1966 and 1967 held in Pasadena, California. After that the teachers decided to discontinue the joint classes. Each of the teachers had shown the student body who they were and what style of teaching they did and it was time to be independent. Not that there was a lack of love or support between the teachers, that was never the case. It was the individual nature of the Message that mandated the change. Spiritual oneness is manifested in infinite form and variety, and the consciousness that supported the message needed the individual expression that each teacher demonstrated. In the midst of this was Emma, who supported each teacher fully.

An unidentified European student,
Inez Spring, Emma, Arthur & Virginai, 1968

In 1968 Virginia made her first teaching trip abroad, and as she had done with Lorraine, Emma accompanied Virginia and Arthur on this journey. As stated elsewhere on this site, Emma and the Stephenson’s made many trips together and their friendship and common dedication to the Message remained strong. Emma knew how Joel felt about The Infinite Way. She knew that as the work grew for each teacher, the Message would develop. She saw the fruitage in the scope and breadth of the classes given. She rejoiced that the Consciousness that worked through Joel was now working through those who carried the Message on, who were the transparencies, as Joel had hoped, to keep the message alive. At no time did Emma put down any rules for the teachers. She knew their integrity and trusted them to remain true to the principles Joel had introduced. She knew Joel’s aversion to making rules.

“Be assured that if I made nay rule that would in any wise stop the progress of one of our teachers, that teacher would go right on developing, if not inside The Infinite Way, then outside it, because no one can control consciousness. No one can make rules for consciousness.”

In the mid seventies Virginia and Arthur moved full time to Hawaii after maintaining residences in both California and Hawaii for a number of years. Virginia’s teaching increased; some years she gave over one hundred lectures. Emma’s years of traveling stopped around this time and by 1977 Emma’s daughter Geri McDonald had assumed control of the Tape Department and other business aspects of Joel’s legacy. By the mid eighties there was a conflict between Lorraine Sinkler and Geri acting in behalf of her mother, Emma. Over the years since Joel’s transition Lorraine had edited many books, publishing a book a year from 1965 to 1970. According to public documents the publisher of Joel’s books felt in 1971 that the market for Infinite Way books was saturated and Lorraine, having ten more manuscripts compiled, couldn’t bring them to market. So Lorraine put her efforts into her own work.

In 1984 three of the four teachers held a joint class, a reunion class, and the response showed the fruitage of twenty years of work by Joel’s teachers. Nearly nine hundred students attended this class.

After that class Virginia was subpoenaed to testify in the dispute between Geri and Lorraine. The lawsuit was about a declaration of rights, not a hostile action. Lorraine had compiled a collection of letters that Joel had written to her into a book illustrating her spiritual growth. The publisher required permission from Joel’s estate to proceed with publication, but Geri, representing her mother, refused to grant permission. Lorraine sought the court’s judgment on who had the rights to these letters. (You can read the complete judgment by accessing the federal court archives and referring to the following case: 623 F.Supp. 727, 1986 Copr.L.Dec. P 25,905 United States District Court, D. Arizona.) Virginia arrived to testify but was not called upon to do so.

Virginia and Emma, Santa Monica, 1974

Lorraine was not successful in gaining the right to publish the letters in her possession, but something more valuable was established in that trial. It is that the Infinite Way is a spiritual movement, not a business. Geri, in Emma’s name, counter sued claiming among other things trademark infringement and “exclusive right ... to control and profit from the commercial use of [Joel’s] name and personality.” These claims were denied. In ruling on the trademark infringement the judge stated, “If ‘The Infinite Way’ is indeed a trademark or a trade name, it could well have attained a secondary meaning as the name of a religious movement. Whether the name has acquired a secondary meaning is an issue of fact. However, other undisputed facts establish that Sinkler (and by extension all of the other teachers using “The Infinite Way”) is entitled to use the name as a matter of law. Sinkler has been lecturing on “The Infinite Way” for over 20 years. Emma has been aware of these lectures. She attended some of them.The first time that she ever contended that Sinkler was engaging in unfair competition by using “The Infinite Way” was in connection with this action. Sinkler has affirmatively pleaded facts that are sufficient to allege defenses of laches and acquiescence. The defenses of acquiescence and laches apply as a matter of law.”

Virginia, Eileen and Lorraine, Denver, 1984

The Infinite Way today is a spiritual movement, not an organization. No one can control it and no one can endorse a teacher or give them legitimacy. It is the consciousness of the teacher that determines his or her success. It is by their fruits that you shall know them. The fruitage of the four teachers who shared the platform in Chicago has been tremendous. There are Infinite Way tape or study groups, big and small, all over North American, Europe and Africa and in Oceania that were nurtured by these women. Joel’s books are still in print and his recorded lectures are still heard because of the activity in consciousness stimulated and nourished by the original teachers as well as by those who have followed them in keeping Joel’s mystical principles alive. What keeps this all working are the people who have the consciousness, who are part of the “millions of transparencies” who are willing to do the work, to travel the world, to teach and lift their fellow man out of the limitations of material belief.

Recently there has been a campaign by certain people to control The Infinite Way message by discrediting some of Joel’s teachers and creating a litmus test as to what constitutes an Infinite Way class. These actions are ridiculous, especially to long time students of The Infinite Way who have experienced years and years of class work by the teachers Joel loved and trusted – teachers who obeyed Joel’s instructions to follow their own inner guidance and present the principles in their own words. But these long time students, and new students, deserve to know the truth.

The impression that Joel was dissatisfied with his teachers and was on the verge of dismissing them before his death is untrue. This history testifies to that.

The statement that a 1964 letter Joel wrote to one of students was sent to thousands of other students and teachers in that year is untrue. What Joel wrote in private would not be given to anyone else, certainly not circulated to the entire student body.

When the teachers from the Chicago and Pasadena classes began teaching around the world, many of those classes were recorded. They were recorded in front of Emma, who was responsible for all of Joel’s recordings, by the people who had organized the classes and invited the teachers to speak. Virginia never traveled with a tape recorder nor had control of her tapes in those years after Joel’s transition. The students, mainly in Europe, asked Emma if they could keep the tapes and give them out to those who had been at the class. Virginia had nothing to say about it. She let Emma make the decision, and Emma saw nothing wrong with it. Either Emma was unaware of this letter and let these tapes go out in ignorance – something that would question the validity of the idea that everybody knew about this letter, or Emma did not think that the letter created a hard and fast rule. Some of those early European classes of Virginia’s were transcribed and published into pamphlets by the same publisher who published Infinite Way material. Emma helped set this up.

When students outside of Europe discovered that there were tapes available of Virginia’s classes they wrote to the person in Europe who made the tapes and sent for them. This was not a commercial enterprise. From the information posted on the internet, when Miss Glenn heard that Virginia’s tapes were being played in Melbourne, she wrote to Emma that she was worried that these tapes would be in competition with Joel’s. Nothing could be further from the truth. In all the classes given by Infinite Way teachers Joel’s work is promoted. His books are recommended to study for class preparation. In some classes his tapes are played, stimulating demand. In the past Joel’s tapes were always played in conjunction with the class. This was something Emma did from the start, and it set the pattern for the future classes of Lorraine, Eileen and Virginia. Obviously Emma saw no conflict between what the teachers taught and what she added to the classes by playing one of Joel’s tapes. She never actually spoke at a class, but her participation in them by playing a tape made for a seamless continuation of the Message.

Emma forwarded Miss Glenn’s letter and a copy of Joel’s letter to Lorraine, with a note asking Lorraine’s opinion about publishing this private letter in the Monthly Letter. Lorraine’s response was in keeping with the overwhelming evidence of what Joel wanted in his teachers; to be free to rise or fall in this work according to their individual consciousness and their grasp of mystical principle. After all, Joel’s letter to this student had not seen the light of day for a decade, a decade in which The Infinite Way flourished under the care of those teachers who spoke in Chicago in 1964.

By 1979 the demand for Virginia’s European tapes became so great that the person producing them in Switzerland wanted to stop. She did not have the time to fill the orders coming in and asked Virginia to find someone else to do it. It was then that Virginia found a couple in California to publish the tapes and they became available in the United States for the first time. In the end, Joel’s words summarize Virginia’s view of The Infinite Way:

“...the only way that the message of The Infinite Way can be kept pure is for every individual to be responsible to himself or herself in God, and to be sure that their authority reaches nowhere at all outside of their own being.”

“...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.”

“Be assured that if I made any rule that would in any wise stop the progress of any one of our teachers, that teacher would go right on developing, if not inside The Infinite Way, then outside it, because no one can control consciousness. No one can make rules for consciousness. An individual will break out of any rule the moment his consciousness it prepared for it...”

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