In this article, I want to share with you the story of how the recently published book Ernest Holmes at Asilomar was created. This “back story” was described briefly as part of a recent talk I gave at Center for Spiritual Living’s Asilomar conference earlier this month (August 2023).
Most of that presentation focused on research into how Asilomar Religious Science conferences came about, Holmes’ intentions and experience at the conferences in the 1950s and was highlighted by playing an excerpt of the one known audio of Holmes speaking at Asilomar. As a special treat I premiered recently discovered color home movie footage of Holmes on the conference grounds.
In this article, I want to offer a bit more detail on the creation of the book and the discovery of the home movie.
Ernest Holmes at Asilomar – The Idea
In January 2022, I came on the board of the Science of Mind Archives and Library Foundation and looked around for ways to make myself useful (beyond board meetings and financial contributions). That search led to my behind the scenes actions to take the lead on getting unpublished Ernest Holmes documents held in the archives physical files “published” on the archives website. In taking on this activity, I discovered that there was not a central inventory of the works of Holmes, so I created a spreadsheet to help track what the archives had and what had been made publicly available and what had not.
That data base continues to be updated as my role has morphed more into being a researcher and the research continues, If you are interested in seeing the spreadsheet and its multiple tabs (and downloading a version for your own use), then you can access it HERE.
The act of compiling this listing led to two immediate discoveries. One was that in addition to a vast amount of unpublished Holmes documents, the archives held a lot of audio recordings of Holmes. This led to our inventorying the audios as well and to begin making them available publicly on a flow basis starting in January 2023. You can find more on those by going to the archives website and following the menu item for “audio recordings”.
The second discovery was that the archives contained most (but not all) of the transcripts of the talks that Holmes gave during the summer conferences held at Asilomar. In addition, almost all of these transcripts had never been published. This discovery led to the idea in late 2022 of the creation of a new Ernest Holmes book to bring these transcripts to the world.
Ernest Holmes at Asilomar – The Research
Once the idea was “birthed”, the seed took hold and grew quickly. The archives board expressed great excitement in the idea. A meeting with Science of Mind Publishing quickly led to the go ahead for getting the book published. The realization that Centers for Spiritual Living was holding a conference at Asilomar in August 2023 (after years of holding summer conferences at other locations) established the deadline for the book.
Immediately I launched into needed research. I ensured that I had gathered all of the available transcripts. I made numerous trips to the files of the archives going through materials searching for anything about the history of summer conferences, how Asilomar came about, how the “split” into two organizations impacted these meetings, what it was like for Holmes at Asilomar and more.
I reviewed board notes and minister newsletters from the 1950s. I discovered some programs from some of the conferences (but not all). I reviewed the Holmes’ biographies compiling references to Asilomar. I found pictures of Holmes and others at Asilomar and selected ones for the book.
I also realized what I knew was “out there” that I could not find. Specifically, even though Holmes spoke at Asilomar from 1954 through 1959 giving daily lectures at the week long conferences, we could only find one transcript from 1954 and none from 1955. Although we could find no program from 1954, the program from 1955 told us he did five talks that year. We reached out to many ministers as well as Founders Church in Los Angeles seeking any information on these talks. Unfortunately, we were not able to locate any copies of the missing talks or other information on them.
Another interesting issue was that many of the transcripts appeared to be created from recordings. Some had annotations referencing that missing words or cut off beginnings or endings were not on the “recording”. However, given my other concurrent project where I was inventorying the audios we had of Holmes allowed me to review all the ones we had recently digitized to see if any matched the transcripts. Luckily one did, his talk from Friday night in 1957. That is the audio that I played a portion of at the recent Asilomar presentation. As of this writing, it’s not available publicly yet but will so soon.
Ultimately, even though we were not able to find the missing material, we decided that we would move ahead and publish the book with the abundance of what we had –28 transcripts of talks and classes. Our hope is that the book will help raise the awareness on what we have not found and may lead to its discovery.
Eventually, I concluded my research, and drafted my introduction. I also read multiple times the book’s transcripts to write a short introduction to each one. Ultimately, I sent the combined book transcript on to publishing for the next steps.
Ernest Holmes at Asilomar – The Book
At this point, we hired an editor and a book designer (based on recommendations from Science of Mind Publishing) to take the transcript to the point of it being ready to print. Fortunately, the book designer, Maria Robinson, was someone I had worked with previously.
During the five years that I had served as Global Services Coordinator for Centers for Spiritual Living, I had managed the process that led to the publication of eleven books by Ernest Holmes in other languages (6 in Spanish, 4 in Russian and 1 in Hindi). In that capacity, I had worked with others to identify the books we wanted to translate and publish, coordinated and paid for the translation work and its independent review and then worked with Maria on taking the transcripts to published books. You might say I was familiar with the process!
We did need to pay for these editing and design services for the Asilomar book and the money was not in the archives budget. But just like every other step in the process of the creation of this book, Spirit guided us in the flow of Divine Harmony. One request for funding help led to the generosity of Rev. Dr. Kristina Collins paying for the entire amount needed. (Thank you so much, Kris!)
The editor, Julie Mierau, and I then began an almost daily interplay of back and forth emails for around two months as we reviewed and discussed numerous facets of the text. What words needed to be capitalized to represent the context of the macrocosm of Spirit or the Divine and which did not? Were the transcripts correct in their use of words in certain cases? What to do when the transcripts did not capture certain words? (In that last case, we didn’t guess and only left it for you to fill in the blank in your own mind.) Who is this person that Holmes is referencing? What is this poem or quotation he is using? You get the picture.
Over the next few months, many decisions were made to hopefully produce the best experience for the reader. Picture gallery layouts were decided, indices were created, covers back and front discussed and agreed upon and much more. Divine guidance led to the book being published a few weeks before the Asilomar conference when many times it looked as if that deadline was unattainable. The book is available via THIS LINK.
Ernest Holmes at Asilomar – The Home Movie
After the book was finalized, I began work on 2 other projects. One was to create the content for my presentation at Asilomar, the second was doing some research around Holmes radio and TV shows in the final couple of years of his life (as part of a future product). It was researching this second project that led me to the discovery that served the first one.
The archives has a locked room which contains recorded material, from old phonograph records to reel to reel audio tapes to video tapes to CDs and DVDs. Although there is some organization to the material, let’s just say it could be better organized. It was this room that I entered in late July 2023, looking for some old radio audio tapes that may not yet have been digitized when I came across a VHS tape with a yellow sticky note on it that said “old Asilomar”. The only other annotation were the words “from Helen Spencer Banning CA”. Obviously, it caught my eye.
The archives didn’t have a VHS player so I took it home and got mine out of the garage and hooked it up. What I discovered was a 26 plus minute VHS video of a family’s home movies. The footage had originally been filmed with a super 8 movie camera. The home movies were in color but silent.
Within the video were scenes of family water skiing adventures, people dancing and partying, a visit to Marineland, film of a dogsled race in Alaska…..and 2 minutes taken during a Religious Science conference at Asilomar in the 1950s. Within those 2 minutes were color film of Ernest Holmes, the only second known movie of him (the other being one black and white “kinescope” recording of his brief TV show which was recently remastered by the archives and is available HERE.)
In the home movie, we see scenes of Asilomar and the US flag being lowered, Holmes leaning against a car as he is asked to sign a book and then scenes of youth boarding a bus to leave Asilomar as adults (including Holmes) are saying their “good byes”.
This, of course, set me on the course of digitizing the video and researching its original source. The first was easy, the second was a bit of a challenge. However, within a bit more than a week I had been able to track down “Helen Spencer” (who died in 2011) and ascertain her connection to Science of Mind.
Her granddaughter, Carla Azling, informed me that her grandmother had discovered the philosophy in the 1940s and was a long member of the Religious Science church in Alhambra, California. Helen and her husband Burton Ross attended several Asilomar conferences during the 1950s. Burton later passed away in the early 1960s and Helen remarried, hence the different last name.
Another interesting coincidence regarding Helen is best described in these words Carla provided me: “Helen became interested in the Science of Mind in the 1940s attending church with her good friend, Dorothy Lunde, who eventually became a Religious Science minister along with her husband Norman Lunde. Dorothy was the mother of Barbara Lunde who also became a Science of Mind minister and long time minister of the center in Boca Raton, Florida. Helen’s daughter, Anne Shirley, and Dorothy Lunde’s daughter, Barbara, were lifelong friends from the time they met at church in the 5th grade. Barbara’s daughter is Rev. Jill Shakoor-Guerra who has been friends with Anne Shirley’s daughter Carla Azling since “before they were both born.”
How cool is that?
It’s unclear when the video was donated to the archives but most likely had been there for many years. Of note is that the descendents have been given a digitized copy of their own family’s home movies, something most of them had never seen.
As mentioned, the edited video of Asilomar and Holmes was premiered at Asilomar and will be available on the archives YouTube page soon. [I will update this posting when it is available].
Although I do not have definitive proof on what year the movie is from, my further research does point towards the high probability that the scenes with the buses were filmed on the Saturday morning of Asilomar 1959. I have located information that the youth rode buses from Los Angeles to Asilomar on the opening day of the conference that year and boarded buses to return on that final Saturday morning. If this 1959 date is accurate (and I am fairly confident that it is), then this film was made either right before or right after (more likely) Holmes’ famous “Sermon by the Sea” speech. More coolness if you are a Holmes fan.
Obviously I feel that there was some kind of “miracle” type “coincidence” thing going on during this entire process starting with my own intuition to focus on New Thought history and basics as I described here on this website in early 2022. This continued throughout the book process and the discovery of the video. It continues to the current time in many other ways. This book was truly “divinely guided”. My wife likes to say “Ernest helped things along”.
But the other thought that I want to share here in conclusion is that although I played a major role in the creation of this book, I consciously tried to stay out of the way of Ernest’s words. Even though I wrote brief introductions to each talk, I tried not to tell the reader what he was saying. Instead, I tried to give the reader the gist of the overall subject and then step aside without much commentary. I wanted the reader to get what they got from reading the words.
Each of us is at different points on our spiritual paths and we read what we need to read in any given moment. I know that in my reading of Holmes (and many others), my first take is different from my second and third. The more I learn and grow, the more I return to certain texts and rediscover deeper and richer meaning that I was not prepared for the first time around. I didn’t want my brief intros to the talks to interfere with that process.
That said, I do feel the call to offer some of my commentary on some of the talks in the book via this blog site. I have read them numerous times over the past year and there is much richness in the words of Holmes that I want to point out. I will be sharing those thoughts starting with an upcoming article where I look at the first talk from 1954 – “Discovering God”.
Until then, thanks for joining me on this journey.