What Is a Church?
No White Church with a Steeple
As a Man Thinketh
My mom told me a story about a group of people she joined in worship in the 1920s. She was a teenager and she went to the gatherings with her parents. I was fascinated with the story because she told me that she was instructed not to mention the group to anyone, that there were some in the small Arkansas town where she lived that believed the group was a cult that practiced the occult, black magic, and were determined to stop their services. When I asked her about the group, this is what she told me.
She said: "It wasn't a cult, and it certainly wasn't black magic and it absolutely wasn't devil worship. My parents and the others called it a secret society. I think the reason so many were opposed to it was that the person who led the group was a black woman. You have to remember that this was in the '20s. It was a different world than we live in now. The lady's name was Margo Wesson. I will never forget her. She was one of those people who stick in your memory. Not only was she a beautiful woman, with coal black hair filled with wide streaks of gray that hung in large curls down her back, but she was the first intensely charismatic person I had ever encountered. She was a presence. When she walked into the building for one of the services, all conversation stopped and all eyes were on her. Even though she was African-American, she had pale blue eyes that stared into your very soul. She wore an emerald green robe to our meetings. Her exotic appearance gave the meetings an other worldly feeling.
"We had candles at our meetings, lots of them. The men had fashioned candle holders out of clothes hangers and hung them all around the walls of the old livestock auction building deep in the woods where we met. There was no white church with a steeple for us. The livestock auction had long ago moved to a more lucrative area and no one except our group came near this place anymore.
"When Margo Wesson would stand behind the old auction podium, lift her hood and begin to speak, the excitement in the room was electrifying. She had a voice like Lauren Bacall, rich and husky and deep. Each service began the same way. She would say, "As a Man Thinketh in His Heart...." And the people would answer, "So Is He." She would say it over and over again, with more emphasis and a little louder each time. And the congregation would answer with equal volume and intensity.
"If there was a particularly beautiful sunset, Margo would have all of us go outside and ask us to stand very still and contemplate its beauty. Sometimes there were round circles of light everywhere outside. She said they were spirits. I never saw them anywhere else after that time. I have often captured them with digital cameras. But these were visible. We could see them with our own eyes. The circles floated just above the trees and eventually came down and hovered close to Margo. She never touched them or acknowledged them with words, just held out her hands to welcome them.
The Circles of Light Surrounded Margo.
Rich in the Things that Matter
"Then Margo Wesson would tell us of her own experiences. She told us of when she was given James Allen's tiny book As a Man Thinketh as a gift by her brother. She spoke of how she read it over and over and tried to memorize the words. Then she said, 'I realized I needed to follow the teachings in the book. I realized that this was the answer to a more fulfilling, prosperous, successful, giving, loving life.' And she did. She said it took her almost two years to become adept at keeping the chaff from her thinking. She said that that's what separating the wheat from the chaff means in the Bible, to cull what is negative and focus on what is uplifting and good. She told us how her life went from one of poverty to one of a certain abundance. She would laugh and say that she was not rich, but the garden grew instead of shriveling up, her husband had left the bottle alone, her children were no longer always sick, and her own headaches had left completely. And she would say, 'And that change is a reflection of what is in my mind. What we believe and think manifests in our world. I cannot prove this to you. You must prove it to yourselves by conducting this holy experiment. Live the book. Live the words of James Allen.'
"By this time, there were some "Amens" and "Yes, ma'ams," etc. The crowd was just about equally black and white, male and female. The black people were more expressive and vocal while the white people were more pensive and seemingly lost in thought. Each service was different. After the first one I attended, there began to be a time for "testifying," for people to tell about their experiences with the book."
The Old Livestock Auction House and Surrounding Buildings
What about the Church?
I asked my mom at some point to tell me what James Allen said in the book. These are some of the things she told me: "Men do not attract what they want, but what they are. Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. Every action and feeling is preceded by a thought. Circumstances do not make the man; they reveal him to himself. Every man is where he is by the law of his being; the thoughts which he has built into his character have brought him there, and in the arrangement of his life there is no element of chance, but all is the result of a law which cannot err." I noticed that she remembered all of this without looking at anything.
"What about God, Mom? What about the church? Did those teachings go against the church?" I was curious about that because my parents were strict church-goers.
She answered, "I don't believe it did, no. We continued to attend church through the years we went to hear Margo. I think it made my faith stronger, if anything. It's all part of the Bible. The verse is a bit different in the Bible. It reads: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23.7. Do you believe a righteous God would want us to focus on the bad things in life?"
The Buildings Had a Spooky Quality
Mother began to talk again about those years so long ago. "We started to have a special time at each meeting where members of the group would testify. They would talk about their experience with keeping their thoughts right and how this manifested in their lives. One lady said she had gotten to where she almost hated her life, getting up every day to milk cows, cooking breakfast before daylight, gathering vegetables from the garden every day, making lunch, then dinner, washing dishes. She said when she began reading the book, she tried to look for things that were good to dwell on instead of the wearisomeness of her life. She began to notice the sunrise every day and how peaceful the world seemed at that hour. She started to notice the personalities of the cows as she milked them and even began to talk to them as she went about her milking. Whatever she did, she looked for something happy and good. She said, 'Within a month, my world changed. It became a world to look forward to and not dread. But it didn't come easy. The first week or two, all I did was monitor my thoughts. I learned the trick is to nip negative thoughts in the bud. When the first hateful, bored, wicked, tired, gloomy thought comes, you have to stop it. I did it by singing. I would sing You Are My Sunshine until it left. I guess everyone has to find their own way to block out the unwanted thoughts, but you can do it. And it didn't just change the way I feel about my life. It changed matter. I know it did.' Well, at this point, the crowd began to squirm. I don't think they were ready for that. 'After I did it for a month and a half, we got a letter in the mail saying that my husband's aunt had died a few years earlier. For some reason, no one ever contacted us before, but now an attorney was writing to us to tell us we inherited $20,000. You can say what you will. You can say it's coincidence. I don't care. I know that the way I was thinking cleared up a pathway for that news to come, for us to be contacted. I know it did.' That's what one woman said.
"There were others who testified, many of whom felt as she did, that perfecting the thinking can affect matter and affect events. We all began to believe it as time went on. Our lives all began to change for the better, some in amazing ways. Then the minister of the Baptist church got ahold of it. He followed some people out to where we met one night and made pictures through the windows of the auction barn, of the inside with all of us telling our stories, with all the candles. He said we were devil worshipping. He went to the sheriff with the pictures and told him he had to do the right thing and stop it.
"The sheriff didn't really want to do anything, but he was under pressure from a lot of wealthy, influential people in the church, so he did. Oh, he didn't bother any of us. No, he left us alone. But one Sunday, Margo Wesson didn't come for the service. Someone said they heard she had moved up North. After that, no one had the spark anymore. I guess we all just went back to the way we were, after she left."
Well, I asked, "Why didn't you just continue on? Why did you stop just because she was gone?"
"I think none of us was strong enough. It's easier just to let life happen. What we were doing was creating it. It was a magnificent thing, but it wasn't easy. We just didn't know how to go on after she left. We needed her guidance, I suppose."
"But after Jesus died on the cross, his followers carried on his teachings."
"Well, Margo Wesson was certainly no Jesus. She was just a woman who had a strong spirit and believed in something with all her heart. And she wanted to see people happier and with more abundance. There was nothing complicated about what she taught. It was all from the Bible, about separating the wheat from the chaff, the good thoughts from the bad. You can buy that little book at almost any bookstore. Sometimes they have them up at the checkout. It's something so simple, but it's the way to a whole new life. I just got lazy and let life happen instead of creating what I wanted. It takes discipline and tenacity, but anyone can do it. Why don't you try?"
And I did. And it worked. Sometimes I get like my mom, lazy and indifferent and just let things happen. Other times, I'm on it, creating and manifesting, making a better life and trying to help others do the same. If someone told you that the pathway to a more abundant, happier, more fulfilling life is in a little book that sells for around $4.98, what would you do? It just seems too simple, doesn't it? So you'll do nothing.
And as for Margo Wesson? She didn't just fade away. As my mom said, she was a presence. During the 1930s, there was a church in Harlem, New York City, that was led by a statuesque African-American woman. It was based on metaphysics and the fact that we create our own reality. At one time, the church had more than 5,000 members and was one of the most prosperous churches ever established in New York.
I'm not altogether certain that my mom told me this tale, at least not in this life I'm living now. But I know it happened. I heard it from her in some existence. I know that. I remember everything she said. And sometimes I even dream of Margo Wesson, standing in the moonlight in her green robe, surrounded by circles of light.