Birth of Divine Science - Part II
by Rev. Christine
Today I'm continuing on the subject of the Birth of Divine Science. The first part was about Melinda Cramer the early founder in San Francisco. This week I'm speaking on Nona Brooks and her two sisters, Fannie James and Alethea Small, who have been considered co-founders first in Pueblo and then Denver, Colorado. The book "Power is the Light" by Hazel Deane is the life story of Nona Brooks, in which I'll be sharing from about Nona's life. When most people speak of Divine Science they think of Nona Brooks, she was a grand lady and highly respected in the New Thought movement as a leader and healer. Nona was also the first woman minister of Colorado, and was invited to join Denver's Ministers Association. This was considered highly unusual, as a woman and secondly in a non traditional Christianity. Nona Lovell Brooks was born March 22, 1861, in Louisville, Kentucky. The family came from wealth, and lived very comfortably in her early years. But, then her father's business went bad, and a few years later he died leaving them practically pennyless, and eventually her family moved to Pueblo, CO. Her mother at first went to Pueblo for health reasons, and taking her eldest daughter to help her. Fannie married there, and eventually Nona's other elder sister, Alethea, and she came to live with them. Alethea also married, but Nona's destiny was otherwise. I personally also felt a strong connection to Nona Brooks, I had an experience where I felt her presence with me for three days while I was staying at my parents home recovering from vertigo (although the doctors could find no reason for it). I decided to read Spirits in Rebellion, the history of the New Thought movement. Reading about the early pioneers was inspiring. And, I was especially taken about Nona Brooks. During these three days my parents little dog followed me barking at something above and behind me. It was spring of 1984, and I was considering if I should go to the Summer School in Denver to take my practitioner training - I could also take it here at our church. During the nights of those three days I had exceptional dreams, that lead me to Denver, and from there to take the ministerial training, and here I am. The spiritual journey of Nona Brooks is marked by an early experience when she was about 10 or 11 years of age. It was on a Sunday afternoon and the others had gone to church, they were a good orthodox Presbyterian family, leaving Nona at home, because of a slight cold. She went out to the garden by herself wandering around, when suddenly in the garden it happened. Suddenly the garden was filled with light and the light was other than sunlight; and Nona, standing very still, knew that the light was God. That was the only word that could describe it, the only word that could encompass the beauty and the ecstacy of the light; and in that revealing light Nona saw herself then, as a petty thing, unworthy, so that she could no longer bear it, and she cried out, saying in the garden over and over again. "Father, make me close to Thee. I want to be good. Oh, I want to be good. I want to be good." Then as abruptly as it came the light was gone, and she was standing there in the garden and everything was exactly as it had been before. The light was gone but always she would remember keeping it hidden close in her heart the memory of the light and ecstasy of God. It would be many years later before the Light returned. In her teens and as a young adult Nona had a great love, his name was Ed, but the family didn't approve of him as he was studying to be a minister and had some strange ideas that didn't conform to Presbyterian. He was considering being a Congregationalist. They wrote for many years, but after she moved to Pueblo, he eventually married. Nona soon became very ill with ulcers on her throat, and was unable to eat most foods. Eventually only eating very soft foods prepared for a baby. She went to doctors, and tried everything they gave her with no help. The life energy was slowly leaving her body as she lost more and more weight. Then a friend of her sister Alethea, a Mrs. Bingham came to visit. She had just come back from Chicago where she had been healed by Emma Curtis Hopkins. The doctors had claimed her illness life threatening, and sent her to see specialists in Chicago. The doctor wanted her to stay at least a full year there with him, and as a wife and mother of young children, she just couldn't do that. A woman that she had met in Chicago told her of this healer that may be of help. Mrs. Bingham became a student of Emma Curtis Hopkins and returned to Pueblo perfectly healed, and now offering classes and wanted Alethea and Nona to attend, knowing how ill they had been. They politely refused, making their excuses of being too busy and of ill health. Surprisingly, Mrs. Bingham even quoted from the Bible in hopes to sway them saying, "Go ye into all the world and heal the sick. Behold I give you power." They were impressed since she was never a church goer, but still they refused. And when approached again, they still refused. Six months later, Mrs. Bingham once again invited them, and as Alethea began to say I'm sorry, she interrupted her refusal, saying "This time I am not inviting you, I am commanding you. I will not take "no" for an answer." After Mrs. Bingham left Nona cried out, "But sister, you didn't promise her? We simply can't do it." Alethea told her that she had too. Nona replied "She'll be even more offended if she finds out what we think of that sort of thing. We will have to go. A promise is a promise." It was now 1887 when they reluctantly entered their very first metaphysical class. They weren't very impressed, hearing about the Omnipresence of God wasn't new to them. Mrs. Bingham used Bible scripture to back up her statements. They were given statements of health and God, such as "God is all. God is everywhere present. God is here." or "God is my health, I cannot be sick." Mrs. Bingham had said, "Whenever you see anything that looks less than perfect repeat at once the statement of the Omnipresent God." It had been only a week in class, and they were repeating these phrases all through the day while they worked. Their lives didn't seem so gloomy anymore. And, were now looking forward to their afternoon class. Again, they attended class, and this day something took place. Afterward Nona could not have said just when it happened, but some time during the class Nona was healed. Afterward, when she tried to tell about it, she said that it was like light. "The whole room was filled with light, and filled her too. It was as though God were right there in me." It did not seem unusual at all. It seemed the most natural thing in the world. She thought that everyone there saw the light just as she did. She did not try to be healed. She simply knew within herself that she was healed. It was as though it had been that way right along, and now, because of the light, she could see that it was so. Nona sat quietly possessed by a feeling of great gladness and reverence contemplating the fact of the light and of her healing, with great joy. That evening Nona surprised everyone by eating what everyone else was served for dinner; ham, potatoes, and corn.. She could feel them watching her as the plate was passed. Calmly, Nona picked up her fork and began to eat. It seemed to Nona that with her healing not only had she changed form a sick girl into a healthy one, but that her entire disposition, and everything in her daily life had changed as well. Later Nona would come to say, "It's not just being ill that is so difficult. It's the way illness makes you be!" These two sister's now realized that there was nothing that God couldn't do. They had a new realization about God, Nona said, "He's more powerful, kinder, and I like the new God better. I used to think that God was always checking up on you. He was always going to catch you if you weren't careful. And evening if you weren't wicked he punished you, anyway. Why I used to think that He actually sent sickness! It was a sort of test that He sent to try us, and we were supposed to endure it bravely!." Now she could scarcely believe that only a few week before she had been so blind. Now she realized, "I see now that God is perfect and since God is perfect, and is everywhere present, that is all that there is. There actually is no illness. There can't be. Therefore man can't be ill, for illness isn't real." Then one evening Nona's in-law Lavinia was having another hemorrhage. She would get these severe nose bleeds that would last for hours. This time instead of rushing to get the doctor, Alethea and Nona decided to use their new method. "Nona,' said Alethea calmly and with great composure, "you treat Lavinia, and I'll treat you." Mrs. Bingham had instructed them that two people were not to treat the same patient. As when two people talked at the same time, it led only to confusion. If two were to treat, one was to treat the patient, and the other was to treat the one who treated, thus making the treatment of even greater effect. This was there first time to be treating anyone, and Nona began to clutch at these statements, "God is everywhere, therefore God is here. God is health. Health is everywhere. Therefore health is here. Lavinia cannot be ill, because God is her health. God is her health. God is her health!" She felt terrified, and felt this would never do, and could never give a treatment, or heal anyone. Then the thought came to her, "No! You can't heal her. But God can! God can heal her." Then she began with, "God is ind and good, God is life and health. There isn't anything to be afraid of, there is not fear. And then repeated the statement "There is no fear. There is no fear." A great wave of feeling of love toward God swept over her. This was reality. It as though she had entered a realm which lay real and vibrant all about her.God was more real than the porch and the rocking chairs, more real than Lavinia's trouble, God, all powerful, all - all good, knowing only perfect health and fully able to bring it into experience. Suddenly it happened, the words that Nona had babbled so furiously had all slipped away, and now she touched that substance. Out of this inner reality the thing was done. There were no words - no voice. It was like a little click of acceptance, and she felt a brief astonishment. Was it really done? Was it as simple as that? The bleeding had stopped, and it wasn't more than five minutes. Lavinia had been completely healed, she never again had another hemorrhage. Nona was very excited about how wonderful this kind of prayer was, and told it to her minister, who was at first open to her sharing it, but then the board put a stop to it, and eventually fired her as their Sunday School teacher. Nona, was then given another chance to use her new form of prayer, the neighbor girl was Blanche, and she had sprained her ankle over a week ago. The ankle was all swollen and purple. Blanche, she said "Do you believe that God can heal your ankle?" "Yes" she replied. "Do you believe that there is anything that God can't do?' "Oh, no" she agreed. "Then He could heal your foot, couldn't He?" Persisted Nona. "Yes. I guess so." Then Nona told her "Just keep on saying to yourself that god can do anything. Keep saying it over and over while I give the treatment. There is nothing that God can't do." She closed her eyes and began to treat, repeating, as she had been taught, the phrases and statements she had learned at Mrs. Bingham's, trying to realize them, trying to make it all have a feel of reality. After a while it came, coming quite easily with the same sense of peace, the same little soundless click within her. There it was, the conviction that the thing had happened. It was over. It was done, and she stood up. Nona, then told the girl that she had to go to town and would be back in two hours or three o'clock, and at four o'clock I want you to come over to my cabin for another treatment. Blanche's foot still appeared swollen and unable to walk on it. When 4 o'clock came, Blanche was all happy saying "It's healed, and I won't need another treatment." Now the word got around fast, and that was the beginning of Nona's healing ministry. To support herself, Nona attended the Pueblo Normal school and then Wellingsly, preparing to become a teacher. She was now 29, and venturing in two new careers. Her sister, Fannie, had ladies over during the day for classes, but Fannie's husband refused to allow her evenings taken up too. Fannie, in Denver now, had long been corresponding with a woman in San Francisco named Melinda Cramer, and found their theory was almost identical, and requested if they could also use the term Divine Science for their teachings. They found through the years that their teaching from Mrs. Bingham slowly evolved with new ideas and as new aspects were revealed. Eventually, Nona, went to San Francisco to be trained by Melinda Cramer, and eventually Ordained by her as well. It was 1898 when they formed the Divine Science College of Denver, and 1899 was their first Sunday Service. Eventually Denver became the headquarters following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and death of Melinda Cramer. Both sisters taught, and Fannie James wrote the text Truth and Health. Nona had a long career, outliving both sisters, running the church and at times also the college. After 20 years she retired as minister, then handpicking the minister to replace her, and for some time traveled around the country helping to start up centers. She even went to Europe and Australia. She came back as minister for another 10 years before retiring again, and once again hand picking the minister. She also, handpicked each student to take the advanced training. That's the way it was done, a student didn't ask for the training they had to be invited. You see, I felt personally invited back in 1984. In closing, I'll share some of her thoughts shortly before her passing on. "How I dislike the long-faced, pious attitude," she says, laughingly. "We're not being good when we practice these truths." Her tone is emphatic now. "We're merely being practical. We're doing the very best thing that we can possibly do for ourselves. It is a daily, matter-of-fact experience of reality. But as truth is without beginning, so it is without end. Whether truth deals with the science of the physicist, with atoms and protons and electrons, or with the science of the metaphysician, with that equally intangible substance called Spirit, called God, truth will always continue to grow in revelation. It will never be finished. The books will never be closed. Always we but touch the hem of the garment of future possibilities, always we move from "an incomplete view but to one that is less incomplete. And, even this coming age, in which man will doubtless learn to live, in part at least, ion use of his inner powers, in greater awareness of God's Presence, God's Love, even such a realization can but lead to a yet greater one, a boundless horizon that moves ever from good to a yet greater good. There is no end. Nona Brooks is talking to Hazel, laughing, as she says "Some day, some day we'll sit on the edge of a cloud and talk this over." Nona was teaching two classes in the college and editing the Divine Science Monthly when she awoke feeling ill on March 6, 1945. Two weeks later she passed on following a stroke. Eight days before her 84 birthday. The book Powerful is the Light was copyrighted in 1945.