calling in a dream to return to his tribe. His earlier spiritual
training had been cut short when he decided that his talents
would be better used in service to the tribe as a lawyer. His
dream, however, told him that he needed to return home
and resume his training.
So he dropped out of school and started hitching north
to attend a ceremony of medicine men from all over the
west that was taking place in Eureka. He told me that his
first ride was a spiritual test in preparation for his return to
being a shaman. They had robbed him of all the money he
had, stolen his clothing, beaten him, and left him naked by
a dumpster at a Salvation Army store in the San Fernando
Valley. There was a clothing donation box there, where the
young man pieced together the most incongruous of outfits.
Nothing fit or matched. So now he had to manage to find a
way home, dressed like that, with no money. We would be
there for a long time, I thought.
To kill time, we each shared our beliefs. He was shocked,
as the Quechan man had been the night before, to find a
non-Native American who held to his tribal teachings about
Spirit and healing. He had never met such a person.
As he shared his beliefs with me, I realized that our
meeting, coupled with my experience the previous night in
Winterhaven, was no accident and that Fillmore’s Native-American connection was strong enough to have affected
his teachings in a powerful way.
As the day progressed, it was becoming clear that the
young man’s looks were going to make getting a ride
impossible, so I offered to buy us both bus tickets to the
next city, Fresno, where it would be easier for us to get
rides. At that point, most of our time together had been
spent in a meditative silence of profound energy that I
will never forget.
A HOPI HELPER
Ironically, the impetus for my journey that summer was to
get to Unity Village, Missouri, where I’d planned to attend a
retreat. While I was there, I met with James Dillet Freeman,
then the director of Silent Unity. In our conversation,
Freeman (who himself had Cherokee and Choctaw in
addition to English and Irish heritage) shared the story of a
surprising Native-American connection he’d experienced.
Some years earlier, Freeman told me he had been writing
an article that included some information about Native-
American shamanic beliefs, but he’d gotten stuck on one
part. He needed more information about some Hopi tribal
teachings he’d heard about and was working into his article.
Freeman remembered muttering to himself, “I wish there
was someone I could ask about this.”
The next day, he received a phone call from a man who
turned out to be the Hopi shaman who had been the
source for the spiritual teachings written down by Frank
Waters in The Book of the Hopi: Drawings and Source
Material Recorded by Oswald White Bear Fredericks
(Viking, 1963). The shaman identified Freeman as his
favorite writer and asked if Freeman had any time for
him the next day, when he would be passing through
the Kansas City area. Freeman told him of his writing
predicament and his muttered desire, and the shaman
replied simply, “I know.”
From then on, I always had a sympathetic feeling toward
Native-American teachings, which I knew in my heart were
compatible at a deep level with Unity beliefs. Many years
later, while speaking with Unity minister Dale Batesole,
I was amazed to find out that same Hopi medicine man
attended his services in Sedona, Arizona. He drove nearly
three hours each way every week. Unity is where he went to
receive his spiritual nourishment.
As a side note, he told Batesole that one of his practices
was to drive into Winslow, Arizona, and sit in the back
of the theater through all the showings of whatever scary
movie was playing. He’d gather up all the energy from all
the screaming teenagers, transmute it, and then use it for
healing back on the Hopi reservation.
I guess it didn’t surprise me too much when I got a
phone call many years later from the medicine man of
the Taos Pueblo, who expressed his appreciation for the
Unity message and our radio broadcasts in New Mexico.
At the time, I was the minister of what was then Christ
Unity Church (now known as Unity Spiritual Center of
Albuquerque), and we broadcast inspirational spots on
the classical radio station there. The Taos elder was an
In her last year of physical life, Unity cofounder Myrtle
Fillmore wrote, “I often think that the Indians’ concept of a
Great Spirit brought them, consciously, nearer to the Creator
than the Christian’s concept of a personal God.”
It is satisfying to me that Unity and Native-American
spirituality share a deep connection and strong spiritual
foundation that has endured throughout many generations.