By George Fernsler
The author wanted to point out that this is not just his personal testimony,
but a testimony of the ways God had worked
through many spiritual and religious groups in the western world to prepare for the Second Coming.
There are well known testimonies to God's preparation of groups and specific people in Korea to receive the Messiah during the early days of the movement. Some currents of corresponding preparation crossed my path during the early days of the incipient church in America.
A German with British Sympathies
One factor allowing for strong spiritual guidance in my life was a foundation laid by my German maternal grandparents. My German grandfather was a hairdresser to a number of women of the British aristocracy When he opposed the Kaiser before World War I, he took his family to the then British colony of South Africa and insisted that they speak English. At the outbreak of the war, the British feared that the Germans in South Africa would unite with the anti-British, pro-German Boers (The Boers are the primary ancestors of the Afrikaaners). Thus, all German adult males were put in detention camps in South Africa. For a while British friends of my grandfather were able to protect him with a fake passport, but he was found out by the authorities.
Without income, my grandmother and mother then suffered much, living in a Negro ghetto (regardless of poverty, strict apartheid laws would rule out such a mixture of races today). Nevertheless, my grandfather bore no resentment and retained a high regard for British culture to the end of his life.
After the war, he and his family returned to a devastated Germany where American and British Quakers helped save my mother and her brothers from starvation. Much later during the 1950's my mother became a Quaker, exposing me as a child to sharply different religious thrusts then existing side by side within Quakerism. Due to these factors I was probably most influenced by a British-American spirit world.
To the End of Darkness
As a small child I had various visions, dreams and revelations- intimations of an opening to a new age, although I perceived and understood only small parts until I was brought to True Father.
In early childhood I also regularly entered a trance-dream state in which I consciously sought the sense of floating out of my body In this out-of-body experience, a spiritual guide would take me far above this world. A short distance ahead, a line along a lonely landscape separated a world of brilliant sun from our world of darkness.
It was for me to go the rest of the way alone. To do this I had to struggle against the shadows of darkness, but usually I made it across the fine. As the direct sun was too intense there, I would immediately pass below to one of many beautiful worlds underneath.
I was experiencing another reality, but at that time I did not think of these dream-visions as being symbolic or prophetic. Later in my struggles in the church, it helped me to remember my vision-struggles against the arms of darkness with victory possible if I persisted.
The Sun and the Moon
One exceptionally vivid but peculiar dream burned into my childhood memory although I perceived no meaning in it at the time. In my dream it was dark
night but approaching dawn. I was in the middle of Main Street of our town, across from the church, while everyone else slept. It was totally quiet. Then the Sun and the Moon appeared-a bright Yellow, round Sun and a slightly less bright oval, orange-yellow Moon-both with arms, legs and a face. They suggested that I come with them to heaven, which sounded great at first. However, a dispute arose between them as to whether I could go directly, or whether I must first go and wake up the people Of the town to tell them that the Sun and the Moon were on earth! I was no longer so confident about going to heaven with them. I felt pulled by them both to go to heaven directly and simultaneously, to first go wake up the town. Then I awoke with a start, feeling that the Moon still sought me to awaken the town!
As I got older, I sensed that Jesus was indeed the Saviour, the source of great power for goodness as well as forgiveness. This seemed true not only for myself, but for countless millions of others now and for 2000 years of history. Heartistically this perception seemed to equate him with God Himself as orthodox Christians claim. However, my logical side found this idea ridiculous, seeing Jesus as an exceptional man with a unique world mission-as claimed by very liberal Christians. Yet those liberal Christians had little spiritual and heartistic power, and they could not explain the extraordinary power of Jesus the Christ.
In my high school years I read the Bible, particularly the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. I received certain revelations: that we live in the same times as those of Jesus; that I was being called to be pure not just externally but within my mind and heart as well; that God was preparing to fulfill an actual physical and spiritual Kingdom of Heaven on earth; that I was to prepare myself to shout on the rooftops "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! "-like John the Baptist.
An intense period of these revelations continued until I received that I was to be "Christ"-or rather, "Christ in a specific area". Even with this odd modification, such a revelation appeared ridiculous; the modified term didn't even have a meaning for me. Thinking I was going crazy, I immediately tried to cut off all such communications, although I continued to give some credence to these revelations.
A puritanical spirit interfered whenever I considered dating. It insisted that I should cut off dating altogether and not contemplate the possibility of marriage until I could be "good", a term that this spirit equated with a strong relationship with God along with purity in thought and action.
I didn't understand the source of these communications. I was repulsed by what little I knew of spiritualism with its apparent focus on trivial phenomena. My deeper worry was that if spiritualism was valid, then these communications could have come from some spirit other than God, Jesus or the "God-Within-Me" (original mind in Quaker terminology). While the spirit seemed clearly neither God or Jesus and even denied such identification, I sometimes received spiritually and practically helpful information of situations that could not have been just "God-Within-Me".
During this period I knew a few Quaker youth of similar openness to a vision of God's work in the world. We rode on trains together to attend Quaker youth meetings in Philadelphia, often singing spirituals on the way. Eventually we dared to share with each other some private revelations of a coming age of brotherhood under God. The one I remembered most from this group was the daughter of Walter Voelker (Voelker was a student of spiritualism who later testified to Father).
"Radical" Christians, Expectant of a Transforming Second Coming
In the summer of 1957 after I graduated from high school, I was introduced to some elements of "radical" Christianity. I met members of The Bruderhof or "Society of Brothers". I was impressed with their spirituality, insights and their farnily-centered but shared, communal life style. They told me they were preparing to receive the Christ in his return which they expected in 1960, according to the revelations their founder had received in 1920. They were apparently expecting some very dramatic manifestations, but one in which Christ could be received as a man and lead the world to develop such family-centered but sharing life style in the Kingdom of heaven to be built on earth.
This group had established widely scattered communities in the western world after they had fled Germany to escape Nazi oppression. Communities also had been reestablished in Germany when some returned after World War II. Although I was otherwise impressed, thought it strange that they were so specific about the year of Christ's return-and this date just three years hence. The community lost its power and largely broke up after 1960 when they failed to perceive the expected return. Vivien Burley, also blessed with the 43 couples, had been raised within a Bruderhof community.
Also at that time I met some Doukhobors, descendents of a group that had fled Czarist Russia in the 19th century, fled bigotry in Germany and again met bigotry in Canada. They also appeared to have some kind of expectation or view of Christ's return in human form. They demonstrated an uplifting, lively, fully spontaneous and unstructured, spirit-filled style of worship. Although I have since enjoyed sharing in charismatic free-form church services, the Doukhobor service was quite unique and distinct.
Challenge of the Christ Claimants
At various times I encountered or heard of individuals claiming to be Christ. Not surprisingly, some were at mental hospitals where I did volunteer work. Among those with other delusions but still coherent, there were also some women who thought they were Eve. A chaplain at one hospital confided to some of us religiously oriented volunteers his unsettling thought that if Christ were to return today, the authorities and satan would simply put him away in a mental hospital.
In my first two years of graduate school I lived near a small commune Communities hotel of Father Divine. I read with curiosity some of the claims of this black man who had once drawn a very large following of mostly black people with the declaration of himself as the returned Christ.
I was troubled once when I became stuck in a seven-hour car trip sitting next to someone who thought he himself was Jesus. It appeared that some people protected him; a few may even have provided him with some money on the possibility of there being some truth in his witness. He had the appearance and demeanor that superficially fit my Anglo-Saxon stereotype of Jesus.
I asked in prayer and meditation that if Christ really did return as a man, how would I distinguish the actual Christ from other "claimants"? Then I received that if Christ were to return as a man, he ultimately must unite all races, and that in this age there was no possibility of this requirement if he himself was either white or black. Thus he would have to be Oriental. I left this meditation thinking it unlikely that I should have to worry further about this question.
Could the Second Coming even be Here Now?
In 1964 I attended some talks by Joseph Havens, a Quaker psychologist and student counselor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Surprisingly he took very seriously both positive and negative spiritual experiences of the students, and drew some startling conclusions from his counseling. Mr. Havens described a hypothetical student, a composite of many he had counseled. Amazingly this student and his experiences sounded just like me, from my lowest moments to my highest. He said that many young people are seeking deeply in this post-Christian age. Recalling W B. Yeat's 1920 vision of "The Second Coming", Joseph Havens spoke of the possibility that the revelation or the Second Coming in some different manifestation might be "already in our midst in nascent form" if only we could be "enabled to see it."
I was greatly inspired by these talks and decided to try to gather a group of such young seekers. I began this with someone who had organizational ability and a more political, philosophical orientation. The result was a stimulating group of mostly graduate students and young single working people.
Sparks-and There is "Something"
In January 1965 under a light rain, I was putting up a sign on a church door stating that the usual Quaker meeting held there was to be elsewhere. I was surprised by the presence of a young lady behind me. It was Diane Giffin, to whom I am now blessed. I was very attracted and I dropped the unsecured end of the sign. The usual puritanical spirit came in while Diane said nothing, but this time I received that she (Diane) knew about something that could bring me closer to God. Indeed, I received that this "something" might even make marriage possible as a complement rather than a hindrance to a relationship with God. The spirit also told me that her father had died recently, which was some women who thought they were verified. At that time Diane only had a letter from her friend, Barbara Mikesell Ten Wolde, about the "Unified Family" and knew nothing of this directly.
Diane joined with me in the group of young seekers that was originally inspired by my response to the talks by Joseph Havens. Rather than troubling me for dating Diane on occasion, the unknown spirit encouraged me to get to know her better and learn about the mysterious "something".
At the end of March in 1965, I sat for one whole day, listening to an openly communist-front student gathering, largely because of the presence of Joan Baez. I was shocked to discover there that most of my "peace" minded friends on campus were revolutionary Marxist Leninists, disagreeing only on whether Russia, Mao, Castro, Che Guevera or Trotsky exemplified the ideal of Marxist-Leninism-with the others being serious deviants. I was also shocked when this group laughed down
Joan Baez as she tried to tell them that "love" was the motivating power of history rather than violent revolutions of the oppressed. Unfortunately, Joan Baez continued to let herself be used by communists until she saw the distress of the boat-people. However at the time, I saw her simply as a very idealistic youth like myself who happened to have an extraordinarily beautiful voice.
I came away with great discouragement regarding Christian spiritual power in contrast to the Marxist antispiritual power, although the number of Marxists was very small. Orthodox Christians, I thought, were not even aware of the challenge amidst them, let alone capable of confronting the challenge.
Within a week of this event, Diane said that she was going down to Washington to a religious group that sought to "unite religions." The spirit ordered me to go with Diane to find out about this. The next week, I did.
As I drove down with her that April weekend, Diane first explained elements of the Principle Of Creation which passed by me as just a nice abstract theory. However, when she discussed the fall of man, my guiding spirit came in very strong to insist, as he had done before, that Satan was a real being and fallen angel who was the real source of all evil. This truth was foreign to the dominant liberal Christian and Quaker influences around me.
I fully tuned in to the explanation of the Mission of Jesus and Christology, which I perceived as the wonderful answer to the conflict between liberal and Orthodox interpretations of Christ's nature and mission, and satisfying to both my heart and mind.
From that point in the Principle, Diane went immediately to Father's mission (Col. Pak had not yet translated the history section), and she stated that I would meet the second Christ shortly. I would have immediately laughed-I had heard claims like that before-but the spirit shouted, "DON'T LAUGH!" and at the same time something seemed to grab my shoulders from behind me as I drove down the highway. So I pulled off the road and stopped at a nearby diner where we talked some more.
We later arrived at the home of Dr. Bo Hi Pak among people whom I sensed to be of remarkably high spirit. I perceived that some were taken aback that a new out-of-town guest (me) had been brought unexpectedly by a new member (Diane). With my mind spinning, with a fresh memory of the sharp spiritual admonition on the way down, and with a current spirit command to keep listening, I dared not say how much I had been told nor let my very open spiritual senses attempt to evaluate Father directly. All my past experiences seemed to be racing together at this point as if they had but one purpose, but nothing was yet clearly sorted out in my mind.
I had a sense that there was spiritual power here great enough to combat the anti-spiritual power I had encountered with the Marxists recently, although the number of people in this small spiritual group was smaller than the number of people at the Marxist gathering.
I was taken aside and given my first taste of Col. Pak's very biblically oriented interpretation of the Principle, which was exciting on one level as biblical quotes came to my mind just before they were spoken by the teacher. He clearly did not know how much I had heard already or that I was anxious to hear more of the most radical claims of the Principle and especially about the qualification of Father himself.
That weekend I was also given a satisfying answer to a question that I first asked my mother when I was seven years old. My childhood friend, a little girl my age, from across the street had been killed with her little sister. I asked, "How can a little girl grow up in heaven?"
Also during this weekend I saw the spirit of a Quaker youth who had been killed in an auto accident. I had respected this young lady for her spiritual insight and leadership. I had first seen her in spirit very shortly after she had been killed but before I had heard about the accident.
On my second day at the Pak's house, Walter Voelker reported about his spirit world research and the spirit Fletcher's testimony through Arthur Ford of Father's central role for the new age. I was both amazed to encounter the father of someone from my recent past, and shocked that he was a spiritualist. Mr. Voelker's long evening talk focused on spiritual phenomena pointing to the new age. I had ambiguous thoughts about this, feeling it was unnecessary as those present already recognized Father in the central role and that he should be heard from directly.
Philadelphia center 1968 (left to right): Hal McKenzie, Joanie, unknown,
George, James Cowin, Wendy Baker (Katukura).
Many members felt that extraordinary phenomena would soon announce the new age worldwide. Though the spiritual guide with me exhorted me to listen on all other points, he disputed this one. He warned me and challenged me that a long, rocky road lay ahead if I were to follow this course.
On my third day at the Paks' house I felt the extraordinarily high spirit broken sharply and painfully with the entrance of an evil and fearful presence. A man came in threatening to kill Father, shouting that we were all fanatics. Then I heard Father command something with mighty force and authority in Korean. The evil spirit presence quickly receded as the man turned and left. I understand that Dr. Pak and Doris Orme strongly aided this exit, but it appeared to me that Father had authority over even the most evil of spirits.
I am a New Baby
Soon after this, I would have to return home to teach a mathematics course as a graduate teaching assistant. I realized that Diane would surely drop school immediately upon her arrival back in Philadelphia in order to move into the Washington center. This would leave me alone in Philadelphia after the massive encounters of the weekend. I also knew, as in past experiences of receiving high inspiration, that I would soon be attacked with a very low spirit. I thought I better begin to answer the challenge given by the spirit with some sort of immediate public commitment, although the details were all still a whirl in my mind. I went up to Father directly and said, "I guess I am a new baby" The words echoed in my heart as I said them, but I was also sorry I had added the typically weak "I guess", as if I were not so sure of the new vocabulary Pauline Phillips Verheyen immediately hugged me. I remembered little of the rest of the night, but I got home with Diane.
Upon my return to my graduate studies and teaching, I was left alone with just Dr. Pak's English interpretations of the Principle. For a week or more I remained on "cloud nine", but soon other spirit presences came. As I struggled to read the Principle I met all kinds of external interference: framed pictures falling mysteriously from the walls, lamps falling over, loud traffic and a car crash (on what had been a rather quiet street) directly in front of my apartment, and my tendency to feel extreme tiredness as soon as I opened a page of the Principle.
The worst phenomenon occurred as I first opened to the chapter on the fall of man. As I did, I suddenly seemed to be paralyzed, unable to move-let alone turn the page, until a kind of screamed prayer broke out from within me.
Then I began to get feelings of rejection! I sent a letter stating that I was coming to Washington to visit the second time, but just as I was going out the door with a suitcase, I found a reply in the mail from Diane. She stated that members were visiting Philadelphia and New York with Father. Also later I heard that some members visited Walter Voelker in Philadelpia. However, no invitation was extended for me to see Father or other members when they came to Philadelphia.
I felt unworthy for not having kept my mind pure as I had been clearly instructed to do by spirit in my high school days. I lacked confidence in my abilities and I feared that I had no valid invitation to return to the center in Washington. It was clear to me that some members had been askance that Diane had brought me down the first time directly during a special holiday celebration with Father.
I decided to go to Washington on the pretence of going for a "peace" demonstration! This was a test: if I was really wanted and invited to the center, then members would find me amidst this demonstration. They did! Nevertheless, a member's fight-hearted suggestion that I had come because of a pretty girl insulted me, and I remained uncertain of their openness to an extended visit from me.
Although I was deeply inspired by the truth and spirit of the Principle, I long remained confused about what it was exactly that had drawn me to such a radical stance. I was at a loss to explain my acceptance of this stance or even the stance itself. I had to confront some old ideas myself without the push of the spirit to accept new ideas in their place.
At some point during the summer of 1965 the strong spirit guide came in one last time, gave me his name and a few facts (John Peterson, a Quaker who came to Philadelphia from Wales in 1742) and said that he could help me no further. It was up to me now.
Missionaries to Europe and Exchange with Japan
Before Father left, he arranged for members to be sent to Europe as missionaries and also for two American youth members to participate in an exchange with Japanese youth members. Many Americans at the time were middle-aged persons who joined under strong guidance of the spirit world. There were few American youth with full center experience available. Barbara Mikesell (Ten Wolde) and Diane were selected. These changes greatly depleted the Washington center although the person who came in the exchange from Japan was certainly an inspiration.
Struggles in a Foundation Center and Satans
Under Father's direction, both the fruit of Dr. Young Oon Kim's and Dr. Bo Hi Pak's labors joined in the Washington, D. C. center. "Miss Kim", as many affectionately knew her, had been successful in raising solid members on the West coast. In Washington, Dr. Pak had been quite successful in inspiring many, including people of influence.
This combined early church center, however, was not without problems, and members sometimes disagreed over the focus of the work. The now reknown Jhoon Rhee, who had been introduced to the Principle by Dr. Pak, began his first Karate school as a means to raise funds for the center, but soon became more focused on the external aspects of the mission. Gordon Ross, who came to share in the leadership of the center had his own ideas about witnessing. Once Gordon decided that if he could bring in and raise someone from the "bottom of society" it would then be possible to bring in all who were in between. Gordon proceeded to bring such a person into the center overjhoon Rhee's vigorous objections.
Once, upon visiting the Washington center, I was shocked to sense an "evil presence" in the center. This was very confusing to me, and I cut off my spiritual openness. However, my senses later proved to be accurate when the person whom Gordon had brought misused and twisted the Principle so terribly that he caused the downfall of many members associated with Washington and New York, thus separating them from the budding American church.
When it was realized what was happening, I assisted Gordon Ross and Philip Burley during one mad weekend, running up and down the Northeast, trying to intercept this person and cut him off from the remaining members. With this mission essentially accomplished, but with no sleep for over 24 hours, I managed to drive back to Philadelphia from New York just in time to teach my calculus class at 8 a. m. on Monday morning--or at least I stood in front of the class without falling over completely.
Later an even bigger Satan distorted the Principle and like the first, caused many to fall, this time creating chaos in the movement all across the country. These events increased my traditional distrust of direct communication with the spirit world, which we understood poorly I cut my earlier openness almost completely off except for some intuition.
We also went through a strait-jacket period where all outside interests, enjoyments and even old contacts were discouraged. Maybe we were indemnifying the Puritan period in America as well as assuring absolute commitments, but it appeared to tightly restrict our effectiveness or even joyful functioning.
I made it through all these trials and confusions to February 1969. At that time, Father returned to America and blessed the first 13 couples in America as the first part of the International 43 Couple Blessing. Father proceeded with the blessing although few of us had met even the external conditions requested. I was blessed with Diane Giffin, the one who had made it possible for the spirit to complete its efforts to bring me to Father. This seemed the greatest blessing conceivable but many years have shown that the roses were full of big thorns as well! Much we bumped out in trial-and-error!
We now have four wonderful children, three sons and a daughter. They are Toby (15), Trius (11), Feta (9), and Elena (4). Toby has become very responsible and a strong internal representative for Father in the difficult situation of high school. Trius is often very intense and determined with a strong character and with a creative interest in story writing. He has overcome earlier childhood difficulties stemming from our very confused and broken family fife when he was very little, which was largely due to our unsteady attempts to follow Father's missionary directions in these critical times. Feta, although he was born nearly deaf (I have ancestors who were deaf), has developed a very strong mind and determination and an amazing knack for fundraising and sales or otherwise finding or attaining money. Elena has given a new dimension to our family life as our first girl. However, she is at least as strong-minded and determined as the older boys, which seems typical of blessed children! We're working to unite and incorporate Father's tradition on a family level and on our individual levels.
George with another member in the
Philadelphia center in 1967.