I used to write for Unity Magazine on a fairly regular basis. Unity is a magazine that embraces universal spiritual truths that are Christian, but nondenominational. A particular salient memory was evoked when I was channel-surfing the night before last; Wayne Dyer was on PBS promoting, proselytizing and frankly, self-aggrandizing. Within the first 23 minutes, I learned that, recently, he healed himself from the scourge of leukemia by working with a spiritual healer. He paused to mention his 37 books and eight children several times, and he announced that a recent study cited him as the third most influential spiritual leader of our time. (If he mentioned the first and second, I missed it.)
Dyer recited Emily Dickinson and related the bumps along the path toward his spiritual wholeness. The camera would cut from close-ups framing his face to members of the rapt audience nodding, appearing blissful and holding hands. I thought, “So this is what it is like to have charisma.”
All those years ago, Wayne Dyer and I both wrote for Unity. We both carried the same Banner, shared The Secret, forwarded one Truth. There was nothing about his message about who we are, about our relationships with God and the core meaning of life that I disputed then or now. However, he showed more consistency about broadcasting his beliefs than I have. Actually, he seems to have shown considerable genius in packaging himself.
I could no longer watch him. I clicked off the television with the remote. Instead, the memory that I had successfully repressed for twenty years played in 3-D as vividly as if the television was still on.
I remembered that my father’s reception when I sold my first essay to Unity was, at best, lukewarm. I was grateful that my gratification never came from hearing his praise. It was rarely forthcoming. Long after I had cashed that first check, I received a curtesy copy of Unity in the mail. I sent a copy to my parents. My father called and said, “I had no idea that you were such a good writer. Why, you are in the same publication as Wayne Dyer!”
I said, “Yes, isn’t that something?” We continued to chat, then hung up.
A small, very unChristian piece of me surfaced after our conversation ended. I held the magazine in my hands and a small smile rose, unexpectedly. Even now, I have a frisson of pleasure. As I remember it, my name was above his on the cover.