Preparing to Meet the Teacher: Ken Mills

It has been said, “When the pupil is ready, the Teacher will appear.” I’m not sure how long the preparation was for me — perhaps my whole life. At any rate, everything accelerated when I returned to college in the early 1970s. I was about to be “ready.”

When I enrolled for my first term at Lone Mountain College in San Francisco, they informed me that I was required to take one religious studies course. This made me just a shade uneasy, since I had declared myself “an agnostic” in my adolescence. Later, I became interested in the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers; their silent, meditative worship had little to do with any church doctrine. But this was California in l972, and these religious studies were anything but dogmatic. I read C.S. Lewis, Martin Buber, and Thomas Merton, among others, and wrote my final paper comparing the ideas of Theilard de Chardin with those of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt psychology. It was all quite fascinating. Maybe there was something to this after all!

San Francisco was diverse and exciting. At one point the Hari Krishna monks (a Hindu sect), dressed in their richly colored saffron robes, held a festival in which huge cardboard juggernauts, laden with flowers, were pushed the length of Golden Gate Park to a culmination of the ceremony at the ocean. I had gone to Golden Gate Park out of curiosity, but found myself joining the procession, pushing one of the juggernauts and chanting “Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna!” When I returned home, I had the odd feeling that I had somehow fulfilled something that had needed to be fulfilled.

Another time, someone handed me a Christian Science publication on a street corner. Feeling somehow led, I purchased a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and read it cover to cover. This volume introduced me to metaphysics. Little did I know that the Mentor I was soon to meet sometimes quoted Mrs. Eddy in his lectures. Everything was a preparation.

Then, I happened to receive a flyer advertising a lecture series at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. The talks were to be given by Jack Schwartz, who was being studied by doctors in an attempt to discover how he was able to put a knitting needle through his arm without feeling any pain, apparently because of the meditation he practiced. Schwartz and his lectures gave me an introduction to various aspects of what might be called the occult, previously unknown to me. He spoke on crystals, colors, sound frequencies, chakras, herbs and many other topics, weaving them all together. More preparation! He also taught the audience how to image pictures during meditation. Along the way, I discovered that I was able to read Schwartz’s mind: while he was giving the audience an exercise, I found that before he would tell us each object we were to visualize, I already had envisioned it.

More and more, I felt I was being led. In a public library one day, a book fell off of a shelf and landed at my feet. It turned out to be an autobiographical story by a woman who had studied with Gurdjieff, another prominent metaphysical teacher. Reading her book taught me much about teacher-student relationship.

Another day, walking in Golden Gate Park, I met a couple of people and we began to talk. Though they were perfect strangers, our conversation was a profound one on the meaning of life.

It was after this particular “sign” that I made a decision. I spoke with a member of the local Friends Meeting, who happened to be on the faculty of Pacific School of Religion (PSR). This interdenominational seminary was part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, which in turn was part of the University of California. A year after graduating from Lone Mountain with a B.A., I filled out an application to PSR and was accepted into their M.Div. program. It was not exactly that I felt called to the ministry, but feeling I had been led this far, I trusted that after I enrolled in graduate school, I would be shown the next steps I was to take. Perhaps here I would find a slaking at last of my thirst for meaning. Little did I suspect that the main function PSR would serve was to get me to the right place at the right time.

The master’s program was something of a disappointment to me. It was, understandably enough, quite academically oriented; the emphasis seemed to me to be on “head,” with such courses as archeology and the scholarly exegesis of biblical passages. By contrast, my spirituality was all about feeling, definitely a matter of the “heart.”

Several of my friends and I used to meditate together every morning at seven o’clock. One day one of them, a Franciscan monk named Joseph, said he knew of a wonderful man from Canada who was visiting California to give a series of lectures in the Bay Area. The gentleman’s name was Kenneth G. Mills. “You must hear him,” Joseph urged. Of course, at that time in Berkeley there were photographs of “Sri-this” and “Maharishi-that” posted on every telephone pole, all offering lectures. So I said to Joseph, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” But Joseph, bless him, was not to be so easily put off. “Come on,” he said. ”There’s an open house for Mr. Mills to meet a few of the students before he starts his formal lectures. Why don’t you come to that, and then you can decide.”

So it was that I found myself, on February 15, 1975, seated in an apartment located a few blocks down “Holy Hill” from the PSR campus. A very elegant gentleman, impeccably dressed, entered the room. My Quaker/hippie “plain living” persuasion stirred uneasily, but at that moment, he began to speak: “This is the first meeting with those who have found a Visitor who has found pilgrims, a meeting to melt the ice so that water could be what it is….” [footnote: Kenneth G. Mills. The Key: Identity. Stamford, CT/Toronto, Sun-Scape Publications, 1994. Chapter II, p.20]

In his very first sentence, this visitor had seemingly peered into me, pulling out an image from a drawing I had made just a few weeks before during a typical California “self-discovery” weekend — a drawing representing myself as a block of ice melting and watering a number of small flowers beginning to blossom at its base. A few moments later, Mr. Mills used another image: “It is a direct experience; it isn’t reflective. As you know, a reflector can easily be shattered.” {footnote: Ibid., p. 24] This one enhanced a poem I had written about a broken mirror.

But it was more than these mysterious coincidences that sent me sailing into a realm I had only dreamed of. Since early childhood, I had longed to hold on to a fleeting, indescribable feeling I came to call “Infinity.” Though at times the feeling faded into the background, my search for Infinity informed my whole life. The feeling had brought me to the PSR campus, and now this wonderful man was telling me — and more than that, taking me into the actual experience! — that I was not separate from that Infinity I had so longed to find. Infinity had never been lost, for it was my very Identity, always embracing me!

How could this be? This didn’t really happen to people, did it? That someone comes along and just hands you the secret of the Universe? Was I about to die? After Mr. Mills’ brief, awesome talk, I found myself walking up and down the hills of Berkeley past beautifully landscaped homes. My life as I had known it up to that point seemed to stream away down the hill behind me. Thoughts were reduced to total stillness. Then questions began to bubble up. “What about school?” “What about money to live on?” With each bubble, a quiet, melodious voice from somewhere seemed to say, “So what? So what?” And the stillness would return.

I went back to the dormitory on campus to eat lunch. That afternoon, my schedule called for a meeting that might have opened doors for future service as a minister. But it seemed impossible for me to pick up again any vestige of my “old life.” What was this strange feeling? There seemed to be no orientation, no answer to “What next, then?” At last, I walked back to the apartment where Mr. Mills was staying and stood outside the door. There seemed to be nothing else to do and nowhere else to be. I was hungry only for a continuation of the extraordinary experience of being in his presence. Eventually, Joseph came out of the apartment. I explained to him why I was standing there. He disappeared inside, then reappeared and led me in to be formally introduced to Mr. Mills — to Infinity Itself!

That was the beginning. It immediately became apparent to me that there was no longer any purpose in continuing my graduate studies at PSR. I had found what I had enrolled there to find, and how much more vivid and alive and real this extraordinary experience was for me than the dry textbooks! In a private meeting with Mr. Mills, I spoke with him about the decision to leave school. Was it the right thing for me to do? In response to my questions, Mr. Mills lovingly replied, “The only decision you ever have to make is to die to the suggestion that you are not already the directed action of the Light.”

Over the next several weeks, I was privileged to be with Mr. Mills almost every evening, along with a wide variety of students and others who had found their way to his door — from Christians to Buddhists to agnostics, massage therapists to cooks to priests. Unforgettable images are still with me of questioners’ faces being transformed by a brief answer from Mr. Mills, much like a Zen master’s simple yet profound response to an aspirant. After such classes I would walk slowly back to the dormitory, gazing at the stars, my heart leaping in exultation.

Upon his arrival in California, Mr. Mills became intrigued with the concept of weekend workshops, so common in those days of Esalen and similar organizations. He promptly scheduled three such weekends, calling them “Wordshops.” Entering the Bolinas home offered to him for his first Wordshop made an indelible impression on me. The hushed room was lighted only by a fire in the fireplace and numerous candles. The air was fragrant with incense, and Pachelbel’s Canon was playing on the stereo (the first time I had ever heard that composition). The music and the atmosphere of the room made me want to enter it in a stately and elegant manner, like royalty. And, as Mr. Mills was to point out, as expressions of the Divine One, all are, indeed, royal.

Mr. Mills’ third California Wordshop concluded on Easter Sunday. There, it was our sad task to bid him farewell (for the time being), for he was returning to Canada. The goodbye was excruciatingly painful for me, and my eyes filled with tears. Gently, he reassured me that we would see each other again very soon.

And we did. So began some 30 years of adventure — both inner and outer — with Mr. Mills as my “professor of Infinity,” my mentor, teacher, guide and friend.

Mary Joy Leaper is a writer and editor living in Norwalk, Connecticut. She can be reached at More information on metaphysician Dr. Kenneth G. Mills can be found at