Independence Day 2014

As a way to celebrate this sacred moment in our history, we present
Father A.A. Taliaferro, D.D. in a document which contains his best thoughts on what this day means.

The Fourth of July: Celebration of Freedom
By A. A. Taliaferro, D.D.

In the great annals of the history of man certain occasions have arisen that have been directly under the influence of the Most High, working through the mind and Soul of humanity. A great truth about life has been communicated to the Soul of man in various ways, through the Magna Charta, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter, the philosophers and the great thinkers of France and England, as well as those from the Orient. This great idea of the freedom of man has been preserved for Americans in the celebration of the Fourth of July.

This celebration has a spiritual nature, as the concept of Freedom and Liberty , Equality and Fraternity for all humanity has a spiritual basis. America was created for a definite purpose. The whole purpose of this country is to project all these great ideas throughout the world, not to just America, and to do whatever is necessary, even at the sacrifice of financial resources and time, to make it possible for human beings to know these truths. Humanity must be freed from the shackles of materiality. Humanity must also be freed from despotism and dictatorship, and from those individuals whose power and ego makes it possible for them to use humanity for their own self-gain.

The heritage of our country, in historical terms, is a synthesis of the great contributions that have been made in the past through the labours of all humanity, by ancient China and India, Persia, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Europe, Britain, and of course America. The early struggles of man were material, and to a certain degree this is still true. But as man won through the power of his will and the steady accumulation in his mind the ability to conquer the earth, to master the techniques by which he can distribute those things that are created by his ingeniousness, he is becoming able to understand the meaning of leisure and the freedom that comes with the availability of time. Man is able to improve himself spiritually as he conquers the material world. The evolution of the material side of our nature, the physical, the emotional/desire, and mental, has enabled us to create material forms, then using the created forms for the betterment of humanity.

The principle of mass production is a very recent thing. The disciple Henry Ford conceived it, and his real contribution to America and to the world was not the automobile or any mechanical device, but the spiritual idea of groups of human beings working together for the betterment of the whole race. When this first began, it was a revolutionary concept. It was successful and effective in the real world, and was made available to the whole of humanity. It transformed the economic life of the planet.

To understand the meaning of the Fourth of July we must understand the spiritual meaning contained within the great historic past of humanity. Almost all of it is represented in the symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States . It took a long time to create the Great Seal. It took a lot of political maneuvering, because there were a great many people who worked on it who actually did not understand it. In 1935, the Great Seal was placed on the one-dollar bill, which is the single most used piece of paper in the United States . Those who look at it are reminded by symbols of the great spiritual heritage of our country.

The Great Seal has symbols with tremendous power. First, there is the eagle, which in ancient times was the symbol of human freedom, the spiritual freedom of the soul as it soared above the material world. The eagle flies higher than any other bird. This has come down as the great symbol of our country. Above the eagle’s head there is an interlaced triangle. This is the Star of David, ancient symbol of the initiates and of the entire process of involution and evolution. It is made up of thirteen stars that symbolize the twelve apostles, who represent the perfection of the different aspects of human nature, plus Christ, who makes the thirteen.

This great energy is creating a new heaven and a new earth, a new kind of political and social system that guarantees freedom for all mankind, without any exceptions. This freedom is the freedom to think as we choose, the freedom to worship God in our own way, the freedom from fear, the freedom to be what we want to be and can be in creating our life in a particular incarnation. This will ultimately be the guaranteed freedom for all humanity. It is the purpose for the establishment of America , not only to provide freedom for the people who live here, but for all humanity. The energy of love and wisdom makes this possible. Immediately surrounding the thirteen stars is fire, the great fire of creation. Surrounding this fire is the light that is the wisdom of the Soul. Just as the rose is the symbol of the Soul and of the perfected mind, so the human mind itself is the symbol of God’s final creative achievement. As human beings develop their abstract mind, they will become increasingly conscious of themselves as Souls.

Political power is the use of power that comes from on high that is radiated out into society through the Soul and mind by the persons who are placed symbolically in a position of power. They are only there temporarily for the purpose of dispensing power, which should be used as a blessing for all mankind, not just a few or a small group. If an individual in power would dedicate himself to this principle, he would be shown by illumination and the intuition the means of how this could be done. However, most people who are in positions of power do not want to do anything except for themselves or those who are around them, those who keep them in power. Today the arrogance and lack of humility of many political leaders, combined with the limitations of the concrete mind, block their registering impressions from higher realms.

Below the eagle’s body, the right talon holds the olive branches, and the left talon holds the arrows. In ancient biblical symbology, arrows stand for thought power, the power of the mind on the material plane. The olive branch stands for peace, the power of the soul’s energy, of “peace on earth, good will to men.” This is the very nature of love, and it is the revelation of grace in Christ at Christmas. These concepts can be brought into the rest of the world by America . Held in the eagle’s beak and rising above his wings is a ribbon or scroll with the Latin phrase, E. Pluribus Unum. This means that the great power of America comes from the realization of the union among individuals on a spiritual level, “Out of the many comes the one.” The tremendous power of this phrase is in the spiritual realization that eventually all humanity will be one. Just as man is one on the Soul level, some day he will also be one on the material side. The eagle is facing to his right, which means that the Soul is dedicated to the spiritual goals of manifestation and of creativity. The soul in humanity is unerringly leading man to the goal of his evolution and existence.

On the other side of the Great Seal, and at the other end of the one-dollar bill, there is the great symbol of the pyramid. This and the eagle, the symbol of the freedom of the Soul, are obviously related. It is impossible for us to be free until we conform to the laws building the symbolic pyramid. The pyramid is a very ancient symbol. Long before the pyramids were built in Egypt or Mexico or South America, the pyramid was the symbol of the building of the temple, just as Solomon’s Temple or the Temple of the Lord is the great symbol in Masonry. The power to build this pyramid is in the human consciousness, in terms of ideas. When we begin to live by these great truths, and incorporate them as stones in the pyramid, with Christ as the chief cornerstone, we begin to build a new culture, the future spiritual culture. The long history of the human race is the process by which this has is being done. It is being accomplished through trial and error, pain and suffering, through tremendous struggle, and the expenditure of great physical, emotional and mental energy.

The pyramid on the Great Seal is not completed because humanity itself is incomplete. Humanity itself must build the capstone that will complete the pyramid. This capstone is the Christ consciousness, the consciousness of the Soul that will transform and regenerate the material world. Christ is often referred to as “the Divine Redeemer.” Then there will be the universal recognition of the brotherhood of man, based on the Fatherhood of God. Above the pyramid is the capstone, which is surrounded by rays of light, symbolic of the Great Architect of the Universe. The capstone contains within it the all-seeing eye, standing for the divinity of the Most High. The meaning of the all-seeing eye is that there is a divine mind present in the material world, and in the human consciousness. It is looking out upon everything that we do. It is conscious of us, not only as individuals but also in group formations such as our family, the community in which we live, the groups with whom we work, and others with whom we are associated. This all-seeing eye is the ever watchful divinity that looks over everything and protects us from all harm, provided that we are doing the work and actually projecting into the material world the great Wisdom and Love and Will and Purpose of the Most High. As result of the fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer, man will eventually express on earth the consciousness of the kingdom of heaven

Below the pyramid is the Latin phrase, Novus Ordo Seclorum, which means “A New Secular Order.” This new secular order is now being created. It is a brand new form of human political, economic, and social organization. It comes right out of the soul of humanity. It was not by accident or happenstance that America was started. It was started under the divine Will, the energies impressed into great illumined and powerfully oriented personalities through the Souls of these personalities, the main one being Thomas Jefferson. His great companion in this work was John Adams. They worked together for over 50 years, and they died within a few minute of each other, ironically on a Fourth of July. They were aged and Thomas Jefferson was in terrible debt when he died. He made little money during his lifetime. He gave himself completely and his friends recognized that his work was so great and important that he deserved what they could do to help him continue on the material plane. He created unbelievably wonderful things for the benefit of humanity and this country. Of course, he had the help of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and the many others who were working around him.

The government of America is unique among the governments of the world in that its three branches are separate but equal, and correspond to the Holy Trinity or the three aspects of divinity, expressed in Christian phraseology as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Executive Branch corresponds to the Father, the first aspect of divinity and the Will of the Most High. The Legislative Branch is closest to the people and corresponds to the Son, the second aspect of divinity, the Love of the Most High. The Judicial Branch corresponds to the third aspect of divinity, as it interprets and adjudicates the law of the land, and represents the Intelligent Activity of the Most High. By these three branches being separate but equal, they serve as a check and balance on each other. Other governments, even some totalitarian governments, have Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, but none of them have branches that are separate but equal.

Philosophers founded America , people who spoke, thought, and acted on the truth. They did not found this country for the selfish purposes of the people who would come after them. They lived in the selflessness of their philosophy. They gave themselves so that those who would come after them could benefit from their experience and their sacrifice. They were not religious in the generally understood sense of that word. Nevertheless, they were true philosophers. If ever there was a group in the history of humanity that had the consciousness of the soul working within them, it was the group of Founding Fathers that led this country to its formation, literally carving out of human experience a brand new nation, a brand new philosophy, and a brand new unselfish way of looking at things. They spoke the truth that it is possible for human beings to be free, to worship God in their own way, and to seek the truth, and to serve their fellowmen, and to make it possible for all of humanity in the future to do the same thing.

The word philosophy means the love of wisdom or the wisdom of love. It was originally intended to convey that ideal in the ancient oriental civilizations, as well as in the civilizations of Egypt , Greece and Rome . The philosophers were concerned with seeking the truth and devising techniques by which that truth could be lived by the people, for the benefit and well being of society as a whole.

The last President who was a leader in terms of philosophic principles was Abraham Lincoln, evoked by the genius and destiny of the race, coming forth from the very soul of the people. He was one of the most powerful Avatars which humanity itself has produced, and was very sensitive to Shamballa force. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas Paine and others lived the philosophy in their daily life. They were willing to take the personal consequences in their life for their love of wisdom. They sacrificed their whole life for the sake of this country. They witnessed the selfish intrigue and shameless and embarrassing infighting among the delegates of the various states as they hammered out the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution. These documents would make it possible for this country to be one nation, indivisible, and made up of the various states. The different groups of people came together, trying to understand that they must cooperate with each other or perish.

Today we have changed the philosophic system of thinking that our early forefathers used in establishing a philosophic democracy. We have changed the system of freedom that came from the philosophic principle of wisdom, to the use of that freedom for our selfish ends. The purpose of life today is to become as powerful and as rich as possible, with a minimum expenditure of energy, and to use our power and our riches for ourselves. We do not know how to think and feel or act out a change in our life because we are literally afraid to be unselfish. We do not know that there is a great power which communicates by the intuition to the individual who is willing to become unselfish, to give himself for his fellow man, that he will be given everything he needs to do this. It is a test of faith. He cannot ask for proof and then decide to do it. He must do it with the assurance from within himself that every step of the way he will be guided and protected and he will be aided and helped.

When President Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” there was a very great truth in what he said. The personality grasps for itself and holds with clinging hands, whereas the nature of the soul is to serve unconditionally, without expectation of recognition or reward. He was really saying we should get up every day and ask what we can do for the world and for our fellow men, instead of instinctively recoiling and wondering how we can finesse someone into doing something for us or manipulate events in the daily world for our personal gain. We should simply know that if we make the connection with the consciousness of the Soul and become a Soul infused personality, then the Soul will work through us in mysterious ways its wonders to perform. We should live by the wisdom, truth and love of the Soul.

America was and still is today the great divine experiment in human freedom, making it possible for the Spiritual Hierarchy and the Most High to work out on this planet a new kind of life in which we are conscious of the power of the Soul. We can be conscious of the truth. We can be conscious of the fact that we are truly our brother’s keeper, and that we are one with each other regardless of race, color, or creed. We are truly one because we use the same energy of matter to build our physical bodies, and we use the same energy of the soul to become conscious of ourselves, and of the Will and Purpose and Love of the Most High.

Father A. A. Taliaferro

Here are two remarkable sermons written by Father Taliaferro and read by Chuck Robison in preparation for the Easter Holy Days.

The first concerns the meaning of Maundy Thursday

The second explains the Symbolism of The Cross

(Copied from the December 1991 issue of D Magazine in Dallas.)

He teaches reincarnation and out-of-body travel. His followers range from Park Cities matrons to Willie Nelson. His message: Everything- including Cadillacs and summers in Carmel-is part of a glorious cosmic plan.

IT’S WEDNESDAY MORNING ON TURTLE Creek, time for these wives, widows and divorcees of Dallas gentry to gather in a lushly decorated Tudor and discuss the Big Questions. Bigger, of course, than who is cheating on whom, or planning the upcoming charity ball. Much bigger, you see, than any of their lives. The day and the hour dictate a deeper agenda: Cosmic consciousness. Life. Death. Reincarnation. Out-of-body travel. Karma.

Their teacher, an octogenarian with a comb of white hair, a benign smirk and priestly hands, takes his place in front of them in an antique cane chair. “Everything is great and wonderful.” he once proclaimed in this room. “It always was great and wonderful. It always will be great and wonderful. So if we say something is not great and wonderful, it’s not because it’s not great and wonderful. It’s because that’s the way we think.”

From this vantage, everything this morning is looking great and wonderful indeed: the Chinese antiques and Italian mosaics, the Chagall in the sun room, the smile on the face of the young stewardess getting her “fix” of mysticism. For the next 90 minutes, these two dozen or so women will ask him questions and he will tell them things their old ministers would not: that their bodies are only temporary dwellings that can be left at will, that reincarnation is a fact and that they can change the world by visualizing goodness three times a day. Perhaps best of all, he will tell them that everything-the husband’s indiscretions, the child’s addictions, the terror on the evening news, even their Highland Park addresses-is all part of a divine lesson plan. Many of the listeners, as they bask in the stream of words, wear the expressions of a cat being stroked between the ears. Some close their eyes, placing their hands flat on the legs of well-tailored pant suits.

Albert Achilles Taliaferro (pronounced “Tolliver”), has been their guide for decades. Yes, before the Beatles knew a swami from a synthesizer. Tolly, as his disciples call him, had some of these ladies, chanting “Ohhmmmmmmm” in their Donna Reed dresses. Over the years, he’s been called a wise man and a great teacher, a heretic and a crackpot. To the women in this room he is a great source of light. Tolly is Guru. Indeed, the Guru of Highland Park.

He also is a deposed Episcopal (1) priest, the man who built one of Dallas’ wealthiest churches, only to be toppled and then resurrected with the help and good karma of the late Ann Cox and the power of her family oil fortune. That was 26 years ago. Since then, his connections have allowed him to overcome the protests of other clergymen and go on preaching to hundreds every Sunday at Southern Methodist University. Business execs, real estate yups, computer whizzes, entertainers and generations of the spiritually promiscuous all have been drawn into his orbit. 8.0 restaurant owner Shannon Wynne consults him for advice. Political activist Roy Williams, whose lawsuit forced Dallas to change the way it elected its city council, defers to him as a mentor. And when country superstar Willie Nelson, a longtime disciple, tied the knot for the fourth time this past September. Tolly conducted the private service in his office.

Tolly calls himself a Christian, but his teachings are nothing like what you heard in Sunday school. His main philosophical influence is Rosicrucianism, a four-century old mystical order that Tolly joined more than 50 years ago. The order, whose scholarship is widely considered dubious, claims roots to ancient wisdom stretching back to Egypt in the reign of the Pharaoh Akhnaton. Based in San Jose, California, the group claims 250,000 members worldwide who subscribe to a secret 17-year mailorder course that promises to uncover the truths of life and the universe from “development of personal magnetism” to “thought transmission.”

According to Rosicrucianism, a group of advanced beings from Earth and beyond are dwelling in our midst, invisibly guiding human events-the writing of Shakespeare’s plays (by Francis Bacon, Tolly believes), the design of the dollar bill, the uniting of Europe. But Tolly’s spiritual influences have few bounds. In his cosmic blender, Tolly combines selective scoops of mysticism, Hinduism, Buddhism, astrology, Jungian psychology, alchemy, physics and free-enterprise economics. He throws out the contradictions and flips the switch. Christ equals Krishna equals Buddha. All religions are one, and science is in no way incompatible with belief in the spirit world. “The scientist is the great high priest of the religion of the future.” he likes to say, and, “The Holy Spirit is akin to the speed of light squared.”

Dallas, in Tolly’s cosmic scheme, is a fertile crescent for new thought that will help transform the planet. “Where new approaches to religion are concerned, Dallas is on its way, in the next 25 to 50 years, to becoming a center,” he says. “I think the type of person who is attracted is the person questioning things,” says Jimmy Lawrence, the woman who has hosted Tolly’s twice-a-week classes in her home for a decade. Long ago, she says, her ex-husband, former Braniff International Chairman Harding Lawrence, warned her against Tolly. “This is a dangerous man,” he said. She didn’t believe it then, and she doesn’t now. “I think,” she says, “the people in this class are irritated if someone says ‘You’re not supposed to know that.'”

Tolly has two audiences-an inner circle and an outer. For the wider audiences in his church services at SMU, he discusses his belief system in vague, general terms. He’ll talk about rebirth or deliver an inspirational message on the power of the soul. But it is for the inner circle, those who faithfully attend classes in Lawrence’s home, that Tolly saves prophecies that would make the neck hairs of the uninitiated stand up. He tells them, for example, that one day Christ will pass off administration of the earth to an assistant-in-training, and that for a great period of time, the planet’s less-advanced souls will not be permitted to reincarnate, and that “the day will come when we will all transfer to a higher planet.” Yet, no matter how far out Tolly’s ideas do get, he can’t be dismissed as just another celestial snake oil salesman. He’s not a rank outsider or a mere appendage to Dallas society. He’s part of its very fabric.

He considers himself first a teacher, and as such he helped found some of North Texas’ first schools for retarded children and children with Down’s syndrome. He also founded one of the city’s toniest private schools-Dallas’ first Montessori- where parents (who generally know nothing of his theology) pay college-level tuition for their young to imbibe knowledge with the power lineage of Hunts, Crows and Dedmans.

Last spring. 28 years after he broke with organized religion. Tolly ended another acrimonious struggle when an expanded board of directors of the St. Alcuin Montessori ousted him in a fight over control. Tolly had refused to yield authority to a committee system and be phased out. “There is no in-between with him,” says retired North Dallas accountant C. Lee Connell, the former treasurer of Tolly’s church. Their friendship of more than 50 years was wrecked in the fight at St. Alcuin. “You either love him or you hate him.”

SMU’S SELECMAN HALL. MOTHER’S Day. Everything is as it should be. Light filters though the tall plantation shutters, falling on the women in their puffy-shouldered print dresses and the men in sensible suits. Tolly, in his priest’s collar and vestments, plays the baby grand, leading the congregation in “Amazing Grace.” Tolly reads from the Gospel. The parishioners of St. Alcuin’s Community Church, about 150 of them genuflect (2) on cue.

Then comes the sermon: “Oh wonderful, beautiful kingdom of light, Shed down upon these humble souls thy beam of cosmic consciousness . ..” No one here is surprised by the words, and Tolly, after rambling a bit about organized religion, man’s psyche and the sun, launches into a vivid explanation of his ideas on rebirth. “The soul creates the body. It chooses the parents,” he explains, sounding like a professor trodding familiar ground, “It chooses the place the parents are. It chooses the environment, the people involved in the family as well as in the community-the possibilities of coming in contact with persons and groups of persons in which the various aspects of the development of the incarnation can take place. “On Mothers Day it is very important for us to see this,” he goes on. “The reason for Mother’s Day, from a spiritual standpoint, is that we are reminded of the fact that there is a divine plan behind every birth of a soul in a physical body.”

On the karmic balance sheet, this impresario of the occult has come out ahead in this life. Reared in East Dallas, the eldest son of a postal worker, he now lives in a spacious Highland Park home, drives a Sedan de Ville Cadillac with vanity plates (“Tolly”), carries a country club membership and cools off by summering a month every year in Carmel. Albert was a brooding and sensitive boy who felt trapped in an ultrareligious family that worshiped in the Church of Christ. He spent much of his youth alone, contemplating his parents’ jealous, punitive God -“One of the most cruel concepts I heard of.”

Lucky for him, he was spared a mundane life by his uncanny ability to play the piano and by Dallas society’s willingness to embrace and nourish him. As a youth in the 1920s, Albert played organ at downtown churches and piano for WFAA radio’s The Early Birds orchestra. Music gave him his first glimpse inside Dallas’ worlds of business and art and those contacts would ultimately propel him to Ivy League schools and to music studies that would take him to New York, San Francisco and Paris.

“When the soul works,” he explained to his congregation as he approached his 80th birthday last February, “it works by making contacts psychically. . contacts will be brought into your zone of influence and awareness.”

Albert and his soul began making esoteric contacts early in life. He first left his body, he says, at the age of 9. Bedridden with pneumonia, he heard the doctor tell his mother that he would not live through the night. Suddenly, Taliaferro says, he felt himself rise up, hovering above the doctor, above his weeping mother and father and finally, above the earth, wafting in space. “It was not a dream,” he said recently in his office overlooking Turtle Creek and downtown.

By the time the Rev. C.V. Westapher arrived as an assistant at St. Michael in 1960, word of Taliaferro’s Rosicrucian connections had leaked out, and the church was at war with itself. A group of parishioners appealed to the bishop for Taliaferro to be removed. But before the year was over, Taliaferro resigned to work as a professional psychologist. “If he taught Rosicrucianism, he was teaching something below the sub-Christian level, and that offended many members of the congregation,” says Westapher. “He is a superb man for God-he just didn’t quite fulfill Episcopalian expectations.”

Betty Cone, one of those who followed Tolly into the Rosicrucians, describes the reaction that Taliaferro’s beliefs provoked in blunter terms. “The fit hit the shan,” she says. “They started a witch hunt.” Taliaferro spent the next few years counseling federal prisoners in Seagoville and looking in vain for an Episcopal church that would have him. He divorced his first wife and married Ethel Williamson, a divorcee in his St. Michael’s choir and the daughter of a wealthy Shreveport family.

In 1965, Tolly seemed born again. Ann Cox helped him launch the Montessori school, and she arranged through her husband, oilman Edwin L. Cox, for Tolly to have a place to preach at SMU. Unrepentant, Taliaferro wrote to the bishop explaining his ambitious plans for a new church at which he would once again preach his unorthodox views. An unimpressed committee of his peers advised the bishop to defrock him. Obviously, the Age of Aquarius had yet to dawn on the Episcopal hierarchy.

ST. ALCUIN COMMUNITY CHURCH, named after Charlemagne’s court teacher (Alcuin was never canonized by anyone except Taliaferro)(3) will continue at least until Taliaferro dies. Or, as he would put it, until he moves into his next “transition.” But the arrangement with SMU, which has lasted almost eight years since Ann Cox’s death, has left some of the SMU clergy wincing. SMU chaplain William M. Finnin suggested that the Perkins School of Theology discontinue Taliaferro’s $650-a-month lease on Selecman Hall, but to no avail. This fall, Tolly’s group was permitted to move across campus to the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The lease amount was unchanged.

“I think they have worn out their welcome,” Finnin argues. “First of all, he’s getting a very cheap ride. They pay an obscenely minimal amount, and as far as I can tell he is very well funded.” Tolly’s lifestyle indeed surpasses that of the average priest. St. Alcuin’s budget is simple. The draw from the weekly offering (usually around $500) goes toward rent of the hall and other church expenses, such as Tolly’s Cadillac and the church rectory, his house on Belclaire Avenue. What’s left over is for Tolly’s discretionary use, along with the money he makes from the classes and psychological counseling.

“It’s sort of a play church,” Finnan says in a tone resembling a pastoral sneer. Finnin insists his opposition is mainly for business reasons and principle, but he has little regard for Taliaferro’s theology. “What the group has put together is an eclectic New Age philosophy that has very little resemblance to biblical Christianity and that allows them to be very complacent with the wealth they’ve accumulated, earned or inherited.”

Taliaferro’s intensely protective disciples scoff at any such criticism and shun publicity. “You can not sum up in one did-dly-wa article what impact this man has had on the city,” says Paula Dennard, the widow of a Dallas investment banker. “People are different after they are around him,” she says. “They are saying, ’What is the meaning of life? What is its purpose? How can we link up hearts and souls for building peace?’ But if you put some of this in a magazine, people will think we’re crazy.”

Wanda Shannon, self-made stockbroker, real estate agent and former president of the Children’s Arts and Ideas Foundation, is one of the few working women among Tolly’s longtime female followers in the Wednesday class. She acknowledges that many of Tolly’s followers rely on him as a “crutch.” But she adds, “What he has said many times is that the very rich have the same problems as the very poor and having money doesn’t make you any better than anyone else. He has taught them to be unselfish,” she says. “He has taught them even if they have servants, to help the servants.”

Most of us, Taliaferro preaches, are running around like so many disconnected transistors, squandering our energies. The purpose of life is to learn, he teaches, and most of us are flunking the test. Those who don’t learn do it over in life after life. Meanwhile, he instructs those with money to use it for good purposes or risk losing it all like the Hunt brothers. Karma, he says, is a sort of Robin Hood.

“It always comes back to an individual having a purpose, whether you’re a capitalist or whatever you’re doing,” explains Jim Reid, president of Dallas’ Southern Dallas Development Corporation, who frequently attends Tolly’s church in blue jeans, leather sandals and a necklace made from antique Chinese stones.

The recurring villains in Tolly’s sermons are all organized religions, particularly fundamentalists, right-wingers and whatever Republican administration happens to be in power. “The primary cause of mental illness is religion,” he proclaimed in a feistier moment. Another time, Tolly declared modern abortion “a very great contribution to the human race… It doesn’t make any difference to the soul because the soul that needs an incarnation is going to find another body anyway.”

But there is one point on which Tolly agrees with some of the strictest fundamentalists: His God is a capitalist-an enlightened capitalist, of course. At the top of Taliaferro’s spiritual hierarchy are philanthropists and businessmen, not Mother Teresa. Asked if he’s known anyone who has come close to karmic perfection, Taliaferro shakes his head “no”. But then he goes on to praise the Rockefellers as some of the most advanced beings.

“The capitalistic system is just a system of psychic consciousness brought down to the material plane,” Taliaferro once said. “And it was revealed to the Rothschilds by the masters… The capitalist system is a system of creativeness. It’s not the profit system.”

As for those of his flock who don’t have millions, Taliaferro insists that they can influence the course of history by sending out thoughts of love and peace. It’s a fairly effortless salvation, some of Tolly’s critics point out. “In Christianity,” says Finnin of SMU, “we call that cheap grace-the idea that you don’t have to get your hands dirty.”

ROY WILLIAMS is discussing the divine order of all things and his agenda for “social action” over pasta salad and coffee at Massimo da Milano. Here, in the heart of North Dallas’ boutique belt on Lovers Lane, about 20 Tolly-ites assemble as they do every Tuesday after Taliaferro’s evening class. Williams, holding court at one table, describes his spiritual journey. A follower of Taliaferro for more than a decade and an initiated Rosicrucian, Williams filed the lawsuit that eliminated at-large representation at Dallas City Hall and essentially forced the 14-1 council plan. “The belief system we operate out of in dealing with Father Taliaferro is that you’re drawn to places and to people that you’re supposed to be with and I think through my search for self-realization I came across the most powerful vehicle in my environment, which was Father Taliaferro,” Williams explains. That’s the long way of saying that he was introduced to Taliaferro’s church through a woman he was having a conversation with at La Madeleine, his unofficial office near SMU. In this lifetime, Williams has forsaken steady employment so that he could fulfill his mission-whether that meant berating the City Council, calling news conferences or taking the city to federal court. “It is my belief this is something I set out to do in another lifetime and I’m just finishing up what I left off,” he explains.

Taliaferro is quick to distance himself from Williams. For that matter, he doesn’t endorse all the extracurricular ideas of most of his followers, many of whom have run the mystical gamut from fortune telling to fire walking to peyote rituals. He calls them novices, or simply, “the little children.”
As the night wears on, these aspiring mystics get weary of mysticism, and the talk drifts to other subjects: to Mexican vacations and Chinese food, to movies and automobiles.

Gary Blackburn, a thirtyish real estate broker from Irving, explains to a visitor the power of the mind over not only matter, but over the Mercedes-Benz. Five years ago, before he began his mystical quest, Blackburn, who was driving a Camaro, promised a friend he would soon be driving a Mercedes. The next day, he walked into a dealership, climbed into a sedan and breathed in the scent of factory leather. A year later, he was driving a midnight blue 190E. “Visualization is the way you make things happen,” he said, quick to add that his first concern is with making the world a better place-not acquiring luxury sedans. “I visualize peace on earth before I visualize anything of a personal nature,” says Blackburn. “I don’t think my purpose with Father Taliaferro is to go out and make a million dollars-even though I know I will.”

FOR A MAN WHO PROCLAIMS THE WON-der in everything, Taliaferro is remarkably discontent about the state of the world. While most of the country was celebrating a decisive victory in the Persian Gulf war, Taliaferro lamented, “We haven’t progressed one iota since Roman times.” Such statements have helped Taliaferro gather up many of those estranged from traditional churches.

Shannon Wynne, who runs a temple of Dallas’ art-money-fashion set in the Quadrangle’s 8.0 restaurant, turned to Tolly’s teachings in the mid-1980s after indulging his curiosities in UFOs and “spirit forms.” “I did channeling and everything else-a lot of it was bullshit.” says Wynne. “Father Taliaferro is very hip when it comes to reality. You don’t feel like you’re sitting with your old-time type priest-he’s cynical, and political. Some of what he says I accept, some of it I’m not intellectual enough to accept or I don’t want to accept.”

Even for the open-minded, some of Taliaferro’s ideas can be difficult to fathom. He professes with certainty that the souls of those on earth will travel to another planet, for example, and that one day another “great master” by the name of Koot Hoomi will assume divine stewardship of the earth’s affairs. “He [Koot Hoomi] is slated to be the person who will function in the office of the Christ,” Tolly told one of his evening classes. “Just as when the Queen of England dies her son will take her place, so when the Christ goes to another position, there will be one who will take his place as a human being.”

Later, asked where he gets these ideas, Taliaferro says that it would not be appropriate for the general public to judge him out of context. But when pressed, he explains that such principles are based on “esoteric Buddhism.” Yes, but does he really believe it? “I don’t believe anything,” he answers obliquely. Then he chuckles. “I don’t close my mind to anything either.”

Even at their most absurd, Taliaferro’s ideas seem pretty harmless-with one exception . The most troubling part of his creed has nothing to do with interplanetary travel. It is his notion that karmic law can account for the most brutal of human acts. “The Holocaust was done to the Jews because they, when they were not Jews, did it to others,” Tolly explained last spring, not for the first time, to a group in Jimmie Lawrence’s living room.

Strangely, even the Jews who follow Tolly don’t take offense. Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who led Dallas’ Temple Emanu-El for more than a decade ending in 1983, is a longtime friend and pupil who calls Taliaferro a ‘great teacher’ and says such statements are not anti-Semitic. “He’s a very complicated person,” says Bemporad. “You can’t take it in a literal sense. You have to take it in a psychological sense. In the way that the things you condemn in others are what you have to work on yourself.”

Taliaferro makes no apologies, no matter how cruel his laws of the universe seem- -no matter how close to the heart of his life those laws strike. One morning last May, Taliaferro’s 10-day-old granddaughter, born months prematurely, died of an unexplained tumor. A few hours later, he sat in his office. He was distracted, but there were no tears. He was on and off the phone to his wife trying to make arrangements for a family funeral. Surely, if anyone were an innocent victim, this premature child would be one, a visitor offers. And what of other victims? Rape? Child abuse? Incest? “People are not victims,” Taliaferro says, his voice almost a whisper. “And people are not innocent.”

Tolly, of course, is expected to have an answer for almost everything. The wise man went on musing about the small life and the death, trying to fit the tragedy into the cosmic order he has preached for decades. Perhaps its meaning was to instruct the family. Maybe it would help to educate the medical community. It was even possible, he said, that something great and wonderful could come from it.

Correction Notes to this article in post publication:
1. Tolly was NEVER deposed/defrocked by the bishop. However he did resign his position as an active priest in the Episcopal Church and wrote an article to D Magazine that published the article. It was subsequently printed in their next issue. Once an ordained priest, always a priest.

2.There was never a custom at St Alcuin’s Community Church of genuflection. Those who wished to do so from choice or habit to honor the holiness of communion felt free to do so.

3. If you google Alcuin of York, IT SAYS ” Alcuin was later canonized as a Saint and remains recognized by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox traditions. “

BIO for Father Taliaferro
A.A. TALIAFERRO was founder and pastor of St. Alcuin’s Community Church in Dallas, Texas. For more than 40 years, he lectured and taught classes on comparative religion and applied modern mysticism. He was an active member of the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) for more than 50 years, and was also a member of the Masonic Order. Fr. Taliaferro attended Berkley Divinity School at Yale University and Seabury Western Theological Seminary at Northwestern University, and holds an honorary doctorate of divinity from Seabury. In 1945 he founded St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas. He remained as rector of that church until 1962, when he resigned to devote himself to writing, lecturing and counseling. An accomplished musician, Fr. Taliaferro studied orchestral conducting with the great French conductor Pierre Monteux from 1935 to 1938. He studied music at Brown University and the University of Michigan from 1930 to 1935, receiving his master’s degree from Michigan in 1938. ​