The Story of Nicol Campbell
and his development of The School of Truth
Charles S. Braden, Ph.D.
"SPIRITS IN REBELLION - The Rise and Development of New Thought"
© 1965, Southern Methodist University Press
Dallas, Texas. Reprinted with Permission.
One of the very active groups of New Thought in South Africa is the School of Truth, with headquarters in Johannesburg. Established as the School of Practical Christianity in 1937, it later changed its name. It has centers in several cities of South Africa. In all of these centers lectures are given at stated times, and the centers are open for prayer and meditation as well as consultation. An extensive correspondence is carried on with inquirers - thousands of letters each month, they report - seeking help in every sort of problem that the human individual faces. Prayers are continuous throughout the day, and sessions are held daily in the Johannesburg Chapel, attended by most of the staff.
In the ealier day there was a textbook [My Path of Truth] but this had been discontinued and each member is given, without charge, a copy of the monthly periodical, The Path of Truth, which serves the purpose of instruction.
The magazine carries regularly a list of all centers and meeting places, the schedule of lectures for the month, and some twenty pages or more of articles on a variety of subjects. A typical issue has several pages of extracts from letters to the centers, many of them testimonies to the physical, moral, and economic benefits that have been received from the ministry of the movement. There are articles with such titles as "I Asked You to Pray" and "Doing God's Will." Then comes what is a regular feature of the magazine, a page of "Inspiring Thoughts for Each New Day" - each beginning with a verse of scripture, followed by appropriate comment, and ending with an affirmation. The affirmation generally picks up the thought of the scriptural passage.
Young Ideas [now Stories for Young Readers] is presented by the School of Truth for the younger members of the family that they too may walk in the path of truth and find Love, Happiness, Health, and True Prosperity.
In one issue of The Path of Truth lectures were announced in thirty-eight different centers or halls in thirty-one different towns or cities. In some of the cities there are two or three different local halls where lectures are given. Apparently there is as yet no such thing as a church building. Notices say that the lectures are to be held in memorial halls, town halls, city halls, Masonic halls, one in a banquet hall, and one in Dale Carnegie Auditorium in Pretoria. Eight different lecturers are announced in one number of the magazine.
Some thirty years ago Nicol Campbell was, according to the story of his life written by one of his followers (a student in the School of Truth), a lonely, confused, and quite fearful young man, living at home in Cape Town. His parents were Presbyterian. His grandfather was a Prebyterian minister, so he was brought up in a Christian home. He was a student of the Bible. He believed in God and according to ordinary standards would have been judged a good average Christian young man. But he longed to prove the beliefs he held, and in his sheltered home there seemed no way to do this. Nor did he know any religious leader to whom he could go who had proved these beliefs.
Campbell had no money, but he felt impelled to strike out on his own and put to proof the gospel that he had been taught. He left home with only a few pounds in his pocket and went to another city a thousand miles away. Here he gave away all his remaining cash to a spiritual agency and found himself quite alone and utterly dependent on God for all his physical needs. He got a job, but refused to name a salary. As a result advantage was taken of him by his employer, who paid him nothing. He was often hungry, living chiefly on "office tea," which in that country it is the custom to serve twice daily. He told no one about his financial straits, but extolled the love of God and his unfailing care.
Once he was reduced to the point where he had not even a postage stamp with which to mail a letter which it seemed to him he must write and post. He set off for the post office not knowing how he would succeed in mailing it. But on the way out of the building the caretaker asked him to carry some letters and mail them. He waited a moment, his own letter in hand, while the stamps were being affixed to the letters. "Here, let me put a stamp on that for you," said the caretaker, taking it from him. So the letter got mailed. It was a turning point in his life. This demonstration, small though it seemed, was really the beginning of a career of practical service which was to be blessed richly in the spreading of the Truth message. This small coin became, as it were: "the seed which when planted in the soil of service had to multiply." It had proven to him that his trust had not been misplaced, and from that day to this he has conducted his entire enterprise on the basis of this faith. It was not always easy - there were difficult days through which he and his movement had to pass - but he never ceased to preach utter reliance upon God as the source of supply, and his movement stands as proof of the gospel he preached.
Asked by the writer what it was that first turned him in the direction of New Thought, he replied that it was the reading of a poem by Linda Buntyn Willie, "The Law."
Thou criest out that thou didst ask
And yet didst not receive,
And now thou sayest in thy heart
There is no law of good.
But hadst thou kept the law of good,
Or didst thou, asking, doubt?
Nay, nay, 'twas not the law that failed
'Twas thou who trustedst not.
Is law for Me alone to keep?
Nay, thou must do thy part.
Thou art to ask for naught but good
And asking, never doubt.
That is the law that thou must keep ---
Seek good, and e'er believe.
When thou hast kept this law of good,
Then ask; thou wilt receive.
This, he said, sent him to a deeper study of the New Testament, and when the light broke through he began to put the Master's teaching of the Law of Love into everyday practical living. His own teaching, he continued, has always been based upon what he has proved for himself in working with this Law of Love.
The support of the work he carries on is purely on the basis of voluntary gifts. There is no charge for any of the services of any of its ministers. Even its literature is distributed freely. His book, My Path of Truth is given away, not sold. Over seven thousand copies of it have been freely distributed. [This book may be downloaded from this website without cost.] The magazines, of which some fifty thousand are circulated each month, have no subscription price.
At first Campbell worked only as an individual with individuals whom he met. Then a small group of people, made up, he thinks, of persons who had had their interest aroused by hearing Edna Lister and Harry Gaze lecture, and which met weekly, seeking something on which to depend and to which they might give themselves, asked him to talk to them and explain his belief, revolutionary though age-old, that God was man's sufficiency in everything. Lacking in self-confidence, he could at first only read to them. Many found help through his ministry. Finally he was persuaded to devote his entire time to helping those in trouble. Among those helped were many who were ill, though he never claimed to be a healer, but only a teacher. For, says his student, "it is his contention that in God's expressions there can never be anything that requires healing."
Telling his own story of the finding of the way through contact with Nicol Campbell, this student says that one thing which greatly impressed him was that Campbell always took his own medicine. It was never a question of do as I say, not as I do.
If he asked me to pardon, he pardoned the many who mocked him, went out of their way to hurt him and tried by any and every means to discredit him; if he advocated giving, he gave away his all; and if he assured me that God was my supply, he depended on no other source whatever; and when he insisted that Love was the fulfillment of the law; he radiated it daily. So eventually - not without heart ache, hardships, delays, and disappointments - he succeeded in overcoming evil with good.
But Nicol Campbell was always a seeker and an investigator. Meditating on the words of the Master, "I and my Father are one," he reached a new stage in his religious growth. And when he announced his new discovery, it came as a shock to many of his followers and nearly ten thousand of them fell away, feeling that he had gone beyond the bounds of all reason, when he declared that there is no separation between man and his maker, for man is God expressed. But opposition did not deter him. From that day on he has taught "that there is no such thing as God-and anything else, God-and-man, God-and-sickness, God-and-poverty, misery, frustration, fear, and failure - but only God become visible as phenomena."
Prayer became for him no longer petitioning God for that which he did not have. He took the words, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine," seriously. They signified to him that man and his maker are indivisibly one, and man "as a component part of God" must participate in all that he is and does.
God is Spirit, Life, Love, Wisdom, Intelligence, All-power, All-knowledge, and Omnipresence. Since he is all, he can lack nothing, in him there can be no imperfection, and since man is a component part of God, there can be no imperfection in man; he can lack nothing, is not subject to sickness, poverty, unhappiness, frustration, failure. Man need not, therefore, pray for the removal of these things or the granting of their opposites. What he must do is to discern spiritually the Truth about himself, and in the consciousness of his essential unity with God, claim God's attributes and use them in his service and that of his brethren. "He must deliberately accept his Good and in gratitude give thanks for it, live in the consciousness of it and act in connection with it wisely and well."
The student sums up briefly the teachings of Nicol Campbell, which are of course the teachings of the School of Truth. Their main points are:
1. Man is God in manifestation, not a forlorn entity fighting a losing battle against adverse situations and events.
2. Love is the fulfilment of the law of progress in all good, and only as he loves all things - great and small - does the individual truly live.
3. God was from the beginning, and is, and ever shall be the supply of man's every need, the consummation of his every right desire, his all-sufficiency in all things, his guarantee of complete well-being here on earth, so that in the entire universe he has nothing to fear, nothing to ask for, nothing in which to seek change.
4. His one duty on this and every other plane of consciousness is to love, first God, and then his neighbor - who is himself - as himself.
As one reads the book, My Path of Truth, and the other publications of the movement, he gets the impression that while this is definitely New Thought in its general outlook and in the emphasis on health, prosperity, and happiness, and on affirmation as a technique, it seems to be much more identified with the orthodox Christian faith than some of the American branches. There seems to be a more constant use of the Bible. It is constantly quoted and almost all the lectures and addresses as well as articles start from a biblical text. While there are occasional references to Buddha or some oriental religious concept, these seem to be much less frequent than in other New Thought writings. Indeed, Campbell is at pains, it seems, to discount the karmic theory and that of reincarnation, which is taught even in Unity.
Nor does he make constant use of such terms as "Christ consciousness" or "the Christ within." There seems to be a much more frequent reference to Jesus than in most New Thought writing, and without the distinction usually made between Jesus and the Christ. The average non-theologically-trained Christian might read Nicol Campbell's writings without even suspecting that he stood outside the regularly accepted churches. He is much more likely to speak in terms of prayer than of affirmation, though he does employ affirmation.
He often remarks about the inadequacy of an anthropomorphic God, and again and again speaks of personality in God as a limitation. In a lecture on "Prosperity is Yours" he uses the text, "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass." But, he asks, what does committing mean and who is the Lord? How does one commit his way unto Him? "If," he writes, "you think of Him as a personality, the whole message is lost, but if you read it this way, 'Commit thy way unto the Law, trust also in It, and It shall bring your good to pass,' then you have found the secret of the inner meaning of the promise." Apparently for him the Law is something abstract, not subject to change, while God as person might be changed. Yet all through his writings he speaks in the warmest personal terms of God. God is All-good, All-loving, All-knowing, All-understanding, etc. Every one of the modifying adjectives implies personality.
That, I suspect, is one of the major sources of Campbell's appeal to persons who come out of the evangelical tradition - that he uses much of the old familiar vocabulary, but imports a new meaning into it that they have not always found in their churches. In this respect he reminds one of Brother Mandus of the World Healing Crusade.
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The School of Truth