In memory of John Perry

I’ll never forget when I first met John Perry. He showed up at the Circle house in Sedona one day in the early nineties and bought, I think, all the newsletters and books we had. He clearly connected with what he read, since it wasn’t too long before he and Brenda Vanderhoff moved to Sedona, in the fall of 1994.

In Sedona, he encountered our emphasis on Workbook practice and, rather than being put off by the discipline, he took to it like a duck to water, forming a lifelong habit of diligent practice, coupled with reminding himself that his innocence was intact even when he didn’t practice. A few years later he began hearing an inner voice, which he consulted for everything he did, thus fulfilling another aspect of the Workbook’s discipline.

But he didn’t hole himself up in that one dimension of the Course. In our Text classes, he would often talk about how rich the Text study was for him, and how foundational the Text was for really understanding and experiencing the Workbook.

And he didn’t stop there, either. I remember once when he and I were talking and seeking guidance for him. I felt I heard Jesus say to John, “I’ve got a job for you.” It was a very meaningful moment for both of us. Our best guess was that that job was about teaching the Course, especially being a teacher of individual pupils, being a Course mentor. With that thought, John went to Silver City, New Mexico and joined a study group there, but no one seemed to want to follow him into the kind of laser-focused Course immersion that he represented.

Then, in 2000, he returned to Sedona for the program we called “This One Year We Give to God,” in which we went through both the Text and Workbook in one year, with daily classes for each. John really connected with this, and in it seemed to find the teaching template he was looking for. He began taking groups online through the Text, using the schedule we had devised and supplying his own commentary, along with color-coded insertions from the Urtext. (Five years later, he suggested we do the same, which was the genesis of our Text Reading Program and Illuminated Text series.)

His teaching function was now getting underway in earnest. A group in Kamloops, British Columbia, facilitated by Barb Hembling, embraced him as their teacher. He began to take on pupils, and his roster grew to the point where every time I turned around it seemed I heard that someone else was one of John’s pupils. It was enormously gratifying for me to see the guidance “I’ve got a job for you” fulfilled in the very form we had envisioned so many years earlier.

In John’s obvious devotion to his pupils and students he united with the final volume of the Course, the Manual for Teachers, and its focus on extension. It was very difficult for him, in fact, toward the end when he couldn’t keep up his communication with his pupils. He seemed more distressed about that than about losing feeling in his feet, as if, of the two, his pupils were more truly a part of him.

One of the genuinely rare things about John is that he embraced the Course in the round. He didn’t just huddle around a small clutch of pet Course ideas. He inhabited the Course as a full-fledged path, as a complete mode of existence. He immersed himself in the study of it, in the practice of it, and in the extension of it.

It was as if nothing else mattered. Something he said recently explained a lot to me. He said, “I’ve always done just one thing. That’s why when I was in sales I always sold the most, because that’s all I focused on.” When he said that, the penny dropped for me. I realized that was why he had been able to give himself so completely to this path, why it was all he did.

Most of us are living a human life, and onto this life we tack on a spiritual path, to take the edge off life’s pain and emptiness. John did it the other way around. He was walking his spiritual path. He was, as his long-time email address said, “stumbling up to God.” And onto that he tacked on a human life.

I think that’s why it didn’t seem that hard for him to give up the human life. He clearly had reasons for which he wanted to stay. He wanted to be here with his wife. He wanted to keep serving his pupils. Despite his diagnosis, he committed to continue teaching his part of the Workbook telephone class this year. He even signed up for the two trainings we are doing soon in Sedona, agreeing to take on a central role in one of them, and with the other, taking part in the telephone classes right up until he went into hospice care. What was real for him simply continued, even as the unreal was winding down.

And that’s how I think of John now. His commitment to what is real was so rock-like, so unshakably single-minded, that I can only imagine it continuing, wherever he is, whatever he is doing. The only change I can imagine is that it has simply expanded in depth and scope and intensity, as he comes into more direct contact with the radiant truths that he has relied on and rested in for so long. While he is on to bigger and better things, though, a hole has been left behind in his passing, in the lives of so many. He will be sorely missed.

So, farewell, dear brother. If only more students embraced the Course in the way that you did! But perhaps the light you have left behind, in your writings and in the lives you touched, will make it easier for them to take the same road you took. And those of us who knew you will, in our own efforts to stumble up to God, forever draw strength from your example.

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I invite any of you to record your reminiscences of John, whether short or long, and I will send along to his family.