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Peace Pilgrim - Prophet of Peace
by Ellen Louise Kahne, Reiki Master

       For over 28 years and 25,000 miles Peace Pilgrim walked the talk of a prophet of peace for humankind. It wasn’t merely that she spoke of peace or taught peace, she embodied Peace. Leaving behind her given name and all her earthly possessions to walk on faith, she became a living prayer for peace, a dynamic teacher who actualized inner peace, peace on all levels throughout her life itself. Standing for a moment in her well traveled shoes , inspired by her “Divine Law of Love,” we see Peace Pilgrim’s vision of a Golden Age of Peace in our time, for all times to come.

    Prophets arise in response to great need in times of dimensional shift and struggle. They are messengers bringing us clarity of vision as they connect and focus our purpose on right action as we move through dynamic historical changes. A prophetic voice is both a solution for the times in which it is heard and a message of inspiration for all future times. Adding one powerful drop of undiluted Universal Truth of a prophet’s life and words catalyzes and changes an ocean of doubt, confusion and spiritual misdirection across all boundaries for generations. 

    During the 20th century, a century of tribal hatreds, unprecedented wars and carnage which poised humanity on the brink of nuclear annihilation, three prophets arose in response to their times to transform the way we think of and treat one another, to reconnect us to our inner knowing, to teach us the tools for inner Peace, so that we can transform our society in the way of Peace. They held for us the mirror of our behaviors and possibilities and urged us to balance and transform both inwardly and as a society. Mohandas Gandhi was the prophet of non violent resistance, he raised his voice and spirit to lift the yoke of colonial repression, class prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet, navigated the intuitive waters of universal wisdom for the past, present and future progress and healing of each individual soul. He electrified our overview of energetic shifts (changes) in individuals and in the earth itself. Peace Pilgrim was the prophet of Peace, accompanied only by inner spiritual guidance, she walked over 25,000 miles fearlessly, with clarity of insight and purpose, as an emissary of Peace.

Peace Pilgrim - Preparing For Prophecy 

    Fifteen years before she began her pilgrimage for peace in 1953, Mildred Lucette Norman Ryder experienced the dark night of her soul. As she walked for hours though the woods seeking direction for her life, she came upon a clearing in the forest which became the clearing in her soul. There, she turned over her life to God with the intention of serving Him in any way He would guide her. She said “here I am...take all of me, use me as you will...I withhold nothing.” Immediately, she came into balance and wholeness. From that moment to the end of her life, Mildred experienced perfect health and she knew the purpose of her life would always be working for peace. Fifteen years intervened between her spiritual transformation and the beginning of her pilgrim’s journey. These years were filled with preparation, service and spiritual growth which enabled her to achieve inner peace and actualize the commitment she had made to God.

    Peace Pilgrim came from an economically poor background. She was born in 1908 in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, a town founded by her German grandfather who left Europe to get away from constant wars. As the eldest of three children, Mildred grew up on a small poultry farm enriched by the love of her parents, three unmarried aunts and an uncle, in her unusual extended family. 

    Mildred’s sister, Helene Young, has said “we were brought up to think for ourselves, not to follow like sheep.” Peace Pilgrim and her siblings were raised by non violent people, “free thinkers who favored social justice.” The children weren’t given any formal religious training, but were allowed to explore their spiritual connection as they were individually guided to do so. Peace Pilgrim attended her first church service at sixteen, as a wedding guest. Near the end of her pilgrimage, she entered her “religion” in a guest book as “Universal Truth.” 

    Mildred’s spiritual development came through her familiarity and connection with nature, through her personal observation of the causality of change all around her. Her understanding of spiritual forces unfolded naturally as she realized that the poetry of universal energy was powered by the mathematically coherent glue of Universal Truth and the “Divine Law of Love.” In adulthood, she spoke of “the energy which is manifesting in living things,” saying she saw “the life spark.” 

    As a student, Mildred Norman was “at the top of her class, on the debate team, a dynamic person, devoid of all fear.” She developed an amazing amount of self discipline and focus, even as a young child she prioritized according her rule of “first things first” to accomplish her goals. She interpreted the Golden rule as “if you want to make friends, be friendly.” In adulthood, she amended this to “if you want to make peace, be peaceful.” 

    Mildred found that she did not have to be a follower to be well liked. When her friends urged her to use alcohol and cigarettes she would not succumb to peer pressure. She often turned the other cheek. Whenever she met resentment and hostility in others she responded with kindness and understanding.

    Mildred Norman spent fifteen years prior to beginning her journey as Peace Pilgrim in a process of spiritual maturation and preparation. She overcame petty bigotries which surfaced in her teen years, according to her sister Helene. She examined and discarded her love of material possessions, including personal vanity and a love of fashionable clothes. Formerly an enthusiastic meat eater, she became a vegetarian, as she decided not to eat anything which she wouldn’t kill. Mildred began the practice of service which was the heart of her prophecy. As a committed pacifist, Mildred’s refusal to support what she termed “legalized murder” in World War II was instrumental in precipitating her divorce from her husband, Stanley Ryder. 

    Prior to her pilgrimage, Mildred lived in Philadelphia. She worked with Scott Nearing, the father of the back to the land movement, who had been arrested and tried under the Espionage Act of 1917 for championing war resistance, as the executive chairman of the Peoples Council, a peace coalition. She joined Father Divine, founder of the Peace Mission Movement. Also, she was a member of the Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom, the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission and the United Nation’s Council of Philadelphia. Mildred was both a committed peace activist and a volunteer who helped the sick and elderly in her community. 

    Later, Mildred was the first woman to walk the Appalachian trail alone. She did this in preparation for her life’s work, her pilgrimage on foot. She had seen a map marked with the path of her first pilgrimage across the United States revealed to her in a vision.

    According to Helene, Mildred was “training herself, making herself hearty for what she was planning to do.” Part of her preparation was the severing of old relationships. This was included in what she termed “the struggle between the lower self and the higher self.” In the midst of her fifteen year long struggle to let go of personal ego to reach spiritual maturity, Peace Pilgrim caught her first glimpse of inner peace. She later told a young follower, “I have a secret but I would not call it that. There was a time long ago when I died, I really died to myself.” She was reborn as Peace Pilgrim, the phoenix arisen from her own ashes.

Peace Pilgrimage

    Peace Pilgrim was propelled by the urgent need of her times to begin her pilgrimage at the Rosebowl Parade in 1953. She was motivated by a deep spiritual commitment to peace and spurred to action by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the McCarthy era and the Korean War. She was able to cast off the comforts of family and friends, the material life of “things” as she called it, for a guided life of higher purpose, that of bringing the message of peace on every level to anyone who would listen.

    Peace Pilgrim walked without any institutional backing, without possessions of any kind except the simple dark blue clothing she wore, a pen, a portable toothbrush and a comb. Without so much as a penny in her tunic pockets, without a protective coat or a pair of gloves, she determined to live completely on faith “to walk until given shelter, to fast until given food” and to live as a “wanderer...a wayfarer, until mankind has learned the way of peace.” She felt that humanity was at a “crossroads” and had a drastic choice between “annihilation or a Golden Age of Peace.” 

    The intent embodied in her prophecy of peace was to “overcome evil with good, falsehood with Truth, hatred with love.” As she walked her talk, as she lived it, Peace Pilgrim had been given the spiritual gift of her message through her inner communion with God. The principles and “Divine law of Love” which she spoke of were not original to Peace Pilgrim, what was original was that she embodied them, lived them simply, completely and fully and she carried them on foot for twenty eight years with boundless energy and enthusiasm until her death in July, 1981.

    Peace Pilgrim’s tunic made her contacts with people, she said “in the kindest way.” She never approached anyone or asked for anything, she was visible as a walking sign post along the roadway of change. On the front of her tunic was written “Peace Pilgrim,” on the back the message of her walk was emblazoned along with the mileage she had covered for peace. After walking over 25,000 miles, Peace Pilgrim stopped counting miles in 1964, then she reordered her priorities. Speaking and writing took precedence over walking, and although she still walked, she accepted rides to lectures and appearances. 

    Walking on faith meant just that. Peace Pilgrim never accepted more than she needed or allowed “things to possess” her, as she had said. When one of her hosts offered an apple as she was leaving, she gently chided her “are you trying to ruin my connection?” As the person offered her a sheet of stamps for her correspondence, she said “I need only three stamps, thank you.” 

    Peace Pilgrim traversed the United States seven times during her pilgrimage. She walked into Canada and Mexico. As a prophet for her times, she developed the ability to engage media attention and to meet and attract supporters. She led walking trips of Alaska and Hawaii which were sponsored by her devoted followers. She spoke at churches, lectured at colleges and universities, appeared on television and radio programs across the country, always in the cause of peace. Her talk was peppered with humor and with personal insights, her “lessons” as she called them. She captivated her audiences through the obvious love and kindness which poured through her, by her rational defense of peace and non violence on all levels, and through the example of her boundless energy and vibrancy which Peace Pilgrim said was powered by “inner peace.” She said “energy comes to me as easily as air.” 

    Peace Pilgrim attributed her joyful demeanor to knowing God. She said, “as I lived according to the highest light I had, I discovered that other light was given; that I opened myself to receiving more light as I lived the light I had.”

    Peace Pilgrim became the message of peace. She said “I have found inner peace,” not I am seeking inner peace. Shortly after beginning her pilgrimage, she decided not give reporters any information about her early life, not her given name or her background, as this was unimportant, only the message of peace was important. She authored a pamphlet called “Steps Toward Inner Peace” and a series of newsletters, but did not write any books during her lifetime even though she was urged to do so by her followers and friends.

Peace Pilgrim Lights the Way - Friends Of Peace Pilgrim

    On July 25, 1981, Peace Pilgrim made her “transition to a freer life.” This was how she expressed her death to her followers, years before the fatal automobile accident which took her life. On the night before the accident, Peace Pilgrim ended her talk early. She had been looking up during her talk, suddenly, she turned to walk through her audience, touching each person and saying “bless you.” She had told one of her young followers what she wanted “when my work on this planet earth is done, that I move out, that I go very quickly.”

    Several months after her death, some of Peace Pilgrim’s followers gathered in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a memorial service to her extraordinary life. John and Ann Rush, who had first met Peace Pilgrim on her trek across Canada in 1957, decided to compile a book along with three other friends. They assembled the book from Peace Pilgrim’s writings and from the videotape footage of interviews conducted during her pilgrimage. Five thousand copies of the book, Peace Pilgrim - Her Life and Work In Her Own Words, were initially printed and distributed free of charge to share the memory of Peace Pilgrim with others. The book has become a world wide spiritual classic. In the past seventeen years, a half million copies of the book have been distributed in ten languages, one million “Steps Toward Inner Peace” pamphlets have been distributed in twenty five languages. The Rushes have dedicated their retirement to their unpaid labor of love, distributing books, video and audio tapes, and newsletters, along with thousands of others who have donated voluntary gifts of time, money and energy to spread the message of peace exemplified by Peace Pilgrim. The Rushes head the non-profit, tax exempt, all volunteer organization known as “Friends of Peace Pilgrim” headquartered in their home at 43480 Cedar Avenue, Hemet, California 92544 (909-927-7678).

    Friends of Peace Pilgrim and the energy and light of Peace Pilgrim’s prophecy have inspired peace projects around the world, including peace walks, a legal mediation program based on her principles which has resolved over 25,000 cases with an unheard of 80 percent success rate, and an “inner peace” program pioneered at Arizona State Prison which has dramatically cut the recidivism rate of released prisoners. The light of Peace Pilgrim’s message continues to transform all who hear her words, all who touch her life and make a decision to follow her “Steps Toward Inner Peace.” 

Peace Pilgrim’s Steps Toward Inner Peace - As She Lived Them

“These are the steps toward inner peace that I wanted to share with you...
There’s nothing new about this. This is universal truth”

“1. Assume right attitudes toward life.”
“2. Live good beliefs.”
“3. Find your place in the Life Pattern.”
“4. Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.”

“Then I discovered there were some purification's required of me...”

“First, purification of the body.....clearing physical living habits”
“Second, purification of thought.....If you realized how powerful your
thoughts were, you would never think a negative thought”
“Third, purification of can come to the point of oneness of desire
just to know and do your part in the Life Pattern....
is there anything else more important to desire?”
Finally, “purification of motive....your motive, if you are to find inner peace,
must be an outgoing motive---it must be not getting “

“Now, the last part.....the relinquishments....once you’ve made the first relinquishment, you have found inner peace”

“First...the relinquishment of self-will....if you are motivated 
to do or say a mean thing....deliberately turn around
and use the same energy to do or say a good thing instead”
“Second...the relinquishment of the feeling of separateness....
we are all cells in the body of humanity”
“Third...the relinquishment of all attachments...anything that you cannot
relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you”
“you do not possess any other human being...they must live in
accordance with their own inner motivations”
“Fourth...the relinquishment of all negative feeling....if you don’t live in the
present moment you never get around to living at all”

“No outward thing.....can hurt me inside, psychologically. I recognized
that I could only be hurt psychologically by my own wrong actions
which I have control over...”

Copyright Ellen Louise Kahne, all rights reserved.

    Ellen Louise Kahne, founder and president of the Reiki Peace Network and Reiki University, is the publisher of online Reiki Magazine which appears on her website, Ellen is a performance poet, freelance writer and peace activist. She teaches and practices Reiki, which Ellen defines as “a Universal pathway to Peace and balance through the loving energy of hands-on healing.”

This article first appeared as the feature (lead) article in the April/May 2000, issue of The New Millennium - A Journal for Times of Change and Transformation on "The Way of Peace" (New Millennium Magazine is the bimonthly publication of the Association of Research and Enlightenment and the Edgar Cayce Foundation).

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