Peace Pilgrim, an American Saint and Mystic. Her message is of one inner peace, world peace, love and faith. I recently received the Friends of Peace Pilgrim Newsletter (number 66, Summer 2020) where they featured an article, “Peace Pilgrim’s Advice for Troubled Times” as we are living in an era of a pandemic, economic collapse, and political turmoil. According to the newsletter, when Peace Pilgrim was ten years old, a pandemic flu outbreak struck the United States and the world, with over 15,000 people died in the Philadelphia area (she lived near Philadelphia), and 50 million people died worldwide. In her life time, she experienced the decade long Great Depression in 1929, where 25% of the population was out of work and food lines were common. She lived through two World wars, Korean war, civil rights movement, Vietnam War and Peace Movement and threat of nuclear disaster. This woman had seen crises and suffering.
I had read about Peace Pilgrim many years ago, but, her story was not at the top of my mind lately. Some call Peace Pilgrim a modern day “St. Francis of Assisi”. As I watched a documentary, Peace Pilgrim: An American Sage who Talked her Talk, I felt very reenergized and reinvigorated after the exhaustion of the 2020 pandemic. She described herself as a pilgrim. She defined pilgrim as a wanderer with a purpose. She stated that pilgrimage can involve traveling to a place or having a purpose. She described herself as a Peace Pilgrim, on the journey to promote peace.. This post is a reflection of how this American saint maintained such goodness, depth of faith in her walk for peace through difficult times in the world. I am in awe of her. I cannot truly fathom the depth of her spiritual grounding. But, it gave me great peace reading about her as we are in an era of turbulence politically, economically in the midst of a pandemic. My goal is to share what I understood from reading and watching a documentary about this incredible women, hero of humanity, embodiment of the Sacred. Her words and lived experiences represent such honesty and truth– something we need to hear about more in our world. I have no idea how she maintained such strong faith in her pilgrimage through the years. My hope is that readers find inner peace, and joy in getting to know this incredible woman. As I talked with Jeff Blom (described later), he said ” what is remarkable about her is not content of her message, but that she lived her message” with humanity, authenticity, truth, simplicity and Divinity in a fearless way.
WHO WAS SHE?
Farm Girl to Peace Prophet
Peace Pilgrim (July 18, 1908 – July 7, 1981), born Mildred Lisette Norman, was an American spiritual teacher, saint and mystic. In 1952, she became the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian trail in one season. She wrote that she decided that 1952 is the appropriate time to start a pilgrimage given the Korean war and the country raging with McCarthyism. She talked about McCarthyism included congressional committees considering people guilty without giving them a chance to prove their innocence. She talked about great fear seizing the country and one of the safest responses for people was apathy. She felt that she had to start her journey as a pilgrim in 1952. She defined that the job of a pilgrim is to awaken people from apathy and think for themselves. In January 1, 1953, she adopted the name “Peace Pilgrim” in Pasadena, California. She walked across the United States for 28 years, speaking with others about peace. She died while on her seventh cross-country journey on peace pilgrimage. .
In watching a documentary about her, Peace Pilgrim discussed that she discovered the power of choice and that choices determine a life course. She described an incident when she was a teenager at a party and someone offered her a cigarette and she realized that she can say “NO” and she did so. The documentary has a piece where Peace Pilgrim talks about her divorce and she walked all night to find her purpose. She stated that nearing dawn, she stood in a pool of moonlight and she served herself to be used by a Higher Power. She stated that there is a difference between wanting to serve a Higher Power and then actually doing it. Peace Pilgrim talked about fifteen years of preparation before she could also serve her Higher Power.
Peace Pilgrim’s Message
Despite the troubling times she lived through, her message is consistent. Peace Pilgrim’s message is that the way of peace is to “overcome evil is with good, falsehood with truth, hatred with love”. She believed in our power of thoughts in creating our realities and that a prominent universal law is love. She stated that darkness and evil exists in the world, but, it cannot survive because it is not grounded in love. Her point is that what is grounded in love grows and flowers. She is not affiliated with any religion or wisdom tradition and she stated in the documentary that her religion is “Universal Truth”. She achieved God realization on her own walk.
Peace Pilgrim’s Conceptualization of God
In the video clip, Conception of God , Peace Pilgrim is asked the question “What is your Conception of God”. She stated that she asked this question of “Who Is God?” at age 16 years old and she could not find answers from others. She stated that she woke up after sleep one day and the answer came from within her. She stated that she saw God as “we human beings lumped together, everything in the Universe beyond the (collection of all of us collectively,) … some us, not all of us, some of us give the name God, …others give other names”. She stated that she saw God as the Creative Force and Sustaining Force that makes trees grow and holds the planets in orbit. She added that God is an overall Intelligence which governs the Universe : physical laws govern the material world and spiritual laws govern the spiritual world. She stated that she saw God as “Goodness, Love, Beauty and Kindness”.
She described that in her awakened or enlightened state she view God as an “Ever present, All Pervasive Spirit which binds everything together and she is in God and God is in her and that in relationship with God, there is no loneliness or fear. Her fearlessness is just incredible in that being a woman she wandered through city’s slums, vast wilderness, and never asked for money, food or shelter. She was a homeless pilgrim for about 28 years with inner certainty that her needs were going to be taken care of. This is mind blowing reading about her walk in faith as so genuine and true in our modern world.
To my human mind, I cannot fathom the depth of her faith and fearlessness to wander for peace as a woman. I am a woman fearful of going out for walks in the dark within a gated community without someone else accompanying me. She did this day in and out and she was protected. As I learned about her, I was also stunned that she did not want followers and urged everyone to not just accept other’s teachings but analyze, and deconstruct spiritual teaching and make decision to embrace teaching after critical thinking. Another comment of her that struck me is her belief that the energy one brings out in the world leads to what one encounters in the world. She stated that conflict is based on opposing thoughts and beliefs. She also identified that the greatest obstacle to inner peace and world peace is fear and we learn to hate what we fear. One of her quotes about remedy of the sick world, “The medicine this sick world needs is love. Hatred must be replaced by love, and fear by faith that love will prevail” (Friend’s of Peace Pilgrim Newsletter: Number 66, Summer 2020). Her distinction of the fundamental difference choice of love versus fear is very consistent with other great spiritual masters. Her love for humanity is demonstrated with her belief that all her books should be freely given to anyone who asks as “Truth cannot be sold”.
She summarized her point that to have friends, one must be a friend. Her comments on living in the present, eliminate worry, do good as service even if you may not see the fruits in your lifetime and necessity of exercise are very consistent with themes discussed in different religious/spiritual traditions. Peace Pilgrim also believed that difficulties are opportunities for inner growth. She added that the more difficult the nature of our problems, the greater the potential for our inner growth and development. Her choosing her outlook to live in peace, for peace and cultivate her faith in God and love in the middle of terrible circumstances highlight a core principle of positive psychology and resilience : we may not have control over immediate circumstances, but, we have a choice of how we respond to the situation. It is also consistent with views of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and positive psychology.
Conversation with Jeff Blom
I talked to Jeff Blom on 1-3-2021, who is a volunteer of Friends of Peace Pilgrim, which is an entirely volunteer organization that freely distributes Peace Pilgrim’s books. Mr. Blom stated that “Peace Pilgrim walked for peace for 28 years without ever asking for food or shelter or money”. He stated that she was an American saint and believed that all paths lead to the mountain top (God). He said “She was not affiliated with any organized religious tradition but came to God Realization on her own path and she believed that God’s Grace is for all of humanity, regardless of any particular religious traditions or practices”. He stated that he saw her give two speeches and this “changed his life”. He said that based on Indian culture, there is history of saints and she is an American saint. In India, I grew up with the saying that God sends saints to remind humanity Who God is and How He is in the midst of Humanity. In India, people engage in pilgrimages to visit saints to touch the feet of Divinity, Holiness and the Sacred Realm.
I learned from Jeff that that Friends of Peace Pilgrim distribute free books about her life and peace to anyone requesting copies. They also publish two newsletters every year.
The address: is Friends of Peace Pilgrim, P.O. Box 2207, Shelton, CT 06484. Phone: (203) 926-1581.
Donations to this organization which is totally volunteer based to Keep Peace Pilgrim’s Message, would be appreciated, but not required. Jeff advised that people interested in her books should call the number or access website to request free material. Peace Pilgrim’s books have been distributed far and wide in the world. Friends of Peace Pilgrim have published and distributed over 400,000 copies of the book, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, and over 1.5 million copies of the booklet, Steps Toward Inner Peace, since 1983. Books and booklets have been distributed to over 100 different countries. Translation of book occurred into 12 languages and booklet translated to over 20 languages.
Peace Pilgrim’s Works
Interestingly, her books have been sent to congressional leaders. Peace Pilgrim’s basic philosophy in mediation is that a deal cannot be successful and sustainable unless it a win-win situation, aiming for the highest good for all. Hope this book lands in the hands of our country’s political leaders making decision for the welfare of people in 2021.
“There is NO GLIMPSE OF THE LIGHT without walking the path. You can’t get it from anyone else, nor can you give it to anyone .Just take whatever steps seems seems easiest for you, and as you take a few steps it will be easier for you to take a few more”. Peace Pilgrim