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The Story of  Response Day

Doris Chase Doane handing a box of Response Day letters to Elbert Benjamine

How the Annual Fundraising Day Began

by DW Sutton

The Rising Star magazine was first published by Church of Light member Mildred Schuler in January, 1938. It was a companion to The C of L Quarterly and in the December 1939 edition the following resolution was announced:

Be it resolved that December the twelfth, birthday of our president, Elbert Benjamine, be known as RESPONSE DAY, when we will express appreciation each year for benefits received from The Church of Light, and make such financial contribution as we are able to do for the promotion of the work.

Be it further resolved that Headquarters be requested to include with the September Quarterly each year a statement to this effect so that the largest possible number of interested persons may know about it.

A list of Church of Light members in favor of the resolution was then presented. There were 102 names on the list. The resolution continued:

Recognizing the weight of the issue, we believe that the wishes of this thoughtful and sincere group should receive consideration by those who make the Quarterly and the many thousands of its readers.

Credit for first suggesting this campaign is due Vera Bolton, Honolulu, T.N., who had in mind the march of dollars for infantile paralysis sufferers, on the occasion of President Roosevelt’s birthday.

Thanks, everyone for the fine spirit shown, and thanks for testing to the utmost your response-ABILITY on Response Day.

Mildred Schuler.
Response Day

The first Response Day was held December 12, 1939. It was kept secret from Elbert Benjamine – Mildred Schuler had deleted references to it from The Rising Star magazines sent to headquarters. The first he knew of it was when his wife, Elizabeth, placed before him 75 letters each with a birthday greeting and each containing a contribution ‘for the promotion of the work’. There were 80 separate contributors and the total amount donated was $205.50. That’s about $3,340 in 2012. He later wrote that the first Response Day ‘will become historic in church history.’

But because Response Day was established so that members of The Church of Light could ‘express appreciation each year for benefits received from the Church’ its story really starts 30 years earlier, in April 1910, when Elbert Benjamine was 27 years of age. That’s when he gave his definite and irrevocable promise to The Brotherhood of Light to write the 21 Courses of lessons on the three branches of occult science. That’s when he committed his life to presenting the Hermetic worldview to the new Aquarian Age civilization and to the re-establishment of The Religion of the Stars here on Earth.

Elbert Benjamine did not come from a privileged financial background. Prior to becoming a doctor his father ran a small dairy farm in Adel, Iowa, and up to 1910 Elbert earned a living as a professional astrologer and by doing other paid work.

On March 21, 1914 he commenced writing the B of L lessons and in1915 he moved to Los Angeles and all the time he was doing paid work to make ends meet. In Los Angeles he continued to write the lessons, began teaching private and public classes, established the Brotherhood of Light and started to recruit members. The classes, which were free, produced the best astrologers in America.

To get a first – working – draft of each course of lessons Elbert had to write one book per year. In 1916 he wrote Course 2, Laws of Astrological Signatures – published in 1922 in mimeograph form. In 1916-17 he wrote Course 4, Ancient Masonry – published in 1917. In 1918-19 he wrote Course 6, Kabbalism (The Sacred Tarot) – published 1922. In 1919 he wrote Course 1, Laws of Mediumship and Spiritism (Laws of Occultism) – published in 1919. In 1919 he wrote Course 5, Esoteric Psychology – published in 1922. In 1919 he wrote Spiritual Alchemy – published in 1922.  And in 1919-20 he wrote Religion of the Stars (Spiritual Astrology) – published in 1922. All the time he continued to teach astrology classes and B of L psychic development classes.

In 1919 Elbert married Elizabeth Dorris and this ‘marriage made in heaven’ was very fortunate in more ways than one. Elizabeth owned her own home so he no longer had to pay rent and he now had a working partner to assist him in re-establishing The Religion of the Stars. In 1920 he published the first B of L Annual and it was posted to all Brotherhood of Light members for free.

In 1924 Elbert, with the assistance of Lenora Conwell, established the Brotherhood of Light Astrological Research Department. That commenced a 30 year astrology revolution during which he and Lenora re-wrote the astrology text book. For the first time ever astrology and the birthchart were subject to scientific investigation and statistical analysis and all the new astrological facts were immediately incorporated into The Brotherhood of Light lessons. In 1927 The Brotherhood of Light annual became the B of L Quarterly; and by December 1928 Elbert had recruited 9,457 active members who were studying the lessons and learning astrology.

In June 1929 Brotherhood of Light Astrological Report No. 1 – What makes a movie star? – was published in The B of L Quarterly. And between then and 1954 seventy-five research reports were published in the Quarterly and The Rising Star. By now Elbert was writing the lessons, teachings classes, conducting research, promoting The Brotherhood of Light and recruiting new members. But in 1930 an unwelcomed financial-economic disaster struck in the form of the Great Depression. In 1940 Elbert explained:

For three years ending with the winter of 1929-30 the sales of the lessons were excellent and The Brotherhood of Light employed more persons full-time than now. Then, along with the incomes of other enterprises, Church of Light income began to shrink until in 1933 it was less than half of what it had been in 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930. There was no money on hand with which to pay the salaries of those who had been working with Mrs. Benjamine and me at headquarters. One at a time we had to let them all go. The work was far more than Mrs. Benjamine and I could handle alone. We had a shop and classroom downtown which required looking after, the mail order department, with innumerable letters to answer, printing to get done, and various other matters that was quite beyond my time and strength. [He didn’t even mention the lesson writing and statistical research that were probably his top priorities.]

Then in March, 1934 he completed writing the initial, first draft, of the B of L lessons. That year all the courses were published in mimeograph form with 8 courses published in cloth-bound books. But there was no time to sit back and relax. New evidence-based astrological and other information was being discovered and each new discovery had to be incorporated into the lessons. So, no sooner had he completed their first writing than it was time to start rewriting, revising and re-publishing.

Elbert Benjamine had been instructed to have all the lessons written and published by 1950 and in 1934 that was sixteen years away. In 1940 he wrote:

If we are to reach people with the facts of astrology, the facts of ESP, and the other facts set forth as The Religion of the Stars, by which Atheistic Materialism can be repelled, we must publish and distribute the literature presenting those facts; and this takes financing.

The Church of Light only has two sources of income from which the lessons must be printed and stock sold replaced, and from which to pay for the distribution of literature by which we interest new students and to inform the public. It derives income from the sale of B of L lessons, books, and other supplies, and from free-will donations.

In 1939 The Church of Light had three research departments: The B of L Astrological Research Department, The ESP Research Department and the B of L Control of Life Research Department and each one was building on Hermetic Astrology’s knowledge-base. But in September 1939 conflict erupted in Europe, the Allies declared war on Germany and World War 2 began. It was a bad sign. Elbert was rewriting and revising the lessons, funds had to be found to get each course published and 1950 was only ten years away.

At this time The Church of Light had many international members and a great deal of its book sale and donation money came from students living in other countries, but with the war the money coming in would be drastically curtailed and this jeopardized the plan to have all the lessons published in book form by 1950. So Response Day in December 1939 came along just in the nick of time. To cut a long story short all the lessons (as they exist today) were published in 1949, but it was a huge financial struggle. Elbert kept his promise, with a little help from all those Church of Light members who year after year kept on making their Response Day contributions. And in 1949, for the first time, all The Brotherhood of Light Courses appeared in book form.

The Church of Light is its Members

In the January 1940 edition of The Rising Star Elbert Benjamine wrote:

The Church of Light is its members. They are bound together and function as a Church, solely on the Upper-Pluto principle of free and voluntary cooperation. You, who read this, if you have become a member by signing and sending in the application form, have an equal interest in The Church of Light with myself, or with any other member. To the extent you are willing and have ability, the same opportunity is present for you to do important Church of Light work. You, as much as I, are The Church of Light.

While naturally I feel a sense of gratification, an appreciation of the kind personal wishes of those who have selected my birthday as the annual occasion on which to make a special appeal for finances ‘for the promotion of the work,’ my egotism suffers no appreciable rise. The thing uppermost in my mind is that Response Day must be so firmly established as an annual institution, and must be made so effective in attracting finances to the Church, that its observance will continue and be a highly beneficial institution, long after you and I have passed to our work on a higher plane.

I look upon this newly established response Day, in which we are given a mandate from the long list of persons who signed the resolution, as published in the December 10, Rising Star, as an opportunity by which the Church can acquire finances, not only now, but in years after I have passed on.

The amount donated this year will be used to get the last lesson of Course IV Ancient Masonry printed in booklet form and to get the printed course bound in book form. A circular letter which will be sent with the March 1, C of L Quarterly will advertise the printed Course IV, Ancient Masonry; and point out that while none of the material of the MS (manuscript), lessons has been omitted, due to condensation and the fact that the printed booklets can contain considerable more words, there is about 20% new material, and that this new material relates to psychic matters and soul development; expounding discoveries made since the MS. lessons were written.

And judging from past experience, we can expect that enough of the printed Course IV will be sold, as a result of advertising it with the March Quarterly, to finance the printing of the June, 1940, Quarterly. We hope that we will be able in the June Quarterly to push the sale of some of the other lessons sufficiently to be able to finance the printing and distribution of the September Quarterly. We have a mandate to make a Response Day appeal in this September Quarterly. And so must the work go on.

And Response Day contributions on December 12, 2012 will allow the work that was started by Elbert Benjamine in the spring of 1910 to ‘go on’ so that you and others can learn about The Religion of the Stars and the facts of astrology, the facts of ESP, the facts of directed thinking and the facts of induced emotion.

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