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A Tree Grew in Harlem

By Kanya Vashon McGhee <drkanya9@hotmail.com>
Founder, Tree of Life Bookstore & Education Center
http://educate-yourself.org/kvm/atreegrewinharlem30oct02.shtml
October 30, 2002

A lengthy consideration of the plight of inner city African-Americans led me to found "The Tree of Life Bookstore & Educational Center of Harlem" in 1969. I was convinced that if other black people could realize and fathom the importance of the immutable Laws of the Universe as stated in ancient historical texts such as that embodied in the Hermetic Principles of Hermes Trismegitus, that a profound transformation would take place in the goal orientation, lifestyle, and spiritual unfoldment among African-Americans in general.

My special target was the dropout, the junkie, the street brother, and the generational ghetto dweller- all presumed destined for lives of misery based on that self constructed 'inner' prison of self limiting thought, reinforced by living a destructive life style in direct opposition to those sacred Universal Laws.

I had already undergone a powerful change in my own life and I wanted other inner city Black people to experience that same surging, River of Life that now flowed unobstructed through my veins, after I had removed those log jams constructed of my own undirected thoughts and replaced them with the Hermetic Laws of Universal Truth. During its decade of operation, The Tree of Life Bookstore witnessed many a miraculous transformation from dropout to scholar, junkie to health guru, and 'sinner to saint' among its patrons.

In many American cities, the Board of Education is dominated by the thinking and planning of the hyper-rational "left-brained" individual. For the greater part of the last century, our educational system has focused almost entirely on the development of left-brain, intellectual capacities at the expense and dismissal of the right-brain, intuitive capacities. In basing the entire educational process on the rational and mechanical, we have been denied our birthright of access to higher creative abilities and consciousness by thwarting and starving those very intuitive channels through which creative energy flows. Embracing an exclusively rational system is like teaching "humming birds" how to ice skate! Too many 'humming birds" drop out into prison and early graves!

Using this insight, we have demonstrated that there is a multi-billion dollar bonanza for all of society once these principles are recognized. We truly need to franchise The Tree of Life nationally and in the process, create tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, each having discovered their Divinely ordained purpose in this present life.

The Dream Takes Wing
 My earliest childhood memories were of having been born with a destiny; a task uniquely my own that awaited me. It was my duty to discover this task and strengthen myself to best accomplish it. I explored numerous careers after graduation from college, including real estate, radio advertising, auto sales, insurance, investment banking, education and community development.

My years in the California elementary school system as a teacher were of particular importance as they demonstrated the futility of the traditional (and failing) methods of education, and allowed me to experiment with alternative, more effective techniques.

I later helped to develop the world's only Black-founded mutual fund, THE EVERYMAN FUND (1966), whose failure in the stock market crash of 1970 allowed me the time to experiment with my fondest dream of all.

Since the age of 15, when I first read "Light On The Path" and "The Prophet", I had been a serious student of the ancient wisdom contained in numerous books that were unavailable in most bookstores. They were the only books I thoroughly loved. My textbooks had meant nothing, compared to the precious treasures within these books which had so strongly influenced my life and shaped my character.

Having learned to my surprise that there were virtually no metaphysical bookstore serving the Black Community in New York City, I gathered a number of books in a shopping bag and began looking for customers in various locations around New York. I also began teaching classes in my apartment, as well as running a small mail order book service.

In 1971, I came to the corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, where I leased a booth in the African Market, located in what came to be later known as THE TREE OF LIFE BUILDING, (formerly Howard's Clothing Store). Amid the noise and buzz of activity of the many merchants sharing the Market, the Tree grew slowly, but steadily, touching lives and awakening minds.

Seeking to reach more of the book buying members of the Harlem community, I set up a table on the sidewalk right outside the Market where I was able to expose to the customers of Oscar Michaux's famous African National Memorial bookstore, the wisdom of the ancient Masters contained in the books of The Tree of Life 'cardtable bookstore'.

Day by day, I stood on the corner, greeting passers-by with a friendly smile and engaging them in conversation. And day by day, I realized that there was something very special happening to these people. It was as if a hidden hunger in their lives was fed and nothing could stop them from seeking to feed it, once the barriers to its existence were removed. Daily, people would come back to ask for more of the keys to unlocking the mysteries of their own Divine nature.

Thwarted in all the basic human drives by a society in which he or she is a virtual stranger, a Black person is driven deeper into him/herself more quickly than his white counterpart in this culture. I found that an increased sensitivity existed among the Black community, which, once opened by the secrets of diet, fasting, meditation and yoga, led to rapid and deep spiritual unfoldment.

The experiment was working far beyond my initial hopes. Four years went by as if overnight, yet one doubts if I will ever forget those long Winter months, standing in the snow with feet and fingers so cold that they have never fully recovered from that exposure. And yet the Tree, grew and grew.

Dr. John E. Moore
In 1973, I was joined by Dr. John E. Moore, an initiate of numerous traditions who had spent years on the road, delving into Indian, Mexican and native Black herbal lore with a clarity of mind and depth of soul that has allowed  him to become one of the most advanced herbal doctors on the North American continent.

The son of a Baptist preacher, Dr. Moore is gifted with that charismatic energy of articulation and inspiration that is the especial province of the Black ministry. He is remembered by many as having drawn crowds of over a thousand people in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in New York with his Sunday lectures on Herbology and Survival.

In a world strangling in its own filth and the excretions of man's darkened struggle through the maddened world of chemical additives and self-created poisoning, Dr. Moore spoke as a voice in the wilderness, exhorting the American black community to return to its roots, to once again to learn to recognize Nature's bounty of healing and nourishing medicines and foods within our own soil.

He is known for countless healings, many of which have been called miraculous. His ongoing Friday night lectures on Herbology were open to the Public and always began promptly at 7:45 pm.

Now, Dr. Moore and I worked side by side. The people came, and they learned, and more people came, and the knowledge continued to spread. Also in that year, the roots of the Tree embedded themselves more firmly in the consciousness of the larger Black community.

The Circle Widens
Civil Rights leader Dick Gregory joined forces with the Tree and perceiving its potential as an inspirational and healing force, Dick began to spread its message in his own talks. Actress Ruby Dee, a student of the Tree of Life, worked to publicize its activities. Word spread to Pete Seeger, Sun Ra, Stevie Wonder, Rev. Kirkpatrick, Ramsey Lewis, Lonnie Liston Smith, and the band, Earth Wind & Fire. International visitors of all races began to visit The Tree of Life in increasing numbers, reporting to their respective communities, the efforts of a spiritual bookstore growing on the most important corner in Harlem.

For decades, the corner of 125th and Lenox Avenue had been the center of black consciousness in the New World. W. E. B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had visited there, carrying the message of the unique role of the black race in the ever-emerging world community. The corner was a focus point for the entire planet, and its energy nourished the young Tree.

1974 marked another major stage of development. As the other merchants gradually began to leave The African Market, the Tree continued to expand until it occupied the entire floor of the building and the basement, a total of 12,000 square feet. A new phase in its growth had come. More limbs sprouted and it grew taller. Classes began to be offered more regularly, now that more space was available.

Room to Grow
Volunteer staff members began the laborious project of beautification of this sturdy, but neglected building. Those early years were also times of cold winters, a barrel of charcoal burning in the center of the store providing the only source of heat. And yet the people continued to come in increasing numbers. Aware of the economic realities facing Harlem, I opened the AQUARIAN SCIENCE FREE READING ROOM. Here, anyone could come and read and study, undisturbed, seven days a week.

School children had said that their home environments were too chaotic to allow them to do their homework, so for them,  the Aquarian Science Free Reading Room became an oasis of peace and quiet in which they could pursue their studies. Yet, it was by far the books, that filled the tables and shelves of The Tree of Life, that were the main attractions of the Free Reading Room.

Universal Laws
What is it that these books say? What is the knowledge "that we know, but do not know, that we know?"

These books remind us of a heritage that stretches far back in the mists of Time, aeons before human life existed on this planet. It is the heritage that was taught in the Schools of Initiation of the ancient civilizations of the Lemurians , the Atlanteans, the Egyptians, and Africans, Indians, Chinese, South Americans, the Near Eastern societies, the indigenous North Americans, the Greeks, the Mayans and Celts. In fact, it was taught throughout the world. Though the outer symbols and words differ from culture to culture and from time to time, the message was always the same:

This knowledge affirms the omnipotence, omnipresence, and oneness of God, first and foremost. It asserts that each of us is a Ray of this Divine Consciousness, a vibrating radiation point of The Divine, interchanging and exchanging in constant relationship to Itself.

That we gaze with the eyes of God into the eyes of God each moment of our lives. That the concept of a final death of the Spirit is inconceivable because that spirit is timeless and will occupy an infinity of bodies in its travels throughout eternity.

That once one begins to understand this consciously, there are methods and techniques that have been passed down from time immemorial to awaken and stimulate this comprehension, to activate the Divine Nature to increasingly greater proportions within one's daily life. That as these practices continue, one begins to perceive through the eyes of Eternity a natural evolution and destiny to which we are all joined.

That humankind is but a part of a much larger, integrated and harmonious whole that includes plants, animals, rocks, minerals, stars, suns, galaxies, microbes, and universes. That all is one, that there is nothing but God and that God, be it called Allah, Ra, Brahman, Jehovah, or Buddha, is infinite!

The knowledge further teaches that as one unfolds daily on the Path, one's relationship to all Life becomes increasingly crucial. That each act and thought is the Cause of its consequent Effects, and that no Cause goes without an Effect. One learns that the nature of God is Love. That each infraction of The Law of Love is punishable by a sense of separation from The Source, which may manifest in countless ways.

That as one progresses and increasingly learns to radiate Love, amazing powers begin to manifest from the hidden realms of Mind. The Tree of Life shares with the ancient Centers of Light, the words, "Man, Know Thy Self !" written over the doorway. For it is within the Self that this knowledge and these powers reside.

A Learning Center
The Tree of Life is not a personality cult or an institution seeking a following. It is instead, an information center in which the keys to this awareness are provided to each person that he or she may unlock the doors of the GodSelf within. The knowledge teaches us that it is the individual's sacred duty to plumb the depths of the Soul in order to uncover the Pearl of Great Worth buried deep within each of us, but that the quest is an individual process. That while we are free to share our friendship and information along the way, it is nonetheless an individual responsibility.

What are the keys contained within the pages of the books at The Tree of Life?  Primarily they are concerned with Purification. Purification of the many veils obscuring the Light of the True Self. The body is purified by conscious eating in which the fundamentals of divine nutrition are recognized and stressed.

Yoga is recommended to properly exercise the body and harmonize its energy. The mind is purified by meditation in which it learns to focus and concentrate itself from the shackles of the personality and the madness of daily life.

The emotions are purified by an awareness of the divine laws and an attempt to live by their light. The Soul is purified by a recognition of the Divine purpose working through each person, giving each person a task uniquely his own, allowing all to give and grow in harmony with the Divine Plan as it unfolds in Creation.

One of the other key words of this knowledge is RESPONSIBILITY. Imagine the dawning of this awareness in a drug addict, stealing and hustling for his existence. Imagine the need for change waking up in him , and providing him with the necessary keys from the books, and the medicine of self-cure which he encounters at the Tree.

In a supportive environment filled with people who have come to these realizations independently from places far and wide, he is guided through the dark beginnings into emerging Freedom.

Consider the child, bored and plagued by yesterday's obsolete educational philosophy, tormented by an awareness of the wrongness of his people's lot, the wrongness of his own life. Here again, the mind leaps at the opportunity to break out of the old mold, and acquire the knowledge and strength of true life.

Imagine the prisoner, stuck for years without help or hope in a cell. Yet, imagine the availability of time and conditions which force him deeper into himself. The hours open for study and meditation, the contemplation of Destiny, the practice of yoga, as well as correspondence with other seekers who are active in a prison "pen-pal" system.

These are only some of the uses of the knowledge as it is applied in a social context by The Tree of Life.

Alumni
Files abound with letters from prisoners: grateful, hope-filled letters from souls beginning to see the light. School children, in the midst of their desperation, being freed by a ray of hope emitted to them by The Tree of Life. Students, once illiterate, having read their first book at The Tree, now engaged in competent intellectual endeavors.
Ex-addicts radiating friendship and self confidence in their newly found freedom. Addicts struggling with the phases of their withdrawals with the guidance of Dr. Moore and the inspiration of the Word. Women, learning their true heritage as guardians of the human race.

Blacks learning their African heritage as the birthplace and cradle of Mankind. Whites freed from the shackles of their color, merging into an evergrowing spiritual community in the heart of Harlem. Old and young finding an atmosphere of joy and hope and commitment in the midst of an urban chaos of alarming proportions.

A Sudden Interruption
Yet in spite of the overwhelming demonstration of the value and validity of The Tree of Life Bookstore of Harlem, it had been involved in a struggle for its existence from Day One.

The Tree of Life Building was situated on NY state owned land. Since it was generally acknowledged that this was one of the busiest and most important corners in Harlem, it has been sought after by various business interests for a number of years.

In the late 1970's Congressman Charles B. Rangel, (Dem. NY) had been granted money by President Jimmy Carter for a feasibility study on erecting a Trade Center/Luxury Hotel complex on this site in conjunction with the Harlem Urban Development Corporation (HUDC). Proponents of these ideas had been working for some time on the idea of demolishing The Tree of Life Building in the "community interest".

In August of 1977, The Tree of Life Bookstore was voted a mandate by Community Planning Board #10 to continue its work on the corner of 125th & Lenox Avenue and remain intact. Furthermore, the Board demanded that The Tree of Life be given a 20 year lease on the building from the state at the rate of $1 per year, (the rent which is given to acknowledged cultural institutions), as well as a guarantee of fund raising support to actualize the plans for the continued development of an International Healing Center at the same location.
 

Due to political chicanery, however, and in spite of the community's expressed outrage, The Tree of Life Building was torn down on September 17th, 1980 and in its place for 21 years stood a parking lot! The excuse and demand for its demolition never resulted in a new hotel or convention center. After all the feasibility funds were exhausted, after the army of consultants were paid their fees, after all the political glad-handing and back room deals were said and done, the best the politicians could do was to lay an asphalt mantle atop the broken roots of the Tree of Harlem and simply walk away.
 

Following 10 years of futile efforts to relocate to other sections of New York, The Tree of Life finally pulled up stakes in 1991 and moved south first to Florida, and since 1992, has been located in Atlanta, Georgia. The concept of The Tree of Life, however,  is every much as valid today as it was 33 years ago.

The Tree of Life is now deeply involved in Mind Control consciousness and the examination of various alternatives to a potential genocidal Population Reduction scheme. Since we are still the sole guardian of such a wonderful and valuable "secret", we seek a partner so that we may share it with The World.

I now issue a call for all who can understand what I have rather imperfectly outlined above, to join together with me, and cultivate a new Garden on this planet, combining the best qualities of each of us-a truly symbiotic relationship! This I predict will be the lasting legacy of the still dawning "New Age of Aquarius".

In future writings, I will spell out the specific ways that this insight will bring the "right-brained" African-American to the spiritual exaltation which he is destined to achieve. And in the process, transforming the Harlems of America into The Spiritual Capitols of the Western World; working together with our brothers and sisters of the other persuasions, to create a veritable Garden of Eden on Mother Earth.

In The Light

Kanya Vashon McGhee



"Genuine morals correspond to the harmonization guidelines of the Universe and Nature, so that those who carefully observe their laws will always be successful, success taken in its foremost sense, as the supreme evolutionary achievement aspired by man..." John Baines

"There is indeed a Spark that burns in the heart of men.  It is a Light that won't go out, no matter how dark the World becomes." - Leo Tolstoy

Kanya Vashon McGhee, Founder
Tree of Life Bookstore & Education Center
1701 M. L. King Drive SW
Atlanta, GA 30314-2227
email: drkanya9@hotmail.com
Tel. 404-753-5700
Toll Free 1-866-840-5700



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