Present At The Beginning  provides an intimate history of the founding of the New Thought movement in the late 19th century, including some little known or long forgotten information about the interpersonal and collegial relationships that sparked the rapid rise of Unity and Divine Science in America beginning in the 1880s.  In addition, the book invited you to share in the discovery of a remarkably clear, concise and complete set of class notes from “Normal Lessons” in the study of Infinite Spirit.
This is the first new material surrounding the work of Malinda Elliott Cramer to be revealed in more than thirty years. Present At The Beginning provides access to a very early foundational teaching from Mrs. Cramer’s first trip to Denver to “preach, teach and heal” in February 1890.  An added joy is that these notes were penned by Fannie Brooks James.  Echoes of these foundational Divine Science teachings are found in Mrs. Cramer’s subsequent works and are profound in their clarity and brevity.


Dr. Will Mercer’s PRESENT AT THE BEGINNING is a great work of the early pioneering history and teaching of New Thought, especially in the Science of Spirit or Being. While a quick read, it provokes deep thought and insight into living a true spirituality in a healthy and joyful manner. 
​The powerful Fannie Brooks James notebook of Malinda Elliott Cramer’s class work in Divine Science is so clear, it is as if you were sitting and listening to Malinda herself. A must read for everyone who is interested in furthering their understanding of New Thought.
​This is truly a “Theo centered” lifestyle teaching. For example, the very first and basic principle Malinda teaches is: “God is Supreme, the only life, Substance, and Intelligence of the Universe and man. God is Mind, Divine Principle, Life, Truth, Love. God is Infinite Spirit and there is but one Spirit…” This simple but direct teaching puts the reader or adherent in a “God centered consciousness.” Those who are able to grasp this foundational principle with all their heart and mind are on a path that will be continually life altering.
​Of course, the best example of this lifestyle is Jesus of Nazareth. He lived and practiced his ministry in a God-centered awareness. His very presence and healing forces evolved and manifested from this very premise. Jesus taught his disciples not only in word but in the power of being and spirit.
The rich and wonderful notes that embody Malinda Cramer’s teaching are a great treasure to contemplate and make a part of one’s life. I found it to be so, and I believe that this will also prove to be true for you.

Rev. Dr. Rocco A. Errico
Founder and President, Noohra Foundation and
CEO and President of the Board, Aramaic Bible Institute, GA

Rev. Dr. C. Will Mercer has opened the door of history through the interpretation of New Thought teachings and those of Divine Science.  He is examining and analyzing historical data regarding the Divine Science movement. This is visible in Parts I through Parts III.  He further demonstrates through a historical perspective the relationships between Unity and Divine Science as partners in the New Thought movement, thus bringing us to an awareness of the Divine Science early beginnings.  
The notes taken by Fannie Brooks James at the Normal Class of Divine Science that Malinda Elliott Cramer presented in Denver in 1890 further show their relationship to the New Thought movement.  
What also is clear to the reader is that Will is bringing Divine Science back to its rightful place as a member of the Big Three – Unity, Religious Science (now Centers For Spiritual Living) and Divine Science.  He compels us to have an appreciation of the early founders of Divine Science, for “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18).  Will reminds us that it is a vision of a movement that would move to change the consciousness of humanity.
This book is an excellent resource and teaching tool for all metaphysical schools of New Thought. Further, it demonstrates the role women played as advocates in founding the New Thought movement.   As a woman minister for forty-three years I am grateful to the author, Dr. Will Mercer, for bringing these truths to light regarding Divine Science. 

Rev. Dr. Barbara L. King,
Founder Minister & World Spiritual Leader
Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA


"Part I is 'An Intimate History of New Thought and Divine Science.'  This includes the substance of extemporaneous presentations I have made to New Thought audiences over the past six years related to the historic development of New Thought and Divine Science in America.

Part II includes the complete verbatim and unabridged transcription of the notes taken by Mrs. James when Mrs. Cramer visited Denver to present her "Normal Lessons of Home College" on the subject of Divine Science in February 1890.  These brilliant and compelling lessons were presented at the home of Mary D. Fisk, who maintained a residence at 1661 Lincoln Street in Denver at the time.  

Part III is structured as a series of eight appendices that provide important documentary support for the preceding sections. In addition to historic documents it includes photographs of many of the beloved early leaders of the American New Thought movement and their devoted followers who became the second and third generations of Divine Scientists and ministers of the faith.  Also included are advertisements from Malinda Cramer’s  'Harmony' magazine that began in October 1888, and Unity, a major monthly publication of the Unity movement, which began publication in June 1891. "


"PRESENT AT THE BEGINNING is a gem of Truth for every student of the ancient wisdom teachings of New Thought. Dr. Will Mercer's focus on the historical context of some of the early New Thought pioneers who worked cooperatively to spread the teachings far and wide and his special gift of the actual lessons of Malinda E. Cramer, as captured by her student, Fannie B. James, are sure to anchor us more deeply in the healing power of Truth, strengthen the bonds of kinship among the various New Thought denominations and inspire us all to stay ever connected to our collective spiritual roots." 

Rev. Dr. Sheila R. McKeithen,

President, Universal Foundation for Better Living (UFBL)

Senior Minister of The Universal Centre of Truth in Kingston, Jamaica 

“Dr. Will Mercer’s book is a masterful account of the early history of New Thought that includes rare and intimate insight into the relationships between the early pioneers of Divine Science, Unity and Religious Science. Will brilliantly uses Fannie Brooks James' notes to transport the reader to an 1890 lecture series with Malinda Cramer, providing a first-hand glimpse into the birth of this exciting movement. It is a must-read for every minister and serious student of New Thought.” 

Rev. Dr. Tim Stewart, President, DSFI, Mt. Juliet, TN

"Here is an amazing piece of literature that documents one of the original teachings of New Thought.  Will Mercer has ffectively captured the core spirit of Divine Science as an initial source of New Thought, and has added his clear-eyed perspective on the cross-pollination between all of the schools of that philosophy."

Rev. Gregory Barrette, Senior Minister,

Unity Northwest Church, Des Plaines, IL

“Rev. Dr. C. William Mercer explains the rise of Divine Science and provides an invaluable gift – a rare transcription of Malinda Cramer’s 1890 class in Divine Science.  I recommend this book to people interested in the social and spiritual connections between the founders of Divine Science and Unity.  It introduces the women and men who ascended to live life from the pure essence of Being.  Will Mercer informs our present understanding of New Thought Christianity with his exploration of this dynamic and shared history.”

Rev. Eric Page, Archivist, Unity Library and Archives,

Unity World Headquarters, Unity Village, MO

"Dr. C. William Mercer’s book expands our understanding of the awakening New Thought movement in the United States during a very important period.  His writing (reminiscent of James Gaither and Neal Vahle) is easy to read and extremely informative.  Dr. Will's inclusion of the original teachings of Malinda Elliott Cramer, the founder of Divine Science, ‘New Thought's oldest denomination,’ is significant for all 'Truth seekers' and history lovers!"

Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Triche Atkins, 1st VP of INTA;

Founder & CEO of ShoVal & More, NFP, 

Producer of The GOLD Rush Women's Conference, Chicago, IL 

"The New Thought philosophy is more relevant in the 21st century than at any other tine in human history. Dr. Will Mercer, through a lifetime of extraordinary scholarship, research and dedication has brought to light the clear lineage and valued history of Divine Science.  Will’s book is a must read for all people of faith and science, as what began as a powerful movement of faith and healing is being talked about today as quantum physics! This must-read book is a treasure-trove of history and authentic healing.  I literally could not put the book down!  Will has given the New Thought movement a great gift.”

Dr. Lisa Stewart, Founding Senior Pastor -

Spiritual Living of Greater Milwaukee, WI

Board of Directors - Affiliated New Thought Network

“Rev. Dr. C. Will Mercer has given us a glimpse into the early history of the New Thought movement and its first religious organization, Divine Science. These early New Thought leaders also redefined their Judeo-Christian backgrounds by creating metaphysical and allegorical ways of interpreting the Holy Bible. Students of New Thought history should definitely add Rev. Will Mercer's book to their libraries.”

Rev. Gaylon McDowell, Senior Assistant Minister,

Christ Universal Temple, UFBL, Chicago, IL

“Dr. Will Mercer makes both the history and the application of Divine Science accessible to those who are new to Divine Science as well as those for whom the teaching is already an old friend.  The early history of Divine Science in relation to its New Thought cousins is presented as if by a patriarch sharing the family story with a new generation.  The reader almost feels as if she or he is sitting on the floor with a cup of tea in front a fire place as the family history comes alive in the telling of it by one who has embodied it with love and devotion.”

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Vice President, DSFI,

Senior Minister, Sunshine Cathedral, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

“Rev. Will Mercer has taken historical New Thought information and interwoven it with the very principles that have propelled these life changing teachings into what they still are becoming - a way of life that leads to true spiritual awakening and transformation. The information found in this book is powerful; the teachings timeless, and sure to enlighten and empower the reader to rise higher and go deeper in discovering the true source of Spirit that forever has been found within.  Trust me, you will want to use a highlighter as you turn each page.” 

Rev. Jamie Sanders, Executive Board member of INTA,

Minister, Unity of Pensacola, FL

“Rev. Dr. Will Mercer is an intelligent and energetic person who has presented us with a clear understanding of Divine Science.  It is written with great detail about the history of Divine Science and its use for everyone who is interested in living a harmonious life.  I intend to have this book in my library.”

Rev. Mary Keller, Divine Science Minister, Practitioner, and Teacher,

St. Louis, MO

“Rev. Will’s PRESENT AT THE BEGINNING offers us the opportunity to further understand, accept and share the wisdom of our basic New Thought Teachings. I AM grateful to have this book as a resource for my Interfaith CommUNITY! Rev. Will has blessed us all. As Malinda would say, ‘So let it be!’”

Rev. Julianne Lewis, Independent Unity minister,

Interfaith CommUNITY Church, Mesa, AZ