Index of Selected Western Mystics

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(Alphabetical by First Name)

A.H. Almaas

Adyashanti

Alan Watts

Albert Einstein

Aldous Huxley

Angela of Foligno

Angelus Silesius

Anthony de Mello

Arnaud Desjardins

Augustine

Barry Long

Beatrice of Nazareth

Bede Griffiths

Bernadette Roberts

Bernard of Clairvaux

Bonaventure

Brother Lawrence

Byron Katie

Carl Jung

Caryll Houselander

Catherine of Genoa

Catherine of Siena

Cloud of Unknowing

Dag Hammarskjold

Dante Alighieri

David Bohm

David Steindl-Rast

Don Miguel Ruiz

Douglas Harding

Eckhart Tolle

Edgar Cayce

Edward Carpenter

Elizabeth of the Trinity

Emanuel Swedenborg

Emily Dickinson

Etty Hillesum

Evelyn Underhill

For the Love of Christ

Francis of Assisi

Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Gary Zukav

G.I. Gurdjieff

Gemma Galgani

Giordano Bruno

Gregory of Nyssa

Hadewijch of Antwerp

Henry David Thoreau

Henry Suso

Hildegard of Bingen

Hugh of St. Victor

Ignatius Loyola

Jacob Boehme

Jacob Needleman

Jan van Ruysbroeck

Jean Klein

Jean Pierre de Caussade

Joel Goldsmith

Johannes Scotus Eriugena

Johannes Tauler

John Climacus

John Muir

John of the Cross

John Wren-Lewis

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Sadony

Julian of Norwich

Karl Rahner

Kenneth G. Mills

Lester Levenson

Llewelyn Vaughn-Lee

Madame Blavatsky

Madame Guyon

Manly Palmer Hall

Marguerite Porete

Marianne Williamson

Mary Oliver

Mathew Fox

Mechthild of Magdeburg

Meister Eckhart

Miguel de Molinos

Neale Donald Walsch

Nicholas of Cusa

Nicholas von Flue

Nikola Tesla

Nikos Kazantzakis

Olaf Stapledon

Omraam M. Aivanhov

Peter Deunov

Peter Russell

Philokalia

Plotinus

Psuedo-Dionysius the Areopagite

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Richard Moss

Richard of St. Victor

Richard Rolle

Richard Rose

Robert Adams

Rudolph Steiner

Rufus Jones

Seraphim of Sarov

Simone Weil

Symeon the New Theologian

Teilhard de Chardin

Terence Gray Wei-Wu-Wei

Teresa of Avila

The Science Mystics

The Way of the Pilgrim

Therese of Lisieux

Thomas a Kempis

Thomas Berry

Thomas Campbell

Thomas Keating

Thomas Merton

Thomas Traherne

Toni Packer

Tony Parsons

Vernon Howard

Vladimir Solovyov

Walt Whitman

Walter Hilton

Walter Russell

Wayne Teasdale

William Blake

William Law

William Samuel

Note to Readers:

As I come upon other Western Mystics of interest, I will provide accompanying links for further review.

Martinus: http://www.martinus.dk/en/about-martinus-cosmology/who-was-martinus/

Rupert Spira: http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/about/rupert-spira

Ernest Holmes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Holmes

Soren Kierkegaard: http://journals.oregondigital.org/index.php/konturen/article/view/3676/3400

Peter Kingsley: https://thisunlitlight.com/2017/10/03/an-extraordinarily-elegant-way-of-realising-god/

Neville Lancelot Goddard: https://freeneville.com/neville-goddard-wiki/

 

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Etty Hillesum

Etty-Hillesum

Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), known as the Mystic of the Holocaust, was a young Jewish woman who lived in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation and who died as one of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. In her short, remarkable life, Etty grew to see God in the depths of her own soul as well as in all other people.

She was born in a Jewish family whose members suffered from some kind of nervous condition that resulted in illness and bouts of depression. Hillesum graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a master’s degree in law. She became a patient of Julius Spier, a German psychoanalyst who at one time was her lover; he was the spiritual teacher who set her on a quest for inner transformation.

As part of her therapy, she began to keep a journal where she registered her practice of listening to her soul, and the result was her well-documented internal life which recorded her spiritual awakening. She saw life in a new light and began serving Jewish refugees in a Nazi transit camp. Finally, she and her family were flung into the great nightmare. The death train transported them to Poland, and in Auschwitz, on November 30, 1943, at the age of 29, she died.

Friends held on the journals for decades, trying unsuccessfully to get them published. Finally, in 1981, they prevailed. The journals were published in Dutch; two years later in English. The world read them for the first time in a version entitled An Interrupted Life. Her account has become a monument of spirituality and spiritual resistance against persecution and hatred — her struggles, prayers, her growing awareness of God, her gradual peace with death. Her prose is spry and light. It seizes from the famous opening line: “Here goes, then.”

It is this quality that brings them up to date. From the day when Dutch Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star up to the day she boarded a cattle car bound for Poland, Etty consecrated herself to an ambitious task. In the face of her impending death, she endeavored to bear witness to the inviolable power of love and to reconcile her keen sensitivity to human suffering with her appreciation for the beauty and meaning of existence. For the last two years of her life Etty kept her meticulous diary, recording her daily experiences and the unfolding of her interior response. Published four decades after her death, this book was quickly recognized as one of the great moral documents of our time.

Etty maintained a clear sense of solidarity with the Jewish people. But her personal reflection was nourished by an eclectic range of sources, including Rilke, the Bible, St. Augustine, and Dostoevsky. When a friend exclaimed indignantly that her attitude on the love of enemies sounded like Christianity, she responded, “Yes, Christianity, why ever not?” But in fact she had little interest in organized religion of any kind. In a time when everything was being swept away, when “the whole world is becoming a giant concentration camp,” she felt one must hold fast to what endures – the encounter with God at the depths of one’s own soul and in other people.

“God is not accountable to us, but we are to Him. I know what may lie in wait for us…. And yet I find life beautiful and meaningful.”

There is an earthy and embodied dimension to Etty Hillesum’s spirituality. She described her romantic adventures with no more reticence than she reserved for descriptions of her prayer. For Etty, everything – the physical and the spiritual without distinction – was related to her passionate openness to life, which was ultimately openness to God.

In the meantime her life was unfolding within the tightening noose of German occupation. Etty’s effervescence might seem to resemble a type of manic denial. The fact is, however, that she seems to have discerned the logic of events with uncommon objectivity. In this light, her determination to affirm the goodness and beauty of existence becomes nothing short of miraculous. Her entry for July 3, 1942, reads:

“I must admit a new insight in my life and find a place for it: what is at stake is our impending destruction and annihilation…. They are out to destroy us completely, we must accept that and go on from there…. Very well then … I accept it…. I work and continue to live with the same conviction and I find life meaningful…. 1 wish I could live for a long time so that one day I may know how to explain it, and if I am not granted that wish, well, then somebody else will perhaps do it, carry on from where my life has been cut short. And that is why I must try to live a good and faithful life to my last breath; so that those who come after me do not have to start all over again.”

For Etty, this affirmation of the value and meaning of life in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary became her guiding principle. In the midst of suffering and injustice, she believed, the effort to preserve in one’s heart a spirit of love and forgiveness was the greatest task that any person could perform. This, she felt, was her vocation.

With increasing regularity, Etty described her compulsion to drop to her knees in prayer. Toward the end of her journals, God had become the explicit partner of her internal dialogue:

“God take me by Your hand, I shall follow You faithfully, and not resist too much, I shall evade none of the tempests life has in store for me, I shall try to face it all as best I can…. I shall try to spread some of my warmth, of my genuine love for others, wherever I go…. I sometimes imagine that I long for the seclusion of a nunnery. But I know that I must seek You amongst people, out in the world. And that is what I shall do…. I vow to live my life out there to the full.”

Etty worked for a while as a typist for the Jewish Council, a job that delayed her deportation to the transit camp at Westbork. Eventually she renounced this privilege and volunteered to accompany her fellow Jews to the camp. She did not wish to be spared the suffering of the masses. In fact, she felt a deep calling to be present at the heart of the suffering, to become “the thinking heart of the concentration camp.”

Her sense of a call to solidarity with those who suffer became the specific form of her religious vocation. But it was not a vocation to suffering as such. It was a vocation to redeem the suffering of humanity from within, by safeguarding “that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.”

“I know that a new and kinder day will come. I would so much like to live on, if only to express all the love I carry within me. And there is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts.”

In a Nazi transit camp, Etty Hillesum wrote in her diary: “Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on earth, my eyes raised towards heaven, tears run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude.”

On September 7, 1943, Etty and her family were placed on a transport train to Poland. From a window of the train she tossed out a card that read, “We have left the camp singing.”

She died in Auschwitz on November 30, at the age of twenty-nine.

In her book Etty Hillesum: Essential Writings, editor Anne Marie Kidder writes, “Etty is a mystic who, amid the war’s horrors, could affirm the goodness and beauty of life and taught herself, as she taught others, to explore the landscape of the soul and the soul’s quest for truth and God.”

Etty’s transforming journey is a textbook case, Kidder observes.

“In the beauty of the smallest pebble, the petals of a flower, the curling branches of a tree, she could detect the entire cosmos, and this discovery made her burst out with the exuberant pronouncement that life was beautiful and God was good. When Etty decided to volunteer working at the Nazi transit camp and insisted on remaining there against the urging of friends…it was from the conviction that she would be carrying her peace and love into the world in order to transform the world, at least to some small degree.”

“If you want to teach others how to live,” Etty wrote in 1941, “you must first take yourself in hand. You are going to have to go on taking stock of yourself …”

She’s unafraid to submit herself to mystery and grace. “I sometimes feel I am in some blazing purgatory and that I am being forged into something else.”

Her transformation unfolds, and she records a slow emergence of astounding inner freedom. From hatred to love, withdrawal to engagement, violence to nonviolence, resentment to forgiveness, feeling hopeless to hope. She could no longer “live with the kind of hatred so many people nowadays force upon themselves against their better nature.”

With new inner resources, she learns to take her “quiet room” with her wherever she is, even into the barracks and, one presumes, later to her death. She achieves, she writes, “a state of complete equilibrium,” even in the most horrendous moment of Nazi occupation.

“I now listen all day long to what is within me, and am able to draw strength from the most deeply hidden sources in myself. I keep following my own inner voice even in the madhouse… Let me perform a thousand daily tasks with love, but let every one spring from a greater central core of devotion and love.”

And through devotion and love she discovers detachment. “I know what may lie in wait for us,” she writes. “I have already died a thousand deaths in a thousand concentration camps. I know about everything and am no longer appalled by the latest reports. In one way or another I know it all. And yet I find life beautiful and meaningful. From minute to minute.”

Life in the madhouse becomes “one great, unpredictable, continuous inner adventure.” “I shall evade none of the tempests life has in store for me…. I vow to live my life out there to the full.”

And she is not bereft of strength. “Everything we need is within us. But we must know what motives inspire our struggle and we must begin with ourselves, every day anew.”

Etty’s painful, transforming inner journey to God, love and peace, leads her to accept suffering — leads her to identify with all those who are suffering. For me, this is the crucial task of the Christian and every spiritual seeker. It is the attitude of the nonviolent Jesus on the cross, where he becomes one with all those who ever suffered in history, with the whole human race. Identifying with sufferers transforms suffering into explosive, disarming, universal nonviolent love.

“Ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness?” she asks.

“I am in Poland every day, on the battlefields. I am with the hungry, with the ill-treated and the dying, every day. But I am also with the jasmine and with that piece of sky beyond my window.”

She never felt alone in her sadness and fatigue. Though death hovered like a ghoul, she stared it down and accepted it. She didn’t shy from the paradox — by accepting death, she said, one finds richness and freedom. And in this freedom, she found herself at one with the untold millions who ever suffered over the centuries.

And she found this meaningful. “Meaningful in its meaninglessness.” Suffering has been always with us, for her people from the Inquisition to pogroms to war, she explained to herself. It’s for us to fit death compassionately into our lives. “True peace will come when every individual finds peace within himself; when we have all vanquished and transformed our hatred for our fellow human beings of whatever race–even into love one day. It is the only solution.”

Through her ultimate identification with all those who suffer and die, Etty feels an inexplicable — even scandalous — love of life. “At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness and I prayed, ‘Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.’ That is what I want to be. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.”

Etty challenges us to make the same determined inner search for God and freedom, and so to identify with all those who suffer in the world, and to reach out with nonviolent love and do what we can for peace and justice, and to do it from that holy inner space of love.Etty invites us to be the “thinking heart” of our country, as it moves toward fascism and empire, the thinking heart of the world, as it hangs on the brink of perpetual war, total poverty, nuclear destruction, and climate catastrophe.

Kidder tries to sum up this dear mystic’s life:

“Mystics are people who begin their quest for wisdom or for God not in the world of externals but in the microcosm of their own soul. There they allow themselves to be fully present to the experiences of a deep-felt joy or sorrow, of beauty or suffering, of gain or loss, so that these opposing poles might in time reconcile and grow and ripen into a harmonious whole. Once this inner harmony has grown from within and wells up as a peace that defies all rational explanation, mystics can carry this inner harmony into the world, thus becoming catalysts in the transformation of the world.”

That is the journey before us all.

Sources:

http://www.gratefulness.org/giftpeople/hillesum.htm

http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/etty-hillesums-inner-journey

Some quotes from her journals:

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

“Become simple and live simply, not only within yourself but also in your everyday dealings. Don’t make ripples all around you, don’t try to be interesting, keep your distance, be honest, fight the desire to be thought fascinating by the outside world.”

“Sometimes my day is crammed full of people and talk and yet I have the feeling of living in utter peace and quiet. And the tree outside my window, in the evenings, is a greater experience than all those people put together.”

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”

“Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others.”

“I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture, by simply molding one’s inner life. And that too is a deed.”

“I know and share the many sorrows a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them; they pass through me, like life itself, as a broad eternal stream…and life continues…”

“I really see no other solution than to turn inwards and to root out all the rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we first change ourselves. And that seems to me the only lesson to be learned.”

“I don’t want to be anything special. I only want to try to be true to that in me which seeks to fulfill its promise.”

“One must also accept that one has ‘uncreative’ moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass.”

“Sometimes I long for a convent cell, with the sublime wisdom of centuries set out on bookshelves all along the wall and a view across the cornfields–there must be cornfields and they must wave in the breeze–and there I would immerse myself in the wisdom of the ages and in myself. Then I might perhaps find peace and clarity. But that would be no great feat. It is right here, in this very place, in the here and the now, that I must find them. ”

“We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies.”

“Slowly but surely I have been soaking Rilke up these last few months: the man, his work and his life. And that is probably the only right way with literature, with study, with people or with anything else: to let it all soak in, to let it all mature slowly inside you until it has become a part of yourself. That, too, is a growing process. Everything is a growing process. And in between, emotions and sensations that strike you like lightning. But still the most important thing is the organic process of growing.”

“Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.”

“The inner world is as real as the outer world. One ought to be conscious of that. It, too, has its landscape, contours, possibilities, its boundless regions.”

“My ideas hang on me like outsize clothes into which I still have to grow. My mind lags behind my intuition.”

“It is sometimes hard to take in and comprehend, oh God, what those created in Your likeness do to each other in these disjointed days. But I no longer shut myself away in my room, God; I try to look things straight in the face, even the worst crimes, and to discover the small, naked human being amid the monstrous wreckage caused by man’s senseless deeds.”

“That is probably the hardest thing a person can learn, as I so often find in others (and in myself as well in the past) to forgive one’s own mistakes and lapses.”

“I am ready for everything, for anywhere on this earth, wherever God may send me, and I am ready to bear witness in any situation and unto death that life is beautiful and meaningful and that it is not God’s fault that things are as they are at present, but our own.”

“Through me course wide rivers and in me rise tall mountains. And beyond the thickets of my agitation and confusion there stretch the wide plains of my peace and surrender. All landscapes are within me. And there is room for everything. The earth is in me, and the sky. And I well know that something like hell can also be in one, though I no longer experience it in myself, but I can still feel it in others with great intensity. And that is as it should be, or else I might grow too complacent.”

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Aldous Huxley

Aldous_Huxley

Aldous Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963), one of the great modern thinkers, philosophers, and social commentators of the 20th century, is often hailed as an inspirational figure of the Human Potential Movement and the subsequent development of transpersonal psychology. His contributions to modern thought spanned many genres: novels, including the groundbreaking works Brave New World (1932) and Island (1962); essays, including the volumes The Art of Seeing (1942) and The Doors of Perception (1954); and philosophy, including The Perennial Philosophy (1945), a work often credited as one of the early pillars of transpersonal theory.

Huxley was a humanist, pacifist, and satirist. Huxley later became interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism, in particular, Universalism. By the end of his life, Huxley was widely acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in seven different years.

Born into a prominent family in England in 1894, Aldous Leonard Huxley was raised among intellectuals, including several great scientists, among them Huxley’s grandfather, Thomas Huxley, who supported and promoted the work of Charles Darwin. Huxley’s mother died when he was fourteen years-old and her death and the death of a sister in the same month were major sources of sorrow within the family. To cope with his grief, Huxley applied himself diligently to his studies.

The boy Huxley was known for his intellect from an early age and focused much of his attention and passion on literature and the written word. At seventeen, the budding scholar was stricken with keratitis punctata, a disease of the eye that left young Huxley nearly blind. Nonetheless, he enrolled at university at Balliol College, Oxford, having taught himself Braille to continue to read until his eyesight returned. Over the course of the next several years, Huxley regained enough of his eyesight to complete his studies and graduated in 1916 from Balliol with a degree in English literature. In his final year at Balliol, Huxley also published his first books of poems, The Burning Wheel (1916), which garnered the attention of literary circles and critics alike. Through these connections, Huxley established a relationship with Lady Ottoline Morrell. Her manor house, Garsington, was the site of many literary gatherings and the location where Huxley met many of his early influential friends including Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, and D.H. Lawrence, who would re-enter Huxley’s life in a profound way within a decade of the young writer’s entrance into this salon.

While pursuing the life of the mind, Huxley recognized that he would also have to tend to the realities of bodily needs. In order to pay off the debt incurred during his education, Huxley initially took a job as an administrator at the Air Ministry after graduation, but his heart was in the world of words and ideas rather than business and commerce.

Through his contacts at Garsington, Huxley finally joined the editorial staff at the Atheneum in London in 1919. There he wrote essays, travel journals, and critiques, which eventually propelled him into his career as a full-time novelist, travel-writer, and essayist-and later in life he also wrote plays and screenplays during his years in California. Through each literary style, Huxley developed his strong philosophical tendencies. His early work, including Chrome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923), were brilliant satiric social commentary, chronicling the excesses and intentional blindness of the upper social classes of contemporary London. His strong modernist voice established Huxley’s reputation as an important social thinker in post-World War I Europe.

During this period, from 1926 until D.H. Lawrence’s death in 1930, the two men were very close and shared much in common in the way of artistic motivation and philosophy. This early relationship clearly and profoundly influenced the later trajectories of Huxley’s work.

For a few years Lawrence’s influence drew him to a kind of vitalist limbo where, still declaring his faith in reason, he sketched out a philosophy of balanced living that went as far in constructing a moral system as possible without religious foundation. It did not go far enough for Huxley, who reasoned himself eventually into two drastic conclusions. First, he abandoned a cherished tradition of the Huxley clan by recognizing that the process of abstraction implicit in the scientific method actually diverted men from perceiving the realities of existence. This he derived largely from Lawrence. He also reached, as independently as a man of omnivorous reading ever reaches a mental goal, the conclusion that man’s miseries were due to the lack of a spiritual dimension to his existence.

As noted above, in response to the overwhelming positivism of the Enlightenment era, Huxley, under the tutelage of Lawrence, embraced an “irrationalism,” or a stance grounded in personal experience and corporeal knowledge. This bold stance contradicted the lineage of respect for and pursuit of scientific truth established by his family. However, it took many years and much more searching and experience before Huxley was able to synthesize and articulate his beliefs in The Perennial Philosophy (1945).

Brave New World, one of the titles most closely associated with Huxley’s career was published in 1932. This dystopian, futuristic novel explored the ramifications of a world shaped by technology and homogenization. The grim vision of the future underscored Huxley’s move away from his earlier satirical tone toward an increasing commitment to pacifism, right livelihood, and conscious living that had developed during his relationship with Lawrence. Within two years of the publication of this novel, Huxley and another close friend Gerald Heard were becoming so committed to the pacifist movement in Europe as to give public speeches. During the dark days of the rise of Hitler, Huxley’s social commentary seemed almost prophetic in its nature.

The relationship between Huxley and Heard brought profound change into each man’s life. Deeply intellectual, thoughtful, and committed to being of service in the world, the pair often exchanged ideas and served as rigorous sounding boards for the other’s work. Heard also introduced Huxley to meditation and yoga, initially as practices to improve Huxley’s chronic ill health and insomnia. Through this inner work, Huxley’s spirituality began to blossom and much of his philosophical framework began to shift from commenting on the actions, foibles, and mistakes of institutions and the State, to explorations on the individual. “Both Huxley and Heard had increasingly come to believe that the most overlooked cure for social problems is actually the improvement of the individual citizen, and that cultures are only expressions of the collective consciousness of their people”. This shift in Huxley’s philosophy further influenced the direction of both his spiritual path and his writing.

In 1937, at the dawn of World War II, Huxley, his wife, Maria, and Heard embarked on a trip to the United States which had profound impact upon the trajectory of the latter half of Huxley’s life. The two men toured the country in support of pacifism and the tour was primarily a success. Upon his return to Los Angeles, Huxley took work as a screenwriter which gave him entree into the inner circles of Hollywood society and income to support his other pursuits.

From his inquiry into meditative practices, Huxley had developed a keen interest in mysticism and yearned to understand the concepts of enlightenment and unity with the divine. Huxley aligned himself with the Vedanta Society of Southern California and began a meditation practice under the guidance of the guru Swami Prabhavananda. Even though Huxley maintained ambivalence with regard to the adoption of a guru, he nonetheless strove to master his practice. In 1944, Huxley wrote the introduction to the “Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God”, translated by Swami Prabhavanada and Christopher Isherwood, which was published by The Vedanta Society of Southern California.

From 1941 until 1960, Huxley contributed 48 articles to Vedanta and the West, published by the Society. He also served on the editorial board with Isherwood, Heard, and playwright John van Druten from 1951 through 1962. Huxley also occasionally lectured at the Hollywood and Santa Barbara Vedanta temples. Two of those lectures have been released on CD: Knowledge and Understanding and Who Are We from 1955. Nonetheless, Huxley’s agnosticism, together with his speculative propensity, made it difficult for him to fully embrace any form of institutionalized religion. After the publication of The Doors of Perception, Huxley and the Swami disagreed about the meaning and importance of the Mescaline drug experience, which may have caused the relationship to cool, but Huxley continued to write articles for the Society’s journal, lecture at the temple, and attend social functions.

By 1942, Huxley had become closely aligned with Jiddu Krishnamurti, a contemporary mystic who shared Huxley’s resistance to formalized, institutional religion, but embraced the concept of an individual spiritual path for each person. The relationship between the two men further influenced Huxley’s burgeoning philosophical stance, which ultimately led to the publication of The Perennial Philosophy (1945). This treatise captured Huxley’s perspectives on mysticism: that there are experiences and aspects of practice common among mystics from all of the world’s religions and spiritual practices which reinforce the validity and importance of spiritual practice. Huxley describes his philosophy as:

“The metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being — the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditional lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.”

In his own lifetime, Huxley held firm to his beliefs regarding the common path of the mystic and devoted the rest of his life to pursuing his own spiritual growth. In 1952, Huxley became aware of the pioneers in the scientific and experiential study of the use of psychedelic substances as catalysts for psychological transformation and healing. Among this group was Dr. Humphry Osmond, a researcher using mescaline in his studies. Huxley befriended the scientist and eventually became one of Osmond’s research subjects. Most of the early psychedelic research had been conducted on people with severe mental disturbances, so Huxley’s participation gave insight into the effects that psychoactive substances would have on those people engaged in spiritual practice and interested in mysticism. The results of this initial experiment were reported in Huxley’s book, The Doors of Perception (1954), which later became popular among the youth culture of the 1960. However Huxley’s research was by no means taken up in a blithe manner. The seriousness and devotion to keenly observe his own processes as he ingested psychoactive substances marked Huxley’s belief that “the experience is so transcendentally important that it is in no circumstances a thing to be entered upon light-heartedly or for enjoyment”.

Huxley died on November 22, 1963 (the same day as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy) just as he had lived: in an experiment of expanding consciousness. He battled throat cancer for several years, so on his deathbed he was unable to speak. By writing a note, he asked his second wife, Laura, to administer LSD to him. She honored his wishes and also engaged in a ceremonial farewell to her husband which she described later in her biography of him:

“Light and free you let go, darling; forward and up. You are going forward and up; you are going toward the light. . . .You are doing it so beautifully, so easily. Light and free. Forward and up. . . .You are going toward a greater love than you have ever known. You are going toward the best, the greatest love, and it is easy, it is so easy, and you are doing it so beautifully.”

His serene exit was entrenched in the written words of his final work, Island—a novel dealing heavily with Buddhist philosophy and psychedelic exploration through “moksha medicine.”

“All five people in the room said that this was the most serene, the most beautiful death. Both doctors and the nurse said they had never seen a person in similar physical condition going off so completely without pain and without struggle,” writes Laura Huxley.

As noted above, Huxley’s life and work has had a profound impact on modern thought, social criticism, and contemporary movements in psychology and philosophy. As the transpersonal field has grown and developed over the past thirty years, scholars have engaged with Huxley’s material; some embrace his perspectives and have built upon his work, including the integral philosophy of Ken Wilbur. Recently, transpersonal scholars have initiated a debate regarding the wholesale acceptance of Huxley’s perennial philosophy, noting, instead, the importance of “participatory spiritual pluralism”. Nonetheless, the rich, complex work and ground-breaking contributions to modern thought continue to influence and inspire the study of Huxley’s life, works, and metaphysics.

As experimentation with psychedelics increased over the next decade, Huxley became peripherally involved with Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner for several years, but ultimately distanced himself from Leary due to philosophical differences over the value and ultimate purpose of psychedelic use. Huxley explained his perspective and beliefs in his final novel entitled Island (1962). Within the novel, the inhabitants of the eponymous island seek personal spiritual growth which subsequently leads to a Utopian society. The novel, while at times criticized for diminished literary merit in light of his earlier work, is often viewed as a summation of the latter half of Huxley’s life, detailing a commitment to personal growth as the path to greater serving and improving the society.

Sources:

http://www.sofia.edu/about/history/transpersonal-pioneers-aldous-huxley/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley

http://www.theplaidzebra.com/aldous-huxleys-wife-wrote-this-letter-about-injecting-him-with-lsd-right-before-he-died/

For an interesting article on Huxley, Mysticism, and Buddhism by a Buddhist teacher, see:

http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/quote-of-the-month/aldous-huxley-desire

Some quotes from Aldous Huxley:

“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’”

“Too much consistency is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead. Consistent intellectualism and spirituality may be socially valuable, up to a point; but they make, gradually, for individual death.”

“The course of every intellectual, if he pursues his journey long and unflinchingly enough, ends in the obvious, from which the non-intellectuals have never stirred.”

“Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.”

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”

“At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.”

“’There are quiet places also in the mind’, he said meditatively. ‘But we build bandstands and factories on them. Deliberately — to put a stop to the quietness. … All the thoughts, all the preoccupations in my head — round and round, continually What’s it for? What’s it all for? To put an end to the quiet, to break it up and disperse it, to pretend at any cost that it isn’t there. Ah, but it is; it is there, in spite of everything, at the back of everything. Lying awake at night — not restlessly, but serenely, waiting for sleep — the quiet re-establishes itself, piece by piece; all the broken bits … we’ve been so busily dispersing all day long. It re-establishes itself, an inward quiet, like the outward quiet of grass and trees. It fills one, it grows — a crystal quiet, a growing, expanding crystal. It grows, it becomes more perfect; it is beautiful and terrifying … For one’s alone in the crystal, and there’s no support from the outside, there is nothing external and important, nothing external and trivial to pull oneself up by or stand on … There is nothing to laugh at or feel enthusiast about. But the quiet grows and grows. Beautifully and unbearably. And at last you are conscious of something approaching; it is almost a faint sound of footsteps. Something inexpressively lovely and wonderful advances through the crystal, nearer, nearer. And, oh, inexpressively terrifying. For if it were to touch you, if it were to seize you and engulf you, you’d die; all the regular, habitual daily part of you would die … one would have to begin living arduously in the quiet, arduously in some strange, unheard of manner.”

“The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior “righteous indignation” — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.”

“You can’t worship a spirit in spirit, unless you do it now. Wallowing in the past may be good literature. As wisdom, it’s hopeless. Time Regained is Paradise Lost, and Time Lost is Paradise Regained. Let the dead bury their dead. If you want to live at every moment as it presents itself, you’ve got to die to every other moment.”

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

“The trouble with fiction… is that it makes too much sense. Reality never makes sense.”

“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”

“Defined in psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously over-compensates a secret doubt.”

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

“Man is so intelligent that he feels impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic.”

“Jehovah, Allah, the Trinity, Jesus, Buddha, are names for a great variety of human virtues, human mystical experiences human remorses, human compensatory fantasies, human terrors, human cruelties. If all men were alike, all the world would worship the same God.”

“Why did it occur to anyone to believe in only one God? And conversely why did it ever occur to anyone to believe in many gods? To both these questions we must return the same answer: Because that is how the human mind happens to work. For the human mind is both diverse and simple, simultaneously many and one. We have an immediate perception of our own diversity and of that of the outside world. And at the same time we have immediate perceptions of our own oneness.”

“More than twenty-five centuries have passed since that which has been called the Perennial Philosophy was first committed to writing; and in the course of those centuries it has found expression, now partial, now complete, now in this form, now in that, again and again. In Vedanta and Hebrew prophecy, in the Tao Teh King and the Platonic dialogues, in the Gospel according to St. John and Mahayana theology, in Plotinus and the Areopagite, among the Persian Sufis and the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance — the Perennial Philosophy has spoken almost all the languages of Asia and Europe and has made use of the terminology and traditions of every one of the higher religions. But under all this confusion of tongues and myths, of local histories and particularist doctrines, there remains a Highest Common Factor, which is the Perennial Philosophy in what may be called its chemically pure state. This final purity can never, of course, be expressed by any verbal statement of the philosophy, however undogmatic that statement may be, however deliberately syncretistic. The very fact that it is set down at a certain time by a certain writer, using this or that language, automatically imposes a certain sociological and personal bias on the doctrines so formulated. It is only in the act of contemplation when words and even personality are transcended, that the pure state of the Perennial Philosophy can actually be known. The records left by those who have known it in this way make it abundantly clear that all of them, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Hebrew, Taoist, Christian, or Mohammedan, were attempting to describe the same essentially indescribable Fact.”

“The original scriptures of most religions are poetical and unsystematic. Theology, which generally takes the form of a reasoned commentary on the parables and aphorisms of the scriptures, tends to make its appearance at a later stage of religious history. The Bhagavad-Gita occupies an intermediate position between scripture and theology; for it combines the poetical qualities of the first with the clear-cut methodicalness of the second… one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made. Hence its enduring value, not only for Indians, but for all mankind.”

“At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.

First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness — the world of things and animals and men and even gods — is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.

Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.

Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.

Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.”

Suso has even left a diagrammatic picture of the relations subsisting between Godhead, triune God and creatures. In this very curious and interesting drawing a chain of manifestation connects the mysterious symbol of the Divine Ground with the three Persons of the Trinity, and the Trinity in turn is connected in a descending scale with angels and human beings. These last, as the drawing vividly shows, may make one of two choices. They can either live the life of the outer man, the life of the separative selfhood; in which case they are lost (for, in the words of the Theologia Germanica, “nothing burns in hell but the self”). Or else they can identify themselves with the inner man, in which case it becomes possible for them, as Suso shows, to ascend again, through unitive knowledge, to the Trinity and even, beyond the Trinity, to the ultimate Unity of the Divine Ground.”

“The second doctrine of the Perennial Philosophy — that it is possible to know the Divine Ground by a direct intuition higher than discursive reasoning — is to be found in all the great religions of the world. A philosopher who is content merely to know about the ultimate Reality — theoretically and by hearsay — is compared by Buddha to a herdsman of other men’s cows. Mohammed uses an even homelier barnyard metaphor. For him the philosopher who has not realized his metaphysics is just an ass bearing a load of books. Christian, Hindu, Taoist teachers wrote no less emphatically about the absurd pretensions of mere learning and analytic reasoning.”

“The unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground has, as its necessary condition, self-abnegation and charity. Only by means of self-abnegation and charity can we clear away the evil, folly and ignorance which constitute the thing we call our personality and prevent us from becoming aware of the spark of divinity illuminating the inner man.”

“The spark within is akin to the Divine Ground. By identifying ourselves with the first we can come to unitive knowledge of the second. These empirical facts of the spiritual life have been variously rationalized in terms of the theologies of the various religions. The Hindus categorically affirm that Thou art That — that the indwelling Atman is the same as Brahman. For orthodox Christianity there is not an identity between the spark and God. Union of the human spirit with God takes place — union so complete that the word deification is applied to it; but it is not the union of identical substances. According to Christian theology, the saint is “deified,” not because Atman is Brahman, but because God has assimilated the purified human spirit in to the divine substance by an act of grace. Islamic theology seems to make a similar distinction. The Sufi, Mansur, was executed for giving to the words “union” and “deification” the literal meaning which they bear in the Hindu tradition. For our present purposes, however, the significant fact is that these words are actually used by Christians and Mohammedans to describe the empirical facts of metaphysical realization by means of direct, super-rational intuition.”

“In regard to man’s final end, all the higher religions are in complete agreement. The purpose of human life is the discovery of Truth, the unitive knowledge of the Godhead. The degree to which this unitive knowledge is achieved here on earth determines the degree to which it will be enjoyed in the posthumous state. Contemplation of truth is the end, action the means.”

“Because machines could be made progressively more and more efficient, Western man came to believe that men and societies would automatically register a corresponding moral and spiritual improvement. Attention and allegiance came to be paid, not to Eternity, but to the Utopian future. External circumstances came to be regarded as more important than states of mind about external circumstances, and the end of human life was held to be action, with contemplation as a means to that end. These false and historically, aberrant and heretical doctrines are now systematically taught in our schools and repeated, day in, day out, by those anonymous writers of advertising copy who, more than any other teachers, provide European and American adults with their current philosophy of life. And so effective has been the propaganda that even professing Christians accept the heresy unquestioningly and are quite unconscious of its complete incompatibility with their own or anybody else’s religion.”

“Many Catholic mystics have affirmed that, at a certain stage of that contemplative prayer in which, according to the most authoritative theologians, the life of Christian perfection ultimately consists, it is necessary to put aside all thought of the Incarnation as distracting from the higher knowledge of that which has been incarnated. From this fact have arisen misunderstandings in plenty and a number of intellectual difficulties.”

“Human beings are not born identical. There are many different temperaments and constitutions; and within each psycho-physical class one can find people at very different stages of spiritual development. Forms of worship and spiritual discipline which may be valuable for one individual maybe useless or even positively harmful for another belonging to a different class and standing, within that class, at a lower or higher level of development.”

“I have tried to show that the Perennial Philosophy and its ethical corollaries constitute a Highest Common Factor, present in all the major religions of the world. To affirm this truth has never been more imperatively necessary than at the present time. There will never be enduring peace unless and until human beings come to accept a philosophy of life more adequate to the cosmic and psychological facts than the insane idolatries of nationalism and the advertising man’s apocalyptic faith in Progress towards a mechanized New Jerusalem. All the elements of this philosophy are present, as we have seen, in the traditional religions. But in existing circumstances there is not the slightest chance that any of the traditional religions will obtain universal acceptance. Europeans and Americans will see no reason for being converted to Hinduism, say, or Buddhism. And the people of Asia can hardly be expected to renounce their own traditions for the Christianity professed, often sincerely, by the imperialists who, for four hundred years and more, have been systematically attacking, exploiting, and oppressing, and are now trying to finish off the work of destruction by “educating” them. But happily there is the Highest Common Factor of all religions, the Perennial Philosophy which has always and everywhere been the metaphysical system of prophets, saints and sages. It is perfectly possible for people to remain good Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or Moslems and yet to be united in full agreement on the basic doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy.”

“The Bhagavad-Gita is perhaps the most systematic scriptural statement of the Perennial Philosophy. To a world at war, a world that, because it lacks the intellectual and spiritual prerequisites to peace, can only hope to patch up some kind of precarious armed truce, it stands pointing, clearly and unmistakably, to the only road of escape from the self-imposed necessity of self-destruction.”

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.”

“To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.”

“You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. . . . Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat’s meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.”

“And suddenly I had an inkling of what it must feel like to be mad.

‘Is it agreeable?’ somebody asked.

‘Neither agreeable nor disagreeable,’ I answered. ‘it just is.’ Istigkeit – wasn’t that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? ‘Is-ness.’ The Being of Platonic philosophy – except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea. He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were – a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.”

“Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language.”

“I strongly suspect that most of the great knowers of Suchness paid very little attention to art.… (To a person whose transfigured and transfiguring mind can see the All in every this, the first-rateness or tenth-rateness of even a religious painting will be a matter of the most sovereign indifference.) Art, I suppose, is only for beginners, or else for those resolute dead-enders, who have made up their minds to be content with the ersatz of Suchness, with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner.”

“Given the nature of spiders, webs are inevitable. And given the nature of human beings, so are religions. Spiders can’t help making fly-traps, and men can’t help making symbols. That’s what the human brain is there for – the turn the chaos of given experience into a set of manageable symbols.”

“Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there. If I only knew who in fact I am, I should cease to behave as what I think I am; and if I stopped behaving as what I think I am, I should know who I am. What in fact I am, if only the Manichee I think I am would allow me to know it, is the reconciliation of yes and no lived out in total acceptance and the blessed experience of Not-Two. In religion all words are dirty words. Anybody who gets eloquent about Buddha, or God, or Christ, ought to have his mouth washed out with carbolic soap.”

“For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written.”

“The man who wishes to know the “that” which is “thou” may set to work in any one of three ways. He may begin by looking inwards into his own particular thou and, by a process of “dying to self” — self in reasoning, self in willing, self in feeling — come at last to knowledge of the self, the kingdom of the self, the kingdom of God that is within. Or else he may begin with the thous existing outside himself, and may try to realize their essential unity with God and, through God, with one another and with his own being. Or, finally (and this is doubtless the best way), he may seek to approach the ultimate That both from within and from without, so that he comes to realize God experimentally as at once the principle of his own thou and of all other thous, animate and inanimate.”

“Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief. Faith is something very different from belief. Belief is the systematic taking of unanalyzed words much too seriously. Paul’s words, Mohammed’s words, Marx’s words, Hitler’s words—people take them too seriously, and what happens? What happens is the senseless ambivalence of history—sadism versus duty, or (incomparably worse) sadism as duty; devotion counterbalanced by organized paranoia; sisters of charity selflessly tending the victims of their own church’s inquisitors and crusaders. Faith, on the contrary, can never be taken too seriously. For Faith is the empirically justified confidence in our capacity to know who in fact we are, to forget the belief-intoxicated Manichee in Good Being.”

“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”

“Nobody can have the consolations of religion or philosophy unless he has first experienced their desolations.”

“The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing who in fact he is…”

“Most lead lives at worst so painful, at best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principle appetites of the soul.”

“To be enlightened is to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness – to be aware of it and yet remain in a condition to survive as an animal. Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves.”

“The Beatific Vision, Sat Chit Ananda, Being-Awareness-Bliss-for the first time I understood, not on the verbal level, not by inchoate hints or at a distance, but precisely and completely what those prodigious syllables referred to. And then I remembered a passage I had read in one of Suzuki’s essays. ‘What is the Dharma-Body of the Buddha?’ (‘the Dharma-Body of the Buddha’ is another way of saying Mind, Suchness, the Void, the Godhead.) The question is asked in a Zen monastery by an earnest and bewildered novice. And with the prompt irrelevance of one of the Marx Brothers, the Master answers, ‘The hedge at the bottom of the garden.’ ‘And the man who realizes this truth,’ the novice dubiously inquires, ‘what, may I ask, is he?’ Groucho gives him a whack over the shoulders with his staff and answers, ‘A golden-haired lion.’

It had been, when I read it, only a vaguely pregnant piece of nonsense. Now it was all as clear as day, as evident as Euclid. Of course the Dharma-Body of the Buddha was the hedge at the bottom of the garden. At the same time, and no less obviously, it was these flowers, it was anything that I—or rather the blessed Not-I, released for a moment from my throttling embrace—cared to look at.”

“I was sitting on the seashore, half listening to a friend arguing violently about something which merely bored me. Unconsciously to myself, I looked at a film, of sand I had picked up on my hand, when I suddenly saw the exquisite beauty of every little grain of it; instead of being dull, I saw that each particle was made up on a perfect geometrical pattern, with sharp angles, from each of which a brilliant shaft of light was reflected, while each tiny crystal shone like a rainbow. . . . The rays crossed and recrossed, making exquisite patterns of such beauty that they left me breathless. … Then, suddenly, my consciousness was lighted up from within and I saw in a vivid way how the whole universe was made up of particles of material which, no matter how dull and lifeless they might seem, were nevertheless filled with this intense and vital beauty. For a second or two the whole world appeared as a blaze of glory. When it died down, it left me with something I have never forgotten and which constantly reminds me of the beauty locked up in every minute speck of material around us.”

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Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

VaughanLee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (born 1953, London) is a Western mystic and lineage successor in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. He is an extensive lecturer and author of several books about Sufism, mysticism, dreamwork and spirituality, and has more recently focused his efforts on the spiritual ecology movement.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., was born in London in 1953. He began following the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi path at the age of 19, after meeting Irina Tweedie, author of Daughter of Fire: A Diary of a Spiritual Training with a Sufi Master. He became Irina Tweedie’s successor and a teacher in the Naqshbandiyya Sufi Order. In 1991 he moved to Northern California and founded The Golden Sufi Center to help make available the teachings of this Sufi lineage. He currently lives in California.

Author of several books, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has lectured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe on Sufism, mysticism, Jungian psychology and dreamwork. He has also specialised in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian psychology. Since 2000 the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and an awakening global consciousness of oneness. More recently he has written about the feminine, the world soul, the anima mundi, and the emerging field of spiritual ecology. He has also hosted a number of Sufi conferences bringing together different Sufi orders in North America.

His initial work from 1990 to 2000, including his first eleven books, was to make the Sufi path more accessible to the Western seeker. The second series of books, starting from the year 2000 with The Signs of God, are focused on a spiritual teachings about oneness and how to bring them into contemporary life, with the final book in this series being Alchemy of Light. He is editor and contributor to the 2013 anthology Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth (Summer 2013), and his most recent book, Darkening of the Light: Witnessing the End of an Era.

Llewellyn has been featured in two films, One the Movie and Wake Up. He has also been featured in the television series Global Spirit and in August 2012, he was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey as a part of her Super Soul Sunday series. A regular contributor to Sufi magazine, Parabola, and other periodicals, he also writes a blog on the Huffington Post.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llewellyn_Vaughan-Lee

Some excerpts from his writings:

“What is mysticism? How is it different to spirituality? And why is mysticism important at this moment in time?

The spiritual journey can be most simply described as a way to access the light of our soul — the beautiful light with which we came into the world. On this journey we make an inner relationship with this light of our divine nature — the spirit that is within each of us. Through this relationship we come to know our true self and be nourished by the deeper meaning of our soul.

Spiritual paths and teachings give us access to the tools and guidance to do this inner work. For example, the practice of meditation can help to still the mind so that we are no longer distracted by its continual chatter. Psychological inner work can free us from the traumas, anger, anxiety and other feelings that may cover our light. Gradually we come to know more of our true nature, learn to live in the light of our real self. It is said that the goal of every spiritual path is to live a guided life, guided by that within us which is eternal.

The mystical journey may begin with making a relationship with one’s inner light, but the mystic is drawn on a deeper journey toward love’s greatest secret: that within the heart we are one with the divine. The fire of mystical love is a burning which destroys all sense of a separate self, until nothing is left but love Itself. While the spiritual seeker is drawn to the light of this fire, the mystic is the moth consumed by it’s flames. Rumi, love’s greatest mystical poet, summed up his whole life in two lines:

“And the result is not more than these three words:

I burnt, and burnt, and burnt.”

The mystical path takes us into the center of the heart where this mystery of love takes place. Initially this love is often experienced as longing, a deep desire for God, the Beloved, Divine Truth, or simply an unexplained ache in the heart. Mystics are lovers who are drawn toward a love in which there is no you or me, but only the oneness of love Itself. And they are prepared to pay the ultimate price to realize this truth: the price of themselves. In the words of the 13th century Christian mystic Hadewych of Antwerp:

“Those who were two, at first,

are made one by the pain of love.”

Gradually we discover that this love and longing slowly and often painfully destroy all our outer and inner attachments, all the images we may have of our self. The Sufis call this process being taken into the tavern of ruin, through which we are eventually made empty of all except divine love, divine presence.

This is an ancient journey in which the heart is awakened to the wonder and beauty, as well as the terror, of divine love. It is celebrated in the Bible in the Song of Songs: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” And over the centuries mystics of all faiths have written their love stories. Some mystics have been persecuted, like the Sufi al-Hallaj who was crucified for publically proclaiming the secret of divine oneness, “I am the Truth.” Known as the prince of lovers, he expressed the mystical reality: “I am He whom I love, He whom I love is me.”

Mystics may be drawn inward, but the oneness of the divine also embraces the outer world. When the eye of the heart is open all of creation reveals its divine nature; everything is seen as an expression, a manifestation of the One Being. Mystics are also involved in the demands of everyday life. One of Christianity’s most loved mystics, St. Teresa of Avila, worked tirelessly founding nunneries and looking after her nuns, while at the same time mystical prayer took her into ever deepening states of inner absorption, oneness and ecstasy. Mysticism does not mean to retire from life, but to live the unitive life. “God,” St. Teresa would say, “lives also among the pots and pans.”

The truth of mystical love is one of humanity’s great heritages. It should not be confused with its cousin, spiritual life. The spiritual journey is a wonderful way to come closer to what is sacred. It a way to live in the light of our divine nature, to be nourished by the mystery and meaning of the soul. It opens the door to what really belongs to us as sacred beings. But mysticism is quite different. The moth who feels the warmth of the fire is on a very different journey to the moth drawn into the flames themselves. This is the ancient journey from separation back to union, from our own self back to a state of oneness with God. Step by step we walk along the path of love until finally we are taken by love into love; we are taken by God to God, and there is no going back, only a deepening and deepening of this love affair of the soul.

Even if we are not all drawn to tread the path of the mystic, we need to be reminded that this note of divine love belongs to all of us. In a time of so much division in the world, it is important to reclaim this primal truth that belongs to our heritage: this great song of the soul that celebrates the oneness that is within the heart of each of us and underlies all of creation. This has particular relevance when we confront our present ecological crisis. We can no longer afford to think of the environment as something separate, outside of us. We need an awareness of the “oneness of being” of which we are all a part, and actions that come from this awareness. This awareness of unity is one of the most important contributions of the mystic at this moment in time.

Within the heart of each of us, within the heart of humanity, is this song of mystical love. It has been present for millennia celebrating the divine unity that is our real nature, and the deepest secret of our relationship with God. Hearing the many voices that today so easily consume our attention, it is easy for us to forget this quiet voice of divine love. And yet it is one of the great secrets of humanity, passed down from lover to lover, needing to be embraced, to be known, to be lived.”

“All of us want, or need, to be loved. The need for love is one of the most basic human impulses. We may cover this need with patterns of self-protection or images of self-reliance. Or we may openly acknowledge this need to our self or others. But it is always present, whether hidden or visible. Usually we seek for love in human relationships, project our need on to parents, partners, friends, lovers. Our lack or denial of love often causes wounds that we carry with us. This unmet need haunts us, sometimes driving us into addictions or other self-destructive patterns. If our need for love is met we feel nourished in the depths of our being.

Love calls to us in many different ways. Yet while most people seek for love in the tangle of human relationships, the mystic is drawn deeper under the surface — in Rumi’s words “return to the root of the root of your own being.” And here we discover one of the greatest human secrets: that the source and answer to this primal need is not separate from us, but part of our own essential nature, our own true being. Again to quote Rumi:

“The minute I heard my first love story

I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.

They’re in each other all along.”

The mystical truth of the oneness of love is something both simple and essential: the real nature of the love that we all seek is not other than us. I remember my first direct experience of this love. I was in my late 20s when one afternoon while I was in meditation I felt what I can only describe as butterfly wings touching the edge of my heart. And in that instant my whole being and body were filled with a love I had hardly known existed. Every cell of my body was loved, gently and completely. Love was present in all of me. And this love came from within me, from my own heart. There was no other.

Other experiences of the oneness of mystical love have followed — deeper, more ecstatic, more blissful. But that first direct experience carried the sweetness of a first love. From that moment I knew that I was loved completely, and it changed everything because it gave me a security I had longed for — the security that only love can give.

In every other relationship, even in the most deeply passionate love-affair, there are two — us and the one we love. We may long to get closer and closer to our lover, and when we make love there is a momentary taste of union on a physical level. But then again we become two, we are separate. Mystical love may begin with the illusion of separation, that we are separate from God, that we long for our Beloved. But the journey takes us back to our own heart and the truth of union: that lover and Beloved are one and were always united. And in this union there is a passion and depth of belonging that can only be dreamed of in human relationships. As I discovered in that first experience, just one touch of this love nourishes every cell in the body, meets every need in ways I could never have imagined.

And the deeper truth is that this love is not just within the heart, but underlies the whole of creation. It is said that in the whole of the universe there is only lover and Beloved. God loves the creation and the creation loves God. This is the mystical secret of all of life. What is discovered within the heart belongs to everything. And the oneness of this love embraces everything. When I physically felt how love touched every cell of my body, and how I was nourished by this love, I was also experiencing what belongs to all of creation. The love that belongs to God is not limited and does not discriminate. It is present within everything. The greater human mystery is not that this love is present, but that it is hidden, veiled from our perception. Like a fish in the ocean looking for water, we seek what is all around us.

It is a longing for this love that draws the mystic on the journey of the soul. The mystic is one who is not satisfied with the surface drama of love, with the give and take of human relationships, but is called to go deeper. It is a dangerous and demanding journey into the depths of the heart, into the sorrow and endless love that one finds there. Here there are few signposts but the primal vulnerability of the soul and the seemingly endless longing for love. In an outer, human relationship one can protect oneself, create barriers against one’s vulnerability and wounds. In a relationship that is born on the inside of the heart, in which there is no “other,” it is much more difficult. It is one’s own deepest love that calls: the Beloved is within one’s own soul. The vulnerability of oneness is both painful and intoxicating.

But what is revealed within the heart of the mystic, of the one who has given him or herself to love, is the great secret of creation: that love is always present. Love is present within our own heart, within every breath, within every cell of our body and the whole of creation. There is nothing other than love, and the whole of creation is a continual outpouring of divine love. The great mystery is then not that this love is always present, but that it is hidden from ordinary everyday human perception — that we do not know how much we are loved — how we are made of love. That we are love seeking love.”

“Amid the noise and increasing demands of our daily life, it is more and more important for many of us to find a way to reach an inner quiet, a place of rest and refuge. For many people, the recent introduction of meditation techniques has been an invaluable means to find a much needed stillness and tranquility.

However, the tradition of mystical prayer is another way to access the peace that belongs to our soul. It is born from a need to rediscover our heart’s relationship with the divine, our own personal and most intimate inner connection. Mystical prayer is a place of deepening love, as well as silence and peace.

My own journey in mystical prayer took place within the Sufi tradition, which describes our relationship to God as that of lover and Beloved. On this path of the heart, I was drawn back to the Beloved through the mystery of love, a love affair that takes place within the heart. Our heart is a place of receptive stillness where we wait for our Beloved, wait for this meeting of love for which we long. During the day, I often found myself longing for a time for prayer, when I could turn away from the outer world and go into my heart where I could be alone in silence with my Beloved.

After practicing for a number of years I was asked to lead a gathering at a Roman Catholic retreat center. So I studied the works of the Christian mystics, and was overjoyed to discover in the writings of St. Teresa of Avila a description of the stages of mystical prayer that was very similar to my own experiences within the Sufi tradition. At that time in the 16th century the Inquisition only allowed the mental repetition of prescribed prayers, but St. Teresa was drawn to the mystical Prayer of Quiet, a state of inner receptivity, a listening stillness very similar to the receptive Prayer of the Heart within the Sufi tradition I had been practicing. And in her writings she articulates very clearly the stages of prayer that draw one deeper and deeper within the heart into states of union and ecstasy.

To know that beneath all the divisions of the outer world there is this single stream of mystical prayer is in itself a refuge and deep reassurance. It is so easy to get caught up in the forms and images of the outer world, and yet, as Rumi writes, “God does not look at your outer forms, but at the love within your love.” And here, within the heart of each of us, is a place where we can enter the formlessness of love. And as I have discovered from my own journey into the heart, this is a love that embraces each of us with a tenderness and passion known only to lovers. We are taken by love to love.

We begin this journey of mystical prayer with the simple act of listening within the heart. We bring the mind down into the heart, into the feeling center our self. And here we wait and listen, not to the sounds of the outer world, but to the silence that is within our self. This silence is nourishing, and in itself it draws us deeper and deeper within. It is the silence from which love is born, where we meet our Beloved, where we are taken by love. In the words of one Christian mystic, the Blessed John Ruysbroeck, it becomes “the dark silence in which all lovers lose themselves.”

Like the practice of meditation, or Centering Prayer, this Prayer of the Heart can be practiced daily. It allows us to have a deepening relationship with the divine that is always present within us, but so easily overlooked in our daily life. It nourishes us from the depths of our own soul. Our outer, everyday life becomes more and more grounded in the core of our own being. And through this simple mystical prayer we discover a friend, a companion, a lover.

Mystical prayer belongs to our deepest human heritage, and as our outer world appears increasingly fractious and out of balance, with economic and ecological uncertainty, it is infinitely valuable to reclaim this tradition. In the West it was often hidden beneath all the rituals and recitations of the Church — sometimes its practitioners were persecuted — and yet it was kept alive by mystics like St. Teresa. As we open our hearts and our-selves to love’s silence we affirm what is deepest within us and within the world: our relationship to the divine and the oneness that belongs to all of life.”

“We live in a culture of religious diversity that is at present experiencing a reawakening of interest in spirituality. If we are to more fully understand what this reawakening might mean, it seems to me that we need to clarify the traditional difference between religion and spirituality, between the exoteric and the esoteric.

Exoteric refers to a religious doctrine or body of knowledge that is accessible to anyone. It does not rely upon one’s individual inner experience of the divine or what is sacred. Religious teachings have often emphasized that following religious doctrine is more important than one’s individual spiritual experience, and some have discouraged inner experiences altogether.

In contrast, esoteric teachings and their practices are usually a way to help the individual have a direct inner experience of the sacred. They are based upon the understanding that there is a world of the spirit that is very different than the purely physical world of the senses. Esoteric studies often involve specific spiritual practices that are quite distinct from religious observances. These practices are a way to access the world of the spirit–leading finally to awaken or be born into this reality that is invisible to our physical eyes.

Spiritual teachings of all cultures tell us that just as we have a physical body, so too do we have a spiritual body. This is the body of our spiritual self. In some Indian traditions it is described as having a series of energy centers, or chakras. In Sufism it is described as a series of chambers within the heart–that just as we have a physical heart we also have a spiritual heart which contains our divine consciousness. In Taoism it is sometimes imaged as a spirit body or light body. Our spiritual body has qualities such as peace, bliss and endless love that are rarely found in our outer lives. What is common to most esoteric traditions is that we can access this spiritual body through specific practices or techniques, meditation, mantra, breathing practices and others.

Many religions have an esoteric core, for example the Jewish Kabbalah, or Sufism which is known as the heart of Islam. Yet, at different times in history religions have banned or persecuted as heresy esoteric teachings and their practitioners. Early Christianity had a known esoteric dimension, for example in the teachings of the Gospel of Thomas that point to an inner spiritual mystery, as in the words of Jesus: “I disclose my mysteries to those who are worthy of my mysteries.” Sadly the orthodoxy of the early Church banned the inner, esoteric aspect of Jesus’ teachings, and the Gospel of Thomas became heresy, its copies destroyed, until one copy was rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

The esoteric, spiritual teachings that can be found within many religions, shamanic and other traditions form part of our spiritual heritage. They remind us that we are not just physical beings in a physical world, but that our lives and also our bodies have a spiritual dimension. We are beings of light as well as flesh and blood. There is a world within and around us to which we can have access that is very different to the physical world. Yet the spiritual and physical worlds are not separate, but interpenetrate and nourish each other.

At this present time there is a hunger for direct inner experience, a need to reclaim our spiritual heritage. While our materialistic culture tries to keep our attention firmly in the physical world of the senses, many of us sense a longing to know this hidden mystery of what it means to be human. And so we are able to turn to the teachings and traditions that have been given to us, whether in yoga, Buddhist meditation, Sufi dhikr or other spiritual practices. It is important to recognize the root of our longing, that we are no longer prepared to live in a purely physical world, but need the living presence of the spiritual. We need to know and be nourished by the invisible world that is within us and all around us. We need to reclaim the mystery and magic of being fully alive.

We also need to confront the specter of death. So many people, knowing only the physical world, remain frightened of death. Religious teachings create a clear division between this life and the afterlife, which may carry the promise of heaven or the threat of hell. Spiritual experience can lift the veils between the worlds, allowing us to glimpse a spiritual reality while we remain present in the physical world. Many people have had near death experiences in which they see a light at the end of a tunnel. Our spiritual heritage can give us access to this light while we are still in this world. This is the light found within the heart, the light of our divine self. It is beautifully imaged in the Gospel of St. Matthew which speaks about the oneness of real inner perception: “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Spiritual life can take us beyond death. In Sufism this is called “to die before you die,” to awaken to the world of light while still alive in this world. Then you know that there is no such thing as death, or in Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Thomas, “Whoever discovers the interpretations of these sayings will not taste death.”

Spiritual truth is at the heart of all religions, and yet it is also beyond the divisions that plague our world. It is about the oneness, the love and the light that is within us all, and to which as human beings we can have access. Spiritual teachings and their practices can give us each our own individual experience of this very human reality, help us to live in the light of this oneness rather than stumbling in the darkness of so many divisions. I feel that our present spiritual reawakening is a deep longing, a need to step into this light.”

“In order to change our present global predicament we need to go to the root of the attitude of consciousness that created it. Otherwise we run the risk of trying to solve the problem with the same conditioning, the same thought process, which created it. It is essential at this critical moment that we understand the origins of our present mindset that sees the Earth as a resource, the “environment” as something separate from our self. Some say this attitude is rooted in the Age of Enlightenment and a Newtonian consciousness that sees the Earth as an unfeeling mechanism separate from us and which we can control and master. And certainly the developing tools of science and technology have seemingly given us this ability. But in order to more fully understand this sense of separation it is necessary to go deeper, back in our Western consciousness to when early Christianity persecuted the pagan and Earth-based religions, cut down their sacred groves, and slowly began the process whereby the Earth became no longer something sacred, in a way unthinkable to an indigenous person. We are the inheritors of this culture that banished the relationship to the sacred from the Earth.

Much of our Western civilization has now forgotten the sacred nature of the Earth, and we are unaware of how this forgetfulness crucially affects our relationship to the environment. If the Earth is just a resource then there is no real responsibility. We can use and abuse it, as we are doing at the present time. If it is sacred then how can we justify our present attitude towards the environment, our acts of ecocide?

Because of this there is a pressing need to reclaim this primal relationship to life and all of creation. If we are to sustain a living, sacred Earth that nourishes our souls as well as our bodies, we need to reconnect with this ancient knowing. It is not something new to be learned, but something essential to be remembered, something that has always belonged to us, only forgotten or censored by our present culture.

The “sacred” is not something primarily religious. It belongs to the primary nature of all that is. When our ancestors knew that everything they could see was sacred, this was not something taught but instinctively known. It was as natural as sunlight, as necessary as breathing. If we embrace the sacred within all of life, we will find that life will speak to us as it spoke to our ancestors. A veil will be lifted and this innate knowing will be present again. This is the ancient wisdom of the Earth itself, the Earth which has evolved and changed over millennia, whose wisdom we desperately need at this present time if we are to avoid an even greater ecological disaster. Again to quote Thomas Berry:

“We need not a human answer to an earth problem, but an earth answer to an earth problem. The earth will solve its problems, and possibly our own, if we will let the earth function in its own ways. We need only listen to what the earth is telling us.”

We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life.”

“The unspoken poverty in our culture is a poverty of spirit, a real hunger for what the West has forgotten: that not just individual life but all of creation is sacred. This connection to a sacred Earth always made us feel and know we are part of the great mystery of creation, of its rivers and winds, its birdsong and seeds. How could it be otherwise? And how can we now regain this simple but forgotten element, this ingredient as essential as salt?

First we need to recognize that this connection is missing, that there is an ache, a loneliness, within our heart and soul. And from this there will come a grief for what we have lost — because our soul remembers even if our mind and our culture try to make us forget. We are not “consumers” needing only more stuff, but souls in search of meaning. And from this grief, this sorrow, can come a real response that can return us once again to what is sacred within our self and with our life. As the Buddhist environmentalist Joanna Macy explains, our pain is evidence for a deeper interconnectedness — otherwise we would not feel this loss. It reawakens our care for each other and our love for the Earth. Our heart knows what our mind has forgotten — it knows the sacred that is within all that exists, and through a depth of feeling we can once again experience this connection, this belonging.

We are not here on Earth to be alone, but to be a part of a living community, a web of life in which all is sacred. Like the cells of our body, all of life is in constant communication, as science is just beginning to understand. No bird sings in isolation, no bud breaks open alone. And the most central note that is present in life is its sacred nature, something we need to each rediscover and honor anew. We need to learn once again how to walk and breathe in a sacred universe, to feel this heartbeat of life. Hearing its presence speak to us, we feel this great bond of life that supports and nourishes us all. Today’s world may still at times make us feel lonely, but we can then remember what every animal, every insect, every plant knows — and only we have forgotten: the living sacred whole.”

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David Bohm

David_Bohm

David Joseph Bohm (December 20, 1917 – October 27, 1992) was an American scientist who has been described as one of the most important theoretical physicists of the 20th century and who contributed innovative and unorthodox ideas to quantum theory, neuropsychology and the philosophy of mind, or consciousness. Along with Einstein, Tesla, and the quartet of scientists mentioned in the earlier article here entitled “The Science Mystics“, Bohm was a cross-over personality who had a foot in both worlds — science and mysticism — and his life’s work contributed significantly to erasing the artificial boundaries between the two.

Bohm advanced the view that quantum physics meant the old Cartesian model of reality – that there are two kinds of substance, the mental and the physical, that somehow interact – was too limited. To complement it, therefore, he developed a mathematical and physical theory of “implicate” and “explicate” order. He also believed that the working of the brain, at the cellular level, obeyed the mathematics of some quantum effects, and postulated that thought was distributed and non-localised in the way that quantum entities do not readily fit into our conventional model of space and time.

Implicate order and explicate order are concepts coined by David Bohm to describe two different frameworks for understanding the same phenomenon or aspect of reality. He uses these notions to describe how the same phenomenon might look different, or might be characterized by different principal factors, in different contexts such as at different scales.

The implicate order, also referred to as the “enfolded” order, is seen as a deeper and more fundamental order of reality. In contrast, the explicate or “unfolded” order include the abstractions that humans normally perceive. As he writes:

“In the enfolded [or implicate] order, space and time are no longer the dominant factors determining the relationships of dependence or independence of different elements. Rather, an entirely different sort of basic connection of elements is possible, from which our ordinary notions of space and time, along with those of separately existent material particles, are abstracted as forms derived from the deeper order. These ordinary notions in fact appear in what is called the “explicate” or “unfolded” order, which is a special and distinguished form contained within the general totality of all the implicate orders.”

Bohm often warned of the dangers of rampant reason and technology, advocating instead the need for genuine supportive dialogue which he claimed could broaden and unify conflicting and troublesome divisions in the social world. In this his epistemology mirrored his ontological viewpoint. Due to his youthful Communist affiliations, Bohm was targeted during the McCarthy era, prompting him to leave the United States. He pursued his scientific career in several countries, becoming first a Brazilian and then a British citizen.

His main concern, and the thrust of his life’s work, has been all about understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which according to Bohm is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment.

Bohm was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States, to a Hungarian Jewish immigrant father Samuel Bohm and a Lithuanian Jewish mother. He was raised mainly by his father, a furniture-store owner and assistant of the local rabbi. Despite being raised in a Jewish family, he became an agnostic in his teenage years. Bohm attended Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University), graduating in 1939, then the California Institute of Technology for a year. He then transferred to the theoretical physics group directed by Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his doctorate.

Bohm lived in the same neighborhood as some of Oppenheimer’s other graduate students (Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, Joseph Weinberg, and Max Friedman) and with them became increasingly involved not only with physics, but with radical politics. Bohm became active in Communist and Communist-backed organizations including the Young Communist League, the Campus Committee to Fight Conscription, and the Committee for Peace Mobilization.

During World War II, the Manhattan Project mobilized much of Berkeley’s physics research in the effort to produce the first atomic bomb. Though Oppenheimer had asked Bohm to work with him at Los Alamos (the top-secret laboratory established in 1942 to design the atom bomb), the director of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves, would not approve Bohm’s security clearance, after evidence about his politics (Bohm’s friend, Joseph Weinberg, had also been suspected of espionage).

Bohm remained in Berkeley, teaching physics, until he completed his Ph.D. in 1943, by an unusual circumstance. The scattering calculations (of collisions of protons and deuterons) that he had completed proved useful to the Manhattan Project and were immediately classified. Without security clearance, Bohm was denied access to his own work; not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place. To satisfy the university, Oppenheimer certified that Bohm had successfully completed the research. He later performed theoretical calculations for the Calutrons at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, used to electromagnetically enrich uranium for use in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

After the war, Bohm became an assistant professor at Princeton University, where he worked closely with Albert Einstein. In May, 1949, the House Un-American Activities Committee called upon Bohm to testify before it— because of his previous ties to suspected Communists. Bohm, however, pleaded the Fifth amendment right to refuse to testify, and refused to give evidence against his colleagues.

In 1950, Bohm was charged for refusing to answer questions of the Committee and was arrested. He was acquitted in May, 1951, but Princeton University had already suspended him. After the acquittal, Bohm’s colleagues sought to have him re-instated to Princeton, and Einstein reportedly wanted Bohm to serve as his assistant. The university did not renew his contract. His request to go to Manchester found support with Einstein, but was unsuccessful. Bohm then left for Brazil to assume a professorship of physics at the University of São Paulo at the invitation of Jayme Tiomno, and by recommendation of Einstein and Oppenheimer.

During his early period, Bohm made a number of significant contributions to physics, particularly to quantum mechanics and relativity theory. As a post-graduate at Berkeley, he developed a theory of plasmas, discovering the electron phenomenon known now as Bohm-diffusion. His first book, Quantum Theory published in 1951, was well received by Einstein, among others. However, Bohm became dissatisfied with the orthodox interpretation of quantum theory, which he had written about in that book. Starting from the realization that the WKB approximation of quantum mechanics leads to deterministic equations and convinced that a mere approximation could not turn a probabilistic theory into a deterministic theory, he doubted the inevitability of the conventional approach to quantum mechanics.

Bohm’s aim was not to set out a deterministic, mechanical viewpoint, but rather to show that it was possible to attribute properties to an underlying reality, in contrast to the conventional approach. He began to develop his own interpretation (De Broglie–Bohm theory), the predictions of which agree perfectly with the nondeterministic quantum theory. He initially referred to his approach as a hidden variable theory, but later referred to it as ontological theory, reflecting his view that a stochastic process that would underlie the phenomena described by his theory may be found. Bohm and his colleague Basil Hiley later stated that they found their own choice of terms of an “interpretation in terms of hidden variables” to be too restrictive, in particular as their variables, position and momentum, “are not actually hidden”.

After his arrival in Brazil on October 10, 1951, the U.S. Consul in São Paulo had confiscated his passport, informing him he could retrieve it only to return to his country. This reportedly frightened Bohm, and significantly lowered his spirits, as he had hoped to travel to Europe. He applied for and received Brazilian citizenship, but due to then-Brazilian law he had to give up his U.S. citizenship and could retrieve it only decades later, in 1986, after pursuing a lawsuit.

At the University of São Paulo, Bohm worked on the causal theory that became the object of his publications in 1952. Jean-Pierre Vigier traveled to São Paulo, where he worked with Bohm for three months; Ralph Schiller (a student of cosmologist Peter Bergmann) was his assistant for two years; he worked with Tiomno and Walther Schützer; and Mario Bunge stayed to work with him for one year. He was in contact with Brazilian physicists Mário Schönberg, Jean Meyer, Leite Lopes, and had discussions on occasions with visitors to Brazil, including Richard Feynman, Isidor Rabi, Léon Rosenfeld, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Herbert Anderson, Donald Kerst, Marcos Moshinsky, Alejandro Medina, and the former assistant to Heisenberg, Guido Beck, who encouraged him in his work and helped him to obtain funding. The Brazilian CNPq explicitly supported his work on the causal theory and funded several researchers around Bohm. His work with Vigier was the beginning of a long-standing cooperation between the two and Louis De Broglie, in particular, on connections to the hydrodynamics model proposed by Madelung. Yet the causal theory met much resistance and skepticism, with many physicists holding the Copenhagen interpretation to be the only viable approach to quantum mechanics.

In 1955, Bohm relocated to Israel, where he spent two years working at the Technion at Haifa. Here he met Sarah (“Saral”) Woolfson. The couple married in 1956. In 1957, Bohm relocated to the United Kingdom as a research fellow at the University of Bristol. In 1959, Bohm and Aharonov discovered the Aharonov–Bohm effect, showing how a magnetic field could affect a region of space in which the field had been shielded, although its vector potential did not vanish there. This showed for the first time that the magnetic vector potential, hitherto a mathematical convenience, could have real physical (quantum) effects. In 1961, Bohm was made Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of London’s Birkbeck College, where his collected papers are kept.

At Birkbeck College, much of the work of Bohm and Basil Hiley expanded on the notion of implicate, explicate and generative orders proposed by Bohm. In the view of Bohm and Hiley, “things, such as particles, objects, and indeed subjects” exist as “semi-autonomous quasi-local features” of an underlying activity. These features can be considered to be independent only up to a certain level of approximation in which certain criteria are fulfilled. In this picture, the classical limit for quantum phenomena, in terms of a condition that the action function is not much greater than Planck’s constant, indicates one such criterion. They used the word “holomovement” for the activity in such orders.

In collaboration with Stanford neuroscientist Karl Pribram, Bohm was involved in the early development of the holonomic model of the functioning of the brain, a model for human cognition that is drastically different from conventionally accepted ideas. Bohm worked with Pribram on the theory that the brain operates in a manner similar to a hologram, in accordance with quantum mathematical principles and the characteristics of wave patterns.

Bohm was alarmed by what he considered an increasing imbalance of not only man and nature, but among peoples, as well as within people, themselves. Bohm mused: “So one begins to wonder what is going to happen to the human race. Technology keeps on advancing with greater and greater power, either for good or for destruction.”

He goes on to ask:

“What is the source of all this trouble? I’m saying that the source is basically in thought. Many people would think that such a statement is crazy, because thought is the one thing we have with which to solve our problems. That’s part of our tradition. Yet it looks as if the thing we use to solve our problems with is the source of our problems. It’s like going to the doctor and having him make you ill. In fact, in 20% of medical cases we do apparently have that going on. But in the case of thought, it’s far over 20%.”

In Bohm’s view:

“…the general tacit assumption in thought is that it’s just telling you the way things are and that it’s not doing anything – that ‘you’ are inside there, deciding what to do with the info. But you don’t decide what to do with the info. Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives false info that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us.

Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally. This is another major feature of thought: Thought doesn’t know it is doing something and then it struggles against what it is doing. It doesn’t want to know that it is doing it. And thought struggles against the results, trying to avoid those unpleasant results while keeping on with that way of thinking. That is what I call ‘sustained incoherence’.”

Bohm thus proposes in his book Thought as a System a pervasive, systematic nature of thought:

“What I mean by “thought” is the whole thing – thought, felt, the body, the whole society sharing thoughts – it’s all one process. It is essential for me not to break that up, because it’s all one process; somebody else’s thoughts become my thoughts, and vice versa. Therefore it would be wrong and misleading to break it up into my thoughts, your thoughts, my feelings, these feelings, those feelings… I would say that thought makes what is often called in modern language a system. A system means a set of connected things or parts. But the way people commonly use the word nowadays it means something all of whose parts are mutually interdependent – not only for their mutual action, but for their meaning and for their existence. A corporation is organized as a system – it has this department, that department, that department. They don’t have any meaning separately; they only can function together. And also the body is a system. Society is a system in some sense. And so on.

Similarly, thought is a system. That system not only includes thoughts, “felts” and feelings, but it includes the state of the body; it includes the whole of society – as thought is passing back and forth between people in a process by which thought evolved from ancient times. A system is constantly engaged in a process of development, change, evolution and structure changes…although there are certain features of the system which become relatively fixed. We call this the structure…. Thought has been constantly evolving and we can’t say when that structure began. But with the growth of civilization it has developed a great deal. It was probably very simple thought before civilization, and now it has become very complex and ramified and has much more incoherence than before.

Now, I say that this system has a fault in it – a “systematic fault”. It is not a fault here, there or here, but it is a fault that is all throughout the system. Can you picture that? It is everywhere and nowhere. You may say “I see a problem here, so I will bring my thoughts to bear on this problem”. But “my” thought is part of the system. It has the same fault as the fault I’m trying to look at, or a similar fault.

Thought is constantly creating problems that way and then trying to solve them. But as it tries to solve them it makes it worse because it doesn’t notice that it’s creating them, and the more it thinks, the more problems it creates.”

Bohm views physical processes as determined by information of more and more subtle levels which interact, and does not limit this consideration to matter alone. In an article of 1990, A new theory of the relationship of mind and matter, he resumes his view that there exists a close link to mental processes: “the whole notion of active information suggests a rudimentary mind-like behaviour of matter”. In his view, mental processes as well can be understood as representing levels of activity of increasing subtlety which act upon each other. He recalls that thought is intricately connected with physical reactions, as is known from everyday experience. Yet on the mental side, action as response to information need not be immediate; rather, in some cases at least, it can be mediated by “suspension” of physical action and the resulting train of thought.

Bohm suggests that the mental and the physical sides, which he sees as two “poles” of a unified whole, are closely interlinked and that “at each level, information is the bridge or link between the two sides”. A relationship between the mental and matter may exist at indefinitely great levels of subtlety, while nonetheless each kind and level of mind may have a relative autonomy and stability. His article concludes with the statement that “knowledge of matter (as well as of mind) has changed in such a way as to support the approach that has been described here. To pursue this approach further might perhaps enable us to extend our knowledge of both poles into new domain.”

Beyond Bohm’s creative work in physics, he also expressed interest in panpsychism, of which he said “Even the electron is informed with a certain level of mind”. Likewise, he had interests in the work of Count Alfred Korzybski (Science and Sanity), the morphogenic fields of Rupert Sheldrake, the orgone energy of Wilhelm Reich, and the marvels of parapsychology.

To address societal problems during his later years, Bohm wrote a proposal for a solution that has become known as “Bohm Dialogue”, in which equal status and “free space” form the most important prerequisites of communication and the appreciation of differing personal beliefs. An essential ingredient to this form of dialogue is that participants “suspend” immediate action or judgment and that they give themselves and each other the opportunity to become aware of the thought process itself. Bohm suggested that if these “dialogue groups” were experienced on a sufficiently wide scale, they could help overcome the isolation and fragmentation which Bohm observed was currently present in society.

Bohm continued his work in quantum physics past his retirement in 1987. His final work, the posthumously published The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory (1993), resulted from a decades-long collaboration with his colleague Basil Hiley. He also spoke to audiences across Europe and North America on the importance of dialogue as a form of sociotherapy, a concept he borrowed from London psychiatrist and practitioner of Group Analysis Patrick De Mare, and had a series of meetings with the Dalai Lama, as well as dialogues with J. Krishnamurti. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990.

Near the end of his life, Bohm began to experience a recurrence of depression which he had suffered at earlier times in his life. He was admitted to the Maudsley Hospital in South London on 10 May 1991. His condition worsened and it was decided that the only treatment that might help him was electroconvulsive therapy. Bohm’s wife consulted psychiatrist David Shainberg, Bohm’s long-time friend and collaborator, who agreed that electroconvulsive treatments were probably his only option. Bohm showed improvement from the treatments and was released on 29 August. However, his depression returned and was treated with medication.

Bohm died after suffering a heart attack in Hendon, London, on 27 October 1992, aged 74. He had been traveling in a London taxicab on that day; after getting no response from the passenger in the back seat for a few seconds, the driver turned back and found that Bohm had collapsed.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bohm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicate_and_explicate_order

The following article discusses the vision David Bohm intuited from his insight (gnosis) into the quantum world. This vision discerns the characteristics of an evolving cosmos in process; and, also, it ponders upon the implications for humanity.

http://www.bizcharts.com/stoa_del_sol/plenum/plenum_3.html

For an article by Michael Talbot on the holographic nature of the universe, including Bohm’s vision and contribution in this area, see here:

http://www.therealityfiles.com/the-amazing-holographic-universe/

The co-exploration of consciousness by the unique spiritual figure J. Krishnamurti and world-renowned theoretical physicist David Bohm took place in a series of more than 30 investigative dialogues. The following website focuses on them:

http://bohmkrishnamurti.com/

Among many videos available with David, here are two that are representative:

Some quotes from David Bohm:

Bohm jpeg

“I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment….”

“Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today.

Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture.

The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.

In some sense man is a microcosm of the universe; therefore what man is, is a clue to the universe. We are enfolded in the universe.”

“Perhaps there is more sense in our nonsense and more nonsense in our ‘sense’ than we would care to believe.”

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

“Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture? ”

“There is a difficulty with only one person changing. People call that person a great saint or a great mystic or a great leader, and they say, ‘Well, he’s different from me – I could never do it.’ What’s wrong with most people is that they have this block – they feel they could never make a difference, and therefore, they never face the possibility, because it is too disturbing, too frightening.”

“The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.”

“Universe consists of frozen light.”

“Space is not empty. It is full, a plenum as opposed to a vacuum, and is the ground for the existence of everything, including ourselves. The universe is not separate from this cosmic sea of energy.”

“For both the rich and the poor, life is dominated by an ever growing current of problems, most of which seem to have no real and lasting solution. Clearly we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles. It is the main point of this book that the ultimate source of all these problems is in thought itself, the very thing of which our civilization is most proud, and therefore the one thing that is “hidden” because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our own individual lives and in the life of society.”

“There is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but which can be known only implicitly, as indicated by the explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of our whole and unbroken movement.”

“The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.”

“If each one of us can give full attention to what is actually ‘blocking’ communication while he is also attending properly to the content of what is communicated, then we may be able to create something new between us, something of very great significance for bringing to an end the at present insoluble problems of the individual and of society.”

“The question is how our own meanings are related to those of the universe as a whole. We could say that our action toward the whole universe is a result of what it means to be us.”

“But what is [the] quality of originality? It is very hard to define or specify. Indeed, to define originality would in itself be a contradiction, since whatever action can be defined in this way must evidently henceforth be unoriginal. Perhaps, then, it will be best to hint at it obliquely and by indirection, rather than to try to assert positively what it is.

One prerequisite for originality is clearly that a person shall not be inclined to impose his preconceptions on the fact as he sees it. Rather, he must be able to learn something new, even if this means that the ideas and notions that are comfortable or dear to him may be overturned.

But the ability to learn in this way is a principle common to the whole of humanity. Thus it is well known that a child learns to walk, to talk, and to know his way around the world just by trying something out and seeing what happens, then modifying what he does (or thinks) in accordance with what has actually happened. In this way, he spends his first few years in a wonderfully creative way, discovering all sorts of things that are new to him, and this leads people to look back on childhood as a kind of lost paradise. As the child grows older, however, learning takes on a narrower meaning. In school, he learns by repetition to accumulate knowledge, so as to please the teacher and pass examinations. At work, he learns in a similar way, so as to make a living, or for some other utilitarian purpose, and not mainly for the love of the action of learning itself. So his ability to see something new and original gradually dies away. And without it there is evidently no ground from which anything can grow.”

“All effort to bring order into disorder is disorder.”

“Ultimately, all moments are really one, therefore now is an eternity.”

“The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion.”

“Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today. Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder, and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who have to live in it.”

“Individual thought is mostly the result of collective thought and of interaction with other people. The language is entirely collective, and most of the thoughts in it are. Everybody does his own thing to those thoughts – he makes a contribution. But very few change them very much.”

“Being guided by a fragmentary self-world view, man then acts in such a way as to try to break himself and the world up, so that all seems to correspond to his way of thinking. Man thus obtains an apparent proof of the correctness of his fragmentary self-world view though, of course, he overlooks the fact that it is he himself, acting according to his mode of thought, who has brought about the fragmentation that now seems to have an autonomous existence, independent of his will and of his desire.”

“The almost universal habit [is] taking the content of our thought for ‘a description of the world as it is’. Or we could say that, in this habit, our thought is regarded as in direct correspondence with objective reality. Since our thought is pervaded with differences and distinctions, it follows that such a habit leads us to look on these as real divisions, so that the world is then seen and experienced as actually broken up into fragments.”

“Thus, in scientific research, a great deal of our thinking is in terms of theories. The word ‘theory’ derives from the Greek ‘theoria’, which has the same root as ‘theatre’, in a word meaning ‘to view’ or ‘to make a spectacle’. Thus, it might be said that a theory is primarily a form of insight, i.e. a way of looking at the world, and not a form of knowledge of how the world is.”

“If we supposed that theories gave true knowledge, corresponding to ‘reality as it is’, then we would have to conclude that Newtonian theory was true until around 1900, after which it suddenly became false, while relativity and quantum theory suddenly became the truth. Such an absurd conclusion does not arise, however, if we say that all theories are insights, which are neither true nor false but, rather, clear in certain domains, and unclear when extended beyond these domains.”

“Clarity of perception and thought evidently requires that we be generally aware of how our experience is shaped by the insight (clear or confused) provided by the theories that are implicit or explicit in our general ways of thinking.”

“What prevents theoretical insights from going beyond existing limitations and changing to meet new facts is just the belief that theories give true knowledge of reality (which implies, of course, that they need never change).”

“So what is needed is for man to give attention to his habit of fragmentary thought, to be aware of it, and thus bring it to an end. Man’s approach to reality may then be whole, and so the response will be whole.”

“Some might say: ‘Fragmentation of cities, religions, political systems, conflict in the form of wars, general violence, fratricide, etc., are the reality. Wholeness is only an ideal, toward which we should perhaps strive.’ But this is not what is being said here. Rather, what should be said is that wholeness is what is real, and that fragmentation is the response of this whole to man’s action, guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought.”

“What is called for is not an integration of thought, or a kind of imposed unity, for any such imposed point of view would itself be merely another fragment. Rather, all our different ways of thinking are to be considered as different ways of looking at the one reality, each with some domain in which it is clear and adequate.”

“The illusion that the self and the world are broken into fragments originates in the kind of thought that goes beyond its proper measure and confuses its own product with the same independent reality. To end this illusion requires insight, not only into the world as a whole, but also into how the instrument of thought is working. Such insight implies an original and creative act of perception into all aspects of life, mental and physical, both through the senses and through the mind, and this is perhaps the true meaning of meditation.”

“Science itself is demanding a new, non-fragmentary world view.”

“Relativity and quantum theory agree, in that they both imply the need to look on the world as an undivided whole, in which all parts of the universe, including the observer and his instruments, merge and unite in one totality. In this totality, the atomistic form of insight is a simplification and an abstraction, valid only in some limited context.”

“It is widely felt that if there is to be any general world view it should be taken as the ‘received’ and ‘final’ notion concerning the nature of reality. But my attitude has, from the beginning, been that our notions concerning cosmology and the general nature of reality are in a continuous process of development, and that one may have to start with ideas that are merely some sort of improvement over what has thus far been available, and to go on from there to ideas that are better.”

“Aside from what I feel to be the intrinsic interest of questions that are so fundamental and deep, I would, in this connection, call attention to the general problem of fragmentation of human consciousness. It is proposed there that the widespread and pervasive distinctions between people (race, nation, family, profession, etc., etc.), which are now preventing mankind from working together for the common good, and indeed, even for survival, have one of the key factors of their origin in a kind of thought that treats things as inherently divided, disconnected, and ‘broken up’ into yet smaller constituent parts. Each part is considered to be essentially independent and self-existent. When man thinks of himself in this way, he will inevitably tend to defend the needs of his own ‘Ego’ against those of the others; or, if he identifies with a group of people of the same kind, he will defend this group in a similar way. He cannot seriously think of mankind as the basic reality, whose claims come first. Even if he does try to consider the needs of mankind he tends to regard humanity as separate from nature, and so on. What I am proposing here is that man’s general way of thinking of the totality, i.e. his general world view, is crucial for overall order of the human mind itself. If he thinks of the totality as constituted of independent fragments, then that is how his mind will tend to operate, but if he can include everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken, and without a border (for every border is a division or break) then his mind will tend to move in a similar way, and from this will flow an orderly action within the whole.”

“When one works in terms of the implicate order, one begins with the undivided wholeness of the universe, and the task of science is to derive the parts through abstraction from the whole, explaining them as approximately separable, stable and recurrent, but externally related elements making up relatively autonomous sub-totalities, which are to be described in terms of an explicate order.”

“Although our modern way of thinking has, of course, changed a great deal relative to the ancient one, the two have had one key feature in common: i.e. they are both generally ‘blinkered’ by the notion that theories give true knowledge about ‘reality as it is’. Thus, both are led to confuse the forms and shapes induced in our perceptions by theoretical insight with a reality independent of our thought and our way of looking.”

“One must then go on to a consideration of time as a projection of multidimensional reality into a sequence of moments.”

“Both observer and observed are merging and interpenetrating aspects of one whole reality, which is indivisible and unanalysable.”

“A proper world view, appropriate for its time, is generally one of the basic factors that is essential for harmony in the individual and in society as a whole.”

“We probed into the nature of space and time, and of the universal, both with regard to external nature and with regard to mind. But then, we went on to consider the general disorder and confusion that pervades the consciousness of mankind. It is here that I encountered what I feel to be Krishnamurti’s major discovery. What he was seriously proposing is that all this disorder, which is the root cause of such widespread sorrow and misery, and which prevents human beings from properly working together, has its root in the fact that we are ignorant of the general nature of our own processes of thought. Or to put it differently it may be said that we do not see what is actually happening, when we are engaged in the activity of thinking.”

“For both the rich and the poor, life is dominated by an ever growing current of problems, most of which seem to have no real and lasting solution. Clearly we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles. It is the main point of this book that the ultimate source of all these problems is in thought itself, the very thing of which our civilization is most proud, and therefore the one thing that is “hidden” because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our own individual lives and in the life of society.”

“Suppose you have two religions. Thought defines religion — the thought about the nature of God and various questions like that. Such thought is very important because it is about God, who is supposed to be supreme. The thought about what is of supreme value must have the highest force. So if you disagree about that, the emotional impact can be very great, and you will then have no way to settle it. Two different beliefs about God will thus produce intense fragmentation — similarly with thoughts about the nature of society, which is also very important, or with ideologies such as communism and capitalism, or with different beliefs about your family or about your money. Whatever it is that is very important to you, fragmentation in your thought about it is going to be very powerful in its effects.”

“Difference exist because thought develops like a stream that happens to go one way here and another way there. Once it develops it produces real physical results that people are looking at, but they don’t see where these results are coming from — that’s one of the basic features of fragmentation. When they have produced these divisions they see that real things have happened, so they’ll start with these real things as if they just suddenly got there by themselves, or evolved in nature by themselves.”

“We often find that we cannot easily give up the tendency to hold rigidly to patterns of thought built up over a long time. We are then caught up in what may be called absolute necessity. This kind of thought leaves no room at all intellectually for any other possibility, while emotionally and physically, it means we take a stance in our feelings, in our bodies, and indeed, in our whole culture, of holding back or resisting. This stance implies that under no circumstances whatsoever can we allow ourselves to give up certain things or change them.”

“If I am right in saying that thought is the ultimate origin or source, it follows that if we don’t do anything about thought, we won’t get anywhere. We may momentarily relieve the population problem, the ecological problem, and so on, but they will come back in another way.”

“Of course, one of the main legitimate functions of thought has always been to help provide security, guaranteeing shelter and food for instance. However, this function went wrong when the principle source of insecurity came to be the operation of thought itself.”

“Culture is shared meaning. Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture?”

“Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations, and even different parts of the same organization. In our modern culture men and women are able to interact with one another in many ways: they can sing, dance, or play together with little difficulty, but their ability to talk together about subjects that matter deeply to them seems invariably to lead to dispute, division, and often to violence. In our view this condition points to a deep and pervasive defect in the process of human thought.”

“It is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.”

“A key difference between a dialogue and an ordinary discussion is that, within the latter people usually hold relatively fixed positions and argue in favor of their views as they try to convince others to change. At best this may produce agreement or compromise, but it does not give rise to anything creative.”

“What is essential here is the presence of the spirit of dialogue, which is in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of common meaning.”

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Toni Packer

tonipacker

Toni Packer (1927 – August 23, 2013) was a teacher of “meditative inquiry”, and the founder of Springwater Center in New York, a non-denominational retreat center dedicated to forms of contemplative life derived from Toni’s spiritual influences, which included the teachings of nonduality and self-investigation found in Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, and the talks and writings of J. Krishnamurti.

Toni Packer was born in Berlin, Germany in 1927. Her family was Lutheran in name only, as they endeavored not to divulge the fact that her mother was of Jewish descent. It was in her childhood, growing up amidst the turmoil of Nazi Germany, that Packer first developed mistrust for authority. The family eventually made a move to Switzerland, where she married her husband Kyle Packer in 1950. The pair moved to New York near the State University of New York at Buffalo, where Kyle came to earn a degree in psychology. Toni began reading the pioneering works about Zen Buddhism by Alan Watts, D. T. Suzuki and Philip Kapleau. It was the latter which had the greatest impact on her, and she soon joined the nearby Rochester Zen Center with her husband.

Throughout the 1970s she accepted minor teaching positions at Rochester, and in 1981 she ran the center for an extended period in Kapleau’s absence. During this time she instituted many changes in the practice there and discontinued wearing the rakusu that normally distinguishes teachers from students. Packer left the Center shortly after Kapleau’s return and ceased calling herself a Buddhist. Her eventual departure from Zen Buddhism was due in part to her growing scepticism toward the use of Japanese ritual in Zen as practised at the Rochester Zen center.

In 1981 she opened the Genesee Valley Zen Center, in Springwater, in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, an hour south of Rochester. In 1986 the center relocated and changed its name, dropping the word Zen to become the Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry and Retreats in Springwater, New York. The Springwater Center is incorporated under New York State law as a religious institution.

Packer rejected labels for herself such as a teacher or authority, though some of the individuals she has asked to carry on her work do not. Her discursion of meditative inquiry was informed largely by her own vision, in addition to the influences noted above. Packer has been described as “…a Zen teacher minus the ‘Zen’ and minus the ‘teacher,'”, as her focus was not on herself, but the process of inquiry she recommended.

Her published writings include The Work of This Moment, The Light of Discovery, Seeing Without Knowing & What Is Meditative Inquiry?,The Wonder of Presence and the Way of Meditative Inquiry, and The Silent Question: Meditating in the Stillness of Not-Knowing.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toni_Packer

In her book Bare Bones Meditation, Toni’s most well-known student, Joan Tollifson, provided an intimate account of studying with Toni Packer and especially of living and working at Toni’s rural retreat center in Springwater, New York. Toni encouraged Joan to abandon all answers and methods, to question all beliefs, and to explore the simplicity of present awareness.

In a 2007 article for Yoga Journal, entitled “The Work of This Moment”, Joan Tollifson described her experience with Toni Packer:

“Toni Packer stands in a cloistered walkway at the edge of a courtyard, watching raindrops fall on a purple blossom. It’s the post-breakfast break at her annual nine-day New Year’s retreat in California. Toni walks a little way, then stops again to look up at the sky. She listens intently to the hissing, gurgling rain.

A lively, white-haired woman who is now 70 years old, Toni Packer is a former Zen teacher who left the traditional aspects of Zen behind to pursue her passion for what she calls “the work of this moment.”

Her approach is as unembellished and ordinary as you can get. On her retreats there are no rituals or ceremonies, and nothing is required except silence. Toni talks about listening openly to whatever is here, without resistance or effort. Rather than relying on a traditional method, she prefers to start from scratch, on the spot. She has no system, no road map, no answers. Every moment is new.

On Toni’s retreats, there is a daily schedule of timed sittings in the morning and evening (interspersed with short walking periods), and an untimed sitting period in the afternoon. But all activities and sittings are optional; you can spend the entire retreat sitting in the courtyard, walking in the hills, or lying in bed. No particular posture is regarded as better than any other. Some people even bring big, comfortable armchairs into the sitting room.

Toni gives a daily talk, and people can meet with her individually or in groups throughout the retreat. She invites us to bring up anything we want, or simply to sit quietly together listening to birds or rain. When she gives talks, Toni speaks out of stillness. She’s listening as she talks, and the listening silence is the essence of the talk. The birds, the wind, the rain, the words, the listening together is one whole happening. An immediacy permeates every word. What she points to is simple: hearing traffic or birds, seeing thoughts as thoughts, feeling the breathing, listening to it all without knowing what it is.

This open being is not something to be practiced methodically. Toni points out that it takes no effort to hear the sounds in the room; it’s all here. There’s no “me” (and no problem) until thought comes in and says: “Am I doing it right? Is this ‘awareness?’ Am I enlightened?” Suddenly the spaciousness is gone, the mind is occupied with a story and the emotions it generates.

Toni Packer grew up in Hitler’s Germany, the daughter of two scientists. Her mother was Jewish, but her father’s prestigious scientific career spared the family from the Holocaust—just barely. At the end of the war, they discovered that their names had been added to the death list.

In Toni’s early years, she saw how crowds could be persuaded to endorse and carry out unbelievable horrors when stirred by a charismatic, confident leader and by the promise of salvation and security. Toni often speaks of how we so desperately want an authority, someone to protect us. She is adamant in her refusal to provide an illusion of protective, omniscient authority to those who work with her. She calls into question our longing for ideal people and magical solutions, and continually challenges people to test out everything she says. Her teaching is “something to be considered, questioned, wondered about, taken further.”

Toni’s family emigrated to Switzerland after the war, where Toni met and married a young American exchange student, Kyle Packer. After they returned to the States, the Packers adopted a baby, and in the late ’60s she and Kyle discovered the Zen Center in Rochester, New York, where Toni was soon teaching.

But Toni found herself increasingly uncomfortable with the traditional and dogmatic aspects of formal Zen practice, which seemed to her to get in the way of open listening. She came upon the writings of J. Krishnamurti at that time, and his questions and insights helped to clarify her need to work in a simple, open way.

In 1981, Toni left Rochester Zen Center along with a group of students who were working with her, and they founded the Genesee Valley Zen Center. Toni wanted to be close to nature, so the group purchased several hundred acres of country land and built a retreat center. The first retreats in rural Springwater were held in 1985, and in time the name was changed to Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry & Retreats.

The Center, spare and without fanfare of any kind, reflects Toni’s simplicity and spaciousness. Located in a subtly beautiful landscape in northwestern New York, Springwater Center is a place where people come to be quiet, to listen and look together, to enjoy the weather, the wildlife, the community, and to simply be. Silent retreats are held throughout the year, and people come from all over the world to attend them.

A small resident staff lives at the Center year-round. Toni now spends half the year at Springwater and the other half traveling and offering retreats in California and Europe.

I’ve been working with Toni for the past decade. We first met at her California retreat in 1988, and since then I’ve gone back and forth between Springwater, where I was on staff, and my home in California.

As the retreat begins, it feels so good to unfold and relax into the silence. I see more clearly than ever how I have always searched for some big and final experience. I see how much resistance there is to simply being here. The mind is always so busy imagining what would be better that it rarely dares to stop its frantic search for something else.

I see how much I want to be loved; I feel a deep ache of loneliness. And then, when I turn to it, there is nothing there but thoughts, and the sounds of wind and water. A solitary orange plops down from the tree, landing in wet black earth and glistening leaves. Clouds blow past.

On a nine-day silent retreat, people go through an amazing succession of moods, emotions, and experiences, many of them quite disillusioning. We begin to see vividly how thought generates images of ourselves and other people that seem totally real, and how easily we can be hurt or offended. Someone in a group meeting reports feeling enraged when the person next to him in the meditation room, whom he had already been picturing for three days now as an “aggressive person,” moved her blanket over a few inches into what he perceived to be “his” territory.

It is in our relationships with one another, Toni says, that our buttons get pushed most easily and that we come up against the sense of “me” and “my territory” and “my way” being violated or thwarted. Relationships provide tremendous opportunities to look into what is at the root of all this hurt and conflict that human beings experience. Toni invites us to notice how things close down when we think we know a person, place, or activity.

What is it we are defending? Toni asks. For me, it seems as if my very life is somehow threatened when someone questions or seems to be defying “my way.” When I look into it, I see that it isn’t so much the particular opinion or way of doing things that I’m fighting for, it’s that sense of “me.”

Toni asks us to look and see if this “me” is really here. “There’s no need to think about myself in known ways,” Toni says. “No need to know about myself, to know how I’m doing, where I’m going, or what I am. No need to know or hold on to anything. There’s nothing to be afraid of in not being anything.”

Toni suggests that we listen to the stories we’re telling ourselves and each other, and notice how a single thought can generate feelings of depression, elation, anxiety, or bliss. She stresses the importance of fully seeing (and seeing through) the messy, unwanted material that we tend to regard as garbage (anger, fear, desire, confusion, uncertainty), and to look at it without judgment.

“This is immense work,” Toni says, “to sit with all the garbage without giving up.” We’re not here to “get enlightened,” to “end suffering,” to “annihilate the ego,” or to “awaken forever,” but rather to explore, listen, discover what’s here and what here is. Not once and for all, but this moment. And this moment. And this moment.

Toni says this work isn’t about getting rid of the garbage, or the sense of me, or the controlling behavior. Rather, this work is to see it all, to behold the awesome power of these habitual reflexive tendencies, and to discover that in this moment, in open listening, the reflexive habit doesn’t have to continue.

This listening awareness is intelligence; it takes care of everything. We don’t have to do it. In fact, “we” don’t exist (as some entity apart from the whole) except in thought.

But to actually see that no “me” exists separate from everything else, this is freedom. It’s subtle and arduous work, and yet so simple. Simple and immense.

I once asked Toni if she’d ever had one of those big awakenings where life turns inside out and all identification with the body-mind ceases. ‘I can’t say I had it,’ she replied. ‘It’s this moment, right now.'”

Source:

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/lifestyle/the-work-of-this-moment/

In a more recent article on Free Will, Joan says this about what she discovered while studying with Toni:

“During those years with Toni Packer, in addition to directly confirming the absence of free will or of a separate self, I was also discovering something else. While everything in the virtual reality we call “the world” appeared to be the result of infinite causes and conditions, I was discovering that in the absence of thoughts, stories and concepts, what remains is very fluid. And the open awareness beholding it all seemed to be unconditioned and absolutely free. I saw that the whole universe begins anew in every instant and that there is an undeniable power right here to act. But that power isn’t the separate self or the thinking mind, and it doesn’t work the way we commonly imagine that it does. Thus it also became clear that “I have no choice” is a story that doesn’t entirely hit the mark either. There is no “I” in control of this power to act, but at the same time, there is no separate source apart from this beingness Here / Now.”

Source:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201306/is-free-will-illusion-guest-post-joan-tollifson

A representative retreat talk/meditative inquiry by Toni Packer, this one from 1997, entitled “What Is This Me”, can be found online here, and it is well worth the time:

https://standinginanopenfield.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/what-is-this-me-by-toni-packer/

A website dedicated to Toni Packer’s work, along with links to a number of her written articles, can be found here:

http://www.springwatercenter.org/toni-packer/articles/

Some quotes from Toni Packer:

“Awareness cannot be taught. Awareness simply throws light on what is, without any separation whatsoever. Activity does not destroy it and sitting does not create it.

It is there, uncreated, freely functioning in wisdom and love, when self-centered conditioning is clearly revealed, in the light of understanding.

When the changing states of body-mind are simply left to themselves without any choice or judgment, a new quietness emerges by itself.

This new mind that is no-mind is free of duality—there is no doer in it and nothing to be done.”

“Being concentrated is not the same as being here, present, and clearly aware. We can practice concentration for years and become highly focused, even perform feats that seem miraculous. But does it help in understanding who we truly are, clearly, directly, beyond the shadow of a doubt? It is hard to put into words, but when this is clear, it is clear. It is not the product of concentration or imagination. I am not knocking concentration. It has its useful function in daily life, in arts, sciences, sports. In the kitchen, if I’m not concentrating, the food will burn. Acrobats need enormous concentration to stay on the high wire, and so do bookkeepers to avoid making mistakes.

It is possible to control the mind with practices like concentrating on the breath, a mantra, a mandala, a spot on the forehead or below the navel. This is concentrating by cutting off distractions. And what do we get in that process? Don’t we get a concentrator, either a good or bad one? The effort that comes from the thought of getting someplace or being something reinforces, in subtle ways, the sense of me. It reinforces the me as having to do something, being somebody, attaining something, or still lacking something. These are all ideas and images, deeply programmed and constantly reinforced in the human mind….

Here in the work of this moment we are not trying to mold ourselves to a preconceived path or “stages.” Teachings that postulate stages grab the thinking mind. We wonder what these stages are like, and trying to figure them out is an exercise in headaches. Of course the main interest is, “What stage am I in? How many more will I have to go through?”

Can we drop the idea of stages and not pick it up again, even though it is prevalent in many traditions? Can we see and feel that any such conceptualization is already a straightjacket? Thought is so powerful — thinking what I am now, what I will be next, judging myself about what I think I am and what I could be. The power of such thoughts cannot be overestimated. They prevent a presence, an awareness that defies all definition.

We may think that effort is the source of awareness, but in presently awaring this thinking, there is no effort. It’s just happening. Listen — rain is gently dropping on the roof, hitting the window panes, breath is flowing, crows are calling. We hear it clearly, don’t we? Any effort?”

“What is personal death?

Asking this question and pausing to look inward – isn’t personal death a concept? Isn’t there a thought-and-picture series going on in the brain? These scenes of personal ending take place solely in the imagination, and yet they trigger great mental ad physical distress – thinking of one’s cherished attachments an their sudden, irreversible termination.

Similarly, if there is ‘pain when I let some of the beauty of life in’ – isn’t this pain the result of thinking, ‘I won’t be here any longer to enjoy this beauty?’ Or, ‘No one will be around and no beauty left to be enjoyed if there is total nuclear devastation.’

Apart from the horrendous tragedy of human warfare – why is there this fear of ‘me’ not continuing? Is it because I don’t realize that all my fear and trembling is for an image? Because I really believe that this image is myself?

In the midst of this vast, unfathomable, ever-changing, dying, and renewing flow of life, the human brain is ceaselessly engaged in trying to fix for itself a state of permanency and certainty. Having the capacity to think and form pictures of ourselves, to remember them and become deeply attached to them, we take this world of pictures and ideas for real. We thoroughly believe in the reality of the picture story of our personal life. We are totally identified with it and want it to go on forever. The idea of “forever” is itself an invention of the human brain. Forever is a dream.

Questioning beyond all thoughts, images, memories, and beliefs, questioning profoundly into the utter darkness of not-knowing, the realization may suddenly dawn that one is nothing at all – nothing – that all one has been holding on to are pictures and dreams. Being nothing is being everything. It is wholeness. Compassion. It is the ending of separation, fear, and sorrow.

Is there pain when no one is there to hold on?

There is beauty where there is no “me”.”

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive–it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springwater_Center

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Anthony de Mello

de mello

Anthony de Mello (1932 – 1987) was an Indian Jesuit priest, spiritual guide, psychotherapist, and mystic who achieved international fame for his writings and spiritual retreats. From his reading of the Gospels he discovered that Christ was not so much concerned with imparting doctrines to his listeners as in awakening them to new life and the offer of salvation that was in their midst. Anthony de Mello is now considered one of the foremost mystical theologians of the late Twentieth Century.

His simple and direct approach to life continues to untie all kinds of blockages preventing man’s acceptance of his spiritual nature, even decades after his unexpected death. De Mello’s radiated authenticity, love for all and his characteristic laughter tended to disarm any negative preconceived notions against his ideas. Those that knew him personally can attest to his sincere and friendly attitude to all as people from every religious persuasion felt comfortable and soulfully at home near him.

One writer, Patricia Carlson, said of de Mello: “It only takes about 30 seconds of reading Anthony de Mello’s writings — or a glance at his ebullient smile — to realize why he’s a gift to us. He doesn’t just speak about aliveness; he exudes its essence. He wakes us up to the Divine presence in the “ordinary,” which becomes extraordinary once we see and taste and feel every moment as God-in-our-midst. His perceptions of a spiritual Master aptly fit his own words: “Take hold of a sentence that he says. Shake it well till all the words drop off. What is left will set your heart on fire.”

His teachings were temporarily banned within the Roman Catholic Church by then future pope Ratsinger, but the ban has been lifted. Catholics are still advised to avoid his writings though. It is good to be reminded occasionally that the Roman Catholic Church still has a blacklist, where mystics can get their work listed. Although his teachings show the influence of many spiritual traditions, it is said that two main non-Christian influences on his work were the Theravada Buddhist teacher Chah Subhatto, as well as the philosopher J. Krishnamurti.

Through his books, Anthony de Mello still speaks about happiness and freedom by illuminating us on how to perceive conflicts and paradoxes differently, that is, by showing us that there’s an enlivening core of wisdom which is far more fundamental than our attachments to partial conceptual stances. Kindly and sagely de Mello often used stories which offered unexpected solutions to paradoxical situations we might be able to relate with. Each of these solutions recapitulated an essential intuition that apparently sprung spring from his direct awareness of non-relative Truth. As far as I know, this intuition was integrated into his whole being exulting joy, care and an unassuming attentive sympathy towards those that approached him.

De Mello’s own method of spiritual direction drew on an eclectic fund of stories — borrowed form Hasidic, Zen, and Sufi masters, as well as from Jesus and the mystics of the West — which he employed to awaken his listeners to the presence of God in their midst. The fact that his audience consisted of spiritual seekers did not make his task any easier. Most seekers were like the man who traveled all over the world on the back of a buffalo, seeking the definition of “buffalo”; or the fish who constantly sought to discover the meaning of the ocean. Just so, the person who constantly attended retreats and conferences to discover God.

De Mello’s teaching was often expressed in simple definitions. Theology: “The art of telling stories about the Divine.” Mysticism: “The art of tasting and feeling in your heart the inner meaning of such stories to the point that they transform you.” But someone who preferred to memorize such definitions was like a ravenous person in a restaurant who devoured the menu instead of the meal. Christian doctrines were simply a finger pointing to the moon; they were misunderstood if they became the final object of our attention. The gospel, for de Mello, pointed us to the Truth that lies behind words, concepts, and images — to what the mystics liked to call “the God beyond god.”

Enlightenment could not be received second hand. The most eloquent report of the taste of a peach was no substitute for one’s own experience of tasting the fruit. “In the land of the spirit, you cannot walk by the light of someone else’s lamp,” he said. “You want to borrow mine. I’d rather teach you how to make your own.” True knowledge, saving knowledge, was in any case “to be transformed by what one knows.”

DISCIPLE: “What’s the difference between knowledge and enlightenment?

MASTER: “When you have knowledge you use a torch to show the way. When you are enlightened, you become a torch.”

In his foundational years, Father de Mello originally learned with great discipline the spiritual practices of Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) and gradually became a master teacher in spiritual retreats which incorporating yoga, vipassana meditation and other oriental and multicultural spiritual practices. He was a man of much charisma and, after reaching beyond the confines of the Jesuit centers in Bombay, gradually became well known throughout the world. Through books, lectures and retreats and by taking at heart the humanitarian outreach recommendations of the Vatican II Council, Father de Mello showed the way for a possible renovation of Catholic ministry and for offering a deeper kind of understanding to individuals of all faiths or of no particular faith at all. Anthony de Mello, SJ used to call himself a “rolling stone” always available to move onto the challenges where Spirit took him. He expressed as a genuine brother to all and came to understand that the genuine Catholic Church encompasses all people: Christians and non-Christians.

Anthony de Mello also stands next to other important pioneers behind the emerging fertile integration connecting East and West wisdom traditions. His works also corresponds (in their own subtle and profound ways) with an emerging Integral Catholicism contributed by Catholic creatives such as Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Fr. Thomas Keating O.C.S.O., and Fr. Thomas Berry C.P. It’s the way of the future: Out with prejudiced rigidity; in with embrace through an integrally expressed love!

De Mello was director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counseling in Poona, India. His books were originally published in India, and for many years he was little known outside Jesuit circles. In the 1980s, however, foreign editions of his books began to appear, and he was in much demand as a retreat leader and spiritual director. Those who experienced his retreats often spoke of his authority, his extraordinary combination of peacefulness and energy, and his ability to make the familiar lessons of the gospel appear like startling revelations.

Biographical Information:

Anthony de Mello was born on September 4, 1931 in an Indian family that was seriously steeped in the Catholic tradition. His family consisted of mother, father, an older and a younger sister and a younger brother. He was born at the outskirts of Bombay and his parents (Frank and Louisa) were natives of a Portuguese territory called Goa. Anthony’s father was a railroad worker and since Anthony was the eldest son, there were great expectations for him to work in the same business or –better- to become a professional studying at a university so as to be able to take care of his parents in later years. According to a biography written by Anthony’s younger brother Bill, he showed great intelligence and social skills in school (Stanislaus High School) and an early desire (a true vocation) to become a Jesuit priest. Interestingly, the opposite could be said of Bill who showed no particular interest in religiosity, spirituality or academic achievement and, rather, excelled in physical prowess.

During a time of great economic uncertainty because World War II was raging (along with a growing collective desire for national independence led by Mahatma Gandhi), Anthony told his mother that he would pray to God for her to conceive (in her 40’s) a brother that would replace him so that he would be able to join the priesthood. When this improbable event happened he said “So now I can become a Jesuit priest.” According to Bill, Anthony also had a sweet romantic side and had promised a young local girl that “someday he would marry her and that he would take all the stars in the sky to make her a wedding dress.”

During his last year in high school, Anthony attended a career counseling course and re-announced his resolution at home. As his mother rightfully feared that he would not be able to visit home for long periods, she asked him to join a secular order and he would have sadly agreed if she had remained firm about it but she understood that he would have been very unhappy. Thus, in July of 1947, Anthony de Mello joined the Society of Jesus in the seminary of Vinalaya, at the outskirts of Bombay. Anthony quickly blossomed in his new life, studying abroad and becoming rector of the seminary between 1968 and 1972. Then, in 1973 he founded the (still operating) Sadhana Institute to assist many more people of various persuasions by conducting spiritual retreats.

According to his friend, Fr. Carlos Vallés, he had “an exact memory, a warm spontaneity and a capacity to live in the present (nothing existed before or after). He directed his attention to each person in a differently appropriate manner and, thus, everyone was able to understand him. Vallés mentions that “he learned by ‘helping others to learn’ fully giving himself to his own contributions and always perfecting his qualities as a communicator.” According to Vallés, Anthony said that he “grew with each of the courses given because with them he ‘developed himself,’ (the courses) helped him to clarify his ideas, to deepen his feelings, to strengthen his mind.” Vallés also declares that, furthermore, Anthony had immense fun, a great sense of humor and that he was characterized by being unpredictable. Vallés remarks that Anthony was “an individual capable of changes without caring about criticisms. He possessed unlimited generosity and this probably led to his early demise.”

According to his biographies, not long after his inclusion in the seminary, Anthony de Mello showed what seemed like a strong dogmatic conviction a certain day when one of his sisters visited him at the seminary and he strongly vented his views at her all inflamed saying “our mother church is just and you are guilty. You must not doubt that and don’t forget that the pope is infallible.” The reason for firing away with this strong statement is not revealed.

In any case, Anthony soon broaden his state of mind and understanding when in 1952 he was sent for three years to study philosophy in Barcelona, Spain and was also sent to study psychology and counseling at Loyola University in Chicago. He was soon inspired by the psychology of Carl Rogers which later helped him to “lead (spiritual retreats) without leading.” According to Mr. Malcolm Nazareth, a former Jesuit that trained under the guidance of de Mello, “Before and after his 1962 priestly ordination Tony worked in diverse capacities in the land of his birth. He is best remembered in South Asian Catholic circles as a spiritual mentor to countless persons of scores of nationalities and languages especially those who had embraced religious life and the priesthood. Tony’s first language was English. However, he mastered Spanish and was fluent also in Latin. Tony also knew Marathi, French, and other languages. This may in part account for his popularity as a teacher of healing and of spiritual insight in English and Spanish-speaking parts of the world among Christians, non-Christians, and no-religionists as well.”

Mr. Malcolm Nazareth in his November 3, 2001 workshop presentation “Here & Now with Anthony de Mello,” given at the Call to Action Conference tells us that we could divide Anthony’s life in two basic stages: Sadhana One and Sadhana Two. Mr. Nazareth (who eventually left the Jesuit Order, married and founded the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Center for Interfaith Encounter) also attests to have been a broad minded spiritual seeker when studying under Anthony’s spiritual guidance. He tells us that during Anthony’s life in Sadhana One “Tony’s theology of religion was primitive at that time. Having made my preliminary explorations into Hindu religion and spirituality, I approached him with my questions about Christology. The Tony of Sadhana One provided me with a set of answers that were most unsatisfactory. I told him so. I walked away from him knowing that Tony hadn’t dared to encounter any non-Christian religion with openness and vulnerability. His Catholic Christian conditioning was blocking his spiritual progress, if I may presume to say so.”

Later on, Mr. Nazareth goes on explaining that “It was sometime in the mid-70’s that Tony opened his heart and mind to vipassana meditation practice. I’m inclined to think that this was a major turning point for Tony as he slowly began to move into Sadhana Two phase. After seriously practicing vipassana and thus exposing himself to Buddhist spirituality, Tony dared to confront the theology which he had learnt in theological school with, what now seemed to me to be the vital existential questions of our time: What is our human situation? What are the various religious responses to the human predicament? Is the response of Jesus Christ to the human predicament substantially different than the responses of Krishna, the Buddha, Moses? If the spiritual response of Jesus Christ was qualitatively different than theirs or Confucius’, Lao Tzu’s, Muhammad’s, or Baha’ullah’s how or why is Christ different? Why should I as a catholic care about such differences? And finally, from the point of view of ultimate reality, do the similarities and differences between the various religious paths matter at all? In a nutshell, what is spirituality?”

Mr. Nazareth then leads us to Anthony’s conceptual response to the important question “what is spirituality?” by saying that “In his 1982 Song of the Bird we find Tony’s terrific reply: Spirituality is that which succeeds in bringing a person to inner transformation. Question: ‘If one applies the traditional methods handed over by the masters, isn’t that spirituality?’ Tony’s response: ‘It isn’t spirituality if it doesn’t function for you. A blanket is no longer a blanket if it fails to keep you warm.’ Question: So spirituality does change?’ Tony wrote: ‘People change and needs change. So what was spirituality once is spirituality no more. What generally goes under the name of spirituality is merely the record of past methods.’”

Regarding Anthony’s continuously expanding shifts in understanding, he reportedly had one or more eye-opening mystical experiences in the early 50’s. In Bill de Mello’s biography of his brother, he writes that “In 1952 Tony was sent to Spain to study Philosophy for three years during which time some personal evolution took place. He gained charisma that made him a leader of men”. During that Calveras’ retreat, de Mello had a very powerful mystical experience which gave him profound insight into the spirituality of St. Ignatius. After that, de Mello himself was much sought after for his skill as a retreat master. He conducted 30 days retreats but he also conducted weeklong retreats.

Mr. Malcolm Nazareth also mentioned in his workshop presentation at the Call to Action Conference on November 3, 2001 that “His 1985 book One Minute Wisdom, in my view, makes Tony an incipient heretic (a la Ratzinger). Because here Tony dares to come up with bold statements that only mystics can utter so brazenly. Here he sounds now Buddhist, now Sufi, now Taoist, now Hindu, now Jewish. The master in Tony’s book is clearly an interfaith master. The Christian is hidden, but absolutely there. Tony has begun to point out that theological formulas, including theological and spiritual ones are no more or less than formulas, intellectual concepts, fabrications of the human brain that cannot but think in terms of binaries. Tony’s final expressions of spirituality in his posthumous “One Minute Nonsense” (Loyola, 1993) are basically supplements to his One Minute Wisdom.”

Mr. Nazareth tells us that “Tony’s charisma was compelling. He very easily charmed and convinced his audience to radically sacrifice their earthly possessions to favor the poor. He magnetically drew his admirers to commit themselves to the making and conducting of 30-day Ignatian exercises. Tony strongly encouraged his audience to become practitioners of vipassana and to go study this form of Buddhist meditation under Burmese master Goenka. In his earlier years Tony had delved deeply into Ignacian spirituality which he mastered in Spanish under the guidance of Father Calveras, SJ. Later on, Tony had been gripped by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. Tony had also come for a while under the spell of Bertrand Russell. Tony had been taken by the British philosopher’s brutal honesty. In Tony’s final years, however, he was quite captivated by J. Krishnamurti. In my estimate this was when the Tony of Sadhana Two reached the zenith of his achievement as an East-West healer-and-guru.”

Among his writings, de Mello left many meditations on the theme of his own death. Such thoughts encouraged, simultaneously, a spirit of detachment and an appreciation of the preciousness of earthly existence. Thus, he was well prepared when he died suddenly of a heart attack on June 2, 1987, while preparing to deliver a series of conferences in New York. He was fifty-six.

Sources:

http://integralleadershipreview.com/10897-integral-catholic-leader-father-anthony-de-mello-sj/

http://www.gratefulness.org/giftpeople/deMello.htm

A large website dedicated to Anthony de Mello (and containing a number of his essays) can be found here:

http://www.demellospirituality.com/

Websites featuring a number of Anthony de Mello quotes and links can be found here:

http://www.katinkahesselink.net/other/c/c-mello.html

http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/AnthonydeMello.html

Additional quotes from Anthony de Mello:

“Perfect love casts out fear. Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that you make me happy; my happiness does not lie in you. If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling.”

“These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.”

“As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. … That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life… Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.”

‎”I have no fear of losing you, for you aren’t an object of my property, or anyone else’s. I love you as you are, without attachment, without fears, without conditions, without egoism, trying not to absorb you. I love you freely because I love your freedom, as well as mine.”

“You see persons and things not as they are but as you are. ”

“People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is actually done by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it.”

“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.”

“If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.” “I know. An overwhelming passion for it.” “No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.”

“Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don’t have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don’t you experience it? Because you’ve got to drop something. You’ve got to drop illusions. You don’t have to add anything in order to be happy; you’ve got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It’s only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings. Do you know where these things come from? From having identified with all kinds of labels!”

“When you get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding… you can be yourself. Relaxed. You’ll no longer be driving with your brakes on.”

“The tragedy of an attachment is that if its object is not attained it causes unhappiness. But if it is attained, it does not cause happiness – it merely causes a flash of pleasure followed by weariness, and it is always accompanied, of course, by the anxiety that you may lose the object of your attachment.”

“When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.”

“There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.”

“Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.”

“People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favour progress, provided they can have it without change.”

“Enlightenment is: absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”

“Thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it.”

“The greatest learning of the ages lies in accepting life exactly as it comes to us.”

“The genius of a composer is found in the notes of his music; but analyzing the notes will not reveal his genius. The poet’s greatness is contained in his words; yet the study of his words will not disclose his inspiration. God reveals himself in creation; but scrutinize creation as minutely as you wish, you will not find God, any more than you will find the soul through careful examination of your body.”

“The Rose does not preen herself to catch my eye. She blooms because she blooms. A saint is a saint until he knows he is one.”

“You are so proud of your intelligence,” said the master. “You are like a like a condemned man, proud of the vastness of his prison cell.”

“There are two ways to wash dishes: One is to wash them in order to make them clean; the other is to wash them in order to wash them.”

“Certainty is the culprit. The spiritual person knows uncertainty—a state of mind unknown to the religious fanatic.”

“The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you’re ready to listen and if you’re ready to be challenged, there’s one thing that you can do, but no one can help you. What is this most important thing of all? It’s called self-observation.”

“What is love?”; “The total absence of fear,” said the Master; “What is it we fear?”; “Love,” said the Master.”

“Have you ever attempted to organize something like peace? The moment you do, you have power conflicts and group wars within the organization. The only way to have peace is to let it grow wild.”

“As one man said, “I got a pretty good education. It took me years to get over it.” That’s what spirituality is all about, you know: unlearning. Unlearning all the rubbish they taught you.”

“The trouble with your ideals is that if you live up to all of them, you become impossible to live with.”

“It isn’t falling in that causes you to drown, it’s staying in.”

“Because left to its own devices life would never produce love, it would only lead you to attraction, from attraction to pleasure, then to attachment, to satisfaction, which finally leads to wearisomeness and boredom. Then comes a plateau. Then once again the weary cycle: attraction, pleasure, attachment, fulfillment, satisfaction, boredom. All of this mixed with the anxieties, the jealousies, the possessiveness, the sorrow, the pain, that make the cycle a roller coaster. When you have gone repeatedly around and around the cycle, a time finally comes when you have had enough and want to call a halt to the whole process. And if you are lucky enough not to run into something or someone else that catches your eye, you will have at least attained a fragile peace. That is the most that life can give you; and you can mistakenly equate this state with freedom and you die without ever having known what it means to be really free and to love.”

“The important religious distinction is not between those who worship and those who do not worship but between those who love and those who don’t.”

“What we need is not just action that will bring about change but sight that will bring about love.”

“Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.”

“You know, all mystics – Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion – are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.”

“A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.

Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbour. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a world where everybody said, ‘We don’t know?’ The fact is that you’re surrounded by God and you don’t see God, because you KNOW ABOUT God. The final barrier to the vision of God is your God concept. You miss God because you think you know. The highest knowledge of God is to know God as unknowable. All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing at the moon. As we say in the East, ‘When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger’.”

“The important thing is not to know who “I” is or what “I” is. You’ll never succeed. There are no words for it. The important thing is to drop the labels. As the Japanese Zen masters say, “Don’t seek the truth; just drop your opinions.” Drop your theories; don’t seek the truth. Truth isn’t something you search for. If you stop being opinionated, you would know. Something similar happens here. If you drop your labels, you would know. What do I mean by labels? Every label you can conceive of except perhaps that of human being. I am a human being. Fair enough; doesn’t say very much. But when you say, “I am successful,” that’s crazy. Success is not part of the “I”.

Success is something that comes and goes; it could be here today and gone tomorrow. That’s not “I”. When you said, “I was a success,” you were in error; you were plunged into darkness. You identified yourself with success. The same thing when you said, “I am a failure, a lawyer, a businessman.” You know what’s going to happen to you if you identify yourself with these things. You’re going to cling to them, you’re going to be worried that they may fall apart, and that’s where your suffering comes in. That is what I meant earlier when I said to you, “If you’re suffering, you’re asleep.” Do you want a sign that you’re asleep? Here it is: You’re suffering. Suffering is a sign that you’re out of touch with the truth. Suffering is given to you that you might open your eyes to the truth, that you might understand that there’s falsehood somewhere, just as physical pain is given to you so you will understand that there is disease or illness somewhere. Suffering points out that there is falsehood somewhere.

Suffering occurs when you clash with reality. When your illusions clash with reality when your falsehoods clash with the truth, then you have suffering. Otherwise there is no suffering.”

“You have within yourself the answer to every question you propose — if you only knew how to look for it. In the Land of the spirit, you cannot walk by the light of someone else’s lamp. You want to borrow mine. I’d rather teach you how to make your own.”

“To relate is to react. To react is to understand oneself. To understand oneself is to be enlightened. Relationships are schools for enlightenment.”

“Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It is irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”

“Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality.”

“Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts — generally somebody else’s — mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.”

“All that you give to others you are giving to yourself.”

“Understand the obstructions you are putting in the way of love, freedom, and happiness and they will drop. Turn on the light of awareness and the darkness will disappear. Happiness is not something you acquire; love is not something you produce; love is not something you have; love is something that has you.”

“Do you know what eternal life is? You think it’s everlasting life. But your own theologians will tell you that that is crazy, because everlasting is still within time. It is time perduring forever. Eternal means timeless — no time. The human mind cannot understand that. The human mind can understand time and can deny time. What is timeless is beyond our comprehension. Yet the mystics tell us that eternity is right now. How’s that for good news? It is right now. People are so distressed when I tell them to forget their past. They’re crazy! Just drop it! When you hear “Repent for your past,” realize it’s a great religious distraction from waking up. Wake up! That’s what repent means. Not “weep for your sins.”: Wake up! understand, stop all the crying. Understand! Wake up!”

“It’s only when you become love — in other words, when you have dropped your illusions and attachments — that you will “know.” As you identify less and less with the “me,” you will be more at ease with everybody and with everything. Do you know why? Because you are no longer afraid of being hurt or not liked. You no longer desire to impress anyone. Can you imagine the relief when you don’t have to impress anybody anymore? Oh, what a relief. Happiness at last! You no longer feel the need or the compulsion to explain things anymore. It’s all right. What is there to be explained? And you don’t feel the need or compulsion to apologize anymore. I’d much rather hear you say, “I’ve come awake,” than hear you say, “I’m sorry.” I’d much rather hear you say to me, “I’ve come awake since we last met; what I did to you won’t happen again,” than to hear you say, “I’m so sorry for what I did to you.”

“Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware.”

“Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you.”

“Can one be fully human without experiencing tragedy? The only tragedy there is in the world is ignorance; all evil comes from that. The only tragedy there is in the world is unwakefulness and unawareness. From them comes fear, and from fear comes comes everything else, but death is not a tragedy at all. Dying is wonderful; it’s only horrible to people who have never understood life. It’s only when you’re afraid of life that you fear death. It’s only dead people who fear death.”

One of your American authors put it so well. He said awakening is the death of your belief in injustice and tragedy. The end of the world for a caterpillar is a butterfly for the master. Death is resurrection. We’re talking not about some resurrection that will happen but about one that is happening right now. If you would die to the past, if you would die to every minute, you would be the person who is fully alive, because a fully alive person is one who is full of death. We’re always dying to things. We’re always shedding everything in order to be fully alive and resurrected at every moment. The mystics, saints, and others make great efforts to wake people up. If they don’t wake up, they’re always going to have these other minor ills like hunger, wars, and violence. The greatest evil is sleeping people, ignorant people.”

“Don’t ask the world to change — you change first. Then you’ll get a good enough look at the world so that you’ll be able to change whatever you think ought to be changed. Take the obstruction out of your own eye. If you don’t you have lost the right to change anyone or anything. Till you are aware of yourself, you have no right to interfere with anyone else or with the world.”

“A religious belief… is not a statement about Reality, but a hint, a clue about something that is a mystery, beyond the grasp of human thought. In short, a religious belief is only a finger pointing to the moon. Some religious people never get beyond the study of the finger. Others are engaged in sucking it. Others yet use the finger to gouge their eyes out. These are the bigots whom religion has made blind. Rare indeed is the religionist who is sufficiently detached from the finger to see what it is indicating — these are those who, having gone beyond belief, are taken for blasphemers.”

“If you want to know what it means to be happy, look at a flower, a bird, a child; they are perfect images of the kingdom. For they live from moment to moment in the eternal now with no past and no future. So they are spared the guilt and anxiety that so torment human beings and they are full of the sheer joy of living, taking delight not so much in persons or things as in life itself. As long as your happiness is caused or sustained by something or someone outside of you, you are still in the land of the dead. The day you are happy for no reason whatsoever, the day you find yourself taking delight in everything and in nothing, you will know that you have found the land of unending joy called the kingdom.

To find the kingdom is the easiest thing in the world but also the most difficult. Easy because it is all around you and within you, and all you have to do is reach out and take possession of it. Difficult because if you wish to possess the kingdom you may possess nothing else. That is, you must drop all inward leaning on any person or thing, withdrawing from them forever the power to thrill you, or excite you, or to give you a feeling of security or well-being. For this, you first need to see with unflinching clarity this simple and shattering truth: Contrary to what your culture and religion have taught you, nothing, but absolutely nothing can make you happy. The moment you see that, you will stop moving from one job to another, one friend to another, one place, one spiritual technique, one guru to another. None of these things can give you a single minute of happiness. They can only offer you a temporary thrill, a pleasure that initially grows in intensity, then turns into pain if you lose them and into boredom if you keep them.

If you search within your heart, you will find something there that will make it possible for you to understand: a spark of disenchantment and discontent, which if fanned into flame will become a raging forest fire that will burn up the whole of the illusory world you are living in, thereby unveiling to your wondering eyes the kingdom that you have always lived in unsuspectingly.

It is the desire for “the more” that prevents clear thinking, whereas if we are discontent, not because we want something, but without knowing what we want; if we are dissatisfied with our jobs, with making money, with seeking position and power, with tradition, with what we have and with what we might have; if we are dissatisfied, not with anything in particular but with everything, then I think we shall find that our discontent brings clarity. When we don’t accept or follow, but question, investigate, penetrate, there is an insight out of which comes creativity, joy.

Mostly the discontent that you feel comes from not having enough of something — you are dissatisfied because you think you do not have enough money or power or success or fame or virtue or love or holiness. This is not the discontent that leads to the joy of the kingdom. Its source is greed and ambition and its fruit is restlessness and frustration. The day you are discontented not because you want more of something but without knowing what it is you want; when you are sick at heart of everything you are pursuing so far and you are sick of the pursuing itself, then your heart will attain a great clarity, an insight that will cause you mysteriously to delight in everything and in nothing.”

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