Joseph Sadony (1877-1960), a modern mystic and pioneer in the art of direct perception, was born in Mountbauer, Germany. He came to the United States as a small boy and spent his youth with his folks in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before they moved to Chicago when he was a teenager. As a young man he walked hundreds of miles through the western Indian Reservations as part of a special investigation for President Teddy Roosevelt. He married Lillian Mary Kochem of Kentucky in 1906 and bought an eighty acre estate near Muskegon the same year. This was where he built his home, Valley of the Pines, which he had dreamed of in detail before seeing it. It was where he would spend his productive life, and build his research labs. Here he wrote, and ran his experiments until his death in 1960.
Joseph Sadony is all but forgotten in spiritual circles. His Gates of the Mind is now 35 years out of print and his research laboratories are fallen to ruin. His focus was on exploring intuition: trying to discover its source, how to develop it, and how to use it for the betterment of mankind. Long before the New Age movement, he advocated the intuitive human as the next step in our evolution and the salvation of our planet. His book mixes autobiography and thoughts on intuition. It paints a charming turn-of-the-century picture of a man who shunned ordinary education to follow the callings of his intuition and, in so doing, lived an extraordinary life.
Sadony had from early childhood a gift of seeing things directly, and for questioning everything, even his own existence. He never bought into the usual definitions of life, and had a hard time with conventional schooling. He dropped out of school for good at age thirteen and never went back, preferring to learn directly and from those who practiced what they taught.
“I lay in the dark; then suddenly something happened to me that I did not comprehend until years later, in memory. The vague distress of an internal conflict I could not understand suddenly vanished. In that moment I gained a new sense of identity. Yet I felt like a stranger in the bosom of my own family. Suddenly I didn’t know who I was, and lay there in the dark asking myself, “Who am I? Where am I? How did I get here?”
Fervently and deeply I wanted the truth, and I could see that none of the teachers knew the truth; none of the books told the truth. It was nothing but words, and words about words. Brick by brick, word by word, I saw the wall being built around us children to seal us for life into one room of our brain, with only two windows, our eyes, safely guarded with prison bars of words stronger than steel that also kept out most of the light; with every other gate of the mind carefully sealed by a word, so that no feeling could be arrived at, save through a word first, like putting gloves on our hands, shoes on our feet, spectacles on our eyes, muffs on our ears, and a woolen padding on every nerve end so we would be cut off from the quivering, life-giving pulsations of direct contact with the truth.
So I revolted; tore down the wall of words; threw off my shoes, both physically and mentally, and walked barefoot even where the stones were sharp and painful.”
He had what most would call an ability to predict the future, though he himself never described it as such. He simply would see or ‘feel’ the chain leading up to an event and could then point out the event before it happened. He never used his gift to profit or make things easier on himself, except for one unfortunate time when he gave a friend a tip on the future direction of the stock market, earning his friend money, but not a dime for himself. Nevertheless, he found that his power to ‘feel’ was taken away for exactly one year. He was left to rely on his thinking to carry him through until the sensing returned.
The following is his own account of this ‘feeling’ and how it worked:
All I knew as a child was that I had some sort of relation with what I could neither see, hear, smell, taste nor touch; and that relation was a “feeling.”
But I found that “thinking” and “imagining” first created a false feeling that lied to me. It was only when the feeling came first, without thinking, that the feeling was right. And my thoughts and imaginations were right only if they were induced by the feeling and not by association of thought resulting from what I saw or heard. Sometimes there was nothing in my experience to fit the feelings that came to me. Often I could not understand them at all in terms of word or ideas familiar to me. Still I “knew”; but I couldn’t explain it.
What puts the letters of the alphabet together to form words? What puts words together to form sentences of understanding?
No one could answer me. Nor could I. All I knew was that if I stroked a thing with my fingers until I felt that it was a part of me, like my foot, I could “feel” it, just like my foot.
There is only one way my foot can talk to me, and that is by a feeling. It may be pleasant or unpleasant, hot or cold; comfortable, tired or painful. My own memory tells me why, and what it means. I can’t see my foot; it’s in my shoe. I can’t see my foot even if it’s bare. All I can see is the dead skin outside. That’s all I can see of anything. All we ever see is the dead skin of things. We never see what anything really is. We can only “feel” it.
If people were going to insist on calling that “seeing,” very well then. I could “see” better with the ends of my fingers and with my eyes closed. Also I could “hear” better that way. To prove it, and to amuse my friends, I would hold my hand high, fingertips in the direction of a distant railway engine five miles away that none of my friends could hear or see. I would say, “It’s whistling, only you can’t hear it now.” Then, “It’s coming closer, closer now it’s going to whistle: one, two, three” and whooo came the shriek of the engine just after my third count.
“But how did you know?”
“I saw the engineer reach up to pull the whistle.”
“But how did you see it? We couldn’t even see the train yet.”
“With my fingers.”
“But you can’t see with your fingers!”
“Of course not. But that’s what you insist on calling it.”
He spent much of his adult life writing, either in his daily column for the local newspaper, or in editing and publishing The Whisper, an independent journal of Prevenient Thought. His book, Gates of the Mind, lays out his view of life and our possibilites, as well as describing his own. He also ran the Educational Research Laboratories in his home in Valley of the Pines as part of making his living, but mostly to advance scientific understanding and to verify his own intuitions. His work was for mankind, and he believed this was the practical way to live.
“Self-preservation is not a remarkable phenomenon, but race-preservation is. The man who will fight to preserve himself or his family is not a particularly interesting object of study, but the man who will live his life and give his life for the sake of mankind and human progress is manifesting the mystery that is the religion of mankind. What is the source of his ‘feelings’?”
While Sadony’s writings leave us with inspiration, encouragement, and hints as to our own intuitive abilities, he does not give much in the way of a system of how to come to these abilities. We are left to our own determination and desire. He left no school or followers, but thanks to the recent work of those who understand his work, his writings have been preserved to shed light on the mysteries of our own potential. He continually warned of the dangers of words and the unquestioned concept and belief, and instead points us to going within one’s own mind to find and follow our ‘ feelings’ as the way home.
“Actually I do not see ten thousand miles away with any form of ‘vision’ whatever. I do not ‘see’ the future. My reception or perception of these things is entirely formless, entirely a ‘feeling,’ entirely devoid of image, word, thought or concept. What makes it intelligible to myself or someone else is the activity of my imagination, which endeavors to symbolize, portray or interpret the ‘feeling.’
And what is the ‘feeling’? That is the one great mystery. That is the quest. That is the source of all inspiration, the fountainhead of all spiritual gifts, the heart and life of all religion. This is the foundation that science has provided for spiritual understanding: a physiological foundation for a nervous organization that responds to an unknown source or sources of energy in the form of ‘feelings.’ These feelings are neurological and physiological; not the activity of a special or occult sense, but the coordinated activity of the entire nervous organization. The reaction is one of selective stimulation of previously experienced and conditioned reflex arcs of memory. The imagination interprets the ‘feeling’ in terms of memories associated with similar feelings. Thus a complex feeling is broken down into its elements by symbolic representation in an imaginative composite of memory elements. Thereby we ‘understand’ it.”
Sadony felt the human being was like a radio and could be tuned to receive a feeling that would stimulate the brain’s imagination to produce a thought. It requires not the use of some mysterious faculty you do not possess, but rather the suspension of the use of your “intellect” (verbal memory, reason, etc.) until after your feeling of intuition has clothed itself imaginatively. Then harness it by “logic and reason,” by all means, if you can. But you must first learn how to stop thinking at will.You must learn how to “deconcentrate” instead of concentrating. You must make no strenuous “effort.” You can’t “force” it. You can’t “play” with it. You can’t “practice” it. Spontaneity is its most essential characteristic.
You can become a willing servant, however:
“The bargain that intuition seems to drive is that it will serve you if you serve it. You must obey your intuition to cultivate it, to develop it, and to retain the use of it. This is a voluntary act. In colloquial language, you have a hunch, and the hunch is an involuntary experience. Whether or not you obey it is up to you. If it is a real hunch, or intuition, you will inevitably regret it if you do not. These experiences will increase in frequency if you obey them, and if you don’t they will cease altogether. . . .
One must recondition the entire system of reflexes that constitute habit, so that neither habit nor sensory stimuli nor the influence or suggestions of environments, thoughts, desires or purposes of other people can interfere with the function or execution of your intuition or your relation between your inner self and that universal ‘something else.’ That must come before all else — “or else,” in the final transaction.”
Sadony also address prayer, which he refers to as the very life of intuition:
“Those who pray that the flame that envelops their entire house may be extinguished at once have been unbalanced by the shock of being caught unprepared. Prayer will not controvert common sense. Even God cannot help here, for God’s law was obeyed when the house caught fire. Why was it not prevented by the one in charge?
Prayer is a reminder to “tune in,” so that you will take care of the matches and gasoline before they become instruments of a big blaze. Prayer is a comforter. It is a hope restorer. But if a man thinks that God is going to listen to him when he pleads on his knees in prayer to save his life at eighty, after having forgotten Him for seventy-nine years, he is entirely ignorant of the nature and function and purpose of prayer. But if one has been sincere and fair in all his dealings, he has been praying all the time, and his prayers are answered before he knows it. And he is pleased. And so is God.”
Links to Sadonay’s writings:
From the introduction to Gates of the Mind:
“Throughout his life of eighty-three years the late Joseph Sadony, scientist, philosopher, inventor and poet, searched for the truth about man, God and the universe. “Seek the truth,” he said, “and when you have found it, follow it, for it is God.” Perhaps, more than any other man of our time, he found the truth for which all men, to greater or lesser degree, seek.
What Sadony sought—and found—was a universal law applicable to all science, nature and human nature. Through his studies of atomic energy, gravitation, electricity, light, heat, magnetism and other scientific matters, he determined upon the unity of all things: atoms, molecules, human beings, the world about us, and galaxies of stars. All, including the body and mind of man, are one, each and all constantly receiving and emitting radiant energy.
In his laboratories on his eighty-acre estate on White Lake, Michigan, near Muskegon, Sadony spent many years in scientifically proving his theories, many of which he knew intuitively. Behind his experiments and writings was the basic purpose to free the mind of man from the restrictions of environment, faulty thinking, false intellectual concepts and all other impediments to a true understanding of himself and the cosmos. He saw in man an extraordinary potential which such freedom could bring. His own intuitive abilities—powers which he said are possessed by everyone, though usually dormant—enabled him to predict future events accurately, to “see” happenings in far-distant parts of the world. On one notable occasion, through his mental powers he was able to influence and direct the captain of a ship to another ship in distress during a violent storm on Lake Michigan, with the result that many lives were saved. This dramatic rescue was documented, as were many of his “psychic” accomplishments, and presented on a nation-wide radio broadcast.
Although Sadony was well known to scientists, philosophers and world leaders—among his hundreds of correspondents he numbered Gandhi, Frankllin D. Roosevelt, Kipling, Tagore, King Gustav V of Sweden, King George VI of England and Admiral Byrd—he avoided personal publicity and was little known to the general public. This volume, a condensation of his autobiography, in which he explains his “gifts” and his theory of Radiant Energy, the source of all life, will come as a boon and deeply significant revelation to all seekers after truth.”
From Chapter 1, Gates of the Mind:
I was six years old we were still in Montabaur, when there began to be talk in the family about going to America. It was then that I began to be conscious of a world beyond the village limits, I climbed to the top of the hill to try to see some of it. I was alone, but I imagined that men were walking up the hill with me, and that I was one of them.
We all had on light, flexible suits of armor, like fish scales made of metal. There was a bright red cross on each breast, a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other.
It was fifty years before I found out, inadvertently, that the village of Montabaur and the hill I climbed that day were originally called Humbach; and that centuries before me the Crusaders had climbed that hill and looked down over the beautiful country, calling it “The Holy Land.” The hill reminded them of that Mount that Christ had ascended to pray, with Peter, James and John, where He was transfigured before them. So they christened it Mount Tabor, and henceforth the little village at its foot was called Montabaur.
I did not know this as I trudged along that day, surrounded by the creation of my own imagination, a company of Christian warriors with swords and Bibles.
When I reached the top I still could not see America. So I closed my eyes, but all I could “see” was a lot of Indians. That was of course because of what I had heard about America.
So far as I know now I had no knowledge of the Crusaders, or in any case of their relation to the hill at Montabaur. Of course it is possible there was a foundation for the “image play” with my remembering it. The fact is here unimportant as the purpose of these early recollections is more to provide the background and to portray the general nature of early thought elements as based on experience.
At present his is merely illustrative of a later problem: What distinguishes a “true” imagination from a “false” one as an element of imaginative experience when it is regarded as an established fact that we can think only with what we have acquired to think with? In other words, all imaginative experience is made up of combinations and recombinations of elements of sensory experience with a physiological foundation. Nevertheless it has been established by experiment that the separate parts or memory elements may be put together correctly or incorrectly to form a true or false internal representation of external events or conditions. What distinguishes between the true” and the “false” when immediate verification by observation or experiment is impossible?
The answer, later to be set forth more fully, is that the distinguishing characteristic of a “true” imagination is a “feeling” that must be felt in order to understand its nature.
I did not at first comprehend this, but now in looking back at many thousands of imaginative experiences of childhood and youth, I see that when the exercise of the imagination is either unaccompanied by any feeling whatsoever, or when the imagination produces a feeling as a result of its exercise (e.g., imagining Indians is followed by a feeling of excitement and anticipation), the imagination is not to be trusted unless a train of thought is followed back to determine its origin, and unless the logic and reason are sufficiently matured and trained to adjust and retouch the picture in accordance with experience, or reason based on observation and experiment.
On the other hand, if a certain type of “feeling” (which is a dominant experience throughout this record) precedes the exercise of the imagination, and in fact produces the imagination by selective stimulation and blending of memory elements to express, to clothe, to embody, or to interpret the “feeling,” we have then a type of spiritual inspiration and mental phenomena that merits further investigation, to which an introduction will be found in these pages.
My first experiences of a distinction in feeling associated with imagination were largely unrealized at the time, but preserved in memory. In climbing Mount Tabor, for example, the “feeling” came over me first that I was not alone. This caused met to imagine myself surrounded with companions all starting out together for some distant place to fight a battle. We would have swords but we would also have Bibles. The Cross would be our armor inside, but outside we would need armor of steel.
I did not then realize that these details characterized the Crusaders, who gave the hill historic background and a name. All the elements were familiar to me, but not the history. My memory contained swords, Bibles, Crosses, metal armor, and the idea of men who would use these things. Emphatically, I did not see the “spirits” of Crusaders walking up the hill with me. What I “saw” was entirely the product of my own imagination in which was composited various elements of memory acquired by previous sensory experience.
But these memory elements were selectively stimulated, assembled, and imbued with life by a “feeling” at a particular time, under a particular condition, at a particular place, which invested them with a meaning I did not myself comprehend until fifty years later. Whence and what the “feeling”? Why the particular mental imagery evoked by the feeling? Not in these few childhood cases alone, but in thousands upon thousands of cases extending through a lifetime: my own and the lives of many others whose experiences I have investigated.
That was the quest in which, symbolically at least, I set forth with a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other, to find the answer. I sought the truth, and as time went on I found that my imagination provided the truth in one instance and deceived me in another. It deceived me when I used my own reason and memory to speculate on things I didn’t know enough about. It deceived me when I concentrated or “tried.” It never deceived me when I didn’t try, and didn’t care, and had a “feeling” first that started my imagination going to piece together in a flash what was aroused from my memory by the feeling. What was the feeling?
I stress this because as time went on people who knew more about such things than I would say, ” The boy is psychic, ” or “He is clairvoyant.” “It must be telepathy or psychometry,” and so on.
And I knew they were all wrong. I possess no special, mystic, or occult sense that other men do not possess. My mental operations are limited entirely to what I have acquired and recorded by sensory experience. My imagination has only my own memory to draw on. I visualize something spontaneously past, present or future, near or far; it proves correct, with witnesses to verify it. My records contain thousand of such witnessed cases in which I was correct 98% of the time. What did I “see”? Nothing but a composite of my own memory elements of past experience.
Truly and literally it was “nothing but my imagination.” Still it corresponded with the truth. Why? Was it a good guess? Was it “coincidence”? Was it “chance”? These were questions to be answered by experimental research. At first I did not know. But time ruled out chance beyond all dispute. And I did soon find out that man’s most important thinking does not take place in the brain alone, but with the entire body and nervous system.
Truth is not to be found in man’s memory of words or his reflective visual or oral thinking. Words and memories of sights and sounds may be woven together into endless combinations. What gives them meaning? What determines the exact word or memory elements that will be combined in any given concept or idea or train of thought? What assurances have we that our ideas have any correspondence with reality at all?
Our only assurance from a scientific point of view is one based on experience, observation and experiment. How then is it possible to know things in the future, at a distance in the present and in the past, without opportunity for experience, observation, or experiment? I can only say that I have established this fact for myself, that I am writing this commentary on my early experience to introduce you to what I did and how I did it, so you too may establish the facts for yourself, without taking anyone’s word for it; mine or that of anyone else.
It requires not the use of some mysterious faculty you do not possess, but rather the suspension of the use of your “intellect” (verbal memory, reason, etc.) until after your feeling of intuition has clothed itself imaginatively. Then harness it by “logic and reason,” by all means, if you can. But you must first learn how to stop thinking at will. You must learn how to “deconcentrate” instead of concentrating. You must make no strenuous “effort.” You can’t “force” it. You can’t “play” with it. You can’t “practice” it. Spontaneity is its most essential characteristic. It cannot manifest in the realm of habit or “conditioned reflexes,” as in the case of instinct.
In the language of the New Testament, you must not try to move the spirit; you must let the spirit move you. This means that you must let the truth shape you, for the simple reason that you cannot shape the truth. Your relation to truth is direct, and not by reflective or verbal representation. You will find the truth neither in words nor in memories, but only in direct nervous coordination of the whole of your immediate sensory experience, internal as well as external.