Rumi: This is love

Rumi’s poem

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,

to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.

First, to let go of live.

In the end, to take a step without feet;

to regard this world as invisible,

and to disregard what appears to be the self.

Heart, I said, what a gift it has been

to enter this circle of lovers,

to see beyond seeing itself,

to reach and feel within the breast.

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The Way of the Explorer ~ by Dr. Edgar Mitchell with Dwight Williams

In February 1971, as Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell hurtled earthward through space, he was engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. He intuitively sensed that his presence and that of the planet in the window were all part of a deliberate, universal process and that the glittering cosmos itself was in some way conscious. The experience was so overwhelming Mitchell knew his life would never be the same.

For the next 35 years he embarked on another journey, an inward exploration of the ineffable mystery of human consciousness and being. Mitchell left NASA to form the Institute of Noetic Sciences. The Institute allowed him to initiate research in areas of study previously neglected by mainstream science and where he constructed a theory that could not only explain the mysteries consciousness, but the psychic event—what spiritualists call a “miracle,” and scientists dismiss altogether.

Mitchell also created a new dyadic model of reality, revealing a self-aware universe not predetermined by the laws of physics, nor preordained by deities, nor infinitely malleable. While human actions are generally subject to the laws of physics, these laws are also influenced by the mind. The Way of the Explorer traces two remarkable journeys—one through space and one through the mind. Together they fundamentally alter how we understand the miracle and mystery of being, and ultimately reveal mankind’s role in its own destiny.

Dr. Edgar Mitchell, a graduate of MIT with a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics, is the founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and cofounder of the Association of Space Explorers. As an astronaut, he was backup Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 10 and 16, and flew as Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 14. He has spent 35 years studying human consciousness and psychic and paranormal phenomena in the search for a common ground between science and spirit. Mitchell lectures regularly at dozens of conferences across the world. He lives in Florida.

Dwight Williams, recipient of the 1989 Jovanovich Award for short fiction, is the author of Raising Lazarus. He lives in Colorado.

In this one minute video, Apollo astronaut Capt. Edgar Mitchell shares the extraordinary story of his mystical experience in space while returning from the moon, an experience that led him to shift his whole vision of reality. Yogis call such an experience “samadhi,” and it led Edgar to create the Institute of Noetic Sciences to explore the meeting of science and spirituality, as well as the creation of a new worldview.

http://media.noetic.org/uploads/files/s1_way.pdf

Just how does Enlightenment/Self-Realization/No-Mind/Liberation happen? ~ Jarett Sabirsh

Lao Tzu’s famous poetic Tao Te Ching starts with the words “A way that can be walked is not The Way.”
Realize that it has nothing to do with the intellect or scientific proof, but that of firsthand experiential verification.
Realize that to truly know, rather than knowing ABOUT, involves BEING that which is to be known.
Realize that the truth doesn’t need the approval of the human ego in order to be truth. Absolute Truth already is what it is. It can’t be created by the mind.
Realize that because of karma, free will and reincarnation, EVERYTHING is perfect as it is, despite all the prevalent negativities in the world.
Realize that everyone is simply being the level of “truth” that they are currently aware of, and that the truth is only for those who want it.
Realize that people can’t help being that which they are. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In The Words of Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and “..lose yourself in the service of others”.
Realize that because everybody and everything is One, we change the world in far greater unseen ways as a result of what we ARE, compared to what we do.
Realize that separation, duality, polarity and opposites do not actually exist. All is One, which is Self, which just Is.
Realize that there is no duality of “love” and “evil”. There are only varying degrees of the absence of Love/Truth.
Realize that space, distance, form and time are illusions created by limited, relative and faulty physical senses and ways of thinking.
Realize that the physical body and the autonomous random repetitive thoughts of the mind are not the real “me” at all.
Realize that you are the Awareness that is aware of the mind and its comings and goings. The more it’s watched, the more it disappears.
Realize that everything and everyone is One. The observer and the observed are One. The knower and the known are One.
A Course in Miracles says “…you both HAVE everything and ARE everything.”
Realize that there is no duality, no opposites and no polarity. Nothing can exist outside of Existence, otherwise it wouldn’t exist. All is God/Self/Buddha/Atman.
Realize that even what the mind conceives and conceptualizes as being “nothing”, void, unmanifest or formlessness, is still within Existence.
In the highly evolved The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind, it says “It is an existence which is no existence, a non-existence which is nevertheless existence. So this true Void does in some marvelous way ‘exist’.”
Realize that there can only be varying degrees of things within Existence, like degrees on a thermometer.
Realize that there is no individuality; no “you”, “me”, “this”, “that”, “here”, “there”, “inner”, “outer”, etc.
Realize that there is no individual “me”, “myself”, “mine” or “I.”
Realize that there is no “doer” doing anything, because that would imply there is an “individual” to do something.
Realize that since All is One, there can be no “other”, which means All is Self, or All is I.
Realize that Enlightenment happens by ITSELF when the little self is left to fall away like a disrobed peice of clothing.
Realize that there is absolutely NOTHING to be gotten, grasped, gained, obtained or attained because The Absolute/Self/Buddha/God already Is.
Realize that Awareness, Consciousness and knowing don’t require words, concepts, thoughts or thinking.
Realize that EVERYTHING is an irrelevant concept. All thought and thinking is essentially worthless because Silent Awareness is all-knowing.
It’s really just as “simple” as losing interest in all thought and thinking, right now, and not identifying thoughts as “me”, right now.
Realize that without the ego/mind interfering, everything just IS. Nothing more, nothing less. All perceptions, views, opinions, beliefs, likes and dislikes are irrelevant.
Realize that The Absolute is not subject to change and even “Is” is an irrelevant concept.
Realize all of this… but not with words and concepts. Just let go.

One sage says in his books, such as Be as You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, that “There will come a time when one will have to forget all that has been learned.” In I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta it’s explained that “When you demand nothing of the world, nor of God, when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then the Supreme State will come to you uninvited and unexpected.”

Using Zen and Buddhist terminology there’s the excellent The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma and The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind: The Significance of the Sutra of Hui-Neng.

Worldview Transformation and the Development of Social Consciousness ~by Elizabeth Miller, Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, PhD, and Cassandra Vieten, PhD


In this paper, we examine how increasing understanding and explicit awareness of social consciousness can develop through transformations in worldview. Based on a model that emerged from a series of qualitative and quantitative studies on worldview transformation, we identify five developmental levels of social consciousness: embedded, self-reflexive, engaged, collaborative, and resonant.

As a person’s worldview transforms, awareness can expand to include each of these levels, leading to enhanced prosocial experiences and behaviours. Increased social consciousness can in turn stimulate further transformations in worldview. We then consider an educational curriculum to facilitate the understanding of worldview and the cultivation of social consciousness as core capacities for twenty-first century students and global citizens.

http://media.noetic.org/uploads/files/JCS_17_7-8_018-036.pdf

David Nichtern “Becoming A Dharma Teacher”

A short clip of David being interviewed for “The United States of Enlightenment”, a documentary film about Western Buddhism in America.

David Nichtern is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

He writes a popular blog about Buddhism and meditation on The Huffington Post and leads yoga and meditation workshops worldwide with his wife Cyndi Lee (renowned yoga teacher and founder of OM yoga).

David is also a well known composer, producer and guitarist, and a 4 time Emmy winner and Grammy nominee.

Tibetan Buddhism’s Insights Into Virtual Reality ~ David Nichtern

During a recent tour of Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim and Bhutan, I found myself reading Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near, a whopper of a book about the imminent fusion of biological and technological intelligence.

Along with his description of what would essentially be a new species of being, Kurzweil also talks about the onset of a virtual reality that would be essentially indistinguishable from what we currently call reality — i.e. a direct access to our inner fields of perception (via our brain) from inputs other than the external phenomenal world we live in.

Between my sessions of reading about this visionary high tech future (on our rickety old bus traveling down monsoon-soaked, single-lane, cow/goat/monkey-sharing, cliff-dangling, so-called “roads”) our group would periodically dismount and swarm (like a small group of bees) into some of the most awesome and impressive Tibetan style Buddhist monasteries in the world. They were replete with stunning wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling representations of the pantheon of Tantric Deities, said to be representations of our own layers of consciousness, but also readable as an alternate and parallel “virtual” reality of its own.

Huge blue and red and green rupas (statues with multiple arms, heads, ornaments), thangkas (paintings) and mandalas (symbolic representations of different Buddha fields) seemed to invite the viewer to step through a portal in his/her own mind into a sensuous, vivid and somewhat other-worldly realm in which enlightened beings with their full manifestation and retinues are completely present and manifest.

Buddhists who practice these disciplines (increasingly available in our modern Western culture) can spend hours a day and weeks or months on retreats conjuring visual (visualizations) and audio (mantra) of these environments, and at some point begin to recognize that the world which we take to be flat, ordinary, confusing, painful and uninspiring is actually the playground of these deities, and that we ourselves are in fact actual embodiments of them. Talk about virtual reality!

On our trip, I wondered about the future of our species, the nature of the singularity (near or far), and the future of a Buddhist country like Bhutan (whose 28-year-old leader is empowered as a Buddhist chogyal — dharma king — and who is a Harvard graduate). Technology is present in Bhutan (even the monks have cell phones) but many traditional methods of agriculture, crafts and daily life are still in place. In some sense Bhutan has the potential to work out a balance of social concerns, ecology, spiritual practice and material well being that could well be a model for future civilizations on this planet.

My hat is off to Ray Kurzweil for having the audacity to back up his ground-breaking vision of the future with considerable scientific and mathematical data. His view is something that at least every geek and nerd on the planet should be aware of, and should be of considerable interest to the rest of us ordinary folk, whether we buy into it or not.

And my hat is off to the people of Bhutan who were lovely, cheerful and very hospitable. They are also “keeping the faith” for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners worldwide.

May all beings, before and after the singularity, whether “actual” or “virtual,” be safe, happy, healthy and at ease!

With his usual wit and humor, David discusses the feelings of sensitivity and vulnerability that arise when one begins a regular meditation practice…

David Nichtern is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

He writes a popular blog about Buddhism and meditation on The Huffington Post and leads yoga and meditation workshops worldwide with his wife Cyndi Lee (renowned yoga teacher and founder of OM yoga).

David is also a well known composer, producer and guitarist, and a 4 time Emmy winner and Grammy nominee.

Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance by Rupert Sheldrake, PhD

Morphic fields underlie the organization of proteins, cells, crystals, plants, animals, brains, and minds. They help to explain habits, memories, instincts, telepathy, and the sense of direction. They have an inherent memory and imply that many of the so-called laws of nature are more like habits.

This is, of course, a controversial hypothesis.

The Fields of Morphogenesis

My interest in these new kinds of fields first developed while I was doing research on the development of plants at Cambridge University. To start with, I was concerned only with one particular kind of morphic field, namely morphogenetic fields.

How do plants grow from spores or seeds into the characteristic form of their species? How do the leaves of ferns, oaks, and bamboos take up their shapes? These are questions to do with what biologists call morphogenesis – the coming-into-being of form (Greek: morphe = form; genesis = coming into being) – and one of the great unsolved problems of biology.

The naive approach is simply to say that morphogenesis is genetically programmed. Different species just follow the instructions in their genes. But a few moments’ reflection show that this reply won’t do. All the cells of the body contain the same genes. In your body, the same genetic program is present in your eyes, kidneys, and fingers. If they are all programmed identically, then how do they develop so differently?

Thanks to the great triumphs of molecular biology, we know what genes actually do. Some code for the sequence of amino acids in proteins; others are involved in the control of protein synthesis. They enable organisms to make particular proteins, but these alone cannot account for form. Your arms and your legs are chemically identical: If ground up and analyzed biochemically, they would be indistinguishable. But they have different shapes. Something other than the genes and the proteins they code for is needed to explain their form.

Biologists who study the development of form in plants and animals have long been aware of these problems, and since the 1920s many have adopted the idea that developing organisms are shaped by fields called morphogenetic fields. These are rather like invisible blueprints that underlie the form of the growing organism. They are not designed by an architect, any more than a genetic program is designed by a computer programmer. They are fields: self-organizing regions of influence, analogous to magnetic fields and other recognized fields of nature.

But no one knows what these fields are or how they work. Most biologists assume that they will at some time in the future be explained in terms of regular physics and chemistry. This is no more than an act of faith.

After ten years of research in developmental biology, I came to the conclusion that these fields were not just a way of talking about standard mechanistic processes, but something really new. This was the starting point for my own development of the hypothesis of morphic fields, first proposed in my book A New Science of Life and further developed in The Presence of the Past.

The Hypothesis of Morphic Fields

All self-organizing systems are wholes made up of parts, which are themselves wholes at a lower level, such as atoms in molecules and molecules in crystals. The same is true of organelles in cells, cells in tissues, tissues in organs, organs in organisms, organisms in social groups. At each level, the morphic field gives each whole its characteristic properties and interconnects and coordinates the constituent parts.

The fields responsible for the development and maintenance of bodily form in plants and animals are called morphogenetic fields. In animals, the organization of behavior and mental activity depends on behavioral and mental fields. The organization of societies and cultures depends on social and cultural fields. All these kinds of organizing fields are morphic fields.

Morphic fields are located within and around the systems they organize. Like quantum fields, they work probabilistically. They restrict, or impose order upon, the inherent indeterminism of the systems under their influence. Thus, for example, a protein field organizes the way in which the chain of amino acids (the “primary structure” determined by the genes) coils and folds up to give the characteristic three-dimensional form of the protein, “choosing” from among many possible structures, all equally possible from an energetic point of view. Social fields coordinate the behavior of individuals within social groups, for example, the behavior of fish in schools or birds in flocks.

The mathematician René Thom has created mathematical models of morphogenetic fields in which the endpoints toward which a system develops are defined as attractors. In the branch of mathematics known as dynamics, attractors represent the limits toward which dynamical systems are drawn. They provide a scientific way of thinking about ends, purposes, goals, or intentions. All morphic fields contain attractors.

The most controversial feature of this hypothesis is that the structure of morphic fields depends on what has happened before. They contain a kind of memory. Through repetition, the patterns they organize become increasingly probable, increasingly habitual. The force that these fields exert is the force of habit.

Whatever the explanation of its origin, once a new morphic field – a new pattern of organization – has come into being, its field becomes stronger through repetition. The same pattern becomes more likely to happen again. The more often patterns are repeated, the more probable they become. The fields contain a kind of cumulative memory and become increasingly habitual. Fields evolve in time and form the basis of habits. From this point of view, nature is essentially habitual. Even the so-called laws of nature may be more like habits.

The means by which information or an activity-pattern is transferred from a previous to a subsequent system of the same kind is called morphic resonance. Morphic resonance involves the influence of like upon like, the influence of patterns of activity on subsequent similar patterns of activity, an influence that passes through or across space and time from past to present. These influences do not fall off with distance in space or time. The greater the degree of similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance.

Morphic resonance gives an inherent memory in fields at all levels of complexity. Any given morphic system, say, a squirrel, “tunes in” to previous similar systems, in this case previous squirrels of its species. Through this process each individual squirrel draws upon, and in turn contributes to, a collective or pooled memory of its kind. In the human realm, this kind of collective memory corresponds to what the psychologist C. G. Jung called the “collective unconscious.”

Morphic resonance should be detectable in the realms of physics, chemistry, biology, animal behavior, psychology, and the social sciences. But long established systems, such as zinc atoms, quartz crystals, and insulin molecules are governed by such strong morphic fields, with such deep grooves of habit, that little change can be observed. They behave as if they are governed by fixed laws.

By contrast, new systems should show an increasing tendency to come into being the more often they are repeated. They should become increasingly probable; they should happen more easily as time goes on. For example, when a new chemical compound is synthesized by research chemists and crystallized, it may take a long time for the crystal to form for the first time. There is no pre-existing morphic field for the lattice structure. But when the first crystals form, they will make it easier for similar crystals to appear anywhere in the world. The more often the compound is crystallized, the easier it should be to crystallize.

In fact, new compounds do indeed tend to crystallize more easily the more often they are made. Chemists usually explain this effect in terms of crystal “seeds” from the new crystals spreading around the world as invisible dust particles in the air, or chemists learning from others how to do it. But the hypothesis of morphic fields predicts that this should happen anyway under standardized conditions, even if dust particles are filtered out of the air.

Connections with Quantum Physics

Experiments to test for the spatial aspects of morphic fields imply a kind of non-locality that is not presently recognized by institutional science. Nevertheless, it may turn out to be related to the non-locality or non-separability that is an integral part of quantum theory, implying connections or correlations at a distance undreamt of by classical physics. Albert Einstein found the idea of “spooky action at a distance” implied by quantum theory deeply distasteful, but his worst fears have come true.1 Recent experimental evidence shows that these connections lie at the heart of physics.

Several physicists have been intrigued by the possible connections between morphic fields and quantum theory, including John Bell (of Bell’s theorem) and David Bohm, whose theory of the implicate order, based on the non-separability of quantum systems, turned out to be extraordinarily compatible with my own proposals.2 These connections have also been explored by the American quantum physicist Amit Goswami and by the German quantum physicist Hans-Peter Dürr. But it is still not clear exactly how morphic fields might fit in with quantum physics, if only because the implications of quantum theory for complex systems like cells and brains are still obscure.

Experiments on Morphic Fields

The hypothesis of morphic fields is a scientific hypothesis, and as such is subject to experimental testing. There are several possible ways in which it can be, and has been, investigated by experiment. Some of these tests attempt to detect the fields as they link together different parts of a system in space; other tests look for the effects of morphic resonance over time.

The easiest way to test for morphic fields directly is to work with societies of organisms. Individual animals can be separated in such a way that they cannot communicate with each other by normal sensory means. If information still travels between them, this would imply the existence of interconnections of the kind provided by morphic fields. The transfer of information through morphic fields could help provide an explanation for telepathy, which typically takes places between members of groups who share social or emotional bonds.

When I started looking for evidence of fieldlike connections between members of social groups, I found that I was moving into realms very little understood by science. For example, no one knows how societies of termites are coordinated in such a way that these small, blind insects can build complex nests with an intricate internal architecture. No one understands how flocks of birds or schools of fish can change direction so quickly without the individuals bumping into each other. Likewise, no one understands the nature of human social bonds.

One particularly promising area for this kind of research concerns telepathy between people and domesticated animals, as discussed in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. For example, many dogs and cats seem to know when their owners are coming home, even when they return at non-routine times in unfamiliar vehicles such as taxis and when no one at home knows when they are coming. The animals seem to be responding telepathically to their owners’ intentions.

According to the hypothesis of formative causation, morphic fields extend beyond the brain into the environment, linking us to the objects of our perception, and are capable of affecting them through our intention and attention. This is another aspect of morphic fields that lends itself to experimental testing. Such fields would mean that we can affect things just by looking at them, in ways that cannot be explained in terms of conventional physics. For example, we may be able to affect someone by looking at them from behind, when they have no other way of knowing that we are staring at them.

The sense of being stared at from behind is in fact a common experience. Experiments already indicate that it is a real phenomenon.3 It does not seem to be explicable in terms of chance coincidence, the known senses, or fields currently recognized by physicists.

The unsolved problems of animal navigation, migration, and homing may also depend on invisible fields connecting the animals to their destinations. In effect, these could act like invisible elastic bands linking them to their homes. In the language of dynamics, their home can be regarded as an attractor.4

Morphic Resonance in Biology

The buildup of habits can be observed experimentally only in the case of new patterns of development and behavior. There is already evidence from observations on fruit flies that morphic resonance effects may be occurring in the realm of morphogenesis. When fruit fly eggs were exposed to a chemical (diethyl ether), some of them developed abnormally, turning into flies with four wings instead of two. When this treatment was repeated generation after generation, more and more flies developed four wings, even if their ancestors had never been exposed to the chemical.

There is also much circumstantial evidence that animal behavior can evolve rapidly, as if a collective memory is building up through morphic resonance. In particular, large-scale adaptations have occurred in the behavior of domesticated animals all over the world.

One example concerns cattle guards. Ranchers throughout the American West have found that they can save money on cattle grids by using fake ones instead, consisting of stripes painted across the road. Real cattle guards are made of a series of parallel steel tubes or rails with gaps in between, which make it difficult for cattle to walk across them and even painful to try. However, present-day cattle do not usually even try to cross them, and the illusory grids work just like the real ones. When cattle approach them, they “put on brakes with all four feet,” as one rancher expressed it to me.

Is this because calves learn from older cattle that they should not try to cross? Apparently not. Several ranchers have told me that herds not previously exposed to real cattle grids will avoid the phony ones. Ted Friend of Texas A&M University has tested the response of several hundred head of cattle to painted grids and has found that naive animals avoid them just as much as those previously exposed to real grids. Sheep and horses likewise show an aversion to crossing painted grids. This aversion may well depend on morphic resonance from previous members of the species that have learned to avoid cattle grids the hard way.

There are many such examples. There are also data from laboratory experiments on rats and other animals that such effects occur. The best known involves a series of experiments in which subsequent generations of rats learned how to escape from a water maze. As time went on, rats in laboratories all over the world were able to do this quicker and quicker.

Morphic Resonance in Human Learning

Morphic resonance has many implications for the understanding of human learning, including the acquisition of languages. Through the collective memory on which individuals draw, and to which they contribute, it should in general be easier to learn what others have learned before.

This idea fits well with the observations of linguists such as Noam Chomsky, who propose that language learning by young children takes place so rapidly and creatively that it cannot be explained simply in terms of imitation. The structure of language seems to be inherited in some way. In his book The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker gives many examples to support this idea.

One of the few areas in which detailed quantitative data are available over periods of decades is in the scores of IQ tests. If morphic resonance occurs, average performance in IQ tests should be rising not because people are becoming more intelligent but because IQ tests should be getting easier to do as a result of morphic resonance from the millions who have done them before. This effect is now well known and is called the Flynn Effect, after its discoverer, James Flynn.

Large increases in IQ test scores have occurred in many different countries, including the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Holland. Many attempts have been made to explain the Flynn Effect, but none have succeeded. Flynn himself describes it as “baffling.” But morphic resonance could provide a natural explanation.

Implications

The hypothesis of formative causation has far-reaching implications in all branches of science. For example, morphic fields could revolutionize our understanding of cultural inheritance and the influence of our ancestors. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has given the name “meme” to “units of cultural transmission,” and such memes can be interpreted as morphic fields. Morphic resonance also sheds new light on many religious practices, including rituals.5 Even scientific paradigms can be seen as morphic fields, stabilized by morphic resonance, with a tendency to become increasingly habitual and unconscious the more often they are repeated.6

But however wide its implications, this hypothesis has a major inherent limitation. It helps explain how patterns of organization are repeated but does not explain how they come into being in the first place. It leaves open the question of evolutionary creativity. Formative causation is compatible with several different theories, ranging from the idea that all novelty is ultimately a matter of chance to explanations in terms of divine creativity.7

# # # # #

“Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance” by Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, was published in Quantum Health magazine (Issue #6) and updated from an original article called “Fields of Form” from the December 2004–February 2005 issue of Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness (published by IONS and no longer in print). It is reprinted by permission, all rights reserved, © 2010 Quantum Health. Quantum Health is an online-only, interactive magazine that features global coverage of the emerging field of energetic medicine. For a free subscription, go to http://www.quantumhealthmagazine.com.

Endnotes

1. P. Davies and J. Gribbin, The Matter Myth (London: Viking, 1991).

2. D. Bohm and R. Sheldrake, “Morphogenetic Fields and the Implicate Order” in A New Science of Life (United Kingdom: Icon Books, 2009).

3. R. Sheldrake, The Sense of Being Started At and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (New York: Crown, 2003).

4. R. Sheldrake, T. McKenna, and R. Abraham, chapter 4 in The Evolutionary Mind (Santa Cruz: Trialogue Press, 1998).

5. R. Sheldrake and M. Fox, Natural Grace (New York: Doubleday, 1996).

6. R. Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature (London: Collins, 1988).

7. R. Sheldrake in A New Science of Life (2009); The Presence of the Past (1988); and The Rebirth of Nature (New York: Bantam, 1990).

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and several books, including a new edition of his seminal book on morphic resonance, A New Science of Life (Icon Books, 2009). A former Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize. He then studied philosophy at Harvard University, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow, before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, where he carried out research on the development of plants and the ageing of cells. At Clare College he was also Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. From 1968 to 1969, based in the Botany Department of the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, he studied rain forest plants. From 1974 to 1985 he worked at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he was Principal Plant Physiologist. While in India, he also lived for a year and a half at the ashram of Fr Bede Griffiths in Tamil Nadu, where he wrote his first book, A New Science of Life. He is currently the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge, and an Academic Director and Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut. He lives in London with his wife and two sons.

He has appeared in many TV programs in Britain and overseas, and was one of the participants (along with Stephen Jay Gould, Daniel Dennett, Oliver Sacks, Freeman Dyson and Stephen Toulmin) in a TV series called A Glorious Accident, shown on PBS channels throughout the US. He has often taken part in BBC and other radio programmes. He has written for newspapers such as the Guardian, where he had a regular monthly column, The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement, The Times Literary Supplement and the Toronto Globe and Mail, and has contributed to a variety of magazines, including New Scientist, Resurgence, the Ecologist and the Spectator.

LIFE AFTER LIFE or The Theory of Reincarnation By Eustace Miles

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT REINCARNATION

1. What proofs have you of Reincarnation?

It appears to be, as we shall see later on, in harmony with and supplementary to scientific laws: for instance, continuous and orderly Evolution; and to have analogies in daily life – in the life of plants, in sleep, and so forth.

It can explain a great deal that Science, Religion, and Philosophy have left unexplained – for example, the birth of a genius from commonplace parents, and the (otherwise undeserved) misery of so many human beings.

It is useful as a theory by which to decide one’s choices. This utility is not a proof in the ordinary sense of the word “proof,” but from the point of view of education, it is the best proof of all, in the same sense that the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and in the results afterwards!

The occasional memories of incidents in plant lives, which are recorded in books about the East (see, for example, Fielding’s The Soul of a People), will be reckoned by some as proofs.
2. If we have lived before, how is it that we do not remember our former lives

There are some, in India and elsewhere, who claim to remember parts of their former lives. But these are isolated cases. It might be a fair explanation to suggest that few people live the sort of life which would naturally encourage the revival of such a memory. Wrapped up in present circumstances, clogged with wrong food and drink, seldom giving up time to calm communion with the higher Self, no wonder that people do not remember.

From another point of view, it might be defended as “a merciful dispensation of Providence” that people do not remember. The memory would not help people much, as they now are, ands it might hinder them much.

Again, we forget the first year of our life, though we do not on that account deny that we lived it, and that it tended to mould us. We do not possess detailed recollections of that year; but we involve the results in our personality. Somewhat similarly, we do not necessarily remember all the names of all the books we have ever read – and all the contents, all the words of all these books, and all the letters, and all the conversations. Most of the externals we have discarded; it is the results that we have kept. Somewhat similarly, we do not remember all the foods we have ever eaten, still less do we retain all the materials; it is the nourishment and other elements that we have extracted.

So, instead of having the memories of past lives, it maybe said that we are the memories of past lives: we have not the myriads of circumstances and items – rather, we are ourselves the sum-total. As one who receives his pass book from a bank finds that he has a certain balance or a certain deficit, and begins with this taken for granted as his starting-point, so do we in each new life. Some day we may discover the key of the safe that holds our old pass-books.

The memories of details may be locked up within us, within our inner self, buried deep, latent till the exact conditions arise which will evolve and evoke these memories; as the wheat-seed lay hidden thousands of years in an Egyptian sarcophagus, and then came to life as wheat because at last it was planted in soil. The memories of details of our present life may be thus locked up within us, to be called forth by some such influence as calls them forth when a man is drowning: he may then see circumstances which he thought he had absolutely forgotten.

That the memories of details in our past lives are not as ready to hand as are the memories of much of our present life, need not surprise us. Science tells us that memories are registered on and in the grey matter of the brain, by the cells and fibres. Under the “brain” we must include also the spinal cord. I, for one, do not believe that this is the only register. But at least it is one register. After death and the dissolution of the body, this grey matter is broken up and distributed afresh. The ego, in its next incarnation, will have a different brain and spinal cord, and different grey matter. It will not have the old register.

3. What would be the use of knowing about our past lives?

The knowledge of our past lives might be to us no less useful than the knowledge of History. Thucydides claimed that an account of the past was valuable as a clue to the future, which would probably resemble the past. On this principle, if we studied our past lives, we could be forewarned and forearmed against our weaknesses.

Not only this – we could find out how we acquired skill in anything in which we now are “naturally” skillful, and so be able to acquire skill, by a similar process, in other things.

We should, see the causes of what we otherwise would look upon as misfortunes or hardships: we should recognize, these as results of our past choices, and as training-grounds for better character.

There would come to us a greater sympathy with others, a greater desire to help, a greater power to help.

Then we should view qualities and aims in truer perspective. We should realize beyond doubt what are first things and what are second-rate things.

We should have many pleasant memories to recall; though the unpleasant ones – since forgetfulness is often much harder than recollection – would be within us as well.

4. How does the theory help? Cui bono?

To this question a partial answer has already been given in Chapter II. He who believes in Reincarnation believes in a just Power – he believes that his circumstances are those that he has earned; in a kind Power – he believes that, his circumstances are most helpful for him and for everyone else; in a wise Power – he believes that the world is managed in an economical and scientific and foresighted fashion.
5. Would not the theory apply, then, to animals and plants, and even minerals?

Yes, It applies equally to them, suggesting for the mind an evolution like that which Wallace and Darwin suggested for the body.

6. Where does free choice begin? How can minerals, or plants, or certain animals, be responsible?

We cannot say where choice begins. It seems as if minerals were the absolute slaves of certain attractions and repulsions which they could not resist; and plants also. But we can hardly study dogs without thinking that they have consciences that they know when they have done wrong – that they have some power of choice.

7. Will any of us become animals again?

This is a question which the theory does not answer. Although some authorities on the subject say that when once the ego has been incarnated in a human being, it cannot ever again be incarnated in an animal, we feel that some animals are on a plane above some human beings. Without dogmatizing, we simply note the possibility that when an ego needed certain physical or mental qualities – say litheness and quickness, or the sense of smell, or patience – that ego might be reincarnated as an animal, if that were the quickest and best way of getting these qualities.

Again, the particles of the body, after dissolution, may come to be particles of animals: naturally, like would be attracted to like. This is one of the meanings of the theory that we – namely, our bodies – may become reincarnated in animals.

8. Do friends meet again? Is it not terrible that we should not recognize our dearest ones?

It is agreed by all who believe in Reincarnation that friends do meet again – and enemies too. It is agreed that the ego meets other egos. But the names, appearances, places, social positions, and so on, may be changed. It is rather the characters that meet.

This may sound cold and comfortless. But we must never forget that on the other hand, in proportion as it would be unpleasant to go on living with our enemies – especially with those whom we have injured. The clinging to old clothes and other familiar things is very human; but there are arguments against old clothes as well as for them!

Though our eyes may not recognize our dearest ones, our hearts do. And the new intercourse, perhaps in a different and much-needed relationship, may eventually help both parties more than a continuance of the old one.

So long as we regard the body as being the whole self and ego, we cannot grasp the theory. Once let us regard the body as to some extent a clothing and a set of instruments, and -suppose we had a friend who was a carpenter – we shall compare his reincarnation in a different body with his visit to us in a different suit of clothes or with a different set of tools.

9. How do you account for hereditary traits and tendencies?

The theory most commonly held by believers in Reincarnation is that the ego, when it is to be born again, to be reincarnated, is attracted to the most appropriate infant-body, while that body is still unborn.

But anyhow the outward form of the body will depend chiefly upon the physical parents. The theory of Reincarnation supposes this.

And we should expect that, for example, the ego that had been a dipsomaniac would be attracted to the infant-body whose parents – or one of whose parents – had a tendency in that direction. So of the money-grubbing, the sensual, the inventive, the athletic, etc.

The theory of Reincarnation supposes the ego ready to live again in this world, and needing a certain probation in view of its past choices, and a certain character training in view of its future excellence. The theory supposes an infant-body not yet possessed by any ego, but having certain traits and tendencies belonging to the parents. The ego is given this body as its house, its clothes, its instruments. The ego’s duty is to make the best of them.

10. Why is a person reincarnated into a certain body? Is there any principle to decide?

The answer to Question 9 will be to some extent the answer to Question 10 also.

Naturally, the ego will be attracted into the most appropriate – or least inappropriate – infant-body, all conditions (physical and hygienic and aesthetic, intellectual, economical, moral, and social) being taken into account. The ego will be attracted to the body which is nearest to the one earned by previous lives; and required by present and future needs of character, etc. One influence will be strict justice, another the strongest desires of the ego.

We should expect, then, that often an ego would be reincarnated in an environment to which past friends and enemies belonged. The ego would be attracted to those whom he had injured or by whom he had been injured, so that justice might be done. The ego would be attracted to those whom he had loved or by whom he had been loved, through desire. The ego would be attracted also by the power of the environment, to develop his character and physique, etc., in view of real progress.

For real progress is the aim of Reincarnation, not the petty spite or vengeance of an unforgiving pagan deity.

The Power forgives us our sins not merely by blotting them out, but by giving us the opportunities of blotting them out for ourselves by “doing better next time.”

11. What are the intervals between death and re-birth?

The theory does not say. The intervals are likely to vary enormously.

The Hindus have legends of immediate re-births – a father, for example, being incarnated in the newly born babe the moment after the father’s death on the scaffold.

Possibly the intervals may become shorter as time goes on. Thus, suppose that Charlemagne was reincarnated as Napoleon, the interval was a long one. Suppose Benjamin Franklin was reincarnated as Cobbett, the interval was a short one. When an infant dies, it is likely that the interval is shorter still.

12. Is the same ego reincarnated sometimes as a male, sometimes as a female?

We look upon the typical man as forming his opinions by logic rather than by intuition, and the typical woman as forming her opinions by intuition rather than by logic. A man and a woman discuss a course of action: the man observes, remembers, and reasons from evidence; the woman decides – she cannot tell how or why – she simply “feels or sees”. To this there are many exceptions.

Those who hold that the ego is reincarnated, either as a male or as a female, but not as now one, now the other, might plead that, in order to get the ideal nature, it is necessary for the reason of man to have so much practice that eventually it becomes intuition; somewhat as Epimetheus, studying the past, became able to predict the future as Prometheus could; that, conversely, it is necessary for the intuition of woman to have so much practice – so much testing of prophecies by facts, and corrections, accordingly – that eventually it is equivalent to and includes logic also; that the best way of arriving at the double faculty – reason and intuitions – is the development of each by specialization.

Those who hold that the ego is reincarnated now as a male, now as a female, point to the people with male bodies who have female minds, and vice versa.

We might apply the same principle to other general differences, between man and woman – for example, the masterful independence of man (largely due to artificial conditions of education) and the slave-like ministry of woman. Eventually man finds that his highest and most real mastery is to serve; woman finds that the best ministry makes her most masterful.

The theory of Reincarnation leaves the question unanswered. It seems as if many must need life in the opposite sex-form to make them well-balanced beings, even if they may have a series of successive lives in the same sex-form first.

13. Will Reincarnation be an unavoidable process for all forever?

In the human being and in the animals many tiny beings – not only bodies but also minds – are fused; as in a nation. It is quite possible, then, that there may be two evolutions.

First of all, one ego – already like a nation made up of groups of individual egos – may give rise to two or more egos, by a process analogous to fission of cells. We cannot help wishing now and then, as we watch some great man or woman, that he or she could be duplicated, and be here as well as there!

The very idea of this is repulsive to many. “I” want to be “I,” and only “I” – that is their apparent desire. Yet what energetic person has not longed for two or three bodies with which to work? – there seems so much to be done in so short a time.

You write a letter with your right hand. It seems to demand your full attention. Soon, however, after practice, you can simultaneously write another letter with your left hand. You have two hemispheres to your brain. Is the development of one person into two so entirely absurd? If some day the two fused into one again, would not the experience that each had gained separately be more valuable than the two would have gained by being always yoked together?

Almost equally unpleasant – if not more unpleasant – to most people would be the idea of becoming one with some other ego.* Yet there are married people who are almost as truly one rather than two; as the man himself is when he is playing and when he is working.

A third possibility is that the ego may be annihilated, perhaps somewhat as a nation can when it is split up into widely separated groups. Where is the Assyrian nation now? Once it was a nation – an ego. A Hindu philosopher has tried to prove that the individual is not a separate entity, apart from the lives of which he is composed, but merely the sum-total of those lives, so that when you take away these lives – as if you took away 1, 3, 4, 7, and 9 – you took away the total, 24, also.

A fourth possibility is the exact reverse – namely, a prolonged life without a break. At present we die. But we make a thousand mistakes daily – in our food and drink and ways of eating and drinking, in our air and breathing, in our positions and movements or sedentariness, in our ways of thinking, and so on. Remedy these mistakes, assert and imagine increasing health, let more vigorous new cells take the place of less vigorous old cells continually, and why not live for centuries? Why not rebuild the body?

A fifth possibility is that of living with-out the heavy physical body.

So Reincarnation is not a law for all for ever without exception.

14. Why did not Jesus Christ believe in it?

We do not find the immortality of the soul set forth as an essential doctrine of Jesus Christ. We do not find the physical evolution – which Spencer, Wallace, and Darwin have gone so far towards proving – thus set forth. We do not find even the most obvious rules of physical health insisted on. Silence or a passing mention is no proof that Jesus Christ disbelieved in this or that view.

When he** was asked whether a certain man or his parents had sinned that he should be born blind, he said that in this case neither cause was the true one. He did not deny heredity, nor did he deny Reincarnation (a man could not have sinned before being born, unless he had sinned in a previous life). Indeed, he said of John the Baptist, “If you will receive it, this is Elias that was to come,” and again, when they asked him how it was that the Scribes said Elias must first come (before the Messiah came), he answered, “Elias has come, and they have done to him what they pleased.” clearly alluding to the murder of John the Baptist.

We might say that the idea of Reincarnation underlies many of the teachings of the New Testament, as we shall see in the chapter called “New Light on Old Texts.” How, for instance, can one accept the idea of original sin by a man who has never had conscious choice before? The idea of sin without choice is, to me at least, inconceivable.

And is not Reincarnation one – not the only – explanation of that phrase, “Ye must be born again”?
footnotes

* The grafting-process suggests a possibility.

** To illustrate how little we observe, it will astonish most readers to be told that in the New Testament, “he,” alluding to Jesus, is spelt with a small h, not a capital H.

Amy Edelstein: Orchestrating Our Many Selves

Orchestrating Our Many Selves
Jean Houston on the Fallacy of
Self-Mastery
by Amy Edelstein


WIE: You write in your book A Passion for the Possible that “human beings are not constituted to be content with living as thwarted, inhibited versions of themselves. Throughout history and all over the world, people have felt a yearning to be more, a longing to push the membrane of the possible. They have entered monasteries and mystery schools, pursuing secular as well as esoteric studies. They have practiced yoga, martial arts, sports, dance, art. They have left home and family to adventure beyond the ordinary, embarking on visionary and spiritual quests.” Are you suggesting that what motivates an individual to pursue excellence in any of those disciplines, be it creative or athletic, is the same as what motivates an individual to pursue spiritual evolution or enlightenment?

JH: I think they come from different levels of the self. I talk about four levels in my work—the sensory, psychological, mythic and spiritual levels. So I would say that more likely what motivates people to pursue excellence is from the sensory and psychological levels, and what motivates them to pursue spiritual realization is more from the mythic and spiritual levels. But that impetus, the great sounding chord that says “it is time to be what you are” is there all the time. This is what I try to communicate in my workshops, seminars and books. The simplest book I ever wrote was A Passion for the Possible, in which I try to lead people into ways of enhancing each of the levels. And all of this works to some extent. But if you’re talking about enlightenment, I think it is a balance between all of the levels. At different times in life one level may be more emphasized than another, but above all it is the finding of the essential self that then becomes the orchestrator, the evocateur of these many levels of the self.

WIE: You speak about being “a conscious participant in an unfolding drama,” about the personal drama of life as an impersonal event and about our own struggles as equivalent to the challenges faced by heroes in the mythic stories. You also very passionately ask people to act with strength, courage and perseverance, and not to stop in the face of obstacles. In light of this, would you say that you are calling people to live from the realization of what you refer to as the “unitive level,” or could we say that you are also calling people to live a life of self—determination or, in other words, self-mastery?

JH: Again, I will not use the term “self-mastery”! I’m calling people to live out of the larger story, out of the capacity of their own destiny. The reason I use the great stories like the search for the Holy Grail and The Odyssey is that these myths help us tap into the extraordinary coding, which allows us to express the deepest truths about ourselves. We can find these deepest truths through realizing that we are part of a greater story. You see, we are storied beings; stories are just flowing through our bloodstream. We are a story at every second of our life, and the stages of our lives are great stories. What I try to do is help people to find these eternal stories that are there. These mythic tales of death and resurrection, rites of passage, quests and discoveries are organic constructs of the deep psyche. And they are there to show us that the story isn’t over. A few of us may get stuck, get depressed, get caught up in our own insularities, but when we find the motivating story, then the personal-particular becomes part of the personal-universal and we move on. The yellow brick road unfolds and the journey is before us.

WIE: Would you say that we need to live from these higher levels in order for evolution to take place?

JH: I would say that it’s as if we have a million potentials and we tootle and hoot on about twenty of them. Part of my work has been saying, “My God! Look what we’ve got! Look what’s there!” It’s not just in our body and mind, as Joseph Campbell thought, but in our very psyche. It’s not just cultural, it seems to be structural. It’s part of the resonance of the universal story that is activated in us, and when we tap into it, all kinds of potentials begin to unfold. If we are exploring our lives through the larger personae which we have within us, through the greater story, and if we are ultimately spiritually sourced in the ground of our being, we’re cooking on more elaborate burners, and the fire is under the crucible of spirit.

WIE: In your travels all around the world, having met thousands of very unusual individuals, who would you say would be the greatest example of self-mastery? Who would you say was the greatest example of enlightenment? And what was it about them that distinguished them from each other?

JH: I wouldn’t describe an example of self-mastery, but I would of enlightenment. The most evocative example for me was an old man who I used to take walks with. When I was fourteen years old my parents got divorced, and I was just grief-stricken about it. I took to running down Park Avenue, late for school—I would run from my grief. And one day I ran into an old man and knocked the wind out of him. I picked him up and he said to me in a French accent, “Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?”

I said, “Yes sir, looks that way.”

He said, “Well, bon voyage!”

I said, “Bon voyage.” And I ran to school. The following week I was walking my fox terrier, Champ, and I saw the old man coming out of a building. I lived at 86th just off of Park Avenue and the old man lived somewhere around 84th and Park.

He said to me, “Ah, my friend the runner, you have a fox terrier. Where are you going?”

“Well sir, I take Champ to Central Park after school. I just think about things.”

“I will go with you sometime, okay?”

I said, “Well, sure.”

“I will take my constitutional.”

Now he was something. He had no self-consciousness at all. He had leaky margins with the world. He had a long French name but he asked me to call him by the first part of it, which to my American ears sounded like “Mr. Tayer.” So I called him Mr. Tayer. We walked for about a year and a half, off and on, mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays. He would suddenly fall to the ground and look at a caterpillar: “Oh, Jean, look at the caterpillar! Ah, moving, changing, transforming, metamorphosing. Jean, feel yourself to be a caterpillar. Can you do that?”

“Very easily, Mr. Tayer.” I mean, here I was, a fourteen-year-old girl nearly six feet tall with red dots on my face—I felt like a caterpillar!

He said, “What are you when you finally become a papillon, a butterfly? What is the butterfly of Jean?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Tayer!”

“Yes, you know, you know. I know you know. Now, what are you transforming into?”

“Well, I think when I grow up I’ll fly all over the world, and maybe I’ll help people.” It turned out to be largely true.

WIE: It certainly did.

JH: “Ah! Bon, bon, bon.” And he’d say, “Oh, Jean, lean into the wind!” There are these strong winds off of Central Park. “Ah, Jean, smell the wind! Same wind once went through Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ felt this?”

“Yes. Oh, Marie Antoinette, here she comes! Genghis Khan, not so good. Joan of Arc, Jean D’Arc! Be filled with Jean D’Arc! Be filled with the tides of history!” We had all these wonderful games about life: “Jean, look at the clouds, God’s calligraphy in the sky!”

He would suddenly stop and look at you, and he would giggle and you would giggle, and he’d giggle and you’d giggle, and then he would look at you laughing and laughing as if you were the cluttered house that hid the Holy One. I would go home and tell my mother, “Mother I met my old man again and when I’m with him I leave my littleness behind.”

Toward the end of our walk together one day, he stopped suddenly and he turned to me and said, “Jean, what to you is the most fascinating question?”

And I said, “It’s about history, Mr. Tayer, and destiny, too. How can we take the right path in history so that we even have a destiny? My friends at school all talk about the H-bomb, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to be twenty-one years old. Mr. Tayer, you always talk about the future of man as if we had a future; I want to know what we have to do to keep that future coming.”

He said, “We need to have more specialists in spirit who will lead people into self-discovery.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Tayer?”

He said—and this is exactly what he said; I was taking notes because I knew I was in the presence of greatness—”We are being called into metamorphosis, into a far higher order, and yet we often act only from a tiny portion of ourselves. It is necessary that we increase that portion. But do not think for one minute, Jean, that we are alone in making that possible. We are part of a cosmic evolutionary movement that inspires us to unite with God. This is the lightning flash for all our potentialities. This is the great originating cause of all our shifts and changes. Without it there is nothing but struggle and decline.”

And I said to him, “What do you call it? I’ve never heard of it. Can something as great as that even have a name?”

“You are right,” he said, “it is impossible to name.”

“Well, try to name it, Mr. Tayer. I’ve heard that once a thing is named, you can begin to work with it.”

He seemed amused and he said, “I’ll try.” And then he said, “It is the demand of the universe for the birth of the ultra-human. It is the rising of a new form of psychic energy in which the very depths of loving within you are combined with what is most essential in the flowing of the cosmic stream.”

I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I nodded sagely, and I said I would ponder these things, and he said he would also. One day toward the end of our time together—this was actually the last day that I ever saw him—Mr. Tayer began talking to me about the lure of becoming, a phrase that then became a part of my language. And also about how we humans are part of an evolutionary process in which we are being drawn toward something—which he called the “Omega point”—full of evolution. He told me that he believed that physical and spiritual energy was always flowing out from the Omega point and empowering us as well as leading us forward through love and illumination. And it was then that I asked him my ultimate question, the one that I must say has continued to haunt me all the days of my life: “What do you believe it’s all about, Mr. Tayer?” His answer is enshrined in my heart. He started by saying, “Je crois”—I believe. “I believe that the universe is in evolution. I believe that the evolution is toward spirit. I believe that spirit fulfills itself in a personal God.”

“And what do you believe about yourself, Mr. Tayer?”

He said, “I believe that I am a pilgrim of the future.”

It was the Thursday before Easter Sunday, 1955. I had brought him the shell of a snail. “Ah! Escargot!” he said, and then he began to wax ecstatic for the better part of an hour about spirals and nature and art, snail shells and galaxies, the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral—which later became a symbol of my work—and the Rose Window and the convolutions of the brain, the whirl of flowers and the circulation of the heart’s blood. It was all taken up in a great hymn to the spiraling evolution of spirit and matter, “It’s all a spiral of becoming, Jean!” Then he looked away, and he seemed to be seeing into the future and he said, “Jean, the people of your time, toward the end of this century, will be taking the tiller of the world. But they cannot go directly.” He used the French word, directement. “You have to go in spirals, touching upon every people, every culture, every kind of consciousness. It is then that the newest in the field of mind will awaken and we will rebuild the earth.” And then he said to me, “Jean, remain always true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love.” Those were the words that he said to me. Then he said, “Au revoir, Jean.”

“Au revoir, Mr. Tayer! I’ll see you on Tuesday!”

And Tuesday came and I brought Champ, and Champ whimpered; he seemed to know something. And my old man never came. Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday. Eight weeks I waited and he never came again, because it turned out he had died on that Sunday in 1955.

Years later, somebody gave me a book without a cover called The Phenomenon of Man. And when I began to read it, I said, “My God! That’s my pal, that’s . . . oh my goodness. . . .” And I went to my friend and asked, “Have you got the cover to the book?” And she gave it to me and I flipped it over and, of course, there was my old man. No forgetting that face! Mr. Tayer had been Teilhard de Chardin.

WIE: That’s extraordinary!

JH: He was the most enlightened person I’ve ever met. He certainly has had a profound influence on my life, on my sense of history and of who and what we are. He was childlike, always in a state of wonder and astonishment. Always in a state of, as I said, leaky margins with reality. There wasn’t a question of self because he was so embodied in all things, in all existences. And he saw spiritual and physical energy as utterly necessary to each other. So that’s ultimately what I have to say about the whole thing and what I really believe.

WIE: I’d like to begin by asking how you would define “self-mastery.”

Jean Houston: I would never use the word “mastery”! I thought I’d tell you that right away. Maybe that’s a feminine point of view—I can talk about an orchestration and a balance of capacities, but I don’t think I’d ever use the word “mastery.” To me, it smacks of galloping chutzpah! I just don’t think self-mastery exists. How’s that for a beginning?

I think the nearest that we can come to talking about self-mastery is to talk about the nature of essence; and when we touch into essence, latent abilities and skills suddenly jump into life.

WIE: How would you define “enlightenment” then?

JH: I think enlightenment exceeds definition because it is so experiential; the mystics say it’s unexplainable. But if I can speak about it as a process, I can get closer. I’d say it’s an extraordinary effort of reweaving the self in body, mind and spirit that can be accomplished by a depth of loving, by a giving over of the local self to the godstuff. It is the honing of one’s inner and outer perceptions so one is able to see, hear, touch, taste, feel and intuit the immensity of what is really there. The veils of the self are lifted.

WIE: Exponents of self-mastery and enlightenment each tend to see their approach as leading to the realization of our full human potential. Yet closer examination reveals these two approaches to be radically different. The highly accomplished individuals who we have come to call the “Self Masters” express what could be described as an “I Can” spirit. They are individuals who have made enormous effort to break through seemingly unbreakable barriers, and who exude a powerful confidence that comes from their fundamental knowing that “I can do it!” Jack LaLanne would be a good example of someone who embodies this “I Can” spirit. On the other hand, enlightenment is described by the great traditions as a fundamental groundedness in what is referred to as “Being” itself, or “I Am.” Would you say that the “I Can” and the “I Am” are basically antithetical modes of transformation?

JH: Well, not from the perspective of God. You see, you can get extraordinary confidence from being “in the flow” in great sporting moments. For example, when I was fourteen or fifteen I was a very serious fencer. I really loved it and I was pretty good. Once, in New York, I was in a round-robin—where you keep competing until you lose—and what happened to me was fascinating. There were men and women, and we were fencing with foils. All the fencers were much older than I was, and they were some of the city’s best. Well, as I began to fence I suddenly found that I was in “the zone”! No longer just a pretty good fencer, I had tapped into the essence of fencing. I was the sport! Anticipating all moves, seeing all opportunities, I couldn’t tire. Endless waves of energy filled me. There was no possibility of beating me. One after another, twenty opponents came up and were defeated. And there I was, “Quarte, sixte, paré, et là! Strike to the heart!” On and on it went—my essence and the essence of the sport in a rapturous union of movement and spirit. That kind of gallant élan filled me. I was all the great fencers who ever were, Scaramouche, Cyrano de Bergerac. I felt as if their spirits were joining with mine for one last great bout, until after six hours of continuous fencing, the match was stopped and I was declared the winner. How did this happen?!

Several times in my life I’ve been in that state, and it’s not a state of “I Can,” I assure you. It is as if your essence joins the essence of the action itself—almost like you tune into the god or goddess of the action, the very archetype of it. It’s much more complex than saying “I Can” and “I Am.”

WIE: When speaking about cultivating our highest human potential, the approach of self-mastery advocates the use of discipline and effort to push ourselves through limitations, while the traditional teachings of enlightenment point to the realization of a condition of effortless “letting go” as the ground for deep and abiding change. What do you see as the fundamental basis for the realization of our full human potential?

JH: We’re so different from each other. We’re as different as snowflakes. I often say, “We’re not flaky, we’re snowflakes.” Some people are pushers and some people are relaxers-into. That’s why, when I teach, I always try to provide a variety of ways into the unfolding and enlisting of capacities. My workshops are filled with music and dance and jokes and enactments and “process” as well as cognitive exercises, because the point is to reach people through whatever form. That’s why there are so many different forms of yoga—karma yoga, bhakti yoga, hatha yoga, dhyana yoga, etc. You can’t just talk about one particular way.

WIE: I understand, but just to pursue this question a little further, individuals who seem to have achieved an unusual degree of self-mastery often claim that through the consistent development of greater and greater control over our bodies, thoughts and feelings, it is possible to discover a deep sense of fulfillment and a profound experience of inner freedom. Enlightenment teachings, on the other hand, generally state that it’s only through a complete giving up of control, a submission to “Thy will” rather than “my will,” that we can experience true spiritual freedom. What is your view of these two different approaches to inner freedom?

JH: I would never use the word “control” here. I just don’t think it can be achieved! I would say instead a kind of “genial orchestration.” And you’ve also got to realize that you’re talking about the difference between the muscular West and the more relaxed East. Our Calvinistic theology is: Try! Try! “I will labor in the vineyard of the Lord to know if I’m worthy or not,” or, “Am I among the 144,000 elect? I can only prove it by trying harder and harder.” It’s a cultural lensing. Look at the stories that make up our culture’s mythic structures: Horatio Alger. Sail over the sea! Cut down the forest! Build! Push! Those are the words of a frontier psychology. And a frontier psychology will manifest especially in religious or spiritual experience as: Keep pushing, keep trying. Whereas the other is surrender: Surrender into love, surrender into being. The great mystics say, “My God, my Love, Thou art all mine and I am all Thine!” They talk about the intensity of loving; theirs is a culture of love. You see, the union with the Beloved is a different perspective.

What happens in either case is an alchemy, no question. It is an alchemy in which the human being attempts to become what he or she truly is, and in which they perhaps experience and express the greater life for which we have all been coded. You see, I believe that we’ve all been deeply coded for a much larger life. And I believe that what we’re calling “enlightenment” is coded in us as part of our inheritance. For different people from different parts of the world, there are certain patterns of journeys and stages of unfolding—not unlike the unfolding of the coding of the DNA structures in the genes.

My problem with those who will themselves to a certain end is that they lose access to the coding, and then they only gain the culture’s notion of what is good and best and bright and beautiful. You just have to look at Vanity Fair or Vogue magazine to see what I’m talking about. I think our potential is much richer than that, and I think that the Easterners have a deeper and more subtle and perhaps even a truer grasp of it.

WIE: You said you would never use the term “self-mastery,” and that maybe that’s a feminine point of view. It might intrigue you to know that it was very difficult finding women to interview for this issue of WIE, apparently because women don’t tend to speak about their achievements in the same way that men do. For example, Susan Powter wouldn’t go near the term “self-mastery” either. In spite of the fact that she expresses many of the qualities of self-mastery in her own life, she felt strongly that “mastery” represents a patriarchal view, and she insisted that we speak about this subject only in terms of natural processes and other more “feminine” concepts. Why do you object to the term “mastery,” and why do you think women in general object to both the word and the concept?

JH: I think “mastery” offends the senses of anybody who has a real ecological sense of the world. Sir Frances Bacon talked about extending the empire of man over things, and we see where that has brought us—our so-called mastery has resulted in so much destruction. So I think that’s why. Mastery just reflects such a narrow bandwidth. It is like making a slave of the self and then mastering your inner slave. In this country with its horrendous history of slavery—with its “Ho Massah! Yessah Massah!”—the word has fearful connotations. In addition to that, there is the sense that you are mastering the self. Who is to say that the self doesn’t have its own agenda, which may be much larger than one’s own ego’s view of what that agenda should be?

WIE: In the course of our research for this issue, we looked at many individuals who expressed the unusual qualities of self-mastery: control, discipline, perseverance in the face of obstacles, going beyond limitations and deep confidence and positivity. We read about some extraordinary women, including Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jan Reynolds, who skied Mt. Everest, and Ann Bancroft, the first woman to go to the North and South Poles. To our surprise, we found that even these outstanding individuals didn’t describe their accomplishments with the degree of confidence and pride they undeniably warranted. In fact, King and Bancroft, in spite of their achievements, slipped into depression, disillusionment and despair. They didn’t sustain the same positive outlook on life—

JH: The way the men did.

WIE: Yes! We were intrigued by this, and we spoke with Beverly Slade, a psychologist who has studied the way women relate to excellence. She had some very interesting things to say. One of her primary conclusions is that women don’t want to speak about their own abilities because it’s socially unacceptable for them to do so; and if they do, they risk losing their relationships—the friendship, support, protection, and affirmation of men and of women. It’s acceptable in our culture for women to stand out if they are nurturers, like Mother Teresa, but women risk censure if they speak with confidence about their attainments, about their cultivation of self-mastery. What do you think about her conclusions?

JH: I think that is partially true, but I think there is a deeper story to it. The deeper story is that women are devoted to process rather than product. I think the underlying reason is that women are devoted to making things grow—so you do something and then it’s time to move on and do the next thing.

WIE: What do you mean by being “devoted to process”?

JH: Well, to be devoted to process is to really look at each stage as it unfolds, to see how the things cohere, develop, grow. The way or the path is what is important—it is the ways and the means; it is not the end. If you’re watching little children grow, if you’re taking care of things in process, then that’s what’s important and you get on with it.

WIE: From all I’ve heard about your teaching work, you really give everything you possibly can to what you are doing—you go all out. It doesn’t seem to be just about process. It isn’t only that you enjoy the preparation for one of your talks, for example, but that you give everything to make it exceptional. This is one of the qualities that we’ve found in self-mastery—giving everything, going for broke.

JH: To me that is not a mastery of the self. That is merely an orchestration of many qualities that I have developed over many years. It is my self in its efflorescence, you see, the fullness of my being. A fuller use. I even hate the word “use”; I would say—”fuller unfolding” or “being in the service of something that it seems very important to do.”

WIE: What do you think it is in you that drives you to go all the way when other people would settle for giving less than everything?

JH: Well, it is not ambition. I’ll tell you what it is—it’s a sense of time, of history, and a sense of urgency; knowing that we could lose it all. These are the times and they’re so critical. I figure I have maybe thirty or thirty-five good years left of my life. And I would hope in that time to continue to be able to do something to be of service to the planet, to people.

WIE: What do you think about the message of individuals like Anthony Robbins, who teach that the force of transformative change is materialized through taking action, that we control our own destiny through the decisions that we make? Or Jack LaLanne, who says he doesn’t know anything about grace, and asserts that “God helps those who help themselves”? Or Dan Millman, former world-class gymnast and author of books about human transformation, who endorses as a way to live the popular slogan “Just do it!”?

JH: That’s a very Western point of view!

WIE: The enlightenment teachings, on the other hand, point to surrender as the way to transformation. Would you say that genuine evolution is achieved through our own efforts, as these extraordinary individuals suggest, or is it found through naturally surrendering to that process of “unfolding,” as you have described it?

JH: Well, my point of view is that it is both plus much, much more—it’s not one or the other. As I said earlier, people are very different in the ways that they approach this. To be able to give a cogent answer, not only would I have to study these people’s work, but I would also have to look at long-term results in people’s lives. And I mean long-term results, not just people saying “I had a wonderful time at the seminar,” because that’s easy to get. We live in a testimonial world. To me the proof of the pudding is: are they kinder? Like the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” Also, what is the service to the world that people are giving? Are they trying to make a difference and make this a better world? I feel that it really comes down to that.

WIE: You write in your book A Passion for the Possible that “human beings are not constituted to be content with living as thwarted, inhibited versions of themselves. Throughout history and all over the world, people have felt a yearning to be more, a longing to push the membrane of the possible. They have entered monasteries and mystery schools, pursuing secular as well as esoteric studies. They have practiced yoga, martial arts, sports, dance, art. They have left home and family to adventure beyond the ordinary, embarking on visionary and spiritual quests.” Are you suggesting that what motivates an individual to pursue excellence in any of those disciplines, be it creative or athletic, is the same as what motivates an individual to pursue spiritual evolution or enlightenment?

JH: I think they come from different levels of the self. I talk about four levels in my work—the sensory, psychological, mythic and spiritual levels. So I would say that more likely what motivates people to pursue excellence is from the sensory and psychological levels, and what motivates them to pursue spiritual realization is more from the mythic and spiritual levels. But that impetus, the great sounding chord that says “it is time to be what you are” is there all the time. This is what I try to communicate in my workshops, seminars and books. The simplest book I ever wrote was A Passion for the Possible, in which I try to lead people into ways of enhancing each of the levels. And all of this works to some extent. But if you’re talking about enlightenment, I think it is a balance between all of the levels. At different times in life one level may be more emphasized than another, but above all it is the finding of the essential self that then becomes the orchestrator, the evocateur of these many levels of the self.

WIE: You speak about being “a conscious participant in an unfolding drama,” about the personal drama of life as an impersonal event and about our own struggles as equivalent to the challenges faced by heroes in the mythic stories. You also very passionately ask people to act with strength, courage and perseverance, and not to stop in the face of obstacles. In light of this, would you say that you are calling people to live from the realization of what you refer to as the “unitive level,” or could we say that you are also calling people to live a life of self—determination or, in other words, self-mastery?

JH: Again, I will not use the term “self-mastery”! I’m calling people to live out of the larger story, out of the capacity of their own destiny. The reason I use the great stories like the search for the Holy Grail and The Odyssey is that these myths help us tap into the extraordinary coding, which allows us to express the deepest truths about ourselves. We can find these deepest truths through realizing that we are part of a greater story. You see, we are storied beings; stories are just flowing through our bloodstream. We are a story at every second of our life, and the stages of our lives are great stories. What I try to do is help people to find these eternal stories that are there. These mythic tales of death and resurrection, rites of passage, quests and discoveries are organic constructs of the deep psyche. And they are there to show us that the story isn’t over. A few of us may get stuck, get depressed, get caught up in our own insularities, but when we find the motivating story, then the personal-particular becomes part of the personal-universal and we move on. The yellow brick road unfolds and the journey is before us.

WIE: Would you say that we need to live from these higher levels in order for evolution to take place?

JH: I would say that it’s as if we have a million potentials and we tootle and hoot on about twenty of them. Part of my work has been saying, “My God! Look what we’ve got! Look what’s there!” It’s not just in our body and mind, as Joseph Campbell thought, but in our very psyche. It’s not just cultural, it seems to be structural. It’s part of the resonance of the universal story that is activated in us, and when we tap into it, all kinds of potentials begin to unfold. If we are exploring our lives through the larger personae which we have within us, through the greater story, and if we are ultimately spiritually sourced in the ground of our being, we’re cooking on more elaborate burners, and the fire is under the crucible of spirit.

WIE: In your travels all around the world, having met thousands of very unusual individuals, who would you say would be the greatest example of self-mastery? Who would you say was the greatest example of enlightenment? And what was it about them that distinguished them from each other?

JH: I wouldn’t describe an example of self-mastery, but I would of enlightenment. The most evocative example for me was an old man who I used to take walks with. When I was fourteen years old my parents got divorced, and I was just grief-stricken about it. I took to running down Park Avenue, late for school—I would run from my grief. And one day I ran into an old man and knocked the wind out of him. I picked him up and he said to me in a French accent, “Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?”

I said, “Yes sir, looks that way.”

He said, “Well, bon voyage!”

I said, “Bon voyage.” And I ran to school. The following week I was walking my fox terrier, Champ, and I saw the old man coming out of a building. I lived at 86th just off of Park Avenue and the old man lived somewhere around 84th and Park.

He said to me, “Ah, my friend the runner, you have a fox terrier. Where are you going?”

“Well sir, I take Champ to Central Park after school. I just think about things.”

“I will go with you sometime, okay?”

I said, “Well, sure.”

“I will take my constitutional.”

Now he was something. He had no self-consciousness at all. He had leaky margins with the world. He had a long French name but he asked me to call him by the first part of it, which to my American ears sounded like “Mr. Tayer.” So I called him Mr. Tayer. We walked for about a year and a half, off and on, mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays. He would suddenly fall to the ground and look at a caterpillar: “Oh, Jean, look at the caterpillar! Ah, moving, changing, transforming, metamorphosing. Jean, feel yourself to be a caterpillar. Can you do that?”

“Very easily, Mr. Tayer.” I mean, here I was, a fourteen-year-old girl nearly six feet tall with red dots on my face—I felt like a caterpillar!

He said, “What are you when you finally become a papillon, a butterfly? What is the butterfly of Jean?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Tayer!”

“Yes, you know, you know. I know you know. Now, what are you transforming into?”

“Well, I think when I grow up I’ll fly all over the world, and maybe I’ll help people.” It turned out to be largely true.

WIE: It certainly did.

JH: “Ah! Bon, bon, bon.” And he’d say, “Oh, Jean, lean into the wind!” There are these strong winds off of Central Park. “Ah, Jean, smell the wind! Same wind once went through Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ felt this?”

“Yes. Oh, Marie Antoinette, here she comes! Genghis Khan, not so good. Joan of Arc, Jean D’Arc! Be filled with Jean D’Arc! Be filled with the tides of history!” We had all these wonderful games about life: “Jean, look at the clouds, God’s calligraphy in the sky!”

He would suddenly stop and look at you, and he would giggle and you would giggle, and he’d giggle and you’d giggle, and then he would look at you laughing and laughing as if you were the cluttered house that hid the Holy One. I would go home and tell my mother, “Mother I met my old man again and when I’m with him I leave my littleness behind.”

Toward the end of our walk together one day, he stopped suddenly and he turned to me and said, “Jean, what to you is the most fascinating question?”

And I said, “It’s about history, Mr. Tayer, and destiny, too. How can we take the right path in history so that we even have a destiny? My friends at school all talk about the H-bomb, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to be twenty-one years old. Mr. Tayer, you always talk about the future of man as if we had a future; I want to know what we have to do to keep that future coming.”

He said, “We need to have more specialists in spirit who will lead people into self-discovery.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Tayer?”

He said—and this is exactly what he said; I was taking notes because I knew I was in the presence of greatness—”We are being called into metamorphosis, into a far higher order, and yet we often act only from a tiny portion of ourselves. It is necessary that we increase that portion. But do not think for one minute, Jean, that we are alone in making that possible. We are part of a cosmic evolutionary movement that inspires us to unite with God. This is the lightning flash for all our potentialities. This is the great originating cause of all our shifts and changes. Without it there is nothing but struggle and decline.”

And I said to him, “What do you call it? I’ve never heard of it. Can something as great as that even have a name?”

“You are right,” he said, “it is impossible to name.”

“Well, try to name it, Mr. Tayer. I’ve heard that once a thing is named, you can begin to work with it.”

He seemed amused and he said, “I’ll try.” And then he said, “It is the demand of the universe for the birth of the ultra-human. It is the rising of a new form of psychic energy in which the very depths of loving within you are combined with what is most essential in the flowing of the cosmic stream.”

I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I nodded sagely, and I said I would ponder these things, and he said he would also. One day toward the end of our time together—this was actually the last day that I ever saw him—Mr. Tayer began talking to me about the lure of becoming, a phrase that then became a part of my language. And also about how we humans are part of an evolutionary process in which we are being drawn toward something—which he called the “Omega point”—full of evolution. He told me that he believed that physical and spiritual energy was always flowing out from the Omega point and empowering us as well as leading us forward through love and illumination. And it was then that I asked him my ultimate question, the one that I must say has continued to haunt me all the days of my life: “What do you believe it’s all about, Mr. Tayer?” His answer is enshrined in my heart. He started by saying, “Je crois”—I believe. “I believe that the universe is in evolution. I believe that the evolution is toward spirit. I believe that spirit fulfills itself in a personal God.”

“And what do you believe about yourself, Mr. Tayer?”

He said, “I believe that I am a pilgrim of the future.”

It was the Thursday before Easter Sunday, 1955. I had brought him the shell of a snail. “Ah! Escargot!” he said, and then he began to wax ecstatic for the better part of an hour about spirals and nature and art, snail shells and galaxies, the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral—which later became a symbol of my work—and the Rose Window and the convolutions of the brain, the whirl of flowers and the circulation of the heart’s blood. It was all taken up in a great hymn to the spiraling evolution of spirit and matter, “It’s all a spiral of becoming, Jean!” Then he looked away, and he seemed to be seeing into the future and he said, “Jean, the people of your time, toward the end of this century, will be taking the tiller of the world. But they cannot go directly.” He used the French word, directement. “You have to go in spirals, touching upon every people, every culture, every kind of consciousness. It is then that the newest in the field of mind will awaken and we will rebuild the earth.” And then he said to me, “Jean, remain always true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love.” Those were the words that he said to me. Then he said, “Au revoir, Jean.”

“Au revoir, Mr. Tayer! I’ll see you on Tuesday!”

And Tuesday came and I brought Champ, and Champ whimpered; he seemed to know something. And my old man never came. Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday. Eight weeks I waited and he never came again, because it turned out he had died on that Sunday in 1955.

Years later, somebody gave me a book without a cover called The Phenomenon of Man. And when I began to read it, I said, “My God! That’s my pal, that’s . . . oh my goodness. . . .” And I went to my friend and asked, “Have you got the cover to the book?” And she gave it to me and I flipped it over and, of course, there was my old man. No forgetting that face! Mr. Tayer had been Teilhard de Chardin.

WIE: That’s extraordinary!

JH: He was the most enlightened person I’ve ever met. He certainly has had a profound influence on my life, on my sense of history and of who and what we are. He was childlike, always in a state of wonder and astonishment. Always in a state of, as I said, leaky margins with reality. There wasn’t a question of self because he was so embodied in all things, in all existences. And he saw spiritual and physical energy as utterly necessary to each other. So that’s ultimately what I have to say about the whole thing and what I really believe.

Biography of Jean Houston

“In our time we have come to the stage where the real work of humanity begins. It is the time where we partner Creation in the creation of ourselves, in the restoration of the biosphere, the regenesis of society and in the assuming of a new type of culture; the culture of Kindness. Herein, we live daily life reconnected and recharged by the Source, so as to become liberated and engaged in the world and in our tasks.”

Dr. Jean Houston, scholar, philosopher and researcher in human capacities, is one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time, one of the principal founders of the Human Potential Movement. A powerful and dynamic speaker, she holds conferences and seminars with social leaders, educational institutions and business organizations worldwide.

Jean Houston has worked intensively in 40 cultures and 100 countries helping to enhance and deepen their own uniqueness while they become part of the global community. Her ability to inspire and invigorate people enables her to readily convey her vision – the finest possible achievement of the individual potential.

In 1965, along with her husband Dr. Robert Masters, Dr. Houston founded The Foundation for Mind Research. She is also the founder and principal teacher since 1982 of the Mystery School, a school of human development, a program of cross-cultural, mythic and spiritual studies, dedicated to teaching history, philosophy, the New Physics, psychology, anthropology, myth and the many dimensions of human potential. She also leads an intensive program in social artistry with leaders coming from all over the world to study with Dr. Houston and her distinguished associates.

She is a prolific writer and author of 26 books including A Passion for the Possible, Search for the Beloved, Life Force, The Possible Human, Public Like a Frog, A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story, and Manual of the Peacemaker.

As advisor to UNICEF in human and cultural development, she has worked to implement some of their extensive educational and health programs. Since 2003, she has been working with the United Nations Development Program, training leaders in developing countries throughout the world in the new field of social artistry. Dr. Houston has also served for two years in an advisory capacity to President and Mrs. Clinton as well as helping Mrs. Clinton write, It Takes A Village To Raise A Child. She has also worked with President and Mrs. Carter and counseled leaders in similar positions in many countries and cultures.

A past President of the Association of Humanistic Psychology , she has taught philosophy, psychology, and religion at Columbia University, Hunter College, the New School for Social Research and Marymount College, as well as summer sessions in human development at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of British Columbia.

In 1985, Dr. Houston was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Association of Teachers Educators. In 1993, she received the Gardner Murphy Humanitarian Award for her work in psychology and the INTA Humanitarian of the Year award. In 1994, she received the Lifetime Outstanding Creative Achievement Award from the Creative Education Foundation. The following year, she was given the Keeper of the Lore Award for her studies in myth and culture. In 1997 she was made a Fellow of the World Business Academy and in 1999 she received the Pathfinder award from the Association of Humanistic Psychology. In 2000 she was given the prestigious Millennium Award from Magical Blend Magazine.

Dr. Houston holds a B.A. from Barnard College, a Ph.D. in psychology from the Union Graduate School and a Ph.D in religion from the Graduate Theological Foundation. She has also been the recipient of honorary doctorates.

Hosted by Patrick Michaels, this excerpt from the PeaceMakers News Report, from Goodnewsbroadcast.com, features Jean Houston http://www.jeanhouston.org

A Global Interfaith Initiative to Change the World ~ Rahim Kanani

This article was originally written for the Common Ground News Service, a non-profit initiative of Search for Common Ground, an international NGO whose mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict – away from adversarial confrontation towards cooperative solutions.

More than two thirds of the world’s population – over four billion people – identify with one religion or another. Imagine the motivational energy of these four billion people used as a positive force for global social change. Whether tackling issues of poverty, disease, health, energy, education, gender inequality or any urgent challenge facing our world today, the possibilities are endless with four billion minds and eight billion hands working together.

This is the potential power of faith.

Incredible, isn’t it?

Designing and developing a movement, a Global Interfaith Volunteer Corps, to professionally bring together members of different faiths in acts of public service internationally, nationally and locally is one possible way to spark this flame. The goal of such interaction is to demystify the “other” through joint engagement in activities and initiatives that benefit not only their own communities but also society at large.

Many believers already serve their communities and each other in a multitude of ways, such as volunteering at their local church, synagogue, mosque or temple. The Global Interfaith Volunteer Corps, however, would be aimed at a much larger concern brought upon our world by rapid globalisation. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, tensions begin to flair. This mounting of tension was best described by His Highness the Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili Muslim community and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, at a recent speech on pluralism in Toronto:

“The variety of the world is not only more available, it is nearly inescapable. Human difference is more proximate – and more intense…. Almost everything now seems to “flow” globally – people and images, money and credit, goods and services, microbes and viruses, pollution and armaments, crime and terror. But let us remember, too, that constructive impulses can also flow more readily, as they do when international organisations join hands across dividing lines.”

Service on the basis of shared beliefs and common ethics can take the shape of local, national and international character. At the local level, multi-faith initiatives can be designed to engage with homeless shelters, heath clinics and special-needs schools. At the national level, joint action plans can be devised amongst faith advocates of all stripes to advance women’s rights, children’s education and environmental stewardship.

And at the international level, increased collaboration between faith-based humanitarian services, joint statements by different faith communities drawing attention to under-reported injustice and inequity, and inter-religious calls to drawdown global nuclear stockpiles are all possible when walls that divide are replaced with bridges that unite. Such multi-religious endeavours not only introduce one faith base to another, but they also build trust amongst different kinds of believers.

The idea of creating a Global Interfaith Volunteer Corps, then, is not simply about creating acceptance and shared religious understanding. It is also about ingraining a broader ethic of pluralism, of accepting and understanding difference – religiously, ethnically, culturally and linguistically.

The volunteer corps could serve as a global entity to increase collaboration amongst religious institutions, faith-based organisations and faith-inspired initiatives, ultimately becoming a forum from which pluralism of all sorts can develop and emanate.

A group of religious leaders could be appointed to local, national and international community councils of multi-faith action. These leaders must be courageous, open and willing to engage. Above all, they would need to set an example for their followers in both thought and action. Imagine these community councils replicated – town-by-town and city-by-city – across the country and around the world.

The differences among us, while important and pronounced, pale in comparison to our commonalities. Generosity, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, respect, charity and acceptance do not belong to any one religion, but are the raw materials that bind the fabric of our faiths together. This sense of shared commitment to the common good, guided by different religious traditions, is perhaps the biggest resource for meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

We must humanise each other’s beliefs by collectively engaging in active citizenship and service to others.

And we must start somewhere, for as famed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Rahim Kanani is pursuing his second master’s at Harvard Divinity School in religion, ethics and politics, where he focuses on Islamic studies, human rights, and international security policy.

In addition to being a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, Rahim has also been published in the Ottawa Citizen, the San Francisco Chronicle, the UAE’s Khaleej Times, Indonesia’s Bali Times, and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times. He has worked with Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard School of Public Health’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard’s Pluralism Project, Amnesty International’s USA Headquarters, the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and various United Nations agencies focusing on issues of international torture and gender violence in conflict zones.

Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship ~ Coleman Barks (Author)

The Big Red Book is a poetic masterpiece from Jalaluddin Rumi, the medieval Sufi mystic whom Time magazine calls “the most popular poet in America.” Readers continue to be awed and inspired by Rumi’s masterfully lyrical, deeply expressive poems, collected in volumes such as The Illustrated Rumi, The Soul of Rumi, and the bestselling The Essential Rumi. With The Big Red Book, acclaimed poet and Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks offers a never-before-published translation of a crucial anthology of poems widely considered to be one of Persian literature’s greatest treasures.

Book Description

Considered one of the masterpieces of world literature, The Big Red Book is perhaps the greatest work of Rumi, the medieval Sufi mystic who also happens to be the bestselling poet in America.

Rumi was born in 1207 to a long line of Islamic theologians and lawyers on the eastern edge of the Persian Empire in what is now Afghanistan. In order to escape the invading Mongol armies of Genghis Khan, his family moved west to a town now found in Turkey, where he eventually became the leader of a school of whirling dervishes. It was a fateful day in 1244 when he met Shams Tabriz, a wild mystic with rare gifts and insight. The renowned scholar Rumi had found a soul mate and friend who would become his spiritual mentor and literary muse. “What I had thought of before as God,” Rumi said, “I met today in a human being.”

Out of their friendship, Rumi wrote thousands of lyric poems and short quatrains in honor of his friend Shams Tabriz. They are poems of divine epiphany, spiritual awakening, friendship, and love. For centuries, Rumi’s collection of these verses has traditionally been bound in a red cover, hence the title of this inspired classic of spiritual literature.



Coleman Barks
was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for thirty years. He is the author of numerous Rumi translations and has been a student of Sufism since 1977. His work with Rumi was the subject of an hour-long segment in Bill Moyers’s Language of Life series on PBS, and he is a featured poet and translator in Bill Moyers’s poetry special, “Fooling with Words.” Coleman Barks is the father of two grown children and the grandfather of four. He lives in Athens, Georgia.

Perception in a fast paced life

PERCEPTION

. . . Something To Think About . . .

THE SITUATION

In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $200 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?


Will one of the nation’s greatest violinists be noticed in a D.C. Metro stop during rush hour? Joshua Bell experimented for Gene Weingarten’s story in The Washington Post:

A video of Joshua Bell playing Ave Maria.

Joshua Bell playing The Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Debussy.

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