Signposts on my Spiritual Path
Some who read this will be or are my students. This is primarily for them. This brief survey of the synchronicites and events – wether real or imagined- in my life is not presented as proof of anything in particular. It is simply a series of observations. Doubtless others will read this and find it puzzling or weird or unacceptable. It will certainly further enrage my critics. If you study with someone it is helpful to know where they have been.
Before I begin I should say that by “Spiritual” I mean those influences and atmospheres, archetypes, images, impressions and sensations that go outside “Common Sense”. I have, by my own life been forced to recognise as much as humans talk of logic, their decisions are made based on deep emotions which may or may not carry immediate survival value. There is a lot of talk about “common sense” but the lack of it as we witness the world of people seems to prove my point! A materialist would argue that such deep emotional responses MUST be locked into the DNA somewhere…that is an arguable point. I see no reason to expect DNA itself as the source of behaviour since it is a reactive structure empowered by something else!
It is like having an octopus trapped a glass bottle. The octopus, alive – intelligent and curious – can figure out how to open the bottle, if it has room to move and a healthy fluid environment. But you would never mistake the bottle for the octopus.
DNA is a structure which holds energy. Energy is a directed force which has intent. In that way energy is intelligent – it has an agenda, a target. A milk carton holds milk. But you do not expect to drink the milk carton- its the milk you want. So according to science DNA holds the plans for potential responses and various blueprints for molecular patterning…these of course come out of the DNA depending on how the environment reflects a response into it. But the energy inside the DNA remains inexplicable. The most recent work I have read states photon energy or streams of light particles or photons -which have been proven to react to observation – are what actually “program” or initiate responses in the DNA. Linking that intelligent, responsive light to the DNA is a fairly easy link for me though I realize the research is very early and as with all Science – nothing can ever be conclusive. I have to remind myself that Science is a method and not a Cosmology.
When I reflect on my own major Spiritual influences I cannot but think my traumatic birth made me sensitive to the environment. I suppose as a child I was a sort of Pan-theist. I sensed everything was alive and I was WITH it. I can recall being enthralled with everything. I was fascinated by animals particularly birds. I was also a merciless killer having (unknowingly) killed a group of baby ducks by picking them up by the neck and choking them. Of course I did not know I was doing that. I was about 3-4 years old at the time. I was just thinking how lovely and soft and cute they were! I did not know my grip was choking the life out of them! I think I must have cried once I realised what I was doing! I can only vaguely recall it. Is it not a commentary on life? we squeeze it to death! we only half way know what we are doing most of the time! But this was a time of great atavistic reverie as with many children that age. I do clearly recall seeing a large black snake in a stream behind my house. And I was alone and walking along the bank of the stream and heard the sliding sound in the grass and looked and there it was. To this day I would still say the snake was over two meters (about six feet)…it seemed to have no end! time stood still for me as I watched it! I got a good archetypal engraving in my brain! I was riveted to the spot I stood on! my eyes must have bulged! The Great Black Snake!! later on, I recall very poisonous Coral Snakes with red, black and yellow stripes were discovered nesting in the same stream bank…and some of the neighbourhood men came out and dug the nest out. It was a very big occasion with pick axes and shovels and loud voices and grunting. I knew it was an important event.
I also saw an apparition in my bedroom. It was a very tall – about eight feet- (we had eight foot ceilings in these newly built houses) a man – phosphorescent green, standing in the room. I will not go into the details (no I was not kidnapped and probed by extraterrestrials!! that would however “sell” better!) but will tell you the next day I told my mother and she said matter-of-factly, “Oh! you had a nightmare-a bad dream!” and I thought to my self, “Wow! you cannot tell the big people anything! they just don’t believe you!”. You see-even at that age – I knew what a bad dream was because I had them! my recurring bad dream came from watching Tarzan movies. In those movies the bad guys often fell into quick sand! and my bad dreams were about me falling into quicksand! So I did know the difference.
So I do not know what the whole story was about my seeing The Green Man. But eventually it did lead to me becoming very interested in Carl Jung and his views on Archetypal Psychology. One thing it told me as a child was that strange things can happen and it does little good to tell anyone else. Unless they too have had a strange experience. Then it is like being in a secret club! So I learned two things; 1. Strange things happen 2. Do not tell adults -they do not “get it”. I was four at the time. So I would say my first “Spiritual” or “Weird” or “Strange Experience” was that. And naturally it left an impression on me. Perhaps it WAS a “bad dream”. But I knew what I saw. And since then I have heard different explanations of what it was or how I produced it in my own mind…and at that young age children do walk in two worlds and the fact is their little half developed brain processes dreams and realities together—-so that look on their face which shows the Star Dust from Heaven is at least partially produced by a brain only half formed! that being said the moral nature (not the intellectual nature) of a small child can be very developed—-they can know how to lie and know they are indeed lying and they can have an amazing sense of personal pride and justice and honour. They can also be very devious at a very early age -even killing their own parents.
Around this same time I recall a hot summer when some of the neighborhood kids spread a long sheet of plastic down a grassy hill – along the ground -and ran water on it. We all had a wonderful time sliding down that hill! I slid down the plastic and found there was something underneath it—-something sharp. Whatever it was sliced a long gash along my abdoman. I remember being very concerned because of the blood and I could see some red stuff inside my belly! my Great Aunt was visiting from South Africa at the time and she looked at it and looked at me and said very casually, “Never mind” and with that she took her hand and dipped out raw honey from a jar—-with the honey comb—-and she filled the hole with it. Then she taped with surgical tape – the hole shut. And she said simply, “THERE”. I felt whole again! This same Great Uncle and Aunt would visit again when I was 6. But this was my first experience of “Medicine”. Yes the skin healed and the hole filled. I still have the scar. My Great Aunt Maggie had lived out in “the bush” in Belgian Congo and she had to know how to fix things quick as she had several children of her own and no access to Doctors. And she had also trained as a nurse.
Another strong experience I had around this time was stepping on a spider which had babies on its back. It was a hot summer day and I was walking through the woods and I saw my foot go down on the spider and a thousand babies spread out like the ripples of a pebble in a pond! I felt an electrical thrill go up my spine and my body broke out into heat and my little face started to sweat! I thought, “Wow! I guess this can happen too!” my experiences came to me and I simply accepted them and gathered them together like “This can happen and that can happen and that also can happen…” as though in my little mind I was supposed to make a list of things to “know”! looking back I really wonder, “Who am I?” because of this I sometimes say the spider was my first kundalini yoga teacher and it sacrificed itself for me in my unconscious state and so sometimes I am very careful with certain spiders. Of course there other spiders I am not careful with! some of the Native American Traditions call the spider “Grandmother Spider” because she is always in the background quietely weaving…the Scandinavian Traditions link the Spider to the Norns or the three Weavers of Destiny. I encourage the reader to notice what animals have appeared in their lives and look up the meanings…it can be very useful to understanding yourself…
By the time I was five I had a fear of snakes. I had seen snakes and am not sure how the fear developed but it was certainly there and somehow linked to the Unknown…There was tall grass along the road going down the hill from my house and I was always dreadfully afraid a snake would come out of the tall grass. The tall grass was mysterious and one could not see into it! Each day I would walk down the road on the opposite side of the grass and feel very afraid! of course inevitably a snake did come out! but it took about a year of daily fear from me. I had really invested in my fear! And it came out quickly and slithered across my foot and crossed the street on its way. I naturally screamed and ran home to tell my father who came out with his rifle and shot it and yes it was indeed a very poisonous snake called a “Copperhead”. But looking back I wished he had not shot it and I had not been such a little idiot and just let the snake have his life. The snake did not hurt me! in fact the physical contact would have been regarded by many cultures as an Initiation. childhood! and in fact it was…
Later in life I would encounter the snake in Yoga as energy of kundalini and the snake theme found in Ba-gua, a Chinese Martial Art. In fact I visited a large snake museum in Texas around that age…and I can remember a huge silver and orange snake! just magnificent! So as I grew older I eventually came to see the Snake, in spite of the story of the Garden of Eden in the bible – was symbolic in nearly all traditions for both poison and medicine – since in the end the only difference between poison and medicine is how much you use and when you use it. So for me the snake came to represent Wisdom – as in all ancient pagan traditions. It also came to signify correct proportion and good timing. Later I was to find the poison of the snake and frog was used to tip arrows for hunting and so the old word for Archery was “Toxophilus”! I was researching Richard Rudd’s “ The Gene Keys” recently and discovered the Snake really is representative of my essence! some of you have read The Golden Compass and remember the Soul of each person is represented as an animal – it is this sort of idea…my friend Victoire had an Uncle who had a pet snake the aunt did not like so he took it in the car and let it out in the country and the snake every-faithful found his way back home! but the aunt still insisted he get rid of it and I think he took it on a boat and let it out in the sea…had I such a loyal snake now at my age I would think my destiny was connected to it and would try to understand it! so what is your totem?
So as a child I was much IMPRESSED by Snakes, Spiders and a Green Man “dream”. I have found many people have had significant encounters with animals and visions growing up but have not been encouraged to really LOOK at what happened. Let me encourage you to do so. The luminous events of your childhood engrave your consciousness and create, I believe certain responses. And that being the case it is a good idea to ask, “Are they the best responses?”
I also grew up with a dog. A miniature poodle named “Gigi”. Gigi was not a prissy poodle. She was kind of a specialist in not being special. She was in short the most cooperative dog I have ever known. But she could do something very interesting; if you looked at her a certain way she knew right away what you were thinking. So if you wanted to tease her and you gave her the “teasing look” and make a few alarming gestures she would bare her teeth and look vicious and snarl! then if you said, “It’s ok and opened your arms she would close her mouth, drop her ears and come and give you a lick!” she knew how to take cues! She was a great dog and though black she was not at all like Faust’s Shwarzer Poodle!! she was with the family for 18 years and when she passed we all felt a great loss…
I made my way through young childhood then as a kind of fascinated Pantheist (it was Groucho Marx who would confuse the word “fascinated” with “vaccinated”) and was taken to church beginning at the age of 5. So I would say I was a thorough-going Pagan up to that point! The church I attended was a Plymouth Brethren church. The Brethren were renown for their strict Victorian moral code (they were founded during the time of Queen Victoria in England). At the time of course the idea of moral purity, or Victorian morality and its well known hypocrisy etc. none of this occurred to me. But what the Brethren did which proved very useful to me—-even essential—-was they explained the Bible with symbolism. Even as a child this made sense to me. I loved stories. Stories taught you about what to do and not do! As it turns out the Early Church Fathers who the Plymouth Brethren studied – did the same thing and they -being classically educated -were very familiar with the Ancient Mythologies and their meanings. So I learned that the entire Bible was a metaphor for how to live life. Yes some of the teachers I had in the church literally believed in Adam and Eve and the Garden and all that. But that did not impress me. Other teachers would say, “What is the point of the story?” that impressed me. The point of the story is that Adam had a choice! he could listen to the snake, the woman or God. (that snake again!) So the story is about Choices. So! how do we choose what we choose? and why? what motivates us to make our choices in life? THAT is the real lesson! for some reason most folks think the snake was about sex and the fruit was an apple and God had a beard and somehow flew around talking to Adam while hovering in the trees! and they then attach all of Sigmund Freud’s ideas about sexuality to the story!! but the story does not say any of that! what it does say is MUCH more interesting. First it says the “Snake” stood upright and it could walk and talk! so really it was not a snake at all! it BECAME a snake later! second, there is no discussion of what the fruit was but there are indications the fruit was actually grapes (wine) – which are related to ancient mystery schools. And that brings up all sorts of ideas on altered states, drugs and Shamanism. Third “God” whatever he was -had legs because he was walking around the Garden. We know the woman was the woman. So if you READ the story it is about three PEOPLE! one of whom was made into a snake. So Freudians would have a hell of a time with the story if they actually payed attention to the details. Jungians on the other hand, knowing symbolism and especially metamorphosis-could do a lot more with it! Incidentally there is a supposed Celtic Bible (the Kolbrin) which has three trees in the Garden of Eden instead of two! so there was a tree for each person in the story! in the Bible there is the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death…I suspect Death was the man and Life was the woman since men war and women give birth. So that third tree—hm? well it could have been the Tree of Wisdom and that would have been the Snake’s Tree! Go Snakes! 😉
I even had an English language student in Taiwan ask me if I wanted a Snake! he meant “Snack” and when I looked at him quizzically he burst out laughting and said, “No, No, No!! a SNACK!”…we both laughed uproariously.
At any rate I was taught the Bible in this symbolic way til I was 18. And many of the ministers (who were not paid ministers but men in the congregation who often had a seminary background) knew Greek and Hebrew. So in many ways though the Plymouth Brethren I received a Classical Education which emphasised symbolic interpretation of old writings and correct translations of old writings. And this was outside of what I learned in public or private school. And I have to say unlike many who decry church as mind-control and propaganda I feel I really benefitted from the many talks of these wise men who taught me as a child. Most of them if not all are dead now and I wished I could shake their hand and give them a hug for transferring some genuine wisdom to me. I will always be grateful. However I have some hatred of ignorant fundamentalist Christianity which is likely comprable to that hatred of an atheist! In fact anything of the “fundamentalist” variety whether its Islam, Buddhism or any other “ism” gives me the same repulsion. Religion in its active form is about Shamanism and Shamanism is about interpreting symbols whether written or living. Now if a person feels there is no mystery to life, that there is nothing to be interpreted, nothing to be understood then in actuality they are practicing a basic form of Buddhism. In fact the state they are moving toward is called Apophasis. This is the direct experience of life without symbols of any kind. The “Is-ness”. And all Religious Faiths have a kind of prayer or stillness they all agree on and it is this Apophatic Prayer or Stillness Experience devoid of all images. Even a so-called Atheist can experience this. I have always figured if there is a God, this God would rather have an honest atheist in Heaven than a dishonest Fundamentalist! and all Fundamentalism is at heart dishonest as it refuses to recognize levels of understanding, experience, interpretation and the inherent mutability of principle, doctrine, scripture or culture.
Around the age of 6 or so my Great Aunt and Uncle – from Africa – visited again and I was a little older. This time I noticed my Great Uncle more. He would sit in a chair with his arms behind his head and make his biceps dance! He had great muscular control. He explained every morning he would massage his body and go on a one to two mile walk. I would sometimes run alongside when he and my Great Aunt would go on one of their fast morning walks with their arms interlocked. They were fast walkers! He also talked about Jujitsu and homeopathic medicine. I later found out he had gotten a black belt in Jujitsu in England around 1900. He made a strong impression on me and this lean, alert muscular man with the nose like the beak of an eagle and silver hair combed straight back – was added to my collection of mental pictures of “this is interesting and important – take note!”
This was also around the time I started drawing pictures of human anatomy for the first time, mainly the human skeleton. Yes I was drawing robots and dinosaurs too! My friend Gary used to draw nothing but Civil War armored boats! I would think, “He is ALWAYS drawing those!!” I could not understand WHY he was always drawing the same themes over and over. Of course now I believe in reincarnation and so I can see where this can come from. At the time it was simply something that IMPRESSED me. “What is it that makes people stick to certain ideas?” that phrase sort of hovered in my mind at the time…
At the age of eight I was “playing” with a friend who was doing some gymnastics with me and he let go of me. My face hit the cement and my front tooth was shattered pulling a nerve out of my face. It was probably the most painful physical experience of my life. The result of this accident was a visit to the dentist every two years or so to recap the tooth and check the scar until I was in my 20s. In my teens I had to have surgery on the same area due to infection and metal was inserted. So I have a strong appreciation of teeth and torture!
At 12 I was beginning to probe Buddhism as well as Martial Arts – as well as comparative religion and eventually I Ieft the Brethren at 18. But I did not leave the church out of aversion, I left out of curiosity. I wanted to know what was “out there”. I read C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” and other books by him.
At 18 I was able to get school credit for self-studying comparative religion my final year in high school and was also able to give two lectures at the University of Georgia on Buddhism and martial arts with the help of my old friend Danny Emerick. Danny who I met at the Karate school already had studied several languages and religions at the University. So he and I had long conversations about differing beliefs particularly Christianity and its contrast with other Asian Religions. In fact Danny introduced me to Dr. Shanta Ratnayaka, a professor who had lived as a Ceylonese Buddhist monk and later married becoming a College Professor.
Shanta was a sweetheart of a human being, gentle, patient and with a mind like a knife. He also had a hearty dislike for Tibetan Buddhism which he regarded as a “PerWerzion!” (his pronounciation!) Danny would imitate him with an earnestness which always left me laughing. Later I was to immerse in Tibetan Buddhism and find out just how perverted it was! (joking here). I encountered my first reading on Tibetan Buddhism at around17-18 starting with Alexandra David-Neel. That was to be significant later on in my life.
Around the age of 14 my school classes were tested for vocabulary and I was told that I had the vocabulary of a University student. My thought was simply, “Yes of course I do. I read a lot”. It did not occur to me then what the implications of that were. When I was retested at 18 and then allowed to get credit for teaching myself comparative religion I realized I was “different”. I was terrible at math and due to dislexia and still struggle with it. But I was pretty good with literature and art but not motivated to perform for the adults. So I was a mediocre student – almost carefully so.
I was by 15 studying martial arts with Robert W. Smith and he too, began advising me on what to read. This was very helpful as he led me to E.F. Schumacher’s “Guide for the Perplexed” and “Small if Beautiful” as well as Guy Murchie’s “Seven Mysteries of Life”. He also recommended books of a more literary nature like the southwest novels of Frank Waters (very Taoist in approach but coming from the Hopi)
and Frederick Manfred’s “Lord Grizzly”. So my reading was very intense coming into my 20s and came from multiple recommendations. Smith though highly influenced by his Priests at the orphanage he attended, was very impressed by Elaine Pagels translation of the Gnostic Gospels. I felt there was a lack of actual instruction as to how these writings were applied and so merely having the translations was not very helpful. They seemed too vague to me at the time. I wanted “how-to” technical treatises and found them in the Greek Orthodox Philokalia which came recommended to me by one of Smith’s other extremely literate students, West Point graduate John Lang. John was also the main reason I returned to Smith after my first visit as he said, “You gotta come back man—I have never seen R.W. complement anybody! I want to see what happens next!” Well much did indeed happen and John was and is a lifelong friend who certainly had an amazing effect on my destiny. To my knowledge at the writing of this text he is passing from cancer (agent orange/Vietnam) staying with his son in Hawaii.(John passed January 27, 2016).
Perhaps I will say more about John as he had a fascinatingly varied life, extremely complex and full ironly. His grandma had been a tennis champion but he had been born with polio and so had some steel pins in his hips. At the time this did not stop him from training his Tai chi ten rounds a day-slow—-short Yang form. (He got to his 1000 round goal and started his new cycle). He also ran 2-3 times a week. He was a sort of Steve McQueen figure. Trim handsome clean cut all American looking guy and would lead Smith’s Tai Chi classes at the end of class finding notes from the some of the girls on his Volkswagon windshield…”I wished these women would leave me alone— man!” he would say…! he told me he was seven years out of Vietnam and he hoped all his cells had changed over now! at the time he was a lawyer for the Smithsonian Museum…after seven or so years of that he became a Traditional Chinese Acupuncturist…he was a man who knew life was about “moving on”…
At around 16 I made my first trip to U.K. to see my grandparents and during this time I bought a copy of Donn Draegers, “Pentjak Silat” from Paul Crompton in London and began doing some of those movements in my upstairs bedroom! I also found at the Warrington library a small pink book which was very intrigueing. It was called “Advice to Teachers” and it was by a man named Rudolph Steiner. I felt everything he said in the book was right and correct. I liked Steiner’s big picture understanding. And at the same time I was reading Roman Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc, whose attitude toward life and especially history I found very helpful and warm while still being full of irony and color. Belloc hated fools and always took the big picture view of history. And he treasured the nuances of culture. He seemed to represent some august ancient power. So these feelings in me were fed and I began to feel something in myself which one could call “Soul Force” or perhaps, “Strength of Personality”…I felt I was reading men I could be friends with. C.S. Lewis had the same effect on me. I had felt that with Robert Smiths books and simply went to see him for myself! (my mother said, “Why not write him a letter?” and I did.) At this time I also made my first trip to see Rose Li, a martial arts teacher in Manchester, U.K. she was born in Beijing originally and carried pre communist Chinese Martial Arts, including Ba-gua, Hsing-I and Tai chi chuan. Robert Smith had been writing her for some years, and he advised I go see her.
Around this time reading Bergier’s “Morning of the Magicians” was also something of a launch point of investigation along with reading the Christian Occult Novels of Charles Williams. In fact I would say because Williams did actually believe in Spiritual Power it was his writings that prevented me from abandoning Christianity all together. This was mainly because at the time I suspected there was something to the History of Magic. After all it had been around the world for the last 3000 years. And the words “Magic” and “Spiritual” seemed to me to mean just about the same thing. And my Plymouth Brethren teachers simply advised me to stay clear of anything “Occult”. For me this was a kind of denial and head-in-the-sand Ostrich approach that led nowhere. I wanted to know if there was actual Power in religion – where was it? it certainly was not in the church or Institution. If Witch Doctors and Shaman had it I wanted to know why and what it was good for. Christ performed miracles and his present day followers could not! and I was familiar with the various fakes who claimed to. But I had also to acknowledge sometimes miracles do happen. The difficult part about miracles is that they happen inconsistently and so seem to work under a separate set of principles. Along the lines of studying miracles I entered my first year of College with a Biology major and decided to look into Biofeedbach which was a new field at the time. The whole Mind-Body study was brand new and I went to the work of Elmer and Alice Green and later their son, Doug Boyd. I looked at the effects of stress on the body and studied the texts of Schultzes’ Autogenic Training and the work of Hans Selye. I also began to read Manly P. Hall and other writers of that nature on comparative religion and philosophy. I also was able to contact through correspondence Prof. William Tiller
who sent me a copy of his Phoenix paper which speculated a multi dimensional structure to the Universe which allowed access to other healing Powers. I had read about Puharich’s work with South American healer Arigo also. At that time I did not know that Tiller would be working with Remote Viewing pioneer Ingo Swann at Stanford Research Institute. I would not find that out til nearly 30 years later!
At 18, still in High School I also had two particularly good teachers one for Art was Paul West and one for Biology was Carol Tsang. Paul encouraged me with monochromatic Japanese brush painting” – “The Tao of Chinese Painting” by Mai Mai Sze was my main text…the figure drawing I carried into College. Paul also got me to join the Sierra Club and took groups of us repelling and for hikes in the Appalachian Mountains. All of this did me good. Carol told me of an experiment she knew of where a man in a lab was putting himself in a room of Argon Gas to watch the energy stream from his fingertips! this made me think of Ch’i and all the Chinese ideas about it. Her husband Victor was Chinese, a Biologist who was studying liver flukes. Flukes are tough customers due to their protective coating which required such heavy medicine-at the time-people were dying from the cure. Victor invited me to his lab to look at the equipment and explain the long and difficult process of isolationg liver flukes for individual study… He also said he remembered as a child watching a Gung-fu master man jump over a train car! that was some real Gung-fu in my mind! it was only many years later that I would find out what the training was to do such a thing. And yes I think it is possible. But like many incidents and meetings it planted questions in my mind about human potential.
At 20 I attended the British School of Osteopathy for a term. I had a wonderful anatomy teacher by the name of R.W. Haines who would draw impressive three dimensional color chalk drawings of the human anatomy on the chalk board. As I look back though, I see the Buddhist Angel was looking over my shoulder as was the Angel of Gurdjieff and the Sufis. I was advised by a student of Chinese Martial Arts teacher Rose Li-whose classes I was attending— to begin reading the Nicoll Commentaries on Gurdjieff. And this also led to reading books on Sufism particularly by Idries Shah. So my medical studies were overlapped with the psychological studies of Gurdjieff. In fact I think John Bennett, who had studied directly with Gurdjieff was still alive and lecturing at the time but I had no money and no time to go and listen! I also saw pictures of him and thought he looked too crazy for me! he had the wild Einstein hair! I took studies seriously as that is my nature. It was tough reading and studying in the winter in a cold bed sit in London where I had to keep putting pennies in the heater to stay warm! sometimes I walked home to save subway fair. It was a fair walk from Eccleston Square past Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square where the British School of Osteopathy was. I remember the time as one of being always cold and always hungry! Due to the exchange rate my U.S. Dollar was being cut in half with each deposit! other students at that time even got money from the government for beer each week! I attempted to get my British Citizenship but was denied as it could only be gotten through a living grandfather. Had I been able to get that my Medical Destiny would have been different indeed.
One day I decided to get adventurous and break my introversion. I went out for lunch and met an older woman in a bookshop named “Miss Winnie”. I just have a vague picture of a short, slightly portly earnest character out of Dickens. Now Steiner folks in London knew about Miss Winnie as a sort of local character. I did not know who she was but we had lunch and she looked at me through her glasses and said with hypnotic intensity, “Rudolph Steiner was the greatest Initiate of the 20th Century”. Well I am from the South and we suspect exagerration as a sort of attempt at high humor. But this woman was earnest. And I liked her. That also reminded me of the Pink Book I read when I was 16 called “Advice to Teachers”. So it was not just Sufis tapping me on the shoulder, it was Rudolph Steiner.
My Welsh roomate made it a point to bathe once or twice a week (the room was small) I wished it could have been more…and once a week we went out for ice cream! I remember looking at the Cinema advertising John Travolta in “Saturday Night”…Disco was fashionable. I would not have dreamed of actually GOING to the movie as that would bite into my meal budget! We kept the milk on the window sill where it would sometimes freeze. Some evenings I would hear a gentle tapping on the sidewalk outside my window (between the swish and grinding sound of taxis idling) and look out and down at the streets and see an older man in an Astrakhan hat walking along the sidewalk. I would later find out it was Christmas Humphreys the writer scholar of Buddhism coming back from the Buddhist Society. I was too shy to go out and introduce myself and of course wish now I had. The restraint of youth in my case was not always a good thing. I managed to visit the Buddhist Society a few times since it was just down the block from the Civil Service Hostelry I rented a room from on Ecclestone Square. I deeply treasured the free hot tea as a poor medical student! And I got to borrow books! I recall reading John Blofelds book on the I-ching. I had read “Way of the White Clouds” in High School and was very impressed. I was also reading some of Trevor Leggett’s books including his “Zen and the Ways”.
Twenty years later I would actually meet Leggett and do an interview with him about Judo and Physical Education. The man who assisted me in the interview was Dicky Bowen, a wonderful scholar and erudite human being who had a good appetite for “bangers and mash” (sausage and potatoes). Mr. Bowen, like Mr. Leggett were both first class practitioners and researchers of Judo- very concerned with its de-evolution and trying to keep some of the more traditional elements alive. They were very much part of Frenchman and martial arts researcher Henry Plee’s generation. Later I would be fortunate enough to meet Henry Plee too…that is a another story. These men were the generation of Judo following E.J. Harrison and his group—- which included my Great Uncle Harry Brown who had studied Jujitsu up in Lancashire around 1900…
Back in cold London at medical school-when I received a call from my mother she had told me she had bad news for me. She had bought a business- a bookshop. But unwittingly she had bought the debts of the business!! so I had to return home. There were other omens that made me think I needed to return too. One was the exchange rate! I was also finding out that one of the teachers at the school had a strange hatred of me. I can only mark this off to karma. But I realize now people one does not even know are capable of incredible hatreds for no logical reason. This was a teacher I hardly even knew. And he openly accused me in a public class lecture of speaking badly about him! I was shocked! had it been true I would not have been shocked! I was only to find this technique used many years later by another teacher I knew. It was a way to try to head -off or control me in the future…in other words they were taking the initiative to discredit me because they knew I would eventually discredit them! to put it bluntly – they found my honesty too inimidating. When I was younger and was accused of something I often would then question myself to be sure I had not forgotten I had done it!! such was the earnestness of my youth. And there are predators waiting for that weakness too. But at the time it was inexplicable to me. Now I smell the rat. So one of my big Spiritual Lessons in Human Nature in never underestimate the power of hatred or envy. And be careful with your honesty. It is best not to share too much. I may be sharing too much even here in this essay. Hatred and envy has a way of looking out for itself too! in fact at this stage in my life I would say this is the primary weapon of all politics and is almost inevitably tied to ambition. But in the end it gets nowhere. And where you find hatred and envy your find Critics. They are- as rocket scientist David Adair said, “As sure as gravity.” This brings up the question of who has the right to criticize another and what are their qualifications? obviously first you must put yourself in a superior position to look down…so one’s own throne has to be quite high. Yes I too criticize…
The politics of hatred and envy, gossip and other means of trying to undermine the reputation of another person is a short term, brief respite for a deeper problem. The problem of Envy. C. S. Lewis wrote a book called “The Problem of Pain”. Perhaps I should write “The Problem of Envy”! And over the years I have had to process and try to come to grips with just what Envy is about. The studies on it are few and it seems to undermine any good Culture Supporting Activity. It seems to be the ultimate anti-social force. It can quickly destroy a good class, a good relationship or a good corporation. I have seen it working in school faculty meetings, martial arts classes and even among my best students but truly I never saw it in my best teachers. The lack of envy is the mark of a good teacher! If there is a Satan then he certainly knows how to aim and direct Envy. Yes I believe Evil has a face and Envy is part of the expression of that face and that is the face found on a very bad snake whose speech is a highly concentrated poison. Another old friend said to me, “Allen remember the size of the snake is nothing – the smallest snake can have the strongest venom.”
Leaving the strange milieu of London cold, sometime fascinating medical school and the brush with the shoulders of Buddhism and Envy I returned home to the U.S., to the Deep South to my home of Georgia —-to assist with the family bookshop and get it out of debt.
I was was not quite 21 having spent a dreadful winter of six months in London with little heat, no money, a few aquaintances at school (the English in my experience are not friendly people til you get close to the northern borders. I do not know exactly what the social problem is. But the Scots do not have it. I have been shown more hospitality in a day in the North than six months in the South of U.K.).
I began working at the newly bought bookshop. I like books too much. So I, because I was a bookshop co-manager got to buy books wholesale. This mean that when the bookshop did an order I too would do an order for me. This allowed me to get whatever books I wanted to buy. I was also interested in antique books and Robert Smith was advising me about what to read and introducing me to the world of book collecting. I cannot recall everything that I read while working at the bookshop but I do know that I was able to read all of C.S. Lewis books including the ones on Medieval Studies. I read most of Tolkien and all of Williams.
During this time of very British influence in literature I encountered Dr. William Mellor who would visit the bookshop on occassion.
He was an older cleanly shaven man, his white hair combed straight back —- with glasses who always wore a suit. Even in the summer-he would put on his pin striped blue and white linen suit! A very old fashioned type was this Englishman. “He would come into the shop and after the bell on the door rang I would hear, “How are you my dear boy?” spoken with much affection and a lingering Yorkshire accent! As we saw each other periodically when he would come to look at books or order books I got to know him. I learned many things from him, about history, about Christianity and about mysticism in general. He had an extraordinary point of view. And he knew how to express it particularly in his role as Baptist Minister! I often wondered how he got away with it! Southern Baptists listening willingly to a visionary mystic! What was the world coming to? Here is what I can remember about his story.
His name was William Mellor. I knew him as “Dr. Mellor”. He had been raised working in the coal mines of Yorkshire as a young man, before WWII. During that time he became fully initiated as a “Pony Boy” which at that time meant you led the “Pit Pony” in and out of the mines. The pony pulled the carts which were laden with freshly dug coal. In order to be qualified to be a “Pony Boy” the “boy” had to be able to hit the pony in the forehead-right between the eyes and knock it unconscious. A pony that got out of hand inside a mine shaft could “make some real hell” William said. In fact with enough kicking it could bring down beams inside a mine shaft and kill everybody. William Mellor told me he could knock a pony out with his fist and even as an old man, when he told me this, he would raise his fist and I would see his finger bones fluoresce—and I knew he could do it too. His hands, even in old age had that remarkable hard look you see in the hands of certain men with hard physical backgrounds.
The mines were dangerous in other ways too. A shard of coal or stone could break off and falling, go through your head and kill you. That was how William Mellor saw one of his friends die. And that was a main motivation for him to leave England. William would say, “The only thing England had ever done for the people I knew in the mines was kill them-I HAD to get out.” And he did. He got on board a ship and sailed to Boston harbor and got a job painting ships hulls. He ended up attending Harvard, Yale and NYAC. He got a gardeners job at some point in his educational adventure –working for the actress Helen Hayes. And he eventually emerged from the educational process with a degree in comparative philosophy and psychology. During his educational process he was mightily impressed with a Professor by the name of Nils Foray. I believe he was a Swedish Theology Professor. Nils Foray lectured only on two topics said Mellor. These two topics were “Eros” and “Agape”. Eros is the erotic and transcendental aspect of God in Greek philosophy. “Eros” in many ways is the figurehead of sexuality in the Greek experience and a name representing the sublime experience of the physical senses. “Agape”, on the other hand, in many ways- is the opposite of “Eros”. It is the sacrificial love of God. It is the kind of love which actually forfeits its own pleasures for another person or ideal. It is most exemplified in the life of Christ -particularly in his crucifixion as a sacrifice for humankind. These two said Mellor, were the constant crux-no pun intended- of Nils Foray. Nils never tired of lecturing about them and figured there was nothing else comparable in Christian theology. So Mellor got this Christian Vision of what the Buddhists call “Tantra” (which is to weave the ideal and physical wisdoms together) every week from Nils Foray –and he never forgot it. It allowed his Christianity a broader and deeper meaning than many modern “Christians”could grasp. And it caused him to appreciate such men as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Mellor said Thomas would come in to class completely drunk, having been out drinking all night and raving his poetry while standing on the bars in pubs. “As soon as he walked up in front of the class he would sober up and give the most brilliant impassioned speech you imagine on the power of poetry.” And Thomas like others Mellor would speak of got a special label, “The man was a PROPHET! He would say with special relish in the word “PROPHET”. Mellor would whisper it loudly like it was the best kept secret in the world! And in many ways it really is. He used this term for William Blake and many of the great poets. “Prophet!-Propher! he would say when I asked his opinion of them. He also used the same term for men who showed incredible devotion. Among the Protestant Evangelicals in the last century was A.W. Tozer. Tozer, also was “a PROPHET”. Mellor had known Tozer and said, “he had a mind which could penetrate heaven-but he got there on his knees—praying! And he prayed sometimes for three and four hours!” Of all the Protestant Evangelicals I have kept a special niche in my mind for Tozer- largely because of Dr. Mellors influence and Tozer’s book, “Your God is too small” which I think largely describes the difficulty of modern Protestant Christianity.
I recall visiting a large Methodist church in Atlanta,GA with Dr. Mellor. We visited the “Activity Building”-which was basically a fully fitted gymnasium. Mellor was not impressed. He looked at me cunningly and said, “These people obviously have a lot of money. You know, Christians these days like to have a lot of ACTIVITY.” I nodded and said blandly “Apparently”. Then he looked at me and said, “You know what I asked the minister?” I said, “No”…he said, “I asked the Minister if they had any rooms they could PRAY in!—the Minister did not know what to say-he just looked at me!” I laughed and Dr. Mellor smiled broadly, like a Tiger who had just eaten. Dr. Mellor figured the best exercise was prayer.
Other incidents come to mind when I think of William or “Dr. Mellor”. I recall our talks on Christian Mysticism and him looking at me and saying, “Do you want to see the face of Christ?” and I said, “Yes”. He continued, “Well start with his feet and work you way up. I have found the feet of Christ to be very instructive.” I was bowled over. And still am. I advise anyone with an interest in Christianity to try this one meditation.
Dr. Mellor also mentioned to me the time when he came back as degreed professor from a trip to England onboard a ship he was listed as “Dr. William Mellor”. Someone saw his name listed on the ships passenger log. It was someone very interested in psychology and human behavior. His name was Cary Grant. Yes-the actor—-Cary Grant! Grant had an abiding interest, even a fascination with human behavior. Because of this when he found out Dr. Mellors degree was also in Psychology (“Just what kind of Dr. is he?” He had asked the Steward) they became daily dinner companions on the trip back to the U.S. for several days. Mellors comments on Grant were as follows, “ A very, very bright man, interesting, quick, intelligent, urbane, had it all-just could not handle women!”
And I recall Dr. Mellors comments about Journalist Bill Moyers, “Good man, enjoyed working with him during the Kennedy Administration.”
Another time I had asked the Dr. about “the power of Disciplic Succession”. That is, that each religious tradition has a passing down of power from teacher to student. Usually done by laying on the hands in a ritual of some sort. Mellor, said, “Yes, just like Elijah. It still exists. Do you want me to lay hands on you and pass the blessing on?” “Yes” I said. So I knelt down and he put his hand on my head and prayed following the tradition of – I believe – of Samuel Chadwick who he regarded highly. I recall Chadwick had met Mellor when Mellor was a young man. Chadwick was in his wheelchair. Mellor made the request to be blessed and knelt down and Chadwick in his wheel chair layed his old hands on that young head and said a long prayer. “Thought he was not going to stop!” said Mellor! well his prayer over me was not short either! so if you ask me to bless you be prepared to wait! 😉
On Protestant Christian Theology Mellor taught me the following;
“The three B’s; Bultmann, Bohhoffer, and Barth-they all were trying to make Christ approachable. They tried to de-mystify him. They tried!”
“Kierkegaard discovered the undertone of life”.
(my note here from discussions with Russian Orthodox monks is that the drone in Russian Orthodox Christianity represents the Will of God and the melody of the music- the wills of human beings).
also he said the following which I am still watching for;
“I did not think Russia would break up in my life time. I think America is next.”
I asked him about mystical experiences he may have had. He answered, “Oh yes, mainly two. One was when I was up very early in the morning. I could not sleep. So I sat down here in the Living Room in a chair. I could see the front door. I prayed. I began to see a light below the edge of the front door. It became very bright. In fact it came all around the door, incredibly bright. It was too early for sunrise. There were no cars outside. No traffic. Must have been about 3 in the morning. At a certain point I knew what it was. It was an Angel. The intense light stayed there for some minutes. And then faded away. It was a visitation.”
“…and I also saw Beatrice. You know, Beatrice- from Dante’s Inferno. I wrote a poem about it called “My Beatrice”. It was the summer time and I was teaching at (name) College and was leaving my classes and I saw her – sitting on a bench in white. You know, just like a goddess. She got in the car with me and I drove home and she got out and disappeared. Just like that. It was her. I saw her. I got to just BE with her. Nothing like it has happened to me before or since. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, could ever imagine”. Whenever Mellor would mention this experience he would quote his poem, “Beatrice, my Beatrice”. I do not know if he mentioned this story to anyone else. I am sure most would have thought the old fellow had lost his marbles! interestingly it reminds me of the book “The Story of St. Michelle” by Axle Munthe…Munthe was a Swedish Physician and appointed to the Royal Courts in Italy during a time of great sickness. He writes of his adventures as a young medical students studying hypnosis with Freud’s teacher, Charcot. He also writes of curing some of his wealthy spoiled patients by giving them rides into the poor district by carriage -as it was done then. During these rides Munthe found the wealthy were often cured of their own sickness when they took an interest in the poor and became involved in community service. But Munthe writes of something else. He writes of hiking up in Finland among the Lapp people. And in one passage he describes resting in a barn and seeing an Elf! and they had a conversation!…this incident was dropped into the book as though it was completely natural. I cannot decide if Munthe was trying to trick his readers or teach them something or just throw them off. But it is a very peculiar and strange incident which comes up “out of nowhere”…as some Realities actually do.
This “Beatrice Incident” recall was coming from a man who had worked his way in mines, watching his friends die, in poverty and then – coming over to the U.S. as a young man on a ship in the engine room, full of grease and fire. He was a hardened experienced man. During his first voyage over his engine room below deck coworker was a belligerent Swede who decided his English co-worker was a proud little punk. Well after a few days aboard ship, down in the noisy hot engine room stress built up. Eventually they got in a fight. Mellor recalled, “He was giving me a right good beating and I was taking it. Whew! then I noticed he hesitated and held his wrist—-he had broken his arm hitting me! well once I knew that let me tell you…” -his voice lowered quietly and he looked down slightly -showing me his clenched teeth, “I took my time…And he never attacked me after that-he was a tall young man but had no BODY (no strength in his trunk).”
Dr. Mellor was such an interesting character I had him come over to my studio to give a talk to my martial arts students. Some of them may remember his story better than I!
When I went to Dr. Mellors funeral he was buried with two books; one by A. W. Tozer and the other -William Blake. The coffin was open and in his arms he held those two books. There was probably a Bible in there too but I do not recall…
During this same time I was very impressed with the Doorway Papers of A.C. Custance. Custance was a Physiologist who had pioneered Stress Testing for the Canadian Government. He also was a translator of Greek, Hebrew and Egyptian Heiroglyphics. Custance was another man, like Robert Smith, to whom I wrote a letter. While Smith’s responses were usually curt and scribbled on a penny post card, Custance’s response were several pages of fools scap paper written with a fountain pen! Smith started with condescension, “Dear Allen practice first then ask questions…” and Custance started with courtesy, “Please excuse the lateness of this rather brief response to your interesting inquiry…” They were as different as chalk and cheese! different psychologies and even different eras…
At the time I was being winnowed like grain and did not know it. I was between Robert Smith and Arthur Custance. On one side I had Robert Smith, a man orphaned from an early age, conditioned by that early life and his occupation with the Central Intelligence Agency—-extremely literate, suspicious but with a fantastic love of literature which vied with his dark side, the C.I.A. side. Smith often mis-quoted Sartre, “Hell is other people”. Actually I believe Sartre said that hell was ignorant people. And sometimes I think Smith believed it was all people! Dreadfully sure of himself and ever clear about what he thought martial arts and philosophy are all about he once tried to tell me Plotinus was not worth studying. (as I write this I am outside the Greek Temples in Agrigento, Sicily) I was too young to realize he knew how to win too many arguments by bluffing. And he was hired – he told me- to write for the C.I.A. So my impression was simply this – he knew how to write propaganda and guide the mind of other people. Later he would tell me he took classes on it.
One could say any abuse that Smith had as an orphan was capitalized on by the C.I.A. and it is a standard formula for them, to groom orphans. Orphans have no family, no loyalty and wreak of suspicion. But for a manipulative organization to hire an orphan is to reinfornce the worst possible qualities of the human being. I am reminded of the quote by Sherlock Holmes in the TV series where he reminds Watson he is a “high functioning Sociopath”. And mind you I LIKE Sherlock Holmes. Which makes me wonder about me! Like all of us Robert Smith compensated for what was eating him. ( I do think one can eventually walk away from anything eating you and move on). When I first met him when I was 15, Smith had two rooms in the downstairs of his house, one for books on philosophy and one for books on martial arts. And the walls were lined floor -to- ceiling with books. And he had read them all and more than that —- had studied them. I do not recall him being able to quote large portions from any book pointed to – as C.S. Lewis was reputed to do. But he would come up with some great quotes and if he liked it you were going to hear it over and over! it was the first time I realized some people collected “Virgin Books” whose pages had not been cut yet! I never got my mind around that but I did appreciate seeing editions signed by the authors (I was interested in hand writing analysis) and I much appreciated seeing a book of poetry by Irish Poet-Mystic George Russell signed and also with some beautiful little drawings in the margins! he also had a small painting by Russell on the wall at one time. And he kept a signed photo of Thomas Mann on his desk.
On the other side I had Arthur Custance, Custance had built himself a cottage jutting out on a single beam from the side of a hill over the St. Lawrence River. He, like Robert Smith also had two rooms downstairs. One room containted all the primary books in print on human Evolutionary Theory. The other room contained a large selection of books on all the myths and legends about the Creation of the World. Upstairs on his desk was at times and often several books usually Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek. Along the wall were hand made weapons, a bow and some arrows. I recall a shark tooth sword from Hawaii. Over the downstairs fireplace was a real – not decoration – pair of Epee crossed over his Coat -of-Arms. Custance had not been an orphan but left England young, coming to Canada for a new life. He was poor and ended up working as a lumberjack in a forest. During this time he lived in a remote wooden cabin and in the solitude of the forest with no one explaining anything to him, he read the Bible several times through. Something “clicked”. It was like a light went on inside him. He believed he could sense an order behind the Bible. And interestingly the order he sensed he wanted to verify in pure scientific research. He was no longer a disinterested student as he had been before. He was fired up, and inspired. He found a way to attend college and absorbed his studies and was absorbed by them. He not only got degrees in Physiology he got degrees in Anthropology and languages. But his honesty was to be one of his biggest obstacles. He made the mistake of saying to one of his Professors he believed that Adam may have been a real person! initially it cost him his degree but it came later in spite of politics. Of course now we have “Lucy”-so “Eve” is acceptable! but not then! and the knowledge of genetics in his time was certainly not what it is now…but Custance dared to say that there could be a correspondence between Science and Myth. But he did not call it “Myth”. He called it “Revealed Truth”. In other words it was some kind of revelation. I do not find this odd, naive, strange or simple. Anybody who has had an “aha” experience or Epiphany knows such things exist. And they exist in levels. Who can say what is “Divine” or not divine? some would say, “Well it is all in your head!” yes, but that explains nothing. The same nay sayers will also say, “It is in your “Imagination”! well so is EVERYTHING. Perhaps Sufi scholar Henry Corbin came closest with his bridge between Truth and Imagination when he talks about an intersection of experiences he termed “Imaginal”. When an atheistic scientist tells me how there is no proof of a God I point to the usual array of quotes from Einstein-of which there are many…and I also remind them quite a few scientists made their most important discoveries in dream or revelatory states…as have many great artists. And too all those double blind experiments also come out of —- imagination!
Custance eventually published multiple volumes of works linking Theology and Science calling them, “The Doorway Papers”. These impressed me immensely and I read them all often several times. Later I with five other young men was invited by Dr. Custance to a one week retreat to discuss these ideas with him. We met on an island called “Hedgehog Island” which was in the thousand island district of Canada. He wanted not to preach but to discuss. It was an intense time and I was fortunate to see a first class scholar who had blazed his own trail, hold forth about what was important to him. There were two lectures a day of two to three hours each I recall. At one point I was confused about physiological data on respiration and the graph he had drawn. He looked at me and said, “How would YOU draw it?” I then did a passable rendition of an anatomical drawing of the lungs and diaphragm showing the movement of the diaphragm. He responded by saying, “Good now watch this…” and he then drew a few simple lines – on my drawing – so that it started to look just like his mathematical graph! It was as though scientific graph and artist sketch began to merge.I began to realize then the relationship between abstract graphs and physical realities. And between science and art. It was a big moment for me. And I think he knew it.
Custance was in many ways very old fashioned and Victorian and some of the younger guys and I said some things in jest which were not to his liking and he became quiet. His quietness was sufficient to let us know what he felt about crude humor. One of the other fellows who studied on the island with me said there was an interesting moment where he saw a butterfly land on Dr. Custance’s shoulder. Dr. Custance said, “Yes its the time of year when they are about to die— perhaps they too do not like to die alone…” And within the year I recall Dr. C. had passed away of a heart attack. So I feel I have to memorialize him and say how much I appreciate his influence. As of this writing I am still in touch with his secretary who is in her 80s.
So I would say prior to my departure for Taiwan in 1982, these men fairly represented the diverse streams of ideas and influences which formed my Spiritual life or Thought Life. My College teachers did not have sufficient influence to bear mentioning.
One could say I was being juggled between a strong literary Existentialism (Smith), and a stream linking Science and Religious Faith (Mellor and Custance). Though I have to say Smith claimed to believe in God. But my overall impression from being around him was he did not sense God, though he did say God should be held in awe. The feeling which surrounded Robert Smith was one of ambiguity, suspicion and energetic conflict. His humor was ironic, sometimes crude but always overworked. He was a conflicted man maintaining at least two roles. With Dr. Custance there was around him an atmosphere of highly detailed perception, an openess which was I realize now – was very unusual for an Academic. And there was an atmosphere of peace around him-a singleness of mind- with a soft humor. But he was no fool. Dr. Mellor kept a refined exterior but when he made a fist you could tell he knew how to use it. He was gracious but came from a very hard background—-the mines leave their mark on a man.
As for myself I had decided to go to Taiwan to see if any of the Old Martial Arts Masters were left. I was 23 but 24 by Chinese reckoning which is from conception. I was to meet with Hung I-mien and study with him and some of that is covered in the writing in My Physical Path. Spiritually what I got from Hung I-mien was this;
“When someone comes back from the dead I will listen to what they have to say about the afterlife. The secrets of the Universe are endless and written across the sky. Spirituality is personal and unfoldling and cannot be forced by method nor technique. And development is always one step at a time. You cannot skip steps. You can chant and beat the block all you want (the Chinese ritual wooden drum). You can burn incense too and make all sorts of ritual. Such things are endless. Best to go out into life and feel the ferment inside yourself. (in this he really echoes the words attributed to Bodhidarma in his sutras) Be free, be intrepid. You will learn the most profound things from your own family and children. Be careful to not be manipulated by money and remember if you have some in your pocket – that is enough. The loyalty of a few friends is better than fame or money. You already know what you need to know. Trust yourself to unfold the Truth you will need.“
I found Hung I-mien to exude a transparency which was almost alarming.
Sometimes we would sit on the wall edge and watch the river and he would swing his legs back and forth like a little kid. I would sense there was literally nothing in his mind. I thought, “How can he do that??” He smoked constantly but this did not seem to effect him. His close friend was a casket maker which to me says so many different things at the same time it almost makes me laugh! he read little but was a great observer of life with a fantastic memory for animals, people and places. Quick, animated and almost Ferret-like his responses to people and life were usually quick but not reactive. Sometimes he reminded me of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. Dreadfully honest (at least with me) if he encountered an ignorant person he would say to me later as an aside, “What a clueless person!” And return his cigarette to his mouth. He had a kind of naiviete mixed with a savage capacity to kill. But he carried no aggression with him. Nor did he believe one had to get “psyched up” to do martial arts. After all he was also a healer-a bone-setter—-and he had a very good reputation for his work with people dropping in periodically during the day for bone-setting sessions. So he had the killing and healing aspects in equal portion within him- or so it seemed to me. When I think of him he may have in many ways been closer in disposition to men from ancient times. When he decided to show me something it was decisive. Like a switch was pulled. He became suddenly wide awake like someone turned on a light. Then when he stopped showing me something or simply stopped and the light which was on – went out. Then he was “normal” you could say. It was to me the height of competency in that he had that kind of mental control. Of course there were long discussions on Chinese concepts of mind and body with his daughter Mei-rang translating. I was studying Chinese as well part time. So I was able to get my head wrapped around the ideas about the energy characteristics of Chinese Tradition. In fact, though he was my Initiator into things Chinese he himself may have been one of the most un-Chinese people I ever met. He had worked with the Japanese, Chinese and Americans, had been a spy in WWII. So I think he had his fill of all kinds of Nationalism and grew to know the fallacy of War for whatever cause. So in some ways he Initiated me into being Chinese and not being Chinese! the streams of consciousness of mental control and physical prowess became very real to me in him…and I received certain temperaments and dispositions -some very animal from him, which were dormant in me…I think I was born a poet and Hung had this poetic disposition. But in his ruggedness and animal nature he taught me to fight. I was honest with him and he was honest with me. Our teacher-student relation was direct and dependable with no undercurrents of emotion or envy. Every day we trained he would punctuate my training with these words, “You KNOW! you ALREADY know! this is the single best thing a teacher can say to his students—-so they have faith in themselves…Looking back I realize not only was he a teacher, he was a friend, even an ally. So I received these impressions into myself and incorporated them as I could.
I was able to verify these impressions when I returned to him after a ten year hiatus. He was still the kind of man I now speak of. So it is not mere romanticism.
I was with Hung for the year of 1982 and 84. (I also was given ten years of homework by him and so returned again in 1995 to be evaluated and I passed!) Robert Smiths advice and written preparation and my own daily training had turned me into a questing sponge! And the reading I had done on Taoism, Buddhism and Chinese concepts of Chivalry got filtered through Hung’s poetic wildness. I had hoped for a super refined silk robed scholar of martial arts and got a rough hewn soldier with a poets heart who could heal and fight. Apparently it was what I needed at the time. And in the journey of self discovery I realized I was not Chinese. So the nagging question of “What am I?” continued. Certainly if you had said, “You are an American” at the time I would have laughed in your face. For me at that time America was an absence of culture, not a presence of culture. I returned to the U.S. to continue to do all the things that interested me working at the family bookshop and traveling up to Washington, D.C. to teach for Robert Smith. Later I co-authored two books with him and eventually did a book of my own on the 64 tactics of Ba-gua.
In 1985 a young customer of about 20 came into the bookshop and told me he was studying wrestling at a Jeet Kune Do school. I told him I was not interested. I considered at that time Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do was a patchwork of techniques put together by a man who had no patience with tradition and therefore systematized his ignorance. Still the young customer said, the wrestling teacher was different and I said, “Uh huh”. The same fellow came in the next day and said the same thing. And I said, “Uh huh”. But this time he said something that go my attention, he said, “This old guy knows Irish Poetry and can recite long poems…” Then my antennae went up. This sounded like something else, something different, something real…someone real. So the next weekend I went to the second installment of the workshop and met Tim Geoghegan.
I have discussed what I learned from Tim in the Physical Path section. On a Spiritual level the first long discussion Tim and I had after our meeting was a few months later when I drove four hours up to Black Mountain, North Carolina. Our discussion was on the meaning of Initiation in Tradition, the power of the Rites of Puberty and the application of Shamanism to modern life. The conversation went non-stop for four or five hours. I was hooked. He was a man who seemed to have pursued Wisdom to its end. Clear, friendly, instructive and full of practical wisdom Tim immediately advised I read the Nicoll Commentaries. This of course was a second try by the Powers that be – to wake me up. Recall I had started these commentaries in medical school in London about seven years before this? So I started again and this time things fell into position in my mind. Self Observation was the primary key to self knowledge. Get to know yourself – whatever that is- through your reactions and your ability to dispense with them. Somehow this echoed what I had seen in Hung. And years later I found the same thing in Bodhidarma’s Sutras (get the Red Pine translation).
So I began work with what is called The Fourth Way- a method of self observation gathered and systematized by G.I. Gurdjieff. But Gurdjieff had gotten these methods from Traditions much older. Tim had been initiated by several Traditional teachers; two Tantra Gurus in India, the Bektashi Sufi’s in Rabat. A Japanese Zen Monk who did acupuncture in Brixton, London!…He studied directly with Gurdjieff’s student Maurice Nicoll, for the final two years of Nicoll’s life. (Nicoll was not only Gurdjieff’s representative but also the personal representative of Carl Jung in England.)
Tim had lived in a houseboat for a few days in Kashmir and I deduce he visited the tomb of Jesus which is near there but he did not speak about this to me, perhaps thinking it may interfere with my own Faith or Psychology…He had also had his own mystical encounter with the Christ Child of the Andes -again something he did not speak to me about-but I found reference to in other texts…and he worked with Gene Savoy and his Sun Church establishing a curriculum for Priests. Besides these things he had toured the world and wrestled in nearly every major country. He taught me the fundamentals of all six Yogas under the term “Raja”. He adjusted my asanas and mantras and taught me wrestling holds and Osteopathic adjustments and also like my other teachers advised reading and encouraged me to experiment with my own training. That was when I discovered the manuscript of Count Walewski and began working with his “Caucasoid Yoga”, later linking it to the work of Ottoman Hanish and Gurdjieff.
During my early work with Tim and the Caucasoid Yoga – I was 35 by this time —- I also had an encounter with another interesting character who was to make me aware of another way of transferring knowledge and awareness. I was in the middle of moving from my old house and I was driving to the grocery store. I was stopped at a traffic light and looked to my right. It was a hot summer day and I noticed an older man sitting on the ground near the bus stop. He seemed ill and I thought, “An old ill man. He looks kind of Middle Eastern.” And then the light changed to green and I turned left and went about a block and then had a strong feeling I should turn around and see if he was o.k. So I drove back, parking the car and got out to walk over and help him. Part of me was saying, “Why are you going this? you do not even know this man! what is the point of this? its none of your business…” all of the usual monkey voices. So as I helped this man up he started speaking in a language I did not understand. I thought, “He may be crazy or drunk…” but then I realized it was very hot…so I said to him, “Let’s get a coke and some electrolites into you first, then lets see how you do…” He then switched to English and said clearly, “Oh! you understand! yes I am a retired Medical Doctor from Iran…what is your name?” and I said, “Allen” then he said, “Oh yes of course—you are Ali I will call you Ali.” So he gave me a new Arabic name which was Ali.
I was smelling something Sufi going on but could not quite get my mind on exactly what was happening. So I took him to a restaurant and he drank a coke and got clear headed and explained he had gotten on the wrong bus and missed his connection to the airport to go with his family to New York. Then he had to walk a long way in the sun and heat and basically gotten dehydrated and sunstroke when I found him. He was from the University of Tabriz. Yes I said, “Like Shems—Rumi’s teacher”. He looked at me incredulously and said, “YOU know Shems??” I said, “Yes, Shems like the Sun.” He was very pleased that I knew about Shems. So I took him home. Or though I did…interestingly there were two roads of the same name on each side of Atlanta so we spent an hour going the wrong way. But while I was driving he had a gold coin with a hole in it on his finger and he was rotating the coin in a circle. I realized it was some kind of prayer. I did not know what kind. So he continued turning this coin on his finger for the whole hour in a steady continuous way while I drove across town and back and then I found his house and we went to his kitchen and his says, “OK now I give you a coke.” So he did and he called his wife in New York on the phone to tell them what happened and they were very relieved. She demanded to speak with me to so we spoke on the phone also and she said, “You come for dinner later…” I said, “Of course no problem…”So I left him at home and returned to my errands with what was left of the day. But that was only the beginning.
I released the incident from my mind and about two months later I got a call. I recognized it was his wife. She commanded in her charming broken English, “Saturday you come for dinner!”, I said, “Ok, fine.” She even gave me directions- “…sometimes it is difficult to find” she said…I was sort of surprised she called me. So that Saturday I went for dinner and though I had been to his house before I could not find it. I called her on my mobile phone and she said she would meet me at the Service Station so I said ok. It was very strange how I could not find it. Somehow the road I was looking for was not connected to the road I was on. (is that a Spiritual Lesson? 😉 But she came and got me. I followed her in her car with my car and as we pulled up to the driveway I saw her husband (whose name was actually Ali) standing in the middle of the driveway. He was standing very straight, like a soldier stands at attention. Looking straight ahead. I realized I was being honored in some way. I felt strangely exhilarated. I parked the car and got out and she stood beside him and a little behind him. It became very ceremonial. He took my hand and I kissed his hand. I had no idea why. It was as though someone else was doing it – but it somehow felt “Right”. Then she said, “Oh look Madi —- he even knows the old way!”
I had the strange feeling I was participating in a play of which I had no control. We walked into their house and she had trays of Persian candies on each of the main tables. There was some Persian paintings on the wall and also some reproductions of Greek sculpture. She went into the Kitchen and began dinner making kitchen noises with clattering pans and running water and saying in her charming bossy way, “You two talk now but his mind is not good you know he is old…” I sat in a chair. Madi place a chair directly in front of mine and looked me directly in the eyes. It was as though he had made a resolve. He sat very straight and I sat very straight. I felt something of great intent was occuring and I would be wise to cooperate. Then he said to me a concise paragraph as though reading from a script. “We have just been to the old country (Iran) and there we took a boat. The boat was on a river and on that river we went into a mountain. Inside the mountain there were beautiful gemstones of all colors and the light of the sun would come through them. It was so beautiful. I realized that things like this can happen-that one can see such things…” As he said this I felt transported with him into the mountain, I felt I was having the experience. It was not a story being told to me by an old man but a living experience being put into me. I was familiar with hypnosis and trance states. This may have been one due to his eye fixation but the experience was amazing. Then he was quiet and we both sat in silence with our eyes slightly downcast while his wife clattered in the kichen, with pots and pans and running water and all the kitchen noises. It was almost like punctuation. Then he raised his eyes on me and said, “Among Sufis they have different color hats according to the school they come from. Some have Black Hats and some have Green Hats. But some – and here he looked at me conspiratorially – have so many colors in their hats we do not know where they come from!” I laughed and he smiled.
Then his wife came in and said, “Now we have dinner-did he bore you with his talking? his mind is not so good you know! I thank you so much for helping with him…” And we had dinner and she said, “Yes we went to Iran and went on a boat trip did he tell you? it was nice…have some more lamb! etc.” So at that first meeting two things forcibly hit me. 1. He was definitely a Sufi. Which Order I do not know. 2. He definitely exuded a kind of atmosphere and I was somehow in his field of affinity. And something in me knew how to respond to this field he was carrying. His wife seemed to exist in an outside layer from us. But somehow she facilitated everything. So there was just small talk after dinner and I returned home again thinking, “That was interesting but what was “it”? …” I was invited to dinner two more times. He did not greet me at the drive way but I went in to him and he would again pull the chairs facing each other and summon his Will to speak directly into me. I would receive what he said in the same way. One of his stories was how the Persian recipe for making Shiraz wine was traded by their Persian Doctors—- plants and all -with the Australian Doctors for some special medical technology! That is why Australia now has such good Shiraz! yum!
There was always the feeling that something prosaic was being spoken but there was a subtext of meaning underneath it and again I would get this feeling of “other reality” and a sort of waking visceral reality (as opposed to sleepy trance). At one time his wife said to me, “If I knew he was a Mullah I would not have married him!” which I thought was quiet funny but now I do not know if she was kidding or not. She was much younger than him. Some months later on the fourth telephone call she said, “Now you need to come. He is in the hospital. He will go soon.” So I drove my car to the hospice and went into his room. He was lying in bed with his eyes closed. She sat in the chair beside the bed. She looked at me and said, “Now I go out. Maybe he will show himself to you.” And she walked out of the room. I sat and looked at the old man. I thought, “He may already be dead.” The room felt empty of human presence. A few minutes went by. Then he sat up very straight and looked at me smiled the most beautiful bright smile -as though to let me know everything was o.k. -He did not speak- only smiled and looked directly at me.Then he layed straight back down in his original position. I thought, “Wow! he seems to be able to come back into his body…” a few minutes passed while I thought about this. Then she came in and said, “Did you SEE him?” I said, “Yes! he sat up for me and smiled!” she said, “Good”. He did not move after that. His wife and I exchanged pleasantries and I went home. I recall about a week passed and there was a fifth telephone call (!) she said, “Now you come to funeral -here is address”. I said, “Of course I will be there…” by then I felt whatever was between me and this man and his wife it was important – even if I did not understand half of it. I went to the funeral. Everybody was Iranian but me. But I was not ignored. There was a small neat very refined cleanly shaven old man there with beautiful white curly hair. Everyone was dressed in black. He dressed in Grey. To my shame I cannot recall how I was dressed-I think I wore a grey or dark jacket…the man in Grey said, “I am not Muslim-I am a Druze and we Druze have a different Faith but he was my good friend-we can sit together. So we sat together. And I was much relieved to be with someone who was also different. Naturally this caused me to research the Druzes later. After the funeral I spoke with Madi’s son and said, “Did you feel what he had? does anyone know WHO he was??” his son did not miss a beat – he said, “Oh yes I know what you are talking about and he would never tell us (!)…we all knew he carried something- but we never knew what it was.” And I was to hear this same statement years later from someone else-but that is another story.
So that is the story of Madi Ali. A man who made real to me the light of the sun in the mountain and the fact that a person can have many colors in their hat. All blessings of Allah to you Madi in whatever state you have been blessed, you certainly blessed me. I will always be -for you – Ali…Amdillalah.
Continuing on with my studies with Tim-
I became interested in Mantra Yoga, particularly the power of sound and Tim having given me some Bija Mantra training then advised I contact Mathematician and Esotericist Charles Muses. I did so and spent the next ten years – even after Tim’s death, listening to the ancient Egyptian Harmonic scale which Muses as a mathematician had reconstructed. I came into contact with Muses on the web also and we shared a brief correspondence before his death.
I sent him a copy of my “Walking the I-ching” and he was very pleased with it. Muses had known Count Walewski and was the man who published the Count’s manuscript. He also was a Sufi having worked with Pir Vilayat early on in France and with anthropologist Joseph Campbell on the mysteries of the ancient Goddess in the book entitled “In All Her Names”. Because of his Renaissance Nature my brief correspondence with Charles Muses was extremely important to me. In his insistence on clarity and full honesty in personal disclosure Muses was a disciplinarian. He said the Lion Path of Harmonics involved the release of any leeching off or parasitic activities involving energy. And this was to assist me in breaking my relationship with Robert Smith which was becoming negative, exhausting and progressively more and more manipulative. I tend to be a loyalist and so breaking contact with an authority figure – someone I had known since my mid teens was very difficult. But I did it and was anathematized immediately by all the students in Washington. Smith also made calls to England and to one of my publishers to encourage them to break contact with me as well. They did so. This was an important lesson for me in The Politics of Envy. After eight years some of Smith’s students contacted me. After ten years most of them had recontacted me. It became clear to me who my friends actually were. I made the mistake of assuming my honesty would protect me. But the flip side is of course realizing many of these people were not my friends in the first place. Loyalty misplaced is loyalty wasted indeed. But the lessons learned are many and varied and most of what I learned from Robert Smith were along the lines of “What not to do.” In other words I got to study my shadow through someone else. As Nicoll has said your environment is an index of your Spiritual State and if it does not change then neither are you changing. And to this add the principle that the person in front of you is the primary lesson of the moment. But I would also say what my babysitter Carol taught me when I was small, “Make new friends but keep the old, the new are silver the old are gold.”
Getting back to Tim – he emphasized clear study, self hypnosis and reading texts more than once and putting it to use. And vigorous physical training. When I asked him about the best universal approach to the human body he said, “The Tibetans have the most complete unbroken medical system – try to study that.” So I was able to find a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was just beginning to live in Atlanta who had been selected by the Dalai Lama to work with Emory University. He told me, “You have to understand Tibetan Buddhism to understand Tibetan Medicine.” And so I began going to Tibetan Buddhist meetings each week and studying with various Rinpoches or “High Lamas” who would come to visit and teach. Eventually I would take “refuge” under a Guru and begin serious studies of various kinds of meditations from basic Lam rim to the Kalachakra and other High Tantra, eventually being fully initiated into High Tantra and working with those protocols for over ten years. During that time I became “Gecku” or disciplinarian of the Center which is a sort of security position but also involved scrutinizing the monks! in fact in Tibetan Monastic Tradition the Gecku is a fearsome character who can prowl the monastery with a staff and batter open doors if need be! sometimes in jest the monks would pass me and cover their heads and cower and I would act angry and hit them with my mala (rosary!)! people not in the know would stare at me like I was a horrible person! they did not know it was all a sort of monastic acting! but it is good to ruin one owns reputation! I did go to India and see my root Guru in 1995 and stayed with him for a few days to participate in the Kalachakra. The kalachakra is a very big initiatory Rite done in a big way. Sort of a Tibetan Version of Woodstock in the 1960s! So I did that and in that ritual on one of the days of teaching you go home and put a blade of blessed saw-grass under your mattress and have a dream. Then you report the dream to your Guru. I had the dream and reported it to the Guru and he smiled broadly and in broken English said, “Your dream very good! now go read text and then ask question later!” the text was huge-about 500 pages I recall. So I never got an interpretation for my dream til a year or so later when I mentioned it to the local teacher in Atlanta who looked at me and said, “Oh! that means you will be with the Dalai lama when he comes!” so that was my first time working with the Dalai lama as one of his bodyguards. I was with his personal attendants for several days but going home at night. His personal bodyguards are given rooms adjoining his. I was also involved with his second visit to Atlanta too but it was less urgent as President Clinton allowed the State Department to do security with him. But by his third visit the State Department was clearly involved and the Dalai Lama was considered faculty at Emory so his status within the country allowed all sorts of official security. So by that time my assistance was no longer necessary. But that first visit was a hot one for me as I had to assemble a team and do everything myself because President Bush would give no State Department security.
The time with the Dalai lama and with Tibetan Buddhism was helpful, enlightening and life changing. I am still involved with Tibetan Buddhism.
I did manage to study medicine with Dr. Pema Dorje during several of his visits. Also his student Dr. Barry Clark (now in New Zealand) was and is very helpful. In fact Dr. Dorje gave some lectures on Tibetan Medicine at the University of North Carolina and I was able to take Tim with me to listen to them. Now both men are dead I look at those times as sacred moments.
Getting back to Tim-
he was a relatively short man by modern standards—about five foot ten but as wide as a door. He had multiple injuries to his back, hip and throat but did corrective yoga and exercise for these injuries. His unusual physical strength he attributed to his family- his brothers were also all athletes as was their dad. But his strength was linked to an absolute Will reinforced through hypnosis and yoga training. Although he had very limited flexibility he had fantastic muscular control, being able to shake his muscles- almost -like a horse. He was trained as a Medical Hypnotist. His life as an older man was as an Osteopath so he too was a healer. And when he worked on people’s bodies he would speak to them in a particular way-in a hypnotic way- so they would be healed faster. “One third of all medicine is hypnosis,” he said to me. He was very aware of the human capacity for self deception and so his insistence I work with the Nicoll commentaries was to help me focus and prevent self-deception. I hope I have succeeded but it is an ongoing training which never stops. During the ten years I studied with Tim, matching it with what I knew from my other teachers – I always got the impression he was in communion with – or had access to – a larger frame of reference or system than I had access to (this is also the mark of someone Initiated in an ancient system)…now I feel more clear on it…he was indeed Initiated into several esoteric systems and knew how to open himself to the Universe during quietude. This was perceived by me as “knowing more” but it was really also about his capacity to feel himself connected to everything. “We are cells in the body of God,” he would say. He would also encourage me to have faith in myself—something Hung also did. Tim would say, “The libraries of the world are out there waiting to be researched.” And this was before the world wide web! his death, like Dr. Custance’s hit me pretty hard and sometimes I think we are simply not supposed to “get over” the death of those we love. We are going to carry it to remind us of what is important and who we are. If I was to summarize what I received from Tim it would be this; “Ruthless self observation with unrementing work on enforcing positive aspects of the personality.” Then there was The Voice. The Irish brogue and the poetic recitations, hypnotic and mesmerizing…beautiful and colorful. Even though he had injured his throat doing a circus stunt he still had a wonderful Irish accent that was at once fatherly and wise. But the Wisdom was real. Tim was an authentic old world strong man and healer. He had traveled around the world wrestling and reading meeting and being initiated by Wise Men. It was my great pleasure to have spent time with him. From Tim I got a strong sense of the many streams of Sufism which come through history and also the ancient streams of Shamanism which still exist in remote regions – and some not remote. Because of this feeling I absorbed from Tim along with my own drives I am still pursuing these interests and that leads to another stream in my spiritual path.
During my time with Tim, I guess I was around 30 at the time I met Brian Lynch. Brian’s wife attended Massage School with me and as we talked she said, “You should meet my husband.” So I did. Brian has been described as “Give the man a Silver Cape!” by my old friend Harry. Strongly Scandinavian featured with silver grey beard and hair and a mesmerizing voice, with a terrific sense of irony, Brian is an old student of Archaic Wisdom. And his raised six kids! count em! So his head is not just “up there somewhere!” We talked of my experiences in yoga and martial arts and Brian began in his sonorous voice to unroll galaxies and stars and epochs…issues relating to the future of the world and very big pictures involving world history and human evolution. And we also do a lot of laughing somehow getting around to how funny the world really is..I had to stretch to connect my dots to his vast cosmos. Sometimes I just felt bewildered. And much of the time I could only sense vague connections to what he was saying. But they were real connections and later my research would link me with science or history to something he had said. Eventually I realized much of what Brian was referencing was from Rudolph Steiner. Then I remembered that pink book I read when I was 16. “Oh, THAT guy!” and I began to get interested in Steiner. And Brian got his “stuff” pretty close to the well having studied with Werner Glas – a direct student of Steiner – back in the day.
This association eventually led me into assisting and eventually teaching at a Waldorf School and Waldorf High School. My research of Steiner-and the advice of those who were already working with his ideas – first directed me to Fritz Bothmer and his theories of Spatial Dynamics—-which included wrestling. This moved me toward the Ancient Greeks and so in order to understand how their view of athletics was different than the modern view I went to the one of the Fathers at the Greek Orthodox Church in Atlanta—Father Gemenis. He spent an afternoon with me going through the Greek Encyclopedia translating the information about how the Olympic Games in each City – State was different. He also had a beautiful chanting voice I would hear when I attended on Sunday morning. His voice had a smoky quality and could hit some beautiful high notes. Perhaps not oddly the Bishop of the Greek Church lived a few doors down across the street from my house and so I also went to see him and he sat with me and said, “Spirituality is an appetite and when you are hungry you should eat. But after that do not try to eat.” He also said, “In the Orthodox Faith we do not have a one time conversion. Each day is part of the process of becoming and so the whole of life is a conversion…” He then pressed an olive wood cross into my palm as a good bye gift – and it felt like a silver star of cold fire. My first thought was, “What is that??” He was a chronic smoker and died of cancer within a year of our meeting.
Through Brian Lynch I was also able to meet Randall Carlson and take some of his classes on Sacred Geometry. Randall and I for a short time taught in the same experimental group. He is a big practical warm fellow who seems part Bear and part Einstein. He knows how to build a house and can show you ice core graphs from the North Pole which give precise earth ages! He also taught at one of my martial arts retreats up in Clayton, Georga. Randall is now working with Graham Handcock on ancient history and sacred geometry and he knows a great deal about both and I feel lucky to have studied with a man now achieving celebrity! You can find him on the web.
So far I have included the Spiritual streams I have participated in up to the age of 40. I had forgotten to mention my visit with C.S. Lewis’ old friend Owen Barfied in 1997 when I was 38. Barfield had become important to me as the living link between C.S. Lewis’ common sense approach to Christianity and the Mysticism of Rudolph Steiner.
Realising he was still alive I made a telephone call while in England and was able to visit him in spite of the discouragement of his “housekeepers” at Walhatch in East Grinstead. It was a rainy day and not full of promise but he welcomed me in by saying, “Pittman! you are EARLY!”. I could almost smell the ink wells. At any rate the afternoon went quickly and we spoke of a variety of things and he enquired if I had a difficult time finding people with my own range of interest? I admitted I had to have different friends for different interests and quite often they never met one another. At this he looked at me slyly and said, “Quite!” Yes he wished he had had a longer several hour talk with Tolkien who had become a major literary figure-apart from the nonsense of his “followers”. (I think he would have been pleased with Verlyn Fleiger’s “Splintered Light” which is the best synopsis I have found of Barfield’s influence on Tolkien). He told me of his shyness when he was asked if he wished to meet Rudolph Steiner–and said he did not as he felt he was not really worthy. So he was not introduced! Yes Barfield could be said to have provided that essential bridge between Western Philosophy and Anthroposophy (the work of Rudolph Steiner). The Quantum Theory was after all a Theory. The oncoming technology of being able to speak to anyone anywhere—terrifying. The possibility of engineering a human body with genetic manipulation very real as was the potential for it to be “Pre-occupied” by God knows what. Yes the Roman Catholics like had a better sense of the physical body than the Protestants-perhaps due to ritual. And yes his opinions and Lewis’s were the necessary wall of their period against the materialism of their time…and his love of Walter De La Mare. When I said I did not read much after 1950 he looked over his glasses and said, “I am with you there.” I also found what I think was one of his greatest traits. I was comfortable with him immediately and felt an atmosphere in which I could relax. At one point he asked me what I thought and I was stunned because he seemed to actually want to know! Those really are the traits of someone who knows friendship-comfortable atmosphere, genuine interest in fellow human beings. I think C.S. Lewis had this same radiance as well. So looking back I now realise, hindsight being twenty twenty as is often said, I should have booked a hotel and stayed a few days! but it was not meant to be and I traveled on…he died about three months later and I felt very very fortunate to have spent time with him. Years later after the web appeared I made contact with his grandson who runs the Owen Barfield website and sent him some pictures and spoke on the phone. I like to stay in the loop of contact. The living and the dead ever so much closer than many folk realise. I was pleased Barfield’s books were well displayed at the C.S. Lewis Society meeting at Oxford.
At 40 through Brian Lynch and his old friend Bradford Riley -also “a Steiner guy” —- I was to be introduced to Lisa Lockhart. Lisa at the time was studying old time Spiritualism with the old blue haired ladies at Chesterfield Spiritualist “Camp” in Indiana. As she was in the final stages of her study we began to compare her experiences with Tibetan Buddhism and there were some amazing parallels. Eventually we agreed we would spend some time each week exchanging the techniques of Spiritualism and Tibetan Buddhism. I think we spent about three months twice a week for 2-3 hours at a time. This proved to be a very interesting time as I not only began to understand mediumship I began to understand how to DO it. And it was hard work. Prolonged concentration always is. But it was well worth it and both of us still speak about it. I was also surprised by the amount of disciplined concentration and rigorous study the Spiritualists required of the 9 major world religions. In fact later Lisa too, attended one of the Kalachakra rituals and was initiated by the Dalai Lama as well. So I was trained in Spirit Mediumship by “Doc Lockhart” as Lisa and I joke now she is a “Reverend”!
After 40 – in 1999 I left the U.S. and toured Europe for six months researching the Knights Templars and teaching martial arts and yoga in various place through people I had met over the years. I was able to visit Steiner’s Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. At the Goetheanum old Mr. Barnes took me around and showed me things and people, insisting I shake Mr. Schmidt-Brabant’s hand which I did while he made his way out. He was dead within a year. As we walked outside Barnes stooped down and found an old hand wrought nail from the original Goetheanum-which had burned down. He handed it to me saying, “This must be for you – one does not find them much anymore!”
I went to Chartre cathedral with young Alex who awoke in the night to see an old Templar standing at the foot of my bed with an angry face. I still don’t know if he was kidding…”he was not pleased!” said Alex. I Travelled on to Santiago de Compestello where I found in the Cathedral where to press my head on the statues nose to activate my pineal gland…and was sick for three days…bless my friend Montse’s heart—all she could say was, “Allen what can I do with you? you are only good for being sick!” so she put me in her brothers apartment. His name was Jesus. So I was sick with Jesus in Santiago. Is that not some kind of ballad??
I visited the Vatican Library researching old fencing manuscripts and was promised lifetime membership but with the new pontiff now they want me to show up with Ph.D. I probably qualify for two but cannot afford one. Those are the words of a Professor at Emory Univesity by the way…
I also was able to have lunch with the U.S. Ambassador in Rome and his wife, visit Palermo, and stay with a member of Parliament in London, who gave me a tour of the Masonic Symbolism of St. Catherine’s Chapel underneath Parliament.
In many ways my present life is an extension of that trip. I think it was around the age of 45 that I was able to meet Charles Daniels. Charles is known as a “NInja” student of Master Hatsumi but he has studied many things including Sufism from Omar Ali Sha, Idrie’s brother —- and maintains an ongoing interest in all sorts of esoterica. Charles was interested in the Chinese art of Hsing-I and we agreed I would teach him in exchange for looking at some of his basic “Lions Roar” forms…Lions Roar appears to be a Tibetan Martial Art which was transferred into China and I was very interested in what remained of Tibetan martial arts —-if anything. Later I found out Charles had studied Remote Viewing from Ingo Swann – premier Remote Viewer of the U.S. government and friend of William Tiller (remember the Professor I corresponded with at 23-who was looking at dimensional models for miraculous healing?) and then I was able to study remote viewing with Charles, later going into a serious study of Ingo’s books and a long look which continues, at so -called “Psychic Abilities”.
It is now over ten years later- and I have spent these years traveling and teaching. My present research is leading me into the Scandinavian countries to look at what survives there of their traditions both physical and spiritual. As the Mongols say, “Yol Bolson” (“There is always the road”). I am also growing weary of travel and so look forward to being in one place – hopefully- before I am buried!
All the best to all of you –