by Eugene Taylor, Ph.D.
Introduced by John E. Mack, M.D.
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Eugene Irvine Taylor, Ph.D., (1946-2013) was a historian of psychology and an internationally renowned scholar on the life and work of William James. Taylor was the author of, among other works, William James on Exceptional Mental States and William James on Consciousness Beyond the Margins. He was a Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the official William James Lecturer at Harvard Divinity School, and a 20-year member of the Executive Faculty at Saybrook Graduate School and Research Institute. He was a graduate of Southern Methodist University, Harvard Divinity School, and earned his Ph.D. at Boston University. He also founded the Harvard Aikido Club.
William James was a 19th century philosopher and psychologist best known for The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.
This presentation was held by Dr. John Mack’s Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER) on March 21, 1995 at the Macht Auditorium, Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, MA.
JOHN MACK: So, welcome to the PEER March Forum. I think you’re in for a special treat this evening. Gene Taylor is a very difficult man to introduce. I first learned about him through feedback that I got about a grand rounds that he did here on William James, on the history of psychotherapy and religion. I forget what the title of the grand rounds was. What did they call it, Gene?
EUGENE TAYLOR: Psychotherapy in Boston at the Turn of the Last Century.
MACK: Right, which was just interesting in itself because the community here probably doesn’t even know there was psychotherapy in Boston at the turn of the last century, having been so, we’ve been so thoroughly Freudianized here.
So that was interesting to me, and then I also learned that this psychotherapy that Gene was talking about involved notions like transcendence and spirituality and altered states of consciousness and things like that which were very interesting to me because I was giving a course last year on the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness in psychotherapy. So it seemed natural for me to ask Gene to talk. I actually couldn’t be here when he lectured, but again I got this great feedback about what he had to say.
Gene is a scholar of William James par excellence. He’s written a book about him, and I feel a certain odd kinship with William James because I understand that William, when he departed from his more classical psychological observations and began to get into all this spiritual, religious stuff that he got into some disfavor with Harvard, at least his path was not as… comfortable and smooth.
What also has interested me about Gene’s work, he characterizes himself as a… well, he is a historian of philosophy and psychology, that’s really what he does, and that in itself is quite unusual in the Harvard system – the fact that he can be a resident philosopher at the Mass. General is almost an oxymoron, but he manages to pull it off, I suppose, by slipping in early in the morning or late at night or odd times or what, whatever.
What I think is so unusual about Gene’s work is that he has unearthed the fact that there was, around the turn of the century, a powerful connection between working with people psychotherapeutically and working with notions of transformation, spirit, transcendence, connection with other realities — all those things which we are now, with great difficulty, through PEER and through related subjects, beginning to bring back in gradually.
I remember when Nancy Kehoe, who’s been a kind of lone voice for religion and spirituality here — she’s a Catholic nun who has been here for many years and she and I have tried, in the old days tried with some difficulty to get anything about teaching about patients’ spiritual life into their psychotherapeutic or their clinical programs — I remember Les Havens, one time when Nancy and I were commenting about the spiritual aspects of people’s lives in one of the Harvard CME conferences, Les said rather disdainfully, “This sounds like a meeting of the World Council of Churches in here.” And so, it’s just in, you know, like Mark Twain said about his father, it shows how much Les has learned in the ten years or so since then, since he invited to Gene to speak here and has in a sense taken responsibility in the grand rounds program at Cambridge and in his leadership as a great teacher to bring spirituality and religious ideas into the training program here.
Gene has given many distinguished lectures. He’s, as I’ve mentioned, internationally-known scholar on William James, and he’s also the chief instructor of the Harvard aikido club. I want to talk to him about that because I think that if you’re going to work in this area of sort of paradigm breaking, it’s really good to have skills in the martial arts. I think that’s a really fundamental kind preparation for this type of warfare. So, I think you’re in for a special treat tonight. Gene, it’s all yours.
TAYLOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. I jotted down a few informal notes on the back of an envelope, deliberately, rather than a formal presentation, and I hoped to talk to you for a time about some ideas that interest me that I hope will interest you and to present them to you as projective stimuli so that we might be able to generate an interesting discussion out of this.
There are certain caveats at the beginning I’m afraid we might have to at least cover. William James said that it’s very important to preach belief to the skeptics and skepticism to the believers. Only because he felt that by doing so one developed parts of their personality that normal were not habitually fathomed.
And so I hope to at least do that here this evening, but I have a little trepidation that I will come off much like the gentleman who was having a very hard time communicating with his wife. And he went to his doctor and he said, “My wife’s hard of hearing and I don’t know what to do. I’m having a hard time communicating with her.” And the doctor said, “Well, what you do is just repeat whatever you have to say several times and each time move a little closer to her until you find out what her range is.” He said, “Gosh, that’s a great idea,” and he went home and he goes in and throws his hat down and he says, “Hi, dear, what’s for dinner?” And there’s no reply, so he moves a little closer and he says, (slightly louder:) “Well, hi, dear, what’s for dinner?” And he doesn’t hear any reply again, so he moves about ten feet away from her and he goes, “Hi, dear, what’s for dinner?” And she says, “I told you for the third time, chicken!” (Laughter.)
So I’m, I’m, what I’m afraid of is that I’d have come off like this man in that you will have heard me but I perhaps might not have heard you and thinking it was really quite the opposite circumstance.
But I’d like to broach a couple of ideas which I think are… sympathetic to the cause that this group represents, but at the same time looks at one certain aspect of the dialogue which interests me the most, and it has to do with the problem of consciousness.
Now, I was going to launch into this right away, but when I got my copy of the announcement back, it announced that I was supposed to speak on what William James would say about alien abduction phenomena at Harvard. So I thought I might actually play on that theme just for a few moments, to give you some kind of an idea about who William James was and if he were around today what he might say about what has been going on here in the PEER forum.
You have to understand that James was a somewhat neurasthenic, ill person when he started here at Harvard. He came in chemistry under Charles William Eliot, and he got in through his father’s Swedenborgian and Transcendentalist literary connections, without having gone to school anywhere else. He came right into the Lawrence Scientific School because his father knew Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louie Agassiz, and it was Agassiz’s Lawrence Scientific School which was the center of science that was going on at Harvard at the time.
Now, what was important to know was that Louie Agassiz was America’s foremost scientist at the time. He actually was a Creationist theorist. He believed that the whole entire world and all of its various species were all created at the same moment in the mind of God.
And colluding with him in this was Benjamin Purse, who founded the Harvard College Observatory, whose eccentric son Charles Sanders Purse turned out to be a real close friend and compatriot and significant intellectual influence on William James.
Now, the two of these people, Purse and Agassiz, they saw into the future. They saw that science was becoming a national phenomenon. And they determined that several things needed to happen and they were going to be at the forefront of those things.
The first was that there need to be national science organization which consulted with the United States Congress in which laws were passed and money was appropriated for research to the scientific community. And they had this scientific group called the Lazzaroni. It was a secret scientific society made of these elite scientists in American Universities, and they colluded with the legislatures to form some of the major scientific bodies that are now operating today in the United States. And in league with this, Agassiz and Purse determined that Harvard was going to be the national science university and therefore the recipient of all these funds and a major science center. Of course, it was according to their view of what science was.
And so while that was going on, Agassiz was developing his Creationist theory of evolution.
And there was a botanist here named Asa Gray who was a close confidant of Darwin’s inner circle and actually presented the idea of the Origin of the Species to the Cambridge Scientific Community a few months before the Origin of Species was actually published, and Agassiz was actually there.
And a major controversy developed between them. It was the Creationist hypothesis of evolution versus the Darwinian evolutionary theory.
Now, William James came in and was working with Eliot, and Eliot was kind of a friend and connected to Asa Gray. So James got in through his father’s literary connections [with Agassiz] but immediately sided with Agassiz’s opponents on the issue of the biological basis of evolution.
Well, as history has shown, Agassiz lost the battle [which] significantly weakened the efforts he was making as far as national science, and he died actually a few years later just as Charles William Eliot was called back from MIT to become President of Harvard. And that was how William James got his first teaching job.
But what you have to understand in this context is that James was escaping from his father’s Swedenborgian and Transcendentalist Intuitive Psychology of Character formation, and he escaped the suffocating influence of his father by fleeing into positivism.
And there was a philosopher at the village pump named Chauncy Wright who was a very famous person in the history of science at Harvard who was a very big influence on American Pragmatism, and James blended with his philosophy (and Charles Sanders Pierce was also involved with Wright). As a matter of fact, they called Wright the “intellectual boxing master” in the early days of the Cambridge Metaphysical Club.
But Wright believed that there really wasn’t anything going in the world except what’s right in the here and now. There was no unseen hand behind the world of appearances, and there was just causes and effects occurring right here in front that keep changing. And this change he called “cosmic weather”, which Pierce later developed into his philosophy of Tychism, kind of like Chaos Theory today.
Wright very definitely was anti-metaphysical, anti-philosophical and anti-religious in all forms. And this served William James’ purposes because that was radically different from Henry James, Sr., William’s father who was a religious philosopher dealing with the process of personality transformation in an Emersonian and Transcendentalist sense. But it only lasted so long and it was really, I believe, Wright’s positivism that drove William James by 1870 into a near-suicidal crisis.
And he recovered by several major milestones.
First of all, by believing to believe in free will… that it wasn’t just a mechanical universe; that there was a human, mental, psychological, perhaps larger element there; that the mind could experience things that were not necessarily always reduced to bodily functions.
He also read Wordsworth at the time, and Wordsworth had a very poetic and inspirational critique of the materialistic attitude. And James also read Charles-Bernard Renouvier’s essays on the will, and corresponded with Renouvier, which had very important consequences later on for the development of experimental psychopathology and psychotherapeutics, because James was being translated into French his whole entire career.
But the point is that by the time James started teaching, he had severed his connection to the suffocating Christian influence of his father’s scheme of salvation by fleeing into scientific positivism.
It took a personal toll on him, but then he came back and readjusted himself to Wright by taking up the very things that Wright had rejected, but in the positivist context.
So of course when James later meets Whitehead and Russell at the turn of the century, he’s already dealt with those positivistic battles in a way which was more profound and more personal than simply the intellectual discussions that the positivists where trying to have in taking over psychology as a science after 1905.
So when James begins teaching, he now is really launched upon an entirely new course, and that is that he’s very much interested in the problem of consciousness in the context of the biological evolution of species.
So he’s combined the two things together. He’s talking in psychological terms, but without requiring it to be reduced to the level of chemistry.
This was very important because everyone was dealing with the biological evolution of plants and animals, and James was interested in the function of consciousness and its effect on influencing the biological evolution of the human species.
No one else was dealing with that question at the time. And it launched the whole psychology of mental science and individual differences at Harvard as far as the foundation of psychology was concerned.
Now, what’s very interesting in this, James had some colleagues to help him out. There was Henry Pickering Bowditch, who was the dean of the medical school and Harvard’s first research professor in physiology, and James Jackson Putnam, who was Harvard’s second professor of neurology, who founded neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
And these three colluded in launching the laboratories of physiology, neuropathology and experimental psychology at Harvard. Bowditch had been trained in Ludwig’s laboratory in Berlin and Putnam had studied with Minor(?) Benedict, who had been Freud’s, who would be Freud’s teachers at Leipzig.
So they were the Germanic, pure science, laboratory-oriented model.
But James was very much enamored with French experimental physiology.
The origin of James’ experimental psychology was French experimental physiology, which the surgical dissection to show structure and function. And he held out in the French tradition, which was really the basis of where Harvard clinical medicine was still going at that point, and it was James who really brought the French and the German ideas of science and clinical practice together in psychology at Harvard.
He did that by founding an experimental laboratory and bringing the ideas of the abstract philosophers into the domain of physiological psychology. Therefore, the mind/body problem. But he was particularly fascinated by the fact that most people working in science focused on a cognitive psychology of consciousness, and he was very much interested in the relationship between thoughts and feelings because he felt that the primary science of the time focused only what was in the center of consciousness and it neglected the relations between objects. He said relations are also things. That was one of his major contributions in philosophy, as far as his philosophy or radical empiricism was concerned.
So he was the first one to write on the physiological study of the emotions because he felt that we have cognitive thoughts, but the emotions are what give thoughts warmth and what connect thoughts to each other.
And subsequently, French neurologists working on the psychopathology of the emotions took up James’ work, and this was part of the development of experimental psychopathology and the introduction of hypnosis into neurology and psychology, and for the study of dissociative states of consciousness.
Now, where I’m going with this story is that James establishes experimental psychology at Harvard as physiological psychology, and then because he begins to study the pathology of the emotions, using hypnosis as a tool to artificially induce the states of consciousness they were studying in mediums and also the states in hysteric patients — right in the laboratory, to reproduce the same phenomena — that James brought the study of parapsychology into the laboratory at Harvard University.
So the basis of experimental psychology at Harvard is in fact physiological psychology and what was called at the time psychical research. But it is not really well known that the origin of abnormal clinical personality psychology is in the field we call today parapsychology. But back at that time it was called psychical research.
And it happened because there were major developments going on in France using hypnosis in the study of hysteria and multiple personality around people like Jean-Martin Charcot at the same time that the psychical researchers in England, who were interested in the problem of life after death, believed the modern, dynamic, scientific psychology of the subconscious was going to assist them in understanding processes – human processes of the subconscious – that allowed us to have psychic experiences and to experience higher or even more pathological states of consciousness.
So as John indicated, the more William James got into this material, the more suspect his science became, except that he had contracted to write a textbook on a positivistic psychology in 1878. He thought he would finish it in two years, but it took him twelve. And when it finally came out in 1890, it was basically an experimental cognitive psychology of consciousness – what is at the center of attention, according to a positivistic, scientific frame of reference. Except that because it took him so long, all during the 1880s he became very much more involved in psychical research and experimental psychopathology.
And so there’s really two centers of gravity in this book. There’s the positivistic, scientific reductionist psychology and then there’s this other one that talks about multiple states of consciousness and alternative realities, and multiple personality.
And it was after 1890, between 1890 and 1900, that James enters completely into this era, studying these unusual phenomena.
And what he did was he felt that what is at the center of attention was informed by the warmth of what surrounds it. That’s the emotions. But when you go to the periphery of consciousness, you get out to the penumbra, the halo, and this leads you from the center of cognitive consciousness into what they called the subconscious. And once you get to that periphery and then you pass over into that periphery, something radically different happens. And what James found out was that most of the psychology that was developing around laboratory science at the time, he thought was just nothing more than a colossal elaboration of the ego. I mean, you have to understand why psychophysics is based mainly on a large accumulated body of scientific evidence related to vision and hearing, and James’ answer was because these are the methods primarily that those sciences use to study their objects. That they know most about the methods that they use. So they don’t say anything about emotions and intuitions. And as soon as you begin to study that, you are led into the problem of alternative realities. And what that means, what alternative realities mean is that you can’t develop a consistent science of cognitive consciousness without some understanding of the state of consciousness the person is in and generating that science – that the objects that we’re talking about are only half of the problem.
The other half of the problem is the state of consciousness, the ground.
And what James discovered was, as soon as you cross over the barrier into the subconscious, you have the possibility of experiencing multiple realities, and these multiple realities change the very object that is now in front of you. So how can you have a consistent, scientific, reductionistic understanding of the mind without some account of the changing context behind the object that you’re looking at?
So he began to turn his attention to the minor, the other metaphysical ground of the principles of psychology — that is, multiple realities — in the 1890s. And there is a very sophisticated problem that he was dealing with and it had to do with the fact that he adopted scientific positivism in 1890 because he believed that every science needs to be positivistic when its launched. It needs to be anti-metaphysical to launch itself.
But as everyone knows who has studied scientific revolutions, every good science is ultimately renovated by metaphysics. Except the problem in 1890 was there was no sophisticated enough metaphysics to critique the prevailing science. There was only British Associationism, which was interested only in the cognitive center of consciousness as far as the objects, and then there was what James called spiritualism, by which he meant Christian theology, the spiritualist teachings of the spiritualist and mental healers who believed in life after death and communication with the dead, and also German Idealism. These were the different frames of reference for the concept of spiritualism. He said none of those were really sufficient to critique positivism.
So in his principles of psychology he was going to start from a positivistic standpoint because there was no other metaphysics sophisticated enough to critique the prevailing science of the time.
Three years later, he got up at the Presidential address of the American Psychological Association and announced that he had abandoned positivism altogether, that he no longer — he said, “You remember when I wrote about it in 1890 and the kind of defense that I made of it there? Well, I decided that rather than continue to defend it, I would just throw it over completely.” And the reason he said he was doing that was because of the scientific information that was coming in very fast, in fast volumes, on experimental psychopathology and the reality, the scientific reality of alternative states of awareness. So he evolved his metaphysics of radical empiricism, which became a metaphysical position which he thought was finally sophisticated enough to critique the current reductionistic trend in American psychology in American science.
There’s much, much more to say about this. He wrote a book on exceptional mental states which he never published, which I was able to reconstruct. We have some copies of it in the back if you’re interested in looking at it. It was his definitive text on a modern dynamic psychology of the subconscious. He felt he had scientific justification in the 1890s to study these alternative phenomena and therefore he became a pioneer in the fields of experimental psychopathology, which led to major developments in personality, abnormal, social and clinical psychology in the 20th century. He became a pioneer in psychical research, parapsychology they later called it, J.B. Rhine called it after the 1930s. And also he became a pioneer in the psychology of religion. And he felt that there was sound justification for expanding the definition of psychology as a scientific enterprise to look at these phenomena.
But… the scientific community believed that James had gone completely haywire and off the deep end. And they abandoned him completely.
So to this day orthodox reductionistic scientists in psychology, if they read James at all, only read his principles in 1890. They did not read any books that he wrote after that. Because they considered that he had turned from science to spiritualism to philosophy. He became, he went from being a scientist, a physiologist, a professor of psychology to being basically a popular lecturer.
In a certain sense he did that, but the point was that at the end of his career he turned almost exclusively to trying to articulate his philosophical metaphysics. I can’t go into too much of it now, but it has to do with the tripartite ideas of privatism, noetic pluralism and radical empiricism. Now, I’ll mention something about these in just a few minutes… because they’re going to serve the final point that I’d like to make.
But what James thought that he was articulating after 1900 was the metaphysical position that would be the corrective to reductionism in psychology, and that that would be relevant to the problem that was then developing in the sciences at large in the American scientific community. But he was completely ignored as having gone so far off the deep end and become a popular lecturer that nothing that he said could be taken seriously, and even if you did read [James] you had to think of it as philosophy, not science.
However, there were very important strands that did take up his thinking after he died. Through Henri Bergson, the French [philosopher], James’ radical empiricism was taken up by the existentialists, by Sartre and later by Merleau-Ponty. Husserl found out about radical empiricism because of a young graduate student working with James named William Ernest Hocking who had just studied for two years with Husserl, came back and took his Ph.D. on intersubjectivity under William James in 1904. And there are letters between Hocking and Husserl talking about James’ radical empiricism. And in the Husserl archives at the University of Leuven there is a little pamphlet, “A World of Pure Experience,” one of the major items in James’ doctrine of radical empiricism, signed “from the author”, which the phenomenologists can’t for the life of them figure out how it got there.
So James also had an influence — at least his ideas were around at the time that Husserl was organizing his phenomenology.
You really have an extraordinarily and profoundly important historical cycle that is completed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when existentialism and phenomenology return to American psychology through humanistic psychology.
The humanistic psychologists and the major personality theorists, including Allport, Murray, Murphy, Ralomay(?), when they bring the European pessimistic existential and phenomenological tradition back into American psychology through humanistic psychology and into psychotherapy, there’s a Jamesian tradition which is now kind of returning home after it’s been incubating over there in Europe all this time — which makes the humanistic revolution that took place in 1960s profoundly Jamesian. And it is no accident that this is also one of the times when parapsychology finds kind of a new home within the context of humanistic and transpersonal psychology.
So this is all to say that there’s, I think there’s a very good reason why there’s so much resistance to a lot of the topics that John [Mack] is raising.
So if I were to imagine, knowing what I know about William James, what William James would say to John right now, it would focus around three things:
The first would be not to give up hope. (Laughs.) Especially in the face of adversity. And James was a person who believed that it was extremely important to cleave to your ideals, to have some reason for doing what you do, for, to have some reason to get up in the morning. He made a little joke in an essay. It was called “Is Life Worth Living?” and his answer, of course, as a physiologist and a physician was it depends upon the liver. (Laughter.) By which he meant that it depends upon the worldview of the life of the individual and the meaning that the person invests in that life.
This was his doctrine of radical empiricism, which basically said that in the world of belief all beliefs in potentia at any moment on the horizon. But they actually are nurtured and begin to grow depending upon — this is kind of the reverse definition of Buddhist meditation; instead of detaching yourself, you attach yourself — that depending upon the spectrum that you associate yourself with, that part of the spectrum grows. So that if you treat a juvenile delinquent like a juvenile delinquent, that person will act like a juvenile delinquent. Right? And you will lose the person-ness of that individual who was there. If you treat a person as an object, they will become that object. If you choose to actualize the bad portions of your personality by dwelling on them, that is what will come into being. What one’s thought is, that one becomes, he says.
And he said the great challenge of people who are in the process of contributing the strength of their own character to the ongoing evolution of human consciousness is that they have chosen to do the good knowing that the bad could come into existence simply by choosing that.
So, the idea here for James was that when you break into these alternative realities you start to see the actualization of possibilities that other people simply do not see.
And you have make a decision yourself about whether or not you’re going to pursue that course alone by yourself. And even Carl Jung said, he said, “Well, you know, if a person is sitting in their own study and has the right thought they will be heard a thousand miles away.” Or that when one turns within on that journey towards self-realization, one may have to take that journey by oneself. No one else can take that journey for you. But soon unknown friends appear. And that’s the meaning of the, the, the tantra, the Buddhist mandala where you have the Buddha realizing the incarnation of his former lives.
That once you break through into those inward realities then all of a sudden your whole entire world or your whole entire life changes. Your friends change. The kind of books that are in your library change. Your thoughts change. What you do in the morning, your habits change. Everything is completely different.
And William James said in The Varieties of Religious Experience that for people who have never had that experience, they cannot comprehend for the life of them what you’re talking about. That the epistemological difference is so radical that you have either seen it or you haven’t. And if you haven’t, you haven’t a clue to what the person who has seen it is talking about.
And what James was particularly referring to in this case was alternative realities.
Many people in positions of power and influence in modern culture today have never had an important experience. All they’ve had is the experience of being what you see right there in front of you, but there has been no collective opening of the doors of perception, there has been no questioning about identify, there has been no wondering if we really, not even don’t have it right, but are… you know, that all of our conceptualizations might not have anything to do with the reality in which we’re trying to, to grasp in front of [us]. These questions have never been raised by many people that we meet in the course of the day, who make decisions about our lives, about which way we’re going to go and whether we’re going to get resources, scarce resources, and where we’re going to be able to live and what kind of job we’re going to be able to have and who’s going to sign our paycheck.
So James’ first point I think for John is to say… it’s not bad to be a pursuer of unpopular causes. It’s stressful, perhaps, but sooner or later, I think he would agree, unknown friends appear.
I think the second thing that he would say has to do with this problem of multiple realities, and this is very difficult because it has to do with the fact that whoever you are talking to, you may need to identify quite quickly … what dimension this person lives in.
And it is extraordinarily important because from a reductionistic and objective point of view, we’re all in the same reality. And in a certain metaphysical sense that’s true. But the whole of experience is not necessarily a oneness. The whole of experience could be a lot of discrete parts.
And this was James’ position. James, he said, was a pluralist because monism could always be one of his options. [laughter]
Whereas for the monists, the monists had to always get everything down to one. There was no other choice. There was the proliferation out there, but they’re all manifestations of the same thing, and the person’s thought patterns always reflected that.
So I hear John talk about whatever he’s gonna talk about, and I say, “Oh, that’s fantasy.” So then it becomes a category in my mind, and now that I know what the category is I feel safe ’cause I’m reacting to my category, I’m not reacting any more to whatever the reality is that’s in front of me.
This is what phenomenology was all about: bracketing, where you suspend the categorization of the phenomenon in front of you, and then experience starts to proliferate at an enormous rate.
James said this was perception is. Perception is not my ability to see something. He said perception is our ability to cut everything out so we can see what we in fact get to see.
Which means that as soon as that filtering mechanism is disbanded, then everything, the blooming, buzzing mass of confusion rushes in again, he said.
So the idea of multiple realities is really quite important, and you really have to ascertain who’s in front of you, whether or not they have some sense for more than the reality that they are in right now at this particular second. And if they do, then you’ll, there will be some probing, but… all of a sudden doors within doors will start to open.
One of my late teachers, one of the great influences on my personal and intellectual career was a man named Frederick String(?). He was an internationally known Buddhist scholar in the Indian Mahayana tradition of Nāgārjuna, and I studied with him for about eight years. He was very much influenced by Paul Tillich, whom he’d studied under at Chicago when he was there getting his doctorate under Eliatay(?) in the late 1950s, and he said that what Tillich communicated to him was the importance of statements about ultimate concern.
And what this meant to Fred was that spirituality and religion may be radically different; that we may think that spirituality is solely confined to the religious denominations, when in fact spirituality arises from within experience. And that really what you need to do is to focus on what’s going on as far as a person’s inward experience is concerned.
I forget what I was saying. What was I saying? What did I just say? Someone tell me what I just said. Help me out here.
MACK: The focus on inward experiences.
TAYLOR: No, before that.
AUDIENCE: Ultimate concern.
TAYLOR: Oh, oh, thank you. Thank you. (Laughs.) Sorry. So the idea is that what you listen for in a person’s discourse are their statements of ultimate concern. All right? This is where you find the spiritual reality of that particular individual. It’s one of the ways in which you tell in listening to a person’s discourse — and it really requires close listening in order to hear this — it’s one of the ways in which you can tell whether or not the person is simply in this reality. Because you won’t hear it. You’ll hear the same stock things about the Christian scheme of salvation or the reductionistic idea of science — and they won’t, they certainly will not sound original.
But the original statements that you hear from people are clandestine, they’re covered, but they will then have this quality of ultimate concern to it. And then it’s quite possible that then you’ll know that you can open up to them in terms of where you come from.
I had lunch with a woman today, and she said — well, I was introduced to her by a friend of hers — and the reason she introduced her to me was that her friend said, “He’s one of us.” (Laughs.) “He thinks that there’s more than what’s just here.”
(Laughter.) So that was the reason why, that there was all of a sudden an opportunity to begin to get into these other realities.
So I would say the reason this is profoundly important for, I think, the work that John is doing is that it’s important not to confuse multiple realities for the people who conceive of where we are as only a single reality.
And what I hear continually are pieces of information as if this was all the same reality… that the scientists at Harvard basically say, “Well, aliens don’t exist because we’ve never seen them,” and that, “we don’t have them in our laboratory,” and that, “we don’t believe this is true.” And that in fact it’s not in the context of their reality. Right?
Now, whatever those entities are may exist in other dimensions of consciousness, but the fact is those people can’t access those other states of consciousness, so how would they know?
Now, but it’s very important, I think, not to all of a sudden drop back into the notion that there’s really only one reality and aliens do exist, just because you haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they don’t… I think that you have to accompany each statement like this with some notion having to do with the problem of the experience of consciousness.
And this brings me to my third point which has to do with what I call the primacy of experience.
And I think what James would say is don’t focus on the subject/object dichotomy, focus on the primacy of experience.
And in this I would like to propose something which I hope will not make me like that man in my joke at the beginning of my lecture. (Laughs.) And that is that when I came two months ago and heard people here talk about their [alien encounter] experiences, I believe that whatever they spoke about for them was true. Now I had not experienced what they experienced, but I was willing to believe that whatever they talked about for them was true. But what really excited me was what every single one of them said after they spoke, and they went, “And oh, yeah, and by the way it really had a big influence on my life.” And then they talked a little bit about what that influence was about.
Now every single person who sat up here and spoke said that. And that interested me very much because my attitude is, from a Jamesian standpoint, from the standpoint of radical empiricism — radical empiricism says that everything that is within the purview of human experience ought to be a justifiable subject for scientific inquiry, even if science doesn’t have the tools to measure them right now.
[END OF SIDE A] [BEGINNING OF SIDE B]
TAYLOR: And the issue I think that we’re dealing with, from a radically empirical point of view, has to do with the problem of consciousness as James stated in 1904. He wrote this radical, radical article called “Does Consciousness Exist?” and his answer was “no”. And it was right at a time when everyone was writing about consciousness and psychology and philosophy. Everyone was writing about it, and James says, “What you’re talking about doesn’t exist.” And they were furious. They couldn’t imagine what he was saying.
What he was saying was that consciousness does not exist as just another category like apples and oranges and the chair and this building and those lights, and it’s just something else you think about.
That in fact, consciousness, if it exists, infuses everything.
That it’s false to think in evolutionary terms that before there was unconsciousness, and then somewhere along the evolutionary process consciousness somehow sprouted out.
He said it has to have been there all along.
So he adopted the idea, following Fechner, of panpsychism – the ultimate consciousness of all matter – at the end of his life as a provisional hypothesis, which was his usual way of dealing with these subjects.
And basically what he said was that consciousness does exist as a function of somebody’s experience. So whenever you hear an account from someone, you also have to inquire into the state of consciousness they were in when they had it and also the state of consciousness they’re in when they’re telling you, which might be two entirely different things. And also your state of consciousness in hearing in about it, because of that mystery of how two minds can somehow know the same thing.
So in James’ doctrine of radical empiricism, what he’s really saying is that if you become a phenomenologist and you bracket for just a minute all the categories that we put on immediate reality, and simply try and get into the experience of the immediate moment, transcending language and conceptualization… uncertainty creeps in. (Laughs.) The unknown. What is, what is not going to happen. And the question is how long can you dwell in that state and what is the value of doing it?
What James’ claim is, is that by experiencing it — and this is what I think meditation is all about, and this is what I think one of the keys to psychotherapy is all about, the making conscious of the unconscious — that our perceptions are radically changed the more we can experience the depth of the immediate moment. And the question is, well, where does it stop?
Where does it end? Well, it ends when you clinch and have to call it something, and you have to come back and start speaking again. And this is a, it’s a very Buddhist idea. Meditation for the Buddhists is the simple witnessing of thought without attachment, so you see it arise and decay and go away. But as soon as you attach yourself to one of the thoughts, all these karmic sequences then are generated which you now have to live out.
And then there are special types of thoughts they say in yoga, which are insight-bearing, which carry no seeds, which also burn out the karma of past thought.
So James did say, at the end of his career, that studying the fall or threshold of consciousness will be the psychology of the future. And he said this about Buddhist meditation. He said this about psychoanalysis. And he said this about parapsychology.
So I guess in conclusion, if I was to wrap it up in one complete idea what William James would say about John’s work, it would be a, a sympathetic skepticism.
It would be to take what John’s doing at least as a provisional hypothesis.
And we have a very interesting case of this in James’ Exceptional Mental States lectures, where his lecture titles were Dreams and Hypnotism, Automatism, Hysteria, Multiple Personality, Demoniacal Possession, Witchcraft, Degeneration and Genius. And in the first four lectures, he established an understanding of a modern dynamic psychology of the subconscious; in the second he showed its pathological working in the social sphere.
And in his section on demon possession, he reviewed all these cases of demon possession from around the world, especially focusing on fox tales in Japan, and cases of demon possession in Taoist tradition in China, and some cases that he’d found in the literature, the Catholic literature and elsewhere. And he believed that most of these could be completely explained according to the ideas of a dynamic psychology of the subconscious… that they could be explained in terms of multiple realities that are beyond our ability to conceptualize. So the bottom line is that the experiences may be real, but the conceptualizations we have of them may be something else. What that is… we don’t know. But they really may not be the same thing.
However, there is always the impact of these experiences we have on the transformation of personality, and by far and away this is essentially what we should be focusing on: the transformation of personality and consciousness and the transformation of our concepts of personality and consciousness.
So he finishes off his lecture having supposedly dealt with all these experiences in psychological terms, and then he surprises the reader by saying, “However, this doesn’t discount real cases of demon possession.” (General laughter.) And that’s what I think he’d say about John’s work. Thank you. (Laughs.)
MACK: [Would you be willing to take questions?]
TAYLOR: Sure, I’m happy to entertain any comments. Don’t feel that you have to ask a question. Just blurt out if that’s what you have to do. Yes, yes?
(Slight pause. The next speaker is some distance from the microphone.)
Q:I find it hard to make comments because every time I listen to you, it’s like drinking from a firehouse. (General laughter.) (Unintelligible.)
TAYLOR: I just had a book rejected for being too encyclopedic. Well, thanks, I guess. (Laughs.) I’m not sure what that meant, but thank you.
CAROLINE: Well, given the fact that all of us have these, that there are these alternate realities that are around, how do you propose that we speak to one another, given that there are these alternative realities?
TAYLOR: Thank you. That’s great. Great question. Now James dealt with that in the philosophical problem of how two minds can know one thing. In other words, I think the same question you’re asking is the same question the philosophers asked about… you and I can look at this and see the same thing. Right? Now, we’re actually asking the question in a slightly different way by saying, How can we communicate alternative realities to each other if we don’t have a common language? Isn’t that partly what you are…?
CAROLINE: Well, how do you communicate about alien abduction given that we have alternate realities involved?
TAYLOR: Okay, but see, now you’re turning it around. (Laughs.) And what I’m suggesting is that we lack a consensually validated language of inner experience to talk about the transformation of personality and consciousness.
And what I’m suggesting is that there has to be a way to validate your reality for you, even if it’s not my reality.
Now this, this is the essence of pragmatism. What pragmatism says is that where statements of ultimate concern are raised which are radically different — and people go to war over these statements — I mean, the, the, the, what’s at stake is tremendous as far as, you know, someone believing what you say is either true or not true.
But James’ claim is that beliefs are tested by their consequences.
So you look to see the effect of those experiences on the moral and aesthetic quality of the person’s life. And that’s basically how you judge them. You judge them not by their roots, but by their fruits. Number one.
Number two, I would say — I, when I went to Father McDonough’s charismatic healing service, the Catholic charismatic priest down in Roxbury, I had the most wonderful experience one time. There were 3,000 people there, and there was a woman witnessing in front of everyone in Portuguese. And I sat there and I cried with this woman. I knew exactly what she was saying, and I don’t speak a word of Portuguese. Now, what was that all about? Right?
So, I think what James is saying is that, and what I certainly think that we know, is that the interaction between people, the actual communication that goes on between people, far transcends conceptualization and language. And the more that we get from external material reality into the inward domain, the more projective, the more symbolic, the more mythic and the more visionary our language becomes.
So that when I discover the symbols of my personal destiny, and I turn to you and I begin to speak to you from that dimension, you either haven’t got a clue to what I’m talking about or that same dimension within yourself opens up and you begin to speak from that standpoint.
So Swedenborg says when the angels came to show him the different realms of the heavens and hells, they talked to him, but the angels spoke to him in “rainbows”. Right? ‘Cause you wanna think, well, they, they spoke English, right? If a rhinoceros had a god, he’d look like a rhinoceros, right? (Laughs.)
And the idea is, can we communicate in alternative realities in new ways, and the answer is we’re already doing it. At a subconscious level. I mean, that’s what aikido is all about. Women do that all the time when they sense someone else’s intention long before it’s become a conscious reality for all parties involved.
So when you begin to talk about your experiences that I have not had, my way of relating sympathetically is to open the inward door of perception and go to the place where those mythic and visionary symbols of my own are, and I understand what you’re talking about even though your reality at that moment is not mine.
And I think this is much more of a profound and important communication than trying to convince some reductionistic scientists of the reality of extraterrestrial phenomenon. I think that that discussion is bound to go nowhere is you’re talking about an epistemological leap so large that all the words in the world are not going to open that person up to that. Unless they are going to be transformed ultimately at that moment by what you say, you haven’t a prayer. Especially if they’re in a position of power and influence to make some decision (deepens voice) now that they’ve heard what you have to say. (Soft general laughter.)
So I, the only thing I ask you to do is to translate what I’ve said into what you just asked me. That’s all I’m asking you to do. Is that… kinda get there? (Laughs.)
CAROLINE: Well, I think you’re saying that, that there’s maybe more to the discussion of this whole alien abduction phenomenon then about whether it’s real or not, that there’s a transformative…
TAYLOR: Yes, correct, correct.
CAROLINE: …element to it in the telling of the story.
TAYLOR: Not only that, not only that, but, and you’re going back and analyzing what’s happened to you and going back to the experience rather than what you’ve said about it. I mean, when you go over to the Cambodian refugee mental health clinic and you sit around and — fascinating phase over there where the psychiatrists work with the patients for several years and never admitted that they were dealing with a profoundly traumatized, tortured population. And then when the story started to come out, all kinds of bizarre things would happen. There would be therapists who would just keel over. They couldn’t handle it. And there would be patients who loved to tell their story. It became the trauma story. First, it was the way they validated their existence ’cause no one ever listened to them, and then it became a way in which they reinforced their psychopathology, just telling the same story over and over and over again until it was the story that they were telling, right, about their experiences. Now, once you do that, you’re in the same problem the scientists are. Science is model-building, science is representative knowledge. It is not… acquaintance with, it is knowledge about. And James definitely put his cards with the direct acquaintance with.
So I think under the circumstances, you’re called upon to go back to whatever the original experience was as a resource for your own process of self-realization. And, and to me the implications of this are so much more profound than letting the discussion languish in a materialistic discussion, which to me has no purpose.
That’s, that’s what I think the message is there: that there’s a profounder meaning, to the, to the, to what you’re gonna get, it’s a resource. A really wonderful clinical psychologist whose work I work I very heartily recommend, Wilson Van Dusen, in the 1950s was one of the only clinical psychotherapists in northern California doing psychotherapy with schizophrenics at Napa State Hospital. And he was a Zen practitioner at the time, before anybody else was, and he was writing these wonderful articles in the Journal Psychologia on getting schizophrenics to enter the void, which they were, they were there but they were profoundly afraid to do. And what he was suggesting was that the core of their psychopathology was in fact their most creative resource.
And so it, it, it would be, I, if I was to translate that it would be for you to go back to your original experience and to be with that as long as you can, independent of the words and ideas and concepts that you’ve used in order to describe it! Because you can always continue to redo those words and ideas, but it’s the original experience which will never go away.
I was with a woman the other day who basically, I think, has described most of what I heard here two months ago, and she does not conceptualize it in the same way. And I have to say her reality is quite unusual, and she’s only talking to me because no one else really understands where it is that she is. And this occurred — she’s now a Reiki healer, she’s a hands-on healer — but this occurred as a result of the fact that her 93-year-old father died and she spent the last seven hours of his life with him holding this man in her arms. And they went through a kind of a golden-light experience, and it really changed this person. She felt that she died with him. They both died there together. And she’s now a completely different person. And the way she describes it is in kind of classical spiritualist terms about entities and guides talking to her and this kind of thing, and if you don’t get attached to that then you can really hear the message like behind it. And, and that there are certain aspects of her description which are very much like what I heard here two months ago.
But I think comparisons are unjust because it’s not saying her reality is yours. Quite the opposite. The realities are radically different because what we’re really talking about now are people who are standing at the core of raw human experience.
I mean, I think the problem is, is that we are simply not prepared to witness the ultimate, and that people who have experiences like this are carried one or two or three or four steps closer than the rest of us, and, you know, we have no comprehension of what they’re talking about because all of civilization conspires to keep this from us. Just, just look at our death rituals as one example of how those things are kept hidden.
So it’s the primacy of experience and the emphasis on the transformative effect of these experiences beyond the language which I think is the Jamesian suggestion.
TAYLOR: Oh, I’m sorry he was just waving.
KAREN WESOLOWSKI: I guess this is a little bit of a follow-up to what Caroline was asking. Are you saying that the more we talk about quote unquote alien abduction, the farther away we might get from the primacy of experience and we may lose that richness, and….
TAYLOR: Well, I am profoundly….
WESOLOWSKI: ‘Cause, ’cause we find that language trips us up all the time and we can’t really get away from that.
TAYLOR: Right, my answer is yes and no. In other words, without it where would your enterprise be? (Laughs.) Right? The fact is that it is the vehicle that in your destiny has drawn you, in my estimation, to broach these larger topics. And from my work, it’s the larger topics that these things point to, not the actual descriptions themselves or the arguments over, you know, did Don Juan really exist? Well, TIME magazine sent some of its top reporters down to Mexico and they couldn’t find him and they couldn’t find anyone who knew him, so they came back and said that he doesn’t exist. “We sent reporters down there to find him.” (Laughs.) You know, it’s the drunk looking for keys under the lamppost because that’s where the light is. Or the rabbit who runs across the road just when the car comes.
So, on the one hand… language is limiting. Language cuts, language cripples, yet it’s a miracle that we have it and it’s also a vehicle for its own transcendence. So it depends upon how fluid you are with regard to language in kind of getting down to what the inner meanings are that are being communicated. And it’s a funny thing because to the unbelievers it just looks like all you have to do is believe in it for it to be so, when I think what happens is that belief is really a function of something much more profound and it has to do with this very deep opening that takes place so that discussions can go on.
And, and you have to believe not so much in the phenomena that you’re talking about as in the possibility of alternative realities to allow the discussion to continue, without actually putting an absolute judgment on the nature of the person’s experience or not.
I had a physicist, a Russian physicist, interested in psychic phenomena arguing with me about this in my car one time, and he tried to make the example, he said, “Well, but suppose there was a spoon right there, right in the dashboard in front of us, and all of a sudden I could bend it with my mind without touching. Now wouldn’t that change your mind?” And I said, “Look, pal, I’ve seen so many weird things in my life, more far out than that. I would just think it was my mind like I always do.” Right? And even if it was that, I wouldn’t know what it was. I would take like every really extraordinarily bizarre experience I ever had, like “eh. You know, just another bizarre experience. ” You know? And then go on with it.
Now if I had some personal relationship to that spoon, like it was my baby spoon or some other connection that connected my interior reality to that spoon, that might be different. Then you’d see a great “ah-ha!” phenomenon from me, perhaps. But to just see a spoon appear and disappear in front of me or bend in front of me without anybody touching it, I mean, that’s nothing as compared to some of the things I’ve seen. I’ve questioned those things, too. But without – I’ve become comfortable with really not having answers to them.
But the idea is to witness, to kind of be there to open yourself up to whatever that is because usually those things are signs of something greater. And, this is really the essence of psychic experiences as far as the inner sciences and the Asian texts are concerned.
The supernormal powers are an epi-phenomenon in the process of self-realization. They are not the goal. They are a by-product which basically indicate that something more profound is now underway; attention. But, but not to the sign itself, but to the course that the road has taken.
Anyone else like to say something? Yes? No?
WESOLOWSKI: Well, if no one else is going to comment, I still feel like I understand that and yet how do we apply that to what we do every day at the program. What, it’s the application that I think is tricky. For example, how does John write about cases? In the course of categorizing them, they may slip away from where it’s really going.
TAYLOR: Right. Well, partly I think it has to do with the questions that are raised by the very act of doing it, and, on the one hand, in classical, traditional psychiatric and scientific terminology we hang in there with the cases. Right? But then there are also the metaphysical and philosophical questions that are raised by this type of work. And I think you have to be equally school in engaging in both kinds of conversations. And I delight in this regard.
In a nutshell, I don’t think I can answer you, that’s my answer (Laughs.) Because really, what’s going on in my mind is making the answer worse, not better, and it has to do with what Melville called those greatest of all mysteries: facts.
It’s like you have one set of facts over here and another set of facts over here. And we tend to think that, well, there are certain facts that are known, therefore all facts must be known.
When you have an expert, say, give you one side over here, another side over here, well, then what do you do?
Well, James that whenever a reductionist scientist comes up with a conundrum where the data suggests two different things, he’ll always make a decision based on sentiment. (Laughter.)
So the human factor is central.
And so I would say, then you have to ask what your motive is for doing the work, and, and I would say that you really are committed to a course which you really can’t turn from, and that is that you are, you know… warriors of transformation. I mean, you, the ideas that the, the, the data, the methods, the discussion is for purposes of transformation, and perhaps in ways which people aren’t necessarily aware is about to happen to them by having raised that issue, for instance.
But certainly it’s not through convincing the scientific community that’s
never going to believe anyway. (To MACK: ) Yes?
MACK: I, I want to take you back to your role as a historian of psychology. You’ve documented that at the turn of the century and in the first decade of the twentieth century there was a powerful connection between psychology and transcendental notions, transformation…
MACK: …spirituality which was then eclipsed or driven under…
MACK: …by the sort of bio-Freudianism of the middle part of this century…
TAYLOR: Yes. Yes.
MACK: …and now it seems that we’re…
MACK: …seeing an opening again…
TAYLOR: Yes. Right.
MACK: …of some possible expanded notions of reality, consciousness.
MACK: How do you understand these cycles and is there something about this period? How would you compare this period, say, with the first part of the twentieth century? And the reason I ask that is those of us that are involved with the transformational endeavor, are we simply part of a cycle that’s simply going to go back again the other way? I mean, is there some, do you see anything different now or do you have any strategic notions about how to proceed in this process?
TAYLOR: Well, it’s interesting. I mean, Darwin never equated evolution with progress. In, in which case evolution can go on, but we might not necessarily go forward. We might go backward. And I think that waxing and waning is what takes place.
James certainly said that it was true individually as it was collectively, that, you know, it’s by each one of us doing our level best that somehow something new is created that wasn’t created before that then allows all the rest of us to basically follow.
And this sounds very much like Teilhard de Chardin, who talks about the unisphere, this kind of ever expanding layer of consciousness around the planet. Which he seems to indicate is like what evolution is all about, but James seems to indicate is really a function of our choices, and what we do with our lives and the actions and the fate of human beings.
So one of the things that I see — and this is (laughs), this is just really about to break loose everywhere; I just, I can’t tell you the phone calls I had just today, all over the United States from New York and Los Angeles, of NBC and (laughs), they’re all on to this psychotherapy and the psychologizing of American culture and the spiritual revolution that’s going on.
I think that there are forces at work against us, and that the outcome is not certain, and that this is profoundly disturbing but not – certainly in my particular case – threatening enough to stop (laughs) because in my case what I represent and the environment that I work in, sometimes merely to survive is to win.
And, you know, I might not flourish. I just might be able to kind of get by chokingly, but nevertheless, the very fact that I was there, you know, 98% of life is just showing up, and had my influence at that particular place rather than some other place.
But I, I personally see, for instance, psychotherapy being counted out of the national health care bill, if it ever comes through, but I see a flourishing of the counterculture psychotherapies even more than we saw from the 1960s to the present as a result.
I see a major cross-cultural exchange of ideas between eastern and western culture unprecedented in the history of western thought, one that will radically transform the context in which we understand facts and knowledge and things. And that it represents something that we in the west have to learn about that we don’t now have. And you know, the names of Descartes and Freud may be forgotten. We may not know who they are a hundred years from now if this change happens and it is of an epistemological leap great enough to carry us into whatever the new context is.
Then everything, just like when science came along, everything now, the same old things have to be re-evaluated again, except according to the new context or the new frame of reference.
And I firmly think that people who are capable of dealing in multiple realities will be the more adaptive. One of the reasons is because the battles they have to fight in the, in the one-world type of mentality that doesn’t give credibility to wherever it is that they live. And, you know, that’s like, you know, have hope, your time will come. (Laughs.) And, but the question is in what form. In what form.
And I think that what is emerging now is that the supremacy of the so-called Judeo-Christian Greco-Roman Western European and Anglo-American definition of reality is being called into question. And the people who represent that one-world reality are retrenching in, in a defense of that. And, and that defense is going to be mounted even more. This is the whole meaning of the Republicans capturing the, the political machinery of government and the Christian Coalition seizing the definition of religion in collusion with the media and modern culture. But this is not what the reality of the culture is all about. This is simply the images that are being shaped to make it appear as if that’s really the case.
And I think that, that what is interesting about it is that the outcome is uncertain, and that’s all that can be said, that before when you had reductionistic science the outcome was always certain: more reductionistic science.
But now we have the neuroscience revolution dealing with the biology of consciousness raising philosophical issues long banned from the discussion of what science is to be about.
And what that means is that for the first time in the history of the scientific enterprise, the outcome is now uncertain. It is now no longer certain the way that it was.
And however minimal that difference may, I think that’s cause for extraordinary hope.
But the question then becomes what, what are we going to do about it. It would be like saying, “Okay, there’s a humanistic revolution going on in consciousness right now in the last place we’d ever expect – the neurosciences.”
The people driving it are the bench scientists who are functionally incapable of interpreting its consequences. So you have people like Dan Dennett and people like that who have the microphone, and they’ve got their nose pushed up against the glass and they can’t take up the iconography of the transcendent. They just can’t do it. Because the whole opposite way of viewing the world got them where they were and they can see that that’s where it’s going, but they can’t utter that word. They cannot utter that word. Meanwhile, you have a humanistic revolution going on, but where are the humanistic people? They haven’t a clue that a revolution is happening. They have, they’re not a part of the dialogue. They don’t know how to, they don’t know the methods, they don’t understand the subtlety of the implications of it, and they’re basically still thinking 1960s.
And so there’s really mobilization and education that needs to take place. You know, if there is anything to visual imagery, let’s get it busy healing people, you know, on a more mass scale than it is. And if there is something about visual imagery and, you know, speed learning, well, let’s get it into the schools. Let’s stop wasting time. If there is. And if there isn’t, then let’s go to whatever it is that’s doing that.
But, so it’s just the outcome is uncertain, but there’s cause for hope. I think that’s about all I can say.
(Slight pause. New questioner:)
CAROLINE: So I’m back to your spoon analogy. I think it’s a lovely analogy. So you have this spoon on the dashboard and you see the, you may see that the spoon bends, but you haven’t got any attachment to the spoon so you’re able to say, “Oh.” Now, an experiencier has an attachment to the spoon. “Oh, my God, how am I gonna live my life?” But if everybody who’s not directly experiencing the experience is just sitting there watching the spoon saying, “Oh, isn’t that interesting,” and not engaging it, the experiencier has no opportunity to make sense of what’s happening because making sense of what’s happening is a social interaction. It requires conversation and shared symbol. So there’s kind of a bit of a paradox in what you’re saying in that the person who’s sort of more, most directly involved in it ends up, you know…what do, what do you suggest for folkslike that?
TAYLOR: Well, when, when Richard Evans was interviewing Carl Jung, he looked over and he said, “Why, Dr. Jung, do you believe in God?” And Jung said — he looked at him very intently and he said, “I don’t believe I know.”
And it took Evans a minute to ask another question after that, but the point was that it was the state of consciousness that was created right there at the minute that commanded the attention of the person and that communicated the information. It wasn’t so much the word or the symbol that was communicated. And that if you, if you stick strictly to words and there is no fullness and power of experience behind it, then it’s just a question of whether or not you believe what I say.
However, if there is that transformative quality of consciousness that, you know, in a group of people, if someone’s going through that, you’ll know who that person is. I mean, they’ll be radiating over there or something will be happening and it will draw people’s attention to that. And, this is what we teach in aikido. It has to do with reading consciousness and the change that goes on in consciousness around people in order to kind of see what their intention is, and you really deal with that the imaginal is only the first doorway to get to the intuitive. And, then you’re just really trusting that the training of your instincts at this point.
So, again, I, the situation you’re posing is to me quite valid, but the way in which communication takes place between people I think profoundly transcends just words and ideas, and it really has to do with the power of the experience of consciousness that a person kind of radiates around him.
The idea of chi power I think exemplifies what you’re talking about. And chi power is believed — if you listen to Bill Moyers and the heart of, that Healing and the Mind series — to be something mysterious that kind of develops inside the person in some kind of occult, mystical way and then all of a sudden kind of pops out when he holds someone at a distance or something like that. But anyone who trains — and we teach development of chi to aikido to Harvard students… quite a task, I tell you; people who believe that everything is, you know, based upon the doctrine of supremacy of the intellect.
But they’re very good about it. They spent all that money to learn words and ideas and they come to aikido to, you know, kind of untrain it.
The idea is that there’s just, there is a way to train communicating in that larger reality and it’s very clearly beyond words. It’s even beyond images. And intuition is just the most plastic word that we have to describe it, but it, it really unites people in really quite profound ways. And in my estimation, the way people seek to be united.