The following section is written by the Founder of this School, Jim Sher:
Originally this section was going to be a part of the ‘Founders Message’ as it reflects the significant authors and thinkers that have influenced me the most. But because both the philosophy and techniques of this School are quite eclectic, I feel it is necessary to openly describe those people who have influenced me the most and in what way they did so. Of course, there have been so many people who have inspired me and caused me to think about the fundamental issues of life, but as I look at the whole of it, there are those few who stand out as the ones that have not only stayed with me but who also have been guides showing me new ways of thinking and of approaching the subject that I have been focused on for all of my life. That subject is this. Who are we and why are we here? I think it is important for potential participants in this School to know about these influences in order to understand how I have arrived where I am and what has caused me to want to create this School. Naturally, personal experiences have been the chief force of inspiration, but it is these thinkers who have helped me greatly on the way to seeking and in many cases, finding. I hope this will be of some help.
Sri Aurobindo & The Mother
I was 27 years old when I first came upon the writings of this great Indian sage. I barely understood a word of what he wrote. I would pick up his book (I don’t remember which one) and then have to put it down as I didn’t understand it. After a while, I would come back to it, since I knew somehow that his writings were very important to me, and try once again. Still, to no avail. It has taken me years to begin to be able to understand much, but not all, of his work.
What impressed me then, however, was that he turned everything upside down for me. I had been meditating and reading a lot and believed that the purpose of all spiritual work was to become free from the wheel of karma so that one would not have to return to another life again. I thought that real spiritual work was for the purpose of total liberation from this very painful place called earth. While I did not then and do not now believe that it is wrong to seek this, what I feared was that this viewpoint must lead to the idea that the earth plane was basically a ‘bad’ place and that the sooner one left it to its own devices, the better. It was merely a great Hall of Pain.
Some of these views were incomplete, but it was when I read Aurobindo, an amazing Hindu scholar, that I found that I was not off the mark at all. He turned it all around and focused not on achieving liberation but on bringing the Divine into matter and into our own bodies. He spoke of a new human being that was possible, that the human race was sort of in-between animal and something much more and that our job was to assist in man’s evolution. I resonated with this strongly. His opus called “The Life Divine” is in stark contrast to all that I had read at that age and has turned out to continue to reflect very new thinking on the purpose of life on this planet. He proposed that we are here to evolve, both spiritually AND physically. His goal, therefore, was not to transcend and renounce, but to transform matter itself and, therefore, ourselves. He also was the first to coin the term Integral Yoga whose purpose it is to attain a conscious identity with the Divine or true Self and thereby bring that divine consciousness into the sphere of the Earth.
His close associate Mirra Alfassa who came to be known simply as The Mother, took his teaching another step by having her transformational experiences written down in a book called “Mother’s Agenda.” She wrote about her experience that she called the transformation of her body, including her cells as the Divine spirit came down and began its work in her. She believed that this would lead, in time, to an evolved human being with a new consciousness and a new nature that could spontaneously perceive the truth of things. Their work continues to this day and it is its spirit that inspires me and the formation of this School.
Rudhyar was not just an astrologer, but a true renaissance man. He was a writer and composer of new types of music and theory and a truly revolutionary astrologer. One of the most famous astrologers of the last 40 years, Robert Hand, considered him to be one of the top 5 astrologers of the last century. He successfully put astrology on a very new footing as he moved far away from event-oriented predictive astrology to what he called humanistic astrology which emphasized that one’s chart is an indicator of potentiality rather than only of a predetermined fate. He regarded human life as composed of cycles within cycles, each of which could be met consciously or not. If met consciously and with bravery and an openness to that which is truly new, one could begin to travel an evolutionary path. And he used astrology as a tool for this kind of transformation.
This was and still is a radical departure from the way astrology has been practiced in the past and in many ways to this day. To him, astrology and psychology were best thought of as one field or discipline. In fact, in 1930 he was the first person to coin the term ‘Transpersonal Psychology,’ which few people know. That term didn’t become popularized until the mid 70’s when this new field of psychology began to develop.
As a therapist who has used astrology during most of my practice and a teacher of astrology I have seen the profound effects on students and clients when his approach is applied. For me, Dane Rudhyar validated the direction I was going since the late 1970’s and then offered such great insights that I never tire of reading the many books he wrote in his lifetime. He was a true ‘Seed Man’ seeking to find ways to help the human race find ways to evolve and change its very nature.
More than any other consciousness teacher, Krishnamurti emphasized the use of inquiry as a means to move into the higher states. Also, he felt that the word ‘Intelligence’ needed to be redefined. One of his definitions is brilliant because of its very practical nature. He said that “to observe without evaluating is the highest form of Intelligence.” In this School, this principle is a guiding light of wisdom with many practical applications.
And yet, Krishnamurti was a true enigma to me. It was clear to me that he had and was having amazing experiences of beauty, love, and what he called the eternal. In 1922 he entered a state of mystical union and described the experience as one of ‘immense peace.’ He said that “I was supremely happy, for I had seen. Nothing could ever be the same. I have drunk at the clear and pure waters and my thirst was appeased… I have seen the Light. I have touched compassion which heals all sorrow and suffering; it is not for myself, but for the world… Love in all its glory has intoxicated my heart; my heart can never be closed. I have drunk at the fountain of Joy and eternal Beauty. I am God-intoxicated.”
And yet, he rarely spoke of these things and many may not even have known about his experiences. What they did see was that as a teacher and speaker, he was a master at using the dialogue approach for the purpose of inquiry. This is what he taught most of all. I have learned a great deal from him in this way, but perhaps the reason he was so inspiring to me was that I have always sensed that behind his words was the mystical experiences that he never spoke about publicly. I felt he could not have spoken the way he did without this as his Center. He was trying to use logic to go beyond logic and in every lecture I have seen on tape, he did take someone into this new state, if only for a moment. I think it was all he knew how to do. It seems that he felt a Presence with him but ironically, chose not to go into it and also did not speak of it. This has only come out publicly after his death. He can be hard to read sometimes, but I would suggest that one simply use his words to evoke. Feel his words and imagine that they arose in him as the result of his love for humanity, a love that some call God’s love, though he might never have said this himself.
One of the first metaphysical authors I read was G. I. Gurdjieff. His approach was a very radical one to me. He regarded humanity as asleep with the potential for a few to awaken. He felt that the effort it took to awaken was so great that only a few people would be able to do the kind of Work necessary for the kind of total transformation needed to take place. He was quite black and white about this, which I have come to disagree with. Like Krishnamurti, he rarely spoke about what the awakened state looks like, but there was one concept he emphasized that resonated with me. He felt that the purpose of awakening was not just to help the physical planet we live on but also to join what he called ‘Conscious Humanity.’ To him, evolution was not for oneself alone, but that there were Beings operating outside of our reality whose purpose was to help the human race and the planet itself to evolve. This is what I have felt as long as I’ve been old enough to think and it was Gurdjieff who was the first person I read who also believed it.
There was also one more thing he felt was important although I do not see how he implemented it very well. He taught that it was best to work in groups, rather than alone. He listed many reasons for this, but one was that since inertia is a part of the human condition, a group of people dedicated to “working on themselves” stood a better chance of dealing with the innate laziness of the ‘asleep’ condition that is inherent in us. I also have found that working in a group setting has many benefits and use this principle to help people work harder. The main reason I have found this to be helpful is that people will make more efforts to help another person than they will to push through hard areas of their psyche for themselves alone. This is one of the reasons why the dyad technique is so helpful. For information about this technique click here.
This complicated philosopher was one of those writers who gave me one very significant thing which resulted in his becoming one of the most influential writers in my life. In his book “Introduction to Metaphysics” he examined the root of the Greek word ‘logos’ and took its meaning way beyond how it had been defined. He saw that its root meaning was that of the ‘gathering principle.’ I had experienced this personally and had not found one writer or philosopher who spoke of it in the way that I had, until Heidegger. It was his interpretation and understanding which validated my own experience that caused me to consider his work so seriously. In addition to that he also valued the subject of inquiry as a way of transforming one’s way of Being-in-the-world. Though his history is more than a little controversial, this one idea changed my life as I began to become able to acknowledge this central gathering principle in its many facets in one’s personal life as well as in life in general.
As a student of the Kabbalah, I found the Golden Dawn system to be immensely helpful in opening its magical world to me. Without Regardie, all of the amazing material would have remained secret. He chose to break his vows of secrecy in order to ensure that this system would not disappear as he saw that it was being misused. When he did that, in many ways he became one of the founders of the new age movement. Perhaps what he did most however is to develop a philosophical and psychological grounding that explained how invocation and ritual could be used to assist a person to go through a powerful transformational process. He brought the works of Carl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, and other transformational psychologists into the Golden Dawn system which took it into a new level that could be useful for students in the modern times in which we live.
Berner is the founder of the Enlightenment Intensive, a powerful process that can enable a student to have a direct experience of what he simply called ‘one’s own true nature.’ This is the best definition of enlightenment I have found. He also did a great deal to dissolve the belief that many people have that this state of consciousness is just about impossible for a person living in the everyday world of regular life. Not only is it possible, but the technique he developed from the myriad of training he had in his life has made it far easier than it may have ever been. Of course, he also emphasized that the enlightenment experience simply marked the first stage of a deep transformation that is possible for us. It is not an end, but an actual beginning.
He also made a wonderful contribution to the development of the importance of communication with another person in attaining higher states of consciousness. He understood it from both a theoretical and practical standpoint which has created a new field for us to investigate.
Future articles will develop the ideas that have been presented here that are a major part of all of the programs and classes of this School.