Founder - Jim Sher

I received my Master’s in Social Work from the University of Texas in 1972 and then worked in the social service fields of mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, domestic violence and child abuse. During that time I began my post-graduate training in Jungian theory and practice and in 1978 began working in private practice as a therapist, specializing in the counseling of individuals and couples.

From the beginning I found that working in groups had many advantages as the group process could assist people in profound ways. Later, I began to see that it could also help people enormously as they worked towards transformational and spiritual growth. While I was a professional therapist, I entered my Saturn return and my life changed radically. It was hard not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I began to study astrology, but this only served as the doorway to the limitless world of metaphysical and transformational Work. I never desired to approach astrology as a tool for describing what a person is like or predicting what might happen to them. I simply went back and forth between studying astrology and working with clients and began to discover how astrology could assist people to grow and become more self-aware. This is what began to bridge the gap between traditional therapy and transpersonal and depth psychology.

I was like a sponge as I absorbed all the works of Carl Jung, who saw the psyche as a play of archetypes, which doesn’t just form us and make us who we are, but points us in the direction of what we can do to evolve and become whole or complete. He called this evolutionary process ‘individuation.’ My metaphysical research grew from there to include the works of G.I. Gurdjieff, and Carlos Castaneda, but my love of philosophy also took me to the study of many of the world’s religions, with special emphasis on their esoteric traditions, including Gnosticism, Sufism, Kabbalah, and Buddhism. I was greatly influenced by the works of Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, and several writers on the Kabbalah and especially loved the Golden Dawn system, with its beautiful and potent rituals and an elegant philosophical system that combined the Tree of Life, Tarot, numerology, astrology, and the Hebrew alphabet, into one system. I was especially entranced by ‘Sacred geometry,’ because it delved into the mysteries of why the numbers mean what they do. I felt the need to develop the mind, heart and body so they can integrate and function together harmoniously.

From the beginning, my motivation has been to make transformation possible and understandable for myself and others. I wanted to find a practical, experience-oriented approach to the Mysteries. Of course, it is important to talk about the many ideas, theories, and imaginings that have been written, but it remains limited unless it can lead a person to direct experience. Although astrology can help us learn about the ‘Soul’ and karmic needs of a person, what is even more helpful is for a person to cognite on these things for themselves. So, I wanted to discover how we can go deeper. How can we experience ‘Soul’ with a knowingness that is so clear that a person can and will act on what they’ve discovered?  How can the reality of evolution become so substantial that a person will then want to devote themselves to that Work.

This School of Wisdom is the result of all that I’ve picked up on the way, with a special emphasis on direct experience. To me one’s birth chart is a map of our possible evolution. But in order for us to evolve to a higher level of functioning, that path can only be traveled consciously. Helena Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, expressed this by suggesting that evolution, to be true evolution, must be conscious. If it’s automatic, we can call it change, but it’s not evolution. Ultimately the human being’s true and greatest destiny is to evolve, and for that to occur, one must find out ‘Who’ they are and to then operate in life from that place. This is means that our Path is a personal one and the most central part of our Journey is to discover “What” that is. My life has been and is to travel this path and to do my best to assist others to learn to do the same. My aim is to empower people so they are able to find the clarity to discover their own unique path and the strength to travel it.

 Founder Experiences

Those who become involved in such questions are almost always ‘driven’ by a yearning that lies deep within them. I am no different. Before diving into the question of what enlightenment is or might be, it would be helpful to describe my own experiences that have informed and motivated me to create this School and the Contemplation Intensives. It only seems right to briefly describe how I approached the subject of ‘enlightenment’ and the nature of the ‘drive’ which at times consumed me. How did it start? I truly don’t know. I only knew that I wanted to find something out about life and who I really was. I didn’t know it any more than that. I could not have known that what I was experiencing and looking for was actually very common to those who desire to know the truth of who they are. My first memory was when I was around 8 yrs. old and was lying on my back in my yard, gazing at the clouds. I wondered where I was before I was born and where would I go after I died. These seemed like the most natural and obvious of questions. Naturally, I shared these questions with my parents, who were a bit puzzled by the seriousness of my desire to know the answers. I somehow felt I had the right and even the responsibility to know or discover the answers to such a basic question. At first I asked my friends and even Hebrew teachers about these things, and was either looked at as crazy or told not to concern myself with questions that could not be answered. After all, no one could know such things. That response seemed so odd to me. Shouldn’t we know, aren’t we supposed to know, and if so, then don’t we have to work hard to get the answers? What question could be more important than this one? Why should I assume that no one can ever know about these things?

The question(s) never went away and, as I got older, I felt the need to leave Judaism to find the answers so I began to investigate another religion, thinking that the answers could be found there. That led my parents to urge me to go to a psychiatrist. I figured they might be right, as I had begun to see that most people didn’t concern themselves with what I was. So I went, endured quite a few psychological tests and was finally called into the Doctor’s office. In a somber voice, he asked me to sit down and slowly informed me that I had a clinical problem which he could summarize as being ‘obsessed with death’. I looked at him, relieved, and told him that in my opinion, everyone should be ‘obsessed with death,’ as he put it, since life was short and we had the right to figure out who we really are, since death might not be the end. I got up from the chair and left, convinced the psychiatrist was nuts. If I needed therapy, this clearly was not my guy.

When trying a different religion didn’t work out, I started to give up. I didn’t know where to go, who to ask, and was becoming convinced that everyone must be right, that no one could find the answers and it was stupid to try. I would have to wait until I died, and then it either wouldn’t matter, or the answer would be revealed. Years went by, but the question just continued to gnaw at me, until I was coming up on what in astrology is called the Saturn return. Between age 28-30, all of us go through this time period where we begin to realize we are adults, responsible for our own decisions. The question began to return, but this time bigger than it had been before. It was now a true obsession. At that time I was reading everything I could get my hands on written by Alan Watts, Carlos Castaneda, and Baba Ram Das. Nothing else concerned me and in fact, I was worried that time would go by and I wouldn’t find out. It’s hard to describe the intensity of my need to know. Perhaps that very intensity is part of how answers come to us (in all areas of inquiry, not just metaphysics) because finally there were several breakthroughs.

My Enlightenment Experience

The first experience was at a Kansas City Royals baseball game. I mention the place because I had, possibly like most of us, certain expectations about when and where such experiences were ‘supposed’ to take place. Perhaps it is a great thing that it can happen in the most ordinary of places. In my childhood I had played baseball for many years and found that the game required a high degree of alertness. As a fan I often was able to ‘feel the game’ even though I was only an observer, just as if I was playing in it. On this day, suddenly, everything changed, and I could feel more than just the game. I could feel everyone in the stadium. I knew what was going to happen next, and when it did, I became more than amazed. I began to spiral up and up, like my body was being lifted to heights that were both strange and somehow familiar. Over a period of an hour or so, I began to experience myself as ME. That’s the simplest and most accurate way to describe it. I didn’t know it then, but I was experiencing ‘enlightenment’. I didn’t need to have a term for it in order to have the experience. I also was beginning to learn how this illusive experience could be defined. I was experiencing myself as a ‘something’ or perhaps a ‘nothing’ that isn’t a body, and yet is much more. It was just a glimpse, but a real one and it irrevocably changed my life. It led me to a life of seeking, finding, more seeking, followed by more finding… a path that may never end.

Where Could I Go Now

The next challenges were just as confounding as the ones that held me when I was young. Now I began to wonder what I was supposed to do with this and in particular, how could I remain constantly in a state where I was aware of myself the way I was at that game and on many other occasions. I am still on that path, and part of that path is to assist others to experience themselves as Who and What they are, their true nature. This type of answer is not an intellectual one, but a direct, conscious experience. It is a knowing that leaves the ‘mind’ behind, a glimpse of the Sun that has been hiding behind the thick and sometimes very dark clouds.

This experience is transcendent in that it is beyond not only our body, but our life problems, our thoughts, and our ideas of ourselves. Whatever you ‘think’ you are, you are not. And yet, it has tremendous practical effects, carrying over into every area of our existence. In this respect, it is immanent in that the experience resides within us. We feel a sense of well-being and a confidence that we can meet the challenges of our everyday lives. We also may develop a greater ability to face and creatively deal with the inevitable problems all of us must contend with, for we find ourselves more able to see life situations as they are and then able to know what the best way to deal with them is. It is like having a door to our own consciousness open that we didn’t even know existed.


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