Pain, Sex and Time

A New Outlook on Evolution and the Future of Man

by Gerald Heard
A Monkfish Book Publishing

"History may be interpreted as the symptoms of a mental evolution," writes Gerald Heard in Pain, Sex and Time. "Man’s civilization is the shadow cast by his evolving consciousness." The evolution of his psyche is the sequel to the evolution of his physique. This mutation in his psyche, in consciousness, is a spiral of ascent, of continuing evolution. He must leap forward or sink, either mutate or hypertrophy.

"In man is a store of evolutionary energy and that energy can give rise to his further, purely psychical evolution. Pain and pleasure, agony and lust, are the two fundamental polar sensations which lie at an equally rudimentary level. Only when this dazing sensationalism is transcended, can consciousness experience sustained intensity of being. This process indicates a possible ending of pain, a possible solving of the problem of sex, and also the possibility of a completely new step in evolution."

By means of "a specific training" this evolutionary change can be brought about. Then humankind’s purpose will be revealed: "The only possible meaning of life is that here, under Time, human consciousness discovers itself. The Universe exists for the emergence and development of free creative consciousness." By this advance in consciousness we, "are able to reinterpret correctly the experience which we call Time and, doing so, we see Reality no longer distorted, but as it is. Then we shall have fulfilled the purpose of our Being, the meaning of evolution,"
concludes Gerald Heard in Pain, Sex and Time.


by Dr. (Hon.) Rhea A. White

Heard's thesis is that in pain and sex we can tap the unused energy that could enable humans to reconnect with their capacity to evolve further, not physically but in the development of our consciousness. He reviews the techniques used throughout history to enable us to become aware of "a reality beside which the life left behind was a stifling shadow." This major shift would allow us to abandon our selfish ego-wishes and give us the means to build a new world in which rampant competition is replaced by willing cooperation and the conscious realization that to save ourselves we must save all others first.

January 2004


Aldous Huxley

Gerald Heard's book represents a significant attempt to reinterpret in contemporary terms and in the light of modern knowledge the teachings, practical no less than theoretical, of the traditional religious philosophies, with their profound optimism about human potentialities, their empirically justified pessimism about man and society as they mostly are and have been. At a moment like the present, when the humanistic philosophy of progress is revealing itself as hopelessly unrealistic, and when ever increasing numbers of reflective people are sinking through bewilderment into despair, the publication of Pain, Sex and Time seems particularly opportune.

Professor Huston Smith

From his Foreword to the 2004 edition of Pain, Sex and Time: 
Overnight, the book in hand converted me from the scientific worldview to the vaster world of the mystics. I applaud the decision to bring this book back into print.

E. M. Forster in The Listener

One could spend all one's time praising the book but that is not what the writer wants. He wants to help the human race. These are the problems to which he brings his selflessness, his erudition, his great intellectual powers.

Dr. (Hon.) Rhea A. White

Although published in 1939, this book was way ahead of its time. It should attract a large readership in this third millennium whose minds it will open to new ways of thinking about pain, sex, time, and a leading-edge spirituality that may just now be coming into its own.

Michael Murphy

Gerald Heard was a prime catalyst in the founding of Esalen. Heard’s evolutionary mysticism, as encapsulated in Pain, Sex and Time, represents the basic worldview that I believe is trying to emerge in the world today. I am very pleased to see this book re-issued, and I heartily recommend it as a classic that has stood the test of time.

Harry Allen Overstreet

Exciting reading to any one who has learned to despair of what we have liked to call our human achievements.

Marvin Barrett in Parabola

It is my hope that the youth of a new age every bit as threatening and chaotic as the one I faced in the 1940s will find in these pages an illuminating vision of where the human race came from and where it might still aspire to go. (Read the entire review.)

Also Available at These Sites

Barnes & Noble
Bodhi Tree
Vedanta Press






Pain, Sex and Time was the favorite book of legendary screen icon James Dean. Source: James Dean: The Mutant King.

Featured Review by Noted Yoga Authority Georg Feuerstein

I first encountered Heard's 1939 book some thirty years ago back in England, Heard's land of birth, and was greatly impressed by its originality. I am delighted that this work is back in print, because it still packs a lot of punch.

Heard's work—and he published a number of insightful books—was one of the ideological sources of the human potential movement and was also instrumental in the spreading of Vedanta in the Western hemisphere.

As with several of his other publications, Heard adopted a broad evolutionary perspective in Pain, Sex and Time that was catholic enough to still hold appeal today. More specifically, he argued that in its march through the ages, humanity acquired an increased vitality that not only makes us more sensitive to pain but also pushes us beyond mere biological evolution to the transformation of our mental capacities.

Enormously learned, Heard—who was the only intellectual that H. G. Wells would listen to on the radio—had at his fingertips a vast array of cultural data and philosophical ideas, which make Pain, Sex and Time informative and entertaining reading even today, though we may not always agree with him.

His plea for conscious self-transcendence and self-transformation remains vitally important, and given the predicament of our present-day world is arguably more urgent than ever.

Used by kind permission of Georg Feuerstein. Copyright © 2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies. Dr. Feuerstein's new book is Green Yoga, coauthored with Brenda Feuerstein.


Marvin Barrett's Review from Parabola Magazine

Gerald Heard is a name virtually unknown today. That was not always so. As Huston Smith indicates in his eloquent foreword to this volume, which has been out of print for sixty years, Heard's was once a voice to be listened to. Smith's first encounter with Pain, Sex and Time, six decades ago, kept him up all night, he recalls and converted him "from a scientific worldview to the vaster world of the mystics."

Other converts included Aldous Huxley, the era's prime literary cynic. Auden and Isherwood also fell under Heard's spell, eventually deserting his syncretic approach to faith in favor of the more specific appeal of Christianity and the Vedanta. Even H. G. Wells, a convinced secularist regularly tuned in to Heard's broadcast as science editor of the BBC. However riveting his message, though, Heard was never an easy read. What he characteristically asked of his readers in the concluding pages of his many books was nothing less than metanoia, conversion to the life of the spirit.

Heard's technique was that of the old-fashioned evangelist. His catalogue of mankind's narrow escapes, from prehistory to the present day, was meant to scare you out of your wits. Doomsday was at hand, and then at the last moment you'd be offered the alternative—salvation through meditation, the practice of the presence, prayer. The juxtaposition of fear and hope was startling and compelling then, and it remains so today.

As for the pain and sex of the book's title, they are not only the physical and mental agony that mankind is heir to and the feckless fun of indiscriminate lovemaking. Heard saw them as repositories of energy, that energy that mankind requires for its continued evolution. "Unless we can find an end really adequate to our means," Heard warns," a true meaning and purpose of life as an entirety, the only choice before us now is either individual neurosis or mass neurosis." Heard's view of the human situation when he wrote this book was justifiably grim. Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were at the peak of their power. World War II was imminent and according to Heard's own estimate,

Man is cut off from any union with, or insight into reality. Hence he creates the analytic, mechanistic science which today gives him infinite means and no ends, unlimited powers and no sanctions. At length he can only perceive with general despair what at the beginning he wished to believe from private greed — a world which is completely amoral and yields its unlimited resources to those least trammeled by tabus.

But if Heard skirted despair, he never embraced it. A chapter heading, "The Historic Evidence for the Evolution of Consciousness," gives some indication of the books hopeful, wide-ranging thrust.

Like Huston Smith, I too first encountered Pain, Sex and Time many decades ago. In my case, as a young naval officer waiting to be shipped overseas in World War II. That encounter was also a lifechanging moment for me. Now, though well into old age, I still feel the excitement of Heard's message. It is my hope that the youth of a new age every bit as threatening and chaotic as the one I faced in the 1940s will find in these pages an illuminating vision of where the human race came from and where it might still aspire to go.

The mind is effected and agitated...first there are bewilderments, labourings, wanderings, darkness, then horror and trembling. This passes and a divine light displays itself.

True when spoken by an anonymous Greek youth millennia ago. True when Heard quoted it in this challenging book. True now.

Marvin Barrett (1920-2006) led an esteemed career as author of 14 books and editor of several noted magazines. For 16 years he served as senior lecturer at the Columbia University School of Journalism, and he was founding director of its prestigious Alfred I. DuPont Survey and Awards in Broadcast Journalism. After his retirement he was for many years a senior editor at Parabola magazine.

This originally appeared in the Spring 2005 edition of Parabola. Copyright © 2005 by Parabola Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of Parabola .

Introduction to Pain, Sex and Time

As well hope to continue evolution in our competitive society where the aims are to satisfy the ego and (instead of eliminating it) to stabilize it by addictions, possessions and pretensions, as to rear, from seed, orchids in the arctic.

Our present situation parallels [19th century English essayist] Sydney Smith's, but on a lower level. He saw the beginning of a degenerative process of which we are witnessing the end. The international anarchy, which in his day increased from the stage of occasional professional duels to the raising of whole nations en masse against one another, and involving the educated, the savant and the philosopher as much as the common people, has now reached a final phase.

To tell men there is hope when they have abandoned it, is as painful to them as to take it away when they are still clinging to it. It is as agonizing (indeed often more so) to regain as to lose circulation by frostbite, to regain breathing and consciousness from drowning as to lose it. Our age is one of growing discouragement. It must be so. We have seen why. As Proust remarked more than twenty years ago, "We say spontaneously, 'Too good to be true,' never 'Too bad.'" A hopeful hypothesis must then be supported with evidence which would not have to be maintained by one which chimed with the tolling of the current curfews.

The hypothesis of this essay will, therefore, require the following somewhat detailed substantiations, if it is to receive any attention. Those who find such confirmatory particulars tiresome must blame the discouraged spirit of our time. It takes considerable time and much patience (when time is short and patience scarce) to convince a horse in a burning stable (a simile to which we must revert at the end, for it is sadly apt to our condition) to leave its smoking stall and come out into safety.

The first chapter gives the evolutionary evidence which indicates that in the entire advance, from the most primitive forms of life up to the completion of man’s physique, the one clear coordinating achievement is heightened awareness. The task of life is the retention of general awareness and the avoidance of any partial apprehension or absorption which would blunt or restrict that expanding sensitiveness. In following this master clue through the jungle of geology, Dr. Robert Broom's The Coming of Man proves an invaluable guide. It is a book which no modern historian or natural historian can disregard. For the final period, of man’s specific rise, Professor Le Gros Clark's work, Early Forerunners of Man, is important, giving as it does the physical evidence that in man, as in all the previous forms which give rise to his stock, the same principle, of unspecialized awareness, was decisive.

The second and third chapters assemble the evidence for believing that in man and in him alone is now left a store of evolutionary energy and that that energy can give rise to his further, purely psychical evolution, but that, balked as it now is, its only adequate outlet is that which is threatening and will destroy civilization and humanity.

The fourth chapter attempts to indicate how man’s evolution is not only continuing but that there is no break in this stream of evolution, which raised his stock from the level of the lowest creature to where it is without animal equal. We are not compelled to believe that evolution must flash over from the bodily to the mental, from physique to consciousness, without any intermediate stage or step.

There is remarkable evidence that man does go through a middle and bridging stage of evolution, half-way between purely physical and purely psychical evolution, between development through change of physique to development through change in consciousness. This stage is illustrated by the evidence for the growth of man's senses, especially the emerging dominance of sight over all the rest, in particular over smell, and next, sight’s acquisition and expansion of a wide-ranged colour awareness.

The fifth, sixth and seventh chapters will trace in an historical outline with an attempt at chronological correlation, the emergence of the specifically intentional evolution of consciousness. These chapters will attempt to show that it is only in so far as man can intuitively or intentionally balance the growth of his mind, and understand himself as well as he understands his environment, that he can continue evolving and not relapse into strangulated self-consciousness which gives him means without ends and powers without sanctions. The meaning of history is here seen as the attempt on the part of historical man to co-operate with this rightful evolution, to gain increasing intensity of understanding without losing or contracting his general awareness; to retain into full consciousness his profound apprehension of the meaning of the whole, of every part’s unity in that whole and of his vital co-operation with them and with It.

The concluding chapters will therefore deal with the last epoch—in the last phase of which we are living—when the increasing intensity of awareness no longer permitted man to retain his sense of the whole (and of the laws and sanctions such a whole imposes on its parts). We shall see that he did not at once act on this warning. He did not instantly set about bringing his psychology, his knowledge of this psyche, up to the same level of intense knowledge which his physics had reached. Finding his intuitive psychology (at this stage rendered in the degenerative forms of anthropomorphic religion) hopelessly out of date and in conflict with his physics, he simply let his religion go and with it, inevitably, after a while collapsed his ethics, of which religion had been the inadequate but only sanction. Now, however, with his sanctionless ethics in ruins, and no longer capable of straining in any wise his physics, he is compelled to think of sanctions. He becomes aware that he must understand his own nature, his psyche. He realizes that vague and ever vaguer intuitions in psychology and ethics will not be able to balance, control and direct clear and ever clearer knowledge in physics. He must make a science of himself, and have a power over himself, as reliable and as effective as the science of his environment.

He must discover why he experiences this paralysing and destructive conflict. He must go back to where it became acute and there learn how, when it was mild, by what methods it was kept under control. From those old methods he may learn how to devise new ways enabling him to master his present conflict. In short, he must relink himself, by self-knowledge, once more to his evolution, find where this interior force became sundered from his consciousness, repressed, balked and therefore deadly, and by giving it intentional outlet, by understanding its purpose in and for him and co-operating with it, save himself and let evolution resume.

Yet this is much to ask of himself. For it will appear that it is his individuality which causes the trouble. It is the cause and symptom of his sundered and thwarted psyche. Nor is that all. To assuage its misery it has created an environment—the present competitive, internecine, mechanized, militarized world—which prevents its cure, its reduction.

If, then, in us and through us evolution is to be resumed and to continue on to new levels (new levels of consciousness) it will need something more than any private, subjective resolution. The continuation of evolution consciously to higher consciousness needs complete devotion, complete knowledge and a complete way of life, so as to give the psyche those conditions under which all its efforts at growth will not be thwarted by its circumstances. As well hope to continue evolution in our competitive society where the aims are to satisfy the ego and (instead of eliminating it) to stabilize it by addictions, possessions and pretensions, as to rear, from seed, orchids in the arctic.

The concluding chapters therefore give indications of the psychiatry, the economy and the policy which are the minimum if man is to attain that trained condition in which alone his further evolution is possible.

Copyright © 1939 Gerald Heard. Copyright renewed 1967 by Gerald Heard. Copyright transferred to The Barrie Family Trust. All Rights Reserved.