by Clifford P. Wolfsehr
There is, among star-watchers, shared excitement when a new planet is discovered. The word in Greek meant “a wanderer” or solitary sojourner related to a positionally determined location within a system of configurational identities. Gerald Heard is one of these brilliantly resplendent celestial entities, the discovery of which incites extraordinary excitement. For those whose vision is sufficiently keen this illuminating source awakens vibratory recognition providing a vast sweep of the evolutionary cosmos, and stimulates motivation to envision more comprehensive explorations of space: both outer and inner as co dependently interrelated.
Gerald Heard is a master of objective knowledge, comprehending a broad range of subject matter, and integrating the humanities and the sciences with the subjective reaches of his keenly alert and intuitive personal experience. In his mercury-like intelligence and comprehensive understanding we find a startlingly original and lucid thinker with a twinkling resonance that delights us with his uniquely engaging manner. He handles complex ideas so adroitly, yet wears his erudition as effortlessly as a skillful juggler. He is a master teacher-revealer of celestial navigation with recent voyagers of inner space such as Carl Jung, Sri Aurobindo, Joseph Campbell, and Joel Goldsmith; as well as pioneering inventors like Nikola Tesla and Royal Rife; or philosopher scientists like Teilhard de Chardin, David Bohm, Ken Wilber, and Erwin Laszlow. As a rather widely read, nearly 90 year-old seeker and owner of thousands of books of Wisdom literature (both East and West, both ancient and modern), among such myriad luminaries of preeminent stature I place this man’s name with the best. However, a most notable aspect of this is that regarding a variety of specialists in so many specialized subjects Heard is found everywhere throughout the alphabet: A is for anthropology, B for biology, C is for Christianity, D is for discipline, E is for Exercitia. One continues and finds strong resonances at M for mysticism, P for philosophy and psychology, R for world religions, S for everything concerning the spiritual life, T for theology, W for wisdom and world renewal.
Especially fortunate were those who discovered Heard during his lifetime, 1889-1971. However, thanks to the efforts and largesse of John Roger Barrie, Literary Executor of Gerald Heard, and Wipf and Stock Publishers of Eugene, Oregon, reprints and skillful promotional presentations via the Gerald Heard Official Website offer new and continuing public access to the contributions of this man, so far ahead of his time that the larger public has not yet gained familiarity.
Why Heard: this synthesizer of secular learning (science) and spiritually realized personal experience (religion)? Well, simply put, he somehow possessed that rare trait all too casually referenced as a broadly inquiring mind, with openness to reconfiguring established interpretations with freshly original insights. Insight, vision, inquiry, illuminating flashes of direct perception of connections: these he demonstrated repeatedly in written and spoken words of both wit and wisdom. “Why Heard,” I once asked Alan Watts, who replied quickly and with emphasis: “Gerald Heard was, of course, the father of the likes of us who came to America to begin new careers: Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, W. H. Auden, myself, and others.”
Heard offered a seer’s vision, concretely established by his own financial resources: Trabuco, a unique institution for high-minded aspirants to work all-out independently and in concert, a community reminiscent of utopian fellowships from the Essenes throughout the centuries for those whose values and visions had moved them away from bland acceptance of business-as-usual, or passive acceptance that there is no other way than conformity to the ways of “this” world. Heard’s entire journey was a continuing expansion beyond all manmade boundaries of finite form, space, time, and matter. He accomplished this not by a solitary “flight from the alone to the Alone”; rather, his was the inclusive comprehensiveness without condemnation or exclusion of every particular step on each rung of the broad ladder of ascent to more inclusive viewpoints.
Heard reminds me of Pope’s “Essay on Man” reference to “that middle state, a being darkly wise and rudely great” in that he understood thoroughly how little human evolution has advanced thus far, and how much further it is “intended” to progress. Thus, he called himself neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a “meliorist” because, though the goal for the species as a whole is long and beset with difficulties, one can assist nevertheless in the betterment of mankind and the evolution of the species. Thus, he was able to occupy simultaneously both the emptiness of space as well as the objects that give shape to the formless, the way solid bodies define the emptiness surrounding them as both form and void, spirit and matter, source and appearance as the encompassing singular reality. Could he well be called a scientific mystic in this sense? But why pin any label on this far-ranging astronaut of the psyche?
The legacy of great innovators in human history has been preserved in their publications, as well as those of their critics and interpreters, but the printouts do scant justice to the unique atmosphere they create when we are able to move into their physical presence. He was so completely animated! In The Gospel According to Gamaliel Heard attributes this quality to “Joshua”: “But my words, as I repeat his sayings, are as dead as dead grass or a dead bird. It was his saying them that gave them life, his incomparable aptness, as though the idea, the word, the incident he pointed to, were all come together in a chord. He wasn’t teaching morality, and choosing words, and hunting for illustrations, as we scribes so often do. The man, his voice... were all one” (p.16). It is important to realize this singular identity in his message and the whole man himself called Gerald Heard, for he demonstrated the quality of his awareness in the manner and gestures of his physical appearance as well as the intangible substance of the wisdom his words expressed in ideas and images. Thus, to see and hear him talk or answer questions is a richer access by far than merely reading his books as though we were merely reading another book, however profound the inner meanings. The manner in which he engages us in the flesh, the way he did not merely look at nature but so envisioned it that he brings our attention to its overlooked sacredness, the same way that poets like Wordsworth do for us. Indeed, both these nature-mystics spoke of granting nature that special kind of attention they called “alert passivity” — a rare openness of perception that is the very difference between “looking at” and seeing relationship as actual identity.
His “little” book called Training for the Life of the Spirit has been my constant friend and guidebook for many decades, along with many other select teachers or way-showers both East and West, both then and now. Although I was never privileged to see him in the flesh, I saw him interviewed by a young Huston Smith in the educational television film series called “The Ways of Mankind.” This provided means to inspire the comment above pertaining to the magic of his physical presence as related to his essential being.
In 19th century India the incomparable Ramakrishna exemplified how a God-intoxicated person, with an uncontrollable appetite to caress the very face of God in response to the divine ecstasy of incarnate love, may move out to all major religions of mankind in order better to behold the infinite nature of that super-sensible reality caged profanely in casual reference to his/her many names, creeds, rituals, and dogmas. In 20th century America the incomparable Gerald Heard lifted the many curtains separating the public theater of mundane reality from the awesome wonder of that which activates the spectators of human life in the audience. He speaks so convincingly because in him, as in all the great luminaries, or bearers of the Light, we recognize one who knows whereof he speaks. And whether employing the method of Loyola’s spiritual exercises or the venerable path of Advaita Vedanta, Heard offers us unlimited access. As science specialist for the BBC from 1930-1934 it is reported that, “he acquired an amazing grasp of general principles in the various scientific disciplines” (Training for the Life of the Sprit, Introduction, p.22). But note also that for ten years he had been active as a council member of the London Society for Psychical Research! This man saw beyond distinctions, labels, boundaries, categories, systems, and all ways we tend to classify, pigeonhole, and separate the seamless garment of ultimate reality.
So very much can and should be said about Gerald Heard, if it motivates people who have not yet discovered him. His presence is able to touch and heal, to assist all of us who aspire to become cosmic voyagers of both outer and inner space, able to experience supreme realization of our cosmic identity in this very incarnation. For myself, I find that Trabuco College lives as an archetypal Camelot or Castalia of the eternal presence, which beckons any and all who might find a path to this magic Merlin’s special domain. Indeed, we most certainly may and should commune there together: members of that invisible and eternal fellowship celebrating collectively our mutual recognition that the Spirit or Logos, has indeed become our very flesh and dwells within each of us as solar Source and individual souls.
Thank you, dear mentor, GERALD HEARD!
The Barrie Family Trust is most grateful to Clifford P. Wolfsehr for his eloquent contribution. Copyright © 2010 by Clifford P. Wolfsehr. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by kind permission of Clifford P. Wolfsehr.