Notes on the Prehistory of the Human Potential Movement

The Vedanta Society and Gerald Heard's Trabuco College

by Timothy Miller, Ph.D.

Trabuco campus has been a center for spiritual life and growth for over 60 years. It is the site of an ongoing monastery. Several books and other pieces of literature were written there. Many persons earnestly seeking meaning were exposed to the wisdom and erudition of Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley at Trabuco.

From its beginning in 1962 the Esalen Institute has been known as, among other things, a meeting ground between East and West — “something of a center-point for the translation of Asian religions into American culture,” as Jeffrey Kripal has put it. Some of the foundations for that reputation are fairly well known to those with at least a cursory familiarity with Esalen’s history and programs. That Esalen co-founders Michael Murphy and Richard Price were influenced — one might say inspired — by Frederic Spiegelberg at Stanford University; that they became involved with the nascent American Academy of Asian Studies, where they came into contact with other Asianists, including Alan Watts....

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Introduction to Heard's "Memoir of Glyn Philpot"

by Professor J. G. P. Delaney, Ph.D.

Philpot’s intuitive love of metaphor made him prefer the rather objective, narrative and personal drama of Christianity, while Heard’s more transcendent and psychological approach eventually found its home in Indian mysticism.

This hitherto unknown and unpublished memoir of the English artist Glyn Philpot (1884-1937) by the philosopher and mystic Gerald Heard (1889-1971) gives a vivid and eloquent description of both the man and the artist. Philpot’s tact, his personal charm and his engaging conversation are depicted as well as his great gifts as an artist, his manual dexterity and his concern with both meaning and with surface quality in painting. However, it was Philpot’s personality, which according to Heard was greater than the artist, that made him one of the most remarkable people that Heard had ever known. His account gives us a sensitive and well-rounded view of Philpot’s character.

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Memoir of Glyn Philpot (c. 1945)

by Gerald Heard

He used to ask, "Why don’t you become a Catholic?" and we would then enter on those discussions which resemble, one always imagines, the kind of exchanges that would take place between a fish and a bird if they agreed to discuss the advantages and necessities of their respective positions in the world of life.

It is now just thirty years since I first met him and it is a decade since I last saw him. Since then one has met a number of people who are considered famous and certainly are remarkable, but I am not sure that any of them have given me quite the sense of uniqueness that Glyn did. I had just come to live in London and of course had heard about him, for he was what one might call the young hope of the old side - there had suddenly appeared a young man of brilliant powers who nevertheless was a traditionalist from the start and not a revolutionary. That made him a figure of controversy at once, and of course his great power as a striking portraitist gave him another public beside the intellectuals. 

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O'Keeffe's Arboreal Portraits of D. H. Lawrence and Gerald Heard

by Brenda Mitchell, Ph.D.

O'Keeffe found Heard's footprints around the tree where he had been dancing, as well as a cryptic inscription he had etched into the earth at the base of the tree.

Two largely ignored paintings from Georgia O'Keeffe's oeuvre, D. H. Lawrence Pine Tree and Gerald's Tree I, bring up several important issues concerning O'Keeffe's disguised portraits and her close relationships with literary figures. In both paintings O'Keeffe has portrayed male writers (men of culture) as trees, an apparent paradox from a woman linked to the world of nature by her contemporaries and even by the artist herself. O'Keeffe once wrote: "I feel like a little plant that he [husband Alfred Stieglitz] has watered and weeded and dug around — and he seems to have been able to grow himself — without anyone watering or weeding or digging around him." She later distanced herself from the world of culture, especially literature, declaring to painters Arthur Dove and Helen Torr, "I am quite illiterate." Yet she lived at the center of American avant-garde art production, and included in her library were major works of philosophy and literature, as well as art theory by, among others, Clive Bell and Wassily Kandinsly (in whose Concerning the Spiritual in Art O'Keeffe would have encountered Theosophy). The apparent paradox begins to disappear when we recognize that her subjects in these paintings, British novelist D. H. Lawrence and Irish writer Gerald Heard themselves experienced ambivalence toward the world of culture, and that O'Keeffe's symbolic portrayals placed her squarely in the mainstream of American Modernism.

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Gerald Heard's Legacy to Psychical Research

by Rhea A. White, Hon. Ph.D.

Heard wrote that parapsychology was at the 'growing edge of human thought... the most advanced outpost in the exploration of human nature and of the universe.

A biographical sketch of Heard is given, followed by a discussion of the following ideas espoused by Heard: (1) Human consciousness is evolving. (2) Both science and religion have important roles to play in forwarding the evolution of consciousness. (3) Science is as much a creation as is art. (4) Every insight into the outer world must be balanced by a corresponding increase in knowledge of the inner world. (5) Science is not static but is also evolving. (6) What we see, the data confronting us, depends upon our powers of conception and imagination. (7) The universe is set up to favor those who attempt to grow and evolve. (8) To evolve we must consciously cooperate with the process. In order to do so we must alter the aperture of consciousness. Contemplative prayer is the best way to accomplish this. The author emphasizes that only by taking these steps can parapsychology advance significantly.

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The Philosophy of Gerald Heard

Highlights of His Writings 1924-1958

by Rev. Edmund A. Opitz

Mr. Heard’s religious philosophy thus grows naturally out of his scientific and historical researches... Man’s unique history, and indeed his very structure, orient him Godward.

During the past 34 years, Gerald Heard has averaged a book a year. There are 34 books to his credit in the fields of history, anthropology, philosophy, religion, and literature; including six novels, an allegory, and two collections of short stories. His mind has ranged through all branches of ancient and modern knowledge, including the sciences. He is at home in the religions and philosophies of both West and East. In his books he has integrated this vast accumulation of knowledge and brought it to bear upon the persistent personal and social problems of man in the modern world.

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The Perennial Pupil

By Marvin Barrett

Perhaps it was because he had fought so hard for his belief in God, against family, the received wisdom of the academy and the laboratory, and his brilliant smart-aleck chums, that he was so singularly convincing.

In one of the five books I refer to each morning to lift my spirits and clarify my own prayers is a cream-colored card with the following death announcement engraved upon it:

Henry Fitzgerald Heard
6 October 1889 London
14 August 1971 Santa Monica

Not only does the card serve as a bookmark, it is a daily reminder of the man who—along with being my reluctant spiritual director for a half-dozen years in my youth — stood as one of the truly remarkable souls and intellects of his time. A man called Gerald Heard who, although far from perfect himself, left a legacy of persuasive books recommending the most strenuous possible life of the spirit. Perhaps from the very strictness of his instruction he has been all but forgotten. 

Not by me.
 

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Gerald Heard Recollections, 1952-1956

By Rhea A. White

After I had heard him speak or received a letter from him, my energy level was higher, my spiritual resolve was more deeply centered, my intellectual capacity was heightened, and my willpower was greatly strengthened.

By far the person that has influenced me most is the former BBC science commentator and practicing mystic, lecturer, and spiritual advisor, Gerald Heard. I write about him in the present tense even though he died in 1971. The day of his death was something I frequently thought of and dreaded even when I no longer was in contact with him. I would search the brief listings of deaths of notable persons in Time, always relieved when his name was not there. I still quote him even though I knew him and read his many books and articles mainly in the mid-1950s. It was not only his ideas that influenced me but his very being, which was distinctly numinous and unlike anything I had previously experienced or have since.

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Trabuco College Tryout

By Swami Yogeshananda

Gerald would sit on a high stool for [breakfast] beaming down upon his little flock of students and coming out with those bursts of insight and arcane memorabilia which made up his style and his identity.

In 1945 I had arranged by correspondence to spend a two-week period of trial and investigation at Trabuco College in the Santa Ana Mountains, some 60 miles south of Los Angeles. With a small group of friends I had read the early books of Gerald Heard with much admiration. We studied together The Recollection, not much more than a booklet, which I still think epitomizes Heard’s religion. The era was just the beginning of the “Let’s look for a guru” period, and Gerald seemed to us a likely candidate. Moreover, relatives of mine had attended classes and lectures at the place and were similarly drawn by Heard’s scintillating erudition, originality, and persuasiveness. They had drawn lively and enticing penpictures of Trabuco, described briefly in my Six Lighted Windows, as "…sitting in awe as quotations from the mystics fell in profusion from Heard's learned lips."

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Totally on Fire

by Michael Murphy (Esalen Co-founder)

His main influence was that catalytic moment when we met, and that pushed me all the way to starting Esalen.

I was living at Haridas Chaudhuri’s Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco in 1960, and Dick Price came to see me. We had been classmates at Stanford but had never met. It was a period that was filled with religious meaning, and at times it was truly ecstatic. I took my vows to live a spiritual life in January 1951 when I was at Stanford, so I had been completely surrendered to this life and on fire with it, meditating and studying, for ten years. I later lived in India at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram from 1956 to 1957. But I hadn’t done anything in the world to bring forth this fire and this passion. I had the idea to do it, and Dick and I were really talking about it and thinking about it.

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Images of Gerald Heard

By William M. Havens, M.A.

I feel as if, through my brief conversations with him, I were catapulted into a lifetime of intellectual and spiritual quests for knowledge, understanding, and enlightenment.

When I recently discovered the Gerald Heard Official Website, I saw images of the man that for 35 years I have only held in my mind and heart. No photo had been available to me since my last conversations with Gerald Heard in the mid-1960s when I got called up into the Navy during the Vietnam War, and our conversations were so abruptly terminated.

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Temporary Monk

by Franklin Zahn

Gerald [wrote] that prayer does not bring good things to people but rather brings people to where good things are.

In Gerald Heard did I meet someone who was giving up the world not in order to gain it but to obtain spiritual advancement.

Circa 1939-1940: the F.O.R. [Fellowship of Reconciliation] speaker was a British writer-pacifist named Gerald Heard, then studying in Hollywood with a Hindu Swami [Swami Prabhavananda, then head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California]. He had a strong, fine-featured face and powerful delivery but eyes with pale, weak pupils which never seemed focused on anything. He was a spectacular speaker, seeming to have a photographic memory for everything he had read in religion, psychology, history, literature, anthropology, astronomy, etc… I would become closely associated with Gerald.

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A Broadened Vision

by Dave Brubeck

I can truly say that he broadened my vision of religion and spirituality.

Gerald Heard had a brilliant mind and it was my good fortune to hear him pontificate on many different subjects in the Fifties, when I was often playing in the Los Angeles area. A decade or so later, when I began to write my first oratorio on the teachings of Christ, "The Light in the Wilderness," I recalled many of our conversations in Santa Monica and reread the two slim volumes he wrote on The Creed of Christ and The Code of Christ. I can truly say that he broadened my vision of religion and spirituality.

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Gerald Heard at the Vedanta Society

By Br. Nitya Chaitanya

You feel you are receiving an invitation to come join in this wonderful enterprise of seeking, as if he were exclaiming, "Here’s an opening, a door. Come along."

When I arrived at the Vedanta Society in early 1953, Gerald Heard spoke every other Sunday at the Hollywood Temple and every other Sunday at the Santa Barbara Temple, alternating with Swami Prabhavananda, the Founder-Minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California.

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A Second Conversion

by Huston Smith

Overnight, Heard’s book converted me from the scientific worldview... to the vaster world of the mystics

I was recently asked to write a foreword for the upcoming re-publication of Gerald Heard’s book, Pain, Sex and Time. I suspect that the book would not be brought back into print if I had not referred to it so frequently as having occasioned one of the two conversions I have undergone in my life. The first of these was my conversion from the world of practical affairs to the life of the mind. The second was when, overnight, Heard’s book converted me from the scientific worldview (which takes the visible world to be the only world there is) to the vaster world of the mystics. I am in good company in owing that conversion to Gerald Heard, for Heard also converted Aldous Huxley from the cynical nihilism of his Brave New World to the mysticism of The Perennial Philosophy.

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Dancing in the Sky

by James C. Ingebretsen

Gerald never answered questions directly and never closed a subject. Rather, nurturing a spirit of curiosity and wonder, he would usually respond to an inquiry with a quotation from a seemingly unrelated source.

The Gerald to whom Ed Opitz had referred was Gerald Heard. Born in London in 1889, he had been educated at Cambridge and then worked in a variety of fields, including a stint on BBC radio as a science commentator and at Oxford as a lecturer. In 1937 he and his friend, Aldous Huxley, chose to emigrate to the United States, and both eventually settled in the Los Angeles area. Here, Gerald busied himself with far-ranging explorations into science, religion, and mysticism, finding much to appreciate in the wide array of cultures and ideas that had taken root in southern California. When I first met him, he was making his living as a speaker and had authored nearly thirty books. Ed Opitz had been responsible for introducing me to Gerald at a luncheon in New York shortly after I became president of Spiritual Mobilization (SM) in the spring of 1954. I knew immediately that I was in the presence of an expansive, deeply penetrating mind, one grounded with a shrewd eye toward everyday relevance, and a playful, wickedly wry sense of humor – a combination that made him an unfailingly charming, sparkling conversationalist. Intrigued with Gerald’s ideas, I attended several of his public lectures in Los Angeles. These talks stimulated me to approach Gerald about writing one or two essays in SM’s monthly magazine, Faith and Freedom. I was delighted when he agreed.

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Memories of Gerald Heard

by William H. Forthman, Ph.D.

A less visible trait of Gerald's was his kindness.... As a twelve year old I was impressed that this brilliant man treated me as an intelligent participant in conversation, and for twenty-five years he conversed with me as if I were an equal.

The first impression of Gerald Heard was of a scintillating speaker both in conversation and from the podium. He had the Irish gift of the gab, which was re-enforced with an unusually wide range of interests and information. He combined a great curiosity with a fine memory, so there were few subjects he could not address.

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Gerald is Responsible for Me

by Swami Atmatattwananda

Gerald and Aldous and Chris Isherwood are responsible for many coming to Vedanta. Gerald is responsible for me. He wanted living water. He was charismatic. His inspiration was from the genuine mystics.

In 1951, when I was in my senior year of college, a young man who had been a counselor at an international summer camp for college students the summer before stopped by my room. The group was called the Lisle Fellowship, an organization dedicated to social service and liberal interdenominationalism, founded by a Methodist minister from the University of Michigan. This venue took place in the Colorado Rockies, where each evening at sundown we would sit and meditate overlooking the scenic grandeur. There were Iranian, Armenian, Turkish, and Formosan students in attendance, as well as a Muslim, Mosin Hamdani, from the Indian subcontinent, who had marched with Gandhi to get salt, responding nonviolently to the British invasion.

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Life At Trabuco

by Miriam King

Trabuco achieved its goals as a co-educational spiritual community that strived to incorporate non-sectarian religious principles and practices. Gerald Heard changed my life completely and for good.

In the spring of 1944 I had become aware of a study group deriving from a Professor Sharman, who I believe taught at the University of Chicago, called Studies in the Life of Jesus that emphasized Jesus’ teachings, not sin and redemption as seen in Christian fundamentalism. This group was made up of citizens from Palo Alto, California plus Patty Hornbeck and me, both Stanford students. The group was led by Dr. Harry Rathbun and his wife, Amelia. Harry taught at Stanford, a member of the faculty at the Law School. They were definitely leaders in this group regarding spiritual life as we knew it then. The first time that Patty and I met him he talked to us in his office on campus and spent a lot of the time explaining the work of Gerald Heard, showing us one of his books. This was the first I had heard of Gerald.

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Some Reminiscences of Gerald Heard

by Jay Michael Barrie

Two other great gifts of Gerald Heard's were his conversation and the power to draw people to him.

I first met Gerald Heard in December 1944. Rather, I should say, it was at this time I descended on him. Intellectually lost, in ill health, and tormented by the pointlessness of going on living, I had read a book of his called A Preface to Prayer, which had a profound effect on me — an effect which, though it has waxed and waned in the years since, has never ceased to be the driving force in my life. And so, as those aspiring to become Zen monks are forced to do, I had battered at the doors (by mail) until I was finally invited to spend a weekend at Trabuco College.

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