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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My Irish Rebbe

by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Gerald was the type of person in whom all the great ones of the Axial Age were alive. So if you needed Confucius, here was there. If you needed Lao Tzu, he was there.... He was able to channel the authentic, pure mystical teachings of the ages."

I was introduced to Gerald Heard sometime in the early Sixties by a young man named Charles Vernoff, then a student at the University of Chicago, who is now a professor. I was very pleased, because that meeting led to many wonderful things in my life. When I first met Gerald, I was so surprised about meeting someone who was like a savant, because I had read about savants. Yet there was such a beautiful humility about him. Here was this young rabbi coming to see him, and he was willing to hear about the Kabbalah, about Jewish spirituality, from me in a very open way. Later on I sent him a spiritual poem that I had written, and he would read it from time to time as part of his prayer. He considered himself a tertiary, but he was a monk of all kinds of systems. His main religion was Vedanta, but he also included anything else that would make him feel close to God.

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Gerald Heard: Grandfather of the New Age

by Charles E. Vernoff, Ph.D.

Gerald's vision both preceded and transcended the attempted spiritual revolution of the 1960's.

One of the most remarkable experiences of my life was a several-year acquaintance with Gerald Heard that began in 1959 during my freshman year at the University of Chicago. Due to a unique personal history, I was a precocious “spiritual seeker” before the New Age had officially dawned in the mid-1960's. Born into an ethnically rooted but spiritually assimilated Jewish family, I was abducted — with permission (a long story!) — by North Carolina Southern Baptists during a summer month of my eighth year. The postcards about Jesus I wrote to my parents in Miami Beach no doubt inspired their placing me in a Reform Jewish Sunday school the following year. Another year and we were in California where, in short order, I had met my first yogi (a young Mexican just returned from five years at Shri Aurobindo's famous Pondicherry ashram in India) and was accordingly smitten by Hinduism. So by my early adolescence, I was juggling the truth claims of three great religions. Such is the childhood formation of a destined comparative religionist....

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