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"Our being is in Time and is therefore a diffused and scattering shadow beside the focused fullness of Eternal Being...our pleasure and pain, our joy and despair are also wholly subject to Time. But one flash of the Eternal can wipe out all temporary agony and rapture."

The Recollection, 1944


Below are first-person reminiscences of Gerald Heard by people who knew him, worked with him, studied under him, or were inspired by him.

Title Contributor/Author Date Posted

The Perennial Pupil

Marvin Barrett June 27, 2002

Gerald Heard Recollections

Rhea A. White September 12, 2002

Trabuco College Tryout

Swami Yogeshananda November 9, 2002

Totally on Fire

Michael Murphy July 23, 2003

Images of Gerald Heard

William M. Havens, M.A. July 23, 2003

Temporary Monk

Franklin Zahn July 23, 2003

A Broadened Vision

Dave Brubeck July 23, 2003

Gerald Heard at the Vedanta Society

Br. Nitya Chaitanya June 21, 2004

A Second Conversion

Professor Huston Smith June 21, 2004

Dancing in the Sky

James C. Ingebretsen December 12, 2005

Memories of Gerald Heard

William H. Forthman, Ph.D. December 12, 2005

Gerald is Responsible for Me

Swami Atmatattwananda December 21, 2006

Life At Trabuco

Miriam King May 7, 2007

Some Reminiscences of Gerald Heard

Jay Michael Barrie June 26, 2007

My Irish Rebbe

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi August 14, 2007

Gerald Heard: Grandfather of the New Age

Charles E. Vernoff, Ph.D. September 20, 2008

Gerald Heard, c. 1934

(unknown photographer)


The Perennial Pupil
By Marvin Barrett

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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. Others may have found Heard an eloquent apologist for a way of life too arduous to consider. Although after several demanding years I abandoned his stricter recommendations, I did not succeed in escaping. He has remained my primary teacher and I his permanent pupil, perpetually in his tuition and debt. The conviction remains, although the instructor is long silent and the student far separated from the scene and moment of his conversion.

At twenty-two I was either too worldly or too innocent if innocence is ignorance and worldliness four years in an Ivy League college and a month as a provisional ensign in the U.S. Navy. At any rate, in the spring of 1942 the world was very much with everyone. Perhaps I was just needful, in a tight corner with a paralyzing tragedy in my past, confusion in my present, certain disaster—if the war bulletins were to be taken seriously—ahead. In a word, I was ripe.

As for Heard, he was no more the ideal teacher than I the pupil. A Cambridge Apostle and marginal member of Bloomsbury before the war, a writer, editor, pontificator in intellectual London after. With brilliant, unbelieving friends and colleagues, and a clergyman father hateful enough to put him off religion for life, he had experienced a triple displacement which had brought him not to a mountain top, desert, or ivory tower, but to a luxurious seaside villa on a cliff in Southern California.

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. The layers left by the struggle made a firm foundation for his conviction and my conversion; I had had similar, if lower, hurdles to clear.

We had little time for mutual criticism or sparring. I was on a weekend pass before being dispatched to the wars. He had another book to write, another congregation to address, other inquirers to entertain. However, as it always must be, the time was adequate, the place appropriate, the lesson simple and overwhelming. He was God-intoxicated, and I became tipsy myself.

And so, with a few interruptions and detours along the way, I became the perennial pupil and he my always-present master. He remains so although thirty years dead and me, still struggling, approaching my ninth decade. There is indeed no chance nor accident [Ed. – one of Heard’s favorite maxims], nor forgetting that primordial lesson, nor release from the responsibility of delivering it. Nor, I am convinced, would either of us wish to forget or to be released.

This article first appeared in "Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Tradition" Vol.XXV, No.3 (Fall 2000), and is reprinted by kind permission of "Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Tradition" and of Marvin Barrett.

Marvin Barrett (1920-2006) authored 14 books, both fiction and non-fiction. He held degrees from Harvard and Drake universities. A former editor of Show and Atlas magazines, he had served as the radio and television editor of Newsweek and a contributing editor of Time magazine. For 16 years he was a senior lecturer at the Columbia University School of Journalism, and he was Founding Director of its Alfred I. DuPont Survey and Awards in Broadcast Journalism. There are significant mentions of Gerald Heard in two of Mr. Barrett's books, Spare Days and Second Chance.

Gerald Heard, c. 1930

(unknown photographer)


Gerald Heard Recollections, 1952-1956

By Rhea A. White

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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.

For a period of about two years in the early 1950s, I attended two or three of Heard's weekend retreats at Wainwright House, went to some of his lectures, visited him in Los Angeles, and corresponded with him. I found that 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. This would last for several weeks. Then I would need to contact him again. I got off on what he said, undoubtedly. I also got high on what he wrote. But there was something about his very being that had an even more profound effect. It certainly wasn't rational, and I question whether it was physical, in the usual sense of the word.  I want to write out my current recollections of Gerald Heard, and explain why, for me, it was an exceptional human-being encounter, an experience with a holy person.

In Gerald Heard I experienced what I would call the aura of sanctity. I would say one of Heard’s major teachings was that “cognition is a function of being.” (I have long felt that parapsychology is the science that could demonstrate that in a way that ruled out all counterhypotheses except the aura of sanctity. I am not so sure now. It may be that psi and even more so, the divine, needs concrete people, animals, places, and objects to enter the consciousness of another. It may be a result of the marriage of physical and nonphysical, so the physical cannot be ruled out because it is an integral part of the process.)

In any case, Gerald’s major hypothesis was that evolution still continues, chiefly through the development of human consciousness rather than physical changes, though these also are occurring. He taught (and practiced) that meditation and contemplation were the keys to developing and expanding consciousness within and without, and above all, fostering contact with the holy. This is how one proceeds on the spiritual path, in the stillness and vastness of the divine in our nature and in nature itself, extended to include all universes, communing with God within and without.  Heard was at home with naturalistic terminology, and I think he would feel supported by what William James (1902, p. 498) characterized as the MORE (his emphasis), which connects our “higher germinal part” with the vast Mystery beyond.

To be in Gerald’s presence was to sense the presence of God―the “aura of sanctity”―and at times to feel enveloped in that Presence. My sense was not so much that it was in Gerald as that Gerald was in direct touch with it (or as William James, 1902, p.499 put it, in words I understand now much better than I ever have before because today I am seeing it in the context of Gerald Heard, “conterminous and continuous” with the divine).

When Gerald spoke there was something in the tone of his voice that served as a carrying wave connecting listeners to the divine reality with which he himself was palpably in contact. Each time I heard him speak, whether it was a formal lecture to hundreds or an informal talk to maybe 50 people, he did not use a prepared address or even notes.  I think now it might have been a form of inspired speaking. It reminds me of what I call my “glossolalia dream,” in which a man with the head of a hawklike bird was standing on a stage. At an appointed time, he opened his mouth (beak) and this glorious and beautiful warble or chortle came out. Although the effortless sound came from him I could also feel it issuing from me, the dreamer. It was flawlessly effortlessly beautiful, echoing throughout the room as if a chorus was singing with him.

Gerald’s voice when speaking publicly would take on a timbre different from his ordinary voice, though even in conversation speech flowed from him seemingly effortlessly. His public speaking voice was like a strong smooth woodwind. One could not help attending to it with every iota of one’s being one could muster, or so it was with me. I felt I was listening/attending to him from the tip-top highest, farthest edge of myself, inwardly and outwardly. And as I progressed with my own regular meditation, my listening capacity became even more open and single-pointed. He spoke not only from what was in his mind but from what was in his heart and soul, or the place where he was undoubtedly connected to the MORE. His words opened up the minds and hearts of his listeners and recharged them in body, mind, and soul. At least, so it was with me. Eugene Exman, Gerald’s editor at Harper, used to tell me many stories about Gerald’s benign influence on people. I certainly was not the only one. For example, simply after attending a lecture by him, people had been known to stop ingrained habits such as smoking, not because he said they should or had even mentioned smoking at all, but be­cause being in his presence generated the impulse to change―to become better and more than one ever had been before.

I do not know of any other person I have ever met or read whose words still echo in my mind so clearly as those spoken to me personally or in a public presentation or in writing than those of Gerald Heard, even now after the passage of 50 years or more. Sometimes I wonder if this was not made possible because Gerald was not speaking from his ego-self but from that timeless, spaceless self we all are, and whose home is at the heart of the divine.

Another of his major teachings was that eternity is not approaching us over the years but is here, now, always. When he said it, even when he only wrote it, you knew it was true. I know that I, at least, could feel it as another dimension intersecting every moment with the Eternal Now. This was Reality, and what we usually experience in our daily lives is its pale shadow—sometimes, even a chimera.

I have since been inspired and thrilled by the words of many. Of special note are those of C. G. Jung, T. S. Eliot, and William James. Using the metaphor of a tree, when I was transforming from a sapling into a young tree, my sense of Heard’s being and the supreme rightness of what he taught was a large part of the trunk’s firm foundation. Jung, Eliot, and James, as well as countless others, helped me to move into and through the modern Zeitgeist, personally and professionally, to the postmodern side. When I came out, feeling born anew, Gerald’s teachings have again become of supreme importance to me, leading me along what now appears to be a “pathless path.” I know he has been there before me, and much more deeply and intensely.

A little less than 50 years ago he wrote to me the words that I need now: “Beware when the turn comes.” I hear you, Gerald, and will mind your words, which have rung in me countless times over the years. I am thankful I have finally reached the point where I dare not fail to heed them! I marvel when I think that he gave them to me all those many years ago. Reality is timeless indeed!

Reference: James, W. (1902). The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Modern Library.

This is a chapter from Rhea A. White's as-yet unpublished EHE autobiography manuscript. In an EHE autobiography, one tells the story of one’s life in terms of the exceptional experiences one has had. The idea is that the experience, no matter how remarkable, was but the beginning. Not only does one record each experience in as much detail as possible, but he or she follows it with a commentary in which one tries to realize its full meaning by augmenting it with associations, other recollections, dreams, fragments of literature and folklore, film, art, poetry, and anything else that will help to draw out its meaning, thus leading to increased connectedness in one’s attitude toward self, other humans, other life forms, ways of life, and worldview.

Rhea A. White (1931-2007) was Editor-in-Chief of the “Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research” and “Exceptional Human Experience.” She wrote Parapsychology: New Sources of Information (Scarecrow Press, 1992) and was coauthor with Michael Murphy of In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports (Penguin/Arkana, 1995). Ms. White was Founder/Director of The Exceptional Human Experience Network and Past President of the Parapsychological Association (1984).

"Christ Church, Rendlesham Road, London," c. 1905
Where Rev. Henry James Heard served as curate

at the time of Gerald Heard's birth.1


Trabuco College Tryout
By Swami Yogeshananda

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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 pen-pictures 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."

As I waited in the station for the suburban train that, at the time, plied between Los Angeles and Santa Ana, a remarkable figure appeared. Dressed in a yellow robe wrapped around a while blouse, stood a small Buddhist nun, clearly not of Asian birth. Her remarks to a couple of women near her were in British style. I am afraid I stared into her face; she stared back; we exchanged courtesies. Then we boarded the same train.

Sister Dhammadinna (for that was her name) did not drop coins into the transit box: the conductor had to fish out the amount from the coin purse she held open to him. She was, of course, on her way to Trabuco College, and, following the rule of her order, a strict Theravadin one (not Hinayana, as she corrected me), which allowed none of them to touch money. We chatted amiably while comparing notes on Mr. Heard, as she always called him. I was able to learn of her European origin and of her iron-willed persistence in seeking admittance to an order of monks in Sri Lanka. They had snubbed her altogether, as she sat on their doorstep for three days without the monastery being opened to her at all.  She loved to tell the story and in the two weeks following we heard it often. Somehow they had been persuaded to let her run the gauntlet of Theravadin training and become a professed nun. She was very probably the first woman to be admitted to that order—certainly the first Western one. Sister was coming back to the College where Mr. Heard had generously made provision for her food and shelter whenever she wished to be there, and she had made it a base for her preaching travels.

Gerald Heard and his driver and all-factotum, Michael Barrie, met us in Santa Ana in one of the first station wagons of the time. We were driven up the long, winding, and lonely road to the College. We passed, as I recall, only two other establishments on that trek, the lone service station at El Toro Road and the tavern at Cook’s Corner. On the drive Gerald and Sister (as I shall now refer to them) kept up a warm exchange, almost a repartee of witty and meaningful remarks which seemed to me to be on quite an elevated plane, and I began to feel I had at last reached the company of the angels.  One of the scraps I recall, either from this or another drive concerned the inevitability of moving forward once you are on the spiritual path:

Gerald: “A great Christian mystic says that one must now either take pains or bear pains.”
Sister: “Exactly so, Mr. Heard! Very well put."

Daily Life
Built like a monastery, in the Italian fashion, yet Trabuco College was not built as one, exactly. This handsome pile of brick and tile sprawled from the water reservoir at the top of a long slope to the dormitory at its bottom, the whole structure exposed to a magnificent overlook of sky, cloud, valley, and farm, distant roads, and a spot of sea. The old engraved bell, nearly two feet in diameter in a modest tower, and the hexagonal chapel, original and controversial, as well as the oversize bricks, were features of true distinctiveness.

I recall the huge apricot trees along the approach to the entrance gates; autumn’s leaves still lay under them in some quantity, and raking these up was one of my first assignments as a visiting volunteer.  Several of us engaged in this, Gerald along with us. Working beside him that day I had the opportunity to ask personal questions, most of which I have, alas, forgotten. His replies, I recall, were courteous, to the point, and always, forward leading.

We had our breakfast informally in the large kitchen. Gerald would sit on a high stool for his, 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.  A few of those gems have stayed with me all the years since, e.g., “Nicholas of Cusa said, ‘God is beyond the contradiction of contraries.’” I thought then and think now, how profound that was and how Vedantic. Another day he told the story of the Sufi saint Al-Hallaj, who ran through the street crying, “I am He” and subsequently was decapitated. “The moral,” said Gerald, “is that even if you know it, don’t go about shouting it to others."

When I visited there were about twenty women and men there, either full or part time. The work of the place was shared, with the cooking done mostly by the women, gardening and maintenance by the men. The large and handsome vegetable garden, however, was run by a remarkable and efficient young lady, named Miriam King, and from her I had my first lessons in raising vegetables.

Most of those who spent that fortnight have slipped from memory, but four could not. Michael Barrie and I became good friends even in that short time, a friendship that lasted the rest of his life.  A third was Margaret Gage who seemed always to be at Gerald’s side. The other two were Felix Greene, the young man who had supervised the building, in 1942, of the College, and Elena Lindeman, one of Gerald’s “prize pupils.” It was clear that romance had sparked between these two (which soon turned to marriage), and to some of those in residence this was spicy because Gerald’s teachings had quite a monastic spin on them. It was going to be said, later, by tongue waggers, that “Heard’s chief monk had run off with his chief nun.”

The Unforgettable Sister
Sister looked askance at this “attachment” as she called it, with warning glances in Elena’s direction: “Attachment, Elena! Beware attachment!” She had a habit of referring to “the guinea pig life,” and everyone knew what she meant. Sister stayed, usually alone, in one of the rooms of the old Cottage, which had come with the property. There she would do her bit of ritual in the morning, before a small statue of the Buddha. When others referred to it as her “worship”, she made strong objection, making clear that she was “reverencing” the Buddha, not worshiping. After breakfast she would sit on the brick patio at the entrance with her Sutras. It was a sight to see, this small, austere but quite urbane woman, day by day poring over Buddhist scriptures and meditating on them for hours. She also taught us at specified times, and I found her counsel profound and uplifting; I very nearly became her disciple! She spoke, of course, of renunciation, of pacifism, of the chakras in the body and of successive experiences along the Path to Enlightenment. Sister denied having had the “nirvana” experience—”Oh, that is a long way off!” she said, but declared that everyone could become “a Buddha”—not the historical Buddha, of course—that was different.

Sister had one troublesome limitation: she did not like to discuss comparative religion. I still hear her firm accented tones: “I will sit up with you day and night, turning the wheel of the Doctrine, but don’t ask me about other religions.” This was disillusioning, and I had become turned off. Gerald, on the other hand, made a specialty of comparative religions, and with that incomparable erudition which brought biology, anthropology, and a host of other academic disciplines into the picture as well, quoted the Sufis, Hasidim, as well as Buddhist and Taoist ideas. But the Christian mystics were clearly his favorites and familiars, and also the choice of his students.

Lunch was served in the large refectory. As we lined both sides of the long tables, Gerald sat in a large chair on the raised portion at the far end of the hall, reading to us from some elevating book. On those days when he happened to choose a Mahayana or Zen reading and Sister disagreed with it, she could be heard whispering loudly to her neighbor, “What rot!” She had visited Japan and had a poor opinion of the purity and orthodoxy of the Zen monks. She strictly observed the rule of no food after noon.  At vespers, Christian hymns or chants were often used before the silent meditation. We thought it very interesting that Sister, who had eschewed music, and in particular church music, nevertheless came to the Oratory, and, sitting in the vestibule until the singing was over, then came in for the meditation.

I am sure all of us remember the breakfast at which much discussion arose about how to control the mice that were getting into the storeroom. Traps were proposed, and vehemently opposed by the nun, who cited the violence involved and the bad karma incurred.  “Well, Sister, what do you suggest?”  “Why not get a cat?” came the reply. When it was pointed out that the cat would surely do violence to the mice, her answer was historic: “But that will be the cat’s karma, “ she said.

Onward to Vedanta
Being in a mood of renunciation and some austerity myself, I had an uneasy feeling that the lifestyle—three ample meals a day plus fairly high “tea”—was rich for my taste and insufficiently austere; I used this as one of the pleas for my departure. Actually I was trying to examine Gerald Heard with the eye of scrutiny, to determine whether he had achieved Illumination. Surely he had attained, to use a favorite term of his, “Proficiency,” as he meditated so many hours a day, gave wise counsel, seemed incapable of being flattered, and treated everyone with dignity and even affection.

But six months earlier I had met a swami from the Ramakrishna Order in Philadelphia, Swami Yatiswarananda. Without casting any aspersions on Gerald, whose recently published book, A Preface to Prayer, he had read, the Swami hinted there was more to be learned about prayer, and the Swami knew what it was. Reluctantly, because it was such an attractive and beautiful environment, I reached the conclusion that my spiritual life needed the more specialized and austere direction about which the Swami hinted, and I could no longer remain at Trabuco.

Swami Yogeshananda, an American swami, went on to become a monastic in the Ramakrishna Order, serving in several monasteries in the United States, India, and England. Beginning in 1992 he headed the Vedanta Center of Atlanta, which began in the 1980s as an informal satellite of the Vedanta Society of Chicago. In 2009 he retired to the Ramakrishna Monastery at Trabuco Canyon, the former Trabuco College, where he first met Gerald Heard in 1945. Swami Yogeshananda's book, Six Lighted Windows, from which brief excerpts were drawn to augment his original contribution, "Trabuco College Tryout," is available from Vedanta Press. The Swami launched a website in May 2016, Vedanta Media, which "has been created to house the audio versions of books written and read by" him.

With Leonard Elmhirst at the

Seymour Hotel in 1925.2


Totally on Fire
by Michael Murphy

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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.

I suggested we move down to Big Sur. And when we were in Big Sur, we got this idea about starting a center there. In June 1961, we went to Santa Monica to see Gerald Heard. We spent four hours with Gerald and his assistant Michael Barrie at the cottage where Gerald lived.

We had known some things about Gerald, and we had known about Trabuco College. Gerald was quite an influence on the Sequoia Seminars up on the San Francisco peninsula, so I had heard about him. Part of his vision that appealed to me was seeing the mystical life in an evolutionary context, which put him squarely on par with Aurobindo. So in the summer of 1961, Dick and I visited with Gerald for four hours. And when I walked out of there, I knew I was going to start Esalen Institute. I was on fire. That meeting triggered it, and I made my resolution to start Esalen.

With Gerald, we had a general conversation. You know how Gerald was—it covered everything. It covered the Old Testament, the New Testament, Buddhism, Christianity, evolutionary theory, the whole works. Oh my God, off he went! We discussed everything from the evolutionary metaphysics that I had completely imbibed from Aurobindo, to spiritual practice. He really knew his psychical research, and I had done a lot of reading there, too, so it was something.

I remember Gerald talking about the power of Big Sur and how it could catalyze powerful experience. He had an intuitive grasp of it. Frankly, I don’t know whether he had been there or not. But he spoke about being right at the edge of the continent, facing west, with the land backed up behind us, and his sense that the physical location would catalyze whatever we were going to do there.

That was the thing that pushed me over, all the way over—that conversation with Gerald. I walked out of there totally on fire, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. That was the trigger. Everything about our conversation with Gerald, everything ignited me during that conversation.

The next encounter with Gerald was in the first catalog that we published. We took over the place at Big Sur in October 1961. Then the programs that are now identified as Esalen started in September of 1962. The first catalog was titled “Human Potentialities,” a title that came from Aldous Huxley’s essays. I was looking for language that would mediate between Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysics and his evolutionary mysticism, and folks who weren’t that much into metaphysics and advanced mysticism. And Huxley’s language was compatible. We used some of his formulations. In any case, in that first catalog there was a lecture, a single lecture by Gerald in 1962.

So Gerald came to Esalen. I don’t remember how long he stayed, but he gave one of his electrifying lectures [ed. – Heard’s topic was Art and Religion, given on October 26, 1962]. And we invited Gerald to come back and spend a month in the fall of 1963. So he was there again in November 1963 when Kennedy was shot and killed, and Aldous died on the same day [ed. – Heard’s stay lasted about two weeks, and he delivered several talks, including The New Concept of Evolution]. And they did a kind of a vigil for Aldous. We all joined in, in the spirit of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, of guiding and meditating and thinking, and he was in close touch with Laura Huxley. That was the last time that I saw Gerald in November of 1963.

Gerald Heard was not an intellectual influence on me. His main influence was that catalytic moment when we met, and that pushed me all the way to starting Esalen. Gerald played a hugely catalytic role for me at this big turning point in my life, as he did with lots of people. Although he was not a primary intellectual influence, he represented the basic worldview that I believe is trying to emerge in the world today. To me, this is the big one that’s coming up over the horizon.

Michael Murphy is co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Esalen Institute and author of four novels, including the best-selling Golf in the Kingdom, and The Kingdom of Shivas Irons. His non-fiction works include In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports, an anthology of extraordinary sports experiences, co-authored with Rhea White; The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, co-authored with Steve Donovan; and The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature.

Mr. Murphy graduated from Stanford University with a degree in psychology. Esalen Institute has become the world’s premier growth center and has hosted numerous notable individuals associated with the Human Potential movement.

The Gate of Honour at Gonville and

Caius College, Cambridge, 1900.3


Images of Gerald Heard
By William M. Havens, M.A.

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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.

Whenever my thoughts drift toward reminiscences of the impetus of my personal awakening, when I focus on the seeds of my curiosity or the source of my eclectic intellectual interests, the memories invariably evoke images and emotions of my experiences and conversations with Gerald. This was the spark, the single most profound threshold or turning point in my life. This was the juncture in my life that diverted me onto a path of growth and enlightenment, or at least a slow and plodding quest in that direction.

I have always attributed, both vocally to those that are close to me and privately in my heart, the true awakening of my intellect and the essence of my awareness as a spiritual and intellectual entity to my conversations with Gerald. In my mind’s eye and in the emotions that arise out of my memories of Gerald, 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.

These memories are very frustrating for me, as well, because I have absolutely no recall of anything specific that Gerald ever said to me. The words just aren’t there. There are no “gems” to repeat to myself, no mantra to chant. I have no repertoire of sage advice, witty comments, philosophical observations, or historical commentary with which to reassure myself that any of it was real or to overcome my own skepticism regarding the extent to which I may have even learned anything from our conversations. Recalling Gerald does always, though, bring to mind a realization of a turning point, that transition in my life from being asleep to being awake.

Respect for thought, respect for sensitivity, respect for enlightenment, respect for curiosity, respect for ethics and defining my values, respect for the fundamental concept of just how little I know about life, a hunger for understanding and, ultimately, the desire to teach; I can attribute all of this, and more, to my sessions with Gerald. Thankfully, because of those experiences, I have not been the same since as before, nor will I be the same tomorrow as today.

I’m afraid I will struggle forever in search of my own adequate articulation of just how much Gerald really impacted my life, for it seems that it is through the articulation of these major events in my life that they take form and meaning; they become reality. I am just as aware of the contradiction that exists in attempting to give form to such an abstraction. “Perhaps,” I tell myself, “I should take it on faith that the seeds that were planted those 35 years ago are growing at their proper pace, and that their ultimate realization will occur only at the proper time and place, only when I am ready, only when I have evolved to a state of readiness, a condition in which I can understand.”

From approximately 1964 to 1967 I was a lifeguard at a private beach club in Santa Monica, California, at the end of Pico Boulevard, the Del Mar Club. I was 18, 19, and 20 years old. Gerald and his secretary Jay “Michael” Barrie came to the club pretty routinely and swam around and around, seemingly endlessly, in the pool as part of their exercise regimen and prior to a massage and sauna. They would circle the outer perimeters of the pool, Michael with his simple breaststroke and Gerald with his almost absurd combination breaststroke-dog paddle and wearing his water wings. Michael was actually the most conversant, possibly because the physical experience was such a demanding one for Gerald in comparison to Michael’s. I remember that Gerald’s yellowing white beard always had droplets of water on the ends. He looked so frail, and I was constantly concerned about his well-being. But his mind was so incredibly brilliant and articulate, his expression so bright. While Gerald and Michael paddled, I walked. I walked around and around with them, talking and asking, but mostly listening.

After I had been out of the Navy for a while, perhaps in 1972, I wrote a letter to Michael inquiring as to his and Gerald’s welfare, looking for news, and seeking a reconnection with the energy, stimulus, and inspiration of our conversations. It was Michael’s letter in response that brought me the sad news of Gerald’s death. Sadly, I did not maintain a correspondence with Michael. Now it is the discovery of the Gerald Heard Official Website that brings me the sad news of Michael’s death in 2001.

Following my passion to teach, I now teach American Indian Studies as an adjunct professor at a community college. The course that I am most frequently asked to teach is American Indian Religion. I like to think that as I teach I am bringing forth from somewhere in the depths of myself, even subconsciously, some small measure of the spirit and inspiration instilled in me by Gerald Heard.

After graduating from high school in 1963, Bill Havens participated in civil rights demonstrations and sit-ins in San Francisco. He has worked in many diverse capacities, including adjunct college professor of American Indian Studies and Religion, photographer, and journalist. He holds a Masters Degree in American Indian Studies with concentrations in Law and Policy as well as Societies and Cultures from the University of Arizona. He has served in politics at a very grass-roots level as the Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Hopi Tribe of Indians in Arizona and is a scholar of the dynamics of the relationship and disputes between the Navajo and Hopi Tribes. Mr. Havens also buys and sells fine Native American art, specializing in the arts of the Hopi and Pueblo Tribes of the American Southwest. He is the proprietor of Havens Trading Company.

Christopher Wood, unidentified man, and Gerald Heard, c. 1932 (unknown photographer)


Temporary Monk
by Franklin Zahn

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

c. 1939-1940
The F.O.R. [ed. – Fellowship of Reconciliation] speaker was a British writer-pacifist named Gerald Heard, then studying in Hollywood with a Hindu Swami [ed. – 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.

I stopped at the then almost-completed Trabuco College, Gerald Heard’s center for the study and practice of prayer, and met Felix Greene, its builder. The ashram would become very familiar when, a year later in 1943, Felix could not return from England and I would be its interim manager.

Later that summer I was in a quite different religious class of about the same size at Trabuco College, now completed. When the car full of us from San Diego arrived we found to our surprise that Aldous Huxley was to be Gerald Heard’s co-leader. He was mostly an unobtrusive listener, but when he did talk in his low voice he showed a knowledge of Buddhist and Hindu mystics I hardly expected. I had read only his Brave New World and a few snatches from Ends and Means, a pacifist work which shows that the degree of change ultimately achieved in a revolution is inversely proportional to the amount of violence used. This summer of 1943 his current work was The Art of Seeing, telling how he had found new vision without glasses through use of the Bates exercises. As I watched him read by curling the page and then moving the closest line of words past his eyes about three inches away, I appreciated even more the accomplishment of his wide reading in the mystics. With books where he could not curl the page he used a slot. His erudition in the Eastern mystics was later to show in The Perennial Philosophy—still one of my favorite religious classics.

Gerald’s talks were mainly on the various levels of prayer practiced by mystics—mostly Catholic saints. In the beginner’s purgative state of devotional life, the most elementary level was that of vocal prayer. Next came discursive silent prayer in which the mind considers the Divine. This is the stage where [Christian] Scientists, reading their Bible and Science and Health and then closing their eyes to meditate about it, normally would be. Curiously, although both Gerald and Mrs. [Mary Baker] Eddy placed a low estimate on petitionary prayer—as if God were holding something back—both put a high value on the largely petitionary Lord’s Prayer. Gerald had written that prayer does not bring good things to people but rather brings people to where good things are. Mrs. Eddy held that prayer does not change the divine order but puts people in harmony with it. The popular Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, the monk who could pray while at work in the kitchen, Gerald felt was too advanced for beginners. The book Gerald recommended to our group was The Art of Mental Prayer by Bede Frost, a Catholic in the Anglican community…As I see prayer, its two-fold purpose is to make us love more both the Ultimate Reality and the human family. If one’s emphasis or priority is the former, then she or he is a contemplative; if the latter, then an activist.

Felix Greene, whom I had met the previous summer, was on a visit home to England and Lucille Nixon, a young school teacher from Pasadena, was taking his place as resident manager. Another of the group was Francis Hall, one of the Union Theological Seminary students who had refused to register for the draft…Like many young theological students he was much influenced by Reinhold Niebuhr. Much table talk at noon—the only meal when conversation was permitted—centered around the famous theologian’s desertion of pacifism. A later visiting college prexy quipped that we had to love our niebuhr as ourself.

Trabuco had no newspapers or radios. Although there were no clocks in evidence, the schedule was very clocklike, timed by a hand-rung bell whose belfry rose above the red-tile roofs of the white Spanish-style buildings. For me the most rigorous part was the first line:

5:30 A.M. Rising, ten bells
6:05 A.M. Start of meditation, two bells
7:00 A.M. End of meditation, three bells
7:15 A.M. Breakfast
8:00 A.M. End of overnight silence
11:30 A.M. Start of meditation, two bells
12:30 P.M. End of meditation, three bells
12:45 P.M. Lunch
1:30 P.M. Start of physical work
4:00 P.M. Tea
5:00 P.M. Start of meditation and of overnight silence, two bells
6:00 P.M. End of meditation, three bells
6:30 P.M. Supper

The Benedictine silence was not total, Gerald reading to us during breakfast and supper and conducting one evening class. Meals were vegetarian which, as Gerald explained previously to me at Whittier Institute, was part of his practice of ahimsa—non-injury. But like Gandhi he was a realist, saying we could not avoid causing some injury while on earth. Our goal should be to go through life causing as little suffering as possible. In this he was more consistent than Mrs. Eddy who could write in a hymn:

“The arrow that doth wound the dove
Darts not from those who watch and love”

but who could also write that her favorite dish was pigeon pie. In other ways Gerald seemed to practice what my co-religionists only believed. They seemed sincere in declaring matter unreal, but went on accumulating it. Gerald was the first person I knew who deliberately limited himself to one suit, two shirts, and blue jeans. With access to royalties—he had published a book every year for two decades—his poverty was definitely voluntary. He did believe in some other possessions, such as one’s personal fountain pen. He had modified to Catholic vow of “poverty” to “frugality.”

Just before Lucille Nixon returned to teaching at Palm Springs, Gerald asked me to come to Trabuco as interim manager. Trabuco seemed to fit in well with visiting ailing Dad in San Diego, only two hours away.

We all realized that sex was a serious problem in training for the life of the spirit, to borrow the title of his pamphlet. Although he had substituted continence for chastity, he disapproved of libertine sex views. Combining a monastery with a nunnery was a “unique experiment,” in Gerald’s words, but meant no relaxation of traditional celibacy. When married couples visited each other they were permitted to sleep together only in a detached building. Gerald held that the sex drive was a combination of two opposite qualities, an animalistic violent lust and a tender devotion, and that in the celibate search for God only the former was lost. He agreed with Freud that repression by will power was damaging to mind and body, but I never tried to pin him down to an exact definition of continence. His bachelorhood fitted in well with his view that devotion to God was a higher calling, but I never inquired how he happened not to marry in his younger years before becoming interested in mysticism.

Gerald and I thoroughly believed in some kind of immortality, but at Trabuco I was uneasy with his lightheartedness. For all his brilliance, he was not the sensitive psychologist who would know gaiety was not my mood…Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable; Gerald was at his best in the latter.

At Christmas time several members of Alcoholics Anonymous, interested in prayer, stayed a week. Included was one of the founders named “Bill” and his wife [ed. – Bill and Lois Wilson] and daughter. One evening Bill told of the incredible series of coincidences leading to the founding of AA. I can still see him as we sat in the red brick library with its red tile floors saying, “And so he goes to Oh-high-yo.” He modestly disclaimed authorship of the movement’s book, saying he only edited materials of others. After the war my own attempts at religious healing would be to apply to disease in general the same approach AA used with alcoholism—working without pay, and asking the person helped to change his/her life and to help someone else…After the holidays, Aldous and his French-born petite wife Maria came for an indefinite stay.

After leaving Trabuco that February of 1944, I did not return until 1946. The war over, the “College” was operating on its originally intended residential basis and had fewer visitors. There were now five permanent “novitiates,” one a married woman who had a special arrangement to live part of each year at home. Another five of us agreed to stay a minimum of three months. During my two-years absence some original Trabuco-ites had been permanent residents and then left. Felix, prime mover in founding the college, had returned from England, then he and Elena [Lindeman], another resident, had married. They then left under unhappy circumstances, going to Ojai to be associated with Krishnamurti. Lucille had left to join the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, and was now working on European relief. The present residents were newer friends of Gerald’s, none knowing him as long as I. One was Fran Hall, in and out of prison since we last met. Gerald was now less in evidence, lecturing only one hour a week. Electricity had arrived at Trabuco, ending the chores of kerosene lamps, hand laundering, and cranking the pump engines. The dozen of us could do the physical labor in five afternoons a week. I spent most of them on our dirt road with Phil, a Stanford Law graduate and recent Navy ensign.

Of the more important books I read at Trabuco one was Saudreau’s The Life of Union with God, its very title stating the aim of the college. I found the Buddhist classic The Dhammapada sounded familiar: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought…” I could now study all morning and in three months wrote summaries of over twenty books. But my interest in religious healing was at odds with the interest in physical health I now found at Trabuco. Most residents were taking trips to a Pasadena MD [ed. – Henry G. Bieler] for tests and for dietary prescriptions. My approach to bodily well-being was “wholesome neglect,” in Jesus’ words, “Taking no thought for the body…” But I was living far from that ideal, having Mother send me chocolates. When I left at the end of my minimum three months I told Gerald I missed chocolate sodas. Our only sweets had been limited to frosted cakes for residents’ birthdays—the only special days Trabuco observed.

I remember the party for Marvin [Barrett], Harvard grad and recent Navy lieutenant. What other little intimate celebration ever had as guests Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard, and Richard Gregg! Richard is still known for his classic, The Power of Non-violence. He told us that with the outbreak of war he had tried to send his close friend Gandhi a simple message: “Love.” The cablegram was refused as being “unintelligible.” Venerables like Richard and trustee Aldous were accepted for less than the three months minimum. Another such was Howard Brinton, Director of Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center in Pennsylvania where Gerald had been a resident lecturer. I talked with Howard about rehabilitation work abroad with the American Friends Service Committee.

I was more interested in Gandhian action than Gerald. Cool to all social work, he claimed that “unregenerate man” trying to help the world was similar to a surgeon using septic instruments—infection could make things worse. He thought that only when people were in close touch with Reality should they dare tamper with the world. Soviet communism was an example wherein, as he said, people who tried to live brotherhood without Fatherhood found themselves liquidating each other. Yet Gerald published a book every year and was socially conscious. He could never be a Roman Catholic monk because he was too aware of the worldliness and power politics of the overall Church. He was far too much a liberal to accept total submission of one person to another, or even to an institution. The basic purpose of obedience, he reasoned, was reduction of the ego—the opposite of making a name for oneself. I think this was Gerald’s most important contribution to my own spiritual life. As a Scientist I had always rejected Isaiah’s injunction against pride: “All our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But in freeing humans from the bondage of matter and giving them dominion over sin and sickness, we Scientists had lost sight of the old-fashioned virtue of humility. Gerald felt that subjugating the ego was necessary to reach God. “The more there is of self, the less there is of God,” Aldous wrote at Trabuco in one of his Seven Meditations. In keeping with Gerald’s reinterpretation of obedience as anonymity, Harpers had published his Training for the Life of the Spirit anonymously, as well as the book of another resident, The Path of the Saint. But we were aware this was no final answer, for the ego can even take pride in its humility!

In addition to the health interests, I was not happy with changes in the Oratory. Instead of a completely senseless hour, there was now some singing in the morning, and the late afternoon hour had become a complete liturgy with candles, kneeling, processional, singing, vocal prayer, incense, and an eastern cross—the horizontal member curving upward at the ends in candelabra form [ed. – a crux orata, or “praying cross”]. When I expressed my annoyance, Gerald readily excused me from this third period, and I meditated in my room. My total was four hours a day. Having lived as an adult mostly singly, I discovered in my three months’ stay that I did not like group living. A basic with Felix Greene’s design was that everyone had a private room, but it was not enough.

But I felt no antagonisms, and probably could have lived on with Trabuco’s residents as well as with any other mixed group. My basic reason for leaving was that I realized I was an “activist” and not a “contemplative,” the two general classifications of religious devotees. I may have felt that some uneasiness existed among the permanent novitiates, but had no idea when I said goodbye to them and Gerald that they too would later split apart as had Trabuco’s first permanent group. The only two who would stick by Gerald were Margaret Gage, former New York actress, and Jay [Michael] Barrie, a CO who had renounced a $40,000-a-year singing contract in Hollywood. But after this second blow-apart, Trabuco College would not recover. Gerald would leave, and the campus would be in limbo before eventually becoming a Ramakrishna monastery.

Franklin Zahn (1908-1996), pacifist and activist, was educated as an engineer at Caltech. He became a Conscientious Objector during World War II. Raised a Christian Scientist, Zahn converted to Quakerism and adopted a regimen of asceticism, meditation, vegetarianism (specifically pescetarianism), and voluntary poverty. Zahn joined Trabuco College in mid-1943 and shortly after served as its manager until when, in February 1944, Selective Service ordered him to a CO camp in Oregon. He rejoined Trabuco College briefly in 1946. Jailed three times for his beliefs, Zahn published his 1984 autobiography Deserter From Violence: Experiments with Gandhi’s Truth, from which "Temporary Monk" is excerpted by kind permission of Vicki Zahn.

BBC Broadcasting House, 1940

Site of Gerald Heard's radio broadcasts.4


A Broadened Vision
by Dave Brubeck

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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.

World-renowned composer and pianist Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) fronted the Dave Brubeck Quartet, immensely popular during the 1950s and 1960s. A master of improvisation, Mr. Brubeck is perhaps best associated with the "cool jazz" instrumental "Take Five" from 1959's Time Out. More on Mr. Brubeck's life and work can be found at The Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

Gerald Heard, c. 1960


Gerald Heard at the Vedanta Society
By Br. Nitya Chaitanya

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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.

Swami Prabhavananda and Gerald each had their own audience. Both were very charismatic speakers. Gerald’s approach was wide-ranging and intellectual; whereas Swami dealt more with the practical side. But some of Swami’s followers would sniff at Gerald, wondering, “Why is he here?” There was a feeling among some of them that Gerald was trying to be a guru. But I never felt this way, and neither did Swami Prabhavananda nor did Gerald, who explicitly avoided this role. It was just certain of Swami’s more avid devotees. Gerald never said anything negative about Swami; he was never heard to backbite. And I never heard Swami Prabhavananda say anything derogatory about Gerald. Both men shared a mutual respect and affection toward one another that they maintained through the years.

During the 1950s, both men found themselves becoming busier. And Gerald began exploring areas that were not of interest to Swami Prabhavananda. Among his many activities, Gerald was also in St. Louis lecturing under the auspices of Huston Smith for several years. Gerald simply no longer had as much time at his disposal as before. But there was never any rift between Swami and Gerald.

Gerald had an extraordinary open mind. The basic message of Vedanta is there in his writings. He was pursuing a path not in opposition to Vedanta, but one parallel to it, giving it his own individual slant. His mature mind was that of a Vedantist. And that meant practice, which Gerald maintained; he always carried that with him. His mind was so wide-ranging and seemed to go at such a dizzying pace, that I wondered how he was able to put the brakes on it when he meditated, which he did several hours each day.

You get a feeling of an earnest seeker in his books—never preachy. You are not being handed down something from on high. Rather, 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.”

Br. Nitya Chaitanya had been a monastic member of The Vedanta Society of Southern California from 1965 until his passing in 2010 at the age of 80.

With Swami Prabhavananda at the

Vedanta Society of Southern California,

July 4, 1948.5


A Second Conversion
by Huston Smith

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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.

My story is briefly told. I was a graduate student when the dissertation I was writing ran into the problem of pain. I hadn't given the subject much thought, so I went to the university library and checked out three books dealing with it. Back in my room after supper I found my hand gravitating to the one with the most interesting title, Pain, Sex and Time. It took only a few pages to realize that it had nothing to do with my dissertation, but I kept on reading. And reading. When dawn broke I was living in the new world that has housed me ever since.

I determined that the book had so radically changed by point of view, that I wouldn’t read anything else written by him until after I received my degree, but once my PhD was in hand, I would read everything. In 1947, while living in Denver and about to move to St. Louis, I decided to try to meet Gerald before moving further east. I got the address of Trabuco College from his publisher and set out hitchhiking to Southern California. Through that meeting, Gerald introduced me to Aldous Huxley, who in turn suggested that I contact Swami Satprakashananda with the Vedanta Society when I got to St. Louis.

Until very recently, nearly sixty years later, I have not returned to Heard's book for fear that I would find it disappointing; we all know that what impacts us at one time may not do so later, for one can't step into the same river twice. I suspect that I might never have reread it had the invitation to write a foreword not provided the needed excuse for interrupting other duties. I am glad it did, for the rereading has not disappointed me. It is a good book, a very good book that withstands the passage of time admirably. But before I say more about it I should say something more about its author.

Today almost no one has heard of Gerald Heard, but in the second third of the 20th century the situation was otherwise; he was a well-known British polymath. He began his career as science commentator for the BBC, and H. G. Wells was widely quoted as saying that he was the only one he bothered to listen to on the “wireless.” Heard’s remarkable early trilogy of academic books included The Ascent of Humanity (1929), The Social Substance of Religion (1931), and The Source of Civilization (1935). Pain, Sex and Time came out in 1939, and in 1941 he wrote the most successful detective story of the day, A Taste for Honey, which sold over half a million copies, an astronomical number in those days. Thirty more books poured forth after that.

In Pain, Sex and Time Heard describes how science deals with what happens and sidesteps why questions, but a complete account must include them. So with the wisdom of hindsight we can say that the object of the evolutionary process seems to have been to produce bodies with minds. When these advance to self-consciousness the mind becomes free. No longer defined by antecedent causes, it can take charge of its future.

The evolution of the human body has been completed, but it possesses two properties that suggest that its mind can continue to evolve. One of these is its inordinate sensitivity to pain, and the other is human sexuality, which is not contained by periodicity and is permanently available. The surplus vitality that these properties token suggests that in humanity the life force is pressing like a jack-in-the-box for the release that mental evolution could afford. Rudiments of such evolution can be spotted in historical times in the increasing acuity of human vision and its ability to distinguish more bands in the color spectrum, but the real evolution will be in the ability of consciousness to break out of individual pockets—packets I almost wrote—and phase into God's infinite consciousness. This is more than a theoretical possibility. Mystics are the advance scouts of mankind who have transcended their egos and in exceptional cases merged with God completely. One more point. Methods for effecting this breakout are solidly in place. They are the spiritual techniques of yoga, meditation and prayer.

This is the vision that took me over on that fate-filled night when I first read this book, and my pulse still quickens as I bring it to mind. But the brief account of it that I have given doesn't come close to indicating what an interesting book it is. Heard constructs his thesis from an awesome data bank, and even those who do not find the thesis convincing will find the book bristling with obscure scientific and historical facts that keep the pages turning. Some of the facts have been disproved, but enough of them remain to make the thesis still credible. If it was strong enough to persuade Huxley, I for one am still not going to dismiss it out of hand.

Huston Smith is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Syracuse University. For 15 years he was Professor of Philosophy at M.I.T. and for a decade before that he taught at Washington University in St. Louis. Most recently he has served as Visiting Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Holder of twelve honorary degrees, Smith's 14 books include The World's Religions, which has sold over 2 ½ million copies, and Why Religion Matters, which won the Wilbur Award for the best book on religion published in 2001. In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS Special, The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith, to his life and work. His film documentaries on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism have all won international awards, and The Journal of Ethnomusicology lauded his discovery of Tibetan multiphonic chanting as "…an important landmark in the study of music." For more on Huston Smith, visit The Huston Smith website.

Prof. Smith has written the foreword to the December 2004 reissue of Gerald Heard’s 1939 classic, Pain, Sex and Time.

Majorca, 1963


Dancing in the Sky
by James C. Ingebretsen

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The following excerpts are from Apprentice to the Dawn: A Spiritual Memoir by James C. Ingebretsen (with the assistance of Madeleine Coulombe), Los Angeles, The Philosophical Research Society, 2003.

from Chapter Two: Sage Advice and Dancing in the Sky

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.

Gerald’s first submission to Faith and Freedom in November 1954 was an article called “The Hunger We Have Not Stilled.” In it, he advocated that those faced with moral questions needed to stop seeking recovery exclusively through psychoanalysis but turn also to a new form of religion which could provide humanity with purpose, awareness, and a capacity to appreciate human potential. As I sat awkwardly with Ed Opitz and his wife that evening, the conclusion of Gerald’s article came back to me clearly. He had said that psychoanalysis was of use only if:

. . . the patient can be brought within the contagion of one who has a whole conviction of purpose, of being part of a process whereby man is being brought to a new capacity for awareness. Man is approaching a new and wider focus of consciousness which the Hellenistic Greek of the Gospels calls “metanoia.” We miniscularly mistranslate it by the word “conversion."

The Greek word metanoia fascinated me. It came from meta which means “beyond” and nous or noia which means “ordinary mind.” Gerald was calling not simply for a conversion of consciousness but for a psychological evolution, indeed a radical mutation of body and mind. Wasn’t this what was happening to me? Simply reflecting on Gerald’s writing assured me that I had undergone more of a revolution of consciousness than a spiritual conversion. While this did nothing to allay my fears or calm my nerves, I had a name for this experience. This revolution of my soul, my abandonment to Divinity was now my “metanoia.” In over forty years I have found no more appropriate appellation.

What I learned from Gerald’s character and concepts proved to be extraordinarily important in advancing my own spiritual journey and growth. When I approached Gerald to share my startling spiritual awakening, I was not seeking a system of beliefs or set of practices nor a priest, guru, or mentor. Instead, I wanted and needed as much guidance as I was able to assimilate at any one time.

I didn’t know then that, like the cuckoo bird, Gerald was always willing to lay his eggs in any available nest!

We began meeting every Monday morning for discussions that lasted for up to two hours. I would always come to his cottage studio, a small, modern structure, located at the rear of a friend’s house in Pacific Palisades. Sometimes we would sit inside peering out through the windows at the mountains along the Pacific Ocean. On warmer days we would confer in the garden, brimming with beautiful rose bushes and shade trees.

Gerald was slim – gaunt even – with haunting blue eyes and a curly, red-brown Vandyke beard and moustache. He spoke quietly with a British accent. It would be impossible for me to recreate our Monday morning conversations or their effect of re-framing my thinking, continually pointing me on toward new possibilities. Like a little chick newly hatched, I imprinted on Gerald, absorbing his way of relating everything to a wider frame of reference and his alert, questioning attitude toward the universe.

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 novelist, Christopher Isherwood, gave the example of asking Gerald, “Will there be a war this year?” Gerald answered, “You know Lipton’s big work on the bee?” Then he went on to quote something about the production of honey. Gerald responded in this way to every question, whether posed by a university professor regarding a recondite philosophical issue, or my young daughter, Kaaren, asking him one summer day to define love. Regardless, Gerald’s response was roundabout and utterly sincere. I think that Gerald believed this kind of free associative dialogue matched the action of inner unfoldment, and he encouraged abandonment to this spontaneous process. He reminded me constantly not to be concerned about the outcome of my solitary meditations or conversations with him, warning that laboring to achieve understanding would result in impatience rather than enlightenment. Once he said, “Sometimes you might feel a bit ashamed after your mediations. You might realize that you don’t want to explore this Divinity which has come into your life at all!” Then he reassured me, saying, “Don’t be frightened of these thoughts. They will rise like bubbles to the surface of a pond. They will break and dissipate. Let them rise. Let them go.”

As the one person to whom I revealed my complete disorientation, Gerald understood my panic and urge to abandon my former life. With amazing patience, he worked to convince me of another possibility: that what had transpired in New York was not intended to wrench me away from my family and professional life but was a call to invest my activities and relationships with greater significance and awareness. Without advocating one particular path, Gerald introduced me to a variety of methods of meditation. He himself spent hours each day in silent contemplation.

The publication of Training for a Life of Growth in 1959 marked the end of one phase of my relationship with Gerald Heard. During the following decade, I would continue to pursue projects – some of which are detailed in the next chapters – to promote Gerald’s ideas. These efforts continued even after 1966, when Gerald suffered the first in a series of strokes which paralyzed his body and rendered him incapable of communicating. Although Gerald would probably disagree, it is a tragedy to me that none of these projects got off the ground, and it saddens me that this incredible personality who had a remarkable effect on so many famous writers, thinkers, business leaders, academics, and social reformers is virtually unknown today. Gerald’s friendship, his advice and teaching, as well as his writings, continue to exert a powerful influence on my interests and practices. As you will see, his name appears again and again as the impetus for me to plunge into new adventures and face new challenges on my search for knowledge and my journey of inner unfoldment.

Perhaps, in one sense, my personal development over the past forty years has been my becoming a “Heardian” – that is, learning to maintain a nondogmatic state of mind which is completely open and willing to entertain any new idea in pursuit of the ultimate truth. “After all,” Gerald often explained to me, “the poets and the prophets have always known about it. Now the psychiatrists, the physicists, chemists, and brain surgeons are discovering it. Everyone is waking up to the power within the soul.”

from Chapter Four: Koan of the Cross

Gerald Heard’s influence also continued to exercise a pervasive influence on my life. Although we saw each other infrequently prior to his death in 1971, he kept me informed of his public speaking engagements, his prolific output of books and essays, television and radio broadcasts, and research into psychedelics before a series of strokes left him unable to speak or write.

from Chapter Eight: Gift of God

I had felt moved on the plane, in the aftermath of that glow, to compose a brief note to Gerald, now paralyzed and bedridden, and to tell him that perhaps his hopes for me to reach an additional stage of awareness had been realized. His longtime, devoted assistant, Jay Michael Barrie, who was caring for Gerald, replied on June 20, 1969:

I read your letter to Gerald and it did get through. I waited until what seemed a propitious moment – when his power of attention seemed best. He smiled a most radiant smile and then burst into tears. So he got the message and was deeply moved.

This was my final communication with Gerald before his death two years later, on August 14, 1971.

Born in 1906 in Salt Lake City, James C. Ingebretsen was educated at Stanford University and enjoyed successful careers as a lawyer, businessman, and libertarian leader. On May 22, 1955, while in New York City on a professional trip, Mr. Ingebretsen’s life took a dramatic turn when he experienced a spiritual awakening. Ingebretsen was fortunate to have already made the acquaintance of the writer and thinker, Gerald Heard, who guided him through the first months after his awakening, helping him to reconcile the seemingly disparate existences of father, husband, executive, and newly-initiated spiritual seeker. His search for spiritual knowledge, which began with his background in Christian teachings, soon expanded to encompass Eastern religions, several forms of meditation, and various experiments with Heard and others to achieve a more profound understanding of divine energies and their interplay with human consciousness.

In 1957, Mr. Ingebretsen purchased a 270-acre property located in the foothills of Mount San Jacinto in Southern California, which he eventually operated as a retreat center known as Koan Of The Cross. From 1957 until its closing in 1974, Koan Of The Cross was a gathering place for dozens of inspiring and gifted teachers from all over the world in a variety of spiritual, religious, psychological, and cultural disciplines, including Gerald Heard, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Dane Rudhyar, Ira Progoff, Pir Zade Vilayat Inayat Khan, and J. Krishnamurti. Mr. Ingebretsen passed away on March 16, 1999. The selections above are excerpted from his spiritual autobiography, Apprentice to the Dawn, by kind permission of Dorothy Ingebretsen. For more on James C. Ingebretsen, visit the website Apprentice to the Dawn.

Gerald Heard and Jay Michael Barrie

at the Vedanta Society

of Southern California, 1947.6


Memories of Gerald Heard
by William H. Forthman, Ph.D.

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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.

Secondly, he was a theorist, a synthesizer, and a person offering bold hypotheses about the course of history, of human evolution, of spirituality. Like the Buddha he felt the suffering of the human condition (including his own) and sought an effective remedy.

Having decided that the way to remedy egocentricity was through a change first in conduct, then character, and finally in consciousness, he set about modifying his own behavior, which included a celibate lifestyle and devoting hours each day to spiritual exercises. His writings on the life of the spirit grew out of his own experience. He became a role model and advisor to many who had not found help in more traditional religious or psychological practices.

Gerald was interested in and well informed about the history of intentional communities and educational institutions including the Benedictines, Dartington Hall, the Ramakrishna Order, Oneida, British universities, the Quakers, Buddhist orders, and many more. In the early 1940s he founded Trabuco College, mostly from his own funds, in an effort to create an institution which would facilitate the development of a contemporary spirituality. His hope was that a contemporary institution could preserve important values of the past while avoiding what he regarded as the negative aspects of the former institutions. There was always a small group of truth seekers living there. After several years he decided to leave Trabuco because he concluded it was not producing the educational and spiritual outcomes he had hoped for. His conclusion that this effort had been a failure was a deep disappointment to him.

His books were developed first in conversation and lectures and then written out in long hand with almost no rewriting. From childhood he had a gift of storytelling that was displayed in his short stories and novels, but he may have regarded fiction as a bit frivolous.

Like his friend Aldous Huxley, Gerald had struggled in the 1930s to abort the looming war. Again, like Aldous, he held fast to his pacifism when war came. Although living in the United States since 1937, both of them were denied U.S. citizenship for this stand.

A less visible trait of Gerald's was his kindness. He performed many quiet acts of help to people in distress. He treated everyone with respect. 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.

Life was not easy for Gerald. He had ongoing pain from a childhood back injury, digestive problems, and he suffered from depression. But he worked on through low moments and did what he could to reduce suffering. He was an impressive and gallant spirit.

Dr. William H. Forthman, a retired Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Northridge, first met Gerald Heard in 1939, when he was twelve years old, at Christopher Wood's home in Laurel Canyon. When he graduated from high school in 1944, Dr. Forthman went to live at Trabuco College until he was drafted in May 1945. Upon his discharge in November 1946 he returned to Trabuco, which by then had electricity installed. From August 1951 to September 1958, while a student at UCLA, Gerald gave him the task of typing three or four of his manuscripts. He last saw Gerald Heard in 1964. Dr. Forthman concludes, "Gerald was a central influence in my life and one of the most fascinating people I've ever met."



     With Swami Aseshananda at Trabuco, c. 1952.


Gerald is Responsible for Me
by Swami Atmatattwananda

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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.


This young man, Jack Glass, though his visit surprised me, had not come from far away, for he had walked down the hill to visit me in my room from the campus of the Yale Divinity School, where, years later, I realized he was a student. Jack asked, “How about helping this coming summer with the setups?” The Lisle Fellowship engaged in weekend service projects, including rebuilding or repairing homes for poor people, in the areas in and around Golden, Colorado. I said, “This summer I’d like to spend time in reflection.” He replied, “This interests me more than if you’d helped with the preparations.”


He told me he had spent some time with Gerald Heard at a place [Heard] had in Southern California, where he [Glass] had performed landscaping work, trimming hedges and the sort. He found it a place of mystical practices. And he’d asked Gerald, “How long will it take to do ‘this thing’?”  He meant, in their parlance, achieving enlightenment. Gerald had answered, “You do not seem to have been affected by the world. Perhaps 20 years.”


Jack went on to become a professor of religion, as I understand it, at Vassar. And my roommate and I studied philosophy at the University of Chicago Divinity School.


Chicago was everything we had hoped it would be—a place of academic rigor and the freedom that brings. For me, however, the well had run dry. In desperation I called Gerald.  May I come?” was my tone. “I no longer have that place,” was the reply. I had not known of Trabuco College, and it took me a year of soul searching to realize Gerald’s sanctuary was a place called “Trabuco,” which a student had mentioned who had visited Trabuco.


So I stumbled on to the Vedanta Society, something like John the Baptist. I learned that “his place”—Trabuco College—now in the hands of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, was, by his spiritual and generous gift, one and the same as the Ramakrishna Monastery, so renamed.


At that time there were outriders all over the country talking to people about meditation and these ideas. Glenn Smiley, a spiritual mentor of Martin Luther King, Jr., was absolutely entranced by Heard and Aldous Huxley. Rev. Ralph Abernathy said at the end of his life, “It was Glenn Smiley, it was Glenn Smiley, it was Glenn Smiley.” Meaning the honor of being Dr. King’s teacher in nonviolence should go to him.


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. I hold Gerald in iconic status because of these things.

Swami Atmatattwananda has been a member of The Vedanta Society of Southern California since 1955.

    Heard's boyhood home at Ballintubber (Ballintubbrid), Carrigtwohill, County Cork, Ireland7


Life At Trabuco
by Miriam King

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The Sharman Group


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.


This Sharman group was excellent, well attended, and met at the Rathbun’s home, and also at the Bolton’s in Palo Alto at least once. Mr. And Mrs. Wilber Bolton were the parents of Etta Jean Bolton, a landscape architect. Etta Jean did not attend this group regularly while we were there, though she did go to Trabuco College when the group went down there. These meetings were in the spring of 1944, and the Trabuco trip was in late summer 1944. Other group members were Jim and Barbara Delkin, publishers of hard-to-find elite books at Peter Pauper Press. They were intellectuals and were very smart. Other members I remember were William and Mrs. Dave Davenport, there via Dave’s association with A.A., which he was very proud to proclaim as this had changed his life. Also there were Lucille Nixon, whom I understood to be a teacher in Palo Alto, and Elana Lindeman, Amelia Rathbun’s beautiful younger sister. We also met Felix Greene, who was involved with the trip down to Trabuco. He was courting Elana at the time, and she was also on this trip. She didn’t seem very taken with him, but later she married him.


The group continued the Sharman meetings at Trabuco, and this was the focus of the trip. We met Gerald Heard, who spoke there, and he also spoke privately with Patty and me, who were both preparing to join the Carmelite Convent in Carmel. He convinced us that we shouldn’t do this because we were not devotees of the Holy Church, and he initiated a correspondence with each of us. Gerald, Patty, and I all wrote regularly during the next three to four months while Patty and I were back at school. Patty later acceded to her parents’ wishes and became a doctor in Fresno. I took an extra quarter at Stanford and graduated in January 1945, after which I went to the California School of Gardening, located on the Stanford campus, so I could be a gardener at Trabuco. After about a month, Gerald told me to come to Trabuco. That was in the winter of 1945.


Life At Trabuco

We initially had no major expectations about Gerald, but after meeting him we were captivated by his accessibility and brilliance and his involvement in our lives. Meditation was three times daily—early morning, noon, and evening. We were instructed by Gerald and backed up by readings in the Dionysian tradition as explained and guided by Gerald. Concerning Dionysian spirituality, Gerald often referred to God as the “tremendous and fascinating mystery” and the “awe-filled and spellbinding wonder” that can be experienced directly in this life. Out library contained many books descriptive of this path. It is described in the translation by Gerald of a hymn we sang called, “A Child Become.”


Among the authors in the library was Constantine Barbanson, a medieval priest whom Gerald admired much, plus The Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart, and other treasures. Another favorite of Gerald’s was The Mirror of Simple Souls, thought then to be anonymous, probably written by a medieval abbot. It turned out to have been written by a woman—a Beguine abbess, Marguerite Porète—burned at the stake at age 75 because she would not recant her mystical teachings.


One of the spiritual teachers that fascinated me was St. Philip Neri—I was following Gerald’s lead in this. He was a leader in Rome, head of Oratory, during the Counter Reformation. He was filled with Divine madness. We had a big biography of St. Philip by a Cardinal Capecelatro, which I was reading when Gerald asked me if he could look at it to check something. When he returned it he indicated that he had reviewed the whole book. I thought I would find out what he remembered, so I chose some obscure footnote and asked him about it. He remembered it accurately and in full.


We did physical labor, which did not seem like labor, including, for me, gardening. I also remember helping to install a drainage line through the orchard. Bill Forthman and I also cleaned the domestic water tank. I planted a lot of the garden and the landscaping, including olive trees. One near the Oratory is still there—this was a 3’ x 4” piece of a branch buried in the ground, per the advice of a local rancher, which took and grew. We also improved the road and collected manure from the fields and leaf mold from the oaks at the base of the property, near the county road.


The spiritual goals at Trabuco were enlightenment and service to mankind. Gerald often said, “The goal is to give the world one better unit.” (He may have been quoting Evelyn Waugh or possibly the Libertarian Leonard Read.)


Gerald was impressive because of his amazing knowledge, yet he was very approachable, devoid of pretension. We each saw him once a week in his room for spiritual instruction and could talk with him any other time. I recall and love the fact that this was necessary very often.


Gerald talked during and after every meal, sometimes for hours. If Aldous Huxley was there it was a brilliant conversation between them. There were many brilliant people there, such as Marvin Barrett, Edwin Halsey, Ray Jordan, Bill Forthman, the Quakers from Pendle Hill, and other intellectuals, who could keep him going. These talks in the refectory after meals were fascinating. Persons other than Gerald did not lecture while I was there. Gerald’s talks were very informal. The topics were life and spiritual life. He spoke as a guru—plus.


Once I told Gerald that the behavior of a woman there had begun to annoy me after many months of her coming to my room every morning and giving me my instructions for the day while striding up and down, reading from her list. He said to try to see the poignancy of human beings, which solved the problem for me, and which I at least tried to practice always after that.


There was no electricity, so once the mantles were lit up in the Aladdin lamps at evening, there was a soft, sweet glow in the corridors and in our rooms. The kitchen was huge, with an immense stove and every other convenience easily available. We ate an excellent vegetarian diet. I remember one of Gerald’s friends, Iris Tree, doing the cooking there at times; she would wander from place to place, leaving a trail of flour on the floor behind her. There was no smoking permitted at Trabuco. The weather was generally warmer than we were used to. At times, though, in winter I had to wear a wool jacket.


What was there that is difficult to describe was a certain enchantment that permeated the place. It was extremely beautiful, Spanish style, with courtyards, stucco, and tile everywhere, and light-maple furniture blending in. And the smell of the place—intoxicating! It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland.


Concerning Gerald’s disappointment at Trabuco’s end, I would not characterize him as impatient, except that I read that he had quit another project at an early stage. It was all silent and uncomfortable, and some of us were sure that he would be leaving. I thought it ended because we were not able to live up to Gerald’s expectations, as far as spiritual advancement was concerned.


More Trabuco Memories

I recall one of the visits by Alcoholics Anonymous’ founders Bill Wilson and his wife Lois. Bill Wilson was a stockbroker back East who had a mystical experience of God while recovering from the D.T.’s, which changed his life, as seen in the principles of A.A. The Wilsons did not bring their daughter on this trip.


It was a brief visit, and it was very clear what Bill Wilson’s purpose was. He wanted to get advice from Gerald on what direction A.A. should take in the future. “Where do we go from here?” was his question to Gerald. Gerald told him to organize it in terms of small independent units. “Don’t build a big organization,” he counseled. “Keep it in discrete, small units that are independent of each other and that are centered around the 12 Steps.” Bill Wilson did this, and A.A. has endured. As mentioned, this visit was very brief, and Bill Wilson spoke and associated with Gerald for the most part; he was rather standoffish with the rest of us.


When we took Aldous Huxley in the Woodie out to collect cowpies in the pasture, he would pick up a dry one and say, “Ah, a treasure!” His eyesight was very, very poor. He could not tell peaches from apricots at the table. I heard that in his room they had to modify his bed because he was so tall. He would often be seen doing Bates exercises. Later in Santa Barbara I looked into his method, found a therapist, and improved my eyesight.


For a prestigious meeting in Los Angeles between Gerald and W. Somerset Maugham, Edwin Halsey drove Gerald and gave us an idea of the meeting, which had something to do with the movie, The Razor’s Edge, starring Tyrone Power. Evidently the screenwriter had murdered Maugham’s text. Tyrone Power had told Maugham he couldn’t understand the screenplay, and Maugham, upon reviewing it, said he couldn’t understand it either. During lunch the conversation was free ranging, according to Edwin, with Gerald holding forth brilliantly. He was very polite and showed deference to Maugham during some scholarly reference by saying, “You will remember, Somerset, that...” Until Maugham finally exclaimed, “Gerald, you know damn well I don’t remember any of this!”


Mary Enholm was a lovely person who spent part of each year at Trabuco. She was married to a nice man named Fred Enholm, who also made shorter visits there. Mary was an organist in an Episcopal church in Denver, and she was our choir director. The basis of our singing was the remarkable 1940 Episcopal Hymnal. I still have my copy. We practiced at least once a week. Gerald had a nice baritone voice. I enjoyed our singing very much at evening meditations and thought we were pretty good. Michael Barrie had an absolutely beautiful tenor voice. He once told me his ideal singer was a baritone named Yves Tinayre, and he described this man’s singing in glowing terms.


Michael was a super manager and organizer. He could solve many practical problems. I remember his ability to start the pump when no one else could, using intuition and a soft touch. I was in awe of him because his small singing group used to perform with Bing Crosby, and he also took four showers each day when working in the movies. Michael was often sick while he was there, and like Gerald he had a spastic colon. But he was invariably kind and even-tempered.


It was Michael who brought Gerald to see Dr. Henry Bieler about health and diet. While Gerald was on the Bieler diet, Michael made sure he followed it accurately. Precision is required by this diet, which is very powerful. At times I used to drive Gerald down to Pasadena to his Bieler appointments in the Woodie.


The Aschermanns were a beloved and delightful older couple who used to visit from Seattle and who brought Jerusalem artichokes for our large garden. Lucille Nixon, Etta Jean Bolton, Felix Greene, and Elena Lindeman were there early on, but soon disappeared from the scene. When I first went there Dr. Allan Hunter and his wife Elizabeth, from the Mount Hollywood Congregational Church in L.A., were very prominent, came often, and were very supportive of Gerald. I recall that Bill Forthman was associated with their church.


Mary Enholm and Bill Forthman were my closest friends there, a delight to me always. Mary experienced the Prayer of Quiet, which was a pretty advanced state in the scheme of meditative practices as explained by Gerald.


I believe that 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. He has influenced it to this day.

Miriam King (d. 2004) was a student and gardener at Trabuco College.



With conductor Robert Craft, 1961




Some Reminiscences of Gerald Heard
by Jay Michael Barrie

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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,1 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.2 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.3


At this first meeting an instant rapport was mutually recognized, and three weeks later I went back to stay. From that time until his death 27 years later, despite the fact that there were many ups and downs in our relationship, he was the closest and most influential human being in my life.4



Two other great gifts of Gerald Heard's were his conversation and the power to draw people to him. To quote an old friend of Heard’s, W. Somerset Maugham, “It is no exaggeration to say of Gerald Heard what Dr. Johnson said of Edmund Burke: “Burke’s talk is the ebullition of his mind; he doesn’t talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.' ”  If, at a dinner party, he spoke loudly enough to be heard past the person seated at either side, conversation ceased and all would listen spellbound. He could talk with experts about their subjects, using and understanding their technical terms. But he could also speak with great simplicity.


Once in the summer of 1957, he spent one month touring the major penal and mental institutions of California, with a camera and sound crew, filming material for a series of eight television programs on mental health, called Focus on Sanity, to be shown on CBS and which he was to moderate. One day was spent at San Quentin Penitentiary where, during the afternoon recreation period, he and I were allowed to join the prisoners, with no guards accompanying us, in that walled-in compound known as “the yard”—something, I was told at the time, that was unprecedented.


I confess to some nervousness as we mingled with throngs of men whose crimes ranged from forgery to murder. But Gerald appeared to be quite unperturbed, and since it was a very warm day he sought out the shadiest spot available, sat down, and started a conversation with a man who sat down next to him. Within minutes an umbrella was shielding him from the sun, and he was surrounded by a pressing crowd and had modulated into a dissertation on George Bernard Shaw, speaking eloquently but in the simplest of language, with which he held his listeners in absolute silence for thirty minutes.



Gerald Heard had one experience during our long friendship that I would regard as being a psychic phenomenon. He may have had others but this is the only one of which I have personal knowledge, and it occurred four months and nine days before his death.


Every night during the last two years of his illness Gerald slept soundly for from eight to ten hours. It had become my habit, after seeing that everything was in order for the night, to spend thirty minutes or so reading before retiring myself. I slept in the same room with him,5 and by the time I came back his regular breathing would indicate that he was asleep. This happened invariably. However, on the night of April 5, 1971, within a few moments of turning out his light and leaving the room, I could hear him tossing about and attempting to speak. (By now his power of speech was in the main gone.) Returning to his bedroom I turned on the light and spoke to him. He took no notice of me but, gazing fixedly over my shoulder, continued trying to speak. There was a look of great concern in his eyes—no sign of fear, anxiety, or distress, only concern. I did my best to catch some word that would give me a clue from which I could extrapolate and determine what it was that he was trying to say. But to no avail. So I sat down beside him and talked to him softly. Gradually he quieted down, went to sleep, and slept soundly for the rest of the night. I was greatly puzzled since this was the first time such a thing had occurred (as it happened it was the only time), and I made a note to call his doctor in the morning and report it.


The next morning as I listed to the 6 A.M. news on the radio, I heard that Stravinsky (who had himself been gravely ill for some time) had died in the small hours on the morning of the 6th. Allowing for the time difference between Los Angeles and New York City, I discovered that the strange incident of the night before had taken place just shortly before the actual moment of Stravinsky’s death.


Though they were poles apart in many ways—the elegant, erudite Anglo-Irishman and the turbulent Russian genius of music—there was a very strong tie of real affection between them. They always embraced warmly, exchanging the European kiss on friendship on both cheeks, even in public, when meeting and taking leave of one another. And when the Stravinskys still lived in Hollywood, Gerald and I often stopped in for tea in the late afternoon. Heard and Stravinsky spent many hours, on these occasions, in the pleasurable conversation that only two great minds can enjoy. Several times Gerald told me that one of the things they often talked about at great length was the subject of death. So it is hard for me to discount the thought that in extremis Stravinsky’s departing spirit somehow turned to his friend for reassurance.


Editor's Notes

1 Barrie, a conscientious objector during World War II, was held at a minimum-security prison camp in Chilao Flats in Angeles National Forest, where he served as chief cook for more than 100 men.

2 Barrie related in 1977 that he read the entire book in one sitting, and during the early hours of the morning, when he finished reading, he underwent a profound white-light experience.

3 Trabuco College was located nearly 100 road miles south from Chilao Flats.

4 Barrie always credited Heard with saving his life.

5 Beginning on February 5, 1966, Heard suffered 26 minor and six major strokes. Following Heard’s second stroke on October 31, 1966 and until his passing, Barrie became Heard’s fulltime caregiver.


These excerpts are from "Some Reminiscences of Gerald Heard" by Jay Michael Barrie, published in Parapsychology Review, Vol. 3, No. 3, May-June 1972, Copyright 1972 Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Excerpts from "Some Reminiscences of Gerald Heard" by Jay Michael Barrie used by kind permission of the Parapsychology Foundation, Inc.




On May 17, 2006, The Barrie Family Trust received a communication from Swami Yogeshananda, an American monk of the Ramakrishna Order, whose own Gerald Heard reminiscence and brief biography is above. The swami discovered an archived letter sent to him from Jay Michael Barrie, longtime personal secretary to Gerald Heard. The letter, dated May 14, 1981, briefly recounts two events in the life of Gerald Heard: (1) circumstances surrounding Gerald Heard's 1939 spiritual initiation by Swami Prabhavananda, founder of the Vedanta Society of Southern California; and (2) a refutation of a written reference that accused Gerald Heard of hypocrisy.


(1)  "...Regarding Gerald's dream of Ramakrishna: Gerald told me about it a year or so after he became ill — however, he had had the dream in 1939! He had been asking Swami P. to initiate him and S. P. had been putting him off, as was often his wont. Then Gerald had the dream (the account of the dream Chris gave was correct) and when he told Swami about it, S. P. was very excited and said, "You must be initiated at once!" — and he was." [Ed. - "Chris" refers to Christopher Isherwood, who recounted Gerald’s dream in his My Guru, His Disciple; "Swami P." and "S. P." both refer to Swami Prabhavananda.]


(2)  "...Re: [a reference that questioned Gerald's life of voluntary poverty on account of his surreptitiously benefiting from goods and services that were provided by supporters and associates, implying hypocrisy]. I thought this unfair — because not true — Gerald had ample funds at that time and was always insistent about paying his own way — even with Chris Wood — and later with Margaret Gage..." [Ed. - Christopher Wood and Margaret Gage provided lodging for Gerald Heard at certain times in Heard's life.]

Thanks to Swami Yogeshananda for providing this letter, the intellectual copyright of which is vested with The Barrie Family Trust, Copyright © 2006 The Barrie Family Trust, All Rights Reserved.

Jay Michael Barrie (1912-2001) was Gerald Heard's personal secretary and editor, associated with Heard from their meeting in December 1944 until Heard's death in August 1971.



Cover drawing and calligraphy by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

from his Feb. 12, 1964 letter to Gerald Heard.

Reproduced by kind permission of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

Copyright 2007 by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, All Rights Reserved.




My Irish Rebbe
by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

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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,1 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.


When he told me about his book The Gospel According to Gamaliel, I couldn’t believe when I read it that here is a person who has such a wonderful, wide view of the Jewish-Christian situation. He understood Jesus as depicted in the New Testament as seen through Jewish eyes. Gabriel and the Creatures was also wonderful. And Training for a Life of Growth was an important book for me.


When he wrote The Five Ages of Man, he was for me the great inspiration for work that I later undertook under the name of Spiritual Eldering. The notion of Spiritual Eldering is that we have models for every phase of life in youth and in middle age, but we don’t have anything for what I call the harvest years. Once you are no longer “productive,” then there aren’t any roles for you except to kill time. So it was really important to harness the power that an extended lifespan gave to people if they were to seek expanded awareness. And when he writes in Five Ages about all the ordeals that people have to undergo in order to get to the next phase, that was very important to me. In addition, I co-wrote a book called From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older. So these were some of the things that he inspired in me.


But that isn’t quite the whole story. As he got older we would speak from time to time on the phone. We had agreed that when the time came for him to die, he would let me know so that I could be at his side. And that intimacy was a remarkable thing between us. However, he suffered a series of strokes and was in a coma for quite a long time, and then he expired. So it never happened that way. But this was very much the kind of heart connection that we shared.


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. If you needed Aristotle, he was there. If you needed Jeremiah and Isaiah, they were there. That was the amazing thing—the breadth of his awareness. He was able to channel the authentic, pure mystical teachings of the ages. And at the same time he knew a great deal about physiology, about neurology as well as the spirit. He would talk about the chemistry of noradrenalin and stuff like that in his books. That’s why I felt he was a savant. There wasn’t an area in philosophy and in science about which he didn’t have some specific and detailed awareness.


In addition, when you come out of any strong religious commitment, there is a certain amount of triumphalism connected with that. “Nobody else does it as well with God as we Jews!” And every religion has something like this. But to meet someone like Gerald, who had that great sense of universality and ecumenism, was very rare.


I considered Gerald not just a peer, an associate, but also a mentor. I would refer to him as “my Irish rebbe”—my Gentile spiritual teacher. A rebbe is like your Hasidic master. You know, here was somebody who really had a sense of what’s going on on the inside. Some people are really natural spiritual geniuses, but they don’t have enough introspection to make it work so they could lead other people there. Gerald had the introspection, and he also had the scope. You know if there was any kind of upaya [Ed. – spiritual practice] around, he tried it out and he knew how to use it right. He also knew the context from which it came, and he had a cosmology to fit the whole thing together.


And Gerald truly lived in the presence of God. I wouldn’t have called him my Irish rebbe if I didn’t feel that. His wasn’t a conventional sanctity; it was in the sense that the presence of God could be felt tangibly by others. Look, when people talk to each other, they try to attune to each other. As they continue talking to each other, their mutual attunement is growing. So when I went to meet him, obviously I wanted to attune to him, otherwise how could I learn from him? So you make yourself feel like, for example, “I want to be the violin tuned to his strings,” as it were. And then when you get that, the transmission comes on nonverbal levels that are very powerful.


I think I met with Gerald about four or five times. Unfortunately I never saw him lecture. I loved his Irish face—it was a very beautiful face to me. I used to have his picture up to remind me that one could grow old in this way. I really love that man! You see, for all the jnani [Ed. – analytical approach to God] stuffed in him, he was really a bhakti [Ed. – devotional approach to God] at heart. And whenever he had any bhakti connections, then he would overflow with this.


Gerald made two major impressions on me. The first was that my horizon expanded. It was amazing being in his presence when he had this vast horizon that took in so much and managed to keep it organically connected. The second, and this is funny to say, but there’s always a question, “Am I fooling myself when I’m doing the pious stuff?” I might say to myself, “Look who just had this epiphany, this theophany!” But then a little later I might think to myself, “Maybe I’m just jazzing myself into believing that.” But then you meet somebody like Gerald, and you get the sense, “It must be true!” I think he was sort of a litmus proof for the reality of that Reality.


Editor's Notes

1 A lay religious person living in the world.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, better known as Reb Zalman (1924-2014), was an influential figure in modern Judaism. He was a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement and founder of the Spiritual Eldering movement. He had been an innovative leader in the ecumenical dialogue for decades. From 1996 until his passing he served as Spiritual Director of the Yesod Foundation based in Boulder, Colorado. Reb Zalman was one of the preeminent spiritual teachers of our time.




Gerald Heard: Grandfather of the New Age
by Charles E. Vernoff, Ph.D.

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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….

As a senior in high school, I had an English teacher with spiritual interests with whom I must have conversed more than casually, for she gave me a copy of Gerald’s Training for the Life of the Spirit. I was struck at his integral thinking, in this case drawing especially upon Christianity and Buddhism, and in due course I wrote a fan letter sent in care of his publisher. To my astonishment, I received a personal handwritten note from Santa Monica inviting me to drop up to Gerald's mountain redoubt for a chat. By this time I was in Chicago, but I'll never forget my first winter vacation, taking the bus west to Santa Monica and being met by Michael Barrie for a ride to the lovely hilltop home he shared with Gerald. That was the first of a series of similar visits, occurring whenever I was in town, during which Gerald and I would discuss world spiritualities in the garden over tea and shortbread. Gerald's long beard and exquisite Shavian English made me feel as though I had been transported back to a more genteel nineteenth century setting in which the art of conversation had not yet succumbed to technology. During those years, I introduced Rabbi Zalman Schachter to Gerald—for which Reb Zalman has never ceased to thank me. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi went on to make his own mark on history as the founder of Jewish Renewal, now virtually a new Judaic denomination. Long before, Zalman had first introduced me to the true depths of Judaic spirituality.

During the years following Gerald's tragic stroke, occurring in my senior year at Chicago and putting an abrupt end to our wondrous conversations, I came to an ever deeper appreciation of what a rare privilege had befallen me to have become a young collocutor of Gerald Heard's. Originally I had no knowledge of the “Southern California Vedanta Circle,” including Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood along with Gerald—now known as a significant coterie in the history of American religious life and thought. I knew that Gerald had wanted me to meet Aldous, but the demise of the latter unfortunately intervened. Years later, at the Trabuco Canyon Monastery, I saw the room where Aldous had for the most part written The Perennial Philosophy. If that book, together with The Doors of Perception, were the literary heralds of the "New Age," the '60's spiritual counterculture, then Gerald Heard—as Huxley's spiritual mentor—must be acknowledged as true grandfather of the New Age. But I believe Gerald's vision both preceded and transcended the attempted spiritual revolution of the 1960's. The booklet I had first become acquainted with was rewritten as Training for the Life of Growth. This small book captivated me when I first saw it and captivates me now. It outlines an "ad hoc church" based purely on growth in love. Composed of a core membership group in charis (love amongst equals), it takes on postulants in eros (needy love) and aims to produce spiritual masters in agape (the capacity for unconditional selfless love). Here in all its resplendent purity, unencumbered by doctrine of any sort, is the ideal form at which the "New Age" had aimed but has not yet achieved. That ideal still beckons, challenging us now. Gerald Heard remains no less today than when he was amongst us in the body—our wise, revered and beloved, universal and prophetic teacher.

Charles E. Vernoff, Ph.D. (1942-2013), was Emeritus Professor of Religion at Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, where he had taught religion for 28 years, from 1978 until his retirement in 2006.

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Photograph References

1 "Christ Church, Rendlesham Road, London," c. 1905. Copyright English Heritage. Reproduced by kind permission of English Heritage, National Monuments Record.

2 "With Leonard Elmhirst at the Seymour Hotel in 1925." Used by kind permission of the Dartington Hall Trust. Leonard Elmhirst's humorous description of this, the earliest-known photograph of Gerald Heard, who is assisting with winding a ball of yarn, is as follows: "Gerald Heard visits D + L [Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst] at Seymour Hotel and is put to use. 1925."

3 "The Gate of Honour at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, 1900." Used by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

4 "BBC Broadcasting House, 1940." Copyright Mary Evans Picture Library. Reproduced by permission of Mary Evans Picture Library.

5 "With Swami Prabhavananda at the Vedanta Society of Southern California, July 4, 1948." Used by kind permission of the Vedanta Society of Southern California.

6 "Gerald Heard and Jay Michael Barrie at the Vedanta Society of Southern California, 1947." Used by kind permission of the The Vedanta Society of Southern California.

7 "Heard's boyhood home at Ballintubber (Ballintubbrid), Carrigtwohill, County Cork, Ireland." Photograph by Geoffrey Thompson. Used by kind permission of Geoffrey Thompson and Peter Thompson.


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