- Gwendoline Y Fortune
This is another of my occasional depth-oriented explorations–a sharing.
Like many with an inquisitive spirit controversy invigorates me. Due to life circumstances I developed my way of viewing and assessing the world, as does everyone. A difference is, I venture, that some are consciously aware of this facet of themselves; some are not. All components of the developed/evolved perspective and perception are not available to conscious inspection. The workings of the human psyche (soul-spirit) are multi-layered, unavailable to consciousness. But, even this awareness i of value.
What I think I “know” is that discrepancies-contradictions and juxtapositions that my vision perceived from early childhood 1000 were, often, at odds with a communal conception and philosophy offered to me and those in my “world.” For example, my childhood friend, “Baby Thomas”/Julius and I, regularly, discussed our Sunday School lessons with question, dismay and disbelief.
The lessons of love, God, Jesus compared with the behaviors we experienced in our South Carolina town, tended to not jibe in our “racial )(sic) community, and across the “racial divide.” There were churches galore; some might say,”One on every corner.” I watched a church “split,” and the dissenting members built a new edifice next door.
Unlike most children, I did not outgrow our questioning natures. My friend made greater accommodation with the religious institution of our childhood questions, becoming an “Elder.” I refused the honor. He withdrew in later life when a beloved daughter died, prematurely. Unable to resolve his questions, my dear friend “buried his sorrows” in alcohol, never resolving his pain.
Differently from my buddy, I found myself following a complex pathway of 1. academic instruction, 2. non-standard experiences, pursuing my curiosity to a larger, more satisfying degree.
The turbulent period that engulfed the 1950s-60s Civil-Human Rights explorations brought opportunities to meet and interact with other “seekers,” in the Chicago area. The contact platforms were constantly moving, the people, intriguing, with the trajectory of experience guided by unknown forces.
I continued membership in a liberal church of our childhood identification, more liberal than ever, in that the congregation and leadership at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago invited freedom fighters to interact with us from the socio-political/economic upheavals in Asia, Africa and South America. The University of Chicago-Hyde Park environment was fertile ground for free exploration. In retrospect it seems, the people and experiences were, unconsciously and consciously focused and acting in unique existential universes.
An important landing place, for a while was OASIS, Human Growth Center, In Chicago, where I became a regular at weekend retreats. Coming within the views of “thinkers” like George Leonard, Jean Houston, Robert Anton Wilson, Fritjof Capra, communicating-interacting in small groups speared mind-enabling experiences.
An opportunity to participate in a two week experience, under the auspices of “National Training Labs,” brought interest and ability fostered by the progressive school District where I taught. A weekend retreat of our faculty and the trainers is well remembered. Several faculty rejected the experience–in what I now know was abject fear of the possibility of changing ingrained viewpoints. The trainer asked, if we had our fondest desire what would we want? I heard myself say, it would be to organize and operate a human growth center founded on the body-emotion-mind-spirit ideas and experiences to which I was being introduced.
For some years I tried to make the Center a reality. The “Plan” sets in my file cabinet, under the title, “ALL-Way Center.” The name allude to a desire to have a sanctuary where learners and teachers gather amidst unlimited spheres of free thought and spirit to experience and expand human growth on all levels.
The US center, Esalen continues at Big Sur, California. IONS, and various others can be located across the nation. The communal growth concept is an old one. Socrates’ classes were similar centers. Occupy… is a new variant. I searched the world for such places, spent time in several: Options, Ojai Valley, one structured on the Lindisfarne model, on both coasts, and south to north borders. Some of these communities are called Intentional. When I investigated the possibilities I found a catalogue of more than forty in the US. A Google search today finds under “Intentional Communities” scads of them, world-wide. Some are established, others in formation. Discontent with the status quo is varied and ongoing.
I realized that I do not want to live communally–at least as close and interactive as I once thought. Community close, but not too; sharing, yes, but not too.
When I enrolled in a course through U Mass, and lived communally for two weeks I remember becoming aware of my need for autonomy when a cup in the dorm bathroom held a large number of toothbrushes. I am too much of what my father called,”Miss Nice Nasty” to be that close.
Another life-changing encounter came when a former student, a creative, brilliant young man dropped his mother’s copy of Jane Roberts’ The Seth Material on my desk. This was an eye-opener, a woman of my generation–not some ancient, esoteric seer, who followed her curiosity and produced writing that is beyond easy explanation. How interesting life can be, when one is open to possibilities.
For several years I was enrolled in a spiritual development program that led to the title,”Ordained Ministerial Counselor.” Incorporating non-standard spiritual-healing techniques, self-growth practices, in Illinois, and North Carolina, there came a period of satisfaction and expansion.
I became disillusion when, in answer to a question as to whether the college followed a particular curriculum–one I had studied and found wanting–the answer was,”No,” it did not. But, the curriculum departed from what I considered an open, seeking orientation to the confines of one particular dogma. Finding this “path” to be not as I had been told led me to reject the organization, although, as in every situation, there was value to be gained.
Why this? If what we have in this physical world is ALL there is I find “it”questionable. If the imaginings of human thought, over time, has validity, that there is “X,” the unknown, there may be different and more. Like the mentally challenged boy who kept digging for the pony in the stable, why not? For this entity (of nano proportion) no philosophical-religious-spiritual-scientific findings, EXTANT, are sufficient. YOU???
All in all, what now? Who knows? I heard, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. If they cold do better, they would.”
Still, the notion of being with and interacting with cohorts who are exploring values, similarly, and are willing to act on those values, is a dream. Years after contact with “growth ideas, I dare, on rare occasions, to wonder how parallel universes really work (See Seth.) meanwhile, carry-on.