Friend, Exemplar & Sage
An Address Delivered to the
23 March 1995
I first met Rudhyar in San Francisco during the summer of 1968. At that time I was immersed in the study of Theosophy. I felt certain that somewhere, somehow there still existed a few men and women through whom the living power of Theosophy flowed; that there were still active in the world living exemplars of the Path of Transformation, co-workers and chelas (spiritual disciples) of the Buddha-like beings of Wisdom and Compassion whom, a century earlier, sponsored H.P. Blavatsky's mission "to change the mind of the 20th century."
I didn't need to be convinced that there was more to life and reality than appearances and what I had been taught in school. But I also realized that the teachings of Theosophy — especially as formulated by its early 20th century popularizers — did not comprise an "Absolute Truth," they rather constitute approximations and descriptions of a reality framed in words, symbols and images acceptable to Victorian men and women. I realized, as Blavatsky stated toward the end of her life, that a new, more inclusive message and worldview would be needed, released and formulated during the last quarter of the 20th century. In a youthful way, I realized it was part of my destiny to seek out its occult source and help formulate and promote the new message for the new century.
A year or two earlier I had starting tuning into what the few representatives of the many spiritual traditions (gurus) who were known in the West at that time had to offer, and by 1967 I had already met some self-styled American and English gurus, including Alan Watts and Timothy Leary. Then, in 1968, searching for someone still in touch with the living power of Theosophy, the divine Wisdom of the universal Mind, I visited many theosophical centers in New York, in the American mid-West, and in California.
A turning point came when I saw a new book at the San Francisco Theosophical Society. — The Lunation Cycle by Dane Rudhyar. Although I was then only mildly interested in astrology, I bought the book on impulse. It didn't take me long to realize that it advanced a new and satisfying approach to astrology. Indeed, it restored cyclicity to astrology. But what most impressed me about The Lunation Cycle was its theosophical foundation. Not that Rudhyar quoted Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine or that he drew attention to the theosophical basis of his approach to astrology. Indeed, he didn't.
But I immediately realized that Rudhyar's description of the structure of the lunation cycle — with its involutionary and evolutionary hemicycles and its 8 soli-lunar phases - was rooted in the theosophical worldview. Indeed, Rudhyar's presentation of the 7 illuminated soli-lunar phases and the dark new moon phase closely followed the theosophical doctrine depicting 7 "globes" of manifestation plus an unmanifest "pralaya" phase of dissolution.
A few days after reading The Lunation Cycle I was fortunate enough to see a notice posted in Lewin's Bookshop in Berkeley. It announced an informal debate on the beginning of the Aquarian Age between Gavin Arthur and Dane Rudhyar, to be held at San Francisco's famous Glide Memorial Church.
I had already heard of Gavin Arthur, the wealthy grandson of an American President. He was something of a grandfather hippie who had opened the doors of his mansion to a flock of beautiful boys and girls . . . especially boys. He was the San Francisco counterculture astrologer.
Arriving early for the debate, I took a place in the front left pew. Soon a young couple about my age settled in next to me. Striking up a conversation, we spoke of our natal charts. Before long it became evident that the young man and I were "astro-twins" — born on the same day, year and time, and only a few miles apart.
There was something about my astro-twin that made me uncomfortable. I was still very shy and socially withdrawn at the time. But my astro-twin seemed to manifest our strong Scorpio-Leo configuration much differently. He seemed very self-confident, assertive, aggressive, and more than a bit egomaniacal. On top of that, he was very interested in Aleister Crowley and claimed to be proficient in ceremonial magic and hypnotism.
The friendly debate finally began, about an hour late. In it Rudhyar summarized much of what was later published in the book Astrological Timing — The Transition to the New Age. The audience seemed impressed with Rudhyar's historical and philosophical insights. And as the debate progressed, it became clear that Rudhyar was not only convincing the audience of the validity of his position but also, in his first en mass contact with the counterculture, winning the respect and admiration of the unconventional young and not-so-young people who filled the venue to capacity.
But the really impressive, convincing and inspirational part came after the debate, when the two astrologers responded to written questions submitted by the audience. I asked Rudhyar how the coming Aquarian Age tied in with the coming of the new and highly integrated type of humanity Blavatsky and other theosophists said was to be born in California. He sent back word that my question was too specialized to discuss before a general audience, but that I should feel free to approach him at the close of the talk. Then, looking in his direction, I noticed he was staring at me.
Rudhyar did, however, respond that evening to some other questions, like "What can we do now to prepare for the coming new age?"
It was in response to such questions that he spoke of the key components of his sociocultural vision which appeared a few years later in his books We Can Begin Again - Together and Directives for a New Life. With a light and power I had never before experienced, Rudhyar spoke of seed groups as lenses giving existential form to what he called seed ideas and new aspects of archetypal Man. As he spoke his voice rolled like thunder through the hall. The Tone of a mighty gong seemed to sound through Rudhyar; and my mind, being and consciousness resonated to it. The air, and our minds, vibrated with the spiritual power that seemed to flow through Rudhyar like light through a window. Everyone in the hall seemed utterly fascinated with Rudhyar
I realized I was encountering a living representative of the Community of Seers and Sages.
After the talk, a group of eager young people gathered around Rudhyar, asking questions of all sorts. I remained on the fringe of the group, too self-conscious and timid to speak, but I noticed Rudhyar frequently looking at me. Then, after the group thinned out to a few determined seekers, Rudhyar made a friendly comment regarding the question I had submitted earlier and asked if I was from a theosophical family. I told him my mother was from a prominent Masonic family, and that after I had discovered Theosophy on my own I learned that my grandparents had studied Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.
When the sponsors told us it was time to leave because the custodian wanted to close the church for the evening, Rudhyar suggested that since it still early evening the group could reassemble at the comfortable home of his friend and hostess, Mrs. Winslow, across the bay in Berkeley.
There he listened carefully to our thoughts and experiences, and seemed genuinely interested in all aspects of the counterculture, which was then in full blossom. At someone's suggestion, Rudhyar summarized his biography. It was then that he spoke of his theosophical background and his close relationship with the great theosophist B.P. Wadia. He went on to describe his multi-faceted creative activities, and since there was a grand piano in the house, Rudhyar treated us to a couple of his compositions, which were unlike anything we had previously heard. He went on to some improvisations of the sort, he said, he used to play for Martha Graham's rehearsals back in the 1920s. That very much impressed a dance student from Mill College.
I returned to New York City a few months later, where I spent the next 3 years. Every year, however, I saw Rudhyar when he came to New York to give lectures and seminars. During those years we corresponded and I read all his books. I especially remember waiting the publication of The Planetarization of Consciousness, which Rudhyar promised in a letter would treat theosophical and metaphysical issues in a new way. I read the difficult book cover to cover 2 or 3 times during 1970-71, realizing that here was finally a modern reexamination of the key ideas of Theosophy.
It wasn't until I returned to California during the summer of 1971, however, that we became close friends. I had sent Rudhyar some material from my work in progress, A Handbook for the Humanistic Astrologer, which greatly excited him because it would enabled the new wave of astrological students to learn the first principles of astrology without first being exposed to and conditioned by the traditional, event-oriented textbooks of the day, most of which were written decades earlier.
Rudhyar spent the late summer as a guest of Jose and Miriam Arguelles in their Palo Alto home. It was there that we had our first long, private meeting. I arrived during the early afternoon, and he wouldn't let me leave until that evening. I recall he was extraordinarily kind and encouraged me to ask all sorts of questions. He seemed intensely interested in learning all about my background and my thoughts on a broad range of subjects. As sometimes happens among close and longtime friends, during that early meeting when asking him about a remote subject, he often relied that he was at that moment thinking along similar lines. One of his favorite remarks to me, which I heard dozens of times over the coming years, soon became: "You are psychic!"
That afternoon we spoke largely about the Theosophical Movement and his involvement in it, about the fantastic and promising social and mental changes which were then (in the 1970s) so prevalent in the United States and western Europe, and about how our lives and work figured in both. And he spoke of his "spiritual parents" — B.P. Wadia, the great theosophist, and Aryel Darma, a Dutch theosophical lady from Java — whom he met during 1920 at the Krotona theosophical center in Hollywood.
It came out that Esalen Institute had asked him to give a weekend seminar during September in Berkeley on "A New Look at Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine," and he invited me to attend as his guest. After saying something about how difficult the task was and how one never knows how intellectuals will respond to (and misconstrue) theosophical ideas and concepts, he went on to summarized his general approach to the subject.
Throughout the meeting I became increasing aware of the fact that since I first met Rudhyar in 1968, I had felt our destinies were somehow linked; and over the decades since I have often sensed certain ancient situations pressing themselves upon the present.
Toward the end of the meeting, I spoke of something which had been on my mind for some time. I mentioned to Rudhyar that it was easy to recognize his great contribution to astrology in the form of restoring cyclicity to it, of his formulation of the humanistic, person-centered approach, and all that. But why, I asked, did he spend so much time and energy on astrology when he could do so much more as a spiritual teacher? "Why be an astrologer," I wanted to know, "when you could be a great guru, a great spiritual teacher?"
I suppose it was something like Marie d'Agout asking Franz Liszt why "playing piano well" was so damn important when he could be a great artist and an influential philosopher.
In reply, Rudhyar spoke of the great difficulties and obstructions he had encountered during his earlier years, of how opportunities (perhaps too many opportunities) later presented themselves in the astrological world, of aborted attempts and of his earlier unreadiness. But, he confided, with the approach of the last quarter of the 20th century, perhaps more will possible. "And look," he said on an up note, "Esalen has already asked me to do that talk on The Secret Doctrine."
Before leaving, Rudhyar graciously presented me with copies of some of his old theosophical articles (such as "A Call to Occultists and Theosophists"), which he had brought along for his Secret Doctrine seminar. It was out of that seed moment that the book Occult Preparations of a New Age — and other books written after 1975, about which Rudhyar and I discussed, corresponded, planned and outlined during 1973-74 — grew. And it is in these books (as well as in his earlier book, The Planetarization of Consciousness) that I believe Rudhyar made his really outstanding, yet largely unrecognized, contribution.
I can't even began to describe how Rudhyar "influenced" my life. I cannot even imagine what I would be if there were no Rudhyar. But if there were no Rudhyar, sooner or later something or someone would have met, no doubt in a different way, the need; someone else would have given a future, so to speak, to astrology and to theosophy.
I heard Rudhyar once say that he "was allowed to live." And indeed, his often fragile health saved his life because it exempt him from military service during WWI, in which the regiment he would have joined was wiped out in the retreat from the Marne. It seems that what is needed survives and, if one is opened to the downflow of transcendental, transpersonal light and power, in one way or another one receives the help and protection one needs to fulfill one's dharma.
Now it is for us to survive and give existential form and meaning to the new operative aspect of divine Wisdom and archetype Anthropos now seeking realization through a new, truly planetary humanity.
© Copyright 1995 by Michael R. Meyer
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