Beyond Individualism

The Psychology of Transformation

by Dane Rudhyar


by James Fadiman Ph.D.

Rudhyar and I have become friends by a series of concentric events. He lived next door one summer. We met at conferences. We had friends in common who founded a bookstore based on his ideas. My wife painted a cover for one of his novels. We had dinner a few times. The usual seemingly random way that people meet in this world.

His books I approached very slowly. I had no special attraction or knowledge of astrology, so I was not drawn to the books he's written in that area. I'm not a musician so I hadn't realized that he was a composer as well as a writer about music. Philosophy had been effectively reduced to tedium by my professors in that subject so I shied away from those books of his as well.

The novel my wife worked on I read on a cross-country flight. It was apparently a science-fiction story (Return from No Return) but there was something added, like a counter-melody or a subtle harmonic. At one point in the book I found my eyes filling with tears. What do you do on a 747 when you are reading and crying to yourself? You feel embarrassed, surprised; you crouch down low in your seat and hope no one will ask to help you or comfort you.

What had moved me? Rudhyar had touched on a theme that was so universal and so personal that for an instant I was awakened from my narrow point of view and saw the larger framework in which I (and you) are embedded. It was a shock, not a re-cognition, but a re-collection, of being brought together again, of realigning my personal position with the larger flow of events and energy in which my life moves.

Return from No Return did this in a gentle, lulling way. It is clearly fiction; it's about some other people in some other frame of reference, much of it on other worlds. It sings along with all the music and good cheer that is allowed to science-fiction, or philosophy-fiction writers. There is no direct warning—"THIS BOOK MAY BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR COMPLACENCY"—written on the outside spine, nothing to alert my normal academic and rational defensiveness. Realizing that I'd been tricked into a moment of wakefulness, I thought again about Rudhyar's books and what he is doing.

It now looks to me as if he has been engaged in the usually unpopular task of awakening people to their own place in the scheme of things. What looks like a wide range of interests and a wide span of publications has truly been a wide range of gift-wrappings of the same message. He told me once that the nice part of writing astrological columns about the birthdates and charts of famous persons is that you could discuss anything you felt was important about the person as long as you rooted your remarks within the frame of the chart. He could ask his readers to reflect on whatever was important for him and still fulfill their needs to see it as "mere" astrology if they wished. So when Rudhyar gave me the first part of this book to read I was partly warned, partly wary of this man and his ideas.

This book is not gift-wrapped, there is no disguise, no cheerful fictional narrative, no astrological conundrums, no musical interludes. It is the facts of the case explicitly delineated and forcefully presented.

The only device that Rudhyar has used is to call it a psychology. I am a psychologist. Correction—my degree is in psychology and I have read and written most extensively within those borders. I think "psychologically", I suggest that others can benefit from psychology and so forth. I thought, in looking at this title, that Rudhyar has turned his attention to my discipline, my bite of the original apple. It would be easy and relaxing for me to involve myself in his reflections on my turf.

Damn! Tricked again. I think I'm writing this to forewarn you that he has done it once more.

This book is not a book which will come to rest within psychology. It is a book which redefines psychology, stretches it far beyond its narrow, conventional, academic and complacent limits. It is about understanding humanity and its relation to the earth.

Let me give you a feeling of what that is about. There is a film "Powers of Ten"—which gives its viewers a sense of context, a sense of realistic proportion about their place in the universe. A sequence shows a person; then you rise above the person and see an area ten times larger than the person, say a section of beach with other people; then you go up again to another ten-fold expansion. Now you can see the whole beach with waves on one side and homes and streets on the other. Within a few more frames you are seeing the sun and the planets as little bitty specks against the larger backdrop of the galaxy. As you return, bit by bit to the beach you are aware of your unimportance, and at the same time your personal centrality to it all.

That's what's going in this book. The whole business of psychology, the whole point of view, the introspections of the clinical psychologists, the manipulations and deductions of the social psychologists, the endless animal extrapolations of the physiological psychologists, and even the social reforms of the radical psychologists are put into the full frame of human process.

One thing psychology lacks is a sense of history, not a nostalgic romantic, feet-by-the-fire sense of things past, but a functional awareness of the role that historical processes have in the development of psychological maturity and psychological pathology.

Nowhere in my training did we look at the effects of civilization on personal awareness. We looked endlessly at the individual life-style and life-cycle but never at the cultural life-cycle and never even envisioned the developmental cycle of the human species itself. History in my training usually meant something that happened about 10 to 20 years ago.

Psychologists will read this book and ask the litany of the behavioral scientists:

What is the experimental evidence?

What studies are referred to?

What experiments will make this prove out—true or false?

Alas and Alack (as they say in the sword and sorcery tales) this volume does not meet any of those needs. It is not a psychology of experiments and deductions from the results. It is a discussion of a way to think, a way to examine the life-cycle. It is a formulation of a more inclusive model of human functioning.

Warning—it is not a snappy, frothy book to read. It is written for adults who are willing to follow a long and carefully drawn argument from its inception to its conclusion.

Recently, I was at a symposium on consciousness, sponsored by the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, with Rudhyar. A number of super-stars of consciousness were presenting their most current work. Rudhyar spoke seldom but each time he did the discussion shifted. Each time he would comment or ask a question it would change the space we were thinking in. He has the capacity to help others think in powers of ten, to rise out of the internal bickerings over ideas to let both parties see the nest in which their opposing ideas rest, like yin and yang merged into one another. Some of the younger members of the symposium didn't follow the thrust of his remarks and felt he was taking them off the subject. They were right. He was asking us to stop worrying our thoughts like a dog with a bone and observe where our thinking arises and what its implications are. I felt like a child being asked to grow up unexpectedly. The book is like that.

I was in a supermarket line recently and ahead of me was a man much, much older than I was. He was buying 10 pounds of white sugar. Another man in line with us joked about the effects of pure sugar as a diet for one so old. The man said, "I ain't old, never have been, never will be. I'm 81 and I eat what I like." In an instant he no longer was older; he was simply able to look back farther than most people. Rudhyar is 84 now and he isn't old either. He's mature enough to take the time to say a thought fully, until it's finished; patient enough to review its implications and compassionate enough to write it out for others to see.

The first time I read this book, it was difficult for me to stay with the argument, to maintain my attention. I saw that my educational up-bringing has lessened my capacity to pay attention. The second time I read the book I could see how it has begun to work on me, I was willing to walk along with Rudhyar and notice things as he pointed them out. My defensiveness had diminished, my pomposity about being a "real" psychologist had deflated. I realized I was in the presence of a great mind who was willing to clarify the place in which I found myself. I suggest you read this book for pleasure, not for enlightenment (for you are already enlightened), not for scholarship, not for the sake of "keeping up," but to give yourself a larger set of windows to view your life from. It is a pleasure to know that books like this are still offered to us. It is a personal pleasure to commend it to you.

Though Rudhyar will probably snort at this I would suggest to you that he is in truth following an esoteric description from Alice Bailey (and hundreds of others who say it differently)

The service that I render

   must be to souls

      and not to myself . . .

the fire that I create

   must heat not burn:

      it must draw into its warmth

         the man who needs its heat.*

—James Fadiman, Ph.D.

Stanford University,

California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology

* Alice A. Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. 1, p. 610.

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