Jack R. Gibb
(December 20, 1914-January 10, 1995)
How does one see another person? One way is to look at the outside, observe their behavior and the accomplishments. Such a way is illustrated in book-jacket biographs. Here we can judge the person, evaluate the degree of authority we ought to grant them while reading their book. How believable a writer is can be established by whom they associate with, what other recognized authorities share their activities and their views. Another way is to listen closely to them when they are speaking from their soul.
Following are two pieces of biographical material. The first is an exterior look at Jack Gibb, written in third-person, painting his undeniable "authority." The second is made up of excerpts from his unpublished The Passionate Path, a look at the inner Jack Gibb, in his own words, the way he might reveal himself to a trusted friend, an intimate. Considering who Jack was and what he had tried to tell the world about himself—and itself—this seems the "truer" way.
A. Taken from the jacket material of Trust, 1991 edition.
A pioneer in humanistic psychology and the originator of Trust Level theory, Jack Gibb's distinguished career as a psychologist and consultant spans five decades. Often referred to as the grandfather of organizational development, he has applied TORI theory to all forms of organizations, from corporations and governments to schools, churches, and hospitals. He was the original proponent of the importance of trust in team dynamics and organizational behavior, and the effect of trust on creativity.
He was an early innovator at the renowned National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine, where behavioral scientists performed the pioneering work in team dynamics, communication, sensitivity training, and leadership training in the 1940's and 1950's. Jack was one of the first and most highly regarded T-Group (training group) leaders at NTL, served as Director of Research, and co-authored two books with the three NTL founders: T-Group Theory and Laboratory Method and The Laboratory Method of Changing and Learning.
An internationally acclaimed consultant, Jack has consulted for IBM, AT&T, General Motors, Dow, DuPont, the State Department, the IRS, TVA, YMCA, and the National Council of Churches. He holds a doctorate in psychology from Stanford and has taught at Brigham Young, Michigan State, and the University of Colorado, where he also directed the Group Process Laboratory.
Jack is past President of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology, and a fellow of the APA, ASA, the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences, and of the International Association of Applied Social Sciences.
He has contributed chapters to 26 professional books on management, organizational development, group dynamics, human potential, communication, and education, and over 350 articles to professional journals on those subjects and on learning theory, therapy, and counseling. His classic article "Defensive Communication," written in 1960, continues to be the standard in the field. Over one million copies of the article have been distributed to staff of various corporations.
Jack has received numerous international awards for his contributions to the fields of psychology, education, communications, organizational development, and world peace. Today he continues his work of capturing and translating a new vision of a more trusting world.
B. Some glimpses into Jack Gibb, the person, excerpted from The Passionate Path.
Ichose to come to this life as a love child of a magnificently spiritual mother. Ada Laura Gibb, my mother, was a pioneer woman and a pioneering one. Born in Lehi, Utah, in a polygamous Latter Day Saint family, she drove with her father, his two wives, and her 20 brothers and sisters to Magrath, Alberta, where I was born in 1914.
Born of a "single parent," as the current phrase goes, in a closely knit Mormon community, I might have been neglected had the nurturing love of members of my very large family not greatly overshadowed whatever censure there might have been for my mother and me.
My earliest memory is of my grandfather, a patriarch in the church, and a cobbler, taking me to buy an ice cream cone. I worshipped him and, as I remember it, spent most of my days tagging along with him and playing with him and his friends in his shoe store. I have a vivid memory of our walking back from the ice cream store with me on his shoulder -- ice cream dripping down on him from my cone, and love dripping up on me from my playful grandfather who, people told me later, was "crazy" about me.
My life journey has been, and is, a passionate path. By far the most significant aspect of me is my deep feeling, from the beginning, that I am on an eternal spiritual journey. My earth trip is a significant blip on the curve of my eternal journey. I have always had a mission, a purpose, a destiny, a transcending passion, a deep-lying want to make a difference.
Beginning in my early years, I felt that my lifetime was a magnificent adventure, an opportunity to learn as much as I could learn about the "significant" aspects of being.
One vivid image comes to me of a woman customer in our little store on Stark Street in Portland, Oregon, where my stepfather and I sold groceries. I was writing a paper during the mid-afternoon lull. Asking to see the paper, and reading it, the lady asked, "How old are you?" Replying, "I'm nine," I carried on a vigorous discussion with her about the content of the paper. Recently, I discovered this particular paper among my collections of stuff from my childhood. The title is "Christ or Capitalism." It is an article I wrote about the dilemma that faced our "universe." I saw the most important dilemma as a conflict between cooperation and competition.
I remember one time when I was about 12 years of age hearing my mother on the phone talking with one of the girls in my high school class who had invited me to go skating. My mother said, "I surely hope that you can get him to go with you, because he has never learned to play." I was quite proud of the fact that my stepfather trusted me with the bookkeeping in our store because I was accurate, dependable and appropriately serious minded. We both prized this "adultness" of mine. I remember being impressed with my mother's wanting me to play but understanding my stepfather's need to have me work "all the time." Even then I was vaguely aware that I was missing something and that I somehow had things in an incorrect perspective.
I was brought up as a Latter Day Saint and became involved at a very early age in discussions of after life, eternal existence, preexistence, and matters of the enduring nature of the inner being. Later on, as a psychologist teaching in several universities (Brigham Young University, Columbia University, University of Colorado, etc.), I enjoyed teaching Psychology of Religion and read extensively in mystical and psychological literature about the religious experience.
I remember my youngest brother, Bob, asking my mother, "Why does Jack always work so hard?" My mother reported this conversation to me one day when I was about 18. She expressed wonder at the same process, but my impression was that she understood me very well and that she had a lot of the same stuff going on in her, with some of the same deep conflicts and inner polarity.
I sometimes find myself caught up in a deep anger towards people who seem to be evil in intent and action, and, at the same time, feel a deep compassion for people who are hurting so bad inside that they feel they must punish the world in some way. I have a vivid memory of a scene on the beach at Laguna Hills in California. On one windy afternoon, on my "coffee break" from a workshop I was conducting nearby, I saw a small boy of about four years of age, walking along and sobbing at the cold wind, and complaining to his father. His father turned around, saying something about "men don't cry," and slapped his son's face very hard several times, finally knocking the boy to the ground. Understanding the father's righteous anger at his unmanly child, and his inner need to punish when seeing the world as he did, I still found it very difficult to keep from going up and protecting the child, perhaps hitting the parent, who seemed to me, from the way I saw the world, to be doing an outrageous thing. I felt incapacitated by my awareness of the dilemma in me, my strong polar feelings, and my caughtness in the midst of my own unresolved beliefs. Empathy and non-action. Rooted in polarity.
I remember receiving a letter from my stepfather when I was spending the summer working on the farm of a relative near Magrath, in Alberta. He asked me to find my real father, whom he thought lived near Magrath, and never to return to his home in Portland, Oregon. I remember, at the age of 15, understanding the feelings of my stepfather, who deeply resented taking care of his wife's bastard son. I must have been a continuing reminder of the "sin" that his wife had committed. I could easily understand his feelings. At the same time, I was deeply frightened, had no way of knowing how to find my own father, whom I had never met and whose name I did not know. I missed my mother, felt that I had nowhere to turn, felt friendless and abandoned, and resentful of his action. I felt caught between my strong compassion for him and his pain, and my strong feelings of fear, impotence and abandonment. Again, empathy and non-action.
I have lived so long in the world of "scientific psychology" that it is very difficult for me to open myself up to a spiritual universe. I was taught and have taught others to look at empirical evidence, to doubt until something was "proved," to be cautious in interpretations, to rely on the canons of logic, to look askance at even the "hardest" research evidence, and to be linear, logical, and rational. My intuitive, right-brained, impulsive, soul searching belief systems are often very different from what have learned in classical psychology.
In many practical situations in life, I find myself caught between what I think to be "true" and rational and what I feel, in my "soul," to be true and right. This polarity is present for me in all "significant" life situations. My inner guidance system is at odds with my scientific training. This is particularly true when we are talking about experiences that are mystical, esoteric, non-sensory, cosmic, transcendental, or spiritual. I see this dilemma in many of my fellow travelers on this planet.
I am aware of many rhythms and flows in my life I seem to have chosen a life pattern on this earth journey that calls for a major change every twenty years. During first period of about twenty years, from 1914 through 1935, I was a devout religious person and a dedicated and avid student, studying religiously everything that came my way. I experienced in my family, at school, and in my reflections, each of the classic seven dilemmas that I have described above. Sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully, with all the shades and variations.
For the second twenty years, from 1936 through 1955, I was a college professor, a research psychologist, and a professional educator. I taught in the departments of psychology at Brigham Young University, Michigan State University, and the University of Colorado. I had a ten-year research grant from the Office of Naval Research and developed a theory and some research data about trust (9), defensive behavior, and creativity that led to my Trust Level theory (25). I was a dedicated and passionate scientist and professor, feeling that I had found my calling and that I would be a professor all my life.
For the third twenty-year period, from 1955 to 1974, I became a consulting psychologist, developing a theory of organizational behavior while consulting with business, government, churches, universities, and every variety of organization throughout North America (4, 9). Again, I was sure that I had finally found my calling and my life work. I believed that societal advancement and the transformation of our culture would occur in our organizational settings, and that the way to contact the universe was through direct transformation of the organizations we created and lived in.
It was at this time, between 1974 and 1978, that I had a series of seven life-changing transcendental experiences, which I see as mystical messages from the universe, an attunement with God, and a powerful communion between my non-conscious inner guidance system and my conscious self. These were by far the most significant events in my life up to that time. In 1974, I commenced my fourth twenty-year period, lasting, I sense, through about 1994, when, as I see it now, I will move into my fifth twenty-year period of more direct and immediate communion with the universe. At this moment I feel that after my century of living, my five twenty-year cycles, I will move on to an after life that will be even more accelerated, beautiful, in tune with the infinite allness, and nirvanic than I expect my life to be in my fifth twenty-year period.
Seven distinct and life-forming experiences in the four years between 1974 and 1978 changed my life radically. They "came to me," happened, unexpectedly, without warning. In retrospect, it seems to me that I was able to hear these dramatic messages, this lifting of the curtain, this communion with God, this in-touch-ness with the universe within me. As described above, my whole life has been a searching for some kind of wholeness, some working out or, better, playing out of the seven concerns that have energized my life. It is as if, focused on these concerns, my body, mind, and soul tuned in together and gave me the words to the music I had been writing, "answers" to the dilemmas that captured and enraptured me, messages that both quieted and empassioned me. Whatever else, the experiences have strengthened my mission and my sureness that I am on the special path that my grandfather had prophecied for me.
A lot has happened since these experiences. I translated the seven messages into a unitary theory of the universe that feels good to me and that forms the substantive content of the trilogy I am now writing. I radically changed my lifestyle in ways that I am pleased with and that others notice readily. I am more sure of my directions, more loving of myself, and less ambivalent about the primary concerns that have troubled me. I am moving to a transcendence of the seven polarities that I have discussed above, and am, in large part, resolved about these paradoxes and am moving beyond them into new spaces, new confidence in my mystical orientations, and into a newer and more satisfying belief system. The Omicron Orientation is a message from me to me, and I am listening to me.
Believing that collaboration and cooperation is a, or perhaps the primary characteristic of the universe, I have sought out a magnificent group of collaborators who are inventing and discovering the theory with me. We are writing companion books, falling in love with each other, moving into new and adventuresome lives, and welcoming others who are joining us. I find new joy in co-being, co-authoring, and co-playing. I almost said co-working again and caught myself. I am undergoing a significant perceptual shift into seeing my work as play and seeing the universal metaphor as spiritual play. Feels good. Playful. Workable.
I have struggled all my life with my existential aloneness and my consuming need to be in community with everyone. I want to be unique and to be in everyone. I am becoming aware that there is an inseparable quality to aloneness and to community. To be uniquely and totally alone is to be fully in the universe, to be in community with every form and atom in the universe. And to be fully in community is to have the universe within. To be wholly alone and to be wholly in community is the same process. One that resolves my lifelong paradox by a perceptual transcendence. This transformation, for me, came in my first communion experience.
In the spring of 1974 I went, in desperation, to my physician for a check-up because I was feeling all kinds of disorienting confusion. For the first time in a life of notable good health I was diagnosed as having severe hypertension. Advised to take four diazides a day, I was assured that I would be relatively safe from the dangers of a heart attack. Determined to get back into full and abundant energy for my spiritual path, I tried everything that my many friends suggested. I started jogging, for instance, religiously and with great determination, with compulsive passion.
My daily four-mile trip soon became joyful, and I soon began to experience profound highs, especially in the last ten minutes of my runs. This experience of intensive highs was startling to me at the time, though later I read that this was a common experience for runners.
One day during the last ten minutes of my run, on a particularly energyful day, I experienced a deep trance that, judged from the distance I saw that I had traveled during the experience, lasted about eight minutes. Everything that I had struggled to understand in the past now suddenly, with immense illumination, came abundantly clear. It felt that I now completely understood everything in the universe. Everything was directly and inextricably related to everything. The expression "all in all" came to me in words and seemed profoundly applicable to all my dilemmas. My experience was so vivid, so startling, so completely new for me, so filled with awe, that I have never completely recovered from it. It seems even more vivid now, in memory. I still go back to it as to a favorite book to "re-read" it and to enjoy anew, enrich my interpretations, savor the wisdom, marvel at the luminous clarity of it all.
Lately I have been drawn toward reading about Buddha's experience under the Bodi tree. I relate my experience to his in the impact each experience had in changing the life of the experiencer. Hearing me describe my all in all experience in a public lecture, a friend recommended Cosmic Consciousness as a book that described what seemed like similar experiences received by others.
Since this experience I see myself as a very different person, and others report seeing me as very different. I see the message as a personal communication to me, as well as a description of a universal process of allness. I was telling myself, in my trance, that community and collaboration are the core processes of the universe. I no longer feel the ambivalence toward joining others in depth. Joining you in whatever relationship and form that happens is a way of maintaining and enriching my uniqueness. I now have little need to protect my privacy and my aloneness. Being alone is the same as being with you in community. The universe is in each of us.
At the moment of writing this I am very thankful for my special, honored birth -- for being a love child, a fatherless child, a special child in a warm Mormon community family. This specialness seems to make it easier for me, now, to suddenly see the universe as a warm, friendly father, a special being that loves me, cares for me, and singles me out for special, personal messages. These enable me to grow, and to honor the universe in me and the me in the universe. I feel a kindred, person-to-person love toward the universe. The universe is my father, my sister, my brother, my lover, and my inner guide.
Sometime during the year 1979, I became fully turned on to the concept of a spiritual journey as central to the life development and personal growth of every person. Partly, this conviction came as a projection of my own intense interest in my own special childhood-bred mission. Partly, the growing interest in the theory came as a result of intensive observation of my friends in TORI communities and the special TORI Intern program, and seeing what happened when they began to clarify and intensify their own journeys, to put them into words, and to clarify their life quests.
One day in Denver, in the midst of a large TORI community experience, I was visited by another powerful and life-transforming experience, a transcendence experience. Five of my seven trance experiences were associated with emotional highs in a TORI community, an experience of low-structure communion that produces a high incidence of transcendental and mystical experiences. I was intensely involved in this community at a very emotional and personal level, even more than is usual for me. During a lunch break I lay on my back on the carpeted floor, wanting to relax a bit, meditate, and explore my inner world for a few moments. I immediately found myself enveloped by a beautiful, peaceful overflowing that seemed to cover me, protect me, take me back to a womb-like encasement, free of all fear. I felt that I would never fear again, that I was bathed in a permanent protective fluid. The covering had a magical, transparent quality. I was able to see through into the insides of everything that I wanted to look at. Inside, everything was liquid, flowing, gently waving, a safe turbulence that was dynamic and rapid but non-violent and not at all dangerous. I was a protected observer of all this motion. I felt privy to the secrets of the universe. For the first time, I felt, I could see what was really going on inside of the universe. It would be fun to report to my friends in physics and chemistry and give them a first-hand, authoritative account of the events that they had been speculating about for all these years.
What impressed me most was that everything was in constant flow and motion. Nothing stood still. From time to time I looked at my own body, saw through it into the active world inside, saw that in me was the same continuous flow. Mostly I looked, seemingly without interpretation or comment to myself. At one point I felt the word "energy" coming to me, and the clear, worded observation that "goodness, everything is energy." Energy was there for the taking, the using, the looking. It was attainable, abundant, free and ready. There was nothing I had to do to capture it. Somehow, too, the energy seemed serene and gentle, not frenetic or needing to be used up, stored, or held on to. Nothing to do.
The experience lasted for 20 minutes or so, though I was not really sure how long it was. It had a decided impact on me. I felt that I had gained some significant knowledge. I talked about the experience to several people. It seemed a message to me and one answer to my dilemma and polarity around boredom and energy. I didn't have to search for energy. It was no big thing. It was always available.
One Saturday evening in a TORI community experience, I came into the room to discover that a group of people had gathered fifteen colored candle bottles, lit them, and placed them in a circle in the middle of the large carpeted room. We started our session as if around a campfire, some sitting, some lying on their stomachs watching the "campfire" in the middle. A warm, cozy feeling had already been generated in this community of about 110 people and the circle of dim lights added to the intimacy and closeness that was building. Filled with peace and a quiet spirituality, I gradually became aware of a young woman who was next to me, someone whom I had not previously noticed. She radiated a quietly intense spirituality, a centeredness that was deeply appealing to me, a vulnerability that welcomed tenderness and gentle treatment. After what seemed like a long time, I mentioned to her that her quiet spirituality appealed to me. Her answer was, "I know." We then, quietly, at long intervals, shared some intense feelings about each other, each immediately knowing "exactly" what the other was going to say before we used any words. I had never before in my life had such an experience of deep, tuned-in communion with another person.
We seemed to be quietly focused upon discovering each other's core and inner reality. Without touching, with very few words, with no need for reassurance, with no need to check on the accuracy of our perceptions, with full attention on each other, we began to feel very close. I felt more in tune with her inner reality than I have ever felt with another person before or since. The joy of discovering each other's spirit and soul was the feeling of our experience. That we were falling in love with each other seemed certain but peripheral to the primal spirituality of our experience of each other.
After a very long and a very short period of time, we, together, moved out of our physical bodies, journeyed out of the room, viewed many scenes that were new to us, discovered much about each other, talked not at all but communicated more and more deeply at a level I had never experienced previously. The first words that were spoken was my quiet suggestion that we go back into our bodies and rejoin the other people in the community. We did this and were surprised to discover that about three hours had passed and that we were the only people left in the room.
Neither of us had read about what had been called "out-of-the-body experience." Neither of us had ever experienced anything remotely similar to this experience. We talked about things we had viewed on our trip and quickly found that we had viewed the same scenes, and experienced the same events. Each of us was awed and overwhelmed with the experience and found it difficult to talk about. When asked by the group, I spoke a few words about the experience the next morning in the group. When she was asked about it, she said that it was "far too deep and sacred to talk about." We each had what we thought of as sacred feelings about each other and about the experience.
One of my seven communion experiences occurred at Innisfree, a conference center maintained by the University of Toronto. Our 30-member Astron intern group often met there. It was a beautiful country place.
An early riser, I would jog in the mornings before the rest of the group would get up. One morning, after a particularly intensive session the night before, I got up about five in the morning to jog. Finding that we were having one of our rigorous Canadian storms, with a high wind, a driving rain, and a cold wave, I decided not to jog, but to put on a rain coat and take a two-hour walk. Heavily involved in my writing, I took a small pocket tape recorder with me, holding it under my coat to protect it from the rain. I talked into it during the hour walk out and the hour walk back. I was in a peace-filled trance, a deep transcendental state, during all of the two hours. Every sound and scene took on startling clarity. Each experience had, at once, an illuminating clarity as if etched, and a surreal quality as in deep dream.
All through the experience I was powerfully aware of the reassuring and protective presence of three key people: my grandfather; my mother, Ada; and my son, Larry, a deeply spiritual child who died at the age of 7. Love was the theme of the walk. The tape is full of my vivid awareness of being loved: "I am aware that every tree, every leaf, every cell is my brother and sister and loves me very much." Ever since a prolonged experience with sleeping in a cold tent in the Army in France, I have had a deep dread of being cold. When Larry died, I remember that all during our plane ride from Delaware, where he died, to Utah, where he was buried near my mother in Zion, I kept feeling that I hoped it was sunny and warm in Utah so that we could put Larry in warm ground. Something happened to me at Innisfree. I kept saying, to the tape: "this gentle and loving storm"; "I am aware of the kindly cold and how it envelops me." On the tape, even as I was talking about the gentle, loving storm, you can hear claps of thunder, the heavy beat of rain, and the winter violence of the Canadian prairie. I was aware of my mother being with me, for the first time since she died about 10 years before. She was caring for me, protecting me, guiding me, pointing out things to me on my walk. I remember talking with her, during my walk, about my love for her and asking her forgiveness for being so hard on "roles" and "mothers" in my Trust book. She warmly and lovingly forgave me. Just as this conversation was going on I saw a mother hen and a tiny newborn chick strolling pleasantly across the road in front of me, with the rain beating down and the storm buffeting them. I recall looking lovingly and quietly at this pastoral scene, not seeing the discordance in the strolling family and the violent storm.
I am often described as tender, gentle, compassionate, protective of those who seek my protection, unassertive. I like these descriptions. At times in the past a few people have analyzed me, depreciatingly, as not competitive enough, not assertive enough, too feminine and gentle, not strong enough as a leader, "too much in the woodwork," not demanding enough, "easily walked over and ignored."
There are some bases for these observations. I recall a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. There were seven of us on the Board, most of whom had come from great distances to attend the three-day meeting. We were put up in individual rooms at a luxury hotel in La Jolla. The staff had agreed to pick each of us up sometime after 9:00 a.m. in the morning. They had agreed to have the desk call our rooms and we were to be available to hear a call after 9. Each of the people on the Board, except for me, were called and picked up about 9. At about 10:30 a.m., after an hour and a half of the meeting, someone noticed that they had forgotten to pick me up. I was certainly the least prestigious member of the distinguished Board, certainly the least assertive, certainly the person most likely to be overlooked and not missed at the meeting, and certainly the least likely to make a fuss or to make waves if forgotten. I had then many feelings of embarrassment, humor, resentment, self-doubt, self-pity, self-examination. Mostly humor. I see this as a natural consequence of being the me that I have created.
I have learned a great deal about being and loving from our three sons. One day after about a month in the first grade in the public school in Delaware, Blair came home from school all excited and was telling us that they had just had a visit from a policeman who had talked with them for a couple of hours warning them about the dangerous people that they might meet on the way to and from school. The policeman had warned them in strong language about there being people who might rob them, molest them, sexually attack them, or kidnap them.
He suggested that if any adult approached them on the street to scream for a policeman or to scream and then run home to their parents. Then, seemingly incredulous, he asked me, "Do you believe that?" I replied, quietly, "No, I don't believe that." He said, "Neither do I," and then, as far as I could tell, he forgot about it. At least I never heard about it again. Blair, with high "being," just did not create experiences for himself that were fearful or distrusting. He discovered very early that the universe loved him and cared for him. Now, at 25 years of age, he is even more trusting and into his own "being."
Another experience comes to mind in this connection. It was a very powerful one for me. As I am now developing so many insights that are new for me, I suddenly see this experience in a new light. I was consulting with a large international company, doing a five-day team development session for the CEO and the nine key executives in the company. We had worked hard, working in a suite in this luxury hotel, having our meals served in our suite of rooms. On Saturday afternoon, the CEO suggested that we go to the main dining room and celebrate for dinner. The VP of Industrial Relations called the restaurant, telling them what company he represented and asking for a dinner table for eleven of us at 8:00 p.m. He reported back to us that they said that every table in the dining room had been reserved and that there was no table available at any time during the evening. Everyone was disappointed. The VP of Marketing asked how serious we were about getting a table. Everyone agreed that they wanted one very much. The Marketing man was one of the most impressive executives I had ever met in about twenty years of consulting with top management in the best corporations in America. He had been telling us that, as part of his amazingly effective program in sales training, he had offered to each region that he would come out to demonstrate his methods of selling. He asked each regional person to pick his toughest customer, one that he simply could not sell. He then invited the sales person to go with him to the customer and observe how he "sold" the customer. We gathered from many stories that had gone around the company for years that he "never" failed to sell the tough customer. The Marketing man was a quiet, trusting man with what I am calling here a "high sense of being." He had been very much impressed with my Trust Level theory of management and agreed with it completely. He and I both agreed that persuasion and "high sell," even attempts to "influence," were self-defeating. Selling does not sell.
He then said that if we wanted a table in the dining room to simply meet him there at 8:00 p.m. (the height of the evening rush) and he would have a table for us. We left the meeting room at about 7:00 p.m. to go to our rooms and clean up for dinner. The VP asked me if I would like to walk to the dining room with him to ask for the table. We leisurely walked to the dining room and found a large crowd of people waiting for tables. The VP walked up to the impressive and dignified Maitre de and, looking him very quietly in the face, simply said, "I would like a table for eleven at 8:00 p.m. for dinner." The immediate, unhurried reply was "Certainly, Sir." When we came back down at 8:00 p.m., they had placed a large table in a choice part of the room and we were taken to the table immediately. Each of us was quietly impressed, again, with the sense of being, presence, and simple dignity of this "spiritual" man. I have never forgotten this experience and was certain, as were all of the others in the group from their long experience at seeing him in similar situations, that this was a demonstration of the effect of spiritual presence. I choose to call this quality a sense of deep trust, spirituality, and being. I believe that the universe is moving in this direction.
I experience myself as moving in this transcendent direction. I feel little or no need for "defense" or for the behaviors and feelings that are associated, for me, with a defensive attitude: persuasion, putting people in roles, masking my feelings, attempting to influence others, controlling myself or the people around me, and the other feelings and attitudes associated with fear, distrust and counter-Omicron processes.
Returning to Alberta is, for me, a journey filled with excitement. My consciousness is always flooded with memories, all of them positive. One day I had been consulting with the management of a Canadian oil company. We had all flown to Banff for a few days, partly for vacation and partly to work in a conference room away from intruding phones. Driving in a rented car down the mountain from Banff to Calgary in the late evening, alone with my memories, entranced by the moonlight, enticed by the snow on the mountains and on the prairie, I finally arrived at Calgary Inn, was shown to my room, and found the scene from my room window even more peaceful and transporting than from my car. I turned off the lights, gazed at the northern sky, and suddenly went into a peaceful, deep trance.
I was powerfully aware that my mother's letter to me had said that I was conceived in a hotel room in Calgary where my mother and her friend had spent the night. I was filled with immense gratitude for this gift that they had given me, my birthright of grace and spirituality. I have no idea how long the trance lasted. I was flooded with an intense light, was gifted with a panorama of scenes from my life, each of which seemed connected to this hotel room where I was given the gift of life. It seemed that I was being told that all of the events of my life had up to this point been connected, that I was asked to be aware of this connectedness, and that I was to dedicate myself even more deeply to the fulfillment of my mission that was foreordained by my grandfather.
The room became symbolic of all this, but more than that. It was a medium for giving me a sense of fulfillment, of infinite meaning, of assurance that all of my life events, sometimes seen as fortuitous, were each a meaningful signpost on my sacred journey. My journey seemed immensely clear, lighted, star-crossed, blessed by the cosmos. I felt that this messaged night was part of a larger purpose, filled with portent. I slept a peaceful slumber that night, protected by the spirits and the memories of my earth parents who had started my path.
A few weeks later, my communion with my parents was continued in another experience in Ord, Nebraska. A dear friend in our TORI community, Jo Stowell, had invited me to visit her TORI group in Ord. We chose to have this special event on my birthday, December 10, and the magnificent wholeness of the evening escalated to the point where, after the meeting, I suddenly was visited again by my parents. The prairie seemed a replica of Magrath, where I was born. The stars had a special luminosity, as if to honor the anniversary of my birth, and again to remind me of my mission, the sacral nature of my journey, the significance of this warm and loving TORI group in Ord for my connecting of me, through them, with our loving universe. I had been prompted to talk with a special spiritual message that evening and I was filled with the glow of that message that seemed to come direct from the universe, through me, to these special people.
The next day, my plane to the West coast was re-routed for weather reasons so as to fly over Provo, Utah, a glimpse of which, started me on the third episode of this tripled experience with my mother and her grace and spirituality. I had buried Ada and my son, Larry, near each other in Provo, and I fell into a deep trance for the rest of the plane ride, re-living, in intense illumination, the key events of my relationship with my mother. The intense cleansing light was a medium giving me the message that my passionate path was also her journey, and that I was fulfilling her spiritual mission while fulfilling my own. She was my companion in my trance and was again, as she had been all of my life, my spiritual guide and spiritual friend.
This triple trance experience, in which I was so deeply in communion with my parents, nourished and sustained me in my passionate path. The experiences enriched my vision, gave immense clarity to my journey, removed the occasional lingering doubts that this, indeed, was my life work and play
One afternoon, taking a few moments to savor the intensity of a powerful experience in one of our professional intern groups, I went to my room, lay on the bed, and gave myself up to my free fantasy. I seemed to put myself in readiness for a deep communion with the universe. Immediately I felt a dream descend upon me. I felt that I was getting a message that was of tremendous significance to me, that would answer some of my many dilemmas. I gave myself up to the experience. I kept sensing the words, "Beyond imagery." I had been impressed for some time with the power of visual imagery in healing cancer, solving problems, manifesting inner states, and the like. The non-sensory experience I was getting was that imagery was very ponderous. Much more rapid and powerful avenues were to open up to me. Just as earlier in the all-in-all vision, I received a rush of clarity. The heavens were opened up to my knowing. At this moment in my account, I am completely at a loss for any descriptive words. The key message I received was that this clarity was beyond images, beyond reflective thought, beyond consciousness, beyond sensory experience, beyond ESP, beyond any process through which I had ever taken in something. Or beyond any process that I had heard about. I felt beyond my body or beyond life. Afterwards, in a few moments of recovery time, I was aware that this was a view of what life after death would be: incredibly nirvanic, peaceful, an experience beyond whatever I had ever felt heaven to be in my images and reflections.
This experience has led me to look anew at everything I have ever experienced and thought. In some ways this was the most powerful of my seven experiences. More jolting, disquieting, challenging. I am still processing the experience.
I can identify several changes I have made following this communion. I have lost, seemingly, all of my earlier fears of death. Death seems to be a welcome release, a moving beyond the limitations of body, senses, assumptions, and processes that are dependent upon life-in-this-form. I remember about 15 years ago when I began to feel the awesome historical significance of the TORI communities, I developed an irrational fear that I might die before I was able to complete this vital experiment with the world. I wanted to rush to see it all finished, written up, and "given to the world" before I died. In the perspective of my recent experiences this hurried creativity and fear of early death seems pleasantly humorous and enjoyable. I look back upon it now as I do upon some of my childhood fears -- to be enjoyed and left there.
My experiences as a member of the LDS church have been a primary influence on my life. I have for a long time been very much aware of the parallels between the Mormon value system and belief structure, on the one hand, and the value system and belief structure of my friends in transpersonal and humanistic psychology. I have long been a dedicated member of both worlds. Members of each tradition often look at each other as very different perhaps opposite in view. Fritjof Capra has performed a magnificent service in pointing out the parallels between eastern mysticism and quantum physics, two fields that, at first blush, might seem in opposite camps. I am preparing a manuscript that compares the belief systems of LDS people and humanistic psychologists. One of my motivations is to explore unexplored harmony and communion in the universe. I would like to introduce each of these seemingly opposite groups to each other. It might have symbolic significance. And it would, of course, be a movement in the direction of wholizing my own inner world.
These beliefs, and several others, formed the basis of the nourishment I received from my mother. They are fresh and new for me now in my "new" life, as they were during my childhood.
Each of the seven transcendent experiences is a significant event in my life. The cluster of related experiences became the transition between my third 20-year period and my fourth 20-year period of life. They provided an entry into a very different cycle. I felt very new and different. With these experiences came new energy, a new strength of mission, a broader perspective, a feeling of being a new person. In this double decade I am in a new period of enlightenment for which the three earlier double-decades were a preparatory state.
I experimented with small groups in a number of ways, then participated with the pioneering experiments at Bethel, Maine, with the NTL group. Learning to see small groups as a transcending environment in an organic situation very different from a dyadic relationship, we tried small groups in team building, therapy, education, social planning, organizational development, political action -- almost any relationship could be improved by creating intense, organic, intimate, transcending small groups. This concept greatly broadened my horizons.
It was years later, seeing the limitations of the small group, that I began to experiment with communities of 100 to 180 people, applying the community format to business, the church congregation, the classroom, the therapy situation, neighborhood building, community development, personal growth, conference design, political action -- again, almost any relationship could be improved by building an intimate community.
In the Innisfree experience, described earlier, I got in touch with the uniqueness of being, and the presence of being in every universal form. I became aware that I loved and was loved by every leaf, every cell, every form in the universe. The experience left me in awe. Tuned me in to the world around me. I felt the specialness of every form. I have never since touched a leaf, looked at an animal, sat on a rock, or touched any creature without being somehow aware of this specialness, this being, this essence. I have anthropomorphized every thing, made a friend and a person out of them. I am now an unreconstructed animist, a proud deist, a vivid imager, an attentive watcher, a companion of the flowers, a celebrant of the insect and the worm, an unabashed mystic, a deeply religious man. A celebrant.
I create my own passionate path. When I put my full energy, coming from the deepest part of me, into a pathway to which I can dedicate my earthly and eternal life, I inevitably create my own spirituality. Life on my Passionate Path is meaningful and significant. It is full of high energy. It is playful and joyful, full of celebration. It engenders in me a compassionate feeling for my traveling companions. It is proactive, moving into life in its fullness. It is always moving beyond itself into new and more exalting beyondness. It is moving, with a deep feeling of nobility, into an at-one-ness with the universe.
A truly passionate path enables me to live whole.
(Extracted from The Passionate Path by Don Skiff)