Sunday, May 26, 2013


(NOTE: This exercise in blatant self-disclosure was written in April/May 2000 for a course called Humanities Research Colloquium, undertaken near the end of my doctoral studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).  The instructor, Bahman Shirazi, Ph.D., was also the chair of my doctoral committee.) 

 Intro: Compassionate Languaging

Certain complex words that we need to “grok”[1] for purposes of this paper beg for simplicity.  Consider the following: “heuristic” (self-experiencing), “hermeneutics” (meaning-making), “epistemology” (the nature of knowledge), “ontology” (the nature of reality or being), “phenomena” (the pre-interpretive experiencing of things as they appear), “phylogeny” (evolutionary development), “morphogenic” (subtle meta-energies), “tacit knowing,” (a connecting-up, revelatory knowing), “presentiate” (make present), and “integral” (gestalt being).  There could be richer, fuller definitions of these words.  In fact, as this paper proceeds so might the meanings of these definitions swell in our understanding from their contextual embeddedness.

Just as “[l]anguage is a cage,”[2] so the world is our prison-house.  Described also as an island[3] or a cave,[4] the sphere of human drama revolves around eternally cycling patterns of action and reflection.  Consider living cells, our roundish heads, “social circles,” the routine of daily, seasonal and physiological cycles occurring in endless, open, inter-related loops on a planetary orb.  Thus has humanity seen fit to dub the circle as sacred, mysterious.  And when dimensional layers, such as morphogenic fields (manifesting, e.g., as “auras”) combine with cosmological resonances emanating from a rhythmically pulsing universe (manifesting, e.g., as the “aurora borealis”), circles become spheres become phenomena infused with subtle energies that can escape the empirical grasp yet may also leave “psychic imprints” on our intuition, stimulating our tacit knowing.  

The above rumination has just used language to describe an ontology of the human condition; it has risked the creation of a languaging cage in order to connect readers to the writer’s heuristic hermeneutics.  As one ontological conception among many possibilities, the resulting epistemology might be packaged and dogmatized and used as the basis for a new scientific discipline or methodology, or sacralized as a religion.  And if our cultural human phylogeny has demonstrated anything it is the human tendency to reduce sets of ideas to a static doctrine and sector this off from the systemic, holistic embeddedness and integral being and becoming of those ideas.  That is, a form of idolatry takes place whenever the message and the messenger are institutionalized and effectively worshipped, as the institution becomes further estranged from the essence of both.  Enter the cage.

But instead of a cage, this prison-house world can become a research tool for rediscovering the abundance of the fabulous; through the “shamanic trace” left in ancient mounds,[5] in pre-historic petroglyphic symbols and arrangements of ancient stone monoliths we might discern the same wish of humanity to preserve for successive generations, a representation of some enigmatic Truth.  It is this same tacit drive of humanity toward discovering the esoteric that urges us to study the art, architecture and the linguistic clues left in the literature of classical antiquity and subsequent civilizations.  Likewise, I believe that a tacit knowing is guiding the creation of this paper.  Yet language remains as the great interlocutor for human (mis)interpretation and (mis)understanding.  Language is the hermeneutic tool used, whether in printed or spoken form, to presentiate in modern parlance phenomena that have always manifested across time and space while “immanently transcending” both.  The challenge of reading and hearing language is how to constantly remind ourselves of its representative nature.  And with constancy we might not then fall into the profane abyss of concretizing, literalizing and making fundamentalist idols through languaging.  Language, as interlocutor, holds the keys to the cage: keys that can keep us there or free us from it.  Those keys can jangle for eternity in our own pockets as we pace the floor of our prison-house world in blind, self-righteous, closed-loop contentment. 

As a dualist image, even the foregoing language can be dangerous in that it may preserve the spatio-temporal illusion of a recurring, phylogenic “inside” ignorance and an “outside” enlightenment that we can ontogenetically[6] recreate through contemplating such metaphoric bifurcations as cages/ caves/ islands, versus freedom/ light or unboundedness.  Let us consider these to be polar complements rather than opposing dualities.  Concepts constructed through such imagery, as with all stories and parables, are needed for human comprehension.  But images, like the words that formed them, possess many levels of meaning, and neither should be mistaken for actual “experience.”[7]  This is the thrust of what I hope to convey in this foray into heuristic research.  Hence, it is by experiencing this written piece that the readers’ own experiential perceptions are gleaned and gathered and re-represented.  As a writer I hope to disclose my own experience in a way that has integrated life’s perceptions so that when shared in this way the reader is left with a feeling that he or she is not alone,[8] that I am connecting to some universal human experience with infinitely diverse contextual manifestations.  To succeed at connecting with the reader, the language, besides containing enough “imagistic anchors” for human comprehension, must strive toward compassionate communication.  It must come from a place of caring dialogue, not an ego-driven, didactic monologue of impenetrably turgid and pedantic prose.  The job of the writer is to artfully craft thoughts into words, into thoughtfully communicative self-disclosure.  That is, it is “the act of making yourself manifest, showing yourself so that others can perceive you…disclosing the self as a way to facilitating disclosure from others.”[9]  And in heuristic methodology, the self is so inextricably bound up with the investigation one might say the self is the “Petri dish” for the research, which in turn is an organic part of a contextualized and situated, uncertain self.  The integration process is prompted by dialogically communicative writing (or speaking-to) wherein the question and response are internalized, as in self-dialogue; the difference is only that the “self of other” steps into the shoes of the “self’s self.”  Yet how much “other” is the writer for the reader when it is the reader who is silently reading along, making the meaning (through his or her own experience) while experiencing the text?        

Heuristic Research Methodology

 Doing research is to do “a disciplined, rigorous, systematic investigation.”  And methodology means “a plan for obtaining knowledge and understanding phenomena.”  Using a heuristic research methodology is to follow a process of internal search involving self-dialogue with a phenomenon during which self-awareness and self-knowledge grow along with the nature and meaning of presentiating the overall experience.

Clark Moustakas, in his seminal work, Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology, Application,[10] sets forth the appropriate framework:
  • Initial Engagement: discovering a passionate question that begs to be researched; requires an inward reaching for tacit knowledge;
  • Immersion: once defined, the researcher “lives the question in waking, sleeping, and even dream states”;
  • Incubation: retreating from intense focus and allowing answers to develop on their own accord;
  • Illumination: a breakthrough of qualities and themes inherent in the question into conscious awareness that adds new dimensions, corrects distorted understandings or discloses hidden meanings, e.g., new awareness, a modification of an old understanding, synthesis of fragmented knowledge or a novel discovery;
  • Explication: the researcher sets out the meaning of the phenomenon in question; attends to one’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and judgments, while also being in conversation with others toward a “comprehensive depiction of dominant themes”;
  • Creative Synthesis: achieved through intuitive and tacit powers; involves synthesizing the core themes into narrative and perhaps other creative depictions.[11]      

Concepts used within this framework of heuristic research are:

(akin to Jung’s active imagination process),
Tacit Knowing (revelations from an interplay of subsidiary and focal perceptual elements comprising the whole of a phenomenon; underlying all other concepts in heuristic research)
Intuition (“a kind of bridge…formed between the implicit knowledge inherent in the tacit and the explicit knowledge that is observable and describable...In intuition, from the subsidiary or observable factors one utilizes and internal capacity to make inferences and arrive at a knowledge of underlying structures and dynamics…Intuition makes possible the perceiving of things as wholes.”[12]
Indwelling (turning inward to seek a deeper understanding; crucial for elucidating the parameters and details of the experience)
Focusing (an inner attention or staying with in a sustained process of systematically contacting the more central meaning of an experience to reveal the core constituent themes of an experience)
Internal Frame of Reference (the worldview or meaning perspective through which the researcher derives knowledge, whether it is attained through tacit, intuitive or observed phenomena)[13]

With all of this theory in mind, I thought I might engage in the process.  I am doing so with a great sense of excitement because I think that, in a loose way, the heuristic approach toward integration has been the guiding modus operandi that I had long ago stumbled upon by myself and have followed throughout my life -- I just never had a name for it.  In an intuitive way I have struggled to “just do” stuff, become immersed in it and then tried to “make sense of” it as I went along.

The Question: My Dissertation Proposal

What has precipitated a quandary for me is my current need to develop a dissertation proposal.  And what I wish to research and write about in this paper is the “big question” that seems to underlie all of my writings to date.  Maybe I could title my dissertation, "A Life of Heuristic Non-Integration Seeking Integration."  In this respect, my naturo-heuristic way has engaged in a number of different ways on a number of different questions or issues:
* lusting after the very things that oppress us  
* the CIIS experience  
* the art of writing that contextualizes the writer, is experiential and laden with both abstract concepts and imagistic prose  
* the "failing to establish one, defined career identity" phenomenon  
* making room for "the abnormative and abnormative thinking" as another accommodation to diversity  
* collaborative learning and challenging the paradoxes of organizations and group life  
* the world as peopled by a race of dissociatives: the pathos of a consensual reality that is reinforced through culture trance  
* self-knowledge/ self-realization/ enlightenment: (by whatever name) the prerequisite preparing-of-oneself for penetrating, doing compassionate battle with and transforming elites  
* seeking trans-integration: the evolution of structures of mind and the development of self within the dominant Western paradigm  
* seeking integration through alternative realities:
  1) the way of nature and the aboriginal animist
  2) meditational contemplative paths
  3) kundalini
  4) psychedelics and holotropic breathwork  
* the co-evolution of mental consciousness and the Western legal tradition: symbiotic stimuli toward the mental rational  
* healing the Western legal tradition by application of non-traditional law school curricula that introduces structures of mind and transpersonal theory  
* founding DA (Dissociatives Anonymous): a global organization modeled on AA wherein each begins by the admission, "My name is ___ and I am a dissociative!"  
* the heuristic research methodology: toward an integral mind-set  
* a comparative study of Ken Wilber's structuralism and Edgar Morin's systemicism: two stylistic conceptions of context, situatedness and uncertainty  
* blues and the life of a bluesman: improvising on the scruffiness of simplicity in the key of authenticity  
* "the gadfly in a jar of molasses" phenomenon: provocation toward critical thinking as both prompt to others and self-immolation  
* how to organize a pile of writings from a pile of old shit into a pile of hot Ph.D. poop, and thence into a best-selling, transitional, climactic or formative text (W.I. Thompson's Coming Into Being[14] referents for seminal works) by Jonathan Goose
In looking these over, how wonderful it would be to determine the overriding theme here and make these chapters in my dissertation, a kind of "life odyssey memorialized."   In other words, my question of overwhelming concern is:  What is the big underlying question of my life that has been struggling to come out of my studies and writings?

In looking over the above extrapolations, I might conclude that I am back again at the same old question: "in what context can I heuristically do my dissertation topic?"  The answer to that is a generalist, gestalt-ish, big picture-ism “I'd-like-to-write-about-my-life's-odyssey-as-being-a-tackling-of-self-identity-through-transformation-in-each-of-the-above-contexts.”  That was my meaning in the preceding paragraphs (in case anyone missed it). 

Just as a professional sax player (and math teacher) at CIIS, Ph.D. candidate Louis Jordan, writes about improvisation being a reaction to his environment, manifesting mostly (but by no means only) in his music -- my improvisation too is spread out over a life.  My improvisation is one of trying different lines of work and other involvements, such as my piano playing or my gadfly style or certain trains of thought I sit with and work with over long periods of time.  It is no different really than what I see Louis having done in his dissertation.  He calls it improvisation; I call it "transformation-through-informed immersion" in which experiential engagement with one’s socio-cultural ecology is inescapable.

As I think back on my own experiences, I began wondering recently what kind of methodology legal research is.  You start with legal and factual issues, a few of them.  You think about them from many different angles.  You consider the law.  The law comes from many sources, e.g., statutes and regulations, common law, case precedent.  The law you find in your researching of the texts can be in a few different forms.  It can be on-point and controlling case law; non-controlling analogous law that may or may not be on-point; public policy, etc.  You then, in effect, follow the heuristic method: initial engagement, immersion, incubation, illumination, explication and finally, creative synthesis.  One could say that a seasoned, improvising jazz musician follows this path in less than a heartbeat.  A lawyer does too -- in much more than a heartbeat (and often with little or no heart) -- when researching and preparing a case.

In law school we are trained to approach things this way:  What are the facts? What are the issues? What is the law? Give your analysis and show how the facts are in accord with the prevailing law. If not, show how your set of facts and/or issues can be distinguished so that the adverse party's contention about the controlling law does not apply. 

When making your case, you creatively assemble things toward a desired outcome.  Granted, having and working toward a desired outcome is not in accord with heuristic methodology.  Yet legal research would be in accord from the standpoint of passionately wishing to answer a question of great concern.  The assemblage of a lawyer’s case comes from, in effect, reconstructing many historical moments -- framers of statutes collaboratively engaged with one another to draft a law; or, in case law, each similar case has its own story by way of facts and interpretive analysis that attach to it.  The case law method is one of a threaded history through which the law evolves.  It's a kind of written oral history.  It can also be a creative synthesis of "neither nor," i.e., of the party's stances being "polar complementarities," so that one can introduce a “case of first impression” (limited only by the many imaginative ways the lawyer tries to assemble it in that way, without being too flaky so the judge can stay with him or her in the analysis).

So I can see legal research as a kind of heuristic research methodology.  I also see my natural way in life as heuristically oriented (in a much less "formal" structure of course).  I grab hold of an idea or make a choice, stay with it until some light bulb goes off; I talk it over with others; I write about it; and eventually I synthesize my special meaning and integrate that into my meaning perspective, always trying to see how some new discovery has its interrelated place in my evolving continuum of knowledge.

In this regard, I believe that I always tended to “integrate-without-integrating” by: refusing to specialize into one, defined career; focusing on the "lusting after the things that oppress us" notion; my experiencing of CIIS; internalizing collaborative/ transformative learning and the paradoxes of group life, my abnormativity, and my music and writing reflecting this.  Each of the strings I have followed during my doctoral work shows this -- HOT/CAST how-groups-learn and grow stuff; dissociation; structures of mind and the evolution of consciousness; the indigenous and a new universe story; the many paths toward integration; the legal tradition: transforming it/ its relation to the mental/rational and the humanities; community-engaged spirituality...and so on.

The context is my whole life, but especially over the past dozen years or so.  My point here is that if, in fact, I have had a lifetime of effectively working in the heuristic mode, I might have the kind of facility with it that a jazz musician has when improvising.  So, in trying to develop a dissertation proposal, I might be able to heuristically bring something to fruition more quickly than is the norm for the neophyte using this methodology.

As a dissertation proposal, how does this sound?: "maintaining a fluid self-identity by way of a ceaseless transforming of one's life through informed immersion."  The CONTEXT is each of the above extrapolations, SITUATED in an UNCERTAIN life.  

Each of the terms above must be “unpacked.”   What is “self-identity” and how does one distinguish a “fluid” self-identity from a “static” one?  What is this phenomenon of “transformation”?  Is it really a “ceaseless” process?  How so?  Why?  What is “informed immersion”?  Immersion into what?  How does one immerse oneself into something?    

Heuristic research tells us that we immerse ourselves in our question, living it in waking, sleeping and dream states.  To be informed is to be able to access ontological states through the consciousness of the age (the mental/rational) and our other ways of knowing, and then to be able to somehow articulate them.  So “informed immersion” can be roughly construed as “holistically engendering experience.”  It has always been my contention that such informed immersion is the bedrock upon which successive layers of the self are discovered.  The congealing of the self into a “self-identity” should ideally never be completed.  Rather, it should be thought of as a “completing” project.  In this way it is a “ceaseless” process.  And this ceaseless process is one of attaining an ever-deepening and expanding discovery of reality; it is a gradual awareness of a confluence of the “inner” world and the “outer” world, self and other, subjective and objective.  The steps along the way of such a process can be thought of as “transformations.”  Each new discovery – which in the heuristic approach is really a “rediscovery” – is an illumination.  With each new illumination, we are able to move closer to a syncretized, dynamic ontological state (known as self-knowledge, self-realization or enlightenment) that is intuited through self-dialogue and the tacit knowing dance between the subsidiary and focal perceptual elements.  The epistemology here can be described as an expanding open-ended collage of self-identity through exploration of direct experience.  It is an ever-developing, immanent gnosis that ascends in the form of everyday love.  It is an emergent manifestation of spirituality, age-old but contemporary, at once paradoxical and balanced, absurd and beautiful.  And one immerses oneself into every action and non-actionized subtler state of mind by forever yearning, by hard work that uses some discipline or injunction, by constancy in observing and being sensitive to one’s self and all that enters one’s self, by a tenacious, persevering and loving fortitude, by exercising courage and taking risks, by failing yet realizing that “the sun also rises” and starting over if need be, and by just trying to do your best while always knowing you can do better.  Maybe, then, we can try to “live and practice therapy” in our everyday lives, always remembering to Be Not Content.[15]

Periodic Cycles of Incubation/Illumination Starting in the 1970s

Following a pattern of recreational inebriant use that began in the late 60s when I was a junior in high school in 1971, I experienced a paranoid-psychotic break from culture trance-induced consensual reality.  In common parlance, I had a nervous breakdown.  I had been trying to escape a half-baked, dissociative, adolescent, angst-ridden self in the midst of the transitional societal malaise of that historical time.  Within a family that had no capacity to understand me, and not having access to anyone else who seemed capable of understanding me, I was adrift in a scary awareness I could not comprehend.  During this time my mother had started to exhibit symptoms of her Alzheimer’s disease (that was to finally claim her in 1982) and my family was undergoing a problematic adaptation to this break in the family structure.  What I had experienced in my inebriation and resulting mental impairment was a world of new, esoteric realities that were infused with wonder, enchantment, mystery, exploration, strange ecstasies.  Compared to the LBJ/Nixonian consensual reality of the time it was far richer, insightful and meaningful than that “straight” world.  But I could not function as I was expected to function.  It was a disorienting dilemma,[16] which is an expression meaning “a trigger to self-examination.”  In 1971 my family convinced me to check into a hospital psych ward.            

Between 1971 and 1977 there would be four more breaks, three of which I spent as an in-patient for an average three-week period of “recovery.”  This included a break in 1976 while being an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy.  They insisted that I spend time in “observation” while they processed my honorable discharge for “medical reasons.”  Recovery would consist of being medicated, usually with thorazine or other psychotropic medicaments, as prescribed.  The psych ward activities would include group meetings and various psychotherapies.  I would normally emerge in a sort of vegetative state, bereft of wonder and the enchantment of life previously treasured in my less socially acceptable state.  Each time I managed to piece myself back together somehow and move along in life.

In 1978, on the “ten-year plan” through undergraduate school, I left home for Loyola University in New Orleans.  In early 1979, having abandoned most inebriants except alcohol and before I graduated in 1981, I experienced a recurrence of my prior impairment.  This time I managed to keep it controlled enough so that in-patient “care” was avoided and I got myself back into functional form.  I attribute my self-recovery to three factors: being away from the influence of my family, having a routine study program and enjoying a significant relationship with a caring woman.

This chronic immersion into the abnormative, concurrent with a retreat from an abnormative focus that might be typified as incubation, was closely followed by small illuminative gains.  I came to realizations about the fragility and superficiality of self in a world that seemed to be populated by beings who were in a functionally contented delusion known popularly as “happiness.”  I slogged on.

In 1985, I started law school.  The analytical skills acquired here were balanced by a series of further disorienting dilemmas toward the end of law school in 1988.  I had been clerking in one of the biggest law firms in Baltimore and was engaged to be married to a woman who was attending law school with me, when my life seemed to start meeting with a number of dead ends.  My fiancé was a hugely successful, type-A personality and I found myself to be inadequate in getting onto law review, publishing a law review article, being retained by my employer as a lawyer, etc.  I also began questioning her love for me and concluded, by way of a number of experiences, that she did not truly love me.  I called off the engagement.  But, although I immediately regretted the decision, for her it was in irretrievable one.  Thus began about two years of a painful re-evaluation and re-adaptation to or reconstructing of my life.

After law school I was accepted by the U.S. Army JAG Corps and began my career as a JAGC officer.  However, in my application I neglected to inform them of having had any previous psychiatric treatment.  I had just completed a course in Psychology and the Law.  The professor was adamant about not revealing any past psychiatric care, as this would arouse deep discriminatory suspicion in any future employer.  This professor was an ex-Navy SEAL.  After my consultation with him, in which I divulged my intention to apply without revealing my mental health history, he affirmed my intended action saying that they would likely “not look behind any prior honorable discharge.”  I had noted my past Navy service on my application, explaining my early release as a “hardship” (which has a technical military definition, but which I meant in a more colloquial sense).

After five months into my service as a JAGC officer assigned to an office in Korea, the U.S. Army investigatory arm, the CID, discovered my past, undisclosed psychiatric history.  This led to a kind of comedy of tragic errors.  I was reassigned from Korea to a Medical Holding Company at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, D.C.  They promptly ordered me into a psych ward for “observation.”   In spite of the fact that, according to an examining psychiatrist at 8th Army, Korea, that I had little or no residual symptoms of my past impairment, I was obliged to undergo “treatment” as part of my course of “observation.”  I quickly retained counsel and he objected to any medication being administered without a finding of some manifest symptomology (of which there was none).   I found myself in a “Catch-22” situation; if I admitted to pathology and accepted some form of treatment, I would be incompetent to serve/ if I refused to admit to some sort of pathology I was “in denial” and incompetent to serve as a result.  In this tenuous position, I still fought them at every turn.  The U.S. Army was preparing a medical board to determine my fitness to serve.  In the meantime, I was discharged and reassigned to the JAG office at WRAMC.  Here I performed my duties in an exemplary manner, even interacting with psych ward personnel in my representative capacity as Army lawyer for other soldiers. 

The medical board process dragged on for seventeen months, during which I was living and working under this cloud of suspicion and indecision.  I paid heavily for my defense, both in terms of money and emotional investment.  Finally, I was due to go before a board of three officers who would determine my fitness based on the medical and factual evidence.  Just before I was due to appear before this board, the Army changed its strategy, opting instead to discharge me administratively, typifying my failure to divulge answers on my application as “misconduct.”  This route allowed me only notice and a chance to submit a rebuttal.  It deprived me of the greater due process I would have had in the medical board proceeding.  Both my counsel and I were outraged.  We mounted a legal defense in which we attempted to obtain a restraining order from the civilian court in Washington, D.C., on the basis that to change the discharge procedure at this point would be to deny me the due process to which I was formerly entitled.  I lost and was discharged forthwith, albeit honorably.

It was after this odyssey, in 1992, that I struck out anew.  I relocated to a “cabin in the woods” 25 miles outside of Santa Fe and 3 miles up a dirt road.  Having endured the travails I encountered while in the Army, I was looking for a new life.  This period was a time of self-exploration during which I re-discovered a spiritual inner tradition.  Without belaboring the point, here I embarked on a quest that began with an Islamic Sufi tradition.  I had proceeded from Islamic Sufism to a more universal interpretation of Sufism to Idries Shah’s books and to an esoteric tradition from Abkhazia in the Caucasus mountains known as Ahmusta Kebzeh preserved by a master of this way named Murat Yagan, who lives in Vancouver, B.C.   The incubative/ illuminative time that I spent on this track eventually led me to the works of Ken Wilber, the publication, ReVision, and finally to beginning a course of study at CIIS in 1998. 


Since my time at CIIS I have tried to proceed with my self-explorations.  Putting lawyerly ambitions aside, I went overseas in 1995 to teach English.  I first went to Korea and in 1997 to Australia, then Turkey and then on to Saudi Arabia.  I have been continually trying to incorporate the many parts of me.  I got married for the first time in April 1998, relocating again in Korea and eventually relocating back to the states just over a year ago.  Armed with a lifetime of writing, playing the piano, and a series of seemingly unconnected endeavors, I have been trying to gather my disparate self into some manageable and functionally successful whole.  I have taken the analytical skills and writing skills that I honed in law school, and the lessons learned in the military, and have tried to direct them all toward what I have I learned and am learning in life.

Since beginning at CIIS, I have studied and written my papers with a view toward integrating my varied experiences.  In order to do this, I have sought to take my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and judgments and express the phenomena upon which they are based into some sort of “comprehensive depiction of the core or dominant themes...”[17]  This is one step along the way of the heuristic enterprise.

The representation of these efforts can be gleaned from the papers I have written while at CIIS, plus my collected writings put together in a manuscript form entitled Stubby and Grizzly.[18]  I had written those CIIS papers with a view toward integrating them in my final dissertation.  Thus it is that my previous writings remain relevant.

Creative Synthesis

In my dissertation, or at least in my dissertation proposal, I am hoping that who and what I am might emerge from this lifetime odyssey.  It is at the Ph.D. level, after an intense two years of applying myself toward this integration, that I believe there has resulted a synthesis of the big question behind my life’s work:  that the integration of transformative experiences are made explicit through one’s ability to articulate them as a whole.  And while I might be an inconsistent exercising, fat, meditative/chant-a-phobe who is overly attached to his alcohol-caffeine-nicotine-food excesses, still I have a driving sense of developing my own self-knowledge.  My frailties are a part of my overall human condition, dissociative and hopeful, attained and deficient, successful and failed.  Yet I go on and will continue to go on doing my best to feel my way forward, in spite of myself and knowing how little or how much I have accomplished, while taking refuge in the fact of my trying, always trying to be and become more than I am self-informed that I am.

At CIIS I have come to know the value of community life, however distanced I may feel from it.  And over recent years I have come to know a more socialized sense of how to relate to my fellow human beings.  I was born in 1954, and it wasn’t until 1986 (at age 32) that I had my first white collar job as a clerk in a law firm; until then I had always tried to stay out of the mainstream, opting for the life of a blues musician and blue collar roofing mechanic.  With my successive bootstrapping to something new and hopefully more complex, I hope that I have developed myself further and have evolved according to what my maximum potential as a human being might be.  I recall other life forms that compose the bio-sphere of the planet – and indeed, the planet itself! – and recognize the need to identify with all of life, and not to categorize it in a hierarchical way, nor to ignore the seemingly lifeless physio-sphere in our midst.  I acknowledge and accept the techno-modernism of the age and try to grok the contemporary noospheric scene, however overwhelming it can seem.  If I can create some sort of synthesis from all of this, based upon my explication of it, I might consider myself true to the heuristic process to the very end.


I began this paper with a sensitivity toward all readers.  I want all those who read this paper to understand its contents.  Big words can be as intimidating as language can be confining.  I hope that I succeeded in compassionately relating to the reader while imparting my understanding of the heuristic research methodology and how I believe I unwittingly came to use it.  My stories here are very personal ones which I rarely share.  Through relating them, I have tried to demonstrate that cycles of heuristic knowing through action and reflection tend toward the developing of a fluid self-identity and an integral mind-set.  I am the living exemplar of my process – to know me to any degree is to know the degree of self-knowledge I hope that I embody.  That is, I am the results of my own heuristic inquiries.  Such results cannot be quantified, really.  The results are qualitatively expressed through the modeling of one’s own behavior and example in society.  That, I believe, has enormous repercussions in the world.  By boldly going one’s own way, in loving kindness but without “idiot compassion,” people take note, your presence is felt, an impact is made.  There is absolutely no need for didactic proselytizing of any sort.  But there is a constant calling to humility, to an understanding that we are only the instruments through which an ineffable power, if stimulated and given a chance, might come forth.  Human beings are capable of being gods in the world, or more precisely, of being the vessels from which godliness may shine.   

My motivation in writing about my prior mental health history and Army fiasco were also prompted in part by providing a context for what has situated the uncertain me at CIIS and in the world generally.  It is now, as my course requirements are finished and in this last paper before my dissertation, that I finally feel safe in expressing my problematic background.  After my disorienting dilemmas I am still somewhat cautious about revealing them to others.  I still feel that if these facts of my life are known, even the supposedly more open-minded students and faculty at CIIS might discriminate against me for my “documented” abnormative approach of perceiving, processing and dealing with myself and others and the world.  Unless one has felt the feeling of people fearing you or has heard derogatory comments aimed at your mental framework that cut one to the core and overwhelming marginalize, there is no way to express how demoralizing it can be.  One who has not been there can only imagine what it might be like to be a Frankenstein.  Thus it is that I have come to empathize with all other marginalized persons who are victimized by those who unconsciously and unthinkingly subscribe to the dominant “Western” mental/rational paradigm, which is surely a thinly veiled pathology, but one that a great many do not perceive.

Of all the methodologies of which science has conceived, none can really replace a simple loving touch applied to all that we do, as well as that which we refrain from doing.  In this mode, mention must be made of humanist/scientist Paul Feyerabend, whose works Against Method[19] and Conquest of Abundance [20] present themselves as safe havens in a world gone mad in an unholy alliance of materialism, nihilism and relativism, of both the scientific and the spiritual varieties.

It is my hope that in my dissertation I will be able to do a lit review of the bulk of the books on my shelf.  These are the books -- some of which are mentioned herein, some of which remain unread -- that have come into my experience, helping to influence and galvanize it.  If my dissertation proposal becomes “maintaining a fluid self-identity by way of a ceaseless transforming of one's life through informed immersion,” it is the authors of these books who have instigated an initial engagement and prompted a self-dialogue for me.  It is also the students and faculty as co-learners and that cage-of-a-world that have served as a soul-making laboratory wherein we find that we are not alone.  Neither are we alone in our self-experiencing of that world.  Though constrained by language habits of our community that predispose certain choices of interpretation, we still must dare to articulate in order to share, to risk instigating others onward in their voyages of self-discovery.

I would like to conclude with a passage taken from The Soul of the Indian:  An Interpretation [21] by Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa) (1858-1939), one of the best-known educated Indians of his time.  As a physician at the Pine Ridge Agency, Eastman “devoted his life to helping his fellow Indians adapt to the white world while preserving the best of their own culture.”[22]  It is a poetic rendering of what most have forgotten.   
          The worship of the “Great Mystery” was silent, solitary, free from all self-seeking.  It was  silent because all speech is of necessity feeble and imperfect; therefore the souls of my ancestors ascended to God in wordless adoration.  It was solitary, because they believed that He is nearer to us in solitude, and there were no priests authorized to come between a man and his Maker.  None might exhort or confess or in any way meddle with the religious experience of another.  Among us all men were created sons of God and stood erect, as conscious of their divinity.  Our faith may not be formulated in creeds, nor forced upon any who were unwilling to receive it; hence there was no preaching, proselyting, nor persecution, neither were there any scoffers or atheists.
Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

   There were no temples or shrines among us save those of nature.  Being a natural man, the Indian was intensely poetical.  He would deem it sacrilege to build a house for Him who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzying spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and yonder in the jeweled vault of the night sky!  He who enrobes himself in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire, He who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth His spirit upon aromatic southern airs, whose war-canoe is launched upon majestic rivers and inland seas – He needs no lesser cathedral!
   That solitary communion with the Unseen which was the highest expression of our religious life is partly described in the word hambeday, literally “mysterious feeling,” which has been variously translated “fasting” and “dreaming.”  It may better be interpreted as “consciousness of the divine.”[23]

[1]  From Robert Heinlen’s, Stranger In A Strange land meaning to deeply grasp something with every fiber of our being.
[2]  Wittgenstein
[3]  Idries Shah, The Sufis
[4]  Plato, The Republic
[5]  Peter Lamborn Wilson, Escape From The Nineteeth Century, The Shamanic Trace, p.72-142, NY:Autonomedia (1998)
[6]  …meaning, “an individual’s (or any organism’s) bio-development” -- not to be confused with “ontological,” the adjectival form of “ontology” defined above as “the nature of reality or being.”
[7]   “[T]here is no substitute for experience, none at all.  All the other paraphernalia of communication and knowledge – words, labels, concepts, symbols, theories, formulas, sciences – all are useful only because people already knew them experientially.” A. Maslow, The Psychology of Science, (New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 45-46)(quoted in Moustakas, infra, p.17)
[8]   “We read to know that we are not alone.”  C.S. Lewis
[9]   Clark Moustakas, Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology, Application Newbury Park, (California), London, New Delhi: Sage Publications (1990) p.17
[10]   Id.
[11]  See Moustakas, pp.27-32
[12]  Id. 23
[13]  See Moustakas, pp.16-27
[14]  New York: St. Martin’s Griffin (1996,1998) pp. 142, 145, 212, 233-235
[15]   The title of a book by William Craddock (1971)
[16]   Jack Mezirow’s term, borrowed from Education For Perspective Transformation: Women’s Re-entry Programs in Community Colleges (New York: Center for Adult Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1975); and, Perspective Transformation, (Studies in Adult Education, 1977, 9 (2), pp. 153-164.)
[17]   Moustakas, 31:1990
[18]   self-published (1996-1999)
[19]  London: Verso (1988)
[20]   Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, Bert Terpstra, ed. (1999) (subtitled:  A Tale of Abstraction versus the Richness of Being)
[21]   Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1980 (orig. pub. 1911)
[22]   Id. (From the back cover of the book.)
[23]   Id. 4-6

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


ABOUT THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, and for the first time in my life, I was asked to state my ideology as a part of applying for a job as a grant writer. Though it was never stated as such, this certain nonprofit, public policy research institute believed that having a like-minded ideology was a bona fide job requirement for the position. I do not disagree. In order to do an optimal job, a grant writer must have as much passion about the issues as he or she has about writing, generally. If not, it shows. Still, must one's passion reside in ideology? That is, setting aside for the moment whether my ideology is a perfect match or not, is it possible for this grant writer to find passion enough in some non-ideological source? (I always thought it came from "the heart.") Alternatively, could the institute's definition of its ideology have become so narrowly doctrinaire as to exclude all but perfect matches? These were some of the questions that began bubbling up after I was asked to state my own ideology. And so it was that I started to formulate an ideology I could call my very own.
I will venture that an ideology is a political mind-set; it is a meaning perspective composed of values, assumptions and beliefs one holds about the world. And politics is how socio-cultural interrelations manifest, a "we-sphere" in a mostly human-to-human environment, generally evidencing a materialist­/consumerist orientation. Now, I am perhaps as cynical about politics as many of us are these days: ambivalent about how little-old-me could ever make much of a difference, whether that means "getting involved" with the system or voting for the lesser of two clones (more-or-less) in the next election. I excuse myself for being this way because I am feeling intensely distant from an America that, since the late 1940s has increasingly become a national security state. It shows in a newly barricaded White House. It shows in how the U. S. President travels in his convoy of steel and sirens. It shows in the escalating powers of law enforcement in their "war on drugs," or "terror," and in an ever more entrenched military-industrial-media techno-complex.
And so my first response was, "I'm not much of an ideologue. I'm more of a centrist or humanist." Then I wondered what I meant by that, as a little voice within whispered, "You dropout! Get your fingers going -- say what you mean and mean what you say!" I was energized, now that the specter of landing this job gave me a reason to feel I might actually get involved and participate in the fray.
Granted, my take on politics is fairly simple-minded. I like to recall what a high school history teacher told us, that "people will go with whatever politics will fill their empty bellies." This is particularly true in that third of the world that is scrounging for something to eat. The politics that usually wins out for them are the gun-toting revolutionaries of the left, those who wish to force the state to provide for the "have-nots." Of course I suppose that in more heavily industrialized regions "filling the belly" means much, much more. It means having new cars, comfortable homes, plenty of hot water, wealth to maximize choices, limitless power to run our entertainment devices and so on. I imagine this would require a politician more from the right, one who can assure that the private business will help preserve all for "them that got" by the state keeping its hands off. This left/right dichotomy is further complicated in American society where the players have already met their foundational needs and then mostly imagine who needs what and how the government should do or not do whatever to conform to their ideology, their politics. In a land of plenty, ideological banter (called "politics") is more akin to gamesmanship; it is a noospheric chess match in which the representatives of haves and have-nots are continually redefining themselves and the changing rules in terms of the role they think government should or should not have.
I came from a family where my mother was a Republican and my father was a Democrat. My mother had a father of Irish/German descent who grew up on a farm, saved his money and kept his good credit. He went off to study engineering, eventually ran his own business and retired in his mid-fifties to cultivate his investments forevermore thereafter. My father was the son of Lebanese immigrants. His love of learning finally landed him in law school. Later, through his law school friend, Larry O'Brien, my father eventually went on to hold a minor appointment in the Kennedy administration in Washington, D.C. He had been a U.S. Navy JAG Corps officer during WWII and went into private practice after his federal government stint. His final career cap was as an administrative law judge for the State of New York. My father retired as a quadruple-dipper.
And so I grew up a Democrat in the days when "liberal" was obtaining a reputation for being the inauthentic, give-away, Keynesian big government sort of carpet-bagger; and Republicans were seen from my youthful vantage point as well-heeled nay-sayers against the progressive agenda of the 1960s whose uneasy alliance with fundamentalist conservatives often typified them as humorless pedagogues. Then I went off to college. Down south, I studied business in my undergraduate public administration program. Soon I was a registered Republican and found myself voting for Ronald Reagan in 1980. After graduation I mellowed a bit in the school of hard knocks and began to suspect that politicians in both major parties were simply dancing on the strings of whoever promised more toward their re-elections. So I became an Independent and have remained so since. I liked the name, "Independent," as that is how I saw myself (Whether I am -- or anyone - really is, in actuality, independent is quite beyond the scope of this article.)
I also see myself as a humanist. To me, a humanist is a thinking man or woman whose capacity for reasoned discourse is tempered by a deep love for one another and an abiding appreciation for the absurd paradox of our human condition. And, in the ideological passions of politics, it is taking the more balanced and pragmatic position of a centrist that for me is key to applying that humanist way. In our civilizational quest for order and certainty, I believe that human beings can easily go the way of dogma, to see the world around them in a myopic and literalist way; to have a credo that judges in strict, compartmentalized dualities of opposites. For only in this way might society avoid chaos and attain the civilized state! We can also and easily fall into the nebulous world of total relativism wherein dualities devolve into polar complementarities without a "discerning eye," so that a non­judgmental structure crowns itself queen, deluding itself into denying it has set itself up as one acting opposite to the other in a newly revised duality drama.
"Either/or" ideologies can battle one another well enough on their own. The Twentieth Century was witness to those left/right, Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative, Communist/Capitalist fascist name-calling wars. These labels, however, have quite possibly become passé. Enter the "both/and" ideology and politics heats up further, as the notion builds momentum that something new is afoot in the forum of ideas. I'm not sure if this ideology has a party yet to represent its interests. Could it be Ralph Nader and the Green Party that he co-opted? (Or did they co-opt him?) In whatever third party emerges will its emergent ideology possess the organizational skills and money management acumen needed to make it successfully compete? These are not likely to be its strong suits as these more hierarchical, status quo traits are better left to the conventional major parties. In any event, the hidden hand driving our economy may just give them a slap and a whack and send them bouncing off on their way.
So I am sitting at my ringside seat watching as ideologues lust after the very things that oppress them. In their ideal worlds, those right-of-center are ridding us of intrusive government, but are they championing corporate industry and business interests in government's stead, and if so, how much better would that be? Those left -of-center propose that government knows best how to spend your money, but in doing so are they themselves becoming those architects of central planning that their supposed blue collar, grassroots constituency so deplores? Do these questions even matter anymore when our national security state is manned by a professional class of overwhelmingly unelected bureaucrats-for-life, steering its leaders toward the only policies it will tolerate?
My ideology is beginning to take shape I think. Besides thinking of myself as a humanist or centrist I think I might characterize my politics as being a kind of "experiential immersion." In the seeming paradox where people are both individuals and part of a group, i.e., individualists and community, it seems to me that we can and should remain free agents while immersing ourselves time and again in the experiential stew of organizations. Each organization is a sub-community with its own ideological, cultural ecology. It is perhaps the anthropologist in me that calls me to drift from one experience of ideologies to the next. I have worked in a large, supermarket-style law firm and I have been through the military experience. I  also passed through the left coast's transpersonal mill at the California Institute of Integral Studies. And I decided to embrace nature, not by decrying the damage done and becoming an environmental activist. Instead, I enrolled in environmental horticulture courses at City College, San Francisco. I think my ideology was calling upon me to learn more about the non-human, natural world in which I am embedded so that I can more easily interface with, commune and more truly love that natural world, (something often sorely left out in the calculus of what it means to be fully humanist these days).
My ideology tells me to wear many hats and walk in many worlds, to dialogue with diverse people, to fully immerse myself in every opportunity and in every organization to which I am permitted entrée; to weigh costs and benefits, always striving toward being the syncretist-pragmatist seeking balance. And when I write and wish to go on the attack, my ideology tells me to concentrate on ideas, not persons; that I can be successful not so much by attacking than by presenting my own reasoned and heartfelt discourse, and by not being malicious but ultimately finding compassion within for those who appear to me to be barking up the wrong tree.
There is a modicum of balance to be found in not tearing one another down personally. Rather, that balance can be found in vigorous critical thinking which seeks out the authentic in the often dicey issues of politics and public policy. What is important is to keep the dialogue going - which is almost as important as taking action and accepting full accountability for doing so. All of this requires courage to speak out as well as the strength of mind to sometimes keep one's own counsel; to have the patience and willingness to listen to a contending ideology and the willingness to intelligently engage the other with a calm perseverance, always knowing we can easily be off-the-mark. We must be ever-ready to laugh at ourselves - at the absurdity of what it means to be human; to be spiritual beings with bodies -- and to wonder at the ineffable beauty of being alive.

This, then, is an ideology I suppose I can call my own; one for which I can truly say I have great passion. I was not sure when I wrote this whether or not my ideology would be a perfect match with that of my potential employer (not much is perfect in this crazy-mixed-up world of ours.) And I still don't know. But for the time being, anyway, I'm perfectly contented because I got/ didn't get the job.  (Kindly circle one.) I think - though I'm not sure - that my ideology would prevent me from being too overly attached to either outcome.