Encountering the Theory
Arthur Young’s Theory of Process is the most meaningful idea that I’ve encountered in my life. Let me explain why. The story begins in 1951; I was seven years old and I had a mystical experience. I also had an image of myself at 40 with a beard, and I felt my calling was to be a missionary, carrying God’s good news of our equality, of love, and of God’s spirit residing within each of us (although my idea of God then was an external, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent Being.)
I asked the minister of our church, “If God created Heaven and Earth, what was there before?” He answered, “Just have faith.” This response was so dissatisfying to me that I “lost the faith” and began to question religious teachings. I also lost the faith in anything that I was taught in school if it did not take into consideration the “Beginning,” or examine why we are here and how we evolve. As I grew up, my questions seemed taboo except in late night discussions with close friends as we pondered the mysteries. Outwardly, it appeared that I had “refused the call,” yet inside I longed to know the answers about the purpose and pattern of life.
By 1979 I was completing my doctoral dissertation entitled, “Toward the Possible Human: Concepts for an Expanded Education.” As I was writing a chapter on “Consciousness,” I tried to define the term using published references but all I could find were vague descriptions like “Consciousness is awareness of awareness.” I wondered if anyone had written about consciousness in terms of space and time. As I sat at my desk, I was drawn to look at my book shelves and noticed Ken Pelletier’s Toward a Science of Consciousness. I opened it “randomly” to a page where he was writing about Arthur Young’s discussion of consciousness, space, and time. Wow! I was intrigued and inspired as I felt a spark of recognition followed by goosebumps and a great yearning to know more.
The next day I was “guided” again to look at my books and saw one that I had not even opened, The Roots of Consciousness by Jeffrey Mishlove. Again, at random, I turned to the chapter on Arthur’s ideas about space and time. I was astonished to experience yet another synchronicity, and then deeply impressed by the profundity of Arthur’s work. I knew I had to read his books, The Reflexive Universe and The Geometry of Meaning, as soon as possible. To my dismay, I could not find them in libraries or bookstores. I called the publisher, and then tried to phone every Arthur Young in the San Francisco phone book. Finally, I found one library in New England that had The Reflexive Universe. I ordered it and xeroxed it. I couldn’t believe how well this book answered the questions I had pondered for so many years.
After studying Arthur’s work, I was curious to know how the theory’s seven stages appear in the torus, as he had mentioned. His only illustration of the torus showed two interlocking circles. I needed to know how it looked in dynamic pattern. As a carpenter’s son I have nearly 100% spatial relations ability, so I tried to envision a large transparent torus in front of me. I felt excited as this torus “appeared,” and so I further asked how the seven stages, points, or colors wound through the form. There was a moment of silence out of which I heard an inner voice say, “You know the pattern,” and then I found my fingers tracing in the air the evolutionary spiral that makes the torus, in a sense, taking the pulse of the universe (or universal pattern). I was astonished that it came to me so easily, since I’d never seen it before.
Then I tried to draw what I could see from an imaginary vantage point above the center hole; it looked like a cloverleaf. As I realized that it reminded me of the four chambers of the human heart, I had a “Eureka!” moment. I hurried to share my discovery with a colleague who might understand, and announced to her that the toroidal form is the same for both the heart and the universe! So when we talk about getting to the heart of the matter, it is literally true, just as true as saying, “It’s love that makes the world go round”. Through this epiphany, I knew that Arthur’s paradigm would reconcile Science and Spirit.
After studying Arthur’s work, I threw out all I had previously written in my dissertation and began again, inspired by the new vision. Only one special professor really understood my final paper. After my defense of the dissertation, she took me aside and gave me the deepest acknowledgement I had ever received, saying she had always prided herself on being at the leading edge in several fields, but that in this work I had taken her places she had never imagined. She extended deep gratitude for how it had benefited her personally, and for how she expected it to benefit all humanity. With that encouragement, I became determined to develop and teach this work throughout my life.
In my first reading of Arthur’s books, I was ecstatic for I realized that he had discovered the story and pattern that connects and reconciles the sciences with religion and philosophy. His theory gives us an understanding of evolution and the role of consciousness; it explains our existence and its unfoldment, and predicts what is yet to occur. It is our story in template, heretofore only intuited or interpreted by mystics. And as this vision opens the aperture of our mind to perceive the meaning of our life experiences, we are able to greet difficulties with greater calm and optimism because we know there is a divine purpose behind them all. With these realizations, I knew that my “missionary calling” had reawakened and was now going to be inextricably tied to sharing Arthur’s work and his story.
I first taught the theory of process in an “Introduction to Psychology” class, in the section on Theories of Personality, as a transpersonal theory (in contrast to all those found in the textbooks). I also developed a new course, “Explorations in Human Potential,” as a platform for teaching Arthur’s work along with that of Jean Houston and Ken Wilber. It was unexpectedly popular. Part of the requirements was to make a model of the torus or theory of process; this was a discovery process for students because they were free to use any medium they wanted. The best of the science students came in with skepticism, yet by the end of the term, they said the class was the most important one they’d ever taken. One student was Corwin Bell, who developed the best-selling biofeedback game Journey to the Wild Divine, which stages some events in a toroidal room.
In 1982, I finally met Arthur when I invited him to be a guest lecturer/artist/scientist in residence at my college in Glenwood Springs, and also to give a public presentation in Boulder. Soon after he and Ruth arrived, I asked him if my intuited understanding of the double spiral shape of the torus was correct. I showed him my drawing of the torus in my dissertation. He looked at it, confirmed its correctness, and put his hand over his heart as he said, “Oh my God, I feel like I’ve found my son. How did you know?” I told him about the series of mystical experiences I’d had (a whole other story!) which revealed to me the shape of the torus and how it relates to the heart, to the toroidal heart, and its seven layers of muscle wound in the same double spiral as the torus, creating four chambers in its spiraling downward and outward and then inward and upward. When I told him that I most deeply understood his theory of process by understanding the toroidal dynamics, he said that was true for him too.
When Arthur gave his lecture at Naropa Institute, in Boulder, he began with a question, “What is the universe made of?” After many of the usual scientific answers were offered and rejected, Arthur told us, “It’s Love.” With that, the entire audience of graduate students, scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, and laypeople, really sat up and listened.
Over the next years, Arthur confided to me that he was disappointed because his integrative theory was not being accepted or even addressed by academics and scientists. I suggested that the theory might be brought to academia by the public’s interest, by a grassroots movement. He replied, “Then you will have to do it.” I felt both honored and unworthy to do so, expecting that others closer to him, more gifted that I, would carry his work forward.
Just a month or so before his passing I wrote to him, not knowing he was ill, and received another of his heart-warming letters along with some recently written essays and an unexpected gift of funds to be used to “carry on.” I was deeply moved, and also motivated to persevere.
I spoke at his memorial service in Berkeley, and was surprised to learn that none of his associates were teaching his work. Several told me that they counted on me to bring it to the public. I was overwhelmed. Although I could teach the theory, and apply it in education and also in my therapeutic counseling practice, I felt inadequate to the larger task.
Today, I better understand and practice “right timing.” For the first time, I feel capable of bringing Arthur’s work to the public, including extensions of it that are my own contribution. And, today, many more people sense that humanity is at a turning point, and they are eager for guidance in moving through these turbulent times. They feel a spiritual thirst which, I believe, ToP can quench. Arthur’s gift to us–the vision of a living universe and our conscious participation in its process–will help us make the necessary turn. I feel privileged and honored to play a role in this transformation.