Encountering the Theory

In 1969, I was happily working towards a PhD in the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College when I met Ken Pelletier, a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania. Two weeks later, Ken heard a brief lecture at school about an unusual philosophy and was invited to attend a seminar on the topic that weekend. Ken was intrigued, and so was I when he told me about it, so I accompanied him to the meeting.

We arrived at a lovely home in the city and were greeted by the philosopher’s wife, Ruth. She led us upstairs, past a drawing room full of antique French furniture and paintings, and into the large living room where we joined the group who had gathered for the seminar. Then she went to find her husband, who was still at work in his study. Soon he appeared—Arthur Young, with a big smile and warm handshake for everyone. He began to talk about what he had just been writing, and we all knew we were in for an unusually stimulating day. By lunch time, I had a mild headache, actually more of a brain ache. I realized that I had never really “thought” before I followed Arthur’s trail of inspiring questions and surprising answers.

After serving lunch, Ruth brought in a birthday cake, another surprise for us all. It was Arthur’s 64th birthday! What I remember best about the day is on a personal note. One of the enigmatic questions Arthur posed was, “How many parts are there to love?” For a while, no one answered, and then I blurted out, “Three!” He was delighted. And he asked me to explain why that was so to the others and I did. I had known the answer without reasoning it out because it simply made sense to me.

I didn’t meet Arthur and Ruth again for over a year. By then, Ken had transferred to UC Berkeley and encountered physicists and psychologists who were working at the frontiers of what we now call the “consciousness movement.” I had completed an MA degree and left graduate school, in part because my encounter with Arthur’s ideas had expanded my worldview and made it impossible for me to continue with the ivory tower life. In December 1970, I visited California and attended the first lecture that Arthur gave on the theory there. Ken had arranged it and many now-famous scientists attended. They were excited about the theory; it provided a unifying foundation for their many ideas.

In 1972, I accepted a job teaching a class in art history at Temple University in Philadelphia. By then my friendship with the Youngs had grown to the extent that they invited me to stay at their home during the school term. Arthur quickly enlisted me to work with him on his Bacon/Shakespeare research. In particular, I investigated the iconography of the emblem ciphers. Having the Princeton Library nearby was a great help. I’d bring home the “bacon” and we would browse over our new discoveries with relish.

In early November 1972, Arthur and Ruth went to California to meet with Alan Cohen and discuss the potential of teaching the theory at John F. Kennedy University. They returned to Philadelphia late one night and Ruth came to my bedroom and told me how happy she was: “It looks like things are really opening up for Arthur now.” And indeed, they were. In early 1973, I returned to Berkeley and helped Ken organize the first weekend seminar on the theory. The event was so successful that the Youngs decided to acquire a home in Berkeley so Arthur could continue the teaching.

By the end of May, we found them a fine old brown shingle house on Benvenue. It met all their criteria: it was well-located near the university; it had an ample apartment for their home, large rooms for lectures, and a finished attic area where two or three students could reside. Over the summer, I prepared the house for them while they were in Pennsylvania, and located two students who were enthusiastic about living there. They were Jeff Mishlove and Saul-Paul Sirag, both of whom went on to have exemplary careers in consciousness studies.

Working closely with Ruth, I was the administrator of the Institute for the Study of Consciousness in the first terms, and also attended the classes. Thanks to Arthur’s many-faceted approach in presenting his theory, my background in iconography allowed me to cross-reference and thereby understand the issues in physics and other sciences that he explored. I found greater meaning in my studies of symbolism, and also in my own life, than ever before.

In early 1974, I began serious astrological research under Arthur’s tutelage, and I continue it today. This training served me well when I helped edit his astrological autobiography. I suppose it is astrology that became our language, our mutual passion and pursuit even beyond the theory of process. But it was our friendship, a loving, spiritual-family relationship, that bound us together over the years and always will.