Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #337 - 07SEP19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we present a conversation pre-recorded on August 18, 2019 with long-time Fourth Way practitioner Federico Balsa. Federico Balsa is a retired Argentine high school teacher, who has been a sincere and persistent practitioner for over thirty years, and is a founding member of The Seeker’s Café website. He began his Fourth Way practice through the lens of an absolutely skeptical, formatory-mind, "intelligentsia worshiping” personality. After 11 years of practice, he had the Fourth Way equivalent of a kensho or satori, which was the point at which his skillful practice of intentional suffering really began, as he realized that his previous arrogant, self-aggrandizing views had no reliable foundation. His subsequent Fourth Way practice deeply informed his work with his high school students, and his own children. His passion, humility, and humor, makes this an energetic and often surprising conversation.

More information about Federico Balsa's work can be found at:

The Seeker's Cafe Website:,

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #336 - 31AUG19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we speak by telephone with Sotantar Suraj, a widely recognized Gong Master Teacher, Kundalini Yoga Teacher, and Kundalini Yoga Teacher Trainer in his home base of Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, as well as in Europe. Sotantar Suraj has practiced and studied yoga, meditation, and healing since his childhood in Spain till present day. The Hermes Kybalion, The Patanjali Sutras, The Vijñana-bhairava Tantra Sutras, and the words of Carlos Castañeda became important influences in his life. By his early twenties he moved to the United States where he continued his study in yoga, tantra, and meditation. Later he found his connection with the Planet Gongs and he devoted himself to learning the ways of the Gong, Kundalini Yoga and Tantra. He was privileged to meet and receive teachings from the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan. Sotantar has worked with and had the opportunity to learn from world-renowned Gong Master Teacher Don Conreaux, and world-renowned Tantra Teacher Mahasatvaa Ma Ananda Sarita. He is also a Reiki Master Teacher, Sound Therapist, and Hypnotherapist.

Sotantar Suraj brings the vibration of the primordial sacred sound of the Planet Gongs to honor our ancestors, their sacred places and traditions to workshops and retreats around the globe. He is dedicated to raising awareness, inspiring passion, creating balance, and spreading love, joy and peace to the universal community. His passion is teaching Kundalini Yoga, Tantra, and bringing the healing and transforming sounds of the Gong to the world. He has recorded a series of CDs and DVDs that include powerful and transformative Kundalini Yoga Kriyas, Gong Immersions, and Meditations.

More information about Sotantar Suraj's work can be found at:

Gong Avatar Academy Website:,

Sotantar Suraj on YouTube:,

Upcoming Gong Academy Workshops: Gong Academy Workshops.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #335 - 24AUG19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we speak in the studio with Nick Egan, Ph.D., an educator, award-winning leader and executive coach who uses his deep understanding of positive psychology and Buddhist philosophy to encourage personal and organizational growth. In addition to coaching, he has taught meditation techniques for more than a decade. His newly released book, Shift: The Art of Transforming Limitations will form the basis of our conversation today. Nick regularly leads expeditions to various Asian destinations including Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal, Thailand, and Tibet. Nick holds a BA in psychology, and MA in comparative religion, and a Ph.D. in Buddhist philosophy. He had a stint as co-host of the Mystical Positivist earlier in this decade.

More information about Nick Egan's work can be found at:

Nick Egan's Website:,

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #334 - 10AUG19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we present a conversation pre-recorded on August 3, 2019 with Zeke Badger, a long-time Fourth Way practitioner, a writer, blogger, and a founding member of the Seekers Café. Zeke is a career educator whose work focuses upon developing and implementing nature-based educational experiences that inspire and challenge individuals toward personal health, and a healthy relationship with the natural world through the use of adventure education, long distance walking adventures, and Rite-of-Passage endeavors.  He owns and operates a small family-run business offering herbal products. He was an adjunct faculty member for the University System of New Hampshire, teaching courses in Environmental Ethics, Natural History of Northern New England, and Outdoor Skills. Zeke has 30 years of class teaching experience developing and implementing outdoor programs and environmental education experiences for adolescents at the secondary school level. He is currently working on two books: Going Wild: Commentaries Upon Thoreau’s Walden, Walking, and Youth’s Adventure and Long Walking as a Rite-of-Passage.

More information about Zeke Badger's work can be found at:

The Seeker's Cafe Website:,

Native Roots LLC Website:,

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #333 - 03AUG19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, hosts Stuart Goodnick and Rob Schmidt launch into an impromptu conversation after a last minute cancellation by the minister of The Church of Conscious Harmony, a contemplative Christian community in Austin, Texas. They discuss the Sacred, Esoteric Christianity as embodied in the Fourth Way tradition, Magnetic Center, and modern obstacles to valuing the Sacred. They also explore distinctions such as Life as an End as contrasted with Life as a Means. Friction generates heat as our hosts discuss whether the Fourth Way notion of Magnetic Center is really all that useful in explaining why some people value the sacred more than others. Finally they dive into the question of whether any of us can actually DO anything, or whether our sense of agency is more an illusion and a reflection of the action of Being at a higher level than our conventional scale of awareness.

Rob Schmidt, Ph.D., and Stuart Goodnick co-direct Tayu Meditation Center, owner and operator of Many Rivers Books & Tea. They studied intensively with Tayu founder Robert Daniel Ennis, and are working to complete a book of his teachings this year called, Living Life As A Work Of Art: The Spiritual Work of Robert Daniel Ennis.

More information about Tayu Meditation Center can be found at:

Many Rivers Books and Tea Website:,

Conscious Family Festival Website:,

Tayu Meditation Center Website:,

Old Many Rivers Blog:

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #332 - 20JUL19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, Rob and I present a conversation pre-recorded on July 20th, 2019 with Stephen Aronson. Steve received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1970. He taught as assistant professor of psychology in the early 70’s at Arizona State and Alfred University. He also served on staff at hospitals in Phoenix and Maine. After three years of community mental health practice he founded North Country Consultants, LLC in 1975 to provide training and clinical services throughout Maine. He taught family practice to medical students at Maine Medical Center and designed and taught the first year of Behavioral Science at New England College of Medicine. In 1979 he co-authored a pioneering book, The Stress Management Workbook: An Action Plan for Taking Control of Your Life and Health with Michael Mascia, MD. In the late 1990’s he co-founded Mental Health Associates of Maine, a multi-disciplinary psychological/psychiatric practice. Steve retired from clinical practice after 43 years of practice in 2013.

Intellectually and emotionally, Steve has always been drawn to the mystery of existence. His interest in consciousness, as one of the most profound of these mysteries, led him to psychology as a career. He submitted himself to nearly 20 years of his own analysis in a variety of disciplines culminating in 12 years of Jungian analysis, during which he came to ‘see’ the reality of the Collective Unconscious and the universality of symbols in religion and dreams.

In 1982 Steve experienced a ‘vision’ that was an overture to a series of synchronous events culminating in his discovery of the Gurdjieff Work. He has dedicated his inner search to the methods of G.I. Gurdjieff since that time, accepting the responsibilities of ‘leading’ groups studying this system. Steve’s immersion in ‘spiritual’ psychology led him to an interest in esoteric religion, particularly esoteric Christianity, and a recognition of the universality of the core of all traditions. It also profoundly influenced his understanding of the structure and function of the human psyche and his practice of clinical psychology. He has made a number of presentations to the All and Everything International Humanities Conference and participates in groups in Portland Maine, Moscow Russia and Toronto Canada.

Although loving theoretical exploration of both psychological and spiritual questions, he remains dedicated to making the esoteric ideas come alive as actual subjective experiences. He believes that only through direct experience can such ideas find real meaning so that the system becomes the ‘teacher’. His primary objective has been to discover and share the practical application of these ideas and methods to the inner world of people. Steve is a founding member of The Seekers Café, a website supporting an online community dedicated to creating a effective portal to genuine spiritual practice.

Note - There is a slight electronic distortion on this recording.

More information about Stephen Aronson's work can be found at:

Stephen Aronson at The Gurdjieff Club: Preparation for the Third Line of Work

Stephen Aronson on The Dr. Lisa Show: Viewpoint, #96

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Strange Brew from the Seekers Cafe - Part 1

Rob Schmidt and I have recently become involved in a fascinating experiment in conversation called The Seekers Café. Conversation participants are senior spiritual practitioners primarily, though not exclusively, drawn from The Fourth Way tradition. Currently, members of this group meet on a weekly basis for a Zoom video conference to explore matters of interest in the Work as well as planning for the introduction of a public website to offer what the Café has been creating to a larger community. What distinguishes these group discussions from the many other forms of group conversations that I encounter in everyday life is the ability of the participants to listen and receive communications from others, the willingness to make space for all participants to express their views, the shared intention for the conversation to ascend the scale of meaning, and the leavening of all of this with a sense of humor born of decades of intensive study into the vacuous nature of ordinary mind.

In addition, The Seekers Café is providing a rich source of guests for The Mystical Positivist radio show and podcast. For example, recent Mystical Positivist guest Richard Webb demonstrated a remarkable combination of edginess and vulnerability in his recounting of his extensive spiritual training in the Sufi tradition of Reshad Feild, his initiation and practice within a Shamanic community, and his initiation into the Tibetan Chöd tradition. What made this an engaging conversation was in part the sense of danger that it elicited, as we weren't sure where Richard might go next. It was like sitting on the knife's edge between a richly sensitive vulnerability and the transformative potency of a gruff and brutal honesty. In short, the conversation recounted, and effectively evoked, the flavor of genuine spiritual apprenticeship and the products of such apprenticeship.

As I was describing this conversation to the other members of the Seekers Café this last Saturday, I was reminded of a lesson from my Shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) teacher, Masayuki Koga. On a number of occasions, Koga-sensei has described the quality of sound that can be conveyed when one pulls one's lips back slightly from the edge of the Shakuhachi at the end of one note, before bringing one's lips back forward for the initiation of the following note. Sonically this action has the sense of a slight increase in pitch coupled with the diminishing of breath at the end of the first note, a letting go of the sound, and the arising of the subsequent note out of the space left by the previous one. 

The Shakuhachi is a very sensitive instrument and has a reputation for being difficult to play. Small variations in the air stream, the angle of the flute, and the tension of the lips translate into profoundly different expressions of sound. Because of this sensitivity, it is very easy to lose the thread of the sound entirely; in other words, for a note to be lost entirely. An audience can detect this sensitivity at a feeling level even if they might not be able to articulate it at a cognitive level. This quality of feeling that Koga-sensei has described, which can be evoked with this technique of almost losing the sound at the end of one note before proceeding with another note, is that of danger. When the audience senses the risk that the performer is in and the danger that the performer may lose the sound in the next moment, audience attention perks up. The audience is drawn into the performer's willingness to stretch out the tension between safety and danger, and the performance becomes interesting at a feeling and instinctive level for the audience.

In contrast to this dangerous sound is a safe sound. I know from my work with the Shakuhachi that the closer my lips are to the edge of the flute, the more reliably I can be assured of making a sound and controlling the note. As my lessons with Koga-sensei have given me ample opportunity to observe over the years, the majority of the blocks I have in expressing greater subtlety with the instrument arise from the many micro tensions throughout my face, neck, and torso that collectively operate to keep me in the safe zone where I can reliably make noise. The downside of this safe zone is a flatness of tone, and a dullness that in subtle ways lets audience attention wander. 

And there is a further difficulty due to the unique construction of the Shakuhachi. Musical expression requires modulation of dynamics, lest the sound take on the mechanical quality of a player piano. An expressive note often has the sonic shape of a tear drop. There is an initial attack, a subsequent rising of the sound, and the smooth diminishment of the sound into empty space. To make this initial attack requires the lips pressed more closely to the edge of the Shakuhachi with greater air pressure. This is relatively easy to do, and at least with respect to my own practice, lies more in the safe zone. However, to attain the elegance of the end of the tear drop requires that the air pressure diminish, ultimately to zero. With the Shakuhachi, pitch is both a function of air pressure and the distance of one's lips from the edge of the flute. The higher the pressure, the higher the pitch. The closer the lips, the lower the pitch. And herein lies the challenge. To effectively convey an elegant diminishment of sound requires both the reducing of air pressure and the increasing of the distance between one's lips and the edge of the flute. This combination takes one uncomfortably into the danger zone. If one plays it safe and substitutes security for elegance, the pitch of the note will go down, the tone descends.

This same principle holds in the art and practice of conversation. What made our conversation with Richard Webb interesting and engaging on our podcast is precisely his willingness to stay in the danger zone where certainty is sacrificed in the interests of possibility. Our ongoing conversations with The Seekers Café, at their best, embody this principle when participants set aside the tropes with which they are most comfortable for the possibility that something new can enter into the mix. This is certainly the quality of conversation that Rob and I aspire to create mutually with our guests on The Mystical Positivist podcast. Our favorite guests are those who are most comfortable hanging out in the danger zone because it is in that space where passion, enthusiasm, and vulnerability conspire (as in "breath together") to produce something truly new.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #331 - 13JUL19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, Rob and I speak with two previous guests on the show Sam Webster and Gus diZerega about their new project Pagan Currents, an online open source creative commons journal for serious Pagan work intended for practicing Pagans rather than academics, while acknowledging the overlap between the two groups.

Sam Webster, PhD, M.Div.,Mage, hails from the Bay Area and has taught magick publicly since 1984. He graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley in 1993 and earned his doctorate at the University of Bristol, UK, studying Pagan history under Prof. Ronald Hutton.

He is an Adept of the Golden Dawn, a cofounder of the Chthonic-Ouranian Templar order, and an initiate of Wiccan, Druidic, Buddhist, Hindu and Masonic traditions. His work has been published in journals such as Green Egg and Gnosis, and 2010 saw his first book Tantric Thelema, establishing the publishing house Concrescent Press. In 2001 he founded the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, and in 2013 founded the Pantheon Foundation. Sam serves the Pagan community as a priest of Hermes.

Gus diZerega combines decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing with an academic background, including a PhD in Political Theory and extensive teaching and publishing experience in mainstream academia.

He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White, who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and intensively practiced Brazilian Umbanda for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva, as well as integrating it into his own healing work afterwards. He has given workshops and talks on Pagan spirituality and healing in the United States and Canada as well as organized international conferences and taught internationally in the social sciences.

Gus’ book Faultlines: The Sixties, the Culture War and the Return of the Divine Feminine, received a 2014 Silver Award from the Association of Independent Publishers. Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, won Best Nonfiction of 2001 from The Coalition of Visionary Resources.

More information about Sam Webster and Gus diZeriga's work can be found at:

Pagan Currents website:

The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn website:

Gus diZerega's Website:

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #330 - 06JUL19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we present a conversation with Richard Webb. Richard Webb has been driving the development of cutting-edge solutions in global Fortune 500 environments in the high-tech industry for over 20 years. He brings big-picture vision to both operational and digital transformation by applying lean concepts to optimize systems, streamline processes, and reduce costs while managing multi-million-dollar budgets and corporate change. Additionally, he cultivates collaboration to bridge development, operations, and implementation while building highly productive teams that increase enterprise resiliency and security.

As a young man, Richard entered into an intensive apprenticeship with noted Sufi teacher Reshad Feild and ultimately worked with Feild and his community for almost fifteen years. Having established himself in the world both professionally and with a family, he found himself at a crossroads in the early 2000s that led to his initiation into a shamanic tradition. His work was soon complemented with the initiation into the Tibetan Chöd tradition which weaved in a web of community support into the sometimes wild and elemental work of the shamanic tradition. Throughout these epochal shifts in his spiritual work, Richard maintains a clarity of about the nature of practice and the essence of spiritual transformation. He brings an earthy and immediate wisdom to our conversation that is both deadly serious yet leavened with humor and compassion.

More information about Richard Webb's work can be found at:

Richard Webb on LinkedIn:,

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #329 - 22JUN19

This week on the Mystical Positivist, we speak in the studio with LGBTQ+ community leader and Kundalini Yoga practitioner, Jacob Rudolph. Jacob Rudolph made international headlines in 2013 when a video of him coming out in front of more than 300 of his classmates went viral with over 2,000,000 views on YouTube. Soon after, Jacob was featured on national TV interviews with Anderson Cooper, Thomas Roberts on MSNBC, Don Lemon on CNN, and with Joy Behar, as well as in the LA Times and other print media. Inspired to continue speaking up, Jacob successfully assisted local civil rights groups that same year in passing a state law that bans conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth in New Jersey. Since then, he has been selected for the Point Foundation Scholarship, the John Lewis Fellowship for diversity and activist change, and was selected as the student commencement speaker at his college graduation-- University of Miami, 2017. He currently serves as the Executive Director of The Pride Network, which offers young LGBTQ+ leaders opportunities for personal transformation and professional development to create change within themselves and in our communities.

Jacob is also known as Manush Baldr, a name given to him by his spiritual teachers Trinity Devi and Sotantar Suraj. Founded by Master Gong Avatar, Sotantar Suraj, in Newport Beach, CA, the Gong Avatar Academy is a growing community around the world. In addition to the original community in CA, the GAA has also expanded to the East Coast with trainings in Miami, FL led by Trinity Devi and in Switzerland led by Sekhmet Mera. Through a process of direct apprenticeship, Jacob has dived into a journey of self-study of the Force Within and in All. Using the Gong as a mirror, Jacob studies and applies ancient and modern practices to awaken himself within the matrix, using the principles of nature and the universe, sound and vibration to enjoy the totality of who we are.

The Gong Avatar Academy is a journey towards Awareness and Self-Empowerment; raising participants in consciousness as individuals and collectively; discovering a beyond mastery state; commanding and accepting all our thoughts, emotions, feelings and actions; cultivating the Avatar State; and embracing the One and the All.

Jacob/Manush is a loving friend, spiritual student, and a passionate advocate for LGBTQ empowerment as the foundation of a compassionate American society.

More information about Jacob Rudolph/Manush Baldr's work can be found at:

The Pride Network Website:,

The Gong Avatar Academy Website:,