Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #350 - 08FEB20


This week on The Mystical Positivist, Rob and I present a conversation pre-recorded on February 2, 2020, with Stephen Aronson, Fourth Way group leader, writer, and retired psychologist. 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.

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. Steve is a founding member of The Seekers Café, a website supporting an online community dedicated to creating an effective portal to genuine spiritual practice.

In this fascinating discussion, Steve provides an extended meditation on the developmental origins of the seemingly vampiric inner voices of negativity which plague our default modes of conscious experience, as well as a discussion on the ways in which intentional Work on Self can bring in the necessary sunlight to dissolve such automatic factors. This is long form conversation at its best.

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

The Seekers Café website: seekerscafe.org,

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

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


Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #349 - 01FEB20


This week on the show we converse in the studio with Ken McLeod, founder and director of UnfetteredMind.org, a website offering resources on practical Buddhism. Ken trained in the Tibetan Buddha-dharma, translated for his teacher Kalu Rinpoche, and has written books that translate and comment on Tibetan texts. His books include A Trackless Path, Reflections on Silver River, An Arrow to the Heart, and Wake Up To Your Life. Ken’s work focuses upon making the Buddha’s teachings relevant and accessible to western practitioners.

In today's penetrating conversation, Ken elaborates on a recent posting on his blog about Vajrayana and Archetypal Imagery. Rather than concerning ourselves with the ontological status of Buddhist cosmologies (i.e. are they real?), Ken describes in detail how archetypal imagery acts on much deeper parts of us to instill or imprint the possibility of peace and freedom beyond both the conceptual and the emotional. In addition to all of this, Ken and Rob provide a spiritual analysis of the recent movie, The Two Popes.

More information about Ken McLeod's work can be found at:

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #348 - 25JAN20

This week on the show, Rob and I speak by telephone with Roger R. Jackson, the John W. Nason Professor Emeritus of Asian Studies and Religion at Carleton College in Minnesota, where he taught the religions of South Asia and Tibet. He has published many articles on the philosophy, ritual, meditative practices, and poetry of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, and has written or co-edited several books, including The Wheel of Time: Kalachakra in Context; Is Enlightenment Possible?; Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre; Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars; and Tantric Treasures: Three Collections of Mystical Verse from Buddhist India. He latest book is Mind Seeing Mind: Mahamudra and the Geluk Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism from Wisdom Publications. He is also the past editor of the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies and the Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies.

In this conversation Professor Jackson provides an overview of the Mahamudra tradition in various Tibetan Buddhist traditions and discusses some of the larger questions that have emerged in the Tibetan tradition (as well as many other traditions). Such questions include the nature of negation as it pertains to emptiness, ethics and the Mahamudra, and the role of reason in the practice of Mahamudra. Professor Jackson succeeds in making a very deep and complex topic approachable by the listener.

More information about Roger Jackson's work can be found at:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #347 - 18JAN20

This week on the show on the show, we speak by telephone with J. Brent Bill, a Quaker minister, retreat leader, writing coach, and photographer. He’s written more than twenty books including Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, Mind the Light: Learning To See With Spiritual Eyes, Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, and Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer. Brent has served as a local church pastor, denominational executive, seminary faculty member, and go-cart track operator. He lives on Ploughshares Farm, which is forty acres of former farmland being reclaimed to tall grass prairie and native hardwood forest in Indiana.

His latest book is Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life. "Do you long to live the abundant life that Jesus promised his followers? If so, then you will want to weave the threads of beauty, truth, life, and love into the tapestry of your life. When these essentials are each present in some measure in our relationships, ministries, vocations, and life choices, then we are more likely to find ourselves living a good and abundant life with God."

More information about J. Brent Bill's work can be found at:

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #346 - 04JAN20

This week on the show on the show we present a pre-recorded conversation with Brad Warner about his latest book, Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen. Brad Warner is the founder and head teacher of Angel City Zen Center and Dogen Sangha Los Angeles. He is the author of the popular Hardcore Zen blog as well as several other books on Zen Buddhism including, Hardcore Zen - Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth About Reality; Sit Down and Shut Up - Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye; and Don't Be a Jerk - and Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master. He plays bass in the hardcore punk band Zero Defex (0DFx), is the star of the movies Shoplifting From American Apparel and Zombie Bounty Hunter M.D., was director of the film Cleveland’s Screaming! and is a former vice president of the US branch of Tsuburaya Productions, the company founded by the creator of Godzilla.

Brad moved to Japan in 1993 where he began studying Zen with the iconoclastic teacher Gudo Wafu Nishijima. After a few years, Nishijima ordained Brad and made him his dharma successor.

More information about Brad Warner's work can be found at:

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #345 - 14DEC19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, hosts Stuart Goodnick and Rob Schmidt feature a recording of a talk that they gave at Many Rivers Books & Tea on Thursday December 12th, along with some additional remarks recorded in the studio after the talk. Entitled “Pimples on the Butt of the Absolute: Awareness and Awarenessing”, the pre-talk publicity described it this way: “In the contemporary spiritual scene, "awareness" can be as much a buzz word as "mindfulness." Awareness derives from the concept of being watchful or vigilant. Thus, to beware-to be wary of-something implies guarding against the arrival of a potential danger. From this root, awareness has developed into the common idea of a mental status where one observes the inner and/or outer realms, without any necessary object of awareness implied. But there is an unexamined assumption underlying this idea, which is that it is feasible to maintain a kind of vigilance as a more or less unitary, ongoing state. In this talk, we examine this assumption. Can a "state of vigilance" or "awareness" ever be more than a string of unique moments that we retrospectively link together in the mind? When we watch a sunset, are we not "awarenessing" the rising and passing of discrete perceptions, emotional responses, bodily sensations, and thoughts? Is it possible to relax the flow of awarenessing such that serial fixation upon each unique pimple on the butt of the Absolute gives way to something more like an appreciation of the contours of the overarching butt that graces the Absolute?”

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 upcoming 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: www.manyriversbooks.com,

Conscious Family Festival Website: www.consciousfamilyfestival.org,

Tayu Meditation Center Website: www.tayu.org/~tayu/,

Old Many Rivers Blog: www.manyriversbooks.com/blog1/.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #344 - 07DEC19

This week on the show we present a conversation pre-recorded on December 7th, 2019 with Rick Lewis, author of Confident Under Pressure – The Hidden Advantages of Stress. Rick Lewis is a motivational speaker, thought leader, author, comedian, and entertainer par excellence who delivers a world-class presentation for meetings and events of all kinds. In the world of meetings where attendees have "seen it all," Rick is the ace in your meeting hand; a fresh, surprising and delightful experience they never saw coming. He makes his living by putting leaders, executives and organizational teams into challenging situations to help them see the habitual ways they respond to stress. He then offers unique guidance in the practice of "stress production," rather than stress reduction revealing how to make a dynamic turnaround, an attitude of YES to stress.

His book, Confident Under Pressure, weaves colorful personal stories, recent neuroscience, the research of human performance experts, and the inspiration of leading business executives into a compelling and lucid argument for moving toward stress, conflict and change in order to become more creative, effective and happy in life, on the way to making our highest contribution in the world. The result is an eminently readable and practical book that anyone can use, at home, on the job, and in one-on-one relationships. Rick is also the author of 7 Rules You Were Born to Break: How Intelligent Misbehavior Can Help You and Your Organization Thrive, The Perfection of Nothing: Reflections on Spiritual Practice, and You Have The Right To Remain Silent.

More information about Rick Lewis' work can be found at:

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #343 - 30NOV19

This week on the show we present a conversation pre-recorded on November 29th, 2019 with OM C. Parkin. OM C. Parkin studied psychology, but dropped out of university studies after three years, because it gave him no real insight into human nature. In parallel, he worked intensely on the spiritual traditions of Sufism and the Enneagram as a mirror of the cosmos, especially the human psyche. In 1990, at the age of 27, he suffered a serious car accident, crossed the threshold of death, and woke up again to life, egolessly. Shortly thereafter, he met his spiritual teacher Gangaji, who helped him process his transformation, which cut through the everyday world of experience. Gangaji sent OM to her own teacher H. W. L. Poonja, a direct disciple of Ramana Maharshi, who gave OM his spiritual name.

OM has been teaching orally and in writing ever since, accompanying people in their search for truth and self-knowledge at spiritual events (Darshan). In addition, he is the author of a variety of books, writings and articles, including the recent English publications of The Digital Age, The Birth of the Lion – Non-Duality as a Way of Life, and Intelligence of Awakening – Navigating the Wisdom Path.

OM founded the first major German-speaking mystery school of the present time in the '90s. Since 2010, the school is located at Gut Saunstorf, a splendidly restored historic manor house near the Hanseatic city of Wismar, that has been known as the "Ort der Stille" (Place of Stillness). As a modern monastery, it is also open as a retreat for people who are on the inner path.

OM C. Parkin's spiritual teaching, also referred to as Inner Science, is based on the Eastern Advaita tradition (teaching of non-duality--the best-known representative of this tradition in the West is Ramana Maharshi). This teaching also encompasses Western experiential paths (e. g. Christian Mysticism, Georges I. Gurdjieff: The Fourth Way) as well as modern psychological and psychotherapeutic methods. The goal is self-knowledge through inner work, which ultimately leads to the realization of the true human nature. OM is also preparing for an American tour in October of 2020.

More information about OM C. Parkin's work can be found at:

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #342 - 09NOV19

This week on the show we converse in the studio with Ken McLeod, founder and director of UnfetteredMind.org, a website offering resources on practical Buddhism. Ken trained in the Tibetan Buddha-dharma, translated for his teacher Kalu Rinpoche, and has written books that translate and comment on Tibetan texts. His books include A Trackless Path, Reflections on Silver River, An Arrow to the Heart, and Wake Up To Your Life. Ken’s work focuses upon making the Buddha’s teachings relevant and accessible to western practitioners.

In today's spirited conversation we discuss Ken's project to convey the flavor of Tibetan Buddhist practice to a Western audience and context, the ontological status of deities in the Vajrayana Deity practice, the use of reason in the Mystical endeavor, how modalities of practice need to align with the primary means by which different pratitioners relate to the world, and much more.


More information about Ken McLeod's work can be found at:

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #341 - 26OCT19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we present a conversation pre-recorded on October 20th, 2019 with Alex S. Kohav PhD. Alex Kohav is the editor of and contributor to the recently published Mysticism and Meaning: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. He is an independent scholar based in Boulder, Colorado, and an affiliate faculty member at the Department of Philosophy, Metropolitan State University of Denver. His research has established a new area of scholarly study: Pentateuchal Mysticism and First Temple ancient Israelite priestly initiation tradition (achieved via Husserl's noema-noesis-hyle distinctions enabling "reverse-engineering" from the text to the practices that inspired it).

Kohav is currently reconstructing/developing ancient Israelite philosophy, i.e., the foundational Hebraic metaphysics, epistemology, phenomenology, and ethics of early-antiquity Israel. He is the founder of the Institute for Ancient Israelite Spirituality, which is a pioneering spiritual and esoteric school that teaches consciousness alteration and transformation based on ancient Israelite practices. Thousands of years ago, these practices were developed by the people of Israel, and they are just as relevant and uniquely transformational now as they were in ancient times. Kohav also researches metaphysics and phenomenology of time, the self, being, and the relation between epistemology and attention.

More information about Alex Kohav's work can be found at:

Alex Kohav on the Academia.edu website: msudenver.academia.edu,

Institute for Ancient Israelite Spirituality website: mosaickabbalah.org.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #340 - 19OCT19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we present a conversation pre-recorded on October 13th, 2019 with Neil Douglas-Klotz, Ph.D. Neil Douglas-Klotz is a world-renowned scholar in religious studies, spirituality, and psychology. Living in Fife, Scotland, he directs the Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning and for many years was co-chair of the Mysticism Group of the American Academy of Religion. He is also co-founder of the International Network of the Dances of Universal Peace.

A frequent speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of several books, including Prayers of the Cosmos (1990), The Hidden Gospel (1999), The Genesis Meditations (2003), The Sufi Book of Life (2005), Blessings of the Cosmos (2006), The Tent of Abraham (2006) (with Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Sr. Joan Chittister) and Desert Wisdom (1995, revised 2010). He has also produced three audio series of teachings on the Aramaic approach to Jesus, published by Sounds True.

Known also for his citizen diplomacy work, Neil led several group trips to Russia and the Middle East and in 2004 and cofounded the Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace. In 2005 he was awarded the Kessler-Keener Foundation Peacemaker of the Year award for his work in Middle Eastern peacemaking.

Under his Sufi name, Saadi Shakur Chishti, Neil also offers spiritual retreats combining his work with Native Middle Eastern spirituality with the lineage of Chishti Sufism. He was a long-time student of the Murshid Moineddin Jablonski (d. 2001), the spiritual successor of Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti (1996-1971). Saadi was recognized as a teacher in the Sufi path in 1981 and a senior teacher, or murshid, in 1993 in the Chishti Sufi lineage.

More information about Neil Douglas-Klotz's work can be found at:

The Abwoon Network website: abwoon.org,

Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning website: eial.org,

Dances of Universal Peace website: dancesofuniversalpeace.org,

Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace website: www.eicsp.org,

European Ruhaniat website: www.ruhaniateurope.org.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #339 - 28SEP19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we present a conversation pre-recorded on September 22, 2019 with Fourth Way practitioner Trevor Stewart. Trevor is a student of psychology, meditation, and the Gurdjieff Work. As a young adult, he worked with Buddhist teachers, practicing in an intensive monastic setting for 2 years. Trevor has studied Gurdjieff’s masterwork Beelzebub’s Tales intensively, employing textual, historical, and grammatical criticism, and has authored papers at the All and Everything conference and in other venues. A member of Two Rivers Farm in Oregon, he has worked with the Gurdjieff Movements in both America and Europe, and is an amateur pianist who studies the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music. In daily life, Trevor runs a Design and Build Construction Firm based in Portland, Oregon. Among other things, this discussion provides a fascinating comparison and contrast between intensive monastic Buddhist practice and the Fourth Way Work of Self-Development in the context of daily life. It touches on the relative nature of deep mystical experiences while at the same time critiquing the sometimes overly intellectualized understanding of the "Awakening Experience" found in some strains of Fourth Way practice.

More information about Trevor Stewart's work can be found at:

The Seeker's Café website: seekerscafe.org,

Two Rivers Farm website: www.tworiversfarm.org,

Lucid Cubed blog: lucidcubed.wordpress.com,

JNT Design & Build website: www.jntdesignandbuild.com.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Mystical Positivist - Radio Show #338 - 21SEP19

This week on The Mystical Positivist, we speak by telephone with Mark Matousek, author of the recent book, Mother of the Unseen World: The Mystery of Mother Meera. He is the author of two acclaimed memoirs, Sex Death Enlightenment and The Boy He Left Behind, as well as When You’re Falling, Dive: Lessons in the Art of Living, and Ethical Wisdom: The Search for a Moral Life. A former editor at Interview magazine, he is a featured blogger for PsychologyToday.com and HuffPost, and has contributed to The New Yorker, O: The Oprah Magazine (as contributing editor), Harper’s Bazaar, Yoga Journal, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and The Saturday Evening Post, among other publications. Internationally, he offers courses in creativity and spiritual growth based on his book, Writing to Awaken: A Journey of Truth, Transformation, and Self-Discovery. He is a founding member of V-Men, an organization devoted to ending violence against women and girls, and lives in East Hampton, New York.

More information about Mark Matousek's work can be found at:

Mark Matousek's Website: www.markmatousek.com,

Mother Meera's Website: www.mothermeera.com,


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: seekerscafe.org,


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: www.gongavataracademy.com,

Sotantar Suraj on YouTube: wwww.youtube.com,

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: www.nickeganphd.com,


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: seekerscafe.org,

Native Roots LLC Website: nativerootsnh.org,


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: www.manyriversbooks.com,

Conscious Family Festival Website: www.consciousfamilyfestival.org,

Tayu Meditation Center Website: www.tayu.org/~tayu/,

Old Many Rivers Blog: www.manyriversbooks.com/blog1/.


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.