The completion of my work can be expressed in seven core mandalas
By Edward Hirsch
This was a journey in Presence, not a journey into Presence, because Presence was/is always now. This is the paradox of the journey, the paradox of time itself, the Sacred Mystery of the Ever-Unfolding Now. Beginning with my birth on Sept. 23, the Autumnal Equinox and the beginning of Libra, the day that the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries were celebrated in ancient Greece (which involved the spiritual theme of death and rebirth), I intuited that my soul had chosen this particular day for some deep purpose. My journey unfolded as a deep study of what it means to be human.
This journey included getting a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1971, involving an intensive, systematic analysis of the paradoxical structure of the core concepts on which our sense of reality rests, most especially space, time, mind and self. I traced this theme through the whole history of Western philosophy, beginning with Pythagoras.
To balance my graduate work, I joined a kundalini yoga ashram in Austin, Texas, where I immersed in deeply embodied, devotional and communal spirituality, followed by two years with Adi Da, who for me was the individuation of the radical immediacy of Presence. Later, I spent two years in The Liberal Catholic Church, a Theosophical version of esoteric Christianity, in which I became aware of the threefold nature of Presence, which I called Above (Transcendent), Within (Indwelling), and Around (All-Pervading), which was invoked in the Holy Mass and in the sign of the cross.
To complete my formal education, I earned an master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at John F. Kennedy University, which opened up the deep psychological aspect of the human journey. It became apparent that my major theme was the living integration of philosophy, psychology and spirituality.
This was followed by more than six years of study and practice with Hameed Ali (a.k.a., A.H. Almaas) and his Diamond Heart School, an original integration of psychology and the spiritual work of the Armenian spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff and his Fourth Way School. Hameed adapted the Practice of Presence that Gurdjieff brought to the West, apparently from his studies with an ancient Sufi school.
All of Gurdjieff’s sources were shrouded in mystery, and his practices were kept secret and never published. This followed the ancient tradition of the strict code of silence of the Mystery Schools. However, there was an overall movement in modern history that Theosophy called “the Externalization of the Hierarchy,” which included the psychedelic revolution of the ’60s, the exiling of the Tibetan teachings into the world, and much besides. This transition of the deeply esoteric Eastern teachings into the dualistic and largely materialistic Western marketplace has been a very bumpy and problematic ride.
By 1990, those practices provided an embodied vehicle for everything I had previously learned. I was strongly motivated, as part of my deep commitment to the spirit of the New Age, to “democratize” it, in the true Aquarian spirit.
I began to teach The Practice of Presence in my own way, in adult schools in the SF Bay Area, bookstores, and the like. Though crediting Hameed’s and Gurdjieff’s influence, I was not trying to duplicate their work or teaching. I realized that I was bringing something original into the world, which I found nowhere else. I was deeply dedicated to providing a vehicle for what was being revealed to me, and evolving within me.
By 1993, I had printed a limited edition of my book, “Being YourSelf: The Practice of Presence.” Ever since, I’ve been writing and rewriting that book but never publishing it. I have taught various versions of it locally through OLLI as well as in local groups. Because of COVID-19, I began teaching OLLI courses online, and then I started a free weekly Zoom offering on a drop-in basis every Saturday, from 1-2:30 p.m.
Original mandalas have long been an integral part of this journey, and about a year ago, the last one emerged, providing a completion of my work, expressed in seven core mandalas I call panels, a systematic way of expressing the Ineffable Truth in embodied teaching and practice. You can see a presentation of the seven panels at RVML (youtu.be/Ww_dI5FMsO8).
I invite your interaction with this process at email@example.com, or simply join in Zoom.
Edward Hirsch, M.A., teaches about the “Practice of Presence” at OLLI and offers free weekly Zoom meetings in the teachings and practices of Presence from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays on a drop-in basis (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84805886301).
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