John Bainbridge - TOROTE, UK
In September last year John Bainbridge contacted me and said he needed a host for his new site. I was delighted to hear from a man who had been starting to study Gurdjieff's ideas at about the same time as I had. We had an intensive period of web development from September until Christmas 2002 with John asking how to do things and me learning all about it and trying to answer his enquiries.
You can access TOROTE's homepage from here. [Gone, noted 2013]
GIG: I have made a principal decision to start all interviews with a standard question about lineage. When you were, as it is said, 'in the Work', who was your teacher?
John: Ah, "lineage"... I first contacted the Work, or vice versa, in 1972, and attended groups 'led' by someone who had himself attended groups with Dr. Maurice Nicoll.
GIG: Could you describe what brought you to the Work, what you got out of it and what made you go away?
John: That's really three separate questions; lets take it one at a time. What initially brought me to the Work was a dis-satisfaction with conventional answers to some questions that I considered pretty basic to my psychological make-up and understanding; as a late teenager, I'd had some experiences that I could only describe at the time as being 'psychic'. Enquiries of adults met with a variety of responses, from amused tolerance at the follies and intensity of youth, to obvious antipathy. My recourse was to search in literature, looking at mysticism, Eastern philosophies, psychic phenomena, that sort of thing. Eventually, after some seven or eight years, I reached Ouspensky's writings - "In Search...", "Tertium Organum", "New Model", "Strange Life", "PoMPE"*,"Talks with a Devil" and the "Fourth Way" - long before that phrase became a political slogan - and really had the feeling that I was closing in on something. By that time I was 25, and, coincidentally it seemed, a friend of my flatmate had just had a meeting with a Work group-leader, and although not taking it further himself, he passed on the name and address. The rest, as we might say, is "personal history".
As to what I got out of it... well, that requires a continual re-assessment. I think there's a lot of truth in the saying that "anyone who's met the 'Work' for as little as three months, is never the same again". In the short term, just after meeting the Work, there was an immediate sense of "Wow! Other people are interested in these same areas of experience and self-transformation". Relief. Hope. A sense of direction. And a philosophical - and practical - handle on understanding the inconsistencies in the worlds around me. Plus an irritation at "Beelzebub" at the first reading! In the longer term, a real belief that the area of self-transformation is the only game in town - and the "handle" definitely needs a light but two-handed grip in modern times! Beelzebub et al. opened up to reveal some extra-ordinary depths. And heights.
And what made me go away? hmm... The phrase "go away" doesn't really describe the process - I receded from it, or it from me. It was never a decision "I'm going to quit", more a divergence of the ways after some 20 years or so. There were several contributory 'reasons' that immediately spring to mind - "Round up the usual suspects"; first, I have what might be termed an impatience with the over-stolid quality of self-serving organisations, and a somewhat 'out of the box' reaction to it! Inevitably, this meant that I was trusted less than 150%, and "nothing real is ever given to those we don't trust." Fair enough - but a lot of good folk were lost to the Work for similar reasons... a second reason was that although I was OK with the first two lines of the Work, I failed pretty miserably at the third... a third reason - if you ask three times and are denied.... a fourth, an 'itch' that scratching at/practising the Work didn't alleviate… fifth, the different speeds of internal processes between the generations...
The reasons don't really matter, whether they were as I perceived or - statistically more likely - not.
GIG: When did you have your first transpersonal experiences and what were they?
John: As I said before, as a teenager I had some experiences that couldn't be explained by science, philosophy, logic or any other method I knew of. These experiences were to do with 'Time' - it's structure and its visibility. I went through a time of prescient dreams that turned the way I looked at things base-over-apex, and simultaneously made the normal concerns of the world far less important, a sort of repeating stage show. What I had pre-viewed in dreams happened later in real life, and couldn't or wouldn't be changed. J W Dunne**, Ouspensky, and later Rodney Collin, gave me some sort of understanding as to what was, or is, going on. In late teens, there was also one moment, or flash, of what I can only term "absolute understanding" - anyone who has experienced such a moment will know that all we come away with is the fading trails and tatters of the insight - it's all that the everyday ordinary mind can retain. I'm not talking about "the dewdrop slipping into the shining sea", or "into cosmic consciousness" - something much more personal, individualised, and specific. Bit like being struck by lightning, I imagine - left shocked, stunned and wondering what on earth happened! Perhaps even wanting to play with fire afterwards.
GIG: I have only once had a vivid pre-cognitive dream, which involved a person in the Work. The dream was about my beard and I wonder what is it that made me dream of such a trivial thing that had no bearing on the world situation or for anything else either. Did your dreams have more meaningful content?
John: No - the precog. dreams didn't, but the symbolic dreams did, but that's another story. For me, the precog. dreams seem to show almost a random moment, as a by-product of some other process. I say 'almost' because they were always associated in linear time with quite an intense emotional experience two or three weeks previous to the dream - the interval between dream and 'reality' wasn't so predictable. The 'meaningful content' for me is that they happen at all, as they fly in the face of the conventional way of understanding things.
GIG: Tell me about the idea of your web site! It looks like you are doing a similar thing than I am trying to do with the editing of GIG. I mean in the sense that you are doing something special about what has interested you for a long time. What are you hoping to accomplish?
John: Yes, I'm very interested in 'consciousness studies' and the 'energies' involved in internal experiences; when I went looking for on-line descriptions of experiences, I was frustrated by the fact that there was very little available. To my knowledge, there's at least eleven thousand contributed accounts of transpersonal experiences held in various databases, but for one reason or another, they're not available - there isn't open access. To me, this seems upside-down and self-contradictory; there's sufficient interest in the area to provoke research, but keeping it 'in house' is self-limiting - literally - and discourages further growth of interest in the subject.
What I'm hoping, personally, to "get out of it" is an increased understanding of what's going on! What I hope more generally to accomplish, is to help bring the whole subject more into the open, and to contribute to whatever paradigm replaces the 'scientism' that must surely be coming to the end of its useful term; hopefully a new way of looking at ourselves and the world where everything is 'in process' - an outlook on life as a verb, not as a noun!
Wouldn't it be marvellous if the self was a "growth area"?
Einstein was right when he said, "Our technology has exceeded our humanity" - to my mind, it's time for the pendulum to swing the other way, for us to see ourselves not in isolation, ego-centrally, but as part of something much bigger, more interrelated, parts of a whole. Life and spirit as part of a spectrum…
I can’t say to what degree these intentions coincides with the aims of GIG. What do you think?
GIG: My aim is connected with the high ideal of the third line of work, but it is interesting how the first and second line keep popping up all the time. I've got plenty of contacts - it is amazing that this month alone the site has been visited by people from 59 different countries. I hope the internet will work for you.
Is there a special group of transpersonal experiences that you are particularly interested in?
John: The perception of "time" is an interesting question, but it's only a part of a whole. The word "special" in your question, for me, implies self-transformation and self-growth. So, an experience that shows something moving - or being moved - from sensitivity and awareness, into consciousness...? Maybe anything experienced personally that is 'beyond' the intellect... it's not easy to classify such experiences into groups, and it may well be fruitless to do so as it reinforces the intellectual, formatory approach.
GIG: Surely people who visit GIG have something to offer you in the 'beyond the intellect' area.
John: Of course! People looking for the kind of web-content that GIG offers are, by definition, looking for something out of the ordinairy, be it from the point of view of curiosity or something much, much deeper. Let's not knock the intellect - it's got us this far! But... why stop there? - within us there's the physical/instinctive, the emotional, the intellectual, and so much more. It's the 'so much more' that really needs stronger valuation and exploration - it's contained in our everyday experience, but sort of at "right-angles" to it. It's examples from this area that I hope will be contributed to TOROTE.
To my way of thinking, it seems to be part of the human condition - 'pathology' might be a better word - to put itself at the centre of the universe, and, so far, we haven't really learned to use the gifts we've been given, nor even to appreciate them. Why do we have them? What's their function? How do they fit in with everything else? What are they telling us? ... and what prevents us from hearing it?
What on earth are we here for, and what is necessary - obligatory in an essential sense - for us to be able to complete ourselves?
Yes, it's most definitely "the only game in town."
* Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution
**An Experiment With Time" - latest reprint: Hampton Roads Pub Co; March 2001