Saturday, December 20, 2008

Further notes on Jesuit Zen adepts

Not including the name of Fr. William Johnston in my article “Buddha, S.J.” was a major oversight on my part that will be corrected. Morgan and I have yet to approve the final galley proof for Meanderings, and besides, at least with regard to Zen study, nothing is ever really final.

Thank you, compañeros and compañeras, and special thanks to Paul Kelly. I was very moved by these few sentences from his email which was forwarded to me: ¨Twenty years later, I was led to Zen practice by his best book, to me, at least: The Still Point. We corresponded by long distance airmail -- it was 1974 -- and he helped me begin Zen practice by simple, yet detailed instructions, and his own prayers on my behalf. All by mail. As each one of his books came out, I bought it, read it, kept it in a special place on my little library shelves. I owe him much.” This reminds me of many stories that I heard about Bob Aitken over the years. Students would write to all the Zen Centers in the US asking for guidance and, time after time, student after student, Bob was the only head of a practice center who responded, and usually with a personal letter, not a mimeographed application for a practice period. The encounter with Zen, though it may begin with reading, at least from my point of view, takes place outside books, in real human contact.

I have been trying to figure out how Johnston escaped my notice. First of all, I began formal practice about 20 years ago, not as a Jesuit or even a believer—in fact quite the opposite. Once inside the zendo, I began asking questions, both about the practice and its history. To my astonishment, the most recommended, and by far the most complete, thorough, sympathetic, accessible and scholarly work was the three-volume history of Zen Buddhism by Fr. Heinrich Dumoulin, another Jesuit from Sophia. (Phil Whalen called him Douggie DeMoulin, as if he were an old friend. Even as Phil was going blind, when I asked him a question, he would often point in the direction of a shelf in his extensive library and say, Douggie has something to say about that, go look in the second volume -- on the second shelf of the third cabinet, Chapter 5, page 279, that will be the right hand page, the third paragraph from the bottom. And dammed if he wasn’t right on most of the time).

All this to say, my discovery of the Jesuit-Zen connection came from my narrow Zen point of view, and I studied, read priest practitioners who had connections to the Zen teachers I worked with. I tended to stay away from those who set out to make connections between Zen meditation and Christian prayer. There was a definite anti-Christian stance in some American Zen circles, a reaction against the Church of our fathers, and to some degree this prejudice is still in place. The first book that I read that made that connection for me, and one in which I felt the power of Zen, was Fr. Kadowaki’s Zen and the Bible. Kadowaki linked his realizations working with certain koans to stories from the Gospel of Jesus, especially stories and sayings that he connected with the themes from the 4 weeks of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: the Kingdom, the Three Classes of Men, and the Three Degrees of Humility. He opened my inquiry into what was happening among Christians who practiced Zen.

There are at least two other Jesuits I neglected, besides Johnston, whose work I am unfamiliar with. Fr. deMello has been mentioned many times by some Compañeros. I have at least 2 of his books in my library that I have only skimmed. And then there is Dan O’Hanlon whom I met when I was a JSTB. It was only after his tragic death that I discovered how respected he was in Zen circles. I was talking with a woman who is a dharma heir of Kobin Chino Roshi, and she spoke about Dan with such love and respect that I regretted not having gotten to know him better when I was up on the hill (the holy hill of the GTU).

And finally, I feel now that the Zen-Jesuit connection is not just a one-way street—that it is not just what Zen can contribute to the prayer life of Christians. Christian practice has something tangible to offer a Zen student. I want to tell a story about what may have been the first Mass said in a zendo. I have heard that Fr. Kennedy said Mass at ZCLA, but before that, in 1991, my friend, Fr. Joe Devlin, S.J., of the New England Province said Mass in the zendo at the Hartford Street Center.

I had asked Joe to come by and say mass for the Catholic men in the AIDS Hospice. It was a Saturday evening. He was due to arrive at 5 or so, and I was scrambling, assembling a few basics, bread and wine, a tablecloth for the dining room table. Issan, who was at the time in the final stages of HIV disease came downstairs in his bathrobe, to ask when Joe was due to arrive and see what I was doing. After I explained, he said, “Mass will be in the zendo,” and took over directing me in all the preparations with the same care that he would have given to a full-blown Zen ritual. He went back upstairs and came down dressed in his Zen robes, and greeted Joe at the door with a hug and kiss, thanking him for coming and telling him that Mass would be in our chapel, the zendo, and I would get him anything he needed.

Issan and 5 or 6 of us sat in meditation posture on cushions while Joe improvised the Liturgy, beginning with the rite of confession and forgiveness. When it came time to read from the New Testament, Joe took a small white, well-worn Bible out of a pocket in his jacket, and told us that his mother had told him that the following story contained all the essentials for a Christian life. Then he read Luke 11, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Issan sat giving his entire attention to Joe and the Mass, but I couldn’t get a read on how he was reacting. The next day, I found out that he had fallen in love with Luke's parable, and Joe.

Sunday mornings were the usual community gathering of the Hartford Street community, and Issan began to talk about Fr. Joe and the liturgy. He turned to me and asked, “What was the little white book that he read from?” Startled, I said that was the New Testament. “Oh,” said Issan, “it must have been in Latin when I heard it as an altar boy—or something, but it was exactly how we should lead our lives as Buddhists.” He then said that during the Mass he had the experience of really being forgiven and that the experience had allowed him to feel such peace with his early religious training. Joe and I had dinner the night before he flew back to Boston. I told him about Issan had said. A few days later, the small New Testament that had been in jacket for years arrived in an envelope addressed to Issan. He would die 6 months later, and, during one of our last meetings, asked me to thank Joe again for the zendo mass after he was gone. I did. And that New Testament which passed from the pocket of Joe’s jacket to Issan’s room at Hartford Street is now on my altar.

Here are additional books that are be included in the Zen bibliography in Meanderings:

Kadowaki, J.K. (1980) Zen and the Bible. NY: Routledge & Kegan.
Dumoulin, Heinrich. (1974) Christianity Meets Buddhism. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
Habito, Ruben L.F. (2004) Living Zen, Loving God. Wisdom Publications.
Johnson, William. (1970) The Still Point, Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism. NY: Fordham University Press.
Johnson, William. (1981) Christian Zen: A Way of Meditation. NY: Harper Row.
de Mello, Anthony. (1978) Sadhana: A Way to God. St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources.
O'Hanlon, Daniel. (1978) "Zen and the Spiritual Exercises: A Dialogue Between Faiths" in Theological Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4, Dec. 1978.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In honor of Mahatma Gandhi — 8.15.08

[I wrote this essay for Meanderings as part of an exploration of Hindu meditation in conversations between Dilip Trasi, Nitin Trasi and Morgan Zo-Callahan. I focus primarily on the unique contribution to Mohandas Gandhi, or Mahatma Gandhi. Tomorrow, August 15th is Indian Independence Day, and I publish this essay here in “Buddha S.J." as a tribute to a man who contributed so much to the spiritual practice of all humans everywhere on our planet.]

Taking the Next Step, A Note on Activism as a Spiritual Practice

The Blessed Lord said: "Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you, all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.’’ Bhagavad-gita 11:32

Dilip Trasi and Nitin Trasi are committed and skilled practitioners who speak out of their own experience of meditation. Both have a deep understanding of the Hindu meditation tradition and both have worked with authentic teachers. They are also both laymen, not Brahmins, gurus or clergy, who set themselves apart by claiming special knowledge and this, in my view, allows for a freer exchange of ideas as well as a search for a common language in which we can share our experience. However, when questioned about activism and practice, we entered a territory where they felt that they had to offer cautions and reservations. Not that their reservations might not valid in some cases, but I hope to show if the heart of the spiritual activists’ motivation and practice is of the simple “do-gooder” variety, it does not work as a spiritual practice much less effective community organizing.

One argument against activism runs like this: when faced with a choice between several courses of action, or taking no action whatsoever, we cannot say with certainty which one is the better, and, even if we practice some form of meditation, given that maturity in practice seems to sharpen our ability to discern the shades of gray, we cannot favor one position over another. This caution halts us in out tracks. The idea is not exclusively Eastern. Albert Camus said; “The evil that is in the world almost always comes from ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” (The Plague)

However, in all cases, no matter what our motivation or position, in any situation, in any relationship, in any community, country, tradition, or time, all actions produce results. Religious precepts, as they are called in Buddhism, recognize that living our lives leaves a trail of consequences. The possibility of making a mistake does not relieve the obligation to try to act responsibly; rather it imposes a further, perhaps more difficult obligation to remain open and test your experience, examine the results, and then change course if you find yourself embarked on an unproductive or negative course of action.

There is a second argument: that the desire to relieve universal suffering really stems from a desire to relieve one’s own suffering, that it is a myth to believe that we actually help others. From a Buddhist point of view, we are all intimately interconnected in a world that is always in flux. Most practitioners recognize that the source of suffering is not outside ourselves, that we are ultimately responsible for the conditions that cause suffering. That is in fact one of the reasons why we act. Activism is not reserved for enlightened beings. Submitting to moral obligation is for both ordinary and “enlightened” people. Besides, the conservative position—don’t act unless you are certain that your actions will have no harmful consequences—presupposes that omniscience, being able to foresee all the consequences of our actions, is available to humans. I have seen no evidence that such awareness is possible, even in supposedly enlightened beings.

And finally, what I would like to call the “conservative position” asserts that the strain on the social order caused by righting a wrong, causes far more pain, confusion and upset than any possible benefit of the actions. I do not buy into the argument that activists are wrong headed, self-indulgent and create harm because they upset the status quo.

The only part of that analysis that I can support is that some consequences of our actions will be unforeseen. But what is wrong with that? It will not stop me from trying to prevent women and children from being sold into sexual slavery or help innocents caught in the crossfire of the civil strife in Iraq. I will say more about any strain on the social fabric when I touch on the practice of non-violence.

Take ending of the enslavement of Africans in America or stopping the holocaust of the Jewish people that came with the allied victory over Germany in 1945. These were patent evils engrained in the fabric of a society, or the programs of a powerful single party fascist regime. They had to be eradicated by whatever force necessary though we may have to sort out the consequences of both the American Civil War and World War II for several more generations.

Morgan, who is deeply involved in the activist world, said that he too regretted that some activists, though relatively very few, get carried away by their own self-importance. When I questioned Morgan, his objection was that “full fledged” activists who had a lot of unexamined personal motivations made organizing difficult, not that they were prone to mistakes that would cause harm in the outcome. But even this is not my experience. Perhaps my position is biased because my sample of activists comes largely from a group that creates effective actions in support of a cause as spiritual practice, not an add-on, or something to do during the rainy season when you don’t feel like meditating. Practice does more than keep an activist focused. It is the source of their action.

Nitin Trasi used this definition of activism in his analysis: A doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue (Webster). I want to suggest that this definition is not broad enough to include cases in which spiritual practice is the real operative factor.

The greatest modern proponent of the spiritual practice of activism was Mahatma Gandhi, and the traditions from which he derived Satyagraha, Sanskrit for “truth force,” were mostly Indian—Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. He also read the gospels of Jesus and was undoubtedly influenced by the saying: “whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do also to me.” In the Western monotheistic traditions, taking care of the world, tikkun in Hebrew, caring for the least fortunate of society, charitas in Latin, has always been part of religious practice, much more so than in Hinduism. When we talk or write about the practice of non-violence as Gandhi developed and practiced it, we are translating the Sanskrit, Ahimsa, which means literally “the avoidance of violence,” but it is impossible not to see the influence of his western education.

Gandhi himself, Martin Luther King, Dick Gregory, as well as the Dalai Lama in his efforts to free Tibet from the oppression of Han Chinese overlords, have all undertaken practice to quell selfish motivation and focus on the goals of clearing a path to justice and equality. Many of Jesuits and ex-Jesuits represented here in Meanderings use the discernment of spirits outlined in the “Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius” to weigh their activism. The American abolitionists of the 19th century were for the most part inspired by their religious convictions, transcendentalism or Quakerism, worldviews that hold all the created, visible world to be intricately connected and their practice had the flavor of the Great Awakening, with all its limitations—preaching and conversion.

Without humans, aggression, hatred, anger are not a perpetual motion machine. They need our energy to keep the pendulum swinging. A problem arises when, by applying a force strong enough to counteract the prevailing intransigence of a social order which supports evil, inequality and social injustice, we perpetuate the underlying mechanism that holds those structures in place. Halting that engine also has side effects—what will fill the void?

There are always far-reaching effects accompanying any action, violent or non-violent. For example, World War II, which was to be the war that ended war, has not marked the end of aggression and killing. It was not enough to defeat Hitler just as winning the US Civil War was not sufficient to cause the complete freedom of African slaves. (Though there is some evidence that the amount of armed conflict has been reduced since the defeat of Germany and Japan). In the ending of the British rule over India, the Mahatma struggled with the immediate consequences of partition and the bloodshed between Hindu and Muslim. The fast he undertook in an attempt to halt the violence nearly cost his life. He says in The Story of My Experiments with Truth, "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall—think of it, always." It’s just simplistic to think that any one action can end injustice or suffering. It is more a continuing struggle in which humans must engage. The birth of modern India, the largest functioning democracy on earth, has increased wealth and opportunities for Indians of all social strata. This is neither a myth nor inconsequential.

Whether or not one holds to some vague concept “progress” or the endless repetition of karma due to the consequences of our actions, it seems that the world has changed and continues to change. That all life is impermanent, always being born and passing out of existence seems almost self-evident. Though I have never studied all the ways that the Hindu point of view differs from the Buddhist view, in Buddhism lived experience opens the door to religious practice.

Those who have some taste for practice seem to have chosen the path that was begun by Mohandas Gandhi. As with any discipline, Ahimsa takes practice. It is not a theory. Though solidly based on the most ancient understanding of man’s place in the universe, it launches us into the unknown territory of caring for all of humanity, the entire earth in a new way. It requires the most courageous action and deep meditation. It requires that our spiritual practice take on a wider goal than our own salvation or enlightenment.

We are in the middle of such a revolution. The aims of the revolution seem to be clear: clean the environment, curtail the destructive power of our weapons, find new ways of resolving conflict, create universal recognition of human rights. They also include what Jesus taught as ‘charity’—to feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners. What is not clear is the path we chose to follow to achieve those goals. The old institutions have failed or are crumbling. What will emerge? Where do we place our bets and focus time and resources? Those who are in the middle of a revolution are least likely to recognize it. They are certainly among the last to appreciate it—they are way too busy tending to immediate concerns of Right Now! We don’t even know if we will succeed.

It will also demand new myths, and I mean myth in the most powerful sense, not fantasy, but images that capture the imagination in a powerful way. And it seems that one of those myths will be the story of the Bhagavad-gita, which has inspired Hindus and fascinated Westerners. In Philip Glass's Satyagraha, An Opera in Three Acts (2001), huge chariots for Arjuna and Krishna with larger than life puppet figures are drawn up on the stage; the prologue is verses from the Gita sung, chanted in Sanskrit. On the Kuru Field of Justice, Lord Krishna tells the warrior Arjuna to put aside pain and pleasure, that action is his moral duty: “Be unconcerned with consequences, with victory or defeat, but act with the world's welfare as your intention” (LA Times, April 2008). Then when the figure of Gandhi walks onto the stage, small and clothed simply in a loincloth as he appears in later pictures; it is a powerful statement of “Truth Force.” But the performance is not left in some reverential version of Indian history—in the third act, Martin Luther King appears behind Gandhi, superimposed in a TV clip of his famous “I have a Dream” speech which electrified a generation of civil rights activists.

I would like to quote what J. Robert Oppenheimer said about his experience at the first test explosion of the atomic bomb, July 16, 1945. “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.” There may be some exaggeration in his statement. By the time he said it on TV in the 50’s, Oppenheimer had already become an activist working to stop the “Arms Race” and curtail the use of both nuclear fission and fusion in the manufacture of weapons.

Man now has developed a technology powerful enough to destroy himself, certainly to visit unfathomable pain and destruction on his fellow beings. The usual political balance for checking power, aggression and greed do not seem to be adequate to the task. It is not surprising to see that creativity, coupled with the spiritual dimension of reverence for all life, have shown up as potential sources for finding a way, not just to remedy injustice and relieve suffering, but to ensure human survival.

Because Dilip or Nitin didn’t have the opportunity to read and respond to my argument, I will give Dilip the (almost) last word on the subject.

“Let me investigate the useful side of [activism]. Activism in a beneficent sense can be defined as aggressive action towards a specific goal. We always find that in nature there exist thresholds. Right from the atom onwards, we find that a minimum energy barrier has to be crossed to overcome the forces of nature, which is called the threshold force. For example to get free of the force of gravity of the earth, a minimum velocity called escape velocity has to be exceeded (approximately 7 miles per second).

“Applying activism to inventiveness, we find that many of the great inventers were intoxicated with only thoughts concerning their invention. Scientists were considered as absent-minded people. But this is the kind of aggressiveness and activism that is necessary to break the thought barrier.

“Finally, applying activism to spirituality, we find that a paradigm change in understanding is necessary, like the quantum jump of an electron, freeing from the influence of the nucleus. Maya is like the intra-atomic force that binds the electron to the nucleus. To overcome the influence of Maya or ignorance, one has to be intoxicated with Atma-consciousness or God-consciousness. Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Ramana Maharshi were typical examples of such persons.”

In the last analysis, any call to action for the spiritually centered person is an act of faith, in the deepest sense—that he or she is called to participate in the action of God loving, caring for our world, that the easing of suffering is part of the dynamic of God’s love. To close, I am not going to quote scripture or give a sermon, but rather quote one of my heroes, the visionary architect, Bucky Fuller (from NO MORE SECONDHAND GOD by R. Buckminster Fuller):

Yes, God is a verb,
the most active,
connoting the vast harmonic
reordering of the universe
from unleashed chaos of energy.
And there is born unheralded
a great natural peace,
not out of exclusive
pseudo-static security
but out of including, refining, dynamic balancing.
Naught is lost.
Only the false and nonexistent are dispelled.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Age Miracle or Fraud?

[Google analytics tells me that very many people have been reading my posts and longer articles about the work of Bob Hoffman, "The Ontological Odd Couple," "Science vs. Spooks," and Jonestown and our Deliverance from Cults. To make the search easier, I am going to assemble them together, here on Buddha, S.J. This piece, "New Age Miracle or Fraud," was intended as an introduction.]

In the 70’s California seemed awash in spiritual awakening. We imported Indian gurus, Tibetan tulku’s, zen masters from Japan and Korea, plus there were a slew of home grown American hybrids, Werner Erhard’s est, Scientology, psychic readers, Seth speaks, the Course in Miracles - the list goes on. The sea changes of the 60’s had left my generation with a yearning for religious experience that the faiths of our fathers, and mothers, did not satisfy.

Now more than 30 years later, I am trying to step back and assess the current state of our spiritual life. The pews of most mainline churches are, at best, sparsely filled. Here in California only the elderly and immigrants attend with any regularity. Whatever became of the New Age born-again’s? Perhaps they just faded into the culture supplying raw spiritual perspective, devoid of religious garb.

The most interesting innovation in that awakening, to my eyes, was the proposed marriage of spiritual practice and psychological work. If the workings of the mind could be assessed and treated in a scientific way, paying attention to the spiritual dimension, then, perhaps, years of spiritual training could be compressed. However, along with this promise came the drawback of distinguishing spiritual practice from psychological work. Are they really the same reality hiding under different masks? Meditation practitioners were suddenly getting professional degrees as therapists and old line therapists began a meditation practice, but do they know what’s what?

A quicker Path is so appealing to the American psyche—no mumbo jumbo, precise/technical language, measurable results. There were promises made, results that you expected to create, or would appear, in your life. One teacher said that everyone who worked with him doubled their real income. Another promised harmonious and satisfying relationships. I actually heard the president of one human potential enterprise hustle a gay man with AIDS, promising that his fear of death would disappear after 6 days of working with him at the cost of several thousand dollars. ‘Enlightenment,’ though lacking a clear definition, is certainly a column on the spreadsheet.

Any exaggerated claim to entice you to put your money down is fraud, pure and simple, and as the price goes up, the insult becomes more egregious. When I paid somewhere around $300 to hear Werner Erhard say to me after two weekends of marathon sessions, “that’s it, there’s nothing to get, get it?” I didn’t feel ripped off. I actually got it. If it had cost thousands, I might have been so resentful that I never would have been able to hear a thing.

Most of these short experiential workshops were not based on good science or professional practice, and, as a result, any scientific test for lasting effects is extremely difficult, if not impossible. What I have proposed for myself is a case study is the development and creation of the Quadrinity Process, then known as Fisher-Hoffman Psychic Therapy, created by Bob Hoffman between 1968 and 1974. I do think that there is something of real value available in the experience that is created during the Process, but it is so overlaid with garbage science and the unsubstantiated trappings of the Spiritualist Church, that its value is at best obscured.

A quick anecdote about a scientific hoax might demonstrate part of my thesis. In 1972, when I was working with Hoffman in the first group he “took through” the 13 week Process, National Geographic published an article about the “discovery” of a Stone Age tribe in the Philippines called the “Tasady.” Hoffman, with the enthusiasm of a latter day Jean Jacques Rousseau, was convinced that he had found the noble savage who proved that the natural condition of humankind was uninhibited love, the free exchange of emotional feelings, with no blockage from parental conditioning.

In Hoffman’s defense, he was not the only person duped by this elaborate hoax created at the end of the Marcos regime. Roderic Gorney, M.D., Ph.D., writing about the Tasady in the Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis (1981), postulated “(1) that during the last ten thousand years the psychosocial identity and self-esteem of the human species have increasingly grown out of conditions of competition and low social synergy, leading to the conflict, terrorism, and war that now jeopardize us, and (2) that there is on the human agenda a current shift toward greater cooperation and high social synergy…” There is not one shred of evidence that this group was really “pre-clothing, pre-fire-making, pre-anything cave-dwelling family unchanged since prehistoric times, who had no words for War or Anger, never fought among themselves & burst into tears if you brought up the subject of death.” Their cave (pictured above) was only 8 miles from the nearest village, an easy trek for a steady steam of celebrities eager to connect with their pristine roots.

Bad science and the complete disrespect for professional practice went hand in hand with the naive conjecture that was the origin of the “Fischer-Hoffman Psychic Therapy.” That it was eventually rooted in the scientifically tested techniques of psychotherapy is entirely the work of Naranjo and other mental health professionals who worked with Hoffman.

My case study traces the development and creation of the Quadrinity Process, between 1968 and 1974, when it was know as the Fisher-Hoffman Psychic Therapy. After I examine Hoffman’s version of his other worldly experience with Dr. Siegfried Fisher, I deconstruct the psychic therapy that Hoffman practiced in his Oakland tailor shop to sort out the borrowings from the Spiritualist Church. Then I detail Claudio Naranjo’s major contribution, adding professional psychotherapy to the mix, but I also touch on the contributions of Miriam and Julius Brandstatter, Ernie Pecci, and Ron Kayne.

I freely admit to having a horse in this race. I began a meditation practice in the early 70’s that continues to this day. I also explored every new offering that I found interesting. I began this exploration with Claudio Naranjo in 1972 and worked in his group until he took a sabbatical from teaching in 1976. I also knew Hoffman and offered a version of the Process for almost three years in the late 70’s with mixed results.

I began my paper, “The Ontological Odd Couple,” when the current owners of the intellectual property developed by Hoffman began to rewrite their copy, recasting Hoffman and his Process, and editing out the contributions of many people who worked hard and selflessly to create an effective tool for insight and growth.

Jonestown and our Deliverance from Cults

April 9, 2007

It is a cold Monday night in San Francisco and I am in tears. On KQED, I just watched a documentary on Jim Jones, the People's Temple cult, and the mass suicide of over 900 people in Guyana. No, that's not right at all - it was the murder of 900 people by Jim Jones.

The documentary forced me to remember that event as if it had happened yesterday. When I ride the bus out Geary, I see the gap between buildings where the Peoples' Temple used to be. I see faces of people I knew and worked with in politics. I cannot remember their names. I had been very involved in the mayoral campaign of George Moscone which put the People's Temple in the public eye. I had defended the Peoples' Temple in conversations with friends just because Jones's followers had worked for George's election.

In a previous post about the Hoffman Quadrinity Process, I wrote of my experience with one man, a follower of Jones, who did the Fisher-Hoffman Process of Psychic Therapy. The Process, which has some hallmarks of a cult in its history, turned out to be his deliverance. I will quote that last paragraph again to restore some hope in my heart.

"I have not kept in touch with people that I worked with [in the Fisher-Hoffman Process of Psychic Therapy]. But one person, a very articulate and bright African-American, and his Process, were memorable. Early on in the prosecution of Father, the name Jim Jones kept coming up in our sessions—my client said that Jones was a remarkable psychic, a healer, a prophet, a seer. I had never heard of Jones and though the People’s Temple was only a few blocks from where I lived in San Francisco, I felt no desire to “check him out.” I just kept encouraging my client to examine any transference he might have to Jones. After a few more weeks and the “prosecution of father,” I noticed that Jones’s name was not coming up. I asked how he was feeling towards Jones. He replied that Jones was just another fraud preying on the black community. He left the Peoples’ Temple before the exodus to Guyana and escaped the horrific aftermath.

Just that result is enough for me."