Date: Sun 10 Apr 88 10:46:08 From: Geoff Gilpin (on 1:139/640)
Subj: Bio Degradable
I was born in 1953 with a very rare birth defect. Unlike most people, I was
not born on any particular date or time, which means that I do not have an
astrological sign. I have learned to accept this handicap, and it has not
kept me from leading a full and productive life.
My full name is Geoffrey Lee Gilpin. My parents named me after Geoffrey
Chaucer and Robert E. Lee, which makes me a writer and a rebel.
My father was raised in a family of Bible-thumping Protestants, which is one
reason why he was an atheist. Another reason was the religious climate in the
Ontario of his youth. The feud between Canadian Catholics and Protestants
never went as far as it did in Northern Ireland, but it was pretty bad.
Coming from the only Protestant family in a Catholic neighborhood, my father
got a lot of abuse. He was actually forced to ride at the back of the school
bus. When he was old enough he left Canada for the States and never went
My parents met when mom enrolled in my dad's Chemistry class at Trinity
College in Connecticut. We lived in a faculty apartment building across the
hall from a philosophy professor named Paul Kurtz who you may recognize as the
founder of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
Paranormal. Kurtz used to let me play "horsey" by riding on his shoulders.
When I was seven, my father took a research position at Wichita State
University. A couple of years later, he died in a boating accident on Lake
Superior. (The boat belonged to his friend Walter McCrone, the photo-
microscopist who discovered paint pigment on the Shroud of Turin.)
After Lake Superior it was me and my mom. The woman who raised me was (and
is) a self-proclaimed "scientific humanist" who taught me to respect other
folks' religion while keeping my "crap detector turned up on high". She read
me the Greek myths instead of the Bible, which had repelled her as a young
Until the mid-sixties, my only experience of organized religion was forced
school prayer in the public schools (known as "voluntary" school prayer to
bleeding-heart conservatives), a ritual that baffled and frightened me. Then
my mother made her one mistake in my upbringing. For some reason that I will
never understand, my mom -- that paragon of agnosticism -- sent me to Bible
Honey Rock Camp was the real thing: a group of intelligent, hard working, no-
nonsense fundamentalists who were struggling with the devil to win the souls
of us poor lost campers. Everyone was expected to get born again. Since I
was a shy kid who tried very hard to blend in, I developed a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ. I was supposed to get saved after a "fagot
service" (that's a campfire ceremony where the born again kids give their
testimonies and then toss a fagot of birch wood into the fire), but, after all
the testimonies, I had to go to the bathroom pretty bad.
The next morning my counselor took me aside to ask me why I didn't get born
again at the fagot service. He wasn't too impressed with my bladder excuse
and he made me get saved then and there. He told me the words to pray, and I
prayed them so he wouldn't get mad at me. When we were done he told me I was
going to Heaven.
From then on it was pretty easy to blend in at Honey Rock. You marched,
paddled, shot, swam, and recited verses from Corinthians. When my mom showed
up to take me home, I admitted that camp had "helped me get to know Jesus."
She gave me a look of patient exasperation that told me I had committed a
major faux pas. Back home I quickly forgot about Christianity and went back
to my real religion: playing RUBBER SOUL over and over.
"Kids today don't understand what it was like." The late 60's, that is.
You had to live through the iron conformity of the Eisenhower years to know
what it felt like to take your clothes off and dance. Everyone else is trying
to describe the 60's these days, so I won't bother except to say that, for the
first time in my life, I was happy.
We moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, a lily-white place where I was one of the
first male children with long hair. My high school years were devoted to the
music, clothing, artwork, books, and politics of the counterculture. For
better or for worse, I was and am a freak.
When talking about the 60's, everyone notes how the momentum slowed after the
decade was over. I drifted for a few years, working on a crisis- intervention
hotline and hanging out on the edges of the "guerilla television" movement.
(I have a tech school degree as a "video systems specialist".)
Many of us who shared the anticlimax of the 70's also felt that something more
was on the way. There had to be something else... didn't there? That was the
question that preoccupied me when Sexy Sadie's road show came to Northeastern
I've talked about my involvement with the TM (tm) movement here before, and
you may remember my ambivalence. The facts are these: I began the practice of
TM in the summer of 1972 and, four months later, I was on a plane to Maharishi
(tm) International University in Santa Barbara. I stayed with the movement
for five years, graduating from MIU in 1978. In between, a lot changed.
The original campus of MIU was in an apartment complex in Isla Vista, a suburb
of Santa Barbara. IV -- immortalized by the Beach Boys as the place "where
police felt so harassed" -- was every hippy's fantasy utopia. The city was
closed down to cars and the streets were turned into flower gardens. The
branch of the Bank of America was right across the street from the lot where
the Yippies had burned the old bank to the ground. It is probably the only
bank in the country that lets in dogs and naked children. I loved the place.
The business at hand those first few months was cleaning out one's nervous
system. For those unfamiliar with TM, this involved "rounding" -- periods of
extended meditation interspersed with asanas and pranayama. When we weren't
rounding we studied the Science of Creative Intelligence, which is basically
Indian philosophy packaged for Westerners.
So there we were: several hundred yogic astronauts housed in a monastic space
capsule, evolving to beat the band. I probably changed more in those first
months than I did before or since.
Those were the boom days for the TM movement. With seekers arriving every
day, MIU quickly outgrew its California "campus". You may remember the media
flurry when my alma mater moved to its new home, the campus of the former
Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa. ("Dropout U. Becomes Guru U.") The
institution itself shed a lot of the California looseness to appear as
respectable as possible. Suits and ties became the standard, and formal
dining replaced the pickup suppers of fruit and nuts.
I may never know all the things that I owe to MIU. It well be that I owe them
my life. I do know that they gave me back the love of education that I lost
in the public schools. I went there looking for enlightenment, and found that
I was a lot more interested in literature, music, math, and computers. If it
hadn't been for MIU, I might never have cracked a book again. They taught me
to think, and that may have been a mistake. Let me back up a bit.
Aside from its phenomenal growth, the TM movement stayed pretty much the same
from the time I entered it until my departure. The movement hierarchy was
divided into meditators, "checkers" (meditation guides), and initiators (the
TM teachers) with Maharishi at the eye of the pyramid. Everybody at all
levels of the movement mostly did the same thing: meditate and wait for cosmic
consciousness. All that changed just before I graduated.
The rumours of "flashy techniques" had been floating around for months. The
"flashers" turned out to be the "siddhis" or "supernormal" yogic powers. The
best known flasher is the flying siddhi, which you may have seen demonstrated
on the nightly news. I lived in a dorm above the launching pad used by the
first group of flyers or "Governors of the Age of Enlightenment". (Since then
the AoE roster has expanded to include "Executive Governors", "Ministers",
"Citizen Siddhas", and, for all I know, a Secretary of Housing and Urban
After the flyers showed up things started getting... well, a bit odd. People
were speculating about the airlines going out of business. Air traffic
controllers, so the story went, would have to be retrained to maneuver people
instead of 747s. These were jokes; but they were serious. It made me
uncomfortable. For the first time in my years at MIU, the crap detector that
my mom had given to me was pointing into the red zone.
If things had stopped there -- if my former colleagues had never done anything
besides hop around in the lotus position and describe it as "levitation" -- I
would probably still count myself among the faithful. But one incident sealed
A former student, who had gone to Switzerland to become an Executive
something-or-other, returned for a visit and was greeted by an old friend.
The following dialog ensued:
Old friend: "I was just thinking about you."
Executive: "So YOU'RE the one who brought me back."
This Governor or Minister (or whatever) was giving an example of the latest
movement philosophy. According to this Eastern variant of magical thinking,
the desires of suitably enlightened persons are "instantly manifested" in
physical reality. Since "all things are connected", and since "anything is
possible", there is no separation between the mental wish for a pineapple (or,
more likely, a BMW) and the edible fruit or drivable car. In fact, since
human consciousness precedes the concrete, physical universe, human thoughts
and desires are the only reasons for anything ever happening. There's a clock
on the wall because you WANT a clock to be there. If it rains, thank the
people who get wet. If an Executive Governor jets in from Switzerland
unannounced, obviously someone MUST have wanted him to come.
Or so the story goes. I didn't buy it when I heard that Executive Poobah's
witty one-liner, and I don't buy it now. My reasons have changed somewhat.
Now that I've had a chance to do some reading on the subject, I've learned
that the doctrine of a mentally-created universe leads to all sorts of thorny
problems that simply vanish if you concede the existence of some independant
physical reality. At the time, though, I wasn't concerned with philosophical
niceties. The first time that someone told me "you create your own reality"
my intuitive crap detector went off the wall.
On the surface, this doctrine seems quite attractive, even democratic.
Everyone gets to choose which color the sky will be. (With blue the favorite
of one and all!) Everyone picks their race and gender. Governments and
leaders reign by common consent. Of course, the great majority of unevolved
people will choose to inflict themselves with tornados, famine, war, plague,
and all the other unpleasantries that come from not knowing the right mantras.
But the Executive Governors of the Age of Enlightenment, the elite who know
how to "instantly manifest" their desires, wouldn't be so foolish. Such
highly evolved beings will only desire "positive" things... like BMWs. The
fact that there are more BMWs in Fairfield than in any other part of Iowa
PROOVES how enlightened the place is.
Cotton Mather would have loved this sort of "New Age Puritanism". Not me. It
turned my stomach the first time I heard it.
So, that was about where matters stood when I left MIU in 1978. From a
distance, I can't say that things have improved.
In recent years, the TM movement began to take credit for any event, anywhere
in the world, that was even remotely "positive". Good weather, a foiled
airline hijacking, the Reagan/Gorbachev summit meeting, and a bull market on
Wall Street are some of the accomplishments of the siddhas bouncing around on
foam mats in the lotus position.
True, I can't prove that the cosmos ISN'T controlled from Iowa. But I've got
my suspicions. After all, there are objective ways of measuring truth. Maybe
they aren't as well defined in religion and philosophy as they are in math and
physics, but they exist. A philosophy as far removed from reality as the
magical thinking of the TM movement is going to lead to some pretty
spectacular consequences when put into practice. By their works you will know
A few years ago, the TM movement took out full-page ads in TIME and other
national publications offering their services to heads of state. For a fee,
the movement offered to "solve all the problems" of any country in the world.
What you may not know is that one head of state actually took them up on it:
none other than the former dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos and
his dragon-lady wife, Imelda.
The movement road show went to Manila and held a huge ceremony for Marcos in
his palace. They presented him with a "Silver Bell of Invincibility" and
proclaimed him (to my everlasting shame) "The Founding Father of the Age of
Enlightenment for the Philippines". All the while, Executive Governors were
bouncing on foam mats to alleviate the poverty and war caused by the Founding
Father. Shortly after the movement road show left town, Marcos' reign of
corruption and violence came to a climax with the assassination of his main
political opponent, and the dictator was forced into exile. Not even the
Silver Bell of Invincibility could save his wretched skin.
There is other, quieter, evidence for the failure of magical thinking in the
TM movement. For some embarassing reason, siddhas have not been able to
progress beyond the "hopping" stage of levitation and into "mastery of the
skies". Recently, I had this explained to me by one long-time siddha.
Gravity, of course, has nothing to do with it. It's "the climate" (meaning
the prevailing vibes) and "weakness in the nervous system". In any case,
zooming through the air, like cosmic consciousness, is just around the corner.
Well, enough negativity. For all its sins, the TM movement has done a lot for
a great many people. In my case, they gave me back my birthright: my love of
learning. I hope the price hasn't been too high.
By the time of my graduation, I had long since lost any interest in
spirituality and enlightenment. Appropriately enough, the rest of my life has
been very "mundane".
After one summer writing comedy material for an abortive Milwaukee-based group
called the Yo-Yos (Our Motto: "Yo!"), I enrolled as a student in the Computer
Science department at U.W. Oshkosh. I studied CS there for four years,
although I never took a degree. After the monastic space capsule of MIU, I
had a lot of carrousing and chasing women to attend to.
After college and a short-term job as a programmer at UWO's Computer Based
Instruction Project, I decided to heed my dharma and take a shot at freelance
writing. My first piece -- a three-part series on the Ada programming
language -- appeared in the old Creative Computing magazine in March of '82.
Two books followed -- ADA: A GUIDED TOUR AND TUTORIAL (Prentice-Hall Press,
1986) and THE JANUS/ADA EXTENDED TUTORIAL (R.R. Software, 1987) along with a
bunch of magazine articles, reviews, and videotapes (the second book was made
into a ten-part series last fall). I like to think of myself as the Carl
Sagan of Ada programming.
That's about it careerwise. A few years back I took a part-time teaching job
at Fox Valley Technical College, where I installed this BBS. (Mostly so I
could read the MAGICK conference.) Last December I chucked it all to make an
honest living. These days I'm an analyst at the Institute of Paper Chemistry,
which is a grad school cum think tank with the nicest work environment in the
Oh yes... last year I had my mid-life crisis. (Are you aware of the
disturbing phenomenon of "creeping male mid-life crisis"? My father waited
until his 50's to have his mid-life crisis. I had mine in my early 30's. If
I ever have a son, he'll probably have his in his teens. After that, we're
confronted with the terrible prospect of a prenatal mid-life crisis. This is
just the sort of thing that happens when you put Flouride in the drinking
water and teach Secular Humanism in the public schools.)
Mid-life crises can be champion eye-openers. Back in the TM movement, they
explained it to me like this:
The mind and body, as the myth goes, are like a tube. The tube of the mind
and body is the channel which conducts the light of the Absolute. The channel
isn't always clear, though. Stress, karma, disease, and all the other bad
things form blocks that impede the transmission of light. The average person
is, allegorically speaking, trapped at the bottom of a well filled by dirt and
boulders. The light of the sun can't get through.
Along comes an allegorical earth tremor (in reality a period of extended
meditation or a mid-life crisis). Everything in the well gets shook up. The
boulders shift this way and that and... some light comes through.
And so it was with me last year, late at night, on Martin Luther King Junior
day. The upshot is that I'm not an agnostic anymore.
Or rather, I am a believer and an agnostic at the same time. I think that the
Absolute sorely needs good agnostics these days.
* Origin: Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, WI (414) 735-2513 (Opus 1:139/640)