Introduction to Franklin Merrell-Wolff

“An Introduction to Franklin Merrell Wolff”

From a preface written by Dr. Richard Moss

When I recommended the writings of Franklin Merrell-Wolff to publisher Yvan Amar some years ago, I did not know that I would one day have the honor of writing this forward to introduce Dr. Wolff to the French public. The book you are about to read is the most eloquent description of the awakening process I have ever come across. It is a statement charged with the immediacy of direct personal experience, remarkable in its eloquence, depth and clarity. And because I feel it needs no interpretation by me, what I shall undertake to offer the reader, and rejoice in doing so, is a small sketch of Franklin Merrell-Wolff, the man. He was someone I knew for nine years and grew to love. To this day, I value our relationship as I value Truth itself.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff’s life began in the late Nineteenth century and spanned most of the Twentieth. He was an American philosopher, mathematician, sage, and mystic. His conscious spiritual quest began in his early twenties while studying mathematics at Harvard. There he attended a series of lectures on Vedanta given by Vivekananda, a disciple of the great East Indian saint, Sri Ramakrishna [a reader pointed out to me that Vivekananda died in 1902. He did lecture at Harvard in 1896, so perhaps Merrell-Wolff read a transcript of the lecture – SN]. Vivekananda was one of the first of the Indian sages and scholars to bring Eastern teachings to the West. The young mathematician came away from those lectures profoundly moved. He was convinced that if there was a transcendent reality, it could not be merely accepted as an intellectual fact. He made the decision, there and then, to renounce his academic career and completely devote his life to confirm this truth for himself. The story of that confirmation–the event that became the basis for his philosophy and nearly half a century of his teaching–is the subject of this book.

Dr. Wolff, as he liked to be called, or Yogi as some of his students affectionately referred to him, was eighty-nine years old in 1977 when I first met him. I vividly recall that first meeting. It was only hours after the onset of the enormous energetic opening that would change my life forever. I was in a nearly overwhelming state of openness and while I had not consciously come in search of a teacher for myself, life in its intelligence was providing one. Suddenly, I was in the presence of this man whose very being brought calm to the forces.

It had been a small pilgrimage to visit him that first time. The journey began some months before when I wrote requesting a meeting after reading Pathways Through to Space. His wife had written back confirming a date and including the directions to their home. They lived on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, the great range of mountains that divide the fertile western regions of California from the high desert that stretches east for a thousand miles. The trip had taken the better part of two days to drive from San Francisco.

Leaving the small desert town of Lone Pine behind, I began to climb toward the base of the Sierra. As I drove the last miles up a washboard dirt road, I was stunned by the view. On either side stretching north and south for as far as the eye could see lay thousands of hectares of sage and scrub growth. In front of me to the west, the late afternoon light silhouetted the majestic escarp of the High Sierra and the fanning spread of the sun beams gave me the distinct feeling of entering a great natural cathedral. Behind me to the east, the land sloped gently downhill, descending over two-thousand feet to the base of the Owens Valley and then rising again to the soft contours of a second range of mountains, the older Inyos. With 14,000 foot peaks on either side, Owens Valley is the deepest valley in the United States. I had driven about a dozen miles in this vast empty landscape without a dwelling in sight when seemingly, in the middle of nowhere, appeared a simple gate with an aging sign: Association of Man Ranch. I passed through it.

Bouncing over and around boulders along a barely usable road, I soon drove past a small cluster of houses and an old orchard nearly reclaimed by the desert. I knew from Dr. Wolff’s directions that these were the homes of some of his oldest students. In another half mile, the road came to an end. There sitting alone, nestled in a small oasis of trees and twittering birds was a simple white, one-story house. There were no telephone lines, no power lines. As I stood on the front porch, I could see for over a hundred miles to the north and south. The other houses were now invisible, swallowed by the undulations of this vast landscape.

The door was opened by Gertrude, Dr. Wolff’s second wife, a woman in her late seventies. She graciously invited me inside. The house was crowded with books, paintings, photographs, antique furniture, a grand piano, and it was very warm. I could hear the purr of a diesel generator, their source of electricity. I soon learned that one of Dr. Wolff’s on-going challenges was to keep the temperamental machine running. They used it for a few hours each night for light and to enable Dr. Wolff to watch the evening news on television. He took this basic responsibility of maintaining some awareness of current affairs very seriously. He believed that such awareness on the part of a person of realization lent some degree of stability to the world.

But to return to that first encounter, the man who emerged from his study to greet me immediately impressed me with his sense of dignity. I noticed that his walk was a little unsteady, but there was no mistaking the vitality in his eyes. He was eighty-nine years old at the time. He had a trim beard that came to a sharp point below his chin and a full head of dark gray hair. He was wearing a tie and a rumpled and somewhat threadbare dinner jacket. I would learn that he always dressed this way even when relaxing alone in his home. But the most unusual quality about him, which deserves special remark, was his deep voice and the old-world elegance of his use of language. He spoke very slowly, carefully enunciating every word. It was soon evident that he used a rich vocabulary, very precisely and sparingly, even in ordinary conversation.

And then he pulled out a cigarette, which somewhat surprised me. It was an unfiltered Pall Mall, as potent a cigarette as exists in America. He carefully fit the cigarette into a plastic holder that contained a filter and with a slight tremor, lit it. Even smoking took on a sense of refinement with this man. In those days I still enjoyed an occasional cigarette. Not having any of my own with me, I asked him if I might have one too. Quite willingly, he passed the pack to me and then with the wry, sardonic humor I came to love so much, he remarked, “More friendships are based on commonality of vice, than on commonality of virtue.” I knew I was going to like this man.

I learned that he and Gertrude had built this house themselves when Dr. Wolff was already seventy-eight years old and she was in her sixties. She designed it and he cleared the site and did most of the construction, even the plumbing and electrical wiring, with help from some of his students. This was just after Sharifa, his first wife to whom he had been married for more than forty years, had died. It was with Sharifa that he had begun and developed most of his teaching work. But after her death, a strange phenomenon occurred which he described as etheric hemorrhaging. He felt certain that if he could not contain this energetic bleeding, he would die. To his relief, this energy loss stopped when he was near Gertrude who was one of his students. When they decided to marry it caused controversy in the community as she was not considered one of the more advanced disciples. But for him it was a matter of necessity. Not wanting to live in the house he had shared for so long with Sharifa, they chose to build a new home on the ranch.

The original decision to move to such a remote place had been made by Dr. Wolff and Sharifa in the late 1920’s when Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi sage, told them that the spiritual center of a country was its highest mountain. At that time, Mt. Whitney was the highest peak in the forty-eight states. They had chosen this ranch because it would bring them as close as possible to it. Relaying this bit of his history, he then laughed at the tricks life plays. How could they have known at the time that Alaska would later be admitted to the Union becoming the forty-ninth state and bringing with it a new highest summit, the great Denali?

In 1982, five years after that first visit, I purchased a ranch in Lone Pine which became the center for my own teaching work. From that point on I saw Dr. Wolff quite regularly and learned much more about his life. He was born in California in 1888 and as a child he used to travel to church for two hours by buckboard with his father, a Lutheran minister. He did his undergraduate studies in philosophy at Stanford University, and then continued his study of mathematics at Harvard. During World War I, he was a conscientious objector who worked as a medic. His family owned large tracts of orchard land along the coastal areas north of Los Angeles, and in a mostly arid valley known as the San Fernando. Later this same valley would receive water via a controversial aqueduct making the land extremely valuable first as a great citrus growing area and later as suburbs for the rapidly expanding Los Angeles. It was by gradually selling parcels of this land after moving to Lone Pine, that Dr. Wolff supported himself financially. Indeed, from his late thirties until his death at the age of ninety-eight, he never needed to work for money. Good karma, I guess.

Earlier, during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Dr. Wolff spent long periods alone in remote parts of the California foothills mining for gold. His mining efforts were relatively successful as he managed in this way to support Sharifa and himself and protected their property from forced sale. During this period he learned how to work with dynamite and rock. This skill would prove invaluable later when he and his students began the long undertaking to construct a sacred site he called the Ashrama. It was meant to be the center piece of their school. The Ashrama is a remarkable building made of hand-laid granite rocks constructed in the shape of a balanced cross, like a Red Cross emblem, fifteen meters in width. Built at 2800 meters altitude, it perches on the top of a ridge in the mountains high above the ranch on land leased from the National Forest Service. Each summer for over twenty years his students came to Lone Pine to work on the Ashrama with Dr. Wolff and Sharifa. It took eight years just to build the trail and the small aqueduct that routes water to the site and thirteen more years to complete the walls and roof.

Dr. Wolff took pleasure in remembering that the dangerous task of working with explosives fell to him as he was the only one with any experience. One of his students from those days recounted how Dr. Wolff, who was already in his late fifties when the project was begun, could exhaust four men at a time. Their task was to mix cement and gather appropriate sized rocks, while he single handedly set each stone of the great walls and massive fireplace into place. Working in such a setting, without electricity or running water, using mules to haul equipment and food, must have been an extraordinary initiation into a teaching about Fundamental Realization. On Sundays they would rest and Dr. Wolff and Sharifa would give talks, presenting the formal teaching. I have seen old film footage without sound, of course, of the construction of the Ashrama with vignettes of some of the Sunday teaching gatherings. The students themselves, also made presentations, and there were small concerts, and theater productions. This was how Dr. Wolff worked with his students.

Ultimately, the Ashrama was never fully completed. When Sharifa grew too old to make the arduous horseback ride-she was thirteen years older than Dr. Wolff-he abandoned the work. After she died, he never again visited it. I asked him about this and he said that it had been a means of sharing the teaching. With Sharifa gone, that form was finished. He felt no attachment to it. Over the years, hunters began to use it for their base camp and tore apart the wood interior to make fires. Slowly the Ashrama was falling to ruin. Around 1980 the United States Forest Service condemned it for demolition, but a group spearheaded by his grand-daughter, rebuilt the roof and petitioned to have the Ashrama preserved as a historical religious shrine. This was eventually granted, and the building still stands.

During the 1980’s, I regularly led groups up to the Ashrama for special ceremonies and rituals. I also would bring a few students to visit Dr. Wolff. As a very old man, it was remarkable to watch him become focused and invigorated on these occasions, especially in the presence of certain women. He would literally draw on their shakti in a kind of delightful mutual seduction of spirit and soul. It always gave me great pleasure to observe his vitality return as he responded to their attention. At such times one could feel a little of the old fire that had been so strong when he was in his full powers earlier in his life.

I know that Dr. Wolff had some frustrations about his teaching work, and that Sharifa was very impatient with the students; she thought many of them worthless and was prone to tell them so. For himself, he never really understood why the students would continue to engage what he felt was the lesser emotional dramas of their lives. He wrote in a personal journal that I only saw after his death, that it would be his preference, like Hercules’ task to clean the Aegean Stables, to take a great river of energy and wash the students clean all at once. But this did not seem to work for very long. The students would be inducted into higher states by his strong presence, expand their vision for awhile, but they could not maintain it. It was his fear that he would have to enter the stable with them and he wondered whether doing so would mean perhaps sacrificing or otherwise diminishing his own state.

I don’t believe he actually ever did enter the stable. His approach was mostly through the conceptual. He offered those who would listen a clear map of higher consciousness. His teaching and insight draws primarily from his own realization and from Buddhism, Mystical Christianity, and the work of Sankara who he regarded as the greatest influence on his own thought. But he never really developed any practical teaching for helping students understand and work with their emotional and psychological dynamics even though he saw that this was where most people were caught. One came to Dr. Wolff to experience the clarity of his mind and the unquestioned purity of his heart. And, of course, there was his presence.

In the years that I knew Dr. Wolff up until the very end of his life, every Sunday he opened his home to students or anyone pursuing the Perennial Wisdom. The only exceptions to this ritual were those few days when he was ill or when he went on his yearly visit to the redwood trees of the northern California coast which he so cherished. At precisely 10 A.M. (one of his eccentricities was that he never changed his clocks for Daylight Savings Time), he would put on his black professorial gown and slowly amble to his special chair. There after a few minutes of silence he would turn on an old reel to reel tape recorder and play one of about sixty lectures that he had dictated while he was in his early eighties. They are scholarly and insightful discourses on everything from Blavatsky and Theosophy to Sankaracharya, from Buddhism to mystical Christianity, from Love to the High Indifference, the latter, as you shall read, being the apex of his own realization. The necessity for taped presentations grew from his recognition that he no longer had the strength to speak extemporaneously.

For the most part in these discourses his voice is emotionless, each word is slowly and carefully enunciated, each thought perfectly linked to the next. But occasionally when he was recounting key moments of his own awakening or invoking the solemn responsibility accepted by a disciple of truth, his voice would fill with emotion and his words carried a profound invitation. It seemed to me at these times, that he had tapped, once again, into some of the energy of his original recognition. Often as the tape recorder played, he would fall asleep with the ash growing longer and longer at the edge of his cigarette. And with the hypnotic quality of his voice, and the heat of the room, it was sometimes difficult for me and others to stay awake, as well.

I questioned myself about why I came to see Dr. Wolff at these Sunday gatherings in his extreme old age, often hearing the same taped discourse over again. The answer was that I loved him and by being present I honored his lifelong commitment to Truth and to the Teaching. I respected him as my predecessor in the lineage of spontaneous realization. He did not believe in founding a school to survive him; he asked no one to carry the mantle of his work. He felt that the full reality of realization could not be passed from one man to another, that a realized person could assist a student in many essential ways, but realization had to come spontaneously of itself as it had for him. And when it came each person would express it uniquely. For him this was the tradition of enlightenment that is ever renewing, that stands outside all dogma, that can never be institutionalized.

Dr. Wolff was very private about his personal life. It was only after his death in 1985 that a few of us had an opportunity to enter his bedroom. Gertrude had died seven years earlier, and we were touched to see that her personal things, her hair brush and jewelry, were still sitting on her bureau exactly as she had last left them. To me it was as though Gertrude was still with him; a relationship that perhaps had begun from necessity, had grown into deep love and mutual respect. Indeed, within days of her death, he had had a heart attack and didn’t want to live any longer. But a clairvoyant who he had known and respected for many years channeled a message from one of the Ascended Masters saying that his presence on Earth was still needed. These beliefs, part of his earlier years in the Theosophical movement, were very serious to him. Upon hearing this he immediately recovered, saying, “One does not refuse the call.”

It was also soon after his death, while organizing his private papers, that we came across some of Sharifa’s journals. They are quite remarkable in that she writes about the energetic phenomenon at the time of his realization from her point of view. She describes the distinct feeling that she was suddenly living with a divine being. The energy pouring from him was so powerful that it regularly inducted her and his other students into states of extraordinary ecstasy and peace. Even more poignant was her confession of her own sense of jealousy at his supreme achievement. She felt as though she had gained a god and lost a human companion. She felt abandoned, and because they had devoted their lives together to achieve realization, she felt that she, herself, had failed.

In many ways we owe this book to her. As she watched Dr. Wolff entering deeper and deeper into the supernal state, she felt that he could not sustain such energy for much longer, that he would die or translate to another plane. Indeed he was hardly eating for he felt no need for anything of this world. Therefore she urged him to force himself to attempt to describe what was happening in writing. After some resistance, for he felt no need in himself to do so, he relented and began to chronicle his Pathways Through to Space. The effort seemed to ground the energy and slow the process. Indeed, he himself admitted that had it not been for making the effort to write, which meant to some extent stepping outside the power of the opening and beginning to witness it more objectively, that he might not have found the ability to master the energies. It was this stepping back from Nirvana, that he referred to as the Great Renunciation. We can all be thankful that he did make this step.

I was with Dr. Wolff in the last hours of his life. Waiting outside his hospital room for his nurses to finish their tasks, I had randomly opened a book by Sri Nisargadata. My eyes fell upon the statement, “Let me tell you how my Guru’s Guru died. He announced he was dying and stopped eating. On the eleventh day of his fast while chanting between one hand clap and the next” Suddenly I realized that Franklin, as I called him, was about to die. He could no longer swallow food or water without choking. He was being fed only intravenously. In effect, he had been fasting for ten days. When I entered his room, I stood silently at his bedside, gently holding his hand. I could feel his energy, exquisitely fine and open, but nearly gone. He didn’t seem to be conscious. Reaching deep inside myself, I began to speak softly to him. I told him that his work was now complete, that his body had been prepared for release by the illness and was now ready. Then I was silent for a long moment and told him from the depths of my heart, “We all thank you.” Suddenly, he roused himself, and with what seemed at once like genuine sincerity and the old mischievous humor I loved so much he replied, “You are all entirely welcome.” These were his last words. He passed away peacefully a few hours later.

His body was brought back to his home where he was dressed in his finest teaching suit and laid on the couch in the room where for years he had had his Sunday meetings. Then, because it had been his request, I and two of his oldest students began to whisper the First Bardo from the Tibetan Book Of The Dead repeatedly into his ear. He had been quite clear that he wanted to have the First Bardo read to him, and only that Bardo. The words instruct the “Nobly born” to receive the Pure White Light of Consciousness-without-characteristic of any kind. For him it was to be the Pure White Light or nothing. We took turns reciting the First Bardo for six hours until dawn.

In those hours and throughout that first day after his physical death the energy that radiated from him became stronger and stronger. It was like standing before a door onto the Infinite. I realized then that we can do our deepest work in service to Consciousness, as the Tibetan Buddhist’s teach, in the final moments of life if we can release all self-contraction and become transparent to the Infinite. Forty-nine years before, exactly half his lifetime ago, this is what happened to Dr. Wolff at the time of his realization. Now it seemed it was happening again in the hours after his physical death.

My wife and I keep a picture of Franklin on our altar in the conference room where I teach, and in our home. His memory is never far away. But the deeper memory is wordless. I find that Franklin lives in my heart in the silence of my being. It is a rare privilege to have known such a man. Now it is a great joy to commend him to you in this volume.

Bernadette Roberts Interview

This Bernadette Roberts interview is reprinted from the book Timeless Visions, Healing Voices, copyright 1991 by Stephan Bodian (www.stephanbodian.org). In this exclusive interview with Stephan Bodian, (published in the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of YOGA JOURNAL), author Bernadette Roberts describes the path of the Christian contemplative after the experience of oneness with God.

Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambhala, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the “unitive state”, the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experience of others. In the years that followed she completed a graduate degree in education, married, raised four children, and taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Then, quite unexpectedly, some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls “the experience of no-self” – an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, are her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.

Now 55, and once again living in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, Roberts characterizes herself as a “bag lady” whose sister and brother in law are “keeping her off the streets.” “I came into this world with nothing,” she writes, “and I leave with nothing. But in between I lived fully – had all the experiences, stretched the limits, and took one too many chances.” When I approached her for an interview, Roberts was reluctant at first, protesting that others who had tried had distorted her meaning, and that nothing had come of it in the end. Instead of a live interview, she suggested, why not send her a list of questions to which she would respond in writing, thereby eliminating all possibility for misunderstanding. As a result, I never got to meet Bernadette Roberts face to face – but her answers to my questions, which are as carefully crafted and as deeply considered as her books, are a remarkable testament to the power of contemplation.

Stephan: Could you talk briefly about the first three stages of the Christian contemplative life as you experienced them – in particular, what you (and others) have called the unitive state?

Bernadette: Strictly speaking, the terms “purgative”, “illuminative”, and “unitive” (often used of the contemplative path) do not refer to discrete stages, but to a way of travel where “letting go”, “insight”, and “union”, define the major experiences of the journey. To illustrate the continuum, authors come up with various stages, depending on the criteria they are using. St. Teresa, for example, divided the path into seven stages or “mansions”. But I don’t think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else’s retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light.

My view of what some authors call the “unitive stage”is that it begins with the Dark Night of the Spirit, or the onset of the transformational process – when the larva enters the cocoon, so to speak. Up to this point, we are actively reforming ourselves, doing what we can to bring about an abiding union with the divine. But at a certain point, when we have done all we can, the divine steps in and takes over. The transforming process is a divine undoing and redoing that culminates in what is called the state of “transforming union” or “mystical marriage”, considered to be the definitive state for the Christian contemplative. In experience, the onset of this process is the descent of the cloud of unknowing, which, because his former light had gone out and left him in darkness, the contemplative initially interprets as the divine gone into hiding. In modern terms, the descent of the cloud is actually the falling away of the ego-center, which leaves us looking into a dark hole, a void or empty space in ourselves. Without the veil of the ego-center, we do not recognize the divine; it is not as we thought it should be. Seeing the divine, eye to eye is a reality that shatters our expectations of light and bliss. From here on we must feel our way in the dark, and the special eye that allows us to see in the dark opens up at this time.

So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost “point” in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being – the point at which all existence comes together. This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all – no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.

Stephan: How did you discover the further stage, which you call the experience of no-self?

Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center – the coin, or “true self” – suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine. Our subjective life of experience is over – the passage is finished. I had never heard of such a possibility or happening. Obviously there is far more to the elusive experience we call self than just the ego. The paradox of our passage is that we really do not know what self or consciousness is, so long as we are living it, or are it. The true nature of self can only be fully disclosed when it is gone, when there is no self.

One outcome, then, of the no-self experience is the disclosure of the true nature of self or consciousness. As it turns out, self is the entire system of consciousness, from the unconscious to God-consciousness, the entire dimension of human knowledge and feeling-experience. Because the terms “self” and “consciousness” express the same experiences (nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other), they are only definable in the terms of “experience”. Every other definition is conjecture and speculation. No-self, then, means no-consciousness. If this is shocking to some people, it is only because they do not know the true nature of consciousness. Sometimes we get so caught up in the content of consciousness, we forget that consciousness is also a somatic function of the physical body, and, like every such function, it is not eternal. Perhaps we would do better searching for the divine in our bodies than amid the content and experience of consciousness.

Stephan: How does one move from “transforming union” to the experience of no-self? What is the path like?

Bernadette: We can only see a path in retrospect. Once we come to the state of oneness, we can go no further with the inward journey. The divine center is the innermost “point”, beyond which we cannot go at this time. Having reached this point, the movement of our journey turns around and begins to move outward – the center is expanding outward. To see how this works, imagine self, or consciousness, as a circular piece of paper. The initial center is the ego, the particular energy we call “will” or volitional faculty, which can either be turned outward, toward itself, or inward, toward the divine ground, which underlies the center of the paper. When, from our side of consciousness, we can do no more to reach this ground, the divine takes the initiative and breaks through the center, shattering the ego like an arrow shot through the center of being. The result is a dark hole in ourselves and the feeling of terrible void and emptiness. This breakthrough demands a restructuring or change of consciousness, and this change is the true nature of the transforming process. Although this transformation culminates in true human maturity, it is not man’s final state. The whole purpose of oneness is to move us on to a more final state.

To understand what happens next, we have to keep cutting larger holes in the paper, expanding the center until only the barest rim or circumference remains. One more expansion of the divine center, and the boundaries of consciousness or self fall away. From this illustration we can see how the ultimate fulfillment of consciousness, or self, is no-consciousness, or no-self. The path from oneness to no-oneness is an egoless one and is therefore devoid of ego-satisfaction. Despite the unchanging center of peace and joy, the events of life may not be peaceful or joyful at all. With no ego-gratification at the center and no divine joy on the surface, this part of the journey is not easy. Heroic acts of selflessness are required to come to the end of self, acts comparable to cutting ever-larger holes in the paper – acts, that is, that bring no return to the self whatsoever.

The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. As I see it, in the transforming process we only come to terms with the archetypes of the personal unconscious; the archetypes of the collective consciousness are reserved for individuals in the state of oneness, because those archetypes are powers or energies of that state. Jung felt that these archetypes were unlimited; but in fact, there is only one true archetype, and that archtype is self. What is unlimited are the various masks or roles self is tempted to play in the state of oneness – savior, prophet, healer, martyr, Mother Earth, you name it. They are all temptations to seize power for ourselves, to think ourselves to be whatever the mask or role may be. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the “ground” that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a “stillpoint”, not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them. So the path from oneness to no-oneness is a life that is choicelessly devoid of ego-satisfaction; a life of unmasking the energies of self and all the divine roles it is tempted to play. It is hard to call this life a “path”, yet it is the only way to get to the end of our journey.

Stephan: In The Experience of No-Self you talk at great length about your experience of the dropping away or loss of self. Could you briefly describe this experience and the events that led up to it? I was particularly struck by your statement “I realized I no longer had a ‘within’ at all.” For so many of us, the spiritual life is experienced as an “inner life” – yet the great saints and sages have talked about going beyond any sense of inwardness.

Bernadette: Your observation strikes me as particularly astute; most people miss the point. You have actually put your finger on the key factor that distinguishes between the state of oneness and the state of no-oneness, between self and no-self. So long as self remains, there will always be a “center”. Few people realize that not only is the center responsible for their interior experiences of energy, emotion, and feeling, but also, underlying these, the center is our continuous, mysterious experience of “life”and “being”. Because this experience is more pervasive than our other experiences, we may not think of “life” and “being” as an interior experience. Even in the state of oneness, we tend to forget that our experience of “being” originates in the divine center, where it is one with divine life and being. We have become so used to living from this center that we feel no need to remember it, to mentally focus on it, look within, or even think about it. Despite this fact, however, the center remains; it is the epicenter of our experience of life and being, which gives rise to our experiential energies and various feelings.

If this center suddenly dissolves and disappears, the experiences of life, being, energy, feeling and so on come to an end, because there is no “within” any more. And without a “within”, there is no subjective, psychological, or spiritual life remaining – no experience of life at all. Our subjecive life is over and done with. But now, without center and circumference, where is the divine? To get hold of this situation, imagine consciousness as a balloon filled with, and suspended in divine air. The balloon experiences the divine as immanent, “in” itself, as well as transcendent, beyond or outside itself. This is the experience of the divine in ourselves and ourselves in the divine; in the state of oneness, Christ is often seen as the balloon (ourselves), completing this trinitarian experience. But what makes this whole experience possible – the divine as both immanent and transcendent – is obviously the balloon, i.e. consciousness or self. Consciousness sets up the divisions of within and without, spirit and matter, body and soul, immanent and transcendent; in fact, consciousness is responsible for every division we know of. But what if we pop the balloon – or better, cause it to vanish like a bubble that leaves no residue. All that remains is divine air. There is no divine in anything, there is no divine transcendence or beyond anything, nor is the divine anything. We cannot point to anything or anyone and say, “This or that is divine”. So the divine is all – all but consciousness or self, which created the division in the first place. As long as consciousness remains however, it does not hide the divine, nor is it ever separated from it. In Christian terms, the divine known to consciousness and experienced by it as immanent and transcendent is called God; the divine as it exists prior to consciousness and after consciousness is gone is called Godhead. Obviously, what accounts for the difference between God and Godhead is the balloon or bubble – self or consciousness. As long as any subjective self remains, a center remains; and so, too, does the sense of interiority.

Stephan: You mention that, with the loss of the personal self, the personal God drops away as well. Is the personal God, then, a transitional figure in our search for ultimate loss of self?

Bernadette: Sometimes we forget that we cannot put our finger on any thing or any experience that is not transitional. Since consciousness, self, or subject is the human faculty for experiencing the divine, every such experience is personally subjective; thus in my view, “personal God” is any subjective experience of the divine. Without a personal, subjective self, we could not even speak of an impersonal, non-subjective God; one is just relative to the other. Before consciousness or self existed, however, the divine was neither personal nor impersonal, subjective nor non-subjective – and so the divine remains when self or consciousness has dropped away. Consciousness by its very nature tends to make the divine into its own image and likeness; the only problem is, the divine has no image or likeness. Hence consciousness, of itself, cannot truly apprehend the divine.

Christians (Catholics especially) are often blamed for being the great image makers, yet their images are so obviously naive and easy to see through, we often miss the more subtle, formless images by which consciousness fashions the divine. For example, because the divine is a subjective experience, we think the divine is a subject; because we experience the divine through the faculties of consciousness, will, and intellect, we think the divine is equally consciousness, will and intellect; because we experience ourselves as a being or entity, we experience the divine as a being or entity; because we judge others, we think the divine judges others; and so on. Carrying a holy card in our pockets is tame compared to the formless notions we carry around in our minds; it is easy to let go of an image, but almost impossible to uproot our intellectual convictions based on the experiences of consciousness.

Still, if we actually knew the unbridgeable chasm that lies between the true nature of consciousness or self and the true nature of the divine, we would despair of ever making the journey. So consciousness is the marvelous divine invention by which human beings make the journey in subjective companionship with the divine; and, like every divine invention, it works. Consciousness both hides the chasm and bridges it – and when we have crossed over, of course, we do not need the bridge any more. So it doesn’t matter that we start out on our journey with our holy cards, gongs and bells, sacred books and religious feelings. All of it should lead to growth and transformation, the ultimate surrender of our images and concepts, and a life of selfless giving. When there is nothing left to surrender, nothing left to give, only then can we come to the end of the passage – the ending of consciousness and its personally subjective God. One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back.

Stephan: How does the path to no-self in the Christian contemplative tradition differ from the path as laid out in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions?

Bernadette: I think it may be too late for me to ever have a good understanding of how other religions make this passage. If you are not surrendering your whole being, your very consciousness, to a loved and trusted personal God, then what are you surrendering it to? Or why surrender it at all? Loss of ego, loss of self, is just a by-product of this surrender; it is not the true goal, not an end in itself. Perhaps this is also the view of Mahayana Buddhism, where the goal is to save all sentient beings from suffering, and where loss of ego, loss of self, is seen as a means to a greater end. This view is very much in keeping with the Christian desire to save all souls. As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the “unconditioned and unbegotten” than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.

Actually, I met up with Buddhism only at the end of my journey, after the no-self experience. Since I knew that this experience was not articulated in our contemplative literature, I went to the library to see if it could be found in the Eastern Religions. It did not take me long to realize that I would not find it in the Hindu tradition, where, as I see it, the final state is equivalent to the Christian experience of oneness or transforming union. If a Hindu had what I call the no-self experience, it would be the sudden, unexpected disappearance of the Atman-Brahman, the divine Self in the “cave of the heart”, and the disappearance of the cave as well. It would be the ending of God-consciousness, or transcendental consciousness – that seemingly bottomless experience of “being”, “consciousness”, and “bliss” that articulates the state of oneness. To regard this ending as the falling away of the ego is a grave error; ego must fall away before the state of oneness can be realized. The no-self experience is the falling away of this previously realized transcendent state.

Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist’s insistence on no eternal Self – be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman. Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the “no-self experience”; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.

Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, “All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed.” And there it was – the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, “Again a house thou shall not build,” clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a “true center,” a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.

As a Christian, I saw the no-self experience as the true nature of Christ’s death, the movement beyond even is oneness with the divine, the movement from God to Godhead. Though not articulated in contemplative literature, Christ dramatized this experience on the cross for all ages to see and ponder. Where Buddha described the experience, Christ manifested it without words; yet they both make the same statement and reveal the same truth – that ultimately, eternal life is beyond self or consciousness. After one has seen it manifested or heard it said, the only thing left is to experience it.

Stephan: You mention in The Path to No-Self that the unitive state is the “true state in which God intended every person to live his mature years.” Yet so few of us ever achieve this unitive state. What is it about the way we live right now that prevents us from doing so? Do you think it is our preoccupation with material success, technology, and personal accomplishment?

Bernadette: First of all, I think there are more people in the state of oneness than we realize. For everyone we hear about there are thousands we will never hear about. Believing this state to be a rare achievement can be an impediment in itself. Unfortunately, those who write about it have a way of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful that it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment – we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes. But if I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey.

Paradoxical though it may seem, the passage through consciousness or self moves contrary to self, rubs it the wrong way – and in the end, will even rub it out. Because this passage goes against the grain of self, it is, therefore, a path of suffering. Both Christ and Buddha saw the passage as one of suffering, and basically found identical ways out. What they discovered and revealed to us was that each of us has within himself or herself a “stillpoint” – comparable, perhaps to the eye of a cyclone, a spot or center of calm, imperturbability, and non-movement. Buddha articulated this central eye in negative terms as “emptiness” or “void”, a refuge from the swirling cyclone of endless suffering. Christ articulated the eye in more positive terms as the “Kingdom of God” or the “Spirit within”, a place of refuge and salvation from a suffering self.

For both of them, the easy out was first to find that stillpoint and then, by attaching ourselves to it, by becoming one with it, to find a stabilizing, balanced anchor in our lives. After that, the cyclone is gradually drawn into the eye, and the suffering self comes to an end. And when there is no longer a cyclone, there is also no longer an eye. So the storms, crises, and sufferings of life are a way of finding the eye. When everything is going our way, we do not see the eye, and we feel no need to find it. But when everything is going against us, then we find the eye. So the avoidance of suffering and the desire to have everything go our own way runs contrary to the whole movement of our journey; it is all a wrong view. With the right view, however, one should be able to come to the state of oneness in six or seven years – years not merely of suffering, but years of enlightenment, for right suffering is the essence of enlightenment. Because self is everyone’s experience underlying all culture. I do not regard cultural wrong views as an excuse for not searching out right views. After all, each person’s passage is his or her own; there is no such thing as a collective passage.

Auction at the Sadony Labs

Auction Featuring Sadony Lab’s Old Equipment Drawing Interest
Friday, August 05, 2005
By Dave LeMieux
Muskegon Chronicle Staff Writer

A Challenger Chris Craft Dyneto outboard motor by Owner Corp. The caller insisted that the ultra-rare item listed on a handbill announcing the auction of the contents of Valley Research Corp. didn’t exist. “But there it is, big as life,” said auctioneer Roger Schultz. The vintage outboard motor stood amid a dusty array of obscure and obsolete machinery and laboratory equipment in what was once one of the company’s airy lakefront workshops.

Schultz will be selling the contents of the building at 7139 Old Channel Trail at a public auction beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Built as the Sadony Bros. Boat Works on the shore of White Lake’s Indian Bay in the early 1930s by Joseph A. Sadony Sr.’s two sons, the rambling 10,000-square-foot building was later converted into a state-of-the-art research facility. The elder Sadony was renowned for his lifelong study of the mind’s powers of intuition and his ability to foretell events.

After service in World War II, Sadony’s sons Joseph Jr. and Arthur turned their own talents to invention. With their father as a consultant, the Sadony brothers organized Valley Research during the closing days of the war, working to develop waterproof packaging for military material.

Sixty years later, sunlight streamed through mammoth plate glass windows as Schultz and two others sifted gingerly through the contents of musty cement-block building on a recent afternoon. Outside, a meticulously restored wooden speedboat bobbed at anchor in Indian Bay. Schultz says he has already received numerous calls from people across the state interested the in the partial list of contents he’s circulated. Valley Research Corp.’s labs and workshops were once equipped with such esoteric devices as an Elmendorf tearing tester, an International clinical centrifuge and a precision penetrometer.

In the post-war years, the company worked on a variety of products including a sonic device for Continental Motors Corp. that detected flaws in metal parts. The lab also patented a home humidifier and a machine that wrapped, folded and sealed food packages in moisture-proof material. But by the late 1950s, business at the lab had tapered off, said Arthur Sadony’s daughter Jennifer Sadony Westrate. Both brothers walked away from the lab and got jobs as supervisors at Howmet Corp.’s forerunner, Misco. The labs and workshops were left largely untouched for the next 45 years.

“It’s pretty much like they walked away in the late 1950s, closed the door and that was it,” said Sadony Westrate. Sadony Westrate recently filled four dumpsters with water- and rodent-damaged contents in preparation for Saturday’s auction. Out of respect for their recently deceased mothers, Sadony Westrate and her cousins, Joseph Sadony III and Arthur C. Sadony, have waited until now to sell the property. The trio have hired Schultz, a local auctioneer, to sell the contents to the highest bidder.

The granddaughter of one of Joseph Sr.’s foremen has purchased the building and plans to convert it into a summer home. Saturday’s auction will include laboratory equipment and furniture, office furniture and boating equipment. Among the items on auction are a double mahogany Herman Miller office desk, a large band saw and Graus 2 kilo lab scale.

Schultz has been working as a auctioneer since a fall in 1985. Over the years since then, Schultz and his partner, Joe Cook of Lowell, have auctioned off the contents of countless farms. But family farms are fading away and Schultz is doing fewer and fewer farm auctions. Saturday’s auction at Valley Research is unusual for the variety of vintage laboratory equipment being offered for sale.


A Mind Of His Own
Friday, August 05, 2005
By Dave LeMieux
Muskegon Chronicle Staff Writer

Forty-five years after his death, the name Joseph A. Sadony Sr. can still raise eyebrows around Montague. Sadony was renowned for his lifelong study of the mind’s powers of intuition and his ability to foretell events “When some people saw grandpa coming, they would cross the street,” says Sadony’s granddaughter Jennifer Sadony Westrate. “Grandpa said things that would scare them. They were afraid he could read their minds,” says Sadony Westrate.

But Joseph Sadony’s life is more fascinating than scary. The German immigrant worked for President Roosevelt (the first one), performed feats of athleticism and endurance, competed with and was consulted by great minds around the world, built an estate and laboratory on the corner of White Lake, wrote books and a newspaper column, and conducted extensive research on the power of the mind. And he scares some people with the abilities of his mind.

By cultivating his intuition, Sadony made 38,000 accurate predictions during his lifetime, says Sadony Westrate. “He felt it was a gift from God. Others felt it came from the other side and were scared,” Sadony Westrate said. Stories of Sadony’s prognostications are the stuff of local folklore.

Although Sadony died a year and a day before she was born, Sadony Westrate, 43, grew up listening to her father’s stories about her grandfather’s abilities. Mere months before he died, one of her grandfather’s last predictions made certain she’d be born, Sadony Westrate says. Sadony Westrate’s father, Arthur J. Sadony, the youngest of Sadony’s two sons, married late in life. Arthur Sadony was in his 50s and Sadony Westrate’s mother, Beatrice, was in her early 40s when the couple married. Beatrice was 42 when her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth which led to the discovery of numerous tumors in her uterus. The doctor recommended an immediate hysterectomy. “Dad said, ‘Can you wait? I’d like to call my father,’ ” Sadony Westrate said. “He called grandpa and grandpa said, ‘You tell ’em to put her back together. She’s going to have another daughter in a year and a half.’ ” Beatrice gave birth to Sadony Westrate on Sept. 3, 1961.

In his later years, Sadony became a reclusive figure at his estate and the stuff of local legends. “My grandmother (Freida Meinert) used to deliver eggs and produce down to him in the early 1950s,” said local auctioneer Roger Schultz. “I remember he’d come out to the car with that silky white beard and that black suit.” Sadony’s grandchildren have hired Schultz to sell the contents of Valley Research Corp, where Sadony worked as a consultant for his sons Joseph Sr. and Arthur in the late 1940s and 1950s. “You never heard anything bad about old Joe,” Schultz said. “He was kind of mysterious because of that white beard and of course we always saw a lot of big fancy cars going in and out of there.”

A self-educated turn-of-the-20th-century philosopher-scientist, Sadony’s biography reads like a story written by popular science fiction author Ray Bradbury. He was born February 22, 1877, in Germany’s Rhine River valley, not far from Frankfurt. The family moved to Kalamazoo in 1884 when Sadony was 7 and later moved to Chicago. According to the 1936 edition of “Who’s Who in Michigan,” Sadony hiked 1,800 miles through the Arizona desert as a young man, checking conditions on Indian reservations for Theodore Roosevelt. He performed on the flying trapeze for P.T. Barnum and bicycled from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico via Denver. Sadony could hold his breath underwater for 3 minutes, 45 seconds and saved 28 people from drowning.

In 1906, Sadony moved to White River Township and bought the 81-acre estate he named Valley of the Pines near the current site of the Old Channel Inn. Sadony built a power plant, stables, laboratory, library and machine shop. Over the years, he held a number of public offices including constable, justice of the peace, deputy sheriff and director of the district school board. For nearly 30 years, beginning in the late 1920s, Sadony wrote a daily advice column for The Muskegon Chronicle. He also self-published a variety of newsletters and journals over the years.

He was a prodigious letter-writer and his personal files were said to contain letters from over 300,000 people from around the world. When British Royal Astronomer Sir Harold Spencer Jones announced he had calculated a more accurate distance from the earth to sun in December of 1941, Sadony claimed his own “as yet incomplete conclusions” had preceded Jones’. The flap erupted two days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and it appears Sadony did not pursue his claim to the discovery.

His mental abilities remain his main claim to fame. According to Sadony Westrate, the Chicago and Detroit Police Departments both kept her grandfather on retainer, calling on his peculiar talents for help in solving difficult cases. Throughout his life Sadony insisted he never accepted payment from individuals for his predictions. Sadony’s chief pursuits were cultivating his intuition and formulating what he termed “Prevenient Education.” Sadony established the Educational Research Laboratories to further his work on both ideas.

In 1949, Sadony described his work to reporter John A. Chisholm in a eight-part series published in The Muskegon Chronicle. Explaining some his ideas on intuition from his unpublished book “The Human Radio,” Sadony told Chisholm, “Everything radiates. Everything broadcasts its own nature. People sense each others’ thoughts and feelings without knowing it.” Chisholm offered a brief explanation of “Prevenient Education” — “The basic contention of Mr. Sadony’s book ‘Gates of the Mind,’ is that thinking in words can confuse and mislead as readily as clarify; that the most reliable form of thought is that which might be termed ‘sensing.’ In explaining something, Mr. Sadony shows instead of tells.” Despite his notoriety, Sadony always remained something of a mystery.

In his 1949 series, Chisholm wrote, “Even those who have met the man, who have visited his home, seem at a loss for words when faced with specific questions. His capacity for friendship seems enormous, but even friends of many years who express their high opinion in unqualified terms bog down when it comes to details and specific questions.”

The Strange Sixth Sense of Captain Mohr

“The Strange Sixth Sense of Captain Mohr”
By Don Farrant

Captain Charles A. Mohr didn’t just “happen upon” that battered old schooner in 1930. It stands as one of the strangest episodes in the history of the Great Lakes.

No, it was not a chance encounter when a steamer captain had a “sixth sense” and , following his urgings, was able to make a dramatic rescue.

The date was Sept. 26, 1930. Captain Mohr, commanding the self-unloading steamer William Nelson, was already something of a hero on the lakes. In four separate incidents, he had been the savior of vessels in distress and each time had saved lives. Now he was bringing his ship down Lake Michigan with a cargo of sand, bound for South Chicago.

Mohr, heading into a violent storm on his downlake course, might have done the prudent thing and anchored in the lee of Washington Island, near Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, to wait until the gale moderated. Instead, against all accepted rules of cautious seamanship and common sense, he ordered the ship to be steered down the eastern shore – the often dangerous Manitou Passage.

The captain was obeying a compulsive force which strangely directed him on what almost seemed a suicidal run down the more hazardous side of the lake. The men in his crew muttered among themselves that the old man was losing his mind.

Not far distant on the shore near Muskegon, a group of people stood talking as they watched the storm. One of them was Joseph A. Sadony, a friend of Captain Mohr’s and a man who often surprised his friends by predicting coming events with great accuracy.

On this occasion, Sadony talked of a sailing ship in big trouble out there in that gale. He described a schooner with sails tattered and a hold that was filling with water. He added that the ship, even though well out of normal shipping lanes, had a good chance of rescue because even now another vessel was drawing near.

Meanwhile, Captain Mohr had turned away from his southward course and was now heading westward in the direction of Sheboygan, still following his mysterious “promptings.” Around 3 p.m. he came upon an old wooden ship, bare-poled and helpless, wallowing in the huge seas. It was here that he knew – positively – why he had been urged to follow this strange course. The men on the schooner needed help – and he could save them!

The vessel was the Our Son, one of the last of the sailing schooners, with a cargo of pulpwood destined for Muskegon.

Built in 1875, the venerable old ship was 182 feet long, with a beam of 35 feet and a gross tonnage of 720. She had three masts, the highest of which stood 130 feet above the deck. With her 35-year heritage of noble service, she now drifted helplessly, at the mercy of mountainous waves.

The Our Son carried a crew of six under 73-year old Captain Fred Nelson, a veteran seafaring man who had spent 45 years on the lakes. He was proud of his old ship, which he had skippered for the past six years. The only “jinx” in the long life of the Our Son had occurred at her launching when the owner’s son had nearly drowned in an accident – this being the source of her name.

The aged schooner carried no radio. Nelson, a religious man, knew his ship was doomed in this storm and prayed with deep conviction that he would not have to give the order to abandon ship. The yawl, he was sure, would have no chance in that furious sea.

As conditions worsened, he ordered the flag lowered, then hoisted it upside down as a distress signal. He knew theOur Son’s only chance, a slim one at that, was that another ship would come upon them in this little traveled part of the lake.

As if preordained, a steamer loomed in sight, oddly bearing the same last name as the mast-er of the sailing ship. Captain Mohr flashed an SOS, hoping to draw another vessel to the spot. He might need help in his rescue attempt, and he figured it was a safeguard in case his own ship needed assistance, as well.

Mohr soon received as answer from Pere Marquette Car Ferry No. 22, saying she would come to help, making as much head-way as the giant, plunging seas would permit.

Captain Mohr waited until he could see the smoke of the approaching car ferry. Then he spread oil on the surface to round off the tops of the breakers and effectively calm the seas. He hoped to draw alongside the Our Son, standing by long enough to allow the men to jump. Care was needed to prevent the awful possibility that the two ships would crash together, and such a collision might prove fatal to both.

On the schooner, one crewman, the cook, refused to come out of the galley! It seems he thought the end was coming and he told himself that if he had to die, his galley was the very best place to stay.

Finally, with rescue imminent, Nelson talked him into joining the others on deck. Now the entire crew gathered in a knot on the port side, just aft of the foremast ….waiting….waiting. As the mercy ship closed in, men all leaped – and all seven landed safely.

A few minutes later on the bridge of the Nelson, the schooner captain, tears in his eyes, pumped the hand of the man who had done so much to save his crew. Meanwhile, the ferry, having witnessed the whole thing, signaled the story to the outside world.

So it was that when the Nelson docked at South Chicago the following afternoon, an excited crowd had gathered to meet the ship. Reporters sought to interview both captains, as well as the six crewmen of schooner.

For his heroism, Captain Mohr was given a congressional medal for what was termed “One of the most daring pieces of expert seamanship in the history of navigation.” this was reported to be the only such medal ever awarded to a Great Lakes mariner.

The next time Joseph Sadony met his old friend, Captain Mohr, the two had plenty to talk about. Sadony told of psychic urgings on that day of storm — and Mohr, far from disbelieving, could only smile and affirm that certain promptings had indeed beckoned him to the exact spot on the wild lake where he was needed.

It was later revealed that Mohr and Sadony had previously held a conversation in which each agreed they would pay attention to their own hunches, then some-day get together to compare notes. This they did, at length, as they re-lived their experiences of September 26, 1930.

One thing is certain: but for the extra-sensory impulses that were somehow transmitted (from Sadony on shore?) To Captain Mohr, aided by the Almighty Ruler of the waves, the schooner would have gone down with all hands. It would have been another unexplained Great Lakes shipping disaster.

This article originally appeared at The Great Lakes Pilot.