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.

Joseph Sadony: Give Thought

“Give Thought”
Selections from Joseph Sadony’s Muskegon Chronicle column

Have you learned to measure your success not by the competitors you have beaten, but by the new friends who have come to make your acquaintance?

Joseph Sadony staffIf so, then you have, not doubt, also learned to be cautious whom you call your friend to your real friends, or you may be betrayed in your absence.

One often acquires new doubtful friends by the closeness of real ones; and, like familiarity breeding contempt, close contact often blinds loyalty and virtue because no wound has yet been made. But consider how the tears of an infant give a mother the claws of a tigress.

If you want a stronger hand of friendships, listen to a friend’s interest, making his memory a part of your own. This always forms a stronger bond by the union of both worlds of experience under one law of fidelity.

If you can’t hold friends when you’ve made them, you will make yourself your own enemy by deception in your forced intention of friendship… with a subtle purpose outside of your just possessions.

And, as a final thought, if a supposed friend does not appreciate and understand your sincere efforts in his behalf, do not condemn him. Just forget him as unworthy of your consideration. Save your efforts for those who have suffered as you did, thus forming a lasting friendship worth all your regrets.

joseph sadony

Do you do all the forcing, or are you the one who is forced? In either case you but circulate counterfeit money according to the law adopted, while genuine currency may often be considered justified counterfeit, and counterfeit genuine, according to the law of justice.

If you are paid a week’s wages for labor done, does the wage in silver lose its value just because your neighbor trades only in paper representing gold? Does a kind deed deserve an unkind act in return? Should not deeds be measured by the sacrifice, the value of labor be determined according to what is expected and agreed up[on]? Should not an agreement be deemed a law, so that all concerned may understand the honor involved, and may know that a penalty or a forfeiture is demanded, regardless of the injured asking mercy for the guilty… for would not the unpunished be encouraged, the loser lax in law and order, and would not both thus unbalance the law of justice and normalcy?

The honest man has one recourse when persecuted. He knows the value of his own policy that right and justice will survive a guilty conscience and injustice, where time will execute the penalty and where he apparently loses today, but gains tomorrow, with compound interest. So sayeth the law throughout the world. Guilty to him who guilty thinks. Respect and honor to him who thinks in this trend.

joseph sadony

Have you noticed a tendency to feel blue and despondent before bedtime, given to worry, regrets, and a premonition of failure and ill health? Still, have you not always felt more hopeful the next morning?

You should stop to realize that at night your vitality has been lowered, and that sleep will recharge you. You are thinking with a tired brain, tired thoughts which are only as you feel and think. Just compare the night with the morning a few hundred times, and it may convince you that its wet powder has no more force than that much wet sand.

So from now on the moment you begin to think with tired thoughts force yourself to realize that it’s O.K. until, as with a discharged battery, rest and recharging will bring out the sunshine of smiles once more. A good motto to remind you is, “Let not the mind reason when clouds obscure the sun.”

Everyone should have something to worry about, but he should not worry about it. A reasonable cause for worry keeps one cautious and charitable, reminding him of the inevitable, the law of adjustment and the danger of negative thinking. But worry itself plays on one string of the harp until out of tune, throwing the whole song out of harmony. A wise man know[s] that it is useless to worry over what cannot be helped, and what can be helped calls for action, not worry.

joseph sadony

Supposing I developed a new kind of an apple, then grew an orchard and gathered in the apples but removed the seeds. I could well afford to give them away at cost, realizing that no one could grow them and that if I spread them far enough, many would want more, or offer a high price for seeds.

Well, that has been done by certain writers of spiritual books more concerned with picking the Bible to pieces and criticizing various doctrinal interpretations than with providing self-sustaining truth and inspiration.

If a man has the true faith it should teach him to judge not the faith of another lest he weaken his own. Why pick out of each religion that which sounds questionable? If one insists on criticism let him compare each ism or religion with the Golden Rule of every Master and great religion of the past, and if it does not agree in the use of a level, plumb or square, it will judge itself and condemn itself in the same way that 2 and 2 prove 4.

Instinct belongs to life without reason. Reason belongs to man without intuition. Intuition is of the soul what instinct is of the animal kingdom. Hence animals will ever be animal, to perpetuate themselves for the benefit of man. Instinct has its limitations and territory, but intuition is the eye of the soul that differentiates the mental from the physical, the spiritual from the mental. Thus the spirit of life functions in the animal, and the intellect in man’s mind as an instrument, while the soul with its ever-seeing eye uses the intellect as its body to manifest itself like the fingers of a musician on the keys of the piano to interpret the melody.

Now there’s the seed if you know how to grow it. Why should you pay a high price for it all wrapped up in fancy words as an “ancient secret”?

joseph sadony

When a child is taught to begin life without mistakes, it needs no later correction. If a man lives within his means, he assumes no debts; he need not apologize nor hesitate, reflecting apprehensive, careless, thoughtless-ness of responsibility. What a student assumes, he is not apt to return (over years of habit) to rectify. It seems more appropriate to “cover up,” to patch, to substitute for his power and honor of self-respect: a substitutional foundation of the times, such as it may be… but inharmonious to what will be, to meet and accuse it as false. Then one is forced to return and rectify, or be judged according to the mistakes made, knowingly or through ignorance. The latter may be tolerated, but the former is always condemned.

So you see it is always best to be sure of a solid foundation before you build a structure of knowledge or hope upon it. It is far better to have a solid foundation and a weak structure, than a weak foundation and a strong structure. Should the building collapse, you can still rebuild, to correct your mistake and feel assured of your efforts. But not so with a weak foundation that that can never support weight or power.

As roots are always the foundation of blossoms and fruits, so should your first step always be toward the goal of ambitious expectancy, so every step may be measured in confidence of a happy ending to your journey.

joseph sadony

When people forget how to play, it is time to beware; for it is a symptom that their culture has stopped growing under the stresses and strains that are sure to cause a play-less group or civilization sooner or later to decline or collapse. So you can make your own diagnoses. You need not worry about America so long as our men and women, boys and girls, still play… and that means not only games and sports, but hobbies and even hard labor not because one has to, or because he gets paid for it, but purely for the joy of it. That is the essence of freedom and sure sign of individual and social, local and national cultural health.

Find the individuals, the groups or the nations who do all they do under the compulsion of grim necessity, real or imagined, with never anything done for the pure enjoyment of self-expression free from all necessary objectives… find these people and you will have located the source, the cink, the cause and the victims of what is wrong with the world today. Where the soul of man has lost its capacity for innocent fun, “liberty” is a word without meaning, “equality” has lost its only social and cultural foundation, “fraternity” is replaced by bonds of fear and mutual suspicion, the unfailing symptom of spiritual atrophy. For Play is the root of which Religion is the blossom. Give that a thought and learn the deeper meaning of those words, “Except ye become again as a little child.”

joseph sadony

Have you forgotten that each human being has a nurse and a servant in his reflex action? When you bump your shin, who rubs it, even against your own will? When you have a toothache or a headache you hold your hand over it, even without realizing it. When one arm is lame the other does the work of both gladly, to avoid the pain.

Who puts you to sleep against your will, when you need it? Who makes you cough when necessary , and though you know no better, while you are sleeping? Who makes you drink plenty of water when you haven’t sense enough to quench the thirst that reduces your fever; and who is it that creates nausea in order to prevent you from disorganizing your system? By this time you ought to have sense enough to have gotten acquainted with your servant and your nurse, and to give them a helping hand. As far as you can remember since childhood what part did you take in your physical and mental development? Did you make any extra preparation? Did you take interest in avoiding possible colds and contagion? If it was all the law of reflex, of cause and effect, then give it a respectable thought and learn its laws, and who does it all, and why. Even if you don’t solve the problem, you have at least introduced yourself to it, and are bound to profit by it.

joseph sadony

For each of us there comes an hour in which we must be all alone, faced with our conscience, meditating how far we can go in passing through the door of the grave. When a man expects a duel, are not the weapons chosen? Will he not practice with them? Then why not seek a little solitude, to become used to it. Get acquainted with yourself, depending upon no one for the time being… as it will be when you stand before the Universal Judge to give reason why you expect admittance to the Great Unknown.

Have you ever knocked at the door of a Lodge or a Club, and wondered what was beyond it? You came of your own free will. Why? Bear in mind that the greatest Lodge is that at the door of which you will then stand… and every human being must knock at those portals, whether he wills it or not. If unwilling, one is but the lost sheep returning. So seek solitude occasionally. Be convinced of an individuality designated by the thumbprint of your right hand. And know that nature thus far has tolerated you because you were worthy, or it would have sent an executione r long before this to terminate your activities.

In solitude you will realize all these things, influenced not by fashion or creed, but only by the album of your memory and the ancestral paper and ink upon which it is recorded.

joseph sadony

You may lose your faith and still survive if you have hope left to stimulate you to find what you think you lost. For hope is the root of faith, and in your hopeful search faith will be reestablished.

That is why it is so important for you to hold in reserve some personal interest as a companion to you in the solitude of later years when retirement is forced upon you. It would be fatal to you then, if separated from the only interest you possess.

An ax may be perfectly tempered and keen-edged, still it must have a handle of the very wood it is designed to cut. The handle must have a strong pair of hands to hold it, the hands must have arms, the arms a brain, and the brain must have thought to direct the ax where to strike; with reason and selection of timber for what the first motive intended.

There are many facts like these to which people give little if any thought. Another is that it is just as important to get tired, as it is to get rested. Through all our lives there must be that give and take which make up the alternating currents of interest. There must be a beginning and end to every story. If you speak of eternity that is where stories of time are written, to remind you of you.

joseph sadony

Are you inclined to be apprehensive about something because you allowed a doubt to grow to man hood and become father of a lot of fears? Then just make up your mind to single out your greatest fear and face it. Dig it up. Meet it boldly; and see how wrong you were in magnifying it daily until you expected to find a mountain when it was only a little molehill.

Just try this out and you will find you were bluffing yourself all the while, adding layer upon layer of imagination, like a corn that created pain because of constant chafing. Remove the top of it and the pain will disappear. It’s better to go bareheaded than to wear a ten-pound high hat and get a headache. Likewise with your imaginary disasters that never happen unless you force them to come true by constant belief.

We are what we think we are, and what we think we think. We become so because we have thought it. So think what you want, and become just that. And remember that one who always procrastinates develops a psychosis to fear fear.

joseph sadony

Some people say it was “fated” after a deed is done; but can we say that it will be fated when our will has that choice, for or against? What fatalists fail to realize is that fate has its limitations, and destiny its boundaries, so man may “will” over those things within his jurisdiction. He does have power to change things, to harness power or release it.

Fate and Destiny have real existence only above the power of man. It is his own fault if he becomes a slave to circumstances through fear and failure to exert his power of choice and will in achievement and prevention.

But there is a limit to man’s jurisdiction also. One can say, “I am the master of my fate” only when the criterion becomes a lifetime… when you judge the battle from a distance, and not from man to man. We can govern circumstances with the help of time if our willpower works in harmony with our soul of intuition. For then our Will is the captain, while the soul sails in that little ship created by God, and called “man”. But if you are truly the captain of your soul, then the soul is your ship, while the heavy, leaden keel that prevents it from capsizing, and holds it on its course, is your mortal responsibility on your way to the Destiny of God.

joseph sadony

Have you ever noticed how a very simple little thing can change your entire day? Note what you start with when you get up… the difference between a good breakfast and a poor one… a good cartoon in the morning paper… good or bad news in the mail. If you let them, such things as these set the tempo and temper of the entire day.

See how it is if you miss a bus, train, or plane, or get a flat tire when just starting out. And, on the other hand, see the effect of finding more gas in your car than you thought you had. See the effect of a morning smile instead of a criticism. Are all these things magnified because of your low pressure on awakening, still relaxed and feeling that you have not had enough sleep? Or perhaps you had too much and are suffering a “hangover”. But watch those first blows or smiles of the day. They can be manipulated a little, by you and all concerned. It makes the wheels of life move a lot more smoothly.

The first seeds you plant in the Spring are apt to come up first, are they not? Well, why not think of this in planting thought on awakening every morning, and find weeds strangled before their destructive roots get hold on your emotions.

joseph sadony

No matter what trouble you may have, your forefathers had it before you. Did not their religion of faith sustain them long enough to give you birth, and a chance to better their record?

Why not search beneath your rubbish of false pride, standing on bare ground away from your present power, looking at the same trouble as you will at the moment of your passing, all alone? Just practice it now, with a little forethought, and your passing may be as glorious as your mortal achievements, a fitting climax of your record.

Where are the glories of the past with its tinsel, fragrance, beauty and power? What is its value if but momentary, with so long a time to regret? Is it not like the poor girl, disillusion ed for a moment’s mistake, leaving a stain on the head of innocence?

Where is your artificial pleasure, when genuine is its neighbor?

Straw to cattle is roughage, to regulate and strengthen the digestive organs. Likewise physical exercise to a man’s health, and what he creates with it for his happiness. And likewise also with adversity and apparently avoidable sorrow. So before you complain find what seed has been planted, by whom, and why.

joseph sadony

Some of the best suggestions in life are the most simple, the most obvious, and the least attention is paid to them. For example, when you think yourself miserable, just let your mind check up on a few people you know are far worse off than you are, but seem more contented than you are. How many times has this been suggested to you? Have you ever really done it? If so, what is the difference between them and you?

And another thing worth trying when you otherwise might not think of it. If you are a prisoner physically, why not open your mental eyes by a book of travel? Go with the author. Make that a state of mind, and to you it will be a reality, for a little while at least. Then come back to your “prison” and you will find the iron bars removed. You may even ask to have them replaced as a protection from the outside.

Did you ever realize the wonder of your memory, where you may live over your joys? But how often do you do so. Your regrets, yes; so you may complain, or demand sympathy. But just look over your photograph album of younger days. What is wrong if it does not give you a thrill? It’s your world, yours only. Why not repeat your fine mental dinner, and see its effect?

joseph sadony

When you find yourself discouraged, why not seek the source, as you do when your new unpaid-for car knocks. You did not happen to think of it, because in your brain there is a janitor that is more patient to bear your mistakes until the last straw, while the first little straw in your carburetor ends your trip.

Give it a forethought, because nature will take care of your vital organs, but will pay you in years of life if you will but prevent the skin from being scratched. Likewise will your soul lead your spirit through the dark ages of man’s mistakes, if you will but believe in the resurrection of your own common sense out of the mire of superstition.

Are there not greater things to believe, to adopt, to accept, that are more human, normal, and beneficial, than the goblins of fools? Whoever invented appetite and the foundation of bread, also invented hunger to lead us on to beg, pray, fight, and labor for the release of all bonds that hold us subject to slavery… regardless what chains may hold us, as long as the mind of man is superior to all things on earth, proven by the fact that he can imagine what he will and materialize it to his will and pleasure. He has overcome, and will do so always, and much sooner if honest with himself.

joseph sadony

Can we not with all confidence and assurance trust in the story of Christianity when all other religions have run so parallel with it for thousands of years? If it were only a myth, what kept its growth flourishing though kings and dictators tried to destroy it by propaganda and sentence of death? Still it came out victorious where all else was forgotten. So where and what is its power of sustenance, its enduring patience, its power to awaken faith, create martyrs , and conquer bestiality in producing moral, intellectual human beings.

Is this not evidence enough? One cannot refute or deny it, because it is an exhaustless and eternal source of truth and wisdom that is far beyond the logical reason of man. We believe it blindly because it is incomprehensible to our understanding. It is like an immortal ambition to seek a goal. When once reached, there comes the next one, the progress of eternity. For ambition and energy are immortal and transformative; the singing of birds in the Garden of Eden still vibrates through the air to be heard if sensitive enough to hear it. We do see the form of waves on the seashores of millions of years ago, by examining the strata of rocks. Nothing really dies. Even our flesh and bones are left for nature to preserve in some form, and our deed s in the living memory of friends and loved ones.