Remembering Joseph Sadony

“Remembering Joseph Sadony” by Thomas Boaz

As the name and works of Joseph Sadony are familiar to some readers of Life in Action I thought it might be of interest to describe my own meeting with him many years ago.

My mother, Eleanor Boaz, became one of Joseph’s students in 1952 and continued as such until his death in 1960. She was a regular recipient of The Valley Caravel, the newsletter that was Joseph’s primary contact with his students, and they also maintained an ongoing personal correspondence. Part of my recollections is based upon items from the file she maintained of her association with Joseph (as he seemed to be known by all). As a preface, it may be worthwhile describing what The Valley Caravel was for those who have never seen an original issue.

josephy sadony studyThe Valley Caravel was written and published by Joseph. He described it as a “journalette,” an apt though rather modest term. In that era, before the advent of desktop publishing and when photocopiers as we know them were rare and expensive to use, newsletters were often produced on a mimeograph. This was a common and very inexpensive method of producing a limited number of copies. The output was readable, though the blue ink was crude and smelly and no artwork could be included.

That, however, was not Joseph’s way of doing things. A typical Valley Caravel issue ran eight to ten pages and was professionally printed on glossy, high-quality 10.5 x 6 5/8-inch stock. In addition to the text, every issue was filled with the kind of layout and art work seen only in expensive publications. This included its logo, a stern view of a caravel under full sail on the crest of a wave. Use of that logo had a meaning of its own: caravels were sailing ships associated with the Age of Discovery. The logo was surrounded by a number of short aphorisms best described as a sort of metaphysical Poor Richard.

Each issue contained one or more articles by Joseph, as well as sections titled “The Caravel Letter-Box” and “The Caravel News.” The latter was “…for `The Few’ by the few who may have something to say about The Caravel, its Captain, adventures and crew.” The back page was devoted to a section of aphorisms titled “Give Thought.” The result was a publication as elegant to the eye as its contents satisfied the soul. In spite of the obvious expense of producing the Caravel, it was not available by subscription. One received the publication only by being a friend of Joseph, or a friend of a friend – and then only after making written application to receive the publication.

Joseph’s personal letters were written on 8.5 x 11-inch yellow foolscap paper imprinted with the caravel logo and the address of the Educational Research Laboratories in Montague, Michigan. These were typewritten, succinct, and filled with kindness and practical advice about the subject at hand. He must have spent an extraordinary amount of time in correspondence with his students over the years. Letters were folded into brown envelopes roughly 3.5 x 6.5-inches with a printed return address. The envelopes were sealed with red wax bearing the device of a double-headed eagle and a now-illegible motto. This device no doubt had heraldic meaning to Joseph.

My mother had visited Joseph once or twice, such visits being planned well in advance due to his busy schedule. These were coordinated with William J. Percy, who was evidently Joseph’s secretary. He not only arranged the meeting schedule, but also offered helpful advice on such things as suitable hotels in the area. She arranged another visit in 1954 or 1955, and that time I was old enough to tag along. Moreover, she wanted me to spend a few minutes discussing my own problem with Joseph.

I was a scrawny eleven or twelve-year-old at the time, and like a number of other boys in my school I was being tormented by the school bully. He was a nasty fellow, maybe a year older, who enjoyed making life miserable for a number of students he disliked. Threats followed by kicks, and punches were his stock in trade. Rarely a day went by without some hapless boy going home with a favorite belonging stolen and his face black and blue. We were afraid to ask the principal for help because of the retribution that would be visited upon us by this miscreant. We could not get away from him, nor could we do anything about him. The situation seemed impossible.

It was my mother’s idea for me to discuss this with Joseph. I readily accepted because my youthful perception of him was that he obviously possessed mystical powers when it came to dealing with life-crises.

I think it took nearly a day’s driving to get to his place. According to his obituary, Joseph lived on an 80-acre estate named “The Mouth.” I remember it as being an exceedingly impressive manorial house on landscaped grounds and containing a library the size of which would have been the envy of many regional libraries. There were also some out-buildings, one of which was his laboratory.

As I recall, Mrs. Sadony fixed lunch for us and spent time with me while my mother met with Joseph. Their meeting concluded, Joseph gave me a tour of the laboratory before we had our own talk. It was quite interesting because the building was filled with all kinds of humming, blinking electrical devices. I believe Joseph was an expert in certain fields of electricity, and made a considerable income from the developmental work he did for the government.

He than asked about my problem, which I outlined in great detail. It is worth adding that Joseph was then about seventy-eight-years-old but gave the impression of being ageless. He wore a Van Dyke beard and, customary for men of the time, was dressed in a suit or blazer and tie. In my eyes he was a combination of Zeus, Santa Claus and a college professor rolled into one. As I told him about the bully I was sure he would supply me with an esoteric incantation or, better yet, the ability to generate some powerful energy field, either of which would render the fellow powerless.

Instead, he simply said the words I remember to this day: “The next time he bothers you, just punch him as hard as you can.”

I was flabbergasted. Who ever heard of a spiritual teacher recommending punching someone? Anyway, what good was that kind of advice against the nastiest kid in school? To say, the least, I was disappointed and my mother could hardly believe Joseph had said such a thing. We concluded that maybe he was just too far spiritually advanced to be able to deal with the mundane problems of schoolyard bullies.

It was not more than two weeks later when I was walking home from school with the younger brother of a friend. The bully appeared suddenly and began to threaten the young boy. Even for a bully, threatening young children was beyond the pale, and I told him to stop. Without a word, he turned and punched me in the eye. I don’t know if it was a defensive reflex, or the power of Joseph’s advice, or some combination, but I struck back hard and kept striking. Nearly fifty years later I still recall the odd clarity of pummeling that fellow until he had a bloody nose and ran away, crying. It was the ultimate humiliation for such a brute, who instantly ceased being a problem.

My mother was aghast at the bruise on my face, but to me it was a badge of honor. I knew the school network would be abuzz and that the next day at school would be wonderful. Indeed it was; no emperor ever entered Rome in as much triumph as I enjoyed walking into school and basking in the compliments of my schoolmates for eliminating the malefactor from our lives. We were free again. Joseph Sadony’s advice to me, strange as it sounded at the time, turned out to be perfect. But then, he was no dewy-eyed theorist dreaming about eventual perfection in all things. In addition to his work he was a husband and father, and at various times served his community as justice of the peace, constable and deputy sheriff. He knew life – and people – and how to deal with both. I think one attraction of his work was that it focused upon the practical use of metaphysics to improve peoples’ souls and lives in real-life situations, not in some future state of existence. That involved dealing with people and events, not all of them pleasant, on a day-to-day basis.

He understood what we all need to occasionally remember: that there are times in life when decent people (and decent nations) simply have no choice but to defend themselves against the evil that preys upon perceived weakness.

– Reprinted with kind permission from Life in Action magazine, April-May ’05.

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