Sacred Science

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* Book: John Heron, Sacred Science: Person-centred Inquiry into the Spiritual and the Subtle PCCS Books, 1998, ISBN 1 898059 21 7, 156x234, pp 288, £18 paperback.

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From the publisher:

"This cutting-edge book breaks new ground in transpersonal psychology. It argues for a people-based, person-centred religion which holds that spiritual authority is within each individual, and that spiritual initiation is a path of lived inquiry, for which all traditional systems are a secondary resource.

Topics covered include:

  • The emergence of a self-generating spiritual culture of independent pathfinders.
  • An affirmation of the person as a real spiritual presence on the crest of divine becoming.
  • The nature of long-term lived inquiry, and of short-term co-operative inquiry, into the spiritual and the subtle.
  • A radical account of what happens when inner spiritual authority is projected outward on to traditions, texts and teachers, with an expose of the authoritarianism in spiritual traditions.
  • A critique of the gender-laden theory of a perennial philosophy.
  • A practical, working model of internal spiritual authority, to dialogue with the reader’s working model.
  • An exploration of the issues involved in do-it-yourself subtle (psychical) research.
  • A provisional new dipolar map of the spiritual and the subtle, and a critique of other maps.
  • A new classification of methods of inner transformation, and a critique of a traditional Buddhist approach.
  • Reports of eleven short-term co-operative inquiries into the spiritual and the subtle, showing how the method works.
  • A presentation of a participatory worldview, with the paradigm of participatory inquiry and a sketch of a dipolar theology of embodiment.

Sacred Science will be of interest to all those who believe in the emergence of the self-determining human spirit within the field of religious belief and practice. It is written for the general reader, yet specialists in transpersonal studies will find that it addresses critical issues at a sophisticated level."


Part 1:

  • Perspectives of lived inquiry
  • Introduction and background
  • Spiritual inquiry and projected authority
  • Spiritual inquiry and the authority within
  • Issues in subtle inquiry
  • The challenge of cartography
  • A dipolar map of the spiritual and the subtle
  • Methods for the second form of spiritual transformation

Part 2:

  • Co-operative inquiry reports
  • Procedures
  • Reports, adequacy and viability
  • Spatio-temporal extensions
  • Impressions of the other reality
  • The bliss nature and transtemporal regression
  • Knacks in entering altered states
  • Charismatic expression
  • Transpersonal activities in everyday life
  • Transpersonal inquiry within a self-generating culture
  • Ritual and interpersonal process
  • Empowerment in everyday life and group life
  • Co-creating
  • Coming into being
  • Epilogue to Part 2

Part 3:

  • A participatory worldview
  • Participatory research
  • Participatory theology and cosmology
  • References
  • Index


Part One

Summary of reading notes by Michel Bauwens, 2003:

"- This book is a summary of a “cooperative inquiry” process into spirituality.

John Heron distinguishes three categories of the subtle:

  • The realm of the recently deceased (also known

as the realm of spiritualism)

  • The realm of purported guides and advanced

beings which come through in channeling

  • Exalted ‘presences’ in the ‘high subtle’, which

participate in ritual and change process

He says we have to take it seriously, by

   - Not dismissing it (scientific approach)
   - Not subjectivize it (psychologizing it)
   - Not ignore it (as in Zen and Buddhism)
   - Not demonize it (as in Christianity)

Heron distinguishes the transcendent world of form, from the immanent lifeworld of process, and the ‘present’ in between, linking both.

For subtle inquiry, it is important that researchers enter the state, by entertaining the possibility of its occurrence through ‘imagistic training’.

Jean Houston in her account of sacred psychology stresses the importance of imagistic thinking, of the training of the creative imagination, as a necessary condition for entering the subtle realms of the ‘mundus imaginalis’.

Discussing Wilber, he stresses that he represents a ‘monopolar practice’, focused on ascent and dissociative meditation to the higher stages; it does not feature ‘descent’ into the immanent dynamic processes (“shekinah”). Heron stresses the horizontality of the latter process, contrasting it to the verticality of Wilber. For example, Heron sees ‘conscious intentional parenting’ as a valid spiritual practice.

To Heron, saying that the self is illusory and has to disappear/merge with the whole, is a dangerous form of spiritual inflation. Top-down emanationist philosophers such as those like Wilber or Plotinus, do not take into account ‘creation’, since that is only seen as a return to the One. Against this vision, Heron posits "unpredictable divine becoming".

Heron writes that ancient spiritual accounts are not trustworthy, because:

   - 1) They are rife (and unaware of) with authoritarianism, patriarchy and the denigration of women
   - 2) deny the body and repress emotion
   - 3) have no commitment to a mastery of the phenomenal world in terms of science, politics and ethics

John Heron then starts describing his dipolar map of consciousness. Dipolar, because, starting from "immediate present awareness", it can either turn to four transcendent states (height, form, and beyond), and four immanent states of process within (depth).

The "fulcrum of immediate present experience" exists when I attend to the intrinsic nature of my 'being-in-the-world', n a relational, participatory, subjective-objective reality, when there is no gap between me as subject and what is around as object.

Heron compares it to:

   - the I-Thou communion of persons (Buber)
   - unitive ecstasy in extralinguistic immediacy of perception (Jean Wahl)
   - pre-objective consciousness-nature union (Merleau-Ponty)
   - pre-conceptual spontaneous sensorial engagement with phenomena (David Abram)
   - sahay samadhi (Raman Maharshi)
   - tzu-jan, wu-wei (Taoism)
   - jen (Confucianism)

Typology / Map

It is important that Heron's map is about action which combines both immanent and transcendent.

(T = transcendent; I = Immanent)

- T4: "boundless ineffability"

       - Ain Soph - Hebrew (limitless light)
       - Sat-chit-ananda (being-consciousness, bliss)
       - Mystyical absorption into the One (Plotinus)
       - Pure Act (St. John of the Cross)

- I4: "pregnant void"

       - non-manifest infinitude within
       - metacosmic void (Grof)
       - sunyata (mahayana)

- T3: the transcendent Thou

       - the demiurge of Plato 
       - nous (Plotinus)
       - logos (Philo of Alexandria)
       - spiritual marriage (Teresa)

- I3: impulse of the immanent spirit

       - the belly of my being / generative potency / prompts
       - temporal divine (Whitehead)
       - Shekinah (Judaism)
       - godseed / entelechy (Houston)
       - experiential focusing (Gendlin)

- T2: archetypal powers and presences

       - mediation of powers by presences ( communion with sublime superpersons / transcendental intersubjectivity)
       - forms (Plato)
       - powers (Philo)
       - mundus imaginalis

- I2: subtle energies within nature

       - kundalini, chi, prana, mana, 
       - bio-energy

- T1: universal consciousness

       - the sustaining 'mind' of creation
       - cosmic store consciousness (alaya, vijnana, Tibet)

- I1: grounding in spatial-temporal presence

       - deeper embodiment

The proposed methodology

Heron's proposed methodology combines pairs of immanent and transcendent practice, in order to remain balanced; the more we go transcendent, the more we need to compensate it with a grounded immanent practice.

So this is the proposed journey:

   - Immediate present experience + grounding in space time
   - Turning about to universal consciousness + evocation of subtle energies within nature
   - Invocation of powers and presences + opening impulses to immanent spirit
   - Opening to the Transcendent Thou + experience of the Void
   - Boundless ineffability beyond all name and form

Part Two

In part two of the book, which I skipped, Heron discusses the methodology of cooperative inquiry in detail

Part Three

In part three, he presents a total view of the world

- I. The ONTOLOGICAL question, on the nature of reality

       - "we live in a participative subjective-objective reality, where mind is active, but also in a intersubjective field, not only of language, but also of nature

- II. The EPISTEMOLOGICAL question, how can we know

       - 1) experientially, through direct encounter and participatory resonance
       - 2) presentational knowing, gives "creative" form (image, vocal, verbal, etc.. ) to our intuitive grasping of reality
       - 3) propositional knowing in concept
       - 4) practical knowing of how to do something, expressed in action


   - All participants are both subjects and researchers, and use a method that reinforces critical subjectivity and critical intersubjectivity

- IV. The AXIOLOGICAL question: what kind of knowledge is valuable

   - .. that which contributes to human flourishing
   - the participatory paradigm answers the value question in terms of human flourishing as an end in itself. 

Hierarchy, Cooperation, and Autonomy

Such flowering is constructed as an enabling balance, within and between, people of

       - 1) hierarchy, deciding for others
       - 2) cooperation, deciding with others
       - 3) autonomy, deciding for oneself

- HIERARCHY provides appropriate direction by those with greater vision, skill, and experience; it is authentic when it seeks the developmental emergence of autonomy and cooperation in those that are being directed. It's shadow is AUTHORITARIANISM

- COOPERATION roots the individual within a community of peers, offering basic support and the creative and corrective feedback of other views and possibilities. Its shadow is PEER PRESSURE and conformity.

- AUTONOMY expresses the creative, self-creating, and self-transfiguring potential of the person. It's shadow is NARCISSISM, willfullness and isolation.

Perception and Being

Consciousness in humans is inseparable from perceptual imaging, which is inseparable from perceptual imaging, which is inseparable from primary imagining, and all three are inseparable from the world as thus imaged and imagined.

Perceiving is inseparable from imagining. Why ? Because to see one side of the mountain implies somewhat imagining that there is another side.

My consciousness thus:

   - 1) participates explicitly in the perceptual world
   - 2) penumbrally in the world, just beyond reach and
   - 3) subliminally / tacitly in the entirety of what is beyond.

Thus being is always present in my attention: it is present because there is no gap between me, my attention and any object in it

The subject, the I who attends to things, just because it is part of a seamless subject-attention-object whooe, is continuous with the "I Am" that is the seamless whole.

The participatory universe

- "In a participatory universe, there are five basic forms of influence

   - each and every entity, being relatively autonomous, will have self-organizing influence on itself
   - corresponding entities on the same level of being will have significant influence on each other
   - wholes we have a down-hierarchical on their parts
   - parts will have a up-hierarchical influence on their containing wholes
   - each and every entity, being potentially co-creative, can have transformative impact on the four prior forms"

More information

Order Sacred Science from: PCCS Books, Llangarron, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 6PT, UK. Tel: +44 1989 77 07 07. Fax: +44 1989 77 07 00. Email: [email protected] Cost: £18 per book. Buy online at [2] Also available online from Amazon