An Appreciation of Arthur M. Young

by Jeffrey Mishlove

Arthur Young has been my friend and mentor for the past twenty-two years. He died on May 30, 1995. I had the opportunity to share some of my thoughts about Arthur on the Internet recently, and received the following response back from another of my mentors, Jean Houston, with which I would like to begin my remarks. Jean wrote:

"Arthur Young was one of those people about whom one could say that we are proud to have been with on the planet at the same time. The depth and breadth of his thought, the immense reach of his heart and compassion belongs in the annals of the great and the good. I for one was always astonished at how freely he gave of himself, his ideas and his substance. I know of many, many instances when he supported peoples' work, training, schooling, or just getting into place in the world. I would hope that in the not too distant future someone would write the true biography of this extraordinary soul -- a modern day Pythagoras, who now joins his classical friend in archetypal realms, there to co-create the next pattern of possibility."

Arthur was born in 1905. As a college student at Princeton University, he studied the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and Einstein's new Theory of Relativity. Upon graduating, Arthur was intent upon making a contribution to the field of philosophy. However, he felt that philosophers were a dime a dozen and that philosophy itself had failed to anticipate the scientific and technological changes that were already making their impact on the twentieth century.

In order to prove himself worthy of making a real contribution to philosophy, Arthur felt that it was incumbent upon himself to demonstrate mastery in some field of technology. To do this, in about 1927 he visited the patent office in Washington, DC, to survey the great challenges of his day. He settled upon the problem of the helicopter. Originally conceived of by Leonardo di Vinci, no one had been able to develop a machine that could both fly and remain stationary in mid air. Over 200 different efforts had been underway to meet this goal -- and Arthur Young joined their ranks. He worked alone, in his barn in Paoli, New York, building small models. The first twelve years of this effort were spent on a design that eventually had to be abandoned. But, by 1942 he had achieved a breakthrough in the design of the stabilizer bar. He sold his ideas to Bell Aircraft, and in 1947, Arthur Young's Bell Model 47 was the first helicopter to receive a commercial aircraft license in the U.S. It was a classic design that remained in production into the 1960s with its bubble cockpit and skids instead of wheels.

Finally, Arthur Young had proven himself worthy and was able to return to his original love -- philosophy. As the first atomic bomb had recently been exploded he knew that, more than ever, the world needed a new philosophical vision.

Arthur's ambition was to uncover the deep process underlying all of human experience from science to mythology. He succeeded in this quest and published his discoveries in such books as The Reflexive Universe and The Geometry of Meaning. Building his work on the perennial philosophies of all cultures, his investigations (like those of Madame Blavatsky or Manly Hall) delved deeply into esoteric subjects such as astrology, alchemy, radionics, parapsychology and mysticism. His unique contribution was to uncover the essential links between these systems of thought and virtually all of modern science -- mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, botany and psychology. The range of his thought was nothing less than astounding. The penetrating depth of his mind, I suspect, will take us humans centuries to fully appreciate.

As a student in 1973, when I first created my interdisciplinary doctoral program in "parapsychology" at the University of California, Berkeley, Arthur and Ruth Young invited me to live with them in their newly established Institute for the Study of Consciousness. I do not think I can begin to convey in words what their support and encouragement has meant to me over the years.

In the many conversations that I had with Arthur, I learned that his mind knew few limitations. No intellectual challenge intimidated him. We would discuss his interactions with the great minds of humanity as if they were in the room with us. Einstein, Arthur believed, had erred in not adequately appreciating the arrow of time. Jungian psychology did not go far enough in its appreciation of the uncanny power of astrology. Arthur greatly admired Francis Bacon. He considered him to be the author of Shakespeare's plays -- and one of the great hidden masters of humanity. Arthur loved to talk about Bacon's emphasis on Cupid as the most interesting of the gods. But he did not hesitate to critique Bacon for failing to establish the proper foundation for western science. This was, actually, Arthur's biggest bugaboo. Science was not adequately grounded in an appreciation of the first principles of philosophy. Bacon had set western science on a course that had no apparent need for or consideration of purpose.

In exploring the question of first principles, our conversations would range into the ancient philosophers. I enjoyed studying and quoting Plato with Arthur. But, he cautioned me that even the great Plato was a Johnny-Come-Lately. The Greeks admired Pythagoras as the first philosopher. Indeed, Arthur's work was solidly Pythagorean in nature. He found that the principles uniting science and myth were indeed based upon number and upon geometry. However, from his point of view, philosophy began its long degeneration with Pythagoras.

Arthur was also a student of eastern mysticism and yoga. He especially appreciated the works of Sri Aurobindo. And he actually sponsored an American visit by the great Japanese scholar of Zen Buddhism, D. T. Suzuki. However, he argued that the American followers of eastern mystics were wrong in attempting to sacrifice their egos on the alter of samadhi or nirvana. First, he maintained, one must cultivate an ego capable of mastering the laws of the physical universe. Only then is it worthy of being sacrificed in the name of enlightenment.

Arthur was a master of astrology, and he enjoyed demonstrating its value with reference to my own chart. He did so in the most uncanny ways. I remember the day, in February 1980, when my doctoral dissertation in parapsychology had been approved. I went immediately to visit Arthur to share the news with him. He picked up his ephemeris to study my chart and made a pronouncement that shocked me: It took me six years to get my doctoral degree, he said. But it would take me another six years to undo the damage that the university had done to me. Little did I then imagine the painful journey that was in store for me. But, in February 1986, my life began a new chapter -- and shortly thereafter, Arthur Bloch and I commenced producing the Thinking Allowed television series. (Of course, we benefitted in many ways from the support of Arthur and Ruth Young, and I was privileged to interview him many times for our national public television series.)

Arthur even went so far as to make a study of the unique synchronicities that have shaped my life and led me to pursue a career in the field of psychic and intuitive experiences. He managed to discover that when major synchronicities occurred, the transiting planets were always forming an exact conjunction with exact the Mars-Uranus opposition that exists in my natal chart. This opposition relates to the "Arabian part of coincidence", an obscure astrological parameter that Arthur found was also very active in his own chart.

I have no explanation for this undeniable astrological pattern in my life, but Arthur delighted in rooting out such precise examples as this that defied explanation from any conventional world view. He understood that his own theories offered a totally new paradigm within which the interpenetrating realms of mythos and logos could be understood.

But, he did not stop there. To the very end of his long and productive life he was challenging himself. He liked nothing better than to encounter a thoughtful critique of his work. He actively sought out, for example, the most extreme literature in the UFO field. He wanted to read accounts from contactees and from aliens of the science and cosmology of extraterrestrial civilizations. He hoped that he might be able to expand and refine his own theories based on this information. I know of no one more informed than Arthur of this very exotic area.

When I talk about Arthur, I sometimes describe him as one of the great creative geniuses of the twentieth century. I thought that his invention of the helicopter qualified him for this distinction. I realize now that, like many of my contemporaries, I failed to appreciate the full significance of his work.

Not only did his mind grasp the progress of the human spirit over many millennia, but his philosophy and cosmology were, essentially, a culmination of that progress. Those of you who understand Arthur's theory know that the "turning point" is an important concept for him. It represents the point in evolution at which the descent of spirit into matter is complete, and the ascent of matter back to the realm of spirit begins. A turning point like this, according to Arthur, exists within every kingdom of nature. But, there is a sense in which Arthur's theory itself represents a turning point in the whole history of humanity. It represents the first rigorous integration in human history of a mature spiritual understanding and a mature science.

I suspect that it is the very enormity of Arthur Young's contribution that has made his work difficult at times for even his closest friends and associates to comprehend and communicate.

But, I can say one thing with the greatest confidence. Whatever difficulties we may have had in following the range and depth, the brilliance and humor of Arthur's mind -- none of us had any doubts regarding his enormous vitality, love and compassion.

I'll never forget the magical moment one evening when Arthur, in a mood of great intensity, explained to me his understanding of the "Virgin Birth" in Christianity and in other mythological traditions. Christ could only have been born from a virgin he said, because it is incumbent upon each of us to give birth to the highest and best within ourselves. This, more than anything else, he told me was the meaning of his work. As he looked intently into my eyes that evening, I saw him as the midwife of my own soul. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Return to Intuition Network Home Page