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Lucy

LUCY

Divine Love is not the Law. It is the manipulator of the Law.  It is Pure Reason, that which Is. Divine Love is not the Law. It is the manipulator of the Law. It is Pure Reason, that which Is. 

— Lucille Cedarcrans, Nature of the Soul

I had read that the distinguished Tibetan Buddhist monk, Lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche visiting the U.S. and trying to establish ashrams insisted on calling Lucille “Lucy” — a name that she’d always hated, though one doubts the she said a thing about it. From what I read about her, she had taken a pretty ordinary (dependent) position toward “distinguished” persons, though in general she had little good to say about authority — even her own. People found her charismatic, though her separation and isolation, stemming in part from a miserable childhood with abusive parents, and her getting knocked around and up by about four or five husbands, having kids by each of them, probably left her pretty fried. I’m sort of a child of the early 1960’s Humanistic revolution, so had been enthralled with figures like Robert Alpert, the Harvard prof. Who reinvented himself as Baba Ram Dass. And here was another branch of the revolution as I sunk into the story, though her name was ringing a distant bell. 

An acolyte had taken on the challenge, after Lucille’s passing in a burst of light visible to her crowd, of telling the story of this remarkable woman. Lucille hadn’t been much of a mother by some accounts, though Debbie, her last, became an acolyte and was part of what should be described as a “cult”.  That distant bell reverberated more quietly. The cultural revolution of the early 1960s had been kicked off by commitments to love and authenticity, though descent into mayhem wasn’t far behind. The students of Lucille’s meditation centers were financial supporters over many years, deeply devoted to her, caring for her, and apparently often emotionally dependent. At key points in her life, having difficulty maintaining commitments, she up and abandoned her flocks. She was capable of nimble shifts that often left mouths open. Hitting periods of massive doubt, it was like her to shut down and move on. Lucille the housewife had married a preacher of “Science of Mind” — a rather unadorned brand of Christianity with a minimal focus on trappings and strong doses of optimism. She got swept up in “Age of Aquarius” meditation, wrote a self-help book about the Soul, and ultimately earned the reputation of a “master”. She gathered acolytes in learning communities around herself and pumped out numerous books on “Loving Kindness”, claiming them to have been written through her person by centuries old founders of Tibetan Buddhism. The story as told by her flock was not unlike the tales of Joseph Smith, who had apparently found himself the voice of Moroni, a mythical fourth century American. Similarly, Lucille had given herself over to psychography in order to voice insights from the first revealers of the hidden secrets of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Presenting “ancient wisdom” in her own thought forms, Lucille was considered an original in the field of esoteric theosophy. She was considered, even by Tibetan monks surrounding the Dalai Lama a Western voice capable of synthesizing East and West, and invited, ultimately to leadership in the 1970s of the Tibetan Nyingma Institute in Berkeley though even in that her unique synthesis, as in “Bridge to Maitreya” stand alone. Many terms were used to describe her hybrid mysticism, including ecumenical gnostic theism. 

Though she had no formal training in Buddhism, she would become Spiritual Director of Udiyan Maitreya Kosha, an ashram (“Rainbow Buddha”) devoted to yoga and meditation training ’created’ by “His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche”.  In this work she believed that she was bringing to the present day the unique perspectives of Padmasambhava, a Master of Tibet in the mid to late eighth century.  She was particularly known for her focus on the future Buddha — our “next World” of synthesis, when Loving Kindness moves into manifestation and corrects all life expressions. By the middle 1970s though, Lucille entered a period of grave doubts about principles she’d found “spoken through her”. She gave up her spiritual path and returned to guiding others along their own meditative paths at the Rocky Mountain Meditation Center in Boulder. 

I was haunted by very strange feelings as I read and tried to untangle the story of this woman’s life. I somehow knew the story, and yet the story wasn’t right. The pattern and shapes were there, and yet the facts coloring the structure were so wrong. I knew a Lucille way back in that period, and by God she had a daughter by the name of Debbie. Lucille had been a colleague at the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, though her automatic writing had been a book on self-guided psychoanalysis. My Lucille too had had multiple husbands and kids to half raise with little enthusiasm. She’d needed therapy that she couldn’t afford, so had read deeply and invented a method that she outlined in a book. She’d written the book because she’d entered periods of deep doubt and anxiety following her methods, and she wanted to be in a position to drop the book on the desk of a prominent psychologist at a state university who would be obligated to have open public office hours. She didn’t want to proceed with her therapy if her methods couldn’t be validated. 

So why were these stories so radically different and yet so essentially similar? Where lie the pack of lies, and who had Lucille been? We’d been terrific partners in training, Lucille and I handling crowds of hundreds of people openly dealing with issues of racism. Everything we did was spontaneous and unrehearsed, and she was so full of wisdom and cleverness with her honest passion. So where was the pack of lies? Was he a Buddhist or a Freudian thinker? Was her book about meditation for her acolytes’, or was it a stab at impressing an established psychologist? The reality, as I discovered it after research in many directions, suggested that her status and position at the time when I knew her, and her pathway there, involved a number of lies and arrangements which themselves were surprising and disappointing. In the end, I had to conclude that these elements of disguise were largely an extension of common collusions of the day by which more than a few professors found and exploited bright and capable though not formally qualified women to do their work without recognition.  Lucille, in a period of flight from her flock had contrived an identity that worked for a while. 

It was about 1965. I’d graduated from Yale an engineer and went to Michigan thinking to become a psychologist who might have an impact on quality of work life for people. I’d spent my first year settling in, swamped by demanding classes, and working as a research assistant at the Institute for Social Research — then the largest social science research organization in the country. It was headed by a chap named Rensis Likert, a key person in the field of organizational behavior. Likert had headed the Federal Bureau of Statistics and was widely respected as a statistician and developer of statistical methods. The primary survey scale used in social and political research today bears his name — the “Likert 5-point scale”. Ren took special interest in organizational projects featuring change in leadership styles, which was my core interest. Rensis had invented the term “participative management. While there were few American corporations interested in his theories and work, when he’d go to Japan, ticker tape parades were held for him. How I remember him wandering through my workshops, sitting in, speaking with visitors on training programs, and then calling my house at night and bragging to Sally, my wife, about what a wonderful job I was doing.

University of Michigan in the Social Sciences in the 1950s and 1960s was about the best in the country in many areas, and in particular in the fields of Social Psychology. The Institute for Social Research led by Rensis Likert had perhaps one hundred staff members and was a large producer of research revenue for the University, and thus granted a fair amount of autonomy in it’s operation. It contained and continued to recruit some of the most prominent researchers in the social Sciences. Kurt Lewin had been brought from MIT, and was widely thought a top social scientists his day. Old Doc Cartwright and Alvin Zander, founders of the field of “group dynamics” were still around. And then there was Ronald Lippitt, a profoundly important person in the fields of Sociology and Psychology. He’d been the author of our earliest research comparing democratic and autocratic leadership. Through the war he focused on research on changing attitudes, and the use of groups to do so in things like changing people’s food habits.  By the 1960s, Lippitt was taking about “change agents” and pioneering the area of “planned change”. His research was eminently practical and impactful. He had no difficulty securing funding from corporate or governmental agencies. Lippitt was among the most prominent psychologists in the country, a distinguished establishment type of impeccable credentials fitting the WASPish style of the day. At the time Lippitt had just married a second wife who had pioneered educational research in cross-age helping programs and innovative programs in teacher education. The Lippitts were juggling dozens of research grants and action programs, and had drawn around them a number of staff to do the actual work. Lucille was part of that Lippitt coterie, sometimes standing in and conducting teaching responsibilities, sometimes writing grant proposals or staffing change projects. Though she didn’t have the educational qualifications to be a member of the Institute, Lucille was playing a central role in all of the Lippitt projects. It seems never to have been known among Michiganders that Lucille had been the long established ‘guru’ of Peggy Lippitt prior to her marriage to Ronald. 

At the Institute for Social Research, my focus had been primarily on leadership training, survey feedback, and organizational development. Leadership in my part of the Institute forged an alliance with Lippitt programs to create a “third division” of the Institute that consisted of about 20 social scientists and staff fielding interventions in businesses and school systems. My experience with surveys could be deployed in educational leadership programs, and my skills at group facilitation garnered at Yale qualified me for involvement in Lippitt programs in change agentry so that it was natural to be working around and sometimes with Lucille. 

It’s hard to assess what I should learn from all of this. So much of what I now think has come as a surprise. I started a memory quest with thoughts of a proud and independent woman who I had liked, and who I’d worked with well. I’d enjoyed her collaboration and support and had never dug into her “story” which seemed a bit weird even at the time. I’d never have guessed Ron, and perhaps Peggy Lippitt nor Rensis Likert had been involved in helping Lucille take on a new identity in her years as a staff member of the Institute for Social Research. I’d never have guessed Peggy Lippitt to have been on a non-traditional spiritual path.  I wind up quite agnostic as to Lucille’s beliefs. She was obviously a practiced meditator — something I never achieved, though I too had paid to be audience for a Maharishi yogi who administered a private “never in your life to be disclosed” bi-syllabic mantra whose chaining never worked very well.

I’m not really uncomfortable with notion that inside each of us are quiet places worth visiting, which may themselves participate in something more universal. I wouldn’t consider it “God”, but it seems good, and it’s comforting. I know hope and thankfulness, but wasn’t raised to fearfulness, for fear finds little home in me.  I can tolerate quite a bit of ambiguity and don’t rush to closure about sky-gods. I don’t stretch toward a belief that matter transmutes to energy or spirit, or that the forces of life bear anthropomorphizing. I could never imagine that concepts formed in my half-asleep brain came elsewhere than from some minor chemical burst better located in a synapse than considered a truth of the cosmos. I know that perception and projection are confusing things, but I’m not like the Native American who believes that the conscious state is a dream, and that the dream world is the reality.

As I imagine it, people who strive to organize thoughts bereft of ego and outside the realms of reason are likely to have problems confirming their own beliefs. It’s not surprising in a way, that a wonderful woman building idea upon idea in such directions might wind up a little lost and uncertain. That she would return to roles that made her compelling to others doesn’t surprise, though I too know something of the agony of having others “too dependent” on them. In matters of belief, Lucille seems to have been impeccable in not forcing her system on others. Much in the tradition of her unacknowledged “Science of Mind” origins she refused to copyright her works, considering her words not her own, but those of and for the universe. She insisted religiously in my experience, that others around her empower themselves and think for themselves, though her living at their graces seems to have been quite a different matter. She liked people doing things for her and could be emotionally manipulative. She had lived with fear of deceiving herself, and I suspect in the end in some ways she had. Her second book, entitled “Corrective Thinking” (later described by the more favorable expression “Creative Thinking”) had been about dealing with ‘resistance’ — the war against self launched by an ego which demands that it retain control of Self. I suspect that it was that “ego” — largely inseparable for us humans  — that got in her way. What a tragedy, it seems to me, that a life of fighting against the evils of alienation and lack of love of the young one through positive commitments kept throwing up screens for which she lacked the awareness to cope. What contradictory and paradoxical things we are;-)

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