Heard, Gerald (1889-1971)
Heard, Gerald (1889-1971)
Gerald Heard, a mystic, counterculture theoretician, and pioneer in consciousness studies, was born Henry Fitzgerald Heard in London. As a youth he decided to become a priest in the Church of England and to that end entered Cambridge University. However, during his college years he discovered that he was no longer a Christian. He dropped out and moved to Ireland to work with the Irish Agricultural Cooperative community. While there he came into contact with the Irish theosophists A. E. Russell and magician/poet William Butler Yeats. When he returned to London several years later he became active in the Society for Psychical Research and acquainted with Julius and Aldous Huxley. Through Aldous Huxley, he met Swami Prabhavananda, a swami of the Vedanta Society, and became his disciple. In 1937 he moved to New York and then on to California where the Swami lived.
In Los Angeles, Heard opened Trabuco College, an experimental school built around a curriculum in comparative religion and emphasizing spiritual practice. The experiment failed. Through the 1950s he explored a variety of subjects on the cultural fringe. He wrote one of the first books on the new phenomenon of flying saucers and explored his own homosexuality as a member of the Mattachine Society. He speculated on what he considered the unique spiritual and cultural reality of gayness and developed the concept of the "isophyl," an individual who was biologically, psychologically, and spiritually distinct from the majority, and explored the unique social life that would be suitable for them, eventually suggesting some form of communal life. While initially developing the concept to explain his own gay orientation, he later expanded it to include others.
In the 1950s, along with his friend Aldous Huxley, Heard also became one of the first to explore the spiritual potentials of LSD and for many years served as a spiritual guide to people who began experimenting with it. He introduced LSD to psychiatrist Oscar Janiger, who pioneered LSD research in the United States and introduced the drug into the Hollywood community. Heard was instrumental in introducing LSD to a number of intellectuals including philosopher William Ernest Hocking and Jesuit scholar John Courtney Murray. He believed that the LSD experience heralded a new revolution in consciousness that was coming to save the West from its dead mechanistic culture.
Heard came to believe that consciousness interacted with reality to create our map of reality. LSD was a means of making us conscious of that process and then reconstructing the map (or maps) we used to put together our worldview, an idea later championed by Timothy Leary. Heard also came to identify the Greek god Pan as the symbol of the new world of consciousness into which humanity was entering.
Heard left behind a vast literature exploring his many interests. Many who have encountered his work on a single subject are quite unaware of the vast spectrum of his contributions.
Heard, Gerald. Is Another World Watching: The Riddle of the Flying Saucers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951.
——. Mysticism for the Millions. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965.
——. The Recollection. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University/J. L. Riddle, 1944.
——. Third Morality. London: Cassell & Co., 1937.
——. Training for a Life of Growth. San Jacinto, Calif.: Wayfarer Press, 1959.
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