The world within, the world without

For the first time I remembered in my life, I had no access to TV. There was no daily paper. At times I’d walk back to the bus for lunch and hang my transistor radio from the ceiling to listen to the mixed format station in Nashville. Occasionally I’d hear the news on the half-hour, but there was little interest in talking about it – especially since we hadn’t officially decided that radios were cool.

All of our attention was on building the community socially, spiritually and physically. We’d become industrious rather than intellectual. Stephen warned us to not fall into the trap of being “conceptual,” but to focus on being real and in the moment. For those of us with liberal arts degrees, our educations had gone for naught. It was time to learn how to put our bodies to work and how to collaborate with our neighbors without ego.

Unfortunately, for me, the idea of the ego was conceptual. But that’s what friends were for – to let me know all about my ego and its ways. And as I learned about these flaws that, for 21 years, I’d managed to hide or at least escape awareness of, I began to practice noticing other people’s ego trips. This forced me to realize how many people I’d known, mostly through school, whose egos took great liberties with others. In fact, some of the most popular people in school had been chock full of ego – that’s what made their personalities stand out.

And as I’ve said before, the Farm’s founding members were far from a bland, homogenous bunch of subdued personalities. There were many characters, including some whose personalities had become notorious in the Haight Ashbury years before they arrived on the Farm. Some of them – sadly, I thought – came with the baggage of being well-known trippers. They knew it and, once word got around to those of us who’d never been part of the San Francisco scene, we knew it, too. My father always taught me to judge people only by my interactions with them, so I tried not to reflect back on these folks the expectations that others had taught me. And yet, I could see why they were regarded differently.

But I was also prone to seeing the telltales of ego in people who were otherwise regarded as cool. Even Stephen’s personality stood out, for me, as somewhat affected. Not always, but in certain settings.

In the first years, one room in the House became known as the place where Stephen would hang out and talk with folks. Being part of the Gate crew, I would sometimes need to enter the House for one reason or another, and if I didn’t need to return immediately to Gate duty, I’d stick my head in the room where Stephen and a dozen or so people were sitting on chairs, pillows and the bare floor. There were even a few times when I’d take a seat myself.

Stephen sat in a corner on a stuffed chair. At his feet would usually be a couple of women – married and/or single – one on each side, often leaning up against his legs. Joints were being passed and, while some people like myself seemed to be there just to be part of the scene, others would be there for a purpose, seeking Stephen’s wisdom and feedback. Sometimes it was clear that a person had been summoned to appear before Stephen and receive a teaching – for a transgression, for an attitude, for ego-tripping. He’d be stern, then would end with a joke and the whole room would laugh.

It seemed so exotic to me, like a tableau from a Renaissance painting, and combined with the stoney atmosphere my visits would leave me with a sense of having witnessed magic. And yet I would find myself not wanting to be the recipient of those teachings in such a setting. And I would find myself feeling uncomfortable with Stephen’s almost royal style – as if he was sitting on a throne, surrounded by courtiers. There must have been something wrong with me to think that way about my teacher.

I was much more at ease simply working and getting shit done than I was when plumbing the depths of people’s psyches. I could accept that I had problems about which I was blind, but I was trying hard to be a good person and I didn’t know how much room I could possibly have for improvement. Could I become enlightened? If so, what would that mean? What would I do? Would I still dig ditches and bury pipes?

The Gate exposed me to people who didn’t have such issues on their minds. Generally, we’d deal with three kinds of visitors:

  • Pilgrims were spiritual seekers who’d heard about the Farm as an ashram for Stephen or at least as a spiritual community. They came to investigate the possibility that this was where they were destined to be. Some of them would end up joining us – once we opened ourselves to new members – and some soon learned that we did not fit their needs or styles. Our lifestyle was a hard yoga if you were used to comfort and day-long contemplation.
  • Locals were people from the region who’d heard about us as a curiosity or phenomenon and just had to see it for themselves. They mostly had southern accents, and represented a spectrum of people from farmers to merchants and white collar folks. Some were suspicious and fearlful while others seemed excited by the fresh new variety that we’d introduced into their culture.
  • The third type of visitor I used to call Rascals. These were a mix of locals and pilgrims, intent on testing us at both the verbal and physical levels. They’d open with friendly questions, but you could feel the underlying mistrust and hostility. Soon they’d be challenging or even threatening on the subtle plane.  Perhaps our most important duty in keeping the Gate was to not let these people in.

Being smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, we understood that we might be seen as a threat to religious morality – a settlement by the Devil himself, delivered to test local pastors and congregations. The Sandy Hook Church of Christ, which we would pass whenever driving to and from Columbia, had sent its members to our Gate repeatedly to feel us out as potential converts. What a trophy we would have been for them, if they could just bring us to Jesus!

We realized that we needed to co-exist with these close-by neighbors, and we did honor Jesus as one of the true avatars who’d taught the truth to the masses. So we invited them to visit us as a congregation on Sunday mornings. For several weeks, after we’d meditated in the horse barn (accompanied by the natural sounds that large draft horses tended to make), the Christians would arrive – sometimes dozens of them – with their pastor. Then would ensue some of the sweetest liturgical debating you could imagine.

Why wouldn’t we accept Jesus as our only god and savior? Well, we did, except that Jesus was also the Buddha and the many other spiritual saviors who had appeared through human history. The discussions were deep and interesting and hilarious. No one was converted either way, but we proved ourselves to not be threatening or scary to these neighbors. Weird, incomprehensible, kooky maybe. But not the Devil.

I could better relate to other groups as a member of my new group than I could to my group as an ego-plagued individual. I felt at ease representing the Farm group to visitors. But not all visitors could be converted to trusting us. One morning I arrived for Gate duty to find that the Gate house had been set on fire and burned.



  1. Don James said,

    February 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Bravo, Cliff. I was definitely one of those pilgrims. Stephen had changed my life forever just with his books. I knew I was a different person and part of the reason I came to the Farm was to meet this person who could open me up with words and have that experience of being near him. But the big reason I came was I wanted them to fix my girlfriend who lied and cheated without any remorse. And, even tho I stayed less than a year and left without her, I think they did fix her, gave her some integrity. I ran into her briefly 3 years after I left and I could feel an energy in her 3rd eye that wasn’t there before. Her energy wasn’t all locked up in her sex and attitude like it had been before. She had blossomed, even at the young age of 22 the last time I saw her. Unlike yourself, I had not been successful in mastering concepts and could barely follow most people’s ordinary conversations. Now I understand why, but back then I was all about feeling and not about understanding at all. Which as a seeker is very valuable, but you don’t think so until you meet someone who’s not about concepts anymore. I’d love to hear about the “hot seat” that happened in most households. Go Obama.

  2. Karen said,

    February 25, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Good to hear from you, again, Cliff. I’ve been awaiting the next post. I was a pilgrim, also. All I had was the books, Stephen’s teachings and the Spiritual Midwifery. I was fascinated. It seemed what I wanted for a community and a spiritual teaching — more down to earth than lots of Eastern religions, I thought. I didn’t grow up with much ego, although the methods were harsh. I made a long weekend visit (’79), riding the Greyhound bus down from MT, but since I had left my dog there, I went back to her. I’m curious about the “hot seat” also, and I have always wondered what Stephen would have said about my lack of confidence. I’ve always wondered about that concept of people being healed by just being on The Farm, surrounded by straight dealing kind folks (no Hidden agendas). Is that the way it was? Also, I’m curious about all the projects that got started after The Farm had got its basics down and then were abandoned by the time I got there, like the library bus and a pottery studio. Were they seen as ego projects? And whatever happened to the drive-in that served some cokes & fries to some folks after a birth or stillbirth (mentioned in Amazing Birth Tales)? I think it was the abandoned building the Greyhound bus dropped me off at. I saw the biggest spider of my life sitting in a web right there. (Right, Don James, Go Obama!)

    • Karen said,

      November 23, 2010 at 8:51 am

      I’ve changed my mind about Obama — go away, Obama, now! He seems pretty anti-environmental to me.

  3. cfigallo said,

    February 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Hi, Don and Karen. I don’t recall using the term “hot seat” but just about everyone got a chance to be in that place if they were on the Farm long enough to reveal themselves. I didn’t relish it, but we read a Zen tale about a monk finding realization by having the gate slammed on him, breaking his arm. So one had to put things into perspective and weigh what was most important. One always hoped that the people who were up in your business were there for your good, not to release their own frustrations and issues.

    I think most of us just liked being part of something larger then ourselves – being accepted and being on a noble mission. Whether people were healed or not depends on what needed healing and what you mean by “healing.” I’m sure most of us still find plenty of stuff in our lives that need healing. It’s a lifelong process, not “once healed, always healed” thing.

    I was anything but a fully realized being when I lived there and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t admit to having hangups while living there.

  4. Judith said,

    February 26, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    hey Karen et al.. the father of the baby who died that you mentioned…the story from SOiritual Midwifery …posts here sometimes – martin. he may check in again soon; he was offline for a little while at the end of 2008 because of some health problems, bt he;s back to posting his blog and being involved in promoting sustainable living in many avenues around Nashville TN…and internationally. if you go back over the comments in the various blog entries here, you will see some of his thoughts and memories. I inherited a bunch of my late aunt;s correspondence and picked up a truckload of boxes of it from the library at UC Santa Cruz last December, and it included some letters between Martin and my aunt Elizabeth from when Martin lived on the Farm just before baby Eileen was born. I’m going to photocopy some of the lettetrs where I know the other correspondent and get those letters back into their hands. it’s interesting and valuable, though often uncomfortable and even startling, to look at how we expressed ourselves in writing in a past that seems more misted over daily.

    as for being “fully realized” whatever that is : there is also a saying throughout Busshism that “even Shakyamuni Buddha is only halfway there.” my own take is that Stephen got hsi comeuppance about that pretty seriously. on the other hand I must say he had some of the best teachings abut it around such as :you;re supposed to laugh when you slip on the banana peel, and not when the other guys does.”

    which kind of fits with what Cliff says here about “healing” not being a “one shot and you got it” affair. the Japanese tell us we have been mistaken about the “sudden” vs. the :”Gradual” schools of enlightenment, and “sudden” referred to getting it in this lifetime, not over hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. in other words, it wasn’t supposed to be a huge flash of light or something that totally dissolved the ego for the remainder of one’s present life on the spot.

    from some of Stephen’s writings and talks, my own impression is that he laid off with some of the “anger? who me, get angry, naw, I’m enlightened!” as his own boys matured and started to get into all kinds of ordinary but annoying kid behavior. (his eldest were girls, not that I’m trying to be sexist or stereotypic about gender behavior in children here. I’m just noting my observations without implying causality necessarily.)

    there are some test and contradictions inherent in being Up in Someone (Else’s) Stuff “for their own good.” my sense is that it was at least mutual on the Farm for the most part, with few people really dishing out what they weren’t wiling to take. it;s still a strong and often testy medicine.

    more later.

    I;ve given this a LOT of thought over the years. i think experience taught many of us, on and off the Farm, that “ego” (whatever that means) or anger or attachment or a host of other inner conditions are not so easuily banished with a simple “spit-spot!” like Mary Poppins.

  5. Karen said,

    February 27, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Thanks, Judith. I remember Martin and Bonnie’s story now and looked it up (its easier to find stuff in Spiritual Midwifery if you know the baby’s name or remember their faces).
    I guess what I meant by “healing” was from being abused as a child, or like Bonnie and Martin’s story of losing a baby. I remember one story in Spiritual Midwifery about another baby lost and the parents saying how the Teachings really helped them through it. Perhaps it was more than the Teachings — having a supportive community and friends must haved helped.

    • June 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm

      it’s a minor point, but the place we got the coke and fries was across from the Columbia hospital, not on the Farm….the pottery was abandoned because the guy who was manifesting it left….as to why he left, those who remained would have said “ego,” while he, i am sure, was dissatisfied with the way the place was being run–and since it cracked up a few years later, he probably had a point, altho i never discussed the matter with him….this all goes back to Gerald’s point about Stephen not being fully realized (i think i can characterize his words in that way), which resulted in a community that was not as smart as we thought we were, which resulted in bad decisions, and so on…..

      • Judith said,

        June 29, 2009 at 12:08 am

        martin, so good to hear you here again. I hope you;ve made a wonderful recovery from the health roblenms that plagued you last year.

        I’m rtehr tired and have had a stressful day, so will sign off ehre shortly rather than trying to say anything profound.

        they say Shakyamuni Buddha is still practicing…that’s about all I can contribute jsut now.

        I;ll try to get copies of some of your correspondence from the Farm to my aunt out to you soon. I have a busy week but might have a little time and space toward the end of it.


      • Karen said,

        July 3, 2009 at 8:52 am

        Thanks, Brother Martin. When I visited the Farm in 1979 or so, I got off the Greyhound bus at an abandoned “fast food” place that the driver said was property of the Farm. There was a sign indicating that soy burgers or something had been sold there. It was in the middle of the woods with no other buildings around. Somehow, I got to the Gate … I think a Farm truck came by happen-chance and I thumbed a ride. So long ago … my memory is a bit fuzzy on that.

  6. Karen said,

    February 27, 2009 at 1:30 am

    To Judith and all, You had mentioned in the comments for the “We are Here” section about what Stephen had said about if everyone just acted “impeccably” with someone who was disturbed, then they would be healed by the energy and find their free will and come around . I’ve been trying to find that passage in the Teachings. Thats the thing I was wondering about. Did it work for people who weren’t diagnosed with a serious disorder like manic-depression or schizophrenia? Maybe just depression or shyness? or lack of confidence? How bad was the Up in your Thing?

  7. Judith said,

    February 27, 2009 at 3:17 am

    I think the remark about ‘ ‘acting impeccably” was in Volume One, which is transcripts of Sunday Services on the Farm after Stephen’s return from the penitentiary. it came out in ’78 or so. insoe of his most recent writings, lke his revisions of monday ight Class and The caravan, Stephen comments that he, too has learned that there are some kinds of craazines that are based on deep biochemical and/or life trauma events, but that interacting cleanly with people with those problems helps them too. again, there;s a type of humility that, we hope, comes with age and experience.

    Louise on the Farm wrote very touchingly about healing from the trauma of giving up a baby for adoption when she was 17, and (through?) her subsequent biirthings at the Farm. it was iin the second and maybe third editions of Spiriitual midwifery but not in the moist recent. later, some women who gave birth on the Farm wrote for ‘Birth Gazette” (the magazine in May and Pamela published in the 80s and 90s)about natural birth helping them heal past sexual or medical trauma; if you can get your hands on some back issues, you may find it there. write to ina May; she may have some for sale.)

    speaking of adoption and old psychological scars, I feel strongly that adoption and the secrecy and shame around it, and around teen sexuality in general, were a driving force behind the natiral childbiirh movement and the new and deffernt attitudes toward sexuality that characterized hippie life.

    i’ve blogged a little on this topic and intend to do more on it. I know several women besides the ones i;ve mentioned who lived on the Farm who had previously surrendered babies for adoption, and i know a lot of other women jsut a tad older than me who went through this before finding themselves parents, or not, as well. i honestly think adoption is the skeleton in everyone’s closet from the days when sexuality was something to deny and a baby out of wedlock was a grave misfortune and source of shame.

  8. Don James said,

    February 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Judith, I like what you said about “even Buddha being halfway there”. That’s an excellent point. I think that for a lot of people, they think that wherever they are in their personal evolution, they’re “there” even if they’re all locked up in their sex and their vanity. For THEM, it’s the most they’ve known. Then when they transcend that a little, then that next place is their apex. And on and on. And what you said about Stephen still being able to get angry on occaision, I don’t think he ever meant that he had mastered it completely. I think he meant that he understood that anger was not something he was going to accept as part of normal life and that he was going to do his best to not do that. From my own experience, it takes a lot of discipline (besides understanding it clearly) 🙂

  9. Don James said,

    February 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I wrote a letter home to my parents while I was there and my mother kept it and would bring it out occaisionally. I remember the last time I read it I think my daughter was about 8, I was 43 and my mother was just about 80. And it was 13 years after I had written it in 1976. My parents were concerned that I had joined the Moonies. They had never met the young woman that Stephen married me to as I had been living in Colorado where I met her and we just rushed off to join once we really steeped ourselves in the idea of it. Off to be part of the Good Guys. Like going to Oz for me at the time. I think I tried to tailor my letter to convice my parents that the Farm was like the Peace Corps only with long hair and bib overalls. My dad had a connection to the John Birch Society so I doubt that helped much for him. Mostly my letter conveyed a kind of giddiness of being happy, having written it just a month after arriving and a week after getting married. I was a happy guy.

    • cfigallo said,

      March 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm

      My brother sent me a package a few years ago containing the first two Farm Reports and 6 letters I’d sent home during the first two years. All except the one I published are too embarrassing for me to share. As my brother was probably thinking, Cliff musta been ON something. Being high is one thing. Being high almighty is an entirely other thing. We (I was certainly not alone in displaying this attitude) thought we’d discovered the sliced bread of philosophy. If you couldn’t relate, it was because of your ignorance. Luckily, I recovered, I think.

  10. Karen said,

    March 2, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Cliff, What happens next? Did you find out who set the Gate House on fire? I guess that’s why I didn’t recognize the building in the picture you posted earlier. When I visited, it was a 2-story gatehouse. I don’t remember the color — perhaps natural wood.

    • cfigallo said,

      March 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm

      I’m trying to remember what happens next. Sometimes it takes a while, some quiet contemplation, even some research to provide me with hints. But I will say that this was the only such act of vandalism that was visited upon us during the dark of night. And it did teach us that we needed to have a 24-hour presence at our Gate.

  11. Judith said,

    March 3, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    well, I smile as someone who TOSSED a few of my journals not that many eyars after they had been written because they were just too embarrassingly naive or something. it;s worth remembering the extreme youth of the people who were doing their best to “live like grownupsZwhen we look back at what was said and done.

    remember that I CHing hexagram, Youthful Folly?

    You wouldn;t believe, well maybe you would, some of the things my aunt left in ehr boxes of correspondence thinking it would be of use to an archive at UC Santa Cruz. (they are in my bedroom closet now.)I don’t think she’d reviewed it all the too recently when it was sent out.

  12. Don James said,

    March 4, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Cliff, high almighty indeed. Wow, I’ve struggled making sense of that plus other teacher-oriented groups I hung out with and I’m still searching for the right way to feel about people. My heart tells me I need to love them all no matter what. My head tells me much different things, some not so beautiful, haha. I guess I need to listen to my heart more. What was that Blind Faith lyric? “Can’t find my way home”.

  13. Judith said,

    March 4, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan, speaking of spiritual teachers, said modestly and accurately enough i think that “sometimes love must manifest as tolerance.” as for how to feel about people: we don;t always get to choose what we feel, but we do get to choose how to deal with those feelings. thiis is sort of what i was alluding to earlier about Stephen. the guy who said that ;’anger is optional’ would go on in a ew years to amit in public talks that with reports of hings his kids had done at school or to someone;s mailbox, he got to where he wanted to ‘do like they said in the marines – kick ass first and ask questions later.” I know i don’t love everyone equally. but I need to work at treating them all with respect. and how that respect is to manifest, toward those toward whom i feel this great love or affinity and toward those with whom it is more problematic: that’s a question for a lifetime.

  14. Don James said,

    March 4, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    For me the problem seems to be twofold. There are all of my intellectual rationals for why I do what I do and feel how I feel. And then there is the reality of having to live with the way I feel. And this second part seems much more important than any reason why I find myself not loving some people at certain times. It’s not so much a subject/object kind of thing with “me” not having love for “someone” but a case of my changing state in reaction to someone and having to live with that change of state.

  15. Karen said,

    March 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I don’t think Stephen ever said he wasn’t human or didn’t make mistakes, but he was the leader. He got people together with a common good and a common goal. He made it spiritual because he saw that those motives run deeper than, say profit or politics. He saw a path with spirituality that could combine Zen with basic Christian guidelines and the tripping mentality of the hippies. He helped and guided a lot of people. It wasn’t just him, of course, but without him there would be no Farm, no Plenty, no Farm Midwives. Normally, everyone doing those kinds of things would be thinking of themselves first and how much profit they were going to get out of it. Stephen helped organize all these people who did this stuff and did it in a non-greedy way. He said many times in his writings that he didn’t want people to become dependent upon him – they would have to be able to run the Farm themselves. Of course, there are conflicts. There will always be conflicts and egos with humans. It takes two to tangle, my Dad always said.
    I don’t think its a big crime to get angry or feel angry. I think people can be too lenient with their kids– too permissive and not show them anger when they goof up yet know better. Stephen talked about righteous anger in Volume One also, and didn’t agree with it at the time, but I do. It depends on the situation and persons involved, though. I didn’t join the Farm mainly because I wanted to keep my dog. But I’ve given up any Zen philosophy long ago. It isn’t practical. It isn’t productive. It ignores nature and animals except to say not to kill them. I don’t believe in enlightenment now, but a lot of people were trying back then. I was, too.
    I think the Farm’s spirituality became practical when they got on the Farm. It became something beyond Tripping Instructions. Thats what I liked about it. It became a way to keep the community together. There was a great need to deal with all these human egos (including Stephen’s) and keep it together enough to keep the Farm going. Am I right, Cliff?
    Perhaps people are so critical of Stephen because they put him on a pedestal where no human can be and expectations were too high. Stephen didn’t put himself on the pedestal, but he did put himself in the leadership role, where he was exposed to all kinds of attention, good or bad, while trying to accomplish the goal of “good” [ for lack of a better term or even a lack of a universal definition] hippies having a place to be, live, work together, and do some “good” and be safe. The Farm was (still is) a good thing and it wouldn’t have happened without Stephen. No one can do anything great without ego.
    As far as the women sitting at his feet, well, I’m sure they were soaking up the energy like a cat soaking up the sun’s warmth. I would have, and I have in situations. Everyone wants to feel good.
    Still, I want to hear your version, Cliff, even with the doubts and conflicts because you were there and that is a part of it. Thanks again for this story.

  16. Judith said,

    March 5, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    this is perhaps tangential to the conversation on what what goin on in the formative years of the Farm…but a few of us went on and studied Zen in a more traditional way, at least to some extent…Cliff, u cn speak o this if ou like. I wold strongly disagree that it is a practice, or a philosophy that “ignores nature and animals.” If you are interested in a really beautiful book that recently came out, check out “Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate” by Wndy Johnson, who was the head gardener for Tassajara and then for Green Gulch Farms Zen Centers for thirty years. it combines practical tradition in organic gardening and farming, ecological unerstanding, and a thorough grounding in Zen Buddhist pracice.

    I know other Zen students who were quite annoyed with Stephen for the way he talked about Suzuki roshi without having done formal practice with him they found Stephen;s philosophy too syncretic. and a few early Farm folks lfeft to become more traditional Zen monks or serious lay students. I’m rather staying out of the fray on that one.

    you can also read Gary Snyder, Zen student and deep ecologist from before either enjoyed wide popularity for the past 50 plus years, for some practical insight on where Zen and anture are not even one” as the late Yamada roshi put it.

    I tend towards a certain amount of spiritual syncretism myself, though less than many new age types. and honesty lso do may serious Zen students i have knon some communities tend more toward animistic and native traidtions, some have a clear relationshpi to the early Buddhist and even Hindu roots behind their practice, pr gravitate toward tibetan Buddhist practice, some with a strong jewishc onstituency have a Jewish flavor, and there are Catholic and other Christian communities that have a touch of Zen to them, or vice versa. not sure what any of this means, just jotting down notes I guess.

  17. Cliff said,

    March 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    We’re having quite a conversation here. Just to add some perspective, I’d never meditated at all – in any way – until I joined the Caravan and then the Farm. I only knew Suzuki Roshi through what Stephen said about him and what was in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I did read a lot more Zen texts and stories. After I moved to Marin County, CA in 1983 I began sitting at Green Gulch on an irregular basis, but frequently enough that I “got” what Suzuki was all about. Now I feel as if I know him a little bit, and my life philosophy is very much aligned with Zen.

    Also, this being a personal reminiscence of events and times from the past, what I describe is the way I remember feeling at the time. As I describe my feelings and reactions THEN, they do not necessarily still apply today. Part of the reason for my writing this is to attempt to describe what it was like to be out on such an unorthodox American path in the 70s.

  18. Karen said,

    March 5, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    We are having quite a conversation here! You should have seen my bookshelf before I dumped all my spiritual books except The Farm ones onto my younger brother –Alan Watts’ The Way of Zen and Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind to name two — and I meditated with a Zen group for awhile, but it was not my thing (they wouldn’t allow my dog). I enjoyed the Sunday morning meditation on my visit to The Farm. My bookshelf also had Keroac’s On The Road and books of poetry by Gary Snyder, and books on Pyschic Healing, Reiki, etc.– quite diverse (and syncretic). But, it doesn’t seem to me that The Farm’s spirituality was strictly Zen. There’s nothing in Stephen’s books to indicate that. It seems like he used it as a guide for developing a modern Zen-like but basically “tripping” philosophy (i.e. how to be)–so its syncretic! The reason I kept The Farm ones is because The Farm had a manifestation of its ideals — the Farm, itself!! That fascinates me. The Farm stills exists, but it is not the same. Neither am I. I was a spiritual seeker then, but now I am an ecologist ( I was back then, too, although undefined). All my spirituality starts from the Earth we walk on, and respect and sustainable living. But I think The Farm history is important; so was a lot of what was happening outside The Farm in the sub-culture.
    I want to hear your personal story Cliff. Anyway, you said yourself in an online interview about WELL that “Yes, we could bring some wisdom about relationships and fair sharing of limited resources. Yes, we could apply some lessons learned about dealing with people who were ‘into the juice’ – being greedy about attracting attention. And yes, we could appeal to whatever value people put into becoming part of a new community” from The Farm.(Sorry if you don’t like being quoted! But I think there is still value coming from The Farm experience and its greater influence, just as there is value in Zen’s greater influence, and in an Eco-village/sustainable lifestyle’s greater influence, etc. I guess we could keep to comments on the topic of The Farm? Yes? No? Doesn’t matter to you?)

  19. Cliff said,

    March 5, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    It doesn’t matter to me what shows up in the comments, as long as people are kind to one another here. I’m just throwing out these stories because there have been too few accounts of what the Farm was like and what it was about. I totally agree, Karen, that this experience was and continues to be an amazing learning opportunity for a future where those who share well will do well.

  20. Karen said,

    March 5, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Anyway, even though I didn’t live on The Farm and only visited once, I used The Teachings as a guide, for mostly dealing with people, which pure Zen didn’t seem to deal with enough for me. Here’s some things I had underlined years ago in Stephen’s Volume One:
    “We are profoundly affected by our surroundings. It’s not a mystery to be affected that way. There are actual vibrations that do things to you…” –good for me to know I wasn’t the only one feeling that!
    “About self-confidence? ‘con-‘ in confidence is ‘with’, and ‘-fide-‘ is ‘faith’ and it means ‘with-faithness’…”
    These are still valuable teachings.

  21. cfigallo said,

    March 5, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Some of my favorite experiences of Stephen were his etymological references – providing the histories of words and their pieces. He was scholarly at that. “Astonish” derived from “astonyen” (ME) and “astoner” (OF).

    I think I’ve paid due respect to Stephen in many of these articles. I certainly won’t argue against any comments that raise him in praise.

    • Karen said,

      November 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

      Stephen is just a human, like the rest of us. But I admire him and had a great visit with him just recently. He had a lot of stories and we laughed a lot about jokes and some of the misunderstandings. It was fun!

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