The North Atlantic Books List 4: Authors Not Sufficiently Covered Elsewhere

by Richard Grossinger on March 14, 2010

Chapter Ten
The North Atlantic Books List 4:
Authors Not Sufficiently Covered Elsewhere

1. Peter A. Levine

Peter Levine is a cutting-edge, multidisciplinary trauma expert who has virtually invented a whole field, the interdisciplinary treatment of trauma, panic, and post-traumatic stress.  Using a mixture of bodywork, neurological theory, ethnology, and psychoanalysis, he has created a new syncretic methodology of treatment for victims of violence, abuse, terror, and shock.  His system, Somatic Experiencing, has been used effectively throughout North and South America and from Croatia to South Africa, to address the human consequences of war, molestation, poverty, crime, etc.  Peter himself travels internationally much of the year, running workshops and lecturing to and training professional groups.

Peter’s technique involves, as its name implies, reexperiencing the traumatic event through its imprints on body, mind, and spirit, and engaging with it through its layerings of emotional and somatic depth.  He provides exercises that invoke and transform the traumatizing sensations and allow new processing by mimicking, to a degree, the ability of wild animals to go through terrifying and life-threatening experiences routinely and yet not become traumatized.  They fully absorb the experiences somatically, sometimes with a shuddering or artifactual crescendo of grief, assimilate, and transfer it through their body into energy, and then heal and move on.  A deer does not dwell on the latest escape of a bobcat attack; it is not traumatized.

We published Peter’s first book, Waking the Tiger, in the mid-nineties, and it has sold over 350,000 copies.  Since then Peter has in effect developed his own imprint with us, leading to a whole line of trauma books, most of them copublished, by an assortment of authors: Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery; Children with Emerald Eyes: Histories of Extraordinary Boys and Girls; Beyond the Trauma Vortex: The Media’s Role in Healing Fear, Terror, and Violence; Victims of Cruelty: Somatic Psychotherapy in the Healing of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Reversing Chronic Pain; etc., as well as two titles by him coauthored with Maggie Kline: Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing and Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parent’s Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy, and Resilience.  These were followed another groundbreaking look at trauma, this one a mature overview of  the development of the “Somatic Experiencing” system in Peter’s own life process through his stages of insight, analysis, and application: In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.

2. Richard Strozzi Heckler

Richard Strozzi Heckler, a psychologist and aikidoist living and working in Petaluma, California, was (in the early seventies with bioenergetic therapist Robert Hall) a co-founder of Lomi School, an innovative therapeutic institution combining methods from psychotherapy, yoga, the martial arts, Feldenkrais work, and other psychosomatic and manual disciplines.  Heckler earlier, is noted for his work with juvenile delinquents and gangs in Oakland, where he has functioned as a life coach and therapeutic martial artist.  His samurai training has enabled him to connect with alienated school kids who respect the ‘fight’ as the only resolution of conflict.  The son of a Marine and himself a former soldier (as well as a therapist and healer), Heckler can take gang members and potential gang members through the experience of street combat to a deeper awareness of the impulse behind all conflict and battle.  By letting them understand why they fight and how the meaning of fighting is different from their prior presumptions, he gives them a choice they didn’t have before, and they are sometimes able to wake up and change course, becoming street samurai and community leaders.

In 1985, through Sportsmind’s Trojan Warrior project, Heckler served as a practicing consultant for the Special Forces of the U.S. Army at Fort Devins, Massachusetts, working with Green Beret troops on a daily basis, training them in aikido and meditation and exploring the moral and ethical dimensions of true warriorship.   In that pursuit he was, by his own measure, continuing the work of the mythical First Earth Battalion, whose mission was to transform the global military into something that protects rather than ravages the planet.  By addressing men who had already chosen careers of service and discipline, Heckler had a pedagogical advantage: His students understood rigor and exercise already, and they had experienced firsthand the devastating impact of violence.  Thus he was able to demonstrate for them the practical steps necessary to become real protectors.

The Trojan Warrior program did create an inkling of the First Earth Battalion, as it helped transform the American military, and Heckler’s book that came out of the project, In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets, has been a lodestone by which we define our press (see the next chapter).  Sold on military bases and adopted for training of Rangers and Special Forces units, it has become a classic text on the a fusion between Buddhism and war, between military and consciousness studies as well as a Socratic inquiry into the meaning of service.

A sixth-degree black belt in aikido and a capoeirista, Heckler was, as noted in Chapter Two, one of our first martial-arts authors in the early 1980s and our first aikido author.  His collection Aikido and the New Warrior, an anthology of different writers exploring the application of aikido to their particular disciplines, from sports to animal training to therapy to business, opened up new territory and instantly broadened our approach to martial arts.

An earlier title of his, Anatomy of Change, was published by Shambhala under Lindy’s guidance when she was an acquiring editor there; it was subsequently picked up by her at North Atlantic, as were her few other Shambhala acquisitions as they went out of print.  Anatomy of Change is Heckler’s Lomi-era book, a fusion of his three trainings: psychotherapy, martial arts, and bodywork.

Since Warrior Spirit, Heckler has published two more books with NAB as an author: Holding the Center (a discussion of place, community, and identity) and The Leadership Dojo: Build Your Foundation as an Exemplary Leader.  His has also edited another book: Being Human at Work: Bringing Somatic Intelligence into Your Professional Life, and has done numerous revisions and updates of Warrior Spirit.

Heckler is currently President of the Strozzi Institute and the Center for Leadership and Mastery through which he has taught the principles of his work to business, government, military, and educational leaders for the last thirty years.  Most recently he has worked in Afghanistan with the new government and military officers.  For the last twenty years he has consulted with the American military, NATO, and several foreign militaries.  His work with the Marine Corps was written up in The Wall Street Journal in October 2000.

Instead of operating as a theoretical pacifist, Heckler has put his beliefs and tools to the test.  Time and again he has gone into the belly of the beast, merging his own development as a therapist and martial artist with the needs and challenges of the local and global community.  “I dream,” he says, “of a sword that cuts things together.”

3. John E. Upledger, D. O.

John Upledger is one of the great doctors of our time.  He cures diseases previously declared incurable, even reclaiming terminal patients.  Almost single-handedly he has recovered the underlying principles of cranial osteopathy, refined and expanded them, and developed from them a whole new discipline of treating disease and dysfunction: CranioSacral Therapy.  In 1975 he founded the Upledger Institute (in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida), and this organization currently trains thousands of new health practitioners a year.

Dr. John’s own patients have included State and Federal Congressmen and Congresswomen, professional and Olympic athletes, autistic children, conjoined twins, and Vietnam and Iraq veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.  In fact, he has developed an entire program for aiding the victims of war—soldiers and civilians alike.  He has also prepared a protocol (Compassionate Touch) for teaching the principles of CranioSacral Therapy to children in schools.  And, as described in Chapter Seven, he has pioneered using dolphins as co-physicians in healing work.

Our library of Upledger titles starts with Your Inner Physician and You: CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release, which is sold in CST offices throughout the world.  We have since published CranioSacral Therapy: Touchstone for Natural Healing, SomatoEmotional Release: Deciphering the Language of Life, A Brain Is Born: Exploring the Birth and Development of the Central Nervous System, and Cell Talk: Talking to Your Cell(f). The latter is a brilliant book on the cutting edge of microbiology and consciousness-attuned manual medicine, but it has a corny subtitle that we could not talk John out of: “When you get to be my age,” he declared at a dinner in San Francisco, “you’re allowed bad puns in the titles of your own books.  End of topic.”  (The paperback version was later resubtitled Transmitting Mind into DNA.)

After four years of  labor with multiple editors, North Atlantic worked through and melded four entirely separate transcriptions of interviews to complete Upledger’s “as told to” autobiography, Lessons out of School: From Detroit Street Gangs to New Healing Paradigms.

A back story here: During our compilation, elderly super-agent Sterling Lord traveled to Florida on his own to meet Dr. Upledger and initiate an “autobiography” to be ghost-written by novelist Cathy Cash Spellman.  There was nothing that we could do about this competitive book, as powerful forces at the Institute supported it and had John’s ear, so we went ahead with our own edition.  Ultimately the Lord project died aborning, as the principals had no real way of organizing the rambling notes that they paid a pretty penny to have transcribed—so the agent, super or not, gave up.  I had put the “other manuscript” out of mind but, after our book reached page proofs in 2006, over a thousand pages of Lord’s interviews were turned over to us by the Institute to somehow integrate.  We took our book apart, salvaged the best of them, e.g., those key stories that we were missing.  The thousand distilled down to about fifty pages—the rest were almost solely duplication or elaborate but superfluous case histories—and went to press eight months late.

The thing that is most striking to me about Dr. John’s work is to the degree to which he is, at the same time, a hardcore medical scientist with anatomical and surgical training that dwarfs most of the doctors in practice in the West; an improvisational artist and analyst who can gather diffuse information into a sudden picture and do startling left-field diagnoses and healings; and a psychic and practicing occultist who can make pictures and shapes out of invisible energy, imagine unknown futures, and allow incredible, even outlandish ideas to get considered and tested without contaminating the pure biological and medical domains of his practice and teaching.  In the end, he would rather treat sick people and heal them than figure out the theoretical basis of craniosacral’s medical miracles.  That’s what, in essence, he told the Office of Alternative Medicine when he bailed from their Government panel: “I’ve got work to do.  There are people needing help.  I don’t have time to try to clinically disprove what I know to be true.” (Check the indices of both volumes of Planet Medicine for extensive anecdotal and analytical material on John Upledger).

4. Michael A. Schmidt

Michael Schmidt is a cutting-edge chiropractor, naturopath, and medical theoretician, and developer of herbal supplements.  We have copublished a number of significant titles MS in the past and have later revised and updated most of them.  Our Schmidt library thus far includes: Beyond Antibiotics (in three editions), Childhood Ear Infections, Healing Childhood Ear Infections (a more practically-oriented revised version of Childhood Ear Infections), Tired of Being Tired, and Brain-Building Nutrition (before extensive revision, Smart Fats). The subtitles of the revised versions of the last two titles are indicative of the refined awareness of the human body and our metabolic and environmental contexts in changing times: How Dietary Fats and Oils Affect Mental, Physical, and Emotional Intelligence and Strategies for Living in a World of Emerging Infections and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Schmidt’s work and exploration run a gamut from laboratory procedures to American Indian ceremonies to large-scale medical demography and research.

5. Albert J. LaChance

A Renaissance man and a larger-than-life French Canadian woodsman based in Manchester, New Hampshire, LaChance is a talented literary author, poet, Christian philosopher and, most relevantly, one of the leading addiction therapists in North America.  He planned a line of eight books for us, each mapped out well in advance.  Though the entire project has turned out to be more ambitious than the market will bear, the initial titles appeared like clockwork: The Architecture of the Soul: A Unitive Model of the Human Person; Cultural Addiction: The Greenspirit Guide to Recovery; The Modern Christian Mystic: Finding the Unitive Presence of God; and The Way of Christ: The Gospel of John Through the Unitive Lens. A general treatment guide to various kinds of addiction—alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, petroleum—may or may not get done in the future.

6. Michael Picucci

Michael Picucci is a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of addictions (his so-called “sacred disease”) and the recovery movement beginning historically with AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).  He also practices healing sexuality (Soul Energy eXchange, as he calls it), Re-Patterning, trauma healing (Levine’s Somatic Experiencing), and Energy Psychology, a new field blending Taoist and bioenergetic practices with traditional humanistic psychologties.[1] In seeking a source of inner joy and knowledge and our innate capacity for healing ourselves and others, Picucci developed his own syncretic methodology that he calls Focalizing—tapping into raw consciousness and intrinsic rapture: “…no judgment…no agenda…slow is fast here…tons of space….”

Michael was directed to North Atlantic Books in 1997 by Cathy Lewis, then a freelance publicist working for Station Hill Press.  Since then we have copublished two of his titles: The Journey Toward Complete Recovery: Reclaiming Your Emotional, Spiritual & Sexual Wholeness and Ritual as Resource: Energy for Vibrant Living (2005) (including Gay Men’s Spirituality).  We plan a future book: Sexual Health in the 21st Century. Piccuci also (as per Chapter Seven) directed the amazing freelance seer Alights on a Cloud True Blue Indigo to us, and he heralded the arrival of his manuscript by proclaiming that True had written the most powerful and joyful healing book since Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger.

Picucci’s audience has grown and deepened since we started with him, as he has succeeded not only in establishing a reputation as a radical therapist willing to explore territories where most professionals will not go but as a respected researcher and theoretician.  He has received awards, honors, and recognition from the National Institutes on Health, the National Association of Professional Addiction Counselors, and the New York State Counselors Association.  He also a recipient of the Caron Foundation’s Unsung Hero Award.

7. Harry S. Robins

San Francisco-based cartoonist, actor, cryptozoologist, and general character Hal Robins appears, somewhat in disguise, throughout North Atlantic Books.  A performance artist who does zany shows under the nom de plume “Ask Dr. Hal,” he is a genius, in fact a Subgenius, one of the inventors and priestholders of the Church of that name.  Hal and his buddy in crime, Spain Rodriguez, developer of Trashman comix, are repeat illustrators and cover artists for North Atlantic (see Chapter Twenty-Two).  For example, Spain’s work graces Nothing in This Book is True…. and Way of a Warrior, while Hal is on the cover of Homeopathy: The Great Riddle, Inside Star Vision, and 2013: Raising the Earth to the Next Vibration plus one of the Sturgeon volumes. Hal fully and wisely illustrated our version of Enthea Press’s Zen of Farting, and then he drew and co-wrote (with me) The Meaning of Lost and Mismatched Socks under the pseudonym, Dr. Perditus Perdale, M.D., Ph.D.—a valiant but failed attempt at proposing and/or resolving a minor metaphysical proposition.

Since then Dr. Hal has written and drawn his magnum opus, Dinosaur Alphabet.  This vivid and cleverly written guide to 26 dinosaurs is impeccable in its science, a fount of information on dinosaurs, yet inked right out of the world of Junior Illustrated Classics with a dash of Mad Magazine and other assorted dinosaur mayhem. A slightly mechanized irony that gives a menacing but user-friendly look to just about all of Hal’s creatures and personages.  His dinosaurs in particular are luminous and iconic, and nothing about them seems trite or schematic.

8. Peter Ralston

It has taken decades for me to understand that Peter intends to be recognized first as a philosopher involved in the nature of being and that his martial-arts exploits and practice are simply a steppingstone and basic tool to that end.  This is perhaps one reason why we have never been able successfully to promote a guy who is arguably the best pure martial innovator of our time as well as the second coming (though a distinctly non-Hollywood version) of Bruce Lee.

Peter’s path to fame is clearly his ability on the mat.  Yet his temperament and predisposition have led him to ontology, the Enlightenment Intensive,[2] and varieties zen—and the sign above his landmark school on Telegraph Avenue in Berkelely (a dojo since moved to Maui and then Pipes Creek, Texas) proclaimed for years: Martial Arts and Ontology.  Both.  It’s both if you want to study here!

This guy approached us through intermediaries with manuscripts year after year, from the beginning clear to the end of the eighties, but back in, say 1982, we did not take Peter seriously.  We did not think of ourselves as general martial-arts publishers plus we were intimidated by the local Yang crowd, fearing the loss of the illustrious Ben Lo and other Cheng Man-Ch’ing devotees who quite vocally did not want us publishing other “less dignified” martial arts, certainly not outsider Taoist ones—and double-particularly not Peter.  Ben was particularly incensed by the grandiose public aggrandizement whereby Ralston advertised himself to God and California on a giant sign across his dojo: “World Champion.”  The Taoist purist in fact threatened to withdraw all Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s books if we even thought of publishing this guy; he said too that Peter wasn’t a real martial artist.  In truth, Ben had pushed hands with both Paul Pitchford and Peter and, whatever the real consequence of those episodes (admiration or disdain—there are many legendary accounts of these incidents), he portrayed them to others equally dangerous madmen.[3]

So I turned Peter down, year after year.  I too was dissuaded by the phrase “World Champion” on the sign, presuming it to be a tasteless boast—or as Ben put it, “So he won some tournament in Taiwan.  It wasn’t real.”

But, as I later came to realize, the tournament was real and quite brutal, and Peter was the first non-Asian to cop the trophy.

Several times throughout the eighties Peter assigned senior students the Gordian task of trying to convince us to reconsider publishing him.  In fact, I came to consider it a sort of running joke.  Why didn’t this self-proclaimed World Champion just get another publisher for his inflated pseudo-principles of whatever—or show up in person?  I thought of him as a fake or a cartoon.  It was a remarkable and sustained misread of genius.

Finally Peter called me himself in 1990 and proposed meeting in person.  By then NAB had a broad martial-arts list, and I grokked the whole situation somewhat differently.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  We had already survived publishing many martial books over purist objections.

In conversation Peter was modest, refined, patient, thoughtful—very impressive.  So I decided to read his manuscript in its revised form.  It spoke for itself; it had always been a work of sheer brilliance, perhaps disguised behind adolescent grammar and a choppy, offhand style.  Now I understood that, beneath the shabby cloak, was a real warrior like Strider of Lord of the Rings. I finally called Ben’s bluff, long after it ever meant anything or had a tooth.

Using primarily Taoist arts like t’ai chi, hsing-I, and pa kua, Peter has created his own martial form, which he dubbed Cheng Hsin.  It represents the totality of his experiential and empirical inquiry into all the ancient arts  (including hard boxing, taekwondo, and karate forms).  He kept what worked for him, discarded what didn’t, and wove his own new system from trial and error and direct fighting practice.  He got rid of all affect and pretense and stuck to the goods, the things that expressed principles.

Our first two Ralston books summarized that quest and presented Peter’s entire system: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power and Cheng Hsin: The Art of Effortless Power, the latter being the actual system book with sets and copious photographs. (By the way, Peter was only slightly amused when I fell into an early malapropism of calling his conceit “Effortless Motion” instead of “Effortless Power,” perhaps from an old prejudice that “power” has fascist connotations while “motion” seems Newtonian and sweet.  To Peter’s hardcore and legitimately uncompromising view, motion—wasted parasitic motion and futile moves—was exactly what he was trying to get rid of and not decree as “effortless”).

“Principles” is a martial-arts classics, adopted graciously and rigorously since by practitioners of diverse fighting forms soft and hard, from aikido to taekwondo to karate to judo to Thai boxing. Peter’s rules apply universally.

I was impressed when, a few years after we published these two books, another author of ours, the renowned aikidoist Terry Dobson, wanted to be taken to meet Peter as the first item of business during a rare trip to Berkeley from the East Coast.  Other skilled martial artists that we publish refer to Peter with attitudes ranging from reverence and respect to awe.  So much for a guy to whom I wouldn’t give the time of day for ten years!  I deserve the dunce cap on this one.  I have to thank Peter for his patience and forbearance.

Peter’s later titles with North Atlantic are all ontological or zen: Reflections of Being; Ancient Wisdom, New Spirit: Investigations into the Nature of ‘Being’; Zen Body Being: An Enlightened Approach to Physical Skill, Grace, and Power; and The Book of Not Knowing: Exploring the True Nature of Self, Mind, and Consciousness. The first two never got far out of his inner circle, whereas the quite slick and more recent latter ones are finally building a broader Ralston market.

I took classes at Cheng Hsin myself for several years during the early nineties on the urging of Paul Pitchford who, when I asked him how I might get back into t’ai chi in 1992, surprised me by responding in elfish fashion, “You publish the World Champion.  Why not go study with him?”  He was only partly joking.  I didn’t know then that he and Peter had trained together in the seventies and, though Peter did not practice anything close to Paul’s yin version of t’ai chi, Paul knew an authentic artist and seeker when he encountered one.

I left Cheng Hsin after several years in order to study t’ai chi and hsing-i through the nineties with one of Peter’s more outrageous and innovative students, Ron Sieh whom we also (see later) published (T’ai Chi Ch’uan: The Internal Tradition and Gravity Never Stops: The Life and Training of a Martial Artist).[4] UnfortunatelyRon returned to his hometown of Minneapolis in 1999, and Peter himself left Berkeley soon thereafter, first for Hawaii, where he wasn’t too happy, either professionally or personally, and then to rural Texas where he now trains students who fly in from all over the world.

Alas, no more of my old t’ai-chi teachers are left in Berkeley. I ended up at BPI eventually instead.  In fact, Peter emailed me not long ago that he hung out there in the seventies too: “I like their sense of humor; they don’t take themselves too seriously.”  That goes for Peter too in a weird way.  Lightness in the most serious battles is the only way!

9. Ron Sieh

Ron has studied Taoist martial arts, Japanese martial arts, Korean martial arts, Filipino martial arts and competitive boxing; and in a workshop he may draw from any of these or none of these.  He also trained extensively with the legendary Peter Ralston (see above), in fact was one of his first martial-arts students who helped train him for his Mixed Martial Arts World Championship in 1975.  Ron has been through Ralston’s version of the Enlightenment Intensive and Peter’s full Ontological Training many times, and he has also, as noted in Chapter Seven, studied “running energy,” grounding, and clairvoyance out of the Berkeley Psychic Institute.

Ron is more than just a martial artist, much more.  He teaches practice itself–how to do anything well.  He is someone who has danced among unrelated odd manual jobs (like mowing grass at cemeteries) in order to make enough income to remain a samurai in spirit and action.  He doesn’t even seek students but, when he gets them, he teaches basic concepts like presence, energy, connection, movement, distance, space, things that can be used in relationships, jobs, art, life.  He is irreverent, funny, and blue-collar to the bones.  I have studied many things with many people, but Ron is one of the greatest teachers I have ever experienced.  He always gets to the core, whatever it is for you personally at that moment.  He sees beyond tradition, beyond education, beyond concepts.  There is no way Ron is going to waste anyone’s time or bore anyone.  First and foremost, he is present and accessible, enjoyable and goofy and surprising.

In 2008 I brought Ron to Mount Desert Island in Maine to teach a workshop through Paul Weiss’s Whole Health Center.  Here are my notes covering a bit of what Ron said and taught via loose indirect quotes:

“All of you are practicing.  You’re practicing something.  You’re practicing yoga, breath, meditation, movement, everyone is.  You’re reinforcing some habit or other. I am trying to wake you up and give you a practice that you can practice consciously at any time.”

“All of this is really easy stuff that you can do.  The work is to figure out what else you’re doing to keep yourself from doing it.”

“The trick is not that this stuff is hard.  It’s not about study or energy or all that stuff.  It’s actually about will.  Not just the will to do it.  Anyone can have the will to do it.  It’s the will to keep doing it, to keep coming back to do it, to do it after you’ve forgotten it and lost it and have to find it again.  The will to not say, ‘What a shithead I am!’ but to realize that the way in which you were not doing is is the way in which you have to keep coming back to it.  Calling yourself a shithead just gets in the way.  Just do it, again.  No self-criticism, no drama.  ‘I wasn’t doing it, now I’m doing it.’”

“So what I want you to do is relax, breathe, feel yourself, feel sensation, keep your movements spare, all that good stuff, vote for Obama (under his breath).”

“You have all these stories in your head, looking around the room, thinking about your partner, ‘is she cute?, is she ugly?, is he a good dude?, do I like the way I look? do I like the way I move?  what am I going to have for dinner?  how long till break? what does this all mean? why am I thinking this stuff? am going to improve?’  Forget it.  What you have is your body, sensation, that’s it.  Let sensation guide you.  Don’t listen pay attention to anything else.”

(when a student mentioned that something Ron did was like yin-yang): “That’s a good one.  Write that one down.”

“I’m looking at you, but I’m also looking at you looking at me, like any good martial artist.  But I’m also looking at you looking at me looking at you.  That’s where it starts to get interesting.  When the country begins falling apart is when people stop looking at each other looking at them and so on.  Republicans and Democrats these days are just looking at each other, so they don’t see anything.”

After Ron left Mount Desert, I felt I had to do try to do something about his situation because, after the brilliant workshop he taught there, he was headed back to Minneapolis as a Parks custodian.  I wrote a letter to friends who oversee seminars at Esalen, Omega, etc.  It produced thunderous silence, but here is a draft of part of it:

“I want to bring up a topic that has been lurking in my thoughts below the surface up to this weekend when we brought Ron Sieh to Mount Desert Island to teach a workshop through a grant from North Atlantic Books to the Whole Health Center in Town Hill.  Ron is one of the best teachers I have experienced in a lifetime of study and practice, and yet he earns a living collecting litter for the city of Minneapolis Parks Department and teaches about one workshop every four or five years.  He is the kind of person who changes lives, especially the lives of young people, and this is a tragic waste, though Ron is happy enough doing his practice quietly and earning a living.  In seven more years he will get a pension.  This issue of great and profound teachers who don’t promote themselves, thus don’t get students or workshops resonates for me because there are so many of their antipodes—so-so and not-so-good teachers who live on the fake medicine-show workshop circuit, are good at publicity, but really have not done the inner work or practice necessary to transfer wisdom and practice to others.”

This is another case in which the author is incredible, life-changing, but the market is looking elsewhere, apparently for something different, at least right now.  See also Chapter Twenty-Two and “Friends” and “My Teachers” on this website.

10. Sid Campbell

For a diametrically opposite martial artist to Peter Ralston, one might consider the late Sid Campbell.  An old-school tough guy and gentle giant, he was a direct disciple of Bruce Lee from the legendary master’s American years and, with Greglon Lee, son of another of B. Lee’s Oakland training group, he authored three books on the Man: The Dragon and the Tiger (Volumes 1 and 2): The Oakland Years and Remembering the Master (see Chapter Seven). On his own he researched, created, wrote, and illustrated by a careful copyist’s hand a massive, one-of-a-kind compendium, Warrior Arts and Weapons of Ancient Hawai’i, which Kathy Glass edited into grammatical and passably readable English and we published in 2005.

Sid is a martial-arts legend as well.  As founding president of the World Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do & Kobudo Association, he is considered one of the people who introduced the art of karate to the West, as he taught over 15,000 students and awarded some 800 black belts.  In 2005 he was inducted into the Hawai’i Martial Arts International Society’s Hall of Fame.

Sid always showed up at the outset of North Atlantic Books’ Christmas parties, scoffing at the wine and beer menu and asking anyone whom he could impress where the hard stuff was hidden so, after a while, office manager Ed Angel hid a bottle at these occasions to accommodate him when asked.

Sid was a deep scholar and enthusiastic practitioner, and his connection to North Atlantic, along with some of the other hard-living old-timers like Peter Starr and Bob Smith makes our martial-arts list more than just an educational exercise.

11. Christoph Delp

A martial artist born in 1974, Delp traveled from his German homebase to Isaan, Thailand, at the age of twenty to study Muay Thai and get a direct exposure to the full-contact sport at the source.

After publishing in German, this martial entrepreneur and teacher found us via the Internet on his own.  He liked quality of our books and, once he decided we were good to go, the projects kept coming: Muay Thai, Muay Thai Basics, Fitness for Full-Contact Fighers, and Kickboxing so far.  Delp is also a fitness trainer with a business degree.

11. Victoria Boutenko

Many of us born in the last few generations have made a far journey reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s line: “I was born a long ways from where I was supposed to be”.  Victoria Boutenko’s itinerary stands out as exceptionally “far,” in both miles and concept.  She was raised on Sakhalin Island, Russia, which means not just the old Soviet Union but its Siberian hinterlands.  She came to the United States in 1990 at thirty-five with her husband Igor and young son and daughter and, for a number of years, taught at Denver University: Russian language, political economy, Gorbachev, perestroika.  While still in Denver and responding to repeated illnesses in her family, she made a radical dietary shift and, at the same time, unwittingly created The Raw Family, which would become an institution, a business, and eventually an international brand, as a quick visit to the rawfamily.com website will prove through its numerous DVDs, CDs, recipes, and general philosophy.  For Victoria, raw foods would represent not just a medicinal event but a spiritual and life transformation.  She cites January 21, 1994, as her birthdate, the birthdate of Raw Family and her fundamental shift in consciousness.  Later she and her family moved to Ashland, Oregon, where they remain.

Since the consciousness shift, Victoria has joined David Wolfe, Gabriel Cousens, and a few others as pioneers in a broad movement whereby health and well-being and lifestyle—meaning psychological and spiritual quite as much as physical—are defined by not only raw foods but the overall relationship among body, society, and nature that a live diet inevitably entails.  Victoria’s titles, most of them now published by us, include: Green for Life: The Updated Classic on Green Smoothie Nutrition; 12 Steps to Raw Food: How To End Your Dependency on Cooked Food; Green Smoothie Revolution: The Radical Leap Toward Natural Health; and Raw Family Signature Dishes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Live-Food Recipes.

Her children have along ago grown up, of course, and one of our present lead titles is Fresh: The Ultimate Live Food Cookbook by Sergei and Valya Boutenko.

12. Ori Hofmekler

Ori Hofmekler is yet another one of those heretically pioneering renaissance men who so often find their way to North Atlantic Books.  A native-born Israeli, he began his college studies after serving in his country’s Special Forces.  What makes Ori’s professional training especially unusual is that while he was a scholarship student at Israel’s most prestigious art school, the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem, he was also taking a degree in the Human Sciences at that city’s Hebrew University, where he concentrated on biology and philosophy.  Already winning awards and fellowships while a student, he decided to pursue his artistic interests first. The result was an extremely successful first career as a fine-art political artist.  Ori’s many works, some of which were eventually collected into two bestselling books, Hofmekler’s People and Hofmekler’s Gallery, have won numerous awards and been featured in many of the world’s foremost magazines and newspapers.  The originals are still sought by collectors, one of whom, Catch-22 author Joseph Heller, proclaimed, “Hofmekler is a painter with tremendous wit, intelligence and imagination.  In satirical political art, he is better than any other artist I know of at this time.”  Eye injury forced Ori to give up painting and turn to his second career, at which, if anything, he has been even more successful.

While in the Israeli army, Ori developed what has become a lifelong interest in understanding the nature of the historical concept of man as a warrior.   A meticulous, far-ranging researcher, he brings to the subject of human fitness the same incisive, iconoclastic intelligence that made his political satire so effective.  This led him inevitably to the issue of human survivability, perhaps the principal theme of all his research and writings.  Ori pays special attention to the effects of modern sedentary life and industrial agriculture upon the survival mechanisms that our bodies have evolved over tens of thousands of years.  This makes Ori’s observations, conclusions, and recommendations, which are always designed to be put into practice by us now, works of cultural importance. It is no accident his work strongly challenges many of the fitness establishment’s shibboleths about the sources and means of optimal fitness and well-being. He first brought his novel, and sometimes controversial, conclusions to millions of readers as a columnist and health editor for Penthouse magazine, then later as the editor of Mind and Muscle Power magazine, a cutting-edge fitness journal.

Most of our health and fitness authors reach beyond conventional Western science into traditional or contemporary energy medicine.  Ori is a striking exception.  Virtually all of his conclusions are material to the core and based upon scientific research that is well within the boundaries of the Western canon, which of course doesn’t allow a jot of vitalist experience or theory. Nevertheless, his thinking is uniquely holistic, combining a deep knowledge of biochemistry, evolutionary biology, hormonal cycles, muscle development, and so on.  With his many years of experience training clients of every type, it should be no surprise that many of Ori’s conclusions—about the pernicious effects of animal protein consumption, for example—confirm the views shared by most of our authors, while his technical recommendations often break very new ground.

Ori’s first book for North Atlantic, The Anti-Estrogenic Diet: How Estrogenic Foods and Chemicals Are Making You Fat and Sick, focuses upon one of the principal undiagnosed health hazards of our time—the pervasion of estrogen-mimicking chemicals in our environment.  According to him, these are now widely considered responsible for nearly a fifty-percent decline in male sperm counts and the explosion of breast cancer in women.  There have been a few excellent jeremiads against this very dangerous form of environmental pollution, but The Anti-Estrogenic Diet shines in its detailed recommendations for simple dietary solutions that all of us can use to protect ourselves.

His second book for us, The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse for High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body, a completely revised and expanded version of one of hardcore fitness publisher Dragon Door Publications’ all-time bestselling books, brought much of this research together for the first time. That book has become a fitness bible for nutritional and medical experts, championship athletes, martial artists, military and law enforcement professionals, and weight loss experts.

Most people associate fitness experts with bulging muscles and tight short-sleeved shirts.  A moment’s glance at Ori puts the lie to that stereotype.  Lithe and agile, he is nonetheless able to spar with men half his age, which helps explain why he is much sought after by boxers and martial artists preparing for bouts.  His third book for North Atlantic, Maximum Muscle/Minimum Fat: The Secret Science Behind Physical Transformation, is a concentrated presentation of his core wisdom—again, most of it groundbreaking—on both issues.  The book is a concentrated but utterly accessible guide to developing vital strength in a manner that entirely serves our optimum well-being.

His fourth book follows along the same grounded exoteric metabigological and dietary path: Unlock Your Muscle Gene: Trigger the Biological Mechanisms that Transform Your Body and Extend Your Life.

13. David Jubb

David Jubb came to North Atlantic Books via an unusual route—he was discovered by my Wall Street cousin Seymour Zises and his wife Cathy in their transition in the vague direction alternative healing methods and diet in New York City (see Chapter Two).  But David is more than alternative, more than radical—he is extraterrestrial theater.  When I met him, his hair was twisted and tied in a giant top knot above his head, suggesting an inhabitant of an exotic country in a child’s comic book and also reinforcing his point of origin, not just Tasmania but a small island off the coast of Tasmania on which his father was some sort of park ranger qua Australian state official.  He grabbed my hand and immediately began examining my arm for energy blocks.  David grew up in the wild, with an Aboriginal touch.  But then he went on to get a Ph.D. in neurophysiology at NYU

Seymour and Cathy found him at Longevity, his natural and raw foods store on East 12th Street, where he serves meals and mixes drinks on the edge with an accent and demeanor somewhere between Crocodile Dundee and a Pleiaidian master channeled through Elton John.  He has had a prime-time Manhattan television show “The Universe Inside Our Mind” running for nine years, and he conducts trainings and seminars on the convergence of exercise physiology, cleansing, vitality, diet, and fitness around the world.

David is superficially totally mainstream and at least quasi-scientific in his logos and rap (he is considered a genius in pinpointing the source of a symptom and coming up with a medicine for it) and totally outrageous and over the top in his approach to living things out.  He has trekked the entire length of Africa (a commitment of two life years) and writes in his own “Jubbese” language with its own rules (no “no’s,” “not’s,” or other negativizing negatives, no use of the passive voice, and no apostrophes because of their subliminal negative cellular effect on the reader).  This makes his books a challenge for our editors (who have fought back against the most extreme and impractical absolute purisms but still have lost most battles on the page).

More dramatically, David is a breatharian; he claims to eat no food himself but to subsist off prana and sunlight—theater or truth?  He has jokingly told reporters that he only strays from his breatharian diet for New York cheesecake.  Science dismisses the breatharian feat as impossible; its attempt, if not halted, leading to sure and relatively swift decline and starvation.  The New York Times wrote up David’s Longevity Store, practices, and bretharian philosophy claims a few years ago and left it for skeptics to decide how much of the narrative was legitimate and how much it was hyperbole but great p.r.

In any case we have published two fairly normal (grammatical) books by David with his glamorous ex-partner Annie Jubb, a Puget Sound native now living in Los Angeles: LifeFood Recipe Book: Living on Life Force and Secrets of an Alkaline Body: The New Science of Colloidal Biology, plus one loopy solo effort, Jubbs Cell Rejuvenation: Colloidal Biology—A Symbiosis (no apostrophe after Jubb).  It’s all good information, and as Bob Frissell demonstrated, Nothing in this book is true….but that doesn’t mean shit.

Unfortunately in recent years David has had a new wave of bad publicity regarding his public conflicts with his more recent partner and the State of New York over child-rearing and other matters.  I’ll leave it to you to google those if you want.

14. Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood, herbalist supreme, was introduced to North Atlantic by Dana Ullman, and Matt’s first North Atlantic titles were copublished with HES.  In recent years we have worked directly with him as his own copublisher.  Based on an herb farm outside Minneapolis, Matt was trained sometimes formally and sometimes informally by the top herbalists on the planet as well as at the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine.  A registered member of the American Herbalists Guild and a regular contributor to the Guild’s journal, he has grown into an herbal archon himself.

Over two decades we have published a small library of Matt’s books: Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers; The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Teachers; VItalism: The History of Herbalism, Homeopathy, and Flower Essences (formerly The Magical Staff); The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism: Basic Doctrine, Energetics, and Classification; The Earthwise Herbal: Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants; and The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants.

Matt also directed Swiss herbalist Wolf-Dieter Storl and his book on Lyme Disease to us.

15. Joy Manné

Joy Manné showed up in our offices on Fourth Street one day in 1996 and began perusing the books in our storefront.  She soon became a regular visitor, parked on the couch in the reading area, an immediate fan of the press and delightful conversationalist.   Her husband Johannes Bronkhorst, Professor of Sanskrit, Indian, Studies, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, was, at the time, a visiting professor at UCBerkeley, an associate (as it turned out) of my Uncle Lionel, so Joy was finding her own niches and venues around Berkeley.  After a couple of months she declared, “I can write just as good books for you.”  I was dubious, but she turned out to be dead-on.

Joy was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on February 25, 1946, her family having fled the Holocaust and shortened their name.  She has a B.Sc. in Psychology (City University, London) and a Ph.D. in Buddhist Texts and Psychology (Utrecht University, Netherlands).  She developed her own School of Personal and Spiritual development in Switzerland from 1989-1995, teaching Breathwork, Voice Dialogue and Energywork as central subjects, and essential psychology, plus BioEnergy, and Jungian dreamwork among other topics.  She started working in Poland in 1995 where she also created her own Breathwork and Voice Dialogue schools.

She is the founder and editor (since 1999) of the only peer-review Breathwork publication, The Healing Breath: A Journal of Breathwork Practice, Psychology and Spirituality and was the Newsletter Editor for the International Breathwork Foundation from 1999 to 2001.  Since 2007 she has brought the methods she learned and those she created (Energywork, Relational Intelligence) together into a training in Relational Intelligence which she gives in both Poland and Switzerland.  Joy has been facilitating Family Constellations (Bert Hellinger’s method) in Switzerland and Poland since 2001.

North Atlantic brought out Soul Therapy in 1997 and Conscious Breathing: How Shamanic Breathing Can Transform Your Life in 2004, then Family Constellations: A Practical Guide to Uncovering the Origins of Family Conflict in 2009.

16. Martìn Prechtel

I will repeat myself here, in fact for the third time if you consider this entire website (“A Primary Reading List” and Chapter Nine).  I think Prechtel is writing the most urgent shamanic stuff on the planet currently.  He possesses an imaginal eye, a prophetic ear, and a Cassandra voice; his words are both lyrical and oracular.  A politically radical medicine man, he was raised on the Navaho Reservation where his parents taught (one of them, his mother, was a Canadian Indian).  Later, at the terminus of a long coming-of-age quest-odyssey, he landed in Guatemala and was initiated with full portfolio.

We have republished Long Life, Honey in the Heart: A Story of Initiation from the Shores of a Mayan Lake; Stealing Benefacio’s Roses: A Mayan Epic; and The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun: A Mayan Tale of Ecstasy, Time, and Finding One’s True Form.  Stealing….was originally The Toe Bone and the Tooth. Our most recent title is: Unlikely Peace at Chuchamaquic, The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive.

I acted initially on a tip from Paul Weiss, director of the Whole Health Center on Mount Desert Island, who travels regularly to New Mexico to study at Bolad’s Kitchen, Martìn’s school of planetary crafts and ceremonies.  With encouragement from Paul I emailed the AMerican shaman; he wrote me back.  I sent him some of my books; he phoned.  We talked for an hour; I asked him about future books insofar as the present ones seemed taken.  He wanted to know what my terms would be.  I told him I was at his service: he should set the terms.  I could only to deal artlessly and transparently with wily Trickster Coyote because I knew that, if I tried to be clever or maneuver in any way, I would lose; I would lose even if I won.  You never defeat Coyote; at best you get his company; he live to fight another,.

So, in order to get to include Prechtel’s ass-kicking, primeval vision in our living library of native arts and sciences, I issued my surrender and carte blanche. Coyote’s terms, when it all finally came out in the wash and was written in proper English, were Stephen-King-like.  It may have been imbalanced vis a vis risk and reward on our end, but Martin had already risked his life and soul elsewhere to be able to sing songs like these, and who was I to be materially biased as to what constituted real risk and real investment of capital?  The goal was to honor Martìn’s teaching and add his books to the tapestry.  We didn’t need his money; we could get that money from elsewhere (like a few more “farting dog” android sales).  What we needed was Martìn’s willingness to grace our house.

Once he heard me agree to his terms, he surprised me with the information that all but one of his prior contracts, including one each with Tarcher and Harper Collins, had “coyote” escape clauses, and he quickly got back rights to the three above-mentioned books—the third from Yellow Sun—and gradually transferred their magic and myth to our library.

Prechtel’s message is that we have to create a new shamanic tradition and initiation cycle; he provides the basis and terms for that in not only his books but his talks, classes, and curriculum.  His school has the goal of initiating a generation of American men and women as elders, repositories of wisdom and reinvented customs as well as holders of shamanic license, something approaching the mission statement of our nonprofit

To continue a trope from the last chapter, Martìn is telling the West that because its peoples have forgotten both how to grieve and praise, they have stopped feeding the Earth its required spiritual food—our human energy, spirit, and song—so the Earth has stopped feeding us back and is languishing, maybe even dying.

In that cause he is reinstituting myth as a living currency for bringing ourselves and the planet back into dialogue and into a relationship of mutual respect.

It is going to be a long journey, if we succeed at all: back to the Stone Age, ahead to our unknown Aquarian future—and way way beyond 2012.

17. BJ Ward

I first came upon bj’s work in an issue of The Sun Magazine. We already had a longstanding relationship with publisher Sy Safranksky and had copublished a book of quotations from the magazine called Sunbeams. Bj had a poem called Hometown: Alliance, New Jersey:

“On the fading streets of my Alliance,/the girls with soccer balls cross puddles/in their own little rivers of desperation—/each one a teenager, each one inheriting/the teen-age world. The mechanics who watch/with eyes as big as their mouths close the hoods on cars/as they have closed the hoods/on their women, working on them as needed./Everything is beating, beating, beating/in this town. The sun has become relentless/in its insistence to pin us. The wildflower garden/is overtaking the grammar school./And the bed above the tavern/cracked the floorboards when another man clenched up/into a huge sexual fist with MiMi—/Alliance’s first hooker. She’s so good/even the town’s oldest cop likes her. Right now/a man hands her ten dollars and she/kneels in front of him, changing yet another thing. But what has changed here? The brant geese/still return in May, the borders of the river banks/still break down every rainfall. Dinner is being cooked,/the cooper is closing shop, and in the barnyard/a chicken discovers a worm it finds delicious.”

We started with an edition Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands, including the above poem. Actually bj still had to convince me that we could sell even a handful of copies of the book because we had already done so many beautiful poetry books that no one would buy.  He promised that he had the secret—he would go on a “bj ward tour” and sing his ballads everywhere like songs.  Perhaps idealistic, but he walked the talk.

LNJ went through three quick small printings, a rare feat for a poetry book—as we have published some pretty prominent poets without anywhere near equivalent results.  BJ simply takes the stage and woos fans.

He finances his travels back and forth across the country by reading his poetry at bars, bookstores, campgrounds, and private houses; he is paid nothing, but he sells his books.  And from there word-of-mouth spreads interest in his work.  Like a country and western artist he performs in clubs, gig by gig, town by town.

It takes one hit song to make it big, but a lot of less famous songwriters and musicians get from March hill to March hill by keeping the venues flowing while building a loyal base.

I asked bj to recall his adventures for this blog:

“In the late summer to mid-fall of 1997…I gave 58 readings in a 90 day period.  (In the middle, eight days were dedicated to hiking the backcountry of Glacier National Park with my friend George Cruys—rainiest camping trip of my life.)  I read everywhere, going across the north of the country and returning along the south.  It began in New Jersey—a reading on an independent radio station (now an NPR affiliate) WNTI.  Then I went to Salem, NH, to read at a Borders. Readings all across the country—Syracuse, Rochester, Columbus (OH), Chicago (Seminary Co-Op Bookstore), Minneapolis, Fargo, Bismarck, Missoula, Boise, and lots of other cities I’m not mentioning.  Down the west coast—Burns (OR), Eureka, Mill Valley (where George had that terrific book release party at his house, which you were kind enough to attend), Reno and eastward along the South. Stops in Fort Worth, Houston, Baton Rouge, Metarie, New Orleans, then up towards Lexington KY, and east again to, eventually, D.C.  My final reading of the tour was at a Borders in Alexandria, VA; the next day I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.  A lot of time to reflect on what just happened when you’re running for 26.2 miles.  It was exhausting at the time, but now I view it as one of the best experiences of my life.  I learned a lot about audiences—and the difference between types of silences—along the way.  Audiences ranged from 2 people (Fargo) to hundreds (Fort Wayne, IN, where I was paired for the evening with a local jazz band that just cut a contract with Columbia Records).  I was eager to read to all of them, regardless the size of audience.  I had a blast.  An exhausting, exhilarating blast.”

Since Landing, we have published two more Ward titles: 17 Love Poems with No Despair and The Gravedigger’s Birthday. And bj now has a shingle: he teaches writing at Warren County (New Jersey) Community College.

18. Charles Stein

From the beginning, Chuck has been North Atlantic’s helmsman, conscience, expositor, and oracle.  He led me into alchemy, t’ai chi, mathematics, Tibetan Buddhist cosmology, and the mysteries and mantras of language.  He may have only a few actual books, but his spirit and intellect permeate the press as much as anyone’s.  He is as central to our vision and it execution as I have been (see Chapter Two).

When Io began as an esoteric and poetic journal, Chuck was one of its regular contributors.  In subsequent years, while developing his own poetry, philosophy, and Buddhist and Taoist practices, he has functioned as an informal contributing editor at large, finding us projects and helping develop others, including the last Frissell volume, the Upledger autobiography, and Stan Tenen’s sacred alphabets.

Over the years we have tried to see if Chuck’s own work could find an audience.  We gave it an early shot in the seventies with his Poems & Glyphs, which was also Io/17; then tried again in the eighties when he edited a generically esoteric Io: Being = Space X Action (#41), a blend of advanced mathematical, aesthetic, and occult theories.

We began anew from a fresh place in 2006 with the more accessible Persephone Unveiled: Seeing the Goddess & Freeing Your Soul, Chuck’s inquiry into the Eleusinian Mysteries, the visionary core of ancient Greek spiritual and death practice.

The next Stein opus was his translation of Homer’s Odyssey, revealing the old epic to be an extraordinarily suspenseful mystery poem with haunting lyrical cadences, a document that looks back at the late Stone Age, its mythology and magic and world of the Gods themselves more than forward into Western civilization and literature as their harbinger.

Like Charles Olson whom he met and studied under while we were both in high school (and on whom he wrote his Ph.D. thesis The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum…etc. many years later) and like Ezra Pound or Pablo Picasso, Chuck has one of those grand and broad civilizational portfolios of intelligence cum aesthetics, encompassing—and any list here would be incomplete: proprioceptions and theories regarding consciousness, number, money, space-time, being itself, hermetic traditions Gnostic and Taoist, and knowledge itself.  These underlie and generate his own extensive artistic, epistemological, psychospiritual practices and daily contemplative life.  His output over the years includes multimedia sculptures and scrolls, shrines and altars, poetic syntaxes and sound structures, meditation and yogic techniques, and excavations of root terms of the human universe, both Eastern and Western, both occult and scientific, abstract to the point of ineffable and imponderable, yet concrete as rocks and coins in a waterfall around a Buddha or pure jazz through a clarinet.  He has been a sophisticated musician in both classical and pop groups and a fine photographer (to the degree that he earned a living at it for a while as a young man).  He has also been a classics scholar with mastery of both Latin and Greek, a skilled Taoist martial artist, a left-wing politico and politician, and an exceptional athlete at many conventional Western sports.  He has almost too many talents to rein them into one order and design, and maybe that is why he has not even come close to making a public name for himself.

The fact that he is not a major literary and intellectual figure in the culture is both inexplicable and frustrating for all who know Chuck well.  His intellect dwarfs most talking heads in areas of Buddhism, history of science, aesthetics, and even political theory, and his poetry makes the kind of work that routinely passes for successful literature in magazines like The New Yorker seem juvenile.  Yet he is a total and ultimate outsider.  Even within North Atlantic Books where he has both seniority and inherence we have not been able to actualize him as a full-blown habitant or author.  He is a ton of gold manifesting in a few feathers.  (See also “Friends,” “My Teachers,” and “Most Influential Poets” on this website.)

19. Lindy Hough

Lindy is one of the two principles who created North Atlantic Books, but despite our agenda-plan in most other regards and domains to resist and fight off gender stereotypes and the roles culturally assigned to men and women, in the publishing company we fall into archetypal male and female clichés.  If I provided the source solar pneuma for the press, Lindy created the formal lunar shape.  As I continually brought in too many and too much (of just about everything), she found a metric and matrix that allowed actual issues of Io and books to matriculate out of the flood.

As my copublisher and business partner, Lindy regularly collected literary work for Io; edited #19, Mind, Memory, Psyche; played the central role in getting the press to the West Coast—and then catapulted it out of the house; found each of our office locales in Berkeley; tapped the artist for Walter the Farting Dog; conceived and implemented the international-fiction program.  She also developed, hand-edited, and helped write a host of books ranging from Heartsearch: Healing Lupus by Donna Talman to Victims of Cruelty by Maryanna Eckberg to Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful by Donna Goertz.  She served as the original and then supplementary “human resources” liaison, finding candidates, setting up interviews, and coordinating hiring and job reviews as the press entered that phase.  Her words appear throughout the liturgy: in her edits in books, in descriptive and catalogue copy, in author bios, on back covers, and in the spoken language that shapes meetings, committees, and institutional structures.  She is also half of the developmental dialogue behind the press and, from my perspective, has served as my sounding board, devil’s advocate, and enabler supreme.  Although her presence and participation is not always obvious, she has been pure glue.  She is that kind of person: charisma and glue, spirit and pith.

Lindy also has three early North Atlantic Books of poetry and experimental prose: Changing Woman (Io #11) and Psyche and The Sun in Cancer as North Atlantic titles, both among the first ten of the press’s books.  Her fourth book of poems, Outlands and Inlands, was published by our close colleague during the old Io years, the afore-mentioned David Wilk, under his Truck imprint.  Ever since, she has been writing essays, journal entries, and literary fiction but not publishing them.  In this activity she has created a hidden work as voluminous in its own terms as my extant one.  Even I am not sure of the scope, but I think that, if organized and published, it would constitute at least twenty books.  That is her choice.  She is a pure writer and artist from the love of it, without a mission beyond perfection of art.

She retired from the North Atlantic staff in 2010.  A collection of her selected poems, Wild Horse, Wild Dreams, finally appeared in 2011, and her anthology on grandparenting, Wondrous Child, is schedule for 2012.

I think of the relationship between us individually and collectively and North Atlantic books as being one of covert (her) versus overt (me), latent versus manifest, implicit versus explicit, grace and form versus effort and energy.  Of course, these are oversimplifications.  I only mean to call out the fact that while my footprints and fingerprints are all over the press and what tend to show forensically, hers are there more subtly and invisibly.  As one old Io-era poet put it, “You’re the Beatles, but she’s the Rolling Stones.”

20. Richard Grossinger

How to explain myself and my own body of work?  Even more daunting, how to be candid, express faith in my own books and report their occasional accolades, without it sounding as though I am boasting, feigning modesty, or trotting out lame and stale endorsements?  This whole blog already borders on false modesty and fake disingenuousness.

I will ask readers to grant me a little latitude here.  I have spent a significant portion of my life writing sentences—by pen and by pencil, on manual typewriters, Smith Corona electrics, IBM Selectrics, occasional portable tape-recorders, and on keyboards in computer programs (like this)—all with the sense of an innate calling and the goal of producing important trans-genre literary, spiritual, scientific books.

There are far more books by me than by any other author under the North Atlantic imprint—over thirty if you count edited anthologies, like the alchemy, baseball, ecology, and Abu Ghraib ones, and my early experimental-prose books, nine of which were published either from Maine as Ios or from Vermont among first-generation NAB books.  So I need to set my writing in the context of North Atlantic as well as reevaluate the press itself in the context of Richard Grossinger, author.

The core energy and insights that drive my publishing career and the North Atlantic list are generated directly out of and inspired by my writing.  I can’t begin to characterize our publishing company without speaking about my own literary career.  And that is the case even though the fruits of my labor and legacy of books are obscure to the point of being almost invisible, while North Atlantic, which sprouted from that same seed, has blossomed into a grove that completely hides it.

Io/North Atlantic came into being as an adjunct to Lindy’s and my own writing, and I imposed most of the content therein.  Such notions as Alchemy, Ethnoastronomy, Oecology, Dreams, Baseball, and Earth Geography came directly from my musings or from Kelly, Olson, Dorn, Stein, etc., through me.  I typed Io issues six through ten and twelve through eighteen from beginning to end by myself (Lindy typed number eleven, Changing Woman, while the first five issues were done professionally before we bought our own IBM Selectric).

But I did more than type those issues—I developed my own writing in the midst of them, typing it right into the pages in such texts as “Alchemical Sections,” “The Plant Book,” and “The Alphabet Book”; I strafed quotes, excerpts of ethnographic writings, incantations from occult books, scraps of “found” indigenous, scientific, and historical texts, voyaging, and settler journals as I went.  And I cut out or photocopied and then rubber-cemented assorted glyphs and other line art right onto the offset pages as I rendered them like a kid with old magazines, plastic scissors, and glue.

Not everyone admired those “busy,” crammed pages, especially a few sparer poets who felt that Northwest Coast Indian tattoos, in one notable instance, came perilously close to the ragged right of their longest lines.  But the potpourri established a kind of energy of manifestation, an occult haberdashery spurling out of a buried cornucopia.

These grab-bags of esoteric and literary syntheses, seminal to many young people of our generation on their own paths, were also the primitive, youthful forerunners of the core North Atlantic topics and titles and of the overall North Atlantic mission conceptualization and approach to human and cosmic universes.  The collages were my “books” until I began to separate my writing and publishing into their discrete domains and put out full-blown tomes with their own boundaries, just like any other author measuring his or her text into the world.

Initially I couldn’t see my way to that definitive separation or its claims of authority.  I was too young, jittery, uncertain and shy of what I was doing.  Because I had so much energy and passion to convert, I wanted to execute the deed anonymously, even to myself, and then hide out.

I forged North Atlantic out of the yolk of my own “bricolage” as Claude Lévi-Strauss named this sort of junk in The Savage Mind. Conversely, I had to purée my own subsequent books (Planet Medicine, The Night Sky, Embryogenesis, etc.) out of what had already once been Io bricolage, precipitating them out of the cloudy solution.  In a Freudian sense it was like going into the fluctuating and interchangeable elements of a dream and culling them into daylight entities in two completely separate contexts and milieus.  If North Atlantic Books is Io, e.g., one layer of its realized symbology, then my own tomes are the other half, equally, of Io’s salvaged dreamlife.  Thus, the two enterprises—my bibliography and North Atlantic’s library—run parallel, with a good portion of the former falling metonymically within the latter.

The relative success of North Atlantic/Frog has proven my prescience about many of my topics.  Plus, I have also been able to garner books and authors based on my credibility as a writer.  People trust me to publish them because I am working alongside them with my own perspective and vibration on many of the same topics.

So I continue to stand in odd relationship to the press.  The editorial map of North Atlantic/Frog expresses nothing so much as my own idiosyncratic interests churned around, reflected upon objectively, subjected to investigation, and melded and re-melded over the years—from craniosacral therapy to baseball, from rock ’n’ roll to martial arts, from the planets and moons of the Solar System to alchemy and dreams, from anthropology to psychotherapy, from radical politics to Buddhism, from cosmology to pop culture.  I have developed a combination of poetics, literary science, science fiction, esoteric documents, pop culture, and mythology out of my initial interests and, though these have altered profoundly over the years in their various implementations, I have more or less stayed with in one form or another.

These topics, totally merged and muddied and synergized in my writing, have their own integrities within the press.

So I have been able to translate my vision commercially into a press but not commercially into books.  That is the thumbnail sketch and epitaph of my literary life.  The books, while expressing the central vision of our press in perhaps their most subtilized and esoteric form, like those of Ellias Lonsdale the Seer, sell anywhere from few to almost none.  Meanwhile my partial ghost-writing for authors like Richard Hoagland, Richard Strozzi Heckler, Bob Frissell, Ron Sieh, Scott Taylor, Bruce Lamb, Wendell Seavey, and many others, has led to far more successful books, at least by the judgments of the marketplace.

No one gets, finally, to evaluate his or her own work.  In truth, only a test of decades decides what books are classics.  So Ellias, Chuck Stein, George Quasha, and I are allowed by the universe to continue to create “classics” that are unacknowledged on the present Earth plane and, for all we know, will be unacknowledged forever.  That is the beauty of the set-up.  I mean it.  We have total freedom.  No one is given an automatic trophy or award, even when they are, because Dylan’s wheel is always in spin, along with everything and everyone else.

The conviction that I have carried out a major work is limited to a handful of readers or comes from my own dead-reckoning by standards I set long ago, a bar I have continued to raise over the years.  I have fused layers and fragments of anthropology, literature, spiritual commentary, progressive politics, magic, epiphanic visions, a critique of science, and many other elements, while creating a voice that is all and none of them.  I have not shirked or backed off in the face of epic commercial and demographic failure.  I have continued to write large ardent and serious texts as though the previous ones had been bestsellers.

There are not many authors around who have published so many big works with such a sweeping commitment, yet who are essentially unread and unknown.   Such a body of work remains unconventional in American letters and difficult to characterize or classify.  All the books are literary; all of them cross traditional literary barriers of genre and subject matter.  Just about all of them have been reviewed or publicly praised by writers and thinkers of more stature and success than me, a lineage stretching from Charles Olson and Joyce Carol Oates in the early years to Joseph Chilton Pearce and Pir Zia Inayat Khan more recently.

I am trying to write classics that will survive this epoch, not because I aspire to fame but because my vision itself seems to me an epiphany from beyond contemporary America—beyond even the Earth—and I present it blindly and obediently as a wonder, a mystery, and an odyssey into the unknown.  I receive it in the way that a trance medium receives a meaning or a message; only it is both more aesthetic and articulated and like a masque or a song.  The message has become my central life practice; I respond daily to an urgency to transmit it.  There are tunes that I can’t get out of my head unless I transcribe them and their unworded lyrics.  They are their own only antidote, their realization as well as their relief—the way to get the monkey off my back.  Then, as I write, the act transforms me and gives me fresh inspiration and ideas, even practical ones like others’ books to publish.  This process has guided my literary and professional path and made for a deeper psychospiritual journey.  In that sense, the writing is more like yoga or meditation than literary craft.  The craft merely gives it a shape and a boundary, a stillness, and keeps me honest, keeps me from rambling and saying anything.  It is the Zen master with his stick.

I arrived at the following explanation in my book 2013:

I write because it is the only way to keep from getting overwhelmed by the voices and mysteries.  My commitment to this text, going back to my first descriptions of thunderstorms as a teenager at summer camp (1958), is not about writing per se; it is about witnessing and tracking.  The literary overlays accumulated gradually as a sort-mode and prayer.  They are the preliminary lyrics to an unknown song.  When addressing gods, you use the most formal, respectful language of which you are capable.  You show humility.  You show respect.  You demonstrate art.  You confirm that you care.  You try to meet them where they are.  Service can be cultivated only by loyal attention.  I know it sounds vain and gaga, but I consider this work not ordinary prose, not even channeling, but transmission.

Wordy, arguably pretentious and gaudy, it is my writing voice; it just is.  I don’t talk this way or, the rare times I do, I am being intentionally melodramatic; I sport a bashful or embarrassed look.

It is all theater anyway—improv and dead-reckoning.  And it is only words—little noise-makers, squawky symbols marking positions of the tongue, hard palate, and teeth that make shapes and sounds into sacred trees.  I know I sometimes use fifty of them where five will do.  It is because I hear music and want to fill in the meter, though I am tone-deaf.  An excuse and a copout, yes, but it is also a way to honor an intimation that is greater than I am.

Language is my tribe, my union, my synagogue.  It was the first mediation that got placed between me and the void.  It took me almost fourteen years on Earth to decide to address the gods, to cultivate an appropriately sacred tongue.  Without it I was too alone.  Baseball and rock ’n’ roll were not enough.  A child’s blind errand, but it did turn America into a magical place.

I am still that teenager with his games and 45s, his thunderstorms and night skies, still wondering, still in awe, still keeping the faith.  You must see that in these pages.

I promised that child I would carry out his mission, even if he didn’t know what it was or if consecution was possible.   It was the cornerstone of a life he dispatched me to live.

“Energy becomes whatever it thinks about.”  And: “a creature doing its True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist it.”  Thank you, Leonard Orr; thank you, Aleister Crowley.  (This pair of kudos ends the quote from 2013.)

A few years ago Ellias Lonsdale, before doing a psychic reading for me, asked me to provide him with a question as a focal point for the session.  I asked, “Why don’t I have more readers?”

He said: “Your work is part of a secret process, secret even to yourself.  It represents a complex mode of consciousness on a subtle plane that has been working its way into the world for millennia.  You are carrying out one phase of it in a regular sense in linear time, but your inner self is doing the actual work in a timeless reverie.  And this is the only way the project is going to get done.  Otherwise, you would continually have to defend yourself against an external voice that keeps saying, ‘This is not happening; this is some bizarre aberration.’

“You are fighting both for and against something that won’t go away.  You can’t drop it, and you can’t complete it.  It has no grand fruition, nothing to do with a New Age notion that everything is supposed to cross and become magnificent.  Esoterically it is its own reality, its own truth, its own justification.”

That, as well as anything, describes my work and it also captures my vision for North Atlantic Books

More recently I asked Mary Stark, a long-time reader in Montreal, to help me out here, to abet Lonsdale from a more secular viewpoint.  I told her that I was writing a retrospective of our press for Random House Distribution Services and wanted a statement from her as to why my work was interesting to her.  She emailed this:

“Reading Planet Medicine was a revelation for me.  I am a medical anthropologist by training myself, but I had pretty much given up on the field as being myopic and reductionist until I came across this work.  Here was a meticulous erudite scholar who not only wrote exquisitely, but who grasped the sweeping larger picture of how depths of meaning in different medical traditions can contribute to our human understanding of our own existence as embodied beings in the universe.

“Whether it be astronomy or ecology, embryogenesis or even childhood reminiscences, you have an unerring and disciplined eye for minutely observed detail, and a shatteringly acute ability to wonder and ask immensely important questions of the greater whole. Nothing is trivial in your hands, every field becomes an entry point for enquiry into existence, conscious experience, and reality.  Consequently each field about which you have written has been elevated above its station, or more accurately, has been placed in its greater, even cosmic, context. The reader, along for the ride, is likewise elevated, illumined, and left with a sense of awe and wonderment.”

She elaborated on this in a preface to The Bardo of Waking Life.

My work began as that of an aspiring teen novelist whose models included Melville, Faulkner, Beckett, Robert Penn Warren, Hamilton Basso, T.H. White, and Claude Simon.  With autobiographical fiction I got as far as Catherine Carver, Saul Bellow’s editor at Viking, while a college freshman, finally abandoning our project because I did not want to master the sort of conventional novel-writing skills that she set as our joint goal (see Chapter One).  I did, however, get to apprentice with her and, at the time, she confirmed for me that I had the talent to do work of serious literary caliber.[5]

After deciding that the novel was not my path, I read, met, and corresponded with numerous avant-garde poets through my early twenties—Robert Kelly, Ed Dorn, Paul Blackburn, Diane Wakoski, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, etc.— read William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and other artists on the edge, and embarked on my own experimental literary and editorial career as I became a graduate student in anthropology at Michigan.  In fact, I changed to anthropology for graduate school to get out of English-Department and Western-culture mentalities.

I started my post-Catherine Carver oeuvre by attempting poetry in imitation of Kelly and Olson—while still a junior at Amherst in 1965—but, after six months, being a prose stylist at heart, I began to segue the raw material of poems into experimental poetic narratives, a kind of hybrid genre that I made up and refined as I went along.

In Ann Arbor I studied ecology, native economies, myth and religion, ethnobotany, and ethnomedicine while, on the side, reading Western mysticism and occult and going more deeply into indigenous myths and shamanism than my coursework allowed.  Those varied threads came together at the beginning of my formal writing career in Solar Journal, Book of the Earth and Sky, and The Continents.

Solar Journal, entered the public view from Black Sparrow Press in 1970 and, in context, was my greatest success—one I have never matched—though I consider that book rough, amateur, and shamefully imitative of the poets I admired.  I haven’t looked at it in over thirty years.  On request from the publisher, Robert Duncan wrote an essay about me that Black Sparrow distributed as a folded pamphlet inserted it in the book.  Duncan compared my work to Olson’s and Pound’s, saying, “In Grossinger the old arguments of these poets, men in transition, battering often at the walls of old institutions of mind that they might have let go, the old polemics are gone, or rather swept up in a new order….  Grossinger has opened a new era.”

With that kind of confirmation and initiatory push from an archon, the floodgates opened and, for the next six years, I wrote experimental prose like a madman, was invited to read at various colleges around the country (including the already-noted occasions with Ashbery and with Duncan himself and Ginsberg at Kent State at the first-anniversary memorial for the horrible slayings), and I also published half a dozen more volumes—each one more acute by the standards I set for myself, yet each selling fewer than those before, as Black Sparrow and Harper dropped me altogether as an author.  That’s why I published the last seven or eight myself under the fledgling North Atlantic Books, and that’s even, in part, why I wanted to launch my own publishing imprint.  In 1976 I dropped the experimental-prose venture and stopped writing anything other than journal notes for over a year.  By then I had been at it continuously for half my life (from age sixteen to thirty-two).   That “new era” of Duncan’s didn’t ever come.

My first dozen or so volumes of experimental prose appeared druing the 1970s.  Four of the first five, starting with Solar Journal: Oecological Sections and including Book of the Earth and Sky in two volumes, were published by Black Sparrow Press (the second, Mars: A Science Fiction Vision was Io/#9).  The sixth, Spaces Wild and Tame, was published by Bookpeople’s original house press, Mudra.  The seventh, Book of the Cranberry Islands was published by Harper and Row.  All the rest were either North Atlantic or Io.

Early Field Notes from the All-American Revival Church was the last Io that I wrote as a book (#18, the one with the tarot cards in the back), and then Martian Homecoming at the All-American Revival Church was not only my ninth book, but it was the very first title published under the new North Atlantic imprint (followed by Lindy’s Psyche).  Other seventies-era North Atlantic Books by me included The Provinces, The Long Body of the Dream, The Book of Being Born Again into the World, The Windy Passage from Nostalgia, and The Slag of Creation. I consider these a combination of journal entries and poetry written in prose.  Then I took a long break

What sent me back to writing books—more formal and conventional stuff this time—was the impetus to earn a living in order to get out of teaching at Goddard College, as it seemed to be going under in the mid seventies.  Here is a slightly different version of a story told earlier (see Chapter One):

Through the Marxist ecologist Murray Bookchin, a fellow faculty member at Goddard, I got in touch with Cynthia Merman, his editor friend at Harper, and, after asking for an inventory my “bookable” wares, she invited me to submit a proposal for a project on homeopathy, a subject I had studied in the late 1960s through my correspondence with Ted Enslin while preparing for anthropology fieldwork.  Ultimately Cynthia’s publishing board overrode her on this topic, so I sent the same proposal to Angela Cox, at Doubleday who was the editorial colleague of a friend of another Goddard faculty member.  Angela had me rewrite the concept into a general book on alternative medicine, and then Anchor gave me a contract and a small advance.

As I wrote Planet Medicine (and the two subsequent books in what became a trilogy), I tried to change from pure experimental prose to something between it and the expository academic language in which I had just constructed my Ph.D. thesis on lobsterfishing at Michigan.  What I ended up with was a language and style fusing the two, a genre that I kept revising over decades, such that, at times of each of their republications, I ultimately rewrote all three books from scratch —Planet Medicine, The Night Sky, and Embryogenesis—in order to match my evolving landmarks and standards.

Planet Medicine sold one print run with Doubleday and then was bought by Shambhala when Lindy worked there; it had one Shambhala print run too.  Since then I have revised it seven times into its present two-volume form (with a Homeopathy: The Great Riddle side volume).  Of my three science-related books, it has been the most commercially successful, being regularly adopted in courses in osteopathic and Traditional Chinese medical schools, serving there (and in medical anthropology circles) as an alternative history of medicine.

The Night Sky was an attempt to write a phenomenology, poetics, and cross-cultural map of the heavens.  After John Brockman sold it to Sierra Club Books, it achieved marginal success, getting panned by numerous reviewers, including Timothy Ferris in the Sunday New York Times. it was picked as “the worst book of the year” by a Seattle left-wing underground paper.

Like many negatively reviewed authors I felt that my critics reviewed their own misreadings of the book.  Ferris said that, in trying to locate the meeting point of astrology and astronomy, I demonstrated that there wasn’t one.  But I wasn’t trying to locate such a meeting point at all.  I was seeking a cross-cultural traditionary cosmology that preceded and transcended any division into fields or branches of knowledge or any split between astrology and astronomy.   My model was something like Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend’s history of planetary consciousness through the precession of the equinox in their book Hamlet’s Mill or Claude Lévi-Strauss’s structural analysis of “primitive” myth as coded information theory in The Savage Mind.

My attempt to imbed a deconstruction and critique of science in a valorization of my own medley of structural anthropology, ethnoastronomy, astral magic, star myth, Whiteheadian philosophy, and Buddhist cosmology incensed science-oriented reviewers as well as Marxist environmentalist critics who decided to hold Sierra Club to a politically and doctrinally pure yardstick on such matters.

J. P. Tarcher, a better fit than an environmental and nature publisher, bought the paperback rights from Sierra Club, so I rewrote the book for them in a tighter, more organized form (see Chapter Six).  It did no better under a New Age rubric, as my work was too academic, complicated, and dense for their “Aquarian conspiracy” readership.  I really had no audience at all at that point—too thorny and political for New Age readers, too countercultural and avant-garde for academic and political readers; too talky and dense for a literary audience, too poetic and esoteric for readers of popular science.

That is pretty much how things remain.  Since Solar Journal found a passing flash of a literary counterculture in the early seventies, partly via the American and Canadian Whole Earth Catalogues and Almanacs, I have not been able to recover even a ghost of its facsimile or rouse anything to replace it.  I think that audience disappeared along with the Jefferson Airplane and the White Panthers.

North Atlantic still sells the remaindered Tarcher edition of The Night Sky at the rate of about a copy or two a year.  I get about a dozen letters or emails a year from new readers of it, so I guess people are reading other people’s copies or, more likely, buying them used on Amazon.  When I met Bill Kotzwinkle, our soon-to-be author of Walter the Farting Dog, he told me that The Night Sky was one of three books he always kept on his desk.  He said he had read it from cover to cover four times and used pieces from it in his novels.  That feels about writing: a counterintuitive ratio of “read” to “sold” of well over a hundred percent.

Embryogenesis, already discussed, was the third book in the series. By combining all three themes—healing, cosmology, and embryology—Embryos, Galaxies, and Sentient Beings: How the Universe Makes Life is the de facto fourth book.

By the time I finished writing Embryogenesis in the mid 1980s, I had gotten tired of the genre and no longer needed advance money for wages, since North Atlantic was finally able to pay me.   So I went back to the manuscript (Salty and Sandy) that I had been working on with Catherine Carver, a rubber-banded bundle of pages I had not unboxed since 1964.
In fact the rubber bands had dried out and stuck to the outer pages.  As I read it, two things jumped out at me: first, how pretentious and cumbersome the writing was—enough to make me blush and wonder what she or Leo Marx saw in me—and, second, how powerfully it conveyed the feeling and mystery of its times.  I knew at once that I had to salvage the nostalgia and naïve sense of wonder in it, to scrub off the rhetorical husk.

I spent the next two years rewriting Salty and Sandy into a memoir.  I enlarged its time frame by borrowing from my college writing and modifying sections from my early experimental-prose books—so the revived version ended in 1970 instead of 1962.  I named it New Moon after a long narrative that I published in the Chicago Review while in my last year at Amherst, essentially a short story that I enlarged and incorporated entirely into the book.

For the next eight or so years I circulated New Moon in bound photocopies, rewriting it numerous times along the way, as I was continually informed by feedback from readers.  It went to friends, fellow writers, fellow mystics, even two former Major League ball-players and other “blue collar” workers.  Unlike my experimental prose and science-based tomes, it was an easy read and had the narrative drive of fiction—a number of people read all 500 pages in two or three sittings.

By then I knew enough from past experience as both a writer and publisher to be skeptical of any chance of the book for public success or even peer-reviewed publication.  No longer Duncan’s ingénue, in the eyes of the trade I was one thing only: a failed commercial writer.  So for a long time I avoided even trying to publish New Moon. It was too primitive and special to me, and I didn’t want to ruin my innocent experience of it.

I put it out under Frog in 1996 almost as an afterthought because a number of people at PGW who read it expressed the belief that they could make a hit out of it, and Andrew Harvey, who was our loyal author then, hyperbolized that it was one of the five best books he had ever read by an American.  He said, “You should have the courage of your convictions and free it.”

New Moon has now been in the market for around fifteen years, and I have given away far more than the 500 or so that have been sold, over a hundred of those sales in addition at my Horace Mann and Amherst College reunions.

When asked for a sound bite, I describe the book now as a record of the enchantments through which one passes en route to adult life: initially board games, candy-bars, toys; then school daze, baseball, summer camp and color war; then the watershed of adolescence, dating and romance; initiation, apprenticeship, marriage, kids, a career.  New Moon also captures the evanescent moment of a young writer trying to create a novel out of the materials of his own unformed consciousness.

My other memoir book, Out of Babylon: Ghosts of Grossinger’s, arose through a different process.  When John Brockman was my agent in the early 1980s, he invited me to write a book about Grossinger’s, my father’s resort, dangling the promise of a six-figure advance for it.  After about a hundred pages we both acknowledged I had no capacity for a gossipy blockbuster.

I tried reworking the material with an old buddy as my co-author, John Brady, a one-time bellhop at the hotel who had become a professional writer (editor then of Writer’s Digest) and had himself for years had the intention to write an epic Grossinger’s novel.  We went at it together for a month, but our separate “novels” had no overlap or seam.  He was doing a grand fictional Dynasty book with an apocryphal tale of my grandmother at its center, and I was seeking my family’s hidden truth.

After I rediscovered and rewrote New Moon, I decided to see what I could do to some of the material I generated while trying to deliver for Brockman and then improvise with Brady.  By the time I was done three years later, I had integrated many other manuscripts and story or journal fragments into it and created an entirely different book, a sprawling homage to Faulkner and Olson.

Out of Babylon was never a sequel to New Moon.  Instead it synopsized New Moon and then told my story at a different scale in the context of five generations of my families, from imaginal accounts of my great grandparents to narrations of my children’s coming of age.  Its text was constructed out of unfinished books and essays from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s.  The first was Jonny’s Quest (published in Waiting for the Martian Express), a memoir of my half-brother that I began at the time he went into a mental hospital in 1974.  Other subplots of Out of Babylon include my mother’s suicide, my discovery that Paul Grossinger wasn’t my father and that my mother had me by an affair while married to him, my search for my real father, my attempts to teach college, the raising of my children and the creation and development of North Atlantic Books.

I “sound bite” this book as a story of how families destroy their children while claiming to love them.  The title comes from a reggae song that my brother Jon invoked as an epigraph to our growing up on Park Avenue.  He put a pin serving as a needle on a scratchy record on an old victrola on the floor of his trashed Second Avenue flat while he pointed up and to the West.  The song that filled the hollow room was “Stepping Out of Babylon” by Max Romeo and the Upsetters: “One steppa forward; two steppa backwards….” Yes, always.

Since the initial flood of experimental-prose volumes I have written about twenty full-fledged books, some of them on topics like the meta-science ones for Doubleday, Sierra Club, and Avon.  Two recent “topic” ones were purely designed for North Atlantic Books and with the thought of available markets—Migraine Auras: When the Visual World Fails (see the previous chapter) and The New York Mets: Myth, Ethnography, and Subtext.

I have independently contributed book-length pieces to ten or so Ios or anthologies on Melville, human history from the Stone Age, cosmology of northern New England, alchemy, dreams, baseball, panic, psychotherapy, somatics, ecology, politics, etc.  My 1989 collection of short pieces, Waiting for the Martian Express: Cosmic Visitors, Earth Warriors, Luminous Dreams, was retitled only after I properly named it A Critical Look at the New Age, its actual and more accurate name.  I flinced because folks at PGW said that I shouldn’t be attacking my customer base.  They were wrong at more than one level here, but it probably wouldn’t have sold much under any title.  About a third of that book was rewritten from experimental prose books of mine out of the seventies, mostly The Unfinished Business of Doctor Hermes.

More recently I have written purely literary texts resembling the old experimental prose in structure but not in style.  Since 2004 I have developed a subgenre that combines my memoir tales with my scientific deconstructions, metaphysical ontology, and experimental prose.

I published the first such in 2005, On the Integration of Nature: Post-9/11 Biopolitical Notes: a mixture of stories, Mount Desert Island landscapes, political editorials, brief science-fiction plots, Dzogchen Buddhist commentaries, discussions of pop culture, reggae lyrics, discursive obituaries of friends (including my brother Jon who committed suicide in May 2005), and attempts to find hope in the current global crisis.

The Bardo of Waking Life, published in 2008, is its sequel, with many of the same topics but more of an orientation toward mortality and the nature and meaning of evil.

The third book is 2013: Raising the Earth to the Next Vibration; it has a magical and energetic orientation toward the training I got at the Berkeley Psychic Institute and from John Friedlander (see Chapter Eight).  2013, as per its subtitle, addresses whether there is another vibration transmitting through the whole Earth and, if so, how we might find and implement it.

Since then, I have been working on Dark Pool of Light: Reality and Consciousness (Physical, Philosophical, Psychological, Psychospiritual View Considered in Tandem.  Here is a tentative table of contents:

Chapter One: What the Fuck is This?

Chapter Two: The Scientific View of Reality

Chapter Three: What Is Consciousness?

Chapter Four: Qualia or Zombies?

Chapter Five: Consciousness as an Emergent Phenomenon: The Psycholinguistics and Phylogenesis of Meaning

Chapter Six: Ontology and Cosmology of Consciousness

Chapter Seven: The Theosophists and the Hermetic Tradition

Chapter Eight: Psychic Tools

Chapter Nine: The Energy Body

Chapter Ten: The Seven Planes of Consciousness

Chapter Eleven: Frequencies Outside the Range of Human Home Energy and Ordinary Experience

Chapter Twelve: Information and Free Will

Chapter Thirteen: Focusing on What Is Happening

Chapter Fourteen: Buddhism and Theosophy: A Comparison

Chapter Fifteen: Fear

Chapter Sixteen: Fear Has an Intelligence

Chapter Seventeen: How Did Evil Get into the Universe?

Chapter Eighteen: One Encounter, One Chance

Hyperlinks

I know this is a kind of sullen, downbeat commentary, but these days I like deconstructing my whole writing ambition qua career and trying to see it for what it is.  It is refreshing and liberating and, in a way, frees me to keep going without expectation or agenda.  I am now well past the days of thinking I would be a great novelist like William Faulkner, or an epic poet in the footsteps of Pound and Olson, or even a recognized intellect writing New Science.

Yet at the same time, my work is a lifetime undertaking—a task of weaving a body of texts into a system that is not a system but is the antithesis of a system.  I have no idea whether I will earn any meaningful coterie of readers ever (though I will add the uplifting and fulfilling update that in 2010 and 2011 I have been contacted by a handful of readers worldwide on Facebook, not a lot of them, maybe fifteen or so as of this writing—quite a few in Australia and many of them teenagers down to sixteen—and this has been a kind of private redemption).

Even though, of course, a writer would love to be popular, my main goal has not been that for a long time.  I am simply continuing the kind of literature or prophecy that began a few years before the publication of Solar Journal and that stands as whatever it is.  The press is its most concrete and viable exoteric artifact, but North Atlantic is also, more truly, an esoteric venture of an entirely different order.

The work itself adds up to a formal inquiry into the cosmos equivalent to that of, say, Ken Wilber—to pick a parallel opus more for scale and context than similarity of ideas, approach, or degree of public recognition.  My “system” is not as cohesive and organized as Wilber’s, and mine also embraces pop culture and avant-garde literature in a manner and to an extent that he would not touch with a ten-foot pole.  It ambitiously strives to eat at the same table as poets and novelists as well as to pass muster among philosophers and scientists.  But, again, mine isn’t a system in the Wilber or Eckhart Tolle sense; it has, as Ellias articulated well: no rationale, no order, no goal.

Chapter 11: The Most Important Books, Best-Selling Books, and Best Projects Missed | Table of Contents

Footnotes

[1]
We also published a field-defining book in this area under the title Energy Psychology by Michael Mayer.
[2]
At Peter’s behest we also published the system book by founder Lawrence Noyes, The Enlightenment Intensive: Dyad Communication as a Tool for Self-Realization.
[3]
Paul and Peter also by the way trained together in sanshao, the two-person t’ai-chi set, during Peter’s pre-tournament phase in the early seventies.
[4]
Peter thinks the title should be Gravity Doesn’t Care, as that expresses his own more cynical mood precisely.
[5]
For a fuller narrative on these matters and events, see the previously annotated sections of New Moon and The Bardo of Waking Life, pp. 246-260 and 439-441.

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