Nineteen Sixties: the Earth's uptight psychic field was fracturing and hippies, social revolutionaries, and mystics were flying out through the openings made by a broad revulsion to a unconscionable war, the fortuitous arrival of new contraceptives, and novel cosmic visions from psychedelic drugs. We were in the midst of a grand awakening of the planet, and the trumpets were blaring in the heavens, signaling the dawn of a new age. In the midst of this, a small group of people had the amazing good fortune to be presented with the Ultimate Formula of Life. Let me share a bit of the history of this with you.
We got the Ultimate Formula of Life from Charles Berner at the World Headquarters of the Institute of Ability. That was in Costa Mesa, a town next to Newport Beach, California. This was 1966. He had a deep mystical experience. The Ultimate Formula of Life popped out. I was there, along with a few others, to see it unfold.
It is not very often that someone is shown the revealed seed of a new religion, a seed that purports to be a formula that would make sense of everything and transform the world. This was a special time and this was a special event, at least in my mind.
My close friends and I were the young, mostly male, staff at "the Institute." The Institute was headquartered in a tiny, shabby former real estate office (profoundly uninspiring). Before that, it was a beauty parlor. Charles called it the "World Headquarters of the Institute of Ability." That conceit sometimes made us chuckle, but it wasn’t enough to turn us away. Charles had set the bar high.
I volunteered part time, answering the phone, doing some printing, setting up chairs for classes, and addressing envelopes and flyers for our occasional mailings. For this, I got free or discounted access to Charles' classes.
Now, I know that Scientology is the bad-boy poster child of new age religions. Their dark-and-creepy factor, though, started later (or perhaps I didn’t realize it until later). At the time we were involved, Scientology was inspiring (as well as fascinating). Though it always seemed to offer more than it could really deliver, it embodied some really interesting (to me) ideas and I was eager to try them out. In retrospect, I realize that what I got as Scientology was a somewhat filtered version that came through Charles. I am thankful for that.
Within a couple of years, the Scientology organization's weirdness quotient went exponential and it became embarrassing to be associated with it. In 1966, Charles had a squabble with the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and was messily cast out. He quickly formed the Institute of Ability. At first, he taught warmed over Scientology, but after a while the operation took on Charles' own imprint and character. By being out from under the insane oppressive thumb of Scientology, his creativity flourished and things began to move in a new direction.
One by one, the Scientology elements were renamed, simplified, and transmuted. We no longer used the “E-Meter,” the electronic device they use to direct the auditing process. The term "thetan" was dropped. There was, simply, “you”, or, “your true nature”. Things like that. Most Scientology processes were abandoned as Charles invented new ones. He did, however, keep something similar to the one-on-one communication format used in Auditing. It’s just that what we did in those “dyads” was quite different.
The underlying focus of our enterprise was discovering and practicing methods to increase our ability to live life better. Charles led the way, and he kept coming out with fresh insights from week to week. These were exciting and we'd work on them in these dyads (two-person meditation/communication sessions). Getting rid of debilitating psychological barriers was one big theme. Developing new mental or spiritual abilities was another, which fits the “Institute of Ability” theme.
One day Charles emerged excited from a clearing session that he just had with a client. He announced that he had made a big discovery. He discovered a key factor in releasing people from their hang-ups. The reason people couldn't let things go was because they needed to communicate certain messages to other individuals. The act of successfully communicating a message to another, and believing it was truly received by that other, and actually really received by that other was the key.
Students of psychology in college learn about famous “theories of personality.” All the great psychologists are known for the theories of personality. I suppose that Charles did something similar. He was developing a way of describing the essence of what mind is. He was saying that he just discovered that the things that limit us are all made up of incomplete communications. Messages are stuck there that must be completed for them to clear away. When they are delivered, they disappear, leaving behind a much clearer consciousness and opened up new demonstrable abilities. He had a new working definition of the mind—incomplete communication cycles. This discovery added an important factor to our approach. We were “completing communications" as a key theme, one that strongly implied the overriding importance of improving relationships.
Charles continued to invent new dyad practices that would clear away the mental material that was standing between individuals and preventing them from really connecting. We all worked on our relationships, finding undelivered communications and delivering them. It was a seriously rocky path sometimes, but we were inspired.
Charles’ experience impacted his body. He was in a swoon as he made his way back across the street. He flopped down in a chair and said that he was so overwhelmed he felt like throwing up. He was dizzy. He could hardly walk. He cancelled his appointments for the day and, with some help, went home to rest.
When I arrived at the center the next day, people were eagerly anticipating his arrival. We were all breathless to hear about his experience. We all speculated about what it was. He arrived with a small entourage, and it looked as though he was still unsteady on his feet. His eyes looked a bit vacant and he just wanted to sit down. He indicated that the experience made him dizzy and he had a hard time speaking. He managed to croak out a few simple words: "It's ... the... Ultimate Formula of Life."
The first thing that came to my mind was a math formula. "He found the ultimate math formula of life?" I thought, "How strange!" I tried to imagine a math formula that was so amazing it would make you swoon...
But it wasn't a math formula. It was a vision that revealed what life ultimately is and how to fulfill its fundamental purpose. It was not just a view of human life, and not just biological life, but embraced all of everything—all of space, matter, energy, time, existence, your body, consciousness, mind, and meaning. You name it, it's in there. It had the Big Bang all the way up to Now and beyond to Forever as its scope.
Charles said that he couldn't get it fully across yet. It would take time. I could tell he was still partly in the experience, in a whirlwind of realizing its implications, and he said that he would need some time to figure out how to communicate it in a way that would do it justice. He said that he'd try to lay it all out for us, but it would take some preparation on his part first.
Then his wife, Ava, took him home to rest.
From that singular experience there began to emerge a profound new formula for life’s resolution. Over the next few months, Charles began to teach from his enlightenment experience. Everything he told us was informed by that experience. It was an amazing flow of insight and wisdom, and it was exciting to us. It turns out, somewhat to my surprise, that I and others had a powerful yearning for what we could see in Charles' vision. Whatever this was, this Ultimate Formula, it was something we wanted. Personally, I yearned for it with a surprising hunger.
This book is a collection of Charles' initial writings—writings about his discoveries, about his realizations, about the Enlightenment Intensive spiritual practices, and the personal advice he gives to his students.