Legacy of Rodney Collin
When Ouspensky died, Collin locked himself in the room with his teacher's body for several days despite repeated attempts by others to enter, and received many revelations that were to become the basis for his magnum opus The Theory of Celestial Influence
He undoubtedly had undergone some kind of regeneration for when he emerged he was a changed person, very childlike and innocent. Initially he was largely indifferent about attracting followers and concentrated on writing the book, but he was accused of hijacking students by Francis Roles who had salvaged the remainder of O's followers and made Collin and any who followed him persona non grata.
Roles' teaching had become diluted (in the opinion of his sister?in?law Joyce Collin?Smith); no longer was there the admonition to "believe nothing" and verify all for oneself, but to follow blindly. Collin, on the other hand had injected new life into the teaching without abandoning the fundamentals given him by his teacher.
There is often a conflict between those who would like to keep the system "pure" and those who believe its existence depends on new forms and applications. Collin has been accused by many of the Ouspenskian "old?guard" of taking the Fourth Way into places it wasn't meant to go. Following his new beginning in a different country he took the teachings into a sphere where service to people and attention to the needs of the planet were essential. For Collin there was only one way to keep the system pure, and that was by becoming pure oneself.
“To remember oneself, to become free from egoism, to be kind, to be understanding, to serve the Work and one's fellows, to remember oneself and find God...”1
Collin had been a journalist after leaving the London School of Economics and attended some lectures given by Nicol and eventually met Ouspensky in 1936, recognising that here was everything he had been searching for. He and his wife lived with the Ouspenskys both in Lyne Place and Franklin Farm in Mendham, NY when they moved to the US. He became deeply attached to Ouspensky and spent more and more time with him. While he had absorbed all the knowledge his teacher had given him, he now concentrated also on what his teacher was demonstrating himself.
“In the time before and since his death, for myself and many others, the whole idea and purpose of our work revealed itself in quite a different way. It became clear that before, we had taken everything in an extraordinarily flat, incomplete way. By demonstrating a conscious dying, Ouspensky seemed to show that in this lay all possibilities.”2
Collin was a mild and amiable man, modest and humble in the extreme, but with a quality of dignity and authority, and perhaps a little too trusting which allowed people to drain his resources and even swindle him. Joyce Collin?Smith said he put himself at everyone's disposal, even rising from the meal table or from bed to attend anyone who asked to see him.
"The more demands that are made on me the better", he answered. I must do what 1 have to do." "And what is that?" “Obey 0's will." Collin believed his mission had come from Ouspensky, to reconstruct the system and find a new home for it. The new home was the only country, in Collin's view, full of fresh possibilities ? Mexico.
He wrote that Mexico had a "springtime feeling" of growth, expansion and development, a "new, unspoiled start." In 1948 he, along with his wife Janet and a. small party, arrived first in Guadalajara, and eventually settled in Tlalpam, where a nucleus of a permanent group was formed.
In his short life Collin achieved an incredible amount, in addition to a stunning unification of science and mysticism in two remarkable books. In Mexico he established Ediciones Sol publishing which translated Ouspensky's, Maurice Nicol's and other Fourth Way works into Spanish; he started the only English book shop in Mexico City, the Libraria Britannica; he had acquired a mine that could yield silver, salt and various nitrates; he had bought an old hacienda and installed there a group of peasant women to weave blankets and serapes for tourists; his wife Janet opened a clinic and employed the services of a doctor from the city to attend there, and with a band of helpers made clothes for the poor; he formed a theatre group which staged productions of "Peer Gynt" and Anouilh's "The Lark."
His major project was the building of a planetarium hewn into the volcanic rock. It consisted of two interlinking circles below ground level, called the Chamber of the Sun and the Chamber of the Moon. Between the two was a small circular space where a large upturned shell on a pedestal caught the sun through an aperture above at the summer solstice. The two chambers were surrounded by a narrow, curving passageway, the walls adorned with mosaics showing the development of man, from the primordial forms of life to the perfect man. It also contained a lecture ball, to be used also for ritual or national dancing, exercises and the Gurdjieff?style “Movements” which were used to develop concentration and attention, and a library. He had enormous creative drive and boundless energy.
“He was in so much demand to answer comments and questions and deal with matters of a philosophical nature, that it was difficult to get a word with him at all. To do so one must pick up tools or implements and work with or beside him on whatever was then demanding his attention.”3
Collin felt that only through making increasing demands on himself could the Great Work be accomplished. This is what Ouspensky had taught him in the last few weeks of his life. But it was eventually to be his downfall. He had tried marathons of endurance, walking long distances in the heat, without water and rest, sometimes continuing for several days. He was becoming increasingly exhausted.
There had entered into the Collin circles a Mexican woman named Mema Dickins, a devout Roman Catholic and a natural medium who had supposedly received visitations from Ouspensky to contact Collin. She passed on a variety of “messages” to him, and he accepted her with his childlike grace. The circle was divided: some people disliked Mema on sight and distrusted her while others worshipped this oracle with increasing reverence. Collin believed that with her help it would be possible to find the traces of Fourth Way School through history.
In late 1955 Collin went to Paris, Seville, Athens, Rome, and Istanbul and felt he had found traces of school in a number of areas, and wrote about Cosimo de Medici, about the house of Lorraine and Leonardo da Vinci, and various other well known historical figures whom he claimed had been “schoolmen.” While in Rome he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, a move that also brought criticism from some quarters but obviously added depth to the system for him. The work was not a substitute for religion. "It is a key to religion, as it is a key to art, science and all other sides of human life."
As a result of the distribution of the Ediciones Sol books several groups were started in Peru, Chile, the Argentine and Uruguay which Collin kept in regular contact with. Collin had taught himself astrology and according to Joyce Collin?Smith knew that "something new is about to happen" to him. During Mass in the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, and after an all?night pilgrimage on?foot, he apparently fainted from exhaustion, though later it was thought it was the first of a series of heart attacks which eventually killed him.
In the last few weeks of his life he drove himself especially hard and complained of feeling "rather strange" in the high altitude of Cuzco. He had discovered a crippled beggar?boy in the cathedral and had washed him in the public baths with his own shirt and promised him that Christ would heal him. The next day the boy took him to where he lived, in the belfry of the cathedral tower.
“While talking he was looking at the statue of Christ on the mountain opposite, he stood up with a gasp as though his breath had failed, staggered forward onto the top of the low wall, grasping the two wooden beams that were supporting the arch. Then he fell forward, striking his head against one of them. His body fell onto the wide cornice that juts out below and slipped off, failing to the street below. He lay where he fell, his arms out sideways in the form of a cross, his eyes open as though looking up at the sky, smiling.”3
THE GREAT UNIFICATION
The Theory of Celestial Influence continues the work of Ouspensky, completing a task given to Collin by his teacher: to “classify the sciences” according to the principles and the great cosmic laws of the Fourth Way. He makes it quite clear, however, that despite the majestic scope of the system one could never quite separate it from the being of Ouspensky, who alone "could induce in others the necessary changes of understanding and attitude to comprehend it."
Ouspensky's last suggestions to a choice few were that they must reconstruct everything for themselves so that the ideas he had been teaching for so many years might blossom into new forms. Collin eagerly took up this task, to break through the distinction between scientific and religious cosmology.
The free use of analogy will seem an inconsistency to those accustomed to scientific language, and the purely logical-minded will be surprised and possibly shocked when asked to question their own instruments of perception. In Collin's hands, science becomes a teaching about ourselves; our limits, and above all our possibilities. The guiding principle is that the unity of things is not accessible by an ordinary mind in an ordinary state of consciousness, but only by a mind which itself had become unified, and that the book's significance "can only lie in its being derived, though at second hand, from the actual perceptions of higher consciousness, and in its indicating a path by which such consciousness may again be approached."4
The book is full of impressive facts, but is more like an impressionist painting than a detailed map. Collin's analogies excite the reader's imagination, and for the first time, demonstrate a unity of laws and influences at work that repeats successively, like the octaves of a keyboard, at every level throughout the universe and within every cosmos ? cell, man, the sun, or the Milky Way.
The structure of the solar system and the composition of the sun are related to the forces governing the processes of biological life, the physiological processes in the human body, and also the psychological teachings of ancient systems. Each cosmos, from cell to galaxy, shares identical properties as in the proposition that the lives of each individual cosmos are the same length. Life, day and breath are definite cosmic divisions of individual time, and in its lifetime a cell breathes as many times as a man or a galaxy.
Collin proposes a universal pattern for each cosmos, or independent unity: a vitalising nucleus about which revolve a varying number of satellites, each performing a certain function for the whole: the sun with its planets, planets with moons, atomic nucleus with electrons, parent and family, teacher and pupil. The planets are functions of the solar system, as our organs are for us. They "endow the sun with all functions, and make it a complete cosmic being possessing all possibilities."
Their speed of rotation seems to be very closely related to the degree of development' of the individual planet. Rotation is a universal method of separating coarse matter from the fine and is meant here as an analogy for the process of self?observation and growth of consciousness in the human sphere.
“Man lives and develops by the parallel assimilation of food, air and perceptions. The Solar System consists of a parallel development of solid spheres, atmospheric spheres, and spheres of light. And in fact this parallel development of three different levels of matter, originat ing at different points, is a fundamental feature of the universe...”5
Collin's work abounds with such analogical insights. Men are the cells of the body of humanity but there are certain men, men of conscious spirit who belong to a different category, such as Jesus, Buddha, St. Benedict, Solon, Plato, who can uplift and inspire perhaps millions of ordinary men. These individuals are to ordinary men as a sperm cell is to an ordinary tissue?cell, and they give rise to civilisations just as a fertilised egg gives rise to a new human being. The life of such men is the conception of a new culture.
The life of a civilisation follows a logarithmic progression that Collin measures in lunar months; 10 months, or roughly eight years represents its period of gestation when the new teacher remains invisible, perhaps in seclusion; 100 months or 80 years represents the physical expression of the teachings worked out in seclusion, the lifework of the teacher's immediate circle; 1000 months or 700 or 800 years will be the total life of a civilisation, after which its initial driving force and institutions will die.
Collin also takes up the subject of triads introduced by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and adds a new dimension to it. According to Fourth way principles, one force or two forces can never produce a phenomenon. The presence of a third force is necessary. These forces are referred to as Active, Passive and Neutralising, or Affirming, Denying and Reconciling force. Collin expressed the six possible combinations of triads as cosmic principles. All the phenomena of life are the product of the original three forces acting through the Sun as active LIFE; Earth as passive MATTER; and the planets which determine FORM and function. These three principles, Life, Matter, and Form, can combine in six different ways, producing six different processes. GROWTH - DESTRUCTION ? REFINEMENT ? CRIME ? HEALING REGENERATION. All phenomena on earth, known and unknown, belong to one another of these six processes and this knowledge gives a unique and complete vision of the vital functions of the universe.
HIGHER DIMENSIONS OF TIME AND RECURRENCE
In Fourth Way cosmology the Absolute comprises of six dimensions: three of space and three of time. The fourth diinension is the life of a cosmos taken in its entirety, and the sixth dimension contains all possibilities for the individual cosmos. The fifth dimension is infinite repetition of the fourth and for man is the recurrence of which Ouspensky devoted much study to. Eternal recurrence of this life, an infinite repetition of the same life, is man's fifth dimension. The same habits and tendencies must recreate the same circumstances and situations over and over again. If nothing is changed these carry over into the next recurrence. However, nothing remains in the same place forever, and the very principle of repetition itself implies that things must become better or worse.
Only deep realisation of the horror and futility of an eternal repetition of his life can generate sufficient emotional force to impel man to penetrate beyond it. We cannot remember other lives for the same reason our memory is so poor with regards to this life ? we are not aware of our existence in it.
MAN'S BEING IN THE INVISIBLE WORLDS
In The Theory of Eternal Life Collin explores the possibility of survival after death in his customary methodical fashion. It is a matter of such grave importance it can only be treated in an intelligent and scientific fashion. At death we enter eternity where all points within time are equally accessible, related not by time, but by "the intensity of the energy which informs them."
“To this progress of consciousness and memory in the feeble state in which they exist in ordinary man, however, the point at the summit of the circle represents an insuperable barrier. Past this insulator of death and conception the consciousness of ordinary man may not pass; and of what lies beyond that, either ahead or behind, his memory tells him nothing.”6
Collin draws on ancient texts such as the Myth of Er the Pamphylian from Plato's Laws, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Book of the Craft of Dying, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Hermetica and Zoroastrian texts to describe the soul's existence in the worlds after death and whose accounts all agree that there is a definite interval between death and rebirth.
It is proposed that the soul is comprised of matter in molecular state but this soul is not an automatic right but has to be created artificially by long accumulation of the finest energy which the organism produces and its crystallisation through the continuous attempt to become conscious.
“Ordinary man cannot help spend this energy as fast as it is produced ? anger, envy, longing and his normal state of fascination with himself and the world around him. In order to restrain this wasting of it, he must create will in himself. In order to create will he must have one aim. In order to have one aim he must have learned all sides of himself, and forced them to accept the domination of his conscience. Before this he must first awake conscience from sleep. And not one of these stages can he achieve by him. self.”7
The possibility of higher states of consciousness in man precisely depends upon certain fine matters produced by the body being subject to his attention. Attention has the capacity of holding in a fixed field certain invisible matter or energy in molecular state, and it is this exercise of attention in self-observation and self?awareness which builds the soul. The finer states of matter in the realm after death are too fast and too intense for unprepared men who barely recover their consciousness, if at all. The faster one can regain consciousness, the higher one will ascend. But to do this would require an exceptional being.
As the great religions of the world teach, suffering is the chief means by which one part of the human mechanism may be separated from another. Mastery of great pain gives consciousness the intensity and "flight" to survive on its own. The problem is to find a shock penetrating enough while yet keeping the experiment under control, which can only be done in the presence of a school of regeneration and a teacher in which one trusts implicitly.
For Collin the ideas he teaches are no mere philosophy; the miraculous is possible. "A game of chess with ideas, that leaves Being and Consciousness just as before, is quite useless." The remarkable occurrences after Ouspensky's death convinced him that his teacher had reached the goal which his whole life had been preparing him for and which gave Collin the impetus and inspiration to continue the great Work.
Collin believed his attempts to unite modem scientific knowledge and school knowledge, to relate the constant flow of new knowledge to the key principles, would lead to a real scientific mysticism or mystical science which will be the real "way" or "form" for the age to come. All human knowledge and experience had to be looked at from the esoteric point of view, from its relation to consciousness, cosmic laws and man's approach to perfection, in which it forms one single whole. He spoke of this new Age long before it had become a catchphrase for the marketplace spirituality we see today.
“In each age a great esoteric plan is set for the whole of humanity and in any given period stands at a certain phase of realisation. At the present moment we find ourselves between the conception and birth of a new plan.”8
Collin felt that the Fourth Way was the only real salvation for the human race, that "Our planet is growing up. It is time to leave childish things.”9 The system is the "great harmoniser of all previous esoteric experiments," it was the explanation of how to do the impossible, to make miracles. "…I am appalled to remember how we took it all as a method of making slight adjustments to our personal psychology, and even judged the ultimate possibilities and him [Ouspensky] too on this level.” 10
The system was too big and too miraculous to waste simply on indefinitely classifying the contents of one's own mind. It must be used to project understanding into larger fields. This reconstruction of the Fourth Way system was something launched from a higher level he called "Great School," of which Gurdjieff and Ouspensky were the principle agents to launch into the world a great new esoteric experiment.
Those who received the teaching would one day be required to give account of the use they have made of it. But apparently one's teacher has to pass into a higher world to be able to transmit the "grace" which makes possible any great stride forward in the Work... "the building of arks to be navigated from a higher level." According to Collin Ouspensky did indeed become immortal, independent of time and is accessible now to anyone who desires his help with sufficient urgency and belief.
Collin believed that the ultimate task of a true teacher was to open the door for others to follow, to create a new field of consciousness in the world, and could only be done by relinquishing life. He had written of his own teacher's death that it was a "play... whose plot was his own death,"11 and also “Nothing is ever finally achieved till death, and even that must at the some time be merely a new beginning with new cquipment."12
While some speculate that Collin willingly offered himself up to God in order that the Work might enter a new phase, it is more likely that his death was simply the result of his overwork. The final result is much the same, for he did indeed give more than himself in service and sacrifice and his legacy is that the Work has expanded and grown in ways perhaps even Gurdjieff and Ouspensky could not have imagined. One only has to read the sequel to his great work, the Theory of Conscious Harmony to be filled with a spirit of renewal, to be convinced that the Great Work lives, and that anything is possible.
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