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Experiences in New York: Toni's Account of Arica Group Training "Memory is incomplete experience"J. Krishnamurti


After realizing that my life would forever be combined with John's, I accepted the fact that he wanted to return to New York and meet with the group that was returning from Arica, Chile, to form Arica, Inc. After John received a letter from Oscar asking us to meet him, it seemed inevitable that I was to be part of this new play. The interest in the newest guru from Bolivia and Chile was growing, and I was curious enough to be talked into investigating it.

My first impression of Oscar Ichazo, the founder of the Arica Institute, and his lady Jenny was not one of surprise. I recognized their energies as familiar. Oscar reminded me of "the kid on the block who always went to private boys' schools" and naturally would be understood and befriended by John,6 "the kid on the block with the biggest chemistry set. Oscar had a formal approach ("not sure immediately of where the action was," in street language, but very precise and determined, once he did). People of this nature always make good technicians and Oscar certainly is that. There was also an air of mystery about him that the formalism helped create. I wondered what kind of a lover he was and decided he was in the "priest" category: belief in his theology would come first in his priorities.

John had given me enough information about his reasons for leaving the training and the group in Chile to make me quite apprehensive about what his reception would be on his return. However, I felt that when one hangs out with an explorer, this was what one did, so I went along wondering what would happen next.

When Oscar asked us to meet him in San Francisco, it was with definite instructions that we were not to tell the rest of his group, who were, by that time, leaning toward the fanatical side. Of course the information leaked out, as information will, so many of the group were angry that John was the first to see Oscar, especially since John had not stayed the full term in Chile.

We heard that the group was by that time incensed that John was already teaching some of the techniques that they felt should be taught by the group as a group. So the political ploys were very familiar ones:

1) John should not do that. He didn't stay the full ten months and join the temple.

2) He's not doing it right. "The hand is placed this way and not that way."

3) The manuscript that he wrote, for The Center of the Cyclone, contains some of the training, so he should not be allowed to publish it. It's too dangerous . . . unless it is under their supervision.

I agree with don Juan in Carlos Castaneda's Tales of Power when he says,

"It doesn't matter what one reveals or what one keeps to oneself,

everything we do, everything we are, rests on our personal power.

If we have enough of it, one word uttered to us might be sufficient

to change the course of our lives. But if we don't have enough

personal power, the most magnificent piece of wisdom can be revealed to us and that revelation won't make a damn bit of difference. "*

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, it seemed to me that Oscar was wooing John back to the fold. There was a quality to the wooing that made me sense Oscar was still very much hurt by John's leaving the student position. The Bolivian guru was very much sought after and was busy forming the group into an organization.

Oscar's sense of timing is great even though his limited English is/was a handicap. He is an imaginative storyteller and never lacks for listeners. His lady Jenny is a very South American woman in the sense that her strong views are hidden and acted on behind the scenes only. I believe South American ladies have a much less prominent place in society than we do, generally, and feel they must survive by manipulating their various planetside trips more from the background. Jenny's former husband Marcus was living with Oscar's second wife in Chile. Marcus was heading the Arica (Chile) Annex, or home office, as we would say, so Jenny had a lot invested in Arica, Inc.

Oscar and I hit it off immediately, I felt. Because of my past experience with gurus of various kinds, I met him as a man, an entertaining one at that, and most gurus love the change. We laughed a great deal, but alas, Jenny was not at ease with me. I took her to lunch (American style) at John's suggestion, to try to become friends, but it just would not come together.

The group shut John out more and more and it really was fascinating to see groupthink forming as intensely as it did. He was defined as definitely out of the group after he refused an offer to rejoin if he would withdraw his book. The Center of the Cyclone was then published. Some of those people that ordinarily would never have behaved in such a mindless way were acting like robots. Even a few of John's closest friendsthose who loved himwould turn away when they saw him, lest they have repercussions from the group. (This reaction lasted until 1973 when some began to seek us out to explain.)

The overvaluation of what they had to teach as a group was

* Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power.

at a fever pitch. They were fanatically serious at that time (they were saving the world). One knows from history how humorless that trip tends to be (from Mohammed to Hitler, etcetera). My Mediterranean disposition gravitates toward laughter; I found the humor in this situationand part of it really was funny.

The programmingas John would saywas also anti-couple. It was kind of the religious concept "divide the dyads and be stronger as a group." So the trips going down from Arica teachers had the flavor for me of martyr, Messiah, religious zealot, spiritual storm trooper, madonna, generally groupiness, one "mini mouse" super-secretary, and variations on these themes. Definitely a boys' club with women playing submissive, subversive roles.

I have always been skeptical of any system that uses fear whether that be a fear of a hell, fear of the destruction of the earth, fear of rising Kundalini7 asymmetrically or whatever. The Arica group usesincidentallyprophecies of destruction of the earth in ten years. (It's still ten years I see from Oscar's interview in the December 1973 East-West Journal; it's been four years since I first heard him use that number.) Arica also taught that one can experience crystallization of one's ego in the big toe for all eternity; bringing fear into the eternal. This Oscar told us in one of his lectures during the three-month training at the Essex House.

This group also did not seem to be free of the "spiritual buccaneering" that is common in similar situations. When money is needed any person with a possible surplus of money is fair game to supply the dollars needed. I hesitate to make any judgments pro or con; the obvious difficulty of many members of the group to earn money outside the group effort put me off as to their motivations when it came to people with money. In one case, a lovely woman in the training group contributed a little over a million. Her hope was spiritual help for her retarded son. Arica has her to thank for getting through some tight financial spots during their beginning.

On the positive side, many of the members for the first time felt they belonged to an extended family and had something to do (finally) that would make a difference. Chanting and meditating together with the support of an extended family environment is powerful indeed. Man has always huddled together with others for warmth, protection and just plain comfort. (My daughter, Nina, for example, felt great after a few hours of communal singing at the local Yoga ashram. She is only lately able to do that without identifying with all the other negative and political situations involved with belonging to this particular group.) There is the peculiar belief system that you must wait in line for enlightenment; this line has gates and gate guards. This seems to be one basic operational belief that is relied on by most organized groups of this kind.

The type of training that I experienced during the three months was a combination of Gurdjieffian, yoga, high school gym and some tantric yoga. Toward the end of the training, we sat in front of the school symbol for twenty minutes a day, with a strobe light impressing the symbol on our whatever. The techniques could and have changed since that time (1971). A big factor, of course, was the break of one's normal pattern by focusing approximately fourteen hours a day, six days a week for three months, on the training.

There were many breaks into different states of being, in levels of consciousness. Some persons would not admit, after spending all that time and money, a thousand a month for three months, that they had not experienced the expected state of "permanent Satori," which Arica guaranteed. There was also fear that they would not be accepted by the Arica group for further training (the next carrot in front of the donkey).

A humorous incident happened about midway through the training, although at the time, I didn't laugh very much. One day the "dragon lady" (my nickname for Jenny, Oscar's lady) came into class and demanded that Corinne Calvet leave the training.

Corinne was a funny sort of old-time-movie star. She had talked Oscar into giving her a scholarship, which wasn't hard to do at that time. Oscar was fascinated with anyone having to do with films and remembered Corinne's movies. She was part of the Hollywood period that had conditioned his and my generation. Corinne has a great French sense of humorif the climate is right; sometimes she can be provocative with her demands for "center stage." Teachers who are intent on giving you "the message" find that quality difficult. Jenny, apparently not too keen on having Corinne close to Oscar, was watching her activities very carefully. I enjoyed Corinne's humor; we soon became close schoolmates.

One day (soon after our daily gym exercises) we started Kin'e rhythm, a Gurdjieffian-like movement-mental exercise using a small rock in which one places one's "consciousness." The rock is held in one hand and is moved in certain patterns alternately, using each hand. One also visualizes a pattern of movement in the head and a set of moving sensations in one's body, each coordinated with the other movements.

After about fifteen minutes in planetside time, I looked up and saw an "apparition" coming through the door. It was the dragon ladywho (from the expanded state of being I had moved into) appeared as if a true Kali,8 spewing fire and destruction.

Everyone became still in suspense, waiting for what was to come next. Jenny went up to Corinne and asked her to come down to the office with her. From Corinne's face I could see and feel that it was as frightening a call as she had ever experienced reactivating old memories of encounters she had undergone with the gestapo when she was in Paris during the Nazi occupation.

They both left. After about twenty minutes, Corinne returned in a state of extreme shock. "I've been kicked out," she whimpered. The trauma she was going .through exhibited her feeling of eternal fear and eternal loneliness. She proceeded to fall into little pieceshystericalwith all of us trying to hold her together. One of the trainers called down to the office to find out what to do, and in a few minutes the dragon lady returned.

We sat in a circle (Jenny, one teacher and about eight students). Jenny in all her fineryfire and brimstone glittering away told us that Corinne's attitude was not fitting; that she must leave the group.

I could tell by the expression and attitude of the teacher from the Arica group (Bob Jolly), who was in charge of our group, that this decision was a surprise to himCorinne being asked to leave without the participation of his teacher-group in the decision-making process. I began to plead Corinne's cause with all the fervor I could muster. In my expanded state I felt I was pleading for reconsideration of all of mankind.

Jenny did not accept my pleas; her state was one of emoting virtuous dedication to the process of immediate rejection of a lower being from her chosen Group. She was so into her trip, she became constricted in her awareness. She was smoking a cigarette. My rock, or "consciousness holder," which I had been using for Kin'e rhythm exercise, was on the floor where I had left it, close to her. My rock was a geode (a beautiful cuplike rock filled with gemlike crystals) that John had given me.

Jenny ground out her cigarette on the crystals, using my "consciousness holder" as an ashtray.

In the expanded state I was in, need I tell you of my discomfort? In no time at all, the group had two loud hysterical ladies on their hands. I remember screaming like a banshee. I demanded to know whether this was a democratic group decision or an authoritarian trip, with her as dictator? Was she telling us that Corinne was out? I also very quietly advised her to be sure of how she intended to respond because it would be repeated. Her answer was that the decision had been given her by "a higher source," implying that her decision was a Revelation, not to be questioned. Her performance was quite impressive. I had the uneasy feeling that the decision was all too human and that the method she used was old-fashioned South American aristocratically oriented politics.

A month after finishing the training, John and I went on a United States-wide tour of interviews on radio and television for the newly published book The Center of the Cyclone. We became rather fatigued from the travel and the many hours of givingundergoing midnight radio shows, etcetera. I picked up a rather dangerous virus. All that hotel food, no sunshineI missed sunny Californiaand pushing the body unnaturally in the tour and the training, caused me to have a close brush with death in the hospital for a six-week period (see Chapter Eight, "Illness in the Dyad"). I pushed the river too far for too long for my particular body.

In conclusion I would like to say that I think those three months were also the beginning of Oscar's and Jenny's American training; it was a mutual exchange. I am appreciative of that opportunity to be taught and to teach in such an intensive mode.

I believe that most mental-physical-spiritual techniques and tools are neutral. Do particular styles of presenting those tools or techniques appeal to me or not? I think the average United States Westerner is drawn to the styles of presentation in which he/she has been raised. In the United States we value our personal initiative and our personal integrity. We learn what gurus give us as best we can and combine their teachings with our own knowledge, our science and our democratic ideals. Among most persons in the United States there is a past history of fighting and winning against aristocracy and its dominion over the individual self: no would-be kings or queens survive long in our culture.

It is all very well to say that "ego"9 questions dogma fed one.t Described this way "ego" must be dropped when in a school such as the Arica Institute (thus killing curiosity). Using this view at the expense of the individual self causes arbitrariness to appear in the form of the new group "ego."

Can a group not reflect the group leader or leaders? I don't know the answer; however, I did feel that Oscar's and Jenny's influence or style was felt by the "temple" members, who then influenced the teachers in a pyramid type of structure, similar to the Catholic Church's own hierarchy (Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and Nuns), not Gnosticism,* which the Catholic

* Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1960, Chicago, Illinois: GNOSTICISM, a movement of religious syncratism [sic] (or fusion of different and previously independent beliefs), which maintained itself side by side with genuine Christianity as the latter was gradually crystallizing into the ancient Catholic Church, and which bore the strong impress of Christian influences. . . .

Among the majority of the followers of the movement "Gnosis" was understood not as meaning "knowledge" or "understanding," in our sense of the word, but "revelation."

These little Gnostic sects and groups all lived in the conviction that they possessed a secret and mysterious knowledge, in no way accessible to those outside, and not based on reflection, on scientific inquiry and proof, but on revelation. It was derived directly from the times of primitive Christianity; from the Saviour himself and his disciples and friends, with whom they claimed to be connected by a secret tradition, or else from later prophets of whom many sects boasted. . . .

In short, Gnosticism, in all its various sections, its form and its character, falls under the great category of mystic religions. . . . All alike boast a mystic revelation and a deeply-veiled wisdom. As in many mystical religions, so in Gnosticism, the ultimate object is individual salvation, the assurance of a fortunate destiny for the soul after death. As in the others, so in this the central object of worship in a redeemer-deity who has already trodden the difficult way which the faithful have to follow. . . .

And as in all mystical religions, so here too, holy rites and formulas, acts of initiation and consecration, all those things which we call sacraments, play a very prominent part. . . . Indeed, sacred formulas, names and symbols are of the highest importance among the Gnostic sects. We constantly meet with the idea that the soul, on leaving the body, finds its path to the highest heaven opposed by the deities and demons of the lower realms of heaven, and only when it is in possession of the names of these demons, and can repeat the proper holy formula, or is prepared with the right symbol, or has been anointed with the holy oil, finds its way unhindered to the heavenly home. Hence the Gnostic must above all things learn the names of the demons, and equip himself with the sacred formulas and symbols, in order to be certain of a good destiny after death. . . .

Marriage and sexual propagation are considered either as absolute Evil or as altogether worthless, and carnal pleasure is frequently looked upon as forbidden. Then again asceticism sometimes changes into wild libertinism. . . .

Gnosticism itself is a free, naturally-growing religion, the religion of isolated minds, of separate little circles and minute sects. The homogeneity of wide circles, the sense of responsibility engendered by it, and continuity with the past are almost entirely lacking in it. It is based upon revelation, which even at the present time is imparted to the individual, upon the more or less convincing force of the religious imagination and speculations of a

Church was based on. It had a South American aristocratic political feel for me at that time.

I am partial to a jnana-yoga approach where you analyze both mind and body, perfecting the individual anti-satori and satori programs without the group pressures. One other example of "groupthink" occurred about halfway through the training.

I suggested to Oscar that he invite Kurt Von Meier (a longtime friend of mine from California, who calls himself a native American shaman, though non-Indian) to address the group. He brought some Amanita muscaria mushrooms (which are legal) to New York. (Oscar had experienced Amanita effects with Indians of the Altopiano of Bolivia.) We sat down with Oscar and smoked some of it the evening before Kurt's lecture. The following evening Kurt lectured on the Amanita as a source of religious inspiration in Christianity and other faiths. Gordon Wasson's book Soma shows that it was used in India and Siberia; others have traced its use in the early Christian era.

Kurt's lectures are delightful: he weaves verbal, mental tapestries, intricate beyond anything that I have heard before. Later, it turned out that Kurt was the only outside lecturer that Oscar invited to speak to the students of New York #1 of the Arica Institute.

This freedom from outside influence led to what we call groupthink (see Irving Janis's The Victims of Groupthink). During the training an article appeared in Psychology Today, copies of which we circulated among the group. I felt that they were fast getting into groupthink. I suggested Kurt to Oscar, feeling the group had better get some outside influences brought to bear on their thinking and feeling processes. This was more or less ignored. The ''top management group" attempted to keep the groupthink concept as their own.

I would venture to guess that some of the beautiful youngsters few leaders, upon the voluntary and unstable grouping of the schools round the master. Its adherents feel themselves to be the isolated, the few, the free and the enlightened, as opposed to the sluggish and inert masses of mankind degraded in matter, or the initiated as opposed to the uninitiated, the Gnostics as opposed to the "Hylici . . ." that have taken the training, across the country, have by now influenced it enough so that such egos are no longer visible to the new member. These new ones have little or no contact with The Crown of God, as the temple members were called then.

This personal view of my experience with the Arica Institute, I hope, explains my basic philosophy about groups, tribes, families, communes, etcetera. . . . Not too much changes. The Arica Institute in its various forms could be a religion/corporation (I feel it is both), for the basic patterns of each are there. Each person joining either a religion or a corporation has a limited range of realities from which to choose. I share with you a glimpse of my impressions as molded by my metabeliefs (beliefs about beliefs).


Emersion from the Influence of an Esoteric School | The dyadic cyclone the autobiography of a couple | Chapter Three Origins Before This Dyad