The Enlightenment of Harold Waldwin Percival

Some time ago — years ago in fact — I was made a present of a book by Harold Waldwin Percival entitled Thinking and Destiny: Being the Science of Man. I was quite pleased with the gift because as I thumbed through some of its 1,000 pages and examined his sacred geometries illustrated in the appendices, I realised that here was another fourfold thinker and I eagerly looked forward to reading through his book.

I never did, except in fits and starts. Yesterday, however, I felt a compelling need to draw it out of its limbo as I realised that the very title, Thinking and Destiny, is a reference to the karmic law — the law of action and reaction as it arises in and through thinking as destiny (or fate) accordingly. And as I am still wrestling with what Jean Gebser may have meant by his reference to “the law of the earth” in his own book The Ever-Present Origin, it struck me that Percival’s book might take a promising new approach.

Harold Waldwin Percival (1868 – 1953) experienced his enlightenment in New York in 1893. As he describes it in the Foreword to Thinking and Destiny,

“I had crossed 14th Street at 4th Avenue, in New York City. Cars and people were hurrying by. While stepping up to the northeast curbstone, Light, greater than that of myriads of suns opened in the center of my head. In that instant or point, eternities were apprehended. There was no time. Distance and dimensions were not in evidence. Nature was composed of units. I was conscious of the units of nature and of units as Intelligences. Within and beyond, so to say, there were greater and lesser lights; the greater pervading the lesser Lights, which revealed the different kinds of units. The Lights were not of nature, they were Lights as Intelligences, Conscious Lights. Compared with brightness or lightness of those Lights, the surrounding sunlight was a dense fog. And in and through all Lights and units and objects I was conscious of the Presence of Consciousness. I was conscious of Consciousness as the Ultimate and Absolute Reality, and conscious of the relation of things. I experienced no thrills, emotions, or ecstacy. Words utterly fail to describe or explain CONSCIOUSNESS. It would be futile to attempt description of the sublime grandeur and power and order and relation in poise of what I was then conscious. Twice during the next fourteen years, for a long time on each occasion, I was conscious of Consciousness. But during that time I was conscious of no more than I had been conscious of in that first moment…. Consciousness is present in every unit. Therefore the presence of consciousness makes every unit conscious as the function it performs in the degree in which it is conscious.”

Percival declines to use the name “God” in his writing, but it’s pretty clear that his emphasis on CONSCIOUSNESS somewhat transforms the word into a name and an act of naming itself. It also corresponds to what we find described in Carlos Castaneda’s writings as “the sea of awareness” or “infinity”. Another way of interpreting Percival’s description of his experience is that Percival also saw “energy as it flows in the universe” in Castaneda’s terms, only Percival calls this energy “Light”. This “Light” is conscious light that permeates and animates everything in its own degree of consciousness. The “units” of which Percival speaks are undoubtedly the same “consciousness units” as intelligences that we find described by Seth in some of Jane Roberts’ books. These “units” might also be construed to be the individuated nodes or jewels of Indra’s Net, yet which is one Consciousness in process of unfolding like the Buddha’s Lotus Flower. The “jewel in the Lotus” is this omnipresence of Consciousness as the indivisible and indestructible reality.

The important passage here is “in and through all Lights and units and objects I was conscious of the Presence of Consciousness”. That passage emphasises what I wrote earlier in The Dark Age Blog, that your true individuality is inseparable from what is sometimes called “God’s indivisibility”. Anything indivisible is indestructible, by definition. This is why Percival’s experience of the Presence of Consciousness — the One or Jewel — in all things — the Many or the Lotus’ petals  — is accompanied by the absence of all sense or perception of time and space, or distance, because duality and dualistic thinking is superceded. Percival uses the phrase “Realm of Permanence” for this omnipresent Consciousness, which is clearly both the Christian “Kingdom of Heaven” and Buddhist “nirvana” likewise.

It may (or may not) be of interest that Percival’s book was composed between 1912 and 1932, and that Jean Gebser first begins to compose The Ever-Present Origin in 1932. Gebser’s “ever-present origin” is, in fact, the same timeless and spaceless “Presence of Consciousness” of which Percival writes, but which others have also called “Eternal Now”. This might be difficult for some to appreciate, but it may help if one contemplates the infinite fractal dimension between 0 and 1 to gain an approximate feel for this possibility of the fathomlessness of Now or the Present.  Some fractal geometricians seem, in fact, quite fond of quoting William Blake’s “eternity in the hour” to describe the unfolding non-linear fractal dimension.

I will be sharing with you my thoughts and discoveries in Thinking and Destiny as I work through the book, now that I’ve laid the foundations with this short excerpt, particularly for what it can teach us about the fourfold and the karmic law. But most especially for what it can teach us about how we construct the reality we know (as “destiny”) through our often unconscious mental processes, and how changes in the latter have, as consequence, changes in the former through mirroring. This is a rather pressing and urgent requirement in our time if we are to outrun the present dangers that, unaddressed, threaten the survival of all life on Earth. Since it is, in Gebser’s terms, the “deficient rationality” of the now decaying mental-rational structure of consciousness that has gotten us into our present troubles, it is necessary to overcome that deficient functioning of a decaying consciousness structure through an essential restructuration or transformation.  The disintegration of society and nature is the fateful reflection of the disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness structure itself, which we call presently “post-modernity”.

That is the significance of Percival’s title — the karmic law expressed in terms of Thinking and Destiny as the Consequential. The consciousness that generated our problems cannot be the same consciousness that resolves those problems. And no “paradigm shift” is valid that does not address the issue of the relationship between truly conscious thinking and life’s common destiny in the Planetary Era.

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13 responses to “The Enlightenment of Harold Waldwin Percival”

  1. Daniel says :

    Just discovered this book is online for free along with others of his

    Thinking and Destiny in pdf

    This page has all the books available

    Great blog Scott
    Thank You

    • Scott says :

      Indeed it is. Very fortuitous. Unfortunately, for some reason my CPU locks up when I try to download it. Anyone else have that problem?

      Thanks Daniel. Much appreciated.

    • Scott says :

      Got it. That may save a good deal of typing when I quote from it.

    • Scott says :

      Odd coincidence. I see on the Word Foundation’s web page that one of Richard Matheson’s books called The Path based on Percival’s work is listed for download, too. Last night I picked up and watched a DVD called The Last Man on Earth — an old Vincent Price movie (and a little corny). The movie was based on a novel by…. Richard Matheson.

      This doomsday “last man” genre of films (Omega Man was another) is an interesting development in late Modernity. Maybe I should blog something about it. It’s quite ambiguous. One the one hand, it could reveal something about the sense of the lonely isolation of the individual and the malaise of Late Modernity. There are elements of the narcissistic in the film and in Price’s character. On the other hand, it could reveal a growing sense of estrangement amongst some from the existing social environment and from “the lonely crowd” now perceived to be zombie-like, predatory, and vampiric. By coincidence, also, another sci-fi DVD I picked up was called Children of Men and dealt with the last human child born on earth. Much the same genre.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        The movie was based on a novel by…. Richard Matheson.

        The author of I Am Legend, from which both The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man were derived, is a different Richard Matheson. Matheson also authored a few of my science/speculative fiction favorites, What Dreams May Come and Somewhere in Time.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Actually, same Richard Matheson; “different” genre. I’m not familiar with The Path and, so, much appreciate the opportunity to become so.

        The speculative fiction genre is a long-time mainstay in my personal library. No other genre can match it for its intrepid exploration of the human condition. The works of better authors are so original they are unclassifiable. Thus, the term “speculative fiction” was coined to cover them.

        The history of the term itself is also pretty interesting. (Wikipedia doesn’t cover it.)

        • Scott says :

          Speculum is Latin for “mirror”. So, here’s also something of the inversion we discussed earlier. The “tabula rasa” assumes that speculative reason, as reflection, is the mirroring of the objective world upon the mind, by which the mind “grasps” (ceptare as in percept and concept) the objects and masters them. This is partially true. However, the esoteric traditions insist that the relationship is exactly the reverse — the objective world is the mirrored image of the soul. Rather than objects and events leaving their impressions upon the mind as tabula rasa, the world is an impressed image, coined by the active energies and realities of the soul. “You create the reality you know”. This leads to the famous Buddhist principle of “the empty mirror” and the insight into the essential insubstantiality of the world and mind once the intellect is stilled and silenced. “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” There is no difference between subject and object because there is no difference between mind and world. They are like two mirrors facing one another in their mutual mirroring. Because the world is the speculum, when the soul is stilled the world disappears, when the soul is active, the world appears. This is the essence of the karmic law of action and reaction. By that cybernetic law, the soul learns how to wield the powers of creative energy. When the soul is not active, empty mirror all around.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          The “tabula rasa” assumes that speculative reason….

          Excellent note regarding the counter-balance of esoteric and exoteric.

          The wiki entry regarding speculative fiction specifically notes that the term “retains both a sense of inquisitive—often rational—hypothesis and its original sense of that which is speculatus (Latin), or ‘envisioned’”. I agree with the entry, however, that the proper use in the context of speculative fiction is “visionary”, which falls within the realm of imagination rather than analytical reasoning or “reason as reflection”.

          “Speculative fiction” has, indeed, become an umbrella term and I think that unfortunate given that it was originally coined for prose that defies classification and, in fact, the best of speculative fiction is often highly illogical; contains no “science”, “fantasy” or “horror”, per se; places “ordinary” characters in extraordinary situations; and, essentially, asks the question “What would you do?” (If one is honest, the question is generally unanswerable because, while we might like to think we know precisely what we would do in any situation, in fact, we don’t.)

          Speculative fiction at its best, as opposed to the typical science fiction/fantasy/horror fare too often included under the umbrella, is comprised of what I call “mind-benders” (or mind-blowers) and encompasses primarily lessor-known works by authors as diverse as Harlan Ellision, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, Stephen King (who’s obviously been shoved into the “horror” genre, despite his best works, which are all speculative fiction) and Edgar Allen Poe, et al.

  2. Scott says :

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read fiction of any kind, apart from some poetry. I remember being very impressed by Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Actually, I shouldn’t say I haven’t read any fiction lately. I did read Stevenson’s novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde recently. It has some great non-fiction insights.

  3. kevin says :

    I have Gone Through thinking and Destiny more times over the last 20 years,
    its hard to know or even to think about what I have seen over this time , I know what the book is about but I think it is good to learn more about getting more light , I do think that this man was right, Now I want to see what my thoughts will do as you know everything starts with a thought.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I sympathise, Kevin. I think Percival mistook some things, though. I also dropped reading in Thinking and Destiny when I could no longer correlate his words with my own experience. There was much I had to bracket off as “maybe”. I still plan on returning to the book in future, but not presently.

  4. John Shirley says :

    Yes Richard Matheson’s THE PATH is about Percival’s ideas. Matheson’s book and movie What Dreams May Come is also post Percival I think. I haven’t read Percival, just about him here and there. I’m interested in consciousness as a thing in itself. Percival may have been influenced by William James on that…The methods of GI Gurdjieff, I find, do seem to work, in re increasing consciousness, and there is certainly overlap between Gurdjieff and Percival:

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hi. Thanks for dropping by. And for the link. I just realised I have read your book on Gurdjieff. In fact, it’s the only one I’ve read on Gurdjieff.

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