Article from the 1984 FMBR Reporter

The Story Behind the Westerbeke Conference held April, 1982

Bill Gough

A major focus of the Foundation for Mind Being Research has been to facilitate the
development of an integrated model of consciousness. To achieve this goal, we
have sought interested scientists and researchers who,
(1) are open to a multidisciplinary approach to knowledge.
(2) recognize they are an integral part of any experiment, and
(3) know and are prepared to extend their own level of consciousness.

Format of Previous Conference

The format of the Westerbeke Conference evolved from working with such individuals and seeking ways to maximize effective communication across the diverse backgrounds and training that such people embody.

Our experience with multi-disciplinary meetings in this area has taught us the limitations and pitfalls of the use of verbal communications when discussing the "science of consciousness." The traditional brainstorming meeting is useful when working with persons with similar training, backgrounds, and approaches to the topic under discussion: for example, we sponsored a very productive informal working meeting of scientists to assess the status of consciousness research from the viewpoint of the physical sciences. The attendance for this meeting was limited to a group of experienced professional scientists and engineers who had performed experimental and theoretical research in the physics of consciousness or related areas. This group worked together harmoniously.

Difficulties were encountered, however, when we expanded this meeting format from a gathering of physical scientists to include researchers with medical, psychological, metaphysical, and psychic training. A half-day meeting encompassing this diverse background found the participants talking past one another. There were significant language barriers. Foremost among these was the lack of general understanding of the specialized vocabulary used by various participants. This was exacerbated by the negative emotional reaction of those in the traditional sciences to the words and concepts used by those in more esoteric fields of paranormal research.

To overcome these problems, a longer two day meeting was held, again with a broad interdisciplinary involvement. To insure that each person focused his/her ideas and was informed of the ideas of the other participants, position papers were prepared and circulated before the meeting. To provide time for participants to "listen" to the views of the diverse areas represented and to hear the reactions of others, a day of formal presentations to an audience was arranged. This was followed by an evening session in which linguistic facilitators aided the participants in working through language
barriers and semantic pitfalls. The following day consisted of roundtable discussions and brainstorming. With the aid of the linguists, this discussion was accompanied by an increased understanding of how words and language shape and restrict our thought processes.

The interactions at this conference were lively and exciting, and much was accomplished. But something was still lacking: we were interacting only on an intellectual, verbal level in our search for a model of consciousness...a model that, it was becoming clearer, must encompass more that just this level of human experience. We were moving in the direction of an awareness and conceptualization of an underlying unity: a oneness out of which is created apparent difference. We were contemplating the idea that reality extends beyond our three dimensional world, and that thought is a power that molds or guides the universe. Further, there were among the group those who had experience and "knowledge" of areas for which no appropriate common language existed. A new kind of communications
difficulty existed. The question became: how can we develop a science of consciousness unless those involved in the model building explore the territory for which they are building the map?

Thus our next meeting sought a new format. For a setting we chose the Westerbeke Ranch Conference Center. The location was originally a Miwok Indian healing ground in the Valley of the Moon. Now it is a private 1S0-acre oasis 1n the Sonoma foothills for small groups of fifteen to fifty to meet. The setting is rustic with ancient oaks. clear-water springs, and fresh, clean air. Our participants spent two and a half days in this atmosphere of solitude and tranquility, sleeping in redwood cabins, and eating home cooked county-style food. Our goal was to provide a supportive environment that would help release the stress and tension of the participants so that creative communication and new ideas could evolve.


Westerbeke Conference Improvements

In addition to a setting conducive to communication and an exchange of position papers to provide a common intellectual basis for discussion, we sought to provide the participants a common experiential basis before initiating discussions on a model of consciousness. Two principal events were used for the experiential aspects of the two and a half day meeting.

The first event was a much abbreviated version of the Gateway Program of the Monroe Institute of Applied Sciences. This was carried out Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. The Gateway process uses a patented series of prerecorded tapes which creates in the electrical patterns of the brain a frequency following response and hemispheric synchronization. This is accompanied by vocal guidance to achieve progressive states of consciousness and thereby experience profound areas of extended awareness. The sounds are heard through stereo headphones while in a relaxed position. The sessions were supervised by Karen Malik who represented the Western Division of the Monroe Institute and who has worked with over a thousand people using the tapes.

The second experiential event was a PK Party conducted by Jack Houck and Severin Dahlen. The goal was to provide the participants with a concrete demonstration of the power of their own "thoughts" upon material objects. Jack used a format for the PK Party that he had been developing and testing for over a year and in which 85 percent of the attendees learned how to bend metal and plastic. To help explain what's going on inside the metal Jack used electron microscope pictures which compared PKed with physically bent control specimens. This proved so interesting that people from another group staying at Westerbeke joined in with great enthusiasm.

These events made the potential range and effect of human consciousness apparent to the participants. This had mixed results, for even though intellectual openness to the concepts of the paranormal may exist, experiential events such as these can threaten or challenge people's underlying beliefs. They represent the unknown and therefore can be percieved as dangerous. Not unexpectedly, and often wisely, many people approach such activities with caution and some fear. It is difficult to know the extent of such feelings in the participants; however, some behavior characteristics that were observed at the meeting could be attributed to such conscious or, unconscious fears. Or they might be attributed to attempting to impose even a loose structure upon such an individualistic, highly intelligent group with diverse backgrounds. Thus, during the first day, a certain degree of turbulence and rebellious attitude developed. This was reflected by a desire to "get on with what we came here for -- an intellectual exchange of ideas."

However, as the group began to experience together, play together, and appreciate the qualities of one another, a cohesiveness and mutual respect developed. The cumulative effect of sitting around the fireplace in the evening, lying in sleeping bags on the floor of the large circular Redwood Room with the Monroe tapes flooding. our minds through stereo earphones, intimately sharing our hopes and goals while relaxing on the sunny redwood deck, and enjoying the fun of the PK Party -- all served as a strange glue for the participants. There appeared to be another uniting force added as each participant joined in and observed others in the experiential activities: an acceptance and appreciation of the existence of different realities. One could not help but be impressed that those who had experienced altered states of consciousness were able to discuss and analyze common experiences with other participants.

On Sunday morning in the large living room of the main house, we began the intellectual discussions on the elements of a model of consciousness. I found this to be an amazing day. The destructive egos, the overbearing dialogue, the interruptions, and lack of courtesy often exhibited at the previous conferences were not present. The diverse backgrounds, education, status, age, sex, and viewpoints on reality in no way impeded, the exciting flow of ideas as each of the participants built upon the contributions of the others. Somehow the participants really listened and heard each other. The flow of the meeting took on almost a magical aspect: there was a oneness to the group. The following report endeavors to capture this flow and the spirit of the individual participants as they contributed to this process.


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