“There’s a Story Behind That”: Panel Discussion of Twin Peaks

lpYou’ve pondered it, argued over it, been confused by it, reveled in it, and marveled over it. Come and do all those things with us after the season is over by attending a panel discussion of this “strange and wonderful” return of Twin Peaks.


  • Greg Salyer, Ph.D., President, UPR
  • David Orr, Art Curator/Artist-in-Residence, UPR
  • Gustavo Turner, Ph.D., Los Angeles Writer and Photographer
“Welcome to Twin Peaks. My name is Margaret Lanterman. I live in Twin Peaks. I am known as the Log Lady. There is a story behind that. There are many stories in Twin Peaks — some of them are sad, some funny. Some of them are stories of madness, of violence. Some are ordinary. Yet they all have about them a sense of mystery — the mystery of life. Sometimes, the mystery of death. The mystery of the woods. The woods surrounding Twin Peaks. To introduce this story, let me just say it encompasses the All — it is beyond the “Fire,” though few would know that meaning. It is a story of many, but begins with one — and I knew her. The one leading to the many is Laura Palmer. Laura is the one.”

Sunday, September 10, 2017
5:00-6:30 pm

Doughnuts, Pie, and Damn Fine Coffee

Making Meaning in 2017: Or, How not to be an Ass

Greg Salyer

President of the University of Philosophical Research

July 8, 2017

Making Meaning in 2017
Or, How not to be an Ass

Apuleius_Metamorphoses_c._65Lucius takes human form, in a 1345 illustration of the
Metamorphoses (ms. Vat. Lat. 2194, 
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana).

Now! I’d like to string together various tales in the Milesian style, and charm your kindly ear with seductive murmurs, so long as you’re ready to be amazed at human forms and fortunes changed radically and then restored in turn in mutual exchange, and don’t object to reading Egyptian papyri, inscribed by a sly reed from the Nile. (Book I:I)

So begins the ancient novel of Apuleius come down to us as The Golden Ass. It is a fitting opening and frame for a lecture on making meaning in 2017, as I will do the same stringing of tales, only without the papyri and reed. In this work from the late second-century of the Common Era, our hero is a man named Lucius, an ordinary man on business but with a curious turn. Arriving in Hypata and staying with his old friend Milo whose wife happens to be a witch, Lucius is fascinated as he watches her transform herself into a bird and decides that he would like to become a witch and a bird as well. Lucius, however, is not schooled in the art of witchcraft, which is really the art of transformation, and experiences an unfortunate outcome of his spell.

I spread out my arms and flapped them up and down one after the other, trying my best to become a bird . . . No plumage appeared, not a single feather! Instead the hair on my body turned to bristles, and my soft skin hardened to hide, my fingers and toes merged with hands and feet, squeezing together into individual hooves, and a long tail shot from the tip of my spine. Now my face was enormous, my mouth immense, my nostrils gaped, and my lips hung down. My ears too were ludicrously long and hairy. The only consolation I found in my wretched transformation was that though I could no longer embrace [my lover], at least my member had grown. I examined every part of my body hopelessly, and saw I was no bird but an ass. (Book III:24)

We are all asses. We want cheap and easy ways to transformation, and by using them, we are indeed transformed—into asses. The secret lotion that Lucius covers himself with is provided by his lover Photis, who is herself not a witch but the servant of the witch. She assures Lucius that she knows what she is doing, and Lucius, no doubt blinded by lust for Photis and desire for the bird nature she promises to provide him, believes in this pseudo-wisdom. His uninformed belief wedded to base desire makes him an ass. This old alchemy still works for most people in 2017, only our potion, our mechanism for metamorphosis, is primarily but not exclusively social media.

I will not insult you by telling what you already know about social media, its promises and failures, its reality-TV-for-everyone seductiveness, its fetid discourse. What I will say is that it is analogous to the theory of the expanding universe. Like planets, we are speeding away from each other at tremendous velocity, but our communications technologies are faster and have made it appear that we are closer than ever. That illusion is the product of a kind of witchcraft, the kind that promises easy paths to communication and community. Social media is bad witchcraft that turns us into asses; however, it is not the medium that is at fault here, anymore than it is the potion that is at fault for Lucius. What matters is intention. What psychological and philosophical needs are we hoping to satisfy when we go onto Facebook and Twitter? What do we seek from our magic, whether it is herb-infused potions or Twitter? Whence this need making us desperate enough to revert to third-grade discourse? (Apologies to third-graders for that reference.) Do we really need to be bird, or is it enough to be a human?

There are many answers to these questions in the wisdom of the world. Let me explore just one with you today. Ernest Becker has a profound response in his book The Denial of Death. As he puts it most bluntly: “We are gods with anuses.” Perhaps we could paraphrase that to say we are gods and asses. What he means is that we are cursed with consciousness, self-aware of our own mortality and broken by that duality. Here is Becker with some added nuance:

This is the paradox: [we are] out of nature and hopelessly in it; [we are] dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. [Our] body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to [us] in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. [We are] literally split in two: [we have] an awareness of [our] own splendid uniqueness in that [we] stick out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet [we go] back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. (Kindle Location 690).

Good morning mutated fish and ultimate worm food! It is good to have you here. Actually, saying that sentence and laughing at it proves Becker’s point. That we are bags of bones and blood is one thing, that we are aware of it is another, and that we can laugh at is still another, and a point that I will come to later.

How, then, do we respond to this absurd situation? Becker argues that we create theaters of heroism in which to assert our transcendence over our animal natures. These heroic venues are familiar to us from ancient literature and myth: journeys, wars, founding a city, and generating a culture, etc. Most of those venues and ventures depended upon their novel character, that is, heroic feats done for the first—or at least one of the first—times. Losing that originality, we found heroic theaters in new and different places, such as the so-called New World of the Americas. Running out of time and space, we shifted the heroic realm into smaller and more mundane venues, and the hero became a good citizen, worker, parent, or spouse. As the theaters for displaying our heroism shifted and shrank, the great monster of our animal nature crept up even closer to the edges of these artificial worlds and reminded us that despite—and maybe even because—we have made ourselves heroes, we have also made ourselves asses. And that monster was right.

Our god-like consciousness always loses to our ass nature because as an animal, we die. Sure, we can make more theaters and venues for heroic display, and we do so beautifully. We make heavens and hells to organize human life into saints and sinners, heroes and villains. We create concepts such as reincarnation and enlightenment to take us beyond our nature as asses. We create new technologies and virtual worlds into which we cast our hero plots. Maybe those imaginary worlds are ultimately true and real, but what remains with us here and now is the ass and our ass-awareness. It is this consciousness that propels us, as Becker notes.

All this gives [human] life a quality of drivenness, of underlying desperation, an obsession with the meaning of it and with [our] own significance as a creature. And this is what drives [us] to try to make [our] mark on the world, to try to twist it and turn it to [our] own designs, to bury over the rumbling anxieties; and this usually means that [we try] to twist and turn others, make [our] mark on them, use them to justify [our] own problematic [lives]. (The Birth and Death of Meaning, 122)

We can go straight from that observation to social media. We have created a global theatre of heroism that is accessed by a device and presented, for example, in 140 characters. Becker writes “[We] cannot endure [our] own littleness unless [we] can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level” (Kindle Location 3568). Writing in 1973, Becker could not have imagined that we could access a global community from a rectangle in our hand. And yet on the “largest possible level,” it is our ass nature that is revealed more than our heroism. Becker would have had one hell of a Twitter account and would have destroyed all trolls, including those in office.

To summarize with the help of Sam Keen’s introduction to the latest edition of The Denial of Death, Becker espouses four ignoble truths, we might say.  Firstly, the world is terrifying, or as Becker puts it “Mother Nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates” (Kindle Location 102-103). Secondly, our basic human need is to deny the terror of death. Thirdly, the terror of death is so profound that we must project it outward, and the function of culture is to create theaters of heroism for that purpose. After all, heroes do not ultimately die. Finally, and here let me quote Becker’s friend Sam Keen for full effect:

Our heroic projects that are aimed at destroying evil have the paradoxical effect of bringing more evil into the world. Human conflicts are life and death struggles—my gods against your gods, my immortality project against your immortality project. The root of humanly caused evil is not man’s animal nature, not territorial aggression, or innate selfishness, but our need to gain self-esteem, deny our mortality, and achieve a heroic self-image. (Kindle Location 124)

So in an ironic turn, it is our participation in culture that taps into our “brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw,” more so than our participation in nature. The picture that emerges from Becker’s seemingly unassailable argument is of a uniquely dysfunctional animal, an animal disabled by its highest ideals.

Disabled by our highest ideals. Nothing quite captures that inversion like great literature, and in particular William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming.” Though I suspect you know this poem, a full reading is worth the time, especially in a discussion of making meaning in 2017.

The Second Coming


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? (poets.org)

It is as if Ernest Becker’s thesis were an exegesis of Yeat’s dark apocalyptic vision. The two parts of the poem themselves demonstrate the rise and fall of the heroic process as the first stanza, full of poetic insight, falls into the second, where our narrator slouches into despair. Indeed, the visions here are conjured from Yeat’s own occult philosophy, but they have resonated for nearly a century now because they are so apt.

Our friend Lucius the ass has a similar complaint.

I groaned from the depths of my heart, and it occurred to me it was not for nothing that wise men of old imagined Fortune as blind, and even proclaimed she was born lacking eyes, since she forever favors the evil and undeserving, and never shows justice in dealing with human beings, but chooses to lodge with precisely those whom she’d flee furthest from if she could see. And worse than that, she bestows on men their diametrically opposite reputation, with the sinful being considered virtuous, while the most innocent is subject to noxious rumors. After all, she’d attacked me most savagely, and reduced me to a beast, to a quadruped of the lowest order. Even the least sympathetic would find my troubles worthy of grief and pity. (Book VII:3)

We could call so many to testify to this state of meaninglessness and of despair: Gilgamesh, Job, the writer of Ecclesiastes to Nietzsche, Camus, Kierkegaard, and almost any Twitter feed.

Is that it, then? For making meaning in 2017, are our choices rumination on our ass nature, apocalyptic spectacle, or the false heroics afforded by social media? Yes, those are the only choices. Thank you for coming. There are, of course, other choices. In our remaining time, let me explore just three, the three that matter most to me.

The first is wisdom or what the ancients called sophia. It is the word from which we make philosophy. It may be no surprise coming from the president of the University of Philosophical Research that I am advocating philosophy as a way to make meaning in 2017, but let me be clear about what I mean here. As in our other “tales strung together to charm your kindly ear,” philosophy has suffered a similar fate to our narrators and heroes in waiting. What begins as aspiration and idealization ends in disappointment and cynicism. You may have experienced this fall personally if you have ever taken Philosophy 101 and ended up in a course on logical positivism. What begins as a unique way of seeing the world that itself opened up other worlds ends as a tautological technical exercise for the purpose of perpetuating a gnostic discourse without any gnosis. To be sure, other ways of knowing fall into this trap. It is just that other ways of knowing do not aspire to the “love of wisdom” and thus do not have as far to fall.

As in most cases, Manly P. Hall, our founder, put it better. He calls his book First Principles of Philosophy an “attempt to rescue the wisdom of the ancients from scholasticism’s ponderosity” (7). And yet, his intention is humble: “It is far from my intention to burden an opinion-riddled world with more ill-digested speculation. The fallacies of perverse thought are everywhere apparent” (8). We foist our ill-conceived and self-serving opinions upon the world even though there are better-conceived and world-serving opinions that have been available to us for centuries: “Is it not amazing that remain so unwise having inherited so much wisdom? That possessing so much that is good and noble, we remain unrefined and ignoble” (8)? Hall’s solution was elegant and simple: create ways for those who seek wisdom to find it and for those who love wisdom to be guided by it, as the very word philosophy suggests: “It has been my purpose to focus the light of an ageless wisdom upon the problems of today; to discover, if possible, from those who have lived well the secret of right living, from those who have thought well, the secret of noble action” (9-10). Hall continues: “I want you to look upon philosophy not as an abstract and difficult word, suggesting arduous labor, but as a simple and friendly term standing for all that is good and all that is real in knowledge. I want you to make philosophy the great work of your life” (12). Philosophy as a simple and friendly term. The love of wisdom as the great work of one’s life. I like that very much, and I suspect we are all trying to do something like that anyway, only without the conscious intention or clear path that Hall lays out. Finally, as if to address directly the previous status of our ass nature, romance with apocalyptic spectacle, and seductions of false heroism, Manly P. Hall writes this:

The world we live in today is ruled by fear—fear of life and fear of death. Wisdom alone can overcome fear. Love rules the sphere of the wise. Those who have learned to love life in its deepest and most mystical sense have escaped from bondage to fear and dwell in peace with all things. (14)

How do we make meaning in 2017? The same way we have for centuries—through philosophy, through the pursuit and love of wisdom.

Perhaps you agree with me and Manly P. Hall in that assessment. If you do, or even if you do not, imagine putting the line “We can make meaning through philosophy” on a Twitter or Facebook page. Imagine saying it in a bar or at a party. What would happen? In most cases the statement would be met with sarcasm, scoffing, and scorn. Why should this be? Ernest Becker might say that offering such a statement in those venues might be seen as an attempt to become a hero, to single oneself out for uniqueness in a sea of similarity, thus producing antagonists who seek the same. There may be other reasons as well.

For example, the statement “We can make meaning through philosophy” sounds (and actually is) derivative. Sure, it is derived from the great wisdom traditions of the world and from those who have lived them, but the charge of derivativeness has become a way to dismiss ideas rather than to receive them. We want new paths to wisdom because the old ones are associated with failure and ultimately pain. For example, I grew up as a religious fundamentalist in the South, so for much of my life, when I encountered fundamentalism or the South, I responded with various forms of dismissal. These things had hurt me deeply, so I held them at bay through sarcasm, scoff, and scorn. I do not think this is just me. I think our world in 2017 harms us in new ways, and even though they are really the same old ways, we feel as if we need new mechanisms of dismissal. In his book For Common Things, Jedediah Purdy makes the following observation regarding a statement such as “Philosophy is a way to make meaning”:

What do we find so untrustworthy that we dare put such scant weight on it? We surely mistrust our own capacity to bear disappointment. So far as we are [sarcastic], we are determined not to be made suckers. The great fear of the [sarcastic person] is being caught out having staked a good part of his all on a false hope—personal, political, or both. (31)

Living in sarcasm, or in rigid resistance, is living in a cultural prison where one cannot speak for fear of being unoriginal. As Purdy puts it:

It begins from the idea that each of us should be radically independent, should generate ourselves from our own will and imagination. When that ambition disappoints, and his phrases and acts do not glisten with newness, the [sarcastic person] treats his own derivative behavior with the vague contempt that a selfishly expectant parent might show toward a child who fails to perform. Refusing to take seriously such mundane things as the familiar vocabularies of thought, friendship, and romance, he stops his knowledge of them at a pointedly superficial conversance. And superficial conversance is not enough for intelligence, not enough to form a personality. (106-07)

And we might add, for our purposes, not enough to make meaning.

I now have a confession to make. I have doctored Purdy’s quotations. I understand this is increasingly acceptable in the public sphere, and I do not apologize for it even if it were not. I will not even argue that this is a small change. It is a rather large one. The reason for my manipulation is that I think Purdy, brilliant as he is, gets something very wrong here. The word he uses and that I replaced with sarcasm is in fact the word irony. And that is the second of the three ways to make meaning in 2017 that I will now discuss.

Sarcasm is a kind of cheap and easy irony that is really more about the speaker than the issue. Ultimately irony is deeply philosophical, as we shall see. In fact, I really do not need to point out irony because it has been here in this presentation all along. Irony is replete in The Golden Ass as a man seeks transformation into a bird and instead becomes an ass. Ernest Becker’s depiction of human beings as “gods with anuses” is a classic example of dramatic irony where, as characters in the play, we think the situation is one thing when it is another. Yeat’s “Second Coming” works via ironic reversals of—well—the Second Coming, not to mention lines such as “the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” In contrast with sarcasm, whose etymology is “to tear the flesh,” the etymology of the word irony is itself ironic. We know it as “”a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning,” but if we dig deeper we discover that its roots are in speaking itself. The Greek word is eironeia, which means ”dissimulation, assumed ignorance,” is likely related to eirein “to speak.” The “assumed ignorance” definition is telling, as it takes us back to another ancient figure and—ironically—to philosophy itself (“Irony,” Etymology Online Dictionary).

The greatest philosopher the world has known was also the world’s greatest ironist. There is even a special category of this “assumed ignorance” named “Socratic Irony” after this philosopher. Socrates’ method, his way of philosophy, his way to wisdom, was irony. If that sounds as strange to you as it did to me when I first heard it, it is because philosophy as a discipline has had a hard time getting the joke. Before Gregory Vlastos’ Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher, there was Søren Kierkegaard’s 400-page dissertation titled On the Concept of Irony, with Continual Reference to Socrates. It is a delicious irony in itself that it would take a Christian theologian to explore and explain the Socratic method as irony. If you do not think of Socrates as an ironist, then you are in good company. You are also, may I say unsarcastically but perhaps ironically, wrong.

And it is not just you, but Socrates’ most famous student, Plato, who is wrong, at least according to Kierkegaard. The issue of Socrates’ ironic way of being and knowing concerns the Oracle at Delphi. When asked who was the smartest man alive, the answer came back as Socrates, who himself is bemused by the response. Seeing a philosophical quest at hand, Socrates interrogates the wise men of the world and determines that he is in fact the wisest among them but only because he did not claim to know anything. Accordingly, as a knower of nothing, Socrates seeks knowledge from those who say they know, and invariably finds them wanting. In fact legend has it that Socrates said “I know that I know nothing,” and that is the source of his wisdom. To know nothing, then, is to know more than anyone else. This is the Socratic paradox, a philosophical irony, and a way to make meaning in the world.

This “way” is also the Way according to the Tao te Ching, the ancient Chinese text of Lao Tzu, who wrote “He who says does not know. He who knows does not say (1).” This “way” of making meaning is also the way of Zen: “All is not what it seems, nor is it otherwise,” reads a Zen saying. This “way” is the way of the Individual according to Nietzsche, who wrote: “Objection, evasion, joyous distrust, and love of irony are signs of health; everything absolute belongs to pathology” (Beyond Good and Evil, 155). This “way” is the way of the Christian mystics who travel the via negativa, that is, who find God by discovering where he is not. And may I say, this “way” is the way of all of us who distrust pre-packaged, market-analyzed, focus-group-tested ideas and propositions designed to sell us everything from cheap food to expensive cars, and from easy religion to expensive salvation. Irony is the antidote to bad witchcraft. When used as sarcasm, irony makes you an ass. When used Socratically, irony is a way to make meaning by exposing falsehood.

Finally and briefly, the third way we can make meaning in 2017 is difficult to describe because it goes beyond words and convention. How does one speak of the ineffable? Ironically, to be sure, but I would also say symbolically. Manly P. Hall, Joseph Campbell, Suzanne Langer, and many other great scholar-teachers have consistently reminded us that there is a world beyond words. The religious and philosophical traditions throughout and history and all over the planet have taught us the same thing. I am reminded of an amazing little book titled The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist who studied shamanism and molecular biology among the Peruvian Amazon tribes. Moving from observer to participant, Narby ingested the hallucinogen ayahuasca in the appropriate ritual setting. He recounts his experience of speaking with twin snakes, and he suggests that the two snakes are actually the two strands of DNA. Accordingly, the subtitle of his work is DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. I do not know about the validity of Narby’s thesis, and others have criticized his conclusions and methodology. What interests me and frankly convinces me most about Narby’s experience and conclusion is this—the two snakes laugh at him. Even more they mock him. Even more, they mock him for losing his language. “Poor human, they say. What will you do now without your language now?” while Narby lies beneath them, mute. What do we do without language? Strange and wonderful things, actually.

Now I am going to speak a moment about television, and yes, I am going to speak about the Showtime series Twin Peaks and its creator David Lynch. For those of you who are not following the new, third season, do not worry. I will be brief. For those who are, I am sorry. I will be brief. My point is simple. Season 3, Episode 8 is being hailed as one of the most bizarre and brilliant sixty minutes of television in the medium’s history. I agree that it is both, and it is impossible for me to even recap the episode for you here because it moves beyond words and into the symbolism of music, art, and video. Imagine some twenty-six minutes of an hour-long episode containing no dialogue and a visual representation of the first atomic bomb test, the explosion of evil it releases, the response of a giant and a woman on a rock island, the generation of golden bubbles from the giant’s head as he levitates toward the ceiling, the electric charges of light and energy in a small, New Mexico gas station, and the movement of ghostly figures in and out during these charges. Now set it all to Krzysztof Penderecki’s epic and profound musical composition titled Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Suffice it to say that it is one of the most brilliant creations I have seen on any kind of screen, and I remain baffled and seduced by its multivalent meanings. Art, music, dance—these ways of making meaning touch the face of the sacred precisely because they transcend words.

Let us leave with a little hope because we certainly can use it in 2017. Remember our old friend, Lucius the ass? It is worth telling you the ending of his story. The middle part of the novel involves Lucius searching for a cure for his ass-ness. He is to eat some roses, but every time it appears that fortune favors him, something ghastly occurs. Here is the ass himself describing his many journeys:

But, in truth, if Fortune so decrees, nothing turns out right for human beings: neither wise counsel nor clever devices can subvert or remold the fated workings of divine providence. In this case, a similar event to that which seemed to have worked my instant salvation threatened further danger, or rather the risk of imminent destruction. (Book IX:1)

No ass has lived such a miserable existence, and really, all he wanted to do was fly. I like to think that Lucius is all of us and just wanted to make some meaning of his life, but as he notes, “if fortune so decrees,” we are denied that wish. The problem, of course, is that we do not know the meaning we seek. We think it means being a bird, when it might just mean being a better human, or, the case of Lucius, a servant to an older wisdom that makes us new again. Lucius finally finds the right roses to eat, the right magic, and meaning, and they come from the goddess Isis. He is transformed back into a human and more, a human with meaning and purpose. We can do the same today through philosophy, irony, and symbolism and other ways of making meaning.

I will let the priest of Isis describe the meaning of the ass’s transformation and offer us our own benediction today.

Wear a happier face, to match the white robe you wear now, and join the procession of the saving Goddess with a joyful and conquering step. . . . Behold, Lucius, freed from his former troubles, delighting in the favor of mighty Isis, triumphing over fate. And to be more secure, enlist in the protection of this holy cadre, to whose oath of obedience you were but now summoned, Dedicate yourself to the commands of our sect, accept the burden of your own free will; for once you begin to serve the Goddess, you will know the fruits of freedom more completely.’ (Book XI:15)


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Fall Symposium | September 23, 2017



You are invited to the first annual Fall Symposium of the University of Philosophical Research on September 23, 2017 beginning at 2:00 pm.

  • John Pillsbury: Memories of Manly P. Hall
  • Walter Hansell: Beginning and Sustaining a University: The Tenure of  President Emeritus Obadiah Harris, Ph.D.
  • President Greg Salyer, Ph.D.: The Future of the University of Philosophical Research and the Philosophical Research Society
  • Food | Drink | Music | and More

symposium |simˈpōzēəm| noun (plural symposia |-zēə| or symposiums) a conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject.• a collection of essays or papers on a particular subject by a number of contributors.• a drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet (and notable as the title of a work by Plato).


UPR on Campus | Summer 2017 | Passages: Texts, Contexts, and the Ways to Wisdom

UPR_passages 600

GREG SALYER, PH.D is the President of the University of Philosophical Research. He has been a teacher and administrator in higher education for almost twenty-five years. He has a Ph.D. in Literary theory, Contemporary Literature, and Religious Studies from Emory University’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts and has taught in many venues, from small liberal arts colleges to a major research university, and online since 2000.

Passages is a free, ten-part, guided discussion offered by the University of Philosophical Research to all.

UPR on Campus: The Meanings of America

Meanings of America

Johns, 1930-, Three Flags, 1958

Greg Salyer, Ph.D.
University of Philosophical Research

To continue the discussion online and to view resources on the topics,
write Dr. Greg Salyer at gregsalyer@uprs.edu for
access to our UPR on Campus site.

Tuesday Lectures Thursday Films
The Native Nation

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

Before there was “America,” there was a continent of more than 500 nations and cultures varying widely in language, religion, and social structure. They practiced sophisticated land management, created a vast network of roads, and constructed large cities rivaling those of Europe. When the Europeans invaded, these 500 nations became one in the new American imagination, los indios or “the Indians.” The name arose from a mistake in navigation and remained as a mistake of the imagination to this day. Despite a calculated and prolonged genocide by Euro-Americans, Native people remain on the continent and survive through their ceremonies and humor.

Watch the lecture on Vimeo

Smoke Signals

Thursday, April 27, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

The Religious Nation

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

America’s creation myth is about religious freedom from a Europe still bleeding from its religious wars that were tied to state-sponsored religion. Members of the Plymouth Colony landed in Massachusetts in 1620 and provided a religious counterpart to the Virginia Company that had settled in Jamestown in 1607. The Plymouth Colony’s “freedom from” religion of the state and “freedom to” practice their own beliefs remains a pivotal tension at the heart of the America as a religious nation. The First Amendment of the Constitution articulates this paradox: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .”

Watch the lecture/discussion on YouTube

The Crucible

Thursday, May 4, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

The Immigrant Nation
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

The meaning of America has been articulated since its beginning in the Latin phrase e pluribus unum, out of many, one. The many, of course, are immigrants. The one is harder to imagine and realize. This three-word myth assumes an America that is open and secure, diverse and unified, and constantly changing and fundamentally stable. That is an idealistic and perhaps impossible goal for a community, much less a nation of this size. A symbol that is usually associated with this myth is the melting pot, which appears instructive on the surface until we begin to ask questions of it. Who is doing the melting, and what is the result? What is lost and what is gained in the melting? Is it language, culture, identity? Such questions are more pressing than ever as the myth of the immigrant nation undergoes unique challenges and revisions.

The Immigrant

Thursday, May 11, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

The Destined Nation
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

It has been argued that the myth of the American West is the longest-lived of the American myths. Expansion to the Pacific Ocean represented a culmination of the colonization of the continent and finalized the nation-building that began with contact. In fact, Frederick Jackson Turner called the settling of the frontier the second founding of the republic, and this consummation of the myth of destiny did not end at the western ocean. Instead, it continued to grow into the nation’s first foreign policy doctrine of Manifest Destiny, a mythologically loaded phrase if there ever was one. Less of a consensus than the melting pot, Manifest Destiny nevertheless provided an ideology of American colonization and war that found
particular expression around the globe.

Dead Man

Thursday, May 18, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm
The Self-Reliant Nation
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

Mythologies have heroes, and the American mythology has a hero at its center. That hero is you, the American. This hero myth is not reserved for noble ones or founders of cities, as in ancient mythology. Part of the American mythology is that the hero myth is available to all by their birthright as Americans. The myth connects to the nerve centers of the American mythos: individualism (and new spaces and resources in which to practice it), self-reliance, rags to riches, the American dream, and American exceptionalism. Moreover, the hero myth finds a home in everything from the American farmer to the American philosopher. Even those who had been excluded from the American dream by previous bigotry can (mythologically at least) become an American hero.

American Beauty
Thursday, May 25, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm
The Capitalist Nation
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

There is a good chance that any time a concept is presented as natural, self-evident, or inevitable we are talking about a myth. As Roland Barthes noted, “Myth transforms history into nature.” This observation is uniquely true of capitalism in America. The American Dream is a “self-evident” capitalist dream, thanks especially to popular novels of the nineteenth-century young adult writer Horatio Alger’s and his rags to riches myth. Any myth, however, must interface with other myths in the whole mythology. How does capitalism fare in this scheme? Surprisingly well, actually. In this lecture/discussion we will see just how and why capitalism is woven into the meanings of

There Will be BloodThursday, June 1, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm
The Anti-Intellectual Nation
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

Like their Hebrew mythological forebears, the founders of America used the concept of the chosen nation to define themselves against the “others.” Among these others are Europeans, and a primary feature of European mythologies is what has been described as a certain intellectual elitism. Never mind that it was such intellectualism that conceived and inaugurated America in the beginning. The emergent and still-present myth of the “plain-spoken” and “simple” American has been plied into political power repeatedly and effectively. Why should a nation value anti-intellectualism and how does it play into the meanings of America? The answers may be surprising and revealing.

No screening Thursday, June 8. Watch Being There on your own and discuss it during the next lecture if you like.

The Violent Nation
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

Violence is the ritual practice of American myth. Given the belief that America was a “wilderness” that needed to be subdued, especially in regard to its Native people, violence becomes a sacrament of nation building and mythological regeneration. Congruent with the value of violence is the value of its tools, that is, arms. That America is and has been one of the most violent countries in history is directly related to the meaning and use of violence as establishing and renewing the meaning of America.

No screening Thursday, June 15. Watch Birth of a Nation on your own and discuss it during the next lecture if you like.

The Innocent Nation
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

While all nations avoid admitting complicity in nefarious acts, America has a unique approach to innocence that is drawn directly from the other meanings of America that we have been studying. Innocence is also related to another prominent meaning of America, that is, exceptional. Innocence and exceptionalism make for a powerful mythological identity that allows for Manifest Destiny and other mythologies to proceed without critique, or at least a critique that is recognized and accounted for. As such, it is a self-sustaining myth and also an extremely dangerous one both for citizens and the nation’s others.

No screening Thursday, June 22. Watch Forrest Gump on your own and discuss it during the next lecture if you like.

The Future Nation
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
7:00-8:30 pm

Given the meanings of America that we have explored, it is clear that American mythology is uniquely oriented toward the future. Even as the Pilgrims looked back over their shoulders at the religious wars they left behind, they looked forward to establishing themselves in this new “Promised Land.” The open frontier continued to fuel this myth, and when the frontier was “closed,” the future took on the contours of capitalism and eventually space exploration. Add in innocence and exceptionalism and we have a recipe for the future that is uniquely mythological and American. Even the world acknowledges (or used to) that the future is American, for better or for worse.

We have only one sign-up for Blade Runner, so the screening has been canceled. Thank you for your understanding.



Second Saturday Speaker’s Platform

UPR is pleased to announce its 2017 Second Saturday Speaker’s Platform! With one faculty member each month sharing a lecture and discussion with our community, we will be offering three talks per quarter in this series.

We will have extended bookstore and library hours (10am-4pm) every 2nd Saturday of the month in conjunction with the series. A selection of our faculty will be presenting online, indicated below, available to all international and traveling students.

$12/lecture, $30/Quarter

2017 Speaker’s Platform
Lecture Date (Single Lecture):

Winter Quarter:

Saturday, January 14th, 2017:

“Mentoring the Inner Journey”

With Jonathan Young, Ph.D.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium


Sometimes, seekers get help with the quest. Teachers and guides appear at key moments with bits of insight or practical suggestions. Mentor images in stories and dreams can assist us as we move toward enlightenment. Wisdom figures in mythology, literature, and film include Merlin, Glinda, Gandalf, Mary Poppins, Dumbledore, The Fairy Godmother, Baba Yaga, and Charlotte (with her web). Carl Jung was assisted by Philemon. We will discuss the role played by inner and outer advisors who show us the way.

Jonathan Young is a psychologist and storyteller who assisted mythologist Joseph Campbell at seminars and was the Founding Curator of the Joseph Campbell Archives and Library. He is also contributing producer and featured commentator on the Ancient Aliens televisions series. His books and articles focus on personal mythology. Dr. Young is on the faculty of the University of Philosophical Research

Saturday, February 11th, 2017:

“The New Philosophical Paradigm for the Spiritual Unfoldment of the Self”

With Pierre Grimes, Ph.D.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium


This lecture will discuss the following:

  • The dangerous inherent power of the exercise of the dialectic.
  • The folly and origin of false beliefs about the Self.

Pierre Grimes Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Pacific; MA Comparative Philosophy, University of Pacific; BA Philosophy, San Francisco State College

He is the founder of the philosophical midwifery movement, which is an adaption of Socratic midwifey, and is a mode of philosophical counseling. The name Philosophical Midwifery comes from Plato’s dialogue, The Theaetetus.

  • Professor of Philosophy, Golden West College
  • President of the Noetic Society, Inc.
  • Director of the Open Mind Academy
  • Author of “Is It All Relative?” and “Philosophical Midwifery”

10:30 am, Saturday, March 11th, 2017:

“The Soul’s Journey”

With Richard Geldard, Ph.D.

Online Lecture Video


The idea of a soul as a symbol of the eternal, a remnant of divinity, an expression of the afterlife, has always been part of the human journey. From India, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and beyond, mystics philosophers, artists, farmers and laborers alike hold to the idea of a small piece of divinity within. The soul was born, been dormant, neglected, and revived and then lost, but always reborn. It has been in the world’s wisdom traditions that the soul has been the most consistent presence in human nature  Each of these traditions has its own knowledge and experience for us to measure against our own sense of this part of our being.

Professor Richard Geldard, PhD is a member of the UPR and Holmes Institute faculties. He teaches courses in Ancient Greek Thought, New England Transcendentalism, Hermeticism, and The Examined Life. He is the author of a dozen books, the latest being “The Soul’s Journey,” His web site is www.rgbooks.com.


Spring Quarter:

Saturday, April 8th, 2017:

“The Peculiar Spirituality of T.S. Eliot”

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium

With Tim Shaughnessy, Ph.D.


This lecture concentrates on a small selection of T.S. Eliot’s major poems.  Emphasis focuses on words, images, symbols, and a creative style that when blended together creates verse of profound metaphysical significance.  We will review and discuss quotes from Eliot’s early works, The Waste Land, Hollow Men, and move forward to his later work, The Four Quartets.  Along the way, we hopefully gain insight into Eliot’s peculiar spirituality.The critic Scott James, notes:  There is no portrayal of common emotions.  All the things which common people think of as practical and desirable vanish into insignificance under Eliot’s vision.In his own words, “ Poetry is of course not to be defined by its uses.  It may effect revolutions in sensibility, such as are periodically needed; may help to  brake  up the conventional modes of perception and valuation which are perpetually forming; and make people see the world afresh, or some new part of it.  It may make us from time to time a  little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are usually a constant evasion of our selves, and an evasion of the visible and sensible  world.  But to say all this is only to say what you know already, if you have felt poetry and thought about your feelings.”Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 4.07.02 PMTimothy Shaughnessy, Ph.D.  B.A. degree In English Literature from Arizona StateUniversity; Masters in English Literature from Northern Arizona State University; Ph.D in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State University, emphasis in Research and Community Education. Teaching experience at University of the Pacific, CA, in English Composition, Arizona State University in Public Administration and grant administration. Served in four U.S. federal agencies; Department of Health and Human Services as a program specialist,: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a compliance analysis; Department of State, Voice of American as Director of Management Analysis, and the Internal Revenue Service as Chief of Financial Revenue and Chief of Educational Services Program. Consultant to the U.S. Department of Education and Veterans’ Administration. Consultant to the University of Philosophical Research.


Saturday, May 13th, 2017:

“Rebirth, Reincarnation & Transmigration: An Overview”

With James Santucci, Ph.D.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium


An examination of the process of reincarnation.  Is reincarnation the same as transmigration, metepsychosis, and rebirth?  What is  reincarnating?  What is the difference between resurrection and reincarnation?

Dr. James A. Santucci is a retired Professor of Comparative Religion at California State University, Fullerton.   He received his Ph.D. degree from the Australian National University (Canberra, Australia) in Asian Civilization with an emphasis on the Veda. He is the editor of Theosophical History and Theosophical History Occasional Papers and the author of La società teosofica and An Outline of Vedic Literature, articles and book chapters appearing, among others, in the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Nova Religio, Alternative Christs, and The Cambridge Companion to New Religious Movements.  He is also a contributor (the Sanskrit language) to the Intercontinental Dictionary Series (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig).

Saturday, June 10th, 2017:

“In Excess of Being: A Phenomenological Practice of Nature”


With Sabrina Dalla Valle M.F.A.

Online Lecture Video
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Is nature understood today as more a symptom of something else we haven’t yet discovered?  Out of physical necessity, I attempt to follow this inquiry in a Goethean sense, looking at nature as “the pregnant point from which a series of phenomena governs itself from within outward.” For anything that is alive retains a certain potential…and it is here that we understand the primary order of things. Being recently affected by lung toxicity I am acutely aware of the coherency between inner and outer atmospheric conditions. In such a disabled state, dualism is implicitly dissolved. There is only one ‘nature’ flowing between human and environment. To understand what this means on a more concrete level, l am observing the external atmosphere in which I live by way of light quality, climate and sound- and my own inner breath in terms of lung capacity for air and congestion. In this description, I am also attempting to look beyond the tensions of the inner imagination and the outer world so as to experience time forms not bound to the psyche or measured cycles active in current scientific observation of atmosphere.

Sabrina Dalla Valle, MFA, is a writer of experimental and philosophical texts. She is author of Bee as Timbral Space :  a post-geometric eclogue (2016, Logosophia Books), 7 Days and Night in the Desert (Tracing the Origin) selected by Mei Mei Berssenbrugge for Best First Book Award (2013, Kelsey Street Press). Her writing has been anthologized and archived in  Mindmade Books 2012 chapbook series; Alchemical Traditions (2013, Numen Books); University of Pennsylvania’s The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (PennSound), 2014; San Francisco State University’s The Poetry Center Archives, 2014; UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2016.  She is co-founding editor of Diaphany, a peer-reviewed journal and nocturne for the publication of written and visual work that explores phenomenological perception and integral expression.


Summer Quarter:

Saturday, July 8th, 2017:

“Making Meaning in 2017

With Greg Salyer, Ph.D.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium

It is an unprecedented time in American and world history. Democratic institutions are threatened and appear to be waning while the problems they were created to address are worse than ever. Ennui and angst are prominent if not dominant, and it seems that our social interactions are increasingly poisonous. The public sphere has become a mutual shouting match, and our politics are locked into the same intransigent and vituperative rhetoric. As W.B. Yeats put it, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” He would go on to say that some revelation must be at hand. Is it? Do we need a revelation, a new vision? If so, what might it look like? What do the ancient wisdom teachers have to say about all of this? How do we make meaning in 2017 and beyond?

Front Camera

Professor Salyer is the author of Leslie Marmon Silko, a study of the prominent Laguna Pueblo writer’s work, and the co-editor of Literature and Theology at Century’s End. He has published many essays and given numerous presentations on Native American literature, contemporary fiction, and literature and religion. He received his Ph.D. from Emory University in literary theory, contemporary fiction, and religious studies. Greg has chaired numerous departments and directed several programs, including English, liberal studies, and writing programs. He has been teaching online since 2000 and is the President of the University of Philosophical Research.

Saturday, August 12th, 2017:

“The Deadlock of Modern Theoretical Physics as a Fallout of the Crisis of Materialism and Education: A Critical View From the Perspective of a Scientist, Teacher and Spiritualist”


With Marco Masi, Ph.D.

Online Lecture Video


Contrary to popular belief, the foundations of physics are facing one of its deepest intellectual crisis. While applied physics experienced a tremendous development, and several new discoveries from the micro- to macro-cosmos revolutionized our understanding of the physical world, the progress in the conceptual foundations of modern theoretical physics stagnated. For more than half a century now physicists worldwide tried to unify quantum mechanics with general relativity and conceived of a plethora of new ‘quantum gravity” theories (like superstrings, etc.) But recent results coming from particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are telling us that nature ignores them. How the universe works at these levels remains mysterious more than ever. Overall the net impression is that of a great confusion and incertitude, which clearly signals a deep foundational as methodological crises. What is left among many is a sense of dissatisfaction and frustration for the lack of real progress, and nobody knows why. I suggest that the problem is not merely technical or scientific, but has its roots in a cultural and social understanding of how education should work. Our schools and academia are designed to foster too much the intellectual and rational faculties of the child, student and academic, and tends to suppress the contact with our inner being. With most of us not being aware of it, our educational systems are designed to expunge a priori the intuitive thinker, the seer, the naive but free visionary. The lack of these spiritual and intuitive personalities in mainstream science, is best reflected in those activities of science which are not practical oriented but more of a conceptual and philosophical nature. I will discuss how this has been the case with particle physics and modern unification theories.

Marco Masi graduated in physics at the university of Padua, Italy, obtained a Ph.D in physics at the university of Trento and worked as a researcher in universities in Italy, France, and Germany, where he now lives. His interests veered towards new forms of individual learning and a new concept of free-progress education originated from his activity both as a tutor in several universities and in the last two years as a maths and physics teacher in a high school, which gave him a deep insight into the modern educational system with all its systemic, social and also unconscious intricacies that are at the root of many modern educational issues.

Saturday, September 9th, 2017:

“Infinite Information, Worlds Without End: Myth and Religion in the Age of the Internet”

With Robert Ellwood, Ph.D. (Assisted by Richard Ellwood)

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium


The Internet has greatly changed the ways we humans learn, practice, and understand religion.  This presentation will survey some of those ways, from basic information, to blogs discussing religious issues, to on-line services and even whole religions, to the mythologies of computer games, to “Second Life” religious exploration, to “Cyber Apocalyptic” speculation that in time cyborgs, human-computer hybrids, will emerge to change wholly the nature of human life, and so of religion.  Richard Ellwood will project relevant websites on a screen as the talk and conversation proceed, and will demonstrate an oculus rift device which can put the wearer in an alternative reality.

Robert Ellwood, a Ph.D. in history of religion from the University of Chicago, is emeritus professor of religion at the University of Southern California, and the author of religious studies textbooks.  He now lives in Ojai, CA, with his spouse and two cats.  Richard Ellwood is technology director at Besant Hill School in Ojai.


Fall Quarter:

Saturday, October 14th, 2017:

The Impact of the Renaissance on Occult Traditions and the Birth of Hermetic Tarot

With Yolanda Robinson, Ph.D.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium

One of the most important contributions of the Renaissance to the history of Western thought was the fusion of Humanism with pagan traditions, pre-Socratic thought, Platonism, Aristotelianism, Christianity, and even Cabala. Classical texts were rediscovered at this time, and works like the Corpus Hermeticum, the Hymns of Orpheus, and the Chaldean Oracles (attributed to Zoroaster) were embraced as wisdom literature. Tarot, tarocchi, is a child of the Renaissance and shares many of the characteristics of the cultural and social life of that time. Hermetic Tarot also carries its own consciousness and has accrued even more hermetic and occult characteristics beyond the 17th century and into modern times.


  • To provide background and examples of the way that Tarot (tarocchi) evolved within a hermetic-cabalistic current that defined the consciousness of the Renaissance.
  • To show how magic, alchemy, astrology and mystery traditions in general were incorporated into the art and literature of the Renaissance.
  • To suggest, using the concept of “poesis of the psyche,” how the birth of Hermetic Tarot coincides with the birth of the Renaissance Magus.

Yolanda M. Robinson, Ph.D, has been researching Hermetic traditions and working with Tarot for over thirty years. She holds a M.S. in Transformational Psychology from UPRS. Dr. Robinson is a retired Foreign Service Officer and is presently on the faculty of the University of Philosophical Research. She recently edited the new edition of the Knapp-Hall deck (2014) and published a book on Mysticism and Cabala in the Knapp-Hall deck (2015).

Saturday, November 11th, 2017:

“Principles of Transcendental Leadership: Leadership Connected to the Heart of Universal Intelligence and Collective Wisdom”


With Shawne Mitchell, M.A.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium

In this talk, we will explore a new modality of leadership that is a radical attempt to synthesize leading-edge thinking, ancient wisdom, and the present conscious evolution, in order to affect profound individual and collective change – so acutely needed in our world today.Transcendental Leadership shifts us away from the old paradigms of leadership models into a new leadership modality highlighting interconnection and wholeness. We know that the complex problems of today will not be resolved by the consciousness that created them. Transcendental Leadership offers us a model to provide leadership that can contribute to the evolution of the world where the conscious awareness of all of humanity is developed for the betterment of all. 

Leading from a place of transcendence, from a consciousness of wholeness, David Bohm explained:

Your self is actually the whole of mankind … the past is enfolded in each of us in a very subtle way. If you reach deeply enough into yourself, you are reaching into the very essence of mankind. When you do this, you will be led into the generating depth of consciousness that is common to the whole of mankind and that has the whole of mankind enfolded into it. The individual’s ability to be sensitive to that becomes the key to the change of mankind. We are all connected. If this could be taught, and if people could understand it, we would have a different consciousness. 

We hope you will join us in this afternoon of change-making.

Shawne holds a Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies from the University of Philosophical Research and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Washington. Shawne has been practicing meditation for over 35 years. Her deep wisdom, combined with her travels and experiences, has evolved into speaking, teaching, workshops, published articles and books.

She is preparing a course, Mystical Traditions and Contemplative Practices, which she will be teaching at the University of Philosophical Research in 2017.

Saturday, December 9th, 2017:

“The Journey of the Fool: an Exploration of the Major Arcana as a Mythology on Life”

With Athena Kolinski, M.A.

Lecture10:30am-12:00pm in the auditorium

A journey through the Major Arcana of the Tarot will take you down roads you will know well. The experiences with both the outer and inner worlds take you to through the mundane, to the challenges of the dark night of the soul, to rebirth into new levels of who we are.

Together we will explore the movement through the cards, how they interface with each other, the characters and how they speak to you in this life. Watch the mythology of the Major Arcana come to life before your eyes, and see it in a whole new light.

Athena Johnson-Kolinski, M.A. teaches at University of Philosophical Research, where her second master’s degree was obtained in Consciousness Studies. Athena is a Dreamworker, Certified Tarotpy Practitioner and New Dreamwork Coach for Star Card Dreaming (www.starcarddreaming.com), as well as an active member of International Association for the Study of Dreams.



LA Weekly: The Strange History of Los Feliz’s Mysterious Metaphysical Research Center


The Strange History of Los Feliz’s Mysterious Metaphysical Research Center
by Gustavo Turner


No, it’s not a Scientology front.

Nor is it “a Christian Science thing.” Or the Angelus Temple (that’s in nearby Echo Park). Or an exclusive league of Theosophists, Rosicrucians or Illuminati, or followers of Rudolf Steiner or Gurdjieff or any other specific mystic, either local or exotic. It’s definitely not a den of Aleister Crowley worship.

When people venture guesses as to what goes on at the University of Philosophical Research (formerly known as the Philosophical Research Society) — the strange-looking, Mayan-style mini compound on Los Feliz Boulevard, across from the southern boundary of Griffith Park, right next to the traffic jam–prone access to the 5 freeway — they often get it very wrong.

For a good part of the 20th century, the Philosophical Research Society was the physical extension of the largely metaphysical interests and activities of its formidable founder, Manly P. Hall.Hall was a self-educated writer and lecturer who flourished in the extremely fertile spiritual soil of post-WWI Los Angeles, where New World (and New Age) religions mixed freely with the esoteric traditions of Europe and what used to be called “the wisdom of the East.”
Seekers hungry for enlightenment flocked to lectures that could range from yoga and meditation, to Jungian psychoanalysis, to the hidden rites of the Freemasons, to the secret codes hidden in Shakespeare plays or the fables of the ancient world.

This Advent Season: Born Divine


The tradition of Advent translates directly in Latin to “coming,” specifically in this season to the four Sundays preceding the arrival of baby Jesus as written in the Bible all those winters ago. In celebration of this tradition, UPR President Dr. Obadiah Harris has compiled four essays reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas, as a small booklet titled The Birth of Christ available online as both an e-book and pamphlet.

UPR would like to share each essay every Sunday preceding Christmas with our students and online community as a gift this year. The first of these essays titled, Born Divine, is available here below:



Obadiah Harris is the founder and president of the University of Philosophical Research. Harris has a long and storied career in both mainstream academia and the American metaphysical culture. He holds a Ph.D. in education administration and supervision from the University of Michigan and an MA in education from Arizona State University, where he was an associate professor of education and director of community education.

He is the author of multiple books, including his most recent title, The Simple Road: A Handbook for the Contemporary Seeker published this year by Tarcher/Penguin.

A Thanksgiving Prayer



On this Thanksgiving, the greatest gift for which we can express gratitude is the certainty of the advent of a larger spiritual existence that is leading the earth to the oneness of mankind, to a divine age on earth. It is this that makes the future of mankind one of joy and not sorrow. It is this which enables us at this Thanksgiving Day to look to the days ahead no with foreboding but assurance. God will say to us as He did through Moses to the ancient Hebrews after he had brought them out of slavery in Egypt: You have seen how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself. (Exodus 10:3)

That is the vision of America that has justified the hopes of our forefathers, and of which our nation stands as a living and enduring example. Hundreds of years ago on these shores they reverently thanked God on this holiday for preserving them and the liberty for which they crossed the stormy seas to a new and more bountiful land. We thank God that He has preserved us in liberty to this very hour. Through God’s grace may this spiritual vision re-cross the seas from these American shores to the ends of the earth.

Obadiah Harris 

MLA Style Guide


For both our Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree programs, UPR students will now be expected to use the Modern Language Association (MLA) style guide for all written assignments rather than the American Psychological Association (APA) style. The MLA is the style guide more applicable for our programs. All new students must refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 8th Edition as they develop papers and/or the Master’s thesis. Currently enrolled students have an option to continue with the APA style or may adopt to the MLA style. Students may also find a link to the MLA style guide in the UPR Research Toolkit.