Setting The Scene – Part 3 

This post covers the remaining period (from the mid-1970’s until sometime in late 1979) during which my wife Jean, our friend Martin, and myself would travel, once a week, from Merseyside, to Tan-Y-Garth Hall in North Wales.

Our purpose here was to take part in an informal discussion group that was hosted by Ken Ratcliffe. The major purpose of these weekly sessions (which did not follow one another in any systematic way) was to examine various ideas of Eugene Halliday’s. Thus, I had reached a point where I was now discussing a number of Eugene Halliday’s ideas with other interested parties….

However, it seemed to me that none of those involved here really understood these ideas in any integrated way. And our discussions appeared to always remain strictly at the level of intellectual inquiry – usually focusing on what ‘such-and-such a contemporary scenario’ might look like from the point of view of ‘such and such an idea’ of Eugene’s.

Even so, being presented with the opportunity to structure my own thoughts here was an extremely valuable experience for me. Because, by talking over various concepts of Eugene’s with others (such as those contained in the ‘The Four-Part Man, or ‘The Tacit Conspiracy’ for example), I had the opportunity to verbalize my own reactions and organize my own thoughts here.  And as a direct result of  (what I like to think of anyway) as this progress, there were now a few areas of Eugene’s material where I thought I was beginning to discern some sort of vague, over-all, cohesive structure – but this feeling was really far more like a strong ‘hunch’ …

I realize now that what I was also searching for was, more or less, a ‘point of entry’ … “How was one to get started here with all this material? …Where, and what, was  ‘Chapter One’, or the ‘Introduction’, here? … And if ‘this’, or ‘that’, was the place to begin … Why was it?”…

My recollection of these discussion sessions is reasonably clear to me, even now. However, if I simply attempt to relate what took place there to you, I don’t think this would really clarify things. But perhaps if did so allegorically, you might get a better sense of the over-all picture. …

Discussing Eugene’s ideas at these meetings was like being presented with a big ball of string, which we would all, collectively, attempt to examine, by first taking hold of the end that happened to be sticking out, and then carefully unravelling it, while attempting to describe it. Only to discover that, after a few feet or so, this piece suddenly came to an end. … But, “No problem!”,  …. Because we could see that there was now a new end sticking out, and so we took hold of that, and off we went again…. Only to find that the same thing kept happening repeatedly… (Think Zen here …. and “How long is a piece of string?”).

It was relatively simple to examine (or study in detail) the individual pieces of string themselves, and they were usually very interesting, but I did not seem to be able to connect them together in any satisfactory way. ….

However, I felt strongly, even then, that all these separate pieces were somehow joined together in some fundamental sense, but I couldn’t yet see how …

So, for the moment then, these ideas were all separate. But at least they had all been collected together into one place (into this one big ball of string as it were) – which was something ….

These ‘discussion sessions’ normally took up the major part of our mid-week evening’s activities. But during the time that was left (for what you might call then, the ‘second half’ of the evening) we would all head upstairs, to the ‘Meditation Room’, in order to do a spot of, what Ken referred to, as ‘Yoga’.

Please bear in mind that my sole purpose in traveling to Tan-Y-Garth was to take advantage of the opportunity being offered there by Ken Ratcliffe to discuss these ideas, and so I wasn’t interested in anything that did not, to me, have a clear connection to either Eugene Halliday’s talks, or to his writings.

First though, and in an effort to shed some light here on my view of ‘Yoga’ in general, and also to provide some background material (at least for this post) I will recount here one of the many ‘experiences’ that I had been indulging in, some good few years before my involvement with Ken et al at Tan-Y-Garth…..

…… It’s the early 1970’s, and it’s a mid-Sunday afternoon. I’m at home, lying down on my bed, on my side, and staring at the edge of my copy of Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’ (illustrations by Picasso) which just happened to be lying on the top of my bed-side cabinet.

I am staring at the edge of this book (the longer edge directly opposite the spine) which was colored with small green and red blobs – rather like an old fashioned ledger book.

As I stared at these dots, they suddenly ‘lined up’, and presented me with a colored, pixilated, frieze of Don Quixote on horseback, complete with lance – somewhat similar to Picasso’s famous black and white cartoon illustrations of this figure.

To make matters even weirder, this freeze then began to move slowly along the side of the edge of the book  – each individual figure of Don Quixote (plus horse and lance) slowly disappearing around the edge at the right end of the book, just as another identical figure came around the left end of the edge of the book to take its place!

This was all fine with me, because I knew exactly what was happening… I was hallucinating…

About half an hour previously I had ‘dropped’ a tab of ‘acid’ (LSD), and – in the vernacular of that time – I was now embarking on a ‘trip’.

I will not describe any of my ‘tripping’ episodes in any detail here, as there is already enough available literature on the subject, and my experience(s) were, I would say, typical.

I ‘tripped’ quite a few times during this period, I always ‘tripped’ alone, and I always found the experience to be unique and extraordinary. But after about a year or so, I suddenly stopped ‘dropping acid’ regularly, and, in fact, I very rarely used psychedelics at all after that period. …. The last time was well over 25 years ago  …. Why did I stop? …. Well I couldn’t really say, and indeed, it’s something that I have often wondered about from time to time since, myself! …

Why am I relating all this to you here? …. Because my own experiences of ‘altered states of conscious’ would obviously inform my evaluation of other people’s claims to have experienced ‘altered states of consciousness’.

As far as I am concerned here, I had no doubt at all, even at that time, that whatever it was that I was experiencing was as a direct consequence of my ingesting Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), and that this radical change in my own particular ‘perception of reality’ was a consequence of the physical state of my organism during that time, and was not some (quasi) mystical ‘stand-alone’ ‘transcendental’ experience.

Thus, I did not view these ‘trips’ of mine as ‘opening a doorway to other realities’; or believe that I had miraculously ‘travelled to another realm’; or that I was  ‘accessing hitherto un-accessed ‘centers’ in my body’, or that I was ‘flying about outside of my body’, or anything remotely like that (although these are some of the states I imagined I was experiencing under the influence of LSD) … I was – even when ‘tripping’ (except for one notably extremely negative experience I had) – always aware that I was deluded, and that I was under the influence of a drug. … Nonetheless, I have to say that I enjoyed these ‘experiences’ of mine immensely, and I would even go as far as to say that they were …’groovy’.

More importantly, although these experiences did provide ‘research material’ about what ‘I was’, they did not – in and of themselves – answer any of those damned questions of mine (see previous post) in any fundamental way. Nor did I discover that I could now, for instance, suddenly speak fluent Chinese; or that I had grown a couple of inches overnight; or that I could now play the trombone without prior practice; or that I now knew the name of that winning horse at Lingfield in the 2.30 race tomorrow; or that I knew who I was; or what I was; or where I was; etc. etc. Any more than that sentimental drunk who, after hanging their arm around your shoulder, and slobbering loudly and incoherently in your ear about how much they have always, “really liked you”, has suddenly become permanently transformed into a more empathetic human being, simply as a consequence of downing ten pints of Guinness.

These experiences, however, did go a long way to structure my understanding of any claims that were being made for any ‘altered states of consciousness’ by others, be these ‘altered states’ the result of taking various ‘drugs’, or ‘self-induced’ in other ways – and at that time particularly, these ‘others’ seemed to include almost ‘everyone and his dog’.

So then, I had no problem admitting, in one of these states at least, that it was easy to hold the belief, “We’re all connected, man”. And that this connectedness was, “The way it really was, all the time, if only we could always experience it like this.” That is, presumably, even when we inevitably returned to our everyday (and for the present at least) wretched, and miserable state, when we ‘came down’ – as we liked to call it.

Interesting though (and conclusively for me), those I have spoken to about their use of LSD (and there’s been quite a few over the intervening years) , and who have experienced a near-psychotic ‘bad’ ‘trip’ (and yes, I’ve had one of those too) have never claimed that this ‘bad trip’ was actually ‘the way it really was’… Indeed they all seemed absolutely certain (and grateful) that, as far as it concerns this one particular ‘journey’ of theirs anyway, it definitely was not ‘the way it really was’!  …..

But – and speaking again from my own experience – surely the major reason that these ‘bad trips’ were so ‘bad’, is precisely because, at the time you are experiencing them at least, you really do believe that they’re real, and this nightmare you’re in is, in fact, ‘the way it really is’…. And that this is, surely, the only reason why the experience of a ‘bad trip’ is so terrifying! ….

The point I’m attempting to make here? ….. Well, if you maintain that your ‘bad’ experience was one that you claimed later was actually ‘not real’. Why would you claim, or believe, that any other ‘altered state of consciousness’ was real? … Well, the answer here is surely simple and obvious enough – it’s because you liked it…. it made you feel good …

In my opinion though, it is those negative experiences, and not all the ‘nice’ ones, that need to be focussed on here in order to provide any real explanation for this whole business of ‘altered states’ …..

 By the way, people in the grip of these negative states for long periods, or in some cases permanently, are the ones that society, more often than not, labels ‘insane’ – because what these people claim that they are actually experiencing, the rest of us are very sure is, in reality, a ‘delusion’ …

In some non-Western cultures, however, these people are still often seen as ‘being possessed’ by spirits – indeed you can often read various contemporary accounts, in your daily newspapers, of this taking place in locations such as ‘Darkest London’,   … And we also, in our recent historical past, also used to believe that this was the case – and so we would do stuff to these people … like burning them alive……. ….  It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? …

By the way, if you’re interested further in this subject, and you fancy reading up on a some contemporary background information here, I can recommend these two (reasonably recent) excellent anthropological studies:

  • In Sorcery’s Shadow – by Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes. 1987 (It’s about sorcerers in the Republic of Niger)
  • Net of Magic. Wonders and Deceptions in India – by Lee Siegel. 1991 (It’s about magicians, and other various charlatans, in India)

As far as I’m concerned then, any ‘altered states’ of consciousness, whatever their nature (‘good’ or ‘bad’) – induced by any method of altering the physical state of the body – are delusions. … And I certainly do not hold the view that ‘trippers’ or ‘meditators’ experience some variety or other of a ‘transcendental vision’. …

More importantly, on the practical side, I did not experience the inducing of any ‘altered state’ here as assisting me towards any real understanding of what I believed was the complex inter-weaving, by Eugene Halliday, of those concepts that were contained in his recordings and essays …Although I had no trouble seeing that some ‘altered state’ or other could delude me into feeling OK about not understanding them! … But that was not what I wanted …

But to get back to events at Tan-Y-Garth for a moment … And to those meditations sessions that the discussion group were engaged in during the second part of the evening..

What we did essentially, was to sit with our legs crossed in the darkened room while Ken spoke to us, using his ‘yoga-teacher-speak’ voice. He would ask us to calm our breathing by counting (I think it was up to six, but I couldn’t be certain) while drawing an ‘in-breath’ (through the nose), hold this breath (while counting six) and then let out our ‘out-breath’ (through the mouth) while counting six again. The idea being, if I understood  all this correctly, that doing this would eventually calm our minds – essentially because we were not now following any of our thoughts, (“Just let them all go”).

Unsurprisingly, or so I thought, after ten minutes or so of doing this, we had all, indeed, ‘calmed down’ somewhat…. So much so, that one young man, who was always present at these sessions (at least when I was there) would almost invariably ‘nod off’ and begin to snore quietly … before eventually gently keeling over.

After calming us all down, Ken might then ask us to, say, imagine we had placed all our negative ideas and attitudes in a ball, and then picture ourselves throwing this ball to the other end of the universe (or something, essentially incomprehensible, like that).

I found it impossible to take any of this seriously. And I certainly didn’t experience what we were doing here as, in any way, ‘yoking’ or ‘joining back’ to the ‘supreme spirit’, or whatever else anyone here told me that the word ‘Yoga’, was ‘supposed’ to mean. …. But that’s not to say that others didn’t believe that this is what they were experiencing, I am just saying that it just didn’t do anything like that for me ….

More importantly, as I say, I could not see what on earth any of this ‘meditating’ had to do, at all, with what I had heard Eugene Halliday talking about in his recordings, or had written about in his essays.

I must once again also stress here that my only interest in going to Tan-Y-Garth was to network with anyone at all who maintained that they were working with Eugene Halliday ideas, and that I had no interest whatsoever in ‘Yoga’ per se.

… To make matters even more confusing, Ken Ratcliffe didn’t even attempt to connect what he was ‘leading’ the discussion group through in his Meditation Room to anything involving Eugene Halliday’s ‘Work’ – other than to vaguely suggest that, in some way, this ‘calming ourselves’ we were engaging in upstairs, would somehow assist us in our understanding of those rather difficult ideas we were struggling with downstairs.

However, my view of the subject of ‘Yoga’ was now about to change somewhat. …

I discovered that Eugene Halliday had written some very interesting things on the subject of  ‘meditation’ (and more particularly – as far as I was concerned – on ‘contemplation’)…. And that he also wrote about the subject  from a perspective that I had no difficulty in appreciating, as it was completely in line with both my cultural, and religious, backgrounds (I was born in Liverpool, UK, in 1943, and I was christened ‘Church of England’). …

A pamphlet, written by Eugene Halliday, (and that was, I believe, the first one produced by the IHS) some 20 or so years earlier, contained – along with an essay giving a brief outline of the IHS’s purpose, and a list of future pamphlets that the society was planning to publish (printed on the last page) – a set of meditation exercises that were written especially for the IHS by Eugene Halliday himself, at the request of Ken Ratcliffe. …

Anyway, here’s the pamphlet – it’s a largish file, so it might take a minute or two to open on your computer.

IHS Pamphlet – Brief Resume of IHS purpose plus Meditations + Appendices

I was surprised to discover that none of the exercises contained in this pamphlet were being used by Ken in  those ‘meditation session’s’ that he conducted with our discussion group. … Although there were pamphlets available at the Hall during that time, in which Ken had reproduced one or two of these exercises … So why, I wondered weren’t we doing them?…. I’ve given my own opinion about this, later on in this post …

Even more significantly in my opinion, in mid-1973 (which is a few years after Ken moved from Liverpool to Tan-Y-Garth) I discovered that Eugene Halliday had written a series of fourteen essays for the St Michael’s Parish Magazine, Manchester, the title of every essay being  ‘Christian Yoga’ (followed by ‘Part 1’, and continuing, in monthly installments, up to ‘Part’ 14). ….And here it is …

Christian Yoga by Eugene Halliday

These ‘Christian Yoga’ essays were collected together and published as part of an IHS book, the title of which was ‘Yoga’. This book was in three parts. The first part was a reprint of Eugene Halliday’s essay, ‘Reflexive Self-Consciousness’ which Ken writes of, in his introduction to this book, as “deal(ing) with the rationale of the purpose of yoga”; the second, “a number of exercises for application”, which are described as “the Eight Stages of Hindu Yoga”; and the third is the complete ‘Christian Yoga’, about which Ken writes, “shows a very close parallel between Hindu and Christian Yoga” (really?), and which (for reasons which he does not clarify here) he changes the title of, to “Yoga in the Western Tradition”. … !!… ?

Here it is anyway…


Today, it is the ideas that are contained in two publications of Eugene Halliday’s (above) that inform any understanding I would claim to have regarding what it is that ‘Yoga’, as praxis, was – at least as far as Eugene Halliday was concerned. And I also see these ideas here as fitting in with many of his other major ideas that were contained in  his essays.

I am fully aware that Eugene Halliday has commented upon, or elaborated upon (sometimes in some detail) any number of diverse subjects, including various forms of ‘Yoga’ practice, but I do that believe at all, that it follows he recommends we engage in,  or even that he necessarily endorsed, these practices.

My main point in what follows, is that, in order to claim that you are influenced by Eugene Halliday – where it concerns your own practice of what you might, for some reason or other, wish to refer to as ‘Yoga’ – then the meditations, and also the contemplation exercises, contained in these two publications of his, are the ones that you would (very obviously in my opinion)  surely be practicing.

NOTE: In my view, it is important, at least when attempting to discuss the ideas and concepts of people such as Eugene Halliday, that you first pay them the courtesy of distinguishing between those comments (even detailed ones) that they are liable to make (and indeed often do so) on any number of subjects; and their rigorous attempts to express a far more complex, carefully considered, perspective of theirs on a particular subject – and which they have taken the trouble to make available to other interested parties, in the form of a detailed essay. 

To continue here. A cursory glance through these two publications should show, what I see at least is, the very clear position that Eugene Halliday takes with regard to ‘Yoga’ as a form of praxis.

Amongst the many topics contained in these two publications are:

  • The meaning of the word ‘Yoga’
  • The central importance of the teacher Jesus Christ
  • Introspection
  • God
  • Will
  • Love
  • What ‘meditation’ is
  • What ‘contemplation’ is
  • The ‘four-fold’ nature of the universe
  • Meditation on the circle and the cross
  • Meditation on the ‘Holy Trinity’
  • Meditation on the ‘six-pointed’ star
  • Breathing, posture, and ‘Creative Imagination’
  • The world, and holding a world view
  • The cosmic view
  • Identification
  • Understanding
  • The ‘Great Identification’ – becoming one with Jesus Christ
  • etc; etc; etc.

There is a great deal more in these two publications, but I believe that I’ve made my point here.

Thus – and I believe that this is surely blatantly obvious – anyone claiming to teach Yoga as a form of praxis from the perspective of Eugene Halliday’s ideas; or claiming to have ‘sat at the foot of Eugene Halliday’ and thus, by inference, having some intimate personal connection both with the man, and his ideas here  (and this would obviously include Ken Ratcliffe) , must obviously then, be fully conversant with both the ideas, and also the exercises, contained in these two, not very large, or difficult to understand, publications – at the very least. … And that these would, of necessity, surely inform, and thus subsequently come to structure, the central teachings of what it was that these ‘Yoga followers of Eugene Halliday’ claimed they were now, as a consequence were ‘passing on’ …… (Because, if this is not what they are ‘passing on, what then is the substance of what these ‘followers of Eugene Halliday  maintain that they  are ‘passing on’).

However, if all that these ‘yoga teachers’ wanted to do was the ‘keep fit’ stuff, or the ‘feel good’ stuff, or promote some hybrid, do-it-yourself, method that they had somehow clobbered together themselves, then obviously this would not apply…. …. But, if that were the case, why then would they take the trouble to claim that what they were doing ‘came’ from Eugene Halliday’s teachings? … Well, I think the answer to that is also obvious. … There is an impressive body of work that Eugene Halliday has produced which would serve to valorize these ‘teachers’ own claims here …… Any students of these ‘teachers’ (who probably know next to nothing about esoteric subjects anyway) , could then be easily seduced into believing the following – “Eugene Halliday obviously knows an awful lot about esoteric subjects; our ‘yoga teacher’ claims to have ‘sat at Eugene Halliday’s feet’; therefore our ‘yoga teacher’ must also know an awful lot about esoteric subjects.” ………

In addition, I would also fully expect that anyone claiming to be a teacher here (as opposed to say an ‘expert’ – that is, someone who contents themselves with gathering together a potpourri of Eugene Hallidy’s ideas, simply in order to regurgitate them at some later date as ‘information’, in order to show us all how smart they are) would, at the very least, be able to discuss, and describe in detail, personal accounts of the success or failure of their own particular attempts to embody these particular exercises of Eugene Halliday’s.  And finally, that their (future) students would be in no doubt that the ‘Yoga’ that they were being taught had a pronouned Christian bias…..And I believe that all this is blindingly obvious …

You should perhaps also consider here, that inducing internal states by the process of  contemplating various symbols is always a dodgy business – particularly if you have surrendered your autonomy regarding the interpretation of these symbols to someone else. …  Symbols, by their very nature, are not signs, and so do not have any fixed definitions …. Interpreting them by oneself (in my experience at least) can often be exhausting work…. But relying on someone else’s explanation or meaning here, regarding what it is that these symbols represent, can be even more dodgy. … Because the process of believing what you are being told by others here is far more connected to that ‘sniffing out’, which goes to make up a significant component of your intuitive process (your ‘gut feeling’ about that person), than with any rational decision-making process.

… Be that as it may, as far as I was concerned at least, at this stage of the game in late 1970, I was going with my intuition. And  it informed me that attempting to absorb Eugene Halliday’s ideas here was the ‘way to go’. Hence my willingness to accept his interpretation(s) of the symbols contained in these two publications.

But, as a word of warning here, I should also add that anyone who is really like me (that is, who does rely a great deal upon their intuition) quickly learns that what it is that one ‘intuites’ is often polluted by self-will, greed, and downright laziness.

Thus, just because things ‘come to me’, does not mean that they are always ‘Good’ or ‘True’…. It’s not that simple at all …. It’s often the case that I would also be inclined to go along with my ‘intuition’ (by first, perhaps, ‘tweaking it’ a little) if it simply happened to suit me at the time, or because I quite fancied going to where I imagined it was going to take me …

You should also factor in here that any number of prolonged physical activities will invariably, quite normally, induce changes in cognitive and/or feeling states (try ‘sexual activity’ here for instance). These states are obviously internal to the experiencer, and essentially this experiencer is the only being that is really able to authenticate any description of these states (that is, answer questions such as’ “How was that then?”). … But, if the experiencer allows someone else to introduce these states into them, and subsequently allows this person to then also define these states, they have allowed this person to assume real power over them. ….. For the ladies, this will almost invariably means that, sooner or later, if the person concerned is a male, they will attempt to avail themselves of the contents of your refrigerator … or even get you to wash and iron their underwear …  …..

Crucially for me, my own early experimenting with ‘altered states of consciousness’ had made me realize, with something of a shock, that what I was actually experiencing in the normal day-to-day world, from moment to moment, was a continually altering state of consciousness!  … And that this was a rather obvious fact when  I bothered to think about it …. Most of the time though, these changes of state were subtle, (thus even more  ‘normal’)…. But even if this change was sudden (as when I was, say, startled by a loud bang) I found that I almost invariably immediately identified with it, and so ‘didn’t notice’ that my conscious state had altered – it was ‘just me’ and it was ‘just the way it was’…. I also realized that (when I thought about all this from time to time) although I could see that other’s were also clearly ‘jumping around’ from state to state, and moment to moment also, that they couldn’t experience themselves in this way either …. They couldn’t see themselves ‘doing it’ … it was just ‘them’ … being ‘them’…

It vaguely occurred to me that something was ‘stuck’ to this ever-changing consciousness from moment to moment, which raised the delicious possibility that perhaps it was possible to become ‘unstuck’…. Did this then have anything to do with one of my ‘questions’ viz., “What am I … really?” ….. I viewed this realization, for me, as real progress here, and it also helped me later on in my understanding of what ‘Work’ might be about, and what Eugene’s meant (perhaps) by the word ‘identification’…. But I couldn’t put this concept to any productive use for decades yet …. although I was able to gab about it, with the best of them, to anyone who was interested; and also to realize it is some vague, non-practical, way just before sleeping, say  …

Clearly though, I still had far to much ‘housekeeping’ to do here, before I retired to practice contemplating my naval . … …And anyway, at that time, all this ‘feel good’ stuff smelt far to much to me like a vaguely unwholesome addiction … (something else I also knew a teeny bit about) …..

To be fair though… (What!) ….. What I did observe, was that many people did definitely change as a result of practicing these various ‘yogic’ exercises –  that is, they often now had, as a result, better ‘coping skills’.

So that, if say, they were inclined to panic at the thought of flying. By concentrating on their breathing after strapping on their safety belt, they could now control this panic (like a sort of ‘damage limitation control’).

However, underneath this calm exterior, they were still actually, irrationally, really, terrified of flying, but this was not now being expressed. So, although I would say that they had ‘changed’ – in that they had worked on themselves to realize an already existing potential within themselves, and thus now had some control here, they had not been ‘transformed’  – that is, they had not become someone (like me, say) who ‘just didn’t’ experience unreasonable panic that could manifest itself simply at the very thought of flying …. This process I now see as the balancing of a ‘negative latent disposition’ (which I would now say is a state that is always waiting for an opportunity ‘to come to be’) by the process of mastering techniques that control this latent disposition  …

… And this very idea … the fact that this ‘negative latent disposition’ was somehow always ‘there’ (even if not expressed) was another important ‘find’ for me…. Much later on, this idea became very useful in understanding a number of other significant concepts contained in Eugene Halliday’s material … and also in Jacob Boehme’s (who?) writings as well…. even.

So, for myself then, while I can see the value of ‘yoga’ as a therapeutic tool, I was (and still am) only interested in attempting to discover how ‘transforming’ could be accomplished, as I am already OK with the ‘changing’ thing … And, I actually don’t think it’s all that difficult to do …but that does rather depend of course – to some extent at least – on what it is you want to change ….

… But to get back to things at Tan-Y-Garth the 1970’s …..and my view of what was now going on there – where it concerned Ken’s attempts to keep the place going …

I should mention here (if I haven’t already) that the major business of Tan-Y-Garth, introduced by Ken not long after he moved there, was the provision of a suitable ‘meeting place’ (or ‘retreat’ if you like; or even ‘Ashram’ if you prefer) at weekends, for what I would loosely call ‘Yoga groups’, drawn from all over the UK. And that these ‘week-ends’ obviously had a significantly larger attendance than our small mid-week discussion group.

But where did this sudden demand for ‘Yoga teachers’ come from, back then in the late 1960’s, or early 1970’s, you might ask? Why this sudden stampede by myriads of people who were more than willing to part with their hard earned cash, in order to engage in stuff like sitting in a room somewhere, breathing, and counting from one to six (or whatever) etc. for hours? …

‘Yoga’ was a pursuit, or activity if you prefer, that had started to become increasingly popular in the UK with the public at large (especially those of student age) around 1965 – which is when the Beatles began their flirtation with ‘Transcendental Meditation’; but, more particularly, since the broadcasting in 1970 on UK ITV, of Richard Hittleman’s ‘Yoga For Health’ – which is when, I would argue, that the ‘Yoga’ business really started to pick up steam.

‘Yoga For Health’, was an American TV show that had been imported into the UK sometime during the year of 1970, when it immediately became a huge hit with the ‘young mums’ of that time …. I should also add that it was also quite popular with any number of ‘young lads’ also, who enjoyed watching a couple of Mr Hittleman’s very attractive nubile young female ‘assistants’, dressed in leotards, demonstrating various ‘yogic positions’ (or ‘asanas, as they like to call them in the Yoga business)… out there in sunny California … in the sun … under the palm trees … next to the swimming pool.

It was often referred to as ‘keep fit yoga’, and sometimes as ‘Hatha Yoga’ – the latter label conveniently serving to give it a somewhat pseudo-spiritual flavor (for gullible Westerners) by ‘yoking’ it to some (largely imagined) form of exotic, vaguely erotic, Indian, ‘spiritual’ practice. …. It has, since that time, in fact become an extremely lucrative, nation-wide, low initial-outlay, business: and also an extremely popular (and therefore academically interesting to me) aspect of ‘popular culture’. … As Frank Zappa might have put it, “What do you need to do to be a Yoga teacher? … You just need to say, “I’m a Yoga teacher.” … “!

By the time we get to the 1970’s then, the whole business of ‘Yoga’ had become a paradise for ‘do-it-yourself, self-appointed, spiritual experts’, the overwhelming majority of whom had never even heard of Eugene Halliday (so mentioning his name would not have done any good here, anyway).

Ideally though, what you needed to do though in order to authentically validate your ‘yoga teacher’ status, was to claim that some ‘Guru’ from India had taught you all the tricks…. That, and perhaps the ability to sprinkle your ‘lessons’ with the odd Sanskrit word (in order to suggest to your punters that you might perhaps ‘speak the language’) is also a very useful card to play in this game…. (Yet another excruciatingly irritating affectation, as far as I’m concerned)…

It would seem to me though, the only subjects that many of these ‘authentic Indian ‘Guru’s’ appeared to have any real interest in was: possessing a Swiss bank account; owning a fleet of Rolls Royce cars; real estate; and, what my New Orleans musician colleagues covertly referred to as, ‘poontang’.

Even so, somehow (and this was mind-boggling) these con-men still managed to amass huge numbers of ‘followers’ – which, somehow, always seemed to include an endless supply of adoring ladies. … Like a sort of  ‘spiritual’ version of Barry Manilow  ….

But then, also during that time, large numbers of people in the UK believed that some guy from Israel, who went by the name of Uri Geller, could bend forks and spoons with his mind ….So I suppose that the events here are really not all that surprising…

The most significant component here in all this for me however, was that Ken had also by that time discovered the recordings of social scientist, Richard Alpert. Alpert, a one time Harvard professor, had, in the company of Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner, consumed copious amounts of LSD back then in the late 1960’s- early 1970’s. These three gentlemen had even written a book together on the subject called, ‘The Psychedelic Experience: A Manuel Based On The Tibetan Book of the Dead’. And, “Yes,” I have read it (in fact I still have a copy). Anyway, Richard Alpert subsequently went off to India, met his own guru, apparently suddenly stopped dropping acid, returned to the USA, changed his name to Baba Ram Dass, and, in 1971, solo-authored a hippy best-seller  (which I also still have a copy of) – the title of which was, ‘Remember, Be Here Now’ …….. (By the way, does that phrase ‘Be Here Now’ sound kind of familiar to anyone here?)… Ram Dass then put out various long-playing recordings, and it is these that Ken subsequently got hold of.

To me, Ram Dass’s approach (and you’ll have to do your own research here if you want to know what that is) definitely wasn’t Eugene Halliday’s approach. But I do believe it was the model for Ken’s, now predominantly, ‘Yogic’ activities, during these weekend ‘retreats’. And this also explained, as far as I was concerned, his approach to those ‘meditation exercises’ with our discussion group.

But, to get back to those ‘week-ends’ at Tan-Y-Garth. … When Jean and I attended them, we viewed them as a reasonably priced, if somewhat austere, form of restful break. Separate dormitories for the sexes were the rule, (How all my gay chums would have loved that!). However, I suppose you could argue that sexual abstinence would make this whole weekend mini-experience ‘more spiritual’. But from my jaded, worldly, negative, point of view, this rule was probably a consequence of the fact that the Hall only had a few double rooms (or bathrooms for that matter) and that using two great big rooms was a good way of getting round the problem … and are much easier to look after  … But that’s just me ….

Anyway, when we did occasionally attend the odd week-end at Tan-Y-Garth (usually to show our support, and make up the numbers), as it was impossible for us to spend any quality time together in bed (see para immediately above), I, instead, spent most of the time talking with Ken, or Richard, or hanging around in the kitchen with Bar, drinking tea, and smoking cigarettes. I would, sooner or later though, invariably spot Ken, complete with beard and pony-tail, wandering about the Hall and grounds, often wearing a long, monk-like, robe.

The major task of those living at Tan-Y-Garth Hall then, in my book, was really – whether Ken liked to admit it or not  – the problem of producing enough of a cash-flow to pay the overheads on the place, and so keep it ticking over.

A great deal of hard work was put into making these week-end meetings at Tan-Y-Garth the success that they became. The overwhelming bulk of this work being carried out by Ken’s wife, Barbara, who, along with their daughter, Janet, and son-in-law, Richard Milligan, were to be kept fully employed for 20 or so years, in the distinctly non-yogic tasks of cooking, washing the bed linen, and housekeeping etc. for their week-end visitors.

On those week-ends where folks would be invited to come out to what those at the Hall still like to refer to as, a ‘working week-end’ (which was essentially how they got volunteers to clean up the place, do a spot of ‘gardening’, or, if they were handy, do some renovating) I never once saw Ken with a brush in his hand, or with his fingers in the rich Welsh earth ….. and funnily enough, neither has anyone else I have asked who was there around that time … …

… I don’t think I would be stretching it here, if I said that during these week-ends, Ken was more than happy to play at being a ‘guru’…. Regrettably, many people fell for it as well ….

Leaving events at Tan-Y-Garth aside for the moment, how did my own experiences here of ‘altered states’ inform my view of the outbreak of ‘Yoga Clubs’ all over the UK. The numbers of which have been steadily growing since the end of the 1960’s/beginning of the 1970’s.

Well, and more antagonistically (which shouldn’t surprised you by now) my perspective on self-induced changes in conscious states, whether through the act of taking drugs or by using a more natural approach by, say, regulating the breathing, informs most of my attitude to what most folks are pleased to call ‘Yoga’. … To put it as straightforwardly as I can – I do not believe that, as a consequence here, these devotees are ‘yoking’ or ‘joining back’ to what they are pleased to imagine is the ‘supreme spirit’ (or something like that), but that they are victims of their own delusions, and are also usually encouraged in this belief of theirs by their ‘guru’….. To quote a Liverpool maxim here, which might help, ‘Once a mug, always a mug’.

You might like to conduct a little independent research on the subject of ‘False Gurus and Siddhis’ here. Here’s a sample quote on the subject, selected at random, from the blog:

“The Universe is full of false preceptors. Overtly clever, they surround themselves with selfish pleasures and bestow their ‘grandiose’ teachings upon the unwary. Prematurely publicizing themselves, intent upon reaching some spiritual climax, they constantly sacrifice the Truth and deviate from the real spiritual path. What they really offer the Universe is their own confusion.”

However, regarding ‘contemplation’ (and not ‘meditation’) as Eugene Halliday describes the practice at least. As this has always been a strictly solitary pursuit for me – I can confidently assert that it definitely does not qualify as a week-end social activity. So I never really ‘came under the influence of anyone’, or ‘sat at the feet of anyone’ here. I simply focused on attempting to understand Eugene Halliday’s ideas, rather than just attempting to remember them verbatim … and I stayed with any methodology that appeared to help me here.

It might be pertinent here to also point out that, certainly up until 1966 (when he had reached his mid-50’s) Eugene Halliday spoke, in the main, to relatively small groups of people, and his ‘overheads’ (if in fact there were any worth talking about) were negligible. Thus, this was all very easily managed by him. …. I now view these opportunities of his to speak to others as being seen by him simply as different situations in which to ‘Work’, and not as an opportunity for him to indulge in anything else …. And far more significantly, I have been unable to uncover any single instance where Eugene Halliday conducted a ‘Yoga’ session … And that includes testimony from someone who lived in the same house as the man for over twenty-five years … (More of this in a late post)….

This ‘Work’, I came to see much later, was the real task that Eugene Halliday was recommending that we all freely and willingly engage in – as much as we were able. But it is extremely demanding, and requires the participation of the whole being. … Unfortunately, results cannot be achieved here by simply just moving to a different geographical location; or by changing one’s name; or by wearing any special set of clothing; or by growing a beard; or by letting ones hair grow; or by following a special diet; or ‘studying’ for a ‘yoga diploma’  – none of which is really all that difficult, is it? …

I believe that the whole idea is to eventually be able to ‘Work’ (as one is able) anywhere that one finds oneself,  in the ‘here and now’. And if you’re wondering how difficult that might be, think, “Downtown Kabul, Saturday night, after the pubs let out,” – and not after you climb into whatever uniform it is that you’ve decide to wear; or run your comb through whatever body-hair style(s) you’ve decided to adopt; or handed out your business card to inform everyone what it is that you’ve now decided to call yourself; or had a large helping of whatever ‘special’ diet you’ve decided to follow, before finally, waving your ‘certificate of authentication’ about, for interested parties to peruse at their leisure.

As Zero Mahlowe so succinctly put it to me, some twenty-five or so years later, “No matter where Eugene found himself, Eugene simply did … what Eugene always did!”

… Anyway, it was now 1979 … I felt that it was time to move on … So, I’ll now try to sum up here  …. ….

The purpose of joining the discussion group was to assist me in my attempt to clarify and ‘connect together’ (by grasping their governing concepts) various ideas of Eugene Halliday’s, in such a way that these formed a homogenous body of ideas. (Much later … after asking, “So what?”…  the significance of ’embodying’ these ideas would become the over-riding, dominant, concern here for me).

Regarding those ‘meditating sessions’ of Ken’s? … Well, he seemed to me, to be purposefully advancing the idea that we should somehow all be attempting to deliberately empty our mind of any ‘thoughts’, in order to produce states of ‘calm’ (or whatever). And having done so, we should then introduce some ‘image’ or other into our ‘minds’ in order to produce some form of ‘positive’ emotional state. I saw him, eventually, as attempting to turn himself into ‘The UK’s answer to Ram Dass’ … And I felt that this approach was inappropriate here,  in that it did not help me in my attempts to relate to, and so understand, Eugene Halliday’s material.

Ken certainly did not seem to be encouraging any ‘actively dynamic’ approach here to me…. And as I intuited that the presence of an ‘active dynamic’ was the only necessary, fundamental, essential  ingredient here at this time, perhaps you can now understand why I was so sure that these ‘meditation’ exercises of his would not help me….Definitely not at this stage anyway. …

Indeed, I did not believe that they helped Ken Ratcliffe to further his understanding of these ideas of Eugene’s either…. And I saw him as someone who was, at that time, still obviously trying desperately to integrate these ideas into his being –  some 25 plus years after he had met the man. ….To be blunt, in my opinion, these ‘meditations’ of Ken’s were actually counter-productive to this aim here. ….

So, for my part at least, this ‘meditation’ was a big ‘No-No’ … at least until I had completed this very necessary stage in my life that I was at …. And I am, now, actually thankful for all my angst, turmoil, surprise, and sometimes, incredible frustration, back then, because without them, I would have had nothing at my disposal to help me here….

… I wouldn’t say then, that this prolonged experience (‘process’ might be a better word) that I was going through  was at all a ‘stroll in the park’ for me, and that I was having a particularly pleasant experience back then…Worthwhile? … … Perhaps … … Rewarding? … Yes … But for a lot of the time at least  (and it did go on for a very long time after I had left Tan-Y-Garth) … not pleasant at all. …

… You might simply like to view all this then, as a necessary component of  my ‘Nigredo’ (if I might go all mysterious on you for a moment) … But you’d have to know a lot about other stuff here to appreciate what that actually means … Anyway I’ve ‘put it out there’ for those of you who might ‘get it’, as it summarizes things quite nicely here …

A word of caution … This process is definitely not something that I would recommend to those of you who are looking to engage in some pursuit or other that ‘increases your enjoyment of life’ … or anyrhing like that …

… On the positive side, after discussing Eugene Halliday ideas with Ken and others,  I could now put ‘bits and pieces’ of these ideas to practical use. That is, I could ‘read’ the world through a couple of these ideas … from time to time. …  And when it came to those one or two subjects that I had a definite interest in, I was delighted to find that I could now put a number of Eugene Halliday’s ideas to a great deal of practical use here. …. But I felt that I still hadn’t really any real grasp of how to ‘Work’. … And I felt that there was still a great deal of confusion here for me, that I must clear up before I could move forward. ….

I will once again stress that Ken was of real help to me here, and that I enjoyed his company very much. But I also believed that the necessity of holding on to Tan-Y-Garth was taking him in the wrong direction … So  I decided that I must move on if I was to get any further here in what it was, I imagined at that time, I was attempting to accomplish.

Did Eugene Halliday create any more exercises to assist in the process of learning to ‘Work’? … Yes, he certainly did …  But I’ll be posting detailed information about what that was, and how to do it, in a later post … as I didn’t find out about it myself until sometime after attended Ishval meetings at Parklands.

I’ll just say here that this exercise of his was extremely dynamic in nature, and that it involved a group activity, and that those taking part had to be totally committed for it to work effectively. … I was to work with it myself for some time … But I have kept quiet about it until now, because, in my opinion, there’s been so much rubbish talked about it by any number of people who also claimed to have tried it, that I felt it was pointless for me to become involved, as this would only serve to complicate the subject further….

I have been told that this particular important exercise of Eugene Halliday’s has been banned at Tan-Y-Garth by the person now controlling things there. But that’s hardly surprising, as I also understand that she has not had any experience of practicing this exercise herself. (I understand that she was, formally, yet another one of those ‘yoga’ teachers)…. But – as to practicing this exercise … far more interestingly … neither had Ken Ratcliffe. ….

While I had been attending sessions at Tan-Y-Garth, Eugene Halliday had been delivering his monthly talks (on and off) at ‘Parklands’ since about 1966. These talks formed part of the regular ‘goings on’ of ISHVAL. This vaguely mysteriously sounding word was in fact an acronym for (yet another) registered charity – ‘The Institute for the Study of Hierological Values’ – of which Eugene was its Chairman.

‘Parklands’ had been purchased. and subsequently immediately placed at the disposal of ISHVAL, by Mr and Mrs Fred and Yvonne Freeman, through their Freeman Family Trust. I should also add here that Fred Freeman was ISHVAL’S President from its inception in 1966; and also that Eugene Halliday would have been 55 years old, or there abouts, at that time.

Martin decided to write to Eugene to ask if we might attend his Ishval talks at Parklands. Ken was fine with the idea, and said that the next time he went to Ishval, he would give us a ‘recommend’.

Letter to Martin from Eugene (1979)

Soon after, Jean and I, and Martin, were to attend our first ‘in the flesh’ Eugene Halliday talk’…

So things now seemed to be moving along again. … But nothing that had happened up until now was sufficient to prepare me for ‘Ishval’ and ‘Parklands’ …. and to say that I was somewhat unprepared, would be putting it mildly … …. To say the least!


Martin and I last visited Tan-Y-Garth some twelve years later, in 1991…. This was the year before Ken Ratcliffe died. He had, by this time, suffered a couple of strokes, and he seemed confused and tired to me. His wife, Barbara had died of cancer some time earlier, as had his eldest daughter Janet…. His son-in-law Richard had ‘been let go’ by those who were now clearly intent on taking over things at the Hall … … … … It was all very sad …

To be continued ……..

Bob Hardy

May, 2012





  2 Responses to “3. Setting the Scene (continued)… ‘Enter the Guru’”

  1. Hi Bob

    It’s a long time since I’ve enjoyed reading something as much as this blog. (Well, that’s actually not quite true, I’ve just read The Hunger Games and that was enjoyable too, but for completely different reasons.) Thank you. It has allowed me to understand a lot better many of the things my father said about Halliday and those surrounding him.

    One of the things I have found intensely frustrating, is the way people have attached themselves to Eugene, and tried to appropriate his stuff for their own private ends, or bask in his light and hope that some of it sticks to them, like luminous spiritual ectoplasm that they can go and show their friends. Of course, anyone who takes the time and the trouble to engage with Halliday’s stuff will soon realise that there is a clear distinction between Halliday’s output and what everyone else around him was doing. What bothers me, and sometimes makes me angry (how unspiritual is that, eh?) is the disregard these people have for the wider world, and how new people from all over the world might be interested in Eugene’s stuff, but potential newcomers would be instantly so put off with the Tan-Y-Garth style bullshit, the generic commodified Yoga, and the ‘we’re special because we knew Eugene’ attitude I have sometimes come across, that they would never even bother tackling the material itself, dismissing it as just another disreputable cultish, wishful-thinking type thing.

    As you know, I never met Eugene, but my dad (Henry Dent) went to many of the talks and I think he may have helped a bit with some of the recordings.

    My dad was also friends with Ken. I say ‘friends’, but there was quite a bit of tension in the relationship. My dad talked about how competitive they were with each other, playing long games of table tennis way past the point that either of them were enjoying it. My dad was scathing about Ken and the Tan-Y-Garth scene, and regarded Ken as basically a charlatan and Eugene as the ‘real thing’. I also think there was a bit of ‘sour grapes’ on my dad’s part here. I think my dad was very jealous of what Ken had set up on two counts. First, and this is the lesser of the two, I think my dad quite liked the idea of having the respect and adulation accorded to a ‘guru’ type figure. Second, and this is the greater of the two, my dad would have simply loved to live in a lovely big old house in Wales. I actually think my dad wouldn’t have been able to take himself seriously as a guru, and would have eventually just been embarrassed and stopped. I think he ended up having considerable contempt for Ken, or should I say Khen, as he later started calling himself.

    The insertion of ‘h’s into people’s names is one of the many weird things that my dad talked to me about. Presumably this came about because, in Eugene’s analysis of language and letters, ‘h’ symbolises power, the free unimpeded aspirate or spirit (something like that anyway). And, I guess, people thought that if they stuck an ‘h’ in their name somewhere it would make them more powerful, or more spiritual. My dad, later on at least, thought this was jolly silly. However, as his name was Henry anyway, maybe he just felt a bit naturally superior!

    My dad also talked about people copying Eugene. I have no idea if this is true or not, but my dad said that sometimes Eugene would wear his hair a funny way, for example with a topknot like a Samurai. The following week people would come to a meeting sporting topknots. My dad’s view was that Eugene was doing this as a bit of fun, knowing full well that people would copy him. My dad referred to this kind of thing under the general heading of ‘antics’, as in “Oh, the antics that used to go on there were priceless”.


    To change tack completely, you mentioned that you wanted this blog to focus on praxis, and how we have managed to incorporate Eugene’s ideas into our lives.

    Reading Eugene’s stuff has not made my life any easier. I think I can genuinely say it has made it considerably harder. But I am also a lot happier as a result of reading Eugene’s output, I think. Of course, it’s hard to say for certain, as I don’t have a copy of myself living a different life in which I hadn’t been exposed to Halliday’s ideas to compare my current life to!

    The main thing reading Halliday has done is allow me to recognise more quickly what is going on and has given me the tools to be (I hope!) a little bit more honest with myself. For example, I sometimes used to say things like “I’m more interested in knowing how to do lots of things than actually doing any particular one of them.” I justified this in my mind with the idea that I would therefore be better equipped to handle any situation I might find myself in! Really, I was just wanting to delay they day when I actually start living my life and committing to something. Eugene often stresses the importance of committing oneself to a limited finite situation in order to work through and explicate its hidden potentialities which would otherwise have remained hidden (or something like that). Now, I probably would have figured this out for myself anyway soon enough, at least instinctively, but maybe reading it in Eugene allowed me to recognise this state of affairs a little quicker, or at least allow me to verbalise and understand what was going on in quite a clear and controllable way.

    Very often, when reading Eugene, I get a faint flush of embarrassment when I realise I do the devious bit of behaviour or thought-pattern Eugene is describing. I feel a funny mixture of annoyance, shame, humiliation, relief, and humour when this happens. And I get the feeling when I listen to one of the recordings that a similar process is happening to the audience members.

    In general, the knowledge that life is supposed to be hard, makes the hardness much more bearable, even enjoyable. For example, when I got married, I already knew is was going to be hard, and that was OK. And sure enough it is hard, and it is OK. I wonder if, without Halliday’s influence, I would have been able to cope with the hardness as well as I have, and even if my marriage would have lasted.

    That’s all I have time for for now. Is this the kind of thing you want to hear about in your blog?

    Joshua Hennessy

    • Hi Josh,
      First let me say ‘thanks’ for the great comment …
      Sorry for the delay in replying however – but that’s because it’s taking me all my time to write the posts themselves at the moment! That being said … here goes..

      I find the reactions of various people to the whole ‘business’ of Eugene Halliday intensely interesting (and sometimes, I have to confess, unintentionally hilarious). I also find the dynamic between those involved here equally fascinating – the tension you describe between your dad and Ken for example. …. And I also find the idea that your father would have liked a big house in Wales significant (from what I’ve heard of him, I would not have thought that) … If you’re interested – I would sooner have a flat in Soho – but that’s just me!

      Copying Eugene’s mannerisms and style … Well, of course I have noticed that over the years, and to be frank I find it, by and large, somewhat embarrassing and childish.

      Adding ‘H’s to the name? … Well, as both Eugene and I already have a capital ‘H’ in our names, I’m going to keep quiet here 🙂

      As to involving oneself with Eugene’s material, like you, I don’t see it as an easy task at all (not up to now at least) – and I think claiming to ‘follow his teachings’ (whatever the hell that means), in order to ‘further enjoy life’ (or whatever) is both facile and ludicrous – I can think think of a million better ways to do that, and opening up yourself to yourself is definitely not one of them…


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