“The earlier concept of a universe made up of physical particles interacting according to fixed laws is no longer tenable. It is implicit in present findings that action rather than matter is basic. . . This is good news, for it is no longer appropriate to think of the universe as a gradually subsiding agitation of billiard balls. The universe, far from being a desert of inert particles, is a theatre of increasingly complex organization, a stage for development in which man has a definite place, without any upper limit to his evolution.”
–Arthur M. Young
The Reflexive Universe
My late husband Chris Bird and I were so blessed to visit numerous times with Arthur and Ruth Forbes Young.
Chris considered Arthur his mentor and spent many months interviewing him at his home in California.
Here is one of those interviews:
A noted inventor and cosmologist discusses his theories of consciousness and the universe that explain psychic phenomena.
Arthur M. Young
by Christopher Bird
CBird: The theory developed in your new books, The Reflexive Universe and The Geometry of Meaning should attract anyone trying to understand ESP and the psychic. Would you explain it?
YOUNG: One can more easily come to grips with ESP when one realizes that there are phenomena which cannot be explained by the laws of classical physics, the constraints of which apply only to microscopic objects, or those made of millions of particles. Quantum mechanics, itself a part of physics, is also one of the phenomena.
My theory — or more correctly, model — postulates two objective and two projective levels of existence. Of the latter one transcends space, the other space and time. The former can account for telepathy and dowsing, the latter for precognition and prophecy.
CBird: But the main purpose of the theory is not to explain ESP, is it?
YOUNG: No. Rather it tries to account for consciousness and the evolution of life from non-living forms. The theory constitutes a reinterpretation of science in order to update it and incorporate within it the finding of quantum physics which, though discovered by Max Planck at the turn of the century, are still not widely recognized. This is important because science is no longer the determinist system it used to be.
CBird: Where can this knowledge be applied?
YOUNG: In medicine and psychology, for instance. These professions are still based on the assumptions of an obsolete classical determinism in physics which the new discoveries of quantum physics have rendered obsolete. They leave out purposeful intention.
The usual interpretation of science does not provide for consciousness. Science, unlike religious thought, proclaims itself unconcerned with final issues or with first cause. This interpretation has invaded other areas, particularly psychology and other social and human sciences.
But how can there be a valid science of man if it doesn’t recognize first cause which, in fact, is the touchstone of man’s behavior inspiring all his works, goals and responsibilities to his fellows? In jurisprudence, the question of guilt depends on recognition that a person can be first cause.
CBird: Your model offers one the opportunity to break out of the prison of a person’s set beliefs and contemplate the cosmos from a fresh viewpoint.
YOUNG: Yes. Despite the indifference of the grand cosmic scheme to intellectual dogmas, or new models for that matter, a new model is nevertheless of importance in getting people to let go of their belief systems to which they cling as sailors to their ship which they will abandon only when it is sinking. It is belief systems which have burned witches and caused wars and, in our day, put people who have developed cancer cures in jail. The inquisition came, grotesquely, into being to stamp out belief in immortality.
CBird: That being the case, the inquisition lives on, though in a different guise. Do you foresee an abrupt change in the way man views the cosmos?
YOUNG: It must come about because our culture, our whole educational system and our philosophies are products of the scientific method which is turning out to be false in principle.
CBird: In what way?
YOUNG: It is not only that the public is becoming increasingly aware that the industrial age, with all its technology and materialism, is plundering and poisoning and polluting the planet. More important, science itself is encountering problems which can only be resolved by abandoning sacred notions of objectivity and determinism. I have tried to embed a foreign intrusion — like the grain of sand in the oyster which ultimately produces the pearl — into rationalism. This intrusion is the paradox of life.
CBird: When did you first begin developing your theory?
YOUNG: While at Princeton in 1921, I first heard about Einstein and wanted to understand his theory of relatively which seemed so strange to my contemporaries. I was a mathematics major. No course on relativity was offered so I requested one. It was created by Oswald Veblen, one of the top American mathematicians and a cousin of the writer Thorstein. I was the sole student. Though I liked Veblen personally I didn’t like relativity because it was mostly rate learning of the symbolic convention which is a way of writing a whole lot of equations very quickly. I wanted to know what it meant but Veblen said, “Don’t try to understand it, just learn it.” It was because of the inadequacy I felt in the theory of relativity that I began to construct my own theory of the universe in keeping with the spirit of those days. I at first thought it possible to explain the universe CBird: Why?
YOUNG: Because structure is a system of relationships that exist simultaneously. The relativity theory, too, was an attempt to map the universe as a fixed immutable entity, as if it existed all at once. All at once, because time was made a dimension. But almost as soon as I started, I ran up against a difficulty.
I realized that a theory of structure cannot do justice to the content of time, that time was not just another dimension. Time is basically asymmetrical. To go into the future is different from going into the past. We can’t go into the past. It’s like going to Chicago and then coming back again. We are carried into the future. Time is irreversible and cumulative. It doesn’t flow in either direction as space does.
CBird: How did your theory differ from the theory of relativity?
YOUNG: Of course, relatively included time as a fourth dimension. But it still referred to the “structure” of space-time which I felt overlooked a vital characteristic distinguishing time from space its asymmetry and one-wayness.
CBIRD: What first attracted your attention to the idea of symmetry versus asymmetry?
YOUNG: During a course in Chinese art I was particularly taken with the evolution of the old bronzes which go back to 2,500 BC and evolve in shape as one proceeds through the Han period and the other dynasties which follow. I noticed that an insistence on symmetry took place when this art was beginning to deteriorate instead of symmetrical shapes made by a number of bends in the outline of a vase a pure sine curve came into being, perfectly symmetrical but empty of content — which doesn’t say anything. It might be decorative but it doesn’t carry any meaning, any force. The same kind of curve, known as the Hogarth line of beauty, was introduced in the West also at a time when formal art was becoming exhausted. It came to me that the false appeal of symmetry questionably valid in art might be misleading in a theory of the universe and completely erroneous in the treatment of time because it disregards time’s narrow or one-wayness.
CBIRD: How did you further develop your theory while in college?
YOUNG: I couldn’t. At that point I went in a different direction. I decided I should concentrate on problems to which the answers could be tested. So I turned to invention. After a few false starts I began to work on the problem of the helicopter which at that time had a long history of failure and clearly needed a solution. I came across the work of Anton Flettner, a German inventor, who used rotating cylinders as masts, instead of sails, for boat propulsion. The rotation caused the boat to behave like a sailboat but one didn’t need to lower the “sails” in a storm. In one of Flettner’s books I saw pictures of a windmill with little propellers on the ends of the blades and it occurred to me tat one might use this principle for a helicopter. It turned out to be a mistaken idea. I wasted over ten years on the wrong design, although it wasn’t all waste. I learned a lot, but the design was too complicated. In 1938 I went to my first conference on rotor winged aircraft. These included autogyros which did not become successful. They could not compete with fixed-winged aircraft because they couldn’t go fast enough and they couldn’t compete with helicopters because they couldn’t hover.
CBIRD:What led you to a breakthrough?
YOUNG: Progress came when I began building fly models much smaller than the one I had been working on. I found that small models made along conventional lines were highly unstable. This was my first real discovery. Up to then, it had never occurred to me a helicopter could be unstable. Because these models were small and could be quickly repaired, I could test them to destruction and try out various ideas. I had to provide stability.
CBIRD: Then the essential problem was one of stability.
YOUNG: That’s it. The first thing I tried was to get rid of swings with a pendulum device. What made a helicopter deviate from perfect hovering was that, if the rotor tips, then it would start dashing off to one side. The pendulum didn’t work. I tried other things, without success. But I was getting close. I knew I had a creepy feeling.
BIRD: What kind of feeling exactly?
YOUNG: As if I were walking around a corner and expecting something peculiar to happen. Even the slightest sound made me jumpy. The first time it happened, the air felt super-saturated I was so sure my idea was going to work that I asked my patent attorney to witness the first flight. He gave up several appointments and drove a considerable distance. My model was ready to go. Almost ceremoniously I got it started. It took off and immediately turned upside down and crashed. My lawyer was so disgusted he swore to never come back for any more model demonstrations. That was the end of his association with me.
Two or three days later the real thing came through to me. The preliminary brainwave was a false alarm. I believe it was because I was anticipating the real thing.
CBIRD: What was it?
YOUNG: A stabilization bar, a hinged bar with weights on the ends. The bar governed a plate which in turn governing the rotor. The bar *?* even when the helicopter accelerated. The next step was to develop remote controls so I could fly the model whenever I wanted.
CBIRD: Meanwhile World War was at hand?
YOUNG: Yes, and the draft board was breathing down my neck. I appealed to the National Inventors Council but they didn’t help. Then I took my model out to Wright Air Force Filed in Ohio. It impressed a Colonel Gregory enough for him to compose a telegram promising me a contract. That exempted me from the draft. I finished work on the model.
CBIRD: How did you make a deal with Bell aircraft?
YOUNG: I had a friend, a doctor of medicine, who also designed complicated gears. One of them could change the compression rate of airplane engines. I suggested to him that Bell might be interested in his invention because to me, they had the sexiest looking fighter, the Airacobra, which was later supplied in quantity to the Russians. When he was at Bell, he told them of my helicopter design.
They invited me to come to their plant in Buffalo, New York. I put my model in a suitcase and went up there. The guard wouldn’t let me through the gate because he thought there was a bomb in the suitcase. I flew the model right there in the factory between the Aircobras. I assigned my patents to bell and stayed with them until 1947 dealing with the horrendous * complexities of getting the thing into production.
CBIRD: Didn’t the war urgency help?
YOUNG: Not at all. The Pentagon knew nothing about it. Bell was concentrating on building fighter aircraft. But Larry Bell, the president, was a man of vision. He wanted something for his people to make after the war. It wasn’t the helicopter that was unique but my idea of the stabilization device. Sikorsky, for instance, was ahead of me with his helicopter. He had a different configuration. There were many other helicopter companies which did not survive. Platt Lepage won the first army contract to build a helicopter. I sold Larry Bell on the stability question and he bought that.
CBIRD: During this time were you still developing your theory of *provess?
YOUNG: my nineteen years on the helicopter problem never erased my interest in the theory of process. For one thing, I noted that there was a fundamental difference between the method of a scientist and the method of an inventor. Though both are concerned with the laws of nature, the scientist, once having discovered a law, holds it sacred. The inventor discovers laws but his goal is to apply them. This involves a change in direction. A law is restrictive. It limits the possible. But it can be turned about to provide the means for achieving an end. Think of the carpenter who, planing a board, discovers that he is working against the rain and turns the board around.
CBIRD: How did this relate to your theory?
YOUNG: It’s a question of attitude. The attitude of learning how to use a law instead of being *continged by it led to my conceiving of law, or determinism, as the agency of free will rather than its antagonist. This was fundamental to the theory of process since, as my books show, process must create determinism to acquire the means to achieve its goal.
Without purpose, without goal-directed activity, my helicopter could not have evolved. For me this was a lesson in how evolution works. The purpose creates the machine. From the fact that no machine will disclose its purpose unless assembled and in operation, it should be easy to infer that man — widely considered in science to be a machine — cannot be understood by an examination of physical body alone. The tendency of *philosophers and scientist to talk of man as a mere mechanism — intending but this to imply he is without purpose — shows a lack of understanding of machines as well as of man.
So I again took up my theory of process, not only for its emphasis on time, but for the presence implicit in *porvess of a *purposiveness that pushes toward the attainment of a goal.
Another thing I learned had to do with a crazy idea for a machine which would compose music. The music would play backwards just as well as forwards. There was something wrong. Again, it was the symmetry problem. A real piece of music, I realized, wouldn’t act like this. It had to integrate as it proceeded, each phrase being built out of what preceded it. This brought me to the idea that the scientific method wouldn’t always work. It was too static. It didn’t have a built-in integration mechanism.
CBIRD: What else?
YOUNG: All this was linked to the problem of converting a factory making airplanes to one making helicopters. It was no small problem. Something like getting a mouse to eat a mountain. Bell told me “You tell us what to do.” But it didn’t work that easily. The whole plant had to be inculcated with a new philosophy. I remember one *engineer at Bell who put his finger on the nub of the problem when he said: “The trouble is that the modeling clay is full of nuts and bolts.” The day-to-day efforts of solving the problem in the face of so much inertia was emotionally draining. I took to writing my feelings and thoughts down in a journal. All this caused me to delve into philosophy and metaphysics. I took up Yoga at this time.
CBIRD: With a guru or by yourself?
YOUNG: At first, by myself. I preferred the physical Yoga to start. When I got into meditative Yoga, I was introduced to my first psychic experiences. I noticed that when I tried to make my mind blank, I could only achieve the blankness for about five minutes before a thought would intrude. Keeping track of my *mediation, I recorded all the interrupting thoughts. Imagine my surprise when I discovered *ta thtye often turned out to be experiences I had later that day. By concentrating, I was picking up precognitive images.
It was disturbing to my scientific training and increased my determination to search for the meaning of consciousness.
CBIRD: how did you begin your quest into consciousness and man’s real purpose?
YOUNG: when I married for the second time, I told my new wife, Ruth, that I wanted to investigate the consciousness problem. For the next five years we traveled extensively looking into all kinds of psychic phenomena.
CBIRD: What purpose did you conceive for the Foundation for the Study of Consciousness?
YOUNG: Since there were so many unexplained phenomena, like ESP, which did not fit into the current framework of knowledge and therefore remained undigested, it was time to prod people into thinking seriously about them. The main purpose for the foundation was to build a comprehensive theory in which ESP could be integrated into existing scientific knowledge.
Soon after I set up the foundation I met Dr. Andrija Puharich through the well-known psychic, Eileen Garrett, with whom he was working. Puharich had established his own Round Table Foundation in Camden, Maine. He was about to be drafted into military service and asked me if I would take care of his foundation in his absence. That’s a whole story in itself.
In New York City, we worked with various psychics, including Frances Farrelly, who had worked extensively in the investigation of radionics, and Francis Marion, a *psychometrist who wrote the book, In my Mind’s Eye.
CBIRD: Where did all this research lead you?
YOUNG: With Farrelly it led to my recognition of the importance of intention. We found that the various wiring systems for radionics instruments, or whether they were properly connected, didn’t play an important role in the radionics process. What mattered most was the operator’s intention. In diagnosis of disease, she was tuning in on the patient’s condition and using her own organism to respond. The instrument was only a device to assist concentration.
CBIRD: And with Marion?
YOUNG: With Marion, we found that his psychometric readings — of messages in sealed envelopes, for example — clearly did not depend on some sort of x-ray vision. Because it did not matter to Marion whether a message was written in a language completely unknown to him, he was primarily detecting, not the letters and the words, but the meaning of what was written.
CBIRD: In his book, Uri, Puharich mentioned that you were present when Dr. D.G. Vinod, a Hindu scholar and sage from India, was receiving messages, including mathematical formulae while in trance. What influence did this have on your thinking?
YOUNG: I was far more impressed by the poetry that came through Vinod than the science. In fact, I recall my annoyance that the “guides” were employing a concept, so often used by psychics of “higher dimensions” to explain psychic phenomena. To me this was just as much an evasion as, say, explaining radionics by reference to radio. If I were influenced at all, it was toward pushing me in the opposite direction.
CBIRD: How so?
YOUNG: The idea that we can get to another place by “traveling” in some extra dimension is a misconception because positions in space are separated only because of the dimensions of space. To create another dimension to connect them won’t work. Things that are separated are brought together by removing the space between them, not by creating another space.
In other words, dimensions are constraints. It is by removing them, rather than by adding to them, that one may explain, for example, the ability to diagnose the ailments of a person a thousand miles distant. Space may not exist for the psyche as it does for the body.
CBIRD: But wouldn’t that put psychic phenomena beyond the pale of science?
YOUNG: That’s the interesting part. Even in so-called science you have upsetting findings about light. Take the famous experiment proposed by Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen. It was performed over a decade ago and has been extensively debated but its implications are only beginning to sink in.
CBIRD: Would you describe the experiment?
YOUNG: The experiment demonstrates that two light beams emitted in opposite directions from a common source “keep in touch with each other” in a way that cannot be explained by current theory. If the experimenter does something to one beam at a distance from the source, such as to polarize it by passing it through a prism, the other light beam acts as if it knew what happened to its partner. Though proposed to show up a fallacy in quantum theory, the negative result anticipated by Einstein and his colleagues did not occur. The only colleagues did not occur. The only explanation is that light somehow “knows its own future.” The implication is that signals — but not necessarily energy — exceeding the speed of light must traverse the intervening space. Physicists call the phenomenon by the innocuous sounding name of “non-locally.”
CBIRD: Did your theory anticipate this result?
YOUNG: Yes. In the 1950s I was beginning to think of telepathy and radionics as what is now called “non-local.” I recall my using the illustration of a person, sought by the police, whose “Wanted” photograph is posted. The person’s guilt, real or assumed is a question of principle and principles don’t have to travel. I was looking for scientific evidence of this kind of existence, an existence not subject to the constraints of spatial location or even — in the case of precognition, dreams or predictions — to the constraints of time.
CBIRD: What other grounds did you have for suggesting a hypothesis about entities not being subject to space or time?
YOUNG: The answer may surprise. As I was building my theory of process, it only occurred to me that process itself involves a precise number of stages when I began to compare ancient myths that describe how the universe comes into existence. Many of them showed this to take place in seven stages. In Genesis, for instance, God makes the universe in six days and rests on the seventh. The ancient Hindu tradition insists on seven-ness. I thus had a clue, perhaps a directive, that process involves seven stages.
CBIRD: What else shored up this idea?
YOUNG: A difficult book, The Mahalma Letters, by Alfred Percy Sinnett who claimed to have received them from one of the masters who inspired the theosophical tradition. It was explicit on the subject of seven stages of evolution. The author referred to the known animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms to which he added a kingdom beyond animal and three more preceding mineral. He said he could not deal with these because science did not yet know of their existence.
CBIRD: But you *dealt with them.
YOUNG: Yes, since the book was written in the early 1880s I surmised that the subsequent findings of science might provide identification of the three pre-mineral kingdoms. Since minerals are composed of molecules, the mineral kingdom had to be molecular. Since molecules are formed from atoms, atoms had to constitute the premolecular kingdom and particles which form atoms the kingdom prior to atoms.
CBIRD: What about the first kingdom?
YOUNG: At first I called it sub-nuclear. Only later did I realize it must be light. Itself without mass, light can create particles which have mass. Light has no charge. The particles created by it have charge. Light is not seen, it is seeing. For a pulse of light, the photon, time does not exist. Thus mass and hence energy as well as time are born from the photon, from light which is therefore the first kingdom, the first stage of the process that engenders the universe.
CBIRD: And the last, the seventh stage?
YOUNG: I call it “Dominion.” Man would be one manifestation of this stage. Man is at a critical point. He is more than the beasts in that he is in a different kingdom but not very far along in it. He may be at its midpoint, like the claim in the animal kingdom, and, like the clam, he is buried in the sand with only a dim consciousness of worlds beyond. But he has a long way to go. There is no upper limit to his evolution.
CBIRD: Do you think that science will ever accept psychic phenomena?
YOUNG: As a matter of fact, I find it difficult to discover what law of science denies telepathy, precognition and other ESP phenomena. It is, rather, with alleged implications of the laws of science that such phenomena conflict. This prevalent attitude on the part of scientists is against the interests of true science and is even contrary to elementary justice for it becomes impossible to correct a theory by experimental test as long as theory decrees in advance what the outcome of the test must be.
CBIRD: Psychologists in many countries will have nothing to do with parapsychology or psychic phenomena the very existence of which they deny.
YOUNG: Psychologists maintain that phantasms arise in the unconscious. But where and what is the unconscious? What is the substance from which vivid hallucinations are formed? To call them unreal or to say that they arise in the unconscious does not explain them.
CBIRD: How do we know we are not “unconscious” in a so-called normal waking sate?
YOUNG: Well, what do we know of how prevalent hallucinatory imagings may be in ordinary daily life. Normal perception is loaded with second level images or illusions. I see across the street the back of a fascinating female creature, quicken my steps to catch a closer glimpse. As I get closer, or see her turn to look in a store window. I see that my imagination has played me false. The girl is homely.
Or again, we are informed by psychologists that the newborn chick does not really have a true perception of its mother. It will follow any object such as an automated football. This deduction may satisfy the psychologists’ instinct for mechanical explanations, but for me it rather suggests that “mother” is a subjective idea, an archetype of the chick world and that this archetype exists prior to the training or sense experience which will eventually make its contribution, but subsequent to what is subjective, archetypal, or what I call projective.
CBIRD: Your view of cosmology, with its four levels lays a foundation on which to base theories of ESP and other psychic phenomena.
YOUNG: In a way **Telepathy, clairvoyance and map dowsing have a second-level nature since these phenomena do not show the usual dependence on distance. They all behave as if there were no intervening space between the percipient and the target. This is exactly what I would expect of the second **leel where a space does not exist. Recall that it is not possible to attribute a precise position to a nuclear particle. On the other hand, precognition could be assigned to level one because, in this case, there is no time. Above all, level one establishes a basis for intention, important not only for parapsychological matters, but in life situations in general.
CBIRD: Why do people have so much difficulty in understanding your projective levels. I noticed that at your seminar last evening two psychologists in the group were unhappy about what you said about “first cause.”
YOUNG: This is because purpose, the equivalent of first cause, is ruled out in science which has ***decreed that what it is dealing with is the how rather than the why.
But when you get to life, then science must learn to rise above determinism, mechanism. You can’t treat life as a machine. In contemporary medicine, the current philosophy has been to treat symptoms but now some doctors are beginning to realize that a lot of disease is self-induced. It’s a question of the patient’s intention. Here is where the fact of intention could materially change science. I won’t say that it would change the manufacture of autos or clocks or washing machines, although in particle physics determinism is becoming suspect. Perhaps the physicists themselves are creating some of the new particles.
CBIRD: In your lectures at the institute are you offering your audience a new way to approach the world?
YOUNG: When I first tackled the problem of ESP I hoped to be able to lift a veil of ignorance behind which we are forced to operate. I now am beginning to think that the veil is rather useful because it makes people think and work for themselves. It’s no use solving other people’s problems.
CBIRD: Perhaps much of psychology, in its insistence in reducing people to a norm, misses that point; it refuses to see tat everyone is here for a purpose.
YOUNG: In my self-defense, I don’t think my effort is aimed at solving problems. Shakespeare held that “All Life’s a Stage.” But on our present stage, the boards are rotting and the players are falling through them. I am trying to build a new stage so they will have something more solid to walk upon.
Science has lost its meaning. It doesn’t answer questions. It doesn’t interest people, even those who go into it. I know many physicists who have dropped out of physics through sheer boredom. The young people today can’t depend on this tottering science. They become insecure. Insecure people return to simple animal needs. There is no culture possible in the absence of this kind of security.
CBIRD: Are you trying to offer security?
YOUNG: There’s no question of that. I’m trying to open new doors. But many people, however puzzled, are afraid to pass through. The security they seek is endorsement. I hate to stress this because I would like to encourage people to think for themselves. But ours is still a religious culture. The religion now happens to be science, even though its priests are corrupted and its church falling into ruin. We have not left the Christian age — the astrologers would call it the Age of Pisces – we continue to be enmeshed in the old belief system.
CBIRD: Do you think that science should be swept away, then?
YOUNG: Certainly not. I wouldn’t want the edifice of science to come crashing down as in an earthquake. The French and Russian revolutions destroyed more than they created. The history of revolution shows that instead of replacing tyrannical government by a better one, the government gets more tyrannical.
But the academic establishment has been behaving atrociously. Instead of welcoming a wave of new knowledge as it did at the turn of the century, instead of hosting new talent, it turns and flees.
“The Buddhists teach how to escape from the wheel, but I rather think they mean we should escape from endless repetitions of the same cycle. Each new cycling should be a new adventure, incorporating, not repeating, what has gone before.” The Geometry of Meaning
“At no time has it been suggested, either by quantum theory or advocates of free will, that the laws of nature be set aside. No one is advocating causelessness. For it is precisely because free will occurs in an orderly universe that it can have far-reaching effects. If my will says ‘Forward!’ and my legs are paralyzed, nothing happens. If the captain gives an order but the crew stages a mutiny, the captain’s will is ineffectual. So we must see the problem not as free will versus determinism, but as free will plus determinism.” The Geometry of Meaning
“We have not attempted to find sanction for this overall thesis from science, mainly because current science does not recognize the positive role of uncertainty in cosmology. Science, in fact, has become so fragmented into separate disciplines that it has lost sight of the unifying principle that the world ‘universe’ implies.” The Reflexive Universe
“Cosmology remains awe-inspiring despite efforts to wrap it up, and the moral is: don’t trust the limited boundaries which the rational mind uses to protect itself. Don’t permit statistical law to give the illusion that there is nothing here but us chickens.” The Reflexive Universe
Chris Bird with Arthur Young
Arthur Middleton young seemed dwarfed by piles of books and articles surrounding his armchair when I arrived for a two-day visit at his apartment in The Institute for the Study of Consciousness in Berkeley, California. His wife, Ruth, sat at the living-room table putting final editorial touches and pasting countless illustrations into a dozen sets of page-proofs for Arthur’s forthcoming pair of books.
The scholarly atmosphere was misleading for the man who heaved himself, smiling, to his feet, has the open candor of an outdoorsman and the quick wit of a good nightclub comedian.
During the next forty-eight hours I was able to appreciate the depth and breadth of an inventor-philosopher not only during the interview itself which, by the time it was over, could have filled the pages of a small book but by listening to his conversation with visiting physicists, mathematicians, poets and plain seekers-of-knowledge and hearing him give a two-hour evening seminar on his theory of process in the institute’s meting-room.
The qualities which most strongly embellish Arthur’s always serious repartee are those of humor and patience. He was never annoyed when I, or another, seemed unable to follow his train of thought. Arthur as a way, like Socrates, of pulling his interiocutor into a quicksand of self-inquiry, then rescuing him with his gift of metaphor.
There is much of a child’s inquisitivenss and playfulness in Arthur which I have encountered in other inventors. His present project – the correlation of famous people’s horoscopes with radiesthesia-derived indices of brain power – is taking him as did the invention of the Bell helicopter and his investigation of the psychic would, years of effort.
I left with the feeling that Arthur was and *is, ever the pioneer.
Arthur Middleton Young was born in 1905 in Paris where his father, brought up in a farming milieu in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, had come with his wife to pursue their mutual interest in painting. One of their neighbors in Giverney was the impressionist master, Claude Monet. Young recalls that his father used to recount how Monet would paint a scene of water lilies, then get angry and throw his easel, paints and brushes into the lily pond from which they would be fished out by his daughters so the artist could begin his task anew.
The family returned to Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, where Arthur was raised in an old 18th century farm, Meadow Bank. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood.
At the Haverford School near Philadelphia, young, who was forever making things, became known as an expert * gadgeteer. “I loved to construct complicated devices,” he recalls. “I remember once I made a crane from “Mecano Set” parts which would lift one of my little brothers into the air with the help of a motor and endless pulleys. I also made the electric motor. That was my initiation into the electrical field.
For several years his machine building and ham-radio hobby absorbed his life. School was a minor activity by comparison. His first course was physics which was easy because he had already read most of the physics text on his own. This led to violent arguments with his physics teacher.
Young went to college at Princeton where, as he puts it, he acquired very little education. He did what he pleased which was mainly reading books in mathematics and physics. He later turned to the arts, becoming intrigued with a course in Oriental Art largely because of its philosophical overtones. It was at this time that Young was introduced to Zen Buddhism and other Eastern schools of thought.
Young says that, toward the end of his Princeton studies, he dropped science for painting and studying Eastern philosophy. “I even tried to achieve nirvana,” he recollects. “I would lie on my cot, night and day, and try to make myself indifferent to everything. The alarming thing, in retrospect, is that I almost succeeded. I didn’t care about anything.”
Snapping out of this mood, young passed through a series of quasi-creative phases. At first he planned to make a movie in which to quote him, “words, such as those of a poem, would jump and dance.” He was living at the time in Pennsylvania in the heart of the coal-mining district in his grandmother’s laundry Young built machinery to make words “dance and jump,” but soon became more interested in machines than in the movie.
His first attempt at invention was for a machine which could fly to Mars. “That shows how dumb I was,” he says, “even though I’d graduated from college.” The idea was based on a new type of wing which would have a constant lift and a drag which would not increase with the speed so that could move faster and faster. “After a year of this, I went to the library and plunged into the study of aerodynamics and discovered my error,” says Arthur. In the libraries Young became interested in the helicopter and the real number of people who had tried to make them even back in the early 1900s before the airplane had taken wing. Starting in 1928, he worked for over a decade to solve the problem of making a helicopter fly and in 1941 licensed his patents to Bell Aircraft young remained with Bell for several more years to work out production problems for the helicopter during and following World War II. In 1946 young’s helicopter, Bell Model 47, was awarded the world’s first commercial helicopter license.
During his college days, young was also preoccupied with the study of the theory of relativity. Certain deficiencies in this theory led him to construct his own model of the universe, a task upon which he continued to work after leaving Bell in 1947. His early interest in oriental systems of thought combined with stress encountered in his work at Bell led him to the practice of Yoga and to his first psychic experiences.
After divorce and remarriage, Young traveled extensively with his new wife, Ruth, to investigate unexplained phenomena all connected to seemingly unusual powers of the mind. He came tot he belief that consciousness had to be made basic in the theory of the universe he was working out.
This led, in 1952, to young’s establishing the Foundation for the Study of Consciousness in Philadelphia and in 1968 to his launching the Journal for the Study of Consciousness, published until 1971 and edited by Dr. Charles Muses. In 1972, Young and Charles Muses brought out a book, Consciousness and Reality, the Human Pivot Point.
For the past two years Young and his wife have divided their time between their farm in *Dowingtown, Pennsylvania, and their home in Berkeley, California, which also houses the Institute for the Study of Consciousness.
In 1976, the simultaneous publication of Young’s two books. The Reflexive Universe and The Geometry of Meaning (*Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence) crowned half a century of his struggle to understand the true meaning of existence.
Chris Bird 1995