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The Roots of My Life's Work and Faith in the Future

I don't remember hearing discussions about God and religion as a young child . My family went to church regularly at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, Ohio but I can't remember hearing or participating in discussions about religion. Yet, I seem to have always had a belief in a loving God. Perhaps that heartfelt belief was inspired by Cincinnati with its lush rolling hills, its beautiful parks, the beautiful flowers of spring and summer, and the changing colors of the leaves in the fall. Even the winter had its own special beauty. 
 
To me, it was obvious there had to be a God. All this beauty couldn't be happening by chance. As I grew older, I learned that the Native Americans who had lived in the area thought that the river valley was a very special place and built mounds to bury their dead along the Ohio. Also, I learned that the earth was part of a system of planets whirling in order around the sun that provided all the wonders that we had on the earth.  Not only was there beauty and order but a productive rhythm to life that provided what we needed. 
 
Even St. Andrew's Church where we went every Sunday to worship had a sense of peace and serenity that reinforced the idea of a loving God. When I turned nine, I decided that I wanted to strengthen my relationship with this loving, creative power and became an acolyte as part of the group of young men assisting the priest in conducting the services. Almost every Sunday for the next nine years, I assisted the priest at the morning communion service as well as participated in the regular Sunday service. 
 
What marred this sense of order, beauty, and serenity was the life outside the church. Nature was supportive, people were hostile. While I don't remember family discussions about religion, I do remember many, many discussions about race, discrimination, and the treatment that we endured from whites who seemed to believe that we were by nature inferior to them. What was particularly strange to me was that many of these people called themselves Christians. 
 
How could anyone who believed in God and Jesus think that anyone was by nature inferior. In the Old Testament, God said that as human beings, we are created in God's image. Jesus said that the divine powers he was demonstrating, we would demonstrate. He didn't say only if you were European. In fact, he was not European himself despite the pictures. He was a middle eastern Jew. This whole situation just did not make any sense. Sometimes, I felt like I was in an insane asylum that the inmates were running.  
 
My family had raised me to think; to try to understand what I saw and experienced; to seek answers for what I couldn't understand; and if others could not answer my questions to my satisfaction to do the work to get the answers myself. I wanted to understand what was going on. I needed to know why these people thought they could get away with treating us so bad and acting like they thought we were not as good as them. But that wouldn't be enough. I wanted answers to basic questions: Where does the spirit that they talk about in the Bible come from; why are we here on the earth; where does our spirit go after we die.  I wasn't satisfied with the response, "That's not for us to know".  
 
With answers to those questions, I thought could begin to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, while I went to an excellent college preparatory high school in Cincinnati and to Harvard College, I didn't get any answers to my basic questions. In fact, rather than get answers to explain the crazy behavior we experienced as African-Americans, it seemed that the purpose of the education was to justify if not glorify a society and a people that seemed barbaric and uncivilized. 
 
After graduation from Harvard, I joined the Northern Student movement and began work in Harlem organizing rent strikes. While the work was hard and demanding, I loved it and decided that organizing African-Americans to confront our oppression would be the best way for me to repay my debt to my ancestors who had laid the foundation for our fight against oppression. While organizing  wouldn't eliminate the view that we were inferior, there would be tangible benefits. At the very least, we would better our conditions, demonstrate to ourselves and others our capability to create new realities, and build a foundation from which future generations could continue our fight for justice and recognition as human beings. 
 
Despite concrete accomplishments, I continued to be frustrated with the lack of an intellectual framework to confront the doctrine of white male supremacy as well as the internalized oppression that was a clear and present obstacle in every organizing initiative. I hungered to understand why in a system created by a loving God, there was so much hate. Then in the fall of 1973, one of those magic moments occurred that put me on the path to satisfy my hunger. I could not have imagined that when Hakim, a friend who was studying at MIT, came into my office one day and said he had some books for me, he was offering me the key to unlock a treasure chest that had what I needed to understand what was going on. 
 
Hakim gave me three books. One was the Rosicrucian Cosmo Conception, written in 1909 by Max Heindel, leader of the Rosicrucian organizational, headquartered in California. The second one was the Mystical Kabala written in 1924 by Dion Fortune, an English psychologist who real name was Violet Firth who was a leader in the English occult movement of the early and middle 1900s. The third was The Cosmic Doctrine published by Dion Fortune in 1930. In acknowledging that the content of the book was a psychic transmission from a higher energy dimension, she says: 
 
"I feel I am the last person to be able to form an opinion as to the nature of the experience here recorded....I know, however, that I could not have written any work at the pace at which it was produced. When it is realized that each chapter took from three quarters of an hour to an hour and a quarter to dictate, and that no other work whatever went into its production, I think it will be seen that this book was not produced by the ordinary labor of the brain."
 
As I read the three books, I realized that each author was describing h/er view of the manifestation of the universe and its relationship to its Creator and to the development of human consciousness. While I could understand parts of each, I realized that it would take a monumental effort to even begin to decipher and understand the inner meaning of one, let alone all three. As I debated whether it would be worth the effort even to try, the story of the Rosetta stone came to mind. 
 
In 1799, an engineer who was part of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt discovered a slab of stone approximately two and a half feet wide and four feet long which had been part of a monument to one of the Egyptian pharaohs. On it was carved a tribute in hieroglyphics (Egyptian picture language), Egyptian script writing of that period, and Greek. When Napoleon's troops withdrew from Egypt in 1801, they took the Rosetta stone with them for further study. Over the next thirty years, European scholars used their understanding of the Greek and of Coptic writing similar to the Egyptian script on the stone to decipher the hieroglyphics. 
 
Since each of the three books, given by Hakim, were focused on the questions haunting my mind, it seemed that the effort to understand all three could give me a picture of the operation of the universe and solar system, their creation, and purpose. Obviously that understanding would free me from the frustration and confusion that had become a life companion. I didn't know how long it would take or even if I could ever accomplish the task. However, I've always believed that "Nothing beats a failure but a try" so I decide it would be worth the effort to try to decipher my "Rosetta stone." 
 
As I struggled to understand the meaning of each of the books, I began to reach out for other books on the occult (hidden) and the esoteric aspects of religion that I thought might help me understand what I was reading. This led me to read Rudolph Steiner's Outline of Esoteric Science, describing the evolution of the earth and its four kingdoms: mineral, plant, animal, and human; Madame Helena Petrova Blavatsky's the Secret Doctrine, her two volume work on esoteric Buddhism; Alice Bailey's The Consciousness of the Atom, describing the relationship between the development of consciousness in the atom, the human, the earth, and the sun. 
 
Other helpful books were Col. A.E. Powell's five volume work on theosophy, describing the development of the solar system and its relationship to the four energy bodies of human kind: the etheric, the astral/emotional, the mental, and the causal; Annie Besant's A Study in Consciousness, detailing the evolution of human consciousness; the Three Initiates work on the teachings of Hermes, the Egyptian sage;  The Tree of Life by Israel Regardie, the most definite outline of the western theory of magic and its relationship to the tree of life; and most recently Metu Neter: 1,2,3, and 4 the work by Ra Un Nefer Amen on the Ausarian religion of Kamit (ancient Egypt) among many, many other books by these and other authors.   
 
I reference these writings to make clear that what I am going to share is not based on some personal, divine revelation. Rather it has emerged from decades of study, meditation, and attempts to use the teachings in my life and work. While most of the authors quoted above have gained much of their insights through clairvoyance or trance, I have not developed those talents. However, what I will share is validated in my mind by fact that it is supported by at least two writings of those who possessed those talents. That is why I view my almost four decades of research as an exploration of spiritual science. 
 
Until this moment, I have avoided publicly discussing my studies. As an organizer, my responsibility was to help facilitate the thought and actions of groups focused on achieving their shared objectives. Given that responsibility, I didn't want to distract the group(s) by introducing ideas that were certain to be controversial. I have used the information for inspiration and guidance in my work, waiting for the moment that seemed appropriate to begin a more public discussion. 
 
Given my arrest, conviction, incarceration, and their effect on my ability to work as an organizer when I come out of prison, I believe the moment is now. Also, I am encouraged to be more public about my studies based on the experience of participating in a study group here at Hazelton that is providing me feedback on my ideas as well as stimulating me through the thinking of the group's members. 
 
My initial target audience is those who see themselves as activists; participants in what is often termed the progressive movement. I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with that term because it doesn't define the type of progress sought. I prefer to think of the world wide body of progressive activists as members of a movement focused on the evolution and expansion of human consciousness. To me, the consciousness that undergirds the variety of organizing encompassed by the progressive movement is the realization that as a human species we have a responsibility to be concerned about the welfare of all and the creation of a just and equitable society throughout the world. 
 
Through it's organizing, the progressive movement is in essence seeking the expansion of human consciousness. We are attempting to help more and more of the human species recognize that we are "Our brothers' and sisters keepers'". Therefore, I hope that I will be able to help provide an intellectual and spiritual foundation for the spread of that consciousness. The spread and evolution of the consciousness of our human interconnectedness is, I believe, the next great step forward for human kind. Darwin's concept of evolution focused on biology. To his concept must be added that of mental evolution--the expansion of human consciousness. 
 
I have three objectives in beginning to discuss the results to date of my forty year quest. First, I hope I will be able to help those of us who are trying to help expand human consciousness enlarge our concept of the capabilities of human beings as a species. We use the word empowerment. However, to help people appreciate and use the potential powers that we all have, we need to be clear on what is the range of those powers.
 
Second, I believe that the teachings of esoteric science can help strengthen us to meet Dr. King's challenge to confront and overcome the three evils: racism, militarism, and materialism. At the moment, I do not think that we have a strong intellectual framework to help us displace the cultural and psychic foundations of racism, sexism, and classism. I believe that as we develop the ability to see through the veil of our material form and appreciate ourselves as energy beings composed of etheric, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy experiencing life in a material form, we will be able to cut through the illusion of all the isms that keep us from uniting as a human family.
 
As we build and strengthen our understanding that this material phase of our evolution is just a part of our journey from unconsciousness to super consciousness as a human species, simultaneously we will strengthen our ability to see through the illusions and delusions of materialism and its numerous pitfalls along our evolutionary path. Similarly, as we develop an appreciation that the objective of our evolution on earth is not only to discover the true Self that resides within each of us but also to recognize our oneness with each other and with God in whose image we are formed as energy beings, we will realize that war is a mental aberration growing out of the material illusion of separateness.
 
My third objective is to encourage each of you to begin your own search for Self. I do not expect or want you to accept what I am sharing as your Truth. I share what I have discovered and how I discovered it to encourage you to look beyond the walls of your present understandings of reality. While I encourage you to explore the books that I have mentioned, I understand that there are others that may be the key to open the treasurer chest of your own knowledge of Self. The key to Self discovery is your desire to Know and Understand who you are. Once that flame burns brightly in your heart, it will lead you to answers for questions you haven't even asked.  
 
In ancient Greece in the town of Delphi, the Oracle (priestess) located in the Temple of Apollo was acclaimed as the most gifted of all who prophesied. Over the entrance to the Oracle's chamber, there was an inscription, "Know Thyself!" To me, the inscription's purpose was to warn the person entering that even though the Oracle would give information regarding the future, it's value lay not in telling you what to do. It's value was to help you develop your ability to know within yourself what to do and how to do it.  True knowledge comes from within not from without. While others can share the experiences of their journey to discover Self, each of us has h/er own path to Self discovery if we choose to walk it. 
 
Included at the end of this reflection are two additional reflections: A personal narrative for the Harvard College, Class of 1962 fiftieth reunion on my lifetime of organizing; and a statement for the United for Justice and Peace annual meeting regarding our need for confidence in our eventual triumph in the struggle for justice and peace. 
 
Beginning in November, my reflections will appear on the third Thursday of each month.   
 
Peace, 
 
chuck 
 
*************
 
Chuck Turner '62-3* Personal Narrative
 
When I left Harvard with my BA degree in 1963, I had two goals. The first was to fulfill my family commitment to use my skills to continue the 350 year struggle for liberation of my people--African-Americans. The other was the more mundane goal of obtaining a law degree as a tool in the pursuit of my first goal. 
 
After a year of organizing rent strikes in Harlem as part of the Northern Student Movement, I abandoned my law school objective. I had fallen in love. While I found organizing to be challenging, demanding, and often frustrating, I realized there would be no more fulfilling way of repaying my debt to my ancestors than devoting my life to organizing. While I have had many different jobs and participated in an even greater number of volunteer community initiatives, organizing has always been at the center of my work. 
 
As my appreciation of the depth and breadth of oppression in this country grew and my understanding of the spiritual oneness of all human beings broadened, my definition of the term "my people" expanded to include the whole human family. However, there is one thing that hasn't changed over the decades of organizing. The thrill of seeing people create new realities through the linking of their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies is as powerful and fulfilling for me today as it was during my first rent strike campaign forty eight years ago. 
 
Of the many accomplishments achieved through organizing, the accomplishment of which I am proudest is the 1982 approval by the Supreme Court, led by Judge Renquist, of the constitutionality of the Boston Jobs Policy. This policy, incorporated into a Boston Mayoral Executive Order in 1979, grew out of an organizing initiative I launched in 1976 to link affirmative action for people of color and women to the right of local workers of all races to have a guaranteed share of the jobs on city financed or supported construction projects. 
 
In 1999, frustrated with what I viewed as a low level of community organizing in Boston, I decided to run for a position on the Boston City Council, representing my community. My objective was to demonstrate the tangible benefits of linking community based organizing to political representation through establishing a personally financed district office and sponsoring monthly "Roundtables" to bring together constituents and community activists to discuss policy and strategy development. 
 
Among the many accomplishments during my eleven years in office, there are two that standout in terms of their lasting impact not only one Boston but also on the entire state. One is the organizing of the Boston Workers' Alliance (BWA) as a community based labor organization. This initiative grew out of a decision by the Board of our Roundtable in 2005 to focus on the organizing of unemployed workers in our community, particularly those with criminal records given the job discrimination they were experiencing.  
 
In 2009, after four years of support by my district office, the BWA opened its own office. Today, they have a staff five, two offices, one for their political arm and the other for their staffing agency. Their major accomplishment to date was providing  leadership in the passage of legislation in 2010 which among other reforms within the criminal justice system took the question regarding criminal records off the state employment application and eased the requirements for having criminal records sealed. 
 
The second major accomplishment was the passage in 2010 of legislation providing assistance to owners facing foreclosure as well as tenants in foreclosed properties. The legislation's major feature was enabling tenants to maintain residency in foreclosed buildings as long as they paid rent, thus ending the practice of financial institutions closing down properties after foreclosure until a new owner could be secured. 
 
This legislation grew out of an organizing initiative in 2006 that I led sponsored by the Rainbow Caucus of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party. Beginning with a core of three organizations, the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending grew into a statewide coalition and led the fight that resulted in the passage of the legislation. Both of these initiatives bear witness to the organizing axiom that when faced with oppressive conditions, don't complain, organize.  
 
The effectiveness of the Roundtable model of representation and its work in challenging the status quo locally and nationally was demonstrated when a close ally of the Bush administration, Michael Sullivan, while the US Attorney of Massachusetts, targeted me in a sting operation designed to enhance his political career. Unfortunately, the jury was bamboozled by his plot and convicted me of four crimes which I did not commit: extortion of $1000 (from the person they hired to operate the sting) and three counts of lying to FBI officers. Based on the conviction, I will not be able to be with you at our 50th anniversary since I am serving a 36 month sentence at USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.**
 
As I look back over my forty eight years of organizing, I feel blessed to have been able to spend my entire adult life fighting for justice. I plan to continue this fight after my release in 2013. Needless to say, I am frustrated by my present circumstances but view my incarceration as an opportunity to strengthen myself before I return to the battlefield. Despite the momentary personal set back, I continue to believe in our capacity to create a just society in this country. 
 
*I took a leave of absence during my senior year and did not graduate until 1963. 
 
**I wrote Anatomy of a FrameUp this summer to give my perspective on my 2 and 1/2 year struggle with the Justice Department. It can be accessed at SupportChuckTurner.com.
 
 

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 SupportChuckTurner@MassLists.org is an announcement list supporting due process and fairness for Councilor Turner. Visitwww.SupportChuckTurner.com for updates.

 

 

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