Current Issue

REALITY: Parabola Volume 49, No. 2, SUMMER 2024

“Be still and know that I am God” instructs the 46th Psalm, making firm statements about Reality (“I am God”) and how to attain it (“Be still”). This Summer 2024 issue of Parabola draws upon that psalm in considering fundamental questions shared by many. Is there an ultimate Reality? If so, how can we experience it? How to discern the real from the illusory?

I learned early that differing versions of reality are the rule—from the shock of hearing a new friend describe “the mean old Polish lady” down the block and realizing he meant my saintly grandmother, to a growing awareness that my Jewish friends were taught a reality parallel to but not the same as the Catholic one I studied. That lesson resonates throughout this issue, with its kaleidoscope of realities. Parabola editorial director Tracy Cochran leads off with a report on the varying realities encountered during a recent pilgrimage; journalist Lisa Teasley writes of an infinite reality, one that harbors visitations from the dead; P.D. Ouspensky celebrates “a mysterious being—Nature”; Zen priest and acclaimed actor Peter Coyote writes of becoming “intimate with Emptiness”; and legendary director Alejandro Jodorowsky encounters Carlos Castaneda, then an alternate reality by way of magic mushrooms.

Later in life, we come to understand that all of this constitutes the Many, the “ten thousand things” Zen teachers speak of. Is there a One that embraces all? To answer that, we turn to mystics, women and men practiced in gathering the Many into the One. Novelist Mary Osborne writes of the glorious visions of Hildegard von Bingen; from the Muslim tradition, from scholar H. Talat Haman, we learn of Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, who was executed for his claim “I am the Real”; and Vedanta teacher John Roger Barrie explores mysticism across traditions and within science.

Near this issue’s end, we approach the ultimate universal reality—death—with wise words from four great teachers including these from Chan Master Sheng Yen. May they guide your way:

“Busy with nothing, growing old.
Within emptiness, weeping, laughing.
Intrinsically there is no “I.”
Life and death, thus cast aside.”

—Jeff Zaleski


table of contents

A Vast and Mysterious Reality Tracy Cochran
Walking in the footsteps of the first Buddhist women

The Real and the Unreal Richard Smoley
And how to tell the difference

Enthralled by the Marvel Alejandro Jodorowsky
The legendary director meets Carlos Castaneda

K. Ramesh: Poet of the Peaceable Kingdom Robert Hirschfield
Notes on a modern haiku master

“I Am the Reality” H. Talat Halman
The extraordinary Muslim martyr Hallaj

Distinct but not Separate Ellen Birx
Where Jesus walks with the Buddha

The Mystic Vision of Hildegard von Bingen Mary A. Osborne
The great saint follows her heart to the Divine

A Moment of Another Reality Lillian Firestone
Encountering Henrietta Lannes

Unveiling the Lights of Oneness Robert Atkinson
Joyful Baha’i teaching on the one and the many

Which Version of Reality? John Roger Barrie
A deep dive into mysticism and mystics

Believing in Nothing Peter Coyote
Sage advice from a welcome voice

What Humans Know and AI Can’t Anonymous
Only from suffering does wisdom grow

A Brief Look at the Infinite Lisa Teasley
And its startling possibilities

The Ultimate Mystery Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle
How four great teachers faced Death

The Inner Book of Psalms Jean Sulzberger
Poems of sacred reality

It Must Permeate Everything P.D. Ouspensky
A potent celebration of nature’s inner life

epicycle

Reality: A Tale of Artists, Merchants, Mathematicians, and Kings
Anonymous / Varied
Retold by Nartana Premachandra

tangent

Haunted by the Beyond James Tynen
A kaleidoscopic reality: The Hercule Poirot film A Haunting in Venice

book reviews

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep Have You Any Wool? Jeff Zaleski
Three new biographies from the Gurdjieff tradition

I Teach How to Cook (…but not what to cook): A Story of John Godolphin Bennett Ben Bennett

Rodney Collin: a man who wished to do something with his life Terje Tonne

Maurice Nicoll: Forgotten Teacher of the Fourth Way Gary Lachman