"No brims nor borders such as in a bowl we see my essence was Capacitie."


To see into one's true Nature, (or headlessness) is to be one's own authority, to adventure down a unique path and to make one's own discoveries.

-Douglas Harding. From the preface to ‘On Having No Head’.


From Douglas Harding's Melbourne '91 talk:

"Some of you will remember I think a very fine prose writer called Thomas Traherne, a seventeenth cent. English cleric, a mystic and poet. He said there were two worlds, man’s world and God’s world and the thing is to get out of one into the other and, in my experience, he got it right. There are two worlds and they are vastly different: the ‘as if’ world and the ‘as is’ world. And the first world is the world we are told we live in the world of convention, a make-believe world a world which is determined by language, and culture and convention. But we don’t live in that world of convention when we are little we live in the as is world the world as given. And as we grow up we trade in that as is world, the real world as presented for the as if world of convention and nearly all of us live and die convinced that the as if world, the world of convention mediated to us by teachers and parents bless their hearts, is the real world."


Douglas E. Harding (1909 - 2007).

To realize this instantaneous Now, to live in the present moment, taking no thought for to-morrow or yesterday must be my first concern. And my second must be to find in this Now all my to-morrows and yesterdays

-Douglas E. Harding.

English philosopher Douglas E. Harding, born in 1909, died 12th January 2007, developed a method of self-enquiry, sometimes called 'Headlessness' or 'seeing who you really are' ('seeing' for short). It is a contemporary investigation of the question Who am I? and shows that you can see who you really are here and now. It provides simple but deep awareness exercises that direct you to this Seeing within yourself, what I am calling Capacitie and assuming Traherne used the word in the same way. Douglas Harding's most well-known book, ‘On Having no Head’ subtitled ‘Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious’, was first published in 1960. To quote Amazon Books reviewer Tepi:

"If you really want to grasp what all the great Indian and Tibetan and Chinese and Japanese Masters and Sages and Rishis have been trying to convey to their disciples down through the centuries, all you need do is read this short book of just eighty pages by Douglas E. Harding called 'On Having No Head'."

Although Capacitie, under its various labels, is at the heart of all Eastern traditions and the subject of the familiar ancient texts as well as western mystical exploration, it was my encounter with Douglas Harding which revealed the obviousness of what is often regarded as obscure and inaccessible. I came upon Traherne as the result of reading a book which was essentially about Zen and this rather odd route was underlined by then having the essence of Zen pointed out to me by an English architect. And pointed out is a good way to describe what happened because the most well known of the Harding experiments involves a pointing finger which did the trick for me at a talk he gave in Sydney in 1991. There are many teachers doing the rounds and telling us something of what is involved in ‘enjoying the world aright’. Not many of them are actually showing us, as opposed to telling us, and the value of the Harding message is that he has found a way of demonstrating what he is talking about.

Harding felt his headless insight was illustrated
by this self portrait in The Analysis of Sensations
(1891) by Ernst Mach.

I have found the revelation of Capacitie applies to all explanations be they Buddhist, Scientist, Vedantist, Baptist, or whatever. What the experiments reveal is both the source and end of explanation. This site is not concerned with the experiments or the teachings – which are well catered for in other places detailed on the ‘Links’ page – but in providing a record of ongoing exchanges between people who are interested in Harding’s approach and articles describing the consequences of contact with Harding’s work.

Sydney Meetings and workshops are held from time to time. Details are circulated to interested participants. Let me know if you would like to receive these reminders by sending me an email (click 'Contact' on the Menu bar).

April 2022.

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Harding Articles.

Articles dealing with the significance and consequences of awakening to Capacitie.

Poems by Jim Clatfelter. These poems were written between 1998 and 2022 as contributions to two different Internet conferences set up to discuss the writings and the headless seeing experiments of Douglas Harding.

The Wider View. This is a collection of poems which I believe point to the apprehension of a wider view than we customarily experience. It was prepared for a Men on the Edge group meeting on 4 August 2021.

The Backward Step. A readily downloadable PDF version of a self-published book which is a collection of my contributions to the NOWletter between 2014 and 2019. The table of contents is bookmarked with links to provide quick access to articles of interest.

Consequences. My summary of how the result of the experiments have unfolded for me over the last twenty five years.

The Mind of the Traveller, by Eric Best. Eric introduces this essay as an attempt to explore and clarify, initially for himself but also for anyone else who is interested, a philosophy underpinning the practice of meditation. This paper does focuses not on 'how?' but 'why?'. Because meditation is practised in many ways by many people across many cultures, it is absurd to think that there is only one reason for meditating. The approach taken in this essay reflects the writer's experience, attraction and reading as a forty-something, theologically trained psychologist. Furthermore, the approach, like his personal meditation practice, is eclectic, borrowing as much from Oriental thinking as from Western, Neo-Platonic, Christian thought. There are many people who would claim to obtain real, practical benefits from meditating yet not wish to own the ideas presented here.

The Meaning and the Experience, by Douglas Harding.

The Little Book of Life and Death. Book review by John Wren-Lewis

Quotations for a workshop - 5 May 2007.

Variable Outcomes. Notes on the effectiveness of the Headless experiments-Why the variable outcomes?

George Schloss Letters. Links to the Schloss section of this site containing a series of letters dealing with the application, meaning and consequences of Headlessness, written by George Schloss.

Garside Box. Australian Version. A simple solo experiment to break the spell of mistaken identity.

Heidegger and Harding. Meeting notes on the correspondence between the Harding and Heidegger perspectives.

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External Links relating to Douglas Harding The Headless Way website provides an introduction to the work of Douglas Harding, access to the Look for Yourself Newsletter, details of experiments, international workshop programmes, articles and a list of publications.

Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu -Rhyme and Reason by Jim Clatfelter. This "headless" translation of the classic is accompanied by a very helpful commentary and explanation.

Brentyn Ramm's recently accepted thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the ANU. It is entitled First Person Investigations of Consciousness. In his thesis he uses the Harding experiments to test hypotheses about the self. I am particularly interested in Brentyn's approach as it deals with the revelation of the experiments from a strongly scientific and what can be regarded as 'secular' angle in contrast to the more familiar application of the experiments as a means of shining a light on the various spiritual traditions.

Self-Experience - Graduate Workshop. Brentyn (see previous link) ran a workshop for graduate students in parallel with his research and writing. This link takes you to his workshop notes archived in the NOWletter on this site.

Facebook -TheHeadless Way. Sharing our responses to noticing we cannot see our own faces.

Joan Tollifson writes and talks with people about the nature of reality. She has an affinity with Advaita and Zen, but belongs to no formal tradition. She is the author of two books: Awake in the Heartland: The Ecstasy of What Is (Trafford 2003), and Bare-Bones Meditation: Waking Up from the Story of My Life (Bell Tower 1996).

The TAT Foundation A rich source of articles on Awareness, gatherings and additional links. The TAT Foundation came about as a result of the life of Richard Rose and was founded on the conviction that our investigation of life's mysteries is expedited by working with others who are exploring, perhaps down a different road, so that we may share our discoveries, exchange ideas, and compare notes in order to come to a better understanding of ourself and others.

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