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.
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