MARC EDMUND JONESOctober 1, 1888 - March 5, 1980
An almost crass emphasis on materiality marked The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, but the celebration was by no means lacking in spiritual content. Metaphysical giants of the time were much in evidence at the World's Parliament of Religions, one of a number of world congresses sponsored in conjunction with the fair. This yin-yang background had its effect, particularly on a small boy of five years, Marc Edmund Jones, who examined exhibits of woods and precious stones with developing insight into sequence and relationship that was to mature over the more than ninety-one years of his life into a key contribution to New Age perspective, a reformulated and highly functional utilitarian cabalism accompanied by a derivative, workable, livable philosophy — dynamic idealism.
"I was fascinated [at the Columbian Exposition]," said Jones, "with relations in sequence and particularly in two areas: one was precious stones, which varied in color and in value. The sequence in terms of preciousness puzzled me. Why were some more precious than others? Nobody explained. I had the same experience with varnished samples of different kinds of woods. Some were more valuable than others. Here again was the same problem of sequence. So from the age of five on I had a major worry, a phenomenon that I call sequence."
Thus young Marc began his philosophical journey, entering the first grade at a chronologically appropriate age. Jones' background was of the Middle West of Main Street with few spiritual or metaphysical influences. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 1, 1888, and spent his childhood and youth in Chicago. He described himself as a loner. Yet he indulged in the usual activities with children of his age, but seemed to have plenty of time alone to develop personal amusements of great complexity such as his own country complete with constitution and currency. His family neither encouraged nor discouraged his interests. The environment was casual, circumspect. Obedience to rules was expected, but for the times, young Marc was given wide latitude.
He was strict with himself, demanded perfection in many things, once for instance planing a board down to nothing in trying to get its surface just right. Strangely, this attitude caused him to drop out of the John Dewey high school in 1907 when he found he had taken more of a course-load than his high standards would let him handle. Twenty-two years would pass before he resumed his formal education. Then his college of choice, Occidental College in Los Angeles, was church-oriented. Philosophy, his interest in sequence, and a commitment to religion motivated his choice.
Jones finished at Occidental in June 1932 and immediately began studies at San Francisco Theological seminary in San Anselmo, California. He wrote his thesis, "Prophecy of Israel," and was graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1934. His interest in experientialism and dynamic idealism, as well as practical economics, led Jones to Columbia University, placing him again under the influence of John Dewey's ideas. He matriculated there in July, 1936.
As a student in the advanced school of education in 1938, he became a member of Phi Delta Kappa, the education honor society. He was editor-in-chief of the teachers college student forum and, serendipitously, became president of the philosophy club. The one-time dropout attained full academic redemption, a Ph.D., with his published dissertation in 1948 on George Sylvester Morris, dynamic idealist and John Dewey's mentor.
For most of his life Dr. Marc Edmund Jones earned his living as a minister, writer, lecturer and astrological counselor. He was self-sufficient and happy to be so, for it affirmed his conclusion that individuality matters. His output as a writer was prodigious. Over the years a rough count, for some of his work — particularly as a ghost writer — went unrecorded, yields 73 film scenarios, 46 pieces of published short fiction, 3,000 Sabian lessons averaging 1,200 words each, more than 45 articles in astrological publications and 17 books in the occult, astrological and philosophical disciplines.
Jones made a life-long Christian commitment at age sixteen. Yet his early years reveal an unlikely beginning for a clergyman. Jones' mother was Protestant and his father Roman Catholic. "The agreement," said Marc, "was that we, my sister Helen and I, were to be permitted to find our own way. There was no religion in the family…So I drifted down 53rd Street and into the Presbyterian Church and was made welcome. Somehow I became utterly fascinated with what I found there, and I bought it. I made a life dedication to Christ. That's a step that I took at the time and from which I have never deviated even by half an inch at any time, in any fashion."
Further motivation came in 1921 when he served as executive head of the 6th World's Christian Endeavor and 28th International Conference in New York City where he formed church ties that inspired greater dedication and ultimately a ministerial role in the 1930s. Upon completion of his studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary and ordination as a Presbyterian minister, he was installed as pastor in Esparto, California, on September 14, 1934, a position he held until resigning in 1938.
Jones' early life was touched mildly but peripherally by Christian Science and Theosophy. Things got more serious in 1907, the year he left high school, when he began an individualized, seven-year study of oriental symbolism, the New Testament in the original Greek, the Hebrew Scriptures and the Kabbala. Additional early influences were H.P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine and James Pryse's The Apocalypse Unsealed. Astrology captured his interest in 1913, when he was introduced formally to the subject. "And I began to find the answers to the problem of sequence that had bothered me. That led to a number of things. The fascination was tremendous . . . I could not break down the practical fact that what she [his mentor Ella Woods] had was some basis other than mere intuition or psychic facility."
Astrology was, to Jones, of cabalistic direction and pattern. "I had a rather low opinion of the normal pattern of astrology as largely fortune-telling, predicting events, but here I suddenly discovered that I had hold of something. So I began organizing this material into what I called laws." He recognized this codification as being cabalistic. Jones differentiated this cabalism from the Hebrew Kabbala, although it was mutually inclusive, defining it as a "blending of head and heart, of the rational realization and instinctive feeling. It's a blending of these, so that neither is ever without some presence of the other."
Or in an alternative refinement: "The cabala in essence . . . is the bringing of poetry and philosophy into a harmonious working together, and the whole essence of the cabalistic understanding or teaching is to achieve that for the individual. Cabalism became the keystone of the Sabian Assembly, an experimental philosophical and psychological research group which formed around Jones in the 1920s. "It just sort of developed on a topsy-like pattern," Jones said. His highly refined interests in astrology and the occult attracted a group of seekers, and inspired classes which began on December 5, 1922, at Jones's New York residence. Later in California, the Sabian Assembly itself would formally emerge from classes conducted by Jones at Manly Palmer Hall's Church of the People in Los Angeles.
The Sabian Assembly has been in continuous formal existence since October 17, 1923. Selection of the term, "Sabian," formally adopted in January, 1928, proved fortuitous on a number of counts. "The students themselves picked the word Sabian, which was lucky because it afterward turned out that the Sabians were a Mohammedan group, and nobody knew just what they were. It is not a historically legitimate word for what we do, but it's a good substitute, and it did represent people who were interested in what was then astrology. Later Jones would derive the word from the Hebrew phrase "Yahweh Sabaoth" or Lord of Hosts, referring to the Hosts as the potentialities or basis of all study in the Sabian work and calling it a convenient term for the pre-Biblical Mesopotamian mysteries "in lieu of the much abused terms Chaldean and Magian." Significantly, the Koran entitles Sabians, Christians and Jews to toleration.
The proportion of astrologically- to philosophically-oriented students was then about fifty-fifty, a rough ratio that prevails today with the interweaving interests and techniques complementing each other. There are separate lesson series for astrology students in addition to the regular weekly issues of philosophy and Bible studies.
Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, 91, left this plane of existence on March 5, 1980, leaving the group and the work as his legacy. He once summarized his work with these words: "My personal contribution, of course, is a once-and-for-all matter to serve as groundbreaking or foundational work on which others can build their own characteristic way in their orientation to a world that continues to change as a necessity of its existence."
THE SABIAN WORK
Take charge of your life and destiny. In essence this is the message of Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, founding chancellor of the Sabian Assembly, a fellowship of mutually enjoyed tasks and interests that stimulates individual spiritual and social development and significant contribution to the real world about it. The Assembly functions with an absolute minimum of operating structure: an unpaid volunteer administrator located in New York and its legal arm, the Sabian Publishing Society, an incorporated non-profit educational entity. Voluntarism is a guiding principle. Officers and trustees are self-nominated and approved by vote of the society's members.
The Sabian Assembly, which Jones envisioned as a modern equivalent of Plato's Academy, may be described as a fellowship of aspirants who share a common consciousness — but not necessarily common immediate goals — guests at a vast smorgasbord, selecting from it what meets particular need, choosing different means to what may well be a common goal. The group has a relatively small enrollment that is international in scope, with members at this writing in Europe, Africa, North and South America, and Australia.
The Sabian student practices a self-directed solar discipline on a take-it-as-it-is basis, doing everything in as normal and conventional a pattern as possible. Solarity as a self-chosen and self-administered [inner-directed] pattern of growth is the mode of student/member development. There is no knuckling-under to external pressures or acceptance of externally administered disciplines that is the frequent practice of occult groups in the lunar or other-directed tradition. The Sabian Assembly's graded disciplines — neophyte, acolyte, and legate — are self-chosen and self-administered. Voluntary, non-monetary pledges mark entrance to each level of the work and there are lesson-sets, again self-chosen and self-administered, for the five-year acolyte discipline that leads to legate status. The entire course of discipline requires a minimum involvement of ten years.
Dynamic idealism, the more formal or academic classification of Sabian philosophy, is derivative in nature in the classic image of "standing on the shoulders of giants." Contemporaneously, its giants are John Dewey and his mentor, George Sylvester Morris, the subject of Jones' Ph.D. thesis, still in print. Nominalism is the covering school of thought. In nominalism, words and phrases are considered tools, with their meaning purely an individual matter, and whatever exists is defined by what it does, not by how it is described or identified. In dynamic idealism "Man is dynamic, central, real," said Marc Edmund Jones.
The Sabian foundational work is the Fons Vitae or Fountain of Life of Solomon ben Judah ibn Gabirol (Latin name: Avicebron), whose particular exposition of Aristotelian thinking places the core of reality in the now, a dominant concept in Sabian thinking. Aristotle, Plato, the Greek school in general and the Judeo-Christian religious tradition undergird the western philosophical contribution. Eastern influences include the Bhagavad-Gita, the Vedas, and the philosophy of Shankara.
Jewish poet and philosopher ibn Gabirol, living in 11th-century Spain, wrote his Fons Vitae as a traditional, master-student dialogue. The Arabic original was translated into Latin in the 12th century. This "all-important work," said Jones, "exemplifies the cabala as a marriage of poetry and philosophy." Gabirol's centralization of reality at the core of experience makes it ever a construct of the process of being, and the key to the whole shaping and refinement of Sabian realization.
In a primary sense the Sabian lessons represent the core of group activity. They provide a framework for interaction and set the tone of weekly group or individual studies. Briefly, there are 60 sets — 3,000 individual lessons, each averaging about 1,200 words. Members receive a weekly Bible lesson, a philosophy lesson, and a Blue Letter (written on blue paper) for instruction in "occult elements of self-enlightenment."
Jones described the materials as the Sabian "3Ps," and these are psychology, philosophy and personality. "Our psychology is behavioral or environmental, dealing with the mastery of facts, the techniques for handling problems, problems of thinking and the like. Our philosophy is idealistic for accomplishing the mastery of ideas. By personality we mean effective personality or mastery of conscious experience."
Jones wrote the Bible and philosophy lesson-sets in two phases, 1922-1933 and 1934-1945. The first lesson was dated July 2, 1924, and the last December 10, 1945. The lesson-sets are issued in a constant, approximate 20-year cycle of change, and bear the date of editorial reissue in a continuous rotation of materials that serves a special purpose that is particularly pertinent to individual or environmental circumstances. This is known as a screen of prophecy or what has been described as a screening-out of relevant parallel references to the real world by way of personal association through the passage of current events, be these events individual or happening in the world at large, which are seen by the Sabian group as having a useful occult or esoteric connection to the content of the lessons themselves.
Although the scholarship is impeccable, the lessons are not intentionally didactic. Essentially, they are an experience. "The work," said Jones, "is to sharpen, elevate, discipline the understanding, not to pack minds with information . . . The essence of the whole enterprise is a dynamic and living reality, not an objective or static something which can be put under the psychological microscope, to be criticized with pedantic preciseness . . . The deeper they plumb the more difficult it is to read them, or to understand the meaning in the first perusal. Every student must explore for himself the spirit of the original material and then direct his interest toward some use of it in his own affairs or in some ramification of his own interest."
"The Sabian lessons are a guide to the greater depth in any analysis of the heritage of the western world (1) spiritually in the Bible, (2) intellectually in the great philosophers springing out of the all-important Socratic group, and (3) emotionally or in the area of the heart and the non-rationalized aspiration and loyalty to the high insights found in various of the most beloved or most generally known or available presentations of symbolism and the poetic or oblique or titillating touch through to ultimate reality. In the lessons there is always the more or less canonized experience of the race as a whole as this can be a springboard for an individual realization."
"The purpose of the lesson material is to make available what a person needs. What he must keep in mind always . . . is that there is not primarily any communication of fact such as remains valid in isolation or abstraction, but instead what is provided fundamentally is an experience in thinking . . . Life as a whole is a continuous reconstruction of experience, and the lessons are a reconstruction of the total experience of the race as this has been caught and generalized in what a nice custom has come to identify as spiritual writings."
The following quotations are taken from comments made over the years on tape or in writing in various primary sources by Marc Edmund Jones.
"The sole justification of an occult group is the furthering of the various activities and processes by which all consciousness is cultured. The Sabian Assembly is an occult society…The occult group has a purpose. Its purpose is the same as any kind of constructive group. I mean a group that recognizes it is part of a culture, functions in that culture, primarily in the language of that culture, and primarily with the characteristic type of people making up that culture in the frame of their resources, of their capacities, their ideals, their hopes. We are an experimenting project and our goal is to locate if we can, clarify as we can, encourage as we can, specific individual group genius, or individual genius where a group of people working together exhibit something very much in common. The justification of the Sabian Assembly is its faithful maintenance of the vision of the common doing in which its members are brought together and given mutual strengthening in an eternal plussage that is to continue prior to anything lesser at all times.
"The spiritual democracy to which the Sabian work adheres without the least degree of compromise is the more effective procedure for dramatizing the spiritual self-sufficiency of the human soul since it establishes a type of nucleus that does not in any way encourage an unconscious desire to compel one person to conform to the ideas of another whether good or bad. There can be no real giving of self to life by trying to accentuate a separation of self from life, as life actually is found in the shared experience of man and his fellows as social animals. Without sharing there is no spirituality. We demand validation — validation through sharing. Because as others are willing to share, or share in the sharing, they validate. It's the validation of consensus — that upon which everything rests. Man is never an individual except in particular respects of his act and reaction. Of himself he is all men, whether he likes this idea or not. As he remembers that he must establish wonder in others to have it for himself, he begins to know the eternal rhythms on the spiritual as well as the material side of reality. The Sabian contribution to the individual is very largely the training he receives in refining and applying his ideas in a way free from the encrustation of the clichés of his own life.
"The basic ideal in a spiritual group is to avoid all administrative direction as far as this is possible…The real is self-actuating, and any interest given by others must be as spontaneous as [the individual's]. The elimination of group satisfactions as such can never be too greatly emphasized in spiritual work. Hence it would be entirely possible for our objective to make the world safe for living to become changed imperceptibly into a program to make the world safe for us who are striving to make the world safe for living and at long last to become the program to make the world safe for us who when we are safe at least propose to try to make the world safer for living . . .
"Human nature like all life must continue to be what it is, and our primary objective is to create agencies for the continuance of the higher or impersonal being in which every seeker is more than himself and thus perpetuates the exalted moments that inseminate everyday experience. Our ultimate goal is fundamentally the sort of contribution to life as a whole that was represented in former times by the Pythagoreans, or a furthering of individual genius that to the world is an individual and not a group matter."
The following quotations are taken from comments made over the years on tape or in writing in various primary sources by Marc Edmund Jones.
"What I am interested in is challenging people to stand up like men and women, face their problems, make something of themselves, and make a contribution to the world. I don't like flabbiness of character because I don't think it is godlike. We work toward a more intellectual understanding of our difficulties and a truer realization of their meaning, and, if anything, we seek deeper problems . . . We do not wish to make life easy but to find it interesting and satisfying in every depth of involvement.
"The Sabian Assembly does as much as it can for each individual without making an individual cling to the group for support. The work insists that we are as prepared now for our spiritual service as we ever will be and that the call for service is to dedicate ourselves and give of ourselves as we are. Thus our major charge to the seeker is to give attention to the continual refinement of the higher or spiritual potentials that of necessity must be quickened in the pattern of his own individuality, but our minor charge, through which alone the major will be effectuated is to return to the practical world for the validation and realization of each new dimension of achievement within self. Absolutely everything in the Sabian work is designated to contribute to the individual creating the magic of it for himself.
"The Sabian approach is an experimenting approach with the idea of establishing the best possible relationship in all situations — the capacity to make intelligent choices all along the line. Actually our work is the creation of an invisible fellow-feeling among us, and this is not directly social but rather is a real spiritual structure . . . We are building a proving ground or practice field or experimental laboratory for pure personality.
"The Sabian vision is not a picture; it is a doing . . . We are interested in getting people to see that insights which once held them can hold them forever. We are not making the world over. We are not making people over. We are simply fulfilling people in terms of what they really are. The genius of the Sabian work is that we train people to orient themselves in their own already possessed experience primarily.
"So we can say in the Sabian vision, Sabian work, Sabian enterprise that knowledge is our vital stuff. We interpret that a little differently in putting the emphasis not upon knowledge as a static deposit which has been preserved in books or can be engraved in the mind, subject to recall . . . We are not denying the place of knowledge, but we speak more of knowledge as a capacity of knowing. Or, I put it in down-to-earth terms and say that knowledge ultimately or knowledge fundamentally is know-how.
"It [the Sabian Assembly] is not a cult, not a religion, not a science, but an intellectually cooperative group interested in these things and wanting to study them. The function of a spiritual work is to provide the social structure of interchange of conditioning of different order that works inward instead of outward or is directed to a culture of self's eternal center rather than an experience endured for the race and its shifting patterns that stultify personal considerations. Apart from the valuable and necessary discipline of true initiation, which the occult group must provide directly or indirectly in one way or another, the purpose of spiritual association is that an individual may have opportunity to practice self-presence and exercise adultship and spiritual competency.
"The purpose of the work is to develop students who are interested in all this. And, who among them, will have those who can develop the capacity to do this sort of thing. That's my goal. The Solar path of initiation to which the Sabian Assembly is committed is the way of expression and outreach in which a given self remains irrevocably prior to all elements of its existence in every situation of question or issue. Nature herself evolves in the pattern of this Solar necessity, and according to convenience perhaps but really quite uncompromisingly always follows the path or function it has once established no matter how accidentally."
The following quotations are taken from comments made over the years on tape or in writing in various primary sources by Marc Edmund Jones.
"Healing is the constant element in all growth whether physical or spiritual . . . Healing thus is far more than the elimination of symptoms and is certainly more than a diminution of suffering. It is true aliveness. Let us here define healing as a process of adjustment or a technique of self-orientation in the continual development of a need for man to make and receive contributions from his immediate situations on the various planes of being . . . Thus all healing is an effort to endow a sufferer with the point of view adequate to permit his full opportunity for making proper choices and gaining life anew. There can be no real understanding of spiritual healing as such without some basic grasp of self at root. Healing brings about the necessary recognition of self by encouraging perspective in the self and making it possible for the self to act in relationship to the reality that otherwise denies it . . . An amputated hand cannot be restored literally, but it can in subjective fact by an adaptation of skills. Illness must be seen at all times as inherent, not in reality but in reality's perspective.
"Healing is never genuine when it seeks any root result other than a change in perception and consequently in attitude or inner perspective. We are dealing with wholes, not with parts. Everything remains whole and complete in and of itself. A part is a complete whole, in its own integrity. The basis of healing is a reconciliation in terms of the whole. So the basis of healing fundamentally is the matter of reconciliation with the self. The work in pure consciousness is the healing ministry, where mind functions in an overall perspective of eternal potentiality. Proper work in consciousness is particularly a soul agony of effort and not just a lazy relaxation into the spirit of let-George-do-it, George being the godhead.
"The word God is an element for the participant other than self in the religious experience. The attitude towards God which maintains an element of experience is assimilated to God as the presence of God. Individual or personal experience of God is possible whenever the soul has reached out of itself to the cosmic universality and so momentarily transcends its immediate limitation of being. God cannot extricate Himself from the world, and nothing is intellectually more naive than the notion that spirituality is personal extrication or achieving more of God by being less of what God must be and doing less than what God must do, or flowing fully and constantly into all of the least as well as the greater aspects of the whole.
"God is what He is because He does not derive from an anterior reality and does not depend on future certainty and is not in any way either limited or defined by spatial consideration. Man when he is taken in the image of God is at once removed from time and space in exactly the same manner. When man acts in God's nature, it is possible for God to participate in His own, and when man seriously stirs to awareness of the immortal flame within, he is creating God in a practical sense through the endless process in which every aspect of divinity is brought to center through self. A true spiritual work grows out of a cooperation of one self with as many others as possible in a continuousness of mutual and personal furthering of spontaneous creativity in every possible field. No individual ever achieved his salvation alone because it is only as two or three are gathered together in some group entity that a greater dimension of reality and existence is possible."