Some More of My History

By way of introduction, I feel it is important to say that as humans, in fact as any life form, we are creatures of great polarities.

We exist strung between enormous duality – sleep and waking, male and female, pain and pleasure, light and darkness, Day an Night, life and death, and death and resurrection, war and peace, matter and anti-matter, negative and positive, the void and bodily existence. To be whole we need to accept and meet these opposites. In the pursuit of love we need to recognise that we must integrate the other gender to become whole. See Archetype of the Paradigm

One of the great paradoxes of our lives is that we constantly go through such enormous changes every day. Each of us is immersed in a ‘river’ of constant change. If you think about it, you have been carried, pushed, impelled by this current as you were moved through babyhood, childhood, teenage and adulthood, and there are more stages of growth beyond adulthood. And as we pass through these changes we die to our old self in order to change to the new. We actually experience ‘dying’ but most people are so out of touch with death, because they are scared of it, that they do not recognise the experience as such.

I use the words ‘death’, ‘life’ and ‘inner world’ a great deal, and to make what I write understandable I need to explain where I get these ideas from, because most people do not understand.

To start with, while we sleep our conscious self is largely or totally unconscious, and while we dream our voluntary muscles are paralysed – therefore another will or motivating force moves our body and creates our dreams. So, in life and sleep we have two powerful actions working in us. The first is our waking experience based on having a body, its limitations, vulnerabilities and a particular gender. This is our Conscious Will. Our second Will is the power that gives us life and in fact runs all our important life processes, such as our heartbeat and digestion, and in sleep continues to express as dreams. This is our ‘life’, to which I have given the description Life Will. See Opening to Life

That is not a new idea.  Many ancient thinkers and writers have expressed it in one way or another. For instance, Jakob Boehme, who lived between 1575 and 1624, wrote:

Thou must consider that there are in thy Soul two Wills, an inferiour Will, which is for driving thee to Things without and below; and a superiour Will, which is for drawing to Things within and above. These two Wills are now set together, as it were, Back to Back, and in a direct Contrariety to each other; but in the Beginning, it was not so.

Here is an experience of my own:

In 1953, when I was sixteen, and already deeply interested in the possibilities of the human mind, I took a course in deep relaxation. I practised every day for three months, tensing my muscles, relaxing them, then passing my awareness over and over my body, dropping the feeling of tension and letting go. After three months I was quite proficient. One evening, after coming home from dining out with friends, I went to bed thinking I would leave my usual practice, but in the end decided to practice even though it was late. After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and – my whole body.

It was like falling through a trap-door into the stars. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless awareness. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So, we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.

“I felt at the time, and still believe it correct, that I had fallen asleep yet remained awake. Waking, critical awareness had been taken through the magic doors of sleep into a universe we seldom ever see – deep dreamless sleep.”

The world I entered was a completely different world than waking consciousness – I call it the ‘inner world’, and it gives one access to areas of experience normal waking life does not.

Now, coming to my use of the word ‘death’, I use it to mean that any one of us can enter the inner world if we know how to die to our own ego and conscious, thinking mind. So, as described above, I have learnt to die to my conscious self by entering that amazing and huge world. But to understand it you need to know things your education may have missed.

So, an egg and sperm are tiny single celled creatures. That is where we began our life as a human body, in the slime of our human mating. The next two stages of our evolution expressed as cells dividing and increasing in  number, resembles the activities found in many simple living things such as plants. The twenty day old embryo develops four brachial grooves, which in the embryo of a fish grow into gills. At this point the formative forces which produce a fish are active, as were the formative forces of a plant at an earlier stage. These are then supplanted by forces which bring about features of the potential mammalian upright animal we could be. See Levels of the Brain and Dreams – Programmed 

There is such a thing as eternal existence, for a cell doesn’t become old it is immortal, for it keeps dividing and doesn’t die. In dividing it constantly creates copies of itself, but as it gathers new experience, it changes what is copied, so becomes the ‘seed’ for multi-cellular organism. But no plant or creature grows from a dead seed, and each living seed carries within it all the past gathered from all its forebears. So, the seed in your mother’s womb is as old as and even older than human kind, and you carry that wisdom or memories in you. But in this life you developed a new brain, and the memories you gathered this time are what you built your personality from, but beneath that is a very ancient self. So we, our ego, our personality and body are ways the eternal life, the cell, can gain new experience, which is all carried in the seed. To explore it see Opening to Life

So when I mention Life in this work, I am referencing the huge possibilities that are open to us all, once we have learnt how to still the ego and calm the surface life in order to access our inner world. See Keyboard Condition – Virgin – How I became One

My own observations on the subjects I write about arise from having lived a long and full life, much of which has been given over to the study of my own and others’ inner lives, with the result being that I am able at times to have a broader view than many.

In my journey I have had many realisations about myself. One was I saw I am so bloody independent. Jesus wept. I have this feeling in me that I have no urge to follow the tracks that most people tread. I don’t want to go where all the tourists go, I want to see what is over here, through these trees, over this hill, in this cave.

At one time I felt myself in a quiet space. I was back in the big space of the mind, and I sensed a huge presence, something big that I could not yet define. I realised that most of my life I had explored this ocean of the mind alone.

Then the huge unknown began to enter into my awareness. I felt the presence of an enormous creature rising to the surface of something like a swamp or a body of water. At first I thought it might be a whale, but as I paid attention to what was happening it defined into a huge crocodile.

This huge creature looked at me and said, “Tony, join me.”

I laughed at this because it was so huge, and with so many associations of swallowing things, that I said something like, “What do you mean join you? Don’t you mean that you want to eat me?”

The creature replied to me, “No. No, it’s not like that, I’m just like a submarine. I have all these lives in me. I have many, many lives in me. I am life. I contain the many. You can swim this ocean alone Tony, if you wish. Or you can join me, you can join the many. You can always, if you choose to live your independent life again, and leave us.”

I laughed here because I had the image of me being independent, stripping off, diving over the side of the boat into the ocean and swimming off. It is something I have often done in the sea, swimming long distances alone, or off to an island out to sea, by myself.

I began to give myself to that great creature which I now understood as the collective unconscious, the unity of lives. It felt as if it was absolving me, much as I had experienced earlier on. (One of those strange and beautiful, and also moving coincidences just happened. I am reading this in using voice recognition, and it is proving to be very accurate. But in the sentence where I said that I felt it was – and the word was supposed to be absorbing me – the software used the word absolving. And here I am again, back in the ocean, weeping as I know there is no judgement on the life I have led so alone and cut off.)

This has set off a whole train of realisations here in the present. I see what an extraordinary journey I have been on in my life, a journey stretching out of the distant past. A journey that has led me into my relationship with D, and in that relationship the unveiling of an extraordinary understanding. The long, long road of meeting myself, the gradual undoing of the web of influences that I wove in some distant time. And today it seems so clear, that the key to our relationship – D. and I – is in this renewing of ourselves, this undoing of the webs we have woven in the past. In my case the influences resulting from the lives in which I distanced myself from humanity, in which I cut my life adrift from those I loved, of being hard and rigid in love. This is so clear to me today.

I have the feeling that loves I have held at a distance, or even pushed away in the past, are gathering to me again. I am given so much love, and considering, as I have often felt, that this dried up stick of a man hasn’t a lot in him to love, I am amazed at the beauty of people and the love they give me, perhaps saved for me over many lives.

More of My Story

Tony with Sheila Johns and Mike Tanner
At the end of 1971 a friend Sheila Johns asked me to teach her yoga as a private student. At the time I felt so ill and depressed I said to Sheila how could I teach anyone feeling as I did. So I suggested we start an explorative session to see if there was a way I or we could find healing. When the group started another friend, Mike Tanner came too. So we started a small experimental group to explore the connection between dreams and spontaneous movement, as it was used in many ancient cultures – such Seitai, Shaktipat and the Pentecostal experience. This turned into a revelatory experience for me and I began the slow path of real self discovery.
While talking to Jack Thompson the Australian film star, he told me he had been taught Tai Chi by a Chinese teacher. For three years the teacher had him perform the given movements. Then one day he said to Jack “Now I will show you the real Tai Chi.” He then encouraged Jack to allow spontaneous movement. See Opening to Life to see what it was about.

The group developed and became a focus for people interested in alternative health and self help. With the help and support of Mike Tanner and Sheila Johns I started one of the first ‘personal growth’ centres in the UK, and ran it in Devon from 1972 until 1980. The centre, Ashram, in Combe Martin, was a focus for psychotherapy, personal growth and yoga in the South West at that time, and was the nucleus for several ‘LifeStream’ groups elsewhere.

This work gained recognition from recognised Humanistic Psychology authorities. David Boadella wrote in Self And Society (the official magazine of Humanistic Psychology)

“The most powerful advocate of this kind of mutual help process in England, has been Tony Crisp. Tony Crisp developed methods of working with bodily charge, breathing, muscular tensions, and the contact and energy of small groups, quite independently of Reich, Janov, Lake or Lowen. …. I regard him as the best exponent I know of what I should like to call the ‘democratic’ approach to working with emotional and bodily energies.”

While this was gong on I was holding down a full time job to feed my family, Marco was born 1960 – Helen in 1962 – Neal in 1964 – Leon in 1970 and Quentin in 1972. I always wanted a big family, being an only child I wanted more family around me.

One of the approaches that developed out of our explorations we called the Seed Group. It started as a form of free meditation and unfolded into a very powerful means of self exploration and spiritual experience. S.M. Chrem, in The Role of Energy In The Psychotherapeutic Process says, “It seems to us that although the body therapies described claim to practice organismic self-regulation techniques, all of them have highly developed structures in their therapeutic approaches. The least structured approaches in which the process of self-regulation is much more respected are best exemplified by the work of David Boadella and Tony Crisp.”

Jo May, writing about one of the techniques I developed in our self-help groups says: “About eighteen years ago in a workshop I came across a small group structure called the Seed Group. The workshop was being run by Tony Crisp and was essentially about emotional expression via the body. The Seed Group was later developed by David Boadella into his form of working with small groups, and certainly up until a few years ago when I last had contact with him, formed the basis for his training’s in Biosynthesis. Tony Crisp’s Seed Group may also have been one of the first structures for working with people therapeutically in small groups. Most groupwork up to that time, as I recall, seems to have been within the context of a whole group,” with a leader all the time in charge. The seed group was all self regulatory – peer run. See

LifeStream is a summary of my approach to human potential and what I learned from Seed work and self-regulation groups. I never charged for these groups, though if it was weekend or longer courses we suggest donations. What happens may differ each time, for the unconscious is very creative. In symbols, or in direct experience, something of your own nature will be expressed in the drama of growing. As you practice, any stiffness of feelings or hesitancy will lessen. The theme of what emerges will become clearer and more fully felt.

Judith, who teaches a yoga class, describes her use of this approach to LifeStream as follows:

“…. I felt as if I were the bud of a crocus. I seemed to be slowly unfolding with difficulty. Not until I fully opened did I feel a great relief. The results of this have made me feel very positive in my outlook, and far happier…..I am a trainee yoga teacher and have been teaching for three years. I have a small class of fourteen students who are keen and attend regularly. I decided to have my students try LifeStream to see how they would react. I explained it as well as I could, and the feedback I got was:

A man in his thirties said, ‘I felt I was in a womb. It was very comfortable, cosy and dark. I wanted to stay there. I didn’t want to come away – it was so peaceful. I have never experienced anything like it before.’ He was very impressed. A woman in her thirties felt like throwing her arms around and kicking her legs. ‘I felt I wanted to give birth and was about to deliver.’ She didn’t fling herself about, but held back. I think it was a pity she didn’t let go. Perhaps I didn’t explain the whole procedure clearly enough for them to understand that it was entirely free movements. The majority acted out being flowers. Only one in the class thought it was a lot of ‘bloody rubbish’, her words. She didn’t even try. She thought she would feel stupid acting out a seed. I personally was surprised at the outcome, that so much should happen first time.”

When using the starting point of the seed, we are giving the unconscious a ready made structure to work with. Because we may be unfamiliar with a completely unstructured approach to our inner processes, such a structure gives at least some sense of familiarity and confidence. Even so, some people find they want everything fully described, scripted or choreographed.

The very point of LifeStream however, is to begin moving beyond the known in ourselves, towards creative newness and the unexpected. So even if some anxiety is felt, as with the woman Judith describes who defends her anxiety of the unknown by calling the exercise ‘bloody rubbish’, one needs to gradually move beyond such resistant feelings. See

Art by Carlos Caban a great visionary artist. An illustration of the huge inner world.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved