The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician – Stories and Practices for Troubled Times

The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician: Stories and Practices for Troubled Times,

The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician: Stories and Practices for Troubled Times

Are you a Reluctant Metaphysician? A career change, an upsetting external event, a serious illness, a painful breakup, or an unravelling culture can all be invitations to enter a deeper world behind the world. You may not have chosen to go there, but you evolve thereby. This book weaves together stories and reflections to introduce teachings and practices from ancient wisdom traditions that illuminate our unique life path.

The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician speaks to the importance of having a holistic spiritual philosophy in our current times of the “great unraveling” of our personal, political, economic, cultural, and ecological world. Here you will find an integral approach to finding your life stance in troubled times. The metaphysical path is an “all vector approach” that incorporates both “spiritual” and “soulful” pathways, traditions of postural initiation such as Tai Chi, mythology, depth psychology, bodymind healing methods, a non-deterministic approach to astrology, and a multi-dimensional approach to the political sphere.

  • The Metaphysics of Myths: A metaphysician specializing in the art of symbolic process extracts primordial wisdom from mythic tales to help you navigate distressing times.
  • Age-old Energetic Metaphysical Traditions: A Tai Chi/Qigong teacher initiates you into age-old practices for keeping your sense of equanimity so that these upheavals don’t uproot you.
  •  The Metaphysics of Bodymind Healing and Psychotherapy: A leading-edge psychologist shares with you self-healing methods to deal with times of crisis and to find your life stance.
  • Astrological Metaphysics: Are you wondering about the profound changes that are going on in the world? Does it ever seem like some unseen hand has turned a gear in a mysterious cosmic clock? Here you’ll hear a prize-winning astrologer (who doesn’t believe in predictive astrology) tell you about planetary configurations that are synchronistic with these changes.
  • Political Metaphysics: You’ll discover how connecting to the world behind the world can help us cope with, and develop political actions for, the troubled times in which we live.

Dr. Mayer transmits stories, teachings, and practices from his multifaceted career that are so captivating, they may lead you to reluctantly take time out of your busy everyday life. Be forewarned… if you read this book you too may become a Reluctant Metaphysician!

Table of Contents

Preface — A Life Shaped by Stories, Dreams and Visions 

• My Parents, Scheherazade, and Other Master Storytellers

• The Stories That Shape Our Lives

Introduction — Stories: The Disaster Relief Kit of Your Life 

• Difficulties in Life: A Calling to the Path of the Reluctant Metaphysician

• What is a Reluctant Metaphysician?

• Towards a Holistic Model of Human Spirituality

• The Tapestry of This Book

• The Structure of This Book

•  Mount Analogue


1. Stories That Reveal and Heal: Stories and Practices That Change Our Lives

• Stories: The Spiritual Bones of Our Lives

• Putting Stories in your Disaster Relief Kit

  1. What to Do When the (Your) World Is Destroyed: The Story of Icanchu and Chuna
  2. Stories That Help Us Appreciate Our Uniqueness: Ugly Duckling
  3. The Coat of Many Colors We Each Wear: Joseph’s Story
  4. The Old Woman in the Cave: Frame Story of This Book

• Exercising Your Story Muscles

• Dreams

• Finding Your Sacred Note

• The Rabbi in the Woods

2. Our Bodies: Holders of the Keys to Self Knowledge 

• Fate: Hidden in Our Bodies

• My Childhood Energy Blocks

• Healing Practices and Healing Stores Are Borne from Our Bodily Diseases: A Metaphysical Perspective

3. Our Childhood Dreams: Keys to Our Karma and Dharma 

• Murdered by Nazis: A Lucid Repetitive Dream

• Keeping Mystery Alive as You Interpret Your Story

• Following the Hermeneutical Path of Interpretation

4. Two Rivers Become One: What is Your Power Spot in Nature Trying to Tell You? 

• Outward Introspection: Finding Our Deepest Selves in Nature

• My Life Path: Two Streams Joining

• Healing Traditions Based in Nature

• The Problem with Following Your Unique Vision

5. A Lawyer Abducted by Metaphysical Forces: The Wider Forces That Can Change Our Destinies 

• My College Years: Sprouting the Seeds of a Metaphysical Life

• Woodstock: Social Forces and Psychedelic Experiences

• Changing Occupational Paths Mid-Stream: My Father’s Disappointment

• A Lawyer, Captured by Astrological Forces?

• The Actualization of Fate? An Astrological Pathway Opens

• The Transformative Forces of the Cosmos

• Ananke—The Goddess of Necessity

6. The Land Where the Sun Rises in the West and Sets in the East 

• The New School for Social Research

• Healing Anxiety with the Secret of the Golden Flower: My First Teaching Job—Montclair State

• Revolution of Consciousness and the Psychedelic Revolution

• Dream of the Land Where the Sun Rises in the West

• Following the Hero’s Call to Move to the West

• Parcival’s Quest for the Holy Grail

• Dangers in Answering the Metaphysical Calling

7. Four Shaman: The Esalen Institute Calling 

• Telegraph Avenue and the Counter-Culture: Mythology Comes Alive on the Streets

• Esalen Institute: Center of the Human Growth and Potential Movement

• The Four Shaman Dream

8. What’s Your and My True Name? 

• My Doctoral Years: Saybrook Graduate School

• Financial Struggles during My Doctoral Years: Teaching at Laney College

• Opening the Door to the Metaphysical Inner World

• Pre-Modern Metaphysical Views of Our Life’s Purpose: Opening to the Genii within

• Exploring the Western and Eastern Initiatory Traditions

• My Flowering at Saybrook’s Doctoral Psychology Program

• My Forty-Night Vision Quest

• Shamanic Dismemberment and the Quest to Find Our Soul’s Purpose

• The Metaphysical Aliments of Our Times

• Mythogems of Our Life’s Purpose

• Carrying Forward the Vision: The Quest for Our “True Names”

• Is There Something to This Astrology Stuff, and Are the Words That Open the Door to Our Inner Genii’s Cave Astrological Symbols?

9. Living a Metaphysical Life 

• The Baal Shem Tov, Master of the Holy Name’s Influence on My Life

• My Name: Connected to Michael Maier, the Alchemist

• The Metaphysics behind Our Life Choices

• Carrying Forth the Vision: Teaching at JFK University—While Sleeping in the Woods

10. Meetings with Remarkable People and Traditions 

• Seeing Yourself in All Beings, and All Beings in Yourself

• Manly Hall and the Founding of JFK University’s Transpersonal Psychology Program

• Dane Rudhyar

• Eugene Gendlin

• James Hillman and the Archetypal Psychology Tradition

• Ken Wilbur

• Larry Dossey

• Kozoko Onodera

• Ram Dass

• Fong Ha and My Other Tai Chi and Qigong Masters

• Jewish Renewal

• Conclusion: How Should We Approach Meeting a Remarkable Person

11. Practices to Guide Our Lives 

• Introduction

• The Secret of the Golden Flower

• The River of Life

• Experiential Dimensions of the Golden Flower Practice: How Taoist Saliva Swallowing Saved My Life in the Desert in Israel

• Standing Meditation Qigong

• Tai Chi Chuan

• Outward Introspection

• Developing Our Own Metaphysical Practice System in Everyday Life

• The Hawaiian Flute Master

• Practicing the Opposite of Your Favorite Metaphysical Practice

12. Dancing with Deer, Not Dancing with Wolves 

• Keeping Your Life’s Vision Alive by Rituals of Returning to the Source

• Dancing with Deer

• Animism and the Animal Forms of Qigong

13. What is the Origin of Tai Chi? A Transmission from Bear Creek Mountain 

• Meditating on the Essence of Things in Nature

• The “True Origin” (in the Mythic Sense) of Tai Chi

• Tai Chi: A Postmodern Metaphysical View—Continued

• Using the Imaginal in Your Tai Chi Practice

14. The Greek Mystery Cave: The (Real?) Uterus of the Great Mother 

• The Cave of the Oracle of Delphi

• Plato’s Story of the Cave: The World behind the World

• Second Visit to the Cave

• Initiation into Psycho-Archeological Realities: The Dragon and the Earth Mother

• The Initiatory Dimensions of the Journey into the Cave at Delphi

• Psycho-Historical Dimensions

• Cave Creation Myths: Weaving Tales to Create New Ways of Being

• A Ritual for Opening: The Imaginal Caves in Our Lives

15. The Story-Telling Psychotherapist 

• Introduction

• Stories I Tell My Patients: The Monkey and the Banana, Odysseus and the Sirens, Buddha and Sickness Demon, the Jewish Farmer, Perseus and Medusa

• Healing with the Elements: Transpersonal Hypnosis for a Writer’s Block

• The Mythic Journey Process: Transforming Your Demons

  1. Case Illustration: A Critical Perfectionist’s Mythic Journey Process
  2. Case Illustration: The Passive-Aggressive Ostrich—Healing Trauma and Withdrawal
  3. Case Illustration: The Desperately Grasping Parrot—Healing Abandonment and Neediness

• Not Just Stories Change Our Lives: Songs, Postures and Movements

16. Joining Two Streams: Ancient Sacred Wisdom Traditions and Modern Psychotherapy 

• The Seeds of Creating a Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy

• Weaving Together Qigong, Somatic Approaches to Psychotherapy, Ancient Sacred Wisdom Traditions, Energy Psychology, and Qigong

• Joining Ten Streams to Create Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy

• Creating a New Origin Myth for Psychology

• Using the Astrological Mandala as a Psychotherapeutic Meta-system

• Joining the Streams of Energy and Psychology

• Joining the Streams of Qigong and Psychotherapy

• What Psychotherapy and Qigong Give Each Other

• Joining Ten Streams to Make a Bodymind Healing Qigong

• Revisioning Metaphysics

17. The Path of the Reluctant Metaphysical Healer: Tapping on the Self-healing Secrets of the Gods  

• The Path of the Reluctant Metaphysical Healer

• Creating a Healing Metaphysics: Journey to the Temple of Aesclepius

• Joining the Two Streams: In My Private Practice as a Psychologist and at an Integrative Medical Clinic

  1. Joining Two Streams: Qigong and Psychotherapy
  2. A Turning Point Patient: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

• Integrative Healthcare

• An Integral Approach to Hypertension

18. Changing Your Life Stance: Trance-forming Your life’s Story 

• Seeing the Sacred in the Gestures of Everyday Life

• What Creates Change in Psychotherapy?

• Shape-shifting in the Shamanic Cave of Creation

• The Case of the Repulsing Monkey

• A Dream of the Energy-Stream, Vacuum Cleaner in Reverse: Empowerment in Relationship to My Inner Foe

• Psychotherapy as Changing Your Life Stance

19. Weakling Scholar Learns the Secrets of Internal Arts’ Empty Force 

• My Experience: Bullies, Qi, and the No-Sword School

• Crane Splitting Hands: Weakling Scholar Uses Empty Force to Protect Himself

20. Four Crows Joining: The Reluctant Metaphysics of My Father’s Death

• Metaphysical Rituals for Death and Dying

• Four Crows Joining

• Synchronicity and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos

• A Metaphysical Plane Ride

• A Mourning Ritual: Rising in a Plane with the Full Moon

21. War on Healers, the American Culture and the Environment 

• The Dark Side of Storytelling: A Spider’s Web That Can Capture Your Soul

• Uranus: God of the Imagination Lives in Modern Advertising

  1. Fundamentalist’s Stories and the Myopia of the Cyclops
  2. The Fair and Balanced Storyteller versus Taking a Stance
  3. Texas Book Controversy and Modern Psychological Education

• The Wider Frame Stories—Cultural, Economic, Potitical, Environmental

  1. Culture Wars
  2. War on Our Economy
  3. War on Healers: War on Psychotherapists
  4. War on Plant Medicines
  5. War on the Environment

• The Predatory Birds that Control Our Lives

• War against Students

• The Solution: Listening to Stories with Our Hearts

22. Pelican Sinks Its Qi: A Calling from Nature to Us Humans 

• A Message from the Wildlife at Esalen Institute

• The Solution Lies in Consciousness and the Awareness of Story

• Pelican Practices and Cross-Cultural Stories: A Saving Grace for Our World

• The Avatar Movie, Anima Mundi, and Hope for Our World

23. To My Children’s, Children’s Children 

• Reflections on My Generation’s Contribution to Experiential Metaphysics

  1. Meditative Disciplines
  2. Metaphysical Ecology and the Wider Whole of Which We Are a Part

• Turning Our Metaphysical Eyes Heavenward: The Astrological Metaphors Hidden in Current Planetary Changes

• Turning our Metaphysical Eyes Earthward: Cooperating with Nature

• Energetic Healing

• The Reluctant Metaphysician Transformed: The Grateful Metaphysician

• The Last Hippie Standing: Standing Mediation and Finding Your Life’s Stance

Appendix I: List of Selected Stories

• Author’s Personal Stories

• Mythic Tales, Quotes, and Cross-Cultural Teaching Stories

• Patient Illustrations

Appendix II: List of Practices

Appendix III: What Psychotherapy and Qigong Give to Each Other

Appendix IV: Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy’s Contributions to the Field of Bodymind Healing

A. Contributions to Psychotherapy and Behavioral Healthcare

B. Contributions to Energy Psychology

Appendix V: Author’s Background, Training, and Contributions to Tai Chi and Qigong

Appendix VI: Quotes about Death

Dr. Michael Mayer has helped numerous people through his knowledge of psychotherapeutic principles, internal martial arts practices, and life style enhancement.

Readers of this book will find Dr. Mayer’s personal story an engrossing one, and may be motivated to recast their own beliefs and behaviors, even reluctantly, into a metaphysical mode.

Stanley Krippner, Ph.D.
Alan Watts Professor of Psychology
Saybrook University
Co-author, Personal Mythology

In the 1970s Dr. Michael Mayer began his study of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong with me. With continuous diligence, devotion, and skill he grows and ages with me as faithful student and friend. It delights my eyes and warms my heart to witness the masterful way Dr. Mayer creates a joining of hands between Eastern and Western spiritual traditions in this book.

Fong Ha
Internationally recognized grandmaster
of Tai Chi Chuan and Yi Chuan Qigong

Behind the veil of our everyday experiences there is another reality that beckons our attention. Michael Mayer’s revelations in this domain are a guide for anyone who desires a richer and more fulfilling experience of life. If you think life must contain more juice than you have known so far, this book is for you.

~ Larry Dossey, MD
Author: Healing Words

When I look back at my journey as a Reluctant Metaphysician, it seems as though my life, along with others,  has served as a dedication to the re-enchantment of the cosmos. Has some wider force than myself used my life as an example to show me, and others, how to re-sacralize the body, the world of dreams, human posture and movements, nature, and our relationship to the universe itself? It certainly seems as though some cosmic trickster picked the most unlikely person, ensconced in the world of rationality, to illustrate metaphysical lessons about the world behind the world. (Or, maybe not so unlikely of a choice, this Being wisely chose a person who could tell a good honest story and make a cogent argument for a good cause.) Regardless, this trickster deity abducted a person like me and filled my life with incredible, metaphysical, and synchronistic stories in order to say, “If it could happen to a sceptic like him, it could happen to you.”

Richard Tarnas, a prolific metaphysician, encapsulates this view of an enchanted relationship to the cosmos through his “Two Suitors Parable.” To compare the disenchanted mechanistic universe of modern cosmology to the view of the enchanted cosmos, he poses a thought experiment and asks that you imagine that you are the universe,

Would you open most deeply to the suitor… who approached you as though you were essentially lacking in intelligence of purpose, as though you had no interior dimension to speak of, no spiritual capacity or value; who thus saw you as fundamentally inferior to himself…; who related to you as though your existence were valuable primarily to the extent that he could develop and exploit your resources to satisfy his various needs, and whose motivation for knowing you was ultimately driven by a desire for increased intellectual mastery, predictive certainty and efficient control of you for his own self-enhancement? Or would you, the cosmos, open your self most deeply to that suitor who viewed you as being at least as intelligent and noble as worthy a being as permeated with mind and soul, as imbued with moral aspiration and purpose, as endowed with spiritual depths and mystery as he? To whom would you reveal your deepest truths (Tarnas, 2007, p. 39)?

When we view the events of life with a symbolic eye, metaphysical teachings of the cosmos are transmitted, synchronicities seem to increase, and a re-animism of life takes place. If the most rational among us just acts as if the universe is enchanted and meaningful, that “creative Being” may kiss us on our eyes and touch our hearts—the cosmos can become our lover and soul mate.

The initiation into the pathway of the Reluctant Metpahysician can come from a career change, an upsetting external event, a serious illness, a painful breakup, or an unravelling culture. Each of these can serve as an invitation to enter a deeper world behind the world. Places in nature, people we meet, our dream life, and visions we have can all help us to “trance-form” our life stance.

To see the particular stories of my journey as a Reluctant Metaphysician, please see the book. To see a summary of some of those tales see the list of Personal Stories.

List of Selected Stories
(from Appendix I of The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician

– List of Author’s Personal Stories –

Chapter 1:

  • The Tree of Life: In My Back Yard

Chapter 2:

  • My Childhood Energy Blocks

Chapter 3:

  • Murdered by Nazis: My Lucid Repetitive Dream

Chapter 4:

• My Life Path: Two Streams Joining

Chapter 5:

 Dandelions Are Not Just Weeds

Woodstock: Social Forces and Psychedelic Experiences

• A Lawyer Captured by Astrological Forces?

• My First Philosophy Class: An Introduction to Metaphysics

Chapter 6

My First Teaching Job-Montclair State

•Dream of the Land Where the Sun Rises in the West

• Don’t Worry Dad, I’ll Still Be a Lawyer; but I’ll Be a Lawyer for the Body, Mind, and Spirit

• Dangers in Answering the Hero’s Call: My Journey to California

Chapter 7:

• Telegraph Avenue in the Early 1970’s: Mythology Comes Alive on the Streets

• Esalen Institute: The Four Shaman Dream

Chapter 8:

• My Vision Quest: Deer Kissing Eyes

• Carrying Forth the Vision: Teaching at JFK University While Sleeping in the Woods

Chapter 9:

• Am I a Direct Descendent of the Baal Shem Tov?

• The Kabbalistic Connection Between My Name and the 16th Century Alchemist and Court Physician, Michael Maier

• Almost Arrested for Sleeping in the Woods

Chapter 10:

• Meeting with Manly Hall: Author of The Secret Teachings of All Ages

• The Founding of JFK University’s Transpersonal Counseling Program

• Meeting with Dane Rudhyar: A Foremost Astrologer of Our Age

• Meeting with Dr. Eugene Gendlin: Originator of “Focusing” and A.P.A.’s Most Distinguished Psychologist of the Year

• Meeting Ken Wilber: My Cat Has a Question for You

• Teaching My Cat to Give Massages

• Meeting Larry Dossey: Is Splitting Intention and Energy a False Dichotomy?

• Meetings with Kozoko Onodera—A Polarity Therapy Healer

• Stalking Deer in the Woods with Yi Chuan Qigong Walking Meditation

• Meetings with Master Fong Ha and other Tai Chi/Qigong Masters

• Transforming Coldness with Standing Meditation Qigong

• Meetings with Hana Matt: A Jewish Renewal Teacher


Chapter 11:

• How Taoist Saliva Swallowing Saved My Life in the Desert in Israel

Standing Meditation, the River of Life, and Scuba Diving: Opening of the Taoist Door to the Sea of Elixir

• The Hawaiian Flute Master: A Cross-cultural View on Honoring Your Departed Loved Ones

Chapter 12:

• Dancing with Deer-Not Dancing with Wolves

Chapter 13:

• My Vision of the Origin of Tai Chi

Chapter 14:

• My Visit to the Cave of the Oracle of Delphi

Chapter 15:

Healing with the Elements: Transpersonal Hypnosis for a Writer’s Block

Chapter 16:

• Meeting Dr. Bessel Van de Kolk: Advocating for Qigong Empowerment for Trauma Victims

Chapter 18:

A Dream of the Energy-Stream, Vacuum Cleaner in Reverse: Empowerment in Relationship to My Inner Foe

Chapter 19: 

• Tai Chi Self-defense in a Bar in Hawaii

• Crane Splitting Hands: Weakling Scholar Uses Empty Force to Protect Himself

Chapter 20

• Four Crows Join When My Father’s Dies

• A Mourning Ritual: Rising in a Plane with the Full Moon

 Chapter 22 

• Pelican Sinks Its Qi on My Car

Buy Now

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