In pondering what makes New Dimensions stand out from the clutter of other programming and interviews now available one must look into the ancestral lineage of conversation covering a broad range of topics highlighting the changing of an age. These conversations have been building on one another for over 40 years, inspiring us to be conscious of the shifting tides of human culture as it is happening. Never before in human history have we been able to simultaneously be part of it and be witness to such a large shift in consciousness.
Each of us is blessed and shaped by our own unique aggregation of mentors, teachers, talents, and skills. Our assignment is to express the gift of the uniqueness that makes us who we are. Lately, I’ve been thinking about those who have been my mentors and teachers and what talents have been bestowed on my soul. What helpmates are walking with me to help me make the widest contribution I can possibly make? This is all tied in with the work I do which is the production and dissemination of the expanding story of a new age that can help the world work for everyone.
The unique contribution of New Dimensions cannot be separated from the mentors and teachers that have informed it, and me. These are not just mentors from afar, but they are close up. They became friends and held my hand (and Michael’s) as our work unfolded through the years and decades. Let me tell you about some of our early and current helpmates. They have grown my consciousness like the rings of a tree.
In the very beginning there was R. Buckminster Fuller, affectionately called Bucky. He was the inventor of the geodesic dome, and coined the term “Spaceship Earth.” We were privileged to spend hours and hours with him as he downloaded to us his visions of the future and how there is enough to go around for everyone. His innovative and positive vision of the future was infectious. It remains with me to this very day. I smile when I remember the last time we interviewed Bucky. By this time, we had long abandoned the original 4-hour format and were now a 1-hour production. Our experience was that, preceding every conversation, Bucky would invariably take us through a recitation of the entire history of humans on the planet. He considered that only by having the proper context would a useful conversation unfold. Sometimes he would take an entire day to lay out this context. In this last sitting and in response to Michael’s opening question, Bucky did, indeed, lay out that history. Forty minutes later Michael asked his second question. After it was all over I remember with vivid clarity Bucky putting his hand on Michael’s shoulder and exclaiming, “I got it down to 40 minutes just for you Michael.” What a precious moment that was. It was the last time we were with Bucky and he commissioned us to carry on the work that he laid out in his last book, Critical Path.
Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri, the founder of the Cultural Integration Fellowship and the California Institute of Integral Studies, and proponent of the integral philosophy of Sri Aurobindo in the west, was like a father to New Dimensions. Both he and his wife Bina mentored us from day one in this broadcasting endeavor. They encouraged us, held our hand, and revealed to us that we could make a difference and that the work of New Dimensions was important. Michael later served as board chairman for CIIS as a very small pay-back for their mentorship.
Besides the many interviews we did with Joseph Campbell, there were countless late night dinners in which he shared with us with the myths that make up our human culture. He was more than a teacher; he was a friend. I remember Michael asking him what the new myth for humanity would be. He said it is hard to predict a myth but he felt it had something to do with the rise of the feminine. After long and dedicated work by so many across the world, we can now see ourselves on the cusp of that manifestation.
Although Patricia Sun has not been as well-known as some others, she is truly a teacher’s teacher and was and is a most profound mentor for us. She saw into the soul of the work we are doing and her philosophy of wholeness continues to inform our work.
Barbara Marx Hubbard is and remains a close friend to New Dimensions and to me. She sponsored us to go to the pivotal radio conference in 1979 during which over 100 public radio stations signed up for the program series. She saw the contribution our programming was making to the telling of the new story and to our collective conscious evolution. We have had so many astounding adventures in the company of one another. May they continue!
We first met Dr. Andrew Weil when he was just back from traipsing the Yucatan looking for shamans in the early 1970s. We’ve followed his unfoldment as he has ours through the decades. We were privileged to co-produce a three-part radio series “Roots of Healing” which he co-hosted with Michael Toms.
We met Charley Garfield in the early 1970s, even before his work in “Peak Performance”. He was working with death and dying at that time and was the founder of the Shanti Project that was instrumental in bringing awareness to the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area. This relationship inspired us to bring death out of the closet and make it an integral part of the public conversation and our programming.
Robert Fuller was and is an incredible mentor to us. We started interviewing him early on regarding the Hunger Project. He is a physicist by training, but his true talent is being an educator and former president of Oberlin College. He is one of those unsung heroes who work mainly behind the curtain. His talent is to ask the critical questions that go below the current cultural challenges. For example, he has looked at what is underneath all the “isms” that currently divide humankind. He’s found that rankism and the abuse of power is underneath all “isms”. In a recent interview he said, “Once you’ve been able to formulate a question, you’re a lot closer to the answer than you might think. The really hard work is in coming up with the question. . . We’re trained to suppress our own questions because, in this society, it’s of value to be sure of yourself, so we don’t want to admit we have questions or that we’re questioning something fundamental about the culture or ourselves. But if you can, in quiet moments, listen to the nagging doubts that usually are borne home by what I call the witness.” Our respect and awe of Bob goes deep.
In more recent years we have been mentored by William McDonough, an anticipatory design architect who is looking at how we make things. We first became aware of his work when he wrote to us and asked us if we had any interviews or audio of R. Buckminster Fuller. We sent him 139 hours of cassette tapes (some of which have since been digitized). This started our long-standing conversations with Bill. He is a mentor for seeing the world from a design perspective, and for asking the right questions.
I’ll never forget a favorite moment with Bill, which is a touchstone for me. The scene was a fine spring day, and Michael and I were standing with Bill on his front porch. Recent rains combined with the bright sun made the entire scene sparkle like diamonds. A squirrel was running across the emerald lawn, and flowers were standing in a riot of colors: goldenrod, magenta, cornflower blue, indigo, and hot pink. I’d have needed a super-de-duper box of Crayolas to match the multitude of greens my eye was striving to take in. The three of us were talking about Bucky Fuller. Bucky would often correct people when they were talking about going into space. He would say, “We aren’t going into space, we are in space.” Bucky would add the fact that the earth is spinning at 1,040 miles per hour as we rip through space at 18.5 miles per second (about 66,660 miles per hour) in its orbit around the sun, and the Milky Way is barreling through space at 185 miles per second. On that memorable afternoon, Michael quoted Bucky as saying, “Form follows function.” Bill caught his breath in a rather pregnant pause, and Michael and I could see the wheels turning in his brain. He finally said, “Form follows function; function follows evolution; and evolution follows celebration.” Bill went on to say, “It’s not about survival of the fittest. It’s about those who celebrate the most being the true evolutionary winners. Nature is all about fierce celebration.”
Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche, and before him Tarthang Tulku, initiated us into the Buddhist teachings that are now so prevalent in American culture.
And, of course, we had the privilege of interviewing H.H. the Dalai Lama, first in Costa Rica and later in Dharamsala. We know we are not alone in being strongly influenced by the greatness of his loving being in the world. He is mentoring all of humankind.
I must also acknowledge to my personal mentor, the late Sedonia Cahill, who introduced to me the power of circles. She was a passionate advocate for nurturing and seeding circles and she became my best friend. My original women’s circle, first formed by Sedonia, has been meeting for over 35 years. We always light a candle for her and give thanks for the power of the circle and to her fierce advocacy for telling the truth.
I have come to recognize that my main talent is my innate curiosity. I cannot seem to set my tent up in any particular village no matter how hard I try. And, believe me, I’ve tried. Sometimes this feels like a burden because it’s tempting to seek the comfort of feeling that I’ve arrived at some overarching truth on which I may always rely. Just when I think I’ve found the biggest truth I know there has always been another, larger, more inclusive one to take its place. It feels to me like the growing rings of a tree.
I also have a natural enthusiasm for questing for that big truth. I used to try to reject that constant feeling of longing for something more. It has not been easy to forever be an explorer of consciousness. I sometimes feel like the albatross that is said to fly for 10,000 miles without landing, but like physicists exploring the Unified Field Theory of Everything, I just can’t help but continue the search.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t found treasures of wisdom along the way. There is no way I can hold back my excitement when I find another luminous nugget of insight. I’m like a kid on the beach discovering a seashell. I have to put it up to my ear and listen for the sea.
—Justine Willis Toms