William Samuel: Tranquility & Awareness
William Samuel grew up in Mountain Brook, Alabama a small village to which he returned as an adult after fighting in WWII and living in the Orient. "The Universe is my home, but I choose to walk the fields and quiet hills of Alabama."
Born in 1924, he was commissioned a Lieutenant at age 18 and fought in WWII:
I was ... a captain of infantry in two long wars. I lived with Chinese infantry troops in the field for nearly three years subsisting with them, nearly starving with them. The few American soldiers in China had very little support from the United States during World War II. We were at the end of the world's longest supply line, and anything that reached us from home had been flown over Japanese occupied countries, over the great Himalayan Mountains into Kunming, thence to be trucked and packed in by animals to us, wherever we might be.
I didn't live very well during those years. My last year in China, as the great war came to an end, I joined Chinese troops who were actively engaged against the Japanese and fought in the battles that recaptured Ishan, Liuchow and Kwelin.
During that fighting, Bill came under the tutelage of his Chinese interpreter, a Mr. Shieh, who was a Taoist master:
Let me write a Glimpse or two from those days. First, harking back to China, Mr. Shieh and I, with five American teammates, were being pursued by a Japanese combat patrol. We were "retrograding," bringing up the rear of our little patrol, trying to get back to the safety of friendly lines. We were close to being captured. In those days, neither the Japanese nor Chinese "gave quarter." That is we took no prisoners. I knew that if I were taken by the pursuing Japanese, it meant certain death. On the other hand, Mr. Shieh might successfully pass himself off as a Chinese peasant. Oh, I cannot write this story! At this minute it is enough to remember Mr. Shieh seeing and pointing out the beauty of those purple blooms on the distant mountain we had yet to climb. I marveled at a man who could see beauty under such oppressive circumstances. I marvel more that he helped me learn to do it.
After the war, I think he lived in the Orient for several years, possibly studying under Shieh, although my information is sketchy. A few years later, he found himself back in a war zone again:
In Korea ... I commanded King Company, 279th Infantry Regiment. Things were much harder for me in Korea's combat than in the long, strange war in China. Being older didn't help me in Korea, nor did I have wise old Mr. Shieh at Korea's great Sandbag Castle or at Vulture's Roost on the 38th Parallel.
It was during one of the battles in Korea when Bill Samuel had such a revelation:
It is interesting that I've never written about those days, even though I've told of the learning events to seekers who have come to visit here in Alabama. I especially relished telling such tales to the metaphysical "absolutists" or to the young zealot idealists who arrived expecting only gentle words of peace from a Godly teacher. Since stories of strife, warfare and suffering are the last thing those people expect to hear from a "metaphysician," that's often what they got.
Show me a revelation and I'll show you a traumatic event from which that Light emerged....
During the Korean War, an artillery round burst among my men on the left flank. Several bodies were hurled about and I ran to see the extent of the damage and whether the platoon leader was still effective. Sick to my stomach at the sight, I sat down among three of the bodies sprawled along the slope. I became aware of a visual "Presence" hovering beside them. A misty, blue-white light of sorts. A different kind of light, primal, persuasive and powerful. I could not explain what I saw then, nor can I now, but with the sight, and because of the sight, I was absolutely certain within myself I was being shown evidence of the deathlessness of Life the survival of the Child, the Soul of men. I felt a marvelous sense of relief, almost gratitude, concerning those men and everything happening that day. Within a few minutes of that incident, my regiment, and my part of the line in particular, was hit by an enormous wave of shell fire and oncoming Chinese troops. Hell erupted in a manner that no one can sufficiently describe or picture for another. One simply must experience something like that to fully understand....
And that Arjuna-like soldier (whose demeanor may have been similar to that described by the opening lines of Richard Rose's autobiographical blank verse "Three Books of the Absolute": Out of the valley of the river came a wanderer. Peace was in his eye and his soul was wrapped in Nirvana) became a gentle teacher of tranquility and awareness.
That particular hellfire and damnation in Korea lasted four nights and three days, without sleep for my troops and me. I have never forgotten the different time frame and the enwrapping inner peace nor how I was held and supported during that time or non-time.
More significant, that Peace has not forsaken me since those days, at least not when I was mindful of It nor when the chips were down and I called for It. How do I call for It? I bring forth the Child of Me....
The final tone in this Overtone: The day I moved King Company onto line in Korea, I was given the Order of Battle of the "enemy" opposing me just across the valley on the next mountain. Facing my regiment, and me in particular, was the Chinese 60th Army, the same troops I had lived with and trained for two years in China. We met again, eight years later, in a terrible and senseless slaughter.
In the apparent world, our friends and enemies are the same and, sometimes, needlessly, insanely, we try to destroy one another, thence to find that Life is eternal. Like Arjuna, in awful combat, I was instructed in certain of the Mysteries and learned the sense of senselessness. Memorial Day 1985
In the second half of the 1950s Bill became a well-known healer in Christian Science circles. But by the early 1960s he was removed from their practitioner listing since his views no longer dovetailed with Christian Science teaching. And in 1964 he published Two Plus Two Equals Reality, where he challenges the reader with fundamental questions: "Who am I; who are you? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Who or what is God? What is absolute reality?" He began that booklet with the following advice:
With honest and straightforward simplicity, I am here to tell you that you can never be free of personal trials and tribulations until you make your own discovery of Reality, God. You will never find more than the most temporal, ephemeral happiness until you make a personal discovery of God, Isness until you get off your soft sofa and actually make your own determination of Reality, of Truth, of Fact. You will never permanently rid yourself of the grind and grate in the pit of the stomach nor find yourself free of that feeling of impending doom until you make your own, individual determination of exactly what God is to you!
One of his students wrote that Bill's awakening occurred in the 1960s and was triggered by seeing his reflection in the water of a pond near his home and realizing that "who and what he is was the witness of that reflection and of the image called Bill." I assume that this realization provided the conviction that spurred his writing of the above booklet. (As an aside, the details of his awakening sound greatly similar to the fictional depiction of the protagonist's awakening in Douglas Harding's Spectre in the Lake published in 1996, the year of Bill's death. His student told me that Bill was familiar with Harding's teaching, but I don't know if there was any contact between them.)
... If you have tried everything else and are still periodically miserable, if you still contend with one problem after another, if you still have not yet solved the problem of fear and increasing pressure, and if you are really ready to stop suffering, it is time to do yourself a favor. Start now, this minute, to begin your own determination of what God, Reality, Truth is. One can never be happy nor self-satisfied until he does. One can never be free of trials and tribulations until he does. One can have no permanent sense of health or wealth until he does. No one will ever be free of personal fear or insecurity until he makes a determination for himself of just what God is to him.
Another student wrote that Bill's realization occurred "around 1956 or maybe at the latest 1958" and that he wrote The Melody of the Woodcutter and the King (see link below) almost immediately afterward and circulated it among his students although it wasn't formally published until 1976.
Published work includes:
- Two Plus Two Equals Reality (1964)
- A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility (1967)
- The Awareness of Self-Discovery (1970)
- The Melody of the Woodcutter and the King (1976)
- The Child Within Us Lives! (1986)
You can buy the books directly from the publisher at William Samuel and Friends or from Amazon. A new (2010) edition of The Child Within Us Lives! is now available.
For further interest:
- William Samuel & Friends for background info, many excerpts from his writing, and books and audio recordings published by his literary executor, Sandy Jones. There is also a wonderful 5-hour DVD filmed by PBS of a workshop that Bill did in 1993 ... see the videos page for clips. Urban Guru Cafe has an audio file of a 20-minute talk by Bill, One Heart.
- November 2006 TAT Forum, for Bill's moving account of awakening, "The Melody of the Woodcutter and the King." (For those who are afraid of anything that looks like poetry, fear not! The blank verse won't hurt you :-) Update: "The Melody of the Woodcutter and the King" was included in the TAT Foundation publication Beyond Mind, Beyond Death.
- Induction Talk in the Articles section of this site, for a talk given by Bill to a group of visitors the purpose of which was to bring them into conscious contact with the Child-heart within.
Journal Tending, also in the Articles section, for an excerpt from The Child Within Us Lives! for consciously becoming "the very point where the Ineffable becomes tangible in the world...."