This piece was written in 2006 as an endorsement of Eugene’s ideas for a site that Bob Hardy set up for me and it still feels right as my opinion about the value of his work.
Alan Roberts 2017.
My Take On Eugene Halliday
In encouraging someone to involve themselves in any form of reading, viewing, or listening as we do here, we need to first describe the nature of the subject and outline the interest value of the piece to be tackled. The nature of the subject here is a vast treatise on the nature of life, what it is and how to explore and enjoy it. So it falls into the categories of religion and philosophy and into what now is being called consciousness studies – which fits perfectly. I also consider that it is the work of an inspired man, and that that is its value. I cannot prove that but then that is for you to decide if you choose to dip in to these pieces. This then is a personal testament to the value of Eugene’s work.
In bringing the work of Eugene Halliday to new folk I can really best fall back onto my initial experience of him. This will also serve to describe me, as regards how I was first captivated by these ideas and the man who described them.
I first met Eugene in 1971; I was a 21 year old student teacher at Keele University. As some indication of his effect on me it is now November 2006 and after 35 years and a degree and a Ph.D. I am still giving talks about his lectures and studying him much more than anyone or anything else.
I was working on the refurbishing the retreat centre of Ken Ratcliffe, Tan-y-garth Hall, set up to teach Eugene’s ideas. Ken recommended that I go to Parklands, ‘You’ve heard the monkey, now go and see the organ-grinder’ was how he put it. The first talk I attended was on Kierkegaard by Hanukah Rose and Eugene together, and I was hooked. I had never been to a lecture where the questions could literally reach anywhere and be on anything in the way they were tackled here. They started with the subject matter, and returned to it regularly, but they digressed marvellously. Hanukah was scholarly but Halliday’s comments ranged from the impish to the profound, and frequently both. To be upbeat on Kierkegaard is no mean feat.
My involvement was gradual. At first and I attended his monthly lectures at Parklands for two years or so thinking that he was a very intelligent man and a great talker, I had seen and heard quite a few of those at Keele. Then one evening I attended a meeting very depressed over a family pet. She was very ill with nephritis. It may sound trite now but the dog had been a true friend since I was eight and I was under pressure from my family to have her put down as she was really suffering. I could not bring myself to do it.
Leaving the ballroom where meetings were held, the usual crowd around Eugene seemed to part. Perhaps it was the dark cloud that hovered over me as I walked passed, but surprising myself as much as anyone I turned and blurted out, ‘Eugene is it ever right to have an animal put down?’ It was probably the most genuine thing I’d ever said at any meeting of any kind up to that point.
His response was far more sensitive than I had expected, or deserved and I stopped and sat with him for twenty minutes or so while he advised me that my dog had lost her natural instincts to let herself die, and, by being enmeshed in a human family and the emotional ties this creates, she was holding herself in life.
I listened, it was not the philosophical reply I thought I wanted. He then advised that I return home, keep her warm with a hot water bottle and tell her that I understood that it was time for her to go. She would understand the emotion behind the words, he said. The words would help me to release my end of the relationship and she could then release hers.
Not knowing what to make of this answer that ran against all I expected I went home and did as he said. The dog relaxed and slept. My father and mother bemused by all this were nevertheless both impressed with the change in the dog.
She died the following day. She just relaxed and relaxed until as my father put it ‘She lay like a man, legs and ‘arms’ outstretched breathing deeper and slower until she died’
So impressed was my Dad with her death that he wrote to Eugene although he had never met him and, father-like, had been disparaging of my initial descriptions of him. Probably he was concerned in case I was getting drawn into some sort of crackpot organisation.
This incident and Eugene’s return letter deepened my opinion of the man; and my father’s. There was much more to this ‘intelligent man’, something far more than I, or my father, had met before. My Dad started coming to lectures. He remained involved and committed to the ideas that Eugene discussed with us to the end of his life; literally, the very end of his life.
Eugene’s return letter is reproduced at the end of this article, so that you can make up your own mind about that. But beyond that it was the level of the response he made to my concern and to the animal’s plight that made me value much more intently what was happening at Parklands from then on.
And I have had other pets, and I have spoken to them too when their bodies have been too tired or infirm but it has never been as potent as it was then. Only one other has taken themselves off rather than be ‘euthanised’. So maybe it was just a coincidence. Or perhaps it is that when you are around someone as focussed as Halliday was, many coincidences happen.
And as my father soon realised it was about as far from being a cult as you could get. No commitment from us was asked at all, either financial or in terms of involvement by Eugene or any of the company at Parklands. Which is important, yes they did have to function, but I was not asked to help – ever. And to my eternal shame I never offered anything until very much later, although I received so much.
His involvement and commitment to our understanding seemed to go way beyond ours. If we stayed on discussing things till one o’clock after a three-hour lecture, he did too. If you needed to sort something out and he was not seeing another, he made space to see you. On several occasions when talking to him others would arrive for a scheduled meeting. He would then leave me, sometimes for two hours, sometimes with an exercise to practise, and then return to me and continue where we had left off.
He never in all the time I listened to him claimed the ideas to be his. We did, and still do, we have no other way to refer to them, but he never did. If it is the truth then it is the universe’s was the type of his answer. He was like an entry port for them, and like an entry port they flowed endlessly. He would attribute links and sources that echoed his argument continually – just as he does in his talks – but the depth of the conclusions he drew and the reach of the ideas seemed uniquely present in him.
I have never had such a commitment to my progress and to my understanding than his. We would follow an idea, argument or a problem through its history, geography philosophy whatever until I understood.
It is on the strength of the intensity commitment shown to me and to the others who knew him and on the thorough and absorbing nature of his work that I recommend his works to you.