Interview with Bailey Jackson
- I was raised in a Christian home, but I wouldn't say it was particularly a God-centered home. I think that my appreciation for God came as the years grew.
- We can't write a physical law about love, compassion. You can write one about gravity and how the planets interact and about galaxies and black holes, but there's something that's missing, a mystery, a paradox.
- We cannot quantify prayer or meditation, but we know they work.
- If people were spiritually trained to believe that we are all brothers and sisters, they wouldn't shoot one another.
- When you pray, you pray to the God within you. You pray to awaken the God within you so that you can help things happen.
- We all are a part of something much larger than ourselves. When we ignore that, that's when we're sinning.
- Sometimes I don't really consider myself Christian; I believe I'm just a child of God.
- When I can open my hand and recognize the God in the other person, that's when I recognize the God in myself.
Ann: In which spiritual tradition were you raised?
Bailey: I was raised in the Baptist tradition, in Columbus, Ohio. My parents sent me off to Sunday school. I don't know if they thought that everyone else went to Sunday school, so they sent me off to Sunday school, but they didn't go to church. When my father remarried, his second wife went to an Episcopal Church. She raised us from the time we were twelve, and she just attended church-she didn't teach us anything about Christianity or about God. The only thing I learned about Christianity was in Sunday school. If you've ever been in the Episcopal Church-this is the lower Episcopal Church-it's quite different from the Baptist Church. I have to be very careful not to speak for all churches, but the Baptists are more energetic, more spiritual, and more compassionate. The Episcopalians in this particular church were kind of cold and matter-of-fact. There was very little joy in that Episcopal Church.
Ann: I've been to both of those churches, and they do have two different feelings. Did you miss the Baptist Church…the singing, and the more exciting, more spiritual feeling?
Bailey: No, I didn't miss it, because at that time I thought they were a little off the wall. I thought, "What are you so happy about?" They wore white dresses and ran up and down the aisle helping each other. I thought people who fainted and all that were overdoing it. Of course, I was young, but I didn't understand why they were so excited. People got the spirit and they would start talking in gibberish, I thought-raising their hands and saying Amen. We didn't have anything like that in the Episcopal Church. So, I'd say I was raised in a Christian home, but I wouldn't say it was particularly a God-centered home. I think that my appreciation for God came as the years grew.
Ann: How old are you now?
Bailey: I'm seventy-seven now. It wasn't until I did a lot of studying as an engineer that I recognized that there is a spiritual dimension in the world that cannot be quantified. There is a force…Einstein was looking for the universal principle for general relativity, and then he was looking for the ultimate law to define everything. We haven't found it yet, but there is still hope that somebody will. What's missing is something that cannot be quantified. We can't write a physical law about love, compassion. You can write one about gravity and how the planets interact and about galaxies and black holes, but there's something that's missing, a mystery, a paradox. They couldn't have taught me that in my childhood, that's something you have to come to yourself.
I did a paper for our church a few years ago, as a guest speaker. The title was "The Fifth Force." There are now four basic forces that physicists recognize, and I said there's a fifth force that we haven't quantified. I talked about that force and tried to describe it. We all know its presence. What happens at a basketball game when the team plays at home and everybody's cheering? Isn't there something that gives that team something extra? It's that force. Everybody is pushing, egging that team on to go that extra step. There are other instances of that force-prayer has a powerful force; we cannot quantify prayer or meditation, but we know they work.
We are all part of this one ocean…we're all part of God. We only have our individuality when we take that drop out of the ocean. We're all part of the water, and we will return to the water. That analogy only goes so far: It doesn't really talk about the spirit, but it gives the idea that we are all one. That idea is missing in government, in international affairs and in neighborhoods. For instance, Pataki (Governor of New York State) is insensitive to what people are like in Harlem (part of New York City). He has no feeling that these are people just like he is. The reason he's where he is and they're where they are is that they were raised in different environments. If Pataki had some compassion for the conditions in which people are raised, he'd be likely to give more money for education and less to build prisons.
I was just reading in the paper that Yonkers' school system has a problem. Yonkers is the fourth largest metropolitan area in New York and Syracuse is fifth. They have comparably sized school districts, but Syracuse gets fifty million dollars more for their schools than Yonkers. The federal government said that's not right, but the state says it is. I can't figure out that logic. You shouldn't have to use logic; you shouldn't have to use laws. You should say, "Look, these are people. Let's give them all the same chance."
That's the reason my wife and I are working in the prisons now, because when the inmates get out, they're worse off than when they went in.
Ann: I found that. I worked with some very, very smart men in the prisons, but I met with them after they were released and they were terrified, because they had been in prison for such a long time that everything had changed. It was like being on a new planet.
Bailey: Then they are expected to get a job and fit into the community. It costs from $30,000 to $50,000 per year to keep people in prison, depending on their health. Some inmates are very ill, and some of them have children. So you have to take into account supporting the children, which may be another $20,000.
Ann: It's a very bad way to spend $50,000. It's a terrible waste.
Bailey: Yes. The laws say these people need to be punished, and some of them do, but I think we could cut the prison population down by giving people alternatives…choices other than drugs or stealing to make a living.
We might be able to do something to prevent violence and murder if we were trained better. If people were spiritually trained to believe that we are all brothers and sisters, they wouldn't shoot one another. Really, you could eliminate prisons altogether. But nobody wants to spend money. They want to give you ten dollars to warehouse people who commit crimes. "Put them away, get them out of my sight. I don't want to be bothered." It's like stepping over the homeless, "I don't care that they're homeless, here's ten dollars; help them, but I don't want to see it."
Ann: At what age do you think you got really deeply involved in your spiritual quest?
Bailey: When my wife and I started having children, I followed my parents' tradition-I felt that my children had to go to Sunday school. My wife had a different idea. She grew up in a different tradition, and she didn't believe in just sending the children to Sunday school. She believed in being a part of a spiritual community herself. So I said, "Okay, I'll go to church," and I went to church. Naturally, when you go to church you want to participate. So I became superintendent of the Sunday school and did other things like that; when my boys got older they began Scouting, so I became a Scoutmaster. So that's how I became an officer in the church and an elder.
I was working late one night; it must have been about midnight when I was driving home. I was tired, and I had the radio on to keep from falling asleep, because I was working quite a distance from home. I had been thinking a lot about prayer, and I heard this minister on the radio asking a question about prayer. I can't reconstruct the question exactly, but basically it was, "When you pray, who do you pray to?"
I said, "Well you pray to God." I'm talking to the guy! He's on the radio, so he doesn't hear me, but I said, "You pray to God, stupid." He says no. I said, "What do you mean? You don't know what I said, and you say no."
He said, "You pray to yourself."
I said, "What do you mean you pray to yourself? I can't answer my prayers."
He said, "When you pray, you pray to the God within you. You pray to awaken the God within you so that you can help things happen."
Then he went on to develop that theme, and I said, "Wow. This guy knows what he's talking about!"
Well, he awakened something that was probably already in me, but he brought it to remembrance. I like to use that phrase, because I think that inherently we know all this stuff anyway. He awakened it in me, but if I hadn't been thinking about this for years, he wouldn't have made any impression on me. In fact, I wouldn't even have listened to him-I would have turned on some music. Anyway, he awakened me and I said, "Yes!" I think it was that experience that first gave me the sense that I am a part of the universe. We all are a part of something much larger than ourselves. When we ignore that, that's when we're sinning. I think we misuse the Bible; we try to ritualize our worship and make everything obey laws, and we've missed the point of who and what we are.
Ann: As you say, you may be questioning for many years, and then one person can awaken you to another level.
Bailey: When you reach another level, you recognize that there's a moment when that awakening happens. In the Bible, when Jacob's wrestling with God-that's the moment in time when Jacob remembers things happening, but he had a lot of experiences that brought him to that moment.
Ann: Did you ever lose faith in the Christian tradition?
Bailey: That's a tough one. Sometimes I don't really consider myself Christian; I believe I'm just a child of God. By saying I'm a child of God I mean I am at one with God, but this is not a static thing. It's dynamic, it's continually moving and it has many facets. It's a mystery. I like to use the word dichotomy. For instance, light is both a particle and a wave-it's either one or the other, depending on how you measure it. So what is the nature of light? There's a dichotomy there-it's all in the way you measure it. I have my own definition of God, which is universal. It's Spirit, when I talk about God I talk about the Spirit.
God acts in many, many ways. I can't tell what's good and what's evil until I can look at things from the end of time. Let's take the worst thing that can happen-I guess the Holocaust is one of the worst. You can say, "How could God go along with that?" In the long run, something came out of that that we can't recognize. There was bonding, there was compassion, there was an understanding. So many attributes of God are recognized out of what we call tragedy. I don't really want to call things bad or good. All I want to do is recognize the God in each person and treat them accordingly. So if I step over a homeless man, and I don't help him to get up, then I've sinned. I've pushed God away. If I help the man get up from where he is, then I am namaste. Are you familiar with that word?
Ann: Namaste, "The God in me salutes the God in you." A Hindu term.
Bailey: When I can open my hand and recognize the God in the other person, that's when I recognize the God in myself.
Sometimes I don't have a thorough understanding of Christianity. It's not the faith-I don't pray for more faith, I pray for more understanding. I don't pray to change things, I pray for enlightenment. I can't say that I have lost faith, just that I am not at the point where I thoroughly understand. I probably won't live long enough to thoroughly understand, but I'm trying. My wife and I help each other try to understand.
Ann: She said you take time in the morning to pray together and to read and kind of chew over the scripture, and you have different styles and different personalities, so you help each other. I think that's wonderful; I can't think of anything nicer than to love somebody and continuously grow with them-and to be able to disagree and then wait to see what that disagreement brings. Do you feel going to your present church is of value?
Bailey: Yes, I do. At one time I asked, "What good is the church?" Then I recognized that it's the only organization that even comes close to teaching the spiritual aspect of life. Whether it's Buddhists, or Hindu or whatever. When I say "the church," I'm talking about all religions. We can't do away with church, even though I think the church has done some horrible things.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were worried about Jesus taking away their power and influencing the people, so they killed him. Then in the Middle Ages, any time people questioned Christianity they were killed by the authorities. When I was in high school, and I read about what the Catholic Church did to Galileo-I was very partial to Galileo-I thought, "How could they do that? They just got into power and already they think they must protect God."
Ann: Yes, they just wanted to knock out the scientists! "You can't rock the boat now! We've got everybody under control!"
One of my biggest questions is why this universal Spirit doesn't intervene. I know when I've had a mystical experience-and I've been blessed with many-my heart opens and I don't want to hurt anybody. I just want to understand. I'm in awe, and it was God who chose to open my heart. I believe there is a God, I believe there is Divine intervention, I believe mystical experiences happen for millions of people. Why do you think we stay in darkness?
Bailey: We read the Psalms (book in the Bible) from time to time in our devotions. I'd say 50 percent of the Psalms say something to the effect of, "Get them God, get my enemies! Go get them God; I'm okay, but they are the bad ones. Go get them!" But that's the way people thought at the time. This goes way back: The Psalms were written in the time of David. At that time there were always some people asking God to come down and smite those other people. There are a few Psalms, like the twenty-third Psalm, that praise God and say, "God you've given me all the good things." The only thing it says is, "in the presence of mine enemies." It doesn't say, "Go get my enemies," but it says, "You're taking care of me, but you're not taking care of my enemies." So even in the twenty-third Psalm, there's that difference between "my enemies" and "God you're on my side."
A famous rabbi was bemoaning the fact that people berate God for not taking action. God says, "Okay, I made the world and I did this and I did that. What are you doing?" If we acknowledge that we are a part of God, then we have to acknowledge that we have to do God's work. If we curse the darkness and don't light a candle, we're not doing God's work.
There is a specific place in the Bible where it talks about the maids of Jesus, and asks, "When the Master comes, will you have you lit the candles?" One candle doesn't do much, but with a whole lot of candles you can light the room. God says, "Look, I'm the one who's going to stop this stuff, but you're My hands. Why are you cursing the darkness? Why aren't you lighting your candle?"
Ann: I agree with that, and it's so much fun and so exciting to be with people who are lighting candles. There is such good energy and such power and such grace. I love that story. Who are your spiritual heroes or heroines? They could be people you've met personally or people you've just read.
Bailey: There are a lot of them. Eric Butterworth, from Unity, is one of my spiritual heroes. My time with him has been just awesome-not only to hear him speak, but to have dinner with him and to talk to him personally. He's just fabulous. My wife and I used to go every Sunday to hear him preach when he had his own place on Fifty-third Street. That had to be thirty years ago. He doesn't preach as much as he used to.
I also like Joe Goldsmith. I've heard him on tapes, and I've read some of his books. He's been dead a number of years. Both Eric Butterworth and Joe Goldsmith are Christian, at least to a point. Eric teaches Jesus' teaching, but he does not have the cross anywhere in his center. He thinks the cross is not the thing to have-the crucifixion. He does not have Holy Communion. He prays a lot and meditates a lot, and that's the way he runs his center. Goldsmith was a teacher, healer, and evangelist. He didn't have a church.
Ann: Have you had any profound spiritual experiences associated with birth or sickness or death? Have you felt protected or led in a profound way at any of those times?
Bailey: I guess I deal with death a little differently than most people. I accept death as part of life. It's just the place one goes to. We're born, we live and we die, just like a flower. If my mother, my father or a close friend dies, I feel a personal loss and grieving for them, but I don't connect it with God. God did not take that person away from me. He's not punishing me and he's not punishing the person who died. Death is a part of life. So I'm glad for the person's life, and on the flip side I'm sorry that I miss him. I don't recall any intense experiences.
Ann: Do you believe in life after death?
Bailey: I believe that when we die the body is gone, it's ashes. As an engineer, I believe my body is material, and it’s going to return to the earth. But the spirit goes back to the ocean, back to God, back to the source. That's as much as I know: I'm going back to the source. Whether I have any further identity in the source, I don't know. I don't think anybody knows.
I have to take into account that there's some indication of communication between after death identities and the present life. There are just too many realistic stories that have been told to me by friends. They don't publicize their stories, but they want me to know. They say, "This is how I felt, this is the message I got." I can't discount that, although I've had no experience with it. So I know stories that indicate there is an identity beyond death, but I'm very content to allow things to be a mystery. I don't like people trying to explain things to me when they don't know any more than I do.
Ann: Do you think that it's important to have a spiritual community? That doesn't mean a church per se, but maybe people that you meet with and study with. Do you think that's important for people?
Bailey: I think that's very important. To go back to the Bible again, it says "…when two or three are gathered in My name…," I think that's important, and two or three is all you need for a community. One is good, but two or three is two or three times better. I think community provides support. I don't think mankind is made to live alone.
My wife and I are part of a group we call The Tree. It's a group that started out as married couples, in 1971 I think. Thea and I went to Marriage Encounter, and we enjoyed it so much that we asked other people to join. They enjoyed it so much that they asked other people to join, so it became quite a group. Somebody had the bright idea to gather all the people that Thea and I asked to join and plan a reunion or a get-together. So we did that. We also invited the people who had asked us to join. This got to be known as The Tree-all those who stemmed from this one root. Now there are about twenty of us who are still active in the group.
Ann: That's still a big group!
Bailey: There were more. Some people went to California, some did other things, and some died. Since 1971 we have been meeting monthly. We have two retreats a year, and whenever something happens, we work together. And we're just like brothers and sisters. At our retreats and our monthly meetings we have a topic, usually spiritual in nature. The retreats last a day and a half, from Saturday to Sunday. They are really challenging; there's writing, meditating, and reading. The last one we did was on the question of world choices. Do we live in the spiritual world or the physical world? How do we live in both? How can we live in both? We made posters and flip charts and view graphs.
Ann: There's so much to learn in a group like that, because all those fabulous ideas come up and are shared.
Bailey: Then there's our church group…
Ann: And you've belonged to that church for a long time?
Bailey: Fifteen years.
Ann: So you've got a twenty-year long commitment and a fifteen-year long commitment, and your commitment to Unity is many years long too.
Bailey: Well, now I just send an annual contribution to Unity; I don't go anymore.
Ann: But you have the books and you have the knowledge now, so you are a part of that community.
Bailey: I would encourage people to find communities that are challenging to them. Communities that eat and drink and socialize can't last. There's no meat. You need meat, and the meat is intellectual and spiritual challenge.
Now retired, Bailey was in the forefront of many innovative advances in space technology from the 50's through the 80's. He has worked by his wife's side (Thea) for 60 years. They have worked as a team to bring advanced education into the New York State Prisons with great success and at no cost to the prison system