1960–1982 Dr F.C. Roles: Source of the System


Maharishi Mahesh

Maharishi Mahesh

The breakthrough came in 1960. A member of the Society came across a new method of mantra meditation that was being introduced to the West by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. When Dr Roles learnt the method for himself he found it corresponded perfectly to Ouspensky’s description of the ‘echo’ of the ‘simple natural method’ of Self-remembering that he had heard of in India before World War 1.

Many of the Society’s members were taught this method and a very effective organisation was set up to launch the Maharishi in London. An event attended by several thousand people was staged at the Albert Hall and the Maharishi became a celebrity overnight. It was not until 1967, when the Beatles took up meditation, that the mission really went viral, but the seeds had been well and truly sown..

Following this success, the Maharishi asked Dr Roles to lead the newly-formed Spiritual Regeneration Movement in Europe, suggesting he should now abandon the task Ouspensky had given him. This he could not do and subsequently a number of the Society’s members left to join the Maharishi’s organisation.

The Shankaracharya, His Holiness Shantananda Saraswati

The Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, His Holiness Shantananda Saraswati

In 1961 during a visit to the Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh, Dr Roles was introduced to His Holiness Shantananda Saraswati, the head of the Shankaracharya tradition of Advaita in Northern India. Founded 2,500 years ago, this tradition was the source of the method of meditation taught by the Maharishi. It was described as ‘not either religion or philosophy or yoga. It is a beacon light to set right what is wrong in all aspirants to spirituality’.

Dr Roles was astonished when one evening His Holiness said, the Maharishi translating:

‘All our troubles come from not remembering ourSelves, only we can’t talk about this at the beginning because it is never understood.’

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This confirmation of the fundamental importance of Self-remembering together with the Shankaracharya’s remarkable level of being, finally convinced Dr Roles that he had found the source of Ouspensky’s System. He said of the Shankaracharya: ‘He is the only man I’ve ever met who, whatever the circumstances, always remembers himSelf’.

The Shankaracharya himself saw that Dr Roles was ‘a prepared person’, one who had already acquired a level of being somewhat beyond the norm.  Ouspensky had taught him to ‘remember himself’, and this allowed his meditation to reach its natural culmination. Over the next 20 years the relationship developed to a high level, to the delight of both. In 1964 the Shankaracharya was asked:

In meditation, do aspirants meet Teacher at a certain point, or does Teacher go to each aspirant who needs him?

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The Shankaracharya replied:

Relation is automatically established between disciple and Realized Man, not just of the present, but through all time, dead or alive or to be. Manifestations of relationship vary according to circumstances… Communication is direct between Teacher and aspirant.  4 – 6 a.m. Indian standard time best. (He did not mean by telephone!)

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In 1963, the Society gained access to another method of Self-remembering – the Mevlevi ‘whirling dervish’ ceremony, the ‘turning’ – that had greatly interested Ouspensky when he visited Constantinople in 1908 and 1920. The dervish orders had been banned in 1925 by Kemal Ataturk, but the Mevlevi tradition had managed to continue in secret. When contact was made by the Study Society, one of the leaders of the tradition, Çelebi Effendi, sent an emissary, Resuhi Bey, to assess whether there might be opportunity to increase the chances of preserving the tradition by establishing a centre for training new turners at Colet House. After this meeting, the Sheikh agreed to support the radical experiment of allowing the ceremony to be taught to westerners of both sexes at Colet House. Without Ouspensky’s meetings with the Mevlevis and his insights into their inner practice of which Francis Roles was well aware, the Turning would very likely never have been allowed to come to Colet House. Most significantly, it was Resuhi Baykara’s grandfather whom Ouspensky met at the Yenikapı Tekke – and the account of the Mukabele he witnessed there could just as well be describing a Mukabele at Colet House today. See more about the Mevlevis here.

Dr Francis Roles

Dr Francis Roles

Up until 1977 Dr Roles went to India almost every year to meet the Shankaracharya, usually accompanied by close associates and most notably by Robert Allan the publisher and politician, later Lord Allan. Continually encouraged and guided by the Shankaracharya, he devoted the rest of his life to the creation of a modern, Western synthesis of knowledge uniting Ouspensky’s system and the Shankaracharya’s teaching. Keeping abreast of scientific developments, particularly the neurological discoveries of the bilateral structure of the brain, the ascending reticular system and the ever-increasing medical validation of the benefits of meditation, he was thrilled to find science at last catching up with Ouspensky’s far-sighted and prescient understanding.

On Dr Roles’s final visit to India in 1977, the Shankaracharya said:

The Tradition which the Shankaracharya is furthering at this state and time, and to which He belongs, is also the Tradition to which you belonged before meeting him, and which you are now pursuing and which will be with you for ever after.
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There is nothing outside this Tradition because it is the Tradition of the Absolute and belongs neither to the Shankaracharya nor to any other individual. We are together with you and part of the same Tradition, and confident in this feeling you should take whatever is being offered to you, and by putting it into practice keep going on the way to full realisation.

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By 1979 Dr Roles’s health was declining and he deputed others to continue the regular visits to India for further help and guidance. He had intended that Lord Allan should take over leadership of the Society following his death, but in 1979 Lord Allan predeceased him, leaving Dr Roles with no obvious sole successor. In 1982 he appointed three senior people to act jointly as ‘caretakers’ to collaborate and safeguard respectively the three main aspects of the synthesis he had created —the Shankaracharya’s teaching, Ouspensky’s Fourth Way system and the meditation:  Lady Maureen Allan, Professor Richard Guyatt and Mr Roy Jacob.

In 1982, a few days before he died, Dr Roles said:

‘Everything I have had to do, has now been done.
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‘The need now is for simplicity. We have been habitually complicating everything. It is only necessary to be quiet, and to keep things simple. We have had everything upside down and back-to-front.
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‘There is only one consciousness. The levels are levels of impediment to that consciousness. Everything is that consciousness. That is what we have to feel and know.’

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Dr Roles’s weekly papers and meeting reports and the Record of Audiences with the Shankaracharya are available in the library section.

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