Naranjo, Ichazo, and the School 
Part One.

Chilean-born psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo was living and working in the U.S. in the late 1960s when he first heard of Oscar Ichazo. Several of his former patients from Chile wrote to him to tell of the impressive experiences they were having with this new teacher.

Several years before, back in Chile, Naranjo had developed an “extended family” of his private psychiatric patients, bringing them together in a group that became interested in spiritual questions as well as ordinary psychological ones.

The techniques that Naranjo was using with this group of about 60 people included meditation, Gestalt therapy, various readings, and “psychedelic” sessions.

At the time in Chile, it was not a legal problem for Naranjo to be using psychedelics as part of his official activities. Besides the therapeutic use of psychedelics, he also produced some scientific studies of these substances. For instance, his study of the nature and content of the experiences produced by Ayahuasca– a hallucinogenic concoction used by South American shamans– can be found in Hallucinogens and Shamanism, ed. by Michael Harner (1974).

Under the influence of these psychedelics, several of Naranjo’s patients– many of them very educated, intelligent and talented people– reported intense, life-changing experiences of “complete integration” and “total centeredness”, experiences which they were never able to recapture– until some years later, that is, when they met Ichazo.

It is interesting to note here that some of Oscar Ichazo’s earliest mystical experiences also reportedly came from using Ayahuasca (a.k.a. Yage) with the shamans of South America when he was a teenager.

When Naranjo left to work in the U.S., these former patients somehow made contact with the Bolivian-born Ichazo who was teaching in places like Santiago and Arica, Chile. They reported to Naranjo that, after just a few days and weeks of working with Ichazo, they were having drug-free experiences of the same nature and intensity as their former psychedelic experiences. They were having these experiences more often and with even more intensity. One man reported that his life-long feelings of anxiety had disappeared and he was– purely incidentally and without any intention on his part– having telepathic experiences as well.

According to Naranjo, Ichazo was described to him by the students as a Sufi teacher. At the time, Naranjo was involved with another Sufi group, one under the direction of Idries Shah, and he was very interested in the possible Sufi connection with the Sarmoun, the secret society which was reputed to be the source of Gurdjieff’s teaching.

Naranjo first made contact with Ichazo by letter. In the letters he received, Naranjo noticed an authoritarian streak he did not like.

Strange events surrounded Naranjo’s early contacts with Ichazo. He has told the following story: In June of 1969, Naranjo was giving a series of lectures at the University of Miami. After the lectures were over, he was supposed to return home, but instead stayed in Miami for a few more days, something he wasn’t planning on doing. The hotel he was staying at was too expensive, so he asked the first person he met if there was a cheaper hotel, and checked in to the cheaper one. No one knew he was there.

On the day he checked in to the new hotel, he called home to let his wife know he was still in Miami. She said there was a wire from Ichazo, telling Naranjo to contact such-and-such a person at the Mcalister hotel on that same exact day. This was the precise hotel at which Naranjo had just arrived.

Instead of calling the person immediately, Naranjo had a shower and a nap, then woke up and did a little writing. Finally, he picked up the phone to call the person, and just then the other person had picked up the phone at the same time, and they were immediately connected.

Naranjo asked Ichazo about this and was told, “These things happen when you are on the path.”

Naranjo knew these coincidences as a well-known occurence in Sufism. The teacher gives the student “tadjalli”, which is sometimes expressed in terms of coincidences. Students are often asked to keep a journal of these coincidences. Naranjo didn’t know what these coincidences meant, but just took them as one more hint that “something is going on.”

Naranjo’s doubts about Ichazo increased even more after they first met in 1969. He describes Ichazo in this first meeting as being overly-polite, diplomatic, and engaged in many formalities, all of which made Naranjo very suspicious. Overall, Naranjo reacted negatively to Ichazo as a person, considering him manipulative and unimpressive, seemingly without much talent and not even particularly intelligent. This negatvie impression was also shared by some others who had accompanied Naranjo.

However, Naranjo went through some experiences with Ichazo that he considered surprising and convincing, of a different nature than the ordinary.

Some of these experiences were through direct contact with Ichazo; for instance, through a technique called “direct transmission of consciousness”, which Ichazo calls by the Spanish phrase “traspaso.” This technique involves two people sitting in front of each other staring directly into each other’s eyes and, through certain meditative and ritual processes, they can achieve a shared consciousness. Interestingly, Naranjo later began using this technique under the name “meditation in relation”. When Ichazo learned of this, he issued a scathing denunciation of what he considered Naranjo’s distorted imitation. (see Ichazo’s Letters to the School, 1988)

At the time, Naranjo connected the Traspaso technique with the Sufi concept of “baraka”. Naranjo describes baraka as a subtle but palpable energy which can be passed on. In the area of spiritual development, Naranjo says, nothing can be done without baraka; anything effective is more than technique– it’s technique plus a person that has baraka. This subtle quality can be transmitted through direct contact with a person, place or object which carries the energy.

Ichazo equated baraka with “the holy spirit” and said that he was capable of elevating others through the stength of his own baraka. He spoke more about baraka in a discussion of the Two Ways: the Way of Grace and the Way of the Law.

The Way of the Law is the Way of the Prophets; it is a long and hard Way.

But what Ichazo claimed to be offering was a Way of Grace, investing a tremendous energy of baraka. Baraka is something which is usually given only in proportion to effort. However, in these circumstances, it would be given freely in large amounts to make things easier. Ichazo said: “Our work is exceptional in that I am trained and entitled to do much work for others…” Nothing is done without work, and Ichazo implied that he could put in his energy somehow to facilitate this process. In Naranjo’s opinion, this method did seem to work experientially, although he did not know how it was done.

Sometimes Naranjo went into unusual ecstatic states. Other times he experienced what Ichazo calls “satori” states. This “satori” is not necessarily the same as the “satori” described by some Eastern traditions. According to Naranjo, in Ichazo’s system, “satori” is a very intensified experience of the here and now– a crystal clear state where thought dies down. This idea of satori caused some confusion later on when the Arica school advertised that, by using Ichazo’s methods, people could attain satori in a few weeks.

Naranjo was familiar with some of the states he was experiencing, but had many more of them while working with Ichazo. Some states came from certain excercises.

Naranjo was left with the impression that Ichazo’s background was enormous, his “bag of tricks” incredible. He had apparently received training in every esoteric system imaginable. His knowledge of chakra yoga, for instance, impressed Naranjo.

Chakra yoga is not part of the program, but Ichazo would use it with people with whom he felt it could be useful. Naranjo had some background in chakra yoga, but didn’t tell Ichazo this. However, Ichazo immediately detected that Naranjo had done work on chakras, saying Naranjo’s higher chakras were well-developed, but his lower ones needed a lot of work. He said that Naranjo had a “piece of cork” in his solar plexus…

Ichazo proposed to do chakra yoga with Naranjo. Naranjo told him he thought they were going to learn Sufism, not Chakra Yoga. Ichazo said that it was true, that in most cases the imagery of chakra yoga is more geared towards the Eastern mind and is obsolete to the West, not what the West needs. This conversation once again indicates that Naranjo believed that Ichazo was teaching Sufism and Ichazo did not contradict him.

They discussed yoga work and Naranjo had an impression of Ichazo’s tremendous knowledge.

On the third day of yoga work, Naranjo went into one of the most impressive explosions he’s ever experienced. He describes this as streams of electricity running through him, with cosmic visions producing tears and laughter.. After 10 minutes of this, he wanted to stop because he couldn’t handle it…

But the next day Ichazo began putting him off. Ichazo never again talked of chakras until a few days later when Naranjo finally confronted him. Ichazo excused himself and they began doing some chakra work again.

Ichazo gave Naranjo an exercise of listening to Sufi music with certain chakras, but then stopped him because he said Naranjo was in too analytical a state and it was useless. They tried again and failed again… and that was the last time they ever worked with the chakras. But Naranjo was very convinced by his experiences, although Ichazo didn’t give them much importance.

Ichazo taught Naranjo breathing exercises which were similar to Pranayama, but had some differences. Naranjo also learned some movements, which didn’t cause far-out states, but which were impressive. It is very likely that these movements are, in essence, those presented in Ichazo’s book Master Level Exercises and known in Arica as Psychocalisthenics. These exercises are a combination of breathing techniques, visualizations and some physical movements drawn from Yoga, airforce exercises and ballet. In addition, Naranjo may be referring to consciousness-raising techniques Ichazo developed, like Kinerhythm, which Ichazo claims is a synthesis of some techniques he learned from his time with Sufis in the Pamir, north of Afghanistan in Central Asia.

Naranjo heard 40 lectures by Ichazo, and these convinced Naranjo that Ichazo was trained in the same school as Gurdjieff, i.e., by the Sarmoun. Naranjo said Ichazo was the first person he had heard who was giving further info along the same lines as G.

In Ichazo’s system, the concepts of Essence and Personality central to what Gurdieff conveyed had been worked out in a great amount of detail. The working of personality is broken down into 5 lower Centers (which Naranjo explicitly states is related to the chakras) and each is understood in terms of working on an Enneagram. Ichazo’s use of the Enneagram further convinced Naranjo that he was connected with Gurdjieff and the Sarmoun.

Apparently, Ichazo was primarily teaching the psychological level of Protoanalysis at that time. According to Naranjo, Ichazo would diagnose a person in about 1 hour, giving a chart of the personality structure: a general map of the workings of the Centers, involving about 45 psychological entities, like the workings of Fear and Pride and Appetite, desire for Union, Self-preservation, etc. The way these entities interlocked with each other was different from individual to individual, and there are practically countless possibilites, permutations, relationships between all these. Each person has a certain flow of energy, flow of events; one psychological entity leads to another and another, etc, and this is the way our personal machine works.

Ichazo would give a map of this and certain ways of working with it to “clean” this lower level.

He did this with Naranjo. In basically 8 hours of talking, Ichazo told Naranjo almost everything about Naranjo’s personality without asking any questions or knowing anything about Naranjo. They had previously interacted, but Naranjo says he had been mostly passive: not talking about himself, not behaving with much response, mostly just attending to Ichazo (although he did meditate in his presence). It apparently did not occur to Naranjo that by acting in the way he mentions, he was revealing his personality (Naranjo is known to be an Enneatype 5).

Naranjo was not sure of the extent of Ichazo’s telepathic abilities, but noticed that Ichazo did seem very effective in finding out a person’s inner state, in “tuning-in” to people.

Ichazo accurately mentioned almost all the things Naranjo had seen about himself in the past in various therapies and episodes of self-analysis. Ichazo summarized these aspects, presenting them panoramically and integrating one with another, showing how they fit together.

According to Naranjo, it all gave the impression of a very coherent science. In fact, he once heard Ichazo mention that what had impressed him (Ichazo) about this teaching when he first encountered it was its scientific quality, its technical quality; there was not much left to intuition or improvisation.

Phrased in this way, it seems clear that Ichazo was implying that he had received this teaching and did not develop it himself. However, the implication is not so clear, since Ichazo has asserted that, after years of both exoteric and esoteric study, he received this wisdom through using techniques for attaining higher consciousness; in such a state he was able to discover the “science” of the 108 enneagons which constitute the Arica theory.

It should be noted that, in the early 1970’s, John Lilly was already reporting that Ichazo claimed to have received his knowledge from the Archangel Metatron and the Green Qutb. These are technical terms which require some background in esoteric doctrine and which can easily lead to bizarre interpretations.

Briefly, Ichazo describes “Archangel Metatron” as a faculty of the Higher Mind which allows a person to have special knowledge of a Divine nature. It is an archetypal figure representing “the Presence of God”, a state of consciousness in which the Unity of God is remembered without interruption. The Arica system was produced under this state of consciousness.

In connection with this, it should be mentioned that Metatron is traditionally associated with the highest levels of the Kabbalah, and in fact is said to be the bridge by which the knowledge of the Kabbalah was transmitted to Abraham. Among Kabbalists, Metatron is known as “the Angel of the Presence”, and associated with the Crown Sephirah, which is sometimes designated as “the Vast Countenance.” Interestingly, the Sufi Enneagram, according to Laleh Bakhtiar, is traditionally known as the Sign of the Presence of God (or the Divine Presence) and is also known as the symbol of the Face of God.

The Green Qutb is a phrase Ichazo derived from Sufi doctine. Among the Sufis, Qutb means “center”, and is used to designate the Axis or Magnetic Pole around which the entire Sufi enterprise revolves, often represented as a living person who is considered the Chief of the Sufis. The color green is associated with the legendary Khidr, or Elias, a spiritual force which manifests in the material world in different forms and is responsible for aiding humanity wherever there is a true need. Green is also the color which most powerfully stimulates the Lataif, faculties of higher consciousness similar to the Hindu chakras.

In Ichazo’s explanation, contact with the Green Qutb implies connection with higher forces on a more subtle plane which are responsible for the evolutionary development of humanity to a higher spiritual level. Through the stabilizing of an ego-less state, an individual or group is able to surrender their personal will to the Divine Will and work for the Divine Plan. The Archetypal figure for this aspect of the Higher Mind is the Archangel Gabriel, the angel who appeared to Muhammed.

Ichazo also connects this aspect with the Green Maitreya Buddha, the Bodhisattva who will bring the science of Enlightenment of the next 2,500 years. Some implication has been made that Ichazo may be this Bodhisattva.

Naranjo also once heard Ichazo speak briefly about the I Ching. Ichazo said it was a book of “the School”, but they use it not with hexagrams, but with Enneagrams. Trigrams are for the individual level, for “types”. Hexagrams deal with humanity’s social predicament. But for our cosmic predicament, Enneagrams are used. Ichazo offered that this would be one side of their studies. The study also would include such things as Kabbalah and examination of consciousness.

Naranjo was impressed by the ideas and awed by the completeness of the theoretical picture Ichazo presented, as well as the completeness of techniques, which included zen practices, vatrayana meditation, sufi dancing, breathing, working with ideas, insistence on the “here and now” through verbal and non-verbal means, etc. Even the symbolical language had aspects of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. Ichazo seemed to have been exposed to much, but Naranjo’s impression was not that he put them together, but that it’s one integral tradition.

Ichazo, however, claims that he synthesized his own system based on what he learned in his experience with the various traditional Ways.


Oscar Ichazo

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