The American Academy of Asian Studies

(From the CIIS Archives)


Left to right: Louis Gainsborough, Frederic Spiegelberg,
Judith Tyberg, Haridas Chaudhuri, and Alan Watts


"The American Academy of Asian Studies was one of the principal roots of what later came to be known, in the early sixties, as the San Francisco Renaissance."

-- Alan Watts --


It was the late 1940's. San Francisco businessman Louis Gainsborough was returning from Asia on board a slow freighter.

His mind was full: thoughts of the great and little-recognized civilizations of Asia, thoughts about the crisis of European culture (the dreadful World War was still a vivid memory).

His company, the Login Corporation, was a major international trading operation with subsidiaries in Europe, Australia, South America, Africa ... offices in Shanghai, Bombay, and the Phillipines.

Asia had always been special to Gainsborough: he had studied the philosophies of India, China, Japan, as well as those of the Middle East-- Muslim and Sufi. Asia was a personal interest as well as a business location.

One night I suddenly woke up for some reason or other, sat down, and I wrote an article called "Europe or Asia." It outlined what was going to happen in Asia if we didn't pay more attention to it....

While I did not realize it at the time, this was actually a spiritual experience that changed the direction of my life. In typical American fashion I first interpreted it as what could we do to help the underdeveloped areas of Asia and the Middle East, which resulted in a worthwhile project [the Peace Corps was eventually developed] but this was not the direction to which I was destined.

My thoughts turned to the fact that our Western religions all originated in the East, but while we paid lip service to these teachings very few people seemed to really practice them; take the Sermon on the Mount for example. Why? Was it entirely our fault? It seemed to me that what had happened was that our tree of religion had become separated from its roots in the East, but if the two could be brought together again our Western religious tree would begin to grow into maturity naturally, fed by the roots of its own origins.

Most Western impressions of Eastern teachings were colored by visions of Swamis, naked men contemplating their navels, Buddhists in sack-cloth whirling prayer wheels, wild-eyed Moslems waving bloody swords in jihad religious wars-- all repugnant to the Western mind.

Education through ordinary schools? Not the solution. The correct approach came to me in something Mahatma Gandhi had said when asked why he dressed in a dhoti, a half-naked fakir as Winston Churchill called him, when actually he was a London- educated barrister who could move in the highest circles. Gandhi replied that India was a country of villages, and unless he dressed and lived like the villagers they would never listen to him, dressed as a London lawyer. If I could dress my vision in American clothes, people would listen. A graduate school, the height of American academic circles---certainly a dress that would make Asian studies respectable beyond question. Hence the creation of a graduate school-- what seemed like an almost impossible project, but some force was urging me on and so I plunged.

-- Louis Gainsborough

Gainsborough first accepted the presidency of the Asia Institute in New York City, but its emphasis on Middle Eastern archeology was not the focus he had in mind and he soon resigned.

But it gave me the idea and I said, "Well, there should be something like that, but along the proper lines" and so I began to make a survey of American universities. I found there were only 28 universities that had any Asian studies at all, and most of them were along the lines of Political Science or Archaeology or maybe some Chinese Studies, but none of them had what I felt was basic. I had dealt with these people and I understood that you don't divorce business, politics, and religion in the countries of Asia. If you want to understand those people you've got to understand the way they think: their philosophies and their religions and so forth.

-- Louis Gainsborough

With characteristic determination Gainsborough pursued his project of a unique new approach to the field of Asian Studies.

It didn't take me very long to put the school together-- within six months I had a school going. I had the heads of all the major universities on the advisory board: Bob Sproul of Cal, Sterling of Stanford, Paul Leonard of Cal State, the president of Mills College, and I got the ambassadors of most of the Asian countries to come on our advisory board.

I put some rooms in my building in San Francisco at the disposal of the school for night studies and bought a lot of books to start the library off with (a lot of which, incidentally, were stolen by the students!).

-- Louis Gainsborough

To direct studies at the school, Gainsborough turned to a brilliant and unconventional Professor of Indic and Slavic Studies at Stanford University-- Frederic Spiegelberg.

I asked around-who would be a good man to do the field in the way I understood it and people said, "Well, the best man would be Professor Spiegelberg" and when I told Professor Spiegelberg what I had in mind he got all excited! Certainly he wanted to come along and help.

-- Louis Gainsborough

Frederic Spiegelberg


The son of a Lutheran Church family in northern Germany, Spiegelberg had a lifelong fascination with religious experience-- understanding it in all its dimensions. His family allowed his curiosity free rein and his quest led him through seven universities and the study of eight languages. Spiegelberg's teachers included Rudolf Otto and Paul Tillich, Martin Heidegger and Carl Jung. Fleeing the Nazi regime, Spiegelberg came to the United States and eventually wound up at Stanford University where his passionate and wide-ranging scholarship built the Religion Department virtually singlehandedly into a thriving enterprise with hundreds of students.

I had never met a person in public lectures or even in a church to talk so rapidly across so many grand ideas and trivial details, all wrapped up together in a nice little cake ... Spiegelberg is a cake-maker: he could take all these ingredients and synthesize them; he puts them all together and they come out in a marvelous new morsel-- full of potential, aspiration, and vision, and this would come out again and again and again....

One day Spiegelberg walked into the lecture hall [at Stanford] and said "Carl Jung has died"-- this was the introduction to our Buddhism course and we had the most wonderful lecture or eulogy on Carl Jung-- it was absolutely incredible, and he just poured it out, from A to Z: all kinds of intimate details, marvelous psychological insights, everything imaginable.

And then another time, here was the Buddhism course: he walks in and says "I just finished The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin"... whole hour lecture on summation of this Phenomenon of Man which has created a literal revolution in the Catholic Church, and that was our Introduction to Buddhism, because it was more important to talk about Teilhard de Chardin.

-- James Plaugher

Spiegelberg's interest encompassed all the world's traditions of religion and philosophy.

I had contact with many Indians, but none of them has made such an impression as the reading of the books of Sri Aurobindo, which I did in Stanford University, where I started teaching in 1942. This led to my eventual visit to India on a Rockefeller grant in 1948 and '49, where I was fortunate enough to have the darshan of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry.

-- Frederic Spiegelberg

Spiegelberg also discussed philosophy with Ramana Maharshi and had extensive correspondence with Sivananda.

Gainsborough's proposal intrigued Spiegelberg, and he set about the task of assembling a distinguished international faculty for the exciting and important project.

When I was asked by Mr. Gainsborough of the Login Corporation to help him establish a center of Asian studies, I was immediately thinking about calling a first-rate man from Aurobindo's Ashram to join me in this work. After quite a bit of correspondence with the Ashram, one suggested Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri, who was then head of the Philosophy Department at Krishnagar College in Bengal to come to join me in this venture in the Academy of Asian Studies.

The question was brought to Sri Aurobindo himself, who approved of Chaudhuri's coming to us with the word "Acha" (of course!).

-- Frederic Spiegelberg

Two months later, in December of 1950, Sri Aurobindo died.

Aurobindo is the guiding spirit of this earth and the prophet of our age. I believe that the last most important contribution that Sri Aurobindo made before passing was to send you here.

-- Letter from Spiegelberg to Haridas Chaudhuri

Haridas Chaudhuri as a young man.


Spiegelberg also sent a letter of invitation to the young chaplain of Northwestern University, Alan Watts, who agreed to join the enterprise.


Alan Watts as chaplain at Northwestern, 1946


Coming to San Francisco I was plunged into a world of associations and activities so complex that I can record only outlines refreshed with occasional detail, like flowers scattered through a filigree of bare stems. For six years I was to be absorbed-- for sometimes as much as fourteen hours a day-- in teaching, and later in administration as well, at the American Academy of Asian Studies....

The American Academy of Asian Studies was one of the principal roots of what later came to be known, in the early sixties, as the San Francisco Renaissance, of which one must say, like Saint Augustine when asked about the nature of time, "I know what it is, but when you ask me, I don't." I am too close to what has happened to see it in proper perspective. I know only that between, say, 1958 and 1970 a huge tide of spiritual energy in the form of poetry, music, philosophy, painting, religion, communications techniques in radio, television, and cinema, dancing, theater, and general life-style swept out of this city and its environs to affect America and the whole world...

-- Alan Watts

We had Rom Landau, who was known particularly by his book God Is My Adventure and through many of his books on Morocco and on Arab mentality. A little later I asked Dr. Malalasckhera of Ceylon to join us for the teaching of Theravada Buddhism and Pali language. And a year later we had Dilip Kumar Roy, an Aurobindian, a famous singer and musician, along with the dancer Indira. So we had in 1951 a most interesting group of people assembled.

-- Frederic Spiegelberg

We had premises, at first in the financial district of San Francisco, and later in Pacific Heights. We had a very modest library, heavily bolstered by books on loan from myself and from one of the students, Leo Johnson; a library that only began to be adequate in the fields of comparative religion and philosophy. But we had an interesting faculty. Frederic Spiegelberg, as Director of Studies, was the de facto mastermind of the project. From India he had invited Haridas Chaudhuri, a professor of philosophy at the University of Calcutta, and Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, formerly Diwan of the State of Travancore and later Chancellor of the University of Banaras-- a princely man, close to seventy, who somehow reminded one of the elephant god Ganesha. Then there was Judith Tyberg, learned in Sanskrit and yoga, and both she and Chaudhuri, together with Spiegelberg himself, were enthusiasts for the teachings of Sri Aurobindo Ghose .... There was also Tokwan Tada, a Japanese lama trained in Tibet, who brought with him the entire Buddhist canon in Tibetan wood-block prints, and my old friend from England, Polish-born Rom Landau, to take charge of our Islamic program. There was too, for some months, the Princess Poon Pismai Diskul of Thailand, an exquisite little lady who years before on a visit to London had been characterized by the British press as "the Pocket Venus," and was at this time curator of the National Library of Thailand.

The entrepeneur who gave the initial funds for this project leaned to the view that it should be an information service at the graduate level. At the time this made sense, because American universities were largely ignoring Asian studies; their offerings at the undergraduate level were almost nil, and at the graduate level were mainly preoccupied with research....

But Spiegelberg and 1 had no real interest in this nonetheless sensible idea of an information service about Asian culture, nor was this what really concerned Chaudhuri, Aiyar, and Tyberg. We were concerned with the practical transformation of human consciousness, with the actual living out of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist ways of life at the level of high mysticism: a concern repugnant to academics and contemptible to businessmen, threatening to Jews and Christians, and irrational to most scientists. Two professional fund-raisers cost us more than they raised, and the Ford Foundation shrugged us off with a shudder. Clearly, we were just another California cult trying to assume the mask of a respectable educational institution. But then-- only twenty years ago-- it was not as easy to see as it is today that when you make a powerful technology available to human beings with the normal form of egocentric consciousness, planetary disaster is inevitable. Moreover, the point had to be made that the egocentric predicament was not a moral fault to be corrected by willpower, but a conceptual hallucination requiring some basic alterations of common sense; a task comparable to persuading people that the earth is round rather than flat.

This was very largely the subject of discussion at the weekly colloquium of the Academy's faculty, at which Spiegelberg was the invariably provocative moderator, and which became an event increasingly attractive to San Francisco artists and intellectuals.

-- Alan Watts

One of the great events of those early days was a colloquium held every Friday Night that was chaired by Frederick Spiegelberg, Alan Watts and Haridas Chaudhuri. You had to get there about an hour early to get into the room, and I remember that there were a group of us then from down at Stanford. We used to have dinner at the La Fontere up here about five in the afternoon, and there was this enormous excitement about coming in to the old Academy at First and Sansome Street down south, and then over on Broadway, to get there early enough to sit in on those first meetings. And the electricity then was really enormous.

-- Michael Murphy

[Alan Watts would take] questions, and usually what he had said would be so foreign to the audience who were accustomed to scheduling rather than following their curiosity that there'd just be silence. In public speaking there's this terrible temptation where there's silence to rush in and say something more ... few teachers are comfortable enough with themselves to be willing to wait and he was simply delighted in waiting: he'd stand there for a minute, two minutes-- and, you know, two minutes of silence in a group can be eternity-- and then somebody would ask a question and then he was able to pick that up in such a way as to make it seem an intelligent question, no matter how stupid it was, and make it an entry to further revelation into which he could draw other members of the audience. It was an extraordinary skill, and to a considerable extent Haridas had that same skill, of being so balanced in space and time that there was no need to push, that the normal flow would generate whatever was appropriate for that time.

-- Elgin Heinz

There was at that time not yet any competition in the way of live Asian studies in America, not even in the Bay Area. We did not have at that time any ashrams or Zen monastaries, of which we have so many today. The beginning of the American Academy of Asian Studies became something of a society event in San Francisco, where artists and literates and important people of many ways of life were drawn, particularly to the weekly colloquium, where the teachers discussed simple questions, simple problems in the most inspiring and elaborate way before we opened the meeting to the general audience.

-- Frederic Spiegelberg

There were some hundreds of students who started to gather around that Academy. In those early days there were a number of poets who contributed later to the San Francisco renaissance: Gary Snyder used to come to those colloquia, and occasionally Allen Ginsberg. Most people forget this, but a considerable amount of the inspiration for the poetry of the Beat Generation came right through that Academy of Asian Studies. Michael McClure and David Meltzer, Phil Whalen, Ginsberg and Snyder...I would say all of them either directly or indirectly were influenced by Haridas Chaudhuri, Alan Watts and Frederic Spiegelberg, either directly or indirectly, and some of them would be in the audiences of those early colloquia and in those classes.

-- Michael Murphy

Now it was quite remarkable, thinking back on it, the quality of the [faculty] they got. Dr. Malalasekhara was there. He was then president of the World Buddhist Association. He had been Ceylon's ambassador to the Soviet Union, and I'll never forget the advice he gave me about meditation ... he was not a monk, but he was a great believer that Buddhism should move into everyday life, and he relieved my conscience when he said that you can meditate in a chair. He believed in the concept of social action, and he had been an ambassador to the Soviet Union and he had been ambassador to other countries for Ceylon, and so he exemplified what he taught.

Dilip Kumar Roy, who was Aurobindo's perhaps best-loved sadhu, famous in his own right before he became Aurobindo's follower, as a writer of songs, and a poet, and a member of one of the great families of India, was there. He came and talked at the Academy for, I think, six months, with Indira Devi, who was an inspired singer and who sometimes went into trance when she sang-- electrifying us who were in their classes. I'd never heard of ecstatic trances, let alone seen one. And I had not been prepared by the Episcopal Church where I went for such training. So to see religion in action at that level of intensity was hair-raising: it was literally hair-raising to me, and to all of us. It was an enormous privilege to be in their class that was in 1953.

Rom Landau, author of the book God Is My Adventure about his meetings with Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, and the poet-mystic Rudolph Steiner, would regale us with stories of this whole esoteric scence going back to about 1910. 1 used to go up to his apartment late at night and hear stories of Rudolph Steiner, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti and all these people. He taught courses on Middle Eastern thought and philosophy.

The list of teachers there was fabulous. It made very intimate and real the things we were reading about in the books. To see Indira Devi sing and go into one of those trances, believe me, was something you never forgot: I will never forget as long as I live. It must have been something like these educated Indian boys coming to see Ramakrishna, where their master would go into these trances. It was just so incredible and he radiated such a light whenever he sang. In fact, the story has it that parents would try to keep their kids from going to see him because they wouldn't come home again!

And there was something of that around this Academy of Asian Studies; I mean, I'm not exaggerating. I went into a bookstore down at Stanford and there was this kind of wise, tough old guy from Arkansas who ran it. I went to get a copy of one of Aurobindo's books and he kind of cocked his head and looked at me and said, "Ah, Spiegelberg ... defiling the young men of Palo Alto," and he turned around and said, "Aw, they come in here one after another." There was a sense about that school and about that circle of teaching that was ... that made an unforgettable impression on people there .... You could go as far as you wanted with people like Haridas or Spiegelberg or Rom Landau.

-- Michael Murphy

The public responded to this unusual new creation and enrollment in the classes steadily climbed, but the path was by no means an easy one for the Academy. As an unprecedented experiment, the Academy operated in an environment of general ignorance, if not outright hostility.

Let me relate here a little incident from my own personal experience. It was at San Francisco in May, 1951. 1 was waiting for a public bus at a street corner. An elderly man watched me from a distance and approached with the friendly inquiry: "Are you a yogi?" I paused to think for a while what might be his notion of a yogi and why he took me for one. I was wondering what I should say to satisfy his inquisitiveness, but he did not wait for my reply. Perhaps he thought that since I was from India I must be a yogi. So he produced his palm before me and said "Would you care to read my palm and tell me whether I have any good luck in the near future? The other day I bought a good lottery ticket, you know."

-- Haridas Chaudhuri

When I brought in Rom Landau I immediately got a call from the French Consul-- he wanted to talk to me, he wanted to know why I was bringing in this man. Landau had helped the King of Morocco and the Moroccans when they were fighting for their independence, and the French tried to get me to throw him out. I said, well, I'm not interested in his political views, I'm only interested in whether he's qualified to teach what he's teaching-- I think he is and so he stays!

And then one time we had the British Consul-- I was at a reception for Gandhi at the Indian Consul's home and there was the British Consul and one of the T.V. commentators and they cornered me and said "Why do you have this fellow here? You know he's not very good..." I said, well, I'm not interested in what you're talking about, about his being persona non grata etc.; he's a good man and we're going to keep him!

-- Louis Gainsborough

More significant, however, were the financial difficulties. No other major contributor came forward and support of the Academy rested almost entirely with Gainsborough.

As we got going into the Academy nobody would give us any money, and, you know, there's a limit to what one man can do. On top of that, I was neglecting my business: we began to have heavy losses because I wasn't minding the store.

-- Louis Gainsborough

Gainsborough quietly established an independent company, the Login International Corporation, to provide a dependable source of income for the Academy.

That I felt would put the school on a sound basis and so I more or less let the school run on as well as it could while I went out trying to raise money this way.

We were building two plants in Morocco-- one an orange-concentrating plant and the other a fish-canning plant-- when we were hit by an earthquake that practically wiped us out. I tried to salvage something out of it, but we just couldn't, so that ended that effort to finance the school.

-- Louis Gainsborough

In the autumn of 1952 the Academy of Asian Studies ran out of funds. Our financial angel had bad luck in his business and couldn't pay our salaries. Spiegelberg resigned as director and went back to full-time teaching at Stanford, but I, having nothing else to do, decided that the Academy was an adventure too interesting to be abandoned, and slipped by default (as always seems to happen to me) into the position of its administrator. By this time the Academy had moved from the financial district to a splendidly rambling old mansion on Broadway Street in Pacific Heights, overlooking the Golden Gate, the hills of Marin, and Angel Island. From then until the autumn of 1956, 1 managed to keep this strangely off-beat and exciting project alive with the help of a gifted, if desperate, multiracial faculty and a cluster of amazingly devoted students....

Alan Watts as Dean of the American
Academy of Asian Studies, 1955


Among our students at this time there were also Michael Murphy and Richard Price, who together founded the Esalen Institute at Big Sur; Richard Hittleman, who subsequently taught Yoga to the nation on television; and on occasion, Gary Snyder the poet, who first appeared unaccountably and amazingly dressed in a formal black suit, British style, with a neatly rolled umbrella, but who later emerged in history as Japhy Ryder-- the Buddhist-beatnik hero of Kerouac's Dharma Bums-- in a characterization which hardly begins to do him justice.

-- Alan Watts

During 1954 we were visited by the Japanese artist and printmaker Sabro (Saburo) Hasegawa, whom I invited immediately to join the faculty. For Sabro was an ideal mixture of Parisian bohemian and traditional Zen-Taoist Japanese, with a touch of samurai dignity and austerity. On the one hand, he might be lounging on the floor, drinking brandy and discussing outrageous new techniques for creating spontaneous abstractions (such as allowing ink-soaked woolen thread to drool over absorbent paper), while on the other, he might be conducting tea ceremony according to the superb technique of his master, So-shu of the Kankyu-an school. Often when Lois and I were unduly harassed with administrative problems he would wander into my office in the middle of the afternoon and invite us to take time out for tea. He had an adjoining room which he and William Swartley had converted into an astonishing burlap-walled cross between San Francisco Victorian and Japanese shibui, where the enshrined image of Buddha was a piece of driftwood that had originally been the lathe-turned leg of a very ordinary wooden chair. And there the three of us would sit on the floor and, with easy conversation, watch him spoon powdered green tea into a primitive Korean rice-bowl, cover it with boiling water from a bamboo ladle, and then whisk it into a potion which has been called "the froth of the liquid jade." Lois used to say that one tea with Sabro was worth fifteen visits to a psychiatrist.

Few lecturers can keep me awake, but Sabro was one of them-- despite his slow, quiet, and pensive way of talking-- for every sentence was like an aphorism from Lao-tzu. Sometimes they were formal lectures (invariably crowded) in the main auditorium, sometimes talks over the table in the communal dining room, and sometimes observations at tea ceremony. But he taught us about Bankei's Taoist style of Zen, about the technique of haiku poetry, about calligraphy with the brush, and about the art of the "controlled accident." In Japan he had collected driftwood, especially some pieces from a wrecked boat, which he then used as modular blocks for monoprints wherein he gave a certain organized control to the wandering patterns of the grain in the wood. He explained how the grain followed those same watercourse patterns that we admire in clouds, drifting smoke, marble,jade, and flames, and how one might so flow with one's own nature as to live each moment of life with the same grace. When students pressed him to define all this more precisely he would sometimes shout out, "What's the matter with you? Can't you feel?"

Speaking about his teaching at the Academy at that time, Watts says,

My own approach to Asian philosophy was part of an individual philosophical quest. I am not interested in Buddhism or Taoism as particular entitites or subjects to be studied and defined in such a way that one must avoid "mixing up" one's thinking about Buddhism with interests in quantum theory, psychoanalysis, Gestalt psychology, semantics, and aesthetics, or in Eckhart, Goethe, Whitehead, Jung, or Krishnamurti. I feel about academic "subjects" just as the Balinese feel about "Art" when they say, "We have no Art: we just do everything as well as possible...."

I would announce in the formal catalogue the offering of a course in Lao-tze or Chinese Zen, and simply make sure that the students had access to the relevant literature, that they understood its historical background, and were familiar with its main technical terms. For the rest, I would use the original texts as a basis for rambling reflections that might take us into Tantric yoga, optical illusions, metalinguistics, biological systems-theory, and hypnosis.... It has always seemed to me that no intelligent person should restrict himself to artificially segregated fields of spiritual or intellectual adventure.... Culture is an active, present process which involves the formation of relationships between all things known to us, and the narrow specialist is its servant and informant, not its arbiter.

-- Alan Watts

In retrospect one can see that the Academy of Asian Studies was a transitional institution emerging from the failure of universities and churches to satisfy important spiritual needs. It was a bridge between the idea of a graduate school and the idea of a "growth center," such as the Esalen Institute, of which there are now more than a hundred in North America. But in those days we were still troubled with the elaborate nonsense of accreditation, degrees, and academic status, so that, to put these matters in order, we had negotiated with the College of the Pacific in Stockton to be adopted as their off-campus graduate school of Asian studies. At that time the College was still recovering from being an educational institution of the Methodist Church, and its officials had all the vacuous and hearty earnestness so characteristic of that religion. They had but one other graduate school-- of Education-- and the institution was virtually governed from the registrar's office, which took especial pride in the efficiency and rigor of its nit-picking bureaucracy. Thus the administration had no experience even of a traditionally academic graduate school, much less of the wierd and irregular spiritual adventures that most of our own faculty and students had in mind.

By and large our students wanted no more than to get by in the world of supposedly practical affairs. They had no ambitions for working for the Department of State, and still less for making fortunes in commerce with the Far East. They might, in a one-eyed way, be thinking that a Ph.D. would be useful in getting a teaching position, as a reasonably interesting way of supplying bread and butter. But the other eye was on something else-- the thing variously called moksha, bodhi, kaivalya, or satori in the Asian religions, which is the wisdom of a transformed consciousness, of liberation from that exclusive identification of oneself with personality which overlays and conceals the basic sensation in the very back of the mind: the sensation of being identical with the universe, which is said to be the "oceanic feeling" of babies in the womb.

-- Alan Watts

But in those mid-1950s neither the College of the Pacific nor the Academy's own board of trustees (who contributed virtually nothing to its maintenance except their names) were interested in questions of human identity and the transformation of consciousness. I am not a man of business for the simple reason that the calculations and paperwork of business bore me to death, and therefore I had gone naively ahead for three years raising funds for the institution, teaching, and doing the academic administration without fully realizing that our official substructure was worthless. We were running a very lively enterprise, but our official sponsors were embarrassed and uninterested, and would neither assist the work nor get out of the way. By the end of 1956 it was becoming clear that I was as much out of place in the groves of academe as in the Church, that I was never, never going to be an organization man, and that I must make up my mind finally to go it alone. Thus in the spring of 1957 1 left the Academy to its trustees, who then appointed the venerable Theosophist Ernest Wood as its president.

Although the Academy lost its affiliation with the College of the Pacific a few years after Watts left, it continued to function with a full schedule of classes-- and a faculty including Haridas Chaudhuri-- until 1968.


American Academy of Asian Studies
1967-68 Academic Calendar


Then a disagreement arose between some students and faculty who wanted to seek accreditation for the Academy, and others who opposed accreditation in the belief that it would limit their freedom of expression. Haridas Chaudhuri sided with the former group, and in 1968 he left the Academy, taking many of its students with him to continue studying at his Cultural Integration Fellowship. The Academy could not withstand this split, and soon collapsed. Meanwhile, the Cultural Integration Fellowship continued its educational activities with many students who had been at the Academy, and began to call its educational branch The California Institute of Asian Studies. In 1974 The California Institute of Asian Studies was incorporated separately as a private, non-sectarian, non-profit graduate school.

Then Haridas Chaudhuri went off on his own and replaced it with [the California Institute of Asian Studies], which is where something of the original tradition of the work is now alive and kicking quite interestingly.

-- Alan Watts

Just when I thought all was lost, along came another spiritually-minded person [Haridas Chaudhuri] to carry the torch. I felt that sooner or later... so much had happened that I had a feeling that we were being led along a road and that it would eventually evolve into what it should be; I had that belief in me, I have a very strong belief in God, so I felt that somehow this would go along, that somehow or other it would be saved.

-- Louis Gainsborough


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