gestalt •myths • vitality

The hero's journey

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A talk by Paul Rebillot

When Paul Rebillot was very ill, he strongly felt that he must give a talk — which he did, on December 21, 2009, to Melissa Kay, his closest friend, and Lina, his caregiver.

This talk had been recorded and was transcribed by Melissa Kay soon after his death, on February 11, 2010.


“I have been rehearsing this talk for the last three weeks, I think. I have not known why; I have no idea of what reason I have for doing it, but it seems to me that I find the house full of people who are waiting for this speech. From my conversation with you, Melissa, and with you, Lina, I find out that there is nobody here except the three of us, which is a surprise to me since I have the impression that the house are full of people. I have the impression that there are people who are listening to me, who are looking from around corners at me, who have pencils and pens ready to take down some sort of statement that I am about to make — and there is nobody here to take a statement. There is nobody here. And this is a surprise for me. I see people looking at me with great interest, eyes wide open — and yet, nobody's there. So I am curious why these people are looking at me, what they are expecting of me…

I have come to the conclusion that in some way I am coming to the conclusion of my own life process, of my own life itself, and that I am wanting to make a statement, I am wanting to communicate to the world what I have learned. If I make no statement, then I have learned nothing, and that is a scandal — that if after all these years — after all, I am 78 years old, that's already something! So I want to communicate.

So, how will I communicate?  Who am I? But I feel the need to communicate, especially when I see the delicious gentility of you who are caring for me. What was I calling you, Lina? “Avala”… — It's a little bit like Avalokiteshvara, a goddess of compassion.

I think she is there in you, the wonderful goddess of compassion who loves so much, the world seeks her when it needs love, tears in our eyes. Avalokiteshvara who, when he walks as a he, drops turquoise in his path, and it fills the world with beauty… That's Avalokiteshvara, who gives beautiful compassion wherever he goes.


It is said that you are in the state of Avalokiteshvara when you are working with somebody, or dealing with somebody, and somehow you get a moment of, “Ah! That's what that means! Aha!”

A gestalt forms — something new and beautiful forms — and you understand something deeper about the human condition. Avalokiteshvara: I understand something about the other. And what else is there to understand? What more is there to understand than something about the whole? This is a kind of illumination: Avalokiteshvara…

It is when I have trouble with people — and I had trouble with people a lot — I dedicate that time to Avalokiteshvara, pleading with him to give me some knowledge, some form, some prayer that I can learn from that moment.

When I was in trouble with Dick Price and John Lilly — when I was in trouble with these wonderful people, frightening people as well — I dedicated that time of my life to Avalokiteshvara. I said, “Avalokiteshvara, tell me what I need to learn! Otherwise I could get kicked off the planet…” I got kicked out of Esalen, I got kicked out of wonderful places because I wasn't learning whatever lesson I was supposed to be learning.

Avalokiteshvara… who sees the good and the bad, who sees what is required, what is appropriate, points it out and says, “Aha, that's it!” And when you learn that, when you learn that flash, that moment of truth, your life opens up… and it's beautiful.


What I learned, after many prayers to Avalokiteshvara, is that I simply cannot take somebody else as my master. I can be taught by somebody else, I can learn from somebody else,  but I cannot take somebody else as my master. I am, I have had to be — sad as it is, difficult as it is, really difficult as it is — I have had to be my own master. And whenever I have tried to take somebody else as my master, whenever I would have said, “So-and-so is my master, so-and-so is my teacher,” I couldn't say it. I have had to point to my own nose, as the Japanese do, and say, “That is my master.”

So, therefore, when I was coming to this question, “Who is your foundation in this work? Who is the person who has given you a good basis for this work?” I would automatically at that moment point to my nose and say, “This is my foundation.” And I was proud of that. I always felt proud that I could acknowledge myself as the foundation of my work. Everything that I have discovered, I have discovered on my own.

So, there have been times when I was coming from the University of Detroit, from San Francisco State College, from Stanford University — all these various places as my foundation. But in fact, the real authentic foundation was that I was on was my feet — my feet and my nose. Sometimes it was frightening, sometimes it was sad that I did not have the kind of basis that I might have liked. Sometimes I was rejected for this reason, and sometimes I deserved to be rejected for this reason, because it meant that I did not have a strong enough foundation on my own floor, so to speak. And that's ok. I am a multi-leveled creature, sometimes the levels are good, sometimes bad. So I accepted some of this rejection.

But there was another level of this information as well. I realized that if I am going out into the world to learn, to teach, to be part of some position, then I need to have a group of people with me, people I can agree with, people who agree with me, or don't agree with me, but people who know me, who say, “I know Paul Rebillot, he does this, this and this,” so that I can find my way, so that I can be honest with people.

And I did want to be honest with people. I did not want to come forward as some sort of sign or certificate, as, say, a florist who comes along with a picture of a flower or something and says, “This is I,” and it is he; it represents him, it manifests him, it exposes him to the world: he does this sort of work — as in the old days of blazonry when one would say: “This is my blazonry and this is who I am. This represents my father, my mother who have come together in order to create me — and I am a good creation! After all, I'm here, aren't I? This is I.”


As I was beginning to explore this concept what I found most exciting was the fact that I am nothing! If I look at that word nothing, no thing, there is no thing that I am. That means I am, I can become, everything! I am all things, all things are possible because I am nothing.

So I am nothing — and what is on the other side of nothing, which is no thing, is emptiness — and being emptiness, I have the right to be all things. Wow! This is an astounding surprise.

I have constructed all of these things out of me because I am nothing. What a charm! What a chance! What a possibility! To be able to construct a whole universe out of nothing…

This is what the astronaut, who has ventured out into the universe, comes home to show his world: all things, and nothing.


My Aunt Helen, a Polish woman, was my surrogate grandmother, and she really infected me a lot with this whole idea of nothingness. When I was cleaning up the kitchen in the morning, she would say, “Oh, Genie (they called me Genie because my name was Eugene), don't do it that way, that's the wrong way to do it; do it this way.” So she would show me how to wash the floor, for example. She would wash it her way, which she said was the correct way to do it. But she was also teaching me that there was no correct way to do it, because if I did it my way, and my way was the wrong way but was ok with some people, then my way, which was the wrong way, was also the right way… — Aunt Helen, you never taught me that!

You would call down to me in the basement, “Genie! What are you prouchatching down there?” What I was prouchatching was me! I was making little worlds, little men with sombreros and donkeys, little men like me, actually. She didn't like it because I made a mess where she wanted it clean and neat. What she was really saying was, “Don't prouchatch! Don't mess things up because you are a prouchatcher!”

I was — I tried not to do it, but I couldn't help it. I needed to make nothing; I needed to prouchatch, because to prouchatch was a wonderful way to be.

Later on, when I was teaching my work in Europe, I was rather proud of the fact that I was teaching people how to prouchatch. They were learning how to do nothing, and this was a nice thing to learn how to do! It was done by putting a couple of nothings together in such a way as to make something out of them.

So this is what the astronaut comes home to teach to the world — how to put a couple of nothings together — and to show other astronauts — how to put nothings together — in order to show the world that this can be done — all those coming home to some wonderful people, people with hearts and with souls.

I was coming home to my life, I was coming home to my love — to show those I love how to do nothing and to prove to them that it is a valuable thing to do!

And so when I was deciding what this talk was that I was going to give today, I realized that it was and is, very simply and very truly, about nothing.

Because nothing is the everything out of which the world is fashioned.”