Shelly Chester Trimmer (1917-1996) was born into a Pennsylvania Dutch family in Erie PA. He was profoundly interested in spiritual, magical and scientific matters from a very early age. During the late 1930s, he traveled to California to locate a spiritual teacher in the Coptic tradition (Hamid Bey) but finding that teacher to be out of state on a speaking tour, he went on to meet Paramahansa Yogananda, from whom he learned the techniques of Kriya Yoga.
After three years living under Yogananda’s tutelage, he returned to Pennsylvania where he intensified his meditative and occult studies, choosing to remain independent of any formal group or organization.
Shelly eventually married, raised a family and moved to rural Minnesota, partly to avoid the problems that come with increased attention. Years later he moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where he continued working with students, enjoying time with his wife and friends, sailing the nearby waters.
At Yogananda’s urging, he remained a largely private teacher throughout his life, avoiding all publicity and conveying his teachings in an almost exclusively one-on-one manner. In later years he made his living and supported his family primarily by working as a repairman at a nearby electronics store.
Although he taught many students, one of Shelly's best-known disciples was Goswami Kriyananda (1928-2015) who began his studies with Shelly in 1949 and later founded the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. Shelly visited Chicago in 1985 and delivered a series of public lectures.
Shelly did not write any books. When asked why, he responded: “My students are my books.”
Shelly never adopted a Sanskrit name or honorific title. He avoided all external indications of religious affiliation such as beads, robes, etc. He remained just... "Shelly".
Shelly's first wife Marjorie died in 1974. He married Deborah Wisby (1949-2018) in 1985 and they lived together until his death in 1996.
All paths lead to God Consciousness.
The law of Awareness is to become aware. It mimics. And the greatest mystery it can become aware of, is itself. And this is what it is trying to do, one way or another. And therefore I AM AWARE THAT I AM is the reason the ancient sages say "Man, know thyself". For this is the font of all wisdom. And you could say that in the knowing of oneself, the mystery of existence is formed and unraveled.
Yes, meditation is the way. But also through unselfish love. For example, when most people pray, they want something. They’re asking for things. They’re tuning into the “gimme” channel, you might say. But God is not on that channel; he’s on the channel of unselfish love, on the “givvee” channel. When you say “Dear God, what is there I can do to alleviate your problems? What is there I can do to help others?” — now you’re beginning to tune into God Consciousness.
The Self must forever meditate upon itself in order to sustain the Self. It's through this act of Self-reflection that the Self not only regenerates itself but all of the existences of which it is aware. It has always done so, and will forever do so, for were the Self to ever cease reflecting upon itself it would cease to be. And if this could happen unto one's own spiritual being, it could happen to all. And in the infinities of existence, if it could happen to one, it would have already happened unto all, and you would not now be here listening to this.
If meditation is a task, you’ll find a reason to stop the task. If it’s done with pleasure and enjoyment, you’ll find a reason to meditate. After all, how can you get the Sushumnic state of awareness through any form of misery, or if something is a task? Anything which is an effort involves a state of unbalance. You’re not going to get towards bliss by doing anything that’s uncomfortable.
When Yogananda would initiate a class into Kriya, they would breathe twenty Kriyas, and then they wanted to know if that was equal to twenty years of progress in their evolution. And he’d say, no! Because out of all the twenty Kriyas they did, they hadn’t done even one real Kriya! When done properly, with true feeling and attunement, one real Kriya is the equivalent of the Sun’s movement in one year’s time. Then that intensity increases, so it actually goes up, to where one Kriya becomes like three and half years, then one Kriya is like seven years, then one Kriya is like fourteen years. That’s because the intensity is growing. At first it’s like a little light bulb, then it’s like a 1000-watt light bulb, and so on. It grows in strength.
When the viewer becomes the viewed, when the lover becomes the loved, when the beholder becomes the beheld, the feeling is one of pure unadulterated bliss: “ever‐new, ever‐changing, ever more glorious bliss.” If you think drugs are a way, this is far above and beyond that. All drugs can really do is lead you into the illusions of the astral world, and perhaps into some form of ecstasy. But not bliss, which is different from ecstasy, and is nothing like the “peace that goeth before all understanding.” It’s not the pool which is clear, in which you can see reality as it really is. Remember: all of us, we pretend we are one thing, but we’re really something else. But in the clear pool, we see reality and ourselves as it all really is. In so doing we move towards the great purpose of existence, the very nature of our being.
If someone believes the world is only an illusion, just tell them to go over to the nearest expressway, close their eyes, and try running across it. They’ll discover very quickly how orderly this illusion is.
Unless you keep at it, you’re not going to get anywhere. You’ve heard the old saying, “Practice makes perfect”? But as my wife used to say, “Perfect practice makes perfect!” And with meditation, only perfect meditation is going to get you places.
When the Sun and the Moon are in balance, the result is unselfish love, and this is called bliss: ever‐new, ever‐changing, ever more glorious bliss. Which means that it’s not monotonous in any way whatsoever; there is still activity taking place, only the activity is very small. And when you reach any form of balance, it then becomes relative more to itself than to an outer environment; it becomes “freelance,” so to speak, and nonrestrictive.
The whole purpose of meditation is to find the Self. The more you meditate, the less you are aware of things, and the more you become aware of the Self. When the meditator, the object of meditation, and the act of meditation are all equal to one, perfect meditation ensues.
Yogananda told me that when one of his disciples was dying, she made him promise he could come and see that she was all right over there. Now, he had a little difficulty finding her, since it’s not very easy finding someone over there, and when he found her, he called out to her—several times, in fact. In her semi‐dreamlike state she was tending a garden, but she looked up at him, and thanked him for coming. Of course when he came, she woke up just a little bit more, but then she went back to her semi‐sleep stage and continued gardening. You see, we gravitate to those things over there which suit us, in other words. Another example would be a man who worked hard all his life. He might just sit and rock back and forth in his rocker, because his idea of heaven would be not having to go to work. See? So they’re in a semi-dreamlike state, and like a broken record they run over the important events in their life. Eventually the sum total of their life experience causes them to desire to be reincarnated again. And they are drawn—instinctively, you might say—to the new body which is contiguous with their nature, so that their astrological code and their genetic code is a representation of their natures and expresses their particular level of balanced self-conscious awareness. So that they don’t feel like a fish out of water, see? As it is, we are all a little bit alone in this world anyhow, we feel just a little bit like we’re a fish out of water. This is basically a lonely place. You’re born alone and you die alone; it doesn’t matter how many people are around you.
Remember, whenever you make a decision, you’re never going to know for sure if it was the right or the wrong decision. So assume that whatever decision you made is the right one, and then tell everyone you’ve made the right decision, even if it turns out to be the wrong one! (laughs) Maybe the other decision would have been still worse—you never know for sure. After you’ve made a decision, you’ve got to live with it, don’t you? And you’ve got to live with yourself. The best thing to do is to get along with yourself as good as you possibly can, regardless of how big of a scoundrel you really are. So you can always say, “Well, I’m a pretty good scoundrel for a scoundrel!”
Yogananda used to like to quote Shakespeare, and one of his favorite quotations was, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Remember, whatever part you’re playing, play it to the hilt. And enjoy it! (laughs) regardless of what it is. Yogananda certainly did. In the middle of the summer you could see him in his bearskin coat, a derby hat, and a cane, and he’d be walking down the steps to the temple, and there’d be a disciple waiting to take his cane and coat. He hammed it up as much as he possibly could. He had fun with his own personality. And he loved parties, putting on great feasts. But he could put it all aside when he needed to.
The ancients had a saying: "Man, know thyself". And to know yourself you have to meditate. You meditate to reach Self-Realization. And when you do, you find the world isn’t the way you think it is. Time is not the way we think it is. Space is not the way we think it is.
Before enlightenment, there’s you looking out at the world. After enlightenment, the world is now looking at you.
In the future it’s possible that scientists will devise a way to capture someone’s life memories like a recording, which other people can then play back and relive like it was their own. Think about it: how can you be sure what you’re experiencing now isn’t just a recording of your life that someone else is playing back, far in the future?
The natural habitat of all life is in deep space, not on the gravity worlds. On the gravity worlds, our memory banks are heavily restricted, so that we naturally forget who we really are. You do not know that you are any place but here. But if you become aware that you are, so that you can say, “I am blissfully aware that I am,” you are then wherever you want to be — which can be outside the cosmic dream of God, or in here, or wherever you desire to be. You are no longer restricted by the animal body.
In simplest terms, there are four worlds of existence. I use the Hebrew system because I think it’s the simplest. There’s the realm of Assiah, or what yogis would call the Pingalic world — that’s the world that you’re in right now. Then there’s the world of Yetzirah, what the yogis call Ida, which is the world of dreaming and the afterlife. And there’s Briah, or Sushumna, which is the world of balance that leads to Krishna consciousness. And then there’s Atziluth, which is the realm of God Consciousness. So there are four different worlds, and each one is called by its own particular name. And when you reach Krishna consciousness or Christ consciousness, which is that third realm, you’re no longer in this world, you’re no longer like a pendulum that swings back and forth. It’s like an entirely different existence from this one, as different from the astral as the astral is from this world here.
We don’t always have to occupy the same gender body forever and ever. After all, wouldn’t that be a restriction of our ability to learn? And since the wave of anything that exists moves from Pingala to Ida, from positive to negative, it’s natural to see a change of sex over time. The pendulum swings back and forth. In fact, there are those who are changing their sex right within this lifetime, in this physical body. In other words, we don’t always change gender on the astral plane between lives; we can even start the changeover here. Which is why we have those who are called transsexuals. We may have a woman who’s really a man in a woman’s body; while she doesn’t feel like a woman, she does have a woman’s body. But if that feeling goes on long enough, she’ll become a transsexual, and she’ll change that. The important thing is, we should have tolerance of others!
Every time you go to sleep, you pass through Sushumna, but you’re only there for a fraction of a second. And every time you wake up, you come out of Ida and you pass through Sushumna, but just for a fraction of a second. What you’re trying to do is go to sleep consciously. Don’t go all the way into Ida. Stop before you get that far. Stop in Sushumna. That’s what you’re trying to accomplish.
You’re in God’s Cosmic Dream to learn the technique of God. That means that all paths in God’s cosmic dream lead to what God led to. Because after all, all these paths in God lead to where he is now. The result of all paths in his memory track is to what he himself accomplished. So it doesn’t matter in what areas you come into God: given enough time, you will reach God Consciousness. Now all paths lead to God, and all paths have their saints. But all paths are according to the nature of the individual. Even the drug addict or alcoholic on the street may not be seeking spiritual enlightenment — at least not consciously — but they are seeking it without knowing it. They’re going towards it by means of what is called karma yoga. That’s the slowest of all paths. Yogananda felt that the average individual living a normal life would take about 10 million years to reach it. The only difference between any two paths is the speed with which it takes you to God Consciousness. Remember, if you’re living in Chicago and you want to get to San Francisco, you can fly westward to get there, but you can also fly straight east and eventually you’ll get there too. They both wind up in the same place. But it’s a much longer way to go.
You can’t explain God, because if you have explained him, then you have limited him; and if you have limited him, then you are no longer explaining God. But perhaps the closest we can come to understanding is through unselfish love. Look how cold and cruel this world becomes without unselfish love. A man sees this most when he loves a woman and is willing to sacrifice his life for her; or two buddies go to war and one is willing to sacrifice his life to save his buddy’s. This is an act of unselfish love. But it is expressed especially by a woman to her child, which is pure unselfish love. God is a state of awareness that wants only one thing: to give everything he has to you. And all he asks is for you to let him, to let him give everything he has to you. But you won’t let him.
The intensity times the duration of the currents which move to the right, and the intensity times the duration of the currents which move to the left: when they are equal, they will move towards balance. In fact, the intensity of Ida, times the duration of Ida, must equal the intensity of Pingala, times the duration of Pingala. When they are equal, they collapse into Sushumna, into balance. That's what we're all trying to learn. That's what we're all striving towards.
You see, this is a uniqueness in existence: this isn't the norm. The very law which expresses the way that you are aware that you are, indicates that there's a state of unbalance. You cannot be aware that you are, without there being a state of unbalance. And so, you try to bring this into balance, because balance has a state of awareness. It has a feeling. It is both digital and analog in its expression. The digital is expressed naturally in the masculine being, more so than the analog. The analog is expressed in the female part of the being, more so than the digital. That doesn't mean that a woman doesn't have digital expression and it doesn't mean that a man doesn't have analog expression. It does mean that there is more of a direction towards the analog in a woman, and more of a direction towards the digital in a man.
This analog nature in a woman, gives enjoyment of existence. And if there is no enjoyment in existence, it's a rather poor world. The digital part - which is the masculine attribute - gives understanding of all things. So if we understand and we enjoy, then life is worthwhile. The two factors are very very necessary in order to bring about a balance of existence. This balance, remember, has a state of awareness: we call it bliss. It has a feeling of peace, a deep contentment: "The peace that goeth before all understanding" is sometimes what it is described as. You feel real good within yourself. You feel continuously and constantly happy. You're coming from a state, a stationary point, and it seems very difficult for any thing or any event to throw you off of that.
STUDENT: There are mystics who suggest that there are races of beings in the universe far more evolved that humans. Even some scientists have theorized about that, too—something called the Kardashev scale. So my question is, if such beings actually exist and really are that much more evolved than we, why are they still even on the physical plane? If they were that evolved, wouldn’t they have transcended the physical universe entirely?
SHELLY: That’s quite easy. The path towards God Consciousness is not the path of the wheel. And those beings are still on the path of the wheel. [That is, the wheel of rebirth, time, the phenomenal realms of Ida and Pingala, astral and physical, emotions and materiality.] On the path of the wheel, there are beings of tremendous power, tremendous elevation. Compared to us, they’re almost like gods. But they’re still on the path of the wheel, and they are not on the path of the saint. Which is an entirely different thing.
STUDENT: What is the path of the saint?
SHELLY: You see, a saint is not a “powerful” being. A saint is more Christ-like in his or her characteristics. A saint moves by the path of the seven, not by the path of the twelve. If you move by the path of the twelve, that takes millions of years to reach God Consciousness. You can eventually evolve to where you are the controller of a whole solar system, or the controller of a galaxy, and then of an entire universe or a cosmos. In other words, you keep climbing up the ladder through the echelons of control. But that is the path of the twelve.
STUDENT: So the path of the seven is cutting through the center of the wheel?
SHELLY: Yes. That is the path of Sushumna. This is why they said God loved seven above all other numbers, because it’s the path of balance, the straight and the narrow. It’s a path that’s easy to fall off of, because you can get so interested in something happening either in Ida or Pingala that you lose your balance.
STUDENT: The proverbial “razor’s edge”?
SHELLY: Yes. By sacrificing the self, one gains balance. And no one likes to sacrifice the self. It’s like when somebody insults you, what do you want to do? Retaliate, maybe. But to turn the other cheek? Ahh... ! Look what happens to a soldier when he goes into the field of battle and his buddy gets wounded. He goes to save him even though his own life is in grave danger; he’s willing to sacrifice his life to save his friend. This is a point of unselfish love. I’ve said that on the battlefield a man sometimes advances more spiritually than he does in an entire lifetime.
When you divide the states of awareness an average person can experience, any kind of true spiritual
revelation occurs in Sushumnic awareness. That’s where your true saints and mystics draw from
when they give predictions, things of that sort. That is Sushumnic awareness. Pingalic
awareness is what you’re mostly aware of now, in this physical waking world. And when you’re asleep, or
you’ve crossed over
after death, you’re in Idic awareness.
You see, these are the three states of awareness which you’re automatically aware of. At this moment you’re dimly aware of Ida, and you’re quite strongly aware of Pingala. Now you may have a nightmare in Ida, and wind up remaining much more aware of it than usual after waking up; it can be so strong, in fact, it survives after you wake up and essentially overrides your waking state. And if it becomes too strong, it can become an obsession, and now you’ve become not just a neurotic but truly psychotic. The stimulus from the Idic world is then controlling your reactions in the Pingalic world.
But Sushumna brings both of those worlds to balance. When the energies in Ida and Pingala are equalized, there is no longer a sense of imbalance, and Sushumnic awareness can now truly exist. It’s like a child playing jump rope. If they go into meditation and they reach Sushumna, when they’re at the upward point of that jump they’ll stay in that upper position like they’re frozen in time and space.
STUDENT: But would you even see that child standing still if you were truly in Sushumna? Isn’t the image of that child a Pingalic, physical manifestation?
SHELLY: If you’re in Sushumna you can see both Pingala and Ida.
STUDENT: So if you’re in Sushumna you would see—what, exactly?
SHELLY: You would see reality as it is stretched out in a different way from what you now call reality. It would look entirely different. A saint can also see the future, he can see “God’s plan,” since he’s viewing it in a wider scope than you have when you’re looking at it from either the Idic or Pingalic worlds. He’s looking at it from the Sushumnic point of view.
STUDENT: What is the purpose of our existence?
SHELLY: The purpose is balanced self-conscious awareness. When you’ve reached a state of balanced consciousness, it’s a state of “ever-new, ever-changing, ever more glorious bliss.” So there’s never any boredom. It’s an ever more enjoyable state of existence. Then you have learned the control of Self. You are in a state of controlled awareness.
For example, if you are feeling very pleasant, and someone hits you on the chin, you are liable at this point not to feel very pleasant about it; you might even want to hit them back. But if you can be criticized or even hit on the chin and it still doesn’t disturb you, then you’re in a state of enjoyment of self‐conscious awareness. Now you have controlled self-conscious awareness.
In other words, if a stimulus can hit you and you’re able to feel what you want to feel, and not what the stimulus is “supposed” to evoke, then you don’t need any modality to make you feel things. Like you’ll have a person who is used to using one system or another to get high and stay high; as soon as he comes back down to what is considered the norm, he just can’t stand it, he’s got to get high all the time. That’s because he’s being controlled by a modality, he’s not in control. You listen to some of the drug users after they’ve taken their drugs, and they’ll say they can take ’em or leave ’em alone, you know? But it’s not under their control. They’re controlled by it, and they don’t realize it. Or they refuse to admit it to themselves.
So the question is, does a stimulant control you, or do you control it? Let’s take the strongest stimulant a man has: sex. Does it control you, or do you control sex? See, there’s nothing wrong with sex. Religions have come out and made it like sex is evil. But it is not evil. However, if sex controls you, now that’s where problems arise. That is the most important thing to control; think of how much self-control this produces, if you can control it! So the whole idea is to seek balance. And the only real path is through meditation, which is controlled awareness.
STUDENT: Can any or all these things be used as tools?
SHELLY: Yes, yes, they can all be used as tools, providing you control them instead of them controlling you. For instance, there’s nothing wrong with alcohol, providing it’s done in moderation. But when anyone lets alcohol control them—ahh!
Yogananda came over to this country, and they gave him coffee, you know. He got to where he thought this habit of the Americans was a nice thing. Then one morning he didn’t get his coffee, and he had a headache. So he said, “I don’t know why I have a headache.” And someone said, “Oh, you haven’t had your coffee, have you?” “Why no,” he said. “Aha! Now that coffee is controlling me, instead of me controlling it.” So he stopped drinking coffee. This is the whole trouble with any form of narcotic or alcohol. It’s a modality that controls the individual; it’s in the opposite direction to which God consciousness exists.
STUDENT: If you knew that you were going to die shortly and you were asked to sum up your life teachings in one final statement, what would you say?
SHELLY: Very simple. To those who came to my funeral, I’d say this: take three minutes of meditation to prove that this is the way. Because it is the path, truly, to God consciousness. Even if there is no God, the technique of meditation leads to a very favorable degree of self-conscious awareness. And this is well worth it, because this is controlled awareness; you are always placing everything in its correct order, all the experiences that come into you. And the experiences that come to you are therefore blissful, rather than there sometimes being experiences which are painful because you haven’t placed them into balanced order. That’s what meditation leads to.
Anyone who has gone any depth at all into meditation becomes aware that it is the golden path, the way in which the alchemists are changing base lead into spiritual gold. You’re climbing up the ladder, what the Bible calls Jacob’s ladder, and it is the expression of the law of self-conscious awareness. And that’s true for all beings in existence who have self-conscious awareness. What is the difference between God and you at any given moment or place in time? Only one: he is complete balanced self-conscious awareness. And these basics are true throughout all existence. All the other stuff that I say, those can be variables, because they’re just musings about things. But it’s the basics that are important.
SHELLY: When the current in your spine is fully above the cervical center, you can't explain anything anyway: it's because you can't speak. You literally cannot function like normal when your consciousness is in the head centers. In the beginning you may have an idea that you can, but you will find out that the current must shift to the left or right and drop to the neck.
STUDENT: What if a person is in Cosmic Consciousness?
SHELLY: Then that person is in all the planes at the same time. Like Yogananda said, "You are a distinct wave in an ocean of infinite consciousness."
"Plato in the Light of Yoga is a historical piece: Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and Plato's Phaedo are more than 2000 years old. In this article I interpret Plato through the lens of Indian thought, rather than the traditional approach, which is through the lens of European thought.
What is the relevance to Shelly? It was only because I learned two things from Shelly that I was able to write this article: 1) I learned to interpret passages symbolically rather than literally, and 2) I learned the techniques of Kriya Yoga. If you attend to pages 23-25 in the article, you will be astonished how Plato's geography can be seen as an esoteric inner geography that describes a breathing technique similar to Kriya." --Professor Jeffrey Gold
"Shelly is my guru. I was initiated by Shelly in the mid-1980s. I visited him many times and stayed in touch with Deborah after he passed. I am Jewish and wanted to study with Shelly because I was interested in both Yoga and Kabbalah and I was attracted to how he integrated the two systems of thought. I had always been bothered by the Akedah or the binding of Isaac.
During one visit, I asked Shelly how he understood that passage. He said that, obviously, Isaac was Abraham's fifth house since the fifth house is the house of children. So, G-d was telling Abraham to let go of his fifth house. I had always read the passage literally so his symbolic interpretation appealed to me. So, I thought about it and eventually wrote the attached paper which was published in The Esoteric Quarterly and the direct result of my conversation with Shelly." --Professor Jeffrey Gold
"My guru, Shelly Trimmer, was a very unusual, extraordinary, remarkable, and uncommon person. It is hard to describe him. For me, his most endearing trait was his laughter..." read more.
"Shelly’s view of the Four Worlds of Kabbalah is different from the traditional Jewish/Kabbalistic explanation. However, the two different interpretations are not incompatible because the objectives are not the same..." read more.
"Although Shelly’s language is idiosyncratic, it is clearly grounded in the Yoga Sutras. The first 4 sutras state the vision, the goals, and the aims of Yoga. Patanjali’s famous definition of Yoga (Sutra 2) is "Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah". In English, it means..." read more.
"When we find ourselves, it is the experience of standing off and viewing ourselves and it is unclear whether we are the viewer or the viewed..." read more.
"Yogananda was able to live a life, he lived a life, enjoyed it to the fullest extent, he hammed it up to every possibility he could, but behind the man was always a saint...." read more.
High School Electronics Club, 1930's
Shelly, early 1950's
High School Yearbook Photo
"A distinct personality - always ready for an argument -
experimenting is one of his greatest hobbies"
Shelly aboard his boat in Florida
Photo courtesy Claudette Baker
Enjoying the Gulf Coast of Florida
For many years, Shelly dressed exclusively in black and white
Shelly and Deborah
Photo courtesy Jeffrey Gold
Shelly walking his dog in Florida
Shelly with daughter Melanie, May 1966
Marjorie and Shelly, early 1970's
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