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"Doing more exercise with less intensity,"
Arthur Jones believes, "has all but
destroyed the actual great value
of weight training. Something
must be done . . . and quickly."
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MUCH of that "something."

 

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Arthur Jones: Some Unlearning Thoughts about HIT
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Ellington Darden, Ph.D.

Arthur Jones:
Some Unlearning Thoughts about HIT

(Note: I wrote this piece for Classic X in June of 1999.
More than 5 years later, the material is still as relevant
today as it was then.)

A visit with Arthur Jones is always meaningful. If he’s in a talkative mood, it’s an educational experience you’ll never forget. Even if he’s upset or angry, you’ll learn something — if you just keep your mouth shut and listen.

On April 28, 1999, I spent three hours with Arthur. He was in good spirits probably because I brought a smart, attractive woman with me on my visit. The woman was Jeanenne Schindele. I’ve mentioned Jeanenne several times in my previous articles. She’s helped me greatly with the interior design of my home in Celebration, and I strength trained her for several months. Anyway, Jeanenne had heard a lot about Jones and wanted to meet him.

We drove from Orlando to Ocala, where Arthur resides, and arrived at his home at approximately 1:00 PM.

Jones was sitting on his trusty couch — surrounded on his right side by a small bookcase and on his left side by a larger series of shelves, both of which were crammed full of volumes he had read over the last year.

In front of Arthur, on a medium-sized coffee table, were a couple of worn cardboard boxes. It was these two boxes that occupied Arthur’s interest.

After the normal introductions, Jones proceeded to dig through the boxes with much curiosity. Then, he started bringing out all these old black-and-white photos, which were assembled in musty envelopes, of his adventures in Africa during the 1960s.

A young Arthur Jones, in 1958 at age 32, is shown with a poisonous beaded lizard. Great diversity, according to Jones, allowed him to approach muscle building from a different perspective than those preceding him. By the time Jones invented Nautilus and developed HIT principles in 1970, he had recorded more than 17,000 hours flying airplanes, traveled to 56 foreign countries, become fluent in eight languages, captured many lions, jaguars, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, and elephants, and produced and directed more than 200 films for television.

I’d heard Arthur talk about these pictures a few times, but I’d never seen them. Neither had Arthur for more than 25 years. Arthur’s third wife, Eliza, discovered the missing photographs during a move from Florida to England. She had recently returned the boxes to Arthur.

In some of the pictures was a 40-year-old Arthur Jones — holding a large snake, directing a film shoot, riding in a land rover, standing by an airplane, capturing a large Nile crocodile, and feeding a baby elephant.

As Jeanenne and I are looking at the pictures and listening to Arthur describe what had happened in each one, a sudden excitement permeates Jeanenne’s face.


It’s Clark Gable

"Hey Arthur, examine all the pictures together," Jeanenne said, as she quickly arranged five of them in a scrapbook-like fashion. "Who does this man with the mustache and slick-backed hair remind you of?"

"I don’t know, who?" Arthur replied, with a sly look in his eyes.

"Clark Gable . . . Arthur, you look like Clark Gable."

Jeanenne was right, Arthur did resemble Clark Gable.

Arthur smiled. Yes, other people years ago had noted the similarity. Interestingly, Clark Gable had worked as a roughneck in the oilfields around Seminole, Oklahoma, where Arthur grew up.

"I never met Gable when he was in Seminole," Arthur said. "I was just a kid then. Later, when Gable was a star in Hollywood, I cared little for his movies. I always liked the women he was with much better than the roles he played."

In Jeanenne’s mind Arthur looked very much the part of a dashing, handsome, rogue. And judging from the past stories that I’ve heard from Jones, Jeanenne was correct.

From beautiful women, to wild animals, to politics . . . we talked about it all. Finally, we got on the subject of strength training.


An Arthur Jones Parable

"Why are so many people," I asked Arthur, "still hesitant to apply the sensible, logical, strength-training concepts that you developed in the 1970s?"

Arthur replied, as he often does, with a parable. While I’ve written about this particular parable in my "Nautilus Bodybuilding Book," the story is worth repeating.

"Imagine you are on a hiking trip through some rugged desert terrain," Jones said. "You see a figure in the distance. It’s an old man, bearded and half-naked, on hands and knees, with his fingers clawing at the hard, sandy earth.

"You ask, ‘What are you doing?’

" ‘I’m digging for gold.’

" ‘How long have you been at it?’

" ‘Weeks — months maybe. It’s painfully slow work.’

"You notice the old man’s bloody fingers, his raw and callused knuckles. You say, ‘But listen, man! Digging with your bare hands is a pretty inefficient way to prospect for gold. That hole’s only a couple of feet deep. Let me loan you my shovel.’

"You reach into your backpack, pull out a lightweight, tempered-edge spade, and drive it into the ground. Then, you show the man how he can break and scoop the hard sand much more efficiently. In less than five minutes you have demonstrated to the old fellow that he can make more progress in a few moments than he could in a month of using his bare hands.

"Then, an amazing thing happens," Jones said. "That old man’s eyes fill with hate and his face flushes angrily. He charges at you and grabs the shovel from your hands. He’s now preparing to throw the shovel, or perhaps even try to beat you with it.

"You quickly retreat, and get the hell out of the old man’s range, as the shovel comes crashing down behind you on the hard sand."

That’s not the end of the story. After a longer-than-normal pause, Arthur continued:

"If you return to that rugged location in the desert a year later, what would you expect to see that old man doing? Would he be using the shovel properly and have holes as big as school buses spread over the immediate and adjacent surroundings?

"No, absolutely not! Instead, the prospector would be at that same spot — with a somewhat bigger hole — still digging with his even-more-callused fingers. And there, in plain sight, only a few yards away . . . would be the unused, and now rusty, shovel."


Jones’s Assessment

I’ve heard Arthur use this story in front of audiences of mostly bodybuilders. These men usually sit quietly for a long moment, mulling over what they’ve heard. Then, their lips tighten and their heads shake a little from side to side as they examine their guilt. But most of them get the point. They recognize that Jones is saying they are exactly like that old man in the desert.

Another speaker might have asserted that they were too dumb to appreciate the logical, efficient way of "digging for gold." But not Arthur Jones. He made his point by talking about an old desert prospector who, when offered a performance-improving shovel (call it a Nautilus machine, a MedX machine, or a brief, intense routine), became infuriated and immediately rejected it.

"Such is human nature," Arthur noted. "Human beings are afraid, unsure, and fearful of change. Especially so, if they’ve been even moderately successful in reaching some goal."

The old man while a failure at finding gold, did at least have a moderate-sized hole — which he could be proud of — didn’t he?

But wait. Look at the time it took him to create that particular result? And remember his key objective was to dig more numerous and bigger holes — so he could improve his probability of discovering gold.

Then, Arthur said, "Years ago, a reporter asked me . . . Mr. Jones, how old are you? I replied . . . Old enough to know that you can’t change the thinking of fools — but young and foolish enough to keep on trying.

"More recently, my life has been a series of outrages — outrages brought on by foolish people. I have no use for fools. Yet, I’m constantly subjected to their presence — in every city, in every country. There is no place on the planet left untouched by foolish people.

"I’m exhausted . . . I’m tired of it all.

"But I’m not ready to die, at least not tomorrow, or the next week, or the week after."

In my opinion, Arthur Jones is much too wise not to keep on trying.


The Unlearning Process

When I first met Arthur Jones in the summer of 1970, I was 28 years old and about to finish my Ph.D. in exercise science from Florida State University. After talking with me about strength training for ten minutes, Jones confronted me with the following:

"You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?" Jones asked, as I nodded my head. "If you can unlearn everything you’ve learned about exercise — and if you can do this unlearning before you reach age 40 — you’ll be headed in the right direction. At age 40, at the zero level of learning — then, maybe you can learn something of value. If so, you’ll indeed be smart."

I laughed sheepishly at what Jones said, not understanding the depth of his assessment.

But he was so right.

It did take me a dozen years to unlearn completely what I thought I knew about exercise — and, I was motivated to unlearn. Most people with advanced degrees in exercise science or exercise physiology never unlearn. You might say that they remain stuck, stuck in the middle of a quagmire of near-useless theories and practices. Of course, they probably never had a chance to meet Arthur Jones, or study about exercise from such a wise teacher.

Now, more than a dozen years after I reached the zero level of learning, I’m still trying to master many of the finer points of productive exercise. I do, however, have a handle on some important concepts that helped me in my unlearning and relearning processes. You can review a detailed version of the basics in my HIT books. Below are a few more points that helped me in my journey.


Some Unlearning Facts about Strength Training

Strength training has attracted tens of millions of interested people. Few of these people are still exercising. Even fewer have attained anything close to significant results from their training.

Most trainees become frustrated with their exercise gains (or lack of gains) because they are preoccupied with the accomplishments of others, usually the winners of bodybuilding competitions. Although this is difficult to do, trainees must strive to be acutely aware of their own achievements, within the context of their genetic potential.

The muscle magazines focus primarily on the achievements and training of the champions. Such information has little relevance for the masses and their desire for satisfactory results.

The bodybuilding champions have genetically responsive bodies. Since they have inherited much longer-than-average muscles and greater numbers of muscle fibers, the champions can train in almost any way — and grow larger and stronger. This easy-to-misunderstand philosophy worked in spite of the techniques and routines that they followed. It was never a situation of whether they would grow; it was a case of at what rate. These genetically responsive individuals have little comprehension of why their techniques and routines do not work for average people.

Genetically typical trainees have bodies with shorter muscles and fewer numbers of muscle fibers, which respond in much-lesser degrees than those of the champions. Muscular size and strength gains do not come quickly and easily for typical trainees.

High levels of muscular size and strength are of great value, until taken to extremes. When bodybuilding progresses into a drug-fueled obsession, it becomes destructive. Some of the world’s most successful bodybuilders display lifestyles that have been severely degraded by such obsessions.

The general philosophy behind getting bigger and stronger is relatively simple. Lift progressively heavier and heavier weights — in good form. But this simple directive does not mean easy. The process requires hard work, attention to detail, and persistence.

Brief, intense training should be the first resort, not the last. Do not waste years of training time experiencing almost every routine and technique before finally applying hard, brief exercise.

On each repetition, keep the exercise style strict, slow, and smooth. Make no compromises on form.


Thanks, Arthur

It’s difficult for most typical or average trainees to understand and finally admit that they are not gifted in the muscle-building department — at least not to the same extent as are the long-muscled champions.

I personally experienced that same difficulty. However, standing beside such men as Casey Viator, Sergio Oliva, and Mike Mentzer — with Jones pointing out the dramatic differences between my muscle bellies versus their muscle bellies — helped me to observe, and finally learn, the truth.

I was no slouch in bodybuilding circles in the 1960s and 1970s. But it became increasingly plain to me — after comparing my contracted arms and legs several times with Casey, Sergio, and Mike — that I could never have their muscular size and shape . . . NEVER!

I guess, with me, you could say: "Seeing multiple times is believing!"

Championship bodybuilding, at the national and world level, is a contest of genetic freaks. Involved are one-in-a-million type men, who are anything but typical. Champion bodybuilders, who are featured in the muscle magazines, are like a collection of seven-foot tall, National Basketball Association centers — except the bodybuilders have the genetics to develop huge, volumetric, seven-foot muscles. Both groups possess rare inherited traits, which can be a giant advantage.

No, it’s not fair.

That’s not to say, however, that you and I can’t build significant levels of size and strength. We can. But it’s considerably more arduous for us.

We need to help each other. But to do so, we must stay realistic.

I always admired Jones for his brutally realistic and honest approach to bodybuilding . . . and to life. It helped me unlearn and relearn more efficiently.

Arthur Jones knew years ago that he resembled Clark Gable. But he also knew he was not Gable; he didn’t have Gable’s genes. He was Arthur Jones. Why not be Arthur Jones, and become all Arthur Jones could become . . . in the most efficient manner? And so he did.


Thanks, Arthur, for challenging us to operate in a similar way.

Please remain alive and well . . . and continue to keep on trying and kicking.

Discuss this article | Text Version

Charles Coulter

New York, USA

"It's difficult for most typical or average trainees to understand and finally admit that they are not gifted in the muscle-building department? at least not to the same extent as are the long-muscled champions."

As we all know this is what fuels the fitness and supplement businesses. Praying on our insecurities and giving us false hope that we can all be champs.

Having tools like the "pump" test that you describe in your newest book and in "The Nautilus Bodybuilding Book", are nice for establishing goals for those interested in muscle developement. I'm curious if the method discribed works
across the board to other muscle groups as well?

-Charles
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Ellington Darden

Charles,

I don't believe the pump test works as well for other muscle groups as it does for the upper arms and forearms. You have to be able to measure accurately a pump and you can do that easily with the arms, and also the calves. But you have real problems in the dealing with the chest, back, shoulders, and even the thighs.

Ellington
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Dustin Jordan

Florida, USA

When I was 12 years old, I got my first barbell and dumbell set. I would work out for hours, read every muscle mag I could get my hands on, and daydream about how big I was gonna be. I was gonna be a professional bodybuilder. Mr. Olympia. My Dad(6'2,229lbs.) would tell me from time to time that I'd never grow up to be a big man. "You don't have the frame.", he use to say. This would piss me off, and make me want to prove him wrong. I kept lifting and dreaming, because I didn't want to believe him. Today, I'm 29 years old, light-boned, 5'10", and gave up that dream long ago. So far Dad's right:)

My father tried to give me a wake-up call, but I wasn't ready. For me, this article hit home. I hope it can provide a few wake-up calls.

Thanks,
Dustin

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Ellington Darden

Dustin,

Your wake-up call statements made my morning. Thanks.

Ellington
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CarleneToomey

Hi Ell! I really enjoyed your article on Arthur. I was wondering if he was still alive.

It looks like you are doing well. I saw your HIT book in the book store the other day (I always check to see if you have a new book out. I looked through it and saw your web site. I just wanted to say hi and this was the only way I could get in touch with you.

E-mail me at [email address deleted] so I can talk to you and catch up on you or you can call [phone number deleted]. I am living in the Atlanta area now. Hope to hear from you!

Your old friend - Carlene Jarrard Toomey


[Moderator Note: Personal information is not allowed to be posted on the forum. Please use the Private Message feature.]
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scott kern

I propose that all readers of this web page send Arthur Jones a thank you note and one dollar. Mr. Darden mentioned this a few years back and I think it would make Mr. Jones feel good. We need a mailing address.
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DCooper

Ell,
You talked about unlearning of tendencies, especially for those with degrees in exercise sciences. What do you see as an alternative (since we all dont get to learn from Arthur Jones) to a Masters or Ph.D.?

Dan
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Ellington Darden

Dan,

Good question.

It's important that you read widely, in many subjects, and then enter in discussions with other people who have done the same thing. College settings are obviously the best places, though not the only ones, to do such things.

Strength training situations are similar. You have to read, try, experiment, get feedback, review, and try again. The internet is a great place to express yourself. But at the same time you must be skeptical.

Maybe we can get some other guys to offer their takes on your question?

Ellington
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BRUCELEEWANNABE

Florida, USA

scott kern wrote:
I propose that all readers of this web page send Arthur Jones a thank you note and one dollar. Mr. Darden mentioned this a few years back and I think it would make Mr. Jones feel good. We need a mailing address.


I'm all for that! I would really like to write Jones & thank him for everything he has done for bodybuilding! I'm sure he would like to hear from his fans. He's the man!
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Ellington Darden

Bruceleewannabe,

Jones has no interest in hearing from his fans. He wants to be left alone.

Ellington
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BRUCELEEWANNABE

Florida, USA

I guess after so much one just gets tired of it all. Same with Steve Reeves in his later yrs. I bet it all does get old after awhile. Thanks Dr. Darden! Oh, Dr. Darden; do you get tired of people coming up to you all the time asking questions? Dumb questions, good questions, autographs & the like. Does it get old after awhile. From the looks of it here on your website you seem to enjoy it. Your always replying to everyones questions which is really cool. I look forward one day to meeting you, shaking your hand & telling you how much you have helped me in my training. It means alot to me. You seem like a really great guy! Besides writing your books & everything you do w/ bodybuilding & health in general what do you do in your spare time. You look like you would be a good tennis player, am I right? I'm a tennis instructer, so I'm taking a guess here. Talk you later, gator.
Dean
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TommyB

Really, one of the best gifts to one's self is finding a job or calling that you enjoy. I have one now and I have had to readjust to woking out for fun, fitness, wellness and so on versus to deal with a job that pisses you off and stresses you so bad you do it for survival. Nice re-learning experience which I would commend to anyone who can get into that position.

Apparently Dr. Darden has found it. It is sort of sad Arthur Jones wants to just live quietly and be left alone, but entirely understandable. One gets pretty tired of feeling like the "voice crying out in the wilderness" or swimming against what appears to be a highly subsidized delusional stream. Easy to get cynical as hell and tired.
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hitgurl

Dr. Darden:

Thank you for speaking on Motor Learning at the HIT Conference in Indianapolis last week. During the Q/A you made an Arthur Jones statement about too much exercise. I wanted to quote you exactly, but can't remember verbatim what you said, "I don't have all the answers about how much exercise is appropriate, but I do know that MORE EXERCISE is the wrong answer." Was that it?

Thanks sincerely,
HITGURL
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Ellington Darden

HITGURL,

"I can't tell you the formula for bodybuilding success," Jones said, "but I can tell you the formula for bodybuilding failure . . . MORE EXERCISE."

Ellington
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Myself0101

I can totally understand Jones wish to be left alone. After years of trying to convince people that what they were doing was wrong, and merely trying to help them find a more efficient manner of achieving their goals. I'm sure he is sick of being ignored when the evidence is as plain as day. Another thing that no doubt pissed him off was the fact it took a man with a Ph.d to convince them he was right (no offence Dr Darden!) and even then the majority still believed him an doddery old fool, no doubt a mindset that was encouraged by Joe Weider.

I think i would be disillusioned too, who wouldnt? But I would also like to thank him and Dr Darden for bringing about change in my training methods, your new book is a fantastic read and plan on buying the others. Im glad that I joined the HIT 'revolution' early on, at 17 I think i have many years of training ahead of me, even if my genetics aren't brilliant! But I must agree 'Arthur Jones IS the man' and in Ellington Darden he found someone to carry the torch. Oh and Dr Darden I have just laid the foundations for a similar experiment to your one considering David Hudlow, my friend Andy has agreed to be my 'project' and I intend to fully document it.
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Joe Mullen

Florida, USA

Ell -

Although I have known you and respected you, on the highest levels, for many years, I have not taken the time to view your site.

Having done so today, it became apparently clear to me that your value to the health and fitness professions is beyond comparison. When it comes to accepting the position of "The Keeper of The Flame," you are the only person qualified to do so.

Reading the stories, you have written about Arthur Jones is deeply touching and inspirational. You have masterfully portrayed him with the respect, reverence, and dignity he so truly deserves.

You continue to hold the high ground.

I and millions of others thank you for that.

Joe Mullen



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Ellington Darden

Joe,

I appreciate your comments. Arthur definitely needs to be remembered in the right light.

Ellington
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BloodandGuts

my thoughts on why Arthur was unable to reach a large number of people as opposed to someone like Joe Weider boils down to one concept:

Jones appealed to a person's intelligence, Weider appeals to their emotions.

sadly, with regards to the majority of people out there, i have found that emotions will win out every time.

It is to Jones' credit that he never took that route, but unfortunately it made his disappointment an inevitability.

you can add to it that Jones seemed to be an ethical businessman, Weider does not. Considering the tactics that Weider has used over the years and that Jones steered clear of them would make that hard to argue with I think.

Jones spent 20 over years developing an effective pullover machine while Weider spent god knows how many minutes developing that useless "exercise" bar that Arnold is holding in Pumping Iron while some guy takes pics of him with sexy women strewn about.

at the end of the day both men have made a lot of money in their chosen fields but which one can look in the mirror and honesty say he "earned" it in the proper sense of the word.

regards,
B&G
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Uplift

Gidday Ellington,I am not sure if this is the right place to ask, but I am hoping you or Arthur Jones can help. Around 25-30 years ago there was a Nautilus Magazine. One of the editions featured an amasing one legged athlete. I think his last name was Browner or Bruner. He Played Grid iron, Basketball and sprinted...with no prosthetic.

It was one of the most amasing motivational and inspirational stories I have seen, but I lost the magazine years ago, and am unable to find any info about it. Any help or info concerning it would be greatly appreciated. All the best.
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messersmith

I just finished my family Bible study with my three homeschooled children. How does this have anything to do with Author Jones you ask? In Proverbs, 26:1-12 to be exact, it talks about how to identify and fool and how to properly deal with such a person. Author would serve himself well to realize, for example that a dog (a.k.a. fool) returns to his vomit.

"Like snow in summer, and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool....". The world is full of fools... "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself."

I have been a long time admirer of Jones. Having a degree in exercise science 1993, been certified through NSPA and the IART. I have had the better part of the last 15 years as owner operator of Temple Fitness Personal Training to apply Jones's, Mentzer's, Johnson's, and information from others HIT individuals with great success.
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DownUnderLifter

Hey Messersmith

What does your current routine look like and how often do you train?

Cheers mate

DUL
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jasonjduke

And then there are the plethora of those who over the years did not, or simply did not even bother to believe, there was gold in the ground to be dug.

Some stood there looking with interest upon the toil and work of others' successes and failures, choosing to fail within their own minds. If "I do not believe it to be in the ground than there is no point to giving a hoot." But, they have not even tried to look.

Others walk out into the field give a mere glance and see a gold nugget poking above ground and immediately begin to paw at the mere surface striking pure success. And still others try and try as they might, digging and moving from spot to spot, do eventually garner some success. Many do fail to find any gold at all.

But then there is the minuscule amount who proclaim to create gold where they stand. They do not dig, but with mind, body, and spirit, they call upon all the opportunities, discovered and undiscovered, in the world to create gold at there feet. Not through magic potions, specially concocted elixirs, nor perception altering substances, but with the true potential within and without.

Arthur Jones initiated the first discoveries of the potential of the human body's muscular potential. There will be others to come who discover more - Arthur has just pricked the mere surface of the subject of weight training and bodybuilding.

Arthur's science is no longer applicable in the overbearing and colossus ideal of genetics. But, one day we, the human race, will look back upon the days of genetic limitation as a bygone era. Humans in the future will have discovered that everything this planet has is already here, in the grand design and has continually offered the potential, for the next stage concerning the evolution of one's own capacity - even within a lifetime. They will have come to greater capacities of the mind - they will truly come to know the perfect design of the kingdoms of life regarding their own bodily potential and they will understand more and more the true meaning of true faith.

When the days of competition and limitation die down and give way to the days of creation and the limitless it will be seen. Though, until that day comes, nearly all who claim what now appears as alchemy, as Arthur in this time has, will be ridiculed in heresy.

There be gold at their feets.

It will become the next era of champions to declare in mastery "Science shall not propose limits upon me, I shall uncover the limits of science."
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PTB

New Jersey, USA

Dr. Darden,

I've seen some snippets on YouTube of Arthur Jones giving one of his lectures. The vids are no more than 5 minutes. Are there videos of these sessions availale for purchase?
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