Compassionate Listening and Other Writings
Essays by Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Quaker Peace Activist and Mystic
Edited, with introductory biography by Anthony Manousos
This 348 page book is a testament to the life of a remarkable woman. Anthony Manousos, editor of the Friends Bulletin, spent a long summer interviewing Gene and gathering family photographs for the beautiful and extensive biography section. Gene’s essays, spanning fifty years, show the development of Compassionate Listening in thought and action, including her candid approach to personal healing and spiritual peace-making. This book is a must for all who seek to be greater forces for peace and compassion in the world.
Leah Green, founder, The Compassionate Listening Project
Click here to order “Compassionate Listening and Other Writings by Gene Knudsen Hoffman”.
For the past twenty years, Gene Hoffman has been engaged in efforts to seek out the deep, psychological causes of violence and to help bring about healing and reconciliation through a process she calls “Compassionate Listening.”
An active Quaker and member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) for over fifty years, she traveled dozens of times to the Middle East and the former Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s to do reconciliation work. In 1989, after American planes downed two Libyan planes, she went to Libya with an FOR delegation to meet with Libyan leaders. She has met with and listened to Palestinians and Israelis, and published articles, books, and pamphlets about her experiences, including Pieces of the Mideast Puzzle (1991) and No Royal Road to Reconciliation (1995). Most recently she helped to arrange Compassionate Listening sessions between Alaskan hunters and fishers and indigenous people through the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She has published over a hundred articles as well as books, poems and pamphlets and given innumerable workshops and talks about peacemaking. Her work has inspired numerous others, including Cynthia Monroe, AFSC staff person in Alaska, and Leah Green, founder of The Compassionate Listening Project. Gene has been rightly called a “pioneer” in the Compassionate Listening movement, and has worked with such other notables as Adam Curle, Herb Walters, Virginia Baron, and Richard Deats.
“Gene is a real prophet,” said Judith Kolokoff, former AFSC regional director in the Pacific Northwest. “And she’s a remarkable facilitator. She has the capacity to bring out the very best of the truth in each individual.”
Gene’s approach to compassionate listening is rooted in both psychological and mystical perspectives. A founder of the Santa Barbara Night Counseling Center in the 1960s, she earned her Masters in pastoral counseling from Goddard College and worked with Ben Weininger, a “Zen-Hasidic” Rogerian psychiatrist. With her background in counseling, Gene came to see all parties in a conflict as “wounded,” as having suffered psychological traumas that need healing.
But Gene’s work also has a spiritual dimension, as Dennis Rivers, a communication skills instructor from Santa Barbara, observes: “Gene is a Quaker mystic. Her calling was to carry pastoral counseling out of the pastor’s study into public life. What has energized her work over the years is the Quaker teaching that ‘there is that of God in every person.'”
As Gene herself puts it: “The call, as I see it, is for us to see that within all life is the mystery: God. It is within the contra, the Nazi, the Africaaner, the Israeli, the Palestinian, and the American. By compassionate listening we may awaken it and thus learn the partial truth the other is carrying, for another aspect of being human is that we each carry some portion of the truth. To reconcile, we must listen for, discern, and acknowledge this partial truth in everyone.”
To appreciate fully Gene’s approach to peacemaking and conflict resolution, we need to understand something about her intense inner struggles. To do so, we need to follow her along a spiritual journey that she aptly calls “a peace pilgrim’s progress to inner healing…”
For more than half a century, Gene Hoffman – through her essays and poetry, her workshops and speeches, her travels and her witness, has been a fountainhead of creative spirituality and courageous peacemaking. This will be a rich resource for those who come after her.
Richard Deats, Editor of “Fellowship” magazine, Author of “Martin Luther King, Junior, Spirit-led Prophet” (Faithworks, 1999)
How fine that a collection of Gene Hoffman’s writings will be published! I loved reading the introductory essay. I want to commend you for that careful and lively piece of work. You let so much of Gene shine through, capturing her vitality, versatility, and passion, and include so many other voices as well. This book will be an invaluable resource.
Joanna Macy, Buddhist peace activist, author of “Widening Circles: A Memoir”, New Society Publishers, 2000) and World as Lover, World as Self, Parallax Press, 1991)
If you are looking for lay wisdom that pierces deep into what psychotherapy is all about you will be gripped and lifted by this autobiographical classic that is written in blood and tears out of her own life by Gene Hoffman, a gifted Santa Barbara Friend.
Douglas Steere, Quaker theologian, writing about “From Inside the Glass Doors” (reprinted in this collection)
I consider Gene one of my most treasured mentors. In fact, I consider her one of our national treasures.
Leah Green, Director of The Compassionate Listening Project
I endorse the program for Compassionate Listening. It’s very important to begin efforts to try to heal the world, and we need to know that we have the potential and the power to do that.
Dennis Kucinich, progressive Congressman from Ohio’s 10th district
Table of Contents
Editor’s Introduction and Biography
Part I: Witnessing Against McCarthyism
“The Oath and I”
Queries on a “single standard of truth”
Part II: Building Bridges Between Races
“Trapped by Thomas Jefferson”
“Let the Rage Uncoil”
Queries on race relations
Part III: Breakdown and Breakthroughs
From Inside the Glass Doors
“Divorce: What Might Friends Do?”
“Our Children Are Guests in Our Lives”
Queries on mutual and self care
Part IV: Peacemaking From the Inside Out
“A Peace Pilgrim’s Progress To Inner Healing”
“No Conflict, No Reconciliation”
“A New Approach to Peace”
“Speaking Truth to Power”
“Reflections on Meeting With Richard Nixon”
“Disarming the Heart”
“Hope from Hiroshima”
“Discovering Your Vocation in the Nuclear Age”
“Thich Nhat Hanh, The ONam Retreat”
Queries on peacemaking
Part V: Soviet-American Citizen Diplomacy
“Planting Seeds of Hope”
“To Live Without Enemies”
Queries on reconciliation
Part VI: Reflections on the Spirit
“Jesus, the Christ, Quakers and I”
“God and Horror”
“Listening for Truth”
“Lester and Gandhi: A Special Friendship”
Selected Poems from All Possible Surprises
Queries on spiritual nurture
Part VII: Compassionate Listening in the Middle East
“Listening to the Libyans”
“Israelis and Palestinians: Two Traumatized Peoples”
“Crevices in the Rock”
“After the Peace Accords ‘What?'”
“An Enemy is One Whose Story We Have Not Heard”
“Compassionate Listening-First Step to Reconciliation?”
Queries on listening
Part VIII: Listening for the Future
“Listening Key to Healing Wounds in Mideast” by Leah Green
“Report on Compassionate Listening Training” by Carol Hwoschinsky
“Why There is Hope for Humanity” by Gene Hoffman
“Aging: A Time of New Possibilities” by Gene Hoffman