Roger Allen Weir (1940–2018)
Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Weir suffered from lung ailments at a young age which restricted his physical activity. Due to this impediment he spent much of his time reading everything he could get his hands on from Isaac Asimov to Edgar Rice Burroughs. This early reading would ultimately set the stage for a life of dedicated research and course work development beginning with his "History of Ideas," later to become "Ecumene" and ultimately after decades of refinement his two-year "The Learning Civilization" course.
Weir studied at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1958–1963, and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science (B.Sc.) Degree. He began his undergraduate studies with a focus on Engineering, but shifted mid-course to major in Philosophy. Two of his philosophy mentors at University of Wisconsin were Julius R. Weinberg (Medieval philosophy and Logic), and E. F. Kalin (Aesthetics and Existentialism).
After graduating from University of Wisconsin – Madison, Weir relocated to San Francisco and conducted two years of self-study in architecture and Chinese culture. In preparation for pursuing a Master's Degree, Weir took the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and scored in the 97th percentile. He applied and was accepted to the Master's program in Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State College.
While attending San Francisco State, Weir was a graduate teaching assistant and had the rare opportunity to develop and teach courses in the Humanities department. It was there that he created and introduced several courses such as "An Inquiry on the History of the Book of Kells," and "Job and Faust: Two Faces of Evil." Weir had the opportunity to study philosophy under the guidance of Jacob Needleman. His Humanities under-professor was Rabbi Alvin Fine (1917–1999), and his academic advisor was Dr. Kai-yu Hsu (1922–1982). Amidst the rioting of 1969, San Francisco State had to be shut down, however, according to Weir’s own reports, he was picked to graduate in spite of the shutdown – in order to send the message that even in times of chaos education must prevail. He attended San Francisco State from 1965 to 1969 and earned both a Master's of Arts (M.A.) Degree and a lifetime California Teaching credential. Additionally, he received a Chinese Scroll degree from Kai-Yu Hsu which was a symbol of Taoist competency to teach.
After graduation from San Francisco State, Weir briefly taught at Chabot College (Hayward, California) and at the University of California, Berkeley – Extension. In the spring of 1970, he was recruited by Mount Royal College to design, develop, and teach a special interdisciplinary curriculum which would come to be known as ‘General Education: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study of Man’. Weir created a sixteen-part curriculum over the course of five years, and taught nine of these courses himself. These courses included Symbols and Myth courses amongst others. A guest speaker in his World Mythology course was Hansens Bear Paw of the Siksika Nation. Weir opened his courses to Indigenous Canadians and was instrumental in educating the first Indigenous Canadians to receive degrees at Mount Royal College: Mavis Running Rabbit and her husband Floyd Running Rabbit – grandson of Running Rabbit. While at Mount Royal, Weir achieved tenure. After six years at the school (1971-1976), Weir and his family decided to return to the United States relocating to Los Angeles.
After leaving his position at Mount Royal College in 1976, Weir took a break from teaching and moved to Los Angeles where he became a bookseller. He established the bookstore Bodhisattva Books in conjunction with the College of Oriental Studies (in Los Angeles). Later he purchased Partridge Books (in Hollywood, Los Angeles) in approximately 1978 and operated it until about 1980 when he began delivering presentations at the Philosophical Research Library. In this new role – as bookseller – Weir was in regular contact with authors from the Golden Age of Science Fiction – including, Theodore Sturgeon and A. E. van Vogt – and the unique Los Angeles creative milieu of the era.
During the late 1970s – approximately from 1976 to 1979 – Weir stepped back from teaching. During this time, he studied Vajrayana Buddhism with Karma Thinly Rinpoche (a master of Tibetan Buddhism), Theravada Buddhism with Julius Weinberg, and he also studied other mystic and esoteric traditions. Around this same time period, Weir had plans to resume his studies and work with Dr. Kai–yu Hsu in the San Francisco Bay area but Kai-yu's tragic death in January 1982 due to a landslide in Tiburon prevented this from being realized.
In 1980, encouraged by Theodore Sturgeon to continue his teaching, Weir began lecturing in a number of venues across the Los Angeles metro area, including: The Philosophical Research Society, Whirling Rainbow, Bruchion Center for Art and Gnosis, the Phoenix Bookstore (Santa Monica), the Bodhi Tree Bookstore (West Hollywood), among others. Weir lectured at the Philosophical Research Society from 1980–1990 while Manly P. Hall was still involved in the organization. He would lecture off and on at Whirling Rainbow from approximately 1983–1996.
With the death of his daughter Sara in 1993, Weir stopped teaching for a period of time. Then in 1994, he started teaching again with four lectures called “Our New Aion” in commemoration of the passing of his daughter Sara, in the Bodhi Tree Bookstore Meeting Room. This was the beginning of Weir’s association with the Bodhi Tree Bookstore.
Starting in January 1996, Weir taught every Saturday in the Bodhi Tree Bookstore Meeting Room until it closed in 2011, and the classes were entirely open to the public. During these years, Weir taught a number of different programs, including: Ecumene (1996–1997, a 2-year course that met weekly); The Learning Civilization (1998–2007, a 2–year course – presented in 2–year cycles – that met weekly); Jesus in Alexandria & Mary Magdalene (January–March 2008, 13 week course); Hermetic America (April–June 2008, 13 week course); Hermetic America Future (July–September 2008, 13 week course); Mary Magdalene & Jesus' Great Way: Shared Presence Transforms of Civilization and Species (October–December 2008, 13 week course); Homo Sapiens Stellaris: Star Wisdom Man (January– March 2009, 13 week course); Shared Presence (April–June 2009, 13 week course); Quintessential Dimensions of Consciousness: An Ecology of Four Dimensions in Complementarity in Spacetime (July– September 2009, 13 week course); Parayana: The Way Beyond (October–December 2009); Our Star Wisdom Humanity (2010, a 1–year course that met weekly); and Science Fiction Vision (2011, a 1–year course that met weekly). After the Bodhi Tree Bookstore closed in 2011, Weir continued to teach every Saturday at a private office in Beverly Hills until the end of 2015 (these presentations were by invitation only and not open to the general public).
Weir's research continued after 2016, focusing on the origins and development of America by artistic and scientific persons such as Benjamin Franklin, and the influence of other cultures such as indigenous peoples of the Americas.
During the years 1987–1995 Weir received financial support from Laurance S. Rockefeller to conduct his research and work. He also received financial support for his work from Spencer Compton, 7th Marquess of Northampton, but the dates of this support are unconfirmed.
His coursework encompassed Chinese, Greek, Egyptian, and other ancient world cultures. He also traced the development of the Egyptian, European, and early American Hermetic tradition, the Taoist tradition, and others, including early Christianity and its development to the present. Weir delivered presentations on a variety of interweaving subject matter that incorporated philosophy, art, history, science, mythology, symbols, and others on a weekly basis, sometimes even three times a week, for nearly four decades, 1980–2016. To aid in creating these works, he gradually developed a vast research library – in part through the direct patronage of Laurance S. Rockefeller and later Spencer Compton, 7th Marquess of Northampton – that today comprises approximately 80,000+ volumes.
Roger A. Weir died unexpectedly on October 16, 2018 at his residence in Los Angeles, only two days after his seventy-eighth birthday.
The Shared Presence Foundation, founded in 2011, is driven to preserve and publicly disseminate Roger Weir's teachings and coursework. The Foundation has compiled, documented, and archived his voluminous work in order to make it available to current and future learners.