My first and most important spiritual teacher was Osho Rajneesh. He had what common language would probably dub charisma. Naturally, us devotees didn't quite call it that. We referred to it as his Buddhafield. By that we meant his radiation of heightened energy and Divine presence that merely required sensitivity and attunement to become tangibly obvious. To feel it meant allowing oneself to be touched and temporarily raised in frequency. One then began to functionally vibrate, if not on the same wavelength then at least on one that was harmonically related to his. This simple sympathetic resonance phenomenon was the foundation for the guru/disciple relationship Osho invited us into. It was the very mechanism whereby direct spiritual transmission was enabled and accessed - the jumping of the flame from his lighted wick to our sleeping ones. However, non-sympathetic bystanders and closed-down devotees would only look at and listen to a refined Indian man with a long beard, flowing robes, a funny accent, a pretty unusual way of speaking English and a colorful message filled with apparent contradictions and outrageous implications.

Thinking about my recent CES experience; how certain rooms so clearly communicated emotional transmission; how instantly apparent it was whether this was happening or not; I thought how, despite not really explaining anything, there was a useful metaphor hiding in there somewhere, one that connects spiritual and audiophile transmissions with the phenomenon of charisma.

Osho's energy field didn't disable my ability to 'objectively' view him critically, question him, notice incongruent or clearly non-factual statements. Alas, the ability to perceive the imperfections of his humanity, the pecularities and idiosyncrasies of his cultural and philosophical conditioning, did nothing at all to disqualify or diminish the tacit reality of spiritual energy and transmission. That occurred around him constantly and became validated time and again whenever I tuned into that soundless sound in my heart. Personality and divinity could coexist side by side and without conflict - though certain developments in his commune did at times rather strain my ability to intuit the formless presence of the buddhafield when its outer visible expressions didn't synchronize with my uninspected expectations or idealistic beliefs (just as John de Ruiter's wife denounced him upon discovering he was sleeping with two of his devotees).

John de Ruiter
The important element of today's consideration is merely this: Charisma -- emotional radiance and energetic juice -- are very real though they exist completely outside the domain of proof or measurements. To those on the same wavelength, objective imperfections can be noted but neither truly matter nor in any way impact the real experience and enjoyment of charismatic contact highs. The same is true also for audio systems, those that strongly project the audiophile version of charisma. While, objectively speaking, they may exhibit clear shortcomings from theoretical perfection -- lacking ultimate frequency extremes, the last words in dynamics, soundstaging accuracy etc. -- the attuned listener will find him- or herself instantly drawn into the zone. And presumably, that is the first and final goal of audiophilia.

A speaker with perfect English grammar and enunciation but lacking Osho's charisma could never have attracted the vast multitudes of lovers and devotees who were seduced by something far deeper. Ditto for objectively perfect audio systems. They very often lack the magic that would make you forget your objective check list and instead be drawn into something far more vital and nourishing. This well-known paradox has led some of our best audiophile reviewer minds to question what exactly this magic is. We know it when we hear it. Still, none of us can -- using the common audiophile lexicon of attributes -- explain what its constituents are. And just as certain spiritual seekers ended up not with Osho but other teachers whose charisma or spiritual transmission happened to be more aligned and attuned to their own fundamental needs, so are there differences among the members of the audiophile zoning commission. What gets me into the zone might not speak to you and vice versa. Curiously, the folks who I kept meeting in the same rooms at CES -- as though moths attracted by same-colored lights -- ended up being on the same wavelength not just in their appreciation for the same systems or music.

They turned out to be members of the same tribe and head/heartspace well beyond audio, something that became apparent in restaurants later, or in simply that spontaneous powerful recognition that you just met another member of your 'extended global family'.

As J-10 suggested in his latest column for Positive Feedback On-Line, we hear with far more than just our ears. Or, put probably more accurately, the data perceived by our ears is fed to more than purely auditory information processing banks in our brains. That's really what makes audiophilia such an endless journey. It's the chase for the contact high of charisma, of being in the presence of magic - which, needless to say, occurs within the listener who, if not attuned, will merely be listening to a little old bald man with a beard; an expensive system that's perfect but without life.

Does your system have charisma? Did you consider it could have any?

Not sure? Or certain that yours doesn't have any? I suggest you listen to as many audiophile systems as you can until you come across one that speaks to you in no uncertain terms. To validate such experiences, it's useful to go back multiple times, to see whether the magic happens repeatedly as a function of the system and not some unreliable psychological factors. This really is the most useful way to learn about what triggers you into the zone. It's not something to be gleaned from specs, expense, complexity or simplicity. It's not something that anyone has yet managed to objectify into a convenient one-two-three shake'n'stir recipe. If you own a system that transports you deeply into your feelings -- most of the time when you can make yourself psychologically and spiritually available -- then the greatest gift you can provide to your fellow audiophiles is to invite them over for a social listening session. Learn together whether your system speaks to them with the same voice of immediate conviction or somehow passes them by. This has nothing to do with arguments. You can't argue yourself or anyone else into loving someone or something. You can only extend an invitation and see what happens.
Shri Anandi Ma

When you're talking about the experience afterwards, when you're trying to understand what contributed to it - that's when your personal audiophile life experience, your learned lessons about system matching and component synergy, about what works for you and what doesn't, can be shared. But the far more important and, necessarily preceding, gift is simply to grant access to your home and system just as a guru grants access to his or her energetic field of radiance. Let others sample your audiophile emanations and thereby learn what it is that they need to feel stimulated and touched. If your setup doesn't do it for them, it's no reflection on anything other than differences in human nervous systems - being wired differently. It's not in the domain of ego but basic biological blueprinting, nothing any of us can take credit or blame for.

It's also nothing that reviews or chat rooms can assist in unless this sharing of personal experience has preceded it. Once you know how somebody else's system affects you or not -- note how I didn't say what it sounded like which, truly, is rather secondary if you're after getting into the zone -- then the usefulness of sharing in absentia, remotely and surrogately by phone or on-line, compounds. For example, if you were at CES and heard the systems I highlighted as my favorites but failed to be even remotely impressed? Hell, now you know that you and I are listening for different things, that my reviews and commentary can at best serve you in the negative with the implied assumption that you would hate whatever I like. Charisma. It's not a universal recipe. It's not even one definable by those who respond to the same flavor of charisma. But make no mistake - it's a very real phenomenon. It's one that, for lack of a better word, lives at the heart of what makes certain systems sing for certain audiences. (Spelled carisma, it also makes for one helluva name for a classy car.) It's about traveling, going places when you're not fretting about the vehicle taking you there but enjoying the vistas and people you meet.
Herakhan Baba

Why then not invite others on those mysterious journeys you take from the listening seat of your home? That's the really charismatic thing to do if you ask me. Next time you're in Santa Fe or Taos, give me a ring. If you don't like what you hear, you'll perhaps have come one step closer to finding your own truth, by having crossed another potential audiophile item off your list as unsuitable for your higher musical satisfaction. Cheers.