Arthur C. Clark
His love of the stars and stories of possible futures inspired me at an early age. I read and reread his early fiction (stuff he wrote in the 1950's ?). I really owe this guy. My favorites included "Reach for Tomorrow", "Childhood's End", and "The City and the Stars". As a child I was afraid that I'd been born just a few hundred years before physical immortality was possible.
Science fiction contributed to my not attaching myself to the culture around me. It made me think about how things might or should be.
His poignancy, in such works as "The Martian Chronicles" and "The Illustrated Man" inspired the poet in me. I once wrote (in a poem) "a man not a poet is some kind of fool". Bardbury was a complete romantic (in the classical writing sense). He wrote the screenplay for Moby Dick.
I got both inspiration, and a useful reference frame from her. In some ways I saw her as epitomizing Western philosophy. Her abstract work" "The Objectivist Epistemology", as well as the rest of her work, made it easy to classify and examine other philosophers. Her fiction and ideas gave me much power to deal with life, though I now see her limitations and rigidity, and feel my heart is more open than hers was.
Though she took existence and awareness to be axiomatic concepts (irreducible primaries), she believed that awareness was derived from material existence. I now suspect that awareness is the only irreducible primary.
He epitomizes my view that the most brilliant people have the most common sense. His investment principles and many of his views on life are immensely practical. Among other things, I learned from him to assume that I could not time markets, and to therefore be prepared for several possible scenarios at all times.
In his writing, he exudes self-honesty.
R. D. Laing, John Lilly, Andrew Weil, Ram Dass, and various Gestalt Psychology and Psychology of Consciousness writers.
These authors wrote what for me were bridge books from Western to Eastern philosophy. Gestalt theory and therapy emphasize being totally honest and real in the here now. I mention Andrew Weil for his early work: "The Natural Mind".
G. I. Gurdjieff
Gurdjieff may have been my most important mentor. Years of reading and rereading his works enhanced my perspective on many, many issues.
His ideas, which it took several years for me to really internalize, made me really question things
that even I (who tried to question everything) might not have otherwise questioned.
He presented many unusual ideas of immense practicality, and told me
stories whose meaning I still ponder. His masterful work "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" is a teaching book of so much wisdom, that I must bow before him in gratitude.
I received much of value from Gurdjieff, even though I probably would not have been able to tolerate studying with him personally. He defies any categorization, pushed his students to overcome concerns for comfort, yet the ideas he transmitted are difficult to encounter anywhere else today.
Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Ramakrishna, Jean Klein, and Eckhart Tolle