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This is a three part series on the life of Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Evolution Presupposes Design, So Why the Controversy?

By Ervin Laszlo
Systems philosopher, integral theorist, concert pianist

The debate among conservative Christians, Muslims, and Jews (the “creationists”) and natural scientists and the science-minded public (the “evolutionists”) centers on biological evolution. But on a deeper level, it concerns the universe in which life has evolved — or in which it was created. And, as I will argue, on this level there is no contradiction between design and evolution: both are equally needed to explain the facts.

At first glance, the scientific community — and anyone who believes that science can tell us something about the nature of reality — is compelled to reject the hypothesis that all organisms are the way they are because they were designed to be that way.

But the creationists question that the stupendously varied panoply of life arose from mutations in the genome occurring by chance with the resulting organisms fitting by chance into environments where they can reproduce better than their predecessors. Such a chance-mutation and lucky-environmental-fit process is surely too “hit or miss” to have created the complex web of life in the biosphere. The theory that affirms it is bound to be false.

However, at the cutting edge of science, the theory of evolution doesn’t rely on random serendipity. That view marks the classical Darwinist position, still championed by a few (though always fewer) mainline biologists.

Richard Dawkins, for example, insists that the living world is the result of processes of piecemeal trial and error, without deeper meaning and significance. Evolution happens, but there is no purpose and meaning to it.

Take cheetahs, said Dawkins. They give every indication of being superbly designed to kill antelopes. The teeth, claws, eyes, nose, leg muscles, backbone, and brain of a cheetah are all precisely what we should expect if God’s purpose in creating cheetahs was to maximize deaths among antelopes. At the same time, antelopes are fast, agile, and watchful, apparently designed so they can escape cheetahs.

Yet neither the one feature nor the other implies creation by design: this is just the way nature is. Cheetahs have a “utility function” to kill antelopes, and antelopes have a utility function to escape cheetahs. Nature itself is indifferent to this game. This is a world of blind physical forces and genetic replication where some get hurt and others flourish. It has precisely the properties we would expect it to have if there were no design, no purpose, and no evil and no good in the world, only blind indifference.

If a Designer is responsible for the way the living world works, He/She would have to be at best indifferent to what comes about in that world, or at worst a sadist who enjoys blood sports. It’s more reasonable, according to Dawkins, to hold that the world just is, without reason and purpose.

The way it is results from random processes played out within limits set by fundamental physical laws. The idea of design is superfluous. Classical Darwinists echo French mathematician Pierre Laplace, who is reputed to have said to Napoleon that God is a hypothesis for which there is no longer any need.

Confronted with the classical theory, creationists are justified in pointing out that it’s extremely improbable that all we see in the world of life, ourselves included, should be the result of chance processes governed by impersonal laws. The idea that everything evolved by blind chance out of common and simple origins is just theory, they say. The world is more than a random assembly of disjointed elements; it exhibits meaning and purpose. This implies design.

The creationist position would be the logical choice if — but only if — scientists would persist in claiming that the evolution of living species is a product of two-fold serendipity. But at the cutting edge, scientists no longer claim this. Post-Darwinian biologists recognize that the evolution of species is far more than the chance processes classical Darwinists say it is.

It must be more, because the time that was available for evolution would not have been sufficient to generate the complex web of life on this planet merely by trial and error. Mathematical physicist Sir Fred Hoyle calculated the probabilities and came to the conclusion that they are about the same as the probability that a hurricane blowing through a scrap-yard assembles a working airplane.

Leading-edge scientists realize that the evolution of organic species is an orderly, highly coordinated process, even if it’s not mechanistic and deterministic. The evolution of the living world is part of the great wave that created particles from the underlying virtual-energy and information field misleadingly called “vacuum” (and is better called unified field, nuether, or Akashic field). The wave unfolded in the cosmos by structuring particles into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules into macromolecules and cells, cells into organisms, and organisms and populations of organisms into local, regional, and continental ecologies.

The wave of evolution could only have unfolded in a universe where the fundamental laws and constants are finely tuned to permit the emergence of complexity. Ours is such a universe. Physicists know that even a minute difference in these laws and constants would have foreclosed the possibility of life forever.

Our universe is staggeringly fine-tuned to the creation of systems of higher and higher orders of complexity, differentiation, and integration. That such a universe would have come about by chance is astronomically improbable.

According to quantum cosmology, some 1 x 10500 (1 followed by five hundred zeros) universes could exist physically, but only a handful could give rise to life. That our life-supporting universe would have come about by a random selection from this enormous set of possible universes is a zillion times more improbable than that living species would have come about by random mutations. The great wave of evolution requires highly harmonized and coordinated processes in all its domains.

In the final count the evolution of life presupposes intelligent design. But the design it presupposes is not the design of the products of evolution; it’s the design of its preconditions. Given the right preconditions, nature comes up with the products on her own.

The debate between creationists and evolutionists would be better focused on the origins of the universe than on the origins of life. Could it be that our universe has been purposefully designed so it could give rise to the evolution of life? For creationists, this would be the logical assumption.

Evolutionists could not object: evolution, being an irreversible process, must have had a beginning, and that beginning must be accounted for. And our fine-tuned universe is entirely unlikely to have come about by chance.

So the creationist/evolutionist controversy really is pointless. Design is a necessary assumption, because chance doesn’t explain the facts. But evolution is likewise a necessary assumption, for given the way this universe works, the evolution of complexity is a logical and by now well-documented consequence. Therefore the rational conclusion is not design or evolution. It’s design for evolution.

Then why the controversy?

Before addressing the importance of spirituality in modern times, we should first define it. Spirituality is the experience of that domain of awareness where we experience our universality. This domain of awareness is a core consciousness that is beyond our mind, intellect, and ego.

In religious traditions this core consciousness is referred to as the soul which is part of a collective soul or collective consciousness, which in turn is part of a more universal domain of consciousness referred to in religions as God.

When we have even a partial glimpse of this level of awareness we experience joy, insight, intuition, creativity, and freedom of choice. In addition, there is the awakening of love, kindness, compassion, happiness at the success of others, and equanimity. As the turbulence of our mind settles down, our body also begins to heal itself because it also quiets down. The body’s self-repair mechanisms are activated when the mind is at peace because the mind and body are at the deepest level inseparably one.

All religions are founded on a deep spiritual experience of unity consciousness where there was complete union between the personal and universal. Unfortunately, many times the followers of religion, instead of understanding the religious experience and seeking it for themselves ended up merely worshiping the founder of the religion.

It is more important to fully grasp the teaching of the religion and its basic tenets, that have come from a deeper experience of transcendence. Self-righteous morality is not a means for experiencing higher consciousness. Higher consciousness, spontaneously leads to moral and ethical behavior.

However, because spiritual knowledge is powerful, the custodians of organized religion have frequently ended up with destructive behaviors — power mongering, cronyism, control, corruption, and influence peddling. As a result organized religion has frequently become quarrelsome, divisive, and led to conflict.

No organized religion has been immune to this unfortunate tendency. So, we have had the crusades and witch-hunts of Christianity, the Jihads of Islam, the violent communal riots instigated by fundamentalist Hindus and the persecution of minorities and ethnic cleansing all in the name of God.

Our present times are particularly dangerous because ancient habits combined with modern capacities and technologies of destruction are a devastating combination that can destroy life on our planet.

As we begin to have a more scientific understanding of the transcendent level of our existence and look at the basic tenets of all religions, we find that the spiritual experience is fundamental to all and similar in all.

This experience can be had by anyone through the practice of meditation, prayer, contemplative self-inquiry, the expression of love and compassion in action, intellectual inquiry into the deeper meaning of life, and self-less service.

With these practices, we begin to realize that consciousness is a field of infinite possibilities; that it is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and infinitely creative. This experience also leads to unbounded love and compassion. Getting in touch with our deepest self is therefore the utmost importance because it is our connection to the mystery that we call God.

As the Sufi mystic Rumi has said, “You’re not just a drop in the ocean, you’re also the mighty ocean in the drop.” If there is anything that will at this moment heal our wounded planet with its immense problems of social injustice, ecological devastation, extreme economic disparities, war, conflict and terrorism, it is a deeper experiential understanding and knowledge of our own spirit.

With this deeper understanding and with an interfaith dialogue that looks at our commonalities rather than our differences, we have the opportunity to solve the problems of the world, address its inequities and heal ourselves. The word, “healing” and the words, holy and whole, all mean the same thing. To be healed is to have the return of the memory of who we really are. When we return to our sacred source, the world will be holy, and it will be healed.

Deepak Chopra on

If we want to be free of the pain we inflict on ourselves and each other — in other words, if we want to be happy — then we have to learn to think for ourselves. We need to be responsible for ourselves and examine anything that claims to be the truth. That’s what the Buddha did long ago to free himself from his own discontent and persistent doubts about what he heard, day after day, from his parents, teachers, and the palace priests. Although he was a prince born into a wealthy and powerful family, the young Siddhartha often just wanted to get away from it all. He wanted the space to think independently about who he was and what the spiritual path was about. Such freethinking was important to the Buddha’s search for inner truth and his ultimate realization of enlightenment. These days more and more people in the West are following the teachings and example of the Buddha. But what are these teachings about? What is Buddhism?

It looks like a religion, but is it? There are many definitions of religion. Some are so broad they’d include your neighborhood garden club. Others are narrower: your garden club would need a deity, enthusiasm for that deity, and a set of beliefs and practices. We all have some sense of what religion means to us, but when we start talking about it — trouble!

If you search “world religions,” you’ll find “Buddhism” on every list. Does that make Buddhism a religion? Does it mean that because I’m a Buddhist, I’m “religious”? I can argue that Buddhism is a science of mind — a way of exploring how we think, feel and act that leads us to profound truths about who we are. I can also say that Buddhism is a philosophy of life — a way to live that maximizes our chances for happiness.

What Buddhism is, at this point, is certainly out of the Buddha’s hands. His teachings passed into the hands of his followers thousands of years ago. They passed from wandering beggars to monastic institutions, from the illiterate to the learned, from the esoteric East to the outspoken West. In its travels, Buddhism has been many things to many people. But what did the Buddha intend when he taught?

At the start of his own spiritual quest, Prince Siddhartha left his royal home, along with its many luxuries and privileges. He was determined to find answers to life’s most perplexing questions. Are we born into the world just to suffer, grow old, and die? What’s going on — what’s the meaning of it all? After years of experimenting with different forms of religious practice, he abandoned his austerities and all his concepts about his spiritual journey — all the beliefs and doctrines that had led him to where he was. At the end of that journey, with only an open and curious mind, he discovered what he was looking for — the great mind of enlightenment. He woke up from all confusion. He saw beyond all belief systems to the profound reality of the mind itself — a state of clear awareness and supreme happiness. Along with that knowledge came an understanding of how to lead a meaningful and compassionate life. For the next forty-five years, he taught how to work with the mind: how to look at it, how to free it from misunderstandings, and how to realize the greatness of its potential.

Those teachings today still describe a deeply personal inner journey that’s spiritual, yes, but not religious. The Buddha wasn’t a god — he wasn’t even a Buddhist. You’re not required to have more faith in the Buddha than you do in yourself. His power lies in his teachings, which show us how to work with our minds to realize our full capacity for wakefulness and happiness. These teachings can help us satisfy our search for the truth — our need to know who and what we really are.

Where do we find this truth? Although we can rely to some degree on the wisdom we find in books and on the advice of respected spiritual authorities, that’s only the beginning. The journey to genuine truth begins when you discover a true question — one that comes from the heart — from your own life and experience. That question will lead to an answer that will lead to another question, and so on. That’s how it goes on the spiritual path.

We start by bringing an open, inquisitive, and skeptical mind to whatever we hear, read, or see that presents itself as the truth. We examine it with reason and we put it to the test in meditation and in our lives. As we gain insight into the workings of the mind, we learn how to recognize and deal with our day-to-day experiences of thoughts and emotions. We uncover inaccurate and unhelpful habits of thinking and begin to correct them. Eventually we’re able to overcome the confusion that makes it so hard to see the mind’s naturally brilliant awareness. In this sense, the Buddha’s teachings are a method of investigation, or a science of mind.

Religion, on the other hand, often provides us with answers to life’s big questions from the start. We don’t have to think about it too much. We learn what to think and believe and our job is to live up to that, not to question it. If we relate to the Buddha’s teachings as final answers that don’t need to be examined, then we’re practicing Buddhism as a religion.

In any case, we still have to live our lives and face up to how we’re going to do it. We can’t escape having a “philosophy of life,” because we’re challenged every day to choose one action over another — kindness or indifference, generosity or selfishness, patience or blame. When our decisions and actions reflect the knowledge we’ve gained by working with our minds, that’s adopting Buddhism as a way of life.

As the teachings of the Buddha reach us and pass into our Western hands, what determines what they will be for us? It’s all in how we use them. As long as they help to clear up our confusion and inspire confidence that we can fulfill our potential, then they’re doing the job that the Buddha intended.

We can use all the help we can get, because strange as it seems, we hang onto to our confusion. We cling to it because we think it shields us from something. But like wearing sunglasses day and night, we are only avoiding looking at who we truly are. We prefer to wear our “shades,” simply because we’re not used to the bright light of our minds. The teachings of the Buddha — no matter how we label them — show us how to open our eyes to that brilliance.

Seventh Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche:
Karma Sungrap Ngedon Tenpa Gyaltsen (b. 1965)

The current Dzogchen Ponlop, Rinpoche (b. 1965)The seventh and current Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche was born at Rumtek Monastery (Dharma Chakra Center) in Sikkim, India in 1965. His father was Dhamchö Yongdu, General Secretary of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. His Holiness, supreme head of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, immediately recognized the infant as a reincarnated lama.

In 1968, at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, India, at the age of three, his hair was cut by Holiness Karmapa, from whom he received the refuge vows and the name Karma Sungrap Ngedon Tenpe Gyaltsen. At the same time, His Holiness Karmapa enthroned him as the seventh Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. As such, His Holiness recognized that Rinpoche was one of the three traditional abbots of Dzogchen Monastery and a high-ranking Nyingma master.

At age eight, the seventh Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche received Buddhist refuge and bodhisattva vows from His Holiness, and the name Changchup Sempa Droway Gonpo. He was ordained as a novice monk in 1974, at age nine, and received the name Karma Drupgyu Tenpe Gyaltsen.

Rinpoche studied with great Nyingma and Kagyu masters from an early age. He received most of the Buddhist teachings and empowerments of the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions from His Holiness Karmapa, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentsé, Rinpoche, and others.

In 1979, at the age of twelve, at Dharmachakra Center, Rumtek, Sikkim, India, The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa formally empowered and officially proclaimed the seventh Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche as one of the lineage holders of the Karma Kagyu school and heart son of His Holiness Karmapa.

At fourteen, he began studying Buddhist philosophy at the primary school in Rumtek. In 1980, Rinpoche first traveled to the United States, Canada, and Southeast Asia with His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. He gave dharma teachings and assisted with the various ceremonies performed during the course of this tour. In 1981, he entered the monastic college at Rumtek, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, an affiliate of Samprunant Sanskrit University in Varanasi, (U.P.) India. There he was schooled in the traditional scholastic curriculum of Buddhist philosophy, psychology, logic, and debate.

Rinpoche worked for the Students’ Welfare Union at the Institute for three years. In 1987, Rinpoche became head librarian of the Institute’s new library. He was the chief-editor of the Nalandakirti Journal, an annual publication which brings together Eastern and Western views on Buddhism.

In May 1990, Rinpoche graduated from the Institute as an Acharya, or Master of Buddhist Philosophy. He also completed courses of studies in English and comparative religions at Columbia University in New York City. Since then he has annually criss-crossed the globe, teaching and assisting Buddhist centers in North America, Europe and Asia.

Rinpoche travels widely to teach and offer assistance in Dzogchen and Kagyu study and practice. He supervises the activities of study and meditation centers in Europe and North America, and has worked actively to develop and adapt traditional Tibetan education curriculums for Western audiences. To support his work, he has founded a number of buddhist institutions.

In 1994, to assist in the integration of computer technology with traditional Tibetan scholarship, Rinpoche founded Nitartha international, a non-profit education corporation based in New York City. Nitartha uses computer technologies to support Tibetan studies and education, and preserves the ancient literature of Tibet in computerized formats. Rinpoche also advises on web site design for various Buddhist-related websites.

In 1995 he established Nitartha Institute in North America, which provides a focused Tibetan studies program, and where Rinpoche is the director and primary teacher. In January 1996, Rinpoche was offered and assumed a faculty position at Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, where on an occasional basis he teaches courses on Tibetan language and philosophy. In 1997, Rinpoche founded Nalandabodhi to preserve the genuine lineage of the Nyingma and Kagyu Schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1998, Rinpoche became director of the Kamalashila Institute of Germany, at the request of His Holiness, the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa. In 1999, Kamalashila began offering a European based Nitartha Institute on an annual basis.

Acknowledged as one of the foremost scholars of his generation in the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism, The Dzogchen Ponlop, Rinpoche is also an accomplished calligrapher, visual artist and poet. Fluent in the English language and well-versed in Western culture, he is known for his sharp intellect, humor, and the lucidity of his teaching style.

This title will be released on November 9, 2010. REBEL BUDDHA addresses a younger generation of readers interested in Buddhism, and describes the Buddhist path from a personal, experiential point of view. At the same time, its message is radical and no-nonsense: strip your cultural clothing and expose the naked wisdom and compassion at the core of your heart. It’s smart, funny, hip, and provocative, easy to read, full of heartwarming stories, and intelligence.

Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 11 of 11

There are many movements going on today that aim to change or improve the world in this time of global crisis. Almost everyone is encouraging us to become an activist in one form or another, for one cause or another. While I don’t doubt the necessity of this position, and have been an active for several causes myself, I wonder whether it is enough. Can anything we do as mere human beings take us out of the rut caused by the unsacred way in which we live, by our human centered way of life that tramples the world of nature around us and blinds us to the spirit beyond?

We mainly look to human agencies to help us or to improve the world. We look to politics to elect a better party or better leader to show us the way beyond the problems that politicians have caused. Or we look to economics for a better plan to use our resources or a way to more equitably distribute the wealth, though our business and economic leaders have shown themselves to be woefully shorted sighted in their actions. We want governmental help, charitable grants or media coverage for our cause in order to better promote it in society, though the government and media often seem to be making our problems worse. We think by changing human institutions and those who runs them that the world will also change.

If we do look to the spiritual realm, it is also usually to human agencies, human teachers and manmade, historical beliefs and human-centered dogmas. We try to save other people through our personal belief or conviction, as if making the majority of people follow a certain religious or spiritual formula that appeals to us will magically solve all other problems. If we call upon God, it is usually a rather human God, sometimes with notable political biases, and it is to favor our particular group and its interests that our prayers usually go forth, not to transcend our differences or to dissolve them in the Divine presence that is beyond all names and forms.

The fundamental problem – which is at the root of all our outer social and personal problems – is that we as human beings are asleep and insensitive to the sacred world in which we live. We do not honor Nature and the Divine powers at work within her ever changing currents. The result is that we do not honor each other or even honor ourselves, much less the greater non-human world. We don’t see the beauty of life as a whole; much less sense its deeper consciousness. We plunder and pillage nature in our search for our human happiness, pleasure, wealth and power, or at best make nature into an adornment for our self-aggrandizement.

In the commercial realm, everything is a commodity to buy or sell whose value will go up or down in an unpredictable manner. We are judged by what we own, earn or – worse yet in the age of credit cards – by what we owe, as if these numbers had some positive value and lasting significance for the real meaning of our lives. In the religious realm, the individual is commonly regarded as a soul to be harvested or a potential donor for a belief or an institution. We are judged by a religious label or name that puts us in a limited camp, not by a greater sense of unity with the universe that transcends all human definitions. We seem trapped in an outer show of superficial quantities in which our higher Self, which is more akin to the stars, is forgotten along with the living world around us.

The Volcano’s Voice

Recently I had the honor of being part of an ancient Hawaiian ritual to Pele, the Goddess of fire, the volcano Goddess, at cliff at the rim of the crater of Kilauea in Hawaii, the world’s most active volcano, which was steaming with sulfur. We were accompanied by representatives of the island’s spiritual elders who had a living lineage and connection to that Goddess power no human agency can ever control. One could feel oneself drawn into the crater almost palpable manner, as if one would gladly become a human offering to the Goddess.

The great Gods and Goddesses of geology, of the primal earth energies, were alive and one could sense them, smell them and almost touch them, their energies pervading the physical and the psychic air. These powers were sensitive and aware and could guide us to a deeper consciousness, peace and transcendence, if we could but leave our human identities and compulsions behind.

At that moment, one’s individual life, and the entire human world, seemed rather small and trifling, a brief lull in the midst of greater geological transformations that marked the land. One could sense yet more primeval powers at the origins of creation when the entire universe was a vast erupting ball of fire and great Deities looked over the beautiful inferno of light with timeless eyes, gliding through the currents with a bodiless joy and an unbounded energy that had no end.

Native peoples – to the extent that we still leave them to their original cultures – and the ancient world in general, reflect a sense of the sacred that allows them to honor every plant, animal, land formation, cloud or star. For them life is measured by the sacred time of nature’s rhythms. Every human action requires a prayer and a ritual to make it part of the greater sacred world. Such native cultures have largely been dehumanized and devitalized and are but a shadow of their former selves. But we can still sense the sacred moving in them and their traces on the land.

We continued along the crater’s rim and soon encountered the usual groups of tourists, who went in and out of their cars for a quick view of nature’s wonders. It was an odd sensation. One could still feel the ancient deities and the sacred mystery of the land, but the people one saw missed this altogether, floating in their personal thoughts oblivious that they were at the womb of the great Goddess herself. Of course, they saw the crater with their physical eyes but it was mainly a geological phenomenon or a photo opportunity, a memento of having been to the vacation paradise of the Hawaian islands.

Such modern people, largely divested of the sacred, seemed like shadows, though no doubt all were looking for something sacred to give meaning to their lives. One could sense the anguish of those who worshipped the volcano Goddess to see the sacred body of their mother trampled upon as a tourist curiosity. We did not see anyone else bow down to the Goddess, much less make her an offering, call out to her or hear her voice, though probably it echoed in the minds of many passerbys as a strange and unrecognizable background sound.
Sacred Activism

I don’t think we can really heal our planet or bring peace to society unless we reestablish our link to the sacred universe. This requires not just an ecological or artistic appreciation of nature but a recognition of the awesome consciousness and cataclysmic power that pervades the entire universe, making it into a single dynamic organism that we human beings are but a small part of. Connecting to the sacred is not a matter of a religious belief, joining the right church or having the right religious or spiritual identity. It is not just a matter of taking a few yoga classes, learning a meditation technique or chanting a mantra once in a while. It requires surrendering our human mind to the greater cosmic consciousness and energy, in which we lose our human selves and human identity altogether.

Perhaps the best way to begin this deeper healing is to honor the Divine powers in the world of nature around us. If we live in a land that has had a recent native tradition, we will find that most of the nearby sacred sites in nature are known to them and have been honored by them. We can follow their link. Otherwise we can follow our inner inspiration and look to the deeper consciousness behind the wonders of nature around us, which requires spending contemplative time around them away from the noise of the human world. Nature is our mother, not a commercial commodity to be exploited. She will speak to us if we call out to her, just as no real mother ever abandons her children.

We can awaken the sacred powers in our own environment. This can be done through flowers, aromas, incense, special waters, rocks and plants that abound around us. It will follow the movements of the seasons, the Moon, eclipses or special astrological combinations that connect us to the realm of cosmic and sacred time beyond all mundane chronologies. By making our lives sacred, we can change the world at a root level, and change our society in a way that no mere human institution can ever likely bring about of its own accord.

Above all, we need to honor the Goddess or Divine Mother, whose body is the world of nature. The Goddess is always awake. We are born through her power and at death her force will lead us to her greater reality. It is not a matter of awakening her but of awakening our connection to her, which makes us spiritually awake, which means beyond all manmade and limiting identities and propaganda.

To awaken the Goddess in one’s life, one needs a form. It can be an image or statue of the Goddess, or some natural object like a flower or plant, a special rock, the Moon. There is no formless worship of the Goddess unless it is first rooted in form. And she cannot truly be honored unless she is recognized as the mother of the entire universe.

For a yogic and world transforming spiritual activism, we need to reawaken the divine powers in nature that our spiritual slumber has removed us from. We need to restore the sacred sites of traditional peoples, even if this might involve removing modern buildings that have been erected over them. Our museums are filled with the desecrated and stolen sacred objects of many peoples and many lands. We should at least allow them to be honored, adorned and worshipped.

If we study the existing interpretations of traditional and non-western religions in our educational systems, we find a crude insensitivity that denigrates their sacred forms and practices according to our modern obsessions of sex, economics or politics, turning these doorways to the sacred into forms of ridicule, marks of the primitive, while it is our modern culture that is more truly lacking in sensitivity or higher intelligence to the cosmic forces. We need to reexamine these sacred traditions with respect to their elders, not to our erudition or technology.

Restoring Our Sacred Connection

Let us bring back all the Gods and Goddesses of all lands and countries, all times and all places, and their connection with the land, the waters and the sky as part of our daily life experience. Let us set aside scientific, psychological, and theological interpretations of what words cannot describe in the first place. Let us awaken to the Divine presence at the ground of existence, humble ourselves before it and live according to its grace. Let us be respectful of the Divine nature and beauty of every person, culture and tradition, even more so to those that are close to the land and without a voice in the world media or academia.

Make sure to awaken the Gods and Goddesses in yourself and in your own life, home, garden, family and community. It may be more important to awaken the Divine presence around us than to get out the vote for one cause or another or to make the best possible donation to a worthy cause. While it is good to marshal human resources in a caring direction, without bringing the Divine power of nature into the process, we may just be alienating ourselves further from the true wellsprings of life, creation and happiness. We may be just making another offering to the demon of the human mind and its endless conflicts and assertions.

For this natural awakening no preaching or moralizing, which is a sin against the Divine presence in each person, is necessary or even possible. The only thing that we really need to become cognizant of is the power of transformation inherent in life itself. The entire universe is a temple, starting with our own bodies. All our actions should be rituals or sacred actions. All our thoughts should be prayers and mantras. All our buildings should be temples, including our own homes, where the fire of the sacred should be kept burning bright in one way or another.

So awaken a deity in your life today. You can do it, and if you do it will give your life a meaning that will extend into the entire universe, not just Wall Street, Hollywood or Washington DC. Find what is most sacred in your environment, honor it and call out to it, infuse it with the life of your aspiration. Not only will it come to life – be it a statue, a rock or a plant – but you will come to life as well. You will find that you can truly see, hear, and touch things again as if for the first time. You won’t need the mass media to distract you any more or to entertain your boredom. You won’t need the false temples of shopping malls, sports arenas, or drive in churches. The world of nature will gain a palpable presence that will nourish your inner being with every breath. You will enter into the cosmic waters and begin to swim in its currents, your mind and heart, becoming pure and clear.

The Divine reality is One but this unity has its unique presence in every aspect of nature, in every nuance of every object that we can see or touch. The different Gods and Goddesses of various nature-honoring traditions are not a primitive polytheism but an abundant living experience of the One that is infinite. Unless one experiences the Divine in nature, one cannot experience the Creator or the Absolute beyond time and space. One cannot be saved from the alienation from Divine unity that is the root of all suffering unless one leaves ego and body consciousness to embrace the greater universe. We are lacking in that direct perception of life and existence, which brings the sacred into every moment. If our human self and identity remains at the forefront, the Divine is not there.

Unless we bring back the Gods and Goddesses, a lasting experience of unity at a spiritual level will not be possible. We will be trapped in human ideas, caught in dogmas, institutions, slogans and sentiments, barred from entering into the cosmic reality, not by any act of God but by our own ignorance. So let us become sacred activists, yogic activists, if you will, those whose action is to bring the deities back into the human world and to the world of nature that we have banished them from, so that the human world can go beyond its egoistic boundaries. We need to reawaken the deities not only in our temples but also in our land, air and space, regarding our entire environment as sacred.

If you can help bring one sacred site or sacred form back to life, you will likely to have done more for the world than any amount of outer actions. Of course, we need to continue to act responsibly in the outer world, including voting wisely and using our money with care, but these should be part of a greater sacred endeavor, not its primary factor but its natural consequence. Let the voice of all beings in the universe, its wonderful powers of consciousness, and the voice of the cosmic silence beyond be heard as well as our own human voices, which themselves should be attuned to the cosmic rhythms, not the daily gossip.

As featured in Tathaastu Magazine Oct.-Nov. 2009

JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Our topic today is “Consciousness and the Martial Arts,” and my guest, George Leonard, is an Aikido teacher. In addition he is a former senior editor of Look magazine, a consulting editor to Esquire magazine, and the author of numerous books including The Transformation, The Silent Pulse, Education and Ecstasy, and The Ultimate Athlete. Welcome, George.

GEORGE LEONARD: Great to be here.

MISHLOVE: It’s a pleasure to have you here. In your work with Aikido, you pay a lot of attention to the notion of energy, and being sensitive to the energy field around the human body. Could you talk a little bit about that? It’s a notion I think a lot of people in the West particularly are not too familiar with.

LEONARD: Well, I don’t think there’s any question that there is an energy field around the body. First of all, there’s a heat field that can be seen on infrared film. You can measure the heartbeat electromagnetic field a great distance from the body. There’s an electrostatic field around the body.

We are surrounded by an olfactory bubble — we can smell each other; that’s another field. And then of course there are those putative fields of the Eastern religions, the various soul sheaths and auras and so forth. But I think that as Alan Watts once said, we are not skin-encapsulated egos.

In fact the skin is one of the lesser boundaries between the self and the universe. Close your eyes and then you can become one with the universe. Now, many of the martial arts, as you perhaps know, have had claims of the paranormal. You’ve heard the story of the ki-ai, the great shout by which a martial arts master can bring a sparrow down from a tree — “Ha!” like that. Or put your hands like that and then against the wall; you see the sizzling fingerprints and handprint against the wall.

MISHLOVE: Of course it seems that it’s always the oldest, frailest masters who are the most powerful.

LEONARD: That’s right. And actually –

MISHLOVE: At least in the movies.

LEONARD: It’s true, though. It’s really true. Aikido
– it’s probably the most recent and the most sophisticated and, according to Scientific American, the most difficult to master of the modern martial arts, of all the martial arts really. It was created, shall we say evolved, out of other martial arts, in the mid-1920s by a remarkable Japanese warrior named Morihei Ueshiba. We call him O Sensei, meaning great teacher, and others refer to him as Osensai, that’s much easier. But Aikido is a radical attempt — it really goes back to the samurai. The moves in aikido are the moves of samurai swordsmanship, basically, and jujitsu. But O Sensei, when he was a very powerful young man — and that’s when he would still use his muscle force –

MISHLOVE: It has a lot to do with balance, doesn’t it?

LEONARD: Oh yes, balance and centeredness. But he was engaged in a duel with an admiral with swords, and the admiral was injured. This was way back in the 1920s in Japan. O Sensei was filled with remorse, went on a one year’s retreat, and then in the typical enlightenment story, he was seeking some mode of martial art that would create not discord in the world but harmony.

MISHLOVE: This was before he developed Aikido.

LEONARD: Yes, he was in the process of developing it. The great moment is about to come now. You know, it’s just like the movies, really, just like the television series. He was in his back garden, and suddenly the whole world turned golden. The persimmon tree beneath which he was sitting, the well, everything turned golden, and he was enlightened. And what he found was a martial art that was really based on harmony. The word Ai in Japanese is a character, that goes like this, rather than like this. And Jeffrey, you know that most of our culture is built on this — push, push back.

MISHLOVE: You mean like a game of chess, or a football field — two teams lining up against each other pushing at each other like that.

LEONARD: I’ve given workshops to forty thousand people in the discipline I’ve developed out of Aikido, and I always ask this question: “What do you do when somebody pushes you?” The first answer invariably has been — this is forty thousand people — “Push back.” And it’s really a very stupid thing to do. Aikido is going with the flow — this is all going to make some sense about consciousness in just a minute, stay with me –

MISHLOVE: I’m with you.

LEONARD: It is really understanding — and deeper than understanding, intuiting — becoming one with the energy and intention, the intentionality of the attacker. You literally have to understand that fully as an attack comes in to you. Whatever kind of attack it is — it could be a psychological attack, a physical attack, a blow this way, a blow that way.

MISHLOVE: I heard that when I was a child about jujitsu. The idea is that you use the force of your opponent against them.

LEONARD: That’s right. But see, you still — watch your language — against them. So Aikido is more radical than that. Judo is you push, I pull; you pull, I push. Aikido is not that. You push, I blend; I become one with you. If we weren’t locked to these chairs, I’d jump up and show you. You’d come towards me, I’d make kind of a sweeping spiral-like move and come around and end up looking at the world from your viewpoint. In other words, to say it more clearly, looking at the world from the attacker’s viewpoint — “Oh, that’s how you see it.” And so from that vantage point you then have your options multiplied tremendously.

MISHLOVE: It’s almost like telepathy in a sense, then.

LEONARD: Yeah, we’re getting there. Push, push back, there are three possible outcomes. If I push you and you push back, I can win, I can lose, or there can be a stalemate. We’ve got the cerebral cortex, the most complex entity in the known universe, and we’ve come up with a basic way of dealing with problems, out of which there are three possible outcomes, all of which are no good. Once you have blended with somebody, you retain those outcomes, but you have about ten thousand more, physically. And the same thing is true psychologically, socially, sexually, whatever.

MISHLOVE: In other words, you’re dealing with a concept of unity.

LEONARD: Exactly. Literally, in Aikido if I attacked you, you would intuit, you would tune into, sense, understand, almost an extraordinary sensing, what my intentions are. You would make a move to blend with me, join with me like two rivers coming together and joining, look at the world from my viewpoint, and then you can deal with me any number of ways. You have a whole spectrum of responses, from controlling you with a wrist lock to embracing you, to going home and leaving the fight. Wonderful solution, real black belt solution, to get out of the fight.

MISHLOVE: But it almost sounds a little too perfect, George. I mean, we’re fallible human beings.

LEONARD: It’s very hard to do; that’s why Aikido is so difficult. You don’t always blend, you know. You try to blend. But it is quite remarkable. Now, since in Aikido it’s not just simply chess — it’s not you punching me, I counter that punch, I punch you back — I have to be more sensitive than usual in order to see what you really have in mind, so I have to blend with you. I think because of that Aikido masters — I do not include myself in that category

MISHLOVE: You call yourself a teacher of Aikido.

LEONARD: Yes, I hold a third-degree black belt, but that’s still — we always say, people think, “Oh, black belt, that’s something marvelous.” I consider a black belt in martial arts a license to learn. That’s when you really start learning. So a real Aikido master literally can sense things from a distance, can feel things.

And what has happened out of Aikido is that from the very practice itself, without any conscious intention to do this, it’s almost inevitable that you will start having kinds of sensing which would be called paranormal, extraordinary, whatever. Now, you see that in our world we call that quite normal. So with that in mind, I and some other teachers of Aikido have developed practices called energy awareness, and in my case we call it Leonard Energy Training, LET.


LEONARD: L-E-T, LET, that’s pretty nice. And with this training we teach alternative ways of dealing with daily life situations — stress, conflict. Some of these are quite practical, ordinary things. We use simple movement exercises with two people, sometimes more than two people. And these are things which come out of a very powerful martial art which can be performed by ordinary people who haven’t had the training, don’t know how to fall, don’t know the very complicated coordination and so forth.

MISHLOVE: You seem to be saying, in effect, that the same skill that one might use in a martial art is really the basic skill that one might use for lovemaking.

LEONARD: Exactly. Or anything. Or dealing with somebody who’s a hostile driver. You use all the same things. So I and some other people have been going around teaching this kind of thing. This is the forty thousand people I told you about. Those are not Aikidoists. We have a school in Mill Valley, Aikido of Tamalpais. But you have about a hundred students at the most at any one time. But forty thousand people –

MISHLOVE: That’s a lot.

LEONARD: That’s a lot, for an Aikido school. But now, as we started working on this, just normally, out of the very flow of things — in other words, Jeff, we couldn’t help ourselves — we start doing very extraordinary things. For example, we start finding that we can close our eyes, and by standing like this, by becoming centered and scanning like this, we can find people anywhere in the room, and we can pick out one person from another person.

MISHLOVE: In other words, from a distance of many, many feet you can –

LEONARD: It doesn’t matter the distance. The distance seems to be irrelevant.

MISHLOVE: Like a dowser searching for oil underground, or a remote viewer.

LEONARD: Exactly.

MISHLOVE: You use your body.

LEONARD: We use the body. I often say that the hands are just induction devices. Actually, you don’t even need to use your hands, but it’s nicer to have a hand up there. In other words, my basic theory that I put forth in The Silent Pulse, which probably goes along with your thinking too, is we are all connected. You’ve talked about that with Michael Scriven and others. We’re connected. We don’t need to have a carrier wave. I think so much of the objections to psychic phenomena have to do with the inability to locate or identify, isolate a carrier wave. This conception that I have is more like the quantum physics conception or holonomy — like a hologram.

MISHLOVE: We’re already part of whatever it is we’re seeking.

LEONARD: It’s structure. I mean, I can find that other person because that’s part of my basic structure.

MISHLOVE: So if I can digress for a second, some people use a dowsing rod, some people use Tarot cards, some people use a crystal ball, some people use astrology, some people use herbs or tea leaves or the I Ching. What you’re suggesting is that these are all devices to help us get back to the essential, underlying reality of it all.

LEONARD: Exactly.

MISHLOVE: And martial arts is one such device, which I suppose has the added advantage of allowing a person to really become familiar with their body, which is the basic instrument.

LEONARD: Right. I call all of these induction devices — induction, to lead into. They lead us into what we already know, as Plato said. The most that any teacher can help to do is to remind you of what you already know. So I do think the body is a good one, though. It’s a wonderful antenna, it’s fully instrumented, has thousands of feedback circuits. The feedback is instantaneous. You do not have to wait for a computer printout, it’s right there. You don’t have to carry instructions around, they’re right in your body. But we can locate people at a distance. Another thing — I also have a training in which we certify other trainers and teachers of LET, Leonard Energy Training. All of those have to be able to blindfolded on a cloudy day, outside, have to be able to find magnetic north. And they have to find it not approximately.

They’ll do like this, and I’ll take the compass, just to give them one of these so-called reality checks — we believe compasses. What I do, I say, “Now, which finger shall I put the compass on?” They’ll say, “The middle finger.” I put it on. It has to be right to the degree. Now, what I found out is that this does not take an Aikido master to do this. We can all do this.

MISHLOVE: Find magnetic north. Through the magnetic sensitivity.

LEONARD: We can find magnetic north. Or you could say it’s part of the basic structure of our culture and our environment, our world, our planet. It’s there.

MISHLOVE: Our bodies are like magnets, actually, so there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be conscious of that. But finding another person — that must be something a bit different.

LEONARD: Yeah, well — didn’t you come to our Aikido school?

MISHLOVE: I sure did.

LEONARD: And I think we did that experiment.

MISHLOVE: Absolutely.

LEONARD: In which we go through a lot of induction. We make an energy ball between us, we talk about this representing the inner pulse, the particular pulse, and then trying to create a new energy field that is the sum of and greater than the sum of the two energy fields. We read aloud together.

MISHLOVE: You led us into it step by step.

LEONARD: Read aloud together. Your breathing is synchronized. Your subtle movements, micromovements, become synchronized, and perhaps your brain waves become synchronized. Your heartbeat does become synchronized. And then we have everybody wander around at random with the eyes soft, just looking at nothing in particular, soft eyes. I clap my hands, everybody turns and finds their partner.

OK, then we walk around with our eyes closed so you can only see people’s feet, and I clap my hands — find the partner. Then we walk around with our eyes really almost closed, where you can just barely see, and when I clap my hands you close your eyes totally, swing around as much as you want to until you find your partner.

Now, the amazing thing about that is that everybody doesn’t always get it, but when I ask afterwards — this is not scientific, because obviously it’s subjective. We don’t call it a scientific experiment, we call it an experience in connectedness. So we ask, and generally ninety-five percent at least have made a direct contact one out of three times. I normally have them do it with their eyes totally closed three times.

MISHLOVE: That would be statistically significant.

LEONARD: Well, impossible, in terms of — I mean, to be really clicked right in. One time out of three. About half of them do it two times out of three, and maybe ten percent do it three times out of three.

MISHLOVE: In your world view this is normal. This is not considered paranormal at all.

LEONARD: Right. And then we have our own way of replicating the remote viewing experiments of Puthoff and Targ at SRI, and what I add to this is I add a lot of induction, and people getting to know each other through what we call the energy dimension. You know, Jeffrey, it might simply be that nothing mysterious is going on except that we are simply reducing their disbelief.

MISHLOVE: So you don’t really have a concept of the paranormal.

LEONARD: No. It’s all normal. In other words, obviously other cultures have reinforced for that. We reinforce against this kind of sensing, because it is very frightening.

As I wrote in The Silent Pulse, I would not like to have metal bending be a very common capacity of human beings, because until we’ve all learned to be a little better people — shall I say that? — a little more centered, more balanced, less ego-driven people — you know, think of the crazies out there with guns, using metal to kill people.

MISHLOVE: And there are research reports from the Soviet Union, for example, using psychokinesis to stop the heartbeat of small animals.


MISHLOVE: Obviously this might lead to other things. But surely the martial arts traditions have cultivated these things and discovered them long ago.

LEONARD: Right, a long time ago. And the legends. And it is true that O Sensei, the founder of Aikido, lived to the age of eighty-six. He died in 1969, in April. And the last five years of his life, many films were taken of him, and videotapes and so forth that are on tape now, and you yourself can look at the film.

They’re not just legends. He does some absolutely incredible things, and of course the legends are even more incredible. This is back when he was a young man, he actually dodged bullets. He said that a very small blue light comes out of the barrel of the gun just as the person holding the gun has the intention of firing. So when he sees the blue ball come out, he dodges. And there are witnesses to it.

I just don’t like to get into those kind of arguments and discussions, but I do know that he performed feats that have been witnessed, there are reliable witnesses, in historic time, and film. And those are truly remarkable. So I’m no longer so gaga about the whole business of paranormal. If you’ll accept it, it can become part of your life.

MISHLOVE: Well, it seems to me that one of the issues is this issue of acceptance, because in our culture, where we have two forces going at each other, it almost seems to me that people don’t want to deal with the paranormal, because if one of your enemies has it, they can read your mind, they can predict where you’re going to be, they could stop your heartbeat.

So we’ve almost entered into a kind of conspiracy, given the larger premises of this push-push culture, that we’d better all forget that we have these abilities.

LEONARD: We’d better not have them; that’s exactly what I say. I once played a game with about six people. We all got together and I said, “Now, let’s just imagine that in this room we’re just doing something, and we chance upon that particular formula, that strategic positioning of elements, that incantation or chant or whatever, by which we gain zero gravity.

Now, how do we handle it?” And we did a scenario on what happens. Of course, if we, right in this room, the two of us, if we figured out on this show how to use zero gravity — better not do it on this show.

MISHLOVE: Just sit about three feet above the chairs.

LEONARD: What it basically means is that we would have almost infinite power, because we could get great, huge pistons and just have them go up and down, and we would have absolutely entropy-free energy. In other words, anybody who owned that could rule the world.

MISHLOVE: Well, they’d be well on their way.

LEONARD: They’d have the power. I mean, you could levitate the Pentagon, anything you want to do. But what would you do with it? And so then we spent our time saying, “This group right here; so how do we proceed?” Very interesting, because these were very nice people, but within the next two hours people were in rancorous discussion, they were very angry.

MISHLOVE: It brought out the vicious side of them somehow.

LEONARD: Well, the confused side. In other words, what would you do with infinite power? It’s a terrifying question. And what would you do just with a little bit of power, which so-called psychic phenomena have? Like being able to bend metal. You know, there’s a worm gear that puts out the flaps on planes. If you just bent that the slightest bit it would not work, and maybe one flap would extend, the other would not, the plane would go into an uncontrollable spin and go into the earth. Now, I don’t want that to be, so maybe the real –

MISHLOVE: So maybe you’re using your power to keep other people from developing theirs, or somehow collectively this is what we are doing with our power.

LEONARD: Yes, but the distinction I make is, all of those powers — and don’t forget the word power came from a French and Latin root meaning to be able. It doesn’t mean power over others. I like to think of it as our ableness to achieve our potential. The kinds of powers which I call benign are basically what you would call the passive rather than active — that is, being able to find magnetic north, to sense other people at a distance, to be more sensitive to other human beings’ feelings.

One of the exercises I have in The Silent Pulse is to try to get in touch with, if you have the courage for it, someone who’s starving in Africa, and then through that kind of empathy, then to give you the energy to go ahead and create some kind of social justice — that the real challenge today is not developing extraordinary powers, but using those powers we have to create social justice.

MISHLOVE: I think it was the Buddhists who felt that empathy was really the highest of the powers or the spiritual gifts.

LEONARD: And actually, as I say, these things, which come out of the martial arts, out of Aikido, these gifts, whatever, these special siddhi or powers, are not nearly so important as the learning which has to do with balance and centeredness.

MISHLOVE: Well, it’s interesting that the martial arts did develop in the Orient and came out of the very spiritual cultures — the Buddhist traditions, and the Taoist traditions, so that they’ve always had a different attitude, really, I suppose even before Aikido, a different attitude than we would have had in the West.

LEONARD: That’s right, and there’s a very basic idea which I think is terribly needed in our culture. That is the idea of practice, of a way, a do, a tao — do in Japanese, tao in Chinese. It means –

MISHLOVE: Like in dojo?

LEONARD: Yeah, place of the way, that’s what that means. It means literally a path or road. Now, this is the path which you trod in your life. Your practice is your path. People say, “Yes, George, but what are you practicing for?” Now, in that very question lies the confusion in the West. Yes, on my path I do find a lot of marvelous things. I get conditioning, I get more confidence, I make friends, I have a social group. But those are all incidental.

The important thing is simply the practice itself. O Sensei of Aikido said, “Where there is no Buddha, where there is no way, the nations perish.” And I think in this culture, where anybody who’s thirty-five years and younger has been brought up in a media world which shows us a view of reality in which there are nothing but a series of climactic moments –

MISHLOVE: It’s a cacophony of different competing pluralistic impulses, unrelated to each other.

LEONARD: But there’s one very related, one very coherent idea, and that is that reality consists of a series of climactic moments.

MISHLOVE: Climactic moments.

LEONARD: Look at your commercials next time you go. Every one of them is a little epiphany, little climax, almost all of them. Just check how many of them do. A half-hour show — at the end something happens, always something. Then we’re told that winning is what counts. It doesn’t matter how you get across the goal. Just get across the goal; I don’t want to know what happened in between. Don’t tell me how you sold that ad, just sell it.

MISHLOVE: Winning isn’t the only thing, it’s everything, right?

LEONARD: So the truth of the matter is that the winning and the little spurts upward in your practice, they’re incidental. Mainly you’re on a plateau. Now, this is a very difficult concept for our culture to grasp, to get its mind around.

MISHLOVE: I’m having a little trouble with it myself.

LEONARD: You know what the learning curve is like?


LEONARD: The learning curve goes like this, then you have a little apparent growth in learning, a spurt upward. And then it levels off and goes down slightly, and you have another plateau, just like that. What we seem to want in our culture is an endless series of upward spurts. That’s just not possible.

MISHLOVE: Onward and upward.

LEONARD: That’s not possible. Most of life is on a plateau. Because while you’re on the plateau, the essential, delightful, wonderful learning is taking place. It just doesn’t show. At the end there’s a little spurt of apparent learning, when what you have learned takes effect and that stage is over and then it’s released –

MISHLOVE: So staying on the path for you involves being with that process, rather than looking for the next thrill so that you can move onward and upward quickly.

LEONARD: Exactly. And what would be the only way that people could apparently for a while stay on that series of climactic moments? What would it be?

MISHLOVE: By jumping around from one thing to another.

LEONARD: That’s one. The dabbler goes from one thing to another.

MISHLOVE: I mean sexually, for example, it’s the thrill of a new romance always.

LEONARD: But there’s one way, especially for people in the ghetto, people who don’t have too many advantages — drugs. Things like cocaine or speed, anything like that. You can have the illusion of being on a quick high, another quick high, and of course pretty soon you crash.

But this all really applies to these extraordinary powers, because I think that before we start really trying to develop those, make that our primary national or international priority, the important thing is to learn how to live on a path, to live without those illusory climaxes and thrills, just to really stay on the path, to be balanced, to be centered, to strive for social justice, to develop empathy and greater sensitivity to other people. Those things are really so much more important than developing special powers.

MISHLOVE: It’s sort of a holistic sense of things, or the warnings that we’ve always had from the Oriental traditions, that you get lost in these powers. If they become an end unto themselves, you’re missing out on something.

LEONARD: The Hindu saying, “Moksha before siddhi,” meaning awakening before powers. We don’t want to totally renounce the power; they’re a lot of fun too. But the really important thing is balance, center, empathy and feeling for others, and the ongoing struggle for justice in the world. Now how the hell did we get on that?

MISHLOVE: I don’t know, but it sounds beautiful in all of that. It’s really a marvelous thing to be able to integrate all of that into one’s lifetime, and it’s not easy. Not everybody can be a martial artist.

LEONARD: No, but you don’t have to be a martial artist. You see, I think in a sense we’re all warriors. We can take the warrior ideal — I mean, not the kind of warrior who goes to war, but Castaneda’s warrior.

MISHLOVE: What is that, briefly? We’re running out of time.

LEONARD: Well, it’s briefly someone who lives for service. The idea of service is really right there. Someone who lives intensely in the moment, and often it’s someone who lives in full awareness of his own death.

MISHLOVE: Full awareness of his own death.

LEONARD: Because with that awareness you really don’t have time to be sullen, or to be depressed, or to go around preening your ego. To live clearly and cleanly in the moment, to develop your powers fully and your potential, and to achieve your bestowed mission on this planet.

MISHLOVE: Well, George, I think in some way you’re able to demonstrate that to me just in speaking. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you. We’ve really been able to cover a lot of ground, ranging from the paranormal to really the philosophical underpinnings of this work that you’re doing, George. Thank you for being with me.

LEONARD: Thank you.

Interview with David Frawley

David Frawley, otherwise known as Vamadeva Shastri, is a US citizen by birth and a Hindu by conviction. He sees his life work as forming a bridge between these two widely opposing cultures, and he does so with a rare dedication and thoroughness.

An acknowledged Vedantin, Frawley is an expert in ayurveda, Vedic astrology, yoga, and tantra, all of which, he says, have their basis in Vedanta. Indeed it is the interdisciplinary approach to Vedanta that he sees as his particular contribution in demystifying eastern spirituality.

Frawley has written a number of books on all these disciplines, including Yoga and Vedanta, and Ayurveda and the Mind. His Vedic translations and historical studies on ancient India have received much acclaim, as have his journalistic works on modern India.

David Frawley
Dr. Frawley is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and is on the editorial board of the magazine Yoga International, for which he is a frequent contributor. He is also the president of the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA).

The rise of quantum consciousness could be the biggest step our species has taken since it came down from the trees. It would bring us to a new stage of species maturity and could also enable us to surmount the problems that threaten our life and our future.

But just what is quantum consciousness, or QC? I have spoken about QC in my previous posts, but the question merits a further, deeper look.

First of all, what is consciousness? The commonsense assumption is that consciousness is a stream of experience produced by the brain. As long as the brain functions, there is consciousness; when the brain shuts down, consciousness vanishes. This, however, is not necessarily the case. It could be that our brain no more produces consciousness than the radio produces the symphony that comes through its speakers. The symphony, too, disappears when the radio is shut down, yet we know that it’s not produced by the radio. Both the radio and the brain pick up signals, transform them, and display the result in our stream of conscious experience.

According to received wisdom, the things and events that make up our experience of the world originate in the world. People and things around us reflect light and make sound; for the most part they can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. The corresponding signals reach our eye and ear in the form of waves in the electromagnetic field, in the air, and in the physical, chemical, and biological fields in and around our body. Our exteroceptive senses transform this information into nerve signals, and the signals are analyzed, sharpened, and interpreted by our brain. The result is the experience that appears in our consciousness.

This is the gist of the standard scientific explanation of our perception of the world, but it’s not complete. It’s incomplete not only because it fails to solve the age-old philosophers’ puzzle, how physical signals can transmute into intimately felt conscious experience (is this transmutation the work of the brain, or does the brain also transmit forms of consciousness from the external world?), but also because it doesn’t account for all the things that appear in our consciousness.

Some of the things that appear in our consciousness convey information about the world even though we cannot see how they could be based on sense-perceivable events. Happily, unlike the philosophers’ “hard problem,” this is no longer an unsolved puzzle. We now realize that our brain is not limited to capturing sense-organ-conveyed information, for it’s not just a classical biochemical system. It’s also a “macroscopic quantum system,” and such a system can “resonate” with the world. On the quantum level it can capture and process signals that far exceed the range of the signals available to the bodily senses.

The quantum-perception of the world is just as real as its sensory perception. Here, in brief, is why.

All things in space and time emit waves, and these waves interact with the waves produced by other things. They create wave interference patterns. Pressure waves in the air, and electric and magnetic waves in the EM field, diminish with distance, and the patterns they produce are limited to our immediate vicinity. However, quantum waves (waves that propagate in the nearly infinite virtual-energy domain that fills cosmic space) move instantly over any distance.

The kinds of interference patterns they create constitute quantum holograms, and quantum holograms are “entangled” with each other — they are instantly connected. As a result the information carried by one quantum hologram can be transferred to any other quantum hologram. Thus a system that can “read” the information in one hologram has access to the information carried by all. Our quantum-resonance-decoding brain could in principle capture information on anything and everything that creates quantum-interference waves in the universe.

Evidently, to capture this kind of information, our brain must have the corresponding receptivity. Scientists are now beginning to understand how quantum-hologram receptivity might be built into the brain.

It appears that quantum-level signals are picked up by microstructures in our brain’s cytoskeleton (the cytoskeleton is a protein-based structure that maintains the integrity of living cells, including neurons). The neurons in the brain are organized into a network of microtubules of microscopic size but astronomical number. There are about 1 x 1018 microtubules in the human brain, and “merely” 1 x 1011 neurons (though this number is still larger than the number of stars in the galaxy). With filaments just five to six nanometers in diameter, our network of microtubules — the so-called “microtrabecular lattice” — is believed to capture, process, and convey information.

Physicist Roger Penrose and neurophysiologist Stuart Hameroff claim that consciousness emerges from these quantum-level elements of the brain’s cytoskeleton. The microtrabecular lattice could be responsible for the quantum-receptivity of our brain, picking up, transforming, and interpreting information based on phase-conjugate resonance.

If this is the case, there is not just one mode of perceiving the world available to us, but two. We have what neuroscientist Ede Frecska and anthropologist Luis Eduardo Luna call the classical “perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” mode, based on information conveyed by our bodily senses, and we also have the “direct-intuitive-nonlocal” mode, enabled by the quantum receptivity of our brain’s microstructures.

In today’s world we tend to perceive the world in the classical mode, yet we could, and sometimes do, perceive aspects of it in the direct mode as well. However, our left-hemisphere-dominated perceptual mode represses information that doesn’t accord with our established ways of thinking. Only in spiritual, religious, or mystical experience does such information penetrate to our everyday awareness — and then, just fleetingly.

Yet our brain could operate in a more balanced way: the cerebral functions underlying our everyday awareness could be more embracing than those in the classical perceptual mode. Operating in this way is possible, and has already been achieved by a few people. This was the finding of British psychophysiologist Maxwell Cade, who in the 1970s examined the EEG patterns of more than 3,000 individuals. He had found four typical patterns, made up of specific combinations of alpha, beta, and theta waves. (He did not consider dreamless deep sleep, where delta waves predominate.)

Each combination turned out to be associated with a particular state of consciousness. The consciousness accompanying dreamful sleep, the state between waking and sleeping, and deep meditation each exhibits a typical combination of EEG waves. Dreamful sleep, the transitory state between waking and sleeping, and meditation all show pronounced alpha and theta waves. Our state of ordinary awareness is dominated by beta waves.

But Cade also found a “fifth state.” This is the remarkable state that comes to light in the EEG-portrait of accomplished healers. Cade called the consciousness associated with this state “awakened mind.” Here alpha and theta waves are strong, much as in the meditative state, but there are also beta waves. In some healers this state has become the norm, maintained not only during active healing, but also in everyday life.

Just as remarkably, in the fifth state the EEG waves are balanced across the left and the right hemispheres. This is important. The brain-state underlying ordinary consciousness is left-hemisphere dominated, and we know that the left hemisphere filters out experiences that do not mesh with our established beliefs and expectations. We also know that deep prayer and meditation activate the right hemisphere and tend to synchronize the two hemispheres.

A hemisphere-synchronized brain can operate in the direct quantum-resonance mode: as experiments I have witnessed myself demonstrate, expert meditators synchronize not only their own left and right hemispheres, but can also synchronize their left and right hemispheres with the synchronized hemispheres of others who meditate with them. And this synchronization occurs in the entire absence of sensory contact among the meditators. They can be in different rooms, different cities, even on different continents. (I reported on these experiments in my book, Science and the Akashic Field, and in other books.)

Unfortunately, a state of deep prayer and meditation is not functional in the everyday context: in most cases we need to sit with closed eyes, detached from the world around us.

A truly evolved consciousness would have the quantum-receptivity of deep prayer and meditation, but it would operate also in the everyday context. It would display a broad EEG wave-spectrum, embracing alpha and theta as well as beta waves. And it would show that the two brain hemispheres are highly coordinated, so that the information processed by the quantum-mode receiving right hemisphere is readily communicated to the sensory-information processing left. An evolved consciousness is wider and deeper than the everyday consciousness of people today, and more functional than the consciousness of those engaged in deep prayer and meditation.

In the past this kind of consciousness has been limited to exceptionally sensitive and creative people: to healers and poets, prophets and spiritual masters. In the future it could spread to a wider segment of the population. Humanity could be evolving its consciousness.

In closing, let us return to the example of the radio. Tuned to the right station, our radio can pick up and bring to us a great symphony. Imagine what our quantum brain could bring to us when, in the expanded and balanced mode, it would be tuned to the information encoded at the heart of the cosmos. This would be veritably a cosmic symphony. Of course, we could never capture all of it — only God could do that — but we could capture far more than we do today.

This would make us more empathetic as individuals, and more cooperative as citizens in our interactive and interdependent global community. The rise of these attributes in a critical mass could be the key to our continued survival. QC may be not only the next step in our species evolution; it could also be our collective salvation.
Ervin Laszlo on 2012
Dr. Ervin Laszlo, founder and president of the Club of Budapest, co-chair of the World Wisdom Council and author of over 30 books, speaks about the urgent need for a broad based “macroshift” to save the planet and save ourselves.

Native Peoples and the Terrible Injustice

This excerpt, from Link TV’s Global Spirit program “Earth Wisdom for a World in Crisis,” begins at a Native American shrine honoring Sitting Bull, then leads to an interview with Oren Lyons, a tribal leader and historian. Lyons describes how the world-view of Indigenous People first clashed with that of the European colonizers.

Like millions of people around the world, I’m a fan of Deepak Chopra. But for me it wasn’t reading his books or hearing him speak or seeing him on Oprah that did it—it was getting to know the man himself.

Over the last couple of years I’ve developed considerable respect for Deepak’s sheer creative capacity and seemingly boundless energy. I’m a bit awestruck by the amazing pace with which he lives his relentless globe-trotting life while writing bestseller after bestseller, giving lectures, teaching workshops, leading retreats, making movies, coordinating conferences, and, like a many-armed God from an Indian myth, keeping a hand in more projects than could be contained in most mortal minds at one time. If you get to know him, you’ll find him always on fire and full of passion, enthusiasm, and goodwill.

I must admit, however, that I didn’t always see Deepak in this light. Indeed, my original—and erroneous—impression from his public persona (and I hope he will forgive me for saying this!) was that he was kind of a lightweight salesman whose ambition superseded his spiritual depth.

Ten years ago, we even did a mildly disparaging interview with him for WIE entitled “The Man with the Golden Tongue.” But after getting to know him over the past few years, spending some intimate time together, and even teaching together, I realized how wrong I had been.

So the idea for this interview came up partly because I wanted to make up for my error in judgment, and partly because I hoped to be able to portray a side of him that most people never get to see.

On the day of our interview, Deepak was in the midst of taping his weekly three-hour show on Sirius Radio, so he invited me to come on as a guest before having lunch and then heading over to the Chopra Center in midtown Manhattan to conduct the interview.

Only two days before, Deepak told me, he had flown to and from Bahrain, where he participated in a prestigious leadership conference. On his way back, he stopped in Boston, where he gave his annual talk at the Harvard Medical School.

And the next day, back in New York, he addressed a packed house of delegates at the United Nations. As we walked together through the crowded streets, he was approached more than once by enthusiastic and grateful strangers thanking him effusively for changing their lives. As always, he remained gracious and took it all in stride.

As someone who at one time didn’t take Deepak very seriously, I have grown to appreciate what a significant figure he has become on the world stage as an advocate for consciousness and social transformation.

He is passionate in his commitment to overturning the materialist worldview rampant in Western thinking, not only as it relates to medicine, his original profession, but as it affects our fundamental relationship to the universe we live in.

His sheer omnipresence, whether—it be on Larry King, your local PBS channel, or the cover of Newsweek—represents a growing acceptance of his authority as a spokesperson for nondenominational East-meets-West spirituality able to comment on every subject under the sun. One doesn’t have to be in complete philosophical alignment with Deepak to appreciate and respect the positive significance of his influence on mainstream culture all over the world.

As we sat down for this interview in his tiny office at the Chopra Center, my personal curiosity was to find out how he does it all and what his inner life is really like. And while I can’t say I found the answers to all my questions, I did discover that the life that Deepak Chopra lives has always been of mythic proportions.

Andrew Cohen: Who are the people who have most influenced your spiritual evolution, and what effect did they have on you?

Deepak Chopra: In order of importance: my mother, my father, and my grandmother on my father’s side, and later on, J. Krishnamurti and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Cohen: Could you describe the influence that your mother, your father, and your grandmother had on you?

Chopra: My grandmother used to tell my brother and me mythical stories. And then she used to explain the mythical stories. This was when I was only four or five years old, but I still remember every story that she told us. My mother would then later sing those stories in the original Sanskrit from the Vedas. They were very powerful stories, and she would tell us that we have to be like this god or this goddess—be like Ram, or be like Lakshmi. Anytime we had a dilemma she would say, “How would Saraswati or Lakshmi or Ram behave in this situation?”

When I was only about six or seven years of age, my father got a scholarship to go to England to train in advanced cardiology. And for a short while, my mother joined him, so my brother and I were left with our grandparents in Bombay. One day we got a telegram from England that my father had passed his exams; he was in the Royal College of Physicians. There was lots of celebration. My grandfather was thrilled his son had become a consultant to the royal family, and so he took out his rifle and shot it into the sky. We went to see a movie called Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and then we came home. That night my grandfather died.

We were woken up in the middle of the night, my brother and I, and the servants took us to a neighbor’s house. But we could hear the wailing of women. The next day they took him for cremation. They came back with a jar of ashes, and my grandmother said, “That’s your grandfather.” I went into a huge existential crisis at the age of seven. And my brother’s skin started to peel. He went to all kinds of doctors, and nobody could understand what was going on, until one doctor said, “He’s feeling vulnerable and this is a sign of his vulnerability. If his parents come back, he’ll be fine.” A short while later my parents returned—in those days it took three weeks by boat—and literally within a week, my brother’s condition went away. Now, in hindsight, I think that was my first insight into the relationship between what we call biology and what’s happening in consciousness.

My father was totally trained in the Western model, a cardiologist. He was very well known and respected, and he was very much into the materialistic reductionist model of medicine. But then in his later years he suddenly became extremely spiritual. He was, for me, a role model—I never saw him angry; I never saw him upset. He used to come home and tell my mother about all his patients, and they would pray for the patients. He was very successful, but on Saturdays and Sundays he would see patients free of charge.

We lived in a small town, Jamalpur, and patients used to come from all over the country to see him, and he would not charge them. My mother would even cook food for the patients, and when they left he would buy the train or bus ticket if they didn’t have money. So this was extraordinary to see. When I was about ten years old, we left this town, because he was an army doctor and had been re-posted to Shilong, in the Himalayas. And ten thousand people came to the railway station to see him off!

Cohen: That’s extraordinary.

Chopra: He was so loved. And then when we left the next town, three years later, the same thing happened: Ten thousand people came to see him off. But he didn’t take it too seriously. He just said, “This is my yoga.”

Cohen: He sounds like a very spiritual man. But didn’t you say he was a materialist?

Chopra: He was a materialist in the beginning, in a huge way.

Cohen: So his selfless compassion was inspired, I guess, by a love for humanity, not necessarily a love for God in the traditional sense?

Chopra: Yes, not a love for God in the traditional sense, a love for humanity. But he used to talk about karma yoga. He used to quote the Gita. And he lived an amazing life. He lived to eighty-five or eighty-six and saw patients till the last day of his life. He died, incidentally, on the day that Bush came to the White House, the first time around. He watched the news on CNN in India and said to my mother, “I think this is a bad sign. I’m leaving.” Literally. And he said, “Say good-bye to the kids,” and then he closed his eyes and left. But till the day he died, he was working, seeing patients, teaching medical students. And toward the end of his life, he was lecturing at the Vedanta Society in India about health and well-being from a holistic perspective. So he had become very spiritual.

Cohen: That’s quite a role model. It sounds like your father was a saintly man.

Chopra: He was. In fact, I used to ask my mother, “Is he always like this?” because he was like that with us. We would be playing cricket, and he’d notice that the bat was worn out, and he had just come home from work, and he would go the store and buy a new bat and leave it at our door. He noticed these things. So I used to ask my mother, “Is he always like that?” And she would say, “Your father is a saint.”

Cohen: Your grandmother was very devout. What influence did that have on you?

Chopra: She was very devout, religious in the traditional sense, yes. But that just influenced me via osmosis. My mother was like that too. My father was not overtly religious—he didn’t go to temples or pray. He prayed for his patients, but he wouldn’t talk about God. We went to the rituals and the ceremonies with my mother and my grandmother.

Cohen: But you weren’t brought up as a religious person?

Chopra: No, religion was not something we talked about. You know, I went to an Irish Christian missionary school. The reason we went to Irish Christian schools, even when we were traveling, was just because they were the best schools. But it was very strictly Catholic, so I attended every catechism class. I knew the whole New Testament, all the four gospels. I could recite them, and I was totally into the whole Catholic thing in school. When I was twelve, some of my classmates were joining the seminary to become priests. I found that very enticing. I would come home and talk about it, and my parents would say, “We’re sending you to that school not because the Christians are going to convert you but because you’re getting a good education.”

We also had Muslim friends. In fact, my best friend was a Muslim; his father was a prince from Afghanistan. There had been a revolution in Afghanistan, so the royal family was in India, and the young prince was my best friend. And I had Sikh friends, Zoroastrians, Hindus. We even had some Jewish friends. We used to celebrate Christmas with our Christian friends. So religion, in my mind, meant festivals. It was always associated with festivity and celebration. It didn’t mean God. It meant going to my best friend’s house to have some sumptuous Afghani banquet.

Cohen: You describe in your early autobiographical book, Return of the Rishi, that your nanny had a boyfriend who was an atheist and a communist. You write that he was very confident in his atheism and that had a powerful effect on you as a young teenager.

Chopra: Yes, “Uncle.” He was flamboyant. He was confident. He was Anglo-Indian, and he came from a totally different background. He was an avowed communist and atheist. He used to paint great pictures and smoke cigarettes, and in the evening he would have a glass of Scotch and talk endlessly about why there is no God. We were very impressed with him.

Cohen: You describe an experience when he told you he didn’t believe in God, and you admit that “his logic held a guilty appeal” that left you feeling “strangely free.”

Chopra: Yes, because my idea about God, as a child, was from Catholic school—

Cohen: The mythic God.

Chopra: The God who punishes, rewards, judges, watches your every move. So that was a relief, yes.

Cohen: So after that conversation, were you less religiously inclined than you had been up until that point?

Chopra: Yes. And by the time I got out of high school, I was not at all religiously inclined. My friends who had joined the seminary would talk to us sometimes, and all those things that you hear about the Catholic Church—the scandals of pedophilia, etc.—I heard all that and was totally disgusted. So I didn’t want anything to do with God or religion or anything like that. I wanted to be a journalist, a writer. When I finished high school, which I did early, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, my father wanted me to become a physician, but I said, no, I’m going to be a writer. So I went to college at the age of fifteen or sixteen to study English literature.

Cohen: That must have been young to go to college.

Chopra: Yes, but we were precocious, my brother and I, and we were pushed. We were very good academically, and it was just expected in our family.

So when I entered college, I went in with the idea of doing English literature. But on my sixteenth birthday, my father gave me some books as a present. The books were Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge by William Somerset Maugham, and then a couple of others—Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis and Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. Of Human Bondage was about a young doctor who sees human suffering and redeems himself by becoming a truly compassionate healer. Magnificent Obsession was about a neurosurgeon who accidentally kills somebody in an automobile accident and then becomes obsessed with helping people anonymously. Arrowsmith was also about a doctor or a healer. The Razor’s Edge, of course, was a classic, and on the very first page, it says: “The path to enlightenment is not easy. It’s like treading the razor’s edge.” I didn’t know what that meant, but the story captivated me.

So then I started to experience a lot of struggle within myself. I was studying English literature, but now I wanted to be a doctor. The problem was, I had not taken biology in high school. So I went back to my father.

Cohen: Obviously, giving you those books was his way of trying to convince you.

Chopra: Yes, totally. He was very good at that. So I came back to him, and I said, “I’ve changed my mind; I want to be a doctor.”

Cohen: He must have been very happy.

Chopra: He was happy, but then he said, “You didn’t do biology.” I said, “I want to do it now.” So he got me a private tutor, and while I went through college learning English literature, every day I had private tuition in biology. At the end of college I passed my exams in English literature. You could appear for an exam in pre-med without having done the course, so I did that one, too, and I passed. Then I applied to the best medical school in India, which used to take only thirty-five students out of five thousand people who applied. It was all based on exams—no recommendations, nothing else. So I got into medical school. I really wanted to be a doctor now, at any cost.

Cohen: So you were studying very hard then?

Chopra: Very hard. The school was called the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences. It was competitive; it was American, founded by the Rockefellers, who had financed it partially.

Cohen: And how old were you then?

Chopra: By the time I got into medical school I was seventeen and a half. I spent five years in medical school, from 1964 to 1969.

Cohen: Were you very inspired?

Chopra: I was inspired, but by now, I had kind of fallen into interesting habits: smoking, drinking—sometimes a lot of drinking. We tried LSD, etc.

Cohen: That was the time for LSD!

Chopra: We had lots of American students, hippies, in our school, and even professors who were hippies. I used to get some money from my parents, but it wasn’t enough for the lifestyle I was leading, so I used to debate as a professional debater. It was a tradition in colleges and in professional schools. You would just show up for the debate, they would announce a topic, and you would have to speak about it.

Cohen: Any topic?

Chopra: Any topic, ridiculous topics. “In the opinion of the house, Christopher Columbus went too far . . .”

Cohen: So this was in elite intellectual circles?

Chopra: Totally. What happened was I started winning the debates, and the judges of these debates were very accomplished, well-known personalities on Indian radio. Once I started winning the debates, they called me and said, “We could use somebody to substitute for us at night, reading the news on All India Radio.” So they would leave at eleven, and All India Radio used to broadcast news every hour throughout the night. So from eleven to seven, I would go and read the news. Soon I had a fan base all over East Africa and Mozambique! I was eighteen.

I loved the lifestyle. I was one of the few people who could afford a Lambretta scooter. I used to ride that, and I used to read the news, and I used to have a good time. I was not interested at all in spirituality throughout medical school.

Cohen: When did you study if you were up all night on the radio?

Chopra: I just knew how to do this. I could study and be on the radio. I was a workaholic. I still am, in many ways, but now because I don’t have those toxic habits I can go even longer.

Cohen: So when did you sleep?

Chopra: I got used to sleeping only two or three hours. Even after I came to the United States, the working conditions of interns and residents were terrible. The Vietnam War had just ended, and there were no doctors. So I got used to barely two or three hours of sleep.

During my residency, I arranged my work in such a way that I could go to all these different hospitals for training. But we weren’t paid. You got a basic stipend, and everything extra you did for training was on your own.

I had this great vision of being a neuroendocrinologist and getting a Nobel Prize. So I used to train at these places and not get paid for it, just to work as an apprentice to someone famous. But my stipend was only $202 and my rent was $120. By then I was married and I had one child. There’s no way you can live on $82. So I used to work throughout the day, and then there was a little hospital outside of Boston where I would go in the night and work as an emergency room doctor. I used to work twenty-four hours—and in between, get some sleep!

Cohen: That’s impressive.

Chopra: There’s one incident I should tell you about, which was the pivotal incident. I was interested in neuroendocrinology, because the field was all about the “molecules of emotion.” I didn’t know back then that I was going to get interested in spirituality, but I was fascinated by the idea that there were molecules that represented emotions. So I got a hard-to-get fellowship with the president of the Endocrine Society. He was very ambitious, and the organization used to publish hundreds of papers in the field. He was ready to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology, so for me, it was the best thing that could have happened.

But soon after I entered the fellowship, I realized that these guys were not about science in the true sense of the word. They were about who could publish faster. We would sit around every morning, and he would go through all the journals and see who had published papers in our field. Every time somebody else had published a paper in our field of research, the professor, who I idolized, used to throw the journals around and go into tantrums. So within a month or two, I was feeling quite disheartened. I had come here to do research in this amazing new field with the team that was going to win the Nobel Prize one day, but then I realized that it was all about one-upmanship.

About six weeks into my training, it all came to a head. He berated me in front of the entire research department for not remembering the exact amount of iodine that had been fed to some rats in a 1959 research paper. “I’m so disgusted,” he shouted. “You should have that information in your head by now!”

So very impulsively I picked up my bag and dumped it on his head and said, “Now you have it on your head, and I’m done. I’m leaving.” He looked at me in amazement and said, “Do you know what you are doing?” And I said, “I’m walking out on an asshole.” He said, “You know that I’m the most important endocrinologist in the country, that people from all over the world want to work with me?” I said, “I don’t want to work with you.” And I walked out. He followed me into the parking lot, screaming at me: “You ruined your career. You’re finished. You’re history.” I got into my little beat-up old Volkswagen beetle and just drove away. I didn’t go home. I went to a bar and got drunk.

My wife was pregnant with our second child at that time, and she was dismayed, upset, fearful. The next day we didn’t have any salary or job or stipend, and nobody in academia would talk to me. That’s when I took a day job in the emergency room, and that’s where I met somebody who said, “You know, Deepak, you should learn meditation.” So that’s how it all started. If I hadn’t walked out on that professor, I’d still be in some lab putting iodine in rat thyroids and maybe hoping for a Nobel Prize.

Cohen: You said that your biggest spiritual influences were J. Krishnamurti and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Did you get interested in Krishnamurti before or after you started meditating?

Chopra: Krishnamurti was before I started meditating. I didn’t have a job; I didn’t have a fellowship. I’d gone through this whole crisis, questioning what I was doing in the lab. So I was reading a lot, because then I didn’t have much to do. I was in the emergency room, only working one shift, and for me an eight-hour shift was nothing!

Cohen: So you were questioning what you were doing because in this great doctor who you had looked up to and idolized, you just saw pure ambition and you felt disillusioned?

Chopra: Yes. I saw pure ambition, and also I saw that in academic medicine, it was not about patients. So I was totally disillusioned.

Cohen: And that’s what inspired you to start inquiring spiritually?

Chopra: Inquiring and reading. I was reading mostly Krishnamurti at that time. And then he gave a lecture here in New York City at Madison Square Garden, at the Felt Forum. It was January 8, 1977.

Cohen: I might have been there! I saw Krishnamurti at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden about that time—it was in the late seventies.

Chopra: I remember, he ran up the stairs, and people started to clap. He looked at the audience and said, “Why are you clapping? If you want entertainment go to Broadway.” He was really harsh at times. But I was fascinated by him. So then I started going to his lectures, and I started reading even more. I also didn’t fully understand him. Then there was an inner voice that started to speak to me. “He is speaking the truth; he doesn’t know how to explain it. You have to do that one day,” the voice said. “He’s speaking the truth. He’s not explaining it well, but that’s your job.”

Cohen: Can you describe your first spiritual experience?

Chopra: In hindsight, I’d had spiritual experiences all my life. As a child, I had experiences playing. I used to do theater, Shakespeare, and now I realize that during the play itself, I’d be playing Julius Caesar, and my body was lying there, and I was watching it from the outside, right in the middle of a play. So in hindsight, I had these experiences all my life.

Cohen: Out-of-body experiences?

Chopra: Yes, totally nonlocal, to use today’s language. I had tried LSD in medical school twice. One experience was with these American hippie medical students. We’d all taken LSD, and we were on a train from Delhi to Madras. We were looking at this poster of Mother Teresa, and we all started to cry. For that entire trip we wanted to be with Mother Teresa. So these were all very interesting experiences, but I never put them in the context of spirituality. But then when I started meditation, suddenly it clicked.

Cohen: What was the original reason you started to meditate?

Chopra: I was reading a lot about meditation itself, reading Muktananda’s Play of Consciousness. I had always loved the theories of consciousness. I could tell you everything from Ludwig Wittgenstein to Schopenhauer to the Upanishads—I’d read it all by now. I just kept reading and reading voraciously. Then I started to read Vedanta and realized, “Oh, I’ve had these experiences.” So when I finally took up transcendental meditation (TM), I really woke up. It was an amazing thing. I completely lost my desire for alcohol, for cigarettes, for meat, etc. It was transformative, absolutely. So when later I had the opportunity to meet Maharishi, or actually to see him in a lecture, I jumped at it. I was like a new convert. I started telling everybody why they should meditate.

Cohen: You wrote in your book Return of the Rishi that right after you started meditating, you were experiencing a kind of joy that was so profound that you were almost embarrassed.

Chopra: Right. I was experiencing joy and ease, not thinking about the future at all.

Cohen: How did that compare with your experience before that?

Chopra: It was a huge contrast. I had been on a treadmill—like everybody else in residency, training, and fellowship. You worked hard, you played hard, you were always trying to be better than the other guy. It was just the way it was—even the professors were doing the same thing.

Cohen: So this shift happened almost instantaneously when you started meditating?

Chopra: Yes. The contrast was instantaneous. But it did remind me of previous spiritual experiences I’d had.

Cohen: Can you describe a little bit about what started happening inside you?

Chopra: I started feeling light. Started feeling bright. Started feeling joyful. Started feeling ecstatic. Started feeling that I loved everybody. Started feeling that I wanted to help everybody. I also started feeling that everybody in the world should meditate! That was instantaneous.

Cohen: In the book, when you describe your first meeting with Maharishi, you explain that sitting in his presence your mind became totally quiet. You write: “I felt completely unselfconscious. It didn’t usually cross my mind that I carried the weight of my own self-consciousness until that moment, when it dropped off.” I thought that was very compelling.

Chopra: Yes, because the silence was very profound. It was, as they say, deafening. And even though I’d experienced it before, it wasn’t this sustained silence.

That first meeting was, to me, seemingly accidental. My wife and I had flown from Boston to Washington to hear him speak. After the lecture, I had just come out of the men’s room, and suddenly there he was, coming round the corner. He walked right up to us and said, “Come up to my room.” We followed him upstairs, and after asking me a few questions about myself, he started telling me I should do Ayurveda, and I should talk about consciousness to the world.

My wife was not so influenced by him as I was, and I could see just by her body language that she wanted to get the hell out of there. We had left the kids in Boston with babysitters, and she wanted to get home. At one point he said to me, “You should drop everything and you should work with me and I’ll teach you about consciousness, and you can talk to the whole world about it.” She looked at him and asked sarcastically, “So who’s going to pay the mortgage? Where is the money going to come from?” And he bent forward and said, “The money will come from wherever it is at the moment.” I had never heard a statement like that! But she brushed it off and said, “Let’s go home.” So we left.

We went to the airport and there, by chance, I met an old colleague from Australia who had gone to medical school with me. He told me he was interested in meditation, and he gave me a book. It was Vasant Lad’s Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing.

Cohen: Now I know why you’re so enthusiastic about synchronicity!

Chopra: Synchronicity, yes! So I read the book on the flight from Washington to Boston. When we got to Boston, I said to my wife, “Rita, you go home and take care of the kids. I’m going back.” She said, “Are you crazy?” “Yes, I’m crazy,” I said. So I took the next flight back.

By now Maharishi was busy with other people, and they said, “He’s not making new appointments.” I said, “You tell him that I’m outside this room, and I’m not leaving till he sees me.” I waited for three days. Finally I got in, and I said to him, “Okay, I’m ready. Show me what to do.” That’s when he took me under his wing. I started going back and forth to India to be with him. Soon I was spending half my time in India, going to Ayurvedic doctors and sitting in Maharishi’s presence while they talked to each other about Vedanta. And he would send me to give lectures here and there.

Cohen: So was that when you decided to become a disciple, to give your life to the study of consciousness and also to Ayurveda?

Chopra: Yes. Then I spent all my time with Maharishi. By then, I had written a little book called Creating Health: How to Wake Up the Body’s Intelligence, but no publisher would accept that book. So I self-published it—I got five hundred copies printed. A couple of my friends in Cambridge took the books on their bicycles, and we convinced the Harvard Coop manager to put it in the window for three days.

And an agent picked it up, and she called me and said, “You should get this published.” “We tried,” I told her. “It didn’t work.” So she said, “I’ll get you a publisher,” and she got me a $5,000 advance. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin. It was a simple book with lots of examples of my patients’ mind-body effects, mostly questions, but I don’t think there had been a book at that time, popular or otherwise, that said, your mind can create the difference between health and sickness. So that book became a national bestseller.

The next thing I know, I’m lecturing in Paris with Maharishi, and I’m getting calls from people like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Doubleday: “We want you as an author.” I’m getting calls from Peter Guzzardi, editor of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: “We want you.” Some of them even started to fly over to where I was to recruit me. I signed up with the New York publisher Bantam Books, which used to publish a lot of this kind of stuff. And of course, every book did better than the previous one. Suddenly it was huge. It was totally unexpected.

Cohen: And that was in the early eighties?

Chopra: Yes. It was 1984. The next book I wrote was Return of the Rishi, which nobody noticed except the New York Times, which gave it a good review. But then the third book, Quantum Healing, was big. It was on the cover of many magazines. And then there was Oprah, in 1992, which was huge. After Oprah, in twenty-four hours there were 130,000 books sold. In the first week, 800,000 books sold. In the first month, one million books sold. It just didn’t stop—it hit the roof. And in my mind, I gave all the credit to Maharishi at that time, because he had said, “The money will come from wherever it is at the moment.” I told my wife, “See what he said?” So I gave him all the credit for everything.

Cohen: At that time, when you were teaching and lecturing, it was under his auspices?

Chopra: Yes. I was teaching and lecturing under his auspices throughout the world—Japan, the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe. The first time we went to Moscow, I gave a lecture to a thousand people about meditation. The next day, six hundred people learned to meditate! It was an amazing time. People all over the world were learning meditation. It was fabulous. It was thrilling. It was easy. There’s no English word for this, but it was sattvic. It was beautiful. And soon I became Maharishi’s substitute.

Cohen: His number one representative?

Chopra: Number one representative. He had stopped traveling by then.

Cohen: So why did you eventually leave him and go off on your own, and what changed in you as a result?

Chopra: Well, first of all, he got sick, in India. We don’t know what the cause of it was, but it was rumored that it was poisoning. My father was his physician, and he said, “He’s not going to survive unless he gets dialysis.” They had no dialysis in India at the time, so I flew to England and registered him in a hospital. This is not public knowledge, but I don’t care anymore; sometimes the history has to be told.

I registered him under a false name, a Muslim Arab name. Then my father and two other doctors flew to England with him. He had a cardiac arrest, he was put on a pacemaker, and he was given up for dead. We were trying to contact the next of kin, which was a slow process because he was a sannyasi, and there were lots of Indian rules and regulations about this, spiritually. So while that was all being done, he suddenly started to recover. It was quite inexplicable. His kidney functions came back. His heart function came back. His pacemaker was no longer required, and he just sat up in bed. We said, “Maharishi, what happened?” He said, “I must have hurt my ribs or something.” He was very casual about it.

So I started to nurse him. Rita and I moved to England for a while. First we had him in a hotel in London, and we would take walks in Hyde Park every day. Occasionally, we would meet somebody who would say, “Hey, that’s the guru of the Beatles.” And my wife would say, “No, no, that’s my father-in-law.”

Then he got even better, and we moved him into a place outside of London, in the country. He was convalescing. There was no one there except for a couple of servants. Rita used to shuttle back and forth between Boston and England; I stayed, and for twelve, fourteen hours a day we would talk about Vedanta, about consciousness.

Cohen: Just you and him?

Chopra: Just me and him. And I would challenge him; I would ask him questions. He would laugh; he was very happy. And so was I. Twelve hours, fourteen hours, doing nothing—talking only about consciousness. He would go into great detail about how consciousness is silent, then the first impulse arises, and how that impulse comes from the unmanifest, and what is the edge of the manifest and the unmanifest. He could go on for hours like that—the impulse of consciousness hovering on the edge of the manifest and the unmanifest. I could see the extreme joy in him as he would explain that, and I could feel the extreme joy. I was just with him, and the world was luminous. So this went on for a whole year—just me and him.

One very interesting thing happened during this time. We were in the southwest of England, near Devon. He used to sleep in the afternoons, so I would take a bike and visit the ruins around there. I started to buy little postcards of Arthurian legends—Lancelot, Arthur, this, that, and the other. I knew nothing about King Arthur or anything like that, but during this phase, I suddenly had a whole book come through me, The Return of Merlin, which made it to the New York Times fiction bestseller list. It was about a period that I knew nothing about personally! It just came to me during this time. Just by picking up these little postcards, I wrote that book.

Cohen: So this book was not the result of any kind of study?

Chopra: Not other than the postcards.

Cohen: So it had some kind of fantastic, miraculous dimension to it?

Chopra: Absolutely, yes. That was the feeling. And then many things like that started to happen to me—lots of what you call cognition—sudden experiences, like suddenly understanding what Maharishi was saying about the Rig Veda, very transformative shifts inside, seeing the world completely differently.

A year later, we moved him from England to Vlodrop, which is outside of Amsterdam. And then, since he had completely stopped traveling, I became the traveler. I went everywhere.

That was when I started to notice that people were giving me homage in a traditional Indian guru sense. I would step out of an airplane, and people would place garlands round my neck. They were treating me like Maharishi. I didn’t feel comfortable with this. I didn’t even feel up to it; I didn’t feel that I was at that level. I’d say ninety-five percent of the people in the movement were treating me in that manner.

And then there was another five percent who were very angry. I had just joined the movement a few years earlier; they had devoted their whole lives to it. Suddenly I was the heir apparent, the prince being groomed for the throne. So the majority of the people literally loved me, and we’re talking about three million people! And then there were the few in the hierarchy who were very angry.

Something else was also happening, in that I started to feel that there was not much tolerance within the structure of the movement for anything that was outside.

Cohen: It was too insular?

Chopra: Very insular. So that was bothering me. I felt constricted by the vocabulary and the structure of the movement, and also by having to stay within the philosophical framework, which is purely Vedantic—which is great, but you know, it’s not everything.

It was Guru Purnima day* in 1993. The whole day was a celebration, and everybody used to get some private time with Maharishi. Around midnight on Guru Purnima, Rita and I went to his room. I don’t know what was happening inside me; I was feeling very restless. He said, “Deepak, people are saying that you are competing with me.” It came as a shock, but also not as a shock, because that was what people were saying.

And I said, “Maharishi, first of all, I would not have even the imagination to compete with you. Secondly, I don’t have the desire to compete with you. Thirdly, I’m feeling very constricted.” He said, “Why don’t you stop lecturing for a while, stop writing, come and be with me for a while and think about what you want to do.” I said, “Maharishi, I don’t need to think about it. I want to leave now.” He was very shocked. He said, “No, no, think for a little while.” But for whatever reason, I found myself saying, “I don’t want to think for a while.” I took Rita’s hand, and I touched his feet, and I said, “We are leaving.” And he kept looking at me, not believing that I was going.

It was the middle of the night when we left the ashram. I rented a car, and we drove to Amsterdam and then flew to Boston. As soon as we came to the house, the phone was ringing. It was Maharishi, and he said, “You’re like my son. I said something to upset you.” I answered, “No. You didn’t say anything to upset me. But I needed an excuse to leave.” Then he said, “You don’t realize”—he used this word—“we have an empire and it’s yours.” “Maharishi,” I told him, “you don’t understand. I don’t want that empire. I want freedom. I want to think the way I think. I want to write the way I write. I want to speak the way I speak. I don’t find that I can do that here.” “You will be able to,” he insisted. I replied, “No, I won’t. It’s a system, now, and it’s a system that has created something that makes it impossible to work outside the system.” He asked, “So what do you want to do?” And I told him, “I want to leave.” These were his last words: “Then go. I will love you, but I will be indifferent to you, and you’ll never hear from me again.” And I said, “Okay. God bless.” That was the last time I spoke to him.

But I’m happy, because after that I suddenly found the freedom to be creative in a way I never could be before. It’s now been fifty books or more, and at that time it was only four or five. Most of my productivity came after I left. But he, of course, groomed me for it. They say that the fruit takes a long time to ripen, and then it falls. At that moment it fell. And I felt, “Now I don’t have to report to anyone. I can do what I want.” Then everything happened by itself. There was no strategy at all.

Cohen: So it sounds like the main catalyst for your leaving was the fact that your own creative inspiration was transcending, pushing beyond the sphere of the TM movement. What did you do after you left?

Chopra: I went to California to give a lecture, and I met David Simon, a very remarkable doctor who actually knows as much about consciousness as I do, if not more. We’ve been working together now for about fifteen years; we’re a perfect team. If I have to go on CNN or something, I now get called at the drop of a hat. “President Clinton announces the genome project. Dr. Chopra will be commenting on Larry King.” And what do I know about the genome project or stem cells? So I call David. There’s nothing in the world of mind-body medicine that I need to know that David can’t give to me within a few hours—not only the information, but he also hashes it out in terms of consciousness.

So we’re partners now in everything we do. There are a few books we’ve written together, and he’s an influence in everything I do. But he stays behind the scenes. He has a lot of self-esteem, in that he’s grounded in this knowledge of consciousness in a way that he’s not competing for attention or anything like that. That’s a partnership for life.

*The traditional Hindu day for celebrating the guru, held on the first full moon in July.

Cohen: Since the initial awakening you had, after you started meditating, have you had any other significant spiritual experiences?

Chopra: You know, I don’t even tell this to people who come to our courses, because we never share anything personal. But what has happened is that for the last ten or twelve years, at night when I go to sleep, I meditate for half an hour, then sleep for half an hour, meditate for half an hour, sleep for half an hour. When I’m sleeping it’s a totally witnessing sleep.

My wife knows this, because she sees me sitting up in bed. And I’ve started to have a very sober, nondramatic but distinct, ever-present witnessing awareness, whether I’m sleeping or dreaming or in a waking state. The witness is always there; it’s there now, for example. It’s not dramatic, but it’s very much part of who I am at the moment. And I don’t prepare anymore. I used to prepare lectures, like speaking at Harvard Medical School, where my brother is a dean, which I do once a year. But now I find that I give my lectures very naturally. It comes spontaneously, and there is a witnessing quality as I am speaking.

Cohen: When you say “witnessing quality,” can you describe what that experience is?

Chopra: My body is asleep, but I’m observing my body in deep sleep. My body is dreaming, and I’m observing my body in the dream state. My body is speaking to you; I’m observing my body as it sits with these two people in this room. I might be doing anything, but that witness doesn’t leave me; it’s here. And it’s who I really am, I think.

Cohen: So that is the part of the self that never moves?

Chopra: It never moves. And it’s great, because I can go from here to Bahrain, where I was a few days ago, but that part is always watching. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t get tired. I really do not get fatigued. I mean, it’s not like I have the best habits in the world; I still have one or two cups of coffee a day. I exercise every day, of course. But my life is all over the place with doing different things.

I just did this “Iconoclasts” show with Mike Myers. We did improv theater off-Broadway. Whatever people tell me to do, I do it. I just go and join them in their thing. Mike Myers made this silly but very funny movie called The Love Guru, which is coming out in June. It’s about this guy who wants to be Deepak Chopra. Mike wanted me to make a five-minute cameo appearance, so I went to do that. But then suddenly when I was doing that, I realized, he’s doing a parody of me, so I should do a parody of him.

So I just finished a book called Why Is God Laughing? It’s about a comedian who has existential dilemmas but covers them up with his jokes. These things just happen to me. And there’s a part of me that is totally not involved. It’s been like that now for ten, twelve years.

Cohen: So this started about ten or twelve years ago. Was there anything that catalyzed it?

Chopra: Leaving Maharishi. I’m positive it was leaving Maharishi. You know, when I was with him, that silence would permeate everything. But then when I’d leave the room, or he’d leave the room, it would be like I was hit by a truck. The contrast was so much—with him, total bliss, and then as he leaves, boom. You’d be hit by a truck, and you can’t even get up because as soon as you get up, it hits you again. I used to feel that contrast.

I remember one day a Brazilian reporter said to him, “Don’t you ever sleep?” And Maharishi looked at him very lovingly and said, “My waking state is more restful than your deepest sleep.” He wasn’t showing off; he was just saying what he felt. I didn’t understand it then. But I now understand it, because I feel like that. I don’t get tired. I don’t get fatigued. During the night I sleep and meditate, sleep and meditate, throughout the night.

I get up at four or four-thirty and meditate for two hours and then go to the gym, and then, honestly speaking, I don’t know what the day is going to hold. I call my assistant and I say, “Tell me, what am I doing?” This morning she said, “You have a radio show, and then you’re meeting Andrew. You’re going to walk with him somewhere and have a little lunch, and then you’re going to do this interview.”

So that’s how my days go now. Tomorrow I happen to know that I’m doing the Virtual Pledge Drive for PBS, but there’s lots of other stuff I’m doing tomorrow that I don’t know. It’s on my schedule; it’s probably on the website, but I pick up my voicemail and I listen in the morning to what I’m doing, and then I go with it. It’s very spontaneous. For me it’s effortless now.

Cohen: Because you travel so much, your schedule must be completely erratic, in terms of sleeping.

Chopra: If I’m on the plane, either I’m writing or meditating or I’m sleeping. But when I get to some place, no matter where it is, I’m there, fully with it. I don’t experience jet lag, or anything—that’s just the way it is now.

Cohen: When you’re sleeping and meditating throughout the night, is it spontaneous now?

Chopra: Yes. Totally. It’s happening.

Cohen: Did you decide at any point that you wanted to do that, or did it just start happening?

Chopra: I think I started to do it about twelve years ago. Maybe I wasn’t sleeping, so I thought I’d meditate. And so I started to do it like that. But then it became a habit, and then I started to notice this witnessing.

In the old days with Maharishi, some people used to say to him, “I’m not sleeping well.” And Maharishi would ask, “Are you tired when you wake up in the morning?” And they would reply, “No.” He would tell them, “Then you’re fine, because if you’re not tired, you must be getting the same rest.” I remember him also saying that when you start witnessing, your body might be sleeping, but you are not. So now I know, very clearly, that my body is sleeping during those periods but I’m not. It’s a good experience. And by the way, it’s never been as good as it is now. I used to think it was going to plateau, but it’s always increasing a little bit.

Cohen: In terms of the energy and the witnessing awareness?

Chopra: Yes.

Cohen: What do you think the relationship is between the boundless energy that you’re experiencing now and the unusual confidence you had in yourself as a young man? From the very beginning, it seems that you were destined for some kind of greatness. You even said at one point you wanted to win a Nobel Prize in medicine. One way or the other, you have been driven, in a positive sense, and inspired to achieve great things and to really make a mark—long before your spiritual interests awakened. What is the relationship between your early ambition and the energy that is driving you now? Obviously, there is a difference, but there also has to be a connection. I’m interested in what the connection is.

Chopra: I’ll tell you what the difference is. The difference is that now I don’t have a personal stake in what I do. I really can say that with conviction—that I don’t have a personal stake in anything that I do. I do it because it’s fun. I do it because it gives me energy, and I love doing something that’s different, creative, and that has something to do with consciousness. It’s almost as if I’m driven by it, rather than I’m driving it. And there is no personal stake in terms of money, recognition, fame, or fortune.

It was difficult for me to translate that into my relationships, with my wife and with my children, because you always have a personal stake in your family. But funnily enough, I’m realizing that I actually don’t have the personal stake in my family that I used to have. I mean, I want my children to do well; I want my wife to be happy; I really want us to be together, to have the best convivial time. But I am not now rooting for my son’s success, or my daughter’s success—they do what they do. And I can say I don’t have a personal stake.

Then my daughter has these babies, and my son has a child, and suddenly I start to have a personal stake in my grandchildren, which is a very interesting thing! If you were to ask me if I have a personal stake emotionally with anything in the world, I would say it is with those kids. But even there, I can see that as the years pass, it’s going to go. It’s not that I don’t love them. I love them perhaps even more, but there’s not that emotional attachment. That has given me an immense ability to do things that I would not have done in the past.

What’s that expression—“You can do anything you want when you have nothing to lose”? Well, I am in that position right now, where I can do anything I want, and I have nothing to lose. There was a point in my life when I used to be really hurt by criticism, by attacks, by stories made up by the media. I would react to it. But three days ago there was an eight hundred–page comment on my blog, calling me all kinds of names, and I found myself totally not reacting to it. In fact, I was trying to see how one could have a compassionate view of the guy who posted this.

At least I was asking myself that question. So I asked myself, why is that? Partly it’s that I’m sixty-one years old. When you enter the autumn of your life, and you have maybe another twenty years or so, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? Is it going to be all about yourself, as it has been up to this point? Or is it going to be about other things?

I was always ambitious, I realize in hindsight—wanting to do this, wanting to do that. I guess I still am. But the personal stake is not there any more. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s a very freeing position to be in.

Cohen: Thinking about your life, it seems to me that you were almost born with a very powerful intention. Obviously, that’s not an ordinary thing. There are not many people who have that kind of confidence in themselves and their capacity to accomplish great things from such an early age.

Chopra: That’s partly because of my mother. When we were very little, she would drum this into us: “You’ll change the world. You’re bound to create extraordinary difference. You should rule. Saraswati and Lakshmi will follow you.” All these little stories: “You’re a prince,” etc. Mothers like to say these things to their children. And at some level, those muffled tapes keep repeating themselves in the back of my mind.

Cohen: So at this particular point in your life, beyond the incredible amount you are already doing, is there anything specific that you want to accomplish?

Chopra: Yes. It sounds kind of lofty and idealistic, but I think that if I can somehow draw the world’s attention to all the people who are actually contributing in their way, perhaps we can create a new conversation. The world is a collective conversation at any time, and the media controls that. In the old times, in the village square, the guy who had the megaphone was the guy in charge.

At this moment, the guys who have the microphone are telling a very sad story. We see that story being acted out every day. So now I’ve reached a certain kind of credibility where the mainstream is willing to invite me to speak, whether it’s CNN or Harvard Medical School or Bill Clinton for Save the Children. So I want to take advantage of this mainstream exposure. I ask myself, “What am I achieving with this?” Well, if we can suddenly have that microphone in the village square for people like you and myself, people who are exploring the field of consciousness, there are a lot of people in the square who want to listen.

August 1, 1991 saw the publication of my book, Perfect Health, a popular guide to Ayurveda that came at the height of my involvement with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Although I had been meditating less than a decade in comparison with TM meditators who went back to the ’60s, my association with Maharishi quickly became personal.

He felt comfortable around other Indians and had a special regard for trained scientists and physicians. In return I had a deep fascination with enlightenment and the almost supernatural status of gurus. A few days before the book’s publication, I was in Fairfield, Iowa, to participate in a meditation course. Maharishi was supposed to address the assembly on speaker phone from India, but the phone call didn’t come through at the appointed time. We all dispersed.

A couple of hours later when I was in meditation I had a vision of Maharishi lying in a hospital bed with intravenous tubes in his body breathing on a respirator. I quickly got out of the meditation and phoned my parents in New Delhi.

My mother picked up the phone and told me that Maharishi was very sick. “They think he’s been poisoned. Come quickly,” she said. I asked to speak to my father, who was a cardiologist. She said, “Your father isn’t here. He’s taking care of Maharishi.” This began a journey that took me to the very heart of who the guru is and who he is expected to be. The two can be in jarring opposition.
I immediately left Fairfield for Chicago, where a wealthy TM donor had been kind enough to charter a plane for me.

When I arrived in Delhi, it was past midnight. I first went home. My father was not there, and my mother told me he was still with Maharishi in a house in Golflinks, a private reserve in the city. One room had been converted into an intensive care unit presided over by my father and other doctors. I arrived at the house at 2:00 am, and when I entered the makeshift ICU I saw Maharishi lying unconscious in a bed with IV tubes and a respirator just as I had foreseen. My father informed me darkly that after drinking a glass of orange juice given to him by “a foreign disciple,”

Maharishi had suffered severe abdominal pain and inflammation of the pancreas, along with kidney failure followed by a heart attack. Poisoning was suspected. Over the next few days Maharishi’s condition worsened. The pancreas and kidney functions continued to deteriorate, and his heart didn’t improve. My father was of the opinion that Maharishi should be taken to England for a course of kidney dialysis. The Indian TM organization, centered around Maharishi’s nephews, Prakash and Anand Shrivastava, were adamant that no one in the movement should find out that Maharishi was grievously ill. The rationale was that his followers would panic and lose faith.

I found myself torn, because Maharishi had long presented himself as being far from the typical Hindu guru. He did not assert his own divinity. He credited his entire career to his own master, Guru Dev.
He seemed indifferent to the cult of personality and the aura of superstition surrounding gurus, which includes the notion that they have perfect control over mind and body and hold the secret of immortality.

But deeper than that, Maharishi wasn’t a religious figure. Although he had taken vows as a monk, he brought a technique to the West, Transcendental Meditation, that was entirely secular and even scientific. Indeed, his lasting memory will probably be that he convinced Westerners of the physical and mental benefits of a purely mechanical non-religious approach to consciousness. I was troubled that his falling ill had to be hidden essentially to preserve the image of a superhuman being who couldn’t get sick like mere mortals.

There was one person the Indian inner circle chose to trust, however. He was Neil Paterson, a Canadian who had been chosen by Maharishi as chief spokesman and de facto head of the movement. Neil and I flew to England and made arrangements for Maharishi to be admitted to a private hospital on Harley Street.

My father and two other doctors chartered a plane and brought Maharishi to London. I remember standing outside the London Heart Hospital, watching an ambulance navigate the snarled traffic, sirens wailing. Just before it arrived on the hospital’s doorstep, one of the accompanying doctors ran up with the news that Maharishi had suddenly died. I rushed to the ambulance, picking Maharishi’s body up — he was frail and light by this time – and carrying him in my arms through London traffic.

I laid him on the floor inside the hospital’s doors and called for a cardio assist. Within minutes he was revived and rushed to intensive care on a respirator and fitted with a pacemaker that took over his heartbeat. The attending physician felt that Maharishi was clinically dead. My father suggested that we keep him on life support, however, until the family gave permission to take him off. As fate would have it, after 24 to 36 hours the attending informed us that Maharishi was recovering miraculously.

His kidney function was returning to normal, his heart was beating independent of the pacemaker, and he had started to breathe on his own. Within a few days he was sitting up in bed, drinking milk with honey. The doctor could not explain this recovery; everyone in the hospital, including his nurses, were awestruck, not just by the turn-around but by his presence, which induced a sense of peace in anyone who came near.

Let me pause here to reflect on the strange juxtapositions at work. I genuinely felt in the midst of the crisis that I was fulfilling a purpose beyond myself. A series of circumstances had brought me to the very moment when someone had to intervene to save Maharishi’s life, and it was as if the universe had conspired to carry me to that moment.

At the same time, he exhibited both the all-too-human qualities found in every holy man and other qualities one associates with the superhuman. I had the distinct sensation of standing on the border between two worlds, or should one say two versions of the human condition? It was easy to believe that other disciples in another time felt much the same in the presence of Jesus or Buddha.
Maharishi’s complete recovery happened slowly.

There was a point where the doctor informed us that he had severe anemia and needed a blood transfusion. When they typed and cross-matched Maharishi’s blood, I turned out to be the only match – this, of course, only increased my sense of being a participant in a drama shaped by forces outside myself.

When he was informed about the situation, however, Maharishi refused to accept my blood but would give no reason. Considering that much had been made of how he had studied physics in college and had insisted on the scientific validity of TM, this was a baffling decision.

Then I had a sudden insight. He didn’t want my blood because he didn’t want my karma. After all, I had been a smoker, had indulged in alcohol and sex and had even experimented with LSD years before. I went to Maharishi and confronted him with my realization.

I asked if he believed that karma could be transmitted in the blood. He responded reluctantly, “That’s true.” I told him that red blood cells do not have a nucleus and therefore contain no DNA. Without genetic information my blood would only be giving him the hemoglobin he needed without karmic infection.

At first he was suspicious, but I had the hematologist explain to him that memory and information is not transferred through a red blood transfusion. Eventually he accepted my blood. As he regained strength, we removed him from the hospital, and he was brought to a London hotel to continue recuperating.

This began a period of increased intimacy between us. We would go for long walks in Hyde Park, which felt strange given the complete blackout of news to the TM movement, which was told that Maharishi had decided to go into silence for the time being. On one occasion, a stranger ran up to us in the park and asked, “Aren’t you the guru of the Beatles?” My wife Rita, who had joined us that day, quickly interjected, “He’s my father-in-law. Please leave him alone.” In the end we felt that staying in London risked unnecessary publicity.

So Maharishi was moved to a country home in the southwest of England where I spent hours personally nursing him. He took the occasion to give me deep insight and knowledge about Vedanta.
He also gave me advanced meditation techniques. Those languid weeks and months alone with Maharishi, except for the servants who cooked and served his meals, were the most precious days of my life. I grew very fond of him and he evoked a love in me that I had never experienced before.

In turn, I realized that he was also getting fond of me. We discussed just about every topic in the world from politics (on which he had very strong opinions) to human relationships (which he thought were full of melodrama) to the nature of consciousness (his favorite subject). Yet I still remained on the cusp of an uneasy truce between the physical frailty of an old man who at times could be fretful and worried and a guru whose mortality was like an admission of imperfection.

In all, Maharishi was out of circulation for almost a year; few in the TM movement knew where he was, and almost no one was willing to concede that he had been sick. After he was fully recovered we flew him via helicopter back to his chosen residence, which wasn’t in either India or the U.S. but the obscure village of Vlodrop in Holland.

It would be impossible to calculate how many disciples and even casual TM meditators would have given anything for personal time with Maharishi. Because of his mass appeal and his undeniable presence, there were many who cherished a moment with him as the most precious in their lives. Yet I was growing increasingly disturbed by contradictions I couldn’t reconcile.

Maharishi had spent decades traveling the globe to promote TM; now he remained permanently in Vlodrop while I was sent, as one of his main emissaries, on a routine of almost constant jet travel. He aimed at ever-increasing expansion.

Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc were opened up to meditation. Gradually so was the Islamic world, which resisted TM in large part because the initiation ceremony included a picture of Maharishi’s teacher sitting on an altar, which went against the Muslim prohibition over depicting God or holy men. Everywhere I went I was given the respect accorded to my guru, bringing with it a level of pomp and ceremony that verged on veneration.

Not only did this make me uncomfortable personally, but I wondered why Maharishi, the first “modern” guru, allowed and encouraged it. It seemed inconsistent with Vedanta’s central theme that the material world is illusion, not to mention the freedom from materialism that is expected of one who is enlightened.

Ironically, the respect shown to me in his name came to be my undoing. Maharishi started to give me the perception (perhaps that was my own projection) that he felt I was competing with him in a spiritual popularity contest. On more than one occasion, he casually mentioned that I was seeking adulation for myself.

This was odd considering that he had been the one who thrust me forward in the first place, and who insisted on piling tributes on me that I had no choice but to accept whatever my embarrassment.
The situation came to a head. In July, 1993, during the celebration of Guru Purnima, I went to see Maharishi in his private rooms to pay my respects. It was close to midnight after all the day’s public ceremonies had ended. Rita and I entered the room in near darkness. Besides Maharishi, the only person present was a TM higher up, Benny Feldman, who kept silent as Maharishi said, “People are telling me that you are competing with me.”

At that point I had only heard indirect reports about his displeasure; this was the first time, in fact, that Maharishi had shown anything but the highest trust in me. It was true that after his medical crisis he refused to discuss his health and took pains to indicate that where once I had been his physician, now I was to consider myself in the former position of disciple.

Actually, I admired him for this. It would have been impertinent for me to take any other role. To be in the presence of someone like Maharishi is to realize an immense gulf in consciousness. His physical status continued to be amazingly strong considering what he had been through.

Here he was now, in my eyes, playing the part of an irascible, jealous old man whose pride had been hurt. For my part, I was dismayed that he might believe the rumors. Then he made a demand. “I want you to stop traveling and live here at the ashram with me.” He also wanted me to stop writing books. After delivering what amounted to an ultimatum, I was given twenty-four hours to make up my mind.
It was a critical moment. Then and there I had to consider the entirety of the guru-disciple relationship.

To anyone outside India, much misunderstanding surrounds the whole issue of taking on an enlightened teacher. To begin with, there is a Western predisposition to doubt that enlightenment could be real except as personified in Buddha or a limited number of saints and sages who existed centuries ago. There is also a sense in the West that following a guru is tantamount to surrendering your personal identity, your bank account, and your dignity. None of these issues concerned me, however.

In the role of guru Maharishi was authentic, dignified, respectful, and accepting. In addition, he was personally lovable and a joy to be around (even if one had to suffer patiently through discourses that lasted many hours and that circled around the same basic points.) The dilemma I faced was more fundamental: Can a real guru be unfair, jealous, biased, and ultimately manipulative?

For a devotee, the answer is unquestionably yes. The role of a disciple isn’t to question a guru, but the exact opposite: Whatever the guru says, however strange, capricious, or unfair, is taken to be truth. The disciple’s role is to accommodate to the truth, and if it takes struggle and “ego death” to do that, the spiritual fruits of obedience are well worth it. A guru speaks for God and pure consciousness; therefore, his words are a direct communication from Brahman, who knows us better than we know ourselves. In essence the guru is like a superhuman parent who guides our steps until we can walk on our own. Was Maharishi doing that to me?

I never found out, because practical considerations loomed large at that moment. I had a family with children in school, a wife who decidedly did not want to live an ashram life, and no visible means of support if I stopped producing books and giving lectures.

I told Maharishi that I didn’t need twenty-four hours to make my decision. I would leave immediately and not return. With some surprise he asked me why. I told him that I had no ambitions to be a guru myself – the very idea appalled me. I was dismayed that he would believe such rumors. It was beyond my imagination for anyone to compare me to him or that I would have the gall to do the same.
It’s only after his death that I feel free to divulge this final parting of ways. To outsiders it will seem like a tempest in a teapot, but in my leaving the TM movement it was widely rumored that I wanted to be the guru of my own movement.

While the media casually refers to any spokesperson from the East as a guru, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that Maharishi actually was a guru and great Rishi of the Vedic tradition, while I am a doctor who loved the philosophy of Vedanta and also loved articulating it for the man on the street.

I said goodbye to Maharishi, took Rita’s hand, and walked away. We drove from Vlodrop to Amsterdam in the middle of the night and took a plane to Boston. When we arrived home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the phone was ringing. A contrite and forgiving Maharishi was on the line. He said, “You are my son, you will inherit all that I have created. Come back and all will be yours.”

I replied that I didn’t want what he was offering. I loved the knowledge of Vedanta and wanted to devote myself to it. By the end of the conversation, however, I relented and told him that I would think about it. In the ensuing months I was approached by medical institutions and universities to introduce Ayurveda and TM as part of their programs.

However, when I contacted Maharishi and the movement with these promising prospects I was told that I shouldn’t pursue these offers. At the same time decisions were made to raise the cost of TM astronomically, putting it out of reach for ordinary people. On January 12, 1994 I went back to Vlodrop for the annual New Year’s celebration and told Maharishi that I was leaving permanently. I expressed my immeasurable gratitude to him and told him that I would love him forever. When we parted, he said, “Whatever you do will be the right decision for you. I will love you, but I will also be indifferent to you from now on.”

At first his being indifferent felt very hurtful, but then I realized that Maharishi was offering love with detachment, the mark of a great sage. I remembered one of his favorite remarks, which he once directed to me: “I love you, but it’s none of your business.” What followed for me was the arc of a public career that became more acceptable to the outside world once I was no longer aligned with a guru.

In some people’s eyes I dropped Maharishi in order to launch myself. This perception has led to recriminations in the TM movement. One is faced with the sad spectacle of people striving to gain enlightenment while at the same vilifying anyone who dares to stray from the fold. Nothing I did after leaving Maharishi was premeditated. I later visited the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math and told him about my situation. His response was sympathetic: he told me that I remained an exponent of Vedanta for the West and was therefore true to the tradition.

I believe that Maharishi would have been the first to agree. It’s not possible to stray from the one reality, and if Maharishi the personality couldn’t give his blessing, at a deeper level Maharishi the guru was doing his job of coaxing consciousness to expand. There was no way for me to reconcile the two opposites back then, but I have come to realize that I never needed to. All opposites are reconciled in unity consciousness, the state that Maharishi was in and the state I aspire to every day.

Posted February 13, 2008 – The Huffington Post

Volumes of commentaries, arguments, political and cultural viewpoints have been splashing in the news media over the subject matter on ‘Bumiputra’ or sons of the soil. Even until today ethnic supremacy has become an issue of political time-bomb.

In the midst of such constant political bickerings and tension this author concluded and lamented that we have no idea what we have lost, after several years of association with the Senoi aborigines in the deep jungles of Malaysia.

This brings back the spiritual lessons that we can learn from the film ” Avatar” – if only we, the so-called civilized and modern technocrats, can harmonize and live in revered respect for the native tribes’ culture rather than enslaving and destroying their value systems and compartmentalizing their living surroundings into an unnatural habitat.

Bringing in bulldozers and destroying the flora and fauna and chopping down the trees all in the name of development and progress will only invite a ‘karmic retribution’ that is yet to, but will surely come.

“I SEE YOU” -evolutionarymystic

Below are two stimulating reviews on the book Original Wisdom

A book Review – By Linda Anderson

The Senoi aboriginals of Peninsular Malaysia are shy, nonviolent tribal people who rely on oral history among their tribes to pass on ancestral wisdom. Despite worldwide changes going on around them, the Senoi are described as the most peaceful people on the planet and extremely dedicated to preserving their traditions and survival methods orally.

They are a subgroup of Malaysia’s Orang Asli people (translated as “the Ancient Ones,” because they are believed to have lived on the peninsula since ancient times), and are particularly famous because of other published works that described their extraordinary mental health through the use of dream interpretation and lucid dreaming.

They exist deep within the hilly jungles of Malaysia where there are no roads or towns. Because of their distance from civilization, they live lives of self preservation, personal and communal responsibility, and self reliance, with a deep, inherent respect for their natural surroundings. They exist with a definite knowing of their connection to all creation.

Mr. Wolff, the author of “Original Wisdom” and a psychologist and educator who lived in Malaysia, spent a significant amount of time visiting, living with, and studying the Senoi (spelled by Mr. Wolff as the Sng’oi) in the ’60s as part of a governmental study group and for personal research.

Mr. Wolff is considered the only person to both write about the Senoi and actually live with them and speak their language. During this time he learned of their unique methods of natural healing, ways of living, and preserving their cultural knowledge, passed down through their generations by word of mouth.

The Senoi do not know how to write and have no written language. During several of Mr. Wolff’s visits with one of the indigenous settlements, he decided to thoroughly learn and write down their language, and, to further educate them, teach them to write out their own words using phonetics and spelling.

The Senoi were puzzled by his desire to write and the need to make “scribbles”; they could not understand why he did not instantly remember and recall the words. The aboriginals could easily remember all acquired knowledge; it was apparent to Mr. Wolff that anything they heard and understood only once, they knew, without the need for repetition.

Mr. Wolff went on to explain that he later learned this is not unusual for indigenous groups such as the Senoi, and that people whose minds have not been cluttered with so many day-to-day facts and details have no problems with memorization, and perhaps why it’s believed oral history is as accurate as, if not more than, the written history progressive civilizations rely upon.

What makes his experience with the Senoi extraordinary is the story of his native training experience to hone his shamanistic skills to the same level of expanded perceptual insight the Senoi shamans possess.

When a shaman discovered Mr. Wolff’s inherent gift for bringing through wisdom after falling into trance during a special ceremony, he offered to show Mr. Wolff the ways of the Senoi shaman so he could tune into his natural surroundings and become one with all living things.

Mr. Wolff was led through the jungles using only the gentle, subtle leadership of the shaman to find his own way to increasing his innate awareness. He was never instructed with specific advice nor given hallucinatory plants.

The Senoi culture shares the belief that is held by so many other indigenous settlements that healing is an intrinsic capacity of human beings. All Malays believe that the root of all sickness is disharmony of the individual’s internal and external environment. Even if the disease may have been the result of an invasive organism, the disharmony was the original cause and allowed the invasion to take place.

That is why the Malays embody harmony in all their actions–soft, gentle, and polite, they do not offend or embarrass others, and they make gentle movements, walking carefully and speaking softly.

The Senoi believe that sickness is a warning that something is wrong, and there is a need to stop and make a change. It can be a behavior that needs changing, but it can also be a thought, feeling, or even a word, and it must be done to enable complete healing. The Senoi know that healing is solely in the hands of the ill person, and that no one else can do it for them.

When there is disharmony, the local healer only assists to bring back harmony, and sometimes gives herbs to help a person cope with the symptoms, all done without payment. But the ultimate goal, through the efforts of both the healer and ill person, is to restore balance to their environment, both physical and social.

Mr. Wolff also observed a daily ritual that contributed to the aboriginals’ well-being. During the times he would live in the village, he would take part in dream sharing with the group the next morning. They believe the world we live in is a shadow world and that the real world is behind it; at night they are able to visit that real world and the next day bring forth wisdom from it.

After everyone was awake, they would sit around in a group and listen to each other recount important aspects of their night’s visions and messages. After one person’s recount, another might add their thoughts, insights, or very subtle advice. Oftentimes, many individuals wove together parts from each other’s dreams to become one significant message for the entire group.

All of these things contributed to their wonderful health, overall contentment, and self sufficiency. What Mr. Wolff remembers most during the times he lived with them is that they most often expressed joy. Although sadness was sometimes expressed, voices were never raised in anger, and they lived with a childlike, uncomplicated innocence.

Mr. Wolff stressed the increasing importance of preserving the wisdom of folk medicine and traditional healing as Western culture infiltrates ever-widening areas of the remote world where people practice time-honored, ancient healing methods. Mr. Wolff aptly describes this dilemma:

“Science is so sure that it is the only truth that it has become incapable of accepting other ways of learning about reality. Medicine, as a scientific discipline, for instance, is certain that all other forms of healing are quackery and are not to be tolerated; they must be rooted out, destroyed. Such arrogant insistence has eradicated much knowledge and wisdom in the world.”(p. 5)

It has only been in the twentieth century that medicine has replaced healing, and Mr. Wolff felt that soon no one would remember the old ways, since it seems they are being erased by intolerance and our rush to create man-made chemicals.

During his travels in Tonga he had a conversation with a woman who was a gifted native healer. She agreed that a lot of age-old knowledge has been lost; but, she acknowledged, there have been and will always be people who “know,” who retain the knowledge in their minds and their hearts. When it is needed the most, she said, it will be within each of us to find.

Another Review by J.W.K.

The aboriginal Sng’oi of Malaysia are often described with words like “pre-industrial” or “pre-agricultural,” but it is a mistake to think of them as living in a former stage of what of our more “advanced” society has become. As Wolff shows in this book, it would be more precise to say that are living in another world – a better world.

Having spent half his youth growing up among Sng’oi, Wolff says this: “I learned early on to be in two different realities.” One reality was oriented around the clock, efficiency, technology, and harsh realism.

The other was fluid, timeless, almost dreamlike – a world in which “people touched each other,” a world in which “we knew animals and plants intimately.” The bulk of this book is spent fleshing out differences between these worlds, in an attempt to teach us Westerners another way of knowing, another reality. Yet in the process of doing so, it quickly becomes apparent that the modern world doesn’t quite measure up.

As slaves to an alienating industrial system, we civilized people must pay rent to live. A completely self-domesticated species, we live in a state of complete dependence on big industry and agriculture. We are ignorant of the flora and fauna that support our life, and helplessness to a capricious global market. Thus, the condescending glance “modern” humanity casts at so-called “primitive peoples” is extremely ironic.

Traditionally referred to as “Sakai,” or slaves, by modern Malaysians, the Sng’oi do not take offense. Says one Sng’oi man, “We look at the people down below [literally, from up in the mountains] – they have to get up at a certain time in the morning, they have to pay for everything with money, which they have to earn doing things for other people. They are constantly told what they can and cannot do. No, we do not mind when they call us slaves.”

At one point in the book, Wolff recounts a number of silent educational trips into the rainforest with his friend/guide, Ahmeed, who was subtly trying to teach him to interact and connect with the forest on his own terms. After days of walking, Wolff became thirsty. It was precisely then that Ahmeed decided to sneak off and leave him to find water on his own.

After searching for hours, he not only discovered water – he also discovered another way of seeing. “When I leaned over drink from the leaf, I saw water with feathery ripples, I saw a few mosquito larvae wriggling on the surface, I saw the veins of the leaf through the water, some bubbles, a little piece of dirt… How beautiful, how perfect.” His perception suddenly “opened,” and a deep feeling of connection enveloped him. “The all-ness was everywhere, and I was a part of it… I could not be afraid – I was apart of this all-ness.”

Contrast this with our culture, a culture walled-in with fear; a culture that “learns – has to learn – to shut off the senses, to protect oneself from all the noise.” Unlike the Sng’oi, who are brought up to listen, watch and feel their world in depth, our culture inhabits apsychological straightjacket.

We are brought up to act like machines only to find ourselves replaced by machines built to act like humans. Perhaps our fear of the natural world explains why our economic system has set out to expand and colonize every wild space left on the globe.

In the other world Wolff experienced, every day – indeed every second – was a miracle. Life, by no means perfect, was nevertheless full of smiles, stories, songs and dance. It was a world without fear and domination – until Komatsu bulldozers started coming to clear away the forest.

The topics Wolff address in this book vary from indigenous medicine to education, from dream interpretation to surviving the onslaught of civilization. This is not simply anthropology or ethnology, but a critique of modern industrial civilization and it’s “Development Scheme” in the gentle voice of someone intimate with the Sng’oi.

In all, the book amounts to nothing less than an alternative way of being. I found it refreshing, insightful and transformative – three criteria for any great book.


Dm C
Teyata om bekanze
Bb Am Gm
Bekanze maha bekanze
Am Dm
Radza samudgate soha
It is like this.
Medicine Buddha, you are the King,
the Supreme Healer.
Please remove illness, illness and the
great Illness. Now I offer this prayer.
One of the most important mantras for healing,
it asks for healing from the illusion of duality.
This mantra is also used for the dying process.

Of late it has become a habit spending the snowy weekend’s wee hours of the morning by rummaging through the boxes of books and flipping for relevant topics to be posted in the evolutionary_mystic blog.

I recalled purchasing this book together with the book “The Art of Being and Becoming” by Hazrat Inayat Khan at the now abandoned Sufi Book Store located at the Downtown Tribeca. – wsmystic

This paperback by Andrew Harvey and Mark Matousek offers a thought-provoking and soulful examination of the mystic renaissance and the return of the Sacred Feminine in western spiritual circles.

Journalist Mark Matousek spent two weeks in dialogue with Englishman, scholar, educator, writer, and poet Andrew Harvey. They modeled their discussion on the Sufi tradition known as “sohbet” or spiritual talk of friends. The result is a one-of-a-kind mystical education that includes in its sweep commentary on world religions, a critique of modern culture, a celebration of the spiritual wisdom of indigenous peoples, and much more.

Although there is a mystic in all of us, contemporary culture has tried to combat the ideals of unity, wisdom, compassion, and grace with what Harvey calls “the concentration camp of reason.” Other obstacles to the mystical path include the trivialization of serious issues and the relentless pursuit of distraction.

Despite all of this, individuals are re-discovering the breadth and depth of mystical resources within Christian, Islamic, Judaic, Buddhist, and Hindu religious traditions.

Modern-day mystics, Harvey explains, see the world as “the theatre of divine grace.” They are practicing spiritual disciplines, confronting mortality, and trying to shatter narcissism. Harvey is also convinced that mystics are heroic and active. He notes that “their creativity, stamina and altruistic action have been fueled by divine knowledge and energy.”

A second phenomenon is the return of the Sacred Feminine. “The Sacred Feminine,” according to Harvey, “is very hard to define because her essence is subtlety, flexibility and mystery and her essential work the radiant overcoming of the definitions of mind by love.”

The Divine Mother is making her presence felt in all religions where dogma, authority, and hierarchy have held sway under the umbrella of patriarchy. She is evident in the new emphasis upon the feminine powers of the psyche including intuition, patience, tenderness, and an appreciation for the unity and interdependence of all things. And finally, she is at the forefront of the widespread impulse to spiritualize work, relationships, and everyday tasks.

Both the mystic renaissance and the return of the Sacred Feminine emphasize the importance of cherishing and preserving the natural world — a task which indigenous peoples have been practicing for centuries.

Harvey also discusses their contributions. He proves to be the ideal scout for this territory and what still lies ahead. His affirmation of adoration for God, humility, laughter, and spiritual discipline is salutary. Dialogues with a Modern Mystic presents a vision of far-reaching consequences

Mystic Andrew Harvey is grounded in both Eastern and Western religious traditions. Born in India, he spent his first seven years there, then was educated in England, attending Oxford University, and becoming its youngest elected Fellow.

He has spent decades on his mystical journey which has taken him all over the world. After returning to India he met Mother Meera. Later he was initiated into Tibetan Buddhism by Thuksey Rinpoche. He is the author of A Journey in Ladakh and later Hidden Journey and The Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi. These are all works of modern mysticism, which encompass all major religious and mystical traditions.

Mark Matousek is a writer, journalist and editor, now a free-lance journalist, who has recently published his memoirs; The Boy He Left Behind: A Man’s Search for His Lost Father, to critical acclaim.

In this book the two men model their two week discussion on the Sufi tradition known as “sohbet” or spiritual talk of friends. The result is handbook for the would–be modern mystic. It could be called a roadmap to a spiritual revival, but there are no street names, just very clear signposts to lead the seeker ever closer to reunion with their divine nature.

Harvey defines a mystic as “someone who has direct cognition of God beyond thought or image.” The book is in four parts. The first, ‘The Concentration Camp of Reason’, surveys the current stare of the world, and how we in the West have been deluded, distracted and depressed by the forces working on the ‘Way of Power’ rather than the ‘Way of Love’.

In essence this is a hard-hitting crticism of modern culture and attitudes. Important spiritual issues have been trivialized and in Western societies seekers are looking for a quick-fix or ‘hit-and-run’ enlightenment. This section is sibyllene in its style.

Many dire warnings are given, and no doubt would be worse if the dialogue was to take place today, ten years on. This reader almost succumbed to dismay in understanding that the very events in the warnings have indeed taken place.

Part Two addresses the complexities of the mystical path. Eastern and Western traditions seem very different on the surface, but on deeper reflection, there are core values and experiences that transcend dogma.

Harvey calls for a re-integration of the divine feminine into spiritual practices. He cites the ecstasy of mystics such as Ramakrishna, Rumi, Ramana Maharshi, Bede Griffiths, St John of the Cross, and Sri Aurobindo (among many) to re-inforce the necessity of surrender in love to ‘Mother’. It was moving to read of the author’s own mystical experiences as he approached and accepted the love of the divine feminine in his own journey.

Part three is the bulk of the dialogue. It ranges over myriad concepts that affect the mystic’s journey. These include Fear & Courage; Death & Deathlessness; Laziness & Discipline; Occult & Miracles; Visions; Humor; Work; and many other aspects.

Although he is a thoroughly modern mystic, the author is not rejecting the experiences of those who have gone before. This covers the mystic experiences in every religious stream from the earth-based beliefs of indigenous people to the more rigid Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, to Christianity and Islam.

It is clearly hard to describe the mystical experience in words, for it transcends the logical reality of everyday life and transforms all the senses. It is neatly put that sometimes the only reaction to total love and total light moving back and forth between the mystic and their Beloved is silence. Sometimes it is laughter. Sometimes it is tears. Sometimes it is a dance.
At times the dialogue seems repetitive, but this may simply be the strain of using mere words to describe the insdescribable.

The dialogue concludes in Part Four with discussion on Darkness and Silence, two critical, but not easily understood and accepted elements. Western seekers, with the barrage of stimulation and distraction from the cultural environment often find it hard to go into the silence and darkness.

It is not the dark of abandonment or the silence of loneliness. This is where mystical things can really happen, scary though it may be.The style of the dialogue is simple, at times didactic, but always full of love and humility. Harvey has a foil and compatriot in Matousek. There is no arrogance here.

Both men desire an urgent return to the path of mysticism for those want to transform themselves into agents of love and come closer to the divine while helping to fulfil human destiny. They are alarmed at the place our world has come to, and see the only solution as nothing less than a total transformation of of ouselves and our way of life. They wish to bring the sacred to the forefront.

Athiests beware! If you read this dialogue with an open heart you may find your most entrenched beliefs on life, love and death suddenly blossoming into something quite different. I started reading this book with some resistance because the critique of our modern society was so blunt and unapologetic. I also felt that I had heard the message too many times.

By the time I was into Part Two, the resistance had disappeared and deep memories of my own experiences with the mystical were bubbling to the surface as I was reading. The style is unusually sweet and direct, but free of hysteria and emotions thrown up by the ego. At no time do Harvey and Matousek say that the way of the mystic is easy. It is no weak path, requiring all the virtues that we respect: faith, honesty, courage, persistence, humility, discrimination, strength, among so many others. For those who feel a mystical leaning, please read this most valuable book first

Book Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat /Jennifer Hoskins

Alixandra interviews Andrew Harvey, Ph.D., youngest recipient of a fellowship at Oxford University. He speaks brilliantly about spirituality, protection, development, expansion, circles of power and more. Prolific and brilliant author of 30 books and the leader of Sacred Activism, he expands on his new book, The Hope.



In this interview, Andrew Harvey shares his thoughts on ‘Sacred Activism’.

Book Trailer – Andrew Harvey: The Hope, A Guide to Sacred Activism

In his new book The Hope: a Guide to Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey defines Sacred Activism as a force of compassion in action destined to midwife the birth of a new humanity able to co-create with the Divine a new world. According to Harvey, “This great birth will have to come about as the result of a massive grassroots mobilization of the hearts and committed wills of millions of people.” The vehicle for this mobilization Harvey believes will be through what he calls “Networks of Grace”.

The following is excerpted from his new book The Hope: a Guide to Sacred Activism (Hay House):
In a recent article in the “New York Review of Books” Bill McKibben wrote: “The technology we need most badly is the technology of community – the knowledge about how to cooperate to get things done. Our sense of community is in disrepair.”

It is essential, therefore, that sacred activists, while pursuing their individual spiritual paths and embracing their own specific kinds of service, learn to work together and to form empowering and encouraging ‘networks of grace’ – beings of like heart brought together by passion, skill and serendipity to pool energies, triumphs, griefs, hopes and resources of all kinds. When people of like mind and heart gather together, sometimes miraculously powerful synergy can result.

Such “networks of grace” can only be as transformative as our crisis needs them to be, if those who form them work constantly on the seductions of power, glamour and celebrity, and develop ever-deeper discrimination. Learning to discern the real gold of authentic networks of grace, from the false glitter of networks of power and self-importance, is difficult and demands prayer, humility, patience and shadow-work, and the unglamorous ability to wait on results and not force them before the Mystery has had a chance to form them completely.

Now I want to offer my plan – a plan that is already taking shape – for helping to ground and embody this vision as practically and effectively as possible.

About three months ago, I went to teach sacred activism in a convent in Cleveland Ohio. I had been praying for a long time to understand how best sacred activism could be organized and that night before sleep a vision of what is possible came to me.

I was lying in bed reflecting on the success of Al-Qaeda and certain fundamentalist Christian groups. Fanaticism it seems can always organize itself brilliantly; it is the ordinarily good and concerned who find it hard to cohere and mobilize their efforts. This has to change, and change fast, for the Birth to be effective.

From my study of terrorist and fundamentalist organizations I had learned one essential thing – that the success of their movements relies on cells – small individual cells of between six and twelve people – who encourage, sustain, and inspire each other with sacred reading and meditation and who share each other’s victories and defeats in the course of what they believe is sacred action. Such an organization of inter-linked small cells has been the key to the horrible effectiveness of Al-Qaeda and is the key to the reach of the major fundamentalist ministries.

The word “cell” immediately made me think of a revealing conversation I had had with Deepak Chopra the year before. Deepak spoke to me at length of how the process of transformation in and through the ‘Dark Night’ that we are now enduring could be compared to the different stages of a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. He described how the caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself and dissolves inside the cocoon into a featureless grey gunge. This grey gunge Deepak compared to the chaos and confusion of the Dark Night, a chaos and confusion that is also pregnant with new possibilities, pregnant in fact, as he said, with the birth of the butterfly, “the new divine human” which is a being as genetically and physically different from the caterpillar “as a bicycle is from a lear jet.”

It was how Deepak described this birthing process that struck me. He described how when the grey gunge has liquefied to a certain point, cells which he called “imaginal cells” are genetically awoken in it. These cells feed off the gunge for their growth as they increasingly cluster together creating, through a synergistic alchemy, the body and wings of the future butterfly.

Lying on my bed in the convent in Ohio, the connection between the vision I was getting of sacred activism being organized in inter-linked cells and imaginal cells that could create when clustered together the butterfly of the Divine Human became diamond-clear. I understood that ‘networks of grace,’ was to be a network of ‘imaginal’ cells, individual cells of between six to twelve people, praying and meditating together and inspiring each other and acting together on causes or local or international problems of their own choice.

Next day I spoke of my embryonic vision to the nuns of the convent and to the seventy people assembled for the workshop. The first cell of ‘Networks of Grace’ was established later that day. Since then whenever I have spoken of this vision and plan, it has aroused passionate and delighted response; now there are a dozen ‘Networks of Grace’ cells around the country.

It is my prayer that this book and the vision of sacred activism it embodies will inspire the spread of inter-linked cells of ‘Networks of Grace’ all over North America and the world. The time has come, in Teilhard de Chardin’s words, to “harness the energies of love, and so for the second time in the history of humanity discover fire” – in this case a grassroots movement of the sacred fire of sacred activism organized through “networks of grace.”

As I continued to pray and meditate on this vision of the imaginal cells of “Networks of Grace” I began to study how President Obama conducted his campaign largely through the mobilizing of grassroots forces. One of the main secrets of his success was an innovative internet campaign that inter-linked millions of his supporters and gave them hope and inspiration for change.

Organizing the imaginal cells of Networks of Grace, or rather inviting people to organize themselves in their local communities and connect with other cells in other communities through the internet became the obvious next step to growing the vision. I now know why I had bought the domain name “Networks of Grace” two years earlier when the initial understanding of the need for them had occurred to me.

I have, as you can see, a big and global vision for Networks of Grace but the truth is that such things best start small and local and intimate.

Let me suggest three ways you might organize these cells – around profession (lawyers politicians doctors therapists etc. all wanting to devote their common skills to a common cause), passion (for animals, art, teaching meditation for free, healing etc) or as I suggested in the Five Forms of Service Heartbreak (animals, environmental degradation). Any of these three foci could provide an admirable way of gathering like-minded hearts around you and pooling your common resources and creativity together to start inspiring each other to, and sustaining each other in action.

Imagine cells of concerned lawyers working together to see that people trapped in foreclosure get proper legal representation; imagine cells of doctors pledging to work together to give free treatment to the millions now in this country and all over the world that cannot afford medical care. Imagine cells of therapists pledging to gift sacred activists with free shadow-work; imagine what cells of concerned politicians could effect in getting through imaginative energy and environmental policies or in addressing with common creativity and passion such causes as gay marriage rights, animal rights and abortion.

Imagine what cells of parents and professionals could achieve to help those going through financial crisis, collecting food and clothing, taking children to school, helping people out of work to find a job. The very extent of our growing crisis makes application of the vision of ‘Networks of Grace’ almost infinite.

Reprinted with permission of Hay House from the book The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism by Andrew Harvey. Copyright 2009 Andrew Harvey

Sri Aurobindo’s Life

Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on August 15, 1872. In 1879, at the age of seven, he was taken with his two elder brothers to England for education and lived there for fourteen years. Brought up at first in an English family at Manchester, he joined St. Paul’s School in London in 1884 and in 1890 went from it with a senior classical scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied for two years… – Sri Aurobindo On Himself

Parts One-Seven: The term “sacred activism” is taking on new meaning as the crisis of our global situation intensifies. Between a massive population explosion all over the planet, and increasing water shortages, how do people sleep at night?

Global warming, at this stage, is a reality and concern for millions of people. Mystical scholar, poet, and author of over 30 books, Andrew Harvey defines the various aspects of our current predicament and also a path towards planetary healing. Harvey, in this clip, introduces both his hope for humanity and also what he calls the “birth of the divine feminine” and the challenge it presents humanity to live in a totally new way.

The Great Birth Andrew Harvey Sacred Activism Part Two
Parts One-Seven: In Part Two of the Sacred Activism series, Andrew Harvey explains how a “great birth” is taking place during what he calls humanity’s dark night of the soul.

In this clip, Harvey describes a range of signs that suggest a “star of radiant hope” is emerging like a “phoenix from the flames.” He suggests that millions of individuals are being called to concentrate the “heart mind” so that people everywhere can begin to live in a wholly new way.

According to Harvey, there are many paths to our “inner divine nature”—he encourages his audience to wake-up to that particular path, whatever it is, so that together, as one, we may co-create a new humanity.

Parts One-Seven: In Part Three of the Sacred Activism series, Andrew Harvey begins a more in-depth discussion of what he terms “the way through” to a quantum leap in consciousness. He introduces “the return of the sacred feminine” and what it means for humanity at this critical time in history. The Divine wants this birth, Harvey proposes—and so is entering wherever possible. The sacred feminine, he explains, is “a force that can save the planet.”

Parts One-Seven: In Part Four of the Sacred Activism series, Andrew Harvey discusses a “vision of humanity’s inner divine nature.” Harvey maps steps every person can take to help birth a new humanity. During our dark and at times frightening for some planetary crisis, the sacred feminine is emerging—through a feast of spiritual practices, from Hinduism to Buddhism, Dance to Yoga, Animal Rights Activism to Vegetarianism. Listen to Harvey outline practical guidelines for this time of great transformation and prepare for “an astounding quantum leap in consciousness.”

Parts One-Seven: In Part Five of the Sacred Activism series, Harvey begins outlining five forms of service each of us can engage in daily to “surrender our will to divine love.” He discusses the need for constant shadow work and awareness of parts of oneself we sometimes do not want to face. Harvey exalts the power of the divine to open doors where there were none, and to bring down seemingly insurmountable walls. Find out how to heighten your receptivity to divine transformation and begin to do the necessary work that will heal the planet.


Parts One-Seven: In Part Six of the Sacred Activism series, Harvey touches on the need to identify what breaks your heart— to listen to that sadness and grief, and heed the call to action. For some, heartbreak is rooted in the fact that there are polar bears drowning in the arctic, while for others it is the unjust slaughter of children during wartime. Whatever moves your heart at the deepest core, Harvey suggests, can ultimately give rise to both tremendous compassion and “quantum creativity.” Together, individuals can build alliances, or “networks of grace” and new worlds will start to arise. Listen to Harvey explain how.

Parts One-Seven: In Part Seven of the Sacred Activism series, Harvey addresses his conviction that the Divine wants humanity to get through a kind of birth canal—to a whole new way of being in the universe. In the end, humans always have free will—with that, it is possible we can in fact deny the divine, and, in doing so, destroy all life on the planet. Narcissism of every variety poses a basic threat that cannot be denied. Every act, every gesture counts, and so does reverence for all beings including the animals. Listen to Harvey explain how best to work day-to-day and in every moment with the blessing of the divine so that immense problems can be solved.

A Message from Deepak Chopra
Dear Readers and Friends,

In our quest to grow and evolve, we all run into obstacles. We meet resistance. Change proves stubborn and at times impossible. Anything that I can do to overcome these obstacles is a contribution I never wish to pass up.

In my new book I address the most difficult obstacle of all: the body.

The human body can be a source of the miraculous. The very minute I write this message to you, someone in a laboratory somewhere is breaking through old concepts about the body, discovering that what was once a machine made of flesh and bones is actually a living process, a river without boundaries. Yet you and I find ourselves with bodies that wear out, age, grow sick, and disappoint our highest aspirations for freedom and creativity.

Clearly, the body needs to be reinvented. That’s the main theme of my new book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. I throw out every fixed belief about what the body can and cannot do. In their place, I offer five breakthrough ideas that can completely alter how you see your body and what you do with it.

•Breakthrough #1 — Your Physical Body Is an Illusion

•Breakthrough #2 — Your Real Body Is Energy

•Breakthrough #3 — Awareness Has Magic

•Breakthrough #4 — You Can Improve Your Genes

•Breakthrough #5 — Time Isn’t Your enemy

Each of these breakthroughs overturns an outmoded belief that turns into a physical limitation. If you think of your body as a physical object, you will cooperate with aging, because what is aging but a physical object wearing out? If you believe that time is your enemy, aging has gained another ally. If you accept that your genes are fixed, they take away your freedom to change.

What these five breakthroughs have in common is this: you can change your body through consciousness, because despite its physical appearance, your body is the product of consciousness to begin with. There is no difference between a thought and a molecule in the brain. Each intention sends signals to every cell in the body, causing the cell to change. Therefore, the most natural way to achieve change is through the power of intention.

The second half of the book’s title, Resurrecting the Soul, extends the power of consciousness far beyond the physical. The soul is your spiritual body. It brings nourishment to every cell as surely as nutrients are brought by the blood. Most people believe they have a soul, but they rarely if ever feel connected to it. When you reconnect, a kind of resurrection occurs: you discover that the closer you live to your soul, the better for your body.

Health, anti-aging, a strong sense of self, centeredness, spontaneous right action, the increase of love and compassion — these are all united at the deepest level of consciousness. Every cell is aware of the state of your soul, and vice versa. One consciousness, constantly moving and evolving, is who you really are.

This conclusion is the most important one I’ve arrived at after thirty years of teaching people how to unite body, mind, and soul. Union cannot be achieved one piece at a time. Even though most people attack their problems one at a time and have mixed priorities in their lives, the truth is that wholeness is wholeness. People don’t feel whole because they have excluded their bodies from the spiritual journey, judging the body to be inferior, defective, ugly, and devoid of intelligence. At the other end of the scale, they have sent the soul into a never-never region above and beyond this world.

So as you reinvent your body, which means accepting it as part of your whole consciousness, the soul must also be brought back into partnership with it. Five soul breakthroughs are needed:

•Breakthrough #6 — There’s an Easier Way to Live

•Breakthrough #7 — Love Awakens the Soul

•Breakthrough #8 — Be as Boundless as Your Soul

•Breakthrough #9 — The Fruit of Surrender Is Grace

•Breakthrough #10 — The Universe Evolves through You

When you absorb these ten ideas, and follow the practical exercises attached to each, you will turn the process of life in a new direction. Instead of being blocked by obstacles, areas of freedom open up where you never imagined them. I speak personally, because the seed of this book dates back to my first days in medical school. When I used a scalpel to slice beyond the barrier of the skin, I gained scientific knowledge about the body, but at the same time I sacrificed the body’s mystery and holiness.

We need to have both. The reason you can reinvent the body rests upon solid new evidence about the brain, genes, and lifestyle changes. Yet those are the windows through which a much greater truth can be seen, which is this. When the flow of life encompasses mind, body, and soul, a person has found the easiest way to live. We must put out of our heads that unity is an exotic, faraway goal reached only by the spiritually gifted.

When you delve into Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, your allegiance will shift to wholeness. You won’t be fixated on your body, your mind, or your spiritual path. The three will merge, as they must in order to be whole. The reunion is the most joyous experience anyone can have, and happily for all of us, it’s also the most natural.

Andrew Harvey, Oxford scholar and visionary, believes that our survival depends on Sacred Activism, a fusion of profound mystical awareness, passion, clarity and sacred practice with wise, dedicated, radical action. This fusion, he warns, may be the sole key to preservation of man and nature.

Harvey envisions what he calls The Seven Heads of the Beast of the Apocalypse as:

* population explosion
* environmental pollution
* religious fundamentalism
* proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
* separation from nature through technology
* corrupt conglomerations that own and create mass media
* societies that multitask, which makes it “impossible to concentrate on our divine nature.”

A grim list, until Harvey counters with the Seven Stars:

* the current world crisis that compels us to strip away false agendas and “to look deeply into the shadow of humanity”
* the emerging technologies of wind, solar and hydrogen power
* the birth of the Internet, a popular, affordable global means of communication
* the mystical revolution of the past 20 years
* the rise of compassionate non-violence as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and evidenced in the collapse of the Berlin wall
* the return of the “Divine Feminine,” which is reflected in the growing recognition of mankind’s interconnectedness
* the birth of “divine humanity,” or the growing belief that God is within each of us.

Harvey counsels as he dances from theme to theme that the five ways to become a “mystical activist” are:

* to serve the divine, to make a space for God in your life
* to serve yourself, so that you will be grounded in reality
* to serve others
* to serve your local community
* to serve your global community.

He believes that each individual can become a mystical activist by “becoming conscious at every level and conscious of all choices.”

In turn eloquent, threatening, exuberant, enlightening and spiritual, Andrew Harvey draws the audience in through his fervent belief in the “Divine Mother,” the mother of all beings, and he calls on each individual to “burn like her with meaning, strength, joy and sacred passion.”

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.Sufi teacher and author.

Reclaiming Our Spiritual Heritage

We live in a culture of religious diversity that is at present experiencing a reawakening of interest in spirituality. If we are to more fully understand what this reawakening might mean, it seems to me that we need to clarify the traditional difference between religion and spirituality, between the exoteric and the esoteric.

Exoteric refers to a religious doctrine or body of knowledge that is accessible to anyone. It does not rely upon one’s individual inner experience of the divine or what is sacred. Religious teachings have often emphasized that following religious doctrine is more important than one’s individual spiritual experience, and some have discouraged inner experiences altogether.

In contrast, esoteric teachings and their practices are usually a way to help the individual have a direct inner experience of the sacred. They are based upon the understanding that there is a world of the spirit that is very different than the purely physical world of the senses. Esoteric studies often involve specific spiritual practices that are quite distinct from religious observances. These practices are a way to access the world of the spirit–leading finally to awaken or be born into this reality that is invisible to our physical eyes.

Spiritual teachings of all cultures tell us that just as we have a physical body, so too do we have a spiritual body. This is the body of our spiritual self. In some Indian traditions it is described as having a series of energy centers, or chakras. In Sufism it is described as a series of chambers within the heart–that just as we have a physical heart we also have a spiritual heart which contains our divine consciousness.

In Taoism it is sometimes imaged as a spirit body or light body. Our spiritual body has qualities such as peace, bliss and endless love that are rarely found in our outer lives. What is common to most esoteric traditions is that we can access this spiritual body through specific practices or techniques, meditation, mantra, breathing practices and others.

Many religions have an esoteric core, for example the Jewish Kabbalah, or Sufism which is known as the heart of Islam. Yet, at different times in history religions have banned or persecuted as heresy esoteric teachings and their practitioners.

Early Christianity had a known esoteric dimension, for example in the teachings of the Gospel of Thomas that point to an inner spiritual mystery, as in the words of Jesus: “I disclose my mysteries to those who are worthy of my mysteries.” Sadly the orthodoxy of the early Church banned the inner, esoteric aspect of Jesus’ teachings, and the Gospel of Thomas became heresy, its copies destroyed, until one copy was rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

The esoteric, spiritual teachings that can be found within many religions, shamanic and other traditions form part of our spiritual heritage. They remind us that we are not just physical beings in a physical world, but that our lives and also our bodies have a spiritual dimension. We are beings of light as well as flesh and blood.

There is a world within and around us to which we can have access that is very different to the physical world. Yet the spiritual and physical worlds are not separate, but interpenetrate and nourish each other.

At this present time there is a hunger for direct inner experience, a need to reclaim our spiritual heritage. While our materialistic culture tries to keep our attention firmly in the physical world of the senses, many of us sense a longing to know this hidden mystery of what it means to be human.

And so we are able to turn to the teachings and traditions that have been given to us, whether in yoga, Buddhist meditation, Sufi dhikr or other spiritual practices. It is important to recognize the root of our longing, that we are no longer prepared to live in a purely physical world, but need the living presence of the spiritual. We need to know and be nourished by the invisible world that is within us and all around us. We need to reclaim the mystery and magic of being fully alive.

We also need to confront the specter of death. So many people, knowing only the physical world, remain frightened of death. Religious teachings create a clear division between this life and the afterlife, which may carry the promise of heaven or the threat of hell. Spiritual experience can lift the veils between the worlds, allowing us to glimpse a spiritual reality while we remain present in the physical world.

Many people have had near death experiences in which they see a light at the end of a tunnel. Our spiritual heritage can give us access to this light while we are still in this world. This is the light found within the heart, the light of our divine self. It is beautifully imaged in the Gospel of St. Matthew which speaks about the oneness of real inner perception: “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Spiritual life can take us beyond death. In Sufism this is called “to die before you die,” to awaken to the world of light while still alive in this world. Then you know that there is no such thing as death, or in Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Thomas, “Whoever discovers the interpretations of these sayings will not taste death.”

Spiritual truth is at the heart of all religions, and yet it is also beyond the divisions that plague our world. It is about the oneness, the love and the light that is within us all, and to which as human beings we can have access.

Spiritual teachings and their practices can give us each our own individual experience of this very human reality, help us to live in the light of this oneness rather than stumbling in the darkness of so many divisions. I feel that our present spiritual reawakening is a deep longing, a need to step into this light.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Ph.D. is a Sufi teacher and author. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness (see He has also specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The Golden Sufi Center. His most recent books are The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul and Alchemy of Light.

For further reading on the spiritual world of light, see Vaughan-Lee, Alchemy of Light.

An Excerpt from The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Sufi teacher and writer Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee presents a clarion call to acknowledge and honor the Sacred Feminine and to draw out the divine light and energy of the World Soul. Here is an excerpt on connections.

“As the energy patterns in the world begin to change, more energy will flow to the surface. The free flow of energy around the world that we experience in the global marketplace and in global communication is an aspect of this shift, but these energetic changes are not happening only on the surface level of business and technology. Something within the core of the world is awakening and making its presence felt. A certain barrier that had defined the physical dimension and held it apart from the energies of the inner world is falling away. This has to do with the merging of the inner and outer, the coming together of these two dimensions.

“In our dualistic thinking we forget that a shift in our collective consciousness also means a shift in the earth’s energy. Our science may measure the ecological effects of pollution, climate changes, and global warming, but we do not understand the relationship between our consciousness and the earth. We do not realize that there can be a direct energetic relationship between our collective consciousness and the earth’s energy patterns.

“Responsibility for our planet becomes a central theme as we move into a new era. We need to become more aware of how our attitudes, which are polluting and violating the earth, can disrupt the balance of life. This is not just primitive superstition, but an understanding of the way energy flows in the physical world. In many cultures the work of shamans was to heal any imbalance that we might create in the web of life. To quote Martin Prechtel,

” ‘Shamans are sometimes considered healers or doctors, but really they are people who deal with the tears and holes we create in the net of life, the damage that we all cause in our search for survival.’

“We may be aware of the danger of earthquakes and climate changes, but we have forgotten that the earth can be angry. We do not have enough shamans to repair any imbalance we have created. We do not know how to work with the energy structure of the world. And these patterns of energy are changing, just as our collective consciousness is shifting.

“The heart contains a direct connection to the energy structure of the planet and the ways the energy flows. The heart chakra is the center of the human being, the home of the Self which contains the consciousness of the whole. Because the human being is linked with the whole of creation, the heart gives us access to its energy. The consciousness of the heart can make a real contribution to the balance and flow of the energy of matter. As this energy becomes more awake and active, His lovers are helping to balance it. Like the shamans of previous times, they are working to counter the negative effect of corporate greed and other forces that seek only to exploit the physical world. On a more subtle level they are learning to work with the energy of matter so that its potential can be used beneficially, rather than in the destructive dynamic of chaos.

“Until recently, mystics have mainly worked on the inner planes. But the shift in the energy structure of the planet is turning our attention to the physical plane. At the present this work is in its infancy, but the changes that are taking place require careful attention. Through our attention the awakening energy of the world can flow in a beneficial manner, create the riverbeds that belong to the flow of life in the future.”

I know everyone reading this book will be inspired.
1. Reclaiming the Feminine Mystery of Creation
2. The Contribution of the Feminine
3. Patriarchal Deities and the Repression of the Feminine
4. Feminine Consciousness and the Masculine Mind
5. The Sacred Feminine and Global Transformation
6. Women and Healing the Earth
7. The Energy of Matter
8. Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World
9. Invoking the World Soul
10. The Light of the Soul

[ Click to view the video clip]

What does it mean to awaken? And what is the relationship between individual spiritual awakening and global awakening?

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a sheikh in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Order of Sufism. He has specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness. Author of several books on the subject, Llewellyn has lectured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. He currently lives in California.

There are three Video clips featuring Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in his talk on:
Questions and Answers on ” Consciousness of Oneness”

Sufi teacher and dreamworker Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee tells us about his own change of orientation from the individual to the collective. Llewellyn explains how his “attention shifted” from an earlier emphasis on the classical mystical process of realizing oneness to the collective transition toward a global consciousness of oneness, and asks if humanity’s survival depends on taking responsibility for this interconnectedness, what is the specific role of the mystic?

Llewellyn Vaughan Lee, a Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi teacher, in Q&A about the Consciousness of Oneness.

Click to view the second and third video clip on Consciousness of Oneness


Consciousness of Oneness, Introduction: QUESTIONS with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – 1 Translation(s) | dotSUB.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: The Grace of God

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a sheikh in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Order of Sufism. He has specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness. Author of several books on the subject, Llewellyn has lectured extensively throughout the United States…

Seed Thoughts for Discussion
“When different traditions, when different people, come together, then there is a spark of a shared purpose that goes beyond our own individual intention,
that is greater than us. And that shared purpose can wake something up.”
—from Working With Light (dvd)

Many people have had experiences of oneness, whether it’s just in a moment, in-and-out of time, glancing up at the night sky and suddenly being aware of this transcendent dimension within us in which everything is included, or seeing the universe as a dynamic whole.

1. If you sense that you’ve had an experience of oneness, would you like to share your experience?

2. What is it in our culture that isolates us and denies us from accessing a natural awareness of oneness?

3. How is the emerging global consciousness of oneness reflected in the world today? (For example, on the Internet, individuals and groups are linking together, forming new patterns of relationship; ecologically, we’re realizing that we are one interrelated, interdependent system.)

4. How, individually and as a group, can we participate most creatively in this emerging consciousness of oneness? If you treat the world as something that has no soul, no spirit, you deny life its natural, magical, transformative qualities and abilities. Returning the divine to life, to our environment, is a necessary next step in our evolution.
from Llewell yn Vaughan-Lee interview in Journal of Esoteric Psychology

5. In what ways can we return the divine to everyday life? Many people are honoring the sacred, doing practices, living in a sacred manner. One example is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. (Written 300 years ago, this book describes how he learned to do the most menial of tasks with remembrance of God.)

6. So much of our culture is poverty-stricken because we have lost contact with symbols or devalued symbols and images so much that we can no longer work with them. Share how symbols have enriched your life.

7. We know that, individually, if you nourish the body but starve the soul, you can’t sustain yourself. On the macrocosmic level, we are seeing this happen to the world.
Reflect how your own experience of nourishing the soul could possibly relate to something beyond yourself and contribute to global transformation.
Quotes on Oneness from books and talks of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 2 of 11

Working with oneness is to work with completeness: everything is present at each moment in time. But we need to make a shift from an attitude that sees what is missing, what is absent, to an awareness of wholeness. —from the book Working with Oneness

New and diverse patterns of relationship are forming. We have yet to fully recognize that these patterns of relationship are so essential, that they are a real response to the problems and complexity of the times. They are not just for conveying information. They are creating a new, fast-changing, organic interrelationship of individuals and groups. Something is coming alive in a new way. —from the book Awakening the World

As individuals we can turn our attention to our own hearts, to the inner dimensions from where real help is given. As spiritual groups, we can work together and bring spiritual power into life so it can transform the world. In these ways we will begin to participate in the real potential of our time, and we can help the world awaken to the presence of the divine.
from the talk Spiritual Responsibility at a Time of Global Crisis

In our hubris we have forgotten that the world is more than our collective projections, that it is more mysterious and strange than our rational minds would like us to believe.
from the book Awakening the World

What I find sad is that we, in our arrogance, in this culture have denied the world its divinity. And we think that the world is about us, rather than having a little bit of humility and saying, ‘The world is the creation of the Divine.’ Maybe it’s about the Divine. And once you step into that state of consciousness, then everything changes in the most simple and fundamental way. And then I think we can participate, consciously, towards the waking up of the world, which is also our waking up; because we are part of the world.
from the video Working With Light

This coming change will happen to the whole planet… And we can work to welcome the change. There is no point in stockpiling provisions or becoming self-sufficient.
These are protectionist responses emanating from and perpetuating old patterns. Instead we can create a space within us so that the deep, instinctual knowing that belongs to our depths can come to the surface. We can listen to our dreams and welcome a future we do not yet know. —from the book Awakening the World

We need to acknowledge that something is happening beyond our control. One of the features of our patriarchal culture is a desire to control our inner and outer worlds, and as a result we are fearful of what we cannot control. We are terrified of chaos, although anyone who has experienced real transformation knows that chaos is a necessary ingredient of true creativity. Without an element of chaos life stagnates. —from the book Awakening the World
Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 3 of 11

In our masculine culture we identify work with “doing” and activity. But to hold a space for the divine requires the feminine quality of “being” Through the simplicity of living our inner connection to the divine, living the awareness of the heart, we link the worlds together. —from the talk Spiritual Responsibility at a Time of Global Crisis

If we work together for the sake of the whole, we create an organic, nonhierarchical network of light that can bypass many of the centralized systems, which appear to control our world. Energy can flow freely and unrestricted into life where it is needed, healing the planet, awakening the world to its own true nature. —from the book Awakening to Oneness

We have forgotten that our spiritual light is a part of life and connects us to the whole. We need to reclaim our deep knowing of how the visible and invisible worlds work together—how love flows from emptiness into form, how in each breath the sacred dimension of life is born anew. And how we are part of the light of oneness that is being born anew in each moment, that is the potential of each moment. This is not something we need to achieve or struggle for, but is present in each breath, in who we are.
from the book Awakening to Oneness

There are no power dynamics with light, because it’s free. It’s about the only thing that’s free and that is not polluted. Even the water is polluted. But light is free. Light is not polluted. And the light of a human being, the real light of a human being, is the light of the Divine within them. You cannot capture it, you cannot market it, you cannot sell it. Why? Because it functions in a different way. It functions on a different frequency. And it has to do with this inner potential, with this inner transformative energy that is within all of us… There is a way for people who come together with a spiritual awareness to allow their light to work together. —from the book Working With Light

Real spiritual power has to do with freedom, with enabling other human beings to live their full potential—it has to do with giving, rather than taking. And those who have this power, necessarily, don’t want anything for themselves. That degree of power, that level of power, can only be used by somebody who is offering themselves in service and whose ego has been transformed so they can no longer be in the grip of any negative desires.” —from an interview, Journal of Esoteric Psychology, Vol. 2, No. 1

Within the heart is the spark of oneness, our deep connection to the divine and to all of life.

- How can we awaken this connection that belongs to our soul and the soul of the world?
- How can our primal knowing of oneness come alive within ourself and within the world?
- Mysticism awakens us to our real power and potential, so that we can contribute fully at this time of global transition. It connects us with what is real: the Oneness of Life.

Within the heart is the spark of oneness, our deep connection to the divine and to all of life.

How can we awaken this connection that belongs to our soul and the soul of the world?

How can our primal knowing of oneness come alive within ourself and within the world?

Mysticism awakens us to our real power and potential, so that we can contribute fully at this time of global transition. It connects us with what is real: the Oneness of Life.

Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 5 of 11

Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 6 of 11

From the event “Mysticism & Global Transformation” with Adyashanti. November 19 and 20, 2005, Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael, California.

Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 8 of 11

Working With Light, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Part 9 of 11

Using spiritual power for global transformation.

Excerpted from a talk by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

An excerpt from an interview with H.H. the 17th Karmapa

Then creation recognized its Creator in its own forms and appearances. For in the beginning, when God said, “Let it be!” and it came to pass, the means and the Matrix of creation was Love, because all creation was formed through Her as in the twinkling of an eye. – The Holy Spirit as Sapientia St. Hildegard von Bingen


The feminine is the matrix of creation. This truth is something profound and elemental, and every woman knows it in the cells of her body, in her instinctual depths. Out of the substance of her very being life comes forth. She can conceive and give birth, participate in the greatest mystery of bringing a soul into life.

And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born. Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love.

What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself. When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life. We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation.

We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish and transform it. The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.

Because humanity has a central function in the whole of creation, what we deny to ourself we deny to all of life. In denying the feminine her sacred power and purpose we have impoverished life in ways we do not understand.

We have denied life its sacred source of meaning and divine purpose, which was understood by the ancient priestesses. We may think that their fertility rites and other ceremonies belonged only to the need for procreation or a successful harvest.

In our contemporary culture we cannot understand how a deeper mystery was enacted, one that consciously connected life to its source in the inner worlds, a source that held the wholeness of life as an embodiment of the divine, allowing the wonder of the divine to be present in every moment.

The days of the priestesses, their temples and ceremonies are over, and because the wisdom of the feminine was not written down but transmitted orally (logos is a masculine principle), this sacred knowledge is lost.

We cannot reclaim the past, but we can witness a world without her presence, a world which we exploit for greed and power, which we rape and pollute without real concern. And then we can begin the work of welcoming her back, of reconnecting with the divine that is at the core of creation, and learning once again how to work with the sacred principles of life. Without the intercession of the divine feminine we will remain in this physical and spiritual wasteland we have created, passing on to our children a diseased and desecrated world.

The choice is simple. Can we remember the wholeness that is within us, the wholeness that unites spirit and matter? Or will we continue walking down this road that has abandoned the divine feminine, that has cut women off from their sacred power and knowledge?

If we choose the former we can begin to reclaim the world, not with masculine plans, but with the wisdom of the feminine, the wisdom that belongs to life itself. If we choose the latter we may attempt some surface solutions with new technology. We may combat global warming and pollution with scientific plans. But there will be no real change. A world that is not connected to its soul cannot heal. Without the participation of the divine feminine nothing new can be born.


If the knowledge of the sacred feminine has been lost how can we know what to do? Part of the wisdom of the feminine is to wait, to listen, to be receptive. A woman does not consciously know how to bring the light of a soul into her womb and help it to form a body.

And yet this mystery takes place within her. Nor does she consciously know how to nourish this light with her own light, in the same way that she gives her blood to help the body to grow. She is the mystery of light being born into matter, and her pregnancy is a time of receptivity, waiting, listening and feeling what is happening within her. She and the Great Mother are one being, and if she listens within she is given the knowledge she needs.

We may have forsaken this simple feminine wisdom of listening, and in this information age awash with so many words it is easy to undervalue an instinctual knowledge that comes from within. But the sacred principles of life have never been written down: they belong to the heartbeat, to the rhythm of the breath and the flow of blood.

They are alive like the rain and the rivers, the waxing and waning of the moon. If we learn to listen we will discover that life, the Great Mother, is speaking to us, telling us what we need to know.

We are present at a time when the world is dying and waiting to be reborn, and all the words in our libraries and on the internet will not tell us what to do. But the sacred feminine can share with us her secrets, tell us how to be, how to midwife her rebirth. And because we are her children she can speak to each of us, if we have the humility to listen.

How can we listen to what we do not know? How can we reclaim what we have lost so long ago? Every moment is new. The present moment is not just a progression of past moments, but is alive in its own way, complete and perfect. And it is the moment that demands our attention.

Only in the moment can we be fully awake and respond to the real need. Only in the present moment can we be fully attentive. Only in the present moment can the divine come into existence. Men may make plans, but a mother attentive to her children knows the real need of the moment.

She feels in her being the interconnectedness of all of life in a way that is veiled from the masculine. She knows one cannot make plans when there are so many variables, but one can respond with the wisdom that includes the whole and all of its connections. The divine feminine is asking us to be present in life in all of its wholeness, without judgment or plans. Then she can speak to us, reveal the mystery of her rebirth.

And because this is a birth, the feminine has to be present, not just as an idea but as a living presence within us, within both men and women; because although woman most fully embodies the divine feminine, part of her secret is also shared with men, just as a son carries part of his mother in a way hidden from her daughters.

Yet to live the feminine is something we have almost forgotten: our patriarchal culture has denied her power and real wisdom, has sanitized her as much as it has divorced her from her magic that belongs to the rhythms of creation. But we need her, more than we dare realize.

However, to fully encounter the divine feminine, the creative principle of life, we must be prepared for her anger, for the pain that has come from her abuse. For centuries our masculine culture has repressed her natural power, has burnt her temples, killed her priestesses.

Through his drive for mastery, and his fear of the feminine, of what he cannot understand or control, the patriarchy has not just neglected her, but deliberately tortured and destroyed. He has not just raped her, but torn the very fabric of life, the primal wholeness of which she is always the guardian. And the feminine is angry, even if her anger has been repressed along with her magic.

To welcome the feminine is to acknowledge and accept her pain and anger, and the part we have played in this desecration. Women too have often colluded with the masculine, denied their own power and natural magic, instead accepted masculine values, ways of thinking. They have betrayed their own deepest self. But we must also be careful not to become caught in this darkness, in the dynamics of abuse, the anger and betrayal.

It is especially easy for women to become identified with the suffering of the feminine, her treatment by the masculine, to project one’s own pain and anger onto men. Then we are caught even more securely in this web that denies us any transformation.

If we identify with the pain of the feminine we easily become an agent of her anger, rather than going deeper into the mystery of suffering, into the light that is always hidden in the darkness. Because in the depths of the feminine there is a deep knowledge that the abuse is also part of the cycle of creation. The Great Mother embodies a wholeness that contains even the denial of herself, and we need her wholeness if we are to survive and be reborn.

Real transformation, like any birth, needs the darkness as much as the light. We know that the feminine has been abused, just as the planet continues to be polluted. But the woman who has experienced the pain of childbirth, who knows the blood that belongs to birth, is always initiated in the darkness; she knows the cycles of creation in ways that are hidden to the masculine.

She needs to give herself and her knowing to this present cycle of death and rebirth, and in so doing honor the pain she has suffered. Then she will discover that her magic and power is also being reborn in a new way, is being returned to her in ways that can no longer be contaminated by the masculine and its power drive. But without her full participation there is the danger of a still birth; then this present cycle of creation will not realize its potential.

First we need to acknowledge the suffering of the feminine, of the earth itself, or the light within the feminine will be hidden from us. We have to pay the price of our desires to dominate nature, of our acts of hubris. We are not separate from life, from the winds and the weather.

We are a part of creation and we have to ask her forgiveness, to take responsibility for our attitudes and actions. We need to go consciously into the next era, recognizing our mistakes. Only then can we fully honor and hear her. But there is always the possibility that we will not take this step.

That like defiant children we will not acknowledge the pain we have done to our mother, and will not reclaim the wholeness that she embodies. Then we will remain within the darkness that is beginning to devour our souls: the empty promises of materialism, the fractured world of fanaticism. To take a step into maturity is always to acknowledge our mistakes, the wrongs we have done.


It is a real challenge to step into this matrix of the feminine, to honor something so sacred and simple as the real wisdom of life. But as we stand at the edge of our present global abyss we need this wisdom more than we realize.

How many times has this world been brought to the edge of extinction, how many times in its millions of years has it faced disaster? Now we have created our own disaster with our ignorance and greed, and the first step is to ask for the help of our mother and to listen to her wisdom. Then we will find ourselves in a very different environment than that which we presently imagine.

We will discover that there are changes happening in the depths of creation of which we are a part, and that the pollution and pain we have caused are part of a cycle of life that involves its own apparent destruction. We are not isolated, even in our mistakes. We are part of the whole of creation even as we have denied the whole. In our hubris we have separated ourselves from life, and yet we can never be separate. That is just an illusion of masculine thinking. There is no such thing as separation. It is just a myth created by the ego.

Everything is part of the whole, even in its mistakes and disasters. Once we return to this simple awareness we will discover that there are changes taking place that demand our participation, that need us to be present.

We will see that the axis of creation is shifting and something is coming alive in a new way. We are being reborn, not in any separate sense but as a complete whole. We do not have images in our masculine consciousness to think what this could be like, but this does not mean it is not happening.

Something within us knows that the present era is over, that our time of separation is coming to an end. At present we sense it most apparently in the negative, knowing that the images of life no longer sustain us, that consumerism is killing our soul as well as the planet. And yet there is also something just beyond the horizon, like a dawn that we can sense even if we cannot see.

And this dawn carries a light, and this light is calling to us, calling to our souls if not yet to our minds. And it is asking for us to welcome it, to bring it into being. And if we dare to do this, to say “yes” to this dawn, we will discover that this light is within us, and that something within each of us is being brought into being. We are part of a shared mystery: we are the light hidden within matter that is being awakened.

For too many centuries we have been caught in the myth of separation, until we have become isolated from each other and from the energies of creation that sustain us. But now there is a growing light that carries the knowing of oneness, the oneness that is alive with the imprint of the divine.

This is what is being given back to us. This is the light that is awakening. The light of oneness is a reflection of the divine oneness of life, and we are each a direct expression of this oneness. And this oneness is not a metaphysical idea but something so simple and ordinary. It is in every breath, in the wing beat of every butterfly, in every piece of garbage left on city streets.

This oneness is life, life no longer experienced solely through the fragmented vision of the ego, but known within the heart, felt in the soul. This oneness is the heartbeat of life. It is creation’s recognition of its Creator. In this oneness life celebrates itself and its divine origin.

The feminine knows this oneness. She feels it in her body, in her instinctual wisdom. She knows its interconnectedness just as she knows how to nourish her own children. And yet until now this knowing has not carried the bright light of masculine consciousness.

It has remained hidden within her, in the darkness of her instinctual self. And part of her pain has been that she has not known how to use her knowing in the rational and scientific world we inhabit. Instead of valuing her own knowledge she has played the games of the masculine, imitating his thinking, putting aside her knowledge of relationships and her sense of the patterns that belong to creation.

Now it is time for this wisdom of the feminine to be combined with masculine consciousness, so that a new understanding of the wholeness of life can be used to help us to heal our world.

Our present scientific solutions come from the masculine tools of analysis, the very mind set of separation that has caused the problems. We cannot afford to isolate ourself from the whole any more, and the fact that our problems are global illustrate this. Global warming is not just a scientific image but a dramatic reality.

Combining masculine and feminine wisdom we can come to understand the relationships between the parts and the whole, and if we listen we can hear life telling us how to redress this imbalance.

There is a light within life, known to the alchemists as the lumen naturae, that can speak to us, speak to the light of our own awareness. There is a primal dialogue of light to light, which is known to every healer as she listens to the body of her patient and allows it to communicate with her, allows its light to speak to the light within her.

Through this dialogue of light she comes to know where to place her hands, the herbs that are needed, the pressure points to be touched. This direct communication is combined with the knowledge of healing she has learned, allowing an alchemy to take place that can reawaken energy within the patient, realign the body and soul.

This is how real healing happens, and what is true for the individual is also true for the world, except that we are both the patient and the healer. The world’s wounds and imbalance are our wounds and imbalance, and we have within us the knowledge and understanding to realign ourselves and the world. This is part of the mystery of life’s wholeness.

The feminine can give us an understanding of how all the diverse parts of life relate together, their patterns of relationship, the interconnections that nourish life. She can help us to see consciously what she knows instinctively, that all is part of a living, organic whole, in which all the parts of creation communicate together, and how each cell of creation expresses the whole in a unique way.

An understanding of the organic wholeness of life belongs to the instinctual knowing of the feminine, but combined with masculine consciousness this can be communicated in words, not just feelings. We can combine the science of the mind and the senses with inner knowing. We can be given a blueprint of the planet that will enable us to live in creative harmony with all of life.


What does it mean to reclaim the feminine? It means to honor our sacred connection to life that is present in every moment. It means to realize that life is one whole and begin to recognize the interconnections that form the web of life. It means to realize that everything, every act, even every thought, affects the whole.

And it also means to allow life to speak to us. We are constantly bombarded by so many impressions, by so much media and advertising, that it is not easy to hear the simple voice of life itself. But it is present, even within the mirage of our fears and desires, our anxieties and expectations. And life is waiting for us to listen: it just needs us to be present and attentive. It is trying to communicate to us the secrets of creation so that we can participate in the wonder that is being born.

We have been exiled from our own home, sold a barren landscape full of soulless fantasies. It is time to return home, to claim what belongs to us, the sacred life of which we are a part.

This is what is waiting for us, and its signs are appearing around us. They are not just in our discontent, in our sense that we have been exploited and lied to. They are in a quality of magic that is beginning to appear, like the wing beats of angels we cannot see but can feel.

We are being reminded of what we really are, of the divine presence that is within ourself and within life. We long for this magic, for a life that unites the inner and outer worlds. And this other is already with us in ways we would not expect.

We just have to be open and receptive, to say yes to what we cannot see or touch, but can feel and respond to. And for each of us this meeting of the worlds will be different, unique, because we are each different, unique. It is the sacred within life speaking to us in our own language.

Maybe for the gardener it speaks in the magic of plants, for the mother in something unexpected in the ways of her children—always it is something glimpsed but not yet known—a promise we know we have been waiting for. Children themselves feel it first, but for them it is not so unusual; it is part of the air they breathe, the light they live in. They have not yet been completely banished, and maybe they will grow into a world in which this magic remains.

The mystery of the divine feminine speaks to us from within her creation. She is not a distant god in heaven, but a presence that is here with us, needing our response. She is the divine returning to claim her creation, the real wonder of what it means to be alive.

We have forgotten her, just as we have forgotten so much of what is sacred, and yet she is always part of us. But now she needs to be known again, not just as a myth, as a spiritual image, but as something that belongs to the blood and the breath. She can awaken us to an expectancy in the air, to an ancient memory coming alive in a new way. She can help us to give birth to the divine that is within us, to the oneness that is all around us. She can help us to remember our real nature.

How can we participate in welcoming the divine back into the world?
Excerpted from a talk by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, “Oneness and the World Soul”

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher and author. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness (see He has also specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The Golden Sufi Center ( His most recent books are Alchemy of Light, Working with the Primal Energies of Life, and Spiritual Power, How It Works.


In a time of fascination with secrets, this book reveals perhaps the greatest secret of all: the destiny of the human soul. A spark of divine consciousness exists within every human being, lying dormant until it awakens and begins the journey of return to its spiritual source. That momentous turning point, now within the reach of untold thousands, is the focus of this book.

A groundbreaking work, informed by modern esoteric teachings known as the Ageless Wisdom, this book unveils the evolutionary plan for humanity. It presents the transition to a new age as a passage from one stage of consciousness to another, beginning when the soul awakens and sets foot on the spiritual path. This path transforms the isolated personality into a conscious soul, aware of its oneness with all of life.

In darkening times, this book carries a message of hope. It holds the vision of a gathering wave of awakening souls with the collective power to manifest a higher reality on Earth.

List of Chapters

When the Soul Awakens
~ Introduction

I: The Real Human Being
II: The Higher Self
III: Awakening
IV: Rebirth
V: The Path
VI: The Fruits of Suffering
VII: Soul Awareness
VIII: The Soul’s Religion
IX: Saints and Masters
X: The Soul of Humanity and the Divine Plan

Selected Excerpts from When the Soul Awakens

The Introduction:

“What you are searching for is what is searching.”

~Francis of Assisi
The opportunity now facing us is a spiritual one, involving a shift to a higher dimension of awareness. With the daily shattering of illusions about the material world, growing numbers of people around the globe have felt impelled to search for higher truth. For many, this search began in the 1960s and 70s, with the first wave of spiritual awakening sparked by the energies of Aquarius.[1] But events unfolding since 2001 have accelerated and intensified a collective search for what is genuine and real. Millions of people are now engaged in a spiritual quest that is, at its core, a quest for the Soul.

Inevitably, all who embark upon this journey are confronted with mystery, as reflected in Saint Francis’ paradoxical allusion to the soul as both that which is searching and that which is being sought. The true nature of the soul, which Plato called “a divinity,” has been shrouded in mystery for millennia and remains so, despite the recent outpouring of popular books on the subject. What informs most of these books is a consensual reality based on material science—a form of science that recognizes only the tangible, measurable, visible, concrete dimensions of existence.

A century ago, a new kind of science came into being—a “science of the soul.” Though little known in mainstream culture, it has served to fuel the spiritual awakening now occurring around the globe. Esoteric in nature, this new science has furthered human understanding of the invisible, subtle, spiritual dimensions of existence that lie behind the dense material world. It has been put forth in a set of teachings known collectively as the Ageless Wisdom, a blend of truths from East and West. These teachings form a body of wisdom that holds keys to many of the great mysteries that continue to surround the human soul.

Chapter I: The Real Human Being
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky;
There is one spectacle grander than the sky;
That is the interior of the soul.”

~Victor M. Hugo
Anyone who consults a text or reference book to learn about the nature of a human being will discover that we are large-brained primates capable of creating and using complex tools. That is who we are from the perspective of science. But who are we really? What about hopes and dreams? What about the spiritual dimension of ourselves? How do we account for inspiration and imagination, forgiveness and love, courage and altruism, compassion and empathy? Do such qualities derive from the physical brain, as most scientists still believe, or do they have a different origin?

While pondering such questions, it is instructive to recall that there was a time, not all that long ago in the scheme of things, when the greatest thinkers of our world held a far more wholistic view of the human being. The philosophers of ancient Greece believed that human beings were composed of body and soul, and they attached the greatest importance to the soul. Plato (427–347 BCE), called the “determiner of Western thought,”[2] viewed the soul as the supreme feature of the human being.

In Plato’s understanding, the soul was “the divinity of each one,” the part of us that linked us to the realm of divinity. Every human being was innately endowed with a rational soul, but this divine endowment did not automatically reveal itself. Each individual was destined to engage in a struggle for the rational soul (the highest of three aspects of soul) to control the lesser, more animal-like aspects of our being…

Chapter II: The Higher Self

“The Soul has two eyes.
One looks at time passing,
The other sends forth its gaze into eternity.”

~Angelus Silesius
The wisdom teachings tell us that God, in whose life we exist, has a definite purpose. Life on earth is evolving in accord with an evolutionary plan that is held in the “Mind of God,” the One Life. Moreover, the human soul is said to have the potential to apprehend the next evolutionary goal in the divine Plan and to cooperate in its attainment. As we progress from self-consciousness toward its higher octave, Self-consciousness, we gain the ability to discern the outlines of divine intent. At present, for the first time since the appearance of the human beings on Earth, numbers of spiritual seekers are becoming aware of participating in a greater Life whose purpose we are capable of knowing.

Beyond simply perceiving this purpose, humanity has a unique role to play in its fulfillment, a role that reflects our place in the scheme of planetary life. We are poised to become mediators in a great chain of being—between the three lower kingdoms in nature (mineral, vegetable, and animal) and the next higher one, the spiritual kingdom. Our ultimate purpose, in the coming era, is to infuse the concrete world of form with Spirit by embodying spiritual awareness. When the soul awakens collectively and we begin to live as souls, aware of our inherent relationship to all lives, we will create a bridge in consciousness between higher and lower kingdoms—a process that will be increasingly stimulated as our planet comes more directly under the radiatory influence of the constellation Aquarius.

Before looking ahead to the future, however, it may be useful to take stock of where we are now and from whence we have come. In the course of our long journey of unfoldment, covering many millions of years, we have been cycling into incarnation in order to evolve consciousness. At certain points along this evolutionary trajectory, the expansion of consciousness has been accelerated by the planetary Logos—the intelligent, animating force of our world. This acceleration coincides with periods of great transformation within the life of our planet. We are now living through such a time, and all kingdoms within the One Life are simultaneously being affected.

Chapter III: Awakening

“Lead us from darkness to light,
from the unreal to the real,
from death to immortality.”

~An ancient prayer

This prayer, said to be the oldest prayer known to mankind, finds special resonance with all who awaken spiritually. Piercing the illusions of the world of form, seekers find themselves in a foreign realm, in need of guidance on the path from the unreal to the real. What awaits them is a journey through stages of consciousness leading from the unreality of the limited mortal self to the reality of the eternal Self that knows it is part of the One Life.

Like a dreamer awakening from a long sleep, the soul, as it nears the end of the path of human evolution,[3] breaks through the veil of illusion and penetrates the spiritual plane of reality. Until that time, the individual perceives life through the lens of separateness, experiencing isolation from other people, from nature, from the world, and from the spiritual Source. With awakening comes an unalterable awareness of being part of all that is, an atom in the ebb and flow of a divinely ordered universe.

Awakening experiences are as varied as the individuals who have left records of them. The more dramatic ones, involving awe-inspiring visions of light and awareness of divine presences, are those that have traditionally been labeled “mystical.” Yet breakthroughs to the realm of Spirit commonly involve experiences that are less sensational though no less convincing: recurring awareness of an inner voice, repeated messages from diverse sources, “coincidences” that cannot have been mere happenstance. Whatever forms such encounters take, they shatter the notion of who we are, derived from outer appearances, and propel the seeker further in the direction of what is Real.

Chapter IV: Rebirth

“The body is merely a garment.
Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.”


In the days of ancient Rome, Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.) recorded his observations of the signs of reincarnation in children. After citing “the ancients” who believed in rebirth, including Pythagoras and Socrates, “the wisest of men,” he wrote:

It is again a strong proof of men knowing most things before birth, that when mere children they grasp innumerable facts with such speed as to show that they are not then taking them in for the first time, but remembering and recalling them.[4]

There is a logic to the theory of rebirth that makes sense of otherwise inexplicable differences between human beings. Science cannot explain, on the basis of genetics and environment alone, why there are both serial killers and saints among us. Nor can it account for the extreme differences that exist between siblings—why one is a prodigy and another an ordinary student; why one is a materialist and another is drawn to spirituality. Even among twins, there are marked differences in interests and capacities that can only be explained if we allow for the possibility that their souls have had different “histories.”

Often the question arises as to why, if we have lived before, most of us have no memory of previous lives. The answer seems to lie in the very workings of the laws of conscious evolution. The fact that awareness of past lives is connected to spiritual awakening suggests that a degree of wisdom is necessary before such memory can serve a useful spiritual purpose. Plato hinted at this in his “Myth of Er,” which portrays what occurs after death in “the other world,” as souls choose their next life and prepare for rebirth. Before returning, all souls had to drink from the river Lethe, the Forgetful River, “but those who had no wisdom to save them drank more than the measure.”

For incarnate souls who awaken to their true spiritual nature, the memory of having lived before gradually seeps into conscious awareness, though details of previous existences may not be recalled. In presenting his arguments in support of reincarnation, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the British writer, mentioned “vague recognitions and memories which are occasionally too definite to be easily explained as atavistic impressions.” In answer to “the natural question ‘Why, then, do we not remember such existences?’” he wrote:

We may point out that such remembrance would enormously complicate our present life, and that such existences may well form a cycle which is all clear to us when we come to the end of it, when perhaps we may see a whole rosary of lives threaded upon one personality.[5]

Chapter V: The Path

“Soul unfoldment is…but one of the great processes of nature.”

~Alice A. Bailey
One of the names given to the Ageless Wisdom is the “science of the soul.” Unlike physical science this science, paradoxically, is riddled with mystery. Like quantum physics, it deals with subtle dimensions of reality that we cannot see or touch. But in contrast to quantum physics, which has physical instruments to register the subtle physical dimension, the science of the soul teaches us to become the instruments for registering the spiritual dimension. The means by which we evolve to a stage of consciousness at which we are sensitive enough to discern spiritual energies is the path of transformation.

From one angle, what transpires on this path can be explained through the language of science. Keeping in mind that spirit is matter at its highest rate of vibration and matter is spirit at its lowest rate, the soul on the path is actually learning to raise the vibrational frequency of his or her human mechanism to the point where it becomes resonant with the frequencies of the spiritual kingdom. Finding this resonance is what makes possible the soul’s conscious interaction with the next higher kingdom.

And yet, notwithstanding such rational explanations, the process of spiritual transformation is permeated by Mystery. The entire process involves dimensions of consciousness that are, by their very nature, beyond the cognitive powers of the mind—our most advanced, strictly human attribute. It is the Soul, born of spirit, that becomes our guide on the journey between kingdoms, utilizing the two dimensions of mind as needed, but also superseding the mind. As the soul gains access to the plane of higher intuition, it develops the capacity for gnosis—direct spiritual perception—which had always been called “ineffable.”

It was only recently, with the approach of the Aquarian Age and the publication of the wisdom teachings, that “the ineffable” was made, to a certain extent, mentally comprehensible. Previously, with few exceptions, humanity was deemed unprepared to learn the “secret doctrine.” And thus the evolutionary journey of the soul and the nature of the path of transformation remained shrouded in mystery. It was only when a significant number of individuals began to demonstrate a readiness to accept responsibility for the soul’s unfoldment that the Guides of the Race decided to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the origin and destiny of the human race.

Chapter VI: The Fruits of Suffering

“Call the world…‘the vale of Soul-making’
Then you will find out the use of the world.”

~John Keats

Buddhism grew out of Hindu philosophy, yet the Buddha claimed to teach one thing only: “suffering and the end of suffering.” His blinding insight had revealed to him the underlying cause of all suffering: tanha, usually translated as desire. A more precise definition of tanha, according to Huston Smith, is “dislocation,” the result of selfish desire or self-seeking at the expense of others. Acting instinctively, impulsively, and out of alignment with the natural order, one fails to recognize others as “fellow facets of the same Reality”[6] and thus creates karma. The Buddha’s antidote was the Eightfold Path, a path of intentional living aimed at reaching the state of selflessness that leads to Nirvana—the extinction of the separate self in the ocean of Supreme Reality.

Universally, in all major world religions, the root cause of all our woes is living in a state of consciousness in which we are separate from God or Supreme Reality. In the New Testament, a sinner is one who is “cut off from the living God.”[7] The wisdom teachings echo this idea, stating that the only real sin is the sin of separation, as all sins or errors spring from that single all-encompassing error. In the Hindu Upanishads, this separative state is likened to a single grain of sand so encrusted with debris that it is oblivious to the infinitude of grains of sand in which it is immersed.

Pain is viewed as a caustic agent for removing that encrustation. If allowed to seep into our consciousness, without being suppressed, suffering can serve to loosen the layers of debris that build up around the individual who has become thoroughly identified with the threefold personality existing in the world of form. The Tibetan master explains its salubrious effect: “Pain has always been the purifying agent, employed by the Lords of Destiny, to bring about liberation…it tends to focus humanity’s attention upon the life aspect and not upon the form.”[8]

Whether pain is experienced physically, emotionally, or spiritually, it has the effect of shifting one’s gaze away from the outer world and turning it inward to “the life aspect”—the spirit, the part of our being that is independent of the phenomenal world. When suffering is acute, conditioned reflexes and routines of daily living give way to a deeper, more reflective mode of consciousness that allows the Self to emerge into the foreground and with it, the aspect of mind that relates cause and effect in the light of truth. “The uses of pain are many,” the Tibetan master states, “and they lead the human soul out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberation…”[9]

Chapter VII: Soul Awareness

“All are but parts of one stupendous whole
Whose body nature is, and God the soul.”

~Alexander Pope

In the modern West, there are few individuals other than poets who have written lucidly about the nature of the soul. One who did so, on the basis of inner experience, was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), the American transcendentalist. Though Emerson was quick to acknowledge the “residuum” of unresolved mysteries surrounding the soul, he had come to view the world through the light of the soul. The oneness of all human souls was a basic truth for him, attributable to “that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other[s].”[10]

Emerson sharply contrasted the soul’s perception of reality with the kind of ordinary knowledge that is obtained through the physical senses and the rational mind. “The soul’s scale is one,” he wrote, “the scale of the sense[s] and the [logical] understanding is another.” Calling the measurements of time and space “but inverse measures of the force of the soul,” he lamented the influence of science, which in his view had “in most men overpowered the mind to that degree that the walls of time and space have come to look real and insurmountable.” He reflected:

We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE… We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul.[11]

What enables the soul to see the whole, Emerson asserts, is its oneness with the invisible life force that vitalizes all the separate forms. By contrast, the unillumined concrete mind can perceive only the outer sheath of those forms. The lower mind, looking outward upon the world of time and space through the physical senses, sees only individual forms, including that of its own body, which appears to end with the contours of its skin. By contrast, the soul, perceiving through a higher sense, looks inward to the world of spiritual reality and recognizes that its being, along with the inner being of all forms, is inseparable from the seamless web of Life in our universe.

Chapter VIII: The Soul’s Religion

“Mankind comes to me along many roads,
And on whatever road a man approaches me, on that do I welcome him,
For all roads are mine.”

~The Bhagavad-Gita

One of the most extraordinary witnesses to the universality of the spiritual path was a Hindu saint seen by many as a “prophet for the new age”—Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886). Ramakrishna’s search for enlightenment was deeply rooted in the Hindu tradition, yet he openly explored the path to God in other forms. For a time he became immersed in the Sufi tradition; years later he had a mystical vision of the Christ, whom he came to revere as a divine avatar. Reflecting on his experience toward the end of his life, Ramakrishna said:

I have practiced all religions—Hinduism, Islam, Christianity—and I have also followed the paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God toward whom all are directing their steps, though along different paths… Wherever I look, I see men quarreling in the name of religion… But they never stop to reflect that He who is called Krishna is also called Shiva, and bears the name of the Primal Energy, Jesus and Allah as well.[12]

In the coming age, the wisdom teachings say, the universal truths of religion will be embraced globally while sacred customs and rituals rooted in different cultures will continue to be practiced locally. The oneness or sameness of the path leading into the Kingdom of God will be accepted along with celebrations honoring each religion’s history, traditions, prophets, saints, and avatars. In essence, the soul of religion—all that constitutes its inner core—will be widely acknowledged, while the outer forms will continue to be clothed in robes of many colors.

Chapter IX: Saints and Masters

“When all the race…
As man…has tended to mankind,
…in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God…
For men begin to pass their nature’s bound.”

~Robert Browning

In these few spare lines, with the poet’s magic, Robert Browning (1812–1889) describes the origins of a saint. The journey toward holiness begins with a “completed” human being—one who has surpassed the bounds of “animal-human” nature, or human nature circumscribed by physical reality. As the soul of such a person awakens, there begins a new cycle of lifetimes impelled by “a tendency to God.” When that tendency flowers into a full-fledged union with God, a saint is born. Abilities to heal the sick and “read” souls, to change hearts and shape human events, signal this attainment.

Saints have appeared throughout history in virtually all cultures, as a source of inspiration and hope for humanity. Having transformed themselves by the power of spiritual aspiration and the force of self-discipline, they emerge as links between the human and the divine. Still human, they have been cleansed of the baser nature of our species, imbued with sacrificial love, and endowed with superhuman capacities. Such holy beings have been viewed by other human beings, depending on their own stage of consciousness, as objects of worship, of veneration, or of emulation.

In our postmodern Western culture, it would be easy to dismiss the notion of a saint as anachronistic and anomalous. Despite the fact that the late pope John Paul II canonized more saints than had been canonized by all previous popes combined,[13] the image of our species reflected in the mass media leans conspicuously toward the “sinner” side of the human polarity. When saintly beings do appear on our television screens, such as the late Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the Dalai Lama, they come across to many viewers as fossils of a distant past, if not members of a different species.

And yet, to the seeker on the Path of Return, saints are actual role models. Both individually and collectively, alive and dead, they stand as beacons of light at the end of the road that lies ahead for us all. Esoterically, they represent the outcome of the soul’s natural progression from the human kingdom into the spiritual kingdom. Genuine saints are individuals who have reached the end of the cycle of human lifetimes—the chain of incarnations into the physical world necessitated by karmic debt. Though still in human form, they have evolved to the point of being able to demonstrate aspects of divinity.

Chapter X: The Soul of Humanity and the Divine Plan

“First we receive the light,
Then we impart the light,
Thus we repair the world.”

~The Kabala

The promise of the coming age lies in the evolutionary emergence of the soul. In the new world order, as awareness grows of the consciousness within the form, freedom will be understood in spiritual terms. The vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.—that human beings would some day be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin—is a vision of spiritual freedom. The soul sees past the outer “cloak,” as Rumi put it, to the inner being wearing that cloak, sensing that all of us have worn an array of different cloaks—black and white, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Muslim, Christian and Hindu—in the succession of lifetimes that have led to the present.

And thus, another kind of freedom struggle looms before us. Although the battle to overcome external oppression is far from being won for most of humanity, another battle lies ahead for those who are awakening spiritually: an inner struggle for freedom from imprisoning personality patterns and attachments. This is the heart of “the difficult path.” Also known as the Path of Liberation, the transforming power of this path will bring into manifestation “the one humanity”—the divine idea for the Aquarian Age. When this idea flowers into expression at a higher turn of the spiral of consciousness, individuals will find freedom within the context of community, as the part recognizes its place within the whole.

In recent times, traces of this new consciousness have surfaced at the United Nations. Despite the member states’ habitual clinging to sovereignty, there was an event in 2006 that signaled change. Quietly, unnoticed by the media, the idea of one humanity was officially given voice in a program entitled “Our Common Humanity in the Information Age.” Its central message was “the global community is one family with common values.”[14] Like the muffled sounds of church bells floating above the cacophony of a busy marketplace, new voices are arising at the UN, particularly within the community of NGOs—deemed the most trusted institutions in the world.[15] Their recognition of the oneness of humanity is a notable sign that the soul of our species is awakening.

The author makes it clear from the outset that for a healthy planet, any attempt at spiritual awakening and practices must be holistic and go beyond each person’s individual self-concern.

That each person pursues their inner opening path is a good thing; but part of the issue is that human greed, corruption, and “darkness” obscures the light energy that comes to the planet and at those roots is often ego-selfishness. So to awaken the world, there must be a global dimension, an unselfish commitment to a larger all-embracing vision.

Vaughan-Lee makes his point with clarity (page 111) when he proposes that the “world spins on an axis of love.” The axis of love encircles the earth “at a very high frequency” and thus is almost undetectable. It nourishes and nurtures life more than most people are aware of. It can be tapped into but in order to do so, we must open and cultivate the heart.

These principles represent a Sufi perspective, but there are wise and penetrating insights that are distinctly Vaughan-Lee’s. An example: “much of our present insecurity comes from a deep knowing that our governments and culture s are planning for a future that will never happen” (p. 45).

From social security to the apparent dead-end of having mobilized the industrialized countries to fight a “war on terrorism,” it is clear that the evolving future is hardly couched in certainty. The author is working hard to substantiate his main point that we must choose spiritual ways to integrate our individual path with the planetary influences of love. It is inarguable that such a perspective can only have salutary effects.

There is a note of darkness in the author’s writing: “since the Golden Age, eras have come and gone…the most recent has focused on (the) masculine which has emphasized the separation between worlds…this veil has become almost impenetrable…due to our rational culture and pursuit of materialism” (p. 64). Hope exists, of course, because the “the world is a living spiritual being” (p. 73) and as such the awakening of the soul of the world (the ancient belief in Anima Mundi) can and is occurring. Even within dark matter there are particles of light. These are wonderful insights and they are expressed with considerable sensitivity.

Like a genuinely enlightened person, he reminds the reader, “every breath is a remembrance of God” (p. xv). If we wish to stop the merry-go-round of our material world preoccupied with power and addicted to influence, we can do so by focusing on each breath in/out, which is a universal meditation of all true spiritual paths.

Finally, it is useful to consider the essential focus of the author in his own words: “the real work of the path is to be able to live the energy and higher consciousness of the self in everyday life.”

Coupled with Vaughan-Lee’s espousal of love as the critical element in global awakening, it becomes clear how these forces can be encouraged or “called”: through the open heart. “The wonder of the heart is that because it contains our higher spiritual intelligence…the energy needed by the world…” is the same for the individual self as it is for the earth as a whole (p. 104-6).

To paraphrase a misguided world figure, it is love which is the uniter, not a divider. The author does a great service by making it clear that the answer rests with unqualified love.

This book is a well-organized succinct statement organized into 7 chapters, a brief Epilogue, 5 concise pages of Notes, a 2 page Bibliography, and a short Index. With its bright cover, we should stock this book in our Spirituality, Religion, and Psychology sections.
Table of Contents


1. The First Step
2. Spiritual Maturity
3. Colliding Forces
4. The Relationship Between the Worlds
5. Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World
6. The Light of the Heart
7. The Axis of Love
Book Review By Thomas Peter von Bahr

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
~ Einstein

I would like to offer the following ideas on the Future of God: A New Theory of the Divine.

“It would be very difficult to explain why the Universe would have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”
~Steven Hawking

A theology that contradicts the known facts of science including the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, cosmo-genesis and evolution is obsolete and rightfully so. A science that reduces the rich inner life of consciousness to raw data is absurd and also obsolete.” ~Deepak Chopra

1. God is Infinite Consciousness. Consciousness is awareness, before thinking starts, before perception happens, before neural activity, before there is relationship with space-time, before there is subject-object split.

2. God is the agent of downward causation.

3. God is the consciousness that differentiates into space, time, energy information and matter.

4. Cosmogenesis, Biopoesis Evolution : The principle of parsimony ( Occam’s razor) dictates that God is the author of the Big Bang (neither big nor noisy) a moment where a point of infinite density and zero volume starts creation in an instant. For the first 10 – 43 seconds of this moment of creation, the laws of creation do not exist and are essentially unknowable. At 10-43 seconds universal constants are arbitrarily assigned. These are about 20, including the mass of the neutron, speed of light, gravitational constant, charge of the electron, strong and weak force etc.

From then on cosmogenesis proceeds automatically obeying the universal laws that have been set in motion. 10 billion years later our sun appears and starts to fragment pieces of itself to create its own solar system, including planet earth 30 million years after the formation of the sun.

Because of conditions already set in motion, a biosphere is created and soon abiogenesis or biopoesis happens, an unknown and possibly unknowable process by which inanimate matter becomes DNA. From then on, microorganisms(chemolithoautotrophic hyperthermophiles) start to differentiate into the teeming diversity of life through gene variation and natural selection.

Photosynthesis develops around 2.5 billion years ago. Evolution proceeds naturally once set in motion through gene variation and natural selection. The current state of this process is Homo Sapiens and an exquisite nervous system through which consciousness becomes conscious of itself through us.

5. Each moment of time a new universe is created. Fundamentally the universe is a discontinuity. In each moment of time the universe is not only recreated but also evolves. This recreation happens in the Gap where consciousness resides. The Gap is
(a) a super position of possibilities
(b) a field of infinite non local correlation, dynamic and kinematic
(c) a field of quantum creativity
(d) an intention field, (the observer effect)–where consciousness collapses its possibility waves into space- time events, which are measured out as motion, energy, information and matter.

All this happens in the unified field — the mind of God.

Related Articles at
* The Play of Creation
* Does Time Exist? Part 4: Physicality of Eternity, Consciousness, and Awareness
* Universal or Non-Local Consciousness vs. Local Mind
* “Big Bang” Versus Consciousness and Spirituality; Understanding the Universe from Human Perspective: Part 3
* Does God Have a Future?

Meditation Technique by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra defines meditation, performs a healing meditation and demonstrates the law of attraction and meditation. Rediscover the purpose of meditation and get tips from one of the world’s most respected authors and spiritual guides.
Click to watch.

March 23, 2010

Most people have spent at least a few minutes pondering a famous riddle, although they may not know that it originated in Zen Buddhism: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Strangely, this turns out to be a pivotal question if you want to prove that God exists, or doesn’t.

I want to explain the whole issue in detail, but if you want to view a vigorous and often contentious debate about God and whether He has a future, ABC Nightline is running Tuesday (March 23). The Nightline episode contains only excerpts, but the full debate will be available online at The location was at Cal Tech, where God probably isn’t a pressing topic compared to quantum physics. Yet as it turns out, the two are vitally linked. What you think about reality depends on quantum physics, and since God is the ultimate reality, His existence hinges on such things as waves and particles.

This wasn’t a crude argument between believers and non-believers. It was an attempt to see if the most up-to-date science made God’s existence unlikely, which is what atheists led by Richard Dawkins believe. Taking that position in the debate was Dr. Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptics magazine, and Sam Harris, author of Letter to a Christian Nation. As staunch materialists, they offered a simple attack on God — nothing is scientifically valid unless it can be seen and measured. Since God has no physical presence in the world, there can be no measurement of His existence. Without a physical presence, the deity is reduced to being subjective. Millions of people were taught to believe in a supreme being. If they paid attention to science, they’d realized that their faith has no real basis.

On the other side, I and my partner, the noted philosopher and writer Jean Houston, rejected materialism. We held that science is about objective data, but human beings have rich internal experiences that are valid. These experiences give rise to art, morality, psychology, and everyday things like love, truth, honor, and so on. Is science really in a position to call human experience itself wrong if it cannot be seen and measured? Our opponents of course argue that ethics, values, meaning, and purpose are all reducible to brain phenomena. While we hold that brain phenomena are merely representations of consciousness and not the experience itself.

Yet it was obvious to me and Jean that God has been greatly undermined by materialist science, and also by organized religion, with its simplistic Sunday school lessons about a bearded patriarch sitting on His throne above the clouds. (The very notion that God is referred to as He implies gender, which a supreme being couldn’t have if such a being is beyond time and space.) No, God can’t have a future until the arguments against Him are discredited, and as it happens, rank materialism has been dismantled by science itself, and in particular by quantum physics.

Here, the discussion gets rather technical, but let’s venture forward on a basic question. Does the moon exist if no one is there to see it? This was the last topic our debate arrived at, and afterwards Dr. Shermer and I continued to discuss it, not as adversaries in a heated debate but in hopes of reaching some kind of understanding or common ground. (Shermer’s summary of our discussion can be found here )

The common sense notion is that of course the moon exists without human beings to look at it. It existed long before life on Earth; it will be around if human folly wipes out our species in some possible future. People aren’t going to be argued out of common sense, no matter how tricky your science or philosophy. Yet, surprisingly, physics starts to fall apart if you cling too stubbornly to common sense.

One of the most famous quips about quantum physics is that it isn’t stranger than you imagine — it’s stranger than you can imagine. This is because quantum physics disposed of raw materialism long ago, showing that solid objects are made up of invisible waves of energy, and those waves themselves disappear into clouds of mere possibilities. Every rock, tree, and cloud is made up of molecules, which in turn are made up of atoms, and they in turn are made up of elementary particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons.

It would be consistent with common sense if these particles, and the subatomic particles that they can be broken down into, were solid and stable in spacetime. But they aren’t. Thanks to two breakthrough ideas — the Uncertainty Principle and the Observer Effect — nothing in Nature can be seen as solid and fixed in spacetime. The Uncertainty Principle says, in its simplest terms, that you cannot know the position of a particle and its momentum at the same time. The observer effect says that particles are only a superposition of possibility waves until a non-material observer causes them to collapse from one state, a wave, into another, a particle.

Already I can see readers glazing over, but these are important points for the existence of God and also for our existence. All solid objects exist, in essence, as invisible waves that extend infinitely in all directions. When an observer enters the picture, the wave collapses into a point, and that point is a spacetime event — or a particle — that you can measure. So it turns out that looking at a virtual electron (waves) causes it to appear as an actual electron (particle).

Is the same true of the moon? Does it appear because consciousness is collapsing possibility waves as the moon?

On the side of materialism, Shermer and many others say no. Quantum behavior, or as Shermer calls it “Quantum weirdness,” is confined to the microscopic world. It doesn’t leak into the macroscopic world of rocks, trees, clouds — and the moon. But there are three weaknesses in this argument:

1. Recent discoveries have produced quantum weirdness on the macroscopic level. See this article about “supersizing” quantum mechanics

2. Quantum physics is behind all kinds of technologies used in the big everyday world: transistors, superconductors, experiments with superfluids. There are even cutting-edge experiments with time travel and teleportation, very Star Trek, although so far the results are on the level of light beams, not Scottie and Captain Kirk.

3. Most crucial of all, if you don’t allow quantum phenomenon to interact with the big world, you run into a huge problem with physics itself. Quantum physics is the basis of our macroscopic physical world, so there has to be an interaction, even if that interaction is not fully understood.

Now we are getting somewhere in undermining the certainty that makes materialists too stubborn and certain of themselves. If you don’t admit that the moon is behaving in a quantum fashion, that’s a bit like saying that red blood cells absorb oxygen but the human body as a whole doesn’t. The part and the whole must conform to each other. Having kicked a few rungs out of the materialist position, it’s now possible to see what the alternative may be.

The basic understanding of the collapse of the wave function is called the Copenhagen Interpretation, in which a non-material observer is involved in quantum measurement. John von Neumann demonstrated that an understanding of the collapse of the wave function requires consciousness. Without an observer, there is no collapse, no particle, no matter, no measurement. Alternative quantum theories such as transactional interpretation and many-worlds theory try to get around the need of consciousness or an observer, but fail in the end. Essentially they don’t fulfill the requirements of quantum physics because any quantum measuring device still must be physical and ultimately exist as quantum wave probabilities. One set of measuring waves superimposed on other waves to be measured, only leaves more waves, not particles, not a quantified measurement. And as Niels Bohr makes clear, in quantum mechanics, if it isn’t measureable it isn’t real. So in spite of these newer quantum speculations, no one has been able to successfully dispense with a non-material observer.

Physics says that the observer causes the collapse of the wave function, the vital step that turns invisible, infinitely expanding probabilities into real events. But the word “cause” leads to trouble. It cannot be that human beings literally cause the moon to appear, for the simple reason that it was here before us. Common sense doesn’t seem wrong about that. We can escape this difficulty rather easily, however, by proposing that the observer effect isn’t about individual human beings, or even biological sentience. It’s about non-local consciousness, because what the observer adds to the equation is that human beings are conscious of the events they participate in. Non-local consciousness localizes through our nervous system. The observer is non-local consciousness, and that consciousness collapses its own possibility waves into a measurable event.

Materialists say “who cares?” They fail to realize that without consciousness, you cannot have the universe. But we aren’t talking about you and me as conscious people. We are talking about a field of consciousness that creates, maintains, and deconstructs all things. In other words, God. The moon exists as an invisible wave function because consciousness has that property. Whenever and wherever non-local consciousness interacts with the wave function we call the moon, the wave function collapses and the wave reality of the “moon” becomes the localized moon. Non-local consciousness can collapse the wave function and create matter whether it is mediated through a biological organism or not.

Right now you possess a vocabulary, either large or small. It is invisible, and no one knows where it exists. Your brain isn’t using any energy to hold your vocabulary, yet at any time you want, you can pluck a word out of its invisible state and cause a tangible event: you say the word, or think it or choreograph it into a sentence. Every time we think and say something, we experience our non-local consciousness collapsing a spacetime event out of an abstract field of potential expressions.

Likewise, consciousness produces visible events from invisible possibilities. Physics knows that such transformations exist. Indeed, the entire universe, at the subatomic level, is winking in and out of existence thousands of times a second. Where does the universe go when it blinks out of sight? Into the superposition of possibility waves, the quantum realm. And when it comes back from this invisible sojourn, guess what? The universe has changed. It isn’t the same as before it disappeared. Which means that all change in space and time — the blooming of a rose, the sudden desire to eat chocolate, the birth of a star, or the birth of a work of art — actually occurs out of sight.

Now we arrive at the moment when the rabbit can be pulled out of the hat. God is the rabbit. If there is infinite consciousness upholding the physical universe, if that consciousness is intelligent and creative, God has a future. Only He isn’t a he. He isn’t a person sitting above the clouds. Instead, God is the field of consciousness that creates, governs, and controls the manifest world. This consciousness has an invisible aspect beyond space and time. We can posit that because there was no space or time before the Big Bang, yet there had to be something that allowed the universe and the laws of nature to coalesce with such amazing orderliness than with the slightest deviation, life could not have evolved.

Consciousness, or God, also permeates creation once it appeared. We know this because we partake of consciousness, creativity, and intelligence. Where could we get those qualities if God, the source of consciousness, were gone? To give God a future, you must give consciousness a place in the universe as a primary ingredient, not an element that appeared by chance when the human brain evolved.

And the moon? It exists as an event in consciousness, first and foremost. Because you are also conscious, you not only see the moon, but you participate in the field from which the moon arises. At the core of existence, consciousness operates with no separation of observer, observed, and the process of observation. They come as a three-in-one package. The fallacy all along was to assume that the observer could be erased from the picture. He can’t. Consciousness observes itself, and it observes its creations. God does the same thing, which is why sages have wondered if everything doesn’t take place in God’s mind. Ultimately, it does. But you have to adopt a new model of God that is consciousness-based. Once you do, a host of issues becomes clear. Not just about the moon, but about human beings and what our own future will be like.

Deepak Chopra on

Since the recent debate at Caltech on the Future of God , many productive conversations have emerged and developed. During the debate I was often criticized for bringing quantum physics into the discussion of consciousness.

When I referenced the work of Sir Roger Penrose, Sam Harris dismissed it by saying I was quoting it out of context, and that the hall at Caltech could easily be filled with people who disagreed with Penrose’s theories. During the questions phase of the debate, there was a moment of lively but friendly exchange with Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow. A fuller account of the interaction can be found at this article at Digital Journal. However, here is a brief excerpt from our exchange about consciousness:

Moderator: What is it about Deepak’s use of quantum physics that bothers you?

Mlodinow: The term nonlocal, the use was not correct with the pacemaker and all the electrical…

Chopra: I happen to disagree by the way.

Mlodinow: I assume you did since you said that.

Chopra: I think consciousness is nonlocal.

Mlodinow: You know, I have never really come across a definition of consciousness that I understood, so maybe you can teach me something.

Chopra: a field, a superposition of possibilities.

Mlodinow: OK, well, alright, I know what each of those words mean, I still don’t think that…

Chopra: Right now, I’m speaking to a conscious being.

Mlodinow: I hope so.

Since the debate, Leonard Mlodinow and I have corresponded at length about these ideas and have even become good friends. We are considering a collaborative work on these ideas.
After the debate, looking more deeply into the theories of Penrose on quantum physics and consciousness, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Stuart Hameroff, of, who has worked extensively with Penrose in developing the Orchestrated Objective Reduction (ORCH-OR) theory of consciousness.

I interviewed Dr. Hameroff last week on my radio show Sirius/XM 102. I will publish that interview as soon as the transcripts are complete. Meanwhile, here is a segment of an email from Stuart about the relationship of quantum physics and consciousness that suggests I was not wrong in my understanding of Penrose’s theories, or that Penrose isn’t a credible physicist.

Dear Deepak,

1) Penrose-Hameroff quantum theory of consciousness includes Penrose who was Stephen Hawkings thesis adviser.

2) The ORCH-OR definition of consciousness is a self-collapse of the wave function, including superposition and non-local entanglement.

3) Reductionists say near death and out-of-body experiences can be induced by brain stimulation. This is not true. What those experiments show is a distortion of body perception which is nothing like the consistent reports of calm, white light, tunnel, and floating. And other comments that such states are caused by hypoxia are similarly flawed because hypoxia causes agitation and confusion, not clarity and peacefulness.

Your plans sound fantastic, I will do whatever I can to help.

This is an exciting time in the development of the understanding of consciousness and the deepest knowledge of physics. I am delighted to be engaged in this discussion with such eminent minds.

Karnac Books, London

For all of the advance of science in modern times, it tells us virtually nothing about the human psyche, upon which that advance has entirely depended. Yet there is a great deal that can be known. Carl Jung spent years in depth psychology, delving into peoples’ psyches, including his own, and he schooled himself in the realms of myths, fairy tales, Gnosticism, Mithraism, alchemy, and Eastern mysticism. Out of that work came a wide span of writings that, taken together, develop a coherent theory.

It is difficult for the layman to obtain a reliable perspective on psychology in the broad sense. Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind, in scanning the whole of Jung’s corpus, affords such a perspective from the Jungian point of view and demonstrates that point of view to be entirely consonant with the scientific holdings of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, sometimes called neo-Darwinism.

When viewed in terms of evolutionary theory Jung’s theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious is powerfully persuasive. But what of consciousness, itself?
History of consciousness diagram

Unlike that of the much older collective unconscious, consciousness cannot trace an evolution through Darwinian natural selection. Yet, as Jung put it respecting the psyche generally, consciousness can’t be the only thing in the world to have no history. Building on Jung and his brilliant follower, Erich Neumann, Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind advances a theory of the non-genetic evolution of consciousness.

Finally, it is hoped that, following the insights of Jung, readers in a spiritually deprived world might come upon a unique path to spiritual orientation, an attitude Jung deemed essential to life.

Topics of Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind

Jung and the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis.

Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind is addressed to the general intellectual reader. It is both for readers who want to know more about Carl Jung’s psychology and for those who are skeptical of it. One of its objectives is to convince such readers, as well as psychologists and philosophers, to take Jung’s work seriously — not in the woolly way one often finds in pop-psychological treatments of Jung, but philosophically, and particularly with respect to the plausibility of the idea that the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis supports the notion of a collective unconscious.

The Evolution of Consciousness.

But what about consciousness? According to Jung it developed out of the collective unconscious; yet, unlike the collective unconscious, it is too late an arrival upon the scene to have a genetic base, developed through natural selection. Jung’s brilliant successor, Erich Neumann, was able to trace the advance of consciousness through successive expressions of Jungian archetypes, as recorded in the myth and ritual of culture, through history. Pursuing these findings, Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind proposes that consciousness evolved non-genetically through a special sort natural selection — that among cultural styles.

Jung and the Spiritual Void.

Finally, this book suggests an intellectual platform upon which a person sensible of a spiritual void in the modern world might build. Science is not intended to, nor will it in its present form, afford a predicate for spiritual fulfillment, and the present state of organized religion worldwide leaves hungry many educated, reflective people. This is to say that the encounter between the power to convince of secular science and the literalism of religious doctrine has left the spirit in an uncertain place in our times.
In consequence there appears widely to be a desire, and indeed a need, for a spiritual element, a sense of meaning, presently missing in many peoples’ lives. Anyone sensible of this need might be warranted in looking to psychology — as such a need is a psychological fact — both to probe the ground of the contemporary malaise and perhaps to come upon a more relevant cosmology.

The Four Agreements

Everything we do is based on agreements we have made – agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible. One single agreement is not such a problem, but we have many agreements that come from fear, deplete our energy, and diminish our self-worth.”

“In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible.”

In this powerful book that has remained on The New York Times Bestseller List for over eight years, don Miguel reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. When we are ready to change these agreements, there are four deceptively simple, yet powerful agreements that we can adopt as guiding principles. The Four Agreements® offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.

Don Miguel Ruiz is known as a nagual, or shaman, of the Toltec tradition. The Toltecs were an ancient group of scientists and artists that was formed to explore and preserve the practices and spiritual knowledge of the ancient ones. It is not a religion, but a way of life that embraces spirit and honors all the spiritual masters who have taught on the earth. Toltec wisdom arises from the same essential unity of truth as other sacred esoteric traditions that are found all over the world.

The Four Agreements are very simple, but very profound. To embrace and live each of the Four Agreements is to find yourself experiencing personal freedom–possibly as never before. The Four Agreements are:

Be Impeccable With Your Words
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Don’t Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best

From the cover of the book:

Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery

A New York Times bestseller for over seven years, The Four Agreements transformed the lives of millions of people around the world with a simple yet profound message. Now author and renowned spiritual teacher don Miguel Ruiz has collaborated with his son, don Jose Ruiz, on its long-awaited sequel The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self Mastery. This captivating book expands upon The Four Agreements with fresh insights and empowers us to recover faith and authenticity with a powerful new agreement: Be sceptical, but learn to listen.

The Fifth Agreement uses doubt as a tool to discern the truth.. Doubt takes us behind the words we hear to the intent behind them. By being skeptical, we don’t believe every message we hear; we don’t put our faith in lies, and when our faith is not in lies, we quickly move beyond emotional drama, victimization, and the limiting belief systems our “domestication” has programmed us with.

According to the Ruizes, The Fifth Agreement prepares us to return to our innate wisdom, and live our lives based on truth.. The truth leads to self-mastery, to a life that’s very easy; believing in lies leads to needless conflict and human suffering. As messengers of truth we are free to express ourselves and can live a life without fear, regret, or shame.

“Many years ago, I began to teach the fifth agreement, but then I discovered that no one was ready to learn the advanced Toltec teachings that underlie this agreement. The Four Agreements were enough of a challenge at the time,” explains don Miguel Ruiz.

“The fifth agreement is ultimately about seeing our whole reality through the eyes of truth. The result of practicing this agreement is the complete acceptance of ourselves just the way we are, and the complete acceptance of everybody else just the way they are. The reward is our eternal happiness,” says don Jose Ruiz.

Now, in this compelling new book, we are reminded to commune with our divine nature, enabling us to create our personal heaven on earth and a life of personal freedom and ease.

The Mastery of Love: Don Miguel Ruiz (Introduction)

The “Mastery of Love” picks up where “The 4 Agreements” leaves off. “The 4 Agreements” is mostly conceptual. It prepares our minds and spirits to better understand “The Mastery of Love.” “The Mastery of Love” is a “How to” book. It’s not just about ideas or concepts; it tells us how to overcome the parasites of our socialization process and transcend to a reality where emotional pain, suffering, guilt, shame, fear, jealousy, and all the other tools of civilizing no longer have power over us. He strips away the “blame game” and tells us we are each responsible for our emotional suffering. Mom isn’t responsible. Dad isn’t responsible. The jerk who just cut us off on the highway
isn’t responsible. We inherited suffering through our “civilization” process and learned to fear instead of love.

Unconditional love tells us that each and every person is perfect. We don’t need to change anything about anyone else or ourselves to become perfect. We already are perfect. We just need to recognize this perfection and treat ourselves and others accordingly.

Unfortunately, we have ingested ideas and concepts that translate into feelings that tell us we are not perfect and that other people are not perfect either. And we treat ourselves and others accordingly. We blame ourselves and others for feeling bad, feeling worthless, feeling that there is no way for us to escape the hell we find ourselves in where the parasites of fear, and grief, and suffering rule everything we do.

The Mastery of Love tells us we can change these negative concepts and emotions by gaining mastery over them and replacing them with the love that is our natural birthright. We have already mastered how to be angry, jealous, envious, sorrowful, self-rejecting, other rejecting. The Mastery of Love tells us how to, well…master loving. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. If you want to find out how to change fear into unconditional love, get the book and read it

Review by Rio Cruz

As we all grow older, the span of mortality left to us becomes smaller and smaller. This shrinkage naturally makes us think about immortality. The possibility of surviving death lies at the heart of almost every religion, yet it would be comforting if factual evidence existed, not simply the reassurance of spiritual guides. I was so deeply affected by my father’s death a few years ago that I wrote an entire book to consider if life after death can be proved. I emerged from that project with a good deal of comfort and reassurance. And all of it was rationally based.

I won’t repeat the many arguments in favor of the afterlife (the book is called Life After Death if you are deeply interested). Most people have heard about near-death experiences and on the other side the scoffers who reject such experiences. It’s hard to get believers and skeptics to agree even on basic points, so wide is the gap between the two camps. But gradually science has had to confront the possibility of immortality — not yet for the soul but for the basic fabric of the universe.

It’s a given in physics that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. In recent years theorists have extended this notion to information. We began to hear about information fields that are as basic to the cosmos as energy fields. Why? Because as simple molecules grew into more complex ones, they kept moving into even greater complexity. You’d think that once it reached thousands of individual atoms, an organic chemical would break apart instead of building itself into an even more complex molecule. Yet life has evolved inexorably. Blue-green algae, a very primitive life form, is still with it, but it no longer rules the scene. Without wiping out the lower forms of life, evolution kept adding on.

Some kind of invisible glue is at work, and for the moment, information is favored as that glue. If the information invisibly holding a molecule together has its own integrity, then striving for a creation like human DNA, with its three billion individual codons, seems more plausible. It’s like having a vocabulary that you build on. The tendency is to add more words, not to randomly lose the early ones as you go. Just as you may have to remind yourself of old words, Nature reminds itself of earlier life forms, which is what happens in the womb as a human fetus develops from a single fertilized ovum, passing through stages that repeat the biology of fish, reptiles, lower mammals, and so forth on its journey to being fully human. Ultimately, nothing valuable is forgotten.

The bald fact is that DNA exists, whether or not a theory can explain it. Another bald fact is that every person is already a field of information containing trillions of data, each one related to an experience. As billions of pieces of raw data bombard our senses every day, the information field shifts, changes, and grows. No mechanical notion of randomness makes sense here. What we observe in ourselves is that information has a life of its own.

Some scientists believe that information can only be transformed; it cannot be created or destroyed. That sounds convincing for molecules, but the implications for human immortality are also striking. It’s too easy to palm off the afterlife as something incidental to human comfort, a way of not being frightened by death or a primitive reaction to the unknown. Atheists and skeptics, who are astonishingly glib as a group, constantly fall back on the primitiveness of sacred beliefs, disregarding that they are talking to people who are not primitive, afraid, or myth mongers. (Some believers, in fact, are quite a bit less primitive than the usual run of atheists and skeptics.)

Let’s say that we stop condescending to sacred belief and take it seriously. Then we find that reincarnation, for example, fits rather well with the idea of constantly transforming information. The soul fits rather well into the notion that information can organize itself into a coherent, contained structure, the way DNA organizes billions of chemical bits into a coherent, contained structure. I’m not saying that information is enough to explain the soul. We must account for consciousness, too. It’s very nice if my memories survive my demise the way a computer’s hard drive survives when the machine is turned off. But what we really want is that “I,” the self, survives.

I think that wish, basic as it is, blocks our vision. This limited self that is encased in a physical body stands for much more — it stands for consciousness as a whole. No one contains all the possibilities of the mind, which are infinite. Yet the field of consciousness, like the field of information, does contain the whole. That’s how a field works. The electromagnetic field contains all the electromagnetic energy in the universe, even though a compass or an electric toaster manifests only the tiniest fraction of the field.

Immortality got a boost when science realized that fields are the source of everything that exists, and since a field isn’t solid, visible, perceived by the senses, or contained by a single brain, the whole solid, visible world was called into question. In short, the immortal came first in Nature, the mortal came second. All change must be explained against the background of non-change. Immortality is just a synonym for wholeness. I know that sounds very abstract, and we haven’t even touched on the details of relating advanced physics to consciousness.

But at least we can keep an open mind about immortality without dividing into outworn camps of religionists versus scientists. By recognizing that the really big things like mind, consciousness, the origin of life, and the birth of the cosmos remain very open questions, we won’t fall into the simplistic close-mindedness that scoffs at immortality. The scoffers should be running for cover, because science is undermining them more and more every day.
Deepak Chopra on

The Awakening – Writings of Teilhard de Chardin

Images merged with paraphrases from the writings of priest-scientist Teilhard de Chardin, help us to see God every-where. This is excerpt from part 1 of the DVD and Book “World Alive with Loving God” by Len Sroka, Seescapes Publishing.

Teilhard de Chardin: Man’s Future
A Visionary Theory of Evolution and Man’s Fate, Beyond Genetics

Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, claims in his theory that man’s fate is to evolve spiritually, not genetically, toward a version of Christ he calls the Omega Point.

A paleontologist and member of the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church during the first half of the 20th Century, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin taught that evolution had progressed beyond the physical realm, the realm of mere genetic alteration over time, and relocated itself in the immaterial dimension of human consciousness, or spirit. As he saw it, human evolution had a goal— to be understood as a divinely personal force existing outside the universe, which would be fully revealed only at the end of humanity’s evolution: the Omega Point, a sort of super-Christ.

Teilhardian theory says that at the evolutionary point of man’s appearance within the biosphere, the development of life changed course. Thenceforth, it was no longer an affair of adaptation to material conditions for the sake of elementary physical survival—the evolutionary drive of speciation (creation of new species)—but of the ascent of man’s consciousness itself, which Teilhard identifies as “the spirit of the earth.”

Why Consciousness and Why Should It Evolve?

Teilhard maintains that human awareness is unique: not only are humans aware, they are aware that they are aware. This “folding back” of awareness is the defining trait of true consciousness—the gift and burden of human existence. Man is aware not only of material reality, the space/time cosmos, but of himself as the one who is aware. Man knows that he knows. And he knows the manner of his knowing as well: whether his purposes are creative or destructive, lovingkind or vicious. Thus man has a choice. He possesses freedom. And with this freedom comes an awesome power and responsibility.

In addition to the geosphere, the nonliving layer of the earth, and the biosphere, or life-layer, Teilhard de Chardin recognizes a third: the Noosphere (from Greek: nous, or mind). The Noosphere comprises consciousness alone. It is a solely human planetary layer, shared only (but in a manner inconceivable to human understanding) by the Omega Point itself. Due to the property of freedom in human consciousness—our capacity to discern and to choose between brutality and benevolence—our dominance, or “totalization,” of the planet will result in either self-destruction, or the unification of all humanity in a supreme effort of deliberate self-transformation along evolutionary lines leading to the Omega Point. In other words we must spiritualize as a totality, or perish as a species—evolve or die.

More About the Omega Point

The prime characteristic of spiritual growth is, according to this Catholic thinker, its irreversibility. We sense that the universe is not absurd, that “the spirit as a whole will never fall back” (Human Energy, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, pp. 40-41). This must be true, since otherwise we would lack the will to go on living. Spiritual evolution is therefore intrinsic to the Noosphere. Our spiritual attainments are never lost, never in vain—it is in the nature of the Omega Point to draw us on to ever higher attainments and “complexification.” Man’s totalizing appropriation of the planet is itself an aspect of spiritualizing growth, a phenomenon that cannot take place in conditions of individual isolation. Everyone is a part, or no one is a part. The Omega Point is both the goal toward which we are striving and a supreme consciousness existing independently of time, the laws of matter.

Contributed by Will Deatherage

Chopra is the author of more than fifty books translated into over thirty-five languages. His latest books are the “Ultimate Happiness Prescription” and “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul.”

On March 27 I interviewed Dr. Stuart Hameroff of the Center for Consciousness Studies of the University of Arizona. Here is an edited transcript of that interview.

DEEPAK: It’s my pleasure today to interview Dr. Stuart Hameroff who is a Professor Emeritus at the Department of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. Dr. Hameroff is best known for his research on quantum consciousness, an alternative to the accepted view that consciousness emerges from complex computation. Dr. Hameroff in conjunction with noted Oxford physicist Sir Roger Penrose, who was Stephen Hawking’s thesis advisor, has proposed that consciousness arises at the quantum level with infrastructures inside neurons known as microtubules. It is a great pleasure to interview you, Dr. Hameroff.

STUART: Thank you Deepak for this interview. It’s a pleasure to be here. I must say I have admired your work for many years also. So this is great that I have a chance to talk with you.

DEEPAK: You’re an anesthesiologist as well as an expert in consciousness. Here’s my question: Our brain inside our skull has no experience of the external world. The brain only responds to internal states like, pH, electrolytes, hormones, ionic exchanges across cell membranes and electrical impulses. So, how does the brain see an external world?

STUART: Well that question goes back at least thousands of years, and the Greeks said that the world outside is nothing but a representation in our head. Then of course Descartes recognized the same thing. That the only thing of which he could be sure was that he is, that he is conscious. I think therefore I am. So, we’re not really sure the outside world is as we perceive it. Some people would say it’s a construction, an illusion, some people would say it’s an accurate representation. It’s kind of a mix of views. And then when you add quantum properties to it, it’s really uncertain if the world we perceive is the actual world out there.

DEEPAK: So, Dr. Hameroff lets just take an example. I’m looking at a rose, my retinal cells are not actually looking at the rose they’re responding to photons aren’t they?

STUART: Yes. It’s also possible that quantum information is transduced in the retina in the cilia between the inner and outer segments before the photon even gets to the rhodopsin in the very back of the eye. So it’s possible that there’s additional quantum information being extracted from photons as they enter your eye through the retina. They might somehow more directly convey the actual essential quality or properties of the rose and the redness of the rose. And of course this gets right to the hard problem of conscious experience: that we have an actual quality of redness, pain, grief, sorrow, joy, happiness–all feelings which are conscious awareness. And for most people, the conventional understanding would be that the retina acts like a camera and transmits that image to some other place in the brain computer. And then you have the problem of who is actually looking at the picture.

STUART: And I think that’s incomplete. In addition to the neural signals, I think that the essential property of the rose, the redness, the smell, its other attributes, what philosophers call ‘qualia’ are actually particular fluctuations of the very fundamental level of the universe, in spacetime geometry.

STUART: Since the structure of spacetime geometry – what emptiness is made of – is kind of holographic, by quantum processes our retina and brain are able to access and connect to the essential qualities of the rose so that we have it in our head. By quantum processes we have the experience of redness, we have the smell, and we have the essential qualities. Because spacetime is sort of holographic, we’re able to access it via quantum processes inside our brain.

DEEPAK: So we are experiencing these qualia in our consciousness in all shapes and forms. You mentioned qualities like love, and goodness, and truth, and beauty in one of your videos that I was watching. Also something like the taste of red wine, or the color blue, or red, even sounds, these are qualia that we experience in consciousness. Are we interpreting the qualia in consciousness as the external world?

STUART: The nature of qualia depends on which approach you take. The conventional materialistic approach is that the qualia are created in the brain as an emergent property of computation among neurons. I don’t believe that’s true. I think computation among neurons takes care of non-conscious auto-pilot processing and behavior, but qualia and consciousness are something else – attached to neuronal computation but not quite the same. I think the extra feature is a quantum connection to spacetime geometry. Maybe we should back up a little bit, because this is really Roger Penrose’s idea. Consider what the universe is made of, smaller than atoms, between atoms – emptiness, nothingness. If you go down in scale, much much smaller than atoms, below the level of matter, as things get smaller and smaller, everything would be sort of smooth and featureless, until twenty five orders of magnitude smaller than atoms you get to the very bottom level called the Planck scale, where there’s some kind of patterns, coarseness, geometry, information.

STUART: We don’t really know what to call it, at this most basic level of quantum gravity. But somehow, Planck scale geometry gives rise to irreducible features in physics, like mass, spin and charge. And also qualia, we think. The precursors of consciousness, or consciousness itself, may be actually embedded in Planck scale geometry, just like spin, mass, and charge that give rise to the material world. In other words, the essential features of consciousness are built into the universe at its most basic level, and repeat in scale holographically, so qualia become accessible to quantum biology in the brain.

DEEPAK: As preparation for this conversation today I watched a number of your videos on YouTube, I read your work, and then while I was doing that somebody actually sent me an essay that was published in Nature in 2005 by Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astrophysics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins. In a quote from that essay he says: “The only reality is mind and observations. But observations are not of things, to see the universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things”.

DEEPAK: So you know when I’m actually looking at a rose, what is happening is a spacetime event in consciousness.

STUART: Yes, and it also relates to Alfred North Whitehead, who said that the universe isn’t made of things, it’s made of processes, of events. Everything is events, and some of those events are conscious events. He called them occasions, occasions of experience. It was the philosopher Abner Shimony in the early 1990s who said, Whitehead’s occasions of experience are actually very much like quantum state reductions. That made a connection between Whitehead’s philosophy, which also relates to Eastern philosophies of various sorts, and to modern physics and quantum physics in particular.

DEEPAK: You know there’s an ancient text called the Yoga Vasistha and it’s probably the most important text in Vedanta, and the history is that Rama, who is the incarnation of God, goes to the great seer to get instruction. And as is the custom in India, Rama touches the rishi Vasistha’s feet. And the seer says, “Hey stop it! You’re God why are you doing this?” So Rama says, ” I have forgotten. You have to remind me that I am God.” Vasistha then gives him the first lesson. You’re not in the world, the world is in you. You’re not in the body, the body is in you. You’re not even in the mind, the mind is in you. As you curve back within your own consciousness, you manifest the mind, body, and the world.
I thought that’s pretty close to what you’re saying.

STUART: Yes, and that’s a beautiful, beautiful passage. Or the Beatles’ “your inside is out and your outside is in”.

DEEPAK: That’s right.

DEEPAK: So I was at this debate with Michael Shermer and Sam Harris at Caltech and the hall was full of techies unsympathetic to the concept that consciousness is primary and matter is secondary. Whenever I brought up the idea that consciousness is fundamental to the universe, they dismissed it and me, as “woo-woo”. It was such a cop-out that anytime I brought quantum consciousness even into the discussion, it was dismissed as not having anything to do with the macro-world.

STUART: I was at a conference with Shermer and Harris several years ago in San Diego called “Beyond Belief” which was basically, almost exclusively atheists and materialists. And they invited me as kind of a token, opposing view. And I sat there all day, listening to them bash religion, and the concept of spirituality. Finally I got up and my point was, I don’t necessarily ascribe to any particular religion, but I think through quantum physics, three essential components of spirituality can have a plausible scientific explanation. Namely, these are first, interconnectedness among living beings via quantum entanglement. Second is guidance by Platonic wisdom. Penrose also embedded Platonic values in spacetime geometry which can guide our actions, and be viewed as following the way of the Tao, or divine guidance, or whatever you want to call it. And finally, even conceivably the possibility of afterlife or consciousness outside of the body. Because if consciousness is happening in the spacetime geometry, normally in the brain, then when the blood, oxygen and metabolic energy stop driving the classical auto-pilot activity, the quantum information extending to spacetime isn’t destroyed, but can perhaps leak out or dissipate in a more holographic distribution, but remained entangled. So it’s possible that a soul could exist afterwards in Planck scale geometry. There could be reincarnation. I don’t have any proof, and I’m not saying this necessarily happens, but if it does, here is a plausible scientific explanation.

DEEPAK: I mentioned Roger Penrose in the debate as having said that the brain being a physical organ cannot process real creativity as per Gödel’s Theorem, which you have also mentioned in your work. I said the brain cannot process true creativity or even have free will. They were totally dismissive that quantum physics had anything to do with consciousness. They kept bringing up the Copenhagen interpretation as being irrelevant. I don’t think there’s any interpretation of quantum physics that can do away with the non-material, non-local consciousness. Or is there?

STUART: Well, the Copenhagen interpretation which they dismissed is basically the idea that consciousness causes collapse of the wave function. It’s one of several possible interpretations of what’s called the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. So, let’s just talk about this for a second. The wave function implies a quantum state of something. Which means that particles can be in superposition, can be in multiple states or locations at the same time. At some point, the wave function collapses and each possibility chooses one definite reality.

In the early days of quantum mechanics, Danish physicist Niels Bohr was experimenting with quantum systems which seemed to remain in superposition until the moment they were measured or observed, and then collapse to one possible state or the other. In order to proceed with experiments, Bohr just said that the conscious observer caused collapse – the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’. Schrodinger doubted this and designed his famous thought experiment. The fate of a cat depends on a quantum superposition. According to Copenhagen, the cat is both dead and alive at the same time until somebody opens the box and has a look. And only then does it become either dead or alive.

STUART: Bohr adopted the Copenhagen view as a very pragmatic way to get rid of the measurement problem so he could do his quantum experiments which were very accurate and very important. But, it put consciousness outside science. And materialists don’t like it because it says consciousness has some kind of causal effect.

There are other interpretations of the measurement problem – which is really the question of how large a quantum superposition can persist and become. The multiple worlds view says if you have a quantum system, a superposition of two possibilities existing simultaneously, each possibility evolves to form its own whole new universe. The universe separates at a basic level, and we have this infinite number of overlapping universes. Then there’s decoherence, the notion that any interaction of a quantum system with a classical environment destroys the quantum state – that quantum superpositions must be somehow isolated. And Bohm said quantum pilot waves guided classical paths.


STUART: Now the Penrose idea is sort of the flip side of Copenhagen, with a dash of multiple worlds. He says that consciousness is collapse, a particular type of self-collapse. But he started with superposition, “What does that mean? How can something be in two places or states at the same time?” If you go back to the multiple worlds idea, it’s that the universe itself, spacetime geometry, separates and evolves off to form two universes. Penrose also takes superpositions as spacetime separations, and that instead of branching off and forming new universes, the separations were unstable, and would reduce, or self-collapse to particular states at a given time due to an objective threshold – this is called objective reduction, or OR. For other reasons related to Goedel’s theorem Penrose said the choices were influenced by Platonic values embedded in Planck scale geometry, and that a moment of consciousness occurred.


STUART: The self-collapse occurs, given by a very simple equation, E=h/t related to the indeterminacy principle which defines a spectrum of conscious events. When this event occurs, a quantum moment of consciousness occurs.

DEEPAK: You know, it’s very interesting. I recently interviewed Hans Peter Duerr who was a colleague and student of Werner Heisenberg and actually they worked together for 20 years. The other day I asked him, “What is matter?” And he said “It doesn’t exist”. He said “there are happs”, happenings in consciousness, that are interpreted as matter. So I said, what really exists? And then he said, that the wrong question, it’s like asking (laughs), what’s the color of a circle? And you know, he confused me a lot, but now with what you’re saying–that moments of consciousness are a result of self-collapse. And these are discontinuities, but they happen so fast that they give us an experience of continuity.

STUART: Precisely. Actually, roughly forty times a second.

DEEPAK: All right, I see.

STUART: At least in our model they coincide with gamma synchrony EEG which is the best measure of consciousness. But it doesn’t have to be forty, and in fact the Dalai Lama selected some Tibetan monk meditators and sent them to Wisconsin, where Davidson’s Lab studied them during meditation. They found that their synchrony wasn’t at forty, but it was between 80 and 100 per second. So they were having more conscious moments per time than the rest of us in their meditative state and actually before they meditated, implying that chronic meditation actually changed the brain. So, I think that these “happses” as your colleague said or conscious moments or quanta of consciousness are pretty much like photons in the electromagnetic spectrum where you can have high energy, fast, high frequency photons like ultraviolet’s for example or slower, longer wavelengths like infrared. There is a spectrum of conscious events.

STUART: I think when we meditate or are in altered states, we shift to a higher frequency, which is also higher intensity, higher experience. Kind of like going from red to ultraviolet, something like that. When that happens, the outside world can slow down in perspective. So people in car accidents for example, when the car is spinning, report that the world slows down, because they have gone from say 40 to 80 conscious moments per second. The perception of the outside world appears slower. Great athletes say that when they’re playing well, the other team is in slow motion. Michael Jordan said that.

DEEPAK: Michael Jordan. Joe Namath once told me that when he was in a peak moment during the game, everything seemed to slow down and actually when he was scoring a touchdown, and there were literally thousands of people applauding, he saw everything in slow motion and total silence. There was no sound.

STUART: Fantastic. So, he might have gone from say 40 conscious moments per second to a 100 in that moment. So the outside slowed down or almost stopped even.

DEEPAK: And there was silence too. Because this raises the question. You said information is very fundamental in the universe. But were you implying that information is transcendent and non-local?

STUART: Entanglement certainly suggests that. But Planck Scale geometry and the makeup of the universe at that level is really unknown and controversial. String theory tries to explain it, as does loop quantum gravity and various forms of quantum geometry. Roger Penrose developed quantum geometry theories about it and is probably the expert along with Lee Smolin and others. Spin networks, twistors, the whole field of quantum gravity or quantum geometry. I think Platonic information embedded in non-local holographic spacetime geometry may be considered transcendent.

DEEPAK: Is it outside of spacetime or are you saying that it is fundamental to the spacetime geometry?

STUART: It is spacetime. I don’t think you need to get out of, or can get outside of spacetime. When we get down to this fundamental level, this information is non-local and holographic. You don’t need to get outside. In fact, I just read a very interesting article about how this Planck scale information actually repeats holographically at larger and larger scales. I’ll send you the link. They’ve gotten it up to very close to biological levels. I think that the biological system is even better tuned than any device that anybody has built yet. But the cosmic information is non-local, existing in multiple places, even across the universe. This is basically quantum entanglement.


STUART: We know that superpositioned particles that separate remain intimately connected This prediction came out of quantum mechanics. Einstein didn’t like that idea and he called it spooky-action-at-a-distance.

DEEPAK: Yeah. If it is at this level, non-local and it’s entangled, then it cannot be destroyed.

STUART: You can say that, yes.

DEEPAK: When I do my meditation seminars I ask my audience simple questions. I’ll pick on somebody and say, “So what did you have for dinner last night?” And they’ll say “I had pasta and chicken” or something. I’ll say, where was that information before I asked the question? If I went inside your brain would I find a location for pasta and dinner? Then I’ll ask them, “Do you remember the house you lived in when you were a teenager?” They say, yes. They can see it in their consciousness, as that qualia or whatever you want to call it. I’ll say “Where was that before I asked you the question?” And you know, Eastern wisdom and traditions say that memory as information resides in a non…, well they don’t use the word non-local, but it’s in your soul, and that’s what recycles. Every time we retrieve a memory, of course we have brain activity, but to store the memory there is no brain activity nor is there any energy consumed.

STUART: Well, I think memory is stored in the brain, but there’s also memory, you know, in the universe. Perhaps a different kind, perhaps our memories are also stored there, but I think that memory can be stored in the microtubules for example through processes related to the neuronal synapses. But you’re referring to memory that can be stored in the universe at large and I think that can exist also.

DEEPAK: I see. So, memory is not localized through the brain, it is actually stored in the brain?

STUART: Well it’s stored in a distributed way. It’s stored like a hologram and that’s been known for decades.

DEEPAK: See because every time we retrieve a memory, isn’t that a kind of a collapse of a superposition?

STUART: If we have a conscious memory of it, yes. How that happens is that the memory is stored in the cytoskeleton, in the microtubules for example. Through the hippocampus and gamma synchrony association you access the information and that causes it to go into a superposition and become part of the quantum state which then collapses giving a conscious memory.

DEEPAK: I’m speaking to Dr. Stuart Hameroff. His website is He’s also holding a conference titled “Toward a Science of Consciousness” April 12th through 17th I think he and David Chalmers are co-hosting this conference, so check it out and we’ll be posting the link also on

DEEPAK:. Stuart Hameroff is also going to be doing a dialogue with Tibetan Lama ZaChoeje Rinpoche, who is designated as the reincarnate by the Dalai Lama. He’ll be doing the dialogue next week in Tempe, Arizona. Before I get to your work Dr. Hameroff, I want to mention something. I met a physicist recently from the University of California in Orange County, one of the universities there. His name is Jeff Tollaksen, and he’s working with another physicist called Aharonov of the Aharonov-Bohm theory. This month’s Discover magazine has a cover story about both of them and they’re describing something called time symmetric quantum mechanics. What they’re saying is that they do these weak measurements, and I didn’t fully understand the procedure, but what they’re saying is that information from the future can leak into the present and when it does so, in their experiments, it resolves all the indeterminacies that one finds in all the paradoxes. Implying that quantum physics is teleological, that there’s something in the future that’s built into the laws of physics or mathematics that determines the present and that time doesn’t really have to follow an arrow, it can go backwards and forwards.

STUART: Yes, that’s Jeff Tollaksen. He’s been to our conferences and he works with Yakir Aharonov, of the Aharonov-Bohm effect. The time symmetry is a very beautiful idea.

DEEPAK: I see.

STUART: As I understand it, every time there is a collapse, and this would include a Penrose-type collapse, there’s information that goes into the future but also into the past. It’s symmetric, so the information goes both ways. There’s pretty good evidence that this happens in the brain. Ben Libet did studies years ago on neurosurgical patients whose brains were exposed but were awake. He found evidence that the brain sends conscious information backwards in time. We may actually rely routinely on information from the near future. This would explain the experiments by Dick Berman and Dean Radin over the years on pre-sentiment. They use a simple impedance device on the finger which measures blood flow changes due to emotional responses. They had subjects look at a sequence of images on a computer screen that are coming, not at a regular time, but at different times so they don’t know when. And half of them were highly emotional and half of them were bland. They found a bigger response with the emotional images, as you might expect. But in all cases, particularly emotional images, the change in the impedance happens before the image comes up on the screen by a half second to two seconds. This could be exactly the type of time symmetry that Tollaksen and Aharonov are talking about where each collapse, each moment of consciousness sends information backwards in time. So each conscious moment can receive information from our brain in the next half a second or so.

DEEPAK: So how does this relate to our identity? Who we are? Are we a non-local, consciousness, a non-local being that localizes when we reincarnate? Do you have any theories on this?

STUART: I can’t say for sure. I can say that I think that when we are alive in our bodies, our consciousness is pretty much confined to our brain. We can have quantum entanglement with other people in the universe, and maybe exist in some kind of non-local distribution in altered states. Perhaps when we die the quantum information that is normally in our microtubules inside the neurons of our brain can kind of exist at large in the universe, but remain as an entangled entity. In other words, we retain some kind of self-identity as who we are, a soul.

DEEPAK: Well you know, Eastern spiritual traditions say that when we die we return to the state of pure potentiality. Which is our pure consciousness. But, even there we retain memories as superpositions of possibilities. I’m now translating in modern language. They would say that reincarnation is actually the localization, once again of those possibility fields. That we are part of a larger possibility field. Which is called the Akashic field. It’s transcendent, being transcendent its non-local, being non-local it cannot be destroyed. It’s immortal.

STUART: I would agree with that. I think Laszlo has talked about the Akashic field in quantum field theory.

DEEPAK: Right.

STUART: I think some connection to a kind of cosmic mind in Planck scale geometry is possible. I tend to focus on the biological end of it, on how consciousness occurs in the brain. You don’t need a scientific explanation to believe in a cosmic mind, and be part of it. But that’s my thing. I like to investigate science. I do think that our theory for example could explain consciousness as ripples in this fundamental level of the universe which could be the Akashic field, Bohm’s Implicate Order, Planck scale geometry. And many descriptions. I think they’re pretty much all the same thing.

DEEPAK: I want to really get specifically into your work with microtubules. What are microtubules?

STUART: Ah, well. Microtubules are part of the cytoskeleton, the bone-like scaffolding inside the cell. We know about membranes, we know about the nucleus, DNA, but the rest of the cell, which is most of the cell, is often thought of as liquid, a minestrone soup of organelles floating around. Actually, it’s a highly structured system that has organized support made up of protein filaments that are normally thought of as purely girders in a building. But we think they are also the nervous system inside the cell. And mechanical transport. They do the job of separating chromosomes in mitosis when cells divide. They push forward axons, dendrites and synapses in neuronal development. They regulate synapses and participate in memory. And when they fall apart, you have Alzheimers.

Microtubules are hollow cylinders made up of single peanut-shaped proteins called tubulin which self-assemble to form the architecture and geometry of the cell. Cells that are most asymmetrical, that have long processes like neurons with dendrites and axons, have the most microtubules. When a neuron develops, the microtubules self-assemble and grow in a certain direction. It’s kind of like the Indian Rope trick, where the Fakir guy throws a rope up and then climbs up. That’s pretty much what microtubules do to form the shape of cells, and then ultimately synapses. Once cells are formed, microtubules seem to process information and organize activities.

I first got interested in microtubules in cell division in the 1970s in medical school. Only then was it discovered that they were also in neurons. Because prior to that the fixative agent for electron microscopy had been dissolving microtubules, if you can believe that. Cell interiors looked like water. But, then they realized that there’s this forest of structures in there. And at about the same time, x-ray crystallography showed the structure of microtubules to be cylindrical lattices, almost like crystals.

I was learning about computers at the time and to me, microtubules looked like a computer switching network where the state of each tubulin subunit could represent something like a bit, a one or a zero for example. If that were true, that would mean there was a lot of information processing going on inside cells. Most people think about the brain as 100 billion neurons, with each synapse among those neurons switching as a bit in milliseconds. Each neuron is a switch, a bit a 1 or a 0. But if you looked inside each neuron you see this faster, denser level of microtubule information processing.

DEEPAK: I read that you had said that microtubules performed like 10 to the power of 27 information processing events every second, is that true?

STUART: In the brain, yes. So, this is where I ran into trouble with the artificial intelligence people who were trying to build brain equivalence in computers because they were saying that each neuron, and there’s like 100 billion neurons in the brain, switch a thousand times a second, so with so many synapses gives brain computational equivalence of 10 to the 15th operations per second. And based on Moore’s Law and computers getting faster and components smaller, they project that in another ten or twenty years, computers will reach that level of brain equivalence. And of course, Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity have made a big deal about this. When that happens, then everything will change culturally.

DEEPAK: Spiritual machines.

STUART: But, that’s assuming each neuron is a simple on-off switch, which is not the case, if you think about a paramecium. You know those single cell organisms.


STUART: They swim around, they find food, they find mates, they have sex, they learn, they can escape from capillary tubes faster each time. They don’t have neurons, they don’t have synapses, they do it all with their microtubules. So, if they can do it, then a neuron should be able to use its microtubules intelligently also. I calculated the amount of information processing in the microtubules in each neuron was something like 10 to the 15th operations per second. Which meant that what the A.I. people, Kurzweil, and so forth are saying now is the capacity for the brain is actually only the capacity of one neuron in the brain at the level of microtubule information processing. That means that the total capacity would be almost squared. Something like 10 to the 27th figure that you mentioned. So, I’m not very popular among A.I. people.

STUART: But more computation isn’t the answer either. One day about 20 years ago an A.I. guy said -’lets say you’re right, that all this computation is happening in microtubules. How does that explain consciousness?’ I had to admit he was right. Fortunately he suggested I read Roger Penrose’s book ‘The emperor’s new mind’, which I did. Roger was proposing this quantum self-collapse, objective reduction, a process in fundamental spacetime geometry as a mechanism for consciousness. He needed a quantum computer in the brain. I thought, microtubules. He agreed. We developed our theory in which synaptic inputs ‘orchestrate’ quantum computing in microtubules which terminates by Penrose OR, hence ‘Orch OR’. It’s been heavily criticized but never refuted. A.I. groups fund research aimed to discredit it.

DEEPAK: Could an A.I. machine process ethics, values, morality, free will, creativity, or have the experience of qualia?

STUART: Well, I don’t think so. They might claim they can because they trivialize those concepts. A.I. is entirely based on the materialist premise that the brain is a computer, no different from a silicon computer. They assert consciousness and love and everything that you just mentioned are emergent properties from complex computation. But there’s no real evidence either way. For me, those things are accessed in the quantum world.

DEEPAK: But, isn’t the essential nature of matter, that it’s not material?

STUART: That’s right. Matter is related to something like curvature in spacetime geometry. So, to get to the fundamental level we have to go further down to the origins of matter, which are also the origins of consciousness.

DEEPAK: You see in Eastern wisdom traditions; consciousness is before the subject object split. You know. That consciousness is what you call proto-consciousness. I read your vocabulary. Is what Eastern wisdom traditions say that there is an underlying ground of being that splits into both subject and object. That you know reductionist science is based on this subject object split, which is artificial. After all, nature is one.

STUART: That’s right. Some look at matter and mind as separate -dualism, some as your idealism where mind creates matter, some as materialism where matter creates mind, and some as panpsychism, where matter and mind are more or less the same. But I think that probably the most sensible way to approach mind and matter is more along the lines of what is called in the West neutral monism. Where you have this underlying something that gives rise on the one hand to matter and on the other hand to mind. In the Eastern traditions this is non-dualism.


STUART: If you look at the underlying being as the quantum superposition state connected to fundamental spacetime geometry, then depending on how the system collapses, you’ll either get strictly matter, or you’ll get matter along with mind – with a moment of consciousness if it happens by Penrose objective reduction. So, our approach is very consistent with this underlying ground of being in the context of neutral-monism in the West, or non-duality in the East.

DEEPAK: You know there was a physicist in the audience at Caltech and he said “How do you define consciousness?” And I said “It’s a quantum superposition of possibilities”. And they all laughed. And it was like I had said something once again they call “woo-woo”.

STUART: Well, at least you have an explanation. They don’t have an explanation. They would likely say that consciousness emerges from complex computation. But that’s just a hand-waving argument. And you know, they do a lot of bait and switching. You’ll read a paper “Consciousness bla-bla-bla” and you read the paper and they are talking about attention, about memory, learning or behavior, but not at all about consciousness. Of course, Dan Dennett wrote his famous book “Consciousness Explained” which actually explained away the question. So, they’re trivializing and baiting and switching. Fortunately, we have philosophers like David Chalmers who call their bluff and talk about the ‘hard problem’ of qualia and conscious experience.

DEEPAK: I also read your comments about the property we call “binding” in the brain. Is that a kind of quantum entanglement?

STUART: Well, I think so since I would say consciousness per se is a quantum process. Binding is the issue of how we tie together different attributes into one unified conscious perception. Even within one sensory mode like vision for example, you have color, motion, shape–all these properties are bound into a visual object. You see something moving through the sky, its shape, its color, its motion, and ultimately its meaning. Those different attributes: are processed in different parts of the brain, at slightly different times, and somehow are bound together into a conscious perception of a particular object – a bird, plane, kite or whatever. It is not a bunch of those features. Its one thing. That’s called binding – how these things are tied together. You also have binding among different sensory modes, sound, sight touch and others sensory modes into one unitary conscious experience. How that occurs is the binding problem. Conventional science has a big problem with it. We know gamma synchrony seems to be involved in binding, but still doesn’t explain it. So, if consciousness is quantum, those different attributes are bound and entangled in one quantum superposition which then self-collapses in a conscious moment unifying those attributes.

DEEPAK: Is anyone looking at non-locality and biological systems? I mean it seems to me that the process of morphogenesis and differentiation. You know when a single cell becomes a hundred trillion cells with 50 or so replications that there is a simultaneity involved. Also, just being alive there’s a simultaneity. How does a human body think thoughts, play piano, kill germs, and remove toxins, and make a baby all at the same time? It has to be non-local entanglement.

STUART: It would be hard to do all those things at the same time, but it would be fun to watch somebody try. I think that life itself is a quantum coherent process. In fact, the replication and growth of cells is all accomplished by microtubules which can utilize quantum coherence and entanglement in mitosis and differentiation. Schrodinger first suggested life might be intrinsically quantum in nature.

But critics say “Everybody knows the brain is too warm, wet, and noisy for delicate quantum effects”. That’s because people trying to build quantum computers in laboratories have the problem of decoherence. When they have an ion or atom or photon in a superpositioned state, it’s very sensitive to disturbance by the environment through a process called decoherence. So they freeze the system to avoid heat vibrations. Heat is the enemy. But in biology, mechanisms seem to have evolved to avoid decoherence and use heat to pump quantum coherence, something like a laser.

So, this theoretical argument has gone back and forth, but in the last three years there has been kind of an onslaught of evidence for quantum coherence in warm biology, starting in plants. It turns out that photosynthesis, which plants use to make chemical energy and is the source of all food, that photosynthesis uses quantum coherence at warm temperatures.

DEEPAK: By quantum coherence, you mean entanglement, non-locality?

STUART: Yes, I believe so, though only in a restricted area in this case. Photons are collected by chlorophyll and transported by electrons through a protein scaffolding to a site for conversion to chemical energy. The electrons occupy all possible pathways – quantum superposition.

DEEPAK: At normal temperatures?

STUART: Exactly. At warm temperatures.

DEEPAK: So then this whole thing about macro and micro is… many times people will point out that these principles only apply at the micro-quantum level and not at the macro level?

STUART: Well, we don’t really know the boundary. But I would say consciousness is a process precisely on the edge between the micro-quantum and the macro-classical worlds.

DEEPAK: Thank you so much for this interview. If the anyone is interested in this topic, then please check out Dr. Hameroff’s website: It’s been a great pleasure to do this interview. Dr. Hameroff has a conference coming up. Could you tell us the details?

STUART: The conference ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness’ is coming up April 12th to 17th in Tucson, Arizona. It’s a weeklong festival. We have many types of sessions, serious, but all with a lot of fun. Thank you very much Deepak. It’s good to talk to you. Hope to do it again.
Since the interview, the conversation with Dr. Hameroff has continued through email. Here is a selection of some of that exchange.

Deepak: Regarding quantum effect in living system: Since light harvesting is the basis of life and is a result of quantum entanglement, does that imply that the cosmic mind is an acausal non-local superposition of possibilities?

STUART: I would like to think so, but it’s actually just a very important step. The issue in quantum consciousness has been decoherence -the brain, and biology in general, are considered too warm for quantum effects. These findings at ambient temperature move in the right direction but the time for the quantum state in plants is still very short (400 femtoseconds). But that’s all that is needed in this situation – no evolutionary pressure in photosynthesis for longer. We would like to see quantum states for 25 milliseconds in microtubules – a long way off. But evidence from Japan is suggesting long-lived quantum states in microtubules. That work will be presented at the Tucson conference by Anirban
Bandyophadyay. See my page ‘Hot news in quantum biology’ where I list developments in this area.

DEEPAK: I’m sure you’ve seen this-gravity as quantum information

STUART: I hadn’t, thanks. But it’s not all that new. This is Roger Penrose turf, and he and Lee Smolin and others have been saying such stuff for decades, that information in Planck scale geometry is dynamic and non-random. I don’t understand how they say it derives Newton gravity but not Einstein’s, but then talk about black holes (which come from Einstein’s gravity). Paola Zizzi (she was mentioned in the Enlighten Next article) has been working on the Bekenstein bound and information at the edge of black holes. That’s where one can answer such questions about information loss, Hawking radiation and so forth. Roger once wondered whether consciousness creates information which ultimately gets sucked into black holes.

But the other issue is: – let’s say there IS Cosmic Mind information at the Planck scale. How does it relate to our macroscopic brain? – even via electrons in microtubules we are still far apart in size scale.

On this page see “Is the world a hologram?” This says that the Cosmic Mind information at the Planck scale repeats at larger and larger scales holographically. This is very good news for our side.

Washington Post
April 6, 2010

Book overview

Living Deeply transcends any one approach by focusing on common elements of transformation across a variety of traditions, while affirming and supporting the diversity of approaches across religious, spiritual, scientific, academic, and cultural backgrounds. Each chapter in the book ends with “Experiences of Transformation, ” exercises drawn from wisdom traditions or scientific investigations meant to enhance your direct experience of the material.

Opportunities to actively engage in your own transformation and that of our world are woven into the fabric of your everyday life. Learning more about the terrain of consciousness transformation can not only give you a map, but can help you become the cartographer of your own transformative journey. Research over the last decade at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) has systematically surveyed hundreds of people’s stories of their own transformations, as well as conducting over 50 in-depth interviews with teachers and masters of the world’s spiritual, religious, and transformative traditions.

No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your current path is – whether you seek to transform your life completely or simply make adjustments that will add a layer of richness and depth to your life – exploring the many ways that transformation is stimulated and sustained can hold great power. Weaving together cutting-edge science with wisdom from teachers of the world’s transformative traditions this book explores how people experience deep shifts in their consciousness, and how those shifts can lead to healing and wholeness.

Research over the last decade at the Institute of Noetic Sciences has explored in depth the phenomenon by which people make significant shifts in the way they experience and view the world. Focusing in particular on positive transformations in consciousness, or those that result in improved health, well-being, and sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging, hundreds of people’s stories of their own transformations were included in the research, as well as in-depth interviews with over 50 teachers and masters of the world’s spiritual, religious, and transformative traditions.

Authors Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Ph.D., Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., and Tina Amorok, Psy.D. – will begin conducting workshops based on the information they have gathered for this book. These workshops will blend the rigors of science with the deep wisdom of the world’s spiritual traditions. Drs. Schlitz, Vieten, and Amorok will offer key insights from the decade-long qualitative and quantitative research study, of how people transform their lives. The workshops will include rigorous inquiry, group dialogue, and direct experience about the kinds of transformations in consciousness that change a person’s worldview to one that is more connected to others.

Luminary: Marilyn Mandala Schlitz
Marilyn Schlitz 2009
For three decades, scientist and anthropologist Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Ph.D. has pioneered clinical and field-based research in the area of human transformation and healing. She is a thought leader on matters of individual and social change whose respected voice offers new insights into the most pressing challenges of our time. A researcher, speaker, change consultant, and writer, Marilyn’s books include: Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life and Consciousness and Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind Body Medicine. She serves as the CEO and President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where she has worked for 15 years.

In the first segment, Deepak explores the definition and source of consciousness. He discusses perception, the brain and how they relate to consciousness in a scientific yet humorous way.


Teaching internationally for 60 years, Swami Veda’s credentials include working with the World Council of Religious leaders, the United Nations Peace Summit’s Ethics Initiative, and the Dalai Lama. He is a Mahamandeleshvara — one of the highest spiritual offices in India; he can read 17 languages with varying degrees of fluency, and is not only proficient in his knowledge of the traditions of widely recognized faiths, he has also made a study of such works of literature as Popul Vuh, the Manichaean, Sikh and Zoroastrian texts. His proposed resolution for preventing terrorism — as part of the world council of religious leaders — served as the basis of the final draft presented to the UN General Assembly, and his highly acclaimed Unifying Streams in Religions is fresh perspective on the interconnectedness of divergent faiths.

Swami Veda has maintained a keen interest in the scientific, medical and therapeutic studies of yoga meditation, and has demonstrated his capability for changing brain wave patterns as well as the power of mind over external matter, and his been interviewed many times by such media as the BBC and CNN. He will speak about the impact of meditation and how in contemplative silence, minds and hearts become united with the “transcendent source”. His hope is that we come to recognize the streams of unity that have flowed for thousands of years between many paths and faiths.

The state of American religious public discourse is profoundly impoverished. Conversations in print and broadcast media are stifling because they are largely monoreligious: Christianity appears to be the only game in town. Islam is permitted occasional appearances but only under the guise of militancy.

This week’s PBS broadcast of David Grubin’s documentary The Buddha is a happy exception to this stale routine. The appearance of this film reminds us of what is so sorely lacking in the public square: knowledge of other traditions which can, in turn, foster interreligious dialogue.

Pundits and preachers do talk about religion in public space, but that back and forth is routinely confined to the tired squabble between Christian fundamentalists and atheists. In religion as in politics, the most virulent partisans frame the debate and consume all the oxygen. We are left to choose between the likes of Richard Dawkins and Pat Robertson, and neither knows much about religion.

The nationwide release this week of The Buddha enriches our collective conversation. Religious communities, particularly churches, should use this opportunity to turn away from futile engagements with condescending atheists and embrace the much more demanding work of Buddhist-Christian dialogue.

David Grubin’s documentary is an aesthetic treasure. Grubin makes an interesting narrative decision: he lets two poets, W. S. Merwin and Jane Hirshfield, do much of the talking, far more than the Dalai Lama or Buddhologists, although they are present as well. Siddhartha Gautama’s quest for enlightenment is infused with poetic yearning; his venture comes across as one man’s unrelenting effort to solve the ordinary but sacred riddle of living well in the midst of impermanence and death.

Buddhism is depicted with accuracy as the labor of learning to see clearly and wake up to life just as it is: a painful but nonetheless exquisite transitory flux. Rather than securing ourselves against life’s evanescence by swimming in a sea of addictive poisons like greed, hatred, and delusion, the Buddha eliminates habitual egoism by cutting out the root ignorance that binds human beings to samsara: the illusion of self. Released from that falsehood, human beings are free to embrace life in all its fragile interconnectedness with care and compassion.

Suppose viewers become readers and follow up their viewing with a deeper encounter with Buddhist wisdom. What questions come next? Christian viewers of the film will surely be impelled to ask, what does Bodhgaya have to do with Jerusalem? What have the Buddha’s teachings to do with the teachings of the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth?

The Roman Empire executed Jesus because he came proclaiming the Kingdom of God, which was an absolute inversion of the Kingdom of Caesar. Jesus announced the coming of God whose arrival gives rise to a new world order in which the poor, the oppressed, the wounded, and the outcast are accorded pride of place. His disciples came to believe that Jesus was the embodiment of the kingdom that he proclaimed. In and through him, they felt the healing power of a subversive political holiness grounded in God’s love for the marginalized and the broken.

What is the meaning of the Buddha for the Christ and of the Christ for the Buddha? Can we wed together the Buddha’s transcendent peace together with Jesus’ shalom? The halls of academia and religious communities do not lack for learned scholars who have some mastery of one of these traditions. But we are terribly short of thinkers and practitioners, clergy and lay, who can think these two traditions together. That quest is not only an intriguing intellectual challenge but also a vital cultural project because American life is increasingly marked by intermarriage and religious hybridity. The ranks of the religiously hyphenated grow daily, but few communities are equipped for this new reality.

The time has come for religious communities to demand a new kind of clerical leadership. Every religious leader — Rabbi, Imam, or Priest — must be required to know a second religious language. Seminaries must develop new curricula adequate to the changing American religious landscape. These institutions must inculcate in students a measure of religious multilingualism.

And all of us, lay and clergy, must demand a new civic culture marked by interreligious hospitality and by a deep desire to learn not just about but from the faith of our neighbors. We must rise to one of the great spiritual challenges of our time: the hard work of integrating multiple religious wisdoms into our personal lives and public vocations.

John Thatamanil is Assistant Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN. He is the author of The Immanent Divine: God, Creation and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation.

The Signs of God explores the importance of mystical consciousness at this time of global transition. In the depths of the heart is hidden the secret purpose of creation, which is the key to our present time of transformation.

The work of the mystic is to make this key accessible to humanity, and so open the doors of revelation. The possibilities of the future are present but veiled; the joy of life is waiting to return. The mystic can help us to awaken to the oneness that is essential to life, and to recognize the signs of God that will guide us and reveal our true purpose.

Table of Contents

1. Lover and Beloved

2. Living the Moment of the Soul

3. Spiritual Responsibility

4. The Power of Forgetfulness

5. Effort and Grace

6. Completeness

7. Recognizing the Signs of God

An Interview with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
by Mariana Caplan

This interview appeared in Mariana Caplan’s recent publication, Do You Need A Guru: Understanding the Student-Teacher Relationship in an Era of False Prophets

Q: The topic I am addressing in this book is a deep consideration of the issue of spiritual authority and discipleship.

LVL: You will be totally misunderstood.

Q: I want help to elucidate this topic from a variety of perspectives in order to increase the likelihood of conveying some understanding on the matter.

LVL: I’m sure you do! So are you proposing a six-volume book? You see, in the West it’s become very complicated because spiritual authority is understood on the wrong levels. The difficulty for me in talking about this is that it has never been a problem for me personally.

I met Mrs. Tweedie when I was nineteen years old. When you encounter a real spiritual authority, something in you just bows down. I was always a rebel in school and never accepted any authority and got into a lot of trouble because of that, so it was a bit strange to suddenly to find myself in the presence of somebody to whom I would unconditionally do anything she said. But something in me just bowed down and accepted her authority.

Q: Yet people are afraid to agree to such a relationship because they fear they will be taken advantage of in some way.

LVL: A real master is totally free and wants to give you freedom, and therefore has no interest in imposing his or her will on you. He or she doesn’t even have any will because their will is the Will of God.

What is not understood is that a real teacher will never threaten the free will of a human being because they know that it is gift from God. A real teacher will never force somebody to do something against their will because they respect the freedom of the human being. Before the master tests a human being, he or she has to give permission to be tested. He or she has to say “Yes.” Because certain things can’t be done to a human being, spiritually, without the human being saying, “Yes, do with me as thou wilt.”

Q: What can’t be done without permission?

LVL: The human being has to be turned inside out, has to be burnt to ashes, and a master can’t do that to a human being unless they say “yes.” They don’t have the right to. Because everybody is free. The disciple, at each place along the way, is given a choice: Do you want to continue, do you not want to continue? The teacher is there to open your heart, to tear you apart and feed you to the lions of love. But not everybody wants that. They would prefer to argue about authority dynamics. It’s so petty and so irrelevant.

There are some souls that come into this world already surrendered to God. There is a desire to be with God that overrules any human desire. But those people are rare. Most people say they want but they don’t want. This is the whole struggle of the spiritual path do they want to surrender, or do they not want to surrender? Do they want the world? Do they want a love affair? Do they want all the illusions that come up? The teacher has to respect their free will in regards to each of these issues.

Q: The free will you speak about seems very different than a teacher’s freedom. Is it really free or just some mechanical function?

LVL: You have the choice to say yes to God or to say yes to your ego. And it’s a very definite choice. I have seen people choose not necessarily knowing that they have chosen but I’ve seen it. They rapidly drift away from the path, and suddenly they are back in the world. Maybe they get something they always thought they wanted like a new career, or a new lover in their life, and they don’t know that they have said no, but they have said no. They were given a choice.

Q: Even if they don’t know they were given a choice?

LVL: They know somewhere within. It depends how strong the longing is in the human being, and how much pushes them from within. It is said that even until the last initiation, the teacher does not know what choice the disciple will make. The disciple can say yes, or the disciple can say no. It has to be like that.

Q: What is the function of the teacher?

LVL: People make the mistake of thinking that spiritual power is about telling somebody what to do. Spiritual power is about being able to take a human soul and turn it back to God, to be given the authority to work with the soul of a human being, to work in the secret places of the heart that belong only to God. That is real authority. And that requires tremendous humanity.

In the West, individuality is so important and we project that into this relationship with the teacher and make a mess of it. We stir it up and get confused, and fight imaginary demons, but the teacher wants nothing from the disciple, because the teacher is free. How can the teacher want anything from a disciple? If they do, they’re not a teacher because they’re not free. But the disciple projects into this empty space of the teacher all of their psychological dramas.

They find something that the teacher said that they disagree with, and then they fight about it and go off and say, “The teacher said this and this and this.” Maybe the teacher did and maybe the teacher didn’t. It really doesn’t matter. The disciple is given the opportunity to play out all of their dramas, all of their psychological problems, and some people get stuck in the psychology of it all. And I’ve seen that happen. They walk away angry and resentful. And that’s fine too, because human beings are free.

Those who don’t walk away who begin to see that there is something else underneath start to find what is there. They get a little bit closer to themselves, to their own true nature. They walk another few steps on the path and the teacher just watches.

Q: How do you handle peoples’ psychological projections onto you?

LVL: I did discover people like to play power games against me, but I also discovered that “It takes two to Tango.” If I don’t involve myself in it, then there is no game and the person is left chasing his or her own shadow. I have other things to do with my time. You see, the relationship of the teacher to the disciple is just love. The love is present there at the beginning and the love is present there at the end. As a teacher, you see the disciple’s potential to realize. You have no interest in playing authority games.

Occasionally you have to be a bit rude to wake something up in them. Sometimes they take it right and sometimes they don’t, but that’s up to them. If they don’t want to remain a student they are welcome to go. Sometimes they come back after a few months or a few years. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s fine too.

Q: Tell me about your teacher.

LVL: I went from upper middle-class, English boarding school, to sitting at the feet of a woman intoxicated with God. And I stayed there. It was my only reality. My wife and I lived and stayed in the same house with Mrs. Tweedie for ten years, and she was always under orders from her teacher. So we lived in a house with somebody who was under orders. And there was never a question. We couldn’t have lived there if we didn’t jump when we were told to jump. What I’m trying to say is that with real authority, you can’t question it.

Q: How should a student work?

LVL: It’s different for each of us and a mystery as well. The moment you try to crystallize it, it’s like a dream, like a butterfly. The moment you try to hold it, it’s gone. Spiritual life is alive! One day it’s like this, the next day it’s like that. The Sufis say it has more to do with inner attitude. There is no rigidity. This is why it is so difficult for people in the West. They want to be told what to do. They want to remain like children, so they project the father or the mother onto the teacher. Then there is an inevitable authority conflict and all sorts of exciting dynamics.

But spiritual life is not like that. It is about catching this golden thread of your own destiny, and looking for the signs of God everywhere. Those hidden signs in yourself, in the outer world, listening to your dreams, your intuitions, what books come your way, what your teacher says and what your teacher doesn’t say.

The moment you try to crystallize a spiritual path in the rules of this world you’ve lost it. Because the whole purpose of the spiritual path is you attune to something which isn’t quite in this world, which is faster than the vibrations of this world, which isn’t caught in crystallized patterns.

Q: Given the ambiguity of it all, how should a student proceed?

LVL: You will attract the experiences you need. You will learn what you need to learn. If you need to learn to be deceived by a charlatan, a charlatan will deceive you. You will learn something and you will go on. And the next time, if your karma allows, you will find a real teacher.

It is so simple. It is your attitude that matters. The light of the higher self will guide you where you need to go. If your attitude is correct then you will see what you need to see. You will get the experiences you need to get. And that’s the way it is. It is the attitude of the disciple that matters.

Q: Can you do it without a teacher?

LVL: You can’t do it on your own. You need a certain energy what Sufis call the grace of the guru to reach reality. It is given into the heart, given to the higher organs of consciousness. That’s what the teacher does. The teacher makes sure that you are living in a way that doesn’t interfere with this inner process so that you can develop, get in touch with, and awaken to your higher consciousness. That’s all.

Those who want to find the way to God will find the way to God, because God wants them to find the way. He will guide them and He will show them the way. Even if it’s not apparent. Even if it’s not visible at the beginning. He will give them hints. He will give them signs. He will talk to their hearts.

That is how it happens and that’s how it always has happened since the beginning of time. And you can’t convince anybody else about it, because you either have experienced it and you know it’s real, or not. It is like trying to explain the effect of being drunk to somebody who has never tasted wine. You can’t.

You can write books about it, but being drunk is something else. When you have sat at the feet of a true spiritual teacher it doesn’t even have to be your teacher you know. Something inside you knows. And you can’t explain how or what. The mind can argue with it and the personality can defend itself against it, but it’s real and you know that it’s real.

Q: Whereas the path you describe appears to be quite free of linear reason and conventional ethics,the quality of surrender you suggest would seem to result in very specific actions in accordance with “the will of God.”

LVL: It is true that the ethics on this path are incredibly high. You’re not even allowed, for example, to have a chair if you don’t use it—that’s considered stealing. If you keep an overdue library book that is considered stealing. Maybe somebody else would need it more. You’re not allowed to eat more food than you need because even the worms could use it. But these ethics are not imposed.

Nobody tells you that you have to behave in a certain way. It’s not written down. But it becomes the way you want to live because then you entangle yourself less in the density of this world and then you are free. Then you have more time to be with your Beloved.

Things of the world don’t hold you so tightly, and somehow they give you less pleasure. You know, once you have really meditated it is so fulfilling. That’s why all these power dynamics seem so odd to me. Why would anybody want to engage messy power dynamics when they could go into meditation and be with their Beloved? Why?

For further information about Mariana Caplan and her book, Do you Need a Guru, please visit her website at:

Deepak Chopra: How to Create a New Self

Dr. Deepak Chopra giving a talk to the Commonwealth Club of the Silicon Valley, California.

Scroll down FULL PROGRAM to view the various topics and click on Questions and Answers to your choice

The Journey Towards Oneness

Beneath the seeming differences that separate the world’s religions, there is a deep undercurrent of teachings that point in the direction of Oneness, or “Unity Consciousness” — the indivisible totality of all creation, all beliefs, all religions and of the universe itself. The Journey Towards Oneness explores the concept of Oneness, and traces its evolution and expression through seemingly different religious and spiritual traditions.

In this Global Spirit episode, host Phil Cousineau is joined by physicist Dr. Ravi Ravindra, who comes from the Hindu tradition but holds a close personal association with Krishnamurti and the Gurdjieff teachings, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Naqshbandi Sufi teacher who has studied Jungian psychology, and who has written extensively about unity consciousness within the Sufi tradition. Together, these two guests bring a wealth of insights and revelations to the discussion, spanning the realms and understandings of both science and mysticism.

Ravi Ravindra was born in India and partly educated there. He has a B.Sc. and a Master of Technology degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Dalhousie University. Ravindra is a frequent and popular guest lecturer to university and general audiences in many countries. At present Ravi Ravindra is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Canada.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a sheikh in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Order of Sufism. He has specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness (visit Author of several books on the subject, Llewellyn has lectured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. He currently lives in California.

Beneath the seeming differences that separate the world’s religions, there is a deep undercurrent of teachings that point in the direction of Oneness, or “Unity Consciousness” — the indivisible totality of all creation, all beliefs, all religions and of the universe itself. The Journey Towards Oneness explores the concept of Oneness, and traces its evolution and expression through seemingly different religious and spiritual traditions.

In this Global Spirit episode, host Phil Cousineau is joined by physicist Dr. Ravi Ravindra, who comes from the Hindu tradition but holds a close personal association with Krishnamurti and the Gurdjieff teachings, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Naqshbandi Sufi teacher who has studied Jungian psychology, and who has written extensively about unity consciousness within the Sufi tradition. Together, these two guests bring a wealth of insights and revelations to the discussion, spanning the realms and understandings of both science and mysticism.

In recent years, more have become aware of the unique wisdom in the cosmologies and spiritual practices of indigenous societies. While this native wisdom has always been part of human existence, its teachings have remained outside so-called “formal” religions, leading to zealous missionary campaigns seeking to stamp out this “paganism” from the face of the earth. But with the dramatic increase in global warming, a thinning ozone layer and social alienation, many, including the United Nations, are realizing that native peoples may possess some critical keys to the very survival of our species and fragile ecosystems of the planet.

This Global Spirit program focuses on the wisdom of indigenous values and practices that have promoted heightened consciousness, spiritual harmony and a life in balance with nature. Host Phil Cousineau and the Global Spirit crew go to New York to film and interview renowned indigenous leaders and tribal representatives such as Chief Oren Lyons, Marcos Terena, Jake Swamp, Viktor Kaisiepo and Gloria Ushigua, joined by over 2000 others at a unique gathering of indigenous peoples from around the world at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

This excerpt, from Link TV’s Global Spirit program “Earth Wisdom for a World in Crisis,” was filmed at the United Nations, where 3,000 indigenous people from around the world were invited to share their solutions to the growing environmental crisis. Tribal leaders from Brazil, West Papua, Kenya, and Peru discuss their concerns. Visit for more!