Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. I’m Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump, or BatGap, is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. To learn more about the show and to possibly support this thing, because it’s made possible through the support of viewers and listeners like you, go to BatGap.com. Today my guest is my old friend Craig Pearson. Craig and I have known each other for probably 40 years or so. Were you on that course in Courchevel in the Pralong 2000?
Rick: – Okay, so we met in the French Alps. We used to do these long six-month meditation courses. And we were both on a course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the Alps in the summer of 1975. Did a lot of meditating, a lot of fasting. It was quite a scene. Craig is currently, and has been for quite a few years, the Executive Vice President of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, our “fair city” as the car guys would say. And he’s done a number of other things over the years for the TM movement. He’s also a musician. He co-writes beautiful songs with his friend Brad Moses. I just listened to one of them just the other day. Brad sent me a link. And he lives here on the MUM campus with his wife Melissa and son Soren. The reason we’re having this interview is that Craig recently wrote a book. I say recently because it probably took you at least a decade to write.
Craig: I don’t even want to say.
Rick: It’s a massive undertaking and a really enjoyable book. It’s over 500 pages long. I managed to read the first 350 pages this week. And it wasn’t a chore. It was very enjoyable. It’s called “The Supreme Awakening – Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time and How You Can Cultivate Them.” And rather than me tell you about my experience in reading the book, which I’ll probably do anyway later on, I think I’ll just have Craig lay out for us what’s in the book and why you wrote it and things like that.
Craig: Yeah. Well, as for why I wrote it, I don’t remember the exact seed impulse, but I’d been meditating a few years and I came across some kind of little passage of poetry. It could have been Wordsworth, four lines or something, describing the experience of transcending, which I’d been having and I thought, wow, this is really interesting to see. This is somebody, if it were Wordsworth, over 200 years ago, describing something. And I imagine that he probably didn’t have a meditation technique in 1798 in England. But nonetheless, he was having some kind of experience and describing it in beautiful language. And that just sat with me for a while. After a while, I began to look into it a little further and discovered that there were more things like that, when you start to look. Those kinds of experiences seem to be rare in the literature of the world, but they’re definitely there. And when I began sharing them with friends of mine, they seemed to resonate just as much with other people as with me, so I thought, “I’m onto something.” At the beginning, I didn’t have in mind to write a big book or anything, but as I began to gather them, I saw that there really was a book potential here.
Rick: So, you just started collecting quotes?
Craig: I just started doing a lot of reading and collecting. Kind of like panning for gold, because I’d read, I mean, I’ve probably read thousands and thousands of books going through all sorts of things, and you find these in the most unexpected places.
Rick: Yeah, that’s what I found so impressive as I was reading the book. I don’t know if maybe you had feelers out there, other people were sending you quotes, because they knew you were doing this project.
Craig: Some did, as they became aware of my work, yeah.
Rick: But there are so many different sources of these quotes that are in the book, and we’ll explain how you’ve organized the quotes and everything as we go along. But I thought, “Wow,” it would take a massive amount of reading, like you say, “panning for gold” to find these nuggets.
Craig: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: And from unlikely sources too, I mean, Billie Jean King and…
Craig: Vaclav Havel, president of Egypt.
Rick: Well, he was Czechoslovakian.
Craig: The Czech Republic, Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt.
Rick: Yeah, so how often does one ordinarily sit down and read the works of Anwar Sadat, hoping to find something about higher states of consciousness?
Craig: That’s right.
Rick: So anyway, it’s a massive task and it’s nicely organized. I have a friend whom I interviewed on this show about a year ago, who had been a fundamentalist preacher most of his life. And one day he was walking along by a lake or something, and he just had this impulse to sit down on a rock, and he sat down and had this profound awakening, and it changed his life forever. And he’s still going through difficulties, because all of his family and friends are still in the fundamentalist mode, and they feel like he’s going to hell now, because he’s undergone this shift. But in any case, I’m in regular touch with him, and I mentioned this book, and he immediately ordered a copy. I don’t know why I mentioned him, but you know, there’s sort of an epidemic taking place in the world, and people are awakening, I think, in record numbers, it would seem. Maybe it’s just our communications that make it seem like record numbers, but also, our communications are facilitating an epidemic. Kind of like measles is spreading around the US right now because of all the travel. So, it’s kind of happening in a way that Maharishi predicted, and Native Americans have predicted, and South American shamans have predicted. A lot of ancient traditions have been predicting that something like this would happen, and it really seems to be happening now. So, this is a really nice chronicle, I think, of maybe the precursors of the current awakening, although some of them are contemporary.
Rick: And it sort of lays out a nice trail map, so to speak, of what one might expect to encounter as one’s awakening unfolds.
Craig: Right. Yeah, exactly. The other thing that I found that was really a revelation for me is that when I learned Transcendental Meditation, then shortly after that I became aware that Maharishi had laid out a framework of human development. People are familiar with three states of consciousness, waking, dreaming, and sleeping, and most people go through life thinking that that’s all there are. And if you talk to a modern psychologist about human development, the psychologist will tell you that human development progresses through childhood. There are different stages of development through childhood. Basically, development levels off in adolescence, with the ability to think abstractly and reason logically and so on. And some people don’t even get that far. And certainly, according to modern psychology, we gain information, we gain skills, and even some wisdom, but in terms of fundamental stages of growth, modern psychology doesn’t really identify any past the age of about 15 or 16 or 17. Maharishi, in contrast, lays out a model that encompasses seven states of consciousness altogether, four higher stages beyond the three familiar of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. And you can look into other traditions and see that they also have identified some stages of spiritual development. So, Maharishi has laid these out in very great detail. And as I was going through and doing my panning for gold, I found that virtually all of the ones that I found fit just like hand and glove into one or the other of these four higher states. It was quite remarkable how detailed descriptions from people in different times and cultures, very different times and cultures, fit into this underlying model. And I think that would be surprising for a philosopher of this kind of thing or a psychologist to see that there really are universal dimensions to higher human development that have been reported through history by people of very different times and places who have no communication with each other, no understanding of each other’s tradition. They’re just reporting what they experienced, and then here, as you say, is this roadmap of higher development that really describes and predicts that kind of experience through history.
Rick: I was listening to a talk about the perennial philosophy recently. That kind of fits in, doesn’t it? There are certain truths so fundamental that they just keep popping up in different times and places, in cultures that had no communication with one another.
Craig: That’s right. It was Aldous Huxley, the British writer and thinker, who really popularized that term in his 1948 book. And the idea is, just as you say, you can look at any great tradition or culture, and if you peel back the more superficial layers, the rituals, the narratives, the mythology, the stories, the figures, and so on, the artwork, at the core, and you may have to look deeply to find it, but at the core, there are some fundamental principles. And there are actually four of them. One is that beneath or within all of this diversity in the world, there’s a unity. So, number one is unity within diversity, underlying diversity. Number two is, you can experience that underlying unity, and it’s most easily experienced where? Within you, initially. So that’s number two, experience. Number three is, when you have that experience, you’re transformed by it. The experience of that underlying unity, or the experience of transcendence, we could say, is transformational. And then the fourth point is, the whole purpose of life is to have that experience and be transformed by it.
Rick: So, Huxley actually, those are his points?
Craig: Those are his points. I’ve elaborated them in a little clearer way, but they’re right there in the first sentence of his book.
Craig: So that’s a universal teaching. And I think the point that comes through in this book is, it’s not just a philosophy. When we think of a philosophy, we think of some cerebral activity, some thinking, some ideas, Kant or Hegel or Plato or something. But this perennial philosophy is really about an experience. And then you go looking through the annals of history, and you find people describing it very much in terms of a first-hand experience. And now we can see the stages through which that transformation takes place.
Rick: I wanted to just touch back on something you mentioned a minute ago, just to wrap it up. And that is that, although development tends to freeze in our late teens or early twenties or something, it’s pretty common knowledge that someone our age has matured a lot, hopefully, compared to where we were at that age. Even if we hadn’t been meditating at all, there’s a certain amount of wisdom and maturation and sensibility that gets pounded into you. So, there’s some kind of development that keeps taking place.
Craig: Oh, that’s true. And I’m not a psychologist by any means, but my understanding is that the kinds of stages that children go through, and the word “momentous” is sometimes used, that the whole view of the world changes. So, when we talk about higher states of consciousness, we’re not talking about some different idea that you have, we’re not talking about positive thinking or some different kind of mood, we’re talking about a fundamentally different and more expanded and powerful way of experiencing yourself and experiencing the world around you. And when we talk about it, we’re using words and we’re using language. Words and language are products of just the ordinary waking state. And person after person will say, “I’ve tried to describe my experience.” You’ve seen them, but words do not, you know, I think it was Ionesco who said, “Words only disfigure the experience.” They just can’t capture. It’s as if it were a colorblind world and somebody began to start seeing in color. You couldn’t come up with words that would describe color to a colorblind person. You have to have the experience. The experience is really validated and confirmed by the experience itself, and by modern science, actually.
Rick: And even in a world in which we see color, you can’t really describe red. And what do you say about it? You just have to say, “You know, that color on the stoplight, or the stop sign, or whatever, it’s red.” And they say, “Yeah, I know red, I’ve experienced that.”
Craig: So, whether your red is the same as my red.
Rick: Yeah, or the same as a bat’s red. You’ve outlined kind of a structure of stages of development in here. And some years ago, I used to hike in the national parks a lot, and national forests, and when you’re out there you get this little glossy trail map and you can see, “Okay, this trail’s going to go here, and there’s so much elevation gain, I’m going to go past these things.” But then when you actually take the hike, it’s completely beyond anything the trail map could have indicated to you. Totally.
Craig: Right, that’s the experience versus some idea.
Rick: So, all these descriptions that people try to offer to convey the sense of it to other people are a pretty poor substitute for the actual experience.
Craig: And they say that themselves over and over, even though what they put down in language is just beautiful. I mean, what I’ve tried to do here is collect just the cream of the cream of human experience throughout history, and it’s just like a treasure chest of gorgeous descriptions of peak human experience, of exalted spiritual experience.
Rick: Yeah. It’s interesting that in some cultures, let’s say the Inuit culture, they have, say, 30 names for snow, you know, because they have so much experience of snow that they have to nuance the definition. So, there are cultures, such as the Vedic culture, which have a lot of terms for subtle gradations of experience and developments in consciousness and so on, which we in our culture can’t really parse out when we hear those terms, because it hasn’t been ingrained in our culture or its history. So anyway, I just thought I’d throw that in there. And yet, you have a nice mix of East and West in this book, plenty of the Buddha and Shankara, and various Zen masters and so on, and also plenty of Western people. So, it’s not like you’re giving the impression, which sometimes people get, that enlightenment is really kind of an Eastern thing.
Craig: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that idea is kind of fading from view. But yeah, people used to think that enlightenment, whatever that is, is something that they do in the Orient, and it’s inscrutable and we’ll never understand it, and it’s really not part of the practical world. And yet, you find people, East and West, down through the centuries, down to modern times, having experiences of enlightenment, and it’s the supreme experience of their life, as you were alluding to earlier. And so often they have the experience and wonder, “What was that?” And above all, “How do I get it again? How can I have that again?”
Rick: Yeah, I mean, a lot of the chapters in this book are entitled “Glimpses of Cosmic Consciousness,” or whatever different state.
Craig: And so often they’re fleeting.
Rick: They are fleeting for many people, but there are plenty of people for whom they haven’t been fleeting. Maybe they were fleeting for a while and then they became stable. And there are plenty of people around today. I mean, most of the people in this book have died. There are a few contemporaries, such as Bernadette Roberts and some others. But there are a surprising number of people these days who, sometimes without any spiritual practice whatsoever, like there’s this one woman I interviewed that was tying her shoes one morning and all of a sudden, kaboom! She popped into this profoundly transformed state and she didn’t know what the heck it was at first. It took quite a while to figure out what it was or how to function. Eckhart Tolle, same thing.
Craig: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: So anyway, that’s more of a statement than a question. But I guess the point I’m making here is that it’s nice to read these glimpses, and they can be profoundly transformative for the duration of one’s life, if you have one.
Craig: Yeah, but the point is to stabilize the experience and to have it, not just as a glimpse, but an all-time reality.
Craig: I think one thing that’s helpful for people who may have some questions about that kind of experience is seeing that the experience that we’re talking about really is a universal experience. It’s not Eastern, it’s not Western, it’s not Buddhist, it’s not Daoist, it’s not Christian. It’s at the center of all of those things and really universal. We’re talking about a normal, natural capacity of human consciousness, of the human brain, actually, that can be cultivated. And when cultivated, people can have the experience as more than just a glimpse. Certainly, there are examples, as you’ve just given, of people who can pop in to a state and that’s that. But what seems to be the case is that, actually, one of the themes that comes out of my book is that the experience is not just purely some mental phenomenon. And certainly not, as I was saying, it’s not some mood or some new idea that you adopt or some new philosophy. It actually depends on the nervous system, the brain physiology, being sufficiently cultivated to maintain that experience. And that can be tracked by scientific research. So, when somebody like Billie Jean King or William Wordsworth or any person has a fleeting experience, you might ask, “Well, why was it fleeting? How did it even happen in the first place? And then why did it go away?” I think the answer now, based on what we know, is that it happened in the first place because the nervous system, the brain, for those few moments or those few hours, organized itself in such a way to support that experience, because mind and body go hand in hand. But the whole mind-body system was not sufficiently integrated, purified to sustain the experience. And so, the nervous system went out of that mode of functioning, and with that, the experience went away. So, the counter-instance of that is to purify, integrate brain functioning to support that experience as an all-time reality. And indeed, research shows that as brain functioning becomes increasingly integrated, the experience of transcendence becomes more common. That’s been quite clearly shown by modern research.
Rick: I think one point that we should address here is that when we refer to “experience,” we’re actually referring to tapping into something which is universal, which exists whether or not anybody experiences it. Because obviously there are a lot of people who believe that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of brain functioning. When the brain dies, that’s it for consciousness. And the whole notion of consciousness being a universal field that we could tap into, sort of like a radio can tune into the electromagnetic field, is alien. It’s a foreign concept to many people, many materialistically oriented people. And so, what we’re talking about here – and I actually had an interview with a guy a couple of weeks ago, and we debated for quite a while on the point that awakening is not just some subjective heightening of perception or sensitivity or anything, it’s actually a connecting with something universal, and that there’s a commonality to everyone’s awakening, even though they may express it differently, or even perhaps experience it differently due to differences in their nervous systems and makeup. But to wrap up this long little point here, what we’re talking about is connecting with something which is universal, and that we, as individual expressions of that, have the capability of making that connection. We’re not talking about just a purely subjective thing which might differ from you to me, like our dreams do or something.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. Well, that goes back to the perennial philosophy that in every tradition we see expressions of the fact that there’s, underlying the enormous, unbelievable diversity of the universe, there’s a field of unity, of non-change that’s immortal, that’s eternal. It may be foreign today, but it’s there in every tradition. In Daoism it’s called the Dao, in Buddhism, Adi-Buddha, in Christianity, the Godhead, depending on what version of Christianity you subscribe to. In Judaism it’s Ein Sof. So that idea of underlying unity is there, and what is that underlying unity? In modern terms we would describe it as a field of pure consciousness, and that’s what we tap into. But just a little nuance there is, we’re not tapping into something that’s foreign to ourselves. That is our innermost Self, and that comes through over and over again for people, that they have the experience of mind settling inward, settling down, body settling down, and they experience not just some innermost value of themselves, but really something universal. And as the experience becomes clear, then that reality, that this is a universal field is clear. Let me read something, just to make this really concrete. This will be a passage that some people are familiar with. For this we time travel back to 1798, and we’ll go from Fairfield, Iowa to southeast British Isles, right on the border of England and Wales. It’s late July, early morning in 1798, and William Wordsworth, 28 years old, unknown at the time, wakes up and sets out on a three or four or five day hike, which he loves to do. Beautiful kind of Welsh-English countryside with his sister, and he’s walking up the Wye River and around the river, and he comes up over a hillside, and there down on the opposite bank is this beautiful abbey, just beautiful lattice work. Even in 1798 it was a ruin, it had been built 500 years earlier. It’s a stunning piece of architecture. And so, he sits down on this hillside, looking down and closes his eyes, and an experience comes over him, which he’s had before. It’s an experience that he really lives for. He just loves this experience, but apparently he doesn’t know how to bring it on by himself. So, after a few moments or a few minutes, the experience passes, and he opens his eyes and stands up and catches up with his sister, and they keep on walking for a few days. Finally, a few days later, he gets home, and for the first time he’s able to pick up a piece of paper and a pen and write out something. And he starts writing continuously, and when he’s finished, nonstop writing, what’s come out is a poem 168 lines long. And naturally, you know, he’s excited about this poem. And his first book of poetry is at the printing company right at that moment. So, he takes this poem, and he rushes down, “Can I get this included in my book?” The printer says, “Yeah, we can include it at the end.” And within a few months, he went from being an unknown poet to rock star in the British literary scene, and his book of poetry actually changed the whole direction, marked the beginning of the English Romantic period. Anyway, that one poem became one of the most famous poems in all of world literature, and it’s called “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.” And I’ll just read a few lines here where he’s describing that experience. So, Wordsworth describes, “That blessed mood in which the burthen of the mystery, in which the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world is lightened, that serene and blessed mood in which the affections gently lead us on, until the breath of this corporeal frame and even the motion of our human blood almost suspended, we are laid asleep in body and become a living soul. While with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” So very simple language in contrast to the kind of poetry that came before, but gorgeous description of the experience of transcending. And just to highlight a few of the lines here, he talks about how the burden, the weight of the world, the unintelligible world is as if lifted from him. And then he goes on to talk about the serene and blessed mood. So serene, peaceful. Blessed means some sense of sanctity, some holiness. The word blessed is related to the word bliss, so even some fulfillment and happiness. And then the affections gently lead us on. So, he’s not contriving, he’s not straining, he’s not trying to make anything happen, he’s just being led on. And then he shifts, he becomes as if a physiologist, and he describes very precisely what’s happening to his body. The breath of this corporeal frame, that’s his body, and even the motion of our human blood almost suspended. So, what’s happening there to his body?
Rick: Physiological changes.
Craig: Yeah, but in what direction?
Craig: Deep rest. The whole body is settling down. But is he sleeping? He says, “We’re laid asleep in body,” but is he asleep? He says, “No, we’re laid asleep in body and become a living soul.” So, living, that means if during these moments he’s become a living soul, what does that say about his condition with respect to living before these moments? He’s as if not living, or at least not fully alive. And with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony and the deep power of joy, where does the power of harmony and deep power of joy reside ultimately? It has to be within. That’s what’s leading him onward. And then finally, we see into the life of things. Now this comes to your point about a universal field that we tap into. He’s not saying, “I see into my own innermost thoughts, or my own innermost mind.” We see into the life of things. Beautiful evocation of the experience of some underlying essence of everything, some underlying reality. And that’s Wordsworth. And you find these kinds of experiences sprinkled throughout his poetry. And this is just one. We could go through dozens, but this is what you find from Plato and Plotinus and St. Teresa of Ávila and St. Gregory the Great and St. John of the Cross and Laozi and the Buddha. In the United States, Whitman and Emerson and Thoreau and Emily Dickinson. And on the list goes. So, people describe it over and over again, and they celebrate it as the supreme moment of their life. And there you have it. And it’s been, the interesting thing about Wordsworth here is that this book of poetry, which changed the direction of English poetry, and this particular poem, which has appeared in thousands of anthologies, probably read by millions of people. You couldn’t count the number of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses and critical discussion of this. But nobody’s really appreciated that right there, hidden in plain sight, is a description of an experience of a fourth major state of consciousness. Described so precisely, the changes in mind, the changes in the physiology, both together, right there in plain sight, not really recognized. Appreciated on some subliminal level, that’s why it stood the test of time, but not really appreciated for what it is.
Rick: It’s interesting, we have all these beautiful quotes like that from literary geniuses.
Craig: Philosophers or explorers or scientists.
Rick: Yeah, really brilliant people. I suspect that that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and that far more people have had similar experiences, but haven’t had the ability to really express them, or the opportunity, and so on. And to this day, I’m sure that’s happening. There are all kinds of people. I mean, the Gallup poll does polls of people, and quite a significant percentage say they’ve had some kind of spiritual epiphany at some point in their lives.
Craig: Well, there was some research done in England in the 1980s, where a university set up what was called the Religious Experience Research Unit, RERU. And they just interviewed ordinary people about these kinds of experiences and other sorts of extraordinary experiences. And beautiful experiences that would match some of these things that come from Wordsworth or Whitman, just by ordinary people. But as you say, they didn’t write them down, or maybe they were too shy to, or if they did, they wouldn’t have been published.
Rick: And no one would have heard them, they told their sister or something.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. So really, what we see coming down to us through all the traditions is a common universal experience, and it really has not been appreciated for what it really is over all these years. Certainly, Wordsworth’s lines haven’t been lost on people, and there are people who’ve been interested in what’s called mystical experience. That’s been studied for over a century now. When we think of mystics, we think of St. John of the Cross, or Meister Eckhart, or religious figures. So, there’s been that as a kind of peripheral study of religious experience, or psychological experience, or philosophy, but very peripheral, not at all mainstream. I would say the word “mystical” isn’t that helpful. It suggests mysterious, misty, impractical.
Rick: Rare, exclusive.
Craig: Kind of shrouded in mystery and we’ll never understand.
Rick: Who knows what they were experiencing.
Craig: But now, and I think Maharishi contributed substantially to this, we have such a very clear delineation of the stages of this experience, and now even a very substantial body of research on the correlating changes that go on in brain and body as these kinds of experiences happen and grow.
Rick: There probably have been cultures in our world which have been lost to our memory, our evidence, in which this kind of experience was the norm. And so, no one would have made a big fuss about it. And there are possibly a billion inhabited planets in our galaxy, and then billions of galaxies, and some say countless universes. And so it could be that there are places where this is–
Craig: Well, the monastic traditions of almost any culture, and you find the monastic tradition in cultures ranging from Christianity in the West through Buddhism and Vedic tradition and Hinduism all the way over to Daoism in the East, and parallels to that in Aboriginal Australia where people would go into seclusion, and in those traditions, because they were monastic and withdrawn, they weren’t talked about much, but really, this kind of experience was the goal of that kind of tradition, to develop one’s higher potentials. And they had their own language to describe it, whether it was to come in contact with the Godhead or the Dao. The stages of development would have been in their own language, but there were spiritual directors that guided that. So, within those traditions, which were probably closed, mostly from the general public, that’s what went on.
Rick: Yeah, and so that kind of thing would have been the norm within the monastery, but still, that’s just a handful, a relative handful of the entire society. I’m suggesting that there may have been, and hopefully will yet be, a society in which this kind of thing becomes as ubiquitous as cell phones. It’s like, “Wow, I had this profound mystical experience this morning. Okay, fine, let’s go and see a movie.” It’s like you kind of take it for granted, this is what everybody experiences. And we’ll probably talk in the course of this interview about what ramifications that might have in terms of the quality of the world we might see.
Craig: Yeah. One of the interesting things for me is, I mentioned changes in the brain which happen, and you may have discussed this in other shows that you’ve had, but to me, it really cements the idea that what we’re talking about is really a transformation of the physiology, of the hardware of the brain, not just some new idea. And we know this particularly from research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, where when people are brought into laboratories and asked to meditate with cloth caps on their head with leads coming out to the EEG machine, or with monitors measuring their breath rate or their heart rate, but particularly the results on the brain are quite striking. And the results there are that the brain shifts, literally from within the first 60 seconds of beginning one’s TM practice from a disorganized style of functioning, which I would liken to an orchestra tuning up, to a very highly orderly, synchronous, integrated style of functioning, which I would liken to an orchestra playing or holding a sustained chord. And the difference in the two orchestras is just the orchestra in tune-up mode is the same instruments, same great musicians, but they’re just not in coordination, in sync with each other. And when the orchestra is playing that sustained chord, then nothing’s changed, except now they are in synchrony. And so now the revelation in terms of brain functioning is that the brain can be induced to function in this elegant style, and integrated, where what neuroscientists would call long-range correlation, integrated functioning, integrated communication between areas of the brain that don’t normally talk to each other. And that’s what happens when the whole system, when the mental activity settles inward through TM practice, when the body settles down, as Wordsworth says here, “the breath of this corporeal frame, even the motion of our human blood,” that’s measured in the laboratory these days, settling of breath rate, settling of heart rate, and so on. So really a transformation in this physiological hardware that’s supporting this subjective experience. And to me that’s really exciting. Well, if you want to persuade a school district that they should adopt this school-wide, it’s important to have some empirical research to show that something’s changing in your students, that stress is being dissolved, brain functioning is being upgraded.
Rick: I think it’s also just important to understand that the body, the nervous system is an instrument through which we experience anything.
Craig: That’s the thing.
Rick: But also, if we’re experiencing something profound or radically different from what we ordinarily experience, you would expect to find profound and radically different style of functioning in the physiology.
Rick: And you would expect that, not only with TM, but with Ramana Maharshi or Yogananda, or anybody who was having a profoundly different experience of the world, if such people had been measured.
Craig: Oh, absolutely. Well, that’s the thing. If somehow EEG equipment were available in Wordsworth’s day,
Rick: Yeah, you would have seen something happen.
Craig: And if he could have induced the experience while he was sitting in the lab, that’s what you would have seen.
Craig: And in these different traditions we see that there are techniques for purifying the physiology and the recognition that mind and body go hand in hand.
Rick: Yeah. Where was that? Maybe it wasn’t in this. I was looking at a little thing about different degrees of coherence and the various points on the scalp getting coordinated, the longer one meditates and so on. But when I looked at that I thought, “but there are people in this world who do incredibly creative things without meditating.” I mean, the guys who developed the iPhone, or who put men on the moon, or it takes this focused attention and an incredible creativity comes out. All the Nobel laureates we could care to name, and the great authors, and everybody. So, those things don’t seem to be the products of an incoherent mind.
Craig: No. I think the point you’re making is that they must be the products of a coherent mind.
Rick: Yeah. Somehow, they’ve elicited coherence through however they have done it. Either they were gifted with it from birth, or their educational training kind of inculcated it.
Craig: Yeah. I don’t think there’s evidence to show that educational training changes coherence in brain functioning, except maybe to scatter it a bit. You know, if you’re living this sort of alcohol, all-nighter, junk food kind of college lifestyle. But now that we know that, for example, heightened creativity is correlated with heightened brain coherence, we know that there’s a linkage between that. The more coherent the brain functioning, the greater one’s intelligence. Then when you look back and see expressions of great creativity and intelligence, whether it’s a symphony by Mozart, or a novel by James Joyce, or some great architectural creation, you have to think that those people were somehow spontaneously tapping into a deeper level of their own innate creative intelligence, which can be cultivated. Otherwise, how would they do that? It isn’t just random.
Rick: And I like to think of it in terms of it not being their own creative intelligence, but that universal field we’ve been talking about. And they have become effective conduits for that.
Craig: That’s exactly right.
Rick: In their own dharma, their own channel of expression.
Craig: Yeah. In fact, I’d encourage you to have Dr. Fred Travis on your show. He has done research in collaboration with a Norwegian researcher, Dr. Harald Harung. And they started by looking at athletes. He can tell his story better than I can, but it’s a good point for this discussion. And these are not athletes who have any kind of meditation practice or anything, but they ask the question, “What separates world-class athletes, world-class defined as Olympic gold medalists or world champions or national champions, what separates them from professional athletes?” So as a professional, you’ve got to be really good to make your living at the sport, but are not necessarily world-class. And if you were to ask most people what would be the differentiating factor, they’d say, “Well, maybe the world-class athletes have better training, or better conditioning, or better coaching, or they have a greater will to win, or something.” It turned out that the world-class athletes had greater integration of brain functioning, just spontaneously. And again, no meditation practice. And then they looked at managers, like business leaders, world-class leaders, people who turned companies around, also known for their philanthropic giving back and just good people, compared to just good managers. And the same distinguishing feature.
Rick: Interesting. Books have been written on that kind of stuff, I mean, “The Winning Edge,” that was Bob Oates’ book, wasn’t it? But then there have also been books about …
Craig: The point is, just integrated brain function, and then you spontaneously rise to the top of whatever field you’re going to be in. And that can be developed.
Rick: Yeah. I’ll just play devil’s advocate, I’ll do this from time to time. You know, we’re on a campus here where thousands of people have been meditating for decades, and there are a lot of good people around, but you don’t necessarily see a … well, maybe you do see a greater than average percentage of geniuses or people who are really excelling in some particular field, but it doesn’t knock your socks off. And there are people who have been sitting in the dome for decades, meditating and doing practices. They don’t seem to have a whole lot going on in their relative lives, many of them. In fact, more often than not, their health is starting to fail, and they’re getting a little dodgy in the mind and whatnot. And people seem to be susceptible to the normal human foibles that we all have in terms of their moral activity and things like that. People get divorced, kids go on drugs. But maybe I’m being unfair in that if we look at it statistically, to pair it against the general population …
Craig: Well, that’s the thing.
Rick: … there’s a better outcome.
Craig: Yeah, there’s anecdotal evidence, and then there’s statistically researched evidence that controls for all of those things. But partly you get into the question of what is a person’s destiny. So, if you have high brain integration and you become a world champion cross-country skier, that doesn’t mean that everybody who develops a high level of brain integration is going to become a world champion cross-country skier. There are other people out there who will develop in other ways, or that they’ll not become a champion in anything.
Rick: Yeah, you might just be an office worker with a lot of high brain integration, or a housewife, or whatever.
Craig: Yeah, and being pretty well adjusted in your life. But the studies do show that brain integration can be developed over time. That’s the thing, and that’s correlated with just about everything good, and who wouldn’t want that?
Rick: It’s funny because there are some people out there who would argue that you wouldn’t really necessarily find any correlation between higher consciousness and practical benefits in your daily life, that the two are not necessarily tightly correlated. I mean, even in recent weeks I’ve heard people argue that. And having a TM background myself, I take exception to that. I feel like there is going to be a ripple effect in terms of your behavior and all that.
Craig: Yeah, that raises a good question. People might hear about enlightenment or higher states of consciousness and say, “Well, that sounds pretty far out, that might be interesting, but what possible practical value could that have?” And then here again we look at the TM research that I’m most familiar with, so that’s what I’ll cite. But you look at how that is applied, say, in extreme situations like post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a national epidemic, where really very little, if anything else, has worked. And these are cases where people, returning veterans, can’t hold a job, they’ve been kicked out of their families, they’re just lost. And they learn to meditate, and sometimes within weeks or even days, they’re functioning again. Now, they may not think that they’re cultivating higher states of consciousness or enlightenment, but that fundamentally is what’s happening. It just so happens that it also has these side benefits of reducing stress, making them functional again. Same thing with inner-city schools, at-risk kids, or drug abusers, prison rehabilitation, where again, little, if anything, has worked. And hardcore, multiple offenders in prison who learn TM, they’re not thinking, “Well, I’m on the path to enlightenment.” But they are. And again, it just so happens that now they’re probably much less likely to come back to prison, just because the path to enlightenment makes you more functional, just makes you more of what human life is supposed to be, which is functional, and able to get along, and able to work, and be creative and be productive and be happy and be self-actualized. So, if you want practical results, what could be more practical than that?
Rick: When I learned to meditate, I had dropped out of high school already. I had been in jail twice, for just weekends, for marijuana possession. I couldn’t hold a job, couldn’t get along with my father well enough to stay in the house. So, my life was basically in shambles. I had even dabbled with heroin a few times. And I learned. It was quite a story, I won’t go into the whole thing, but it was quite an adventure actually learning, getting into New York City and everything. But the very first meditation, I transcended and had a glimpse of the Self, of pure awareness, and felt like a ton had been taken off my shoulders. And within a couple of weeks, I was back in school, I’d gotten a job, I was getting along pretty well with my father, drugs were completely out of the question. And in fact, then he said, “What are you doing? I want to do it, too.” So, I can attest to that. So, there are practical benefits to this development of consciousness thing.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely. And just to take it one step further, when you look at the world that we’re living in today, and we seem to be surrounded by challenges, what are we going to do about climate change? What are we going to do about the degradation of our environment? We really need to somehow, as a human race, tap into some deeper level of creativity and intelligence. And we need to find a way to get along better, to just get agreement with each other, to become coherent with each other, to really come together as a human race to solve the problems that we face, which are pretty critical on multiple levels. And so, how is that going to happen? I just think that this universal field that we’re talking about, that’s there with its abundant, inexhaustible intelligence, creativity, wisdom, bliss, power, that’s accessible. And it’s being accessed by larger numbers of people, whether spontaneously or through a technique. But I think that idea is really critical to our going forward as a species.
Rick: Yeah, this is a theme that I often come back to in these interviews. Throughout history there have been wars, and there have been epidemics, and all kinds of crazy stuff. But it wasn’t until, really, World War II where we actually acquired the ability to wipe out the entire planet with the atomic bomb. And now with global warming – apologies to Republicans in the audience who think it’s a hoax – but now with global warming, it seems like, as you’ve alluded to, there’s the possibility of again wiping out not only many other species, but our own. I mean, if 6 degrees would do it, 6 degrees centigrade would pretty much make the earth uninhabitable for human beings. And various models of how things are unfolding and the pace at which they’re unfolding make that not probable, but altogether possible. So, I think that this upwelling, this epidemic of higher consciousness in the world that we’re seeing, is nature’s – if you want to call it nature – God’s response to the dire straits we’ve gotten ourselves into. It’s the only antidote, as I understand things, that could possibly go deep enough to root out the cause of these behaviors. Because political stuff, economic fiddling, that kind of thing, obviously the Congress can’t agree on anything. How is that going to actually solve anything?
Craig: Yeah, well, I agree. There are so many people doing good work, and have been for decades and more and more.
Rick: Yeah, you look at the Bioneers conference. At the end of it, they have this long list of organizations that are doing great stuff.
Craig: So, the fact that that’s gaining momentum is great, but then you wonder, is it going to turn out to be too little too late, given the rapidity with which things are changing in our planet? And so, you just made the point, go deep enough to really change the whole consciousness that we bring to our relationship to each other and to our environment. That’s what has to be really transformed if we’re going to live in harmony with our planet.
Rick: And it might seem kind of self-serving if people who are primarily interested in the development of consciousness take credit for the things that groups like Greenpeace or Doctors Without Borders, or all the people who are doing good things are doing. But it could be understood perhaps that all these wonderful things, and there are thousands of organizations and millions of people doing great stuff, you could say that their efforts are being nourished or fueled at some deep level by a shift that’s taking place at an even more fundamental level than they might be aware of.
Craig: Yeah, I think that’s completely plausible. I think that’s right. And more and more people waking up to the idea that we need to make some kind of change in the way that we live, more and more people are realizing that. And whether it’s expressed through the diet that they choose, or the lifestyle that they choose, or other kinds of decisions that they make, it doesn’t matter how it’s expressed. But more and more people waking up to the fact that some sort of change, transformation is necessary if we’re going to continue. And people are envisioning not just something that’s sustainable, but really abundant, a peaceful world, an abundant world, a flourishing world. It’s a beautiful vision, but that has to really begin from a change of consciousness deep within.
Rick: Yeah. Maharishi used to talk about phase transition, and he used examples from physics about how things went through a phase of great chaos before they got orderly, as when water boils and then turns to steam or something. And I often wonder whether all hell might break loose in the world even more than it has, as institutions which seem so firmly entrenched have the rug pulled out from under them, because they ultimately would be incompatible with a really sustainable world, an enlightened world.
Rick: So, we could see some dramas yet to come.
Craig: Yeah, for sure. And just coming back to the theme of my book, one of my points is to show that these beautiful experiences that have been glimpsed, or even more than glimpsed, that people have lived, in every different culture, every tradition through history. They’re no longer just experiences that we would read about in a Wordsworth poem, or a Whitman poem, or in a letter from Albert Einstein. These are experiences that can be systematically cultivated. They don’t need to be left to chance. They’re not just fleeting and unpredictable, as they seem to be with so many people. They can be systematically developed. I discuss the value of the Transcendental Meditation technique here, because that’s the meditation practice that I’m familiar with and that has research on the changes that take place in the brain and body. But the main point is that they can be cultivated today. And also, in cultivating that kind of experience, dramatic, unprecedented benefits come along with it. So, whether a person is interested in reducing their risk of stroke, or heart attack, or reducing their risk of Alzheimer’s, or wants to make sure that when they get out of prison, they’ll stay out of prison, guess what the answer is? Put yourself on the path to enlightenment. Develop higher states of consciousness. It just means develop more of who you actually are. Develop more of your real self. And your real self is, as we’ve been discussing here as one of our themes, that real self is that universal field of pure consciousness deep inside. That’s my self, that’s your self, that’s the self that you and I share. That’s the self of everybody on our planet. That’s the self of the universe. There’s just one of those selves. So, when I dive within, and when you dive within, when we meditate, it’s not like you’re experiencing your self, and I’m experiencing mine over here, but never the twain shall meet. We’re diving into that same one thing. And the more we dive within, the more that self awakens, the more access we have, the more lively and awake it’s becoming in our minds. And interestingly, the more awake it becomes even in the people around us.
Rick: Yeah. It’s like trees in the forest, they’re all planted in the same dirt. And if the dirt becomes more fertile and more nutritious, then all the trees are going to thrive. Which is not to say that some trees might not still die, coming back from the analogy, which is not to say that some people are still going to get heart attacks and strokes and Alzheimer’s, but you said reduce the risk.
Craig: Yeah, the overall pattern shifts.
Rick: Statistically, you’re better off.
Craig: Yeah, overall there’s a change.
Rick: Right. So, we’re going to shift the discussion a little bit now and go back to Craig’s book. The two of us tend to go off on interesting tangents, which aren’t really tangential, I mean this is important stuff. But I’d like to talk about, you mentioned seven states of consciousness, waking, dreaming and sleeping being the first three that everyone is familiar with. We’ve talked quite a bit about the fourth, which actually the Sanskrit word for that is “turiya,” which means “fourth.”
Rick: So, we’re going to talk about that a bit more, and then the fifth, sixth, seventh, we’ll see what those might be. And throw in some quotes from various people that you’ve found, and also perhaps some experiences from people. And maybe I’ll have a few comments about people I’ve interviewed who are having one or another.
Rick: Yeah. So, let’s go back to the fourth again a little bit more and just talk about that and then move on.
Craig: Well, even before that, let’s just say, “What is a state of consciousness?” and just reflect on that for a minute. And as you mentioned earlier, people are familiar with, they might not think of it as states of consciousness, but waking, dreaming and sleeping. And there are two characteristics of each one. One is a subjective experience, and then the other is a physiological style of functioning. So even with waking, dreaming and sleeping, physiologists will know that each one has a unique style of physiological functioning that goes along with it. So, for example, you could be in a room hidden from us, and if I were a trained physiologist and I had the proper equipment hooked up to you, I could tell whether, you know, “Here’s Rick, now he’s asleep. Okay, now he’s going into dream mode. Now he’s in deep sleep again. Oh, there he is waking up.” I could monitor that. So, one principle that applies to any state of consciousness is that there’s a unique style of physiological functioning that goes with it. So, let’s just establish that. And then another principle is just that each state of consciousness is a unique world of subjective experience. So, for example, take deep sleep. What’s the world of experience in deep sleep?
Craig: Yeah, it’s a trick question, because there’s no experience. And that’s kind of a very different world of zero experience. Just sleep. You could be dead, you could be comatose. During the night, when rapid eye movement is on, you shift into dream state. What’s that world of experience?
Rick: Is that a trick question too?
Craig: No. You may make it one.
Rick: In my experience, it’s entertaining. It’s like the mind keeping itself entertained, as long as it has a little juice to do so.
Craig: But you could use the words “illusory,” or “imaginary,” things like that. Just something, you wouldn’t want to invest, based on that kind of experience. Laws of nature release their familiar hold, and anything can happen. You can fly through the sky, and people, strange changes of people and place and circumstance. So that’s the world of dreaming, very different from the world of deep sleep. And now when you wake up in the morning, then yet again that’s a whole different kind of world. It’s our world that we’re familiar with, the world in which we’re sitting here talking, waking state, the world in which we work and play, and we have our gains and our losses, and our likes and our dislikes.
Rick: Things seem very concrete.
Craig: Yeah, and all of that. And people are pretty familiar with that. So, each of them is supported by a different style of physiological functioning, a whole different world of experience. So those same two principles hold true for higher states of consciousness. So now let’s talk about the fourth state. We touched on it briefly earlier.
Rick: Yeah, and let me throw in a point before you get into that. Recently some guy posted a note on one of my YouTube videos, he said, “Either you’re enlightened or you’re not. There are no levels or stages or anything else.” And actually, Maharishi actually gave a lecture about that in the Dome maybe 30 years ago or 25 years ago, in which he said, “This whole notion of stages and levels is a bit of a concession to ignorance.” I don’t think he used those words. But I think that that may be true from the ultimate perspective, if the ultimate can have a perspective. But if we’re talking about growth of our actual experience of the ultimate, then inevitably there are stages. And the reason I call this show “Interviews with Spiritually Awakening People” rather than “Spiritually Awake People” is I’ve never met anyone – and I’ve met some pretty great people – whom I feel could not possibly refine their experience even further, or have greater subtlety and greater, deeper appreciation of that reality. So, just that context.
Craig: So, the fourth state – so here’s what we’ll do. We can have this kind of pattern for each of the four higher states, and you can help me with this, because you’re familiar with these, as I am. We can sketch out the main characteristics of subjective experience and physiological changes, and then I can read an example from somebody who seems to have described that. So, the chief characteristics of the fourth state are mental activity has settled down, settled inward. You can picture the waves on an ocean settling down. So, the mind is moving from active level to less active, less active, less active, until it reaches a non-active level. But, as we saw in the Wordsworth example, it’s not asleep, it’s just awake.
Rick: Quote that verse from the Yoga Sutra, this verse 2.
Rick: You know, “Yogaś citta vritti nirodhah,” “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, then the seer is awake in himself.”
Craig: Yeah, well there you go. You have it right there.
Rick: So, it’s a cessation of mental activity.
Craig: Yeah, and leaving just what you might call “pure wakefulness.” So, consciousness…
Rick: So, why should a cessation of mental activity be conducive to waking up, or to Self-recognition, capital S, Self?
Craig: Yeah, because when those waves on the mind settle down, then the ocean of the mind opens to experience. So long as there are waves, then we’re just aware of the waves. Or to shift the metaphor here, you picture the waves on the mind being like images going across a movie screen. You go to see Interstellar, and it’s just images and images, and that’s all you see. But you’re not so much aware of the screen that’s really supporting those waves. So, when the mind settles down, and those waves settle down, just like the ocean becoming calm, which oceans can do. Then the unbounded reality of the ocean opens to one’s experience. And you experience your authentic self, your Self as it really is, your Self that you can characterize with a large S. So, that’s the subjective experience, and people describe it variously as an experience of expansion of awareness, or unbounded awareness, or an experience of deep inner peace, quite distinct from the kind of noisy experience of the normal waking state. Various descriptions like that. So, subjectively settled expansion, just consciousness, and at the deepest, most clear moments of transcendence, just the experience of pure consciousness awake only to itself. Because consciousness is conscious, it’s always conscious of something. But when all of the thoughts and perceptions and memories and things that are normally filling the mind with internal dialogue, when that settles down and fades away, leaving the mind awake to itself, what is there for consciousness to be conscious of? Only its own self, only its own unbounded reality, and that’s pure transcendence. So, here’s an example. This is Alfred Lord Tennyson, we’ll go to another English poet, but I could choose from many. And everybody has their own flavor and their language, and that’ll come across here, but here’s Tennyson, he describes “a kind of waking trance, trance for lack of a better word, that I have frequently had quite up from boyhood when I’ve been all alone. All at once, as it were, out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, the individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being. And this not a confused state, but the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond words, where death was an almost laughable impossibility, the loss of personality, if so it were, seeming no extinction, but the only true life.” And then he says, “I’m ashamed of my feeble description. Have I not said that the state is utterly beyond words? There’s no delusion in the matter. It is no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder associated with absolute clearness of mind.” So, he’s doing his best to try to capture something that’s fundamentally beyond words, which is the experience of consciousness awake to itself, a state of transcendent wonder. “Boundless being,” he says, “the clearest, the surest of the surest.”
Rick: Did he do something to evoke that experience, or was he one of these people that just kind of happened upon it every now and then?
Craig: He sometimes, sitting beneath the tree, would say his name to himself over and over.
Rick: Like a mantra, “Tennyson, Tennyson.”
Craig: Kind of like a mantra. And so there are other passages like that.
Craig: So again, this is not a culturally bound experience. It’s not an American experience, and not an English experience. It’s not an 1800s experience. It’s just a universal experience. And as we were talking about earlier, if we had Tennyson or Wordsworth hooked up to the proper neurophysiological equipment, we would be able to see the changes in their physiology which support that unique experience. So, there’s that theme of a unique style of physiological functioning that goes along with that.
Rick: And why don’t more people just fall into this spontaneously, like you’re sitting in the hot tub or you’re just kind of relaxing in bed with your eyes closed? Why is a technique necessary or advantageous for evoking this experience?
Craig: Well, a couple of reasons for that. Normally our minds are focused outward. That just seems to be the nature of life, at least in our age. And the mind is caught up in its own perceptions and thoughts and internal dialogue and our memories and “What am I going to do tomorrow?” and “Gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta.” A technique like the Transcendental Meditation technique just creates the proper initial circumstances or conditions, and then the mind does fall spontaneously into that. Because the mind wants that fulfillment. The mind wants that peace. The mind likes that sort of thing. The mind will go to that if given a chance. So that’s what the technique does. And people like Wordsworth did fall spontaneously into it. And a lot of people who learn TM, they’ll say, “I’ve had this experience. Like when I was a child, I used to have this. Didn’t know how to get it, but now I can have it.” So that’s the fourth state. And as you mentioned in the Vedic tradition, there’s a word, “turiya,” that’s even been identified as a fourth state, distinct from waking, dreaming, and sleeping. Samadhi is another term that’s given in Indian traditions.
Rick: Yeah, which means like steady intellect. Evenness.
Craig: So again, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Edward Carpenter, an English writer, Black Elk, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Just multiple traditions all describing that same one thing.
Rick: You know, reading your book actually had an effect on me this week. And I’ll say this to introduce the concept of effortlessness, but one of the characteristics, one of the main points of TM is that it’s effortless, and there’s a good reason for that. But even if you’ve been doing it for decades, there could even be more innocence and more effortlessness. I mean, have you ever found that, all of a sudden you realize, “Geez, compared to how I’m now experiencing, I must have been straining a little bit or making some sort of effort.” There’s even a greater relaxation into innocence. And somehow reading all these accounts of people who spontaneously fell into transcendence, it made my meditations more innocent this week, and thereby more profound and clear. It’s a funny thing. But let’s talk about the principle of effortlessness, because in recent weeks I’ve interviewed some people who are now beginning to advocate an effortless form of meditation, having themselves practiced a rather arduous form for decades and gotten frustrated with it. They’re beginning to say, “Anything which involves any kind of strain or control or manipulation is not the way to go,” in their current opinion.
Craig: Right. Yeah, well, there’s a whole variety of meditation practices out there, and I think it’s useful to categorize them into three sort of different buckets. Two of them involve some kind of effort, some kind of something that you do with the mind. And if you think of activity in the mind as being at the opposite end of the spectrum from silence, and silence is what transcendence is, just experiencing pure, silent, pure consciousness, then when you’re introducing activity into the mind, it would be kind of like stirring that pond to try to make the waves go down. You could see that it might be a little bit counterproductive, because what we want is cessation of activity in a spontaneous way. So, to the degree that you’re making effort, it seems to be kind of at odds with the notion of the mind settling down. It doesn’t mean that there’s not a benefit to doing some of those practices. I think a few studies show that practices that involve concentration do seem to improve the ability to concentrate. So, if you want to improve your ability to concentrate, if that’s the outcome that you want, then that could be a way to do it. But if it’s transcending that you want, then you probably would be better served by some other practice that’s effortless, like TM, which we’ve been talking about.
Rick: I think it was Anandamayi Ma who said that the desire for God is itself the path to God, and I think probably others have said that. But one strange phenomenon I’ve observed is that there are certain people who had such an ardent desire for enlightenment, and ended up pursuing meditation practices which were arduous, and by their own admission weren’t very good at them. Adyashanti comes to mind, you may not have heard of him, but he’s one of the clearest teachers out there. And yet, eventually, sometimes after just giving up, had this profound awakening. And it almost seems like, I don’t know whether it was the straining and then the giving up, or just the ardency, you know it says in the Yoga Sutras that those with vehement intensity realize the most quickly. Somehow the determination yielded fruit, almost irrespective of what they actually practiced.
Craig: Well, I think Maharshi himself had that analysis, that with procedures like that, just like letting go and relaxing, then the mind just whoosh, sinks down and transcends. So, it’s maybe a less direct by-product of a practice where, when you finally let go of it, then the mind will sink within.
Rick: Kind of like what they say, hitting yourself over the head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop.
Craig: So, the fourth state of consciousness is a temporary state. As we’ve seen, people glimpse it and the experience comes and goes, and even with TM practice, when you experience it, diving within, then when you finish meditation, open the eyes, come out, then basically it fades away. So, it’s only temporary, and what we want to do is have it be permanent. We want the brain integration that supports that experience to be there all the time. We want unbounded awareness all the time. So how do you do that? You simply repeat the experience of transcending over and over and over, twice a day. And then there’s a couple ways to look at what happens on the level of the mind, or the level of consciousness. The mind becomes accustomed to maintaining unbounded awareness. Or you might say, unbounded awareness, that universal field that we’re talking about, becomes more and more lively or awake or infused into the mind. On the level of the body, the brain becomes more and more habituated to maintaining that elegant, coherent, integrated style of functioning, which is the functioning on the level of machinery that’s supporting the experience of unbounded awareness. So, both things are going on hand in hand, cultivation of mind and brain, both. So, this is definitely an experience that grows, subjectively it grows, and objectively you can track the growth of it. And the key markers of the fifth state, now let’s talk about that, which Maharshi calls “cosmic consciousness,” would be unbounded awareness, silent awareness, all the time, 24/7, around the clock, and in harmony with that, integrated brain functioning around the clock. Now you might ask, “Okay, well, isn’t unbounded awareness something that happens to me with my eyes closed? How does that become a practical reality? How do I maintain unbounded awareness when I’m driving on the freeway?” And the answer is just, you know, let’s picture the mind again as an ocean or a pool, and when we transcend, the mind is settling inward. So, the mind has this incredible depth and ability to be active on the surface and silent in the depth. And normally we’re only awake at the surface, the level of thoughts and perceptions and feelings and so on. When we transcend in the fourth state, now the mind is awake to its full depth. And as we do that over and over again, the mind gains the ability to maintain wakefulness from the surface to the depth. And that brings about a very interesting kind of experience. Because when the mind is awake at its depth, one of the themes of our discussion is that depth is that universal field of pure intelligence, pure silence. It’s just universal and unbounded. It’s the transcendental field. Transcendental means beyond, in this case, beyond everything. So that universal field that we experience, which is our self, transcendental means it’s outside of time, it’s outside of space, it’s outside of cause and effect. It’s transcendental to everything. So, when the mind is awake to its depth, to this transcendental field, now our experience is taking place from this level. Normally it’s taking place up here, noisy mind. When the mind is fully awake, as it is in cosmic consciousness, now the experience is taking place from here. And that brings about an experience that Maharishi calls “witnessing,” which you’re familiar with. And when we say “witnessing,” we’re not saying, “I witnessed a theft at the 7-Eleven,” or “I witnessed a fender bender.” Witnessing here means that one is just the silent observer or witness to everything that’s going on at more active levels of the mind, a non-participating observer. So, all of this is still going on as before, but now, because the mind is fully awake, one is just a witness to that. So let me make that concrete with an experience here. You can add what you like.
Rick: This is going to be a witnessing experience, huh?
Craig: This will be a witnessing experience. So, this is Billie Jean King. Most people will know her name, but for those who don’t, she’s one of the great athletes of all time. She’s won something like 38 major tennis titles which is, I think, twice the number that Roger Federer has won. Just really an incredible personality. She won the presidential medal of honor a few years back. So, from her autobiography, here she talks about her experience on the tennis court. She says, “On my very best days, I have this fantastic, utterly unselfconscious feeling of invincibility. I don’t worry about how I’m hitting the ball, and I hardly notice my opponent at all. It’s like I’m out there by myself. I concentrate only on the ball in relationship to the face of my racket, which is a full-time job anyway, since no two balls ever come over the net the same way. I appreciate what my opponent is doing, but in a very detached, abstract way, like an observer in the next room. I see her moving to her left or right, but it’s almost as though there weren’t any real opponent, as though I didn’t know and certainly didn’t care whom I was playing against. When I’m in that kind of state, I feel that tennis is an art form that’s capable of moving both the players and the audience. When I’m performing at my absolute best, I think that some of the euphoria that I feel must be transmitted to the audience.” So, this is a textbook example of what athletes call “the zone,” and the zone means she’s experiencing peak performance, she’s never performed better. It’s effortless performance to the point of just watching it like an observer in the next room, watching all of this happen, and then euphoria, bliss, just joy along with it, those three things.
Rick: And there’s one point which may not come across in that quote. Two weeks ago, I had an interview with a guy and we got into quite a debate about witnessing, and he said, “Oh, I can put myself into a witnessing state any time.” And he kind of went, “Okay, now I’m back and I’m in more of a witnessing state.” And he was obviously evoking a kind of a mood or a frame of mind. And there are some practices which do this habitually and intentionally, to the point where, as another guy, a Buddhist teacher, Shinzen Young, said, “People become somewhat zombie-like.” And so, my point to him was that witnessing is not something you do, it’s something you are. And it’s just a natural kind of experience which occurs when the silence of the self is open to awareness along with activity. And there’s a sense that even though I’m running through this airport trying to catch my connection, nothing’s happening here. It’s just pure silence, I’m just resting in that, and yet the body is running through the airport or whatever. And it’s not like I am silent in any kind of individual sense, because individually I’m running through the airport and I’m real busy, but there’s a kind of a silence that is just rock solid that is there irrespective of what’s happening on the surface, which might actually be even more noticeable when you’re doing something intense like that, because the contrast is greater.
Craig: Yeah, well that’s a very good point. And you know what I think happens here is, somewhere along the way the path and the goal get switched. The path gets mistaken for the goal.
Rick: Right. And descriptions are taken for prescriptions.
Craig: Exactly. Here’s Billie Jean King, but you can imagine in some monastery somewhere, somebody begins to describe the experience of witnessing, because that’s the state which they’ve come to. Other people who aren’t there yet hear that, they hear that this person is describing them as just the innocent observer of everything. Well, that person seems to be in pretty good shape, let me try that, to do that. And I think it ends up being counterproductive actually, because when you’re doing something, you really want to focus 100% of your mind on the thing, not divide it with some other. Let me just read on here, because Billie Jean King really makes this experience clear. Here she’s talking about the perfect shot. I think the key line there was, “I appreciate what my opponent is doing, but in a very detached, abstract way, like an observer in the next room.” Here she really ices it. She’s talking here about the perfect shot.
Rick: Ices or aces?
Craig: Both. I said ices. “The perfect shot is another matter. They don’t come along very often, but when they do, they’re great. It gives me a marvelous feeling of almost perfect joy, especially if I can pull one off on the last shot of the match. I can almost feel it coming. It usually happens on one of those days when everything is just right, when the crowd is large and enthusiastic and my concentration is so perfect, it almost seems as though I’m able to transport myself beyond the turmoil on the court to some place of total peace and calm. I know where the ball is on every shot, and it always looks as big and well-defined as a basketball. Just a huge thing that I couldn’t miss if I wanted to. I’ve got perfect control of the match, my rhythm and movements are excellent, and everything is just in total balance. That perfect moment happens in all sports. It’s a perfect combination of a violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility. My heart pounds, my eyes get damp, and my ears feel like they’re wiggling, but it’s also just totally peaceful. And when it happens, I want to stop the match and grab the microphone and shout, ‘That’s what it’s all about!’ Because it is. It’s not the big prize I’m going to win at the end of the match or anything else. It’s just having done something that’s totally pure and having experienced the perfect emotion. And I’m always sad that I can’t communicate that feeling right at the moment it’s happening. I can only hope that people realize what’s going on.” So, the key lines here, just to underscore them, I’m able, so perfect, I’m almost able to transport myself beyond the turmoil on the court to some place of total peace and calm. If you didn’t have this model of the mind that we’re talking about, you’d think, “Boy, what’s that? That’s weird.” It’s just that for those minutes or those moments on the tennis court, somehow the brain has reorganized to enable the mind to be fully awake. And now she’s awake at this silent level of the mind. Because where is the place of total peace and calm? She’s not in the locker room. It’s out on the tennis court somewhere. It’s deep within that place. And now it’s just awakened in her.
Rick: Yeah, this is an interesting example of how an athletic activity has become a spiritual practice for someone. There are similar quotes like that from Michael Jordan, and I’m sure you could quote many others, Pele in your book, where they haven’t meditated or done any spiritual practices, they’ve just been focused on their sport. But it has, for them, served as a means of developing consciousness, really. Unless we assume that they were already in a higher state of consciousness when they took up the sport.
Craig: Well, there’s research that shows, what I was talking about earlier, where what separates the world champions from just the pros is higher brain integration, which is born with them by some kind of…
Rick: Yeah, were they endowed with it, or did their sport help to develop it? Maybe both.
Craig: It could be, but people are born with different capacities, different levels of this or that, so some people are definitely born with different levels of brain integration. So, they become top athletes. So, you could almost predict that the Pele’s of the world, or the Billie Jean Kings, would have this kind of experience.
Rick: I think it’s worth throwing in here that, according to some ways of thinking, including mine, people are born at different levels of consciousness. We’re outlining higher states of consciousness here. Some people are born in some of these higher states, or close to them, and others have a long road to hoe before they get even close.
Craig: But wherever you’re born, just start where you are and get going.
Rick: Keep on trucking.
Craig: Yeah. I love this line here where she says, “It’s a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” So, there’s the full range of the mind. Everything is still going on, on the surface. She’s charging around the tennis court like mad, doing everything she’s always done. That hasn’t gone away. So, all that dynamic activity is still going on, but now the full range of the mind is awake, and she’s just total tranquility, perfect silence down here. And if anybody was counting out there, she used the word “perfect” seven times in this passage. So, there’s a kind of message here. If there is perfection in life, this is what it looks like, to have that full range of the mind awake, where you can have peak performance, effortless action, and euphoria all together.
Craig: What a beautiful way to live. And it doesn’t mean that cosmic consciousness or this glimpse of it is something that’s reserved for Wimbledon tennis champions. You could be nursing a baby. You could be sewing. You could be walking, as you were saying, just working at the office. The full depth of the mind is awake, and you are the innocent, silent observer of all of that happening. And you just have that unboundedness with whatever it is you are doing, the experience of your actual deepest self, the bliss of that, and whatever peak performance is going to come along with that.
Rick: Yeah. And it’s worth mentioning that we, as human beings, we do acclimate to things, so it’s not like you’re going to be oohing and aahing all day long.
Craig: Exactly right.
Rick: It’s like you just take it in stride, take it for granted, go about your life. But maybe every now and then there’s something which causes you to notice that this is the condition in which I function.
Craig: That’s right.
Rick: But it’s not something you have to think about. And it’s also important to emphasize that it’s not enhanced to any degree by remembering it, nor is it lost to any degree by failing to remember it. Either you’ve got it or you haven’t, to whatever degree you have it.
Craig: Right. There’s no mental contriving that’s going to bring it about. Either the brain is functioning in that way or it’s not. That’s really what it comes down to, to support that experience.
Rick: Because again, there are people who make a practice of trying to remember this all the time, you know, and kind of…
Craig: Yeah, it divides the mind. Yeah, it weakens the mind.
Rick: It gets zombie-like, like Shinzen Young said.
Craig: Yeah. So that’s a good point that you make. Maybe cosmic consciousness is a bit of a flamboyant name, but it’s not as though there are Fourth of July fireworks going on. It’s just the opposite. It’s just inner, silent, unbounded awareness along with everything else. It’s a completely simple, quiet thing.
Rick: Yeah. You know, some guy sent me a question, it must have been a couple of months ago when I first announced that I was going to interview you, and he said, “Ask Craig why he always defers to Maharshi as an authority with all this stuff. How about his own experience? Can’t he speak from his own experience?”
Craig: Yeah, I think I received that same question.
Rick: There are certain traditions in which it’s not appropriate to speak from one’s own experience. If you ask the Dalai Lama what’s going on, he will not answer it directly, and that’s kind of the way in the TM world, but to whatever extent you care to, to what extent has your own experience corroborated what you’ve written about in this book?
Craig: Yeah, I don’t make a thing about my own experience because I don’t want to set myself up as some kind of authority based on my own experience. I think Maharishi does a better job of that. If I were to talk about my own experience, it would be, I like my meditation practice and I like diving within that experience of the four states of consciousness, and outside of that I often feel that my self is just this huge thing that I’m walking around inside of, just enormous. It’s not anything that I pay that much attention to, but when I become aware of it, there it is. It’s just gigantic and it’s not moving. I’m just this thing moving around inside of it. But I don’t offer that as any kind of hallmark for anybody’s experience. It’s my own, and different people will have different experiences. What Maharishi’s laid out for us in this model of seven states is basic, fundamental milestones, but people seem to have different pathways of moving through those, different flavors of the way one shifts from one to another. But those fundamental stages, intellectually they make sense, as I hope we’ll see in our discussion.
Rick: Yeah, it’s funny, I was sitting down in Morningstar studio one time. It’s sometimes used as a dance hall, and they have all these mirrors on the wall, which is what the ballet dancers use. I was talking to somebody, and I happened to glance over and look at the mirrors and saw myself talking to the person. I was taken aback a little bit, “Wow, that’s what people see when they look at me?” It’s because that’s not what I am. You forget, you know?
Craig: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: But also, I wanted to just throw in, you’ve mentioned physiological correlates to these higher states of consciousness, and we’re using the Western model basically, brain waves and all, and there are some interesting Eastern models too. The Chinese talk about the meridians and all, and the yogic system talks about chakras and nadis and all those things. I read an interesting article about chakras recently, by a woman who experienced their unfoldment very, very clearly and interacted with a lot of people who were going through spiritual unfoldings, and she made the point that they really don’t develop sequentially, hardly ever. This chakra could develop before this one, and so on and so forth. So, this model that Maharishi laid out, I think you can pretty much take anybody’s experience and find where it might fit on that progression. But what I find in talking to so many people, is that it’s really not so linear. And there might be people who are really in what we would call “unity consciousness,” which we’ll talk about, who haven’t yet had God consciousness stuff. It can come in various forms, almost like it’s unique for each person.
Craig: It’s definitely unique, because people have their own nervous systems and so on. Maharishi describes cosmic consciousness as the “normal” style of human functioning. And why normal? We haven’t talked about stress much, but one of the things in that understanding, and his understanding is that what obstructs the normal experience of unbounded awareness is stress in the machinery, the hardware of the nervous system. So, the pathway to developing, cultivating higher states of consciousness would be to systematically dissolve that stress, and that’s one thing that the TM technique seems to do with remarkable efficiency. So, he calls cosmic consciousness the “normal” style of human functioning, because in that state there’s no stress, virtually no stress. So that means the physiology is functioning the way it was designed to function, just like a motor functioning without sand in the carburetor. It’s functioning the way it was designed to function, brain functioning in the integrated way it was designed to function, and therefore this is the normal state, cosmic consciousness. So, what we want to do is get to that normal state, and then from there, that’s the platform for really extraordinary states, the six and seven states, which we’ll talk about in a few minutes.
Rick: And Maharishi there also was using Western terminology, but in his own tradition there are terms such as “Vasanas” and “Samskaras” and so on, which are understood to be actual impediments or impressions in the nervous system, however that tradition understood the nervous system, which lodge there and impede the normal functioning of mind and body, of the nervous system and of our consciousness. And the whole science of yoga is to root out these samskaras and normalize these vasanas.
Craig: Right. You find that in the Daoist tradition also, that something has to change in the physiology, and so there are a variety of practices that have emerged – diet and exercise and yoga and so on – to try to accomplish that.
Rick: Yeah. What you got here?
Craig: Just one more on cosmic consciousness, we can do this quickly. This is an American actor, a contemporary named Ray Reinhart, if you ever saw Hunt for Red October.
Rick: I think I must.
Craig: In the 80s I think he was in that, but mostly he’s a theater actor in the San Francisco Bay Area. So, I came across this in a newspaper interview with him. He says, “There are two stages to having the audience in your hand. The first one is the one in which you bring them along. You make them laugh through sheer skill. They laughed at that, now watch me top it with this one. But there’s a step beyond that, which I experienced, but only two or three times. It’s the most – how can you use words like – satisfying. It’s more ultimate than the ultimate. I seemed to be part of a presence that stood behind myself and was able to observe, not with my eyes, but with my total being, myself and the audience. It was a wonderful thing of leaving not only the character, but also this person who calls himself Ray Reinhart. In a way I was no longer acting actively, although things were happening. My arms moved independently, there was no effort required, my body was loose and light. It was the closest I’ve ever come in a waking state to a mystical experience.” So, there’s another pretty clear experience of witnessing.
Rick: I heard Jerry Seinfeld talk about an experience like that when he was on the David Letterman show, maybe 10 years ago. Both those guys do TM by the way. But in the second edition of your book you might want to …
Craig: I’ll look for that. I seem to – what was this phrase here – observe not just with my eyes, but with my total being. So, there’s that, “total being” is his language for actually total being, pure consciousness down there. So, if cosmic consciousness, the fifth state, is the normal state, then what is there that’s more than that? And you could ask, “What could there be more than cosmic consciousness?” Because in cosmic consciousness now, the mind is fully awake from its surface to its depth, permanently. We’re experiencing from that depth our unbounded self, our innermost unbounded self, permanently, 24/7, waking, dreaming and sleeping, no matter how those three states of consciousness go. There’s the ongoing, unbroken continuum of experience of our unbounded self. So, what could there be that’s beyond that?
Rick: And before you answer that question, incidentally, there’s a syndrome in which people wake up to what is probably cosmic consciousness, in which they feel like they’re done, because it feels so complete. And Adyashanti talks about this eloquently, too, this fellow I mentioned earlier, that there are so many stages along the way where you feel so complete that you can’t conceive of there being anything more, and unless you have a clear understanding, you might conclude that there is nothing more. But anyway, there is.
Craig: So, if there’s going to be growth beyond cosmic consciousness, it’s not going to be inner growth, because the mind is fully awake, and it’s not going to get any more awake. We can think that we’re using our total mental potential. But where the change develops now is in our experience of the environment around us. And that’s going to happen in two stages. The first stage takes us to the sixth state, which Maharishi calls “God consciousness.” And the final jump will take us to the seventh state, which is “unity consciousness.” So, let’s just recap. In the fifth state, the body is free of stress, the brain is functioning in an integrated way all the time. So, in this state now, the physical organs of perception; eyes, ears, sense of smell, taste, touch; begin to embark on their own process of evolution and development and refinement. Our senses of perception become literally more refined, and that brings with it the ability to experience more refined values of the environment around us, the world around us. So, we’ve talked about the mind in terms of this model of levels of excitation, excited on the surface, less and less excited when we meditate, we dive within less excited levels until we reach a level of silence. It turns out that that’s really the way the whole world is structured. You can imagine levels of excitation, levels of intensity of frequency. Things are basically frequencies around us. And so, as the senses become more refined, we gain the ability to experience progressively more refined, more subtle, more rarified, more delicate strata of creation around us, until we come to the ability of perceiving the very most delicate fluctuation. And when we’ve reached that stage, that’s what Maharishi calls “God-consciousness.” And the common feature of that stage, what is this most rarified value of the world around us like? It seems to be light, like self-effulgent light, seems to be the common denominator of that. So, I will read you, I’ll give you another taste. Here’s just a glimpse, this comes from Rabindranath Tagore, who many of your listeners, viewers will know, a great poet of India, voluminous poet and writer. What people may not know is he was also a musician, a composer. He wrote the national anthem of India, the national anthem of Bangladesh, and also a painter. So extraordinary creativity. So, in this passage that I want to read, he’s visiting his brother in a big city in India, and he steps out, in Calcutta actually. And so, he steps out on the veranda, just not expecting anything unusual to happen, and here’s what happens. He says, “Where the Sadar street ends, trees in the garden of Free School Street are visible. One morning I was standing on the veranda looking at them. The sun was slowly rising above the screen of their leaves, and as I was watching it, suddenly, in a moment, a veil seemed to be lifted from my eyes. I found the world wrapped in an inexpressible glory, with its waves of joy and beauty bursting and breaking on all sides. The thick shroud of sorrow that lay in my heart in many folds was pierced through and through by the light of the world, which was everywhere radiant. That very day, the poem, known as ‘The Fountain Awakened from its Dream,’ flowed on like a fountain itself. When it was finished, still the curtain did not fall on that strange vision of beauty and joy. There was nothing and no one whom I did not love at that moment. I stood on the veranda and watched the coolies as they trampled down the road. Their countenances, their forms, seemed strangely wonderful to me, as though they were all moving like waves in the great ocean of the world. When one young man placed his hand upon the shoulder of another and passed laughingly by, it was a remarkable event to me. I seemed to witness in the wholeness of my vision the movements of the body of all humanity, and to feel the beat of the music and the rhythm of a mystic dance.” And then he says, “For some days I was in this ecstatic mood. My brothers had made up their minds to go to Darjeeling, and I accompanied them. I thought I might have a fuller vision of what I had witnessed in the crowded parts of the Sadar Street if once I reached the heights of the Himalayas. But when I reached the Himalayas, the vision all departed. That was my mistake. I thought I could get at the truth from the outside. But however lofty and imposing the Himalayas might be, they could not put anything real into my hands. But God, the great Giver, Himself, can open the whole universe to our gaze in the narrow space of a single lane.”
Craig: That’s just, I get little chills whenever I read that.
Rick: Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Craig: And there’s just what’s coming in through eyes, and he finds the world wrapped in inexpressible glory with waves of joy and beauty bursting and breaking on all sides. He talks about the world, the light of the world, which was everywhere radiant. So, the two components here are, there’s the physical perception of radiance shining from everything, as though everything is wrapped in a halo. And that’s just there, open to his eyes. And he doesn’t talk about his other senses of perception, but if he did, that would be there as well. But along with this is this beautiful emotion, this upwelling of universal love, where he says, “There’s nothing and no one whom I did not love at that moment.” And we can all relate to that, even from our own experience. If you go outside and see a beautiful sunset, or you hear a beautiful symphony, what’s the emotion that that beauty calls forth from within you? Appreciation. Some love, some, “I love that music, I love that sunset, there’s this beautiful baby’s face, I love that.” So, in the experience of extraordinary beauty, you feel this emotion welling up. So, when you take that beauty to its extreme, as we find it in God-consciousness, where things are literally shining with divine light, you can’t help it. Universal love is just part and parcel of that experience. So, those are the two characteristics of God-consciousness, the perception of that most refined, celestial, divine value of life, and then the emotion of just universal love that comes to that. And when you think about it, when Tagore stepped out on that veranda, that scene was always there. It’s there today. It’s in this room with you and me today. Why don’t we experience it all the time? Only because our organs of perception, the physical machinery of perception, hasn’t been sufficiently refined to have and sustain that experience. And conversely, you could say for people who do have that experience, it’s nothing mysterious, it’s just because the physical organs of perception are functioning according to their design specs. That’s the way they were designed to function. And now they are.
Rick: Yeah, non-duality or Advaita is all the rage these days in the world.
Craig: Yeah, and we’ll get to that. This is a big step on the way to that.
Rick: Yeah, but I think a lot of people mistake cosmic consciousness for Advaita, for non-duality, because it has its non-dual characteristic.
Craig: And even transcendental consciousness is ultimate non-duality. There’s literally no duality when I’m transcendent, and it’s just my pure, unbounded awareness awake to itself. The only thing is, it isn’t sustainable. You lose it when you open the eyes.
Rick: Yeah. Every fall, I go to this conference called the Science and Non-Duality Conference, and I was thinking about what I might talk about when I give a little talk there next year. I was thinking that both the terms “science” and “non-duality” have a sort of a flat connotation. They don’t have a lot of heart in them, necessarily. And yet the greatest non-dualists – Shankara, Ramana Maharshi, various saints we could quote – seem to have a tremendous amount of heart and love and appreciation and compassion and all these qualities. And so, if people have arrived at some kind of flat, dispassionate, non-dual state, there’s more to come in terms of the real juiciness that can be developed in one’s experience. And Maharishi once asked, “Well what happens if a person gets to that state and gets stuck there?” He said, “It’s like a bullet going through my heart,” the concept of somebody being stuck and not experiencing what they potentially might yet experience if further unfoldment takes place. And it’s fascinating to consider what you just said, we’re sitting in this office and it may appear drab or something, it doesn’t look so bad to me, but you bring a dozen people in here and they’re all seeing it slightly differently. But if someone in God consciousness were sitting here, they would see the perception of the desk and the camera and the computer and stuff like that would really be quite glorious. You have some quotes in your book about somebody watching a cat cross a lawn and it’s this amazing experience, as if the lawn were made of diamonds and the cat is this wonderful glowing thing. So that potential is there, the potential to live life that way all the time is there and it’s an exciting prospect. And one more comment I’ll make and then throw it back to you, is one thing I find fascinating. I have friends who are in this state all the time and who experience subtle beings all the time. And I sometimes bring that up in interviews and I sometimes get flack for emphasizing it because it seems like a tangent or a distraction or something. But imagine, if scientists discover some new species of snail in the Amazon or something, it might make the news, because “Wow, there’s this thing we didn’t even know about!” Or if aliens were to land on the White House lawn, it would really make the news, because “Holy mackerel, there’s this whole life form that we didn’t know about!” Well, it so happens that we’re just kind of fish swimming on the surface of the ocean and there’s fish, metaphorically speaking, at all the other levels of the ocean, beings who dwell at these levels of creation. And they’re all very much there without our being aware of it. So, isn’t that an interesting realm for exploration, to somehow commune with these subtler impulses of life, if such communion is advantageous in any way for us or for them? And it says in the Bhagavad Gita that it is, that you support them and they’ll support you. There’s a kind of mutual thing that gets going. I don’t know, it’s just like this whole untapped realm of possibility that humanity has yet to awaken to, that I find intriguing. And right now, a lot of people are awakening to the possibility of the transcendent and living that in daily life, but there’s this whole other possibility that might unfold once that becomes kind of a de rigueur.
Craig: Yeah, well it starts with awakening to the transcendent. I mean, everything that we’re talking about here is really fostered by development of consciousness. If there are such things as you’re saying, how would one experience them? You have to develop your consciousness, you have to refine the machinery of perception.
Craig: So, the Garden of Eden, so many people who’ve described this level, as you’ve seen in the book, they’ll talk about a veil, as Tagore himself did, as if a veil fell away and there’s the world as it always was. So, people describe it as a paradise around us, or a Garden of Eden. So, the Garden of Eden wasn’t something mythical thousands of years ago, we’re living in it, we just don’t see it for the reality that it is.
Craig: And we might take better care of our planet if we did.
Rick: Yeah, I was just thinking, there’s that Vedic saying, “The world is as you are, or as you see it,” or something.
Craig: Yeah, it’s a common thought.
Rick: It’s not only that you get to evaluate the world to the extent you can evaluate it, but I think if everyone were to be capable of seeing the world in more sublime values, that objectively the world would begin to manifest in some more sublime qualities. We’d have more of a heavenly world that would be evident to anybody, even if they weren’t open to that level of perception.
Craig: Yeah, yeah. And coming back to Tagore’s beautiful line, “There was nothing and no one whom I did not love at that moment,” so, we can talk about the physical perception, but think about the relationship to other people when your ongoing experience is just universal love. “There’s nothing and no one whom I didn’t love.” Would I ever think of harming you? Would I ever think of oppressing you? Doing anything like that?
Craig: It never would enter my mind.
Rick: I have to mention Amma here, she’ll sit on her dais for sometimes 18 hours straight without a bathroom break, hugging people one after another. And if it’s India, it might be 50,000 people that she’s got to embrace in that time. And if you watch a video of it or see it firsthand, every single person that comes is like, “My long-lost child, I love you.” And if you or I were to do that, at least me, I’d run out of steam pretty quick. But there’s this freshness and innocence and newness in every single encounter that just never runs dry.
Craig: Yeah, whether her or others, I think the underlying point is, again, you can’t contrive this. You can’t walk outside and say, “Okay, I’m going to start looking for this.”
Rick: You’ve just got to start hugging everybody.
Craig: Yeah, that would be kind of artificial. You know, “I’m going to feel universal love.” It’s good to favor the positive over the negative, but even better to just begin cultivating physiology, mind and body, so we ourselves all the time can have these high plateaus of human experience that people have described through history.
Rick: It’s like we were saying about witnessing. It’s not something you evoke intentionally as you go through your day, neither would this fullness of heart be of that nature. It would be something that is your natural mode of functioning.
Craig: Yeah. One thing that people might ask, “Okay, how do we get from one state to another?” Well, one pathway, the pathway I personally recommend for the fourth state, transcendental consciousness, is the Transcendental Meditation technique, and regular practice of that leads to regular experience of transcending, as elicited by the TM technique, which leads to the fifth state. It’s interesting, though, from the fifth state onward, Maharishi explains his analysis of those dynamics of growth, from that point onward, the sixth state will just develop automatically.
Rick: God consciousness.
Craig: God consciousness. And then the seventh state, unity, will develop automatically. It’s just a matter of time.
Rick: Although he had techniques for developing God consciousness. I mean, advanced techniques that were supposed to help culture that.
Rick: Yeah. So, in other words, if we’re seeing through a glass darkly, and then eventually not dark, nice and clear like your glasses, then once we’re seeing things clearly, appreciation is just going to grow of its own accord.
Craig: That’s right. Yeah, that’s a spontaneous outcome of just that inner growth that’s taking place.
Craig: Ready for the seventh state?
Rick: Let’s go for it.
Craig: Okay, let’s go. So, sixth state to recap, I mean, fifth state, mind fully awake, body free of stress, sixth state, God consciousness, the ability to perceive even the very finest fluctuations. What could be beyond that? Well, our growth to the sixth state involved the ability to perceive progressively finer, more delicate levels of the world around us. So, what could there be beyond that faintest fluctuation? What is there beyond that?
Rick: Do you want me to answer?
Craig: You can answer. What is it that’s fluctuating?
Rick: Well, it’s still a fluctuation.
Craig: It’s still a fluctuation.
Rick: And we know from the beginning days of transcending, or at least the understanding of that, that there’s something which is beyond fluctuation, which hasn’t yet sprouted or emerged.
Craig: So, when we come back to our first experience of transcending, what’s happened when we transcend, close the eyes, the mind is experiencing less active, less active, less active levels, until we come to the very least active level, finest active level, and then transcend even that, and it’s just non-activity, just pure silent awareness. So now we have the same phenomenon occurring through our experience in the outward direction, growth to God consciousness, is we’re experiencing through our senses of perception, subtler, subtler, less active, more and more silent, closer and closer to that underlying unity. And now in God consciousness, the sixth day, we’ve come to the very faintest fluctuation. So naturally beyond that there’s only one thing. It’s just the tiniest little jump, but a major jump nonetheless, to experiencing the underlying silence that appears to be fluctuating, just like when we transcended in the first place. But instead of now in the inner direction, it’s the outer direction also. So, the characteristics of unity consciousness would be, just as in God consciousness, on the very surface of everything we’re seeing the most refined value, that glorious, divine, celestial, shining radiance, now in unity consciousness we’re also seeing, right on the surface of everything, the ultimate reality of everything around us, which is pure consciousness, unbounded awareness, which is actually myself with the uppercase Self. It’s the same Self that I first experienced when I first began to meditate, when I first dove within. Now I’m experiencing myself as the ultimate reality of everything around me. And again, it’s not as though things change. It’s not as though red, yellow and green lights on a traffic signal are somehow merged, and we don’t know when to stop and when to go at an intersection. All of that is still there. It’s just now we see all of that in terms of ourself, as an expression of ourself. And here’s where words really fail, because these words, which are linear and time-bound, they just don’t, not only do they not touch the experience of transcendence, but words are all about diversity. They’re not about non-duality or about unity. So, experience in terms of the self, the experience of myself within everything, everything within myself. So, if that sounds abstract to some people, let me read a little experience from here. So, the back story here, this comes from, again, a contemporary person. This is a writer named Rita Carter, who’s a nonfiction writer in England. She specializes in writing books on medical research, neuroscience research. And I was reading one of her books one time, because I like to keep up on that, and right in the middle she shifts gears and, instead of talking about scientific research, talks about her own experience. And the back story is: she was up in the northwest part of England, driving around the country, interviewing people for her next book, interviewing researchers. She was in Manchester, in the suburbs, and it began to be late at night, and she got lost, and there was a pounding hailstorm. So perfect storm, so to speak. She’s lost, and on top of that her engine breaks down. So, what does she do at 1.30 in the morning when it’s hailing like crazy and the engine’s breaking down? Somehow, finally, she’s able to summon a mechanic. The mechanic figures out the problem and gets her car started, but now what to do? It’s 2.30 in the morning, where should I go? Everything’s closed. So, the mechanic says, “You know what? I have an aunt who lives a few blocks away from here. I know that she has a spare bedroom. She won’t mind if we wake her up, and she’ll take you in. You can spend the rest of the night there.” So, they wake up the aunt. Aunt takes her in, “you poor thing,” puts her in a hot tub, gets her a warm nightgown, lights a fire in the fireplace. And so, Rita Carter climbs out of the bath, dons the nightgown, climbs into bed, and I’ll just read her own words from here on. She says, “When I noted the fire, one of those built-in gas burners was still on. I thought I should probably get out of bed and switch it off. But as I looked at it, something very strange happened. I realized that I was not only looking at it from the perspective of where I lay, but, weird as this may sound, I was seeing it too from within the flame itself. I was the fire, absorbed into its redness and warmth, both giving and receiving its heat. At the same time, it was not a sequential realization, I became aware that I was also the bed and the walls and the window and the sheets. My self seemed to have bled out of its boundary and infiltrated every crevice in the room. Stranger yet, I was not just in the room, but beyond it too. Although I could not literally see beyond the four walls, I seemed to be outside them as well as within. Indeed, I felt that I was everywhere and everything, embracing the most distant stars and yet also inhabiting the smallest speck of dust. All sense of space, location, boundedness, and division disappeared. As all this happened, I thought, or rather I knew, that what I was experiencing was the real state of things, that I was a part of some much greater whole, and that all my experience up until now had been in some sense unreal. Despite its peculiar nature, I felt no anxiety and odder, no curiosity. It all felt entirely natural. I have no idea how long the feeling lasted. At some stage I lay down and slept. In the morning, the fire, still burning, was back in its appointed place, and so was I. But unlike a dream, the experience remained crystal clear and as real and significant as it had been while it happened.” So, there is the experience of the Self in everything. I became aware that I was the bed and the walls and the window and the sheets. And again, that may sound crazy from an ordinary waking state point of view. How could that be? It seems impossible. But in that state of consciousness, at least as she’s describing her brief glimpse of it, that is the reality, self-evident reality, that everything is just the expression of her Self. Not the Rita Carter self, not the Rita Carter limited ego who’s driving around interviewing people.
Rick: Yeah, that hasn’t become a sheet.
Craig: Yeah, the unbounded Self. And then I love this line that, “As this happened, I thought, or rather I knew, that what I was experiencing was the real state of things, that I was part of something, a much greater whole, and that all my experience up until now had been in some sense unreal.” So, this is such a simple, I mean, seven state of consciousness, unity consciousness, it sounds like it’s really up there or out there, but really, it’s just the simplest possible experience that there could be, which is just experiencing all of this amazingly diverse world around me as nothing other than my own Self, moving within itself, just experiencing myself in everything. It’s just, in Maharishi’s phraseology, “one unbounded ocean of consciousness in motion.” That’s the experience of unity, and that’s the birthright of every human being. It doesn’t have to be just glimpsed, again our theme is being cultivated.
Rick: But it’s interesting that you can have the glimpse without actually having had glimpses or permanent states of the previous development.
Craig: And that question often comes up, how is it that you can glimpse that without…
Rick: Why not?
Craig: Because if this is the expression of a certain style of brain and body functioning, the brain wants to function, and body wants to function in a more normal, integrated way, that’s the way they were designed to function. So, it’s entirely plausible that for a few moments or hours, the body can click into that style, that channel. Just like for Billie Jean King, it clicked into the channel for the fifth state, cosmic consciousness, or for Rabindranath Tagore, the fifth state.
Rick: What did she say here, that’s the way things actually are, or something?
Craig: Yeah, something like that, this is a much greater whole. So, as we’re growing towards all the higher states, and we all are growing toward them, whether we want to or not, whether we know it or not, whether we’re practicing a meditation, that is the direction of human growth, that is one of the messages of our primordial tradition, that we were talking about earlier. But we’re growing toward all of them simultaneously, So, it’s entirely possible that along the way we could glimpse them, glimpse any of them.
Rick: Just like here in Iowa, it’s cloudy most of the time in the winter, but every now and then the clouds clear and there’s a little sunshine through, and then the clouds come back in.
Craig: Exactly, well that’s a good metaphor. The sun is always there up in the sky, it’s just sometimes the clouds clear and sometimes they don’t. And we could pursue the analogy a little further, the clouds are just the stresses or the strains or the fatigue or whatever, the noise in the nervous system that prevents it from functioning normally, and prevents it from just radiating that experience as a spontaneous all-time reality.
Rick: Yeah, that’s an interesting point. A lot of people when they awaken have this realization of, “I’ve always been in this state. I just forgot it or didn’t realize it or something, but it’s always been here, how could I not have seen it?” And some people even, after maybe they’ve been practicing some technique or path for 20 or 30 years, they turn right around and say, “You don’t need to practice techniques or paths, because you are that, it’s always shining.” It’s like the sun might say, “I’m always shining, I don’t care whether or not there’s clouds.” But it kind of matters to people on the ground who are blocked by those clouds from seeing the sun. And techniques are like the wind, they kind of help to clear away the clouds, and ultimately, it’s a thorn removing a thorn, and they may outlive their usefulness and one might not need them anymore eventually, but they serve a purpose for most people at a certain stage of their growth, at many stages of their growth, I would say.
Craig: It seems to serve a purpose for a lot of people.
Rick: Yeah, so one size does not fit all. And like you were saying earlier, I think, the prescription for one stage of development is not necessarily the prescription for another or others. You kind of have to have the medicine that’s appropriate. I’m throwing out metaphors right and left here. Because there is definitely a kind of an anti-technique niche out there in the whole spiritual world. There are people who will just glom on to an intellectual understanding of all this, buttressed by some intuitive sense of things, and say, “Yeah, I’m already enlightened, we’re all already enlightened, you don’t need to do anything, you’re there.” Just sort of realize that.
Craig: That’s a little hard for me to just…
Rick: Well, there are people saying that.
Craig: Of course there are, but Rick, just realize that you’re enlightened. Well, that’s like, to me anyway, that’s some kind of mental sleight of hand.
Rick: Yeah, say that to an 18-year-old Rick Archer high school dropout drug user, and it wouldn’t have gotten him too far.
Craig: And then take a person and hook them up to an EEG machine and…
Rick: See if anything really has changed.
Craig: Look at the style of brain functioning before you say, “Okay, now just realize you’re enlightened and see if there’s any change happening.” Yeah, that’s just what you said.
Rick: There’s a Tibetan proverb which I’ve quoted perhaps a hundred times, which goes, “Don’t mistake understanding for realization, don’t mistake realization for liberation.” So, yeah, it’s important, I think.
Craig: So, the picture we have, we have in every tradition, we have, and this isn’t even something that we’ve discussed when we talked about the perennial philosophy or primordial tradition as Ken Wilber calls it. In every tradition you can look and see not only is there the notion that there’s a unity underlying the diversity of the world, but in every tradition there’s what I call the summons to look within. You know, the kingdom of heaven is within you, and you can find statements like that similarly, in every single tradition, the treasure of life is within. You know, within is where what’s to be sought in life is to be found. Seek that first, and all else should be added unto you. Get to that, and then everything else will be easier in your life. And we find statements of that in tradition after tradition. So, the received wisdom that comes down to us through these mighty rivers of these great traditions through history, I think that some people may discount them in this modern scientific age. “What do they know?” But they know a lot. And the message is, look within. Within is the treasure, and life can be transformed by having that experience that’s there to be had within. And in fact, that’s the whole purpose of your life is to have that transformation, whatever you might call that transformation, enlightenment, satori, salvation, different names from different traditions, but there’s that transformation. So now in this time, we have, and I credit Maharishi for the knowledge that I’ve laid out in this book, we have this model of higher states of consciousness, so we know what are the milestones of growth. We have a model of the mind, which helps us understand what’s actually happening, for example, in the witnessing experience. And we have an effortless technique, which has a pretty large body of scientific research showing the very practical benefits that come from that.
Rick: You haven’t read too many quotes, or any quotes, from TM meditators. You’ve mainly been reading quotes from famous people, athletes and so on.
Craig: I have those corresponding to each of those.
Rick: Yeah, you have a lot of those in the book. I just want to say that maybe it’s changed now, but like ten years ago maybe, or even five years ago when I started this show, it seemed to me that there was a sort of a stigma against proclaiming oneself as having attained cosmic consciousness or any of these higher states. There was sort of like, “You better keep it to yourself,” but maybe it was sort of a carryover from the Robin Carlsen era where he was proclaiming himself to be this great enlightened dude and it was creating all kinds of chaos in the community. But personally, I think it’s time, if people have been meditating for 30, 40 years, it’s time to, sort of, remember Braniff Airlines? Their slogan used to be, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” And it doesn’t need to turn into, and it isn’t necessarily an ego thing, if one says, “Yeah, I’m awake 24/7, I’ve achieved this level of development,” or whatever. It can be presented very matter-of-factly, and I think it would instill greater hope and confidence and enthusiasm in people who haven’t yet risen to that level of experience, if we were just more matter-of-fact about it.
Craig: That’s a personal decision, of course, how public one wants to be about a very intimate experience.
Rick: Well, it took me four years to convince Harry Alto to come on here, on this show, to talk, because he was just wanting to be private. But nothing bad happened when he actually did come on the show. So, you know, go ahead.
Craig: Well, I’m thinking here again, just right over here, about 100 yards on our campus at Maharishi University of Management here is our Center for Brain Consciousness and Cognition, with Dr. Fred Travis directing that. And he’s invited people who have the experience of witnessing, this hallmark of cosmic consciousness, witnessing through the night, into his laboratory to measure. So, he wants to know who’s having that experience of witnessing even during sleep. So, witnessing the hallmark of cosmic consciousness, if it’s there even during sleep state, inner wakefulness, even when the surface of my mind is asleep, deep inside I’m awake, it’s unbroken continuum of wakefulness. So, he’d like to research people like that. I believe dozens of people have quietly answered the call and come in, and he’s looked at their EEG and other measures of functioning just to see what are the defining brain and physiological characteristics of this remarkable state of cosmic consciousness, really to understand it scientifically. That gives us confidence that that’s a real state. Again, we’re saying not a mood, not positive thinking, not anything that you can contrive. It’s a real state that depends on that. So, I’m just responding to your point about people coming forward,
Rick: Coming out of the closet.
Craig: And they are, at least to be part of this ongoing research experiment.
Rick: Yeah, it’s a good selling point for TM to realize that if someone aspires to enlightenment, it is happening, and it’s not necessarily just going to be a glimpse. I don’t know statistically what the track record is in terms of …
Craig: Well, statistically, the track record would be pretty difficult to measure because there’s so much variability from person to person. If you were to take, I suppose you could take 500 people and teach them TM and track them over 5 or 10 years. In fact, Dr. Travis has done something like that where he’ll track, he’ll look at people who’ve been meditating 9 years, let’s say, and compare them with people who’ve been meditating only a couple of months. And what he finds is very interesting, that during the experience of transcendence, during transcendental meditation, brainwave integration is quite similar between, say, a 2-month meditator and a 7-year meditator. So, it’s not as though through TM practice you’re getting better at it. You’re not any better 7 years later. It’s a very, very striking shift from little coherence to a great deal, even within the first couple of months. But where the difference between the short-term meditator and the long-term meditator shows up is outside of meditation. There’s much more coherence in the long-term meditator outside of meditation than for the short-term. So, it shows you that with regular TM practice, then that coherence is growing on the outside. And we know that there’s a correlation between integrated brain functioning and the experience of transcendence. So, it’s kind of teasing out the real reality, not just of subjective experience, but of the whole package that we’re born with.
Rick: Yeah. And I think, personally, I think it will be a healthy thing for, and it is happening, that the university is getting more collaborative with other groups and people, such as Fred Travis’ going to the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Craig: Right. Yeah, what he wants to do.
Rick: That kind of thing.
Craig: He’ll tell you more. Just look at the research on all the different techniques and see exactly, in more and more detail, what are they doing? How is the mind changing? How is the brain changing? How is the whole neurophysiology changing? And what are the outcomes of that?
Rick: Yeah, I’m stating this sort of diplomatically, but here’s a quote from the MUM Review. “Since Dr. Travis is the only researcher with the publications that have studied the neurophysiology of transcending” – I’m not so sure about that, there are over 10,000 studies on meditation and only a few hundred on TM – “and since the transcendental meditation technique is unique in its ability to systematically allow practitioners to transcend, the researchers look to him to help them understand this facet of meditation.” Now, just as a case in point, I have a friend who spent 30 years, for the most part, in Trappist and Benedictine monasteries, mostly practicing Zen and Vipassana meditations in addition to his Christian things, and he underwent a profound awakening, and I would say is in unity consciousness by your definition, or by Maharishi’s definition. He witnesses sleep 24/7, he has celestial perception all the time, he sees angels around people all the time, and he sees everything in terms of the self. So, he might take exception to this notion, and he’s never practiced TM, of course. So, I just think that TM may be better in some respects, maybe Fred Travis will prove that, or other scientists will, but there’s a danger in the attitude of “our way is the best way” or “the only way” or any such thing, I think. And the more we can have an all-encompassing “we’re all in this together, and let’s see what you know, and let’s see what you experience” kind of attitude, the more progress will make us as a greater spiritual community, and the more progress MUM will make in terms of collaborating with these people and being welcomed and appreciated. I don’t mean to put you on the spot with that statement, but it’s just my attitude.
Craig: No, no, I think let’s take a scientific viewpoint here, and that’s what Dr. Travis says, let’s just look at the evidence and, if we’re going to make any judgments about anything, or decisions or conclusions, let’s have them be evidence-based. And one of the points that he makes is that every experience changes the brain. That’s been known for the last decade or so. And so, everything that you do in the mind is going to activate the brain in different ways. I can read to you an experience from this book, you can read it, and that will produce some kind of brain functioning in you listening to me read it. If you just read it with your own eyes, a different kind of style brain functioning, because different parts of the brain are being activated. So, it stands to reason that different techniques involving different procedures, different things that you’re doing, will produce different styles of brain functioning. It just stands to reason. Different styles of brain functioning will produce different outcomes. So, I would say it’s a fair statement to say that you can’t claim all meditation techniques are the same. They’ve been shown not to be. There’s abundant research showing that. So, it would be like saying all exercises are the same, or all diets are the same, or all movies are the same, or all books are the same. It would be crazy to say that. It’s not scientifically defensible. So, let’s be scientific and empirical about it and see, okay, what are the outcomes then? What changes? How does brain functioning change? What are the changes in behavior or health or whatever else we want to measure after that? And then let that be our guide in what we want to…
Rick: Well, all techniques aren’t the same, but it seems like more than one technique can actually lead to transcendence, if the people I talk to all the time are any indication. But some techniques are more efficient than others. I interviewed Dan Harris of ABC News, who wrote that book, “10% Happier,” and he was describing how he had just meditated before the interview and how it was agonizing. But he sat there for half an hour and soldiered on, muscled through it. My heart went out to him. I didn’t want to undermine his respect or authority of his teachers or anything, but I just thought, “It can be so much easier. Why struggle?” But then there’s my friend I just mentioned, who was in the monastery. He says when he sits to meditate, which he does every morning, he just focuses on presence for a few minutes, and then he’s in samadhi for a couple of hours, no thoughts, no nothing. He’s gone, but awake. There’s a guy I interviewed a couple of weeks ago who does some form of contemplative meditation, which sounds a little complicated to me, but for him, he too goes into a state of samadhi completely beyond bodily awareness and sits there for a long period of time. There was a guy I talked to on the phone the other day who’s helping with my website who does four hours of yoga practice a day. When he sits to meditate for an hour, he too goes into a state of samadhi with no mental activity beyond bodily awareness, just pure consciousness. So different people are finding different ways to evoke it. And it would be interesting for Fred to study these people in the state of samadhi and see if, once having transcended, the physiological indicators are similar, even though while in the process of transcending, they’re practicing this, that, or the other thing, they’re different.
Craig: Yeah, if it’s true samadhi, again, I’m not a neuroscientist, but I would imagine that the physiological markers would be the same. I guess the question would come up, how universally applicable is any given procedure over another? What works for one person, these examples that you gave, the person in the monastery, would that work for hedge fund managers in New York City?
Rick: Yeah, would he be able to get anywhere with that?
Craig: Or at-risk school children who have to get checked for weapons when they come into a school, or people with PTSD.
Rick: So, the point’s well taken.
Craig: Yeah, it’s a free world, and people can choose whatever they want to do. They can choose any exercise or not, or any diet or not. I think being guided by research can be valuable, because it filters out individual predilections. Who knows what state a person was already in when they began a particular practice. So again, I think you get the point. I think the fact that there are more and more people interested in meditation, they’re pursuing different paths, on the whole, I’d say that’s a good thing. It means that more and more people realize that there’s more to life than we’re living. They want it. They see meditation as a pathway to getting that. What’s going to be most universally applicable, and especially when we talk about institutionalizing it in schools, or hospitals, or prisons, or PTSD settings, or something. There’s where people are going to want to see some real solid research before investing the kind of time and money that would be involved in that.
Rick: Yeah, and there’s a lot of mindfulness and Vipassana-type programs in prisons, and so on, and I can’t speak for their effectiveness. There’s a movie about that, you’ve probably seen it, “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana.”
Craig: I haven’t seen it.
Rick: So, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, maybe it’ll be more clear that if you’re going to invest the time and money in a program, it ought to be this particular one, because you’re going to get more bang for the buck. What are you looking at there?
Craig: Well, actually, I’ll just give this to you.
Rick: Three types of meditation compared, automatic, trinitral.
Craig: So, this goes through and analyzes the research. It’s categorizing three different categories. Automatic, self-transcending is one category, and the TM technique comes into that category. It means it’s a technique that transcends its own activity. And then there are two other kinds. One is …
Rick: Focused attention and open monitoring.
Craig: And so that’s a review of all the research on all of them, and I think that’s illuminating, but way beyond the scope of our conversation here. But it does show that different meditation techniques produce different outcomes.
Rick: Yeah, no, I agree. I guess I’m just thinking God is not a one-trick pony. It’s a big world, a big universe. God knows how many things are out there that people are practicing and doing. You have South American shamans having amazing experiences, and Native Americans going through their processes that they do. I mean, one of the clearest people I ever spoke to is a professor at a university in Ohio who took high doses of LSD under very controlled conditions about a hundred times and had really remarkable experiences and was so bright and clear to talk to, he stopped doing it, and I’m not about to do it again. But I’m just kind of like, this whole process of doing this show has broadened the possibilities for me in terms of the diversity of the world and the vast variety of approaches that so many different people are taking, and many with very profound results. And I don’t think realistically you’re ever going to get everyone to do one particular type of thing.
Craig: Yeah, and it’s not necessary. Yeah, again, people make their own decisions and whatever they want to do, that’s what they choose, and the results come from whatever they’re doing. But certainly, the heartening thing is that there does seem to be some kind of awakening, that there is something more, and it’s a fulfilling time to be alive. It’s really a remarkable time to be alive when there’s this awakening of really ancient traditions, Vedic tradition in particular, that we have research on, and in a scientific age when we can use the tools of modern science and validate externally, validate objectively that these states that we’re talking about, higher states, are real, that enlightenment is something very real and extremely beneficial in the most practical way that you can imagine.
Rick: Nothing is more practical.
Craig: Nothing is more practical. Seek that first, and all else is added. Make that the highest priority, whatever it is that you want to aspire to in life.
Rick: Sure, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m so eclectic that I just say, “Oh, just do anything and it’ll all be the same.” Just yesterday I referred a client of mine to Bobby Roth, my client lives in Manhattan, he’s a periodontist, he’s feeling rather stressed these days, and I thought, “You really ought to look into this.” I think it would do you a lot of good. Bobby Roth is a TM teacher based in Manhattan. So, you know, as Sly and the Family Stone said, “different strokes for different folks,” and I don’t always make that recommendation. I mean, sometimes I’ll say, “Well, you ought to go see this person over here,” and people ask me all the time, “What do you recommend? Who should I see?” Sometimes people just resonate with a certain direction, and it works for them more effectively than something else might.
Craig: Let’s say, we can’t go without saying that we are broadcasting from the campus of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, from my office on the second floor of the Dreyer building. This university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and Ph.D. programs.
Rick: I have a couple of those from here.
Craig: Yeah, you do. I think this year, in any given year, we have students from 85 countries around the world. It’s like this miniature United Nations improbably in the cornfields of Iowa. So many different cultures, and you walk around and you see so many different skin colors, and hear English spoken with every different accent, and different religious traditions. But it’s an amazing place to be where people are unified by this experience of transcendence through the Transcendental Meditation technique. Our particular take on education, we call it consciousness-based education. So, if people were to come here, they’d find students studying business and media and communications, and art and writing, just like you’d find anywhere else, and people from all over. But twice each day, they are transcending. And that really makes it quite a special place. I remember my father, the first time he came to visit, he’s from Chicago, and he was just commenting on how peaceful it felt here and everything. He said, “As your mother and I drove away, we got about 15 miles, 20 miles out, and I could just feel that peace receding.”
Rick: People say it coming in this direction, too. They say, “I get to about Iowa City, and I can start to feel it.”
Craig: So, here’s a place where there’s been, back of the envelope estimates, it really creates an atmosphere that’s pretty special. And a learning environment that’s pretty special also, without a lot of the stress that typifies higher education everywhere. That’s been my kind of thing, I kind of tripped into this early in my life, and it’s been a real joy for me to be doing this.
Rick: Yeah, I really enjoyed being a student here, and you were one of my instructors in the writing classes. And also, from where I’m sitting…
Craig: You were an early adopter of Macintosh technology.
Rick: Yes, I was. And from where I’m sitting, I can also see the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, which is kind of the grammar school for kids of that age.
Craig: Yeah, K through 12.
Rick: And I know people who have moved to town who have no TM background, who just want their kids to be in that school, to get out of the type of school they might otherwise be in, and just be in a really nourishing environment. So, there’s that too.
Craig: That’s a great example of how, when brain potential is being developed, then wherever you would put your attention, you would excel. I mean, as you know, the students have won awards in theater competitions and state science fairs and art competitions and photography competitions. And the principal talks about going to a theater competition, and the students are winning top banners, and people say, “Well, you must be a theater school,” or to a science fair, “Well, you must be a science school.” No, none of those. We’re just a school. But students who are growing in there, and all the students there, just like all the faculty and staff, practice Transcendental Meditation. So, wherever they want to put their attention, they excel. That’s just what happens when you develop yourself, when you really start to awaken to the self that we’re all carrying around deep inside, but most people are asleep to. But people are starting to wake up to it more and more, which is so encouraging for our time.
Rick: Yeah. One thing we haven’t touched upon, and this has been a very long interview, and bear with me for a minute. Originally Maharishi said, “Well, five to eight years you’ll be in Cosmic Consciousness.” And most people now, many decades in, around here, wouldn’t say that they are in Cosmic Consciousness yet. So, it definitely is, not that there’s any big rush, and personally, I’ve always enjoyed my life as it’s unfolded, and I don’t feel any urgency to attain this, that, or the other state, but it’s a lifelong process, and people have stuff they go through. There are people with various psychological twists and turns that might take some unraveling. So, it’s not totally a piece of cake, this whole evolution and enlightenment business, no matter how effective the technique you practice twice a day, there might be a need for therapy. There have been, as I say, drug uses, there have been suicides, there have been all kinds of divorces, people go through human stuff, and so, we shouldn’t give the impression that it’s like, “Oh, I’m just going to learn this and everything’s going to be rosy.” Yeah, there’s stuff that you need to work through, the average person needs to work through. Not all marriages are going to be ideal, if there is such a thing. You know, it’s like, kind of keep realistic here a little bit.
Craig: Well, definitely, there’s stuff, and everybody has, let’s use the word “karma,” everybody has their own history of things that they bring with them. And so that’s going to affect the color and flavor of their growth to higher states of consciousness. Taking a broad statistical picture, use the word “likelihood,” people may have a heart attack, but the likelihood, the broad picture of people having a heart attack is going to be less. People may get divorced, but research shows generally that relationships improve, because there’s less stress in the person. Where relationships fall apart is often because of high stress that people just can’t cope with, and so the way that they get rid of the stress is just separating from each other. So, is Transcendental Meditation practice a guarantee of lifelong marriage? No. But your relationship is going to be better because of having less stress.
Rick: It gives you a valuable tool.
Craig: Yeah, your health is going to be better. So, if something that seems externally unfortunate happens, you have to think, well, how much worse would it have been if there hadn’t been regular transcending in a person’s life. So yes, you’re right, people have to go through stuff. But it’s a pretty good tool to be able to take recourse to myself, deep inside. When I want it, just to have deep inner peace twice a day, just to reconnect with that and to be more connected with that day by day. Going forward, it’s just really…
Rick: Yeah, I’m playing devil’s advocate and giving you a little bit of a hard time here, but I haven’t missed a meditation since July 25th, 1968.
Craig: Good man.
Rick: It’s generally about three hours a day on average, but that’s obviously not what one would start with. Some people think that I’m kind of obsessed in that way, but I’m just going by my results, just going by what feels right. And if at some point I feel, “I don’t need to do this anymore,” then I guess I won’t. And that happens to people sometimes. I’ve talked to that lady, Suzanne Siegel from Chicago that I mentioned. She was a TM teacher and had been on a lot of long courses. And then she kind of moved to Paris, got married, got pregnant, was living her life, actually stopped meditating, and one day she was stepping onto a bus in Paris, and – cosmic consciousness. But the funny thing is, she didn’t know what it was, because somehow the experience was so different than her conception of it, which she hadn’t even thought about for a few years, so that she was terrified because there was a complete loss of any sense of personal self. Like Maharishi says in the Gita, “Even the experience of cosmic consciousness can be a source of confusion and fear if you don’t have the proper understanding to go with it.”
Craig: That’s the value of the understanding.
Rick: Yeah, so why did I go off on that tangent? I don’t know. But it’s an interesting little book she wrote called “Collision with the Infinite.”
Craig: Yeah, I’m not sure she would recommend her particular path.
Rick: No. And she ended up dying of a brain tumor at the age of 42.
Craig: Oh, I have read about her.
Rick: Yeah, and the funny thing was, she lived in terror for 10 years, all the while getting a PhD and raising a daughter, but always looking for a personal self and not being able to find one. And then finally she met with this teacher named Jean Klein, who was a well-known Advaita teacher, and he just said, “Stop looking back, this is a good thing that’s happening. Stop trying to find that individuality that used to be the totality of your existence.” And she kind of relaxed into it, and then everything was good.
Craig: Yeah. We have a lot of students who come here these days, may have already done some meditation practice and some don’t, but the students here have, it seems to all of us in the faculty, that the experiences are just more and more clear, as you’re saying. I remember a couple of years ago instructing one student in transcendental meditation, and he hadn’t done any meditation before. He came out of his very first meditation, and said, “That was so deep.” He said, “It just seemed to be pure wakefulness. I just seem to feel this kind of unboundedness in the space between thoughts. Does that make any sense to you?” And I said, “Yeah, I understand what you’re saying.”
Rick: Yeah. That’s a cool thing.
Craig: Yeah. So, it was clear enough that he could see that. And what we’re referring to here, Maharishi explains, is that there’s a gap between thoughts that people aren’t normally aware of, just because the mind is so noisy all the time. But in between thoughts, there’s a gap where there’s just pure transcendental consciousness, just the Self. And a young man came from, I think it was Nepal, to our computer science professional’s program, and after his first days of meditation, he was talking about just deep silence, and everything, you go outside of the building, and things are just looking more and more beautiful. So, everybody’s experience is different, but things can happen quite quickly. And those are not unusual experiences in this wonderful environment here.
Rick: Yeah. And that was my experience as a TM teacher, having taught about a thousand people or so. Not everybody has this big profound thing when they first learn, but a lot of people do, from day one, first sitting, something really significant happens.
Craig: The TM teachers in the field seem to be saying that more and more, that is the case. Long-term teachers say the people are coming in, and it’s just “boom,” right from the beginning. And whether it’s just like something is rising, the term we like is coherence in the collective consciousness of the world. Something is rising that’s maybe giving rise to what you were talking about earlier in our conversation.
Rick: Someone used the metaphor that perhaps in the day of the Buddha there was this very thick membrane that had to be penetrated to break through to the transcendent or to enlightenment or whatever. And now it’s been penetrated so many times that it’s getting rather porous, you know? And so, it’s more likely that one will just wake up spontaneously, or when they learn to meditate, go into a very deep, clear state right off the bat. It’s just getting more in the air of the world.
Craig: So, my main takeaway would be just the experiences of the great geniuses of history, from Laozi to Plato, from the great saints of the Christian tradition, the great scientists like Albert Einstein, athletes like Billie Jean King and Pele, and poets and artists like Wordsworth and Tennyson. These beautiful experiences, these golden nuggets of experiences that people have described, that I’ve collected here, they just no longer have to be a matter of chance. They can be cultivated by anybody. And as I try to show, the TM technique is just a very effective, efficient way of doing that, with amazing, amazing benefits that are scientifically verified, that come along with that. So, it’s a great time to be alive, and I feel like all of these people have become my friends as I’ve really delved into their work and feel familiar with them.
Rick: There’s a spiritual Zen teacher who said, “Enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practice makes you accident-prone.”
Craig: That’s a good one.
Rick: So, you know, some of these people had accidents, but we can all culture the ability to have that accident.
Craig: Yeah, yeah. The experience of transcendence, the experience of higher states, they are universal, found in every tradition, every tradition. Now we can verify their authenticity empirically, and we can cultivate that systematically.
Rick: Yeah, well this has been such a long interview because you’re so enjoyable to talk to, and we haven’t had a chance to talk for a long time. And so, I’m really milking it for everything. So, I really appreciate having spent this time with you.
Craig: Thank you for the opportunity, Rick.
Rick: Yeah, and I hope some of my more probing questions didn’t make you feel uncomfortable. I just felt like, when I was teaching TM, I felt like, “Ask me anything,” because it brings something out.
Craig: Well, I’ve done some traveling this past fall, east coast and west coast, and speaking about my book, and people ask those questions. Any question is fair game.
Rick: And I also try to anticipate questions that people listening might have, and ask them for those people, because they’re not going to have a chance.
Craig: Yeah, good interview.
Rick: All right, thanks. Well, let me make some wrap-up points. I’ve been speaking with Dr. Craig Pearson, who is the Executive Vice President of Maharishi University of Management, and you probably know that by now. This interview is part of a series which I’ve been doing for about five years now. I think this is number 277 or something, which I will hopefully continue to do for many years to come. So, if you’re just kind of discovering this for the first time, go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, which is an acronym for Buddha at the Gas Pump. And there you’ll see a past interviews menu, and under that you’ll see all the interviews that have been done so far, categorized in about four different ways. There’s a future interviews menu, which shows what’s upcoming, and we’re working now on a thing which would enable you to find a teacher whom I’ve interviewed, wherever you may be. So, if someone is in London, they could sort it and say, “Okay, who’s in London?” And so that’s under development. And there’s some other things that we have planned. There’s a “Donate” button there, which if people didn’t click, I wouldn’t be able to continue doing this. So, if you feel inspired by these interviews, please consider clicking it and donating, either once or on a subscription basis. There’s a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted. And there’s also a link at the top where you can subscribe to the audio podcast on various kinds of devices, you know, iPod or Android device or whatever. So, click that if you want to subscribe to the audio podcast. So, I think that’s just about it for now.
Craig: Would you mind if I said this book, “The Supreme Awakening,” is available at two places, mumpress.com, mumpress.com, also on Amazon.
Rick: And I forgot to mention, actually, that Craig will have his own page on BatGap, and I will be linking directly to the place where you can get the book. And it’s a pretty good deal. I mean, it’s a big, hefty, hardcover book, $35. I mean, some paperbacks…
Craig: You can open it anywhere and find beautiful stories.
Rick: I found it enjoyable to read. I’m not quite finished with it, but it’s a good book.
Craig: Good. Thank you, Rick.
Rick: Thanks, Craig.
Craig: Yeah, good to be with you.
Rick: Yeah. Thank you all for watching. See you next time.