Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people, I should say conversations with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done about 555 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. My guest today is George Middleton. George is in, what is it, Hamilton, did we say? Hamilton. Hamilton, New Zealand, which is on the North Island in New Zealand, so it’s three in the afternoon for me and it’s eight in the morning for him on Sunday, the next day. So, glad to know the world has made it to the following day. And George would sort of fit into the category of ordinary spiritually awakening people. He’s not famous, he hasn’t written books, he doesn’t have a big YouTube following or anything like that, but you know, he got in touch with us a while back and we heard his story and it was really quite interesting, so we thought you might enjoy this, hearing an interview with George, and so that’s what we’re going to do. So, George, rather than me just read out any kind of bio, let’s just start talking. You tell us your story and we’ll just get into it, we’ll go back and forth. I’m sure I’ll have questions as we go along.
George: Okay, that sounds like a good idea, Rick, but I should say that between us, we didn’t actually arrange this to be on the winter solstice here and your summer solstice, and I think there’s a little bit of synchronicity here in terms of what I might be talking about today and sharing with you and the rest of the people who are tuning in. So, I actually looked up because I didn’t realize it was winter solstice and it’s the shortest day and at 9:43 today is the actual moment of winter solstice, and it’s an interesting time because in amongst ancient and indigenous cultures, it was sort of seen as a rebirth time, a time of the sun coming out of, you know, the earth being the furthest away from the sun and then we’re starting back again, getting closer. So, that was the first thing and, you know, that’s an interesting time because that’s really the sort of experiences I’d like to share today. It’s about rebirth and it’s something I never ever thought I’d end up talking about given the sort of arc of my life. So, that’s where it started. That’s the synchronicity that we’ve got here today and you didn’t arrange it and I didn’t arrange it, but it’s sort of like a theme. So, and I’m interested in synchronicities as probably a lot of your guests are quite interested in these things.
Rick: Yeah, I imagine you’ve experienced a lot of them, huh?
George: They occur all the time, but often synchronicities can occur so often that they, you know, they’re no longer strange to you. It’s almost like, you know, they’re a part of life and once you start noticing things, well, you keep on noticing them. Anyway, so, I think it’d be best to start from the beginning with me, which was my birth, which I never knew anything about and very few with me. But throughout my childhood, I actually suffered terrible nightmares and they were nightmares of suffocating, being enclosed, pressed, terrible things like that and struggling to try and come to life, really. It was a terrible experience and it would wake me up and I’d be struggling and fighting and all that. And I didn’t discover until I was about 20 years old that I’d been born dead. What had actually happened to me was, as often happens in home births, and I was born in Wales, was that I’d been born, as they say, presenting an elbow. And of course, it meant that the birth was very, very difficult and no matter how much, there was a doctor’s presence and people like that at the home where I was born, but when I was finally born, of course, I couldn’t, I was blue, you know, I wasn’t breathing, nothing was happening. And they tried the usual things, you know, turn you upside down, smack your bottom, shake you a bit, roll you in a blanket, none of it worked. And of course, it was a teetotal household because the relatives that I was born in were strict Welsh chapel people. And so they had to rush to a nearby pub and get some brandy. And they brought the brandy back and they put it on my lips. And that’s what actually got me breathing. It’s quite an interesting thing because I discovered quite some time later that this technique of getting children, babies to breathe when they’ve, you know, conked out, so to speak, during the course of breathing, during the course of being born, is used also in Africa. I met an African nurse who was the wife of a colleague of Sue’s, and she said that’s what they used, you know. So you can imagine what it feels like for a newborn baby to have brandy rubbed on their lips. It’s like, wha, what a bang it would have given you. But I don’t remember that, of course. But that’s what got me back to life. Now, well, the interesting thing about it is when you consider the matter is that when I was having those nightmares, there were no visuals. There was no story to them. It was just, if you like, a body memory. It was like it had nothing else associated with it. It was just really weird. And it wasn’t until I was told about the circumstances of my birth that that nightmare dissolved, really. Soon as I understood what it was in my mind, then the nightmare dissolved. But what it did do was it started me thinking at that time as to what is it about ourselves we don’t know, if you like. It’s starting to think about the unconscious. What is it, you know, that’s behind the sort of normal conscious life that we live, but what is it that we carry around with us? And that, I think, led, if you like, to a certain form of searching. What are these things? We think we know ourselves, but do we really? And you know, it’s like that old saying, I think, over one of the temples, you know, “Know thyself,” and all that. Well…
Rick: Oracle at Delphi.
George: Yeah, the Oracle at Delphi, exactly. And I’d always been something of a, as a child, something of a person who did question things. I remember when I was about eight or nine years old, my grandfather, after whom I was named, so he was one of the first sort of little synchronicities that occurred, he was dying in hospital. And I was about eight, living in Wales, and so in those days, I’d been brought up in the chapels, and so I believed in God. And so, but I believed in God in such a way that I got from, you know, sitting down and praying beside the bed or something to saying to myself, “Well, you know, God is everywhere, so I can pray to God quite conveniently lying down in bed in my mind, and he’ll certainly hear me,” I believed. Anyway, I prayed that, you know, my grandfather would live, and needless to say, he died. And so, I thought, well, as a child, you know, as you do, obviously there’s nothing in this. So, I instantaneously, basically, after he died, became an atheist. Although I didn’t have the word for it, I didn’t know that there was anything, you know, that this was a sort of a way of living in the world as opposed to the way other people did. So, I became an atheist from about the age of eight, and since then I would say probably what I used to say to people was, “Well, any God that you want to put up for me, I can find plenty of reasons to disbelieve in whichever one you put up.” So, you know, it didn’t mean anything to me. I took it from there. But so it was quite, so I was slightly different in those days, and though I was continued to forced to go to chapel and later on church, as most kids are, you know, go to Sunday school and do all that sort of stuff. And in fact, I do have to tell you, Rick, that I have been an archangel in a nativity play. [Laughter]
Rick: Oh, I see. There you go. I didn’t know what you were getting at there. [Laughter]
George: Some people are very interested in angels, but I was an archangel. [Laughter]
Rick: An atheistic archangel. [Laughter]
George: Well, you know. I did have a bit of an interest in drama and things like that, which later on, I could say later on when I was in university, I did play a part in a play, it was called “Danton’s Death” by, I think, a German playwright, Büchner, and I played the part of Tom Payne, one of your, well, he was an Englishman, but he moved to America, you know, and had a big effect on your founding fathers. But the part that I played there was Tom Payne giving an atheistic speech, so, you know, I’ve sort of balanced those.
George: My archangel.
Rick: I find it interesting that at the age of eight or so, you could actually form a coherent thought about whether there was a God or not. I mean, somehow that, I couldn’t even begin to contemplate it until I was about 17 and, you know, taking drugs, and I started, oh, there must be something going on here. I started thinking about it.
George: Well, I mean, I thought you, I mean, when you go to Sunday school, you’re told about God and all that sort of stuff.
Rick: Yeah, it just seems like, I don’t know, at that age, it’s like fairy tales. I remember walking home from school with a girl one time and she was telling me that there’s, that if we drill deep enough down into the earth, we’d find hell. And I remember doubting that and saying, “No, you’re going to find molten lava or rock,” and she said, “That’s hell, it’s really hot.” [Laughter]
George: So, I think we were a family, we were quite an interesting family in the sense that my parents flew over when we, I was 14 when we came to New Zealand, but my parents, we actually flew over from Wales to New Zealand and it was my mother and father and five children. And in those days, it was a very unusual thing for a large family like that because when people emigrated, normally they went by boat and things like that and there was assisted emigration to Australia and places like that, but we couldn’t do that because my brother, one of my brothers had had polio, so they didn’t take people who had any health issues, so we came to New Zealand. But we had a very, my family, both my mother and my father had been in the war, my father and my, and I was going to tell you, my father and my grandfather, my uncle were all on the shores of Dunkirk and eventually my father went right through the war and went into Germany, the whole thing. And after that, it all finished, got sent to Palestine. So he’d seen a tremendous amount of the war. My mother was also in the war in terms, she was in the WAAFs, where you know, the Women Auxiliary Air Force, and they took charge of balloons and things like that. And it wasn’t until 9/11 that my mother started to speak about some of that sort of stuff because when we saw 9/11 on TV, normally in Britain where they put the balloons up was where there were tremendous attacks by the Germans, air force attacks. And of course there was a lot of bombing and fires and a lot of death. And so when she saw what was going on in 9/11, it brought that back to her, all the stuff she’d seen. And likewise with my father. And I think that what we don’t think of, you know, people talk about karma and things like that. What our generation, you’re virtually the same age as me, I presume, Rick? Yeah, I’m 72. So what we don’t realize is that we are born just after a major war. And prior to that, there’d been another big war, which I told you my grandfather, George Middleton, was also in. You know, the grandfather who died. Well, interestingly enough, he was the only other atheist in the family. And I was talking to you about the synchronicity that as he died, I got the mantle of atheism passed on. It was like a baton. Anyway, so it’s like we don’t realize the effects of that across the world, but certainly in our world, whether it was in America or Britain or New Zealand or Australia, those effects of those wars just continued without us knowing. It was like, probably invisible to us in some ways as children. We didn’t know the traumas that our parents had been through, really.
Rick: Yeah, I often think of that. I mean, you know, imagine, I mean, you were out of Britain by the time, well, you weren’t even born until the war was over, but imagine living in a place that’s being bombed or in which an active war is actually taking place and troops are coming in and killing everybody and raping the women. I mean, it’s just an unbelievably traumatic thing. And, you know, a lot of us have been, particularly in the U.S. and also New Zealand, have been spared any sort of trauma like that. And we kind of take for granted that things are a lot easier for everybody than they actually have been.
George: Yes, well, I know my father, when he spoke about going into Germany and, you know, as the troops were advancing through and all that, and he went into the war as a very young person. He was only 16 or 17 years old when he actually joined up, you know. And so, he was totally naive. And by the end of the war, when he was going in, he saw things from both sides. He saw raping and pillaging amongst the Allied troops.
Rick: Yeah, well, the Russians at that point were Allied troops and the Russians coming in from the East basically raped all the women between the ages of 8 and 80 in East Germany as they came in. I just read an article about that the other day. I don’t know why we’re getting off on this topic. It’s kind of gruesome, but…
George: Well, I think the point is this, that we need to know, if you like, what was in the air as we were growing up, and yet we’re oblivious of. My father did say things like he’d seen it amongst his own fellow soldiers engaging in this and had, because he was an extremely moral person, had, you know, literally turned his gun on his own people and said, “You can’t do this.”
Rick: Right, good.
George: And similarly, he’d had to do things like, actually, he had to put to death a mate who had been so blown apart but was still alive and asked him to do it. So people have to do things in times of war which have a very profound effect on them, and this stuff carries over. So for instance, he became an absolute pacifist. He would never walk with the soldiers. We never saw medals, and he had, there were plenty lying around in a drawer, but he’d never wear them or anything like that. And when he went into Palestine, interestingly enough, the London Jews, who were also a part of his group, they were taken out when they went to Palestine. And when they got to Palestine, of course, they met the first terrorist activities by the Stern Gang, the Jewish Stern Gang there, and he lost a lot of his mates who’d survived the war in Europe. So it’s like, it was, he carried this sort of stuff. And as I say, that same thing with my mother. So when they got married and had these children, things were very difficult.
Rick: Yeah. Let me just interject here. There is something in the Bible that says something like, “The sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons,” or something. It’s understood in many cultures that, you know, there’s this sort of karma that gets handed down and traumas are inherited and so on. So it is kind of relevant when we’re considering, to a spiritual discussion and considering what’s happening in society and the changes that the world is going through and, you know, right now with all the upheaval over Black Lives Matter and race inequities and so on. A lot of countries, US included, have a very dark history in terms of the way people were treated. And if you believe in the law of karma, it operates on a collective level as well as an individual level. And sooner or later what goes around comes around. And, you know, perhaps we’re in a time when a lot of things are going to be rectified, but it’s not necessarily a smooth process.
George: That’s exactly right. And the other thing about my mother I need to say was that my mother was born either as a result of a rape or a seduction. Who knows? Because, you know, the families always tell the stories in different ways. So she never knew her father. And as I have said in the past to friends that she never found a father, never knew him, but she certainly found her father in heaven. Because once she came to New Zealand, she became what we call a Pentecostalist Christian, families of God. And anybody who knows anything about them, fundamentalist Christians, know that not only do they believe in God, but they believe in the devil, devils and demons and the casting out of these demons and things like that. So they have a very sort of interesting version of good and evil, which works for them. And she was one of the ones, and they engage in glossolalia where they, you know, speak in tongues like in the day of Pentecost. And also she used to sing in tongues and she was very good at casting out demons. That was one of her things. But in fact –
Rick: Hopefully she got rid of all yours, right?
George: Well, no, she didn’t actually, because as I told you, I was an atheist.
Rick: Oh, that’s right. [Laughter]
George: And the problem in our family was that the eldest son was actually an atheist and could never engage in and refused to engage in any of this. So she told the rest of the kids that I was in fact a demon.
Rick: I see.
George: So not only have I been an archangel, an atheist, but now –
Rick: So you’ve run the whole gamut of possibilities.
George: I’ve run the gamut, yes. I’ve run the gamut. But so what I – I wanted to bring this notion forward to give you the idea as to why when I was – I became – I went through university and I ended up doing a degree in things in philosophy because I always thought, you know, even when I went through school, I always thought I wanted to sort of sit at the foot of a really good teacher. I thought, and I thought when I went to university as opposed to going through to high school, that, you know, I thought there you would find people that, you know, you really could look up to and would – but I never saw anything like that. But it just shows you the sort of theme or the sort of looking for something that is there without you really realizing. And when I got involved, and I trained later as a teacher, and worked in special education, but the point being about that was that as a part of all that, I did a lot of work with things like psychodrama, neuro-linguistic programming, you know, NLP, behaviorism, behaviorism theories, and all that sort of stuff. So I was doing a lot of that type of stuff on myself. And as a part, if you like, of looking for this unconscious, what were the things that were – that I wasn’t conscious of? And I think a lot of us tend to look in those ways, wherever – whether it’s within ourselves or outside of ourselves, we look, we search for things to try and make sense, I think, of things. And I’d already had this experience of making sense of my birth, you know, understanding, finally understanding how I’d been born dead and the effect that that had had on me. And so I ended up teaching in the area of special education, which I had a strong feeling for those sorts of children who had behavioral learning difficulties and all that sort of thing was that they were about. And I came to – after I’d worked for quite some time down in Wellington, we moved to Hamilton with my wife’s work, and I ended up working in a girls’ home for the Department of Education. These were young women, mainly Maori, between the ages of about 14 and 17.
Rick: Maori is sort of the native, indigenous people of New Zealand, in case people don’t know.
George: Yeah, so, and I decided at that time that I needed to – I had been reading a lot of Arthur Jarnov, the guy who –
Rick: Primal Scream, right?
George: Well, it’s not Primal Scream, it’s Primal Therapy.
Rick: Therapy, right.
George: People often use that, but people talk about the notion of Primal Scream, but that’s really nothing to do with Jarnov. It’s Primal Therapy. And so, I decided to go to the institute in Los Angeles, and I spent a year doing Primal Therapy, if you remember John Lennon.
Rick: Oh yeah, he had some of that in some of his songs, he and Yoko were screaming.
George: Yeah, that’s right.
Rick: Was he there in Los Angeles when you were there?
George: No, not when I was there, no. But it was an interesting time for me, because, you know, to devote a year – I spent a year in LA, so that was also an interesting time for me, but I spent a year in LA going through Primal Therapy. Now, that – Primal Therapy talks about going back to early primal scenes in your life and all that sort of thing. But it was also thought to be a quick therapy, as it turned out it wasn’t, because we’re all like the layers of the onion, you have to work your way back slowly, slowly, if you’re going to do that. And I’d already had an experience of that sort of thing, but what therapies and things like that do for you is that they start to loosen you up, if you like. A lot of people who I’ve sort of read about or seen, you know, have spiritual experiences and all that, but they’ve never really dealt a lot with the stuff in their lives. And no matter what sort of experiences or things you have, somewhere along the line you’re going to have to face a lot of the stuff you have in your life as well, and having any spiritual things don’t cure those things, they remain there. So, although there can be some things that help, but in the end they’ve got to be dealt with. So, I did –
Rick: I think that spiritual experiences and practices can also loosen things up, but however it gets loosened, it has to be dealt with.
George: Exactly, exactly. And I felt that it did work for me, the Primal Therapy in a sense. And so, I went, I came back and I spent a lot of time, ten years, working in that place. And what I used to teach, people used to ask me, “What do you teach?” because it’s an ongoing, changing group of young women going through. And I was lucky to have some very good people who worked with me, Maori people. But I used to teach sex, drugs, and reggae, basically. [Laughter] So, I have a strong Rastafarian influence.
Rick: You never know it from your hairstyle.
George: No, I know, I know. Well, all the dreadlocks. I didn’t have dreadlocks. But the young women were very into the Rastafarian stuff.
Rick: Bob Marley and all.
George: Bob Marley. Yeah, well, we used to call him Uncle Bob because we’re very close to him. Okay. [Laughter] So, but he was, he’s had a profound effect on many indigenous cultures, Bob Marley did.
Rick: That’s nice to know.
George: The songs that he sang.
George: It certainly had a big effect here in New Zealand amongst Maoridom, you know, in terms of, so anyway, I did that. But, and again, I came to, I got involved with Maori cultural things as a result of being in that, being in that place. And Maori spirituality. So, I ended up going on to marae, which are, you know, meeting houses and places where, and going through, getting a strong feel of how indigenous cultures start to work. So, for instance, I once was called on to go onto a marae and I had to make a speech. And this is again, a sort of synchronicities that occur. So, you get up and you’re making a speech inside the meeting house. And I referred to myself as a person who was in a stream, who was a bubble, and through which the sun shone through. So, creating that sort of like rainbow effect. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the god of that area, if you like, the major sort of god of that area was the god Uenuku, who was actually the god of the rainbow. So, things like this occur at a certain level, and they sort of happen spontaneously. You don’t, they can’t be thought about or anything. They just happen. And I found that I was, when I was in the, later on when I was in the presence, there’s a very famous carving of this god, a wooden one that had been found. And when I was in the presence of it, I felt quite an incredible energy rising in me. And these energies were the things that I eventually had to sort of come to terms with because I went into, later on I went to train as a therapist, a Gestalt therapist. And in that training, again, it’s, you know, Fritz Perls and also with a bit of Jung and Freud, all of which you may, which may be of interest to you, would never have lasted as therapists these days because they all had sexual issues which would have actually disqualified them. And I know that, I know in terms of some of the work that you’re doing now about gurus and all that.
Rick: Well, yeah, I helped to found the Association for Spiritual Integrity, which is spiritual-integrity.org with several other people. And just because there’s been so much messiness in the spiritual, contemporary spirituality with teachers really screwing up, and the hope was to sort of bring to the awareness of the spiritual community that ethical training and an emphasis on ethics has been an integral part of ancient spiritual traditions and should be an integral part of contemporary spirituality if we don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and undermine the whole enterprise.
George: Yes, so the thing about that is this, that, so, you know, some of the foremost people in therapy and things like that have also been involved, if you like, in this form of misbehavior. And of course, it occurs even now amongst therapists. It’s also an issue in, for instance, you know, my wife worked in the university and all that. It’s also an issue around university lecturers.
Rick: Professors, oh yeah.
George: Particularly when it comes to people, let’s say, supervising theses like master’s theses or PhDs. And I think part of the reason for this is that if you consider yourself to be a professor working with, let’s say, a male professor working with a female in your particular area of study, then you can imagine, in a sense, people finding an intellectual soulmate. You know, there’s a coming together of minds, which can also bring about a coming together of the bodies, and it’s quite an issue that has to be dealt with. And it’s certainly an issue, as you know, in therapy. You know, you get people in therapy and one of the worst things that can happen is for that relationship to be abused.
Rick: Yeah, I have a friend, not a close friend, but a friend who’s in prison right now because he ended up, you know, having this whole sexual affair with one of his clients and ended up losing his license and then trying to practice again without a license and then getting on probation and then violating probation and, you know, one thing led to the next and he’s in deep water. And you know, I mean, I don’t know where we’re going with this particular topic, but I just want to say that none of us should consider ourselves above making mistakes. There’s a great quote by a Buddhist saint from years, from way back named Padmasambhava. He said, “Although my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma (action) is as fine as a grain of barley flour.” In other words, it doesn’t matter how enlightened you may be or whatever, how wise, how educated, you can screw up and you have to sort of, you know, be impeccable as best you can and keep your attention on that and never consider yourself to be immune to making serious mistakes.
George: That’s right, that’s right. And I think that when people get involved with, let’s just say, spiritual groups and things like that, they make themselves very vulnerable. I mean, it’s a part of what you’re expected to do.
Rick: Yeah, the obedience and subservience and so on.
George: And there’s this notion of surrender that comes up, and that’s in a sense what I’m trying to give a background to how I came to be in terms of the various occurrences that happened around me because I don’t want to take, I can’t say that it was, you know, a part of my will or anything like that, but I want to say just to preface the events that took place because we’re not in control of these things and however much we think we are. And so that’s what I wanted to come to. So I ended up deciding that because I had worked also, I’d worked with violent men in groups. I’d been part of men’s group, men against rape and things like that. And when I was a part of the men against men, men against rape and things like that, I never knew that my mother was born as a result of rape. It felt, once I knew, that I was working out the karma of my unknown grandfather.
Rick: That’s interesting, yeah.
George: Yes, and I never knew the full story. When you were 20 in New Zealand, you had to do military service if your number was called up. And of course, at that time, I registered as a conscientious objector. Again, I hadn’t understood the consequences of what my father had been through. I must have felt it in some way, but I registered as a conscientious objector. And of course, when we had the Vietnam Wars and all that, a lot of us were out on the streets against that. And it was interesting because one of my friends was called up. He had a birthday in October very close to mine, and he was a full-on Christian. And I had to go and be his, to talk for him at a tribunal that you had to attend. They did find it rather peculiar that for somebody who was trying to get off on religious grounds, that the person was affirming rather than putting his hand on the Bible. But anyway, he did manage it, and so that was okay. So anyway, after being through, I’d also worked with pedophiles, sex offenders, and things like that as a part of the work. And again, it was interesting that I should end up doing that given that possibility of that having occurred with my grandfather, you know, my unknown grandfather. My father never knew. So again, I was still interested nevertheless in the unconscious and what we’re not conscious of. And so I started to, and because I was working with very difficult children, you know, with major problems, and traveling around schools and things like that, by this stage, supporting children and their families and things like that, I thought, “You’ve got to do your own work,” you know? Even though I had spent a year doing that sort of stuff in LA, it takes longer than that. And so I started to train as a Gestalt therapist, Fritz Perls, and all that. And so it was, I had done a couple of years of that part-time while continuing to work and things like that, and working in New Zealand, but also, working in Hamilton, but also, we would go down and have week-long stays in Christchurch, where the Gestalt Institute was based, and we’d also do work down there, you know, full days of it for a week and things like that. And so I went down there on one of these courses that they ran. You had to attend and they had them during the course of the year, and usually in school holidays, so I was able to go around them. And I went there, and on this particular day, we were a group of 12 or so people, and you always had a therapist in the group who ran the group. And so on this particular afternoon, it was rather a sunny afternoon, and we would divide into pairs, and one person would be the therapist and the other person would be the client. And I sat in my, it was my turn to be the client, and the therapist, who was also a trainee of course, and we had a supervising therapist there, she said, “Okay, George,” it was a female, and she said, “What would you like to do?” I’m sitting in my bean bag, and I said, “I would like to just sit here.” So I’m sitting there quietly, doing nothing, and after a while, she’s getting a bit sort of, you know, she wants to practice, fair enough, and I’m just sitting there. So after a while, she said to me, “Do you mind if I breathe with you?” I thought, “What? How could I mind that? I mean, what would you say to that?” I said, “No, I don’t mind.” So I’m sitting there, just, you know, more or less as I’m sitting here, and suddenly, she gets really angry towards me. And of course, my initial reaction is, “Hold on, you know, you’re the therapist. I’m the client. It’s like I’m the one that’s supposed to be doing this sort of stuff.” And she says, “I’m not here to compete with you.” And I just had no idea what she was talking about. She said, you know, she was a strong woman, and I knew that she used to walk some big dogs, so she was a strong, healthy woman, middle-aged and fit. And she said to me, in the course of this, she said to me that she thought that I was deliberately sort of breathing in such a way that she could, you know, it was like as if I was deliberately holding my breath a long time or something like that, so that it was impossible for her to breathe with me as she’d wanted to do. And she thought I was doing it deliberately. Well, I had no idea. And so I was shocked. And in fact, I was shocked enough that when I came to recollect this whole thing, I can’t remember how really the session ended. You know, it was like we ended, you know, she’d been pretty upset. And we used to, us trainee therapists, used to stay in student accommodation at the university, Canterbury University in Christchurch, and so we all had a room of our own, a student room of our own. So I’m in my room, and I go to bed that night, and I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m stopping breathing. It’s just spontaneously stopping. And I think, oh, I wasn’t frightened or anything like this. The only thought that, I thought that there was a process starting, a process starting to take place. I thought to myself, well, if this is a, it felt a natural process. I thought to myself, well, if this is a process that’s taking place, it’s something that needs to be shared in the group. I’ve got to somehow hold on until I get to the group in the morning. And because often in these groups, people would bring up real stuff and the therapist would work with them or another trainee would work with them under the supervision of the therapist. So, real work would be done in the groups. I mean, it was a part of the way that therapy groups work, if you know anything. Have you done any therapy?
George: Oh, well, this is the way that, you know, therapy groups and training often goes, stuff comes up.
Rick: So, I was in an encounter group thing back in the late 60s that basically people who were in some kind of drug rehab thing. I don’t know if that really counts, but anyway, go ahead.
George: Oh, everything, yeah. It’s the times, isn’t it? Anyway, I thought, oh, so this is happening to me and the only way I could think of to sort of stabilize myself, to pause myself was, I visualized, I don’t know if you’ve seen, well, you must have seen the statues of Buddha where they’re sitting there quietly sort of, you know, meditating or something, you know, just sitting quietly. So, I visualized Buddha.
Rick: I think I have one right behind me there.
George: Well, there you go. So, that’s right.
Rick: I’ve got one in front of me too.
George: Well, there you go.
Rick: I’m surrounded.
George: So, I sat there. I lay there. I visualized Buddha and I managed to make it to the morning. I tried to shower. I could barely stand up. I couldn’t really stand up, but I showered, went down to the group and as I said, there were about 12 of us. We had a different therapist there this time and the therapist there this time was one who knew me because she also worked with me in Hamilton. So, I get to the group and I was never a person who ever put myself forward for getting work done on myself and things like that and I said to the group, because the group had to agree, I said, “I’m going to have to do some work,” and of course, because I’d never done any, they were in agreement. So, I went to the middle of the group, which is the way we were set in a circle, and the therapist sat down and I just lay down on the ground. She put a pillow under my head and then got another trainee, a female trainee to sit at my feet. She went to touch me. I said, “I don’t want to be touched or anything like that.” She says, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I’m going to stop breathing,” because by now the process was so strong and she said, “This is a slight nightmare, if you can imagine, for any therapist, for a client to tell them that they’re going to stop breathing.”
Rick: Yeah, incidentally, I just want to interject here, probably most of the people listening to this realize, but cessation of breath is a common characteristic of going into samadhi and you know, yogis are sometimes, you’ve all heard the stories about yogis getting buried underground for long periods of time and stuff. I don’t know whether that’s a gimmick or not, but if you’ve ever done any deep meditation, you’ve experienced this, that the breath will stop and a lot of times you don’t realize it has stopped and then maybe quite some time later you find yourself taking a deep breath all of a sudden, and it’s because the physiology becomes so settled that there isn’t really the same need for oxygen as there ordinarily is.
George: Yeah, well you’d know about this because you’ve done regular meditation for so long now. I don’t know what sort of meditation, but anyway, do you still do mantra meditation?
Rick: Yes, uh-huh, I’ve done that for about 52 years or so.
George: Yeah, okay. So here I am lying down telling my therapist, a proper therapist, not a trainee, you know, experienced woman, that I’m about, I’m going to be stopping breathing. Now, one of the things that anybody who works in therapy always says is they want to remain in contact with you because they don’t want you to slip into a psychosis or something like that and then become, you know, uncontactable. And I’ve seen that occur amongst, on a couple of occasions with people in therapy groups where the therapist has lost contact. But anyway, so she says to me, “You’ll stay in contact then.” And I heard my voice saying, “All right then.” My voice was by this time extremely distant. It was receding fast and so I was, in a sense, with great relief. The process of stopping, just everything stopped, and I mean everything. But in going into that, I’ve thought about it since and I thought to myself, you know, normally if you were stopping breathing you might get a bit worried, you know, especially if it was spontaneously happening to you, as this was happening to me. It was like it had been triggered but it was spontaneous. And there might have been some indications of change occurring prior to this because just before I’d gone on this week-long course, I’d stopped both drinking and smoking. That had spontaneously happened to me just prior, but I didn’t really connect anything. I just stopped and I used to drink, and in fact the last drink I really loved was cognac or brandy. [Laughter]
George: I’d cut a circle from my brandy on the lips. I’d finally sort of got over it, I suppose. And this occurred, I should tell you, in 1998. It was 1998 and it was a peculiar time that year. Because that was the year –
Rick: So you must have been about 50 years old at that point.
George: Yeah. My father had died and I had gone down to where he was sort of lying in his coffin in his house down in Wellington. And I’d spent the night with, you know, sitting with the body, so to speak. And in the morning I was woken up by my father saying to me, because he’s dead, “Wake up, George. Wake up.” And I woke up. But at the same time, my grandson was also – my first grandson was born in that year. And he was actually born on Buddha’s birthday, the first full moon in, I think it’s May or something. That’s how they work it out. So it was an interesting set of events in that year. So anyway, I’m lying there and finally the process can take place and everything stops, totally. And I think, I was gone. There was nothing, nothing at all. And of course, there’s no time, there’s no space, there’s just nothing. There’s not even blackness. There’s just nothing. And so I don’t know how long that would have been for. Who knows? Then eventually what occurs, although there’s no light or anything like that, what occurs is an incredible, powerful, flowing energy, like a powerful stream of pulsing energy, but it’s conscious. So it’s like a conscious, flowing energy. But I say conscious. There is no mind or anything like that associated with it. It’s like a pure consciousness. So it’s itself, it’s self-aware consciousness, but nothing else. It’s because, well, that’s just an energy that’s occurring in darkness, if you like, but it’s not even darkness because these things don’t, are not relevant. So it’s a conscious, flowing energy occurring. And I later asked the woman who had been at my feet what that had looked like because I wasn’t there, so to speak, and she said, “Well, there was a powerful, flowing energy which was visible to everyone going through the body from the feet through the whole body, and it was like almost elevating the body with the amount of energy that was just flowing and flowing through.” And she said she found that quite profound. That was the effect that it had on her. But of course –
Rick: It’s interesting that everyone could see it.
George: Oh yeah, they could see it, yes. In fact, she said it was so strong it was almost like it was elevating you, lifting you, lifting the body. Because I had no – I don’t know that. I can only – because I wasn’t there. But then eventually that stopped and here I am. I’m here now, lying there, and the teacher, the therapist who’s in charge of it, so to speak, basically she said, “Oh, that’s okay.” She didn’t really say that. She just wrapped me in a blanket and sat down. She didn’t interrogate me or anything about that. She said something to me, some sort of Buddhist word, but I didn’t understand what it meant. She said something, I don’t know what it was. What I didn’t realize at the time was that that therapist was a Buddhist. I’d never known that. She was a practicing Buddhist. Anyway, so I thought – so I’m now here in a very heightened state of well-being, if the best thing I could say to you about it. A huge state of well-being. It’s hard to give any other statement about that as such except to say that it’s continued for 22 years. If you put it like that, this state that occurred. Anyway, it was at the end of this course anyway, and we were having to fly home. I had to fly back to Hamilton, and I was lucky there were a couple of other trainees who were with me on the plane because I’m in, as I say, a very heightened state. And I come back, and my wife wasn’t here that weekend. She must have been somewhere. And I come back, and I find that there are powerful energies flying through my body, literally, day and night in this weekend that’s starting. And this odd thing’s happened. The energy’s flying through my body, but at the same time, there’s an incredible electrical storm going on right above the house. I have this strong, almost inclination to run out into the back garden. It felt a bit Shakespearean, if you like. It was like, “Whoa!” And of course, with the lightning, the lightning was sort of like a part of the energy that was also flowing through my body, and it was sort of occurring in my sleep and during the day. And then the next, I’m getting up, and there’s a knock on the door, and for the first and only time, I see a middle-aged man all dressed in his Hare Krishna gear knocking at the door to come in to visit me. (Laughter) And I’m in this incredible heightened state of which I have no understanding of, if you know what I mean. I had no understanding of it at all. I’d never heard of anything like this. I didn’t know of anything like this. I had no idea. And I had to say, “No,” I don’t know how, but I sort of, he never came again, but it turned out that they used to live around the corner a bit from us, you know, a street or so away. But that was quite, you know, sort of in my face a little bit. And the other thing that happened, and this is a sort of another synchronicity. So I had all the Buddhist synchronicity stuff with the therapist and visualizing the Buddha and all that in this thing. I go to my bookshelf, and of course, like most students, I’d bought books and things, and I’d read stuff on Zen, you know, like we all did in those days, but, you know, it wasn’t any a part, the philosophy I did was all Oxford philosophy, you know, Kant and Wittgenstein and all that sort of stuff. None of what people call philosophy now. And I went to the bookshelf, I found I’d bought a little book on the Upanishads. Blow me down. I opened the book, don’t ask me why, and the first Upanishad I opened was the Katha Upanishad, which you probably know, but it is one that’s well known to the Indian population, and the reason why is that in the Katha Upanishad, the father is doing some sacrifices of all this crappy cattle and stuff, and he’s not being authentic, and his young son is appalled at this behavior.
George: Nachiketa, yeah, and he’s appalled at this behavior and says, you know, “Look, you’ve got to do things properly,” and ends up, the father says, “Well, you know, I’ll sacrifice you,” so to speak. So the son goes and spends three days at the door of death.
Rick: Right, Yama.
George: Say, “door of death,” yes, Yama. Three days at the door of death, and then Yama finally turns up, and because he hasn’t been treated properly, looked after properly, as we love in these stories and these myths, he’s granted three wishes, and the three wishes are, one, when I go back, so he obviously knows he’s going to go back, when I go back, I want my father to accept me and be okay about it all, and he’ll be happy. The second, what was the second wish he had? He had, well, anyway, whatever the second wish was, he was granted a, he was sort of, well, what actually happened was he was tempted by Yama. Yama offered him everything, but he wanted to know what really happens after you die. This is what Nachiketa wanted, and so actually, Yama granted him, firstly, he granted him a ritual, which was the fire ritual, and the fire ritual was a very interesting ritual because it was taken from the pre-religious times when people used to worship in the forests in India, fire worship, and what happened was it moved from external fire worship into internal fire worship, and that was quite fascinating. And then, as I say, he asked for his last boon, which was that he would know what happens after death and is death final and all that sort of stuff. And that is, it’s a fascinating Upanishad when it talks about that.
Rick: Yeah, Yama really didn’t want to tell him. He said, you know, please release me from this boon. I’ll give you everything else. I’ll give you women and riches and kingdoms and all this stuff, but don’t make me answer this question.
George: And of course, if you look at Christ, Christ had a similar temptation thrust upon him. In the, when he was in the desert, he had the offer.
Rick: All kinds of worldly power, yeah.
George: Absolutely, and turned it down. And just before Buddha, when he was sitting under the tree, exactly the same thing happened to him. He was offered all the things of the world, the women and the riches and the horses and goodness knows what, and he turned it down. And the interesting point about when Buddha turned it down was that whoever was tempting him said,
George: Yeah, “Who on earth will believe you? Who will believe you?” You know, I mean, you’ve got no witnesses, and you’ll see in the statues of Buddha, you’ll see him touching the earth, and he says, “The earth is my witness,” or I’d say, “Mother Earth is my witness,” which has, for me, a very interesting idea because, in two ways. One is I was at a meditation place and I’d mentioned about Buddha and the woman I was talking to said, “Yes, the earth must be conscious,” and I thought, “Yeah, that’s a nice, I like that idea,” for various reasons. And then, but I also think that when we say the earth is our witness, presently, presently, the state of this planet is our witness. What is going on on this planet at this time is our, all of our collective witness, as it was for Buddha, because we are now in the face of a, I mean, we might think the pandemic’s a problem, but that’s not the biggest problem in terms of what we’re facing on the face of the earth. The face of the earth has been so damaged and is being raped and pillaged when we have the oceans full of microplastics so that it’s now actually in the organisms of the ocean at the deepest levels of the oceans. When we see what’s happening in the places being burnt, Australia, the Amazon, and things like that, and when we see the actual disputes that are occurring between, like, places, Pakistan and India, where frontline troops are in charge of nuclear weapons, when we see the nuclear testing that occurred in the South Pacific here, which we fought against, the use of the nuclear, but when we actually see what’s happening to water on this planet, water is the most important thing on the face of this planet. We’re seeing the damming of the Nile, we’re seeing China taking over Tibet to ensure that they have the water there, we’re seeing the melting of the ice caps. Water is going to be, the pollution of the water, both in New Zealand, America by your industries, the pollution of the Gandhis and rivers in India, you know. In my idiom here, when you introduce yourself, you introduce yourself by naming your mountain, your sacred mountain, and naming your sacred river, the river that’s sacred to you. The river that’s sacred here to the Tainui tribe is the Waikato River, which runs through this city that I’m in. The Waikato River has been granted a living status in law in New Zealand, and the name of the Waikato was given by the early Maori. As they came in by sea, and the river came out into the sea, they named it after they noticed the current of the river in the sea. So the river is named after the current of the river in the sea. So as the river meets the sea, that’s the current of it. And it’s a fascinating image when you think about it, the notion of the current. And if you look at the Katha Upanishad, they talk about, you know, the water going into water and things like that, the merging. They talk about the atman, they talk about, you know, the power, energy, and the, if you like, the unconsciousness. Because that’s, in effect, when I was in that heightened state with all the energy flowing through me and things like that, I found that what had happened was that there’d been a profound transformation, but it was a transformation that was both bodily and consciously. It was at every level, and what had happened was that this occurrence of this flowing energy, this pure conscious energy, remained within my person, so to speak. It’s always there. I’m lucky, in a sense, because I always have a reminder of this as well, because when you live your life, you know, it depends on what you’re concentrating on. But for me, what simultaneously occurred at that time was a, I have a sound that occurs above the head. It’s like a very high-frequency sound which is always there, but you know, if you fall into silence, then it is there and it can intensify. So it’s always, it’s a simultaneous reminder that the silence and the energy are one, and I came as a result of, I don’t know, the Upanishads or something which I got, I read and things like that. I came to call, now you’re the expert in all of this, so you’ll be able to disabuse me, but I came to call the energy and the pure consciousness which were united as the uniting of Shiva and Shakti. I use those words where that they show a, they give the, they indicate the transcendent nature because I can’t call it an experience because I wasn’t there. It’s a very, it’s an interesting paradox to not be there and yet have the experience, have that event nevertheless in you. It’s as if it’s, I don’t know, I say sometimes use the word like it precipitated in me or something, or it did a frequency shift and moved into me, I don’t know. I mean, how can you say? But what you come to realize is that the mind, your own mind or your own personality, you begin to see how that was formed in a way, but that this level of energy and consciousness is in a sense, underlies it all or is what it is, but in a different way. So it’s like that’s the one now to which the many occur. So coming down from being in that conscious energy state to the world, it’s like, whoa, what happens is the world itself also lights up in a way because it’s now seen in a different way. It’s a different gestalt or I think also another word that sometimes is used in a similar way. It’s a different view, a different way of being. It’s also, I think sometimes people use the word “Mahamudra.” It’s another take, another angle if you like, on the way the world appears. So I don’t know what you make of your Hindu experiences.
Rick: Well, you’re expressing it all very well and I don’t know, I am not really an expert on commenting on Shiva and Shakti and all that, but I think that probably what you said could be put in that sort of terminology and this thing about the world being very different, you know, the world is as we are and obviously, and everyone experiences this actually to some degree or another, if you, let’s say, haven’t slept very well all night and your friend has slept really well and is feeling great and the two of you are watching the sunrise or something, you might be thinking, “Ugh, this is boring. I want to go home and go to sleep.” And your friend is saying, “Wow, isn’t this beautiful?” And you’re both seeing the same thing, but with a completely different perspective on it. So, someone who’s had a spiritual awakening can, you know, really begin to appreciate the world. It’s said that in some circles that you can’t actually begin to appreciate the world until self-realization has occurred because you don’t know who you are, so how are you going to know what the world is? But, you know, once the self or pure awareness has been established, and there is a physiological component to that as you’ve been explaining with the no breathing thing, then further refinement begins to take place and the senses become more and more refined and the world takes on greater and greater sort of beauty.
George: But the thing is that, the thing is that it’s permanent in that sense, but I would have to stress this. It’s not all sort of golden sunsets. That’s not the point because I think, and this is where I think that sort of these sorts of experiences and what we are as human beings tallies in some ways with science. And the reason I say it tallies with science is that, you know, people often talk about this, what I say, pure consciousness, they talk about silence or they talk about light, but actually all these things are in a sense metaphors for what this sort of awareness is because this is a sort of, this is a form of awareness that comes with no preconceptions. It is, it just, whatever occurs to it isn’t judged or there’s no overlay of anything. So this isn’t ideally, if you think of the whole notion of science, when people are trying to do science, this is the sort of open mind that they want to bring and expect in terms of the behavior of the scientist. As a scientist, there’s a lot of moral aspects to the works that you, the work that you do in your life, that you will truthfully say what you did and how you did it, and you know, how you set up your experiments and all this sort of thing. So there’s a whole moral component but also a component of trying to adopt the evidence, if you like, with an open mind. So there’s a strong relationship between this natural process in human beings and what we would expect in this much more systematic approach to reality and things like that. Now, the realities that the scientists and people like that are, if you like, different realities to our normal, everyday reality. I know a lot of people talk about other things, but in the way in which we live our lives in a normal way, we have sciences like physics and chemistry and sociology and we have anthropology and we have all these various scientific disciplines. We also have all these humanities which also talk about life and things like that. So I’m very much against any reductionist view of any of these realities because it can’t be done. You couldn’t describe a Salman Rushdie novel in terms of, and I just read one of his, which is really prophetic, called “The Golden House,” but I leave that to you, set in America, but you couldn’t describe that in terms of atoms and molecules. It would be a totally ridiculous thing to even attempt. It’s unattemptable. So in fact, these realities, our normal reality is as real as any scientific one. They all have, in their own way, they all have their own reality, and this is the reality we as normal people live. Scientists work in other ways, but what’s interesting is that if you’re cracking up things in, what is it, Hadron Colliders and things like that?
Rick: A Large Hadron Collider in CERN, yeah. Geneva.
George: Using incredible amounts of energy, then the other thing that occurs is that the questions that we have to ask ourselves from a moral point of view is whatever scientific endeavor takes place, decisions have to be made how to put resources into that, and the question is why have we decided to put so much resource in those particular endeavors when we have people all over the world who are literally living, if they’re barely surviving, from hand to mouth? How have we chosen to do those sorts of things? So every science has actual moral components, and talking about karma, karma, people talk about it as causality, but it actually has a moral component to it as well.
Rick: Yeah, you know, I mean, the same argument was used when we sent men to the moon. People were saying, “Well, why are we spending the money on that when there’s so many problems here on Earth?” And, you know, about a week ago, I put some cool thing up about the International Space Station on my Facebook page because I thought it was like a live YouTube feed of watching the people, you know, a spacewalk outside the capsule, and some guy posted this very irate response of, you know, the immorality of this and because there’s so many problems here on Earth. My attitude is that yes, there is definitely a huge misappropriation of wealth in the world, a huge disparity between the haves and the have nots and so on, and I don’t think it necessarily means that we have to abandon scientific enterprise, even expensive aspects of it, but although, you know, maybe there’s some things that aren’t worth pursuing, like do we really need to go to Mars? Well, how about if we make this planet livable? Because that one is not. But at the same time, you know, there could be a, there’s tremendous potential abundance if people were to unfold their full potential. I think that’s the greatest untapped natural resource, the tremendous potential that everyone has within them as you’ve discovered in your own experience. And if we could make the unfoldment of that more universally available, I think we would find that we could have a flourishing society which would include, you know, scientific exploration, but at the same time, you know, provide a good standard of living for everyone on Earth and there would be no conflict. In fact, it should be a sort of a mutually beneficial arrangement where, you know, science, which has often resulted in destruction of life, like you said, the Pacific Ocean is full of bits of plastic which was invented by scientific endeavor. Science could become a much more benign enterprise where we didn’t create a certain effect and unwittingly create all kinds of worse problems in the attempt to solve some one problem. So, anyway, I’ll let you respond to all that.
George: I like that because, you know, I’m sort of quite interested in myths and so, you know, if you go back to Adam and Eve, quite a long way back, and them being cast out of the Garden of Eden, well, they’re cast out because they’ve eaten of the Tree of Knowledge. And, of course, if you like, part of the Tree of Knowledge, they’re faced with the dilemmas once they’re cast out of good and evil, really. It’s, you know, and this is the issue that we face now, you know, about all the things. A lot of the things which we think we’re doing really good, you know, we invented the wonderful plastic bags and they’re great, and then, blow me down, oh, down, you know, the country is flooded with them and the waterways and good and so, what we’re faced with now, and it’s the same thing in terms of the process of evolution, if you like. It’s even the same things in terms of our own personal development is, that we do things, we don’t know whether they’re good or bad. We think we’re doing something, we think we may have done something bad, or we think we may have done something good, and blow me down, nothing is as it seems. And so, we face the continual consequences one way or another, you know, and they remain to be seen as we develop.
Rick: Yeah, let me interject again here. Like, in the Bhagavad Gita, which I’m sure you’ve read, Arjuna was very concerned about the task at hand, which was he had to fight a battle, and he was very concerned about the karmic consequences and didn’t want to do it, and, you know, basically the advice he was given by Krishna was, first get your awareness established in being, and then perform action. And a little bit later on, because being or yoga is skill in action, and the understanding there is that if, oh, one more verse, that he mentioned that the average person’s intellect is very fragmented, it’s like they’re many branched and endlessly diverse, or the intellects are irresolute, but the resolute intellect is one-pointed. And the idea is that if we haven’t established ourselves in being, or pure awareness, then we just don’t have holistic perspective. And so, our actions are based on, you know, very narrow vision and inevitably have unintended consequences. But if we could establish our awareness in being and operate from that level, then even if we’re not consciously aware of all the ramifications of our action, it has a benign influence. It has kind of a holistic influence and we can sort of be attuned, we could say, to nature’s intelligence and not unconsciously or unwittingly violate laws of nature or nature’s intelligence, but become more of an instrument of the divine, and if enough people could do this, if the whole society were functioning this way, the world would be a completely different place than it is now. All the problems we see in the world could be attributed to the fact that everyone is operating from a very fragmented, isolated, limited level of consciousness. And so, they’re trying to accomplish this, that, or the other thing, but kind of creating more of a mess unintentionally than whatever they’re accomplishing in a good way.
George: Yes. The way I see that is that if, in fact, pure energy and consciousness are, in one sense, what everything is all about, then that makes this world sacred. It makes everything, in a sense, sacred.
Rick: It’s like the body of God.
George: Well, as I told you before, from the age of nine, any version of God that people put up –
Rick: Oh, you’re still that way?
George: I may have made the right decision for the wrong reasons, put it that way. I mean, just because I didn’t get my prayers answered wasn’t a very good reason to give up believing in God.
Rick: Well, that’s an interesting question. This awakening you had when you were 50, what did that do to your concept of God?
George: Well, no, I had no concept of God.
Rick: All right, well, it wouldn’t do you now then.
George: That was long gone. So, the nature of the God that people believe in, and this is a question of beliefs. I remember when we were studying philosophy and we were going to do a, we were doing a part on belief in God, and they never spoke about God. It was just about the notion of belief. What does belief mean? And belief often means, you know, making decisions about things that you really don’t know a lot about. It’s like thinking that you know or hoping something or whatever, you know. But beliefs are things that are often inherited, they are taught to us, things like that.
Rick: Yeah, it’s a, yeah, I don’t like, I don’t prefer, I don’t really believe in anything. I have hypotheses about things and certain things, certain of these hypotheses have a lot of evidential support and others not so much, but I don’t see any point in believing or disbelieving in anything. It’s really more of an experiential, it’s more of a scientific orientation where you just, you proceed on the basis of what can be experientially verified.
George: Yes, so, and of course, I think you’ve really hit on something there because this is the reason why I think there are, you know, the strengths of these mega-churches and things like that, that you have in the United States and things like that, and even the whole spiritual movement that’s been going on for some time now. This is more to do with people no longer want to believe things, they want to experience, they want to know in a different way from just accepting a set of beliefs. And I think the churches, whether the churches have intended or not, but in the established churches, and I think you have mentioned it in previous conversations about when you were involved with TM or something, and people actually having these experiences and nobody believing them, so to speak, or you’re starting to get, show hubris or pride or something because you’re saying, “This happened,” you know, and people not believing you. It’s as if people want to continually remain in a certain, I don’t know, let’s say, practice way rather than fulfill the practice or something like that, or, you know.
Rick: Yeah, I know what you’re saying.
George: It’s about, to read about how to cook, but then somewhere along the line, you’ve got to cook, you know, do the cooking and experience the food, you know, again, your old thing about menus and the food.
Rick: You’ve been listening to some of my interviews.
George: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rick: Yeah. I mean, I think the point we’re getting at here is that spirituality in the way that most people watching this show would relate to it is primarily an experiential affair. It’s not a matter of faith or belief and it should be something one can live in a visceral way, just the way ever since you had that awakening you’ve been living it. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to read books about it, it’s your experience, right? And maybe since you have begun to have that experience, you’ve learned a lot more about it, you’ve filled in some more intellectual, you know, understanding, but that’s not, that’s just the icing on the cake. The main cake is the experiential reality which is your 24/7 experience.
George: Yes, yes. That’s right, except that as I told you, I couldn’t really say it was an experience.
Rick: Yeah, because experience implies the senses and it’s not actually that.
George: That doesn’t, yeah, it doesn’t quite. But the consequence, like, of having that experience –
Rick: There you go, use the word experience.
George: Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. The consequence of that was this – well, when I’m saying the experience within the body once I’ve, you know, once it precipitated, the consequence of that was a number of things. One, I expressed it as a rebirth. It felt like physically and mentally, it was like a rebirth. It felt like a resurrection-type experience, and when I thought about that, I thought about, again, the Christian notion that, you know, fundamentalists and Christians believe that Christ was resurrected bodily.
George: It was a bodily resurrection, and, you know, that’s sort of been lost a little bit in Christianity these days. It’s sort of, you know, it’s sort of, “Oh, not really,” but in fact, he was experienced as a living being after his so-called death. So, I tend to think about these things in those sorts of terms. These things are expressed. Sometimes they’re symbolic, and sometimes they actually mean what they say. And so you get this dilemma then with fundamentalists believing everything in absolute, literal terms, and then we have these other descriptions of things in a more symbolic way, looking at the general process of things.
Rick: Yeah, allegorical.
George: Yeah, allegorical, yeah. So, after these things had occurred to me, I felt for the first time that I understood the meaning of grace. Now, this is, I felt totally undeserving of this.
George: I felt there was nothing I could have done that would have earned me in any way this, what had occurred. There was nothing I could have done. So, there was like a gap. It sort of created a gap in causality because there was no cause that could have led to this. It was just, it just happened. It happened to me. And I went back the other day to the Katha Upanishad to have a look at it, and I looked at it, and I saw something in it. I’ll read it to you if I can. It said here, and I couldn’t believe this because I’d never really, “Not through much learning is the Atman reached, not through the intellect and sacred teaching. It is reached by the chosen of him because they choose him. To his chosen, the Atman reveals his glory.”
Rick: Nice, nice.
George: A person like me sees this, you know, slightly off kilter. The way a person like me sees that sort of thing is that there is a process here which has been long understood. It has been long known, and it’s still occurring to people sometimes. So, as I say, I began to see this sort of stuff as a reflection, as a remembering of myself.
George: I began to see the going into the absolute dying, the dying part of it. I began to see this, I went on a pilgrimage to India with somebody that you interviewed, Ramana.
Rick: Oh, right, the Japanese fellow?
George: Japanese-American guy. And I found out when we first went there we had to sort of prostrate ourselves or something in front of a goddess, and the goddess was Kali. And we were in Tiruvannamalai, you know, the sacred mountain, Arunachala. But I’d never heard of Kali before, and I had a look around and I discovered that Kali’s a very interesting lady. [Laughter] She has skulls all around her and she has arms hanging on her dress and all that. And there’s a very interesting little story about her, how Shiva was lying flat doing nothing somewhere, and she comes and she dances on his body and then awakens him and she becomes Parvati, his consort. And I felt, again, here was something like the process of coming out of this, because for some people she’s worshipped as the mother of the universe, coming out of absolute creation out of nothing, if you like. She is the absolute void, the absolute void; you have to go in her, you’re born out of her, and it becomes the Shiva Shakti, whatever you want. So it’s a fascinating myth to me. I really, myths to me are things that are sort of psychologically true. I don’t mean myth in the sense of something that’s not true. So Kali was a fascinating notion to me.
Rick: I have a question for you. So when you were eight and you prayed for your grandfather to live and then he died and so you became an atheist and then, you know, 42 years later you had this awakening and you felt it was a result of grace.
George: No, it was –
George: I didn’t know it was awakening.
Rick: Well, whatever, I mean, but now we can call it that.
George: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: And now you sort of regard it as sort of grace. Whose grace? Grace of what?
George: I just say an understanding of grace. Grace, it’s just simply something that you have received which you cannot in any way see up, for me, that I felt that I could deserve. That’s all. Grace in that sense.
Rick: I’m just wondering whether you can still consider yourself an atheist or whether you’ve sort of matured into a more, far more subtle and nuanced understanding of what God might be.
George: Well, I wouldn’t be using, I wouldn’t use words like God or anything like that because
Rick: Too much baggage.
George: Yeah, there’s so much baggage. Unless, of course, you’re talking about lots of gods and I don’t mind talking about, like, I could have Ruku and Shiva and Shakti and Kali.
Rick: You could have that.
George: I could have plenty of gods, but for me, these things are like, they’re like universals or, yeah, they’re transcendent above the particular. They’re sort of universals over the particular. And so the pure consciousness that I talk about, which is always associated with energy, so for me, always, that they are always, they’re not two. They are always, but you can’t say they’re one because we don’t know what one means. If you’ve got ones, you’ve got twos and you’ve got everything. And so it’s like, we’re back into that.
Rick: I’m just wondering whether
George: so what we think is consciousness, you see, I could say this. When I was in India and I was around the holy mountain Arunachala, and as you know, Arunachala is in the shape of Ganesha’s head. It’s in the shape of an elephant with a broken tusk’s head. That’s why it is said to be the remover of obstacles. It is the fire mountain of Shiva, but it’s in the shape of Ganesha’s head, and you’re supposed to walk around it, and people walk around it to remove obstacles. So when we were there, like, I don’t know, half a million people walked around it when the full moon came up. We walked around it three times, but the first time we went around, we went around on the back of a car, much to the hilarity of all the-
Rick: That’s cheating, yeah.
George: Yeah, well, we were just doing as we were told. We’re being taken around, you know? But later on, we walked around. But if you know the original Ramana, when he fled to that mountain, he fled after having a little encounter with death, let’s put it that way.
Rick: Kind of similar to yours, actually. I was thinking of that when you were telling your story about how he just lay down on the ground and stopped breathing.
George: Well, no, he, if you read his account of that, what he did was he became overwhelmed with a fear of death, and he actually lay down on the ground and started to imagine-
George: Yeah, that’s all he did. I think that the real thing for Ramana occurred when he went to the mountain. So he always said that it was the mountain that made the difference. And so when I went there, we were staying on this ashram, and I was staying in a little room on my own, and I’d be lying on my bed. The energy that started to move through me, because that mountain is famous for the Shakti, the energy that somehow emanates from it. And I found, I was next door, there was an Indian lady who wasn’t a part of our group next door, and I often wondered what she thought, because they have these old metal beds there, to hear this clanging, bouncing-
Rick: Because your body was shaking?
George: The body was shaking so much. That’s where I discovered, I’ve never been really into chakras or anything like that, but that’s where I discovered the hara, because the energy was emanating from below the stomach area, really powerfully through the body, as opposed to energy when you’d sit and meditate in the caves. The energy would move through the back and through the head, but this energy was really powerful. So it would be bouncing you along, and I wondered whether or not she thought I was having orgies or something.
Rick: By yourself, yeah.
George: It was only Georgie who was next door, not the orgy. It was like, oh man, but it was really powerful stuff. Yeah, Sue’s just showing me that it’s 9:41, we’re nearly at the moment when the Earth stops and starts moving.
Rick: Yeah, it starts going back the other way.
George: So I discovered that energy. So in the course of time since then, I have come to more or less see the three aspects, like the energy of the hara, that I’ve seen it expressed as hara, heart, head. Head, heart, hara. And in the end, it seems that the heart, that melding of the consciousness and the energy, which is the heart. Now the issue is in terms of energy and consciousness and that marriage is how that, if you like, structures the world that you live in. Whether it is projected onto it or that is what it is, because the way I tend to experience it is that I think of it’s not emanating from me, it’s emanating through me. It does begin with the individual. The way I expressed it in a little poem, which is so, you might think, trite, but at the time meant something to me. At that time of having that experience, I wrote a little poem which was something like, “I am breathed, I breathe. I’m sung, I sing. I’m danced, I dance. I’m loved, I love. I am blessed, I bless, I am, I…” And it goes like that, because it’s what I call a turning around. It’s a way – you’re turned 180 degrees or something in terms of the way that life lives you as opposed to you thinking, and this is why I spoke about that whole karmic aspect of what had happened earlier in my life, because it needs – you begin to see it, but you can only see it on the other side of the event that happens at 50, so to speak, and then from 50 to 72. What then, you know, in terms of the experiences then, so I was very interested then to see what the various religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, what was involved in there, what was involved. So I went on a pilgrimage to India, around India. I was interested then, because of my interest in the unconscious and the other things, I was interested then to see why people thought that various practices like meditation – I went on a Vipassana meditation retreat, you know, 10 days of silent meditation and all that. I went on these various pilgrimages to Bhutan with a group of Tibetan Buddhism, Tantra Buddhism, went with Ramana looking at the sort of Hindu or whatever you’d call it, Indian approach to these matters. So I looked at these various methods and the different sorts of meditation techniques that are used, like the Buddhist one where you’re scanning the body – I don’t know if you use that that’s used in Vipassana – and then there’s, you know, others where you’re sitting with, I never use – well, I did use mantra looking at that, interested in that, and then other techniques. But what I felt about all those things were, and felt about the what concerned me about the techniques was this, that the techniques in a sense, that there will always be a gap between the technique and a so-called goal that people might be aiming for. The problem is that people, I think people know too much and aim at something that they think it is, and of course because the mind is engaged, the gap can’t be bridged because you will always be in the mind. And this is what concerns me about a lot of so-called spiritual experiences – people are in the mind. And well, I just think that there’s a gap that has to be bridged.
Rick: Yes, there is. First of all, you know, techniques are not going to take you to enlightenment, so to speak, but they can refine the vehicle. They can, who was it, I forget the guy’s name who said, you know, spiritual practice, enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practice makes you accident prone. So, they can sort of –
George: That’s a mantra of yours.
Rick: Yeah, it is. They can sort of bring about a condition in which awakening is more likely to happen by purifying and refining the whole mind-body structure. And secondly, you know, not all techniques keep you engaged in the mind. Some techniques transcend their own activity. So, just as you experience when you’re breathing and the next thing you knew you were gone, there are, you know, experiences one can have during spiritual practice where next thing you know, you don’t know because you’re gone. So, the technique sort of drops off.
George: Yes, that’s right. So, my thought about that was that it’s, you know, this business is quite a tricky business to be engaged in. I sometimes say ignorance is bliss because in my own case, there seemed to have been some sort of search, but it wasn’t, I didn’t sort of know at the same time. I didn’t know what this sort of search was.
Rick: Yeah. Here’s a question that came in that actually relates to what you’re saying right now. This would be a good chance to ask it. This is from Akshay in Pune, India, which I think is where, was that where Osho was or I’m thinking Sri Aurobindo maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, Pune. He said, “How do we come out of conditioning of mind so that we can progress further on the spiritual path or does it take several lifetimes for this deconditioning of mind? I have got an intellectual understanding on self-realization but nothing in actual experience as such. What can be done?” And the reason I thought this was relevant is that I think that very often in the case of someone like you, there has been past life development and so without doing a heck of a lot in this life, poof, you just sort of are catapulted into a shift, but it didn’t just kind of happen out of the blue. But anyway, you want to answer Akshay’s question?
George: Well, I can sort of say something. I used to say, but I don’t like to say it quite in this way anymore, but I used to sort of say to myself that the mind and the body in a sense are artifacts. The only reason I say that is that we learn to speak and we learn language and all that. And when you start to look at other languages, you suddenly realize that each language is unique in the way that it constructs the world and constructs the world that you live in. And similarly, our bodies in terms of what the way we dress it, what we eat, the things that we do to it and all that, it’s very different in very different cultures and there are multiple cultures, you know, and ethnicities and all that around the world. So I think just knowing that in a sense our culture has conditioned us in many ways is a great help. And for me, what I noticed was this, that both with Christ and Buddha, what they ended up doing was being great teachers. And as great teachers, where really did this teaching emerge from? And it seemed to me, I think it emerged out of being in a state of pure consciousness because out of pure consciousness, for me anyway, when one is with people or in the world and all that, one hopefully there is nothing in the way of seeing them, but also, and this is this notion of heart, the heart opens out. There’s sort of like a clear light and there’s also a compassion, a way of all of us being in this. There’s no pointing of the finger in any way, there’s no judgment, there is a compassion, a heart thing here that’s going on and it’s not just a feeling, but one is extremely, it’s making one, one has become vulnerable in a way that one was never before. This is why a lot of the work, I mean, I did work as you know in therapy and things like that. There’s a lot of body armoring and things like that that also happens in the body. You can tell by the way people hold themselves the way they are and it’s beginning to actually, I think when we talk about conditioning, we need to look at all aspects of it, not only our received thoughts, our received culture, but also, I mean, we know from feral children that feral children couldn’t even walk properly if they were, you know, so everything about us, even the way we walk and hold ourselves are learnt. And so it becomes, this is why I say in a sense, our body is almost like an artifact. It has been shaped, you know, right from the word go. So, it’s actually getting in touch with both the body and our culture and our own minds because what happens is you can imagine experiencing your own mind from a pure consciousness state. I call it the bonfire of the vanities.
Rick: Tom Wolfe. So, you’re saying that someone like Christ or Buddha, they were great teachers because they had managed to live without the armoring, without the shielding, and therefore they had open hearts and therefore they had tremendous compassion and they also had, they were eloquent, they had good minds as well and could, but you know, the foundation of it all was being established in pure consciousness from which they could teach with these open hearts and minds.
George: Yeah. People talk about Christ consciousness or Buddha consciousness or whatever. I believe those are actually absolutely the same thing.
Rick: Sure, yeah.
George: And it’s interesting that they became great moral teachers. They were moral teachers. They were asking, “If people don’t have the experience, you can live as if you had the experience until it comes.” I know that it’s not a phrase I like, “Fake it till you make it,” or something, but it’s not a matter of faking it, and I think that’s where the traditional churches have had a role in all areas where they have tried to express it as a set of rules. And if you look at Buddhism, Buddhism has got all kinds of rules. Yes, amazing rules, but the point being in the end is that, you know, Buddha said there was suffering and there’s a way of ending it and this is how to do it, you know, and then in Tantric Buddhism they have a slightly different version of things. What they do is they talk about like, let’s say, a Tara goddess who has got all these various qualities, okay, and what you’re meant to do is to visualize this goddess and all the qualities and then let it dissolve into you or you dissolve into it. It’s like a, it’s supposed to be a swift method of, if you can achieve it.
Rick: So, you imbibe those qualities.
George: You dissolve into them, sort of, yeah, you know, and you’re reminded of it. Fascinatingly enough, after I’d been through this initial stuff, I had to go to supervision because when you’re training as a therapist, you have a person who trains you, but you’re also doing therapy with other people and you have to be supervised doing that.
Rick: To make sure you’re doing it right.
George: Yeah, doing certain stuff and all that, and so I went to my person that I was with after I’d had this stuff and her name was Tara.
Rick: Oh, that’s interesting.
George: So, I’m doing my stuff with her and she asked me to lie down and I’m in a darkened room, you know, curtains drawn like, and I’m lying down and she asked me to describe what I’m seeing and I’m lying down on my back with my eyes shut and she’s sitting by my head and I’m inside my head and I’m looking and I’m seeing like a moonlit night where you can’t see the moon, but you know how the night sky lights up?
George: And I’m there and the next minute…
Rick: It’s interesting, just as you said that, my desktop, I have all these astronomy pictures on my desktop, galaxies and this and that, just as you said that, it switched to a picture of the moon. How do you like that?
George: Oh, I love it!
Rick: Continue on, yeah.
George: Yeah, and then, and again, I have no explanation of this sort of thing, the sun came out in my head, literally, it’s like a huge shining sun came in my head. I was so convinced it was the sun, I said to Tara, I said, “Oh, you’ve opened the curtains!” She says, “Don’t open your eyes!” I open my eyes and sure enough, she hadn’t opened the curtains.
Rick: Just an inner light, yeah.
George: It was just an inner light. Now, again, I think these things are natural experiences, but explaining them, you know, these things, explaining them is another entire, there are no explanations around this sort of thing for me. I can’t
Rick: Well, there kind of are. I mean, there are and there aren’t. It’s like any experience, you can’t really do justice to it through words, like what does an orange taste like? You can go on and on, but people aren’t going to get it until they taste one. But, you know, that’s true of every experience in life, and so we have language. So, you can kind of give an indication and, you know, there are people who are, you know, there are degrees of ability to articulate things and all these books and scriptures, thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of them are an attempt to describe these experiences, you know, and some hit the nail on the head, others don’t, and you know, not everybody has all the same experiences, but you’re doing a pretty good job explaining what you’ve been going through.
George: Well, yes, I mean, again, if you know nothing about these things, they’re a surprise to you if you find out something about them. But I had never been really a part of any sort of standing group or anything like that.
Rick: Right, it just kind of dawned on you.
George: Yes, and even though I went with groups, I went with a group to Bhutan and I went with a group to India, I never, I was not a part of those groups as such. I only got to know people, you know, in them at the time, and they were people who I always felt were very knowledgeable. They’d been, you know, meditating for donkey’s year and all that sort of thing, whereas for me, you know, I felt in a sense somewhat outside that particular milieu, and as I say, given my background.
Rick: Yeah, you know, but I mean, if they could step inside your head and experience what you were experiencing, they might be a little envious of you. So, the fact that you didn’t have all the lingo, I wouldn’t consider that a detriment, you know? I mean, at several points during your interview, during this conversation, I’ve thought of that saying by Jesus, you know, “Except you be as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God.” So, there’s a sort of an innocence, you know, to the way that this has happened to you, which I think is endearing and refreshing. But in any case, this has been a nice conversation. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, George, and the number of interesting synchronicities and coincidences and whatnot that, you know, have happened such as this being the summer and winter equinoxes or what?
Rick: Solstices for us both. And, you know, you have an interesting story.
George: It’s a —
Rick: Can people get in touch with you if they want to? I mean, do you correspond with people? Do you have a Facebook page, anything like that?
George: No, no, I don’t have Facebook or anything like that. The only thing that you could do would be to put my email on it there. I don’t care about that.
Rick: Okay, so people can get in touch if they want to chat with you?
George: If they wanted to, yeah.
Rick: Oh, I’ll do that.
George: The reason I think my wife contacted you was — and then I agreed — was because it’s more about, I think, people making — talking about the normality of these things.
George: How these occur to the most unlikely people at the most unlikely times. And you never know. And as I say, it can happen to anybody.
Rick: Yeah, and that’s the reason we decided to do it too, and that’s part of the reason I started this show in the first place is to show people that, you know, awakening or enlightenment or whatever you want to call it is not for people who are floating three feet off the ground, you know, dressed all in white or whatever. It can happen to so-called ordinary people and therefore it can happen to you, whoever you may be.
George: Yes. I think the other thing is that I — there are a lot of things I haven’t mentioned, but the point being this, that prior to this happening, there had been a series of dreams and things like that which sort of predict a lot of things without you knowing what they mean. And I know that there are some groups who really take a lot of account of dreams and things like that, and because the dreams are the unconscious in action without too much control. And it’s interesting, and also the other aspects of when you’re in the world in this way, there are things which a lot of people talk about, but you know, things like auras and things like that.
George: That occur, and again, I think a lot of these things are very natural, you know, in terms of the way we live our lives, and in a sense, I think they’re worth taking seriously, but at the same time, not getting obsessed with any of it. I mean, that’s the whole point. It’s not holding on. And the only other thing I wanted to say was this, that in the Indian traditions, people talk about reality, okay? And for them, the only reality is that which is unchanging. What is changing, which is energy, what is changing, they tend to see as a dream or something like that. What is unchanging, which is something like pure consciousness, they tend to see as reality. Now, I don’t live in that world. I think that we have energy and consciousness are one, and that being the case, I don’t, you know, I think getting into either one or the other are two ends of almost like a spectrum, and it’s a bit like thinking about the figure of the yin and yang. When you look at that, you’ll notice that the dark side has a light in it, and the light side has a dark spot in it, and so it’s like that’s talking about the melding, and really the life we need to be living is along that line between them, because that’s really, you know, where we’re existing. We’re sort of surfing the wave.
Rick: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, so, I mean, just to recap what you just said, that even though spiritual experience is somewhat rare compared, you know, considering the whole world’s population, that doesn’t mean it’s unnatural in any sense, and we could conceive of a society in which it became commonplace, and you know, people could describe the kind of things you’ve been saying, and people say, “Yeah, great, you know, everybody experiences that.” That’s normal, including seeing auras or whatever. And also, this whole thing about the world being unreal and all, I think that’s more of a recluse emphasis, and unfortunately, that has been overemphasized sometimes to the detriment of those living a householder’s life, but it is, there are traditions which have more of a both/and perspective, like Taoism, as you say, with the yin-yang symbol, also Kashmir Shaivism, you know, that the absolute and relative are sort of part of a bigger whole, and each has their value and significance, and we don’t just hang out in one to the dismissal of the other.
George: Yes, that’s what worries me. I have seen, although I didn’t know at the time, people hanging out in one side or the other.
Rick: Right, spiritual bypassing.
George: Well, and they don’t seem to be here. They’re not quite with you.
Rick: Right, yeah. That can actually be a detriment on the spiritual path.
George: And they’re unable to take care of themselves as well, as they rely on others to take care of them, and it’s a funny place for a person to be in.
Rick: Yeah, and if you’re a Ramana Maharshi or an Anandamayi Ma or something like that and you do have people to take care of you, then maybe that’s fine, but that’s a rare example and most of us are not in that kind of circumstance.
George: Yeah, Ramana was taken care of when he was a young man and he ended up in Tiruvannamalai, and he did get into an awful state.
Rick: Yeah, he was, bugs were chewing his legs and all that stuff.
George: Yeah, exactly, but in the end, and we met some people when we were there who had been with Ramana when he was alive and all that, but in the end, I think he was a part of the Brahmin caste, and he was actually quite learned. If you’ve read some of his talks and things like that, I lost the book, but I read some of his talks, you realize that he was very skilled and knowledgeable about the whole tradition which he was in, and that was learned probably before and after he arrived there, and it’s worth knowing that. When we look at other cultures and what’s in them, when we look at them, we have to understand that there’s a whole cultural overlay going on there. We can use it, but there is a big cultural overlay which you may not understand at all.
Rick: Yeah, well, we better end on that note. Ramana’s a good note to end on. So, thanks George, I’ve enjoyed spending this time with you, and I hope you are doing well and continue to do well. You’re in a nice, safe, beautiful place, New Zealand.
George: Blessed, blessed.
Rick: Yeah, I have a couple of friends who’ve moved there.
George: Have you?
George: Where to?
Rick: I think they’re on the South Island, I forget which part, but they’re out in the country. They live actually right near each other even though they’re both from this town that I live in, and it was kind of coincidental that it worked out that way. But in any case, love to visit there someday. So, thanks.
George: Well, we’ll put you up if you turn up.
Rick: Okay, we’ll just come and bring our dogs and never move out.
George: I don’t know about the dogs, I don’t know if you can get them in the country.
Rick: That’s true. So, anyway, thanks, and thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching.
George: Nice talking to you.
Rick: Yes, nice talking to you, and thank you for those who’ve been watching this. Go to batgap.com, check out the menus, and see what you find. So, talk to you later.
George: Okay, bye.
Rick: Bye-bye, George.