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 awake or awakening people. There have been over 300 of them now and if you go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu you’ll see them all archived and organized in various ways. The show is made possible by the support of generous listeners and viewers, so if you feel like helping to support it there’s a PayPal button on the site. So my guest today is Joel Morwood. Joel is the author of “The Way of Selflessness – a Practical Guide to Enlightenment Based on the Teachings of the World’s Great Mystics” and “Through Death’s Gate – a Guide to Selfless Dying”. And there’s a third book isn’t there Joel, an autobiographical book?
Joel: “Naked Through the Gate”.
Rick: “Naked Through the Gate”, yeah, for some reason that one isn’t on my little bio list here, but “Naked Through the Gate”. Joel – since 1987 Joel has served as spiritual director of the Center for Sacred Sciences, a non-profit organization based in Eugene, Oregon. The Center for Sacred Sciences is dedicated to helping individual seekers on their spiritual paths as well as fostering the creation of a new world-view founded on the mystical teachings of the great tradition, but presented in terms appropriate to our present scientific age. Toward these ends the Center offers a variety of educational programs and you can see that Joel is sitting in a library of some sort, in a building which is the Center for Sacred Sciences, which used to be an elementary school and they’ve turned it into their Center. And I must say, I consider every one of these interviews to be a precious opportunity because I’m spending an hour or two with someone who has lived an interesting life and that life has borne certain fruits that I consider very valuable and I always have a sincere desire to do justice to that life in a two-hour conversation and to just give people the best of the best to draw out as much as possible that people will find interesting and inspiring and motivating and so on. And I particularly enjoyed preparing for this interview, Joel, because you have lived a very interesting life and you’re a good writer and I’ve found your books to be really interesting and uplifting and educational for me. It’s funny because each week I have a new interview and that usually means I have a new book to read and the previous one is in the rearview mirror and as I was reading this week I thought, “I’ve got to get through as much of this as possible because it’s so good and I don’t want to sort of leave it in the dust as I go on to the next week”. So, we’ll be talking more about your books as we go along. But let’s start by talking about your life because people always like to know a bit about the person rather than just launch into philosophy and metaphysical ideas. They want to know how did the guy get to where he is now, what has he been through, and you have been through a lot. So, let’s start with some of that.
Joel: Okay, well I was born in New York City, as you can probably tell by my accent, and when I was growing up it was in the late 50s and I was a wannabe beatnik. I hung out at beatnik cafes and listened to beatnik poetry and so forth and got interested a little bit in Zen at the time. That was my first exposure to anything other than Christianity as a religion. Basically I considered myself an atheist though. And then I got interested in films and I started working in film documentaries in New York. I got drafted, I went to Vietnam, spent a year in Vietnam. I came back and my life had totally been wrenched out of its old orbit and sent into a new orbit. I went to San Francisco and became a hippie for a while and then a Maoist revolutionary and that lasted a few years and I got disillusioned with that. And so I was still making film, we were making radical documentaries. And I went to Hollywood, I decided if I couldn’t beat the capitalists I would join them and started a career in Hollywood and eventually became an associate producer and a vice-president. And after about, that was about almost 10 years, I realized I was making money and it was very glamorous and it was everything I wanted it to be, but I wasn’t happy. And I realized, “Well, it’s just… it’s going to be more stuff, it’s going to be more of the same and I’m not going to get any happier”. And not only that, the people I was with were, almost all of them were not only unhappy but miserable. I mean, people think it’s such a glamorous life but when you get in there you find that it’s really, you lift the veil and there’s a lot of tears. So I started looking around for something else to do and I got interested in mysticism. My marriage broke up, I was married at the time and I met this woman named Samantha and very mysterious woman, but she was into mysticism and I kind of got into it for that reason. And I had this on and off affair with her for about a year and started reading, started reading more New Age kind of stuff but actually eventually stumbled on the great classic mystics, the Buddhists and the Bhagavad Gita and Meister Eckhart and books like that. And I began to realize I’d be reading the Bhagavad Gita and then I’d be reading Meister Eckhart and I’d say, “Whoa, wait a minute, I just read that over here”. And so for the first time I got to start to get this sense that there was this truth that they were all trying to testify to that wasn’t just a local philosophy, this transcended time and place and culture even. And so there was this tremendous inter-subjective agreement around at least these core teachings. And when I’d been in Hollywood I developed this not only materialist but a very cynical materialism and I began to think, “Well, maybe there’s something greater than I’ve dreamed of in my philosophy here”. And it was humbling a little bit. And then I was going to workshops and starting meditation and I started having some experiences that also convinced me there was more to life than just what a materialist description entailed. And so I got deeper and deeper into that and my life shifted, my priorities shifted from making money and being successful to walking a spiritual path and ultimately to finding enlightenment. So that was what I started to focus on. And eventually I left Hollywood and I bought a van, a VW van, and got some video equipment and started traveling around to various communities, spiritual communities in the western United States. This was 1983. And making this newsletter, the Here and Now video newsletter.
Rick: Yeah, I just want to ask a question about that because I read that in your book and I was curious about what form this newsletter was supposed to take. And I didn’t have the whole chance to read your book cover to cover, but I read the chapter where you actually had your awakening and you were talking about this video newsletter. Did that ever materialize and what was that actually supposed to accomplish or be?
Joel: It did materialize. I went to these communities and each community had a 10-minute slot. This was all in the old-fashioned videotape, you know?
Rick: So you would hopefully send out a videotape to whoever…
Joel: No, no, no sending out. I mean, eventually, yes.
Rick: The idea was to do that?
Joel: Yes. Then it was like a compilation. So there were like 12 communities, each with and sent them to the 12 communities, so each community could see what the other community was doing.
Rick: Oh, so it wasn’t necessarily for them to duplicate and send out to their followers, or they could if they wanted to?
Joel: They could do anything they wanted.
Rick: It was a little smorgasbord of 10 or 12 different communities.
Joel: It was, exactly. So the idea was each community could see what the others were doing and get a visual impression, but not just reading a newsletter and stuff like that. So that was the intent of it. And it was also, for me, it was a spiritual practice. It was service. I wasn’t making any money out of it. I never charged anybody for it. And so for me it was a spiritual practice and that’s what I got out of it.
Rick: Yeah, and you were kind of cross-fertilizing your own understanding a little bit by dabbling into each of these communities.
Joel: I was, I was. Some of the communities I went to, they had like the Ojai Foundation. I don’t even know if it’s still there, but they had Buddhist lamas come and talk there and I got to hear some pretty good teachings.
Rick: That’s kind of what I do with this show, except I don’t have to drive around.
Joel: Yes, well this is the modern age. It’s exactly the same thing, actually.
Rick: Yeah. Okay, great. So you’re doing that.
Joel: So anyway, I was doing that and I was a couple months into the trip and I was writing Samantha who was still back in LA and I, one place I stopped and I called her and I realized that she had found somebody else. And in the back of my mind the idea was, well if I get enlightened I’ll really win Samantha, I’ll come back and I’ll be enlightened and she’ll be impressed and you know all that. I know it sounds silly but that’s the truth of it.
Rick: Promise her anything, give her enlightenment.
Joel: Right. And so I was just… it was just, the rug was just pulled out from under my wife. I’d left Hollywood, I’d left all that and I gave my house away to my ex-wife and whatnot, so I had nothing to do and then I started looking and I said, “This is ridiculous. I mean this is really insane. You don’t have anything to offer this woman anyway and you can’t go back to that old life and there’s nothing to do”. And my whole life just started to grind to a halt.
Rick: And meanwhile, Joe, as you were driving around making this video newsletter, and what you’ve just buzzed through here with us represents quite a few years, but were you doing some kind of dedicated regular spiritual practice or not so much?
Joel: No, meditating.
Joel: Yeah, doing some meditation.
Rick: Something you had learned on your own or through some teacher?
Joel: No, just through reading actually. And I’d done a little meditating, you see, back in adolescence, some Zen meditation, so I sort of remembered that and picked up on that. I was not a great meditator though, I must say, I was just starting out. And the most important thing I think was this trip – in preparing for it, I began to realize all these teachers, these mystics, also recommended following precepts. And I would read the Bible and Jesus had all these things to do. One of his things is, he sent his disciples out and he said, “Eat what’s put before you”. And so I adopted that as a precept for me on my trip, see, I’d been eating all this rich food in Hollywood and all that, and I knew most of these communities were going to be vegetarian, and I realized I was going to have a hard time with that, so I took a precept, “What would it be like to go and try to just eat the food without any judgment, without any sneering?” And it was a really valuable practice. And there were other precepts like that, to be humble, in making the video itself was interesting because I’d arrived at these communities and my idea was, “I’m going to run the camera, guys, you do whatever you want”. But they weren’t professional filmmakers, I was. So they would start to want to do this, and I had this tendency to step in and say, “Oh, let me show you how to do it, I’m going to direct it for you”. So it would reflect on me when the video was over that it would be nicely done. But I had to stop myself and say, “No, that’s an attachment, that’s why you’re doing this part, the reason you’re doing it, let that go. What would happen if I just let that go?” They want to just drum for 10 minutes, they drum for 10 minutes. So that was part of the kind of thing. So these practices, working with precepts, were important for me and they’re now an important part of what we teach at the Center.
Rick: Great. So, at a certain point during this itinerant life, there was a story where you pulled into some funky cinder block motel and you had a profound awakening. Or am I getting ahead of the story?
Joel: No, just a little bit. But it’s important to know that when I had this conversation with Samantha, this phone call, my life just came to a grinding halt. I stopped doing any kind of practice. I hadn’t gotten enlightened, it didn’t work, obviously. And one of the precepts I had was not to eat in fancy restaurants. And when I wasn’t in these communities to camp out and just eat simple meals, and I thought, “Well, okay, so it’s over, everything’s over, my life is over”. So I went to a nice restaurant, I found this little nice Italian restaurant and I had a couple of glasses of wine. And then I thought I’d passed the kind of luxury hotel on the way in, and I drove back out. Now it’s late and I’m really tired and it was just this dump, I mean, literally cinder block walls and grungy carpets and all that. And I went in, and I was just too tired to go looking for something else. And I came in and I bought a few books in and I took a shower and got in the bed. And then in the middle of the night, I woke up and I was very restless. And I tried to read and it was really gibberish, I couldn’t even make sense out of the words. My mind was just not working right.
Rick: You were reading “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones” by Paul Reps, right?
Joel: Yes. And I’d read this book many times before.
Rick: There’s a funny little interlude here, which is that’s the book that turned me around.
Joel: Oh, really?
Rick: Yeah, I’ve been going through all kinds of things and doing drugs for a year. And one night I was sitting there on acid, needed to focus my mind somehow, so I picked up “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones”. And as I read, I thought, “Wow, these guys are really serious and I’m totally screwing around. And if I keep screwing around like this, I’m going to live a miserable life”. So I thought, “That’s it, I’m going to clean up my act, learn to meditate”. You know, it was kind of like this watershed moment for me with that little book.
Joel: I wonder if Paul Reps is still alive. That book must have influenced a lot of people.
Rick: Yeah, we should contact him and tell him thanks.
Joel: Yes, yes, indeed. Anyway, there was one verse in it. All this full of… this is one section of the book, it’s the end. It’s actually not Zen, it’s from the Hindu tradition, and it’s instructions from Shiva to Devi – his consort – of moments to look for that are opportunities to wake up to see the truth. And so between the in-breath and the out-breath, and when you touch something and nod, and things like that. And then one of them is, “As you’re falling asleep, when wakefulness has vanished, but sleep has not yet come, in that moment being is revealed”. So I just read that, but I put the book away and I’m lying in bed, and as I’m falling into sleep, just at that moment, those words popped up into my mind, and then disappeared, and there I was. And being was revealed. And I jumped up, I turned on the light, I couldn’t believe it, I just couldn’t believe it. So, that was the awakening. I mean, I can go on and on about, and never tell you really what it’s like.
Rick: But it was a… one thing you say in your book that I’m reading is… well, basically it’s just that gnosis always happens suddenly, that’s the way you put it. It’s not something you kind of ooze into. And perhaps we could talk about this a little bit, because with all the people I’ve interviewed, and with my own experience and everything else, I’ve tended to classify people as either “sudden awakeners” or “oozers”. You know, there’s even a group called Waking Down, they use that term, “oozers”. You know, some people seem to have these abrupt, sudden, dramatic shifts, and other people… it’s like, even Adyashanti says sometimes you can awaken without having actually realized that you’ve done so, because you entered into it so gently and incrementally. But I kind of get the impression from what you say and write that it’s got to be all or nothing, that it’s really quite an abrupt shift.
Joel: I wouldn’t speak for everybody. I speak for myself, and then reading through the classic works of the mystics, that seems to be the case for at least most of them. And to me, there are a lot of ways you could talk about it. One of the ways that I like to talk about it is this. Since I was, I don’t know how old, before I can remember, every morning I woke up and I was searching for happiness. I mean, not in big ways, but also just in little ways, like “What should I have for breakfast? Should I have the frosty flakes or the apple crumb cake or whatever? Which one’s going to make me happy?”
Rick: Sounds like “which one had the most sugar” is the question.
Joel: Yeah, well, when I was growing up, that was what they were pushing on kids. So anyway, just a meal or a relationship or your whole career, what’s going to make you happy? And all my life I’ve been looking for what’s going to make me happy.
Rick: Which is true of all 7 billion of us.
Joel: Well, I’m just speaking for myself. So this morning I woke up and I was no longer looking for anything to make me happy. I was happy.
Rick: Yeah, after the awakening.
Joel: That search for happiness had just stopped. So that’s one way to describe what enlightenment, waking up is. I use the word gnosis, it’s a kind of a, maybe it’s not so familiar, G-N-O-S-I-S, it’s from the Greek. It’s the word that Plato used. It’s the root of the word that Jesus uses when he says, “Know the truth and it shall make you free”. And in the Greek it’s distinguished from other forms of knowledge, so it’s direct knowledge of ultimate reality, distinct from technical knowledge or conceptual knowledge or that kind of stuff. So anyway, that was for me, personally, the most personal way I can talk about it. Now, I’ve got to say this, see, we’re going to run into trouble with words very quickly here. So I like to make that Buddhist distinction between the absolute truth and the relative truth, because I talk about personally, but you see one of the aspects of waking up for me is that enlightenment is realizing there’s no one to be enlightened. That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s no one to be deluded either. So whenever I talk about me personally and I woke up and all that, that “I” is just a grammatical marker. It’s a necessity of our language. I have to start trying to get very technical and awkward trying to avoid it, and that still wouldn’t solve the problem because actually it’s not just the distinction between “I” and “other” that is unreal, that’s imaginary, it’s all distinctions. So I open my mouth and I’m already making distinctions all of it.
Rick: Sure, that’s what language does. So there’s three points, based on what you were just saying, that I want to go into with you. I’ll just say the three and then we’ll go through them one by one. But the first is the sort of “I got it, I lost it” syndrome. It sounds like that never happened to you, that once you had shifted there was no losing it.
Joel: That’s correct. But I will say this, and Rumi has a saying, or the Sufis in general, “The journey to God has an end, but the journey in God has no end”.
Rick: Oh, I love that.
Joel: So, the end of the journey to God is just that, you’re looking for God and then you’re no longer looking for God, but the journey in God is just the constant revelation of the Divine play, if you like. And so I mean, it’s not like everything came to a stop and everything’s static or anything like that, it’s just this ever-flowing, Tibetan term is “ever-flowing river of yoga”.
Rick: So would it be fair to say that, in a sense, the awakening you had in the motel room was a kind of beginning?
Joel: Yeah, a beginning of an endless, but not a beginning of going anywhere, you see, the other thing. So, you’re not going anywhere, you’re already there, but you’re just enjoying the movie now, instead of waiting for the end of the movie.
Rick: And would it… oh, go ahead.
Joel: I’ll say one other thing, and again, it’s hard to describe, but one of the things that waking up did for me, and I think does for a lot of people, it generated this tremendous amount of bliss. So, for a couple of months I was just living in bliss, almost no other emotions arose or anything like that. And then I was driving along and I was heading for LA – now I finished the trip by the way, because there was no reason not to, I’d already contacted these communities, and so I went on and I made the rest of the video newsletter – and I’m going, heading for LA to wrap it all up, and I’m starting to feel I’m losing this bliss and I thought, “Wow, what’s happening here?” And maybe I realized if I just went out and hung out in the mountains and didn’t contact anybody or whatever, I could probably just maintain this bliss and live in bliss the rest of my life. And so there was a moment where, and I say “I”, but it’s not really an “I”, but there’s a choice. Do you go for the bliss or do you go for the realization? And then I realized they’re not the same. The realization is there whether there’s bliss or not. You see, the knowing, the gnosis is there, whether there’s bliss or not. And then actually, whether there’s any emotion or not. So there was a little bit of a choice there, and that was it in terms of a wavering of “Do I go back or not?”
Rick: Yeah, a few things to unpack there. One is, is bliss an emotion? And, well, go ahead and answer that, I won’t hit you with too many things at once.
Joel: Two things. I think we have to make a distinction about manifest bliss and unmanifest bliss. So for instance, in the Hindu tradition, which I understand you’re pretty familiar with, the five koshas, the coverings, the last one that covers up the truth of who you are, that’s the image of being in an onion with these coverings, the Atman, the true self, the last one is bliss, the last obstacle.
Rick: And incidentally it’s called Ananda Maya Kosha, and Maya means “that which is not”, illusion.
Joel: Right, right. But then Brahman is what? Sat-Chit-Ananda, on the bliss. So the expectation is, “Well, when I wake up I’m Brahman and I’ll be in bliss forever”. Well, there is, in a certain sense, that is true, but it’s not the manifest bliss. And to be attached to the manifest bliss is a mistake and dangerous, because then you say, “Oh, I’m losing this bliss, I’ve got to get this bliss”, well boy, the story of “I am getting happy again” comes back, you see? So let me just say one thing, I got a beautiful image, analogy to describe the difference, because it’s really hard to describe in any kind of conceptual way. When I lived on the desert – after I finished all this, I went and I lived in the high Sierras, the Owens Valley, for a year and a half – and one fourth of July some friends and all that got together and we said, we lived in this little town, Lone Pine, we said, “Let’s go out in the desert, 20-30 miles between these towns where there’s no lights whatsoever, and set off fireworks. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?” So we said, “That sounds great!” So somebody got some fireworks and we got a little convoy and we drove out to the desert and we all put our blankets down and we sat there and the people who were going to run the fireworks went out and they lit them off, and we’re sitting under the sky, the desert sky, just sparkling with diamonds of light, and they set off these fireworks. And they were like little poop, poop, poop with this immense sky. It was lost, it was just lost. So this to me, this is the difference between manifest bliss and unmanifest bliss. The manifest bliss is fireworks, it’s like… but the unmanifest bliss isn’t an emotion, isn’t a bodily, mental feeling, it is just that spaciousness, that indestructible, awesome, endless, boundless – in the Kabbalist tradition they say God is ein sof, without limit. So it’s not that I go around in bliss all the time, but the natural state, if nothing else is going on, if I focus my attention on this or whatever, you just, you’re there. I mean, you’re not there, it’s just, it’s always the background of what’s going on.
Rick: Yeah, nice. Well, I mean, let’s say a man is a pauper, he has $10 in his pocket to his name, and somebody gives him $5, it’s like, “Whoa, big deal, now I’m half again as rich as I was”, or he loses $5, it’s like, “Oh, this is a tragedy, I’ve lost $5”. But let’s say you’re Bill Gates and you gain or lose a million, it’s like, “So what? Big deal”. So there’s this whole section, I think it’s the Taitiriya Upanishad or something, where it takes a really healthy, strong, young, virile man in the prime of life and says, “Alright, if we take that as the baseline for bliss, now multiply it times 100 and you have this level of bliss, multiply it times another 100 and you have this level of bliss”. And it goes on and on and on like that. powers of 100, and each time it keeps saying that the bliss of Brahman is greater than that. And it just illustrates the point.
Joel: Yes, but I would say, you see, no matter how much you multiply it, there’s going to be a limit. So the bliss beyond is, you can’t get there by multiplying, you can’t get there by expanding and expanding, because it’s the space in which you’re multiplying that is the bliss. It’s already there. It’s already… this is one of the things, when I woke up in that motel room, I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe all my life I’d been looking for this and it’s right here. And it is this grungy, dirty motel room with the cinder block walls and all that. So it’s so much more obvious than anybody thinks. It’s not more complicated, it’s so simple, we’re always overlooking it, literally ignoring it. The tension goes from here to here to here to do-do-do, and we’re always overlooking it, it’s right here. My first student who had an awakening, one of the reasons I knew she was awake, we were talking to her and she said, “Joel, you can’t get away from this, can you?” And I said, “Oh, that’s it, that’s it”. That’s true, you try to get away, you couldn’t get away from it.
Rick: What do you think would happen to you if you got Alzheimer’s or some serious thing that really damaged your physiology in some way? Do you think it could be lost then?
Joel: No. This body-mind wouldn’t function the way it does, I couldn’t give teachings, memories wouldn’t arise in consciousness and all that. But, well, I lived with Dr Franklin Merrell-Wolff when I was spending this time in Lone Pine, who was a mystic philosopher, he was 95, 96 at the time, and he didn’t have Alzheimer’s and he was not incapacitated, but he couldn’t give teachings anymore and all that. In fact, on Sundays we play recordings of what he’d made 10 years before of teachings, and we’d listen there and he’d be there and afterwards he’d say, “Does anybody have any questions?” I couldn’t understand what that was about. But here’s the point, you see, he totally had no shred of pride about trying to hide the fact that he couldn’t even understand his own teachings, he was just totally transparent.
Rick: And yet, if you could conjecture as to what his subjective experience was at that point, at the age of 95, would you say that in his heart of hearts he was just as clear and as blissful and as whatever as he was at a much younger age?
Joel: No, see, here we go, we’re running into language problems. There’s no “he” there to be just as blissful or clear or anything like that. It’s consciousness, and that is blissful and clear no matter what’s going on, even if Alzheimer’s is going on. And as a person, as a manifestation one time he tried to sit down in a chair and he fell down and his nurse helper came running over to help him up and she said, “Some sorrows, hell!” But with a twinkle in his eye, you know. So he felt things, he knew that his body-mind was deteriorating and stuff. So this is the idea, see, people think, “Okay, now I’m awake”, but there is no one awake. There’s no one to maintain any kind of clarity or… it’s not a state.
Rick: But this kind of begs the question of what is enlightenment? I mean, I have debates with friends sometimes who say that enlightenment is not exclusive to human beings, that an amoeba could be enlightened or a frog or something, and I always say, “No, it takes a more sophisticated, complex nervous system”. If by enlightenment we’re defining that as sort of the ultimate reality being lived by a biological entity of some sort, that entity has to be fairly complex in its structure, with a massive brain and so on, to actually live that reality. I mean, the reality itself has been there for all eternity, and since before the universe, before the Big Bang or whatever, but for it to be a living reality, doesn’t that necessitate a certain physical apparatus that has a certain degree of, let’s say, sophistication and purity and so on?
Joel: I think you’ve got the cart before the horse.
Rick: You think?
Joel: The consciousness comes first, and then we construct a world with beings and amoebas and all that, and we construct that by making distinctions in consciousness, and then we turn around and we say, “Oh, now we’re living in this world, and this is what allows you and me to talk, and allows you and me to have this conversation, and it allows us to unfold this dance”, but this world itself is not the ultimate reality. This world itself is like, well as they say, a dream. It has the same level of reality as a dream. A good dream, or sometimes not such a good dream, but an exciting dream, a vivid dream, a wonderful dream. It’s not necessarily, when the mystics say it’s like a dream, it sounds very dismissive. Well, it’s only a dream. My dreams are fantastic, by the way, I love my dreams, I get a lot out of them. So, I think that when we start reducing enlightenment to an intelligence, to a brain, to an organism, we’ve got the cart before the horse. It’s the brain, intelligence, the organism, grow out of the consciousness that is already enlightened. We could talk about why we get deluded, that would be more interesting than even why we get enlightened, because enlightened is always the case. So really the question is, how is it that we lose track of this? How do we get deluded?
Rick: Yeah, well let’s spend some time talking about that, and maybe start by, even though we’ve already been skirting around it, why don’t you start by defining enlightenment as you define it.
Joel: Okay, so aside from the search for happiness comes to an end, I would say enlightenment is the realization that there’s no self, and there’s no self to be enlightened, and there’s no self to be deluded.
Rick: Okay, and what are the prerequisites or qualifications for that realization?
Joel: There are no prerequisites or qualifications. We can talk about moments when that realization is more probable than other moments. For instance, well, no we can’t take that back. There’s one thing we can say, for that to happen all thought and desire and the whole, what I call the “story of I”, has to come to a grinding halt, just for an instant. Not in some deep state of samadhi, but just for an instant. Ramana Maharshi and the Buddhist Tibetans talk about just the moment between one thought and another thought.
Rick: Yeah, like you experience in the motel room.
Joel: Exactly. So, wow, that was, no, that was, see, that was a state, a very precious state by the way, and I highly recommend people cultivating, trying to cultivate the lucidity while you’re falling asleep, because we do this every night we pass from waking to sleep. But our minds are distracted usually, and so we just fall into dream, or we feel like we pass out and then we end up in some kind of dream, and we’re not lucid, we don’t notice what’s going on. So, what had happened was my life, and partly because the practices I was doing, brought me to this place where my mind just couldn’t function. So I could take advantage of that state if you like, or the state could be taken advantage of by consciousness realizing itself, see if I really want to get technical.
Rick: It’s good to get technical. Yeah, so in other words, you had gone through a bunch of stuff, years of practice, and you’d just gone through a relationship breakup which kind of left you vulnerable, and had the rug pulled out from under you, and somehow the conditions were such that, and you read that book and then you’ve fallen asleep, and boom, you have this breakthrough. And yet, and it kind of stuck. I mean, it was a state, but it was a shift for you that…
Joel: No, no, no, no, no. Something ceases. It’s not something happens, it’s something that was happening all the time ceases. So there’s nothing to stick, I mean, there’s nothing to hold, there’s nothing to hold onto.
Rick: Yeah. Well, okay. So, we can put it that way then, if something ceased and didn’t resume.
Joel: Yes, that’s a much better way of putting it.
Rick: Okay. So let’s say there were cockroaches in that motel, which there probably were.
Joel: Oh, I’m sure there were. Maybe not that far north, but anyway, something ugly.
Rick: But people bring them in their luggage. And so, is there any likelihood whatsoever that any of the cockroaches in that motel could have had the same shift as you had, or did it take a human nervous system, which had been through certain experiences, to be qualified for that kind of realization?
Joel: Well, this debate goes on in the East, for instance. You can only get enlightened in a precious human birth, and you can’t get enlightened in any other of the cyclic existence states and so forth. And I think it’s valuable teaching, because it focuses attention on how precious our human birth is, and not to squander our life and all that, which I completely agree with. But I still think it’s a relative teaching, it’s not an absolute teaching. And even at the relative stage, my understanding is Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of the 20th century, had a cow that was enlightened.
Rick: Yeah, people always bring up Ramana’s cow.
Joel: And I had a cat once, actually, we called him Dharma Cat, he was a stray cat and he wandered, and he was very unusual. Other cats would fight, he never got into fights with anybody, and other cats would sort of always treat him with respect and this and that. So, to me it’s an unimportant question. The question is, how about you? Why aren’t you enlightened?
Rick: Who’s to say I’m not?
Joel: If you’re not, there’s no question there. So then the question just flies through, it’s like there’s no target to hit.
Rick: Yeah, personally I would… I’m sorry, go ahead.
Joel: People who come to the center are looking for something, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. And sometimes they’re not looking for enlightenment, sometimes they’re very suspicious about all this, but anyway, they’re looking for something. And so my answer in general is, you’ve already got it, how come you don’t know it?
Rick: Yeah, but that’s like… well, firstly, let me just correct something I just said. I don’t claim to be enlightened, and I reserve your… to me the term has such a static, superlative connotation that I really hesitate to use it for anybody. But like you said, I think you explained nicely 15 minutes ago that once the shift had taken place, something was finished, and yet there’s ongoing sort of reveling or exploration within that finished state. That’s not the way you worded it, but you know what I’m saying?
Joel: And that stateless state, in fact the Sufis call the ultimate station, the “station of no station”. And the Tibetans talk about abiding and non-abiding. These are good ways of getting out of that idea that we’re going to enter some kind of state and then you’re going to stay there, and then you’ve got to kind of make sure you don’t fall out of it or you’ve got to protect it. There’s nothing to protect, there’s nothing to hang on to, it’s just totally open. Now I think I know what you’re driving at, and in terms of my students, some of my students have had what I call a “Gnostic flash”, or even a “Gnostic episode”, where there is this real glimpse or realization. It’s not that something’s wrong with the realization, but conditioning returns. Our self-centered conditioning is so strong it returns, and if you don’t know… I’m being over-simplistic here, but if you don’t know how to look directly at it and see that that is a manifestation of the Divine, then you get the same thing that happens with the bliss that almost happened to me. You know, you say, “Oh, I’m feeling this anger, uh-oh, I must be losing my enlightenment”. But if you look directly at anger, you see that is – like the Tibetans say – it’s a wisdom energy. Are you familiar with the transformation of afflicted emotions in the Tibetan tradition?
Rick: Not so much.
Joel: It also, you can find it…
Rick: I was just starting to read it in your book actually, I was getting to that point.
Joel: Well, I think it’s extremely important to start working on a path, just for this very reason, and certainly if you’ve had an awakening, if you have a Gnostic flash, this is the practice you want to be doing. I say again, you’re not going to be doing it, but if you have become familiar with the practice it will happen, it will unfold. It did to me spontaneously, I mean I was fortunate. But for instance, I’ll give you one example. After, I don’t know, a month or so after my awakening, I’m walking through a field of just grass, pretty high grass up to my thighs, and I’m just walking along and suddenly this dog leaps out, like that, you know? And the adrenaline rushed through my system and my mind went crystal clear, and I thought, “Wow, isn’t this amazing? This is how it works!” It didn’t cause me suffering, you see, I mean it was supposed to be this way. The body-mind was responding to a situation in just the way it should, and look at the wisdom in this. See, this is why the Tibetans say anger, the afflicted anger turns into the wisdom of clarity. Because when you’re angry or frightened, and anger, fight or flight, same thing. When you’re angry or frightened, you’re not distracted. You’re focused on what’s at hand, you know what I mean? Completely focused. And you just have this clarity that allows you to respond appropriately, if you’re not overwhelmed. So I’m sure that you and viewers out there must have had some experience where, I don’t know, you’re in a car crash or some natural disaster, something like that, and it’s a real traumatic situation, and suddenly time slows down and you feel completely calm and you know just what to do, and you do what you need to do without any distraction, without any problem. And then afterwards you feel, “Oh, that was like grace, that was something”, and it has a feeling. Something took over, something said, “Okay, you little self, get out of the way, we’re going to handle this”, you know? Boom! Well that is the wisdom, it’s an example of why the Tibetans say these afflicted emotions are actually these wisdom energies, if we could recognize it. And if you’re trying to get rid of anger in your life, you’re taking a precious jewel, you’re taking a diamond and you’re just throwing it away. Because if you throw away anger, you’re throwing away the wisdom of clarity.
Rick: Yeah, the flip side of this is that some people have used that sort of notion as an alibi for being abusive or just really being obnoxious and berating their students constantly or just venting, whatever comes to mind. As a matter of fact, in the spiritual community there’s been this – which you probably observed – there’s been a progression I think from a lot of people overemphasizing that there’s no one and that anything that they do is not really being done by anyone and so on and so forth, and often behaving like jerks, to a more kind of, I would consider, mature perspective of what I guess the buzzword is embodiment these days, that it’s not enough to just be realized, but you need to embody that, you need to walk your talk. One way of putting it is, people saying, “I’m not a wave, I’m just the ocean”, you might say, “Of course you’re a wave, you’re just not only a wave, you are the ocean and the ocean includes waves and you happen to be one particular wave and the ocean at the same time”, and just stretching the metaphor a bit here, the wave has room to grow in a sense in terms of not being a dick and being a more loving, caring, serving, refined human being.
Joel: Oh, absolutely.
Rick: And again, there are egregious examples of people using these philosophical notions as alibis for not behaving very well.
Joel: There’s a little Zen story where this Zen master’s interviewing a monk and the monk comes in and he says, “Alright”, he says, “I’ve realized there is no self”. And the master looks and he grabs his nose and he goes, “Ow!” And the guy goes, “Oh!” And he says, “Who said ‘ow’?” There’s no self. So, yes, but this is duality. This is to say, “I’m the ocean and not the waves”, is to fall into duality. Non-duality means ocean and waves, that the whole point of the ocean-wave metaphor is there’s no difference between them. So, if you want to be just ocean, well, you can be just ocean, and in fact, every single night, most of us are just ocean for a little while, we go into dreamless sleep. We’re just ocean. You don’t want to stay, you want to just be staying dreamless sleep all your life?
Rick: Yeah, it’d be like a coma or something.
Joel: Yeah, exactly. And in the… and I’m going to talk in terms of God, because I don’t mind talking in terms of God.
Rick: Oh, I love talking in terms of God.
Joel: If we understand God as conscious and not some big daddy in the sky, you know? There’s a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, and he went to God and he said, “When people ask me, ‘Why did you create this whole creation?’ what should I tell them?” And God said, “Tell them I was a hidden treasure that longed to be known”. Sometimes it’s translated as “loved to be known”, because “long” and “love” are apparently the same. So, this is what’s going on here. This is God longing and loving to be known. And we, if we’re going to talk dualistically, we are the way God knows. We are God knowing God. So God creates us in order to get to know God. Because God, without creation, doesn’t know God. Doesn’t, all the potentiality is hidden. It’s all unmanifest. So all this is manifest, and you find this in all the traditions in the Hinduism, it’s the leelas, the dance of Shiva. You know, you want to be Shiva without dancing? That would be boring as hell. Shiva loves to dance. And if you don’t want to dance, you’re depriving Shiva of the dance. And the dance is the full, the full dance. That includes all the emotions. They’re not a mistake. It’s our, yes, the way we respond to them is a, quote, “mistake” when we’re deluded, and that’s why they’re afflicted, because they cause suffering. They cause us suffering, and they cause other people suffering. So all this stuff about, “Oh, I can do anything I want because I’m enlightened now”, or whatever, it’s nonsense. It’s nonsense. And there’s no way, frankly, that any of us can judge another person, whether they’re enlightened or not, in any absolute sense. But we should pay very close attention to how they behave, how they behave with their students, how they behave when they’re off-camera, so to speak, you know what I mean? And I’m a big believer in that. And there is such a thing as wisdom energy, wisdom, crazy wisdom. And, am I going on too long?
Rick: No, you’re fine. You’re doing good. I’ll interrupt you if I have a burning desire to do so, but you’re staying on point, actually. This is just… you’re elaborating on a point.
Joel: Let’s go back to Ramana, right? Again, I’ve never met Ramana, and I just know stories that I’ve read about him or other people told. So, this is where I’m coming from. But apparently, his mother, he left home at an early age when he got awakened. He was a teenager, and he didn’t contact his family, and he went off and he was in this ashram, and had students by now and all that. And his mother, family tracked him down, and his mother came to the ashram and said, “You know, son, it’s me, it’s your mother”. And he wouldn’t recognize her as mother. She was just another, he treated her just like another disciple showing up at the ashram. And she was heartbroken, you imagine that, you know? But she finally accepted that this was not going to be a mother-son relationship anymore, and she became his student. And I think she woke up, I think that’s the end of the story, but if not, she got on a spiritual path for enlightenment. So, this looks very cruel in a way. I can imagine his students saying, “What’s the matter with Ramana? That’s your mother, you can’t treat her that way”. But the end for the mother was beneficial. So, it looks awful, but it’s not. And that’s a genuine exercise of crazy wisdom energy, saying, “Come here, baby, I want to sleep with you because we’re all awakened”. You know, that is not…
Rick: Give you some Shakti.
Joel: Yeah, right.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a story about Shankara’s mother, where his mother died, and Shankara wanted to go and do the proper funeral rites for her. And people said, “Oh, you’re a sannyasi or whatever, this is not in tune with your vows, you have no family anymore, you shouldn’t do this”. And Shankara basically said, “Screw you, I’m going to go do it, it’s my mother, I want to do this”. So, maybe that’s crazy wisdom too, just sort of flaunting the rules of the tradition and doing what you feel moved to do.
Joel: Well, Zen is full of that, isn’t it?
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Joel: One of my favorite stories, if we’re going to stick this a little bit off, but there’s a Zen monk, he’s traveling around to different monasteries, hasn’t been there before he’s on a pilgrimage, and he shows up at this monastery, they give him a little room, and it’s a moonless night, it’s at night, and he wakes up and he has to take a pee. So he goes outside, and it’s very dark, but he knows he’s outside and he starts peeing, and the watchman comes around with a torch, and the torch lights up the scene, and he’s peeing on a statue of the Buddha. And the watchman says, “What are you doing? What are you doing? You’re peeing on the Buddha!” And he starts yelling, and then the abbot comes out, and the other monks come out, and the abbot says, “What are you doing? You’re peeing on the Buddha!” And the monk says, “Well, where isn’t the Buddha?”
Rick: That’s a good one.
Joel: So, the point of the story is to be irreverent to the very tradition that you’re coming from. It’s a Zen story about Zen teachings and all that, but to try to cut through to, “Okay, what’s essential here? What’s essential?”
Rick: Maybe that’s what’s meant by that story, of if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.
Joel: Yeah, absolutely. Another one, another example.
Rick: The reason I was going on a little bit earlier about, can cockroaches be enlightened and all that stuff, is that I kind of think it’s important that we be precise and clear when we use words, especially important words like “enlightenment”. And words like that, “enlightenment”, “awakening”, and all, are kind of tossed around rather loosely these days, in my estimation. And I think the more we can be rigorous and precise and work with each other to achieve some kind of mutual understanding of what we mean by this terminology, the better served we’ll be as a larger spiritual community. It’s like, we all have a pretty agreed-upon understanding of what “maple tree” means, or “stop light”, and things like that. But when it gets to some of these terms, I think they could be defined very clearly, and there could even be neurophysiological correlates to this. You could say, “Okay, an enlightened person has such and such brain waves, and an unenlightened person doesn’t”. And there are actually researchers who have been working on that kind of thing for decades. But that’s why I was bringing it up anyway, because you hear people saying, “Well, amoebas can be enlightened”, or “cats can be enlightened”, or whatever, and I think, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe we better really, if we’re dedicating our lives to getting enlightened, maybe we better understand what it is”.
Joel: Well, let me ask you this. Can angels get enlightened?
Rick: I don’t know. What would you say?
Joel: Do angels exist?
Rick: I believe they do. I have friends who see them as routinely as you and I see people in the mall. And they’re not kooky friends. These are like down-to-earth people.
Joel: How about leprechauns?
Rick: I don’t know. There are people who claim to have seen them. I don’t know.
Joel: So, this is my point, though. See, when you talk about an amoeba or a cockroach, you’re assuming this has some kind of reality that is, “Okay, this is a fundamental sort of materialist kind of reality”.
Rick: Something that it’s like to be an amoeba or something that it’s like to be a cockroach or a frog. They have a world-view, you know?
Joel: Yeah. But the point is, in our world, most of us in the West today don’t typically go around experiencing angels or leprechauns, let’s say even more than angels. We certainly don’t experience, I don’t know, wood sprites like they do in Africa. You know, our worlds are quite different from society to society, culture to culture. And that’s a result of how consciousness divides up the world through distinctions, divides up its own experience. So it divides it up in this way, we come out with an indigenous Native American culture. We divide it up another way, we come out with an industrial Western culture. We divide it up another way, we come out with a Tibetan culture. So, they’re very different, and the experience of living in those worlds is very different.
Rick: I mean, yeah, except that we’re not all living in the same world. I mean, we’re generalizing if we say “Western culture”, because within Western culture there are so many hundreds of millions of people, each of whom has a unique perspective to some degree, and some of whom do experience angels or leprechauns or whatever. It’s just a capacity that they have. But obviously what you’re saying is that in other cultures it might be more predominant and more commonly accepted.
Joel: Let me give an example. I read this from a book called “Shamanic Voices”, and it’s an account of an Eskimo shaman, Ayua, and how he became, not how he became a shaman, but how he got a spirit helper.
Rick: Oh, about the shark. Yeah, go ahead.
Joel: Oh, you know that story.
Rick: I read your book.
Joel: Okay. So the story is, he’s out paddling around hunting in his kayak, and a shark swims up next to him and says, “Ayua!” And he says, “He’s astonished”. But he’s not astonished that the shark called his name, he’s astonished that there’s a shark so far north out of its normal waters. Anyway, the shark now became his spirit helper and starts giving him advice about how to hunt seals and things like that. Now, okay, so in our culture, supposing your neighbor said, “Do you listen to these squirrels? You know, they’re telling me what stocks to buy, you know?” You think something’s wrong with the man, so you want to send them to a mental health clinic or something. But in the Eskimo culture, it’s perfectly normal. So all I’m saying is, if you start from the idea of what your culture believes in, like cockroaches and they have brains, and most cultures don’t think of cockroaches as having brains. They don’t know anything about insect brains. This is a very recent discovery in our culture, if you want to call it a discovery. And so, now to ask questions about whether a cockroach can get enlightened, that’s why I say it’s putting the cart before the horse. Enlightenment, consciousness gets enlightened. Here’s another way of looking at it. You see, you can’t get enlightened. And we could take two references to you. You, the ego self, the character in the story of I, it’s a fictional character, it’s created out of thought, all day long it plays like a soap opera. That character is never going to get enlightened, because that character doesn’t exist. And then your true self, the consciousness that is the ground of all this, the Brahman, the Buddha-nature, whatever, that’s never going to get enlightened, because it is enlightened, it never lost any enlightenment. You see what I’m talking about?
Rick: I do.
Joel: Okay, so this is the point. If we look at it from the point of view of the ground, the cockroaches and the bush sprites and the shark spirit helpers and all that are all manifestations of that consciousness. It’s not like the consciousness is in them, they are waves on the ocean.
Rick: I totally have that. No argument there.
Joel: So if you want to say, “Can a wave ..”. waves don’t get enlightened is what I’m trying to say. You know, and this is why you want to get a really precise definition, you can’t, it’s paradoxical. You can say things like, I just was reading, re-reading Garab Dorje, “Awareness discovers awareness”. It’s that simple. “Consciousness discovers consciousness”. Another way of looking at it is, attention is like a wave of consciousness. I’m not talking about the kind of waves like forms, but attention is the power of consciousness to go and focus on different forms, right? So right now, consciousness here is focused on this screen here, right? Now can consciousness, as long as consciousness focuses on the screen, it’s not aware of the consciousness, the ocean of consciousness, in an “aha” sense. Now if that consciousness, if that wave, that wave of attention were to collapse back into the ocean of consciousness, just for a moment, then consciousness discovers consciousness, awareness discovers awareness – “Aha!”. And then the waves kick up again. But it’s been discovered. The hidden God has known God.
Rick: Okay, let me throw in a few things here. So once it’s… and there’s a verse in the Gita which is, “The self realizes the self by the self”, or by itself, I’m sure you remember that one. And what you’ve been describing here and there is something like God playing hide and seek with himself, where this whole creation arises and somehow or other, consciousness… I just wrote an article on this for the Science and Non-Duality website, but there’s a mechanics described in the Vedic literature whereby consciousness is the only reality and there’s nothing other than that, and being consciousness, it becomes conscious, but what has it got to be conscious of other than itself, because that’s all there is. And in becoming conscious of itself, a sort of three-fold structure is apparently set up between observer, process of observation, and observed, which they call rishi, devata, and chandas. And there’s sort of this chandas value, observed value, said to possess a hiding quality where consciousness appears to become hidden to itself. I say “appears to” because we know it never actually ultimately really does, but the whole appears to get lost in the parts. And then this whole sort of hide-and-seek game ensues in which the parts evolve and grow and become more complex and so on, and eventually a part, such as me or you, says, “Wait a minute, what am I really?” And then undergoes a whole search and spiritual quest and so on, and eventually in a motel room or wherever realizes, “Whoa, I’m just consciousness, I’ve never been anything other than consciousness, that’s all there is, what was that all about?” So the hide-and-seek game has come to a certain conclusion, at least for that part.
Joel: Well, see that’s where we’re running into trouble. It is in one sense, a relative sense, at least for that part, but there is no part separate from the whole.
Rick: And there never was.
Joel: And there never was. So we say, “Well, is it the part or the whole?” Well, it’s neither. We’re beyond where we can talk about parts and wholes. This is where even the distinction between relative truth and absolute truth breaks down. The distinction between non-duality and duality, for instance. Like I’m comfortable describing myself as someone who teaches non-duality, but ultimately, non-duality, the non-duality we’re talking about, transcends even the duality between non-duality and duality. You see what I mean? So, once we say, “Okay, reality is non-dual”, that’s nonsense, because we’ve made a distinction between duality and non-duality, and so we’re back into duality. Do we have viewers here?
Rick: Yeah, there’s like, at the moment there’s 27 people viewing. A question came in but it’s not relevant to what we’re talking about, so I’ll bring it up in a little while, but continue.
Joel: If any of you are into mathematics, go to the Center for Sacred Science website and look under “publications”, and under “publications” you’ll find “Holos Journal”, and look under “Holos Journal” and you’ll find an article called “The Play of Distinction”, or “Distinctions”, by Thomas McFarlane, and he has done a marvelous thing. He has described the very process you’re talking about in the Hindu tradition, and you’ll find very similar things in other traditions.
Rick: What was it called again, the article?
Joel: “The Play of Distinction”, and he has described it in mathematical terms. He has translated that into mathematics, and you will see that that very moment we’re talking about, that break between the apparent knower and known and all that, he’s described that mathematically, but the description is a contradiction.
Rick: Do you have to be a mathematician to understand his article?
Joel: No, actually, no, no, this is so simple, it’s like enlightenment. It’s the simplest mathematics you could possibly do. It’s pre-mathematics. It’s just distinctions. It’s all done with a few little circles, circles in space, that’s all it is. So anyway, but the point I’m trying to make is, if you boil all this down into the most abstract language possible, you don’t start with clarity, you start with a paradox. And then you break that paradox open, and now you have A or not A. You see, the beginning is A and not A. Not A or not A. And the whole world and all this takes shape out of breaking that, and that symmetry, if you want another way of putting it, and having A and not A, and now we… different traditions will give slightly different explanations of how it goes about, but the basic structure is the same in them all, in all the mystical traditions. And so, when we get to that point, we cannot put it into words. Teresa of Avila, a great Christian mystic, she says, “Everything I say falls short of the truth, which is indescribable”. And it’s indescribable not because it’s like your mother’s apple pie that’s so wonderful, I just can’t, it’s literally indescribable because the minute you say a word, you create a distinction. So…
Rick: Not only that, but I mean, what we’re talking about… oh, go ahead, you’re in the middle.
Joel: Glasses case.
Joel: Yeah, my little thing. So, if I say glasses case, I name this, and I’ve already created a boundary, an imaginary boundary, it’s not really there, around this that separates it from everything that is not glasses case. I’ve created a distinction, which is supposed to happen.
Joel: That is the play.
Rick: We couldn’t live if… we couldn’t function.
Joel: Absolutely. Yeah. But we don’t want to lose track of the fact that it is imaginary. It is an imaginary distinction, it’s not a real distinction. We superimpose it on the world through our language, our thought, our concepts, and we carve up the world, and that’s the dance. That’s the symphony.
Rick: In Vedanta there’s a term called “lesh avidya”, which means “faint remains of ignorance”, and it’s used to describe the state of, I would say, a very mature state of enlightenment in which the distinctions between Glass’s case and this and that and the other thing are only of faint remains. Predominantly, everything is seen as the self. Very secondarily, things are seen as distinct because they have to be in order for that to be a living reality, otherwise you’d be on a feeding tube.
Joel: Yes, I understand that, but what I’m saying is, so what? See, this is the point. And not only so what, if you didn’t have any remains – I mean, sometimes you want vivid distinctions, you know? Sometimes you want the play to be vivid, you want to see things in brilliant color and so forth. Sure, why not. Which is, again, one of the things I really appreciate about the Tibetan tradition, that they bring this out, that the manifestations that Buddha nature takes are wonderful. Rick, did you ever read Chögyam Trungpa’s book, “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”? He’s got a whole section describing these five Buddha families, which represent five basic qualities of Buddha nature. And he describes them very poetically in terms of seasons, like one is pride, is afflicted emotion that transforms into equanimity, and it’s like a forest, an old log in a forest that’s rich, it’s fallen, but it’s rich with all this mushroom growth and all that, but it’s immovable. If you start to try to move it, it all breaks apart. And he’s got these descriptions that are like poetry, and this is the point. He looks at the log in the forest and he sees Buddha nature. He doesn’t see something wrong, like it’s his hiding Buddha nature. That’s it! That’s it! The hotel room, right now, I’m looking at this weirdo’s screen with all these things on it, that is Buddha nature manifesting. And nothing’s, there are no obstacles between it happening and the knowing it’s happening, and I don’t know.
Rick: Now you said it, and it reminds me of another thing from the Gita, “No effort is lost and no obstacle exists”.
Joel: Very good. I approve of the Gita.
Rick: We’ve talked about everything being consciousness and we could also use the term God, everything is God, and so you and I are God appearing as Rick and Joel and having a conversation, and look at the Discovery Channel and watch movies of coral reefs or galaxies or all the marvelous things that are in our universe. And there’s a beautiful quote from Carl Sagan, I could pull it up and read it verbatim, but basically he says, “Why is it that no religion has ever looked at the discoveries of science and said, ‘Wow, God is even greater than we thought He was!'” So marvelous, so sublime, …”
Joel: We do at the center.
Rick: “…so creative, so subtle”. Pardon? You do that at the center, yeah?
Joel: We do at the center, yes. This is why science is one-third of our mission here, to help foster a new world-view where we can appreciate science just in that regard.
Rick: Yeah, I want to get into that with you actually in a few minutes. Michael Dowd, whom I interviewed a month or two ago, always says, “Science is my scripture”, and it’s God revealing more, I mean, we’re learning more about the nature of God by whatever science shows us.
Rick: And so there couldn’t possibly be any conflict between what science is revealing and what religion should be concerned about.
Joel: I couldn’t agree with you more. But we’ve got another problem there, and that is that science, a lot of scientists anyway, are married to a materialist world-view, which is an obstacle from that side. There are obstacles from the religious side, certainly, but there’s also that side. So in order for there to be a re-approachment between science and religion, we also have to understand that materialism is, relatively speaking, I wouldn’t say it’s a false philosophy, actually, I would say it’s a closed philosophy with no exit doors. And it’s like a prison philosophy. See, at least the religious traditions, even the ones that are obsolete now because they were created before science, they all at least have some sort of escape hatch, you know what I mean? A way you can transcend the whole world-view itself, which is what mystics do, they are always pointing to the escape hatch.
Rick: And also science is not a monolith. I mean, there are so many different branches of science, and the scientists who insist on a materialistic perspective are actually standing on quicksand because quantum physics has already proven them wrong. And you were talking earlier about consciousness being primary and fundamental, and there’s another quote I could pull up from Erwin Schrodinger about that, but basically he says, “We can’t get behind consciousness. Consciousness is the bedrock, it’s the rock bottom”. And people who have that perspective don’t see consciousness as an epiphenomenon of brain functioning, they see the brain as a manifestation of consciousness.
Joel: Absolutely. Yes, and that’s one of the big keys in this last century. If it wasn’t for quantum mechanics, everybody would be at loggerheads. But quantum mechanics is at least, I wouldn’t say quantum mechanics has proved mysticism or anything like that, which a lot of people want to say, but I think that’s going too far.
Rick: It’s getting in that direction.
Joel: Well, it’s certainly removed obstacles to mysticism, it’s removed obstacles to that re-approachment, because you can no longer now fall… well, here’s an interesting thing. See, most people look to science to prove their mysticism. So science says this, and so the mystics have said this, but now science says this. We at the Center think it’s the other way around. Science is in a crisis, but why does science work? You could explain it under the old mechanical, materialistic world-view, but you can’t explain it now. There’s no question science works, but why? So our approach is to say, “How does mysticism explain science? How does mysticism allow you to understand how science works?”
Rick: And how do you answer that question?
Joel: Well, first of all, for people who really want to delve into it, I’m going to make another plug for Tom McFarlane, and he has a video called “Einstein, Buddha, and Reality”. “Einstein, Buddha, and Reality”. You can find it on our website, you could probably just Google it. Tom McFarlane, M-C-F-A-R…
Rick: I can link to the video on the BatGap page of this interview, I will link to that video.
Joel: Great, great.
Rick: You can send me the link, so I make sure I have it.
Joel: Tom can send you the link.
Rick: Tom can send me the link, yeah.
Joel: So, anyway, this is our approach, it’s not we’re trying to prove mysticism by science, we’re trying to prove science by mysticism.
Rick: I think the two can really help each other and enrich each other. I mean, for instance, scientists don’t say, “Here’s my theory, and if you don’t believe in it you’re going to burn in hell for all eternity”. He says, “Here’s my theory, it seems to pan out for me, you check it out, see if it works out for you, see if you can refute it”. He has this open-minded attitude, hopefully, about his theories. Now a mystic, on the other hand, says, “Alright, here’s all these books, the Upanishads and the Tibetan books and all these things, they present all these ideas not as something you’re supposed to believe in, but as theories to explore. All these ancient people are saying they are living all these higher states and deeper realities, you try it, see if you can live them too”. So, there’s something similar about that, and a true mystic proceeds through steps of knowledge and experience just the way a true scientist does.
Joel: This is why we call our Center for Sacred Sciences, because there’s just this parallel. In fact, I’ll go farther and you read the mystics, and most of them you’ll find say, “Belief, static belief, is actually an obstacle. If you settle for just belief, that’s it, your path is over, okay, now I believe this dogma, I believe this doctrine, but it’s not really going to transform your life”. So, like the Buddha’s famous for saying, “Don’t take my teachings just on my word, you test them like a goldsmith tests gold”. So, you take the teachings out and you put them into practice and whatever, and you see for yourself whether they’re true, which is exactly the attitude of science.
Rick: Yeah, and one interesting thing to consider I think is that whether quantum physics is really delving into the same spiritual realities that the mystics have talked about, or whether that’s just an interesting allegory or metaphor, whichever way it may actually be, the fact of the matter is that it seems to me that scientists, because they use objective methodologies and mathematics and particle accelerators and all that to explore these deeper realities, are never going to overcome the subject-object split. Whereas mystics can do that. But there’s an interesting parallel which is that they too are using an apparatus, and here we get back to the nervous system as an apparatus. The human nervous system is more sophisticated than the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, and if finely tuned and properly used, can enable you to transcend the subject-object split and arrive at the sort of ultimate reality experientially. What do you say to that?
Joel: Well, the finely-tuned organism that you’re talking about did not exist a thousand years ago. I mean, nobody conceived of it that way.
Rick: No, but it still was what it was.
Joel: Ah, now you see the…
Rick: Gravity worked just fine a thousand years ago before Sir Isaac Newton came along, same phenomenon.
Joel: No, no, no, no, oh no, okay, I’m glad you brought that up, it’s one of my favorite examples. Let’s look at gravity, let’s investigate this. So, before Isaac Newton, under Aristotle’s world-view, gravity was the propensity of a heavy object to go to its natural place in the universe, right?
Rick: That was Aristotle’s understanding. But gravity itself didn’t change from Aristotle to Newton. It still did what… no, it still does what it does, photosynthesis.
Joel: What does it do? You tell me now, what gravity does.
Rick: Well, I mean, different… I’m not a scientist, I mean, Einstein talked of it in terms of the bending of space-time, and we have that example of a bowling ball running around on a trampoline, and so on. But what I’m trying to say is that laws of nature are what they are…
Joel: No, no, no, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, no, no, I gotta interrupt you here.
Rick: Okay, this is good.
Joel: I gotta go back and then trace it down. So, Aristotle said that gravity is the tendency for heavy objects to fall to the center of the earth, because the earth is the center of the whole universe, right? You’re familiar with that, that’s a fact, that he said that.
Rick: Yes, sure.
Joel: And for 2,000 years, people believed it, right? That was their definition of gravity. It was obvious to them. Then Copernicus came along and he started to rock the boat, because if the earth was no longer the center of the universe, then why was everything falling towards the earth? The earth was just another one of these planets. Well, that upset the whole of physics, it wasn’t just the astronomy, it upset the whole of the Aristotelian physics. And then there was a crisis, and everybody went to work and so forth. And then finally, Newton came along and said, “Okay, gravity is a force that attracts – in bodies that attracts – other bodies. And the bigger, more massive the body, the stronger the force, so it’ll attract smaller bodies, because it overwhelms their force. And I can actually calculate this force, mathematically”. And then people said, “Wait a minute, this is spooky action at a distance, you can’t have that”. And he said, “I don’t know what gravity is, but it works”. So it got accepted, they overcame their spooky action at a distance, and they accepted gravity as a force. And I learned in high school, and I bet most of our viewers there learned in high school, that gravity is some force, like the earth, and it pulls the moon around it. And then the force in the sun pulls this around the sun and all that. Well, Einstein comes along and says, “No, there’s no force in any of this. Gravity is, just as you say, it’s the shape of space, it’s the geometry of space as it’s determined by the presence of a massive object”. Now look, the word is kept the same, but the reference to it has changed completely.
Rick: But the thing itself hasn’t changed. We’ve gone from Aristotle to Newton to Einstein.
Joel: What is the thing itself?
Rick: Whatever! And we’re just using gravity as a case in point. Whatever gravity is, is not dependent on our understanding of it for it to do what it does. You know, it’s been getting along just fine for 13.7 billion years, and it’s our understanding that’s evolving.
Joel: Okay. This is the point. This is the assumption that this gravity is out there, beyond what we think about it, it just is out there.
Rick: Regardless of what we think about it. I mean, in most of the universe there’s no intelligent life, maybe there is here and there on this and that planet, but gravity works just fine in uninhabited regions of the universe, just as it does here on Earth.
Joel: Okay. Let me finish this off by saying, there’s a hypothesis now that Einstein was wrong, that gravity is these little particles called gravitons, and that the interaction of gravitons is what makes these effects. The point is, the point I’m saying here is, these physical theories change periodically. There’s no gravity beyond what’s defined by the theory. So when you’re talking about something out there, beyond what we think about it, you’re objectifying something that doesn’t exist until we start to think about it, measure it, and all that.
Rick: Wait a minute, maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but are you saying that gravity doesn’t exist until we start to think about it and objectify it?
Joel: Yes, absolutely.
Rick: So how did stars form and collapse upon themselves when they reach the end of their lifespan in order to create heavy elements, which are comprising most of our bodies?
Joel: That’s the theory du jour.
Joel: Supposing some version of string theory works out. You know, we’re not going to be talking about any of this. We’re going to be talking about rips in the fabric of space-time.
Rick: Yeah, well, but the point I’m making is we’re all blind men feeling the elephant, and the elephant is what the elephant is, regardless of how accurately or completely the blind men perceive him, he remains an elephant. So gravity, and the way photons work, and gamma rays, and the electromagnetic field, all the phenomena in the universe, it’s incumbent upon us to understand them, but our understanding doesn’t determine or dictate how they work. They work regardless of our understanding, and our understanding is admittedly immature in pretty much every single area, and it continues to evolve. Meanwhile, the universe carries on as it always has.
Joel: Well, okay. I would suggest you and any other viewers that are interested read Thomas Kuhn’s…
Rick: “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, about paradigm shifts and so on.
Joel: Right. So this is the whole point, that the body of scientific knowledge doesn’t just keep growing and growing about some world that’s objectively out there, that our paradigms actually determine how the world appears to us. That’s his main point.
Rick: They determine how it appears to us, but do they really determine what the world actually is?
Joel: Okay, is there anything beyond appearances?
Rick: Well, that’s a good question. I mean, let’s say we accept for the moment the current understanding of the evolution of the universe, from the Big Bang to the evolution of stars, and the collapse of those stars, and the forming of heavy elements, and this goes on and on, and eventually we have enough heavy elements to form planets, and somehow or other biological life arises, and all that’s been going on without there being any biological life to understand or cognize it, and eventually we’ve gotten to the point where we are the universe getting to know itself better through telescopes, through microscopes, through various types of understanding. But the things we’re getting to know have been going on for billions of years. They didn’t wait until we got to know them before they could start happening.
Joel: Okay, you are describing the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to whatever state we’re in now.
Joel: And you are saying, “Well, that’s been happening regardless of what we think about it”.
Joel: I’m going to go out on a limb, not go out on a limb here, but I’m going to make a radical statement and we can try it out. What you had for breakfast doesn’t exist.
Rick: Because I’m not having it now, or something?
Joel: Yes, because everything happens now. Nothing happens in the past, nothing happens in the future, everything happens now. Now, you have a memory. What did you have for breakfast?
Joel: Okay. So you have a memory of having granola, correct? And where is that memory happening?
Joel: Okay. And what are you going to have for dinner?
Rick: I don’t know.
Joel: You’re not going to fast, are you?
Joel: You’re going to eat something, right?
Joel: Okay. And where’s that certainty that you’re going to eat something? Where’s that happening?
Joel: Yeah. If we look at our own experience, there’s no time outside of now. What there are are stories, beautiful stories, wonderful stories, that we weave, that’s why I call them “theories du jour”, religious stories about how God created the heavens and the earth and the Garden of Eden and all that, and then there was this fall. For millions of people, that was just as real as the Big Bang and all that.
Rick: Right. And there’s even millions of people now who believe that the universe is, or the earth is 6,000 years old, and people used to ride around on dinosaurs, and God created fossils on the fourth day, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t make it true just because they believe it, but they believe it.
Joel: Okay. But this is my point. Neither are true. Neither one is true. Unless, except in a very limited way, we talk about relative truth. In terms of a given paradigm, like a scientific paradigm, then the Big Bang is relatively true. But there’s no objective way to stand outside of paradigms and decide which paradigm is true and which isn’t. So, to me, all the religions and all the scientific theories, they’re like novels that you bring. And you say, “This is a great novel. Oh, read this one. This is really beautiful. This has got so much insight about life and all that”. And somebody else brings another novel and says, “No, this is really great”. And then somebody comes along and says, “Yeah, but this is the true novel”. I said, “What are you talking about?” “This is the true novel”. I might like one novel better than another. I might prefer it to another novel. I might be able to give you good reasons why I prefer it. In fact, that’s what literary criticism is all about, isn’t it? But you don’t say about one novel it’s true and the rest of them are all false. Well, see, this is what these conceptual systems, whether they’re religious systems, scientific systems, astrology, whatever. I have strong preferences, by the way, of certain systems that I think they’re more valuable, I think they’re more useful. I found them to be, and I don’t mind having an argument and talking about that. But it’s not a question of which one is true or not, because there’s nothing outside beyond the appearances. And the appearances are determined how we think about them.
Rick: Well, I agree with all that. I think we’re on the same page with that. And all I’m saying is that there is a reality to the way things work that’s not subservient to our understanding of it. And I would readily admit that our understanding of probably just about everything is quite primitive by comparison to what’s possible or what we may have a thousand years from now or something. But a thousand years from now? Let’s say we understand gravity totally differently than we understand it now, it’ll still be the same old gravity, doing the same old thing. And I think the reason this is relevant to spirituality and our whole discussion of spirituality is that… well, why is it relevant? Because enlightenment, spirituality, is an attempt to understand what’s real and to know the ultimate reality of things, and perhaps even to understand relative realities such as they may be. And all kinds of people who have considered themselves spiritual have gotten caught up in all kinds of fairy tales by believing their subjective opinions or by idolatizing, if that’s the word, the written word, idolatry of the written word, and so on, worshipping ancient texts. And I think that the level that you and I are talking on is an attempt to move beyond such notions and to just really get real about things.
Joel: Well, you see, I think we’re diagnosing at a relative level a problem. I don’t think the problem is because some people are ignorant about the truth and the reality and insist on something that is false or that’s true or something. I think the problem is that some people think that their novel is the real one. And so, they’re willing to go to war over it. They’re willing to fight about it. Look at the Middle East today, and it’s just a current example, because there’s certainly nothing specific about the Middle East. We look at the whole history of humanity, and this is people coming and saying, “My novel is the true novel. Your novels are all false. Believe my novel”. Boom. Now, if you get the realization they’re all novels, you don’t treat them that way. You treat them with respect, you treat them and you can still have intelligent discussions about them. That’s my point. It’s not, “Well, all novels are the same”, in a relative sense, they’re not. Some are crap. Some are, you know, some are great profound works of art.
Rick: Just this morning I was listening to Ken Wilber’s critique of Bill Maher’s Religious movie, and Wilber was talking about his levels from archaic to mythic and all the different stages that a child goes through, actually, in its maturation, but also that people go through in their spiritual development and that even societies go through. And he mentioned that at the higher, more mature levels of the sequence, people don’t utterly dismiss the more rudimentary levels. They say, “Yeah, that’s true from its perspective, but there’s a bigger truth which incorporates more and which is more kind of paradoxical. It’s kind of like a building, you have a 10-storey building and if you rise up to the 8th, 9th, 10th floor, you don’t say, ‘Oh, the view from the first floor is totally false.’ You say, ‘Yeah, I see, I understand what you mean by that view from the first floor, but there’s a bigger view which includes but extends beyond that.'”
Joel: Can you see how arrogant that is?
Joel: This idea, this is a progress idea, that we’ve come to the place where we understand, now we have the bigger view. And all you poor people below us, if you grew up a little bit, and this was the excuse for the whole imperialism of the 19th and earliest 20th century. These poor primitive people out there, they didn’t really understand the universe. So we are now, we’ve progressed to the point, we Westerners, where we do understand and we can bring civilization and light to the dark continent, you know?
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Joel: And to me, that’s not a solution to this. To me, the solution is to… it’s like here, it’s like a potluck, you know? At the center we have potlucks on our video Sundays to celebrate things. And everybody brings a dish to the potluck, right? And we have several people from different cultures, like we have one guy from Arabia, he brings hummus almost all the time, you know? So if you can imagine a potluck with people from different cultures, and bringing their cultural dish, you know what I mean? And then you go around and you taste everything in the potluck, you’ll like some things better than others, there’s no question about it. But you’re appreciating, you’re sharing, you’re enjoying the multiplicity, the variety of manifestation here. You’re not judging, “Oh, this is… we know better now, we know how to cook rice, and you don’t know how to cook rice”.
Rick: So would you say then that the spirituality of Ramana Maharshi is on a par with the spirituality of ISIS, they’re just different, but one is not more mature than the other?
Joel: I wouldn’t use one as more mature. I would use one leads to suffering and the other leads to happiness.
Rick: So would you say that there’s some kind of intrinsic superiority to the one that leads to happiness?
Joel: No, no, no, no.
Rick: And it doesn’t involve cutting people’s heads off?
Joel: Not an intrinsic superiority, it’s because to the extent that Ramana Maharshi talked, he spoke in a Hindu world-view. And you know what, the whole point about the Hindu world-view, from a mystic’s point of view, is to transcend world-views, not to take this world-view as the best world-view or whatever. You know, the Buddha’s constantly talking about that, “You use my teachings as a boat to cross the ocean. When you get to the shore, you don’t need the boat, or you may use the boat to help other people get, but you don’t need to carry around the boat. You’ve transcended the teachings, you’ve transcended the world-view”. So at the level of a teaching you put the ISIS teachings next to Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, and at that level, no, there’s no difference between them. What’s the consequence of following one teaching or another? Where does it lead? Does it lead to happiness? Does it lead, not to truth, not to truth like, “Oh, this is a truer one”, but to the ultimate truth, “Oh, yes, Ramana Maharshi’s leads, will lead you more quickly to the ultimate truth” – I believe.
Rick: So it’s more useful, you could say.
Joel: More useful, I’d much rather say it that way. Much more useful. Not only that more useful, I don’t go farther, the other is damaging, because to me, damaging is what leads to suffering.
Rick: Yeah. Well, I know it sounds arrogant to say, “Well, this spirituality is more involved than that spirituality”, and so on, but I mean, we can do that with scientific understandings. Newton was more on the mark than Aristotle, and Einstein took it a step further.
Joel: And I think, my position is squarely based on Kuhn, so rather than us trying to hash this out, I think, go read Kuhn.
Rick: I’ve read him a couple times.
Joel: And then see if what he’s saying, or maybe you just disagree with Kuhn, because he very definitely is criticizing the position that there’s some sort of objective truth out there that we’re getting closer and closer to, by newer and newer theories. He’s saying that these paradigms are incompatible, and they really, literally, the world appears differently. It’s like he talks about the Gestalt switch.
Rick: But he does say that a paradigm is forced into a shift when anomalies become so predominant that the old paradigm can’t be adhered to anymore. It’s like there’s too much cognitive dissonance and the paradigm has to shift. And it shifts in favor of something more akin to reality, more attuned to what the actual state of things is in the universe.
Joel: That’s not what he says. That’s precisely what he criticizes. We’re not shifting to more attuned to reality, because he’s questioning the whole idea that there’s any reality, any independent paradigm, independent reality. That’s his phrase. There’s no paradigm independent reality. And that’s the mystic’s position, and that’s my position certainly, and I think it’s the mystic’s position. The world appears to us through our thoughts, through our distinctions. And so if you create one set of distinctions, the world appears to you this way. If you create another set, the world appears to you this way. In one way it isn’t more real than another way. The reality is below all this play. This is why almost every mystical tradition has this analogy that this world is like a dream. There’s no substance behind the dream. The dream is just the play of the mind. So you might have a nightmare one night, and you might have a dream you’re in paradise, and you might prefer the dream of being in paradise to the nightmare, but in terms of the substance of what the dream is made of, it’s all just made of consciousness. There’s no reality standing behind it.
Rick: True. But there seems to be some kind of underlying template or uniformity. In other words, let’s say 30,000 people go to a soccer match. It’s not like each of those 30,000 people is seeing something completely different. One person is seeing football, another person is seeing elephants running around, another person is seeing leprechauns. They’re all basically taking into account individual differences in perception and understanding and so on. They’re all basically seeing the same soccer match. We’re all basically seeing the same stoplights and so on. We all stop at them. So what we’ve been sort of haggling over for an hour is, I keep saying that it seems to me that there is some objective reality, which is, even to the relative universe, I mean we’re totally agreed upon the absolute level, but there seems to be some objective reality which doesn’t give a hoot what we understand or believe in it, or of it. It just keeps on trucking, doing its thing, and we grow in our understanding of it, hopefully, but if we don’t, it keeps doing its thing. Whatever craters there are on the far side of the moon were there before astronauts flew around it and they’re there today, if we care to fly around it again, they don’t depend upon our…
Joel: Would you say the same thing about electrons?
Rick: I’m not sure.
Joel: Well, electrons…
Rick: Elaborate the question.
Joel: So electron has… there are two ways you can study an electron.
Rick: Oh, particles or waves, right?
Joel: Yes, well, it’s momentum or it’s position.
Rick: Okay, yes.
Joel: So the materialist assumption is the electron has momentum and it has position no matter whether you… how you measure it, right? It’s just out there, just like something, if I threw this glass through space, it would have position, every moment it would have a position, I don’t have a momentum. Well, quantum mechanics says, “No, I can measure the momentum or the position, but it doesn’t have position when I’m measuring the momentum”. It doesn’t exist out there with these properties. So it all depends on how I choose to measure them. And by the way, this is not just in quantum mechanics, this is in relativity and this is in classical mechanics, which is what Tom McFarlane’s video does a wonderful job of explaining in an hour or so, the Einstein reality.
Rick: Oh, I’m going to have to watch that.
Joel: Because this is the point, at a certain level you are… let’s take the example that I think most of your viewers, and maybe you’ve seen this, the Gestalt picture of the old woman and the Parisian young woman.
Rick: Right, depending on how you look at it.
Joel: Yes, so it’s a picture, it’s… now, so it’s a line on paper, it’s a picture, and you look at it and some people immediately see an old woman with a big nose, and then some people see this elegant, sophisticated young woman with a hat with a feather, right? And then you can’t decide to look one way or the other, but if you look at it long enough and somebody points…
Rick: You can switch back and forth, yeah.
Joel: You can start to switch back and forth, right? So which is this? Is it an old woman or is it a young Parisian sophisticated woman?
Rick: Well, that’s totally dependent upon how you look at it, but the paper itself on which this thing is drawn stays the same, whether I see it as an old woman or a young woman, there’s paper made of wood with ink on it, and so on and so forth, and that doesn’t become something different just because I don’t understand it or perceive it clearly.
Joel: Yeah, so this is exactly my thing. So let’s – and this is very crude – but let’s look at the paper as consciousness, the pure consciousness. And let’s look at the lines on the paper, and forget that they’re distinctions right now, but let’s look at them as they’re the waves. So there’s form and formlessness, right? So form and formlessness are there, but the form doesn’t have, isn’t conceptually interpreted until you look and see what your conditioning has produced you to see. You see what I mean? You could say that enlightenment is not seeing the old woman or the young woman, just seeing the paper and the lines. And then, when the old woman pops up, you go, “Aha! Oh, I get it! It’s imaginary!” And the young woman pops up and says, “Oh, isn’t that marvelous? It’s imaginary!” And maybe somebody could see a lot more stuff than that, do you know what I mean? And constantly seeing it. But all there is, is just consciousness and form. And you see, even that’s saying way too much, because I’m making a distinction between consciousness and form, but I’m really at the bottom line saying it’s just what it is. It’s just the suchness, as the Buddhists would say, the suchness of things. So part of the play is to prefer one or the other, as long as we understand what we’re preferring. I like this story better than that story, you know what I mean? And I’ll even discuss it with you, I can tell you why, you know? That story’s boring, and I couldn’t relate to the characters, and this and that. And you could disagree with me. This is what goes on, this is the truth of what does go on, right? When I talk to a fundamentalist Christian, what I try to do here is not have in my mind that this fundamentalist Christian is somehow wrong, and this is a primitive level of development, if they only had a little more education or got more mature, they would see things the way I see them. No, I want to meet that fundamentalist Christian as an equal.
Rick: Absolutely. I had a lovely conversation with a Hare Krishna the other day.
Rick: I couldn’t tear myself away from the guy, it was like we just had this heart-to-heart sort of connection.
Rick: I’ve been doing this thing for 42 years, hand-in-hand leaflets, and I thought, “Marvelous, good on you”.
Joel: I worked in a paint factory, most of them were Sunday Christians, but there was one guy there, a young guy who took his Christianity seriously, and he’d say, “Joel, the Bible says, ‘Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,’ but I’m so mad at this guy I work with”. And we’d sit down, we’d have great conversations, great conversations, and I didn’t try to talk him out of his Christianity, I tried to point out things in Christianity that might be helpful to him, like how to look in anger or something like that. So this is why I respond to when people say, “Well, now we know this, and now we know that”. And even within establishment circles and stuff like that, like Hume, people are beginning to discover this whole post-modern movement with deconstruction and all that, is about trying to see, “Is there really an object out there?” And this is what the mystics have been saying all the time, “There isn’t really an object out there”. The subject-object division itself, that’s the crucial, fundamental division that makes everything happen, everything’s built around that, but it ain’t real. That’s it. If you want to know another definition of enlightenment, it’s just to see that that’s – not that it doesn’t appear, but that it is imaginary. It certainly appears.
Rick: It looks like a snake, but it’s not really a snake. It’s a rope.
Joel: Yes. But it does look like a snake, that’s the point.
Rick: And it gets your adrenaline going, and you jump back, and you react to it.
Joel: In fact, I saw just that when I was living on the desert. I was walking home on this path, and there was a piece of rope, discarded rope, and I did just that. And it was exactly as it’s described in the literature.
Rick: Yeah. A couple of questions have come in, I want to ask them, but I just want to throw one more far-out-there philosophical question at you. And that we’ve sort of been around this – and God’s playing hide and seek, and so on and so forth, and the universe never actually arose, it just appears to have arisen, and so on and so forth. Why do you think it has appeared to have arisen? What is this game all about? Why does there appear to be a manifest universe? Saint Teresa of Avila, whom you quoted earlier, once said, “It appears that God himself is on the journey”, meaning that there’s some kind of cosmic evolution taking place. And just one more quick thing to throw into the question, we can think of ourselves as sense organs of the infinite, and no one sense organ gathers all information, each one gathers a limited subset of possible information. And so this whole thing about there being some grand objective truth out there, and it being dependent upon what we understand, as we’ve been discussing in this interview, we’ll never understand it all as relative sense organs of the infinite, it’s not what we’re wired to do. So there’s about two or three questions in there, but go ahead and run with it.
Joel: Well, the first part, I’ve already said, I was a hidden treasure that longed to be known. I don’t think you can, when you ask the question, “What’s the meaning of all this? What’s the purpose of all this?” I don’t think you have to answer it in terms of poetry or mythology or whatever, I don’t think you can answer it in any scientific sense. And I’m perfectly satisfied with that, I appreciate the wisdom in these mythologies and that kind of explanation. But I will go a little bit farther and say, one way to try to understand why God has to manifest the world in order to be known, in dreamless sleep, there’s no awareness of awareness normally. There’s no awareness of awareness because there’s nothing to contrast it to. So if I have a dream, it rises, and then it disappears, I go, “Wow! Look where that came from! Look where it went to!” If it doesn’t go, “Whoop! Whoop!” I don’t know! I don’t know nothing! So I need to go, “Boop! Boop!” The Tao Te Ching says – this is a practice to do by the way – “I maintain silence, I maintain stillness, I watch the myriad creatures”, that’s all phenomena, “I watch their arising, and I watch their return. They arise from the constant and they return to the constant”, something like that. Well, so there you are sitting in meditation, okay? You don’t get enlightened sitting in meditation, you get enlightened when a myriad creature arises and you watch it arise and then you see where it came from and you see where it goes – “Oh my gosh!” So the whole universe is doing this, and I like to say it this way, the universe is trying to wake you up. All this is God. See, God appears to you and says, “Look at me in this form”. You don’t get it? That’s fine, God’s very patient. God will appear in some other form, a cockroach will go across the room, “Here I am, oh, you didn’t like that one, well, you know”. On and on and on, very patient, waiting for you to wake up. Every moment, every… as a great Kabbalist, Joseph Ben Shalom of Barcelona, a medieval Kabbalist, said, “God in his nothingness, God in his Ein Sof, appears between every transformation of every phenomena”. This is very Zen. I mean, you read that and you can’t believe it, he knows exactly what the Zen people know. Between every transformation, there it is, it’s a “boom”. And that’s why in Zen particularly they’re famous for waking up, somebody slaps you on the face and “boom”, it’s like something sudden happens, something’s there, it’s not there and it’s revealed. And whether that happens in deep Samadhi – you’re not going to get enlightened in deep Samadhi, you’re going to get enlightened just as you’re coming out of deep Samadhi, or something comes into your Samadhi, like the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree, he sat all night and he understood intellectually all karma and the laws of this and so forth and so on, he wasn’t awake yet. And then dawn came and the morning star appeared. “Pfft”, woke up. See, he needed that morning star. Nothing and nothing, it’s both. You want me to go on a little bit or do you want to go to a question?
Rick: You can, let me just throw in a little quick something here. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say that the expansion of happiness is the purpose of creation. And you think about, like if you’re lying in a bathtub and you’ve been lying there for a while and it doesn’t feel warm anymore, but then if you slosh around a little bit you start feeling all the warmth. So you and I were talking about bliss earlier, and perhaps, I mean this is very speculative from my perspective, but perhaps God is sloshing around because there’s bliss in that, and that’s what we see as the universe. It’s like no fun in loneliness, why just have flat on manifest if we can have this phantasmagoria of forms and phenomenon arising through which God can live as turtles and cockroaches and human beings and have kind of this whole marvelous experience. Perhaps there’s some intrinsic, from God’s perspective, some intrinsic fulfillment in doing it this way.
Joel: Intrinsic delight, not fulfillment.
Rick: Delight, yes. Play, lila, remember lila.
Joel: Or the Sufis say, “This whole universe is a divine self-disclosure and God never repeats himself”. They also make a point of saying, “It isn’t going anywhere”. See this moment is no better than the next moment, or the past moment. It’s equally divine self-disclosure. Right now is just as much a divine self-disclosure as if I was sitting in a cathedral listening to Gregorian chants. At that level they’re equally divine self-disclosures. So it’s the unfolding of the delight, the inherent happiness of the Divine.
Rick: So what do you make of St Teresa’s saying, “It appears that God himself is on the journey”. You don’t think there’s possibly some kind of evolutionary direction going on in the grand scheme of things?
Joel: As a relative way of looking at it, I don’t mind that, but I would say it’s like this. Let’s say you wake up and you’re just unreasonably happy, right? In the morning, just for no reason particularly, just nothing’s going wrong and you just had a great night’s sleep. You wake up, you’re just really happy, and you get in the shower and you start to sing, you know? “I got plenty of nothing, nothing’s plenty for me”. Now you’re not singing in order to become happy. You’re not singing to get someplace.
Rick: Right, you’re just enjoying.
Joel: You’re expressing the happiness that’s there. So in that sense, yes, God’s on a journey of how much – it’s an artistic journey.
Rick: How much fun can I have?
Joel: Yes, yes, you could put it that way. How much can I express? And in how many ways? Infinite ways, and constantly changing. I once heard a Zen master give a little talk, and the whole talk he started by saying, “This day will never come again. This day has never been before and it will never come again”. And the whole point, and he’d talk and he’d circle around and he’d always come back to that, always come back to that. Because this is it. This is it. And our problem is we’re looking for what’s coming down the pike. Where’s this all going? And when am I going to get there? And so we’re missing it.
Rick: That’s nice.
Joel: We’re missing this day.
Rick: Yeah, I like your singing in the shower analogy. I mean if everything is God, then somehow the qualities of God must be getting revealed through His creation. And look at an artist or a jazz musician or something, they just revel in creativity, in always doing something new, in creating. They’re like little gods in a way, expressing that thing that we see happening on a grand cosmic scale.
Joel: One of my favorite analogies, specifically jazz and jazz improvisation. God doesn’t know what’s coming next.
Rick: Yeah, Chick Corea or something.
Joel: Yeah, it’s structure, it’s not chaos. And there’s discipline, like you were talking about, there’s order, and we can talk about it in that sense. So it’s not just anything goes kind of thing, but that freedom in the discipline, they’re not separate. Freedom isn’t the opposite of discipline, freedom comes from the discipline, and God plays, and this is the whole point of it.
Rick: Yeah, it’s like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, someone said to him, “Well what’s the plan?” I said, “I don’t know, making this up as I go along”.
Rick: Let me ask you a couple of questions that came in. This is Dan from London. This question will take me a minute to read. Dan says, “You mentioned that you had an experience of being lucid when falling asleep. Every night when I go to sleep I have a practice of watching what happens when I fall asleep. If I go into a dream, one of the things I notice is that everything starts dividing into different dream characters. It’s interesting to notice that the experience of those characters is as real as the experience of people in my waking life. I’m kind of proving to myself that everything resides within, and the experience of others, the duality, is an illusion. Do you have any guidance on what kinds of other sleep/dream practices I can do? I’ve kind of created these practices myself, but would love to get some guidance. I find it wonderful that we have this sleep time to explore reality in a different state of consciousness”.
Joel: Wow, very good. The Tibetans have dream practices, you might check them out, a definite dream practice what to do. They say that any practice you do in the waking state is 9 times as powerful if you do it in the dream state. And because of this, because of the dream state, the emptiness of phenomena is obvious, if you’re lucid. And this is why the whole analogy of the dream is so universal, because when we’re not lucid we take it to have a reality it doesn’t have, when we’re lucid we realize it’s not that the dream disappears, but we realize it’s true nature, it’s just a manifestation of consciousness. Now, here’s my suggestion, since you can be lucid in dreams, which is great, this is half the practices to become lucid, one of the things you can do is try to make the dream more vivid. In other words, let’s say you’re walking through a forest, right? So listen, and see if you can get the sounds of the birds, you know what I mean? See if you can maybe even smell, see if you can get a little smell of rain or something going. And particularly reach out and touch a tree, and touch the tree and see if you can’t make that tactile sensation as vivid as possible. And then you will see more that how this waking world appears to be so real, and yet it’s made of consciousness. So it will really deepen that insight into what the Buddhists call the emptiness of phenomena, the emptiness of the world. And then I have one other suggestion, after you’ve done that for a while, try to dissolve your dream but stay lucid. Let your dream, as it dissolves, take you to dreamless sleep, the state of dreamless sleep. And when you get there, stop, drop everything, surrender everything. Don’t go looking for something, because there ain’t nothing there. Just completely surrender to that. Just completely allow everything to dissolve with the dream. That’s it. See, one of our problems we have when we encounter the opportunity to see the formlessness – we always see the form, but the formlessness is we don’t recognize what we’re seeing, so our attention skips over. So it skips over the whole night, you know? We fall asleep, we have some dreams, and there’s nothing there in dreamless sleep. So we go, “Oh, okay, there’s nothing to see”. I mean, we don’t think that way, but our attention doesn’t stay there. So do this and don’t… be patient. It may not work the first time or whatever, keep coming back. Keep deepening that sense of the emptiness of the phenomena in the dream, and then allow the dream to dissolve and allow the dream to do just that. The dream is a myriad creature and you watch how it arises and you watch how it disappears and where it disappears to. That’s my suggestion.
Rick: Cool. There was one from Carlos Castaneda, too. Don Juan said, “Just see if you can see your hand in front of your face in your dream”. And so that’s a simple one somebody can try. So here’s another question. This one, let’s see, “I realize you personally knew Franklin Merrell-Wolff. Can you help me to understand what Franklin Merrell-Wolff meant by his concept of ‘high indifference’?”
Joel: Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, very good. And I tell you the truth, he never said this directly, but I think he regretted his choice of words because he always had to defend the indifference part. So for those of you who don’t know Franklin Merrell-Wolff, he was this mystic philosopher. He had a realization in 1936 and it lasted, he called it a “nervonic realization”, or he actually preferred the term “recognition”. And then there was a period of 33 days where, again, he was filled with this bliss, this was really strong for him, he called it a “current of bliss”, and he actually had to try to manage it so he could continue functioning. And this culminated in an experience – and I shouldn’t say experience, I must be more careful – in another recognition, which he called the “high indifference”. And in the high indifference it was a state of perfect equilibrium. No good, no bad, no grasping, no pushing away, no desire, just absolutely perfect equilibrium. And he could have stayed there forever, this is like a state, but the only movement there was was compassion, a natural compassion. And this wasn’t him doing, “I’m feeling compassionate”, or anything, it was just out of this high indifference this compassion arose and he carried on and became a teacher and wrote his books and whatnot. So it was like… What I was a little bit talking about before, is like, even letting go of that bliss, even saying, “Okay, the bliss is ain’t it”. And that’s what he meant by “high indifference”.
Rick: It’s interesting that compassion should arise out of indifference, because ordinarily we think of indifference as like, “I don’t even care whatever happens, everybody can die, whatever”.
Rick: But… so there’s sort of a paradox between those two words.
Joel: There is, and that’s why he always had to defend it. He didn’t mean it at all in our normal definition of indifference as being above everything and all that. It was the indifference was the suspension of all judgment, would be one way to put it.
Rick: There’s a nice section in your book, which I just finished reading, not that I finished the whole book, but I finished this section about jnana versus bhakti, knowledge versus devotion. And it would seem that, and I think you say this too, that it’s not necessarily, whichever path you take you kind of end up with both. And there are examples of great jnanis, great enlightened people, knowledgeable people, who were also great bhaktas, such as Ramana Maharshi was devoted to Arunachala, and Nisargadatta was always singing pujas and bhajans and stuff like that. And there are many other examples. So do you feel like – we’ve gone on pretty long – but do you feel like talking a little bit about it, because sometimes non-duality and talk of enlightenment and all has a kind of a dry connotation to it, emotionless. And I think you mention in your book, sometimes even jnanis, people with a knowledge orientation, kind of ridicule bhaktas as being sort of moody or emotional, and kind of making concessions with illusion by creating dualities in order to be devotional. And just a final point, Shankara himself said, “The intellect imagines duality for the sake of devotion”, and he too was a great devotee in addition to being an incredibly knowledgeable man.
Joel: Right. So, for those who don’t know, these are Sanskrit terms, jnana and bhakti. Jnana means knowledge, but we’re not talking about intellectual knowledge, we’re talking about gnosis. In fact, by the way, the same root, I pronounce it “janana”, you can pronounce it either way.
Rick: It’s kind of like, “mmm”, as if you’re holding your note.
Joel: I know, and I’m terrible at pronouncing different languages, so if you listen to my tapes and stuff, I butcher these words.
Rick: Hey, you were born in New York City, what can I say?
Joel: That’s right. But anyway, “gno” of gnosis is the “gna” of jnana, so they have the same root. And then “bhakti” is the path of devotion, so these are recognized in Sanskrit as two different approaches to the Divine. The Bhagavad Gita also talks about karma yoga, but anyway, the Bhagavad Gita is a classic example of how a text that says, “Either way you get there is fine”, but the Bhagavad Gita says something interesting also. It says, “Bhakta is easier for people than jnana”, and I think it’s historically true that more mystics have been bhaktis than jnanas. But these are also two ends of a spectrum, they’re not actually totally different roads, and my experience and the experience of people I’ve worked with, and if you read through the literature, they start to come together. That Catherine of Genoa – is it Siena? Maybe Siena.
Joel: Anyway, she says that the more you know God, the more you love God, the more you love God, the more you want to know God. So they start to work together. And anyway, but here’s the thing, people start off because of their temperaments or because of their experiences, usually in one camp or the other. And anybody who’s curious about life and who they are and “What’s It All About, Alfie ?” or whatever, can be a jnana. But you can’t really be a bhakta unless you’ve had some experience of the Divine in some form. And because the whole energy, the whole movement of bhakta is to fall in love with the form of God. So if you’ve never had any experience of God, if you’ve never been in love with another human being, well you don’t know what that’s about, you can’t just make yourself fall in love with somebody. But once you’ve had an experience of God, ah, that devotion’s aroused and so forth. So people have that, I call it an initiation, I don’t mean a ritual initiation, but that initiation can come through many ways. It might be through an in-flesh guru that you meet, like in India that’s a very common way. It might be just an experience of overwhelming love that happened to Simone Weil, who was a Christian, Western Christian mystic. It might be a sense even of more bhakti, like the intelligence, the marvelous harmony, the way things fit together and the beauty, let’s put it that way. The Plato was, you could say, his bhakti element was this following the beauty of creation. So there are a lot of ways you could do this, but the idea is that you start to have something, some form of the Divine that you surrender yourself to. The jnana goes and looks for this self. Well, “Who am I?” is the central question for the jnana path. So “Who am I really?” and you start digging in and you do practice of inquiry and meditation, and the bhakti path is more devotional singing and stuff like that, but then prayer in the heart and whatnot, it’s all about surrendering self. And finally, first of all, the reason they go to the same place is because who you are is God. “That thou art”, the Atman is Brahman, as they say in the Hindu tradition. “You have no other nature than the Buddha natures”, Huang Eng says, the Buddhists and so forth. So they come together, the two roads come together at the end, but they both end in a paradox really. For the jnani looks for the self and never finds the self. This is the whole point, you think you’re an ego self? Well, start looking for it, and you’re never going to find one. And the bhakta wants to surrender the self, but as long as you’re there surrendering the self, the self isn’t surrendered. So I’ve been very sincere in all that, and God I love you, please take me, here I am, take me, well here I am, take me. The me is the one that has to get surrendered. So both paths end in, they don’t achieve enlightenment, but they self-destruct. They end in a place where you can’t go any further. And so, Ramana Maharshi I think says this most beautifully, he says, “Sadhanas”, practices, “are needed as long as there are obstacles. Therefore the end, no, is needed as long as you haven’t realized. Therefore putting an end to obstacles. But then there will come a time when you cannot do the sadhanas, the much-cherished sadhanas, anymore, and that’s when the self reveals itself”. Now there’s a key phrase in there, “You cannot do them”. It’s not like you decided to give them up, say, “Oh, I’m beyond that, I get these high states, I don’t need to do these practices anymore”. No, they’re much-cherished, you’ve come to depend on these sadhanas, these practices, and then you just cannot do them. And now you’re stuck. Now you’ve gone out on the limb, there’s no going back, and the lightning strikes and you fall. So I look at, whether it’s Bhakti or Jnana, that’s the way I look at the spiritual path, and why, first of all, it’s necessary, it works and all that, but it doesn’t produce enlightenment. In fact, if you’ve got a moment more I’ll tell you an analogy to this, a favorite analogy.
Rick: Sure, yeah.
Joel: It’s like, see, I’m sitting on a side street, really, in Eugene, Oregon, quite far away from any freeway. And I’m sitting here, and the chances of my getting run over by a Mack truck are very small, very small. It’s possible one could come down the hill and be speeding and lose its brakes and crash in this building and kill me, but it’s not very likely. However, if I go down to a main street in Eugene, where there are a lot of Mack trucks, and I sit in the middle of the main street, I’ve got a better chance of getting run over. And if I dress all in black and go out on the Interstate 5 freeway in the middle of the night and sit in that…
Rick: A real good chance.
Joel: A really good chance I’ve increased it. So a spiritual path is like that. It’s divesting yourself more and more of the conditioning, the obstacles that prevent your realization, but in the last analysis, it’s beyond, as the Buddhists say, it’s nothing that can be created by human hands. And of course, all the theistic traditions say it comes by grace, ultimately. There has to be an element of grace.
Rick: Yeah. There’s a friend of mine who… well, actually, there’s an old Zen saying that enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practices make you accident-prone. And the way a friend of mine puts it is… there’s a good chance… I mean, there’s a chance that if you enter the lottery, buy a ticket once a week, you’re going to win and you’re going to be rich for the rest of your life, but I wouldn’t necessarily make that a retirement plan. So there are certain… it could be that you’ll just get enlightened by not doing anything and just go about your life.
Joel: Well, even that though, it’s interesting, because if you read people who didn’t do any practices and got enlightened, I think you’ll tend to find that life itself brought them some crisis, like Eckhart Tolle, for instance.
Rick: Sure. He was nearly suicidal, right?
Joel: Right. So life ended, I think he ended on a park bench someplace?
Rick: That was after his awakening. It took him a couple years to integrate, so he basically fed the squirrels for a couple years while he figured out what had happened to him.
Joel: Well, there you go. But that’s another reason to practice, so you don’t have to… you’re going to spend the time either side. But anyway, he described some point where he was saying, “I can’t stand this anymore!”
Rick: “I can’t live with myself anymore”, he said. And he said, “Wait a minute, are there two of me? Who is this self with whom I can’t live?”
Joel: Right. So, life brought him to this place of being out on the highway, on the freeway, dressed in black, you see?
Joel: So he didn’t have to do any practices, but we don’t have to wait for that. We can do that to ourselves. We can take up a path of practices that self-destruct. They destroy themselves, but they also destroy the delusion of self.
Rick: Yeah. I also happen to think, and if we agree with the Gita, the Gita says it, that you may have done a lot of spiritual practice in past lives, and when you come into this life you’re going to pick up where you left off. So I think a lot of these people who have these spontaneous awakenings have actually paid their dues at some point, you know?
Joel: May well be, in a relative sense, yes indeed.
Rick: Yeah. All right, well this is great, I could talk to you all day. “I say that to everybody”. “I say that to everybody” – no, I don’t say that to everybody. I particularly enjoy this conversation.
Joel: I do too.
Rick: Yeah. Your books are great, I’ll link to them on your BatGap page that I’ll create, and I highly recommend them. The autobiographical one is very interesting, the sort of details of what you’ve gone through in your life are kind of fascinating. And the other one, what’s the second one called?
Joel: Through Death’s Gate?
Rick: No, the other one.
Joel: The Way of Selflessness.
Rick: Yeah, The Way of Selflessness, that’s the one I’m reading now, and it’s really a rich book. I mean, there are literally, maybe, I don’t know, 600 different quotes in there from all kinds of beautiful sources, and the whole thing is laid out very systematically, and a real interesting book to read. And I’m not just in the game here to promote books, but sometimes people ask me, “Well, is there one particular book I should read?” And that’s one of the good ones, I think. It really takes you through a lot of interesting points and lays it out in a clear way with reference to all sorts of different spiritual traditions and authorities from all over the world.
Joel: Well, in my path, I just say the reason it ends up this way is because I told you I was reading books from different traditions and finding the same, almost word for word, from traditions and places thousands of miles and years apart. And that really made a strong impression on me and was very persuasive to me that there was some sort of inter-subjective truth that these people had realized, and that really motivated me. So I just try to reflect that in the book and say, “Hey, they’re talking about the same thing here”, even though they come from different backgrounds.
Rick: Yeah. Great. All right. Well, thanks, Joel. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Do you have any final little wrap-up points you want to make in terms of like.. I’m going to link to your website and all that, but do you have anything in particular going on that you want to call people’s attention to?
Joel: I would just say, I would sum it all up by saying selflessness. Selflessness is the way, it’s the truth, and it’s the fruit.
Rick: It’s the way, the truth, and the life. Good. So let me make a couple of just general wrap-up points. You’ve been watching another in a series of interviews with spiritually awake or awakening people. I always say both because, I don’t know, it seems to me everybody’s still awakening no matter how awake they are, but we could get another hour of debate about that. And as I mentioned in the beginning, there are over 300 of these now, so go to batgap.com and you’ll see them all organized and categorized in various ways under the past interviews menu. Thanks for the 36 or so people who’ve been watching the live stream. We have some technical difficulties with that sometimes, and if you try to do that in the future and things aren’t working properly, I will update the link on the upcoming interviews page to one which does work if I have had to create a new live stream. So if you refresh that page and click on that link, it should work. There’s a donate button I mentioned earlier, there’s a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted, there’s an audio podcast of this whole thing. I just was talking to a friend this morning who said he’s driving to Vermont, and I explained to him, “Oh, you can download the whole thing as a podcast and get it on your iPhone and listen while you’re driving”. So that interested him, he didn’t realize it. And a bunch of other stuff. Explore the menus and you’ll see some interesting things. We even have the BatGap theme song as a ringtone, if that interests you. So thanks for listening or watching, we’ll see you next week. Next week is Loch Kelly. See you then.