Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. We’ve done nearly 700 of them now. If this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu, where you’ll see them arranged in about four different ways. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there are PayPal buttons on every page of the website, and there’s a page explaining alternatives to PayPal. My guest today is Dr. John Churchill. Now you can say thank you, John.
John: [LAUGHTER] Thanks, Rick.
Rick: He said it prematurely before. John was born in London. His interest is in psycho-spiritual development, integral theory, contemplative studies, Western esotericism, and Mahayana Buddhism, and all that began in his adolescence. During this time, John received the esoteric planetary dharma transmissions that would in time unfold as his contribution to a planetary fourth turning teaching. He spent 15 years training and teaching Great Seal Meditation in an Indo-Tibetan Mahayana lineage under the mentorship of the late senior western teacher, translator, respected author, and clinical psychologist Dr. Daniel P. Brown, whom I interviewed a few years ago. He is also a founding member of the Integral Institute, led by esteemed transpersonal integral philosopher Ken Wilber, who is also on BatGap. John has received advanced training in attachment therapy, hypnosis, positive psychology for peak performance, and the pointing out style of Mahamudra meditation. For the last 25 years, he’s developed a fourth turning planetary dharma practice, which includes the somatically based contemplative practice path, embodying the open ground, that integrates psychosomatic healing, adult development, and meditation. John holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from William James College and is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. Married to his partner Nicole since 2000, they are co-founders of Samadhi Integral and co-directors of Karuna Mandala. Well, we could spend the next two hours, John, just having you unpack every little phrase that I mentioned in there.
John: That must have been my wife’s doing.
Rick: She’s comprehensive.
John: A full bio.
Rick: Yeah. But that’s good. I mean, it’s good to give people an overview of what you’re up to. And I first heard about you because a friend of mine did a psychedelic session with somebody who had been trained by you. And so we’ll probably talk about that too. So what do you think is– let’s go for the highest first. You know the principle of the highest first. There’s so many things you could do, but you only have time for so many. So you start ticking them off from the most significant, most profound, most important. Based on that principle, what should we start with?
John: That’s a great question.
Rick: Well, I mean, we’re both lovers of meditation. Why don’t we start there?
John: OK. Yeah.
Rick: You’ve probably been meditating for decades, right?
John: Yeah. One of the things, what I’ve been working on, particularly the last five years, is what a new contemplative system would look like calibrated to the needs of Westerners at this particular point in history. So I feel like different contemplative systems arise based on the needs of the moment and also the kinds of personalities that design the systems and have the realizations. And yeah, I feel like we’re at a unique juncture in history. So hang it on that, we have the opportunity of having access to a number of pretty complete contemplative systems. So what I’ve been interested in is what I would call contemplative engineering, meaning once you understand the metacognitive and attentional dynamics behind a contemplative path, you can then begin to ask questions like, well, how– what would the optimal path look like if you got to design it from the bottom up? That’s kind of where my interest with meditation is right now.
Rick: Yeah. And every single phrase you mentioned there popped a question into my mind. So we’ll see. First of all, do you equate meditation with contemplation? And how do you define contemplation?
John: Contemplation– ah. Well, I mean, contemplative practices. In this Tibetan tradition, I think the term for meditation means literally to familiarize yourself with a particular state. So that could include both attentional training, which is a narrowing of the field, which leads to certain kinds of progressions of state and of concentration and of jhanas, if you will. And then you also have insight practices, which are looking in metacognitively, examining the structures of mind, the self-structure, the attentional system, time and space, and seeing through those to recognize a deeper basis of operation. And then you have contemplative practices, which are just really about resting in the nature of mind, naturally resting. And all of those are important, because those are all different dimensions of the minds that we have. We want to cross-train the mind.
Rick: Yeah. As you may know, my path was transcendental meditation. I learned it back in the ’60s. And I taught it for about 25 years. And one of the things we always emphasized was that it was unique in that it didn’t involve contemplation or concentration. But I’m not a drum-beater for transcendental meditation. I’m obviously very eclectic in my appreciation of all the different paths that people can pursue, or I wouldn’t be able to do this program. And I’ve certainly talked to many people who have achieved tremendous results on all kinds of different paths. But when I was a teacher, the idea of contemplation or concentration had this bias that they were somehow not as effective, because they would disallow transcending. They would keep the mind either entertaining something on the level of meaning, contemplation, or they would agitate or hold the mind using concentration and disallow it from effortlessly slipping into the transcendent. How would you respond to those points?
John: Those are great questions. Well, let’s look at the transcendent afterwards. But first, if we work with the attentional system, because what you’re calling contemplation practice, or what the Tibetans would call calm staying, is really about the stabilizing of the attentional system. And the attentional system is at the center of the self-structure. So the self, by that I mean Rick and John. And so since it’s at the center of the self-structure, it maintains the continuity of the self by attending to the various dimensions of the self: sensations, thoughts, beliefs. All of that is maintained by the attentional system.
Rick: And so if we don’t attend to any of those things, then the self dissipates momentarily?
John: Well, yes. So if you use a practice where you don’t deal with the attentional system, it’s very easy to transcend the self and the attentional system. However, it doesn’t necessarily transform the self-structure and the attentional system that’s residing within the self. So if we want to have a practice that addresses all the levels of mind, all the levels of brain, we don’t want to transcend and not include. Because if you don’t include the self-structure and its transformation, then essentially the self has been left out of the meditative technology. So in my mind, the function of contemplation practice has to do with the process of bringing character development to its fruition, so to speak, and the unification of the sub-minds of the personality, and the centering of the self-structure within, let’s say, the heart. And that’s meant to be a realization that continues off the cushion. So that becomes a new basis of operation for the self-structure. And then we can have more transcendental practices that leave from there. But the truth is, is we’re always going to come back to the self-structure. So we don’t want to transcend. We don’t want the self-structure not to be integrated into these practices. Otherwise, it gets left behind.
Rick: Yeah. Those are very good points. I mean, when I was teaching, the teaching was if you transcend, everything else will be brought along. Like pulling one leg of the table, all the other legs come. Or like watering the root of a tree, and all the leaves and branches flourish. But in practice, over the decades– and I underwent huge transformations as a result of my practice. But I’ve really come to the conclusion, observing people in this community who have been practicing for decades, that that’s insufficient. There absolutely needs to be some kind of attention to ethical development, critical thinking skills, various things that therapies or other kinds of methods could help to culture. Otherwise, a lot of those things just don’t seem to go anywhere. And I’m reminded of Ken Wilber’s lines of development theory, which we can throw in here at some point.
John: So– well, so just dropping some notes down so I can hold this. So I mean, exactly. If you look at, let’s say, the Tibetan, Indo-Tibetan tradition, it’s a university tradition. And in the Mahayana, in the tradition of Maitreya, it was in the text by Maitreya, Maitreya points out, listen, the path of the bodhisattva doesn’t come online unless you engage in what they call the five other sciences, meaning that meditation itself wasn’t enough for the kind of integral weaving of epistemology, hermeneutics, ethics, medicine, psychology, that actually the path wasn’t just about states. It was about traits. And traits involve the integration of ethics, motivation, psychology, into something that is much more well woven together than just relying upon a meditative state.
Rick: Right. And you would probably agree that just having states, like going into samadhi for a minute or two or something like that, does not necessarily bleed into the rest of your life and bring about a changed trait.
John: It can, but why rely upon one line of development when you can rely upon five and have them woven together?
Rick: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree.
Rick: I agree.
John: What comes to my ear, Rick, is the insights just around what Ken calls the fourth turning, or a number of people call the fourth turning, is the integration, particularly, of our Western psychodynamic understanding. So in my practice and my work with students, what I’ve come to see is how in order to stabilize trait development, in order for that stabilization to happen, there are various psychodynamic issues that need to be worked through. And the deepest ones are related to the attachment system, i.e. how safe does the psyche feel? Because if the psyche, if in the background, the psyche, that there are issues from childhood, and you’re suppressing them and you’re transcending them, the attentional system is always going to be seeking in the background some kind of security. So if you don’t address– if we use the language of the chakras– if you don’t address the stability of the first chakra and the second and the third, where all the psychodynamic issues are, those lower chakras continue to drive cognitions and chitta vrittis that you’re then suppressing, when actually, rather than suppressing them, what needs to be addressed are those kind of– those lacks, those issues that haven’t been worked through. And when they’re worked through, the attentional system is no longer searching for something. And the ability to just stay and make those states into traits becomes a lot easier.
Rick: That’s great. Please define chitta vrittis for the sake of the audience.
John: Oh, the fluctuations of consciousness, of mind, of thought, and of energy. Most beginning meditators, as you know, struggle with a monkey mind. But most of the monkey mind is driven in the background by, actually, a sense of insecurity. So yeah.
Rick: You’re probably aware of the second verse of the Yoga Sutras, “yogas chitta vritti nirodha,” that yoga is the cessation of the chitta vrittis, or the fluctuations of the mind. And I had always thought of that as being kind of spontaneous and automatic as a result of transcending. But then again, even Patanjali, who wrote that, had a whole shopping list of different things that ought to be attended to if you really wanted to be successful.
John: Yeah, and I think that we need to re-examine that shopping list and ask ourselves, what have we learned in the last 100 years? Actually, what have we learned in maybe the last few thousand years as Westerners that support that process? Because clearly, as Westerners, we also have some insights into how the psyche works. It’s not all over there. Not all over there in the East.
Rick: Yeah, so a broader question that’s relevant to all this is, we’ve seen over the last half century, or even earlier if we count Yogananda, for instance, waves of Eastern teachers coming from that culture, Tibetan or Buddhist or Hindu, and landing in the West with varying degrees of integration and success. I mean, in some cases, it’s been a total disaster. In other cases, it’s been kind of successful. And a lot of these people grew up in ashrams or monastic situations, and then all of a sudden found themselves in a much more worldly venue and succumbed to those temptations. And that created all kinds of problems. So I think partly what I hear you saying is that we need to adapt and filter and modify these Eastern teachings in order to make them fit in the West and be more effective and successful. What worked in their milieu isn’t necessarily going to work when it’s transplanted here.
John: Yeah. I do believe that if we look at how many– what the pedagogical– what the educational success was of these contemplative educational processes, whether it was Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or other systems, I think my sense is that they were really reserved for an elite. Very often a monastic elite. And so coming here to the West, we now– these teachings are meeting a different kind of population. And a lot of issues can be quietened down in an ashram or a monastery. But you can–
Rick: Or ignored or avoided.
John: That’s what I meant. They can be ignored. I mean, as a father, as a true teenage– I mean, nothing can be ignored. [LAUGHTER] So we have to– and the opportunity of that is to really– it’s not just really about integrating the East and adapting it. It’s actually building new contemplative systems that really are fundamentally an integration of Eastern and Western from the ground up.
Rick: Yeah. So I suppose that would work both ways.
Rick: The Eastern teachers could come here and be supplemented or augmented with various Western systems and then transplanted back to the East and be of even greater benefit there than they were before.
John: I think so. Yeah, I really believe that. One thing, of course, that is interesting is just around meditation research, which over the last 15 years has just shot way up. But 99% of it is on Eastern practices. And in my mind, there is a psychological shadow there that the West has around not really understanding the depth of our own esoteric tradition. And that also needs to be resolved, because if you don’t really understand where we’ve come from, if we don’t understand our own history, then it’s difficult to also move forward into the future.
Rick: Well, what is our Western esoteric tradition? When I think of that, I think of the Transcendentalists, but they got it from the East. Or maybe mystical Christianity or something.
John: Well, mystical Christianity, you have the– I mean, as a European, I grew up in the UK. And being around– if you and I were having these conversations 300 years ago, 400 years ago, whether we would be part of whether it was the Rosicrucians or the Freemasons or the alchemists, those kinds of– and all the way back to the Greek mysteries, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries. I think it’s important for Westerners to understand how we lost our own indigenous traditions. I mean, this is where also my interest in psychedelics comes from, because honestly, I believe that that was always a part of the Western traditions until they were taken out by the Romans. So really, I think we’re at this– we’re at an interesting time in history where not only do we have access to all the contemplative traditions of the East, but there are also some significant traditions of the West that have been hiding, because they had to hide either from the church, and then they kind of hid from science, because no one likes to be laughed at.
Rick: Yeah. And as you just alluded, not only European traditions of European origin, such as the Rosicrucians and all that, but indigenous, Native American, South American, and so on, has all kinds of stuff there, including psychedelics, as you just mentioned. But it’s vast, of course. There’s so many different things. How do you distill it all into practical applications without being guilty of the trying to dig 10 different wells syndrome?
John: Well, yes. I think that that’s where some degree of mastery in one or two systems and some degree of knowledge around these things is helpful.
John: I mean, there’s always a danger of doing that and then slapping something together. But in my mind, if you approach it from a psychological perspective, from understanding the cognitive and metacognitive and the affective motivation, where you understand it from the science side, and then look at how these practices differ and how they are similar. So my teacher, Dr. Daniel Brown, who passed away, recently, he wrote a book with Ken Wilber, maybe in the late ’80s, I think it was, or yeah, like Transformations of Consciousness. Did you ever read that?
Rick: I don’t know. I read something when I interviewed him. But I don’t know if it– it was probably something more recent that he had written. I forget what I might have read.
John: This was way back. So way back then, what Dr. Dan did was analyze– look at the deep structure of three different Buddhist traditions. Actually, no, it was two different Buddhist traditions, the Mahamudra, the Visuddhimagga, and then Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. So basically, with the analysis of a contemplative psychologist, looking at the cognitive and the metacognitive dynamics that are going in. So it’s kind of like looking under the hood, looking at the nature of the path, looking at the stages, looking at what those stages are doing, and then converting them all into a neutral psychological language, and then work out, oh, this is where they’re similar. So once you have a technical language that allows you to translate these traditions out of their own vernacular and into a neutral technical language, then you can start to compare and contrast. And from that, that’s when you can begin to get a sense of, well, what’s the deep design? So once you do that with, let’s say, the Buddhist traditions, then you can begin to– once you get a sense of that deep structure from that place, you can then begin to slowly move out and look at other paths and look at their deep structures. And slowly but surely, that tree begins to reveal itself. So I think it obviously has to be done with intelligence. But it’s a work that I think has been underway for the last 40 years, to some extent.
Rick: I imagine there will always be a plethora of different spiritual practices that people will do all over the world, following their natural inclinations or their cultural upbringing and so on. But at least if they– I think what you’re saying is you want to make available something which is readily known, not just some hidden esoteric thing, which will be really effective if people engage with it. And–
John: As Westerners.
Rick: As Westerners, of course, yes.
John: We haven’t. We haven’t. We haven’t. We probably haven’t designed a contemplative system. I mean, there’s a contemplative prayer. You know, Father Thomas–
Rick: Centering Prayer, yeah.
John: Centering Prayer. Thank you. Yeah, Centering Prayer. And– but we haven’t here in the West had a new contemplative system for a while. And in my mind, the Western tradition– I mean, so the kind of Western tradition that I feel connected to is the Gnostic, kind of Alexandria, where you meet a number of streams in meeting. And it’s about the kind of scientific inquiry around, well, what’s the common denominator here between these various traditions? And using logic and using hermeneutics and epistemology to get a sense of what is– what’s the best thing for us to be practicing?
Rick: For the sake of the audience, would you please define hermeneutics and epistemology?
John: Well, let’s– so understanding, how do we interpret experience? Understanding how we interpret what it means to be a human being. Understand how we interpret texts. So I mean, basically, if we apply the social sciences to looking at the– and the psychological sciences to looking at these various streams that are coming to us of these various contemplative traditions, in my mind, part of the Western tradition is kind of looking and studying with more of a kind of a scientific approach of, well, how does that work? And how does that work? And what’s the similarity here? And then seeing– and then from that, developing technology, which is what we do with outer technologies. I mean, we’re very good at that. I think for some reason, we, for the last five hundred thousand years, two thousand years, have– haven’t been engaged with internal technologies in the same way. But there’s no reason that we can’t be.
Rick: Right. At least in the West, we haven’t, right?
John: We haven’t. That’s right. And in the East, they have. But I mean, granted, there’s always going to be traditions. But in my mind, the Western tradition of inquiry and science and refinement, I think that that’s something important, even in this dimension.
Rick: I agree. And it’s a topic that excites me. I gave a whole talk on it at the SAND conference one year, just about the ways in which science and spirituality could enrich and support and supplement one another, if they were to collaborate properly. And to its credit, of course, Eastern spirituality has had a rather scientific approach with–
Rick: –compared to Western religions. They don’t expect you to just believe something. They want– they might tell you some things and say, OK, now experiment and see if you can prove it for yourself.
John: Well, it’s true. But what I have noticed, which is– I mean, this is a generalization, is that tends to be within a particular system. So let’s say this is one system. Let’s say Patanjali’s or the Visuddhimagga, which is an insight system, or Dzogchen, or Mahamudra, or Tantras. But rarely do you say, well, OK, well, this is one system. And if you follow it, it works. And this is another system. You can follow it. It works. And now let’s take all those systems and take those systems to pieces now that you have and see how do these components work. And wait, is this a good component compared to that component? And then you put them together and you run them. You’re like, oh, that’s a little bit– that works a bit better. You generally– except for, let’s say, the really great masters, like in Tibet, where you begin to see that kind of creativity, generally you don’t see that kind of creativity. On the other hand, in the West, we have the other idea that, oh, you’re going to be creative immediately. And then everybody hangs out their shingle. And that happened in yoga. Everyone’s got their own kind of yoga. But that– it doesn’t have to happen like that. You can look at these things through a serious perspective, talk with people who’ve really mastered them, master a couple of systems. And then from that place, you get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. And of course, at least in my own journey, part of that is also being informed, if you will, by something that wants to come from the future, that is kind of saying, listen, these are the plans. These are the stats. Here’s the blueprint. Go and get that piece, and go and get that piece, and put these things together. So there’s also that piece as well.
Rick: Yeah, I have a question in the back of my mind about this future point. But before I ask that thing you just said a minute ago, if these traditions, especially Eastern traditions, are supposed to be about knowing what reality is, knowing what the self is, knowing what the ultimate reality, Brahman or whatever, is experientially, then one could ask, well, if you pursue all these different things, Hindu and Buddhist and all the different variations of those, are you going to end up all at the same place, like paths up a mountainside? Or are people all going to be experiencing something different according to which path they took in which case it would seem that none of the paths is really working, or at least– because you’re really supposed to arrive– you’d like to think that all the great adepts of all traditions, Eastern and Western, could get together in a room with Google Translate or something and be in complete agreement with one another because they’d all arrived at the ultimate truth.
John: Well, I think generally there’s two pieces. One is around the kind of perspectives that the meditator takes. So for instance, there’s a very similar level of practice in the Yoga Sutras compared to the Buddhist tradition. It’s a level of practice where you’re beginning to just look at how experiences unfold. And as I understand it, in the Yoga Sutra tradition, it’s about ekatatva, which is about the unfolding of experience like a stream, like a flow. And you can look at experience as if it’s a flow. And a lot of the Hindu traditions do, including the Kashmir Shaivite tradition. And you could also look at your experience as from the Ksanika, which is the Buddhist perspective, which is momentary. Now, of course, a light is both a particle and a wave. And this is what these two guys were saying. The Buddhists were saying, no, no, no, it’s a particle. And the Hindus were going, no, no, no, it’s a wave. And yes, it’s true. If you look at it as a wave, it’ll appear as a wave. If you look at it as a particle, you’ll see it as a particle. I mean, part of a planetary tradition would be to be able to say, hey, Rick, look at it as a wave, and it will do this. Look at it as a particle, it’ll do this. Look at it as a waveicle, it’ll do this. So built into understanding that planetary contemplative science is understanding the contexts of these different traditions. And not only that, but also the context of the type of meditator, meaning, let’s say, like typology. So if you have a master, for instance, who– I mean, I had a suspicion that some of the great masters of the concentration traditions had Asperger’s. These are dudes who could sit down and narrow their mind and not move for three days. And then when they come out of meditation and they write out the cartography, all the other monks in the monastery are like, oh my god. I can’t do that. This guy is amazing.
Rick: I’ve sometimes said of myself that OCD can be your friend, because I’ve been so regular in my meditation for all these decades.
John: Well, that’s right. So one of the things over the last 30 years I’ve looked at is, well, look at who is the teacher. Like Jung produces Jungian psychology. Freud produces Freudian psychology. Who the person is and their typology expresses itself as a particular kind of path. Now, once we understand that, we can begin to say, oh, OK. That gives us an understanding of what an integral path might look at, because we’re no longer bound by type. We can begin to work out what would be an integral approach that would integrate the insights of a number of different types. Because usually it’s a bell curve. So if it’s a super devotional kind of sadhana, kind of practice, maybe it works great for people who have open hearts and who are natural bhaktis. But if that’s not your thing, then no. If you’ve got a really good concentration, because– and that can be a psychodynamic thing, meaning you can have developed really strong concentration as a child because you just didn’t want to be bothered by anybody. So that’s a facet. Then you have people who like jnana yoga practices, where it’s all about intelligence, and people who’ve got super sharp minds can penetrate just through koans, through metacognitive questioning. So understanding the various kinds of typologies, super important to getting a sense of, well, hang on, what would be something that integrates the kind of– all typologies, if you will?
Rick: Yeah. And would you necessarily need to integrate them all, or would you naturally have people who pursue different typologies, as you call them, or different practices according to their nature, devotional or intellectual or more action-oriented karma yoga kind of thing?
John: Well, that’s a possibility. I think that some of the different typologies are natural, and some of them come out of psychodynamic conflict. Some of them come out of actually developmental trauma, and the way that I’m going to adapt to my developmental trauma is by being really nice. Or the way I’m going to adapt to my developmental trauma is by being really clever, or what have you. And the thing there is, if the person then continues along that line, yes, that’s their– I don’t think that that’s their natural aptitude. I think that that’s their character structure. And so to some extent, there is– I think there is a universal process of going back to some fundamentals, i.e. everybody has a body, for instance, right? And so this is where the attachment piece comes in, the sense of security or the necessity for psychological security, which at the most fundamental level comes online when the infant is born and just grabs hold of matter, of mother. That is a pretty– that’s a universal. And of course, to some extent, people are able to internalize secure attachment or not, or unsecure. So there are certain dynamics that should be addressed universally. In my mind, a path, let’s say like a degree program, is maybe there is some– you want to move through some general requirements, and then you get to a place where specialization is actually a choice rather than specialization is a habit.
Rick: Well, in terms of regular education, we all pretty much go through the same things up until a certain point. And then maybe when we get to high school, we start taking elective courses. And some of us are more into math and some into–
Rick: –music or whatever.
Rick: And I guess you’re saying that– I mean, does that correlate with the spiritual path? I mean, are there certain fundamentals that you want to build a foundation with, and then you can diversify or specialize after a certain– after those have been laid down?
John: Well, I don’t differentiate between psychological development and spiritual development in the sense of as a psychologist and somebody who’s interested in the dynamics of the human psyche, in my mind, sacred practice is a dimension of education. And so as it was, let’s say, in the Gurukula, in Hindu culture. So the way that I look at this is like, well, if we’re going to bring these traditions and embed them into the West in a deep way, we are curious here about them as part of educational systems. So what does that look like when you begin the contemplative journey at seven and based on what’s possible at seven and then moving through a curriculum so that by the time you get to, as you said, high school, you’re beginning to get a sense of what your natural aptitude is? That’s how I am seeing how in 100 years, that’s how it’s going to be.
Rick: Yeah, I think that’s so important. All the problems we’re having in society could be so much less if children were able to begin unfolding their full inner potential or spiritual potential as part of their regular education. And there are some examples of that. The David Lynch Foundation, which is headed by a good friend of mine, has been getting TM into inner city schools. And Caverly Morgan, who’s been on BatGap, is doing a lot with Buddhist practices in schools out West in Oregon and so on. But these are tiny efforts compared to the millions of kids who are in school. And usually, they’re met with opposition by fundamentalist Christians, so they don’t get too far.
John: Well, I mean, this is where the full translation of these sacred technologies into a neutral language that allows then for them to be described in terms of better cognitive perspective taking and affective positive state development, that’s where that piece is really important.
Rick: Maharshi tried to do that with the Science of Creative Intelligence, as he called it. And it was in New Jersey public schools for a while, some of them. But the only problem was he insisted that if people are going to learn meditation, there has to be a puja. [LAUGHTER] And so it ended up in court and got tossed out of the schools.
John: That’s too bad. I mean, I think that– I mean, I recognize in the TM movement, huge movements to try and bring this about. In my mind, the reason why– it’s going to work much better if it’s at a roundtable and TM is one of them at the table. And from that roundtable, you then develop what a Western tech would look like. And you have buy-in from the Buddhists, and you have buy-in from TM, and you have buy-in from these other things. And it’s something that is– otherwise, it’s your precious, this is my sacred cow. No, no, no, this is my sacred cow. No, it’s mindful, no, it’s TM. I feel like–
Rick: It should be collaborative and cooperative.
John: It needs to be collaborative. Much like– it’s much like if we’re going to put a man on the moon, then– which we can do. That involves technology and involves understanding how multiple pieces of tech fit together.
Rick: And they say no one knows how we did it, actually. No one person could have–
John: No, that’s right.
Rick: –contained all the knowledge of what got us to the moon, because there’s too much.
John: That’s right. I think it’s the same thing here, Rick. I think that it’s been– it needs that kind of approach. One of the things that we’re looking into at Karuna, my organization, as we’re getting the funding, is to build an educational K to 12 model, which has that built into it right from the beginning. But the contemplative practice at the beginning addresses the attachment system. It addresses these very early– because you can concentrate on a number of different things. You can concentrate on a mantra. You can concentrate on your breath. But you can also concentrate on the fundamental psychological dynamics that create safety, security, and trust. And then once those are uploaded, if you will, you can then move to the next chakra and work on– the next center, so to speak– and work on meditating on what it feels like to be deeply felt. So a child internalizes the capacity for self-regulation by being felt by another nervous system, by an adult’s nervous system. So to the extent that you can actually retrain people to meditate on, oh, that’s what it feels like to be felt by somebody else, what you’re redoing there is you’re reawakening the very mechanism that actually allows for inner regulation. And if you meditate on that, then the nervous system becomes reorganized. And then we can move our way up to, let’s say, the next stage. So that rather than having to transcend these various dynamics, we’re using contemplative technology to heal the attachment system, to heal and strengthen the sense of self. If the sense of self is healed and strong and there’s strong self-esteem, it quietens down real easy.
John: You know, it’s when there’s conflict. So it’s this kind of meeting of contemplative science, if you will, psychology, with the traditions, that those pieces coming together that allows for us to give birth to something new.
Rick: Yeah. And we were talking about Western technologies and traditions. And some of those are rather modern. Like, for instance, Geoffrey Martin and Shinzen Young are doing things with some kind of thing that magnetically stimulates parts of the brain. And Shinzen said he’s had the best experiences in his entire spiritual career as a result of this thing.
John: That’s a piece of it. But in my mind, I always go back to human development. So how we unfold, I think a lot of the reasons why growth slows down is not because we don’t have enough, you know, I don’t know, 580 hertz being pumped into our brains. But it’s because we get to a certain point and then the anchors that are holding us to our complex trauma from our childhood, that’s what slows development down.
John: And that gets cleaned up, then naturally the human being starts to unfold. You know, we’re wired to unfold. That’s the perspective that I take.
Rick: That’s a good point. I think, yeah, we are. And I think probably a lot of the difficulties in society are that that natural tendency to unfold, as you put it, is thwarted, is not allowed to unfold. And so people feel so frustrated, and they’re all dying of fentanyl overdoses on Prozac or whatever. A large percentage of the population are doing these things because they’re all so frustrated in a deep way.
John: Yeah, it’s–
Rick: Not allowed to blossom.
John: No, we’re not allowed to blossom. I mean, that’s why in some ways I feel like, well, as Westerners, we have to come up with our contemplative solution.
John: We’ve been given so many gifts. And I think it’s time for– turn the wheel of dharma again. Let’s give it another shot.
Rick: That’s a tricky thing, at least in the US, in terms of integrating it into the public schools, because we have the separation of church and state. And whenever anything like this comes in, as I mentioned earlier, fundamentalists begin to squawk. So it wouldn’t be enough to say, OK, you can come in and alter the Buddhists and the Hindus and everybody else, and we’ll all get around the table. Because then the atheists would say, no, separation of church or state, you can’t do this. Keep it all out of here. So there’s going to have to be some big changes somehow, even constitutional, perhaps, just to be more widespread.
John: Well, I mean, I feel like that’s where psychology comes in. That’s where contemplative psychology comes in, which is, let’s translate all of these terms out of Sanskrit. And don’t get me wrong. I love Sanskrit. I love Sanskrit. But to the extent that they are all converted into psychological terms, then we have something that we can work with. As long as it’s, well, this comes from Buddhism, and this comes from Hinduism, and this comes from Christianity, I think that you’re right. But if this is already a contemplative psychology that integrates the best of the insights of the East and the West in its own language, Western psychological language, which is phenomenological in the sense that rather than talking about using states like the Absolute or Brahman or the Atman, the terms you use to describe are phenomenological terms like the openness of experience or vividness or lucidity or intimacy. Or if you’re using terms that are more related to the direct experience rather than a technical language of a particular tradition, at least that’s where I find that we have success.
Rick: Yeah, well, it would seem that if so, the Western terminology is going to have to become a lot more nuanced and complex and sophisticated. Because the old example of the Inuits have 30 names for snow, and we have one, basically. And if we really wanted to talk to an Inuit about snow, we’d have to find English equivalents for all their names. So I guess the question is, can we really distill the best out of all the Eastern traditions and couch them in Western terms devoid of Hindu or Buddhist trappings without watering them down and making them less effective?
John: Yeah, absolutely.
Rick: You feel we can.
John: Well, that’s what my doctoral work was on. My doctoral work was on, essentially– I don’t even remember what it was. [LAUGHTER]
Rick: What have you been smoking?
John: It was on metacognition, ego development, and contemplative psychology. So this is describing, what are the metacognitive mechanisms of ego development all the way from early on, and then all the way up? And showing how, at a certain point, when these contemplative, meditative operations kick in, actually, you can see that they are part of a singular developmental process. And you don’t have to even use a religious language to do that. It’s a human developmental process.
Rick: Yeah. You might have to somehow coin new terms.
Rick: And for instance, I don’t know if there’s an English equivalent for Brahman, which is just basically the totality and the ultimate reality and so on, unless we want to say unified field in physics, which is what the TM movement tried to do. But then that’s controversial, whether there’s actually an equivalence. But anyway, like with the snow example, our lexicon is rather limited compared to the traditions we’re trying to bring in.
John: I don’t think it has to be.
Rick: OK, so we can coin new terms and define them.
John: Yes. And you define terms that are also about the direct– so what is the direct experience of Brahman? Because not what is Brahman, but the direct experience of it.
John: And then when you use the descriptors of that, you begin to get a set– oh, fundamental unbounded wholeness, the experience of a state of being where there is no center. It’s like a circle with no center and no circumference, like radical wholeness.
John: There are ways of describing these experiences that are the language that if you use that descriptor, a mystic from five different traditions would be able to nod their head.
Rick: Sure. And hopefully you cannot have to have a whole paragraph in order to describe it, whereas in India, they might just say Brahman and know what you’re talking about. But anyway, that’s a rather minor point, maybe.
John: Yeah, once we have a contemplative psychology that’s well built, then these terms begin to mean something. Of course, the sign of any sophisticated technology is a sophisticated terminology.
John: But just because we don’t have one isn’t a reason not to develop one.
Rick: Oh, absolutely, right.
John: Right? Yeah.
Rick: So you’ve mentioned the word the future in terms of how you– you have a vision for how this all might develop. And you mentioned how things might be 100 years from now and so on. I mean, if you could envision– which you probably have– you’d probably envision the ideal of what you’d like to see this develop into, what percent do you feel has been achieved in developing it? Like are we just at a 5% level in terms of what you hope to see happen, or what?
John: Well, that’s a great question. I mean, I experience reality as unfolding like a flower. And so what percentage has it unfolded? Well, it’s never going to stop unfolding. So I guess the question for me is to what degree are we aligned with that unfolding process? I mean, I think for a long time, part of the issue has been resources, getting funding to move these things through. I think that we are at a– I’m full of hope. And at the same time, I am aware of a real dire sense of urgency.
Rick: Yeah, me too.
John: In the sense that we’re coming– we have this fourth industrial revolution rolling out. And if we don’t have a fourth turning of the dharma to meet it, which is as sophisticated as the outer technologies, I don’t want to look at that future. So–
Rick: We also have the sixth great mass extinction happening. Another way of looking at it.
John: So I mean, the last year, I’ve noticed a speeding up of the synchronicity in the projects that I’ve been doing and the projects that my colleagues have been doing. And so that, for me, is always a good sign of, is the wind blowing? Is the human psyche unfolding? Yes. I’m like, this is– I think that things are moving in a way that made me– that I feel good about.
Rick: Yeah, I do too.
Rick: On your website, Samadhi Integral, there’s a headline saying, “The world needs us to awaken to our true nature.” And that’s just what you’re saying here. And it is urgent, I think, as you say. And I don’t know. I have a feeling that it’s happening, and not merely by virtue of the efforts that people like you and I and many others are making. It’s happening because there’s just a shift in world consciousness that’s independent of individual contributions to it. There’s some kind of an upwelling of consciousness in the world. I don’t know whether we’re getting zapped by subtle energy from the center of the galaxy or what’s happening. But I do think it’s quickening, as you said. And I think that it may have a couple of different effects. You know, they say how a rising tide lifts all boats. I think people who are putting themselves in the stream of this rising consciousness will feel continually uplifted. But I think those who fail to raise the anchor of their boat may end up capsizing. And we can see a lot of chaos in the world.
John: Yes. I mean, in my perspective, part of what you’re describing has to do with the cosmology of what we’re talking about. You know, I mean, I think one of the challenges, at least that I see with, let’s say, Tibetan Buddhist practitioners is they have access to this amazing psycho technology, but the cosmology hasn’t been interpreted into what is a Western variation of that cosmology that is essentially the cosmology of the perennial traditions. And so what you’re sharing is that the way I see it is that Gaia is a multidimensional being. We are hosted within the various dimensions of this being. And those dimensions include the after, you know, the heavenly realms, if you will, the astral dimensions. And so Gaia, as a sentient intelligence, is also at a particular level of its spiritual practice. And you know, clearly, Gaia is a bit– you know, like humanity, if you will, is a reflection of that. You know, it’s like it’s a little confused.
Rick: There’s a lot of fleas on the dog, and Gaia is scratching. [LAUGHTER]
John: But that kind of awakening to this kind of interconnected field and the kind of synchronic dimension where those kinds of insights are being transmitted simultaneously to our whole species, in my mind, it’s because that’s a dimension of the planet waking up. You know, in the Buddhist tradition, they talk about the karma dhatu and the dharma dhatu. These are various descriptors of these cosmological layers, planes, if you will. Well, dhatu translates in Ayurvedic medicine as tissue. So in my mind, Gaia is a multidimensional being with multidimensional tissues, right? And these tissues go through cycles of maturity, just like you and I do. And we’re at a moment now where a particular tissue is awakening. And of course, you know, you can’t stop that. That is a force of nature. And of course, you’re right that those human beings who are holding on to the ways of seeing the world, there is going to be– it’s going to be really uncomfortable for certain people because if that is happening as part of the field itself, but you’re not in touch with any sort of teaching or skill set to help you make that transition inside to align with that, that’s going to cause you to probably tighten up even more.
Rick: Yeah. And if you can afford it, get yourself an underground bunker in Montana and lots of food.
John: Bunk it down, baby.
Rick: You know, that kind of thing. [LAUGHTER]
John: Yeah. Yeah.
Rick: There’s a verse in the Gita where Lord Krishna says, when a dharma flourishes and dharma is in decay, I take birth age after age, basically to restore dharma. And we can translate that into just sort of an influx of higher consciousness or divine consciousness or whatever, like you were just saying, in terms of Gaia waking up. And like we’ve just said with the crises that are happening in the world, environmental and extinction of species and all the rest, many people realistically predict that we’re just not going to be around much longer as a species if we continue the way we’re going. So I sort of feel that there’s an intelligence to nature that is responding to the crisis we’ve created. And the antidote might be bitter for some people, as we’ve been alluding to here, but it could save us.
John: Yeah. I also feel like the outer circumstances and the inner circumstances are inseparable. It’s a non-dual reality. The crisis, this is a crisis in the interior of ourselves individually, in the interior of the culture, and in the exterior, in the financial systems and ecological systems. The whole thing is– and in my mind, I mean, this is the reason why meditative practice is so important, and particularly developing a new path where it’s explicitly articulated how the metacognitive dimension of meditation facilitates higher levels of cognition. So part of my work in the integration of East and West is not only is it about the metacognitive dimension, whether that’s through meditation, but as that shifts, new capacity for cognition comes on. So the capacity for systemic thought– I mean, they did research on this, the TM folks, in terms of the effect of TM meditation on ego development.
Rick: Right, Skip Alexander, I believe.
John: Yeah, that’s right. So now we have– now that material on ego development has actually gone further. So now we actually have a larger scale. And that scale of ego development now really goes into the spiritual realms. And it also shows us that the capacity for multisystemic cognition, and then paradigmatic cognition, and then multi-paradigmatic cognition comes online along with this metacognitive capacity for being the field, or for whatever term you want to– for a trait capacity from meditative development.
Rick: You might need to define some of those terms, or we’re going to lose some of the audience. Even metacognition and paradigmatic cognition, you might want to flesh it out a little bit in plain English.
John: Yeah, OK, plain English. So obviously what metacognition means is there’s one kind of– there’s metacognitive thinking, which will be thinking about thinking. So you get to a certain level of development where in adolescence, what we call form of operational thinking, where you can start thinking about, am I going to think about this this way, or am I going to think about it that way?
Rick: Yeah, what do I believe? I mean, do I believe religion, or do I believe– what’s my political affiliation? What do I think– that kind of stuff.
John: Yeah, so even the capacity to do that, 30% of the population can’t even do that cognitive operation. They don’t have enough perspectival capacity to be able to ask themselves that question. So contemplative metacognition would be, for instance–
Rick: They kind of believe what they’re told and just go with the crowd.
John: Basically because developmentally, they don’t have third-person perspective yet. They only have second-person perspective, which means–
Rick: I might add that they’re often frightened into believing differently. I mean, their pastor might say, if you start thinking outside the box that I’m creating here for you, it’s the devil that’s tempting you.
John: Well, generally, second-person perspective in any culture, in any situation, is them and us. It’s called concrete operational, black and white. Are you in or are you out? And so it’s very fear-based. It’s highly susceptible to fear. Third-person perspective objectivity is much more rational and can agree upon– you and I can agree upon a third thing as being, look, that measuring device says 3.5. You see 3.5. I see 3.5. That’s 3.5. What metacognitive awareness is, is the ability to take perspective on your experience, not by thinking, but with awareness. So many meditative instructions are metacognitive instructions. So for instance, bring your awareness and notice the ongoing flow of sensations in your body. That is, you’re bringing your awareness and you’re having it look at something. Or keep looking at those sensations and begin to notice how those sensations are going in and out, that they’re not stable. It’s another kind of– OK, now examine the boundaries of what you think is a solid structure of your body and notice how the boundaries are pulsing, that they’re insubstantial, that they are constructed. So that kind of looking, that is a metacognitive activity. It’s not thought. You’re doing it with awareness. So all the various kinds of meditative injunctions are metacognitive injunctions. Look at this in this way. Look at this in this way. And of course, every path has a sequence of metacognitive injunctions. Look at mantra this way. Look at the breath this way. So that’s what metacognition is, is like taking a perspective, a meta perspective, on your experience. And not only is that important in meditation, but it’s vitally important in psychological development. So for instance, the kind of psychopathology that let’s say a borderline injury or a narcissistic injury, in both of those instances, there’s a particular lack of the mind to do a particular kind of metacognitive perspective taking. So for instance, people who have a borderline injury are able to be aware of their experience, but they’re not able to be aware of their experience in such a way that it organizes their experience. That’s a different kind of way of being with experience. You can look at experience like I’m looking at you. You can just stare at your experience. That isn’t the same thing as relating to your experience that organizes it. In the case of some–
Rick: Somehow reminds me of Robert Burns’ poem where he said something like, “Oh, would some God the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us?” Because a narcissist, as I have seen some on the national stage, seems to be oblivious to what a clown they are and just kind of blind to their own behavior.
John: Well, in a narcissistic injury, what never happened metacognitively– so when I say it never happened, let’s say you’re like four, five, six, seven, eight years old, and somebody never said to you, Rick, how do you feel? Rick, what do you think about this? Rick, how do you feel about these things? So if somebody cognitively never gave you an operation which was like, oh, I need to reflect right now on my experience, if that never happened to you, your mind cannot do that.
Rick: So you haven’t learned to be self-referral or self-reflective or introspective.
John: You literally can’t take that perspective. So when you see people who have narcissistic disorders, literally they don’t know how to be aware of their own experience.
Rick: Right. They’re just outer directed, no introspection, no self-referral.
John: Yeah. So that is a metacognitive damage. So you can see how important metacognition– now, that process goes all the way up. So for instance, I could say that not recognizing Brahman is a kind of narcissistic injury at the most fundamental level of not recognizing the fundamental nature of reality.
Rick: Yeah. You could say, perhaps, that you haven’t been able to probe to the core of your being. Something is blocking it.
John: Or it hasn’t been pointed out to you.
Rick: Yeah. Although pointing out could be more than a matter of pointing it out, because it takes some inner exploration.
John: Well, in the Tibetan tradition, these things, they’re called pointing out instructions.
John: I mean, they are metacognitive instructions, much like, John, how are you feeling today? Oh, I’m feeling good. John, notice, is there a boundary in your visual perception between inside and outside? I can’t find one. And when, of course, you repeat the injunction, John, can you find a boundary inside or outside? No, I can’t find one. John, how do you feel today? Oh, I feel good. How do you–
Rick: It gets habitual. It gets clearer.
John: It gets wired in as a perspective.
Rick: As a way of functioning.
John: As a way of functioning. And if it’s part of the education of how people grow up, the only reason why we don’t do this is because it’s just not part of our education. But if I say to my son, Bodhi, do you recognize the fundamental openness of reality? He’s like, yeah, Dad, whatever. Let me play my video game. [INAUDIBLE] [LAUGHTER]
John: So you asked, so metacognition is fundamental. And the fundamental building blocks of the psyche very early on, but it goes all the way up. And so that’s one dimension. And then so as– so let’s say as the sense of identity becomes disembedded from thought. So most people’s sense of identity is fused to the attentional system, which is fused into thought. But as that disembedding process happens, and as that becomes stabilized as a trait, which as you know, it does if you practice, it’s stabilized. Well, what changes then is how cognition arises within that field changes. Because if you’re no longer holding onto thought, like Gollum holding onto his precious, if we’re no longer holding onto thought and it’s suddenly released in the field, the movement of thought is synchronized with that very dynamic that’s happening on the planet. Because thought is impersonal. It’s an expression of a planetary sheath, a planetary tissue.
Rick: In other words, you become aligned with the sort of planetary dharma or the higher consciousness that’s attempting to awaken on the planet, and you become an instrument of that due to that alignment.
John: That’s right. And it has a cognitive dimension to it as well.
John: Meaning it has a capacity. It thinks. Not only is higher consciousness non-conceptual, it’s also conceptual. The idea that meditation is about no thinking, that is only necessary at a point where you have to learn how to get beyond thought. But once that’s stabilized, I mean, there’s no great thing about having no thoughts.
Rick: Well, you can have no thoughts and thoughts at the same time, actually, because you have different dimensions.
John: Yeah, exactly.
John: And so as that becomes more stable, these more creative, more reflective, and higher perspectival capacity, cognition, comes online. And that’s what I meant. That way of thinking, those ways of thinking are going to come up with the solutions in ecology, finance, medicine, psychology.
Rick: That’s a great point.
Rick: Yeah, that’s really good. So what you’re saying– I’m just translating it to make sure I understand what you’re saying, and maybe it’ll help the audience– that there is a cognitive element in the higher consciousness that’s dawning on the planet that if you can align yourself with that consciousness, you can partake of that cognitive element. And wisdom and creative ideas can come through you as though you were a channel or a conduit for those. Like, I sometimes think of guys like Steven Spielberg, who makes some great movie, and all of a sudden, it’ll awaken everybody up to the possibility of extraterrestrials or something. And I have a feeling like, OK, that’s not just Steven Spielberg. He is somehow channeling an idea that has to be enlivened in collective consciousness.
John: Absolutely. In my mind, the next clear stage or trait in human development– because often, if you try and shoot too high, you actually go too low.
Rick: Not ready for that.
John: Not ready for that. It’s not operational. So then all you do is sit under a tree with a smile on your face, and it’s not very useful. Good for you, maybe. So the next stage– if I use technical language, using the vernacular I used, the Buddhic plane or the meta-aware tier of development, its capacity is– it is disembedded from thought. It’s the ability to reside in that field-like state of being. But the nature of that particular field is, it is the information transmission system of the planet, meaning synchronicity. The factor of synchronicity is how that level of cognition works. First thing, the technical term in Buddhism is valid, non-conceptual, direct cognition. So there’s a technical term for a way of knowing where it’s no longer stored in memory. It’s stored on the cloud, so to speak. And you’re not pulling up based on the past. You’re pulling up based on now. But you’re accessing an intuitional field. But it isn’t a gut intuition. It’s the heart’s– it is the heart field, right? The information field of that synchronicity flows on universal love. So to the extent that your practice has opened up your bodhicitta, your heart, is to the extent that that synchronicity begins to become more and more readily available, not only in the outer life, which would be how the planet is kind of talking with you, but also in cognition, the thought itself begins to become synchronistic. It begins to become intuitive. Begins to be an expression, as you said, of the field itself.
Rick: Yeah, that’s beautiful. And again, to translate it into my terminology, just to have another spin on it, there’s a wisdom in the field, in nature’s intelligence. And if we can attune to that field, then we become a conduit for that wisdom. And so we’re able to appreciate– and they’re not coming from your own gut, as you say. They’re coming from God’s gut. And we’re able to reflect, or channel, higher knowledge that really wants to come through. And it may be philosophical, spiritual, psychological kind of knowledge, or it might be better solar panels, or some battery that lasts forever. Different things like that that really have to come. And according to your aptitude, you’re going to bring it through whatever you’re best suited to bring through.
John: Yeah. And if it’s somatic intelligence, you’re an amazing improvisational dancer.
John: And if it’s–
Rick: You’re another Beethoven or something.
John: Well, that’s right. So the multiple intelligences of that mettaware tier, of that Buddhic dimension, and Buddhic as a bodhisattva, the awakening– I like how you say these are people who are awakening.
John: Right? So the difference between a Buddha and a bodhi, bodhi is awakening, and a buddha is awakened. So this dimension is the awakening dimension, where the human beings become an awakening, synchronized with the awakening process of the planet.
John: The planet is awakening. It’s that dimension of the planet which is awakening.
Rick: Speaking of Beethoven, I just want to mention one quick thing. So I interviewed a guy named Stephen Cope a couple years ago who was at Kripalu Institute, I think. And he had written a book about dharma. And he was talking about a number of famous people throughout history who lived their dharma. And he mentioned Beethoven. And Beethoven had a difficult life and at times wanted to end it. But he just had this compelling feeling like there was this great music that had to come through him. And he couldn’t cop out. He had to stay on the planet in order to bring it through. And just throwing that in there because it’s interesting. But based on what you were just saying now, we’re kind of alluding to, vaguely, to rare individuals who achieve some exalted state of consciousness who can really reflect collective consciousness like we’re talking. But imagine, jump to having 90% of the population functioning this way and what the world might be like.
John: Yeah, I feel like that’s doable. I mean, part of what needs to change is the pedagogy of how we’re going to deliver these teachings. They can’t be delivered to, yes, adults. But we have to think about how to fundamentally rebuild education in such a way that the children and the parents simultaneously go through an educational process.
Rick: Yeah. Do you have your kids in public schools? Do you self-school them? Home-school them?
John: Yeah, well, they did the Waldorf system for a while. But that, unfortunately, my sense is Waldorf was calibrated for the 1920s and ’30s. And so that’s problematic because you need an update. Yeah, so, I mean, gosh.
Rick: Rudolf Steiner, I believe, that was the [INAUDIBLE]
John: Yes, that’s right.
John: Yeah, my kids are in public school. So I get to– it’s difficult to fight that. The cultural influence that flows through the schools is–
Rick: Yeah, so how do you deal with that? I mean, at home you have this heavy emphasis on spiritual development, you and your wife. And the kids are out there in public school where–
John: Well, you have to– I guess that was the journey that I went on. It wasn’t like I was born– I wasn’t born in an ashram.
Rick: Yeah, that’s true. You didn’t turn out so bad.
John: Right? So that’s right. So the secret is to not introduce any of this stuff to them. Oh, no, no, no. We’re just– to really– and then slowly but surely, my 15-year-old daughter went on her first meditation retreat. And she came back and she was like, these are my people. Now, had I tried to– she was so excited because finally– she’s super, super relational. And finally, there’s a bunch of teenagers. She went with iBme (Inward Bound Mindfulness Education.) And they’re sitting down, and they’re sharing, and they’re meditating together. It was a revelation. She came out with a beaming smile. And she’s the same. So I think you’ve got to be really skillful about that.
Rick: Yeah. Kind of like Tom Sawyer. No, you wouldn’t want to paint this fence.
John: That’s right.
Rick: I better do it. It’s really important.
John: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly. And I mean, the thing about parenting, obviously, is it’s a role that never ends. So I think you just have to not seed too many allergies. Right?
John: Now, I mean, obviously, if we have a different kind of educational system where they are doing that with their peers, I think what I saw with my daughter’s case is– and actually, this is also true for adults– that it’s the sharing in the contemplative space which is so important. The way that we actually stabilize, at least, the culture at this next tier of development is through communication. Most people aren’t used to talking whilst in an altered state. They’re not used to stabilizing their meditation and communicating to other people because it is communication that creates the community and the communion.
Rick: Yeah. Well, I mean, integration is the name of the game. You and I are talking in an altered state right now. Well, we wouldn’t call it an altered state. It’s our normal way of functioning. But after decades of practice, it’s just natural. It’s the second nature. I mean, I sometimes say to people, if you could snap from– or if I could snap from where I am now to my normal style of functioning 50 years ago, even though I was able to function OK then, relatively speaking, I’d die. I mean, the contrast would be so huge. And conversely, if I were snapping from there to now, suddenly, I would probably just be rolling on the floor, drooling with bliss and wouldn’t be able to do anything. So we acclimate.
Rick: That’s right.
John: Yeah. I think what I was trying to say is one of the things I’m really curious about is teaching people, speeding up that process by deliberately having people work with speech in groups whilst maintaining their meditative practice. Because– and the reason why that’s so important is that the culmination of every tier of development involves engaging in a we at that level. So for instance, at a concrete tier of development where a child is just working with concrete things, right? Just stuff. And when they first start, it’s just purely narcissistic. It’s my stuff. And then they slowly realize that there’s other objects there called people, and that there’s a collective there. And slowly, they have to adjust to that concrete collective on the playground. And then that process repeats itself at a more subtle tier as cognition becomes more sophisticated. And you go to college, and you have to begin to learn how to participate in a subtle tier where it’s not just you that have ideas, but hey, Rick, you have ideas too. And we’re passing ideas backwards and forwards, right? That’s–
Rick: Enriching each other by doing so.
John: That’s right. And then the next tier of development where basically not only is it we’re passing ideas backwards and forth right now, but my field and your field are communicating, right? And if I’m aware that you are also someone who has a field of awareness, then there’s also a quality of relatedness that is different than if I just thought that I was the only awakened person. I was just like, oh, Rick, you need to understand– relating to you like you were just–
John: Thank you. That’s right. That’s much better, Rick. Right? So that process, if that can be sped up for people, I think you can speed up the integration phase from, let’s say, a couple of decades to a couple of years.
Rick: Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah. Yeah, good point. And that needs to happen too because we just don’t have forever for this.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah. So what kind of things are you doing and with whom? And how many people are you working with? And I mentioned my friend who did a psychedelic journey with someone you had trained, apparently. I don’t know if you trained her in psychedelic stuff or therapy or what. So what’s your cornucopia or your– what is the word? Your toolkit. And what are you doing with it?
John: Toolkit. Well, my apprenticeship phase with Dr. Dan ended maybe five years ago. He passed away recently.
Rick: Right. Parkinson’s, I believe.
John: That’s right.
John: Yeah, I was actually going to continue that lineage. But it got to a point, maybe it’s the whole teacher-apprentice thing, whereas actually, there’s some glaring holes here, Dan. And of course, we’ve got to talk. And that wasn’t what he wanted to look at. So that was time for me to then– time for me to leave.
Rick: Yeah, I did the same thing with the TM movement.
John: Right. Yeah, so I think that’s a necessary part of maturity.
Rick: Yeah. When chicks crack out of the egg, it’s time to leave the incubator.
Rick: If you stay in the incubator, you just make trouble for the other eggs.
John: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. So yeah, so for maybe like 15 years, I’ve been working one-on-one with the students. So that was a really rich time of following people’s contemplative practice, interviewing them, maybe an hour interview every three months, and tracking people’s long– their growth over– some people, like 10, 15 years.
Rick: And you had them doing practices regularly in between your sessions with them.
John: Oh, yes, yes. Exactly. They were doing– yeah, doing a mahamudra, which is one of the Tibetan stages of practice. And actually, Dr. Dan and myself did a research project with Judson Brewer and some other researchers, which was on basically the neurological signature of each of these stages. So we got the brain signature of each of the stages. So that apprenticeship of interviewing a lot– maybe six people a day, five days a week for 10 years.
Rick: Wow. Different people? Or no, you rotate them. Well– Because you’re checking up on their progress, yeah.
John: So I basically am beginning this– in January, I’m beginning the process. We basically started a four-year training program. So the point is now it’s time to move out of that phase of working in that way. I mean, that was an amazing apprenticeship, because I got to see how people grow and track them. But now the question is, well, how do you do that at scale?
Rick: And so what will people learn if they do this training program?
John: Well, the system, the contemplative system that we’ve been working on, which is the kind of integration of the Indo-Tibetan meditative tradition with psychodynamic kind of ego development perspectives.
John: So that’s– we’re beginning. That process has begun. We have, I don’t know, 120 students who are on this four-year–
Rick: That’s quite a few.
John: Yeah, it’s quite a few. And–
Rick: And do they all have to start together? Can people come in at any point?
John: No, they’re going to– it’s going to be every year. So next year, we’ll start another year one as we have a year two.
Rick: But just– Like the way a college would be or something.
John: Yeah. Actually, this is what I’m– this is my mind what a bachelor’s degree of contemplative– what would be like the Western level bachelor’s degree, right? That’s a model, a four-year model of a bachelor’s level education.
Rick: And presumably, these people are scattered all over and you’re doing it online.
John: Yeah, online.
Rick: Maybe with some occasional retreats or something.
John: That’s right. Yeah. So that is one of the dimensions. And then within that, there’s an integration of kind of integral studies, contemplative psychology.
Rick: Do you have faculty other than yourself?
John: We do, but we’re slowly– it’s a– it’s an emergent process. Because in order to build it, I had to get people to enroll. And so now that it’s rolling, we can now begin to add more faculty. The intention, what I’d like to do, is really build that kind of four-year contemplative education. And what’s the best system that we can– best education that people can have who want to get a really deep dive in contemplative studies?
Rick: Yeah. And I’m sure this will be evolving all your life. It’s not going to be cut in stone.
John: No, no. And part of that will be psychedelic work.
Rick: Oh, yeah, I was going to ask you about that. Say something. I might have a question or two.
John: Well, you see, my understanding of the mystery schools, the academies– and so whether that’s the Tibetan, Indo-Tibetan mystery schools, or the Vedic mystery schools, or Egyptian, or the South American, and actually even to that extent, actually the Western esoteric tradition, the chemistry, every subject has a sacred version. There’s sacred mathematics, there’s sacred architecture, there’s sacred chemistry.
Rick: Sacred medicine, all these things.
John: That’s right, exactly. So that’s the first thing. I also really believe that the prior cycles of time, prior to the last few thousand years that we’ve been in, there was a major emphasis on levels of consciousness that we might recognize right now as being more shamanic. And that level of development, as the planet evolved, there was a necessity to stimulate the mental capacity of humanity. It’s been super stimulated for a whole cycle of time. But I do believe that we’re coming to a time of integration, the part of this synchronistic intelligence, integrative intelligence, is now to also reclaim what we’ve lost from the past. Because in order to really move forward into the future, you actually have to integrate the past as well. And that the interaction with the plant kingdom, and that the sacred– the first dimension, real dimension of the sacred, other than the mineral dimension, is the plant dimension. And in my cosmology, the way I see it, and some of the other perennial traditions do as well, that plant– we’re also plants. I mean, human sexuality comes evolved from plants.
Rick: Stamens and pistils.
John: Yeah, exactly. It’s like springtime, it’s terrible. I mean, all that semen floating around. So in my mind, the dream state, what the esoteric tradition would call the astral plane, is literally the vegetative dimension of the sacred. It is the tissue, the datu, of the planet, that is, that the plants are particularly attuned to. And if you’re somebody who’s practiced and interested in traditional medicines, the plant– if you are humble enough to open your heart to the plants, it will tell you. It will communicate with you.
Rick: I met a man one time– well, he was in front of a fairly large crowd, but his name was Balraj Maharshi, and he was in India, northern India. And he could just walk through a forest, and the plants would speak to him and tell him what they were good for.
John: So that’s the astral intelligence that we’ve lost. Now, we’ve lost it particularly in the West, because the Roman Catholic Church went after that. They–
Rick: Burned people at the stake for messing with herbs and things.
John: Well, that’s right. And some of the lists, even in the Inquisition, they list the herbs that these guys are being burnt at the stake for. And a number of these herbs are Western psychedelic herbs.
John: So we had this tradition, right? Like the Dionysian wine was a psychedelic wine, right? The Elysian was a psychedelic. And even to some extent, psychedelics used in the Jewish tradition, the Christian, the Druids. I mean, this is– and not even that. If you actually go back and you research and look into some of the early Freemasons and alchemists, a lot of what they were trying to cover up, in my mind, was they were working with psychedelics. Now, so that dimension for me is a part of herbal medicine. It is a part of the sacred, the next layer of the sacred, that opens up to the personality. Not the level of sacred that opens up to higher consciousness, like way up, but in terms of opening to sacred world. The problem that we have is not a lack of higher consciousness from meditating. I mean, granted, I’ve said that it affects cognition. That’s important. But the other problem is we left behind the sacred. So we left behind the shamanic sacred, where, oh, look, I can see spirits. I can talk to plants. If our culture was able to– I mean, some of the greats in our culture, like Goethe or Paracelsus, or even Isaac Newton, were engaged in alchemical engagement. And I’m really curious about how the various kingdoms of the planet communicated.
Rick: And the whole thing was dumbed down in terms of turning lead into gold and stuff. But obviously, that was maybe even metaphorical for something much more profound.
John: It’s like when you read the tantras in India, right? The twilight language, right? You keep the idiots out by using metaphor.
Rick: Right, even Jesus did that. He spoke in parables because he didn’t want everybody to understand what he was saying.
John: Right. Well, let’s take alchemy, for instance. So if we understand that we do now, that how I perceive something affects it, right? So if I’m engaged first with a plant and I’m relating to the plant as if it’s alive and as if it has something to tell me, and then I’m going to assist the plant in its spiritual evolution by putting it through a sadhana, i.e., I’m going to put it, I’m going to distill, I’m going to put it into a process, a chemical process, which is an outer version of an inner sadhana. And while I’m doing that, I’m going to relate to the liquid in there in a non-dual way. I’m going to spend hours, because I don’t have any TV, I’m going to spend hours relating to this liquid in a particular way. We now understand–
Rick: Imbuing it with shakti or something.
John: It imbues it with shakti.
John: That’s how, that’s what alchemy was. And then if you understand what the plant is–
Rick: What you got in that glass, by the way?
John: What’s that?
Rick: I say, what do you got in that glass, by the way? (laughing)
John: It’s Sunday.
John: It’s water.
Rick: Okay, good. Holy water now.
John: Yeah. So alchemy was basically non-dual chemistry.
John: Non-dual just both in terms of the relationship with the mineral and the plant kingdom, in terms of treating them as being sacred, but then also how you are relating to the chemical operations that you’re doing. Imagine if our chemical system was non-dual chemistry. Imagine what would happen to the kind of, we would open up a whole discovery of a completely different understanding of chemistry and of how herbs and substances and compounds influence the human body.
John: So anyway–
Rick: Not sure you’re gonna convince the chairman of Monsanto, but anyway.
John: I’m sure I won’t. My father was a chemist, so I grew up in that environment. So it’s really important that not only do we develop the higher consciousness, but we reintegrate the lower consciousness. Either we reintegrate the understanding of the ancestral worlds, the indigenous worlds, ’cause otherwise if we don’t, then spirituality has a danger of being like some sort of fascist kind of, like from the head up. So we have to both open up above and open up below.
Rick: That reminds me of something Thoreau said. He said, “Go ahead and build your castles in the air. “That’s where they belong, but put foundations under them.”
John: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, absolutely. So in my mind, like every tradition, I really believe that, there was a relationship with plants for healing. So as somebody who’s worked with people and healing people with plants, there’s no difference for me, like healing with plants, the body or the emotions or the mind and the ones, the entheogens that help the mind heal. I’m always surprised at the kind of like fundamentalist spiritual people, who just don’t understand the fullness of what sacred culture is, that actually, of course, there were plants. Of course, there is, that we want to learn to relate to the intelligence of that kingdom, which is also within ourselves. So that’s, I think it’s super important as part of developing capacity. If you think you’re a good meditator, well, let’s see how you’re doing with meditating and resting in the nature of mind in a psychedelic experience.
Rick: Yeah, you probably have heard the Neem Karoli Baba story, right? Where Ram Dass brings him some LSD tablets and Neem Karoli Baba says, “Give me the tablets.” He takes them, nothing happens. (laughs)
John: Right, so the point is, is you should be able to take the tablets and nothing happens. And if you’re phased, that is useful. If you’re phased, that’s useful information that you’re not ready to die. So it’s humbling, right? I mean, it’s very important. I don’t know about you, but as we continue the journey to continue to be humbled.
Rick: Oh yeah, that’s a big one.
John: Yeah, it’s big, right? So I find those kinds of medicines are deeply useful for obviously healing and helping to integrate trauma. My wife, Nicole, is a psychedelic therapist. She works in a clinic here in town. Yeah, so in my mind, these medicines are useful to help initiate at particular phases and open something up and now follow through with a practice. They also–
Rick: I have a few questions about all this. I was one of those spiritual fundamentalists for a long time, partially because I had used psychedelics rather recklessly in the ’60s and gotten kind of messed up. And then meditation was so healing that I thought, but now I’m much more open-minded about it and have friends who have had good experiences with it. And I’m aware of the research at Johns Hopkins and NYU and all kinds of great stuff happening. And so I guess one question I have for you is, and this is along the lines of what you’re saying, do you think that psychedelics, well, firstly, I think the very fact that they exist, all these plants, means that people are supposed to take them. (laughing) And do you feel that they could play a major role as a catalyst in changing the collective consciousness of humanity? Whereas meditation practices, not that many people are gonna take to them and stick to them, and it might take too long just using those.
John: It’s a great question. I think that there is a need for a new academy, so to speak, where meditation and psychedelics are different departments. And this is part of what we’re trying to build, what we’re building. On the psychedelic side, I have peers who are involved in developments of new psychedelics, legally, and psychedelic pharmaceutical companies. I mean, the kind of alchemy that I think that I’m interested in is if we take the Maharishi effect.
Rick: You wanna explain what that is?
John: Right, well, the research done by the TM folk into the effect of meditators on the larger social field.
Rick: Right, so I participated in a lot of those with groups anywhere from a few hundred to eight thousand people all meditating together and doing their thing together. And then guys like David Orme Johnson and others were trying to measure the effect that was having on social indicators.
John: Right, so I think that’s very real. I believe that the soma, so the Vedic soma, so let’s say we have a laboratory environment where you do have highly capable meditators, and even thousands of them. I do believe that you can actually structure water, like, you know, like, and that the psychedelics that are produced inside of that water-based psychedelics that are also programmed by the intentionality of the kinds of practitioners that are meditating, that we will be able to develop a new class of psychedelics, much, much more refined, right? Because it’s all about intentionality. If the intentionality of the alchemist or the chemist, and the intentionality that is brought to that particular, what that thing is, then there will be a new psychedelic with a new contemplative system.
John: A new wafer, right? And I don’t think it needs to be like super boom, right? It’s really, the question is what kind of experience do people need to have? I think they need to have something that is hot, like roots them in their heart, opens them up, allows them to feel a deep sense of belonging and connection, but also, I said, kind of intelligence. So I do believe that there is, there was always a role for psychedelics. I believe that the Ayurvedic doctors in Nalanda, you know, the first university on the planet, had their own psychedelic department. And just, you know, that’s my intuition, but this has always been a part of the academy. Now, so if it’s at that level, yes, absolutely. If it’s like people, you know, haphazardly experimenting.
Rick: Yeah, partying and so on.
John: Yeah, that’s not what we’re talking about.
Rick: No, no. And so do you feel that psychedelics of some sort might be a useful tool all along the spiritual path, even at high stages of attainment, or do you feel like their usefulness is only within a certain range, and after that, you go on without them?
John: Well, it’s a little bit like saying, do you think that chemistry is useful as people’s chemistry changes as they progress along the path of more refined states of chemistry?
Rick: Well, there’s always chemistry going on inside of us. Every time you eat lunch, you depend upon chemistry.
John: Well, yeah, of course. I mean, all of these states have a chemical dimension to them.
Rick: Right, yeah, well, there’s a neurophysiological correlate to all states of consciousness, but do you think that at a certain stage, psychedelics would be superfluous or counterproductive?
John: I think that if we had had the kind of academy for the last two thousand years, you know, that was cut by like two thousand years ago, if we had that academy that’d been running for two thousand years, I think that we would have very sophisticated chemistry. I think we would even find out that actually part of humans are designed to ingest certain kinds of chemistry that we just don’t have access to. It’s the same thing right now that, you know, that if you have a lack of, you know, magnesium or a lack of calcium, my sense is, yes, that the human beings, our chemistry will evolve, right? That right now, the chemistry of the vehicles that you and I were born into, we have to spend a lot of time just trying to get that chemistry to a place.
Rick: Yeah, it’s pretty crude by comparison to what it could be.
John: That’s right, so yes, I think that there is, but I don’t think we’re talking about the kind of crude psychedelics we have now.
John: I think, you know, after one thousand years of refinement or two thousand years of refinement, it would be a very sophisticated, very, very sophisticated kind of science.
Rick: And even so, I mean, psilocybin might always be very useful just the way it is.
John: Well, yes, I think what will happen-
Rick: Unless you’re suggesting that it can be, you know, some hybridization, it can be bred into a more potent or more refined thing.
John: Well, that’s
Rick: the way marijuana has been.
John: Well, that’s one perspective. The other perspective, as you do that, but the other perspective is actually that there’s plant intelligence, and that as we start to engage in these substances more, we will realize, like if you look at how the, I mean, how they train in the Amazon with the dietas, right, where the shamans will just go on a diet of a single plant to learn and then commune with that plant. And of course, then you help communicate to the plant how it is that you would like them to evolve in order that they could be of benefit, or we could be mutually of benefit.
John: So there’s a level of science here, but not just of outer science, but more importantly, of gnosis, of reawakening a whole astral intelligence, a whole vegetal intelligence of relating to sacred world.
John: Sacred world is not just up there. We’re gonna find out, oh, the mushrooms will start growing and like responding, but there is a psychic field that is a psychic mycelium related to the mushrooms, and as we are engaged with them, they will mutate, not just because they’re with their genes.
Rick: In other words, we and they will evolve together.
John: That’s right.
Rick: And mutually supportive of one another.
John: And that’s what alchemy was all about, the evolution and stuff, the support of helping the anima mundi, the soul of the world, evolve. It’s the most non-dual, it is like practical non-duality, but engaged with the plant kingdom.
Rick: Are you in favor of legalization of marijuana? It’s legal in Colorado now, right? And other places, and how about psilocybin? I think it’s decriminalized out in Oregon and so on.
John: We’ve been fighting, the war on drugs is two thousand years old. Okay, if you read it, it begins–
Rick: It predates Nancy Reagan, okay.
John: It begins with the Romans. The Romans deliberately took out the Dionysian mystery schools, took out the Elysian. I mean, I think the Elysian mystery school was in operation for like a thousand years. Right, and so the Romans took it out. They took out, there was, we’re coming to understand there was a whole trade in these medicines in the Mediterranean, in the ancient worlds. It’s like, I mean, granted, we don’t want people to be misused, we want people to be educated. I mean, what I want to see is education and the academy and be able to walk into a pharmacy and there’s 50 different type of mushrooms and 50 different type of marijuana and that kind of education. But that’s, yeah, of course.
Rick: Yeah, I’m just saying though, I mean, it’s a little blunt the way it is now. It’s just being legalized in places and people can just go at it without the nuance and sophistication and subtlety that you’re recommending.
John: Well, what we’re interested in–
Rick: Maybe this legalization, even though it’s blunt initially, will lead us to the more responsible kind of thing you’re talking about.
John: Well, I think it’s part of the chaos that we’re talking about. It’s the chaos from the bottom. It’s going to be like, yes, there’s going to be, it’s indicative of the situation that we’re in right now. It’s like, you know, like cry havoc, let loose. Let loose, you know, the plant kingdom. You know, we, Nicole, my wife, who is, as I said, she’s a medicine worker. We’ve been developing together a psychedelic dharma curriculum which is basically, okay, so if you’re a dharma practitioner and you’re interested in using these substances as part of your dharma practice, how do you do that as part of sadhana? How does that, how do you relate to this? It’s not just about using substance, using drugs. It involves a whole appreciation of ritual and of intention. Then, I feel, I think this is a really, really important development.
Rick: Yeah, one thing I encounter quite a lot ’cause people reach out who need help is people who either have had powerful kundalini awakenings and they can’t get the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, and it’s messing up their lives. And/or, you know, experiences with ayahuasca and so on that left them in a sort of dysfunctional condition. They haven’t been able to adjust back to regular life. And sometimes those two things are related, like the ayahuasca will kick off a kundalini awakening. And there seems to be a, there’s a little network of people who can help with this kind of thing, but it’s not adequate to the magnitude of the experience, the number of people who are having these kinds of problems.
John: Well, that’s exactly why I say that they have to be integrated into long-term initiatory systems. So right now, we’re gonna build a, we’re building this four-year program. Really, what I’m interested in building is a 40-year program because, as you well know, that’s how long the journey is. And once you’re planning for a 40-year goal, a 40-year journey, then you can build other kinds of institutions that support that kind of journey.
Rick: Yeah, it’s a lifelong thing, really.
John: It’s a lifelong thing.
Rick: In fact, they could be useful on your deathbed as they’re being at Johns Hopkins.
John: Absolutely. But the point is that then ayahuasca, if it was part of a journey with people who are tracking you and part of an educational journey, what you’re bringing up, I think, are cases where people go to an ayahuasca circle, have a kundalini awakening, and then that’s it. There’s no follow-up. There’s no path. There’s no integration, right? So these are incredibly powerful, initiating medicines, and they need to be respected.
Rick: Yeah. So do you feel that the scene in general these days is a little bit too haphazard and irresponsible and not as careful and refined as you’re suggesting here?
John: I’m actually very much like you, Rick. I’m actually quite, I’m quite conservative in the sense that I am somebody who’s interested in like in architecting long-term curriculums. I don’t see any of that. So in my mind, it is chaos, but that’s okay. That’s huge, right? I mean, frankly, I’d rather see that than the opposite, which is what we’ve had in people.
Rick: Yeah, which is repression and-
John: Have people in prison.
Rick: Right, crazy. I went to prison a couple of times, or jail a couple of times for this very reason when I was a teenager.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So obviously there’s amazing work being done in terms of maps and in terms of, was it King’s College, London? I mean, yeah, I think that, I think what we’re gonna see is things are gonna start maturing quickly.
Rick: Yeah, that’s good. I’m impressed with your vision. You just have this vast vision which involves completely transforming every aspect of society. So good luck.
John: I mean, that’s the-
Rick: That’s great.
John: That’s what a bodhisattva, at least in my tradition, that’s what a bodhisattva does, right? It is being given an impossible task. If you don’t have an impossible task, in my mind, then you’re not really a bodhisattva because actually part of the path is being given the impossible task to do. That’s not even intentionally, meaning the synchronistic nature of the level of mind that you open up at a particular point in the path will present you with a challenge. That challenge will seem insurmountable, but it is engaging with that challenge that continues your character development and your growth. So, yeah.
Rick: I think it’s really good that people like you have a grand vision because if enough people have it, then collaboratively, even if we’re not directly working together, we’ll manifest it. And so it’s good to think big.
John: Well, I just had a meeting this week with people in the corporate world who they want to have this level of training, right? So they’re talking big sums of money. So my sense is that it’s really about that if you have the integrity and if you also have the devotion, the love, and it’s the right time, and I do think that now is the right time. I think that something is changing, right? I think that things are speeding up.
John: That one of the dimensions of the academy is sacred finance. And it will, if you do what you’re meant to do, it will show up. So I have no doubt, I have no doubt that the resources will show up because they are showing up. And because as you said, this isn’t about, it’s not about you and it’s not about me. This planet wants a new culture stat. Enough already, right? So if there is an interconnected intelligence, if it is more than just you and me, but if it is a we, and that we is woven even into the plants, and the plants are going, “Go for it, Rick, come on, you’re on it.”
John: Right? That circumstances will reveal themselves and allow for this new culture to arise.
Rick: Yeah. And you know how with bees or ants, each bee or ant is doing what it needs to do unbeknownst to all the other bees and ants, but they all somehow have this collective mind where they all do the right things and everything gets done the way it needs to be. So it’s like, I think it’s kind of like, pardon?
John: Yes, I agree. That’s happening.
Rick: Yeah, it’s happening with us.
John: For sure. What I’m interested in is the next order of that is to begin to go from coherence to cohering, right? From where the next level is, is how do you then bring that into organizations? Because actually, like TM, you actually do need to build organizations in order to have the coalescing of resources and departments to be able to put somebody on the moon. Right? To take a culture from one time to another time, which is what we’re talking about, you need to build what we call in the Tibetan tradition a kalachakra, a time wheel, a mandala. A mandala is an organization that helps facilitate changing from one time to another time. I think that that’s what’s happening around us right now.
Rick: Yeah, it is. And it’s fascinating to see it unfold. I want to live a long life in part because this is also interesting. I want to see how it turns out. How does this movie end? Pardon, what’d you say, John?
John: May you live a long life.
Rick: Yeah, I’m working on it. I walk five miles a day. I meditate a couple hours, do all kinds of good stuff. A couple of questions came in, which will be abrupt segues, but we’ll wrap it up after these questions and maybe make some overall points. So let me think here. Hopefully you’ll understand this question. I haven’t even read it thoroughly yet, but it’s from someone named Quinn Barry in Canada. Question: with an infinity of options, why choose a skull to inhabit your personal space? What is the significance and or intent? It matters in what it communicates to others as well as what it reflects back to your unconscious. A skull is always resonant with death, but not necessarily negative. How would it affect you if you chose the symbol of the sun or a smiling face? What do you have a skull behind you in the living room? Or what is he referring to?
John: I have a ring with a skull on it.
Rick: Oh, you have a ring and a skull?
John: Okay. – I’m a Buddhist. So for me, I live in a culture that is in such complete denial of death and such complete denial of life. In fact, death and life are inseparable to me. So the suppression, the repression of life is the suppression of repression of death. So a little reminder about how precious every moment is.
Rick: Yeah, you know, the yogis that meditate in the cremation grounds and there’s a famous painting of a Christian monk contemplating a skull and, you know.
John: Yeah, it’s a very important part of my practice is to recognize how precious it is this moment. And we live in a culture that communicates so much deadening, right? And also, there is also the fear element. I come from, I have Jewish ancestors, you know, I have like facing horrific genocide. Like I have to stay connected to the fact that on this planet right now, people are dying and suffering and to like not to kind of numb yourself out with, you know, feeling good and warm in my cozy room and not remember like the reality of life. I think that that’s, yeah.
Rick: I mean, ten thousand Americans are dying of COVID every month still. And there’s still people who deny that it exists. So that pisses me off.
John: Yeah, yeah. So I need a little reminder because I’m still in middle school.
Rick: Yeah. Here’s another question from John Cannon in Strasbourg, France. What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”?
John: What he meant was that the deepest level of mind, the separation from ourselves and the fundamental field of reality is caused by fusion to the attentional system. Because the attentional system is always looking at what, you know, it’s always searching. And the fundamental release from being fused with the attentional system where the mind is released into the whole, one of the qualities of that is profound innocence, profound innocence. Centerlessness, right? Insubstantiality, not knowingness. So it’s a very technical term, very technical process around unless you, if we don’t release from grasping onto the attentional system and release into the whole, we’re never going to see the holiness of the whole that’s always right here.
Rick: Yeah. Good.
John: Yeah. What do you think?
Rick: Similar, I wouldn’t have used such fancy terminology, but innocence, simplicity, you know, lack of guile, lack of complexity, just, you know, humility, all kinds of qualities like that are extremely conducive to spiritual progress.
Rick: Yeah. Good. Well, I have a feeling that, you know, we could spend another six hours and still find new things to talk about in terms of all the different facets of your work. And I mean, we didn’t really get in much to the ethics thing, and I know that’s an important part of it all, but, you know, this is a, give people a taste of who you are and what you’re doing, and I’ll link to your websites and, you know, people can explore there and even go so far as to join your four-year program if they want to, or your 40-year program, whatever it becomes. (laughing)
John: It’s been a pleasure, Rick.
Rick: Yeah, it’s really good, John.
John: Yeah, thanks for inviting me.
Rick: Yeah. And I often feel this and say this at the end of interviews, but I hope to meet you in person someday. There’s something, I mean, it’s great that we have the internet and all, but there’s nothing like kind of a little personal contact. That’s why I used to love the Science and Non-Duality Conference, just getting together with everybody once a year, but they haven’t happened.
John: Maybe you need to have a, like, Buddhas at the gas pump.
Rick: I don’t want to organize it. Irene doesn’t, believe me.
John: Somebody else can do it.
Rick: Somebody else can organize it, I’ll come. Yeah. All right, so thanks so much. And thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching, and we’ll see you for the next one.