Rick Archer: Thank you for coming. I’m always honored when I speak at SAND that anybody comes because there’s usually a number of other talks in other rooms that if I had mastered the by location siddhi, I would have been attending myself in addition to giving my talk. In fact, I may have done that. I could be in those other rooms, you wouldn’t even know. Unless you’d mastered it also, then you see me there. But it’s it’s I always appreciate people who come to these talks, it’s it’s an honor, and my the topic of my talk, as you probably know, if you read the program thing, his knowledge is different in different levels or states of consciousness. Another way we might phrase that is reality is different in different different states of consciousness. And the reason I chose this topic is that in interviewing people, and in just talking to people in general, and even in watching the news, you often see people latch on to a particular perspective, or understanding and then feel like, you know, that’s the way it is. And anything other than that is partial or wrong or something. Charles Eisenstein was talking about than just up on stage this morning, how, you know, people get sort of polarized into particular perspectives. And then they go down the rabbit hole of that perspective. And they find all kinds of scientific and other kinds of justification for their particular perspective, which reinforces it all the more, gives them the impression that all the other ones are really definitely wrong. But I’m going to take some specific examples of this in a minute. But as a general point, well, first of all, here’s a nice little quote from Nisargadatta Maharaj. He he and and others have emphasized that we need to learn to appreciate paradox, and perhaps ambiguity, to to accommodate contradictory viewpoints within a broader perspective. I don’t generally like to use the word enlightenment. But if we could just use it for the sake of convenience here, if we think of enlightenment as being… as the realization of totality, and what could realize totality, it would have to be the totality itself, because if an individual were, an individual can’t realize totality, any more than a fish could swallow the ocean, there’s the saying, the knower of Brahman is Brahman, Brahman being a good word for totality, that if you think about that, the totality by definition, must contain everything, all perspectives, all levels of reality. Just everything. And so the totality, Brahman, has no problem in reconciling or harmonizing paradoxes. It can it takes it subsumes all the extremes, and the contradictions in the universe, quite comfortably, it contains everything. So it might be good, might be conducive to our realization, of totality, for us to get in the habit of becoming comfortable with an engulfing or subsuming or encompassing. contradictions, paradoxes, different perspectives simultaneously, even though they might appear to be irreconcilable. So that’s the basic premise I’m talking about here. Let’s take some cases in point. For instance, there are debates about whether we have free will or not. And actually, most of the examples I’m going to give here are things I’ve run into in interviewing people. And there are very eloquent arguments about why we don’t have free will, scientific types, such as Sam Harris, go into it in great detail and there are neurophysiologists who tell us that we, you know, decide to do a thing before we even realize we’ve decided that and there are, even in the Bhagavad Gita, there are verses which say, you know, you’re not the actor, the Gunas of nature are doing everything, you’re not doing anything. It’s all a divine play. And it’s all preordained. I mean, Lord Krishna in the beginning of the Gita says, I’ve already killed all these warriors, you know, you just, it’s a done deal. But then there are other verses, which say, you have control over action alone. And you need to be responsible for your action and do your dharma and so on. And in fact, Krishna basically says to Arjuna get up off your butt, you have something you need to do here. Even though he just told him he’d already done it. So there’s a contradiction right there.
Here’s a quote that somebody sent me from Meher Baba, he said, there’s a huge amount of freewill. It’s a lifelong undertaking involving millions of choices, which lead either to greater bondage or greater liberation. So on this point, and I’ll probably come to the same conclusion on the others, there’s a level of reality or a level of experience in which there is no free will, everything is divinely orchestrated. And we as individuals aren’t doing anything. In fact, we as individuals don’t even exist, I’ll get to that in a minute. And there’s a level of experience, or we could say a level of reality, which we could argue may be less real or something, but it’s still real for those who are experiencing it, in which we are doing something and we definitely feel like we have free will. And we probably need to exercise it responsibly. As a matter of fact that brings up an interesting point, which is actually I can reference another verse in the Gita. It says, you know, it talks about performing your own dharma. And that the dharma of another brings danger. And how that would apply to this point is that if you take what might be somebody else’s perspective, or reality, even though it’s not your own, and try to act as though it were your own, you can get into trouble. Like, maybe you would say, okay, everything is just happening automatically. I am not the doer. So, you know, if I robbed this store, or sleep with these 30 women, or whatever, it’s not me doing it, it’s just the divine will. And I’m just kind of going along with the Divine Will. Well, okay, well, maybe the Divine Will that you go to jail, or so you have to face the consequences of the reality at which you’re actually living. Okay, so that leads us maybe to a next point, which is, is there even a we? Is there a person? Or is there no personal self whatsoever? I’ve engaged in long conversations with people who insist that there is no personal self and they may be right ultimately. But on the other hand, most of us experience a sense of personal self. And sometimes people who kind of hammer away at that particular perspective, then extrapolate from that perspective, all kinds of conclusions, which again, in some ultimate sense may be right, but which in a relative sense may be wrong. For instance, Tony Parsons is big on the notion of there being no one home, no personal self, and so on. And so he he concludes from that, that, well, reincarnation couldn’t be a thing because that implies that there would have to be some entity that would reincarnate and there is no such entity. So therefore, that whole notion must, must be bogus. And you know, I mean, various sages and seers have said that the universe, nothing ever happened. Nothing ever manifested, the appearance that it has is just an illusion. So yeah, maybe in that sense, there is no self and there is no reincarnation and there is no nothing. But in a relative sense there are those things, we live those things, we experience those things so we can debate about whether reincarnation exists or not. But if it does find it, along with many, many other things do exist in a relative sense. There’s a term in Vedanta, that helps to deal with this situation, which is called mithya. m i t h y a, and it means dependent reality. And an example that’s often used is that if you have a room full of pots, the pots are all made of clay. And, you know, you could say, with certainty, yeah, there’s pots in this room. Someone else could come into the room and say, there’s no pots, it’s all just clay. And he’d be right actually But he’d only be partially right. Because, yeah, in a sense, there’s only clay, and you can maybe pulverize the pots down to powder and mix them a little water, and you’d be back to just clay with no pots. But the way the things are at the moment, there are certainly pots, and you can put things in them or use them as drums or whatever. And it’s a kind of a half baked perspective to glom on to the ultimate view of it to the exclusion or denial of the relative perspective of it. See what I mean? So the bigger picture is, rather than insisting on one or the other, to kind of expand out and say both are right.
Both perspectives can be subsumed or contained within the larger perspective. And that to my understanding is one of the definitions of Brahman, or the totality, that it’s, it contains absolute and relative, and everything, all the diversity that the relative includes relatively. Here’s another one. Are we already enlightened? Or must enlightenment be attained through long practice? Now there are certain spiritual teachers who come out and say, you’re already enlightened. You know, all you have to do is realize that and you’re done. And they’re in a sense they’re right. In fact, many people who do have an awakening or enlightenment shift, say, Wow, I already knew that I always knew this. It seems so obvious. Now, how come? How come? I never saw it? So? And how could we not be already enlightened? Because the reality, how can the reality be anything other than what it ultimately is? Now, how can… the sun is always shining? And maybe if the clouds finally clear away, people on the ground say, yeah, the sun is shining. Isn’t that great. But from the sun’s perspective, it’s always been shining. And it doesn’t matter whether or not there were clouds. So you know, when we shift to the sun’s perspective, so to speak, in our awakening, we may have the conviction that yeah, it’s always been this way. But it’s certainly not always that way for the people on the other side of the clouds. And to tell them that it is that way, particularly without giving them any practical means of realizing that experience for themselves, does them a disservice, in my opinion, and leaves people frustrated. And there have been, you know, fairly well-known teachers, very well-known teachers who’ve gone on for decades telling their students things like that, that you’re already awakened, you already enlightened, without giving them a means to actually experience it and it’s left both teacher and student frustrated, and even kind of bitter in the end. So, again, it’s while it’s true, that the ultimate reality can only be what it is. And if it’s also true that most of us don’t appreciate it or experience it fully. And perhaps something needs to be done to rise to that experience, rather than in addition to or instead of just uttering the affirmation that we’re already there. Doesn’t do you much good. It’s like, it’s like a poor man saying, I am rich, I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich. It’s not going to make him rich. It doesn’t sort of lead him to the reality of that. On the other hand, though, it’s like we’re all… we’re people who have actually won the lottery. And we didn’t realize it, we forgot to check the ticket number, we have the ticket sitting on our sock drawer. We’re already multimillionaires, begging on the street. So, you know, we’re all the millionaires, and we all need to somehow either find the ticket or get a job and be, you know, actually gain actual wealth, instead of just either feeling were poor, which is a discouraging thing. It’s good to realize that ultimately, we have that vast reservoir of wisdom within or just trying to convince ourselves that we’re rich without actually realizing the actuality of it. Okay. Here’s another one related to the previous one. How about practice? Some people say that practice only reinforces the sense of a practicer. And that it’s sort of a dualistic thing, you know, where I’m doing this thing. And even if it’s a very effortless practice where there’s not a lot of doing involved, some spiritual teachers actually discourage it. And I often get ridiculed online for the fact that I’ve been meditating for 51 years, people say, Yeah, I haven’t gotten it by now. And I usually say, Well, I got it from day one. But there has been a progressive development over all this time, which continues, which I expected to continue to my dying day.
So I don’t I don’t see a contradiction in that or it doesn’t mean that you’re sort of going to be forever seeking, you know, chasing the dangling carrot if you’re doing some sort of practice. You could be very content and quite pleased with whatever has been derived from that practice. And yet, you still realize there’s more room, plenty of room for refinement and, and further deepening and development and everything else, tremendous amount of room for it, it was said that the Buddha did some sort of practice all of his life, you know, years and Ramana – he had that famous awakening when he was 16. And then he spent a couple of decades in a cave, doing something, and came out, ready to teach much more integrated after having spent that time. So okay, I could elaborate more on each of these points. Let’s keep moving along. Another one that people tend to polarize on. Are gurus passe or do gurus still have a role in contemporary spirituality. Some people say the guru model is dead, nobody should bother with gurus. Other people have a guru, and they love their guru, and they want to be with a girl. And my attitude is, you know, to each his own should probably if something is inappropriate for you, or ineffective, you’re probably going to leave it anyway. And obviously, there have been all kinds of scandals and unfortunate circumstances with various gurus, teachers, both Eastern and Western. So it’s not a perfect situation. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you feel attracted to a spiritual teacher, even if that teacher has a sort of a Indian scene around them or something, it might still be very beneficial for you. If you don’t feel like that, that’s good for you, then fine, but, you know, show others the respect that they know what’s best for them, maybe. So I just just don’t have this either or attitude toward anything, including that. I just thought I’d mentioned it as we go along. I’ll be taking questions, discussion on all this in a few minutes. Here’s another good one. Does non duality or oneness imply that there are no stages of spiritual evolution? I hear this pretty often. People feel like how can there be stages in in something which is a seamless wholeness or or oneness? You’re kind of chopping it up or dividing it. How can there be hierarchies? You know, higher levels of realization or lower levels of realization? Aren’t we all the same? And again, both/and. Yeah, on some level, there are no stages, there are no divisions. It’s one seamless, whole wholeness, but obviously, you know, what we’re talking about here is something which is lived through the mechanism of our individual structure, mind, body, nervous system. And those those mechanisms are in tune or out of tune, to varying degrees, they can be extremely out of tune very in tune. And life is kind of a process of tuning them, you know, of refining the instrument, through which anything, and especially enlightenment or higher consciousness is experienced.
So, practically speaking, there are stages. I had a conversation. I hosted a panel discussion a couple of years ago about the direct versus the progressive path. And there’s Rupert in the back of the room, we’ve had some conversations about that. And this too, maybe both are right. I think in my own experience, if I understand what those terms even mean, in my own experience, when I first learned to meditate, there was a direct, sort of dive into the transcendent. And so it wasn’t something I had to wait for, for a long time, many years of warming up to it or something. But then, you know, after so many years of practice, it’s still progressing. There’s still greater clarification and integration and stabilization, and purification and growth and all those kinds of qualities. So and, and yet, throughout all those years, there’s still been that sort of direct peep into the transcendent, sometimes more than a peep. And, and you know, over time, it kind of integrates and stabilizes. Like in India, they used to use the analogy of dyeing a cloth where you dip the cloth in yellow color, let’s say, and then you bleach it in the sun, and it pretty much loses its color, but then you dip it again, and then you bleach it again, and it loses a little bit less color. And you keep doing that, until eventually, it won’t bleach out, even if you leave it in the bright sunlight. There’s something along those lines that happens or can happen with spiritual practice, where, you know, it just seeps into your makeup, more and more as you go along. So it’s progressive. And it’s also direct, I mean, when the cloth goes into the diet directly in the dye. And then when it comes out in the sun, it’s bleached. But there’s a progressive dyeing process that takes place over time. Here’s one that came up in my interview with Anna Breytenbach, who I very much appreciated, and is an animal communicator, and it was just that the question are all forms of life equally valuable. And I gave the example of mosquitoes versus children. I heard recently after that interview, that mosquitoes have killed half of the people who’ve ever lived on earth. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds like a reliable statistic. And I said to Anna, you know, I mean, isn’t the life of a child worth more than lots of mosquitoes. So we want to kill the mosquitoes or protect the child from them or something. And Anna said, you know, who’s to say that the life of a child is more valuable than the life of mosquito? And, and I would say that I didn’t quite, I wasn’t too quick on my toes at that point in the interview. But, you know, in thinking about it, there are… although we want to really respect all of life. And, you know, there’s been a lot of horrible things done in the name of humans being superior to other forms of life and so on. It would, it gets a little odd if we equate the value of mosquito life with human life. And so somewhere, we have to find a balance between appreciating the Divinity inherent in everything, and drawing some value judgments with regard to you know, I mean, if I could have mentioned this to me, I said, you know, if you have a dog that has fleas, do you kill the fleas? Or do you let the fleas torment the dog? Well you try to get rid of the fleas. So, you know, even though it’s all God, God himself or herself or itself is a pretty ruthless character. I mean, there are all kinds of, you know, planets exploding and getting hit by asteroids. And, you know, who was it that poet that said, nature is red in tooth and claw. So there’s all kinds of stuff that happens in the broader context of the divine play. Bhagavad Gita was another case in point in the Mahabharata War. So I just kind of feel like, that’s just another example, which again, we could elaborate on, but that
it’s okay to recognize the inherent oneness and Divinity of everything. But that doesn’t prevent us from at the same time appreciating hierarchical arrangements or values or levels of complexity of life. I mean, you know, we, if we get sick, we might have to take something which kills bacteria in us. So when we implicitly are demonstrating that we value our life more than the life of those bacteria. It almost seems obvious, but people actually sometimes argue that even the bacteria are equal in their right to live as humans are. Another point and then we’ll open it up to questions and discussion. With regard to the physical universe, obviously, there are levels of reality that are very different from one another. For instance, obviously, you know, water can be a solid or liquid or gas, in, let’s say, a cow and a mosquito, they’re very, they’re very, they’re very different in and of themselves. But if you get down to the molecular level, you wouldn’t be able to and you’re just looking at, you know, carbon atoms or something, there’s nothing cow-like about a carbon atom or mosquito-like, at that level, that it’s all the same. And there are even deeper levels, I mean, you get right down to there being only quarks and electrons, or go even deeper, and there’s only sort of the unified field or the unmanifest field from which everything is said to arise. So nature itself shows us gives us an example, that that there can be different levels of reality, within the same thing, and that those different levels of reality, radically different, are perfectly coexistent with one another, contained sort of within one another, it’s just different perspectives, according to where your perspective lies. There’s no conflict in nature’s functioning this way. It’s designed to function this way. So the same thing, I think it’s kind of more than a metaphor, somehow, it ties in with the way we ourselves are structured, but it’s also metaphorical. We, we serve ourselves well, by growing into the capacity to incorporate greater paradoxes and ambiguities within our awareness. And, and eschewing the the tendency to polarize to one position to the exclusion of the others. And that doesn’t mean you’re not going to vote for a particular political candidate, or, you know, prefer certain kind of food. Or have all kinds of individual preferences, because on the individual level, you’re an individual. But more deeply, you’re all the same universal consciousness, same, you’re the same person as that politician you might hate. And so if we can sort of have both both perspectives, the specific and the general, the wave and the ocean, incorporated within our awareness at the same time, then life flows much more smoothly and harmoniously. Our blood pressure stays lower. Let’s see if there’s anything else here before it takes some questions. Eh, that’s good. All right. That kind of covers what I wanted to say. So let’s have some questions. She has a mic in the back there.
Questioner 1: Well, Rick, I have a question about holding the the levels. of say, two sides of the coin, or two sides of the hand. From closed mindedness to open mindedness on the other side of the coin or something. And if you can hold both in meditation, have you? Have you? Do you have a way to do that to help us since you’ve been a meditator for over 50 years, and I’m wondering, techniques,
Rick Archer: One thing meditation tends to do is it tends to culture the ability to maintain broad awareness and sharp focus at the same time. You know, I mean, for instance, in business or an industry or something, people have to specialize and you know, often do the same repetitive task over and over again, and that specialization helps efficiency in business, but it can also be really stultifying for those who have to do that. It kind of frustrates them kills the genius in them. So meditation can have the effect of giving you regular access to unboundedness, which, when more and more stabilized, enables you to function within with precise focus within narrow boundaries, and yet not experience the frustration that that might otherwise bring. There’s a contentment or a freedom, sense of freedom in the midst of confinement. You could theoretically be in prison with very little sensory input, and yet be a much happier freer person then many people on the outside.
Questioner 2: Reminds me reminds me of Man’s Search for Meaning where the author saw a tree outside of his prison in Auschwitz. So, and that kept him alive, and that made him whole. Or he was whole. But you know.
Rick Archer: Brad has a good question.
Brad: Thank you. Yeah, the consciousness discussion has been great at this whole conference so far. So thanks for jumping into that. I like the conversation where you went down to the quark level where everything is everything. In fact, you’re just a different concentration of quarks than me or anything else the chair and so forth. Right? So it’s all the same. But in our world, as we are the inhabitant on this planet with the larger brain, we’re able to actually take consciousness and process it in a different way than other concentrations of quarks, let’s say. And so with that, I asked you this crazy question. We justify feedlots of putting animals with smaller brains, you know, right, and then when then we eat them. So what would stop a more advanced being coming to our planet, with a brain four times the size of ours, taking us putting us in a feedlot and deciding who’s juicy around here?
Rick Archer: I don’t know about I remember a Twilight Zone episode in which there was a book called “To serve man”. And then the people thought that oh, these wonderful beings from outer space are coming to serve us. And and they were all getting loaded onto the ships and all and at the last minute, some guy said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. It’s a cookbook”.
Brad: To serve, man on a platter.
Rick Archer: But no, I hear what you’re saying about the feedlots. And I think that’s atrocious. And I think a time will come where we feel as ashamed of that as Germans feel about the Holocaust, you know. On the other hand, I have friends who are 100% carnivore. And they say that it’s totally changed their health for the better. And I can’t argue with that, because it did. So there’s another one of those paradoxes. Yeah, yes, sir.
Questioner 2: You, I think you must be up to about 500 interviews.
Rick Archer: Yeah. 520 or so?
Questioner 2: I’m curious,
Rick Archer: But who’s counting?
Questioner 2: It seems to Well, it seems to me that you’ve been able to hold in your, in your interviews, a curiosity and, and a kind of interest in everybody who you interview without imposing on it your own personal judgment. I mean, sometimes you’ll express it, but it’s not like you’re right. And I’m, or you’re wrong. And I’m right. How have you been able to hold that? What is your process to be so capable of asking questions, with such curiosity and such a, an open mind without having it sort of influenced by your own point of view?
Rick Archer: Well, partly, it’s because of what I’ve been talking about in this talk, which is that I feel that you know, the reality of life is extremely diverse. And God is not a one trick pony. There’s no one sort of thing that everybody needs to do in order to evolve spiritually or do anything, that diversity is the spice of life. And the more, if you think of like, for instance, the Amazon rainforest, where the, what’s left of it, where the soil is very fertile, and there’s plenty of rain, you see tremendous fecundity, and tremendous diversity and expressions of all forms of life, animal and vegetable. And I think that the ground of Being which we all talk about, you know, consciousness, whatever you want to call it, is like the soil of that rainforest. And the more it infuses into our life, the more we appreciate the beauty and the mystery and the diversity of the world and of people themselves. So I don’t make any claims to any particular degree of infusion, but I just, I find that each new person that I interview is like, it’s like Christmas time opening a new present and preparing for it during the preceding week is just like an exploration of another wonderful, you know, world that somebody inhabits and then getting to talk to the person for a couple of hours. It’s just completely thrilling for me and totally enjoyable and nothing else I’d rather be doing so. And as far as my perspective is concerned, you know, maybe 30-40 years ago if I tried to do something like this, it would have been confusing for me. And I might have also been a little rigid in terms of my perspective on things. Confusing because I’ve been getting exposed to such a diversity of perspectives having not sort of figured out my own perspective, which tends to be more multi perspective, but I hadn’t, I wasn’t there yet. And, but now, it just seems like enriching every every new one is, is another sort of bite of a delicious meal, another wave of nourishment for me. And, and it’s, it’s really fun to be able to come to a conference like this and have all these people come up and say, Wow, your what you’ve done has helped me so much. You know, because I ultimately I really think of myself and experience myself as a, as a kind of a servant or as an instrument of the Divine, and want my life have wanted my life since the age of 20 or so to just be as beneficial as possible in and I came kind of came to the conclusion at that age that if consciousness is the most fundamental thing, then helping others to experience consciousness would be the most pivotal thing I could do. Better than being a politician, or this or a that, in terms of influencing society. And anyway, that’s what has my fundamental motivation.
Mic over here
Questioner 3: Thank you. I’ve meditated a fair amount over the years, and I believe it served me well. That’s not what I want to speak about. Right now, I want to ask you about, I’ve had a few, like, what am I called peeks through the veil, and those have all I look at them. And I see that the commonality or at least it appears, to me the commonality there was that, for one reason or another, I was totally surrendered to the moment, I was completely not on purpose, trying to make anything happen. It’s just that I was completely immersed in what was happening with no agenda or thoughts about it. And so I just wondered, to what extent do you think that that is a requirement or plays into the spiritual experience?
Rick Archer: Sounds good. I think usually the, you know, awakening for most people happens with peaks and glimpses. And, you know, when it comes in, it goes, and, you know, and all that, but, um, you know, eventually, it’s like, like the cloud and sun analogy, again, you know, on a cloudy day, when it starts to clear up, then occasionally, the sun starts peeking through the clouds, and then maybe the clouds dissipate more, and it shines for longer periods. And eventually, the clouds are gone, and it shines all the time. So it’s a good sign. And, but it’s important not to compare yourself to others or to feel frustrated, if you know, you don’t feel like you are as enlightened as somebody you see up on the stage at SAND or something like that. You know, all is well and wisely put, and it’s and I think patience is an important quality on the spiritual path. On the other hanD (here is another paradox) Patanjali talks about Yogi’s with vehement intensity, having the fastest progress, so but you can somehow have determination and motivation and perseverance on the spiritual path and at the same time, be chillin, you know, be patient, and not beat yourself up over what you are not yet experiencing. Are we done or we have another minute or two? Yes.
Dawn: Can you hear me? Yeah, there we go. I’m done, by the way. I don’t. So my favorite spiritual teacher Osho talks about two paths to enlightenment, the path of love and the path of meditation. I’m wondering if you’ve heard stories of the path of love?
Rick Archer: Oh, yeah. And I don’t necessarily I think all these paths ultimately converge in the same motion as rivers do. But obviously people are constituted differently. And for some people bhakti or devotion is more in line with their temperament. And other people are more intellectual, a jnana yogi kind of thing, and others are neither, but they have just a sort of a, they’re good at just sort of have practicing a mechanical approach of some kind of meditation. But I think ultimately, we have all these different faculties, you know, we have a we have a mind, we have a heart, we have senses. And they may develop disproportionately out of phase a little bit, sometimes more this than that. But I think as we go along, as we’ve talked about, there’s a continuing refinement and growth that happens. They’ll come into line, and we’ve talked in some other talks about how they could get quite out of sync. You know, you could be you know, really up there in terms of some kind of level of awareness but really kind of cold and in your heart and not behaving very appropriately towards others as a result of that. They’re not as tightly correlated as I once believed, from my current observation. So, and I don’t think it has to be all or nothing where you’re just a bhakta, you know, focused on devotion or just a jnana, jnani focusing on that, I think you can, you know, there are components of all those paths or tendencies. That can be cultured simultaneously, but again, one or another person might predominate or favor, one or the other, according to their makeup. I think we’re done. Thank you.