Q and A With God

After discussing the nature of consciousness, the human mind, and the philosophical viewpoint that every person is God, Alan Watts assumes the role of God himself for the latter half of this lecture, answering each question his audience serves with wit and insight.


Table of contents

Part 1 Before I Introduce You…
Part 2 Hello, I Am God

Part 1

Before I Introduce You…


Between Western psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy and the so-called religions of Asia there is common ground because both are interested in changing states of human consciousness, whereas institutional Western religion—Christianity, Judaism, and even Islam—are relatively less interested in this matter. Western religions are more concerned with behavior, doctrine, and belief than with any transformation of the way in which we are aware of ourselves and of the world, but this matter concerns psychiatry and psychology very much. Only: those states of consciousness which are not normal are usually treated in Western psychology as being, in some way, sick.


There are, of course, exceptions to this, and there have been—increasingly—exceptions. In the work of Jung, and to some extent even Groddeck, of Prinzhorn, or of more modern people—Rogers and Ronald Laing—changing consciousness is often looked upon as a form of therapy. But in general, different states of consciousness from the normal are regarded as a form of sickness and, therefore, official and institutional psychiatry constitutes itself the guardian of sanity and of socially approved experience of reality. And very often it seems to me that reality appears rather much the way the world is seen on a bleak Monday morning, in this official doctrine—I might even say ‘dogma’—of what reality is. Because, after all, we know that our science—such as it is—of psychology is founded in the scientific naturalism of the 19th century. And the metaphysical and mythological assumptions of that science still underlie a great deal of psychological thinking, in behaviorism—eminently— but also to a large extent in official psychoanalysis.


Indeed, one might say that psychoanalysis is based on Newtonian mechanics and, in fact, could be called ‘psychohydraulics.’ Not that that analogy is altogether inappropriate, because there are certainly respects in which our psychic life flows and exhibits the dynamics of water. But, of course, we want to know what kind of water. And for the scientific naturalism of the 19th century the basic energies of nature were considered to be very much inferior to human consciousness in quality. Ernst Haeckel, a biologist of that time, would think of the energy of the universe as blind energy. And correspondingly, it seems to me that Freud thought of the libido as essentially blind, unconscious energy embodying only a kind of formless, unstructured, and insatiable lust. This is a generalization. Some modification in that thinking is, of course, possible.


But the tendency is to regard all that which lies below the surface of human consciousness as being less evolved—because you must remember that this was also the time of Darwin’s theories of evolution—of seeing the human mind as a fortuitous development from much more primitive forms of life coming forth by purely mechanical processes: by natural selection and by survival of the fittest. And therefore, man was in general seen as a fluke of nature—an embodiment of reason, emotion, and values for which the more basic processes of nature had no sympathy and about which they did not care. If, therefore, the human race is to flourish, we must take charge of evolution. It can no longer be left to spontaneous process, but it must be directed by human ingenuity despite the fact that although our brains are capable of dealing with a colossal number of variables at once, our conscious attention is not. Most people cannot consider more than three variables at the same time without using a pencil. And this shows that, in many ways, the scanning process of man’s conscious attention is very inadequate for dealing with the infinitely many variables, the multidimensional processes, of the natural universe.


However, a serious attempt has been made and scientific naturalism issued in a fantastic fight with nature in this whole notion of the conquest and subordination of nature—which has, as a matter of fact, very ancient, non-scientific and biblical origins—with the idea of man as the head and chief and ruler of nature in the image of God, and the time has now dawned upon us all when our attempts to beat nature into submission are having alarming results. Because we see that it’s very dangerous to mess around with processes that we don’t understand, that have enormous numbers of variables, and we begin to wonder whether we hadn’t better let well enough alone.


At the same time, although I said that Western psychology had more in common, or more common interest, with Oriental religion than it does with Western religion, there is a sense in which psychiatry and psychotherapy are becoming the religion of the West. Psychoanalysis has much in common with the forms and procedures of institutional religion. There is, for example, apostolic succession: the passing down of manna, of qualified power to practice therapy, from the father-founder Sigmund Freud, through his immediate apostles, to an enormous company of archbishops and bishops, among whom there are, of course—as there were with Christianity—heresiarchs such as Jung and Groddek and Rank and Reich, and the heresiarchs are duly excommunicated and anathematized. There are rituals, as there are also rituals with religion. There is the sacrament of the couch, there is the spiritual discipline of free association, there is the mystic knowledge of the interpretation of dreams, and there are also the two great symbolic fetishes, the long one and the round one.


Now, it’s extraordinarily easy to make fun of all this, and we must not forget that we owe a tremendous debt to Freud, if for nothing else than pointing out that that much of ourselves of which we are aware in terms of the conscious ego is not really ourselves, it is something superficial. However we define its nature, it is superficial. And the realities of human life are not under the gaze of its scanning process, at least not in the ordinary way. And that as a tremendous revelation, there’s no question about that. But one sees troublesome signs when the doctrines and processes of psychiatry, psychoanalysis and so forth become officialized, and I think Thomas Szasz—in his books The Myth of Mental Illness and The Manufacture of Madness—is pointing out something extremely important to us, which is that, in effect, the psychological official of today is the priest and that he is beginning to exercise the same sort of controls over human life as were exercised by the church in the Middle Ages. So that a professor of psychiatry at Columbia or Harvard or Yale medical schools has today the same sort of intellectual respectability and authority as the professor of theology at the University of Toledo or Padua would have had in the year 1400.


Now, you must realize that the theologians of those days not simply believed in their cosmology and the theology, they almost knew it was true in the same way that our scientists know certain things to be true. Despite the fact that they change their opinions often while they hold them, they have, in effect, the force of dogma, as witness the anathematization of Velikovsky for his uncomfortable ideas. And therefore, there are heresies existing today which are persecuted in the same way as heresies were persecuted by the Holy inquisition. And they are persecuted out of kindness in exactly the same way that the holy inquisition persecuted heresy out of kindness and deep concern for human beings. That is unimaginable to us, but it was so. For, after all, if you seriously believed that someone who did not hold the Catholic faith, and who voluntarily rejected it would be tortured physically and spiritually forever and ever and ever in hell, you would resort to almost any means to preserve a fellow human being from such a fate, especially if the complaint or disease of heresy from which he suffered was infectious.


You would, first of all, reason with him. And if he was not responsive to reason you would resort to abuse and to forceful argument. And if he was not responsive to that you would give him shock treatment and bang him about. If that didn’t work, the thumb screw and the rack and the iron maiden, and if that didn’t work—as a last desperate resort—you would burn him at the stake in the pious hope that, in the midst of those searing fires, he would think better and make a last act of perfect contrition, and so be rescued from everlasting damnation. And you did all this in the spirit of “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” In the spirit of a surgeon who is very, very sorry indeed that he has to make you undergo this extremely painful operation, but it is in your best interests, and there really is at least a 50-50 chance that you may survive.


And so, therefore—in perfectly scientific medical spirit—people may be very arbitrarily and without due process deprived of their civil rights, incarcerated in prisons that are in many cases much worse than prisons for criminals, and generally left to rot, be neglected and ignored, and when bumptious given shock treatment or put in solitary confinement. For what? Because they have unorthodox and heretical states of consciousness. A lot of these people are not dangerous until provoked into being dangerous by being ignored, by being treated as machines, and generally defined as non-human. And if you are defined as non-human, there’s precious little you can do about it because everything you say that sounds human will be taken as a kind of utterance of a mechanical man, as imitating humanness out of lunatic cunning. You will be suspicious. Everything you say will be listened to in a different way and with different ears. And you will have one hell of a time talking yourself out of it because there really are no rules as to what one must do when incarcerated for having unorthodox consciousness. There is no clear road to repentance. And this is found, likewise, in jails where people are incarcerated on one- to ten-year sentences as in places like Vacaville, California, where—when I visited such prisons—young men have come to me in perfect desperation saying, “I don’t know what’s happened to me. Because I want to live like a decent citizen. I know I’ve done things that are wrong, but I simply don’t know what is expected of me here. If I try to do what’s expected, they say I’m compliant. And that seems to be some sort of a sickness.


Thomas Szasz drew attention to this when he quoted a discussion of the types of schoolchildren who may very well need therapy. There were overachieving children, there were underachieving children, there were children who exhibited erratic patterns, there were children who were, sort of, dully mediocre. In fact, every sort of child can be given a diagnostic name for his behavior which sounds sick. As Jung once suggested: “Life itself is a disease with a very poor prognosis. It lingers on for years and invariably ends with death!” And I submit that, in our present knowledge of the human mind, such power in the hands of psychiatrists is amazingly dangerous.


However, I would suggest that, today, we know about as much concerning the human mind as we knew about the galaxy in 1300. And that while there are indeed individuals who are certainly able to perform psychotherapy, it is the sheerest arrogance for anybody to say that he is officially qualified to do so. We do not know how it is done just as we do not know, really, how musical, artistic, and literary genius is done. You cannot really teach it. You can put the tools for doing these things into people’s hands, and you can show them how to use the tools. But whether they will use those tools with genius is quite unpredictable. And this is, above all, true of the art of psychotherapy. We don’t know how it’s done. We’ve got some vague ideas. There probably are some people who, by reason of their mental derangement, are probably not qualified to perform it because they are maybe out just to make other people into messes. But to say that there are certain standards and certain examinations that can be passed, and certificates that could be issued which do indeed qualify people for this work is, I think, pernicious nonsense and is used, of course, out of economic self-interest when those who consider themselves official therapists run into competition.


The same was done by religion! I was talking—imagine it—to a Buddhist priest in Thailand some years ago. I was looking at some books in a bookshop in the precincts of a Buddhist temple, and I was wandering over and I noticed a book on a certain form of Buddhist meditation. And I murmured, “Hmm, satipaṭṭhāna,” which is the name of a certain kind of Buddhist meditation. And a voice suddenly said to me, “You practice satipaṭṭhāna?” I looked up and there was a skinny Buddhist monk in a yellow robe with rather red eyes looking at me. I said, “Not exactly satipaṭṭhāna. I use a different method, it’s called Zen.” “Oh! satipaṭṭhāna not Zen!” I said, “Oh, well, it’s something like it, isn’t it?” “No.” “Well, it’s rather like yoga,” I said, “isnt’ it?” “Not yogh, no. Satipaṭṭhāna different. Only right way.” “Well, look,” I said to him, “I have a lot of Roman Catholic friends who tell me that their way is the only right way. Who am I to believe? You know,” I said, “you’re like someone who’s got a ferry boat for crossing the river,”—I used the Buddhist simile—“and another fellow down the stream has opened up a ferry business. And you go to the government and say, ‘He’s not authorized to operate a ferry boat’ because he’s competition to you. Let all operate ferry boats who will. And if you haven’t got the sense to get off, to stay off one that sinks, it’s your fault. And, after all, I could say to him, ‘You believe that everything that happens to you is your own karma.’ So why worry?”


But now, it’s so interesting that since official psychiatry—and I underline that word ‘official’ because I hope those of you in this audience who are therapists will regard yourselves as unofficial; at least that’ll give you an out. But nevertheless, official psychiatry has curious things in common with Western religion as well as with Eastern. With Eastern I said only insofar as it has an interest in states of consciousness and inclines to regard other states of consciousness than the ordinary as sick. But it has one very important feature in common with Western religion. And to that we have to go a little bit into Western religious history and ask ourselves what in Western religion, and especially in Christianity—and this goes also for Judaism, Islam—what is the great heresy?


Curiously enough, the great heresy was first in the West committed by no lesser person than Jesus Christ, who believed himself to be God. This, of course, will be unquestionably true if you think that the Gospel of St. John has historical value. It’s a little vaguer in the Synoptic Gospels, but if you read the Gospel of St. John there is absolutely no doubt about it, for he said, “I and the Father are one. He who has seen me has seen the Father. Before Abraham was, I am. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the resurrection and the life.” He said all that, according to this gospel. And that is something that, in the Western world, you are not supposed to say and, especially, you are not supposed to believe it. And, naturally, it was very difficult for Jesus because he was saying all this in the context of the Hebrew culture, and he tried to find language in the Hebrew scriptures with which to express his state of consciousness because he had an unusual state of consciousness. As I read it, he had cosmic consciousness, otherwise known as mystical experience, otherwise known as mokṣa, nirvāṇa, bodhi, satori, [???], or what you will. And that happens to people. It has happened as far back as we know. It happens all over the world and in all cultures. We don’t know very much about it. We don’t really know ways in which to make it happen because it seems to be the nature of it that it is a spontaneous surprise. But it unquestionably happens, and most people keep their mouths shut about it when it does.


I had a friend who—in the middle of having a stroke—had this illumination, and he said to me, “I fear to speak to my friends of this, but it was the most beautiful experience. I shall never be afraid of death. In fact, I recommend everyone to have a stroke!” This was my friend Jean Varda, [the] lately deceased Greek painter. But Jesus certainly had this transformation of consciousness and he was crucified for it. Why? Because he had committed an act of insubordination and treason against the cosmic government. Because if you believe that God is a monarch, an absolute and omniscient and omnipotent authority—shall we say, a sort of cosmic ego—then to claim to be that is to introduce democracy into the kingdom of heaven, to usurp divine authority, and to speak in its name without proper authorization. And they asked Jesus, “By what authority do you speak? Of heaven or of men?” And he was tricky about answering that one. He said, “By what authority did John the Baptist speak?” And they were nervous about answering that one. He could have asked by what authority did Isaiah speak, et cetera, or Moses? But Moses became official authority, and if you can wangle it that what you said was simply an extension of what Moses said because rabbi so-and-so said it, who got it from rabbi so-and-so, who got it from rabbi so-and-so, who got it from rabbi so-and-so, who got it from Moses, then it’s okay.


Notice this: that to be an authority today, in the academic world, depends on documentation. It’s not enough to say, “For I say unto you,” you must put in your footnotes. And the more the footnotes, the more the authority—obviously. So our dissertations tend to be books about books about books about books, and our libraries multiply by mitosis. So when somebody speaks as an authority, that means speaks as the author. That’s all it means. It’s a statement of which you are the author and, therefore, for which you assume responsibility. That is to speak with authority. And to be original is, likewise, not to be freaky, but to speak from the origin. That is what Christians mean when they say “to speak in the spirit”—to have your mouth possessed by the Holy Spirit, as they believe the mouth of Jesus was possessed by the Holy Spirit.


So, the gospel of Jesus—which, of course, was hushed up from its inception—was that “Wake up, everybody, and find out who you are!” Asking that—again, in the Gospel of St. John—they (pointing to his disciples) “may be one even as you, Father, and I are one.” And when he was accused of blasphemy the Jews took up stones to stone him, you know. And he said, “Many good works have I shown you from the Father, and from which of these do you stone me?” And they said, “For a good work we don’t stone you, but for blasphemy. Because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Now, listen to the reply: he said, “Is it not written in your law, I have said ye art gods? And if that is what the scripture says, it can’t be denied. So why do you tell me I blaspheme because I say I am a son of God?” No answer.


“Because I said I am a son of God.” He doesn’t say that in your King James translation, it says “I am the son of God.” And you’ll see the ‘the’ italicized and you will think that that is for emphasis if you don’t realize that passages in italics in the King James Bible are interpolations by the translators. In Greek, leaving out the definite article is equivalent of having the indefinite article. Gios tou Theoú is ‘a son of God,’ not o gios tou Theoú. So: ‘son of’ in Hebrew and in Arabic means ‘of the nature of.’ When we call someone a son of a bitch we mean bitchy. And so, if you call someone a son of God you mean divine, of the nature of God. As the Nicene Creed subsequently defined it: “He is of one substance with the Father.”


But what happened was that—this being blasphemy for the Jews—it became blasphemy for the Christians for anyone else than Jesus to say it. They said, “Okay, baby! It was so with you. But there it stops! No more of this business!” And as a result of that, Jesus was made irrelevant by pedestalization; by being kicked upstairs.

Audience Member

[Oh wow!]


In spite of the fact that he said, “greater works than these that I do shall you do,” oh no! Upstairs with you, baby! Because we just can’t have that sort of thing going on in a monarchical universe. We’re not gonna have democracy in the kingdom of heaven!


So this is why the gospel is impossible: because we’re supposed to follow the example of Christ. When he says, for example, “Be not anxious for the morrow. Do not worry about what you shall eat, what you shall drink, and what you shall wear.” God’ll take care of you. Doesn’t he take care of the birds? Don’t the flowers grow? And they are wonderful. They’re crazy. They’re great. What are you worrying about? I’ve never heard a sermon preached on that. Never. Because it’s totally subversive; the economy would crash!


So they say, “Oh yes, that’s all very well, but he was the boss’s son.” See, he had that colossal advantage. Take up your cross and follow him. Hey—but wait a minute! I don’t know I’m going to be resurrected three days later. I can’t do all those miracles. He had an unfair advantage, so how can you ask us to follow the example of Christ?


But supposing he didn’t have an unfair advantage? Supposing that what was true about Jesus as a son of God is true of us? Only: only a few of us know it, and we are pretty careful to be quiet about it lest the same thing happen to us as happened to Jesus. And indeed, it often does. And, you know, you get these people—from Arkansas, or Texas, or anywhere in the Bible Belt—who never heard of the Upanishads, and they have this cosmic consciousness experience, and they realize that that’s what happened to Jesus and they say, “I’m Jesus come back!” Well, everybody says to them, “You aren’t Jesus. It’s pretty obvious you’re not Jesus. You’re just Joe Dokes” Well, he says, “That’s what they said about Jesus!” He has a perfect argument, except they say, “You’re not much of a Jesus.” They say, “Alright, if you’re Jesus, command that these stones be made bread.” And he says, “A wicked and deceitful generation seeketh for a sign, and there shall no sign be given.”


Now, why talk about this? Is it interesting? Is it important for the human being to realize that—in some sense of the word, whatever it means—he is God or one with God? As is plainly taught by the Hindus, hinted at by the Buddhists—only, they don’t like to put it out as a concept in case people will use the concept as an idol to hang on to; they want you to find out for yourself and not believe in it—and certainly the Taoists understand it, the Sufis understand it. A lot of people understand it. So what?


Well, the importance of it is this: that to know that you are God is another way of saying that you feel completely with this universe. You feel profoundly rooted in it and connected with it. You feel, in other words, that the whole energy which expresses itself in the galaxies is intimate. It is not something to which you are a stranger, but it is that with which you—whatever that is—are intimately bound up. That in your seeing, your hearing, your talking, your thinking, your moving, you express that which it is which moves the sun and other stars. And if you don’t know that—if you don’t feel that—well, naturally, you feel alien, you feel a stranger in the world. And if you feel a stranger you feel hostile and, therefore, you start to bulldoze things about, to beat it up, and to try and make the world submit to your will, and you become a real troublemaker.


So I feel, also, one reason why you become hostile is that feeling that you were just brought into this place, that your father and mother went up to some monkey business that they probably shouldn’t’ve done, or it was bad rubber goods and, as a result of this, here you are and you didn’t ask to be here! Well, you always feel you can turn around and blame them. You can blame somebody. You can blame the government, you can blame the rascals, you can blame the cheaters. Always supposing you, yourself, aren’t a rascal—which is a long odds. You always can blame someone and say, “I didn’t ask for it! Take it away!”


And yet, and yet, and yet… very few people are all too ready to take it away. Camus said that the only serious philosophical problem is whether or not to commit suicide. And if you don’t—if you don’t say, “take it away,” what are you going to do? You’ve really got to assume responsibility for it. You’ve got to say yes to what happens. It’s my karma. And that doesn’t mean merely—there are many misinterpretations of the doctrine of karma. It’s usually and popularly understood that what happens to you, either fortunate or unfortunate, is the result of good or bad deeds in a previous life. Well, that’s popular superstition. The real meaning of karma—the word, in Sanskrit, means simply ‘doing.’ And if I say of an event “it is your karma,” it is saying: it is your doing. So the Exposition—a book which would expound karma—would be not so much a whodunit as a youdunit. But that seems fantastic.


Now, therefore, what I propose we do is that we—instead of just ideologizing—we have a clinical experience. You know, in psychiatric school and medical school it’s very usual for a doctor to bring a patient out in front of the students and talk with the patient as a kind of demonstration. He says, “I want you to recognize the difference between a psychopath, a manic-depressive, or a schizophrenic,” or something; they don’t know what all these things mean—especially the schizophrenia. And so he has a dialogue with the patient right there.


So let us suppose that I’m the patient and you are the students and the doctors, and I suffer from what you would call the delusion that I’m God. And therefore, you might want to do something about me, or with me, or humor me, or ask me questions. And so I’m perfectly willing to submit to your examination and your treatment, and invite you to help yourselves.

Part 2

Hello, I Am God


When did you become God?



Will you marry me?




God, do you sleep on your stomach or your back?

Sleeping is like politics: one sleeps on the right side, and then, when you’re tired of that, you sleep on the left. When you’re tired of that you sleep on your back, and when you’re tired of that you sleep on your stomach. And it it thus that the world goes ’round.


If you are God now, what were you yesterday?



How’d you become God?

You don’t become God.



Am I also God?



Are we, then, the same person?

No. Remember: three persons but one God.


God, could you tell us a little about Satan?

Could I tell you a little bit about Satan? Yes. Although the matter is a little esoteric, but I told you all about it in the Book of Job where you will see that, in the court of heaven, Satan is the district attorney. He is not, as Christians imagine, the enemy of heaven and the enemy of mankind, he’s merely the person who sees the bad side of things and carries out the dirty work. And therefore, he saw Job and wondered whether Job really was as great a guy as he seemed to be, and suggested that God should appoint a committee of investigation to find out. And the committee did its work very thoroughly, but the case went against Satan because it was proved in the end that Job was an honorable man.

Now, you notice that, although we pay the salary of the district attorney, whenever there’s a great criminal case before the public eye, people begin to take the side of the underdog. And the prosecutor always has less public sympathy than the defense, except in political trials. On the right hand of God—and, you know, the defense is always on the right hand of the judge in court—is our only mediator and advocate, which is the phrase referring to Jesus Christ, our Lord. So there is the defense, and there is the prosecution. And it is the function of Satan to be the prosecutor.

There’s a good deal more to it than that, because before all this started—as in a stage play—there was an arrangement in the green room before coming on stage in which certain things were understood, but that are only to be revealed when the curtain goes down at the end of the play.


Is Job God, too?

Yes, but he doesn’t know it.


God, why do you hide from the sight of so many?

Why do you hide? It’s for the same reason you’re hiding.


God, did you create [???]?


And God?

Who else?


Does man have free will?

Man has free will to the extent that he knows who he is. Not otherwise.


Where does he get free will from?

Where I got it from.


Does a woman have free will, too?

Yes. To the extent that she knows who she is, yes.


If man has free will and knows just what he his, and man is God, then you’re saying that—you’d say that you are no more than any god in this room? Or any man?

That is correct. I’m no more God than any of you.

Then you only have the power to know who you are.

Well, that is saying quite a bit; yes.


What is not God?

What is not God? There is nothing that is not God.


How do you learn who you are?

It’s like… waking up from a dream. After a while, one’s experience begins to have—what I would call—a haven’t-we-been-here-before feeling. Going ’round and ’round and ’round. And then you begin wondering: Where am I going? And to answer that question you have to try and find out what you want.

And so I went into that very thoroughly: What do I want to happen? And, of course, as soon as you ask yourself that, you begin to fantasize. And our amazing technology is, of course, an expression of human desire; desire for power, for what we want to achieve. So I simply set myself to thinking through how far we could go. And so I soon found myself at a great push-button place where I had a fantastic mechanism with buttons available for every conceivable thing I could wish.

So I spent quite a bit of time playing with this. And science fiction wasn’t in it! You know? You go GOINNG, like that, and here is Cleopatra. And so on, you know? And then press this button—symphonic music in four-channel sound. Sixteen-channel sound. Anything, you know? All possible pleasures are available. And when, you know, you’re like—everybody’s dream of the Sultan in the palace—you suddenly notice that there’s a button labeled “Surprise!” You push that—and here we are.


Is boredom a problem?

Yes, boredom is, of course, the problem. Boredom is the other side of creativity, and the energy of creation has as its—that is, the yang—the yin side of that energy is called boredom. Everything of course, is fundamentally yang and yin. If you understand that, you really don’t need to understand anything else.


As God, what responsibility do you feel to ameliorate evil in the world?

As God, what responsibility do I feel to ameliorate evil in the world? I begin with the point that I am responsible for the way the world is. If I couldn’t feel that, I’d have to blame somebody else. I’m not willing to do that because I know that, under various changing circumstances, it might be appropriate for me to be as big a rascal as rascals have been.

Now, as to improving the world: the world is always improving. It may look—to some people—slow, but it’s improving even when it is declining. Because the world works in an undulatory process like a wave. It goes up and it goes down, it goes up and it goes down. And it couldn’t go up all the time, because if it did we wouldn’t know that that was up. So it goes down some of the time so that we can know when it goes up, because if we didn’t know when it went up it would be like being in a space where everything was light. There’d be nothing to write home about. There would be no black marks on the space, and so it would be like a piece of perfectly empty paper. Similarly, to be in a completely black space would also be a kind of unconsciousness with nothing to write home about, because nothing would make any difference.

So, therefore, if you’re going to have black, you won’t know that it’s black unless you have some white. And if you’re going to have white you won’t know that it’s white unless you have some black.


Why do you just [???] love one another? Because if we get to that point there won’t be any ups and downs.

Correct, but that’s not a teaching, it’s a kōan. A kōan. A kōan is a Japanese word for a spiritual problem used in Zen Buddhism, such as: “What is the sound of one hand?” And these problems are given to those who ask questions concerning their spiritual development. And sometimes, as St. Paul pointed out, commandments are given not in the expectation that they will be obeyed, but in the expectation that they will reveal something to those who hear them. That was St. Paul’s comment on the whole Mosaic law.


Yes, sir?



[???] that we’re all God?


What of the hereafter? Is there a heaven? Is there a purgatory? Is there a hell?

The hereafter is, of course, now. Because if you will examine it closely, there is nowhen else than now. And if you want to make hell of it, you can make hell of it. If you want to make heaven of it, you can make heaven of it. Purgatory, purgatory. It’s all here. Always was, always will be.


What is death?

What is death? Death is an undulation in consciousness. How would you know you were alive unless you’d once been dead?



If you’re God in the same way that Jesus [was], why was it unnecessary for him to have material possessions and necessary for you?

It wasn’t unnecessary for him to have material possessions. They said of St. John the Baptist that he was an ascetic. But of Jesus: this man consorts with gluttoners and wine-bibbers, and comes eating and drinking. And when the lady Mary poured precious ointment on his feet and anointed him, they said the same thing that the members of the vestry say to the minister today: Why this great expense? Couldn’t it all have been sold for much money and given to the poor?


Then it’s a problem?

It is a problem, sure. But, you see, in many ways, when you get down to these very deep ethical problems where there sure is no easy decision one way or the other, you must look at the problem from the point of view of an artist. Which way of doing this is, in some sense, greater? It may be better to go off with a bang than with a whimper.


Let me see. Ye—

Are you God all the time? I mean, are you consciousness all the time?

There is no time, my dear. It’s always now.

[???] and it’s during every event. [???] In every precise moment in consciousness, are you conscious of it?

Oh, of—yes, if you put it that way, of course.

You are consciously God, as an experiencing unit on this plane of—

Wait a moment. Consciously? Not necessarily, because that would spoil the fun.

That’s what I’m asking.

If you press button “Surprise!” you’ll press the button so that you forget who you are.

Wait, so then you don’t always know the answers to a given problem?

Yes, that’s perfectly true. This is called in the Bible kenosis. In St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians he says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who, being in the form of God, sought not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself and made himself of no reputation, and was found in fashion as a man, and became obedient to death.” And so you get, from this, the kenotic theory of creation—held by some of the Greek fathers—that the creation of the universe is the self-emptying, or self-forgetting, of the Godhead.


Yes, I think it’s your turn now.

How does your concept of creation [???] so that man could see that good is different from the old story of man beating his head against the wall so he could feel how good it is when you stop?

It’s really rather like it. Because the universe is fundamentally a system which creeps up on itself and then says “Boo!” And then it laughs at itself for jumping. And, you see, every time it does it, it forgets that it did it before, so it never becomes a bore.


Yes, the lady in red.

Can you make yourself into a point of consciousness and travel around the cosmos, such as Dr. Lilly was speaking of last night [???]?

Yes, but it isn’t necessary to travel. The question is: can I make myself into a point of consciousness and travel around the cosmos, and see things from all sorts of places? I say: yes, but it isn’t necessary to travel. One is already there. In other words, I’m using your eyes where you are like you’re using mine. Just in the same way, my head is not my feet, it uses my feet. The head is very different from the feet. You couldn’t possibly say the head and the feet are the same, but they are one organism.

They each have a sole/soul.



What do you do about boredom?

What do I do about boredom? Press button “Surprise!”

Oh, it’s always there.

Yes, always.


Yes, the lady in purple here.

You talk about boredom. It seems to me [???] many people that one of the biggest problems in life is being forced into earning living and something which is not what you’d rather be doing. And I often wonder: is the answer to go somewhere and live on less money and do the things that I would like to do, or must I resign myself—as many people have—to do the thing that gets me the bread and then, in my spare time, try to make up for the many days and years of this time of [???]. What is the answer?

Well, there are two sort of answers, one of which you’ve already indicated, which is to do with less and do what you want. Which…

But if everyone did that, you know, those things [???] accepted as part of life, when they get done?

I think the objection “if everyone did that” is rather like asking what would happen if everybody wanted to catch the four o’clock train from Grand Central to Westport, or if all the molecules of air in this room were suddenly to congregate over in that corner. There is a bare chance that it might happen, but very low.



Would you say we’re going around in circles trying to eliminate evil because we never will? And it might not be an evil?


We’ll never eliminate it, so we’re just playing games.

We are going ’round in circles. But, you see, going ’round in circles—as you may have observed by looking at the sky—is what the universe is doing. You see, before…

As long as we recognize that we’re going around in circles, we’re all right.

Yes. Yes, that’s the thing. It’s a dance. And when you dance you don’t dance to get somewhere

I didn’t mean going around in circles [???] ocean.

Yes, alright. But you turn—when you wake up—you turn the confusion into a dance. And so I go back to your question: what is the alternative to clearing out of the job you’re doing and, say, doing less but having more fun? Well, there are ways of making almost any activity into a dance. Supposing you had to drive a bus in New York—which is a very harrowing job in the ordinary way—you must not take seriously anything about it. This is the first rule: that it doesn’t matter a damn if you don’t get there on time, but it would be fun to go as fast as is consistent with safety. And therefore, you swing that bus, and you play things through the horn; you take the whole thing lightly as if it is not serious.

Because—and this is the nature, say, in ritual, when you have a procession. Now, people who don’t understand religion don’t know how to make the right kind of processions. There are those who go in military march, and they don’t understand it because their objective is to get there. There are those who dawdle like ducks, and they don’t understand because they are trying to be dignified. On the other hand, there are those who walk as if they had already arrived, and this is the way kings walk. Because a king is the center, and he is always where it’s at. Where it’s at is where the king is, by definition.

So if you work in this way, even—I mean—people who are practicing meditation take up monotonous things for fun, and meditation is supposed to be fun—I hope John Lilly told you that this morning—where you say you’re going to do Aum Mani Padme Hum. Aum Mani Padme Hum. Aum Mani Padme Hum. Aum Mani Padme Hum. You know, you can really have a gas doing that. And so that anything monotonous can be treated in the same way. This is the way—one of the ways—of overcoming boredom. Because boredom’s the great problem for energy. See, energy’s always on the go.


Yes, sir? Yes, the gentleman in the white shirt, here.

Does it bother you to be called mythic [???]?

Mythic? No. Mythic is a great word. The question is: does it bother me to be called mythic? No. Myth is very powerful. Myth is fun! Myth is stories told to children. Everybody loves them.


Yes, sir?

Is God omniscient?

Is God omniscient? Well, it depends what you mean by the word. A lot of people think that omniscience is like knowing everything that’s in the Encyclopædia Britannica. That’s not omniscience, that’s intellectual elephantiasis.

Now, you see, let me explain this question because it’s always important, and when anybody announces that he or she is God, people say at once, “Well, will you tell us, in millimeters, the height of Mont Blanc?” And I say, “Look it up in the encyclopedia, it’s there.” The thing is this: what we ordinarily call knowledge is the translation of life into words, and that is a very cumbersome process because if we had to translate the process into words every time we took a breath, we’d never get around to it. It takes so long to describe and think through the whole physiology of breath. Therefore, we do it without thinking about it. And I find that I’m shining the stars in just the same way. I mean, if you want it in words it’s going to take us a long time to get through them because words are strung out in a line.


[???] and we’re all gods, how come as gods [???] therefore I am God, how come [???] difficulty recognizing and understanding [???] peace and tranquility within myself?

How do you—if you are God—how do you find such difficulty in finding peace and tranquility in yourself? That’s because you’re looking for it away from the place in which you are. You are seeking it apart from the experience which you have at this moment and you are regarding that experience and saying, “That’s pretty lousy, I’d like something better than that.” But the trouble with that is that it splits you in two pieces, and once you’re split in two pieces you’re lost. Because you made a difference between the experience you are now having, on the one hand, and yourself, who is having it, on the other. And you wish you could get away from that experience. Now, the truth of the matter is: you can’t. Because you are what you experience. It’s a myth, purely, that there is some sort of experiencer who has the experience. You are what you know because it is not “I know something,” there is simply a process called “the knowing.” You could say that knowing, like the world, has two poles: north and south. And so the knowing-ball has the knower and the known, but only in that sense. Now, knowing changes; it changes itself. But if you try to stand outside it and change it, it’ll be like standing outside your hand and trying to move your hand from outside. And so comes the difficulty. In other words, this would be the difficulty for God in the press-button “Surprise!” situation, where you think you want something different from what you have. But if you do think that you’ve got to ask yourself the question what it is that you really want. This is the most fundamentally important question. And you will find, if you go into it very, very deeply, that you have it. Now, you may change your mind about it, but you do have what you want.


God, if this place caught on fire I would find myself so scared that I wonder if I also feel that I was God, and if I am God and scared, what do I do about that?

Well, one of the ways of not being bored is to scare yourself. Don’t we all go to the—we go to the movies just to be scared. We put certain limits on it, indeed, before we go and say, “Well, this isn’t really going to happen. It’s only a play or a movie.” And therefore, while we see the safe outline of the prescenium arch, back in the back of our minds is a sort of Hintergedanke—we know it’s only a play.

I’m talking about what it is [???]

How do you know it isn’t? If, you see, after all, the task and the act are on the stage is to come on so well that the audience thinks it’s real. So that he has them crying, so that he has them shaking with fear, so that he has them sitting on the edges of their chairs. Well, that’s just one ordinary Joe Dokes actor. But supposing the actor of the play is the real big actor—wow! That play would seem real. So that’s what happens when the house catches on fire.


Yes? Lady in red. Yes, you’re looking behind yourself.

God, what is sleep for you?

What is sleep? The seventh day.

When is it?

When is the seventh day? When you sleep!



Yes, God. The only reason I know that I’m God is because I take the responsibility for it.


Doesn’t that answer the lady’s question about the fire?

Oh yes, that also would answer it. Yes. It’s a question of taking responsibility for what happens.


What happens if you don’t do anything about the boredom?

If I don’t do anything about the world?

The boredom.

The boredom.

What’s through the boredom?

Well, that’s another way. That’s another way. You can explore boredom. You can bore into boredom and watch it. Sometimes, when you’re bored, that’s the only thing to do, because even for God you can’t lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. Because that is, by nature of the definition, impossible.


You said [???] you would enjoy having [???] you.

Yes, I think that would be fun. I mean, why else does one go on stage except to make myths?


Excuse me, what did you say?

[???] motivation for going on stage?

What is my motivation for going on the stage? That is like asking, “Why is there a universe?”

Why is there?

Well, now, if you listened to George Leonard last night, George Leonard explained how children were befuddled by being taught to ask ‘why’ about everything. Because you always look away from what you’re asking about to its antecedents, and that won’t lead you anywhere at all. Why am I here? And I answer that question. Then somebody says, well, why that? And then somebody says, well, why that? Why that? Why that? And you get back and back and back, and eventually you get tired of answering. And so fathers, when their children say, “Why, daddy? Why? Why?” they say, “Oh shut up and eat your lollipop!” But what happens, you see—when we trace the causation of things into the past, it all begins to fade out in silence and no answer. Why? Huh. Because it didn’t begin there. The universe begins now, it didn’t begin in the past. And the past trails back from now like the wake of a ship.


If everything is God and there is no time except now, what is the role of chance?

If everything is God and there is not time except now, what is the role of chance? Chance pairs with order. We’ll say randomness—we’ll call it—and it pairs with order. And it is part of the nature of order—if you know what you mean by order, you know that you mean contrast with randomness. And if you know what you mean by randomness, you know that you mean contrast with order. So if you want to have order you must have randomness, and vice versa.



Did you have this much charisma before you discovered your true nature?

Yes, but it came out in a different way.



I think there’s a sort of danger here, though. The riddles are funny and if you have time enough to think each one through they’d be very profound. There’s a certain danger of everything and everyone being God, because if you’ve really found yourself as God, then you know that certain things that you, as God, have created that don’t personally affect you. You created them for the reason you stay out of them, and you aren’t a do-gooder. But if you think you’re God, and then you try to go into too much social action and change the evils of the world, you end up hurting yourself and a lot of people, and you’re playing God and you’re not really being God.

Well, I admit to you, my dear, that this is a very, very dangerous conversation. And… that I thoroughly agree with, but we didn’t come here—did we?—to play it safe. All profound ideas and profound questions are dangerous. It is dangerous to go into science. As we all know too well, it is dangerous to go into medicine. Dangerous to go into writing, because the pen is often mightier than the sword. And so I don’t think we should withdraw from certain things because they’re dangerous, but I entirely agree with you that if I were, as it were, in the spirit of God to go about social reform, I would be failing to realize the construction of my own universe, which is that when you interfere with it you’ve got to know exactly how you’re interfering. Otherwise, the most amazingly unexpected things will happen. So when people ask for miracles they don’t realize what the miracles involve. I mean, if I turned the microphone into a rabbit, it’s altogether possible that you might drop dead because those events might be connected.


Have you ever studied with Carl Jung?

Did I ever study with Carl Jung? I never s—

Or work with him?

I didn’t study with him. I knew him and I read a lot of his writings, yes.


Does the notion of watching yourself, like watching your boredom or being aware of yourself, imply that there’s separation somewhere?

It does in a way, yes. And it depends how you’re watching. I some— there is a very interesting thing that comes up in this respect with regard to the Bhagavad Gita and to the Yoga Sutra, where they talk about the witness. There is, as it were—behind our ordinary self with its emotions and involvements—a witness self that does nothing more than perceive what happens. And this is the Ātman, or the puruṣa, which is not involved. And some of you, no doubt—especially in times of crisis—have suddenly discovered this sort of witness center behind everything that just isn’t involved. The most terrible things can be going on, but the witness is impassive.

Now, when we go into these states we’ve got to be very careful about descriptive language, because the descriptive language makes the witness seem something apart from what is happening in such a way that—if we want to become, really, sort of schizy and catatonic about things—we can always be withdrawn and go in and in and identify ourselves with the solitary and uninvolved witness who is merely a hang-up for the ego, as when the police raid a house in which there are burglars. And the burglars know they’ll be caught if they’re on the ground floor, so they go up to the first floor. So then, the police come up to the first floor, they’re up to the second. Finally, they get to the roof, the open sky and the infinite. And, in this way, this was why the Buddha did not teach about the Ātman—the real Self within us—because he knew people would use the real Self as a hideout for the ego.

And so, when, say, Krishnamurti tries to explain this, he doesn’t talk about the witness. He talks about awareness and people say to him, “But who is aware? What is aware?” And he seems a little sticky in his answer here, because what is the matter is that the people asking the question are bewitched by grammar. They are using a language in which it is part of the grammatical convention that the verb always have a noun subject. Now, how on earth do verbs get started by nouns? I ask you: how can a thing start a process? Surely, this is really the same problem Descartes was wrestling with when he tried to find out how spirit could influence matter, or how mind could influence body. Because everybody knows that all proper ghosts walk straight through walls without disturbing the bricks. So how can the ghost in the machine, as Koestler put it—the soul in the body—how can it do anything to the body with no connection? Two different realms.

The point is, when we’re talking about this awareness… what we call thought, feeling, sensation, emotion, we could say in a very clumsy way is: it’s aware of itself. It’s the very nature. There wouldn’t be sensation without awareness. You don’t have to have some thing which is aware of it any more than you have to have a thing called lightning which does something called flashing. The flashing is the lightning. And so awareness is the one who’s aware of it. You could say this awareness—if I say, “I am aware,” the word “I”, as William James suggested, is simply a word of position like “this” or “here.” Awareness here. And your awareness there.


Yes, sir?

Is life, like, one great kōan that [???]?

Yes, life is like one great kōan.

Is death the solution of it?

No, death is not the solution; it has no solution. Otherwise it wouldn’t happen. You see, the thing is like this—this is what is hard, for Westerners especially, to understand: I said if you understand the yang and the yin, you don’t need to ask any further questions, and all you I Ching buffs ought to know this by now. What is not a component of Western common sense is that nothing is something. Now, that may sound a little contradictory, but I think I can explain it. We treat nothingness as if it were ineffective, as if it wasn’t really important at all. And yet, when we look out at the night and we see all these stars in space, try and imagine what the heavens would look like if there weren’t any space. Then, obviously, there wouldn’t be any stars. I mean, you could think they would all be jammed together in a lump. There are various objections to that; how would you see the edge of the lump, and know it was a lump, without space around it? Furthermore, we know, when we investigate the constitution of matter physically, that at the atomic level there’s more space in something than there is anything else. Most of it is empty, which led a physicist at the Argonne Lab at the University of Chicago to become a little nutty. He was so impressed with the emptiness of matter that he went around in the most enormous padded slippers in case he should fall through the floor.

So… now, the point that I’m making is this: if space is essential to solid, it’s perfectly obvious, then, that nothing is essential to something. If you can’t have something without nothing, it means nothing is pretty powerful stuff. Because something comes out of it. BLWWP, like that! It’s a dogma of Western thought expressed in the Latin phrase ex nihilo nihil fit: “out of nothing comes nothing.” But that’s not so, out of nothing comes something! Now, you would say, “Well, if something comes out of nothing, there must be some kind of mystery inside nothing, it must have a secret structure of some kind. I mean, there must be, sort of, electrical goings-on.” This is the trouble they have about cosmology: how could this world generate? Could it just be out of free-floating hydrogen? No! It’s a much simpler idea than that: it comes out of real, solid nothing. It’s so simple!

Look: if you listen, you see, you live in a world where there’s only sound, for a moment. You’ll hear every sound coming out of silence. Where do these sounds come from? They come out of silence. Suddenly: BOOIINGG. And you can accustom yourself to seeing light doing the same thing. You can open your eyes and see all this world emerging out of nothing. BOOIINGG, like that, and fading off into the past. So that’s why the future is unknown, because the future is zero. And everybody who tries to know it—and that’s the whole endeavor of… you see, trying to be God… you don’t need to try to be God, you are! But if you try to be God it means you don’t know you are, and therefore you try to know and dominate the future. And you believe prophets, and things like that. Well, prophecy is simply contaminating the future with the past; projecting what we know upon the unknown. And that’s why, really, things like astrology—although interesting—are rather ridiculous. Because if you know the future, there’s no surprise for you. A completely known future is past; you’ve had it!


Quick question.


Where the future and the past come together, it seems to be there isn’t anything. There is no now, really. [???] seem like you don’t exist—you know, how could we exist if there’s no now to exist in? The past and the future come right together. Where is that place in between? How long is it?

Ah, there are two answers to that question. This is a real fun question; I love it. The question is about now. He’s saying: really, there is no now. There is the future and the past come together, and the future turns into the past. They go BLWP, and it’s gone, like that. So, you know, in no time at all, the future has become past. And so we get this frantic feeling: where do you go?

Well, let’s take the small view, first of all. The now is infinitely short, and yet it’s the only thing that is. In that case, this whole world is an illusion. It doesn’t really exist. So when the king—the emperor Akbar—once was feeling a little sorry for himself and asked his jeweler, he said, “Make me a ring that will restrain me in prosperity and support me in adversity.” And so the jeweler made him a ring, and gave it to the emperor, and he saw written on it: “It Will Pass.”

Now, the other side of the matter is this: that this short now is an illusion of the clock. We make our second-marks on clocks as thin as is consistent with visibility. And therefore, we always think of the present as crossing the hairline. TICK. That’s too long, see? How short can you get? You see? But really, the present isn’t like that at all. Everything’d go BWWWP, got it. There is nowhere else but now! Everything that happens is happening now. Well, it’s like your field of vision. Your field of vision isn’t just a point of light, your field of vision is an oval. And it isn’t fuzzy at the edges, it just ceases to be at the edges. But there’s plenty of room in it to see something move across. So, in your field of time—your now—there is enough now to include a phrase of music. If there weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to make out melodies because there’d just be instantaneous notes with no connection between them. You would never hear intervals. So, now is a big, slobby thing. But it comes out of nothing.


Yes? Lady standing by the pillar.

Is there no need for man to seek for some meaning [???]?

So the question is: is there, then, no need for man to seek for a meaning in his life?

Not only his life.

Not only his life, but the life of the universe? Right.

No, there is no need to seek for a meaning. Meaning—I use the word in rather a definite way—and for me, meaning is a function of signs. Particularly of words and symbols. Meaning is the referent of words, as when we take the word “water”—the meaning of it is something drinkable, whereas the sound “water” is not drinkable. So, therefore, if we ask life to have a meaning, we look for something other than life to be that meaning. And therefore, we reduce life to a being mere words and mere symbol.

Now, of course you may use the word “meaning” in a less precise way, and say, now, although the music of Bach has no meaning in the sense that it is not like the music of Tchaikovsky, designed to imitate natural events and noises, nevertheless it has meaning in the sense that it enchants us, the patterns of it ravish us in the same way as abstract patterns in an arabesque. That’s a little different sense of the word “meaning.” And yes, I would say that life has that kind of meaning. But you don’t seek it. Because if you seek it you lose it. I see the process of life as an essentially musical process which has no meaning except itself. It is going ’round in circles like we love to spin in circles when we’re dancing, like children love to spin around in circles ’till they get dizzy. That’s fun. And so the articulation of wonderful patterns is the meaning of life.

If you seek for meaning—now, this applies to all seekers; I’m sorry, growth-seekers. But seeking’s alright. I mean, it’s a free country. But it invariably takes you away from what you’re looking for because every search supposes I will find it later, not now. In the next moment. That somehow, by some gimmick, by some exercise, by some process of transformation I will later discover what I want. This is postponement.



I do not [???]


…and I feel that it’s much more common than that, and if you do seek meaning it doesn’t take away from life, it’s gives to life. And it gives it a much more meaningful and [???] a profound thing. That’s all [???]

Well, this is a matter of words, my friend, because you may think that dancing is superficial, whereas I think it’s profound.


And so on. And I suggested two meanings of the word “meaning,” one of which reduces life to being symbolic of something else, something always beyond. Then I’m going to ask what’s the meaning of that? And then we get into that infinite regression of questions. I feel that instead of getting into these infinite regressions of “what is beneath,” “what is behind”—look! It’s right out in front of you now. And when you catch on to that, now gets very profound. I mean, it’s the moment when nothing becomes something and I don’t see how much profounder than that you can get.



But isn’t the hide-and-seek sort of the essential game, and seeking fun in itself? Even if you never find it.

Oh yes! I’m telling—that’s… I agree with. Seeking can be fun! But it won’t get you to what you’re looking for. You see, it’s a way—seeking is a way of postponing finding. Let’s put it off, you see? Children, on a hot day, they’re terribly thirsty and they say, “Let’s get an ice cream soda.” The other kid says, “No, let’s get thirstier.” So when we finally get the ice cream soda, we are a real Zomb. This is the principle of postponement, and everybody who is questing, who is practicing yoga, and Zen meditation—all that kind of thing—is putting off that ice cream soda.


Well, then, if that’s the case, what do you propose?

What do I propose? Nothing.

I don’t think [???] in just quite that way. Then you will say nothing is something, and then we’ll go around and [???]

But if you really believe that, then there would be no [???] on society. [???] whether it’s doing something or thinking something, we definitely are not just feeling that we are going to sit and let everything happen to us. Why do I come here? Or why does anyone come here?

Yeah, but I mean, look here: when you ask, always, “Why did you come?” I repeat: that is a barren question. Why did you do it? Why did this happen? It goes—a question that peters out. So this is not important. What is important, surely, is this immediate now. Not why are we here, but what are we here? In—unless you live in the eternal now consciously, you have no use for plans. Because people who live in the future—or for the future—when their plans come off, they’re not there enjoying them. They’re planning for another future. They never catch up with themselves.


Can you not put your future in the now?

Yes, in that sense. Of course. When you make plans you plan now, and that can be a gas, making plans. But for goodness sake, do it in the now spirit rather than, as it were, “Oh, I can’t wait ’till that happens.” Because then, if you’re in an I-can’t-wait spirit, you just bolt life like somebody swallowing food so fast they can neither taste it nor digest it.



Aren’t there really two different ways to [???] search? The way of intellectually trying to figure it out and plan it, and a way of experiencing it. And part of your experience would be taking in what will happen in the future, and that second way isn’t a bad search, it’s just really being.


So isn’t there a type—that’s the type of searching for meaning that would be okay, that would be fulfilling?

Well, yes. The searching in a spirit that the search is more fun than the finding—you know that? When you’re traveling, for example, going somewhere is he real joy of it, often. That’s the fallacy of the jet plane: that it abolishes distances between places. And all places which have a distance abolished between them become the same place. So there’s no point going to Tokyo if it’s already Los Angeles. I mean, this is the thing.


Yes, [???] here.

Is it possible [???]?

Well, the comment is about seeking. Is it necessarily a road, like taking a road, or is seeking also conceivable as readiness to receive? Well, of course, the road isn’t a merely Western analogue. It’s a very common metaphor. The path, and the stages of the path, the steps of the path are used in both East and West. But the Chinese word for the Way is Tao, and the path is what we’re looking for—in the Chinese sense, you see? The Tao is the works, baby. That is the which than which there is no whicher, and to be in harmony with the Way, to be on the way, you see? But the Tao isn’t going anywhere. And that’s like when the Chinese poet is wandering in the forest, and he looks at the clouds and he says, “Where are they going? No one knows. Where does this path lead? No one cares. I’m wandering on and on in a great forest without thought of return.” That is poetic feeling to the far East; both to the Japanese and the Chinese. They call that spirit yūgen, and it’s the mysterious going-nowhere-ness of things, the wandering spirit. So that sort of seeking is different from anxiety to get something in the future which you don’t have now.


Yes, sir?

What difference between just existing in now and experiencing everything [???] not seeking anything, and pure hedonism?

Well, pure hedonism is a quest for pleasure. The hedonist, in that sense of the word, would not live in the eternal now if he found it not altogether enjoyable. He would then read romances of the past or fantasies of the future to get away from now, because what he’s looking for is pleasure. But when we look for pleasure, you see, we split ourselves. We divide ourselves from pleasure in seeking it. And in trying to get away from pain we divide ourselves from pain, not realizing that that’s what creates pain, is the division of experience, so that the wholeness of experience is broken and we are dis-integrated.



Before you made the distinction between nothingness and something [???] was a category, isn’t that just an intellectual fallacy? There’s no such thing as any category [???]?

That’s true. Categories do not really exist in nature. Categories are like taking a network printed on cellophane and putting it over a picture of a forest, and then numbering the trees according to what squares they’re in on the cellophane. That’s categorization.

If you believe that, then that category of nothingness really is anything because there’s no such thing as that category out there.

Oh, I said it was thoroughly empty. But—wait a minute—it is a category in the sense that something is its limit. So it has an edge, and that’s what you see in the yang-yin diagram.


Would you comment on China and the recent developments?

No. I don’t want to comment on China at the moment.


Could you repeat that about pain, what you just said?

Yes, what I was trying to say about pain is this: we are in a split relationship with the contents of our experience. The knower and the known. Then there is: the knower is opposed with a known called pleasure and tries to identify with it. The knower is confronted with a known called pain and tries to be disentangled from it. But it is this very split; it is trying to get away from pain that makes pain painful. It’s as if you got caught in some brambles and you pulled away from them, and they just dug more deeply into your skin. You would have to go the other direction to let the brambles out, you’d have to go into the bush.

Enter the pain.


Ride with it.


Not fight it.

So—I mean, that’s only a metaphor. But the point is that as we keep up this distinction of the knower from the known, we’re always running away and want a changed experience. And as a fundamental, therefore, escape in every project to transform consciousness, there is an escape from what is. And when you realize you cannot get away from what is—not should you, not might you, but you can’t—then, at that point, when you realize you can’t get away from what is, there’s nothing left to you but to watch it. And then, for the first time, you’re taking a good look at your real self. Because your real self is a happening. The Chinese call it ziran—‘nature,’ ‘what is so of itself’—and that’s you. And you is this happening, and everything that you’re aware of is your happening—and a good deal more besides. You’re not aware of all of yourself. Like, you don’t have an immediate vision of the contents of your stomach; you haven’t got eyes down there.


Um… yes, sir?

God, what is your criteria for heaven now or hell now? Are you going to [???] beauty as opposed to ugliness?

Yes. This—you see, I know when I’m confronted with the beautiful or when I pass into the beautiful as I know when I pass into the ugly. When I try to say what these are or what my criteria are, all I’m doing is I’m trying to find a form of words that will apply to all my different sensations of beauty or of ugliness. The problem is not to know what is beautiful but to know how to put it into linear language. That’s where the complexity comes in. We very well know what is beautiful, but when we come to talk about it the words disappear.

Here’s our fundamental problem because, you see, in a certain way, what we mean by sense is God. Now, it is not that God doesn’t have a sense of nonsense—look at giraffes, for heaven’s sakes! But it’s this old thing. One form is: could God make a stone so heavy that he couldn’t lift it? That is an equivalent question to saying, “Could God make a dead body into a living body?” That is the same question as asking, “Could a dead body be a living body?” And that is the same question as asking, “Could the head be the feet?”


God, earlier, though, you did say that everybody alive had been dead before.

Yes, that’s a different matter.


Now, look: one of the most interesting meditations is to think about death and imagine what it would be like to go unconscious and never become conscious again. That is, as Keats said of the Grecian Urn: “it teases you out of thought.” And while you think of that, say, “Good heavens, fancy. Never coming to again,” you get a mirror image thought which is about your birth. My goodness, you came to without ever having gone unconscious! That’s pretty weird, and it seems to me that if that happened once it can happen again.

Now, what happens is this: when you die, BOING; there’s a blank. And the next thing you know is, WAAAAH! Just as you did it before. Because every “I” that comes into this world is I, is me, is you. On this level it is diversified. But yet, I is always central. Everyone feels he’s the center of the universe, and on the surface of a sphere any point may be the center of the surface.

So here it is. Every time it happens it’s me. So I should worry about reincarnation.



According to the Sufi doctrine, if you reach the third level you’re supposed to have the choice. You don’t have to be reincarnated. Do you feel that? Is that [???]?

All wise action is never the result of choice.

Say again?

Wise action is never the result of choice.

Because it implies logic?


Does choice imply logic?

Choice implies ignorance, indecision. When you know what to do you don’t choose, you do it.


What question could we ask you about love?


What question could we ask you about love?

What question could you ask about love? What is love? Love is not a what. Love is the energy of the world, and nobody can say what that is. If anybody were to say what God is or what the energy of the world is, he would be talking nonsense. Now, there are times when it is important to talk nonsense because we can discover the energy of the universe through nonsense. When you, say, you take a sound that really doesn’t mean anything much, like Aaaauuuuummmmm, that’s the energy of the universe going. Dig it! See? As you listen to sound. That’s why music is a marvelous support for meditation. Digging sound. Listening, just listening to that hum. There goes the energy of the universe, see? What is it? Aauuuuummmmm, that’s what it is. Auuummmmmmm, see?



Would you say that we meditate for the sake of the meditation?


In other words, not if I meditate at some future date, something may or may not happen?

Yeah, that’s right. Then, if you do that, it isn’t meditation.


Meditation is centered in the here and now. Done for some other reason it isn’t meditation, it stops dead right there.


God, what is satori?

What is satori? Satori is any kind of a-ha, Eureka! phenomenon, only specifically applied to discovering who and what you are.

It’s the clear light.

The clear light is that. You say, “I saw the light!” It doesn’t necessarily mean that there was the physical hallucination of a flash. It may mean suddenly everything becomes transparent. That may be a way of feeling it. It’s just that the problem vanishes and you stop asking the question.


Would you risk being God outside of this [???] situation?

I, uhm… what do you mean, risk it? The thing or the problem—there’s no risk being God, the risk is being human!

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