Oprah Talks to Thich Nhat Hanh

Oprah: Thank you for the honor of talking to you. Just being in your presence, I feel less stressed than when the day started. You have such a peaceful aura. Are you always this content?

Nhat Hanh: This is my training, this is my practice. And I try to live every moment like that, to keep the peace in myself.

Oprah: Because you can’t give it to others if you don’t have it in yourself.

Nhat Hanh: Right.

Oprah: I see. I know that you were born in Vietnam in 1926. Is there any wonderful memory of your childhood that you can share?

Nhat Hanh: The day I saw a picture of the Buddha in a magazine.

Oprah: How old were you?

Nhat Hanh: I was 7, 8. He was sitting on the grass, very peaceful, smiling. I was impressed. Around me, people were not like that, so I had the desire to be like him. And I nourished that desire until the age of 16, when I had the permission of my parents to go and ordain as a monk.

Oprah: Did your parents encourage you?

Nhat Hanh: In the beginning, they were reluctant because they thought that the life of a monk is difficult.

Oprah: At 16, did you understand what the life would be?

Nhat Hanh:
Not a lot. There was only the very strong desire. The feeling that I would not be happy if I could not become a monk. They call it the beginner’s mind—the deep intention, the deepest desire that a person may have. And I can say that until this day, this beginner’s mind is still alive in me.

Oprah: That’s what a lot of people refer to as passion. It’s the way I feel about my work most days. When you’re passionate about your work, it feels like you would do it even if no one were paying you.

Nhat Hanh:
And you enjoy it.

Oprah: You enjoy it. Let’s talk about when you first arrived in America. You were a student at Princeton. Was it challenging as a Buddhist monk to form friendships with other students? Were you lonely?

Nhat Hanh:
Well, Princeton University was like a monastery. There were only male students at that time. And there were not many Vietnamese living in the United States. During the first six months, I did not speak Vietnamese. But the campus was very beautiful. And everything was new—the trees and the birds and the food. My first snow was in Princeton, and the first time I used a radiator. The first fall was in Princeton.

Oprah: When the leaves are changing.

Nhat Hanh:
In Vietnam we did not see things like that.

Oprah: At the time, were you wearing your monk robes?

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: Never have to worry about buying clothes, do you? Always just the robe.

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: Do you have different robes for different occasions?

Nhat Hanh:
You have a ceremonial robe, saffron color. That’s all. I feel comfortable wearing this kind of robe. And it happily reminds us that we are monks.

Oprah: What does it mean to be a monk?

Nhat Hanh:
To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Oprah: Are most monks enlightened, or seeking enlightenment?

Nhat Hanh:
Enlightenment is always there. Small enlightenment will bring great enlightenment. If you breathe in and are aware that you are alive—that you can touch the miracle of being alive—then that is a kind of enlightenment. Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.

Oprah: I’m sure you see all around you—I’m guilty of it myself—that we’re just trying to get through the next thing. In our country, people are so busy. Even the children are busy. I get the impression very few of us are doing what you just said—touching the miracle that you are alive.

Nhat Hanh:
That is the environment people live in. But with a practice, we can always remain alive in the present moment. With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment. It is possible to live happily in the here and the now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.

Thich Nhat Hanh defines happiness and reveals how to achieve it

Oprah: What is happiness?

Nhat Hanh:
Happiness is the cessation of suffering. Well-being. For instance, when I practice this exercise of breathing in, I’m aware of my eyes; breathing out, I smile to my eyes and realize that they are still in good condition. There is a paradise of form and colors in the world. And because you have eyes still in good condition, you can get in touch with the paradise. So when I become aware of my eyes, I touch one of the conditions of happiness. And when I touch it, happiness comes.

Oprah: And you could do that with every part of your body.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I smile to my heart and know that my heart still functions normally. I feel grateful for my heart.

Oprah: So it’s about being aware of and grateful for what we have.

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: And not just the material things, but the fact that we have our breath.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. You need the practice of mindfulness to bring your mind back to the body and establish yourself in the moment. If you are fully present, you need only make a step or take a breath in order to enter the kingdom of God. And once you have the kingdom, you don’t need to run after objects of your craving, like power, fame, sensual pleasure, and so on. Peace is possible. Happiness is possible. And this practice is simple enough for everyone to do.

Oprah: Tell me how we do it.

Nhat Hanh:
Suppose you are drinking a cup of tea. When you hold your cup, you may like to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, and you become fully present. And when you are truly there, something else is also there—life, represented by the cup of tea. In that moment you are real, and the cup of tea is real. You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries. You are free from all of these afflictions. And in that state of being free, you enjoy your tea. That is the moment of happiness, and of peace. When you brush your teeth, you may have just two minutes, but according to this practice, it is possible to produce freedom and joy during that time, because you are established in the here and now. If you are capable of brushing your teeth in mindfulness, then you will be able to enjoy the time when you take a shower, cook your breakfast, sip your tea.
Oprah: So from this point of view, there are endless conditions of happiness.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.

Oprah: With you, the tea is real.

Nhat Hanh:
I am real, and the tea is real. I am in the present. I don’t think of the past. I don’t think of the future. There is a real encounter between me and the tea, and peace, happiness and joy are possible during the time I drink.

Oprah: I never had that much thought about a cup of tea.

Nhat Hanh:
We have the practice of tea meditation. We sit down, enjoy a cup of tea and our brotherhood, sisterhood. It takes one hour to just enjoy a cup of tea.

Oprah: A cup of tea, like this? [Holds up her cup.]

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: One hour.

Nhat Hanh:
Every moment is a moment of happiness. And during the hour of tea meditation, you cultivate joy, brotherhood, sisterhood, dwelling in the here and the now.

On how community played a crucial role during his 39-year exile

Oprah: Do you do the same thing with all food?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. We have silent meals eaten in such a way that we get in touch with the cosmos, with every morsel of food.

Oprah: How long does it take you to get through a meal? All day?

Nhat Hanh:
One hour is enough. We sit as a community, and enjoy our meal together. So whether you are eating, drinking your tea, or doing your dishes, you do it in such a way that freedom, joy, happiness are possible. Many people come to our center and learn this art of mindful living. And go back to their hometowns and set up a sangha, a community, to do the same. We have helped set up sanghas all over the world.

Oprah: A sangha is a beloved community.

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: How important is that in our lives? People have it with their own families, and then you expand your beloved community to include others. So the larger your beloved community, the more you can accomplish in the world.

Nhat Hanh: Right.

Oprah: On the subject of community, let’s go back to 1966. You were invited to come and speak at Cornell University, and shortly after that, you weren’t allowed back into your country. You were exiled for 39 years. How did you deal with those feelings?

Nhat Hanh:
Well, I was like a bee taken out of the beehive. But because I was carrying the beloved community in my heart, I sought elements of the sangha around me in America and in Europe. And I began to build a community working for peace.

Oprah: Did you feel angry at first? Hurt?

Nhat Hanh:
Angry, worried, sad, hurt. The practice of mindfulness helped me recognize that. In the first year, I dreamed almost every night of going home. I was climbing a beautiful hill, very green, very happily, and suddenly I woke up and found that I was in exile. So my practice was to get in touch with the trees, the birds, the flowers, the children, the people in the West—and make them my community. And because of that practice, I found home outside of home. One year later, the dreams stopped.

Oprah: What was the reason you weren’t allowed back in the country?

Nhat Hanh:
During the war, the warring parties all declared that they wanted to fight until the end. And those of us who tried to speak about reconciliation between brothers and brothers—they didn’t allow us.

Oprah: So when you were a man without a country, you made a home in other countries.

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: And the United States was one.

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: How did you meet Martin Luther King?

Nhat Hanh:
In June 1965, I wrote him a letter explaining why the monks in Vietnam immolated themselves. I said that this is not a suicide. I said that in situations like the one in Vietnam, to make your voice heard is difficult. Sometimes we have to burn ourselves in order to be heard. It is out of compassion that you do that. It is the act of love and not of despair. And exactly one year after I wrote that letter, I met him in Chicago. We had a discussion about peace, freedom, and community. And we agreed that without a community, we cannot go very far.

Oprah: How long was the discussion?

Nhat Hanh:
Probably five minutes or so. And after that, there was a press conference, and he came out very strongly against the war in Vietnam.

Oprah: Do you think that was a result of your conversation?

Nhat Hanh:
I believe so. We continued our work, and the last time I met him was in Geneva during the peace conference.

Thich Nhat Hanh describes the best and only way to eliminate terrorism

Oprah: Did the two of you speak then?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. He invited me up for breakfast, to talk about these issues again. I got caught in a press conference downstairs and came late, but he kept the breakfast warm for me. And I told him that the people in Vietnam call him a bodhisattva—enlightened being—because of what he was doing for his people, his country, and the world.

Oprah: And the fact that he was doing it nonviolently.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. That is the work of a bodhisattva, a buddha, always with compassion and nonviolence. When I heard of his assassination, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, “The American people have produced King but are not capable of preserving him.” I was a little bit angry. I did not eat, I did not sleep. But my determination to continue building the beloved community continues always. And I think that I felt his support always.

Oprah: Always.

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: Okay. We’ve been talking about mindfulness, and you’ve mentioned mindful walking. How does that work?

Nhat Hanh:
As you walk, you touch the ground mindfully, and every step can bring you solidity and joy and freedom. Freedom from your regret concerning the past, and freedom from your fear about the future.

Oprah: Most people when they’re walking are thinking about where they have to go and what they have to do. But you would say that removes us from happiness.

Nhat Hanh:
People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.

Oprah: What if my bills need to be paid? I’m walking, but I’m thinking about the bills.

Nhat Hanh:
There is a time for everything. There is a time when I sit down, I concentrate myself on the problem of my bills, but I would not worry before that. One thing at a time. We practice mindful walking in order to heal ourselves, because walking like that really relieves our worries, the pressure, the tension in our body and in our mind.

Oprah: The case is the same for deep listening, which I’ve heard you refer to.

Nhat Hanh:
Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

Oprah: I love this idea of deep listening, because often when someone comes to you and wants to vent, it’s so tempting to start giving advice. But if you allow the person just to let the feelings out, and then at another time come back with advice or comments, that person would experience a deeper healing. That’s what you’re saying.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. Deep listening helps us to recognize the existence of wrong perceptions in the other person and wrong perceptions in us. The other person has wrong perceptions about himself and about us. And we have wrong perceptions about ourselves and the other person. And that is the foundation for violence and conflict and war. The terrorists, they have the wrong perception. They believe that the other group is trying to destroy them as a religion, as a civilization. So they want to abolish us, to kill us before we can kill them. And the antiterrorist may think very much the same way—that these are terrorists and they are trying to eliminate us, so we have to eliminate them first. Both sides are motivated by fear, by anger, and by wrong perception. But wrong perceptions cannot be removed by guns and bombs. They should be removed by deep listening, compassionate listening, and loving space.

Why suffering is important, and how to heal it

Oprah: The only way to end war is communication between people.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. We should be able to say this: “Dear friends, dear people, I know that you suffer. I have not understood enough of your difficulties and suffering. It’s not our intention to make you suffer more. It is the opposite. We don’t want you to suffer. But we don’t know what to do and we might do the wrong thing if you don’t help us to understand. So please tell us about your difficulties. I’m eager to learn, to understand.” We have to have loving speech. And if we are honest, if we are true, they will open their hearts. Then we practice compassionate listening, and we can learn so much about our own perception and their perception. Only after that can we help remove wrong perception. That is the best way, the only way, to remove terrorism.

Oprah: But what you’re saying also applies to difficulties between yourself and family members or friends. The principle is the same, no matter the conflict.

Nhat Hanh:
Right. And peace negotiations should be conducted in that manner. When we come to the table, we shouldn’t negotiate right away. We should spend time walking together, eating together, making acquaintance, telling each other about our own suffering, without blame or condemnation. It takes maybe one, two, three weeks to do that. And if communication and understanding are possible, negotiation will be easier. So if I am to organize a peace negotiation, I will organize it in that way.

Oprah: You’d start with tea?

Nhat Hanh:
With tea and walking meditation.

Oprah: Mindful tea.

Nhat Hanh:
And sharing our happiness and our suffering. And deep listening and loving speech.

Oprah: Is there ever a place for anger?

Nhat Hanh:
Anger is the energy that people use in order to act. But when you are angry, you are not lucid, and you might do wrong things. That is why compassion is a better energy. And the energy of compassion is very strong. We suffer. That is real. But we have learned not to get angry and not to allow ourselves to be carried by anger. We realize right away that that is fear. That is corruption.

Oprah: What if in a moment of mindfulness you are being challenged? For instance, the other day someone presented me with a lawsuit, and it’s hard to feel happy when somebody is going to be taking you to court.

Nhat Hanh:
The practice is to go to the anxiety, the worry—

Oprah: The fear. First thing that happens is that fear sets in, like, What am I going to do?

Nhat Hanh:
So you recognize that fear. You embrace it tenderly and look deeply into it. And as you embrace your pain, you get relief and you find out how to handle that emotion. And if you know how to handle the fear, then you have enough insight in order to solve the problem. The problem is to not allow that anxiety to take over. When these feelings arise, you have to practice in order to use the energy of mindfulness to recognize them, embrace them, look deeply into them. It’s like a mother when the baby is crying. Your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get relief. And if you continue with your practice of mindfulness, you understand the roots, the nature of the suffering, and you know the way to transform it.

Oprah: You use the word suffering a lot. I think many people think suffering is dire starvation or poverty. But when you speak of suffering, you mean what?

Nhat Hanh:
I mean the fear, the anger, the despair, the anxiety in us. If you know how to deal with that, then you’ll be able to handle problems of war and poverty and conflicts. If we have fear and despair in us, we cannot remove the suffering in society.

Oprah: The nature of Buddhism, as I understand it, is to believe that we are all pure and radiant at our core. And yet we see around us so much evidence that people are not acting from a place of purity and radiance. How do we reconcile that?

Nhat Hanh:
Well, happiness and suffering support each other. To be is to inter-be. It’s like the left and the right. If the left is not there, the right cannot be there. The same is true with suffering and happiness, good and evil. In every one of us there are good seeds and bad. We have the seed of brotherhood, love, compassion, insight. But we have also the seed of anger, hate, dissent.

Oprah: That’s the nature of being human.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.

Oprah: Can’t have one without the other.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. You can only recognize your happiness against the background of suffering. If you have not suffered hunger, you do not appreciate having something to eat. If you have not gone through a war, you don’t know the value of peace. That is why we should not try to run away from one thing after another thing. Holding our suffering, looking deeply into it, we find a way to happiness.

Learn about the 4 mantras Thich Nhat Hanh uses during meditation

Oprah: Do you meditate every single day?

Nhat Hanh:
We try to do it not only every day but every moment. While drinking, while talking, while writing, while watering our garden, it’s always possible to practice living in the here and the now.

Oprah: But do you ever sit silently with yourself or recite a mantra—or not recite a mantra?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. We sit alone, we sit together.

Oprah: The more people you sit with, the better.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes, the collective energy is very helpful. I’d like to talk about the mantras you just mentioned. The first one is “Darling, I’m here for you.” When you love someone, the best you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?

Oprah: That’s a lovely mantra.

Nhat Hanh:
You look into their eyes and you say, “Darling, you know something? I’m here for you.” You offer him or her your presence. You are not preoccupied with the past or the future; you are there for your beloved. The second mantra is, “Darling, I know you are there and I am so happy.” Because you are fully there, you recognize the presence of your beloved as something very precious. You embrace your beloved with mindfulness. And he or she will bloom like a flower. To be loved means to be recognized as existing. And these two mantras can bring happiness right away, even if your beloved one is not there. You can use your telephone and practice the mantra.

Oprah: Or e-mail.

Nhat Hanh:
E-mail. You don’t have to practice it in Sanskrit or Tibetan—you can practice in English.

Oprah: Darling, I’m here for you.

Nhat Hanh:
And I’m very happy. The third mantra is what you practice when your beloved one is suffering. “Darling, I know you’re suffering. That is why I am here for you.” Before you do something to help, your presence already can bring some relief.

Oprah: The acknowledgment of the suffering or the hurting.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. And the fourth mantra is a little bit more difficult. It is when you suffer and you believe that your suffering has been caused by your beloved. If someone else had done the same wrong to you, you would have suffered less. But this is the person you love the most, so you suffer deeply. You prefer to go to your room and close the door and suffer alone.

Oprah: Yes.

Nhat Hanh:
You are hurt. And you want to punish him or her for having made you suffer. The mantra is to overcome that: “Darling, I suffer. I am trying my best to practice. Please help me.” You go to him, you go to her, and practice that. And if you can bring yourself to say that mantra, you suffer less right away. Because you do not have that obstacle standing between you and the other person.

Oprah: “Darling, I suffer. Please help me.”

Nhat Hanh:
“Please help me.”

Oprah: What if he or she is not willing to help you?

Nhat Hanh:
First of all, when you love someone, you want to share everything with him or her. So it is your duty to say, “I suffer and I want you to know”—and he will, she will, appreciate it.

Oprah: If he or she loves you.

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. This is the case of two people who love each other. Your beloved one.

Oprah: All right.

Nhat Hanh:
“And when I have been trying my best to look deeply, to see whether this suffering comes from my wrong perception and I might be able to transform it, but in this case I cannot transform it, you should help me, darling. You should tell me why you have done such a thing to me, said such a thing to me.” In that way, you have expressed your trust, your confidence. You don’t want to punish anymore. And that is why you suffer less right away.

Thich Nhat Hanh shares what he knows for sure

Oprah: Beautiful. Now I’m going to ask just a few questions about monkdom. Do you exercise to stay in shape?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. We have the ten mindful movements. We do walking meditation every day. We practice mindful eating.

Oprah: Are you vegetarian?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. Vegetarian. Complete. We do not use animal products anymore.

Oprah: So you wouldn’t eat an egg.

Nhat Hanh: No egg, no milk, no cheese. Because we know that mindful eating can help save our planet.

Oprah: Do you watch television?

Nhat Hanh:
No. But I’m in touch with the world. If anything really important happens, someone will tell me.

Oprah: That’s the way I feel!

Nhat Hanh:
You don’t have to listen to the news three times a day or read one newspaper after another.

Oprah: That’s right. Now, the life of a monk is a celibate life, correct?

Nhat Hanh:

Oprah: You never had trouble with the idea of giving up marriage or children?

Nhat Hanh:
One day when I was in my 30s, I was practicing meditation in a park in France. I saw a young mother with a beautiful baby. And in a flash I thought that if I was not a monk, I would have a wife and a child like that. The idea lasted only for one second. I overcame it very quickly.

Oprah: That was not the life for you. And speaking of life, what about death? What happens when we die, do you believe?

Nhat Hanh:
The question can be answered when you can answer this: What happens in the present moment? In the present moment, you are producing thought, speech, and action. And they continue in the world. Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature. Action is called karma. And that’s your continuation. When this body disintegrates, you continue on with your actions. It’s like the cloud in the sky. When the cloud is no longer in the sky, it hasn’t died. The cloud is continued in other forms like rain or snow or ice.

Our nature is the nature of no birth and no death. It is impossible for a cloud to pass from being into nonbeing. And that is true with a beloved person. They have not died. They have continued in many new forms and you can look deeply and recognize them in you and around you.

Oprah: Is that what you meant when you wrote one of my favorite poems, “Call Me By My True Name”?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. When you call me European, I say yes. When you call me Arab, I say yes. When you call me black, I say yes. When you call me white, I say yes. Because I am in you and you are in me. We have to inter-be with everything in the cosmos.

Oprah: [Reading from the poem] “I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly…. I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda. I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving…. Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.” What does that poem mean?

Nhat Hanh:
It means compassion is our most important practice. Understanding brings compassion. Understanding the suffering that living beings undergo helps liberate the energy of compassion. And with that energy you know what to do.

Oprah: Okay. At the end of this magazine, I have a column called “What I Know for Sure.” What do you know for sure?

Nhat Hanh:
I know that we do not know enough. We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality. When you climb a ladder and arrive on the sixth step and you think that is the highest, then you cannot come to the seventh. So the technique is to abandon the sixth in order for the seventh step to be possible. And this is our practice, to release our views. The practice of nonattachment to views is at the heart of the Buddhist practice of meditation. People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore.

Oprah: Isn’t the true quest to be free?

Nhat Hanh:
Yes. To be free, first of all, is to be free from wrong views that are the foundation of all kinds of suffering and fear and violence.

Oprah: It has been my honor to talk to you today.

Nhat Hanh:
Thank you. A moment of happiness that might help people.

Oprah: I think it will.


Gregg Braden on consciousness

Gregg Braden takes us on a short trip through consciousness that connects our feelings and our mass reality.

Setting History Free: Graham Hancock & David Wilcock

Bringing together two inspirational investigators of our hidden past and uncertain future, this unique dialogue between David Wilcock and Graham Hancock takes us on a roller-coaster ride through the wonders of ancient civilisations and into the mysterious nature of reality itself. What is the Ark of the Covenant? Why is its loss the greatest riddle of the Bible? Has its final resting place been found? What do the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza teach us?

What was the function of the Osireion and other awesome megalithic sites of unknown origin found throughout Egypt? Were the high knowledge and magic of ancient Egypt brought to the Nile Valley by the survivors of an earlier civilisation around 12,500 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, an epoch referred to in the Book of the Dead as Zep Tepi, “The First Time”?

The possibility of a great lost civilisation Atlantis by any other name was the focus of Hancock’s book Fingerprints of the Gods and the dialogue considers the evidence for this exciting idea — including out-of-place artefacts and technologies, ancient maps of the world as it last looked more than 12,500 years ago, and the mysteries of the Mayan calendar. Is it a computer for calculating the end of the world? Or do its prophecies of a great change to come speak to us of a joyous rebirth of human consciousness after 21 December 2012? Join Hancock and Wilcock as they discuss Angkor in Cambodia, Baalbeck in the Lebanon, underwater ruins submerged by rising sea levels all around the world at the end of the last Ice Age, and the alleged monuments and a gigantic sculpture of a human face on the planet Mars.

The dialogue concludes with a paradigm-busting investigation of parallel realms and universes, spirit beings, shamanism, visionary plants, and the role of altered states of consciousness in exploring and understanding the full mysterious spectrum of reality.

Entangled, by Graham Hancock with trailer ~ a novel of fantasy and adventure

Time is not what it seems…

When a drug overdose causes Leoni, a troubled teen from twenty-first-century Los Angeles, to have a near-death experience, her soul is lifted from the modern world and flung into a parallel time 24,000 years in the past. There her fate becomes entangled with that of Ria, a young Stone Age woman fighting for her life against the ferocious Illimani, an army of evil led by the vicious Sulpa, a powerful demon determined to destroy humanity.

As the invaders annihilate Ria’s people, inflicting torture and human sacrifice, Sulpa moves ever closer to his ultimate goal: to manifest physically in the twenty-first century and condemn all of mankind to perpetual slavery. The hour is late and any chance of stopping him seems lost. But there is still hope, if Leoni and Ria can rise to the challenge fate has set them. Uniting outside the flow of earth time, they must venture forth into regions of wonder, master their own deepest fears, and fight battles they could never have prepared for, if Sulpa is to be defeated.

Entangled Chapter 1, Part 1/2 read by Graham Hancock

Entangled Chapter 1, Part 2/2 read by Graham Hancock


Consciousness, Quantum Physics, Parallel Realms, Time Travel
Entangled, by Graham Hancock, reference pp 3-435

Background briefing notes on Consciousness, Quantum Physics, Parallel Realms, Time Travel and Telepathy.
A central proposition of Entangled, in tune with the latest findings of quantum physics, is that consciousness exists independently of the brain and may be projected into other dimensions and even into other timeframes. Telepathy, out of body journeys, time travel – all become possible.

In the mid-19th Century, Sir Oliver Lodge, who helped demonstrate the existence of electrical waves, noted that if wireless telegraphy was possible, then so too should “wireless telepathy” be possible.1

In the earliest days of 20th Century physics, Albert Einstein, in coming up with his theory of relativity, showed that space and time are “intertwined” and that matter itself is inseparable from an “ever present quantum energy field and this is the sole reality underlying all appearances.”2

“Now here the theories become impossibly vague and untestable,” wrote Victor Stenger in the mid 1990s, “so I can only indicate some of the language. In some sense, the wave function of the universe is an etheric cosmic mind spread throughout the universe that acts to collapse itself in some unknown way. The human mind (spirit, soul) is, of course, holistically linked to the cosmic mind and so exists in all space and time. Once again we have an example of what Paul Kurtz calls the “transcendental temptation.”3

One of the more intriguing ideas involving quantum physics and subjective reality is the following: That until the actual human observation of an event, like a quasar exploding billions of lights years from Earth, that event can be said not to have existed during all those billions of years until seen by a human being on Earth. The same is as valid for the entire universe according to this viewpoint. “Our observation had a retrospective effect on events in the distant past of the universe,” wrote C. John Taylor.4

The more one studies quantum weirdness, as Timothy Ferris calls it in his bestselling book The Whole Shebang, “it’s not just a matter of getting used to Alice-in-Wonderland oddities of a world in which particles are waves and can leap from one place to another without traversing the intervening space. Quantum weirdness goes deeper; It implies that the logical foundations of classical science are violated in the quantum realm, and it opens up a glimpse of an unfamiliar and perhaps older aspect of nature that some call the implicate universe.”5

“With all the breakthroughs in the dynamics of our natural world, the topic of physics and consciousness is becoming more well renowned (sic) by physicists. In the spring of 2003, the Quantum Mind Conference on Consciousness, Quantum Physics and The Brain was held in Arizona, USA. Their web site states, “recent experimental evidence suggests quantum nonlocality occurring in conscious and subconscious brain function, and functional quantum processes in molecular biology are becoming more and more apparent. Moreover macroscopic quantum processes are being proposed as intrinsic features in cosmology, evolution and social interactions.”6

The two main characters of Graham Hancock’s latest book, Entangled meet one another in what most people would call an impossible situation, becoming linked to one another across vast distances of time. The title of the book is meant specifically to evoke the quantum physics notion of entanglement.

The theories that involve consciousness and how it relates to the human mind are many and varied. One of the better places to find most of these theories at their most recent stages of development is at the Roots of Consciousness: Theory, Consciousness, and the New Physics web page. This website lays out the development of quantum theory, from its beginnings in the mid-19th Century through to today and is very helpful in assimilating to the complex field of quantum theories.7

The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, the Promise of Our Future by Gregg Braden

What would it mean to discover an ancient language—a literal message—hidden within the DNA of life itself? What we once believed of our past is about to change. . . . A coded message has been found within the molecules of life, deep within the DNA in each cell of our bodies. Through a remarkable discovery linking Biblical alphabets to our genetic code, the “language of life” may now be read as the ancient letters of a timeless message. Regardless of race, religion, heritage, or lifestyle, the message is the same in each cell of every woman, child, and man, past and present.

Sharing all-new, fascinating research, Gregg Braden discusses the life-changing discovery that led him from a successful career in the aerospace and defense industries to an extensive 12-year study of the most sacred and honored traditions of humankind.

Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer
The Hidden Power of Beauty, Blessing, Wisdom, and Hurt
by Gregg Braden

“There are beautiful and wild forces within us.”
With these words, the mystic St. Francis described what ancient traditions believed was the most powerful force in the universe—the power of prayer. For more than 20 years, Gregg Braden has searched for evidence of a forgotten form of prayer that was lost in the West following the biblical edits of the early Christian Church. In the 1990’s, he found and documented this form of prayer still being used in the remote monasteries of central Tibet. He also found it practiced in sacred rites throughout the high deserts of the American Southwest.

In this book, Braden describes this ancient form of prayer that has no words or outward expressions. Then, for the first time in print, he leads us on a journey exploring what our most intimate experiences tell us about our deepest beliefs. Through case histories and personal accounts, Braden explores the wisdom of these timeless secrets, and the power that awaits each of us…just beyond our deepest hurt!

The God Code- The Secret of Our Past Pt 1 of 3

The God Code- Gregg Braden – The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, The Promise of Our Future

“Human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our own ignorance about ourselves.” Carl Sagan

What would it mean to discover an ancient language—a literal message—hidden within the DNA of life itself? What we once believed of our past is about to change

A remarkable discovery linking the biblical alphabets of Hebrew and Arabic to modern chemistry reveals that a lost code—a translatable alphabet—and a clue to the mystery of our origins has lived within us all along. Applying this discovery to the language of life—the familiar elements of hydrogen, nitrogen oxygen and carbon that form our DNA—may now be replaced with key letters of the ancient languages. In doing so, the code of all life is transformed into the words of a timeless message. Translated, the message reveals that the precise letters of Gods ancient name are encoded as the genetic information in every cell, of every life.

The first portion of the message reads: “God/Eternal within the body.” The meaning: Humankind is one family, united through a common heritage, and the result of an intentional act of creation!

Preserved within each cell of the estimated 6 billion inhabitants of our world, the message is repeated, again and again, to form the building blocks of our existence. This ancient message from the day of our origins—the same message—remains within each of us today, regardless of race, religion, heritage, lifestyle or belief.

Resulting from 12 years of research that crosses the traditional boundaries of science, history, spirituality and technology, the existence of the message in our cells reveals the following undeniable facts:

The natural elements of life translate directly into a readable text message in our cells, including Gods ancient name.

The same message exists in all life.

While we may not know precisely where the message came from, or how it was placed in our bodies, it suggests that we are part of one another and an even greater existence.

It may be no accident that such a powerful message of unity is revealed now, in the first years of the new millennium. Statistics show that the twentieth century was the bloodiest 100 years in human history, with more people killed as the result of violence, ethnic cleansing, war, and genocide than from all of the major natural disasters, combined, during the same period of time. In the early years of the twenty-first century, that violence continues, with nearly one third of the worlds nations engaged in armed conflict.

In addition to battling for profit and resources, many of the hostilities are based upon differences of religion, bloodlines, and borders.

With the message providing tangible proof of a common bond, we are given a reason to look beyond the issues that may have separated us in the past. Regardless of race, religion, heritage or lifestyle, the message is the same in each cell of every woman, child and man. Through the power of the message in our cells, we find an unprecedented expression of human unity, and a place to begin when our differences seem insurmountable. Perhaps as a testament to our success as a species, each of us carries the same message as a silent reminder of our heritage, recorded on the first day of our existence.

First layer of the message in our cells: God/Eternal within the body.

The God Code- The Secret of Our Past Pt 2 of 3

The God Code- The Secret of Our Past Pt 3 of 3

Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn leads a session on Mindfulness at Google.

Marianne Williamson Speaks About Oneness and Humanity’s Team

Marianne Williamson sat down to speak with us about Oneness and Humanity’s Team’s efforts to awaken the world to this message.

Be the Change Pt 1 to Pt 3

Deepak Chopra speaking about the Be the Change program in Whislter, Canada in 2007

Be the Change pt 2

Be the Change pt 3

Matthieu Ricard: Habits of happiness Part I & II

What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.

Matthieu Ricard: Habits of happiness Part II

The abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwest China has been jailed for three years on charges of endangering national security by inciting the masses, a group monitoring human rights in the Himalayan region said

The Tao of Rejuvenation: Fundamental Principles of Health, Longevity, and Essential Well-Being – by Angelo Druda

Throughout history Taoists, Christians, the yogis of northern India, and others have learned that the secret of longevity and even bodily rejuvenation lies in unlocking the body’s own healing “somas” (or higher chemistry). Traditionally, however, the principles and techniques behind their discoveries have been hidden, transmitted only from teacher to student. Fortunately, these esoteric secrets are but the ultimate expression of a time-tested body of traditional healing wisdom that has taken strong root in the Western world, where it has been clarified and amplified by a new generation of healers and spiritual practitioners.

The Tao of Rejuvenation is an inspiring and very well-written guide to the underlying principles and basic practices essential to our ability to not only achieve longevity and bodily rejuvenation, but also to lead a vital, balanced, and happy life. Written in a clear, rational, and highly readable style, it is a book that speaks to all modern men and women ready and willing to assume responsibility for their own destiny.

In The Tao of Rejuvenation author Angelo Druda explains how our health and well-being is based on a simple three-part process of purification, rebalancing, and rejuvenation. He makes specific recommendations for utilizing this process to transform our diet, our exercise regimen, even our sexuality, so that these become powerful sources of rejuvenative energy. Case studies and clear explanations make the practices easier and more engaging.


How to heal and rejuvenate the body through the right cultivation of the blood.

How to heal and rejuvenate the nervous system.

How to use traditional elixirs to energize and rejuvenate the endocrine system.

Dietary approaches for heath and rejuvenation.

How to transform your sexual practice so that it becomes profoundly regenerative.

Detailed Guide to Specific Organ Rejuvenation

And much, much more…

THE TAO OF REJUVENATION is a comprehensive manual for radiant health and well being based on ancient principles.

Blood toxicity does a lot more than making us feel terrible, more even than exposing us to disease: Impure blood actually prevents us from participating in a higher spectrum of
existence. Accessing subtle and etheric energies is a mysterious process, requiring the feeling core of our beings to expand, or “feel,” through the blood, and we can only do
this if our blood is strong, pure, and flowing freely. When we allow our blood to toxify, we cut ourselves off from the subtle food that we need in order to thrive.

So how does it happen? The free radicals in toxic blood wreak havoc in our body by stimulating inflammation in the cells and organs as they move about in their search to bond
with other particles. This then thickens the blood, which directly compromises the blood’s versatility: Not only can the blood no longer conduct etheric and subtler energies,
but it soon struggles to perform even its simpler tasks in the body, like clotting, for instance. In a healthy body, the blood can clot when it needs to, without being thick. When the
blood is thick and impure, though, imbalances begin to arise: Sometimes the blood cannot clot; sometimes it clots excessively, obstructing the blood flow.

By restoring the blood through the practices we have looked at so far, we not only allow the blood to perform its usual wonders in the body, but we allow the etheric to align
with and feed the physical. Rightly aligned, the etheric offers us profound feelings of depth, peace, and equanimity.
Over time, as we persevere in this practice, all the critical functions the blood performs are brought into harmony and balance, unleashing the body’s deeper regenerative
chemistry and transforming our life.

From: The Tao of Rejuvenation

Druda has worked professionally with medicinal herbs for many years, and he skillfully incorporates them in the process of bodily renewal. The Tao of Rejuvenation is a timely and authoritative guide that will be of great interest to complementary and alternative medicine professionals, those in need of radical healing and rejuvenation, and anyone interested in enhancing his or her own health and vitality.

Angelo has been a devotee of Avatar Adi Da Samraj since 1975. He is a senior minister in Mate Moce, the Ministry founded by Avatara Adi Da to educate people about the death process and to serve those who are dying. Angelo is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a member of the Australian Natural Therapist Association, and the founder of Traditional Botanical Medicine. His seminars have been offered in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought, by Sachiko Murata

Reviewed by Dr. Muhammad Legenhausen

This work is a true masterpiece, not only of translation and exposition, but of Islamic propagation, as well. The work as a whole provides the best rejoinder yet given to the attack made on Islam from various feminist quarters both in the West and in the Muslim world.

In brief, the answer is that the critics fail to see past the surface of Islam, a surface which is then judged by modern Western standards, while an adequate understanding of the feminine in Islam is impossible without an immersion in the ocean of Islamic spirituality, an ocean whose depths are expertly gauged with translations from no less than forty-eight Muslim sages, including narrations attributed to the Shi`i Imams, Peace be upon them, philosophical pieces from authors such as Ibn Sina and Mulla Sadra, poetry from Hafiz, `Attar, and Rumi, and various `irfani or Sufi works including selections from Ibn `Arabi and those of his school as well as selections from other writers such as Najm al-Din Kubra, Khwajah `Abdullah Ansari and `Ayn al-Qudat Hamadani, to mention but a few.

The translations range over a number of different topics from theology, cosmology and spiritual psychology, stitched together by the gender imagery used by the authors. The result is a demonstration that the gender concepts to be found in Islamic thought stem from its fundamental orientation toward Reality.

The feminist critique of Islam is exposed as simply the continuation of the negatively masculine proselytizing which has dominated Western attitudes toward Islam, and toward non-Western cultures generally, at least since the colonial period. Instead of using Western models to frame her discussion, the author breaks new ground in comparative studies by explaining gender dualities in Islamic thought in terms of the Taoist polarity between yin and yang.

The Tao of Islam is truly a sourcebook of Islamic thought which is destined to become a classic.At the same time, the work is also bound to be controversial and misunderstood. At issue is the treatment of women in Islamic law. By focusing on the symbolic dimension of gender, Murata is sure to be misunderstood by two factions: legalists who do not care to see beyond the letter of the law, and those who are opposed to Islamic law. Members of both groups are sure to misinterpret Murata’s thesis as the claim that the law can be jettisoned in favour of vague statements of symbolic value.

The key to the misinterpretation is the idea that when it is claimed that a term has a certain symbolic or metaphorical reading, nothing else can remain. If `woman’ is read as a code for `the base soul,’ and if this reading is used to derive the statutes of Islamic law, the result will be either nonsense or the denial of the civil code of Islamic law altogether, for to claim that a man is to inherit twice the share of a woman cannot mean that the intellect is to have twice the inheritance of the base soul.

So, the jurists will complain that Murata has abandoned the law, and the opponents of Islamic law will celebrate the alleged abandonment. However, for the attentive eye, even a quick browse through the book will be enough to show that there is no attempt here to replace the law by a set of symbolic relations. Murata repeatedly stresses the great respect for the sacred law of Islam, the shari`ah, which pervades the mainstream of the mystic tradition of Islam.

The figurative is introduced not to replace the literal, but to illuminate it. The traditional differences in gender roles which are canonized in Islamic law are not to be justified by sexist claims of a natural inferiority of women to men, but by showing how these differences fit into a more comprehensive hierarchical understanding of reality.

This is not to say that Islamic values have never been invoked to do injustice to women-they most certainly have; nor is this to say that women do not have rights similar to men according to Islam-they most certainly do, as it is stated in the Noble Qur’an itself (2:228); and no one should deny the importance of scholarly investigations into these areas. But Murata’s work is not a sociology of Islam, nor is it a work in Islamic law.

It is not the place of this work to clear up the misunderstandings among Muslims as well as non-­Muslims about Islamic law on the issue of women; rather the aim is to show how gender concepts which are politically very incorrect in the West today, function in the Islamic spiritual tradition along lines in no way congruent with the politics of oppression, subjugation, and individual rights, which dominate so much of Western intellectual discussion of gender today. The book provides us with a different way of thinking about gender altogether.

The author, Sachiko Murata, wrote her M.A. thesis on the topic of temporary marriage and its social relevance at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Tehran, after having obtained a Ph.D. at that university in Persian literature.

While studying in Iran, the author also translated a tenth/sixteenth century classic on usul al–fiqh (theoretical jurisprudence) into Japanese. In addition to her studies of fiqh and usul, the author also studied the Islamic sapiential tradition with such notable authorities as Toshiko Izutsu and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and has had the benefit of years of collaboration with her husband, the eminent scholar William C. Chittick.

She is currently Professor of Religious Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The book includes an Introduction, followed by four parts, the first of which introduces the three central realities to be discussed in the succeeding parts: God, the cosmos, and the human being. There is also a postscript which addresses the feminist critique of Islam, two appendices giving a chronological list of and notes on the authors cited, a bibliography, an index of ayat of the Qur’ an, an index of hadith and sayings, and a general index.

The Introduction begins by pointing out the importance of cultural differences and the way that presumptions rooted in Western culture may prevent the Western student from properly understanding the role of women in Islamic societies.

In order to remedy such misunderstanding, it is necessary to become acquainted with the intellectual tradition in Islam. Ignorance of or a dismissive attitude toward this tradition characterizes the feminist critique of Islam. The author then discusses her own preparations and motivations for writing this book, and explains the central comparison between the feminine and masculine principles of Taoism, yin and yang, respectively, and the gender symbolism to be found in Islamic thought.

It is explained that in Islam, everything is to be understood in terms of its relation with God, and the Islamic understanding of God Himself is to be found between the two poles of negative and positive theology, tanzih and tashbih, compared to the yang and yin elements of Taoist thought.

Likewise, the attributes of God, the so-called ninety-nine names of God, are often divided by Muslim authors into the attributes of majesty (jalal) and the attributes of beauty (jamal), which Murata refers to as the yang Names and the yin Names. Various symbols of the Qur’an, such as the Tablet and the Pen,, may also be interpreted in terms of feminine/masculine duality.

Part One consists of a single chapter called “The Three Realities,” in which the author shows that what she calls the Tao of Islam is made up of three great realities, God, the cosmos, and the human being, and that in the sapiential tradition of Islamic thought these realities are viewed as inseparable from each other. “Each can be seen as a replica of the Tao, with the two fundamental principles, yin and yang, harmoniously present” (p. 18). Both the macrocosm and the microcosm are signs of Allah.

Part Two, “Theology,” consists of two chapters. In the first, “Divine Duality,” it is initially made clear that in so speaking one must not in any way deny the absolute unity of Allah, tawhid. Duality pertains to the nature of human discourse and thought about the Divine.

Likewise, in Chinese thought a distinction is made between the unnamable Tao and a Tao which can be named and spoken about and polarized into the principles of yin and yang. This is elaborated in terms of the difference between the Oneness of Being and the Manyness of Knowledge as discussed by Muslim authors, and the division of the Divine attributes into those of majesty and beauty.

Finally, the social implications of the Divine duality are explained: man’s first duty is to obey God’s law, the shari’ah, for it is only through awe of the attributes of majesty that the way to the attributes of beauty are to be found. In the third chapter, “The Two Hands of God,” we find a more detailed discussion of the relationships among the Divine attributes.

The imagery of the right and left hands is explained with reference to theologians, mystics and interpreters of the Qur’an. God is not only said to have two hands, but to have two feet as well, and there is an extensive explanation of the. significance of the symbolism involved here in the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi, and others of this school of thought.

Part Three, “Cosmology,” has four chapters. In the first of these, “Heaven and Earth,” there are discussions of the creation of the world, the relations of similarity and difference between heaven and earth, the seven heavens, and the four earthly elements.

In the next chapter, “Macrocosmic Marriage,” the relation between heaven and earth is compared to that of husband and wife. Heaven is said to have married the earth because of her beauty and virtue; and Ibn ‘Arabi’s doctrine of a universal marriage which pervades all existence is explained, especially in terms of the Qur’anic symbols of the Pen and the Tablet; then the reflection of these elements as the. First Intellect and the Universal Soul is introduced, illustrated by Sohrawardi’s discussion of the two wings of the angel Gabriel.

The human significance of all this is presented in the next chapter, “Human Marriage,” which focuses on a few key ayat of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet, may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, and their interpretations by Ibn ‘Arabi and others.

The final chapter of this part, “The Womb,” discusses the primordial feminine relationship of submission which all creatures bear toward God, and God’s infinite mercy. The womb is a symbol of the Divine mercy inherent in nature through which the individual is nurtured toward completeness and nearness to God.

Part Four of the book, “Spiritual Psychology,” consists of three chapters. In the first of these, “Static Hierarchy,” the correspondence between the macrocosm and the microcosm is discussed, and how this correspondence evidences a deeper correspondence with the Divine Reality, in accordance with the ayah of the Qur’an: “We shall show them Our signs upon the horizons and in themselves, until it is clear to them that He is the Real.” (41:53) Murata explains that this correspondence is especially important to a certain sort of esoteric interpretation of the Qur’an, ta’wil.

The correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm allows a ta’wil to be formulated according to which ayat which appear to describe the cosmos are interpreted as pertaining to the human person, so that heaven and earth are taken as symbols for the spirit and soul, for example.

From this exposition of the nature of ta’wil, a more detailed discussion of the intellect, the spirit, and the soul is presented, according to a saying attributed to Imam Sadiq (‘a), which is compared with the views expressed on this topic by Ghazali.

In Chapter 9, “Dynamics of the Soul,” the jihad or struggle on the path to God is described. It is explained that the hierarchy presented in the previous chapter is not merely descriptive, but normative, and as such it marks stages on the way of spiritual progress.

There follows an intriguing discussion of the relation between the descriptive and the normative which goes far beyond the mere denial of the sort of absolute dichotomy to be found in Western ethics after Hume, for the discussion turns to the question of how harmony between the descriptive and normative poles is to be achieved.

The answer is to be found in a spiritual psychology which juxtaposes certain groups of qualities, in God, in the cosmos, and in the human being, attention to which allows people to come to recognize the forces within themselves in the context of the Divine prescriptions. This is followed by a discussion of the story of the fall of man and the way of purification of the soul.

In the final chapter of the book, “The Heart,” we find a great wealth of material about matters of the heart drawn from the Islamic tradition pertaining to the spiritual hierarchy and dynamics discussed in the previous two chapters. For example, `Abd al-Razzaq Kashani uses the term heart to refer to that which makes a human being human. He interprets the Qur’anic verse, “We said, `Adam, dwell with your wife in the Garden,’ ” with the claim that the heart’s wife is the soul.

The sufi, Najm al-Din Raze, also compares the heart and soul to masculine and feminine elements, claiming that the heart and the soul are the children of the body and spirit. The soul is the daughter and is similar to its mother the body; the heart is the son and is similar to its father, the spirit. RM goes on to claim that the soul has two inherent attributes that it inherits from its mother, the body, and that these are caprice and anger, and Murata explains that here, too, caprice is itself the feminine or yin element and anger the masculine or yang element of the soul.

Just as the Taoists hold that in everything yin there must be a bit of yang, and vice versa; we find that the feminine soul must contain a masculine anger. The sought for harmony is to be achieved through the work of Islamic law, the shari’ah. The shari’ah requires the loyalty of the wife to her husband, that is, it orients the soul toward the heart:

“The function of the Sharia is to turn all the forces of the soul in directions that will help the soul reach felicity” (p. 286). Kashani, commenting on the Qur’an, explains that God sends down with the Qur’an the differentiations of the discerning intellect, and that this differentiation “will then be a healing for the illnesses of the hearts” (p. .302). The illnesses to be healed are things like ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy, blindness of heart, rancour and envy.

The analytic distinctions set out by Islamic law between the pure (tahir) and impure (najis), the correct (sahib) and incorrect (bath), and the fivefold classification of acts into those which are obligatory (wajib), recommended (mustahabb), neutral (mubah), disapproved (makruh) and prohibited (haram), all are needed for the proper harmonious synthesis of the elements of the soul, which in turn is required for the health of the heart.

The final stages of the perfection of the heart are annihilation (fana) and subsistence (baqa); the former takes place through the manifestation of God’s left hand, the yang attributes of majesty, while the latter takes place through the manifestation of God’s right hand, the yin attributes of beauty.

The relation between the soul and the spirit is often described as one of conflict, with the soul pulling the individual away from the light of guidance (as in Taoism the yin is portrayed as a dark force), while the spirit pulls the individual toward God.

Through the submission of the soul to the spirit, harmony and balance are realized, which is compared to a marriage between the First Intellect and the Universal Soul. The issue of this happy union is taken to be the human heart, a child in the image and likeness of God.

In line with this view of the heart, the perfect man is frequently described as one who possesses a heart. Mawlawi Jalal al-Din Rumi explains that the spirit is simply awareness, and that therefore, whoever has greater awareness has greater spirit. The human spirit is greater than the animal spirit because of its superior awareness. “Then the spirit of God’s friends, the Possessors of Hearts, is even greater . . . . That is why the angels prostrated themselves to Adam: His spirit was greater than their existence.” (p. 305)

Commenting on the cosmic marriage of soul and spirit, Murata writes, “If the perfected rational soul is to be actualized, its parents-spirit and soul-must marry, give birth to it, and nurture it.” (p. 306) In this passage Murata refers to the heart as the `perfected rational soul.’ This term is noteworthy because in the modern Western view, rationality and the heart are seen as being at odds with one another.

In Western literature, the heart symbolizes the emotional side of man and the head stands for the calculative rational dimension. This dichotomy is completely alien to the Islamic spiritual tradition, in which the heart is identified with the rational, and rationality is understood as transcending the merely calculative.

Instead of seeing the soul as containing two warring parts, reason and passion, with art and religion being confined to the emotional, and reason left with nothing to do but juggle numbers, it might be salutary to submit to the more radical procedure of looking at the human being in a way suggested by the tradition of Islam.

According to this tradition it is not the soul which contains the heart and intellect, but rather the soul and reason in proper harmony give rise to the heart.

Prof Murata continues her presentation of the subject with a passage from one of the earliest writers to discuss the marriage of the soul and intellect and the birth of the heart, Shihab al-Din `Umar Suhrawardi. He describes the soul as the animal spirit in man.

This soul and the spirit are attracted to one another like Adam and Eve, and love each other so much that each tastes death in absence from its mate. The product of the union of soul and intellect or spirit is the heart not the lump of flesh, but the subtle heart. Among the hearts of men, – some are inclined toward the soul and some toward the spirit.

At this point in his explanation, Suhrawardi cites a hadith attributed to the Prophet of Islam (‘s) according to which there are four kinds of hearts: the heart of the person of faith within which is a shining lamp, the black and inverted heart of the infidel, the hypocrite’s heart which is bound by attachments, and the layered heart within which are both faith and hypocrisy. Suhrawardi explains these types of heart in terms of their relation to their parents.

To the extent that the heart inclines toward the intellect, it will gain felicity, and to the extent that it inclines toward the animal spirit, the earthly soul, the heart is. wretched. It is noteworthy that Imam Khumayni comments on a similar hadith attributed to Imam Baqir (‘a) and draws out its ethical implications in his Chehel hadith. [1]

The chapter concludes with several insightful remarks on what it means to be a true man and a true woman. A true man is someone whose intellect or spirit dominates over his or her soul, whatever the person’s physical gender.

Thus, the term `man’ is used evaluatively, and likewise, `woman’ is often used to refer to the base elements of the soul which commands to evil. It is in this sense that a woman may be called a man, as Rumi states that sometimes “a hero like Rustam is hidden in a woman’s body, as in the case of Mary.’ Both men and women reach perfection through exemplification of the attributes of God, men exemplify the attributes of majesty more directly and the attributes of beauty secondarily, while with women it is generally the reverse. “Only when she is fully herself by being fully one with God can she be fully human and fully female.” (p. 318)

For the Western reader, this book presents a real challenge and an opportunity to question the prevailing values of liberal culture. For the Muslim, the book also presents a challenge, for it allows us to become reacquainted with an aspect of Islamic culture from which many have become alienated, for Western cultural values are often unconsciously assimilated.

At the same time, the work offers a sound basis from which to defend the penetrating insights which are a hallmark of the Islamic intellectual tradition of which Murata writes, a tradition to which Muslim intellectuals today would do well to aspire.

[1]. See Forty Hadith: An Exposition, Part 34, by Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al Khumayni, tr. by A. Q. Qara’i, Al-Tawhid, Vol. XII, No. 1, pp. 13-24, which is also available at http://www.al-islam.org/fortyhadith

Wheels of Life – A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, Llewellyn

This book has become a well-known classic, the one most often referred to when someone asks about the chakras. It makes the Indian system of chakras understandable to the Westerner, with the most comprehensive and down-to-earth information on the philosophy and meaning of each chakra, without getting too intellectual or abstract.

It contains guided meditations for each chakra (which are recorded with music on the Wheels of Life CD, simple exercises, quotes from ancient texts, and practical information for understanding and connecting the chakras within you to the life you were meant to live. Over 300,000 copies in print in 14 languages, this is a standard text for yoga practitioners and healers alike.

Anodea Judith holds a doctorate in Health and Human Services, with a speciality in Mind-Body healing, and a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Her best-selling books on the chakra system, marrying Eastern and Western disciplines, have been considered groundbreaking in the field of Transpersonal Psychology and used as definitive texts in the U.S. and abroad. With a million books in print in 14 languages, her books have won her the reputation of solid scholarship and international renown as a dynamic speaker and workshop leader.

She is the founder and director of Sacred Centers, a teaching organization that offers workshops and teleclasses in chakras, evolutionary activism, yoga, manifestation techniques and much more. You can find her on the web at http://www.sacredcenters.com.

Judith Anodea describes how she connects to the Sacred Centers.

Anodea Judith – The Illuminated Chakras

This 28-minute, open-eyed meditation is a multi-sensory journey into the transformative beauty of the inner world. Follow Kundalini-Shakti, the mystical serpent of awakening, who drives the vital force that opens each chakra. As you journey from base to crown in this fantastic sound and light extravaganza, you will see and experience the elemental reality of each chakra as Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Sound, Light, and Transcendent Consciousness. Animated art by Alex Wayne, original soundtrack by Robin Silver.

Technology & Spirituality: How the Information Revolutions Affects Our Spiritual Lives

Book overview

Every day, new technologies affect our lives at home, work, and play. But how often do we pause to consider how technology influences our spiritual lives?our beliefs, our faith, our fundamental understanding of God?

With wit and verve, Spyker leads readers on a lively journey through the many ways technology impacts both our thinking about faith and the way we practice it. He explores the role of new spiritual communities (Can online ?churches? replace traditional houses of worship?), ?personal? relationships we have with our gadgets (Will my iPod give me peace of mind?), our changing expectations (Is technological convenience undermining our ability for commitment?).

Spyker gets us to think about the many, often subtle, ways technology has seeped into every aspect of lives and changed the way we ?do? faith. Readers will be entertained, challenged, and above all encouraged to take a fresh look at the world about them, asking, ?Is all this technology helping my spiritual growth?”

Technology & Spirituality
How the Information Revolutions Affects Our Spiritual Lives
Stephen K. Spyker

Book Review
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Stephen K. Spyker has lived and worked at the intersection of religion and technology for more than 35 years, most recently serving as director of information technology at Earlham School of Religion and at Bethany Theological Seminary, both in Richmond, Virginia.

The author salutes the positive dimensions of technology especially the ways in which it can “free our minds, expand our horizons, allow us to become the more fully human beings God is calling us to be.” But there is also a negative side to all these advances that is creating addicts of an entertainment society where “we can’t spend more than a few waking minutes alone in our own skin” as we feed off our cell phones, iPods, and Blackberries.

Spyker uses eight lens to assess the relationship between spirituality and the technology:

• Simplicity: our responses to emerging technology.
• Transparency: ways in which technology is changing our world and the way we think.
• Community: how the information revolution is changing community.
• Identity: how technology is evolving and what it all means to us.
• Velocity: how the new technologies change our view of time.
• Connectivity: ways in which our hyperconnectivity affects our spiritual lives.
• Liberty: the challenge of technology; does it set us free or turn us into addicts?

Spyker asks good questions and points us in the right direction as we think about the information revolution and its impact on our lives and our spiritual communities.

The Spiritual Wisdom of Hafez: Teachings of the Philosopher of Love ~ Haleh Pourafzal/ Roger Montgomery

An exploration of the Persian poet’s spiritual philosophy, with original translations of his poetry.

The perfect introduction to the man known as the philosopher of love

Speaks directly to the cutting edges of philosophy, psychology, social theory, and education, from the wisdom of a mystic and heartfelt poet

For six hundred years the Persian poet Hafez has been read, recited, quoted, and loved by millions of people in his homeland and throughout the world. Like his predecessor Rumi, he is a spiritual guide in our search for life’s essence. Hafez is both a mystic philosopher and a heartfelt poet of desires and fears. Haleh Pourafzal and Roger Montgomery invite you to savor the wit and passion of his words.A

The Spiritual Wisdom of Hafez is the perfect introduction to the man known as the philosopher of love, whose message of spiritual transcendence through rapture and service to others is especially important as our troubled world enters the twenty-first century.


Part 1: Tavern of the Human Spirit

Philosopher of Love
Jamshid’s Biluminous Cup
Rend: The Warrior of Life

Part 2: Rendi: The Pathway To Study the Poet

Step 1: Ancient Ways
Step 2: Making the Prayer House Quake
Step 3: Gathered Memory
Step 4: The Goal of Truth
Step 5: Focusing Awareness
Step 6: A Choice of Mythology
Step 7: Inspiration Without Fantasy
Step 8: Clarity in Ecstasy
Step 9: The Gift of Compassion
Step 10: Generosity’s Impulse
Step 11: The Need for Stretching
Step 12: The Rage of Love
Step 13: Surrender to Mystery
Step 14: Giving Way to Abandon
Step 15: The Blessing of Good Companions
Step 16: The Realm of Sacredness
Step 17: The Joy of Imagination
Step 18: Summoning Courage
Step 19: Beyond Mind’s Speculations
Step 20: Constant Vigilance

Part 3: In Today’s World

The Big Picture
Part 4: A Tale of Our Journey

The Elder Takes His Leave

HALEH POURAFZAL (1956-2002) was the daughter of Abdol-Hossein Pourafzal, a lifelong student of Persian linguistics and direct descendant of the creator of the contemporary Farsi prose form. Haleh grew up tuned to the spirit of the great poet during her childhood in Tehran, where her father would perform daily recitations of Haféz’s poetry. She drew upon her father’s expertise in developing her own interpretations of the poet’s verse. From the moment Haleh introduced her husband, ROGER MONTGOMERY, to the poetry of Haféz, they shared a deep love and respect for his work. It was in the spirit of gaining a greater understanding of this great poet, sage, and philosopher that this book was born. Montgomery is also the author of Twenty Count: Secret Mathematical System of the Aztec/Maya and lives in Berkeley, California.

Stay with us tonight as we weave love- Hafiz

A Hole In A Flute by Sufi Poet Hafiz

Rumi and Hafiz Sufi Poet

The Physics of Miracles: Tapping in to the Field of Consciousness Potential By Richard Bartlett, D.C, N.D

As a follow-up to his popular first book, Matrix Energetics, Dr. Richard Bartlett presents The Physics of Miracles. Based on the theories of quantum and scalar physics, the strength of Bartlett’s revolutionary “consciousness technology”—and why he’s one of the most well respected teachers in modern energy medicine—is that you don’t have to understand the actual science to put it to use.

Teachable and transferable, The Physics of Miracles utilizes advanced scientific concepts while remaining accessible to everyone, from children to medical professionals. Discussing seemingly implausible topics such as time travel, alternate universes, and invisibility, this book is fascinating and instantly applicable. Once again, Dr. Bartlett presents a book that will reshape the way people think about their place in the universe, and their capacity for health and healing.

When Richard Bartlett first experienced the origins of his Matrix Energetics program, his goal was only to help the patients who brought their myriad health problems to his Chiropractic practice. Now, nearly ten years after the event that would redirect the entire course of his life, Dr. Bartlett brings the power of his seminars into the book, The Physics of Miracles.

By lightly touching his clients while at the same time applying focused intent, he could restore them to a physically, mentally, and spiritually balanced state, instantly shifting misalignments that had plagued them for years. Most astonishing of all, he could teach anyone how to do this. Now, for millions of people looking for empowerment in an age of declining and impersonal healthcare, Dr. Bartlett shares this phenomenon in a book full of explosive potential.

In The Physics of Miracles, Dr. Bartlett builds upon his popular seminars to teach us how to access the discovery he has made—a process that merges the science of subtle energy with our innate imaginations to produce measurable results. By applying forces known to modern physics, each of us can tap into states of healthy awareness from different moments—in essence, travel in time—and bring them into the present for immediate, profound results. As Dr. Bartlett clearly shows, this practice requires no special training, produces transformation in the blink of an eye, and is available to everyone who has a willingness to learn.

The Physics of Miracles provides an easily-reproducible, results-oriented process of change that draws on the fundamental principles embraced by the field of quantum and scalar physics. This paradigm-busting book can teach anyone how to access their creative power to heal and transform their lives.

Matrix Energetics

Matrix Energetics (Part 2), The Art of Attention

Richard Bartlett, DC, ND, holds a degree in chiropractic and a degree in naturopathy from Bastyr University. After discovering his own extraordinary healing capabilities, Bartlett created Matrix Energetics as a system for helping others to access their untapped potential.

He is the author of Matrix Energetics and The Matrix Energetics Experience, and has helped thousands of people transform their lives through his national workshops and seminars.

Infinity:The Ultimate Trip –Journey Beyond Death A Film by Jay Weidner

* Full Synopsis

Take a trip into the afterlife to see what happens when we pass beyond this world as renowned experts from across the globe examines the phenomena that is alternately fascinating and terrifying: Death. What if the end of this life is only the beginning of a spectacular supernatural journey? People who have physically died and returned to tell about it report experiences that defy any rational or logical explanation, and baffle doctors and scientists alike.

Once they’ve stood at the edge of the mysterious abyss, any lingering fears of death seems to simply dissipate. In this documentary, colorful imagery flows across the screen as experts like Gregg Braden, Brian Weiss, and Alberto Volloldo reveal why death is not something to be feared, but something to embrace as one of the most fantastic journeys we will ever take. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

The Ultimate Trip –Journey Beyond Death
A Film by Jay Weidner

Featuring Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger, Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss. View Trailer

What happens after we pass from this world? Is there a life after this one? Or do we just disappear forever? These are the questions asked in this powerful and poignant feature documentary, Infinity: The Ultimate Trip. Many may be surprised by the answers.

Featuring noted experts Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger. Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss, Infinity: The Ultimate Trip brings a message of hope and optimism concerning the most mysterious act in a human life; the end of this life and journey to the beyond.

Using vital and beautiful imagery, along with personal accounts of near-death experiences, reincarnation and more, Infinity brings forth the story of our own infinite nature, what to expect after death and the magic and beauty that awaits us on the other side. Here we learn of the energetic landscape of the world that we enter after we die, the angels, or beings of light, who assist us in the passing and the promise of a new life. Infinity: The Ultimate Trip is an honest and hopeful assessment of the greatest journey that any of us will ever take. It changes our view from that of dread and pessimism to one of hope, joy and light.

Return to The Sacred by Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D.

Return To The Sacred is a guide to understanding the importance of spiritual practice and discovering the great diversity of spiritual paths. More than just philosophy and inspiration, this book gives the freedom to find a path that works for you and the knowledge to experience the answers. Time-tested tools of spiritual growth reveal the depths of wisdom, power, and peace.

“This book is about the ancient pathways that have lead history’s great saints, sages, shamans, and mystics to spiritual awakening. It is about the way we directly experience The Sacred and always have. It is about how we develop and refine our consciousness. There are time-tested practices that will help us along the myriad roads to the One Spirit we call by many names. These are the paths that reveal our truest selves and deepest knowledge of a Higher Power, for these are the ancient pathways of peace.”

~From Return to The Sacred by Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D.

Return to the Sacred introduces the Twelve Master Paths and Practices. In this book people discover their spiritual personality and choose the path that will lead toward the realization of extraordinary joy and a life long journey of meaning.

Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D.

Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D., has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to the personal, professional, and academic exploration of spirituality, healing, and consciousness. Throughout his journey, he has traveled the world to meet and study with spiritual teachers from more than 40 cultural traditions.

Jonathan has a doctoral degree in comparative religion and has worked as a healer, teacher, and consultant for individuals and groups in settings as diverse as hospitals, major corporations, prisons, community groups, conferences, and some of the world’s leading holistic-health resorts.

Currently, he is the Spiritual Program Director for the acclaimed Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson Arizona. Jonathan’s new book, Return to the Sacred, has recently been released by Hay House.

Get in touch with your spiritual side. Dr. Jonathan Ellerby has some tips to escape the turmoil of the outside world and gain some inner peace.

Consciousness and the Existence of God – J.P. Moreland

In Consciousness and the Existence of God, J.P. Moreland argues that the existence of finite, irreducible consciousness (or its regular, law-like correlation with physical states) provides evidence for the existence of God.

Moreover, he analyzes and criticizes the top representative of rival approaches to explaining the origin of consciousness, including John Searle’s contingent correlation, Timothy O’Connor’s emergent necessitation, Colin McGinn’s mysterian ‘‘naturalism,’’ David Skrbina’s panpsychism and Philip Clayton’s pluralistic emergentist monism. Moreland concludes that these approaches should be rejected in favor of what he calls ‘‘the Argument from Consciousness.’’


Chapter One: The Epistemic Backdrop for Locating Consciousness in a Naturalist Ontology

Chapter Two: The Argument from Consciousness

Chapter Three: John Searle and Contingent Correlation

Chapter Four: Timothy O’Connor and Emergent Necessitation

Chapter Five: Colin McGinn and Mysterian “Naturalism”

Chapter Six: David Skrbina and Panpsychism

Chapter Seven: Philip Clayton and Pluralistic Emergentist Monism

Chapter Eight: Science and Strong Physicalism

Chapter Nine: AC, Dualism and the Fear of God

Author Bio

J.P. Moreland is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University. He has published over 60 articles in journals that include Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, American Philosophical Quarterly, Australasian Journal of Philosophy and Metaphilosophy. He has authored, edited or contributed to thirty-five books including Universals (McGill-Queen’s), Naturalism: A Critical Analysis (Routledge) and Does God Exist? (Prometheus).

The Argument from Consciousness

As mentioned in the introduction, many believe that finite minds provide evidence of a Divine Mind as their creator. If we limit our options to theism and naturalism, it is hard to see how finite consciousness could result from the rearrangement of brute matter; it is easier to see how a Conscious Being could produce finite consciousness since, according to theism, the Basic Being is Himself conscious. Thus, the theist has no need to explain how consciousness can come from materials bereft of it.

Consciousness is there from the beginning. To put the point differently, in the beginning there were either particles or the Logos. If you start with particles and just rearrange them according to physical law, you won’t get mind. If you start with Logos, you already have mind.

To expand on this, at least four reasons have been offered for why there is no natural scientific explanation for the existence of mental states (or their regular correlation with physical states):

(a) The uniformity of nature.
Prior to the emergence of consciousness, the universe contained nothing but aggregates of particles/waves standing in fields of forces relative to each other. The story of the development of the cosmos is told in terms of the rearrangement of micro-parts into increasingly more complex structures according to natural law.

On a naturalist depiction of matter, it is brute mechanical, physical stuff. The emergence of consciousness seems to be a case of getting something from nothing. In general, physico-chemical reactions do not generate consciousness, not even one little bit, but they do in the brain, yet brains seem similar to other parts of organisms bodies (e.g., both are collections of cells totally describable in physical terms). How can like causes produce radically different effects?

The appearance of mind is utterly unpredictable and inexplicable. This radical discontinuity seems like an inhomogeneous rupture in the natural world. Similarly, physical states have spatial extension and location but mental states seem to lack spatial features. Space and consciousness sit oddly together. How did spatially-arranged matter conspire to produce non-spatial mental states? From a naturalist point of view, this seems utterly inexplicable.

(b) Contingency of the mind/body correlation.
The regular correlation between types of mental states and physical states seems radically contingent. Why do pains instead of itches, thoughts or feelings of love get correlated with specific brain states? No amount of knowledge of the brain state will help to answer this question.

For the naturalist, the regularity of mind/body correlations must be taken as contingent brute facts. But these facts are inexplicable from a naturalistic standpoint, and they are radically sui generis compared to all other entities in the naturalist ontology. Thus, it begs the question simply to announce that mental states and their regular correlations with certain brain states is a natural fact.

As naturalist Terence Horgan acknowledges, “in any metaphysical framework that deserves labels like `materialism’, `naturalism’, or `physicalism’, supervenient facts must be explainable rather than being sui generis.”iv Since on most depictions, the theistic God possesses libertarian freedom, God is free to act or refrain from acting in various ways.

Thus, the fact that the existence of consciousness and its precise correlation with matter is contingent fits well with a theistic personal explanation that takes God’s creative action to have been a contingent one. God may be a necessary being, but God’s choice to create conscious beings and to correlate certain types of mental states with certain types of physical states were contingent choices, and this fits nicely with the phenomena themselves.

(c) Epiphenomenalism and causal closure.
Most naturalists believe that their worldview requires that all entities whatever are either physical or depend on the physical for their existence and behavior. One implication of this belief is commitment to the causal closure of the physical.

On this principle, when one is tracing the causal antecedents of any physical event, one will never have to leave the level of the physical. Physical effects have only physical causes. Rejection of the causal closure principle would imply a rejection of the possibility of a complete and comprehensive physical theory of all physical phenomena—something that no naturalist should reject.

Thus, if mental phenomena are genuinely non-physical, then they must be epiphenomena–effects caused by the physical that do not themselves have causal powers. But epiphenomenalism is false. Mental causation seems undeniable and, thus, for the naturalist the mental can be allowed to have causal powers only if it is in some way or another identified with the physical.

The admission of epiphenomenal non-physical mental entities may be taken as a refutation of naturalism. As naturalist D. M. Armstrong admits, “I suppose that if the principles involved [in analyzing the single all-embracing spatio-temporal system which is reality] were completely different from the current principles of physics, in particular if they involved appeal to mental entities, such as purposes, we might then count the analysis as a falsification of Naturalism.”

(d) The inadequacy of evolutionary explanations. Naturalists are committed to the view that, in principle, evolutionary explanations can be proffered for the appearance of all organisms and their parts. It is not hard to see how an evolutionary account could be given for new and increasingly complex physical structures that constitute different organisms.

However, organisms are black boxes as far as evolution is concerned. As long as an organism, when receiving certain inputs, generates the correct behavioral outputs under the demands of fighting, fleeing, reproducing and feeding, the organism will survive. What goes on inside the organism is irrelevant and only becomes significant for the processes of evolution when an output is produced.

Strictly speaking, it is the output, not what caused it, that bears on the struggle for reproductive advantage. Moreover, the functions organisms carry out consciously could just as well have been done unconsciously. Thus, both the sheer existence of conscious states and the precise mental content that constitutes them is outside the pale of evolutionary explanation. As Howard E. Gruber explains:

the idea of either a Planful or an Intervening Providence taking part in the day-to-day operations of the universe was, in effect, a competing theory [to Darwin’s version of evolution]. If one believed that there was a God who had originally designed the world exactly as it has come to be, the theory of evolution through natural selection could be seen as superfluous. Likewise, if one believed in a God who intervened from time to time to create some of the organisms, organs, or functions found in the living world, Darwin’s theory could be seen as superfluous. Any introduction of intelligent planning or decision-making reduces natural selection from the position of a necessary and universal principle to a mere possibility.

For these reasons, consciousness provides evidence for God’s existence and against evolutionary naturalism.

Stephen Mitchell: The Second Book of the Tao

Compiled and adapted from the Chuang-tzu and the Chung Yung, with commentaries
The Penguin Press, 2009

The most widely translated book in world literature after the Bible, Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, is the classic manual on the art of living. Following the phenomenal success of his own version of the Tao Te Ching, renowned scholar and translator Stephen Mitchell has composed the innovative The Second Book of the Tao.

Drawing from the work of Lao-tzu’s disciple Chuang-tzu and Confucius’s grandson Tzu-ssu, Mitchell has selected the freshest, clearest teachings from these two great students of the Tao and adapted them into versions that reveal the poetry, depth, and humor of the ancient texts with a thrilling new power, and makes them at once modern, relevant, and timeless.

Alongside each adaptation, Mitchell includes his own brilliant commentary, at once illuminating and complementing the text.

The left to the Tao Te Ching’s right, the yang to its yin, a companion volume and antimanual, The Second Book of the Tao is a great gift to contemporary readers.


“A second book of the Tao? There’s no such thing! What did you do—pull it out of your hat?”

Well, yes, if hat is defined as the treasury of recorded wisdom that is our common birthright. In that treasury, there is nothing more precious than the wisdom of the ancient Chinese.

The selections in this book have been adapted from two Chinese anthologies that were probably compiled between 300 and 100 bce: the Chuang-tzu, parts of which were written by the eponymous sage, Master Chuang (c. 369 – c. 286 bce), and the Chung Yung (“The Central Harmony”), which was ascribed to Confucius’ grandson, Tzu-ssu (c. 483 – c. 402 bce).

I have anthologized these anthologies, picking from them the freshest, clearest, most profound passages. Facing each chapter there is a brief commentary, which is meant to clarify the text or to complement it. I have written these in the spirit of Chuang-tzu, for whom nothing, thank goodness, was sacred.

The first book of the Tao (written by the perhaps legendary Lao-tzu) is the Tao Te Ching, that marvel of lucidity and grace, the classic manual on the art of living. What I wanted to create here was a left to its right, a yang to its yin, a companion volume and anti-manual.

The Chuang-tzu had the perfect material for that: deep, subtle, with an audacity that can make your hair stand on end. If Lao-tzu is a smile, Chuang-tzu is a belly-laugh. He’s the clown of the Absolute, the apotheosis of incredulity, Coyote among the bodhisattvas. And the Chung Yung provided a psychological and moral acuity of comparable depth.

Readers who are familiar with the Tao Te Ching but don’t yet know the Chuang-tzu or the Chung Yung—or who, having dipped into them, were discouraged by their unevenness—are in for a treat. Naturally, since all three texts tell of the Tao that can’t be told, there are passages in The Second Book of the Tao that overlap with the Tao Te Ching.

But even these passages may strike you as revelations, as if some explorer had discovered a trove of unknown Lao-tzu scrolls buried in a desert cave. And there is much that will be entirely new: meditations on dreams, death, language, the I and the other, doing and not-doing, the origin of the universe, the absolute relativity of things.

In addition to these descriptions, we meet a cast of vivid characters, most of them humble artisans or servants, who show us what it means to be in harmony with the way things are: the monkey trainer who turns on a dime in his hilarious, compassionate diplomacy; Ting, Prince Wen-hui’s cook, whose one-pointedness elevates butchering to the level of the performing arts and beyond; Pien the wheelwright, willing to risk his life to teach a ferocious nobleman that what is most valuable can’t be taught; Ch’ing the woodworker, whose bell stand is so beautiful that people think a god must have made it; and Chi Hsing-tzu, trainer of champion gamecocks and virtuoso of patience.

We also meet philosophers and fools: Lieh-tzu, who has an intimate chat with a skull; Hui-tzu, the epitome of logic and propriety, Chuang-tzu’s friend and rival, straight man and foil; the ludicrous Marquis of Lu, who shows that the Golden Rule can be mere projected egotism; and Master Yu, who, even when afflicted with a grotesque deformity, never loses his cheerfulness and sense of gratitude.

Finally there is Chuang-tzu himself. We meet him in a few delectable stories and dialogues, as he wakes up (maybe) from the dream of a butterfly, refuses the post of prime minister, celebrates the death of his beloved wife, or discusses the usefulness of the useless and the happiness of fish.

Chuang-tzu has been called a mystical anarchist, and it’s true that his words sometimes have a contrarian flavor that seems to put them at odds with Lao-tzu’s concern for enlightened government. Given the least semblance of control, Chuang-tzu offers a whole world of irreverence and subversion. But if you look more closely, you’ll see that he is neither a mystic nor an anarchist. He’s simply someone who doesn’t linger in any mental construct about reality, someone who lives as effortless action and peace of heart, because he has freed himself from his own beliefs.

What he subverts is conventional thinking, with its hierarchies of judgment, its fors and againsts, betters and worses, insides and outsides, and its delusion that life is random, unfair, and somehow not good enough. Learn how to govern your own mind, Chuang-tzu says, and the universe will govern itself. In this he is in wholehearted agreement with Lao-tzu and with the meticulous Tzu-ssu, for whom attention to the innermost self is the direct path to a just society.

One of the qualities I most treasure in Chuang-tzu is his sense of the spontaneous, the uncapturable. This makes it easy to follow in his footsteps. Since there are no footsteps, all you can follow is what he himself followed: the Tao. He had confidence that in being true to his own insight he was being true to his teacher Lao-tzu.

There was nothing to say and no way to say it, yet it had to be said. As a Zen poet-descendant of his wrote more than a thousand years later,

The moon floats above the pine trees
as you sit on the veranda in the cool evening air.
Your fingertips move lightly along the flute.
The melody is so lovely that it makes the
listeners weep.
But wisdom’s flute has no holes
and its ancient clear music is beyond emotion.
Don’t even try to play it
unless you can make the great sound of Lao-tzu.

What could be more useless than a flute with no holes? Yet, if you understand, you put it to your lips and the ancient clear music happens by itself. Had Chuang-tzu believed that there was anything to live up to, he would have been too intimidated even to try. There was nothing to live up to. There was only a passion for the genuine, a fascination with words, and a constant awareness that the ancient Masters are alive and well in the mind that doesn’t know a thing.

When we exhaust our minds by clinging to a particular side of reality without realizing the underlying oneness, this is called “three in the morning.” What does that mean?

A monkey trainer, handing out acorns, said, “Each of you will get three in the morning and four in the afternoon.” The monkeys were outraged.

So he said, “All right, then: you’ll get four in the morning and three in the afternoon.” The monkeys were delighted.

Nothing essential had changed, yet one statement produced anger, and the other, joy. The trainer simply knew how to adapt to reality, and he lost nothing by it.

Thus the Master uses his skill to harmonize with both sides, and rests in the Tao, which makes all things equal. This is called “walking on two paths at once.”


The whole human condition is present in this tricky little tale, which would be sad if it weren’t so ridiculous. Although from the standpoint of the monkeys it’s about the power of righteous indignation, from the standpoint of the monkey trainer, behind the scenes, it’s about skillful management. You have to admire his one-two punch; he’s both bad cop and good cop. But what is the trainer training the monkeys in, anyway? Discernment? If so, he’s being made a monkey of.

Whenever we cling to a particular side of reality, it’s we who are the monkeys, losing ourselves in outrage or partial delight. If we look more carefully, though, we can see that reality has only one side, like a Möbius strip. Stars or raindrops, acorns or ashes, apparent blessings, apparent disasters—when the mind is clear, each is an occasion for rejoicing. That’s what discernment is about.

Once our mind-monkeys are fully trained, it’s all good. In the mathematics of mental peace, three equals four, one equals zero. Adapting to reality means recognizing that nothing underlies or overlays it. The Master can travel on two paths at once, like a photon, because his mind is free. He’s subatomic and supererogatory. He knows that all ways are the Way and that ultimately he is neither coming nor going.

Nothing in the world is bigger
than the tip of an autumn hair,
and Mount Everest is tiny.
No one in the world has lived longer
than a stillborn child,
and Methuselah died young.
The universe came into being
the moment that I was born,
and all things are one with me.

Since all things are one,
how can I put that into words?
But since I just said they are one,
how can my words mean nothing?
The one plus my words make two,
and the two plus the one make three.
If we continue in this way,
even the greatest mathematician
couldn’t calculate where it will end.
If by moving from non-being to being
we get to three, what happens
when we move from being to being?

It’s better just to leave things alone.


There are paradoxes born of wit and paradoxes born of insight. No thought is true, but some thoughts are so much truer than the ones we’re used to that they seem absurd at first glance. It’s all a question of perspective.

Down at the level of the micro, there is no macro. If you get small enough, you see that the world isn’t solid and that uncertainty is the only thing that’s certain, perhaps. Thus, everything the electron meets is electronal. Ditto a galaxy: its consciousness, if it has one, is as little aware of a planet as you are of a corpuscle. We can’t stand outside the system and point to what’s real, because what’s real is defined by the system. This is relativity writ large. The fastest thing in the universe isn’t light: it’s mind.

All things may be one with me, but am I one with them? That’s the issue. And once I am one, what then? Even the one is excessive for anyone who wants to be meticulous. Look where it leads, after all—to two, to three, to infinity, to an infinity of infinities and beyond: always the unattainable, unassuageable beyond.

Of course, the nothing is out of the question as well, since there’s already a word for it. Not one? Not nothing? This leaves you in an ideal position: speechless, delighted, and ready to say the most nonsensical things, if only they make sense.


Stephen Mitchell is widely known for his ability to make ancient masterpieces thrillingly new, to step in where many have tried before and create versions that are definitive for our time. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Book of Job, Bhagavad Gita, and The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. His web site is http://www.stephenmitchellbooks.com.

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