The Translucent Revolution
What is translucence? What's it like to live that way? And why is the founder of Men's Wearhouse translucent?
BY: Interview by Deborah Caldwell
But there are other things that make the translucent revolution even more remarkable and unusual. And that is the way that the awakening is embodied. In the past, in most established traditions, awakening has been associated with renouncing the world--as you said, avoidance. So spiritual experience was a way to get free of this horrible realm, this dirty, messy realm of incarnation. That’s certainly characteristic of many oriental traditions, that you send the energy up the spine, as far away from the genitals as possible, up into the highest chakras and out into the cosmic void, where you don’t have to deal with human incarnation anymore. And that’s been how we’ve thought of spirituality.
The translucent revolution is not a continuation of that tradition. In fact, it’s the opposite. The people who characterize this revolution, the people I’ve interviewed, the people I’ve surveyed, are very much participating in life. They are in relationships. Most are married. They are sexual. Many have children. They are very much involved in political and social action. They are involved in organized religion. They’re involved in business, often as the leaders of businesses. So these people don’t fit our old paradigm of somebody sitting in the cave absorbed in a realm. These people are wide awake, but fully participating.
It’s an integration of the awakening that’s been associated with oriental traditions, and the dynamic capacity for action that’s been associated with the Western cultivation of the psyche.
Why did you choose the word translucent?
I borrowed that word from the physical universe. There are objects that are completely opaque, like the wall, or a brick, or a piece of wood. Light does not pass through opaque objects at all. And there are other objects which are completely transparent, like a clean sheet of glass. Light can pass through it as though the glass was not there. Then there are physical objects which are translucent, like a crystal, or a sculpture of frosted glass, or a piece of stained glass. A translucent object allows light to pass through, but diffusely. Which means that if you shine light on a translucent object, it appears to glow from within.
Translucent people appear to glow from within. When you look at someone who has awoken in this way, they have a kind of glowing appearance. A translucent person is someone who has awoken deeply enough to who they really are that their personal agenda of desire and fear become semi-transparent. It’s no longer opaque.
How do you become translucent?
It’s a bit like the four-minute mile. The four-minute mile was considered impossible for human beings. It was a benchmark that it was thought was just beyond the capacity of any human being to achieve, until Roger Bannister managed to run the four-minute mile in 1953. And since then, the four-minute mile has become the standard benchmark for Olympic athletes. If you want to run in the Olympics, you’ve got to run a four-minute mile everytime you do a training session.
In the same way, these kinds of awakening I’m describing were very unusual, even 20 years ago. In the mid-80s almost anybody interested in spirituality was a seeker. They were following a path, following a teacher, following a tradition. And usually they had somebody else projected outside who was the awakened one. But they themselves were a lesser being, still struggling with the difficulties of the ego and identification. But around 1990, there began to be a wave of people in Europe and America who were having these direct realizations. And it spread, continuously; it spread exponentially during the 90s and the first part of this decade.
So that by now, when I travel to different parts of the world, whether it’s California or New York; or Stockholm, Sweden; Hamburg, Germany, and I speak to audiences of anywhere between 100 and 800 people, and I talk about awakening, I ask how many people already know what I am speaking of. And all the hands go up. Back in 1992 there would be perhaps one or two hands, or maybe none. And this is not just my experience. Most of the teachers that I’ve interviewed have told me that this has been increasing exponentially. So there is an epidemic of awakening happening.
It seems much of the phenomenon springs from the ubiquitousness of media. We’re just much more connected now. So people can know about it and then have the experience.
That could well be a part of it. But the first thing I want to say is that the gates of the temple are wide open these days. It’s so much easier than ever before to have this kind of awakening. When we do workshops, we take care of the awakening bit in the first hour. Then we move on to the much more interesting work of living it, of embodying it, of being able to move around and speak to people while that awakening remains fresh and vibrant. Anywhere we go in the world, we don’t move on in the workshop until everyone’s had that awakening. And that usually is no longer than an hour.
The only kind of prerequisite to awakening is a sincere interest in reality. To really want to know who you are in this moment, deeper than thoughts.
You write that some people believe work is the primary place where translucence can manifest itself. Why?
It’s where we spend most of our time. If you love your work, you probably love life. So of course, work is the primary arena where you can explore your translucence. When business is dominated by the old paradigm, it's about trying to get something. Because everything in the old paradigm is about lack. So the old mind, the hypnotized mind, is convinced there is something missing, there is a problem, and fixates on how to fulfill that lack. Consequently business becomes about profit. And that’s what, in the old paradigm, is what’s called the bottom line. The bottom line of business is how to make more profit.
Translucent business, of which there are many now, have multiple bottom lines. And the most common combination of bottom lines is called “people-planet-profit.” The primary motive for a business is people, to serve the people within the business, to serve the customers. A good example of a translucent business like this, maybe surprisingly to some people, would be Men’s Wearhouse, which was founded by George Zimmer. Very translucent man, very awake man. His business is run dedicated to the people in the business, and the customers, and the people in the local community.