Let's start by talking about the premise of your new book.
I wrote "God and The Evolving Universe" with Michael Murphy and Sylvia Timbers. Michael is famous for having founded the Esalen Institute in California, the largest and oldest human potential growth center in the U.S. Sylvia is a documentary filmmaker.
The three of us came together with the idea for a comprehensive book on spirituality, which would cross all religions, and focus on the spiritual experience itself--as opposed to dogmas or beliefs.
It's our argument that the interest in spirituality now, especially as it is focused on personal experience, represents a new step in evolution, and that we are cultivating a new set of spiritual abilities, such as intuitive knowing.
We try to show how humans can participate in evolution if they practice, if they find their own way--prayer, meditation, or other methods--to cultivate this blossoming spirituality in their own lives.
What's the difference between a spiritual capability and a paranormal ability?
We argue that since the evolution of the world is a spiritual process, then all human development is a spiritual process. So the fact that we acknowledge intuitive capabilities now is a step toward the fulfillment of this spiritual potential that we all have, both individually and collectively.
So you're saying inherently, as part of the definition, everything is spiritual.
Yes. We're trying to make the case for that.
I believe that these experiences are self-evidently spiritual. In other words, this talent to be an intuitive is part of an overall experience of the world as a non-material place in which we can remember and start to have correspondence with other dimensions.
When we cultivate mystical awareness or transcendent identity--which is a natural outgrowth of meditation and other practices--what happens is that we begin to take a witness position on our own lives, and that includes our minds. We break the illusion that we think our own thoughts, which is not always the case. Some ideas just arrive in our heads.
Now, of those, some are about ego needs: a need for recognition, a thought of, "Oh! That's what I should have said when I was arguing with that co-worker." But there are some thoughts that arrive with a kind of numinosity. They have a tinge of inspiration, and they're always thoughts that are about doing something: Talk to that stranger, pick up the phone and call an old friend, or make a particular career move. What those thoughts usually give us is an image of ourselves doing something in the future. I believe that those are intuitive thoughts that, if we follow them, a synchronicity will occur: A door will open, an opportunity will present itself.
Now, those [doors] aren't always immediately recognizable. Sometimes you just make a contact, and it feels right, but you don't know why. But down the road, something will happen that will make it clear why that connection had to be made at the point it was made.
But people are marvels at self-deception. Where's the reality check?
One of my teachers once said that the way you know you're on the right path is that it works. Now, that doesn't mean you don't run into blocks and brick walls, but it does mean that you can find a way around them or find a way to change yourself or your project in order to find the flow again and have it work. Most intuitive ideas have to be clarified, so there is a trial and error process.
One of the key practices we recommend is a witness meditation, a simple meditation based on using a mantra to move first into a listening position, where if thoughts come you just let them go until that's the posture you have on all thought. At some point, you don't have the illusion that you're thinking at all.
You mentioned you had a teacher, and because so much of the book--the last third of the book really--is about practice, I was wondering what are your personal practices?
One of the things we do in the book is that we talk about all these attributes--love states we can discover, zone states that we can discover, and again, intuition and synchronistic perception. All are part of the whole, and each part of this whole--what we call the integrative flow experience -- can be separated out and developed.
If we, for instance, have [an experience] during meditation or prayer or during times of stress or sometimes in sports, when we let ourselves go and breakthrough into a higher love state, it feels not only like a connection, but also blissful in character. This state can be remembered, and when we lose it--which we always do--we can set up a practice of remembering, of intending to move back toward that state. What we do is we practice moving into that state with affirmations, intention, and so forth. It's amazing how what we put that much attention to will begin to develop, and we'll find ourselves in love states more and more often.
So is that your practice?
Yes. That's one of them. I'm sorry; I went off on a tangent there. But I wanted to explain that in order to say that I consider love a barometer for my own connection. Can I get back to that love state, or does worry, fear, anxiety, and so forth take me over? I do this first thing in the morning with meditation, quiet time, and prayer.
Then there's the beauty experience. I believe when we're in this higher connection, what happens is that we see the world as a more beautiful place, no matter where we are. We begin to have the same experience that one might have in a forest. We have a "magic forest breakthrough," as I call it, which is to suddenly see colors and forms amplified, you see the world the way it really is.
I travel quite a bit, and talk to groups around the world, who are interested in spirituality. That gives me the sense that there are people awakening to the search for spirituality in great numbers.
I think what's happening is that--this is primarily under the radar--we are moving toward a greater focus on experience, not just on belief, doctrine, or dogma. Belief and faith are important, we know that. But we're moving to the actual experiences that are the evidence that there is a spiritual dimension to life that we can connect to. That was why "The Celestine Prophecy" and my other books have been so well accepted, because they point to the actual experience [of the divine, the transcendent].
So with regard to the state of things, I believe that we're trying to take the interest in spiritual experience and create a larger context for what we're doing; that is, see ourselves as participating in the great creative or evolutionary process of the world.
I did notice that, in the book, you make specific efforts to include the major religions.
But I wonder what the response from traditional religious leaders might be to your ideas.
I think that they would agree that individuals are looking for a deeper experience within their particular religion. I think that they would also say, "But our religion is the more perfect way, if not the only true way."
I would imagine, though, that your audience would mainly identify themselves as spiritual seekers.
I hardly ever have any fundamentalists from any persuasion confront me directly because I point to the experience, and I don't say a lot about the belief system. What happens is they focus on experience and convert it to their own belief system, and they don't have any argument with me.
If I were on Larry King and I said what I just said now, we might get a caller who said, "Wait a minute. You're watering down my Christianity" or "You're watering down my Islam, and I believe that my way is the only way to God, and any other way to God is delusional or worse."
I just have to say that's an extreme position, and if any new banner should be flown in the world right now, it is that fundamentalism and extremism of any kind needs to be immediately suspect. There needs to be a call for tolerance, at the very least, and a search for similarity at the best.
So now that the book is written, what are you doing now?What we're doing now is working on the movie project for "Celestine Prophecy." I've written a screenplay that I'm real happy with--it took a couple years to do. And we're starting to envision it as an independent film, pulling together all the resources, so this is a great vision.
Are you talking to anyone about casting?
No, that's really the next step, to connect with a star or two, and a director. We've had so many people voice interest all these years in doing it that that's not going to be a problem.
Can you name a couple of the actors you're considering?
I'd rather not. (Laughs) That would get me in trouble. But you know, just to say that, you know, I believe that we'll be able to pull together a production that will be true to the book, which has been my goal all along.