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Richard Sylvester - I hope You Die Soon

Interview by Iain McNay

Iain:           Richard has two books out with Non–Duality Press about non-duality. We are going to talk to him a little bit about his life and how he sees things. Richard, when we were talking earlier I asked you when you started searching and you said about thirty years ago?

Richard:     Yes, thirty to thirty-five years ago.

Iain:           I wonder what triggered that. Most people don’t really make a conscious search in life, so what triggered it for you?

Richard:     Nearly all of us are searching in some way, but not necessarily in a spiritual or philosophical way. People are searching to make their lives work in some way or other. But in my case, as with quite a lot of other people, the reason it started to take a specifically spiritual direction was because of a certain amount of unhappiness, of discontent; a feeling that whatever life was offering on the ordinary level wasn’t really cutting it. So, if I gave a single word answer, I would say ‘discontent’.

Iain:           So life wasn’t giving you enough somehow?

Richard:     Life was giving me a lot and it wasn’t enough.

Iain:           I understand.

Richard:     Life was giving me the usual things, such as relationships, a job, a certain amount of economic comfort, a home. It was giving me all of these things and yet there was still a fairly profound feeling of discontent. So, like a lot of people in the late sixties and the seventies, I began to gradually look towards the East and meditative practices. It was natural to look there because that seemed to offer some hope for the kind of satisfaction that ordinary life didn’t seem to be providing.

Iain:           And what was your starting point in terms of technique or practices?

Richard:     After a certain amount of reading books on Buddhism and various failed attempts to teach myself to meditate, I took myself off to learn Transcendental Meditation. Again, that was like many other people at the time.

Iain:           I did that as well [laughs].

Richard:     I loved it. I only did it for two years but it really got me started. I thought it was a fantastic thing to do at the time.

Iain:           You had the mantra that you repeated silently for twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening? And did you feel that it calmed you down?

Richard:     It had a fairly instantaneous and profound effect. It was very calming and relaxing, as they say it is. But on another level it stirred things up a lot, which it’s probably designed to do. It brings to the surface that which is hidden. And although I wouldn’t have described it in these terms at the time, it was probably my first conscious meeting with what I would later call my own shadow.

Iain:           When I did TM I found it a little bit the same: it stirred things up and I couldn’t find within the TM movement a way of addressing those things, so I moved on to something else.

Richard:     That sounds quite similar to my experience.

Iain:           What did you move on to?

Richard:     I’m going to call it a ‘guru cult’ [laughs]. I moved on to a guru cult for the next three years. This was also fantastic. It was great fun. We had very powerful techniques and many things happened. There was lots of entertainment and there was the feeling that, “Ah-ha. Now I’m really getting somewhere. I’m on a path now which seems to be working”. But there was also still the feeling that all sorts of things were being stirred up and they weren’t really being dealt with. And it became more and more obvious that they weren’t going to be dealt with through that group. That’s when I started to get interested in the Western psychotherapeutic paths. Again, at that time a lot of people were doing the same thing. Many people who’d been involved in the Eastern transpersonal movements were also getting involved with the Western psychotherapy movements, particularly with the humanistic approaches, because they seemed to go very well with the lights and colour of the guru paths.

Iain:           Were you based in London at the time?

Richard:     I was based in London at the time so there was ample opportunity to go off and spend large amounts of money having great fun on all sorts of different high-intensity courses.

Iain:           That was around the time of Community and Kaleidoscope?

Richard:     It was around the time of EST, for example. I became very connected for a short time with an organisation called Self-Transformations. This burnt very brightly for a brief period. That was in the late seventies and early eighties. Of course, there were many other groups around, springing up in California and travelling across the Atlantic and then springing up in London. It was great fun.

Iain:           Because it was all so new, wasn’t it?

Richard:     Yes, and it really did seem to be providing something that ordinary life hadn’t been providing. It seemed to be fulfilling our need to feel that we were getting somewhere other than simply accumulating family, house, job, money and so on.

Iain:           I found it was a different dimension of looking at things. It questioned your values but gave you ideas about where to look.

Richard:     Yes it did. And of course I’m forgetting to throw in the other element which also had an enormous effect on many of us, our meeting with hallucinogenic drugs. So there were three ways in which suddenly there was a huge expansion in what life seemed to be about and in what consciousness seemed to consist of. For many people at that time there were the meditative paths, there was psychotherapy and there was a good kick in the head from a few doses of LSD as well.

Iain:           So did you see yourself as on a quest for enlightenment at that point, for whatever you felt enlightenment was?

Richard:     Yes, without there being any possibility whatever of my knowing what it was. Nevertheless I constructed all sorts of idealised stories about it and felt that this was somehow the goal, the mysterious end of this mysterious path.

Iain:           Well, the carrots were being dangled.

Richard:     Yes they were.

Iain:           And did you feel close at some point? Did you feel, “I’m starting to get there”? Or did you feel it was a game you enjoyed playing?

Richard:     Certainly it was a game that I enjoyed playing. And like many other people, I had what I would call extraordinary experiences. Because of the stories about personal enlightenment that I’d come across and the things I’d read and the people I’d listened to, these experiences seemed to be like signposts on the path, as one of the traditional metaphors has it. At the time it was impossible not to see them in that way. These are common experiences that many people have, such as feelings of expansiveness and an increased awareness of love. Many people describe such experiences.

Iain:           You were working as a psychologist at this time?

Richard:     I was working as a lecturer at the time and becoming increasingly involved with teaching in the field of therapy and counselling.

Iain:           At some point you started to go to talks by Tony Parsons?

Richard:     I did indeed.

Iain:           Am I leaving out a big chunk by saying that?

Richard:     Not at all. You’re leaving out nothing of any importance whatever [laughs].

Iain:           Why were you drawn to Tony?

Richard:     It was quite strange. I had been to see Tony once some time before, not long after he’d started to give public talks. I’d been invited there by somebody I knew. I liked him, I thought that what he was saying was interesting, but I had no desire to go back at that time. I just went away and forgot about it. I didn’t want yet another spiritual path, as I might have described it at the time.

It was some time later that a strange synchronicity took me back to see him again. There was something like a two-year gap between my first visit and my second visit. By coincidence, in the space of about three days, two different people told me that he had a meeting coming up in Hampstead and they both invited me to it. They made it sound quite fun; there was talk of eating and drinking afterwards so it sounded quite attractive.

I thought, “What the hell. I’ll go again”. So I went along and this time, I can’t really explain why, something clicked and I found myself going back again and again after that. There was something about the energy and something about what he was saying that I liked. I certainlycouldn’t understand it at the time and it used to provoke in me a variety of pretty strong and contradictory feelings; but nevertheless there was something about it and I just found myself going back after that. This was partly because it was such fun to be at the meetings. I loved the energy there and I loved hisenergy. And it was fun to hang out and eat and drink afterwards.

Iain:           Were you very happy in your life at the time?

Richard:     I was no more unhappy than at any other point in my thirty years of seeking. I would say that I was probably much the same on the ‘happy to unhappy’ scale as I had been generally in those thirty years. But going to see Tony and hanging out with a nice crowd of people and eating and drinking afterwards was one of the high points. It was very simple, very basic. I liked the simplicity of it.

Iain:           And you thought there were kindred spirits in the meetings there?

Richard:     Yes, I felt there were kindred spirits there. I suppose by then I had already started to turn away from all the very complex spiritual stories that I’d sniffed around, although I probably wouldn’t have been fully conscious of this at the time. I’d flirted with a lot of things, with Tibetan Buddhism, for example, and with various yogic philosophies. They seemed so complicated. Somewhere inside me there was the glimmering of a thought that, if there really was something that I was missing, it was probably something very simple. I was by no means certain that there was something that I was missing but I was beginning to suspect that, if there was, it was very simple indeed.

Iain:           I think you said something very significant there about the simplicity of it… So, you’ve written about Charing Cross Station Platform Five. Something seemed to happen there?

Richard:     [laughs] I don’t know whether to say that Charing Cross Station is a highly significant place or to suggest that it’s completely irrelevant. It was a momentary event, a split second event. It was an event in which there was the complete and total disappearance of the person in every way. This was not in the way that I had experienced it through meditation. In meditation the person had sometimes become ‘thinner’ and translucent, and everything else had also ‘thinned’ and become translucent. But it was not like that. Nothing changed in this event: good old Charing Cross Station just went on being good old Charing Cross Station. The only difference was that I was no longer in it. That probably lasted only for a split second. Then I was back and there was the recognition that something very significant seemed to have happened, but I didn’t understand what it was.

Iain:           So when you came back, or you felt you were back, apart from the thought that something significant had happened, was there a feeling of expansion or fear? Was it just simple?

Richard: Yes, it was very simple. And this is why it’s so difficult to describe. It was so different from the kind of spiritual experiences that I and many other people have had on our meditative paths. It was a paradigm shift. It had no connection with meditative experiences. It wasn’t like them but more intense, it was a different paradigm. I sometimes call those meditative experiences ‘pink and fluffy’. They can contain feelings of expansion and love. This was nothing like that. Nothing changed; the only difference was that suddenly there was no person there. And it became clear that the person isn’t a necessity.

Iain:           The person isn’t a necessity?

Richard:     For fifty-seven or fifty-eight years there had been an unconscious assumption, or rather an unconscious certainty and knowing, that the person is a necessity. This was because the person was the centre of everything that happened and, without the person at the centre of everything, nothing could happen. But in that split second, this certainty completely disappeared. It was seen through. It was seen that the person isn’t a necessity.

Iain:           So it was like a realisation through an experience, but then the person was back.

Richard:     I avoid using the word ‘experience’ because an experience is something that happens to a person. I don’t know whether it helps to clarify this or not but I call this an ‘event’. But then the person comes back, probably in a state of shock. The person who comes back is somewhat changed, but nevertheless they are back and still unhappy and still searching. This was true in my case anyway [laughs]. And I have talked to other people about this and it is a common experience. There can be a moment of awakening and then, when the person comes back, not only can things be as bad as they were before, in some ways they can be worse.

Iain:           Because you’ve had a glimpse of something else?

Richard:     Yes, you’ve had a glimpse of something else but it’s gone. And there’s no way back to it that you can discover. What happened for me, and I know it’s happened for some other people, is that this split second had blown the cover of all the spiritual techniques - they were all seen to be redundant. So there was no hope now. That’s one of the ways in which, when the person comes back, things seem to be worse. For thirty years of searching there had been hope, but now it was gone.

Iain:           That’s desperate stuff…

Richard:     There was no hope. There was a seeing that all of the spiritual searching was irrelevant. All of those experiences, all of those techniques… they’re great for the person; they’re wonderful for making the person feel more comfortable in all sorts of ways. But they have no relevance to… I’ll call it ‘liberation’. Or we could call it ‘awakening’ or whatever word we want to use. None of the words are good words.

Iain:           What influence did this have in your life then? You’d had this glimpse or you’d had this awakening, whatever you call it, and the person’s back.

Richard:     There was more despair [laughs]. Certain things did become easier, because the person that comes back does seem to be changed in some way.    Again, talking to other people, I think this is common, though not necessarily universal. For example, one thing that I have written about is that time, or the importance of time, is to a certain extent seen through. The importance of the past and the importance of the future can’t be taken terribly seriously anymore. In that way you could say there was less cause for personal suffering because there was less of an impulse to visit the past with regret and nostalgia, or perhaps anger and resentment. There was also less impulse to visit the future with fear or hope. So in that sense you could say things became a bit easier, but in other ways they became more difficult because there was more despair now.

Iain:           So when you say there was less impulse to visit the past or visit the future, the thoughts of the past or the future would come and you wouldn’t energise them? You wouldn’t cling on to them?

Richard:     They would not have much energy to them. They would drift in, they would drift out again, but they wouldn’t be clung to. They had less energy. But there was more despair.

Iain:           What form did that despair take?

Richard:     I don’t know that it took any particular form.

Iain:           I mean was it depression and hopelessness? Or anger? I know for myself there are different forms that despair takes.

Richard:     ‘Despair’ is the word I’ll stick with. Despair is very different to depression. I wouldn’t say that it felt like anger or sadness or fear. I wouldn’t say that those uncomfortable feelings became particularly stronger or weaker at that point. They just went on as before. So I will stick with ‘despair’. I did invent a word, however. When         people asked me how I was, I told them, “I’m feeling gloopy”. ‘Gloopy’ is a combination of gloomy and droopy and it kind of summed up how I was feeling. But I can’t really get much closer to describing it than that. Despair’s a strange feeling. It is very different to depression.

Iain:           It’s related to hopelessness, isn’t it?

Richard:     There’s something a bit juicy about despair which there isn’t about depression.

Iain:           Yes, depression’s more stuck.

Richard:     I also felt that I had to drop all the spiritual techniques that I’d been practising. I’d been meditating and doing one or two other spiritual techniques very assiduously. I’m quite a disciplined person when I put my mind to doing things like that, but I just couldn’t practise them anymore at that time. What seemed to replace them was a constant looking. It felt as if there was something just beyond what I could see that I was not getting and, if I only looked hard enough, then perhaps it would reveal itself.

Iain:           And this went on until the clothes shop, is that right?

Richard:     Yes [laughs].

Iain:           You were buying your son a new suit in a clothes shop?

Richard:     Yes. I definitely recommend that as a technique.

Iain:           Was it in Fulham?

Richard:     No, it was in a small country town on the border of East Sussex and Kent.

Iain:           And what happened then?

Richard:     There was a longer and complete disappearance of the person.

Iain:           You were actually standing in the shop?

Richard:     It’s difficult to find a way to describe this. Again, there was the compete disappearance of the person. There was the seeing of the complete irrelevancy of the person, or the non-necessity of the person. It was seen that the person is a fabrication, an appearance. This disappearance of the person lasted for a longer period of time.

It’s extremely difficult to put the next bit into words but I’ll try, as I have tried to describe it in my writings when connecting up and comparing these two events.

What was seen in that disappearance was complete emptiness, the void, the abyss – these are all words that are commonly used to describe this in different spiritual traditions. For example, traditions as far apart as Buddhism and Christianity use these words. But although the complete emptiness of everything was seen, this emptiness was also seen to be full of love. There is this mysterious statement that is made in most of the religions and the spiritual paths of the world and by many teachers: they talk about everything being unconditional love. And the mind thinks, “What does that mean? How can everything be unconditional love when you see what’s going on in the world? What nonsense is this, that all of these fine people have been saying for thousands of years?” And suddenly it’s just seen. It’s just seen that they’re right.

It’s impossible to explain it any more clearly. But that’s the difference between awakening and liberation. In awakening, emptiness is seen, complete emptiness. We could say that it is the complete emptiness which creates everything. In awakening, this is seen but it’s a cold emptiness. Nevertheless it’s very attractive because it seems to offer the hope of going beyond any possibility of personal suffering.

So it’s both very attractive and very cold. The Buddhists sometimes describe this as the seeing of empty phenomena rolling by, which is quite a hard cold phrase, and that’s how I describe awakening. But in the second event, in liberation, the only way I can put it is that the fullness of the void was also seen. The fullness of the emptiness was seen, and that is not cold and it’s not hard because its nature is unconditional love.

Iain:           And was that more permanent?

Richard:     The only way I’ve ever been able to describe this is that after a while a sense of location came back. So for a while there was no person and no location, there was simply awareness. Then after a while a sense of location came back, a sense of awareness being located in a physical body returned.

Iain:           It must have been quite hard with that sense of location? Quite hard in day-to-day life? Or do you feel you adapted?

Richard:     Do you mean when it came back?

Iain:           You say to start with you didn’t feel any location. I would think that would be quite hard?

Richard:     Not at all. Because it transpires, somewhat surprisingly, that the sense of location is completely unnecessary [laughs]. Everything simply goes on as before.

Iain:           And your mind was kind of…?

Richard:     There was no ‘my mind’.

Iain:           But you must have had thoughts?

Richard:     There were thoughts arising. Language really breaks down when trying to describe this. Even if I say that awareness was seen to be everywhere, that’s not accurate because ‘everywhere’ implies space and it implies difference. If there’s ‘everywhere’, then within that there’s ‘over here’ and ‘over there’ and that isn’t accurate. It’s seen that there’s no space, there is just awareness. There is simply oneness, non-separation, non-duality. And there was no difficulty in that because it turns out that the sense of being a separate person is unnecessary. And when the physical location, the sense of being localised as I call it, came back that was also not a problem. Because the sense of contraction, the sense of being a contracted individual, had gone.

Iain:           Well, it’s quite a story.

Richard:     And it’s a common story. People describe the indescribable, or attempt to describe the indescribable, in their own words. In spite of the different words that are used, it’s quite easy to recognise what I’m talking about in other descriptions. For example, it’s easy to recognise it in Tony Parson’s description of walking through a park and it’s easy to recognise it in Nathan Gill’s writing about non-duality. And there are many other descriptions of this.

Iain:           One thing I’m interested in exploring is that you use the word ‘character’ rather than ‘person’ in your books. Do you feel that the character that was Richard is still there to some extent?

Richard:     Not just to some extent. To a very great extent [laughs].

Iain:           So your preferences and your history arise, but you don’t feel the necessity to give them energy? You are smiling, just say what you feel...

Richard:     A preference arises and it’s acted upon or it isn’t [laughs]. That’s the best way I can describe it. But I would say that this is what always happens for everyone, but where there is a sense of a contracted person, there may be added to that the sensation that “I’m choosing to do this” or “I’m choosing to avoid that”.

Iain:           But do you feel that the character has changed over the last four years?

Richard:     There are no necessary implications in this. Whatever we want to call this, or if we give it no name at all, there are no necessary rewards in it for a person. This is the most shocking thing that’s seen after perhaps three decades of following spiritual paths and being quite convinced that there are major goodies to be had at the end of them for a person - perhaps constant bliss, an enormous golden halo and maybe a wonderful purple aura.

Iain:           That’s how it’s packaged sometimes, isn’t it?

Richard:     That’s how it’s packaged.

Iain:           It’s seductive.

Richard:     It’s very seductive. I’d been involved with several different paths which packaged it in exactly that way.

Iain:           Richard, do you feel that the work that you did over those thirty years contributed to what happened? Is there any relationship there?

Richard:     I’ll give two answers to that question. They may sound paradoxical, although I hope they aren’t contradictory. The first and simplest answer is, “No”. There is nothing that the apparent person does that can make the unreal person fall away. My other answer is, “It makes no difference”. This is because it’s seen that there is no choice about any of what was done anyway and, in any case, nothing ever happened. So I would say - and I don’t mean this in a dismissive way – “Who cares?” Who cares whether meditating makes a difference or not? Or whether psychotherapy makes a difference or not? Or whether having our chakras cleansed or being blessed by gurus or receiving darshan makes a difference or not? Because there’s no choice about any of that anyway. It either happens or it doesn’t. One of the things that’s seen is that there’s nobody choosing to do any of that, there’s nobody causing any of that to happen. So in a sense the question becomes irrelevant.

Iain:           But do you feel that the transformation would have been as smooth if it had happened to you and you hadn’t had any previous history of meditation, any framework of understanding? It’s been relatively smooth for you, because at least you have a context in which to understand what happened. If it happens out of the blue, that’s very difficult.

Richard:     That’s an impossible question to answer. “I don’t know” is all I can say. But the apparent history of this character might well have made a difference to there being an impulse here to communicate about it, to write books about it and to give television interviews about it. This is seen by many people who never communicate about it, who never talk about it to anybody, because there isn’t that kind of personality there. So perhaps because I’d always been a communicator and I’d been very involved with spiritual paths and with teaching meditation, there was a preference for talking and writing about this rather than for keeping quiet about it.

Iain:           Because how you communicate what’s happened, or what is happening, is through your character. It has your language, your expression, your thought processes.

Richard:     There are some people now who are talking and writing about non-duality, or giving interviews on television about it, in a very clear way, but each of them has their own different flavour. And that comes from their character. Some of them tell jokes, some of them don’t tell jokes. Some of them are rather ascetic, some of them are rather profane. That’s just the character.

Iain:           I was talking earlier to Jeff Foster about John Wren-Lewis. Are you aware of the work he’s done at all?

Richard:     I’m not.

Iain:           He’s an English guy in Australia. I only met him once, years ago, and I want to get in contact with him now. He seems to have written a book, which hasn’t been published yet, about his investigations into people who have awakened, let’s say. He took seventeen people whom he’d met and spent time with. Fourteen of them had done no prior spiritual work. He had done no prior spiritual work himself. He had an experience where he was in India travelling and he was given a sweet which was poisoned. What people did at that time was to give you a poisoned sweet and then steal your bags while you were unconscious. They gave him a sweet and he became unconscious. He was with his wife who didn’t eat a sweet and she was okay. He went to hospital and had a near-death experience. After that his reality was totally different. It’s a different story to yours, but he also felt that there was no self. Ironically he had done no previous work although his wife had done lots of work on the way. This experience spurred him on to investigate other people. I think that it’s very interesting that 75% of the people he researched had done no work at all. Something just happened.

Richard:     Well, we’re developing quite an interesting list of techniques for our viewers: take poisoned sweets, buy your son a suit, hang around at major London railway stations, walk through London parks [laughs].

Iain:           The other thing I’ve found that people I’ve talked to over the years have in common, is that they say that the background becomes the foreground and the foreground becomes the background. Things kind of switch around. Would that be something you connect with?

Richard:     Words are difficult, but if we were to sum this up in a simple way, it seems to me that at the heart of this, once the person has left the premises, there is the seeing that this in itself is enough. This is it and this is fascinating and miraculous in itself. And maybe that is what is meant by the background coming into the foreground.

Going back to what you were saying about John Wren-Lewis, Robert M May did a similar kind of analysis of people who, from their descriptions, felt that they had had an awakening or had seen liberation. In his book Cosmic Consciousness Revisited, he also came to the conclusion that not very many of them had meditated, or been on spiritual paths, or were in circumstances where you might expect a feeling of magic to alight on them from the heavens. They were not standing on mountain tops watching beautiful sunsets or anything like that. He came to the conclusion that there was nothing practical that you could connect this to. It’s either seen or it isn’t seen.

Iain:           It’s a grace of God thing in a way?

Richard:     If you like, yes. It’s grace.

Iain:           There again, if you’re an intelligent person and you’re not happy with your life, it’s kind of stupid not to seek somehow. So you have no alternative - that’s the dilemma.

Richard:     Where there’s the sense of a person being there, seeking can’t be avoided. It might be spiritual seeking, or it might be seeking for a faster car… or a faster woman… or both.

Iain:           People get through that after a time.

Richard:     Not everybody does. A lot of people get stuck on that. But a lot of people burn through it and move on to other forms of seeking. It’s impossible for a person not to seek.

Iain:           Do you have advice for people… people whose lives don’t work? They try their seeking and it still doesn’t work? What would you say to someone like that?

Richard:     [laughs] From the perspective of non-duality I have no advice for anybody and as a counsellor I’ve been professionally trained not to give advice anyway. But leaving that aside, if a person feels himself to be uncomfortable or unhappy, there are clearly many effective things they can do which may well have the effect of making them feel less unhappy and less uncomfortable. But I don’t feel that any of those things have anything to do with what we’re talking about today.

Iain:           It’s helping the character, helping the personality, become more balanced?

Richard:     Yes, it may well do.

Iain:           So they’re happier as a human being?

Richard:     Yes, they may become more comfortable. A commonly used metaphor for this is of somebody who’s in a prison, making their prison more comfortable. If we perceive ourselves to be in a prison, then probably the most sensible thing we can do is to make it more comfortable.

Non-duality is about eventually seeing that there is no prison. And there is no person in prison because there is no person. The very sense of being a person, the sense of being somewhat contracted and somewhat constricted, is what creates the sense that “I’m in a prison”. But as long as that’s there and there’s a feeling that there’s a person who can make choices about my life that will affect it for good or ill, then the most sensible thing I can do is perhaps to learn a good meditation technique, or have therapy if I feel that’s appropriate, or simply look after myself in other innumerable ways. It’s not rocket science. If you and I wanted to compile a handbook on how to have a more contented life, I’m sure we could come up with something effective in about four or five minutes. But I would still say that none of that has anything to do with what we’re talking about here.

Iain:           That’s the frustrating thing, isn’t it?

Richard:     Yes, that’s the frustrating thing.

Iain:           It seems that you can’t do anything about getting to the ultimate ‘solution’, although that’s not quite the right word. It either happens or it doesn’t happen.

Richard:     Yes, that is the ultimate frustration. There are lots of different reactions from people hearing this. Being completely uninterested is probably the majority reaction [laughs]. Most people just go away from this because they’re not interested. But among those who stay and listen because they are interested, one of the common reactions is anger. That’s certainly a reaction that I had when I heard this and it’s very understandable. Going to hear somebody talking about this when we’re seeking and feeling unhappy and wanting guidance can almost be like having someone slap us across the face. That’s a violent metaphor but it can be perceived like that. Anger is a very common reaction to hearing this.

Iain:           Do people who are close to you and have known you for a time realise something significant has happened to you? Or do they just see you as the same Richard?

Richard:     [laughs] I think I’m easier to get along with but they might not agree. The sense of a contracted person often carries a lot of neurosis with it, and our neurosis makes it difficult for people to be around us. Although I insist that there are no necessary implications in this, nevertheless it’s a fairly common experience that a certain amount of neurosis drops away when this is seen. That may have the effect of making the character easier to be around for other people. But I think ultimately you’d have to ask the other people about that.

Iain:           I promised Julian at your publishing company Non-Duality Press that I’d do a little plug for the books at the end. The first one is I Hope You Die Soon. On the face of it, it’s a rather ironical title. Would you like to explain how you got that title?

Richard:     I got that title from Tony Parsons [laughs]. At a period of what I’ve already described as despair, I used to talk to Tony after his meetings and I also used to pester him on the phone to see if he had any advice he could give me - and of course he never did.

[Both laugh]

Richard:     I went up to him at the end of one of his meetings in despair, as I often was at that time. He gave me a very warm hug, looked me in the eyes and just said, “I hope you die soon”. I thought that was a very kind thing for him to say in the context, so that became the title of the book. It is, of course, a metaphorical death that I’m writing about, although it’s a title that’s often misunderstood by people.

Iain:           Yes, I can imagine. And you also have The Book of No One, which is just out.

Richard:     It’s literally hot off the presses.

Iain:           This one is pretty thick.

Richard:     There’s an awful lot to be said about nothing.

Iain:           It’s mainly extracts from talks, is it?

Richard:     Yes, it’s talks and dialogues.

Iain:           I want to thank you very much for coming in today, Richard, and talking to us.

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To watch the original video interview click here. This transcript is included in the book: "Conversations on Non-Duality: 26 Awakenings" published by Cherry Red Books. The book is available from amazon.co.uk, amazon.com and as a kindle edition.

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