Peter Russell - The Great Awakening
An interview with Iain McNay
Iain: Hello, and welcome again to Conscious TV. I am Iain McNay, and my guest today is Peter Russell. Hi Peter.
Iain: Peter has written several books, which I’m going to show you here now, ‘The Brain Book’, ‘The Global Brain’, ‘Waking up in time’, and ‘From Science to God’. Today we’re going to hear about Peter’s life, and his own spiritual journey, but we’re going to focus more on the contents of the last two books, very interesting and it’s very relevant to what’s happening on the planet at the moment on different levels. So, Peter, let’s start briefly when you were young, a teenager, because from what you were telling me earlier, you were very driven to find things out. You had a real thirst for knowledge, didn’t you?
Peter: Yes, in two ways. One I was a budding scientist. I thought I would end up as a scientist of some sort and mathematics. I was good at maths. I was doing well at school in that area. There was a thirst for knowledge on the scientific level, but also there was an inquiry about the nature of people. I got fascinated by simple philosophical questions like, free will, determinism. I say simple, they are profound questions that nobody has answered. I got drawn into those sorts of questions.
Iain: So, when you say fee will, determinism, what do you mean by that?
Peter: Well that’s a basic question, do we actually have free will or is everything determined? I mean we appear to make choices. I’ve chosen to be here today with you or was that just a result of the conditioning of the way my brain responds to your invitation because of social conditioning, or did I really make a choice? You go to a restaurant, you chose something from the menu, do you actually make a free choice, or is it because you had this yesterday, or this one is cheaper, you don’t like red meat, or you don’t like the flavouring, is it all predetermined and your brain is just going through this process? People have been debating this for thousands of years, and we’re still no close to a solution.
Iain: And you were asking these questions when you were a teenager?
Iain: They are very deep questions for a teenager.
Peter: And still asking them.
Iain: You also had a big interest in mathematics, didn’t you?
Peter: That was my love. I went to university. I went to Cambridge studying maths. I was quite good at it, I got awards for it. I was actually studying with Stephen Hawking for a while. He was my supervisor. At Cambridge, each student has a one to one relationship with what’s called a supervisor who takes you through the course. You meet every week, and for a while he was my supervisor, which was fascinating. He could still walk and talk then. His illness was just beginning to show. He didn’t even need a wheel chair then. He had a walking stick and could still talk. He was fascinating, so funny, compassionate. A lovely person. He still is. You still see it when you see him on television.
Iain: So what kinds of things did you learn from him?
Peter: He was doing his early work on black holes then for which he is now famous, and I was fascinated by that, and also how he could show me the underlying equations of things. A lot of what I was learning at that time in mathematics was theoretical physics, and how the equations of maths related to the world. My speciality then was relativity, I loved relativity, and the theory of relativity. Part of what he was helping me with then, was understanding relativity – Einstein’s relativity.
Iain: I think also when you were younger you were very interested in Einstein as well.
Peter: I’ve always been interested in Einstein, yes.
Iain: At some point an interest in mediation started at university.
Peter: Yes, that started from philosophical stuff and my ongoing interest in the mind. What is mind? What is consciousness? I realised that physics was never going to answer the fundamental questions for me, why is there mind in the universe. Physics might tell me how the universe began from nothing and became hydrogen, how hydrogen evolved into all the elements, and how all that evolved into galaxies and stars, and why we are here. But why do we experience? Why is there mind in the universe? Physics doesn’t predict that any of us should ever have a mind. It just predicts that we should all work as biological automata, robots. Why is there consciousness, and that is the question that really began to interest me. I actually moved into psychology thinking that would answer the questions. Then realised that they didn’t know any more about it. I realised that the people who did know about consciousness were the saints, the yogis in India, the monks who’d studied consciousness first hand, which means actually exploring your own mind. I realised that meditation was the like the scientific way of exploring your own mind. It’s not scientific in that you’re not put measuring equipment on a person, you can do that, but for me it’s more observing your mind, letting the mind begin to quieten down, and begin to watch your mind, and that is how I think you really begin to explore consciousness. So that’s why I got into meditation and why I went out to India to study it more.
Iain: I think you started first with Buddhist meditation at Cambridge, and then you found the Maharishi…
Iain: Who was just beginning in those days.
Peter: Yes, he was just beginning. The Beatles were getting interested in him. I sort of dabbled in Buddhist meditation but at that time it didn’t quite make sense to me, and TM, when I came across that, it really did because the Maharishi was emphasising complete and utter effortlessness, which was contrary to what all the other teachers I’d experienced were saying. He made sense to me about not trying, as to try to meditate you make the mind more tense, and what we’re talking about is letting the mind totally relax.
Iain: So, what you’re saying is that the other meditation teachers were telling you to try hard and discipline yourself…
Peter: Concentrate, focus the mind…
Iain: OK, and did you find that hard, or did you get results doing that?
Peter: I didn’t get many result from it, no. What the Marharishi was saying was do the opposite, let the mind totally relax. Don’t try and just let the mind become quiet of its own accord, and I found that that worked.
Iain: And that was just through repeating a silent mantra twice a day, 20 minutes a day, morning and evening.
Peter: Yes. People say it’s repeating a mantra but it’s actually slightly misleading because it’s really… if you repeat it, it just becomes a rote thing. It’s more being aware of the sound in your mind, being aware of the sound, and the sound repeats itself, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s awareness of the sound, that is the crucial thing. If you just repeat it, that’s a tradition used in India, I think that only gets you so far, but through that very gentle awareness you allow the mind to settle down to quieter levels.
Iain: So, when you say there is sound in the mind, are you talking about the mental chattering?
Peter: No, no, the mantra is just a sound in the mind.
Iain: Ok, so you’re focusing on the sound of the mantra.
Peter: No, you’re not focusing on it, you’re being aware of i.t
Iain: being aware of it…
Peter: Yes, that’s the important the important difference.
Iain: So, what’s the difference, focusing and being aware?
Peter: Focusing involves some effort, some control, holding the attention somewhere, whereas awareness is much more relaxed. So, I could say now of the awareness of air conditioning in the background. I could just be aware of that. I could focus on it, which means intent listening. It’s just opening the awareness to listening. Listening to what’s there. So, you say, it’s more listening to the sound.
Iain: What did you find happened to you by doing that?
Peter: The mind just begins to settle down, becomes quieter. Normally that chatter you talk about – there’s a lot of chatter – then the chatter just gently begins to decrease, and you just become quieter, and as you become quieter, it just becomes more enjoyable, more peaceful. Chatter is creating stress, discontent, worry, fantasy, whatever, and it’s that chatter that actually keeps the mind active. So that chatter just begins to die down. You just begin to settle into a state of peace and quiet, which is naturally enjoyable.
Iain: And presumably that affected you in your ordinary life as well, not just when meditating.
Peter: Yes, that’s the idea of meditation. You get in touch with that sense of ease inside and you bring that out into life. So, instead of doing all this stuff with that chattering mind driving you, you can just be more peaceful. But also, I think more compassionate because the other thing I notice, as the mind settles down and becomes quieter, you get in touch with the heart, that deeper sense of compassion and love. So, you can begin to relate to the world out of compassion rather than out of the ego’s needs, and what it thinks it wants
Iain: So, it’s shifting your emphasis as a human being in a way, giving it another priority or a set of values.
Peter: Exactly. It’s shifting the way you relate to the world. I see that’s the value of meditation. It’s not the actual practice the value is how it shifts your attitude to the world. And of course, just being able to stop and have rest every day is valuable just from a health point of view, I think. It destresses you.
Iain: Are you still meditating now?
Peter: Yes. I have done most of my life, not as regularly as I should sometimes, but yes. It’s an important practice.
Iain: OK. To keep the sequence going, you got very involved with the Maharishi organisation and went to India for a time.
Peter: Yes. I went to study with him in India, and became a teacher there in India, and that was fascinating for me, because up and till that time I had rejected religion. As a kid, because I was interested in maths and science, it was about aged thirteen when I went through the process of confirmation I realised. For me it was de-confirmation, I realised that it was a weird load of mumbo jumbo that I was meant to believe. I was supposed to believe the Nicene Creed? Jesus was born of a virgin and all this stuff, I thought what? So, I totally rejected classical religion. But what happened in India was, I realised there was something not so much to religion, but to spirituality. I realised all the different religious traditions, underneath there was the same spiritual core, the same spiritual fire, if you like, which originally gave them life, and that wasn’t so much to do with rituals, or myths about the cosmos or whatever it was much more psychological. It was much more about how we get ourselves caught in the whether you want to call it ego, or materialism, or judgment, whatever, how the mind becomes caught, and how because of that we suffer. And every spiritual tradition in one way or another was aimed at freeing the mind, whether you call it salvation, liberation, enlightenment, awakening, whatever, they all aimed at lightening the load so that we can actually be in touch with our true selves. That became a fascination for me – still is- my whole life really changed then. I got fascinated about what is this basic, essential, core, basic spirituality that lies behind all the spiritual traditions. Huxley called it the perennial philosophy. It’s that eternal philosophy that keeps coming up, again and again, and again. The other thing was realising this is what the world needed. Sitting in India, I looked around and saw that just about every problem there was, from personal problems, to global problems, environmental, social problems, all came back to human consciousness – to the way we were thinking, to the ego, to the fact that we were caught in this very limited way of thinking. We don’t tend to look at consciousness. When there’s a problem we look at what to do out there. Right now, as we’re doing this, there’s riots been going on in London, everyone’s talking about what we do about this, but no one’s talking about what do we do with the consciousness behind it. That’s the real question for me, and so my life since coming back from India has been looking at this whole issue of how do we actually free human consciousness from the materialistic attitudes that are really indoctrinated into us from the moment we’re born.
Iain: Ok, how do we? It’s a good question and it’s a big really important question.
Peter: I think it’s the fundamental question. I think the first step is realising it doesn’t work. The current mode doesn’t work.
Iain: You say that, and I agree with you and yet the consensus among human beings is that we must keep trying to make something that is obviously not going to work, to you and me, but the majority try and make it work. Why is that do you think?
Peter: It’s one of the definitions of insanity, to keep on doing the same thing even though it doesn’t work. Let’s look at what it is that doesn’t work, just to go back a step. I think what everybody is looking for in the final analysis, is that we are all looking to feel better whether you call it peace of mind, satisfaction, fulfilment, contentment…
Iain: We want to be happy.
Peter: We want to be happy, that’s the bottom line. We want to feel good, we want to be happy. There are different words for it, and different flavours of it, but it’s basically we are looking for a better internal state of mind. We’re looking to feel good.
Peter: Our culture tells us through education, through the media, through advertising, everywhere we look, that if you’re not feeling good, there’s something wrong. You need to get something, you need to do something, you need to experience something, and that seems to work. So, we go shopping and we buy ourselves a new TV or something, and we do feel good for a very short while, but it doesn’t last long…
Iain: Till when the bill comes in on the credit card.
Peter: Yes, when the bill comes in. Then we go looking for better clothing, better shoes, better deal on a credit card, better software, new computer, whatever it is. So, we’re caught on this treadmill, and all we get is this temporary satisfaction, then we’re looking for another one. We never find a lasting happiness, any lasting satisfaction, just temporary ones. Even that is an illusion because and I think this is what meditation shows people, the natural state of mind when we’re not worried, that is what you touch in meditation when the mind becomes quiet and you stop worrying, you find the natural state of mind is one of contentment and peace. But then what happens is because we see some advertisement, something in the news, or talk to somebody, we feel, oh there’s something missing. As soon as we feel there’s something missing, we create discontent. It’s I haven’t got this, I haven’t got that, so we’re feeling dissatisfied and so when we actually go and buy that thing, it’s not that the new TV screen is making us happy, it’s we’re no longer making ourselves unhappy for five minutes.
Iain: Yes, but isn’t also this feeling we all have that something isn’t complete?
Iain: And we want the happiness because we want to complete something, and that seems to be the message that’s very rarely put across.
Peter: Yes. What our society tells us is, you will feel complete if only you’ve got this, got that, so we’re on this endless chasing. That’s what Indian traditions call Samsara, the endless chasing of one thing after another. No one’s really pointing out that it’s something inner that we’re looking for. The completion comes not from just having the right things and experiences, the real completion comes through actually knowing one’s self, knowing that deep inside, not even deep inside just below the surface really, is that contentment, happiness, ok-ness that we’re looking for. So, it’s a complete shift in where we’re putting our attention.
Iain: Let’s go back to your story we were on because I know when you were in India, you went back a second time and you spent many, many hours a day meditating. So how did that bring you more in touch. What actually happened? Because you’re sitting there, hour after hour, just meditating.
Peter: Day after day. I was actually doing twenty- four hour a day meditation at one stage.
Iain: So, you don’t even sleep at all.
Peter: Well you sort of sleep. There would be a period in the middle of the night for two or three hours where I was sort of dozy, but you don’t need to sleep. If you’re leading the sort of life when you’re so quiet, low stress, you’re meditating during the day, you’re not sleeping but you’re very quiet. You don’t need sleep in those situations.
Iain: So, what is that like? Are you in a blissful state most of the time?
Peter: Yes. I don’t like the word bliss. I translate that as unconditioned peace. One is at peace, not because everything is ok, but there is just this quality of peace that is there. But, isn’t not there the whole time because the mind starts coming up with its stuff, it’s fantasies, what you think you need. You begin to notice the mind coming up with all these stories, all that conditioning coming up. Now you see it for what it is.
Iain: Your seeing there is a gap, what’s coming up, and you that’s aware of what’s coming up
Peter: You notice it, see it, and almost laugh at it at times. Other times it grabs you, takes you over for an hour. You get totally caught up in this this, like when I get back to England, I’m going to do this, and this, and this. You realise, what I’ve just done, all this thinking kept me out of my own natural state for half an hour, an hour, this is crazy. You realise that’s what we do in life, we get caught in, I call them stories, dialogues we have with ourselves. Actually, it’s the story we’re telling ourselves that creates the discontent, the lack of peace. That’s the big realisation. It’s the stories we tell ourselves that’s what takes us out of the peace.
Iain: Yes, and the key as I understand it is that you became aware that you are watching the story. So, you are not the story because you are able to watch it.
Iain: Talk more about that.
Peter: Right. It’s a fundamental thing in just about all the spiritual traditions. The nature of I, what is the self? What tends to happen is we get identified with the story. I prefer the word engrossed. We get caught up with the story. I tell myself, if I had this, or this better relationship, whatever it is that I’m telling myself, there is an I in that story, like a character in a novel. When you read a novel there’s the lead character, and you identify with that character, that character’s feelings, and all of that stuff. Well it’s just a character in a story. It’s the same with our thoughts when we’re telling ourselves some story about myself, and I would feel so much better if I had this, or what did I do last week, or go back to your childhood and think about that. There’s a character in that story, and that character is sort of real because it’s there. There’s this me that I can tell stories about. But then there’s me that’s just watching the story, and that’s the real me. It’s not the character in the story, but what happens is we get engrossed with the story, with the character, and we mistakenly think, I’m the character in the story, whereas what I am, is just the awareness that’s noticing the story. The awareness that’s noticing me talking to you now. That awareness that is always there, and always aware. That’s what’s always there. That’s what so many spiritual teaching point to that the real I, what we actually mean by I is not some individual person, character with all these qualities, its … some call it the observer, the witness. I prefer just the “awarering”, that’s always there.
Iain: The “awarering”.
Peter: I use that because I don’t like to use nouns. If we say, the witness, or the observer, or even the awareness, we make it a thing. As soon as we make it a thing, we bring in this duality again. There’s me here, and then there’s the real self, or there’s me here, and then there’s the witness. It’s like… there is no thing. There is nothing we can identify as the self, and yet there is that which we all know so well, it’s been there all our life. It’s that sense of “beingness”, presence. It’s that knowingness. It’s that which knows.
Iain: What did you find that helped to strengthen that process in you? You were doing the meditation for many hours a day, and then obviously you left India, you came back to the West. You had to earn a living. You had to be involved with daily life, and there’s all these temptations if you like, things trying to pull you out of that knowingness.
Iain: So, what did you find… obviously you kept meditating. Were there other practices you did that helped you to embody that knowing, more?
Peter: Ah, many things. Many things. My practice itself has evolved over the years. I found a lot of value in Buddhist teachings, which really helped me understand the mind a lot better. I came across “A course in Miracles” many years ago, which was a really wonderful adjunct to meditation. That’s about letting go of our belief systems about who we are. Many times, it said meditate upon this. I thought people who don’t have a practice in meditation, what do they do? A good practice in meditation really allowed me get a lot of good value from that. So, watching myself, when I get angry, noticing what’s really going on. What am I telling myself? It’s usually some story about someone should not have done what they did.
Iain: Something affected you.
Peter: Someone affected me, messed up my life because they did not behaviour the way I think they should have done.
Peter: They didn’t affect you, they affect you as the story
Iain: Right. They didn’t affect the observer, because that’s always there. Then there’s this other bit of me, I call it the ego mind which is the bit that’s trying to be in control of things that gets upset, because it’s no longer in control. Somebody has done something which has affected my life in a way I don’t like. So, beginning to notice that when I feel angry, stopping, pulling back, noticing, ok, what am I telling myself here? What’s the story going on? By doing that, by just getting a bit of perspective in seeing the story, it doesn’t grip you anymore. You don’t take it so seriously. Ah ok, they’re like that, they did this. What they did is in conflict with what I want but that’s the truth of what’s happening is the conflict in my mind of what they did and what I want. I’m still here, I’m observing that conflict and when you do that, it doesn’t run you. The anger then just dissolves. When it comes up initially the anger’s very really -I’m not saying we should never get angry- but what we tend to do as human beings is carry it on with us for months. We hold grievances about somebody. I think the skill in life is when we get angry, ok it maybe there, a reason in the moment, but rather than carry it on for days, weeks, or months, by carrying on the same stories. We’ve got to stop and say, it’s just a story. Just a story.
Iain: And that is often difficult unless you make the commitment to do that, isn’t it?
Peter: Yes. I think the inner journey is a commitment to wake up. We talk about awakening, it is to wake up to what is actually going on in one’s self.
Iain: And you do talk in “Waking up in time”, you talk about the great awakening. So, tell us more about how you see the great awakening
Peter: I see this as a huge unprecedented moment in human history. We have scientific developments like never before, but we also live in a state of real vulnerability on the planet. Environmentally we could really screw things up. At the same time, there is this search for spirituality. We’re realising, and I think this is becoming wide spread across the planet, that the old way, the material way that’s actually leading to so many problems, leading to environmental issues isn’t actually working. It doesn’t work for the planet, it’s destroying the planet, but it’s not working for us as individuals. We keep on going done the same road never getting anywhere much, so I see there’s a wide spread search for spiritual awakening that’s happening across society. When I first got interested in spirituality back in the 60’s when I went to India, there were hardly any books on the subject, now you go into any moderate sized town and there’s book stores devoted to spirituality, consciousness, quote “new age” things – I don’t like the term particularly- that whole area. Most of those books, perhaps all of them, they come from people having explored themselves, done some practice, worked on something then wanted to share it with other people. What we’re doing now, Conscious TV is the same thing. You’re interviewing speakers, writers, all of whom have been on their own path over the years, they’ve learned something they want to share. There are thousands, millions of people on their own journey, discovering little bits of the past wanting to share it with each other. It may not be as visible as books or television, sharing it with their family, or in schools, or at work, but there are millions of people just quietly waking up in their own way and sharing it with others. When you get that, you get a positive feedback effect. The awakening begins to accelerate, it happens faster and faster. So now, it’s huge the numbers of people engaged in this. It’s like in America they reckon there’s something like 28 million people engaged in some yoga practice, 40 years ago that might have been 40,000 or something. It’s growing, everyone is learning from each other. I think that is what is unprecedented this global interest in spirituality beyond any particular religion. We’re coming back to, what is that core spirituality, and it’s happening at a time when we really, really need it. That’s why I think the great awakening is so fascinating and so essential. This is the time history when we need that spiritual awakening. The fact that we haven’t got it, we’re coming out of this materialistic self- centred consciousness that is leading us to destruction.
Iain: On the other side of the scale, the bankruptcy of life on so many different levels is becoming more and more obvious.
Iain: And at the same time there’s something new, there’s like a bud beginning to grow, but it does need supporting doesn’t it?
Peter: It does need supporting.
Iain: And that’s the key, you do touch a lot in the book quite a lot, but somehow every individual needs to take the positive steps that they can.
Peter: We all need to take responsibility for our own awakening, nobody can do it for us. It’s easy to say they must change but I also remember I’m one of them in other people’s eyes, and I’m the only person who I can really take responsibility for it. But also, there’s a value in community, what Buddhist teachings call sangha, community… you were asking what’s helped me in my own practice, I would say one thing that has been really important is having friends who are on similar journeys. There is a support is there. It’s hanging out with similar people. If all your friends are into are they wearing the right sneakers, do they have the right case for their Iphone, if that’s what’s motivating them, that’s not going to help your spirituality much. But if you’re with people who are also interested in that journey, whether it’s meditation, whether it’s observing themselves, awakening their consciousness in one way or another, you’re a support to each other. So, I think choosing who you hang out with, who you spend time with, who your friends are, if they’re on a similar, not necessarily the same path but if they’re working in a similar direction, then that’s really, really important.
Iain: You talk also about spirituality 101. Tell me about that.
Peter: In a way, we’ve been touching on it. I use that phrase just to bring spirituality right down to earth, to get away from all the trappings. For me it’s this thing that our true nature is one of contentment, but we screw it up because we start wanting things, looking for things, because we have this belief system that says if only I had more I’d be happier. Spirituality 101 is seeing that’s the problem the materialistic, self-centred belief system. There are times when it’s true, if you’re hungry, food definitely makes you feel better, if you’re cold adjusting the temperature makes you feel better, but if you’re feeling low because of self- worth or something, just going out and buying things isn’t really dealing with the problem. So, it’s seeing the essential problem is how we view the world, our perception of the world. So, seeing the basic spirituality is changing the way we see things, that to me is what a shift in consciousness is about. A shift in consciousness is a shift in perception. A shift in how we see things. So, rather than seeing things through the ego’s eyes, we’ re seeing things, if you like, through the eyes of the true self, which is much more seeing things as they are.
Iain: Are you basically optimistic in terms of humanity’s destination in the future?
Peter: Difficult question. The way you ask it, no. I think we’re going into a time of huge upheaval, challenges, and I don’t know what is going to come out of it. I think we’re heading into catastrophe in many ways. That’s as a result of the way we have been behaving for centuries, and its clear people don’t want to change. They’d rather go on with this insane way. So, I’m not optimistic about western civilisation. I think it’s doomed. However, I am very optimistic about what people can become. I’m optimistic about how we can step back from the way we’ve been caught in, the conditioning, and maybe the challenges that are coming will help us step back. I think we can become much more compassionate people, much wiser people, much less materialistic people. And I think we’re going to need that as individuals, and as groups to steer our way through these times.
Iain: It's about finding our potential both as individuals and as a human race.
Peter: Yes. So, I’m optimistic about what human beings can become, I’m not optimistic about what this culture is going to become. I think this culture is falling to bits. It’s like ok, how can we be? How can we be with each other? How can we help each other? How can we care for each other? How can we act wisely in these very difficult times?
Iain: Well it’s a huge challenge, isn’t it?
Peter: Huge challenge.
Iain: It’s because so many things are set up, the way the financial system is set up, to start with. The consensus belief we have about reality. The way the subject, object relationship is set up. There is so much set up facing the wrong way if you like leading us to a blind alley. We keep hitting our heads in the blind alley. Somehow, it’s a question of turning around, which is actually turning within, and then start to relook.
Peter: Yes. That sort of shift is actually quite easy. That’s the shift in perception, and that’s beginning to crack. We’re beginning to see the consensus reality doesn’t really work. We’re beginning to see, like the banking crisis of a couple of years ago or whenever the next one’s going to be. We’re seeing that way of looking at money is doomed. So, many people are changing in that respect, but that’s the shift in consciousness. What I’m saying is that I don’t think that shift in consciousness by itself will change all we’re set in motion in terms of the environmental issues and all of that. Certainly, there’s a lot we can do to dampen down the consequences, but I think the real shifts are in ourselves, and how we relate to each other. And can we relate to each other as caring loving human beings rather than what can I get from you. What can I take from you? It’s more what can I give to you? How can I help you? I think that’s the transition we’re going through.
Iain: And it comes back to what you were saying at the beginning of our interview, all the great religions actually do talk about this. It’s just been interpreted sometimes in different ways, but that is the core of their teachings.
Peter: Love, compassion is just about the core of just about every traditional spiritual teaching. And so, how do we do that? That’s the challenge. And that’s the question I’m looking at in my own life. How do I develop that in myself? How do I open my heart more? How, do I get in touch with that natural love, that natural compassion which I know is there, which I taste at times? It’s that unconditional love which just sits there as part of your being, which is so easily covered up by the worry, the anxiety, the planning, all of that stuff. So that’s my challenge at the moment, just opening up to that.
Iain: I picked up on a phrase that you use at the beginning of “Waking up In Time”, you talk about “singularity, a point where the equations run out, which is a white hole in time”. I guess that’s actually what we’re talking about, you’re talking about that in mathematical terms, “singularity, and when equations run out”. What I was talking about there was the future, where we’re going in the future. We’re all aware that the pace of change is speeding up, things are going faster and faster. Now we have to get a new operating system for an I-phone every year, or every six months, emails come through faster and faster. The whole of life is going faster, much faster than it was twenty years ago, or two hundred years ago, which was much faster than a thousand years ago. The speeding up is inevitable. It’s the result of making innovations. We are a creative species, things are going to keep on speeding up, so the world in twenty years time is going to be much faster than it is today, the world in forty years- time, so much faster still, and beyond that. It’s just going to go faster, faster and faster. We seem to have a blind spot on the future. We seem to think that at some time it’s all going to be stable, nice, and the acceleration will stop. I don’t see that happening. I see the acceleration as inevitable, and it’s going to get faster, faster, and faster heading towards – and that’s what I call ‘the white hole in time’- this point in time when it becomes unimaginably fast by what we can think of today, but that I see has the potential to be the full flowering spiritual awakening of the human species.
Iain: If everything is getting faster, and the key for you has been meditation, which is in effect slowing down, how do those two things…
Peter: It’s a stilling of the mind rather than a slowing down, it’s a stilling. I think it is absolute essential, because as things get faster it’s easy to get more and more stressed, more and more caught up in what is going on. Having meditation is about finding a way to have that inner stability that’s’ always there despite things going on faster and faster. If you can stay in touch with that inner stability, and if more and more people do that, then I think we can create something on a collective level which will actually see us through into something totally beyond the world we know today. Totally different. That’s why I say it’s a singularity, it’s when the equations break down. It’s going to be absolutely nothing we can’t imagine. Unimaginable. It’s going to be a totally different way of operating living in this world.
Iain: What’s your instinctive feel for that?
Peter: This may sound pretty weird, far out, but it’s like a collective near- death experience.
Iain: That’s sounds very radical actually.
Iain: A collective near-death, rather than a collective death?
Peter: Well…it could be both, it could be either. I mean I don’t know what death is, all I know is when people approach death, and they have those experiences when they think they are going to die, there is that tunnel of light. And what is almost universal there is that, people feel this incredible sense of peace, of love, of being cared for, and this sense of light. And that’s’ what we touch into in meditation, that sense of peace, that love that’s there. There’s often a sense of light in meditation. In India they call death, the Mahasamadhi, the great samadhi. Samadhi is what you reach in meditation, death is the great samadhi. It’s people who are approaching death, what they report is there is some incredible release from this mortal coil as they often put it, release from the body when you suddenly find everything is ok. People who come back from that come back usually transformed, changed. They want to live their life differently. They often have healing abilities. Others who don’t come back when never hear from again, who knows what they go into. I have no idea. I think we’re heading somewhere similar on a collective level, and maybe we collectively move through that on a collective level, and go through something totally beyond anything we can conceive of -the collective conscious of humanity going into where ever death leads, or it could be we go to it, and it’s a huge collective awakening and we come back transformed, changed.
Iain: It’s interesting how collective and connective, they are similar words in one way, we are becoming more and more connected as a human species through the internet, travel and information and everything else. We know so much more to the potential for being more connected, as a collective, it’s there.
Peter: Yes. And I think it’s that connection that’s fuelling the collectively and that’s what my book ‘The Global Brain’ was all about. I wrote that back before the internet even existed, because I was involved with computers for a while and could see the connectivity computers were going to bring to people was so parallel to the way that nerve cells link up in the brain. I saw that we were going to be creating a global brain which was going to be the linking of all the minds of humanity into a collective system. And we are moving there faster, faster and faster. The world wide web was a big step in that direction, and now the whole cloud computing scene is moving in that direction. Who knows what the leading edge is going to be in five or ten years time, but I think that technology is going to take us into a whole new degree of ‘collectivity’, which we can’t imagine. The one thing I’ve learned in all of this is not to predict the future, because we’re all ways wrong.
Iain: I think that’s been proved many times. I’m just thinking that something you told me earlier that influenced you was when you read about ‘The Gaia theory’, James Lovelock’s Gaia theory. Of course, that is very much global brain
Peter: That’s what triggered me really with ‘The Global Brain’. James Lovelock’s – this was back in the mid or late seventies -the Gaia theory which is very well known now was basically saying, the only way we can understand all the earth’s bio- system, is to think of the totality of the bio-system. The living system, the oceans, the atmosphere, the soil is functioning like one, single, self- regulating being. He was producing a lot of evidence to support this. I was asking, ok if that’s the case, what is humanity doing here? Because you could say the ocean is like the blood, the circulatory system, the rain forests are like the lungs exchanging oxygen, and you can almost see individual species, or individual systems, perform a function in this global organism. I thought was is humanity doing here, because (a) we’re relatively new, just a few million years, the rainforests have been around a lot longer, and the oceans much longer, what is it we’re doing here? I asked what is it we’re good at? What human beings are good at is information processing. We have language, we can share ideas. We can learn, and we can share that across the planet. That made me think, we are like the nerve cells of the planet. We’re like the individual nerve cells. The I realised, what happens in an individual when you are growing in the womb early on, about three months after you are conceived, there is this flurry of growth of nerve cells, millions being created by the second, but they are not connected. As the brain evolves after you are born, what starts happening is that those cells all start connecting up. It’s the connectivity between the cells that produces your intelligence. You don’t have any more brain cells now than before you were born. You had all the cells you’re going to have, plus or minus a few, before you were born. The growth afterwards is not the growth in the number of nerve cells, it’s the growth in connectivity. I realised the number of human beings on the planet is about the same sort of size, as the number of cells in our brain. What we’re going through now, is not thankfully not the further expansion of numbers, that’s beginning to slow now, but what we’re going through is the connectivity. We’re just seeing the beginning of that. An average brain cell may communicate directly with ten thousand other neurons. We send emails backwards and forwards, watch things on you tube or some social network, but where that is going is going to be unimaginable. We can’t imagine the future.
Iain: This is so key, this thing about realising the connectiveness of us all, not just as human beings but as a planet. The key thing is the one-ness of creation, the one-ness of everything.
Peter: Yes. For me the connectivity I‘m really interested in, or the one-ness, is that deep down inside us we are all the same. You and I have very different histories, personalities, different interests. Deep down inside we all want the same thing. We all what that quality, whether you call it peace, happiness, contentment. We all want to feel ok.
Iain: Completion I call it.
Peter: Yes, and we all want love. We all want to be loved, or experience love. A fundamental thing. When we recognise we are already one in that way, everybody I meet, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever they are doing. Ultimately, they want exactly what I want. That to me is the key, because if we can relate in that way, rather than say I want this, how can I get it from you, is to say you want the same as me, how can I give what you want. How can I communicate with you, share with you in such a way that you feel good, that you feel loved. That to me is part of the challenge. It’s not always easy, because I have my own conditioning, stuff, and needs. I may fall out of that very often and start accidentally being nasty to you but it’s not my real intention. If we recognise that’s a unity we all have, that deep fundamental goal we all have to be at peace, to be loved. We can interact knowing that and try to give that to each other. I think that’s’ what helps the world change.
Iain: I’m just thinking, just to put it in context, we’re had theses riots in England. They’ve been quite serious, and it’s been challenging for the people that are very involved in them. It’s brought out the good in one way that people feel after they took place that wanted to get together and support people that have suffered, and clean up the streets and things, but it took a perceived enemy to bring people together. You’ll hear that- I’ve never experienced living in war time – but you hear that there was a great spirit, when there was a common enemy. Somehow, we need to find this spirit, maintain this spirit without having an enemy, don’t we?
Iain: Because the enemy is division, supporting the duality, and the struggle we all have.
Peter: Yes. Often it needs something like the enemy to galvanise us, because suddenly there is the need. Some need, and it needn’t necessarily be the other people. Look what happens when there are major floods or something, again people come together. It’s not that the flood is an enemy, but there is a major something that need collective attention, that pulls people together, a collective goal. They all try to do the same thing together. I see this comes back to what I call the great awakening. We all want this process of becoming more in touch with ourselves and awakening more. So that becomes a collective, how can we help each other do that?
Iain: There’s one quote that I’ve pulled out of one of your books “through us the universe can fulfil the purpose of its design”. Can you explain that a little more?
Peter: I don’t know how many more hours we’re got left (laughing)
Iain: Five and a half minutes left (laughing). It’ll have to be a very brief precis of it.
Peter: There’s a lot of evidence coming out of science and cosmology at the moment, that the universe seems to be very final tuned. If you change any of the fundamental constants it doesn’t work. Make the force of gravity a bit stronger or weaker, it all falls apart, or never gets going into galaxies. If I had an hour or two, I could explain it all to you, but this leads to the view that either the universe is the most preposterous accident, but it actually works, or that there is some sort of intention to it. Those who think there is some sort of intention, that doesn’t mean to say that there is an intender, but that there is a direction. You could say when a child is conceived that there is a direction, things unfold. That fertilised egg grows into a little foetus which becomes a human being, is born and grows up, there is that direction. So, what they’re saying is that there is an inevitable direction to evolution, and everything is set up so this direction can happen. And what that directions is one of increased awareness, increased consciousness, an increased knowing. So, there is a growing body of scientists who say the purpose of the universe is – they don’t like using the word purpose but - the direction of the universe is knowledge. That the universe is here to know itself. I think, at this point in human history, on this little tiny planet on the outer edge of some galaxy, we are the ones that are coming to that point of knowing the universe. In terms of physics we are getting close to that unified field theory. Maybe in another ten, twenty, thirty years, forty, fifty years, whatever, we shall actually understand the cosmos. Maybe we won’t but I think we are headed in that direction. The area we don’t understand yet is the mind. That is still very mysterious. That again is why I think the interest in consciousness, spirituality, meditation, self- observation is so fascinating, and its moving ahead so fast that we are now just beginning to understand our selves. When we understand ourselves to the same depth that we are now beginning to understand atoms, quasars, and all of that, when we understand ourselves in the same way, then I think the universe in us , in this little corner of the universe will have come through to its fruition, to its full knowing.
Iain: It’s another example of how we need to bring our attention to from the outside, materialism, objects, back to inside, meditation, looking, understanding.
Peter: Yes. We’ve become incredibly proficient at using the material world. We’ve become masters of the material world. Not complete. It gets us back, but we’ve become very proficient there, but the mind is still very dim. That’s where we need the knowledge now. That’s where we need the mastery, of our own selves. That’s what to me really makes these times so exciting and all this interest in spirituality, which is what Conscious TV is all about. It’s all about fostering this inner awakening, this inner learning about ourselves. That to me is the most important thing we can be doing, and the most critical thing we can do at this time.
Iain: Well we are doing our best here at Conscious TV.
Peter: Good for you.
Iain: Working hard and you’re doing your best too.
Peter: And there are millions of others doing there best. That’s what so great. It isn’t you or me, we are just members of a team of millions and millions of people doing their best in their own way to facilitate this shift.
Iain: We need to finish now. I really appreciate you coming in and talking with us Peter.
Peter: Thank you
Iain: I’m just going to show the books to the camera. So, there’s ‘The Global Brain’ which we talked about briefly. ‘The Brain Book’ that we haven’t really covered but is very interesting. ‘The Science of God’ which is Peter’s story to some degree, and also goes into some depth on meditation. ‘Waking up on Time’ which a lot of the interview was about in one way. So, thanks again Peter for coming in. Thank you for watching Conscious TV. I feel in a way in the interview we just got started towards the end, but we still covered a lot during that time. Hope we see you again soon. Goodbye.
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