Francis Lucille - The Art of Not Expecting
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: This is a bit of a special occasion for Conscious TV, because normally we film our programmes in a studio in west London; and we’re very used to going into the studio, it’s all organised for us. But today we have an outside crew coming in to experiment, because Francis couldn’t make it to London.
So we’re in the middle of a week-long retreat that you’re doing in Rupert Spira’s home here in Shropshire, and we met last night for dinner and I really enjoyed our conversation. It was quite feisty at times and there were some disagreements.
I was just going to start by asking you something that came up later in the evening that interested me a lot; it has to do with the intent of the seeker. Somebody here was saying - and I’m putting this in my own words - that the intent is so important, the passion for the truth is so important for the seeker, for someone trying to find the truth. And I’m just wondering what your response to that is.
Francis: Yes, it is important. It is the only determining factor for the success of this endeavour. The rest is almost irrelevant, because the rest is about the abilities of the mind and of the body. The problem is that, if the mind is strong, it has accumulated strong obstacles, and therefore there is no advantage in having a strong mind. There is no disadvantage either, because the same strong mind which has accumulated the obstacles has the ability to deconstruct them. However, the sole prerequisite for success is the love, the desire, for the truth. That cannot be conveyed by a human touch - it is only conveyed by grace, which is God’s touch.
Iain: But the thing that interests me is that people will have awakenings in so many different conditions and situations and backgrounds. Certain people have awakenings who have done no spiritual work; they’ve had no interest in that. And yet something happens that fundamentally changes their life, changes the way they see life; and then in their own way they start looking. It’s almost as if awakening, realisation - whatever we call it - is random at times. It will hit someone who’s a seeker but it will also (I’m using my own words here) hit someone who’s obviously done nothing.
Francis: Yes, perhaps. However, we have to be careful when we use the word ‘awakening’: we may be talking about apples and oranges.
Iain: Apples and oranges [smiling]. So what do you mean by that?
Francis: I mean that what one person calls awakening is not necessarily the same thing as what another person calls awakening.
Iain: Well, that interests me, so let’s have a look at that, because the word awakening comes up, realisation comes up, enlightenment comes up, non-duality comes up. So I wonder how you see them; I wonder how you see them as different from one another?
Francis: Awakening would be the experience of consciousness seeing itself in the absence of objects, in its total freedom and independence, in its autonomy. It is the revelation of absolute happiness, of absolute splendour, of absolute love and intelligence - that would be awakening, or enlightenment. As a result of this transforming event, a gradual elimination of the residues of ignorance takes place that could be called the self-realisation process. That ends up in the continued experience of our natural state, which is the absence of any illusion as to what we are, either at the level of thoughts or concepts, or at the level of bodily sensations, feelings and sense perceptions. Now what was the other term to define?
Iain: Well, I mentioned enlightenment, and also non-duality.
Francis: Now, duality would be the belief in the existence of more than one reality. Non-duality could be expressed by the simple formula: “There is only one reality”. Another word, I think, which deserves to be defined is the word ‘consciousness’, or ‘awareness’. In my vocabulary, I use them as synonyms, perhaps because in French we only have one word for consciousness.
Francis: And consciousness is that, whatever that is, which is hearing these words right now. So we have a level playing field now and can start [laughing].
Iain: OK. Well, that interested me when you said, “Consciousness is whatever is hearing these words now”. It’s a good question, what that means, and not an easy question to always find an answer to.
Francis: Well, on the one hand, we’re absolutely certain that these words are not lost. I mean, there is a receiving end, right? There is some entity which is, in this moment, hearing and understanding these words...
Francis: ...they are not lost in some nothingness, in some... some oblivion. They are being heard, being perceived. And consciousness is precisely whatever it is that perceives them.
Iain: And are you saying it can be one thing or another? You’re saying whatever that is?
Francis: We usually believe it to be, if you come from a materialist vantage point, a physical body that does the perceiving. If we come from an idealistic or idealist vantage point, we believe it to be a mind. In other words, we identify this consciousness in most cases with some kind of an object which is limited - a limited mind, a human mind, a limited body. Now, my contention is that there is no experiential evidence of such a limitation of consciousness. We believe that there is plenty of evidence that consciousness is limited. We believe that, only for as long as we don’t try to take the evidence into consideration. As we try to look at it, we discover there is none. I’ve been trying for some time [smiling].
Iain: And you found no evidence?
Francis: Yes... Usually I do this with a group of friends, truth-lovers. We try to find whether there is such evidence, and we discover together that there is none.
Iain: And you still do this process?
Francis: Yes, it’s great fun.
Iain: Traditionally, it’s sometimes been the question, “Who am I?” Is that how you do it, or is there another way of doing it?
Francis: You know, all the questions, they boil down to one single question - yes, “What am I?”, “I want to be my real ‘I’”, “What’s the meaning of life?”
Iain: And what have you found the real ‘I’ to be?
Francis: What, the meaning of life?
Iain: Either. The real ‘I’. The meaning of life for me is a bit of a misused term these days; the real ‘I’ interests me.
Francis: OK... If we look at our human experience, everything we know, we know it either as a thought, or as a sensation in the body, or as an external sense perception; something we hear, something we see. That’s the nature of everything we know on the phenomenal level. Now our experience is comprised of two sides, if you will: on the one hand there is this phenomenal side and, on the other hand, the consciousness that knows, right? That’s all there is to our experience: that which is known, that which knows.
Now there is also, beyond a shadow of a doubt, an element of reality to our experience. If I were to come to you saying, “Your experience is a complete illusion - it’s non-existent”, you would say, “Wait a minute - in my experience there is something rather than nothing. What I perceive may be a dream - however, the fact that there is consciousness, that there is perceiving, is beyond a shadow of a doubt. At least to me”. Right?
Francis: And the fact that it is beyond a shadow of a doubt to me is sufficient for me to make the statement, “There’s something rather than nothing. There is an element of reality to my experience”.
So where does this element of our reality, of our experience, lie? Where is it to be found? Certainly not on the perceived side of things, because that which is perceived always changes; it is never the same; thoughts, perceptions, sensations - they come and they go. Since they are not lasting, since they are impermanent, reality cannot be found there. The only thing that is permanent in our experience is the consciousness side. Therefore, the reality of our experience, the centrality of our experience, the core of our experience is the consciousness. It is that which you call ‘I’ or ‘the Self’. So ‘I’ or ‘the Self’ is the reality of our experience.
Iain: But people perceive things in many different ways, and it isn’t necessarily always to do with interpretation of the personality or the senses. I wonder, is there a unique flavour for us as individuals that is still real, and not just the personality playing games?
Francis: See for yourself. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is an element of reality to your experience, and this reality cannot be... cannot belong to that which is perceived; because, after all, everything that you are perceiving could be a dream in this moment. Since when we are in the midst of a dream, we are not aware that we are dreaming, the implication right now could be that we are in some kind of a dream - I’m not saying a night dream, but some kind of a dream. However, that which is common to a dream and all the states is the consciousness of them. Therefore, since everything we perceive could be an illusion, and since we are so certain there is an element of reality to our experience, the only place where reality could be found is in consciousness. I rest my case.
Iain: I understand what you’re saying, and there’s something that interests me. If I go back to my previous question and put it in a slightly different way, I understand and I sometimes experience the never-changing and the ever-changing. It’s not my continual experience, but I have an experience of that. And there’s something about the never-changing that still has a ‘me’-ness to it...
Francis: It still has…?
Iain: It’s not a real word: a ‘me’-ness. It’s unique to me as a human being, and it’s not as if I feel there’s a manipulation going on from my human side. It’s like you are a unique expression of the never-changing, of the oneness, the ground of being, whatever we call it. And I feel I’m a unique expression… And everyone in this room is… every thing is a unique expression. So what is it about the different forms of expression that we can somehow explain? I don’t know if I’ve put my question very well but...
Francis: No, no. The answer is in your question. They are different forms of expression - that’s all there is to them. There are different forms of expression. But the form… the multiplicity is in the forms, meaning in that which is perceived. Forms are perceived. Forms belong to the perceived, not to the perceiving. So the distinction, the differences, belong to the perceived, not to the perceiving.
Iain: Yes, I understand that, yes. We touched a little on your life last night. I know you don’t want to go into a lot of personal details, but I’d just like a little bit of an outline of how you first got interested in - let’s call it - a spiritual journey; or we can call it a search for the truth. I know that reading Jiddu Krishnamurti really touched you and was somehow a catalyst for you on your journey.
Francis: I think everybody gets interested at some point in some way. Some people are born… they are born mystics; they are born with a love for the absolute stamped in the deepest of their being. Others have to go through some kind of absolute failure in their attempt to secure happiness, applying the recipes they have inherited from their parents and from society. That was my case, the second case.
Francis: But the circumstances are different for every single truth seeker or truth lover. And what happened in this case cannot be transposed to any other case. That’s why I am a little careful not to give you the impression that it has to happen in the same way or according to the same pattern. The varieties of expression of the divine are infinite, and She always surprises us. So that which can be predicted is the unpredictability of it, the unpredictability of grace. That’s part of the charm of grace, that it cannot be predicted, that it surprises us.
Iain: One of the things that I found particularly interesting… Because in one of your books, you do briefly describe... I won’t call it a process, but a series of events that happened and how it affected you. It interested me because my situation has been the opposite, if you like, in terms of my journey.
You were saying that you had the interest in Krishnamurti - it sparked something, it resonated with you; and then you studied a lot, in terms of reading Krishnamurti and other people. Then I think you found Jean Klein as a teacher… And it’s as if you learnt a lot of things and then, some time later, a realisation happened that was very significant.
Now with me what’s happened is that it’s almost the other way around. I’ve had experiences which have been hard for me to understand with my mind and hard in other ways as well; and that’s been the trigger for me to find out more. It sounds like you were almost preparing for something you thought might happen, whereas I’m kind of catching up with things that have happened. It’s taken me a long time to really integrate the experiences and see what it means for me as a human being living my life.
Francis: So you are just bringing some supporting evidence to what I said, that Her ways are infinite.
Iain: I’m also trying to bring you out a little bit to talk more about this subject, because it interests me.
Francis: But... what subject, the diversity of ways?
Iain: Well, I try and make the interviews practical in one way, for people who watch them and aren’t necessarily scholars of non-duality or whatever, but people who have had or are having experiences in their life. I try and give them a bridge, a window into a wider world if you like, because people are very isolated... I know that when things happened to me I felt very isolated, very alone with the things I didn’t understand. You have a certain clarity which certainly comes across in your books and in your talk last night or your session last night. And that’s what I’m trying to encourage you to express.
Francis: Yes, if you want to be practical, let’s try to be absolutely practical. Let’s assume you have somehow been served the wrong type of mushroom and you only have two hours to live [smiling].
Iain: I know this one, I know someone this has just happened to, yes.
Francis: Now what is the question that you would ask? What would be the most important question? Because in this circumstance my guess is that it would be a practical question, right? So what is your most important question? What is the question that would be yours?
Iain: So if I had two hours to live and I knew that was a finite time, pretty much… Mushrooms are not a good example because I know it affects your reality a lot! [Audience laughs]
Francis: Not right away [laughing]. You have two hours of...
Iain: Before it really kicks in?
Iain: OK. [pause]
Francis: Actually, only fifty minutes. [Audience laughs]
Iain: OK, these are super-fast mushrooms. Well, it’s interesting, because what comes up to start with is very practical things about tidying up certain affairs and wanting to make things clear. On a human level, for me that comes up as very important. And why’s that important? That’s important because I value my relationships with other human beings and I want things to be in good order as much as they can be.
Francis: Because of love.
Iain: Love is certainly a part of that, caring for people...
Francis: Love is that which is important.
Iain: Yes, yes. And then there’s the thing that’s always... I’m just thinking of somebody who wasn’t a good friend but certainly a friend and he lived in a... he lived in kind of an awakened state. He had a meeting with somebody and something triggered something very dramatic in him; and then he died a very painful death of cancer in hospital. In fact, in the end he died in a hospice, where people go to die in England. At that time I didn’t visit him because I wasn’t in such close touch with him, but people who visited him said that he had pain but he was also so excited. He was saying to the other people, “Isn’t this so exciting? We’re going to die! I wonder what happens?”
And I think that would be a strong thing in me, “I wonder what is going to happen?” And by that I mean, in your terms, “I wonder what consciousness really is? What truth really is?” Because at that point that’s all I have. I’m not sure about past lives and all the rest of it - I’m really not clear on that one - but that would be my question, “What’s going to happen now?”
Francis: But I mean, we know now in forty-five minutes... [silence]... [laughs]
Iain: [laughing] Well, maybe you’ve given me something I don’t know about.
Francis: The point that I was making is: that which we usually call practicalities - what we mean by that is usually money, relationships, cars, houses, retirement and a few other things... health... But when things become really... when circumstances become forceful, it turns out that these things are not important. As you said, love is important, truth... And in this forty-five minutes, what can I do?
Iain: What would you do?
Francis: [smiling] Wait peacefully.
Iain: That’s a wonderful thought, that you can wait peacefully, because I think there’s very few people on the planet who can say that.
Francis: “That which is, never goes out of existence, and that which is not, never comes into existence”. That’s a verse of the Bhagavad Gita. And Parmenides, the Greek sage, said almost the same thing, word for word.
Iain: So there’s a big question that comes up: how as a human race have we got so far away from that?
Francis: Is that important?
Iain: It intrigues me, because what is the human race? It’s consciousness playing with itself somehow; it’s still consciousness seeing itself. Why? Why does consciousness play this game?
Francis: Why not? So long as we believe that there is something to be gained or to be lost in this game, we may ask this question. But the moment we understand that nothing can be gained or lost, it’s like a theatrical play.
Iain: But we get so caught up in it.
Francis: Not one hundred percent. That’s why we enjoy tragedy [smiling].
Iain: So we partly do it because we enjoy tragedy?
Francis: We enjoy watching a horror movie because we enjoy the safety of the sofa on which we sit. In a way, the horror in the movie reminds us of the safety of our home on the sofa, and of the chips on the coffee table and of the coke or the beer, of the tea here. It is the same in the universal play: the movement in it reminds us of the repose in which we have our being; it points towards it.
Iain: There’s something about attention that also interests me - and I can speak personally on this - that I see, more and more, it’s where I put my attention, whether looking at a lower level or a higher level or whatever… it’s where I allow my attention to be that affects my experience. And it’s as if I do have a choice, in one way, to allow my attention to be as much as it can be with the never-changing; or my attention can be in various degrees with the ever-changing. Some give me quite a lot of awareness; other times, almost lost. Was that something that you had to work at, at all? Can you say something about that? Does that resonate with you, that question?
Francis: It fits into a more general framework, which is the question of free-will. How free are we to do this or that and, in particular, shift our attention from this to that? As an individual, we have the appearance of such a freedom, but we don’t choose our thoughts.
This is easy to verify. If we could choose our thoughts we could choose not to have any thoughts, or have only happy thoughts, or thoughts of a certain colour, beautiful thoughts. So obviously we have no control of our thoughts. Therefore, if we don’t choose our thoughts, we don’t choose the choosing thought that is going to shift the attention from a to b. We simply believe, after the shift has taken place, that we have chosen as a separate individual, whereas, in fact, the shift itself - or any thought or any decision that appeared - was simply a cosmic event.
Even in a materialistic point of view, where every thought that arises is a by-product of the electrochemistry taking place in the brain… This brain is made of particles dancing together that are entangled and deeply... in a deep connection with the rest of the particles in the universe. So that whatever seems to happen locally - the creation of this thought, of this decision - is, in fact, a cosmic convergence. Even from this materialistic vantage point, a cosmic convergence. So it is not a personal creation; it is not home-made, and by home we mean within this factory here [moving hands to indicate the body]. There is no such thing as a human factory of thoughts. It’s a nice hypothesis, but it doesn’t have four legs to stand on.
Iain: But it’s something as human beings we’re faced with as a reality. We have, the majority of us, the overwhelming majority, a strong thought process. In a way, on a human level, we need to learn to catch the thoughts.
I interviewed someone a few months ago, Dr Joe Dispenza, who’s done a lot of research about the neurotransmitters in the brain and how... continuously having the same thoughts actually tangibly reinforces the wiring in the brain. That’s what we do a lot of the time: we have negative thoughts over and over again which reinforce the transmitters in the brain. It can be tangibly measured, that the more you have the thoughts, the stronger the wires are that connect parts of the brain. If we’re aware of that and we catch the negative thoughts, then they get weaker on a tangible level.
It seems to me that, if we’re going to develop in terms of our spiritual journey, let’s say, that’s something also that we need to do on a human level, to work like that.
Francis: There is no way, in my understanding, that the human body creates its thoughts; it doesn’t make sense. The human body’s not an isolated system, even from the vantage point of physics; it doesn’t make sense. It is in complete connection with its surroundings at every moment. It has been conditioned by its surroundings and its genetic programming. There is no freedom there. It is the universe that converges in this event, in the local creation of a thought. And then the second thought - which is the illusion that I create my thought - is also a thought, which is a cosmic event that is created the next moment. In other words, the only existence of a local thinker is as an afterthought. During the thought there is not a local thinker; there is a cosmic event taking place.
Iain: No, on one level I understand that, absolutely, but I’m also trying to look at things more practically, but... [laughing]
Francis: No, that which is true is that which is practical. The only question is, is it true or not? You see, you could say in a way, “OK, quantum physics or physics is not practical - it’s theoretical”. However, this camera [indicating] is to a large extent based on quantum physics at many levels.
Iain: Yes, and that for me is what makes our journey as human beings so intriguing. There’s so many ways to look at things. That’s the richness that we have.
Francis: Yes, but there are ways to look at things that are reasonable and there are ways that are unreasonable. Let’s assume you have written several cheques and they bounce and your banker asks you to pay him a visit in his office. And he tells you, “You see, here is cheque number so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so, and here was the balance before you drew these cheques. And there was not enough, obviously”. And you say, “Yes, perhaps according to your logic - but in my feeling, there is enough”. [Audience laughs]
Iain: [laughing] Bankers these days do the same thing because they can make their own money.
Francis: You know, having been in finance yourself, you know what I mean, right?
Iain: I know what you mean, yes. But on the other hand, it’s an interesting thing you bring up, because I could then say the whole banking system is based on a complete illusion, because they just create money as they need it.
Francis: That’s true. Every metaphor, every image has its own limits, right? You agree with that. You cannot push the envelope.
Francis: But the simple purpose of what I wanted to convey is this: there are many kinds of things being said; however, many things that are being said are not reasonable. I tend to try to stand on the side of the reasonable.
Iain: I’m finding this interview very hard, and it’s... I’m wondering why that is. I kind of... my feeling is I can’t get in [moving hand upwards and towards Francis]. Is that to do with me, or you, or both of us, or consciousness? What’s your experience of what’s going on between us?
Francis: [silence - and then shrugs shoulders] Perhaps you’re not happy about my answers.
Iain: No, it’s not your answers - it’s my feeling.
Francis: My answers don’t really hit home, so to speak...
Iain: OK, that’s probably true, actually.
Francis: ...my answers, you kind of say, “OK, on the intellectual level... well, I somehow more or less agree with you. However, there are many other levels, and on those many other levels I don’t agree”. You are visiting the banker and you say, “Yes, if I make the additions, I agree with you. However, there are many other levels on which I don’t agree”.
So, in my view, you should then make the statement of what is it that... that... brings these other levels to the light of... of presence. Let’s see where the problem lies, or where the resistance, or the... [silence] ...I speak to you from my experience in the moment - I don’t speak to you from something I know, from the past. And I think it is only in the moment itself that we can have a real meeting.
Iain: I feel available for that meeting.
Francis: You are the interviewer.
Iain: I’ve forgotten about the interview. For me it’s a meeting. It doesn’t matter about the interview. I do this because I enjoy it. If the interview doesn’t work, it doesn’t work; it’s not the important thing. I’m not fixed on the end result. I like a nice result but it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing for me is the meeting.
Francis: I agree with that. It is the same here.
Iain: So, Dave over there [gesturing to his right] told me a few minutes ago there’s ten minutes left; there’s maybe now about seven minutes left. What would you like to say? How would you like to use the last seven minutes? You have something you would like to say?
Francis: I just answer questions... because it is the questions that trigger the answers. You see, if there is not the urgency, intensity in the question, the answer doesn’t come. In a way, it is the desire from which the question originates that pulls the answer out of presence. I’m not answering questions - I’m listening to questions, and then I’m listening to the answer.
Iain: I had lots of questions written down but, as you notice, I haven’t looked at any of them. I wanted to say I usually do a few questions, have a few on reserve, but I try to be as spontaneous as I can, just sit with the person and look and see what’s there. So I don’t have lots of clever questions to ask.
Francis: Yes, but clever questions - they are not interesting. True questions... A true question is a question to which we don’t have the answer beforehand, number one; and number two, it’s a question that really motivates us, a question to which we are eager to hear the answer, to have the answer...
Iain: Do you have a question for me?
Francis: No, because it is not for me to know what your questions are; it is for you to know. I cannot do that.
Iain: I have run out of questions. I don’t want to check my notes, so we’re going to end just as I like to do. I’d like to tell people you have a couple of books out here [showing books], Francis Lucille, and I’d like to thank you for coming. It’s been an interesting experience for me.
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