Russel Williams - Looking Through the Horse’s Eyes
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello and welcome again to conscious.tv, I’m Ian McNay. My guest today is Russel Williams. Hello Russel.
Russel is a very extraordinary man. He was born in 1921, which makes him 94 years old. So he’s really lived a life in many, many ways. We’re actually in Manchester at the headquarters of the Manchester Buddhist Society of which Russel is the president, although he does say also he’s not a Buddhist so we’ll try and find out how that fits together later. I’m gonna have to condense a lot of this because so many things have happened to Russel over the years, he’s had so much insight, so it would be very hard to get it into one program but we’ll do our best and we’ll se where it goes. And he has a book which he did with Steve Taylor which is called Not I, Not Other Than I, which is partly biographical and partly about how he sees reality and there’s some questions and answers in there as well with some students which is very interesting. So Russel let’s start at the beginning when you were born… because you can remember being born?
Iain: So what do you remember about being born?
Russel: I remember it was not a very pleasant time at all. I know they make a lot about being born and the happiness- it’s not for the one who’s coming in. Initially, nothing particularly except being very very comfortable and then a great deal of pressure as though one feels crushed to death. You might relate it as you might say to putting a football through a six inch pipe; the squeezing. And then of course, the pressure releasing and opening out and suddenly one is aware of a sensation, which is totally different to where it was before. One can only say now it was cold.
Iain: It was cold?
Russel: Yes. But one didn’t know that then, it was just an experience, which was not identified. One could see - I remember it was in a long room and there were some windows all along, high up. There was lighting; I didn’t know at the time, it was gas lighting, a sort of warm yellow light. And sounds, they were like blows. And then one took in air, that cold air, and then cold inside it was like freezing, from the warmth. It had been living like a fish on warmth and now there was this cold air that had no substance, so it was really brutal. It’s only later we know to put names to these things but these were truly experience, just being conscious of these things. But strangely one didn’t see or experience it as suffering or discomfort; there was no such thought, merely a sense of different. That’s a strange thing isn’t it?
Iain: It is and from the conversation we were having before we started recording that is very much the way you experience now; things are just the way they are.
Russel: Exactly, exactly, I’ve gone back to that aspect. But now you see I can identify things as well, but I don’t need to, because the experience is sufficient in itself.
Russel: Yes so that’s the way I remember, birth is not a pleasant thing. And I wonder sometimes if the fear of death is not death itself, but the innate knowing of the rebirth that follows.
Iain: So what happens is, we’re born and we have sensational experience but we don’t …
Russel: The consciousness is there without thought. Therefore thought is not consciousness.
Iain: So there’s no names, there’s no judgement, good or bad… just the way things are.
Russel: Just experience. Just experience.
Iain: And then over time, two, three years or whatever, then we start to…
Russel: Then we begin to… one begins to appreciate things as a ‘bio entity’, because we didn’t know this. One is taught to be a somebody, if you follow me. It’s all taught, it’s not there otherwise, and consequently one is taught to identify things: a table, a chair, a person or whatever. You get taught these things, otherwise you’d never know. As an instance, for instance, unless somebody explains to you, how would you know what a lemon was?
Iain: What a lemon was?
Russel: Yes. You’ve never seen one, you’ve never heard of one and people talk about them, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ [laughs]. Someone offers you one, and you experience it and you say ‘Oh, I know lemon’. See what I’m getting at? You experience it and then you can identify it, without the experience there is nothing to identify.
Iain: Yeah and I’m just remembering and I’ve read in the past about tribes, very basic tribes in South America that are relatively undiscovered, they see things that we don’t see and the other way round we see things that they don’t see and it’s very much what we are taught.
Russel: That’s right. That’s right of course, it’s almost as you might say, in this sense, to recognise and appreciate special experiences is almost a language in itself without word identification.
Iain: So it’s all conditioning really.
Russel: Yes exactly.
Iain: Because when you were young, you write in the book, that when you were young you were very poor, but you were also very happy…
Russel: Oh yes.
Iain: …because you didn’t know that poor was bad.
Russel: No, of course we didn’t. As I say, people don’t understand what poor is today because when you’re born into it, that’s all there is and you’re quite content to be that way. When you get more then that’s where the problems begin because then you want more [laughs].
Iain: And you had a happy family and your parents were happy together?
Russel: They were very nice. I couldn’t have had better parents. Unfortunately they were both never very healthy. That’s one of the tragedies of life, but there it is. Had it not been that way I wouldn’t’t be where I am today. I’m grateful to them. Extremely grateful, I only wish I could tell them.
Iain: And you were never afraid?
Iain: Why do you think that was?
Russel: I don’t know. I’ve never been afraid of anything other than myself.
Iain: What do you mean by that… ‘Other than yourself’?
Russel: Well later, as I became a little older, it was while we were living in Palestine, my mother was in a sanatorium in Lebanon, my father went up to visit her and I was preparing a meal for myself and my brother and sister, and it dawned on me that there was something about this suffering that I ought to know about. I knew the obvious… my father was gassed in the war, his lungs were gone, my mother had consumption. Okay, these are illnesses, but there was something beyond that, mind you, and I wanted to find out what it was. I didn’t know how to, I didn’t know how to approach it in any way. I was frustrated and that made me very angry.
Iain: How old were you at this time?
Russel: Nine. Nine years old
Iain: So you knew that things weren’t right.
Russel: That’s right and I couldn’t understand why, or what for, or how to go about it in any way at all and I had to shelve it, but it was frustrating. So from there on things became very, very difficult.
Iain: Because you were close to death?
Russel: On many occasions.
Iain: Many times… you almost drowned several times.
Russel: And I was never afraid, it was always accepting it was, ‘Okay, this is the way it’s going.’
Iain: The story I like most about you getting in a dangerous situation was with the elephant? I know that was when you were five years old.
Russel: No, no, no, an elephant was not a problem to me.
Iain: But it’s a great little story that!
Russel: No, no, I don’t recall an elephant that I had a problem with in that sense.
Iain: Yea… the elephant came off the docks at Tilbury on its way to London zoo.
Russel: Oh that! I forgot about that, hahaha! Yes this was around the time just before we went to Palestine. My grandfather on my mother’s side lived about half way between Tilbury and London. There was a little turning on the main road that led to a little village called Aviary. Opposite across the other road was a huge sand and gravel pit where he worked. On this side he bought some old army huts - Nissan huts - from the previous war and turned them into tearooms. Now it was on a big… I suppose it was on a plot of land about half an acre. Now this was a time when the King of Siam had sent a white elephant to our King and of course to keep it company sent a grey one with it, and they were walking from Tilbury to London and they stopped there.
Iain: It’s just extraordinary that elephants would walk along the road to go to…
Russel: Well that’s right. They didn’t transport them in those days they had to walk. We all had to, virtually, unless we had horses… And they spent the night on this plot, so they drove some stakes in the ground and they trained them to the stakes to sleep overnight. And the dog that I assumed was mine in those days because we were constant companions…
Russel: Tinker. He got a bit a bit upset and got barking and got too close to the elephant and one picked him up and threw him. He yipped and I was just turned five at the time I think, and I started pummeling him with my fists. [Laughs]
Iain: You were hitting the elephant? No fear?
Russel: No fear just anger. My dog… [Laughter] Bit of a joke looking back.
Iain: we don’t have time to go into all the details of that but I feel that’s a lovely story. And then sadly when you were eleven years old both your parents died within…
Russel: Dad died. I was just turned ten and things were in very bad straits. And my brother being older than me, he turned twelve and joined the navy having just turned twelve. He got a good education out of that; in fact he stayed with the navy for thirty-five years. And I insisted I had to go to work to help mother so I had to go and leave school and the local clubs were giving special dispensation to allow me to work at that age. So at the time I’d been working about two months, mother died, she was so ill. Strangely, we were both, I was working at an engineering firm at the base of the hill and she was at the top of the hill on the same road…
I knew the precise time when both of them died, I was well aware of it, I felt it and I was happy because I knew they were free. I already sensed it in here, not out there.
Iain: So you knew that they were dying even though you hadn’t been told that they were dying?
Russel: Oh yes, oh yes.
Iain: Okay. When you say you sensed it in here, can you describe that a little bit more?
Russel: No it’s very difficult to appreciate for somebody who doesn’t know… You can’t experience something that someone else has experienced to that degree unless you have an idea what it’s about. But I will say this about it: it was a great relief. It made me happy to know that they were out of it.
Iain: To be out of their suffering?
Russel: Yes, I knew they weren’t dead. Their bodies had died, but I knew they weren’t dead, I knew they were still alive. How I knew, I don’t know.
Iain: Yes, they were alive somewhere.
Russel: How I knew I don’t know. Just one of those things…
Iain: And then you had to go to work.
Russel: I was already working.
Iain: But you had to support yourself.
Russel: Oh yes, that was even more difficult. I started on ten shillings a week, which was not a lot even in those days. It cost at least a pound to live on. Then I had to do all sorts of things morning till night. That’s how things worked out. I eventually finished up on a trawler because that fed me and watered me, it helped me, until I had an accident of course, and that went.
Iain: So you were fishing on a trawler out to sea and that was hard wasn’t it?
Russel: Very. Very hard indeed.
Iain: I don’t think we appreciate these days how hard it was for people in those days in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Russel: You do not what poverty is. You didn’t know when your next meal was coming or if you’d have one. If you could find enough money for a pair of shoes or such, usually you would hand it down to somebody else, who could not afford it. Honest to God.
Iain: Can you remember… were you aware of a life force, or a drive that kept you going.
Russel: Look there’s something that keeps you going under all circumstances. Survival instinct I would call it. There was never any thought of giving up, you carried on in some fashion or other until you got through, somehow, somewhere. You didn’t know where you were going. You were trying to get away from where you were.
Iain: The human spirit we could maybe call it?
Russel: That’s right exactly. Exactly. You would do anything you don’t want to do in order to survive, of course. Survival is the thing.
Iain: Then the war broke out and you started...
Russel: That was my salvation to a degree [laughing].
Iain: Yeah you talk in the book about enjoying the army; it kept you out of trouble?
Russel: Yes it did.
Iain: And it gave you stability, food and shelter and it taught you self-discipline with your emotions.
Russel: Yes that’s right yes. Very much so. You would never believe the state that the country was in at that time. I joined the army as a volunteer January 1940. The BEF were still in France at the time. I joined in Hammersmith where I was. They gave me 24 hours to wind up my affairs and join them properly. I said okay.
Iain: Yes. And then you also talk in the book about how you were at Dunkirk.
Russel: Yes that was by accident.
Iain: Yeah. For people who don’t know, Dunkirk was when the British army was surrounded by Germans and there was an operation to evacuate.
Russel: Yes, and it should never have happened. Everyone that came back that I met said the same thing. To use their language, the ‘B’s’ let us down. In other words they all ran out of supplies and ammunition otherwise they could’ve have stopped them. They hadn’t got ‘em,
Iain: Yes anyway, you were on a small boat, you went out…
Russel: We were on a small boat, we went out three days and nights ferrying them from the beaches out to the destroyers or frigates. We didn’t take them to land at all, we took them to the boats, in and out, in and out, in and out.
Iain: They were lining up and you picked them up in small boats.
Russel: Well look, each went at their own speed as best we could because these were only river boats remember, they weren’t made for sea, fortunately the sea was not too bad and we loaded up to a point. We only had this much leeway. Any sudden pressure and we’d get swamped. Unfortunately we were…The first trip was okay, it was the second one where the problems started, the Focke-wulfs and the Messerschnitss. And then came the Stukkas, the Dive-bombers and the odd shell coming over.
Iain: So there’s planes coming down and they’re machine gunning...
Russel: The stukkers, the dive-bombs, they had sort of sirens on them and as they stooped to come in this huge noise they made and you’d see them coming at you at about 500 foot they dropped their bomb on you[becomes emotional] Thank you. We’ll leave it there if you don’t mind. Even to this day it affects me.
Iain: It brings up emotions. Yeah. Okay, and then shortly after it was the Blitz?
Russel: Yes I became company manager in that period of time, keep me in the company because you had various platoons on different parts as you might say. We had some on the docks, Harlesden, marshalling yards. We had some on Barnsbridge, we had some in the central telegraph office, up on the roof, machine guns up there. Let’s say that with any reaction during the Blitz they kept losing their bases and had
to find new quarters to stay in and so forth. Make sure they got their food and everything they needed. So I was always constantly on the move. I went for many hours, many days, quite a few days without sleep in those times because it was so urgent. I had a bicycle at first but I chucked it away, it wasn’t very good, there was so much rubble in the streets you couldn’t ride it.
Iain: Must have been so disorientating.
Russel: It was as though we had to make order out of chaos, as you might say, but we managed it.
Iain: Yes. You also got electrocuted…
Russel: Yes well, that came about you see… it’d been quite a few years now since the thing had been built. Four or five years now; about four years coming up. And it was decided that I go and inspect the state of the transformers where the mains come in to the airfield. Obviously weathering on it because it was only a brick built thing with an iron gate, no true roof, so it was exposed to the weather. They thought it would probably need a paint job you know? So I went in to have a look around and I brushed against the shed and got caught. We didn’t know the insulation had been broken down, so I copped it and it threw the body across the whole three cables and 33,000 volts shot out. The last thing I remember as it went out; ‘Oh God I’ve had it’ Quiet as that. No thought about it. And then of course I’m way out in space. I became aware of a great light and then, ‘Something funny about this’, and then I realised it was me. I was the light.
Iain: So you were out and you were this great light.
Russel: It was me. It may have been a million miles, I don’t know, no idea. Just space, enormous and this light and I realised I was the light. And then something dawned in the consciousness, it didn’t say words but it implied that there was something needs to be done. I had to go back. And from the position looking down, could see this body lying, little doll, this body lying across these cables. The alternative was to go through and get born again. I had a choice.
Iain: So you knew you had a choice to either get born again, or go back in your body.
Russel: The idea was, it seemed there was an urgency of some sort. I didn’t know why or what. And well in that case we’ll get the body going again because it’s already mature. It would take time to get born and go through the whole process. So I went and got it back. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was to take a breath into that body in order that it could escape from the paralysed situation in which it was. One breath and it was out - puff. I became aware that my clothing was smouldering and the shoes of my boots were smouldering and my body was untouched. How do you account for that?
Iain: It’s remarkable isn’t it?
Russel: I can’t - even to this day it’s unbelievable.
Iain: 33,000 volts…
Russel: That the same thing would apply to other things. I don’t know how or why. I wasn’t allowed to die.
Iain: But you had to get a new pair of boots did you?
Russel: I did [laughs].
Iain: So you realised you needed to rethink your life. You had a new starting point. You had a job but you felt that you didn’t want to go on like this.
Russel: No. No. You see, whilst we’d been working I’d had plans with another chappie, colleague to start up a small electrical repair business because through the war there were so many electrical parts that had been collected, needed dealing with. So I said, ‘Ok I’ll start there’. But when it came to this VE Day, I resigned I said, I’m sorry I can’t do this anymore. I said to my pal ‘I can’t do this, it won’t do me.’ And then I looked at many different avenues I might have taken. Each one, ‘This is not going to get you where you want to go.’ I didn’t know. I took to the road, I was a mess, mentally, emotionally, physically I was a mess. I just took off, I wanted to get away from myself and everything else. I wanted to know, perhaps then I could clarify things. I don’t know how long I walked.
Iain: You just walked with no idea where you were going?
Russel: I just walked from where I was with a couple of shillings in my pocket, nothing else, and the clothes I wore. That’s all, just walked. I just wanted to get away from my self and everything else.
Iain: You slept in haystacks?
Russel: It’s very hazy. It’s very hazy. I remember one time within that, I was naked sitting on the bank of a stream, watching my clothes dry in the sunshine on the other bank on the other side. I’d washed them. I remember painting a fence for somebody, for a sandwich and a cup of tea. I just walked and walked. I remember once shovelling snow outside New Street Station in Birmingham just for a day’s pay, with a few others, down and outs. I remember peeling potatoes, digging them up out of the ground. One day I remember when it was icy cold I dug a swede out of a farmer’s field with my fingers. It lasted me for three days.
Iain: And so for several weeks you just walked and did odd jobs?
Russel: Yes walked, there was nothing. And then one beautiful sunny day I was walking across the moors in Devon and I came across a showman sitting in his broken down van. Sitting on the steps having a pot of tea and he offered me one as I approached. He gave me a job if I could get to Newquay by morning, about seventy miles away. He gave me a meal and a note to take with me. Because he’d got a - he’d started a tiny little bit of a circus. He’d borrowed four animals to go and his children were acrobats and so on. I said, ‘Okay, pound a week, and food, that’ll do me.’ Somehow I made the seventy miles to meet them as they left that place - survived. And I was with them until the end of the season. We finished up in Helmsby, Yorkshire. And he and his family went back to winter quarters in Brownhills, left me up there with the horses to keep them there for a few days and he came back with a horse box to pick ‘em up and when he did he dropped me off in Chesterfield, said ‘There is a friend of mine. He wants a good man, he’s on the theatre there, here’s a job for you’, so I went. So now I arrived I’d got a dozen animals to look after.
Iain: And you formed this special relationship with the horses.
Russel: During this time, you see, whilst we built the show, I looked after these animals and I built up a very….You can’t not love these animals when you live with them, day and night. You go tenting you live with them, you sleep with them, 24 hours a day, and you can’t not care. And I thought, these animals really do a good job and they were well looked after, absolutely, because they were the tools of the trade. Like a carpenter looks after his tools, a Circus man looked after his animals. There was no cruelty whatsoever. I thought if I could understand the true nature of these, I could perhaps do even a bit better. And I set myself that task; not allowing myself to form any opinions whatsoever. That took a bit of doing, but after three months I stopped thinking.
Iain: So where did that idea of yours come from?
Russel: I don’t know it came from deep within me, sort of instinctively. Yes. And this is the bit you see… how did I know that I mustn’t allow myself to think about these things, or form an opinion? Because it would be on a concept of some sort. Would that be right? Anyway…
Iain: For three months you just focused on the animals?
Russel: Three months I just focused on them, just observing feeding, grooming, doing whatever had to be done without thinking about it, it was just so natural. Then another three years went by and one morning, I remember it was in September at Doncaster, the last tenting of the season. And I was there on the camp bed, I woke up, I looked across at an animal and there was steam coming out of its nostrils. The next thing I know, I was looking through the eyes of the horse, and feeling it and knowing it as if consciousness had transferred. Wonderful. And then it reverted back to this…
Very strange, and then I had a look at the lions; I knew the lion. Then there were a couple of Alsatians, one of them came out, I knew that. I looked across and saw a tree and knew that too and I looked into this - oh dear…It was just the same, no different. Just conscious life itself, nothing else.
Iain: So it’s as if, when you said you looked through the eyes of the horse…
Russel: And at that point all the emotional aspects disappeared, weren’t there anymore. I was at total, utter peace. It’s been that way ever since. Nearly sixty-five years ago I think.
Iain: You were twenty nine then I think?
Russel: I was twenty-nine years old then.
Iain: Yeah. Yeah. But I’m interested to just go into a little more detail, so you looked through the eyes of a horse and it’s as if you were the horse.
Russel: Yes, and I see my own body lying on its bed.
Iain: You saw your own body?
Russel: Yes that’s how I know I was looking through the horse. Yes.
Iain: And you did the same with the dog?
Russel: I saw it and felt it. I did the same with the dog and the lion and the tree.
Iain: So you were in the tree.
Russel: They were all the same thing. They’ve all got the same source. It’s amazing isn’t it?
Iain: It’s extraordinary, yes
Russel: It’s beyond thought, it’s beyond understanding. But I know it to be true.
Iain: And how did that impact your life?
Russel: Totally, utterly different. Prior to that as you know, I was angry with myself. I knew now what I had to know. I knew what I had to know now. The only thing I knew, I realised that this this was part and parcel of what it was when it got electrocuted, what it came back for, but I didn’t know that I was supposed to use it for. I hadn’t a clue.
Iain: So when you were electrocuted you felt very peaceful and serene when you were outside of your body?
Russel: I was totally at peace out there but there was something to be done. Now there was nothing to be done, so I wondered, ‘What’s all this about?’ So I thought ‘Okay, well it’ll show me when it’s necessary. Okay, well I’ll trust that.’ So another seven years went by before I could understand anybody who knew what I was talking about. Wherever I travelled around, obviously I approached the clergy and people like that - no chance.
Iain: They didn’t understand what you were saying. [Pause] I want to go back Russel to the horses because there was a - maybe process is the wrong word - something happened with the horses after your opening because you could heal the horses, or feel when they were distressed?
Russel: Afterwards what happened was… later what happened was, as the horses were moving about we used to let the horses, wherever possible, loose in the fields if we had that ability. And on one occasion we did and one of the animals unfortunately stamped down on to a broken bottle and it was in great pain. It didn’t scream, that was somewhere else that happened, because horses don’t scream. And as I approached it, it was trusting me. And if you try to sort out little bits of glass in a load of blood it’s a hell of a messy job! [Laughs] And it let me do it. Very painful. And I managed to get it all out with the pliers, plugged it up and actually went down to the blacksmiths to get a new shoe made in order to slide the leather in underneath to hold the dressing in, and keep on changing it until it was healed.
Iain: What was happening between you and the horses it was like… they completely trusted you ?
Russel: They trusted me even to a point where... I didn’t know about this until we went to Newmarket. We slept there, we arrived there and built up on the Sunday ready for a show on Monday and of course having horses and so on, in a horsy place, what do you expect? People coming in. Every evening about half nine or 10 in the evening - it was dark… I was sitting on a bale of straw in actual fact, mending a bit of harness, and the boss came in to go through the trainers in the stables. They were talking quietly amongst themselves and then one said, ‘Hey what’s happened here?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?” And he said, ‘They’re all laying down!’ So I said, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ I was known as Bill in those days. Someone said, ‘Bill go outside again’. I did and the horses stood up. ‘Come on in, back in again for a while…’ and the horses lay down again. They regarded me as one of them.
Iain: They regarded you as…
Russel: ...one of them. I was on guard duty. I would lay down, one of them would stand up. Always one would stand up, like cows, always one stands up.
Iain: You also realised at this time (I’m reading here a chapter from the book) that you saw that space was the most important quality in the Universe, ‘Out of the emptiness things began to materialise’.
Russel: Now that’s something you can’t explain, that is beyond all understanding but it has such a depth of meaning as to beunbelievable. I cannot explain it, but I know it. There is so much in this area that I am so familiar with. And I can’t tell you, there are no words! How do you explain emptiness to anyone? Can you describe it? Does it have any meaning?
Iain: Well it does when you don’t have thoughts.
Russel: A great deal. It does to everybody on earth as we talk and we don’t even know it. Did you ever think that punctuation is the emptiness between words that gives you understanding?
Iain: The space between the words… yeah.
Russel: You take a simple little test. A sentence - punctuate it in one way it means this, punctuate in another it does the opposite. That little gap in the right place... You see emptiness is very important in your understanding without you knowing it [laughs].
Iain: We didn’t cover this very much, but since you were 29, when you had your experience...
Russel: A lot of years have gone by and a lot of experience comes with it. You couldn’t do it overnight.
Iain: What I’m getting at, is you say in the book that from 29 years on, till your mature 94 years, you only think when it’s necessary.
Russel: That’s right, exactly, and I’m quite happy not to.
Iain: So what happens when you don’t think?
Russel: I’m quite content.
Iain: You’re content and you’re aware?
Russel: Content in the sense that I don’t want anything, I don’t not want anything… I’m perfectly content to be what I am.
Iain: You talk about in the book that beforehand, happiness was something that you were looking for.
Russel: It was, but happiness is the wrong word because it’s one of the conditioned areas which you’re best without. Contentedness is the greater. Happiness depends upon this or that, contentedness doesn’t need anything...
Iain: Contentedness is just a state…
Russel: It’s outside of the conditioned area!
Iain: Do you think it’s possible to find this contentedness without having the experience and the realisation of being one with everything?
Russel: I’m quite well aware it is possible for people to quietly come to it without any great experience. If they’re prepared to begin to see - initially use their brain, yes. Start with thinking and the minimum aspect of understanding which then gives the guideline, and then following it through to become more consciously aware by feeling, you can make the transfer from one to another and within that almost definitely you will find it. You have to move away from all conditioned areas without any form of emotion of any kind.
Iain: That implies there is a process of moving away, is that really the case?
Russel: Oh yes, it can be followed by anyone. The main thing about this is… this is to anybody the most serious thing in your life, the way in which you live. Doesn’t matter how you live, that’s your importance; [the way in which you live] it’s the most important thing. Oneself is the main interest for anybody in this world.
Russel: Now, why do we do anything? Because we’re not satisfied with what we are.
Iain: We do certain things because we need to, we need to eat, we need to sleep…
Russel: Well, we think we need. Do we really need, or do we really want? There’s a big difference. Needs are very, very few. Wants are enormous. Can you distinguish between the two?
Iain: It’s a good question!
Russel: It is a good question. You see, now this is the area we’re dealing with! When we come to look… and here’s another thing. Have you ever lived your own life? No. On this basis there are very few people who have ever lived their own lives so far because (such as myself in the first place), if you meet someone who’s angry and making an angry point do you become irritated and angry? Do you take on their condition? Do you not carry it a little while and then pass it on to somebody else as well?
Iain: Yes, but on the other hand, to live your life…
Russel: Who started it? Was it you or did you borrow theirs, or did you create it for yourself? See what I’m getting at? So you see we’re sharing these things the whole time and not really living our own lives! Would you say there is a particular mode in which you live which is you? Are you the same person that lives in anger as what you are now?
Iain: But you see my more fundamental question is: do we have a life to live?
Russel: Not as an entity, no. There is no entity. As I see it, you see, there is only consciousness in reality. All else is delusion. Now even that’s a different thing you see, but that’s the realisation. I don’t live necessarily… yes there’s a physical body here. It was conditioned to a great extent and it was very unhappy with now. It’s now unconditioned and it doesn’t need that. It’s free and it knows darn well that when this body dies it will be totally free.
Iain: When you had the realization - you had the experience at 29 - was there any kind of process of letting go, or of integration?
Russel: It had already… it had already let go, it didn’t have to come back. It didn’t have to. It knows when this is released it will have to go and not come back again.
Iain: [In your book] you talk about all your frustration and anger going…
Russel: All gone, all gone.
Iain: Did all the programming go at the same time?
Russel: When the realisation dawned, it all disappeared. It didn’t come back in the body. It still contained all the anger all the emotions: it still had those. Thatcame later.
Iain: Okay so there was a kind of process, [using] my words, in terms of…
Russel: There was some sort of knowing what the true reality was, though I didn’t understand it at the time. Looking back I can appreciate it for what it really was: a great depth. A great depth. Yes, a great depth without any form of conditioning whatsoever. This was so utterly peaceful you can’t imagine it. That has stayed with me. But until… with the horses I made that change, or it made it for me, put it that way because I didn’t do it. Then all things changed... it remains in there: out of the body experiences even within the body… does that make sense? [Laughs] Bit of a joke!
Iain: Yes, an out of body experience in the body… disassociation
Russel: Yes …. it was no longer me anymore as an entity. I had a great identity. It was an angry one, motivated by all kinds of emotions, it doesn’t happen anymore. All it has is a great deal of concern and love for all things. And I am that quality. I am not a person anymore. But something out of that, where it becomes more specific, if there is someone in need of something it responds to that. I don’t know how it does it, it’s beyond my understanding and in fact, I don’t have to understand it. I know it works, that’s all and I accept that.
Iain: So I know that in this house where we are, Steve Taylor has told me you talk a couple of evenings a week.
Russel: Yes, whenever possible for me to do so, sometimes I maybe ill and not able to…
Iain: Okay, what actually happens between you and the people? Some of them are here now.
Russel: Ask them, ask them.
Iain: Well, the camera is not set up for that. What is your experience?
Russel: Well, I look from here... so I can’t tell you precisely, but I see a lot of persons, bodies sitting around here, and they all seem to be rapt in what they’re looking at. I don’t know… what they are looking at.
Iain: They’re rapt? What do you mean by rapt?
Russel: Yes they’re in thrall. Do you know what thrall is? They seem to be in that condition and they say nothing. I ask them and they say nothing.
Iain: They’re in a kind of trance?
Russel: Yes, a kind of... almost as if they’re in a kind of trance. I don’t know what they’re looking at. I’m looking deeper into them and I know they’re so at peace within themselves in these moments it doesn’t really matter. I know they’ll pick up everything as they go on.
Iain: The same way as you could look into the horses’ eyes. Do you do that with people?
Russel: Oh yes.
Iain: Are you looking into my eyes now?
Russel: No, I don’t need to look into your eyes because I’m looking at you by feeling and not by seeing.
Iain: And that is something that happens automatically with you?
Russel: Yes, I don’t make it happen. This is the wonderful thing that I find. As you know, people live at all levels - consciousness, thought, emotion. And this will adjust to whatever level there is needed, I don’t know how it does it, going from this to that just in a second. I don’t know how it does this. Ask them they’ll be able to tell you much better than I can because they’re the ones that are experiencing this and they see it happening. I think one of the strange things is (and I think you may find confirmation of this) that I can’t talk to a group. I can only talk to one at any one point in time at their particular level. Doesn’t matter how high or low it is and yet at the same time everybody else has gained in the same place. I don’t know how it does it.
Iain: So there’s a focus between you and one person.
Russel: It would appear to be and then it just spreads out... like light spreads out, I suppose. I don’t know how it happens, I’m not aware of the processes. All I’m aware is, it works!
Iain: One of the other things you talk about in the book is that when you’re with someone you’re totally with them. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a shop buying something. It’s not a doing attention it’s a state which is a total attention with the other.
Russel: Yes. It’s only them and the process. Shall we put it this way: in the Buddhism aspect, they talk of mind-ful-ness. Mindful? Actually it means an empty mind so that whatever the focus is, it fills it completely, utterly. So therefore within that utter fulfilment all the qualities are there within That are here in this, and this doesn’t’t exist - there’s only That, in here. Does that make sense?
Iain: It does actually!
Russel: Strangely it does, doesn’t’t it? It’s so natural. But how often do people give their full attention to things? There’s too much clutter with this and only half your attention here, and a bit over there, and a bit somewhere else...
Iain: I think, Russel, there are two things here and maybe I stand corrected. There’s me giving you my attention and I can do that through mindfulness, through concentration, and then there’s me being in a spacious space without the me so much, and there is attention happening, they’re different things!
Russel: Well, can I put it in this way: you for the moment are concentrated here on this. Does it fill your mind?
Iain: Well,... there’s a mental effort because I have to get used to your voice…
Russel: Well whatever, whatever, but then there is just this, operating momentarily within your perception
Iain: I’m fully concentrated on what’s happening here.
Russel: Okay fine, okay, whilst that full concentration is there, are you really there, or is there only That?
Iain: That’s a deep question…
Russel: Yes, isn’t it?
Iain: Say it again!
Russel: If your mind is full of this, how can you be full of self? Have you not given yourself away?
Iain: Well, there’s still... you see Russel, the problem is, there are still preferences running.
Russel: Then you’re not fully there then.
Iain: As much as I can be!
Russel: Yes, you see when it’s wholly there, there is only That. There’s no me, there’s only you. So I disappear in that because there’s only That. I think we can go back to something the Buddha taught to an old man a long time ago: ‘In the seeing there is only that which is seen. In the hearing there is only that which is heard’ and so on. Does that makes sense? Only that which is seen. What do you see? What do you hear? You’re seeing things, you’re hearing sounds, that’s all. Do they have any meaning except what you emotionally make of them?
Iain: Yes if I‘m cold, or the body is cold, or the body too hot, that has meaning. The state of the body…
Russel: Yes, someone is attached to the feeling. It made it mine, clinging. You see, all these aspects are there - of course they’re there, nobody said they’re not. But do you have to make them mine?
Iain: Maybe that’s a good place to finish: they’re all there, do I have to make them mine! [Russel laughs]
I’m going to show your book again which you did with Steve Taylor who’s sitting here with the camera: Not I, Not Other Than I. As I said in the beginning it’s great because there are so many interesting stories in terms of Russel’s life as well as some transcripts of some of his sessions with students, which also are very revealing in many ways. I’m also, as he’s been so helpful, going to plug Steve’s two books. This is the one with the Eckhart Tolle preface (Steve’s quite famous in many ways you know) - and it is Waking From Sleep, which did quite well. And this, is his new one, which he’s just given me, it is an Eckhart Tolle Edition, very impressive. It’s called The Calm Centre.
I thank you for watching conscious.tv and thank you Russel again for being here and I hope we see you again soon.
Russel: I hope so too! [Laughs] Yes I do hope so too. Interesting man, yes!