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An Enlightenment Interview with

Andrew Cohen

by Jordan Gruber

Andrew Cohen is a well-known spiritual teacher and the founder of What is Enlightenment? magazine. The following description of Andrew is taken from the magazine's website:

Andrew was gracious enough to grant Enlightenment.Com the following interview. There is also some video associated with this interview that will be put up.


Quick Index

What Is Enlightenment?

Impersonal Enlightenment For the Sake of the Whole

How to Surrender Unconditionally

The Necessity of Having a Physicaly Incarnated Teacher

Thy Will Be Done: Knowing No-Thing

No Guarantees for the Ego

Digital Darshan ... Perhaps ... But Global Awakening Unlikely


What Is Enlightenment?

E.com: This is December 23rd, 2000, and we're here with Andrew Cohen in San Francisco. Andrew, let me start with the obvious question: what is enlightenment?

AC: That's the one question that everybody asks me, and it's the one question that I hate to answer. Because whenever anybody asks the question, I usually come up with a big blank. It's a very difficult question to answer, but I'll do my best.

Enlightenment itself, the direct experience of enlightenment, is the conscious recognition of our deepest sense of self. It is a direct experience and recognition of a sense of self that is inconceivable by the human mind, which cannot be understood by the intellect, and yet which the heart recognizes is everything, absolutely everything.

It's really the recognition of totality itself, because in that recognition, one becomes aware of the fact that one has been, for most of one's waking life, conscious of only a very small fraction, a very small part, of what is actually here. It's almost like coming out of a very dark cave and somebody realizes that there is a whole universe out here that one really was very much unaware of.

So a significant part of what enlightenment is all about has to deal with the direct experiential recognition that there's an extraordinary dimension that most of us are unaware of. The other dimension of enlightenment which is equally important is the fact that in the recognition of that unlimited dimension of self, there is the discovery of the inherent, ecstatic, joyous and blissful, wholeness of life.

One recognizes that the ultimate essence of everything that is, is screaming, is constantly screaming, a kind of love and ecstasy as the expression of its own true nature, the degree of which is really inconceivable to the mind. Now, that is also calling anyone who recognizes it to become a manifestation of that wholeness and that screaming perfection here in this fractured world.

Most of us are unaware of our own depth and are unaware of our own inherent wholeness and perfection and live lives of pain-filled alienation. We are identified with the ego, the separate sense of self, and because of that fact our fundamental relationship to life is very selfish, small-minded, and self-centered.

The recognition of this depth of self calls the individual to become an expression of that wholeness and that perfection in this world. One is called to bear witness to the truth of who and what we are, and to become a manifestation of that wholeness in this world so that others will become aware through one's own example, not only of what the truth actually is, but what is possible for themselves.

So, enlightenment is the direct recognition of our own depth, a depth that is usually unknown to most people, and inherent in that discovery is the, shall we say, "command" to bear witness and to become a manifestation of that wholeness and perfection in this world so that this world can ultimately become a manifestation of the wholeness and perfection that it already ultimately is.

E.com: So for you, internally, how does your subjective experience of reality differ from, let's say, before you had your experiences that enabled you to recognize the depth of reality?

AC: I think that the fundamental change in terms of my own internal experience is that I know what's real, I know what's unreal, I know what's important, and I know what's unimportant. I think before I took the personal dimension of my own experience very seriously, and now I don't take it very seriously at all.

Impersonal Enlightenment For the Sake of the Whole

E.com: That reminds me of that whole bit in Castaneda where they talk about erasing one's personal history, not making a big deal out of it.

It's a hard word, "impersonal." The usual connotation of "impersonal" is you don't care, but you are saying it is actually the exact opposite.

AC: I'm saying it is the exact opposite because the degree to which we are able to let go of and transcend that which is personal, is the degree to which we become aware of the impersonal dimension of self and consciousness.

The more aware we become of the impersonal nature of every aspect of our own experience, including every aspect of our personal experience, we become aware of the illusory nature of our own personal history and personal identity. It is something that becomes transparent to us. It's not something that has no actuality whatsoever, but its ultimate significance becomes relativized to a degree that most people could never even imagine.

So when one recognizes that the personal is just a very small part of the whole, of what we really are, and the degree to which one is able to see through the personal, one begins to see that what the personal is made up of is very insubstantial. It's not real, it's not half as real as it appears to be.

Most of what we call personal is all conditioning, and when we cease to take it seriously we begin to also see through that which we call personal in others. As this begins to happen more and more, simultaneously what occurs is the awakening of compassion, because in the discovery of that which we are calling "impersonal," there is a discovery of a kind of love and wholeness and care that is the answer to every question.

Really, it is the answer to every deep and every profound yearning that the human being experiences. It's what the truth of our own nature actually is, and in the recognition of that in ourselves and the recognition of that in others, one's relationship to life is completely re-ordered. One gets to that point in one's own evolution where one recognizes very clearly, sees very clearly, that the whole point of being here is only discovered when we cease to live for ourselves.

In the profound and deep calling that I speak about, there is a recognition that the whole point of life and of existence itself, which is so thrilling, can only be known directly when we cease to live, and to have, and to know, and to be, and to become for, the ego.

When we begin to live for the sake of the whole and cease to live for ourselves alone, there is a profound sense of really coming home, and coming home in the biggest possible sense. Not only coming home in the cosmic sense, in an absolute sense, but coming home to ourselves, also to our own individuality, and also to our own body.

Suddenly we begin to feel completely at home in our own body being exactly who we are as an individual, and also as the particular personality, which includes all of our own personal history. Suddenly being exactly who we are begins to fit in the most profoundly perfect way to the cosmos as it is in the midst of the great unfolding. We suddenly find that we are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing for the right reasons, being exactly who we are. And everything begins to make sense then.

E.com: It's a bit of a paradox, that you get to be who you are and experience the rightness of it by no longer taking who you are so seriously

AC: Well, what happens is one ceases to take the endless fears and desires, cares and concerns, of the ego so seriously, and what one begins to take seriously is the call of the true self. The call of the true self is to live for the sake of everyone else, not for one's self. To the degree that one is able to take that call seriously, and to simultaneously be less and less concerned with the endless fears and desires and cares and concerns of the personal ego, the sense of being deeply and profoundly at home in this world, in this life, in one's own body, being exactly who one is, will reveal itself.

E.com: You're not saying, are you, that individuals don't have some sort of divine value and worth as who they are? We're all manifestations of the infinite, and incredibly valuable just because of that, aren't we?

AC: I'm not really sure what it is that you are asking.

E.com: Well, do individuals have worth even if their egos don't?

AC: When you are saying "do individuals have worth" I'm not sure what you are asking. [Laughter.]

E.com: What you ask people to do is to give up caring about themselves, their ego.

AC: For everyone else's sake. The idea would be to give up the endless fears and desires and cares and concerns for one's own ego, not for one's own sake, but for everyone else's sake. For the sake of everyone else, not for the sake of one's own liberation, but for everyone else's sake. Because, you see, the degree to which I am able and willing to surrender the endless fears and desires and cares and concerns of my own ego means to that same degree, I will be truly available for life, for others. That's the degree to which I am really going to be here, and really be able to respond in a way that is free from self-concern.

The degree to which we aren't able to do that is the degree to which we aren't able to be here and be truly available for life, for everyone and everything else. Because we're going to have our own agenda. And most of us do have our own agenda. [Laughter.] Most of us have a very big agenda, and most of us are very busy with it, but unfortunately our agenda is very personal, very small, very self-centered, it usually only has to do with the ego.

E.com: How do you tell, even if you have a more expansive agenda, if you are doing it for your ego's sake or not?

AC: Then it's not your agenda, though. There is a great call that all true seekers hear sooner or later if they go far enough into their own self, and it is the call of the self to surrender unconditionally, now, no matter what.

How To Surrender Unconditionally

E.com: And then, of course, I want to ask: how do you do that?

AC: The "how" is the willingness to let go of the attachment of the unfulfilled desires of the ego, right now, for everyone else's sake. [Laughter.]

So, the answer to your question "how" ... it has to do with the recognition of a willingness, a willingness to surrender the control of one's destiny. It's like jumping into the middle of the river and allowing oneself to be carried by the river alone, holding onto nothing. It's only at that point that a very mysterious and unknown power begins to act, and one finds then that what it is that one needs to know when one needs to know it will be revealed. Not necessarily when we want, but in the sense of being in a very safe place. And the more risks we are willing to take, the more passion we are willing to manifest, the more care and love for the salvation and awakening of others we are able and willing to manifest, the safer we're going to feel.

In a sense it is a very different relationship to life and a very different kind of experience, diametrically opposite to an ego-centered relationship to the human experience where one is always looking out for oneself first and making sure that one is going to be able to survive. It's like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, because one recognizes the call to do so for everyone else's sake, from the deepest part of oneself.

E.com: You have to be OK with dying, literally as well as figuratively.

AC: Well, what I'm describing is ego death. It's death of a life that is a relationship to life and the human experience that is fundamentally ruled and dominated by the fears and desires and cares and concerns of the separate ego.

It's a very bold step, and all spiritual practice and all spiritual experience ultimately points to that place, or that moment, in time when we come face to face with our own readiness or willingness to let go of everything for everyone else's sake, because we've been called to do so, right now, without any "but"s. I think it's always been that way and it always will be that way.

E.com: But having a living teacher, for example, can be very useful to people.

The Necessity of a Physically Incarnated Teacher

AC: Well, for most people having a living teacher is essential. It depends how far one wants to go. If one is interested in going very deeply into the spiritual dimension of life in a way that is very genuine, in a way that is very real, in a way that will genuinely call one to surrender all of one's pretense, then a real teacher is essential.

There have been rare examples of individuals who, through grace and destiny, experience extraordinary transformation without the help and guidance of any physically incarnated teacher, but the exception is not the rule. The reason that a teacher is so important is that a spiritual journey is a journey from the gross to the subtle, from a gross state of consciousness to a state of consciousness that is more and more refined, and that has greater and greater subtlety.

What we often find is that there are moments we become aware of that subtlety in ourself, moments of clarity and stillness where we see through the conditioned mind and come into contact with that depth that's always there, that is in our own self, that we have lost touch with. But the whole point is that when we get in touch with that depth, we become aware of a completely different perspective.

When we are lost in the fears and desires and cares and concerns of the ego, we see ourselves and our relationship to life in a certain way. When we have momentary glimpses of seeing through that relationship to life, of seeing through the ego's relationship to life into one that is inherently free from conditioning, to a place where we are already free and where there is nothing to overcome and no one to become, everything looks very different.

We find we have different priorities when we see through the fears and desires and cares and concerns of the ego. Everything changes – our relationship to absolutely everything – and the point is to, number one, experience those glimpses where we see directly for ourselves what the truth actually is, and then do whatever it is that we need to do in order to be able to live in that perception in all times and all places, through all circumstances, no matter how things appear, because there is really two parts of it.

One part is to see for ourselves what the truth is, to have enough depth of experience where we are able to see for ourselves and know for ourselves what the truth is, and then there is the whole question of endeavoring to live what it is that we have seen in this world amidst the overwhelming temptation of our own conditioned mind and everyone else's conditioned mind, to do the opposite. That's what it means to become a manifestation of that truth in this world where so many people are so deeply asleep and so lost.

So, it takes a lot of courage and a deep commitment to do that. It's easy if one happens to be in a state of consciousness where one is seeing very clearly, but if we live in this world, especially if we live a very committed and passionately engaged life in this world, it's very difficult to control our environment in such a way that the conditioned mind won't respond. So, in other words, how free are we able to be and how true to the revelation of enlightenment that we have experienced at our deepest moments? How true to that vision and that kind of knowing are we able to be in the middle of a hurricane, a storm of confusion, within our own mind and within the minds of others?

That's really the big test and the big challenge, to live our own deepest experience and revelation in this world, at all times, in all places, through all circumstances, no matter what. That's what a teacher will demand. That's what a real teacher, of course, will demand of a true student, that you have to live what it is that you have seen at all time in all places through all circumstances, no matter what. And then, you see, in the dynamic of that kind of relationship that becomes the dynamic of one's ultimate relationship to life, and that kind of relationship is the demand to live it, no matter what, to live it, no matter what ... this is the greatest challenge.

This is something I have seen over the years I have been teaching. It's not that difficult for a human being in the right circumstances to have an experience of revelation, to see very deeply into their own self, to see beyond their own conditioned mind, to experience the inherent perfection of all things, and to experience that call of the heart. It's not that difficult to taste that miraculous perception, but what is very, very difficult is to live it, and to also feel obligated to live, to recognize and experience that obligation to become a manifestation of what one has glimpsed, of what one has seen, in this world.

A lot of people glimpse the truth that we are speaking about, but they don't necessarily experience any obligation to manifest it. So, a relationship with a real teacher is one of consciously and very deliberately choosing to engage with that obligation in the form of the relationship with the teacher. The real teacher, of course, if they're for real, if they are truly liberated, and if they really have a pure intention, has as their only interest to kill the ego so that the individual will able to be trustworthy, deeply profoundly trustworthy in this world where so many of us are untrue, and so that relationship, entering in to a relationship like that is really almost ... it becomes literally a metaphor, but not even a metaphor, it literally becomes the act of consciously facing one's maker, so to speak, and saying, "Thy will be done."

And of course, you know, in the relationship with the teacher many things arise, because as much as one wants to surrender, of course there is a big part of oneself that doesn't, that wants to still keep the agenda of the ego, the agenda of the personal goals, despite the fact that one has made a choice to surrender unconditionally. Then in the relationship with the teacher one enters into a process of purification. That's how I see it now. It's a very dynamic process of purification with the individual who is willing to pay the price to be a vehicle for pure motivation in a world where truly pure motive is a very rare thing.

Thy Will Be Done: Knowing No-Thing

E.com: I think I'm confused, because when I hear you talking about surrendering in the way you talk about surrender, I hear this internal dialogue that goes, "Well, I could surrender that way, but if I were to surrender that way, I would shut down the camera right now, go home, and not do anything ever again. I wouldn't care about any of all of these things that seem important for me to care about."

AC: But it doesn't work that way, because, you see, as I said, surrender is the perennial call of the self to the self to surrender unconditionally without any "but"s, right now, for everyone else's sake. The genuine response, the sincere response to that call is "Thy Will Be Done." Not my will, but they will be done.

And what "Thy Will Be Done" means is it is no longer our life. So if it's no longer our life, we don't know what it means. We don't know. We literally do not know what it means. And even though very few people do, We have to find the humility within ourselves – even though very few people do – to not know. This is a big challenge for the ego, to not know. To not know what it means. To not know what it means to surrender unconditionally.

Unconditional surrender points to zero. Zero for the mind that is identified with the ego means not knowing. Not knowing is not a metaphor for an experience of stillness. It means there is profound humility in relationship to time, and the future. It means, I literally don't know. I don't know what it means. I'm going to find out, because we all do find out, we can't help but find out, but it means. "I really don't know." This is what the ego can't bear, the ego can't bear not to know, the ego can't bear not to be sure. In genuine surrender one really doesn't know.

E.com: And we're taught from the time we are small children that it is important to know as much as you can possibly know about everything. We get rewarded for knowing more.

AC: Knowledge is very important. One of the most significant parts of being human is the ability to think. And that's good. But when the ego, the separate sense of self, becomes excessively identified with thought and the content of thought, in order to experience a sense of personal power, it means that our relationship to thought and ideas becomes corrupt. Knowledge is good. Knowledge is very important But from the perspective of enlightenment, our relationship to knowledge is more important than knowledge itself.

So the great task at hand for the true seeker is to find out what the right relationship to knowledge actually is. The right relationship to knowledge is found when we liberate our notion of self from being associated with any form of knowledge. For most of us, who we are, our sense of who we are, is based on memory. For most of us, when we begin to think of who we are free from any notion of memory whatsoever, and any sense of being special or unique, when anything that we can recognize with the mind begins to disappear, we begin to feel frightened, intimidated, confused.

So what would it be like to experience deep and unshakable confidence in being who we are if that confidence was based upon a deep and abiding freedom from memory and thought? The place where we would be resting would be a place that was free from thought, free from memory, and from that place, then we would have a relationship with thought and with knowledge that would be inherently free from thought and all knowing, and that would change the whole dynamic of our relationship with thought and our relationship with knowing.

So once again it is the human's ability to think that makes them such an extraordinary creature, and I think too often spiritual seekers far underestimate the overwhelming significance and importance of thought. But if we're interested in liberation, if we're interested in being truly free human beings, we have to find out what a right relationship with thought is.

The other way to find out what a right relationship with thought is, is first we have to discover what no relationship with thought is. No relationship to thought is the discovery of the fact that we experience our deepest experience of intimacy with our own self and all of life when there is no relationship to thought whatsoever, usually to our surprise.

In the unenlightened condition, our experience of intimacy with self and with life and with nature usually has to do with memory or thought. But what we're experiencing then is what we've been calling personal. Certain kinds of emotions are generated through the generation of what we're calling personal. But when we experience a state of consciousness that's free form thought and free from memory, it doesn't matter who we are, we will experience a kind of intimacy with our own self, an intimacy with all of life, that is so extraordinary that nothing could ever compare to it.

We discover our own inherent freedom, our own inherent fullness of being, that has nothing to do with knowing any thing, but is a direct result of knowing absolutely no-thing, nothing whatsoever. And of course when we experience that state of consciousness that's free from attachment to any thought, there is of course a very mysterious kind of knowing that has nothing to do with thought. Through deepening our experience of the kind of depth I'm talking about, we identify less and less with thought and the content of thought, with memory, and this puts us in a position to be able to engage with thought, the content of thought, ideas and concepts and knowledge, in a way that is free from ego, free from self importance, and that's what changes everything, and that's the goal.

By really liberating ourself from any kind of ego-based relationship with thought, memory, or knowledge, we'll then be able then to engage with thought, memory, concepts, ideas, all forms of knowledge, in a way that is deeply and profoundly free from the ego. The ego by nature needs to use all of its experience, all experience, as a way to locate itself and define itself, which creates an inherently corrupt relationship with just about everything. That's really what the problem is. What's the right relationship with life, how shall I live? Everybody wants to know. The answer is found when we find what the right relationship is with thought, that's the answer.

So, getting back to what you initially said, we wouldn't know what is going to happen. But we have to be willing to find out.

No Guarantees For the Ego

E.com: That's the problem. The ego doesn't want to jump to letting go of itself unless it has a guarantee.

AC: Exactly. Exactly. That's like saying to God, well, I'll give my life to you if you give me a guarantee that everything will be OK. But you can see that that's the highest form of arrogance.

E.com: And the exact opposite of having faith.

AC: It shows how little faith. Exactly. Because the test of our faith, is having unconditional trust in that which we cannot see. That's the greatest test. The human beings that often inspire us the most are those who when they are being severely tested, severely tested by life, their faith never waivers. But those of us who are weak-minded and have little faith, the minute the clouds appear , the minute the weather even begins to change, we begin to doubt.

E.com: And curse God.

AC: It's the same thing.

E.com: It's the book of Job all over again. He never wavered.

AC: Well, that's what it's all about. You see, what a lot of seekers want, are looking for and waiting for an experience of unparalleled, unbroken ecstatic bliss that would never be shaken by any life experience no matter what it was. And they say, at that point they'll be willing to surrender. [Loud Laughter.] But until then, I'm going to hedge my bets ...

But, of course, an individual like that is not ready for the real thing. They are not interested in what freedom is really all about, which is giving up one's life for something greater than oneself. They are just looking for a way to avoid suffering. That's what most of us are doing anyway, or trying to do. And there's nothing really noble about that.

Digital Darshan ... Perhaps ... But Global Awakening Unlikely

E.com: So, talking a little about the mechanics of enlightenment, and the way it could apply to the internet and the web, since you were gracious enough to grant a video interview, some of which will appear on the web. Even as I sit here, and we're having this dialogue, I do feel part of my normal level of fear relaxing, and it is almost as if there is a certain sort of pressure, almost, that emanates from you because of your stable place that enables me to relax on a personal level.

Part of the theory of how the web could be worked the way we're doing it on Enlightenment.Com is that by people being able to see even a little bit of you – it's not like having a real-time, engaged living community relationship with you – but at least they'll be able to experience some of what you offer more directly. It's not the same as being with you, but it is a simulacrum of this. Have you thought much about how this might work or how we could best use the web in these ways?

AC: You are talking about transmission, right?

E.com: Well, we use the term "digital darshan" a lot.

AC: I don't know if the kind of transmission that you are speaking about, of consciousness, and the energy of consciousness can be transmitted through [long pause] the internet. [Laughter.]

E.com: In theory there is no reason why not ... I don't think we know how to do it yet, but you have spoken in your last book about needing to recognize that simultaneously everything is perfection and yet everything is evolving. Well, obviously, part of the evolving that is going on now has to do with this thing called the Internet that is just in its very baby infancy right now.

We don't know where it is going to go, or what it is going to be like, or anything like that, ten, twenty, years from now, but the vision that we have is that teachers who are realized will have greater access ... well, the students will have greater access to teachers and will be able to find who is most appropriate for them to have at least a video relationship with. Does that strike you as being possible? Workable?

AC: It's something I actually haven't thought of.

E.com: Well, that's our job, to get you to think of new things.

AC: I suppose anything is possible.

E.com: Would it surprise you if, people seeing video clips of you then decided that they needed to read your books or follow your teachings or come be with you?

AC: No.

E.com: I would think it would do at least some of that.

AC: I guess we're going to find out. The answer to your question is I think it could definitely have a powerful impact on people but it would only be a fraction of the impact of the direct experience. Obviously, what would be carried and transmitted would be a part of that, of course.

E.com: Do you think that spiritual awakening comes in pulses, and that we might be ready for a new pulse on the planet? The 60's seemed to be a time when a lot of people got involved in these sorts of things, and it seems to have gone kind of quiet, relatively speaking, and as we actually come to the new millennium for real, in the next ten days or so... It seems to me that now we're in kind of a time of relative darkness.

AC: [Laughter.]

E.com: Everything from rolling power outages in California to the very questionable Presidential election and all that happened with that to craziness in the middle East. Things don't seem to be particularly paradisiacal right now. Do you sense historical demise or do you have hope?

AC: Well, I have a lot of hope and am very inspired. I don't think in terms of any kind of miraculous global awakening of consciousness or anything like that that many people have been speaking about for quite a long time now. I believe that this kind of thinking tends to reflect a kind of superstition, where we imagine that miraculously some kind of dramatic shift of consciousness will sweep through the hearts and minds of millions of people.

E.com: Some kind of "Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon."

AC: Yes, right. And as a result the ] human reason will be dramatically changed for the better. This kind of thinking, I think, makes us feel better, and let's us off the hook at the same time. [Laughter.]

E.com: So the real work is each individual's real work.

AC: Yes, but what we're speaking about really demands everything from us, and nothing less than everything. Also I think it is frightening, it frightens us in a way that is very reasonable, when we see how dire things actually are and how much actually does have to change if we are going to survive as a species and if life on earth itself is going to survive.

When we really look into how much has to change and how much has to happen, of course it is very frightening. It relieves us if we believe or we think that a miracle is going to occur that is going to liberate the majority of human beings from their attachment to ego consciousness. That there will be a simultaneous and dramatic opening of everybody's heart in which they realize their inherent inter-connectedness with each other and all of life, and that they will instantly drop all of their selfishness and small mindedness, and will begin to express the kind of rationality and compassion for each other and all of life that is unprecedented in the history of human evolution.

E.com: Are things getting better over time, in general? Ken Wilber, for example, in his books points out that from his perspective, things really are a lot better than they were thousands of years ago. By and large we have more freedoms and less awful things are happening to less of a percentage of the population, and that there's a chance that things will get much better.

AC: In certain ways things are a lot better. To certain ways of thinking, things are a lot better. But at the same time unless a dramatic change does occur, it's very likely that we won't survive as a species. It's very likely that we might go into some kind of terrible dark age because of overpopulation, and rampant materialism and globalization and pollution and so many of the very real issues that are part of our world, so many of these real issues that we have to deal with in our lifetime right now.

So, on the one hand of course, a lot of things have changed for the better, but at the same time we are at a particular time in history where things are very dangerous. It's just part of the way things actually are right now. It's terrifying to face into it, to honestly look and see how serious and precarious the picture actually is. But the thought that there is going to be some miraculous shift in human consciousness that would save all of us, of course relieves us from the natural sense of fear that we would experience when we begin to face these things.

E.com: It seems ironic that the ego, which is concerned with its own survival, wouldn't take a real and actual notice of just how dangerous things are and that we would collectively do something about it.

AC: Well the ego has trouble collectively doing anything except when its own personal survival is at stake. [Laughter.]

E.com: Which it is, though.

AC: Well, it is, you're right, but I don't think a lot of us take it very seriously. If more of us would, we would be able to come together in a way that we haven't before. In times of crisis, in times of war, human beings are able to come together in ways that they ordinarily never do.

E.com: Is there any way from a more enlightened perspective ... would it be wrong to manipulate the ego to actually collectively take notice to do something?

AC: I think that's what all true teachers try to do, is to wake people up. [Laughter.] Once again, the call always has been, always will be, and is now, to cease to live for oneself, to live for everyone else's sake, and that's when everything begins to make sense. It's when being here begins to make sense. It's when being here, now, being who one already is, doing what one is doing, all begins to make sense. Only when we cease to live for ourself. And not one second before.

E.com: So the desire to try to suddenly change everything in one's life so that one can live more spiritually is just another avoidance mechanism?

AC: Not necessarily, as long as the aspiration and desire for change that you are speaking about would ultimately bring one to that point in one's own evolution where one felt called to give up the reins. If it led to that, then of course it would be the real thing.

E.com: Do you have any final words you'd like to say to people out there?

AC: I think we've covered it.

E.com: Great. Thank you very much for your time.

AC: Thank you.

E.com: You're welcome.

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