Transcript of talk by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: Watch Video
From the Gathering: Technology, Consciousness & the Future, March 27–28, 2015 – Half Moon Bay, CA
Hosted by the Contemplative Alliance, a program of the Global Peace Initiative of Women
Well I feel very honored to be here. Thank you, Dena, for inviting this reclusive Sufi to speak to this august gathering. And if it’s contemplatives and science, then I kind of slip into the contemplative side. For those who don’t know me, I thought I should give a bit of background so you see where I’m coming from. I am by nature a mystic. I’ve been meditating very deeply since I was sixteen. And really going inward and exploring different states of consciousness has been the main direction of my spiritual practice for almost 50 years.
I do sense that we all have certain foundational experiences that may happen to us in the outer world or in the inner world, and I would like to share with you the foundational experience that is really behind what I’m talking about: When I was 23, a friend offered their house with a garden for the summer, and I spent ten days in silence on retreat. And at the end of those ten days, I was woken up on the plane of the Self, which was not what I’d been expecting, because nobody had ever told me about it. And as most of you know, the plane of the Self is a completely different level of reality: it is pure light, it’s pure bliss, it’s complete oneness, nothing is separate, everything is complete in its entirety. And it’s completely devastating, of course, because it is completely different to the world we imagine we live in here. And luckily my mother took me back home and fed me a little bit now and again for the following six months, because I was in that space, that inner dimension of the Self for six months. There is no time, there is no physical space, so one can sit a whole day in one place and it makes no difference. One can spend the whole night in meditation, it makes no difference—because that is the inner reality of the Self, which is of course our own essential nature: it belongs to all of us, belongs to life, and yet it is very different to the world we see around us.
After about six months my consciousness began to coalesce, to reform itself around this very different reality, because I was only 23—I had to return. I couldn’t retire to a cave in the Himalayas, much as I might have liked it, and there weren’t any ashrams with a free room. So my consciousness slowly coalesced, and I spent, in a way, the next 20 years learning how to live in this outer world. I was a high school teacher, I wrote a Ph.D., I got married, even had a family to be engaged in life from this very different perspective, and yet at the same time, as I mentioned, my focus was inward. What are these states of consciousness that as human beings we can explore? Because as many of you know, there are whole dimensions of reality that belong to the contemplative, that belong to our inner heritage, that we have the birthright to experience. And there are many different levels of reality, and that’s what fascinated me.
And then 20 years ago I had another experience, but this was very, very different. It’s interesting, I can remember exactly where it was that it happened. I was living up the coast in Inverness, CA. We’d moved there from London two or three years before, and I was just standing outside my little meditation hut in the garden, just about to go into the hut. It’s interesting: the experience didn’t happen in meditation, it didn’t happen in the meditation hut. Now if you remember back in 1995, it was kind of the beginning of the Internet as we know it. I’m sure many of you here who were really into technology were already well versed with it and already used it. I remember, because my kids used AOL and went on these strange things called “chat rooms,” and I found it a little bizarre, particularly as you didn’t actually know who the person you were chatting with was. I didn’t really use it at that time; it had begun to be present in our family. And then suddenly, standing outside my meditation hut, I saw what it was going to be. And I saw it very, very clearly: sometimes you’re given these visions. And I saw this network of light, network of consciousness. And what was fascinating was that it’s very, very similar to the consciousness on the plane of the Self.
On the plane of the Self, everything is connected through light. The plane of the Self is a plane of pure light, incredibly beautiful. Things are made of light; consciousness is light. It’s not a light of “shadow and light” as we have here; it’s pure light. You can call it “Buddha Nature.” I call it “Light upon Light,” because that’s the Sufi term. And I saw that the Internet had been given to humanity to give us access to the plane of the Self and the way the Self works in oneness and interconnection, everything being present in each moment of time, because that is how it is on the plane of the Self: there is no time there, everything is present. I saw it had been given to humanity to give us access, to give our consciousness access, to this inner level of reality without having to do 25 years of serious meditation practice. It’s as simple as that, friends.
Yes, you can get there if you do serious meditation practice, particularly if you start when you are young; you train your mind to be still, and learn how to flip a level of consciousness or be taken there through your spiritual tradition or your teacher. You can go there, and it works; it is incredibly efficient. For example, on the plane of the Self, all knowledge is present. It’s all there. There’s no past, there’s no future. Everything is present, and you can go there . And you can see that all this knowledge is there and you can go there. And then suddenly I saw this embryonically in the Internet in this strange thing called AOL and computers. And I saw anybody can have access to it. And at that time there were “cyber cafés” growing up; and you could have a computer in Tajikistan and communicate with somebody in Manhattan. And I saw how this could be, and I saw what it was meant to be, and I saw how it could come alive.
Twenty years later, that hasn’t yet happened. It’s interesting, people talk about information technology—it is not designed as information technology, it is designed as relationship technology. It is about people coming together; it is about human consciousness coming together as it is in the human innermost nature, but coming together at this level. And now, 20 years later, we have these little things called “smartphones”—or some people do—and you can be a part of this interconnected web of light. And it is interesting that the Internet works through fiber optic cable: it works with light, which is how the plane of the Self works. Wherever you are, you can access it. And there will come a time, hopefully—I thought it would be sooner but I was a little naïve—when it actually comes alive in this network of consciousness, of human consciousness, and begins to function as a living, organic whole. And that is very, very important, because the plane of the Self, which is our true nature, is a plane of oneness; everything there is whole, everything there is one.
And after I had this initial experience I started to have a whole series of visions about the future. They just came to me in the next two to three years. As I say, I’m a traditional mystic: you go into meditation and you get what you need for meditation. And, for example, I was shown that all of the technology of the future is already present; it’s there. I saw that the energy source of the future would be light photosynthesis—using light, completely non-polluting, and almost free. It’s there, it’s been designed, it’s waiting.
It’s very interesting, I have an elder brother who’s a professor of Math at Oxford, or was before he retired; and he said about making his mathematical discoveries, “You get the answer, then you have to prove it.” He didn’t believe in anything spiritual at all, but he said, “You get the answer.” It’s all there. No one has to invent anything; it’s there on the inner planes waiting for us to access it. It’s very important to understand this, because it’s how things actually work. I often think that in the West we’ve been sold this contorted vision of reality that is not actually how things are designed to work. So all this technology is waiting for us, but in order to access it—and this is why a gathering like this is so seminal, so important—one has to have the right attitude, the right consciousness. It cannot be accessed from a dualistic consciousness. It cannot be accessed through greed. If you want it for yourself, if you want it to make money, you may be given a little glimpse of it: like a possibility for Facebook, which is about people coming together. But if you want to make money out of it, you’ll no longer have access. It will fade. You’ll make something else out of it. It may be a good app or a good tool, but it won’t serve this bigger purpose. It’s very interesting, the man who invented the worldwide web, Sir Berners-Lee, wanted no royalties from it; he didn’t make any money from it. And compare that to a lot of people today who are using start-ups: they want to make money, and then greed comes in, and that’s not its purpose.
It is a gift to humanity and it is waiting there. So there are certain basic core values, like people have here: inclusivity, for example, the work Kurt Johnson is doing in inter-spirituality. It is accessible to anybody. It has to be. The moment it’s exclusive, it doesn’t work. The plane of the Self—anybody with the right attitude can go there, anybody with a smartphone can click on to the Internet. The moment you try to make it for an exclusive group of people, it loses its purpose and the technology that is waiting will no longer be accessible to you. These are basic core values of oneness. It really should be FREE. This of course was the beginning of the Interne:, it was free, you didn’t have to pay for anything. And then of course business and commerce came in.
Also, it should be in service. I love the idea of this gathering being in service to the future. It should be in service. The real innovations that belong to the future, should be in service to life, in service to humanity. Then they will be given. If you have that attitude, your consciousness can be aligned to where the information is, to where the technology is waiting. You don’t have to work for it. It’s effortless. When the apple fell on Newton’s head, he didn’t have to work for it: it hit him! It’s a gift, because all these things are a gift.
Now there is another very interesting point that our culture has overlooked, which is that everything seminal, everything really important is a gift, and it’s given from the inner world. This is very, very important. For example, the whole basis of Western civilization came from a gentleman called Parmenides, a pre-Socratic philosopher, mystic, magician. He created reason. He created rational thinking. And what the scholars tried to push away is where he got it from. He got it from the Goddess. He was taken into the inner world, and there he was given all of these teachings that were the foundation of Western civilization. It came from another dimension, just like everything waiting for us is going to come from another dimension; because that’s how it is designed, that is how spirit and matter work together.
How does contemplation, which is accessing different states of consciousness, work together with science, which is—how are the tools created to help humanity to evolve, to help humanity make a shift in consciousness? NOT how to get more stuff… please. We don’t need more stuff! We need a shift in consciousness, and the Internet is a beautiful example. But I give you another example, which people have forgotten. Newton gave us many of the laws that have determined Western science, so we think of Newton as a scientist. Now, he wasn’t a scientist: his main interests were magic and alchemy. Some of you may know that he had the largest collection of alchemical writings, and they were bought by John Maynard Keynes, the economist. Interesting! And Keynes said that “Newton was not the first of the Age of Reason, he was the last of the magicians.” And that awareness has been censored by the scientists who want to say it’s all about here, it’s all about this tangible world. But the worlds have to work together, the inner and the outer worlds have to work together, because that is how they’ve been designed. It has to come from the inner world. That’s why the scientist and the mystic, the shaman and the doctor, have to work together. When I was given these visions, I was shown the healing techniques of the future—very, very simple. They don’t need all of this complicated machinery—no, very simple. It has a lot to do with the ancient understanding of the Earth and the healing properties of the Earth. They’re there. They’re waiting for us. They’re waiting for a consciousness that is receptive.
And as this gathering is about technology, I thought I would describe a very, very interesting technology that has been lost. In the Middle Ages, they created the most beautiful technology that I have ever seen. And I happened to study it when I was in my teens. It’s called a Gothic cathedral. Now we see the Gothic cathedral as a building, because we only see it filtered through rational consciousness. It is not just a building, and it’s work being aware of this . First of all, I’m sure you’ve all been to a Gothic cathedral: incredibly beautiful architecture; windows that just make your heart cry; statues—if the Puritans didn’t smash them up—that are very, very beautiful. And just imagine going into a Gothic cathedral and imagine that vaulted ceiling stretching up, and all the light pouring in. And just imagine if you were an ordinary person in the Middle Ages who lived in a one- or two-room hut with a dirt floor, no chimney, and no glass in the windows. And imagine going from that building where everybody lived into a Gothic cathedral. I mean it’s unbelievable.
But as I say, there is a technology there, and the Gothic cathedrals were actually created from a “Silicon Valley place.” It happened to be in Chartres; it happened to be a mystery school. In this mystery school in Chartres, there were people studying music, the spiritual dimension of music. There were people studying sacred geometry, there were architects, there were masons. That was the Silicon Valley of the Middle Ages, from which all the Gothic cathedrals were created. And when you step into a Gothic cathedral, you are aligned through its sacred geometry, through the light coming in through the stained glass windows, which were traditionally made by alchemists they say. We don’t even know how to make that glass anymore. It aligned your physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies. It attuned you, and not only that, it attuned you both to the energy from above and the energy from below. Chartres Cathedral itself was built on a site, an ancient site, sacred to the Black Madonna, to the Earth energy. That is an example of a technology that worked with the whole human being in ways we cannot even imagine. Music was created for each building separately, according to the acoustics in the building and the harmonies of the spiritual body of the human being.
In Chartres Cathedral people have, for example, rediscovered the maze. They didn’t know how the maze worked. They didn’t know, for example, that it is designed according to a 13-pointed star, which is the esoteric symbolism of Christ (the thirteen, after the disciples); that when you walk to the center of the maze—which is your lifetime’s pilgrimage, going through all the planets—and then turn around, the rose window, incredibly beautiful, is reflected directly into your heart chakra; and how that wakes up the human being and aligns them with their own spiritual potential, with their own inner spiritual nature, and the energies of the Cosmos, and the Earth energy. I use this as an example of the technology in which the inner and the outer worlds came together, in which something is brought from above to below that respects and recognizes the Real nature of a human being and why we are here. That is why this gathering, any gathering like this, has come together: to strike a note, both of what is missing in this current materialistic, self-destructive, pathological (I don’t need to go on) civilization, and for the future. So that we don’t just leave a wasteland to our children and grandchildren; that we don’t just leave toxic dust, but we leave hope, we leave recognition that the worlds can come together again; that the inner awareness of the mystic, of the contemplative, of the esoteric, can be combined with the physical understanding of the scientist. So once again we can have technologies that honor the whole of us. It’s very, very important!
And just to go back to the Internet … I just wanted to end with a story that touched me very, very deeply, that shows both the light and the dark. Because one mustn’t be naïve, when I first stated doing this work 20 years ago, I was very naïve. I thought the world would wake up to an awareness of oneness; how we’re all connected; how we are part of this living organism of light and love we call life; how the web of life would be reflected into the web of light of a higher consciousness. But there’s something called greed, there’s something called darkness … I don’t like to talk about it too much here because it’s a polite gathering, but it hasn’t quite worked out like that. And one has to recognize the darkness. And I’ll just end with a story that touched me very, very deeply when I first heard it ten years ago:
There was a young woman, 14-years old, in Baghdad. And at that time, the war was over and the war was beginning. There was what they politely call “sectarian violence,” and the car bombs were going off every day in Baghdad. And this 14-year-old girl wrote a blog called “Baghdad Girl.” It became quite well known in certain circles. Ten years ago in Baghdad, while the car bombs were going off daily, a 14-year-old girl was writing a blog. She likes the Backstreet Boys, and her favorite movies are Home Alone and Garfield, and she loves cats. There is also a particular thing about the blog called “Baghdad Girl”: there were cats there. People sent pictures of their cats to her from all over the world. Now, there’s a 14-year-old girl in the middle of a war zone, and through the Internet she is connecting with people all over the world who are giving her love and support and pictures of cats. And it’s something deeply human. And this is again what we need to remember: it’s about what is most precious, what is most human, about love and care and concern and all those things that friending and unfriending people on Facebook can so easily forget. There’s a real connection here. This is where the Internet can actually make real connections. Because she was getting these vibes, this love and care from people all over the world. And it was shown how she was, on one level, isolated in Baghdad. She couldn’t leave: there wasn’t an airport then, or you couldn’t get to the airport. If you remember, it was unsafe. And yet people were relating to her all over the world. And to me that is the positive side of technology: it allows something to happen that couldn’t otherwise happen that is deeply human, that is about care, that is about us relating to each other in new ways and recognizing something human.
Now when I thought to talk to you about this example of technology that is really touching, I went to her blog. And I’ll just read to you the other side. Because she made her last post, last year in the autumn; and I’ll just read what she wrote:
“I started this blog years ago, when my heart was pure and my pain was little. The blog was supposed to be the true voice of Iraqis to the outside world, it was supposed to tell the truth that was never revealed by the media, and I hope the blog has done all that, I hope you all understand now that the war was unfair and its consequences were inhuman.
Too much has happened over the years and I saw too many people get hurt, we now live in a world where a widow with children is forced to leave her home with nothing but some clothes and suffer and fight so that her children can continue their education. A world where people are competing whose pain is greater. My feelings are no longer important compared to those who suffer more than I do, my writings don’t give them justice and don’t give me satisfaction no more.
ISIS is the latest and cruelest war on Iraq, they misuse the name of Islam and they will never understand Islam. They murder Muslims and Christians all the same, this is not politics anymore but it is the beginning of the end of humanity, whoever is responsible for it is definitely not human. This will be the last post I write to you, my friends. I give up, I cannot make the difference that I wished to make and I only hope that my silence will do better than my words.”
And the reason that I share this with you at the end is that it is deeply human, and to me those are the values that we need to hold that are most precious.
Technology as you all know has a darker side, and just as I was always taught that the beginning of all spiritual work is to recognize one’s darkness, to give a space to it at the table, I feel it is important at this gathering if we are going to work for the future, that we have to acknowledge the darkness also of the present time. Because it’s here; it’s in the air we breathe. And then we can, as mature adults, not as naïve as I was when I first saw this—how unbelievable! When I first saw it all, so beautiful, light connecting to light, the song, the song of the soul of humanity, all the possibilities for the future. They’re all waiting there, you don’t have to look very far. It’s a gift, because all these things have always been a gift. A gift from the inner world, like Parmenides was given, like Newton was given, like the Gothic cathedrals were given. You didn’t have to pay an entrance fee to go into a Gothic cathedral. You walked in and your soul was aligned with its highest purpose. You didn’t have to go to a workshop, you didn’t have to pay money: you just had to pray. J ust have to have the right attitude and then the gates of grace can open.
So this is, if you like, a prayer at the beginning of this gathering to bring the worlds together. Everyone has a part to play because we’re all part of this living organic, breathing whole we call life; and then the magic can happen. Then we can be given the future that is waiting. We can work for the future, be in service to the future. I was always told by my Teacher: “We live in the present moment, but we work for the future.”