***
 

@

Mavericks of the Mind and Voices from the Edge contain thought-provoking interviews by David Jay Brown with over forty of the leading thinkers of our time on the subject of consciousness.

Search this Site

BRAND NEW !
David's latest book:

Mavericks of Medicine: Conversations on the Frontiers of Medical Research: Exploring the Future of Medicine with Andrew Weil, Jack Kevorkian, Bernie Siegel and Ray Kurzweil and Others

See Also:

Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse

 

In his latest interview collection, David Jay Brown has once again gathered some of the most interesting minds of today to consider the future of the human race, the mystery of consciousness, the evolution of technology, psychic phenomena, and more. The book includes conversations with celebrated visionaries and inspirational figures such as Ram Dass, Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, and George Carlin. Part scientific exploration, part philosophical speculation, and part intellectual rollercoaster, the free-form discussions are original and captivating, and offer surprising revelations. Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalpyse is a new look into the minds of some of our groundbreaking leaders and is the perfect gift for science fiction and philosophy fans alike.

 
 

 

Bridging Heaven and Earth

"When the body/mind has been attended to, then, as a flower free of weeds, the Higher Self will naturally emerge..."

with Laura Huxley

 

Laura Archera Huxley has received wide recognition for her humanistic achievements including that of Honorary Doctor of Human Sewices from Sierra University, Honoree of the United Nations, Fellow of the International Academy of Medical Preventics, and Honoree of the World Health Foundation for Development and Peace from which she received the Peace Prize in 1990.

Born November 2, 1911, in Turin, Italy, she expressed a great talent for music and went on to become a concert violinist. She played all over Europe but her American debut was at Carnegie Hall, just before World War II. She played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra from 1 944 until 1947 and then went on to produce documentary Films and become an editor at RKO. During the fifties Laura worked as a psychological counselor, a lecturer, and a seminarist of the Human Potential Movement, in which she is still involved today. She is the founder of Our Ultimate Investment, a non-profit organitation for the nurturing of the possible human.

In 1956 she married the renowned writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley, and lived with him until his death in 1963. She has written a number of books which focus on the development of psychological freedom: You Are Not the Target, Between Heaven and Earth, OneADayReason to Be Happy and The Child of Your Dreams which she wrote with Dr. Piero Ferrucci. She is also the author of This Timeless Moment, a book describing the life she led with her husband and a beautifully touching tribute to his genius.

We met with Laura on April 8th 1 992 in her lovely, chapel-like home in the Hollywood Hills. Her easy smile and bright-as-button eyes spoke of a serenely playful spirit. Together with her gracefuI posture, they revealed that after eighty years of life she has succumbed neither to emotional nor Newtonian gravity.

RMN

 

 

DJB: What originally inspired your interest in mysticism, personal growth, and spiritual development?

LAURA I don't know that there was one moment that it happened. It was just a natural development. You can call it whatever you want to--the creative forces, an inspiration. But all my life, and now at this very moment, I have wanted to go farther. It is so clear that there is so much more. This immensity, this beauty, this mystery all around us--and we perceive such an infinitesimal part of it. I guess it is greed to want to be more than a limited being with a limited body-mind. But you feel that the potential is so much greater than what you have actualized, and then something happens showing that you can go farther. That is a wonderful aspect of life.

DJB: So you see it as a natural extension of your own development?

LAURA Yes. When you feel the immensity of the possible, naturally you are interested in plunging into it. When you feel good, you plunge deeper. However, at my age--I am eighty--I often am exhausted. Then I have to stay quietly--I have no choice. And then again something new happens. It may be something distressing and I just have to deal with it however I can. Or something wonderful happens, giving me again the overwhelming apprehension of life's renaissance forever, even when death may be around the corner.

RMN: How did your interest in psychotherapy develop?

LAURA In 1949 Ginny Pfeiffer, my best friend, was diagnosed as a terminal cancer case. The Mayo Clinic declared with total certainty that there was no possibility for her to get well. Death would come in six months, or if a miracle would happen, in two years. It was a shock. It plunged me into all kinds of exploration. Until then, my life had first been devoted to the violin, totally. After that, I had started to work in films. I had never studied medicine, psychology, nutrition or healing. Actually, I had left school at fourteen so I could concentrate my energy on practicing and concertizing.

The doctors of the Mayo Clinic kept telling me, "Miss Archera, you must face reality. Your friend is going to die in about six months." I just could not accept what the authorities told me. And let me add that at that time at the Mayo Clinic the authorities were very kind and wonderfully supportive. In fact, I became a good friend with the Mayo family then, in 1950. But, I could not accept that death sentence. So I began to study everything under the sun. I went to lectures, and then started to actually practice on my friend. So that is the way it happened. Usually, it is a drama, a trauma that pushes us into something else, because I never thought I would be involved in psychology. It was completely out of my field.

RMN: So did it help her?

LAURA She lived twenty-three years longer. She is written up in all the case reports.

DJB: Wow. Well, I wanted to ask you about something that you talk about in your book Between Heaven and Earth--a recipe for living that involves the transmutation of energy through the imagination, the will, and the body. Can you tell us about this?

LAURA A powerful triangle: the imagination, the will, and the body. I mean the will is ultimately what is us. We are not speaking about that stiff will that betrays the body and does not accept the imagination, but the will that is attentive to the urging of imagination, and the needs of the body. That is a triangle that responds in all ways--because the body responds to the imagination. If you two would just imagine that there is a big tiger that is going to come right out and chew you.

DJB: The body responds.

LAURA Immediately. Because the imagination and the body are so close, the will has to take an overview and direct it. I have exercises for this triangle in my book Between Heaven and Earth. The will is basic, as are the two cooperators of the will--imagination and body. The will is the conductor of the rich vast orchestra of imagination and body.

DJB: Had you heard of this model from anyone else, or did you come up with it yourself!

LAURA No. I never heard it from anyone.

DJB: Well, I'll tell you, one time while I was in the midst of an altered state I wrote the following down in my notebook: Everything that exists comes through the imagination, is directed by the will, and expressed through the physical body. I considered it to be a profound insight.

LAURA Exactly the same thing, and so well expressed

DJB: Then I opened up your book and found it there several months later.

LAURA Oh really? Well, that's extremely interesting. You and I seem to be the only people, because no one has paid much attention to this concept.

DJB: It is a good model for understanding how everything comes into existence.

LAURA Including the placebo effect. Years ago, if a patient's symptoms could not be given a diagnostic label, the doctor would say, "It's just your imagination." As you know a certain percentage of the population is cured by taking a medicine that has no curative property; it is just a pill with nothing in it. How do these people get well? It seems to me that their will to get well directs their imagination which on its own, in turn, influences body chemistry. This is again the triangle we're discussing. I suppose that those people who are healed by a placebo have a closer connection, maybe a direct line from the will to the imagination and body.

I remember when I was fourteen years old, I read a book entitled Things Greater Than Himself, by an Italian author by the name of Zuccoli. It recounts the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who had fallen in love with an older woman who was hardly aware of his existence. Well, I was a fourteen-year-old girl who had fallen in love with an older man who was hardly aware of my existence. The boy became so sad, so desperate that he died. I became so sad, so desperate; but I did not die. And even then, I wondered: why did he die and I didn't? Now I think that maybe his connection of will (in this case the will to die) to imagination and body was stronger than mine! Actually that feeling of being surrounded, propelled, sometimes, exhausted by things greater than myself is often with me; by now I should be used to it! But I am not.

DJB: I know that you're fascinated with the subject of nutrition. What have you ]earned, in a nutshell, about how one's diet can affect one's physical or mental well-being?

LAURA When I was helping my sick friend, I went to Rancho La Puerta, a spa on the Mexican border. Now it is a very well known, beautiful, and elegant spa. Then it was only a few houses. I think we paid five dollars a day. There was Professor Szekely--he's dead now, but his wife and son are constantly improving the spa. I learned from Professor Szekely basic elements of nutrition. I learned in 1950 what is now being discovered, a simple obvious fact of nature. Nutrition is a transformer of consciousness and touches every point of our lives. In fact, when I look in the Health & Cooking section of a bookstore, I can see that the subject of food and nutrition is involved in politics and finance, in war and peace, in loveand hatred. Basically, all that has been written about nutrition from the point of view of the choice of food could be summarized in one page. I would say, buy food that is grown very near the place where you live, not something that is transported and preserved like a four-thousand-year old Egyptian mummy. Read Diet for a New America by John Robbins and you will learn just about all you need to know about food choices. But we must be aware that it is not just what we eat that's important; we must choose the food our body can metabolize. Now I don't eat any animal food, and haven 't for a long time. I eat one egg once in a while, but no cheese or meat.

DJB: Is this for nutritional or for spiritual reasons?

LAURA First of all, I know the way that animals are treated, and they're full of drugs. If I want to take drugs, I don't have to take them through a cow or a chicken. I like to choose! The animals are killed when they are full of rage, when all the adrenaline is flowing. So it is for taking care of myself first, and also to protect the way animals are treated. I wrote at length about this subject in Between Heaven and Earth.

DJB: So you feel that if you eat an animal that was killed in certain way, then you would be absorbing some of that energy state?

LAURA Yes, we absorb the nutrition and we absorb the toxicity as well. Of course, the miracle is that our body eliminates much of what is harmful, but seeing the increase in degenerative diseases, even among the young, it is clear that there is a limit even to the immense wisdom of the body. I have been a few times, not very often, on a fast. After a fast, you are more sensitive and you will know pretty well what to eat. You will know that we all eat at least twice as much as we need.

RMN: We become very sensitized to what is healthy and what is not.

LAURA Oh yes; and you will eat much less and be better nourished when you eat simple food and enjoy it.

RMN: Do you believe in vitamins?

LAURA If you had a perfect environment, the perfect lover, and the perfect food, you obviously wouldn't need any vitamins. But the way we live, with tension and noise and pollution, supplements are necessary. I studied the mega vitamin system and then I studied homeopathy, which are the two extremes. It is difficult to decide because the person and his or her situation has to be taken into consideration first. Even with vitamins, the basic question is in the relationship we have with them. For instance, when I was young, I could take niacin in large doses and it did me a lot of good. Now I can take only a little.

RMN: On the theme of mental health I would like to ask you a question about mental health institutions, which from my experience are often places for retreat and stasis, rather than transformation. Why do you think that during the past hundred years there has been so much theoretical advance in the science of psychology, yet the practical applications of psychotherapy don't seem to have advanced that much?

LAURA Psychotherapy profits from the science of psychology but the basic difference, it seems to me, is that psychotherapy is understanding while psychology is knowledge. Psychotherapy is mainly a humanistic and artistic endeavor-psychology is involved in scientific research of actual human behavior--on the other hand the psychotherapist's premise is that in all of us there are valuable latent qualities, which, given the opportunity, can emerge and flower. Apart from psychology I am thinking of the extraordinary series of lectures Aldous gave at USC and MIT on many subjects, not only psychotherapy, but also for the ecological situation as it was in 1959. Everything he previewed is here: in other words, the ecological situation is enormously worsened. Moreover, the inexpensive, practical methods he suggested have not been taken into consideration.

It has been said that it takes twenty-eight years for any good idea to be accepted. Well, thirty-three years have passed now and prestigious conferences about ecology are happening. We have to hope. We all have had the experience of giving a simple suggestion to a friend: take a one hour walk every morning; eat an apple last thing before going to bed and another first thing when you get up. Those are simple, inexpensive Rx, but the person, rather than taking charge, chooses to get a pill or go to an expensive seminar or psychiatrist; which is also effective, but it seems to me that trying a simple thing first is to be considered. Primitive cultures sometimes use very simple means with effective results.

RMN: That's very true. In many non-technological societies, such as exist in Borneo and also in the Amazon, there are ritualized battles where very few, if any, people get killed and the tribe is offered a form of release from pent-up emotional stress. So do you think part of the problem with violent crime in the West is related to our not having a socially acceptable channel for our frustrations?

LAURA Oh yes. Look, I was visiting Brazil with Aldous, and in Rio on a Saturday night we went to see a ritual called the "makoommba" The people would dance together, sing and go on and on and on and on. By 3:00 A.M., they be sweating and breathing enormously, the frustration was gone and they be laughing and dancing. Aldous spoke enthusiastically about "makoomba," how more effective and less expensive it was than lying on the psychoanalyst's couch. Now we know that while dancing, running, and swimming, the body produces chemicals called endorphins which give us a happy, elated feeling. We have our own inner chemical factory. We have to learn how to use it well.

DJB: So are you saying that the problem stems from just repressed physical ? Would something as simple as playing sports be helpful?

LAURA Oh that is wonderful, yes. That was the Greek idea. They used sports and emphasized the mobility and the nobility of the body. But even if you would take groups of people out in the open, near mountains or water or forests, give them just a little bit of ritualistic direction, like you were saying, it would be much more effective than giving them advice. They know it all already.

RMN:Or think they do. What do you think are some of the major psychological differences between men and women, and how can these differences complement one another rather than being a source of tension?

LAURA Well, I think that there is not such a great psychological and emotional difference between men and women. I think that we make the differences and that if we would accept the fact of androgyny, there would be balance and cooperation, rather than competition. Each one is both: every man has some feminine elements and every woman some masculinity. When I asked Krishnamurti a religious person, he said (among other things) that a religious person must be both man and woman--I don't mean sexually, he said, but must know the dual nature of everything; the religious person must feel and be both masculine and feminine.

DJB: So you are saying that you see the conflict between men and women as being an externalized drama of the conflict going on inside each of us?

LAURA I feel that it is educational and cultural, rather than basic. It seems to me that the wonderful work done by women for a more just recognition of women's talents and capacities is sometimes a bit flawed by a tendency to imitate man. A small instance: a woman can hardly buy a pair of jeans or pants without a zipper in front. Why a zipper? We don't need a zipper in front. Refusing to wear pants with a zipper in front would be a clear statement--and probably better pants.

RMN: Do you think men are beginning to get more in touch with their feminine side and vice versa?

LAURA Oh yes, because much has been accomplished. Men can feel fairly free now to cry, dress more freely, take care of the household, and take care of their baby. It is the best thing for baby, father, and mother.

RMN: We touched earlier on the idea that the mind affects the body. This is taken for granted in a lot of places--like in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. But still, despite the monumental evidence to the contrary, purely physical explanations are still invoked, more often than not in the West, to explain, not only physical, but mental illness. Why do you think this is, after so much evidence has shown that the mind and body are parts of the same whole?

LAURA Because of the great division of body and mind that has been with us for two thousand years. Two thousand years are difficult to overcome. The power of words, if coming from High Places and repeated enough times, is so powerful so as to obscure such tangible present inescapable facts as the body-mind interaction. Doctors go to school for thirty years and they are told that the body is a mechanism that you fix or you don't, and that belief has been programmed so deeply in their minds.

RMN: Why do you think it even began in the first place?

LAURA Well Aldous said it began with Aristotle and Plato and many others.

RMN: Really, the Greeks. Blame it on the Greeks.

LAURA Then the Catholics.

RMN: Because they wanted to control the spiritual mind.

LAURA The belief that the body is something dirty is overwhelming.

DJB: So you think it began long before Descartes divided the mind from the divine?

LAURA Oh yes. Before that St. Augustine condemned the body.

RMN: Have you found any one psychotherapeutic technique to be especially valuable, or does the success of a particular method vary from person to person?

LAURA There are many psychotherapeutic techniques which are effective in the hands of a capable therapist. However, the most important factor is the relationship between the guide and the client. My strong feeling is that any psychetherapy who does not include the body from the beginning is incomplete. The medical evidence is pointing more and more to the body-mind connection. For instance, our relationship to food and cancer; how body movement, breathing, running, etc., changes one's body consciousness; how emotion and personality are connected to degenerative disease.

In sum, it is increasingly clear and accepted that the way we treat our bodymind is the way our body-mind will treat us. The Golden Rule applies here too. It is amazing to me that the two main branches of therapies, psychotherapy and somatic therapy, are kept separate, when in fact, every state of being is either psychosomatic or somato-psychic. What else is there? I see the human being as a circle and all the points on the circle must be considered important. If you take even the smallest point out of the circle, the circle is no more a circle. The optimum is, in my view, that kind of education or therapy that contacts as many points of the circle of the human being as possible. To contact only the intellectual, emotional, or social points of the human being without involving the body through which the intellect and emotion are expressed is inadequate and the outcome is slower and not on the high level of excellence it might be.

RMN: Nowadays there is a lot of body focus and people exercising for health and vanity reasons.

LAURA Yes, and it does them a lot of good even though it's often mindless exercise. What I mean is synchronizing the psyche and somatic therapy. One must be aware of how the emotions play on the body and how one can use the body to transform emotion. It is exorcism through exercise. Exorcism means casting out the devil. So consciously exercising to squeeze out, push out, move out the devils of rage, fear, sadness, and boredom from the muscle. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the eminent biochemist, twice Nobel Prize winner, said that the muscles are the greatest transformers of energy in the body. It is one of the ways of transformation that is clear and available--always with us---at no cost!

RMN: Is this the principle you applied in You Are Not the Target ?

LAURA Yes, and in Between Heaven and Earth as well. And I add the dimension of service because service is what gives significance to the self by confirming its importance to the world. The relationship of body-mind and service should be addressed at the same time. In my mind, body-mind-service is the ideal education. I would not call it therapy- that would be an implicit agreement that a person interested and active in improving him/herself is sick. What I'm saying has been admirably and fully presented in the monumental book by Michael Murphy which has just been published, The Future of the Body. Michael Murphy who, with Dick Price, founded Esalen, being acquainted with all the greatest world teachers and their methods, realized that every teacher promotes a certain set of values while others are either neglected or suppressed. Murphy coins the phrase "Integral Practices," which I quote, "are practices that address somatic, affective, cognitive, volitional and transpersonal dimensions of human nature in a comprehensive way." A very important book.

RMN: Do you think there is too much attention given to the individual in our society?

LAURA It seems to be so. Had we the kind of education just mentioned, we would realize that we are little cells in an immense, inextricably connected organism and would not pollute the very source of our life: the air we breathe, the water, the food. We would pay more attention to the way other human beings are and feel. Service gives us a chance to be aware of that. Karen, my seventeen year-old granddaughter, just returned from a white water expedition, programmed according to the principles of Outward Bound, the greatest educational institution in the U.S.A., in my opinion. Karen told me that one day of the trip was dedicated to serve another person, who did not know who the serving person was; finding out would be the subject of the evening discussion. Karen said that she never had experienced in a group of teenagers such a profound peace, such quiet contentment. It is encouraging that a simple, inexpensive recipe is so effective; that teenagers, whose personal drama is so intense, can forget it for a day, and experience peace and contentment by serving.

RMN: What foundation needs to be laid for the spiritual to emerge?

LAURA The spiritual dimension of the human being is ever present, but often dormant, and emerges of itself as a natural consequence when we are ready--not as a goal to be reached. Spirituality has to have space to emerge; a flower cannot grow if overcrowded by weeds. Give it space and the flower will bloom on its own. When the body-mind has been attended to, then, as a flower free of weeds, the Higher Self will naturally emerge and service is part of its expression.

DJB: So you don't draw much of a line then between the body, mind, and spirit?

LAURA Right. It is a continuum.

RMN: Have the techniques that you discuss in your books--movement techniques and ritual---been used by psychologists or psychiatrists that you are aware of?

LAURA In 1963, when Target was published, there was much demand to organize a national network for teachers. I resisted the temptation; I did not know how to organize, and above all, my life was full enough. The recipes are used by some therapists, sometimes classes are organized. Mostly people use them from the book--I had and have the most rewarding and touching reports of experiences from the letters I receive from friends I have never met who profit from the Recipes for Living and Loving.

RMN: Do you think that the methods you employ would be beneficial to a person with a serious imbalance like paranoid schizophrenia?

LAURA The Huxley Institute and the American Association of Orthomolecular Medicine have, since 1957, conducted studies on schizophrenia and have demonstrated that specific nutritional supplements, like Vitamin B3 and B6, Vitamin C, Zinc, and others are extremely helpful and, in certain types of schizophrenia, have brought recovery. I believe that a schizophrenic person would be greatly helped by being grounded through exercise, particularly if he would understand the principle I mentioned before: to exorcise, to cast off devils by exercise. Often a disturbed person thinks and feels that he or she is persecuted or invaded by dangerous vibrations, enemies or devils.

A method that he can use independently not only would ground him but also would give him that power he so desperately seeks so that he himself can get rid of his persecutors. He could not only feel, but even visualize the devils coming out of his muscles--move his muscles, and since he is the only one who can, he would achieve autonomy and self-authority. Of course this would not always happen, but why not give it a trial--particularly with the mesomorphic type; the person with a prevalence of musculature might feel a liberation by using himself in a self-beneficial way; of course, alert supervision is essential.

RMN: This is going into the next question. Many psychotherapeutic techniques are considered by orthodox practitioners to be in the realm of the paranormal, even though many have been shown to be successful. Why do you think there is so much nervousness on the part of scientists to investigate, not only the paranormal phenomena, but also alternative healing techniques?

LAURA An investment, whether intellectual or financial, gives us security. Scientists protect their investment of years of study and work. When something new and different emerges, this does not mean that the previous work loses its value. So in a way, the resistance you speak of is the fear of being wrong, is that way of thinking in separate camps, of "either/or" rather than considering what can be valuable in more than one view--normal and paranormal, orthodox, and alternative healing technique. We can use everything in this complex life we are living.

DJB: One of the things that brings the body-mind problem to attention is psychedelics. How have psychedelics affected your life?

LAURA It was an expansion. I wrote about it in a book about Aldous--This Timeless Moment. It was something that gave me a larger view. Psychedelics open our hearts and minds. Sometimes we open on the aesthetic level, sometimes on the level of compassion--the feeling of compassion, and the beauty of the world, as well as the gigantic suffering in the world. This is the way in which they affected me. Probably a psychedelic emphasizes what is in an individual and amplifies it. But we are a crowd, and which one of the crowd will be amplified? We don't know.

DJB: That leads to the mistake a lot of people made when they first started experimenting with psychedelics. Because they saw their own positive qualities get amplified, they assumed that anyone who did a psychedelic would become more creative, more compassionate, more loving, and it just doesn't work that way. It takes whatever is there and amplifies it.

LAURA Yes. I remember very well when we realized that. Aldous and I were very, very surprised when we heard from Boston that there were many negative experiences. We always prepared very carefully, which makes a great difference. In general, if you take a psychedelic without preparation, it's risky. I know many kids do it, and sometimes it's okay, but then comes a time when it's not okay any more, and it's difficult for many reasons, one being that what is ingested can be any chemical mix.

RMN: Of the people who know about the benefits of psychedelics, some believe that it should be made legal and everyone should have access to it. Other people think there should be some kind of restriction imposed. What do you think?

LAURA I think that if we had it all completely free again, abuse and damage would happen. That is why Oscar Janiger founded the Albert Hofmann Foundation, which I am a part of--so that there is some beginning, at least, in being able to use and guard from misuse. If there is a beginning, even with strict rules, then little by little, one can enlarge them. But I think that if everybody can get everything that would not be a just way of doing it.

RMN: If it were restricted to begin with, who should decide who can take the substance and who cannot? What are the qualities and qualifications such a person should possess?

LAURA That is the question. First of all, one would have to have experienced it oneself, and one should not try to get any gain from this at all. One's own opinions and personality should be put aside, at least as much as possible. It is difficult to put them aside all together, but one can try to put them aside as much as possible. If you are asking about the role of the guide, probably it is easier to say what the guide must not do: not patronize, not preach, not impose, not do nothing, not come to quick conclusions, not deny intuition, not believe intuition as if it were God dictated, not deny common sense, not deny evidence, not accept evidence only, not be intensely personal, not be intensely impersonal, not be only masculine, not be only feminine.

DJB: Is that not the same as the role of any guide or teacher?

LAURA Yes. However, if you refer to a period of therapy in general rather than one single psychedelic experience, I would add that, in the beginning, the guide dances with the student, imperceptibly, now and then, exchanging leadership. After a while, the guide dances the student's dance, but adds to it an higher octave and a rock-strong basso continuo. Dovetailed between the two, the student is supported and inspired in leading his own dance. Finally, strong and free, the student soars alone to new heights. Let me immediately add that all this is easier said than done, but I followed that famous quote of Browning even before I knew it: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's heaven for?" It's a bit tiring at times to stretch like that, but it gives life a fascinating flavor.

DJB: What role do you see psychedelics playing in the future?

LAURA That is almost like asking: what do you see for the future of this planet? We are at a point where just about anything can happen. If the negative happens, the psychedelics will have a bad role to play because many people will get sick on it. If what we tried to do-to encourage consciousness and responsibility-begins to happen, then psychedelics would be a help. Finally, it is the interplay between the outer stimuli which continuously effect us and our reaction to them--and to what extent are we responsible for our reactions? We can say I am 100% responsible, and that is a lovely thought.

But how much of the 100% is our destiny and how much is our personal will? And when do we follow our destiny and when do we follow our personal will? I think it is lucky that such a question, it seems to me, cannot be answered totally, because should I believe that i am totally at the mercy of my destiny, then I may become lethargic and be just a leaf in the wind. On the other hand, should I believe that I have full powers over my destiny, I would become a harsh judge of others who would appear to me to be just drifting. Years ago, I tried to devise a recipe entitled Be What You Are which was based on a line of Shakespeare. "Who is he who can tell me who I am?" I tried hard but never succeeded. I believe in the perfectibility of the human race and in the support we can give each other in evolving. But that is all I believe.

RMN: Do you believe that people who have seen further, and have more awareness, have a responsibility to others?

LAURA Absolutely yes. Those of us who have been given more gifts certainly have a responsibility for others.

DJB: If you could sum up the central message that you got from the time you spent with Aldous, what would you say that you learned from him?

LAURA He said it himself. I can do no better than what he said. It was at this important meeting of outstanding scientists in Santa Barbara. Everyone was very serious, and they said, well, Mr. Huxley, what is your final advice after all these years of inquiry? He said, "I'm very embarrassed because I worked for forty years, I studied everything around, I did experiments, I went to several countries, and all I can tell you is to be just a little kinder to each other."

DJB: That takes a lot of learning.

LAURA You're absolutely right. It takes a lot of learning and living and loving and suffering.

DJB: It seems obvious but it's not.

LAURA Often the obvious things are the ones that are the most difficult to understand and appreciate. It seems obvious that we breathe. You know we do breathe, but do we understand it? Do we appreciate it? No---we only begin to appreciate it when we suffocate.

DJB: How do you think the LSD that Aldous asked for as he was dying influenced his dying process?

LAURA It went so smoothly. He did ask for it and he knew exactly what he was doing. It is my belief that it made it very easy for him. This doesn't mean that it would make it easy for everybody else. Remember that this is, again, the process of one person--a person who had prepared himself for this event throughout his life. He asked for it at the right time, too, just six hours before he died. He asked for a big sheet of paper; he evidently knew that he could not handle small handwriting. Then he wrote his own recipe: "Try LSD 100 mm intramuscular." During the week prior to his death, I had been thinking that maybe I should mention it. I was alert as to when he was going to ask me for it. It was not until that moment, at about 11:00. Then he died about 5:00.

DJB: I read in one of your books that people seem to have two basic approaches to death. Some want to die in their sleep, and go as unconsciously as possible. Others see it as an adventure, and want to go as lucid and aware as possible.

LAURA Yes, that's right. Probably one of the reasons is whether one is naturally afraid to be unconscious or not. It seems to me at this point in my life, when I'm feeling good, my choice would be to be very conscious, aware of this process that must be fantastic. But it is easy to speak this way when you're alive and well. It is easy to speak this way when you are not in agonizing pain, when you're not undergoing the division of the body from its vitalizing essence. So I do not know what I would say then. But today I feel this way. What is the date today? Write down the time and date, because I may change my mind.

DJB: What do you think happens to human consciousness after death?

LAURA I think and feel that it goes on. I can't imagine that this extraordinary complex of feeling, thought, and whatever else, just vanishes. I believe that it goes on; but how is a mystery. Perhaps it goes on into vibrations, or into other bodies, or into something totally different and unknown to us.

DJB: I read about the medium and the bookcase experience that you wrote about at the end of This Timeless Moment; that suggested the possibility of contact with Aldous after he had passed on into the afterlife.

LAURA That was extraordinary wasn't it? I never speak about that because I wrote it with such exactness. I think that if I were to speak about it, I would not remember the moment, the time, and all that exactly. What I have written is absolutely correct.

DJB: Have you had any other experiences where you felt the presence of Aldous after he had died?

LAURA I went to one or two other mediums who also gave me a very strong presence, but not like that one. That one was...

DJB: Uncanny.

LAURA That's right.

RMN: Would you describe yourself as a religious person?

LAURA It depends on what you mean by religion. I don't know exactly. What does religion mean anyway?

RMN: In Latin it means "to be tied back," the idea being that one's spirit is bound to God in some way. I guess you can interpret God however you want.

LAURA Well, I eat God every day when I have a meal.

RMN: Okay, let's put it another way. What's your personal understanding of God, apart from food?

LAURA I think--I feel--that there is an immense power; something that is so incredible that we cannot even imagine it--it has so much more imagination than we have. So that when we imagine God, we just imagine as far as we can imagine. But our imagination is very limited when you think of all the flowers and stars. You think of a star, and you think of a cell, and it's mind-boggling.

DJB: Yeah, we can't even grasp ourselves, let alone a supreme being of cosmic proportions.

LAURA Exactly. How can we grapple with God when we don't even understand the simplest of things? I don't even know what goes on when I speak to you, or how you hear and how you interpret what you hear and how this influences what I am going to say, etc., etc.

RMN: Why do you think that people get so hyped up about religion, which causes so much war and devastation? Why do people get so worked up about trying to prove one god against another god?

LAURA I think that we've come once again to a basic problem: fear. Suppose that a person has been worshipping a certain god with millions of other people. That gives security. It is like saying, "Millions of us cannot be wrong; we have the best god." These persons' security is threatened by the possibility that there is another and a better god, the possibility that "Maybe I am wrong." It's again the fear, the fear of being wrong. Of course, I may be wrong; who isn't? But being wrong could be grist for the mill--the possibility of discovery. The greatest blessing of all time would be the presence of a Genius of Love who could diminish the Global Fear even a little bit. Fear is the most widespread, malignant, infectious disease.

RMN: Do you think you could define consciousness?

LAURA I would equate it with life, and life has many different levels of consciousness. In general when we say "consciousness," we mean that particular consciousness of which we are aware: the consciousness that becomes aware of itself. But there is a lot of consciousness that is, but is not aware of being, and of which we are not aware.

DJB: To some people there is just simply consciousness and unconsciousness.

LAURA Oh no, no.

DJB: Obviously there are many, many stages and levels.

LAURA Yes, oh yes. I believe that's why it is so interesting to be alive-because there is just so much that we don't know, because there lies forever still another surprise. How sad life would be for the person who knows everything!

RMN: Do you think that humanity is evolving towards, to use Nina Graboi's phrase, a "species-wide enlightenment"?

LAURA There are some good signs. The problem is that it is so slow. But if you compare what was going on in the Middle Ages--for instance, what was going on with child labor, and how people who were mentally upset were put into dungeons we see that there is an evolution. The point that my husband made again and again is that the real problem is overpopulation, which makes evolution much slower. Because there is such a large number of us, evolution is very slow. The more mass there is, the slower the evolution.

DJB: What was it that inspired you to write your beautiful book for children OneADayReason To Be Happy?

LAURA Because it seemed so natural. We think that children have such a good time; but often life is quite difficult for them. The same for teachers--besides parents, they are the most underrated, unappreciated, underpaid class in America. Teachers work hard to make school meaningful for children and children should acknowledge that. So I thought that children who do not yet read and write could have the equivalent of homework everyday, in the form of bringing to the teacher and class one reason to be happy they had that day; and then if a child says, "No, I have no reason to be happy; nothing is good for me, yesterday was terrible," then all the other children have an opportunity to surround him and say, "Look, we like you just the same and it's fine." There again such a little recipe, yet it could brighten the classroom and give the children the joy of being grateful; and to the teacher a measure of appreciation as well as a look into the student's life.

DJB: I was curious about how adopting a granddaughter at the age of sixty-three affected your life?

LAURA Oh! It affected my life! Tremendously! It is unbelievable. People sixty-three years apart are in different worlds, but it is very touching sometimes because she has this extraordinary kind of insight. Karen is seventeen now, and is just graduating from high school. She took me to all kinds of worlds that I had no idea existed. You see, I was brought up in a very conservative family in Turino, in Northern Italy--a totally different universe. Even if it were just one or two generations it would be different, but this is just so different.

I see that there is, of course, all the weight of this society which is not for a teenager to be heaped upon her. This continuous, continuous, continuous stimulation is really very difficult to deal with. I mean, I used to go to a movie, maybe once, or twice a month. Here we can push a button and have one hundred movies any time of the day or night, and many, if not most shows, identify sex with violence and vulgarity. Vulgarity is paid probably the highest amount of money. I am lucky that Karen focuses a great deal on her inner world and tries to figure out what's inside. She has remarkable insights.

DJB: Do you think that they focus too much on what's external, rather than what's internal?

LAURA To focus internally is made almost impossible for young people. The environmental impact is overwhelming. Every day the distractions are multiplied and are more hypnotic and addictive. Like with every addiction, the dosage must be augmented--so, more TV, more noise, more guns, more advertising. In the meantime, the body is not moving, is just accepting whatever it is fed, psychologically or physically. There is an advertisement for a computer Nintendo game that I cannot forget. It represents a young boy, about thirteen or fourteen years old, lounging in an executive armchair, grinning with delight; he is holding a terminal in his hand and he is experiencing (the copy says) the thrill of racing 200 M.P.H., of climbing to the sky in his B-14 jet fighter, or parachuting, or diving under the depth of the sea. All these thrills are given to him--free and for nothing. He did not have to train his body-mind, did not have to feel fear and surmount it; he did not have to face danger.

In Island, Aldous has a beautiful passage about the initiation from childhood to adolescence. Young people have been trained in rock-climbing as part of the school curriculum and today they are having a test. Rock-climbing requires skill, cooperation, coordination, and facing danger. "Danger," Aldous writes, "danger deliberately and yet lightly accepted-danger shared with a friend, a group of friends, each totally aware of his own straining muscles, his own skill, his own fear, and his own spirit transcending the fear. And each, of course, aware at the same time of all the others, concerned for them, doing the right things to make sure that they will be safe."

Do you see the chasm between a youth lounging in an armchair and being spoon-fed thrillers and one who experiences his achievement through his own doing--through his dedication and courage and his concern for others, through the training of his body-mind? Which one of these two youths will have the higher self-esteem and therefore better health and more capacity to love and to be a valuable member of society?

DJB: Is that part of the education described in Island ?

LAURA Yes. Instead of mainly verbal education as it is here, in Island, education is on all levels.

DJB: What kind of advice would you give to young people in our society?

LAURA I would tell them: Respect your body. Focus your mind. Love your heart. Support and cooperate with anyone who wants to do the same.

DJB: What are you doing these days?

LAURA- Now that Karen is seventeen we spend less time together. I am becoming again more active on Our Ultimate Investment, the organization I founded in 1978 for "The Nurturing of the Possible Human." The concept is that much of the predicament of the human situation begins not only in infancy, not only before birth--a fact which is now being finally accepted--but also in the physical, psychological, and spiritual preparation of the couple before conception. We call it "Prelude to Conception."

The most cruel and unanswerable question that, shamefully, is now a despicable political banner: "Should I abort or nor abort?" Must not exist in a culture that thinks of itself as advanced and civilized. There is more attention, time and care given to choosing an automobile than to the decision of creating the greatest miracle of all: a human being. Surely if the future parents prepare for this miracle, if they inquire into themselves and their relationship honestly enough, and then decide to have a child, the question of abortion could not exist. Dr. Piero Ferrucci and I have written a book, The Child of Your Dreams, which is being reissued by Inner Traditions International. In it we follow the future human being, the possible human, from the time s/he is only a thought and a desire in the mind of the parents until three years of age. It is an extraordinary voyage, the most extraordinary of all voyages if one pays attention to it.

DJB: Final words?

LAURA Final words are not my own. When Ferrucci and I were thinking and working on "Prelude to Conception," a prayer came to me. I did not write it-only wrote it down. It belongs to everyone. Here it is:

"Prayer of the Unconceived"
Men and women who are on Earth
You are our creators.
We, the unconceived, beseech you:
Let us have living bread.
The builder of our new body
Let us have pure water
The vitalizer of our blood.
Let us have clean air
So that every breath is a caress
Let us feel the petals of jasmine and roses
Which are as tender as our skin.
Men and women who are the Earth
You are our creators.
We, the unconceived, beseech you:
Do not give us a world of rage and fear
For our minds will be rage and fear.
Do not give us violence and pollution
For our bodies will be disease and abomination.
Let us be wherever we are
Rather than bringing us
Into a tormented self-destroying humanity.
Men and women who are the Earth You are our creators.
We, the unconceived, beseech you:
If you are ready to love and be loved, Invite us to this Earth
Of the Thousand Wonders
And we will be born
To love and be loved.

Bibliography