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..."
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
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
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
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
LAURA Exactly the same thing, and so well expressed
DJB: Then I opened up your book and found it there several
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
DJB: It is a good model for understanding how everything comes
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
RMN: Why do you think it even began in the first place?
LAURA Well Aldous said it began with Aristotle and Plato and many
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
DJB: So you think it began long before
Descartes divided the mind from the divine?
LAURA Oh yes. Before that
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
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
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
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
RMN: Do you think that the methods you employ would be
beneficial to a person with a serious imbalance like paranoid
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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
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
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
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.
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
LAURA I would tell them: Respect your body. Focus your mind.
Love your heart. Support and cooperate with anyone who wants to do the
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
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.