ADVENTURES OF THE SPIRIT
JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove. This is Part 2 of our two-part series, "Adventures of the Spirit," with author Richard Bach, who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Bridge Across Forever, One, Illusions, and Running from Safety. Welcome again, Richard.
BACH: Thank you.
MISHLOVE: We were talking about your sense of intuition as sort of a reality check for you.
BACH: I've never heard the words used so beautifully -- exactly right! There is a kind of humming, wordless -- it is a tiny thermonuclear generator that's tucked way, way back in my psyche, and it tells me what is real. And I reference that. If someone tells me, "This is real because it has atoms and molecules," my intuition shakes its head and says, "No, don't listen to that. Reality lies far beyond space and time, and I need to know why." So I will ask, and I will say, "What is real?" And it will say -- it has brought me over the decades to the clearest statement of reality that I know how to make, and it's two words. It's "Life is." That happened to me at a specific time that I can point to. It happened in Ottumwa, Iowa. I was mowing the yard, and all of a sudden I realized, "Life is." And I stopped mowing, and I looked at the trees, and there was light around the trees. And there's a barbed wire fence I remember, and it looked like it had just been plugged into about 50,000 volts. It was glowing. What's going on?
MISHLOVE: One of those numinous, radiant moments.
BACH: Exactly right. Intuition was telling me, "Richard, I give you a glimpse of truth. This is real." From those two words cascades everything that I believe in. If life is, then death isn't. "Well, OK, here's the appearance of death. Here's a corpse, passed out on the floor or in its coffin. What do you say about that? Life is?" "That is an appearance of death. Life has not been so much as flickered by that event. It happened in your little space-time world." Well, what is this whole world then? It's a world of appearances, and it's a world like the world of a movie theater, in which we choose to enter and play, and we close our senses to the world that we know is there, and we allow darkness to come down around us, and we allow only certain inputs to come to our senses. We can only see certain things; everything else is dark. We can only hear certain things; everything else is muffled away. And we are caught up by this illusion that we know is just simply a series of still pictures projected on a blank wall, one after another, but done swiftly so they seem to move. Gradually we're caught up into it, and then we're caught up into what these moving pictures are saying, so that when the monster appears, we scream. That's a real scream for us.
MISHLOVE: It's like when you go to a movie, you can sometimes get so caught up in it you think you're right there.
BACH: Absolutely right. And so this world, I think, and an indefinite number of other worlds of our creation, are also -- we're here for fun; we're here for learning; we're here for rembering who we are, and who we are, are expressions of life so absolutely linked with the life that is, always was, always will be. The big bang and the big crunch don't even flicker on the scale of that life. We are free creatures, and we're allowed to do whatever we choose to do. One thing we cannot do is destroy life. But if we want to, we can believe we can, and we can make worlds of wonderful imagination that seem ferocious, that seem playful, that seem idyllic, that seem testing. Whatever we want to sharpen our imagination against, that will be. There's a great cosmic law, I believe, that says what we hold in our thoughts comes true in the world around us, in the world of appearances around us. So why not -- if we know this is the case, if we are eternal creatures expressing life, and we know who we are, and we know there is this theater in which we can play -- why not create a very difficult and challenging lifetime? I will choose a lifetime; I will be born under very difficult circumstances, but I will remember who I am. I will remember the power of imagination. And I will carry always with me the intuition that remembers who I am, and it will guide me along the way. And I choose to be born now. And as soon as we say now, down comes a steel door -- wham! And it's the world of belief in space and time. And we have to walk through that door or we can't be manifest in space; we can't play our little game.
BACH: And from the moment we first open our eyes, huge dragons circle us about and say, "Who are you?" We say, "Well, I'm a definite expression of life, and I'm here playing with the light --" And the dragon cuts us off mid-sentence: "Wrong! This is space-time, kid. You can die. Stop breathing for two minutes; you are dead. Stop eating for one day; you are dead. Separate from your mommy; you are a gone cookie. That dog that looks like the family pet can eat you in a second. This is space-time. Let's get our feet on the ground." "But don't I remember choosing it?" "You remember nothing. You remember nothing." Over and over, hypnotic. Every time an infant opens its eyes, sees a wall, and notices Mommy and Daddy never walk through the wall; they always walk through the door -- before we even have a word for wall, we know wall is a limitation. And if somebody as big as Mommy and Daddy can't walk through it, I'm just a tiny little creature; I can't begin to. What other limitations are there? The dragons circle closer, and they will tell us what our limitations are: "There are four and a half billion people on this planet. You are one too many. If you do not eat much, and if you are very quiet, we may allow you to stay. But be quiet, and remember, you don't matter." We listen to those lies, and as children we grow up, so many of us, believing that, because it's over and over and over. And all that we know, all that's locked away within us -- that wonderful intuition, that revelation that would set us free, that remembering that we are life expressing itself joyfully in this arena of space-time -- dims and dims and dims, and finally we say, "Well, if I can see it and touch it, it must be real."
MISHLOVE: But isn't that part of the script that you yourself wrote?
BACH: Absolutely right. And the game then is to remember to remember. And that time comes. Some little flicker and flash, in some strange -- maybe a deja vu kind of experience, or a meeting with someone that we've never met, and we know, we have instant rapport with this person; we know we know: "I have known you for half an hour. Ask me what you believe. I can tell you in detail exactly what you believe. I know you that well." And so we begin remembering, and that memory can radically alter our life. What we hold in thought comes true in our experience. That to me is a great cosmic law. So if we have chosen an environment that is ferocious for us, the way to change it -- we all have the key to change it -- is our imagination. Hold in thought a different environment -- not for a second, because the dragons are powerful. You must hold it steadfastly, and you must say, "Here's how I will reach it. What I hold in thought will be an area that I love." All I need to find -- and this is difficult -- what is it that I would love to do? It doesn't have to seem possible at all. What would I love to do? I, a little kid, what would I love to do? I'd love to fly. The dragon, scuttling quickly over the concrete: "You can't possibly fly. You have to be a super person to fly. You've got to have eyesight like eagles. You have to be an absolutely perfect physical specimen. You've got to have a mind like a computer. You can't fly. You're a kid." Quiet, right? "But I'd like to fly." And so the kid is forced back against his corner for a while. But an airplane flies over, and he watches, and a bird flies over, and he watches, and a cloud flies over, and he watches secretly. And the dragons are restless, and every once in a while, a little tongue of flame. But then, holding that in thought, "If only I could fly," another principle comes to work. It's the principle of coincidences. Coincidences will happen, strange things. When I was a kid, I perched like a raccoon in the chain link fence around the airport, watching the airplanes, and led into that environment, seeing that the people who walked through that gate, they were not super people. Some of them even wore glasses, and did that one limp, ever so slightly? And yet all of them set themselves in this little airplane, started the engine, and were in the air. Could I do that too? There are so many of them who fly! Could I? Then coincidence, later on -- I come from a family where no one loves flying, and my father had a bad experience in an airplane, and he hated flying. There was no support for flying in my family. When I was in my first and only year of college, I realized I took that whole year of college in order to take a class in archery, because standing next to me on the archery range was a fellow by the name of Bob Keach, who did a strange thing. He was just about ready to let go of the arrow at his target when an airplane flew overhead, and he slacked the tension on the bow, and he looked up at that airplane. I, standing next to him, said, "That is so unusual! Airplanes fly over Long Beach, California all the time. He must have some special interest." And I blurted out, I said, "Bob Keach" -- by way of a joke, I said to myself -- "Bob Keach, I'll bet you're a flight instructor, and I'll bet you're looking for someone to come along to wash and polish your airplane, and in return for that you'll teach him to fly, ha ha ha ha." And he looked at me, and he said, "How did you know?"
BACH: And the story of why he needed to have a student -- I was his second student. He needed to have five students before he would become a real flight instructor instead of a limited flight instructor. He was looking for students, and here right next to him was this guy who said, "Teach me." A little coincidence, and I ran away from school.
MISHLOVE: But it expresses, as you say, some deep principle of the universe.
BACH: Absolutely right -- that we are led toward what we love, and all we need to do is hurl ourselves toward that love, and then later on we can understand why it works, and I now, 40 years later, understand how it works. I see a kid walk out to the airport, and he's looking at my airplane, or she's looking at my airplane, with perhaps softer eyes, saying, "It's a magical machine. It's been above the clouds. If only I could touch it." I see myself in her, and that's the dynamic that moves it. And so, gruff-faced, stony as I can be, I toss her a rag, say, "There's a lot of oil on the belly of that airplane. If you feel like it, if you really want to touch the airplane, touch it with this rag. Get that oil off. Take some polishing compound, get those exhaust stains off the belly." No promises, no nothing. Just do it. And the kid says, "Can I?" I say, "Sure." The kid goes and works on it 15 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour, till it look pretty good. The kid walks away. The next weekend the kid is back, right? Another rag: "Get it cleaned up." This time when the kid is done -- because the kid has demonstrated, "I'm here because I want to be here. There's something about this maybe I don't understand, but I love it." So this time maybe when the kid is done washing the whole fuselage, I say, "Looks nice. Want to fly?" "Oh!" And a magical thing begins to happen, because seeing myself in her or him, I have the fun of reliving that time when I was discovering my love, and yes, it is magic. There's a principle of aerodynamics as there is a principle of life. There's a huge, beautiful metaphor and simile that's working. Trust what you can't see, says flight. And here is a kid who is yearning to know just these things. So it's a delight, then, for those who have already somehow established themselves in fields that we love, it is their pleasure to help us, if only we show that we share that love with them. And it can be anything. It can be sailboats or retail sales or broadcasting -- whatever it is.
MISHLOVE: But the particular passion that you have for flight seems to me to be so very analogous to the passion that you have for imagination. They both represent a kind of freedom of the spirit.
BACH: The way I keep my feet on the ground is to fly. That is my home. Those are my roots. My tree is inverted. My roots are in the air. There is something that is so -- it's almost literally inspiring. You breathe differently. You're so deeply at home with this sense of sky. For me -- I guess I'm a slow learner -- it's very easy for me to think of myself as in fact a spiritual creature, when around me every day are clouds drifting by; when far below me are tiny little houses of a little planet that I have chosen. I chose to be born on this planet in this, quote, "place," in this, quote, "time," for my own good purposes, for the fun of learning these principles, and remembering who I am. And in communicating to whoever else is of my family --
MISHLOVE: Your larger family.
BACH: My larger family, who also wonder, "Why --"
MISHLOVE: Richard, if we look at the whole body of your work, in a way they all fit together. They're all so autobiographical, really. There's a sense in which, OK, you're here in this chair with me right now, and people will be in our audience at different times in the future, but I have a sense that you're living in the past, you're living in the future, you're living on other planets and in other bodies at once.
BACH: So many thanks to Silicon Valley for what's happening here. Because what used to be a yearning wish with a book -- a manuscript would go off to the publisher; the book would come out, and I'd say, "I wonder who's going to read this?" Wouldn't it be great if I could talk with a person who was drawn, magnetized to these same ideas? So much we have in common, but we'll never meet. I have a family that I will never meet." And there was this kind of sorrow. And now, now along comes the computer; along comes wonderful cyberspace. And there is in fact, for the last four months, on CompuServe, there is a section that's called the New Age Section. If anyone, anyone in the world, gets up on CompuServe and types "GO NEWAGE," they will be presented with a little menu or something, and there's a section, it's called Section 14, "Illusions and Beyond," just for people who are interested in talking about this kind of idea. And here we meet. And it has been utter fascination for me to watch this community expand. At first it was a very few friends, that became tiny little family, that became a little village, that became a community. And it's all perched out on the edge of space-time. It's like I close my eyes and I see it as if I'm watching San Francisco at night from a hilltop -- a sparkling web of light. And there are now several hundred people there. And none of us knows what each other looks like, or what our financial status is, or social status, or what kind of car we drive, or what kind of accent we have, or what race we are, or what our education is. All we know is we share ideas, and we do it with joy. Every once in a while a new light comes on line, and some soul will come in and say, "Hi! I had this craziest coincidence. I just got on CompuServe two days ago, and I was looking at what was available, and here's this -- Well, I read Illusions some time ago, and it touched me, and here you've got a whole section to talk -- My name is ..." And suddenly there's "Welcome ... Welcome ... Welcome," and the whole shimmering web of silver lights just glitters and hums, and it is so fascinating to see this sense not only of community, but of deeper, expansive family, beyond borders. There's people from Germany, from Canada, from all over.
MISHLOVE: It's as if the computer networks, which I'm also actively involved in, become an extension of our own nervous system, and it allows our souls to kind of flow across the planet.
BACH: That's right. There is no trivia; there's no chitchat; there is no, "How are you today?" "I'm fine." "Hey, how about them Mets?" or "Terrible weather we've been having." There is no talk of -- current events doesn't even come up. It's ideas right away. The first question you're likely to get when you pop on line, "What's the most important thing in the world to you? What matters to you more than anything else in all the world?" "Well, I was just saying hello." So there's this great, joyful, playful intercommunication, that anyone can be writing a message to anyone else, and the understanding is anyone who's watching can jump right in in the middle and say, "Here's the strangest thing that happened to me about that." I've thought I've been a little crazy, because three times in my life I could have sworn I have heard voices, and they have been at important times in my life. So just for curiosity, about a week ago, two weeks ago, I wrote, I started a little thread, a little conversation, and said, "Anybody else hear voices?" Whop! People have come back in the most unusual way, from their own experience. One diver was, whatever he was, 90 feet underwater in a tiny little cavern, in a difficult situation, and heard a voice that said, "This way out," and felt himself being dragged. It was all work, because he had startled a moray eel, and all this stuff had come out and he couldn't find his way out again. He felt himself dragged out of there. Now, in normal communication with anyone you meet, how long will it take you before you reach the point that he will feel free to share that experience with you? Months? Years? Sometimes never? Here, at once -- there are no masks, and the mind is open, and the spirit is so willing. It says, "Ask me anything." So there has been this delighted reunion of those of us who agree that we may very well have chosen our lifetimes. We may very well have looked down at that spinning blue ball, the third planet by the minor sun at the edge of a minor galaxy, by what is probably a minor universe, and said, "Looks like fun." Now what? Now when we start sharing our remembering, when we start sharing, how does imagination in practice work for you? How does intuition guide you in daily life? No fantasies here. Here's what happened. And incidents will come in that are from -- it's like ourselves in rapidly multiplying bodies. There is this close sense of spiritual, intellectual, playful unity, that it's OK to say -- a woman said last night on the line that she had a job at a convenience store, and she quit the job because she thought it was dangerous. But just before she quit, a scruffy fellow walked into the store, smoking a cigarette, and talked with her -- suddenly, out of the air, talked with her about the Trinity, and used the cigarette as an example -- the unburned body, tobacco; the ash; and the smoke. He used this as a representative of the Trinity, and talked with her for a little, turned around, walked out the door. She looked down; she looked up, and he was gone, and she said, "Was this an angel?" So now we're talking about, well, did he just sneak off in the fog? Why would a scruffy character walk in with a cigarette, of all things, and use that as a center around which to build a short conversation about the Trinity? I don't know. I had to write her back and say, "Now what has that meant to you? Was your life changed? Did the Trinity mean anything to you, or was it just a curiosity? Was there some plan behind it?" And I'm always one who believes in plans. I don't think it's by coincidence that those people who are on that net have come there. And so then one thread is, "How did you get here?" And there are fascinating stories, of how people just seem to stumble into this place.
MISHLOVE: Well, I'm going to have to invite you to participate on the Intuition Network computer conference.
BACH: Wonderful! Yes!
MISHLOVE: Along with other members of our audience. You know, it seems that I remember 20 years ago, as an undergraduate college student -- well, longer, really -- but people then were anti-technology. They felt that the growth of technology was somehow killing the human spirit. And here we see something very different.
BACH: Yes. It is the next step of -- civilization is playing with the idea of building its communities on the edge of space-time. As we speak, right now, people are talking to me, and I am talking to them. I-sub-last-night am talking to them-sub-now, and them-sub -- all this vast twisting and tumbling of space-time is going on, and it will emerge in coherent communication on my computer screen this evening.
MISHLOVE: And as we speak now at this moment, at some future moment people are listening to us and saying, "I'm going to log on and answer them."
BACH: That's the kind of creature that I enjoy being -- that gradually says goodbye to space and time. First we'll play games with it. First we'll say, "Was this past? Was this future? Was this fiction? Was this nonfiction? Is this imagination? Is this reality?" And then finally realize we've been talking about home. That land beyond space-time is where we come from. Even as a kid I used to yearn for the stars. I was an amateur astronomer, built little telescopes, and looking through that eyepiece was like looking through the porthole of my spaceship. And I felt this deep homesickness that said, "Take me home. I'm stranded on this little planet. Somebody come and get me." And I realized that I'm not the only one who's felt that way. Used to be if someone said, "Where's home?" I would point up. But now I know up is just another direction in space-time, and that's the only way I knew how to point beyond space-time -- that if I could point beyond space-time I would point there and say "Home." But for now we're tourists on this wonderful planet, and we have magical powers that we can use, if we have the imagination to do it. Imagination is something in this, and each of us has been given the key. There's a cover of Time magazine that came out, and it was a photograph of a young black murderer who was murdered, and it seemed to be such a tragic tale. And I thought, "Ah! Golly." Because I am waiting, I am someone who is waiting for someone aged nine, age eleven, to write a book about what it's like to be nine, because I've forgotten. This is waiting there for any kid to write, and that kid would become an instant millionaire. His book, or her book, would be a huge best seller. Just look out through your eyes, kiddo. Tell me, what do you see? What are you afraid of? What do you hope for? Write those down in your words and your language, and you will be a superstar. It hasn't happened yet because of the dragons that say, "Who cares about you?" There has to be a kid to come along that says, "I don't care what the dragons say. I will say what I see and what I think and even if it's crazy, maybe somebody cares."
MISHLOVE: Well, let us hope that that kid is in our audience right now. Richard Bach, let me thank you once again for sharing so much of yourself.
BACH: Jeffrey, it's been wonderful. Thank you for having me.
MISHLOVE: It has indeed been a pleasure.
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