One man’s truth is another’s heresy. Caught in webs of either/or, we often are more busy defending beliefs than examining them. Roger Corless intrigued me by how he integrates seemingly opposing beliefs. He is a devout Christian — a lay Benedictine monk, in fact — and a Gelugpa Buddhist, an academic and a mystic. His long-time struggle with the question, “Am I a Buddhist or a Christian?” resolved itself finally with his acceptance that he’s both; when seen from a non-dual perspective, he says, their incompatibility disappears.
I met him when I was a student at Duke University, where he teaches courses on religion. I was fascinated by the material, and, even more, by the open-ended wonder with which he approached it. He often began by saying that the highest truths of all the texts are at best “helpful lies” — fingers pointing to the unspeakable.
He feels driven to understand life. When I asked him, “What are you most afraid of?” he answered, “Wasting time, and not being able to finish the work I’m supposed to do in this lifetime.” His search has led him through degrees in Christianity in his native England, a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies, and finally to Duke where, he says, he “continues to pursue his hobby of wondering why there is anything at all, and gets paid for it.”
We spoke while he was recovering from a major hernia operation. We talked about his ideas, but even more about the crucial juncture where beliefs get tested against flesh-and-blood realities, and the emotional roller-coaster won’t be slowed by spiritual catch-phrases. At 43, his manner is light and caring, one of curious and amused reflection. His sometimes stuttering speech is splattered with quotes, anecdotes, and laughter. He has a keen sense of paradox that brings a touch of humor into even the most serious discussion.
His two recent books reflect his rather eclectic fusion of religious ideas. The first, I Am Food, is a discussion of the Christian Mass in terms of Tibetan meditation. The second, The Art of Christian Alchemy: Transfiguring the Ordinary Through Holistic Meditation, is an attempt to translate alchemy and the Benedictine system of meditation into modern practical terms, and to explain the practice of “magicking the everyday.” He begins it with a story of the Buddha who reveals, with a tap of his foot, the earth sparkling with gold dust, gems, jewels and precious stones. “This book,” he writes, “will tell you how to do this trick in the privacy of your own home, and even (especially even) at work.”
— Howard Jay Rubin
SUN: You’re involved in religious study academically and personally. What has this taught you about living a happy life?
CORLESS: First, I don’t agree with the distinction between the academic and the seeker. Some people say, “Do you study religion merely as an academic or do you do it religiously?” At one time I wasn’t sure what that meant. My answer would be that I study it like it mattered. I can’t define religion, but there is nobody else in history who can, and one can be involved in something one cannot define. Here we are in life and we cannot define it. Religion to me is psycho-analysis or depth analysis of human performance in different cultures and different times and places. One can get by without religion, as one can get by without art or music or whatever, but a dimension is lost. A certain way of penetrating to the heart of things is lost. Rather than say people who take religion seriously can be happier, I can say that they can be fuller, things can be more interesting.
SUN: But not happier?
CORLESS: I may not quite know what you mean by happy. To be jolly, to be constantly smiling and never to be sad is not the point of it. What comes about is really not happiness, that is, an ignoring of the sadness, a superficial “everything’s fine,” but what is called pax, the Latin word for peace, which has been adopted by the Benedictines as their motto. And the peace of the Benedictines is not a superficial peace, where you are not involved in the push and thrust of things, but it is a deep centeredness, a rootedness that despite the changes and chances and the rushes and disappointments and successes and everything else, beneath thought and feeling, or beyond thought and feeling, everything is all right. So if you want to call that happiness, I would say that is what it has taught me.
SUN: Do you usually feel centered or rooted in that way?
CORLESS: I feel more and more that way. It is something that one works toward. I’ve been interested to see how I’ve been able to handle this operation. Going in for repair of hernia is not the most delightful thing one could hope to do over Thanksgiving weekend, so I’ve been interested to see if I’ve practiced enough to handle this, and I didn’t do too badly. I felt that even if I were to die under the knife, or something else went wrong, somehow there would be a rightness to it beyond the superficial purposes I set for myself. This has to do with what Tarthang Tulku has called the “great time,” what I would call the “great purpose.” He wrote a book called Time, Space, Knowledge in which he gives some meditations to allow the consciousness to remove itself from ordinary space-time and go into “great space-time.” You would not say that you deny ordinary space-time, but you see things in such a different way that it is almost as if you had denied it. The Japanese talk of the functioning of the Buddha-mind as the mushin. And mushin literally means no-mind. Clearly it doesn’t mean denying the mind, because Buddhism is a question of waking up and being more alive, but Buddha-mind is so much more awake, so much more precise than ordinary mind that to ordinary mind it seems that it is no-mind. Supposing I were to die during the hernia operation. On the surface that would appear to be the end of my purpose in this incarnation, but I think that would be too superficial, and that it would make sense at a higher level of consciousness. One has to have contact with that level of consciousness to see how it makes sense. It’s no good trying to argue toward it. One cannot argue convincingly toward a higher dimension, but having reached a higher dimension one doesn’t need to argue for the existence of lower dimensions.
SUN: So, from that higher dimension perspective, how do you deal with bouts of loneliness, depression?
CORLESS: That’s something which I specifically attack, because I live alone, partly by accident and partly by choice. It is too often the case that people get together to live as lovers or even to get married in order to heal the superficial hurt that they feel because they are separate, and to have someone around, even a dog or something, anything will do, kind of. Somebody is around. And I felt that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter and one should then attack that and see, really enter into that loneliness and see what can be done about it, because the other is a distraction. And I am beginning to come to the fruits of that. I don’t say that I’ve got it. But I’m beginning to come to where the non-binary or super-consciousness doesn’t take account of either loneliness or society. What I’m playing around with, both in my academic work and in my own personal thinking, is a two-level model of consciousness. The majority of religions traditionally have two levels of consciousness: the ordinary level, which is what we’re on here, which divides between things, makes distinctions, which I call binary, and the more profound or higher level — I don’t care whether you say it’s profound or higher, it’s different — which I call non-binary. The super-consciousness takes account of the differences but also transcends them. In a 14th century English mystical text called the Epistle of Discretion, it says that God is not this contrary or that contrary, neither loneliness nor companionship, but is hidden between them. This is not simply half-loneliness, half-companionship. It’s not an insipid thing and this is where I went wrong in the beginning. I felt that one had to say, “Well, I can live alone. I am a rock. I am an island.” That’s quite wrong. If one says, “I don’t need anyone else,” then he has fallen into one of the opposites. But also if one says, “I must have others, otherwise I can’t function,” then he has fallen into the other opposite. So what one has to do is go through the opposites into another dimension where loneliness and companionship are both aspects of the larger whole. You go beyond language then. It’s impossible to explain this and make sense also, which is why I would emphasize that what is needed is practice. What I think is wrong with a lot of the popular literature today is that it tells you a lot about how groovy it is but doesn’t give you the practice. It doesn’t tell you how to transform the consciousness. Things as they are, are not groovy. There is no doubt about that. I’ve been through a lot of grief, torment, and indecision and have made a lot of mistakes. So things as they are are not groovy, but it is a question of transforming the consciousness by a certain method and there are a lot of different methods. Christianity and Buddhism are my two favorites. I am suspicious of any of the more modern methods because everybody is different. It takes a long time to de-bug a program, let’s say a thousand years, and the Christian and Buddhist and other older systems have had that length of time. Some of the modern systems that come out of individual teachers on the West coast haven’t. They work for some people but I’m not sure they would be safe for everybody.
SUN: What is the relation between romantic love and spiritual love?
CORLESS: There obviously is a relationship because such a lot of the literature on the mystical love uses sexual love as its image of love. There once again is the danger. One can very easily fool oneself that the sexual love is itself, without any further work, a spiritual love. And sometimes it seems that way — until the morning after. And then you think I was fooled there somewhere. There are some people going around today who recommend that we all take off our clothes and love each other in the very same room; these people are working against the denial of the sexual function, the sexual aspect, of mystical love in everyday Christianity as we now see it. However, if you go into the Christian mystics you would find this is not the way they had looked at it. But it’s the way it comes to us. And a lot of people react against everyday Christianity or Judaism and think that because what they’ve heard in the synagogue or the church doesn’t work then the whole thing doesn’t work, and they don’t give it a chance to work. They’re trying to work toward the use of sexual power in the mystical life which we find preeminently in Tantra. In the highest reaches of Tantra, we find that the supreme masters of Tantric yoga are constantly in touch, are constantly empowered by their sexuality. But the genital form is subsidiary to that. As the Hindu Tantra master, Gopi Krishna, said, the human adult is always in heat and the purpose of this is not so that he can reproduce a lot but so that he can be in touch with this extraordinary relational power, which is an aspect of relationship among atoms, among everything. We can be in touch with that and use that for the ennoblement of the situation rather than simply for the satisfying of the momentary desire.
What I think is wrong with a lot of the popular literature today is that it tells you a lot about how groovy it is but doesn’t give you the practice. It doesn’t tell you how to transform the consciousness . . . Things as they are, are not groovy. There is no doubt about that. I’ve been through a lot of grief, torment, and indecision . . . It is a question of transforming the consciousness by a certain method . . .
SUN: Do you think that genital sexuality can be used to relate to the higher form?
CORLESS: I don’t see why not, but it seems that first of all, and I say this after some mistakes I’ve made, one cannot build upon the basis of ordinary genital sex and make that into a spiritual awareness. But one must develop a spiritual awareness and then incorporate a genital performance into that. At that point it can be loving instead of lustful. A distinction I make in the Art of Christian Alchemy is between the exploitive or lustful mode — not only in sex, but anything in which one manipulates the situation for one’s own personal satisfaction — and the contemplative mode, where one just allows things to develop.
SUN: When you feel yourself relating to the world in a lustful manner how do you deal with that?
CORLESS: You stop it. That’s the first thing. Some people try to skip that; they feel you can be loving just from the word go, which is like thinking you can run before you can walk. When I notice that I am acting in an exploitative mode, I stop it. And then I transform it into the contemplative mode. Now if this is done sufficiently often, then there will be fewer and fewer times when the exploitative mode will be the first reaction to a situation, so that there will be fewer and fewer times in which on seeing a beautiful person pass in the street the first reaction is that you want to grab her. More and more, the reaction would be one of a delight or wonder and to let them pass.
SUN: And you find this change happening in your life?
CORLESS: Yes. I’ve had to work at this, of course. I think that what I’m working toward is really not that unusual or extraordinary, and one can find it in a lot of the ancient texts, but somehow it wasn’t being taught to me in the right way and I had to work toward this on my own.
The human adult is always in heat and the purpose of this is . . . so that he can be in touch with this extraordinary relational power, which is an aspect of relationship among atoms, among everything.
SUN: What do you feel about the idea that we’re all bisexual in nature, that we contain what is called “feminine” and what is called “masculine” within ourselves?
CORLESS: I think this a very significant aspect of understanding sexuality. I am trying to understand the Christian trinity as an androgyne and what that would mean: the trinity as a transcendental power which is in a sense having itself, constantly, before eternity and after eternity. And when a human meets another human, what we must do is be aware of the bisexuality within God. We are then in the image of God and also in that sense, somehow, bisexual. We work out of our own auto-eroticism, which itself must be seen to be a bisexual experience within the bisexuality of God. And having become happy with our own auto-erotic bisexuality, so that we do not neurotically need another person to be the other half of androgyne, we can then meet another person of either sex who has also come to that realization, and then the communion will not be something which we need to complete each other but which will add a richness to people who are already complete.
SUN: When you teach Buddhism you refer to it as a series of helpful lies. What do you mean by this?
CORLESS: According to Buddhism, reality is indescribable because descriptions are abstractions. Descriptions are maps of the territory and the maps are not the territory. The problem, according to Buddhism, is that we tend to confuse the description with reality, the concept with the reality, and we relate then to the concept. This would have significance in everyday life — for instance, if I already formed a concept of who you are, an interviewer for THE SUN, and then I freeze my perception and I relate to you as that, and I am not open to whatever in fact might be going on. When that is the case, there would be a certain woodenness about the interview. Or if you had already decided that you’re going to ask me certain questions and you’re not going to deviate from that because I am the interviewee. According to Buddhism, reality is just what it is. Therefore, anything we say about it is an abstraction, which is a lie. But if we don’t say anything about it, that is also a lie because it appears we’re suggesting that it doesn’t exist. Buddhism doesn’t describe reality to you, but teaches you how to transform consciousness so that you experience that reality as it is. It doesn’t attempt to convince you, but says instead: start to meditate and see what a mess things are. If you don’t think things are a mess, then there’s no point in beginning.
One is lead along by helpful lies. You teach small children that things exist, matter exists. Later, you tell them that there really isn’t matter, but there are atoms, which are like little billiard balls which go around each other. Later, you tell them there aren’t billiard balls either. There’s this something-or-other which is energy. They’re ready for that. But if you were to teach a small child there are no apples, he would be confused and think he couldn’t have an apple. A physicist who knows there are no apples can still eat apples.
SUN: How helpful are the lies of the academic system that you’re a part of?
CORLESS: It depends on which lie and which academic system. Could you expand the question more?
SUN: Do you feel the university system at Duke, with its heavily conceptual basis, is a helpful preparation for any real learning?
CORLESS: It is less helpful than it could be. But it’s what we have. I am critical of people like Dr. Timothy Leary who simply say, “I’m getting out of it.” If one has a good idea of what is wrong with the academic system and one simply leaves to criticize it from the outside by lecturing to multitudes of hippies, then the people inside can safely ignore you. They can say he was a nice chap but he couldn’t handle it. He didn’t have what it takes to publish all these articles. If, however, I publish something that is right and then I go out and criticize the system, people are more likely to think about what I say. They think here’s a chap who criticizes it but can function within it. So I do not want to cop out of it, I want to work from within and say there is too much in the head in the humanities. In the sciences, it would be absurd to do a course without lab experience. Strangely enough, however, one can do a humanities course and never experience what one is talking about. One can dissect the poems rather than simply read them. One can do a course in religion without doing any meditation. If I’m right in saying that the religious visions come out of meditative experience, it is then nonsensical to teach the religious doctrines without teaching the experimental method by which these arose. Some years ago a student said to me, “When you teach Buddhism without teaching us to meditate, it’s like teaching us to swim on dry land.” And for a long time I wasn’t able to answer that, and I felt, “Yes, you’re right but the system won’t let me do this.” One of the worst things to happen in the humanities is for you to be found in some public place with your beliefs exposed. But then it occurred to me that this is a double standard. The scientists are insisting that they experiment and that the students experiment. A student who takes an elementary course in chemistry is not expected to come up with new ideas. But he’s expected to go into the labs and see what a chemist does. So it occurred to me that if one is to teach Buddhism, one would have meditation workshops. At this point I have only a small number. And I would say these are the lab sessions. I would not expect you to become a Buddhist just as I wouldn’t expect you to be a Lavoisier if you were doing chemistry. But I will expect you to go into this elementary course and say this is what a Buddhist actually does and from this he sees the world like this.
SUN: So, concretely, where you’re pointing to is the actual meditation.
CORLESS: Let us say toward meditative attitudes. I’m rather weary of the word meditation because it has come to mean a time separate from everyday activities. And that is not wholistic. It breaks us up again. It gives us something else to do. And some people have said to me, “I can’t meditate. I have no time.” And I’ve said, “You don’t have to have time to meditate. It isn’t another thing to do. It’s a way of doing everything.” Now, in order to get the point of how you should meditate, it is really necessary that you take some time out. And maybe what you want to do is take a couple weeks off in the summer, to go off to some retreat to get the idea. Then when you’ve got the idea, you needn’t take that much time to work on the attitude. Someone has said that a saint is not someone who does extraordinary things but who does ordinary things extraordinarily well. G.I. Gurdjieff apparently said we are enlightened if we can make a cup of coffee perfectly well. The person who is most successful living in the contemplative mode is not clouding his vision with concepts and is therefore able to see what is appropriate to a situation.
SUN: You refer to this process as alchemy, or transfiguring the ordinary. In what sense are you using “alchemy”?
CORLESS: I’m using it to express a world view or attitude. Before the Renaissance what we now call science and religion were not separate undertakings. Theology was called the queen of the sciences. It gave the reason for the others. The academic in Medieval times was not only well versed in the Bible and the mystics, he was also pretty good at mathematics and what we call science and astrology and whatever. The Benedictine monks were leaders in the science of their time; they had the first hospitals, they first discovered the agricultural method of crop rotation, they were the preservers of libraries, they developed new systems of mathematics. Now around what we call the Renaissance, science and religion began to oppose each other, so that religion became something mushy-headed and science became clear-headed. Before that, in some ways, it was the other way around, because the scientist said, “Well, what did Aristotle say?” and we have dogma. And the religious people said, “We meditate and we see this, so we have experience upon which we base this.” And after that, religion became a kind of dogma and science was based on experiential method. What I’m trying to say by the word alchemy is a world view where science and religion are aspects of the whole. The fully educated, fully realized, man or woman who does not know an equal amount about these cannot regard themselves as fully educated.
There seems to be a movement in human thought toward merging these — especially in physics, where the physicists are talking in very strange ways about how things are what you see. Things are what you look for. As I understand the physicist, what you get out of an experiment depends on how you set up the experiment. If you wonder if light is made of particles or photons, you set up an experiment to prove there are photons, and behold you prove there are photons. If, however, you believe light is made up of waves, you set up an experiment to prove that there are waves, and, behold, it proves that there are waves.
SUN: So, do you believe that there is a level in which what we believe to be true creates the reality that we see?
CORLESS: What we call reality is a combination of whatever there is and what we look for. The interaction of the two creates what we call reality. Some people get mixed up, and they say reality can be anything, therefore I can walk through walls. Well, obviously you cannot, unless you work on your consciousness over years and years; apparently there are some people who can do this, although I’ve never seen it. It is simpler to have someone make a door.
SUN: I’ve heard you speak about the importance of healing the split between the mind and the body. How is this possible?
CORLESS: It’s a question of ceasing to identify mental functions with the switching mechanism. The head containing the brain is the switching mechanism. The thinking is controlled from there and that is a discovery of modern science; it certainly was not known in older times. But it is not legitimate to go on and say because the switches are there, that’s where the thinking goes on. The whole body is what thinks. It is interesting that a great number of intellectuals walk with their head held forward, with the rest of their body expected to follow later on. They will often ignore their surroundings. There’s the old story of the student who meets his professor in the quad. It’s pouring rain and the student asks the professor something and the professor goes on at great length. The student says, “Can we discuss this later because I’m getting so wet in this rain?” and the professor says, “What rain?” A total unawareness of the body. On the other hand is the person who is involved in repetitive manual work and has made the decision that intellectual work is not manly, that it’s feminine to read books or write poetry. Such a person will tend to walk kind of headless.
SUN: How have you begun to resolve your personal riddle, or koan: Am I a Christian or am I a Buddhist?
CORLESS: A koan cannot be resolved by the person. It resolves itself. It did so in 1978. It is impossible for me to explain what the resolution was, because that would bring it back into the binary level.
SUN: Well, how did it come about?
CORLESS: As frequently happens, the actual moment of the resolution of the koan was perfectly ordinary. Even banal. I was living in Berkeley, supposedly to learn Tibetan, but really I had done it to live with the Tibetan Buddhists and to ask myself my koan and I was not getting anywhere although the teacher, Tarthang Tulku, said, “it will resolve itself.” But I didn’t believe him and was ready to leave. One night I was watching a late movie on TV, got the munchies, and went to the fridge. As I opened it, a line of an old hymn I had learned as a child came to me: “In Christ there is no East nor West.” That moment crystallized itself as the solving of the koan. That is not the answer. Those are the circumstances under which it resolved itself.
We must work out of our own auto-eroticism, which itself must be seen to be a bisexual experience within the bisexuality of God.
SUN: In your book you speak of Buddhism and Christianity as not so much opposed to each other as irrelevant to each other, but they meet somewhere in super-consciousness. Could you speak about this?
CORLESS: If the Christian God exists, the plurality of religions is not a problem in his mind. His mind functions in some other way. So it’s only a problem for us. If Mahayana Buddhism is right and the universe is neither One nor Many nor both nor neither but emptiness, unqualifiedness, then it’s not a problem that there are two religions or one or both or neither. Super-consciousness is characterized by co-inherence, or the ability for A to contain B at the same time B contains A, which is impossible on the physical level but it is possible on the spiritual level. Both in Christianity and Buddhism we have a level of consciousness where apparent opposites are not resolved or merged or demeaned by being said to be partial truths. But the apparent opposites are maintained as thoroughly true and totally absolute and yet containing each other.
SUN: How do you deal with being a Buddhist and a Christian?
CORLESS: Because in life one doesn’t have to go around with doctrine. One has to deal with situations, with people, with objects. The ethical systems of Christianity and Buddhism are compatible, except Buddhism has more concern for non-human life. Christianity is rather overly concerned with human life. But one can look to people like Albert Schweitzer and see how he talked of reverence for all life as a Christian way of looking at things.
SUN: Is meditation the door to this super-consciousness?
CORLESS: It’s a door but the door isn’t always there, and it isn’t always open. We do not control that. Otherwise it would still be part of our binary part of the universe. It’s like the magic door in fairy tales that you go back to and you can’t find.
SUN: The trick is to be there when it opens?
CORLESS: Yes. It has been demonstrated over two thousand years that certain systems of meditation will put one at the door when it is most likely to open.
SUN: If the Buddha and the Christ were sitting here, what do you think their conversation would be like?
CORLESS: They would probably find this whole thing so amusing that they would be unable to say anything for fits of laughter (laughter).
SUN: What would they say to each other?
CORLESS: They wouldn’t need to say anything to each other.
SUN: What is most relevant today about the teachings of the Buddha and the Christ?
CORLESS: The most important thing that the Buddha can teach Americans is that desires can never be satiated. The American ideal that if we can get more we shall be happier is ultimately just not the case. It has been compared to drinking salty water; the more you drink the thirstier you become. What is the most important thing from Christianity? In a sense Americans suffer from too much Christianity. It comes over the airways all the time. The Christian God is not a puppet master in the sky and he is not a nice man who has picnics on the grass. Rather, he can be seen as a revolving center of the evolution of the human race into divinity. Something similar to the thought of Sri Aurobindo that we’re involved in an evolutionary consciousness. And I see the Christian trinity and the organic Christian church as an organism, as the center of an evolutionary consciousness.
SUN: How mindful are you from moment to moment?
CORLESS: More than I was, less than I hope to be in the future.
SUN: How do you view the gap between where you are now and where you hope to be in the future?
CORLESS: The process is infinite. So there’s no question of measuring that gap. More important is to know whether, over a period of a year or so, there has been any advance. And if there has not, then to investigate why — to see if there’s some kind of blockage, the wrong question has been asked, or something is wrong. There should be the constant moving into greater richness, into better charity, and away from egocentric concerns. One thing which I give as a test for this is decreasing embarrassment and increasing compassion, so that I can get to the position where if I put ketchup instead of sugar into my coffee, I simply observe this fact and am not embarrassed.
SUN: Are there times when you feel special because of your studies?
CORLESS: Yes, I would feel special. But special doesn’t have to mean I feel better. It means that I have a greater responsibility.
SUN: Do you catch yourself feeling better than others because of your spiritual involvement? And if so, what do you do about it?
CORLESS: Yes, well there are times when I think anybody would do all of that. And then I remember all the times I was a shithead.
SUN: Do you fear death?
CORLESS: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think I would be unhappy with a long, lingering death. I mean, certainly if I was going to be tortured for a long time, I’d be very unhappy about that. I have rightly or wrongly the feeling of having lived in other times before. And therefore what we call death is to me simply a passing to another way of existence. And that itself would just be another thing to do, the next thing to do.
It’s good to remember some words spoken by the Rev. Gordon Phillips of the University of London, who said, “God frequently guides us not by opening doors, but by closing them.”
SUN: How do you stay on your path, follow your dharma, not get distracted?
CORLESS: It’s not easy. But in a sense it is also not easy not to stay on the path, because if one has any consciousness of why one is really here, then one says, “I haven’t helped other people in the way I should. Something’s very wrong here.” It depends on how strong one’s sense of mission is. I have always had a very strong sense of something to be done. And at the age of 14 I had a dream in which I was moving up a hillside past some soldiers who stood rigidly at attention looking back into the valley. I asked them to help me but they wouldn’t. Finally I got to the top and was lifted by some invisible beings into a kind of cathedral with rose windows and the organ playing. At the age of 14 I realized that this dream told me I have a power to go on, on my own. I cannot be a copy-cat. And in the end I will move into all of this. I feel now I am coming up over the rim.
If you don’t have this sense of mission, which is very strong and obvious, then I would say it’s good to remember some words spoken by the Rev. Gordon Phillips of the University of London, who said, “God frequently guides us not by opening doors, but by closing them.”
SUN: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
CORLESS: I would like to emphasize that any kind of advance must be done by people themselves. It is no good to look for some kind of guru who will fix things. This is certainly no different from believing in a fix-it God, the Big Daddy who will fix me when I hurt, or will fix the universe when it hurts. There is to me no evidence in the Bible that such a God exists. If we want to destroy the place, we will destroy the place. But if we don’t want to, He’ll help us not to. So I think it’s up to every individual to work at this and not just make it into a head-trip by reading about it and saying isn’t that marvelous, but going ahead and finding some kind of practice, talking to practitioners of it, getting a teacher in this so you don’t make errors which are serious. And then if a lot of us were to do this, it would transform the world. When Thomas Merton first went to the Abbey of Gethsemani where he eventually became a monk, the first day he was there he wrote in his journal, “This is why the world does not fall apart.” People meditating in this way is what holds it all together. Wouldn’t it be nice if people in the White House and the Kremlin could have this attitude?