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  1 Richard Land - BATGAP Interview (# 237) June 25, 2014 {BATGAP theme music plays} Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and my guest today is Richard Lang. Richard attended a workshop in 1970 with the author of The Headless Way  , Douglas Harding, and by doing Harding’s experiments was astonished to find that he saw his true self. He was so impressed with the effectiveness of the experiments that he became involved in the work of sharing this method with as many people as possible. And when I was listening to Richard’s interviews and talks in preparation for this, and was reading his book, I was reminded of a song by The Incredible String Band,  which for some reason is called Douglas Traherne Harding    –  was the name of the song  –   but Harding’s middle name was Edison, wasn’t it?  Richard: Yes, that’s right.  Rick: Why did they call it Traherne? Richard: Because Thomas Traherne is a well-known English mystic from the 17 th  century, and he spoke a lot about having a single eye and being capacity for the world. And Mike Heron of the String Band was reading Traherne and actually, Traherne was a favorite of Douglas’s so it was a good choice -it combined Traherne and Douglas really. Rick: Cool. I’d actually like to read a few lyrics from that song, one of which I sometimes use as my little blurb on Skype  –   you know, you can put little messages there. The song starts out, “When I was born I had no head. My eye was single and my body was filled with light. And the light that I was, was the light that I saw by, and the light that I saw by was the light that I was.” And then there’s a bunch more in the song, then there’s a refrain, “One light, the light that is one though the lamps be many,” which is the little thing I sometimes use on Skype. And then it ends up, “You never enjoy the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your vein and you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.”  Richard: Yes, that last bit is Traherne. Rick: Ah, nice. So for those of you listening who have never heard of The Incredible String Band  , check them out, they are one of the highlights of the late 60s, early 70s. Richard: Douglas met them in the late 60s in York, in the North of England, and showed Mike Heron that he was headless and they became friends. And Douglas went to see them perform at the Royal Albert Hall a couple of times.  2 Rick: Cool. So when I first heard of headlessness a few years ago, I probably had the sort of reaction that many people have, which is, you know, “Of course I have a head. If I didn’t have a head, I’d be dead. Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean I don’t have one. I mean I can’t see my liver either but I’m reasonably confident that I have one, otherwise   again, I’d be dead.”  Maybe some people have that kneejerk reaction, so let’s take plenty of time and really explain to us why it’s called ‘headlessness,’ what the whole thing is, what your experience with it is? We’ll take a couple of hours and really un pack this. Richard: Lovely, well I just want to say “thank you, Rick,” first of all, for inviting me into this interview. So great, I’m very glad to be here, I’m glad to share the headless way.  Rick: Sure, and you know, quite a few listeners also wanted   me to invite you, which is one of the criterion I use for inviting people  –   they kept writing in saying, “Get this guy on” - so here we are. Richard: Great, well, thank you. It’s called the ‘headless way’ because the basic question of this really is: who am I? What am I? And one takes a fresh look at what one actually experiences of oneself. So before we go into all that it might mean and whether it’s true or not, one just notices the plain, neutral experience, which is that you can’t see your head. Now w e can debate whether we’ve got one or not, but I don’t think you can argue against the fact that you can’t see it in the place you’re looking out of; you can see it in the mirror and in photographs and so on. And so I can see the tip of my nose, but from my point of view it’s vanishing into nothing and I’m convinced it’s the same for everyone. If I do this (moving his hands away from view) my hands disappear and then (moving them back into view) reappear, yeah? Rick: Yeah, people can try these experiments while they’re watching. Richard: Yes, that’s the point really, is do the experiment, viewer, and notice your hands disappear. So this is the basic experience and it’s nonverbal and non -emotional ; I don’t need to understand this in any particular way to notice it. I’m just noticing I can’t see my eyes now, I can’t see anything right here, and I don’t have to feel good or I don’t have to understand it in any way to actually experience it. And Douglas developed lots   of experiments for testing this point of view out, whether it’s true or not. It’s not just “can you see your head,” but what happens when you turn around? Well, you don’t see you moving, you see the scenery moving. If I’m looking at you  now Rick, I see your face, not mine, so we call that face the “no face.” So that’s the first introduction to the nonverbal, non - emotional experience, which doesn’t sound very attractive but there you go. Rick: And as I recall, Douglas first stumbled upon this, he was a spiritual seeker, he was hiking in the Himalayas and all of a sudden he kind of popped into this realization. Richard: That isn’t quite true actually.    3 Rick: Alright, straighten us out. Richard: He was a writer about 20 years or so after he first saw who he was. In brief, Douglas’s story was that he grew up in this fundamentalist Christian group, left when he was 21 having had enough of being told what to think, and began to work out his own view. And he first of all was influenced by the relativities, the relativity  –  in other words, what something is depends on how far away you are from it, partly. Rick: You mean in a scientific sense, like Einstein’s?  Richard: Yes, that’s right. I mean in a very simple way, you’re looking at me through t he camera so you see my face, but if you place the camera closer you wouldn’t see my face; you’d see a patch of skin. And if with other instruments you could come closer, you could see cells, and so on. On the other hand, if you went away from me you would see my whole body, and then England, and the planet, and the stars and so on. And so Douglas began to realize that he wasn’t just human; that he had layers. In fact, I’ll probably show this several times (holding up a model), this is a model he made in the 70s of the layers of his being. Rick: Cool. Richard: Yes, it’s fantastic. So this represents what you are at zero distance, this nothingness, and on the outside are what you appear to be at different ranges. So at this range, can you see that? - th ere’s a person. So that’s what you are through the camera; you’re viewing me at that range. But if you come up to me you’d find cells and molecules and particles and so on, but if you went away from me and then you’d find the rest of humanity and the planet an d the stars and the galaxy, right? Rick: Yeah, neat, great model. Richard: Oh it’s fantastic. It’s body -mind in one map. Rick: Of course some people might say, “Yeah that’s fine, that’s the molecules and then zooming out that’s the galaxy, but that’s no t me. Me is that 3 rd  or 4 th  little thing that you swung out there, which is that guy standing there. That’s the me, everything else is kind of the non - me” - just to play devil’s advocate. Richard: That is the normal view, yes, but when Douglas looked into it objectively he realized that that normal me, which we identify with and quite rightly so - the one we see in the mirror - is nonsense without all the other layers. You see I can’t breathe without my lungs, or the cells that make up my lungs, or the molecules that make up my cells, or the atmosphere of my planet, or the warmth and light of my star, and so the whole thing is one living system. Now what Douglas realized was that the question ‘who am I?’ is not just what I am in appearance or in body, which is absolutely vital, but who is at the center of all these layers, and the nearer you get the less there is. And he was well aware  –  this is in the 1940s now or late 30s  – he left England in 1937, got married, went to India to work there as an architect  –  he had an architect job there. The war  4 broke out, his wife and kids went back, went to America actually, but he was intensely involved with this question ‘who am I?’ And working on it, and working on this idea of layers, and not just body but mind as well. And he was deeply    convinced that at the center there was what you might call ‘no - thing,’ and all the great religions talk about this. But it was more of an idea as much as anything, until one day in 1942 or three he saw a picture by Ernest Mach in a book he was reading on philosophy. And this was a self-portrait by Ernest Mach who is an early relativist and scientist, and when you talk of speeds, Mach 5, that is the Mach. Rick: Oh wow. Richard: Yes, and so Ernest Mach, in this book that Douglas was reading, decided to go back to the beginning and just describe his direct experience before he verbalized. And he drew a picture of himself, which is a headless body with an arm reaching out to the piece of paper he was drawing on and the room beyond, and a big nose. You see, if you would close one you’re your nose goes from the ceiling to the floor, a nd in this picture Ernest Mach’s nose curls down from the ceiling to the floor. When Douglas saw this he realized he was in the same condition, and that instead of just trying to penetrate into himself from outside , peeling away the layers to get to the center, his picture was a view  from  the center out. And so although Douglas was really already almost home, this picture made very clear what home looked like. So this was 1942 or three, he’d been working on this for ten years. He had already written two books, unpublished. He then worked on this during the rest of the war and then he got back to England in 1945, and he took five years off before going back to architecture, because having seen that he was headless, that the center is visible … you see, he’d been trying to penetrate the center from outside. He kind of knew what it was, but suddenly it was visible, he was looking out of it, and saw a headless, clear space, full of everything, and it inspired him. And he realized that he needed to make sense of it, in terms of modern science and philosophy, and so he said to his wife, “Look, I’m going to take a year off and finish this book - I’ve been working on i t for three, four years, plus” - and anyway, because he had saved a bit of money. He then, after a year he was nowhere near finishing and it took until 1950, another five years. Fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, no holidays. Rick: Wow, amazing. That’s The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth ? Richard: Yes, an incredible, sustained achievement of attention and depth. And he went into every question; it is the most inspiring book. He went back to the beginning and he draws on tradition, he r ead everyone, he stands on everyone’s shoulders , and so that came out in 1950. So you were referring earlier to his description on having no head when he was walking in the mountains, well he did walk in the mountains, he went up to the Himalayas, but tha t wasn’t when he first saw it; when he first saw it was looking at this picture in this book.
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