IAN GORDON-BROWN – INTERVIEW


Transcription in May 2006 by Hazel Marschall of an interview on tape found by Anita Somers
[Note from Hazel Marshall: Ian is being interviewed by two women, each with an overseas accent, unknown to me. It must have been made shortly before the (Eurotas?) conference on 'Chaos and Harmony', (referred to at the very end), in the early 1990's?]


Q. … the transpersonal dimension of the life; and before we address your persona, could you tell us who you are – I mean, who you really are?

IGB. Well, I think that's very difficult. I don't know that I will know who I really am until I die. My experience is that when we start off in life we discover bits of ourself, and we gradually get to know them, and some of them we like and some of them we may not like so much. But gradually it begins to put the whole person together. And I feel that that particularly began to accelerate in my midlife period. But I have still got some living to do yet, so I have to wait until I am finished – another ten years or so, perhaps?

Q. I hope more! How long have you been aware of this 'transpersonal' – if you could explain to us, what do you mean, how do you feel about 'transpersonal' – how long have you been aware of this aspect of your life?

IGB. Well I suppose, for me, 'transpersonal' is the spiritual dimension of my being and of life generally. And I had a sort of an awakening when I was about fourteen. My father had become a student of the teachings of a person called Alice Bailey who had written a large number of books; and he showed me one of them when I was fourteen, and I suddenly realised that this spoke my language. It was as if I had come home, and I didn't really need to search any more, because this was it. I needed simply to stay with it. So fourteen was about the age. And it was quite clear. I mean, I have never deviated in the sense of my belief in the ideas for which Alice Bailey stood. But she was a very broad-ranging thinker; and as life has gone on I have, you know, explored in Christian mysticism, in Buddhism, in Hindu philosophy and thought, Zen; and through modern thinking in such fields as politics and government and psychology. So my definition of 'spiritual' would include all of that – not be limited to one particular teaching. The teachings that I follow are broad and eclectic, and the last thing they are is dogmatic.

Q. How do you experience the spiritual? Could you describe us your experiences, the awakening, the insight? How does it feel to be in this state of mind?

IGB. Well, it's a wide range of feelings. I, for example, started to meditate formally when I was about eighteen, and there were times when you would get into a transcendent state. It was as if you were being lifted up ... ? And that's a very real type of experience. It's also one where one could say that grace descends. It's almost as if something comes in through the crown of your head, a different energy, a different consciousness. So that's one fairly common experience, I think, for people on the journey.

I've had sort of semi-psychic experiences, like the explosion of light in the head. I've had out-of-body experiences, one or two of obviously, it was as if I was being given some instruction: in one case, 'Watch out!'

Q. [Inaudible]

IGB. … No. In these cases, I was out of my body, so I was away at some other place. And coming back into your body when you've been away at some other place is a quite clear experience that is different from coming back out of a dream. So I've had one or two experiences like that, one of which has led me to where I am now.

I don't know – how does one go on with this? You usually, in my experience, you get into this sort of area when you perhaps have a problem, and you don't know quite what the answer is, and you search in the depths of your nature, or you go as high as you can; and sometimes you may get an answer, and you don't know really whether to believe it, but you trust in it, and go ahead. That happens quite a lot. It happened particularly in my work with the European Transpersonal Association.

Q. Yes. So when you say 'transcendence', what do you mean, really. How does it feel?

IGB. Well, 'transcendent' means being – transcending; so you are lifted up out of the ego. You enter a different dimension where the everyday 'I' ceases to be the central point of awareness. It's almost as if you enter a collective soul, rather than an individual soul.

Q. I see. So you feel – like, spread out?

IGB. … spread out, spread up, spread down …

Q. Yes! So, all over the place, right?

IGB. No, because you have a centre – no, you have a centre.

Q. Yes, you have a centre, right.

Did this kind of experience change your ways of being and acting afterwards? Being out of your ego and participating in a planetary consciousness, does this change –

IGB. My brief answer would be that the experiences of light give you pointers as to the direction you should go in. And the experiences of pain and of darkness change your nature, and make you more understanding of human living and human beings. So I think that light and dark experiences have different functions – for me, anyway.

Q. So, like, you would invite the darkness, the suffering, into your life and kind of embrace it?

IGB. I don't invite the darkness into my life! It enters, however, and then you have to deal with it. I don't go searching for pain. That seems to me to be time-consuming and wasteful. There's plenty of pain around. I don't think that life is easy in that sense. So, no, the darkness is there. And it's not always in me. I mean, it may be a collective darkness. That I think is a very common experience. I know, a lot of my clients when they come in, I may see perhaps half a dozen clients in the course of three or four days, all of whom seem to be quotes 'suffering' the same sort of pain or difficulty. And when you look into it it's quite clear that it's not their own pain. It's a collective pain; it's a much more universal pain, and they are participating in that.

And in psychotherapy, one of the questions is, 'Can you tell what's your stuff and what is somebody else's stuff?' And it's in these moments that you can begin to explore: 'Yes, this is mine, me, Ian Gordon-Brown's pain. But this bit is much more universal, and I am involved in it. I need to detach myself from it, as a person, but be prepared to try and do something about it as an individual member of the collective.

Q. Yes. Once, you said that the love is the base for the therapeutic relationship. Could you say more about it? How do you experience being with a patient, being with a client. How do you generate this love, how does it happen between two of you, and how does it help the client?

IGB. It's a state of consciousness. It doesn't necessarily happen between the two of us, and it involves things like understanding, compassion, tolerance, acceptance of the nature of yourself and the other. It involves, I suppose, basic good will. All of these things make up the condition of love. And I suppose that, if you're experienced as a therapist, you tend to slip into that state when you begin to do your work. I mean, I don't have to try too hard to do it now, because a basic empathy seems to be present.

How are you finding this? Does it sound a bit abstract?

Q. No, I believe that you are getting to the values which are very important for our work. I would like to get a more panoramic vision of your perspective of this turn of the century, since you have been one of the founders and the pioneers in Transpersonal Psychology, we would like to ask 'How do you see the signs of the transformation, of the initiation, in this turn of the century, this transition time?

IGB. Well, I think we are coming to the end of an age. In astrological terms, we are coming to the end of the age of Pisces and entering Aquarius. So there's a powerful shifting of energies in which we're all involved. That's one thing.

I think it's almost as if humanity is coming of age, and the members of the human family who are on the path of individuation, as Jung called it – searching for their essential nature – are more grown up along that path.

Thinking of some of the signs, one of the signs that I see at present is the rebalancing of masculine and feminine energies – yin and yang. Seems to me we've had a long period of the domination of the masculine, particularly in the broadly Western world; and now yin has been rising, and either kicking the men out of the way, or the masculine energy out of the way, or I think that the masculine energy is not so easily found by men, and people with a strong masculine principle. It's almost as if energy has been withdrawn from the masculine; so yin and the feminine principle has come up? I think we've reached the point now where one of our primary tasks is to discover new images for masculine energy and consciousness. This I think is a very, very important world process.

Another, I think, has been the whole business of the coming together of East and West. I mean, East in the sense of the Orient, and West in the sense of the Occident. After the Second World War, UNESCO started what they called their East-West Project. One of the things I've noticed is that in the period since the end of the Second World War there has been a succession of Eastern, Oriental teachers, representing every religion and philosophy of the Orient, moving into the West. And there's been a kind of return flow: Western science, Western technology, Western manufactures and so forth; and Western cultural values have moved from Occident to Orient. And it's been mixing up – I think in a most beautiful way. I think this is a major part of it.

Another is, I think, one teacher said that we're moving from an age of authority into an age of experience. Authority is everywhere being kicked out. Even God is dead, you know, according to some thinkers. And certainly in the world of therapy for example, the secret – the thrust is to help individuals to understand their experience and to take responsibility for making changes in their lives; and so to become their own authority. Not to as it were hang authority on their fathers or their mothers, or employers, or anybody like that. So we're moving from authority to experience the world over – another change.

A change that is I think very important in the area of levels of consciousness: Jung said that intuition was perception via the unconscious, the implication being that it was not possible for the intuition to be consciously used or developed, but it 'happened', in quotes. I know growing numbers of people who are working at the development of a conscious intuition, so that they can actually, when they need to, almost switch the intuition on. So I think that this is happening on a world scale, and that we are developing a – what one might almost call it an 'intuition body'; in the Orient we'd call it a Buddhic Vehicle; which will be equivalent in its own sort of way to the sort of mental and emotional bodies that we inhabit as well as our physical bodies. This is I think a major breakthrough.

I've got a list here actually, because I knew this question was coming up – is there anything I should add to it? Yes. I think that partly this is due to the length of life that people now have. Very few people die, in terms of the average, in their mid-forties. Most of us are going through what has come to be known as the sort of Mid-Life Crisis or Mid-Life Change. And very often it is a fairly dramatic crisis, and there's pain attached, and we lose things and gain things. And what I think is interesting is that it's so often now seen as an opportunity, not as a crisis from which we should run, or we should try and patch it up, but this is an opportunity for change and for growth and transformation. I think that's terribly important.

What else? Yes, one more thing on the list, no, two more things. One of the things I've noticed in the last ten or fifteen years particularly, is the huge, growing interest in metaphor and symbol. It's almost as if new languages are being constructed – I mean, they are old languages, the language of metaphor and symbol has been found in dreams and in mystical systems from the beginning of time – but we're now coming to it consciously. And if you go into bookshops, certainly where I come from, the shelves groan under books on these themes. It's very, very exciting. People tend to go to workshops and meetings where the symbolic and the metaphoric are given attention.

And the other thing I think is something to do with the Collective; because as you begin to deal with your own shadow, and I think we should remember that the Shadow is what is not in the light of consciousness, and therefore it can contain both positive and negative, and for many people the Self, the Soul, the Atman, is in the unconscious and occasionally pops up.

So, as you begin to deal with and make your shadow side more conscious, I think you reach the point where you then have a responsibility to in some way help to redeem the Collective shadow. Jung talked about the Collective Unconscious, and there's certainly a Collective shadow. And you can see the manifestations of the negative side of that shadow all over the world: the violence and crime and hate and so forth. But there's something that exists in all of us; and we need to, through our own transformation, consciously work at the transformation of these collective expressions, and I think many people are doing that.

So these are some of the signs, for me, that we are not only entering a new period but it's almost as if we are undergoing a planetary initiation. And the word 'initiation' is very close, isn't it, to the word 'individuation' which was coined and used by Jung.

Q. Could you say anything more about this personal redemption, the way of dealing with the collective shadow in a personal way? Like, what you said, it sounds like a person can be a vessel for transmuting those collective shadows, not only through direct actions for world peace, say, but also for the inner work?

IGB. Yes. I think that direct action in the outer world, and inner processes, are both important – both essential. I would not say that one was more important than the other. I think that's very much an individual matter. I mean, in all the great religions of the world there are traditions of people who are kind of cleansing the psyche by inner processes of prayer and meditation. On the outer level, I think, many of us, we choose some particular field, which we work and serve, and we deal with it in that area. I mean, world problems and issues are so complex and so difficult that it's not possible for any one of us really to understand more than a portion of it. But we can become an expert in one or two areas, and I think that's one of the requirements.

But to illustrate another way of working: when the Gulf War was on, I thought, now, how the hell does one help? In this terrible situation, what can one do? Useless to think that anything that I did would affect matters very much. And it seemed to me that it would be interesting, as each as it were stage of the drama unfolded, if I could try and think, 'Now, if I were in the position of world leaders at this time, what would I do? What would be my next step to try and help towards a creative solution?' Now, that doesn't mean, I think, trying to persuade world leaders what to do by a sort of process of mental transference, but trying to think clearly about it, so that you understand the issues, and understand in a compassionate way what they have to face.

I don't know – it's a very important question, and a very difficult one. I mean, I think that if I could give another example, you see I think that if you're working in a field like the transpersonal – in psychology, like I am, you obviously work at your own task, you do your own duty. But one of the things is to become conscious that you are not alone. That there are many other people engaged in the same sort of work; and, you know, you hold out the hand of friendship to them, and help when it's asked for or when it can be offered.

And recently, in my particular patch of the woods, a series of synchronous events happened, which made one feel that one was not only not alone, but there was a whole series of processes going on at a different level which were helping things to happen. My own organisation got approved for – to become an accrediting organisation in the psychotherapeutic field in the UK.

At the same time in another area – and we are a transpersonal accrediting organisation – in another area about a month earlier exactly the same thing had happened in the British Psychological Society, where the AGM of that society agreed that there should be a Transpersonal section established.

And then a friend of mine, who has been helping us go through the accrediting processes, when I told her what our assessor had said, she said, 'Isn't it amazing! Yesterday I heard from the university that we've been negotiating with, that they have approved that there should be a Master's degree established in Transpersonal Psychosynthesis.'

Now, these things happened all in the same six-week period; and were interesting examples, to me, of a collective process going on; and, I think, happening in many different fields.

Q. As to synchronicity, do you feel that it's something like happening always, all the time; or do you have a personal feeling that there are periods or kind of in specific areas of dense synchronicity? Do you find it more in your life now than you did before? Do you notice more of this kind of phenomenon?

IGB. That's a difficult one. I mean, obviously I hope my own sensitivity increases. I'm sure that there are lot of synchronous events happening about which I know nothing, even perhaps in my own patch of the woods. But having said that I would say that I am, a) more aware of synchronicity, and b) have more personal examples happening to me, which I can quote. Happening to me, or happening to people …

[ Break in recording ]

I think I'd finished on that one – had I?

Q. You said you had some more specific examples of your synchronicity events, and it sounded as if you wanted to quote them –

IGB. Not particularly actually. No, some of them are very private and it wouldn't be appropriate to talk about them. But, I mean, there's one I find interesting because it also – one of the maps – in our branch of Transpersonal Psychology we use a number of simple maps of the psyche – Assagioli's Egg Diagram would be one – another would be Jung's diagram, with the circle and the Self at the centre, and so forth, But all of them are maps set in immediate space and time. Now, there's one map which as it were runs through time, which is a time map; and that is the Astrological map. Now, most people think of astrology as being a way of judging character, or saying what type a person is and largely miss the very interesting fact that very often the astrological chart will tell you that something is going to happen, and when. Not what, but when.

I was working with Liz Greene, who is one of the world's most famous astrologers, on a transpersonal workshops in the 1970's, and we were looking at synastry, which is the relationship of one person's chart to another, when they are in a relationship; and we were looking at the synastry around marriage relationships. And this girl said, 'Well, I can't find anything at the time that I married.' So I asked the rather obvious question, 'What did your marriage mean to you?' And she said, 'Well, not much. I was living with this guy, and he said one day, "Look, my parents don't like the idea that somebody should be living out of marriage. Would you mind if we got married?" And so I said, "No, that's OK, we'll get married", so we did.'

So I said, 'Well, it didn't mean very much to you?' 'No; that's right,' she said. And ten minutes later she came along and said, 'I've found the signature in my chart!' – in great excitement. I said, 'What happened at that particular moment?' 'Oh,' she said, 'We got divorced!'

Now, it was a symbol of a marriage – but a divorce. And I've come across a number of interesting things where my own chart has forecast things which happened, even down to such tangible dates as a move of house, and the death of my ex wife, with extraordinary accuracy.

[ Break ]

Q. We heard you telling about the future, and the future's impact on the present moment; and if you could reveal your philosophy of time and how the future acts upon past; and say more about it, how you understand it, and what does it mean, and how do we find it in our present moment, now?

IGB. I think the future is always a question mark; but I think that there's a world process in hand where the future is coming towards us in the present. People often just talk about the past moving towards the present, and what has led up to where we are now; but if you look at history and a whole series of really important events, it's almost as if the signs were present before the events happened. That people were in place, if you like, in the various revolutions. Scientists are not interested in, as it were, experiments which have proved the way that matter acts in the past; they're interested in things that will take us into the future. So that not only are people around who are interested in the future, but I think that there's a kind of –

The Indian teacher, Patanjali, has a phrase. He called it 'the Raincloud of Knowable Things'. And it's almost as if the raincloud is there, and the things in it are knowable. In other words, they're not useless, but they are to be known. And at some time, as the cloud gets closer, they will actually precipitate. I know this perhaps sounds rather vague …

But there's a woman called Marilyn Ferguson who runs a thing called the Brain-Mind Bulletin. And some years ago she wrote a book called 'The Aquarian Conspiracy', which was an exploration of current historical activity, and former activity, from the standpoint that the future was being brought into the present, by people who I won't say they knew what they were doing, but who were impelled by some vision of what the future should be.

And she called it a 'conspiracy' because, she said, the word derives from two words; one is 'con', which is with, and 'spiro', which is to breathe. So in her sense the word 'conspiracy' is people who are breathing together. They weren't as it were full of organisation and networks and writing letters to each other about 'what should we do?'; but somehow or other they were breathing the future into the present. I found that a very attractive image.

Q. Would you somehow see a parallel to organic growth? Like what happens to a plant may look like random transformation, unless you know that it's going a stage from a seed into a flower and then into a fruit and so on? So is it possible that this is like, say, some organic pattern of the evolution of the planet that's revealing itself; and to some people it's clear and visible and they get some kind of insights to trigger certain changes and speed them or help them happen?

IGB. Yes, with a question mark, or with a hesitation. I think, when things are clear and there's not too much confusion around, then you can very often make intelligent and informed and intuitive guesses about the future. But the present period of world history is, the energies of Pisces are withdrawing, and the energies of Aquarius are coming in; and the pattern is not clear. The longer-term future maybe; but the immediate-term future, I think, is not easily predictable.

Michael Tippett, the composer, a number of years ago gave a broadcast which he called 'Moving into Aquarius'; and he defined the problem of the artist at the present time: that the archetypes that were seeking to be anchored were not clear, and therefore he didn't know what kind of music to write. So whilst I think that there are people who have vision about what will happen, my experience is that it's much less easy now to be sure about what's going to happen than it was forty years ago – actually, quite different – I mean …

Q. You mean, we're in kind of a time of confusion, and this confusion is very natural for this period?

IGB. Oh yes.

Q. What would you suggest as dealing with this confusion as the technique in a broadest sense – the way of behaving in this natural confusion?

IGB. Well, first of all I would come back to your use of the analogy of the seed. I think that there are these processes that one can see happening. But – what attitude should one take? Ah – I mean, I would like to say you must ask God – and I would add, I'm not sure that He or She knows! I think, you know, you centre yourself and you stand steady and you do what you have to do. And – I don't know. I'm not going to be – I don't think I should allow myself the – I'm not a predictor; I used to try. I'm a believer, that we're moving towards a good and better future. I think that the crisis of our time is not going to lead to a sort of holocaust or total collapse of civilisation. In that sense I'm optimistic – and very optimistic, there are so many positive signs. But when and how they will all happen – [I don't know!]

Q. That's close to one question we wanted to ask you: what's your personal feeling about death? What do you consider the death to really be?

IGB. Oh, a change in state. That's simple! Death doth – in the unconscious there is no such thing as death. Symbols of death in the unconscious are always symbols of change. All the evidence from near-death studies point to the reality: that you're not dying, but you're moving on to somewhere else. And I think that the interest in death that we have at the moment, (and the publication of Sögyal Rinpoche's book, with the permission of the Dalai Lama, I think) this is hugely significant. And the hospice movement. But there ain't no such thing as death.

Q. Now, we are going to finish! But, to bring the future into the present moment, we are looking forwards for our common conference on 'Chaos and Harmony', and we are really hoping that with your experience and knowledge of the wise man, and inviting more people from the West or from East, we centre the energy, to be able to find a creative ways out of the chaos and collective shadow to find a harmony in the chaos, and really enjoy the exchange of ideas and experiences and intutions. And I'm really, really happy to have you here and to have you in the future with your friends from all over the world. Thank you.