The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.

ANCIENT TRADITION IN MODERN SOCIETY with GAY GAER LUCE, Ph.D. 

JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove. Today we're going to explore the role of ancient traditions in modern culture. What place is there in our society for ancient techniques and methods, when we live in a world based on computer technology, air travel, and television? With me is Gay Gaer Luce, author of numerous books, including Body Time, Sleep, and Your Second Life. Gay is a former consultant to the President's Scientific Advisory Committee and to the National Institutes of Health, and more recently the founder and director of the Nine Gates Mystery School. Welcome, Gay.

GAY GAER LUCE, Ph.D.: Thank you, Jeffrey.

MISHLOVE: In the Nine Gates Mystery School, you're very actively involved in reintroducing ancient techniques into modern life. You work with shamans and spiritual teachers from many, many different cultures, and you seem to find that they offer something of value, something that we can't find with all of our medications and biofeedback and the quick fixes in our culture -- something of greater depth, I think, don't you?

LUCE: Absolutely. And they're very practical. These traditions evolved at a time when there wasn't a separation between birth and cosmos, between daily life and what's sacred -- when people didn't consider that you could cut knowledge in half, and ignore the spiritual side of anything. There isn't anything that doesn't have a spiritual essence, and so what they're doing is working with life and our daily problems on a more causal basis; it's much more fundamental. And they're very useful. It's extremely practical.

MISHLOVE: Many decades ago, Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, wrote a book called Modern Man in Search of a Soul, in which he seemed to feel that our so-called modern society was denying us our own spiritual essence. I should think work such as you're doing is an antidote for that.

LUCE: It's a little hard to describe, because I now take this for granted, and I realize that not everybody does. For example, breathing techniques abound. There probably isn't a culture among any of the ancient mystery schools, or even today, any of the traditions, that doesn't involve attention on breath as a way of changing consciousness and changing health. Some of the things that come up are so simple -- like for example, the fact that if you pay attention to a part of your body, especially a place where there's an energy center, like the sole of your foot, wherever attention goes, energy flows, there's a greater flow of energy. This is a fundamental teaching in learning how to heal. It's also a fundamental thing in learning how to sustain energy. For example, Native Americans and many other people walk barefoot on the ground. Well, the ground is a source of a tremendous amount of energy. We have like these holes, these vortices, in our feet, that just suck up the energy, if we're willing to use them.

MISHLOVE: And yet the modern view is almost the opposite. It's that your body works best when you don't notice it at all.

LUCE: Right.

MISHLOVE: The body is not a thing to be felt, to be experienced, except when it's sick. Then you go see a doctor.

LUCE: That's probably true, and we also think our body is very small. We think our body is in this physical confine, instead of being inside a much larger body -- a body of radiant energy, which is also our body. So if we thought of our bodies as energy, we would suddenly begin to work with ourselves at a level that's very deep. For example, modern psychiatry and psychology is coming around to the point of view that a lot of disease is caused by a state of mind. This is a very ancient understanding; it's thousands of years old. People have almost, I would guess since the earliest times, understood that if you're in a bad state of mind, something must happen in the body -- that thought and energy come before the congealed or condensed form, which is matter, and that if you shift the mind and you learn how to pay attention, you shift what is going on inside the body.

MISHLOVE: Well, the ancient people weren't able to fall back, as we are, on all of our technology, to the point perhaps where we rely on it too much. They had to use the mind; in a way it was all they had. They had nature, of course, but they didn't have science, they didn't have technology, the way we do.

LUCE: They had spiritual science, and it really was a science -- that is, knowing exactly how to draw breath up the meridians and around and down. For example, the books of Mantak Chia, for those people who have looked at this Taoist breathing exercise -- it's very healing.

MISHLOVE: This is Chinese?

LUCE: It's Chinese -- well, it's all through Asia, and it's related to what we know about acupuncture. It's related to what we know about healing.

MISHLOVE: This is the notion that with each breath you circulate the chi or the life energy through the body.

LUCE: Yes. Well, there are I don't know how many thousands of exercises, each with a particular effect -- that is, some people know how to levitate, other people know how to send energy out through their fingers. In my earlier days, when I played around, trying to figure out how people understood these things, I know that Erik Peper and I did some exploring, and we found karate experts who could drive a nail through the muscle of the forearm and suspend a bucket of water on it without bleeding. And as long as the chi was going in a certain direction --

MISHLOVE: The chi being another word for this energy.

LUCE: The chi being energy, right. As long as this chi energy was going in a certain direction, with a certain force of thought, there would be no wound of the skin. Then they would take the water bucket off, take the nail out, and there would be no sign on the skin that anything had happened.

MISHLOVE: Really!

LUCE: Yes. I can remember one funny scene in our living room way back then, when a young man from Ecuador sat in front of a BBC camera saying, "I'm going to pull this pin through my cheek" -- he's talking all the time -- "would you like it to bleed or not?" And it didn't bleed.

MISHLOVE: We've lost touch with something. The fact, I suppose, that we're so astonished by this suggests that we in our modern society really have lost touch.

LUCE: We think of ourselves as very puny, and very much more rigid than we are. That's a state of mind. I mean, think of all the people who just recently have learned that they can bend spoons or walk on fire or something. The limits are in our minds, a lot of them. Now, there are some limits, in the sense that we're part of a whole, and what's really unhealthy is that we don't see that. I think that's where the ancient traditions were really different. People didn't levitate in order to have power in ancient time.

MISHLOVE: The way they do today, right?

LUCE: Well, I don't know, but that does get to be kind of a parlor trick, talking about things like that. I think the kinds of things we're doing in Nine Gates are a little more down-to-earth than that. They're ways in which we can begin to be self-conscious about our communication, in which we can know that our communication is direct and clear, so that we begin to undo misunderstandings. Or there are ways in which we can evoke the energy of our hearts to heal each other; there are ways in which we can actually use emotional hygiene. You know, there are other cultures that are far more civilized than we are, in the sense that they don't spray their emotions over each other. They understand that emotions have to be released, and that this is a compressed energy, a labeled energy, it has to be given some outlet, that it's worth looking at. But instead of saying, "You did such and such and you're doing this to me," they say, "I am now going to feel this energy, see these images, and allow this to transform by changing it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with you."

MISHLOVE: In other words, if I'm angry, rather than take it out on the nearest person who can't defend themselves, as is often common in our culture, I might hold it till an appropriate moment when I can be alone with myself, and then really process my anger.

LUCE: And there are specific things you can do. There are a lot of these ancient techniques. You can use breath to charge up, you can do these postures as in bioenergetics and in ancient Tibetan traditions, or you can use movements and postures with the breath, so that the emotions begin to come up and through. And then there's a magical moment when all of a sudden the anger turns to sheer energy or excitement, and you know, "Aha!" and you begin to understand that you held that anger in place with a belief, and that you can change that belief voluntarily.

MISHLOVE: I would imagine that some people are driven by anger most of their lives because they haven't allowed themselves to process it to the point of finding that magic moment that you've just described.

LUCE: Well, we all can do that for ourselves. I mean, certainly it's helpful to have a therapist to work with on problems that one can't see at all, but after a while -- I mean, when I go home and I get with my mother and we get in a wrangle, I realize that all my life I used to blame her. Now I just go in the bathroom and do a little charge-up and release, and suddenly I can be in a conversation that used to be very painful for me, and I'm comfortable. I don't have to be miserable about it. I wish I'd learned this lots earlier in my life.

MISHLOVE: You seem to be a person, Gay, who sees herself as a child of the planet. I get the sense that you're comfortable drawing on all ancient cultures, and feeling as if they're all part of your natural heritage, rather than just perhaps one or two select cultures based on your ethnic background, or something of that sort.

LUCE: All is a big word. I wish it were all. I haven't even begun to taste a few of them, but I have been very enriched by the disparateness -- like for example, in one of our first sessions we've started to work with the Celtic tradition, and I had no idea what depth I could experience in English words -- that in fact here is a tradition that links us to all of nature, the nature of the triple goddess of creation, which is coming off our tongues at all times.

MISHLOVE: We speak the language which is based on ancient Celtic.

LUCE: Right. For example, the letters all have very deep meanings. They call them oghams, or alphabets, that the bards, who were the great prophets and seers, knew. For example, if you say "Hello," you are saying, "I honor God"
-- L being the letter of God, and O of initiation, H the honorific for what is holy. If you say, "Hi," you are honoring shortness, death.

MISHLOVE: Is that right?

LUCE: So probably in our deep consciousness, because we've begun to work with these words --

MISHLOVE: I always wondered what hello really meant.

LUCE: Hello is like namaste -- it's an honoring of resting in the initiation of God.

MISHLOVE: This is the best argument of all, in a way, for us to search out and in a sense return to our understanding of ancient cultures, because no matter how much we get involved in this veneer of civilization and computer technology, television, hamburgers, space travel, and so on, everything that we're doing is built on this ancient world, and the ancient understandings even in saying something so basic as saying hello.

LUCE: But look, they didn't have to do what we do. Padma Sambhava in the seventh century predicted that "when iron birds shall fly and men and women wear the same clothes, the dharma will be brought to the land of the red man in the West."

MISHLOVE: This is the great Tibetan saint.

LUCE: That's right. He was the man who brought Buddhism to Tibet, where ancient people were very tuned in to the hologram, the understanding, that all of us are a piece of the entirety, and that if we get some decent focus on it and we get good definition, we can see through all time and all things. I mean, iron birds shall fly -- what could have seemed stranger in the seventh century? Or Cayce's understandings -- what could have seemed stranger in the early 1900s?

MISHLOVE: In other words, the sense that we have of linear time, and of kind of separateness, and a certain way that we cultivate our egos and our titles, our positions, our social relations in modern culture, is a very, very -- you might even say provincial way of looking at things, compared to the ancient view, in which time is seen differently, in which individuality is seen differently.

LUCE: Oh, important. Look at how we treat death. Instead of entrance and exit to this life being sacred and really valued moments, we avoid it, we anesthetize it, we try to put it out of sight -- instead of celebrating it and making it as beautiful as we can. Think of the incredible knowledge of the Tibetan tradition, for example.

MISHLOVE: We try and make it antiseptic.

LUCE: Right. So what we're trying to do --

MISHLOVE: The Tibetans used to meditate in graveyards.

LUCE: Right. But you don't have to do that to sit with a dying friend or parent, and do it in a way that makes the experience the most beautiful and deep sharing that's possible in a lifetime. In other words, the things we avoid, many of them, are the best experiences we'll ever have. I had a near-death experience, an automobile accident, a couple of years ago -- I think I've told you this -- that was one of the high points. I shall never forget what I learned in the two months of recovery. That was the most exquisite experience. I also was privileged, because of SAGE, to be with a lot of people who were dying.

MISHLOVE: I should mention that SAGE is an organization that you founded dealing with elderly people, helping to train elderly people to become teachers of wisdom.

LUCE: And to let them be all they are. Once people don't have an ego investment in being some particular way, it's a whole lot easier. You know, one of the reasons I did SAGE was that people told me that you couldn't do certain things after a certain age, you know? Baloney! You can change as much at eighty, if you're ready for it, if you're ripe for it. But I was thinking about dying or accidents or eating, how we eat -- that's not my best point, because I must say I still eat a little sacrilegiously.

MISHLOVE: Well, it was probably troublesome for people in ancient times also.

LUCE: But there was more scarcity. I think now there's too much in some segments of the world, not enough in others.

MISHLOVE: Eating is something that really evokes our animal nature. The body has to have it.

LUCE: True, and the fact is that our consciousness, as we change, can make eating a very different act. I think what's ironic is that here we are with this terrific technology, with availability of a lot of food, and we're acting very unconsciously, both in the way we farm and the way we treat the ground and the plants, and in the way we prepare it and eat it. I think all of this is going to change, is changing.

MISHLOVE: What is the alternative?

LUCE: The alternative, I think, for all of us is to become more conscious.

MISHLOVE: Conscious of how we prepare food, conscious of how we grow it.

LUCE: What we're eating, how it tastes. It's very interesting. I like to eat with people in silence. When I'm working with groups I very often like to have silence, or ask people to feed each other, because if we actually have to pay attention to what's going in our mouths instead of talking and kind of shoveling it in automatically, there is an appreciation for what it means to be nurtured, and the various elements that are coming to us through our food, as they are through television, music. We're very lucky that we have access to all this; think of the wonderful music in all the different traditions that we can hear. These are all messages, just as our very ancient language, English, is a message. It's very thick with dimensionality. When I started working with my name in the Celtic tradition, I suddenly realized that it brought up in me all the qualities that I had been trying to repress, and gave me an opportunity to not only look at them but appreciate them. And as we allow ourselves to get the dimensionality --

MISHLOVE: What's an example of one of these qualities you were trying to repress?

LUCE: Well, G for example -- I always thought of Gay as a name for lightness and joy. But it also means the wild boar -- fierce, persistent, brave, but ruthless. And the whole name means something like, "I am a wild boar who is pregnant with the killer of death." That is, "I am ruthless in using my persistence and ferocity to bring forth something that goes beyond death."

MISHLOVE: I've never pictured you that way. That's a far cry from your persona.

LUCE: What I like to think of as my persona. But in point of fact, there's that aspect to me, and it's certainly been brought about by doing Nine Gates, because to dream up a program and do it once is one thing, but to actually have a school and a community growing, and all the burgeoning things that happen out of that, it's turning me into a general.

MISHLOVE: One of the things that you seem to be suggesting, though, is that the ancient traditions as a whole were more in touch with the darker side of human nature and the need to integrate and process it, rather than to kind of separate it out and pretend as if I'm all gay and joy, and that I don't have this other side.

LUCE: Exactly. They were much more whole; they had much more power. As a matter of fact, we just did a session on Tantra, and I was thinking that Tantra is really important in daily life.

MISHLOVE: Let's define Tantra for the viewers who may not know.

LUCE: Well, the word comes from an old Sanskrit word that means loom, and it means seamlessness of polarities -- you know, bringing the two together.

MISHLOVE: Dark and light, good and evil, are really one.

LUCE: Right. And when you bring it together, then you have illumination. In some of the ancient Tibetan and Hindu practices, male and female, the sexual union, was used not for quick release, but rather for illumination. What you do by bringing polarities together is increase the charge. When you increase the charge in a disciplined way, you create a release that's amazing. I did this once a long time ago with SAGE, simply having people lie foot to foot. Now, it wouldn't matter whether it was finger to finger. What happened was you had two energies coming together, and as long as people put enough disciplined attention on what was happening with their feet, it was an orgasmic and illuminating experience. So the concept of Tantra, I think, is real important in our lives, and we also need to do it in a sense within ourselves -- that is, our relationship to parts of ourselves. That is, the ruthless part of me and the generous and kind, the mellifluous part of me if you will, have to come together. When they come together there's real integration. And I think that these ancient traditions are really teaching us just incredible techniques for living.

MISHLOVE: One of the ancient traditions I know you've had some experience with is the Native American Church and their use of the peyote ritual.

LUCE: Oh, that is phenomenal. If we could learn some of the kind of psychiatry -- in other words, to understand ourselves and allow the things that are in us to come out and be cleansed, before we seek visions. It's very rapid psychiatry, and it's interesting to understand that Native Americans have all along understood how to take this sacrament and push individuals with it. That is, it's not always very pleasant.

MISHLOVE: People often get nauseous and sick.

LUCE: Quite nauseous. And the sicker they get, the more they get pushed by the wise priest, and a really good shaman can do in one night the kind of therapy that might take therapists a year to do. What happens when there's a transformation like that -- I just saw one the other night, which was extraordinary; I have never seen so much love or a family so balanced by a process that was seemingly simple. We passed the talking stick, sat around the fire, but what happened was that each individual who took the sacrament was in a sense pushed by it, because it has properties that will bring up whatever seems to be repressed. And to do this in a supportive way with a wise priest means that family therapy can take place really, really rapidly.

MISHLOVE: You mean, when you look inside at what is it that's making you nauseous, what is it that's making you sick, at some point you realize it's something I'm holding onto, it's something I'm clutching inwardly.

LUCE: It doesn't always come out the way it does in our psychological phrasing, it really doesn't, but it gets expressed. And a wise priest takes it from the level of psychology into the level of the sacred. That is, it's no longer me, the personal Gay, that's struggling with this little problem. What happens is all of a sudden something opens within me, and I feel my connectedness.

MISHLOVE: Well, it seems logical in a way, since we live in a historical society at least five thousand years old, it's sort of ironic to think that something as important, as basic, as psychotherapy would have only been developed in the twentieth century.

LUCE: Absolutely, impossible. Look at the Tibetan psychology, which preceded our own modern psychology by fourteen hundred years, and Chinese. You know, I'm wearing an Egyptian symbol of Maat, the goddess with her wings spread, the goddess of truth and consciousness. Well now, look at what the Egyptians had to teach us about architecture, about proportion, long before Greece -- about the way that geometry affects our psyches with ancient truths -- the ancient pyramid that we have on the dollar bill.

MISHLOVE: And one might say, in a way, that we have not necessarily even surpassed the Egyptians when it comes to creating architecture that has the power of inspiring and perhaps ennobling human beings.

LUCE: And has proportions very calculated. There was a science; it was calculated to affect the mind. The temples were calculated to affect the minds of the initiates. The hieroglyphics were a language that was dimensional, and far more reaching into what we call the unconscious, or the right brain, than our linear word system, because English is really not unidimensional; it's not Flatland, even though it looks like that on the page.

MISHLOVE: We've been accustomed to speak it in a way that must seem very flat and hollow, even compared to Elizabethan times.

LUCE: Oh, immensely, yes. I think that we're in the time of burgeoning now, where these traditions are coming forth. We're going to begin to have respect for our own language, for our bodies, for our breath, hopefully for the world around us, plant and animal life. And for those people who go into their own consciousness and begin to have these experiences -- at least some of the experiences that I've had in the Tibetan tradition have led me to understand the words "sentient universe" -- meaning that the chair I sit in, and the chrome on my watch, the silver on my ring, they're all sentient.

MISHLOVE: Your fingernails.

LUCE: My fingernails. But even things that we call inanimate are inhabited by the spirit and by that ineffable organization that creates everything.

MISHLOVE: Well, Gay Gaer Luce, it would seem as if in a sense what you're talking about is a new renaissance, and this appreciation that you have for the vitality and the spirit of ancient traditions is truly a renaissance idea in our times.

LUCE: Hopefully we're going to have a renaissance. Hopefully, when I look at people younger than myself, a new generation of people coming in, who take for granted the things that I now need to divest myself of -- I mean, I started learning biofeedback and quite mechanical ways of changing. Now I need to start out from where they are, and I do think there's a real renaissance happening.

MISHLOVE: And I suppose the most encouraging thing is that we can see it in the youth, and know that in some ways they won't have the same struggle that we have had against a culture that was resistant to the renaissance notion. Gay Gaer Luce, we're out of time. It's been such a pleasure being with you.

LUCE: Well, thank you. It has been.

MISHLOVE: Thank you so much for being with me.

LUCE: I've enjoyed it very much.

END 


Index of Transcripts    Top of  this Web Page    Intuition Network Home Page    Thinking Allowed Productions Home Page