Michael Murphy: The Future Of The Human Body
THE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN BODY with MICHAEL MURPHY
Michael Murphy: The Future Of The Human BodyFeb 28
THE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN BODY with MICHAEL MURPHY
Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery
Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove Interviews Michael Murphy
MISHLOVE: Hello and welcome. I’m Jeffrey Mishlove. Our topic today is future evolution of human nature. This is the first in a three part series with Michael Murphy. The founder of the Esalen Institute and the author of numerous books including Jacob Atabet, Golf in the Kingdom, The End of Ordinary History, and The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature. Welcome Michael.
MURPHY: Good to be here.
MISHLOVE: Its a pleasure to be with you. You know for several decades now you have been researching world literature to look at extraordinary experiences that occur in dozens and dozens of different fields. You seem to be suggesting that if we look at these extraordinary things, things that are unbelievable to many people in main stream culture, that we can get a glimmerings of what future holds for human nature and for humanity.
MURPHY: That’s right. What’s impressive about the study of the extraordinary in human nature is you find it arising in all cultures: East and West; North and South; among men and women; young and old. Yes, we’ve been collecting this data for about fifteen years. And it grows out of my interest in these things with help behind my impulse to start Epistle thirty years ago.
MISHLOVE: Well, its interesting that you’re taking a almost natural history approach, I suppose, kind of like Darwin traveling all around the world and looking at unusual species. Only you’re studying one species.
MURPHY: Yes, that’s a good word for it. I like to call it a natural history of the extraordinary. You can date this approach really till 1880s: Frederick Myers one of the principal founders of modern psychical research invented the word telepathy; William James in the Varieties of Religious Experience, Abraham Maslow’s work- A Study in Peak Experience. This has been for about for now… now for more than a century this approach has been developing. And so I see our project very much in that tradition.
MISHLOVE: Now, it would be useful I think for our viewers to know that you yourself have also been a student and a practisioner of different transformative disciplines.
MURPHY: Yes, I spent a year and a half at Aurobindo Ashram in the 1950s. And yes I practice meditation and Arbinder’s intergal yoga and distance running. We used to call it seniors running. We know call it masters running. And other disciplines. So I’ve had exposer to these disciplines which has given me more sympathy to approach this material.
MISHLOVE: Let’s focus on Aurobindo for a bit. He’s been one your biggest influences and certainly one of the great spiritual masters of India who wrote distinctly about the transformative powers of yoga practice on the human body itself.
MURPHY: Yes, well, this study, when you begin to take seriously the possibility that the extraordinary is arising in all cultures and you get into the study as we have done, you find that many of these capacities are evident in physical movement and in sport, in shamanism, in the various physical yogas. In fact, in all the great contemplative shamanic traditions there is a huge physical component. Aurobindo helped to dramatize the idea that we do not know the limits of bodily transformation. And if you start to look at the lore of bodily transformation, its gets very interesting. It exists in every tradition.
MISHLOVE: And India I think is a excellent tradition to begin to focus on because for thousands of years they’ve maintained a detailed literature, a very disciplined, philosophical approach that enumerated to a high degree the specific kinds of changes that practitioners of yoga and meditation went through.
MURPHY: Yes, and Hatha yoga, you know you see this tremendous mastery of the autonomic nervous system. Anything that can be brought to an awareness can be mastered. Interestingly enough the more I’ve gotten immersed in this kind of material I have been drawn to the Roman Catholic tradition because no other religious tradition has made such an effort to window out fact from fancy. At the canonization proceeding of the church which are run like giant law trials in which all witnesses are put under oath and particularly for Catholic witnesses and these nuns and monks who observe these things and lived with the saint involved it is immortal sin to lie to the promoter of the faith, the devil’s advocate, so what has built up over the last six or seven hundred years is a huge body of data regarding the extraordinary phenomena of the contemplative life and including these physical phenomena. So I’ve drawn very heavily in my own research on that Roman Catholic data.
MISHLOVE: You think it is more reliable than the traditions that have been handed down from India?
MURPHY: Well, it’s not necessarily more reliable. But there has been a more thorough documentation of particular instances so if you want to quote the testimony about the life of Saint Theresa of Avila, you have all these nuns who observed her over the course of her life who told in intimate detail stories about her ecstasies, there is even testimony about her apparent levitations. She said she levitated. I am agnostic about this, nevertheless, there’s that sort of data, so it’s unique. It’s a unique resource.
MISHLOVE: Levitation would be really one of the extreme claims that one finds in this literature and I suppose its interesting to note that its found in many different cultures.
MURPHY: Yes, it is. In my recent book, The Future of the Body, it was a big debate I had with my publisher about whether or not to include levitation. I remain agnostic about whether or not it’s ever actually ever happened. But the quality of the testimony of these nuns, who claim to have seen her levitate or who have seen Saint Joseph of Cupertino is interesting in and of itself. Not only for the wealth of testimony, but the vivid details of it, the grotesque sometimes grotesque phenomenon that seemed to have accompanied this thing and you wonder why this testimony is there its looks like a kind of anthropology is being done. But in any case the Roman Catholic data is very rich, very detailed, quite disciplined, and it corresponds beautifully in many respects to what we have from the Eastern traditions.
MISHLOVE: Well it strikes me Michael that the kernel of your work is that you developed a taxonomy based on looking at the natural world you have looked that over the course of billions of years of evolution what are capacities that animals have developed and then how in human culture have we been able to further refine those capacities and then how if we look at extraordinary events
MISHLOVE: their refined even further and start with some very simple things
MISHLOVE: not necessarily levitation
MISHLOVE at all.
MURPHY: Well, the more I’ve been immersed in this data, the more it has born in upon me that all human attributes give rise to the extraordinary. And no matter you divide up the mind/body complex to describe it, each part gives rise into the meta-normal to the extraordinary now in the Future of the Body I chose twelve sets of human attributes perceptions, kinesthesia, cognition, vitality etc. and each of these across cultures gives rise to extraordinary versions of themselves so this is the case and all of these human attributes which arose out of animal nature in the course of evolution give rise to the extraordinary so it does give us another look at our evolutionary possibilities. Not evolution that would be passed on genetically of course, I mean I don’t come out of Neo-Lemarck yet. But capacities would be passed on through education, through transformative practices. You referred Lemarck a moment ago and think for the benefit of the viewers, we ought to define what you mean when you say you are not a Neo-Lemarckian.
MURPHY: Well, the Larmarckian theory that if I get muscles, my kids are going to tend to have big muscles. I mean this is not the way it work. Our genes are relatively impervious perhaps completely impervious to the changes we make in a lifetime. There’s a great random effect apparently in our offspring in terms of the qualities that could come up and natural selection in animal evolution, differential reproduction it has been the mechanisms. But in human development, and in the development of cultures, you have, its passed through institutions, through education and so forth.
MISHLOVE: I think one of the interesting examples you’ve chosen is something very basic, its love. It’s not necessarily extraordinary, but you point out if we look at evolution it took quite a while before you got creatures who were soft and furry and cuddly and cared for their young in a loving way.
MURPHY: Yes, well, love is developing all the while on the face of the earth and it can develop in us, and you can make a case that love is always extraordinary and always has the germ of this unitive awareness, that I like to think of as an extraordinary type of cognition. An extraordinary way of knowing this sense of unity between you and me that is right at the heart of love. But there are these very dramatic forms of love that appear between lovers. Or in saints and mystics and that bring with it an extraordinary range of phenomenon and that’s interesting too. You know I think one of the interesting things that emerges is if you look at human nature and its complexity. And as I said I chose these twelve sets of attributes you find the development of the particular capacity, lets say extraordinary movement abilities among athletes tend to give raise to extraordinary perceptual abilities or extraordinary cognitive capacities. And conversely if somebody develops extraordinary cognition say through contemplative prayer or through meditation, very often spontaneously these tremendous physical capacities arise. I have been influenced a lot by Herbert Thurston who was a great student of physical phenomenon of Roman Catholic mysticism, probably the greatest authority on such phenomenon in the twentieth century.
MISHLOVE: He was a priest was he not?
MURPHY: Yes, he was a Jesuit and a British and he (wrote) a great classic work the physical phenomenon of mysticism and he combined through these canonization proceedings. He really has alerted me to the richness of the Roman Catholic tradition. But he shows these extraordinary movements above, there was something called ecstatic walking, one of the crisms. The crisms in the Roman Catholic tradition are for all practical purposes the same as the siddhis in the Hindu Buddhist.
MISHLOVE: Which are the great powers that are obtained
MISHLOVE: through yogic practice.
MURPHY: Yes, as by products of yogic practice these cities emerge even if they are not sought, they arise. The same with the crisims of the Roman Catholic church. So why is it that in the practice of contemplative prayer, this ecstatic walking, these something called bodily elongations, this was noted. This hyper-flexibility. Saint Theresa for example would get into these extraordinary posters and her ecstasies that seemed anatomically impossible. There’s a record of this going back six or seven hundred years. In other words, one extraordinary attribute tends to gives rise to another. Conversely among athletes who have no psychology or philosophy to support this sort of thing, nevertheless, achieving these great physical abilities suddenly have these altered perceptions, these extraordinary knowings kinds of religious experiences. Typically have a hard time talking to their coaches and teammates about it. I’ve been interviewing athletes for twenty years now. And this research project we’ve had going on exceptional functioning, the Epistle Institute project on exceptional functioning, we’ve interviewed hundreds of athletes now and have built up quite a body of data here. So the same thing at work again. One extraordinary attribute tends to give rise to others in our nature.
MISHLOVE: Let me ask you this. Since these phenomenon are reported by people from almost every culture, and almost every walk of life, I think you wrote at one point that when you talk to people it’s hard to find anybody who hasn’t experienced something quite extraordinary in their lifetime. Yet, at the same time there’s this especially in mainstream academia a kind of a shroud of silence that covers it all, these things are not to be discussed.
MURPHY: Well, every culture selects out certain human potentialities to reinforce. Others are neglected, and others are actively suppressed. In modern culture, there’s not a high premium put on the contemplative life, and these paranormal abilities are not highly regarded, or even believed in, by main stream scientist and academic philosophers. For the most part there’s a tremendous prejudice in modern academia against this aspect of human functioning. Many scientist and academic philosophers deny that telepathy or clairvoyance or spiritual healing even happens. Nevertheless, you have the huge body of data produced by modern psychical research and parapsychology. You have the enduring testimony of every religious tradition, and now over the last twenty years you have the Gallup poll, the national opinions research council polls, many polls, which so that two thirds or more of the American public believe that they have had these experiences. I’ve come to believe that all of these meta-normal or extraordinary capacities are glimmering in all of us. And I call them meta-normalities of everyday life; its kind of a play on Freud’s psychopathology of everyday life. That you know how many of us have had this extrasensory intuition that somebody is watching us and you turn around and you see somebody or driving along a freeway and you know pulling over just thirty seconds before a highway patrolman appears or sensing that a phone call is going to come to you from and a minute later it comes. We could go on naming these. I developed an inventory actually of more than a thousand of these meta-normalities of everyday life and In the future of the Body, this recent book of mine, I only listed a hundred. But in every human attribute again you can find these kind of glimmerings of the extraordinary in everyday life.
MISHLOVE: They’re glimmering everywhere, that’s my experience too. And yet I find that almost everywhere, except perhaps on discussions such as this, there’s an effort to suppress it even within the spiritual and religious traditions. These things are not to be talked about and are considered traps and impediments towards real spiritual growth.
MURPHY: I know, first you have the practical requirements of life. You know where, and we are creatures of habits, we have ours tasks of the day, and many of these possibilities are just left neglected because of practical considerations. Then on top of that you have cultural biases against some of them. And finally you have religious biases also. And I think that it’s time now in human history to reappraise the human potential. We have an opportunity such as human kind never had before to take survey of human potentialities. You see medical science has never given us as much knowledge as we have today about how the body changes through meditation, through fitness training, through biofeedback, etc. We’ve never had the Upanishads available in multiple translations at the corner drugstore. We have all this new anthropology of shamanism, we have psychical research. So we have all this evidence for the meta-normal. But the problem is we have this huge information explosion, we have the specialization of modern academic life, we have this scientistic fundamentalism, which says that telepathy, clairvoyance doesn’t happen. You have many religious fundamentalism that deny this, you have many new age fundamentalisms that say that, for example, in certain circles that the body is somehow, you know, to be left behind and some accent to nirvana. So you have a lot of competing belief systems so for all of these reasons it’s difficult to bring this knowledge into a purview, but on the other hand we have an unprecedented opportunity and so that’s the idea driving my research.
MISHLOVE: One of the things that you point out is that not only have these phenomenon been noticed for thousands of years, but actually if we look at the tradition of philosophy, philosophers have engaged in examination of these things for just as long a time.
MURPHY: Well I quote this wonderful British philosopher, C.D. Broad, who says if we judge philosophy by what the greatest philosophers have done, we find that they include all of this material in their purview of human nature. Going back to Plato, you know, who talked about Noises, or the contemplative insight, which was something beyond discoursing reason, dianoa. We find it and talked about connections, between us all and the gods, between invisible entities. And this is in Plato right at the beginning of our tradition. Thomas Aquinas you know the greatest Catholic theologians and in the modern times Bergson, you know who loved the Upanishads. Then in the East it’s been fundamental to all Eastern philosophies. So East and West, the greatest thinkers have said yes we have to look at the whole range of the human potential.
MISHLOVE: You know one of the things that has puzzled me about your writing and thinking in this area is you suggest that some philosophical concepts have suppressed discussion and you choose as example of that Nietzsche’s of the Ubermench or the superman, which would almost seem to me as just the opposite.
MURPHY: No, what I was saying there is the reaction to his discussion against and the misappropriation of the Ubermensch by Nazi spokesmen that has vaccinated as it where a lot of people against thinking about radical self exceeding. It’s not Nietzsche’s thinking itself, Nietzsche was bold pioneer of this. But it’s this reaction you know the minute you begin to talk about the metanormal it calls up the fear you know of some sort of Nazi superman. But that’s way in The Future of the Body I took pains to say that the extraordinary, if we look at in it’s full. The emergence in human nature, you know, gives rise to these ego surpassing forms of love and well being and make it us better able to serve our fellows and its not necessarily leading to some ego bound superman.
MURPHY: I see, so your goal in doing this research and bringing together all of this evidence is in some sense, I gather to assemble a model of what we could become.
MURPHY: Yes, the research is descriptive but it’s also normative in a sense because I think when you look at all of these potentialities yes you see a frontier there.
MISHLOVE: There’s one other puzzling and for me a somewhat troubling aspect of the history that I’d like to go into. And you sight the extensive literature within the Christian tradition for the physical resurrection of the body. What do you make of that?
MURPHY: Well, I argue that these tremendous possibilities, these potentialities have been foreshadowed in legend and in myth. And I chose the Christian doctrine of the glorified body because it has fascinated the greatest Christian thinkers since Saint Paul. In spite of its manifest absurdity at the final day we’re all going to get our body back, in the assumption into the final days. Well, here were all these leading thinkers. Certainly what are body at what age. What about children who die, etc. So if you say why did they stick with this thing in spite of the blatant superstition of it. If you reinterpret it to say this is some deep intuition so I’ve invited my readers in the future of the body to read from Saint Thomas Aquinas, from Origen, the great theologian of early Greek antiquity, and Romano Ghordimi, the twentieth century Roman Catholic theologian. If you read their works as a grand thought experiment about bodily transformation, its extraordinarily interesting. In this respect I would say a lot of the myths and legends that have arisen out of the mystical tradition are like modern fantasy literature, science-fiction even children’s cartoons where all of these meta-normal attributes are foreshadowed. You know you can take all twelve sets of attributes for example that I explored in The Future of the Body and find examples. Obe Wan Kanobi, you know, in Star Wars, his telepathic sensitivity to distance events; the kind of luminous embodiment of figures in Cocoon, and Paddy Chaevsky’s Altered States. The protagonists return through this deep kinesthesia back into his own self, back, back back in time. And you find these intuitions, see the human race always is, Marshall McCluhon once remarked that if you look at the artist as the distant, early warning system for the human race. Here are these intuitions out there and this natural history approach is you can say is kind of like the infantry coming up behind these scouts.
MISHLOVE: Its interesting and one of the other, we only have a couple of minutes left Mike, but I do want to touch on one of the points you draw upon which is that every tradition, every culture has its own legends, its own thinking about postmortem survival. And it seems suggest the same kind of intuition about the body that if nothing else its larger than these dimensions that we experience with our senses.
MURPHY: That’s right, again there is a tremendous lore in all traditions about postmortem survival. Now even if you remain agnostic about what’s going on on the other side, which I remain agnostic because after all there’s been at least four major different theories held by the greatest mystics and philosophers — you know reincarnation is one, the typical Western view of one life only, some Buddhist mystics who say there no nothing after this or then some Taoist Gurdjieffs, some Hawaiin Kahunas have said only a few survive and not others. So we have at least those four giant theories. But nevertheless you have an enormous lore about postmortem survival. And if you look at it, there’s a lore corresponding to all twelve of these attributes that I have mentioned. So you can conceive that a some sort of journey of a spirit body in postmortem survival their kind of spirit body that would continue the adventure of psychosomatic transformation beyond the grave, its conceivable.
MISHLOVE: Yes, or perhaps in modern terms something like a hyperspace body.
MURPHY: Yes, exactly.
MISHLOVE: Michael Murphy, it’s been a pleasure sharing this half hour with you.
MURPHY: Well its wonderful to be here.
MISHLOVE: Thanks so much for being with us.
MURPHY: Wonderful to be here.
MISHLOVE: And thank you for being with us for part one of a three part series. Tune in again for parts two and three.
MISHLOVE: Hello and welcome. I’m Jeffrey Mishlove. Our topic today is the future of human evolution. This is the second in a three part series with Michael Murphy. Welcome Michael.
MURPHY: Good to be back.
MISHLOVE: You know, if we look at contemporary data in science and in the field of sports psychology, in contemporary research on yoga and meditation and psychoneuroimmunology and in the fields of spiritual healing, it seems as if we’re developing a whole new picture about our capacity to control, to develop, to modify our own bodies.
MURPHY: Well, never in human history has there been so much evidence for human transformative capacity. From so many fields so many sources, that’s true. There’s some obstacles in bringing this evidence together, just the sure amount of it and the demand for specialization in particular academic or medical fields. So that works against it. Then we have competing belief systems about who we are, but there are problems in bringing this material together. But there it sits, this material of unprecedented abundance.
MISHLOVE: I know researchers in different disciplines don’t often talk to each other, but I understand that there are thousands of cases just in the medical literature of spontaneous remissions of different diseases.
MURPHY: Well, Brendan O’Regan of the Institute of Noetic Sciences has pulled together a listing of more than two-thousands of these spontaneous remissions reported in the literature. You have the wonderful documentation of the medical bureau of Lourdes. People don’t realize since 1883 thousands of dossiers have been collected with x-ray photos, with biopsy reports, with work-ups of these scientifically, inexplicable cures and that winnowing has been going on now for more than a century. There’s a huge amount of data for these great capacities we harbor for self repair.
MISHLOVE: But even within conventional science, let alone the extraordinary and paranormal where in discovering that in the field of hypnosis there are just dozens and dozens of bodily changes that can be accomplished through suggestion and an altered states of consciousness.
MURPHY: Right, I mean blisters and bruises and stigmatic marks of various kinds have been induced through hypnosis. There has been changes in physical structure. The evidence that we can alter our minds and bodies through various transformative practices is now overwhelming.
MISHLOVE: I think the crucial point that you make, if I understand it, is that these things aren’t necessarily just random or bizarre phenomenon that may, you know, have some special unique interest — passing oddities. They’re pointing to something deeper.
MURPHY: For fifteen years this Esalen Institute study of exceptional functioning has been collecting data from different cultures and different fields of inquiry that men and women young and old exemplify these extraordinary capacities. In this book I’ve written, The Future of the Body, I attempt to first kind of report from the front of that research. The more you look at this data, the more you begin to see it’s not limited to any culture. These things have been reported for thousands of years and they are just as prevalent today as they were in times past.
MISHLOVE: What are some of the capacities that have particularly captured your imagination?
MURPHY: Well, let’s begin with extraordinary forms of perception. All the physical senses can be trained way beyond their normal range. Look at wine tasters. Some of them have actually counted more than ten-thousand discriminations. They can discriminate not only what year, but what vineyard and what slope of which vineyard in the Bordeaux district in France. Perfume makers can make more than thirty thousand discriminations. There are cloth feelers in the garment industry in New York who can just run their fingers along or just a little rod along some fabric and tell you about it’s texture and give you a judgment about it’s quality and name it. Now in addition to physical senses, we can train the extrasensory perception. The evidence for this is overwhelming to any sensible person who will take the time to acquaint themselves with the data of psychical work, research and parapsychology, that you can begin to train these capacities. Let’s take extraordinary forms of movement, physical movement as an example. You begin to talk to athletes as I have over the last twenty years about what’s going on when they exceed themselves in running the mile or in baseball or basketball or dancers in dance. And you begin to get these reports, you know, of the zone, of defiance of the usual laws of physics and physiology. It’s a lore you find everywhere and typically accompanying these extraordinary forms of movement which we all marvel at, you know, when we watch the Olympics or when we watch a great contest in some sport. We marvel at these feats, but you find out when you talk to the athletes that they’ve had these peak experiences, kind of quasi mystical illuminations. I did a book with Rhea White, America’s leading archivist in parapsychology, called The Psychic Side of Sports. We identified one hundred and ten different types of extraordinary experiences. Our publisher asked us if we could make it simpler. So we boiled it down to twenty-three categories. So anyway, accompanying extraordinary movement again you get these extraordinary abilities to perceive. For example, there is MacArthur Lane the running back, who used to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. He described an experience and I’ve found this is fairly common of rising above his head where he had seemed to see the field in a kind of all at once mode. Now one of the great abilities of broken field runners is this ability not only to see the opening right here, but to see the one there and then the further one down there. And when you study these films, as some people who have gotten interested in this stuff have, you wonder about this intuition. How do they perceive this opening and that opening and this opening and so forth.
MISHLOVE: And simultaneously twist their bodies.
MURPHY: Yes, so in any case these extraordinary movement abilities and the accompanying cognitions or perceptions. Or we look at extraordinary forms of love that between man and wife; parent and child that mystics report, to see this extra light around the beloved, to feel this special connection,
MISHLOVE: this sense of merging
MURPHY: the sense of merging, the telepathic rapport, the new beauty perceived, the opening up of perception. To look at somebody you’re deeply fond of and to see their face suddenly changing in fantastic ways. I’m in the literature of romantic and of religious love is stupendous. And as you begin to explore this with men and women in various walks of life, you find that this moments occur quite frequently actually. Extraordinary forms of kinesthesia or body awareness. You know the modern field of biofeedback research has shown us that anything, any body part that can be brought to consciousness can be voluntarily modified to some extent.
MISHLOVE: A single neuron.
MURPHY: A single neuron. This has been shown again and again. John Basmanian was the first person to show us that.
MISHLOVE: Researchers are able to train people to create drum rolls of neural firing.
MURPHY: Exactly. A curious thing you find is that this modern data emerging from the various fields like biofeedback research, meditation research and medical science generally all have wonderful correspondences with old shamanic and religious traditions. Like there’s an old tradition in the Hindu-Buddhist world about the automan siddhi, one of the eight great siddhis. This automan siddhi is the ability to change the focal length of the mind down to the size of the anu, or the atom, the anu in Sanskrit is the smallest thing in the universe.
MISHLOVE: Microscopic vision.
MURPHY: Microscopic vision. The ability to become sensitive to the most subtle body parts. So no matter what aspect of human nature we look at or which attribute we look at, we find that there are versions of the extraordinary reported across cultures.
MISHLOVE: I know there is a book written recently by a physicist in which he looks at data conducted by theosophists around the turn of the twentieth century who claim to be able to use their psychic vision to examine atoms and molecules. And he felt that…
MURPHY: Yes, Charles Leadbetter and Annie Bessant. The Theosophical society for more than thirty-five years conducted these experiments with this automan siddhi. And they worked with a number of physicists to see if they could identify these different atomic configurations clairvoyantly. Now it was interesting this physicist at Berkeley named Steven Fuluts wrote a book reporting this. The two of them — these two theosophists — reported two years before the discovery of the first isotope, which was of neon, that they said there are two forms of neon. It was an amazing coincidence if nothing else. And some other phenomena that have been uncovered by modern physics were anticipated in these experiments of Charles Leadbetter and Annie Bessant in one of these strange, anomalous studies. And this can be transferred, this kind of awareness, to the body itself. And that was the ancient tradition. This is why the yogi could become hypersensitive to his own state and modify it.
MISHLOVE: Visualizing his own internal organs.
MURPHY: Well it was more than visualizing. It was direct seeing. Actually as you get into it, you find out its not only seeing but hearing. You see, there’s a lore, the Nodu-Hindu Upanishad, a lore about hearing the subtle sounds of the universe. And you know it gave me a clue in my interviews with athletes to ask about what athletes hear in these extraordinary states they get into. I talked to Frank Zane who won the world championship three times — the Mr. Olympia contest in bodybuilding. And he reports these altered states he was in. He was saying the Namu Amita Butsu, the great Nembutsu chant of Shin Buddhism. And he was in quite an altered state when he won the world championship in 1977. But he started to hear, he claimed, or he thought, some of his own cellular activity at night. He could hear it. Bobby Jones, you know the great golfer.
MISHLOVE: Let me just stop you for a second because Frank Zane that you mentioned. Didn’t people report that during his body building competitions he would become luminous.
MURPHY: Well, yes, I actually watched his championship performance in 1977 on television. And there was a phenomenon of light emanating from him. Now most people said it was from the spotlights bouncing of his oiled skin. He was in an extraordinary state at that time. He had taken a vow to say one million Nembutsus, and he kept these prayer beads. He had been influenced by a young American Buddhist priest, Ken O’Neil. And he started saying these, he got into a stupendously powerful state, and he said that as he began to compete he felt this great bond with the audience, a kind oneness with them. And he had again this same sensation of rising above his head. He was simultaneously outside his body and yet more intensely in the world, which is an interesting state of mind that you know is reported in these mystical traditions.
MISHLOVE: And in parapsychology literature.
MURPHY: Yes, and so again it’s interesting and it was in that state which he was in for many months, that he could hear, as well as see or perceive with subtlety and sensitivity. And you find this is true of many athletes, this awakening to the kinesthetic in an extraordinary way.
MISHLOVE: All of these things suggest that there are dimensions to human consciousness and the way in which consciousness and physiology function and flow together that have been explored and understood experientially, and it can be tapped into experientially, but we’re just beginning to understand scientifically.
MURPHY: Well, this is the great excitement today, that we can have a convergence of this inner exploration that the yogis and the Zen Buddhist monks and the Catholic contemplatives, the shamans, the sufis teach us about. And now we have different scientific fields. The scientific meditation research is beginning to show what is going on, biofeedback research etc. So we have a new convergence of, you could say, the inner science and the external science. And I think we will probably make new discoveries as this convergence is fostered.
MISHLOVE: I think one of the interesting discoveries is in the area of the peptides that are generated within the nervous system itself and how different exercises and practices can create different wires.
MURPHY: Well, I’ve begun to do this masters running. It used to be called seniors running, and now we call it masters running, but for the over forty crowd and back in 1973. And in those days we were just beginning to talk about endorphins and the endorphine high, you know. And experiments were done to block endorphines. You can take a drug now called Loxal that will block the influence of endorphins. But they found that even with hypnosis and with the running training, something else was overcoming the Meloxan, now Loxal, and people were still getting this glow of fitness or this hypnotic — the runner’s high. Now, all of these years later it turns out there are more than one hundred of these opiate peptides. Endorphens and kefolods are only one class of these. It’s much more complex than was once thought. And it’s not only produced by our brain but by other body parts as well. So, you and I and every human being is constantly producing some new mixture of these hundred or more opiate peptides. We’re constantly making a new cocktail. You can say we’re bartenders of our own soul. We’re mixing these drinks by our moods, by our activities, by our attitudes. And this remixing of these substances which circulate in the blood and influence our whole nervous system goes on morning, noon, and night. We’re much more flexible and fluid creatures than we once thought and slowly we’re beginning to understand how meditation, how hypnosis, how biofeedback and how these various transformative practices alter these mixtures. So we can take charge of it, not be the victim of our own bad habits. But we can re-alter these things at will.
MISHLOVE: Doesn’t it also seem to you Michael that the new developments in the fields such as the holographic model of brain functioning and super-strength theories in physics suggest that we’re not just talking about biochemical interactions within the brain, but there are electromagnetic and perhaps even hyperspace dimensions to these chemicals, and that the human body itself is much larger seemed through our normal sensory organs.
MURPHY: Now in addition to the opiate peptide we have these electromagnetic fields, and probably fields that are beyond the pail of science so far. The Russians talk about the biopoly, the biofield. You know I’ve spent a good deal of time in the Soviet Union. I’ve been out to Kazakh State University where they study these things. Elmer Green, the Mennenger Foundation, Stephan Schwartz and other friends of yours and mine are studying these fields. I think that will be an emerging area of inquire in the years ahead. We have the tradition in the martial arts of prana, the chi, the ki, so there’s that. And now and then beyond that there is the possibility that we are invented in a kind of hyperspace time. You and I both enjoy the friendship of Saul-Paul Sirag, a pioneering physics, who has speculated about this. I played with this idea in a novel, The End of Ordinary History. I proposed that we’re all embedded in something I called a larger earth. Just as frog, you know, is getting bombarded with photons but only sees a dimmer ray of grays and blacks presumably. He only has I think four nerve endings. You and I are bombarded with the same photons, but we see a much richer, complex world. But what’s to say you and I aren’t to a more evolved sensorium as a frog is to us. In other words, there’s more to see. And indeed when you look at what happens to people in a Zen Seshin or in contemplative prayer or athletes in great passionate involvement in the gam, you realize that suddenly they start to see more. They tell you they see more. Not only are the old textures more beautiful, but they begin to see new lights and hear things. So perceptually people open up, but I think also we open up in other ways. For example, you find that athletes talk about movement in the zone, and they talk about an agility that they can’t account for to themselves. It’s as if we can move with new freedoms. Not only do we perceive with new freedom, but move with new freedom through the influence of these transformative practices. So in that sense we can say we could be evolving into a larger earth, into a kind of hyperspace-time even.
MISHLOVE: You also talk about in your taxonomy of different categories of transformation. I think you draw heavily on the great mystics of all ages who refer to mystical union as the highest form of consciousness.
MURPHY: It’s a hallmark of all transformative practice that it produces this unit of awareness, and I’m struck again and again that people who don’t expect it or who don’t seek it, experience it. Women in child birth, lovers, athletes, artists, people in common walks of life, very intensively working at something suddenly feel a kind of merging with the object of their attention. When these polls are done, the Gallup Pull and the National Opinions Research Council Polls and Andrew Greeley’s great work which look at these inexplicable experiences, this comes up again and again: this kind of illumination in which subject and object tend to break down and you tend to begin to feel a primary oneness with the other. So it’s a hallmark of extraordinary functioning across the board.
MISHLOVE: It would seem to me that it’s something of a core that some of these other wonderful abilities that we know about become all the more meaningful when they’re understood in the context of this unit of awareness.
MURPHY: Well, you know, in The Future of the Body I created this taxonomy of twelve sets of attributes. Each of these attributes, for example perceptions of external events, includes sub-types. But in looking at these twelve sets more and more I was let around to this ancient truth that the chief jewels in the crown are this unitive awareness, this ego transcending love for the other and this self existent rising up that doesn’t depend upon the satisfaction of particular needs or desires. It’s inherent to this unitive awareness, ananda, in the Sanskrit word ananda. There’s language for it in every tradition. It doesn’t depend upon getting something, it depends more upon opening to something that’s already there. And again I’m impressed with that people come to it spontaneously without seeking it or expecting it. Scientists talk about eyeball proof. You know you find it everywhere. And so I’ve found that this natural history approach to extraordinary functioning leads you around to some of these ancient truths from the mystical traditions.
MISHLOVE: You also draw on the stoic philosophers who have the notion that each of the great human qualities becomes amplified when it’s held in conjunction with the others.
MURPHY: The Stoics formalized a belief in Greek philosophy — altakaluthia was their technical term. It meant the mutual entailment of the virtues. There is no such thing they said as a single virtue. A Greek boy who had only courage with no prudence probably couldn’t live past fifteen years old. I mean you can’t accept every challenge that’s thrown you’re way. You have to have some prudence. Justice without love you know is finally not justice. Through my Epistle experience and through looking at transformative practices I’ve learned that one of the main reasons these practices fail is that they have an inadequate set of the virtues. In the sixties at Epistle we had a lot of this hard encounter, which was very good at promoting a courage and risk taking.
MISHLOVE: Kind of a confrontation.
MURPHY: It was hard confrontation and openness and honesty — all virtues. But at the same time it was often weak on empathy and kindness. And you have ascetic philosophies which are tremendous at developing control of pain, resilience and hardship. But at the same time they lead very often to a contempt for the finer sensitivities of the flesh. And you can analyze all transformative practices, I think, in terms of what set of virtues they carry. Very often it hasn’t been thought through by the master of that discipline or by the disciples. And I think it is part of this new effort we need to make in this day and age to take stock of what our human potential is. We have to see the virtues embedded in a particular practices. And that you go back to the old doctrine you find in Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics, that ontology of the mutual entailment of the virtues. We need all the virtues, finally.
MISHLOVE: So you’re really looking toward the cultivation of all of these things in combination, the great athlete, the great mystic, the great philosopher, the great healer, the compassionate saint in one person.
MURPHY: Well you know we also have to honor you know human idiosyncrasy, and obviously part of the glory of life is that you and I are so profoundly unique and different.
MISHLOVE: And incomplete I suppose.
MURPHY: And incomplete too. This is why we need one another. But yes I think that I’m driven again and again back to the old idea of the education of the whole person, which has a wonderful tradition in the West going back to the Greeks and through the Renaissance and John Dewey, and this old idea of the mutual entailment of the virtues, that the virtues require each other and these practices. You need to complement these practices with one anther. It’s back to that idea of educating the whole person. That doesn’t mean that every person is going to exemplify all the extraordinary attributes. But we can pay attention in our education to the full range of them.
MISHLOVE: Michael, you seem to be suggesting that if we just pay attention to the great body of world culture and literature that we have the capacity to develop a whole new human being on a cultural wide level.
MISHLOVE: Well, we are for better, for worse in the global village. You know CNN is much with us. And it’s finally, I love it, and I think we should celebrate the fact we can learn from other cultures. It’s one of the great privileges of this age.
MISHLOVE: Michael, we’re out of time.
MURPHY: Well continue this later I’m sure.
MISHLOVE: We will. Thanks so much for being with me.
MURPHY: Good to be here.
MISHLOVE: And thank you for being with us for part two of this three part series on the future evolution of the human being.
MISHLOVE: Hello and welcome. This is the third in a three part series with Michael Murphy. Welcome again Michael.
MURPHY: Good to be here.
MISHLOVE: You know we have talked in parts one and two of this series about your work over twenty years cataloging extraordinary human achievements and accomplishments, talents and abilities. You’ve looked at transformative practices that have occurred throughout the ages in many many different disciplines and how they affect the transformation of the person.
MURPHY: Yes, well not only in this project of ours, this Epistle Institute study of exceptional functioning, to look at this huge range of extraordinary functioning that appears across cultures among men and women young and old, but the how and the why. You know, what gives rise to this? And to state it as simply as possible, are there certain transformative acts that all of us perform that give rise to these things? Some of it is quite obvious. To passionate imagery of some outcome which operates to alter the way we see, the way we think, the way our bodies function. There is catharsis which happens in everyday life. You know none of us can get through a day practically without some eruption of emotion of some type. And what you find when you really look at extraordinary functioning, when you look at all of this, you find you can trace these transformative acts or transformative modalities and then see how they are appropriated in lasting transformative practices whether those are artistic practices or religious shamanic practices in sport and so forth. So yes I mean our study has involved the study of these practices and these transformative modalities.
MISHLOVE: What I gather you’re suggesting is that we may be on the brink of a new epoch in culture and perhaps of even evolution itself where we can learn from the transformative practices of all ages and all cultures and begin to integrate, to synthesize them, to bring them together, to create new forms of human integration and balance.
MURPHY: Well never before in human history has there been such access to the evidence for human transformative capacity. You and I have talked about this many times about all of these translations from the religious traditions, all of these new developments in medical science, biofeedback research, hypnosis research, psychotherapy research and meditation research. That the new understanding of what goes on in the altered states and sport etc., has given rise to all this evidence. And probably never in human history has there been so much invention of new transformative practices. The Ford Foundation asked Epistle back in 1967 to do a big inventory of these practices, and at that time we counted more than ten thousand transformative techniques which we listed for this Ford Foundation inventory. Now since then, over these last decades, the beat has stepped up and we know estimate that a notable practice that gets a following is being invented every week. And so this is an age of experimentation, of exploration, but one of our great tasks now is to make sense of all this material.
MISHLOVE: I should think that for many of our own viewers one of the issues will be that many of these practices would be only for the elite, for Olympic athletes, or for full-time religious practitioners or perhaps psychotherapist. But what about for individuals in their daily lives?
MURPHY: Well, these are spreading out to churches all across the U.S. in Europe, in Japan, in YMCAs and YWCAs, in all sorts of work, in business now, the whole field of organizational development. We see this appropriation of these transformative practices everywhere we look. So it’s not limited now today to an elite. Various estimates have been made of how large a group is actively involved with such practices. Now those estimates, which have made by various sociologist, range from about two million to about fifty million in America. That’s how hard it is to get an exist fix on it. But you look at examples of the Roman Catholic church, the so called marriage and counter movement within the Roman Catholic church. There are hundred of thousands of couples now who use us these practices that arose out of the human potential movement. You find phenomena like this not only in America, but in Europe. I’ve been interested in the Soviet Union. You know I went to Russia for the first time in 1971. There’s an enormous interest in this kind of thing in the Soviet Union. It’s a world wide phenomena.
MISHLOVE: And if we look at the crises facing the world today — ecological crises, population explosion, crises of getting along together. It would seem that there’s a yearning that people understand that transformation is needed. Is it your sense that these practices address that yearning?
MURPHY: Well there’s the ancient aspiration in the human race for some transcendence. And then there’s the peculiar modern circumstances on top of that. You know that there’s the break up of old communities, the longing for new community, the sense of some thing lost in modern education with this heavy emphasis on the rational or on the vocation. The draining, hectic aspect of urban living, not enough leisure, where is the contemplative, where’s the enjoyment of nature, where’s the slowness in life?. So there’s a lot of factors both old and new working to produce this interest in transformative practice. And at Epistle, you know we’ve had quite a window to look at that for the last thirty years because ten thousand people a year come and now people come from more than fifty countries. And a quarter of all people who come, come from other countries. So this is not just a Californian phenomenon, it’s not just an American phenomenon, its a world-wide phenomenon and it’s I think part of a big healthy response to the problems we’re facing today.
MURPHY: And you personally have the experience of many decades of watching these people come and go and have been engaging your self in a variety of disciplines from yoga to athletic disciplines to psychotherapeutic disciplines. You must have a sense of the potential for synthesizing these different approaches.
MURPHY: Yes, I’m interested also in how these practices fail. And you and I have talked on this program about how they fail. How certain ones emphasis certain attributes at the expense of other, too much emphasis on openness and honesty, not enough on kindness.
MISHLOVE: On empathy and compassion.
MURPHY: Yes, or on some of them too ascetic and too life denying or what ever. So out of the interest in transformative practice has come an urge to find more comprehensive practices. The old drive to educate the whole person. That’s one of the things we learn from this sort of thing. So we’re learning from both successes and failures.
MISHLOVE: We’ve been talking about the future evolution of humanity. And if we look at natural history or human history, we can see there’s been various stages. I suppose on the largest sense there was evolution from inorganic to organic and animal evolution to human evolution. Is it your sense that the development of these transformative practices seems to presage a new epoch of evolution?
MURPHY: Well it could. The choice is ours. It’s up to us. Natural selection does not operate in the human sphere as it does in the animal sphere. What we learn is passed onto our decedents through education, through institutions that nurture transformative practices, through our religious traditions and so fourth. So that’s how this will be passed along. My hope is that we begin to get a deeper understanding of our potential, its enormous range and how we are both the beneficiaries and the victims of the cultures we live in. I mean we’re all brainwashed by the cultures we live in. Every culture selects out certain potentials that it rewards, others it neglects and others it actively suppresses. In modern American life you know it’s hard to develop the contemplative. Very hard, I mean there’s a strong demand for action, to make money, to get ahead etc. So you know to get that contemplative sense back into life. With all our interest in the physical world you know how little education of the senses there is. And yet we know the senses can be greatly extended. We talked about that. You look at a wine taster who can make ten thousand discriminations or more, perform testers who can make thirty thousand or more discriminations. All of our sense can be cultivated. We have a capacity to control our own kinesthetic or our autonomic system. I mean that can be taught. How many ailments could be headed off with a little more sophisticated education of the body, you see. These are deficits that need to be filled, and that is one reason why people are tuning to places like Epistle, turning to these transformative practices where ever they can find them.
MISHLOVE: One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed you’ve done in your work is that for every particular unique potential within us, automatic self regulation, or enhanced sensory experience, or even the enhanced ability to love or to experience mystical unity, experience our particular practices that seem to develop those particular experiences.
MURPHY: Well that’s why these practices have lasted. You know in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that go back two thousand years — this practice of witness meditation of standing back from the contents of our psyche as they rise up. You know it’s rediscovering in a way and again by Freud and in modern psychotherapy, teaching meditation. I mean, wouldn’t that serve us if it were taught in the schools as well as learning algebra. My little Mack had stress related asthma between the time he was four and a half and five and a half. He’s seven and a half now. And for two years he’s been completely free of it. He had it for a year. I’m convinced that a lot of the freedom comes from this akido he took at the Marin country day school, where they begin each class with a kind of quiet centering. Children, once they learn to just pay attention to things such as over arousal for example in his case, naturally they can balance themselves. And I, you know, rate that learning from that class in Akido just as high as what he’s going to learn from all his algebra and trigonometry classes. We need a richer, broader curriculum in our school systems, to educate the whole person and it goes back to John Dewey, back to the renaissance, back to the Greeks. It’s been there at the heart of the whole Western tradition and education, to educate the whole person. The senses, the emotions, the mind, the spirit, you see, our interpersonal relations. Empathy can be cultivated.
MISHLOVE: Michael, I don’t think anybody would doubt watching you in this program that you’re a thoroughly Westernized person. You’re a representative of Western culture. Your involved as a Western writer and a person active in many different spheres of Western culture. Yet you spent some length of time practicing meditation at an ashram in India. Can you talk personally about how that has affected your evolution.
MURPHY: Well for me the basis for transformative practice has been in this contemplative life. I got interested in this when I was an undergraduate at Stanford. I was very influenced by Shri Aurobindo, the Indian philosopher, and spent a year and a half at his ashram back in 56-57. And have continued to practice meditation ever since. It’s such a simple, beautiful, lasting, rich practice. And so yes, it’s been fundamental to my life. And I don’t see why we have to regard it as an way alien. I mean there’s good evidence that animals meditate. Watch a cat resting you know. Probably the human race, my theory is that all through the Paleolithic era there was vast leisure. Many estimates say that the typical hunter-gathers probably were in exertion two hours a day. There would be the periods of the hunt. But probably there was a stupendous contemplative tradition in our whole ancestry. So in some way just as we have been bread to run, we’ve been bread to have a poised attention, to meditate as it were. So I think it’s natural to the human condition. The problem is that in contemporary, modern, typically Western culture which is spreading all over the world it’s become so hectic, so compulsive, so rapid and so demanding that there isn’t that time for simple enjoyment. You know we underrate the deep, deep pleasure and delight that comes out of these contemplative practices. And that’s why a lot of people as they get older feel they’re missing something.
MISHLOVE: Now Aurobindo who was your teacher there back in the fifties in India is well known as the developer of, I believe what he called, the integral theory. And I hear you talking about the integral approach yourself.
MURPHY: Yes, it’s no coincidence that I talk about integral practice. I mean it’s the Aurobindo influence on me. You and I have talked about the old Greek idea of the mutual entailment of the virtues. You can talk about the mutual entailment of the practices. How one practice requires another. Athletes find this out. If athletes really want to excel today, not only must they train their bodies, but they have to train their minds. That’s why when you watch the Olympic games, you watch those divers gathering themselves into that intense visualization on the board, or the basketball players standing at the free-throw line, or those archers, or those rifle, pistol shooters and now in football, in baseball, in all sports. You know the requirement for mental training. In psychotherapy today that’s why we see so many psychotherapists turning to meditation for example. Or conversely turning to physical training. In other words, people who are involved in one practice over a period of time find they want to complement that with some other practices. So we have a drive I would say towards integral practice and we have drive to realize the extraordinary in all our attributes.
MISHLOVE: Isn’t it true that many spiritual teachers have suggested that the highest form of spiritual practice is simply daily life itself.
MURPHY: Yes, you know all of us practice some sort of transformative practice getting through a given day. All the basic elements of transformative practice are operative in us. Let’s take imagery, there’s imagery of the desire to do something in the contemplative life. We hold these powerful images. Or in psychotherapy — the positive imagery. Well, you know, the first thing you do when you make up in the morning is you have a thought, what am I going to do next? I’m going to get out of bed, I’m going to brush my teeth, whatever. Imagery is at work. There’s the catharsis that we see in psychotherapy often, in successful psychotherapy, the release or the uncovering of something. I mean you know, in our family there’s a lot of catharsis around the dinner table. And Aristotle talked about the catharsis in the theater. There’s the catharsis of everyday life. No matter what transformative act or what transformative modalities at work, you find them operative in everyday life. And what we want to do is enhance that. Enhance what is already there in us. All life in a sense is transformative practice.
MISHLOVE: I’m very intrigued especially by your approach to the human body. The most basic fundamental thing about being human is this body and so much of our thinking seems to be that real growth is spiritual. It’s apart from the body. We can neglect the body and doesn’t matter if your enlightened, you can let your body go to pot and there are plenty of examples of that. You seem to be suggesting it different.
MURPHY: Yes, a lot of our friends would like to talk this way, that somehow as we evolve we’re going to evolve from matter to spirit. And the image I hold and I’m driven more and more by my study of all this, is that if we were to imagine matter going to spirit as a tree, I want to lay that tree on its side and say that matter could evolve into meta-matter; cognition into meta-cognition; perception into meta or extraordinary cognition. In other words, all of our attributes could evolve and the human body itself changes every minute to some extent. But when you undertake a transformative practice, then it begins to change in a more artful manner, hopefully, if the project is successful. And we don’t know the limits of this change, we really don’t. We don’t know the limits. Wherever a limit has been set on physical capacity, it’s broken. Look at the explosion of sports today. We’ve created the greatest laboratory for bodily change in human history, and no records seem to stand up. You know they say well we’re never going to break the four minute mile. And they break it, and five weeks later the next person breaks it and after that hundreds break it. Nobody thought we could break the two twenty marathon, and now hundreds break it every year. In all the great sports that involve flexibility or any other human attribute these records are constantly broken. And then you start to compare that to the lore of the religious traditions. And you see what yogis and shamans can do. So we don’t know the end of this yet.
MISHLOVE: Well there seems to be a paradox here in some sense. In the athletic traditions it’s very clear it’s a practice that gets you there, and yet in the spiritual traditions there the concept of grace, that your practice just can’t do it for you.
MURPHY: Again, the more I have studied all of this, the more I’ve been driven to appreciate the Judo-Christian concept of grace, which you know is basically the same as the Buddhist idea — non attainment. In other words, these things don’t come through our efforts, they are given to us. What a paradox arises one says because why then are you asked to practice wholeheartedly. I like to tell the story of Ben Hogan, the great golfer in this regard. He was the greatest golfer of his age. He practiced harder probably than any golfer who ever lived. He would hit shots during the U.S. open or the great tournaments that defied human expectation. I stood with him once in the U.S. Open and he had to hit a low shot under a limb. It went off to the right, rose up, hit in front of a green and plopped on. And I was standing right next to him and he looked with utter astonishment when he hit the shot. Anyway, afterwards there was a big press conference. And people said,” Ben, you hit more miraculous shots in these big tournaments than anybody who ever lived. How do you do it?” And he said, “I’m the luckiest guy out there.” And they said, “But Ben you practice harder than any golfer who ever lived.” And he thought a bit, and he said, “Well, the more you practice the luckier you get.” Practice sets the stage for these miracles. But it’s a striking fact that when they happen it’s as if something beyond us does it. And it’s one of the great mysteries.
MISHLOVE: I suppose there’s a sense in which the Asian traditions, the Chinese Taoist tradition for example the concept of wu wei or effortless accomplishment, seems to capture this synthesis of grace and practice better perhaps than Western thinking does.
MURPHY: There’s a lot of beautiful language though in the Judao-Christian heritage… and God’s praise and a lot of wonderful language emerging out of modern sport, that I didn’t play that round of golf, it played itself through me. I didn’t throw that pass something big mind, the Buddhist language of big mind. You could say now some modern learning theorist would say well that’s just fancy language for saying that you have kind of made your performance so smooth so efficient, so graceful that it feels like it’s effortless. But the person to whom it happens says, no it’s much more than that. That’s why we use this concept of big mind and Buddhism or the zone because it’s as if something far beyond the ordinary ego’s operative. And it doesn’t feel satisfying when some modern learning theorist tells you that it’s just smooth performance. And you have to say to them well your just full of beans. That’s not enough. That doesn’t describe what happens. You have prepared yourself through practice for something else to supervene and to take over. You see now that’s what makes us think that this puts us on the edge of an evolutionary frontier. There’s a bigger something trying to break through in the human sphere. It’s trying to break through. And it’s to break through, I believe, in all our aspects with all our attributes in our perceptions, our cognitions, our volition, our bodily structures themselves, our relationships. But we have to do something to set the stage for it.
MISHLOVE: Yes there’s this sense in which we could reduce all of this to condition responses or you know learning theory and the role of the habituated unconscious. But if we’re to view it in evolution terms, it’s as if we are being called to live a higher, larger life called to become God-like in some sense.
MURPHY: That’s right and not only does this extraordinary performance seem to emerge out of know where. But there is often a sense, and again I love to talk to athletes about this who do not have a supportive philosophy or psychology for this who say it naively that suddenly it’s like that I’m more myself. I remember who I am. It’s language straight out of either Zen Buddhism or Neo-Platonism or some of the very sophisticated Christian mysticisms etc. It’s this deeper recognition of something that was there from the beginning — you know the old Zen koan: Before your parents were what is your original face?
MISHLOVE: It reminds me a bit of Moses being called by God.
MURPHY: This is the experience that emerges again and again and again, and it just makes you wonder about this tremendous potential, this tremendous thing that’s trying to rise up in us. It’s not enough to just put it in flat materialistic terms.
MISHLOVE: Michael Murphy it’s been such a pleasure sharing this time with you and looking at the future evolutionary potential of the human being in terms of our abilities, in terms of our practices.
MURPHY: Great to see you Jeffrey.
MISHLOVE: Thanks so much for being with me.
MURPHY: We have to do it again.
MISHLOVE: And thank you for being with us in this third part of a three part series on the future evolution of humanity.