Interview with consciousness philosopher and author, Tim Freke examines the absurdity of science-as-we-know-it.
Alex Tsakiris: Do we really need to embrace science, or do we need to take a step back and clean out the wood shed a little bit, and say that there’s some real real problems, not only theoretically and philosophically but experimentally with this idea of reductionism. With this idea that we can measure things… that we can be certain. We’ve known that’s not true. Ever since quantum physics, and chaos theory, and consciousness science, they all tell us, you can’t really measure things at all.
Tim Freke: You’re probably right. I’m far too polite. What’s been obvious to me since finishing my last book is exactly what you’re saying. A new hegemony has arisen in the west, it’s in America, it’s in the UK over here. It’s a very dead form of science. It’s a bit like I didn’t foresee really how fundamentalist religion would come back and hit us between the eyes, and I didn’t quite see this either. That we would end up with this fundamentalist narrow, soul destroying idea. Which creates this meaningless idea that we’re clever monkeys clinging to a rock hurdling through space on a meaningless journey to nowhere. And if I’ve been too polite in the past, I’d like to take the opportunity to not being polite and say– I really think our job today is to undercut it, because it’s in danger of suffocating us.
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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Tim Freke to Skeptiko. Tim is one of the most innovative, and popular thinkers among the rapidly growing spiritual but not religious crowd. I have to say, I would count myself part of. He’s also the author of more than 30 books, and the creator of a very intriguing retreat, called the Mystery Experience that I hope we’ll hear more about. Tim, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me.
Tim Freke: It’s my pleasure Alex.
Alex Tsakiris: In reviewing the body of work that you’ve unmasked, which is really quite impressive and deep in so many many ways. I feel like there are so many ways we can go in this interview. So many ways I could take it. We’re going to explore some of those, but I thought we might start with the basics. That is your background a little bit, and how you came to do what you do.
Tim Freke: The basics, I suppose, Alex is that I find myself alive having this amazing experience and I didn’t know what it is. And, I wanted to know. That is what started me off as a child was those incredible thing was happening – life, and it was great but it was also painful. It’s everything, the thing we’re all experiencing, the thing is happening right now. It amazed me that the world I grew up in seemed to ignore it as if it was nothing. Yet to me it seemed profoundly mysterious. So, I set out to study it and to go deep into it. And very soon on as a 12-year-old had my first, what I call now being deep awake. I didn’t know what the hell it was when I was 12. I just had something happened, and it made a big impression on me. Because it was a complete change of consciousness, characterized by many things, but by this profound sense of connection with everything and love. This overwhelming embodied feeling of being loved and also being in love as well. It had a huge effect on me and set me off on what became my life. It’s like that was the seed, Jung talks about in people’s lives that there’s a seminal event when they’re young and that was definitely in mine.
Alex Tsakiris: Even at that young of an age you had that strong sense that this was the direction that you had to pursue?
Tim Freke: Looking back, it’s always hard to tell, isn’t it? Because memory is a difficult thing and I try to be skeptical, that’s why I like the name of your program. I try and hold everything up until you go well hang on, not so quick. What’s interesting in my case is that I have some documentation. Because I had this experience, I was 12 years-old. It was a very powerful experience. It was just sitting on a hill overlooking the small town I grew up in. I did what a Tim Freke does as it turns out which is from that I wrote. And, I wrote a play. It was a play called the wrong way and it was kind of a modernist go through history, and I produced it with kids actually in a local theatre in a church. It was quite a big deal in my home town. It was about the figure of Jesus who I would later write about in a very controversial way, preaching an idea of love which was obviously fashionable and in the air at the time I was a kid, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue. But the last paragraph of this play could have been from one of my books now and I find it in a few years ago in the little box that my mom had kept of all my stuff. And there was, oh my goodness the things I think I’ve been on this huge journey but the thing which I really have ended up writing about was there right from the start when I was 12 or 13.
Alex Tsakiris: Oh please, you have to share. What’s that last paragraph?
Tim Freke: I don’t have it on me otherwise I would. But, the essence of it was the thing which I come back to again and again. Most my books, I think, they’re all unique. I’m very proud of them in that way. I think there’s something similar which is they start on a journey from, what the hell is going on, this mystery of life. They go through a great philosophical expiration and the different experiences available to us, and usually end up coming right back to the simplicity of; what the thing we know, in the spiritual – I now call a gnosis, a deep knowing. The thing we know. The real simple thing is on a profound level with the world one and what really matters, is love. And that what really matters is love has been the thing which has pushed me through all these different twists and turns of my own journey. And it was there right from the start. It is the kind of way that it was expressed reminded me of myself even now.
Alex Tsakiris: Yes, there are so many ways we can go even with that point by itself in that internal sense of knowing and internal sense of unchanged this deep inside of us is something intriguing. But, I tell you what – before we go there I want to jump off in a different direction because you’ve touched on this word “mystery” a couple times. I thought it would be fun to kind of examine that deeper and really deconstruct that. What do you mean by mystery? I think you go very deep into it in various places, I’ve seen. Tell us about the mystery?
Tim Freke: Alex, sometimes, I think, having written all these books. Some of which are pretty scholarly books as well as inspirational books. Essentially, I began to realize, I feel like my role in life was to slip up behind people when they weren’t looking and whisper in their ear; hey, have you noticed that you don’t know what life is? And, a lot of what I do is travel around the country and usually when I start talking, I’ll begin with that. I don’t know what this is. This thing is happening, right now to me. I don’t know what it is.
Alex Tsakiris: And that’s the mystery?
Tim Freke: Yeah. You could see immediately, the people if we do it now. If people listen to me say that and really look. We’re having this experience. There are these colors, and shapes, and thoughts, and feelings, and we don’t know what it is. As you enter that don’t know, consciousness changes. Then the mystery is not just the not knowing. The mystery is, knowing the mystery. Therefore, you get people like the mystery of God or the Native Americans with the great mystery or just about all the traditions, but there is something so direct that you have to know it before words and the is-ness in the Zen tradition, same thing. What I mean by the mystery is that.
Alex Tsakiris: I also like how you contrast it with the non-mystery that were so used to and so forced upon if you will. So, you talk about reduction as science and how it’s all about non-mystery. I like how you work in this idea of it’s; just. That is the ultimate kind of counter to mystery as, oh no, no. It’s just, or its evil twin that I like to throw in there. It’s not. Well, it’s not that. It’s not that. It’s just this. And, talk a little bit about that and talk about —
Tim Freke: Yeah, the just word. It really struck me, exactly what you’ve just said. I love science. I love all human knowledge, and I love science. I love its attitude. I love what it shows. I hate reductionism, because of this narrowness where it reduces the richness of life to one narrow story, and you can always say, it’s” just” – oh no the birds are singing. No that’s just them – that’s just them holding their territory. Well, it is them, holding their territory. It’s not “just” that. Or, I’ve fallen in love, really, that’s just chemicals. You know that, don’t you, in your body. Well, it is chemicals, but it’s not “just” chemicals. And it’s that seeing that no matter how much we understand of life. When you look at the sunset, it still goes “WOW”! And, that wow is the mystery, when we lose that whether it’s looking at the world in terms of our understanding of it or just in our relationship with our lover’s. When you lose, the mystery goes dead on you. And my whole relationship with life feels a bit like that. It’s a lover. And, when I lose the mystery, it goes dead on me. I put it in a box. I think I know what it is, and I don’t. I need to remember that for it to stay alive.
Alex Tsakiris: Tim, what about this deep need that we have that all these other folks are tapping into for non-mystery, for certainty, for understanding, because that’s what they’re really playing on. So, in the same way that the scientists are playing on that, the reductionist in saying, oh no, it’s “just”. The Atheist are playing on it and saying it’s not. And the fundamentalist religious people are playing on it and saying, oh no, it is “just” this. Even as you quite fairly point out there’s even folks in the non-duality community that are playing the other game too, and saying it’s not. No, it’s not. It can’t be more. It can’t be a god in the sense that you’ve thought about it. It must not be that. So, what is it about our need for non-mystery, our need for certainty that makes us so susceptible to this line of thinking?
Tim Freke: For me Alex, the key – the very foundation of the philosophy that I’ve arrived at now. The one that’s in my latest books is what I call a paralogical approach. Paralogical thinking, which is a word I’ve coined to capture a tradition which is very very old actually. Which is to understand the nature of this mystery of life that confronts us is inherently paradoxical, which means as the great Physicist Neil Bohr, said, in his idea of complementarity, that to understand the nature of life we need to two opposite, but complimentary perspectives at once. And if we don’t see it with both eyes, we don’t see any depth if you like. So, we need both of these. So, yes, I’m a spokesman for the mystery, but I love words and I love story. My whole job as a philosopher is to create the best story I can. And I need that. I can’t live without a story. If I lived just in the mystery I would be an amnesiac. I couldn’t function, it would be ridiculous. Even these noises I’m making would have no significance because I would have no memory of language, and so on. I need story, but I don’t want to get lost in story. I need not this or that but both. So, for me it’s not that we need to get rid of the story. It needs to be open ended. We need also the mystery. So, we have both at once. My experience with nearly all of the great questions which I explore is it’s usually not this or that it’s both. And my experience of that is I have a real need to find certainty, it’s just I don’t find that certainty in words. And I don’t expect to anymore. I find the certainty ironically in the mystery. That’s where I come into contact with this thing which in the ancient west was called a gnosis, a deep knowing of something before words. That’s where it feels like I find something I’m sure of. Now I can’t justify that in words it’s a direct experience. But, when I feel, for instance, what really matters in life is love. I know that and either you go – yeah, I know that too, or you go well that’s just sentimental rubbish. It’s before words. And that’s the places I find certainty. In the words I find theory. I love theory. I love story, but I don’t expect it to hold any certainty. In fact, to be honest with you Alex and this is something we’ve been thinking about. Just the other day in the shower was I find the opposite. I don’t know if you get this, but if I really think the universe is a certain way. Any theory, if I really think, oh it really is like that. I actually experience nausea. There’s a nausea that comes with it because you think, why is it like that, but not like anything else? Do you know what I’m trying to say? Does it kind of – ooh how weird, it should be like that.
Alex Tsakiris: I can’t say that I personally relate to that.
Tim Freke: Is it just me?
Alex Tsakiris: I do think this issue of words and certainty is important. I guess I would turn it back to this word that’s popped up a couple times now, and that’s science. I’ve heard in your presentations you do a wonderfully expansive inclusive and yet at the same time discerning deconstruction of our culture and how we deal with these things. And by that I mean you’re inclusive of science. You’re inclusive of religion, but you also deconstruct them. I wonder sometimes if you’re a little bit to inclusive of science. To complimentary of, oh science is so great. And then you make this distinction of, well, there’s deep science and then there’s this reductionist materialist science. And this is like a narrow point, but I want to be able to ask you the questions that really provoked me in a Skeptiko way, kind of thing.
Tim Freke: For me it’s like science – it depends what we mean and maybe I haven’t made that clear. By science I mean an epistemology. I mean an epistemology which looks at the objective world critically. Develops ideas about it and tests them out.
Alex Tsakiris: Wonderful, but wait, whenever we say that, whenever we qualify and say; well, when I say science, I mean this. When I say, religion, I mean this. I think we’re kind of confusing the issue a little bit. Science is science as we know it. Science is science as it works in our culture and that science is disturbingly myopically reductionistic in its soul crushing in so many ways. So, do we really need to embrace science, or do we need to take a step back and say, we need to kind of clean out the wood shed a little bit, and say that there’s some real real problems, not only theoretically and philosophically but experimentally with this idea of reductionism. With this idea, fundamentally what science is about is that we can really measure things, that we can really be certain about things like you were saying. We’ve known that’s not true. Ever since quantum physics, and chaos theory, and consciousness science, they all point us and say, you can’t really measure things at all.
Tim Freke: That was a fantastic little ram, Alex, I love it. Yes, I agree with you completely. You’re probably right. I’m far too polite. And there’s been a part of me which is we went through with my dear friend Peter Gandy, I wrote a number of books attacking religion for a while, and then I moved on to try to express philosophy with simple synthesizing deep spirituality, which as you rightly say, I call deep science. What’s been obvious to me over the last period since finishing my last book; I haven’t written for a while, is exactly what you’re saying. That a new hegemony has arisen in the west, it’s in America, it’s in the UK over here. It’s a very dead form of science. It’s a bit like I didn’t foresee really how fundamentalist religion would come back and hit us between the eyes, and I didn’t quite see either that this –Because, the great prophets of science have moved so far beyond materialism… because, they had left [this kind of] fundamentalism completely behind… because none of the great quantum physicist were materialist. This was such a dead philosophy. That science would become the word as you rightfully say, would become associated with something it’s not. Just as religion becomes associated with something it’s not. We would end up with this fundamentalist narrow literally as you say soul destroying idea. Which creates this meaningless idea that were clever monkeys clinging to a rock hurdling through space on a meaningless journey to no where. Where, I don’t see anything in the findings in the experimental nature of science which points to this at all. I think actually what’s happened is the way of investigating the world has been conflated with a philosophical interpretation of that and the philosophy of reductionism and materialism is dead, is finished, it doesn’t work. And yet somehow that very stupid idea has taken off as if it’s the way that we should see reality now, and it’s disastrous. I think it is completely disastrous. And if I’ve been to polite in the past, I’d like to take the opportunity now of not being polite and saying– I really think is the job today is to undercut it, because it’s in danger of suffocating us.
Alex Tsakiris: Wonderful and wonderfully well said. I want you to touch maybe on that last point a little bit because you are a philosopher, a new kind of philosopher in many ways. But, in some ways to kind of go back to what we’re just saying. More of a true philosopher that goes against what I was just saying about there being this true instance of it, but I like the kind of philosophy that you grow organically from what you’ve both experienced and blending it with what you know, your’ gnosis. But, we face science which is declared philosophy obsolete that we don’t need. We don’t need philosophy any more. What are your thoughts on where philosophy fits in our perspective on the world? Why do we need philosophy?
Tim Freke: I presume you’re referencing, Holkins, just the other day saying —
Alex Tsakiris: Unbelievable. Yes, yes.
Tim Freke: My jaw dropped to the ground. I was like, how could such a clever man say something so foolish?
Alex Tsakiris: I don’t think he’s that clever to begin with but please go on.
Tim Freke: Maybe you are right, but he’s certainly better at math than me, clever in that sense for sure. The roll of philosophy is to – for me, why I’m attracted to it is it’s a matter discipline. It allows you to put your fingers in every pie. Because, it’s really just coming right back to the basics and going, okay, what is it? That’s why I say, for me as a philosopher, the question I start with every morning is; what is this? And what should I do about it? These are very childish, simple things, and then all the questions that come from that, like what is science come from, well, it’s a way of trying to answer, what is this? Does it answer it? How does it answer it? What ways does he answer it well? And what ways does it miss what this is, saying the spirituality. What I’m looking for is a philosophy which can encompass an account for my actual experience. And, I want to be able to share that with others to see if it could account for their actual experience. The complication is that everything is paradoxical. What we need is a philosophy which can embrace paradox, and part of that paradox is. What we experience depends on how we look at it. So, there’s not even there something which we can look at and go, what do you think about it? In the thinking about it, it shapes what we experience. So, we’re living in a hole of mirrors in that way, so, that’s both confusing but exciting. It allows us to see that we’re kind of creating our experience as well as interpreting it.
Alex Tsakiris: When I heard that Stephen Hawking’s quote, that philosophy has been obsoleted more or less by science, it struck me as the prince trying to usurp the king – really. It’s like philosophy is the king. Philosophy asks the fundamental questions that we then charged science with. Who am I? Why am I here? We started with those philosophically and then we said, okay, science go piddle around over there, see what you can find out and then the prince rises up and says, ‘Oh no. I am the true king.’
Tim Freke: What happened there with him is a fine example of the thing I was trying to say, and maybe it’s too soft of a point to really get a cross, but it seems key is that what he’s done is not noticed. It’s a staggering thing, but he hasn’t noticed that what he’s calling science is a philosophy.
Alex Tsakiris: Exactly.
Tim Freke: And by not noticing that he has therefore made a philosophy the truth, whereas actually it’s an interpretation of certain evidence and ideas. In conflating the two, he’s both destroyed science and philosophy.
Alex Tsakiris: Yes, yes, well said. I tell you what. Let’s switch only slightly, and you’ve touched on this a little bit but your latest book, The Mystery Experience, and it ties into this retreat work that you’re doing that we want to hear more about. But, the other part of that word is experience. What have you found is our experience? What are we experiencing? Because, again we have to look to science and science says you’re not really experiencing anything, but we obviously are. That’s an absurd notion. What is our experience? Fundamentally, what is it?
Tim Freke: Yes, science is great in that way, materialist science, let’s be clear. Back on the limited thing, it starts from the premise. What exists is the objective world. Studies the objective world very very carefully, comes back with a lot of very interesting things to say. And an axis that nothing else exists but the objective world which is what it started with in the first place. As the rest of us are actually living in this incredible reality where we experience what used to be called the soul and what today we call the psyche. In fact, the ancient Greeks also call it psyche at some ancient world. Where there’s this inner dimension of our reality doesn’t exist in space and time in the same way that our bodies do. That can be explored in the same way as the physical universe and it’s amazing, although subjective. And that’s what spirituality’s evolved in, and that’s really my area of expertise is what fascinates me. That subjectivism, I’m a subjectivist by nature, not an objectivist. What I’ve done is explore it. What I found in there is if you – you can change state. And what you experience depends on what state you’re in. And if you can enter these deep wake states, you experience life in a whole different way. What I’d like to share with people is the actual experience. One of the gateways to those deep awake states is noticing how mysterious life is. It’s coming out of the story, the words, the knowing into not knowing. And then there’s this profound experience of oneness and love, and what my aim is in the mystery experience retreats and indeed in my book is to give people that direct experience. So that it’s no longer just something which they’ve read, or words, or ideas, it’s something you feel so deeply in your body that you can’t deny it.
The thing about the experience for me is that it feels more real, not less real than my other experiences. That’s why it has an authority for me. But, it can’t have an authority for anyone else, because they’re not feeling it. But, it has an authority for me because it is so powerful and so real. What I want to do is share that power and reality of that experience of connectedness and love because I find it transforms how we live our lives and how we get along with each other.
Alex Tsakiris: Tim, what do you think or suspect is the relationship between that feeling of connectedness, that feeling of love in our day to day conscious experience, and I like the way you put this. That arises out of our field of being?
Tim Freke: I think it’s to do with the paradox of our own identity. That our own identity is marked by paradox, like the wave particle paradox in quantum physics. Our own identity is that we are both a separate particle and we are part of one wave of life and that the job of spirituality in nearly all of the great traditions has been to wake us up from identifications swith the particle that we become conscious that we’re not just this separate individual. We are also one with the hole of life. The job is to look deep within to find this place before wards, where is this profound oneness of being. And see the reality of that. Then it’s a bit like the image I use as it’s like the experience of being of everyday experience becomes more like a lucid dream, where I call it lucid living. And in the same way that when you dream, you can see look I’m a person in a dream, but also I’m the dreamer. And in this awaken state it’s comparable. Oh, I can see, I’m Tim. But, I’m also if you like the dreamer of the dream of life. I’m one with everything.
Alex Tsakiris: I like how you hold on to and help us better understand how we can hold onto the, Tim, there. That the, Tim doesn’t have to disappear. That the, Tim is a player in the play as well, an important player because it’s the only perspective. It’s the only seat we have in the theatre, is the “Tim” seat.
Tim Freke: Yes, yes.
Alex Tsakiris: Talk a little bit about that. I think so much of, and I don’t want to get too far into inside baseball here, but there is a strain of the non-duality consciousness kind of crowd that wants to suppress in a way the idea of the individual or the importance of the individual. In a way that I think is also in a way soul crushing to people, too. It’s like how do I resolve that with my experience?
Tim Freke: Yes, it’s the mirror, the mirror of the materialist fundamentalist.
Alex Tsakiris: It is it is.
Tim Freke: They reduce it all. They cut it all up into tiny little pieces and go look, all it is, is tiny little bits of matter. The [inaudible – 0:25:40] fundamentalists reduce it all to one big blob where it’s all just one thing and it has no color. What’s in the middle is what we actually experience. For me it’s both, it’s not either or it’s both. Is it one – yes, is it many – yes. Which is it – both, is it a wave, and is it a particle? Both, depending on how you look at it? It’s both at once and that’s the beauty of it. For me the personal is not an illusion to be seen through or some horrible ego thing, which has to be got rid of. It’s great, I’m meeting you as Alex here, and isn’t that wonderful, you’re not me; great. And we can make these funny noises and pass ideas between us and we can explore the experience of being alive together. But, we don’t have to get lost in being separate. We can also have a sense that we are both universe meeting itself. Those two things coexist depending on how you look at it. We don’t have to choose one or the other. That’s why this parological, or both/and philosophy has become the absolute foundation of my way of looking at life.
Alex Tsakiris: In the deep nature of that paradox. The self-evident nature of that paradox launches us back into the mystery, right, because, we can’t escape that that’s somehow not only mysterious but mysterious in a way that is unresolvable. We don’t have the equipment to resolve it and that’s a little bit of; on one half you take it to hard it’s an ego dump, and on the other hand if you take it – it’s just humility that you can just kind of ease into, and say, you know it’s okay. I don’t have to figure everything out.
Tim Freke: When I talk about, The Mystery – The Great Mystery. For me when I say life is a mystery in its deepest sense. I don’t mean like a mystery we haven’t solved yet. Like is there life on Mars. Well, what we could find out – yes, there wasn’t. It’s not like that sort of mystery. Oh, we don’t know yet. I mean the deepest thing which we are confronted with about life in our nature is a mystery. That’s what it is. It’s the absolute mystery. That’s its nature. Its nature is to be before our ability to think about it, therefore, to speak about it. To come into contact with the is-ness, again to quote the Zen people, it is a direct experience before all of that. Therefore, it is by its very nature unknowable in that way. My own nature feels like that. What I am can’t be known as an object. It can only be known directly as a subject. My own spirit, so therefore, it’s before my ideas about who I am. Any idea I have of who I am is an idea. But, what I am is before that. There’s a place for both the ideas and the object of experience, and there’s this subject of gnosis as well.
Alex Tsakiris: Great stuff. There are so many other places we could go with that. I want to switch gears a little bit before we run out of time. I have to talk about Jesus.
Tim Freke: Dear Jesus.
Alex Tsakiris: Of course, folks who know your work would know of your ground breaking book, The Jesus Mysteries. It’s wonderful in so many ways. It’s challenging for people that are clinging to certain preconceived ideas of what that history is all about. What they think they know. But, at the same time it can be liberating in that same way. I want to approach it from a slightly different angle. And, that is do you have a vested interest in Jesus existing or not existing? Because, I think that’s still – even though you’ve kind of come down pretty firmly in one camp. I think it’s somewhat of an open issue historically. Do you have a strong interest preference in it being one way or another?
Tim Freke: I don’t think we’re ever going to resolve it. I don’t think you can ever prove that someone didn’t exist, well, maybe you can. I know definite, for sure, that history is very wide open. I suppose I have a vested interest in the idea that he doesn’t exist, because I’ve written three or four books claiming that he doesn’t and being right is always nice. Personally, actually as, Tim, I have no vested interest in it whatsoever. I had a very important relationship with my idea of an historical Jesus, and like everyone my Jesus was very much like me. He had my values. He was like me but better. I very nearly became a Franciscan Friar, twice when I was a young man. I have no desire for there not to be a Jesus. It’s more that the studies that Andy and I ended up doing really imposed that idea on us. At first it felt like a loss and then he started to feel like a huge gain. I started to understand Agnostic perspective of understanding as myth and that it was about my own journey as a human being. And looking for real Jesus was like looking for the real Good Samaritan, it was complete red herring.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, let me probe that and I don’t want to get too far into inside baseball, but let me probe that from a couple angles. So, you have someone like Bart Airman, who’s an Atheist, even though he calls himself an agnostic or something like that. But, he comes out and publishes this work. He’s published several works and says, hey yes, Jesus existed. He was really just kind of minor figure, but there was a figure out there called Jesus. Now, does that matter in your world view or you have somebody like Robert Eisenman, I’m sure you’re familiar with his work. I think his work is very strong. His book, James the Brother of Jesus, and he says, okay. Let’s forget about Jesus for a minute and let’s look at this guy who we’d have some pretty good historical evidence for being the brother of Jesus. So, if he’s the brother of Jesus then there most likely was some figure out there that was Jesus. So, if we attack it from a Christian kind of perspective, but more from a historical perspective – I should have qualified that more. That’s where I’m really coming from. Is there room for there being some historical figure out there that fits the bill?
Tim Freke: There’s room for it. I’m just not convinced by the evidence for it. I think it’s so flimsy it just blows over. There are three kinds of approaches, I think. There’s one which just goes all looking over and takes mythology to be truth. That’s the literalist view. There are those that go, well most of it is clearly, mythology. But, there must have been someone underneath there. And, that’s done by people that don’t understand mythology. One of the great problems for a lot of the people who go looking for the real Jesus within a story and an Atheist hat on is they don’t understand Gnosticism. They don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t ’now what the experience of gnosis is, they don’t know why they should care about it. They can’t understand why people would create these things. So, for them it’s incomprehensible. So, there must be someone underneath there who’s some sort of religious nutter. Who is putting this stuff out there, but if you come at as Peter and I do. With the sense that – look, although these people are very different. Living in a different time, and one should not project a modern consciousness onto them. Nevertheless, they are talking about the same thing that I’ve been exploring all of my life. They’ve done it through these stories, which is actually very modern medium. We do it through stories and films now. We don’t think twice about it. Once you get that and once you see that this is going on throughout the ancient world. Once you see that the story that they’re most interested in is really different versions of the same story. Then by Occam’s Razor, you have to go right. Well, this looks like a myth, it sounds like a myth, and it probably is a myth. And, you’ve got a whole load of other Christian’s going it’s an Alegry. It’s not to be taken literally. That’s why I compare it to the Good Samaritan; nobody goes looking for the Good Samaritan. Well, where did he really live? The Good Samaritan, well, we found the evidence of the Good Samaritan’s brother. So, they should have been in all of that. Because we got to look at this teaching story, there is no Good Samaritan. The whole thing is a teaching story the whole story from virgin birth to death and resurrection.
Alex Tsakiris: Right. But, we also have the angle of we have. And, again I think it’s so enriching to approach it from the angle that you are, from this spiritual reality angle. Because you’re right, I think if you approach it from this hardcore Atheist perspective its eschewed thinking. I mean it’s another form of apologetics. Where I’m going to work back where it’s to explain all this unexplainable stuff, and I’m going to try and jam it back into my framework. So, I think it’s really refreshing to approach it the way that you are. But, the one thing I guess I’d throw in there is we have the direct experience, right? So, we have currently in our modern day, people who have direct experience with Christ consciousness. And, if we look at that with the best “Scientific Means”, that we have we some pretty good evidence that this changes their lives dramatically. They do things differently. Other people notice their different and their reports are consistent, across cultures, across time. So, there is some kind of experience, direct experience with Christ consciousness. If we roll that back and say these people living two –thousand, three-thousand, however many years ago were no less equipped to have that kind of direct experience. Well, that throws a whole other angle into it in interpreting this. So, it might not just be Alagoret, it might not be Story, it might be also a direct experience that their reporting on.
Tim Freke: I think – well, for sure, Alex. It’s a bit like you’ve finally said there was no Hamlet or King Lear. It would not make Shakespeare any less of a genus. Who ever created these stories, whoever wrote these things – Then there was a lot of people, it was done over a long period. This is brilliant, it’s beautiful, and these are deep wise people. And we know, I think some of the early Gnostics, Valentinians and Basilides, all of these people. These are amazing people I suspect and doing incredible things. And they are having Christ consciousness. That’s what they’re trying to describe. Now, the problem we’ve got, see it’s turned around for me now. If there was a historical Jesus then most people should be prepared to be disappointed, because he’s not going to be like their Jesus. He’s going to be like somebody else’s Jesus. The chances that my Jesus is the way he really was is probably not right. So, the Buddhists have a Jesus, who’s a Buddha. The Hindu’s have a Jesus who’s an Avatar. The Quakers have a nice, gentle, pacifist Jesus. The Fundamentalists have a fire and brimstone Jesus. The Atheists have a political Jesus or a minor religious fruit-cake Jesus. Von Daniken has a spaceman Jesus. Everyone’s got their own Jesus.
Alex Tsakiris: What’s wrong with that? Maybe that is closer to the truth in some way that we don’t understand. But, it really is closer to the truth.
Tim Freke: I think we kind of understand it Alex. Because once you get that that’s the whole point. That Jesus, to use Carl Leung’s phrase, is an archetype. That he is what Joseph Campbell called a mask of god. The whole point of Jesus is he represents your own deepest being. He is a face through which you could relate to the mystery of God, to the thing which has no form, therefore, the face he will take will be appropriate to you. So, that you’re Jesus looks like that is fine. It shouldn’t be the same as my Jesus. Once you’re free from this historical figure, you can let Jesus be whatever he is for you. And that will give you an experience of Christ consciousness. And, you can relate to it and do all the things that you should do with a mythic being, without having to tie it down to right, so really what was he like? Because, really what was he like was a complete red herring.
Alex Tsakiris: It is and it isn’t to me. I live out here in North San Diego County, California and just a few miles from Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, and I always talk to people who have any kind of Christian opinions on this thing. I say, just go get auto-biography of a Yogi, and read the first 30 pages. Now put the bible side by side and you go – wow. Which is harder to believe, it certainly makes the bible look tame in terms of here are people in modern day. Talk about somebody who died, Yogananda in 1955, but lived at the turn of the 20th century and had these people around him that were shape shifting from animal to human, who have lived for hundreds of years. All this kind of stuff, resurrected from the dead. I’m not sure that I want to close down the possibility of there being more in some way that I don’t understand it, or can wrap my arms – –
Tim Freke: I fell two things about that Alex. One is I also really don’t want to close down that possibility and I have had and do have experiences, as I think a lot of people do of life is very, very miraculous when he wants to be, and I certainly don’t want to close that down. I do however want to do two things. One, is I noticed, and this is purely personal, but when I read Yogananda when I was 18. I believed every word, but if I were to read it now, I would be much more circumspect. That I’ve been around spiritual circles for 40 years now, and I’ve seen what happens. I don’t take things on authority like I used to.
Alex Tsakiris: Sure, but we all – Well, tell me if this isn’t the case. I have for my own, very limited personal experience with non-ordinary experiences, stories that most people would find circumspect.
Tim Freke: How about just on the weekend?
Alex Tsakiris: So, there we go. It’s again a mystery that we can’t really probe.
Tim Freke: What that says to me is, yes, of course, the ancient world, as all ancient cultures is full of stories of miracle workers and traveling philosophers, and there could be one called Jesus who was underneath that. And we could also go; maybe there was one called Dionysus who was underneath him at the Dionysus. And one called Atlas who was underneath the myth of Atlas. One called Mithras who was underneath the myth of Mithras. Maybe there was and maybe there wasn’t. What we do know is we’ve got these stories, and these stories have deep allegorical meaning, and we know that the philosophers, including the gnostic philosophers are going – look, that’s the point. They’re not going, believe in this figure or listen to this man. The most damning thing which no one I think can answer really is the earliest documents we have of any Christian documents of the authentic letters of Paul. Many are not authentic letters, but the authentic letters of Paul, or the ones that are judged to be. There the earliest documents that we have. None of them tell anything about Jesus. Now, you know, you’ve been to the Yogananda Center. You go to one of those things. What’s the first thing – everyone goes, oh Yogananda, said this, he did that, he always said this, or I was with him once and this happened. We don’t have any of that. Nothing, nothing at all, complete silence. What we get is that you die and resurrect with Christ, and the Christ is in you. That is the essential Gnostic message that this is a dying and resurrecting allegory, which you make this journey and you yourself discover the Christ within you.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, good enough.
Tim Freke: But, I don’t know. That’s important throughout. I don’t know.
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s shift gears in the little bit of time we have left. Tell us more about this retreat. The mystery experience and why you went experiential with it. You touched on that. Why you felt there was a need to do that. Tell us more about that.
Tim Freke: My real passion is experience. My real passion is to be in the oneness and the love with myself and with others. Everything else arises from that. That is the thing which my life started. This life began when I was 12. I described it to you. And it’s been with me and developing in and out of it ever since. What I’ve discovered is a way of doing that, an approach to the philosophy of awakening and actually some practices as well, very, very, very simple. Which I can use in a way that doesn’t set me up as some sort of special person, which I hate all of that, which means people can come together as fellow explorers of life and have over a weekend an incredibly profound experience. I would hope that the vast majority of not everyone who comes has this experience so powerfully they can feel it right down into their body. They know, and that will change how life unfolds from that point on. It doesn’t mean that they will always be in that stage, or that suddenly it will always be sunny days and never rainy, always yummy and never yucky or anything crazy like that, of course not. Life will unfold in all of its paradox as it always does, but something is known and my real calling. The thing that really resonates deep in my heart is to do that. Now I get the chance, I’m hoping, just arranging a trip to America. I’m hoping for maybe the end of this year 2014, or early 2015. So, my hope is if people want to experience it. They need to check out the website and see that this is available, because I’m pretty confident now. Having done it all over the world with so many people that most people will be able to get this for themselves, so, it’s not just a second hand tale. It’s a first-hand experience
Alex Tsakiris: The website is: The Mystery Experience?
Tim Freke: Themysteryexperience.com, or if you google Tim Freke. It’s such a crazy name, but spell Freke. They can find me, and there’s lots of videos there. There’s our mystery experience film, which is a beautiful little five minute film which I made with a filmmaker in the UK to try and convey something of the feeling of this awakening, how natural it is. How available to all of us this is, and how it feels.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s a very nicely done video. What books would you point people to that are maybe hearing you for the first time, or dipping into this for the first time?
Tim Freke: My latest, The Mystery Experience, I think is a great place to actually start because it’s where I’ve ended up, and I try and make everything I do fresh and accessible, and it takes you on a journey through the philosophy and practice that I’m exploring into the mystery and back into everyday life. And, if it’s more the Jesus stuff which you’re thinking, oh, that’s intriguing. Well, there’s a whole series of books, but it starts as you said, Alex, with the Jesus mysteries, which is probably as good as place as any to start.
Alex Tsakiris: Great, again our guest has been Tim Freke. It’s an amazing body of work. I do hope you explore, if you’re at all interested. Tim thanks again for joining me.
Tim Freke: It’s been a real, real pleasure.