How would you describe yourself and what you do?
The real answer is that I’m a curious human being who finds being alive profoundly mysterious, and that has led me to spend my whole life looking at the nature of existence. I’m a spiritual teacher, though as this is so easily misunderstood I tend to avoid the phrase and call myself a philosopher – ‘a lover of wisdom’. The word ‘philosophy’ tends to get associated with academic, dry investigation, but I’m an old-fashioned philosopher because I’m interested in the love of wisdom – as well as love and wisdom.
Everything I do is rooted in a profound appreciation of the unfathomable mystery of existence, and as a philosopher I want to find the best way to conceive the nature of reality in all its depth. I also want to explore how we can transform our state of consciousness so as to reveal these depths.
Tell us a little about your journey to becoming the person you are today…
A significant moment on my journey came when I was twelve years old and I had my first awakening experience – I experienced being what I now call ‘deep awake’, a shift in my state, a big experience of profound communion, oneness, and an enormous love.
I knew that something significant had happened and that set me off on a journey I have been on ever since, which has been about how I can plumb the depths of experience experientially, and how I can understand them conceptually. And that has led me to study and write books on all the spiritual traditions of the world. I’ve written thirty-five books and in this last phase the journey has been about how I can create – or play a role in creating – a new form of spirituality for the 21st Century that can embrace science yet hold with the great insights of spirituality from around the world and throughout history. It’s not an easy task – it’s incredibly demanding!
As I talk to you I’m sitting here working on the problem of consciousness, the relationship between the brain and our experience of life. And these sort of things fascinate me because they demand we think in new ways. It feels like I’m offered a huge amount by the world around me and from other people, and what I can offer back to people is the results of my time spent in enquiry, contemplation and meditation.
That first experience at the age of twelve – did that kickstart your journey or did you resume your ordinary childhood?
It was both. The experience itself ended quite quickly, but it left me with the thing that everyone who has a deep mystical experience is left with, which is the knowledge that there is another state of consciousness which reveals another level to life, and the need to find out how to experience that again. So I was looking for ‘how can I come back to that experience’ and also, because my nature is to communicate, ‘how can I communicate it to others?’. And that’s what I’ve been doing, one way or another, ever since. I certainly didn’t go into an enlightened state and stay there – I’m not in an enlightened state now. I don’t even believe there is an enlightened state – I believe there is a continual evolution towards deeper and deeper states of consciousness and richer experience.
When I was older I was reading a lot and experimenting with different practices, doing everything I could to change consciousness – from very long periods of meditation to psychedelics, power plants to academic philosophy – everything that was available! I wanted to see what it did to consciousness. The older I got, the more opportunity I had to do it. It was a full-on preoccupation.
What inspires you?
Love inspires me. It inspires me when I see people acting from compassion and that makes me feel I have the strength to do that myself. And the love I feel within me is what makes me continually search for the way in which a ‘Tim Freke’ can contribute – ‘what’s the way in which my particular nature can bring some goodness into the world?’ – that’s what I’m always looking for.
What are your favourite holistic treatments/practices?
The practices I now teach – connection meditations: those we do not do on our own but together. A simple example of that is gazing, simply looking at each other. In the act of gazing you’re connecting with the depths of another being, and that’s not something you can see – it’s beyond the body, and by making that conscious you become conscious of the same depths in yourself. What I’ve seen as I’ve done this with hundreds and hundreds of people around the world in many different cultures from Mexico to Japan and elsewhere is that if we stick with it and are comfortable and relaxed, a profound transformation of consciousness happens very, very quickly. A powerful sense of oneness and what I call ‘Big Love’, an all-embracing love, arises. It’s a delight. People think they will feel vulnerable, or that it will be intrusive, but if you have a safe space to do it in, it is the most beautiful experience, utterly delightful. I love seeing people just melt into that love and relax into being themselves and waking up to this oneness that underlies the separateness – it continually astonishes me!
How do you relax?
I hang out with my wife, I watch movies and I like to spend time with my kids who will soon be all grown up. A strange thing in my life now is that I really enjoy football! Why that is strange is because earlier on in my life I was so preoccupied with spirituality and philosophy and all the noble pursuits that I regarded football with a certain disdain, as people pointlessly kicking a pig’s bladder around, but now I find it immensely relaxing to see human beings do something I couldn’t begin to do, with so much intelligence and skill.
Finally Tim, what’s next for you? Do you have any plans or projects you can share with us?
Well I want to take my retreats in a new direction, so that they can become not only about waking up to and experiencing the Deep Awake state, but also developing the wisdom to live it. I want to see this Deep Awake state transform the world we’re in. I don’t mean that in some sort of utopian way, that somehow the whole world is going to change overnight – it’s not. But by becoming wiser, and by manifesting this love we can make a difference, and I want to play a part in us doing that.
The other thing I’m continually doing is to try and deepen the new philosophy I call Emergent Spirituality that I’ve developed in my most recent book Soul Story. I think it’s the most important book I’ve written – it’s what my life has led to, and so my job now is to try and bring it to people’s attention so that they get a chance to explore these ideas themselves. It gives such an epic vision of this journey of evolution which we’re in that it can really bring deep meaning to one’s life.