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The “Mr. Enlightenment” Interview

On December 12, 2010, Rose Rosetree interviewed me for her blog. Rose is a practitioner of spiritual healing and is the author of ten books including Aura Reading Through All Your Senses. She has also written a review of Answers From Silence.

Rose playfully called the interview “Answers From Mr. Enlightenment”. First, she ran a contest inviting questions from readers of her blog. After receiving an overwhelming response, she selected a manageable number of questions for the interview. The text of that interview appears below.

Listen to the full audio recording of the interview here.

The other questions that weren’t included in the original interview are answered in “The Mr. Enlightenment Interview, Part Two” and “The Mr. Enlightenment Interview, Part Three” on this website.

Here is the transcript of the interview:

RR: Ask Mr. Enlightenment. That’s what we’re doing, Jeffrey Chappell!

JC: Hi, Rose!

RR: Hi. Yes, it’s Rose Rosetree and I’m interviewing you with questions posed at my blog in order to just find out things that people want to know the most. And this, I should mention at the outset, is a supplement to a book you actually wrote and published called Answers From Silence. So this is not attempting to duplicate what is in that fabulously helpful book, but more practical questions that people have had about you. And so here we go.

JC: Sounds great.

RR: Do you dream any more in a symbolic way?

JC: Yes, sometimes I do have dreams like that. And I also have all the other sorts of dreams that are just plain silliness and totally forgettable. There hasn’t been a big change in that facet of living.

RR: Do you have wakefulness during the dream state?

JC: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll think what a wonderful creation of my mind the dream is while I’m dreaming it. Sometimes I’ll be more or less awake in the dream. But it’s not a skill that I am trying to hone or increase or that I take a lot of note of. It’s just something that happens once in awhile.

RR: You know, I wonder if as we talk, if it will come up in context like this that there are things that some people think of as the ultimate path to enlightenment or the equivalent of enlightenment that are not necessarily a big deal to particular specimens of enlightenment like you, huh?

JC: Well, I think that there are a lot of ideas that people have about what enlightenment is and what it should be, and I don’t know that those are always the accurate kind of ideas to have about it.

RR: Well, what’s the very first kind of definition that you’d like to put out there in our conversation now?

JC: I think the main element of enlightenment is a change of identity. Enlightenment is about identity. It’s not about being in a good mood all the time, or anything like that. It’s not about the sudden appearance of supernatural powers. It’s none of that. The central issue, the way I see it, is identity.

RR: Thank you. Now, in terms of your own identity and your subconscious mind or what might be called your unconscious mind, is there a lot in it now? Did you gain access to it in a different way after you became unenlightened?

JC: I’ve noticed nothing there at all in terms of aspects that would answer that question. In other words, it’s not a region that pulls my attention in any way, shape, or form. The question on the blog was if my unconscious was, I think, something like calm…

RR: …and quiet.

JC: Yeah. That’s a very accurate description.

RR: Are you interested in unconscious or subconscious phenomena in other people compared to before you became enlightened?

JC: No, not any more than I used to be.

RR: And how would you rank that interest?

JC: Well, you know, I went through times when I would keep dream journals for myself, I went through training in different kinds of counseling people as well as alternative healing methods, so in those regards you might say that I had that kind of interest in the unconscious and so forth. In dreaming, of course, a lot of the time that is the unconscious speaking to us and giving us messages and expressing what is going on in our lives in a symbolic way and so forth.

And in terms of alternative healing, that would mean bringing things to awareness, bringing to consciousness things that were formerly unconscious for someone; as well as the releasing oneself from being stuck in time, particularly being stuck in the past. So in those ways, I have brushed up against this topic. At the same time, it’s not a major, central focus for me at this point.

RR: So, Mr. Enlightenment, you made an allusion to healing modalities, and I wonder with the kind of identity that you have as someone who is enlightened, how do you view your role when you facilitate healing now?

JC: I view it the same way I did when I was trained in it, which is to say my role is to exactly do that, which is to facilitate the moving forward of that person’s evolution in whatever way is coming up spontaneously at that time.

RR: All right, thank you. What happened to your birth trauma, and any traumas during childhood? Did it fall away, was it felt and cleared quickly, or did you feel connected to source and not have to go through it at a certain point?

JC: I’m sure I went through it, and out of the three choices given in that question, the one that feels like the bull’s-eye to me is the ‘falling away’ option.

RR: Falling away with insight, or falling away like a dog shaking water off of it when it came out of the pond?

JC: Like a dog shaking water off.

RR: Not relevant to your identity and experience in the present?

JC: Right.

RR: Okay, Now, on to: what is sex? What is the big deal? Are you at all interested in sex personally?

JC: Well, that’s a great question. And I’ll directly answer the question and then kind of add a context to it. What is sex? I think that it is one of our most powerful energies that we have as human beings. And I don’t see that there’s any contradiction or conflict between having a powerful sexual nature and a powerful spiritual nature. Let’s see, did I answer the question yet?

RR: Are you interested in it personally, or did it just end when you became enlightened?

JC: Putting in the context is kind of what has to come here. Enlightenment doesn’t stop you from being human. Everything that is human about you is still right there on the scene and is still happening. So, I’ve always had a powerful energy that way, so it’s still there.

RR: Well, back at identity, one incentive for sharing sexual energy with another person, especially someone you love, is that there might be a shift to your sense of identity doing that. And has that altered? Was that the case before, is that the case now, or do you have no idea what on Earth I mean?

JC: I will say that the crux of the question is again the question of identity. It’s not that sex in itself is a particular topic that gets a certain kind of attention. It’s just one more of the phenomena that take place, and all of those phenomena are on equal footing.

So in terms of identity, what happens in enlightenment with identity is that identity goes to that which is changeless, that which is timeless, that which is eternal. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, the identity remains the same. So that means that an enlightened person would be just as changelessly enlightened during one activity as they would be during another activity.

RR: But then choosing activities, would you say that for the enlightened person you are, having a wonderful session of making love would be exactly on the same scale of interest to you as vacuuming the carpet?

JC: Well, no. Vacuuming the carpet is obviously something that is more of a mundane activity.

But you know this really goes to the question of what happens to your relationships after enlightenment happens. And I remember at first being very confused about as to what it was going to be like. Here I am, this reborn creature, and what’s that going to mean in my primary relationship? What’s going to happen? And what I found was that nothing different had to happen. Things go on as normal. And that was what developed in that case.

RR: Thank you. On to a different relationship, can you please describe in 10 words or less what is your perception of God—kidding about the 10 words.

JC: My only perception is God. That’s all I perceive.

RR: Does the intensity of that change throughout the day or in different situations?

JC: No, because that’s always a constant. What does change sometimes in intensity is the degree to which qualities of enlightenment are lived out on the level of the senses, and particularly the level of sight. I do have times when light seems to be just coming at me from all directions. If I look around the room, I’ll see light reflecting off of different surfaces. It just has more of a gleaming quality, and at the same time more of an enhanced three-dimensionality about it. And that’s just what I would consider to be a bonus of the state that I’m in. It’s not a quality, again, to seek to cultivate. But it’s just a side benefit, or a sideshow if anything.

RR: Or a ripening maybe.

JC: Yeah, but I noticed it immediately when I crossed this line.

RR: If I might add a question that was not asked at the blog, you know I’ve been your friend and I’ve been reading your aura off and on for years, and when I compared your latest set of photos taken in conjunction with Answers From Silence to the photos that were at the jeffreychappell.com website, it seemed to me that I noticed a greater sweetness and a kind of intensity of the presence of the divine in that state of enlightenment in you. Any comment there, dude?

JC: My sense of it is that if that is happening, then it’s happening pretty much without my noticing it. I feel that I’m in this changeless place and that nothing has changed all this time. I’m in a timeless place, and so if I’m evolving it’s definitely happening by itself.

RR: Happening by itself, but what you described about your senses shifting a little bit, and slightly shifting or ripening experiences of light is something that has been going on…

JC: …ever since.

RR: Ever since. So there hasn’t been any real shift in that, it’s just random?

JC: It is, kind of, and it’s a nice little reminder sometimes, but that’s all it is.

RR: Got it. Now, if you were brought up within a particular religion, does that theology remain in a kind of a separate compartment of understanding of “Who God is” as a description, or does being enlightened just make it all clear and very personal now?

JC: It makes it all clear and very personal. And in terms of understanding, I think it’s worth saying that there are different kinds of understanding. Intellectual understanding is one kind of those kinds of understanding. So to have a theological construct or an idea of who God is would be something that is happening on the level of the intellect.

Whereas, when we’re talking about enlightenment, we’re talking about something that happens in a more all-encompassing way. It’s not just limited to the intellect.

The other kind of understanding is direct experience.

RR: I wondered when you were going to drop that other shoe.

JC: Right. So, when you directly experience something, then you also have that sort of understanding of something. And that is the division that is inherent in that question that was asked. A theological idea would be an intellectual knowledge, and then the living it on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis is the experience aspect of the knowledge.

RR: Well, what about other people’s theologies? For example, if someone goes on and on in a very impassioned way about God exclusively belonging to people with a particular understanding, do you find that adorable, flattering, insightful, ridiculous, or what?

JC: I think that there can be a lot of dimensions tied up in that. One is that people can talk about God and be very emotional about it, and what they’re really talking about is their emotions. Or they can talk about God as if they owned the only right idea about God, and in that case they are talking about being an authority about something or being infallible. They’re not really talking about God. They’re talking about their issue around God.

RR: So is it charming, adorable? When they do these various things—“they” meaning sometimes us, various people—does it just depend on the box people are putting God in, or is it always cute?

JC: Well, no, it’s not cute if it’s, for example in politics, being used as a weapon against other people. That’s not cute. You know, it would be nice if, instead of boxing God in, people would let God come to them and really allow an experience of grace to enter their hearts.

RR: Now that you’re enlightened, what is your perception of your life pre-enlightenment? How do you feel about all that karma?

JC: I have no feeling about it whatsoever. And usually if I think about that pre-enlightenment life, I think, “Gee, Jeff was a really nice guy.”

RR: I’ll vouch for that.

JC: And that’s about it. You know, the karma thing is so totally burned off that there is really nothing to react to any more.

RR: You know, a lot of people in pursuit of enlightenment talk a great deal about the alleged importance of finding your purpose. How do you respond to that idea of purpose as a supercharged or evolutionary or important piece of life?

JC: I think that’s a great question.

RR: Thank you. That wasn’t from the blog but you just made me ask it.

JC: At a certain place—this will sound probably strange, but—the ideal, the goal, is to have no purpose. So finding a purpose is an intermediary step. It’s leading you on your path of enlightenment. But the end of the path is that simple aspect of Being. And Being in timelessness, and Being as the potential of all things that take shape, and Being as the true nature of what is.

It’s very hard to say that Being has a purpose.

Also, in timelessness, all moments are totally full and complete. There’s a sense of fullness, a sense of completion. The only time you have a purpose is when there is something lacking, and the purpose is to fill the lack. So if there’s no lack, then you don’t need a purpose.

These are statements being made from a perspective of timelessness. And I don’t even mean “perspective”, because that implies a choice in adopting a viewpoint of some sort. And I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about knowledge in the sense of direct experience. So, what I want to do is to speak of what that is as clearly and as straightforwardly as I can and just get that out there so people know about it.

RR: Thank you. Continuing on, let’s go into some questions about the process of becoming enlightened. Could someone become enlightened without ever noticing it?

JC: I doubt it. Although I imagine there might a possibility that it could happen to someone who has absolutely no intellectual framework to interpret the experience. They might be enlightened and not be able to say that’s what that is. And that would be fine! It might be better to have the intellectual framework to say that’s what that is, to be able to have a name for the experience.

RR: Do you know any reasonably public figures who might be enlightened and not notice it and not have that intellectual understanding?

JC: No, I don’t. That’s not to say they’re not out there. I think it’s a gift of yours, for example, to be able to do that. And again this comes back to this question of, “Well, you’re enlightened and therefore I would expect that you have this or that skill or ability.” Skills and abilities and gifts that people have are the ones that they have. For example, I am a wonderful musician, and that’s a gift that I have. I don’t have the gift of looking at public figures and knowing who’s enlightened and who’s not, and who does or doesn’t know that they’re enlightened. That’s a gift that someone else has, for example, Rose.

RR: Well, I don’t know who knows if they’re enlightened, but that literacy thing, yeah.

JC: Well, enlightenment doesn’t give you talents that were lacking before, necessarily, or tune you in to certain things in different ways. It’s not about that so much. It’s primarily about a change of identity.

RR: Once that identity has changed, is there a set of exercises or daily practice or routine that’s required in order to stay at that level, sort of like maintenance exercises?

JC: I honestly don’t know the answer to that, because I still do my meditation twice a day that I’ve done ever since 1974, and so it’s possible that that has something to do with maintaining it. However, I don’t have the sense that it does whatsoever. I mostly do that still out of gratitude, and it’s more of a way of resting the physical body than doing anything else. That’s the benefit I get from it.

But the question is backwards in a way. It’s not that enlightenment needs to be maintained, it’s that enlightenment maintains everything. The source of all existence is maintaining existence. It’s not that you have to do something to maintain the source. It’s already there.

RR: Could you improve your chances for becoming spiritually enlightened by socializing with enlightened people much in the way that people might join a tennis club or play bridge or that sort of thing?

JC: I think that the answer to that would be yes. I think it could only help out to hang out with people like that, to have friends and associates who are putting out good spiritual vibrations.

RR: However, what about the idea of hanging out with people and that making somebody enlightened?

JC: You know, I had a student that I worked with quite a bit. His name is Gideon. He’s mentioned in my book. I met with him many times, and each time, I brought another way that I had thought up to advance his consciousness. I think that there must be a way to do anything; all you have to do is think of how to do it. I am absolutely not in favor of being bound by traditional ways of doing things. So, if there’s a way to bring somebody along with me, then I would love to find that. In fact, when I sit in silence with someone, I’ve gotten reports from numerous people that they feel an energy coming to them. So I think that something can go on there.

RR: Thank you. How can you prove to yourself that you are enlightened and not simply in a very good mood? What’s different?

JC: Moods change. Enlightenment doesn’t change. Changelessness does not change. You can be in a good mood, but if you want to prove that you’re enlightened, it’s when you’re still enlightened when you’re NOT in a good mood.

RR: And speaking of not a good mood, here’s a small assortment of, I think, very eloquent paragraphs that speak to a certain discontent. Here we go:

“I am certainly not the only person in the world who has a poor or perhaps distorted notion of what the New Testament says. Listen to or read any evangelical sermon in the country, and you will see clearly that even most (not all) of those who scream harshly, ‘The Bible and only the Bible’ have no clear idea what the New Testament says. Clueless. Totally clueless. If you ask me to be kind—that IS the kind phrasing. Clueless.

“Surveying the literature, I find that mystics and high order spiritual people write in two veins. Some write endlessly and rhapsodically about how good God is. Others say at length what a good deal it is to be enlightened. Both of these are probably true. Neither is at all useful (to me).

“Why is it that enlightened people tend not to write practically and usefully about the road to enlightenment? Is it the case, then, that people with excellent verbal skills and an ability to communicate well are somehow never the persons who obtain enlightenment? Are verbal/communication skills somehow an impediment?

“Phrased more cynically: Why can’t an all-knowing God pick a prophet who can actually write decently?” And we want to thank Jim for this question.

JC: Yes, Jim, I enjoyed all of your questions tremendously, and I get from them the sense of someone who is a very powerful seeker who is hitting different kinds of frustration with the enlightenment question.

I think that there are some writers who have written very clearly about it. And in particular, addressing the Christian aspect, I refer you to Alan Watts, and the name of his book is called Behold The Spirit. This is a discussion of Christianity from an enlightened viewpoint, and it is very clear, at least to me when I am reading it.

I also think that Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, is very clear. And also Thomas Merton, another Christian figure, wrote New Seeds of Contemplation. So go read those, and then tell me if it’s not clear, and I’ll see what else I can do about it. But it is not the case that enlightenment interferes with verbal communication or writing skills. I just think you haven’t hit the right books yet.

RR: And one of those books might, of course, be yours, Answers From Silence. And the best way to get that would be what?

JC: It’s at amazon.com, and you can also go to answersfromsilence.com, which is the website dedicated to the book, where I have also been putting some articles—at least on a monthly basis if not more frequently—dealing with some of the things that have been coming up in these questions, in fact. So, of course, I highly recommend those.

RR: Is there anything else, Mr. Enlightenment, you would like to say in conclusion for this conversation?

JC: I found that the questions that came kind of went into certain categories. Curiosity was one of them: “What’s it like for you?”, kind of implying “What’s it going to be like for me?” There were also questions about “Why am I being excluded from enlightenment? Why is it being withheld from me as being a secret?” and so forth. There were also questions for guidance, and the questions that had to do with kind of assumptions about what it is like to be enlightened.

For those who were curious, I hope that we answered some of those here.

For the frustrated, I would say: Know that you are blessed, and don’t blame yourself for any seeming lack of progress.

And for those seeking guidance, I would say: You have a part of you that already knows the answers to your questions, and so you should ask that part of yourself for the answers that you need.

RR: Thank you so much, Mr. Enlightenment.

JC: My pleasure!

Dear Readers: Here is The Mr. Enlightenment Interview Part Two and here is Part Three where I answer the remaining questions from Rose’s readers.

The webpage on Rose’s website for the interview:

Read Part One of the interview and my replies to Rose’s readers comments here.

You are also welcome to leave your comments here.

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7 Responses to “The “Mr. Enlightenment” Interview”

  1. Diane says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the audio interview. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us. For future articles, I would love another reading list (enjoyed the books mentioned in the interview) and what about a listening list. What are your top 10 transcendent pieces of music?

  2. Jeffrey says:

    I don’t have a top 10, but I will say that a composer can trigger transcendence in listeners in a couple of ways that I’ve noticed.

    One is sensory overload—the music is so long, unpredictable, and eventually overwhelming that the intellect surrenders its monitoring role. Examples of this are the Bach Goldberg Variations and the Beethoven Sonata Opus 106.

    Another is to stretch time out more and more until perception detaches from it. Examples of this are the Beethoven Sonata Opus 111 (last movement) and the first movement of the Messiaen “Vingts Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus”.

    (However, I haven’t yet found a recording of the Messiaen that actually follows the composer’s tempo indication of one note per second. It’s usually played faster instead.)

    The Messiaen piece, taken as a whole, combines both ways of doing things.

    Also, anything with long tones, such as the sound of bells or voices toning, can precipitate transcendence, because of the lengthening of time. My favorite example of this is the recording of The Harmonic Choir called “Hearing Solar Winds”.

    Finally, certain rare musicians bring a transcendental quality to anything that they perform live. Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling is one of these. Classical pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski was another, but he has passed on.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Hi Jeffrey,

    I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Rose and your book and your music. I have also been enjoying reading “New Seeds of Contemplation” by Thomas Merton that you recommended in the interview.
    What a beautiful book that was. I am no longer Catholic, and there were parts that to me reflect the prejudices of another time/monastic thinking…but his descriptions of enlightenment are so clear and timeless. I realized in reading it that I have experienced what he is talking about many times.
    That plus reading your book has made me realize that enlightenment will most likely not be a completely foreign experience.That maybe it is more about being in that familiar state of grace for increasingly longer amounts of time.

    I love the post about transcendant music above–that was a question I had. I look forward to checking out your suggestions.

    One question I am wondering about: before you became enlightened, did you work with any healers like Rose? I wonder because, I have felt my many sessions of aura healing (cord cutting sessions mostly) with Rose leading more and more in the direction of clarity/grace/deeper spirituality. But I know that not everyone can afford sessions of energy spirituality. So what I am really curious about is whether it is possible to become enlightened without energy work. You mentioned Mari El in the book–do you think that was a contributing factor in your enlightenment?

    Thanks!

    Suzanne

  4. Suzanne says:

    Hi Jeffrey,

    I’ve thought of one more question for possible inclusion in your upcoming blog: would you say that having a healthy personal ego is an intermediary step on the way to being enlightened?

    I ask because in reading your book, it seems to me that the “I” disappears in enlightenment–there is only being and doing.

    But I know from Rose Rosetree’s work that having a healthy ego is necessary to having a well functioning human life.

    So, I guess I’m struggling with that…the desire to let go of all personal ego needs vs. the reality that I am not a monk/nun living in contemplation 🙂

    Another thing I’ve noticed is how much ego I have around being spiritual, saintly, and good (after reading Thomas Merton’s book…) So I wonder, how do you not let being enlightened go to your head?!

    Thanks,

    Suzanne

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Dear Suzanne:

    I did work with healers. The vast majority of them were practitioners of the MariEl method, and I did most of that work between 1987 and 1998 when I was taking training classes.

    I consider it to be unfortunate that Ethel Lombardi, the founder of the method, did not enable anyone to carry her work forward in a like fashion as Reiki, for example, which is now widely established and recognized.

    Doing MariEl energy work certainly accelerated my evolution and expanded my awareness. As to whether there was ultimately a direct cause and effect as regards enlightenment, I can’t scientifically assert that, but it seems probable.

    It would also seem possible to become enlightened without energy work. Did Buddha do energy work? I don’t know, but I don’t remember that as being part of his story. This could be an answer to your question.

    I have noticed that every kind of technique out there—energy work, meditation, alternative healing, the whole list—seems to include this component: a release of the past. The result is that the past stops operating in the present, and the person doing the release can freely function with a clean slate.

    I said more about the ideal of “being in the present” in another article at this website. If you haven’t already, take a look at

    http://www.answersfromsilence.com/being-in-the-present-and-beyond

    Thanks,

    Jeffrey

  6. Jeffrey says:

    2011/01/30 at 4:46 PM | In reply to Suzanne.

    Dear Suzanne:

    I like your questions because they require me to clarify and articulate my experience.

    They also have some built-in assumptions that I’d like to clarify and articulate also.

    Overall, you are looking for the “how to” for becoming enlightened.

    And could it happen if you do enough energy work?

    That’s addressed in the previous comment.

    And could it be a series of steps one takes?

    I get the impression that the series of steps leading to one person’s enlightenment will be different from another person’s series of steps. Certain features, and certainly the end result, can be the same, but duplicating someone else’s steps may not be productive.

    And could it happen if you let go of all personal ego needs?

    Of course, having health on any level, including the personal ego, is a benefit to well-functioning human life. And yes, the ego can be healthy. But the ego can’t let go of the ego any more than your own eye can see itself.

    I once heard it said that nothing wants to die, not even your fear. That would then also be true of your desire, your struggle, and your personal ego needs. They don’t want to go away. The answer is not to struggle with things but instead to bypass them. Go to pure being and be there. And then that will be you.

    And after it happens, could you think you’re really great for being enlightened?

    If I felt like it had anything at all to do with me, then maybe I could think I was great for being enlightened. But there is a total lack of a sense of accomplishment or achievement. I didn’t do it. The ocean was there. I was the drop. The ocean came to the drop, not the other way around.

  7. Suzanne says:

    beautiful answer Jeffrey, thank you.

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