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Q&A with Trevor Rufli

Question 1.Would you describe yourself as a seeker from an early age?

Answer 1. (Trevor Rufli) Yes from an early age I was interested in anything that might further one's insight regarding the big existential questions. So the areas of philosophy (the milder type), cosmology and psychology were always of interest. In my youth I was also interested in any subjects that contained intrigue regarding the question of ‘what’s going on’, this included the whole area of paranormal psychology and also enquiries into the question of alien life, which left me no wiser!


Q2. Despite the accomplishments and insights of Western psychology, did you feel that Eastern philosophy had something to offer?

A2. Yes absolutely, I found that Eastern philosophy brought about a wholly refreshing turnabout in one's direction of search - a move from dual psychology to non-dual psychology. For me this produced a shift from an absolute lack of clarity (regarding a spiritual search) to perceiving a real and untainted clarity. However, what was required was to have writers who could bring Eastern philosophy to the Western world and of course we have had many good writers in this area.

I am making a comparison here between Eastern and Western philosophies rather than with Western psychology. Of course Western psychology has been about attending to the health of the ‘self’ whereas Eastern philosophy has been about the transcendence of ‘self’, so neither are really comparable. However mindfulness is bridging the gap a little, it could be said!


Q3. Would you say that ‘enlightenment’ is very different from the Western concept of ‘self-actualisation’?

A3. I believe they are different. ‘Self-actualisation’ refers to the supreme health of the self, whereas enlightenment refers to the fading away and transcendence of self. Maslow talks about the hierarchy of needs where lower needs have to be satisfied before moving up a self-development hierarchy. Enlightenment on the other hand has no such hierarchy or pre-stages. 

However, in relation to the question, it is interesting that self -actualised people report more ‘peak experiences’, moments of satori. This suggests that there is a connection between ‘self-actualisation’ and ‘enlightenment’ in that those who are self-actualised may be more likely to experience minor-satori, but not necessarily full enlightenment. 


Q4. Did you have an in-person relationship with a teacher?

A4. No not at all.


Q5. Was there anyone in particular, or any school of philosophy, that was important or pivotal to your understanding? Someone who gave you the ‘sparks of insight’ that you write about?

A5. Yes firstly philosophers like Spinoza or Teilhard de Chardin, and transpersonal psychologists like Maslow, may have laid the ground somewhat. However, the real insights came when I read ‘pure’ zen, writings that pointed to the illusion of self, writings where paradox led to a ‘seeing’, a ‘knowing’. And I cannot credit Alan Watts enough for this. In his writings he brought Zen Buddhism and Taoism to the West and he also had enough clarity to be on point, to introduce and frame Eastern literature in a way that was accessible and that really helped readers make the break to a more transcendent knowing. I cite Alan Watts a lot in my book as I found him to be unique in his sourcing of ‘direct pointing’ texts. 

You can read a sample of the book and further details on this page.

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