Interview: Arjuna Ardagh

Translucence, the quality of allowing light to pass through, is the focus of what can only be described as a deep and engaging study of how spiritual teachers, artists, leaders and millions of others on the planet are allowing their gifts to shine brightly. And you may be one of them.

The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You are Waking Up and Changing the World (2005, New World Library), written by Arjuna Ardagh, is a book for this generation, as it not only reveals the process of connecting with divine light or inspiration, but the essential follow-up step of using that light to do works on this planet for the benefit of humankind.

The author interviewed the notables – like Neale Donald Walsch, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ram Dass – and hundreds of others, in addition to surveying thousands of people, in the process of sharing this printed documentary on the radical awakening taking place today.

This book is in direct alignment with Ardagh’s life path. A graduate of Cambridge University in England, in 1987 he founded the Alchemy Institute in Seattle, Wash., where he trained people in a transpersonal approach to hypnotherapy. Four years later, he returned to India and met H. W. L. Poonjaji, a direct devotee of the great sage Ramana Maharshi, with whom he went through a radical shift of perspective. Since then, Ardagh has been sharing his awakened view with people throughout the United States and Europe. He developed the Living Essence Training, which prepares people to be facilitators of this shift in consciousness and to cultivate translucence, and he is the founder of the Living Essence Foundation, a non-profit church in Nevada City, Calif., where he lives with his wife and two sons.

"The foundation supports people in awakening and in living that awakening within the context of ordinary life," Ardagh told Edge Life in a telephone interview, speaking with a British accent. "So, rather than teaching people to be Hindus or to shave their head or meditate, we’re really supporting people to bring forth their spirituality within the context of ordinary Western life. The Foundation offers trainings and weekend workshops and evening events that can really allow people to awaken on their own terms and to feel their own spiritual life as something arising from within, rather than imposed from any sort of dictate from without."

The following is our conversation with Arjuna Ardagh.

Let’s start with a definition. What do you mean by the word "translucent?"
Arjuna Ardagh:
Translucent is a word that I borrowed from the physical universe. We know that there are some objects that are completely opaque, like a wall or a book. They don’t allow light to pass through at all. And then there are some objects that are completely transparent, like a sculture of frosted glass – or a piece of stained glass, which allows light to pass through, but diffusely, so it maintains its original shape and its texture and its color. If you shine light on a translucent object, it appears to glow, as though from the inside.

And in the same way, a translucent person appears to glow as if from the inside. It’s as though they’ve been lit up from inside and they appear to emit light. A translucent person is someone who has been deeply enough affected by a radical awakening to their nature, who they really are, that their life is no longer completely opaque. It’s no longer dominated by a personal agenda of likes and dislikes and beliefs and prejudice. Now something beyond the personal can shine through that individual, and they become emitters of light. Instead of just their life being about acquisition and desire and fear and greed, their life becomes a transmission of light.

In the beginning of your book, as a point of contrast to translucence, you refer to the collective "Iago" trance state. What is this and how does it relate to translucents?
Ardagh:
The Iago trance is a state that we’ve really come to accept as normal, even if we may not feel it to be natural.

The Iago trance is something I’ve borrowed from Shakespeare’s play, Othello. Othello was an all-around, clean-cut good guy. He liked everybody. He trusted everybody. He was one of those guys who wakes up in the morning in a good mood and just wants to make the world a better place.

Othello had one problem. There was a member of his court named Iago who was very insidious, one of those slippery, slimy guys who whispers doubt in your ear. And he would get inside Othello’s skin and tell him, "These people are plotting against you," and "Your wife is having an affair." He got Othello so riled up that he actually managed to persuade him to kill his own wife, Desdemona.

It seems to me that all of us, in our own way, have our own personal Iagos. We all have within us a voice that is whispering doubt, that is whispering suspicion, that’s telling us there’s something wrong, there’s something missing, there’s something that should be different. And we easily become hypnotized by that voice of doubt. In fact, most of us spend our lives convinced that there’s something missing: "If only I had a bigger barbeque, more money, a bigger car, a different wife, a different…. If only I could upgrade somehow, then I would be okay."

Of course, this is a trap that has no end to it. And this, I would suggest to you, is the dominant trance of the planet.

The dominant trance of the planet is that we live in a perpetual sense of lack, a perpetual sense of, "If only I could make this small tweak, then I would feel okay." And, of course, none of the tweaks ever work in the long term.

You’ve interviewed and surveyed thousands of people who have experienced radical awakenings in their lives. If you combined all those into one person, how would you describe this translucent being who exists outside of this Iago state?
Ardagh:
The first thing I want to clarify is that I’m using the word "translucent" as a relative term. That’s a very important point.

The reason that I coined a new word is that the word "enlightenment," which some people like to use in place of the word translucent, has been used as an absolute term. You are or you’re not – and there’s no middle ground. I think that is actually a very naïve and short-sighted view of what spiritual transformation is really about.

Transcluence, on the other hand, is a relative term. You can be more or less translucent. You can be very translucent on Monday, not so translucent on Tuesday. Somebody might think you’re very translucent, somebody else might disagree, and you could be very translucent in one area of your life, but quite opaque still in others. And, this makes it a much more subtle term, you see. Translucence refers to the degree of embodiment of a realization rather than to the realization itself.

In one sense, every human being to some degree or other is translucent. The people I’ve interviewed for my book, they display an above average degree of translucence and their life is predominantly about the emanation of translucence.

So, to come back to your question, if we were to kind of merge all these people together into one person, what would that be like?

The most important thing about translucent people is that their life has been deeply transformed by an awakening. That means that the recognition of who they really are, as luminous consciousness, has expansive awareness that has no limits, that is at peace. That realization has become more important, more dominant, in their life than simply an agenda of acquisition or control.

That’s the overriding driving characteristic. How does that manifest itself? In general, their relationship to life is more one of art, creativity, generosity of spirit. It’s more of a relationship of giving to the environment rather than trying to get something for "me." It means the usual habits of acquisition of desire have been replaced by habits of generosity and overflow of Spirit. We could go into very specific areas of life and look at how that shows up. How does that affect people’s relationship? How does it affect their sexuality? How does it affect the way they are at work? And that’s really what my book is all about, from beginning to end.

It’s an exploration of these different areas and what it looks like when someone’s life is transformed in this way.

I get a sense that there are some people who are in the process of exploring spirituality and feel that it looks a certain way. I think that’s a common experience for people who are waking up. They say, "Well, this is what it’s like to be spiritual." They listen to this music. They do these things. But throughout the book you shared dozens of what you call "spiritual myths." What affect are these myths having on our culture overall?
Ardagh:
I think the myths are keeping us limited to, and tied to, what I would call the hypermasculine tradition. All the major religions in the world have been founded by men and propagated by men. Now, that’s kind of bizarre if you think about it. There were statistically more women than men on the planet. Why should every major religion have been founded by men and propagated by men?

We think that we have spirituality, but what we really have is the masculine interpretation of spirituality, which is a very different thing. Masculine people, by their nature, tend to want to make everything into a journey with a goal, right? Masculine people enjoy football, which is about pushing through obstacles, breaking barriers, and reaching a goal – and then there’s a temporary feeling of relief. Consequently, masculine people have made spirituality into a journey. That’s the language used. You’re a seeker on a path, on a spiritual journey, a spiritual quest – another very masculine word – to a goal, the goal being enlightenment.

Feminine spirituality is much more about the emanation of love in this moment, feeling into this moment, feeling the texture of this moment through the skin, through the body, and then letting your life become an emanation of love.

Most of the myths that we carry about spirituality are because we have been dominated by this hypermasculine trance. These myths tend to congregate around the notion that spiritual awakening and participation in the world are an antithesis to each other, so you have to choose between knowing yourself for real, which would be awakening, or participating in the world – having sex, having children, making money – and it tells us that there’s a choice. That is the hypermasculine myth.

The translucent revolution is not only about more and more people having awakening, it’s also about the way that awakening is embodied – and that’s much more revolutionary, actually.

There have always been people who’ve had awakening, but maybe not in the quantity that we’re seeing now. I have record of millions of people who are having this kind of awakening, and I don’t know if we’ve ever had that many people waking up before on the planet. But besides the widespread awakening, which is in itself a pretty fantastic thing, what we also have is a completely different embodiment of that awakening. The translucent people whom I’ve interviewed are passionately involved in the world – they have children, they have houses, they have mortgages, they’re sexual, they have relationships. These are people who are fully here – and they are a radical departure of the stereotype of a kind of Buddha statue, sitting with eyes half closed just contemplating some impersonal voidness.

What gives you the sense that we’re having such a widespread awakening on the planet?
Ardagh:
First of all, my own experience of teaching. My own awakening came in 1991 and my teacher then, in India, asked me to return to the West and to share this kind of inquiry.

Awakening is usually precipitated by the honest, sincere, inquiry into who you really are. So my teacher asked me to facilitate that kind of inquiry. When I first returned to America to help people inquire in this way, very few people would have that kind of awakening or could relate to that direct personal experience.

Fifteen years have passed. My wife and I travel extensively in America and Europe and when we talk to a group of a few hundred people, almost everybody in the group, if not all of them, has already had this kind of awakening. Their spiritual life has become more about, "How can I embody this?" more than "What is the meaning of life?" Their spirituality has become more about the expression and embodiment and stabilization of the awakening, more than trying to find out who they are.

My own personal experience is that this is growing exponentially, but that’s also the question I put to the majority of my interviewees, many of whom are teachers in their own right, people like Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, Shanti Mayi, Jean Houston – people who have contact with millions of people.

And they’re all reporting the same thing. They’re all reporting a snowball of awakening, which is getting larger every day, an exponential growth of awakening. So both from my own experience and through the indirect contact with millions of people through these teachers, I can report there is definitely an unprecedented growth of this kind of awakening happening.

As a result of that, what do these people need to fully embody this experience?
Ardagh:
I would actually like to challenge the idea of fully embodying, as though there is some end to it. I don’t think there is any end to translucence. It’s an endless journey, rather like playing the violin. The late Yehudi Menuhin used to be one of the greatest violinists, but I don’t think he could wake up one day, play a little violin and say, "That’s it! I’ve just perfected the violin! There’s no more beauty to be found in this violin than what I’ve just played. I’m going to move on and take up the trombone."

Because, however beautifully you play the violin, you can always play the violin even more beautifully again.

Or differently.
Ardagh:
Or differently, exactly. And in the same way, when we talk about embodying awakening, there’s no end to that process. However much you may have expressed love through your life, you can always express love more. However much your life may have become an expression of creativity, of generosity of spirit, there’s always the further possibility of more – or as you said, just expressing it in different ways.

Does this widespread number of people who are awakening now need some assistance in relating to or understanding the Iago trance, which constantly pushes up against their awakening in their daily life?
Ardagh:
Yes, and I think that’s an ongoing practice. But it’s more along the lines of cleaning the kitchen. It’s not something you do once and then you never do it again. You clean the kitchen, the next day it gets dirty, and you clean it again.

That’s the translucent life. You are continuously discovering how you can ooze more Spirit into your personal life – and there’s no end to that process. It goes on and on and deepens and deepens and deepens.

And that becomes the joy of living, exploring that process.
Ardagh:
Absolutely – the joy of living and the joy of giving also. The translucent life is very much about overflowing with a gift to the world, rather than being here to consume or to get something for yourself.

I think the main way that somebody would know they’re translucent is that their life has become more about the embodiment of Spirit than about acquisition, and that may be something that creeps up on you.

You find that is just where you want to put your energy and attention. So maybe instead of spending your weekend going out and having fun and wanting to race speedboats or whatever, you might want to spend your weekend enjoying different ways to explore deepening.

I’ll use myself as an example. I just spent the last weekend leading a translucent intensive, a weekend with people where we were going deeper together into the embodiment of our awakening and exploring that. That’s what gives me pleasure. That’s what I like to do. I enjoy spending time with other awakened people and feeling the shared vibration of that, whereas just fun for its own sake might no longer be quite so enticing as it used to be. I’m not saying that you never enjoy life anymore. That would be inaccurate, but just loosely what I’ve described is somebody who would know they’re translucent, because their life becomes more about awakening and the embodiment of awakening and less about just getting more stuff.

But most translucents are very modest and wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as such.

For more information The Translucent Revolution and author Arjuna Ardagh, visit www.translucents.org

Copyright © 2005 Tim Miejan. All rights reserved.

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