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 Conversations Toward a New World View: Human Potential: From Esalen to Mainstreet 
Interview with George Leonard
   as interviewed by Russell E. DiCarlo

We rated people on a scale of zero to ten to see how well they achieved their affirmations. We tried to make it as objective as possible with measurements. We didn't restrict it to the objective because that would be too limiting, but we had people make it objective as much as possible. In other words, if a person were affirming an improvement in eyesight, we asked them to go to an eye doctor and have the eyes measured and have a record of it in the beginning and again, eleven months later. Incidentally, in that particular case we got remarkable results.

The third affirmation was the metanormal, something that could not be explained by traditional science and something that rarely happens to people. For example, a metanormal affirmation might be to grow two inches. And we got fascinating results. In fact, during the 1993 program, the success in achieving affirmation number three was 6.67 on a scale from zero to ten.

The fourth affirmation was the same for everybody, "My entire body is balanced, vital and healthy." We wanted to cover this base because we didn't want someone to achieve an unusual metanormal state at the expense of their health and balance. And that was one that we really excelled at with an 8.2 overall improvement in health on a zero to 10 scale.

Taking a look at all this gave us some ideas for some very practical applications. We cannot solve our health care crisis in a financially viable way. It is impossible to do it no matter what method we use, as long as we continue to use our present method of medical technology, which is sickness based and relies upon expensive drugs and expensive technology. The only way we can make it work is through a radical change in lifestyle. And if we can change the lifestyle of a group of ordinary Americans, improving their health by 8.2 on a scale of 0 to 10, we can save hundreds of billions of dollars in this country. So it's very practical.

So we asked that everyone fulfill their affirmations. In other words, they continued to speak their affirmations in various ways. In practice we used focused surrender, which was one of our best methods and inductions for achieving these meta-normalities.

DiCarlo: Focused surrender? What's that?

Leonard: While writing The Silent Pulse , I noticed there seem to be certain magical moments in life, which I call periods of perfect rhythm, where everything seems perfect. If you go one way that's exactly the right way and you'll find something marvelous there; if you go the other way that's the right way, and so forth and so on. These moments of perfect rhythm generally come in a period where you have concentrated very hard on something. You are really focused. After this period of intense concentration, you surrender. You let go of that which you were focusing upon. Focused surrender is a combination of these two actions.

There's a big debate going on right now: Is the petitioned form of prayer, where an individual requests something specific, like a cure from an illness, more effective than accepting prayer, thanksgiving prayer, like "Thy Will Be Done". There has been research studying the effectiveness of various kinds of prayer on various kinds of organisms. The debate is still open. Some people come down on the side, "Thy Will Be Done" as the best way to go about it. In other words, surrender.

Now what I have done-and I did this way back in the 70s-is to devise a way where you really get both. A combination of the two. And it's really at the point where you surrender that magical things might begin to happen. Extraordinary things. What I call this is a "mental-material interface". In Integral Transformation Practice training we have an activity where we sound a gong. As long as the participant can hear the gong, they are to focus with all their power on making whatever state they want to achieve absolutely real in their consciousness. This is real in the present moment in this universe, because your consciousness is a part of this universe. If you want to experience yourself as being an inch taller, you see yourself as an inch taller. That exists in your consciousness and it's real. Take the example of the wiring diagram of a little radio. The radio itself is real. No one would dispute that since it is concrete and exists in three dimensions. Of course, if you drop it and step on it, it won't work anymore. It's broken. There's also a wiring diagram. That's real too, it's just on two dimensions primarily. Now, how about the diagram as it exists in the mind of the inventor, of the person who works on that radio. Is that real or not? My argument is that these represent three different forms of reality, but they are all equally real.

So next, the person is instructed to follow the tone of the gong down into the void itself, into the nothingness. When it reaches that void and nothingness from which all things arise-the creative void-they completely let go of whatever they are envisioning. The way we do it, you are lying on your back and you hold your left hand up over your abdomen as long as you can hear the sound. If you can no longer hear the sound, drop it. Say, "I give up." What we have found-and we can't prove this-is that at the moment of surrender, the mental-material interface somehow clicks in. In other words, what was real in the mental realm, to some small extent becomes real in the material realm. Of all the methods we have tried, focused-surrender has turned out to be our most effective induction.

The great warrior works to achieve control, then acts with abandon. In aikido, I have worked and worked and worked on certain techniques, but when I'm being attacked, if I think about the techniques, I've had it. You have got to let go totally. Just let it happen. Achieve control, then act with abandon. Many great sports achievements, and many great achievements in the world, I think, result from the combination of the two.

DiCarlo: I like that because then you get a blend between personal will and perhaps Higher Will. There's no conflict, just a creative dance between the individual and the universe.

Leonard: Boy, you've got it exactly. It's not one or the other. The idea of focused surrender in which the mental and material can touch, individual will finally letting go to grace. As Mike said in his book, "The winds of grace are always blowing, you just have to raise your sails."

DiCarlo: What sort of metanormal capabilities have manifested for some of the people?

Leonard: There's one woman in her mid-40s whose grandfather on her mother's side went practically blind from cataracts. This was before the condition could be treated through surgery, and this man could barely see. Her mother had the cataract operation in her 40s. This woman has three older sisters, and each of them had the cataract operation while they were in their 40s. It was an absolutely genetic condition. When this woman in the class had achieved the age of 42, she developed cataracts, which was noted in her yearly examination and she assumed she too would have the operation since one of the cataracts was near the middle of the cornea.

So she made an affirmation in the 1992 class that her eyes were free of cataracts. Unfortunately, when she went in for the first examination, she told the eye doctor. He scoffed at the idea. He said, "well, you can change some things, but cataracts you can never change." Still, she was a good student and did that work and every time she did the kata she would take the palms of her hand and place them three or four inches from each eye, kind of stroking the eyes with the energy in the palms of each hand, saying, "My vision is clear. My eyes are free of cataracts."

When time at the end of the 92 cycle came, this woman just couldn't face going in for her eye exam because the doctor had been so certain the condition could not be healed without surgery. If you've ever wondered why people don't achieve their potential, this is one example. The cultural pressure of the current paradigm is extremely powerful and is enunciated in so many different ways by the experts and the acknowledged authorities in each field.

Although the woman had given up on it , she continued doing the affirmation every time she did the kata, which was five times a week. Near the end of the second year of the program, she needed some prescription sunglasses and her old prescription was out of date. She went to the same hospital as before and after she had the exam she waited for the usual cataract lecture. The doctor said, "Do you have any inherited eye problems?" She responded, "Don't you know? How about my cataracts?" "What cataracts?," said the doctor. They were gone.

DiCarlo: That's an incredible example of realized human potential. I'm wondering, how does this potential, which is inherently in us all, get blocked? You've already mentioned cultural pressures...

Leonard: Let me give you some examples.... You know how as schoolchildren, we all worried that we didn't have enough ability. We weren't sure that we were going to do well enough on the achievement tests. Well, I really believe that the biggest threat to the establishment is not underachieving, but rather it's the threat of overachieving.

When I was covering education back in the 1960s, I was going around the country doing an article on programmed education. In fact, it was that same story , "Revolution in Education" that gave me the idea for the human potential story. It was in Roanoke, Virginia, where I had heard about this student at a local junior high school who had taken a simple programmed course on solid geometry home for a long weekend. He finished one semester's worth of work over that period, Friday until Monday. Now do you think the school system would cheer about that?

DiCarlo: You would think they would marvel at the accomplishment..

Leonard: No, they thought, "what the hell do we do with this guy?" What do you do with the kids who come into first grade reading very fluently? The system is set-up to keep everybody in lock-step. Those who are not in lock-step are a threat to the system.

I think that humans natural tendency is to learn. We are learning animals. We are put here on this planet to learn. We are genetically endowed to learn a great deal over a lifetime rather than having to wait through the mechanisms of evolution, of mutation and selection and so forth. Because of this, changes can be made during one lifetime. But unfortunately, there is actually very little positive reinforcement, and much adversive conditioning which is opposed to people achieving their full potential.

DiCarlo: Would you say that it's a control issue?

Leonard: Control?

DiCarlo: In so far as certain people in society wanting to control us in certain ways...

Leonard: I don't think it's any conscious control. In my book, The Transformation I offer the whole idea of the human individual as being a component of society as an example of one of the inventions of civilization. The first pyramid building gangs you might say. We specialize and standardize components so they are reliable and predictable. A true learner is none of those things. A learner is eternally surprising. Unpredictable. Not necessarily reliable to do the same job the same way every time. So the entire system works against the full development of human potential. The system works against learning. Our present school system actually set-up to stop the human organism from learning in a really radical and deep way.

To learn is to change. Education is a process which changes the learner. How much are we willing for our students to change in school? You know, they see, "Two plus two," and before they have learned elementary addition they will just look at it with a blank expression on their face. After being taught they can say, "four." And that is a change. So that's definitely a learning. Our children are learning certain amounts of symbolic manipulation and the memorization of a bit of the common cultural material, but in learning to be a learner, and learning to create, in learning to love, in learning to feel deeply, there is a tremendous constraint against learning, if learning is any kind of significant change. And if learning is not any kind of significant change, then what the hell is it? In other words, if you don't change after a learning experience, if you are not different from when the learning experience started, you have not learned much. Learning is not truly respected. Education as it is now constituted really works against learning in the deepest sense. You don't want people to change deeply because it would be very worrisome to the system.

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