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Jean Houston

News is old stuff–it’s habituated response.

We’re in this town a hundred miles from Nairobi, and I’m working with the Institute of Cultural Affairs. The women have spent 80 to 90 percent of their time going down to the river and getting water. They have a rich tradition of doing this, talking and sharing stories and information. Somebody builds them a water tank, and suddenly they have access to all this time. “But, sister, what about our side-by-side, our exchange, where we told our stories, our ways of healing our kids? What shall we do?”

They asked us to help them build a tea house. That change of perspective brought in a whole new energy. They sat around facing one another. “Our men are drunk on palm wine in Nairobi, and they’re not sending money home.” They’re drumming, and they have a big feast, and they start talking about what’s on their minds, and they say, “This is what we can do about sanitation. Let’s bring in a new school … ”

This place is becoming a model town–it’s the rise of a whole new way of thinking about the world. The rise of women is the most important event in the last five thousand years, because of women’s emphasis on process, on making things cohere, work, and grow, and not simply on product. I think that the tragedy in Rwanda represents the absolute end of the patriarchy and the old isolated warring tribes.

David: Could you tell us about the work you did with the Apollo astronauts?

Jean: I was one of those who was fortunate enough to work with NASA at the time of the moon landing. I was doing work that had to do with helping astronauts remember what they saw when they were on the moon, because they didn’t remember a great deal. I tried everything: I hypnotized them, I did various kinds of active imagination exercises, I taught them to meditate, I yelled at them–that’s what worked. (laughter)

Finally, one of them said, “You know, Jean, you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not what we saw on the moon, it’s what we saw coming back to earth. Seeing that beautiful blue and silver planet gave us a feeling of such nostalgia for what the world can be. My hand hit the stereo button, and the music of Camelot came on.”

Imagine that!

I have seen that picture of the earth from outer space in a leper’s hut in India. I was present in China when a Chinese peasant took a photo of Mao off the wall and replaced it with a photo of the earth.

David: How did your experience with psychedelics influence your work?

Jean: Psychedelics gave me a perspective on the human psyche that would normally have taken me a hundred years to gain. There I was, this young kid, and suddenly I have access to the whole psychodynamic dimension-the sensory levels, the mythic levels, the psychological levels, the spiritual levels, and all the frequencies within.

David: Another play on the fractal wave. What do you think happens to consciousness after biological death?

Jean: I’ve nearly died four times. Once was when I was nineteen. I used to jump out of planes, and I had an experience of my chute not opening. My whole life went by. Not every pork chop, but all the major events at their own time. The adrenaline rush turned on life again. Another time, I nearly died of typhoid fever in Crete. It was very pleasant. I found myself leaving the fifth-class hotel and the room of this reality, and going into the next. A light went out here, a light went up there–and there was my car waiting. But I was a young kid, and I said, “I’m not ready, no!” and there was this tremendous psychic effort to pull myself back. I’m convinced of continuity–I can’t say reincarnation, because the universe is so complex. We have many different agendas and opportunities, but consciousness, at some level, deeply continues.

When I was in one of Professor Paul Tillich’s courses, he kept referring to a word that was central to his theology, and that word was wacwum. We theological students met afterward, and we would spin out epistemologies, the phenomenology and the existential roots of the wacwum. And we had a whole book by the end of the term. Finally, they asked me to ask the great man a question, so I put my hand up. When he said, “Yes?” I forgot my question, so I asked him one of blithering naiveté. I asked, “How do you spell wacwum?” “Yes, Miss Houston,” and he spelled on the board “v-a-c-u-u-m.” (laughter)

That’s what we are! If you take a body and scrunch it together and get rid of all the empty space, what have you got what for every human being? A grain of rice!

David: What is your perspective on God?

Jean: Nicholas of Cusa said that “God is a perfect sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” I believe that we are always available to the omnipresent grace, and that part of our life is about discovering that we contain the God-stuff in embryo. I like to use a little bit of metaphysical science fiction and say that where we are on this planet is the skunkworks at the corner of the universe. We’re in God school, learning to become co-creators.

David: How do you see consciousness evolving in the future?

Jean: I think it’s going to evolve on many levels. I think civilization is going to get to a point where we suddenly become responsible, stewards of the whole evolutionary process. This requires domains of consciousness, not just levels and frequencies. We have psychic structures that are going to be emerging and becoming conscious. Freud said, “All the repressed is unconscious, but not all the unconscious is repressed,” and I think that a great deal of latencies of body/mind/psyche are about to emerge.

People are mythologizing this experience as ET’s or channelings. I don’t think they’re necessarily beings from outer space, or because they’re dead that it necessarily means they’re smart, but a lot of this is part of the psychic continuum that we don’t quite understand. We’re using the medium of older civilizations and older cultures to explain it.

Rebecca: The resistance to this process is really formidable. There’s a lot of fear and a desire to jump back into the old ways, even though they don’t work. In view of the evidence that many people are becoming more entrenched than ever in their belief systems, how do you justify your optimism?

Jean: Because I see more of the world than what is being promoted through the media. It’s true that on the surface fundamentalisms are arising, and they’re arising because we’re on the edge of this immense breakthrough-in fact, we’re already there. The dreadful and the wonderful has already happened, and we’re in this age of parentheses.

We’re at the end of one totally different time, and we’re almost at the beginning of the next one. This is the juicy time when the future is coded. People are terrified. “No thanks, I’d rather go back to ideological fortresses of truth.” It’s the old reptilian brain. “Warning! Warning!” But 10 percent of the creative minority will always make a difference.

Rebecca: It seems that you see this potential as something like an attractor, pulling us toward it.

Jean: Yes, the “omega point” that Teilhard de Chardin was talking about.

David: What projects are you working on right now?

Jean: So many, I don’t remember! I have a book on Isis and Osiris coming out next year. I’m doing a series on American archetypes, and I’m doing projects with UNICEF and other international development agencies.

Rebecca: There must be times when your spirits get low. When that happens, how do you turn it around?

Jean: I don’t, necessarily. Margaret Mead would have a ten-minute depression every day and yell and scream and carry on, and then she’d have freedom from load. I had a lot of projects that fell apart recently and a lot of friends dying. Recently, I’ve just had too many negatives to support the ecology of a happy spirit.

I think you have to keep your sacred and spiritual life open, to keep your strength during times of adversity. I try to do that, but I don’t always succeed. You need to keep your connection going, to the larger self that is always there, even though the public display may belie that there is a larger self. (laughter)

Years ago, I was the guilty culprit who first talked about “the inner child.” I’m very sorry about that. I’m getting a little tired of it. But we have so many different selves within us, and by educating all of them, we begin to bring together the trans-historical crew that can make such a difference in our present life.

David: Why do you think that gaining a mythic perspective is important?

Jean: We are mythic beings. We contain these great stories of death and resurrection and rites of passage–it’s the totemic structure of history. Suppose that all of the meanderings and wanderings of your life were not due necessarily to cause and effect–what your mother did to you, what your father didn’t do–but suppose it was a tale told by a master to orchestrate a larger life, unfolding from the mind of the maker, the daimon?

Look at Winston Churchill, dyslexic and stuttering until he was fourteen or fifteen years old, and then writing those great, luminous books of history and speaking the words

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