Today my guest is Clark Strand, author of Waking Up To The Dark: Ancient Wisdom For A Sleepless Age. Clark is someone who has written six books and he’s also written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, New York Times, Newsweek’s blog on Faith, Tricycle (which is a Buddhist magazine you might know), Body and Soul, Spirituality and Health.
In this interview we talk about a number of things that you might find interesting and useful. Clark talks about something called bimodal sleep and he shares both in the book and in this interview, research done by a doctor named Thomas Weir. Dr. Wehr was looking for human beings’ primordial pattern of sleep, wanting to know how did human beings sleep before the electrical age. We also touch on light pollution – what it’s doing to our environment and what it’s doing to our bodies. Clark shares the view that electrification was the worst thing that’s ever happened to our planet (which is a pretty bold claim), but he goes on to explain what he means by that.
We also talk about his new book out November 5, 2019. It’s titled The Way of the Rose: The Radical Path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary. He’s the founder of an eco feminist rosary group and if you want to investigate online before you invest your time in listening to the interview, you can go to wayoftherose.org and check it out. But at any rate, I suspect that Clark will share some views that you don’t typically hear in the circles you run in or the conversations you have. If you do, I want to be a part of your conversations. All right with that, please enjoy this conversation with Clark Strand.
00:05:10 – What’s life about?
00:17:02 – The worst thing that’s ever happened for the planet
00:25:13 – Dr. Thomas Wehr
00:34:17 – Shintoism
00:38:50 – Anthropocene
00:53:11 – The Sleep industry
01:10:17 – The Way of the Rose
01:29:10 – Lightning round
Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age by Clark Strand
The Way of the Rose – on Facebook
The Way of the Rose: The Radical Path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary
Bryan: 00:00:00 A question asked courageously, answered honestly, and lived authentically, can change your whole life. For me, that question was, how can I use what I have, what I love, and what I know, to bless the lives of others? The School For Good Living and this podcast are one answer to that question. Hi, I’m Bryan Miller. I know that the world can work for everyone, but that it won’t until it works for you. I’ve created this to help you make the difference you were born to make. It’s a series of conversations with thought leaders who are moving humanity forward, and in each episode I explore their lives and the work they do. I also ask them to breakdown how they’ve gotten their books written, published, and read. This podcast is all about exploring the magic, and mystery, and sometimes the misery, of the creative process. So if you have a mission, a message, and a motivation to share it, this podcast is for you. Welcome to The School For Good Living.
Bryan: 00:00:55 Hello my friends. Today my guest is Clark Strand, author of Waking Up To The Dark: Ancient Wisdom For A Sleepless Age. This is a book that Amazon recommended to me. I don’t know that I would have found it any other way, but I’m so glad I did. I love this book. Clark is someone who has written six books. He’s also written for the Washington Post, or writes for: the Huffington Post, New York Times, Newsweek’s blog “On Faith”, Tricycle (which is a Buddhist magazine you might know), Body and Soul, Spirituality and Health. He’s the founder of the Green Meditation Society in Woodstock, New York. And he leads discussion groups and lectures in Greenwich Village. He participated in 2015 in the first White House, US Buddhist Leaders Conference. He also has a Buddhist Bible study group, which I knew I was going to like him right then. Now we explore some things that are not, I think particularly religious, but they deal with religion. So particularly toward the end of this interview, we get into some of this, and I don’t know if you’re like me, but I find some of that fascinating. You know, the more historical and (I don’t know if that’s a word, “antiquitable”) from antiquity, these religious traditions that we’ve inherited and somehow we’ve put a kind of hermetic seal on, and that’s the way they are, and you don’t touch them because of course we didn’t borrow them from some other tradition. So at any rate, I’m just giving you that setup, in case you’re kind of not disposed to listen to some of that, you might find his views interesting. I certainly did.
Bryan: 00:02:25 In this interview we talk about a number of things that you might find interesting and useful. Clark talks about something called bimodal sleep. He shares both in the book and in this interview, research done by a doctor named Thomas Wehr, who was looking for human beings primordial pattern of sleep – wanting to know how did human beings sleep before the electrical age. In this interview, we also touch on light pollution, what it’s doing to our environment, what is doing to our bodies. Clark shares the view that electrification was the worst thing that’s ever happened to, or for our planet, which is a pretty bold claim. But he goes on to explain what he means by that. Something I had never considered because I like my light. I stay up late. You probably do too. But he shares, he reminds us, that’s not the way it’s always been. And of course that’s having an impact not only on the environment, but on us.
Bryan: 00:03:18 He shares his belief that the earth will regulate us, that there will be something called the Great Narrowing. He talks about what that means. He shares his view that we’ve reshaped this planet as a theme park for human beings, through our addiction to artificial light. And he also shares his view on something that from many ages ago, we’ve referred to as the hour of the Wolf. He talks about the hour of God and how many people who experienced challenges sleeping…that there’s nothing wrong with them, but this is in fact a natural way of sleeping that we have forgotten about. So that was pretty interesting. And he also shares a story that when I read it, and when I related the story to my wife, it made the hairs on my arm stand up. It was that kind of electrifying, fascinating. And I asked him about it in this interview and I’m so glad I did, because he said that’s not the normal arc of interview conversation. But if you listened to my podcast, you know, I don’t usually follow the traditional arc of interview conversations. Then the final thing, we talk about the new book that he’s got coming out in November of 2019, so by the time you hear this, that book’s probably out. I think you might find it interesting. I’m going to leave it to him to tell you about it. He’s the founder of an eco feminist rosary group. I actually kinda like that. And if you want to investigate him online before you invest your time in listening to the interview, you can go to wayoftherose.org and check it out. But at any rate, I suspect that Clark will share some views that you don’t typically hear in the circles you run in, or the conversations you have (unless you do, in which case I want to be a part of your conversations). All right with that, please enjoy this conversation with Clark Strand. Clark, welcome to The School For Good Living.
Clark: 00:05:08 Thanks Bryan. Glad to be here.
Bryan: 00:05:10 Clark, will you tell me please what’s life about?
Clark: 00:05:15 Life is about life. I mean, I think we got very confused about this idea, as I guess modern human beings. By modern, I mean people living in the last 12,000 years or so. I think before the agricultural revolution, people had a very clear sense of what life was, and what life was about. They followed the rhythms of the natural world and they can…The answer to the question, you know, what is life about was just reflected in the world around them, so they could see its rhythms. They felt a part of those rhythms. You know, I don’t think that there was any great mystery attributed to life because people didn’t imagine that human life is separate from the greater life of the planet. And it wasn’t like you were trying to carve out some special meaning. Right? Apart from the biosphere, you are part of everything you saw. So you naturally assumed your place and your meaning in that greater sphere.
Bryan: 00:06:10 Yeah. I think that’s such an amazing perspective. And I real that I’ve lived with these unexamined assumptions of, humans are somehow superior to all other life, we’re at the top of the chain, this kind of thing. And then one of my teachers pointed out the Native American perspective of animals as our brothers and our relatives. And they said, if you think about it, being alone in the mountains, if you come across a bear, or if you’re on the plains and you come into a buffalo, you’re not superior to that creature, you know?
Clark: 00:06:43 That’s right. That’s right. Yeah.
Bryan: 00:06:45 So that really resonates with me and Clark, your book Waking Up To The Dark: Ancient Wisdom For A Sleepless Age. Now I know you’ve written a lot of books and by the time people hear this, you’ll have had another book released as well. But if you’re willing, I’d love to explore the ideas in this book.
Clark: 00:07:03 Sure, absolutely. Yeah.
Bryan: 00:07:05 Awesome. I found it, I told you this when I reached out to you to request this interview, that this book was recommended to me by Amazon. And proof to me that technology is not all about like cat videos and porn, it actually found something, helped me find something that I found really valuable. And your views of the darkness I just think are very beautiful and one that you write from a deep place of experience. I just want to ask, and this is maybe kind of a poetic question, but I realized as listeners who’ve, if they’ve even hung in here this 90 seconds are trying to figure out who is this guy, why would I listen to him, do I care or whatever. But I want to ask this as a way that people might start to be able to say, “Wow, yeah, that’s interesting. I want to know more.” Will you talk about what’s your relationship to the darkness?
Clark: 00:07:58 Well, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night since I was young boy. And I can’t say exactly why that happened in the beginning. I grew up down South and a darker world, I guess you’d saywhere there wasn’t quite as much electric lighting. And I was the oldest and I think my parents probably, you know, put me to bed not too long after the sun went down. And so for whatever reason, I reverted to this older and more natural pattern of sleeping which was, I’d sleep for about four hours and I’d wake up. And in the beginning I just lay there in bed, you know, sort of peacefully. And then I would eventually go back to sleep. But along about nine years old maybe, I started to think, you know, I’m up. Everyone else is asleep. I love being outside. It’s beautiful out. Moonshining, this was Northern Alabama. Most most of the year, the weather was pretty temperate. Why not go outside? And so I would start to slip out the door. Right? And you know, my only enemies were the squeaking door hinge and the dog would growl, if the family dog…if I didn’t acknowledge her. So I’d go over and I’d pet her and I ease out the door. And there was a golf course with a lot of big heady starry silences above it, very dark. Just about a block away. So I would wander over to the golf course, starting about age nine, in the middle of the night. And I would just walk on the golf course for an hour and then go back to bed. No one knew I was doing this and so nobody knew to tell me not to do it. And I didn’t have any sense that what I was doing was in any way wrong. I knew it was a little atypical, like, you know, I’d see maybe every once in a while I’d see a police car passing in the distance and I knew to sort of step into the shadows of the moonlight so that I wouldn’t be seen. I had some sense that maybe, a nine year old boy wasn’t supposed to be alone in the dark, in the middle of the night. So, but I never called attention to it. And then one night I came back and my mother was awake for some reason and I walked in and I pretended to be sleepwalking,
Bryan: 00:10:06 Dressed with shoes on.
Clark: 00:10:08 Shoes on, the whole thing. And she bought it, or she pretended to. I guess the alternative was to ask what antisocial behavior her nine year old son, could possibly be up to in the middle of the night. So, I always loved the dark. I loved the darkness hours. I was never afraid of it. And I grew up without any fear of it. I maintain to this day that that human beings don’t naturally fear the dark. They might fear what’s in the dark, you knowif they live in an area with bears or wild animals or whatever, maybe they would be a little apprehensive about that. But the dark itself, they don’t, they fear being alone in the dark, I think.
Bryan: 00:10:47 Yeah. And that’s a very subtle distinction, you know, to not fear the dark but what’s in the dark. And you know, there were probably a half dozen, I mean, I highlighted almost every page of this book, but there were a few ideas that really stood out to me and resonated in a way. It was the experience of when somebody puts in language, something I already knew but wasn’t aware of, and that what you just said again is one of them. That children don’t fear the darkness, they fear being alone. And you make the point that if you take a child who’s been in his or her crib alone in the dark, they’ll cry. But then you bring them into bed. They don’t cry anymore, usually.
Clark: 00:11:22 No, they don’t. And if you have a family bed, or as they do it in most indigenous cultures, if a mother is nursing, a mother is sleeping with a child and nursing when the child wakes in the middle of the night. There’s really no crying to speak of. Right? Everyone’s just, everyone wakes and sleeps in a natural rhythm and everybody gets the sleep they need.
Bryan: 00:11:41 So, okay. So when you’re out 9, 10 and on, because this was something you carried out.
Clark: 00:11:48 Lifelong pattern.
Bryan: 00:11:50 Lifelong pattern, even still?
Clark: 00:11:51 Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. I had one of the most beautiful walks of my entire life, just the other night on the full moon of October 16th. For whatever reason, couldn’t tell you exactly what was special about it, but it was just… I got back from it. It just felt sublime.
Bryan: 00:12:07 That’s beautiful. So you weren’t out causing mischief? I mean, even as a teenager? Because my parents would, they would assure me nothing good happens after midnight. But this, you weren’t out like smashing mailboxes?
Clark: 00:12:21 No, no, I wasn’t. I mean, I occasionally witnessed a few things like that. Nothing ever very dangerous. I didn’t witness any crimes or anything, but I would occasionally see people sort of skulking around and they’d see me and they’d run off. The interesting thing is, I grew pretty fast and by the time I was in high school I was about 6’2 and I’m 6’2 now, weighed over 200 pounds. So people see me in the middle of the night walking along and I tend to be the person they avoid. Because they don’t know why I’m out there. But no, I was never up to mischief and when my friends started staying up really late, as teenagers, we would go out and we’d have stayed out late and stuff like that. I always felt a little resentful, in an odd kind of way. I’d get home, be too tired and sleep the rest of the night and then kind of feel like I hadn’t gotten, you know, that sort of magical time that I was used to getting when it was just me.
Bryan: 00:13:20 Interesting. Yeah, that was the next thing I was going to ask is, how did this impact your studies and maybe your social life, or your chores at home and things like that. Did it ever, were you ever exhausted?
Clark: 00:13:33 No. You know, I wasn’t. And I, I do think that I’m probably a bit of an outlier in that respect for whatever reason. I think that you know, I always woke in the middle of the night and I would usually go out walking unless the weather was really bad and sometimes even when the weather was bad, I’d go out and I would come back and I’d go back to sleep. And the quality of my sleep is always a better when I would wake in the middle of the night. I mean, and now you know, because of the NIH studies, I think people began to understand that segmented sleep are sometimes called bi-modal sleep, right? Sleeping in two segments of the night is actually the more natural pattern of sleep. So it only, it only stands to reason that if you are following the natural pattern of sleep for human beings, that your quality of sleep is going to be better. So generally speaking, you know, I, I think I was in pretty good health. I certainly never experienced myself as being tired from lack of sleep unless I stayed up to, I might stay up too late and get to bed at two and wake up at seven. I’d be just tired as anybody else. But if I got to bed at 10 or 11 and then, you know, woke in the middle of the night for an hour, went back to sleep, I woke up just fine.
Bryan: 00:14:48 You know, this was another one of those things that I don’t think I was really aware of. I’d heard it somewhere, you know, because as we look for all these ways to become more efficient or to become happier, you know, as our society follows as positive psychology movement, you know, these discussions of, of sleep seem to becoming, you know, there’s people that make whole careers about being, you know, thought leaders are this and things, but, so I’d heard something about this but didn’t really get it until I read it in your book about the work of Dr. Thomas Wehr, will you share? I’ll bet people listening won’t know that and I found it fascinating.
Clark: 00:15:24 Well, he’s a fascinating guy, Thomas Wehr was the head of psychobiology and and, and psycho, I can’t remember the rest of its psychobiology and sleep research, I suppose at the National Institutes of Health. He was the guy who basically discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder, right. And some of the original research on circadian rhythms in humans and such things.
Bryan: 00:15:51 And I always think of how appropriate is that seasonal effective disorder is S A D.
Clark: 00:15:56 SAD, yeah. So, so anyway, Ware got fascinated by sleep at a certain point in the mid nineties. And he early to mid nineties, and he began asking himself a question. He realized that the, you know, human genome changes very gradually, right. And the human beings are, are wired for certain sorts of psychobiological behavior, a certain sorts of hormonal behaviors and that that probably wouldn’t change very rapidly. So he began to ask himself the question, how did people sleep in the days before artificial lighting. Did they sleep better? Did they sleep longer? You know, when did they go to bed? When did they get up? He didn’t know the answers to these questions, but he had a hunch which was that whatever people however people slept, then they would sleep now if you took them off of artificial lighting.
Bryan: 00:17:02 Okay. Do you, do you, do you mind if I pause this? I actually want to go back right to this point. And I know I asked this question, but now that you’re talking about it, I feel like there’s some really useful setup for this as well. Okay. So one of the other perspectives that you shared, I was like, Whoa, it had never even occurred to me. You talk about the, the creation or discovery of artificial light, Dr Edison’s work, as being the worst thing that’s ever happened for the planet.
Clark: 00:17:34 I firmly believe that’s true. I think the, the discovery of, of of incandescent lighting and brighter and brighter levels of lighting, and I won’t pin it all on Edison because there was already brighter light. There was whale light, whale oil light, you know, the human beings, you know, from, from the middle ages on, have been, you know, courting higher and higher degrees of lumination so somebody would have found it. But yeah, the, the, the discovery of electric lighting was, I think, you know, to a great extent, probably probably the worst single thing that human beings could have done other than possibly agriculture.
Bryan: 00:18:09 And why do you say that? I mean, I look at light and I think of all, all it I’m able to do because of it, which isn’t dark. Right. And, and, and it’s just one of these that I’ve taken for granted. I mean, like to the point that if the power goes out and I walk in a room, even with the power out, I’m so conditioned, I still flip on the switch. And it doesn’t come on, but it’s how much I expect it. Why do you say that it’s like the worst thing?
Clark: 00:18:33 Well, look at what you just said. All that. I can look at all that I can do. Okay. Well, what you can do and what you should do right as a human being are two very different things. As a human being, you can do a lot of things. You can create highways, you can create a global warming, you can do all kinds of, you can, you can do all sorts of things. What should you do? Well, you should find an, you know, find a food source that’s stable enough for predictable enough or figuring out how to migrate in such a way as to find it so that you can eat long enough to produce offspring, right? That’s what you should do as a human being. That’s what animals do. Human beings are animals. So that’s the baseline and that’s determined by the number of human beings ideally is determined by solar carrying capacity, which is the amount of energy produced, you know, in in a particular plot of land and acre of land okay. By the sun. You know, there should be human being should be living more in accordance with the natural availability of energy and their ecosystem. The energy that comes to them through consuming of, of plant and animal proteins and so forth, so on and you know, other forms of energy even fire for warmth, so forth and so on. But once we slipped that groove and we began to introduce higher and higher levels of artificial illumination, not only do we begin to produce more, we begin to expect more. We be inspected. Everything is possible. Everything is clear. You know, I mean, you’ve read the book and just, it cascades from there. It just goes on and on and on. Eventually, human beings were consuming, you know, 24 hours a day.
Bryan: 00:20:24 Yeah. And, and the way, the way that you say this in the book, you say today we live in a state of perpetual hunger for food, for sex, and for stimulants of all kinds because our bodies are convinced that it’s August every day of the year and there’s no way to convince them otherwise.
Clark: 00:20:42 Look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a homeless sapiens. You know, at the end of summer when you know, carbohydrates are plentiful, right? Food sources are plentiful. Eating as much as they can because then they stand a better chance of making it through through the winter, the colder months when there’s less, when the food sources begin to diminish. And you know, that’s the reason why a human women would consume, we would conceive typically in August, right about that time of year, they would build up enough body fat to carry themselves through pregnancy and then deliver their children in spring. So this was part of the natural cycle. But once people, human beings began to introduce artificial, higher levels of artificial lighting all year round, then they began to tell their bodies that it was August all year around. So, you know, it’s time, it’s always time to eat. It’s always time to mate. It’s always time to, you know, fill the world and subdue it and concor it.
Bryan: 00:21:38 And I’m reminded of that when I go to the grocery store and I buy fruit and I can buy any fruit any time. And I have no idea. And this, I’m confessing my ignorance, when fruit should be like, according to its, you know, biological heritage. When it ought to be in season. And as a consumer, I just expect if I go down to the grocery store, I can buy whatever I want.
Clark: 00:22:03 And see, we, we think as human beings that there’s, that there is a, we have no reciprocal effect on the environment because of this. We just think these things were available. Right. But the making of these things available all year round basically causes us to drift further and further from our ecological niches species until finally we have redesigned to the entire planet as a theme park for homosapien. And the result is that finally we create a world that not only can’t sustain most other form of forms of life, but can’t support our forms of life, our form of life either.
Bryan: 00:22:42 Ultimately, right? Yeah. And the, and the sixth grade extinction and this, yeah. And the other part of this that you, that you say before we go back to Dr. Wehr, I had no idea. So in your book, you write 99% of all Americans today live in areas that are officially light polluted, which means, and I didn’t know this, the definition of light pollution, will you share what is, how do you define light pollution?
Clark: 00:23:06 Light pollution is defined, I think as anything that blocks out the stars in the Milky way so that you, you know, you can’t see the stars that are there if you want to think about it. Strictly speaking you know, anything that blocks any of the stars other than the moonlight, right. The presence of moonlight, which of course creates kind of a a milky quality to the sky that, that, you know, cancels out a lot of the starlight. Night of a very full moon you can see fewer stars. But anything on a, on a relatively dark night that causes you not to see the stars that are there is like technically light pollution. Now light pollution becomes more and more of a problem to the degree that it disrupts natural functions and biological beings. That includes human beings, that includes plants and animals as well. And so any place that the preponderance of light after dusk is causing animals to migrate and different patterns or behave in different ways or plants to behave in different ways is, you know, registering the light pollution. Right? The great thing about light pollution is that if the grid goes down, it disappears instantly. Right. Ceased to exist. There’s no residual effect from it.
Bryan: 00:24:16 And you make the point too that the world gets more pollute, light polluted. It’s probably true that the world’s more polluted by the second, but the world gets more light polluted by the second, which means that our bodies get polluted with it.
Clark: 00:24:31 Yeah, they do. They do. I mean, the effect of light pollution, you know, on the body is not quite the same as like a, the kinds of pollution you would get from say waterways that are polluted with endocrine disruptors and things like that. Right. It’s not quite the same as that, but the body does have enough light, does have an effect on the body because we have photoreceptors and you know, really all of ourselves. And so too much light is, you know, increasing our cancer rates, increasing obesity, causing us to suffer from all kinds of problems. And so yeah, you could call it light pollution or even probably a better term might be light toxicity.
Bryan: 00:25:13 So then back to Dr Wehr studies where he wanted to know how did we sleep? What was the natural way of sleeping for human beings before all this electricity, before all this light pollution and this theme park of a world we’ve created for ourselves. So what did he discover?
Clark: 00:25:28 Well Wehr decided to take a bunch of ordinary people off the streets for a month.
Bryan: 00:25:35 Where did he, where did he find ordinary people?
Clark: 00:25:38 Well, it’s a good question. Yeah. I mean, you can give your questions. We still, I think the original participants were all men, for instance. So it’s a little, a little skewed already, but I think he was trying to con, you know, either he was following the usual pattern of just testing men and not women.
Bryan: 00:25:55 Cause this was like in the seventies?
Clark: 00:25:56 No, this was in the nineties, fairly recent. And so he he took them off all forms of electrical lighting in Bethesda, Maryland. This study took place and he put them on a schedule of midwinter darkness. Okay. Which is a lot of darkness and he wanted to see what would happen.
Bryan: 00:26:19 And then for the, and this one, I’m sorry to interrupt here, but this was like, even wristwatches. Like all man made lighting.
Clark: 00:26:28 Well, well, nothing. Yeah, no, no, no artificial lighting at all because he didn’t want to you know, he didn’t want to confound this study. Right. If people, some people’s wristwatch would be brighter than others and so forth and so on.
Bryan: 00:26:42 And do you know what he did? I mean did he, did he have a home or a retreat somewhere? Like, do you know how he had it?
Clark: 00:26:48 He had an experimental, I think, facility for the evening. I’m not sure during the day. I don’t remember. Exactly. It’s an interesting question. I believe he allowed them to go about their business, but they, they had to, you know, be at the facility, you know, when it was time to go to sleep cause he had to control all of these factors.
Bryan: 00:27:08 And this was for a month. People came for four weeks?
Clark: 00:27:10 They did it for four weeks. And the interesting thing is that for the first three weeks, people slept an average of an hour and a half longer than they ordinarily did. And Wehr’s theory was that they were repaying the national sleep debt? That was the way he described it, that Americans are chronically sleep deprived. And so given the opportunity to catch up on sleep, they would do that. Right? So they were actually sleeping more, but they were sleeping continuously. So if they were used for, used to sleeping, say a five and a half hours a night, they would sleep straight unbroken. They would then sleep for eight hours of unbroken sleep. And that happened for the first three weeks of the study and week four every single subject reverted to a, the same pattern of sleep, which was that they lay in bed quietly for two hours before falling asleep after, after it got dark, they would sleep for four hours, they would wake for two hours and then sleep for another, four. Every single member of the study, followed the same pattern at week four. And so if you know anything at all about you know, statistics and you know, the experimental method and all that, that’s an extraordinary rate of you know, the, the to have a hundred percent of your subjects all reverting to the same, same pattern of sleep is, you know, it’s an extraordinary set of results. So he was, it was clear to him that he was onto something that, that this was in fact the, the you know, he had rediscovered this sort of primordial pattern of sleep. So the interesting thing was that these, these subjects reported feeling incredibly calm and peaceful during these two hours. They were awake in the middle of the night. So he got very curious about that as well and began to study it. And from there the whole thing just sort of snowballed. He began to partner with a historian, Roger Ekirch. I can never remember quite how to say his name, who had studied a sleep and throughout history sleep patterns and written about pre-modern patterns of sleep and so forth and so on. And Wehr discovered basically that there was this, you know, gap period in the middle of the night, people were used to being awake from it. And during this time they, a state of consciousness that was neither sleeping or waking, but a state of its own with its own endocrinology.
Bryan: 00:29:49 That sounds like for the words that come to my mind are non ordinary consciousness.
Clark: 00:29:55 Right, exactly. Non-Ordinary consciousness.
Bryan: 00:29:57 So, and then, and then you talk about that in, in after you share this about Dr. Wehr’s work that in every religion there’s a long established tradition usually initiated by its founder that involves waking in the middle of the night for some kind of spiritual practice, meditation, chanting, prayer and, and you go on to describe that in Islam and Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism in this kind of thing. What I mean, what is that like again, most people because they don’t live in a monastery, they don’t, you know, spend a lot of time in temples and things like this and we’ve kind of lost that in our rush for more and more and more. But it’s available. It’s a way of living and being that’s like invisible to us. But talk about that. I mean what’s the benefit of it and how do these practitioners do it and why?
Clark: 00:30:43 Well, I mean those are all, those are a lot of questions. So I’ll sort of start at the beginning. I think. I mean, Wehr himself, you know, was stunned by these results and he didn’t really even know how to interpret them. He was looking for some sort of a intro, chronological portrait that resembled what he was seeing in his subjects. So the only thing he could compare it to in terms of what was going on in the brain was the experiences of advanced meditators. I think that was one of the reasons why you began to, you know, sort of look a little far field. I mean he began, you know, talking a little bit like a young, an analyst rather than a psychobiologist, right. Because he’s, he, you know, this is the, the stunning results. What does this mean at the end of his second study, I think he said that he speculated that what people who practice yoga and meditation and chanting today are probably trying to recover was a lost state of consciousness that human beings would once have taken for granted as their natural birthright. And as I began to, to research this, following that lead and studying all these different religions and their, their practices of waking up in the middle of the night for prayer or meditation or chanting, I realized that we’ve basically, you know, before the agricultural revolution, you know, human beings across the world were waking every night for, you know, I guess what you would call a, you know, like a nightly meditation retreat for every homosapiens on earth, right? I mean, we were all experiencing that. So religions are, I think religions are trying to reclaim that state of mind and the sense of perspective and naturalfor this perspective. It gives us an also the way it harmonizes our bodies with a national environment. So religions are always sort of, I think religions are compensatory. All religions are trying to find their way back to the state of spiritual consciousness that, that all people in the upper paleolithic probably experienced, but which most human beings had lost by the time the major religions were getting started. And if you read between the lines, you know, the foundational stories of Jesus and Buddha and all these figures, you see that they’re all going out in the middle of the night and having these encounters with the divine.
Bryan: 00:33:11 It’s really interesting because of, you’re right, it’s there, but it’s not something that is taught, you know, or given people typically in who are adherence or participants in these organized religions aren’t given that kind of instruction.
Clark: 00:33:25 No, no, not anymore. Yeah, they were, they were, there was a period of time when they were.
Bryan: 00:33:29 And you talk in this book about your experience when you were in a monastery, that you would go to the…I know in Buddhism some sects and some branches of Buddhism, there’s a long history of meditating in the Charnel grounds or the graveyards and you talk a little bit about your experience spending time in a graveyard without your teachers’ knowledge or instruction. If I understood, right? Will you share about that?
Clark: 00:33:56 Well, you know, I think my Zen teacher wanted to teach me Japanese Zen, but I think what he ended up teaching me instead was Japanese Shintoism and shamanism. Because it was the parts of the kinds of things that he had to teach me that were most interesting to me, were those sorts of things.
Bryan: 00:34:17 Talk about for people who might not know Shintoism.
Clark: 00:34:20 Shintoism is an animistic indigenous Japanese religion where people, were by people believe that there are spirits that inhabit places and stones and trees and groves and that you know, they go to honor those spirits and pray to them and commune with them, draw wisdom from them. And Buddhism absorbed a lot of that. You know, Buddhism as it traveled and spread around Asia. You know, beginning around 2,500 years ago, would interpolate various aspects of the culture. So in Tibetan Buddhism, there’s a strong shamanistic element and there is in Japanese Buddhism as well, sort of a strong Shinto influence on it. But I think that for Japanese Buddhists, it’s kind of invisible. They don’t sort of know they have it. So my teacher was always telling me things, you know about the deities and the various spirits of this and that. We had to say these mantras too, and these durantes too. And that he’s teaching me these sort of monitoring formulas for communicating with these beings. And I think most of my compadres at the monastery just sort of, you know, parroted them or mouthed them. But I thought, you know, maybe I’ll just, you know, I’m getting up in the middle of the night anyway and be able to just go out to the graveyard and chant some of these things and see what happens. A lot happened.
Bryan: 00:35:43 You know, I don’t know. I know that everyone who listens, not everyone who listens to this is grew up with the Nintendo eight bits, the original system, you know. But what you’re saying right now conjures for me the Legend of Zelda. You know, there’s a lot of time in the graveyards and miracles. But what happened for you? I mean, what did you learn or what did you experience in that time?
Clark: 00:36:10 Well, I think the thing, the main thing that I, the main sort of takeaway, I think by the time I left the monastery was that the whole world was alive and everything in it was alive. And it would take me another 20 years to, for it really to sink in that the world wasn’t a series of what’s, right, but a series of who’s, right. That every had everything was a who not a what. So that I would go out to the graveyard in the beginning and I would, you know, say a chant or meditate or whatever. And then that gradually I would begin to notice that the animals were coming close. Sometimes they would come like right up to me in the middle of the night bears, deer and just sit there right around the, you know, sort of at the edges of the cemetery. And as time went on and began to, you know, notice that you know, I would say a prayer or something. And then a wind would just blow up out of nowhere, you know, on an utterly still night in the middle of summer wind would shake the trees. All kinds of mysterious things would happen that, you know, it didn’t seem rational or even possible, but yet they were happening. And those things happened at night more than they did during the day. I think for the simple reason that, you know, I was in a different state of mind and more receptive to them, more receptive to those kinds of communications.
Bryan: 00:37:31 You know, I think what you’ve just shared is actually very profound. You know, about the world being not full of what’s but who’s. And I think, you know, to people listening, many people listening, if they’re like me years ago, it probably would be easy to just dismiss that simply. Oh, well that’s quaint. You know, that, that, that’s really cute. Oh, that was another culture. But we’re obviously, we’re superior to, to that culture. We know our science knows better than that.
Clark: 00:38:03 Well, our science knows how to drive us into a sixth extinctions. So in our technology knows how to drive us into a sixth extinction. I doubt if it knows how to get us out of it. And I think that these people who thought this way and lived this way and experienced the world this way, they live on our planet, for a, you know, a a million and a half, 2 million years without disrupting as essential patterns. So it who’s wise and who’s not. And if we are being honest, you know, the, the, the name a homo sapiens, meaning man, the wise or the clever is a bit of a misnomer. Turns out modern human beings aren’t that clever. They’re just getting, we’re just getting, getting our way. It’s not the same thing.
Bryan: 00:38:50 No, it’s not. It’s not the same thing. And this was another one of those things that your book really… I went, “Oh my gosh.” Like I knew that, but I didn’t realize it was about the Anthropocene. Will you talk about what that is, why we call it that, and what the implications of that really are?
Clark: 00:39:06 Yeah. The, the Anthropocene is a way of describing the geological era that we’re living through where human beings are basically redesigning the planet for their purpose. So that natural selection becomes human selection so that the world isn’t regulating itself any longer, in accordance to its myriad needs, needs of, of all these different species, but rather one species is regulating the world and its patterns for its, for its own good. Right? And that’s homosapiens. So we call it the Anthropocene because it’s the age of quote, man, right? Anthropos so human beings are, you know, digging up all of these resources. They’re digging up, quote ancient sunlight, right in the form of petroleum. They’re digging up petroleum and coal and all these, you know, heavy metals and so forth and so on. And repurposing them for human use exclusively. And this has been going on for quite some time. You know, it only becomes reaches its sort of critical mass about the time of the industrial revolution. At that point, really we began to see you know, massive disruptions in natural systems around the world. And those have kind of a cascading effect. And of course, as human beings become more and more populous, right as they have since WWll the effects of, of this, you know, and through anthropocenic intervention and the natural systems become so great and so devastating that, you know, it’s led us into a mass extinction.
Bryan: 00:40:57 Yeah. And it’s, it’s easy for me when I hear that to just go, Oh man, we’re all screwed. You know, like I hear what you’re saying and there’s this context for a world into which I was born but didn’t to my own knowledge, have a lot of hand in shaping, you know, the way it was. And now I’m here. So where this leads me is now that we know that, like now if, if we know it and we care, you know, what can we do? And maybe if to tie it back into this theme of darkness and the lessons that it contains for us and the blessings that are available through it. What kinds of exercises or practices, if anything, could somebody who’s listening to this do that might, I mean, I could just end that with a question mark right there, but I want to actually try to tie it back to that awareness of, okay, we’re in Anthropocene, we’re headed off this cliff in a way. If I want to take a different road or at least hit the brakes or, you know, something, what, what, what might I do in an exercise or a practice? Maybe darkness related or anything else?
Speaker 3: 00:42:07 So again, a lot of questions there. So let, let’s take this, this image you’re going off a cliff that that actually, ah, comes, I mean, I, I think people have used that a lot, the idea of going off a cliff, but John Holdren, Obama’s Chief Science Advisor was the person to use it most recently. I think it was in 2009, 2007 or 2009, I think he told a group of reporters at a White House press conference that we were in a car with bad brakes driving through a fog and headed for a cliff. We knew for sure the cliff was out there. We just didn’t know exactly where it was. And he was using this as a metaphor for explaining climate change and where we stood in relationship to it. And so the you know, the car, basically it was us, you know, America specifically and human beings as a whole about to go off the cliff, the bad brakes for the poor regulations on greenhouse gas administrations. And the fog was the fog was our uncertainty about where we stood in precise relationship to, you know, the tipping points and things like that and what all of the causes were and how they interacted with one another, so forth and so on. The degrees of scientific uncertainty about all these things or the fog. And then the cliff was the tipping point beyond which there was really no, it wasn’t possible. You know, there were no meaningful action. That’s really possible. Right? It was kind of game over. Okay. So this is a pretty brilliant metaphor. It got quoted everywhere. Everybody was talking about it. There’s one thing he doesn’t talk about in this metaphor, and none of the reporters talked about it. And for 10 years, nobody talked about it. And that’s the road. What about the road? How is it that we got on the road going over a cliff? The car doesn’t matter. The fog doesn’t matter. The brakes don’t matter. The only detail in that analogy that matters is the road. That’s the problem. And so the question that we have to ask ourselves and the question that any, you know, spiritual practice worth doing, we’d have to address is how do we get off of that road? The only questions are really, you know, is there another way and how quickly can we get off of the way we’re on now? And so those were the questions as far as like, you know, like how we’re gonna fix this. I don’t believe we are going to fix it. I don’t, I think that that’s part of the problem, the belief that we can fix this, that we can solve this problem. That’s how we got into this fix in the first place. The belief that we can solve all problems and you’d better believe that a human solution to their problem of climate change is going to be anthropocentric is going to be a solution that serves human beings, which means it will only drive us faster over the cliff. So I don’t hold for it any hope whatsoever for any top-down solution from government, from science, from policy experts, I think they’re all completely done. I don’t believe there’s any possibility that any of that will succeed.
Bryan: 00:45:21 And that’s what Paul Hopkins said when I talked to him on this show. Hope is the pretty mask of fear.
Clark: 00:45:28 Yeah, well no, there is. See I disagree with Paul actually. I’ve interviewed Paul myself. He’s, he’s a very interesting guy, but, but we don’t see eye to eye on certain things. And I don’t see eye to eye with him on this. I believe there is hope, but we’re not the hope. The planet is the hope, right? The planet is very, very old and very, very wise. And these systems that it has a set in place from time in Memorial and is kept going for a very, very, very long time. Everything from the most primal rhythms of the solstices and the equinoxes to the seasons. The, these, these patterns are very durable and old and very wise, right? The planets very wise, the dirt is very wise. Even the oceans are wise and these, these things that we think of as things rather than it is who’s right. We don’t, we don’t think of them as being right. We don’t accord them the respect that ancient people did. Uthey, they can,usolve problems that, that we can’t solve. And, and I believe they, they will now will part of their solution be a massive reduction and, and the populate human population on this planet? I believe so.
Bryan: 00:46:47 Which that can was a term that I read in your book I’d never heard before. The Great Narrowing, capital G capital N.
Clark: 00:46:53 Yeah, and if, if you, you know, if you read carefully, that metaphor, which I are not really a metaphor, but that term which I use at the very end of the book that Great Narrowing is the narrowing of a birth canal. Right? I mean, I go to great pains to, to suggest that this Great Narrowing is, is not just a great restricting or a calling or something like that, but rather this is the necessary passage to, to for there to be any life, I think meaningful life for human beings. We have to, we’ll have to pass through that Great Narrowing and it’ll mean a great reduction in population on our planet. How that will happen, I don’t know. I, I pray daily that it will be merciful and slow rather than the sudden and devastating. But I do believe that the planet will regulate us and you know, global warming, we see that as a problem. Climate change is a problem for human beings, but for the planet it may be a solution.
Bryan: 00:47:54 Yeah. So, okay, now I’m just thinking we’re all screwed, which I know is not what you’re saying, but I wonder if there is anything that we can do individually that will allow us to not be so darn anthro, I can barely say it anthropocentric but instead be a part of that natural process.
Clark: 00:48:18 Well, yeah, I really, I really do believe that. I, I don’t like I said, I don’t believe in top-down solutions, but I do believe in small resilient communities. And I do believe that that’s the answer. And I believe we’re trending in that direction. You know, you can, you can look at the glasses half full, the glasses is half empty. And I think you know, the very pessimistic way of looking at the world today is that people are becoming increasingly factionalized and you know, at war with one another and tribalized and so forth and so on. You know the, that people have become sort of individuated to such an extent that they’re sort of feel completely unique alone and separate from one another. But I think the, that, that there’s the possibility that what we’re moving towards naturally as a species right now is a, a smaller scale, more tribal form of identity. Uh I don’t think that in the absence of widespread petroleum use the absence of very, very cheap, easily available petroleum. I don’t think there’s any way to maintain the large scale national identities that we now have. China, America any of the larger countries, you know, can only sustain their political identity with a cheap, easily available petroleum. There’s no way the absence of petroleum fertilizers gas powered engines you know, there’s no way that are coal powered plants for producing power. There’s no way that they’re going to, to sustain the information systems, the infrastructures, the food delivery systems, all the systems that are necessary to be in place to maintain large scale identities among people. So I think you’re gonna see a further and further fragmentation. The negative way of looking at that is, is, oh my gosh, everything’s falling apart. Or people are drifting apart from one another. People are war with one another. The upside of that is that as people begin to contract and begin to live more locally and to eat more locally, they consume less. They disrupt the planetary, the, the, the disruptive, the natural patterns of the patterns in the natural world that are less disrupted by travel. All kinds of things. Actually will, I think get better because of that, but people don’t know how to live that way anymore. We, we’ve gotten, we’ve gotten much too big and our thinking much too grandiose, you know, Facebook and an odd kind of way. It’s like, you know, one of the great, most grandiose ideas that, you know, any human being ever had, but the, the, the good side of it is that as we learned to occupies smaller place for ourselves, I think we become more resilient to change and more able to weather it. And we began to live in a more healthy way.
Bryan: 00:51:19 So yeah, that, that’s, that’s a really beautiful perspective and, and I’m, I feel encouraged to see that. I think that is happening, you know, where restaurants at least you know, here and I see it when I, when I travel that they’ll talk about how far food has traveled to be on my plate, you know, and smaller like community gatherings that are encouraged in circle, you know, processes and, you know, so I think, I think that’s really beautiful. Well, okay, before we transition, I just have a couple more questions that I want to ask you from, from your experience. And with the dark. One of them is this term, the hour of the Wolf and the hour of God. If you’ll talk about what those are, what do those mean to you?
Clark: 00:52:08 Right. Well I think modern people experienced the darkest predatory because they have made their alliances with light, right? And people naturally will wake in the night, right? So especially as you get older, your, it takes a tremendous amount of metabolic force and power of will to override this natural pattern of sleep and to make yourself sleep for eight hours straight or five and a half or six hours sleep. Most people don’t realize that it takes energy to sleep straight through, but it does, right? And as we get older and our metabolic powers began to just diminish, we are less resistant to the natural pattern of sleep. And so as you get older, you experience sleep fragmentation, right? You start to wake up in the middle of the night and so there’s an entire industry to medicate people so that they can then, you know, get back to sleep. But it’s natural. What’s happening is older people are reverting to the natural pattern of sleep cause they don’t have the energy to resist it any longer.
Bryan: 00:53:11 So Clark, if I understand what you’re saying, we are taking a medication and we’re profiting. We’re profiting by giving somebody something that’s actually not helping them because it’s suppressing a natural function.
Clark: 00:53:25 Oh yeah, sleep industry. The sleep a, the, the, the sleeping pill industry, right? The pharmaceutical industry for like sleeping aids and things like that. It’s a big racket. It’s a, it’s, it’s a huge, huge racket. There are people, I think, you know, there are rare people who, who have genuine sleep disorders, but I think the, the incidents of, of real sleep disorders you know, in our culture or are probably very, very low, what you have is a light disorder, right? So we have a light, we have addictions to artificial lighting and the, and the natural fallout from that, that addictive level of light saturation. So that’s the problem.
Bryan: 00:54:06 Yeah. And I think, you know, one thing I was surprised to learn is the, I didn’t know naturally is that when we take those sleep aids, that sleep medication, that’s not sleep. That’s closer to being an anesthetized.
Clark: 00:54:21 Right, yeah, we just basically anesthetize ourselves. Yeah. It’s not, it’s not a very good quality of sleep, but when we have this relationship to the darkness so that we’re, we’re kind of afraid of it, right. And or, or we fear waking up in the night cause we fear we’ll be tired the next day and we will be, if we’re, if we’re burning the candle at both ends, we wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. We will be tired. We will fall asleep at the wheel or fall asleep on the job or be to drowsy or our health will suffer. That’s true in most cases. So I just, I use the term, the hour of the Wolf to describe most people’s relationship to that erie predatory quality that people experience when they wake say between the hours of two and four o’clock in the morning and can’t get back to sleep. This is the time when our resistance is lowest, right? When we are sort of at the lowest metabolic, you know, ebb in our day and you know, whatever nightmares, you know, are there to be had, we’ll come calling about that time. So there’s that predatory sort of feeling, fatalism, various, very fatalistic kind of kind of experience I think that many people have. But those same people, if you got them to go to bed at like nine o’clock, right? Or just to go to bed at dusk whenever it happens or within a couple of hours after dusk, right? Most people actually wouldn’t go to bed at dusk, but the sun goes down a couple of hours later. They start to naturally get sleepy and they go to sleep. You take the same people and they will revert to a pattern of sleep that allows them to wake in the middle of the night and then their experience of it will be transformed. I use the term, the hour of God to describe the difference between, you know the darkness, one experiences when, when there’s enough time left for sleep and the darkness one experiences, when our sleep nights like our workdays are compressed into cramped little eight hour blocks.
Bryan: 00:56:30 That as a coach is, is one who coaches others. I’m constantly paying attention to language and, and how beautiful this languages that reframe of from hour of wolf to the hour of God. I think as big a gulf as can exist between language describing, you know, to two terms describing the same thing. So the last, the last thing I want to ask here,ubefore we transition is you, you share an experience that,uI related to my wife. She’s, she’s out of town and we were talking in the evening and I shared with her a bit of what I was reading in your book and as I did, the hairs on my arms stood up just as I related, you know, part of what you share in, in this book. Uand I’m wondering if you’re willing to, to share it with the people listening now, which is the part when you went one night, you went to go for a walk and if I have the details right, you put your hand on the knob on the door knob, you’re about to go out and something speaks to you. Like something says, don’t go out and be very still or something like that. Will you, will you share what happened?
Clark: 00:57:44 Well first of all, not something but someone, so, and this is, this is a huge distinction. It’s interesting cause you know, a lot of, since the book came out, a lot of journalistsuh and various people have interviewed me and you know, the typical trajectory for the interview is that you know, people want to talk about the sleep science. I want to talk about darkness, the want to talk about cultural criticism, paleoanthropology and so forth and so on. They don’t want to talk about the marian apparition, which is the real subject of the book. Right. I wrote the book because of the marian apparition. And not because of the sleep science. I doubt if I’d ever would’ve bothered to write a book on the history of sleep and biology of sleep and so forth and so on had I not had this experience. So for me, the, you know, the, the entire book has just a very long introduction to that last part, right. Oh, I’m glad you did too. Especially to the last three pages when, when, when the you know, when the black Madonna herself speaks in her own words, right. The last three pages of the book, or are a gospel, the gospel according to the dark. It’s a document written, you know, and composed entirely by her in her own words. I couldn’t have written, it would never written it, didn’t even understand it when I first read it. So anyway, that, yeah, that first night I’ve been doing this my whole life, getting up and walking in the middle of the night. And, you know, I’ve been a Zen monk, I’ve fallen, I’ve done various spiritual practices many of them very, very seriously all my life. But I’d never had anything like you know, I would call a visionary experience necessary. And so anyway, one night I got up to go for a walk and I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice, a male voice said, don’t go out tonight. Remain inside and stay very, very still. And so I had I had actually heard this voice once before, years ago when I was on a plane, I thought it was going down, and my daughter turned to us and said, turned to me and said daddy, are we going to die? And a voice spoke to me and said, I don’t think so. And so I said that to my daughter and I calmed her down. In fact, you know, the plane miraculously did land and there were fire engines coming along and men in myler suits and everything, but we did survive. And so I, I, I had heard the voice once before and I thought to trust it. So I, I did not go out beautiful night. So I lay down on the couch and I meditated, you know, I’d spent years in a Buddhist monastery and you had to do that and you had to get very, still be very quiet. So I did, and after about 40 minutes, I suddenly felt a presence in the room. Like, I could feel that someone was there. You know how that is, you know, you’re, you’re alone in a room and then suddenly me, you know, maybe you drift off or something and suddenly there’s somebody, Oh wow! Where did that come from? So I opened my eyes and there was a, a young girl about 17 years old kneeling right beside the couch, you know, at eye level, just about a foot and a half from, from me, from my face. And she had short Auburn hair, Hazel eyes sort of freckles around or fair-skinned freckles around her nose, and she had an X of black electrical tape over her mouth. And I looked at her and she was utterly real, just right there. And you know, I didn’t, you know, I guess I spent so much time in the dark and I spent so much time meditating, you know, zen monasteries, they tell you if the experience like this comes it’s called Mocky or illusions, he’s supposed to just to breathe through it, right? So I was just being very sort of calm and thinking, well, I’ve never experienced anything like this before, but you know, here it is. And, but her eyes, now I looked at her eyes and her eyes were urgent and I’d never seen anything like the urgency in the eyes of a, anybody had ever seen before. I like this and the, I said, the tape has to come off. And so I reached out and I pulled the tape back from, from her lips. I can actually feel the, the tape against her skin as I pulled it. So the experience was utterly real and tactile. And then she let out a deep gasp. Like there was a sound that didn’t fit the size of her body. It was like a cripe being unsealed. I wrote about it that way in the book. Like air rushing into a cavern after thousands of years. And I thought that at that moment I thought I wanted to ask her who she was at the very least and be, she shook her head so nothing could be said. And we just looked at one another for a long time and then I closed like, you know, the good Zen Buddhist, you know, I’ve been trained to be, I just closed my eyes when I opened them again later she was gone. But after that I experienced her presence continuously or have experienced her presence continuously since then. That was eight years ago. So she’s always there and she was always there for the next couple of weeks. And then again, two weeks later I I got up to go for a walk, put my hand on the doorknob, same voice, same time. This time I knew what to expect. So I got on the couch, I meditated, and then I felt her presence. I opened my eyes, she was there. And now the question is, has been burning, you know, in my mind, like I had been able to think of anything else for two weeks. It’s like this is all I can think of who, who is this figure? I’ve never experienced anything like this. I can’t make sense of it. So I said, who are you? And she says, I am the hour of God. Now this is the expression that I’ve been using for years, right, to describe this experience, you know, a very peaceful sort of transcendently, peaceful, a meditative experience I’ve been having all my life. So I say to her, I think I knew what that is. And she says, if you really understood, you would have said, who not what? And that was it for me. I, that that was the closest thing I think I’ve ever had to, you know, in my lifetime to you know, Buddha like aha kind of moment. Like my whole world became fully animated at that point. Like everything was a who. And I think it took some time before I began to realize that, that the girl who was speaking to me was basically the voice of the planet. This was the, you know, the voice of the paleolithic mother goddess you know, from, you know, that some people call Gaia that, you know, has, you know, been at the forefront of, of or was at the forefront of paleolithic people’s minds so that they sculpted her in these small statues over and over and over again throughout all of the ancient world. But at the beginning, I just, I really didn’t know. I think some part of me suspected that this was the figure that you know, young Portuguese peasant girls reported seeing and called the Virgin Mary. But I didn’t know for sure, and I didn’t want to admit that to myself cause I certainly didn’t want to become Catholic. I wasn’t even Christian. What business did I have, you know, witnessing an apparition of the Virgin Mary. But about about 10 weeks after that, I was vacationing on Cape Cod one night. And she woke me at 1:30 AM with the words, if you rise to say the rosary tonight, a column of saints will support your prayer. And you know, I wasn’t Catholic but also wasn’t stupid and the only figure I’d ever heard of who invited you to pray the rosary and made promises based on whether you did that or not was Mary. And so, you know, I woke up the next morning, you know, I, I did get up and say the rosary obviously, and then went back to bed and I went to a used bookstore in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. And the first book I saw just sitting right up there at the counter like this, waiting for me was a little paperback with a plain blue cover called Queen of the Cosmos Interviews With the Visionaries of Mehta Gloria. So I knew that these apparitions had occurred in Mehta, Gloria right before the civil war there in Bosnia. So I picked it up and I opened it to a page at random and the interviewer had asked why the young visionaries, Martyshy, I think she said is the rosary a universal practice, even though it is so distinctly identify with the Catholic church? And this young girl said, yes, the blessing mother ask everyone on earth to pray the rosary no matter what their religion or what their belief. So I bought the book. I mean, you know, how could I not? Right. And that was it, you know, that very day weirdly, people began asking me to teach them to pray the rosary. Like literally that day people began asking me and I went back to Woodstock and, you know, after our vacation was over, people wanted to talk to me about the rosary, started a rosary group. I started a rosary group with my wife, it’s been spreading around the world and you know, so I mean that, you know, our next book, it’s called The Way Of The Rose, The Radical Path and The Divine Feminine Hidden In The Rosary. Comes out on November 5th and a, you know, it’s, it is, it is the, a story of the you know an older version of the rosary that existed prior to, you know, the Catholics getting ahold of it. And that traces its way all the way back to to the upper paleolithic. And I, I do think that the rosary is, you know, one, one such practice whereby we can cultivate the wisdom of our ancestors and get back in touch with that darker, more newness understanding and way of living. Rosary basically falls a set of 15 mysteries that goes through birth, death, and regeneration. So sort of a falls the cycle of the seasons. And most Catholics don’t, you know, read it that way and understand it that way, but nevertheless encoded in that ancient and that ritual is, is the essential wisdom of the of the mystery traditions of the pagan world. So there, yes, there are practices in our groups. We have little rosary groups spring up all over the place and you know, we’re very explicit about the purpose of these groups, which is to give people small resilient spiritual communities in the face of climate change.
Bryan: 01:09:04 Wow. That’s very specific.
Clark: 01:09:08 Does a lot of other things. I mean, people come in and their lives get better. They, you know, figure out how to manage their families and their finances and, you know, they pray for a lot of different things. But the bottom line is, you know, you, you know, you better be holding on to something real when the shit hits the fan and you know, something grounded something, you know, the rosary is like an umbilical cord that connects us to our mother and you know so it’s that kind of primal and there are other, there, there are other, you know, indigenous forms of wisdom rosary is that an indigenous form of wisdom? Indigenous too, you know, people of, of Europe and the in the Mediterranean there are other forms of indigenous wisdom that have the same kind of power. And and you know, people are beginning to reclaim them. Claiming the wisdom of their ancestors.
Bryan: 01:10:00 Yeah. My experience is there are many, many people who are looking for this, even if they don’t know that’s what they’re looking for. So if somebody who’s heard this is curious or moved by what you’ve shared and they want to be a part of it, what would you have them do?
Clark: 01:10:17 Well, you know, I would have them probably join The Way Of The Rose on Facebook. That’s our Facebook group. We have members all over the world and we have meetings in cities and towns around the country now and growing every day. And you know, we don’t have any priests or property. We don’t charge any dues or fees. You know, our motto is ecology, not theology. We’re not members of any religious organization. We’re not trying to build a new one. You know, we value circles of friendship rather than lineages of authority. So that’s sort of our basic MO, we are a rosary group. I mean, you know, we, we have the people pray various different versions of the traditional rosary, but, and again, I think we have a few actual practicing Catholics. But we have a great many Buddhists and Hindus and Yogis and Wiccans and you know, like, ah, it’s just this incredibly diverse group.
Bryan: 01:11:24 You know, as I hear you share that when I think about the political divisiveness that’s occurring in our country, I think, man, this is exactly what we could use to eliminate or replace that. But I think people don’t necessarily, it wouldn’t occur for them that way. They can see the, the, the problem so to speak, but then, then when they hear a solution, I don’t think it occurs for them as a solution.
Clark: 01:11:52 Yeah. Well, you have to sort of get in there and you have to do it to see it. You know, you have to, you have to really, you know, we are conditioned, I think to expect solution top-down solutions to to systemic problems. And it’s, you know, it, it sometimes takes a while for people to really grasp the, the fundamental tangle that they’re caught in. I think, I think people are very, very frustrated right now. I know I’ve been frustrated and you know, what can I do, you know, how is this going to end? How can we possibly solve these problems? How can we, how can we work together to to solve these problems with, with so much divisiveness? And I think the answer is you know, we’re not going to work together. I don’t think that there’s any hope of that. And and I don’t I, I think it’s a pipe dream, you know, to suppose that the world will suddenly all you’ll get on the same page and begin to address the difficulties of climate change. I think that people will learn to trust their neighbors and their friends and their family and they will draw together and they will form very strong intimate bonds of connection. And they will build a communities based on faith, hope and ecology. And they will gradually begin to replace a lot of the insane ideas that have driven human activity for the past few thousand years with saner ideas. I mean, you know, I mentioned our, our motto of ecology, not theology. Well, most of the theological systems are basically insane. You know, as a theological system, Buddhism is insane. Christianity is insane. Islam is insane. You know, they’re all insane because they, they stress this idea of transcendence. And that’s an insane idea. We’re, we’re not meant to transcend. We’re meant to be here. They were meant to be part of this planet. We’re meant to grow from the dirt and live and returned to the dirt or meant to live in harmony with everything it is. We’re meant to see ourselves as, as exceptional distinctive and alone. If you’re worried about whether or not you’re going to get enlightened then you are on the wrong path because you know, but you know, again, encoded in the wisdom of all of these traditions is a deep sanity, but it’s been lost. Like there’s a great story. One of my favorite stories about the Buddha is that when he was the moment he attained his enlightenment, the devil, Mora the deceiver, appeared and says, what right do you have to sit on the seat of enlightenment? And according to the legend, the Buddha takes his finger and he touches the ground and says, I called the earth as my witness, right? This is a very early story, and I think that there’s a tremendously deep ecological wisdom and at this been lost in Buddhism, just as Christianity and Judaism and Islam and Hinduism have lost their ecological wisdom. But people used to know this, right? That finger touching the ground is not a, you know, he’s not like touching the earth saying, you know, the earth knows that I have the right to be enlightened and to be the spiritual King of the universe or whatever that finger is in equal sign. He’s touching the earth because he doesn’t need any authority above that. Just a living being at one with the planet at one with all it is. So there’s no problem, there’s nothing to attain. There’s, there’s nothing to achieve. You know, he’s already achieved it, you know, he’s, he’s he is a living being an animal, you know, claiming his animal nature. That’s his transcendence. That’s his enlightenment. That’s my point of view. Anyway, so that’s my Buddha. My Buddha is an animal. I love, I’ll put a, I don’t care much for the Buddha in the sky. I don’t care much for the Jesus in the sky that Jesus has, you know, lowered into the tome and you know, it is resurrected on Easter morning and makes the crops grow. That’s the Jesus I love. I love that sort of old corn King Jesus. Don’t care for the Jesus in the sky.
Bryan: 01:16:27 That’s not the one I learned about in Sunday school, you know? But no, and the other thing, and, and I Clark, I’m really fascinated by and enjoying this part of the conversation. I’m realizing that I haven’t left us time to talk about writing the creative process, but I’m hoping you’re open to coming back and talking about your new book. And maybe in that conversation we could talk about writing and creativity.
Clark: 01:16:51 Well we can only, if we, if I talk about the new book, you’ll have to have me and Perdita on because we co authored the book.
Bryan: 01:16:59 I would love that.
Clark: 01:17:00 Yeah. Perdita and I wrote it together and it was quite a process. There was a, there were a lot of sparks flying. Two professional writers, strong opinions about every word.
Bryan: 01:17:13 In fact, talking about Perdita with this book, you mentioned that this book Waking Up To The Dark, was 59 journals that you had been keeping.
Clark: 01:17:27 Yeah, it was 59 pocket notebooks that I have been carrying for years and writing about my experiences in the dark. And every once in awhile I would turn one of those notebooks into like a feature article. Like I wrote a cover story for Tricycle, the Buddhist review on a Green Meditation, you know, and called Turn Out The Lights and this sort of the earliest iteration of this idea. And I wrote a few other articles here and there, but for the most part, it just came out of these little small pocket notebooks. And at a certain point I realized that the only way I could write a book about the apparitions was to set it for, for modern people. Right? Because who wants to read, who wants to read a, a book about a Marion apparition to an ex Buddhist monk who rarely speaks of Jesus, never mentions the church and mostly wants to talk about climate change, right? Who’s going to read that? Right? Well, Catholics aren’t necessarily gonna want to read it because you know, certainly climate deniers aren’t going to read it. It’s a, it’s a very much a feminist book. And so, you know, most conservative Christians aren’t going to be interested in it. So who’s it for? So anyway went to, once I realized that the book had to be set up properly, you know, by discussing my experiences in the dark and visionary States and so forth and so on, I realized I’d have to go back and collect all that writing. So I spoke all of it into a voice voice activated software Dragon Naturally Speaking. So I read the notebooks, you know, into my computer and got text from them and then I gave them to my genius wife, who is a very, very highly sought book doctor and book editor. And she’s also an author in her own right. Writes her own books. But she’s also a very, very gifted, she’s the person, they call editors in New York call when they think a manuscript is dead and they can’t get it to press, right. She’s the one who comes in, you know, and does the, you know, the triage on the battlefield and stitches it together so that it’s workable. So she’s really good at this. So she took that, all of those notebooks and she quilted everything together into the book. And then she gave me writing assignments. You say, well, there’s something missing here or this isn’t clear or whatever. And so I gradually shaped the writing. All the writing is mine. But the you know, a lot of the vision of the book and the pacing of the book and the juxtapositions of ideas, that’s her genius.
Bryan: 01:20:04 Wow. What a gift and what a privilege to have a wife like that.
Clark: 01:20:09 Oh yeah. Well, I, I don’t doubt that I’d ever published anything without Perdita. I’ve done a lot of writing, but probably very little known about publishing.
Bryan: 01:20:20 Well, just the, maybe the last idea that I just want to touch on while we’re in this portion of the conversation was, was the one that you talk about how with the Holy Trinity of the, and I don’t mean to make this a whole religious thing and I don’t think it is per se. But with this I think the reintroduction or the rewelcoming of the feminine into our modern world, like into our world, you know, is this, that’s been lost and we’re searching for and equating, you know, the darkness to the feminine and the creative and all of this that I had never had this concept of, you know, the Holy, like the Holy Trinity of the father, the son and the Holy spirit. This image of really taking out the mother and the daughter from that Trinity where maybe more and replacing it with this spirit where maybe the idea, at least from antiquity is the quaddanity of the mother, the father, the son, and the daughter and the daughter. And I thought that was really beautiful. And especially as I’ve learned a little bit about numerology and how four, although three of course is a beautiful number represents strength and that triangle things that, that there is something that does seem to be very sacred and powerful about the number four. And then when I read it that way, I was like, Oh, that makes sense.
Clark: 01:21:36 Well, you know, the, the writing of it took a lot of effort. First of all, to write the mother and the daughter out of the scriptures. You know, the, the upper paleolithic was dominated by feminine spirituality or at least female divine figures. You know, they’re like a few somewhat physically ambiguous figures to come down to us from the upper paleolithic that could possibly be male. The vast majority of them are, are not only obviously female, but shaped in such a way as to emphasize their power and their fertility, right? They are mother goddesses. And so for the, for instance, you know, the Hebrew scriptures, right? For the people who collected them. They were coming through, they had to go through and, and weed out all the references to the goddess, which they, they did as well as they could. And there’s still a lot of them in there, right. You know, for instance, most people don’t know that God, Yahweh, had a wife Ashura and until she was written out of the story. People also don’t know that, you know, the first verses of Genesis about the creation are actually a sanitized retelling of the Enuma Elish in which the God Marduk slays his grandmother Tiamat. And butchers her body and uses it to form the parts of the created world. If you look at the Enuma Elish and you’re looking at opening verses in the Bible, you find, you realize that the, by the opening verses the Bible, basically a crime scene from which all the blood’s been cleaned up, but the evidence is still there. So it’s about the murder of the, of the, of the sea goddess, right? And the triumph for the male goddess over the female. And so from there the Bible just goes on and just try it at every step of the way tries to eliminate the divine female so they can’t get rid of her. She comes back as the Virgin Mary. So you know how, how can you get rid of her? You really can’t. I mean they fought a good fight but you know they lost and they keep losing over and over again. Winning is losing where they’re concerned.
Bryan: 01:23:48 Well then you mentioned that it can only make sense that the Bible ends with revelation needing a new story.
Clark: 01:23:56 That’s where that, that vision, that all male vision ends in apocalypse. It becomes a linear story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Interestingly, the rosary, the story of the rosary, I talked about those 15 mysteries. One of the reasons why we know that those 15 mysteries are based on the ancient mystery cults of the pagan world is that they form a circle rather than a line. So authentically the rosary is supposed to retell the story of the, of the new Testament. I mean, it begins with the annunciation of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary saying, you’re going to bear this child and everything, right? So it, given where it begins, it should end with the last judgment, right? Well, the priest tried to get it to end that way and the ordinary people said, forget it. We’re not doing that. That doesn’t, that’s not what we believe. What they believed is that, and this is nowhere in the Bible, but according to their oral legends, the Virgin was assumed into heaven where she was crown the queen of heaven and earth. And if you look at paintings of the Virgin Mary and the coronation, right? The coronation in heaven, she’s invariably young again and often holding the infant Jesus. And so the story circles back and starts over again, just like the cycle of the seasons, right? So it’s a circular redemptive narrative rather than a linear punitive narrative is what the Bible is. The Bible is a linear, punitive narrative, which begins with a woman committing, you know, the ultimate sin and ends with the destruction of the world. The rosary begins with the teenage girl defying patriarchy in deciding to have a child out of wedlock and ends with her being crown, the queen of heaven and earth. So it’s a very different kind of story.
Bryan: 01:25:43 As different a story as one could tell. I think.
Clark: 01:25:46 Well it’s you know, it’s ecological wisdom as opposed to a anthropocenic wisdom.
Bryan: 01:25:55 Yeah. That’s really interesting. Well thanks for sharing that. Before we move off this entirely, you used a term I’m not familiar with and I’m not even sure I’m saying it right. Enuma Elish? What’s that?
Clark: 01:26:06 Enuma Elish yeah it’s an ancient Babylonian epic. About the creation of the world. And Tiamat is the sea goddess. And she Marduk fights a battle against her and he summons up a mighty wind and lets loose an arrow and it goes down her throat and pierces her heart. And interestingly, you know, there are all kinds of little tells that are left over. You know, there are all kinds of things hidden in the rosary and in Catholic iconography. And the, that the Pope’s don’t even know where they’re, you know, it’s really, really interesting. One of my favorites is the, our lady of sorrows has her heart is pierced, right? Just like Tiamat, right? So you have all these signs that the mother God is still alive and well, and she’s been smuggled like a stowaway, you know, into the hole of the Catholic church and pass down over the centuries when she’s, she’s still who she is. She’s still very powerful. If an evil Mary behave like a goddess, she answered prayers, reform miracles. If she thought Jesus or God were wrongheaded about something, she would she would contradict them. One of my favorite stories is about Saint Peter. In the Vatican there’s this sacristan, this is guy that is in charge of all the lamps, right? For keeping them lit, but he’s a real devotee of the Virgin Mary, right? So one day he notices that the Virgin Mary’s lamp is burning really low, but that Peter’s lamp has a lot of oil in it, right? So he goes to Peter’s lamp and steals some of his oil to put the virgins lamp, right? And that night Saint Peter comes to him in a dream and says, you’ve honored the Virgin above me, and I don’t like it. This is my church, right? I’m the rock upon which the church has been built. And when you die, I will surely shut the door to heaven in your face. So the guy wakes up and he’s terrified, right? Cause he believes all this stuff, right? So he sure he’s going to hell and everything. So he goes and he takes, you know, he find some more oil and he fills up Peter’s lamp. He prays to Peter and asks for forgiveness and you know, that he’ll be spared and all this sort of stuff. And then that, but the saint says no, you know, I won’t do it. So that night he falls asleep and Virgin appears to him. She is, I’m going to show you a secret. It takes them to heaven. She leaves him around the back and there’s a window, right? She says, I leave this open all the time, right? So any anybody can get through who needs to get through. Right is Peter, don’t, don’t try the front gate cause he guards it and he’s a real, got a real stick up his butt. Okay. So he’s just not going to, you know, he follows the rules. He’s a stickler. He gets angry. He tells people they can’t come in, but you can always just come in through this. So that was the Mary of the middle ages.
Bryan: 01:29:02 We know who’s really in charge.
Clark: 01:29:04 Hundreds of legends like this, right? Where the Pope is the butt of the joke.
Bryan: 01:29:10 Anybody who’s been married to a woman knows who’s really the boss in their relationship. So that doesn’t surprise me at all. Well man, that’s interesting. Thank you for sharing that. Okay, so with our last few minutes, I want to turn our conversation to the enlightening lightning round if you’re up for that. So this is a series of brief questions I’ll ask. I’ll do my best to stay out of every now and then. I might ask a little more because I’m curious, but you can answer as long as you want. Question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than the words, a box of chocolates. Life is like a?
Clark: 01:29:59 Garden. yeah, it’s like a, it’s like a forest, just like, you know, forest culture, forest ecology has all kinds of things are growing at, you know, and, and, and you don’t see everything. A lot of it’s going on below the ground, right? And everything goes into it. Sunlight, rain, birds coming and going insects cross-pollinating. It’s a very, very rich and complex tapestry in which, you know, we can participate, but we’re not in charge of it. So we’re living in life, right? And we’ve been gifted with a life and,uyou know, we have some volition and control in our own lives, but we’re ultimately not in charge of, of life itself, right? Certainly not the lives of all other beings. Right. And we only have this life briefly, you know, housed, you know, in this body. And then it goes back to the greater life and then we live again.
Bryan: 01:30:51 Beautiful. Okay. Number two, what something at which you wish you were better?
Clark: 01:30:58 Oh my gosh so many things. Balancing my checkbook. Gosh, things I wish I was better at. You know, my mother was a visual artist and a very talented visual artists. My son inherited from his grandmother and his other grandmother too a costume designer and also a wonderful artist. Has, has inherited that ability and my daughter too, but, but not me. Like I sort of skipped a generation, so I was love to carry around to be able to carry around the sketchbook instead of just a journal, like words are my art form. But, but I, I long for the ability, like I see something beautiful and, and a person an animal, a tree as sort of landscape. And I just yearned to be able to capture it and I can’t, I can’t do it. So I wish I were better at that.
Bryan: 01:31:57 Well you do pretty well with words.
Clark: 01:32:01 Well, this is what I have.
Bryan: 01:32:05 Alright, number three. If you were required everyday for the rest of your life to wear a tee shirt with a slogan on it, or a phrase or a saying or a quote or equip, what would the shirts say?
Clark: 01:32:15 Well, one of two things. It would have an arrow pointing downward and say, I’m with her. Okay. Or at the planet or whatever. You know or I think it would say, you know, it’s like this slogan I’ve had for years. You know, even before the apparitions started, I was already, you know, writing articles for like the Washington Post on this theme. You know, it’s been sort of a continuous thing for the past 15 years or so. Ecology, not theology. Like that really is my you know, sort of the essence of my way of thinking. You know, we’ve, we’ve gone become very wrong headed with these ideas that aren’t, you know, ideas about human beings and what human beings are supposed to value and what they’re supposed to believe. You know, it, it often has no relation whatsoever to the to the reality of life on a finite planet.
Bryan: 01:33:09 Question number four, what book other than one of your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
Clark: 01:33:16 Oh, wow. So many. I mean, you know, like the list goes on and on books I’ve given away, you know, I, there’s this book that I just love is called Little Saint and it’s by Hannah Green. It was finished by, it was a uncompleted work, finished by her husband and her secretary when she died. It is without a doubt, one of the most sublime and perfect pieces of travel writing I’ve ever read. And it’s about a little town and Southern France that is named Contis, that is famous for it’s reliquary statue of a fourth century a girl Saint. And it’s as a portrait of the townspeople and their beliefs and their customs and what not. It’s just such an extraordinary piece of writing. I mean, she’s one of those people where, you know, she had died years before I ever read this book. I discovered it at a library sale. I used copy and I, you know, I just consumed it. And then I gave, gave it to everybody I knew. So one of my favorite, favorite books by Hannah Green, Little Saint.
Bryan: 01:34:35 That’s great. Okay. Number five. So you travel a lot, you’ve traveled a lot. What’s one travel hack, meaning something you do or something you take with you to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Clark: 01:34:51 Oh, it’s easy. My rosary, you know, I noticed you’ve got a set of Mala beads around your neck, right?
Bryan: 01:34:59 Yeah, that’s right.
Clark: 01:34:59 Yeah. Yeah. The beads are like, you know, the oldest talismans, you know, they, you know, they, they are, they’re all like it’s not just the rosary. All, all prayer beads are like umbilical cords. So, you know, travel involves a lot of, you know even under the best circumstances, a fair, fair amount of discomfort. Right. And waiting and, you know, but I, I’m, I’m never without something to do, you know, I will sometimes pray the rosary for an entire two and a half hour plane ride, you know, and, and it just, the time passes and I feel deeply tranquil and calm. And, and so it’s really wonderful. It’s, it’s my one go to thing. I will tell one story is I, one of our members her you know, she was part of that California blackout recently because of the fires. I don’t know if you know about this, but they, the electrical companies so worried about wildfires if they shut down the they shut down the electrical grid you know, so, but then the fires came up and the fire started anyway. And the fires were coming towards this friend of ours house, a member of our larger rosary community. And she, she, you know, took pictures with her phone and the fire coming, right. She had to leave her house. So with her kids and her family, she had to go and knock on the doors of the people in her neighborhood, right. To, to tell them, because with the, with no electricity, they didn’t have any way of knowing that the fire was coming and they had to evacuate. So she left, she had this go bag, she had all these preparations. All she grabbed was a rosary. Wow. Like just instinctively she thought, well, if I have this, I’ll survive. Right. So she’s going around knocking on her neighbor’s doors and only after she’s knocked on the, you know, fifth or sixth person, I think that she realized that she’s grabbing this rosary for all she’s worth. Her hands, she’s forgotten her go bags. She got her kids, got her husband, and she’s got her rosary and that’s it. Right. So travel is not just, just travels, you know, it’s just, you have to have something to ground you. You have to have something that connects you to take to your faith and hope and, you know, powers greater than yourself.
Bryan: 01:37:17 Yeah, no, that’s beautiful. What’s one thing that you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Clark: 01:37:27 Started or stopped doing? Well, I’ve never stopped walking all of them in periods of time when I walked less. And I’m certainly walking a great deal more now from my health and just my sanity. So just as a form of exercise. So that’s one thing. I stopped eating gluten a while back. I thought I was gluten intolerant. Right. but it turns out that I’m allergic to Roundup, glyphosate, which is in the entire US wheat supply. So I don’t think there is a form of wheat that maybe or corn, wheat that doesn’t have glyphosate in it. So I can go to France and or Italy or any place where we’re GMOs are outlawed and glyphosate is outlawed. And I can eat the bread and with no ill effects at all, but one piece of regular bread of any kind, even supposedly organic bread. And, and I have, you know, developed neurological symptoms. So, so I’ve had to quit that and, but my health, you know, it’s amazing, you know, my, my health immediately I was, you know, improved dramatically as soon as I realized what was going on and I quit eating all wheat, so I don’t eat wheat at all.
Bryan: 01:38:47 Wow. How long ago was that decision?
Clark: 01:38:51 Uh well, it was, we went on a trip to France, which was when I discovered that I could eat bread. And I realized it must be glyphosate. So before that I was off gluten. I thought I had a gluten intolerance. And that was, that trip was in 2015 and it was, we, we went to a on a kind of a pilgrimage to visit the painted caves and to see our lady for the book. We were doing a kind of a pilgrimage trip as research for the book. And I was able to eat all, you know, whatever I wanted basically. And I came back and I thought, you know, was I just fooling myself? Like we took one piece of American bread and boom, I was sick as I had been. Uh so then I realized I did a little research and right about that time the articles were beginning to come out revealing that glyphosate was used in the ripening process for wheat in America and that it was so, so it had so fouled the water supplies in most areas where wheat is grown, that, that, you know, there wasn’t any way to get wheat that didn’t have that that toxin then it. Created by Monsanto, which is my guess is why they sold out to Bear. So to avoid liability for it. So that’s kind of, that’s going to be a big, big, big, big class action suit coming.
Bryan: 01:40:12 Yeah. I mean, I’m willing even, I’ve never needed to go on this, so I’m gonna keep going with your questions. Yeah. I’m very concerned. I’ll just leave it at that.
Clark: 01:40:22 Yeah, yeah. No, it’s a Roundup. It’s a bad, it’s a, it’s, it’s one of the of all the chemicals ever created by human beings. This, this is a, you know, this is one of the most evil.
Bryan: 01:40:35 Yeah. Okay. Question number seven. What’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Clark: 01:40:42 Well, that’s a really good question. One thing I wish everything, every American knew, well, I guess I wouldn’t limit it to Americans actually. I think I, I would wish that every human being knew that that they had forebears going back for tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands, even millions of years that they, that they stand at the top you know you know kind of a you know, a plateau of time and, but below them this time, you know, millions of years deep and that they are only the most recent, you know, biological successors to these earlier beings, you know, who have come before that as sometimes called the, the army of the dark revolt, the army of the dead, you know, and these people most of them knew how to live in a way that, that we’ve forgotten and they knew how to live sustainably. They knew how to live sanely. They knew how to live in a way that I think was a great deal, less fearful and less anxious. And I’ll just give you one brief example. I grew up in you know, all over the South, but I spent a great deal of time living with my grandmother when I was young in Forest City, Arkansas. And you know, that was about 40 miles across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. Well, when I was researching The Way Of The Rose, I decided to write about my early experiences you know, in Arkansas, you know, digging arrowheads out of the soil and stuff like that. And I ran across this amazing detail when it’s one of those details that reshuffles your brain putting out entirely new set of cards on top. Like I felt like once I discovered this, my whole brain had been reshuffled, right? So the detail was this, that human beings have inhabited the area around Memphis, Tennessee for twice as long as human beings have inhabited the area around the Memphis, Egypt, it’s namesake. Wow. The capital of the old kingdom of Egypt and Memphis had been, has been continuously inhabited for about 5,000 years, whereas Memphis, Tennessee has been continuously inhabited for 10,000 years. So the arrowheads that I was digging up and my grandfather is a farmer, was turning up with his plow when I was a little boy, were the relics of the people who had lived there for 10,000 years before me on that soil. So it never occurred to me as growing up as a boy that time was that deep and that I stood at top a, the geological evidence of, of human beings living for that long. There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Like if every American knew that, that they, that their life was the only, the most recent evidence of, of lives that went back that far. But if they really have, I think people, lot of people knew it enlists their fundamentalist Christians who believe that the world’s 5,000 years old. But if they aren’t and they have any knowledge at all of have pre history then, but, but to, to really know that, to really understand that in your bones and then yourselves gives you a kind of a confidence to, to live and to think for yourself to act for yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise. We’re very cut off from our instincts. We trust our leaders and our policies and our laws to tell us what to believe and how to behave and how to solve problems. But really most of what we have is within us.
Bryan: 01:44:20 Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re right. And I think we’re not only cut off from our instincts but also our ancestors.
Clark: 01:44:26 Yeah, that’s right. We are.
Bryan: 01:44:28 And I love the way you described this in, in Waking Up To The Dark about all time is ancestral time.
Clark: 01:44:34 It is. Yeah.
Bryan: 01:44:36 That’s beautiful. Thank you. Okay, question number eight and we’re almost, we’re almost coming to the end of the enlightened lightning round, and then we’ll wrap up. So what’s the most important or useful relationship advice you’ve ever received and successfully applied?
Clark: 01:44:51 Well, I mean, I think, you know, I did not grow up in a family where, where we communicated with one another you know, in a, in a, I think a really meaningful, you know, emotionally intelligent kind of way. And I have learned from my wife how to do that. And, you know, she’s been my sort of principle patient, mostly patient teacher about that. So, you know, I think the, the most valuable lesson I think I’ve ever received from her, which is that, you know, it’s better to say what you’re thinking or feeling, you know, than to just hold it inside. And I grew up, you know, in a down South, in a, in a male culture where we’re, men oftentimes didn’t say what they felt, didn’t even acknowledge that they had feelings. Right. Or were motivated by feelings or the feelings, you know, had a bearing on their decisions even though they did. And so for me to be, you know, began to sort of be able to communicate my feelings and in a relationship and communicate and, you know, most women hear a man say something like that. And they say, gosh, how can you be? Yeah. But you know, it’s not a, you know, it’s not, it’s not so easy for some of us. So I’ve, I’ve learned that and it’s, you know, I, my daughter too. My daughter too she is, she is the master of, you know, getting through to, you know, breaking through my, my defenses to get at the real stuff, you know, so I’m also grateful to her. So the two of them really, my son also, he, he was raised by his sister, his older than him. So he was in a sense raised by, by my daughter and my mother. So he’s ahead of me in all this. So he’s better at it.
Bryan: 01:46:38 Yeah. That reminds me of something Buckminster Fuller said about children are our ancestors in universe time because they enter a more complete universe.
Clark: 01:46:49 Ah, wonderful. I’ve never heard that. I love that.
Bryan: 01:46:51 They’re not our ancestors, our elders. Children are our elders in the universe. So, aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money? Or what something you’re sure to do to always do or never do with it?
Clark: 01:47:08 Well, no, the, the thing I’ve learned about money is that if I get myself fully to my passion to what I really believe in, you know, in, in faith and trust that the money comes and the money manifest for whatever it is I need to do. Whereas the more I agonize about money or worry about money, you know, as I learned to do in my family pretty much growing up then the, the worst things are, you know, the, you know, Jesus said a lot of really smart things. One of the smartest things he said, I think was to him that half shall be given and to him that hath not, even that little which he has, shall be taken away. And,uand that always seemed kind of punitive and weird to me. And I, you know, growing up, you know, hearing that in church, I sorta, I think it was sort of rejected the idea of it. Took a long time to realize that he was talking about faith and that if you have a little bit of faith right, then you get more faith than you get. If you have a little bit of gratitude, you get more reason for feeling gratitude. Whereas if you, you have a little scarcity and cling to that and cling to a feeling of not having enough and then you tend to be experienced not having enough more and more like you have less and less. So I’ve learned to practice gratitude and to not even to practice it, but just to, to realize how lucky I am. You know, it’s like if I, the moment you, you, the moment I start to feel a deprived or worried or anxious about the future if I just start to look around and count my blessings, like literally starting in my visual field of this, that, whatever people, the house, the opportunities you know, books I have coming out, stuff like that, instantly things start to shift. And then invariably within a day or two, some new opportunity comes along and you know, my financial worries are, are usually eased.
Bryan: 01:49:08 Yeah. I love that. Thank you. Okay. And that’s the end of the enlightening lightning round. So to wrap up two things. One is speaking of money, I have taken $100 and made a micro loan to an entrepreneur, a woman who lives in India. She’s a 45 year old named Chitra. She’s going to use this money to buy a cow in order to expand her dairy business, improve the quality of life for her, her family, people in her community. And I’ve done that as a way of saying thank you. So I’ve done that on your behalf to thank.
Clark: 01:49:40 Thank you. That’s wonderful. What a wonderful thing.
Bryan: 01:49:43 So, so thanks for giving me a reason to do that.
Clark: 01:49:47 Yeah. What’s her name?
Bryan: 01:49:48 Her name is Chitra, C H I T R A. And she’s in the Toruchi poly district of Tamilnadu. And I’ll actually send you this.
Clark: 01:49:58 Yeah, please do. I’ll, I’ll edit. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll add her in her cow to my my rosary prayers.
Bryan: 01:50:04 Awesome. That’s beautiful. And then, and then the other thing is if people want to learn more from you or they want to connect with you, and I know you told me already about the Facebook group, The Way Of The Rose on Facebook, but if people want to learn from you or connect with you, what would you have them do?
Clark: 01:50:20 Well I think that the easiest place to go other than the Facebook group is Wayoftherose.org and my books are listed there. I’ve also, I’ve written a lot of books, you know written books on haiku poetry. I teach an online masterclass in haiku poetry. It’s the 17 syllable verses about the season. It’s a very ecologically grounded foreign poetry. My first book Seeds From A Birch Tree, which I’m gonna re publish I think in the next year or so was about haiku poetry. So I teach haiku on Facebook and I I don’t do much teaching apart from haiku poetry. Mostly I try to encourage people and help people you know, connect with, with these ideas. Most of, most of our activity nowadays is directed towards Way Of The Rose. I mean, we’re an eco feminist rosary group basically. So with no, you know, allegiance to the Catholic church or any other form of religion. And so that sort of leaves us open to write about a lot of things. And so we partner with a lot of different people and, you know, give talks various places. And we will be putting up our workshop scheduled for the next year sometime sometime, you know, in the next few months on our face, our website. We are teaching a retreat on The Way Of The Rose at Row Conference, a camp and conference center in Massachusetts in February.
Bryan: 01:51:59 Oh great. And for people listening, because this won’t be released for a few months from the day we’re recording, this is October of 2019, but this will I plan to release this in January of 2020. So it could be, perfect. So just to give anybody listening context of what year, what years are we talking about, right. Those are the years. And then just to clarify on that web address, is it wayoftherose.org or thewayoftherose?
Clark: 01:52:24 It is wayoftherose.org. Yeah.
Bryan: 01:52:28 Awesome. Okay. Well man, I have really enjoyed this conversation. Okay.
Clark: 01:52:34 Oh, it’s been a very, it’s been a real pleasure. You’re a really fun interviewer.
Bryan: 01:52:41 Well thank you. I’m very curious and I love what you’re writing about. So I’ve, yeah, it’s been,
Clark: 01:52:47 You know, I do a fair number of podcasts and you know, you know, audio interviews and things like that, but this, this one was unusually fun, so thank you for that. You’re, you’re very easy peasy person to talk to
Bryan: 01:52:57 Well, thank you. And I might reach out to you about that conversation and, and interviewing you with, with your, with Perdita if you’re open.
Clark: 01:53:06 Yeah, it’s, I, it, we are open and I have to say, you know, the interviews we do together a lot of fun because we have differences of opinion and, and you know, it just, it’s, it’s fun. Like, I mean, just talking recently, so we were doing something and somebody was asking what was it like to write the book together and that alone, like if you want to, if you want a really fascinating conversation about process, our process for writing this book was an, I think it’s one thing I think is unrepeatable. But, but I mean, unless we work together on another book in the same way, but it was really, really something. I mean, we were both both completely at the top of our game and completely out of our depth writing, the kind of book we wrote. And the result was a, a book that our publishers very excited about and were very excited about and they just send you the list today and the people who are sending it out to this and they get out to like 300 people and the media like 30 people from New York Times like they, they get the mere idea that Random House is putting major effort behind a book on the rosary is just mind boggling to me.
Bryan: 01:54:15 Fantastic. Well just you and Perdita and a column of saints.
Clark: 01:54:19 That’s it. You got it. That’s right. That’s great.
Bryan: 01:54:22 Okay, well I will look forward to the time our paths cross again. And again, thank you so much for making the podcast.
Clark: 01:54:28 You’re quite welcome. Well thank you so much and just let me know when you know, when it’s gonna go live and I will share it on Way Of The Rose and you know, they’ll share it with the hundreds of their best friends.
Bryan: 01:54:39 I love it. I will be sure to do so. All right. Thank you.
Bryan: 01:54:43 Despite living in an age where we have more comforts and conveniences than ever before, life isn’t working for many people. Whether it’s in the developed world where we’re dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, divorce, jobs we hate, relationships that don’t work, or people in the developing world who don’t have access to clean water or sanitation or health care or education or who live in conflict zones. There’s a lot of people on the planet that life isn’t working very well for. If you’re one of those people, I invite you to connect with me at goodliving.com I’ve created life’s best practices, breakthrough coaching to help you navigate the transitions that we all go through. Whether you’ve just graduated school, you’re going through a divorce, you just got married, you’re headed into retirement, you’re starting a business. You just lost your job, whatever it is you’re facing. I’ve developed a 36 week course that you go through with me and a community of achievers and seekers who are committed to improving their own lives and the lives of others. So through this online program, you will have opportunity to go deep into every area of your life, explore life’s big questions, create answers for yourself in community, get clarity and accountability. If that’s something you’re interested to learn about, I invite you to contact me directly at Bryan, at Bryan miller.com or by visiting good living.com.
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