An Interview with Francis Lucille
Francis Lucille was born in France in 1944. He is a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris where he was trained as a mathematician and physicist. In 1973, an encounter with Vedantic and Zen scriptures triggered a deep self-inquiry that found its resolution through meeting his teacher in 1975. Besides working as a scientist and diplomat, he has held dialogues, meditation sessions, and workshops in both France and the U.S. over the past 15 years. After retiring from formal employment, he has been meeting with truth-seekers throughout the U.S. and Canada, sharing his understanding of life. Francis has recorded a collection of interviews on non-duality. This interview is taken from an edited transcript. He is the author of a forthcoming book, Dialogues on Awareness. David Jennings, the interviewer, is a graduate of Princeton and Oxford University and a physician who has studied non-dualistic teachings for many years.
David Jennings: What is enlightenment?
Francis Lucille: Enlightenment is the deep understanding of what we are not. When what we are not is eliminated, there is no need to light up the candle, because our true nature beyond time shines in its own glory.
DJ: Enlightenment then is a leaving behind of a former thought that we are something, when in fact we are not.
FL: Yes. From the vantage point of the person, from a relative point of view, it is a hypothetical event in time and space, but this is a complete misconception originating from the person. From the vantage point of light, there is only light, and there has always been and will always be only light. It is beyond time.
DJ: The stark statement that the world and our body are mere illusions comes as a shock to most Western thinkers. Could we perhaps explore this in order to make it less strange, less startling?
FL: First, let us understand that from the point of view of the witnessing Consciousness, the body is an object like any other. Along with the rest of the world as we actually know it, it is made out of sensory perceptions.
DJ: Your listener might respond that it is not quite correct to say that the body, like any other object, is made out of sensations. Rather, he may say that these objects are made out of matter, and that that is revealed to us, in its various facets, via sensations, via the sense organs, the mind and awareness.
FL: Yes, at this instant the illusory aspect of the world comes in. When we say that the world is made out of matter, we replace an undeniable fact, our sensory experience, by the unverifiable hypothesis of a world out there existing independently from us.
DJ: So, an “object” is ever a mere appearance and never seen “objectively”?
FL: Not as an object. In the words of the Sufis of the School of Oneness, “There is nothing that is not Him.”
DJ: Why is the firm belief in an external world so widespread and tenacious? Why do so few people question it?
FL: The “why?” takes us away. To know why there are so many people thinking otherwise doesn’t get us one inch closer to the truth. The real question is, “Is there a world apart from awareness?” If anyone claims such a reality out there, existing independently from onsciousness, then that person carries the burden of proof.
DJ: What is the ego?
FL: I would define the ego as a concept originating from the “I am” experience, pure being without attributes, the absolute certitude of our existence. When I conceptualize this experience, I name it “I” or “I am.” There is nothing wrong with the pure concept “I am.” The ego comes in the moment I say “I am this or that,” “I am a man or a woman,” etc. The “this or that” superimposes a limitation onto something that, up until now, was limitless.
DJ: So the concept in this case disappears into awareness…
FL: And also refers to awareness, to reality. It originates from reality and brings us back to reality. We remain, so to speak, at home. But the moment we say “I am this or that,” we create a division in reality.
DJ: Between the “me” and the not “me”?
FL: Exactly, because if I am “this,” I am not “not this,” there is something that I am not. I have assigned a limit, a contour to my being. The ego is this contour. It defines two separate domains, creating duality.
DJ: It seems to me that defining the ego the way you have defined it simultaneously defines the world.
FL: Absolutely, the body-mind complex and the world are two sides of the same coin, artificially created by thought, out of unicity.
DJ: The mind arises in awareness, but awareness somehow acts through the mind. Could you clarify this interrelationship?
FL: The mind is a concept which, as any other concept, refers to other concepts or to perceptions. In this case, the mind is seen as the container of all mentations. The mind is not an organ like the brain, it is not perceived, it is an abstraction; so there is no mind, there is only the concept of a mind. What is there then? Thoughts and perceptions or, more precisely, mentations. A mentation originates from awareness and sooner or later dissolves again into awareness. Thus, any mentation is awareness, in the same way that a gold ring, which originates from gold and later melts down into gold, is in fact always only gold. So there is only awareness.
DJ: What would you say to those who find your perspective either too theoretical or too difficult to apply in everyday life?
FL: Actually, this perspective is the least theoretical one can think of. Theoretical means “based upon concepts.” Non-dualism is a total rejection of all concepts, and so is radically non-theoretical. Since the non-dualist is not interested in any theories, his vantage point is eminently practical. Those who have been conditioned to understand in conceptual terms, in objective terms, moving from concept to concept, when confronted with a non-objective perspective, fail in their desperate attempt to find something to cling to, an object, a concept, and attribute their failure to the complexity or the “theoretical character” of non-dualism. The only obstacle in this case is their own beliefs, theories and habits that prevent them from having the direct experience of their own real nature.
One shouldn’t worry if one doesn’t understand all the various arguments because each represents only one side, one face, of the truth. Any of these paths leads to the ultimate; one needs take only one of them to get there and stay there. In time, as one establishes oneself in the single truth, all questions find their final answer. From the top of the mountain, looking down on the valleys, one can see all paths leading up to the summit—the one you followed as well as many others you might have taken.
Coming back to the original point, it may be of interest to remark that a theoretical approach never leads to a fully satisfactory answer to any question. To the question “Why A,?” the theoretician answers “Because B.” Then the question “Why B?” arises, to which he answers, “Because C,” and so on. He remains caught in an endless causal regression.
DJ: It is clear that assuming this perspective is based on theoretical presuppositions, that theoreticians have made a mistake. But have they made a mistake in thinking that it is very difficult? It certainly, at first glance, does not seem a simple matter to transcend concepts.
FL: It is very difficult, in fact it is impossible, for the ego to have a clear understanding of this perspective, but it is very easy for the heart to have an inkling of it. So I would tell them, “Let your heart be your guide.” Whatever brings you a flash of joyful understanding, keep it, cherish it. Do not start from the negative side, from the ‘I don’t understand’ side. Start with what you understand, what makes you happy. There is no need to understand everything; there is only one thing to understand, your permanent inner core. Only you can understand you, only you can be you. You cannot see you; you cannot think you, because you are you.” Isn’t it simple?
DJ: What is meditation?
FL: Meditation is our natural state, what we are spontaneously, what we have always been and will for ever be. Devoid of duality, of fragmentation generated by the I-concept, it is pure being, pure awareness, pure happiness.
DJ: Meditation then does not take time, does not occur in time, but is rather eternally present?
FL: Our true nature is permanent. It may call us at any moment of our daily life. It is important to remain available to it and to respond with our whole being. There are privileged moments when this invitation is felt more forcefully, for instance when waking up in the morning, before going to sleep in the evening, after a task has been accomplished, when a fear or a desire comes to an end, when we are astonished and find ourselves off the beaten path. We should make good use of these precious moments, especially the transitional states between sleeping and waking. If there is no compelling reason to keep us busy, we can live these moments completely, remaining open to our thoughts and bodily sensations, enjoying our freedom and the close presence, the peace of deep sleep.
This quiet welcoming of our thoughts and sensations should not become a drill or a habit. This would kill the freshness, the spontaneity of these moments. Like a lover, we should be ready to answer the slightest sign from the beloved, knowing that there is nothing we can do to bring about this invitation, since it comes from grace. In this way, we remain in our innocence, without any agenda, having nothing to lose and nothing to gain in the game of life.
This attitude of openness may be misinterpreted by an external observer who, projecting his own concepts, may think that a person is practicing esoteric exercises to achieve some mystical goal when in fact there is nobody, nothing is done, and there is no goal.