Brockwood bids farewell to Colin Foster, physics teacher and former Academic Director, who has lived and worked in the school for a total of 22 years and is leaving to pursue his own projects. He was recently interviewed about his life and time at Brockwood by mature student Pedro Lopez. The following is the transcript of the interview.
We had arranged to meet in the Conservatory of the Krishnamurti Center at 6 P.M. on a Sunday, after trying to find a free slot that us both (a Mature Student and a Staff Member) shared, which was less easy than it sounds. When I arrived there he was already waiting for me in the Sitting Room, reading the International Herald Tribune, something I have seen him doing several times in the same place, at roughly the same time. He was wearing brown trousers and socks, and the grey sweater he normally wears. He was wearing warm clothes for an early May evening. This has been anything but a warm spring, and very few flowers and trees outside have had the determination to blossom. He stood up as soon as I came in, got himself a cup of Grain Beverage and walked me to the Conservatory, where he moved a chair so we could sit facing each other. He was, as usual, very calm and gentle. While we sat in silence for a few minutes before starting our conversation, he stared with his grey-blue eyes at the horizon without moving at all, a thoughtful expression on his face. The sun still had a couple of hours to set down, but one could say that Colin looked as someone who is staring at the most wonderful sunset. That was the only time I saw him completely still. When he speaks he normally changes his position in the chair, as if he was looking for a more comfortable position. His face, though, shows calmness and comfort. We then started a conversation that would last for an hour, and which will mainly focus in Colin’s life at Brockwood. For those who do not know, he is leaving this year, after having been related to the School for nearly three decades. This interview is a small effort in trying to keep a bit of all he has seen and done here for the future. Speaking to Colin is like listening to jazz. You know were each question started, you never know where it is going with all the shifts and drifts he makes during the conversation, but it always comes back to the initial idea. He’s very fast at associating ideas, and entangles them making each answer a delightful story, with unexpected twists and pauses. Some phrases he doesn’t even finish, but it doesn’t feel as if something is missing, quite the contrary, it feels like what was about to come is not important anymore, and what is coming out of his reflective face is going to be the final answer.
When did you first hear about Brockwood Park?
I first heard about Brockwood in 1982, but I’ve known about Krishnamurti since 1979, I think that was the year I started reading him. And I guess I went through a similar route to many people, I found a book and, you know, at first I read a bit and wasn’t very struck by it. But then, something happened in ’79 I went down to… I was in the States where I did a kind of humanistic group therapy in San Diego. And that was an intensive month of doing humanistic psychology in encounter groups. After that, something happened to me in one of the last meetings at the end of that intensive month. I remember being in a meeting with people and they were talking about their problems, their marriage problems, their relationship problems, and I remember looking out of the window and it was a lovely afternoon, with blue skies, and I remember looking out at a palm tree, seeing the giant fonds gently waving in the breeze, and I suddenly thought that what I was really looking for was something more holistic than just problems with people. I had had a good month there, I learnt a lot, and I remember leaving, going up to San Francisco with that in my mind really, that what I was looking for included all of nature and not just people. And so, that was in 79, I must have been about 33 by then. So that was my state of mind when I went up to San Francisco, and of course in San Francisco they have excellent bookshops. So I started to… I was working there, doing a bit of manual labour with some friends, and one day I was in a Bookshop and I looked in the Philosophy section and there was this… I had heard of Krishnamurti and I had read a page or so, and there I saw the title The Flight of the Eagle. It was in the Philosophy-Religion section, you know how difficult it is to put Krishnamurti into a category. And I thought ‘that’s an enlightening title’, so it resonated with my looking for something which took in the whole of life, or something like that. So there it was, you know, The Flight of the Eagle. And then when I started to read something really connected. Because I’d also been reading Erich Fromm, you know Erich Fromm? He had one kind, of practice, it was to keep repeating the word ‘I’, and see were the word ‘I’ went. Just to say ‘I, I am me.’ And I remember that when I did that (it was just at that time), I realized that it seemed to be just a word, just a thought. This is before I found Krishnamurti, literally days before I went into that bookshop. And then of course I started reading The Flight of the Eagle, and in there Krishnamurti says ‘the thinker is the thought’; you know, he seemed to be saying that the word ‘I’ is nothing more than thought, thought creates the ‘I’. And when I read that, I had a kind of, I don’t know, a connection with what he was saying. I had never had that before with any writer…
Could we say revelation?
A revelation? Well I think we could in a way, except that what he was writing seemed to express what I’d seen in a very vague sort of way. Because when I saw it I wasn’t able to register the significance of that, but he was saying ‘no, this is significant, this is the fundamental cause of conflict, this confusion about the ‘I’, the ‘me’’. And I could see that it was true in a very deep way. It was really on to something.
So that would be meeting K and the teachings. And from that point, to coming and visiting Brockwood, how did things go?
I went the usual route, like most people. At that time it was all books really (no DVDs, etc), and I read all the books I could find. I’d gone back to University, I was doing some Physics research, but it hadn’t gone very well, and it was pretty clear that I didn’t have a future in research. So I drifted around quite a bit, and I began to think that maybe teaching could be an option, and did a course in English in London, teaching foreigners, you know, EFL, ESL and such. Then I went down to Portugal for a year and taught English, but that didn’t suit me either, it wasn’t really challenging enough. I found myself teaching ‘this is a cup, this is a plate’ you know (laughter). ‘How are you?’ And I wasn’t really good at it to tell you the truth, I mean I was OK with the advanced students, but I wasn’t good enough with the beginners, so I got sacked. I came back to England and I realized when I came back, after doing some research, that Krishnamurti was still alive – I didn’t know. And of course I saw that he was doing talks here (at Brockwood Park). That summer of 83, I came back from Portugal around the spring. So I contacted here and asked if I could come as a guest helper, so I came as a guest helper during the 83 talks. I stayed for a few weeks. I didn’t know there was a School beforehand. While I was here there was an announcement during one of the talks asking if anyone would like to join the School. I went to that meeting, with Scott Forbes. So that was in August, and I wrote to them and said I would be able to teach. And because I was a math’s and (science) teacher they got back to me very quickly, within a couple of days, someone on the phone said ‘come and stay in September for a trial term’. So I came, but I didn’t stay at that time, they didn’t need me. But I did keep visiting, because I was just in London, so I kept coming down. And then at the end of that academic year, I was living in London and Steve (Smith) said ‘what about coming next year, as a teacher?’
When you were visiting as a guest helper, what kind of activities did you have to do?
I remember that you had to help getting the food out, I wasn’t cooking, but there was a lot of that kind of thing because there were 2,000 people. You had to keep the tents, clean… I mean with 2,000 people there were always bits and pieces to do, we had problems sometimes and I had to deal with that…
Like a security bouncer?
Sort of, yes, it might have been the second gathering I did have to ask a couple of people to leave. But I don’t think I was anything more than an extra pair of hands, just to keep things going.
Would you say there are notorious differences between the students and staff members at that time and the people we have today?
Yeah… I mean, in the end people are people, but obviously Krishnamurti was around, and there was more focus on him. That’s obviously different now, because he’s not here. So the people could have a relationship with him in a way that we don’t now. There was more focus on the man than there is now. I guess that’s rather obvious, isn’t it, because he was here. Actually when I came, in ‘83, staff were very divided, because that was the time when Dorothy Simmons, the first principal, was in a state of… She had already partly stopped because she had had a heart attack. And Krishnamurti felt as though it was better for her if she stepped down. But the staff weren’t happy about people who were going to take over. So when I came here it was very unpleasant. My first staff meeting had a very poor feeling. I can’t remember what time of the year it was, probably summer, but some people where there for the last few weeks or days, and they were about to leave. And a lot of them did leave at that time. I still have contact with one or two of them. With the staff there was just a terrible feeling, a very unpleasant time; and some people said to me ‘oh, don’t come, the feeling here isn’t really good enough’. But I said to myself ‘no, I can’t take what other people say, I have to go and check it out myself.’ So if you are asking me about that particular time, it was a difficult time. Obviously it settled down a as time went by. I remember there was a meeting when Krishnamurti called us all together and said ‘look, is this what you want? Scott to be principal?’ There had been a leading group of four before that, but that hadn’t worked so well; I don’t know why because I wasn’t here. But having four people hadn’t worked; it was called the Gang of Four or something…
Four sort-of principals?
They moved away from that system, saying ‘we must have one principal’. And so Krishnamurti had the meeting with us asking if it was what we all wanted. Well, I hadn’t been there for long enough to say anything, but some of the older staff chimed up and said ‘yes, this is what we want.’
And was Krishnamurti different in these meetings from how he was in the Talks or Dialogues?
I wouldn’t say he was essentially different… For this meeting, it was quite a serious issue, it had been a difficult time and he was quite focused and serious. At other times he’d show the lighter part of his personality, which doesn’t come across very well in the talks and videos. But at that time I didn’t have an awful lot of contact with him in a direct sense, he was mainly concerned with talking to the whole of the staff. I did have a bit of contact in smaller groups with him… But you’re asking me if the staff and the students have changed from that time till now. It was definitely less relaxed then. It was more conservative, Anglo-Saxon kind of.
A bit more Thatcherian?
Yeah, maybe (laughs). It was more conservative, the girls had to have their hair tied up at meal times, and were not allowed into the cloisters. We used to lay the tables every time. You know, there are quite a few things like that that were happening. They really wanted a high level of, what can I say, refinement. Boys had to have short hair. Scott used to send them out to the barber if they’d have long hair. So in some ways things were much tighter, much stricter than they are now, certain conventions much more strictly observed.
Sounds like my Catholic School.
Well, yes, that was the feeling.
How was the process of you becoming a principal?
It went something like this really: I had quite a good relationship with Scott, I did respect him and thought he was a very able man, so I was able to work with him. So he brought me into the inner circle fairly quickly and I was always grateful to him for doing that, because it meant that in Krishnamurti’s last summer here, I was actually part of the small group of people that met with him. Steve and Wendy (Smith) were there, I think Bill (Taylor) came to one or two of those meetings. Ray McCoy was there, plus Gary Primrose and six others. So I think that helped lay quite a solid foundation for me here, having that contact with him. And after I was teaching here for four or five years Scott made me Academic Director. Remember, he was principal. So we weren’t on equal basis or anything like that, for I just did the academics. I did that for about four years, and it was my ninth year when Scott left, it was 92 or 93. So I’d been around enough here to know the place and what was going on, and actually I was quite happy to do it (become the School’s Co-Principal), because I was feeling as though after nine years of teaching I wanted to move on, I wanted to have another challenge. So it was pretty much right on time for me. It was a messy time again, because the whole thing around Scott was a bit of a mess actually, took about three years to sort out. A lot of hurt and a lot of pain.
As a Principal, do you remember any decisions that were particularly difficult to make?
We didn’t use the word Principal at that time; we called it Director after Scott left. They’ve brought it back again, you know, Co-Principals… We called ourselves Directors; it’s the same, really, just different names. Well there was one, I don’t know if I want names to come out, but there was one when we had to dismiss a Staff Member. And that was very controversial, because he’d been here for a couple of years, and made some friends and got to know some people. I was with Bill, actually, at that time, I had been director for a few years. That was a difficult one, that was a difficult decision to make. Because we don’t often have to dismiss Staff Members here. It was never easy, it’s always disconcerting, when students break the rules and you have to send them home, I certainly didn’t enjoy that. And I always felt a bit ambivalent about it. From an institutional point of view, we had to do it sometimes. In an institution, you have to say ‘this is the line’. But on the other hand, I always felt that they were good kids really, they were all right. They hadn’t “killed” anybody. So I didn’t find that particularly easy. But, of course, working with Len Peters, and then working with Bill, when we did it together it meant that you didn’t have to take the burden too personally.
Brockwood has been an important part of your life and you’ve been an important part of Brockwood’s life. Would you say that it’s been a love-hate relationship?
I don’t always find Brockwood easy in some ways, but I’ve always wanted the challenge of it. One of the reasons I left University and went to do something else… I remember the day I was driving into the University and I suddenly had the feeling of life passing me by. That phrase came ‘life seems to be passing me by’, and I really didn’t like it. And actually, I resigned within a month or two of having that idea in my mind. I went to the professor fairly quickly. But I’ve never had that feeling here, that life is passing me by, but it’s not to say that it’s always been easy for me. You see, when I first came, at that time, Krishnamurti was being quite demanding on staff. You know, it’s not that I haven’t had a family because of what he said, I wouldn’t do that, but I did pick up on that a bit, you know, this is a place for total commitment. At that time we didn’t have any families here. Harsh (Tankha) had a child, but that was seen as a sort of anomaly. That wasn’t so much the normal. Most people here unofficially decided to… You know, Krishnamurti used the word ‘marriage to this place’. And of course I wanted to do it; I didn’t just do it because of him. But you’re asking me what my relationship with Brockwood has been, has it always been simple? You know, it’s a demanding place, I’m not sure if that’s always been good for me eventually, to put so much into the place.
As a single person I have on occasion found myself getting isolated here even though living with 100 people. My difficulty was that when I first came here I formed many close relationships, but the nature of Brockwood is that people come and go, and when they go they go far away and keeping the relationships going wasn’t possible. I found that emotionally difficult. Though I don’t really regret it, I don’t really think too much about that. Because also, when I think of the other side, I’ve had a fantastic time. I’ve travelled the world; I used to go to India every other year. And the other years, I used to go to California. So, I’ve had a great time, a really great time. And I’ve always valued that, and I still have fun. You know, the international side of Brockwood and the work here, getting to know people from all nations has been a wonderful thing. There’s always been issues around the School, on what we are doing, are we doing what Krishnamurti wanted, the exam issue for example (it’s always been sort of a zone outside of it that we’re not quite resolving.) Those kind of issues, and of course, the way Brockwood is set up, whether we have a good year depends a lot on the students that we have. Because they come and go really quickly. It obviously depends on the staff, but you can have a large influx of students that can take the place either way.
What is for you the measure of success in a year at Brockwood?
Well, when you ask that question different things come to my mind. I mean, in the end, being in the school and thinking of the students, I just want them to be happy. Maybe that sounds rather obvious. But I think Krishnamurti did want us to be happy here, he wanted us to look at issues and learn about life; but also he wanted us to enjoy life. And also I look a little bit for students not being too troublesome, so that we’re not having to spend too much time or energy on disciplinary thing, not spending too much time on difficult students. We always have to do that to some extent. So I guess a good year for me is one where we’ve got enough students that are pretty much going along with what we want the place to be and what we are trying to do here, and not too much dissent or resistance.
Can you actually tell differences from one year to the next one?
Oh, yes. We definitely have had two or three great years here, you know. We’ve had difficult years. I tend to put those years out of my mind. Years in which we’ve had a lot of difficulties, a lot of messing around at nighttime, you know. There are different kinds of dissent from the students, there is that kind which is really disrespectful to the adults, and they’re really looking to deceive the adults. And there’s another kind which is experimental, they’re not really against us, they’re just trying to test out some things. And when that happens, I don’t feel so bad about it. It’s like ‘it’s OK, we’ve got to talk about it’. I guess for me one of the things is I don’t want to have too much division between staff and students. It has been important for me that we establish a feeling between the staff and students that we are together as human beings in a deep sense, K said consciousness is one. Unfortunately the most students come with that division firmly in their minds and the agreements tend to reinforce the division by making the staff enforcers. I feel some staff disagree with me on this and see students as essentially different. The main problem for me is labeling any human being, it might have some meaning to label someone a “teenager”, but ultimately it leads to conflict in relationships and denies the “thinking together” that K talked about. I hate it, for example, when I go to the School, and I go down the corridor, students are talking and when I come by they stop. It doesn’t happen very often, though. Or, when they stop doing something because they see me coming, I hate that kind of thing. But that doesn’t happen much at the moment; I don’t feel that’s happening too much. So, I think it is a good question, I don’t feel as though I’ve answered it. But I guess, just to repeat, a good year tends to depend quite a lot on how the students are getting on here. Like at the moment we are not having any problem with Enquiry Time; not every year is like that, sometimes we can’t get them to enquire into anything. This year, I remember one time, Bill just sat there and said ‘what should we talk about’, and for the next hour the students lead the conversation. And there’s another thing this year, I think the Mature Students this year have helped to make it a great year. This is the best group of Mature Students; they have integrated and involved themselves in a very helpful way.
No it actually was a good one. You know, other years, the Mature Students have been fine people, but they wouldn’t show much interest to interact with the students, they wouldn’t want to come to School Meetings, they would just want to go on with their own things. It’s just that they haven’t always integrated into the life of the school. It was OK, but this year, you guys are around, you know what’s happening. So that kind of thing helps making a good year.
In the School we give a lot of importance to speaking. We have Inquiry Time, Dialogues, School Meetings, Morning Groups, Decision Making Committee… What would be for you the actual value of all the talking?
On one simple level, I think for the students it is good to learn to express themselves in a kind of public way. Here they can do it in a very safe way. And I think that is a good skill for them, because then they go to interviews, they can express themselves and what they’re thinking.
I think we have to be careful here, I’ve even said this in staff dialogues last term, if people just talk, there is a danger. It can just create more division than you started with. Talking without being clear about what you’re trying to do. See, David Bohm spoke a lot to us about what the dialogue is, and he came up with some ideas of what you need to have a Dialogue. Communication is something which isn’t just an exchange of opinions. And I think that we don’t seem to have taken up this idea. He talked to us about this; before he died he used to come regularly. Talking about the staff, I think we do have to be careful to think that just by talking in Inquiry Time and things like that, somehow we are inquiring. Because I don’t think it is as simple as that. I think in inquiry or investigation you’ve got to be willing to come out of your comfort zone. And the danger, unless you have a kind of understanding about that, is that it won’t be much more than an exchange of ‘this is what I think’, or ‘this is what I learnt’. For me there’s not much point on doing that, I don’t really want to know what everybody thinks, you know, a hundred people. Do I really want to know what a hundred people think? (laughs). Not really. But inquiry and investigation is something that does require a skill that, I have to say, we haven’t mastered yet. How to do that? Krishnamurti and David Bohm tried to do it, you had the two of them, and I think they did start something, but they were exceptional people. We used the phrase the other day in the staff dialogue ‘active learning’, which I thought was quite good, and I said to the staff ‘are we actually doing it?’ And I also asked myself that too.
But the answer to all the talking we do, no, I don’t think it doesn’t have any value. In recent times I have come out of some of the staff discussions, or I know some staff who felt it too, and it hasn’t been a great dialogue. And I’ve said this, I’m not saying anything I haven’t said in public, but I think we have to look carefully at what it means to investigate into something. And make sure we’re not just falling into the sort of explanation, description realm. Where we’re getting into a kind of exchange where people are saying ‘oh, We do this’ and ‘We do that’ or ‘We don’t do that’, you see, the We statement is a sign we’re not getting out of our comfortable zone. So if you ask me about all this discussion and how do I feel about it, it is an issue for me, though we do have good moments.
One of the original intentions of the School is that in its deepest sense it should be a religious School. Do you think we achieve that?
Hmm, It’s a good question isn’t it? I tend not to think too much in those terms actually. For me it’s more about learning about “what is”, and learning about life. If that’s religious then, I don’t know, religious implies something like sacred, or immensity, or whatever, something like that. I don’t know if I see that in my life, I don’t really see that operating in my life really. I don’t really know how to answer that question.
It is said that every K School has a certain charisma. What would you think it would be ours?
I think we do have it. When you’re here living, it’s quite hard to see actually the energy and the feeling, though people remark on it when they come into it. I think we still have an underlying ethos that comes from Krishnamurti’s intentions; I think it’s still kind of in the air. Because there is a kind of openness to inquiring at the deepest level, and questioning. I feel it is still possible to do that here. You see, one of the underlying things that I’ve found, and people will disagree with me, that some people have felt, in the K world: ‘yes, the teachings are wonderful, etc, but to actually put them into practice is too risky. You can’t survive if you do what Krishnamurti really wanted us to do’. Also, the teachings are very nice, they’re in the library there, and as a person you read them, at six o’clock in the morning or something. Then when you come out into the ‘real world’ –that phrase is used a lot—you have to be pragmatic, you have to be normal really. And again, I don’t mind this going public because I’ve said this many times, I’ve said this to the staff, you know, you have to be careful with being normal, some people don’t like me using that word, because they say it implies problems, but it is the right word actually, you know, normal values, norms. So I think that has happened in the K world, that people say ‘yes, very nice the teachings, I read them and stuff, but actually when you’re running a school, you’re better off acting for the real world, so you better look like a normal school’. I don’t really think that’s why Krishnamurti started the schools for that to happen. I don’t think Brockwood has gone all the way towards that, but as I’ve said in the staff meeting more than once, let’s watch that we don’t go that way. Some of the parents would be happy if we did, if we just became pretty normal. Not all, some of them I’ve spoken to have said ‘I don’t send my kid here for that, if it was for a normal school I’d send them to the local school’. Some of the parents want us to be different, but of course, parents are a bit mixed. They want something different, but at the same time they worry about their children, they want them to fit in, which is understandable…
They want them to go to Cambridge.
Yeah, at the same time. They want the best of both worlds, so it’s a bit mixed for them. So if you ask about other schools, and what’s different from Brockwood, I think we still have an ethos going here, some people think it’s kind of in the bricks, but I’d say ‘hang on a minute, be really careful with that, because you can lose it’. I think it’s in the people in the end, and the people change. An ethos could disappear very quickly. But I don’t think it’s gone. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to say some of the things I say in staff meetings, you know, because I challenge it.
We seem to be the most international of the Schools.
We are. We are the only international school. True. We are the only international, residential boarding school. Rishi Valley is a boarding school, but it’s not international. And there are not many other boarding schools, I don’t think, in the Krishnamurti world. Only Rishi Valley and Brockwood. CFL is partly boarding.
The Oak Grove is not boarding?
No, not really. They have a few boarders, but it’s not boarding.
What is your favourite place here at Brockwood?
Hmm. Two places come to my mind. This room (the Center’s conservatory) and also the study. These two come to my mind immediately. But also the whole place really, I love the grounds, you know?
Have you found yourself missing a certain place you wouldn’t have expected to, when you’ve been away?
Well, no, not really. Strangely, I don’t go to the Grove that much. I don’t know what the reason is. There’s such a feeling in the Grove when I’m out there. Remember, I have never been away from here for very long. Even when I was in London recently for five years I used to come down here. I guess it is more the whole feeling of the whole place, really, is what I missed when I was in London, and when I am away. I always noticed it, when I start to get close, coming back from London or the airport, I suddenly realize as I come down, although I didn’t register that I missed it, something inside is like ‘oh, I’m glad I’m back’. You know, here. Of course the old tulip tree on the front lawn is actually one of my favourites, you know, the big one that has been cut back a bit. More than the Cedar. I think it is just an amazing tree. I’ve gone away from the question; you are asking what I have missed. I think what I like is the movement, the natural movement here, you know, out there the bluebells, the daffodils… that’s what I miss, rather than a particular place.
What kind of people you think Brockwood lacks of?
I’d like to see more staff who are pretty engaged with the place. Pragmatically, we’re moving more to non-residentials. I’m a bit worried about that. I think we need more adults who really want to come in here, and engage with the students and staff. Obviously for somebody like me, I’m with students all day, so come evening time I need a bit of a break. I think we need more people, adults coming here who really engage with the students. I have argued for two or three people to come next year, who I think will be that way, but I’m not sure they will come. So that’s my opinion, I’d like to see a few more of those kinds of people. When I think about going right back to the origins, you know, the founding, Krishnamurti wanted people who were pushing the boundaries a bit. As I said, I love that phrase ‘comfort zone’, it’s a common phrase, but I quite like it. People who are willing to come out of their comfort zone. You know to challenge themselves. I’m not saying we haven’t got any of those people, but as one gets older I get the sense that people retreat into a kind of psychological bubble of what they know. You know, ‘this is my known world’. I think that for the kind of learning Krishnamurti wanted, you’ve got to be willing to be disturbed, not for the sake of it, you know, The movement of life means you’ve got to let go of one’s security structures sometimes. If you’re hanging on to ideas or thoughts or places or people, it seems to deny that. So that’s one of the things that worries me.
How do you think students can benefit from being here?
Well, what I want them to do is, as I’ve often said, I want them to learn something they will take with them when they’re not here. You know, they can have a good time here, and that’s OK. But if that’s all they do, they just have a good time with their friends, and learn how to smoke marihuana and so on (laughs)…If that’s all they do, then it probably has not been of great value. When I went to London for a few years, because at that time I didn’t plan to come back, a phrase came and stuck in my mind, what Krishnamurti said, “to be a light to yourself”. Can you do that out there in the normal world, you know, can you stand alone? So if they can do that… And some of them do that, you know, they don’t get caught up too much in smoking and drinking. Some of them do get caught up, but some of them seem to have got some sense of thinking for themselves. So that’s a phrase that I would use, are they able to stand alone, psychologically? Not physically, you can do it in Central London really. But it sums it up for me, can you stand alone in modern society with all the distractions and attractions, and not going along with the normal, taking the normal way. You know, to be honest and have some integrity. Sometimes you do have to stand alone to do that, because some people say ‘don’t pay your taxes if you don’t have to, take money you shouldn’t take’. Lots of things going on.
There are different myths surrounding Brockwood, like John Lennon wanting to buy the house, or the FBI coming to check for an all-important American person’s child who wanted to come… Is there any that you recall now and you’d like to share?
They don’t come to my mind actually. I mean no, you’d have to say one and I’d have to say whether I think it’s true. The John Lennon one probably isn’t true. See I don’t really register that stuff much. You see, the stuff that goes around Krishnamurti, even the books and the scandals, I just don’t register that. I haven’t even read those books. Some people would say ‘whoa’, but it does not mean anything to me, really. With Krishnamurti there’s always been a lot of nonsense around him. Many years ago it was more to do with what the staff would pick up on what they think they were supposed to be here. But it’s not such a problem now, actually, it was more a problem in the old days. People thought they were expected not to get angry, to be happy all the time. That kind of myth. I don’t think that’s so true anymore. I think in that end, you’d have to say one story to me, say if it’s true… remind me. I don’t think the John Lennon one is true. He might have heard of K, but I don’t think he was into him. Krishnamurti was quite well known in the sixties, but he never appreciated much – he didn’t make much of that. But Mary Cadogan loves talking about these things, if you ask her about that, you’re gonna need a bigger book than that (laughs). She’d tell you. She knows a lot about that. She knows some of these people, she knows the actors in Hollywood… I always forget his name, the guy who did The Silence of the Lambs…
Yes, she knows him, she’s met him.
Anthony Hopkins is a K-follower?
Yes, he lives in Ojai. He certainly has some contact with the Foundation. There are some others, but these names come and go, you know, this is sort of, people in the old days. But anyway they’re quite well-known people, but they never meant much to me. I hear the stories and pretty much forget about them pretty quickly. But I tell you, if you ever get Mary Cadogan, you can ask her. I tell you, she will tell you some stories. And, you know, she doesn’t make things up; she knows all that history around K. I never wanted to be too focused on him. And I’ve talked about it in staff meetings… because he’s dead, he’s gone. And I always thought it was a danger with somebody, to get too focused on his personality. And of course when I first came that was happening a lot. So that sort of warned me off, getting too interested in him personally. I don’t even know all the history about him. I don’t read about it. That’s not interesting, not important to me. I did look at the biography though just to see the letters that he wrote. I just flicked through, and did see it.
Is there anything you’d like to say before we finish?
Something I didn’t say… The pressure to be normal, watch out for that pressure. If you get into that pressure too much the heart will go out of the place. And people and the place will survive, but there is a danger in a place like this that we just loose that extra feeling. And you see, what would be the danger, that people who are really interested in it won’t come. They won’t stay. And it is a danger. I’m not saying it is happening, but you’ve got to be on the ball all the time here. Otherwise the place will slip into that. And then you’ve lost it. It’s almost impossible to get it back again. So I would say that. Watch out. Pressure to be normal, it is very strong. And Krishnamurti did not start this place just to be a normal school, or a normal place – obviously he didn’t. But to do that, you gotta trust it. You gotta trust that what he’s talking about actually works. And that’s something that I’ve found, some people who where really interested into Krishnamurti and the teachings, they find difficult to trust it to the extent of putting their life for it. To trust it you must put your life in it. You know, people say ‘but I trust it enough to put some work in it, I read the teachings…’ But I’ve found a number of people saying ‘really, when you come to deal with the normal life, you gotta deal with it the normal way’. But you gotta trust it, or else it’ll become an intellectual thing also, you won’t get that trust just from reading the teachings. That trust, you gotta get it for yourself at some point. And I don’t know how the hell that happens, but somehow there is something which, “if you do the right thing, it will all be alright.” Now, when I say that to some of the trustees (laughs). You know, they don’t like people like me saying it because they feel only someone who isn’t responsible for the finances would say that. But for me, it is as true as the observer is the observed.
Interview of Colin Foster (physics teacher and former Academic Director) by Pedro Lopez (mature student)