Interview with emeritus Staff, Stephen Smith

The following interview in the form of a friendly conversation happened over the course of two meetings in the autumn of 2012. The interviewer, Pedro Lopez Merino, today a Staff Member,  first came to Brockwood as a Mature Student in 2009, which is when he got to know Steve. At the time Stephen Smith (also known as Steve) was the programme’s coordinator, which included facilitating dialogues twice a week. After having interviewed Colin Foster when he left Brockwood (also a former long-term Staff and Co-Director), Pedro thought it would be good also to have a record of Steve’s life and memories of the place. Stephen Smith was sometime Acting Principal, some years Academic Director, and twenty years a teacher at Brockwood Park School. 

stephen_smith        pedro

Steve                   Pedro

Pedro: It is the second time I do this interview because I lost the file, so let us start in a similar fashion as we did last time, which is by asking you questions about your life first.

So, where were you born?

Steve: I was born in Chesterfield—which is in the North of England—in the year 1939, the 12th of December, just after the outbreak of the Second World War.

Pedro: You’re from the 12th of December?

Steve: Yes.

Pedro: That’s my same day.

Steve: Yes, I know. The war broke out, I think, on the 3rd of September and I was born on the 12th, so I’m a war baby.

Pedro: Do you have any memories of the war?

Steve: I have some memories of bombing. Yes, I do.

Pedro: You were not there for the Blitz?

Steve: Well, the Blitz is a word that’s been taken over into English. It’s actually a German word that means ‘lightning’. And it’s an abbreviation of Blitzkrieg which was a strategy devised by Hitler. It means ‘lightning war’—you do quick strikes and you demolish or demoralise… you demolish buildings and demoralise people. And that puts you in a rather victorious position, or you think it will. So, yes, I was close to it, about five miles away—I don’t remember seeing it, but my mother told me you could see the sky, you know, lit up with flames, and substantial parts of Sheffield were demolished. We only lived five miles from the centre of Sheffield.

Pedro: So, what are your first memories like?

Steve: My memories are pastoral, actually. Because I was brought up on a farm. So, it’s fields and the stream and cows and horses and, you know… they’re pastoral memories, actually. So far as the environment’s concerned. This was in the county of Derbyshire, which is a transitional county between the Midlands and the North. I don’t know how much detail you want for all this, but anyway…

Pedro: Well—

Steve: Before the country was unified, the country I’m talking about is England, not Wales or Scotland. When… before it was unified there were three kingdoms: one in the North, one in the centre and one in the South. So this is Wessex around here, but

this was Chesterfield… well, the area I was brought up in was on the border of what was mostly Northumbria and they are all the kingdoms, they predated the unification of England and they predated the Norman invasion in 1066. Everybody knows the date 1066. So I was in that area. Just in the North, you could say, or on the fringe of that.

Pedro: Is your family Northern?

Steve: My  father’s from Derbyshire. Further west, the real, you know, heartland of Derbyshire, you could say. And my mother was from the Midlands. So, a very English background.

Pedro: What type of family was it? It was very English but what were their religious and political views?

Steve: Not much. Getting on with the farm was the, you know, survival. My early memories are of, well, survival, obviously, and hard work. Working from morning till night. Sort of from seven o’clock in the morning to eight or nine at night, those are my memories of what my parents and what other people did; they were working all the time. They were what you call ‘working people’. It was not an intellectual environment, at all. Or, at least it was nothing like that. It was pretty basic.

Pedro: So how come you became interested in letters and all that?

Steve: Well, my mother had been a bookworm and she was also a pianist. She could play tunes by ear, she could hear it, she would play it. She had a certain musical ear. So she always cherished these things, but she may have brought up… the family she grew up in was too poor to foster her interest and, in those days, there were no grants for people to go to university. So if you were poor you just didn’t go. After the war it changed substantially because of the development of the Welfare State and… and grants for people from poorer families, which, of course, I benefited from as did many others of my generation. You know, we went to universities. But that was unthinkable a generation earlier unless you had the money to fund it yourself.

Pedro: How do you see this new tendency towards abolishing the Welfare State?

Steve: Well, I think it has certainly been eroded but it’s still in place. I think it’s important to remember that the Welfare State is still in place even if eroded and that’s very different from not having one as is in the case in America, where there’s a great, um… repugnance and in some cases it is felt it’s not American to have a Welfare State. It smacks of socialism. There is provision, you know, there’s provision for people, but they wouldn’t call it a Welfare State, I don’t think. But the Welfare State it’s changed substantially but you still have a free health service. You know it’s changed with the times. I don’t think it’s completely gone, though. I think some of the best things for health are still there.

Pedro: So, can you tell me a bit more about the type of education you had?

Steve: Yeah, I went to local schools, I went to schools in my town until I was nineteen. Then I went to university in London and then, er, … the big world, obviously.

Pedro: What did you study?

Steve: German and French. I switched when I went to university, ‘cause I’d heard that you could do that. In Oxford and Cambridge, it’s rather simple. But actually I was in London and it’s not so simple there and it’s not so frequently done but I didn’t know that.

Pedro: To switch majors?

Steve: To switch majors, yeah. It’s not so common. But, you know, as is often the case when you’re innocent of something, it works. And, so although I was accepted to read French, I ended up reading German.

Pedro: Which of the two do you speak better now?

Steve: I think I speak French better now, but that’s because I’ve lived more in France and I’ve lived more with French people… German was more of a study and it was a youthful inspiration. I loved the language and I still do, actually. But I never had a close relationship with anybody in Germany. I’ve studied there; I went to university there for one semester in Heidelberg. Long time ago, 1961. But I, you know, I never had a close friendship with anybody there.

Pedro: You stayed for one semester in Heidelberg?

Steve: Actually, I went to Berlin.

Pedro: What were the differences between Germany and Britain in the ‘60s?

Steve: Well, Germany was an occupied country. I mean, about four miles outside of Heidelberg there was Patrick Henry Village which was set-up by Americans. There was a huge garrison close by, an American garrison. Germany, after the war, was divided into four zones of occupation: American, British, French and Russian. And of course the American, British and French quickly amalgamated and they formed the West German Republic, the Federal Republic which, I think got underway about 1949. And the Eastern, you know, the Russian sector became a separate state. And that persisted, um, right until 1989. And there was the building of the wall. I was actually in Berlin while the wall was being built.

Pedro: Oh, really?

Steve: Yeah. Kind of about a month later, that was it. They closed the border. It was a very tense situation and people were crossing, people were crossing the border from East into West Germany at the rate of a thousand a week. And that’s really why they built the wall and why they built a fence right along the East German border because they couldn’t keep their people in. They were all fleeing to the West. That was a somewhat historic event.

Pedro: Yeah, true. And you were there in London in the ‘60s? Did you get to be part of swinging London?

Steve: Well, it hadn’t started then, actually. It hadn’t started. It didn’t really being until about the mid ‘60s. ’65, ’66. It was coming, you could tell with rock ‘n’ roll and the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. You know, it was coming but it didn’t really explode until about the mid ‘60s. Then suddenly it was there, and it was a different story.

Pedro: You were no longer there?

Steve: I was no longer in London. I was in Paris by then. Paris hadn’t caught on yet. It was more traditional. But it was all in the air. It changed the world and there were some huge changes that came about then, too. Particularly, student protests. In Germany and France, and all the things that happened here, too. It was less political  in England… well, in England it wasn’t particularly political at all. In America it was more to do with a different way of living. You know, flower power and… the summer of love and all that.

Pedro: Were you in Paris in 1968?

Steve: No I wasn’t. No, I wasn’t in Paris in 1968. I actually went to Canada in 1968. Um, so, yeah, I mean, it was a remarkable time, actually. It was a remarkable time.

Pedro: So, when everybody was becoming interested in rock and roll and hippies and all that, what was your corner of interest?

Steve: Yeah, I was interested in that, too, but it was also… I think in this generation people tend to denigrate the ‘60s and think they were all flaky, kind of, high all the time. You know, into self-indulgence. But there was a lot of very serious stuff going on as well—and the questioning of authority and all that, it really began then. I mean, it really began at quite a serious level. And the questioning of values was in the journey to the East, which, you know, had existed in prior times among a few people but there was a positive flood in the ‘60s. I think K mentioned somewhere that he’d read that there were twenty-thousand Americans living in India sometime in the ‘70s. A lot of Westerners went to India. I mean a lot; I was one of them. Because they were looking for something that was not here in Western culture, and it’s as simple as that, really.

Pedro: Why do you think it wasn’t here?

Steve: Well… that has many layers, but it’s to do with the authoritarian structure of monotheism, for one thing. One God, which tends to work out as one authority. And the sense that there was also an orthodoxy; in spiritual terms there’s always a separation between God and Man. God and Man, God and Nature, Nature and God… you know… there’s a famous story about a Japanese professor called Suzuki giving a talk which he began by saying, “Man against God, God against Man; Man against Nature, Nature against Man; Nature against God, God against Nature. Pretty funny religion!” [Laughs] That’s how he started because I think there’s this sense of a split in the Western psyche between God and Man, God and Nature, Man and God… you know, there’s always this sense of separation, and that is not the same in India. There’s a sense that it’s one energy, if you like to put it that way, it’s one energy. And also that the divine can become human, with avatars, with sages, with… so-called ‘realised’ people. Which is not even a concept in the West—there’s nothing in the West that corresponds to a self-realised person. It doesn’t exist. You have saints, who you can say have given their lives to God or they’ve exhibited some special powers or some special healing or they’ve derived something special from their relationship with Jesus. But, it’s not self-realisation. That does not exist and when you’re in a culture where that does exist, it makes a difference and the attitude towards the religious life is very different in India. So I think people were drawn in awe towards that life. And some stayed. A lot didn’t.

Pedro: So you mentioned that you did numerous trips in those years?

Steve: Yes

Pedro: Which ones do you feel affected you or marked you the most?

Steve: Oh, my first trip to India was an absolute knock-out.

Pedro: When was it?

Steve: That was 1969, summer of 1969. It was an absolute knock-out and, paradoxically, I didn’t go from this country—I went from Canada. For six or eight weeks. It was eight weeks, I think.

Pedro: You escaped Woodstock?

Steve: Yes. Of course, not everybody did go to Woodstock, either. I knew actually one person who went to Woodstock, although it was not that far from Montreal, actually. But I didn’t go to Woodstock. I went to India, but it was a complete knock-out… I mean, to encounter this culture first-hand.

Pedro: What drove you to India?

Steve: Well, with some friends we got interested in yoga, we got interested in this other dimension of living, we got interested… see, all this was kind of incipient at that time. It’s now kind of got more of a track record, the whole track of the alternative society, holistic living, whatever it means… vegetarianism, non-killing… you know, this current was just more or less getting going at that time and it was very different. I mean, American society was polarised at the end of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Freaks and Straights—you were either one or the other [Laughs]. And you tended to wear your badge, too: if you were a freak, you wore your hair long… if you were straight, you didn’t. You know, there was a certain… it was quite polarised. America does tend to polarise anyway, but then… it was quite polarised into freaks and straights, and it really meant something also. Now, you know, if business executives wear long hair in ponytails it doesn’t mean anything—it’s just a fashion statement. But, at that time, it actually did mean something. It meant you were subscribing to different values.

Pedro: And you were a freak?

Steve: I was a freak, yeah, clearly. People would call at me in bars and say ‘The ladies is round there’ [Laughs]. I didn’t encounter any violence, but there was some violence. In the film Easy Rider, which is worth seeing, they come across the violence in the South, but I didn’t personally encounter any violence; it was just jokes, you know, remarks, there was no physical violence.

Pedro: Then Nixon came to power.

Steve: Yes. By the early seventies already, a recession had clicked in. So this sense of having it all your own way was kind of over. There is also the Vietnam War, in which thousands of Americans were killed. Vietnam had virtually no impact on Europe at all because none of the European powers sent soldiers there. But for the Americans it was their war really, and they lost a lot of men, and it scarred the national psyche considerably. It was not an easy thing. So, these factors came in and ended it. The party was over.

Pedro: Well, there seems to be a relationship between economic abundance and the surge of liberal ideas.

Steve: Yeah, liberal ideas, prosperity, invention… I think they go together. When you have plenty, then people actually have time for other things, and they get creative, basically.

Pedro: So, I believe at some point you wanted to be a poet and you even went to live on an island in the Mediterranean to write poetry.

Steve: Yes, poetry, well prose rather than poetry. But yes, I did want to be a writer, that’s true, and also going to Paris was very much connected to that because I thought that’s where writers went. That’s where Hemmingway went, that’s where Joyce went, that’s where Beckett went; that’s where, you know, … they all went to Paris.

Pedro: Cortazar.

Steve: Huh?

Pedro: Julio Cortazar.

Steve: Cortazar, yes. But in a way it was over by then, you know; cities have their days, I suppose. But I did it, I did write while I was there, I got my little room and that’s what you do; it’s a very lonely thing to be doing, you just, you supply yourself with the necessities of life and lock yourself away for hours on end and write. That’s what writers do. And they explore their own world in doing that, their own psyche—which is not over, that process has not stopped for me. I’m always interested in that and when I sit down and write I’m often surprised by what comes out. I won’t necessarily sit down to write about something, though I may have a theme or a topic or someone may suggest one to me; but actually I often find that when I sit down and write and something comes out, it surprises me.

Pedro: Did you ever publish?

Steve: Yes. Well, it was not a very reputable publisher, it didn’t go anywhere, but yes, I did actually.

Pedro: Is it still in print?

Steve: Yes, there’s a copy in the school library actually.

Pedro: What’s the title?

SteveBiblion (b-i-b-l-i-o-n) I had a massive idea when I was in my twenties about doing a cycle of novels a bit like Balzac’s Comedie Humaine. He describes society in France and particularly Paris at that time, and it’s a great opus, a huge one; but this opus would be built around the Bible, the biblical books. Which seemed to be a good model because they’re both a historical narrative and a revelation because God is revealing himself through the prophets and, ultimately, through Jesus Christ. And, if you’re a Christian, he’s the ultimate incarnation, so that kind of appealed to me, but also other things started to happen. Particularly this interest in the East, the interest in India and of course teaching, and so it went on for a long time, and then Brockwood came along and, as everybody knows, Brockwood’s a full-time job—you don’t do anything else.

Pedro: Yes, we’re going to get there. When did you start, or what were the first philosophers, thinkers, religious teachers that got you…

Steve: Fired up?

Pedro: Yes, fired up.

Steve: Well, the first book I was ever given in this vein was a K book.

Pedro: Was it?

Steve: It was The First and Last Freedom that was given to me by a friend in January 1968. And I read it and liked it; it appealed to me, but I didn’t really know how I could apply it, it didn’t seem to have any immediate application and it wasn’t a philosophy in the sense that you could study it, not in the usual way, anyway. So I read many people, I read Yogananda and Aurobindo in particular. When I went to India in 1969, I went to the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry and stayed there most of the time—I think out of the eight weeks I was there, six—I went there and stayed there and liked it.

Pedro: Did you ever think of actually staying?

Steve: Oh yeah, I went back in January 1970. I went back to stay and I thought I was going to be there for the rest of my life. I went there with great conviction and I thought I was going home. So it was a passion, and it’s a very well-run ashram. It’s seen to be a paradigm of the new society, also; a number of Gandhi’s ideas were taken on board and actually practised there while they weren’t in most of India, actually. It’s a very international environment also. I mean, it’s basically Indian but there’s a sprinkling of people from all over the world. And that also resulted in the creation of Auroville, which was just getting going when I was there, and now has expanded. Actually, there’s a former student from Brockwood who lives there, farms there. He also has a band, he is a man of parts, he is an interesting character.

In those days I was really… searching and had to find something that could combine the spiritual with the material/ practical, but whose basis was spiritual and not, say, psychotherapeutic. So that was quite a decisive time in my life, and also, just to make that point clear, that they were not the same. To cut a long story short, that’s what brought me here.

Pedro: That’s what I wanted to ask, how did become interested in education before coming here?

Steve: Well it was really by a process of elimination. I never actually wanted or chose to be a teacher, except by default when I got my degree and looked around and thought, well, ‘What can I do? I don’t want to go into business, I don’t want to go into industry, or other things, what’s left?’ Well, teaching was left, and I didn’t want, either, to take any further studies, I was more or less put off that. Things were very different at that time; all that has changed completely.

Pedro: What do you mean?

Steve: Well, the whole field of further degrees is much more open and much more welcoming now. At that time, it was a rather formidable business. And you somehow got the feeling that, unless you were a scholar-born, then it was not for you. Anyway, I had had enough of university, so I became a teacher. But I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a writer. So, I sort of kept on doing different things but the teaching was slotted in because it was available. I was doing something. I taught in England first, then I was in this college in France, Paris: schools in England, a college in France, a high school in Canada, a grammar school in England again… I played the field a bit, and eventually I was teaching in Leicestershire, and from Leicestershire I came here; actually, the person who introduced me to Brockwood was a man who died fairly recently called Jim Fowler, I don’t know if you ever met him.

Pedro: I don’t think I did.

Steve: Yeah. Well, I met him at a meditation retreat. I met him and I asked if I could visit him at Brockwood, because he was the yoga teacher here in the early days. And he said, ‘Yeah, sure, come on over, on a Sunday.’ I’m not sure if they worked on Sundays in those days but I visited him on a Sunday, I think it was January ‘73 and spent some time here and applied to be a Staff Member, but was told that they had a full house. They said, ‘But leave your Curriculum Vitae’, which I did, and then two years later I got a call, saying would you like to come and teach here! [Chuckles] And it really did happen that way, it wasn’t because I pursued it or was down here every weekend or even for the talks, I didn’t even come to the talks.

Pedro: You never came for the Brockwood Talks?

Steve: I didn’t come to the talks, although I had heard K speak in New York City in 1968, in October 1968, and again in ‘71. I heard him in New York City, over two weekends, and I also heard him in Delhi, while travelling with friends, same people. And so I had heard him speak. I mean, I was sort of coming under the influence, you could say.

Pedro: You never went to any other Krishnamurti schools before Brockwood?

Steve: Oh no! I learnt about them after coming to Brockwood.

Pedro: Right.

Steve: Yeah, I learnt about them after coming to Brockwood, and of course there is an international network, and I later got involved with that.

Pedro: What do you think is the difference between traditional education and education in the Krishnamurti sense of the word?

Steve: I think there’s a huge difference. I think the whole thing is different. I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest edition of the Good Schools Guide; there’s a rather witty report on Brockwood. It is very kind to Brockwood, and it is quite amusing in a way because they do actually get to the point, you know, they don’t just waffle on about happy students or something. They really do get to the point; it says at one point, ‘the School has the the modest claim of transforming human consciousness’ [Laughs)] and they just leave it like that, that that’s its modest claim. So in a way it is that, it’s totally crazy. We are on to it, and people are on to it, and they stay with it. At least some stay with it; I mean, it’s a crazy proposal, but it is there. He [Krishnamurti] said it in all seriousness too, and he wanted you to be serious with it also. So you know, it’s crazy enough for me, so I stayed here.

Pedro: You told me last time that K said that there were three pillars to a Krishnamurti school.

Steve: Yes.

Pedro: Which I don’t quite remember.

Steve: Quite right, yes. A principal of one of the schools, the principal of Rishi Valley at the time, he asked Krishnaji ‘what is the basis of a Krishnamurti education?’ And K said: ‘To develop global awareness, to care for the land and human relationship, and thirdly and lastly—and really, most seriously—the religious mind. To develop the religious mind, that of course is the tough one and it’s the distinctive one also that distinguishes these schools from at least most of the rest, if not all.

Pedro: Do you feel that we, both at Brockwood and the other K-schools, are tackling that?

Steve: I, I think that we’re a bit in the dark about the religious mind. I am not quite sure if we really know how to tackle it because I’m not sure how many of us tackle it in ourselves. Global awareness is fairly straight forward, you know—not nationalistic, not parochial, not waving the flag and all that—it’s fairly obvious. Even in care for the land and the environment; not killing, and human relationship, the value of it, the importance of it. I think it’s a very important factor to emphasise because so many relationships now seem interchangeable, almost like changing clothes, you know, ‘Oh, you’re with her, oh, now you’re with…’ It seems interchangeable, there seems to be some lack of depth there, so I think that it is something important to emphasise. But the religious mind is the basis of it and I think that’s the one that we really still need to get to grips with. Umm, and it is not so obvious.

Pedro: So, seeing there are three pillars, would you say that, if the third one, the religious mind, is present, then the other two happen, more or less?

Steve: Yeah, I mean I would say they fall into place. I would say that they fall into place but they… the difficulty is having the religious mind in the true sense, so not sectarian, not ideological, not as it has existed in fact throughout history, more or less, becoming indoctrinated, becoming ideological, becoming sectarian, ritualistic, not that, something else. And that’s the something else that one is after and that needs to be fostered, cultivated, brought out.

Pedro: So, we could say that these three pillars are the core of what we are trying to do at Brockwood, but at the same time many feel that the school needs to survive.

Steve: Well, yes, it must survive, yes. But I think if it does the right thing it will survive, that’s what K used to say, you know, ‘Do the right thing’, even with money he would say ‘Do the right thing and the money will come.’ And I think that doing the right thing is the important thing, I’m not saying it’s not being done, I’m saying that it constantly needs to be done, and that may involve some change from time to time. The place has been through terrific upheavals, huge upheavals. But it’s still here, so, something’s working.

Pedro: How was the feeling when you first came and how is it different to now, and how has it been different through the decades? It’s going to be thirty years soon since you came.

Steve: Actually it’s more than thirty years. I came in 1975, so it’s actually thirty-seven years.

Pedro: It’s going to be forty soon.

Steve: Yeah [Laughs]. I think, one way of looking at it, is to look at it contextually and I think that’s always valuable. In fact, I think it’s very valuable with K himself also. It’s good to look at it contextually in the light of what the 70’s were. I mean, it was a post ‘60s kind of place, you know, there was a lot of freedom given to the students, as there is now. I think in the early days there was much more sense of its being a community endeavour, and that was also somewhat contextual because the ‘60s were like that, I mean, the whole thing about challenging bourgeois marriage, the nuclear family, you know, the people living together in communities, communes, various liaisons within that… it was a real assault on the bourgeois ethic, and therefore the community was very important. At the same time it was quite ascetic. Probably Bill [Taylor] said something about that because he was sort of on the tail-end of that part, you know, no children, couples were even frowned upon… So it was much more ascetic and there was a strong emphasis on communal participation as there might be in a kibbutz. There was a very strong sense of the-community-comes-first, and then your personal life comes after, if at all. And that did create a certain communal spirit, no doubt; I think it also did some damage to a number of people. It was not all great, by any means; I think now there’s less pressure in a certain way, but at the same time one feels a certain lack of intensity about the main purpose. Not in the Foundation or in the Centre so much, although it could be perhaps more there too. But in the school there seems to be –among the staff anyway— less of a sense of what they are here for other than providing for students, which was always a major factor anyway; but, you know, the other things, that K brought with him and that he held meetings with staff about. In those days you had access to him that way. That is what is weaker—that sense of passion and intensity is a good deal weaker. And now it is more individualistic also: there is a deal for this one, a deal for that one.

Pedro: Is it worth recovering that spirit, and how can it be recovered?

Steve: I think some of it needs to be recovered, yes, that’s my own personal feeling. I think some of it needs to be recovered and the staff more valued for being here for their interest, real or potential. Some recreation of that, I think, happened with this program Educating the Educator; it happened at least for a couple of weeks. But sustaining it over the year, that is the difficulty, sustaining the sense that they are all in it together, that they’re doing it together, that their contribution matters, and that they’re not, you know, they’re not just filling a gap that could be equally well filled by somebody from Eastleigh coming here on a part-time basis and no interest in K. You know, that has to stop.

Pedro: So the relationship, most of us have now, towards the place is somewhat different.

Steve: I think so, yes, it is looser, I mean, there are some positive sides to that, but  this lack of a dialogue, the lack of adult dialogue is a serious concern of mine, you know, that the staff are not being nourished, to put it that way. You can say ‘Well, it’s their fault, they should encourage themselves’ but that that is not entirely fair either, I don’t think, because not everybody knows how to nourish themselves and yet the inward nourishment is hugely important. I mean, you won’t get flowering without it. So, the sense of being in something together, doing something together, which is, umm of importance, not just for the place but for society and even the world at large—I think that needs to come more sharply into focus.

Pedro: Do you feel that you somehow sacrificed the possibility of having a family?

Steve: Well, for me, it somehow never appeared as a serious option, actually. I mean, being here at that time, it was not a good place to have children, and also, you know, there were some fairly serious concerns.  There were some exceptions, but they didn’t have an easy time, the kids who were brought up here, nor made particularly welcome, which is not nice for a child, actually. And the environment is too big for children, you want a small environment for a child. And, I don’t know, I was just… I guess I had thrown myself in at the deep end. I have not regretted it actually, I think it would have been a different life experience, must be, if you have children, because you’re with them the whole time, you know, you watch them grow, and I’m sure that there are some healthy things possibly I have missed. But I don’t think I regret it, I don’t think … because there seems to have been only time enough for the things I have done! So, you know, I just about managed what I’ve done.

Pedro: Well, you still have plenty to do.

Steve: Yeah, and I still have plenty to do—I hope, anyway.

Pedro: What are your most enduring memories of you encounters with Krishnamurti and what do you think made him, as a man, special or different?

Steve: Yeah, well he was certainly very different as a human being. I think he was a different order of human being, I mean, he’s the only human being I ever met whom I thought was of a different order. Even [David] Bohm who was so brilliant intellectually and touched by genius at times, no doubt, but he was still… he was still one of us. But brighter [Laughs]. To put it that way, intellectually at least, a lot brighter, a lot sharper, a lot quicker, but he was still an ordinary mortal. I never regarded K as an ordinary mortal, although I think he liked to regard himself as that –and in some way he was–, but there was always this other thing that… that was, of him and around him, I would say. That was not always obvious while you were sitting with him at the dining table when he would talk about the students or, you know, casually about politicians; he was not on the platform all the time, obviously, but in a sense you felt he was bringing something through which was actually rarely seen or rarely heard. So, yes, he was extraordinary in that sense.

Pedro: And what can we do, individually and collectively, to keep that flame?

Steve: Well, I think we need to focus on it and keep re-focussing on it, whatever we are doing in our daily lives—publications or archives or Centre. Dialogue, we need to have a dialogue with one another. I feel that that is extremely important for the staff to have, as it were, a life of their own, I don’t mean just a private life, or your intimate relations, I don’t mean that, I mean a kind of communal life of their own where they’re kind of pushing things, pushing the limit of their understanding. And that does seem to be extraordinary difficult because of the energy that is required to keep things moving, keep publications moving, and keep the Centre alive, and keep the school running… But I think that that is the need, I think it’s a crying need, actually, and it was more obvious and more available in the earlier days because we had K here from May to November and we also had David Bohm every weekend, so there was somebody coming in and bringing that, and it’s much more difficult when you have to do it yourself. But I feel it is necessary, and chances should be taken like the retreat at Yewfield or whatever, you know, they could really be capitalised on much more, probably.

Pedro: I have one last question, but I am not sure how to ask it. Do you feel that, transformation, whatever you understand by that word, is one thing that happens from then and forever, or is it more of a constant process?

Steve: It’s a more of a constant process. Well, if you read the work of, say, the Mahabharata, it  says it’s like the leaf that falls from the tree, you know, there’s a huge build-up but, once it’s fallen, it’s fallen and everything is different. And that makes sense to me. On the other hand, the trials & tribulations, scenarios one encounters, all of the things that one goes through on a daily basis, I feel, do somehow accumulate, and there is something that you could call maturation. Which is not quite the same thing as flowering but it is related to it, because the flowering in some sense depends on the nurturing, you know, the soil, the watering and all that good stuff. There is such a thing as maturation, and you have to apply yourself to it. I think one of the difficulties, and it may be more difficult with K than with others, is that people don’t quite know how to apply themselves to the teachings or to the truth of the teachings. It is fairly elusive in fact because he is often saying, ‘It’s not this, not that; you can sit in the corner for the rest of your life’, and that’s true but, you know, he also wanted there to be a Morning Meeting, for instance, at the school, where you sit quietly for ten minutes. So, you have to be very careful about taking what he says literally, and I feel there is an application you have to keep going for it, reading, viewing, talking, looking… You know, the activities of daily life, and I’m not saying it’s not here, I think this place has an extraordinary atmosphere, but the application needs to go on because it’s not a closed field and it’s not come to a fixed point, nor should it, it could keep on growing, developing.

Pedro: Is there anything you would like to say before we finish?

Steve: Thank you! [Laugh] It’s interesting to look at all this in the context of my own life, in the life of Brockwood, and what is all out there for the future. I think huge things, actually, you only have to look at the news to see all the turbulence there is in the world. There’s things that K said about how the change is in consciousness, and that is ever clearer, that’s where the real change has to come from; you can fix things a bit politically, economically, this, that, the other—and all of that’s necessary—but the real change is in consciousness. And to come to that point, even to see that that is the point, that in itself is quite a step. It’s quite a step to see that that is the point, and that the consciousness is not some vague abstraction that’s floating around: it’s you, you are that consciousness. And then, when that hits you, that you are that consciousness, the vitality of that hits and the necessity therefore to address your own consciousness and to sort of tend it, as it were, rather than just regard it as some kind of appendage that goes around and fixes things, which it doesn’t do very well anyway, or only to a very limited extent. To see that it is about consciousness and that that consciousness, you know, I am the world, that consciousness is me, and to tend that garden, that is the real step, and if more people can come to that, umm, then I at least would be happy. [Both laugh]

Pedro: Thanks, Steve.

Steve: Okay.

Pedro: Very nice.


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