Dialogues - Interview with Tony Parsons


About Tony

Tony Parsons has been communicating this non-dualistic message for ten years with absolute clarity. His playful openness ensures that the message is delivered with warmth and laughter. Tony’s invitation is for the simple discovery of the open secret.

The author of ‘The Open Secret’ and several other books, Tony facilitates open discussions on non-duality in London and Europe. For more information visit Tony’s website www. theopensecret.com

The Mind misinterprets the non-dualistic message

Halina - When we talked on the phone you mentioned a passion for this message to remain uncompromised.

Tony - The mind fears this message. In a sense the message about non-dualism is about no- mind, it’s about moving beyond mind. Then the mind has to take its place in the theme of things and be a tool rather than being the false king.

So when the mind hears this it will try any way of compromising it. When anybody comes to a meeting then what they will hear is the mind fighting for self-survival.

Most religious approaches to advaita revert back to the mind as a way of self-survival. Transformation is about the death of something, the loss of being separate, the loss of being an individual. When the mind hears this message it will find any way to compromise it so the story of the person can continue. What you hear in these meetings is:

‘I want to go on continuing and the only way I can go on continuing being a person is to seek, so how dare you tell me that there is nothing to seek!’

And one of the ways that the mind twists this message is by getting very interested in the appearance of you, the messenger, the character and personality of Tony Parsons.

Absolutely, there is a fascination with me and the question:

This is ridiculous as there is no individual who is enlightened. It is another way of saying: ‘Are you a person who continues because I want to continue?’

Everything happens as before for no one.

Absolutely, it is the end of individuality. So the individual gets nothing out of it. No one benefits from liberation.

It is impossible for the individual to imagine not being.

The greatest fear arises when people come across this particular uncompromised message. It is intuited that it is about their own death. It is about absence and that is feared more than anything else.

So the mind will try anyway to get round this or compromise it. What is interesting for instance is that the system of self enquiry is very close to this message but it still finds a place for the mind to survive taking people into the world of detachment. Then there is still someone there who is aware of life happening.

When you mention the word detachment it reminds me of another misinterpretation of this Buddhist idea of detachment. One translation of the original text suggests that it is not detachment in itself that must be sought but that liberation is a detachment to the concept of self.

That does change that message quite a lot. But the only thing that I would add is that the message is not about a detachment from the self it is about there being no self. It simply is not there. There is no self that you can be detached from.

There is this memory of being a somebody that believed when the self died it was going to be like alien, screaming it would leave the body and melt on the floor. Death of self was going to be painful!

Yes (laughter). People are frightened of their own death.

Another fear that was around was the fear that there would be a difference in relationships with family etc. Halina may loose the love for her son.

Yes, there is a fear of loosing your life and that includes loving your son. I think what is amazing to discover after liberation, is that there is no ‘you’ that has a son and there is no son. All of those things fall out of the window. But what is there in their place is ‘mothering’ or ‘being friendly’ without there being any investment in that. So something much richer takes the place of what we think of as our roles.

Would you say that the belief in being a separate self is an over-identification with thought?

Absolutely, after liberation dream thinking still continues but there is nobody listening and that’s the difference. When there is somebody listening they give so much power to the thinking process that they become part of it and believe in the story of themselves.

That reminds me of another expectation that in liberation there will be no more neurosis or pain.

Yes, that’s very sweet; you can understand it as it has been the basic teaching of becoming enlightened, that you will be blessed and live in bliss. Hooray! But it is so unreal and related to the idea that liberation has something to do with the person. After liberation neurosis goes on merrily happening. (Laughs) Why shouldn’t it?

That’s another misunderstanding when people see any personality quirk then they feel there cannot be liberation as the person doesn’t appear to be perfect.

Yes, its gorgeous stuff isn’t it? The mind will find any way it can to get out of this. (Laughter)

Another question that often arises is: why is there suffering?

When there is separation there is apparent suffering. We think starvation is suffering but in fact every separate person lives in suffering and that drives them for a solution. Traditionally religions teach that if you change you can go beyond suffering. The revolutionary non-dualistic message, the open secret, is that ‘what’ suffers comes to an end. When there is ‘no one’ then ‘no one’ suffers. It sounds too simplistic to the mind.

There is still pain in the body here but when there was a person to own it there was a whole layer of suffering on top of the pain. ‘Why me?’

The communication of boundlessness in the meetings

Going back to your passion to communicate this, it seemed very clear when I got up to talk about this that it is nothing to do with the personality of Halina! The message has a life and energy of it own.

This mind is exploring what to say thinking I should say something different as I am talking in London again, but when it comes to it, I stand up and there is no idea of what is going to come out. This thing comes out of nowhere and speaks through this body. Tony Parsons sits there and sees this amazing thing happening. Sometimes what is said shocks Tony Parsons. Sometimes you get a question that you have never heard before and the mind wonders ‘what is the answer to this?’ The question proceeds to the end and suddenly a voice starts speaking that is not guided by the mind. It is a response to the question. It is out of nowhere. (Laughs heartily).

I have heard you use the symbol of the cross when talking about the co-existence of time and timelessness.

I have a Christian background and I guess it is in the psyche of most western people, the symbolism of the cross is far more powerful than we think it is. There seems to be a horizontal or linear world which is time, cause and effect, story. Actually that horizontal world that we think is real is actually a parable speaking about verticality. Here we get into the deep mystery that nobody can describe that this meeting point where the verticality meets the horizontal, this point is actually timeless. It is not as though there is verticality moving along the horizontal but that point in the middle of the cross is the timeless ‘is-ness’. The timeless Being is nothing apparently happening.

Which is what we are?

Somehow the feeling of that opens up in communication about this. I remember attending my first meeting. I told my friend Richard that I would give it ten minutes then I might disappear to go shopping but the minute you entered the room there was the feeling of the timeless.

Yes, I think that’s more powerful than anything. All these words… I’m just writing a new book and I think: this amazing collection of words! The most powerful thing is that energy, that boundlessness. It doesn’t belong to anybody.

The other thing that is quite powerful in the audience is that there is a sudden realisation that there is no expectation of anybody in the room. The audience of apparent seekers is simply seen as being. There is no separate person in the audience from this point of view.

Expectation is part of the prison, isn’t it? Expectation is quite a theme?

Absolutely, in the spiritual world where there is a teacher there is expectation that the student will rise to a certain standard. That is simply not present in non-duality meetings. And that is very powerful.

Do you want to say something about what goes on in the meetings with the question and answer format?

I definitely sense that there are a number of people in the audience who re-entrench themselves more powerfully in being separate. (Laughs). You can sense it, you can understand that when the mind hears this message it wants to devalue it all or avoid it and find something that will collapse it. If it can’t then it will rationalise what is being said.

So a number of people will never really hear what is being said and daren’t. They will then go away with a confused idea of what’s being said or a rationalisation, a misinterpretation of it.

But when there is a readiness, and this is nobody’s readiness, there is an opening into this boundlessness that is most powerful.

The other interesting thing about the audience is that I would say 60% of the audience never asks a question. These are the people who have been before and the questions are over.

If the answers are really listened to they are always bringing people back home to mindlessness. This has happened to a lot of people. The mind asks a lot of questions then it just gives up because it isn’t getting anywhere.

Yes, I remember my first times asking a lot of questions then gradually they dried up. It was during the years of sitting with no questions, that the self was dying.

Quite a number of people say to me at the end that they came with quite a number of questions but they sat down and all my questions collapsed. It’s amazing! (Laughter).

I used to phone you with questions to try to get that other thing- the feeling in the meetings the tangible joy.

That is more transformative than anything else.

It is what we are and what we overlook through the story in time. Our traditional education does not incorporate it.

We are taught instead to achieve.

We are taught to overlook that feeling that was always there that tangible joy that is so powerful.

Totally, because we are in a target, goal oriented world.

Non-duality and modern science

It is interesting that a lot of young people are coming to meetings and hearing this message. It is a message of anarchy that contradicts the traditional societies message of authority.

My sense is that authority has lost its hold on the younger generation. There is no question that religious authority has virtually collapsed and that political authority is collapsing. Young people have a sense that there is something else beyond the idea of authority. They are very excited by this message which is absolute pure anarchy. This is the open secret, that there is no authority, there is no script, no destiny. There is nothing ‘up there’ making life happen.

Life is a spontaneous arising.

Yes, it’s a very powerful and revolutionary message backed up by many scientific discoveries being made these days.

At the quantum level the laws of nature are different from how they are on this level so the make-up of our world is not as it appears. Many scientists are concluding that there is an underlying unity that exists outside time.

In the quantum field things change depending on whether or not they are focused upon.

Yes, the other interesting field is neuroscience. A scientist in Holland has recently proved that at a very early age something happens in the brain where a ‘me’ is simulated in order to protect the organism from what seems to be a separate world.

The brain simulates a landscape and as we grow we learn to take the simulation seriously.

From survival then the whole story kicks in about control and making your life work and choice. (Laughingly). Actually the whole thing is based on a simulation.

Would you say in the story of time that non-duality is a paradigm shift? A long time ago we believed we lived on a flat world with the heavens above. Copernicus then discovered that we orbit the sun. More recently a therapeutic view has focused on self-consciousness. Now a unity of being is perceived.

In a sense you could say that it is but the very nature of non-dualism is beyond the idea of shift or evolution.

As there is no evolution from a non-dualistic perspective?

If you would like to pretend that there is such a thing as story or time then this message has always been available but naturally hidden by the mind which projects it into a dogma. This isn’ t a shift in evolution but a recognition of what already is.

The sense of Being

Liberation doesn’t change the nature of life?


What is interesting about this time is that these meetings wouldn’t have happened fifteen years ago. There has been a sudden explosion of non-dualism in the last ten years. Although there are thousands of books and teachings out there, under the heading of Advaita, that are very confused, there has been a huge opening to this message.

Do you know why that is?

Perhaps we are reaching the end of civilisation as we know it. Being emerges as the world is apparently coming to an end, so unity is seen more readily. This world falls back into ‘Being’, to apparently begin again as another story.

Like breathing out or breathing in or an orgasm.

Yes, it is just like that. At the end of the orgasm everything becomes apparent and then everything goes back home to one day emerge again.

Everything is like that all the time in this holographic world, breathing out and breathing in, it’s not solid.

Yes, ha-ha, its lovely isn’t it (laughing). Beautiful, amazing… stunning. There and not there.

And when there is no self the child-like wonder sees the beauty of it all.

Yes, it’s amazing.

I like Claire’s description of ‘the gentle wow’ as the wonder of all this appearance.

It is a perfect description. It’s a constant wonder.

When there was awakening here there seemed a moment in time when there was a difference between knowing that ‘I’ was nothing and knowing that ‘what I am’ is everything. It was like wandering around an empty house when you are moving and all the furniture has been taken out- the walls are still standing but this is no longer home. There was no owner but the house was still there with its empty rooms.

Recently I spoke to someone who realised they were ‘nothing’ but hadn’t realised that what he is, is ‘everything’. Is there anything you could say about this?

There is an awakening. The whole isn’t seen because there is still a subtle, nearly invisible ‘me’ seeking. Claire and I talk to a lot of people. Our experience of them, and ourselves, is that there can be a preliminary seeing of this but also a subtle someone still there. Finally that part of that seeker drops away and there is just everything. Until there is no one it can never be seen that all there is is everything because there is still somebody looking. (Laughs).

There is a subtle observer?

Yes. This is the case for most people that there is a residue that eventually drops away. It is occasionally possible that some people do not have this residue and go straight to liberation.

As a tiny child when the ‘me’ is simulated there is a weaning out of ‘being’ which the child will remember for some years. Then that is lost in the over layer of the ‘me’. So awakening is a weaning back into being.

I recognise this in my son as a sense of ‘me’ is developing there. The boundaries are arising in that boundless sense of being. He cannot comprehend that there may be a world without ‘me’.

Yes, this relates back to your last question and that is, it cannot be seen that there is only everything until there is no one looking. And that they are looking for something in time that is timeless.

Seeking is never finding.