James Russell

Status: Student

Age: 44

Location: London

What set you off on the course of awakening?

A combination of unhappiness and discovering there was more to the world than the physical.

I always wanted to know how things work – how the world functioned, how people work, how the physical world came into existence. After studying the sciences I became much more interested in the psyche – psychology and philosophy. Eventually this lead me to the conclusion that materialism was only part of the story – that there was a spiritual dimension to reality that could be discussed, considered and explored. Unfortunately I also discovered that the general level of discourse on things spiritual was pretty poor.

At the same time I was struggling with my unhappiness – this presented as depression, dissatisfaction, or simply ennui. I just wasn’t happy being the person I was. So I began exploring, with some success, psychology, self-development and therapy, getting to know myself better and working on myself to be happier and more effective in the world. I soon found that spirituality, of various kinds, tied into this well, and began exploring meditation and various esoteric paths of self-development.

However, through all of this I had the nagging feeling that I was missing something – that the spirituality and esoterica I was exploring was missing a point, that the self-development I was pursuing was missing a key component. Eventually I found that this missing component was the concept of awakening.

What traditions were you involved with previously?

My interest and background was more esoteric and occult. I’d been heavily interested in Chaos Magic for many years, and had also dabbled with Thelema and more Pagan practices.

How did you first hear about working with Alan?

I saw Alan giving a talk at a Chaos Magic conference. His talk was based around the question of ‘What’s the point of magick anyway?’ This was a question I’d been mulling around for some time myself – what really was the end game, the point, the focus. He expressed it as enlightenment – but not the abstract, woolly, unreachable myth I’d heard of in the past. Instead he spoke of it as a real, meaningful, achievable, goal. From then on I followed Alan’s work, and tried to learn what I could from him. As soon as the Fountainhead appeared I got on-board.

What is your most significant wisdom or awakening event?

The first real awakening experience I had was shocking and delightful, seemingly completely out of nowhere. During a conversation with Alan he used a phrase that stuck in my head – “I was not born, I cannot die”. I was mulling this over one day whilst walking down the road, considering whether I could make any sense of it, when suddenly I realised it was true. Completely true.

However, this wasn’t an intellectual realisation, I didn’t ‘work it out’ or draw a conclusion – this was a felt experience of truth. I could see it as being true as easily as I could see that I was conscious. I could see that the idea of death was absurd, was a misunderstanding, had no place in reality. I could see my connection to all things. I could see creation happening, a constant outflowing of life and light. I could see my connection to it all.

That ‘knowing’ lasted all of a second or two. The bliss and happiness that came from those moments stayed with me for the next few hours, and I felt lighter for days before it slipped away from me again. 

That was the first of this type of experience, but their impact doesn’t diminish.

Do you find easy to sit?

I find it easy in that I’m able to do it every day. Almost without fail I sit for half an hour a day, and quite often find myself looking forward to it. However, the ease of sitting has varied a lot over the years. There have been times when it has been very uncomfortable (emotionally rather than physically), and I’ve found a lot of resistance. However, that has happened less and less as my understanding of the practice has deepened, and my expectations have settled. Now a challenging sit is much rarer and the vast majority are pleasant, even joyful.

Do you find it easy to do a dialectic?

It can be challenging. Working on a dialectic is like working on a challenging puzzle - you have to be able to focus, to concentrate hard, and to have your wits about you. I find that ‘big’ issues will often try to defend themselves – whilst working I’ll suddenly become tired, or distracted, or feel a bit unwell, or decide that I’m never going to be able to solve it and should quit. But if I remember that these are just common stages in working through a dialectic, if I remember that these feelings emerge almost every time and are actually a sign of progress, then I can just keep pushing on and a breakthrough will eventually happen. After that it just becomes fun, as suddenly it becomes obvious how it all works, how it all fits together, how the answer was just right there all the time. 

Can you remember the first time you really grasped the implications of dialectic contemplation?

The first time I really ‘got it’ was during a conversation with Alan. I’d been feeling fed up and grouchy at work, feeling that no one really appreciated how hard I was working, that everyone was overlooking what I was doing. Over the course of an hour or so we applied an early version of the dialectic, which brought me back to a transmission scene with my father, when I was about ten. It was one of those weird scenes from childhood that had stuck in my mind, that seemed very small but had had a big emotional impact over the years. Through the dialectic I began to understand it, began to understand the dynamics at play, the role my father demonstrated to me (how being not appreciated for hard work was an expression of love for him) and how I’d adopted that role.

The impact on doing this was dramatic – I felt as if a weight had been lifted. I was happier, lighter, day by day. A lot of friends commented on how I seemed different, and seemed more cheerful. I felt a lot more positive in myself. And I found, weirdly, that things at work changed all by themselves. So many people came up and thanked me for work I’d done over the next couple of weeks I started to get suspicious that it was organised. It all felt quite, quite different. 

The way I related to myself, and to my work, and the way other people related to me changed – simply because I now properly understood a small incident in the past. I’ve completed several dialectics since then, been able to see the subtle dynamics of transmission scenes, and they’ve never failed to have an impact on how I feel day to day or how I live my life.