Richard Bright: Can we begin with you saying something about your background?
Andrew Stone (Lord Stone of Blackheath): I was ‘excluded’ in school because I was a little dyslexic, which didn’t help as I also had two very bright logical linguistic, linear thinking brothers who thrived in that type of schooling. I left with 5 ‘o’ levels at 16 to work in the gutter as a barrow boy in S. Wales, but I was lucky in that an uncle of mine told me, when I was 23, that I was NOT stupid, it was just that I had a different way of thinking – which was holistic. He told me that if I was going to be a retailer, which it seems he saw I was cut out for, I should go and learn from a brilliant one – Marks & Spencer.
Here I flourished and although I felt like a bit of an outsider, as most M&S management trainees at that time were clever graduates, none of them had the hands on experience I had, which was 7 years, every day of the year, in front of customers, supplier, staff etc.
Also, Lord Marcus Sieff, the Chairman of M&S and a great retailer – a champion of good human relations in industry and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel – took me under his wing and made me his Personal Assistant. I learnt very much from him.
RB: You have a strong interest in the correspondence between art and science. When and how did this come about?
AS: Marcus Sieff and his family knew that if science – as applied in technology – and art – as applied in design – were used together with mutual respect (which often they are not because each sometimes derides the other) then great creativity occurs and new products and services for the betterment of individuals, communities and the planet can come about.
RB: Do you recall the moment when you started on the path of exploring the religious/ spiritual unity of contemplative/meditative practice? What provoked this?
AS: As a child of the 60’s we all ‘played’ with yoga and Zen and beads and meditation, but although it was just for ‘fashion’ in those days, something stirred in me. I realised that the bliss I gained from being able to bring myself by being ‘be silent also resulted in ‘compassion’. In meditation I could go beyond my ‘survivor’ instinct of ego and become connected to something greater than my habitual self and thereby act more compassionately.
Also, at about the age of 45, 20 years after joining M&S as a trainee, I was about to join the Board. I was very stressed. There was a very enlightened GP at work who told me to take a week off and go to a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat in Ireland- Dogshenberra. I did and, during my week there, I experienced the love and compassion and power of practice that the monks offered to me.
RB: The Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, wrote “All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything”. Quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, said a similar thing, that “Quantum physics thus reveals a basic oneness of the Universe”. Do you agree with these statements and, if so, what do you think they meant by this?
AS: Yes. David Peat, who worked with David Bohm, and yourself, enabled me to understand the works of Bohm and in particular Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Synchronicity and Dialogue. I could see that SCIENCE was at last catching up with the Tao and Buddha and even the Jewish Shema, saying that ‘ISNESS’ is ONENESS and is the WAY (God), that if we can love that ONENESS with all our hearts and all our might and all our souls, remember it all through the day and night, in spite of the apparent illusion that we are all separate and alone, that the world is not full of ‘nouns and ‘things’, but that it’s full of ‘verbs’ and it’s flowing, it’s transient. If we can remember that then we will live more blissful harmonious lives.
RB: How has this understanding affected your life, both personally and professionally?
AS: In particular, meditation now is very much part of my life. I meditate at 4am for about 45minutes and then go back to a sweet untroubled sleep for another few hours. The Brahma Kumaris taught me this –
This enables me to get myself into a mind-set of ‘B’ (being) at a higher consciousness thinking of all beings for all time. Even when I am DOING it ‘A’
I am now beginning to understand, which is the same thing as the matrix, that there are ways in which you can perceive the universe and what’s going on by what science believes to be the truth, which is on the point of being able to measure physically the ‘eye’ of the body, or you can think about it logically and linguistically about the ‘eye’ of the mind, but there is a another truth, which science cannot see, because it is paradoxical, and that is the ‘eye’ of the contemplative. That ‘eye’ can’t be demonstrated biologically because it is an experience. You have to feel it in the same way, for example, as you experience art. It has to be visceral. An artist will ‘see’ something in one way which a scientist may see in another way. It is when these two come together that we can ‘see’ the whole picture. Actually, I believe that the evolution of humanity is because we can take two different ‘types’ of intelligences and fuse them together. I’ve always loved this in regards to art and science, design and technology, but I’m now seeing it in spirituality.
RB: In her book The Search for Spirituality, Ursula King states that “Dialogue among people of different faiths can help to open up and transform…..It can bring about a spiritual renewal. But it is important to recognize that creative dialogue about spirituality is not and cannot remain restricted to people of religious adherence. It must embrace the secular world to make a difference”. Do you agree with this statement?
AS: Yes, she is right that Mindfulness ‘with’ and ‘from’ the religions and ‘traditions’ has its drawbacks and this may be an impediment for groups to have ‘mindfulness’, as a scientifically proven technique to be accepted in Schools and Hospitals and Government. However, Mindfulness must be taught and practiced with Compassion. This wisdom of compassion comes from the ‘traditions’ and religious practices and is the same, so the same rigorous proofs can be scientifically ratified about Compassion as they have for Mindfulness practice.
The very great danger is that Mindfulness without compassion can help one continue to work at the most focussed level in a cigarette factory, or a slaughter house, or to fire missiles more accurately!
I am now convinced that conversations between science and spirituality needs to be developed so that Mindfulness practice and Compassion (Metta Bavana) are linked inextricably.
RB: In a recent debate in the House of Lords about the Queens Speech, you talked about the importance of mindfulness, going so far as to urge the Government to “apply the relevance, importance and urgency of mindfulness to all that they do,” and to “make Britain a mindful nation”. Why did you say this and how was it received?
AS: The Government is open to this suggestion and has agreed to accept this report on 20th October this year. Vis:-
The Mindful Nation UK report is the result of a 12-month inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness, into how mindfulness might be incorporated into UK services and institutions.
The report aims to bring a clear and considered voice to a field that has captured the public imagination and has great potential across many policy areas.
The report will be formally launched with an event in Parliament on Tuesday 20th October from 13.15 – 14.00 in the Attlee Suite, Portcullis House.
The report focuses on four key policy areas:
- criminal justice
- and the workplace,
using the available evidence to make substantive recommendations as to how mindfulness can help meet Government objectives.
RB: Mindfulness and Wellbeing are very much linked together as being mutually beneficial. What is your experience of this, from both a personal aspect and through the work you do with various health organisations?
AS: I myself am happier, healthier, more productive and more open hearted since I made ‘Mindfulness’ a core part of each day.
I know that Mindfulness has been proven through NICE to be more effective and long lasting than drugs and other ‘talking methods’ for people with mental illnesses
RB: The aim of this issue of the Interalia Magazine is to explore the interdependence between Art, Science, Mind and Life. Do you consider that there is an interdependence and what are your views on how this can be further encouraged?
AS: Both Interalia as an organization, and you in particular, helped me to see how, when I was in Business, I could get technologists (Applied Science) and designers (Applied Art) to interact with each other, once they understood the truth and authenticity and creativity of the other.
However, the new thing I learnt from Interalia was that we, as humans, will never understand the Universe and our place within it if we only look through one perspective – from either Science or Art or Spirituality or Love.
Art must combine with Theoretical Science and Mathematics for us to be able to visualize the cosmos.
But as Ken Wilber would say, ‘the eye of the flesh’ (measurement in science) and ‘the eye of the mind’ (Logic and Mathematics) cannot see the truth to be seen by ‘the eye of the contemplative’ (Meditation) as here there is Paradox in the higher consciousness that the other two truths cannot abide!
Keith Critchlow shows in his sacred geometry that science, heart, spirituality and love are all there in the Universe and to see them and love them is bliss.
Einstein used to say that ‘my religion is to try and understand how the universe works, and at the same time I must maintain the knowledge that I will never understand how the universe works’. In the Kabbalah, your life’s journey should be to try and understand the mind of God while you maintain the knowledge that you can’t understand the mind of God. It’s the ability to hold two different things, understanding and not-understanding, at the same time. They are interdependent, not mutually exclusive.
I’m involved in an event called, A Paradoxical Experiment of Science and Faith, which is taking place in November, in London. It has been initiated by Philip Franses, who is a mathematician and a lecturer in Holistic Science at the Schumacher College. His new book, called The Time, Light and the Dice of Creation: Through Paradox in Physics to a New Order, isabout extending the ground of physics into a dialogue with spirit. He wrote to me recently saying there must be a new kind of science. Science, at the moment, believes there is ‘Us’ who are managing what is ‘out there’ and we are trying to focus our work so that we can enable it or manage it better. But, Philip Franses is saying, there should be another science where we are actually learning from the ‘out there’, which has been going on despite us, was there before us and will be there after us. Therefore the way science should be working it to say ‘how can we learn from what is going on ‘out there’ for us to be able to better manage ourselves?’That’s a different focus entirely. I find it very encouraging!
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