We're interviewing a man who has enjoyed great success in the corporate arena and then followed his passions to the far corners of the globe to learn the wisdom of the most ancient cultures in the world. James Ray spent five years as one of AT&T's top sales managers, four years as a personal and business-growth expert with AT&T's School of Business, and four years working with best-selling author, Stephen Covey.
He left the corporate world to study the wisdom of the ancients in Peru, the jungles of the Amazon and the deserts of Egypt. Today, he is CEO and president of James Ray International, and his Journey of Power Program shows participants how to bridge the gap between real-world success and spiritual fulfillment.
I met James through Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. James and I are both members of the Transformational Leadership Council, founded by Jack several years ago. James is a man of great integrity who communicates some of the most fundamental truths of life with power and skill.
It's also a great honor to have my other friend, Bill Harris, the founder and director of Centerpointe Research Institute, and another member of the Transformational Leadership Council, as co-host for this interview.
Bill Harris: I've known James for a while now and he is a really remarkable person. I think it would behoove everybody to listen very carefully to what he has to say and take it very seriously, because this guy really has it together in a wide range of areas.
I know, James, that one of the things that's really remarkable about you is that you started off in the corporate success-oriented world and moved into the more metaphysical, spiritual world, in terms of the stuff you teach. Then you found a way to combine both of these in a very seamless way. A lot of people segment these two areas of life. Tell us how you did that and how you see those things being combined?
James Ray: One of the things we find in a lot of "spiritual" traditions is that they tend to believe that, to want a nice home, a fine suit, to want a beautiful body, or to be attractive is not "spiritual," and that's a profound "ignore-ance," in my opinion. The reason that is hyphenated means "ignore-ance" of the unity of one.
Every great spiritual tradition teaches us that all things come from a single source. Every great scientific tradition, even current quantum physics, tell us that everything comes from the same source. Whether you call that the zero-point field in quantum physics, or whether you call that God in spiritual traditions, the source is the same.
What I realized a long time ago is that any time you damn any part of creation, you damn God. That really pushed against my programming, growing up in very traditional religious upbringing, but I've kind of always pushed against my programming, and realized that that's important to do. I started questioning when I was really young, Bill. I was kind of a weird kid.
Bill Harris: You're still a weird kid.
James Ray: I am, and that's why we like each other! When most kids were out running to parties, going to movies and doing things that young people do, I was home trying to figure out how the universe works. I started studying Buddhism in a strict, Christian household when I was 18 years old, which is kind of bizarre.
I can't remember a time, really, when I wanted anything more than to understand the laws of the universe, how they worked, and how they applied to every area of life. So when I went into a traditional business arena, as you mentioned, AI was very successful there. One of the people I studied with, whom I'm a fan of, and he's a friend of yours as well, is Ken Wilber.
Wilber says, "As you evolve, you have to transcend and include." What that means to me, from a practical standpoint, is that as I evolve and grow, I don't suppress or let go of the things that are of a physical nature, to soar into the realms of spirit. I firmly believe that the practical mystic is a person who can soar into the mystical realms, but come back and ground that as a physical plane. That's why I believe we're here.
Bill Harris: I find people who are so "spiritual" that there are a lot of parts of the world and of life that are not okay, to be very dry and brittle. It's not a lot of fun to be around them. A lot of people who are really serious about the spiritual path go through a phase where they do that. Hopefully, they come out the other end where they realize, like you said, that you need to transcend and include, and that it's not money and possessions that are a problem, really-it's attachment to them.
James Ray: You're right. I study with some really enlightened people. By the way, I believe we have this misnomer about enlightenment. I think that, if you look at the prefix "en-," from Latin, it means "to be." So enlightenment is to "be light." Well, quantum physics tells us that every single thing in our universe, every single manifest entity, is 99.99999% light.
So you're already enlightened. When we talk about enlightenment, we tend to think, in many circles, that we have to wear white robes, eat a lot of legumes and talk in a soft, harmonious whisper and never have sex.
Bill Harris: That's the way I do it, except for the last part.
James Ray: Well count me out, because if that's enlightenment, I don't want any part of it, and I don't think you do either, Bill, quite frankly.
Bill Harris: This is mostly because you don't like beans, right…or you do like sex?
James Ray: Yes, both of the above. But here's the thing. Any time you damn any part of creation, you damn God, because it's all the same stuff, if you will. That's another reason why I firmly believe that Eastern mysticism is never going to play to a large audience in the Western world, because Eastern mysticism, by and large-and of course, I'm generalizing here to some degree-is about turning away from sitting in one space and jumping into God.
That's one thing you can do, there's a time and place for that, and you're right. I went through those phases where I thought I didn't want any material possessions, I just want to have a spiritual experience, and I had profound meditative experiences at one time, I thought, "I don't want to come back," because this is really way cool."
I quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin quite frequently. A long time ago, he said, "You're not a physical being having a spiritual experience; you're a spiritual being having a physical experience."
Bill Harris: It's interesting that you would bring this up, this idea of having such profound experiences that you don't want to come back. One of the things I've always taught is that people are creating a reality with their minds.
The reason they're not seeing the reality that's talked about by mystics-the idea that it's all one energy and so on and so forth-is because the reality you're creating with your mind, which essentially chops up the oneness into all these pieces, conceptually, because these pieces don't really exist in reality, as long as you're focused in this reality you're creating with your mind, you miss the other reality.
So the first stage of spiritual growth, if people get that far, is one where they begin to actually experience the fact that there is a reality created by their minds, but it isn't the reality, and they begin to experience and perceive that reality.
A lot of times, people think, especially at first, "I don't want to come back." A higher level, in my opinion, is when you go back into the world created by the mind, but this time you realize that it is something you're making up, but you can go back into it and play.
James Ray: That's a heck of a lot of fun.
Bill Harris: It is a heck of a lot of fun, and that's when you have the ability to create whatever you want in the world. If you're not going to play in this world, there's no point in being here.
James Ray: Why did you even come here? Going back to your spiritual being having a physical experience, from Chardin, my addendum to that is, "Please remember, you are having a physical experience," so there's a reason why you're here. A lot of people who are spiritual aspirants may want to argue with me on this, but keep open minded.
I have never once met an individual who is in a non-dual state all the time. You can't function in the third dimension in a non-dual state. You're absolutely correct, Bill, this reality we create with our minds is what we're experiencing in the third dimension, and here's now I differentiate them-I say reality is the third dimension, but actuality is beyond the third dimension.
They're different. Reality is only what you create in a dualistic plane. One of the laws in our universe, in the third dimension, is the law of polarity. For there to be up, there has to be a down; for there to be in, an out-and that's also called duality. It cannot be any other way. That's reality in the third dimension, and you tend to look at reality with your eyes and react to reality.
However, when you actually tap into actuality, which is above the dualistic plane, then you can act, and that's a big difference. If we want to merge quantum physics here with what we're talking about, with mysticism, a photon is timeless, spaceless, massless and chargeless. It does not exist.
Everything comes from photons of light. A photon does not exist in the third dimension because it's timeless, spaceless, massless and chargeless. That's what I would call actuality. Then that photon divides for manifestation purposes, into a positron and electron.
A positron has a positive charge; an electron has a negative charge. That's duality and that's where reality is created by our minds, and is through the observation of saying, "This is good, this is bad."
Bill Harris: Which are all distinctions we create conceptually and aren't really intrinsic to reality. There's something added by the mind.
James Ray: I would say, for my terminology, that they are intrinsic to reality; they're not intrinsic to actuality.
Bill Harris: Okay. It depends on what you mean by reality. I meant Reality with a big R, which is what you're calling actuality.
James Ray: Which kind of makes it a little easier to differentiate for me.
Bill Harris: Let me circle around here for a minute because the whole purpose of this series is the idea of passion. You definitely sound very passionate about all of this, and I can tell by your history that, even as a child, you were very passionate about all of this.
What role do you see passion playing in this whole thing? We're talking about a certain amount of archean stuff, rather than day-to-day problems that people are experiencing. How does this stuff apply? Why should somebody be passionate about this and why are you passionate about it?
James Ray: It's my life. To answer your first question about what role passion plays, it's the primary driver. Inspiration, or passion, is what motivates you, long term, to continue to act. When you're inspired or when you're really passionate about something, no one or no thing outside of you needs to provide motivation. That inspiration or passion comes from inside of you, and you pursue this because it's your love.
Your work becomes your love, made manifest through action. I believe the person who really understands these concepts understands that to pursue your passion, the individual who is really (who I call) the practical mystic, or the passionate individual pursuing their dreams in life and creating their reality, must understand that you have to embrace pain and pleasure in the pursuit of your passion or purpose.
Those are going to occur in a dualistic plane. If you understand, from a quantum physics standpoint, that for every positron, which is positive, and let's say it says you make $100,000 a year (or whatever your goal is), and you say that's positive, then in duality, there has to be a corresponding "negative."
The master is the individual who understands that and embraces both the pain and the pleasure in the pursuit of his or her passion. Bill, you run a big business and so do I. I can reflect back on the day when I was a solo act in my business and there were a lot of things about those days that are really attractive now when I start to think about all the business, employee and legal issues, et cetera, that I must embrace now to run a multi-million-dollar business,.
That's just part of it. We have this Pollyanna, lopsided perception of what reality is supposed to be. Therefore, we become disempowered and under enthusiastic in what we're pursuing. Does that make sense to you?
Bill Harris: Yes, sure. I'm a big admirer of Alan Watts, and he has kind of a metaphorical way of describing a lot of what you've been saying, where he talks about when you're in a human body, people are tempted to play what he calls the "game of black and white." The main rule in the game of black and white is that white must win.
White is whatever you think things ought to be, it's the positive side, and black is the negative side. A lot of people think that the enlightened master, for instance, is someone who has figure out how to win the game of life. They look at him and say, "Wow, this guy is so peaceful and serene. He seems to have everything he needs. He's totally content, everything seems to be just as he would want it."
The truth is that the master has not figured out how to "win" the game of black and white; he's figure out that the game is really bull crap. It isn't getting white to win that causes you to have inner peace and all of these characteristics people are seeking; it's realizing that black and white, in a sense, are the same.
They arise together, go together, they can't exist except in relation to each other, and when you let black and white be whatever they are and just relax about the whole thing and realize black and white wasn't a problem to begin with, that would be one way to describe enlightenment.
James Ray: I do a lot of work around what's historically being called the shadow self or unconscious limiting beliefs, decisions and emotions, unconscious issues that the kahuna I studied with for three years calls black bags-you can put whatever term you want on that. Anything that is suppressed will be expressed in uglier ways in later days.
Anything that's suppressed, whether it's in our own personality, we have to embrace those parts of ourselves that maybe appear a little dark to us and realize that maybe it's the black and the white that bring us to actuality, which is rising above. Let me give an example. Bill, who do you think has more real estate problems, Donald Trump or you?
Bill Harris: He probably does. He has a lot more real estate!
James Ray: Probably. Who do you think has more employee and governmental issues, Bill Gates or you?
Bill Harris: Oh, certainly me. I'm sure Bill Gates does. They're going after him all the time.
James Ray: You're close to Gates, but not quite. We have a lopsided perception, going back to your illustration. I was driving around New York just a few weeks ago and about every third building has Trump's name on it. I thought, "Man, it's kind of cool to own a third of New York City, isn't it?" Well, yes, it's kind of cool, but it also kind of sucks.
In duality, I guarantee you, he has a lot of issues he's dealing with in real estate and employees that you and I aren't dealing with. In pursuing your passion, understand that the master is the individual who embraces pain and pleasure in the pursuit of his passion. In duality, as long as you're in this physical world, you're going to have the ups and downs. They're only ups and downs by definition. Where you truly become enlightened, if you will, is if you go to the level of actuality and say, "It just is."
Bill Harris: If you're playing this game of black and white, you can still do whatever you can think of to get white to win because that's the game, but you also realize that it's impossible for white to always win, and when it doesn't win, you're okay with it. You don't go into resistance and create suffering for yourself as a result.
James Ray: I wrote about this in my last book, Practical Spirituality, where some asked, "James, if the Dalai Lama was running a race, do you think he'd race to win?" I said, "I really don't have a clue what the Dalai Lama would do, but if I'm running a race, I'm running to win."
Bill Harris: Also, if you don't win, you're not going to break down and cry about it.
James Ray: I'm not going to be bummed and depressed about it. I'm just going to realize it's a game and I'm going to play by the rules of the third dimension and play the game, and to the degree that I can continually transcend that and just realize it's a game, then I have true enthusiasm, inspiration and passion in my life, and I realize, "Isn't this fun?"
The non-dual state is a great place to go and to experience, but after a while, I want to mix it up a little bit. I like to push the envelope, so please bear with me. A lot of traditions I grew up in tell me I'm going to get a condo in a cloud some day, and sit at the feet of God, but that's going to get pretty boring.
Bill Harris: Who wants to be in church all the time?
James Ray: That's going to get pretty boring, so what a great gift to come into this world-and remember you're having a physical experience-and to choose what you're going to create, know that you have the ability to create it, and to pursue your passion with gusto.
As I said earlier, I've met a lot of enlightened people and when you ask the question about enlightenment, I believe you have to say, "Compared to what?" Enlightenment is not an end state in my opinion. It's a gradual, ongoing evolution. Every single individual is enlightened to some degree.
There are things I would ask people to reflect upon from five years ago, something that would have sent you over the edge, and now it happens and it's no big deal. That's enlightenment, that's evolution.
Bill Harris: You're already the one energy of everything; it's a matter of how much you are aware of that. Let me send you off on a little bit different direction. You've done a lot of things. You've been with shamans in South America, you've traveled to Egypt, you've done all kinds of things that most people only read about. You started in the corporate world, being a keynote speaker and trainer for companies. Tell the story of how you went from one to the other and some of the things you learned as a result.
James Ray: In some of the traditions, they maintain that you can tell where you've been in past lives by the things you're attracted to in this lifetime that don't make sense. For a kid growing up in the Bible Belt, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a Christian household with a Protestant minister as a father, it doesn't make sense that I was attracted to Buddhism when I was 18 years old.
Bill Harris: I can see now why you're so messed up.
James Ray: Yes, I mean, you should have seen me before. It doesn't make sense for a guy who was at AT&T School of Business to be trucking off for three years to the Andes Mountains to study with a shaman. Like I said, I was attracted from as long as I can remember, I was asking questions, and the answers "because" just didn't seem like real answers to me.
I wanted to seek and find the answers to the laws of the universe. The law of attraction is very powerful. I read Castaneda maybe a decade ago, and I've read every one of his books at least three times. I started reading Castaneda and I put out this intention that I want to study shamanism. I was attracted to it, it seemed really mystical to me.
Bill Harris: You're talking about Carlos Castaneda and the books about the Yaki Indian master, Toltec.
James Ray: Yes, so long/short, one thing led to another and I ended up meeting this shaman who I studied with, Don Jose Luis, in the Andes mountains, who was the first shaman I studied with extensively for a number of years. In answer to your question is what came out of that.
What I9 really learned in shamanism was a great appreciation for nature mysticism. In the world around us, the feminine energy, which I firmly believe is one of the reasons why, in North America and Western culture, we are doing the things we're doing to our rain forests and a lot of our ecology because we have suppressed the goddess energy, if you will, and disconnected ourselves from that part of our psyche.
Like I said earlier, anything that is suppressed is going to be expressed in uglier ways in later days. As I begin to study these things and really begin to understand nature mysticism and have these shamanic journeys and experiences, it was beautiful to me and awakened a part of me that was dormant. Yet, I also recognized that, in many ways, these shaman whom I was sitting with in the Andes, were children.
If you put them on a corner in New York City, they'd be SOL. They couldn't hail a cab, turn on a computer or do anything, so they couldn't really function in modern society. It struck me, because I was getting caught up in the romanticism of the ancient ways of the times, and I also studied with a kahuna in Hawaii for three years. (Contrary to popular belief, that's not a surfing term.) A kahuna is an ancient spiritual master.
Bill Harris: I thought it meant a big hamburger.
James Ray: Nonetheless, I was really getting romanticized around this return of the ancient ways and such, and then I realized that our call wasn't to return to the ancient ways, but to bring the wisdom of the ancients into a modern application, so I moved from the whole shamanic studies into more of the Western traditions of the mystery schools that came primarily out of the ascene cultures which predate Christ by 4,000 years.
The Egyptian culture certainly was profound. Every great Western tradition has come out of Egypt. On top of this, I had already studied a lot of Buddhism and been attracted to that at an early age and started putting it all together. I revisited Christianity as well and fell in love with Christianity with a whole new set of eyes, from which I've been taught very limited growing up.
What I realized, and maybe you're aware of this, is that every great tradition has what are called the exoteric teachings, which are for the masses. There is much less depth to those and they're very palatable for large groups of people. Then they've had their esoteric teachings, meaning understood by a few, which have been reserved for the initiates, or people who are ready to dive into a deeper level of understanding and application.
Bill Harris: People who have done the work to create the awareness to actually experience whatever the initial master, whether it's Jesus or somebody else, was experiencing-most people aren't at a developmental level where they can experience that. Often, somebody comes along and institutionalizes the teaching and makes it into a religion, but they don't have the actual experience or awareness that really started the whole thing, so it's a very watered-down version.
James Ray: Experience is the key word there, as you well know. In a study three Christmases ago now of people who were "religious" or involved in religious traditions, over 95% of them stated that they had not had a personal experience of God. Even clergy had not had a personal experience of God.
What I think we've created, unfortunately, Bill, in Western culture, is a lot of institutions that know about dead prophets and God, but very few who know or have really experienced becoming the prophet or experiencing God. That's a big difference, even though the prophets themselves told us to not worship them, but to become them.
Bill Harris: It's like there's something really amazing in that house. I'm going to tell you about it, but you don't need to go in. You can just take my word for it. But there are other people who say, "I want to experience this myself, I need to go in."
James Ray: Yes…"Read all these books on Paris. You don't need to go to Paris." You can know all about Paris, but you don't know Paris until you go.
Bill Harris: Right, it's like how you could know everything about strawberries and write your PhD pieces on them, but until you eat one, you don't know anything about strawberries.
James Ray: Bingo.
Bill Harris: One of the things you talk about a lot is the difference between balance and harmony. I've heard you say, a lot of times, "Balance is bogus. Only harmony yields happiness and real wealth." What's the difference between balance and harmony?
James Ray: Here's a great illustration: If you look at a scale in perfect balance, what's happening?
Bill Harris: Nothing.
James Ray: You're right. It's dead. There's no dynamism, there's no life, it's dead. Balance is bogus. There are all these people running around, talking about balance, speaking balance, teaching balance-not one of them in balanced, and neither are you, by the way.
Bill Harris: I beg your pardon?
James Ray: You don't want to be, Bill, because the only people who are perfectly balanced are six-feet under.
Bill Harris: They're not even balanced either; they're worm food.
James Ray: They're crusty and they're wishing they'd done something different. But a scale in perfect balance is dead, there's no life there. It's not just semantics. If you look at a jazz band, for instance, they're not in balance, they're in harmony. Sometimes a saxophone is leading, sometimes a bass guitar, sometimes the drums, sometimes the lead guitar, but they all come together from these unique perspectives to synergistically unite and create this amazing tapestry called the music.
That's what life is like. I'm letting a lot of people off the hook because I guarantee there's at least one person out there who has done a lot of guilt over balance. Get over it! Sometimes you're going to be leading with your finances. Sometimes you're going to be leading with your health. Sometimes it's your family, sometimes it's your mental aspect. That's how life is. Harmony is achievable; balance isn't.
Bill Harris: You could look at the entire universe as kind of lie a whirlpool. It's an organism where things are constantly in flux, interrelating and changing. Here you are in the middle of this, and actually, each person is really a whirlpool in the sense that there's stuff coming in and stuff going out. Who you are is constantly changing-physically, mentally, emotionally and every way.
If a whirlpool achieved balance, it would collapse. It wouldn't exist anymore, so what I get that you're saying is there's this endless flow going on and you're part of it. If you are in harmony with the rest of the flow-now that I think about it, I don't know how you could fail to be in harmony with the rest of the flow…
James Ray: You get out of harmony by holding unrealistic expectations in your mind about what life should be and then you beat yourself up. You think, "I spent 10 hours at the office; now I have to spend 10 hours with my kids."
Bill Harris: Yes, you can certainly convince yourself that you're "out of balance" and create a lot of needless suffering over something that isn't real.
James Ray: Exactly. There are so many levels of what I've coined and trademarked as "harmonic wealth." At the mundane level, there's a physical plane-there's financial, relational, intellectual spiritual. Those are the five pillars of harmonic wealth. There's another level of harmony too. There's harmony with the spiritual and scientific laws of the universe.
There's harmony inside of the male and the female aspect of who you are, that's the yin and yang of the East. When you're in harmony in all these areas, which is absolutely achievable, then the results you product are absolutely amazing.
Bill Harris: And effortless.
James Ray: Yes, they are, and they're fun and joyous. That's where you continually accelerate your passion. If we're talking about passion, that's where you are continually plugged in and you're passionate, enthusiastic and inspired.
Bill Harris: I know that you have a series of trainings that go into all of these things we just touched on. Not only do you go into them very deeply and explain them much more fully than we have time for, but you bring them back to a practical level, where it's very obvious to the person how they can use this information practically in their life and get the results they want on every one of these levels. Can you talk about that and what you do in these trainings?
James Ray: My entire event curriculum is called "The Journey of Power." Many people come to "The Power to Win" weekend and that tends to be the entry point to the whole curriculum for most; not all. You can come in at any point. The Journey of Power is like getting a degree in accounting or business-there are certain courses you must take, but you take them when they work best for you.
You don't have to go in a certain sequence, but a lot of people come to The Power to Win weekend and we've done studies of those individuals. The majority of people come wanting to grow their business, they want to make more money or have a better relationship. Those are the top three things people come for.
I can really help in those arenas, and ultimately, what they really want is not more of those things necessarily; they want a spiritual connection and this harmony we're talking about.
Bill Harris: Of course, people think those things are going to give them that.
James Ray: They do, and the whole Journey of Power unfolds through dealing with these issues we talked about earlier-the shadowed self issues, unconscious issues, these parts of ourselves and our world that we have not embraced-and we continually do a lot of processes and it's very experiential through all of it to get a person to a place where they recognize how wealthy, joyous and abundant the world is.
That's a great place to live. The only reason you're not totally abundant and fulfilled in your life is because you're unplugged at some level from your source. The question I have is: "When would now be the time to plug back in?" You are total power and capability, and to the degree you're not manifesting that in your body, your relationships and your finances, in your world at large, it's because at some level, you're suppressing something or you're disconnected from your true identity.
Bill Harris: That was a great embedded command. "When would now be a good time to plug back in?"
James Ray: I meet a lot of people who make a tremendous amount of money, but their relationships stink. (That's a technical term, by the way.) That's not real wealth. Then I meet a lot of people who are "spiritual," but they're sick and broke all the time. That's not wealth either.
I like to push the envelope in thinking. I cannot guarantee you that everybody who is financially wealthy is spiritual, but I can absolutely guarantee you that people who are broke and sick are not plugging in to their spiritual capabilities, because spirit is not broke and sick; it's healthy and abundant. We're talking healthy, wealthy, wise, right?
Those things are your birthright, as is pursuing your passion. The only reason you're not doing that to the largest degree, in any of your life, is because someplace, you're unplugged, and it's time to plug back in. So many times, we're conditioned to not be plugged in. I believe we're born in to greatness, but we're conditioned into mediocrity.
No matter how bleak your life may currently appear, no matter how contrary your results may seem to be, no matter how dark it might seem in your life, that is nothing but the ignorance of your past conditioning. Also, your life may be really great right now, and you're just wanting to take it to the next level, but let me guarantee you this-you haven't even scratched the surface.
No matter how successful you are right now, you haven't scratched the surface on what you're capable of creating. My great wish for you is that you remember who you are and apply some of the things we've talked about and create what you're worthy of, because that's your birthright.