Richard Bach is a pilot and author of several bestselling books including the 1970s magnum opus Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalised events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. He started flying planes since the age of 17 and his love for flying is evident in all his books.
Manoj Khatri [MK]: You have a great number of fans in India, me included. We all want to know more about Richard Bach, the soul beyond the writer/pilot.
Richard Bach: It’s a pleasure to know I’m not alone, practicing these odd ideas.
MK: You speak of alternate realities. What would you have become if not a pilot and a writer?
Richard Bach: I don’t speak so much of alternate realities as of alternate worlds of appearances, alternate worlds of seems-to-be. I don’t share the belief that we create our own reality. To me, there is only one reality: the Is—that incandescent Love that exists beyond all our presumptions of space and time. All the rest is games of separation and believing.
That said, in each of these alternate worlds we’ve made different choices: different parents, perhaps, different societies, different planets [or no planets at all], different systems of expressing life. Some differences are extremely subtle…the same lifetime as we know, but with one shifted choice. And all these lifetimes are going on simultaneously, right now.
A world in which I was not a pilot and a writer? I went to sea; I’m an engine mechanic; I’m a warrior killed in his first battle; I’m a fish imagining a world of air; I’m a deep-space creature with a body of stardust, stretching light-years between galaxies. Like everyone else, I’ve taken indefinite number of forms, knowing all the while that every form is illusion—that the only eternal is our no-form oneness with that radiant Love.
MK: Your books have always highlighted that we are more than our bodies—not limited by laws of physics. When did this realisation come about? Has flying, leaving the ground, defying gravity, somewhere helped you think beyond limits?
Richard Bach: Flying sure helps. I’m a slow learner, so it’s easier for me to learn the perspective of thought when I take literal perspective from altitude, flying a little airplane. When the villages below look like toys, it’s not so difficult to realise that they are toys; that they and all our inventions are the tools we use to express ourselves, to learn that in truth, our being far transcends the beliefs of the worlds we create. I’ve had many lessons, flying airplanes.
MK: ‘Rileschardlie’ was an enormous idea. Would you say that Rileschardlie is alive in an alternate reality? Or even if Richard and Leslie now live separately, Rileschardlie continues to exist?
Richard Bach: Every possibility, I think, is already being played in some alternate experience. Many Richards and Leslies from The Bridge Across Forever are following their own highest rights, learning together, learning on their own. To any of them, I’m an alternate self in a world reachable only in thought and spirit, as they are to me. I wish for them what I’ve known, the lovely consequences of their very best choices, the challenges of their not-so-best choices and ever-unfolding opportunities to improve.
MK: Is your book Hypnotizing Maria based on a real incident? Is Jamie Forbes based on Richard Bach? In other words, did you actually save two lives by guiding a non-pilot to fly and land an airplane safely?
Richard Bach: Jamie Forbes and I have a lot in common: like him, I’ve loved flying all my life. Like him, I flew as an Air Force pilot, a charter pilot, an airshow performer, a flight instructor. I haven’t guided my own Maria to land as he did, but I have talked many a student pilot through many a landing till she or he learned to do the talking themselves.
Only when you’ve been instructing for a while do you realise that you almost never touch the controls. You sit there alongside your student and you offer suggestions…sure enough, you hypnotise them while they’re wide awake.
Any instructor would have done the same as Jamie Forbes did with Maria. The only difference is that Jamie was not sitting in the cockpit with her, but flying alongside in his own airplane. A minor difference from custom.
MK: Is the character of Samuel Black based on a real person? Have you experienced the kind of absolute hypnotism you have written about?
Richard Bach: There are many Samuel Blacks, stage hypnotists, who have performed around this country for the last century. Blacksmyth is the hypnotist I would have been had I chosen that calling.
As a boy I was fascinated with the subject, and became both hypnotist and subject in my studies. I have felt no pain from needles pushed into my hands; have breathed a vial of ammonia and experienced it as tantalising fragrance. Never have I forgotten the power of suggestion accepted, to radically alter our perceptions and attitudes.
The study of hypnotism helped me to understand that there is no such thing as objective experience—it is all subjective, subject to our beliefs of the moment.
MK: In the book, you have used the phrase “hypnotism is Law of Attraction supercharged”. Can you elaborate on it? Have you experienced the law of attraction in your life?
Richard Bach: Hypnotists give us permission to perceive instantly what we hold in thought, appearances that would otherwise take time to manifest. There is not a soul on the planet who has not experienced that law… each of us creates the world that appears around us through our power of giving consent to or withholding it from the suggestions we offer ourselves or that come our way through others. That we may do this subtly or unconsciously makes the process all the more potent.
MK: Do we really have a free-will? Being conditioned by “nature and nurture”, is it possible to de-hypnotise ourselves? Would you say you have de-hypnotised [or re-hypnotised] yourself?
Richard Bach: Perhaps there’s no such thing as free will, but certainly we have something at our call that is so like it there’s no practical difference. We de-hypnotise ourselves every time we refuse some suggestion that we do this or that, which we know is not our highest right, when we choose to think differently from the convictions of others.
I de-hypnotise myself every time I repeat the statement that was given to Jamie Forbes in the book: “I am a perfect expression of perfect life, here and now. Every day I am learning more of my true nature, and of the power I have been given over the world of appearances. I am deeply grateful, on my journey, for the parenting and guidance of my highest self.”
Sometimes I remind myself once a day, sometimes dozens of times a day. The results, now and then, are astonishing demonstrations of coincidence leading to understanding and healing and peace of mind.
MK: If you could, would you change anything about your past? If yes, what would that be?
Richard Bach: I wish I had known at age seven everything I’ve learned so far this lifetime.
Hmm. Come to think of it, I did know it then. I just needed the belief of years to play it all out, the discoveries, step by step.
Nope, I wouldn’t change a thing.
MK: Living the kind of life that you live, the kind of books you write, how often do you experience transcending time-space reality?
Richard Bach: Since I believe that time-space isn’t reality, I experience transcending it constantly. I expect my games on earth to be challenges for me to overcome the beliefs of appearances and to live my highest right, and so have they turned out to be.
Often I fall short of the best I could have done in one test or another, but patience with my failings and a word, “I’ll get it next time,” move me forward step by step on my path of remembering that I chose this lifetime for my own entertainment and education.
MK: What do you say to the sceptics who doubt the ideas that you write so passionately about?
Richard Bach: I say, “You may be right, and everything I believe may be wrong.”
Could be the skeptics have it: there’s no purpose for living, everything’s a random flash of atoms in the dark, signifying nothing. That could be so, but it’s such a boring blueprint, so devoid of colour and imagination, that I’ll pass on giving it my consent.
I can design a better universe than the sceptics’, so I enjoy a different belief: that the Is has designed an infinitely more loving, more fascinating universe than I could ever hope to build. It’s my mission, should I choose to accept it, to discover and practise that we’re one with the Is, here and now, no matter what seems to be in our flickering worlds of appearance.
MK: Our readers are discerning individuals eager for self-growth. What advice will you will give to them?
Richard Bach: Easy answer: follow your highest sense of right. Our first obligation is not to systems and religions and societies, but to be true to ourselves, to that inner spirit that yearns to know itself and to shine its light in the world. Following our highest right will guarantee that we’ll have a difficult, happy lifetime.
Hypnotizing Maria by Richard Bach
Flight instructor Jamie Forbes guides a woman to landing her plane safely after her husband loses consciousness, then flies on to his own destination unimpressed by his act… flight instructors guide students every day. Only after she tells reporters that a stranger appeared in an airplane alongside hers and hypnotized her into landing, and after he meets his own guiding stranger does he solve the bigger mystery: how each of us creates, step by step, what seems to be the solid world around us. The best mysteries are the ones whose answers lie in front of us, in plain sight.
The best solutions are those moments when all of a sudden we realise what we’ve known all along.
Paperback available in India from Jaico Books
Price: INR 175