Wolfgang Bernard vanished from the internet in the years since I last contacted him. If you have any information about him, please let me know. Wolfgang Bernard proposed using the techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to explode our belief in a personal identity. Wolfgang Bernard calls this the uncovering of the “Original Belief”. I never met the man (he lived in France), but read his book NLP And Beyond – The Original Belief Process. He was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine via email:
Question: Why have you chosen to teach under the banner of “advaita non-duality”? I don’t recall seeing this mentioned by you several years ago.
Wolfgang Bernard: i’ve never really been deeply involved into advaita. but over the years many people (students and others) who had studied advaita told me that my teaching is advaita. two of them are more known to a larger public: stephen wolinsky and frank maiello (egodust).
Q: Along that line, the next natural question is: how has your teaching evolved over the past four or five years?
A: i’ve stopped doing workshops five years ago, and since then i only work with my closer students and i offer e-mail teaching (more on this on my website) since 2004.
Q: Do you have any intention of returning to offering workshops, or has email dialogue proven to be more effective?
A: it’s not a question of effectiveness. i had stopped the workshops because i wanted to retire for some time and i don’t have the intention to restart. i had more and more requests by e-mail, and it felt okay to start dialogue e-mail based teaching. as you ask me about effectiveness: yes, the e-mail teaching is as effective as the workshops. but the effectiveness largely depends on the degree of engagement/investement of the student.
Q: Are there any contemporary teachers you think are worthy?
A: to be able to answer your question, i would have to know these teachers personally. the only one i know personally is stephen wolinsky who has become a close friend but he doesn’t teach anymore on an individual basis. he comments on nisargadatta on several dvd’s that might be helpful for a seeker: Neti Neti Films
Q: Are any of your former students now teachers?
A: no, none of them has the vocation of becoming a teacher.
Q: A question I’ve wanted to ask for some time: Why do you charge people to help them? Since it is by email, you are not incurring costs that need coverage. It’s hard for me to understand how someone who has seen through the illusion of life could turn around and demand to be paid to help others escape. To exchange money for help in discovering the Highest seems like a slippery slope.
A: here are the main reasons: 1. i need money for my living and i don’t have any other income. 2. the one who pays me has given me something in return, so (s)he never gets the feeling of owing me something. 3. people don’t pay me for getting help, they pay me for the time i spend. i could spend this time to earn money elsewhere.
Q: What if I don’t have enough money? Could I pay you 25 Euros a month?
A: i can’t tell you in advance, it depends on how i will decide in a given moment with a given person. first there are some e-mail exchanges and if i accept you as a student, and if you’re unable to earn money and have no savings, then this might be possible (or not :).
Q: As you can tell, it is difficult for me to understand why some teachers would never charge to help someone, and why others do charge. Did Rajneesh charge you money?
A: one had to pay for the lectures and workshops, darshans were free.
Q: How about Yvan Amar?
A: there was a fee for the lectures.
Q: How do you keep being a spiritual teacher from becoming just another job?
A: because teaching is a major part of my essential value.
Q: Isn’t there the temptation to gather more students to make more money?
A: no, i’m not interested in gathering students. there are quite a lot of requirements to fulfill before i accept someone as a student. my basic presupposition is: those who are meant to work with me will eventually find me.
Q: Or to keep students longer than necessary because you have bills to pay?
A: if i did so it would be what i call ‘personal interest’. i regularly tell my students: ‘the door to enter is quite narrow but the door to leave is always wide open.’
Q: Doesn’t seem like it would be a steady source of income.
A: that’s a non-issue for me. once you are into the dynamics of your essential value you automatically get what you need to be able to express it. 1. you have trust in life and there is no more fear. 2. you know that you have discovered the highest value, the best of the best within yourself. 3. you know that you would ruin this by allowing personal interest.
part of my liberation (from ego addiction) has been the understanding that desires/personal interest unavoidably bring up unnecessary suffering. having experienced ultimate relief and knowing this, i’m not even tempted.
1. I gather that your teaching is taking the form of workshops. How should a person prepare before coming to a workshop? For example, should they be well versed in NLP?
Wolfgang Bernard: Here’s how it happens: friends organize a 2 days meeting with not more than 15 participants who have to have read my book. It’s question and answers. Participants can come only once, then they have to decide if they attend to a 2 years nlp training with me (13×3 days). I don’t accept everyone. It’s using regular nlp technology but the overall approach is not to enhance identity but rather to understand the mechanisms of it in order to be able to become free of it. Usually participants live what I call “existential breakthroughs”. My goal for them is to be able to live this on a permanent basis independantly of me. After the two years I might invite some of them to twice a year meetings (4 days; we’re about 25).
2. Are those who speak English able to attend?
3. Is there anyone in America doing equivalent work?
WB: Not as far as I know. Stephen Wolinsky did so, but he’s stopped teaching. For the time being, I also don’t plan new trainings.
3. You don’t seem to be travelling the world putting on a show.
WB: Right. I only accept to work with those whom I consider to have the potential to “make it”. That’s probably less than 1% of so-called spiritual seekers.
4. Have any of them discovered what you have?
5. Do you recommend that a person spend an extended time working closely with you, or can they simply come to a workshop and leave with all the tools they need to “do the job.”
WB: I’m present for them during the workshops only; I don’t answer any personal questions on the phone. Sometimes I answer questions on a mailing list. They know that I “hate” people relying on me (laughing). I leave them with the tools and they do (or not) the job.
6. Do you have an opinion on the neo-Advaita teachers such as: Francis Lucille, Tony Parsons, or Gangaji?
WB: Not really. Most of the teachers I heard of (exept stephen wolinsky) may live or pretend to live something similar to what I live but probably do not have the tools to get their students to live the same thing. My teaching is like a traditional existential school teaching on a small basis. It happens with selected students who are willing and able to work on themselves for many years and who are able to take their responabilities in daily life. I insist that they continue to live their family and professional life unless there are obvious, good sense reasons for a change. The only teaching that has become more known which is similar to what I do (although with a completely different methodology) is Gurdjieff’s.
7. You said you don’t plan any new trainings. Do you mean you aren’t accepting new students?
WB: Yes, for the time being, I have decided to take a break. I don’t know yet if I’ll continue in 2004 or not.
8. Has your own state “faded” in and out, or varied in its constancy?
WB: It’s not a state. Yes, when “it” happened to stabilize about ten years ago, there was some weeks later two days when “it” dissapeared. Then “it” came back, fortunately for me, it was grace that made it come back because I was unable to do anything to get “it” back. I knew what made it fade (attachment to bliss sensations), since then I’m aware of it and never ever faded. Very slight variations in constancy once in a while, maybe once or twice a year.
9. Do you think we are all already enlightened, but just don’t know it?
WB: Yes, of course.
10. I suspect that if people don’t discover their true nature in this life, then they will continue to search in another life. I do not know this for certain, though. Perhaps at death, everyone discovers their true self. What do you think is the after-death fate of unenlightened people?
WB: I don’t know and I don’t know if there is reincarnation or not. My only reference is the present.