Interview with Phil Harris, co-author of Waking God
Conducted by Katrina Stiles, Reviewer
KS: What made you decide to write the book Waking God? Was it your idea originally or was it something that you and Brian Doe both came up with?
PH: The idea for the book was mine but Brian came up with the title. When he did we both said, “YES!” We intuitively knew that the title was going to take us, and hopefully the reader on a journey, one that we are still on as we work on the next book in the series. The genesis of the book extends back to my childhood. I was raised as a northern Baptist until the age of around 12. In the book, Andrew talks about a childhood incident when a priest would not let one of his friend’s attend a craft club because it was being held in the basement of a Baptist church. This is a true story that happened to me. I was very turned off to the Catholic religion at that point. I also noticed that the pews were always full around the holidays but a little sparse most of the time, especially in the summer. This added fuel to my spiritual fire and I began to notice the general hypocrisy of most people who attended church. Truthfully, in my early teens I began to read books on philosophy and purposely sought out religious debate with anyone willing to argue, or discuss. I found most people with a religious back round liked to argue. The whole notion of a wrathful, all powerful god that sought worship just made no sense. If IT knew we were going to screw up, why bother. If there really was EVIL, then IT must have created it. It just made no sense. Add to that the billions of dollars controlled by churches and their lack of action in dealing with things like genocide and other major world issues and you have a skeptic in the making. The whole 9/11 thing and the religious backlash kind of made the timing for the book right.
KS: Why the title Waking God? What was the thought process behind it?
PH: The title was an inspiration. A few points to mention and these deal with several debates with our editor. There are times in the book when we say ‘God,’ and ‘god.’ Our editor did not understand what we were trying to do. We both believe that God is immanent in all things. Our consciousness is evolving to understand this concept as is witnessed by string theories and various spiritual movements. Actually, mystics have known this all along. The piece I wrote about the show Beyond Positive Thinking and movies like “What the Bleep…” and “The Secret” are more examples of this. The title implies that if humanity is to evolve to this higher state of awareness, we must awaken the God within us. As Jesus says, “Did I not say ye are gods?” It is not that we become gods, but rather God expresses part of Itself as and through us. The key here is not to confuse this concept with the god of the Bible. God, the Universe, the All has no wants or desires. We need to stop personifying this concept like people do when they misinterpret the Bible and the Qur’an.
KS: What market were you hoping to attract with this book? I mean, being Pagan, I was like Waking God? Why would you send me a book to review called Waking God. It was after I read the book that I understood that it wasn’t in all actuality ‘about’ God.
PH: So, the book is about God, but not about god. Actually, we kind of trash god and attempt to explain the difference and how churches have purposely pushed the little ‘g’ god to further their own ends. We really did not write the book with a specific market in mind except we felt that there was and is growing dissatisfaction with religious institutions. In a way, I guess our target is those who are on the cusp of self discovery and who are looking to make some sense of an otherwise insane world.
KS: It seems to me that each time Andrew ‘writes’ he goes almost into a trance, although in the book it appears that he has been sleeping when he writes?
PH: You are very observant about Andrew and his writing. When he writes in his journals he does start in a trance like state but then he enters a dream-like world-the world of imagination where all things become possible and the world of higher states of awareness. Some call this the astral plane and it seems to the observer to be a sleep-like state.
KS: This book takes the reader to so many places. For me…it was like The Matrix in the beginning when Mara was taken. Then I felt as though we were transported to another plane of existence and then Mantrella…the don…I was like…wow, now we are at the Godfather level! I have never read a book that took me to so many places so quickly without great confusion. Was this what you intended? Or is it just how it happened?
PH: The fast trips to other places and dimensions was both intended and also guided. Some of these scenes were written independent of each other and yet they merged into a cohesive whole. Both Brian and I were often amazed at the synchronicity of events and the connections that were-given that much was written after I had moved from New York to Maine. It came together by design but it was not always our conscious design. Deus ex machina or some would say Diablo ex machina. I believe that those who can follow the events without being confused are truly into the mystic flow of the book. You “get it.” Some readers got lost in the jumps and were not sure what was happening. So far, those that have been able to get caught up with the flow have had personal revelations. Those that don’t still like the book, but more for the story than the message.
KS: Again, with the fear of being repetitive, I am Pagan and there were times in this book where I was like YES! Someone gets it and then times when I was like huh? You made me think. I like that your book wasn’t about one religion but about religion and it’s origin as a whole. Anyone who reads this book will spend hours, days, MONTHS, pondering about what they have read because you and Brian Doe will have caused the thinking wheel to begin to spin. Was that your intention?
PH: Every time we get a comment from a reader that says the book ‘made them think’ we feel that the message and the book is a success. Brian will say the same thing-our PRIMARY goal was to get people to think and to question. When Piers Anthony said, “It will make you think,” it brought a tear to my eye. This sentiment has been echoed by almost all of the book reviews. If you read the reviews on our web site you will see what I mean. Yes, this was indeed the intent and it is how I measure its success.
KS: If I may ask, what are your religious beliefs? If your religious beliefs are strong, have you done the thinking wheel process having brought so many questions to the surface about religion?
PH: I covered my early religious background in question 1 so I will bring that up to date. I have explored many religious beliefs and have found that the underlying theme of all of them is the same. What has messed up is the institutionalization of the religions. If people stuck to spiritual discussion and not created the organization, we would be better off. We once owned a New Age store and I read almost all of the books we carried. We have hosted, in the past, spiritual study groups that explored everything from crystals to light and sound healing; the study of various belief systems from Buddhism to Sufi mysticism. I am a member and have been a member of numerous mystical societies. I believe in Gnosis and I see the wheel as a Spiral.
KS: Several reviewers have for lack of a better term…strange experiences after reading this book. Any thoughts on that matter?
PH: If you intend to build a new house on the ground of the old, the existing structure must give way for the new. Those who get into the flow of the book are subconsciously tearing down the old house.
KS: I said in my review that I believed that you tapped into something that perhaps the Universe wasn’t ready for us to know and the reaction has been the ‘strange experiences’ . Do you agree? Has anything strange happened to you or to Brian Doe?
PH: There have been odd experiences but it is not because the Universe does not want us to Know. It is we who fear Truth. The reviewer at BookPleasures.com started his review by saying, “What if every Truth you have ever been told was really a mosaic of falsehoods? What if every religious institution that preached salvation was actually and agent of oppression? …this book reminds us that there are other ways of looking at the world…” When a book like WAKING GOD comes along and throws your world into spiritual chaos, things tend to happen. Without exception, everyone I know that embarked upon a mystical journey has had their life- temporarily-thrown into turmoil. Divorce, bankruptcy, depression, accidents…manifested as a way for the subconscious mind to derail the journey. In seeking to protect its deeply ingrained beliefs, it creates turmoil. Some call this The Dark Knight of the Soul. But those who stay on the path find that the darkness was but illusion in order to better see the light. Notan, Yin-Yang-Polarities-are controlling factors in the manifest world, if we let them. This is where WAKING GOD echoes the famous words-“to be, or not to be…” Our lives couldn’t be stranger if we tried. Every day is a lesson in taking conscious control of our reality and manifesting our highest spiritual goals. What most fear is being responsible for all the world-after all-religions have told people for thousands of years that we are at the mercy of ‘g’od.
KS: Finally, can you give me three short story prompts, please?
PH: “Is all that you have been taught a lie?”
KS: Mr. Harris, I’d like to thank you for doing this interview with me. As discussed this interview will be placed on Sassy Brit’s review site http://tjbook-list.blogspot.com/ Alternative-Read.com, and also on PaganPages.org and ThePaganReview. I look forward to speaking to you again!
Co-Author WAKING GOD