Interview with E. J. Gold
For the Italian magazine ReNudo. Special Death and Dying Issue, September 2000
fabio: How is the computer technology of the web and cyberspace affecting the work of shamanic teachers such as yourself?
Mr. Gold : It is? I frankly was not aware of any changes in the shamanic community since I never pay attention to the shamanic community in any way. As far as my own personal use of electronics in general and 3-D gaming and the internet in particular it has changed my work very little. As they say in the military when all is said and done you still have to send in the infantry to mop up things. And any work worth its weight in gold is strictly hand work - custom, in short those are just new ways of communicating the same old things. Does that make sense to you?
fabio: Yes. In creating books, music, theatre, art, cyberspaces, over the last 30 years, how has the specific medium defined the ideas that you have been able to present? In other words -- is there a limitation by medium of the work ideas? and if so, which medium have you found to be most successful for reaching people?
Mr. Gold : There is no limit to any medium. The medium merely excites the mind. Which promptly puts on its own psychedelic sideshow. Next question?
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Do you want to comment on which medium you have felt to be most effective at communicating the work ideas to people?
Mr. Gold : Yes
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Are they all the same?
Mr. Gold : The medium that I have always found most effective is radio, because it allows people to use their own imagination which far exceeds any special effects generator ever invented.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Oh I see. It's what "I " see in my own imagination not necessarily what is presented.
Mr. Gold : Correct.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: That's always the case, yes?
Mr. Gold : One of the greatest secrets I ever learned about writing came from Damon Knight who said "a story is just a way of giving the reader directions into the head space of the writer".
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Like a map to a location?
Mr. Gold : Precisely so!
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Good. Well, how - if this is so, does it become possible to provide a setting for practice of bardo walking in a cyberspace? What is the method that is used if it isn't the specific medium? How can it be accomplished?
Mr. Gold : Can you ask the question a different way? Not sure of the meaning.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Yes, it can.
Mr. Gold : Good
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: What can be hoped for in going through a cyber world? How does that "train" the voyager?
Mr. Gold : That's like asking what can be hoped for in the practice of Zen.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Yes - I see. Expectation? Or expected result?
Mr. Gold : It is impossible to predict the result of such voyages.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Or outcome? no - not predict. But if you can report on the results of voyages undertaken . . .
Mr. Gold : The result will vary from manifestation to manifestation.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: I see, it's not a set parameter. Ah, don't know if I understand. What I really want to know is . . .
Mr. Gold : What makes you think I do? You ask me to answer the questions, not to understand the answers.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Oh.
Mr. Gold : That's not specific enough.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Yes, I see that.
Mr. Gold : Is there more to it?
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Maybe Fabio's question will help
Mr. Gold: Ok
fabio: The next question maybe relates to this: How can people get used/trained to a bardo situation, such as when they will be confronting their death and after-life, through your "digital dojos"? (having "Exploding Lips" in mind, which looks to be the most complete game so far) . . . Which specific elements do they contain that are useful? In which ways are they educational?
Mr. Gold : No, Slimeworld is more complete. It's a question of violence. I'm not sure. To me Slimeworld is the preferable of the two, but Exploding Lips outsells it 300 to 1 because there is an enemy you can see - not the one in the mirror. It's there too, but it is not as evident.
fabio: What you mean by Slimeworld? The website or . . .? Ah you mean the game! Ok.
Mr. Gold : Yes, there are 39 levels to Slimeworld that are releasable now but since there's been very little interest I have not released games for over a year. Except in the violent variety in which there is plenty of interest and, of course, sports. Maybe some day people will be interested in the kinder gentler variety of game. But in the meantime, violence seems to dominate. I don't expect that to change anytime soon. My favorite game in this area is Slimeworld. But most people find it boring to run around and not have anybody shoot at them. Or to have someone to shoot at in turn. I find it refreshing and even invigorating to not be shot at but then it's all a matter of taste.
Mr. Gold : Ok
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: It doesn't quite answer my question however, I am wondering about running around in a game and how the actual "training" takes place, what occurs that is a training for a voyager? Can you speak about that some?
Mr. Gold : Ah. Well, to begin with you can't always choose your guide in the real bardos and they're not always as friendly as one might like. Plus there's nothing quite like playing with something to get used to the thing. You know how it is that a cat likes to play with something of which it is frightened.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Yes
Mr. Gold : It reduces its fear somewhat. That's what my cats tell me.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: So the training is more "familiarity", not specific skills so to speak.
Mr. Gold : As far as I know they have no reason to lie.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: - your cats?
Mr. Gold : Yes correct. Although there are some jumping skills involved.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Jumping - what would that involve?
Mr. Gold : I would say it's a matter of learning not to be surprised by anything
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: Ah,
Mr. Gold : No matter how unexpected. Let's say it's a matter of reflexes.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: I wondered if "responsiveness" was part of the skill learning? You have team games correct?
Mr. Gold : Yes.
fabio: . . . and I think here I can fit my next question.
Mr. Gold : Good
fabio: How can "digital dojos" be used by study groups, beyond their use as 3D chat spaces or simple solo games?
Mr. Gold : Well, now that's an interesting question. I would say that digital games are definitely not for the beginner. In fact, frankly I would seriously recommend not even considering the idea until one has at least some familiarity with the basics. Games are a very good methodology in the teaching of teamwork and co-responsibility. I would like to see someone put at least a few years into the work before attempting to do something fancy with it. I tend to think that it is the simplest approach that wins in the end and that there is no technological substitute for real work. Real work is best accomplished through, sometimes, what could appear to be indirect means.
fabio: Such as?
Mr. Gold : Such as video games. Which in themselves are of no value unless they support a deeper reality.
Ms. Patricia Elisabeth: I think I hear you stating that the medium is definitely not the determining factor of what is work-related or student-level related - master or beginner level. Is this correct? The technology itself doesn't determine it. It's the usage?
Mr. Gold : Any form that is used is simply what happens to be available at the time. I would be much happier living in a Neolithic society and would not require an internet in order to assemble a place of work. So, it really is just a matter of circumstance that you find me working in cyberspace building websites, video games, etc. I was just as happy in radio . . . maybe happier.
fabio: Last question? Which level of student do you feel that your current work is reaching - beginner, intermediate or advanced?
Mr. Gold : Yes, and rightly so! I work on many levels at once. That's the equivalent of asking a merchant if they have return customers. Not all return, but, of course . . . I have return customers.
fabio: Don't know what a return customer is, sorry.
Mr. Gold : Someone who goes back to a shop to buy again from the merchant. Does that help?
fabio: Ok, thanks.
Mr. Gold : Good. Do you have more?
fabio: I would close here.
Mr. Gold : Good.
fabio: And I am very happy with this interview.
Mr. Gold : Fine.