Spiritual teacher J. Jaye Gold has been assisting people in their search for inner meaning for 35 years. He currently lives in the Sierra foothills of Northern California where he works with several dozen seekers of truth.
Justin is the author of four books; Another Heart in His Hand, Highway of Diamonds, The Roca Group and his latest - a collection of his personal memoirs, Justin Time which we reviewed here on Spirituality Today.
Recently we were given the opportunity to interview Justin and to get an insight into his work, travels and personal spiritual philosophy.
Welcome Justin and thank you for spending some time to talk with us and to share with our readers your unique perspective on life.
As a book of personal memoirs about your life, Justin Time is a very loosely structured and refreshingly open account of your life. Could you tell our readers what first inspired you to write the book, and something about the process of committing your personal experiences to paper?
I’m not a busy person so I have a lot of time. In our culture it’s a credential when you can say that you’re busy. My credential is that I’m not busy so I have time. I like to write. I’ve written a few other books and with none of those books has my intention been to write a book. My intention has been to write things down that are interesting to me and sometimes it comes out in story form, sometimes in allegory or metaphor form and sometimes my writing has been more direct.
In writing this particular book, my affinity for writing was part of my reason, but the other reason is that I thought that this life that I am leading and I have led has had some extraordinary and unusual elements to it. And it seemed that it would be worthwhile to record those elements. My favorite section in our local library is the biography section. My most favorite reading items are biographies of people that are generally unknown; to see that so many extraordinary lives and elements of lives have been lived and not known about. I’m certainly not a famous person. I thought it would be worthwhile to document the life of someone that very few people have heard of, in this case me.
You have seen many periods of great social change in your life. During each of these humanity has undergone dramatic psychological and spiritual upheavals and we seem to be living through another one presently. How do you view the state of the spiritual renaissance that seems to be engulfing the planet at this time and how do you see it unfolding as we move forward?
I would like to think that there’s a spiritual renaissance going on, that’s a very uplifting sentiment and one I would like to think is accurate. At present, I’m more assured that there are ebbs and flows. The most recent political upheaval in the United States may indicate something, but it would be very hard to interpret that political upheaval as being part of a spiritual renaissance. So even though it’s a very positive and uplifting concept that this is a spiritual renaissance, there have been times in the past 1000 years where people have hypothesized that a spiritual renaissance is in process or is in its initiatory stages but in actuality that flow has gone up and back down and has gone up and then gone back down.
What I more accurately envision is that there are people that have come to a place in their life where they have grown weary of living on the surface of things and dealing with the ordinary personal gains and the winning and the losing of reputation and are ready to go on to whatever might follow that quest. Something more internal, something more introspective, something more as this question alludes to as spiritual. Whether there is a mass movement toward the spirit or not, it is important for those people to find each other and work together forming support systems so that the reality of that possibility can juxtapose itself to the reality of personal gain and acquisitiveness and competition. So I think it’s very important that people find each other and are willing to bear witness to their spiritual intention. With that support there is some possibility that that spiritual attempt can be realized and that can appear achievable because there is so much thrust that worldly accomplishments are achievable.
For members of the younger generations — and anyone who might be currently finding themselves opening up to the deep process of emerging consciousness, what personal guidance would you offer to help the inner spirit express itself on this physical plane?
It’s really interesting to understand the phases of life, and one of those phases of life being part of a younger generation. When you’re younger you’re part of a generation, when you’re in the middle you’re part of a generation, when you’re older you’re part of a generation, and when you’re very old you’re part of a generation, and when you’re an infant you wouldn’t really be considered to be part of a generation, but you also are part of a generation. What I’ve discovered through exploration and observation is that each of these generations has a natural protocol which belongs to that generation. There are phases in life where interests and activities and pursuits are unique to that generation. When a person is in what we’re calling a younger generation their natural protocol is that of an explorer of the external world: to live boldly, to be supported to take chances. To be supported to go outside of the norms and become an explorer, not an explainer of how life is, and how life isn’t, but to find their own interpretation and their own exploration, It’s not yet in the course of things for a young person to be an explorer of the internal world. So to think that a young person should be spiritualized in my view reflects a lack of understanding of these phases in life.
There are times in life which are so fitted to spiritual exploration, a time when a person has really pursued what’s possible: pursued success, pursued recognition and pursued affluence and pursued adventure and pursued romance and pursued all these things that life presents, pursued exploration and development of personal talent. At some point a person after considerable and bold exploration of these different things, gets to feel that the next go around of these exploits would tend to be repetitious. Of course that person goes back and of course does it again, but eventually feels more confidently that this is repetitious. “There must be something else.” As the lyric in the Bob Dylan song says, “And what else can you show me?” What else can the creation show a human being other than the results of the pursuit of material wealth – a pursuit which fits for a young person, but at some point a person can get tired of it. So what I would say to young people is go out and travel and see the world and see what other cultures present because all cultures are not the same. They are not formatted the same, they don’t have the same priorities.
There’s a lot to see in going to different places and having different experiences. Live life boldly, take chances. If you have some idea that you have a talent, develop that talent. If you want to be famous, try to be famous. If you want to have power, try to have power. Forget about the aspirations and the elevated concepts that spirituality presents because for a young person, that’s not the appropriate portion of their present. That’s the appropriate portion of their future.
There’s enough of life in which spiritual pursuits can be appropriate and certainly I have encouraged people to put energy into those pursuits - but not young people. And sometimes not even for people in their middle years had they been living conservative lives and have avoided challenge and adventure.
In your experience of working with so many students do you feel that they are all unconsciously seeking the same truth or are there different spiritual requirements that you have to meet with each one that you guide?
I call myself a 25 mile guru because I have found the necessity to have direct contact, which requires working with smaller numbers of people. So I’m not a person who travels around and gives lectures and gives suggestions to people that I barely know. I’m even reluctant to give suggestions to people whom I’ve known for a long time, so I have found it more appropriate for me to be in the position of a questioner and of an assistant in helping people learn how to explore for themselves.
With that preamble, I’ve found that there are common denominators amongst people, common denominators of wanting to be regarded in a certain way, of self-image, of fear of being excluded, of wanting to be included, fear of not being loved and appreciated. In addition to commonalities, there are also so many variables brought about by time and place. People grow up in the city, people grow up in the country, people grow up in small families, people grow up in big families. People grow up with early developing artistic and musical talents, people can add columns of numbers, some people can’t add columns of numbers, etc. etc. etc. There are so many variables and those variables have to be taken into account because those strengths and weaknesses develop what I call a personal style, a way of going through life of protecting oneself from all the dangers, real or imagined. So everyone has their package which I’m calling personal style. And those personal styles, those packages are unique.
Of course there are common denominators within those personal styles and those combinations create a unique package. As Herman Hesse said “Each individual is a unique experiment on the part of the creator.” I believe that and I have witnessed that. If I am going to be in the position of being a counselor, a teacher, a recommender or questioner, I have to be aware of the unique experiments that we are. So the answer succinctly is that I do see common denominators. But I see unique combinations, so I work with small numbers of people so that I can take one person at a time and see what that person might need, what that person might have avoided - what tool, what point of view, what dynamic might fit appropriately for that person in that moment.
In addition to knowing those things, I also have to know what people have avoided in their lives. Because if people have avoided something, that avoidance might be connected to fear. Fear is the biggest stimulus for avoiding. Fear of not being good at something. “I never sang out loud because I thought people would laugh at me. I was afraid. I never tried to play an instrument. I never tried to go for a certain job. I never tried to speak publicly.”
These are things I have to know about people individually, because the spiritual quest is not a product of fear and avoidance. It is a product of having dealt with the things that a person has to deal with. Fear is a very dense vibration. And the spiritual quest is not a product of succumbing to a dense vibration. It’s a product of having lived through the different levels of vibration while leaving some of the dense ones behind so that it is actually possible to embrace the fine vibrations of spirituality. A person in my position has to know what people have avoided, and to have those people know that I know that they’ve avoided some things, so that we can work together in making conditions available so that some of these avoidances through fear can naturally be contended with.
Now that you have moved into the role of inspirational teacher and spiritual guide what specific qualities do you feel today's spiritual advisors need to have in order to meet the challenges posed by a generation brought up in such a technologically intensive culture as ours?
Interesting question, because the momentum and the impetus to be what you might call a spiritual teacher or really an advisor of any kind is so much based on the nature of our culture and the self-confidence or the false self-confidence that we feel it is necessary to present. When you go to a job interview and somebody says, “Are you good at this?” You can’t say, “Well, yeah, I’m a little good at it. Some things I can do, and some things I can’t do.” You have to present yourself with some bravado, with some confidence, with some false confidence. You have to say “I’m good at this, I can do this.” In a competitive world, one learns to present confidence whether it’s there or not. One learns to present expertise if it’s there or not. And then after a while one gets to imagine that that expertise that they had to present is actually a possession. They actually have that expertise.
But expertise is rarely found in our time. If someone is better than someone else at something, they can very easily conceive of themselves as an expert. People are rarely aware that their motivation is that the position of an instructor, a teacher, a counselor, will insulate them from some of the dangers and some of the fears that they have.
Because if a person places themselves in the position of a teacher where they can tell you what’s best for you, that also means you can’t tell them what’s best for them. Their position is insulated by that superiority. In some aspects of life, this is not dangerous, this is not harmful. It’s relatively meaningless if we’re talking about playing table tennis or how to change a tire. You can be good at it, you can be an expert at it, you can be a master at it. But you’re still changing a tire.
In terms of the spiritual pursuit, this is very different because the nature of the spiritual pursuit is so complex. Not because the nature of spirit is complex, but because the nature of our culture is so complex. The nature of our imagination of our accomplishments is so complex. The nature of our ability to be good and loving is so complex, and so tangled and so tangential to actual fact, that presuming that one can actually teach something abouy getting closer to the fine vibration of spirit is questionable.
The first credential that you should have is that in yourself you are deeply, deeply honest about your capacity. You must know that you are not coming from a place of wanting to be a healer, that you would like to be a counselor, or that you would like to be a life coach. If you start with the deep honesty and impartiality, that you understand that the possibility exists that you want to be this healer, a life coach because it’s a safe place to be, an insulated place to be, because people won’t challenge or question you if you can present yourself in that way. If you can really examine that about yourself, then you have some failsafe for getting into trouble of imagining that you can do something that you really can’t.
Forty years ago, when I first started talking to people, I was instructed to do that by someone who played that part in my life. I was instructed to put my picture on a poster and put it up on the wall and say I knew stuff, and that I would then go out and start talking. And I was given one more instruction: never say that you know something you don’t. Never present yourself as understanding something you don’t.
So I tried to follow those instructions. One thing that I learned along the way – it was much safer to ask questions than to give instructions. The spiritual path, and really the path of exploration of life, is an exploration of questions, not an exploration of answers. If a person can learn how to see the next opening in the door, and ask how to get through that opening they will increase their chances for success.
So I rarely if ever tell people what to do. I ask questions, and I teach people how to explore so that they themselves will be able to answer the questions of how to know what to do. If you find yourself being an advisor, you should definitely question yourself. Now you can be an advisor in fishing, you can be an advisor in car mechanics, you can be an advisor in how to better cook or clean a house, but you may not really be an advisor in spiritual matters. The spirit, those finer vibrations that keeps everything going, that maintains life, is alive in everyone equally. And the quest and the exploration is for a person to discover that finer vibration within inside themselves. And that is not the product of getting advice, giving advice, or receiving advice. It’s a product of learning how to explore, so that you can learn how to answer the questions that are alive in you as much as they are alive in anybody else.
How do you personally define the term 'God' and is it a concept that you feel is important or relevant to your life? If so has this changed over the years?
Let’s back up first, because the concept of terminology is a fascinating field of study, field of exploration. Of course, God is a term. It’s a word, it’s spelled in English with a G and an O and a D. It’s spelled in French in a different way, it’s spelled in Italian in a different way, it’s spelled in Chinese in a different way.
To explore the question you ask we have to start with a simpler example than with such a vast concept such as the term God. The word tree, which is spelled with a T, an R, and two E’s can very easily be recognized with the use of that terminology. So if a person says, “What is that?” The answer to that question will be “It’s a tree,” and you say that terminology spelled with four letters in English, and five letters in French, etc. etc. But really, the terminology does in no way whatsoever, in any language whatsoever – whether it be Sanskrit, or Navajo, or any other language - there’s no way that terminology and language is any more than a symbol which makes reference to a tree. There are a hundred billion billion trees on this earth. So that’s a hundred billion billion misrepresentations because of not understanding that terminology is representative. Terminology does not define anything. No term defines anything.
Think of people's names. Take a person who's 30 years old - has lived a little, has been a child, has been an adult (sometimes) - 30 years old. Now, the experiences that person has had in 30 years - all the hours, all the minutes, all the successes, all the failures, all the anxiety, all the wishing, all the hopes, all the moments - millions and millions of moments. And you would say, "Who is that? Oh it’s John “Do you know Steve, do you know Annette, do you know Renee, or Lisa?” You'd say, "Yes, I know Lisa," because you know that name. Or you ask "Who's in that movie?" "Who sings that song?" And you name the person who sings it. You say Adelle sings that song. Or you'll say, the Beatles sing that song. And you'll think you actually said something. But think of that life, and those lives that you're defining with terminology. If you really understood how little you're saying when you use terminology, then you might be able to really use terminology in a beneficial way.
Language is an incredible source of opportunity for exploration. It is a distortion as a source for explanation. Language doesn't explain anything. It is a vehicle for exploring, and in that, it is a tremendous and extraordinary human gift. But we have distorted the nature of language because we use it as a vehicle to explain, to close the door.
"Yes I know that" and fill in the appropriate term. "Yes I have seen that" and fill in the appropriate term.
So now we get to the question - what do I think about the terminology of the word God? Do I see it differently? I see there is something that that word represents. Certainly for different people it represents different things depending on that person's state of being and their understanding. Whatever language that "creator" is expressed in, whatever term is used, there is something behind that, there is something to be quested for, to be reconnected to, to be closer in appreciation and recognition. But generally terminology is used to close the door. So we say, "What created this? Oh, God created it." We have an answer – but we've answered absolutely nothing. We've used three letters in the English language to close the door. Also the term energy, or the term spirit, or any term formed by letters, can close the door.
The exploration of what's behind those terms is what is the essential endeavor of a spiritual seeker. What is behind the term - is there an experience there? Is there an understanding there? Is there a depth there? Because there is an energy that keeps everything going. How can an energy support the unfolding of an oak tree into a leaf and a human burp? How can the same energy do those things a thousand million times around the earth simultaneously? It's inconceivable to us. And that we would come up with a term that would define that is only a manifestation of our lack of depth.
So my understanding and my experience is that there are human experiences that are finer and finer, and that come as a product of exploration, not explanation. And those human experiences allow the perception of a finer and finer reality. If a person is indeed interested in exploring the depth of the gift of human life, they would be involved in the exploration of those experiences more than they would be reducing vastness to terminology.
I see from reading your memoirs as well as from your other books that travel is something that is close to your heart. Are there any places or locations in the world that you have yet to visit but would like to - and why? Which have been your most memorable?
The primary reason that I value travel is because it allows an expanded view of a subjective upbringing, and all our upbringings have been subjective. They have all been specific to ourselves, and that is an extremely limited view. I grew up in New York City. There is a commonality to the experience of having grown up in New York City. But if a person grew up in a small town in the mid-west or grew up in another country, in a city, or in a small town, they would share commonality of experience with people who grew up in that way and would assume that that’s the way that people grow up. There are also economic and educational and ethnic and religious upbringings that people have had which share commonalities. By the time you’re 12 years old, you assume that the nature of growing up is the way that you’ve grown up. And this is a very narrow, inaccurate and distorted assumption. Exploration and expansion cannot proceed without correcting inaccurate assumptions. Travel is one of the easiest and most entertaining ways to break down the concept of “everyone looks at life like I look at life….and if you don’t look at life like I look at life you’re weird or your different or there’s something deficient in the way you look at life.”
Certainly we can see that the nature of the present chaos in the world and the contentiousness between different cultures and religions and ethnicities, is because people don’t have a value for the way other people look at things. If people started to travel when they were young and expanded their view, that isolation and that limited view would have to be eroded. I started traveling relatively young and I have extensively traveled almost every place on this planet. Each time I encountered people who looked at things in a different way than I looked at things. People actually live without blenders and microwaves. People actually live without indoor plumbing. People actually live without an extraordinary variety of food on the shelves, and some people are even okay with it. My first time in Algeria I went into a food store and all they had was apricot jam and canned peas - that was it, apricot jam and canned peas. I felt sorry for these poor neglected people. But then of course when I came back to my affluent culture, I walked through the supermarket and not only did I see apricot jam and canned peas, I saw 30 varieties of apricot jam, half sugar, all sugar, no sugar, whole apricots, half apricots, quartered apricots and it looked somewhat obscene, it looked excessive, which I would have never thought had I not traveled.
If a person actually wants to understand the nature of humanity on this earth then they have to get a taste of humanity on this earth, not a taste of life in London, or life in Kazakhstan, or life in Illinois, or life in a big city, or life in the country, but they have to get a taste of what human beings have done and what human beings do. And not only in travel in the present, but in the history of humanity. The history of humanity is very important to appreciate because every story has a beginning and a middle. And there are many more beginnings and middles than ends, because stories are still unfolding. If our knowledge of life is exclusively of one place and time we are not going to be able to appreciate the evolution and condition of human beings on this earth. If we think that we’re going to become helpers in any way, whether it be political, scientific or spiritual, an appreciation of the human condition is paramount - without that there’s some deficiency there. Without knowing the history of humanity, without appreciating it there’s definitely going to be a deficiency in our ability to help. So the other question you asked, Is there any place that I haven’t gone that I would like……I would like to see Manchester United play football.
What are your plans for your spiritual work for the next ten years and beyond and how do you intend to meet those challenges? Do you make plans and focus on personal goals or do you make choices through the opportunities that life presents to you?
Sounds like somebody who knew me asked that question, because my planning capacity is relatively limited. I am impressed by people who have long term goals. The way that I see the nature of life is movement, not only in groups of people but within individuals themselves, is that it is erratic and inconsistent. Human beings are not one thing – they are a collection of selves each with a different agenda. So if I were to make a plan to get a group of people together to do something that would take two years, to have any expectation that it could actually come about is really not to understand the nature of the individual human being.
That a person might present themselves as, “Yes, I’m really interested in your plan, and I would like to lend my support and dedication to your plan,” not realizing that within them there are so many different interests, so many different - as you might say - selves, that that person’s ability to commit is not what either they or your wishful thinking expects them to be. Because their interest the next day might be something very different. Or some variable might come in the way and their interest and your interest might be altered. You might be dedicated to some industrial endeavor, but then you meet someone of the opposite sex, or could be even of the same sex, and you’re enamored of that person, and that new person has a very different plan, and your plan changes.
This doesn’t only happen in easy to appreciate situations like that one. It happens daily, momently, hourly, that you ask a person, “Hey, do you want to go out to eat tomorrow?” And the next day you say to them, “Well, what time shall we meet?” And that person says, “Meet where?” Because things have happened in that person’s life, and their interest in going out to eat has evaporated. And you feel disappointed, they feel guilty, and end up going out to eat with you only because they said something yesterday, if they even remember they said something yesterday.
So my understanding and knowledge of human nature through really extensive study of myself and others, has brought me to a place where I deal with the moment. If I am a master of anything, I am a master of the moment. I live the moment, I live moments at a time. I make short term plans, some of which come about, many of which don’t come about.
But my picture of the capacity of humanity to actually continue with an aspiration - now this is very evident in our political world. And let’s think of that. Every country has political competition of some kind. And there are so many well-meaning people that are involved in politics. Now there are people who aren’t well-meaning in politics. But let’s leave them aside. Let’s deal with the well-meaning people in politics. You read their biography, you read their history, and you know they came to this position of authority with some aspirations and ideals that were considerable. And their plan was – I want to help. And there are physicians that started out – I want to help people. But then the bills started coming in, and the pressure started to come in. And the necessities, and the way other people do it started to come in. And that person ends up being a plastic surgeon, not who helps burn victims, but who helps Hollywood celebrities look young for longer. That was in no way that person’s plan when they were a teenager and wanted to be a healer. But it does happen.
In understanding that, I deal with the moments, and I understand the nature of what can come about. I understand the nature of the moment. And I have isolated my plans to short-range plans. So I deal with small numbers of people, and I will continue to deal with small numbers of people.
Right now I have four books that I’ve written which are available to anybody. I haven’t written them to become famous. I’m not looking to become famous. I think there are ideas that I’m presenting now that could be of value to people – some people, somewhere, sometime - as other people’s ideas have been of value to me - people who are still alive, and people who have lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
So I see a value to getting something in print, and having it in the form of a book – something tangible – which may be on computers and may be reduced to technology, but still has what’s called a “hard copy.” It’s hard. You can put it on your hand. If somebody hits you on the head with it, it’s hard. If somebody hits you on the head with a digital book, you won’t feel anything. But it’s a hard copy. And I find I have a value for that. So I have four published books which are out there, and I think there are valuable elements in them that somebody at some point might find worthwhile, whether it’s in this century or the next century or the one after that. It’s not a plan I have for them, but it’s a plan I have for now.
And finally, where can we direct any readers who might be interested in finding out more about your work?
J. Jaye Gold
Images Credit: All images copyright J J Gold. Reproduced with permission.