Russel Williams is one of the most remarkable enlightened spiritual teachers of our time. After an early life of extreme hardship – leaving school at the age of 11, and becoming an orphan shortly afterwards – he underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 29. Since the late 1950s, he has been a spiritual teacher, and is still actively teaching now, at the age of 94. Previously, Russel has avoided publicity and never published any writings or transcripts of his talks, preferring to work quietly with small groups. This is the first time any details of his teachings or of his life have appeared in print. This book is partly a record of his teachings, and partly also the story of his extraordinary life. Working with well-known spiritual author Steve Taylor – who has attended Russel’s meetings regularly since the 1990s – Russel has created a profound text which will surely become known as a classic of spiritual literature.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
Not I, Not other than I
Russel Williams, author
Steve Taylor, editor
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782797296, $15.95, 171pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Russel Williams was born in London in 1921. He now lives in lives in Atherton, near Manchester, UK, with his wife Joyce. Since 1974, he has been the president of The Buddhist Society of Manchester. Deftly edited by Steve Taylor, "Not I, Not other than I: The Life And Teachings Of Russel Williams" is a compendium of the thought and writings of Russel Williams, who is one of the most remarkable enlightened spiritual teachers of our time. After an early life of extreme hardship (leaving school at the age of 11, and becoming an orphan shortly afterwards) Williams underwent a spiritual awakening at the age of 29. Since the late 1950s, he has been a spiritual teacher, and is still actively teaching now, at the age of 94. Previously, Russel has avoided publicity and never published any writings or transcripts of his talks, preferring to work quietly with small groups. "Not I, Not other than I" is the first time any details of his teachings or of his life have appeared in print. "Not I, Not other than I" is partly a record of his teachings, and partly also the story of his extraordinary life. Working with well-known spiritual author Steve Taylor (who has attended Russel's meetings regularly since the 1990s) Russel has created a profound text which will surely become known as a classic of spiritual literature.
Critique: "Not I, Not other than I: The Life And Teachings Of Russel Williams" is an enormously important contribution to the study of religion and spirituality. An absorbing read from beginning to end, "Not I, Not other than I" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking, as it is inspired and inspiring. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Not I, Not other than I" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.09).
Michael J. Carson
~ Michael J Carson, Midwest Book Review
Readers may like to refer to Steve Taylor's article above before reading my review of this remarkable record and compilation from a little-known spiritual teacher now in his 90s. Steve has rendered a valuable service to spiritual seekers in making this wisdom more widely available. The book neatly alternates a chronological account of Russel's life with his spiritual teachings transcribed from his talks at the Buddhist Society in Manchester. Russel's life is both ordinary and extraordinary, ordinary in some of the jobs that he has done, but extraordinary in terms of his experience development and insight.
Even as a child, he came close to death by drowning on a number of occasions. The narrative describes a number of accidents that would probably have killed a normal person, including being struck by lightning and electrocuted. He lived through the Blitz and took part in the evacuation pf Dunkirk, seeing some terrible scenes in the process. He shows no fear, recalling an incident as a child when he pummeled the legs of an elephant for throwing his dog into the air. After the war, he got a job looking after horses, which proved a turning point in his life. He became so concentrated in the horses that his mind went quiet and he was not thinking anymore; effectively he was absorbed in mindfulness meditation. As described in Steve’s article, he suddenly becomes one with the horse from the inside, realising that there is one consciousness linking us all together – he then felt a sense of oneness towards everything.
He became involved in circuses and tells the story of when he was trapped inside a lion’s cage with the lion walking towards him, then the next thing he knew he was standing 10 feet outside the cage watching the lion bringing his other legs in. Not only was the door closed, but it was also padlocked. His relationship with horses is based on complete trust and is quite remarkable. One horse has mauled four people, and Russel manages to calm him down within half an hour. On another occasion, he had to deal with 27 wild horses, so he sat down completey calm with a bucket of water, waiting as each horse csme up to drink and sniff hijm. He was also able to calm a horse that has impaled itself on a fence and required a painful and protracted set of stitches. The vet has never seen anything like it.
Through an interesting coincidence of circumstances, Russel finally meets John Garrie, one of the founders of the Buddhist Society, who is absolutely able to understand what he has been through and his spiritual philosophy. He then gets involved with the Buddhist Society and has been teaching there ever since. He seems to have a special relationship with Ramana Maharshi and it is clear that his wisdom in channelled from another level and derived from any reading. For him, the only reality is consciousness itself, with no separation. He sees the future involving a shift in human psyche where people will more readily perceive their spiritual nature. As for him, he has memories of being a spiritual teacher in previous lives, but does not feel that he will be born again – his influence will remain as a wider consciousness: ‘I won’t be coming back, but I’ll still be here.’
Russel’s teaching is one of feeling and being. For him, feeling unites and thinking separates, to feel is to experience throughout mindful attention to the present. This involves giving full attention not only to people, but also to trivial household tasks. God is the universal unmanifest consciousness that manifests through each of us. Metta or loving-kindness is equally important and can be felt as a sense of unity and expansion in his meetings, creating a rapport between those present. He encourages shorter rather than longer periods of meditation in order to gain a greater sense of continuity.
He reminds us that is doesn’t take any effort to be content, we just need to let go and be in the present. This also enables us to nurture, to give out – and in moving beyond duality we move beyond thought into stillness and peace. Russel urges us to slow down and be gentle, reminding us that our qualities and perceptions are reflected back to us by life.
Spiritual development enables transparency to emerge and to reach a place beyond words: ‘living in the moment there is now a clarity – in the seeing is the knowing, in the experiencing is the knowing… we see clearly, with no judgement whatsoever. There is nothing to judge by, because judgement lies in a conceptual field. And if that field is clear and empty, then no judgement can take place.’ As he humorously summarises, ‘when you see things clearly for what they are, understanding isn’t necessary.’ There is nothing missing in our lives if we look into wholeness rather than duality. He also comments that our problems cannot be stronger than ourselves ‘because you are the one who created them in the first place.’ Similarly, ‘someone might feel there is something missing, but as a person they are the bit that is missing from the whole.
Readers can perhaps appreciate that there is great simplicity, clarity and wisdom in these insights into the nature of consciousness and the self. The mind likes to complicate things and we can end up chasing our tails instead of experiencing life as it is. There is a way of striving and a way of letting go. Of the approach is Barbara De Angelis is fundamentally one of striving, then Russel’s is equally a simple way of being that focuses on experiencing life beyond duality and feeling its wholeness.
~ David Lorimer, Network Review Autumn 2015
'For over half a century Russel Williams has been an utterly authentic voice of the Buddha dharma and spiritual friend to many. His goodness and wisdom shine through the pages of this book.’ ~ Lama Jampa Thaye, scholar, author, meditation master, founder of the Dechen International Association of Sakya and Karma Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist Centres
‘One of the most remarkable and powerful spiritual teachers of our time, who has been happy to remain almost unknown for several decades, sharing his wisdom and his presence to small groups of people, quietly changing many lives. With this book, Russel’s profound teachings reach out to the wider world for the first time.’ ~ Steve Taylor, author of The Fall, Waking From Sleep and The Calm Center.