I’ve often wondered how it would look if someone like Jack LaLanne or Anthony Robbins—whom I’ve always admired for their indomitable spirit, incredible self-discipline, and joie de vivre—became enlightened. When I discovered Peter Ragnar, I think I found out.
The amazing Peter Ragnar is a modern-day shaman, Taoist wizard, natural life scientist, and self-master par excellence. He lives in the Tennessee mountains with his wife, and he claims to be a “senior citizen” but refuses to give away his age because he “doesn’t believe in it.” He does strenuous two-hour strength-training workouts seven days a week and performs record-breaking feats. He’s been a martial arts practitioner for over fifty years, and he has developed his own version of Taoist energy practice called “Magnetic Qi Gong,” which he claims is the key to immortality. He has healing powers and is renowned for his clairvoyant and telepathic abilities. He lives on a strict diet of raw foods and juices and has spent a lifetime studying the relationship between the body and the mind at all levels. And his most remarkable attainment is his profound awakening to the energetic dimension, or “bio-electric-magnetic” field, of life. While this dimension of reality and experience is one that many have heard of, it’s a world that Peter actually lives in.
All this being said, Peter’s most compelling and inspiring message is his steadfast and passionate call to self-mastery based upon the relentless cultivation of intention. This foundational element of his teaching is clearly a contemporary expression of the great American New Thought tradition, championed in the early twentieth century by Napoleon Hill, author of the all-time bestseller Think and Grow Rich,and later by Norman Vincent Peale, known for his widely acclaimed, inspirational classic The Power of Positive Thinking. Hill wrote in 1937, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve.” At the beginning of the new millennium, Peter Ragnar is proving that it’s still true!
ANDREW COHEN: Peter, why is it that you declare that there is no explainable reason why a person should die, other than his or her belief in death?
PETER RAGNAR: Because I feel that we have ultimate control to the degree that we’re conscious. If we are conscious enough, we can make anything happen in our body. We can preserve this body or we can kill this body.
It’s very simple to see how people kill their bodies with their thoughts—it’s a product of their unconsciousness of causes and effects. If we’re conscious of our thoughts—I mean luminously conscious of our thoughts—those thoughts then impregnate the cellular structure of our body in a way that is very, very difficult to explain. When you have an abundance of life force inside you, it pours out of your eyes. It comes out of the palms of your hands as heat, as healing heat. It radiates as if you swallowed the sun, and you are different. Now, with that type of dynamic and powerful energy inside of you, how can you die?
COHEN: Interesting question!
RAGNAR: It’s a working hypothesis, of course. But the more life we have running through our body’s energy system, the more alive we are. Life is not death, life is the opposite of death. So embracing life is the situation. How many people embrace life with every thought and every action and every decision they make? Only a very, very rare few.
You see, we’ve been conditioned to believe in death. Right from the very first breath we take, we feel like life is a march between the womb and the tomb.
COHEN: (laughs) Well, it does seem that everything in the universe that is born and takes on physical form goes through a maturation process and ultimately degenerates and falls away.
RAGNAR: That’s true. But let’s look at it from the standpoint of a caterpillar in the process of becoming a butterfly. Andrew, do butterflies come out of deformed cocoons, or do they come out of cocoons that are fully perfected?
COHEN: Cocoons that are fully perfected.
RAGNAR: Exactly. So I feel that we should endeavor with every ounce of strength that we have to create a perfect life, to become fully perfected as human beings, and then see if we fly. Now, we may not. I may be wrong. But the quest is to be a perfect human.
That may sound rather egotistic. People might say, “Oh no, just give up, don’t do anything. You’re efforting too much.” But it’s not effort—it’s our evolution. Our evolution is to get better and better and better at every single thing that we do. For example, I’m well past my athletic prime, according to the experts, and yet I keep breaking my own personal records. I don’t believe in age; I’m ageless. But I will say that I’m a senior citizen, a pre-baby boomer. And I continue to break records I couldn’t have done when I was in my twenties and thirties. Why? Because I don’t believe in limitations. And because I don’t believe in them, I’m free. I’m free to do anything I want to do. If I want to break world records, I can break world records, if that’s what’s important.
COHEN: What you seem to be saying is, “Let’s make the effort to transcend all of our self-limiting thoughts, all of our convictions of emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical limitation. Let’s first try to discover, at least as far as we can humanly imagine, what a perfectly full and absolutely positive embrace of the human experience is. And then let’s see what the result is going to be on every level, including the physical.” Is that what you mean?
RAGNAR: Absolutely. You put it as good as it can be put.
COHEN: So therefore, you don’t actually mean that if you strive to live a perfect life, you will live forever. But that if you strive to live a perfect life, you don’t exactly know how long you’re going to live, but let’s find out. That kind of thing?
RAGNAR: Exactly, let’s find out. It’s a working hypothesis. Let’s find out if this life is a definite one of eighty to ninety years, or seventy to eighty years, however gerontologists might want to estimate it—or whether it’s an indefinite life that you can go on living as long as you stay in that space. If you can live the “perfect life,” how long would that life span be?
COHEN: What would it mean, then, to live a perfect life?
RAGNAR: Well, first, it would be free of all limiting beliefs, because we are not limited creatures unless we believe we’re limited. And how do we drop all limitations? By becoming more conscious. By adding more conscious energy and life force to our physical organism until we literally see it glowing; we see it glowing in the dark.
COHEN: Peter, what is the life force? Where does it come from?
RAGNAR: I wish I knew that. The Chinese Taoists call it chi, and a lot of people refer to it. But these are just words. It’s an oscillation that is absolutely physically measurable. To the degree that your body oscillates with its vibration, it can be measured. But what it is . . . they’re still arguing about what electricity is! We know how to create it, but we don’t know what it is.
Every time you have an electrical field, you also have a magnetic field, so you can’t really talk about electricity without bringing magnetism into it. But what’s beyond that? They’ve discovered that maybe the smallest quantum of energy is actually what is defined as chi. It’s an oscillation of something that gives off a bio-electric-magnetic field. The stronger that bio-electric-magnetic field is, the more vitality the individual has, the more life force. And of course, you’ll see it in the electricity in the eyes; you’ll hear it in the voice; you’ll see it in the way the body flows without hesitation; you’ll see it in the posture. I don’t know what it is; all I know is that I am that.
COHEN: You make a distinction, I think, between prenatal and postnatal chi. Could you explain what the difference is?
RAGNAR: Basically, we come into this life with a battery that has a certain amount of juice in it. I call this prenatal chi. If you don’t do a thing and you just continue to run with your lights on and the radio blaring, eventually the battery will wear out, depending upon how much demand you put on it. And that’s generally seventy to eighty years. So we’ve got a battery that is meant to last at least that long. However, if you plug the battery in at night and you charge it, there’s no end in sight—that’s postnatal chi. I have a concept that says: If you go to bed with more energy than you woke up with, then all night long, you’ve got the battery charger on. And that’s the secret to life. It’s that simple.
Andrew Cohen, founder of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, is a spiritual teacher and acclaimed author widely recognized as a defining voice in the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality. A life-changing awakening in 1986 brought Cohen to the end of his own search for liberation while simultaneously starting him on an exploration of the meaning and significance of enlightenment for our time. This has led him to a profound investigation of the human predicament and into dialogue with sages, saints, and spiritual luminaries from nearly every tradition and beyond.