The Adventures of a Reluctant Student: An Interview with Richard Bach

(by Lee Stephen Gawtry)

This interview first appeared in Watkins Mind Body Spirit #38, Summer 2014.

This interview first appeared in Watkins Mind Body Spirit #38, Summer 2014.


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he following transcript is an excerpt from the interview between Lee Stephen Gawtry and Richard Bach.

Stephen: Your passion for flying has permeated your writing ever since Jonathan Livingston Seagull. When did you first discover you had a passion for being airborne?

Richard: It must have happened early on. I was terrified of heights when I was little, but my brother made wonderful airplane models. I found that I could imagine I was in the little cockpits and could fly them at an altitude of about three feet in my bedroom, which worked fine. Later the fear of heights vaporized but I loved airplanes always.

Stephen: On August 31st 2012 you were involved in a near-fatal plane crash. What happened that day?

Richard:  I was landing, and made a gentle smooth landing in a friend’s pasture, except as the wheels touched, I couldn’t see.  Oh, I thought, I must not have been flying, this is a dream!  In a while I could see again.  I was in a room way up high; it felt like I was in a gondola under a dirigible. I could see the ground 1500 feet below, very beautiful. Didn’t see anyone in the room, but someone asked, three times, if I wanted to go back to my life on Earth.  I said yes, after a while, and all of a sudden I was in a hospital! Turned out that I had been in a coma for days, that it wasn’t a dream, that my little seaplane’s wheels had caught some high-tension wires, and the sudden stop slammed the airplane upside down into the ground. The illusion of a gentle landing, how was that possible?  I learned again, that everything of this life as a mortal is fiction.  It seems real, but…well it went on from there.

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Stephen: In fifty-eight years of flying you had never previously sustained an injury. You must have wondered why this, why now?

Richard:  Exactly what I wondered.  And gradually, through some strange teachers (who reminded me that only Love is real), I found that I had asked for this startling lesson.  Changed me profoundly, the way personal experience changes us when theories don’t.  I saw death as life, fresh and bright again.  Took over a year till I healed, had my little seaplane rebuilt and we flew again.  Decided that one reason was to share the event with a few others…that there’s no such thing as dying.  Heaven’s fiction, too, but we learn there for sure.

ILLUSIONS II: The Adventures of a Reluctant Student by Richard Bach, published by CreateSpace, paperback (148 pages).

ILLUSIONS II: The Adventures of a Reluctant Student by Richard Bach, published by CreateSpace, paperback (148 pages).

Stephen: Your brush with death left you in a coma for over a week. What did the doctors think was going to happen?

Richard:  They were pretty sure that there would be problems.  Some said that I might not live, and if I did I might not walk, speak, understand, wouldn’t read or write.  Some kind of traumatic head injury.  But Sabryna was instantly on the other side, with a truth, and she said it over and over: “You are a perfect expression of perfect Love, here and now.  There will be no permanent injuries.”  I said that too, a few thousand times, and things got better soon.

Stephen: When you first awoke from the coma, your memory of what happened differed dramatically from the events of the crash. What did you think had happened?

Richard:  The so-smooth landing in my mind compared, oddly enough, against what this world said: that Puff and I were thrown upside down into the ground.  Now I believe that nothing seems to be violent to someone who’s dying.  Observers see the crash, the fires and explosions, the ones in the midst of it all see differently.  It’s all of a sudden as soft and gentle as a dream, no harm to them, no pain – a different world.  They see a beautiful land, and people who meet them, love them.  I’ve seen explosions, crashes, fires… seems like hell, but for one who’s dying in the midst of it, it’s heaven.

Find the full interview in the new issue

Meet The Author: Richard Bach is a former US Air Force fighter pilot and latter-day barnstorming pilot. The bestselling author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Messiah’s Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul, Travels with Puff: A Gentle Game of Life and Death and many other titles, he continues to be an avid aviator-author, exploring and chronicling the joys and freedom of flying. Website:

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