As Scott mentioned, one cannot know for sure what anyone is thinking. However, their output is indicative of what they're likely to be thinking. On that basis, I think it's likely that Dan (and perhaps David too) was attracted to the qualities of intelligence, eloquence, and mild eccentricity displayed by Sue, and then projected more advanced meanings onto her words.
David: I was just wondering, Sue...Do you believe in life and death?
Sue: Do I believe in life and death?
Sue: In the sense of...? What a lovely question.
[Dan snorts at her joke]
Sue: In the sense of your tree, yes, I think you can say that a tree is alive when its leaves are growing and it's shedding them in the autumn and it's fruiting and whatever; and it's dead when it's lying down on the ground and it's being eaten by something else. And you can say that at a certain point a person dies, it's not an absolute sudden thing, it's not instantaneous, but you know --- life and death in that sense. Do I believe in life and death in the sense that "I", some essential "me" or spirit or soul or something like that, is alive and then will die, no I don't. I think selves are just endlessly recreated in one system, like this body that's called Sue Blackmore, again and again, different selves that think they're Sue Blackmore, and think they're in charge, appear and disappear, and so on. So, in a sense, life and death is just an endless cycle, happening all the time, every moment. And it doesn't have a beginning or an end in the sense of there being a "me" who is born at one time and dies at another. I don't know whether that really answers your question, but that's some thoughts on life and death.
David: [Smiling voice] Also we can think of our selves as through the effects of our actions: like, you're talking to us and we're taking on board some of your ideas, so you're reincarnating in some way, inside us and the listeners and whatnot.
Sue: Yes, reincarnation is such a troublesome thing. I get so many emails from so many people who get angry with me for even talking about Buddhism, saying, "You don't know anything about it; the Buddha had all these lives, and we're all going to be reincarnated, and you can't call yourself a Buddhist" - I don't call myself a Buddhist - "How dare you even speak about it when you don't even understand reincarnation" and so on. I shouldn't be upset by these emails, should I.
Sue: But more interesting is to take the concept of reincarnation and to look at what it could mean, and I think, when within Buddhism they talk about "the cycle of rebirth", I think one can think of it as nothing to do with a soul or a spirit that gets reincarnated, which after all is what the Buddha denied right from the very start: you know, "we have this false self created by clinging, the way is to let go of that clinging self," and so on, so the self disappears. What then does reincarnation mean if there is not a self who lives in one body and then goes on to another? What I think it can mean is that the sense of self that is continuously arising, this illusion that keeps popping up --- and every time we think in a particular way: "Ooh! I want this," or "I believe that," or "I need to do such-and-such a thing", or "I just decided x," that gives birth to a new image of self, again and again and again, as long as we think about things in that way, that a self has consciousness and free-will and does things and decides things, then rebirth is happening every moment all the time, probably lots and lots in parallel at any one time within a person, just to make it more complicated.
Sue: So in that sense, getting off the cycle of rebirth would be just not falling into that illusion again and again, just letting go of the whole thing.
Dan: Well, I think I've only ever met possibly three or four Buddhists in my entire life who actually hold that particular view of reincarnation, even though I regard it as a very accurate one.
Sue: I don't know, I certainly couldn't count the number of people, even whether it's a coherent view, we could count....I'm struggling, as you can tell, I'm struggling with my own practice, my own attempts to look into what it means to be human, what it is that happens. And that's the best that I can do for the moment. I'd like to ask you about these three or four people. Were they people who you felt had really got some insight? Or were you thinking that it was just an intellectual view that people hold?
Dan: No, absolutely, that these people were people who had insight. Even though you say you're struggling with these ideas, and it's good that you're very candid and honest about that, I have to say that that description of reincarnation is one of the best I've ever heard. And it's pretty much the same view that David and I would hold, even though we might describe it differently, somewhat differently. Again, I'm speaking for David and I probably shouldn't do that.
David: Well, what about the role of emotional attachments, because in my way of thinking if there is no self, then to become emotionally attached to things, you know, for the sake of happiness, and comfort, and whatnot, is really a delusion, because it's based on a concept of self. Like, for example, my mother's currently dying of dementia and I know your mother died recently of dementia. I know society expects me to be upset about this, but I'm not really all that emotional about it because, it's partly to do with the fact that she has had the disease for some years and you kind of come to terms with the fact, and also that she's lived a long life and so forth. But mainly it's to do with I no longer think of her as my mother, because when I think of what gave birth to me, she is just one small component of that, and I think of oxygen, I think of food, I think of the evolution of the species, I think of the Big Bang. You know, millions and millions of things have come together to produce me, so the whole of Nature is my true mother, and so I can't really get emotional about the coming death of my biological mother. Do you think that's a reasonable way to go, if you don't believe in the self anymore?
Sue: Ohh, dementia is a tough one, and as you say, I've just seen my mother die last month of dementia, and at the end, couldn't make - speak - couldn't speak at all, couldn't make any sense, couldn't recognise anybody, was just curled up in the chair and - uhh [gets emotional] - it is a terrible---
David: Yes, it's horrible.
David: It's a horrible thing. Yep. Sure.
Sue: Yeh, it's a horrible thing to go through, and many of us have to go through watching people we love go that way, and we'll probably go that way ourselves, and be just as unaware when it comes to us.
David: If we're lucky.
Sue: Yes. But to go back to your question, it seems to me that to be emotional and to care and to love people and to be hurt by people are all ordinary human capacities that human bodies have. And we shouldn't try to suppress them or --- We need to acknowledge that that's what they are, they're natural human capacities. Thinking of it in that way is very different to thinking of it as "I've got a little self in here who's the one who is upset and crying" which is the way we talk about it in our ordinary language and how we think about it. So I think it's possible to throw out the idea of the little self who's the one who's having the emotions, and simply have them in a much more spontaneous and ordinary way. I don't very often quote Zen stories, and I don't know who they were, or where they came from, but I often remember a story told a long time ago, about this - you know, typical Zen story - there's this great master sitting up in a cave somewhere or another, and back down in the town his son dies, and one of the monks is sent up to tell him that his son has died. And the monk comes up and he greets the master and he says, "Oh, master, I've got to tell you that your son has died." Whereupon the master cries. And the monk is completely surprised and he says, "But you're supposed to be an enlightened master, why should you cry?" He says, "I'm crying because my son has died." What that story says to me, is that it's perfectly natural to be sad and to cry and to grieve and so on, and it's not because there's a "little you" in there who's lost their mummy, it's biologically because we're creatures who cry when sad things happen like losing their mother. That sustained me to some extent through this ghastly process, but by raising the question of dementia, you've made it very complicated. Because what you've done, and I certainly did, is you do a lot of your grieving long before they die. So when my mother finally died, it was relief and was fairly straightforward, I stood there looking in the coffin and I thought all the things you thought, about, my body came from this one, it's just part of the chain going back endlessly, of information copying through the universe, and so on. And I said goodbye to her quite happily. [Sounds very unconvincing]
David: Yeh, well, I literally and quite honestly haven't experienced any emotion at all. But I'm wondering just how, if you no longer believe in a self, that really means that the boundaries between you and the rest of the universe - you don't really believe them, you believe that what you really are is the Totality, everything ---
David: ---How can you experience emotion, if you have that perception?
Sue: Oh, it happens! It happens! It cries, she cries, tears come welling up, you know. It's not me experiencing them, in the same way. Anyway, I'm not claiming to have achieved this disillusion, only to be struggling along with this process.
Sue: But I would say that emotions happen, they are things that bodies do. Adrenalin goes up, your adrenalin goes down, this/that happens, all the different things happen, tears come, shaky feelings in the tummy come, these things come in response to what's going on in the immediate universe. You know, someone says something cruel and this thing here bursts into tears. That's just how it is to be a human being.
My theory is that Sue's idea of the illusory self is based on the belief that the true I is really a collection of multiple personalities or values (her memes idea), and the false I is the concept of a coherent, unified me inside the biological body that coordinates these personalities. Consequently, she believes that false reincarnation is when the false I appears to mind (she correlates any needs and emotions with this false I), and true reincarnation is the ongoing lives of the memes. As a result, Sue can hold onto the emotional life, which she calls natural and human, because she rightly can't abandon the biological organism --- and nor can she actually abandon the false I, which she admits she's struggling with. I conclude that Sue's insight about her earlier "out-of-body" experience lacked the awareness of the illusory nature of Reality itself, such that she continues to have out-of-body experiences. Notice that she said, "It's not
experiencing [crying/tears]". She is literally identifying with her true I (multiple personalities that don't wish to conceive of her self as a unified organism), a thing that is separate from the body.
This is why I think Dan's agreement with her idea of reincarnation is foolish, and that it was likely to have occurred because he was attracted to an illusion overlaid onto his experience of her.