Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. We’ve done hundreds of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones please go to batgap.com B-A-T-G-A-P and look under the “past interviews” menu. You could also subscribe to the YouTube channel if you like and they’ll give you more recommendations of these interviews to watch. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So, if you appreciate it and would like to help support it there’s a PayPal button on every page of batgap.com. Our guest today is David Lorimer. Welcome David.
David: Thank you. I’m very pleased to be on your show.
Rick: I’m pleased to have you. I’m a great admirer of you and your work and let me just read a short bio here and then we’ll get going. So, David is a writer, lecturer, poet and editor who is a founder of Character Education Scotland, program director of the Scientific and Medical Network and former president of the Reckon Trust and the Swedenborg Society. He has also been editor of Paradigm Explorer since 1986 and completed his 100th issue in 2019. He was the instigator of the Beyond the Brain conference series and has coordinated the Mystics and Scientists conferences every year since the late 1980s. Originally a merchant banker, then a teacher of philosophy and modern languages at Winchester College, he is the author and editor of over a dozen books including Radical Prince, the Practical Vision of the Prince of Wales. His new book of essays, A Quest for Wisdom, comes out in March 2021. David is the originator of the Inspiring Purpose Values poster Programs, which has reached over 350,000 young people all over the world. David is also chair of the Galileo Commission which seeks to widen the science of consciousness beyond a materialistic worldview. I’ve included links to just about everything I just mentioned in the show notes for this interview which will be on the permanent page when I put this interview up. So today David and I are going to discuss something which I think is extremely important. I obviously think consciousness and spirituality are important, which is why I’ve been doing BatGap for 11 years, but I also think science is very important. You know, scientific knowledge and its technological applications have brought tremendous benefits but they’ve also caused great harm including the possible extinction of human and most other forms of life. As David will explain, these harmful consequences of scientific progress may be due to a failure to understand consciousness and to experience it in its full value and to put it in its rightful place as the foundation of all knowledge. So, how is that for a summary, David?
David: Yes, well that’s quite a starting point, isn’t it, to look at the whole of science and what it represents, what it’s achieved positively and negatively and its relationship to consciousness. But you’re right that consciousness is something different from any other scientific topic because it’s not reducible to anything else, especially from a first-person perspective, from which we all experience it. So, you could say that each of us personally experiences the primacy of consciousness and therefore the first-person perspective, but science operates from a third-person view, looking from the outside in, which is correlated, in my view, with the idea that mind arises from matter, that the brain produces consciousness. And for me, this is perhaps the essential point of a pointed issue and it’s one that has been looked into for 120, 140 years, starting with the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. Then a pivotal moment, in my view, was the 1897 Ingersoll Lecture on Immortality, given by William James at Harvard. And in this, he says that in terms of the relationship between the brain and consciousness, there are three possible ways of looking at it. The first way is that the brain produces consciousness, which my friend Ian McGilchrist calls the “e-missive” view, it gives it out. The second is that it transmits, in a sense, or is a transducer of consciousness. And then the third is that it permits only a certain range of consciousness, which is rather what Henri Bergson thought. And William James, at the time, said that in terms of all the normal scientific research that was going on in the 1890s, the first view explains almost everything. However, when you look at what was then known as “psychical research”, and these include what we would now call near-death experiences and so on, it’s very difficult to explain that evidence has any validity through the idea that the brain produces consciousness. And so, he felt that we needed a wider and deeper science of consciousness in order to be able to accommodate what these sorts of deep human experiences, which of course, have continued to happen, and they’re much better documented than they were in William James’s time.
Rick: And we’ve seen a lot more of them in terms of near-death experiences because of advances in cardiac care and stuff like that. So, a lot of people kind of die and then come back and have out-of-body experiences and all sorts of things that they can report.
David: Yes, exactly. And my friend Pim van Lommel, who wrote the seminal paper that came out in The Lancet in 2001, he was introduced to the NDE in exactly this way, that a patient who revived from a cardiac arrest told him what had happened to him, and that caused him to look more closely into it, and then to do this multi-center prospective study where he interviewed everybody, 341 patients, I think. He interviewed everybody who had survived the cardiac arrest to find out how many of them had a near-death experience.
Rick: Did he have a hard time getting that into The Lancet?
David: I think it’s because it was a prospective study and it was rigorously done with unimpeachable methodology and multi-centers, so it was done in quite a number of different hospitals. The method was so rigorous that they couldn’t just turn it away on the grounds that it was outside the box.
Rick: And that hints, of course, at another thing we’re going to be talking a lot today, talking about a lot today, but we’ll get into that a little bit later. I just want to have you elaborate on a couple things you just said. One is, are you comfortable with the notion, well first of all the thing about science being an objective methodology. As I understand it in almost every case I can think of, science involves the observer or experimenter, some kind of apparatus, and then the thing being observed, right? But in the case of consciousness, you can’t do that because you can’t step outside of consciousness because consciousness is the knower or the perceiver, and so the whole kind of three-fold structure of ordinary perception and scientific investigation collapses.
David: Yes, and so this is exactly the problem, and of course it’s a similar problem that occurs in quantum mechanics with the relationship between the observer and the observed, and the collapse of the wave function. This is all quite a controversial area, and I’m not a physicist, but there seems to be a lot of questioning around this relationship between the observer and the observed, the knower and the known. And it was Max Planck who in 1931 famously said that consciousness is fundamental, you cannot get behind consciousness, everything we do postulates consciousness. And he was the founder of quantum mechanics, and he shared that view with a lot of other prominent physicists, particularly Schroedinger, and then of course Wolfgang Pauli collaborated with Jung, and so this interface between neuroscience and psychology, or science and Jung, was a very, very interesting one. It kind of bears on the issue. I suppose that the nearest one can get to advancing on both fronts would be contemplative neuroscience, because there you’ve got nuns or Tibetan monks who are your subjects, and they are able to put themselves in certain states of consciousness, and those states of consciousness can be correlated with changes in brain function. And so, you can have a sort of correspondence between the inner and the outer in that sense, but of course it’s not a kind of one-to-one in a causal sense, and it begs this whole question about which way, if any, the causality goes, because we also know that meditation and other spiritual practices can alter the structures in the brain by means of neuroplasticity.
Rick: Yeah, well there’s a lot to unpack there. Let me just pick up on one other point, which is that, are you comfortable with – if we think of consciousness as a field, which is a common assumption among those who feel that consciousness is fundamental and matter is emergent – are you comfortable with the analogy or metaphor of a radio or a cell phone, maybe a shortwave radio, which can both transmit and receive, as a kind of detect – and the analogy of the nervous system being like that in the sense that it can detect or reflect or pick up on consciousness, and at the same time, when we think in terms of psychic experiences or telepathy and things like that, it can also transmit. Is that a good analogy, do you think?
David: Yes, I think it goes quite a long way, and of course it’s something that goes back to the late 19th century with the invention of radio, but it’s still a metaphor and an analogy, and so I do agree that consciousness is, as it were, a field phenomenon. But the question is – and this sort of drills down into the subject – are we talking about a transmitter and receiver, or are we talking about a non-local field where this analogy of transmission and reception, which is a good approximation, actually doesn’t work, because you’re talking about non- locality where there’s no signal. But there must be something happening.
Rick: Well, the electromagnetic field is a non-local field, and that’s why radios and cell phones work.
David: Yes, I remember having a conversation with Sir Roger Penrose about this quite a number of years ago, and we were talking about quantum locality and its comparison with consciousness, and he made that very point that there’s no signal in that quantum field. So, he couldn’t see how the kind of analogies that we were giving. And in this case, it was a very interesting one, because a friend of mine had a client who came to see him on a weekly basis, and at three o’clock on Sunday afternoon he’d suddenly felt an incredible emotion associated with this client, and he had no way of accounting for this. And then the next week she came in and he asked her whether there was anything significant going on at three o’clock on the Sunday afternoon, and she had gone to visit her mother’s grave and had burst into tears. And somehow, he had picked that up. And so, this is a really interesting question. I mean, given that these things do happen, though they are veridical in the language one might use, then the question is, how do these things happen?
Rick: Yeah, well, you’re going to have Steven G. Post on some kind of webinar in the next couple of weeks, and he had an experience when he was in college where he nearly died in a crazy motorcycle ride. He got on the back of some guy’s motorcycle, and he finally got back to his dormitory at two in the morning or something, drenching wet and just shaking with the trauma of what he went through. And as he was walking down the hall toward his room, the payphone on the wall rang, which he didn’t ordinarily answer, and he just picked it up. And it was his mother calling from New York at three in the morning her time or something, saying, “Steven, are you alright?” You know, she just was woken up from a sound sleep, feeling like something terrible had happened to him.
David: Well, Rupert Sheldrake, who is another friend, he would say that this is due to morphic resonance of the sort of similarity of frequency tuning in to each other. And again, one asks oneself, “Well, exactly how does that work?” But interestingly, in the telepathy and text experiments that he sets up on his website, where there are four possibilities of a person who might be calling you, and you have to guess in advance before they text you or phone you, the people who are bonded do much better than those who don’t know each other. And so, this is a sort of indication, I think, of maybe this loving, bonding connection underpins the connectedness in exactly the same way as you’ve just suggested with Steven and his mother.
Rick: Yeah, you’re much more likely to get a phone call from your friend or your mother than someone you don’t know, except for those who are trying to sell you an extended car warranty policy or something like that, which I get a lot of. Let me finish reading that Max Planck quote, because there’s some good stuff in this. You said the first part of it, that consciousness is fundamental, everything we regard as existing postulates consciousness. Then he went on to say, “There is no matter as such. It exists only by virtue of a force bringing the particle to vibration and holding it together in a minute solar system. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of all matter.” So, that’s cool, because that suggests that consciousness is not just some kind of plain vanilla field that somehow underlies everything, but it’s intelligent. And I want to get into that more with you in the course of this conversation. There’s quite a lot to unpack in that idea.
David: No, very much. And I see that also going back to the New Thought movement, which I’ve studied in some detail. So, for instance, this idea of the Oversoul in Emerson, or the transcendental universal mind that you find in Ralph Waldo Trine, Thomas Troward, and Charles Haanel in his Master Key system. And this could have developed into a kind of positive psychology of the day. But, of course, it was all overtaken by the rise of behaviorism in the 1920s. And indeed, William James died in 1910, and Harvard was offered money for a chair of psychical research in 1911, and they turned it down. But I think if James had still been alive, that he would have accepted it. So, this is shaping influence, isn’t there?
Rick: Yeah. And this segues into something I want to, let’s go step by step in terms of how science came to be, science as we now know it, and how it came to be dominated by a materialist paradigm in which consciousness emerges from matter and so on. So, back to the Middle Ages, obviously there were a lot of strange notions floating about and people were,… I mean that Italian monk, Bruno, what was his last name, was burned at the stake for suggesting that the stars might actually be other suns and they might have planets around them, stuff like that. So, the church dominated knowledge and there were pretty severe consequences for disagreeing with their worldview. And then somehow science emerged. So, trace back a little bit of how science did emerge and how it came to be a materialist orientation rather than the one that you’re trying to promulgate now.
David: Okay, well I’ll do my best, it’s a big question. Just to remark on Bruno, Bruno was part of a sort of hermetic movement as well and hermeticism was the other form of, as it were, heresy at the time, which had the anima mundi, the world soul behind it. So, the church didn’t like that either and this was a sort of Gnostic movement which could bypass the church where you wouldn’t need the services of the church to achieve salvation. So, that’s the sort of bracketing off and then you get the rise of the mechanistic philosophy, as it were, in a mechanistic approach. And in my view, this arises between the distinction made by Galileo and Descartes between primary and secondary qualities. And so, a primary quality was something that was matter effectively, it was something you could touch, weigh, measure, it was all quantitative. And consciousness, broadly speaking, was a secondary quality and this was also our qualia, the sense of subjective self, taste, anything which involves quality was a secondary quality. And it’s an easy move to say that, well, if there are primary qualities and secondary qualities, then the secondary qualities in some way arise from the primary qualities and the primary qualities are what we can see, measure, and experiment on. And so, the metaphor of the world’s soul, then became the machine, the metaphor of the machine. And so, someone like Descartes, for instance, said that animals were basically machines and that even if they looked as if they felt something by crying out when they were hurt, that actually was a kind of reflex mechanism that wasn’t real in that sense. And there was a fascination with the development of even things like mechanical ducks. This is when you go into the 18th century and Voltaire said a duck which was able to ‘metabolize’, in inverted commas, and even stuff coming out the other end, was one of the great glories of France. You know, obviously he was just making fun of it in a way, but the mechanistic metaphor gave a handle and a way of looking at the world, which really has come down to our day and still dominates biology. I don’t think it dominates physics, but I think it dominates biology. And so, then you get the institutionalization of science. So, the Royal Society was 1660, and the Academy of Sciences only a few years later, the French Academy of Sciences, and then you get the whole scientific culture growing up, and then in the 18th century you get the development of the Enlightenment and the importance of reason. And so, reason was then applied to the outside world and the experimental method. And in terms of our faculties, St. Bonaventure said there were three faculties we had, the eye of sense, the eye of reason, and the eye of contemplation. And science, as it’s currently constituted with its mechanistic bias or mechanistic tendency, really only looks at and is capable of looking at with those first two eyes, the eye of sense and the eye of reason. But the eye of contemplation, which is, as it were, the inner eye, the Gnostic eye, is, I think, a valid eye, which has been talked about as the eye of the heart by mystics from every tradition. And this is what we call, in the Galileo Commission Report, the capacity to see into and to experience the deeper structures of reality. So, I suppose the question is then that science might be asking itself is, are there any deeper structures of reality? Are we capable of accessing them? And are they significant for our understanding of reality?
Rick: Okay, a couple thoughts on that and I’ll have you respond to those. One thing is that, in one of your webinars, I listened to quite a few hours of your webinars that I guess was the Science and Medical Network or maybe the Galileo Commission put on, someone mentioned that there were kind of dire consequences to treading on the church’s territory as science was developed and there was this, I don’t know whether it was an implicit or explicit agreement that, “alright, you leave the spiritual stuff to us and we’ll let you mess with the material stuff. We’ll let you focus on that.” And so, if someone like Bruno were a scientist or someone, one of his successors wanted to study the material world and yet at the same time integrate consciousness or the spirituality or all that into it, he might have been tortured or killed for doing so. So, there’s that. You want to comment on that before I say the second thing?
David: Yes. So, obviously, Galileo is a case in point because he was put under house arrest and the only way he could get his point across was the dialogue on the two world systems of 1623 and the voice of the church is given to Simplicius, which is obviously an ironic attribution. And so, you couldn’t. If you were trying to move those sciences forward, the church’s authority and indeed also the authority of Aristotle, and one mustn’t forget Aristotle, this is all taken for granted. And you’re right, I think it was the Council of Trent around that time where there was this sort of maybe tacit agreement that science would look at the outer and the church would look after the spiritual and the inner. And of course, you can’t really demarcate these things and you can understand exactly why many scientists have reacted so vigorously against this authoritarian epistemological structure where you’re saying that you have to accept what we say in spite of your observations.
Rick: And I guess, as I recall, Galileo was also shown the rack and said, “Would you like to try this or would you like to revise what you’re trying to say?” And so, he was threatened, it wasn’t just house arrest, he was threatened with torture and death. That’s also the reason you call this the Galileo Commission, right? Tell us that story.
David: Yes, well, we actually use the example of the professor of philosophy at Padua who was a colleague, obviously, of Galileo’s and he absolutely refused to look through Galileo’s telescope to see whether there were any moons around Jupiter because he knew there couldn’t be. And so, it’s this-
Rick: Why couldn’t there be moons around Jupiter? How would that conflict with church orthodoxy?
David: Well, this was really the Church, this was the authority of Aristotle because it hadn’t been mentioned in Aristotle. And it’s when people know in advance that something can’t happen that the trouble arises, because then you don’t look at the evidence. Or if you do look at the evidence, then it’s got to be fraudulent or the protocols are wrong or insufficient.
Rick: Right, and so the reason you call it the Galileo Commission is that these days so many scientists, the majority, refuse to look at the evidence that consciousness might be fundamental or that one could have out of body experiences or reincarnation happens and all that kind of stuff. They refuse to look at it because it doesn’t fit their paradigm and they just assume “it’s a waste of my time, it couldn’t be real, who knows what these guys are up to, but I’m not going to spend any time on it and jeopardize my reputation by taking it seriously.”
David: Exactly, and I think that part of the issue is that the social structure of science reinforces this and also the fact that scientists aren’t actually trained in history and philosophy of science and so, they don’t know about the assumptions or they’re not aware of the assumptions that underpin the way they look at things and you can’t actually do any intellectual activity without having some assumptions and presuppositions that inform them or inform these activities. So, I think that’s part of it, but for me, I wonder whether there’s a leverage in, and I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m just raising the question, the fact that so many scientists and academics do have experiences that are out of the box but they don’t want to share those with their colleagues because they’re worried that their colleagues may think them weak-headed. But the irony is that the same colleagues are in the same situation, they’ve also had these experiences. And I understand from Diane Hennacy Powell who was on our call and Julia Mossbridge, that people in the US intelligence services are in a similar sort of situation. And so how does one help these people ‘come out’, in inverted commas, and then try and integrate the meaning and significance of these experiences into their overall philosophy?
Rick: I think there will probably be a tipping point, once enough of them, once their numbers are a sufficient percentage of the whole. So, we’ll talk more about that too. So, one other thing I find interesting is how science has kind of encroached on religion’s territory over time. So, for instance in Galileo’s day astronomy was off limits, the church had its’ say on the way the solar system works and Galileo had to be quiet. But obviously science has completely overtaken that field and so the church is kind of shrunken, it’s been relegated to a smaller territory over the last several hundred years. And comment on that before I go on.
David: Yes, well I think it depends on whether your interest in this topic is doctrinal or experiential. So, the doctrines and dogmas as defined, they arguably have less and less scope for being applied by ordinary people. But people still continue to have the core experiences out of which religion actually arises, union with God, the feeling of oneness, the feeling of cosmic love, cosmic light, which is so well documented that you can’t really deny that these significant things happen to people. And so, but the thing is that there’s a tension, I think, between the function of the priest and the function of the prophet or the mystic. So, the priest has to keep the institution going and maintain its integrity and structure, while the prophet is bringing in something new, the spirit, as against the letter and the law. And I suppose this is best exemplified in the legend of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky, where Jesus comes back to Seville in 1500 in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition, and he speaks to the cardinal. And the cardinal says to him, “If you start promulgating your message of freedom again, we’ll simply have to burn you at the stake. We realize that most people don’t want freedom. They want to be told what to do, and then we can guarantee that they get salvation in the next world. So don’t upset the apple cart”, and that’s where the dialogue ends. And I think it’s an incredibly poignant dialogue because it illustrates this tension between the pioneers and the institutionalization. And there’s a wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis from his Screwtape Letters. There’s a senior devil and a junior devil, and the junior devil comes back and reports that Christianity seems to be doing rather well. And the senior devil says, “Don’t worry, we’ll help them organize it.”
Rick: Yeah, I’ve heard variations on that one. That’s very interesting. The whole point that religion starts with someone having a deep, inner, mystical experience. And it’s not like Jesus and all these Buddha and so on just sat around and said, “I think I’ll cook up a whole set of beliefs for people to believe in.” Rather, they had an experience and then they tried to describe their experience, and they tried to impart their experience to others, but inevitably something is lost in translation. Something, it’s not easy to impart a profound experience like that. And so, Buddha and others have provided techniques and practices, “do these for X number of years and maybe you’ll have my experience.” But you inevitably end up with a lot of people getting attracted to the thing who aren’t having that experience and can only believe it or take it on faith. And then the administrative types come in and start, like you say, the lesser devils start organizing and institutionalizing it. And then they begin to feel threatened by the mystics who are actually still having the kinds of experiences that the founder of the religion had. So, it’s a rather bizarre turnaround, and it actually pertains, I think, to what we were discussing about science, which is that the natural orientation of the average person is that, they’re not sort of inwardly directed, they’re not aware of consciousness in its pure state as being unbounded and foundational and all, they’re just aware of concrete stuff. And so, the natural inclination is, “well, let’s analyze this stuff, let’s see what this is made of, and let’s take it apart and dissect it” and so on. And so, there’s this outer directedness.
David: Yes, I think that’s very, very true. I just want to comment on a slightly earlier part of what you just said, and that’s the tension between pistis, or faith, and gnosis. And the Gnostics got into all sorts of trouble, you know, for claiming to have direct experience of God and not needing the authority of the Church, as I implied with the story of the Grand Inquisitor. And they were accused of being elitist and exclusive. And if you look down the various structures, you always get this ‘hierarchy’, in inverted commas, of initiates, the people who’ve been through rigorous training and have achieved a certain level and insight and gnosis, where they know they are the whole. And that’s the meaning of gnosis. Whereas the people who haven’t had the experience, they can’t do anything else other than join the pistis brigade, as it were, and go on the tradition which embodies the experience, but is not the same as it. That’s the difficulty.
Rick: It’s like saying that the people who run the Large Hadron Collider are elitist, and, you know, why can’t I run it? Well, I don’t have the training, but, you know, if I were young enough and really wanted to work on that, I could get the appropriate training and education and so on, and maybe I could end up working there someday. So, I don’t know, it seems like an unfair accusation to say they’re elitist, it’s just they’re a little bit farther ahead than the average person in terms of their inner experience.
David: No, precisely, and that’s broadly what they said. And I think – I come from the Cathar region of France, and I’m very interested in Catharism as one of the heretical sects or movements in the Middle Ages. They regarded themselves as the true Christians because they had this message coming through from their own sources, and they were trained, men and women, and that’s an important point, women were also initiates in Catharism. They were trained rigorously, and they also had this kindness and this love which underpinned their whole attitude to life, which is why they were known – the term Cathar comes much later – so they were known at the time as the good men and the good women.
Rick: Nice. Now, during our conversation, if there’s anything that comes to mind that I’m not asking you questions about, feel free to just bring it up, because I might not think of asking something that you want to talk about. But one thing I said in my introduction was that science as it’s currently formulated and practiced and the technologies that it spawns have had a major impact on the world. Obviously, we wouldn’t be having this conversation without a lot of scientific development and understanding, and yet the whole thing has been a mixed blessing because a lot of harm has been done, usually unwittingly but sometimes intentionally, through the development of various technologies. So, let’s discuss how science influences the world because of its materialist paradigm and how, including the negative influences it has, such as the global ecological crisis and decreasing biological diversity and the increase of chronic medical conditions related to lifestyle and social inequality and global warming and so on, and how, if consciousness were given its rightful place in the hierarchy of things, if it were recognized as the foundation and everything arises from that, and if there were experiential technologies to experience that, rather than it just being a conceptual thing, how that might shift everything around and perhaps ameliorate these problems which are actually capable of exterminating us as a species in the next century if they’re not addressed, if they’re not solved.
David: Well, I suppose that, I mean, the question is what entry point to take into this enormous discussion, but one would be the mutation of progress into growth and the ideology of economic growth and its association with consumerism, and consumerism is associated with a different meaning of materialism, but one which sort of runs in parallel and also with the mechanistic mindset which enabled us to exploit the world. And so, for instance, E.F. Schumacher said that there were two kinds of science. He said there’s a science of understanding and a science of manipulation, and you can see the manipulation, and without any pejorative sense, arises from our developments in technology, that we can now control and develop things that were impossible only a few years ago. And you can see also the development of the direction of travel of technology, particularly the sort of electronic devices that we’re using at the moment. So, and I think the other issue has been, if you look at the impact of humanity on the environment, there are really two components of it. There’s the consumption component, and then there’s the population component. And so, if you look at the whole philosophy behind this, then you find that it’s, if you multiply one by the other, then you get the total impact. So, for instance, the impact of an American is 40 times the impact of someone living a more subsistence existence in Africa. So, that makes some people say, well, the problem is consumption rather than population, but the problem, as you’ve identified, is more one of overall impact, which is made very clear in the recent witness statement by Sir David Attenborough, where he talked about how much of the planet’s agricultural surface was effectively devoted to agriculture and meat-eating. And so, this idea is somewhat coming apart, the association between economic growth and happiness or well-being, because certainly for the average American wage earner, their happiness hasn’t increased and their income hasn’t increased that much either, because we’ve got much more inequality than we had. So, I think, if you then had, which is the second part of your question, if we had a sense of the primacy of consciousness and the oneness of consciousness, and I argue this in my book Resonant Mind, where I develop what I call an ethic of interconnectedness, then we would realize that we are fundamentally each other. And if you based your politics and your economics on this realization, a lived realization, then you’d see something a little bit like actually what’s been argued in a very recent book I just reviewed by Richard Layard called Can We Be Happier? And he’s the man who’s behind the World Happiness Project and the World Happiness Report. He presents something very simple, which I think is an implication of what we’re talking about, and that’s that ethically you could say that by being kind and loving to other people, then you are helping create happiness for others. So, happiness is not just a question of experiencing that state for yourself, but also, of promoting it and enabling it in others. And I wrote in my review that I found that a very simple and beautiful idea that any of us can practice and then we can feel that we’re making a contribution to the whole.
Rick: Yeah, I don’t think you actually can be that happy if you’re not promoting it or at least not radiating a positive influence. If you’re somehow hurting others, then it’s going to bounce back to you. Have you ever been on the Skeptico podcast with Alex Tsakiris? Any chance?
David: No, I haven’t.
Rick: I’m just curious because in almost every episode he talks about, he uses the phrase that science or the materialistic worldview regards us as biological robots in a meaningless universe. In fact, I had a t-shirt made that said “biological robot” on it and sent it to him. But if that’s one’s perspective and you can tell me whether you agree that that’s the general scientific worldview or the attitude that arises from it. Then, if life is meaningless and if you cease to exist when the body dies, then right then and there you’re going to be more inclined to do things that you wouldn’t do if there were any ultimate consequences. If you think that matter is just dead insentient stuff, then why not open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling? What’s up there? Just a few polar bears. Ronald Reagan had a Secretary of the Interior who wanted to just completely eliminate environmental regulations and start drilling for oil in the national parks and all, and he said, “What does it matter what we do to the environment? Jesus is coming in a few years anyway and we’re all going to be taken away.” Anyway, thoughts on that?
David: Well, it’s interesting because the materialistic view and the apocalyptic view have the same implications as you’ve just pointed out. But yes, I think it’s, I think the question of what is a human being is the key one. And if the human being has a transcendent component and that we are intrinsically united and one, even though we don’t realize it and our bodies give us a different message, then you act, or you would logically act, as if you were each other. And I’ve written about this in the context of the life review that’s reported in the near-death experience and in fact, also in post-mortem accounts. And there are two levels to it. There’s one level which is just sort of panoramic memory of your life flashing in front of you, where there’s no feeling attached to it. And then there’s what I call the life review, where you feel the totality of the event that you’re reviewing, which is not just from your own point of view, but from the point of view of everyone else who was affected. And so, if you’ve been involved in something destructive in the general sense, then you will feel that.
Rick: Yeah, do you know Dannion Brinkley? Have you heard his story?
David: Yes, absolutely. That’s one of the examples I used in my book.
Rick: Right, so he was a sniper in Vietnam and he had four near-death experiences, twice getting struck by lightning and then a couple of cardiac arrests and stuff. And in every one he had to go through this and he experienced everything he had done from the perspective of the people it had influenced, including the families in Vietnam whose provider was killed by him and things like that.
David: Yes, and there’s one instance that I recall, where he was involved in blowing up a hotel because there was a suspected terrorist staying at it, but they blew up the whole hotel with everybody. And he said that he then felt not only the distress of the people dying in the explosion, but also the ripple effects of all their relations. And so, my argument is that if people took this on board, really took it on board, then they would realize that any action which harms others actually is a way of harming yourself in the end.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a good example, actually, of how, if consciousness were given greater emphasis and for instance, if school children were given means of meditation, developing consciousness and stuff like that, we wouldn’t end up with a society in which it seemed like a good idea to blow up a whole hotel to kill a terrorist. There would be greater sensitivity, there’d be greater empathy, greater feeling that the world is my family and those people in that hotel are my brothers, sisters.
David: Yes, and this comes back to the earlier part of our conversation about Stephen Post, his mother feeling what was happening to him and realizing there was something, he was going through a crisis. And I call this empathetic resonance and it’s simply a sort of descriptive term that we are capable of feeling what it’s like to be other people. And in the life review, that comes to the foreground or that’s what it seems to me. But you also get doctors and healers who can feel what’s going on in their patient and therefore, then diagnose on that basis. So that’s another form of empathy. It’s almost like a tuning, as it were. And actually, just this morning I’ve been reviewing a book about the life of John Fetzer.
Rick: Oh yeah, who is associated with Stephen Post, right?
David: Yes, one of the things…
Rick: Or am I thinking Templeton? I’m thinking Templeton, yeah.
David: Templeton is Stephen Post, yes. Now one of the things that struck me was that he was an enthusiast for Tesla. And of course, if you’re a radio person, then the whole idea of frequency and vibration, which Tesla did write about, makes entire sense as your key metaphor. So instead of having a mechanism as your key metaphor, then frequency or vibration becomes your key metaphor and therefore, resonance begins to play an important role.
Rick: So, we’ve talked a bit about how, lacking its proper foundation as consciousness, science has been very destructive in addition to the positive things it’s achieved. There’s also a kind of short-sightedness which I think results from the insensitivity that arises from not having consciousness as your foundation. It was Upton Sinclair who wrote the book called The Jungle, who said “never try to convince a man of anything if his salary depends on not believing it,” something like that. And so, there’s so many people who will make a good living selling tobacco, even though there’s plenty of evidence that it’s killing millions of people. Or half of the US Congress denies global warming or doesn’t take it seriously. Why? Because they get a lot of donations from the fossil fuel industry. So, somehow or other, I hope, and I’ve seen a lot of evidence for this, but it’s not universal, that a dedicated, effective spiritual practice would awaken a conscience in people and a sensitivity and an honesty to do the right thing, even if it’s not to their immediate financial benefit.
David: Yes, I think there’s a systemic issue here, which is that the politicians themselves depend on contributions from companies to get elected and re-elected, and there’s a revolving door between many government lobbyists and government appointments. And so, the agenda of these large industries tends to be prioritized, and it’s the same people who get together at the World Economic Forum, which is a place where politicians and prominent business people can come together. And so, it’s, I think, only by a radical reform of the whole electoral process could one really take that out. But it’s hard to see how one can really remove the influence of money, because it’s so powerful.
Rick: Well, one thing that came to mind as you were speaking just then, is that self-interest warps one’s judgment and cheapens one’s motivations. And if your concept of self is very small and isolated and short-lived, like “I’m going to die in several decades, and so, he who dies with the most toys wins,” then if that’s your self-concept, your self-perception, then all of your behaviors and motivations are going to ripple out from that. But if you actually really do begin to experience consciousness in its pure state and realize that as your true nature, then, your self-concept, that which you know yourself to be, becomes this vastness, which is all-pervading, not only on sort of an abstract transcendental level, but which pervades all that you behold. So, Christ said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, what do you really mean by that? Actually, you can reach a state at which you perceive your neighbor as the self. You and your neighbor are actually the one universal self or being, and thereby you have tremendous love and compassion, for your neighbor and for every blade of grass and everything you behold. So, I don’t know, I’m getting a little long-winded here, but go ahead and respond to that.
David: Yes, no. Well, I think part of what you’re getting at as well is what Richard Layard calls “excessive individualism” and the idea that your individual self-interest is paramount, or by extension, the individual self-interest of your family, or indeed your nation. And so, starting from this point of self- interest is actually not good for the system as a whole. And so, I feel that our institutions need to be recalibrated. So, you start with the planetary interest and then you move down to the continental interest and the national interest, and if our institutions, the UN and so on, really had a far vision and far-reaching in that sense, then they would realize that you actually have to behave in a systemic way, where the whole takes precedence over the parts, but also leaves the parts free to express themselves. Because what’s very important, philosophically, I think, is to have a diversity within this unity, and that means cultural diversity and all that as well, rather than seeking to impose a uniform view by some kind of force.
Rick: That’s good. I saw Buckminster Fuller speak at a conference in 1971, I think he coined the term “spaceship earth,” that we’re all on the same spaceship, and if we pollute and soil it, we’re jeopardizing our own existence. What was the point you just made? Because I wanted to also say something about that, the last point you just made.
David: What I’m just trying to think about the example, it was to do with the extension of one’s idea of the self and interest. I’ve slightly lost the thread as well.
Rick: We’re both getting old. Anyway, it’ll come back.
David: I think there’s one more thing I’d like to say just on this general topic, and that’s that so long as you put power at the center of your political philosophy, then you’re always going to sanction repression and violence by that very existence of power, and then you’re also going to have these geopolitical rivalries, which we can see escalating at the moment with the sort of different players coming in and out of the scene. And this seems to me to be a fundamental misconception, that political life is about power. And I was thinking on my walk this afternoon, what if a superpower were defined not by their weapons, but by the extent of their generosity to other countries.
Rick: That’s great. I often think about that. I mean, the amount that the US has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan and a lot of these places, trillions of dollars, and many, many lives have been lost over there, primarily among the people who live there. And what if, maybe this is naive and idealistic, but what if all that money were put into educational initiatives and health initiatives and stuff like that, so the people over there thought, “Wow, these guys are great. They’re so much better than these Taliban or whatever that are trying to mess with us.” I don’t know, it seems like it would have a very different outcome.
David: Well, I’ve just been reading this book here. This is the new book by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Rick: He’s still alive, isn’t he?
David: Yes, he’s 90. And it’s called “What is at Stake Now?” And it’s an extraordinary book, it’s only 112 pages or so, but in its analysis and vision. So, one of the things that he suggests sort of immediately is that everybody needs to agree to a ten to fifteen percent reduction in military expenditure. But if you don’t change your understanding of the system and also the drivers of the economy, then it’s very difficult to do this because you probably know that one of the reasons that the US economy was able to come out of the slump in the 1930s was precisely ramping up military expenditure. And that’s gone on as a driver of the US economy and a lot of powerful people are associated with this. And as you will remember, this was warned against by Eisenhower in 1960 in talking about the military industrial complex. And he warned people 60 years ago, that this was a danger. It comes back to the starting point of the primacy of consciousness and the ethical implications that arise from that, that if this could be a widespread realization, then our political systems would come eventually to reflect that as well.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, boosting the economy by through military expenditure and the military industrial complex is like boosting your energy by taking amphetamines. You get a short-term benefit, but in the long run it’s destructive because it doesn’t produce anything. It only produces death and destruction. It doesn’t actually produce anything. In the US for instance, the infrastructure is crumbling. There are thousands of bridges that are on the verge of collapse and highways full of potholes and all kinds of stuff like that. And there are so many marvelous things we could do in terms of electric cars and all kinds of other things that would be good for the environment. But funding is always a problem and yet funding doesn’t ever seem to be that much of a problem for the military. So again, I think the reason we’re even talking about all this stuff is that it has implications for this whole “is consciousness primary” consideration, because if consciousness were really put in its rightful place and not only philosophically but experientially, if people in general, were developing consciousness, then I think our priorities would completely reshuffle themselves.
David: Yes, absolutely. And I think it’s important to note that in the core mystical experience, whether it’s in a near-death situation or not, people not only experience the one mind and the realization that there’s only one mind and they’re all parts of that, we’re all microcosms of that one mind, but they also experience this cosmic love and that this is, again, a universal phenomenon. And so, metaphysically, we’re talking not about a sort of mechanistic foundation to our world, but one where light and love are fundamental. And of course, if you bring love into it in a positive way, we’ve talked a little bit about kindness already, then you’ve got a completely different driver. And in fact, if you think about it, love is one of the most motivating or strongest motivations that we have, and people have done things for love that they’ve never been able to do otherwise.
Rick: Yeah, I remembered what you were saying that I wanted to comment on. You were talking about power and how it tends to want to make things uniform and it’s oppressive and so on, and I’m reminded of sort of the rainforest where you have a very fertile soil and it results in a proliferation of diversity, you know, a whole fecundity of plant and animal life that you don’t see in the Sahara Desert, for instance. So, to me, to my understanding, consciousness is kind of the soil, it’s the foundation, and if it’s neglected and people aren’t aware of it in general, then it’s kind of like the Sahara Desert where it can’t sprout very much. But if more and more people bring their attention to it and enliven it within their experience, then not only within their individual lives, but within the society that they make up, there will be a flourishing of creativity and also diversity. It’s not like everybody’s going to be the same or believe the same thing or have the same cultural practices and so on. There’s no need for that, but they can realize their fundamental unity while enjoying their diversity, and the diversity can actually be richer as it is in the rainforest.
David: Yes, and that also applies to another part of Gorbachev’s argument, this idea of mutual security, and that it’s the flourishing of all, not just the flourishing of a few. He makes the point that both ecologically and militarily we can’t have unipolar security because one person’s security is another person’s insecurity, and that’s what drives the whole process. And I also felt that his going back to the Earth Charter and the principles of the Earth Charter was another very good starting point because that, I think, came out about 20 years ago, in about 2000. And so, we actually do have documents that set out the necessary principles which would create a ‘new order’, inverted commas, but we haven’t got to the point where we feel they’re necessary, and we’re always trying to just get to the next thing, you know, within the existing system.
Rick: Yeah, I think that’s probably because there, although this is changing, but there just hasn’t been a sufficient focus on consciousness, and even among people who start to get interested in this kind of stuff, there’s such a hodgepodge of different techniques and interests, and some of it rather unusual or bizarre and perhaps not very effective. But just one quick point on the point you made about Gorbachev. I mean, a lot of authorities, including the Pentagon, now realize that climate change is going to create some very serious problems in terms of tensions between nations, fights over water, huge migrations of people as certain places become unlivable. It’s going to make the whole Syria exodus into Europe look like a cakewalk. But the problem is, again, people, they live for the moment, more or less, and these bigger problems, which might be happening a decade or two from now, it’s hard to get, like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg and people like that have realized, it’s really hard to get people to wake up and take that seriously. And again, I just want to keep bringing it back to consciousness because that’s the focus of our discussion. I think that’s the missing ingredient.
David: Well, I think the gradually boiling frog syndrome is relevant here, because if something can be put off and it’s not an immediate urgent situation, that’s one of the reasons why governments have reacted so quickly to the current health crisis, because it’s a crisis.
Rick: It’s in their face.
David: Yes, it’s in their face. And so, for instance, one section of this book deals with the danger of the militarization of politics and the proliferation of tactical and smaller scale nuclear weapons. And we don’t, very few people have their eye on that ball at the moment because it’s not something which is, as you say, immediately in your face. And I think that we are wired as a species, to react to emergencies because that’s, for years and decades, centuries, millennia even. And that was how we best operated just by living in the moment and if your predator comes along, well, you know what to do. And so, I think it’s a wiring issue as well. It’s, as somebody used to say, one of the problems with humans is we’re running on two hundred million year old software.
Rick: We need an upgrade, yeah. All right, so let’s shift a little bit into discussing how science might transition to regarding consciousness as fundamental and matter as emergent. One thing that comes to mind initially is that a hundred years ago Max Planck and other physicists were talking about not only the sort of non-material essence of everything, but the fact that consciousness seems to underlie everything. And it’s a little ironic that science still takes matter as matter so seriously when a hundred years ago these guys pulled the rug out from under that.
David: Yes, as what Rupert Sheldrake says, matter has been dematerialized.
David: And so, the materialistic philosophy is really a sort of 19th century type of inheritance before we knew what we now know about matter. And I think it’s probably been being kept more in place by biology than it has by physics. But then you also get this interesting question which Schroedinger raises in his essay “Nature and the Greeks.” How long does it take for the implications of a really revolutionary idea to percolate through the whole of society? And so, the non-locality is something that’s been known about for decades and experimentally proved forty years ago. And yet, as soon as you translate that into a metaphor for consciousness, then people say, “Well, you can’t really do that.” And yet, we have to think in metaphors because we have to use language, we have to frame things in a certain way, and we can’t pin anything down with language, but we can become more subtle in the metaphors we use. And I think just this year, many of your viewers may have seen this, the new film about David Bohm. “Infinite Potential.” And so there you have, I knew him reasonably well, it’s quite a number of years ago, and we ran a dialogue with him in 1988. But he had a mind of extraordinary subtlety and depth, and so he would notice things that other people wouldn’t notice, and then he drilled down into these. And I think Sir Roger Penrose explained this rather nicely in part of it. So, like, you’ve got a sort of quantum leap or a quantum fluctuation which sort of spread out in every direction after his initial focus. But I think Bohm really tried to reformulate this area with his model of the implicate and the explicate order. So, what we’ve been talking about, just to make an explicit parallel, the primacy of consciousness would correspond to the primacy of the implicate order, and then the order of separation arises out of that implicate order, unfolds, which is what explicate actually means, unfolds from that deeper order. And so, really what we’re trying to say here, I think, is to see if we can apprehend this deeper order and its implications because we actually live within this order.
Rick: What you just said about the implicate and explicate orders I find very interesting. I’ve heard physicists say, give talks about how at deeper and deeper levels nature becomes more orderly and more correlated. In fact, some physicists use the term infinite correlation to refer to sort of the deepest level of nature’s functioning, which would mean that every point is sort of correlated with every other point, which reminds you of Indra’s net, the idea that the whole universe at its most fundamental level is sort of infinitely correlated, and that through something physicists call sequential spontaneous symmetry breaking as creation becomes more and more and more manifest, then there’s greater diversity and complexity and actually disorder and asymmetries. And then they’ve correlated this, some of them, guys like John Hagelin or Menas Kefatos, who’s been on one of your things recently, they’ve correlated this with the human mind, which supposedly, according to these spiritual traditions can experientially traverse the full range of Creation. I know some physicists squirm when you try to make that correlation, but that at deeper levels it becomes more coherent and orderly and less fragmented and chaotic. One arrives experientially at a state of coherence or perfect orderliness, and then imbibes that so that coming back into the field of activity, the mind functions in a more orderly fashion, having clarified its connection with the fundamental order which actually underlies the whole universe, and we being part of the universe underlies our existence.
David: I very much like that, and it almost gives the idea of there being, inverted cones, and so, you’ve got one cone representing the mind and another cone representing matter.
Rick: Yeah, exactly.
David: And the joining point is an experience, is a human experience or even sentience, in fact, but there’s actually a perfect symmetry between the two because both mind and matter emerge from this deeper order. I think what you said about the ordering of the human mind, you might call that inner peace. It would be a state of order and contentment. What struck me about, if you read people’s mystical experiences and near-death experiences, then what they say is “I became light, I became love, I became peace, I became joy,” and so, they weren’t separate from it, they actually were it. That I think is responsible for the radical transformations that occur when people come back from these experiences. It’s like they’ve been reformatted, if I were to use a sort of computer-like Expression. Or their vibration or their frequency is being recalibrated. That would be another sort of analogy that you could use, and they are less, there’s a coherence, which is a word that Mae-Wan Ho used to use a lot, and Brian Goodwin and David Bohm. And so, you become more coherent, and by becoming more coherent, you’re also becoming more peaceful, and you say that you feel more deeply human.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a verse in the Gita which goes, “For many branched and endlessly diverse are the intellects of the irresolute, but the resolute intellect is one pointed.” So, you can think of it like bicycle spokes coming out from the hub or something, and you know, the irresolute intellect is flying all over the place. And in thinking in terms of science, one has to specialize and specialize and specialize and get into a minute little niche of that particular field of knowledge in order to progress any. But the resolute intellect as it were, is said to be, basically that’s supposed to be one way of describing merger with oneness, and thereby you sit at the home of all knowledge, the home of all creation, the home of all branches of knowledge. You could go back to your profession as a specialist in some particular area, but you do so with a growing awareness of the foundation of not only your field, but all fields of knowledge. And isn’t there something about how, because of the fragmentation of knowledge that creates a lot of problems, and perhaps if all the people pursuing knowledge and applying it technologically were to appreciate experientially the underlying unity, the unity that underlies all fields of knowledge and human endeavor, then that fragmentation problem would be solved, and somehow all the disparate efforts to understand and influence the world would be harmonized.
David: Yes, I think you’re right that there is this fragmentation and specialization, so that you get to the point where you know more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing, as the comedian said. And thus, it’s interesting that in the Scottish university system, which I went through, I was at St. Andrews University in the 1970s. In those days, you had to do a year’s philosophy in the arts department, which meant that you got a grounding in logic and metaphysics, which you could then apply to the various other subjects that you were studying. And in a similar way, I taught at Winchester College, which is one of the things that you said in my biography, and I was what was called a div don, and a div don was somebody who taught general studies, but you could teach whatever you liked, effectively. And what you had to do, it was structured around reading and writing essays about four books every term. And so, I chose those books, and then the boys would write about them. So, some of the books I chose, I always had a Herman Hesse novel, for instance. And then at one point, I had Fritjof Capra’s Turning Point, just when it came out, and so it was in the sort of early 1980s. And so, I think the general point is a proper education would give you a cultural grounding, where you would understand the whole cultural approach, and you would be able to see how your discipline and sub-discipline fitted into a larger picture. But I think the other thing that’s happened is that people not only lost this sort of sense of their own discipline, and where it’s situated within the kind of fabric of knowledge, but there’s also, everybody’s now so busy, that there’s very little time for more leisurely reflection and exchange. So, for instance, a couple of weeks ago, we had Professor Elaine Eklund from Rice University talking about secularism and science. She interviewed over 600 scientists from different countries about their faith and its relationship to science. A lot of them said to her, “It’s the first time I’ve been able to have a proper conversation about this, because I just don’t have time otherwise.” And so, I think this time pressure is a further factor, in addition to the kind of fragmentation that you referred to. So, it then reinforces the case for there being some grounding to education that is more than just the disciplines that you’re studying as a specialist.
Rick: Yeah, and I would emphasize that if that grounding is just an intellectual exercise by studying things which broaden your perspective intellectually, it won’t be sufficient. There has to be a grounding in actual consciousness, which is the real actual ground. And a thought of consciousness doesn’t cut it. You can think about a delicious meal and starve to death while you’re doing so. So, it has to be experiential, in my opinion.
David: Yes, I think you’re right. And of course, that then raises the question, well, how would one bring that into the educational system in practice? And there are quite a lot of examples now of mindfulness practices being introduced into educational contexts and the use of meditation. So, for instance, the World Community of Christian Meditation has a particular intervention that they do in a number of schools, including primary schools. And I used to use meditation in my classroom when I was teaching at Winchester. On a Saturday morning, I would just get everybody to sit quietly for five minutes. And the atmosphere changes, and everything calms down, and they become more reflective and less impulsive. And then the other thing I did is, on a Saturday morning, I issued everybody at the beginning of the academic year with a commonplace book. And the commonplace book is where you write down things that inspire you – quotations, poems, and so on. And then every Saturday, I would bring in a pile of books, and books of quotations and things, and they would just take a book, and then take it to their desk, and then read through it, and they’d note down what meant something to them. And then every day, I had a quotation on my board as well. So, some boys would take those down every day into their commonplace books.
Rick: That’s good! Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I was getting at, is some kind of experiential practice. I live in Fairfield, Iowa, where Maharishi International University is located, and everybody there meditates in addition to their academic pursuits. And like you said, there’s mindfulness and Christian types of meditation and so on being introduced in schools. And, you know, I think that’s great. And I think it’s an essential component. It’s not enough to just shift attitudes intellectually. If we’re going to be scientific about it, we can’t just say consciousness is fundamental, and it’s not just a product of the brain. We have to prove it’s fundamental. And obviously, some of the things you talk about in the Galileo Commission, such as near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences and that kind of thing, are a kind of a proof, definitely, but it’s still somebody else’s experience. And we can’t all just have near-death experiences. We wouldn’t want to try. But we can practice various technologies and techniques which might bring about direct personal experience of this whole idea that consciousness is fundamental.
David: Yes, I think this would need, I mean, there is Richard Layard, who I mentioned before with his book on happiness, he’s part of the all-parliamentary group on mindfulness. And so, the UK Parliament has, I think, about a hundred of them meeting regularly for meditation and mindfulness exercises.
Rick: Wow, you never know that. You always see videos of the Parliament and they’re shouting at each other.
David: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to, before you start a debate, you lit a candle. I mean, how about that in the House of Commons? But they did produce a report, I think, in 2018, which I’ve got a sort of PDF of. And so, there’s a little bit happening, but really, from the point of view of our conversation, I think not nearly enough. A lot more could happen. It needs thinking through so as to situate it in a way that would be applicable in practice. So, I mean, another example from my own experience is in the late 70s, I taught somewhere else in Edinburgh, Fettes College. I gave people the opportunity of doing a basic meditation, just really watching your breath. And then the headmaster called me in and said that some of these parents are getting a bit worried about this meditation because they thought that it went with a whole series of dogmatic ideas which might get their children to question their Church of Scotland beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth because what we’re talking about here, as you say, is experience, not ideas.
Rick: That’s the same thing that’s been happening here even since the 70s. There have been efforts to introduce meditation in school and generally the more conservative Christians go up in arms and feel like Hinduism is being snuck in through a Trojan horse kind of arrangement.
David: So, they feel threatened by something which is not their own worldview.
Rick: Yeah, and I guess we could say fine, you know. Well, I don’t know. We may actually not go off on that tangent too much, but I think that the times are a-changing. You know, since you and I first got interested in this stuff back in the 70s, there’s been a huge increase of interest in meditation, spiritual things, and maybe we could talk a little bit about how culture changes and how perhaps a lot of change is actually taking place before it becomes evident. Kind of like you can heat a pan of water and it doesn’t look like very much is happening and you can be at one degree below the boiling point and one more degree and it starts to boil. So, I wonder how close we are to boiling in terms of consciousness really.
David: Well, I think that’s such an interesting question. Historically, then, one of the backgrounds which is discussed in Capra’s “Turning Point” is the history of Arnold Toynbee, who was a British historian who actually happened to be a pupil at Winchester where I taught. He was a scholar there in the early 1900s and he studied the rise and fall of civilizations, mainly European ones, and tried to see what factors were responsible for the rise and decline. And one of the things he points out is that in every case there’s what he called a creative minority. These are the people with the new ideas and it’s only about five percent. It’s nothing like even the majority of the population. And so, the new impulse starts with a small number of people and then gradually spreads out. And then, if you change the metaphor slightly, you get the initiators, then the early adopters, and then the people who then come after that. And then there’s a tipping point and everybody thinks, well, it’s obvious. So, I wonder whether we’re not in a similar situation spiritually though to this Gnostic era when a thousand blooms were flourishing, but there wasn’t a kind of coordination or coherence in the movement. But the very idea of coherence that was exemplified in the authority of the Catholic Church, and that was too coherent in the wrong way. And what we now know from physics about coherence and fields is that we can have these coherent patterns that are arising. And I think one of these that I’ve been taking part in, which I’m sure you’ve seen and some of your listeners will be aware of, is Humanity Rising. And this has been spearheaded by Jim Garrison. He’s the same man who put together the State of the World Forum with Gorbachev, Thatcher and Bush in the late 1980s. I’ve attended a number of these sessions, well, two, one in San Francisco and the final one in New York. So, I do think that we need this capacity to come together in coherence, which also happens in these global meditations that are coming up on Monday on the solstice. So, I think each of us is trying to create coherence around us, but we can’t guarantee the outcome. We can only do what is within our sphere of influence and then hope that overlaps in other spheres of influence and eventually you reach this tipping point.
Rick: That reminds me of another verse in the Gita, “You have control over action alone, never over its fruits.”
Rick: And regarding coherence, you’re probably aware of the research on meditation bringing about a sort of brainwave coherence that is ordinarily not seen, between the different parts of the brain. So, that’s interesting. And if that is indicative of a more orderly mind, a more coherent mind, a more harmonious way of functioning, then it could be some kind of objective proof that individuals are becoming more coherent within themselves and that perhaps would ripple out, if there are enough of them. In fact, aren’t you going to have David Orme-Johnson on for some kind of a…
David: We are, yes, and Barry Spivack and Patricia Williams on Antidote to Violence, which is one of our webinars in February. This is from their book.
Rick: David’s an old friend of mine and he was involved in a lot of the research on large groups of TM meditators going to various trouble spots like Lebanon or Iran. I spent three months in Iran myself, meditating all day long and then having some kind of measurable influence on society, even though they were just holed up in a hotel room. They weren’t interacting with the public, but the theory was that they were enlivening coherence within consciousness, and that being an all-pervading field, that coherence would ripple out to the surrounding people.
David: Well, I’ll tell you another sort of illustrative story from my friend Scilla Elworthy. She started the Oxford Peace Research Group in the early 1980s, and she had small meetings of high-level scientists and functionaries, civil servants, connected with nuclear weapons. And so, they would meet, small groups of people would meet from either side, as it were, in a totally private, secluded place. And on one occasion they were meeting at Charney Manor, which is a Quaker retreat center in the middle of Oxfordshire, and on the second morning, one of the senior American people, came up to her and said, “I’m not quite sure what’s happening here. There seems to be some sort of special atmosphere, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.” And she said, “Oh, it’s a Quaker place, so people have been contemplating, being silent for years.” He said, “No, no, no, no.” He said, “It’s something like, it seems like it’s coming up through the floorboards.” And at that point she said, “Well, actually, the Quakers who are serving you lunch and dinner and tea are meditating downstairs while we are having our negotiations upstairs.” So, there’s a fascinating story about a kind of corresponding field effect on a smaller scale.
Rick: That’s interesting. He’s a sensitive person to have been able to perceive that.
David: Yes, I’ve thought that too.
Rick: And probably all of us have been in circumstances where we go into a place and just feel something beautiful and profound about the atmosphere. For instance, in New Mexico, there’s this little church called Sanctuario de Chimayo, and I’ve been there a couple of times. And you just walk in and it’s like, “Oh!” You know, first time I went there my wife just started crying because the atmosphere was just so sweet and soft and beautiful. And contrast that with some horrible places you could go, where the atmosphere would be the extreme opposite. So, I think everybody’s had the experience of different situations and places having a very different feeling to them. And so, I think what we’re getting at here is that the activities that have taken place in a certain place, such as that little church, have contributed to the atmosphere. You can go into Hindu temples in India where people have been worshipping and doing pujas and whatnot for thousands of years and you can cut it with a knife. The feeling in the atmosphere is so thick. So, you know, what we would –
David: I’d like to comment on that. Because the way I see that, because you find this obviously in hauntings and things as well, is that there’s some sort of record which is almost imprinted on the walls of a building like that. And the way I see that is related to psychometry and/or object reading. So, you can get a sensitive and give them an object and they will tell you something about the person who the object belongs to. And if the object has belonged to more than one person, you might get more impressions coming from different time periods. And so, if people go into a place in a meditative and prayerful state, then that’s going to accumulate the very kind of atmosphere that you’re talking about. And I felt that most strongly, for instance, in a place, a chapel near Cortona in Italy, where San Francesco, Saint Francis, used to go and retreat and pray. And you could feel that atmosphere very, very strongly the first time I went. But the second time, unfortunately, they allowed bus parties to come in. So, far too many people were coming through this sacred place. And I felt that that had actually dissipated the atmosphere in some way. So, I think these things both build up and dissipate, unfortunately.
Rick: Rupert Sheldrake would probably have something to say about this with his morphic fields. I would say that it’s not just, when you say that something has permeated the walls, because of what has taken place in that place. I think there’s a – it’s not just, you couldn’t just grind the walls down and analyze it chemically and see something there. There’s a subtle dimension to life, a subtle realm, and we can say subtle matter. And if there are, for instance, angelic beings, things like that, then they have bodies like we do, but they are composed of subtle matter. And I think that that’s true also of just the atmosphere in a place. And the subtle quality of the atmosphere can get enlivened by the kinds of things we’re talking about. You remember that point? Go ahead, you want to say?
David: No, very much. And I think, when people have visions and senses of presence, then that also entails the kind of change of atmosphere. Or you might feel that a loving presence just brings love right into the room. There’s a lot of records of people feeling these changes of atmosphere in accordance with some being, some maybe more subtle being being present.
Rick: Yeah. So, we’re not only talking about consciousness, development of consciousness, hopefully changing the behavior of a lot of people in the world. We’re also talking about people becoming like little battery chargers, so to speak, that would be helping to surcharge the subtle atmosphere of the entire globe with more sattwa, you could say, more purity, more refined spiritual energy. I’m reminded of that bit in the Bible where some woman touches Jesus’ cloak, you know, she’s behind him so he doesn’t actually see her, but he turns around and he says, “Oh, you touched me, I just felt the energy transfer,” or however he put it. So, there’s this kind of whole subtle phenomenon, whole subtle level of life that really, we not only need to understand consciousness and put it in its rightful place, but we need to understand the subtle mechanics of creation, which I think there are many gradations and implications of.
David: Yes, I think this is also often felt through emotions. I’ve just read a book recently called Sensitive Soul by Michael Jawer, J-A-W-E-R, I may have pronounced his name wrong, and that contains a lot of striking material. And if you think about it, telepathy, which is a word coined by Frederick Myers in the late 19th century, means to feel at a distance. And so, this, what he calls highly attuned sensing, he argues that this is in fact our default state, which eventually kind of wears thin, or wears thick, would be a better way of putting it. We get more thick-skinned, and so we don’t feel as much. And so, it’s a refinement of feeling, and someone who goes into a church or a place and senses that atmosphere, obviously has a permeable boundary, if I can put it that way. And that probably corresponds to what we were talking about earlier, which is an expanded sense of self.
Rick: Yeah, that’s an interesting point you just made. Where did that phrase come from, “the world is too much with me”? Is that some Shakespeare thing or something?
David: No, it’s Wordsworth.
David: Yes, the world is too much with us.
Rick: Yeah, it is. Life can tend to have a coarsening effect, you know? I mean, physical world is gross matter. There’s a lot coming at us, a lot of noise, a lot of responsibilities, a lot of pressures, and all that. And a lot of times I interview people who, as little children, saw angels or auras or things like that, and then as they got a little older, 8, 9, 10, 11, they’d start to lose it because just – well, it could just be maturation and hormones, but it’s also just the impact, the conditioning of interacting in a gross world with gross things. And then very often those types of people, when they get to be in their late teens, early 20s, they begin to long for that. They realize I had something, I lost it, I need to find, regain it, and they might start out on a spiritual quest and eventually regain it. But I do think the average person, maybe some people are gifted naturally with being born sensitive like that and staying that way, but the average person needs to somehow rediscover that sensitivity and to refine their whole mechanism, mind-body mechanism, in order to stabilize that refinement so that you can be involved in the world and all of its challenges and yet not lose it.
David: Yes, I think another poem by Wordsworth makes that similar point, “Intimations of Immortality,” that gradually our perception becomes coarsened by attuning ourselves to the material world and its concerns. And I think this is what spiritual practice is really about, is to maintain that centering and to refine that sensitivity so that you don’t lose it. But then you have sufficient boundaries at the same time so you don’t get affected by everything that’s going on around you. I think it’s a fine kind of balance.
Rick: Yeah, there’s something in physics called the Meissner effect and it has to do with superfluid helium or something like that, where it gets so cold that it has this coherent behavior and incoherents just sort of pass right through it or are deflected around it or something like that. I forget all the details of the physics, but there are examples like that, where a really coherent system is impervious to incoherence.
David: Yes, well I think that’s part of the point that was made by Ilya Prigogine in his idea of dissipative structures.
David: Because he was saying, and of course, the order doesn’t necessarily need to be a good order, but there needs to be a perturbation of sufficient intensity for the order to change, otherwise it goes back to what it was before. It’s almost like, we’ve all had the experience of going on weekend workshops and coming back feeling quite different.
David: Then by Wednesday you’re feeling much the same as you did before you went on the workshop. It kind of wears off.
Rick: Yeah, you have to stabilize and integrate it. I saw Prigogine speak at a conference with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1975, talking about him and Josephson. Now, Josephson’s an interesting guy. I know he’s involved with you too, Brian Josephson.
David: He is.
Rick: I should interview him.
David: He’s an honorary member of the Scientific and Medical Network, which is my kind of affiliation. And in fact, there was a conference we both spoke at last Saturday at the Society for Cyclical Research on the search for a new paradigm and the role of parapsychology in helping bring about that new paradigm. And he’s a very creative individual. He’s still coming up with new formulations and new ideas, which I have to say were quite complex.
Rick: He’s a fascinating character, very eccentric. I mean, one time he came into the room late when the conference was already underway and it wasn’t easy for him to get to his chair behind the other participants who were sitting at a table. So, he just went to the floor and ducked under the tablecloth that was hanging on the table and popped up on the other side. [Laughter]
David: He’s very courageous because he’s one of the very few Nobel Prize winners who actually puts his head above the parapet. And he’s criticized for his interest in the kind of consciousness studies that we’re talking about, by those very same forces that are trying to maintain a skeptical stranglehold on the academic world.
Rick: So, we have about 20 minutes left. I want to make sure we cover everything that you would like to cover. One thing that just came to mind, as you said that, was the work of Thomas Kuhn, the structure of scientific revolutions and established paradigms being challenged by anomalies. And then there was, I think, it might have been Max Planck’s statement that science progresses one funeral at a time. So, we can talk about that kind of stuff a little bit, but maybe other things. What would you like to cover in the next twenty minutes or so, that we haven’t covered? And maybe you can use what I just said as a springboard if you wish to, and we can go into a few more things.
David: Yes, certainly. I mean, the problem about the funeral analogy then is that the people in power then influence and educate and shape the next generation. And so, it takes a bit more than that for this real kind of systemic shift to occur. And I just wonder what would be a perturbation of sufficient magnitude to produce that effect. And I think in individual terms it’s what Jeff Kripal calls the flip. And so, people have an experience which convinces them beyond any doubt that the inner is primary, that consciousness is primary, and that any ideas they had about the nature of consciousness before that experience need to be revised in the nature of the experience. So, the critical factor that moves people is not a critical experiment or crucial experiment, but a crucial experience. So how could one give people, and I suppose that’s where maybe psychedelics come in, because if you think of some of these pioneers in the 1950s, including Aldous Huxley, but also Willis Harmon at Noetics, that his view evolved after he’d experimented. And then he became the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and did a lot of very valuable work on the science of consciousness and changing metaphors in the early to mid-1990s.
Rick: Yeah, that can be a big shift for people. It was for me in the 60s when I did psychedelics. I suddenly realized that the world is not the same for everybody. Everybody sees it differently, and the name of the game is to change the way you see it so profoundly that all kinds of things might be possible. But if I had continued to do psychedelics, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I’d probably be dead or in an institution or something. So, as, who was it, I don’t know, somebody said, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.”
David: Yeah, very, very nice. Yes, that’s a good way of putting it.
Rick: But a lot of things do happen quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and once they’ve happened, you realize that you’ve been building up to it. It’s been building. For instance, the collapse of the Soviet Union or the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Or in the 1950s, we had the McCarthy hearings in Congress, where this Senator Joseph McCarthy was accusing everybody of being communists, and all kinds of careers and reputations were ruined. Finally, one day, some attorney said, “After all, sir, have you no shame? Have you no decency?” And suddenly, it snapped, and everybody realized, holy mackerel, look what this guy has gotten us into. And he just kind of crashed and burned, and the whole attitude shifted again. So, maybe, as we said before about the heating water, maybe we’re building up to something, and it won’t have to progress one funeral at a time, but there will be, and it won’t even have to involve funerals. Maybe there’ll be some kind of sea change all of a sudden in the way people see things, and all the sort of repressive, restrictive ways of controlling what graduate students can study and what things can get funded and so on will shift more dramatically.
David: And then the research agenda would shift accordingly, and we’d find out a lot more about the kind of things we’re talking about and research them more thoroughly.
Rick: Yeah, I heard you saying in one of those conferences that billions are spent on something like the Large Hadron Collider, and yet just a trickle is spent on research in consciousness and related fields. And yet how significant is consciousness compared to whether or not we find the Higgs boson or something? It’s potentially earth-shaking.
David: It brings us back to an earlier part of our conversation about what is a human being, because if you’re a transhumanist, then the future is mind-machine interface and enhancement of our cognitive faculties, which Ian McGilchrist would say is just left hemisphere analytical thinking. In other words, it’s being clever rather than wise, whereas what we’ve been talking about here has nothing to do with technological enhancement, but everything to do with inner spiritual transformation. And so, one’s talking not about enhancement in that sense, but about transformation, which is a universal process that humans have actually been going through in these different stages for millennia. And so there comes a point in many people’s lives when they turn from the primacy of outer concerns to the primacy of inner concerns. Jung would say this is the agenda of the second half of life. And then that starts unfolding this whole process of gradual emergence, if you’re lucky, of this sense of cosmic consciousness and the interconnectedness of everything, and then all the ethical implications that go with that, that we touched on earlier.
Rick: My friend Dan just reminded me that it was Alan Watts who said that thing about when you get the message, hang up the phone.
David: Ah, yes, he said a lot of wise things.
Rick: Yeah, but I’d like to think that, as a culture, we’re undergoing the kind of maturation you just referred to on an individual level, that perhaps we’ve been rebellious teenagers, playing with dangerous things and messing around and bullying each other and so on. And perhaps we’re on the brink of evolving to a more mature society in which, well, everything changes.
David: Well, this is very much the view of my friend Elisabet Sahtouris.
Rick: Whom I’ve interviewed, yes.
David: Yes, because she said an immature species is competitive and a mature species is cooperative, and so, she sees movement in that direction. And my whole educational program is actually based on this idea of global citizens in the making and young people acquiring a sense of purpose and the realization that they will need to cooperate and collaborate with each other to address the challenges, the planetary challenges that we face in an unprecedented way. And I think there are signs that young people do have more of a cooperative mindset, and so maybe when we get out of the way this will emerge more naturally.
Rick: One thing’s for sure and that is that very rarely does anyone in any age have a sense of what things might be like 100 or 200 or 300 years hence. In fact, I think we kind of assume that things are always going to be like they are, but imagine yourself in the 1860s, trying to imagine what things are going to be like today. It would be impossible, and yet things keep changing and the pace of change seems to be accelerating. So, it could very well be that within our lifetimes, and we’re both in the 70-ish range, we’ll see changes more dramatic than have happened in the past many decades. In fact, I have a quote here from Nikola Tesla. He said, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
David: Yes, I know that quote, and I think it’s a very
Rick: I think I lifted it from the Galileo Commission report.
David: Yes, I think it’s a very important thought. So, focusing on something and putting research money into it, that’s also a way of getting people to work on it, because if the only thing you can work on is nuclear weapons, because you’re that kind of physicist, then all gain-of-function research, if you’re a specialist in that area, then you’re put in a very difficult situation of having to put bread on the table and feeling obliged to choose something which has these questionable ethical implications, which you probably then have to rationalize to yourself, and that you’re using it only for defensive purposes, for instance.
Rick: Well, maybe those guys can work on nuclear fusion and come up with some kind of safe energy technology or something instead.
David: Well, I think Tesla, as far as I know, he was working on exactly this over a hundred years ago, but because it didn’t involve utilities centrally distributing the power, his ideas were really just sidelined. And a lot of his papers, I think, just disappeared or were burned. So, I think if we’d followed the Tesla line, we probably would have been in a very different situation than we are now.
Rick: Well, we can lament what might have been, but we have to move forward. And I’m optimistic. At one point, some people might say, “Well, a lot of people aren’t so optimistic right now. The world is in the midst of this pandemic, and people are losing their jobs, and people are dying, and things seem really crazy, and there’s so many things to worry about. Greta Thunberg says we’re all screwed if we don’t change dramatically, but we don’t seem to be changing, and so on. But I don’t know. Again, maybe I’m naive, but I feel like something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, to quote Bob Dylan, and that we’re going to see a big shift. I mean, a lot of new-agey people are predicting this kind of thing for a long time, and everybody made a big fuss about 2012 and so on, but I think we can’t discount the proliferation of interest in consciousness and experiences. I mean, I talk to people all the time who just are having these profound, beautiful experiences, sometimes without even having shown interest in this kind of stuff before, it just starts happening to them. Other times they’ve been doing some spiritual practice, but something is blossoming in the minds and hearts of human beings all over the world, and that can’t help but have an impact. It just has to reach a tipping point.
David: Well, what I think is important to understand about the dynamics of this is that everything starts as an idea, everything starts in the imagination. So, my grandfather was quite a famous architect, and I’m actually sitting now in this interview at a desk that he designed. And so, this bureau was once an idea in his mind. He drew it out, he sent the drawing to the craftsman that he used to work with, and then the craftsman bought the wood, shaped it, and here I am, and I’m actually sitting on a chair also designed by him. And so, if you translate this architect analogy into life in general, then you realize that everything around you was once an idea, and the idea then gets manifested. And so, I think we’re probably, as you’re suggesting, at this latent part of the process or stage of the process where there’s a lot going on under the radar and at this subtle level, which in due course will manifest. And I think that’s the hope and the commitment, and it’s what David Nicol calls “subtle activism.” He wrote a book about that, which I reviewed a few years ago, and subtle activism seems to me to be a complement to getting on the barricades and outer activism. It’s activism of intention, of coherence, and just the sort of interventions we’ve been talking about. So, all of this needs to proceed on multiple fronts. But I don’t think, as you say, I don’t think we should underestimate the power of these inner orientations and intentions and attentions.
Rick: Yeah, and it’s probably a good safety feature that subtle intentions and attentions just don’t pop into manifestation the minute we have them. If they did, it would be a pretty wild and crazy world, and all kinds of things would be popping in. So, it takes a certain while for something to become manifest, and perhaps there’s a sort of a guiding principle. I found this in my own life where the undesirable or misguided intentions kind of get weeded out, and the ones that are really going to actually be useful end up coming to fruition.
David: Well, there’s an interesting quotation by Whitehead, which when I read it, I was very struck, and he said “the instability of evil is the moral order of the world.”
Rick: I like that.
David: It’s quite thought-provoking, because any destructive force is by definition unstable and incoherent, and life has its way actually of turning these events around into a beneficial result. You see that, we see that in our own experience, and some of the most awful things people go through, which look terrible at the time, are actually a steppingstone to their future flourishing and development.
Rick: There’s a Sanskrit saying that goes “satyameva jayate”, which means “truth alone triumphs”.
David: Indeed, and I think we’re also in a situation where truth is under siege in a way, but I think what’s more serious, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few weeks, is the decay of trust. But for me, if you don’t have integrity as a person or an institution, then you can’t generate trust. So, integrity and transparency are required in order for trust to emerge, and trust in itself, as Gorbachev says in his book, in a political sense, is the most extraordinary kind of social capital. And so, we should maybe be thinking about how we increase this sense of trust. And this really goes back to fundamental values. Because if your fundamental values are not sound, and you put profit before integrity or whatever, and it’s everyone for themselves, greed and fear, all of these things are embedded in our systems at the moment. And so, we need to have the right root for the flowering of the tree to happen in the normal way. We need the right soil as well, as we’ve been talking about throughout this conversation.
Rick: Yeah, interesting points. So, if I said anything in response to that, I’d probably be repeating myself. One thing though, on trust, is that it really has to be earned, and you can’t blame people for not trusting the government or not trusting this or that, because so many things have been done over the past many years, often without our knowledge, and then we eventually discover them. You read a book like A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and just all the horrible things that have taken place. So, it’s going to take a while, I think, to rebuild and regain that trust for many people.
David: Yes, I agree, but I think it does go along with transparency, because, if you look at David Ray Griffin’s work, for instance, on American foreign policy, which he’s written about in addition to many other things, he knows very clear about the role of covert operations in government policy. And of course, that’s not official government policy. It’s all done through the intelligence services, and on the basis of what they call plausible deniability. And so, this goes back to the idea that the root, well, not the root, but the main value is ‘power over’ people, and any means is legitimate in order to exert this power. And ‘power over’ is contrasted with empowerment or power with, which enables people to work together and therefore build up this trust. And so, I think so long as we’ve got a world which embodies this ‘power over’ ethos, then I can’t see things changing fundamentally.
Rick: Yeah, well fortunately, the more subtle is the more powerful. The atomic is more powerful than the molecular, for instance, and I think consciousness being the most subtle thing there is, has the most leverage. And I think if more and more people start really developing that, no matter how, it’ll be a David and Goliath kind of thing, where no matter how powerful the governments or institutions may seem to be, they will have to align with a higher dharma, we could say, or it will crumble.
David: Well, that would be the instability we were talking about. And also, this has to be a grassroots movement, and we see all this happening with the activities of NGOs. If you look at the number of NGOs, “Blessed Unrest” is a book that talks about this, and then you’ll see those incredible things going on all over the planet, which are exactly addressing some of the issues we’ve been talking about, with integrity, and providing some kind of vision for regeneration of our systems. So, I don’t think sustainability is enough. I think we need regeneration.
Rick: Yeah. Someone once said, “There’s no energy shortage, it’s just an intelligence shortage.” But fortunately, there is no shortage of intelligence. All we need to do is tap into it. If it were an oil field, it would be like the Bakken oil reserves under our very feet all over the world. There’s an ocean of intelligence at our very center, at our core, and we just need to all tap into it.
David: Yes, and that’s something we can all do. It reminds me of that Schumacher quote. He said, “Humanity is now too clever to survive without wisdom.” And wisdom comes from that tuning into that intuitive intelligence, which is also a sense of creativity and holism, because the right hemisphere, according to Ian McGilchrist, is able to grasp the new. And then the left hemisphere’s function is to elaborate that in language and logic, and then send it back to the right hemisphere for further intuitive development. So, I think there’s a lot in his diagnosis that our societies have become over-analytical, over-outer-focused, and have neglected the feelings as opposed to the thinking, and the intuition as opposed to the rationality.
Rick: For some reason I keep thinking about Lao Tzu, and he talks about how in the Dao Te Ching, I guess it was, how if a people are in tune with the Dao, then government is practically non-existent. They say the same thing in the Indian tradition, that in Sat Yuga there didn’t really need to be much government, because everyone was just in harmony with natural law, or whatever you want to call it. And the more out of harmony people get, the more complex and power-hungry and manipulative and controlling governments become. Irene is making a noise.
David: That’s one of my favorite texts. I was just discussing in my book review briefing this week a version of it by Shantena Augusto Sabbadini, which you can find on Amazon. And what it reminded me of, and it’s going slightly off to an angle, was the parable of a rainmaker. And the rainmaker gets asked to come to a place where there hasn’t been any rain for some months, and he asked to be put in a hut for two or three days and just fed and watered. And after three days it starts to rain. And the message of the story is that by getting into this state of natural coherence, then nature itself will revert to its normal rhythms, which we are a part of. And so, reconnecting with nature immediately and experientially I think is a part of that.
Rick: That’s so important. And that’s what tuning into consciousness does, because consciousness being the foundation, it’s the home of all the laws of nature, which ultimately are responsible for weather and everything else. And of course, that’s just one example, but I really think that if enough people got attuned in that way, all kinds of things would change that don’t even seem to be within human control, like rain.
David: Yes, I also wonder about the power of ceremonies. And this has been brought home to me with various conversations I’ve had, recently with Leroy Little Bear and particularly with Apela Colorado, who’s the president of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network. And they don’t do anything without ceremony. I mean, we should probably have lit a candle at the beginning of this interview and maybe dumped some sage and just created the atmosphere. And then nothing comes to an end either without the appropriate closing and ceremony. And we’re just coming up to the solstice, and I can’t do that because I’m actually taking part in a conference in India at the time. But normally I’d try and go to a certain cave, Bethlehem Cave, which is a Cathar cave about an hour away. And then at about 12 o’clock on the solstice, the sun goes right onto the altar stone. And so, the altar stone is lit up and it’s an extraordinary experience to have. And then we go along to another cave where 20 minutes later the sun enters into the cave, which is the symbol of the feminine, and illuminates the cave. The dark cave is illuminated with light, which of course is this symbolism of Christmas, the birth of the light, the return of the light, and the transformation of darkness, this alchemical process which we’ve been talking about.
Rick: That’s interesting. Yeah, actually, New York City, Manhattan faces east-west, and so there’s a certain time of year, it’s probably the solstice, where at a certain time of day the sun just shines right down between the buildings and people gather on bridges and all to watch it.
David: Well, these stone circles were all aligned astronomically in that way, and I wonder whether part of the function of this wasn’t precisely to harmonize human beings with these cosmic forces.
David: And so, rediscovering this power of ceremony in the circle of the year might be one of the things that we can do. Because also, ideally, we can come together with people to do this, so it becomes a community activity, and not just something we do on our own.
Rick: That’s fascinating.
David: That helps build the kind of field, coherent field, that we’ve been talking about.
Rick: Which opens up a whole other topic, which we won’t get into now, but it could very well be that with the sort of re-emergence of natural law through the tapping into consciousness by lots and lots of people, all kinds of ancient, cultural, ceremonial, indigenous kinds of wisdom will re-emerge and have another heyday and perhaps contribute a lot to our modern understanding of things and way of doing things.
David: Well, what I find interesting is that, if the cosmic intelligence can’t get through to us in any way, in any other way, it can come through dreams. And Apela has been involved with the Chartres Academy, where they do this kind of dream work, and they’ve been trying to synthesize and work out the themes appearing in these dreams. And there’s quite an urgency in the dream, saying, you know, we need to change course quite rapidly. And of course, we’re getting that from David Attenborough, we’re getting it from Mikhail Gorbachev, we’re getting it from young people. And so, I wonder whether another contribution here, and this applies to our conversation in general, is whether, if we start talking about a tipping point more explicitly, this will actually paradoxically, well not paradoxically, but intentionally help the tipping point to come about.
Rick: Might be, if more and more people realize that there may be a tipping point coming, is that what you’re saying?
David: Yes, and even talking about it might bring the tipping point a little closer.
Rick: Yeah, I think so.
David: Ervin Laszlo talks about this a lot as well. He’s written a couple of books this year, one Reconnecting with the Source and then What we do Now, and he talks a lot about phase transitions and the breakdown, breakthrough process. And we see that in our own experience as well, that sometimes we have to have an element of breakdown for us to have a breakthrough. I think this may apply at the collective level as well, like a kind of collective NDE.
Rick: And that may be what’s going on right now, because there is a bit of a breakdown happening. And yeah, imagine, if you thought that you were a biological robot in a meaningless universe and that life ends when the body dies and society is going through this chaotic thing right now, imagine how discouraging and depressing that would be. But just the intellectual understanding or perhaps hope that life is a continuum and that the end of the body doesn’t mean the end of life, and what was the other thing you just said? Oh, that there might be a tipping point coming and that all this chaos could be leading to that? I mean, that alone, that perspective could have a huge impact on a person’s psychology.
David: Yes, I think so, and also, the sense that each of us individually is a part of this and can contribute to it through our own choices, through our own being, through the way we live, through the way we relate to nature. And living in this way, I live a very simple life, brings that richness to your experience. But in order to experience that richness, you have to notice things, and you have to have what Jesus said, have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Rick: Yeah, well, that’s probably a good stopping point. I could talk to you all day and we should do another one, one of these Days. And also, you’ve mentioned a lot of people and you’ve had a lot of people in your conferences that I really should probably interview sometime. Maybe we can communicate later about whom you might recommend.
Rick: Yeah, so do you have a ceremony, a closing ceremony for us? You just said we should have a ceremony.
David: Yes, I’m just going to get a candle, and so, I will, I normally have one here, but I will get one and bring it back. I don’t have any sage, so I can’t do that, but I can, I can light a candle, and so let me show this. And I’ll say two things in connection with this candle. One is a Chinese proverb which says, “Rather light a candle than curse the darkness.” And the other is a quotation from what’s meant to be the complete gospel of Mary Magdalene, which is called the Gospel of the Beloved Companion, and it goes like this, “The light shined in the darkness and never has the darkness overcome it.” The light shined in the darkness and never has the darkness overcome it. So that’s our hope at this solstice, this conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, of joy and freedom with order and restraint, which we’ll all celebrate on Monday. And so, I’d like to send this light and its correlating love out to everyone who is listening to this podcast.
Rick: Well, that’s wonderful, David. That’s a really beautiful conclusion to a beautiful conversation. I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with you like this, and I really admire the work you’re doing. I think it’s, it’s not on the radar of most people in the world, but it is having an influence way disproportional to the small numbers of people involved, and it sounds like the numbers are growing. So, keep it up and we’ll be…
David: Well, thank you. Hopefully more people will find out about what we’re doing through this podcast and the resources associated with it. So, I invite people to come and join our community.
Rick: Yeah, now I’ll be putting links to all the stuff I mentioned in the beginning on your page on BatGap. What concrete steps could a person take if they’re really interested in the things we’ve been talking about? What is there to join? What kind of conferences are there? Things like that.
David: Well, I will send you a document with some information on it, but what people could do, if they’re interested in our webinars, they can go to mysticsandscientists.org. We’ve got a whole program until June next year planned. If they’re interested in Beyond the Brain, our annual consciousness conference, beyondthebrain.org. If they’re interested in the Galileo Commission, you go to galileocommission.org/join-us. And you can join as a friend or if you’re an academic and scientist as a professional affiliate. And then the main site for the Scientific and Medical Network is scimednet.org, although that’s about to change because we’re about to get a new website which is in development. And then my educational work is inspiringpurpose.org.uk. So those are the various places that people can go to follow up.
Rick: Great. And as I mentioned, I listened to one of the conferences that you had recently. It was, I guess, the Galileo Commission or Science and Medical Network in association with IONS. And you had Marjorie Wollacott and Menas Kefatos. Yeah, that was great. I listened to most of it while walking in the woods, which is how I listen to things. But it’s wonderful stuff. And so, people who’ve been watching this interview, if the kinds of things we’ve been talking about are up your alley, if you find these kinds of things inspiring, then I recommend that you do the things David just said. So, thanks, David.
David: We’ll have other summits coming up next year as well with the launch of other new books, including one by the University of Virginia called “Consciousness Unbound – Freeing Science from the Tyranny of Materialism.”
Rick: Sounds great.
David: That will be in June.
Rick: I’m going to try to listen to more of them as they come along because I think all of this is so exciting and valuable. So, thank you.
David: Well, thank you. It’s been a fascinating exchange and I really appreciate the opportunity of having this conversation with you.
Rick: Yeah, I think quite a few more of my brain cells have come online just talking to you that were previously asleep. You’ve woken them up.
David: I hope that’s a good thing.
Rick: It is. So, thanks, and thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. And, as you all know, this is an ongoing series and you can go to the website, sign up for email notification for the audio podcast, explore the menus, and you’ll find some interesting things. So, see you for the next one, and thanks, David. We’ll be in touch.
David: Thanks so much.