Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews or conversations with spiritually Awakening people who are in some cases, scientists who generally are also spiritually awakening. But we talk about, you know, various topics related to spirituality in light of science. I’ve done 530 of these so far, roughly and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it, and would like to support it, there is a PayPal button on every page of the site. And regarding my eye, I had a little skin cancer removed from my temple and that resulted in a black eye. In fact, both eyes are kind of weird, but especially my left eye, but not to worry. It wasn’t a serious kind. And hopefully, for the next one, I’ll look normal, whatever that is. My guest today is a very interesting person Diane Hennessy Powell, MD. Diane is a Johns Hopkins trained psychiatrist, therapist, neuroscientist, and public speaker. She develops multidisciplinary theories towards understanding psychological anomalies, such as savant skills, and verified accounts of spacetime navigation. Her current research focuses on controlled testing of Autistics Savants and children reported to be telepathic and or precognitive by their caregivers. Dr. Powell has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, a member of a think tank on human consciousness at the Salk Institute in La Jolla California and director of research for the John E. Mack Institute. John Mack, he was the UFO guy wasn’t he, alien abductions?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. Her investigation into the neural correlates of ESP is discussed in her 2008 book, The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomenon. I’ve read the whole book from cover to cover, which I don’t always get to do for interviews, but this one really drew me in. And also she contributed to something called a book called Seriously Strange: Thinking Anew about Psychical Experiences. Dr. Powell is also an expert on PTSD and created the psychiatry program for Survivors of Torture International in San Diego, California. She was the principal author of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the 2007 Shift Report: Evidence of a World Transforming, and a contributing author to Beyond Forgiveness: Reflections on Atonement, the 2014 Campus Book of the Year at Indiana University. She’s also a participant in the Never Alone Movement for suicide prevention, which I believe was started by Deepak Chopra, I think.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Deepak Chopra, and Michelle Pascale. Okay, good. So welcome, Diane, thank you for doing this. Thank you. It’s a pleasure.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So I think what we’re going to do today is, first of all, talk a little bit about Autistics Savants and also people with psychic abilities, which might be children especially. And probably everyone has seen the story of the movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and, what’s his name, that Scientology guy I can’t remember.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Tom Cruise.
Rick Archer: Tom Cruise. And so you have an idea of what a severe autistic savant is and is capable of that was based on a real person named Kim Peak. And, you know, such people are fascinating examples of what the brain is capable of, and they raise, you know, deep questions about what consciousness actually is and what our relationship to it is, and what the brain’s interface relationship with it is. So we’re going to talk about those things for a little while, and then we’re going to shift into the implications that I just alluded to regarding consciousness. And I bet sure we can go two hours doing that. So let’s start with the first part. Let’s just hear some first, let’s start with Rain Man, since I first mentioned him — Kim Peake, I mean. He had 14,000 books memorized, he could read them, he could recite them frontwards or backwards, he could read two books simultaneously one with each eye and have complete photographic memory of them, and a million other things, some of which were portrayed in the movie. So, take it from there tell us more.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, one of the things that’s fascinating about Kim peak is that we have brain imaging on him. So we know what his brain looked like. It turns out, he actually didn’t have autism. He had hydrocephalus, which is a condition in which the brain doesn’t reabsorb the cerebral spinal fluid that’s circulating in the brain. It actually builds up and applies pressure to the brain, which gets squeezed against the skull. And so, as a consequence of having congenital hydrocephalus, his head was so large and heavy that he couldn’t hold it upright for the first few years of his life.
Rick Archer: So it actually increased the size of his skull.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes. And what’s interesting about that is that the bones of his skull were a little more separated from one another than would be the case in someone who has them all fuse. Then the other thing is that he was born without a corpus callosum, which is the major band of fibers that connect the left and the right hemisphere. When you look at the MRI of his brain, you see that he’s got a huge hole in the center. Uh! Filled with cerebral spinal fluid… Yes. What I found really fascinating about this is that he had such an incredible memory. If you look at neuroscience’s model for memory, it’s all about connections between neurons; so you would think that somebody who has such a superior memory would have more connections, rather than fewer ones. When I learned this about NPH, I then looked into some work that was done by a British neurologist named John Lorber. He studied over 600 cases of people with hydrocephalus, and many of them were so severe, that their cortex, which is the outermost layer of the brain, which a lot of people think of is where higher thought processes occur…
Rick Archer: …the wrinkly part that people are familiar with…
Diane Hennacy Powell: …yes, the really corrugated part of the brain–that was one-350th of the thickness of a normal cortex. And yet, the subject that was studied by him had a superior IQ.
Rick Archer: Interesting. Oh, yeah, the guy was 126 or 136, or something, and he was an accomplished academic and so on, but he just had this really thin cerebral cortex.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Exactly. John Lorber studied over 600 people with hydrocephalus, and half of them had a normal IQ or better than normal IQ. And so then it makes you really wonder about How does the brain really function? So I started off by looking at autistic savants, and I ended up going down this other sort of rabbit hole, if you will, of looking at what really is the processing unit of the brain. I mean, we’ve made such a big thing about neurons; but neurons are only 10% of the cells that are in the brain, that the majority of cells, 90 percent, are glial cells. And we’re just now starting to understand some of their function better. But I propose that we really need to go into the neuron itself and look at the intracellular components of the neuron if we really want to look at how we process information. I’m not the only one who’s thinking that way. Stuart Hameroff is somebody who’s looking at microtubules. I’m interested in the microtubules working in conjunction with neural melanin, which neuromelanin is related to the melanin that’s in our skin that gives us pigmentation. In the brain, the neuromelanin is what makes grey matter, grey matter as opposed to white matter. Also, there’s these pigmented cells that are in the brainstem. And what we’ve learned (we’ve known this for actually three decades now) about neural melanin is that it can function as a semiconductor. In other words, it can help by transmitting a signal that could be vibration, or it could be light, or could be electrical, and basically shifting it into another signal. So basically, it’s like the circuitry is more like semiconductors in the devices that we use. So, therefore, as we know we can we can have increasingly tiny devices performing increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence and so we really have to rethink the brain if you can get by with so little tissue.
Rick Archer: A couple of thoughts on that. Have you heard of Mauro Zappaterra’s work on cerebral spinal fluid? He speaks at SAND, the Center of Science and Nonduality Conference, quite regularly, and he has some whole theory about the significance of the cerebral spinal fluid developing higher consciousness and how it might relate to kundalini and all kinds of things. I just thought of it when you mentioned Kim Peake’s situation. Another thought that came to mind as you’re speaking was – I’m sure we’ll come back to this- that over and over again, when it seems that when the brain is limited in its function in certain ways, new abilities or new perceptions or new capabilities blossom all of a sudden, even, you know, Jill Bolte Taylor, when she had that stroke and all of a sudden she had sort of a self-realization experience that she hadn’t had before. So that kind of relates to the notion that the brain is a filter of some sort, part of whose function is to kind of limit the amount of information we’re able to deal with.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, that’s correct. I share that way of thinking. If you look at the brain, the major neurotransmitter is GABA, which is inhibitory in nature. And the frontal lobes inhibit the posterior part of the brain, the left hemisphere inhibits the right hemisphere. And if you remove those normal inhibitions, you actually can have what’s called acquired savant syndrome, where you have somebody who is just an ordinary person who suddenly is able to do mathematics after a head injury, or able to…
Rick Archer: …play the piano or something…
Diane Hennacy Powell: …play the piano. And so, I think that these cases – these acquired savant syndromes – are really telling us something and that we really, in devising theories, need to be able to explain them as well.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Let’s see, let’s hear some more stories of different types of savants and some of their capabilities. We’re really getting into the implications of all this, but it’s interesting to hear some more stories.
Diane Hennacy Powell: I think one of the stories that really had a profound effect on me was one by Oliver Sacks, who studied these two identical twins who are institutionalized. When he met them, they had this game in which they would say six-digit prime numbers. One twin would say one number, then the other twin would come right back with the prime number that you would find in sequence.
Rick Archer: Yeah, let’s just say a prime number is a number that can be divided only by the number one or by itself. It takes a lot of computing power to figure out prime numbers once you get into many digits.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, and so at the time, this was just astounding. Oliver Sacks went back and looked at a prime number table and came back to the twins with an eight-digit prime number and said the number to them. And then, within a short period of time, they started tossing eight-digit prime numbers back and forth. He tested them up through 12 digits, which was the capacity of computers at the time; this was in the 60s. But the twins actually gave prime numbers in the 20 digits. So there’s this question of how is it that they had these numbers just appearing to them? They said that they weren’t calculating them and that the numbers just showed up. There’s no real really good algorithm for computing a prime. You’ve got algorithms for recognizing a prime, but they’re not for computing one.
Rick Archer: Even now?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Oh, yes. Even now.
Rick Archer: Wow. Huh. And then these same twins had the ability to calculate calendar dates spanning how many 1000 years? Like 80,000? or some such thing?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes.
Rick Archer: So that you could name a date like 2030 40,000 years ago, and they would tell you whether it was a Thursday or Tuesday or, what day of the week Easter would have fallen on in that year, or whatever?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Exactly. There are some algorithms for calendar calculation. But what’s really important for understanding is that the experience of these twins doing calendar calculation was not that they were doing any kind of calculation in their head. The answers just come to them.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So what does that tell you? That the answers just come to them? I have some theories, but I’d like to hear yours.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, it says though, we live in an informational field, and that they’re reading that field rather than generating the information.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Now calendars are a man-made thing, obviously, based upon the movement of planets, and so on, in our particular solar system. Probably in every other solar system in the universe calendars would behave differently. But somehow that information was there in the field, and accessible by these kids.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, yes. And they also were capable of another thing that Oliver Sacks witnessed them do – and this was actually in Rain Man. You said it was used in the Rain Man movie where he spilled a box of matches, and they both in unison said 110. They could see the number, yeah… …They could just immediately see the number, and they both said it at the same time.
Rick Archer: Yeah. In your book, you also mentioned being able to determine the number of jellybeans in a jar – just like that, which is really weird because you can’t even see all the jellybeans. Most of them are not on the outside against the glass. There’s some somewhere in there, but they’re able to come up with accurate numbers?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes. It reminds me of this one woman I know who wrote a book about her son, Ryan, who is autistic. She was struggling in the 90s with a son who is autistic and was told that she should institutionalize him and that he would never amount to anything. And she, she refused to do that. She worked with him. and now he’s an aerospace engineer. And one of the things he did when he was really small, like a year old, he would take boxes, like boxes of cereal and things like that, and spill them on the floor. She just thought he was acting out. It wasn’t until he was older that she found out that he was actually doing experiments and determining volume.
Rick Archer: Wow! Wow. That’s amazing! I used to spill sugar on the floor to watch the ants come along and make little trails for them. But I wasn’t able to calculate the number of grains of sugar. And I’m not an aerospace engineer, now. Let’s think of some other examples. So there have been people who you mentioned: one fellow who is blind who is able to play any song if he’s heard it once. He heard Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Number One, one time, and was able to sit down and play it. And he can play any song he’s ever heard – thousands of them – and an audience can call out a name of a song and he’ll just play it. Or they can play a song he’s never heard on their cell phone and he could sit down and play it.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, that’s Leslie Mk. What’s astounding about his story is that he was not only born blind, but he had severe cerebral palsy and really could barely move his body in a functional way. And his mother – he had an adopted mother because he was abandoned by his biological mother – was such an amazing person. She worked with him to teach him how to walk. She would sit with him at the piano and just help him with hitting the keys. He wasn’t really doing very much. She was just trying to help him learn how to use his body. And one day she woke up hearing music coming out of the living room. She thought she must have left the radio on. It was Leslie playing this masterpiece that he had heard,
Rick Archer: Just like that. Wow! And then there was that guy, I think his name was Daniel Tammet, who could sit there and recite pi for like six or eight hours?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, Daniel Tammet. He has won the record for the most digits of pi – which is a non-repeating number. He’s recited it to over 22,000 digits. And he says that it’s not that he memorized it, Instead, he sees the numbers in front of him; but he doesn’t see them as numbers. Each number has its own unique shape and color. He has a condition called synesthesia. That’s the pairing of one sense with another. There are lots of people who will see colors around letters, and it’s consistent within that individual. In other words, if they see E as blue, then they’ll always see it as blue. It’s so consistent and persistent that they think everybody sees the world this way. And so in Daniel Tammet’s case, he doesn’t have to memorize any numbers. They just appear like a ticker-tape parade in front of him.
Rick Archer: And he’s also the one who has learned a bunch of languages, isn’t he?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, yes.
Rick Archer: I think I saw something about him on TV. They did something where they sent him to Iceland for a week, and he came back speaking Icelandic, which is a very difficult language.
Diane Hennacy Powell: It’s really remarkable. One of the children I have investigated is a little boy named Ramses. When I met him, he was five years old. His mother reported that starting at the age of two, he knew the alphabets and could read eight different languages. And the languages were Russian, Japanese, Hindi, Arabic…
Rick Archer: …Very different scripts. Wow!
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes.
Rick Archer: That’s amazing! So there again, these languages are unique to our planet, presumably, and there are probably trillions of languages throughout the universe, but somehow, at least in the collective consciousness of our planet, it would seem that these languages reside somewhere in that field and can be accessed by certain people. And with regard to pi, that would be a universal thing, just as Fibonacci numbers and so on would be a universal thing. So presumably, someone on Alpha Centauri could tap into that also. But again, it’s leading us to the point, that knowledge is not merely stored in the brain, it’s stored in the field. And the brain is like a receiver-transmitter for that field.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Exactly. The way that I think of the brain now is sort of like our smartphone, for example. You’re tuning into the cloud, basically, where the information is.
Rick Archer: Yeah. There’s an interesting phrase in the Rig Veda verse, which says something like that all the impulses of intelligence, which are responsible for the manifestation and an orchestration of the universe, reside in the transcendental Akashic field. If you don’t know that field, then all these impulses of intelligence can’t really be of much use to you. But if you do know it, then they come into play to enhance your life. So people were onto this a long time ago.
Diane Hennacy Powell: The deeper I’ve gotten into this, the more impressed I’ve been with the fact that people who lived thousands of years ago had so much knowledge that we’ve lost…
Rick Archer: Yeah…
Diane Hennacy Powell: …and one of the things I have a passion for is taking what’s cutting edge scientific discoveries, and then looking at what the ancients knew. I think a good example of that is ayurvedic medicine. We’re seeing that a lot of the practices, now, with functional medicine and the future of medicine, actually, a lot of it is really ayurvedic medicine – that we need to detox, and that various herbs and nutrients are essential for our health. Just various practices that give you a healthier mind, body and spirit.
Rick Archer: Yeah. It would seem that first of all, obviously, there’s a lot that we don’t know about how the universe works, whether we’re a savant or a regular scientist, or what. I mean, the amount we know is probably a tiny fraction of what potentially could be known. And we’re learning new things all the time. But it would seem that all of that knowledge, if you want to call it knowledge, or all of the sort of the laws of nature that had to be there in order for Creation, to emerge and evolve in an orderly way, are somehow intrinsic to the ground state from which the universe arose. So there’s that. But then, in addition to that, it would seem that we continually contribute to that field or to some field so that someone could learn a bunch of languages if he could tap into that field or could play piano or something. He’s actually accessing something which probably other human beings contributed to the field. So I guess my question to sum it up is that, on one hand, it seems that if we’re presuming that there is some kind of ground state of natural law that contains all the information in the universe, or all the intelligence needed to govern the universe, a lot of it is fundamental and original, but it’s being added to all the time through the activities of the various beings who inhabit the universe. What do you think about that?
Diane Hennacy Powell: I’m in total agreement. I think when you look at things like, for example, the 20-digit prime numbers that these twins were able to access, I don’t think any human being had ever done that before. So that wasn’t a thought that had been encoded in the field. But that was probably more of just them picking up the patterns and picking up information that’s inherent to how the universe works, as you said. But then when you have things like languages, that are manmade, and after having so many millions of people thinking those languages, that information becomes part of the field. I think of it as a holographic field. And by that what I mean is that all of the information is contained in every, every point of it.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and we can perhaps elaborate on that as we go along. Tell us a little bit about Haley. And then we’ll swing back to ontological considerations again. Haley was a fascinating person that you’ve worked with.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes. So Haley was someone whose father contacted me. The father is actually a psychiatrist like me. He had trained where Darold Treffert was, so he contacted Darold Treffert, as well. And so both Darold and I evaluated Haley and were really impressed with her. When the father contacted me, he told me this story of how he was aware of autistic savant syndrome. His daughter had the regressive form of autism and was nonverbal. She was taught how to express language by first starting with a stencil board where she would point to various letters. And then she progressed to being able to independently type onto something like an iPad. The therapist who was working with Haley on acquiring knowledge was working with her on math. She noticed that Haley couldn’t do simple addition or subtraction, but when given more complex mathematical equations to solve, she would get the answer correct. So that is, by definition, a mathematical savant: somebody who can solve mathematical problems without the rudimentary arithmetic that you would need to do that. And so the father encouraged the therapist to keep working with Haley. She kept going along in an amazing way, and then one day, the therapist had to change the calculator she used in order to get the answers. And when she changed calculators, the one that she used, gave her the answer in logarithmic notation. It was out of Hailey’s sight. What Haley typed was the answer in logarithmic notation! The therapist said, “How did you do that? It’s as though you can read my mind!” Haley said, “I can see the numerators and denominators in your head.” And then the therapist started asking her questions like, “What’s the name of my landlord?” and “What am I thinking of now?” And Haley got it exactly right.
Rick Archer: Yeah. She also got “I love you” in German, right?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, that was actually the second therapist. So what happened was that the first therapist told the parents and they were astounded, then checked it out. Then there was a second therapist who started working with Haley, who independently came to the same conclusion, because she saw that Haley would make her same mistakes. If she made a spelling mistake or something like that, Haley would do it exactly the same way. The therapist asked,” Oh, you read my mind? How do you say, ‘I love you’ in German?” And Hayley typed it out. So, that gave me two independent therapists to conduct studies with and to formally test her on her abilities.
Rick Archer: Seriously, if we think of the brain as being like a radio that receives information through the electromagnetic field (although in this case, it’s the consciousness field) you don’t usually enhance the functioning of the radio by pulling out some transistors or bashing it up a little bit with a hammer. But in this case various types of what we would consider brain damage, seem to enhance certain abilities profoundly at a cost but to enhance them.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, I think that a better analogy for that would be that if you’ve got too many programs, or apps running on your computer or phone, then then it slows down the functional capacity. And so by shutting off some of those programs, it may be that it gives more of the juice. In other words to something else.
Rick Archer: Before we started today, I closed up everything I wasn’t using, because I wanted the recording software to have the full firepower of the computer.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Exactly. This is like, for example, the blind Savant syndrome. In order to explain that, how is it that the fact that you are blind from birth, why does that give you these amazing musical abilities? And what happens is that the visual cortex is an extremely complex cortex for doing computational sorts of things. And it doesn’t go to waste. So as soon as somebody becomes blind, the auditory system and other sensory system starts recruiting the visual cortex and gives you these remarkable abilities.
Rick Archer: That doesn’t happen with everybody, obviously. I mean, we don’t have hundreds of thousands of Stevie Wonders and Ray Charles’s is running around,. It just seems to happen in some cases.
Diane Hennacy Powell: That’s true. It’d be really interesting to try to understand why some people develop the blind Savant syndrome and other people who are blind don’t. There have been blind seers, too, just like there are people who are autistic savants, who have these other abilities. When they get information, they just don’t know how they could possibly know it. Similarly, for blind savants, they’re the blind seers. So I think that what happens is that when you’re inhibited from accessing information in the usual way, you have the default mechanisms that you can fall back on. I think, if you go back evolutionarily to ancient man, that some of these abilities that people think of as being impossible now, that they were probably much more commonplace. And, certainly, there’s a lot of evidence for animals being able to be in communication with one another in a way that’s very different from the way we communicate, you know, a kind of a proto-language sort of way and…
Rick Archer: …or like Rupert Sheldrake’s dogs that know when their owners are coming home. I interviewed Rupert and he explained that in some detail. Basically, they do careful experiments, so there’s no obvious cues that the owner is coming home. It’s all randomized, but as soon as the owner has the intention to come home and starts coming home, the dog goes and sits by the door. There’s no way it could know, but it’s a very highly, statistically relevant response by the dog.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Absolutely. And it’s not just dogs, it’s cats, and I think they did research with a parrot. So what seems to promote that communication is there being some kind of a bond.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So what we’re getting at here, then, is some sort of telepathy. One of the chapters in your book focuses on that topic. All these things are related, I think, but they’re just different flavors or aspects of various abilities that make us question the conventional “wisdom” of what the brain is, or what it’s capable of.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, I agree. And I think that there’s some survival value in a lot of these abilities. I mean, there are a lot of women who after childbirth have this connection with their infant. I had this with my daughter. I would wake up and go into her room just before she would start to cry, or if she was sick – without any knowledge that she was sick – I would just go in there. And a lot of people have dream telepathy. It’s in the setting of a crisis with a loved one and they’ll have a wake up in the nightmare that somebody has died. In fact, that’s how the electroencephalograph was actually created by Hans Berger, who was in the military. His sister sent him a telegram asking if he was okay right after he had a near-miss accident in which he could have been killed by some horses that reared up. So he thought, “Wow! This must be electromagnetic, this thinking.” And so he came up with the EEG, which records the electromagnetic signal at the surface, our skull.
Rick Archer: And then there are stories of twins who are separated at birth, who go on to have these lives that are remarkably in parallel, with absolutely no communication with one another. And there are some people who had a bond – go ahead and tell us a story or two about that.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Identical twins raised apart, it’s just so phenomenal. There have been over 67 of these case studies that have been written about. The one that’s probably the most famous is of the Jim twins. What is remarkable is that they both married women with the same names, got divorced, and their second wives had the same names, and their dogs had the same names, They drove the same kind of cars and went to the same location for vacations. They, even before they met, both felt this compulsion to build a white circular structure around a tree.
Rick Archer: A bench, yeah.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, a bench.
Rick Archer: It’s interesting. I don’t have a problem with any of this stuff. I don’t consider myself a gullible or naive person. I’ve just been studying and thinking about experiencing consciousness for so much of my life, that all this stuff is kind of second nature to me. As a matter of fact, I once had an experience relevant to something we’re just talking about. Meditating in a pitch-dark room with my eyes closed and all of a sudden being able to see the room and see the details where the furniture was, and stuff like that, although I certainly don’t have that kind of thing regularly. But many people do, and it clashes with the current materialist paradigm. That’s why there’s so much skepticism, resistance and derision and so on. In fact, who was it, Schopenhauer? I quoted this from your book: he said, “All truth goes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident.” And even something like meditation itself, when I first learned it and started teaching it, it was really kooky woo woo stuff for the vast majority of people. But now you have yoga classes on every street corner. The knowledge of stress in the nervous system as being an impediment to its normal functioning, which is pioneered by Hans Selye, has become kind of mainstream and all kinds of ideas have seeped into our collective understanding that were originally considered unusual or, questionable.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes. And I’m one of about 350 scientists who signed a manifesto several years ago, basically saying that we all agree that there is sufficient evidence that the materialist paradigm is dead.
Rick Archer: I think I remember that. Tell us about that. Elaborate a bit and also tell us how that was received or not.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, we’ve established our own academy, the Academy for the Advancement of Post-Materialist Sciences. And the members of that Academy are people whose names most of your listeners would recognize, people like Dean Radin, Larry Dossey, Julia Mossbridge, and Menas Kafatos. So these are scientists who really have been looking at this from multiple different disciplines. We realize that maybe we’re trying to swim upstream by getting the established scientific Academy to accept all of that. There’s a wealth of information and evidence out there, and for us to just sort of be waiting for their approval, we decided we’d go ahead and start our own academy.
Rick Archer: That’s good. I’m going to email you about that later. Because I’d like to know more about it. I can even put a link to it on your page on Batgap if you want if it has a website.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes. So there were about 13 of us who attended a meeting in Tucson. Gary Schwartz and Marjorie Woollacott were the two people that were leading the meeting. They were the co-editors of a scientific volume each of us contributed a chapter to, basically telling a little bit about our reasons for changing our paradigm. Some of us grew up with a paradigm in which we believed these sorts of things already. But I grew up with a father, who is a scientist, very much a materialist. I grew up as an atheist. I really had no background at all to make me believe in any of these things. And it was really through my work as a doctor, and particularly being somebody who does psychotherapy and working with people who’ve been traumatized and people who have autism and various other conditions that I started to really question what I had been told was the way things work. The old paradigm really can’t account for a lot of things that are scientifically accepted. Autistic savants are scientifically accepted because it’s reliably reproducible. And yet, you can’t explain it with our current model. And so I, one of the reasons why I went into medicine was wanting to – I’ve always been groomed to be a scientist – and I’ve always wanted to make a contribution. And to me, how you make a contribution is, you look in the areas where other people are afraid to look sometimes because the controversial area is what eventually becomes the future science. You might pick the wrong controversy to pursue, but I looked at some of these things, for example, autistic savants, and I said, “Wow! That is so similar to how astounding psychic abilities is, why do we discount psychic abilities?”
Rick Archer: Yeah. Incidentally, for the listeners, half of the people that Diane just mentioned had been on BatGap: Marjorie Woollacott, Dean Radin, Menas Kafatos, and some of the others. You can look them up on BatGap if you want to watch their interviews. One thing that seems to me is this whole idea of whether the materialist paradigm is obsolete and we need a new paradigm in which consciousness is fundamental and the material universe is emergent from consciousness rather than the other way around is, it’s not just an interesting sort of academic exercise that will enable us to understand the universe better – it is that – but there are dramatic implications and ramifications to it that could completely revamp the whole structure of our world and have a profound impact on many of the dire problems that threaten to do us in. We could elaborate on that topic for a few minutes. Do you also feel that way?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Oh, absolutely. I think that we’re living in a very critical time period now for mankind. We have these clashing worldviews. And what’s happened is that increasingly, over the course of my career, I’ve seen people become more and more demoralized and feel more and more disempowered by things that are really a result of the materialist perspective on things. And if you really change the way you think about consciousness, you start to realize that we really are capable of creating – and I’m not talking about things that are woo woo – I’m just saying that we’re able to, but depending upon what we focus, we tend to create more of that. And so if we focus on…
Rick Archer: …that to what you give your attention grows stronger in your life.
Diane Hennacy Powell: That’s right. And, and so look at all of the informational overload with the technology we have. I mean, we could be spending all of our time taking in information, a lot of which is propaganda and misinformation. Taking all of that in, we are disconnected from an inner knowing – from the knowledge that we can access if we really quiet our mind and really go within and commune with nature. If we actually interact with real people in live settings, we are actually promoting things that, to me, are much more life-sustaining and more uplifting. But there’s a lot of toxic stuff out there. And then there is the pursuit of the consumerism, the pursuit of “Oh, I’ve got to have the latest technology! I don’t want to out of date on this and that!” And you look at what that’s also doing to our environment…
Rick Archer: I laugh because every Christmas, you know, they always have all these news stories about the pitched battles in Walmart or Best Buy over the latest gadget, and people are breaking down the doors and then going at each other to grab it, the biggest latest TV or something like that. I think,” Oh, my God, it’s so crazy!” You know, it might be interesting is to take a few minutes to sort of contrast some of the assumptions of the materialist paradigm with the assumptions or perspectives of its opposite. Do we have a one-word name for this new paradigm like we have for the materialist paradigm?
Diane Hennacy Powell: I’m not sure that we do, either.
Rick Archer: All right, maybe we will come up with one.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Gary Schwartz talked about post-materialism, and then there’s different theories within post-materialists. He also asked us which of those three fundamental categories did we agree with? The first one is really one in which you’re looking into things like quantum physics as a way for understanding the way the brain functions, for example, getting away from this very simplistic, neuronal process. To me, I’d look at the model that materialists use now, and I think of it as like a clunky Rube Goldberg sort of contraption. You have this neuron send a neurotransmitter to that neuron, and you have the acts of intention go on…and if you think of the brain operating that way, how can you get from that to anything resembling what our experience of consciousness is, let alone allowing any of these other things to happen? So allowing for quantum processes, whether they’re occurring in the microtubules, which Stuart Hameroff is a big proponent of, or in the glial cells, which there are other researchers who believe that glial cells are involved in that, is a type one theory. A type two theory is one which you’re looking at consciousness and you’re saying that a lot of these phenomena are real – things like telepathy and precognition and etc. But a lot of that stuff you can’t really describe based on quantum mechanics, Quantum physics helps to explain some things, but you can’t really explain all of those things using those principles. So you have to take it to the next level. And the third type of theory is basically saying that consciousness is really primary and fundamental and that we’ve been asking the question the wrong way: it’s not so much that the brain creates consciousness, it’s that consciousness creates the brain. An interesting story that I tell is that when I was thinking about this question of “could consciousness be primary”, I looked outside of just the human experience. And I ran into this article about a sea squirt, that lives a lot of its life in a sedentary fixed way. But then when it needs to relocate to another section of the sea, it literally grows a brain, that actually looks like a little miniature brain, and then it becomes mobile. Then once it becomes sedentary, in a place that’s more favorable for life, then it reabsorbs the brain. And that made me think, what if the brain is really a navigational tool? And what information are we trying to navigate? And what about the fact that the brain can be created and reabsorbed and recreated as needed? What’s creating it? It has to be some kind of a field. Information for creating the brain must be existing before the brain.
Rick Archer: Well, wouldn’t people argue that it’s just in the DNA of the sea squirt? You know, it’s programmed to grow a brain when it needs one?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, yeah, I think that people would argue that, and I’m really using it more as a metaphor than I am as that’s how everything operates. But at the same time, let’s look at how does DNA code for things? I was part of the Human Genome Project and learned how to do molecular biology. And when I saw that I couldn’t find the answers in the brain, or I didn’t think neuroscience was asking all the questions, I looked to genetics. What we discovered there was that the human genome is only about 20,000 genes, and that we share a high percentage of those genes with plants. The mustard plant shares about half of our genetics, and there are actually plants that have more genes than us. So that’s when scientists started to realize that the genes contain some information, of course, but what’s controlling the genes? That’s when people started looking at what was called junk DNA. That’s really considered to be the control mechanisms for the genes, the on and off switches, and about 90% of the chromosome is junk DNA. This is similar to the glial cells versus the neurons, where the neurons are only 10%, and they’re surrounded by these glial cells, which actually are more interconnected than the neurons. In fact, they work more like a syncytium, which is an organized unit. So they’re able to spread information across the entire brain very, very quickly. We now think of a synapse as not being two neurons coming together, but there’s actually a process from the glial cell that monitors the synapse. So, using the glial cells as an analogy to the junk DNA because glial cells (their name comes from glue) were also thought to be what’s holding it all together. So what I’m proposing is that we’re now studying junk DNA, and we’re studying glial cells, both of which are worthwhile endeavors, but then what’s controlling the glial cells? And what’s controlling the junk DNA?
Rick Archer: Yeah. I like that line of questioning. You just keep taking a step back, and you eventually get down to some very fundamental considerations. Well, before going on with that, when you were outlining those three theories a few minutes ago, I thought, well, all these can be correct. They’re just describing different aspects of the one phenomenon or of the bigger picture. They’re just different aspects of the thing. I think you could take any field of knowledge and you could make a chart that traces it down to what’s causing this? and what’s causing that? and go more and more fundamental. And eventually, you get down to fundamental physics and force and matter fields and so on, and then what do those arise from? Okay, well, there’s something even more fundamental. There’s sort of a grand unification of three of those fields into one field, and then that grand unification plus gravity ultimately get unified into something even more fundamental. So there’s always a kind of a hierarchical path that you can take from any spokes on the wheel down to the hub. As you do so, I think that there are tremendous advantages in terms of knowledge and in terms of making sense of everything, because if you’re out on the spokes, and all the spokes are disconnected, all the branches of knowledge seem fragmented. You have to specialize more and more to excel in any one of them, and then you’re completely disconnected from all the other specialists on all the other branches. There’s no harm and specializing, but if you can somehow do that, and at the same time get down to the real nitty-gritty – the essence of your field – you will find that that is also the essence of all the other fields, and that they all branch out from a common source. And there is a kind of beauty and a synchrony to them all, which you can’t find otherwise.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Exactly. That’s one of the reasons why I have studied so many different branches of knowledge within the sciences. Becoming a medical doctor is like going to graduate school. You’re studying anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology – you’re studying all of these different fields. And then with pathophysiology and clinical science, what you’re studying is the mistakes of nature that show you when you have something that is an aberrant. Something’s different about it. Then you can actually see what happens as a result of that, and you’ve got more information as well. And so I’m very much a multidisciplinarian and have used my knowledge as a neuropsychiatrist to look at all of these conditions. In my book, The ESP Enigma, I talk about various conditions, like fugue states, where you have these people who seem to be able to buy a ticket and fly somewhere else and start a new life, not even fully conscious of what they’re doing. Then they come out of and they’re like, how did I get here?
Rick Archer: Wow!
Diane Hennacy Powell: It’s like sleepwalking on steroids. And so, who’s operating the machinery behind that? I could just go on and on. What is multiple personality? Why is it that you can have somebody who has one personality that is highly allergic to something, and they’ve got rashes, and then they switch personalities, and that one’s not allergic, and then all of a sudden their body normalizes? All of these things really raise the question of what is the relationship between mind and the body? I feel like that put me in a really unique position for asking some of these questions. Similarly, – when it comes to spirituality – having been raised as an atheist, and then having had some experiences that made me wonder if is this all there is, I studied the various world religions looking for universal truths. Most people don’t have the patience or the time to do that. But my passion is bridging across different disciplines and really trying to understand the hub that connects everything.
Rick Archer: Yeah, mine too, although, I’ve never pursued it in as academic a way as you have. But I really think it has earth-shaking implications. Because well, to take a simple example or metaphor, before we understood that the sun was the center of the solar system, the movements of the planets didn’t make much sense. They would go retrograde. And it was really hard to figure why they were moving the way they were. But once we put the sun at the center, then these nice, beautiful ellipses emerged, and we could understand how they’re going around. So there’s a lot of things in our world, that are out of whack -the way we treat the environment, the way we treat people, our economic systems, our political system, and so on. You could go down any avenue and see that it’s out of whack. And personally, I think that all these things are a manifestation of human consciousness. People create them out of the condition that they themselves are in. And collectively we create, recreate these larger things. And, if we’re all out of touch with our essence, with our true self, with our core being, then we’re going to be creating messes and disasters. There’s a verse in The Gita that says, “For many-branched and endlessly diverse are the intellects of the irresolute; but the resolute intellect is one-pointed. So I think that if resolute intellect, or people established in the self, residing in the ground of being, the home of all the laws of nature, or whatever you want to call it, were the norm, then a completely different world would manifest from there with completely different economic, political, environmental kinds of policies.
Diane Hennacy Powell: I agree, I agree. And it’s very concerning to me to see how, for example, you mentioned politics and how divided our country is, and you have people with very different narratives. And what’s happening is that people are becoming more and more entrenched in what they believe, and not willing to even look at what the other person has to say because they just discount it. They discount the other person without even knowing them. And there isn’t the same kind of nuanced discussion about things that there needs to be to be able to move past these kinds of impasses.
Rick Archer: I think when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what he might have been indicating is that your neighbor is yourself. If you actually get right down to who you are and who your neighbor is, you’re the same – you’re the same essence, fundamentally. And when you realize that experientially, then you naturally and actually do love, everyone, and everything rather universally.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, that’s one of the universal principles, I think, of most spirituality. It really comes back to that. You know that Tibetan saying that, if you throw a hot coal at someone, you’re the one who burns your hand.
Rick Archer: Yeah. It’s a different way of making that point.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Right. And so I really think that shifting the paradigm is really critical. And that’s one of the reasons I was doing a lot of experimental work. But I’ve put more of my emphasis, more recently into the theoretical work, because of getting scientists to see that that makes sense. By using a scientific argument, that uses facts that they accept, and then building from that. And I think that we are living in this kind of post-truth world and that we really need to get down to what are the fundamentals? What do we now build from there?
Rick Archer: I’m sure you’re familiar with Thomas Kuhn, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, and his notion that, entrenched paradigms don’t just change on a whim, or because someone says they don’t like them anymore. They have to be buffeted by repeated anomalies that completely contradict their assumptions before they start to loosen up and budge and eventually shift to a new paradigm. And so I think that’s what you’re doing. You’re sort of buffeting the – creating cracks in the existing paradigm, as stubborn as it may be. And it is stubborn. We’re alluding to all these aspects of the world of economics and technology, and so on. But even in academia, you risk your career if you start talking about this stuff in graduate school. You know, you can tell me what might happen to a person, like you won’t get funding or you won’t get supported by your thesis advisor. And so there’s this kind of psychological terrorism that takes place among academics, it seems to me.
Diane Hennacy Powell: There is, and that’s one of the reasons why I left academics, because to me, how I define career is not so much about having the prestige of a professorship somewhere, or the money that comes along with it. I went into this because I really, truly wanted to understand these phenomena. And I really wanted it to make a contribution, and whether or not that contribution gets recognized within my lifetime or not, at least I will have pursued the passion that I have and have been true to myself. I’m not the only individual who’s that way.
Rick Archer: Yeah, speaking of your lifetime – I forget who it was that said that science progresses through a series of funerals – but obviously, you have progressed from atheist without having had to die. So are you seeing that among your peers, who might have been very stubborn and atheistic or materialistic, when presented with a certain weight of evidence, begin to shift?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Absolutely. That’s been one of the things that’s been rewarding for me. I’ve had a number of people who are scientists and fellow physicians who’ve read my book, and it really opened them up to going “Yeah, you’ve really got some good points here.” And it really opened up not only their way of thinking, but their experiences. I think that’s because a lot of the reason why people don’t have these experiences is because if you’re convinced they’re impossible you’re less likely to have them or you may not recognize them when they occur. And if you talk with a lot of mainstream scientists and say, Well, have you ever had anything along these ways? So many of them have a story, but they just shelved it because it didn’t really fit with anything else?
Rick Archer: Yeah. Are they perhaps were intimidated by the reaction they might get if they were to talk about it.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Right. And so one of the things that I did in my book was I talk about quantum physics and the relationship between consciousness and matter. I’m sure you’ve had physicists talk about this on your program, about how we can collapse potentiality into a more discrete point whether we’re talking about photon or electron. And John Wheeler is saying that we are co-participants in the universe. That understanding and physics occurred a century ago, and yet, we haven’t really caught up in the biological sciences. That’s one of the things that I’m a big proponent of. So, I think, in part, it’s because so much of the funding in the biological sciences and in other sciences, as well, is by companies like pharmaceutical companies where the old paradigm fits with their agenda, basically. it’s not that academic centers have become less about knowledge for knowledge sake, and more about practical knowledge and
Rick Archer: economic motive. Yeah.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes, but if you really look at the effect that it’s having on people, I really think that it’s time now to have an applied knowledge. One of the things I’ve talked with other clinicians about is something called Clinical Parapsychology. We might be having a panel at the Psychological Association on Clinical Parapsychology this year. That’s really important because the way it is now is people who have these experiences – so it’s not just the scientists who threaten their careers – but I’ve seen people who go to see a psychiatrist, and if they say things like, “Well, I have this telepathic relationship with my horse” or this or that, they get labeled psychotic, I had a patient who literally had that happen. She told someone she was seeing who’s a pain specialist that, and he discounted her pain and sent her back to me and said, I think she needs an anti-psychotic.
Rick Archer: Not only that kind of thing, there are people who start seeing angels or subtle beings or things like that. Then they’re really considered to be nutzoid. And yet, I take those things quite for granted as being part of subtler aspects of reality beyond our ordinary essential sensory capacities.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Exactly. And so a lot of these children who have been born over the last 20 years or so are increasingly, for whatever reason, reporting all kinds of experiences, whether it’s seeing auras or seeing little fairies or whatever. Those are the kinds of things that people who are highly psychic report. And these children, if we’re just thinking, Oh, well, we need to drug them and put them on anti-psychotics, or tell them that they’re crazy, or somehow make them feel inferior, we’re shutting them down. And they may be really showing us our next evolution as human beings and what our capacity is. How can we have them be part of a society? Perhaps they’ve got some gifts, that could really help promote us into a really better future. But if we’re treating them just off the bat, just without even – surely some people are not functioning very well that have these things happen, but the reality is that to just have that be a foregone conclusion, is really doing a disservice to them. And to all of us really,
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s so interesting how the Avant-Garde is so often resisted and suppressed and ridiculed and so on. Those are the ones who are really leading us into a new understanding or new capabilities. And, you just kind of said this, that someone might actually be having unusual perceptions or be psychologically unstable, or in need of some kind of therapy or treatment. We can’t just blithely assume that any kind of abnormal experiences is good. But it needs to be parsed out more carefully, and not just thrown in the same basket.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yes.
Rick Archer: A question came in from Paul, in Breckenridge, Colorado, I don’t know why he’s not out skiing instead of listening to us. But he said, “You’ve spoken a lot about brain capacity and the way savants function. Do you have a perspective on the larger mind capital M, that goes beyond the physical brain?” We’ve kind of been talking about that. Perhaps we can elaborate a bit more.
Diane Hennacy Powell: When I say the larger mind…
Rick Archer: …mind that goes beyond…I think he would mean consciousness or the field that is ubiquitous, or at least much more vast than the confines of our skull.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, I think that we, first of all, live in a sea of consciousness. And I think that that sea of consciousness might be what some people consider or might call God and that there’s this interaction that we can have with that larger mind. For example, I think that when we meditate, that’s when we can read the mind of that larger consciousness. And when we pray, we’re putting out there our desires and our intentions to the mind. If you think of those two processes of meditating and prayer, and when people engage in those to a higher degree, they feel more and more connected and even sometimes unified with that larger mind.
Rick Archer: In your book, you alluded to a verse in yoga sutras, which is that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. And yoga means union, and then the second verse right after that is “then the seer is established in the self” or rest of the self. And so it’s kind of like If you’re caught up in waves on the ocean, then you think you’re just a wave. But if the waves settle down, then the ocean is just left by itself without waves. So it’s not like you tune into God or to the universal mind. The agitation, which prevents it from recognizing itself through the instrumentality of your body-mind, that agitation is diminished and reduced and eliminated eventually, and then the self realizes itself by itself as a universal field.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay. Feel free to bring up anything at any time. If there’s something that comes to your mind that I’m not asking a question, just go ahead and launch into it. Here’s some more notes. This is an interesting one – a six-year-old boy with an encyclopedic knowledge of science, reportedly without having studied any of the science that he knew – so here again. We either possibly have a past life situation where the kid remembers, maybe he was Einstein or somebody, and now he is retaining what he knew in a past life, or he’s tapping into what we’ve alluded to as a field of knowledge that resides at the root of all of us. He somehow had the ability to tap into it.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, I would agree. I’ve worked with children like that, who have this knowledge of science, and they haven’t been exposed to it. It’s interesting. When I first went over to India to evaluate these savants that was the nature of some savants over there. But then what I discovered was that their parents reported that they were all telepathic, too. And then I realized, Oh, that’s a confounding variable. Because if I know something, and I’m trying to experimentally access the information from this child, how do I know that this child isn’t just picking it up from me? And so, doing the experiments is really kind of tricky. There’s also this: you’re also not supposed to give them feedback and let them know if they were correct because what if they’re pre-cognitive and they’re going into the future to know what the answer is? So it really gets very complicated. But that whole question of – just like I was saying with the prime numbers – is it that they’re just tapping into this information that’s out there? Or is it a past life? That that comes up a lot, especially when you have a child like Ramses, who could read and speak all these different languages, you ask “what prepares that”? And so I think of all of us as sort of living in a holographic universe, and we’re all – if you look at fractals, and holograms and you see how every component has the full expression of the whole, that it’s really a matter of what are we focusing in on and why. Why is it that a six-year-old chooses science is the thing to focus in on? They probably would have the capacity to tap into something else. And so is it that it just happens to be this child’s interest…
Rick Archer: …or his proclivity or aptitude…
Diane Hennacy Powell: Right. Or is there a common thread that goes through space-time, and is that common thread being this concept of a soul? And as you know, in reincarnation, this concept of a soul that’s just moving through, it’s easier for us to tap into anything that resonates with a previous life.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s like, there’s that notion of Dharma that we have a particular course of action that is most appropriate for us, given our nature, given our makeup that will be most conducive to our growth and our success and so on. And I imagine that certain dharmas carry on from life to life. We don’t just shift erratically from one thing entirely into another.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Right, in studying the Vedanta, it was explained to me that this whole nature of desire and being born again is that you can also be reincarnated because you wanted something so badly, and you didn’t complete it in the previous life. So if you always wanted to be a fantastic basketball player and you die, then that desire is enough to bring you back because it says that there’s this desire for completion.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And I think the vast majority of people are going to – again, this is another one of those things that I take for granted. I talk about it as if it’s the way it is, but people can feel free to defer – but I think that the vast majority of people do come back again and again because the span of the range of possibility for human evolution is vast. And most of us are relative beginners, or good intermediates or whatever. There are very few people, I think, who have reached a point at which there is no further growth possible or necessary in human form and that therefore, they’re out of here once and for all. We probably pick up different skills and experiences in different lifetimes. I imagine certain things carry over in multiple lives, where, kind of like Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray had to keep doing the same thing over and over again until he got it.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Right.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Back in the days, when I used to teach meditation, one of the benefits we touted was developing full mental potential. And it’s interesting when we talk about savants and people who have brain damage, who attain amazing abilities. I’m sure that many people listening to this have thought, Well, geez, it’d be nice to be able to attain all kinds of abilities without having to be handicapped in some way. I wonder if you can envision a society in which it becomes the norm? Maybe you even see evidence of this beginning to emerge in which it becomes the norm for people to have extraordinary capabilities, and yet be well integrated and functional?
Diane Hennacy Powell: I can definitely envision that, but I think that, in some ways, technology is kind of steering us away from that. At the same time, there are people working on technology to help promote that. And so it could go either way with the technology.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, there’s Ray Kurzweil and people like that, who think that they’re going to start replacing our body parts with electronic gizmos. Personally, I think that’s off the mark. I don’t think it’s going to work out that way.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah. Well, I agree with you. I know the military has been working on these helmets for soldiers that would enable them to be in communication with another soldier in a way in which they can’t be intercepted by anyone else.
Rick Archer: Hmm. So, radio signals are something that can’t be intercepted?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah. So for example, the brain, the way that it’s wired is such that there’s a fair amount of consistency. There’s a lot of individual variation, but there’s a fair amount of consistencies. With functional MRI, if you ask somebody to engage in a task, you can look at which brain regions get activated and in what sequence. You can tell by looking at an fMRI whether or not somebody is, for example, recalling something that happened, versus fabricating it because you use the brain differently. Similarly, if you are working with someone, and let’s say you give them a visual stimulus or an auditory stimulus, you’ll see how that activates their brain. Once you know that and then you can read that signal, then you can transmit that signal over to someone else who can then read it, too. It’s not exactly telepathy, but it’s a sort of technologically assisted telepathy. Another example is this. Somebody sent me a clip from 60 Minutes of this person who is wearing a device on his head, and he would think a thought of something like What is the capital of some country? And what is its population? So he would surf the internet with this device while he’s thinking, and then that computer screen would type out the answer.
Rick Archer: Yeah. That’s amazing to me! Is it using EEG? What is it using?
Diane Hennacy Powell: It must be using some kind of signal that they can detect in the skull…
Rick Archer: …because EEG is pretty crude. I didn’t realize it could possibly contain that kind of detailed information.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, I invite you to look it up.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I believe you. I don’t know how that would work.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, so part of it could be this. There’s research that’s shown that we subvocalize, and it’s not auditory. Like when we read silently to ourselves, you hear a little voice in your head reading silently to yourself, right? So there actually is some subvocalization that’s occurring when you do that. And so it could be that it is using some sensor, like voice dictation technology – using that sensor, it’s picking up the subvocalizations. Just like if we speak to Siri, “Tell me where I can get a good Starbucks today.” It’s something like that. The point is that this ability to detect signals that our normal sensory system cannot is being enhanced by technology.
Rick Archer: It’s said in the Vedic tradition, that in ordinary discursive thinking, we’re utilizing a subtler aspect of the sense of hearing. And in visualizing something without actually seeing it, like you can visualize the Grand Canyon right now, you’re using a subtler aspect of the sense of seeing. I think each of the senses has its subtler aspect, although we’re more familiar with a subtler aspect of hearing. Since most people are more familiar with the subtler aspects of the sense of hearing than the subtler aspects of the other senses, that’s why mantras are generally an effective tool for most people for meditation, because they take the hearing sense and can follow it back down to its source.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah, exactly. And, what you’re picking up is vibration.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Right. But the fact that some kind of contraption can actually detect that – I have to learn more about that. It’s interesting. Here’s a question from Dan in London. Dan asks, is there anything within the new scientific paradigm, including any quantum mechanics theory, that can theorize the source of human emotions such as love, compassion, humility? Are these fundamental characteristics of consciousness? Nice question.
Diane Hennacy Powell: That’s an interesting question. I, as a psychiatrist, deal with emotions all the time. One of the reasons why I don’t think machines or computers will ever really feel emotions is because they don’t have a heart. And I mean that quite literally…
Rick Archer: …Emotions are said to be the subtler aspect of the sense of touch, that thing I was just talking about -but continue.
Diane Hennacy Powell: So what happens when people have an emotion is that it really affects their physiology. The heart plays a huge component in that; so when we’re angry or excited, or anxious, the heart tends to speed up. The heart is a pump that creates not only an electromagnetic signal, it also it creates this vibration that you feel as it’s pumping. So what happens with emotion is that we feel a shift in our heart or in our gut, or both, that then we interpret that as an emotion. We don’t interpret as in “Oh what is that?” It’s an automatic thing. And depending upon the context, we label that emotion. So the physiology, for example, of a panic attack, is exactly the same physiology as a rage attack. So you might have two people, both of whom were driving down the freeway, and they get cut off, and they almost get killed. One person may pull off to the side in panic, and they’re immobilized. They’re in the freeze state. But another person might go into rage, and literally start trying to run the person off the freeway themselves, they’re so angry. But it’s the same physiology. What’s different is the psychology and the meaning that we attach to the emotion. So if you’re someone who tends to interpret something as fear – it’s more typically female than male because it’s been less acceptable for women to be rageful than it is for them to be afraid; whereas with men, it’s been more culturally acceptable within their own psychology to be angry rather than afraid. So the point is that emotion is a combination of reading signals within our body. and then our mind puts a meaning onto it. And so what happens is, if somebody has been traumatized, they tend to interpret that signal of rapid heart rate and whatnot as something really bad. And unfortunately, that’s the same physiology we get if we’re excited. Sometimes people can purposely avoid excitement that’s positive excitement in their life because that physiological state for them has this other meaning.
Rick Archer: And one thought that Dan’s question triggered in me is, as you know, our emotions are qualities like love, compassion, humility, etc. Well, he asked, Are these fundamental characteristics of consciousness? So the question is, do these qualities somehow reside in the field of consciousness as features of it, which would naturally blossom in one’s awareness if one were aware of the field of consciousness clearly enough? Or is it that there’s something that it doesn’t make sense to talk about those qualities as being intrinsic to consciousness, but that somehow the interface of consciousness with the human machine – human mind-body – stimulates those feelings and those emotions and the corresponding neurochemicals? This relates to another question that often comes up and that is can a person be an enlightened scoundrel, can they have access to pure consciousness or have that be their all-time experience, and yet be cruel to people, creating harm in their lives. And some people actually argued that they can be and that’s the way it is, that there’s no correlation between ethical values, let’s say, and higher consciousness. And others argue that there’s a reason why enlightenment has been associated with saintliness all these years and that you naturally are going to be a better, kinder, more loving, more compassionate human being if you awaken to your essential nature.
Diane Hennacy Powell: When I think of people’s descriptions of divine consciousness, love is usually in there with the description. So I really think of divine consciousness as being tied in with creativity, and so I think that there is an inherent creativity and love in divine consciousness. And then I also think that there’s also this destructive aspect – sort of the yin and the yang and what goes along with that.
Rick Archer: Yeah, but I’m glad you mentioned creativity. Because when you think when you look at the universe itself, I mean. I was watching a BBC documentary about the ocean last night, and all the fish and the whales, and you can watch things about the rainforest or any aspect of nature, and you think Holy mackerel, what a proliferation! What an abundance of creativity, you see on display, and who or what is the Creator of all that? Is that just some kind of random process of the billiard ball, like particles bumping into each other and in some miraculous way creating all this stuff? Or is creativity sort of a quality of that from which all this has arisen? Then we get around to the notion of God, which is not a good word, because it has so many connotations, but that’s what we’re actually alluding to is some infinite field of creativity that gives rise to the universe and continues to evolve it into more and more complex forms. Forms, which, when they become complex enough, can actually recognize the source from which they came.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah. And, and I think as human beings who have free will, and who have the capacity to love. That is such an essential part of my life. To me it’s about contributing to that, contributing, especially in this time period, where we hear about all these dark things and destruction. I think those of us who are oriented this way, to be able to focus more on love and to really contribute towards that evolution of consciousness, we’re very blessed.
Rick Archer: We really are. It’s a feeling like you really can contribute – that’s the best word – that you’re an instrument of the Divine, able to somehow be used in a beneficial way. That’s very gratifying. Now you used the word freewill – I’ll keep you a little longer here. I listen to a fair amount of Sam Harris on and off. And he has some pretty eloquent arguments about why we don’t have free will. There are a lot of other thinkers who say we don’t. And I’ve heard you say in your book, and I could call up some nice quotes from Meher Baba and Aurobindo and various others, about how we do have free will. So let’s just play with that for a minute. As a psychiatrist, and in terms of everything else, why would you say we have free will?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, I would say that we have free will because of my own internal experience of it. At the same time, I can understand why people say they question free will because there are a lot of people who don’t exercise free will. I mean, they may think they are, but they’re actually sort of just skating through life, just reacting to whatever’s in front of them. What’s happened in the past and what’s in front of them, they’re not engaging in the kind of practices like meditation, and other practices of discipline like that. Actually, it’s like exercising your muscle of free will, where you’re really actually kind of de-plugging from being part of a big machine that you could be mindlessly part of, just acting without thought. So I see people who were in situations in which they’re convinced that there is no free will. I had this one woman tell me about the time that she would try to kill herself. She turned on the gas stove and after it had been on for quite a while gas stove she took a match, and she went to light it and knew like, don’t light it, that’s going to create an explosion. And she said she couldn’t stop herself. She just kept on going forward doing it. She was so caught up in that state of mind that she became convinced there is no free will. But then I’ve also heard stories of people who are in that kind of state of mind, and then they literally break free of it. So, I think that I think free will exists but it may be only a small percentage of our experience that is actually directly under free.
Rick Archer: Well, my sense is that we’re all conditioned to some degree. And so we don’t have absolute free will at any given moment, but we can act in such a way. That would include spiritual practices that diminish or attenuate our conditioning so that we’re less and less bound compulsively to do things and have a greater attunement to, we might call it divine will or higher will, which is in everyone’s best interest. We can align ourselves with that. And when we completely aligned ourselves with that, maybe we don’t have free will anymore because we sort of merged our individuality into universality. And we’re an instrument of that and just happy and willing to flow with that intelligence. But it seems to me we have a lot of say in whether we move in that direction or not or move in the opposite direction. I don’t expect you to know a lot about Sam Harris. But when you talked about free will there, you were saying some people don’t think they have any free will, and they’re kind of purposeless or whatever. But here’s an example of a guy who is extremely intelligent and earned himself a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is very productive and accomplishes all kinds of things in his life. Yet, he feels that we don’t have free will. The feeling that we have it is an illusion. In fact, we don’t have it, but we just feel like we do. Any comments on that?
Diane Hennacy Powell: I think it’s really hard to have a definitive answer. People have been debating it for a long time. But it’s interesting. Kind of going along with that – and I don’t know what he makes the basis of his argument on – there’s this. Through imaging work, we’ve seen there’s a part of the brain that becomes active before we consciously make a decision. And it’s only very small, you know, just less than a second, But still, it’s actually active before we make the decision. So that feeds in the idea that we think we’re making the decision, but really not. But the way that those experiments are constructed, they’re usually having some kind of paradigm where like, well, if you hear this word, or see this cue, hit this button. You’re already actively anticipating it, and so you’re in some kind of operant conditioning kind of paradigm. I don’t think that you can generalize from that state of mind to all states of mind. So that we can have free will in certain states of consciousness, but in other states of consciousness, absolutely, people are just more like automatons.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay. That’s kind of a nerdy point to end on. Is there anything else that is dear to your heart that we haven’t had a chance to discuss?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Well, we’ve covered a lot. You mentioned this Never Alone movement for preventing suicide. That’s something I’m very passionate about. It gets back to the sense of despair that so many people have. There’s been such an increase in suicide across the board, particularly in children. It’s the second leading cause of death in people that are under the age of 35. And, and that’s huge! Every day, there’s a physician who commits suicide.
Rick Archer: Wow!
Diane Hennacy Powell: And so we’re living in these modern times, with, on the one hand, we’ve got far more conveniences, and blah, blah, blah, and it was always supposed to get better, you know, when with all of these things, and all these medications, etc., etc., and yet, I have seen over the course of my 30 plus years of practicing, there’s more suicide, there’s more drug addiction. There’s more of all of these things that we’ve been wanting to counter. And I truly do believe that the answer comes from us really connecting with each other. Learning how to be in community, learning how to relate to one another and by making that a priority. Connecting with that greater mind, connecting with that which inspires us. And really, if that seems like something you don’t know how to do, seek out groups of people that could maybe help you along that way. Because it [suicide] is truly a tragic thing. Every person I’ve ever worked with who’s made serious suicide attempts and survived, has later on been glad that they did survive. Many of them have gone on to have lives, to have children and careers and to make contributions in various ways. There’s a sense of hopelessness and despair people can get into, but that can be just a temporary state, and we really need to be there for one another. So it’s one of the reasons why I am in this movie that’s going to be shown across the country, I think, in March. It’s a docudrama. I play myself as a psychiatrist meeting with this mother whose son committed suicide. The reason why Michelle Pascale asked me to play the psychiatrist in the movie was that he sees that my approach to psychiatry is not what most people think. It’s not all about medications and that sort of thing. It’s really an emerging of spirituality, and compassion, and all of my knowledge that I’ve gained from years of working with people, and my clinical skills.
Rick Archer: That’s so great! There’s a woman named Mary Reed, whom I interviewed who tried to commit suicide. It’s amazing she didn’t succeed, considering what she swallowed. But anyway, she came around, and it’s a great interview if people want to check that out. But it seems to me that this materialist paradigm is somewhat to blame for the rash of suicides, because if the world is mean, if life is meaningless, if the world is as Alex Tsakiris says – what does he say? – we’re sort of robots in a meaningless universe, or biological robots in a meaningless random universe – and if there’s no soul or essence, or anything else that survives the life of the body, then, what the heck? You kill yourself, you’re out of here, you’re out of your misery, there’s no implications, no ramifications, no consequences! But if we are immortal souls, and if the entire universe is a divine play, and if all of life is pregnant with meaning, and if we’re on an evolutionary journey to higher and higher consciousness or higher and higher stages of development, then how can damaging this precious instrument or destroying it, which is the vehicle through which we can achieve this evolution, how can that be in our best interest?
Diane Hennacy Powell: Absolutely, absolutely. I really think that it’s so important right now! I’m very honored that I was chosen to be part of this movement.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s great. What you just said reminded me of another point which I heard in interviews with you, of how much more prevalent autism is now than it was some decades ago. It’s like 40 or 50 years ago, it was maybe one in 10,000, and now it’s maybe one in 50, 60, or 70? Is that just because they didn’t recognize it back then? Or is it actually more prevalent? And if so, why? Some people blame vaccines or whatever? What’s going on with that?
Diane Hennacy Powell: It is actually more prevalent. When I spent six months in 1987, studying autism with Sir Michael Rutter, who is knighted for his work on autism, it was so rare then, one in 10,000. I was told, when I came back to the states and entered into an academic position, that I couldn’t make that my area of study because there just wasn’t enough of it. So then when I saw the CDC come out with numbers that it was one in 100 children, I was like, Oh my gosh, I really want to look into what’s going on here. A lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s so much toxicity in our environment. There are over 80,000 chemicals out there that haven’t really been tested. And the brain is so complicated that a lot of these things interfere.
Rick Archer: So, it’s not only things we are injected with, but it’s stuff that we breathe and stuff that’s in our food – all that stuff.
Diane Hennacy Powell: It’s everything. It’s everything. I mean that the number of vaccines children get is tenfold what it was when I was a child. And they’re starting at birth, as opposed to waiting until they’re a little older. That’s during a time when the brain is developing. The immune system that’s in the brain actually plays a role in the sculpting of the brain and learning. So to be activating the immune system at that time is really kind of risky business. And then in the umbilical cord blood of a newborn, we’re finding like 64,000 chemicals because the mother’s placenta concentrates toxins in the baby, just like it concentrates nutrients. So, one of the projects that I’m behind is this idea of mothers going through some kind of cleansing detox before they get pregnant so that they give their baby a better chance.
Rick Archer: Interesting. So people of the anti-vaccine movement, although it might be a little bit extreme, you feel that they might be on to something.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Yeah. What I think is, I’m not anti-vaccine, but I’m for rational vaccination, where you’re doing it in a way where you’re following the protocols the way they were set up. It used to be that you didn’t vaccinate a child if they were sick because their immune system is already stressed. Now it’s become more like an assembly line vaccination schedule. And it’s just risky. It’s very risky. And the consequences are very tragic for the families that experience them.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And here, again, the pharmaceutical industry, which we mentioned earlier, has a hand in it because there’s a lot of money to be made. There are so many issues like this. I mean there have been measles epidemics or outbreaks recently, and everybody’s saying, This is crazy. These kids should be vaccinated. It sounds like it makes sense, and maybe it does. But there must be a right and wrong way to do this. I got a flu shot this year, for the first time ever, I’ve never bothered, but I thought what the heck. I found this particular kind of flu shot, it’s called flu block, and it doesn’t have any mercury or any of that stuff in it. Well, Irene found it. She didn’t get the shot, I got it, because I didn’t want to bring the flu home to her. But in any case, it’s one of those things where society is polarized around the issue, or many people are like they are around politics and gun rights and abortion rights and everything else. But more nuanced, thinking which takes into account both sides of the argument and tries to come up with something that actually is sensible and inclusive, seems to me is sorely needed.
Diane Hennacy Powell: Absolutely. That’s the thing. Whether you’re talking about climate, or you’re talking about the health of our children, these things are too important for us to be just dismissing the scientific evidence that’s out there. I go to conferences for pediatrics and to learn more about autism, and one of the things they say is that it takes – and this is true – it’s 17 years on average for basic science research to translate into clinical change. That’s a long time for us to wait on these kinds of issues. I read basic science, and for me to see that this is really what we know, and yet it’s not translating into our policies and procedures is one of the reasons why I’ve done more and more public speaking. It is to try to get us to have a rational discourse on these matters.
Rick Archer: Well, the in case of quantum mechanics, it’s taken over 100 years and it still hasn’t percolated into the, you know, we still think that the world is actually hard material stuff, whereas they’ve actually told us 100 years ago that there’s hardly anything material about it. All just the field of possibilities.
Diane Hennacy Powell: It takes a while for these ideas to really take hold, but we can’t afford to wait so long. We live in an Information Age in which there really are no good excuses.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So you just gave me a good idea for a concluding point. And that is that you talked about precognition – I don’t think you claim to have it – but maybe you could prognosticate a bit about where things are going in the next 10 – 20 years. You can refer to any things you wish to in terms of the kinds of things you studied specifically, or in terms of our society, or where we might go as a species in terms of our potential, or anything else. What would you say?
Diane Hennacy Powell: I really I do believe that, that we’re in the midst of a great awakening, and I really think that over the next 20 years we’re going to see that. I really do, you know, but it’s like birthing pains. Yes, it is.
Rick Archer: It’s getting a rough ride as it goes. Yeah. Good. Well, let’s see, how old am I? I just turned 70 in October. So hopefully, I’ll still be Batgap when I’m 90. I don’t think Irene’s gonna like that. (She doesn’t think I will,) But, we’ll be saying “I don’t remember what I said to Diane, and what Diane and I were saying about the next 20 years.” So we’ll see what happens. It’s fun to be along for the ride and to be involved in it, isn’t it? Yeah. Good. Well, thanks, Diane. I really enjoyed our talk. And I really enjoyed preparing for this over the last week, reading your book, and so on. Your book again, which I’ll link to on your page on Batgap is The ESP Enigma. I heard you allude in some interviews to writing a new book, but I don’t think it’s come out yet has it?
Diane Hennacy Powell: No, it’s a lot of work to write a book. Right now, I’m doing more public speaking and just to get my word out there.
Rick Archer: Well, there’s a lot of your public speeches on YouTube. If people want to just put your name into the search field in YouTube, they’ll find a lot of stuff to listen to. Okay. Well, thank you very much. And thank you to those who’ve been listening or watching and we will see you for the next one. Thanks. Welcome.