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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 with spiritually Awakening people, we’ve done around 570 of them or something. Now, if this is new to you, and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to bat gap calm and look under the past interviews menu. This program, the show 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 the site. And then there’s a page which talks about other ways of supporting it if you don’t like to deal with PayPal. And one thing I was listening to local radio, national public radio this morning and they were talking about, you know, having people ask their employers if they have matching donation schemes, and several people donate to bet gap through a thing like that. So if you if you’re at a company, which has some kind of arrangement like that, you might want to check into it. Okay. My guest today is Dr. James Cook. Dr. Cook is a neuroscientist, writer and speaker whose work focuses on consciousness with a particular interested in interest in meditative and psychedelic states. He studied Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience at Oxford University, and is passionate about exploring the relationship between science and spirituality. And I’m passionate about that, too. I’m always excited about that topic. James writes, For reality, sandwich calm. And as the host of the podcast, living mirrors with Dr. James Cook, which can be found on his YouTube channel, which I’ll be linking to from the show notes of this interview, he splits his time between London and the mountains of Portugal where he is building a retreat center, the surrender homestead, and that also has a website and social media pages and so on, which I’ll also be linking to. So welcome, James, good to have you here. And what happened, Oh, good. You’re so still I thought maybe we had frozen the videos. So as usual, I’ve listened to quite a few hours of James’s other interviews and talks and gotten to know him pretty well through that. And we’ve also had a few personal chats. And I thought it might be good to start with an awakening or a big shift that he had when he was about 13 years old. And so let’s start with that James. And, you know, if you want to go back a little before that, to tell us what your life had been like and leading up to that event, please do.
James Cooke: So I may go a bit further back than my own life. And my so my kind of family background, my parents are from kind of working class East London, and their kind of families kind of come from backgrounds where there’s a lot of intergenerational trauma. So there’s kind of anti semitism on one side, and kind of Irish famines and all of this kind of stuff in the mix. And so without me knowing it, as a kid, I was born into an atmosphere of, of the intergenerational trauma, a lot of emotional stress. And so, but as a kid, you don’t know that who just you take your family to be normal. But it meant that by the time I was I was that a team, I’ve been going to Catholic school, my parents weren’t particularly, you know, they’ll kind of lip service Christians from the kind of Irish side. But having this kind of background carrying this kind of trauma and fear and anxiety and all of this kind of unpleasant emotion. Then having this kind of fire and brimstone message of Catholicism, I took it all basically way too seriously. I think I channeled my emotional distress into, from an early age into the big metaphysical questions. You know, it’s, it’s hard you as a as a kid, you don’t have a vocabulary of understanding it’s generational trauma. So you just, you know, the world feels scary. And you’re told that if you commit a sin, you’re going to go back to hell. And so this really bothered me. Everyone else seemed to be pretty, pretty fine with it, or just didn’t take it seriously as I did. But he meant that by by the age of 13, I was, I think, like a lot of kids, certain faculties are coming online in the brain at that point, and you start to be able to question things and, and I was, I was always a guess, a kind of scientifically minded, kind of rational minded kid, even back then. And so I had an incident where I was on the bus, and I was really preoccupied with I have this issue of hell, but also my inability to have blind faith and how that was going to send me to help supposedly. So there was what I was being told is there was this benevolent god who had made me exactly as I was made me without freewill. And so it made me without this, this capacity to have blind faith. But yeah, it was demanding of me that I have blind faith. And so and if I didn’t, I was going to be sent to hell, right? And so this was just like a perfect paradox. And I kind of looped around it in my head again, and again. I’m thinking like a way benevolent God would do that, but apparently it hasn’t. And you know, and there was no way out, there was no way for me to magic up this, this, this kind of this leap of faith. And so I think what I now understand what I think happened was, it functioned effectively, like a Zen koan, or something, it kind of baffled my rational mind, I don’t know how long this went on for a bit, it went on and on and on, until I either just physiologically exhausted myself or, or just the rational mind realized there was no way out. And so it stopped. And it felt like it just stopped completely. And so just on the bus, outside the castle there in Colchester in England, and, yeah, I remember just, it was just this moment of collapsing fully into the present moment. And feeling like knowing intuitively that in the present moment, the world just is what it is. And it’s fine. And it’s perfect. And it’s kind of it, you know, the present moment opened up into this kind of infinite quality. And I realized all of this just kind of intuitively, I realized that the, you know, what I was engaging in was just thoughts. It was just ideas, ideas that people had told me, I was projecting fear into the future, I was remembering things from the past. And I was living in a kind of a fantasy world. This is just what our minds are like, all the time. Right. But I was, I’ve been suffering immensely, just through thinking. And as soon as I stopped thinking, there was no suffering at all. And there was just utter, utter peace, utter kind of bless. And remember, I just wanted to kind of jump up and shout with joy, but I didn’t you know, English reserved, man. Just save that. Running on the west. Yeah. And then, yeah, so so it took me it was, I would say, so it was a pretty classical, I guess kind of, you could call a mystical experience or like a non dual awakening, I guess. But it because it was the core of it was realizing that reality just is, it just is what it is both and it’s it’s infinitely more than what you could ever say about it. concepts. And words are just so limited. And reality is just here. And so
James Cooke: you know what, after that, once I read about Buddhism, it made a lot of sense that, you know, suffering is generated through this kind of clinging and craving and these thought patterns. And so meditation became a way for me to kind of cultivate this. But I think maybe something that’s very this in the forefront of my mind with this is that the feeling I had was everything that exists in reality. It because it’s just the nature of the world, it is natural, that there’s just the natural world. And so I’m not saying I’m close minded to phenomena that maybe science will will, totally doesn’t fit into the current scientific mainstream. But if it turns out go success goes to be natural phenomena. You know, it’s like, it’s this understanding of the natural lawful as just the stuff that exists. And for me, that was a huge relief
Rick Archer: with regard to like stuff, you know, Christ was supposed to have done like walking on water or something. If he really did that, then that was natural. There were certain laws of nature he knew he knew how to tap into that most people don’t but nothing violates those nature.
James Cooke: Yeah, exactly. We just need new laws that he because the laws are just descriptions reality is what it is. Reality doesn’t care what you say about what your laws are. So yeah, that was that was the kind of the realization and it was so freeing.
Rick Archer: For Action writer Philip K. Dick, he said reality is that which when you stop believing in it doesn’t go away.
James Cooke: That’s a good quote. from me. Yeah. So I think that that set me on my, my kind of scientific bent. And it’s a funny one, because, you know, I didn’t think about just becoming a monk or something because I this, it seemed to me that this the logic of this experience, the logic of, you know, we’re all to some extent trying to find well being in life. And most of us go out into the world and try and rearrange, you know, rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic to make us happy. But then this realization was the kind of obvious realization that happiness comes from within And so it’s like, Well, why don’t I just cultivate that directly when I just become a monk? And do that? And
Rick Archer: this was the age? Do you have that insight?
James Cooke: No, maybe thinking about becoming a monk when I was about 17? That’s when I was making decisions of should I go to university or ice? You know? And, yeah, so I
Rick Archer: think that you had when you were 13, it didn’t go away, it’s kind of that was a big switch that you didn’t switch out of again.
James Cooke: Right, it never. It wasn’t like I had it. And then I rotated back and then couldn’t remember what it was like it was, every time I looked through, it was there. And it was, it was just a very kind of, you know, as we talk about it happens now, it’s this kind of, you know, there is this non dual aspect of it as well, where it’s where it’s an appreciation or a feeling of everything that’s appearing and just being appearances and in business, and the the feeling of James’s in here. And looking at the external world, they’ve that, that doesn’t, that that collapses, and you can kind of you know, oscillate between those two are kind of fairly trivial example would be when you’re wearing headphones, especially if you’re wearing big over ear headphones, you go from feeling like you’re in between them to realizing that the pressure on the head is just another appearance in consciousness. So it’s like, you know, the way I feel it, it’s like, suddenly, I’m this field of consciousness, or I’m the self in between the ears. So yeah, so that became my, my kind of main practice was just kind of returning to that non jewel insight. But then the reason in my kind of late 20s, as a scientist, I mean, maybe I’m skipping ahead, maybe I should, yeah, I was gonna say about why I ended up not going down the kind of monastic route and end up paid on the science route. I think it was this, this realization, or this feeling that whatever exists, is natural. And science should be the kind of humble, lawful study of this incredible phenomena of existence. So you know, I’m comfortable calling reality God, you know, as its kind of utterly transcendent to our ideas, and it’s just this event. So, you know, I think once you have these experiences, you realize there is a thing people are talking about when they talk about God, and it is this thing that is utterly beyond words, and but science should then be coming up with maps, and kind of reverently studying it and just understanding its behavior, rather than the way science tends to be, which is kind of reductionist, stripping away, meaning the meaning is very much first for me. Yeah,
Rick Archer: I heard you say in one of your recordings that, you know, when you had this breakthrough at the age of 13, you then became an atheist. But I kind of listened to everything else. You said, I sort of had the feeling like, well, I don’t believe in the same God you don’t believe in, and that we just have to define the term differently. And then we can talk about what we really mean by it, you know?
James Cooke: Yeah, I mean, for me, being being raised Catholic, and in a very, you know, I mean, I now think of the kind of Catholicism I was, I was raised in what God is a big scary man in the sky. Just seems like, you know, I’m sure that’s not no one, none of the founders of these religions had that in mind. And that’s the God I don’t believe in exactly the blind faith punishing thing. So you could say I’m a pantheist, or something or I’m, you know, like, but I guess when I was in my late teens, that was all the kind of new atheist stuff. And, and I actually, you know, it resonated a lot. That was, there was a sense in which I asked this kind of wounded child who’d been who’d been deeply kind of distressed by what I was being told by these institutions really reveled in people like Richard Dawkins saying, oh, Catholics are telling kids ridiculous things and dislike child abuse and stuff, like, part of me felt like that was someone defending me. And I mean, now I’m very, very critical of a lot of that movement. But, but yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s complexity here. You know, I think, obviously, people like Richard Dawkins wouldn’t probably call themselves a pantheist. Or say they’re comfortable calling reality God. But there’s an aspect of that kind of listen to me.
Rick Archer: But those guys are actually interesting to listen to, you know, him and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens when he was alive, and there’s one other I forget, but um, they call themselves the four horsemen, Dan Dennett, right. But they’re interesting because they’re very intelligent. But what I always find them doing is sort of taking potshots at a straw man God that they fabricated, you know, based upon the most ludicrous aspects of religion and saying, Oh, I see how silly and ridiculous it is. But they don’t usually address the notion of God as being some kind of transcendent all pervading intelligence or some such thing you know, they just try to parody that. The more antiquated versions cultural notions of God
James Cooke: I mean, my, my concept of Gods is, you know, I mean, I think Spinoza faced had a similar idea and and faced a lot of kind of criticism for it because people were like, if if God is literally just the natural world is not even an intelligence or something, then what is it? It seems kind of meaningless. But for me, it’s something like that. It’s, I think, for me, God is a word that is used to refer to the aptitude to a kind of religious feeling that you get when you stand in awe of the vastness of existence, the fact that you’re part of it. You know, I mean, anyone who thinks for a second about what the word God means, we’d have to agree that I think that it’s inherently like, if you think you’ve you can lay your guard and point into everything that’s utterly beyond words. Absolutely. And what you can kind of conceptualize, and I’m happy with it that way. I mean, I think this might be something we’ll talk about a bit is, for me the core of all of this stuff at the core of my worldview, and how I think about consciousness, the core of it is this idea that this what I think is the core of non duality as well, the reality is beyond words beyond concepts. And I think we’ll This is why we’re, I don’t say things like, you know, where I think we might defer, I don’t say that I don’t use the word consciousness to refer to this, or pervading reality. And I don’t, the reason I said I use the word God, I don’t actually don’t tend to, but I basically don’t like to use a word because I think I think that absolute Yeah, yeah, it’s just it’s, it’s a fool’s errand. I think trying to name the absolute.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you can’t use and you can’t use the word God without defining what you’re talking about. Otherwise, you miss communicating with people, but um, have a quote from Einstein here, which relates to what you were just saying, it says, contemplate the mystery of conscious life, perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe, which we can dimly perceive and try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature. That’s kind of a nice one.
James Cooke: And it’s nice. all eternity as well. You said conscious life kind of going from 10 to because my conception of, you know, if, if we think about what this totality of reality is, yeah, the way I think about it would be something like, you know, I mean, I’ve gone straight into something, which is even harder to print concepts, probably. But if there’s, if there’s nothing effective, there’s an infinity, because if there’s no boundaries, you just have, like a kind of infinite void. And I think that that’s my kind of starting point for thinking about why we’re here. And then I think, if anything can happen in infinity, it will happen eventually. And so if existence can happen, then there’s existence and non existence isn’t a thing by definition. So suddenly, out of nothing, you have reality? And then I think that does go on infinitely. Because like, how could it be any other way? How could you have a boundary in existence that just says no, no more? So I find the the scientific idea that I mean, I understand that you with science, you have to you have to? Well, modern science is very, really restrict itself to observation. And so it says, there’s the big bang, there’s the, like, heat death of the universe. And that’s all that exists. But conceptually, for me, I’m like, Well, surely we’re just on one little spiral of existence. Surely, this is just what like, one little puff of a firework or something. And, presumably, that’s just I mean, you know, in recent years, we have people talk about multiverses, and stuff like that. And big bounce things kind of contracting once expands. And I like the idea that maybe Einstein was onto something similar, because in that picture, life would appear again, and again, it would just keep going. There’s never enter.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I just bought a book, which I haven’t read yet by a guy named Jim Holt called Why does the world exist? And he interviews a bunch of different people. I heard about it from Swami sobre, Pa Nanda. But he interviews a bunch of different peoples physicists and mathematicians, and so on. And basically, the question was, well, just why is there anything at all? And I, there’s so much I want to get into with you about, you know, randomness and freewill. And whether there’s some kind of purpose to the universe and whether there’s a soul and whether you know, whether we continue after we die, all these things actually pertain to the kinds of things you’ve just been saying. Although it may not have been obvious, but it’s all tied together. And then I think there are more fundamental Paragon paradigms we could explore upon which very different perspectives could rest about why things exist and what the universe is and what we are, and so on. So I hope we can dig right down into that stuff as we go along today. It’d be great. Yeah. So let’s start digging and feel free to like you know, throw in Anything that comes to mind if you want to talk more about your personal journey? Right now, before we proceed, we can do that you want to do that? Or shall we start getting into some of this stuff?
James Cooke: Yeah, I’ll give a bit more of an overview, because where I got to was kind of why I ended up choosing science. And then I guess, so what I ended up studying was, effectively how the brain builds concepts. And I kind of took that almost with the attitude of trying to understand the enemy, trying to understand the thing in my mind, that makes me feel separate from the rest of the universe that makes me believe we live in a universe of junk of just like objects floating about, instead of some huge, unfathomable process, which is how I what I think’s really going on. So that took me down that avenue, and neuroscience is just, you know, utterly fascinating as a field. And we’re in a real boom of it at the moment. So for many years, I was just very happily playing around in that, but with my kind of, I guess, non dual, you know, just on the walk to work, I would just basically be kind of inhabiting this, this kind of non dual perspective, and I’m not really talking to many people about it, because there are a couple friends I would, I would talk to about it, but then it was always, there was always a fear hanging around with scientists and science minded people. And and most people, I think, just assumed it was some kind of mental illness or something. At least jokingly or would think, you know, that’s a concern,
Rick Archer: probably due to your weekend chemical explorations or something.
James Cooke: Well, that’s what I was about to say is, at that point, I hadn’t tried any psychedelics, which is setting with this, which is the, by my late 20s. Working as a full time neuroscientist, I had been reading the research around psilocybin for kind of end of life anxiety. And for me, the mystical kind of insight I’d had had had, you know, I mean, asked me again, in a few decades when I’m near to death, but it felt like it completely obliterated fear of death, like it really, I’ve, I’ve always, I’ve tried to have had this conversation with so many people, and no one ever agrees with me. But I’m always trying to say how the fear of death is just an arbitrary evolutionary trick. Like, it’s just from the perspective of a survival machine, that you care about your own mortality, like, That’s it, like, it’s just a little thought, but you are the same thing as everything else that’s going to keep going. And so like, it really, really doesn’t matter, like short record relatively matters. And that can be attachment, but like, it’s not ultimately meaningful. So you don’t have to fear
Rick Archer: there’s a line inside thing. There’s a line in the punch shots, which says, Certainly all fear is born of duality.
James Cooke: Hmm, you know, exactly. That’s right. Yes, that’s right there say. Right. And I’m sure we’ll get it later to my my kind of theory of consciousness, which is very much that effectively separation or attempted separation of life brings into existence consciousness, I think and but it’s, it’s also that dynamic is the cost of that is fear. It’s like you’re, you’re to perpetuate your you become the survival machine. That’s that’s resisting the kind of collapsing back into everything else. And I understand most things through this lens now from the kind of trauma stuff I spoke about earlier is also like an issue of separation, kind of excessive fear, and separation. I think that’s why spiritual states could be an antidote to that.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So what you just alluded to, is that what you mean by the living mirror theory?
James Cooke: Yeah, so my, the living mirror theory is yes. Summarize the life process. Yeah. So well, I’ve just finished this quick point, because about the psychedelics before our mind. The night I happen against that next day, so I’d read these papers saying that people with who were dying of cancer, people from Johns Hopkins seeing the people who had suicide medication, mystical experiences, psilocybin is the active component, magic mushrooms, and high doses can produce these nodule states. And people came away not fearing death anymore. And the reports, I was like, Oh, this is the thing I experienced. And I, I really, I think these you know, at the moment, we’re a small community compared to the mainstream, I would say, like kind of spiritual people, people who understand what we’re talking about the awakenings and stuff. And I think it the future of the species depends on more people understanding this stuff. So I was like, I think if there’s a naturally occurring compound that’s less toxic than a cup of coffee, that can be administered safely, like and we connect, we can help people have these experiences, then we should be doing that. So that led me to a kind of self experimentation. To kind of, I thought, you know, I’m a trained neuroscientist, I had a natural naturally occurring Miss to experience there are these moments I’ll try and see if they’re
Rick Archer: similar James, your voice broke up just there. So you were saying I’m a trained neuroscientist, and then it went. So so pick up that, again from just before it said when I’m training is what
James Cooke: actually said. I didn’t just say. But the so I also had this naturally occurring Miss to experience and then I had, you know, I could have a psilocybin occasion one and I thought this would be good to see if they really aren’t the same thing. And I found they largely were, and But in that process, what happened happens, a lot of people, especially with things like Ayahuasca as well, is your body, just your mind just kind of naturally brings up traumatic memories, emotional material, and an incredible amount of healing happens, or can happen if you do it intentionally, you know, I was doing this, I’ve never done them recreationally. It was always a very intentional way. And that really transformed my life, I was not expecting that. And so this is why now I, when I first went into the public, I was expecting to talk about psychedelics, just in the context of, they can trigger nondual kind of awakenings of some kind. But now I’m really passionate about their use in, in kind of personal growth, healing trauma, because now I would say I’ve gone from having this very non dual, slightly disembodied dissociative, almost, non pathological way. But way over on that side, through to now my practice is far more embodied far more like a friend of mine, like it’s a mindfulness couched in a kind of non dual knowing that there’s really no goal like the press like this is it, but it’s this, this very embodied way of being which, which feels incredibly more healthy to where it was before. And so that’s why I’m a kind of an advocate for for psycho medicine.
Rick Archer: I heard you mentioned literary theory, or we can Well, before we get to that, I’ve heard you, I heard you actually mentioned that you had some physical problems, I think it was X amount or something like that, and some other similar problems. And you actually, I guess it was during an LSD trip, you actually found your, your body kind of literally shaking and purging itself of whatever it was that was actually causing that symptom. And you overcame it.
James Cooke: Yeah, so So I mean, this was multiple sessions. I effectively, I went from to first psilocybin and I would have, you know, kind of memories coming up with painful things, and maybe some emotional release and crying and, but afterwards, feeling incredible, like I feel like a drop to like a burden lifted off of me. And then gradually, it kind of as you strip away these layers of things you’re preoccupied with, it got back to really early life stress that was stored in the body as I’ve been developing, real kind of just holding tension and fear. And, and so I ended up finding the work of Peter Levine, who’s kind of such as field of somatic experiencing, and that’s, I kind of was, was figuring out my own version of these kinds of things as as I was reading this stuff. Yeah. And effectively the thing that really, utterly transformed my life was allowing my body just to kind of find some homeostatic peace where like I had to the main thing was I had asthma I had, I was told I had asthma. But because I couldn’t breathe very well and I would be very shallow in my upper chest. And what I came to realize is my stomach muscles were just were just their setpoint was so tight, and all of the kind of stuff muscle that was so just clench tight and happened my entire life. And I had eczema and yeah, irritable bowel syndrome, just a whole bunch of issues and and the Western medical model says those are separate physical issues with no with just mysterious origin. You just got unlucky and you genetically have bad skin bad breathing back. And what I realized was No, I was stressed I had I had, well stress is an understatement trauma, like childhood trauma, like a lot of us have that were still with me. And I was I was highly functional is going on with my life, but it was just in the body and was producing periods of depression as well because it’s just it’s so much carrying all this stuff. And the kind of non GMO stuff really helped me to kind of to get out of the depression but it really it was kind of spiritual bypassing I think, to some extent. And then yeah, as you say, I started just there’s a particular exercise there’s a there’s your hips basically have this natural way of trembling that animals do to really stress and it’s you know, if you think if you’ve been attacked by a lion, and you play dead, there’s like all of this these hormones in your body there’s there’s glucose has gone to the muscles, the muscles are tense ready for you to run as soon as you can. But then if you don’t like Shiva that off, it’s just going to stay there. And you’re going to be carrying around that. So yeah, it was just hour after hour of feeling the emotions, letting it out breathing. So a lot of it was centered around the breath. And then now I can breathe comfortably into my belly, and in a way that I can take long, slow, deep breaths. And the past it was this stressed out shallow chest breathing. And along with that, my skin got better my breathing got better, I was told I don’t have asthma, that I probably, you know, my thinking hasn’t heard, never did. And my, my stomach is fine now. And I now feel like a healthy person. And for three decades, I really was carrying this incredible stress.
Rick Archer: And I want to emphasize with something you said, which is that you didn’t do this in a sort of a recreational way, like, you know, drop a tab of acid and put on Jimi Hendrix, you were you were going about it in a really serious careful, you know, controlled way. And I think if you hadn’t, if you had done it in a more trivial way, then you wouldn’t have derived these benefits.
James Cooke: Absolutely, absolutely. And so, you know, my once I realized that was this was a method to bring up a work through difficult material. That was all I wanted to do to do with these, these systems of these, these chemicals. And the interesting thing is, if you try and do this recreationally, the concept of a bad bad trip, I think, is that he wants to go and have fun, you have the mood elevating effects, but then suddenly, you’re thinking about something horrible that happened to you in the past. So you’re stuck in a fearful thought loop or, you know, fundamentally, you’re trying to run away from that and you don’t feel safe. Whereas what I was doing was putting on some blindfolds, imitating scientific studies, putting on a pre prepared playlist of music, turning off my phone, make sure I wouldn’t be disturbed. And then basically running full speed ahead at the difficult material, feeling the emotions? So yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a shame that these things have been pushed underground, because, you know, it’s the thing that is the thing I’m most proud of in my life is the work I did in those hours, because I was I was pushing myself so hard and really going to the depths of my being, and wrestling with, you know, what felt just like existential kind of anger and sadness. And, and the fact that it seemed as trivial or like, you know, has this image of like, yeah, just some kind of recreational thing is just could not be further removed. You know, I went and I was to retreat for the first time this year. And the book people do there is just is a very serious, thoughtful kind people, you know, by the, for the most part who are doing really important work for themselves. So, so I want to do what I can to to change any of this stuff.
Rick Archer: Did you happen to see my interview with Michael Pollan and Christopher Besh?
James Cooke: Yeah, I think I saw that, Kevin. Yeah. I read that book recently. Both both books.
Rick Archer: Right. Well, I was just wondering, Christopher talked about, you know, like you putting on blindfolds and having a playlist of music, right? And I don’t think I asked him. So I’ll ask you, why music, why not just silence.
James Cooke: So silence, I think, can produce just a natural fear response, you’re kind of, you know, you’re just scanning your environment. You know, if you think of relaxation, music, it really does relax most people. It’s, it just sends a kind of unconscious signal that you’re safe. You know, I think it’s a very evolutionary thing, that if you’re, if you’re in a bunch of humans and someone’s singing, you have to be very relaxed to saying you don’t do it with you’re stressed out. And so I think, I think it just makes you feel safe and cushioned, but also, maybe equally importantly, if you choose the music, well, there’ll be some periods where there’ll be kind of crescendos and things. And it really, it really evokes emotion, you know, so you, for someone who may struggle to feel normally, under psilocybin, they may already see they may hear a swell of music and you know, some classical music never affected them before. Or suddenly that they’re just in that emotion. And it triggers all kind of associated memories and things. So. So yeah, I think that’s, that’s the main reason why.
Rick Archer: Okay, so let’s switch now, unless you want to say more about that. Let’s switch to the living mirror theory. And that’ll launch us
James Cooke: to Busaba. Yeah. So, Terence McKenna, who’s a famed kind of advocate of this stuff in the 90s. He used to advocate taking high doses of psilocybin mushrooms in silence in the darkness, with the explicit aim to have these very strange what he described as kind of almost like Alien Encounters with the kind of the spirit of the mushroom or just, you know, something, something where you felt like you’re in dialogue with some other I think you’re put into just a very kind of fearful mode where you’re, you’re worried about other entities coming and eating you. So you start to, to see that kind of thing. Whereas if you’re listening to music, you can really go inside yourself and there’s less of this, I guess hallucinatory.
Rick Archer: It’s almost like music is like a mantra that the mind can come Have dwell on or something, and which is how I’ve always meditated. And I would just throw this in, we can pick it up later. And it might be a point of interesting contention. But I wouldn’t deny or or insist that there actually are not some kind of entities on some subtle level and that you could open yourself up to their influence if you went about it the wrong way, or if you weren’t prepared in a certain way or something. And we can get into that, because I want to at some point, in this conversation, I want to talk to you about the whole idea of subtle realms and subtle matter and the implications of that.
James Cooke: Yeah, that’d be good to get into Yeah, trigger that. Now, should we get into the comparison? Well, let’s
Rick Archer: do living near with it first, because that’s kind of a foundational thing for you, and then that’ll be a springboard to a lot of other things. And, you know, as much as you wish to offer on it.
James Cooke: Okay. And yeah, so this is, I guess, like a lot of I mean, not everyone, but a lot of people in this country are interested in this kind of stuff, you know, faced with the question of what is consciousness? What is its nature? Or, you know, how does it fit into the grand scheme of, of the world? And in science, this has been cast as what’s often called the hard problem of consciousness, which is how do you get consciousness from matter? There’s kind of a presumption that, that it’s that were around. And I think, as you’ll know, like there are lots of people probably, maybe yourself included, who would argue that that’s a kind of a fake. It’s an illusion that there’s a problem there, because all that exists is consciousness. And what we call matter is a kind of pattern within here. People like nada Castro argue that was his world.
Rick Archer: metaphors, were a Whirlpool is only water, and yet it has an existence as a whirlpool. So that’s the kind of thing Bernardo would say, right?
James Cooke: Yeah, so. So I guess my starting point would be to deliver mirror theory tries to offer an answer to the place of consciousness in nature, how it fits into this picture of what is the material world and what’s consciousness. And the core of it is what I’ve already mentioned that, I think what reality is, in and of itself, is unnameable, I don’t think I think it doesn’t make sense to call it matter. But I also don’t think it makes sense to call it consciousness, I think it’s just, it’s, for me, this is the kind of core of the non dual insight, it’s just, it just is. And you also think of this, that language is all red self referential. It’s all kind of relative, you can’t really come up with a word to label the absolute because if it’s the only thing if I say reality is all of reality is x, that’s actually kind of meaningless statement x doesn’t mean anything. Because it’s not opposed to anything. So I would say,
Rick Archer: let me interject here before we lose this point. And that is, isn’t language only useful if it if it refers to things that are shared experiences, if, you know, if if I, if I come up with some word for something that I’ve experienced that you haven’t, the word just can’t communicate that experience to you. And so, you know, if we’re talking about really deep sort of ontological realities, and people have experienced them, then you can call them anything you want, or nothing at all. But it really doesn’t help much one way or the other, because it’s not a shared experience.
James Cooke: Yeah, that’s a good point. And I think I think experience is a big part of it, because the average scientist, because they’ve spent their lives typically in the kind of ordinary state of consciousness, it’s very easy to look around and, you know, hit on a table and say, reality is made of hard stuff. Matter is hard stuff, like done, like, and that is, you know, if you’ve studied science, that no serious philosopher of science thinks that’s the case matter isn’t hard stuff that’s like, that’s textbook kind of mainstream philosophy of science. But most scientists don’t think of it that way.
Rick Archer: There was this physicist, I forget his name, but he got a little bit mentally unbalanced. And being a physicist, he understood very deeply that matter was not hard stuff, that there was really basically nothing there. And he like, became really trepidatious in like walking along, he would wear really big boots, because he didn’t want to sort of fall in
James Cooke: the air? Yeah, so you have. So I would say my starting point is clearly reality exists, something’s happening. And change is a crucial part of that meditative states. You know, this is really, when you meditate, you know, noticing impermanence noticing change, like this is if there’s anything that’s fundamental to the nature of reality, it’s that it’s that it’s not a solid static thing. It’s, it’s identified with flow, and I find the concept of the dowel to be really useful. Because the Dow as well, you know, the idea the core idea is well there is that, you know, the Dow that cannot, the Dow that can be named is not the eternal Dow right. So start with the data cheering and then it’s the same thing. I’m saying, you can’t make this process but there’s a there’s something happening. And certain aspects of that process are quantifiable, you know, There’s my laptops in front of me. The manufacturers tell me what how many inches across the screen is, I can measure it, you can measure the some pattern there, that we can get a number with an existing between us, and we can agree on it. So that’s, that’s what I call matter. It’s just some parts of this process that we can we can quantify. I’m not saying it’s made of anything, I’m not saying it’s like a substance, but it’s just, it’s clear that we can measure stuff, basically, that’s as humble as you should be with matter, I think. And then consciousness is this fast experiential realm of, of qualities, you know, you can’t measure how tasty I didn’t was, but I have this like a relative qualitative scale from disgusting through to pleasurable. And so consciousness is inherently qualitative, you know, the redness of red doesn’t come in units of red. So there’s been this mystery of how do you go from the quantities to the qualities, which is another way of saying, Where does consciousness fit into this picture of the natural world. But again, if you think the natural world is if you think the natural world is hard matter, and consciousnesses, some kind of airy substance, then you are going to have a hard time. But if you take that attitude of like explaining how they fit together, because those are basically how’d you get this gas, kind of, of consciousness from this matter of this hard stuff that matter. But what I’m saying is, everything is just a process. And within that, Whirlpool is a really good analogy, you have life forms, to be alive is to engage in separation, and the rest of the universe, you know, the whole universe is quantum mechanics tells us and thermodynamics tells us it’s one big thing, it’s one hole, but within then you get these little separations of living systems. And if actually, if you look at if you look at that, well, the concept, the idea for me is that when you if you’re going to keep yourself together, because we’re, we’re highly ordered, right, the universe is very chaotic, and it’s kind of falling apart. And there’s a lot of stuff going on in it, but we have a lot of order. And that seems like it could be a bit of a mystery. But if we were kind of self maintaining self creating systems, and the only way you can maintain your order and survive, is to attempt to know what’s going on around you. You know, if you’re a little single celled organism, and you’re wandering around in the ocean, and you could go into some lava, you need to detect where that lover is, and move away from it that just needs to happen. That happens kind of evolutionarily. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re gonna die. And if you look at the thermodynamics, there’s, you know, I won’t get into the science, but there’s, effectively the physics of it corresponds to inference, which is like inferring things like this, this kind of attempt to know exists at the informational level. So I think that’s the key. I think life is the key to understanding where consciousness fits into the natural world. So I think all living systems are conscious. And by consciousness, I’m talking about experience, you know, this wordless, apprehending feeling. You know, that occurs in awareness. And I mean, I’m using synonyms here, I’m kind of looping back on myself, but it’s hard to talk about consciousness any other way. But I don’t think a rock is conscious, I don’t think even makes sense to talk about a rock as a separate thing. I think it’s just part of the whole of the universe. So I think life is like eyes opening in the universe. But I don’t think that was experience here you have people now lobby bargaining that you no matter is conscious or matters conscious, that’s like pan psychism, or that everything is consciousness. And so in those pictures before life forms, there would be experience in my, in my view, there’s a lot of unconscious stuff happening. And then we’re like the eyes opening in the universe.
James Cooke: But the Whirlpool, is what creates consciousness and consciousness is that is kind of therefore it’s not a property of the little separate organism. It’s a property of the whole is the property of the universe. And it’s, we can get into why I think this cashes out certain spiritual intuitions about what it is that survives death, why consciousness is indestructible. And why my in your nature is is fundamentally the same. Even though with these alignments of consciousness, I think the quality of consciousness, there is effectively only one consciousness, even though it’s manifesting and all these little bubbles, I think there’s basically just one. Yeah, one fact of Consciousness
Rick Archer: in the Universe. Okay. So let me respond to that as concisely as I can. First I’ll start with a question that came in from Bharat Vidya in London, who asks What are your thoughts on Advaita Vedanta, which rationally and logically explains that Brahman, the Absolute such and such an Ananda is all there is and what scientists call reality including concepts theories, or duality, hence in appearance in non dual pure consciousness and before you keep that in mind, I mean that’s you understand the Donta perspective. Let me throw a couple things at it. There’s a Sufi saying that is God’s God’s sleeps in the rock dreams in the plant stirs in the animal and awakens in man. And pan psychism, which you mentioned seems to me like kind of a subtle materialism. In other words, we’re saying, well, there is physical stuff, and physical stuff has some consciousness to varying degrees. Some scientists have even said that, you know, maybe even a neutron or electron has a little bit of consciousness. And I still think that even if you take it that deep, they’re getting it backwards. It’s not that things have consciousness is that things are consciousness. And that consciousness has through a sort of a self interacting dynamics, given rise to all these things. And if we, if you think of consciousness as fundamental, a fundamental universal field, then it ultimately at that level, there is nothing but that, and so. But if it’s consciousness, then it wants to be conscious, its nature to be conscious, and yet, there’s nothing for it to be conscious of other than itself, there’s nothing else down there. And by then becoming conscious of itself, a threefold structure is set up between the observer observed and process of observation, and then that three fold structure continues to elaborate through what physics would call sequential, spontaneous symmetry breaking, and all of the diversity and, you know, grows by degrees, forces in matter force and matter fields and, you know, eventually, you know, concrete, apparently concrete structures, and, eventually biological life. And, and there is that and so that’s God kind of waking up from sleep, to dream to stirring to being awake. And so in light of that scenario, or that theory, you could say that the whole universe is this sort of giant evolutionary machine, through which the god or divine or pure intelligence, pure consciousness, you know, says I am, one may become many, and in becoming many is able to have a living experience of itself, rather than just a sort of an abstract unmanifest state. And so, from our perspective, you know, the TS Eliot poem, Bert Norton, where it’s like, there will not be an end to all of our seeking. And finally, we’ll arrive back from where we started and know the place for the first time. So there’s this sort of progression to various degrees of greater and greater complexity. And and the more complex, the more able it is that the forum’s are to express or reflect consciousness, and ultimately, to become self aware, and ultimately, to have instruments refined enough such namely ourselves to actually know, the ultimate reality from whence all of this has sprung. are in the same Jesus, that was like one of the longest raps I’ve ever done, but I wanted to get it all out in one big lump. So
James Cooke: yeah, yeah, I’ll dive into it, and then remind me of different things. And we can Yes, yeah, that’s a good lump to navigate around. Yeah, so I think the poem you quoted, I would say, yeah, that I would feel comfortable saying that God stirs in the stars and the planets and awakens in life, so awakens in a man but that that’s my picture where I don’t think God as this as the ground of being that I think is unnameable. I don’t think that nessuno necessarily needs to be awake every moment. You know, this is the thing of the two I took the picture you sketched out seems like a really good description of perhaps the inviter perspective that the questioner was was raising as well. So I’ll try and I’ll assume those are the kind of the same, that he’ll be happy with me, tackling those in one. And some something that I’ve always been struck by as someone who had this awakening experience as a teenager, I did not feel like my conclusion wasn’t. So you know, philosophical, ontological idealism, the idea that only CONSCIOUSNESS EXISTS, I’m quite careful to say that I really think non duality Advaita and all these non dual traditions are separate from the claim that we’re only one exists should be called consciousness or its nature is consciousness, the non dual experience and experience and I think it can have a couple different kind of conclusions, you have a couple different conclusions about the nature of reality from it. And if you look in, you know, in especially in Buddhism, there are loads of different traditions, some say might only some say, more what I’m saying. So I like to make sure that the are two separate things. So you’ve got the non dual experience of realizing everything really as one really is not separate. And really is beyond your concepts because your concepts are what make you think things are separate. And in my picture, like that’s mine is a non dual picture, but it’s not an idealist picture. It’s not a picture, we’re only conscious success. But responding to that, that idea. I think, you know, what we’re funded. So we agree that I think we agree that, you know, you could say, I am conscious, which I think we probably agree actually isn’t the best way to say there is consciousness here. You could say, I am consciousness, but I think you’re saying there is consciousness here, and there is consciousness where you are. And, you know, that’s, that’s uncontroversial. And then the question becomes, what’s the nature of the rest of it? You know, if you say that for every life form, say, we agree that that for the sake of argument that all life is conscious, but to just humans if you want, but then the question becomes, what of the rest of it? What are the planets? What have you know, the vacuum in space, the Big Bang? Is that consciousness? Is that conscious? So So, to me, consciousness is this phenomena that’s located here, and you know, it can access these these states where you realize the fundamental unity of existence. But I think that’s from this perspective, I’m looking around and realizing that I’m part of this greater whole. But if you were to, if I would not feel comfortable saying the nature of the vacuum of space is consciousness, because I don’t know what I mean, when I would say those words. I know what I mean, when I’d say, this is conscious over here, it is where you are. But same reason I don’t feel comfortable saying it’s matter. I just don’t think you can say what it is. And something maybe bigger to get your perspective on is the issue you wrote this article about? If everything has consciousness is everything conscious, which I think is something I really, yeah, in this picture would be keen to understand. Because because it’s only life, that attempt separation, rockstone, attempts separation, you know, physicists can describe thermodynamically everything blends into everything else. And it’s only life that resists this. So if everything outside of life, everything’s outside life is one hole. So then it would, I guess it would have to be one mind, kind of looking inwards at all of these life forms. It’s like, it’s like a negative of whether life is like Swiss cheese or less, you know, the rest of the universe is like one mind with all these holes in it, and then you’ve got these little names.
James Cooke: I just, I guess I just don’t know what that gets you. I don’t. Yeah, understand where I mean, maybe understand where the instinct to claim that would come from. Because in that picture, I think maybe a key difference in these pictures is after you die, you return to, I’m assuming in that picture, a kind of blissful, unitive state with the rest of kind of conscious cosmos. It might picture this as a it might picture, it’s like, we’re stuck in this little square, where we’re like, if we’re going to be conscious, we have to exist and struggle. And we can try and get enlightened. But there’s this there’s this like nagging, you can never quite get it like because the ultimate union is death, but then the lights go out. And so I think we’re this is I think this is the game and and it’s a fascinating, you know, preferable and wonderful game. It’s a privilege to be living. But I don’t I don’t think you know, that this is like a hell realm where we’re suffering for for knows for no payoff. I think consciousness is the payoff. And you can think of as the universe exploring itself, in a sense. Because I guess that would be my worry if if death is that great, then I’m not sure what the point of life would be.
Rick Archer: Well, there’s a lot in there that I can reply to. Where to start? First of all, this thing about life being sort of unlike rocks and stuff, because life has the ability to resist entropy, and keep in. I think it was one of the physicists said, madmen, Schwinger, that, that we eat negative entropy, we imbibe orderliness, and thereby maintain our structure. I guess one question we could ask is, well, to you know, Brian Swimme said you, you leave hydrogen alone for 13 point 8 billion years and you end up with rose bushes, giraffes and opera. You know, why did all this beauty and orderliness come out of a completely entropic soup of hydrogen? How did everything form into these beautiful structures? So there’s, there’s some kind of counter force to the second law of thermodynamics. That seems to be creating structure and orderliness in spite of the second law, which wants everything to sort of disintegrate and become more entropic. So why don’t you respond to that bit? Before we get into some of the other things you just said?
James Cooke: Right? Yeah, so I don’t think there’s a contradiction between anything. You know, all the phenomena we’re talking about are kind of emergent phenomena. And so, the, the specific technical idea of negative entropy is kind of going out of fashion. But the idea is right, that like, the you have these kinds of stars, you know, where we are on planet Earth, you have you have all this energy or this orderliness streaming out of the sun, and plants, basically, yeah, he had to make their own order. And then we had the plants and all of this order was getting passed down. But it’s all in the direction of diffusion of into this thermodynamic equilibrium, just to some lukewarm soup at the end of it all, it seems. But yeah, my take would be, it’s like, you know, if you imagine our universe is just some, some explosion in a huge firework. And it just, it produces the most beautiful flourish. You know, that may seem astounding, but I think it just is, it’s, it’s the nature of it. And I don’t think there’s a mystery, but well, so I think the important thing is that, when you were talking, I got kind of shivers in the way that I’m talking about, like, the the nature of reality is, as you were describing, you look at it, and you’re like, What the hell is going on here? If you can get in touch with this feeling of like, how is all of this beauty and complexity here? And I don’t, to me, that evokes the kind of mystical reverence for reality, that makes me think I’m not actually going to be able to really matter, you know, I think the physicists can probably do a really good job of explaining why the complexities there, but in a big question, you that you raised of that, like, Sure, you can show why does it in this particular instance, like the big way? Like, why why is why is there more and beauty and, and all of this stuff happening? To me, that’s the, the core kind of religious feeling of just standing in or reality. And I don’t expect that to ever be explained away by ideas, or by any kind of thing I can think of. They go, that’s why, and actually apply that as well to, you know, why I don’t say things like, perhaps the universe is some intelligent creator, or it has some plan, or it has agency, I really just stand in awe of it. And so I guess there’s, you’re making me realize that maybe more than a lot of people in this kind of spiritual community, I have quite a split between saying, reality is this transcendent, or inspiring thing? And let me come up with some maps for it, because it’s beautiful to be in order and to study it. But those maps will never take away that that whole?
Rick Archer: No, and I think the word ah, implies to a certain extent, well, maybe not. I mean, it may imply that we really don’t understand what it is, but it’s amazing. And so we’re in awe. But I think that we could also get to a level of enlightenment, we could call it use that word, where you do deeply, experientially understand what’s going on, I say, experientially, as opposed to just understand, which is a mind thing. Because you have actually realize your true nature as being that intelligence which is fundamental to the whole universe. And it doesn’t mean you are God. But it means you have merged with God that the wave isn’t the ocean, but the wave has realized that it’s the same stuff as the ocean, so to speak. And, and that realization is experiential and abiding. And there are two there would be tremendous awe and gratitude and devotion and profundity in one’s moment to moment experience. But there would also be a clear understanding of the mechanics of nature in a very deep way. Let me just throw one quick quote at you. The notion of randomness there, there are physicists and scientists who think that the universe is random and meaningless, and that we’re just sort of biological robots. And there actually, is this many universes theory that, you know, how could the universe have evolved as it is, if it’s random? Well, there must be an infinite number of universes and we just lucked out in terms of, you know, being in the one which resulted in all this orderliness. But I’m here, here’s a little quote, paragraph is so there are 1220 elements and amino acids that combine in certain sequences to form the 700,000 kinds of proteins in our body to just make one of these proteins collagen, you need to arrange 1055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. If this had to happen by chance, it would be like a Las Vegas slot machine with 1055, spinning wheels, each with 20 symbols, and you had to get the same symbol on all the wheels to win the jackpot. The odds of achieving this two chance are far greater than the number of atoms in the universe. And that’s just one of 700,000 proteins in the body. So go ahead and respond to that.
James Cooke: There’s, well, I want to respond to the other thing you said as well. drawn? Okay, I’ll go with that one first. Yeah, so So I think what I said the beginning about, I think reality must be infinite. I can’t think of it being any other way. Because if you think there’s any endpoint or any boundary, then just the nature of it is you can’t have like hard boundaries.
Rick Archer: What What do you mean by reality? Here, you say reality must be what are you referring to all that exists, so that there’s no limit to it.
James Cooke: But even be or think of beyond our universe. So if we take the multiverse and stuff, but even beyond multiverse, like, just for all being, you know, the nature of that has to be infinite, I can’t see how it’d be any other way. It’s hard to maybe people that will click on if they agree, but as a result of that, you know, you you have to find yourself in the bits, where it’s possible to find yourself, you know, we can’t find ourselves on the sun, because life can exist on the sun. So, you know, if you have infinity, things will happen by chance, and then you’ll sit there go, Hey, look what happened by chance, you know, there’s this, remember, back when was about as my teenage years, being a religious education class, and being told a similar logic of that to be a creative God. Because we’re in the Goldilocks zone on planet Earth, you know, like, too close to the sun too hot, too far, way too cold. And what a miracle we find ourselves here. And it was one of my earliest memories of having like, what I felt was an original thought. And it was this thought was the same thing we’re discussing. I was like, wait a minute, but we have to find ourselves here. We can’t find this anywhere else. And if there are a billion steps, if they’re a billion planets, and there’s a one in a billion chance of life occurring, it will occur and one of them and then they will find themselves there. And they will look around and oh, well, what are the odds that we found ourselves here? And it’s a certain kind of fallacy, you know, there’s, you can imagine, like, hitting a golf ball, and a landing on a blade of grass. And if the grass could could contemplate that’s going well, what are the odds? It was me be like, yeah, there has to be someone who, right. Like, it’s so there’s the same logic there. But also, the, I would say the core thing that I find thrilling, the core insight that I find most powerful in understanding natural world, is the, there’s not really a good name for it. But it’s kind of the logic of similar thing. It’s the logic of kind of survival dynamics, where it’s the same thing that powers evolution, you know, how could it be that giraffes have such long necks? Well get enough animals together and give them that, you know, goal, and let them die off. The ones with long necks will survive and you get these long necked animals. Same thing with with a with a bacterial cell, a single celled organism, how could you possibly have such complexity? Well give them enough time with a chemical soup. And even if it’s a 1 trillion chance, if you if you run a 10 trillion times, it’s gonna happen 10 times on average, you know. And so I find it appealing this idea that you have a kind of multiverse idea, but even bigger than a multiverse of just, you know, who knows how much time has been happening? Before we came on the scene, but we, we, the eyes open when the eyes open, and they assemble when they assemble. So I don’t I don’t feel that there’s a God or a Creator or or an intelligence that is any anything like us, you know, I think there can be this feeling that a lot of people feel like, I think the the identity, I mean, the Atman is Brahman thing. I think sometimes people can feel like the identity of the universe is very similar to my, to myself in my most awakened moments, you know, something like a human intelligence. That’s not the line I take. I think it’s just neither deeply mysterious.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah. When we’re talking about, you know, this unbounded intelligence and you know, God in the way we’ve now defined god, there’s nothing human about it. Humans are just one of, bazillion different reflectors of that intelligence. Sort of the way they’re innumerable electrical devices that reflect the same you know, electromagnetic field and same electrical field. So, you know, we don’t want to answer warfighters God, it’s it’s, and the thing you said about, it can’t be life on the sun. I’ll go out on a limb here and say, oh, yeah, there’s life. There. In fact, there’s life in interstellar space, there’s life everywhere. But we have to obviously define life, life being that field of intelligence that’s all pervading. And if you go to the sun, theoretically, and you, you notice the fusion reaction taking place there, and what’s happening and all the little atoms and molecules, there’s, you know, certain orderly laws of nature that reflect that intelligence that are expressions of it. And I would go, so now here’s, here’s something that will really sort of knock your socks off. I don’t think it’s archaic or primitive for certain cultures to have revered the sun as a god, what I would suggest is that, yeah, I would suggest that on a subtle level, the sun could very well be a conscious being just as we’re conscious beings, just a very different kind of conscious being actually, but and so this gets us into something I wanted to talk to you about. And I don’t want to leave anything on the table that you had wanted to discuss. So we can keep picking all that up. But that there are, there’s not only the gross physical form that meets the eye and meets the senses, but there are subtler realms, we could call them astral or celestial, various terms have been used. And those realms are as populated with life, even life forms, as the gross realm is, they’re just very, they’re just subtle life forms that can’t be seen with the naked eye, like you were alluding to ghosts, possibly being real a while back. And it’s in that sense that I would suggest we have a soul, which you have kind of refuted in some of your talks, the soul being sort of like the, like the the, the Russian doll on a subtler level that’s within our physical form. And there aren’t an infinite number of these Russian dolls, but there’s a sort of a son lessons and that would explain out of body experiences near death experiences, and will also explain reincarnation, that there is something which, you know, is more subtle to us that, that lives when the physical body dies. And it carries on and eventually takes on another physical body, the way we put on new clothes the next day after we’ve had a night’s sleep. So that’s enough to bounce off you for now. Let’s see what he had to say about all that.
James Cooke: Yeah, that’s good stuff to jump into. The one thing I said in the previous topic, before we move on, is you mentioned this thing of experiential recognition of kind of getting the intelligence of nature kind of thing, like, you know, not intellectual. Arianna completely.
Rick Archer: You know, because yeah, exactly. Yeah.
James Cooke: Exactly. You look inwards. And you they’ve had that many times this feeling of like, just all you can say is like, yes, yes, yes, it makes sense. Like, I know, I’ve known this so many times, this is so inherent in me to know this, and it makes sense. So yeah, that I completely agree with her. Yeah, so this idea, I guess, my worldview, you know, laying cards on the table is, is this one in which there’s one reality and mind and consciousness are tied up with the life process, they’re deeply embodied. And so when the life process dissipates, that individual island of consciousness doesn’t continue. And so it’s a very kind of non dual holistic, you know, oneness kind of picture. Now, I kind of could contrast that to the sense of individuated souls that might somehow survive the physical body, you know, so. So you have the, the version we’re taught as kids is some is a kind of dualism, where it’s like, matter is one thing, consciousness, another thing, consciousness feels like it can kind of survive death. And, you know, that’s a view, I don’t see many people kind of defending I’ve not read, I’ve basically I just don’t have accounts that I can point to and say, Oh, here’s someone who’s explained to me how that could work. But what I would have to say is the Whirlpool idea, if there was if there was truth to this, it would be something like the idea that all of reality is consciousness, my feeling of being this body now as some just kind of dream of this island, and it can move on and have another life and, you know, so that’s the, I guess the thing I would leave the door open to if there is literal truth to things you’ve described out of body experiences, near death experiences, and encounters with entity doesn’t bother you to kind of subtle entities. And so, to cycle back to the to the topic of psychedelics, if you’d spoken to me a few years ago about this stuff, I would have not had much of interest to say I would have just said I would have stopped here basically would have said Yeah, I don’t believe that stuff. You know, I think it’s probably just imaginative or whatever and would extend a kind of way. But I but then I with ayahuasca and the active chemical in that DMT that produces the most astounding experiences that feels like your disembodied soul goes to another realm where there are entities that you engage with, they’re intelligent, and it’s the most convincing thing I’ve ever experienced is more convincing than thinking I’m talking to you right now, which is crazy. And the Johns Hopkins secondary research team recently had a paper came out this year, and on average people, basically asking people about these experiences, on average, they say that the experience of that realm, if you’re new to that word, is 50%. more real than this experience of daily life, you know, this experience of daily life is about truth that feels about two thirds as real status. And my instinct is that similar to dreaming, maybe, you know, a dream feels once I wake up from a dream and my car, yeah, that felt maybe 60% as real as, as normal life. So similar kind of ratio. And you really would feel like you’re waking up from this world being a dream, and that being the real world. So anyone, you know, before, I feel I feel like I’m in a position where, if this was several 100 years ago, and we didn’t have science and philosophy, and we weren’t trying to play this game of coming up with consistent maps for the world, I would have just said, that’s real, you’d be you’d have to be insane to think that was a real eyesore. It’s as real as anything.
James Cooke: As someone now playing this pedantic game of science and philosophy and trying to make everything is square, I really can. My honest conclusion after I think that’s a lot is is to come down to a worldview, where I think the mystical experience of kind of non dual unity is literally kind of real, it’s should, the Insight should be taken as actually real. But I think that the visionary states or states where there’s content of that kind, I think it’s more like a generative thing going on inside the individual, but where, through intuition, and through our ability to integrate fast amounts of information, as well as through archetypal cognitive structures within bequeath through evolution, I think there’s a huge amount of meaning that happens there. So I think shamans and spiritually adapted people can kind of go into these mental spaces, I don’t think it might. And again, this is my guest science has, it’s pathetic how little science has paid attention to this stuff, I really think, you know, engaging with spirits is a key part of the human experience, you know, happens across all kind of ancient religions. And to just say, It’s nonsense is really a cop out. And so that’s why I’m glad you’re talking to me now, as opposed to a few years ago, when I might have been more like, you know, doesn’t need explaining? Because I really think it does. And I’m really going out on a limb here to say, here’s my honest opinion, with the humility of saying Sciences has really not that we are saying there are no textbooks I can look to on the psychology or philosophy of how this stuff happens. But that’s my instinct is, if you’re, you might genuinely be able to channel someone’s butt through something that knows nothing supernatural, nothing outside what we can’t know about the laws of physics, I don’t think we need to have, you know, thing to bring to the idea of kind of other levels of reality. But then you can channel intuitively, you can gain insight, and you can just a lot can happen, and it’s really important, valuable. But yeah, I would say, actually, if you don’t want me monologuing a bit more. The way I think about this, it goes back to this idea of all of reality being a process. So I think reality is just this one, one process. And when I say this is a class, glass is a concept. It’s there is no you know, if I melt it down, at what point did the knock stop being a glass? Right? I think I’ve heard you, I think in your interview with Donald Hoffman had a quote about pots and like, is the pots when it hasn’t sat on a form? You know, like, can you say that has an essence of pots? And then if you’d like, kind of, is it there in the clay? You know, I mean, maybe I’m mangling that particular analogy, but it’s this is a kind of a core idea of was that was that vaguely when he said
Rick Archer: kinda it’s there are three analogies that are common in Advaita Vedanta pots, waves and jewelry. You walk into a room full of clay pots and you can truthfully say there’s nothing but clay here, but it’s not a complete picture. It’s not the full truth because there are also parts and you could look at an ocean and say there’s nothing but water, but you can’t say there there aren’t waves because there are even though they’re only water, or jewelry, you know, you can say there’s nothing but gold here. And yet there are bangles and earrings and you know rings and different forms that the gold takes and you can’t say those don’t exist. So this is called something there’s a term via Harka Satyam and Vedanta which means transactional truth, which means that In actual life, you know, sure everything is ultimately all one. But in actual life, there are relative realities. And you can’t sort of deny that they exist. If you want to live, you have to sort of take them at their own level. And knowledge is different. And different states have different levels of consciousness.
James Cooke: Right? Yeah. So it’s the same thing of the doctrine of two truths in Buddhism, I think, where you have the absolute and the relative, right, jewelry one is, is, is useful as well, because I would say, when someone goes into that shop, and they look at the different jewelry, it’s highly contextual, it’s highly, it’s basically the words you use, and the concepts you bring to bear are all to do with which part of my body am I going to wear this on? You know, do I think it’s valuable? Like, it’s it only the labels of bracelet, and, you know, brooch and things like that only exist in that, in that landscape of ideas. If you took a bracelet, and you’ve sent it into space, I would argue it’s not a bracelet anymore, no one’s gonna wear it, it’s now just a circle of God, you could say that, but it’s not a bracelet. But this is pointing to the limitation of concepts and the fact that everything, including the self, and all objects has this have this quality, where in absolute terms, there’s just a whole, there’s the one pattern of reality. And within that there are relative structures. Now, in a sense, I would say, you know, my experience of this class exists, but the glass doesn’t actually have an intrinsic essence of glass, it doesn’t exist as a glass, I don’t exist as James like, these are, these are just concepts. And so I would actually say that spirits are the, you know, exist in the same way that glasses exist, that you can have the experience of the spirit, and there’s a real pattern in reality happening there. And, you know, in in consciousness, and, but it but on the absolute level, there’s not really a solid thing that you could point to and say that’s a spirit, it’s a pattern. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, that’s, that’s my take, which I think you can probably go either way, whether you think that’s radical or not. That’s okay. Expect to wear glasses or spirits exists,
Rick Archer: I would say, Well, you can also put spirits and glasses right and get drunk drinking them different kinds of spirits. But um, I would say on the absolute level, there are no things on the absolute level, there’s absolute, there’s no relative and therefore no things. And, you know, I think the the idea of Vedanta is that, ultimately all this is one thing in one stuff, Brahman, and it’s not, it’s not a thing, it’s but it’s this the ultimate reality. And it assumes forms. But if you and if you look deeply enough into what those forms actually are, they’re Brahman. So there are these states, there’s these phrases, the Upanishads, you know, I am that dirt that all of this is that that alone is and, and so on. So there’s, you know, one fundamental stuff of the universe, which isn’t that stuff, it’s a sort of consciousness really, or God, if you wish to use that term. And it through its self interacting dynamics, it assumes all these forms, and we are among those forms. I just wanted to throw in one other quick thing here, which is that you know, we’re using our computers right now. And if we had to actually interface with what’s really going on in the computer, in terms of the, the bits and the bytes and all that stuff, binary language, we wouldn’t really use it, it would be completely incomprehensible to us. So we have a graphical user interface that makes the make enables us to interact with the computer, but the inner workings of the computer. So like that, you know, all beings are like graphical user interfaces. And you know, that famous Thomas Nagel article, what is it like to be a bat? It’s, you know, the bat and the cow. And then the human being and every other living thing under the sun could interact with the same tree. But they’re all saying something very different according to the way their particular graphical user interface functions. But that doesn’t mean that they’re ultimately that many different realities. One one ultimate reality that the bat somehow lives in another for the human being and another for the cow. There’s, there’s one ultimate reality and we all reflect it, or interface with it in different ways. Now, just the wrap up point for this is that the cool thing about being a human being is that you can realize and hear the language breaks down because it’s not you who realize it, but let’s put it this way. The ultimate reality can awaken to its own nature, through the instrumentality of the human nervous system. bats and cows can’t do that.
James Cooke: You mean a kind of an intuitive knowing like an awakened enlightened state? Yeah. Knows itself.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And not intuitive in the sense of a fleeting sort of hunch about it. But in terms of the folium bodied realisation of it so that you are that and you know that with absolute conviction based upon your experience and you live from that realization.
James Cooke: Right? Yeah, no, that’s that’s something very real. I mean, just to clarify, I think intuition is the core of knowing in the mind, you know, everything, the rational mind is secondary to intuition. Intuition is the most, like, even all of science, when you ultimately cash out, you know, two plus two equals four sounds like a very rational proposition. But actually, it was only, I’m not sure when but it took a very long time for mathematicians to actually prove it logically. And rationally, you just kind of have to get it. You know, you show someone two things, you show them another two things. Now there are four of them. You just kind of go, Huh, yeah, seems like two plus two equals four. And so it’s funny, it feels like that’s really rational. But actually, ultimately, everything comes down to that, you know, that kind of intuitive just getting a, b, so don’t lose my thread of where we’re going with the previous previous question. Oh, yeah. So the, I would say, with the subtle realities, I guess, in the same way that most people are comfortable saying glasses exist, tables exist. Jewelry exists? Yeah,
Rick Archer: it’s a reality.
James Cooke: Yeah, I would say it’s more accurate to say the experience of those things exists in the same way he was saying, it’s like a graphical user interface, like icons, the ultimate reality isn’t, they don’t really exist. So in the same way, I would say the experience of the subtle realms exists. And if people are happy to say, glasses, and cups and tables exist, and they should actually be by the same logic, we’re happy to say the subtle realms exist. Now, the question, so I guess by that in a picture, I’m saying they do exist, people experienced them. And then the question becomes, what is their nature? Where do they fit into the picture of reality that we have? And knowing, you know, just the way that they think about the mind and the brain, and they being embodied, my honest, the only way I can make it fit with everything else I know, or think about the world, is to say, I suspect, as we’ve mapped this space, and we understand how it arises, my guess is it won’t cause us to rewrite or like, they won’t cause a kind of huge paradigm shift, or we have to rethink the nature of reality. But that’s a possible that’s possibility could turn out. We’ve not really explored these areas scientifically and philosophically, in a rigorous way. And when we do, we will realize that they’re vast, and they actually have a different nature. They’re not they’re not the thing I was saying, which is a combination of generating imaginative stuff combined with Yeah, a kind of intuitive perceptual mapping of what’s going on in order to have some some knowledge. Yeah, this may be getting a bit a bit subtle in its in itself in these arguments, but I hope it’s conveyed that I I’m not I don’t believe it’s supernatural. But I also don’t believe it’s just trivial.
Rick Archer: No, well, let me bring up the example that I think relates to what you were just saying, I heard you say in some recording that, well, you know, you can’t experience your own death. And when I die, that’ll be the end of me. But you know, some little girl will be reborn, will be born in Australia, and she’ll open her eyes and begin to have experience. But you weren’t saying that? Well, maybe that little girl will be will be me. Reince re incarnated, you know, my soul will somehow trans migrate into that body. You weren’t saying that. But But where we differ is, I would say, Yeah, that could actually be your soul trans migrating into that body. And the logic of this is that there’s not enough time in one lifetime to achieve the full span of spiritual development of which, which we’re destined to achieve for which we have come into existence. It takes many lives, to evolve life by life by life. And of course, this is ancient traditional, understanding that anything I dreamed up, and a lot of people like to brush it off as sort of ancient ways of thinking, but I think they’re onto something that guy’s talked about this stuff. And it if you if you see it that way, a lot of things fall into place. To me, to my mind, anyway, a lot of things that otherwise don’t make sense. Like children, being born with some incurable disease and dying after a year, begin to make sense, and you can kind of see. And it also helps to think of it helps you to think of God as some kind of benign reality that is not capricious or cruel, but that is there’s a word evolutionary panentheism, which is kind of a competitor to pen psychism. But it’s that there’s a sort of evolutionary force, pervading everything, and slowly but surely in its own sweet time, bring about The evolution to, to greater and greater embodiments of divine intelligence in all beings. Anyway, I could keep rambling, but you can respond to that.
James Cooke: In connection because I want I want to, by the end last thing says fascinating, so I guess I don’t believe I don’t think they have their sense of reality as being kind of intentional or having a goal, kind of intentionally evolving anyway, tucked away. And something you mentioned, that we could touch on is I don’t believe in individual freewill of this eco, you know, to control things. But I think the nature of tails morality is ultimate freedom, I think it’s ultimately unconstrained. It’s just process happening in infinite space. And so it’s kind of it, every part of it is exploring is doing exactly what is in its nature to do. So that’s a very long view. You could say, That’s determinism. Everything just does the thing it’s going to do. But to me, that looks like a being of ultimate or just the fact of being in ultimate freedom, just expressing his nature perfectly. But so, on the reincarnation point, yeah. Related, because I guess I don’t think there is a need to be reincarnated, you know, I really think that the idea of a self is an illusion, and that we really are a process and it’s great to whole. And relatively, there’s some separation now, but there, it’s really a transient illusion, and a product of the survival of fear based thinking of I have to protect this pattern. And but I think there’s anything at the core of that. So I, you know, I don’t know, what would be carried over between people. The subtle body? Yes, it was. So that’s yeah, I mean, I think, I guess I think of if you describe the subtle body, or the soul as being kind of synonymous with consciousness, my picture is that consciousness is deeply embodied in the dynamics of the universe and arises in the universe and can’t be taken apart from it. And so when and when it comes to, ultimately, I think, when we have if things are happening in the physical world, so like, yeah, if we’re talking about, we mentioned at the very beginning kind of things that might, you know, supernatural things happening, levitation or walking on water and things like that. Any claims? You know, I used to put in my days of listening to Dawkins, I would have been very dismissive of that stuff. I now I’m open minded. But I see how widespread these kinds of things are. There, maybe there’s things we don’t know. But I do ultimately have to come back to the the idea that an object a claim about something happening in objective reality, the reality in between us has to be catched, cashed out with objective evidence, like I just, I can’t allow myself to just think people are probably telling the truth. And I don’t know, it’s very important to have to think, you know,
Rick Archer: yeah, in fact, when I was just thinking is when you say, I don’t believe this, and I don’t believe that. And then I’m saying, Well, I believe this, and I believe that. And we both have, we both have to acknowledge that we’re playing with hypotheses here. And you know, none of us none of us has the wisdom or authority to make absolute truth claims that are indisputable. So and hypotheses, by their very definition are things which, you know, you accumulate evidence to either support or refute. And I would say there’s a heck of a lot of evidence to support the notion that there is sort of some kind of subtle essence. I wouldn’t say that it’s ultimately what you are, because what we ultimately are, is that sort of universal consciousness, Brahman, and that has no individuation, really, but Brahman sort of arises in individual ripples the way an ocean does. And so we’re kind of a, you know, to use a metaphor where the sun is shining. And there are many things which reflected or there are many different kinds of electric radios and cell phones and everything which pick up on the electromagnetic field. When the radio breaks, the maximum electromagnetic field doesn’t break. In fact, the specific programs that are playing that particular Beethoven symphony keeps playing, and other radios can pick it up. But anyway, metaphors have their limitations. But so ultimately, we are not. We could say we don’t exist, but at that level, nothing exists. There is no universe. However, as soon as we acknowledge the universe, we can acknowledge all sorts of individual expressions of it as as possibilities, one of which is that there is a subtle essence to us that it actually outlives, the physical body, outlives many physical bodies. And you speak of evidence, okay, well, people go under general anesthesia and then watch the operation from the vantage point of the ceiling and see things that are happening down the hall, and things like that. When the senses the physical senses are shut down, or Dr. Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia interviewing, you know, 1000s of kids who remember past lives, and then going to the villages that the kids described and meeting the people that they predicted he would need and things like that. So they’re they’re just a lot of, I have some evidence for the point I’m making. And I’m not sure what the evidence is to support the notion that there is no personal self whatsoever. And that we’re just sort of, and that there’s no freewill whatsoever, which is another argument we can get into.
James Cooke: Yeah, I mean, for the self thing, I think it comes down to it’s more to Buddhists thing. Yeah, you can, yeah, you can have the experience of realizing there is no self. And then you can do it. Now, there have been a whole bunch of books written about this, basically saying how modern neuroscience completely cashes it out. You look at us with just this network system, there is no central controller. You know, a lot of people can make these arguments, it’s more like, you’d have to find some evidence of what the south really is. Yeah,
Rick Archer: you have to define you pick a radio apart, you don’t find Beethoven in there, or the Beatles or whatever. But you know,
James Cooke: yeah, so the self is a pattern, you could say, like, I would say, what we take to the psychological self, is the mind of the organism pointing back at itself and saying this thing, this pattern that’s continuing, like, but then we pick it apart, you realize it’s a concept. I mean, that’s the main thing. It’s a concept rather than but in my view, it’s a concept rather than a kind of a thing that exists like a soul or a body. But yeah, I’m really glad you said that. Every time I use the word, I think, or I believe, it’s really important to me, because as you said, like what I’m saying is my honest, slight place, I’ve come down to thinking about this stuff. Is this and I’m open minded. And yeah, it’s not it’s not a kind of
Rick Archer: 10 years from now, our positions might be reversed.
James Cooke: But then also with the Yeah, like, what I’m really glad, you know, I did some, I wrote an article recently on HubSpot experiences and near death experiences. Because Because yeah, I was like, basically, I was in a place of really big thing, like people have these experiences, a lot of people have these experiences, it’s something like 10% of people have had some kind of body experience, which is insane. Like that makes it a real part of the human experience. And we don’t have a good explanation for. And I don’t like the idea that we just dismiss it in scientific mainstream as just some weird experience, because there’s deep structure to it, it’s clearly something on the head and explained. And in my research, I looked at those studies that you mentioned, and it was really pleased that that so much of its being done because this is this is a fact from my point is like, you can go from you can make yourself feel comfortable by just saying I’m a skeptic, and they’re like, I’m not going to be admired about anything. And then you can live an unhappy life and never experience the joy of meditation or you know, you can be really hard those closed off skeptic, but I think that’s the way to go. But then you can get stuck in this middle round, if you’re like sincere person who wants to take people at their word. And you can just you can get stuck, just comparing people’s anecdotes. And then ultimately, after some amount of time, I think you have to say, okay, they’re doing the studies. I look forward to when they come back, and they say, Here’s the evidence, and you can look at the evidence to your heart. Yeah, looks like it’s real. And but this again, and again, whether studies seem to be fairly inclusive. And I would say, you know, take something like telepathy, I feel quite telepathy, I feel fairly strongly about that, that I don’t believe in it, because any experiments to prove that will be so simple, any 18 year old or any undergraduate could run the experiments with a no patterns. And you know, like the data collection doesn’t require any particular technology or funding. And if you could prove that you would win a Nobel Prize, you know, like, it’s, the incentives are there. So that that’s one thing where I’m like, I know, I would feel more comfortable putting money on it not being an actual phenomenon that exists in terms of information transfer between minds.
Rick Archer: In response to that point, I want to refer to a book written by a friend of mine, whom I’ve interviewed on this show called an end to upside down thinking by Mark Gober, dispelling the myth that the brain produces consciousness and the implications for everyday life. And what he does in this book is he he takes every sort of possible angle of like telepathy and near death experiences and out of body experiences and, and a whole bunch of different things like that. And then looks at the research on animals having psychic abilities and psychokinesis mind influencing physical matter, and on and on, he just breaks it down very systematically. And that’s where the look and you see what you think I can’t really capitulate the whole recapitulate the whole book and off the top of my head. But in all these areas is a lot of evidence. I’ve interviewed Dean Raiden, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and I’ll be interviewing him again In a month or so, and although a lot of the studies, he does seem to detect sort of infinitesimal aberrations from the norm, they are statistically significant. And it does appear that some of this stuff is taking place. But um, I think more importantly, you know, you can take relatively ordinary people and test their abilities in this regard, or, you know, relatively ordinary people have out of body experiences during or during surgery or something. But you have to also look to the real mystics, who have advanced far beyond the norm, and who speak apparently, from their own experience when they describe these deeper mechanics of creation or of life.
James Cooke: Yeah, I think. I mean, I’m definitely deeply aware that the, the mainstream really doesn’t give this stuff a fair chance. So for all I know, there’s really compelling evidence that I’m just not seeing because it’s not accepted. And that’s, I guess, when I, when I raised the thing about objective evidence, that’s basically, for me, I just felt like I was in a space of not being able to ever come to conclusions, because I really want to trust people, you know, who seem who seem to know what they’re talking about. And especially when I look at stuff like Tibetan Buddhism, I really respect deeply respect their teachings on the nature of consciousness and think that it’s incredibly accurate and advanced. And then when they talk about subtle realms and past lives and things, it would seem strange of me to suddenly say, oh, there, but that they’re just mistaken that they got it completely wrong. So that’s why I’m like, I think there’s there’s every tradition probably have some things that get better than other things. But I am definitely not just saying these things or dismissing them completely. But just Yeah, it’s I guess, it’s the thing I tell myself, eventually the, to remain open minded and wait for the compelling evidence. Yeah, but But you know, I mean, a lot of these phenomena can’t really be studied in compelling ways. Yoga took a very long time, clearly yoga is deeply beneficial. Clearly, meditation is, but because it’s holistic, it’s hard to prove in a reductionist framework, and the kind of healing experiences I had these holistic, embodied experiences. People have started doing experiments and these kinds of things, but it’s hard. And so when the mainstream is against, everybody doesn’t give it a fair, fair. Go. So I should have started with that and said, how much time I’ve spent being very open minded before saying that my ultimate conclusion is I have to lean on the evidence side of it.
Rick Archer: That’s true. I mean, if you went to the American Medical Association said, Hey, I took LSD and I got rid of eczema. Exactly. But um, yeah, you know, I think it was Max Planck, who said that science progresses One funeral at a time. Because, you know, people STP true, yeah, people are very attached to their cozy little paradigms, and it can be career suicide to, you know, for a graduate student to say, hey, I want to study, you know, psychic phenomenon or something like that. And so there’s this strange, strong influence to be conformist. And
James Cooke: exactly, yeah, that’s really suffocating.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and there’s some value in that, because if we just sort of, you know, anything goes, and blah, blah, you know, then you have what you sometimes have in like, places like Sedona, Arizona, where it’s just like, every kooky idea that comes down the pike is taken seriously. So there has to be this sort of, there have to be some brakes on the on the vehicle. But, but often those brakes are just applied too heavily.
James Cooke: Yeah, I think really being open minded and interested. And then having, and then using your evidence as a use is a really wonderful thing. We’ve learned loads of cool things, you know, by using the scientific method. But I think I think the big problem is that, I think, you know, what happened with me is stress when I was young, made me kind of flee into my rational mind, and this fear based desire to understand, and I think a lot of people who end up in science or end up as skeptics, or those kinds of people, people who have some core wound or fear. And so that’s why they look at meditation, they look at yoga, they go, well, that touchy feely, they’re using all these words around feelings, like, like, and then they confuse that, that feeling with science. And that’s not you know, I think on mass. That’s partly why you get this divide. And I think that’s terrible. You know, so, I would like to see, or the kind of conversations we’re having that are fundamentally open minded. And then we discuss what’s the best way to move forward?
Rick Archer: Yeah, and science. I mean, ordinary sciences deals with stuff that’s a lot more concrete and easy to prove, you know, and it’s gotten us to the moon and it’s given us computers and skyscrapers and all kinds of things, whereas the spiritual realities that we’re talking about are much more subtle. I guess a good analogy might be. They’re they’re very advanced physicists who understand the kinds of things that might be explored with the Large Hadron Collider, for instance, and who know how to use that apparatus. And you and I are just out of our league, you know, we couldn’t possibly replicate their findings, we have to take their word for it. If they say they found the Higgs boson, well, I guess they have. And if they haven’t, then they’ll argue amongst themselves and sort it out. So when it comes to the subtler phenomenon, the spiritual realities, there are, you know, they’re Einsteins of consciousness, we could say and have been for for millions of years, or not millions, but many 1000s of years. And think maybe their perspectives need to be taken somewhat seriously. And they’ve really put in the hours, you know, the 10,000 hours that what’s his name, wrote about in
James Cooke: travel, but But what was it?
Rick Archer: Matt? Gladwell, right. But here’s the deal. I mean, we can all become PhDs in physics and run the Large Hadron Collider. But we can all become sort of Yogi’s and mystics, we all have this apparatus of the human nervous system, which actually, in many respects, is far more sophisticated than the Large Hadron Collider. And we can learn how to tune it and use it in such a way as to actually replicate for ourselves to our own satisfaction, the findings of all the Mystics and Saints and Yogi’s, we can dedicate our lives to doing that and actually succeed. So that’s exciting.
James Cooke: And I think that’s the more important thing as well, you know, we’ve been talking about very big picture, zoomed out stuff, but to bring it into kind of more embodied thing. Like, ultimately, if we spent as much efforts we spent on science, you know, if we spent that effort, cultivating awareness and compassion, and just these fundamental aspects of the mind, that would be a better world. That would be, you know, also, you know, now what I’ve personally discovered from an experience of health, not be a health arising from holistic kind of wellness, rather than from just this kind of symptom management model of mainstream Western science, I think we could be a healthier world as well. You know, if we just invested in, in that kind of, you know, in my picture, it’s one of we’re living in separation and work by bringing ourselves into closer union with the greater whole, what you realize is, awareness exists beyond the self, and also that that feeling tone is one of compassion and love and acceptance. And that in that process, healing happens as well, because we are these naturally homeostatic patterns, you can have all the kind of trauma release stuff I mentioned and improvements in health. And I think that’s a agree like, I think we, you know, we need to be centering that stuff for the everyday person, and taking seriously the experts, as you mentioned, you know, in every field, as we say, there will be experts. And yeah, it feels like a disservice to us that we don’t really the most mainstream doesn’t know what to make of the testimony of experts in meditative or introspective or contemplative traditions, because I’m sure there’s stuff of infinite value there.
Rick Archer: Right. And because the mainstream these days, and for quite some time, has been dominated by the materialist, reductionist paradigm. And, you know, as big and, and that’s what dominates modern science, and that’s the sort of predominant, intellectual influence of our age. But we could envision a time, you know, where we don’t discard science in any, but we supplement it with the sort of subjective technologies, technologies of consciousness. And you can imagine a society in which all the children learned to meditate in school and were taught, you know, learn to discuss the kinds of things you and I are discussing here and grew up doing that. I mean, if that became a universal reality, we would have a completely different world, in every respect, you know, economic and in terms of the way people are treated, and in terms of the what we do to the environment. I mean, it would, the ripple effect would be huge, because we’d be watering the root of the tree rather than just tinkering around with the leaves. Well, the tree still is deprived of, of its nourishment.
James Cooke: Yeah, I think you’re right, because, you know, I think basically all of the world’s ills can be traced to this issue of separation and this issue of alienation and people, our culture living on average in a unconsciously stress and trauma ridden state of fear and self concern. And the antidote is everything we’re talking about is is cultivating this, you know, instead of being over on the separation side and the fear side being the kind of mess still open, open side of things. I think if we could, if we could get to a situation where we address the stuff, that would be, yeah, that’s the root of the issue and everything else kind of falls into place. And, and also, other point you mentioned of reductionism. In science, like, it’s, it’s really not the case that science needs to be reductionistic. It’s just an attitude that we have this linked up with, I guess, the last several 100 years of commodifying, and destroying nature and ripping everything apart to sell it. You know, like, when you study the brain, and, you know, systems neuroscientist, which means you have to study as a whole system, you can’t study its individual parts, because all of this complexity exists in the, in the whole structure. It’s like, inherently holistic. And same with ecosystems, you know, we’re realizing, you know, networks are the basic structure of the emergent properties of the universe. And that’s, that’s not a reductionist program, you need a holistic systems programming in order to understand that stuff. And it’s there are people arguing for this stuff, that’s not the main attitude in science, unfortunately,
Rick Archer: nothing occurred to me as you’re speaking is that and I’m sure you’ve experienced this, you know, how, you know, at a certain point, you unleashed a lot of energies within yourself, which healed your physical body. And there are many ways of doing that, obviously. One thing I would say, we’ve been alluding to this the sort of deeper reality of the absolute or of consciousness, or whatever you want to call it. One thing that is traditionally said about it, is that it’s a it’s a reservoir of tremendous energy, creativity, intelligence, and happiness. You know, such it Ananda, Ananda means bliss. And if you begin tapping into this, it begins to sort of bubbling up into your life. And all kinds of marvelous changes begin to take place in your outer life in terms of your productivity and your efficiency, and just your, you know, the the way you align your life with more evolutionary purpose, and don’t, you know, mess things up for yourself by doing dumb stuff. So, again, you can extrapolate out from an individual doing that to millions and billions of individuals doing that and imagine, again, how the world would change. So, you know, we’re all worried about the problems that beset humanity, pandemics and environmental disasters, and so on and so forth. I would say that the greatest untapped natural resource of all is that inner potential, that inner intelligence, and if we can, as, as many, many individuals, if we can tap into that, as a society, if we can tap into that, we will literally produce a heaven on earth.
James Cooke: Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, I think what I hope is just for just just for us to get to the place of health as a species, and with the planet, and I think that has happened, as you say, where when individuals feel themselves to be part of the greater whole, then it’s clear that you want the health of that greater whole, it’s just obvious, like it doesn’t, you don’t need to put into words, it’s just so simple. And this is what you see again, and again, you know, it’s why people who, you know, there’s a correlation with like holistic health and wellness with spiritual stuff, you know, it’s just, it becomes pretty obvious. And so, I think, for me, like, moving society forward, this stuff has to be at the center of it, because ideologies don’t work in terms of, you know, imposing on people, here’s how we need to organize things, here’s my idea of how we need to organize the world, what we need is people to each wake up to realizing the intuitive obvious truth of how to cooperate, you know, in mutually beneficial ways. And then, you know, the rational mind with all of the ideas and ideologies doesn’t need to be, it can be then be the, you know, the servant to this to this goal, as opposed to the kind of tyrannical master that gets it wrong all the time.
Rick Archer: Yeah. I remember maybe about six months or a year ago, so a group of European countries offered bolsa narrow of Brazil, a couple 100 million dollars to, you know, preserve a certain portion of the rainforest. And he said, Hey, use it to replant your own forests, we’re going to burn it down, you know, because we need to think about our own economy right now. So it’s just a set of myopic thinking, that and billions of people thinking myopically, you know, thinking in terms of the small and not having the big picture, not having the broad comprehension, that the, you know, results in, in every man for himself world where, who was it that? I don’t know, there’s Gandhi or somebody had some quote about I forget, but somehow if every man is for himself, then nobody benefits. You know, we all suffer.
James Cooke: Yeah, and then you just if you’re just looking for your self interest, you’re inevitably going to code disk here cause discord and it just spreads and it becomes like it becomes its own kind of virus like a psychological virus of a race to the bottom. And it’s it’s unconscious. You know, it’s it’s this is why awakenings of many kinds are the answer, I think because all you have to do is see it. And then as you said, the kind of natural, logical homeostatic, evolutionary, like nature of what makes sense starts to take over, and you live in line with the Dow or whatever you want to describe it, you just you live from that place of what, you know, you no longer have to make decisions, the decisions just present themselves. And the system finds its own healthy balance, you know, that hit systems like ourselves, they tend towards, because they propagate themselves, they have to, they have to basically cultivate health in order to exist. So that’s why I skin hills, it’s way I had my healing experiences, the natural, the same goes to the ecosystem, it can heal itself, it can come back to equilibrium to some healthy balance. But not if we’re constantly resisting.
Rick Archer: That’s a great point, you know, there’s that saying, God helps those who help themselves and in my own life, and I think I’m could speak for you here too. I couldn’t have orchestrated, or foreseen all the details of how my life worked out, once I got on a spiritual path, I just sort of did my spiritual path thing. And then all kinds of marvelous developments came about, you know, and unfoldings and opportunities and one thing after another over the years. And so in a way, this argues both for and against free will, because I, I, you know, I did, I used what I perceived as my freewill to, you know, stick to something that I found valuable, and to, you know, despite distractions, and opposition’s and whatnot to just stick with it. But then something larger than me, took care of the details. There’s a verse in The Gita that says, you have control over action alone, never over it’s fruits, the fruits took care of themselves, I just took care of the action. And if we go back to that God helps those who help themselves, I really feel like there’s been some kind of divine support or something, some larger intelligence helping to orchestrate my life. And do I speak for you in saying that also?
James Cooke: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s Yeah, it doesn’t, it can be an absolutely natural intelligence here. This is the same thing I was reaching for with the when I think it’s it’s astounding that it’s the case, if you go from living as someone feeling like a separate, you know, person if you’re like an atheist, and then you discover that, you know, for me, I guess the concept would be something like redemptive love. If you open yourself radically, and you welcome everything with love, what you find is it triggers this process of homeostatic healing. And so suddenly, you can be certain states of self transcendence and self compassion, and you start to have all of these experiences that are attached to particular Christianity that are real, and they do you think they make biological sense as well, not in a way that reduces them, but they’re genuine phenomena that, uh, that are helpful, I think that’s the same thing to do. So you open yourself to the processes that are larger than you, and you flow with them. And then they take care of what needs to be taken care of. And I think, yeah, on the freewill thing, we can go back to the idea of the absolute and the relative, in absolute terms, you’re going to do what you’re going to do. But in the relative term, you do make choices, living systems are agents, they have the capacity to choose. And in the same way that I was saying, I see the totality of reality, as this ultimately free process that’s doing what is most of its nature. That’s what we should aspire to do as well, you know, it’s most people’s idea of free will is is this kind of fantasy of, I can utterly transcend my history and my, even if I could, I could choose to do something deeply don’t want to do just magically. And like why would you want that kind of freewill? Why wouldn’t you want the capacity to choose in line with what you are? And what is wise? Like, that’s what we do have? Yeah, it’s not libertarian free? Well,
Rick Archer: as I see it, we have a certain amount of wiggle room, like there’s a lot of conditioning and everything and there’s our whole you know, what we’re born with, but we have some wiggle room. And if we use that wiggle room wisely, we can sort of increase our freedom one degree after another and and ultimately, what is it we want to do? You know, what we really want to do is that which we could say divine intelligence wants to do, because you know, it’s it knows better than our individual perspective knows. And so by using that wiggle room, we can move ourselves into alignment with that divine intelligence or with the Dow as you you quoted earlier, and I’m again tempted to expand it out to society. I think, you know, the Delta Ching actually says this kind of thing that if the society is in tune with the Dow if, if a lot of people are aligned in this way, then putting it in modern terms, will find solutions to climate change will find solutions to various diseases will find solutions to economic inequity, you know, these things will just kind of spring up. And maybe they already exists in the minds of certain people, but they’ll become susceptible to the majority, and to the politicians and to everything else, it’ll it’ll clear away what seemed like intractable obstacles.
James Cooke: Yeah, I mean, so to work with loud, so you know, in China, you also had Confucius and China ended up organizing a society ultimately, with a long kind of Confucian lines. And in ancient Greece, you had Heraclitus, who had very similar ideas to lots to do with his the philosophy of say, you never step into the same river twice, he was very much thinking in terms of these reality as a transcendent process and concepts, you know, these limited things and, but then never, ever actually followed Aristotle in Western thinking. And there is this, this brings me to why, again, why I’m having a psychedelic medicine because I think it’s not going to be easy for everyone to just open themselves to this stuff, when they have trauma, when they’re when they you know, if you take people, you know, Alternaria is a good example of someone who’s ossified in their hates, and they’re like, all of their coping mechanisms. That is not someone who’s going to meditate and do yoga tomorrow. And maybe isn’t reachable. But there are a lot of people who aren’t reachable who, you know, something like Ayahuasca might be able to take their physiology and move them in the direction, show them how they can live in a healthy way. But without healing, whatever it is, whether people like having whatever their deep issues are, because clearly there are deep issues without healing those traumas. We’re not going to be that’s the blockage, I think that causes people to not follow these ways pass. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Well, I think that stuff can definitely be a Kickstarter, whether it’s a lifelong path or not, for most people, I have doubts. I mean, for me, it was a Kickstarter takes a few sessions. Yeah, I mean, it opened my eyes after a few sessions. And believe me, they were not controlled, careful sessions, like you’ve done that this was back in the 60s. But at least I realized there was much more to life than meets the eye. And then But then after about a year of that kind of exploration, I realized there must be a more natural and healthy way to go about it. And then I found one and stuck to it. So I don’t know if you yourself will be taking these substances 2030 years from now, you may, you may or may not, but you might find that they have served their purpose. And their because as you say, as a neuro scientists, the DMT exists in the brain and all these various chemicals, and perhaps these these more, kind of built in processes like meditation, bring about the full advantage of those chemicals in a more natural and abiding way abiding is an important word I interviewed. What’s his name? Holotropic, breathwork
James Cooke: stonecraft, Stan Grof.
Rick Archer: And, as sitting next to him and doing the interview, I sort of had this feeling of a little bit of sadness or something like he was late in his life. And he had all these amazing experiences. And but there was some feeling of like, you know, having not realized as fully as he, as he had originally hoped. And I might be totally wrong that my apologies to Stan if I miss read that feeling. But I think the the name of the game is to proceed in whichever way will be best, will be most effective in establishing appreciation of ultimate reality as a 24/7 condition, not just something that we experience on occasional weekends.
James Cooke: Yeah, and I mean, I completely agree, you know, I think these things are their big medicine. They’re not something to be done recklessly and often. But for some people, they’re necessary in order to help them, you know, move in this direction. But yeah, then ultimately, it comes down to, you know, for me, it comes down to kind of cultivating a sense of home, you know, that’s what I there’s nondual mindful space, just what our nature is a button, to me feels like, it feels like ground, it feels like home, it feels like the kind of where I should be inhabiting, and then I can go off and think things and you know, but ultimately, I want to come back to that grounded sense of home. So yeah, like, all of these things wherever we go and do is temporary, but that’s the abiding thing, I think.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And meditation itself is temporary. When you meditate, you have a nice experience and then you get back into activity but but but the influence of it is cumulative. The nervous system undergoes some changes while you’re while you’re sitting there, and then to a certain degree, those changes become permanent. And after many years of it, the whole physiology is transformed. I don’t know if you could do psychedelics that regularly? And if you did it if it would bring about permanent changes that you’d want to actually have.
James Cooke: Yeah, I think you’d want to cultivate it more organically through your own. You know, you it’s very easy for people to think that they’ve figured everything out because they’ve had some big experiences. And it’s not a very wise integrated way of being. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Okay, well, we’re just about at the two hour mark. And I think this has worked out organically to be kind of a nice conversation, I had a lot of notes that I didn’t even refer to, but I just wanted some stuff to fall back on. But I think the way it’s unfolded has been an interesting back and forth, right? Yeah. So tell us a little bit, but I’ll be linking to about three or four different things in the show notes of this episode. But just tell us what they are and what you’re doing what you’re doing over there in Portugal and, and you know, what folks can plug into if they want to, you know, tune in right, you’re doing.
James Cooke: So if you want to see what I’m up to Dr. James cook.com is the easiest place to see links to everything, except the surrender homestead. But yeah, I would say most of my stuff is my YouTube channel, which is YouTube, you know, for slash Dr. James Cook. And then, yeah, I think you can find me Dr. James Cook on usual places, Twitter, and Instagram, and all those, all that this render homestead also on Instagram, in particular, we’re building a retreat center, my wife, her kind of main thing is to make it an artist residency, a place for people to come and do creative projects, I’ll probably be eventually running meditation retreats, we’re talking about, you know, potentially some kind of psychedelic therapy. So a whole bunch of things that we’re working on, but we’re in the mountains of Portugal, and it’s really beautiful. But yeah, I’d say, my youtube channel was probably the main place, you can also subscribe to the podcast Plumerias with Dr. James Cook, audio version in the normal places. And like, you know, Spotify and iTunes and all of those.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay, good. And as I said, I’ll link to all that, all those things on your page on bat gap calm. So thanks, James spent a lot of fun, then very stimulating and enriching, kind of a, I always say this, but it’s like, it’s not only the conversations, the reaching, but the whole previous week where I’ve been listening to all of your things. It’s been very educational for me, and I really enjoyed the whole process.
James Cooke: But yeah, thanks, committee. Very, yeah.
Rick Archer: So to those who are listening or watching, thank you, and keep listening and watching. We’ll continue on. Come to bat gap.com If you haven’t been there and just explore the menus and see what you what you see a place to sign up for email notification of interviews and things like that. So thanks. We’ll see you next time. See you later James
James Cooke: era.