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Jeff Kripal with Dana Sawyer Interview
Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha the gas pump. My name is Rick Archer and my guest this week is Jeffrey J. Cripple. Just read the bio first, Jeffrey holds the J Newton razor chair in philosophy and religious thought at Rice University, where he chaired the Department of Religious Studies for nine years and helped create the G M program, a doctoral concentration in the study of Gnosticism, esotericism and mysticism, that is the largest program of its kind in the world. And Jeff is the author of seven books, including comparing religions coming to terms, mutants and mystics science fiction, superhero comics, and the paranormal, and authors of the impossible, the paranormal and the sacred. He specializes in the comparative study and analysis of extreme religious states from the ancient world to today. His full body of work can be seen that well, I’ll put the URL on the on the website. And I actually interviewed Jeff about a month ago, and we had technical problems, which were pretty much irreparable. And also, I think he and I both felt that we hadn’t really nailed it. I did at least I felt like I hadn’t really sort of gotten deep enough with the guy or ask the appropriate questions or whatever. So we decided to redo it, and I decided to bring in my friend Dana Sawyer, whom I interviewed on this show several years ago, Dan and I have known each other as we were just saying off camera for 40 something years. Dan is the full time professor of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art, and an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at the Bangor Theological Seminary Seminary. He is the author of numerous published papers and books, including Aldous Huxley a biography, which Laurel Huxley described as, out of all the biographies written about Aldous, this is the only one he would have actually liked. And he’s also just finishing up. He’s also just finishing up a book about Houston Smith. Which got to kind of be Mac a large copious volume of information right Dana?
Dana Sawyer: That’s it. That’s it. Yeah. Talk about that another time.
Rick Archer: And the reason I brought Dana in is not just because of his qualifications, as you know, Jeffrey’s peer in the academic world, but because he Jeffrey are good friends. And Danna is thoroughly familiar with Jeffrey’s work having read all of his books, and having been the one who actually recommended that I interview Jeffrey so I thought it would be really appropriate to have him be a co-interviewer on this particular episode. So where shall we start? Usually, interviews involve a certain amount of biographical background. And I don’t know if you feel inclined to go through much of that, Jeffrey, but you think it’d be helpful just for people to get a sense of who you are and how you ended up where you are?
Jeff Kripal: I think it is helpful. Actually, I’ve always found that if I embed the ideas in a in a narrative, it makes a lot more sense to people. So so I don’t know, how much do you want? Oh,
Rick Archer: you know, just the crib notes. Okay, Cliff Notes, I guess they call ’em.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so I’ll do the short version. So I grew up in Nebraska in a small farming community, and went to a Catholic seminary for my undergraduate training, a Benedictine monastic seminary, where I was exposed to basically the philosophy of religion, history, theology, comparative religion, and psychoanalysis, among other things. And that’s really where I got really interested in thinking about religious belief and religious behavior, sort of beyond what it appears to be, I became really interested in the deeper dynamics that drive religious people to do, what it is they do and to believe what it is what it is they believe. I was there for years, I came out of there with a lot of serious questions around male sexual orientation and male mystical literature in particular. So my first half of my work the first three books are really all about that. They’re really about trying to understand why male mystical literature looks the way it does, particularly when it employs erotic language or erotic rituals to to talk about these states. And so that’s the first three books And then somewhere in the early millennium, I basically decided I had answered those questions, at least for myself. And I wanted to move on to other things. And so the next three books, the beginning with the esslyn history, and then the two books on the paranormal were really about not so much understanding the relationship between sexuality and spirituality anymore, but understanding of the relationship between the mental and the material, particularly as those things tend to break down in extreme states that people call the paranormal. And so I became interested in that, particularly in an American context, particularly with popular culture. I’ve also thought, I think fairly seriously about what comparison is and why it’s so problematic for so many people. And how the scholar of religion often inhabits what I call a Gnostic epistemology. In other words, a way of thinking about religion that is neither about belief, nor about reason. It’s about something else in between and beyond those two things. So that that’s in a nutshell, I mean, I’ve been teaching now for 2021 years, I’ve been at Rice for 12. I taught at a small liberal arts college for nine years before that I taught at Harvard for a year. So I mean, it’s pretty typical academic track, in that sense.
Rick Archer: Okay. And, Dana, you when you first recommended Jeffrey, to me, you particularly you referred in particular to the serpent’s gift, and you said it was a book which had totally blown you away. And Jeffrey is referred to by a number of thinkers and interviewers and so on as a real sort of groundbreaking, edgy guy. So what was it that what is it in a nutshell, Danna, that particularly excites you about Jeffrey’s work, and that inspired you to have me interview him?
Dana Sawyer: Well, and Jeff will relate to this. And academia, this kind of a shutdown on talking about paranormal events, or psychic events or, you know, beatific events. And, and yet, at the same time, at conferences, they’re always groups sitting at tables, who are sharing ideas about exactly those sorts of things. And a lot of people, you know, they’re not out of the closet yet about it. But they have had such things happen in their life, and they don’t talk about them. And Jeff talks about them, he talks about very openly and in depth. And so that was one thing that was exciting to me was to hear somebody, not only in academia, you know, and Rick, you described us as peers than in academia, where most certainly not Jeff is head and shoulders above me in terms of, you know, the work he does, and all this just happens to be a fact, and is much better known. And for good reasons. He’s a talented writer. But anyway, sorry to make your ego happy. But, but that would get down to the part that really excited me that when you would find people who would entertain metaphysical ideas in their exploration of world religions and academia, it tended to be almost exclusively about the enlightenment experience or some apprehension of God on a noetic level. And no, I mean, it’s really talking about telepathy or pre cognition or psycho psychokinesis. So the ramifications of exploring those things. It was almost as if those academics who talked about a metaphysics had come out of the Vedanta tradition of, you know, accepting potentially his idea that better to not put any attention on miraculous powers, the cities because they can only hold you back from the ultimate paranormal experience of what Huxley called the unity of knowledge of oneness with the absolute ground of being and so it almost shut a kind of door that are you relating to this, Jeff?
Jeff Kripal: Yeah, no, you’re right. You’re on a roll, Dana.
Dana Sawyer: People just really didn’t want to revisit that and say, Well, what if we did talk about the paranormal abilities and psychic events and pre cognition? What if we did talk about those things? What could they, what might they reveal? Could we you know, the word wonder is very much related to the word wander. Because when you wonder you wander outside the boundaries of what people have been considering. And Jeff was wondering and wondering, and that was very exciting to me, and I know it was to some other academics that, you know, Holy mackerel, he’s going to talk about this stuff. And in launch some really interesting theses. And I’m sure that some of his theses about paranormal abilities and psychic events and their import will come out as we have this conversation. But anyway, that’s what got me all excited when I first read Jeff.
Rick Archer: It’s funny that Patanjali would be construed as discouraging cities. And, you know, he devoted a whole chapter of a four chapter book talking about them and explaining how to do them. And also, when we read mystical literature, religious literature, from, you know, the ancient to, you know, things like Autobiography of a Yogi, they’re just full of miraculous things. You know, that seems to be it almost seems predominant. And it’s, you almost have to sort of like, Look more carefully to appreciate the transcendent basis of those things. Jeffrey?
Rick Archer: Well, yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of levels there. I mean, we talked about this last time, there’s sort of this, the religious tradition, speak with forked tongue here. I mean, there’s the pay no attention to the miracles. But now, let me tell you all these miracle stories, yeah. I mean, there’s really a double message going on. But in terms of the Academy, I mean, you know, what Dana is getting at is, really since the middle of the 19th century, what made a scholar of religion was someone who rejected miracle, who rejected magic as superstition, or as magical thinking or as simply impossible. And, you know, what I had to confront with that work was particularly with the Aslan history, I was talking to people whom I knew well, who I trusted, who I knew were lying to me. And they were essentially telling me miracle stories. And I realized at some point that if these things are happening in California, or New Jersey, or Nebraska, or Chicago in now, then they damn well, could it happen in first century Palestine or fourth century BCE, India. And so it really changed for me how I think about history and, and, and the tax, and it just opened up, you know, a whole nother way of looking at religion that, of course, is traditional, in some sense, but in another way, is not.
Rick Archer: Do you think the aversion to miracles has anything to do with the sort of the materialistic mindset that’s, I suppose, came in with the industrial revolution and, you know, still predominates most western science,
Rick Archer: I think it has everything to do with materialism. And in terms of the academy, again, you know, the ultimate criterion of truth, and in the worlds, Dana and I move in is very simple. And it goes like this, the truth must be depressing. And, and, you know, you can say anything, and as long as it’s depressing, it will get a hearing, you know, you can reduce ecstasy and enlightenment to historical context to, to social forces to neurobiology. Now you can reduce it to cognitive schemata. You know, in the brain, evolutionary psychology, you can say anything as long as it pulls it down. But if you try to affirm that, well, GEA does look like human beings are having some access to something transcendent, something really not material, then that’s deeply problematic, because it it bumps up against this scientific materialism that is really running the culture at this point, as far as I can tell,
Rick Archer: it threatens the whole paradigm. Well, it actually,
Rick Archer: the irony is, it doesn’t threaten the whole paradigm, all it really threatens is the adequacy of the paradigm. You know, I mean, obviously, I’m not challenging and none of our colleagues are challenging the usefulness of science or what it can do in the world, which is all sorts of things. What what we’re challenging is that it can can explain everything, which you can’t, you know, and the way it explains everything is it has this table. It puts all these things on the table that it can manipulate and measure and replicate and explain and all the stuff that it can’t replicate or measure or explain it puts under the table and says they don’t exist, or calls it anecdotal or something. And of course, that’s just a magic trick. That’s that’s sort of dishonest. From my perspective, and really all I’ve tried to do is take all that stuff that we put under the table in the last wastebasket, and put it back on the table and say, Look at this. Not that. That’s the whole truth either. But that when you put that stuff with all the other stuff, it changes how we look at the whole table again, I think. So that’s really, that’s really the kind of the simplicity of the method.
Rick Archer: Much I’m in here, Dana.
Dana Sawyer: Well, I think, you know, one thing that I would say there that is very much agreeing with Jeff, is that if you look at the scientific paradigm, as it is right now, whenever something like a paranormal event, bumps up against it, then it gets immediately thrown in the circular file that Well, that just isn’t possible. You know, Bertrand Russell once said, what science can’t prove mankind can’t know. So as soon as you’re dealing with something that a certain paradigm of science can’t prove or can’t explain, then it gets discarded as an anomaly that that is irrelevant, and is dismissible. Instead of saying, Well, you know, if these events can in some way be empirically proven to exist, then we need a bigger paradigm, we need to understand we need to explain the world, not in an unscientific way, necessarily, but in a broader, you know, wider boundaries on what the scientific explanation is. And, you know, the culture in general is unwilling to do that. I’m sure there would be people that would watch this interview and say, oh, yeah, Bertrand Russell was right, what science can prove mankind can’t know. And yet, they will claim that they love their wife and science can’t prove that. And they will claim that the painting on the wall behind their couch is beautiful. But you know, I can see squiggly lines in red and green, but point to the beauty. That’s, there’s no way to quantify those things. So I don’t think you know, we even have to go to the paranormal even inside, you know, the quote, unquote, normal world. The paradigm doesn’t really work or it’s incomplete. Maybe it’s the way I disagree with the way Jeff described.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and I but I think with the paranormal stuff, the problems particularly acute, you know, and this is why I’m fascinated by the paranormal, because it presents a philosophical conundrum for this materialistic worldview. And basically, the problem is, is that most robust paranormal events occur in traumatic situations, somebody is dying, or in danger, or is very ill or in a coma. And in normal circumstances, like the three of us are presumably in at the moment, nothing strange is going to happen, because our egos and our bodies and brains are healthy and, and keeping all this keeping the rest of the world out as it were. But when that body brain container gets cracked, open, all this other stuff comes pouring in. And this is why I think that it’s so hard for the sciences. Because what essentially what the debunkers want to say is, well show me a robust paranormal event in a controlled laboratory. Well, what you’ve just done there is take away all the conditions in which such a thing can happen. It’s like saying, it’s like me saying to Dana, Dana, I don’t believe that there are stars in the sky. And you have to prove to me there are stars in the sky, but I’ll only look up between noon and three in the afternoon. Well, guess what? No, guess what, he’s never going to prove to me there are stars ever, no matter what he does. And so you’ve removed the conditions. Or if I say to Rick, Rick, proved to me there are zebras, but you can only do that on the North Pole. Well, you’re never going to do it. So so this is how this is how this works. And what why these these spontaneous accounts are so important, is that that’s where trauma happens. That’s where these things appear in a very robust, very meaningful fashion. But these aren’t things that science can study. These are things that humanists and anthropologists can study. And that’s it’s part of my argument is we actually have the goods here. And we need to we need to claim that
Rick Archer: I know in your book, you talk about how, you know a lot of the psychic research has been done at places like Duke University where board software’s or sophomores are paid minimum wage just sit and look at squiggly you know, marks on cards and it doesn’t produce very much. But I would suggest that the psychic thing and and related things are should be seen more as a A long term experiment rather than something which can just be verified in a weekend’s, you know, study at a university. And by that I mean, over the course of, you know, decades of spiritual practice, sure, trauma can trigger these things, but, but also, they can occur in Healthy People who are not being traumatized, who have subjected themselves to rigorous spiritual practice and for whom such experiences begin to become normal and commonplace. I have several friends who routinely see subtle beings all around all the time, you know, and yet they hold down jobs and, you know, raise families and do do totally normal stuff. If if the average person were to step into their consciousness and see the world as they see it for five minutes, they’d be flabbergasted. But that’s normal for them, because they’ve cultured that ability over time.
Rick Archer: Right? I think that I think you’re absolutely right, Rick, I mean, the, the literature’s, though, that that I work with are really just the ordinary people you know, who aren’t meditating two hours a day, they’re just, they’re just ordinary folk. And these things tend to erupt very suddenly, usually through an illness or an accident or something. And it really does change their lives. And it often points them towards some kind of meditation or spiritual practice, by the way, and often has those effects. Yeah,
Rick Archer: we’ve all heard about people who are dying, who see loved ones coming to them, or beings coming to them or so on. And usually, it’s probably written off as some sort of shutdown to the brain taking place. But I think there’s something real going on then. Sorry about that. Go ahead.
Dana Sawyer: Well, just, you know, in your book on insulin, Jeff, when you’re talking about Mike Murphy, and the future of the body, and that sort of thing. You know, they’re excellent as a as a testing ground for techniques that can develop other aspects of what we are, you know, the more subtle moments of what we are bringing those methods, you know, through a particular practice or method bringing them to the surface. There’s, maybe they happen in traumatic situations, maybe that’s why shaman often shaman often traumatize themselves, right, to catalyze these things. But at the same time, in your writing, you’ve suggested that we’re moving in a direction that there’s a kind of evolution going on, of revealing more Gnostic and noetic dimensions of what we are. Yeah, I mean, you actualization.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, of course, the the inspiration for esslyn was Huxley, you know, and this notion of human potentialities, and, and yeah, that is my worldview. And, and esslyn is very much about nurturing and stabilizing these human potentials that are otherwise not actualized or unconscious. And you know, what’s interesting about the pair psychology literature, too, is, much of it argues that most psychic functioning actually is occurring all the time, but on an unconscious level. And we’re sort of constantly sending out feelers into a few seconds into the future and, you know, a few feet or yards into the environment, and this is what helps us stay alive when we were still in the forest or, or when we’re out on the highways, and we’ve all had these experiences where you you react to something before it actually happens. So I mean, I think I think these things have adaptive and evolutionary purposes, I don’t think they’re just frosting. Or, and I know, they’re not just illusions, they’re extremely common.
Dana Sawyer: I think it’s a common noetic potential that a lot of people, a lot of my students for sure, have an intuition that I’m more than I think I am or I’m more that I’m being told I am, there’s more to me, than fits inside this worldview that I’ve been spoon fed by my culture. Right. There’s something I think it’s an attraction to Harry Potter books. You know, I don’t want to be a mother anymore. I know. I’m not. You know, I think that there’s a certain people in because I teach it in our college. I think a lot of artists maybe have that noetic potential.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and again, that’s why I don’t think these things are just frosting on the cake. I mean, if you know if, for example, like if, for example, someone wakes up at three in the morning and knows instantly that his father has just passed away, you know, 500 miles away. So on one level that’s poignant and deeply meaningful, but on another level, it clearly shows that the mind is not the same thing as brain because that’s impossible if mind equals brain brains in that school, sleeping and My bed cannot, in any way know that dad is just past. But if mind is, is not in space or time and filtered or reduced into brain and body, then it makes perfect sense that you would know such a thing, because you’re bound to that person through these entangled bonds of love and affection. And the mind is not in. It’s not just in the school. So to me, these have deep philosophical implications that are really, I think, mind blowing, if we can just follow them. And not.
Dana Sawyer: I mean, I think they’re mind blowing for us as as individual human beings, and definitely mind blowing for the way that we’ve been seeing the world and how limitedly we’ve been seeing the world. Yeah, very exciting stuff. And I love, you know, in tune me down brick, if you’ve had too much coffee, and I’m breaking into often. But one thing that I really like in your work, Jeff, is this idea about the imaginal mind, and that, that we, you know, out of that longing, and out of that Psychic Potential that we have. Lots of people have been trying to draw a picture of what it looks like or tell a story about. I’m trying to describe reality, I’m using fiction to do it. But well, I mean, you can describe this better than I can ever remember in when you’re talking about an author’s of the impossible, this hermeneutics of the impossible, that there the level of realization and authorization, right? Maybe, maybe talk about that for a moment since right.
Rick Archer: So yeah, so I think so when I talk. So when I talk to people who have had these experiences, two of the phrases, well, there’s three phrases that come up over and over again. And the first one is, it was like a science fiction movie. Okay, so they turn immediately to science fiction, because it’s the only register that even comes close to the weirdness of it, okay. But the other thing they say is, it felt like I was in a movie, or I was a character in a novel. And it struck me listening to those stories long enough and met many enough times that we actually are all we are all caught in a novel, or a movie right now called culture, and religion, and language, none of us. None of us individually wrote American culture, we didn’t write the English language, we didn’t write the the sort of storylines we’re born into, and we understand ourselves in. And often we don’t even like them. They don’t even work for us. They’re there. Oftentimes, they’re destructive, depending on on the individual. And I think what a paranormal event is, the realization aspect is understanding that we’re caught in such a, a movie or a novel. And understanding that at a very gut level, and having the paranormal event then call us to author a different story, a different narrative of who we are and what we want to be. And so I think that’s what the paranormal is about. Ultimately, it’s not about just weird things happening. It’s about weird things happening, showing us a that were caught in a story someone else wrote, and be inviting us to write a new one, both individually and together. And I think that’s what a lot of people are doing right now. And, you know, in the, in the mutants and mystics book, I mean, basically, what that is, is a series of studies of professional artists, and writers who create popular culture. And by so doing, just do a complete end run around everybody, and go right to the right to the imagination, which is where they have their real effect. And I think that’s why people say, God, it was like science fiction, you know, because that that hits deep,
Rick Archer: a couple of thoughts come to mind. One is we’ve all heard the notion that we use only a small portion of our full potential, you know, 5%, or whatever. And so what would our society be like if we were all walking around using 90%, or even 100%? If that were possible, theoretically, I presumed that all kinds of things that we now would consider miraculous and unbelievable, would be commonplace, and we take them for granted. And societies cultures, often they always do adjust to what becomes commonplace, you know, 150 years ago, the things we take for granted now, this conversation, jet planes, so many things would completely blow people’s minds. But another thought, well, you want to find that one before I go on.
Rick Archer: Well, it’s actually more fun. tastic than that even I mean, the five percents an interesting figure, because, of course, that’s what physicists say now. That’s all we know about everything, right? Then all of physics, all of mathematics, all of science, turns out only applies to about 5% of the universe and the other 95% completely off the map. We don’t have a clue. And so you know, they call it dark energy or dark matter, which just basically means we don’t know what it is about it. Right. So yeah, I mean, I think we’re living in a sliver, you know, we’re living in a sliver of reality.
Rick Archer: Well, that brings to mind a couple other things. Oh, you want to say more? I’m sorry.
Rick Archer: Well, I guess the other thing I would say about that is we’re living in a sliver of reality, we’re living in a cave, but maybe we need to, you know, this is what I think a lot, you know, I mean, if you have a spouse, and you’re raising children, and I mean, you know, could we could we live with each other? If we were, you know, swimming in an ocean of mind all the time? You know, I don’t know. I mean, I think we may be limited for a reason. I thought, that’s just a thought. It’s just, it’s a thought I have a lot actually, you know, I
Rick Archer: think we are and I mean, if you’ve ever dropped acid, you realize that I couldn’t live like this all the time. But that’s because it’s so abrupt. However, you know, if you have practice spiritual disciplines for decades, you begin to integrate and acclimate and become accustomed to states of consciousness and be able to function in states of consciousness, which you wouldn’t been able to manage, had they come upon you suddenly. Right. Yeah,
Dana Sawyer: well, go ahead. Well, what I wanted to say, Jeff, is that when you talk about authorization, and you talk about somebody like Philip K, Dick, saying, okay, the stories I’ve been told, aren’t really working for me. So I’m going to tell a bigger story that makes sense to what I’m intuiting is true. In a noetic, psychic kind of way, then I just have, in a way, answer my own question. Do you see authorization as a paranormal ability? That some people have? You know, I don’t know, a knack for the imaginal?
Rick Archer: Well, yeah, I wouldn’t. I don’t know if I want to overuse the word paranormal. But if you talk to people who are truly creative, particularly writers and artists, what they will always tell you is, it wasn’t me. Right, that’s the essence of creativity, is stepping aside, having the ego step aside and having something else come through. And I think, you know, in a previous age, people would use religious language to describe that. And what I like so much about the artists and the the modern writers, is they’re essentially describing a religious experience, but they’re not being literal about it. They’re not claiming, you know, they’re not setting themselves off of a prophet or writing a new scripture, they’re saying, Wow, something came through, and I turned it into art. I didn’t turn it into a truth that you now have to believe. And, you know, if you don’t X, Y, and Z will happen. I mean, I this is the problem with religion in general, is that it’s essentially a story that we’re asked to believe literally. And the beauty of the modern the modern scene, is we essentially have a whole plethora of religious worlds. But we’re, we don’t have to believe them, literally, we can appreciate them, you know, as true fictions.
Rick Archer: I’ve always felt that, ideally, at least, the founders of religions weren’t just espousing a bunch of beliefs, but they were pointing to an experience which they wanted people to have, which would substantiate what they were saying. But then, you know, lacking that experience, especially as time goes on, and whatever the, the founder of the religion was actually teaching is distorted and diluted and lost. All we’re left with is what they said, which is, can only be taken as a set of beliefs if you don’t have a means to experience what they were saying.
Rick Archer: I think that happens, Rick, I’m not so I’m not so I don’t want to give a free pass to the founders, either or the prophets. I think they were, I think they were being sincere and genuine, but they were living in a different age and had different assumptions about the world which are no longer our assumptions. And this is part of the dilemma being a modern person trying to think about religion is is you just you think about things differently than these historical figures did.
Rick Archer: Yeah. But I think you know, I mean, wouldn’t you agree that probably all the major religious founders were having a profound experience? They weren’t just philosophizing or you know, being metaphysicians. And somebody like the Buddha, for instance, did say, you know, don’t believe anything, you know, just because you hear it, even if I say, you know, take it on your own experience, you have to actually have the experience of what we’re talking about here. We can give a 10 hour lecture lecture on what an apple tastes like, but it’s not going to do it for you the same as biting into an apple.
Rick Archer: Right? Yeah, I mean, this is a huge issue. I mean, you know, take Jesus, for example. I mean, I think he probably had some experience of being one with God, I think that’s probably very accurate to say. But he concluded from that a lot of things, at least in the gospels that I don’t want to sign up to, you know, there’s some pretty nasty stuff in there. And, you know, so I, again, I think this is our dilemma as modern people is we have to, we have, we can appreciate and honor these past religious experiences. But I don’t think any of us can honestly sign on to what these texts and traditions asked us ask us to sign on to me, I can’t, well, you
Rick Archer: have to take them all with a grain of salt, also, I mean, probably with Jesus’s case, nothing was written down for a couple 100 years. And then who knows, who remembered what then it was actually written down. And then it went through various translations. And it’s like, you know, it’s like that party game where you whisper something in someone’s ear, and it goes around the room. And it’s completely different by the time it gets back to you
Rick Archer: by but you just start to isolated a very modern view of religion, which, which is, you know, kind of what I’m suggesting. And so it leaves us, it leaves us, you know, what I’ve tried to say in my work is, we can’t look to the past for answers. And they’re clearly not working in the present. So we have to look to the future and write another story together. And we have to be willing to be deeply critical of these traditions, and deeply appreciative at the same time, and we have, we have to have this conversation. And we’ve just begun that conversation. I mean, that conversation has been going on maybe 100 years, you know, maybe 150, depending on and really only in the west until very recently. And so I think, you know, this is, this is another part of my project is not to let people forget, at least in our art, the study of religion, that what we do is deeply problematic to most of the planet. I’m very aware of that. And I see that in my students every day. I mean, you know, I just wrote this textbook, it’s called comparing religions, but the subtitle is coming to terms. And what I mean by that is, if you compare religions fairly, it comes with tremendous cost to any traditional religious view. It also comes with costs. If you have a scientific or materialist worldview, it comes with costs, no matter what your worldview is. And I don’t think that we’ve come to terms with the fact of religious pluralism and what that really means about religion in the modern world.
Rick Archer: Dana you want to chime in here?
Dana Sawyer: Well, I totally agree with that, you know, in mutants and mystics, there was one place where you say something like, we still haven’t found a story big enough to accommodate the human soul. And I think that’s exactly right, that we’ve we’ve got our traditional stories in the religions, religions, the traditional religions, we’ve all come to a place of realizing there were personalities who were Wayshowers. But there were also a lot of gatekeeper personalities, people attracted to hierarchy and power and structure and fundamentalism, for lack of a better word, in that for a lot of us, that story doesn’t work anymore. And then the story of strict scientific materialism is a story that doesn’t work anymore. And I think especially for people in our generation, the boomer generation who looked at the world through other lenses, and found that in some cases, they were more descriptive of our experience and promising of what we could be and so we are looking for a bigger story. I think that’s exactly right.
Rick Archer: Speaking of lenses, I was prompted over the last few minutes to bring up that metaphor that both lenses and filters and I’ve heard you use the filter metaphor, Jeffrey. But, you know, in terms of lenses, you know, if a lens is meant to zoom in and out to a great you know, close up or a great distance, and yet the lens gets stuck then it can only see the close up for instance. And you know, most of the people in the world I think are like lenses that are stuck where they’re they’re sort of proceeding A certain sliver of the full range of, of what’s there. But and they don’t have the sort of flexibility to fathom all the different strata of reality at will. And then the filter thing you mentioned culture a while back. We’re also like, every single one of us is a filter. And this kind of points to the notion that there’s some, you know, deeper underlying reality. And we all it gets distorted as it sort of filters through our nervous system and our individual structure, and ends up being just a kind of a faint glimmer of what it is in its purest state. And there’s something that I was reading last night from an interview you did Jeffrey, where you’re talking about perennialism, and constructivism, and if I understood it correctly, it was the issue of whether ultimately, mystics experienced the same fundamental mental reality, or whether their experiences is determined by culture. And I would maybe say both end to that, that, inevitably, there’s going to be some cultural influence on how they interpret their experience. But and Dana, and I’ve had this argument, but But I would also say that ultimately, if if there is, as physics tells us, a fundamental under my lying reality, and if human nervous systems are so wired as to be able to tap into that experientially, then everyone is openly getting down to the same thing, however, might be colored by their their culture, or, you know, however, the differences might come out in their language.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I very much take a both and view to Rick, I just, I think the shaping, the shaping aspect of our our creative minds is probably more powerful than we imagined. You know, my, my perennial is friends think I’m a constructivist, and my constructivist friends think I’m a perennial list. You know, and they’re both right. I, because I see, I think it is a both and
Dana Sawyer: you know, the thing is, it’s sort of like with, for me, going back to Rick’s lens, moment here, that some people, let me back up just one step. Plato’s experience of the moon and my experience of the moon, get filtered through our backgrounds and our personalities, but there’s a moon up there. And, and so sometimes constructivism goes so far, that every experience is mediated by culture, to the point where, where it’s almost a claim, there is no moon up there. Right. And, and, you know, I would say the same thing is true of an experience of what Eckhart called the ground of being that some people say that they there is impossible that there could be a ground of being, but it becomes more difficult if you feel like you’ve experienced the ground of being right. If everybody’s death and you’ve heard a symphony, then it’s hard to shut up about it. That doesn’t mean that certainly, you’re going to interpret that experience in terms of what you will, you know, what a limited mind exposed to a limited range of ideas can possibly make of the experience, right? So so there is definitely, you know, spin being put on it. I mean, if you start from the place as a fundamentalist Christian, that whenever I see a miracle, if it is not a miracle that it is claimed to be in the name of the Christian God, then it’s the sin of simony. Or it’s, you know, it’s from Satan. Well, you know, you might have experienced something authentic or witnessed something authentic, but you’re definitely you know, appropriating it in a way that’s very disputable.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I think, you know, what, the way I think about these things, the, the modern nd or near death experiences is a really, I think, useful tool here. There certainly is commonality across modern near death experiences. On the other hand, if you look at them, and you compare him to medieval or ancient accounts, there are tremendous differences. I mean, health, for example, seems to have more or less fallen away, although you do occasionally see it. And then with the attendees to then, you know, the truth is, is those are extremely controversial, not just among materialists, but also among believers, because they challenge belief systems. There is really no correlation between belief and having an MD. I mean, people of all types have them all the time. But they’re also shaped by the imagination. And again, I don’t think it’s an either or this is what you were suggesting, right? I think it’s a boat. fan. But I think it’s really complicated. I mean, the thing I always remember here, there’s a beautiful line in Philip K Dix journals, where he’s he’s recounting a dream he had. And he heard a voice in the dream. And the voice said, Someday the mask will come off, and you’ll realize the truth as it really is. And then Deke says, and the mask came off, and I realized that I was the mask. And I think that they get at the problem beautifully is the ego I mean, Rick and Dana and Jeff, we are the filter, we are the mask that is filtering and reducing, and shaping the light of mind or consciousness. And we can have an experience of that light, but not as Dana or record gel. You see, he said, there’s a there’s a dilemma there, you know, I mean, you can have the experience, and I’m absolutely convinced human beings have it all the time. My stripe cards are good example. But at cards very clear, you know, his line was, there is no Henry or Conrad there. Right? There’s no ego there. Yeah. And, and so I, I just want to sit in that tension, you know, in that dilemma, that I think is a very real one. So it’s not it’s not to the I mean, I agree with everything that’s been said, here, I just I think this, you know, we’re, it’s, it’s as if the human being is caught between these two forms of mind. And just by being a human being, you’re both and at the same time, and you can never quite land,
Rick Archer: you can land I would say, but you have to be both. And in order to function as a human being, I mean, if there were no vestiges of ego whatsoever, you just be, you know, you wouldn’t be able function, you’d have to be spoon fed or whatever. And so the Vedic tradition has this concept of Leisha Vidya that there needs to be a faint remains of ignorance in order to function. No matter how highly enlightened you may be, if you if you don’t have an easy example of butterball that you’ve had in your hand, and you throw it off, and there’s still some greasy surface on the palm. But you have to have that in order in order to function.
Jeff Kripal: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s nice. Yeah,
Dana Sawyer: I always try to retain my greasy surface.
Rick Archer: Ladle on a little lard every now and then.
Jeff Kripal: To you, I would say, and you are the grease.
Rick Archer: And that thing you said about mice record saying there is no you know, Joe or schmo here, whatever the name is where, you know that as you know, the Gita says the self realizes itself by by itself. And that’s the Realizer. So it’s not like because obviously think about what we’re talking about. Can the individual human ego sort of step apart from and realize something that’s not even an object of perception?
Dana Sawyer: Yeah, you know, right, right. Well, you know, one of the things that I think is interesting, in this part of the conversation, is, it’s a very powerful and wonderful place to sit with. As we’re trying to tell this bigger story. Can the story ultimately even be told, it’s such a gigantic story, that when you try to it can be told in so many ways, with so many, it’s like, you know, the infinite Grail quest story that Joseph Campbell said, ultimately, there’s the monomyth we really are only telling the same story, but it’s so gigantic, we can tell it in more ways than could ever be counted. And so on one level, you feel this sense of absolute unmap ability of our Gnostic potential. I remember one time in, in India and Resha cash, sitting with a swami who is a friend of mine, an old, old old man, and we’re sitting with a group of Swamis who are talking about the many qualities of the absolute reality. And so people were raising their hand and they were saying it is pure consciousness. It is. It is unbounded, it is limitless. It is pure bliss. And they made this list and made this list and this old friend of mine is basically sleeping through the whole thing. But since he was the senior Swami, at the end of the talk, somebody said, Swami Ji, Is there anywhere this is happening in Hindi, and Swami Ji, is there any any word to ultimate reality that we have forgotten? And he kind of looked up and pretended he had been listening and said, No, quite complete. You’re done. Wonderful. That’s really good. Started to go back to sleep and he said know one word you will have forgotten in the word was ajeeb. And ajeeb means in Hindi, sneaky that the ultimate reality is very sneaky. And if you think you’re going to get a real grip on it, you know, it’s bigger than all the words you can ever put on a board. So, you know, I’m I’m really down on that I’m really with that idea that it’s unmatchable. On some level, how wonderful to keep celebrating the story in the attempt over and over. But what I another aspect of Jeff’s work that I’ve really liked, is the ownership, not only of our limitations, as relative beings, individuals, the three of us here, you know, one of the stories we tell is that we’re really just the absolute looking out through three sets of eyeballs right now, having a conversation with itself. And, and to go to the place of saying that the physical being is not, what am I trying to say, the absolute is big and grand and wonderful, and you’re just a little, but you’re just a little worm who can’t do anything, and your body is stupid, and it’s evil, and it’s holding you back. And, you know, the sooner you’re dead, the better be, you know, in some cosmic event, and what I’m saying is that I really like the tantric celebration, that there that the physical and the metaphysical are profoundly intertwined. In that, inside of this big one mega story, that the absolute needs to be celebrated, but so does the relative so does the, the physical aspect of our being. And a lot of people in our culture, in my opinion, have even if they think they’ve switched over to being Hindus, or Buddhists, or something like that, I see them carrying forward so much of their disdain for the physical body. From there, in many cases, Christian background. I don’t know how you guys feel about that. But that’s that celebration of the relative as as simply the bleeding edge, literally, in many cases of of the absolute that you that. Even those words separating them are wrong minded story. Yeah. Or wrong minded iteration of the story.
Rick Archer: Yeah, the tantric stuff has been really important to me over the years, as you know, I mean, that was what my early work was all on was Bengali, Shakti, tantra, and it’s really never left me. That’s the both Andric it’s another version of the both end. You know, I’ll tell you a funny story that kind of hits home here, though. When, when I finished the Aslan book, it’s his big old doorstop of a book, you know, and the first page speaks to Dana’s story. The first there it is. So the first page of it, yeah, actually, you have the hardcover. So it’s in that book. The first page is an epigram from Nagarjuna. That famously says, There is not the slightest difference between samsara and nirvana. There’s not the slightest difference between Nirvana and samsara, you know, a reverse. And that’s what the text said when I sent it off to the printer, but when it appeared on my doorstep, Dana, can you read the epigram? Now, let’s
Dana Sawyer: say there is the slightest difference between the world and Nirvana. It was not the slightest difference between Nirvana
Rick Archer: brother, and so I, I said, I said, Oh, my god, somebody censored me, somebody manipulated that I, I, I called my editor and I said, Did you guys have this typeset in India? And he sort of sheepishly you know, admitted that they did, I said, Well, I think some offended typesetter just screwed with us, you know, and sure enough, they’re there. It was in full glory. But it speaks. It’s a minor thing. It’s a funny thing. But it speaks to Dana’s point about how people have such a hard time with that tantric affirmation of samsara and nirvana being the same thing. You know, here, there is now the slightest difference between them. And I think that’s a struggle that, you know, we continue to have not just with the Christians in the States, but with Hindus in India as well. I mean, I think it’s a real I think it’s a real challenge. Oh, regardless
Rick Archer: of your tradition, if you regard God as being the present, as that means that you know, there’s nothing you can possibly look at, that is not saturated, permeated in you know, on every level with that intelligence that we call God, and therefore, you know, I sort of speaks to your quote, the whole universe is not some sort of accident, if you if you look at it that way, and all these life forms that are experiencing so many things or experiencing them, apparently, you know if we want to anthropomorphize because God wants to have a multitude of experiences. And when we get to the human level, probably the same is true. I mean, obviously, human beings go through a multitude of experiences. So do we really need to shut that down at any point? In order to really realize God?
Rick Archer: Well, I, yeah. I mean, I grew up, I grew up Roman Catholic, and there’s this tradition in Roman Catholicism in that part of the world where you put a crucifix over your bed. And, I mean, talk about a double message. I mean, this, you know, this is the bed in which you’re having sex with your wife. And there’s a naked, dead guy hanging on across over it. Looking at looking at you, by the way.
Rick Archer: Well, what does that mean? And nobody ever, of course, said what it meant. That was just the practice, you put a crucifix over the bed. Okay. Okay. So that’s, that’s problematic, I think. And, and, you know, there are hundreds of examples like that. I think we could probably tell stories like that all day.
Rick Archer: Dana?
Dana Sawyer: Well, you know, one thing, one direction that I’d like to take the conversation is back to this imaginal that I find that fascinating. You know, Plato talked about the intellectus, that there’s some aspect of mind, that isn’t reason as we usually think of it isn’t intellect as we usually think of it. But that gets these profound hunches from time to time. And you feel like, it’s partially what it happens when you’re in a lecture and somebody is talking, and you’re having that Ooh, ooh, that’s it. He’s got it. He’s getting it now. There’s some aspect of mind that reaches out and apprehends. And then if it wants to express it, it you know, Joseph Campbell, said that myths and metaphors were symbols were the language of the soul. And so when it gets framed, then, you know, maybe the aliens have strange bug eyes. And you know, that’s a story that makes sense to us now, in a way that maybe a story about Krishna and our Juna don’t? I don’t know there’s there’s something in that realm of like, what is that imaginal ability and what it is, I think, in our culture, I guess where I’m where I’m going with this, is that in our culture, we tend to think of imaginal stories as romantic in the negative sense. And it’s just an entertainment that guys that can’t get dates involve themself with, you know, Oh, you’re home reading comic books all the time, or you’re reading science fiction? Or are you reading mythology? You know, we denigrate that. And we even say, oh, that’s an old myth, which implicitly puts the pejorative on the term, but so much in in mutants and mystics, you’re talking about this imaginal sense, also, authors of the impossible. So it’d be interesting to hear what you think the imaginal is and what you think imagination is.
Rick Archer: Right? So I think that the two separate issues there, you know, the reason that the imagination is so important to me is I think it’s the best way to resolve this problem of religious pluralism. It so that this is the first level is why are there so many religious systems? Why are there so many different gods and mythologies? You know, one easy answer to that is, well, there’s this, the are these other realms of mind and consciousness, and they can’t speak to egos directly. So they speak in pictures, and they speak in stories. And this is why you get all these different stories in different cultural periods. And so positing some kind of imaginal basis to religion and to religious storytelling allows us to explain the commonalities and the differences, I think, fairly effectively. But there’s also this deeper problem
Dana Sawyer: of, you know, the imagination. So if you say, Oh, you’re interpreting this text wrong implicitly, because you’re interpreting it literally correct. And instead of interpreting it as an allegory or metaphor,
Rick Archer: Yeah, so But behind that as a deeper question, we tend to think of the imagined the, the imagined as the imaginary. It’s just fancy, it’s just bullshit, we’re thinking up, the imagination just spins, daydreams and fancy, but again, that that’s often true. But if you talk to artists, and writers, and religious visionaries, that’s not always true. They’re often getting stuff from this other form of mind from God or from the unconscious, or whatever your language is, and it’s coming to them in picture form, and often in story form, and they’re not doing it, they are not coming up with these pictures, they’re not telling these stories, some other form of mind is in them and their senses. This is the only way the fisherman can speak to the fish. You know, there, there are two forms of mind here and one cannot communicate to the other directly. So it has to speak through these mediating pictures and stories of the imagination. And then there’s the even more radical situations. And you see this in the in the parapsychological literature over and over again. Just you know, the story, I always tell us, Mark Twain, Mark Twain has a dream one night, and he sees his brother Henry, in a metal casket on two chairs, with a bouquet of white flowers with a red flower in the model. And it’s so realistic, he wakes up and he starts to take off to the dead room to see his brother who nice sure just died. And Henry is not even dead. And he’s right there. Well, two weeks later, Henry is killed in a boiler explosion on a riverboat. And Twain walks to the dead room, and there’s the exact image exact down to the exact detail. And all that’s missing is that bouquet. And as he’s sitting here, staring at this scene, remembering his dream, a woman walks in with a bouquet of white flowers with a red one in the middle and sets it on his chest. So there, you have a very good example of the imagination, spirit, creating a dream, two weeks before the event. So clearly, Twain, Twain was in touch with something Twain was in touch with with an event, two weeks and hundreds of miles down the space time continuum. And that event, that knowledge was being mediated through his imagination. So there the imagination is, is is is in touch with the empirical physical reality. And this happens over and over and over again. And if you talk to the visionaries, they’ll say this, they’ll say, look, I knew I was dreaming. I knew my brother wasn’t there. I knew my husband wasn’t standing at the end of the bed. But I also knew that this had really happened and that my husband was dead, or my brother, would they know both at the same time. Yeah. And and that’s what I mean, by the imaginal. I don’t mean, just a nice daydream, right? I mean, something that you are seeing in your mental space that is being given to you by another form of mine that cannot speak in English, or in mathematics, but can show you pictures, as if it were some kind of psychic movie projector. And they’re true. They’re accurate. So I think that’s what that’s what I mean by the imaginal. Yeah, is that sort of double sets. And sometimes the pictures are mediating another world or another being, and and they have this fantastic mythical quality. And sometimes they’re mediating an event in physical space time. And they’re very precise, and they’re very exact.
Dana Sawyer: Yeah. What’s interesting about a lot of those imaginal events where, you know, here’s this capacity of the mind, and it’s, it’s cognizing something or you know, grokking something, right? And it’s, so it puts pictures with it. But what’s interesting when these stories get told to us, so So in one way, it’s a capacity of mind. Like the intellect us that has a certain ability to apprehend, but when it comes to the imagery that it uses to tell the story, it’s interesting how often imagery we respond to it because it does. What, access a certain menu of archetypes and symbols and trying to say, Yeah, from our culture, yeah. You know that we have this sort of stockpile of archetypal information on the hard drive of the human psyche, that certain stories when we hear them, they’re coming to us as a product of somebody’s imaginal tendency, but they also trigger it in us. They make us. I mean, if you’re reading those science fiction stories, it’s not just a good story sometimes. I mean, sometimes it is. But I remember when I read the mind, parasites by Colin Wilson, he’s giving me a certain way of understanding the limitations of my own mind because my own mind is limited. I’m going Holy mackerel, I got this to man. You know, your mind parasites? You’re not trying to say is right, sir. Yeah, I get it.
Dana Sawyer: Ah, inside of us. It resonates?
Rick Archer: Well, this, you know, this tonight. Yeah. I mean, what on the other way of talking about this, just two dimensions, you know, this goes back to Edwin Abbott’s flatland, you know, which is over well, over a century old now. And the basic thought experiment was, what with two dimensional beings on a flat piece of paper? How would they interact or understand a three dimensional being, you know, entering their two dimensional space? And of course, the answer is, the three dimensional being would have all the powers of a god. Yeah, you know, so all you have to do is extend that to four or five or six dimensions. And, you know, you’re, you’re in the realm of everything we actually see in the paranormal and the psychic literature, if that’s exactly what it looks like. I don’t know if that’s what it is. But it’s an easy thought experiment that teaches us that the human brain in our, in our normal cognitive capacities, have been built to work in three dimensions, or four if you count time. They’re just not set up. To to understand outside of that, yeah,
Rick Archer: at least with their 5% capacity. I think they have the potential to understand the others, but it’s just usually not developed and most people.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you know, Eckhart, I once thought maybe the dimensional stuff was just modern, you know, and it just goes back to Flatland. But Eckhart I’ve been reading a lot of Eckhart Eckhart has this wonderful point in one of his sermons where he says, he says, When the light of God shines on a man, and turns and, and, and eliminates space, and time actually eliminates space and time. He said, it’s like a man painted on a wall, as if you would peel the man off the wall, and he would suddenly be in the room. And so that’s a
Dana Sawyer: that’s Flatland. Yeah. But that’s 14th century. Oh, that’s wild,
Rick Archer: you know. So that, to me suggests that the experience is not limited to, you know, modern culture. And that a lot of these things we look at in the past, are hyper dimensional, as it were.
Rick Archer: One thing that came to mind when you were telling the Mark Twain story, which I think pertains to a lot of this, I mean, obviously, millions of people have experiences like that, and always have, Mark Twain happened to be someone that became world famous and had a lot of influence on people with his writing. But you know, I also think of, you know, Spielberg and Lucas and, and, and even getting into comic books, all those writers that generations of kids have grown up reading. And I, and you were saying earlier how, you know, the persons often feel like, it’s not me who’s doing this, I’ve, whenever a blockbuster movie, like close encounters, or something comes out, I’ve always felt like, wow, there’s just some deeper intelligence that wants to popularize a particular understanding in the culture. And the director, the creator of this movie is serving as a conduit or as a channel for that intelligence so as to, you know, shift collective consciousness to this deeper reality. Any thoughts on that?
Rick Archer: Well, that’s, that’s basically the thesis of the mutants and mystics book, Rick, I mean, basically, what I argued there is a lot of the artists and our and, and authors who created those storylines had had these experience, right. And, and, and instead of trying to prove them up or down, they just turned them into art. And then the art then gent then enters public culture, and then informs the experiences of other people. And you get this loop between what I call consciousness and culture that starts to generate an emergent mythology, a new mythology,
Rick Archer: that the best example I have here is is something Whitley Strieber once said, when he was talking about his own abduction experiences by what he calls the visitors, most he would call them aliens. And Whitley basically said, he said, Look, I know that what I saw during those abduction events, was informed by the bad science fiction movies I saw as a kid in the 1950s. I know that. But something was really there. And it was coming through and my brain was was creating those images to deal with what was there, he said. So what we need to do now is make better science fiction movies, so that future people can have more positive events. Yeah. And I just thought, I thought that was frickin brilliant.
Dana Sawyer: Oh, that is pretty cool. It’s really cool. It goes to what I was talking about is that if we broaden the story to the point where your brain isn’t saying, Every time I see something unusual, or an anomalous paranormal event, I don’t have to say, oh, it’s not a god. So it’s from Satan. You know, I don’t have to, you know, I can I got a better story to make sense of the full panoply of human experience.
Rick Archer: Yeah. That’s essentially what Willie was saying. He’s basically let’s tell better stories, right? So so that future people can have better experiences. And it’s not he’s not, he’s not suggesting that there’s nothing to the experience. You know, note that it’s not just fancy, what he’s arguing is that the experiences are always mediated by the imagination. And so that we need to get better. We need to create better imaginal film and blogs, so that we can have these experiences in a more creative and productive way. And I think that’s basically right. I think that’s correct.
Rick Archer: And when I’m suggesting, I think, maybe kind of made the point. But if planetary consciousness is evolving rapidly, that it’s not just through human effort, or human limited human intelligence that it’s evolving. But there’s actually some larger intelligence that’s guiding and orchestrating at least this is my particular flavor of it. And like, take a taste, for example. I mean, are they going to land on the White House lawn? No, they’re probably going to, they’d probably get shot to ribbons if they did. So they make crop circles, or they go through people like Whitley Strieber, or something to communicate in very strange ways. But you know, in a, but in ways that would not freak out human psychology too severely, but at the same time, would adjust it by increments, to the point where something more profound or dramatic could happen without freaking people out?
Rick Archer: Well, that’s one argument, actually, in the EU, if you have a logical community that that’s what this is all about isn’t kind of preparation, the kind of symbolic preparation,
Rick Archer: and I’m just using your photos as a case in point because I think that spirituality is a lot is much more than that. But I think that’s part of the picture part of the part of the stew. Yeah, I’d
Rick Archer: love to talk about I love your photos I wrote, I’ve written a lot about your photos, I think, in some ways, UFOs are part of the problem in the sense that they feed into people’s materialism, right? That they can only imagine the transcendent in the form of a machine. You know, and so science fiction then becomes a kind of machine version of spirituality or religion in some ways, where if you will look at a lot of the UFO encounters, they’re actually spiritual encounters, they’re, they’re people encountering conscious bowls of light and being taken out of their bodies and shown basically having an ND experience. I mean, they very much have this old cold or spiritual or mystical dimension to them. But I just think our culture is dumb around those things. And all it can do is imagine a machine.
Rick Archer: Well, you know, I mean, just the other day Bill Nye the Science Guy had a debate with that that guy who runs the museum, and oh, wherever it is, Tennessee that, you know, claims that the world is 6000 years old, and and people were walking riding dinosaurs and you know that so there’s still a major portion of the population that’s, that thinks that way. And so
Rick Archer: I gotta say, though, it’d be cool if we were writing dinosaurs. I would be cool. Yeah, that’s a good one.
Rick Archer: I don’t know if you can trust them though. They’re so lizard like, they might just snap turn around and snap your head off.
Dana Sawyer: You mean you guys don’t ride dinosaurs? That’s behind the curve. Go ahead. Intelligence when you talk about and I think that’s a juicy place, when you conceive of the sacred. You know, the traditional Western God above and and you know, the Hindu Buddhist god below kind of concept that, is there a sentience there you know, if we say that we are a moment have the absolute expressing itself in division and diversity like waves on the surface of the of an ocean? Is the ocean, sentient in the way we think of sentience? Is it? Is it rising in waves on purpose? Is it directing the tides and all that kind of thing? If I can extend that metaphor? And is it a case of panentheism, where if we realize ourselves as ocean, if we realize we’re ocean, then we can start directing the tides and we, we become, in a sense, the fingertips and eyeballs of the sacred, and we start manipulating the design. You know, this is very much the way that Friedrich Schelling believed. He believed that’s what’s going on.
Rick Archer: If Jesus walked on water, how did he do that? He was, you know, manipulating the tides and literally,
Dana Sawyer: oh, yeah, well, yeah, right. Well, what I’m going after is synchronicity that you that we all have these moments where you feel like, Oh, this is not only happening to me, but this is supposed to happen to me. And I’m meeting this person how coincidentally, exactly when it’s most useful for me to meet this person. Right? Those moments. And I remember Jeff, you talking about, I’m only base barely remembering it, but something about the X Men, and you found a piece of jewelry that had a big X on it or something. And you just kind of moment that I’m trying to just describe it. Everybody has them, you know, profound synchronicity. And sometimes the further a person walks down the quote, unquote, right path, so to speak, they feel like these moments are accumulating more quickly, or they they report that they’re kind of seeing through a design that there is a a plan better,
Rick Archer: and some people perceive every moment as the as divine play, that there’s this sort of scintillating intelligence in every every supposedly Dumb Object, and that, you know, whole thing is just this beautiful orchestration, sir Lila. Yeah, exactly. That’s not just hypothetical. I mean, that’s many people’s profound, concrete experience.
Dana Sawyer: But there’s actually several different thoughts in there. I’m just wondering where you stand on that, Jeff, is there a directing intelligence? Is it sentient in the way that we think of sentience? How do you feel about that?
Rick Archer: Well, I mean, your your entire description in question is, you know, is really, in some sense, rhetorical. I mean, that is my worldview. I mean, you described it very well, very eloquently. I mean, I do think that mind is not produced by local brains. I think it exists in its own dimension. And I think it becomes particularized in us. And I do see things like synchronicities, and paranormal events as what I call signals of the non dual. In other words, they’re these little moments in which we realize that the inside is the outside and the outside is the inside, and that we are the world in some sense. Now, I think a lot of I do of course, think a lot of our experience in the world is not, we’re not in control of it as egos. But I do think there’s an intelligence behind it. I’m not a Darwinian. And I think I think what we’ll see even in evolutionary biology over the next few decades is a move away from that strict Darwinian randomness. I mean, people are already starting to break with that. Tom Nagel, just the latest case of someone who just said, you know, this really doesn’t make any sense. And it really does look like there’s something behind this. And and so I yeah, that’s my worldview, Dana. I mean, I could have signed on to everything you just said there.
Dana Sawyer: But But is it an intelligence like the computer we’re all using right now? That’s very smart, smarter than us in terms of its ability to recall information and cross reference it and yet it doesn’t know it’s doing it? I guess I’m trying to that’s where I’m Yeah. I don’t think the intelligence know that it’s intelligent.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t claim to know, you know, what, that cosmic mind or that mind at large thinks or knows of itself, but I don’t think it’s like a computer at all.
Rick Archer: It’s conscious computer isn’t conscious. I think that
Rick Archer: computer language is very dangerous language. It’s it’s, it’s where cognitive science goes now where everything is a computer. But what’s always left out is the fact that conscious beings created those computers and Computer analogies are all based on a materialist model again, that if you could just create a sophisticated enough computer, it would suddenly become conscious. And I just don’t believe that I don’t believe consciousness is created through circuitry. I think it pre exists, any kind of neurological or techno circuitry. So I mean, I don’t claim to know the mind of God, Dana, but but if I had to sign on to a worldview, it would be a pan in theistic or a pan psychist universe in which the the physical cosmos is alive and is intelligent and, and is evolving us to know itself. No, that’s essentially what now that’s a wager. I don’t know that. But right. Yeah, I’m not a prophet. I’m not I’m not a mystic in this sense. But that’s what it looks like, to me having swam in this ocean of mystical literature for the last 30 years. That’s where I would put my chips.
Rick Archer: So in other words, that’s what all the prophets and mystics have been saying throughout the ages. No, I don’t think a lot of them. Yeah, I don’t
Rick Archer: think they have Rick. I mean, I think they’ve, some of them have been saying something like that in their own mythical and cultural terms. But, again, I wouldn’t identify my worldview with with a pre modern or a traditional one. I’m, I’m happy not being traditional.
Rick Archer: It sounds very familiar to me, though. I mean, consciousness creates the world consciousness is fundamental. You know, we are instruments through which consciousness can experience itself and so on and so forth. I mean, that kind of notion has been around for a long time. No, you’re
Rick Archer: absolutely right. It’s just that it’s been around in a lot of different places in a lot of different ways. And it often comes with a lot of other stuff that I just don’t want to sign on to
Rick Archer: sure why Yeah, like the band said, you take what you need, and you leave the rest.
Dana Sawyer: It’s a lot in a lot of traditions. It’s been heresy. I mean, in Vedanta, it’s been the story, the mainline story. But talking in this language, got William Blake in a lot of trouble, it got Jacob Boehme, and a lot of trouble. You know, Jacob Boehme was a pantheist. And saying, you know, we’re denigrating the physical and we shouldn’t be doing it that, you know, we’re actually God’s mind expressing itself in the physical world. And these were not, these are not ideas that the mainline Protestant Church of Beaumes time is really willing to well, and they’re still heretical. They’re deeply heretical right now be severe or materialist culture, right? Maybe
Rick Archer: they may be more heretical now than they ever were. It’s just that, you know, we’re not going to be physically persecuted for holding them because we live in a different kind of society.
Dana Sawyer: Yeah, you might not get tenure.
Jeff Kripal: Well, that’s, yep. Yeah, I know.
Dana Sawyer: For young guys, you gotta be careful of that.
Rick Archer: And again, it’s because most people in our society live on the crust. It’s like people on a frozen pond arguing about what’s down under the ice, you know, without being able to swim down there and see for themselves or send down a camera or anything. So there’s all kinds of debates and wars, and you know, about what’s down there, or if anything’s down there at all. And so there’s just this dearth of experience. And but the mystics have been divers, they’ve been people who have, you know, plumb, plumb the depths of the pond to whatever degree they were able. And, you know, obviously, some of them come back with different stories, but there’s, I mean, yeah, it’s a lot of agreement.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I agree, Rick, The problem, of course, is that the Mystics are always outnumbered.
Rick Archer: They are but but the tables are turning, I think, you know, there’s like this epidemic thing going on.
Rick Archer: Like your optimism, Rick.
Rick Archer: I see it, you know, I mean, all the time, the old people I talked to, but a lot of those people are people who hadn’t even done any spiritual practices or anything they’re put tying their shoelaces one day, and all of a sudden, the heavens opened up and took them years to figure out what was going on. Eckhart Tolle is a famous example, you know, he was just depressed and almost suicidal and had had a little thought about, you know, who is it that I can’t live with next morning, woke up and everything was different. So there’s this kind of a mass awakening, as far as I can tell, I but you know, I’m not a historian. So I don’t know how common this might have been 1000 years ago, but it really seems to be happening now.
Rick Archer: Why share I share your optimism, Rick or your hope anyway. I, I mean, that’s why I do what I do. You know, I think each of us serves that, you know, in our own ways. I mean, that’s why I get up in the morning. I’m a little more jaded, I guess. I don’t know I you know, you turn on cable news and you get a very different take on things I
Dana Sawyer: well, you know, taking on this piece about trauma, creating breakthrough, you know, there’s the old saying that utopia and Apocalypse will coincide. That, you know, the trauma of driving ourselves to an environmental crisis of extreme proportions, maybe that’s going to be the trigger that breaks the cosmic egg open.
Rick Archer: That’s what Elizabeth Satara says, I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago, she is an evolution biologist. And she was she cited a number of examples of how crisis is a catalyst for rapid evolution, you know, examples from nature, of course, you don’t want thermonuclear war, that might be a bit of a setback. But, you know, just enough catalyst?
Rick Archer: Well, you know, I grew up in the 70s, probably like you guys, and that was the Navy or the Cold War. And I honestly, I grew up in Nebraska, surrounded by missile silos. And I honestly didn’t think I lived to see 40 I didn’t think we’d be here right now. So, you know, I mean, things are better now. I mean, people forget that even with all the 911 stuff. I mean, that was nothing like, you know, an exchange of 1000s of nuclear missiles. I mean, there’s just nothing like that. There’s no, there’s no, there’s not even any way to express the horror of that. And we’re not living with that fear now, at least, and
Dana Sawyer: what what gives me some real optimism is that we can have these conversations and that these conversations are common in my experience to Rick, you know, that there’s not a my trying to say, John, Nadia was talking about religion. And, and you talk about it, Jeff, in the excellent book, The America and the religion of no religion, that you’re not saying that. No religion in the sense of no dogmatic, hierarchical patriarchal, top down, get in line, little man kind of religion, that there’s a certain kind of set of non negotiables that have come out of American culture, like the sovereignty of individual choice, that I have my mind and I’ll make up my mind about what my spiritual journey is going to be, and who I should be paying attention to, you know, sometimes you get criticized for coming down hard on gurus, when people will say you don’t believe that people should follow gurus. And I say, No, I think you should have at least 25 gurus, you know, if you have lots of gurus, then they’re all going to tell the story differently. And their stories aren’t going to all line up with each other. And you’re going to have to make up your own mind. And you’re going to have to live with differences. And that’s going to be really healthy for your journey. That’s the way that I see it. And yeah, so I agree, you know, if you go to SLN, or if you go to omega Institute, a Kripalu today, people telling a lot of very different stories, and they don’t all line up with each other. But how wonderful that there are these venues. And, you know, Rick, I see, Buddha at the Gas Pump is one of those venues where the where the ideas can be explored, and people can talk very authentically with each other. And the viewer is really empowered to say you make up your mind, you know, I find a cause for optimism in that, that people are questioning the strict materialism of our culture. And, and that we’re not going back to a pre modern. Oh, okay, well, then I’m going to go to where metaphysics is allowed, which is the church of the synagogue. And those are my only options that no, they’re not, there are lots of options. So
Rick Archer: the way I put that Dana is comparative religion is not a multiple choice. Question. Right? Oh, I guess it was Hinduism. I guess it was Islam or whatever, whatever your ABC D is? No, it’s deeper than that. The honest and honest struggle with the questions today leads to new answers that don’t fit into any of the old boxes. Oh, the other thing i i Actually guys, I gotta go. But the thing, the thing, the thing I want to end with is, is something I always look for, and that is humor. I think we need more humor around this because I think humor is a humble form of transcendence. I think if you can’t laugh at your worldview, and your deepest held convictions, then that’s a dangerous sign. And, and so that’s what I always look for. I look for humor. And I think that’s in the traditions as well. You know, this trickster figure that keeps showing up everywhere. So Dana was getting Get this earlier with the real is weirder and trickier. And I guess you sneaky, sneaky. Sneaky. I mean, that’s that humor popping through. And that’s, that’s what I look for.
Rick Archer: Good. Well, you have to go. And so I’ll make concluding remarks. Before I do I just want to throw in one quick point on the optimism thing, which is that, you know, look, look at all the predictions of which, you know, we’re far exceeded by what eventually came to pass I mean predictions about 1950 About what computers might possibly become predictions in the mid-1800s, about what transportation might possibly become. I mean, there was a guy who said that, you know, we couldn’t go 40 miles an hour and a train that speed would kill us. You know, so there, people have a hard time envisioning the future. And you know, that’s why science fiction is so much fun. But, but generally speaking, people kind of have this late and aid assumption that the world as it is now is probably pretty much the way it’s always gonna be, and time and again, they’re proven wrong. So we could very well be on the verge of some kind of societal phase transition, that would be quite abrupt, and that would, you know, render the our world far more heavenly and delightful. Then what we’re seeing now.
Jeff Kripal: I’m with you, man, I’m with you. Yeah.
Dana Sawyer: I’m willing to hope that all right.
Rick Archer: So to make some concluding remarks, and thanks, thank you both very much for participating in this conversation. I’m really glad it worked out the way it did, and that we were able to include Dana. I’ve been speaking with Jeffrey J. Kripal, and Dana Sawyer. And I’ll include bios of them both on the page for this interview on on batgap.com Buddha at the Gas Pump. There, if you poke around on the site There you’ll also find an alphabetical list of all the interviews I’ve done a chronological list of all the interviews I’ve done. There, go into the other stuff menu and you’ll find some interesting stuff. There’s a Donate button, which I appreciate people clicking if they feel inclined, that makes it possible to do this show. There’s a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted. So feel free to do that. And there is a link to an audio podcasts so that you can just listen to the podcast not have to sit in front of your computer for a couple of hours every week. So again, thank you guys, and thanks to all who have been listening or watching. Next week, my guest will be Kristin Kirk, speaking of people who see subtle beings. She apparently sees them quite routinely and yet is very down to earth and genuine and has really been delightful to listen to over the last week or so cross country skiing in the woods, listening to her audios, getting ready for the interview. So look forward to that. So see you next week.