Thom Krystofiak – Buddha At The Gas Pump Interview Transcript

618 Thom Krystofiak – Buddha At The Gas Pump Interview

>>RICK: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people, and conversations about topics related to spirituality and science, and the whole thing. We’ve done about 617 of these now. So if this is new to you, and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it, and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website. And there’s also a page with other ways to donate if you don’t feel like using PayPal.

My guest today is an old friend, Thom Krystofiak. He lives here in Fairfield, Iowa, as I do. And I’ve always found Thom to be an interesting person. I never have had a chance – I’ll just address you directly – although I’ve known you for years, we’ve never really had a chance to talk at great length. I mean, we’ve run into each other at birthday parties maybe once or twice and started talking and then all of a sudden, it was cake time. Or we’re playing pickleball, and you can’t really talk much during that. So this will be the longest conversation we’ve ever had. And I’m really looking forward to it.

Thom wrote a book which I’ll show the cover up on the screen here, called Tempted To Believe: The Seductive Power of Claims About “The Truth.” The truth is in quotes. I listened to the entire book, and I would have listened to it a second time, but I ran out of time. It took 14 hours to listen to it the first time. But it’s a very impressive book. I could never have written anything like it. And you know, Thom holds a BA from Harvard, magna cum laude, and an MA from Cambridge University where he was a Knox Fellow, so I guess that’s how he learned how to write such a book. He trained as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation back in the 70s and moved to Fairfield in 1983, where he and his wife continue to live. And here he encountered a cornucopia of spiritual seekers. A rigorous and thoroughgoing skeptic surrounded by ready believers, he has developed unique perspectives on the eternal yet ever-new contest of doubt versus belief. So that’s mainly what we’re going to be talking about today. Before we start talking about that, Thom, is there anything you want to add to your biographical sketch that I just offered?

>>THOM: No, I think that’s probably good enough to get started.

>>RICK: Okay. So for starters, why don’t you kind of lay out your basic premise that you present in the book, and then we’ll use that as a springboard, and we’ll see where we’re going from there.

>>THOM: Good. If you’ll allow me just a few minutes I’ll try to put it all in in a nutshell, including a little bit of the context rather than just the thesis. I am by nature a deeply skeptical person. But that didn’t preclude me from being interested in and trying things that were significantly outside the conventional box. As you said, I was a practitioner of TM, I became a teacher of TM, moved here to this intentional community that was formed in Fairfield, Iowa with some few thousands of other people. I got involved in TM even though I was a skeptic, partly because there was scientific research that was being done for the first time on the practice. And that was intriguing to me. I stuck with it because I really liked the benefits. So we landed in this meditating community in Fairfield, Iowa in 1983. The people who came here, almost universally, subscribed to some fundamental beliefs. I could name just two of them. The fundamental ones would be that we were on a fast track to enlightenment, which was a clearly defined higher state of consciousness. And secondly, that by gathering in this large group and doing our meditations together, we would transform society, more or less utterly. Those were the things I think that most of us shared, and these beliefs are what brought us here in the first place. Then as time went on, I realized that I was surrounded by people who believed an enormously wide array of extraordinary things. You could say outlandish things in some cases, but certainly extraordinary. And among those were the idea that human beings could learn to levitate, could fly through the air; that Vedic Astrology was a perfect system to predict the future and to prevent dangers that were coming; that you could propitiate entities, which were essentially deities or laws of nature, whatever you want to call them, by doing ancient practices that could again ward off all kinds of dangers, health and otherwise in your life; that it was an absolute necessity almost, that you live in a certain type of home that had perfect proportions and was oriented exactly in the same way. Otherwise, there’d be serious consequences to your health and your success, and so forth. These kinds of things.

>>RICK: We might add that, when we first learned TM, none of those things were mentioned. Not that they were being withheld, but Maharishi just hadn’t started talking about them yet. And then they kind of rolled out one after another.

>>THOM: That’s right. And we should also add, in case people don’t know, that none of these things are required beliefs in any way to practice TM, to get the full benefit of the meditation. So that someone who believes absolutely none of them, which is me for instance, still tremendously enjoys and values the meditation practice. They’re completely distinct things. But the point is that the things that I just listed were not just individual beliefs that some people happened to hold in this community, they were more or less officially embraced by the leaders of the TM organization. So it was a real thing – those are the more or less official beliefs. On top of that, what happened in this town is that it became a kind of magnet for spiritual teachers, gurus, healers, psychics of all kinds, who came to visit, give presentations, run seminars, because there was a hungry audience here for all of those things. And so many, many individualized beliefs that were way beyond the ones that I already listed became pretty prevalent, especially in the earlier days. So here I was, as a skeptic, someone who had learned TM and valued it, and in fact was tempted to believe some of the more extraordinary claims, at least for a while. But then I found myself in a position where I did not believe any of these outlandish or extraordinary claims, and yet I was surrounded by people who almost universally did.

>>RICK: Would this be a good time to ask you, why you are a skeptic? I mean, have you always been one as long as you can remember? Or did it somehow crop up during your teenage years?

>>THOM: Exactly, the teenage years. I was raised Catholic. I believed just because you tend to believe the things that you’re raised with, at least when you’re a child. I went to Catholic schools through high school, where the teachers were Jesuits. The Jesuits were very liberal Catholic teachers and priests, and they believed in the intellect, and they also trusted in their Catholic beliefs so that you could be exposed to intellectual inquiry and still maintain the proper beliefs. That didn’t happen with me, as I got exposed to intellectual inquiry. I remember that one of the priests in a theology class in high school introduced us to Sigmund Freud and his book, The Future of an Illusion, where he laid out how religion was all basically an illusion, a psychological projection. And that made a tremendous amount of sense to me and was the first step for me in solidifying a skeptical attitude. It was just a natural process, and it developed from there. But it hasn’t been a clear trajectory. As I said, I definitely was tempted to believe, and essentially probably did believe at least to a certain extent, some of these extraordinary claims that I mentioned before. So I was skeptical by nature, but also open to some of these things. But then as time went on, as I explored more deeply – here’s what happened. I was surrounded by believers of all different kinds. And these were people who are intelligent. These are my friends and associates, intelligent people, well-educated people, successful people, not crazy people that believe these things, which are truly extraordinary. And,

>>RICK: Yeah, not only the things you mentioned, but you said you have a friend who believes that Ascended Masters, and sometimes Jesus and Mother Mary are on the board of directors of their company.

>>THOM: That’s right, exactly. You could go on forever. The details are just mind-blowing. And so I’m surrounded by these people. And some of the beliefs were so outlandish that they didn’t cause a ripple in me. But the fact that so many of my friends and associates believed in so many of these things, gave me some pause. I wanted to know – am I missing something really important here that these people have accepted? Why am I – the way I put it is – why was I inoculated so strongly against the uptake of these kinds of extraordinary beliefs? And if by chance, I felt that I would gain some benefit from believing as these others did, is there some way to foster beliefs like these, given that I was so skeptical by my orientation? So that was the impetus for me setting out on this book project.

I did a tremendous amount of reading in religion and spirituality and the New Age and philosophy and psychology, to exercise my mind about the questions that I just laid out. I wanted to be open to the different sides and see what fell out. What fell out was a growing, and a deeper, maybe a more mature skepticism on my part. And this was a 10-year process when I was, on the side, working on this book. And so a lot of time passed for this maturation, but at the same time, we found during that period of time leading up to now, developments in society which are extremely disturbing. And the way I might characterize the ones I’m talking about is a readiness to believe things without good grounding and evidence. And we’ve seen that social media has become a tool for professional trolls, and troublemakers. What they are doing is instilling belief, rather easily, in the people that they’re targeting. They’re very skilled at it. And the beliefs they are instilling are kind of tearing up the fabric of our political discourse. We’ve seen a rise in conspiracy theories. We have, at the moment, the anti-vax movement, which does include some conspiracy theories, as you know, including such things as the claim that you’re injecting a little chip into your body, or that Bill Gates created COVID so that he could get rich, and these kinds of things – that end up with people, for a variety of reasons, being reluctant to get vaccinated. We have QAnon, which is in my mind a tremendously dangerous, and completely outlandish set of beliefs. I have to wonder – how could anyone believe these things? And yet so many people do. We have I think the strong majority of Republicans in this country believing that Donald Trump won the election and it was stolen from him and he is actually the legitimate president. This is dangerous stuff, you know. There’s no evidence for any of the things that I just said. But people strongly believe them. They believe them for other reasons than evidence. And you also have people denying the claim that we have a climate crisis. And they usually do that for reasons that are not grounded in evidence but are grounded in something else.

>>RICK: I should just add that I really admire your climate activism. You’re one of the main spokespeople here in town on that issue, and you’ve gone and gotten yourself arrested at protests and things like that. So I applaud you.

>>THOM: Thank you. Yeah, there are dangerous things going on in society that all hinge to one extent or another on people believing something because the belief works for them in some way, it satisfies some sort of psychological need, it makes them feel part of a group. And it just sort of feels right. You could go on and on about the reasons why people end up believing things that are not grounded in good solid evidence. And I do see some kind of a connection between the kinds of beliefs that I spoke about earlier, that have been very strong in this community – or you could include many of the religious and spiritual beliefs that exist in society at large – and this disturbing trend in our society and in our culture. The question comes down to: what makes you feel justified in believing this thing that you believe? Do you actually have a good grounding? Or are you believing it for certain emotional, psychological, and other reasons that don’t necessarily hold up and can be very dangerous?

>>RICK: Yeah, well, that’s a good summary. And all of that is really important to me, too. Especially since the pandemic started, I’ve spent countless hours listening to the Conspirituality podcast, and another one called QAnon Anonymous, reading lots of articles. I have a whole file I could send you if I haven’t already, listing articles in which spiritual groups and communities have been particularly infested with beliefs like QAnon. They seem to be perhaps more susceptible to them than the average public, I don’t know for sure, but they’ve definitely caught fire in certain spiritual communities. I have friends in Sedona who said that maybe 75% of the spiritual types there were into QAnon, and voting accordingly, and so on. So that had really caught my interest. And I’ve been really wondering why this is, and I’ll state a brief conclusion, and then you can elaborate on it. There’s historical precedent to support this, that developing critical thinking skills is as important on the spiritual path as anything else you might do – any meditation you might do or whatever. And some spiritual traditions really emphasize this. And I think in contemporary spirituality, a lot of people have neglected that sort of development and have made themselves vulnerable to believing all kinds of strange things. I think I may have told you this in an email, but I was walking in the park one day, and I ran into an old friend and his wife. For some reason, we happened to mention the Derecho, which was this powerful storm that blew through Iowa last summer and did over a billion dollars’ worth of damage. And she said, “Oh, yeah, the Derecho, that was caused by some Pleiadians”. I said, “What?” She said, “Yeah, some people came from the Pleiades and made that storm happen to punish us for having CAFOs – hog confinements”. I thought – Okay.

>>THOM: They’re monitoring us very closely.

>>RICK: Anyway, that’s kind of an absurd example. But, why don’t you riff on the thought that I just put out there?

>>THOM: I have a number of comments about that. First of all, Rick, I truly admire the way you combine a genuine interest in critical thinking with your interest in spirituality and spiritual experience. I think that’s a fantastic thing. And unfortunately, I’m also aware, as you just described, that there have been a number of reports about the congruence, or the connection, between people who accept various spiritual or New Age ideas, and those who go out and take on these other tremendously outlandish and even dangerous beliefs. I’ve seen articles about places where you have large numbers of yoga practitioners – you might think yoga should just be a physical process, and to a large extent it is for some people, it’s a physical process of encouraging their health and flexibility and all that. But it typically goes along with some other spiritual ideas, and even some extraordinary ideas. And so you can find correlations in very strong yoga communities with the kind of beliefs that you mentioned, QAnon and other conspiracies. So there is, I think, some kind of a link there. We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We know what the bathwater is, in this case, that we would like to get rid of, if it were at all possible, which is the dangerous and divisive and sometimes rather crazy beliefs that people are connecting to. We’d love to find a way that a lot of that could be eliminated through better critical thinking. But we don’t want to throw out the spiritual experiences and values that people have. Unfortunately, there’s a correlation going on. And that’s what’s difficult to tease apart. You know, someone like you and many others can maintain a strong interest in your own spiritual experience and in pursuing all of these ideas and hypotheses in the spiritual realm and still keep critical thinking lively. I don’t have the statistics – I don’t know what percentage of people can do that. It’s a somewhat tricky thing to do. It seems to be more common for human beings to go one way or the other, either to be attracted to and connecting with all kinds of beliefs or to be a skeptic or a critical thinker. Combining the two is rare. And that’s obviously what we would need, moving toward.

>>RICK: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you how I do it. First of all, you know that I believe in a lot of things that you don’t, but when I use the word belief, I hold it lightly – it’s more like hypothesis. And of all the things you mentioned, and many other things we could mention, it’s never for me 0% or 100%, it’s somewhere along the spectrum. There are certain things that I feel that there’s a lot of evidence for, and we can discuss this, like people having near-death experiences, or out of body experiences and experiencing things that are verifiable, but that would be hard to explain. I’m open to all kinds of things. But at the same time, I don’t feel like my whole self-worth or spiritual progress, or anything else hangs on believing them. Some people might feel, well, if I don’t believe such and such, I’ll go to hell, or I’ll be doomed or I’ll never get enlightened or whatever. I just don’t feel like it’s necessary to think that way. And, in fact, I think that as one progresses on the spiritual path, it’s – who was it, there was a spiritual teacher in Buddhism centuries ago named Padma Sun Bhava, and he said “although my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour.” And what he meant by karma is his behavior, his actions, the precision and non-sloppiness of his behavior. So, somehow, I think, you have to keep balancing your spiritual experience as it deepens with all your other faculties of intellect and discrimination and heart, and so on, in order to become really a holistically or well-developed human being. And if you don’t do that, we’ve seen many examples of people getting very out of balance. Ken Wilber uses the term “lines of development” and, he points out that one can become quite well-advanced along certain lines, and yet very stunted in others, and this can lead to dangerous consequences in terms of their behavior and their influence on students.

>>THOM: Yeah, well, there’s a lot in what you just said, as usual. One thing I wanted to put into the conversation is this: we talked about spiritual experience and respecting that. To me, there’s a really critical distinction between an experience that somebody has, and a claim about the nature of reality. So in my view, you can have the most astounding inner experiences of any kind, about anything, just overwhelming, illuminating. And that actually happened in the space of your awareness, somehow. But there’s a great temptation, I believe, in many people, perhaps most, when they encounter something like that, to see what they can build out of that. They will build a theory or a belief – in many cases, it’s an actual full-formed belief. It’s not just a hypothesis, it’s not just an idea. One says, “well, I experienced this, therefore the universe is like this. The universe works like this, the world works like this.” If I experienced something that seemed to be an angelic being in my awareness, therefore, angels exist, and they interact with individual humans, and maybe they appear or look like this or have these characteristics. It’s the leap from something that happened internally to us to a conclusion, whether a firm conclusion or a somewhat less firm conclusion about how reality definitely is outside of one’s awareness.  That is a gigantic leap that is difficult to justify, in my view.

>>RICK: Yeah. I think a lot of what you would call “off-grid beliefs,” especially ones involving so-called subtle perceptions that one person might have and others don’t share, depend to a certain extent on how common such things are in society. So let’s say you and I are walking down the street and you and I see the maple tree, and you say, Yep, I see it. See the stop sign? Yep, see that. Oh, there goes a squirrel. You see that? Yes, I see the squirrel. But let’s say I say, there’s some angels clustered around that person over there. Maybe their guardian angels. And you say, well, I don’t see that. Now, what if it were to come to pass that a significant percentage of people in society developed the ability to see such things, and they actually concurred in what they saw? So that you had a group of a dozen people walking down the street, and they all – or you could do some kind of double-blind experiment where they had to report independently of one another, what they had seen, and they were actually in agreement. Then one would have to wonder how that worked.

>>THOM: Well, exactly, Rick. Your statement there -“you’d have to wonder how that worked” – I totally agree with that. That’s an excellent inquiry. The problem in my mind with most of these off-grid claims – by the way, I use the word “off-grid” in my book about claims that are not well substantiated by evidence, by scientific evidence, or in fact that might contradict the entire corpus of science. I didn’t want to use the word “outlandish” too much, because that’s a bit pejorative in some people’s minds. So I used the phrase “off-grid beliefs.” It’s a totally excellent inquiry to say, what could be going on here? What could possibly be causing this? The problem is that answering that question is extremely difficult. Even if you gather bunches of reports like you said, maybe there’s 1000 people and they all independently reported these angels on the corner. Or you get Ian Stevenson, with his reincarnation studies, interviewing some thousands of people around the world. Not all of them are really strong cases, but some of them seem strong. So you say, well, what does that mean? And then you attempt to make a conclusion. And some of the conclusions seem more reasonable than others. But in a lot of cases, with these off-grid experiential reports, it’s difficult to make a firm conclusion, that you can actually get your arms around in any sort of scientific way. Let’s say there’s somebody who reports that they have some precognition or that they can read your mind. And maybe there’s a little study done, and it seems like something’s going on. Usually, those studies produce relatively small effects in any given case, although if you take the whole shebang, you can statistically turn it into something more significant. But it’s difficult to come up with any sort of really clear, crisp, scientific hypothesis about what’s going on. You might say, well, I think this makes it clear that there’s some kind of disembodied consciousness. And that’s pretty vague and pretty generalized. But that’s almost all you can do in some of those cases. It’s not like it leads to a highly detailed description like you get in physics, where people come up with the most outrageous ideas, but then they’re subject to highly detailed and specific testing, to try to verify whether the idea is actually holding up in the real world. And it’s difficult to do that in the realm of subjective experience.

>>RICK: It is. And, you know, I’m very appreciative of the fact that the scientific method came along. It was a big improvement over the Middle Ages, where all kinds of crazy stuff was believed, and people were being killed and tortured for suggesting anything to the contrary. Obviously, science has had a huge impact on our world. But it’s not necessarily the be-all and end-all of the human quest for knowledge. And it may not be the ultimate means of gaining knowledge, although it’ll probably always be a critical component of it. And you know, I’m a big fan of Thomas Kuhns’ book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and I can still explain the whole thing he laid out in that book. I gave a talk a few years ago, at the Science and Non-Duality conference, about the relationship between science and spirituality. I presented the notion that they complement and supplement each other, that science can prevent spirituality from going off the rails into woo-woo land, as we’ve been discussing. And also it can help to verify certain things that spirituality posits. And on the other hand, spirituality might provide tools for exploring realms of reality that science lacks the tools to do. But then the trouble is, and this gets to what you’re just saying, that these tools primarily involve the human nervous system. And whereas in true scientific experiments, conventional ones, you publish a study, and you explain exactly what equipment you used, and exactly what your methodologies were, so that other people can replicate that study. But with spirituality, every single instrument is different. And each person is having certain subjective experiences that are colored by that instrument, their nervous system. And so I can’t see that it could ever be standardized, or made objective to the extent that conventional scientific exploration has been. And yet, I still think it holds the promise of enabling us to learn more about the universe than we could without it, without such spiritual technologies.

>>THOM: Yeah, I should say, just to make it make it clear, that I do not deny the possibility of many of these potential paranormal possibilities, whether it be life after death, whether it be psychokinesis, whether it be telepathy, whether it be near-death experiences. I don’t rule them out. I’m very interested in, and I spent a fair amount of time reading about them. I’m intrigued, and I absolutely enjoy exploring all that. What Mark Gober tended to do, what he did primarily in his book An End to Upside Down Thinking, was to assemble a powerful list or description of different things that are outside the scientific materialistic paradigm and say, “Well, look at this – this was found, this was found, this was found, this was found.” He didn’t choose to present what I might call a more balanced view of those investigations. Because there are plenty of powerful voices on the other side of those claims in the scientific world. And of course, one can discount the skeptics if one wants, and say, “Well, they’re trapped in their materialistic paradigm. What else could they say?” But that’s a little bit glib. So there’s a real debate, you know, that can be had about these things. Again, I don’t discount them as possibilities. I do hold them as very small possibilities at this point, in my worldview. That may change someday and that would be wonderful. I would love to see an alien craft land in the parking lot here and have an alien emerge. I’d love to be blown away by something that’s coming from out of the ordinary of any kind. I invite that. People used to be afraid to invite certain things, because God might strike them down. “God, strike me down if I ever say this.” But I invite these things into my life. So far, they don’t come. That’s not to say that no spiritual experiences come. But those are subjective for me, they don’t lead to definite claims about how this world that we live in operates. Although, certainly, I, like probably almost everyone, have had some fairly remarkable experiences that seemed too much of a coincidence to be just random, something that looked like precognition or looked like some kind of strange manipulation of the physical world. And they’re very wonderful and very impressive, but I can’t put them together yet, in any way to make a statement about how the world works.

>>RICK: You applied for a pass to the national parks or something, and then you forgot all about it. And six months later, you thought about it, and the very next day, a letter came about it?

>>THOM: That’s right. You’ve got an amazing memory, Rick. Yeah, it was eight months. I hadn’t thought about it for eight months. Then one day I thought about it out of the blue – “how come I never got this pass?” And in the mailbox the next morning was a letter from them saying, Oh, your credit card didn’t go through. So just fix that. And then we’ll give you a pass. Now that was just really fun and really remarkable. But I don’t know what it means. And I’m quite happy to say I don’t know what it means. Others are happy to say, well, maybe we don’t know exactly what it means, but we’ve got a good idea what it means – that consciousness is nonlocal, and it’s all correlated, and all kinds of things are messages and information that are being passed around. That’s a hypothesis. You brought up the word hypothesis a couple of times, Rick. Rather than calling a lot of your orientations “beliefs,” you consider them more like hypotheses that you’re inclined to agree with. There is an interesting continuum as to where one stands, whether or not one is sure about things. Many, many people are sure that they know such and such about the universe and how it works, or how God works, or how QAnon works, how Q works.

>>RICK: Q by the way, turned out to be a father and son duo in the Philippines. The father was formerly running some porn websites in Japan and also owned a pig farm in the Philippines. The son is kind of a psychedelic stoner heavily into video games. But anyway, they own the 8-chan server in which the Q drops were posted. And it’s quite strongly evident that they were QAnon, and millions of people fell for their little game that they were playing anyway.

>>THOM: Well, I do have to say, Rick, that if Q – if one of the two Q’s – want to own a pig farm, then the Pleiadeans are gonna be after them. They’re gonna be after them with a big wind of some kind. But anyway, some people believe things absolutely. White supremacy, QAnon conspiracies, Trump, God, angels, whatever. Then there are people somewhere in between who take on a more nuanced position of, “well, this is a hypothesis that seems to be working for me, it seems to be congruent with the things that I’m trying to explain.” And that’s perfectly respectable, in my mind. What kind of gets under my skin is when I hear people talking about these off-grid or extraordinary things as if they were absolutely and clearly the truth. You know, they’re talking about them in a factual way.

>>RICK: I absolutely never do that.

>>THOM: Yeah. Don’t you? And then you get a whole bunch of other nuances. I have a friend who is, again, a very intelligent, educated guy who, from time to time, will do numerological readings with friends or people that he knows. And he’s very good at that kind of thing because of the way he can interact with people and so forth. And I was just talking to him the other day, and I said, So, do you actually believe in this? (You know, numerology is this idea that, that if you take the letters of your name and turn them into numbers, so if you took Rick Archer and turned those letters into individual numbers, that final sum will say a whole bunch of important things about you. And in that sense, it’s not so different from astrology, where you take geometric or numerical figures about where planets are against the pattern of the stars, then you boil that down, and you turn it into some chart values, and it will tell you very important things about you and your future. There are many things that are like that.) And I said to my friend, Do you actually believe that those numbers – and it’s not just your name, it’s almost anything about you – actually contain this rich trove of information? And he said – “No. But I find that it’s a valuable tool to explore with.” And I have a hard time getting my mind around that. I said, “Well, what if you pulled out a Ouija board? And you and your friend are moving the Ouija board around, and you’re telling him, OK, yep, we’re getting a message here. You’re encouraging him to believe that you’re getting an actual message from God knows where.” And even if you, as the guy who pulled out the board, don’t actually believe that a Ouija board will produce a message from somewhere – whether it be your own higher self or some being, who knows – nevertheless, the act of doing that with someone else is encouraging them in various ways, to accept that there is information here that’s coming across. Or if you do the I-Ching with someone, you might feel “Well, I don’t actually believe that these coins are somehow conveying actual embodied information. But it’s a very interesting and useful tool to explore things with this person.” But by doing it with the person, they may be encouraged to think, wow, yeah, the I-Ching told me, or my chart told me, or the numerology told me something important. So even with people who personally say – “well, no, I don’t literally believe that – but it’s a useful tool” – it tends to, I think, have a ripple effect, in many of the people they serve, to encourage an acceptance of these things as literal truths. This is what I’m concerned about, the accepting of these things as truths. I’m not concerned about people who are truly open and exploring and don’t absolutely know what the answer is about these imponderables. But I’m concerned about the very large number of people who’ve become encouraged to open themselves to ideas, claims, beliefs that are in fact not necessarily grounded at all. Sam Harris put it a bit too strongly when he said that what we’re finding is an as an encouragement of “a taste for the irrational.” Now, it’s not necessarily irrational to believe that precognition might exist. I wouldn’t call it irrational. I would call it going beyond the evidence. You could say, “well, opening up is a good thing, right? It’s good for us all to be open.” I find people opening themselves – giving themselves more leeway to do things, say things and believe things without a strong enough basis.

>>RICK: I have a few thoughts on that. First, since you mentioned Sam Harris, I have a quote for you from him. He said, “I don’t know if our universe is, as JBS Haldane said, not only stranger than we suppose but stranger than we can suppose.” Now, Sam again speaking, “but I am sure that it is stranger than we as atheists tend to represent while advocating atheism.” So Sam seems to display a little bit of wiggle room in terms of admitting that there might be more going on than he as an atheist tends to advocate. And we’ll talk about that more later. But there’s one thing about the spiritual enterprise, spiritual people, that by its very nature it’s an exploration of things that are commonly hidden from ordinary perception or from public knowledge. Right? And so we are exploring, when we meditate, something that we hadn’t experienced before we learned to meditate, and other people don’t generally experience. So we kind of get this feeling – I say “we” but there are obviously exceptions – we get this feeling of “Well, there are actually truths that are hidden from view, that’s what spiritual truths are supposed to be.” And then it’s not a big leap from there to think, or to say, well, this thing is said to be hidden, therefore, it must be true. And then to open yourself up to all kinds of things, you know, like Bill Gates is trying to put microchips in us or that George Bush orchestrated the 911 event. People can put forward all these ideas, and people tend to be susceptible to them, because they’re hidden, and therefore there must be something to it – the cabal and the Illuminati and all that kind of stuff. And there’s a third point. You know how it works with cult indoctrination or brainwashing, you don’t just flip into it in a moment, it’s incremental. One thing leads to the next, and you don’t come out of it instantly, either. When people come out of a cult, it’s usually a whole process of clarifying their thinking once again and examining assumptions and beliefs that had become very deeply ingrained. Things are incremental, like the old frog in the heating water analogy, which I hate, because I wouldn’t ever throw a frog into boiling water. But you know how that analogy goes, the frog will die because it doesn’t notice the water is getting warmer. Whereas if you throw a frog into boiling water, it jumps right out. I don’t like the analogy. But in any case, that’s the point. And so, you and I might encounter something that seems totally bizarre, like the Pleiadeans causing the Derecho, and just find it laughable. But someone who has incrementally gone down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of believing improbable things can be so deep into that way of thinking that nothing seems improbable. They’ll be open to almost any idea that pops into their heads or that someone presents them with

>>THOM: Yeah, well, I agree that the idea of things being hidden can have a certain mystique or allure. You may have encountered something that was hidden and was very impressive to you. And so that kind of transfers over and…

>>RICK: Then you’re kind of in the in-group also, because you’re in on the secret knowledge that most people don’t realize – the “sheeple” don’t get it.

>>THOM: Yeah, and it’s not just that things are hidden. There are so many other factors that glom together to make these beliefs attractive. It’s hidden or esoteric knowledge. It’s also satisfying for one reason or another, like you said, being in the in-group, or if you’re going to believe that Trump is what he says he is…

>>RICK: He’s a fifth-dimensional lightworker.

>>THOM: Yeah. So it satisfies you. It’s as if he were some sort of bizarre action hero, so that getting behind him satisfies you. But everything has its own satisfaction. Not only do spiritual experiences or insights often have a somewhat hidden quality to them, they also have these other qualities that are satisfying in an intimate way. They feel right, you know? And you start emphasizing things that feel right, or seem right, or it seems like things should be this way, or they fit in with other things that I like to believe. Those are also characteristics of some inner experiences and beliefs. And that transfers to our cultural milieu, where we have people being attracted to all of these other more problematic and dangerous beliefs that are characterizing society right now, for some of the same qualitative reasons. They feel right.

It’s rare that someone who accepts some QAnon or anti-Vax conspiracy theory, it’s rare that they will look deeply, as deeply as they can, into the strongest evidence they can find. For a lot of people, it’s a much more immediate, almost knee-jerk thing where they say, yeah, that sounds right. Because there are those big pharma people, or those Socialists, behind things – it just clicks into all of these subjective feelings – “yeah, that feels right, that sounds right, that makes sense.”

>>RICK: Even these people you mentioned have rejected the legitimacy of those who are actually capable of providing the evidence, who have actually spent a billion dollars on the research, including these huge samplings and control groups and so on, And so once you reject, basically, the mainstream – you know, science works by consensus – once you reject the consensus understanding or evidence, then you don’t have any anchor. I mean, you’re adrift in belief-world, belief-ocean.

>>THOM: Part of the problem is that those people who are promulgating certain conspiracy theories, let’s say, the 911 truthers for instance, have gotten very good at trying to emulate a scientific backup for their beliefs. So they don’t just get out there and start ranting and saying, “Well, yeah, obviously, these reptiles in human form are doing all this.” They will try to be rigorous. They emulate rigor by bringing in some experts. You can always find a Ph.D. or an engineer or somebody in any field who will subscribe to any given belief. That’s absolutely the case.

>>RICK: The creation Museum, which believes the earth is 6000 years old has a few geologists, so to speak.

>>THOM: Yes, yes, of course. And so you’ve lined these people up in the same way as if you have a documentary that is actually science-based. You emulate that. And that makes it all the more difficult for people to avoid the belief if they are attracted to it because they don’t have to think that they’re turning their back on all of science. They figure, I’m not turning my back on science – scientists are in this documentary, you know, so scientists believe this. This makes it all the more insidious and difficult to separate well-grounded beliefs from others. It makes it hard for everyone, because people will get better and better at finding ways to encourage us to believe, as we saw in the 2020 election, where the troll farms in Eastern Europe figured out some very powerful ways to insinuate themselves into Facebook and other media to shift people’s beliefs. It’s a matter of using the technology. So we’re up against a formidable foe and the answer has to be more nuanced and grounded critical thinking that’s part of our education in our culture than it is today. How we get there exactly is a very difficult question.

>>RICK: And to play devil’s advocate to our own point, and in defense of people’s mistrust of science, I was just listening to a video this morning in which the guy was talking about how when the cigarette industry realized that cigarettes do actually cause cancer, they had a meeting and an ad agency came in and they concocted a campaign to make people think that it was still a question worthy of debate, and for 40 years, they carried on that charade, killing a lot of people in the process. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals was recently sued by the Department of Justice for over a billion dollars for some kind of fraudulent advertising about some drug, not a COVID vaccine but one of their other products. So these people don’t have a pristine track record. And it is important to be skeptical, or not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not black and white, but one has to figure out what the actuality is of any given claim.

>>THOM: Right, and we have to distinguish between corporations like the tobacco industry, or like Exxon Mobil in the case of the climate, who have a very clear vested interest in putting out a particular kind of story and being very successful in trying to convince people of their story. They want us to doubt the growing scientific research.  We must distinguish the monetarily motivated corporations – who are not only going for their own survival but their own success – from the independent consensus of science, that is accumulating real evidence. In the case of tobacco, the real science won out. In the case of climate change, there’s been a great deal of revelation about how Exxon Mobil and others have followed the same playbook exactly, and in fact, used some of the same people. They say to themselves – OK, we’ve got to move public opinion and public belief in our direction. But they’re bucking science. They’re bucking the serious science all the way. And hopefully, in the end, the serious science will win out, as it is already doing in the case of climate change, and as it has in the case of tobacco.

>>RICK: But try to convince half of Congress of that.

>>THOM: I know. Again, you have obviously intelligent people – I just give them the benefit of the doubt that these guys are intelligent, they’re well educated, they’re mostly lawyers, you know, they’re successful in the world. And they’re committed to all kinds of strange and dangerous things like climate denial.

>>RICK: If you don’t have a thought at the top of your head right now, I have a couple of questions that have come in. Okay, so here’s one from Marie in Colorado, she is asking, do you accept the conclusions of quantum mechanics? And if so, has this in any way presented a challenge to your materialist paradigm?

>>THOM: Thank you. Let’s talk for a moment about materialism. I don’t have a complete materialist paradigm. Often there’s going to be a distinction between the materialist and the spiritual, right? I mean, what is the opposite of materialist?

>>RICK: It usually boils down to people who think that matter is fundamental, and that consciousness arises from it from the functioning of the brain. And the other end, including people like Mark Gober, flip it the other way around, and say – and he’s just summarizing a lot of other people – that consciousness is fundamental, and matter somehow arises from it.

>>THOM: Right. That’s one way to make the distinction. And that’s a very interesting way, to focus on consciousness itself. But you can ask, is quantum field theory itself materialistic? Quantum physicists are talking about the interactions of things that we call matter. But they are describing that in terms of fields, strictly in terms of fields, not in terms of what we consider material objects. Matter can show up as particles, but quantum field theory, by its name, is the view that essentially it’s all a wave function, the entire universe, in a sense, is all one gigantic wave function. And there are these remarkable, you could call them ghostly or bizarre, interactions and fluctuations, that are pervading the universe according to mainstream physics. And to call that materialist is interesting. I’m not saying that the person asking the question is calling quantum physicists materialists. But I’m certainly in line or feel comfortable and good about all of the discoveries of quantum field theory and quantum mechanics that I am able to understand.

>>RICK: Now, you’re probably aware of that Max Planck quote, right? I’ll show it on the screen here. He said “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Of course, Max Planck was one of the founders of quantum mechanics. He also happened to say that science progresses one funeral at a time.

>>THOM: Right. Well, it’s always interesting when you take a little snippet like that quote from Max Planck. You know, Einstein has been quoted by religious believers because he will occasionally use the word God, and he wrote a book called Cosmic Religion. But if you drill into Einstein, you’ll find that he’s using those words in a very, very different way from the typical usage and that he was enthralled with what he would call the order and intelligence of the universe. He’s just enthralled by it. And you could say, Well, isn’t that God? And he would say, No, it’s certainly not God in any conventional sense of a being who has an interest in us and watches over us or anything like that. But certainly, he believed that there was order and intelligence in the universe, which, any physicist would. Because otherwise, what are they studying?

>>RICK: I keep saying that, in that little email exchange we’ve been having with these guys, that I’m not arguing for the Abrahamic conception of God, like some guy with a big beard at a switchboard twiddling dials. I’m saying it’s the order and intelligence that pervades the universe. to paraphrase what you just said about Einstein.

>>THOM: Yeah, so with Max Planck, I don’t know the full context of either that quote or his other related ideas. But when he’s talking about consciousness being primary, it’s certainly conceivable to me that what he is talking about is a similar thing to what Einstein is talking about when he says, God does not play dice with the universe. He doesn’t mean that normal conception of God, he means that the orderly laws of nature, the intelligence that is embodied in those laws, is not just probabilistic. But Max Planck, when he’s using the word consciousness, may be doing the same thing, saying, What’s primary to everything is this underlying substratum of intelligence of some kind, or orderliness. When you use the word intelligence, it tends to have connotations in our mind of some kind of a being, because the only things that we’re aware of that have intelligence in so high a degree are humans. There’s some degree of intelligence in apes and other mammals, in certain kinds of birds, and you go down the line.

>>RICK: That’s where I differ. It doesn’t connote that to me. I don’t think of a being as off in some corner that’s really intelligent, that’s somehow intervening from a distance. I think of it as a field like we were talking about earlier. But it’s not just the field of energy or something, it’s actually that this orderliness is somehow intrinsic to a field of intelligence. And that’s how everything manages to function as it does. That’s obviously a very hypothetical speculative statement, which we could spend an hour talking about. But I just want to give you my perspective.

>>THOM: Yeah. I don’t know how it’s that different from some physicists saying that the universe is pervaded by, or on a ground of, an amazing, even mathematical order, which you could call intelligence. But, when I said that intelligence connotes in most people’s minds a being, I didn’t mean to say that it would do that in your mind – but we’re so used to the word intelligence being connected with beings, that when we say the universe is intelligent, then it’s so easy for people to imagine some kind of a being, in one way or another. And that’s okay, but what Max Planck was really saying there, I don’t know. But it’s obviously an absolutely critical question – what is fundamental? What we’re calling consciousness, or material, or matter, or the brain – but you know, to call it consciousness, also, I think, has a similar connotation as it does when we call it intelligent, because the only things that we are usually aware of that are conscious are other beings. This microphone in front of me, I do not believe it’s conscious in any way that I would think of consciousness, whereas you are, and so when we say the universe is conscious, or is consciousness, again, that has a subjective connotative sense of some kind of being even though you might not want to go there. It’s hard to think about consciousness in a disembodied state that is not somehow embodied in some kind of an entity.

>>RICK: There’s several things we could play with in there. I believe I have read, it might have been in Phil Goldberg’s book, American Veda, that Max Planck, and a lot of the physicists of his generation, were into reading the Upanishads and things like that. And, you know, that could have influenced their thinking. But anyway, you’re just saying it’s hard to think of consciousness in anything other than in some kind of embodied state. And I don’t know if we can even resolve that question and discuss it very intelligently. But maybe consciousness doesn’t exist as such until there’s some kind of something that can be conscious, even if it’s at a very fundamental primordial level. But maybe we could leave that for now. Unless you want to drill into it more.

>>THOM: No, we’ll just leave it for now. I wanted to say something about the Sam Harris quote you brought in. You suggested that he was implying that atheism, as we normally understand it, is not necessarily fully representing or grappling with some of the aspects of reality. I think that this is exactly what he was saying there, and it was written in an essay which was examining in a critical way the common idea of what atheism is – that it is highly reductive and in a sense anti-spiritual. And this comes back to the questioner – because the common idea of atheism is that it’s completely materialist. But Sam Harris is not a thoroughgoing materialist if you want to say that materialism discounts spirituality.

>>RICK: Now, he’s a dedicated spiritual practitioner

>>THOM: He is absolutely very dedicated to the spiritual life. But he is a great example of someone who walks the talk. In other words, he is a practitioner and an explorer of consciousness and spirituality in his own life, and he helps others to do the same. In fact, that’s one of his great interests. And yet, he never, to my knowledge, crosses over to making a claim about the nature of reality that somehow falls out from his spiritual practice or his spiritual experiences. I think he believes that his spiritual practices and his spiritual experiences are something that enhance his own personal life in profound ways. And so he will continue to do them just like I will continue to practice Transcendental Meditation, regardless of my skeptical beliefs about all kinds of related claims. And that’s because it has an enriching value from my experience. So I think Harris’s spirituality is a critical part of his life and very valuable, but it doesn’t result in conclusions like “Hey, this must mean that that consciousness is infinite, and it was the precursor of the universe.” He just doesn’t feel any need to go there.

>>RICK: Yeah, I think that the argument for consciousness being infinite and the precursor of the universe or some such thing, the way to defend that argument is that if it actually is that, let’s say, let’s suppose for a moment that is that, and that, if it’s the essential nature of everything, then it’s the essential nature of what we are. And if we can get so clear as to recognize that as our essential nature, essentially by merging with it, then we shift our perspective from the little peephole of individuality trying to dimly discern what’s going on down deep in the fundamentals of creation, like people sitting on a frozen pond trying to see the fish through the ice. We shift from that to actually being that reality. And knowing ourselves as that and if that’s a true possibility, and not just a concept or a belief, but an actual experiential reality for someone, then perhaps they would actually be in a position to understand certain things about the universe that you just can’t understand using objective means of gaining knowledge.

>>THOM: Yeah, that’s a very subtle and profound idea. But it’s been very difficult for me to see how one gets from an internal experience, let’s say of “I am that” you know, the famous Upanishadic “I am that, thou art that, all this is that” – some profound experience, “I am that, and I am that infinite consciousness”, to a conclusion about reality. That is something happening inside me as an aware being. How does one step outside that to say, “Not only am I having such an amazing experience, but it’s actually the truth about the universe.” These are all subjective experiences:  I recognize you – that’s a subjective thing happening in my consciousness right now, Rick – I recognize you, I recognize this microphone, perhaps I recognize that I am infinite. But does that mean I am infinite? Or does it mean I had an experience that was incredibly powerful that felt like I was infinite? And I don’t know how you could possibly resolve that and say, I have gained knowledge, I have gained true knowledge as opposed to the statement that my life has been opened up and filled with bliss or light or whatever you want to say, by this experience that I had once or had a thousand times that said, “I am infinite. I am that.” How do you step beyond that? I have no idea.

>>RICK: Well, here’s an idea. Because the way you phrase that was still from the perspective of an individual. And what I’m suggesting is that, if ultimately we are That, then at a certain point, a shift may take place where That knows itself. And then an individual still exists, but the statements that individual makes necessarily have to be in some language and spoken with a mouth and a tongue and all that. So it’s still being spoken through the instrument of an individual. It’s from that perspective that the statements are being made. Kind of like the old ocean analogy, where I’m a wave, I’m a wave, and then maybe there seems to be this great big ocean. But you know, I think that I’m not that and all these other waves are separate from me. But all of a sudden one realizes, wait a minute, I’m the ocean. And I’ve always been the ocean, and everything is arising from this ocean that I am. And oh, I’m still a wave. Yeah, I just stubbed my toe and that hurts. But, but that’s kind of superficial because fundamentally, I know myself to be the ocean. I don’t know if that resolves the issue one iota…

>>THOM: Right. Well, there are obviously very profound meanings and very deep ideas that people have had about the kinds of things that you’re talking about, and you’re expressing it clearly, I think. It’s not some sort of crazy superficial talk. It’s profound, it’s deep. But it begs a whole bunch of questions in my mind. To say, “I realized that I am the ocean” – are you the ocean? Or did you just feel that you’re the ocean?

>>RICK: I think the only way that can be resolved would be if a person – I don’t claim to have had that experience myself, I’m just more inclined to believe that that’s what could happen than you are – but the only way we could really settle it would be for both of us to theoretically reach that state and see if we were on the same page at that point.

>>THOM: That comes back to your same question about a thousand people seeing the same group of angels on the corner and reporting the same thing. There’s always alternative explanations, and I don’t want to be crazy with bogus alternative explanations. But to me, there are certain substrates of human physiology that we share, even though we’re different. And our brains are very similar, even though they’re different. And we’re all sitting here in this extraordinary universe that is fluctuating with energies that we can’t even begin to comprehend. And what we’re seeing is just a table and a microphone and a computer screen and “here we are!”, and we’ve got this limited, limited view. But we almost all have a similar limited view. It’s not like half of humanity is in this buzzing world of quantum fluctuations and the other half is seeing tables. We’re built in such a similar way that we have similar experiences. So if you and I both had some amazing awakening experience and then described it to each other, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if we described it in somewhat similar ways. Similarly, NDEs are so often so similar. And that’s part of the whole point of the NDE literature that there’s these similarities that show up. And we might ask, is that because the person having the NDE was actually seeing these dead relatives and these beings in these beautiful settings? Or is it that humans in certain states will often report similar kinds of experiences because that’s how we are built? I don’t know how you get out of that. I don’t think there’s an easy way to verify these extraordinary, profound claims.

>>RICK: Well, with regard to NDEs, you know, there have been a number of them, which we could talk about if you want, where people have experienced things – even though they were unconscious, or under anesthesia. And those things were verifiable. We can cite a few examples in a minute. But regarding the point we’re generally discussing right now, if there is some kind of fundamental, universal reality, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you and I were both to realize that, that we would still describe it somewhat differently, we might each still put a bit of a flavor on it, even though that was our primary perspective. And in fact, they say in the Vedic tradition that different Rishis cognized different aspects of the Veda and no one Rishi was capable of cognizing all of them, even though the Veda was said to be this universal foundation of knowledge or intelligence that gives gave rise to the universe, no one could grasp the whole thing. They had to be specialists.

>>THOM: Yeah, I can totally see that there would be a flavor for everybody’s experiential report. But I was trying to focus on the fundamentals, not the details of what we might report, but just whether in fact you could realize that you are that infinite consciousness, for instance. We started out by saying, how could we ever know that we actually were that infinite consciousness versus ‘I certainly felt like I was that infinite consciousness” – how you can possibly tear those apart? And you said, Well, maybe if we both had the experience, we could compare notes. But I don’t know that that gets you out of it. We can leave that aside. But it is similar to a lot of other things. You compare one person’s NDE to somebody else’s NDE and say, Whoa, they seem to be describing similar things, there must be something going on. As far as your NDE example, or even out of body experiences – you are probably aware of Susan Blackmore. She was a psychologist, a professor, and she had an OBE that was very profound. She became someone who dedicated her professional career for a while to the exploration of various PSI or paranormal phenomena, including OBEs. And she ended up with a different conclusion.  After doing her research and her exploration and her interviews, she decided that there was nothing there of note other than internal, subjective experience. And others conclude other things. And this is where we’re at, you know. There are scientists – Dean Radin is the big one, but others who will…

>>RICK: Bruce Grayson is a big OBE guy, out of body experience and NDE, and Pim Van Lommel and others – there’s many people specializing in this stuff.

>>THOM: Right. Well, in all the different fields of more esoteric or unusual experience, there are scientists who collect the data and will report that these things seem to be real or legitimate. And then you will have others who have, in my view, some good reasons to doubt some of those studies or those experiments or those experiences. So we’re left in that in that gray area, and I’m fine with that. I’m fine with saying I’m interested, and it would be great if there could actually be a breakthrough and we could know these things in some way that really made a difference to human life.

>>RICK: Let me give you a few examples. But before I do, let me just tie up one last thing on that issue we were just discussing, which is – it’s kind of interesting that in the traditional literature, when somebody finally attains enlightenment, they say to their guru, my doubts have been dispelled, as if it were some kind of subtle doubt that was clouding their appreciation of themselves, of the ultimate reality. And it is said to also be finally a step of the intellect, a clarity of intellect, that enables us to cross the final threshold. So that has all kinds of implications for what you say in your book. And before I segue into a new topic, do you just want to comment on that?

>>THOM: Yeah, the ideal of “Oh, my doubts are fallen away, and now something wonderful came in its place.” In the very first couple of pages of my book, I introduced this saying, or this aphorism, that a friend of mine in college told me. He was someone who pursued a lot of extraordinary things, even back then in the early 70s. And at the very end of our college experience, I happened to run into him. I said, What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in these four years? This was at Harvard. And he said, immediately: “It’s better to be fooled many times than to be a skeptical man.” The idea, of course, is not that it is good to be fooled. The paydirt in that aphorism is that being a skeptical man is a problem. It would be better even to be fooled many times, than to be a skeptical man. Because that could cloud, as you said, your ability to experience these things fully. That’s the beginning of my book. And that really was the impetus of my many years of continuing to explore that question and ask, Is my skepticism blocking me from things that would be truly important in my life, or in life in general? In the end, it’s hard for me to conclude that that is true, that skepticism is actually blocking me in important ways. It’s certainly blocking me from fully believing all kinds of things. But whether it’s blocking me from having qualities in my life that are truly important is not at all clear.

>>RICK: Well, this actually relates to a question. I was going to say something else first, but since you just said that, this is a two-part question from Elizabeth. She says, first part, is there anything you feel absolutely certain of?

>>THOM: I guess if you emphasize the word Absolutely, and mean that as 100%, I would say no. But there are things that I am extremely confident in, you know, like that the Earth isn’t flat. There is a massive list of things that I am fully confident about. But in the realm we’re talking about here, there’s nothing that I am absolutely certain about.

>>RICK: Okay. And then her second question is, would characterize yourself as someone who is happy and at peace?

>>THOM: In general, yes. I think there’s always more room, and I would always have more room, for happiness and peace in my life. Those are the things that matter on a personal level, our own wellbeing and peacefulness. I think what these things lead to, which in my world is very important, is freedom, a certain degree of freedom in your life. If you’re feeling depressed, or anxious, or restricted and having a lack of peace, I think your freedom to be to be who you are and to live fully and freely in the world is highly restricted. You’re going to be reactive, you’re going to be constricted, you’re not going to be living a positive and useful life to yourself or anyone else. And so freedom comes, I think, from a degree of peace, and you could say a degree of happiness. And yeah, I’m pleased enough with the degree of happiness and peace that I have, although I fully recognize there are others far more happy and more peaceful than I.

>>RICK: Okay, good. So since we brought up NDEs and OBEs is I just want to touch on those briefly. An NDE is a near death experience and an OBE is an out of body experience. And sometimes people have them both at once. And sometimes things that happen under those circumstances are more convincing than if the person were still conscious and having an out of body experience. I’ll give you a few examples. There was a woman in a hospital who saw a red sneaker on the roof while she was undergoing surgery and under anesthetic. And sure enough, the janitor or somebody went up there and found the red sneaker. There are also many accounts of people being able to repeat conversations that the surgeon had in the room, even though they were under anesthetic. Of course, you might argue that maybe they weren’t fully anesthetized. But then there are other examples like Trisha Barker, whom I interviewed, who was undergoing surgery after a car accident, and she saw her father-in-law buy a Snickers bar in the vending machine in the waiting room. And she thought that was unusual because her father didn’t eat candy, and he was kind of avoiding it. And later on, she said, You bought a Snickers bar, didn’t you? And he said, Yeah, how did you know? She was under anesthetic.  Or there was a woman named Ingrid Honkala, whom I interviewed, who as a young child fell into a tank of water, and nearly drowned, and she left her body. And she saw the nanny watching a soap opera in the house when she should have been watching her. And then she traveled further and saw her mother waiting at a bus stop down the street. And, in her subtle body or whatever, she said, Hi mom, and her mother dropped everything, ran back to the house, ran straight to the tank, and pulled her out and save saved her life. And there are many examples like that. So I don’t want to use the word proof. But to me, it suggests that there is some kind of subtle body, not just our gross physical one. And the subtle one can actually leave the gross one under certain circumstances. And perhaps one of those circumstances is physical death, not just near death, but when we actually die. And we continue on. That’s what the traditions like Vedanta would tell us, that it’s like Russian dolls with subtle bodies within the gross body, and when the gross body dies, the subtle body carries on and goes on to do other things. Anyway, I just thought I’d throw this out. Those are just a few that came to mind. But there’s many of those kinds of stories.

>>THOM: No, that’s great. There are many such cases. And most of them – I’m not going to say all because I don’t know all – but many of them are what we would call subjective reports, anecdotes along the lines of “this happened to me.” And my mother did this. And that’s the best we can do generally…

>>RICK: Things like the Snickers bar. There are other people involved.

>>THOM: Well, there might have been one other person involved – which was the dad. And, you know, all that was reported by somebody, presumably the person who had the NDE. Maybe her father wrote down somewhere that he agreed with that. I don’t know. I’m not trying to demean these things. I’m just saying they’re in the category of someone’s report of something that they say happened. And part of the reason that that’s the nature of the evidence is because these things are so difficult to replicate. They’re not subject to scientific protocol in the normal way. And so what you end up doing is just like what Ian Stevenson did – you collect reports or stories, where there’s some person saying this thing happened. And maybe he says, “Yeah, my dad also agreed that that happened”. So okay, that’s better. But they’re still in that category. And that’s what we’re left with. And I say, these are really interesting things. I don’t know if I recounted this in my book or not, but I have a friend who at this point in his life says he’s an atheist, and he doesn’t believe very many things at all. But he told me a remarkable story. He was sitting at a family dinner, and he pushed his plate towards a serving vessel because he was going to put food on it. And the plate, he says, moved back by itself to him. He pushed it there again and it moved back. Eventually he got some food on it. And then the plate started spinning in front of him. Now, he says that his wife will verify at least part of that, as she was sitting next to him. I don’t think she saw all of it, but she saw some of it. He’s says “I don’t know what that was. It was unbelievably weird.” And I say the same thing. I say, Okay, I’m going to go with the assumption that you had that experience. You’re not lying to me – you had that experience. There are various possibilities, some more likely than others about what happened there, including that you and possibly your wife were somehow in some unusual psychological state where some hallucinogenic effect happened. Is that likely? Probably not so much. But then you start moving on and say, “OK, there was a poltergeist in the room, and he moved the plate, or some other being or some other thing moved the plate.”

>> RICK: I think it was the Pleiadians.

>>THOM: Yeah, exactly. And you ask, is that more likely? And you start to wonder. I end up saying, I don’t know what the frick happened there. I don’t know for sure that it even happened. If he had a camera out, which he didn’t, would the plate move in a way that the camera would see it? We’ll never know. And that’s the case for a lot of these self-reported extraordinary things – we will never really know about most of them. And so in the end I don’t say “That’s bogus.” I don’t say “That guy’s deluded.” I say, okay. Maybe there’s something going on there. But my friend doesn’t know. And I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone knows. You can certainly build hypotheses that could include Pleiadians, or poltergeists, or psychic phenomena, you could build all kinds of hypotheses. But we don’t know. And I’m comfortable, but also curious, in that state. I say, I don’t know, so give me more, give me more.

>>RICK: There’s so many things like this. I interviewed a woman a couple of weeks ago, Nancy Rhines, and she also had a bad accident and a near-death experience. She got hit by a car. And later on, she was at home and strange things started happening to her. One day, the lights started flickering on and off. And she looked over and she actually could see the switch moving up and down on the wall.

>>THOM: Well, my friend with the moving plates also reported that back home – he comes from another country – he and his brother were in the house, and the light switch, it didn’t go up and down, but it turned the light on. And then it turned the light off. Same kind of thing. And again, we both say, I don’t know.

>>RICK: That reminds me of that Steven Wright joke, – he said, there’s a light switch in my house, it does absolutely nothing. But every once in a while, I get really bored, and I go there and just switch it on and off. One day I was doing that, and the phone rang. It was a lady from Germany. She said “cut it out”.

>>THOM: Yeah, right. But here, if you don’t mind, I want to just bring back this dimension. I think it’s important. The things we’ve been discussing most recently are definitely of interest, and I’m not closed to them. I just haven’t taken a leap into believing any particular thing about them. They’re of interest and people explore them. And people are fascinated by them. And I think it’s good that they are. I’d love to have more and better evidence if it’s possible to get it for something extraordinary. Let’s shake it up. That would be wonderful. But I am still concerned by the potential connection between a fascination with these things that are in a bit of a grayish area that have to do with our inner experience = things that we feel are true and seem to be true – that kind of “yeah, I want to go with that” type of hypothetical thinking in this area of paranormal or spiritual experience – and the analogy to what’s going on in our cultural and social world where the same words that I just used to describe those areas of interest in spiritual and paranormal areas apply in various ways to the outer, objective world. People are opening themselves up and entertaining and embracing ideas – which is going on in the spiritual world across the whole gamut, from total belief to just being interested in the ideas – that same process is going on in our social world in the ways that we listed earlier.  I wouldn’t say, we’ve got to give up on this spiritual, hypothetical stuff because it’s leaking over into our social world and is causing real problems. I don’t want to say that, but…

>>RICK: But it’s kind of leaking the other way more. I mean, it wasn’t spiritual people who started QAnon or who stormed the Capitol on January 6, and so on. There’s definitely a Venn diagram where there’s a fair amount of overlap, but I think it’s just sort of endemic in the culture and it cuts across all sorts of different social groups, and educational levels – although I bet you’d find that the better-educated people are, the less likely it is that they are susceptible to conspiracy theories and this kind of off-grid thinking. But then you could have the things that Dean Radin studies or Pim Van Lommel (he’s a cardiologist in the Netherlands who studies near-death experiences because he started encountering so many people having them) – there’s some very qualified people, I’ve interviewed dozens of them who are not nutcases and who are just looking at all these, we could say, anomalous events that are kind of pecking away at the materialist paradigm. And, you know, wondering whether that paradigm is actually going to topple to allow something more inclusive.

>>THOM: Yeah, I want to say I’m all for that. I am just all for that. Whether I’m all for everything Dean Radin does – I guess I wouldn’t go that far. There are some real questions about some of the ways he tries to create his trillions-of-billions-to-one chances against these things having happened by chance. There are a lot of question about some of the protocols and the statistics and all, and I don’t necessarily like all the techniques being used. But in general, as for intelligent people trying to apply the best standards of critical thinking and evidence-based exploration to these more spiritual or off-grid experiences – I think that’s great. And I absolutely would never want to make it seem like I wish that would be shut down. What I’m thinking is that the same kind of rigor that some of these people apply to the spiritual realm needs to also be applied, very desperately, in our cultural and social life. So when I say that people are “tempted to believe”, and the subtitle of my book is, “the seductive power of claims about the truth,” I do think that there is a seductive power in all this. Someone comes around and says, I think this is the truth, this is the way it is. That’s seductive to human beings, to a lot of human beings. And so they get tempted to believe for a lot of reasons. And that’s a really dangerous thing in our society. And that’s my concern. As we said at the beginning, I happen to be coming from a place in this world where I had been surrounded by people believing all sorts of extraordinary things. And that led to this exploration. But it’s a real problem unless one hews very carefully to the rigor of good critical thinking.

>>RICK: Yeah. And obviously, some beliefs are more dangerous than others. If it’s beliefs about vaccines, for instance, or misbeliefs, that’s about something that is killing about 2000 people a day in this country. That’s a 911 every day and a half. You have pictures of galaxies on the wall behind you, and I have my own screen pictures. When I look at a picture of a galaxy, I believe that there are probably trillions of civilizations scattered throughout that galaxy, or some large number. I have no way of proving that. It’s just something I choose to believe and it kind of inspires me and interests me and I, like you, would love to meet them. These are not the reptilian ones. Nice ones. And I don’t see that that does any harm – it’s not gonna hurt anybody. And it’s not going to cause me to join the Moonies or something like that.

>>THOM: Let me just ask you, would you say you believe that, or you’re inclined to think that’s probably true?

>>RICK: I’m inclined to think that’s probably true with a high degree of inclination. It’s not like a 1% thing. It’s more a 75% thing. Yeah, 90% or whatever.

>>THOM: Yeah. Well, there are people who are firmly rooted in the 100% zone, obviously, about all kinds of beliefs. They are 100 percenters. And that can be really problematic. But there are also the people who are somewhere in the middle – who are to me less of a problem. And that’s most of us.

>>RICK: Okay. Well, this question that came in is kind of related to what I just chose as an example. If you had a close friend whom you knew to be very sensible and truthful and not given to exaggeration, would you believe their account of something they saw, such as a UFO, for instance, and they were certain of what they saw – they felt they saw it – what would your reaction be to that?

>>THOM: My reaction would be pretty much similar to the guy who saw his plate move. It would not be “You’re crazy. You were deluded. I’m sorry to hear that you were in some weird, altered state.” It wouldn’t be that at all. It would be, instead “I really don’t know.” Nobody else saw it, right? There was no video evidence, right? I just saw it. I was walking. I didn’t have my phone. I was walking on the path. It was unbelievable, totally clear. And I would think, that is really interesting. I don’t know what to make of it. I do know that the human mind is capable of having all kinds of experiences – throughout history, and today – that are not necessarily veridical or didn’t actually happen just as reported. So that’s always a possibility. I would say, “Wow, that is amazing. I wish I had that experience.” But it would absolutely not be any kind of clinching evidence to me that a UFO or an alien actually appeared to that man or that person at that time.

>>RICK: You know, what’s cool is that those videos that the CIA recently released, or the Air Force or somebody, where there’s about 140 accounts of things flying around, the jet fighters are filming it. And the authorities admit, we don’t know what that was. They’re not gonna say it was aliens. We can’t say what it was. Yeah, I have no explanation for it. And that is cool.

>>THOM: And that’s one step further from the guy walking on the path seeing an alien. This is stuff that at least shows up on recordings of highly sensitive radar equipment and so forth. There are people who talk about potential anomalies or artifacts or strangeness going on in those particular cases, but at least it’s getting closer to something where we can remove some of the subjectivity out of it and have a bit more objectivity. But absolutely, so far the authorities seem to be saying that we don’t know what some of that stuff is. I think Obama even said that recently. And I’m good with that. We don’t know. And let’s keep looking. And please blow our minds if you can.

>>RICK: Yeah, I think Jimmy Carter claimed to have actually seen a UFO. Then I think he also claimed to have been attacked by a giant swimming rabbit, so I’m not sure.

>>THOM: Did he really?

>>RICK: Yeah, there was something where he had to fend it off with a paddle. I think it might have been a beaver or something.

>>THOM: Beaver, rabbit, alien, non-alien, whatever.

>>RICK: Here’s another question that came in from some character named Jonas in Fairfield, Iowa. I wonder who that is? Obviously, I’m joking. We both know one Jonas here. “Please talk about the difference between something a scientist says, and rigorous peer-reviewed published science”. So I presume he means someone who claims to have scientific credentials and just says something and then people think, Ooh, that sounds credible because he seems to be a doctor or something. The difference between that and rigorous peer-reviewed published science.

>>THOM: Yeah. It’s not a black and white thing. Peer-reviewed science is a part of our scientific culture. It’s not enough that I have done this experiment, and now I’m going to publish it. We want to run it past some highly qualified peers who will examine in great detail your protocols, your methodology. Is this solid? Did you follow all the proper procedures? Is this credible? So – it gets peer-reviewed. That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be right. Obviously, you could have a peer-reviewed paper that that might prove to be wrong, and certainly that has happened.

>>RICK: I hear that the peer review process is kind of sloppy sometimes right? Not necessarily ironclad.

>>THOM: Right. But what we want to talk about is a sort of a vast consensus. So I will talk about more than just a simple peer-reviewed paper, and talk about the high consensus of virtually all professional scientists in a given field. That is the gold standard. And that doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong, maybe 50 years from now. Before Einstein, all scientists subscribed to a non-relativistic view of physics, but pretty soon after Einstein, they all switched, and that’s fine. But at any given time, the gold standard is the vast consensus. So in the case of something like climate science, you have an overwhelming consensus that keeps being reiterated and elaborated. There are studies by the UN and the IPCC, where they do a survey of thousands of studies from all over the world. Again, these are peer-reviewed, and all of them are serious, and they come up with an incredibly strong consensus. When you get something like that, it weighs so much more heavily than somebody, as a climate denier, making a video with three, or four, or six scientists of one kind or another – and some of them might be climate scientists who deny part of it or all of it. That is like a fly that needs to be swatted away, given the scientific consensus. It is nothing like a refutation. It is nothing, it has no status whatsoever unless and until they can gather a greater consensus. In the early days of some new field or discovery, where you don’t have a tremendously solid consensus, you don’t have this issue. But when you do have such a consensus, it’s an incredibly powerful thing. Same with the dangers of smoking, the dangers of DDT, whatever – you get, eventually, a consensus that just absolutely wipes out the outliers who cling to an alternate view.

>>RICK: Yeah, you’ve used the word consensus several times in the last couple of minutes. And it’s really important to point out that that is a key word in science. And it means agreement, basically, among a large number of scientists, because any one scientist or any one study can be wrong. And studies, almost every study ever read says that further studies are needed and more replication is needed. And consensus grows in strength, as more and more research is done. And so it’s a group effort. And it sort of frees us from the chaos of individual opinion, or individual perspective. And so there’s that, but we can flip it back to spirituality. It’s interesting, spirituality is a much messier field in which to try to build consensus than conventional sciences. But there is a fair amount of consensus in many respects. The perennial philosophy, for instance, that Huston Smith and Aldous Huxley and people like that spoke about, pointed out that the same truths seem to come up in various cultures throughout time that have no way of communicating with one another. And so perhaps that points to some universal reality that all these different cultures were picking up on. But I think that, as with conventional science, consensus can become stronger in spirituality and should become stronger. And flaky things can and should be weeded out. And there hopefully will be methods whereby we can pare away the stuff that’s not helpful or useful and adopt more and more of the things that are useful, and that will really have some benefit for individuals in society.

>>THOM: Right. I agree with all that, and I think that this word consensus can have different ramifications. In the field of science, it’s pretty clear what it means as you described. In the field of spirituality, let’s set aside those scientists who are trying to explore certain spiritual things like NDEs, or psychokinesis, or precognition, and deal with the practitioners, the people who are actually having the spiritual experiences of the perennial philosophy. Such people may form a kind of consensus, but this is what I would call a subjective consensus. It’s like this: a person 2000 years ago said “I am That, thou art That”, and I in my bedroom today had an experience that I would call “I am That, thou art That”, and so did perhaps a million other people, and you might say that’s a consensus. And it is a consensus about human subjective experience that humans have had such experiences that felt wonderfully profound to them, throughout history. That’s a kind of subjective consensus, which is very interesting and maybe valuable and a source of all kinds of things. But it’s different from a scientific consensus, which by its nature, is based on rigorous controlled studies, which are not necessarily that easy to do in the spiritual realm.

>>RICK: Yeah, I agree. As we were saying earlier, there’s so much variety in the spiritual realm of practices and techniques and so on that it’s really impossible to make it as clear and precise as it is in the scientific realm. But I think there’s some carryover. For instance, if I wanted to confirm that the Higgs boson had been found, I would have to first get an education, that would probably take a couple of decades, and I’d have to get the qualifications to go and use the Large Hadron Collider. And perhaps I could confirm through my own direct hands-on experience that there’s a Higgs boson. Now, I could read studies of people who said they found the Higgs boson. And if I were capable of understanding them, I would be convinced, and there is something objective there – they can show me there were squiggles on a photographic plate or something like that. Whereas with spirituality, it’s utterly subjective. And the only way to conduct the experiment is to go through what the yogi went through before he arrived at that experience and see if you arrive at it too. And when you do, you’ll say, yes indeed, I found it. But then everyone else is gonna say, I don’t believe it, and then you’re going to have to say, Well, okay, you have to go through all this stuff first. It just doesn’t carry over as neatly as in physics and such fields.

>>THOM: I have a fundamental question. You’ve already said that you don’t have a lot of totally firm beliefs in this area, that they’re more hypotheses or strong inclinations. But I’m curious why people would want to turn any of their spiritual experiences – experiences they read about or have had themselves – into beliefs, actual beliefs about the nature of the universe, why they wouldn’t be happy with the fruits of those experiences in their lives. As the questioner asked, Are you happy? Are you peaceful? Are you free? These are the fruits in my mind of spiritual experience. And those fruits are delivered by all sorts of practices. Why codify them or congeal them into some kind of a claim about how the world or the universe actually is and operates? I don’t know what the motivation is there.

>>RICK: Well, you know, I could send you an essay I wrote on the 50th anniversary of my learning to meditate, Like you, I experienced profound benefits, and they have continued to accrue over all these decades. And then you read accounts of people who have gone through similar development, and they go far beyond what you have so far experienced, and they tend to concur with one another. And so you could call it a belief or you could call it hypothesis.  I can say, well, all these other guys said that after XYZ stages of development, they arrived at this experience. And I’m not there yet, but there’s reason to believe I might get there if I carry on as I have been. In my own experience, I don’t pass over the present for some glorious future. I enjoy life as it goes along. But I’m open to the possibility of much higher stages of development than I have yet experienced.

>>THOM: Well, absolutely, and in your work, I think what you’re talking about is the potential, and the possibility, or even the very real likelihood, that you or someone, by following certain spiritual practices or living in a certain way, can enhance the quality of your life and possibly attain a much more wonderful or complete or full experience as a human being. And that to me is not in the realm of belief, that’s just “this looks like a good path, this is a good direction, let’s go for it. I like these fruits, I would like those fruits even more if they were fully available to me, and I’m going to keep on, maybe explore more things.” I would call those engagements with the world, engagements with a practice, a commitment to enhancing the quality of one’s life. I wouldn’t call those beliefs about the nature of the universe.

>>RICK: What you’re saying is how do you get from – how do you leap from – there to making certain truth claims about the way the universe functions?

>>THOM: Absolutely, that’s the question – how do you get there? And now I’m asking you a slightly different question. Why would you even want to get there? Given that you’ll never be able to nail it down the way that let’s say, quantum field theory has been nailed down, you’ll never probably be able to do that. Why make the claim? Why not just enjoy your fruits?

>>RICK: I think you might be able to nail it down better than quantum physics. A quantum physicist is basically operating in his head, in his intellectual understanding of something, and he has certain information that’s come to him through his senses and all, but the things he is finding are about very fundamental levels of reality that he is not experiencing directly. And what I’m suggesting here is that, in the spiritual pursuit, we end up arriving at a level of experience of the fundamental nature of reality which we live, viscerally, personally, experientially, as opposed to merely intellectually. And that could be very gratifying. And this is a kind of a division point between you and I. I’m suggesting, as many others have, that it is possible to attain a level of experience, which is not just pleasant and fulfilling and blissful, , but which actually does grant you access to a cognition of the deeper mechanics of nature.

>>THOM: And that may be true. If someone were to achieve that, which many people have claimed – what may unfold for them in their own awareness is some knowingness about the nature of everything. But once again, we’re left with the question of how you could possibly determine that that knowingness was anything more than a wonderful, prolific explosion of stuff in that particular human awareness.

>>RICK: Yeah, Maharishi had hoped to have people actually levitate and then he would have said, “well look at that – how do you think they can do that? They can do it because consciousness is the home of all the laws of nature and these people are so familiar with functioning on that level, they can manipulate certain fundamental laws of nature and cause their body to levitate”. And of course, after 40-odd years of people practicing the techniques, no one has done that or, to my knowledge, experienced anything like that that could be objectively measured. So that didn’t quite work out.

>>THOM: As you know, Rick, Maharishi had a certain scientific orientation, although he was fundamentally a spiritualist.

>>RICK: He also had a flair for marketing, and publicity and so on.

>>THOM: But let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt that by introducing levitation, he was in a way doing an experiment. That would be a tremendously profound experiment. And if that came to pass that you had 1000s of people or more floating, levitating or flying through the air, that would completely upend a large part of our scientific understanding. And so that’s the kind of thing that would qualify as evidence of something, although you wouldn’t exactly know what. But it would absolutely prove that there’s something beyond what science knew before that point.

>>RICK: Yeah, it’d be a lot more of a shocker than a near-death experience.

>>THOM: What exactly it would prove, I think, is very unclear. It’s just the realization that “Wow, humans are capable of something we did not expect.”  All these things fall in that category – that humans seem to be capable, according to reports, of things that shouldn’t be possible given a materialist paradigm.

>>RICK: Right. That’s very interesting. I think Maharishi naively believed that people were actually going to obtain this stuff, and fairly quickly. I was in a group, maybe six months after we had learned these techniques. And some guy reported something that sounded like he was actually floating, and Maharishi interrupted, “who floated?” And then the guy elaborated a little bit on this and Maharishi said, oh, okay, next. And I was going on TV shows and saying – Well, I think in about six months, we’re actually going to demonstrate this.

>>THOM: In the book I talked about this amazing experience, where the first large gathering of people who were practicing this technique, which came to be known as yogic flying, or levitation – in Amherst in 1979, three thousand people. At that point, in the late 70s, I did expect something truly remarkable to happen there. I expected that when I practiced that technique with 3000 other people, which had never been done in human history that we know of, that something really different would happen. And, and of course, it didn’t.

>>RICK: I think Jimmy Carter changed his whole cabinet during that course. I remember everybody was thinking, Oh, wow.

>>THOM: Yeah, that’s not exactly the predicted effect. But those are the kinds of effects we usually end up pointing to because we can’t produce the other ones.

>>RICK: But Craig Pearson, whom we know and whom I’ve interviewed, wrote a book about yogic flying and amassed dozens and dozens of historical accounts of people supposedly having done that. St. Joseph of Cupertino, and Teresa of Avila and many others. And, of course, that doesn’t really satisfy the criteria of any kind of proof or significant evidence, because who knows how such stories had been embellished over the centuries. But you know, it’s intriguing. And to me, this is probably one of the things I believe more than you do. It wouldn’t shock me if within my lifetime there were people actually doing such things in public view, but it also wouldn’t shock me if there weren’t.

>>THOM: Yeah, well, that’s a good distinction. Because it would shock me if it happened. That doesn’t mean I’d think “This was impossible. No, no.” It would be shocking to me, it would be tremendously shocking to the scientific world. It would be shocking to me, but I welcome it.

>>RICK: Well, okay, so we’ve gone for two hours. Maybe we could leave it with a cliffhanger like that. And this was a really enjoyable conversation. In fact, I had a headache in the beginning for some reason. It wasn’t your fault, but it went away.

>>THOM: Oh, Rick, I actually took care of that for you. I picked up on it. Yeah, I smoothed that out for you.

>>RICK: Oh, thank you. Also, Irene slipped me an aspirin. I wrote her a little note.

>>THOM: I saw you. I was wondering what the hell’s going on.

>>RICK: There it is: “aspirin.” So you see, things are not always as they seem.

>>THOM: Yeah, true. This has been great, Rick. I really enjoyed it.

>>RICK: Yeah, me too. I’m so glad that we had a chance to do this. And I will put up a page on BatGap about this interview as I always do, and I’ll link to your book on Amazon and to your website. I think people will enjoy it, and maybe some won’t. But personally, I love playing with the kind of ideas we’ve been playing with here today.

>>THOM: Well, so far, it’s not like I’ve had millions of readers, but I expected to encounter people who would really push back at my general point, my point of view, especially in this community, but so far it has never happened. In fact, someone who has been a dedicated meditation teacher for literally 40 years, full time, and was an absolute believer in so many of these things, including the possibility of levitation – she read it, and after she read it, she said, “We should talk.” And I thought, okay, this will be interesting. Let’s do it. So we got together and I was expecting some real nitty-gritty pushback and deep questioning. But she just said, “Oh, I loved that. It was great. I think people should read it.” So far, I haven’t found a person who thought it was offensive, but I’m sure there are some.

>>RICK: Funny, because I had a conversation with our friends, Toni and Elin, whom you acknowledged in your book. And when we were playing pickleball, during breaks, I thought, why are they so skeptical about things, you know – and now I realize it’s the Krystofiak effect.

>>THOM: Yeah, I do take credit for loosening up some people’s thinking just a little bit.

>>RICK: Anyway, thanks, Thom. It’s been great spending time with you. And thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. And my next interview is next Saturday with a woman named Lucy Grace who has a very interesting story. Maybe I’ll just leave you with that, rather than spending more time talking about it right now – although there is a very fascinating teaser I could leave you with. I hope you’ll tune in to watch it. Lucy’s an interesting person. Okay, Thom, thank you.

>>THOM: Thank you so much, Rick. It was just a blast.

>>RICK: Yep. Bye-bye.