Introduction to Voices from the Edge
We are currently witnessing an extraordinary shift in the evolutionary winds of history. Poised on a bridge between worlds, our species swings between crisis and renaissance. Never before in the human adventure have there been so many reasons to rejoice and celebrate, yet also, paradoxically, so many reasons to re-evaluate and re-navigate. Wonderful advances in science and the interface between high technology and the creative imagination have spawned forms of artistic expression with a sensory richness inconceivable to previous generations. The imagination has never been more tangible. And yet, sad to say, never before has our own extinction via our own ignorance–hovered so close.
Within the pages of this book, through conversations with some of the most far-reaching cultural innovators of our day, we explore a variety of exciting new options made available by the cultural renaissance that is upon us and examine some possible solutions to our impending global crisis. When Rebecca McClen Novick and I finished the first volume of Mavericks of the Mind, there still remained many extraordinary individuals whom we had wished to include. In addition, friends flooded us with recommendations for potential interviewees. If that were not enough, every time we did a lecture or book-signing, we would meet people who had yet more recommendations. A number of individuals whom I did not even know called me and recommended themselves as candidates. Upon consideration of all this, we decided to do an additional collection, which you now hold in your hands. And a third volume is in the works.
In 1988, Christian theologian Matthew Fox, the Dominican priest we interviewed for this volume, was silenced for a year by the Vatican. Instead of preaching about our Original Sin, he was doing this rap on our “Original Blessing.” After a full revolution around the sun, during which he supposedly contemplated his sins in silence, the very first words that he uttered were, “As I was saying … ” It is in that spirit that this book begins. As with our first volume, the people we chose to interview represent the mavericks of their fields, the engineers of evolution, the messengers of our future those remarkable and brave individuals who stand at the front-line of the cultural frontier, taking the storms of change full in the face. However overlooked, misunderstood, ridiculed, or punished they may have been by society at large, these men and women have persevered to the point where they are now viewed as revolutionary leaders in their fields.
When putting this book together, we operated under the premise that most cultural advance is accomplished by a certain type of individual: those who resist adherence to any particular group or belief system and have an interdisciplinary approach to their work. These were the people we sought out to discuss the basic philosophical issues of life, to ponder the Big Questions: How did we get here? Why are we here? Where are we going? But while our previous collection approached these questions primarily from a decidedly scientific viewpoint (with several notable exceptions), our new collection gathers a perspective from a wider cultural arena. And though our pool of interviewees has broadened, the theme of the new volume remains the same: exploring the evolution of consciousness. Also, our approach matured. Rebecca and I became bolder in our interviewing style, and we are perhaps a little less naive than when we set out to do the original collection.
Although the collection spans a diverse spectrum, there are many areas where boundaries overlap. From the emerging gestalt, a vision of our future begins to take form, perhaps providing us with a glimpse into the twenty-first century. We discuss possible solutions to the hunger and ecological crises gripping our planet, new computer and multimedia technologies as vehicles for enhanced communication and artistic expression, future directions of psychedelic drug research, the reclamation of our bodies and our connection to the divine through more expansive forms of sexual expression, the revival of the Goddess, and the reformation of religion. These and other spiritual issues are pondered in depth, always with thoughtfulness, often with humor.
After the publication of the first volume of Mavericks, when Rebecca and I hosted a series of events at UC Santa Cruz and UCLA, we brought together individuals from the book and encouraged them to discuss and debate various controversial issues, such as the relationship between technology and the mind. As we sat there on stage, surrounded by all these great minds and their often conflicting perspectives, we realized repeatedly just how relative truth really is. No one has the answer, yet everyone makes a point and contributes a perspective to help create a more encompassing whole.
One of the topics we explore in this book is the mystery of what happens to consciousness after the death of the body. When I posed the question to environmentalist John Robbins, he replied without pause, “I think it celebrates.” Ironically, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead told us he thinks it probably dies with the body.” Cultural historian William Irwin Thompson said he thinks we move into “subtle bodies,” which “are woven into this larger angelic formation.” There is perhaps no greater mystery than death, and infinite mystery will spawn infinite theories.
This is not the first time that crisis and opportunity have danced together arm in arm, and as we evolve through time, this dynamic will most likely be encountered again and again. This is part of the Great Mystery at the center of existence, which inspires art, science, philosophy, and the spiritual quest. Stating the obvious here is powerful. There is simply no escape. Life is mostly mystery, and the mystery only deepens with time and “understanding.” A moment’s reflection will confront us with the fact that the foundation of every belief rests upon an assumption made in faith. Life is a journey through our own dream fabric.
When I was in graduate school I was amazed to discover that the majority of my professors thought that science had solved about 99 percent of the fundamental mysteries of the universe and that it would not be long before we would have the other one percent figured out. I was completely dumbfounded by this, and by the fact that much of the world appeared to follow suit with my professors. As a consequence of my commitment to the exploration of consciousness, my world view was the reverse: 99 percent mystery, one percent (or less) figured out.
The universe is an infinitely mysterious place, where consciousness and physical phenomena interact in largely unknown ways to form the adventure of our existence. Because of this fundamental truth, Matthew Fox suggested that we adopt the perspective that “mystery is not something you’re ever going to solve, it’s something you live!” John Alien poetically reminded us that “beauty attracts, but mystery … lures.” After contemplating the nature of God and other timeless philosophical questions with us, Ram Dass asked about our “relationship with the mystery? Are you defending yourself from it? Are you making love to it? Are you living in it?” How we respond to these questions is significant. One of the few things we can state with any certainty about this grand and ambiguous universe we inhabit is that although the phenomena of the physical world will come and go, the mystery lurking at the heart of existence is forever here to stay.
David Jay Brown
Ben Lomond, California
Preface - Voices From the Edge
“You’re going to have to explain what these people are doing in a book together,” said a close friend, looking at me with loving sternness. “What do they have in common, anyway?” On the surface, there does seem to be the need to justify why an ex-porn star and a Catholic priest are rubbing shoulders (or anything else, for that matter) in a collection of interviews, not to mention a chemist, a musician, and an archaeologist. But it seems to me that in this world of on-going cultural meiosis, it is far more necessary to justify similarity than to justify diversity. Loving the alien– or, at the very least, accepting the alien– is not just an amusing psychological pastime anymore; it’s a survival imperative.
Exclusivity breaks down communication– between neighbors, between cultures, between races, between countries– so that the farmer pollutes the upstream river, giving no thought to the farmer downstream. When we define ourselves as something more than merely a product of a culture, race, sex, or religious group, we realize how our separateness has limited us, and we begin to work on what Jean Houston refers to as the “orchestration of our many selves.” Appreciation of diversity keeps us supple, stops our minds from crusting over, and allows us to keep reinventing ourselves.
Everyone in this book is used to being judged. Snobbery lurks in the most unlikely places, even in the most decent and open of minds. If you look down your nose you will see only your feet. But to look out and across the apparent barriers that separate you from the Other (a homeless drunk gives you directions to your hotel; a toddler corrects you about the number of Jupiter’s moons) is like coming up for air and taking a gulp of the mystery once more. You take a second look– except this time, you look a little harder.
Step into a virtual reality scenario and imagine that this book is actually the stage for an exotic and eclectic cocktail party. The interior decoration is an odd mix of the titilating bizarre, the no-hold-barred holy, and the tongue-in-cheek academic. Nothing seems to match, but nothing clashes. The guests are an animated and effervescent bunch, their eyes twinkling with inner stars. Laughter of all shapes and sizes fills the room. You feel curiously at home.
Over in the corner, spiritual teacher Ram Dass and VR pioneer Jaron Lanier seem to be having a heated but friendly discussion on the virtues and dangers of technological highs. Fakir Musafar, decorated in nipple-rings, tattoos and nose-quills, is at the snack table with archeologist Marija Gimbutas, exchanging insights into the Western mortification of the body. In the kitchen, musician Jerry Garcia and radio host Elizabeth Gips are involved in a conversation ostensibly about rye bread, but stick a Babel-fish in your ear and you hear they’re really discussing the ever-expanding mystery of the universe. And out on the porch, chemist Alexander Shulgin and ecologist John Robbin s are pondering the alchemical potentials of the human body. Is this a great party or what?
We chose to interview the people who move us– move us to wonder, to contemplation, to inspiration, to action. They are all works in progress, receiving at least as much as they transmit, their commentaries barometer readings of the weather changes at large in this wild and woolly world of ours. Ritual love-making, sticking spears in your skin, listening to music, sitting with your eyes closed, taking drugs, hooking your brain up to a machine– the methods of raising the curtains of consciousness vary, but to get hung up on the validity (or invalidity) of any one is to miss the boat to spiritual independence. There are so many ways to get high, but once you’re up there, everyone gets to share the view– the view of a dynamic universe within which we are all engaged in the most interactive process imaginable.
As you meander through the pages of this book, you begin to sense an ambiance, a link between these seemingly disparate individuals: a common ground of unfettered creativity, deep compassion, personal courage, childlike curiosity and more than a standard dose of chutzpah. It is that common ground from which these interviews grew, and upon which we hope, a few forbidden fruits will fall.
Rebecca McClen Novick
Acknowledgments - Voices from the Edge
Putting this collection together was a great deal of fun and a wonderful learning experience, with more than a few epiphanies along the way. It was also a lot of work, taking about two years to complete. Many people helped make it possible. We would like to extend extra special thanks to Nina Graboi and Carolyn Mary Kleefeld for their endless support and belief in our work over the years. For their essential help with the book, we are also extremely grateful to Randy Baker, Marie Devlin, Denise Dufault, Patricia Gaul, Alex Grey, Laura Huxley, Oscar Janiger, Fonda Joyce, Dennis McNally, Marlene Rhoeder, Dale Robbins, Tango Pariah Snyder, Rasa Julie Thies, and Jonathan Young and Carolyn Radio at the Pacifica Graduate Institute.
In addition, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to Gabrielle Alberici, Phil Baily, Peter Bartczak, Debra Berger, Faustin Bray, Brummbaer, Kutira Decosterd and Raphael, Sue Espanosa, Robert Forte, Lauran Freebody, Liane Gabora, Peter German, Dieter Hagenbach, Deborah Harlow, Krystle James, Robin Ray, Barbara Clarke-Lilly, Jeff Mandel and Steen, Arleen Margulis, Jimmy Mastalski, Fumiko Takagi, Jerry Snider, Victoria Sulski, S. Mark Taper, Silvia Utiger, Brian Wallace, and Nur Wesley for their help and contributions.
We would also like to thank our farsighted publishers, John and Elaine Gill, as well as our publicist, Dena Taylor.
Most of all, we would like to express our deepest appreciation to all the remarkable men and women we interviewed for sharing their extraordinary lives with us.
Mavericks of Medicine – Acknowlegments
As with most books, many people played valuable roles in its creation.
This book resulted from conversations that I had with my friend and colleague John Morgenthaleller. John is responsible for coining the term “smart drugs,” for writing the first books on the subject, and for much of the public’s awareness about how certain drugs and nutrients can enhance cognitive performance. I met John backstage on the set for the Montel Williams Show in 1990, right after his book Smart Drugs and Nutrients was first published, and a large portion of what I know about these substances I initially learned from him. Learning about cogntive enhancers like hydergine and deprenyl changed my life, so I am indebted to John in numerous ways–including his valuable help as the editor and publisher of this book. So, first and foremst I would like to thank John for making this book possible.
I would also like to thank my associates at Smart Publication, Ed Kinon and Dale Fowkes, for their encouragement and excitement about the project. Extra special thanks go to Erin Eileen Jarvis, for her invaluable biochemical expertise and generous help with the glossary, and to Louise Reitman, Joe & Suzie Wouk, Amy Barnes Excolere, Anna Damoth, Arleen Margulis, Sherry and Serena Hall, Jesse Ray Houts, Valerie Leveroni Corral, Robin Rae & Brummbaer, Clifford Pickover, Robert Anton Wilson, Deed DeBruno, Dana Bomar, and Carolyn Mary Kleefeld.
I would also like to thank the following individuals for their valuable help: Ruth Holmes, Mike Morganroth, Amy Powers, Brian Becker, Nancy Olmstead, Anne Genovese, Nancy Mullis, Sandy Oppenheim, Jean-Louis Husson, Richard Goldberg, Holly Morgenthaler, Carrie Scharf, Lamika Keller, Nancy Guyon, Chris Higgins, Annie Sprinkle, Denise Stow, Russel Jaffe, M.D., Randy Baker, M.D., Mimi Hill, Dana Peleg, Carole Myers, David Wayne Dunn, Robin Atwood, Emily Brown, Sherri Paris, Mike Corral, Denis Berry, the members of WAMM and the RAW Group Mind, Senta Rose Hernandez, Lisa Marie Souza, Katherine Covell, Bethan Carter, Rupert Sheldrake, Michael Brown, Sammie and Tudie, Heather Hazen, Karen Lieberman, Bernadette Wilson, Nick Herbert, Jody Lombardo, Paula Rae Mellard, Jack Edwards, M.D., Oscar Janiger, M.D., Robin Chase, Matthew Steiner, Scott Crowley, Sylvia Thyssen, Dina Meyer, Cheryle and Gene Goldstein, Linda Meyer, Arlene Istar Lev, and Shahab Geranmayeh.
I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to all the people that I interviewed for their valuable time, generous help, and thoughtful speculations.
Introduction to Mavericks of Medicine
By David Jay Brown
As with science, the history of medicine reveals that knowledge often advances through the ideas of maverick thinkers–ideas that were initially greeted with disbelief or even mockery. For example, in 1847, when the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis started making the claim that puerperal fever was contagious, and that poor sanitation was responsible for spreading the illness from one new mother to another, his fellow physicians thought that he was crazy. “Wash your hands!” he shouted in the hospital maternity wards of Vienna, while the other doctors laughed.
Likewise, in 1628, when British physician William Harvey first proposed that the heart might be a a pump at the center of a closed circulatory system–rather than a “heater” for the blood, as was thought at the time–he was ridiculed by his medical colleagues who thought the idea ridiculous. Then, in 1718, when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu insisted that live smallpox culture be introduced into her son’s veins as an inoculation against the disease, her contemporaries thought that she was worse than nuts. Yet, with time, the ideas of these courageous individuals were vindicated, and history simply abounds with examples of how eccentric individuals–that were initially regarded as quacks–helped to advance science and medicine.
Both science and medicine are inherently conservative. Scientists and physicians are trained to always lean toward convention and to be suspicious of new ideas. This tendency to test new procedures carefully, and to make new declarations cautiously, is partially why science and medicine have been so successful and have such reliable track records. However, it is also why the conventional or mainstream core of established scientific and medical institutions–such as the American Medical Association–always advances much more slowly than the peripheral research frontiers, where eccentric individuals are experimenting with unorthodox possibilities that sometimes conflict with conventional thought.
While the right amount of skepticism can be healthy, and it’s certainly necessary for science and medicine to advance, it can also stand in the way of progress. Unrestrained skepticism can mutate into neophobia–the fear of novelty–if it isn’t properly balanced with open-mindedness and curiosity. Neophobia prevents the unbiased experimentation with new possibilities, and, in its more extreme forms, even causes conventional scientists and physicians to ridicule new ideas simply because they are unconventional. Having a proper balance of open-mindedness and skepticism is essential for science and medicine to properly advance.
While maverick thinkers certainly aren’t always right, without these courageous individuals all scientific and medical progress would stagnate. The history of medicine reveals that during every time period there has been maverick thinkers who were ridiculed by their colleagues for having unconventional ideas that were later vindicated. This means that right now–in the historical epoch in which we currently find ourselves–this scenario is most likely taking place. So then, with this illuminating insight in mind, let us now consider who some of the promising maverick thinkers of our time might be, and what their ideas about medicine might mean.
Conversations on the Frontiers of Medical Research
In your hands is a collection of interdisciplinary interviews that I did with some of the most brilliant and controversial medical researchers and practitioners of our time. This collection of interviews with eminent physicians and cutting-edge researchers explores innovative work in the areas of life extension, cognitive enhancement, improved health and performance, integrative medicine, stem cell research, novel pharmacological and nutritional therapies, prosthetic implants, holistic and traditional medicines, mind-body medicine, euthanasia, and the integration of medicine with other fields of science.
As with my three previous interview books–Mavericks of the Mind, Voices from the Edge, and Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse–the people who I chose to interview are those creative and controversial thinkers who have stepped outside the boundaries of consensus thought and seen beyond the traditional and conventional view. I chose highly accomplished people who dare to question authority and think for themselves because it is often this capacity for independent thought that lies at the heart of their exceptional abilities and accomplishments. In questioning old belief systems, and traveling beyond the edges of the established horizons to find their answers, these unconventional thinkers have gained revolutionary insights, and they offer some unique solutions to the problems that are facing modern medicine.
Some of the questions that I will be discussing with these brilliant and courageous individuals have profound implications. What are some of the biggest problems with the way that medicine is practiced today, and what can be done to help improve the situation? What role does the mind play in the health of the body? How can people improve their cognitive or sexual performance? What are the primary causes of aging? What are currently the best ways to slow down, or reverse, the aging process and extend the human life span? How long is it possible for the human life span to be extended? What are some of the new medical treatments that will be coming along in the near future? Do we have the right to die? What role does spirituality play in medicine? Speculating on these important questions can help us to understand our bodies better, improve our health, enhance our performance, and live longer happier lives. Let’s take a look at some of these questions more closely.
What’s Wrong With Modern Medicine and How Can We Improve It?
Almost everyone agrees that something is wrong with modern medicine. I recently attended a talk given by Andrew Weil, and when he announced his prediction that the healthcare system in America would soon collapse, everyone in the room vigorously applauded. However, although most people agree that something is wrong with modern medicine, not everyone agrees as to what it is and what to do about it.
On a most basic level, many patients simply feel that their physicians can’t relate to what they’re going through and that they’re treated like a statistic. As a way to help remedy this situation, mind-body physician Bernie Siegel told me, “One simple suggestion would be to put every doctor into a hospital bed for a week as a patient. Put them in a hospital where they are not known, and have them admitted with a life-threatening illness as their diagnosis. Then let them stay there.”
Another big problem with modern medicine is expense. The skyrocketing costs of healthcare, and the lack of healthcare insurance by many, is a serious problem. According to Larry Dossey, the author of Space, Time, and Medicine, “We’re nearing fifty million people in this country who don’t have health insurance.” So what does Dr. Dossey suggest? “We need government-financed, centralized healthcare for everybody,” he said.
However, not everyone that I spoke with agrees that socialized healthcare is such a good idea. When I spoke with life extension researcher Durk Pearson he said, “The most dangerous possible thing I can think of–other than having a complete police state like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia–is to have a national medical program. Because, believe me, they are not going to be acting in your interest–they’re going to be acting in their interest. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. When you have a government health system, you have a bunch of bureaucrats telling you when it’s time to die. The reason is very simple. They’ll never collect back from you as much tax money as they spend taking care of you, so it’s time for you to die. Read up on Nobel prize-winning economist James Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory.”
Ironically, many people also seriously question the safety of modern medicine–and for good reason. Dr. Dossey also told me that, “The death rate in American hospitals from medical mistakes, errors, and the side-effects of drugs now ranks as the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.” Although some people who have studied the statistics that Dr. Dossey is referring to disagree with this figures, they don’t disagree by much, as even the most hard-nosed skeptics rank medical errors and drug side-effects as the fifth or sixth leading cause of death in American hospitals. Not a very comforting thought.
So the lack of trust that many people have toward modern medicine is understandable. However, an even greater cause for concern is that many people think that the medical establishment and the federal government are deliberately impeding medical advances that might divert profits away from pharmaceutical companies. For example, life extension researcher Durk Pearson–who won a landmark lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), charging the government agency with unconstitutionally restricting manufacturers from distributing truthful health information that could save people’s lives–told me that he thought that the FDA was “the biggest barrier between life extension and people.”
Pearson told me that this is simply because many people in the FDA are financially intertwined with the pharmaceutical companies. According to Pearson’s partner, life extension researcher Sandy Shaw “…right now the FDA favors drug companies. There’s no doubt about it. The drug companies are in bed
Introduction to Mavericks of the Mind
The term “paradigm shift” was coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1961. It was an attempt to describe the changes that occur in the Belief Systems (BS for short) of scientists, concerning how they interpret their data, and how scientific models evolve. Paradigms are the glasses that one sees through which color how and what we see. When they shift, so does the world. Today it’s almost a cliché to speak about new paradigm shifts occurring. Paradigms are shifting kaleidoscopically these days. This makes sense in light of the fact that–according to the latest reports from quantum physicists–we inhabit a universe that is composed of undulating vibrations, oscillating in continuously and infinitely varied rhythms and frequencies. The universe is filled with ambiguity and mystery. It is a shifting cascade of relativistic perspectives, where nothing is really quite solid, and we exist as mostly empty space and waves of possible probabilities. Our beliefs are the brain’s attempt to freeze the flow of matter and energy into fixed states, so we can grasp onto something familiar and tangible in a shifting sea too grand for us to ever fully comprehend.
Paradigms originate from, and exist only within, the framework of the human mind, but they lead to technological progress and social transformation in the material world. In your hands is a collection of in-depth interviews with some of the extraordinary minds from whom these new world views, and ultimately new world and social structures, are emerging. Within these pages we meet with some of the most creative and controversial thinkers on the intellectual frontiers of art and science – the mavericks, those who have stepped outside the boundaries of consensus thought, sometimes risking their careers, always risking ridicule. These are experts from various fields who have seen beyond the normal and traditional view, who are concerned with the problems facing modern day society, and who have traveled beyond the edges of the established horizons to find their answers. In questioning old belief systems these remarkable individuals have gained revolutionary insights into the nature of consciousness, and with intelligence, clarity, and wit they offer some enlightening proposals for the potential future of humanity.
Inside these maverick minds we tiptoe along the fringes of reason, exploring the realms of morphic fields, chaos theory, virtual reality, quantum philosophy, the possibilities of time travel, extraterrestrials, nanotechnology, and out-of-body experiences. We discussed such general themes with them as technology, ecology, God, psychedelics, death, and the future evolution of consciousness. We learned a lot from doing these interviews, but most importantly we got a very strong sense of optimism and hope from these people. In a world infested with pessimism, fear, and doubt, these individuals offer fresh perspectives and possibilities. Taken together, common underlying holistic themes emerge in these interviews of new world views that are at once analytical and intuitive, compassionate and wise, practical and imaginative in their perspectives.
“Inspiration,” Allen Ginsberg told us? “means to breath in.” The original inspiration for this book partly grew out of our desire to meet with people whose writing had had a great impact on us. Wild late-night philosophical discussions that Rebecca McClen Novick and I had on the nature of reality and exploration of consciousness provided the alchemical ignition that got the fire burning. Why not, we thought in a grandiose moment of audacious innocent inspiration, seek out some of the most brilliant brains and illuminated luminaries around, and see what they have to say on the subject. We wanted to somehow tie them all together, into a larger, grander, more comprehensive view.
We figured that as a man/woman team we could interview these people from a more holistic perspective than any single person. It was very interesting that when Rebecca and I would collaborate on questions, we would usually brainstorm separately, then share ideas and mutually arrange the sequence of the questions later. Almost every time we both thought that we had covered the spectrum of important points ourselves, and we were astonished to discover that we had relatively unique lists of questions with suprisingly very little overlap. This demonstrated to us the biases of our own perspectives, and could be suggestive of the inherent difference in how male and female brains differ in their thinking.
Our central source of fascination was the timeless mystery of consciousness. It is our very sense of self–the most mysterious and mundane aspect of existence, the most essential part of us–and yet we don’t know what it is, where it comes from, or where it’s going. It is all around us in many forms, and yet when we try to define it–that is, to draw a boundary around it and distinguish it from the rest of the universe–it suddenly becomes extremely elusive. Alan Watts told us that the paradox that we experience when trying to understand consciousness is like an eyeball trying to see itself (without a mirror), or teeth trying to bite themselves. We are our own blind spots.
How does consciousness arise? Can consciousness leave the body? Is it limited to human brains, or does it exist elsewhere in other forms? What is consciousness made of! What changes it? How and why? What happens to consciousness after physical death? What do quantum physics, chaos theory, sociobiology, neurophysiology, and morphic field resonance suggest to us about the nature and potentials of consciousness? Where are we when we’re lucid dreaming? Do intelligent extraterrestrials exist? What is consciousness evolving into? How does the world change when consciousness changes? These are some of the questions we–with the help of some extremely gifted thinkers–try to take on in this ambitious book.
One thing for sure about consciousness is that–like matter and energy, time and space-it changes, flows, and there are varying degrees of it. Some people, neurobiologists for the most part, think consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, which evolved over a 4.5-billion-year evolutionary struggle 4 to survive and reproduce. Others, dubbed mystical (or kooks) by the former, think consciousness creates the brain. Chicken or egg? Mind in body? Or body in mind? Some think consciousness is the brain. Behavioral psychologists, such as B.F. Skinner, have claimed that consciousness does not even exist, while others, Zen Buddhists for example, say that consciousness is all that exists.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fascinating models for consciousness have sprung out of the human mind. Numerous esoteric mystical disciplines claim to have used techniques to alter and heighten consciousness since the beginning of written history. Lao-Tzu reminded us that it all comes from and flows back into the great Tao. Buddha contributed one of the first maps of human psychology, and some of the most enduring methods for changing brain states. Aristotle believed that consciousness was not constrained by physical processes. Descartes divided the mind from the divine. Darwin gave us the evolutionary perspective, and the mechanism of natural selection.
Wundt tried to make the study of consciousness a science through disciplined introspective techniques. Pavlov taught us about the roles of excitation, inhibition, and associative learning in the nervous system. Konrad Lorenz revealed the biological secrets of neural imprinting. Freud pointed out that part of us is conscious, most of us is unconscious. Jung went further claiming that all of the human species share a common rneta-cultural collective unconscious, full of genetic dreams, myths, and legendary archetypes. Does this imply the potential for a collective consciousness? Is the process of development and evolution one in which the unconscious is being made more conscious?
From William James we learned that consciousness is not a thing, but a process, and that there is a vast multitude of mostly uncharted, potential conscious states. Aleister Crowley integrated many of the esoteric mystical traditions of previous centuries with the scientific method, wedding them into a single system. Albert Hofmann discovered the explosive psychoactive effects of LSD in 1943, vastly multiplying the questions of spirit and matter. Neuroscientists, such as Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga, are discovering that the brain is actually composed of many submodules, each like a miniature brain in itself, making each of us a multitude of potential personalities. Where these people leave off is where this book begins.
Charles Tart, a psychologist at UC Davis, has pointed out that the ways in which scientists theorize about the complex interplay between the brain and consciousness is highly flavored by the prevailing technology of a particular time in history. For instance, in the beginning of the century Freud built his model of consciousness in accordance with the technology that was popular in his day – the technology of the steam engine and the science of hydraulics. We can see this clearly in many of his concepts. There is reference to the idea of how drives build up pressure, which needs to be released, and how fluid-like energies such as the libido need to flow. The symbolic release of libidinal tension in a dream then, is seen as functioning like a safety valve for libidinal build-up-so the system doesn’t explode–like the safety valve on the boiler of a steam engine. The safety valve is there so if the pressure reaches a certain threshold, it just bleeds steam off in a
The four “isms” of the apocalypse: chauvinism, sexism, racism and fundamentalism are riding roughshod over the gardens of civilization. When we take a long look around at the effects of the modern world, it’s not a pretty sight. Blackened stumps of ancient forests smolder in the mid-day sun, young children stare from (and at) television sets, stunned with hunger and lack of love; torture and cruelty are the trademark of governments throughout the world; and wars are raging all over the face of our planet. For all the shimmering beauty of life, for all the exquisite potential waiting in the wings, when we take a long look around, we find ourselves none too sure about the future of our species, or for that matter, of any other. Perhaps we should be bidding our farewells to DNA, thanking it for having us and apologizing for being such sloppy guests. Or perhaps we should act “as if’ there is going to be a future, because the alternative leads down an ever-darkening path to humorlessness, apathy, and despair.
So, if we believe there is hope for our future, we must then get a grip on what it is that’s wrong with our present. At first thought this seems pretty obvious–our senses tell us so. You can see that the lower skyline of Los Angeles looks like the rim of a toilet bowl, you can hear the stories of battered women, you can touch the swollen stomach of a starving Somalian child, you can smell the choking fumes of Saddam Hussein’s mustard gas and you can taste the fruits of our labors with that nasty after-tang of malathion.
To attempt to exorcise these problems externally, without exorcising the mytho-scientific perspective which creates them, ensures that we will gain only temporary relief. A friend of mine defined insanity as repeating the same actions over and over again while remaining convinced things will turn out differently. The human species is in danger of being committed. What we need is a fundamental change of heart and mind, to shift the gears of our consciousness, and escape the temporal gridlock which has formed in the collective psyche.
Why take responsibility for our actions when we know that God is separate from us, directing our destiny? Why treat the ecosystem with respect, when we know that the universe is a machine? Why help one another when we know that competition is the key to success? Why express our sexuality when we know that it is something to be ashamed of! For all their genius, Descartes, Newton, Darwin and Freud had only part of the equation. We need to move on.
Yet it is not in order to overthrow the existing governing belief systems, but to reform them, that the people in this book speak out. Their concern is the promotion of evolution rather than revolution. They have built upon the established foundations of knowledge but have each added a story of their own, connected by the spiral staircase of integrity, wisdom and compassion. The men and women in this book are not afraid of change. They have questioned the stone-carved rules, which have been handed down to us from the summits of orthodoxy and in choosing to climb the mountain for themselves they have come up an alternative set of revelations which begin, not with, “Thou Shalt,” but with “Why Not?”
We are the protagonists and the authors of our own drama. It is up to us; there is no one left to blame. Neither the “system,” nor our leaders, nor our parents. We can’t go out and hang the first amoebae. Upon these pages are some alternative responses to those of despair and disillusionment in the face of our global crises. The purpose of this collection is not to convince you of any particular point of view, but to encourage a deeper exploration into the universe of your own mind, and the discovery of your own innate truths. Use what works, discard what doesn’t and above all enjoy the show!
Rebecca McClen Novick
Mavericks of the Mind – print edition
An important lesson that we learned from doing this book is that cooperation, patience, tolerance, and communication are the keys to solving most of the world’s problems. We really worked as a team to put this book together, and it was a balancing act that required much delicate coordination. It took about four years to complete, and although there was a great deal of work involved we did have a lot of fun. The collaboration of many others made it possible. We would like to extend special thanks to Carolyn Kleefeld and Nina Graboi who both helped tremendously in arranging many of the interviews. We would also like to thank our favorite magazine editor Judy McGuire at High Times for her support, and Jeanne St. Peter, who helped conduct the interview with Oscar Janiger while Rebecca was in England.
In addition, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Gabrielle Alberici, Randy Baker, Bob Banner, Debra Berger, Steven Brown, Allyn Brodsky, Brummbaer, Linda Capetillo-Cunliffe, Barbara Clarke-Lilly, Robin Christianson-Day, Elizabeth Gips, Deborah Harlow, Betsy Herbert, Larry Hughes, Dan Joy, Jeff Labno, Lisa LyonLilly, Joe & Nina Matheny, Ronny Novick, Andrew Shachat, Douglas Trainer, Silvia Utiger, Victoria Vaughn, Nur Wesley, Arlen Wilson, and wonderful friends too numerous to mention, for their contributions and support during the development of this project. We would also like to express our deepest appreciation to all the people we interviewed for their invaluable time and energy.
Exploring the Frontiers of Anti-Aging Medicine:
An Interview with Dr. Marios Kyriazis
By David Jay Brown
Marios Kyriazis, M.D. is both a clinician and a researcher in the field of anti-aging medicine. He has made significant contributions in the science and application of anti-aging medicine, and he is considered one of Britain’s leading longevity specialists. Dr. Kyriazis is one of the world’s experts on the subject of how carnosine effects the aging process, and his research into the effects of this mighty amino acid dipeptide have revealed how it can offer a number of unique and substantial health benefits.
Dr. Kyriazis has a postgraduate degree in Gerontology from the King’s College, University of London, and another in Geriatric Medicine, granted by the Royal College of Physicians. He is also a Chartered Biologist, and a Member of the Institute of Biology for his work in the biology of aging. Dr. Kyriazis is the founder and medical advisor to the British Longevity Society, and he is a certified member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. He is also an adviser to several other age-related organizations.
Dr. Kyriazis has extensive experience with nutritional supplements and anti-aging drugs. He is the author of several books on these subjects, including The Anti-Aging Plan, Stay Young Longer–Naturally, The Anti-Aging Cookbook, The Look Young Bible, and Carnosine And Other Elixirs Of Youth.
Dr. Kyriazis lives Hertfordshire, England. I interviewed him on November 6, 2004. Dr. Kyriazis has a warm and thoughtful manner about him. We spoke about the best ways to slow down the aging process, his research and clinical experience with carnosine, and how just the right amount of stress can actually benefit our health.
David: What do you think are the primary causes of aging?
Dr. Kyriazis: When I think about the primary causes of aging I divide them into two groups–fifty percent genetic and fifty percent environmental. From the environment we get free radicals, glycosylation, and hormonal changes. At the moment I don’t think there is anything that we can do about the genetic part, but we can of course influence the environmental part of aging. So I am working in clinical medicine to offer ways of counteracting the environmental causes, or the environmental basis of aging.
David: How do you differentiate between the biological symptoms of aging and those bodily changes that are actually caused by one’s belief about aging?
Dr. Kyriazis: It depends at what level one looks. I am more interested in the clinical level, although I have done biological research as well. I think there are different ways of looking at it. Biology will start with the molecules and the cells, and say this is an age-related phenomenon, a disease-related phenomenon. From my point of view I see individual patients. People usually come to see me because they have an age-related illness. So they come with, say, heart disease, or a prostate problem, which are age-related. Then when we expand on the actual causes of their problem they want to know more and find out about other age-related processes which may affect them. So it is a combined thing. I don’t necessarily make a distinction myself in my work.
David: What do you think are currently the best ways to slow down, or reverse, the aging process and extend the human life span?
Dr. Kyriazis: I offer a combination of different therapies affecting the entire body. For example, I recommend antioxidants and anti-glycator drugs or supplements. Apart from the ordinary vitamins and nutrients, I recommend carnosine, DHEA, and other hormones, depending upon whether the individual is deficient in those hormones or not. I also recommend a nutritional lifestyle and exercise–but not ordinary exercise. It’s a combination of different unusual exercises (which I discuss in my book The Anti-Aging Plan) plus mental and sense exercises as well.
I try to make it easy for the individual to follow this, because many times people think that it’s much easier to just take a tablet or a capsule, rather than change their lifestyle. But I think it is very important to find a way to motivate the individual to change their lifestyle. So, in other words, it’s a combination approach. Different things all working together. Some people say, oh take four different supplements, or four different hormones, and you are covered. I don’t agree with that. I think that there are so many different aspects of aging, and that we need to use different treatments, a multi-pronged approach. So that’s what I say to my patients.
David: Can you talk a little about some of the beneficial effects your patients have had with carnosine supplements?
Dr. Kyriazis: Yes. I think I was the first person to use carnosine for anti-aging purposes. Carnosine has been around for quite some time, and athletes used to use it to enhance muscle and a performance. But I began using it specifically for anti-aging back in 1999. And the first person who took carnosine under my guidance still takes it today, five years later, and everyone says how young she looks generally. Her head hasn’t got a single grey hair–not one–although she’s now 48 or 49. This corresponds with experiences we have had with other patients. In other words, they generally look younger. Their hair grows better, and it stays black, or whatever color it is, but not grey. Many people experience increased energy. Mental performance, memory, and other brain functions improve as well.
But I always say to people that carnosine is not something that you can notice yourself. It’s something that works inside the body over the long-term, over ten or twenty years to prevent all the different age-related processes and damages that happen. I see carnosine mainly as a preventative treatment, not so much as an immediate treatment for some specific disorder, or to be noticeable. It doesn’t immediately produce noticeable effects, although there are ways of doing different biochemical tests, blood tests, and so on, that show an overall improvement over the years.
I use carnosine on patients who are normally healthy, who don’t have a disease. For example, I don’t use it on people who have muscular dystrophy or other muscular diseases. I think some people take it for that, but I don’t know whether it works or not. So it is difficult to differentiate and see a noticeable improvement on a healthy person. It’s much easier to notice if somebody is ill and he or she gets better after taking it. But this supplement is mainly used by healthy people in the long-term.
David: Can you talk a little about carnosine’s anti-glycosylation effect, and how it protects the body from dangerous cross-linked, oxidized proteins?
Dr. Kyriazis: Everybody thinks that free radicals and oxidation are the main causes of aging, but there’s another important one, which is glycosylation, and this happens all the time. It is due to glucose or other molecules attaching to proteins. This causes cross-linking and “advanced glycosylation end-products” or AGEs. I would say that this causes more damage to the body than free radicals, and carnosine prevents this damage in different ways.
First of all, it prevents free radical attacks because it’s an antioxidant. But it is also an anti-glycosylator. In other words, it prevents the proteins from being cross-linked. If two proteins that are not supposed to attach to each other, become attached and combine together, then they become useless. That’s what happens in cross-linking, and carnosine prevents that. Carnosine is like a shield that protects proteins. So when two proteins come together they don’t attach to each other. They remain free to function normally.
So the first stage is that carnosine prevents glycosylation in the first place. The second stage is that if glycosylation has already happened, if the two proteins have become cross-linked, carnosine will facilitate the removal of these useless proteins. Actually, our body is trying to eliminate abnormal proteins all the time, but with aging this rate of elimination slows down. Therefore we have an accumulation of abnormal proteins. But carnosine speeds up the rate of elimination, so all the junk material we have in our body gets eliminated quicker.
There is also some evidence that carnosine can actually break the existing bonds between the two cross-linked proteins. So if the proteins have become attached to each other, and they are cross-linked, in some circumstances carnosine can break the bond and allow them to be free again, and to function normally. So carnosine has three different benefits in addition to being an antioxidant.
David: What kind of dosage do you recommend a healthy person take?
Dr. Kyriazis: I started with fifty milligrams a day, but now I recommend a higher dose–perhaps about two hundred milligrams a day. I know that some people use a thousand or more milligrams a day, but I don’t see the reason for that. I think about two hundred milligrams a day, in association with other supplements, should be enough for a healthy person.
David: What are your thoughts about using N-Acetylcarnosine eye drops–which breakdown into carnosine in the eye–as a way to protect the health of one’s eyes?
Dr. Kyriazis: This is also a very promising development. I was involved with advising the different researchers at the companies that are now marketing acetylcarnosine. The things that carnosine does as a tablet doesn’t work as well as