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Noam Chomsky

David Jay Brown

Noam Chomsky

Although Noam Chomsky revolutionized the study of linguistics, he is best known as one of the leading critics of U.S. foreign policy. The book Chomsky for Beginners begins with David Cogswell’s statement “Noam Chomsky is one of the ten most-quoted writers of all time,” and one encounters this assertion in many essays about Chomsky’s work. However, when Chomsky read the draft for this introduction, he told me that, “this is probably nonsense invented by some PR office. It can’t possibly be true…inconceivable.” 

Yet, according to The Chicago Tribune, “a  survey of standard reference work, the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, found that over the past dozen years Chomsky was the most-often-cited living author. Among intellectual luminaries of all eras, Chomsky placed eighth, just behind Plato and Sigmund Freud.” The New York Times called Chomsky “arguably the most important intellectual alive.”

The son of a Hebrew language scholar, Chomsky’s independent scholarship earned him entry into the Society of Fellows at Harvard University in 1951. He received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, although most of the research leading to this degree was done at Harvard between 1951 and 1955. After receiving his Ph.D., Chomsky taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 19 years. In 1976, he was appointed Institute Professor, and he held the Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Language and Linguistics. In addition to authoring more than eighty books on language and politics, Chomsky also lectures widely, and is one of America’s most popular speakers, drawing standing-room-only audiences all over the country.

In his book The End of Science, John Horgan states that, “in spite of his denials, Chomsky is the most important linguist who has ever lived.” The Encyclopedia Britannica declares that “it is hardly an exaggeration to say that there is no major theoretical issue in linguistics today that is debated in terms other than those in which he has chosen to define it.” Yet when Chomsky read over the draft for this introduction, and he read my phrase “Chomsky is generally regarded as the most important linguist who has ever lived,” he wrote me back saying, “that’s a huge exaggeration.” 

Among his many accomplishments as a linguist, Chomsky is most famous for his work on what is called generative grammar. He revolutionized the discipline of linguistics by arguing that the acquisition of language is part of the natural or innate structure of the human brain, and that there is a “universal grammar”, genetically hard-wired into us from birth, that defines the rules, range, and limits of all possible human languages. Some of his books on this subject include Knowledge of Language and Language and Mind.

Although the Arts and Humanities Citation Index declares Chomsky to be the most-often-cited living author, it’s rare that you’ll hear about him in the mainstream media. This is because since 1965 Chomsky has been very outspoken about his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, and the corporate influence on the media. His book of essays American Power and the New Mandarins is considered to be one of the most substantial arguments ever against the American involvement in Vietnam. Some of his many other political books include Towards a New Cold War, The Manufacture of Consent, Rogue States, The Chomsky Reader, 9-11: Understanding Power and Middle East Illusions.

Many of Chomsky’s political books recount in disturbing detail how the U.S. government has supported violent dictators and totalitarian regimes throughout the world, and how it has repeatedly inflicted horrific atrocities on Third World countries that fail to support American corporate interests. He goes into painstaking detail describing how these atrocities have been covered up by the mainstream, corporate-owned media, and how they have created a strong negative sentiment toward America around the world. 

I spoke with Professor Chomsky on May 30, 2003. Despite his staggering accomplishments, Chomsky comes across as unusually humble. He has a very gentle, yet highly persuasive manner about him, and he choses his words with great care when he speaks. Chomsky exudes conviction and calmness, and expresses himself with great clarity, serenity and eloquence, as well as the utmost patience; I was acutely aware that he had answered some of the questions that I was asking him at least a thousand times before, yet he replied with such thoughtfulness that it seemed as if he was answering these questions for the first time.

There is a great generosity to Chomsky’s spirit, and he has an incredibly vast, truly encyclopedic knowledge-base of scientific and political facts stored in his head. I spoke with Chomsky about propaganda and the media, the political potential of the internet, how to improve democracy, medical marijuana and the Drug War, the relationship between language and consciousness, and what he thinks are the greatest threats to the human species–a subject he spoke about with great urgency.

David: Why do you think it’s so important to question authority?

Noam: Just out of the commitment to freedom. I think people have every right to be free, independent creatures, and that means to question any kind of hierarchy or domination, or authority. It’s almost true by definition if you believe in freedom.

David: All previous forms of media–television, radio, newspapers, etc.–have been monopolized by corporations. It seems that they can’t monopolize the internet. Do you think that this will make a difference sociologically?

Noam: First of all, historically, that’s not really true. I don’t know about other countries, but the history of media in the modern period–the last two centuries–has been studied pretty closely in England and the United States, and the period when the press was most free was probably the Nineteenth Century. There was a very substantial press in the Nineteenth Century, and it was very diverse. There was a working class press, an ethnic press, and so on–with a lot of participation and involvement. It reached a great many people, and it presented a variety opinions and point of views. 

Over time this changed. Actually there was an effort, first in England, to try to censor the independent press by various government means, such as taxation and others. Now that didn’t work, there were too many ways around it. It was finally recognized that through the forces of capital concentration and advertiser reliance, the independent press would simply be eroded since it would not be able to gain business support, either capital investment or advertising. And over time the press has narrowed, very sharply in fact. It’s been going on for the last few years, and the mass-based independent press has largely disappeared. 

In the United States, for example, as recently as the 1950’s, there were about 800 labor-based newspapers which reached, maybe, thirty million people a week. Of course that’s completely disappeared. If you go back to the early part of the century, about a century ago, popular-based, what we would call left-oriented journals, were on the scale of commercial press, and the same has been true in England. So it’s not entirely true that it’s always been monopolized, that’s a process that takes place through capital accumulation and reliance on advertising. 

The internet is a very important case. Like most of the modern economy, it was developed in the state system, and for about thirty years it was either within the Pentagon, or later the National Science Foundation. It was only privatized in the mid-90’s, and since then it has changed. So far it’s been impossible to really control, so if people want to use it for their own purposes they can. 

But there are major efforts being made by the corporate owners and advertisers to shape the internet, so that it will be mostly used for advertising, commerce, diversion and so on. Then those who wish to use it for information, political organizing, and other such activities will have a harder time. Now that hasn’t happened yet, and it’s really a terrain of struggle. But what’s going on with the internet is, in some respects, similar to the early days of print press, later radio, to some extent television.

David: What sort of difference do you think the internet has made politically? Do you see it as a tool for improving human rights and democracy?

Noam: The appearance of the internet has had a big effect. So a good deal of the organizing and activism of the past say ten years has been internet based. Now that’s true inside particular countries. So, for example, the overthrow of the dictatorship in Indonesia was very much facilitated by internet contact among people, many of them students, who were able to organize, and overthrow the dictatorship. Now we’ve just seen it in South Korea very dramatically. 

Like just about every major element of

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Hans Moravec – 2

Hans Moravec

By David Jay Brown

Hans Moravec is one of the world’s leading experts in robotics. He is a Research Professor  in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he founded the Mobile Robot Laboratory, and directs the world’s largest robotics research program. 

Dr. Moravec is the author of two of the most popular books on the subject of robots, and the implications of evolving robot intelligence, Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence (Harvard University Press, 1988) andRobot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (Oxford University Press, 1998), which renown science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke described as “the most awesome work of controlled imagination I have ever encountered.” Dr. Moravec has also published many papers and articles about robotics, computer graphics, multiprocessors, space travel and other speculative areas. 

Dr. Moravec has been interested in robots and “thinking machines” since he was a child in the 1950s. He built his first robot out of tin cans, batteries, lights and a motor, at the age of ten. In high school he won two science fair prizes for a light-following electronic turtle and a tape-controlled robot hand. In college he designed a computer to control more sophisticated robots. For his master’s degree Moravec built a small robot with whiskers and photoelectric eyes controlled by a minicomputer. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1980  for a TV-equipped robot, remote controlled by a large computer, that negotiated cluttered obstacle courses, taking about five hours.

Since 1980 Dr. Moravec’s Mobile Robot Lab at Carnegie Mellon University has discovered more effective approaches for robot spatial representation–notably 3D occupancy grids, that, with newly available computer power, promise commercial free-ranging mobile robots within a decade. In 2003 he co-founded SEEGRID Corporation to undertake this commercialization. To find out more about Dr. Moravec’s work visit his Web site:www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/

Dr. Moravec predicts that by the middle of the 21st century extremely powerful robots will be built with superhuman intelligence. He envisions robot physicians in the future that will be able to repair virtually any type of damage to the human body. These “fractal branching, ultra-dexterous bush robots” would be composed of “a branched hierarchy of articulated limbs, starting from a macroscopically large trunk through successively smaller and more numerous branches, ultimately to microscopic twigs and nanoscale fingers.” Dr. Moravec suggests that “even the most complicated procedures could be completed by a trillion-fingered robot, able, if necessary, to simultaneously work on almost every cell of a human body.” He also imagines that one day we may be able to transplant our brains into powerful robot bodies, or transfer the contents of our minds into extremely sophisticated computers. 

I spoke with Hans on March 13, 1999, and again on April 12, 2004. Hans possesses that rare whole-brain synergy that comes when technical expertise is coupled with an expansive imagination. He seems to genuinely love speculating about consciousness and robotics, and he laughs a lot. I spoke with Hans about the current state of robotics, artificial intelligence and the nature of consciousness, the possibility of multiple universes, and how robots might evolve in the next century. 

David: How did you get interested in robotics?

Hans: That’s life long. When I was four years old my father helped me build a dancing man. I had this mechanical construction kit, made of hard wood, pegs and pulley wheels. And there was a device that especially caught my attention. You turned the crank, and a central wheel inside of a box turned another wheel at right angles. That moved up and down, and turned round and round.

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Kary Mullis

David Jay Brown


Kary Mullis

 Kary Mullis won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which revolutionized the study of genetics. The journal Science listed Dr. Mullis’ invention of PCR as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in human history.

PCR is a technique that allows chemists to easily, and inexpensively, replicate as much precise DNA as they need. This solved a core problem in genetics. Before PCR, the existing methods for making copies of those particular strands of DNA that one was interested in were slow, expensive and imprecise. The brilliance behind this invention, as well as it utter simplicity, lies in PCR’s ability to turn the job over to the very biomolecules that nature uses for copying DNA. PCR multiplies a single, microscopic strand of genetic material billions of times within hours. The process has many applications in medicine, genetics, biotechnology and forensics.

When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Dr. Mullis the Nobel Prize, they said it had “hastened the rapid development of genetic engineering” and “greatly stimulated biochemical research and opened the way for new applications in medicine and biology.” Just flipping through any current issue of the journals Science or Nature one will encounter advertisements for PCR systems every few pages. In addition to revolutionizing the study of genetics, it’s also influenced popular culture and science fiction. Because PCR has the ability to extract DNA from fossils, it was the theoretical basis for the motion picture Jurassic Park. In reality, PCR is the basis of an entirely new scientific discipline, paleobiology.

Dr. Mullis earned his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972, and lectured there until 1973. That year he became a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric cardiology at the University of Kansas Medical School. In 1977 he began two years of postdoctoral work in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. He joined the Cetus Corporation in Emeryville, California, as a DNA chemist in 1979, and it was during his seven years there that he invented PCR. Dr. Mullis has authored several major patents, and he has received numerous, highly prestigious awards–including the Japan Prize in 1993, the Thomas A. Edison Award (1993), and the California Scientist of the Year Award (1992). He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1998.

His many publications include “The Cosmological Significance of Time Reversal” (Nature), “The Unusual Origin of the Polymerase Chain Reaction” (Scientific American), “Primer-directed Enzymatic Amplification of DNA with a Thermostable DNA Polymerase” (Science), and “Specific Synthesis of DNA In Vitro via a Polymerase Catalyzed Chain Reaction” (Methods in Enzymology). Dr. Mullis is also the author of the book Dancing Naked In the Mind Field (Pantheon Books, 1998). This autobiographical account of his fascinating, and sometimes mind-bending adventures, simply overflows with a bounty of novel and thought-provoking ideas. Dr. Mullis makes a compelling case for the existence of greater mystery in the world around us, and he seems more interested in seeking truth than he is avoiding controversy.

Dr. Mullis is currently a Distinguished Researcher at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. He also serves on the board of scientific advisors of several companies, provides expert advice in legal matters involving DNA, and is a frequent lecturer at college campuses, corporations and academic meetings around the world. He is the inventor and founder of Altermune LLC. To find out more about Dr. Mullis’ work, visit his Web site: www.karymullis.com

Dr. Mullis lives with his wife, Nancy Cosgrove Mullis, in Newport Beach, California and in Anderson Valley, California. I met Kary and Nancy in 1999, when we did a radio show together with the late Elizabeth Gips on KKUP in Cupertino, California. I spoke with Kary again on September 22, 2003 for this book. During the interview, I noticed playful, childlike 

qualities in Kary when he was discussing sophisticated scientific ideas. There was a simplicity, and a clarity, in the way that he approached complex ideas, and his mind seemed to exist in many dimensions at once. Kary put a lot of thought into each of his answers, and although his mind seemed to be moving very quickly, he also appeared to be a very relaxed. Kary has an uncanny ability to combine extremely far-out perspectives with very practical, nuts-and-bolts thinking.

We spoke about the direction of science, the relevance of nonrandom mutations in evolution, psychic phenomena and other unexplainable experiences, the nature of time, the “thickness” of the moment, and the possibility of an asteroid colliding with the Earth–which he thinks is the most urgent threat to life on this planet. We also discussed his current research, which offers tremendous hope as a medical treatment for dealing with virtually any type of pathogen by engaging the immune system in a novel way. 

David: Where do you think humanity should be focusing its scientific efforts right now?

Kary: I think that if we, as a society, want to survive for a long time, then we’ve got to put up an umbrella over our heads to protect us from the things that are obviously going to fall on our planet. 

I often wonder, given that the universe is so vast, with so many stars that must have planets like ours, why there aren’t aliens down here trying to trade us beads and trinkets for Manhattan? (laughter) We must have something that they’d think was cool, and yet, it just doesn’t seem to be the case. If it is, they’re not making themselves known.

Maybe it’s because cultures tend to get wiped out by asteroids. We have gotten to the point where we can look into the near vicinity of space and see the things that are a serious danger to us.  The asteroid belt is full of things that don’t have stable orbits.  Maybe by the time a culture can recognize that, it’s too late, because they have gone off on some ridiculous tangents.  I think we’ve done that, in terms of our science.


We’re not pragmatists anymore. For at least a couple of hundred years Americans have always been thought of as pragmatic philosophers–if it doesn’t matter, we’re not going to worry about it too much. We’ve spent billions and billions trying to understand something called ‘The Grand Unified Theory of Everything’–and all you have to do is take LSD one time to realize that that is not going to happen. (laughter) You’re just not going to find ‘The Grand Unified Field of Everything’.

You can pretend to find it by spending vast sums of money and building huge machines. We’re building this great big thing called BABAR, which looks like an elephant. It’s an attachment that detects B-mesons, and will sit on top of the Stanford Linear Accelerator. They’re making something that’s going to produce a lot of what’s called B-mesons, and, from its particular properties, physicists hope to understand enough to provide the final structure of the universe–’The Grand Unified Theory of Everything’.

But human beings, who are paying for this whole endeavor, will never understand this. I’ve been studying it since I was a little boy, and it’s not really clear to me that this particular theory of everything is anything more than just a myth. You can find evidence for anything if you look hard enough. 

David: What do you think is the biggest threat to the human species?

Kary: We need to know where the asteroids are, and which ones could be on a course for Earth sometime in the next five hundred years, or even right now. If something two miles wide crashed on this planet going 17,000 miles per hour– which it probably would be by the time it got here– it would destroy everything. It’s done it before. We know for sure it happened 65 million years ago. That seems like a long time, but it’s not an infinitely long time. It’s just a long time.

You have to have a sense of a long distant future for man to be concerned about something like that. There are many asteroids, and every now and then, because of

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Candace B. Pert

David Jay Brown
Interviews Candace B. Pert

Candace B. Pert is a neuroscientist who conducted groundbreaking research that changed the way scientists view the relationship between mind and body. While still a graduate student in her mid-twenties at Johns Hopkins University in 1972, she discovered the opiate receptor, the molecular-docking site where drugs like opium and morphine bind to nerve cells in the human brain. This breakthrough finding lead to the discovery of endorphins–natural, painkilling opiate-like chemicals in the brain, which Dr. Pert refers to as “the underlying mechanism for bliss and bonding.” 

These findings dramatically increased our understanding of how drugs interact with the nervous system, and how the body and brain communicate with each other. Dr. Pert went on to discover numerous receptor sites for other drugs and naturally occurring substances in the brain, and she helped map the chemical communication system that operates between the brain and the immune system. This paved the way for an understanding of mind-body medicine and the biochemical basis for emotions. Dr. Pert has now spent over thirty years decoding the biochemical language of what she refers to as the body’s “information molecules”–such as peptides and other ligands–which regulate every biochemical aspect of human physiology. Her interdisciplinary model of the “bodymind” explains how these chemicals distribute information simultaneously to every cell in the body. This understanding has unlocked the secret of how our emotions can literally create or destroy our health. 

Many people believe that Dr. Pert should have won the Nobel Prize for her discovery of the opiate receptor–which is considered one of the most important discoveries in the history of neuroscience–but that internal politics interfered with her being properly recognized for her work. In this regard, it is important to note that Dr. Pert discovered the opiate receptor only after her supervisor had specifically ordered her to stop looking for it, concluding that it was a fruitless search, and Dr. Pert had to continue her research in secret. Her supervisor was later awarded the Lasker Award (an award for outstanding medical research) for its discovery without her. The story of Dr. Pert’s revolutionary discovery, the development of her research and the evolution of her philosophy, as well as the storm of controversy that formed around her work, is chronicled in her autobiography Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel (Scribner, 1997) which reads like an spellbinding action-adventure story, and offers a personal and insightful reinterpretation of neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Dr. Pert was featured in Washingtonian magazine as one of Washington’s fifty “Best and Brightest” individuals, and she was featured in Bill Moyers’s highly acclaimed PBS television series “Healing and the Mind”, as well as the companion book that went with the series. Dr. Pert created the cassette tape series Your Body Is Your Subconscious Mind, and is currently working on a psychoactive CD to enhance healing and personal transformation. She lectures extensively throughout the country about the implications of her research for mind-body medicine, and her work is helping to heal the pathological divisions in Western culture between mind and body, science and spirituality. “Finally, here is a Western scientist who has done the work to explain the unity of matter and spirit, body and soul!” wrote Deepak Chopra in the introduction to her book. To find out more about Dr. Pert’s work visit: www.candacepert.com

Dr. Pert received her Ph.D. in pharmacology, with distinction, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1974, and she conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 1975 to 1987. She has held a variety of research positions with the National Institutes of Health, and served as Chief of the Section on Brain Biochemistry of the Clinical Neuroscience Branch of the NIMH. Dr. Pert left the NIMH in 1987 and founded a private biotech laboratory that she directed. Dr. Pert’s research interests have ranged from decoding “information molecules” to trying to find cures for

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Rupert Sheldrake – 2

 David Jay Brown
Interviews Rupert  Sheldrake


Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist who’s research strongly challenges the paradigms of conventional science. He is the author of more than fifty scientific papers, and six popular books, which develop his controversial hypothesis regarding how forms occur in nature, and document his groundbreaking research into mysterious phenomena that traditional science has great difficulty explaining. His ideas and research strike a strong cord in many people, and he has written some of the bestselling science books in the world, including A New Science of Life, The Presence of the Past, The Rebirth of Nature, and Seven Experiments That Could Change the World.

Dr. Sheldrake is best known for his controversial Theory of Formative Causation, which implies a non-mechanistic universe, governed by laws which themselves are subject to change and evolution. His theory and research grew out of an interest in morphogenesis, the process by which developing organisms, as well as inorganic forms such as crystals, take their shape as they grow. 

Dr. Sheldrake’s theory is based upon the premiss that there is an inherent memory in Nature. Repeating patterns that occur in evolution come to resemble habits that form in Nature over time. The more these habits are repeated, the stronger the memories of them become, making it increasingly likely that the forms will be repeated in the future. These memories are organized within form-shaping “morphic fields” that exist within and around crystal formations and biological systems. These fields resonate across space and time, invisibly guiding, organizing and orchestrating much of how the world forms around us. Dr. Sheldrake proposes that these fields help to explain not only morphogenesis, but also the ease with which an organism can learn a new behavior, social organization, and even telepathy and other mysterious phenomena. “Sheldrake has a remarkable ability to identify the weak spots of scientific orthodoxy,” said science writer Paul Davies.

Dr. Sheldrake’s biological field theory and research are controversial. In fact, Robert Anton Wilson said, “Rupert: Sheldrake is the most controversial scientist on Earth.” Some of the more rigid members of the scientific establishment have had strong critical reactions to his work. In 1981 the British science journal Nature described A New Science of Life as “the best candidate for burning there has been for many years.” Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins declined to be interviewed for this very book, partially because I was including the following interview with Dr. Sheldrake. But for a growing number of younger, more open-minded scientists Dr. Sheldrake is hailed as a revolutionary and a genius. “Sheldrake is the Einstein of biology,” declared chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham. 

The reason that Sheldrake is so highly regarded by certain people is because his theories explain so much that conventional science simply can not account for–like how pets can anticipate their owners arrival. How people can tell when their being stared at. How flocks of birds and schools of fish organize themselves. How homing pigeons can find their way. How telepathic experiences occur between friends and family. Conventional science is unable to adequately explain these phenomena, and Dr. Sheldrake’s theory of biological fields provides a model that, rather simply, puts it all into perspective. 

Part of Dr. Sheldrake’s brilliance lies in his ability to devise simple experiments, that anyone can do for very little money, and produce results that challenge the paradigms of conventional science (such as those described in his book Seven Experiments That Could Could The World). His easy-to-do experiments have helped to revitalize a sense of scientific curiosity in many people. Students around the world, of all ages–from elementary school to graduate school–routinely perform experiments designed by Dr. Sheldrake as class projects.

Born in Newark-on-Trent, England, Dr. Sheldrake studied natural sciences at Cambridge and philosophy at Harvard, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow. He took a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cambridge in 1967, and in the same year became a Fellow of Glare College, Cambridge. Dr. Sheldrake was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology there until 1973. He was a Rosenheim Research Fellow of the Royal Society, and at Cambridge he studied the development of plants and the aging of cells. From 1974 to 1978 Dr. Sheldrake was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, and he continued to work there as a Consultant Physiologist until 1985. He lived for a year and a half at the ashram of Fr. Bede Griffiths in South India, where he wrote A New Science of Life. In July 2000 Dr. Sheldrake was the H. Burr Steinbach visiting scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts. He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in San Francisco. 

Dr. Sheldrake is the author of A New Science of Life, The Presence of the Past, and The Rebirth of Nature, which Deepak Chopra called “a breakthrough book”. Dr. Sheldrake’s book Seven Experiments that Could Change the World was voted Book of the Year by the British Institute for Social Inventions. His two most recent books explore research from two of the “seven experiments” in depth–Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (which won the British Scientific and Medical Network Book of the Year Award), and The Sense of Being Stared At, And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind.  Dr. Sheldrake co-authored two books with theologian Matthew Fox–Natural Grace: Dialogues on Science and Spirituality and The Physics of Angels. He also did three books in collaboration with ethnobotanist Terence McKenna and mathematician Ralph Abraham–Trialogues on the Edge of the West, The Evolutionary Mind, and Trialogues at the Edge of the Millennium. To learn more about Dr. Sheldrake’s work visit his web site: www.sheldrake.org 

I met Rupert at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California in 1989 when I interviewed him for my book Mavericks of the Mind. I got together with Rupert again in 1996 to discuss the possibility of working on a study of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes, and we ended up working closely together for around three years on a number of exciting research projects. We co-authored three scientific papers together, and I did the California-based research, and many of the interviews, for his books Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, and The Sense of Being Stared At. 

Dr. Sheldrake lives in London with his wife Jill Purce, a pioneer in vocal healing techniques, and their two sons Merlin and Cosmo. I interviewed Rupert for this book on March 8, 2004. Rupert is one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever met, and one of the most gracious and thoughtful people that I know. He’s extremely polite, and he patiently expresses his revolutionary ideas with old-world charm and aristocratic authority. Rupert is a deeply spiritual person, and he has profoundly integrated his scientific and religious beliefs. In the following interview we spoke about the unexplained powers of animals, his model for understanding telepathy, the interface between science and spirituality, and how our beliefs and intentions might effect the outcome of experiments in unexpected ways.

David: What were you like as a child, and what inspired your interest in biology?

Rupert: : As a child I was always very interested in plants and animals. I kept many pets. We had a dog, budgerigars, a rabbit, pigeons, a jackdaw, newts, terrapins, fish, and every year I raised tadpoles and caterpillars. So I was intrigued by animals. 

I was especially interested in pigeons. We lived near a railway station where pigeons were sent from all over England to our home town, Newark-on-Trent. I used to go there with my father every Saturday, where they released the pigeons for races. There were hundreds of these wicker baskets, and I helped the porters at the railway station release the pigeons. We opened the baskets and all these pigeons took off, flew up into the air, circled around, and then headed off in different directions to their homes all over Britain. I kept pigeons myself, took them away from home, and sure enough they came back. So these were things that made me very interested in animal behavior. The biggest mystery really was the homing of pigeons. I asked everyone how they did it, but no one knew, and that was one of the enduring questions for me. 

I was also very keen on plants. My father was a herbalist. He knew a lot about plants, and he taught me about them. He had a microscope laboratory in our house, and used to show me things under the microscope–samples of animal and plant tissue, and drops of pond water with little creatures in them. So I was steeped in biology as a child. 

I also had an experience with plants that, in retrospect, turned out to be rather important. When I was about five or six I was on our family willow farm. My grandmother’s family had a farm where they grew willows for making wicker baskets. I saw a row of willow trees with wire hanging between them, and I asked why the wire was there. My uncle said to me that they had made a fence out of willow stakes and they came to life. When he said that I could see that, in fact, there were stakes there, and they’d all sprouted and turned into willow trees. So this was really a moment that gave me a great interest in regeneration, and a lot of my work has been concerned with regeneration ever since–both in plants, and in a more broad sense.

David: Why is morphogenesis such a mystery to science, and how did you first develop the concept of a morphic or a morphogenetic field?

Rupert: : When I was at Cambridge doing my research in developmental biology I worked on plant morphogenesis. In particular, I worked on the way plants regenerate, how they make hormones, and the how the hormones are moved around in the plant. The hormone that I worked on, auxin, was well-characterized, and it’s chemical nature is well known. I worked on where it was made, and how it was distributed in the plant. At first I started off in a mechanistic way, thinking this would help us understand how plants take up their form, how morphogenesis works. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, although it was helpful in a way, and although it was important to know about it, it couldn’t really explain what I wanted to understand. The reason is that all plants have auxin–at least all higher plants, as well as all ferns–and yet they all have different shapes. You’ve got the same auxin in a palm tree, an oak tree, or in a grass, and yet they all have totally different shapes. Even within the same family you can have plants with totally different shapes of leaves–like, for example, in the bean and pea family, there’s all different leaves–and yet the same chemical is there So it seemed to me that trying to explain it just in terms of a few chemicals wasn’t really going to work, because even within, say, a pea plant, you’ve got the same auxin in the petals, the sepals, the leaves, the stems, and the roots, so it doesn’t explain why they all have different shapes.

Then I came across the holistic tradition in developmental biology, where the idea of morphogenetic fields–form-shaping fields–was already well-established. It had been put forward in the 1920’s for the first time, and I thought this was a really helpful idea. The idea was that there was a kind of invisible plan in the plant, and the genes and these chemicals worked in their own ways, of course, but they worked within the framework of a kind of invisible plan given by this field. That made a lot sense to me, but nobody knew what these fields were. The more I thought about them, the more I thought this is something really important, and also something really new–a new kind of biological field that we don’t have in physics–and I got intrigued by the nature of these fields. 

The more I thought about them, the more I realized that they had to evolve, because living forms evolve. They have history within them, and the big insight for me came through realizing the fields must have a kind of memory. The hypothesis I came up with–in fact, it came to me a flash–was the idea that this memory must involve a kind of transmission of influence across time, by the process I call morphic resonance. These ideas came to me while I was still working at Cambridge on plant morphogenesis in 1973.

David: How did you become interested in the unexplained powers of animals?

Rupert: : My interest in the unexplained powers of animals goes right back to my childhood, as I just said, and my interest in homing pigeons. This was really the first area that I started investigating. When I was at Cambridge working on plants I was still very interested in animals, and I used to ask people about homing pigeons. I found that my colleagues in animal behavior really just didn’t know how pigeons found their way home. They didn’t know how navigation occurred in animals. Then, when I was thinking about it, I had the idea that maybe the pigeons were linked to their home in some way through a field, a kind of morphic field. That lead me to think of an experiment which is the opposite of the normal experiments with pigeons. The normal experiments involve taking the pigeon from the home. My experiment was the opposite–taking the home from the pigeon. So even while I was at Cambridge doing work on plants, I actually started a project on homing pigeons. I set up a homing pigeon project with a mobile loft in 1973 on a friend’s estate in Ireland.

So I started working on this unexplained aspect of animal behavior right then. This got me into the whole subject of other unexplained aspects of animal behavior. The more I asked people, the more I thought about it, the more such examples came to mind–including the phenomenon of animals knowing when their owners are coming home. So that became the basis really for my investigations that I set forth in my book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World, published in 1994, in which three unexplained areas of animal behavior are three of the seven experiments–dogs that know when their owners are come home, homing pigeons, and the social behavior of termites. That started me off on a whole new phase of research looking experimentally into these unexplained animal abilities.

David: Why do you think studying the human-animal pet bond is particularly important?

Rupert: : Because there’s a lot we don’t understand about animal behavior, and the animals we know best are the pets that we keep in our houses. There’s a huge amount of information available on these pets from people who keep them. We know far more about them than we do about wild animals–which, after all, we don’t watch that much–or laboratory animals, which are kept under extremely artificial conditions. The behavior of laboratory animals is usually not really observed very closely, and their behavior is always very constrained by the cages they’re kept in and the artificial situations they live in. Domestic animals are the animals we know best, and which have most to teach us I think. 

They also form bonds with their owners, which mean that people are not just external observers, they interact with their animals. This interaction is very interesting to people. It’s one reason they keep pets. After all, they want to have interactions with their animals, and they’re interested in it. So this provides a huge amount of potential material for research. By working with pets, and the bonds between people and pets, we can find out a great deal just by asking people what they’ve noticed. I have a huge database with now more than five thousand cases of unexplained behavior in pets and other domestic animals, and this information really is the starting point for my natural history of unexplained abilities. In cases where it’s possible to test what people observe about their animals and their behavior, we then move on to do experiments.

David: Can you talk a little bit about some of the latest developments in your research with the unexplained powers of animals?

Rupert: : I summarized the main phase of my research in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home in 1999. Since then I’ve gone on working with animals, most particularly with parrots, and in particular with the parrot Nkisi, belong to Aimee Morgona in New York. This parrot turns out to be one of the most remarkable animals in the world. He’s an African Gray that now has a vocabulary of more than 950 words, which is a world record, and he speaks in sentences. He’s used at least seven thousand different sentences, and he uses language creatively. He also seems to have a concept of self; he uses the word “I”.

So this a completely astonishing situation, of an animal that talks and uses language in a meaningful way–better than chimps or gorillas that have been taught to use language through American Sign Language. He does it in English. You can hear what he says. All this is in itself totally amazing and mind-boggling, but most amazing of all is that he picks up what his owner’s thinking telepathically, and comments on her thoughts and intentions–even on her dreams. Sometimes he wakes her up from her sleep by commenting on her dreams. She noticed this and got in touch with me in 2000, and of course I went to visit her as soon as I could in Manhattan to see for myself. And sure enough what she told me seemed to be true. 

We set up a whole series of controlled tests to see if he really could pick up what she was thinking. In these tests we filmed the parrot continuously in one room, and she was in another room–with all the doors closed, on another floor of the house, so there was no sound transmission possible. She looked at a series of photographs that she hadn’t seen before, which were in sealed randomized envelopes. In each trial, she was filmed as she opened an envelope, and looked at the picture in it for two minutes. She didn’t say anything. Then we had independent transcription of what the parrot said. Three independent people transcribed it, blind, not knowing what was going on. We then saw whether the words the parrot said matched the picture she was looking at. In some tests the parrot didn’t say anything. But when he did, we could check and see if the words corresponded–and in an astonishingly significant way they did.

In some trials, for example, she was looking at a picture of a man on a phone, and the parrot said, “What’cha doing on the phone?” In other trials she was looking at pictures of flowers, and the parrot said, “those are flowers. It’s a pic of flies”, and went on talking about flowers. In other trials she was looking at water, and he said the word “water”. When you see the videos it’s pretty obvious that something really astonishing is happening, but of course we had to have evaluated in an objective way. All the statistics were evaluated independently by a professor of statistics in Amsterdam, and, sure enough, the whole thing is a hugely significant statistically. A paper on this research was published in January 2004 in The Journal of Scientific Exploration, and the text is available on my web site for anyone interested in the details.

David: Could you explain the model that you use to understand telepathy and other unexplained phenomena?

Rupert: : The model I have is that members of a social group are linked to each other through a morphic field. Members of a flock of birds or a school of fish are like cells within a larger organism. The whole flock, or the school, is like an organism, and they’re like parts of it. I think there’s a field for the whole flock or school. If some members of the group go away the field isn’t broken–it stretches. So, for example, if a dog forms a bond to a human being, they’re part of a social field. The human being’s an honorary member of the dog’s pack, as it were. 

If the person goes away the field linking them doesn’t break, it stretches. I think that stretched field–like an invisible band which continues to connect them–is the channel through which telepathic communication can take place. Interestingly, telepathy typically happens at a distance between members of social groups, people who know each other well, or animals who know each other well. It doesn’t typically occur between strangers. If you look at human telepathy, most of it occurs between best friends, parents and children, twins, brothers and sisters–people who know each other very well, or have emotional bonds. So I think that telepathy is a reflection of these morphic fields that link together members of the group, even when they’re at a distance.

David: A number of scientists that I’ve interviewed have told me that they didn’t think that there was any scientific evidence for psychic phenomena. What would you say to these scientists about research in psychic phenomena?

Rupert: : I’d ask them if they’d actually looked at the evidence. It’s a common assumption in the scientific world that there is no evidence for psychic phenomena. But all the people that I’ve met who say that are unbelievably ignorant of the evidence. Most of them have never read a book, or any of the papers in journals on the subject. One or two of them, when I pressed them have said, oh well, they vaguely remembered having read a paper about thirty years ago on an analysis of Rhine’s experiments at Duke in the 1930’s, and thought there might something wrong with the statistics. It’s that kind of level of information that I encounter. 

This was thrown into sharp relief in January 2004 when I held a debate with Professor Lewis Walpert, who is one of the pillars of the science establishment in England. Until recently, he was Chairman on the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science, which was set up by the Royal Society. And for twenty years he’s been making statements to the media, saying there’s not a shred of evidence for telepathy and so forth. He’s often given statements to the press. For example, with my parrot research, when there was a report on television about this research–which had taken us two years to do, and a great deal of detailed analysis–he appeared on the same television program saying it was all rubbish, there was not a shred a evidence that parrots or any other animal could be telepathic.

The program makers at the television company told me they were astonished that he said this. They offered to show him the film of the experiments, and he said he didn’t need to see the evidence because he knew it wasn’t valid. So his comments were based simply on prejudice and not on information. Well, I challenged him to a public debate that was held in London at the Royal Society of Arts, and the position that many scientists have in more or less strong forms, was actually thrown into sharp relief. In this debate he was invited to speak for half an hour, to put forward his case. Then I had half an hour. There was a high court judge in the chair to ensure a level playing field and a fair debate. 

But, the fact was, he couldn’t speak for half an hour. At first he said he’d only speak for a quarter of an hour, and, in the end, he only spoke for ten minutes. The reason is, he hadn’t read any of the evidence for telepathy. He was totally ignorant of it. Really, apart from just saying over and over again, “there’s no evidence”, “it doesn’t exist”, “it’s impossible”, and that “anyone who believes in this must have something wrong with their heads”, he hadn’t really got anything else to say. 

I then put forward the evidence. I summarized hundreds of published papers on card-guessing tests, dozens of papers on dream telepathy tests carried out in the Sixties, twenty-five years of ganzfeld experiments with dozens of published papers, all with meta-analyses, published in proper scientific journals. I summarized my own papers, based hundreds on trials for telepathy in dogs and cats, and my own data on hundreds of trials on telephone and email telepathy. I presented a huge amount of evidence, none of which he’d ever read or heard about. And the fact is that his case simply imploded. It ended up with virtually the entire audience coming to the conclusion that telepathy did exist, and his position collapsed. This debate was written up in Nature. The report in Nature, published on January the 22nd, 2004 is on my Web site in the full text version.

David: Why do you think so many scientists have difficulty accepting the evidence for psychic phenomena?

Rupert: : I think it’s a very deep-seated, kind of knee-jerk prejudice, and there’s nothing new about it. The same kind of prejudice was more or less in place at least a hundred years ago. If you read the kinds of comments that scientists made about some of the early psychical research in 1880’s and 90’s, it was just as ignorant, with almost the same words as they use today. I think, firstly, the reason is ideological. A lot of scientists are committed to a materialist ideology. They think that the mind and the brain are the same thing. The mind is nothing but the brain, or the activity of the brain, so therefore it’s all inside the head. So anything like telepathy that suggests that there might be mental inferences working beyond the brain simply doesn’t fit into that view of the world, and therefore it has to be rejected. 

It’s just like the Cardinals at the time of Galileo, who didn’t believe there could be craters on the moon, so they just didn’t want to look through his telescopes which showed that there were. And in the 19th Century people who didn’t want to believe in evolution had to explain away the fossils as being, in the most extreme case, put there by God to try our faith. This attempt to explain away, ignore, or reject things that don’t fit into a world view is a very well known human tendency. It’s happened over and over again in the history of science. In the end, the evidence wins out, but in the case of psychical phenomena this denial is still quite strong. So I think that it’s essentially ideological. It’s based on a particularly limited world view–a world view that was developed in the late 18th Century, before we knew anything much about electricity and magnetism, and certainly before quantum theory and quantum non-localicy was known about. It’s really enlightenment rationalism of the sort of 1790s variety.

The enlightenment rationalists believed that science and reason should sweep away religion, dogma and superstition, and this was an ideological and social agenda. In many way this was liberating and important. We’re all the beneficiaries of this, but it’s become a restrictive dogmatism now, and science has moved on a long way since the late 18th century. Field phenomena were unknown then. I think a lot of these phenomena that were classified as superstition, like psychic phenomena really do exist, and they can be explained in terms of fields. But many scientists are locked into a world view that says they’re impossible, and fear that if you allow them to exist the whole of reason and science will be undermined. This leads to a completely irrational denial of things, which are really just a question of evidence. 

I think telepathy is a normal biological function present in many animal species, a means by which social animals keep in touch with each other at a distance. It’s evolved under natural selection. It’s part of animal nature and human nature. I think it’s explanation in terms of morphic fields involves extending science as we know it, but it doesn’t involve overthrowing science, abandoning the scientific method, the whole of civilization crumbling and being overwhelmed by superstition and irrationalism. On the contrary, I think it’s the best way to pursue a scientific agenda–whereas to deny the evidence, and to close one’s eyes to it, is profoundly unscientific, and I think actually holds back research and gives science a bad name.

David: When I interviewed science writer Clifford Pickover for this book I asked him what he thought about your research into psychic phenomena. He replied, “At heart, I’m a skeptic and demand very strong evidence for claims of the paranormal….What I would really love to see is Dean and Rupert: draft a precise paranormal claim and a means for testing the claim–followed by a letter to CSICOP (The  Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), James Randi, and Robert Todd Carroll…asking if they would accept the “new” test as a valid test for a claim of the paranormal…and agree to participate in Randi’s one-million-dollar prize offer to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” How would you respond to Cliff?

Rupert: : I’m surprised Cliff takes Randi and these dogmatic skeptics seriously. Randi is a showman with no scientific credentials whose main claim to fame is the claim that he has money to offer as a  “prize”. This is not a serious scientific project but a publicity stunt–see the analysis on www.skepticalinvestigations.org. In particular he excludes statistical evidence. His Rule 4 states “tests will be designed in such a way that no ‘judging’ procedure is required. Results will be self-evident to any observer.” Most scientific research, including research in particle physics, clinical medicine and conventional psychology, depends on statistical results that need to be analyzed by experts to judge the significance of what has happened. Practically all serious scientific research would fail to qualify for the Randi prize. In any case, even if someone were to win it, it would be scientifically irrelevant, as Randi’s fellow skeptic Ray Hyman has pointed out: “Scientists don’t settle issues with a single test, so even if someone does win a big cash prize in a demonstration, this isn’t going to convince anyone. Proof in science happens through replication, not through single experiments.”

Randi is scientifically naive. He is also a liar, as I found out, and described on my Web site. I think its pathetic that people want media personalities like Randi to give them permission to believe things rather than reading the evidence and making up their own minds. In any case, I’m sure Cliff wouldn’t think that evolution would only be credible if leading creationists could be persuaded of the evidence. They always find ways of dismissing what doesn’t fit into their belief system, and I’m  afraid dogmatic skeptics are the same. My own method of research is to set up hypotheses, test them and submit papers on this research to peer-reviewed scientific journals, where they are evaluated by professional scientists and experts following the normal procedures of science.

David: How do you think it’s possible that our beliefs and intentions might effect the outcome of experiments in ways that are not currently understood by conventional science?

Rupert: : There are ways that beliefs and expectations do effect the outcome of experiments that are understood. The work on the experimenter effect of Robert Rosenthal at Harvard, and many others, is now well accepted in the psychology of medicine. It’s well known that people’s expectations and beliefs can effect the outcome of psychology experiments, even experiments on animal behavior. One of Rosenthal’s classic experiments was to divide a batch of rats into two lots. He then told students that one lot of rats was specially bred to be bright, the other lot to be stupid, and asked them to test them. And sure enough, the “bright” rats did better in the tests than the “stupid” ones. But, actually, they were the same batch of rats, just divided at random. Their expectation affected what they found with the rats. 

This is also well-known in medicine, where placebo effects are widely accepted. It’s well-known that if you give people a blank pill, and if the people and their doctors believe that it’s an active medicine, it often helps them to get better. That’s why in medicine people do double-blind randomized trials, to try and overcome these expectation effects. However, in the rest of science, blind methodology is virtually unknown. In a paper I published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, I did a survey of the use of blind techniques which guard against this expectation effect by scientists not knowing which sample they’re working on. I did a survey of these techniques in various branches of science. I found that they were virtually unknown and unused in the physical sciences. Out of hundreds of papers in top physics and chemistry journals, not one involved blind evaluations. In biology it was less than .5%. In psychology it was about 15%. In medicine about 25%. And in parapsychology 85%.

So parapsychology and psychical research are by far the most rigorous of all the sciences from this point of view, and I think that regular science, supposedly objective, may actually be a house of cards–because people have no idea how much their expectations may be biasing the results they get, and they could bias them in several different ways. One is simply through biased observation. You see what you want to see, or there is a biased recording of the data. You write down what you want to record, and you ignore observations that don’t fit in with your expectations. Then there’s of course biased reporting of the data. In most fields of science only about 5% of the data are written for journals, and of course people select the 5% that agrees best with what they want to find, 95% remains buried in file drawers and never published.

So all of these are ways in which science is by no means as objective as most people assume. It’s based on expectation effects, biases, prejudice, discarding of inconvenient data, and so forth. Parapsychology is subject to this kind of criticism very often, which is why parapsychologists have tightened up their act, and are much more rigorous than any other kind of scientist when it comes to not selecting their data just to reflect what they want to find, by carrying out blind experiments, etc.

Their may be a way in which, in regular science, people might influence the outcome of the experiments in a more subtle, and perhaps even more interesting way, which is through mind over matter effects–psychokinesis. There’s now good evidence that this can happen. Things like random quantum events seem to be influenced by people’s expectations, and by their intentions, and this could happen in some kinds of scientific experiments. Perhaps the experimenter’s beliefs and expectations can actually influence what happens, not simply bias the way they observe it.

The way to find out whether these sorts of things are going on would be quite simple. I’ve suggested a simple experiment that could be done in any branch of science to see how important such effects might be. It’s this. In a typical scientific experiment you compare a control with a test situation. For example, in biochemistry an activated enzyme with an unactivated control enzyme. Normally, everyone knows which is which–one tube’s labeled “activated”, the other’s labeled “control”. People then measure the activity, and, of course, they find a higher activity in the activated enzyme. That’s the normal way it’s done. What I’m suggesting is doing it that way, but then doing half the samples in a different way, where they’re done blind. They’re labeled “A” and “B”, and exactly the same experiment’s done–but this time people don’t know which is which. Do they get the same results? 

This would be like doing a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in medicine, as opposed to an open one, where everyone knows who’s getting which drug. And, of course, there is a difference when you do that in medicine. There is a difference in psychology. There is a difference in animal behavior. Is there a difference in other branches of science? We don’t know, because no one’s ever done this simple experiment. I’m hoping it will be done. I would expect that experimenter effect would be larger in some branches of science than others. Then, if we find there is an experimenter effect, then I would do further experiments to find out, is this simply biased recording of the data? Is it simply biased observation? Or is what actually happens being influenced by the experimenter’s expectations? I think this is a huge area of research, of enormous importance for science as a whole, but as yet this is still virgin territory.

David: One of my favorite ideas of yours is the notion that there really are no “fixed laws of physics”, but rather, only habits of nature, that change and evolve over time, just like everything else in the universe. Can you talk a little about this idea, and some of the ways that you think this hypothesis can be tested?

Rupert: : The idea that the laws of nature are all fixed is really hangover from the 17th Century theology. In the 17th Century, the founding fathers of modern science–like Descartes, Galileo, and Newton–all believed that God was a mathematician, and that nature was governed by eternal divine laws. God was like the emperor of the universe, and he fixed all the laws of nature at the beginning. That made sense in terms of the theology at the time. They believed that God created the world in the beginning, according to these laws, and then it just went on like a machine ever after. However, we now have an evolutionary universe, beginning with a Big Bang around fifteen billion years, and most scientists still assume that the whole thing is governed by totally fixed laws that were all there at the moment of the Big Bang, like a kind of cosmic Napoleonic code. Well, how do we know they were all there then? In fact, how do we know they’re fixed? If the universe evolves, why shouldn’t the regularities of nature themselves evolve?

If we assume the laws of nature were all there at the moment of the Big Bang, then were they there before the Big Bang? And if they existed before the Big Bang, before there was a universe, it’s clear we’re dealing here with theology or metaphysics, not with science. If they were all created at the very instant of the Big Bang, then how? I mean, this is a totally unexplained thing. How could they be created out of nothing at the moment of the Big Bang? This invites some kind of theistic creation story. I’ve nothing against God, but I just think the idea of God as an emperor making up laws is an extremely anthropomorphic vision of the universe. Even those who don’t have God, and have laws that just appear in a vacuum out of nowhere, are asking us to believe a totally incredible miracle, with no source of the miracle at all–yet that’s the conventional scientific position. I think instead the laws of nature may be more like habits. They may evolve as the universe goes on. The regularities of nature may build up over time through natural selection. There’s all sorts of creative acts occurring all the time. In the human realm there are lots of new ideas and inventions. In the biological realm there are hundreds of mutations in behavior and form. Most of them are not successful, only some of them are, and the successful ones are repeated, over and over again. Now I think those become increasingly habitual through morphic resonance, through this kind of memory within nature.

So my idea is that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits, they build up over time, and this has quite a lot of implications. It applies even to the crystal and the molecular realms. New compounds should become easier crystalize as time goes on. New habits and organisms should spread. There’s already evidence that these things seem to happen. New forms of behavior should spread. Things that a lot of people have learned should get easier to learn, through a kind of collective memory. One area where there seems to be evidence for this in I.Q. tests. Scores in I.Q. tests have been going up steadily for decades, and it’s not because people are getting smarter–they’re just getting better at doing standard I.Q. tests. I think this is probably because millions of people have already done them before. So there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence for morphic resonance, for this memory in nature, and there’s no evidence for the laws of nature being totally fixed. It’s simply an assumption. 

When things have happened a lot, like water boiling at 100 degrees, salt crystalizing, and so on, over billions of years, then these habits become more and more fixed. They behave as if they’re governed by eternal laws. But when you look at new phenomena, then you can actually see the habits build up. So I think that idea of nature being governed by evolving laws, or evolving habits, is bound to be taken seriously sooner or later. The fact that many scientists go on believing in eternal laws is simply a hangover from an older metaphysics. So sooner or later it’s just not going to be viable to go on taking that for granted.

A related question is whether the “constants of nature” are constant. This is something I’ve been looking into as well. If you look at the actual data, the so-called fundamental constants–like the speed-of-light, the gravitational constants, and so on–actually vary. When people find they vary, then they say, oh well, all the older observations must have been errors. But if you look at the actual data, there’s, in fact, a remarkable and rather surprising variation in them.

David: What is your concept of God, and do you see any teleology in evolution?

Rupert: : I think that God is an organism, rather than a sort of huge disembodied mind, or an old man in the sky. My concept of God is influenced by the Hindu and the Christian traditions, both of which see the ultimate reality as being a trinitarian, or threefold. The Hindus have the trinity of Gods. Brahma, who’s the ultimate creator. Shiva, who’s the energy principle, the change principle. And Vishnu, who’s the preserver of form, and the formative principle. In the Christian trinity you have God the father, who’s the source of all things, a kind of primordial consciousness. You have the Logos, or the word, which is the formative principle in nature. And you have the spirit, which is the divine breath or energy, which gives the movement and change in all things. 

So I think, in fact, these are reflected in the physical world, as we understand it, through modern physics, and the principles that underlie all matter in the universe, which are the formative aspect of fields. Everything is shaped through fields. The gravitational field shapes the whole universe. Quantum fields shape atoms, and electromagnetic fields shape molecules. And morphic fields shape organisms, the arrangement of social groups, and so forth. There are all these fields that give form and order to nature, and there’s energy, which is the moving principle of nature. It’s what makes things happen, change, alter. It’s the principle of activity. So I think these are both ultimately derived the divine source of the universe, and they’re reflections of the divine nature, the ways in which the universe is within God, and God is in the universe. I think we can know about the consciousness of God directly through mystical experience. I think all religions are based on mystical experience, where people directly contact a form of consciousness or intelligence, or sometimes many forms of consciousness and intelligence beyond the human level. All religions are based on that experience. So it’s an experience rather than dogma, which I think underlies this perception. 

I think the evolutionary process involves the dynamic principle of change that comes through the spirit, or the energy principle, in its biggest sense. This works through the expansion of the universe. Unless the universe were expanding nothing would change. At the moment of the Big Bang the universe was less than the size of the head of a pin. It’s been expanding ever since, and as it does so, there’s a kind of driving force. There’s an arrow of time that makes things change. Nothing can remain the same indefinitely. The whole universe is in this state of development, because it’s growing like an organism. And this change principle is one that’s always creative. But then as things change, there’s a possibility for new forms to appear. And when new forms appear–like new ideas in the human realm–they just spring into being. We don’t know where they come from. When people have new ideas they just say, “it came to me”, or “I suddenly saw something”, or “it happened in flash”. And if you ask, where did it come from? The answer is they don’t know. We don’t even understand human creativity. 

I think there’s something in the universe that, on the one hand, promotes change, and causes creativity to occur, and there’s something else, a formative principle, that gives rise to new forms. Often there’s a tremendous proliferation of new forms, as I said earlier. Human beings have lots of new ideas. They’re not all good ideas. So there’s a tremendous fertility and creativity of forms in universe, but then they all have to be winnowed and selected through natural selection, and the viable ones survive. So I think that divine creativity works in two ways–one through this creative production of new forms, and the other through the driving principle, the dynamic principle of energy or spirit, which makes sure there’s always change. This ensures that that nothing can ever just settle into repetitive habit, because the universe doesn’t settle down into repetitive habits. It’s always growing, expanding and changing.

David: Do you think its possible for consciousness to exist independently of a physical structure like the brain, and what do you think happens to consciousness after death?

Rupert: : For me the best starting point for this question is experience. We all have the experience of a kind of alternative body when we dream. Everyone in their dreams has the experience of doing things that their physical body is not doing. When I dream I might be walking around, talking to people, even flying, yet these activities in my dreams, which happen in a body, are happening my dream body. They’re not happening in my physical body, because my physical body’s lying down asleep in bed. So we all have a kind parallel body in our dreams. Now where exactly that’s happening, what kind of space our dreams are happening in, is another question. It’s obviously a space to do with the mind or consciousness, but we can’t take for granted that that space is confined to the inside of the head. Normally people assume it must be, but they assume that all our consciousness is in our heads, and I don’t agree with that assumption. I think our minds extend beyond our brains in every act of vision, something I discuss in my book The Sense of Being Stared At, And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind.

So I think this then relates to out-of-the-body experiences, where people feel themselves floating out of their body and see themselves from outside, or lucid dreams, where people in their dreams become aware they’re dreaming, and can will themselves to go to particular places by gaining control of their dream. These are, as it were, extensions of the dream body. Now when we die, it’s possible, to my way of thinking, that it may be rather like being in a dream from which we can’t wake up. This realm of consciousness that we experience in our dreams may exist independent of the brain, because it’s not really a physical realm. It’s a realm of possibility or imagination. It’s a realm of the mind. It’s possible that we could go on living in a kind of dream world, changing and developing in that world, in a way that’s not confined to the physical body.

Now whether that happens or not is another question, but it seems to me possible. The out-of-body experiences, and the near-death experiences, may suggest that’s indeed what’s going to happen to us when we die. But the fact is that we’re not really going to find out until we do die, and what happens then may indeed depend on our expectations. It may be that materialists and atheists who think death will just be a blank, would actually experience a blank. It may be that their expectations will affect what actually happens. It may be that people who think they’ll go to a heavenly realm of palm oases and almond-eyed dancing girls really will. It may be that that the afterlife is heavily conditioned by our expectations and beliefs, just as our dreams are.

David: And just as our lives are. Rupert , you just touched upon what I wanted to ask you about next. You mentioned to me that you think that people can sense being stared at because, in the looking at someone, a part of the observer is, in a sense, reaching out to touch the person being observed in some way. I’m curious as to whether you think this is true in other states of consciousness, where the person that one is observing is not in consensus material reality. For example, in lucid dreams, DMT-induced states of consciousness, or in a computer-simulated virtual reality, do you think that the act of looking at someone–or some being–in one of these alternative realities is actually expanding a part of that person’s mind into another dimension of sorts, or do you think this might be an illusion that’s just in the mind?

Rupert: : I think these things are in the mind, but I don’t think the mind is in the brain. I think in an ordinary act of vision, when we look at something, the mind extends beyond our brain. If I look out of my window now and see a tree, I don’t think that image of the tree is inside my head. I think the image is where it seems to be. I think it’s projected out. Vision involves a two-way process. Light moving in, changes in the brain, and then projection out of images. And oddly enough, when you think about the conventional theory, that it’s all in the brain, it leads to very peculiar consequences. I’m looking up at the sky now, and according to the conventional view, my image of the sky, what I’m seeing in front of me, is actually inside my head. That means that my skull must be beyond the sky. When you look up at the sky, your skull’s beyond the sky. Now this is absurd really, and yet that’s what the conventional view is telling us, and most people take it for granted, without realizing how very counterintuitive, and very peculiar this speculative theory is. So I think that we go beyond our brain in the simplest act of vision, and I think that many of these other experiences also involve going beyond the brain. I don’t think the mind is confined to the brain. So it may be true to say that near-death experiences, visionary experiences, and DMT trips are all in the mind, but that doesn’t mean to say they’re all in the brain. 

David: What sort of relationship do you see between your concept of a morphic field and the theological concept of a soul?

Rupert: : There may be a relationship. I think it might be better to use the phrase “philosophical idea of a soul”. In the Middle Ages it was generally taken for granted that all plants and animals have souls. The reason animals are called animals is because the word animal comes from the latin word anima, meaning soul. So, what the soul did, according Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas–who were the main authorities for the medieval view–was to act first as the form of the body, to shape the developing organism as it grew. In animals the soul also underlay the instincts, the movements and the organization of the sensations and behavior. In human beings the soul also included the intellect, the rational mind, the conscious mind. 

So the human soul had three levels or layers. One was the conscious mind, second to the animal soul, which was largely unconscious, and we shared with animals. And thirdly there was the vegetative soul, or the nutritive soul, which shaped our bodies, and gave rise to the form of our bodies, helped maintain them in health, and in healing from injury and disease. Those ideas of the soul fit very well with what I mean by morphic fields. Interestingly, up until the 17th Century, everyone thought that magnets had souls. The magnet was believed to have a soul, which was how it attracted and repelled other magnets at a distance. In fact, what’s happened in science is the old idea of souls has been replaced by fields. The magnetic soul became the magnetic field. The formative soul of the animal or plant becomes the formative morphogenetic field. So in many ways the field concept has replaced the soul concept in modern science. 

So I think many aspects of our minds can be understood in terms of fields. I think when we look at something, and our visual world is projected out around us, it’s projected in the morphic fields that stretch out from our brains. I think our brains are the source. The morphic fields of perception and our behavior are rooted in our brains–just like magnetic fields are rooted in magnets, or the fields of cell phones are rooted inside cell phones–but nevertheless stretch out beyond their surface. I think our minds are rooted in our brains during our normal waking life, and stretch out beyond their surface though fields. So in that sense the field concept and the soul concept are indeed related.

David: How has your experience with psychedelics influenced your perspective on science and life?

Rupert: : I think that psychedelics reveal dimensions of the mind and experience that most of us would otherwise not experience. They show us there’s a lot more going on than we’re lead to believe through text books of psychology, and the standard kind of scientific model of the brain. I think they show that there are realms of experience that transcend ordinary waking consciousness, and for many people, including myself, I think psychedelics can reveal a world of consciousness and interconnection that is akin to mystical experience, of the kind experienced in many religious traditions. So I think in that sense the psychedelic experience is akin to mysticism, indeed, is a kind of mysticism. And by mysticism I don’t mean obscurantism. I mean direct conscious experience of expanded realms of consciousness, or other regions of consciousness, which go beyond those we normally experience in our everyday lives.

David: Do you think that the human species will survive the next hundred years, or do you think that we’re in danger of extinction?

Rupert: : Extinction might be putting it too strongly, but we could be in for some very nasty shocks. Very few species that are as numerous as ours become totally extinct. I think there could be catastrophes, population collapses, and so on, but I personally don’t think the whole human species is likely to become extinct. The going could get very rough indeed if things go badly wrong, and they might well through our own actions. People who live in modern cities are extremely vulnerable. If the food supply, water supply, and electricity supply break down, how are ten million people living a huge city going to survive? 

But if you look at peasants in India or Africa–small farmers who are not part of a cash economy, who just grow their own crops and make their own houses–the situation appears different. If the whole of the urban system on which we all depend breaks down, their lives wouldn’t be that much affected. They would just carry on. They’re much more resilient, and much more likely to survive than we are. 

So I think that the most vulnerable part of humanity is modern urban industrial civilization. I think subsistence economies, which still survive in many parts of the world might be much more resilient. I would expect, even if things go badly wrong, that there will be places where people survive more than others. I should think New Zealand, for example, would have a better chance of surviving pretty well intact than certain other places in the world. So I wouldn’t take the total Doomsday, total extinction scenario. I think there might be very bad shocks, but total extinction, I don’t think, is going to be one of them.

David: Assuming that we do survive, how do you envision the future evolution of the future species?

Rupert: : Frankly I just don’t know. I know enough about prophesies made by people in the past to realize this is a hazardous undertaking. I just hope and pray we’ll survive, that sanity will prevail, that the worst excesses will be curbed, and the destruction of the environment will be greatly reduced. So I’m a kind of optimist, but I wouldn’t like to make any detailed predictions.

David: Where do you think the human race should be focusing its scientific efforts right now?

Rupert: : I don’t have a master plan for scientific research, but I think we need to basically move to a more holistic way of studying nature, and a more ecological way of looking at things. There are certain areas where it’s obvious what we ought to be doing. We ought to be developing much more sustainable uses of energy–wind power, wave power, solar power, and so forth. Those are already done to some extent. I think in medicine we ought to be looking at alternative and holistic therapies, as well as high-tech medicine, and trying to develop preventative medicine systems that lead to better health, rather than expensive fixes for problems. 

I think in biology we should be looking at a field approach, and studying things much more holistically. I think in fundamental physics we should be looking at the evolution of the laws of nature, and the memory of nature, and how this fits in with what we know about quantum theory and relativity theory. I think in cosmology and astronomy we should be looking at the possibility of consciousness within the universe–either in the whole universe, or associated with stars and galaxies. I don’t mean just looking for little green men on other planets. I mean considering the possibility the sun and the entire galaxy might be conscious–that the whole solar system might be a living organism, and the sun might be like it’s brain. I think these are some of the areas of science where a different approach could be extremely revealing, and lead to a completely different view of ourselves and our place in nature.

David: What are you currently working on, and how can people get involved in your research?

Rupert: : I’m currently doing research on unexplained human abilities, following the suggestions that I set out in my book The Sense of Being Stared At. I’m opening up a number of other lines of investigation into the nature of the mind, and the fields of the mind. People who would like to do research themselves, or find out how this research is progressing, can do that through going to my Web site, www.sheldrake.org, where there are updates on my research, and also suggestions for how people can do experiments themselves. There are also several online experiments, including an online telepathy experiment, which people can take part in with their friends and family. They can have fun by doing this, and also contribute to my ongoing research. 

Dean Radin – 2

David Jay Brown

Interviews Dean Radin


Dean Radin is a psychologist and engineer who has specialized in the study of anomalies associated with human consciousness, principally so-called psychic (psi) phenomena. He has investigated telepathy, psychokinesis, and precognition at Princeton University, the University of Edinburgh, Bell Laboratories, and SRI International, the latter as part of a classified program for the US government. Dr. Radin was elected President of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) affiliated Parapsychological Association in 1988, 1993, and 1998, and he is currently Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.  He is the author or coauthor of over two hundred scientific papers and popular articles, as well as one of the most popular scientific books on psi research–The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena.

The Conscious Universe reviews thousands of carefully controlled laboratory studies which demonstrate the effects of psi phenomena, and how the results of those studies combine to form a mountain of data in support of its existence. Outside of a few small scientific circles, few are aware of this research. In fact, most scientists don’t realize that the scientific evidence for some classes of psychic phenomena is comparable, in terms of experimental repeatability, to physical measurements on the fundamental properties of elementary particles. Operating in relative obscurity for more than a century, psi researchers have progressively refined their experiments to address criticisms from the skeptics, and have produced repeatable results which demonstrate generally small, but statistically unequivocal effects in favor of the existence of psychic or “psi” phenomena. The results from Dr. Radin’s meta-analysis of thousands of well-controlled studies indicate statistical odds of billions-to-one in favor of psi. Something is going on that conventional science is at a loss to explain.

Dr. Radin earned his Ph.D. and M.S., respectively, at the University of Illinois, Champaign. Prior to focusing on consciousness, for ten years Dr. Radin was engaged in advanced telecommunications research and development, initially at AT&T Bell Laboratories and later at GTE Laboratories. Dr. Radin’s research awards include the Parapsychological Association’s 1996 Outstanding Achievement Award and the 1996 Rhine Research Center’s Alexander Imich Award for advances in experimental parapsychology. He also earned Special Merit awards from Bell Labs in 1984 and from GTE Laboratories in 1992. Dr. Radin has been interviewed by many newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times and Psychology Today, he was featured in a New York Times Magazine article, and he has appeared on dozens of television and radio programs worldwide.

When I first interviewed Dean in 1998 he was conducting proprietary research on the theoretical and experimental aspects of psi at a Silicon Valley think-tank called Interval Research Corporation, which closed in 2000. I interviewed him again on January 28, 2004. I found Dean to have an extremely sharp, and highly engaging, imaginative mind. There was a precision to the way that he described his thoughts. He seemed to have a deep intuitive understanding of the basic interconnectedness between things, and is also a very warm human being. We spoke about why so many scientists are prejudiced against accepting the results of psi research, the connection between psychic phenomena and altered states of consciousness, how information might be able to flow backwards in time, and the implications and applications of psi research. 

David: What were you like as a child?

Dean: I was a smaller version of what I am today — quiet, shy, and mainly interested in ideas.  I was always interested in books and how things work more than anything else, but my primary activity was music. I was a prodigy on the violin. I started at age five, and through about age twenty-five I spent the majority of my free time either playing the violin, practicing, or doing something associated with music.

David: What originally inspired you to study psychic phenomena?

Dean: I’m asked this question a lot, as you can imagine. I was always curious

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John E. Mack – 2

David Jay Brown

Interviews John E. Mack


John E. Mack, M.D. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the founder of the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Hospital, and the founding director of the Center for Psychology & Social Change. He is also the author or co-author of eleven books, and more than one hundred and fifty scholarly articles, that explore how our perceptions shape our relationship with each other and with the world. In 1977 Dr. Mack won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)–A Prince of Our Disorder–but he is probably best known for his two bestselling books on the alien abduction phenomenon, Abduction(1995) and Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999). 

Dr. Mack earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School, and he is a graduate of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is Board certified in child and adult psychoanalysis, with over 40 years of clinical psychiatric education and experience. His early clinical work explored dreams, nightmares and teen suicide. Later Dr. Mack sought out the psychological roots of collective experiences such as the Cold War, the global ecological crisis, ethnonationalism and regional conflict. He testified before Congress in 1983 on the psychological impact of the nuclear arms race on children, and was arrested at the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons test site in Nevada.

In 1983 Dr. Mack founded The Center for Psychology & Social Change, a Cambridge-based nonprofit organization, whose goal is “to apply psychology to the process of healing and reshaping relationships in the social, ecological, political and spiritual realms”. The Center’s work is designed to “promote shifts in consciousness and behavior that invite sustainable, equitable, and peaceful ways of living”.

In 1992 Dr. Mack co-chaired the Abduction Study Conference held at MIT, the first scientific assembly on “alien encounters”. Then in 1993 he founded the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER), a Cambridge-based, research and education group dedicated to exploring and understanding the alien abduction phenomenon. Dr. Mack and his colleagues at PEER have worked with over 300 individuals from six continents who have experienced what they believe to be encounters with unknown intelligences. Dr. Mack’s twelve years of research into this controversial subject focused on “the consideration of the merits of an expanded notion of reality, one which allows for experiences that may not fit the Western materialist paradigm, yet deeply affect people’s lives.”

The alien abduction phenomenon is truly mysterious. There are hundreds of people who report experiences of having been abducted, studied, and experimented upon by aliens. In his books on this phenomenon, Dr. Mack describes how a substantial number of credible, and mentally-sound people report remarkably similar stories about having been taken aboard strange spacecrafts in a beam of light by otherworldly visitors, where they are subjected to intrusive medical exams, most frequently by small, spindly-limbed, grey-skinned beings, with large pear-shaped heads, and big black tear-shaped eyes. 

The evidence that Dr. Mack presents for this unexplained phenomenon is truly compelling. There is an astonishing similarity in the details that the “abductees” (or “experiencers”, as Dr. Mack refers to them) give when they recount their experiences, and these people appear to be truly traumatized by the event. Many of the people report uncanny similarities in how they are abducted, witnessing similar unusual instruments, and being subjected to similar invasive medical procedures. A significant number of these people say that their sperm or eggs are being used in genetic experiments to create human-alien hybrid offspring. For a large number of people, these alien encounters–which are often terrifying at first–become, over time, a catalyst for what is commonly described as a spiritual transformation. In this respect, the encounter phenomenon seems similar to transpersonal experiences like mystical encounters with the divine and near-death experiences. Since so many of the “experiencers” believe themselves to be spiritually transformed by the alien encounter, Dr. Mack has referred to the aliens as possibly being part of “an outreach program from the Cosmos to the consciously-impaired.” 

It is very difficult for a thoughtful person to examine the evidence that Dr. Mack offers, and not look up into the sky and wonder about the truth of these

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Ray Kurzweil

David Jay Brown

Interviews Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil is a computer scientist, software developer, inventor, entrepreneur, and philosopher. He is a leading expert in speech and pattern recognition, and he invented a vast array of computer marvels. He was the principal developer of some of the first optical character and speech recognition systems, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments.

Kurzweil has successfully founded and developed nine businesses in speech recognition, reading technology, music synthesis, virtual reality, financial investment, medical simulation, and cybernetic art. In 2002 Kurzweil was inducted into the U.S. Patent Office’s National Inventors Hall of Fame, and he received the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the nation’s largest award in invention and innovation. He also received the 1999 National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony, and has received eleven honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents. 

Kurzweil has also written several popular books on the evolution of artificial intelligence. His book The Age of Intelligent Machines was named Best Computer Science Book of 1990. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been published in nine languages, and it achieved the #1 best selling science book on Amazon.com. Kurzweil’s books read like mind-bending science fiction. In The Age of Spiritual Machines he predicts that computer intelligence will exceed human intelligence in only a few decades, and that it won’t be long after that before humans start merging with machines, blurring the line between technology and biology. While for Star Trek fans this may evoke disturbing images of the Borg, Kurzweil’s vision of a cyborg civilization is far more upbeat and hopeful.

I spoke with Ray on July 18, 2003. Ray speaks very precisely, and he choses his words carefully. He presents his ideas with a lot of confidence, and I found his optimism to be contagious. I don’t think too many of my questions surprised him. The questions that I asked him about the nature of intelligence, the evolution of consciousness, brain implants, non-biological consciousness, the potential dangers and benefits of nanotechnology, and the possibility of human and machine intelligence merging in the future were all subjects that he’s thought deeply about. 

David: How did you become interested in technology?

Ray: Actually, I had the idea that I wanted to be an inventor since the age of five. I had a lot of time by myself, and I think an erector set had an influence on me. But, for whatever reason, I had the idea that inventions could change the world. I was seriously working on a rocket ship, which didn’t work. But my inventions got a little more traction when I was seven or eight, and I built these robotic puppet theaters that did work. 

I discovered the computer at the age of 12. I would hang around Canal Street in Manhattan, and buy used electronic equipment, so that I could build my own computational devices. I also had the opportunity to discover some early computers–an IBM 1401 and 1620. When I discovered the computer it became apparent to me that you could create models of the world, virtual worlds, inside the computer. So I became fascinated by that. 

One influence on me was the Tom Swift Jr. series of books, which I read when I was seven through ten. There are 33 books in that series, although I think there were nine when I started reading them. The paradigm was always the same; Tom Swift Jr. and his friends would get into trouble–usually the whole human race, or a good portion of it was in trouble along with him–and he would then go into his laboratory and come up with up some idea that would save the day. The dramatic tension in the books was exactly that, what genius idea would he come up with that would get him out of the seemingly impossible jam? 

That represented an idea that has had a lot of influence on me. Specifically, this was the power of ideas. No matter what kind of problem you face–it could be any kind of problem, from a personal problem, to a business problem, and certainly science and technological problems–there’s an idea, and it can be found. And I can find it. We can find it. And then, when we find it, we need to implement it. Ideas can really overcome problems, and they can change the world. And that’s actually moving into philosophy. I think the fundamental ontological reality is ideas, rather than matter and energy. Another word for ideas is patterns, or knowledge. They persist in the world, and they are more powerful than matter and energy.

David: What kind of potential do you think there is to develop new technologies, such as neural implants, that enhance the abilities of the human mind?

Ray: If you ask, what is a human being? I think the response is the fundamental attribute of human beings is that we seek to expand our horizons. Biological evolution, which defines us as some specific niche, is not only limited, but is really missing the whole point of what human beings are. Evolution works through indirection. It creates something in that new capability creates the next stages. At one point, biological evolution created a technology-creating species, and then the cutting-edge of evolution since that time has been human cultural and technological evolution. We didn’t stay on the ground. We didn’t stay on the planet. We’re not staying with the limitations of our biology, and we’re already greatly extended the reach of our bodies and our minds through our technology.

The Age of Neural Implants, which is really only one of quite a few revolutionary technologies that are in their early stages, has already started. There are quite a few people walking around who are cyborgs. These people have computers in their brains that are hooked up to their biological neurons, where the electronics works seamlessly with the biological circuitry. We’ve started by using these computer implants to help with specific medical conditions and disabilities. For example, we have cochlear implants for the deaf, and deep brain stimulation implants for people with Parkinson’s Disease. In the Parkinson’s case, the new generation devices actually have downloadable software, where you can download new software from outside the patient for the device. In the first ones the software was hard-wired in the device.

These little computers interact with biological neurons, and replaces the function of the corpus of cells that are destroyed by Parkinson’s. In the early demonstrations of this system, the French doctor, Dr. A. L. Benebid, had people come in, and he had the device turned off. He could turn it on or off from outside the patient. They were in advanced stages of Parkinson’s with very rigid motor movements. And when he would then flip the device on, it was as if these patients came alive. They were then able to move and act normally. This has been approved by the FDA in the past year, and it’s now being looked at for other neurological conditions. 

There are retinal implants that are being prepared, which are experimental, and there are experimental implants for a wide range of other conditions. Today, neural implants have two limitations. One is they have to be surgically implanted. So people are not going to use them unless they have a very compelling reason. Having advanced Parkinson’s is such a compelling reason. And it can only be placed in a very small number of places, generally just one place. 

However, both of those limitations will be overcome when we have full-scale nanotechnology, and, specifically, nanobots–nanoscale robots, the size of blood cells–that can go through our capillaries, and into the brain, non-invasively. That’s not as futuristic as it sounds. In fact, there’s already four

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Robert Anton Wilson – 2

Quantum Sociology and Neuropolitics
David Jay Brown Interviews Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson is a writer and philosopher with a huge cult following. He is the author of over 35 popular fiction and nonfiction books, dealing with such themes as quantum mechanics, the future evolution of the human species, weird unexplained phenomena, conspiracy theories, synchronicity, the occult, altered states of consciousness, and the nature of belief systems. His books explore the relationship between the brain and consciousness, and the link between science and mysticism, with wit, wisdom, and personal insights. Comedian George Carlin said, “I have learned more from Robert Anton Wilson than I have from any other source.”

Wilson is a very entertaining writer, and both his fiction and nonfiction books can be as reality-shifting as a hearty swig of shamanic jungle juice. Wilson has an uncanny ability to lead his readers, unsuspectingly, into a state of mind where they are playfully tricked into “aha” experiences that cause them to question their most basic assumptions. The writers of many popular science fiction films and television shows have been influenced by Wilson’s writings, and they will sometimes make subtle cryptic references to his philosophy in their stories–often by making the number 23 significant in some way, which refers to Wilson’s strange synchronicities around that number.

Since 1962 Wilson has worked as an editor, futurist, novelist, playwright, poet, lecturer and stand-up comic. He earned his doctorate in psychology from Paideia University, and from 1966-1971 he was the Associate Editor of Playboy magazine. He is perhaps best known for the science fiction trilogy Illuminatus!, which he co-authored with Robert Shea in 1975. The Village Voice called the trilogy “the biggest sci-fi cult novel to come along since Dune.” His Schroedinger’s Cat trilogy was called “the most scientific of all science-fiction novels” by New Scientist magazine.

Some of Wilson’s popular nonfiction books, which blend social philosophy with satire, as well as with personal experiments and experience, include Cosmic Trigger, Prometheus Rising, Quantum Psychology, The New Inquisition, The Illuminati Papers, Right Where You Are Sitting Now, and Everything is Under Control. His most current book is TSOG: The Thing That Ate The Constitution, a satirical commentary about the loss of constitutional rights in America. (TSOG is an acronym for “Tsarist Occupation Government”.)

Wilson has also appeared as a stand-up comic at night clubs throughout the world, and he made a comedy record called Secrets of Power. His more academic lectures are best described as “stand-up philosophy”, and they are as funny and thought-provoking as his comedy routines. He also teaches seminars at New Age retreats, like the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and his Web site–www.rawilson.com–is in the top two percent of the most visited sites on the internet. Rev. Ivan Stang, cofounder of The Church Of The Subgenius, described Wilson as “the Carl Sagan of religion, the Jerry Falwell of quantum physics, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of feminism and the James Joyce of swing-set assembly manuals.”

Wilson starred on a Punk Rock record called The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy, and his play Wilhelm Reich in Hell was performed at the Edmund Burke Theater in Dublin, Ireland. His novel Illuninatus! was adapted as a ten-hour science fiction rock epic and performed under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Great Britain’s National Theater (where he appeared briefly on stage in a special cameo role).

A documentary about Wilson’s life and work entitled “Maybe Logic” (by Lance Bauscher) was released on July 23, 2003. At the premiere of the film (at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, California), the mayor of Santa Cruz (Emily Reilly) officially declared that, from that day forth, July 23rd would be “Robert Anton Wilson Day” in Santa Cruz.

It was Bob’s book Cosmic Trigger that not only inspired me to become a writer when I was a teenager, but it was also where I first discovered many of the fascinating individuals who would later become the subjects of my interview books. So it was a great thrill for me when Bob wrote the introduction to my first book, Brainchild. I interviewed Bob for my second book, Mavericks of the Mind, in 1989, and wanted to check in with him again to see what he thought about some of the things that we spoke about fourteen years ago, as well as the present state of the world. Bob and I have been good friends for many years, and he continues to inspire me. He is particularly fond of the writings of James Joyce and Ezra Pound, and I’ve learned a lot about Finnegan’s Wake and The Cantos by going to his weekly discussion groups.

I interviewed Bob on September 23, 2003. At 72 he remains as sharp and witty as ever. Bob has an uncanny ability to perceive things that few people notice, and he has an incredible memory. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of many different fields–ranging from literature and psychology, to quantum physics and neuroscience. He is unusually creative in his use of language, and he has his own unique style of humor. Despite many personal challenges over the years, Bob has always maintained a strongly upbeat perspective on life, and–regardless of the circumstances–he never fails to make me smile every time I see him. Everyone who meets him agrees; there’s something truly magical about Robert Anton Wilson.

I spoke with Bob about the nature of optimism, why politics on this planet is such a big mess, his decision to run for governor of California, our vanishing constitutional rights in America, the philosophy of “maybe logic”, extraterrestrial intelligence, and why he thinks Hannibal Lector would make a better president than George W. Bush.

David: What were you like as a child?

Bob: Stubborn, it seems; maybe pig-headed. My mother often told me how, when I had polio at age 4, I kept trying to get up and walk. She said that no matter how hard I fell, I’d stand and stagger again until I fell again. I attribute that to Irish genetics–after 800 years of British occupation, the quitters did not survive to reproduce, you know. But I still loathe pessimism, masochism and every kind of self-pity. I regard loser scripts as actively nefarious and, in high doses, toxic. Due to that Nietzschean attitude, and the Sister Kenny treatment, I did walk again and then became highly verbal.

A neighbor said, even before I started school, that I should become a lawyer because no judge could shut me up. I attribute that, not to genetics, but to the polio and polio-related early reading skills. Due to a year of total-to-partial paralysis,I missed a vital part of normal male socialization and never became any good at sports, but I devoured books like a glutton. The nuns at the Catholic school where my parents sent me did shut me up for a while. Catholic education employs both psychologocal and physical terrorism: threats of “Hell” and physical abuse. But they never stopped me from thinking–just from saying what I thought.

David: What inspired you to become a writer?

Bob: The magic of words. One of the biggest thrills of my childhood came at the end of King Kong when Carl Denham says. “No, it wasn’t the airplanes–it was Beauty that killed the Beast.” I didn’t know what the hell that meant, but it stirred something in me. In fact, it felt like what the nuns told me I would feel after eating Holy Eucharist–what we call a mystic experience–except that I didn’t get it from the eucharist but from a gigantic gorilla falling off a gigantic skyscraper and having that line as his epitaph. I wanted to learn to use words in a way that would open people’s minds to wonder and poetry the way those words had opened mine.

David: What is “maybe logic”?

Bob: A label that got stuck on my ideas by film-maker Lance Bauscher. I guess it fits. I certainly recognize the central importance in my thinking–or in my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think–of non-aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann’s three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rapoport’s four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski’s multi-valued logic [degrees of probability], and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it

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Alex Grey – 2

Sacred Reflections and Transfigurations

David Jay Brown
Interviews Alex Grey

Alex Grey is a visionary artist recognized the world over for his astonishing paintings. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries around the globe, including the New Museum and Stux Gallery in New York City, the Grand Palais in Paris, the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil, and the ARK exhibition space in Tokyo. His paintings have been used in extremely diverse venues–from Newsweek magazine and the Discovery Channel, to Rave flyers and sheets of blotter acid. Grey’s art has been featured on many posters, greeting cards, book covers, and as album art for such bands as Tool, the Beastie Boys, the String Cheese Incident, and Nirvana. 

Grey’s unique painting style is unmistakable. His work often depicts naked translucent people, as though they were caught in the midst of a mystical experience, with uncanny scientific precision. Grey’s paintings are painstakingly detailed, revealing anatomically accurate views of the inner body. Intricate blood-vascular configurations, eerie skeletal structures, and nervous systems that are exploding with electrical activity, are visible inside bodies that radiate spiritual auras, acupuncture merdians, and metaphysical energies. The subjects are often engaged in activities that make the most of this incredible, eyeball-grabbing technique that “x-rays” multiple levels of reality simultaneously. Grey applies this multidimensional perspective to such archetypal human experiences as being born, dying, praying, meditating, and making love. I find that merely looking at one of his paintings can trigger a mystical state of consciousness. Deepak Chopra said, “Alex Grey’s art will bring you face to face with your soul and move you to a new level of enlightenment.”

Grey went to the Columbus College of Art and Design for two years (1971-73), then dropped out and painted billboards in Ohio for a year (73-74). He then attended the Boston Museum School for one year, to study with the conceptual artist, Jay Jaroslav. Grey then spent five years at Harvard Medical School working in the Anatomy department studying the body and preparing cadavers for dissection. He also worked at Harvard’s department of Mind/Body Medicine with Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Joan Borysenko conducting scientific experiments to investigate subtle healing energies. Grey was an instructor in Artistic Anatomy and Figure Sculpture for ten years at New York University, and now teaches courses in Visionary Art with his wife Allyson at The Open Center in New York City, Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado and Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. 

Grey began his career as a performance artist, doing live pieces that often involved dark ritualistic elements related to death and rebirth. Although his later work has become much more positive, rapturous, and even ecstatic, his early art demonstrates that he wasn’t afraid to explore the dark side of his psyche. Grey began doing performance art in 1972, which he describes as “rites of passage, in that they present stages of a developing psyche.” Grey’s approximately fifty performance rites, conducted over the last twenty five years, move through “transformations from an egocentric to more sociocentric and increasingly worldcentric and theocentric identity”.

A large collection of work by Grey and his wife called “Heart Net” was displayed at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum in 1998-99. In 1999 the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego honored Grey with a mid-career retrospective. Many of Grey’s paintings have been collected in his books Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey (Inner Traditions, 1990) and Transfigurations (Inner Traditions, 2001). In addition to Grey’s two large format art books, he is also the author of the book The Mission of Art, which traces the evolution of human consciousness through art history, exploring the role of an artist’s intention and conscience, and reflecting on the creative process as a spiritual path. He also co-edited the book, Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Chronicle Books, 2002). Grey’s recent video exploring the healing potential of sacred art is called ARTmind. To find out more about Grey’s work visit his web site: www.alexgrey.com

Alex lives in New York City with his wife, artist Allyson Grey, and their daughter, actress Zena Grey. I first interviewed Alex while he was visiting San Francisco on March 15, 1995, at the beautiful Victorian bed and breakfast where he was staying. I spoke with him again, nine years later, to update the interview on March 2, 2004, although I’ve had a number of interesting conversations with Alex over the past few years. He has a very warm and generous spirit. I found him to be unusally focused, with great clarity of mind. He came across as a deeply spiritual person, with a strong commitment to integrating his work with his own personal evolution. We talked about the inspiration for his art, what it’s like to cut up bodies in a morgue, and the relationship between shamanism and art, mysticism and creativity. 

David: What were you like as a child?

Alex: The first memories I have are of lying in bed and seeing textures. First, I would see a pure field, white light, like bliss–ecstatic space. Then I remember a narley snaggle-branched, brownish, ugly dark force moving into that space from the periphery of my perception, coming in clumps, and then taking over. This dynamic, ugly sharp texture would terrify me, and it seemed to consume me. I guess it was the primordial chaos. Then little islands of purity would crop up. The pools would clear away and I’d have a white light ocean again. I was around two years old. Very strange.

David: So your earliest memories are tactile, not really visual?

Alex: Well, they were internally-based visions of texture, like yin-yang energies, the constant flux of repose and motion, or darkness and light. As I got a little older, I became interested in dead animals. I started a small pet cemetery in the back yard, and buried numerous animals back there.

David: Were you dissecting any of them?

Alex: I didn’t really do much dissection. I wasn’t so interested in that. It was just being aware of dead animals, and seeing them close up.

David: Were you fascinated by the differences between a living and a dead animal?

Alex: Yes, absolutely. They were so still. One day some kid said, “Oh, look there’s a dead bird.” When I picked it up, I found out it wasn’t a dead bird. It was a rabid bat, and it bit me on the hand (laughter). I didn’t know it was rabid, but it had evidently fallen out of a tree. So, I took it home to show my mom. She said, “Aaah, get it out of the house!” Then I tried to hang it in a tree, because I knew that they were supposed to hang upside down. I came back an hour later to draw a picture of “Bobbie” the bat, but it had fallen out of the tree again. My mom said that was probably a bad sign. So we put it in a shoe box.

The next day people in like radioactive suits came out with tongs to pick up the poor thing. They put it in a big metal canister and took it away. Sure enough, it was rabid, and I had to go through all these shots in the fleshy parts of the stomach area, and in my back. The antitoxin that they injected me with contained dead dried duck embryo and it would leave a lump under my skin. It was very painful. I think that stopped me from picking up dead animals for awhile.

David: Was your mother scolding you, saying things like, “Alex, enough with the dead animals already!” ?

Alex: No, I think she was more worried about my interest in monster magazines, or monsters in general.

David: You mean like Famous Monsters of Filmland?

Alex: Right, and I had a lot of nightmares about devil-dogs. There was a recurring dream of a devil-dog that would kill me in various ways. Maybe it was some kind of a shamanic beast. One of my first performance pieces had to do with a dog.

David: Do you think that your early childhood interest in monsters and death led to an interest in the occult, which later led to an interest in altered states and mystical visions?

Alex: I had a particular interest in whatever was strange. Monstrosities, fetal abnormalities, genetic malformations, became strong interests. They were like real monsters. The caprice of God, as a designer in these various genetic strains, was quite an amazing and fascinating thing–that we could have two heads, or flippers instead of feet. And it’s really miraculous that we don’t. We live our lives within normal routines. Altered states of consciousness are condensed experiences that provide crystallized insights. Like dream experiences, they run counter to normal experience and let us see our life in another context, from the vantage point of the altered state. The monster recontextualizes reality and shows you that life could be another way. A monster is an alternative being, rather than an alternative state of consciousness.

David: What was your religious upbringing like?

Alex: Every week, when I was young, my family went to Methodist church and I always respected the teachings of Jesus. But I never got hooked into a sincere spiritual search until my parents left the church. My parents left the church in a huff of disillusionment and became agnostic-atheists. That’s when God and spirituality started to interest me.

David: What age were you?

Alex: I was about twelve. The teenage existential years had started to come on heavy. I knew there was something undiscovered, but I had to get through a lot of depression before I could find it.

David: So the age of twelve is when you first started to really question how we got here?

Alex: Well, a couple years earlier, my grandmother died. I saw her get progressively yellower from jaundice, and eventually die. When I asked my father, “When is she going to get better?”, I remember him saying, that she was not. I knew what dead animals were like, but this was the first person who was close to me who died. It had a big impact.

David: In what way?

Alex: I felt life’s impermanence, that this body is temporary. Maybe it indirectly fueled the commitment to my work. I think that every artist or anyone who is trying to accomplish something before their own death has the specter of death grinning over their shoulder .

David: Meaning the sense of urgency that death gives you because you feel the constraint of the time-limit on your life’s work?

Alex: Right. You have to appreciate each day, and do what you can while you’re alive.

David: What was it like working as an embalmer in a morgue?

Alex: I worked in a morgue and a museum of anatomy. I created displays on the history of medicine and disease. I once did an exhibit on bladder stones.

David: What’s a bladder stone?

Alex: It’s like mineral deposits in the bladder.

David: Like a kidney stone?

Alex: Yeah. They used to get rather large and painful, making it difficult to pee, before the invention of ultra-sound detection. Medical science developed ways of cutting for the stone. The museum had a collection of bladder stones, kidney stones, and gall stones, and the surgical tools used to operate on them. They had collections of weird stuff, like a hairball the size of a human stomach taken from a guy who worked in a wig factory and ate hair. There was a skeleton of a guy who had such bad rickets that he pushed himself around in a big wooden bowl. We had specimens of malformations that you rarely see today. Medical science can intercede more effectively and faster now. In the museum there were jars with siamese twins of all different kinds– connected at the head, connected at the thorax, connected every which way. That was the most astonishing collection.

Then there was the morgue work. I would accept bodies when the funeral home brought them in. It was a medical school morgue, so we prepared the bodies for dissection. When a new body came in, if no one else was there, I would do a simplified Tibetan Book of the Dead ritual, calling their name, and encouraging them to go toward the light.

David: Wait, was this on your own that you did this?

Alex: It was not with the permission (laughter) of the medical school. “Oh, he’s over there reading the Bardo to the dead guy.” No, it wasn’t standard operating procedure there at the morgue, but I couldn’t with full consciousness accept these bodies as pieces of meat. Their spirit might still be hovering around the physical body.

David: You definitely felt presences around you?

Alex: Oh, I definitely felt it. Maybe it’s a projection of my fear of death. I might die today or maybe tomorrow. It’s going to happen but I don’t know when. There’s also a simultaneous repugnance and fear–terror in a way–of this awesome energy, the Mysterium Tremendum of one’s life. Life’s limitations are confronting. Basic questions of selfhood arise. Who am I? What am I? If life and mind goes on after death, where does it go? All those questions come, like a freight train, through your mind whenever you’re with dead people.

There was the work-a-day stuff that I did. I had to pump the bodies full of phenol and formalin, a kind of embalming fluid. I didn’t drain the blood before putting in the embalming fluid, like in a commercial morgue. Gallons and gallons of embalming fluid would saturate the body, and it would puff up. All kinds of nauseating substances would ooze from every orifice during that process. Then it would drain off a little bit, and you’d wrap it up. Put a little lanolin on the hands and face, wrap them like a mummy, and stick them in the freezer. Occasionally there would be a request from a professor for only particular organs, or particular appendages, like hands were needed once to train hand surgeons. I had to hacksaw off dozens of pairs of hands.

David: I don’t understand. Why did you have to do that?

Alex: Well, there was a convention of hand surgeons doing a workshop. They needed a lot of hands to study and dissect.

David: These people had donated their bodies?

Alex: Right. But the hand surgeons, for instance, didn’t need the whole body, so somebody had to go and hacksaw off the hands, or the head. Now the head–that was a more intense thing. They had a kind of chainsaw-like device and you could create kind of a sculpture bust–down the shoulders, and then across the middle. You’d have a head, which you’d stick on a tray, and take to the place. That was wild. That was too much.

David: How old were you when you were doing this?

Alex: Around twenty to twenty four.

David: How did this affect you emotionally?

Alex: It was an unforgettable experience. I felt like I probably could have declined, but then I would never have had that experience in this lifetime. It’s doubtful, except in the case of a psychotic murderer, that anyone would have that experience outside of a medical school where dismemberment is part and parcel of the daily activities. Maybe if you were a Tibetan funeral preparator doing sky-burials, you chop up the bodies.

David: Have you gotten to hold a human brain in your hand?

Alex: Oh yeah, plenty of times. To me, that’s the most amazing thing–just to hold the brain. I teach anatomy now for artists at NYU, and we go to a medical school anatomy lab. They always have brains with the spinal cord attached. All those fine threads of neurons, it’s awesome.

David: It’s incredible to hold a brain in your hands, and know that’s where the person’s whole life experience took place. Have you noticed that when you look at a dead body, and compare it to them when they were alive, it doesn’t even look like them anymore without the animating muscles?

Alex: Yeah, I’ve noticed that.

David: As though the animating force, which tenses and holds together the facial muscles, just isn’t there anymore.

Alex: Right. There’s complete relaxation and no tension at all left. If a body came in that had been dead for a few days in the Summer, there was a completely different coloration than if they came in Winter. Bodies prepared by funeral directors are obviously fixed-up to match the person you might have known.

David: So would you use a photograph to work from?

Alex: We never got into that. Although, I used to do make-up work on my own, and worked with morticians wax to create make-up effects, like Quasimodo and other monsters, but that was not part of the job description there. The medical school diener just embalms and prepares the bodies for dissection, or for simple burial afterwards.

David: How did you become involved in performance art?

Alex: That happened when I went to art school in 1970-71 at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. I was there for two years. I started reading art magazines, and read about artists like Vito Acconci and Chris Burden, and the so-called “body artists.” There were a number of Viennese actionists, who worked in Austria. I got to meet one of those guys, a fellow named Otto Muehl. In the Sixties they did performances that were very violent and sexual. They used a swans head to enter a women, and then cut off the swans head in orgiastic displays of passion, throwing the blood around. Hermann Nitsch, one of the Viennese actionists, continues to do these kinds of performances where they slaughter lambs, and let the entrails fall all over nude figures strapped up underneath a sort of crucified lamb.

They’re very grisly, and supposedly cathartic displays of performance energy. This fellow Muehl started a place called Actions Analysis Organization. It was based on LSD use, communal living and Wilhelm Reich’s bodywork. Muehl was a cross between Charlie Manson and a Neo-Reichian bodyworker. He was a charismatic character, and was my introduction to performance work. Soon after that, in ‘72 I started working with dead animals myself. It seemed appropriate since I had worked with dead animals early on, that I should get back to examining the subject of mortality. Many artists, even well known artists today, who are working with meaning and content (rather that formal concerns) often use performance or installation art to express themselves, rather than painting. Painting that is rich in meaning and narrative content has been given short shrift during this century, since modernism.

David: Are you including people like Laurie Anderson?

Alex: She does create some content-driven work. Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Paul McCarthy, Rachel Rosenthal, Karen Finley, and Diamanda Galas, are all using very strong content in their work.

David: There was a dark quality to your early performance art pieces, unlike your contemporary paintings which have a more positive transcendent quality to them. Can you tell me what caused the shift of focus in your creative work?

Alex: I had a dramatic series of vision states that occurred after doing certain performances. They were performances that were done in the morgue where I worked, using the dead bodies. Using people’s bodies in my artwork had questionable ethical ramifications. It was trespassing and there were consequences. I experienced a vision where I was in a courtroom being judged. I couldn’t see the face of the judge, but I knew the accuser was a woman’s body who I had violated in the morgue work. She was accusing me of this sin. I said “It was for art’s sake.” This excuse didn’t hold up under scrutiny for the judge. I was put on lifetime probation and not forgiven. The content of my work and my orientation would be watched from that point on. It made me consider the ethical intentions of my art. The motivation that moves us to creative work is critical.

David: In terms of the consequences?

Alex: Yeah. What does one intend for the viewer to experience? I also had an intense experience after I shot photographs of about thirty malformed fetuses from a collection. One night I was lying in bed, but awake. I saw one malformed fetus hovering in front of me. It was like a holographic projection in space which spoke with many voices, all saying the same thing. “It’s time for you to come with us. We’ve come to take you.” The being itself, the creature in the jar that I photographed, was not an evil being. But somehow, in this holographic hallucination it was a personification of malevolence. It was threatening me, seeking to take over, take control, and I felt like I was on the precipice of sanity, about to go over the edge.

I started calling on divine love. I said, “Divine love is the strongest power,” and I just kept reaffirming that in the face of this being who was calling me. I made a commitment from that point on to reorient myself. After calling that out several times the hallucination dissolved, as if it were banished, and it was replaced by a bluish light that spoke. The light identified itself as Mr. Lewis, an interplanetary angel, who said he was going to watch over me for a little while. He would be helpful and guide me. That was mind-changing and life-changing.

David: Have you any experiences with Mr. Lewis since?

Alex: I’m not sure. I think he’s been working back-stage, and manipulating things.

David: What other kinds of experiences like this have you had?

Alex: In Tibetan Buddhist practices one projects visions of deity and guru forms like Garab Dorje, who is one of the earliest Dzogchen masters. Garab Dorje is a very strong spiritual archetype and guru. Although he lived over two thousand years ago, he is accessible as a helper-being because he attained the pinnacle of realization known as the ja-lus or rainbow body. By following certain secret practices, a yogi can dissolve their physical body into the essence of the elements, hence the name rainbow body, leaving behind only their hair, fingernails and toenails. It takes about seven days to shrink and disappear completely. There is a continuous lineage of Tibetan masters who have accomplished this seemingly unbelievable feat of self-liberation. The same thing is true with the great master Padmasambhava. who wrote theTibetan Book of the Dead. With the right mantra and visualization you may experience these masters presence and blessing.

David: What relationship do you see between sex and death?

Alex: They are both inevitable, and they are crystallizations of our life force and our loss of vitality. Orgasms have been described as mini-deaths. Certainly there can be an ecstatic ego-death, a convergence with the beloved during sex. I hope that death will be like a cosmic orgasm, where I’m released into convergence with the infinite one. Certain tantric traditions have sexual rituals to be performed in charnel grounds, and there are some pretty intense paintings of Kali astride corpse Shiva.

David: Do you view yourself as a shaman?

Alex: I can’t really claim that pedigree.

David: In Carlo McCormick’s essay in your book, he compares you to a shaman, and says that it was a necessary part of your journey to go through the darkness.

Alex: Metaphorically, the path of the wounded healer, or the journey of the shaman has very important implications for the future of spirituality. No other metaphor sufficiently deals with the journey of humanity. We are wounded, and whether we’re going to be the wounded victim, or the wounded healer is our choice. We have wounded the planet. We have wounded our genes. We’ve wounded the coming generations. Whether we make some remediation to the environment, and to our psyches, is something that only time will tell.

We need transcendent vision to guide us, and the vision of a common good to motivate and drive our creative efforts. That’s critical.  Another role that is critical at this time is the role of the Bodhisattva, because this is an archetype of ethical idealism. In Buddhism, the Bodhisattva, one whose being is enlightenment, expresses their compassion by working for the benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhichitta is altruistic positive motivation in all ones actions. These Mahayana Buddhist teachings emphasize a universal compassion and responsibility, and are the logical consequence of realizing that we are all connected and that we can’t turn our backs on a suffering world.

I love the yogic and shamanic path as a metaphor. A lot of my work is related to those paths. My early performance work started with an animal, the dead dog pieces, Secret Dog and Rendered Dog. That was my power animal that opened me up to the world of mortality and decay and led me to the underworld of death.

After the morgue pieces and a positive reorientation, my performances dealt with the possibilities of global death from nuclear war, and ecotastrophy. I think that everyone with a conscious sense of responsibility carries around a heavy sadness, fear or guilt about these possibilities. My daughter at age five made a little book about the earth. It started with the a happy earth from the earliest times when Adam and Eve were around. The globe had a happy face. Then the earth was being trashed and the trees and people were dying. The earth was dying. It frightens everyone. Even young children know the fear.

David: How and when did you start painting?

Alex: My father was an artist, a graphic designer, and he started teaching me how to draw. So at a young age I was drawing a lot. In first grade I was recognized by my teacher who said to the class “Alex is going to be a great artist someday.” This made me very proud and it probably gave me confidence early on. I think my ability to draw exceeds my ability to paint.

David: There’s a scientific precision to your work–even when you’re painting spiritual energy systems, it all appears anatomically accurate.

Alex: Right. I use the effect of simultaneous X-ray and Kirlian photography in my paintings. This combination evokes the appearance of a clairvoyant healers vision. Artists like Malevich, Kandinsky and Mondrian intended their art to be spiritual and my motives are not that different than theirs. After the twentieth century, these and other early Modernists wanted to create a new spiritual image divorced from representation. To them, Realism had been an impediment to the development of the spiritual in art. In some ways, I suppose they were right. The nineteenth century European Academies were filled with competent representational art. 

A stiff kind of neo-classical realism abounded which occasionally had its peaks in Jacques Louis David and Ingres, but for the most part was simply tiresome and totally bourgeois–portraits or still lifes, scenes from mythology or history. Art seemed like a mirror to the white man’s world without a glimpse of the individual visionary soul, let alone a glimpse of the World Soul. The early modernists wanted to bypass the natural world and simply invent forms from their minds. This resulted in a great leap forward in the purely mental and formal development of art. 

Art was free from the drudgery of representational art. But, when you eliminate references to the body and the external world, it’s difficult for some people to identify with the aesthetic object. Abstraction is seen as no more than an arrangement of shapes. If you ask Joe Six-pack whether Kandinsky’s work is spiritual, that thought might never have occurred to him. It took weirdo renegade symbolists like Blake, Redon and Delville to deepen the spiritual discourse of art.
Like those symbolists, I want to make work that is obviously spiritual. Even if a person doesn’t entirely understand the work, they can tell that it points to mystical, idealized or clairvoyant states of consciousness–states where the mind is expanding into sacred spaces. I want to make visible the body, mind, and spirit on a two dimensional canvas. Take a multi-dimensional experience, and collapse it into a two-dimensional framework. I started painting because I was having strong visions that I wanted to represent. At first, I had no idea about spirituality. I was just showing my raw psyche.

At one time in my late teens, I was feeling miserable and depressed about the break-up of a relationship, and had not slept in a few days. I was tossing and turning, and had this vision of a two-headed person. The healthy side was trying to pull off the sick side, and the sick side was laughing, because attempting to remove the shadow was self-destructive and fruitless. The vision was about the tension of these forces within.

It was existentialist adolescent hubris, but it seemed significant enough to make a painting of it. It was a visionary self-portrait. The process of vision and working with the imagination started to interest me. I never wanted to do surrealism or fantasy art. My work had to directly relate to the nature of the self–who am I , what am I. The work gets lumped in with surrealist work because it’s not traditional representational art.

David: That’s really a good point. There’s a big difference between surrealist and visionary art, and many people confuse them.

Alex: I think their intentions are different. Athough, there were artists who were motivated by surrealist and visionary intentions. Pavel Tchelitchev, for example.

David: Visionary art would more aptly be termed as a form of realism, I think.

Alex: There were artists like Ivan Albright whose work was called magic realism.

David: Or spiritual realism.

Alex: Yeah, or metaphysical realism. I’ve struggled with words that would describe it. There’s never been an adequate term. Jean Delville was a great symbolist painter and he called his work idealist. He was an idealist in the German Romantic philosophical tradition of Schelling and Schopenhouer, the Neo-Platonic idealists. I’m not uncomfortable with the terms symbolism or idealism. My work is symbolic and projects ideal archetypes. The wounded healer has to project an image of health in order to heal, and has to fight on the side of good.

David: Who are some of the other artists who have influenced you?

Alex: There are two or three painters from this century who I relate to strongly. There’s the Belgian symbolist painter Jean Delville. His work addresses the dualisms of body and soul, spirit and matter. The second is Ernst Fuchs who is a much under-appreciated Viennese “fantastic realist” painter. The third artist is Pavel Tchelitchev, who’s most famous painting, “Hide and Seek” is in the Museum of Modern Art, and well-known to many psychedelic afficianados. It’s a magnificient piece done in 1940-41. He spent the remainder of his career, 1942-56 studying the human anatomy, the subtle anatomy and spiritual networks of energy.

My work relates strongly to Tchelitchev. After acid trips, I started having visions of glowing bodies with the acupuncture meridians and points, chakras and auras all inter-relating. I started painting these images and a friend of mine told me that Tchelitchev was doing this kind of thing forty years ago. He was starting to do translucent bodies that I think were influenced by “The Visible Man” or “Visible Woman” seen at the New York World’s Fair of 1939. Also, the use of X-rays must have influenced him to envision a translucent body. Tchelitchev sometimes painted a glow around the body, as well. He was well-versed in Pythagoreanism and alchemy and was deeply into the occult.

Whether he ever took mescaline, I don’t know. He was dead before much acid was available. He died in ‘56, and yet he was embraced by psychedelic culture. His career has had its ups and downs in the legitimate art world. His work is currently gaining momentum after years of neglect. In the early Forties, he got a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. After that, his anatomical work went out of favor because it wasn’t related to “hot” artists like Jackson Pollock. Jack the dripper was big news in Life magazine, and there was a tidal wave of abstract expressionism that wiped out the magic realists. I think the 21st Century will look back and see the significance of the symbolists–work that is content-diven, sacred art that is idiosyncratic and personal. I think Tchelitchev’s career will be reassessed, and accorded more value. At any rate I see him as a forefather to my artwork.

David: How long does it take you on average to complete a painting?

Alex: Sometimes just a few months or it can take a year or more.

David: Do you ever do several pieces simultaneously?

Alex: No, I focus on one piece at a time. Each piece absorbs me. Meanwhile, there are visions circling overhead a-mile-a-minute, wanting to land on the easel. My notebooks are filled with extensive little scribbles of potential pieces.

David: Your painting style demonstrates extensive knowledge of human anatomy. Have you ever given thought to the fact that you share the last name with the man who wrote and illustrated Gray’s Anatomy ?

Alex: I changed my name to Grey at a time when I was doing a lot of performance works about resolving and exploring polarities. It was prior to my name change that I went to the North Magnetic Pole, and I shaved half my head of hair, in alignment with the rational and intuitive hemispheres of the brain.

David: So Grey represents a merging of the light and dark.

Alex: Exactly, Grey is the middle way. I took the name not thinking about the relationship with Gray’s Anatomy. But, it was fortuitous, and who knows what energies a name will draw into itself? My project has been to revision the human anatomy and include the non-material dimensions. Medical texts don’t address the soul level. Dissecting the body cannot reveal a soul.

David: Can you talk a little about the “Sacred Mirrors” project?

Alex: The “Sacred Mirrors,” are a series of twenty one panels that examine in fine detail the human physical and metaphysical anatomy–the body, mind, and spirit. Each Sacred Mirror presents a life-sized figure directly facing the viewer, arms to the side and palms forward (the “anatomical position”). This format allows the viewer to stand before the painted figure and “mirror” the image. People have reported that by using the paintings in this way, a resonance takes place between one’s own body and the painted image, creating a sense of “seeing into” oneself. 

The last time they were exhibited all together, I had the opportunity to trip with them. I felt like I was experiencing a new kind of subtle body work. When I was standing in front of the “Psychic Energy System” my “vital essence” was pulled out through my eyes, and into the painting, like a magnet. My vitality went into this glowing body, and like electrons zipping around a hard drive, I was being reformatted by the painted image of a perfect template. My vital essence was unkinked, purified and intensified. Then this essence oozed out of the painting and back into my body. The painting acted like a tool that catalyzed the evolution of my consciousness.

The “Sacred Mirrors” were a job I was given to do. They were a gift from the future, projected into my mind stream to bring benefit to others through healing art– a life-preserver tossed back into the time stream to be yanked towards the evolutionary future.

David: The Omega Point.

Alex: Right. The Sacred Mirrors have periodically been exhibited at various museums and galleries around the world. Allyson and I are committed to making them accessible to people in the form of a chapel, a permanent public space for the Sacred Mirrors. A Chapel of the Sacred Mirrors would bring together all twenty-one paintings in a domed circular room with guardian sculptures between each piece.

I think of the Chapel surrounding the Sacred Mirror room as a pyramidal structure containing a Sacred World Globe. The Globe symbolizes the collective spiritual consciousness of the planet, the noosphere, to use de Chardin’s term. The pyramidal architecture of the Chapel will symbolically draw in and focus healing and spiritual energies on planetary and personal awareness. The Chapel will act as a catalyst or an accelerator for the evolution of consciousness by displaying visionary and sacred art which evokes higher mind states. The spiritual legacy of humanity, East and West, from indigenous shamans to the world’s major religions would be acknowledged and honored there.

I’m creating an architectural model of the Chapel and working with a software company to make a virtual Chapel on CD-ROM, or possibly a Web-site which will make the space more accessible. This is a step towards the development of an actual chapel.

We need support to create this chapel. The site has not yet been chosen. It will be a space for personal transformation, for ritual and ceremony, for gatherings and cultural events. At this critical time in human history, we need places where all spiritual paths are honored. The Chapel of the Sacred Mirrors will celebrate the co-existence of religious diversity and fulfill the desire to enter into a unitive vision of World Spirit. 

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after death?

Alex: I accept the near-death research and Tibetan bardo explanations. Soon after physical death, when the senses shut down, you enter into the realms of light and archetypal beings. You have the potential to realize the clear light, our deepest and truest identity, if you recognize it as the true nature of your mind and are not freaked out. If you don’t, you may contact other less appealing dimensions. No one can know, of course until they get there. Some people have had experiences which give them certainty, but consciousness is the ultimate mystery. I’d like to surrender to the process on it’s deepest level when death occurs, but I will probably fail, and be back to interview you in the next lifetime. (laughter)

David: What’s your concept of God?

Alex: My daughter said the other day, “God must think it smells down in the sewer.” I thought that was an interesting statement. She said that because God is everywhere, and God is everything, God would be in the stinky places, too. God is the infinite oneness. Oneness, but also infinite. That is the meaning of non-dual. God is love. While we were tripping we thought, “Love is the part of the all that’s all of the all.” Divine love is infinite and omnipresent, but our experience of it is partial and incomplete from day-to-day. If you have a loved one you have access to the infinitude of divine love.

Even though Buddhists would not use the word God, the non-dual nature of mind, voidness, clarity, and infinite compassion, as described in the Buddhist teachings, is not different than the experience that I call God. Ken Wilber uses the ladder metaphor. There are different rungs, the material realm, the emotional, the mental, then the psychical, and progressively more spiritual hierarchies of states of consciousness and awareness. The highest rungs of the ladder give one the highest context, wherein the entire ladder is seen. The experience of God is the highest rung, and also the entire ladder. That’s the transcendent and the immanent aspects of God. God is the beyond and also the manifest world–”the entire field of events and meanings,” as Manjushrimitra puts it. One without the other is not the full picture.

David: You’re describing God as a state of consciousness. Do you see there being any type of intelligent design in the universe.

Alex: Absolutely. Wilber says that the materialists can’t offer more than a “whoops!” theory for the universe manifesting. Whoops, it occurred by some chance. That’s an infantile orientation to the complexity and beauty of the evolutionary design of the earth and cosmos. I think we can come up with something deeper. Spirit, God, Primordial Nature of the Mind, whatever you call it, is the source and goal of it all.

David: How have your experiences with psychedelics influenced your work and your perspective on life?

Alex: When I came back from the North Magnetic Pole, I knew I was looking for something.

David: How old you were?

Alex: I was 21, and I was searching for God. I didn’t know what that was. I was an existentialist. Within twenty four hours of returning from the Pole, I was invited to a party by an acquaintance who would become my wife. She invited me along with our professor, so the professor took me there. On the way, he offered me a bottle of Kalua laced with a high dose of LSD. It was the end of school, and I decided to celebrate. I drank a good deal of it. Allyson drank the rest. That was my first LSD experience.

Tripping that night I experienced going through a spiritual rebirth canal inside of my head. I was in the dark, going towards the light, spinning in this tunnel, a kind of an opalescent living mother-of-pearl tube. All paradoxes were resolved in this tunnel–dark and light, male and female, life and death. It was a very strong archetypal experience. The next day, because it had been my first trip, I called Allyson up, to talk to her about it. I asked her out that night, and we never left each other. It’s been over twenty years.

Within twenty-four hours of announcing that I’m looking for God, an LSD experience opened me up on a spiritual, evolutionary path, and I had met my wife. It was miraculous. My prayers were answered. Allyson and I have maintained an ongoing psychedelic sacramental relationship. We have often tripped laying in bed, blindfolded or in a beautiful environment. Then, coming out of blindfolds, we write and draw.

David: You created the isolation masks that I used to see advertised in High Times.

Alex: The Mindfold.

David: That was a brilliant idea, I thought, and so simple–putting together ear plugs and eye shades. Sort of a portable isolation tank. I made my own pair actually. So you’d wear those when you were tripping?

Alex: We used it as a blank screen to project our imagination on to. I saw it as an art object, as well. We made a limited edition of twenty-five hundred, and sold them all over the world. Then we sold the business.

David: You’ve tried one of John Lilly’s isolation tanks haven’t you?

Alex: Oh yeah, isolation tanks are great. You do get a different sense with immersion.

David: Have you ever actually tried to do any work while you were tripping?

Alex: A little–the results are interesting and remind me of the trip, but it’s not my most successful work. My work takes a steady mind, eye and hand to accomplish. The psychedelic helps me to access the infinitude of the imagination, allowing me to see countless interpenetrating dimensions. William James says that no model of reality can be complete without taking these alternative dimensions of consciousness into account. Since I want to make art dealing with the nature of consciousness and spirit, I have to experience higher dimensions of consciousness.

During a trip I will have visions that are crystallizations of my life experience, or something completely surprising. You may enter a dimension that you’ve never known before, and it seems very real, more real than this phenomenal world. That “other” reality seems to be tinkering with this one, or acting like a puppet-master to this one. I want to reveal the inter-relationships between the different dimensions in my work.

David: To act as a bridge between dimensions?

Alex: Consciousness is that bridge. Making interdimensionality visible validates it for people who have had that experience. They can see a picture outside of their own heads, and say, “It was something like this. I’m not crazy.” There’s plenty of people who’ve had those experiences. Perhaps the work can be useful in that way. I’ve talked to people who use my paintings as a tool to access the dimensions that are represented. Some people trip and look at the book, or look at the art, and key into the states that are symbolized there. That is a psychedelic or entheogenic full circle. I glimpsed the visions while tripping, come back and made the work. Then people trip and access the higher state that produced the vision. The painting acts a portal to the mystical dimension. That is the real usefulness of the work, and it is the great thing about any sacred art.

David: To act as something like an access code, or a doorway to a particular dimension, reality, or vibration?

Alex: Exactly.

David: How has your wife influenced your work? You say that you met her on that night you did psychedelics together. Has she remained as powerful of an influence?

Alex: Totally. Together we are a third mind that neither one of us alone could ever be. We guide each other’s art. We did a performance together called “Life Energy” in 1978, and I made these life-sized charts of the body–one of the Eastern model of Life Energy, and the other was the Western anatomical model of the nervous system. I demarcated an area in front of the image, so that a person could stand in that zone and try to mirror the system on the chart within their own body. We led several exercises during the Life Energy performance. As we were walking away afterwards, Allyson said, “It would really be great if you did fully detailed oil paintings of these different systems that people could stand in front of.” The charts had been the most successful thing about that performance. At that moment I was doomed to doing the “Sacred Mirrors”. Allyson was really the inspiration behind it. She’s inspired me to do numerous paintings–some of my best work. She’s a great designer in her own work and I collaborate with her on her paintings, too.

David: And you’ve worked on paintings together as well.

Alex: Yes. Allyson did the “secret writing” in the halo of the “Sophia” painting. My most recent works, “Transfiguration” and “Prostration”, use Allyson’s geometric grid systems. They relate to the kaleidoscopic DMT complexities and to sacred geometries. Her own work is very strong, and I’m influenced by being around it.

David: In the preface to the book Sacred Mirrors , you say that you and your wife actually shared the same vision of the energy fountains and drains.

Alex: Right. The Universal Mind Lattice. That was an extraordinary trip that really convinced me of the reality of the transpersonal dimensions. We experienced the same transpersonal space at the same time. That space of connectedness with all beings and things through love energy seemed more real to both of us, than the phenomenal world. It changed our work. From that point on we had to make art about that vision. There was nothing more important than that.

David: How has raising a family affected your creativity?

Alex: I have a wonderful daughter. Spending time with your family takes a lot of time away from painting, but it’s my opportunity during her youth to be with her. She’s going to be our only child during this lifetime. If I don’t spend time with her now, I will have missed out. So, we take advantage of it and enjoy seeing her stages of growth. Her art development is wonderful. She teaches us and is a great teacher. You need to spend time with your teachers in order to learn new things, and these things find their way into my work. All of my life experiences influence and deepen my work. Having a family, and profound, loving relationships, gives me tremendous joy. The world needs this positive energy. I accomplish less because I spend more time with my family, but I use the experiences we’ve had to make more profound work.

David: Have your dreams inspired you? If so, how have they influenced your work?

Alex: Sure. I had a dream that I was painting the “Transfiguration” painting before I actually did it. I did DMT a few weeks later, and I was immediately thrust into the space of that painting I had dreamed of. I was experiencing what it would be like inside of the painting, and what state of being I would try to project. Having seen it in a dream, I could clarify certain elements. It became clearer, although not all questions were solved. Shaving half of my hair off was an image that came in a dream, as well. In the dream, I opened up a garbage can and saw myself with this haircut.

David: Are there any other avenues that you use to access the unconscious, and what else has inspired you?

Alex: Oh sure. Creative visualization is surprisingly effective. Also shamanic drumming can be a pathway to expanded, imaginative territories. Sometimes doing nothing at all you can receive powerful visions. Once I was waiting for the subway, tired after a day of teaching, and I saw the “World Soul” piece which I then worked on for two years. I was in no altered state and was not anticipating anything in particular. I like to keep the “door open” and be permeable to these transdimensional blow-darts of vision. I believe that I am being used by the Logos. The images are sent to me.

David: Do you feel like sometimes you’re not really doing it, like it’s just happening though you? 

Alex: No, I know that I’m physically creating the work. But the vision is being given as a gift. Other creative and receptive people are receiving other visions, but these are my gifts, and I’m supposed to manifest them.

David: Was there anything else in particular that inspired you beside psychedelics, your relationship, and dreams?

Alex: Art of different cultures. There’s shamanic art from various world cultures. Tchelitchev was not the only artist painting translucent bodies. Shamanic artists from all over the world have made X-ray art, where they see into the body and the interpenetrating energies. Some artists have a clairvoyant perception of the body. The Huichol Indians of Mexico base their culture and spiritual life on their ritual and ceremonial peyote use. Huichol artists see through the body and see energies surrounding it and show great jets of light around the bodies in their yarn paintings. There are numerous cultures with a tradition of subtle body art.

David: Like Pablo Amaringo’s work.

Alex: Ayahuasca visions. Yeah, terrific stuff. I’m inspired by psychedelic art of all kinds. Ernst Fuchs and Mati Klairwein were European painters who were inspired similarly. Thangka painting, the sacred art of the Tibetan Buddhists, has been an influence. I feel like we now have access to the spiritual traditions and visual cultures of most of the world’s great civilizations. Artists have never had that before. It’s like the seals of the Apocalypse are opening and during the Twentieth Century we get to see humanities past life review. Cave art was recently discovered in France. Art done tens of thousands of years ago, inspired by the Goddess and Shamanic magic is now available. Artists are in a unique position at the end of the Twentieth Century to access all visual traditions, and synthesize them in an evolving universal spiritual tradition.

David: What are your views on the evolution of consciousness?

Alex: It seems to me the universe is like a self-awareness machine. I think the world was created for each individual to manifest the boundless experiences of identity with the entire universe, and with the pregnant void that gives birth to the phenomenal universe. That’s the Logos. That’s the point of a universe–to increase complexity and self-awareness. The evolution of consciousness is the counter-force to the entropic laws of thermodynamics that end in stasis, heat death, and the loss of order. The evolution of consciousness appears to gain complexity, mastery, and wisdom.

Lessons are learned over a lifetime– maybe many lifetimes. And the soul grows and hopefully attains a state of spiritual awakenedness. Buddha was the “Awakened One”. To be able to access all the simultaneous parallel dimensions, and come from a ground of love and infinite compassion like the awakenedness of the Buddha, is a good goal for the evolution of consciousness. The spiritual “fruit” in many spiritual paths is compassion and wisdom.

David: So then, are you optimistic about the future evolution of humanity?

Alex: That’s a big leap. (laughter) I have some optimism about the potential for human beings to manifest Buddhic qualities of compassion, spiritual heroism, and reverance for all life. There’s always problems in this phenomenal world, but if we maintain ideal ethical views we can cause less harm. There’s hope for a future to hand our children, and their children. There is also despair over the deludedness and the catastrophic disasters that human beings have created.

I don’t like vacillating between fear and hope. The Buddhist teachings caution against entrapment in those emotions. But we’re in samsara, and subject to emotions. Ultimately, I’m optimistic because the primordial nature of mind will never change no matter what happens. Our consciousness may appear in another universe, or in another dimension, but in some form the energy will be around. Consciousness just recycles.

David: Do you think that the human species will survive the next hundred years, or do you think we’re in danger of extinction?

Alex: Yes, I think we are in danger of bringing down much of the web of life with us. We are a drunken suicidal adolescent species. Nevertheless, what better time to wake up, get over ourselves, forgive and love each other, and fix the mess we’ve created.

David: Assuming that we do survive, how do you envision the future evolution of the human race?

Alex: Self-illuminating non-dual mystics, dedicated to the repair of the water, air and soil, and nurturing the species that still remain.

David: What are you currently working on?

Alex: I’ve been working on my current painting for many months.  It is called The Great Net of Being.  Why great?  Because it is infinite in all directions. It is coming along very slowly.

Every full moon Allyson and I have been holding a prayer gathering in our home, for the proper alignment of forces to manifest the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. These gatherings were the inspiration of our friend the great shaman and geomancer, Alex Stark, Marie-Elizabeth Mundheim and John Lloyd. The prayer gatherings have grown to 200 people sometimes. Some miraculous synchronicities have occured this year and now we are at work on creating the first version of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, renovating a space in the Chelsea art district of Manhatten that will be a long-term exhibition of the Sacred Mirrors and about 20 other pieces.  We will open by the Summer of 2004.  The space in Chelsea will hopefully help us to gather the support we need to actually build 21st century sacred architecture to permanently house the Sacred Mirrors and other works. Check it out at www.alexgrey.com