David What do you think happens to consciousness after the death of the body?
Deepak: Nothing happens to consciousness after the death of the body. When two people are speaking on the phone, and the lines are cut off, nothing happens to them. If the room I’m sitting in is destroyed, nothing happens to the space I’m in. Consciousness just loses a vehicle to express itself. If I destroy my radio set the broadcast is still happening, but it’s not being actualized in the physical form, because the instrument is missing. So I think that when the instrument gets destroyed, consciousness ceases to express itself in the realm of space-time and causality, until it finds another vehicle to express itself. And, after a sufficient period of incubation, it does do that, by taking a quantum leap of creativity.
David: You know Deepak, even though I sense that there’s wisdom in what you’re saying, I have to admit, that I always have this scientific skeptic inside me that questions all spiritual and mystical assertions, when they are expressed as facts. I’m curious as to how you can be so sure about things that have mystified human beings since the beginning of time–such as the nature of God, the existence of a soul, and what happens to consciousness after death. What gives you such a sense of certainty about your spiritual ideas?
Deepak: The only thing that can give you any degree of certainty is direct experience, and I come from there. Science is just one of the ways to express the truth, and it’s really not an adequate way. Science is not an adequate way to express the truth; it’s just a way to express our conceptional map of what we think the truth is., The conceptional map of science keeps changing. So I think science is extremely inadequate as a way of understanding reality. Reality is the observer, the process of observation, and that which is observed. Science addresses only that which is observed, completely excluding both the process of observation, and more fundamentally, the observer. So actually, even though I express my ideas in a scientific vocabulary, because that seems to be the fashion of the day, I really don’t think science is adequate to address these deeper questions.
David: But still, I don’t understand how you can be so certain. I mean, you say that your experience gives you a sense of certainty–but we can certainly be fooled by our experiences.
Deepak: I’m more certain that I exist than of anything else. Then, in the certainty of existence, is the certainty of consciousness. The fact that I exist is the only thing I can be certain about. Everything else is really a perceptual artifact. I spend three hours in meditation every day, and I’ve been obsessed with these ideas ever since I was a child. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’m certain about anything else. I think the only thing I’m certain about is the nature of God and the existence of the soul.
I’m not certain about what I see or perceive, because I really know, from the depth of my being, that if you can think about something–if you can conceptualize it, if you can visualize it, and if you can experience it through your senses–then it’s not real. It depends on something that you can’t conceptualize, that you can not visualize, that you can not experience through your senses, and yet, is much more real than anything that you can conceptualize. So conceptualization, visualization, perception, understanding, intuition, creativity, meaning, purpose, and decision-making all depend on consciousness.
So, to me, consciousness or God is not difficult to explain; it’s impossible to avoid. Everything else is very difficult to explain. How do you explain perception? Your brain only recognizes ph, body temperature, biochemical changes, and electromagnetic impulses. That doesn’t tell me how you experience a red rose in your consciousness, how you feel beauty or, for that matter, how you experience sexual orgasm. Nothing that we explain in science really explains anything.
David: At times, in certain states of awareness, I’ve thought to myself, consciousness isn’t the hard thing to explain, it’s unconsciousness–that’s the real mystery.
Deepak: Yes, that’s true.
David: In your book How to Know God you map out the stages of spiritual evolution as you’ve come to understand them. In reading the book, I was surprised that you didn’t give any credibility to the psychedelic experience as being a genuine source for religious or spiritual insight. You mention it briefly, and then seemed to swiftly dismiss it. I was surprised that you didn’t give any credence to the work of people like Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Huston Smith, Ram Dass and many other important religious scholars who believe that psychedelic drugs like LSD, or shamanic plants brews like ayahausca, can sometimes trigger powerful religious experiences. Have you ever had a psychedelic experience yourself, and why did you so quickly dismiss the idea that psychedelics can sometimes trigger true religious experiences?
Deepak: First of all, I grew up in a tradition that is so grounded in the understanding of consciousness that psychedelic experiences are considered hardly important–although in India, in rituals, we do occasionally use things like bhang, which is a form of marijuana, and mushrooms as well. I personally have used everything, including LSD, but that was when I was a medical student, more out of curiosity than anything else. And I do believe that these experiences can sometimes open a window to the transcendent, and to the non-local domain of existence.
I had a wonderful experience when I used them–but I was 17, and that was a long time ago. I didn’t feel the need to rely on drugs, and, as a physician, I’ve met many people who have suffered from psychosis, and other kinds of problems, as a result of relying on drugs, or psychedelic chemicals, to have an experience. As far as the work of Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Huston Smith, and Ram Dass goes, I think that they’re very important religious scholars, and I believe what they’re saying is very authentic. And I do think that they had great insights to give them a glimpse of this deeper reality. It just happens that I came from a tradition where this was almost taken for granted.
David: Do you think that the human species is going to survive the next hundred years, or do you think we’re going to drive ourselves into extinction?
Deepak: I think it’s a fifty-fifty chance, and either way is really what the universe must intend. The Universe could be saying Homo Sapiens, or the human species, was an interesting experiment, and didn’t work. After all, like our scientists, Nature, God, or the Universal Being does try experiments. Dinosaurs were an experiment. There are many other experiments. From God’s point of view, the human species could be a very interesting experiment–to give a creature free-will, a nervous system that, at least, seeks enlightenment, and has self-consciousness. However, human beings have also very successfully destroyed the ecology, and we do stupid and silly things, like kill each other in the name of God.
So human extinction would not necessarily be a bad idea from the Universe’s point of view, to move on to something more interesting. But, on the other hand, I think humans also have the opportunity to move into a new phase of their own evolution, take a quantum leap of creativity, and actually fully develop the supernormal sidhis that the greatest spiritual traditions have talked about. And, in so doing, humans would also realize their inter-beingness, their oneness, and become much more compassionate and loving. If that happens, that would also be a really wonderful thing. I think we’re at a crossroads at the moment, and it will be very interesting to see what happens. But either way, it will be very interesting.
David: What do you think is the biggest threat to the human species?
Deepak: I think the biggest threat to the human species is ignorance, lack of awareness, and not knowing the true nature of one’s own potential. This results in a very limited sense of identity, and leads to greed, to self-absorption, to a rapacious consumption-oriented society, and also to violence. I would say it is the limited identity that people have as a result of ignorance.
David Assuming that we do survive, how do you envision the future of the human race?
Deepak: If we do survive, I think human beings will develop new forms of cognition and perception, as well as new abilities–such as the ability to heal and the ability for non-local communication. We’ll, once again, restore the ecological balance of nature, and achieve the ability to transcend tribal tendencies, create a new civilization, and seed the galaxies with new life.
David: How do you envision advanced extraterrestrial life in the universe?
Deepak: I think if the human species survives we will certainly have the means, the technology, and the ability to seed, not only our galaxy, but other galaxies, with life forms. You could easily