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« 7 Tips to breathe easier | Main | Listen to the breath speak »
Saturday
Jul132019

Interview with Derek D. Lyons

Love how encounters always present in a timely fashion. We are constantly attracting into our experience new ways to deepen understanding of ourselves and our place in the world we come to perceive as a changing reality.

Having written many books, I often find myself naturally drawn to engage with writers and publishers. The experience of being a long-time radio co-host with Dr. Steven Hairfield, The American Monk, and endeavours such as breathwork, yoga and meditation, allow awareness of divinity to blossom. It occurs that every moment is an opportunity to deepen connection with ourselves and others. As such, I am grateful that details come together to engage in this interview with Derek D. Lyons.  

Tell us about your upbringing. How were you initially introduced to God? 

I was introduced to traditional beliefs about God before my earliest consciously accessible memories. Several times during adulthood, my mother told me a story about how the police picked me up as I walked alone across some railroad tracks. At only 4-5 years old, I told police that I was going to church.. Evidently, I had already learned the importance of God and religion. (Story appears in, Divinity Within Ourselves: A Memoir.)

I can attest to what you say about knowing, "before [your] earliest consciously accessible memories." Certain breathing techniques allow one to access memories of consciousness that occur early in life, including at and before birth as well as recall varied lifetimes. Deeper reasons present for why we create particular beliefs and behaviour patterns in this lifetime.

In my current interpretation of these life events, I, as a young child imbibed the emotions of my parents. I could feel the importance of God and religion to them. Wanting to please them, I adopted their emotions as my own.

Parents are often early role models. At different life stages, people take on the emotional energy of and beliefs of others and can be completely unconscious of this. It can be a boundary issue or, a sense we are all connected, a knowing that energy flows and allowing that without judgment.

I see your points. My interpretation constitutes a post-hoc simplification (something we all like to see, as discussed below).

The infant mind adopts the parents' emotions because it does not automatically distinguish its own mind from that of its mother. The mother's emotions are the child's emotions. The infant empathizes and bonds with its mother in those early days outside the womb, drinking in her emotions and feeling safe and secure because of the mother's attentiveness, care and love. 

Indeed! Although the umbilical cord is severed after birth, energy fields of mother and child stay connected. Some people describe this as a mental connection. Others feel energetic or unseen connections. Consider mothers have 'a sixth sense.'  Many mothers intuit, feel, know if their child is in danger, or sense changes in energy or emotional fields even when the child are not nearby. 

I have heard of such a connection.  To the extent that the young child mind feels consistency in the mother's affections and her reactions to the child's needs, the child grows up feeling a sense of safety and security. The child matures into a well-adjusted adult, without a need for constant reassurance and acknowledgement of his or her importance or value to other people.

Of course, not every child receives unconditional love early in life or matures into a well-adjusted adult...

True. Yet, much like teenagers and adults, infants hunger for input, new sensations, new social interactions, new information, new entertainment. In the case of an infant, the cerebral cortex constitutes a blank slate. (This contrasts with the older parts of the brain, namely, the limbic system and the brain stem, which entail instinctual, pre-wired neural circuitry.) An infant needs stimulation from the parents as much as it needs milk. And the emotions of the parent(s) form the primary substance of this input.

Alongside your observation, it is worth noting that desire (perceived need) arises from a fear of not having. When we tell ourselves we want or need something, deep inside, we come to believe that we are not enough. Even deeper still, Marianne Williamson echoes 'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.' (We fear being our true selves.)  

That is a startling idea.

Well, we each perceive life events differently much like two people can look at the same cloud and see different forms in it.  Neither is right or wrong, simply different ways of seeing. 

This said, how do you expand on emotional input from parents in relation to God or 'the divine'?

Pursuant to the view expressed in my books, I have decided that the story as to God contains more than mere imitation of parental beliefs and internalization of their emotional responses. Something already existed there, in my mind, a prior experience to which my parents' exhortations and habits attached.

It is also suggested all souls enter this world with core knowings but do not allow blossoming at the same pace. Please share more about 'divine knowing' ...

I had an earlier apprehension or experience of the divine. I knew already about the infinite and the eternal. I knew about the mystery of existence. I knew about the immense significance of being. My parents' words and religious practices became embedded in my brain, attached to these pre-existing notions. My cerebral cortex at my birth did not present an entirely blank slate. I had experienced mind itself, pure consciousness. Mind showed attributes of the infinite, the eternal, the immense significance of being alive, and the unity of everything, inherent in the oneness of mind.

Its interesting that you pinpoint an experience of the divine on a time-line, in a sense of 'earlier,' or 'before' something related to time. Another view shared by Nisagardatta Maharaj echoes, 'there is no such thing as beginning and end... Timeless being is entirely in the now. Being and not-being alternate and their reality is momentary. Immutable Reality is beyond space and time.'

What if not everyone arrives in this world with a blank slate? Consider unhindered awareness of Buddhist llamas.  Heirs to lineages are chosen based on the memories of young children who positively identify belongings possessed in previous lifetimes.  Children in western cultures are also emerging with mature abilities that previously took people lifetimes to achieve. Look at increasing examples of child prodigies in mathematics, opera singers like Jacky Evancho and Amira Willighagen, creative artist-poets like Akiane Kramarik. Many labels exist such as Indigo, Crystal or Rainbow children, and books such as The Children of Now:  Evolution (How can we fast-forward the evolution of our children and our race) by Meg Blackburn Losey.  It suggests a perceived gap is narrowing between collective ignorance and collective remembering.

Let's shift to address God from the views of Spirituality, Religion and modern Science... 

To me, Spirituality, implies a vague apprehension and appreciation of the deepest parts of one's self. Spirituality constitutes feeling alone, except when one tries to talk about it. Then one casts about for words to describe something ethereal and ineffable that existed before words, independently of language, both in the human race as a whole and in the individual human mind. People who evince Spirituality, who attend to matters of the spirit, probe the innermost recesses of their minds, questioning and attempting to access their most remote unconscious being. They apprehend, in a tenuous way, the basic characteristics of God, which are the basic characteristics of pure mind, that is, mind without specific content of sensation and perception, mind aware of itself, of its infinite potential, its apprehension of eternity (the absence of time), its love for being alive, and the feeling of being united with the universe.

Silence is sometimes the best response.  I hear you paint in acrylics and scuplt in clay. This suggests you are a man who expresses the divine beyond words too.

I am full of surprises and can still surprise myself. Onward then: Religion, for deep believers, has spirituality at its core. But religion superimposes a social and cultural edifice on top of the spiritual feeling.

Sometimes religion is also linked with institutionalized dogma.

But ideally, religion includes theological beliefs and rituals or practices that would put one in touch with one's core feelings, one's spirituality, and bind one to other people in the congregation and the world at large and to the entire universe. In effective religious practice, one's mind attains a unity that spirituality promises but cannot achieve when one's mind has become preoccupied with, or distracted by, specific content, including other people and ideas about life and the universe. Religion can serve to unify spiritual feelings with an intellectual parsing of the universe and with physical needs for action preferably in cooperation and conjunction with a group of people.

You offer much to reflect on here. Communities have long performed rituals to connect with the Earth and the cosmos.  These practices have not always been linked to religion. Many views exist about the relationship between religion and spirituality. Some people sense they are separate topics and others view them as simply terms describing the same energy flows with varied degrees of freedom and control.  

I resonate with Osho who echoes, "Any kind of dependence is slavery, and the spiritual dependence is the worst slavery of all. I have been making every effort to make you aware of your individuality, your freedom, your absolute capacity to grow without any help from anybody."

Well, as I see it, religion provides an opportunity for celebrating spirituality in a group, with other people, a sharing of mind and values.

And where Science factor into this for you? One view is the connection between Science and Spirituality is self-evident while others see them as in opposition.  Still others say that rifts must be healed between Science and Spirituality for humanity to shift into new, more harmonious collective consciousness.

Science diverges from spirituality and religion in that the purpose and processes of Science differ greatly from that of the individual human mind seeking to find itself, whether alone or together with other people. Science, like religion, constitutes a cultural creation. Science enables a communal construction of reality, where a group share an understanding of how the universe works, its underlying rules (laws) and kinds of objects it contains.

There is a quote related to the history of Science that stands out here: "first one is rejected as a heretic, then applauded as a pioneer and finally, designated as a genius before his time."  Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin appropriately says "Pioneers will always pave the way with sacrifice."

Where do you understand emotion comes into the Scientific?

Science, like everything else we do, must provide its practitioners with emotional reinforcement and must find motivational support in the emotions of its adherents.  However, Science attempts to separate out the emotion from the intellectual appraisal of facts and theories. Science, in brief, does not aim to enable or enhance emotional experience. While Science may examine emotion as subject matter, Science intends to objectively understand emotional experience, rather than to enable scientists and the science-oriented public to have such experience.        

So, if I get you here, you imply Science attempts to evoke emotion and also mentally deconstruct it.   Some say a feeling is a mental portrayal of what is going on in the body when you have an emotion, a by-product of the brain perceiving and defining the emotion. The same people suggest thoughts of feelings happen after having an emotion, are often subconscious.  Another view is feelings are part of core being, have no opposites and can only be felt not understood.

This said, what is consciousness to you? How would you your experience of this?

Consciousness is everything to me. Without consciousness, what would we have? We would have something but not know that we have it.  I consider consciousness as the tip of the iceberg of mind. Our brains have innumerable layers of unconscious processes, and those processes form unconscious precursors of conscious thoughts and ideas. The brain compares and combines the unconscious thoughts and pushes a summary or end result of all that unconscious processing into the foreground of our minds, thereby populating our consciousness.

Love inviting related questions: when we observe things, it is sheer observation or “witnessing”. But, what is the “we’ observe? The “we”(or you) is consciousness; it is “our consciousness”. So, our consciousness observes. It is the intelligence associated with the consciousness which brings about an “awareness” that we have observed. So, we grow “aware”.

What if the perceived need to balance the psyche (conscious and unconscious mind) is illusion? 

Well, we are much more than our consciousness. But the content of consciousness is what we know. The rest of us remains hidden, but not necessarily entirely or forever, without recourse to our discovery of our hidden selves. Spirituality exhibits an acknowledgement of our hidden selves and attempts to probe the depths to find out what is there. Something lurks there, something of immense worth and import.

If you could describe our deepest yearning, how would you put that into words?

I think that the something we seek in spiritual meanderings is our deepest being, our feelings about being alive, our right hemisphere appreciation of ourselves and others, that our brains naturally experience in preparation for life, for encountering other people and learning about the world.

Natural experience rings true.  Yet, what if we imagine this as a balanced right-left hemisphere perception rather than viewing the world through either right or left hemispheres alone? 

Human consciousness is astonishing (if we do not take it for granted): that we not only live but also know we are alive. This analogizes to science, insofar as science amazes us, not only for the order science has found in the universe, but that our collective minds have the capability of apprehending the vast array of objects in the universe and the rules of their engagement and the wherewithal to formulate those rules via various languages of mathematics.

Aliveness is almost beyond description, is it not? Anil Seth offers a fantastic TedxTalk: Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality  that offers food for reflection.

The pleasures of consciousness form, in my view, icing on the cake of life. While life may not inherently require consciousness, it has provided us human beings with a profound gift and invites us to take pleasure in the universe and its fruits, its awesome prodigality, on every level of being.

Please be more specific about expansion...

My experience of consciousness includes expansion of consciousness, becoming aware of ever more both in the external universe and in the mind, for instance, as ever finer and divergent emotional experience in art and the continuing discoveries and ideas of scientific enterprise.

What led you to begin to make connections between divine perceptions and the brain? 

Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion provided me with motivation to think about religion from a scientific point of view. He proposed a number of potential explanations, all from his point of view as a behavioral biologist.  But none of his explanations seem to hit the mark. Then I read Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight. After having previously read some books on neurology, such as Antonio Damasio's Self Comes to Mind, and V.S. Ramachandran's and Sandra Blakeslee's Phantoms in the Brain, Dr. Taylor's account of her stroke engendered a Eureka moment in my mind.

All of these stand out to me, especially Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight. You might also be familliar with Proof of Heaven and an interview with the author, Dr. Eben Alexander.

Earlier causative influences included my own rejection of religion as a teenager and my continuing search for understanding of belief in God and a substitute for religion. I looked into mysticism and Buddhism. A Buddhist author wrote that "Everything is in the mind." I was additionally predisposed toward a neurological connection between religion and the brain by my mother's answer to her children's complaints about stomach pain and other ailments, namely, "It's all in your heads."

You are the author of an ongoing book series. What prompts you to share 'ah-ha' moments?

Just as that ancient Greek wanted to share his insight, as he ran through the streets, shouting "Eureka," I too wish to share my ideas. As my daughter pointed out (see the books' dedication pages), I wrote my books because she did not want to listen to me. She was partially right, but it was not just her lack of attention. Anybody I talked to seemed to lack either interest or understanding. Writing a book makes the story available to a larger audience, some of which will have a desire to understand, or at least take in a new explanation and perhaps configure a new web of connectivity in their own brains.  Moreover, writing a book sharpens one's ideas and creates additional insights.  Writing a book may constitute the best way to figure out exactly what you want to say. You must construct a story, fill in details, and make transitions between seemingly irrelevant ideas.

Just as Joseph Campbell describes, we are each on The Hero's Journey .

So, Divinity Within Ourselves: God as Mind Projected onto the External World is your latest book. Who would benefit from it and why? 

This book would appeal most to those people interested in both science and religious experience. This group would naturally include scientists and the science-minded, but would also include people of a mildly religious inclination, who wonder about God and the universe. Seekers of spirituality, who feel that there is something 'out there' and would like to have some grist for their thinking and searching, would likely benefit and enjoy the book. 

What about aethiests and agnostics?

Also, atheists and agnostics, whether long-entrenched in their anti-God beliefs or new to the doubter fold, can ferret out insights and perhaps a strong and rich foundation for understanding, not only of their own beliefs but also the beliefs and motivations of their friends who are religious. Non-believers can acquire from the book some thoughts, some appreciation, and an overall explanation, for the beneficial hold that religion naturally has on the human mind.

What sort of feedback are you receiving generally?

One of my sisters has read my first book, the memoir, and favorably commented on the prescription at the end of the book, that everyone has a right to adopt and nourish their own view on the subject of the divine and theology. This prescription necessarily means that one must not attempt to impose one's metaphysical and theological beliefs on other people. Each of us must be free to organize our minds pursuant to our personal neurological needs and our personal histories. We must be free to live with ourselves. Concomitantly, we must limit our intrusions into other people's minds and demands we may make, even inadvertently, that they think the same way as we do.

How do your books differ from those of non-believers?

In contrast to many books written by non-believers, and especially those written by formerly religious individuals, my books do not denigrate or attack religious belief. Rather that saying what is wrong with belief in God and religious practice, I look at the natural operations of the mind that give rise to spirituality and belief in the divine. In addition, I discuss certain positive benefits afforded to the brain of the believer. Unfortunately, I can no longer enjoy those benefits myself, owing to my rejection of religion and my conversion to atheism or agnosticism, which occurred while I was in high school. But I think I can understand the beauty of religion. I certainly see it when I visit churches and temples. And I remember my feelings during religious celebrations I attended as a child.

Sounds like you extract what you recall felt good and build on that.

In simple terms, you could say that. 

Many people are taught to view themselves as separate individuals in a fragmented world. How do you sense this is changing? 

I cannot answer this question. I cannot say how things are changing. However, I can follow the example of politicians and pretend to answer the question by talking about something else important to me. I think your observation of separate individuals in a fragmented world is accurate, particularly with respect to Western cultures and increasingly so with respect to the rest of the world. We live in a pluralistic society, not only politically, but also with respect to the major cultural mega-memes of art, science and religion. The U.S. Constitution recognizes the need to accommodate pluralistic interests. But we may be in danger of forgetting that we must tolerate one another's views and opinions. I see an ever-increasing amount of partisan discord, people who insult and criticize others, rather than respecting and attempting to understand other people's points of view. This societal fragmentation could presage a degradation of the U.S. and any other similarly fractious nation.

In this moment, everything exists, including an ever-present stream of harmony that one can tune into or out of.  Ancient sages, yogis and wise individuals echo the external world mirrors the state of inner being.  Where we see conflict in the external world therefore, we may not be seeing or integrating within ourselves.  The Sufi poet Rumi tells us “Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth."

We may wish to avoid change or we may embrace change. Whatever our wishes, things do change. We change, despite our belief that we remain the same person throughout our life. What we need to find, both within ourselves as individuals and within our cultural institutions, is a core being or a place of peace, something that is supportive and respectful of all the dissonance and enables perhaps not only co-existence, but also unity. I speak here both of our individual minds and our collective or group minds.

How else do you sense the illusion of separation?

We can plumb this question of separation and fragmentation further. One of the most important goals of the human mind, inherent in the genetic structure of the brain, is order. The brain achieves order by creating new forms, new patterns in the mind, patterns that unify dissonant elements and provide simplicity; the brain makes connections and organizes the associated elements into cohesive forms. We all seek unity and simplicity in our understanding of things 'out there' in the world, as well as 'in here' in the mind. The word "fragmentation," in its opposition to the neural need for unity and simplicity, points to discomfort and vertigo.

We can also reflect on the word listen and how it can be rearraged into the word silent.

Words speak volumes. I personally have not found a unifying concept that takes into account the entire world, including both the physical universe and the social universe. In the social sphere, the most important reality for the human mind, we each typically engage multiple people each day in different group settings. Each group constitutes a different social structure, with respective individuals and respective rules of engagement among the various group members. We have to live with this fragmentation and compartmentalize our experience.

Okay.  What is your take on humans as multidimensional beings living multiple (parallel) realities simultaneously?

To the extent we want unity in the multiplicity, we have to achieve the unity by ourselves, for the unity must jibe with our individual brains, our perceptual constructs and our personal histories. For many people, God and religion can provide unity to the entire brain. Everything can find meaning and purpose in God. God forms the source of all value and constitutes an explanation and narrative for everything that exists. For other people such as myself, this mode of unifying the totality of experience no longer works. We must look elsewhere. Many people find unity in egoic acquisition, where the self forms the center of the universe. For the self-centered individual, the entire universe has meaning and structure only in relation to the goals and purposes of the individual person. The only things that matter relate to the egoic definition(s) adopted by that individual, usually early in their lives, but possibly reformulated during a later stage of development, such as the teenage years.

Well, Friedrich Nietzsche says, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star."

What is your take on The God Delusion and related views by author Richard Dawkins? 

I would say that Richard Dawkins did not really present a coherent explanation or answer to the main question he posed in The God Delusion, namely, what is it about the human mind that is adaptive for survival that makes the mind receptive to religious belief?  He talked about primitive cultures, misfiring of circuits and romantic love, but presented these as tentative suggestions or possibilities, rather than as definitive answers.

As set forth in my books, I understand belief in God as a natural function of the human brain. Richard Dawkins makes a half-hearted attempt at a neurological explanation of religious belief when he uses the word "misfiring" as to neural circuits. In my books I refer more precisely to overall brain function, for instance, in the accretion or learning process which naturally and inevitably entails modification of memory and understanding. I also propose a natural process of asynchronous neuron activation, which interferes with effective brain function.  The brain naturally acts to reduce this neural noise by either inhibiting the rambunctious neurons or engaging in use of ability, that is, positively and synchronously activating circuits in concerted behaviors.  Reduction of neural noise constitutes one of the benefits of religious belief and practice and results in a feeling of peace and tranquility. The peace of God is peace of mind, owing to brain-wide neural activation in the practice of religion (and in other activities such as artistic creation and contemplation, or playing tennis), that quells neural noise and releases the brain from internal distraction so that it can attend to new data input, including, for instance, thoughts about evolution and romantic love.

You talk about God relating to the brain but what about the rest of the body? 

Belief in God arises in large part from the natural binding functions of the human brain, the natural orientation of the cerebral cortex toward the external world, and the original and deep experience of pure mind, that is, consciousness without content, with attributes of infinite potential and eternity, unity and oneness, and immense significance. To paraphrase Jean-Jacques Rousseau, God arises from feeling, all these feelings, together. Identifying these feelings, this primal experience of mind, as God constitutes a cultural description, which becomes associated during childhood with all of the detailed content of theology and ritual practice.

Absolutely! The truth can only ever be felt which often leaves the mind at a loss to pigeonhole 'the divine' within the limits of its logical understanding.             

We have scientists like Nassim Haramein bringing the Physics of Spirituality into the mainstream. How does his take on connection relate to your sense of reality? 

In his attempt to combine physics and consciousness, Nassim Haramein exhibits the neural drive towards unity and simplicity to which I refer above. He knows about various topics in physics and is sensitive to the brain's inherent mysticism, particularly the perceptions of the right hemisphere. He wishes to combine the two, the equations of physics and his own experience of consciousness, to one another to generate a unified conception of totality. What does his brain do? It makes something up. That is how the brain works. It constantly organizes and re-organizes its circuits to achieve greater or more facile unities. (This unifying and simplifying function of the brain, by the way, likely arose with the adaptive "purpose" of accelerating brain operations to optimize survival.)

The film Lucy by Luc Besson offers a perspective of optimum functioning of the brain: what may happen when the brain is functioning to 100% capacity.  (This stars actress Scarlett Johansson). Unsure if you are familliar?

I do know scientists seeking a quantum basis for consciousness have proposed the presence of consciousness in various components of the physical universe such as rocks and atoms and electrons. Similarly, Nassim Haramein interprets the universe in terms of information. He says that the universe feeds information to itself. The wisdom of the universe increases via this feedback loop. In my view, Nassim projects his mind onto the physical universe. Thus he claims that consciousness exists 'out there' in all of the elements of the physical universe. He feels peaceful and even joyous owing to the massive unity that he has created in his own mind. His views analogize to religious belief in many ways.  Both views exhibit and satisfy the neural desire for unity of mind, achieved by projecting mind onto the physical universe. In Nassim's case, mind finds embodiment in information, which he proceeds to insinuate into ideas about particles and sub-quantum reality.

It is thus accurate to say that we time travel through the ears. Quantum reality and  jumping between worlds in other ways may be best left for another discussion. 

Information constitutes the prime fodder for the brain as an information processor. Neural information includes raw sense data, organized percepts, and constructed ideas. The brain manufactures further information in the form of categories of objects and abstracts their attributes to form ever more ethereal sets of thought forms in different universes of discourse. In seeking unity of mind, one might naturally invest the external universe with information. I find this something of misdirection. Minds and computers constitute information processors. Other objects in the universe more closely resemble energy processors. However, information must be encoded in patterns of energy and perhaps that fact lies at the heart of Nassim's association of information with fundamental particles.

Love how Nassim invites us to reflect on new ways of seeing outside the familliar...

Nassim feels awe and wonder at the physical universe, at the immense spectra of physical forms and also at the infinite potentialities of the human brain. I feel this as well. He connects the two, the physical universe 'out there' and the mental universe 'in here,' in a manner of which I am skeptical. I see Nassim's interpretations as expressing his spiritual feelings of oneness and unity, his impressions of the infinite and the eternal, and of his compassion. I see Nassim as exhibiting all the wonderful emotions of right hemisphere awareness, on the one hand, and the admirable information processing abilities of the left cerebral hemisphere, particularly mathematical abilities, on the other hand. Nassim wishes to unify his right hemisphere awareness and his left hemisphere knowledge. He acts as a prophet or a mystic, combining vastly different modes of awareness into a new unity. I can see Nassim as generating a seed for a modern religion. I cannot say that he is wrong or that what he does in bad. I just have difficulty ascribing to his views myself.

Its true his perspective does not resoante with everyone, yet he does invite us to step outside our own version o the familliar, be willing to see beyond our own conditioning. 

As to consciousness, however, I think he errs as to a fundamental feature of reality.  The universe comprises multiple levels of being, more specifically, multiple nested spatial temporal domains each comprising sets of characteristic objects interacting with each other according to definable rules of engagement. The objects on any one level do not exist in the lower, finer-scale domains. Biological cells do not exist in the realm of atoms and molecules. Consciousness does not exist at such domain levels either. Both living organisms and consciousness emerge at higher domain levels from countless interactions among much smaller objects on finer levels of reality. Cells emerge from innumerable molecular collisions and chemical reactions within the cells. In the human brain, thoughts, feelings, and awareness in general emerge from activities of huge numbers of neurons and neural circuits.  The activities of neurons and circuits in turn arise from the countess interactions of countless neurotransmitters and protein receptors at the synapses of the neural circuits. Hormones also inform, or contribute to, human consciousness, the hormones exuded in part from organs throughout the body. Thus, human consciousness arises from the body as a whole and not just the brain. (I intend to express these ideas more fully in a metaphysics chapter of a future book on philosophy.)

You are prolific...

In an attempt at a top-down unification, Nassim reads higher-level object attributes such as consciousness into lower levels of reality, where consciousness cannot exist. Cells do not exist at the level of atoms. If you were as small as an atom and looked around, you would not see a cell. You might be inside a cell but the attributes of the cells that characterize and define the cell as such do not exist in the realm of atoms and molecules. Instead, the cumulative activity of molecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins create the cell so that it appears only on a larger-scale level of physical reality.

Well, as Einstein says, "a problem of consciousness cannot be solved at the same level at which it arose."

Nassim reduces the universe to information. In my view, the physical universe is not about information. The human mind deals with information. As mentioned above, particles such as atoms and molecules do not process information to find out a fact or generate an idea, or output an answer. Objects such as these, at more fundamental or finer levels of reality, process energy and organize the energy into lower energy configurations. In my view, matter arose as low-energy combinations of sub-quantum energy fluctuations. The physical universe at its base, in its most fundamental form, that is, at the level of space and time, at the level of quantum mechanics, comprises just matter and energy.  According to Einstein, the two are equivalent. One might say then that everything in the entire universe arises as different forms of energy.  Particles of matter are captured or localized energy.  In higher forms of matter and energy, such as cells and organisms, the captured energy becomes organized into ever more complex patterns of structure and function. Again, reality has multiple levels. (All this, again, for the metaphysics chapter or book.)

 I trust you are keeping notes. You are making valuable interdisciplinary connections

In contrast to atoms and molecules, our brains direct their attention to information about what's 'out there.' For a physicist, the relevant information pertains to matter and energy, space and time. Nassim projects his brain's interests and functions onto the universe. This exemplifies how the brain works. He sees information and consciousness in the brain and imbues the universe 'out there' with the same attributes.

The universe exhibits regularities which the laws of physics encode or formulate as equations.  Regularities can be quantified. Otherwise the regularities would not exist. Nassim views the regularities as information. We inherently detect and quantify regularities, in effect extracting information from the universe. We then abstract and organize the abstracted information into equations and laws.

It is amazing that the universe behaves pursuant to laws and that we can discover those laws and formulate them in the languages of mathematics. Science can provide us with occasions for feeling awe and wonder, a principal emotion of religious belief.

Theories aside, what activities do you engage that contribute to a sense of a unified existence? 

I feel a need for unification in my understanding of existence.

I was imagining activities where you connect with others, feel part of things greater than yourself... 

Multiplicity and fragmentation naturally occur in a mind dominated by the left hemisphere. As the seat of language, the left hemisphere sees the universe as a collection distinct objects that move around and occasionally bump into one another. Sometimes the collisions have enough energy and coordination to form new objects, for instance, larger molecules, or human groups such as families. (This feature of reality to be discussed in my philosophy chapter or book on metaphysics.) In brief, the left hemisphere of the brain tends to see diversity and multiplicity.

 So how can people feel more connected? Engage in deeper, more meaningful relationships?

One key to apprehending a unified existence resides in cultivating right hemisphere awareness.  Religion can promote right hemisphere awareness. The Buddhist practice of meditation and the Hindu practice of yoga can likewise lead one into a more unified appreciation of existence, specifically including the body and the mind and the external world. Engaging wholeheartedly in an activity such as making pottery, creating art, and playing a cooperative sport can also lead to a diminution of left-hemisphere differentiations and conflicts and facilitate right hemisphere awareness.

I believe art presents us with a renewable experience of unification. A work of art unifies emotional elements. Each achieved work of art form entails a unique structure or formal organization that embodies a unique composite emotion. This emotion constitutes the meaning and unity of the individual work of art. (These ideas about art appear in my two Divinity books and will be explored further in a book about the neurological effects and benefits of art.)

What about love? Feeling the way through life?

In individual intellectual pursuits, mainly carried out in or by the left hemisphere, it is possible to attain unified understandings of limited parts of existence. For instance, a field or discipline in science can have a theory or model that explains a wide diversity of facts, observations, and experimental results.  I myself find that the functioning of the human mind, pursuant to findings in neurology, forms a basis for unifying a number of areas of culture including art and religion.

 Let's look at this another way: what does interacting with children show you about existence?

In general, one can experience existence as unified if one has a most important interest around which everything can be ordered. Some people can achieve this through love, including romantic love, or love of family and children, or love of art. Usually unity requires, or is enhanced by, a social milieu, namely, other people who share our views and with whom we can jointly or cooperatively create a unified reality. We are social animals and cannot easily exist in isolation. Our personal understanding and organization of the world derive in large part from other people.

What stands out is that connection is a personal thing that can only be expeirenced directly. 

Tell us your understanding of time. What is required for humanity to function beyond time? 

Two ways exist to think about time. One takes the point of view of physics, the other looks through the lens of psychology. Physics apprehends time as an inherent characteristic of the universe. Time exists 'out there' and can be objectively defined, inasmuch as time can be measured.  Time keepers include such repetitive systems as planets revolving about stars or pendulums or the vibration of a cesium atom.

We are each timekeepers and Earth is sometimes described as an Earthship. I published a book called Mastering Time which addresses how our lives can be shaken up and prompt us to view and experience time differently.

Psychology also looks at our subjective experience of time. We live in time. I believe we cannot exist without time. Our brains are time keepers. We have circadian rhythms and neuron relaxation times. We have memories of past events in time and we imagine future events in time. For us human beings, time is all important.

Imagine life beyond time. What might that feel and look like? 

Time by any definition arises or emerges from change. In a uniform, changeless universe, time could not exist. Time emerges as an inherent attribute of the universe because everything changes. Everything is in flux. Everything is in motion. What exists now did not exist before. That is the essence of time.

 Many people contemplate about time. From your view, how does this impact emotions?

The contemplation of time, can evoke much emotion. We have memories of a past that may have engendered fear or love. In addition, we have memories of futures that have never happened, imagined events and relationships that have never existed. But we would like them to happen. We attach ourselves to those imaginary futures. We define ourselves in terms of those futures. The direction from the here and now to the imagined or projected future constitutes meaning in life. Or we fear imagined future events as potential threats to our well being and hope and pray that they never happen. Our memories, whether of past events or future potentialities, do not exist in the external world. They exist only in our imaginations, as constructs. We make it up.

As Shakespeare says, "All the world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players..."

Time as such exists largely in our minds, in our imaginations. Accordingly, we can possibly escape the oppression of time through our imagination. We can exist outside of time once we shed our time-forged manacles, our regrets and unhappy memories as to the past and our plans for a blissful and perfect future. Meditation, which can take the form  of attention to an activity or to one's breathing and bodily sensations, for instance, can bring one's mind to the here and now and in effect free one from time.

How timely!

I have written something for another book, which is pertinent here:

  • We need time.
  • Life takes time.          
  • We cannot live without time.

We are creatures of time. Time makes us. But frequently, even most of the time, we live outside of time, divorced from the present moment. We do not exist in the here and now but rather in the somewhere else. We busy ourselves with reliving the past and anticipating the future.

We characteristically live more in the past and the future than in the present. In our minds, we continually hop back and forth in time, from the continuing data input of the present to the stored and organized data in our memories and to various hypothetical futures as constructed in our imaginations. We test different reconfigurations of the past and imagine alternate futures in order to help us decide what to do now, in the present. We can also travel mentally to alternative present times.

This description pertains of course to psychological time. Human thought diverts or entertains itself by confusing different realms of being, such as physical time on the one hand and psychological time on the other hand. The confusion arises in part from the projective tendencies of the human mind, to see 'out there' what is 'in here' and conversely to absorb patterns from the external world and re-create them in our minds. This facility of mapping patterns constitutes a prime mode of operation of the brain.  In addition, our brains compare the patterns or maps with one another. The difference between two maps prescribes or creates a direction of change for our bodies and our minds. We generate the future by such a process.

I sense you appreciate Alice Through the Looking Glass and varied stories about uses of time.  

What are the implications of your research and books for humanity?

I like to think that my books will serve humanity much like Lucretius' epic poem On the Nature of Things or On the Nature of Reality.  Lucretius wished to free mankind from fear associated with superstition.  I would also like for us to escape misconception and step into clarity and peace. My books might be thought of as collectively entitled On the Nature of Mind.  These first two books apply to the mind and spiritual/religious experience and belief. 

My books proceed fundamentally from the Buddhist observation that everything is in the mind. Whatever we know, whatever we experience, exists in the mind and frequently exists only in the mind (e.g., as fantasy). The brain not only filters reality but constructs reality.  We project our mental constructs outwardly onto the universe and for many purposes the process works quite well. The maps accurately correspond to or correlate with events and objects in the physical world. But for many people, the process misfires inasmuch as the individual child's formulations either misinterpret external (social) reality or react to an adverse home environment and the child carries the maladaptive mappings into adulthood when dealing with the world at large. And so we have psychopaths, depressives, multiple personalities, etc. (Topic for a later book.)

Please summarize your view of the brain in relation to the external...

In my view, our brains comprise the sine qua non of our knowledge of the external world. I believe that we must know the brain workings in order to understand how our knowledge relies on and incorporates the functioning of that tool.

Sense you would appreciate the 'brain' works of Dr. Joe Dispenza and also Dr. Derek Siegel.

If you could leave our readers with an insight or some advice, what would it be? 

In the chapter "Protagorean Pragmatic Prescription" I urge a tolerance for other people's beliefs and values. We must all be free to organize our minds pursuant to our personal experiences and idiosyncratic understandings. We must allow each other to feel peace of mind. To do this we must recognize that people need to believe different things to feel integrated and whole. So we must not impose our metaphysical and theological beliefs on other people. We might talk about what we believe, but acknowledge that our ways of interpreting and organizing reality may differ in some fundamental ways from other people's.

 What about Eckhart Tolle. Can you relate?

I would recommend reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth for its description of the egoic self. The egoic self constitutes the central object in our maps of our social universe. The egoic self is responsible for much good and much evil in the world. I advise people to seek awareness of their needs for egoic acquisition and assertion.  Know that each of us, some more than others, fabricate an egoic self and then seek to defend that self against real and imaginary threats. Why defend something that is largely an arbitrary construct?

Please let us know where people can contact you/ upcoming events/ how people can engage with you.

Please contact me, through my publisher, Austin Macauley.

Anything else you wish to add? 

Thank you for your questions and the link to Nassim Haramein's interview. He is an engaging personality. He says some interesting and insightful things.   He also says some nonsensical things (as do we all), for instance, where he confuses different realms of reality and imposes the logic of one realm on another, as in reading consciousness into the physical universe.  I see consciousness as a property or ability only of life forms. A single paramecium might have a primitive kind of consciousness, not necessarily self-consciousness but one of sensation and even emotion, in its reactivity to its chemical environment. With reference to his proposed information feedback loops in quantum-scale reality, the lower finer-scale domains of physical reality entail energy and regularity but the order or repetition in patterns of energy distributions becomes information only for an information-processing organism (or maybe AI, in the future). Consciousness entails in part the appreciation or detection of patterns in the external environment.  Nothing in the lower or finer-scale domains can undertake such an appraisal.

Thank you Derek, for offering these insights for our readers to muse over. Invite following up and doing further research into topics that spark your curiosity and stimulate the imagination.  For as Einstein reminds us, 'imagination is more important than knowledge.' and 'pure ever-changing energy is the stuff we are made of.'

 

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