This podcast is a leading source for intelligent, hard-nosed skeptic vs. believer debate on science and spirituality. Each episode features lively discussion with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics.
If you like what we're doing, subscribe (it's free):
Interview with author and Podcast host examines Gnostic themes in our modern culture.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Miguel Conner author of, Voices of Gnosticism. During the interview Conner talks about the limits of Gnostic history:
Alex Tsakiris: You do a masterful job exploring how these threads of Gnosticism are woven into our modern culture, but what about the limits of history? Isn’t Gnosticism limited in the same way Christianity’s limited in that it’s always looking in the rearview mirror for the next archaeological dig to tell us who we are? Isn’t that an inherent limitation of this kind of historical-based knowing?
Miguel Conner: There certainly is, but it goes beyond history. I think the scholar, Ioan Couliano, who wrote, The Tree of Gnosis, said that there’s sort of a binary Gnostic code within man and this binary code will always go off. So, you’re always going to have Orthodoxy on one side believing that the world is going to be fine and that we’re part of this grand history, this providence. But there’s also the other side that’s always there. This side that tells us we are alienated; we are trapped in this world; there’s something wrong with this world. It’s invites us to go on this inner voyage inside and outside of us.
That is why there are many writers and thinkers like Carl Jung and others who before the Nag Hammadi library was discovered were getting some of the Gnostic ideas and concepts. They were getting it very well even with the little information out there. So yes, we are limited by history but again I feel that this Orthodoxy and Gnosticism is within each one of us. That’s why it keeps resurfacing in so many different traditions, whether it’s Buddhist or Muslim and so forth. It’s there.
Today we welcome Miguel Conner. As host of Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio, author of the critically-acclaimed Voices of Gnosticism, Miguel is one of the leading voices of this Gnostic movement that we seem to keep hearing so much about. I should also mention that Miguel is also an accomplished fiction writer, having penned several popular post-apocalyptic vampire novels that have really caught the attention of people.
So Miguel, it’s great to welcome you to Skeptiko.
Miguel Conner: I’m glad to be here, Alex. Thank you for having me on.
Alex Tsakiris: You know, I should mention we tried to do this a week ago but we ran into some Skype trouble so we’re going to do it again. In that intervening week I’ve dug into even more of your shows and I just keep wanting to dig more and more. You have such a great insight into this fascinating area of knowledge that is Gnosticism. You weave it into our modern culture and modern contemporary issues in such an imaginative, creative, and entertaining way that I just really wanted to get you on and encourage people to check out Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio.
Interview with activist and author explores his personal journey with Ayawaska, ETs, and energy healing.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Talat Jonathan Phillips author of, The Electric Jesus: The Healing Journey of a Contemporary Gnostic. During the interview Phillips talks about finding a balance between the worldly and spiritual pursuits:
Alex Tsakiris: If you buy into materialism, if you think you’re a biological robot and that’s all you are — you’re lost. If you buy into our materialistic culture and this idea that we need to get all we can, and we need to bomb other people so they don’t get it — all that stuff — you’re lost. But as soon as you cross that chasm and you say, “Okay, there’s something more”, then I think you run into this problem what we’re talking about. And that is materialism keeps wanting to creep itself back into the equation.
So, you’re saying, “I need to take action here. I need to go do this. I need to vote for this candidate. I need to do that.” Isn’t there the risk that we get into this back-door materialism, this “we’re in control” thing?
Talat Phillips: Oh yeah. But I think it’s both. We’ve set up an either/or and I think it’s both/and because if I look at most of my clients, most of them come in and think we’re going to talk about past lives and this and that. But most of them need to get into the material world a little bit. They need to get in their bodies and figure out jobs and live an abundant life. That doesn’t mean buy a mansion but it just means to know how to support themselves and talk with people.
I don’t want to deny that aspect because it is important. I denied it for many years of my existence and maybe that was why I was a marginalized activist. On the other hand, I definitely saw this with Occupy. It was very frustrating for me seeing all the projected anger about finances. I do a lot of anger work with clients. It’s good to express anger but when you project it at others it creates more of that fear culture. What I like with Evolver.net is that we’re more like, “How can you create? How can you follow your bliss and your passions and do what you love?”
I think Joseph Campbell talks about this. This is a dance we have of integrating. So I think what you’ve brought up is a great study that we all do. It’s an alchemy of walking as a human and being as a human on this planet. It’s being and doing and creating a right relationship between that.
Today we welcome Talat Jonathan Phillips to Skeptiko. Talat is the author of The Electric Jesus: The Healing Journey of a Contemporary Gnostic. He is also the co-founder of a rather amazing web magazine named Reality Sandwich and an equally amazing social movement at www.evolver.net.
Welcome to Skeptiko, Talat. Thanks so much for joining me.
Talat Phillips: It’s great to be here. Thanks, Alex.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, your book, The Electric Jesus, is just a great read. I mean, I was just blown away at how it pulls you in and just makes you want to turn page after page. It’s a spiritual odyssey, as the name suggests, but it reads like a Tom Wolfe novel. Tell us a little bit about this book and how it came about and what people are going to find when they read it. Read the rest of this entry »
209. Talat Jonathan Phillips Chronicles His Transformation From Political Activist to Spiritual Seeker[ 46:48 ]Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
Interview with author, scholar, and psychic medium Dr. Julia Assante challenges our fear of death.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Julia Assante author of, The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death. During the interview Assante talks about the effects of technology on spirit communication:
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s face it, we love this materialism we’re wrapped up into. We love our computers—we love our Internet, our Google, our Skype. So whether we wind up merging with the machine as Kurzweil predicts, it’s hard to deny this trajectory of technology.
Dr. Julia Assante: I think we should really enjoy being in physical life. I think our technology is, in fact, the chief art of our era. And technology is also training us to think outside of the box, to think in terms of interdimensionality, and to think in terms of communicating with consciousness in other dimensions.
If you think, for instance, of the telephone that was an astounding invention when it was presented in Philadelphia by Alexander Graham Bell. He used Hamlet’s soliloquy, talking to a skull of all things, to demonstrate the phone in public. People were nervous and frightened. They thought he was conjuring ghosts.
So that kind of technology alone allows our paradigms to open and include discarnates, invisibles, crossing distances, all that kind of thing. The Internet is even doing more with the idea of cyberspace and collapsed space. I think that our use of electronics and digital systems are causing us to become more sensitive to subtler and subtler electrical impulses so I think technology is not at conflict with the so-called spiritual but is working with it as an analogy and as a training ground.
Today we welcome Dr. Julia Assante to Skeptiko to discuss her new book, The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death. Dr. Assante is an Ivy League scholar in ancient Near East studies and–here’s where things get really interesting–a longtime practicing psychic medium who even while pursuing her Ph.D. at Columbia was talking to the dead.
So Dr. Assante, welcome and thanks so much for joining me today on Skeptiko.
Dr. Julia Assante: Oh, thank you for inviting me. It’s a great pleasure.
Alex Tsakiris: Your book has received very high praise from the likes of Dr. Dean Radin, Dr. Larry Dossey, who also wrote the Introduction, and other notables. So first of all, congratulations on this fine book.
Dr. Julia Assante: Well, I’m really honored to have these people, and even Deepak Chopra whose endorsements are very restricted. He’s only allowed to do seven a year so I’m very privileged. Read the rest of this entry »
Interview with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake about censorship of his Science Set Free lecture.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake author of, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery. During the interview Sheldrake talks about the controversy:
Alex Tsakiris: The irony of this is, if not hilarious, certainly inescapable. A reputable Cambridge biologist publishes a book claiming science is dogmatic. He’s then censored by an anonymous scientific board. You can’t script that any better. What does this say about how science can be dogmatic without even realizing it’s dogmatic?
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: I think this whole controversy and the people who have weighed-in in favor of TED’s actions do indeed confirm what I’m saying. These dogmas are ones that most people within science don’t actually realize are dogmas. They just think they’re the truth. The point about really dogmatic people is that they don’t know that they have dogmas. Dogmas are beliefs and people who have really strong beliefs think of their beliefs as truths. They don’t actually see them as beliefs. So I think this whole controversy has actually highlighted exactly that.
The other thing that is highlighted is that there are a lot of people, far more than I imagined actually, who are not taken in by these dogmas, who do want to think about them critically. One of the remarkable things about these discussions is lots of people are really up for the discussion of these dogmas. They really want it to happen, far more than I’d imagined, actually. I’m impressed by that and I think this TED debate has actually helped show that the paradigm is shifting. There’s no longer a kind of automatic agreement by the great majority of people to dogmatic assertions by scientific materialists.
Today we welcome Dr. Rupert Sheldrake back to Skeptiko. Many of you know the work of Cambridge biologist, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, including his latest book, Science Set Free. But now you may have heard that this book has seemed to have struck quite a nerve because Dr. Sheldrake has found himself in the middle of a controversy surrounding the censorship of a video lecture that he presented and that was then posted on the very popular TEDx YouTube channel. It was then removed after—and get this—an anonymous scientific board deemed it unscientific.
Rupert, welcome back to Skeptiko. Thanks for joining us. Tell us what’s happened here.
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: Well, you summarized it more-or-less. I gave a talk at the TEDx series of talks in London in Whitechapel. The organizers were young women, students at London University, who organized a very lively event. It was called Challenging Existing Paradigms. They asked me to talk about challenging existing paradigms, which seemed just the right theme for my book, Science Set Free. So I did a TEDx talk for it. It was extremely popular; the event was sold out. There was a lot of lively discussion that was really fun.
It went up on the TEDx website, as these TEDx talks often do, and all was well until it was denounced by two of America’s leading militant skeptics, PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, who didn’t like it because it upset their rather dogmatic materialist worldview. So they called for it to be taken down and they said it discredited itself, etc. They put enormous pressure on TED and then they got armies of their supporters to send emails to TED and put comments on websites. Read the rest of this entry »
Interview with Rick Archer host of the website and Youtube channel, Buddha at the Gas Pump.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Rick Archer of, Buddha at the Gas Pump. During the interview Archer talks about a thought experiment he uses to better understand our place in the universe:
Rick Archer: Here’s the game: zoom out to the level of perspective where you can watch the Andromeda galaxy collide with the Milky Way over the next 8 billion years. Realize, of course, that that’s actually a very, very tiny localized event compared to the whole universe but it’s big enough for our purposes here.
Then imagine as you watch that over 8 billion years all the trillions and trillions of lives playing themselves out on all the inhabited planets in those galaxies. Each one of those lives seems very real and serious to the person living it, but from that perspective they’re like little fireflies winking in and out, even faster than that. Billions and trillions of little strobe lights going on and off.
Now zoom it down, past the human level down to the level of the plank scale and you discover there is no universe. It’s just all a field of pure potentiality in which even a cubic centimeter of empty space at that level has more energy than all the energy in the entire manifest universe. That’s essentially what you are.
Now zoom it back to the human level. Here’s what you are in expressed form, in a manifest, living form. But, this perspective as a human being is no more real than the zoomed out cosmic perspective or the zoomed in plank scale perspective. Those are just different perspectives on reality. We just have a peephole as a human being. Just a little peephole and yet we can actually culture an awareness that is cosmic like that. That does transcend time and space. That’s vast. That’s eternal. That can be our living reality. That can be the sort of substance of our lives.
That’s what enlightenment is all about, which is the question you started this interview with. It’s not a pipedream; it’s not a fantasy. It’s something that many people have lived throughout history and something that we would have a very interesting world on our hands if it were commonplace. All the problems and travails that beset us as a civilization today would be just distant memories if that were a common experience.
Today we welcome Rick Archer to Skeptiko. Rick is the creator and host of Buddha at the Gas Pump, a website and YouTube channel that features an amazing collection of interviews with all sorts of interesting thinkers, spiritual teachers, and enlightenment-seeking individuals. Rick, I’m a big fan of your show and I’m so happy to welcome you to Skeptiko.
Rick Archer: Well, the feeling is mutual. I started listening to your show for the first time last Tuesday and now it’s Saturday and I think I’ve listened to six or seven of them, which means over an hour a day I’m listening to Alex while I ride my bike and wash the dishes and stuff. I’m thrilled by it. I’m going to continue listening. You and Bill Maher and Bill Moyer are my favorite podcasters now.
Interview with author and parapsychology investigator Michael Tymn examines the work of Leonora Piper.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Michael Tymn author of, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife. During the interview Tymn talks about his research:
Alex Tsakiris: There are two ways we can look at this turn of the 20th century history. We can look at it in terms of forgotten history, which is the angle you take. If only we could go back. If an honest person, an open-minded person would look at this data it’s pretty hard not to be extremely aware that there is a significant amount of this history that’s been lost.
But, I’ve got to wonder if there isn’t a totally different way of looking at this history. Isn’t it a textbook game plan for the kind of scientism, for the spirit of denial that we live in today? If you want to look at how to take overwhelmingly significant evidence and bury it, sweep it under the rug, and embarrass all the people who’ve touched it, here’s the way to do it.
Mike Tymn: I agree. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this book and the four other books that I’ve written. It’s to try and resurrect this stuff because it’s so little-known. I’ve talked to a number of parapsychologists and they don’t know it themselves. I remember one who didn’t even know who Frederic Myers was. You talk about Leonora Piper, Sir Oliver Lodge, or Gladys Osborne Leonard, they’re all names they recognize but they don’t know any of the history. I don’t know what they teach them when they’re pursuing their degrees in parapsychology but they seem to avoid the early stuff.
Today we welcome Michael Tymn to Skeptiko. Mike is the author of several books relating to afterlife communication and mediumship including, The Articulate Dead, The Afterlife Revealed, and his latest that we’re going to talk about today, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife. It’s a book published by White Crow Books which is a place where you’ll also find Mike’s excellent blog.
Mike, welcome back to Skeptiko. It’s great to talk to you again.
Mike Tymn: Thank you very much for having me on, Alex.
Alex Tsakiris: So you’ve written this book about Lenora Piper, someone who many people who are interested in mediumship and history in general might know, but I think there are a lot of people who don’t know who Leonora Piper was. I guess that’s the natural place to start. Read the rest of this entry »
Interview with psychic medium researcher Dr. Julie Beischel explores the practical applications of a reading from a psychic medium.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Julie Beischel author of, Among Mediums: A Scientist’s Quest For Answers. During the interview Beischel talks about her research:
Alex Tsakiris: We’re taking these very deep, personally meaningful topics in a very stark, scientific, clinical way, and that ok because it helps us get some distance from it. But on this issue of grief, if we look at it the way you have, it really breaks down pretty nicely as a question we can ask scientifically.
There are people who report this condition. We’ll call it grief. We treat this condition. We send them to a talking psychologist or psychiatrist and that person talks—talks—talks—talks. Then we measure afterwards. Sometimes they’re better; sometimes they’re not. Or, we send them in and to get some kind of pharmacological treatment. They get these little pills and they take them, pop–pop–pop. They either get better or they don’t. We measure that.
You’re suggested that there are some other people, ones that have a had a reading with a medium and they report that this has relieved them of their grief. And in the same way we’re measuring these other treatments, we can measure them. That is how it breaks down, isn’t it?
Dr. Julie Beischel: Yeah. And, that’s my training — drug trials. I used to design these kinds of experiments. There’s a protocol, and there’s a control group, and a treatment group, just like a drug trial. Instead of a drug it’s a mediumship reading. I designed this very specific protocol using a standardized grief instrument and two different funders have found it to be not what they were looking for. But it needs to get done. We’re now in the process of reaching out to the public to try and get support for that study. It really needs to be done.
The same thing like when we just want to look at the validity of the mediumship information. We have to start at the beginning. Are they reporting specific and accurate information? Does it make people feel better? We did a pilot study and people reported anecdotally that it made them feel better.
Today we welcome Dr. Julie Beischel to Skeptiko. As Founder and Head of Research at the Windbridge Institute, Julie is one of the world’s leading researchers studying psychic mediums. Julie holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona. She’s here to talk about her new book, Among Mediums: A Scientist’s Quest for Answers.
Dr. Beischel, welcome. I guess for those of us with a long memory I should say welcome back to Skeptiko.
Interview with author Out of Body expert and author Robert Bruce explores extended consciousness as an open-minded skeptic.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Robert Bruce author of, Astral Dynamics: The Complete Book of Out-of-Body. During the interview Bruce discusses why out of body experience finding don’t generate scientific attention:
Alex Tsakiris: Recently journalist, Matt Baglio, published a book called, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. What he was go to Rome and went to the school where the Vatican instructs priests in how to perform exorcisms. He sat in on dozens and dozens of exorcisms and what he found was that, despite the modern perception, they weren’t just bringing people in to convert them to Christianity or convert them to Catholicism. They have licensed therapists there. They say 95% of these people are not demon possessed. But, surprisingly, they claim 5% of them are. And, they have very specific criteria that they use in determining that; and they have unbelievable stories that this journalist has gathered and that these exorcists can attest to.
So it seems that this is a phenomenon that is much more prevalent than I think most of us are willing to acknowledge or even look into. I think most people just won’t even examine the evidence for it.
Robert Bruce: You hit the nail on the head there. People don’t want it to be true. They don’t want to know. They avoid the information. Now, to be a true scientist you need to be an open-minded skeptic. I mean, open-minded skepticism is pure science. You’re open-minded and you’re skeptical. You look at the evidence and you examine the phenomena, or whatever it is, until you start to understand it. Now, I have that same approach and I approach this not just with my own experiences which made it real to me.
Anybody who doubts this, and they should doubt it until they see it for themselves or experience it for themselves — Heaven forbid. If you confront one demon or an evil spirit—even a poltergeist, a real one— you become a believer.
Today we welcome world-renowned out-of-body experience expert, Robert Bruce, to Skeptiko. Robert is the author of several best-selling books including the one he’s probably best-known for, Astral Dynamics, which is also the domain name where you’ll find his excellent website, www.astraldynamics.com. He holds seminars around the world on out-of-body experience travel and spirituality and other related topics.
It’s a pleasure to have you on, Robert. Thanks for joining me on Skeptiko.
Robert Bruce: Good day, Alex. It’s nice to be here at last.
Alex Tsakiris: Yes. Robert, you’re known as an expert on primarily out-of-body experience, what some people call astral projection. You also have quite a bit to say about spirituality in general. I read your first book, Astral Dynamics. I didn’t quite make it all the way through. It’s a pretty big, fat book. But I was very impressed. It’s very practical. A lot of step-by-step kinds of instructions. Down to earth but meaty, not like it’s light or anything like that. Packed with a lot of information.
Interview with author Chris Carter explores the scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Chris Carter author of, Science and the Afterlife Experience: Evidence for the Immortality of Consciousness. During the interview Carter discusses the consequences of accepting scientific proof of an afterlife:
Alex Tsakiris: Are there unintended consequences for overthrowing materialism? Maybe the game is going to wind up being played one way or another. We’re going to wind up with scientific materialism or Church rule. Someone has made the decision that at the end of the day I choose the phony scientific materialism over the thin, phony Church state.
Chris Carter: I think that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t think that’s the choice. One of the major themes of my book is that there’s a third alternative, one that does not require a leap of faith and one that does not require embracing the pseudo-scientific ideology of materialism. There’s a third alternative and it is to examine the evidence without prejudice, without materialistic prejudice or religious prejudice, and see what the evidence says.
I believe that the conclusions that the evidence implies are not dogmatic. They do not ask people to go out and burn those who disagree with us at the stake or to wage war against those who disagree with us.
Today we welcome Chris Carter back to Skeptiko. Many of you know Chris for his withering attacks on skeptical nonsense and his books, Science and the Near-Death Experience, Science and Psychic Phenomena, and his latest, Science and the Afterlife Experience. Chris holds undergraduate and Master’s degrees in philosophy from Oxford. He’s a very fine writer, and it’s a pleasure to welcome him back to Skeptiko. Chris, welcome back. Thanks for joining me.
Chris Carter: Thanks, Alex. How are you doing?
Alex Tsakiris: Great. Everything’s good. This latest book is really fascinating. It’s obviously a topic that we love to talk about here. You really dig into so much. I’m hoping we can talk about the book but also talk about a lot of other things surrounding the book. I’m anxious to have you back on.
Interview with chaos theory pioneer Dr. Ralph Abraham offers new insights into how a chaotic model of consciousness might work.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Ralph Abraham. During the interview Abraham discusses how chaos theory might impact how we think about consciousness:
Alex Tsakiris: Chaos theory presents a lot of problems for science when it comes to measurement, which is really the nuts-and-bolts of science.
Ralph Abraham: Right. In other words, if you know the state of the world exactly, well almost exactly, with a slight error, then you cannot make a long-term predictions. So we don’t know about global climate warming, for example. The basis of these mathematical models are chaotic in this technical sense. So, conceivably the flap of a butterfly wing could make a huge difference in the prediction of the model long-term.
Now as we take this kind of mathematical model for complex systems upstairs into the realm of consciousness, then obviously consciousness has a lot of parts. For one thing, if you think of the individual consciousness of six billion people on the planet being somehow netted together through communication by reading, writing, cell phones, the internet, etc. into a complex system, then obviously, that complex system is going to have very chaotic behavior.