Alex: Welcome to skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris.
The other day, as I was doing research – which is a euphemism in our house for me parking myself on the couch, watching TV – I was tivo-ing through what I had there, and I realized that the episodes of Reno 911 and Mind of Mencia I had already watched at least three times.
So, I figured I better flip down to a little more serious watching, and I found a Book TV episode featuring Ben Skinner and his book, A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern Slavery. Of course, that isn’t the topic of this show today, but his book did get me thinking on a couple of points that I think are very relevant to both this episode today and the skeptiko show in general.
The first is that the truth is sometimes unreasonable in that as much as we’d like some things to fit neatly into a nice, clean model of the world, they sometimes don’t. Consider Mr. Skinner’s truth: human slavery. Consider that there are more people enslaved in the world today than at any time in recorded history. Let me make it clear. When he says “slavery,” he’s not playing with words, here. He’s talking about the eleven-year-old girl in Cambodia, that’s sold to a brothel by her father. He’s talking about an eight-year-old Haitian boy who’s sold as a houseboy to a family in New York. He’s talking about the most horrible crime that most of us can even imagine. Yet, we live with it every day. We ignore it every day.
We construct a logic system and a world view that allows us to go about our business and not really look at the things we don’t want to look at. Because, if we are forced to look at it, we couldn’t really square our freedoms, our beliefs, with the fact that there are millions of people who are treated this way. It’s “un-reasonable.”
Now, on today’s show, I talk with Craig Hogan, the author of Your Eternal Self, who sees us as spiritual beings, and sees the us part of “us” – that is, our consciousness – as separate from our brain. Dr. Hogan’s truth is equally unreasonable. First, it’s unreasonable because the evidence Dr. Hogan uses to support his claim – even though it’s quite overwhelming – doesn’t fit with what we’re taught in school and isn’t widely accepted among the scientific community. It’s also unreasonable because it points to the existence of some supernatural force in the universe, that makes scientifically-minded people very, very uncomfortable. It points to the existence of God, and whether you believe or not, God is quite unreasonable. I mean, it’s unreasonable to posit an all-knowing, all-powerful God that allows innocent children to suffer the way Ben Skinner’s book describes.
It’s also unreasonable to look at the number of near-death experiences that people have had and dismiss what they call a spiritual experience as a fantasy. It’s equally unreasonable to dismiss the thousands of deathbed visions that people have had or the reincarnation accounts or the everyday spiritual transformations people go through. It’s quite unreasonable to look away, or explain away, all this data just because we don’t like the implications, we don’t like the questions that it raises.
That leads to my second point which is that the battle for truth and the battle for change is not easily won. You know, as I was watching this Book TV broadcast, I thought for a minute what it must be like for Ben Skinner to wake up every day – someone who’s faced these horrors of slavery, firsthand; someone who’s traveled to Port Au Prince, Haiti, and had someone offer to sell him a nine-year-old boy for a hundred dollars. They point to the kid, “Right here.” They bring him up to the car, “Here. Here’s the boy you can buy for $100,” and do with whatever you want. He’s yours. He’s a slave.
How would you sleep at night? How would you look at the indifference that we all seem to have about an issue that, if we sat down, we would agree is just a horror that we need to eradicate? I have to say I’m no better than anyone else. I watched the show and went into the kitchen, fixed myself a sandwich, and went out with my wife. It wasn’t until I was preparing this show that I thought “I need to do something.” I at least got online and at least sent a little bit of money in. But what will I do next? I don’t know. There are so many issues that need changing. There are so many areas that need our attention, and that, I guess, is the point I am trying to make.
If you believe science should head in a new direction, if you believe science should be more encompassing of the spiritual aspect that may be present in all of our lives, if you believe that afterlife encounters have been proven over and over again, then you’re going to have to fight for it. You’re going to have to advocate for it. You’re going to have to support scientists who believe like you do, because it’s a battle of ideas. But, if you think the world is going to change because you’re right – well, ask Ben Skinner why his world isn’t changing. He sure seems to be right.
Stay with us. Coming up – my interview with Craig Hogan, author of Your Eternal Self.
Alex: I’m joined today by Craig Hogan, author of Your Eternal Self, a book in which, Craig, you make the case that science has really established survival of consciousness – that is, life after death – to an extent where we should really be of that opinion. You do that by threading together a variety of different research and pull it all together in a very interesting way.
Before we get into talking, really, about the substance of the book, though, I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about yourself, how you came to these beliefs, was there one event in your life that kind of sent you in this direction? How did it come about?
Craig: I was actually a Christian Ministries professor at Wheaton College.
Alex: Oh, were you?
Craig: Yes, I was for a limited period of time, and then left that tradition because of the fact that I felt it was too constraining, and that there was much more than that. For a while, I drifted about. Then, about ten years ago, I began to meet people who were psychic and had the benefit of the ability to see into the greater reality.
As a result of that, I discovered things that were profoundly changing for me. I began then to discover that I, also, had psychic ability. That, then, taught me that there is much more to the universe than what we see. As a result of that, I began to explore the spiritual and discovered the evidence of the afterlife and the fact that the mind is not confined to the body. So, the more I went into it, the more I discovered and the more I found that we, really, are just at the beginning of understanding the nature of humans.
Alex: So, you’re starting out, and you’re actually a professor at Wheaton College, which is a very, very conservative Christian college. Am I right?
Craig: Yes, that’s right.
Alex: Right. So, you were a very, very fundamentalist Christian, and then you kind of leave that, and feel that’s a little to confining and go about this spiritual search?
Craig: And the more I found out about my own psychic abilities – that I could, for instance, do remote viewing and that I was able to do psychometry, where I held things and was able to tells people things about themselves – the more I discovered that we really don’t fully understand the universe, and that physics and science are very narrowly focused upon what they can sense – in other words, using sensory impressions – and they’re missing the largest part of the universe that’s out there. That is the greater reality from which the universe springs.
So, the more that I learned about the greater reality, the more I found that we are more than simply human beings with individual bodies, traveling around in the world. We’re eternal beings, and we are linked to one another, to the divine, and to the entire universe.
Alex: Okay, let’s talk about that for a minute. First of all, I have to say that you realize that you’re a skeptic’s…I don’t know if I want to say you’re their worst nightmare, because you might be their best friend. Coming at things from a fundamentalist Christian perspective obviously puts you out of step with mainstream science and, certainly, anyone who considers themselves a skeptic.
But, let me take an example that you gave in the book, which I think was a good one, as maybe a starting point for looking at the science behind what you’re saying. You gave an analogy of the note card analogy. You said if we took everything we know and put it on individual note cards and placed it on a table, we’d have the materialistic, atheistic view of things fitting in some of the note cards, but not fitting in all of those. Do you want to expound on that, or give us a better description of what you were talking about there?
Craig: Sure. If we take all of the data that we have today – and I do mean data. I mean that it’s data that can be replicated and stated, that we have over and over again done in experiments. If we take all of the data that we have today and put it on to note cards about the material realm and what we’ve discovered about the psychic and the spiritual realm, we would have one note card, for instance, for each one of the pieces of data that we’ve discovered. What happens is that in a materialist viewpoint, they can assemble the note cards and they can have an explanation which seems to make sense, but what they’ve done is to have left out a large number of the note cards. What they do – instead of accommodating them and putting them into the explanation – they’ve just shoved them off the table.
Alex: So the note cards you’re talking about are, to be clear, near-death experience?
Craig: They’re near-death experiences, deathbed visions, after-death communications, induced after-death communications, but those are not really the ones that I’m talking about. Those are evidence of the afterlife. What I’m really talking about are the data that indicate the mind is not confined to the brain and that we can communicate with one another and understand things without having the brain involved at all.
Alex: What do you think are some of those note cards, then, in terms of the brain not being equal to the mind?
Craig: Well, let me take the one that is most often demonstrated. It’s remote viewing. A remote viewer is able to sit the quiet of his or her office and concentrate on something anywhere in the universe – it can be thousands of miles away – and get impressions about it. Then, they can write down the impressions or sketch them. After having written down or sketched them, then they can check them to see whether they did, in fact, match what it is that they had been focusing on.
The data very solidly demonstrates the fact that remote viewers can do that. There are studies that have been replicated hundreds of times, now, so we know that people can do that. The brain’s not involved in that at all. The fact that we know that is the fact that there is no sensory input into the brain, but the person knows. In other words, they do have the impression.
Alex: But don’t you think you’d get an argument from many scientists that that is not an established scientific fact? That remote viewing does, in fact, happen the way that you’re saying? I’m just saying I don’t think that’s a point that even the majority of scientists would agree about.
Craig: I think that’s true. The reason that they don’t agree about it is because they shove those note cards off the table.
Alex: Have they shoved the note cards off the table, or are they just saying, “Hey, you need more than a couple of note cards there to make your case, and we have to go with a majority of the evidence, which points in a different direction?”
Craig: Sure, but there is no evidence that points in a different direction. Let me give you an example. Remote viewing that the government was doing in the 1970s and 80s was studied by the Stanford Research Institute. Edwin May, who’s a researcher in low-energy experimental nuclear physics, headed the team of researchers, and they concluded that the odds against somebody guessing what remote viewers getting were more than a billion billion to one.
Then, another study was done by the SAIC, and the SAIC discovered the same thing. Jessica Utts, who is a professor in the division of statistics at the University of California at Davis, produced a report saying that it is not necessary to attempt to discover anything about remote viewing at this point. We need to discover how it works because it’s already been discovered that it works, that we, in fact, know that it’s a real phenomenon.
So, the research is out there. It’s hard data that we have that remote viewing is, in fact, a phenomenon that exists.
Alex: Yeah. You know, we had Stephen Schwartz on the show a while back. Obviously, you’re familiar with his work. He, likewise, presents a very compelling case for remote viewing in his book when he explores the archeological work that’s been done with remote viewing. It’s really, really hard to refute that. It’s pretty concrete.
Craig: Mmm-hmm. Sure.
Alex: But having said that, I want to go back to this note card example, because how do we sort through this in terms of two contradictory views. We have these note cards, but the note cards don’t all point in the same direction, do they?
Craig: Well, they do only if you shove the others off the table. What I mean to say is that we do have explanations for those phenomena. If something happens to the brain, it’s rather like something happened to a television set. If a television set is damaged, Larry King isn’t damaged. The signal’s coming from outside the television. But if you look at the television, then it’s blurred and unfocused and you can’t tell what’s on it. That doesn’t mean that the person who is outside of the television was damaged.
So, consciousness, which is outside of the brain, does influence the brain, and, in fact, molds the brain to be what the brain sees and hears and smells and tastes and touches – but it, itself, is not influenced by anything that happens with the brain. We know that to be true.
In order to look at what happens to the brain and the damage that happens to the brain, we’ve got to look at the other data too, so we can’t shove those note cards off the table. We have to say, well yes, there is remote viewing, and yes, there are psychic activities in which people are able to see things. We know that these are true, and we have to bring those note cards in, and we have to assemble them, and we have to account for all of them. The fact that we can do remote viewing and I can do remote viewing is indication that we have to include that in what we’re discussing. The problem is that the materialists simply push them off the table.
Alex: Hold on. Let me back up a little bit. We are spiritual brothers here, Craig. I am much more in line with your views, but by the same token, aren’t we going too far? Aren’t we really doing the same thing that the materialists are doing when we’re saying there’s a mystery there and then we’re rushing to fill that mystery by saying, “Okay, wait. We have it all figured out. Here’s how it works,” when in fact what we really have is just a big mystery. We do not understand the nature of consciousness.
Craig: No, it’s not a mystery. We do understand the nature of consciousness, but it doesn’t fit into the materialist paradigm. The materialists would then say, “Well, it’s a great mystery,” but we’re saying “No, it isn’t a mystery.” We do understand what it is. We do understand that the mind, the consciousness, is apart from the brain, that it’s separate from the brain, and we know that from a great variety of other things.
There are studies which show that a person can anticipate something that is about to be shown seconds before it’s shown. So, we know that that had to have come from some place other than the brain, because the sensory image wasn’t even there. We have to account for that. Every one of these note cards that has these little pieces of data on them that show that the mind is not part of the brain – they just have to be part of the explanation.
Craig: What the materialists have to do is shove them off the table, because they have no way of incorporating them into it.
Alex: Right. What I’m saying is by the same token, we don’t want to shove the other cards off the table. Let’s say I’m with you with the idea that the brain equals mind formula just doesn’t work. I’d kind of fine tune it a little bit – on the note card analogy, what seems to me to be the history of science, when you read Kuhn and the whole paradigm thing, it’s not that there’s a lot of note cards that don’t fit. All you need is a couple of persistent note cards that don’t fit. I think that’s the situation we’re in.
You know, the materialistic, atheistic view of things has been tremendous at accomplishing so many things: the computer that I’m sitting here talking to you with, and the Internet, are marvels. If we go into the medical field, marvels that saved lives and continue to save lives. There’s a lot to be said for what’s been accomplished with that set of tools.
The situation I think we’re in is I think we have some nagging little fringe parts that, if we’re really careful in looking about it, the history of science has told us, “Be careful when you dismiss those little outliers there as not fitting in.” I guess, I’d bring that, then, back to your point. Can’t we at least say that the brain and mind are very, very closely linked in a way that we don’t totally understand, and what we need to do is explore the relationship between consciousness and our brain so that we can better understand how these weird, strange things like psychic phenomena and remote viewing happen, rather than to rush in and say, “Here is the new model, and you better accept it because it’s already been proven.”
Craig: No, I would say not. I would say we have a new model which fits and is the most parsimonious explanation for the data, and that we really can’t drag our feet anymore. We’ve got the data. It’s been there for decades, and people are just not listening to it. We can’t stop. They say, “Give us some more. We want more data.” Well, we have so much data now that it’s time for us to stop and say, “Here’s the new paradigm based on the data.” We should not drag our feet and try to give them more.
What they do is they change the bar. They lower the bar. The more that we discover, the more it is that they expect us to have, and we will never get to the point of convincing the skeptics, so we simply have to advance our paradigm and say this is the most parsimonious explanation for the data we have, and now let’s start to understand it. Let’s start to try to go forward with it and find out why these things are happening and what their effect is on one another. I don’t draw backwards from that at all.
Alex: At the same time, when you say “advance our paradigm forward,” isn’t that saying that we need to do more research and we need to advance it? I don’t know why those two are in conflict. I think the “they” you’re talking about are the skeptics. Isn’t the process of addressing the challenge of the skeptics the same as advancing the new paradigm?
Craig: No, and the reason I say that is that when the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903, they had discovered that, in fact, a manned, heavier than air, craft could fly. A year later, Scientific American wrote an article in which they said it was just a lie, and there was no evidence for it, and it certainly didn’t happen. That was just one instance in which the evidence showed that they, in fact, could do that.
We have thousands of studies now to show that the mind is not inside the brain. We can’t go backwards now. We can’t say, well, we’re going to do some more studies. We’ll spend another two decades, spend another half century, doing more studies…because we will never convince those materialists who wish not to look at the data. We need to go on. We need to go forward. Now we need to understand what it is that’s happening, and we can’t do that as long as we’re staying at this point, stuck at this point, trying to convince skeptics. We just can’t do it.
Alex: Again, I don’t see the conflict. What would you have us do in terms of going forward that isn’t being done now?
Craig: I have to say that we aren’t looking at remote viewing and psychic ability and spiritual…
Alex: Who’s stopping us? I don’t know who “us” is, but who’s stopping anyone from looking at remote viewing?
Craig: Nobody is stopping us from doing it, but the fact is that we’re not. The reason that we’re not is that we are still trying to convince the skeptics. It’s as simple as that.
Alex: See, I don’t agree. I think that’s giving way too much power to the skeptics, and I think as we go forward, and just do good science – which is, I think, what this is all about – the skeptical position will morph. There will always be people on the other side. I don’t think it’s any different than any social or political issue you want to look at: gun control or abortion. Take any of them. I mean there’s always going to be that skeptical side, and there’s going to be that side that wants to advance things.
The way things get advanced, at least in our society, is through this constant interaction and this struggle. I think we should embrace it. We should embrace it and directly try and overcome it, which is, I think, what’s happening.
Craig: Okay…yeah…it’s the “try to overcome it.” You see, when you say “try to overcome it,” that means we’re stuck. You’ve read my book. You’ve seen the 320 sources that I’ve got in there. There is every indication that the mind is not inside the brain, that we need to understand the mind as being outside of the brain, and stop trying to look in the brain for it. But, the skeptics and the materialists, the scientists, are simply not going to do that. So, we need to do that. We simply need to go on, because we can’t stand here and wait for them to come around. They’re not going to come around.
Alex: I guess the point we’re disagreeing about is “going on,” is addressing the materialistic, atheistic view. There is no other way than to go forward, and I think that’s what people are doing.
I’d like to shift for a second. I look at what the Dalai Lama has done, and to me, that is the model, because it incorporates in this wonderful gift that we have that is science. I think there’s a danger in some of what you’re saying: it sounds anti-scientific. I had Chris Carter on a few weeks ago, and I had this same problem there. I think we have to be very careful. I like what the Dalai Lama has said. He comes out and says – look, I want to use the best scientific tools possible to confirm my understand of Buddhist teachings and what that says about consciousness; to any extent that it conflicts, then I want to change my view of things.
I think that’s acknowledging everything that we’ve created that is good about science as the best way of understanding the world that we live.
Craig: There’s no reason not to have science, in the same way that Newtonian science still has an important part to play, even though we have quantum mechanics. Science is going to be part of the equation. It always has to be part of the equation. The problem is…let’s take a look at the brain scientists, the neuroscientists. Right now, they’re looking at micro-tubules, and they’re looking at the quantum brain. They’re trying to figure out how in the brain consciousness exists. As long as they keep looking in the brain for consciousness, it’s going to hold them back from realizing that consciousness is greater than the brain.
Then, their science is going to be stunted. It is being stunted, because of the fact that they won’t accept the data. We have the data. We have data about remote viewing, about people being able to sense things before they’re even shown. We have all of the data, and we simply need to incorporate that data. It’s not being incorporated right now.
Alex: It almost suggests – the way you’re saying it – that there’s some driving force behind this that’s controlling things. It gets almost a conspiratorial kind of tone to it. I think we need to deconstruct all those elements. We need to deconstruct the skeptical community and what they’re about. We need to deconstruct the scientific community and what’s happened there.
I think when you do that, you come up with so much more kind of prosaic, ordinary explanations for things, and I’m not sure what the best path is, forward. I’ve advocated – I think the same thing that you have in a roundabout way – that each of us need to support, directly, the research we think is most important, because the only reason that those scientists are doing what they’re doing is they’re driven by the little carrots that are being put in front of them, either from drug companies or from the universities or from foundations. We just have to play within that system, don’t we?
Craig: No, and the reason I say that we don’t have is because what we’re doing is we’re doing very strange things to try to appease the materialists. For instance, we’re putting laptops up in ICU units to see if somebody who has a near-death experience floats up to the ceiling and then sees what’s on the laptop. I’m incredulous when I think of that, when we have the data from people who have had near-death experiences and come back and described conversations that have gone on in other rooms, have described shoes being on the roof of the hospital. Why in the world are we having to put laptops in an ICU unit to understand near-death experiences? The reason we’re doing that is we’re trying to appease the materialists.
Let me give you another example. We know the fact that people do remote viewing. The data is very complete about that. There’s no doubt about the fact that they do it. But, you won’t see an article about remote viewing in any neuroscience journal, and that’s a travesty. What that means is that those neuroscientists are simply ignoring the data. They’re not looking at it. It doesn’t mean that they have to conform to anybody’s conception of what it is. They just have to admit that the data is there, and then they just have to work with the data, and they’re not doing that right now.
Alex: I’m just not sure what the solution is. What do you see as the solution?
Craig: The solution is the data are there. We’ve got the data. There is just no doubt about it, so what we need to do now is…part of it is the funding agencies. The funding agencies do what the old bulls want them to do. In the neuroscience field, the old bulls want to do their own research with the old paradigm, so they’re the ones who get funding. Then everybody has to follow them along. The funding agencies need to be funding more research that uses some of these data that we know are true, about the mind, regardless of where it is or what it is, even though it simply doesn’t fit into the materialistic paradigm.
If we can get the funding for it, them these neuroscientists, I think, would change. I think that they would do different science. It’s just a matter of us presenting the data as I have in Your Eternal Self, the book. The data’s there. It’s for everybody to read, and once we’ve read it, if we just leave all the cards on the table and say, now how does all of this fit together? Not just the card that fit in the materialistic paradigm, but how does it all fit together? Then we’re going to come up with something, and who knows what that will be?
I have my own viewpoint – which is very strong – but there may be something entirely different, but it certainly is going to have to include those data, and it’s not doing that right now. They’re shoving them off the table.
Alex: You know, I’ve taken this path of pushing deeply into one or two experiments – and the one that I’ve gotten stuck on, because it’s the first one I looked into, was the Rupert Sheldrake “dogs that know” – but, the second one that we’re doing, and you may have heard about, is we’re doing replication, basically, of the University of Arizona Gary Schwarz’s the medium studies. We’re doing that with The Skeptics Guide to the Universe folks.
Alex: The one thing that I guess I’d say that I think stands a little bit in contrast to what you’re talking about is that rather than shutting off the questions that we have when we kind of probe in or we accept this data, to me there’s just so many more questions to be asked. You talked about remote viewing and the folly of putting laptops computers above to see. I don’t know if that’s a good experiment or not a good experiment, but I think there’s so many questions to asked, and it almost sounds like you’re shutting the door down a little bit and saying, hey, NDE: we’ve already proven it. We already know. Don’t you think there are so many more questions to be asked by the research that we have that we just need to do some more of the basic blocking and tackling, building from the ground up research to figure this out?
Craig: Yes, but I would take out one word. René Descartes talked about the way in which research should be done. This was prior to experimental research. He was talking in that age prior to when we accepted the scientific method. What he talked was that we need to understand the data through reason. In other words, reason is necessary to understanding, and he used the analogy of the wax. He said if you talk about wax, wax can be a liquid or solid. To understand that it’s still wax you have to have reason involved in it.
So, what we’re doing now is that we’re still back at trying to get more data to indicate that there is liquid wax and there is solid wax. We’re still stuck on that, and we don’t get to the “reason.” We don’t get to talking about how does this all fit together. What do we know about remote viewing? How does that fit with micro-tubules and qualia and a quantum moment…those kinds of things involved in consciousness research.
We can’t get to that point of saying how does all the research fit together because people keep saying, well no, we want to have more research to show that remote viewing is really a phenomenon. As long as we’re stuck on saying nope, more research on showing it’s real phenomena, we will never get to saying let’s go to the reason now and see how remote viewing fits in with micro-tubules and consciousness and so forth. We’re just stuck on that first step, and that’s all I’m saying. The neuroscientists need to incorporate what we know about the mind being outside of the brain and start to rethink. We won’t do that as long as it’s stuck back there on trying to figure out whether remote viewing really exists.
Alex: I hear you. At the same time, this process of being stuck and then unstuck is very much the business of science and what we always go through. I come back to something that we’ve covered, but I need to cover it again. It’s almost like you’re painting this picture that all these pieces fit together.
I think if I was going to sit on the other side of the table and take the materialistic, atheistic view, I’d say, you know what? My pieces fit together just beautifully, and I’ve had so many advances that have improved people’s lives in so many ways, and you’re living it and breathing it right now. We’ve built all these things, and you haven’t built anything, so why should I totally switch over to your point of view just because you have someone sitting in a room that can see someone across the world? It’s a nice little story, but look at all the tools that I’ve built here.
Craig: Yeah, and I think that what would have happened had we not been in the position we’re in now – had spirituality grown up at the same time that science grew up, had it not been held hostage by the church – had spirituality had grown up then we would be talking about how psychic and spirituality and consciousness fit in with the scientific paradigm. They would be blended together. The Newtonian view would have been blended with it, and the quantum view would have been blended with it. But it wasn’t. We were arrested.
We were stopped in our tracks, and so consciousness and spirituality research has not caught up with it. Now, the materialists are saying that they don’t want it to catch up; they don’t want to incorporate it in the equation, and as long as we allow it to be pushed to the side and not included, then we’ll never get to the point where we blend them together and we see how science fits with spirituality, with the psychic. We’ll never see them come together. They will come together eventually, but we’re going to be slowed down. Our progress will be slowed by those who refuse to admit the data.
All I’m saying is just look at the data, just include the data and say well, where does remote viewing fit with neuroscience? But you won’t see a journal article about it, and the reason is that they’re not looking at it. They’re not including that in the data.
Alex: Right. Okay, but back to your earlier point. If I was an atheist, I guess I’d make two points. I’d say one, thank God – no pun intended – it’s very fortunate we did rise up, that is, us atheists, and rescued you from this dark hole that you were in with your religious nonsense. We’re the ones who brought you out with this method of science.
Then I’d say, number two, it is this method, this gift that we’ve been given, which we must use very, very rigorously going forward, and we cannot slip back into looking at things purely from a spiritual perspective or some kind of spiritual logic system. We’ve already tried that, and we know it doesn’t work in terms of really advancing our understanding of nature.
Craig: Mmm-hmm. Actually the atheists are always the ones who are at the forefront of religious change. So, yeah, I celebrate the atheists. The atheists are the ones who extricated us from the ecclesiastical chains that have bound us, and we need to be with them. We need to evolve together. We need to join with them. So, science is wonderful. Newtonian science is wonderful. Quantum physics is wonderful. And spirituality and physics are wonderful. Somehow we need to bring them all together, and it won’t be one or the other. It will be a spiritual science, and it will be a science of spirituality. It’s going to be a blending of all of them. Right now, we just want to be considered. We just want to leave our note cards on the table when people talk about spirituality and science and materialism and science.
By the way, I don’t equate materialism with atheism, or science with atheist. So, when we talk about them, they really are different.
Alex: They are. I tend to, because they’re so closely linked as brothers that it’s really hard to pull them apart. When you really go back and trace the history – as you point out in your book – now that’s the part where I agree. I know that technically it’s not true, but I have no problem lumping the two together because that’s really where they live, but…
Craig: Yes. I think that has happened is that the atheists have hijacked science in the same way that the terrorists have hijacked Islam and have made it the banner. They said, well we’re scientists, and therefore, God does not exist. There’s no spirituality. There’s no psychic phenomena because we’re scientists. They’ve simply hijacked it. It is not true that a scientist is necessarily an atheist, or that a scientist doesn’t believe in psychic phenomena or spirituality.
Alex: Well, I think we are evolving the tools to blend the two together, and I think they’re not at all as separate as people thing. I think that people who are really on the frontiers are realizing that the tools of science that we have can quite easily be applied to answering some of these questions.
I do have to say, though, that I do see challenges, again. However, your book is wonderful, and it’s a wonderful book that everyone who is skeptical should read. If you really are skeptical of the separation of the brain and mind – that is, that the brain doesn’t equal mind – if you’re really skeptical of the possibility that your consciousness, the “me” inside your head, survives the physical death of your body, I really encourage you to read this book. It will save you a lot of time in terms of combing through all the different things you could Google and find out. It’s all packed there in the book Your Eternal Self, and we’re with the author, Craig Hogan, here.
Now, so now let me get mad at you again [laughter] because when we do try and incorporate in a spiritual view of science, I think that the skeptics have a point when you look at the contradictory things that are being said from people who are supposedly tuning in to the supreme spirit, or the ultimate consciousness. You have to go no further than the medium research, and I think that medium research that’s done, for example, by Gary Schwartz, whom we always talk about, and Julie Beischel, whom we’re collaborating with on the research we’re doing, is outstanding. I think it’s very high quality, and they’re very, very circumspect in terms of what they’re claiming and very careful about what they’re claiming. They’re just trying to crack the door open and say you have to explain this before you can go forward.
I like that, because I think when you take the next step and you say, oh but here’s what people are telling us from a near-death experience, here’s what mediums are telling us about the afterlife, you run into a lot of contradictions. Take, for example, nothing more than reincarnation. If these mediums are plugging into the source, how can some come back and say yes, reincarnation is real and that’s happening, and others say it isn’t happening? The pieces from a spiritual perspective, if we’re really going to absorb in all that data and try and figure it out, there’s a lot of questions. The pieces, from that perspective, don’t all fit together.
Craig: Yes, and I guess I have gotten so focused on what I believe to be true that I haven’t really made that point. We need science. We’ve got to have science. Science has to become involved in the study of spirituality and psychic phenomena and the greater reality. We need the science. We need the rigor of the science. We need the testing, and we need their understanding, their skepticism.
Skepticism is wonderful. We should all be skeptics. We need them to become involved. We just need them on the team, and right now, they’re reluctant to become a member of the team for a lot of reasons. I think there’s some fear, and I think that there’s a real threat because this is not their area of expertise, and people can come to it directly. They don’t have to be an expert in science to understand the data involved in remote viewing and so forth.
We’ve got to have them on the team, and they just won’t join the team. Really, the most important message is we’ve done the research. We’ve got it. It’s there. We’ve proven the points. Now all we’ve got to do is say, “Come on guys! Let’s go at this thing together. Let’s understand spirituality, and let’s understand the greater reality and psychic phenomena.” They’re out there. We know they’re out there, but need your help.
Alex: Okay, and I hear you on that. The one example I have that I really think is a great example for how to move forward within the system is what’s been proposed by Rupert Sheldrake, again. I think he was really pretty clever in the way that he did this in just saying, what if we were to make 1% of our public funding of science open to democratic law – that is, what people want and are interested in.
Obviously, his agenda in that, I think, is pretty easy to see, but it’s pretty hard to argue against, and that is the topics we are talking about are the most fundamental issues that not just you and I care about, but that every person cares about. If you were to present people with the option of would you like to see 1% of your scientific funding go into these topics, every survey has indicated there is just overwhelming support and interest for it – without taking a position, without saying, oh I’m pro-medium research, or I’m anti-medium research. I don’t care which side you’re on. Let’s put the money into it and see what happens.
I like the idea of working inside of the system, because even just by calling for that kind of reform, we are pointing out just how outrageously tilted the game has become and the playing field has become, how the power has been centralized and controlled. It’s very hard to wrest that power away from these agencies that get it, but that’s the situation we’re in.
Craig: I agree. I think it’s a wonderful idea. All we want to do is just sit down at the table together, face-to-face and put all of the cards on the table and say here it all is. What are we going to come up with? You guys really know what you’re doing in physics, and you materialists are really strong, and you Newtonian folks know what you’re doing, and you quantum folks know what you’re doing, and you new consciousness micro-tubule people know what you’re doing. Come on. Let’s all sit down at the table with all of the data we’ve got, the data we have about psychic phenomena and spirituality.
We’ll throw out the stuff that is woo-woo stuff. We won’t address that at all; we won’t keep that in the mix. Then, let’s take a look at it, all together, with all of our combined minds, and say, now what have we got. What do we understand, based upon all of this?
If we do that, that mix is going to be so potent that it will cause an explosion in humanity, in humankind, in times of where human kind is going and what we understand about ourselves and our place in the universe, as well as what we understand about science.
Alex: Again, it sounds great. I’m just not sure there’s any such table, and i think that to the extent there is a table, that table is the science that’s being done by thousands of people every day.
I think, to a certain, extent, we’re kind of wishing for something that’s never going to come about, rather than each of us just trying to – in a little way – support the people that we think are doing what we want, and support them directly because…you know what? They’ll find a little spot at the table, and there are a small but growing number of scientists who are elbowing their way into the table, who are already there at the table. Those are the people who are really going to help bring about the change.
I think the change is gradually, gradually coming, and we just have to advance those people who are on the forefront of it. I don’t think there’s any disagreement between you and I on that.
Craig: Absolutely, and what’s happening is when I look at the table and see the people who are sitting around it, what I’m saying is those who have agreed to sit down, those who are there at the table now –.and if you say there are scientists who are coming in and they’re sitting down reluctantly, and their understanding views differently – but whoever it is among us who has sat down at the table, we need to move forward.
What I’m saying is we can’t wait for all the rest of them to sit down. All I’m saying is we’re right now being arrested. We don’t understand these psychic phenomena, remote viewing, and psychic phenomena. We don’t understand them because we’re not going to the next step of saying, well how does all this fit together. We’re not doing that because we’re still waiting for everybody to come to the table. I think we just need to go forward.
Alex: Okay. We’ve beat that point to death. The next point I really want to talk about – because it’s something I’ve never really delved into very far, because it is so controversial, and it immediately polarizes people in one way or the other – is that part of your book deals with religion, and in particular Christianity, Jesus, and a lot of that stuff. Now that I’ve found that you’re a former professor at Wheaton College…
Craig: Yeah, emphasize “former.”
Alex: Yes! And to be fair, this is not a Christian book. It’s not trying to convert people to Christianity, and you make it really clear how the church has distorted that message so much that it’s hard to get any truth out of it.
Let me, before I go any further – how would you sum up that part of the book, and what is the message you’re really trying to bring forward in your discussion of Jesus?
Craig: Well, as far as spirituality is concerned, Jeshua Ben Joseph is the Aramaic name for the mythological person who become Jesus Christ. Jeshua Ben Joseph was a rabbi in the 1st century, was a profound celestial being who had things to say to humankind, teachings to give to humankind. We didn’t listen to them. People at the time didn’t understand them. They were taken over by the Roman church, and all of the dissention – because Christianity had a great amount of dissention at the time; there were many gospels, for instance, and many viewpoints about those teachings – all of the dissention was crushed, and what grew out of it was a hierarchical church full of wealth and power, and it pretty much kept spirituality hostage for two millennia. That’s the reason that spirituality didn’t grow, and people are still trying to move back to the 1st century in spirituality.
The teachings, what Jeshua Ben Joseph said in the 1st century, are profound, and they join with the teachings of the Buddha and with the teachings of the other luminaries of the Axial Age, from 800 to 200 BCE. They join with them and they tell humanity of the fact that we are something greater than bags of flesh. The people just didn’t understand that, and they became perverted, so spirituality was held hostage. They had this perversion of it, and that’s what people are rebelling against now. That’s why nobody goes to church in Europe. The churches are empty there, and in the United States, it’s become rather a hybrid materialistic viewpoint of Christianity because they teachings of Jeshua Ben Joseph have been left behind. So that is my position.
Alex: Okay, and if I were to try and parse through that, it would take another three hours and we’d probably bore everyone to death. Well, I don’t know if we would or not. I shouldn’t say that, because this stuff is fascinating, fascinating stuff – very interesting to me and very interesting to the majority of people in the western world who are brought up with the Christian upbringing. Whether you’ve left that Christian upbringing behind, as you have and as I have, these are still very, very strong, strong impressions that we have and feelings that we have about this information.
Let me hit on a couple of points, because inside of what you said is certainly a very liberating message about how to view Jesus, but from a skeptical perspective, we still have to deal with the fact that it is not completely resolvable in terms of his life and who he is, in terms of what we now know as scientific fact.
So, Jesus is this Jewish preacher. Okay, great, but he’s preaching from the Old Testament, which we now know is just kind of a bunch of stories that are crammed together and has Adam living 6000 years – stuff that we know is not true. Jesus believed this to be true, so there isn’t any inherent contradiction in that, other than to say if we’re going to elevate Jesus to come kind of supreme luminary position, we’ve got to be careful when we do it, because clearly there’s a lot of stuff he didn’t know.
Craig: Not only that, but the record that we have is very sketchy about what Jeshua had said, and, in fact, there were a lot of things that were added to it. The church added a lot to it, so we really don’t know. That is a fact. The important point is we can glean from what we have about what Jeshua Ben Joseph had taught, to say that there are great truths that will help us to understand humanity and that we need to interpret those truths through the 21st century mind, because spirituality is not dead.
In other words, the teachings are not dead. They’re living through what it is that we understand in our personal relationship with the creative power, the higher force, whatever you want to call it, and that those teachings that were profound are going to come out of our understanding of the reading of the sketchy portrayal that we have of Jeshua Ben Joseph. They will help to change our lives, but we can’t go back and say that we should be a follower of Jeshua Ben Joseph, because, in fact, we should follow no human being. We should have our own understanding and interpretation and personal encounter with the divine and with the universe.
So, I’m not saying that we become followers of Jeshua Ben Joseph or of anybody else, but that we glean from that the teachings that are going to have an effect upon us and upon humankind.
Alex: Well, certainly from a personal perspective, you’re saying we can have a personal transformative experience from his teachings, and I don’t have any problem with that. Let me probe that one step further: would you say that these writings that we’re talking about that collectively we call the Bible – but there’s other books that we don’t include – are divinely inspired, or…
Craig: No, absolutely not. The authors didn’t say they were divinely inspired, and there’s no autograph from God on the books of the New Testament. There were probably anywhere from 200 to 400 gospels that existed during the early church. The early church was quite contentious. There were many branches to it.
Anyway, the books that we have now are certainly not divinely inspired. That just is not true. We also know that they’ve been changed radically, that the church made additions to them. There are three thousand contradictions that we can point out within the Bible, and God’s not going to inspire something and make a book like that. So, the Bible, simply is not divinely inspired. No part of the Bible is divinely inspired.
Alex: Right. Right.
Craig: But it was written by people who had a relationship with the divine in some way, as well a relationship with the church, and there’s a blending of the two. We have to glean from that what it is that we can understand about humanity and humankind and about the universe and the divine, and from that then, we will gain the perspectives. It is from our encounter with the divine, though, that we’ll gain those perspectives, not in the words or the content of the books themselves.
Alex: Right, and I agree with a lot of that, and at the same time, I’d have to say – if I was going to take a purely scientific sampling, I’d have to say – that may or may not be true in terms of what we’re going to glean and all the rest of that. What I think is really poignant about what you’re saying, and I would totally agree with, and I think is careful to really parse out of that, and that’s that the spiritual transformative experience that millions people have had throughout time, throughout cultures, is so ignored by our science, and that the religiosity of it – what you’re talking about, which we can now say scientifically through anthropology and history and everything else – we can dismiss that.
At the same time we should not dismiss this profound transformative experience that people have, and the fact that these people tie this back to some kind of universal, or some kind of higher consciousness, should not be easily dismissed. To me, it’s another area where we’ve just let science be kept out of the loop instead of saying there’s so many ways to study that. What experience is more transformative than another? How long does it take to have that process? What is necessary as a precursor? What is necessary after? I mean, you can pull it apart. It might not be the most effective way to get at the unfathomable truth that might underlie it, but there’s plenty of places to start, and it does seem like we’ve not even begun to scratch the surface of that.
Craig: No, and we’ve assumed that science and spirituality are somehow diametrically opposed.
Craig: And they’re not, and they didn’t need to be. They shouldn’t have been. They should have grown together. If the church hadn’t hijacked spirituality and kept it hostage for two millennia, then they would have grown together. We would have seen the changes that happened in the 17th century in science happen in spirituality as well. We would have, today, had this wonderful blending of science and spirituality. We wouldn’t even question why we say that science and spirituality weren’t compatible. That’s just ridiculous.
Alex: Yeah, it’s like every time I hear this Stephen J. Gould quote that gets dredged up, of the separate magistrates, whatever that is… How ridiculous to think that there’s two worlds. There’s this world of spirituality, and there’s this world of science. I mean, that just is a complete distortion. Science is a method; it’s not a position. It’s just a set of tools for looking at something, and to think that we’ve ignored this for so long and said we can’t really look at people’s spiritual experience from a scientific perspective – well, why not? Anthropology deconstructs all sorts of social sciences. Psychology looks at all sorts of weird experiences people have and tries to dissect them.
Craig: Yeah, it’s unfortunate, and that’s changing. I think we’ll see that in the next two centuries, but unfortunately, we’ll have to see it from the other side.
Alex: [laughter] Perhaps, perhaps.
Well, in all it was a wonderful experience to read your book, and many parts of it I was aware of, but I think you put it together in a good way. There were many pieces that I was unaware of or was brought more up-to-date on, so it’s really a fine, fine piece of work.
Where are you going with this, Craig? I mean what is your plan in terms of how you’re bringing forward this information, and what is the response that you’ve gotten?
Craig: The response has been very good. I’ve gotten a lot of good reviews from people. What I’m trying to do is get the word out by doing talks about it and by writing articles. We’re just getting to the point where we’re bringing the information out to the forefront so that people can examine it and they can make their own decisions based upon it. That’s the point at which we are now. We’re just trying to get the word out about it, and I’m doing that in any that I can.
Alex: Great. Great. Well, I hope we’ve advanced that a little bit, today. It certainly has been a pleasure talking to you, and I thank you for taking the time to join us today.
Craig: It’s been a joy. I’ve had a wonderful time talking with you. Thank you.
Alex: Thanks again to Dr. Craig Hogan for joining us today on skeptiko. If you’d like links to his book or to any of our previous shows, please check out our skeptiko website. That’s at skeptiko.com. You’ll also find our email link where you can drop us a note, and a link to our forums where you can join in the dialogue about this show or our previous shows.
That’s going to do it for today. Until next time, bye for now.