Recognized expert in ‘Sick Building Syndrome’, Mike Jawer has discovered a potential link between environmental sensitivity and psychic phenomena.
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Join Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Michael Jawer, author of The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion about his research on environmental hazards and its connection to psychic experiences.
Mike Jawer: One concept that could be helpful is boundaries. This is a big part of the book and a big part of how I come at things. It’s this idea that all of us are somewhere on a spectrum of thick versus thin boundaries. It talks about how people differ as far as their connection with other people and the environment. Some people are, and you can just tell if you’ve been with them for a while, they’re kind of thick boundary people. They don’t really reach out as thoroughly as other people. They seem pretty rigid or armored and very decisive in saying this or that; using ‘or’ rather than ‘and’. Then on the other side of the spectrum you have people who you can tell after a few minutes, they’re very flexible, they seem to be empathetic, they seem to be sensitive… and whatever the opposite of armored is. These are the people who have a tendency for psychic experiences. It’s not that the others couldn’t, but all the information that I’ve gathered and others have suggested that it’s thin boundary people who literally have less between them and the environment. And if the environment is emotional–fundamentally I think that it is, that’s my thesis–they’re the ones who are more apt to experience that loss of boundary; and sort of venture out and feel what other people wouldn’t necessarily feel.
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With respect to the reductionist paradigm, Mike suggests that neuroscience is making progress toward new ways of thinking about the mechanics of the mind.
Mike Jawer: In the book I’m pretty critical especially in the last chapter about reductionist neuroscience because I think any reductionist approach is counterproductive and ultimately not helpful.
Alex Tsakiris: Hold on, I think it’s falsified. And I think there’s a huge distinction that we need to make there. It just doesn’t fit the data. Yet they keep advancing it, and the emperor has no clothes. So the more we feed into this neuroscience model–it’s just bullshit. It doesn’t hold up to the data.
Mike Jawer: Well it’s held up pretty well over hundreds of years. I’m not saying that I’m reductionist myself. I want to make that very clear. And it, like all disciplines of science, has to evolve and the problem that neuroscientists have is they accept certain tenants about humanity that hold them back. And you mentioned embodiment and that’s the main thing that I use to challenge neuroscience. It’s coming around gradually. It’s going to take a while but it’s moving in the right direction because neuroscientists need to understand that we’re not brain-based organisms. I talk about the body as an orchestra [and] you have different players, and the brain might be the conductor let’s say. But you’re not going to get any sound without the tubas and without the flutes and the trombones, the violins and so forth. And they’re all parts of us. There’s a field called psychoneuroimmunology which I discuss at length in the book. Neuroscientists are gradually embracing and understanding that there are a myriad of connections between the brain and the rest of the body.
Citing Dr. Kevin Nelson’s theory of ‘REM intrusion’ as a possible cause of near-death phenomena, Mike suggests that universal emotion informs these experiences.
Alex Tsakiris: You’re doing an awesome job of trying to synthesize these different ideas and make them fit into a new–very open engagement with the data. Having said that, I look at what you said about near-death experience and one of the first things I came across is your citing of Dr. Kevin Nelson, a professor of neurology.
Mike Jawer: The University of Kentucky.
Alex Tsakiris: [He’s] someone who we’ve had on this show. But soon after I heard him on his show talking about his REM Intrusion theory, I had on Dr. Jeffrey Long who not only assisted Dr. Nelson in putting together that research but then had to come out and tread that research. No one talks about REM Intrusion with regard to near-death experience anymore. It was a silly idea to begin with. It was a poorly done study. It just doesn’t have any legs but where we’re left with near-death experience is the questions you ask in the book. I think this is not explainable inside our current model. So I don’t understand how we can creep up to it and say, well people who are more sensitive have near-death experiences. Or you talk about Dr. Bruce Greyson who found the same thing. But all that is dancing around the main point: if you no longer have a brain; if you no longer have a body which is the claim of near-death experiences–these people are outside of their body, that’s the claim. They are hearing from outside of the body. They are seeing from outside of the body. Again, this is the claim. The embodiment thing falls way. The neurological model falls way. We have to look for something new don’t we?
Mike Jawer: Yes, I think that we do. I don’t buy Dr. Nelson’s attempts to wedge near-death experiences into a sense of how the brain is barely operating. I think I quote it in the book because I want to mention that there are neuroscientists that are looking at this as best they can. I think [Dr. Nelson] was trying from his perspective to shed some light.
Alex Tsakiris: He was trying to jam it back into the neurological model. He was trying to put a finger in the dike and hold the paradigm together. It’s the same with Shermer. These guys aren’t creeping toward making some big shift, they’re just trying to hold the thing together as the evidence piles up and says the emperor has no clothes.
Mike Jawer: I don’t disagree with you. I guess I view it a little bit differently in the sense that–the model that I’m suggesting toward the end of the book [and] I move into this with discussion of near-death experiences: emotion is universal.
Mike talks about his study of emotion being the conductor of paranormal experiences which helps us tap into the mysteries of the universe.
Alex Tsakiris: A term that you use that you maybe want to explain is gateway–an “emotional gateway.” I thought that was a cool way of putting it.
Mike Jawer: That was the original title of the book actually–the working title and the website for the book and the subsequent investigations of mine: www.emotiongateway.com. And I do believe that emotion, the more that I look at it. Emotion seems to be a gateway into what we consider the paranormal. And here I want to say that I’m not sure ultimately it is paranormal. I think that the universe is much different than we take it to be, and it’s more grand there’s more going on than we can typically understand. But emotion itself seems to be a vehicle for transporting people somehow into a different space, and a different time or for experiencing influences from another space or time. Near-death experiences seem to be something like that.
Summarizing the goals of his research, Mike hopes that people will use his data as a framework for gauging their own experiences.
Mike Jawer: What I’m trying to put out there is a framework for people regardless of what they intuit or what they believe, or what they suspect, and look at this information along this particular framework. Boundaries–thick to thin boundaries–and emotion is a unifying phenomenon in life and the universe, and everything. I think it’s intriguing. I think it gives people regardless of where they start out a leg to stand on and talk about these things together.