Tim Freke and Richard Cox join me for a freewheeling talk about stuff they usually don’t discuss.
photo by: Skeptiko
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Tim Freke and Richard Cox back to Skeptiko for what I hope will be entertaining freewheeling dialogue about all sorts of stuff that I’ve cooked up.
Tim Freke is, of course, a bestselling author, an acclaimed international speaker, as well as a “standup philosopher” with a deep love for deep truth, which I share with him, and it’s just always drawn me to Tim’s fantastic work. I consider him a friend and a colleague and he’s always great to connect with. I’m very glad to have him on today.
Richard Cox is the co-host of Tim’s podcast and he’s created just a really good podcast of his own called Deep State Consciousness Podcast and I’ve really enjoyed talking to Richard over the last year or so and diving into his world and some of the podcasts that he’s gotten into, that seem to have a great synergy and crossover with a lot of the stuff that I’ve done here on Skeptiko.
So, both of you, Tim and Richard, this is going to be so fun. Thanks for joining me.
Tim Freke: The thing which unites and divides science and spirituality is science reaches out into the object and goes, “What is it?” and spirituality reaches back into the subject and goes, “Who am I?” So, if you reach back into the subject and go, “Who am I?” you eventually find the ground of consciousness, so then that’s the ground. Whereas, if you reach out into the object you find an objective ground. We thought it was material, it turns out it’s not, it’s energetic or informational. But, that’s the paradox, that’s the paradoxity of those two things.
The question is, is either actually the ground, because it looks to me, now we have this evolutionary understanding which our ancestors didn’t have, that it’s harder for us then to go that consciousness is the ground of reality because it looks like, very strongly, that consciousness, this ability to know that you exist, is an emergent quality. It wasn’t there for the first 10 billion years at least.
Alex Tsakiris: Why would you say that, what evidence do you have for that?
Tim Freke: That’s it’s an emergent…? Well, I would say the opposite. There is evidence that it has emerged with life, because we don’t find it in other things, not consciousness, not the knowledge that we exist. Therefore, the idea that it’s the constant ground is an assumption and we’d have to go, what you’ve done then is you’ve taken this idea, which is essentially a God idea, and you’ve plonked it at the beginning in the same way that people have been plonking at the beginning forever and going, “We just assume that’s there.”
What I think we can do is see it in a different way. So, what I see is a whole of time this moment, now, it’s happening now, is the realization of potentiality. So, what I’m suggesting is that for 13.8 billion years there has been a process of realizing everyone merging potentiality, so the ground…
Alex Tsakiris: Hold on a minute. We had this discussion before, but it would be fun to revisit it. 13.what billion years, there’s no such thing. Our understanding of time, the one thing we know is that time, as we experience in this linear fashion, is not real in the sense that we think it is.
Tim Freke: I don’t even know what that means Alex. What do you mean, it’s not real? No, not real in the same sense as in measurement and all the rest of it. But look, even to say the words, “Time is not real,” you must have time. To experience anything, there must be a sequence of events that start with this and end up with that, and every single moment, without exception, ever, that you have ever experienced, has two qualities which are marked time. One is, it’s completely new, it’s a realization of new possibility and it includes within it everything that’s happened before. That’s time. Reality is time. It is time, that’s what it is, look, it’s happening now.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, I mean, it’s happening now if you kind of put the blinders on in a very special way and say that this is how I’m experiencing life and therefore these are how the frames fit together. But, when we start looking at extended consciousness experiences, time just gets blown out of the window.
Richard Cox: My interest, I think, is in what can be experienced and in this philosophical idea of how we have these, perhaps unconscious paradigms that we all sit in. Maybe we’re conscious of them, maybe we’re not, that inform how we’re looking at things.
So, when we look out of the windows to the world, whether we have an idealist or a materialist program playing in the background, is changing what we see. What I personally find fascinating is just that, that we can shift between them, I can shift between seeing that laptop as inside or outside of my mind. I can shift between the materialist prospective or a perspective where everything becomes like a dream.
Now, as to which one of them is [unclear 00:27:46] true or if it’s some kind of thing beyond both of them, I don’t know, that seems above my pay grade. I facilitated, like trying to draw Tim out in that idealism dialogue you alluded to in the interview, because a lot of people who have been around Tim’s work have had this consciousness only perspective and I wanted to pop the questions that an idealist might to Tim then.
I’m not sure that there are problems with idealism, the way Tim presents them, and I’m not sure that the solutions he proposes gets over some of the problems that are possibly there, okay?
So, if we’re going onto that next level then, beyond just what we can experience and how fascinating that is, and trying to address the questions of like, “Yeah, but what is it really? Can we dig a little deeper into that?”
Alex Tsakiris: You know, it’s beyond leaving it as a mystery because that always, to me, sounds a little bit like giving up. We don’t want to give up the fight, it’s too fun.
What I hear you saying, in a way, is a loosening of the grip. So, a loosening of the stranglehold that science has on materialism, “Oh my God, it has to be this, we have to cram it into this.”
And similarly, and I think Tim, awesome. You’re saying, loosen up your grip of idealism. Loosen up this idea. And there was, I think, where you were really interjecting something really quite nice and useful Richard, in saying, observe the fact that we can, so easily, switch between the two and without any problem, and sometimes, in the way Tim beautifully said in his standup thing, in an exciting way that propels us forward we can switch between those, suggests that that might be the path.
Richard Cox: Yeah, I think at heart, I’m the pluralist Alex. I don’t know how this fits in with our philosophy or the guests that I’ve heard on Skeptiko, all very damming materialism. I think materialism is a beautiful philosophy, okay? To be able to look out of your windows of the eyes and think that these things around me are made of actual atoms, whatever they are, and they are outside of the mind, they’re giving rise to consciousness in some way. There’s a beauty in that too and a value…
Alex Tsakiris: You’re just being naive.
Richard Cox: I don’t know if it is naive, just to slip into that way of seeing the world. I think the naivety is being stuck in it and saying, “This is the way to see the world.”
Richard Cox: I recall being a teenager and had logically accepted a materialist paradigm. I’d rejected the Christianity of my early childhood and came to believe we were all a semblance of atoms and that took me into quite a depressive place because it might have been beautiful in some scientific way to see this world of physics around me, but it didn’t lead to a meaningful existence. I remember wrestling with this in my mind and coming to a sense of, a very similar sense of like, one must act as if God exists, essentially, one must act as if there is transcendent meaning, okay? Because we can just assume that, because if we don’t assume that then we’re totally lost, right?
The analogy I had at the time was like, imagine if you were running for a bus and it was imperative that you got on the bus, but you didn’t know if it was still there or not because it was touch and go. Well, you’d have to just go for it as fast as you could, because there’s no point in assuming the bus has gone, you’ve just got to run as fast as you can until you know it isn’t there. And that was my thought about life; we must act as if there is this transcendent meaning, because otherwise we’re stuffed before we begin.
So, that resonates with me. It probably got me through a few years, and I think this is maybe why I don’t totally have this sense of resonance with Jordan Peterson, because for me that broke down at some point and led to a period of depression, because upon looking it seemed like the bus was gone, like there was no transcendent meaning, and ultimately that led me into Advaita Vedanta, the inner looking at the nature of the self and kind of transcendent mystical experience, which gave this direct experience of meaning. Or, to give it perhaps a more relevant example for the Skeptiko podcast would be, people who have near-death experience and come face to face with this all-embracing love light, don’t come back and talk about assuming God, living as if God existed, right? There’s this direct experiential knowing and that’s like a different level, I think, to what Dr. Peterson is talking about there.
Tim Freke: I’m saying that we need to differentiate these questions, so I would say, that on my current understanding and from the people I know and respect who work as meteorologists, that it looks to me, I don’t understand the details, but it really does look pretty convincing that human beings are causing a change in the climate that we need to stop, and then, how we respond to that. I don’t understand the whole carbon thing to the extent that I can really argue for or against it to be honest with you.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, let’s put it on hold until we understand it.
Tim Freke: No, no.
Alex Tsakiris: We should just jump into carbon trading because that’s what was offered to us?
Tim Freke: I didn’t say that, did I? I just said I didn’t understand that very well.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s the beauty of policy. This is, again, my point about policy. Policy forces us to choose. So, policy now forces us to choose. Are you pro Paris agreement or are you against Paris agreement? There really isn’t an in-between now, you either have to say one or the other. Policy forces a choice.
Tim Freke: Yeah, and if I had to make that choice I would say definitely in Paris, definitely, to get it taken seriously.
Alex Tsakiris: You’ve just contradicted yourself, you don’t know, you don’t know what the implications are.
Tim Freke: But you just said, you look at the evidence and you make your best evaluation, but you need to do that as carefully as you possibly can.
Alex Tsakiris: There’s a difference between the evidence for man-made global climate change, that’s one set of evidence.
Tim Freke: Yes.
Alex Tsakiris: And the other evidence is the efficacy of a particular policy.
Tim Freke: Exactly, those are two different things.
Alex Tsakiris: But, you don’t seem to have any insight or information on the efficacy of Paris, you haven’t said one thing. You’ve just said, “Hey, I’m over here on the science side, I’m really worried about human CO2, therefore I just jump into the Paris Accord, because that’s what’s offered to me. I don’t care, I just have to do anything.” That’s what I see.
Tim Freke: What I actually said was, I don’t have a detailed enough knowledge to be able to publicly argue it because I only talk about things which I have really deeply looked into and I haven’t really deeply looked into the different issues that exist around carbon trading or all the rest of it, and I suspect that if I did, there’d be all sorts of self-interest involved, just like you say. But right now, what I do, as I do with everything, is I look around for the voices I trust and if I’m seeing… because, what else can you do?
Ultimately, I’m not a physicist, for instance, but I listen to Niels Bohr’s voice and I trust it. So, I follow that thought. I have to believe, I have to judge which voices are telling me things I can provisionally, at least, rely on, and what I see is that the scientists I know personally seem very, very convinced, and the meteorologists I know are telling me this is the way forward and I’m going to trust them more than I am going to be a conspiracy theorist, because they are the people that I meet and know.
Alex Tsakiris: Do you see the huge fallacy in that logic? You’ve bought into this kind of constructed bullshit.
Tim Freke: I haven’t bought into anything.
Alex Tsakiris: No, I’ll just point it out to you. To say, “I’m going to listen to my trusted scientists and meteorologists rather than…” Now, where I would have filled in the blank is to say, “The trusted climatologists and meteorologists that have an opposing view,” but that’s not what you said.
Alex Tsakiris: You’re coming at this from a different angle, but ultimately, what you just said is my ultimate bottom line too, and that’s, the way I put it is the way Mickey Singer who wrote the book, The Untethered Soul puts it. It’s that, the secret of the ascent is to always look up. So, the secret to the ascent is to find that love that God had.
That’s the problem I see with the conspiracy world, not the problem that you said, not that people are unhinged or that they’re over-involved or any of that, it’s that they don’t see a way out and that’s because the way out is a spiritual path that completely bypasses all of this nonsense, and if people want to play these games, people have been playing these games since the beginning. The secret of the ascent is to always look up and that’s what I find in your work and that’s what I think you’re really all about and that’s why we connect and resonate, because none of this other stuff really matters all that much.
Tim Freke: Yeah, beautifully put. I love that.