Interview with Wayne State University School of Medicine Physiology researcher Dr. Donald DeGracia about Western science versus Yogic thought.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Donald DeGracia about his book, What is Science? During the interview DeGracia contrasts Western science with Yogic thought:
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Dr. Donald DeGracia to Skeptiko. Dr. DeGracia is an associate professor of physiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, where his research of non-linear dynamics of cell injury is so far over my head that I’m not even going to try and get into that, but Dr. DeGracia is also a brilliant writer and thinker on human consciousness, and that’s the real reason I wanted to have him on the show. He’s also written and talked a lot about altered states of consciousness, and [he also has a lot to say about] the synthesis of and—I guess we’d have to say the critical examination of western scientific thought—and yoga, and Hindu knowledge and wisdom. And he has a lot of very interesting ideas about the intersections and I guess, non-intersections of those two. So… Dr. DeGracia welcome to Skeptiko and thanks again so much for joining me…
Dr. Donald DeGracia: …The West has always been characterized as being outwardly directed. It’s completely sensory based [in its] understanding of mental events. It’s something about the Western tradition that likes to rule and have power and control the world; a world that seems to be outside of the body. And that leads to this very large dichotomy… so Western culture is focused on the external world… what the senses convey to the mind. The mind then builds the entire picture, and misses the irony at the center of the whole thing — that it all really only exists in the mind. Everything that I am perceiving right now as I sit here and talk — it’s all only in my mind, right?
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Dr. Donald DeGracia to Skeptiko. Dr. DeGracia is an associate professor of physiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, where his research of non-linear dynamics of cell injury is so far over my head that I’m not even going to try and get into that, but Dr. DeGracia is also a brilliant writer and thinker on human consciousness, and that’s the real reason I wanted to have him on the show. He’s also written and talked a lot about altered states of consciousness, and [he also has a lot to say about] the synthesis of and—I guess we’d have to say the critical examination of western scientific thought—and yoga, and Hindu knowledge and wisdom. And he has a lot of very interesting ideas about the intersections and I guess, non-intersections of those two. So… Dr. DeGracia welcome to Skeptiko and thanks again so much for joining me.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yeah, well thank you very much Alex for having me.
Alex Tsakiris: Don, your work was introduced to me by several listeners on Skeptiko who I really have to thank—Dr. John Brown, and again, the publisher at Anomalist Books who is publishing my book, Patrick Huyghe also suggested you’d be a great guest and everyone was right because as I dug into your work, it was terrific. I was reading this book that I want everyone to check out if you’re at all interested after this show; it’s “What is Science, How Yoga Helps Us Understand Science.” It’s one of these books that I started reading with the idea that I was going to highlight questions for the show, and I wound up highlighting practically the whole book. So I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I better just slow down here and ask some basic questions about this book.’ And let me just throw in, so much of your work is available for free. This book, you can buy a hard copy cover of it, but you can also get it as a free download from your really excellent blog, Plain Talk About This and Other Worlds. Where this book that we’re going to talk a lot about, first appeared as a ten part blog series, is that right?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yeah, that’s correct.
Alex Tsakiris: So let’s slow down and go back to who you are as you like to say, how you get your paycheck there at Wayne State University, tell us a little bit about your day job if you will.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Well, I’m a researcher in cerebral ischemia which is stroke and cardiac arrest brain damage, and having listened to some of your podcasts before coming on, I was interested to hear that you’re interested in cardiac arrest and near-death experiences, that’s a facet of the area that I work in. Although my work is very biological, and it studies the mechanisms of how the neurons die after a lack of blood flow.
Alex Tsakiris: We’re going to talk about consciousness science and some of the dramatic ways that it kind of conflicts not only with common sense, but with other schools of thought. But I think it’s interesting to kind of juxtapose that with your day job. Your very highly regarded, highly technically demanding day job of being in the school of medicine doing research at Wayne State University. Does that ever strike you as you live this double life there?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Part of it has to do with the fact that growing up I was a big comic book fan. So all superheroes have a secret identity.
Alex Tsakiris: I see.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: But more importantly, I think this is hard to appreciate unless you actually have the experience. I don’t know, what is it, the [ten-thousand-hour] idea? Where you keep doing something over and over and you get the experience, and that’s what is has been doing science for the last 25 years, in the lab everyday doing this totally mainstream work trying to figure out this issue of why these neurons die after lack of blood flow. Over the whole period that I’ve been doing it, one overwhelming lesson is that it doesn’t work more often than it does. Way more often, it doesn’t work. Probably 99% of the time, I’ve been wrong, so science is a really difficult process. Second guessing nature is very, very difficult. Having that direct experience of playing that game has conditioned my thinking very strongly.
Alex Tsakiris: That might be an interesting launching off point, because I think kind of brings to the fore this whole idea of science—what is science? How do we do science? And what are some other ways that people think about and do science? Because I love some of the things that you have to say in the book. One of the most basic, but at the same time profound things, and it’s obvious once someone points it out to you, but science means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And at a very simple level, you can go around the university there at Wayne State University and you can go ask a sociologist, ‘What is science?’ and he says, ‘Oh, I do science, I’ll tell you what I do over here.’ And then you can go over to the physics department and ask what is science and they go, ‘Right here, over here, I’ll show you.’ And then you can go ask someone in the school and they’d say something different, so science means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.5
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yes, it’s not a homogenous phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination.
Alex Tsakiris: I guess what struck me and what I’m struggling with over here is science gets [bantied? -00:06:00] around so much, the idea of science, and you do science, and science vs. religion, and we should trust science. And we never stop to think about what we really mean when we say science. And I t5hink you do a really nice job of breaking down what we do mean, what our history of science is, and then you introduce this idea of yogic thought in science.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: That’s one of the things, especially when you start off with this idea that it means different things to different people, and the biggest demarcation there is people that actually do science versus people that are outside of science looking in and interpreting what they think is going on. When you’re on the inside, it’s like any other human activity, you have politics, you have the whole—it’s a gauche in distribution. You have a really smart people, and a whole bunch of people that are leaders and followers basically. And it’s not very much different from everyday life. In my particular field, the stroke field, it’s not very successful. There are no therapies that can stop neuron death after stroke in spite of 40 years of research. So in a way, it’s kind of the exact opposite of physics, where these guys built the large hadron collider and confirmed the Hicks particle that’s been hypothesized for 40 years, what’s the difference just in those two cases, right? Why is one so outstandingly successful and the other one is just basically a miserable failure?
Alex Tsakiris: You touched on something there for a minute that you do a really nice job of talking about in the book. Can you explain what the demarcation problem is?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Right, so this all stems from—there’s a whole academic discipline called the philosophy of science, and it is attempting to understand and answer the question, what is science? And there’s been a few towering people that have contributed to the field, and one of them is Karl Popper, and he wrote in the 1920s and 30s, and there’s a couple of important ideas that Popper came up with. One of them is this idea of falsification, which is a very common idea that you find out, especially amongst the physics people, that when you invent a theory, the purpose of it is not to prove that it’s true, but to prove that it’s false because you can never definitively say that something is true. That’s something that Hume identified—the philosopher David Hume—this thing called the problem of induction. That you never know tomorrow if you’ll observe a contrary case. And so Popper, taking that into account, came up with this idea that to be successful in our description of the world, what we want to do is to determine which ideas are false. Because we can definitively prove something as false, we can never conclusively prove that something is true. So that’s one of the main things that Popper is known for, but he also invented this idea of the demarcation problem. How do you distinguish science from other activities that humans do? And the falsification criterion was his answer to that. So science is an approach to knowledge that seeks to prove ideas are false, period. It’s an open-ended thing, it never ends.
Alex Tsakiris: And what you do nicely in the book is kind of take that a little bit further than Popper, where you kind of step back and you say, ‘Hey, isn’t this demarcation problem really what we’ve been fighting over about science?’ It’s a little skirmish that’s in the background that really is a much bigger deal. And that is somebody comes along and says, ‘That’s science.’ And somebody else comes along and says, ‘No, that’s not science.’ And it’s really—how do we measure what is science and what isn’t science? One of the ways we can do that is say, ‘Well science affects the world, and we come up with these radical ideas that have this power and influence, and we make atomic bombs, and we make cell phones, and we make all these other things.’ And then somebody else comes along and says, ‘Yeah, but this guy did this fantastic movie, this piece of art and it totally changed people’s mind, and that changed the world.’ So maybe art and science—how would you draw the difference? Or politics like you say? Or religion has changed the world.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Exactly. If you notice in the book, I never actually and explicitly draw that distinction, because I don’t believe there is such a thing. I think science is a form of art, not any different from any other form of art that humans do. The type of science we have in our culture now at least. It has the properties that I talk about in the book, and the reason—it’s kind of, I guess, to back out a little bit, to give some sense of what I do, you asked what I’m trying to do in this. I was thinking about how I could explain something like that. And you know, the issue is, you only know something by contrast to something else. It’s just the way that our brain, and our mind, and our senses work. So a kind of obvious example, we walk around in the air all the time, right? Were always in that environment, it seems like nothing to us. Even though we’re like fish in water, right? We’re moving through a medium, we’ve never experienced the vacuum. So the air is actually invisible to our awareness. Analogically, we have the science permeating our culture in the same way, and what do we have to compare it to? Nothing, so it’s kind of invisible in a certain sense.
You know, as I’ve been learning the ideas of yoga, it’s clear that they overlap substantially. And what I try to do in the book is show that in many respects, the yogic ideas are much grander, much broader in their scope and account for things that our western sciences can’t. Taken in the very broadest historical sense. Looking since the evolution of science since the days of Newton and [inaudible – 00:11:53].
Alex Tsakiris: And if people are tempted to think that it sounds very new agey or something like that, you really break it down in a very concrete way that’s hard to dismiss and get past. And that contrast that you do, you point out that there’s these British Christians that come over to this continent of India, and they get there, and they have these certain ideas. And what you do is compare and contrast this with the ideas that they encounter. And you say, ‘Hey well wait a minute, here’s what the people on the continent of India had, that they didn’t.’
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Exactly, you have to put yourself 300 years ago, 400 years ago, there were no cars, there was no electricity, people had candles, they drove in wooden ships across the ocean, and the British were obviously militarily superior. And they had their Christian ideas that they’d inherited from medieval Europe. They had their renaissance ideas that they inherited from the Greeks and romans.
Alex Tsakiris: Many of which we now know are wrong right? So what are some of the ways that the Indian thought, the yogic thought, was really much further advanced? That had been calculated, that was something from that era, and based on biblical logic of the Bible, I don’t want to go into that story, but you go to the Indian culture, and here they are saying that the universe is 300 trillion years old. I mean, it’s just—the British mind could not understand that at the time, and that’s just one example. They also believed that the universe began in this highly condensed state that they called the Brahmanda, or the egg that began the universe, and that idea didn’t become anything in the west until the 1930s, and we call it the Big Bang today. And if you look at their ideas, they are very, very similar.
Alex Tsakiris: And if we go over to mathematics as you do, you point out, ‘Hey, take zero, take infinity.’ two ideas that we really can’t do any kind of math other than kind of roman numerals stuff without—
Dr. Donald DeGracia: And they had these ideas, they were an integral part of their—it’s hard to refer to Hindu ideas as religious, that’s a mistake we make in the west, it’s not a religion, it’s closer—Hinduism itself is closer to what we think of as philosophy, and yoga is much closer to what we think of as science. Because yoga is methods and procedures, just like science is. And Hinduism as a whole is a bunch of different philosophical viewpoints. And yeah, how could the—I don’t know what else to say. Who’s the barbarian in this picture?
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: These people who think the universe is 6,000 years old, and have this very primitive notions about the nature of reality, and then the Hindus who have these unbelievable sophisticated ideas that the British can’t even understand. One of the main points I try to make in the book is this idea of the gunas, which is just a central idea. The more I’ve come to understand Hindu and yogic thought, the more I’ve come to see—and not only that—the more I’ve come to understand western science and where it’s going, this idea of the gunas is thousands and thousands of years old. By the time that Patanjali codified it in the yoga sutras, it was already an ancient idea. The gunas is the idea that everything we perceive, is just patterns of movement. There is no substance, period. Reality, that’s probably the biggest contrast between the Hindu mind and the western mind is that the western mind believes in reality, but the Hindu doesn’t. What we call reality, the solid real world, the rocks, the stars, the planet, our bodies—the Hindu just sees as something akin to the wind. It’s a pattern of movement, and that’s it. It just moves and flows like a river, it’s a flowing, a movement. It has—it’s not made of anything, it’s just a pattern of movement.
Alex Tsakiris: And let’s say we wanted to look at that question in a serious way. Because we don’t, we just dismiss that and say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so ridiculous, let’s just move on.’ But let’s say we wanted to break that down in the way that you’re breaking that down here and say, ‘How would we really logically determine which worldview maybe stands up to our shared experience to logic?’ And I think that immediately gets us into this idea of consciousness which you talk so much about and do so much work in. So let’s break it down and talk about the yogic understanding of consciousness.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: So this idea—you asked the Hindu worldview idea versus the western worldview with respect to the gunas and that everything is just patterns of movement—that’s what Einstein is famous for, is just describing the energy. Matter is energy, up until Einstein there had been a dualism. They were seen as two opposite dichotomy, but then he showed that they were inter-convertible, and that changed the world, right? So that was the beginning of the west coming to appreciate this ancient Hindu idea, and it has only progressed further.
Alex Tsakiris: But hold on, because Don, it has and it hasn’t right? I mean, that’s one of the great paradoxes of the time that we live in, we can say, ‘And then Einstein came along, and he changed the world.’ But no he didn’t change the world in a way, the predominant paradigm of science is still this kind of materialistic, you are a biological robot, you are your brain kind of thing.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: And this brings us back to science is different things to different people. So the movers and shakers that are using these ideas are the ones that gave us the computers that are letting us communicate right now, there’s the cell phones. In other words, physicists and engineers that utilize these ideas—GPS—they utilize these ideas in a practical fashion. And I brought up the question earlier, why have those guys been so successful? For example, a lot of biomedical stuff that I’m—that my own work is directly involved in—has not been successful is because we don’t use the same logic that those guys use. There is, I don’t want to use the word demarcation, but it is. That’s the heterogeneity of science, there’s not a constant thing. Whole fields use completely different methodologies, and they’re just less successful than other fields that use whole different methodologies. So anyway, you’re correct. I agree with you that the ideas have been very slow to diffuse throughout the general culture. But they are there, and they are what underlie all this technological revolution that has characterized the 20th century.
Alex Tsakiris: You know, I see that and I don’t want to get too far off in this, I see that but also the strong resistance to it still in every corner of science that you look. We want to kind of pretend that quantum physicists are way out on the edge, but they’re not, only some of them are. Some of them are willing to take it to the next level, and the others are just doing the shut up and calculate thing. Which is what so much of science does when they encounter this stuff that doesn’t fit inside their paradigm; they’re like shut up and calculate, and turn out the technology,
Dr. Donald DeGracia: That’s a very serious issue too, and that falls squarely in the philosophy of science and why would that thing come to pass? And in a way that’s almost an immune response in our society and our culture, through the implications of what these ideas imply. So you have people like—on my blog I wrote an article about my ambivalent feelings towards Feynman. Obviously the man was a genius, he revolutionized quantum mechanics but if you listen to him talk philosophically, I apologize to all Feynman fans, he sounds like a retard. He didn’t study it, he has no sophistication or subtlety at that level of thinking and these are the people—so it’s like we’ve given kids, not guns but atom bombs. We’ve given a bunch of kids atom bombs and they have this tremendous power that they manipulate. And to my mind, the image of Atlantis comes to mind, the whole myth of Atlantis, that’s what this all seems like it’s converging towards when I think about it. But I agree, and I don’t want to go off on that too much, that could be a whole topic in itself. To return back to your question about consciousness and Indian thought, should we go back to that then?
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s do that, but let’s also tie it back in to what to we were just talking about. As I was reading in What Is Science, your book, I saw so many parallels between that and the state we are in currently with our understanding of consciousness. And the absurdity of what we assert about consciousness in western thought and western science, And even, and again—not to put down anybody, but even somebody like David Chalmers, who is wonderfully revolutionized consciousness research and this hard problem, and then you just read it, and you’re like, ‘What is all this hand-wringing about what is obvious?’ and that is that consciousness is obviously not just brain function. It’s obviously more than that. Why do we stumble on such basic ideas in the same way I think we look at the British Christians, they’re going, ‘Hey, the world is 6,000 years old, don’t tell me any different.’ It was an absurd idea, I think even for their scientists at the time, but it was something that we cling to, and I kind of get that same feeling about consciousness. We’re just clinging to an obviously absurd idea.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Isn’t David Chalmers the bat guy?
Alex Tsakiris: I think it is (note: Thomas Nagel wrote “What’s It Like to Be a Bat?”).
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Did you get my little graphic about Batman spanking science?
Alex Tsakiris: I didn’t see that in the book.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yeah, it’s this idea of having something to contrast to, and if you don’t, it’s invisible right? The west has always been characterized as just being outwardly directed, completely sensory based, the understanding of mental events—and I say this being well aware of 2,000 years of western philosophy. Plato actually said the right things, and people just didn’t get what he was saying or something. It’s something about the western tradition that likes to rule and have power and control the world, the world that seems to be outside of the body. And that has what has led to this very large dichotomy, and so western culture itself is very focused on the external world, what the senses convey to the mind. It just takes it all for granted because it has nothing to contrast it to, it builds the entire picture, and it misses the complete irony in the center of the whole thing that it all really exists in the mind. Everything that I am perceiving right now as I sit here and talk—you, you’re all only in my mind, it’s all only in my mind, right?
So there’s solipsism, that was like one western approach to it, that ‘Oh, it’s only all in your mind, and it’s obviously absurd because the guy comes up and punches you in the face, right? So the west has always had a superficial approach to this. And I cited Jay Lakhani in my book and the talk he gives that I thought was very insightful, talking about the demographics of India. He says it in just one little line in a kind of blow-off way, he say, ‘I don’t know what it is. It was the weather or something, but we went inward.’ And it was, it was the climate they had, they were rich, they had a bountiful land, they didn’t have struggle for existence the way people in Europe did. It was cold, and they had farm and bad land and stuff, and in India, more stuff died just naturally than what grew in Europe, right? And then they had all this excess, and so the land was so rich and so bountiful, and the people there could have the leisure to just sit and develop yoga. So what they did, is instead of being preoccupied with the external world—again, citing Jay’s ideas, because he says it very clearly. They just said, ‘What is it that allows me to perceive the external world in the first place? What is this external world that is in my mind? What is this? What is my mind? How does all this stuff work? How does all this fit together?’ They literally went in a different direction in the west. The west directed itself outward, and the Indian and the Hindu culture directed itself inward. And that inward exploration leads to yoga.
Alex Tsakiris: It lead to yoga and it also lead to this interesting kind of paradox that you arrive at in the book about hanging in the middle. We have the external world which suggests to us over and over again that it’s a reality. We have our purely internal world where we get some glimpses of as a reality, and what we’re lined up in is trying to keep a foot in both these worlds, and we wind up hanging in the middle. What is that all about?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: That’s kind of my tongue-in-cheek, cynical, irreverent characterization of western philosophy. Because you look at since the rise of modern times in the 1600s, we’ve had materialism and we’ve had idealism. One of the things I do in the book in a comical way is paint that as a war. And in a way it is, it’s an intellectual war that is constantly waged, and in certain areas of history, one side gains dominance over the other. We happen to live in an idealistic way right now, that’s what post-modern is. Everything is in our mind, we make it all up. And even though average people don’t really understand it, that’s what droves politics. Go look at the philosophy behind the Neocons. It’s all perception, that’s why media and politicians can just lie so easily now, because they are conditioned to believe that it’s just what people believe, that’s what makes reality, and that’s an idealistic viewpoint that just sees everything in the mind.
The east has—obviously we’re aware there’s an external world, and we have an internal world of mental states, and like I say in the book, ‘the world itself presents resistance to our thoughts.’ We think, but the world presents resistance to our thoughts. When you let that resistive aspect gain dominance, that’s materialism. Then you come to the conclusion that the world somehow creates our mind, or if you follow the path that George Berkeley started in the time of Newton, it’s all in our mind to begin with. Our mind is what creates the world we live in. Most humans’ entire world is not the natural world at all. We live in a human created world, our house, the movies we watch, the stores we ship in, people don’t even know how to grow food. So everything that most people experience is the human-created world that’s all just in the mind. George Berkeley writ large across our lives. And so you look at the west, and it’s kind of stuck in a way in this dualism or this oscillation back and forth between these two viewpoints. And again, I grew up in this society too, it’s very dissatisfying, it makes people very unhappy. People in our culture are very unhappy, there’s not any kind of harmony that underlies this tension that kind of is at the center of our culture. So like anybody else—probably like you, you start to explore and figure out what the hell is going on in the world. And through the different avenues of my explorations, I came across Hinduism to learn their ideas and see the contrast. And then that’s really a lot of what this book is attempting to express, is to be like, ‘Holy wow!’ It’s amazing that you can have a viewpoint where all of this comes into harmony, and that’s what it amounts to. It’s not new-agey at all, in fact it’s highly consistent with our modern sciences.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s consistent up till a point isn’t it? It’s consistent if you look at things in a certain way.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yeah right, you’re right, I have to be careful. So in the book, I define science as that which leads to the release of power in the universe. So anything that doesn’t do that, I don’t consider science, which includes in a way, the stuff I do at work even, you know?
Alex Tsakiris: Don, talk about that for a minute, because you have some interesting ideas about power, and about thought is power, knowledge is power, and at the surface—I love the way you break it down, because it becomes self-evident when you talk about it. E=MC squared—knowledge is power, you have that knowledge, you operationalize it with technology and you wind up with power. Again, you have a demarcation problem. Where was the power? Where was the science? Was it in the idea? Well, ideas—
Dr. Donald DeGracia: The whole idea stems from my understanding of the Hindu concepts, and again reading the yoga. Like I say in the book, obviously I haven’t talked about this at this point, but obviously I’ve had experiences with altered states of consciousness, they exist, they’re real. People that know about have the wide variety of opinions about it, but that’s a whole different discussion in itself. But that’s the basis of yoga, those types of experiences. So having had them, I take what they say seriously is what it amounts to. In their teachings, like I talk about in the book, the basic principle of existence they call the Shiva Shakti Shiva, and it’s this separation, there’s this idea of Brahman, of infinity, this perfectly harmonious integration of everythingness. The concept is awe inspiring if you really understand what it means. And within this awe-inspiring wholeness of existence—I don’t want to go off on what Brahman, or how to characterize Brahman, but there’s this process that occurs, this separation that occurs in Brahman. That is the genesis of what we call reality in the west of the manifested existence. And Shiva is consciousness, and Shakti is power, and they are two poles of the same thing. It’s this thing that artificially separates within itself, and so they’re indelibly inter-related from the genesis of the universe according to Hindu thought, so to me, it’s just a really incredible idea. It explains why we can have thoughts and why the mere thought that E=MC squared can blow up a city. It’s not a mere thought, obviously. There’s some connection, there’s some intimate connection, and the Hindu ideas explain this connection. It’s very convoluted, very contorted. The Shiva Shakti Shiva is very far from our personal realities, but there’s a direct connection.
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about that connection a little bit because I think what you do a nice job of in the book is talk about a little point that you made right at the beginning, which is that your launching off point for your exploration of yogic thought, is some of the stuff that we just talked about, which is, ‘Hey, if they are right about this, and I can feel confident that they are right about this because everything I know tells me that this is true, and that this understanding of consciousness let’s say, is more accurate than the western idea.’ As you liken it to your drilling yourself with the 10,000 hours in biology or in chemistry where you just build on what you know, and then at some point you gain confidence that even what you don’t know, but you know is out there will be revealed to you and will be true because everything you’ve learned up until this point has been true. So start with biology 101, and then you go to 201, and 301, and then you go, ‘I’m probably going to agree with what they have in biology 401.’ And you take a similar path with yoga right?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yes, exactly, and even that approach that I have personally in science came for me in music. As a teenager I started playing guitar and I didn’t know how to play guitar, but there were other people around me that played guitar, and I could see them playing guitar and through that process I learned that if you practice, you get better. And by the time I went to college and decided I wanted to be a scientist, I already knew that trick. The problem with the altered states of consciousness though is that you can’t see anyone doing it. So unless you have some initial experiences yourself, then it’s not going to make any sense at all. You have no basis whatsoever to apply the practice logic to altered states of consciousness. But whatever my genetic makeup, or my experience that I’ve had these things spontaneously as a child, and eventually as I got older and read about things and learned to understand these experiences as altered states of consciousness, and then I kept building on it, and building on it. I’m at a certain level of proficiency, the angle that I’ve came into this through is what is called lucid dreaming, or astral projection, but it’s still a very definite altered state of consciousness that turns out, the ability to do that technique is what the yoga call pratyahara. The two techniques are almost identical, it’s just the end to which they’re applied is vastly different. Yeah, that’s really the concrete anchor I have that allows me to say, ‘Okay, I actually know how to do pratyahara, and I’ve done it.’ I’ve just never applied it the way yogis do. They just describe what happens when you follow their methodology. It’s just very logical that what they are describing is the way that it would unfold.
Alex Tsakiris: And let’s tell people because you’ve written a very practical, matter-of-fact book, and again, it’s available as a free download called a ‘Do OBE,’ as in, do out of body experience, where you lay out and talk about not only your experiences, but kind of a step by step approach about how someone can gain success with lucid dreaming and with astral projection/out of body experience. And then you also mix that with some philosophical thoughts and ideas about that. One of which I wanted to bring up now because it was again,–just a small point, but it was a real shift for me when you talk about even the term altered states of consciousness. It’s somewhat of a misnomer that takes us in the wrong direction because its and alternative state of consciousness. It’s a different state of consciousness with different rules and different—it has a whole different way of understanding things. And we always want to pull it back from, ‘What does that mean from our perspective?’ And maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at, do you want to expound on that?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Well I mean—it’s like—how can I explain it? Soccer is not popular in America, but it’s very popular around the rest of the world. And they call is football; it’s just what their cultures do. People grow up with the expectation, they train—obviously they have soccer here, but you know, it’s a crude analogy, but the idea is that we live in a culture that doesn’t cultivate spontaneous experiences. We have this spontaneous manifestations of them, we call them dreaming. But we don’t understand it, I mean –
Alex Tsakiris: We don’t have a language—as you point out, we don’t really have a good language for it.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Exactly. I was just going to say, the best we have is Carl Jung, and who reads him anymore? He was quite obscure in his own way. The thing about the yogic information and their teaching, is it’s very simple and black and white—what they’re saying. It’s not obscure, it’s not highly intellectual, it’s designed for anybody who is ready to learn that stuff, it’s right there for anybody who is willing to learn it. There are kind of certain prerequisites, but I think that’s the really important point to recognize that about this idea of altered states of consciousness is that we grew up in a culture that simply doesn’t cultivate them, and has no basis to understand them.
And again, that’s this issue of contrast. You look at the Hindu thinking where altered states of consciousness are revered, it’s like the core thing in their culture, to do yoga, it’s part of their culture, right? There’s the whole idea of being the child, and then being the householder, and being the responsible social member, and then at the end of your life you go out in the forest and you meditate in preparation of dying, that’s literally a part of their culture. So it’s integrated, it’s taken seriously, there’s a very rich interpretation that surrounds it, and in comparison, we’re literally blind on those levels. So we can call them altered states of consciousness, they are, they’re different than the one we’re in right now, but they have a very nice categorization of how these things work and how they’re related. They have very distinct methods of how to get yourself from one to the other, and what the implications of it all are.
Alex Tsakiris: And you have also taken that in another controversial direction, but a direction that you have to go in for anyone who is at all interested in this, and that is the contrast comparison of the use of psychedelics and altered states of consciousness. What were some of your thinking in doing that and what were some of the things that you found out in exploring those connections?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: It’s controversial again, one of the interesting things when the internet first started out, and somehow I got Charles Tart’s email, so this was probably 1993 or something, 1994, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to email this guy.’ Because I read his book, Altered States, and it did influence me like it influenced so many other people, and I’m thinking, ‘If there’s one question I could ask Charles Tart, what would it be?’ And so I emailed him and I asked him one question, why were psychedelic drugs made illegal? And he wrote me back, and he said it’s because it allows people to think for themselves and they don’t need the system anymore. And so I thought that was really, really interesting. And it’s true too, experimenting with those chemicals does something to your mind, and I’ve got a whole website about this, the link between what in tantra yoga is called Kundalini awakening and the effects of psychedelic inebriation. And because here in the west we have such primitive ideas about the nature of the mind and consciousness, the whole idea about what the effects of psychedelics are is just completely over our head. It’s interesting if you go back and read the literature from the 50s and 60s, there was some really serious, really good stuff going on, and people were starting to get a handle on it and it was moving things in a direction. That’s when The Beatles went to India and started learning yoga, there’s obviously a connection there. But everything got wiped out, the powers the be in the western world just stomped that fire out before it got out of control. And so here were and now you see it’s kind of coming back a little bit, there’s the work that’s been done with DMT, I can’t think of the fellow’s name off the top of my head.
Alex Tsakiris: Strassman?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Strassman, right. And his stuff is now all available on the internet and he got some funding and did that work with DMT, and it’s interesting to look at, because it’s exactly the same as the psychedelic literature went. It just immediately blows open the western worldview. Those people—you can see the video, it’s up on YouTube I believe—the videos of the people who had these experiences. So you know, it —
Alex Tsakiris: There’s also the interviews up there from the 1960s when they first were doing LSD experiments, and they did them with these—they’re great videos because there’s these very straight looking 1950s guys with the button up shirts and ties just tripping and talking about these amazing experiences and the expansion of consciousness. They talk about increase—these guys are engineers, and they talk about just these breakthroughs that they had and these understand of problems and stuff like that.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: One of my good friends has this idea that the psychedelic drugs came on the scene shortly after the atomic bomb was invented and it was somehow God’s will that they both appear at the same time, because they kind of counter-balance each other out, and they’re of the same magnitude.
Alex Tsakiris: The other thing I think is interesting when you’re talking about Tart’s response to your question, it’s in the west, and in particularly in the United States, we think of ourselves as being so free, free, freedom. And yet, if you are not free to control your consciousness, or manipulate your consciousness in any way you see, isn’t that the core fundamental freedom that you could ever have? Hey, I am free to have my consciousness and manipulate it any way I want.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: I gave my two cents worth about freedom in the book; I’m so steeped in yogic thought now that the idea makes no sense to me whatsoever. It literally makes no sense, we’re in a world of relative existence where everything conditions everything else, and there’s absolutely no freedom. I’m a highly deterministic person actually. It’s very, very complex, it’s extraordinarily complex, and these psychedelic experiences open you up to the subtle complexities involved in it, but ultimately—this idea of freedom is just another ghost in our mind that draws—it’s like a carrot that draws people forward into experience.
Alex Tsakiris: We just have to be kind of careful with that because it/s at a level that is so beyond what we experience on a day-to-day basis. What we experience even in these extended consciousness realms that people achieve. If we’re really going to look at it from a sociological standpoint or from an anthropological standpoint, we say there’s a lot of ground, there’s a lot of territory to traverse before we get to that ultimate determinism where there’s this kind of unified consciousness, and it’s all gone up. We have afterlife experiences, we have past lives, and we have a lot of other stuff that we want to process before we get to that kind of—
Dr. Donald DeGracia: I agree. It would be a whole discussion about that, I don’t want to go into that, it would definitely be a whole discussion. But yeah, it’s very complex, that’s why I added that in there.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, and you know where I thought we might end, because you do have a such a unique perspective and you’ve given—and you’re at a vantage point that is unique too in terms that you’re deeply knowledgeable about science, but then you also have this broader view of where things might be heading from a consciousness perspective. I was wondering what you thoughts were on parapsychology, and kind of this western approach to compound it into this deeper understanding of consciousness? And I want to twist it around and say, is there a way they can do that along the lines they’ve been heading? You hinted at they kind of have to take a different path. Some science is able to make that leap over and say forget all that, we’re going to take a quantum view of things, and they leap forward. And others are stagnant and stay with this kind of materialistic ‘the world is out there, and I’m in here, and I have to measure it out there.’ Can parapsychology succeed with that kind of materialistic or at least dualistic kind of view of things? And if they can, how would they do it? How would you do Ganzfeld experiments? How would you do experiments are the old para-lab at Princeton? How can they find this?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: My short answer is no, it’s a fantasy. It’s not going to work. I have another free online book if I can blow the corn on that, it’s called Beyond the Physical. It’s a very wordy book, I wrote it when I was much younger and it rambles on and on, but it’s got a lot of interesting things in it. In one of them, there’s a discussion about that exact issue and the starting point is, how can you talk about ‘anomalous phenomenon’ when we don’t even know how our own mind works? How is it that I actually understand you? What is it that I’m understanding? What is that process? What does it mean to see the world? What are colors? The Qualia problem, we don’t even know how to solve the Qualia problem, and you’re going to go trying to do that stuff? Talk about putting the cart before the horse, right? So that’s the angle that I’ve come at this at, and so to me—and the kind of broader way and context to have this in, is something that you hear mystical people say often is, the most awe-inspiring mysteries are the most common, mundane things in our everyday lives. Our very act of being aware of the world, the thing that we do every day when we get up, we have no idea how that works. We totally take it for granted and we just go doing it. Were completely instinctive about it, we’re no different than the way an animal is, the way a spider builds a web, the way a spider just mindlessly build a web, we just mindlessly go around the world conscious of it. How does that even happen? Let’s just deal with that first.
And then these other things, what’ll happen, they’ll just evaporate. Once you start to answer these question from the angle I’m suggesting, is that you’re going to be led into yoga which will very systematically walk you into the other worlds. The other worlds exist, period. If you don’t believe—like I say in the book, ‘If you don’t believe them, go do retail sales and go work in a factory, you have no right being in this realm.’ If you want to pretend to be an intellectual, you need to be ready to deal with this stuff. And these things are real, and just because we’re in a barbaric culture, doesn’t mean every human that has ever existed shares this barbarity. You can go learn this stuff and experience it for yourself, and see—and it’s very complicated. It’s not trivial, this practice mentality is very, very important; you have to approach this stuff like you would seriously. Like if you were learning a musical instrument, or learning mathematics, or anything. It’s not a joke at all, so there’s this kind of weird glibness that surrounds it and you have to be prepared with that, you can’t even begin to approach it that way.
And then when you bring it back to parapsychology, there’s always an ambivalence that I feel towards these things because there’s some degree of sincerity of these people who undertake this efforts. But there’s the principle of the lever, you want to put your effort where you’re going to get the best return. And taking the methods of statistics that Fisher invented, and trying to quantify statistical events, is not the best place to put the lever, by a long shot. I told you my opinion of where to put the lever, let’s figure out where the mind and consciousness are in the first place, and how they link to the brain in the body. Once you start to go down that path, then you’re going to naturally go into this so-called anomalous areas, and see that they’re actually very natural, they’re not anomalous at all, they’re very natural. So I’ve read through the parapsychology literature, and it basically has the same problem hat my field has, this reliance on statistics in an inappropriate way. That’s really the big difference. I kind of alluded to this earlier, why are biophysicists successful, but biomedicine is not? There’s no cures for cancer, there’s no cures for heart attack, cardiac arrest, stroke—none of that. You can’t stop those processes once they’ve wrought their damage. It has to do with the mindset, right? It’s a statistical mindset, that’s what a clinical trial is, it’s a statistical design. It doesn’t try to understand the mechanisms. Physics, chemistry, they’re all about mechanism; they have a picture in their mind, and this is what I talk about in the book. About we create in our mind a dynamical pattern that matches the pattern in reality. That dynamical pattern in our mind is the model and you use math you can solve that tells you how the thing changes in time, that’s the dynamics, it works. It works. That’s the process that I’m describing in What is Science? That we can somehow tap power through these methods.
Alex Tsakiris: Isn’t that really the problem too? Is that it works? So we try and take these ideas that you’re talking about and we try to over lay them with our culture. You called it a barbaric culture, and I think that’s probably accurate. Consumerism and materialism are so ingrained in our culture, and yet they work. To a certain extent it works, the iPhone works, my Skype works, my lifestyle in the west, which is so far superior to anyone else in the world basically works. So how do we resolve that as well?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: And then it gets very complicated. What it does— this is the stuff you learn when you start to very seriously study yoga. It very quickly becomes personal, right? Throughout What is Science, I cite a lot from a fellow Swami Kratanananda—who I had just discovered like a year ago, and he’s brilliant. And right away he says it opens you up—studying yoga opens you up to true knowledge,. And true knowledge is knowledge about yourself, that’s how you get to the inner worlds is by going through the barriers that you call yourself—your personality. So it does start to turn inwards, and you start to learn what it means to turn inwards, and when you turn inwards, you’re obviously focusing your consciousness in that direction and not outwards. It’s a really weird logic. To kind of summarize it in a broad way, to put into context—the idea is if you really want to understand the world outside of you, you have to go to the center of yourself, because there, everything converges. And if you use your senses to look at the external world, you get this—like I describe in the book, you’re just bouncing off the surface of things, and you never see their essence. This idea that Kant had, of the thing in itself. It seems like a fantasy because you are never going to get it by using your senses to interact with the outer world. But if you go inside—see, everything converges at the center, and by following these methods, you can go into the center where you can touch anything in all of infinity, that’s why yoga has the form it does. That why the yogi doesn’t care about the external world at all, because he knows it’s futile, it’s like trying to grab sand or grab the wind, you’re not going to succeed at all, it’s doomed to fail from the start. They know that from the start and so they don’t even waste time on that level of effort.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s a hard sell though.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yeah, it is.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s a hard sell even personally. I’ve had a personal interest in yoga for 25 years, I wish I would’ve read your books a long time ago, I could’ve saved myself a lot of steps along the way.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: And I don’t want to sell anybody, I’m not trying to sell anyone.
Alex Tsakiris: I’m not suggesting you are, but my point is that we can’t underestimate the extent to which we are enmeshed in that outer world more and more every day. And it can come across as kind of glib to talk about the yogi who realizes that the outer world is meaningless and go within and it’s all there, and it’s like, wait a minute; that’s not how I live my day-to-day, that’s not how I felt when I sent my kids off to school for the first day of school. It isn’t relatable to my life in my questions of who am I, and how did I get here? What do I do?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: And you notice that I’m very kind of low-key in What is Science on that front Just for the reason that we’re talking about, it’s very hard to express this stuff into words, and to express it so it’s meaningful to other people. I mean it really is a person’s personal journey to come to these insights because the truth is, for a western person to take an interest in yoga, you have to have some degree of world-weariness. I don’t know how else to say it. You have to just look at all this, and how much fun can you have? How much glamor? How much of this titillating excitement that the western cultures provide? If you’re some power-mad person. I mean, all of these things are not too different from any kind of addiction, they just keep compounding and getting bigger and bigger. Where does it stop? And you realize, it doesn’t stop. It’s limited by our form, but it potentially could just go onto infinity, right? And at some point, people have some experience along these lines where they just realize there’s got to be a totally—it’s not working, it’s not working. And so you have to go some other way. In my case, it actually has come about through being an intellectual, through studying ideas and contemplating all these different meanings, and realizing that just holding—it’s kind of a very simple insight, but just holding an idea in my mind and thinking that means anything other than I am holding an idea in my mind, that’s what I realized. I can’t hold an idea in my mind and believe it’s anything other than now, that’s where my head is at. I can’t think that the world is this, or the world is that, or that I am this, or consciousness is that or whatever, it’s just an idea in my mind. I can’t recreate my existence in my mind. I can’t recreate existence and ideas.
Alex Tsakiris: You can’t step back into the illusion of—
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Well, I experience ideas as a part of my experience. And what I experience is experience. I live, I’m alive, I have all these things that I go through day in and day out like you and everybody else, and I think certain things about it, but I don’t believe anything I think about because I don’t know, I really just don’t know. So I keep studying and trying to learn and that’s kind of what’s led me into this yoga stuff. Is trying to continue to pursue that because I have one statement in the book, just one sentence, if you don’t understand what Kant was saying, about his whole idea about transcendental idealism—that what we perceive is in our minds and that we don’t have access to the essence of the things that we’re perceiving through our minds. That’s kind of the basis of what I’m getting at here. And there’s more, you exist, you’re a real thing, I only see a superficial of it, right? I get certain clues, cues, stimuli, I builds a certain idea in my mind, what I know is my idea in my mind. I don’t know your essence at all; I just know the kind of artifacts of what your essence leaves in my mind, that’s what I know. So what are you really? How would I get at that question–What am I going to do? Cut you open and dissect you? Weigh your brain? How would you get at that question? That’s the weird thing when you study yoga, you go inside yourself, all the way to the center, and not only are you there, but everything else in infinity is there. That’s the carrot they hold out in yoga. It’s completely fantastic and unbelievable from a western viewpoint. And the only reason I can take it seriously is I’ve gone through large swaths of the western viewpoint and it all looks like the Wizard of Oz to me. I pulled back the curtain and there’s just this little shriveled man, there’s not anything to it, it’s all glamor, and it’s all hypnotism, and when you see through that, there’s not really much there.
Alex Tsakiris: But the yogic tradition isn’t perfect either, that’s the other paradox. We can look at the culture and we can look at the tradition, we can look at some of the great giants in it that have been exposed as having some of the same human frailties that we all fall victim of. That’s not just a recent phenomenon that goes back for long, long periods of time. It raises the same kind of questions. The paradox I see that I can’t overcome with the whole non-dual community, including a lot of the yogic people, is this desperation to achieve something along those lines. It’s like, wait a minute. How would that even make any sense? The old yogic thing is you must want enlightenment like a drowning man wants air. Why? Isn’t that kind of contradictory to the whole idea? Why would you want anything including enlightenment? The paradoxes don’t stop—and the western thought, I think the western yogic tradition has brought a lot of good insights, and it’s held the mirror up in some ways and said, ‘Hey, look at your own bullshit here.’
Dr. Donald DeGracia: That’s a very cool point of view, I agree with that b100%, and that’s why I’m always in that synthetic mode. Let’s mix western and eastern thinking, we both have good things to offer, and we both have a bunch of crap too. And the good things that one has to offer helps to illuminate the crap that the other one has to offer. I agree too, I don’t want to glorify Indian thought, whatever I might say about freedom and liberty, at least we have that type of society over here. At least we don’t have a caste system. And I’m not knocking the caste system, it has a logic to it that is very compelling, right? But even India itself as a modern secular state, has made the caste system illegal. It’s part of their constitution over there, it’s illegal.
Alex Tsakiris: It winds up looking like a lot of our religious traditions, that we might be able trace back to some greater wisdom, but it’s so contorted at this point, it has the absolute opposite effect.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yup, yup, exactly. So you know, one of the chapter titles in What is Science, is The World is a Network of Unintelligible Relationships. That’s Swami Kratanananda quote. That’s kind of what we’re sitting here telling each other. It is, and what can you do? You sit back, and what stance do you take towards it? I don’t know, I’, not going to tell anyone what to do. Sometimes I’m amused by it, sometimes it freaks me out. All I can figure is there’s this outer—one way the yogis teach it, is that the surface of life, this outer rim that we’re experiencing of manifoldness, of differentness, it’s like this chaotic bubbling storm. It’s just an internal level of reality. Maybe it lasts for 300 trillion years, and then it cease for 200 trillion years, and it comes back for 300 trillion, it’s whatever, it’s not like I’m going to see it. But that’s about the level that I’ve come to look at it as. It’s just this level that we’re experiencing, it is what it is, it’s good, it’s bad, and it’s just everything. Probably the best image that I can find that captures it is, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Bhagavad Gita?
Alex Tsakiris: Just parts.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: There’s the—one of the passages where Arjuna asks Krishna to reveal his true self, and I swear to God man, that is like one of my favorite things I’ve ever read because it’s literally everything. Literally, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, just everything. And that was really—that passage, I read that when I was in college, and I’m like, ‘What? This is these people’s idea of God?’ I mean, there was no God and the devil, it was just all God, everything was God, and there was no distinction. It was just everything, good, bad, and ugly, all of it. And that was really the thing that hooked me into that way of thinking, I was like, ‘who are these people and why do they think like this?’ And so I don’t—what it’s done to me is, I don’t—there’s no way in my human form that I’m really going to get a grasp on any of this stuff. And what I’ve learned again, those 10,000 hours of doing science, if you just apply yourself and keep focused on little specific things, you can actually make accomplishments and get things done.
Alex Tsakiris: And it’s a small price to pay in that grander scheme of things that you just talked about. As soon as you put it in a trillion year perspective, what’s 10,000 hours? So where do you go from here Don? What’s next for you? What are your interests both in your paycheck life, but probably more importantly for what we’re talking about—where do you want to go with this exploration of yoga and consciousness?
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Well, with respect to the paycheck life, we maybe should do another talk about that, because it’s very, very interesting where that’s going. And that actually, you mentioned at the very beginning about the nonlinear dynamics work that I’m doing and believe it or not, it was completely conditioned by learning all these eastern ideas. It’s this idea that everything is dynamical patterns that you learn from studying yoga, so if that’s true, well I study cell death, so why can’t cell death be dynamical pattern too? So the connection, the very thought of that came from studying these Indian ideas. So that’s all very interesting and I’m very excited about that, and I don’t want to go off on that too much. With regard to this other stuff, I don’t know. It’s just always—I’m kind of like Brownian motion, I don’t have any direction, I’ve never really had any direction. As I learn the yoga ideas, they exert an influence, they’re kind of like acid in a way, and they corrode away all the crap. And so there’s these basic ideas in yoga called Yama and niyama, and they’re like the very, very—like I compare it in the book, to reading and writing. You can’t do science unless you know how to read and write. And you can’t do yoga unless you do Yama and niyama. And so—if anybody asks me, ‘Do you practice yoga?’ I can say yes because I just practiced Yama and niyama.
Alex Tsakiris: And go over really—just quickly—what those are, because again, as you allude to, most of us spend our life just trying to aspire to some of the basics there.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Yeah, well I mean, the idea—like I say in the book, it’s kind of like the ten commandments, but you don’t do it because you’re going to go hell, you do it because it’s the logical necessity to move on to the deeper stages. And it’s basically the idea of getting rid of all the unnecessary stuff in your mind that would block you from progressing further into yoga, And developing those habits that will allow you to deal with things as they arise later on even as you go into more advanced stages. So both Yama and niyama have several different aspects like for example, like Yama, you’re supposed to tell the truth—
Alex Tsakiris: Truthfulness, right.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Not harm things, abstinence is one of them, which a lot of people in the west don’t want to hear. One of the things way back early on when I was in college, when I first got exposed to the ideas of Raji yoga and Patanjali’s yoga was about—just this one about truthfulness because the book I was reading made the point, how can you know what is truth if you can’t tell the truth, ad that has always stuck with me, just unbelievably. To this day, it’s been a guiding light in my thinking. And it’s mot just like telling the truth to somebody else where you might have a lie where you’re covering up something bad you did, it’s not that. It’s telling the truth to yourself about deep issues. Am I delusional? Would I believe these things? Why do I believe X? Does it make me feel good? Does it make me feel more important than somebody else? You know what I’m saying? It’s that level of truth with yourself.
Alex Tsakiris: And it goes hand in hand with seeking the truth, which is kind of a hard thing, but we all intuitively know when we’re pushing back our own nonsense and seeking a deeper truth, I think that’s part of it too.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: Right, and so these are the kind of things that I find—as I read the stuff, it’s just very natural that—it makes you think and reflect on these things and go, ‘Oh man, I’m kind of stupid. I need to clean up these different parts.’ You’re right, this whole idea of trying to become enlightened and be infinite and all that stuff, it makes no sense. Go drop acid and spend a night doing it, you’re not going to want to do it all the time. It’s not the point. And even one of the core ideas in the yoga sutras is that it would never come to pass anyways, unless you clean up your karma, which is what you alluded to right? After this life, we make all these reverberations in the universe, and it brings us back. We keep recycling in our lives until that stuff cleans up anyway. And if there’s some greater purpose to it or whatever, I don’t know. Again, this idea of karma—Newton identified karma. That’s Newton’s third law, for every action, there’s a reaction. So it happens in the grossest forms of physical matter and it happens all the way up through the psychological and spiritual levels that we exist at. Those are kind of the practical things that I focus on now.
Alex Tsakiris: Take a minute and tell people what they’re going to find if they go to your excellent website. Dondeg.com.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: All my ramblings. I just put everything up. Again, this kind of comes back to the early influence of yoga. Somehow my karma is such that the stuff I do for my paycheck, I’m more than satisfied with that. And so all this other stuff that I do, it’s just giving back to the world. The world gave to me, and I give back to the world, that’s kind of how I look at this. Early on, where my ego drove me a little bit, I tried to sell some of my material. Let’s see, I was called arrogant, other people didn’t understand what I was talking about, and so I was just like screw this. And boom, there was the internet. And I started making friends and finding other people with these common interests, and I’m all for the spirit of just giving the information away. It’s kind of like a Johnny Appleseed mentality.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s really quite an amazing body of work, and we’ll obviously have links to a lot of this stuff in the show notes, but I do encourage everyone to go to the website and check it out. You’ll find something there that will strain your brain in one way or another. It’s just been great having you on the phone, again our guest has been Dr. Donald DeGracia from Wayne State University School of Medicine, and from Dondeg.com. Don, thanks again so much for joining me.
Dr. Donald DeGracia: This is great Alex, I really appreciate it, thank you very much for the opportunity.