Interview with author Anthony Peake examines how our understanding of time may effect our understanding of the near-death experience.
Alex Tsakiris: I’m totally with you that materialism just falls apart as soon as we start incorporating any of the most recent interesting work on consciousness. Materialism just doesn’t hold up. But your interpretation of the near-death experience is centered around this idea that we are then reliving our life in a real-death experience. I just want to tie that to a couple of observations I’ve made from some of the other guests I’ve had on, particularly Dr. Jeff Long and Dr. Pim van Lommel.
What I couldn’t square with your explanation is the continuity of experience of the near-death experiencers, right? What these folks say over and over again is, “Hey, I remember I was in the helicopter being air-lifted out, and I was bleeding really bad and then boom! I was outside of the helicopter and I saw my body and I saw it land. Then I was in Heaven. And then I was back.” There is this continuity of experiences that seem very “this worldly.”
Anthony Peake: I still argue that these people when they have near-death experiences, are having “near” death experiences, not actual death experiences in that they do come back. They do come back to this place and they do come back and exist in this place and survive in this place. They come back to be able to tell us of the experience that they had.
Whereas I would argue in a real-death experience, when they don’t come back. And that’s the problem with my overall hypothesis because in order for it to happen, they don’t come back, in which case I could never ever prove it, I suppose. But when we ascribe the near-death experiences that are recorded within the annals of various books on near-death experience, there are individuals that come back. They have incredible experiences; they have obviously clearly no ethic experiences and experiences in many ways to me that parallels many of the experiences that people when they have dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and various other substances.
So clearly it is sort of brain generated but not and that’s the danger of the trap we’re falling into of assuming that because these things are caused by brain chemicals therefore it is proof that it is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. I’d argue that the brain chemicals facilitate a wider experience of reality than you would get if you were embodied, as it were.
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Anthony Peake to Skeptiko. He’s the author of several compelling books including, Is There Life After Death? and The Daemon. He’s here to talk about his latest book, The Labyrinth of Time: The Illusion of Past, Present, and Future. Welcome, Tony. Thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko.
Anthony Peake: Great to be here, Alex. Really, really great.
Alex Tsakiris: So, Tony, your name has popped up more than a couple of times on the Skeptiko forum so I know a lot of folks are familiar with your work. But for those who aren’t, can you tell us a little bit about where you’re coming from, what your books are basically about? And also I’m very curious for how you got started in this field.
Anthony Peake: Sure. My background, I’m a social scientist. I have a degree in sociology and I did a Master’s equivalent at the London School of Economics. My angle is from a non-scientific point of view rather than from the angle of social science in understanding the dynamics of belief systems, I suppose, more than anything else.
But effectively the reason I started on my journey as a writer and an explorer in these areas was because of certain unusual phenomenon that I have experienced throughout my life, including the phenomenon of déjà vu. Or just the general déjà vu sensation of recognizing something, recognizing a set of circumstances. I was so intrigued by this that I decided to take a year out of work as a management consultant to just get my act together and see if I could write a book on the subject.
Alex Tsakiris: Tony, I’m sorry. Let me interject here with a question. So do you feel like your experiences with déjà vu were more profound than other people? As you talked to other people were you experiencing that more frequently or more deeply than other people or was it just something that was curious to you?
Anthony Peake: On the contrary. My experiences of the déjà vu sensation was actually very gentle, very weak, as it were as I’ve subsequently discovered after talking with individuals who have a profoundly strong déjà vu sensation at the extent that they know what’s going to be happening for the next 10 or 15 seconds.
I was interviewed on the BBC Radio Merseyside in the UK and somebody phoned up while I was doing the program on déjà vu phenomenon and this guy described the most amazing, effectively short-term precognizant experience whereby he knew exactly what was going to be happening on the television. He walked out of the room and he sealed in an envelope what he knew his wife would say when he walked back into the room. Then he walked back into the room and handed her the piece of paper and it was exactly what he claims she was going to say.
So I was very intrigued by this. In fact, I contacted a guy you might be quite interested in contacting yourself, a guy called Dr. Arthur Funkhouser, who is an American who lives in Switzerland. He has a Ph.D. in physics but he’s now a Jungian analyst in Switzerland. Art has written a series of papers on the concept of the deja experience and Art considers the deja experience, in fact, is you have a precognitive dream and you are starting to recall the precognitive dream as you’re actually living the dream effectively in three-dimensional reality, which is quite intriguing and one that I discuss in my books.
But I’ve also moved on from this idea of the deja phenomenon into taking it into the near-death experience idea in that I’m now a professional member of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. As you’re probably aware, Dr. Bruce Greyson actually wrote the Foreword for my first book.
And what I’m suggesting is the déjà vu sensation can be explained if we take one section of the near-death experience typology which is when people turn around and say, “My life flashed before my eyes.” It’s quite a standard thing that people turn around and say, “I just saw my life. I either was a witness to it or I saw it flashing in front of my eyes.” Or, “I was catapulted back to a particular event in my life and I relived it again in three-dimensional reality or a three-dimensional recreation of my past life.” I came to the conclusion that possibly this can be paralleled with another descriptive and that is the idea that my life flashed before my eyes.
It’s again something we get standardly when people turn around and say, “Everything flashed before me but on top of that everything seemed to slow down. There was this kind of sensation of slowing down.” I thought to myself for a second, ‘Is it possible that in a real-death experience rather than a near-death experience it doesn’t flash past?’
In other words, when you really die, you actually go back and effectively live your life again in some form of internally-created model of your life, which was hinted at. Effectively I know you’ll be aware of the Penfield experiments where Penfield actually placed an electrode onto the exposed temporal lobes of conscious patients when he was doing research on intractable epilepsy. Effectively he was able to reproduce in these individuals past life experiences.
So I came to the model that possibly when we are in a real-death experience our life doesn’t flash in front of our eyes but we actually have it in a literal second-by-second recreation of our life. In which case, then, the déjà vu sensation can be explained in the sense that suddenly it is exactly what it says in the term. It’s the recognition of the fact that you’ve lived this moment before.
As you’re probably aware, there has been recent research done over here in the UK by Dr. Akira O’Connor of Leeds University. Akira works with Professor Chris Mullin on a particular research unit in the Department of Psychology which is researching déjà vu experiences. They have found that people who are born blind have deja sensory experiences, i.e., already heard.
Now why this is important is that if you read most of the books on psychology, they dismiss the déjà vu experience by using something called the “visual pathways” explanation which was suggested in 1961. What the visual pathways model, by Robert Efron, suggests is that the non-dominant hemisphere of the brain effectively processes visual information a split second before the dominant hemisphere does and that information crosses the corpus callosum and is presented to consciousness twice.
But the problem with this is Akira O’Connor has shown that the pathways of hearing are quite different—the neurological pathways are quite different in hearing from sight. So the visual pathway’s effectively out of the water. So we’re back now trying to find another explanation for the deja sensation. So what I’m suggesting is that we could be living our lives again in a matrix-like recreation of our lives.
Alex Tsakiris: Let me jump in there. Before we get to that I want to retrace our steps because I think you’re really pulling together a lot of different things in a very interesting way. First let me start by saying I love the way that you pulled apart the traditional accepted explanation of déjà vu. You brought forward some new research that suggests that that probably isn’t right.
I think that just speaks to the approach that you take. I mean, you go and survey the research and really dig into it in a really thorough way, which is to be commended. I think you’re also trying to do that with the near-death experience research and all this other research. So with that kind of grounding that I appreciate, I want to try and pull some of these things together because we’ve never talked about the déjà vu experience but I’m really glad you’re bringing it up.
I think it’s very intriguing in the way that you’re talking about it and I think it does obviously link to precognitive dreaming, which we have talked about. We’ve had several folks on who have both experienced that and have researched that a little it. I think you also have some interesting things to say about out-of-body experience and near-death experience, all in this realm of being outside of the mainstream explanation for consciousness is a product of the brain rather than something that is outside the brain.
So let’s try and pull those together, in particular how they might all fit in some of your theories and in particular this concept that you have of time. Maybe you can go back and tell us specifically how that relates to some of the theories that you’re putting forward in your new book.
Anthony Peake: Okay. In my model of time, in The Labyrinth, I go into great detail about the philosophy, the psychology, the neurology of time perception. When we perceive time, exactly what are we perceiving? Exactly what is time? Is time something that exists out there that floats past us as Marcus Aurelius would say? Or is it something that is internally generated? And of course if you go back to the original writings of people like Henri Bergson, they would argue that there’s a psychological time and there’s an external time and these are two very, very different things.
You can also go into the work of people like J. W. Dunne who would suggest that there are different types of time; there’s Time 1 and Time 2 and these times are the times that time is measured by.
But to me the whole concept of time is how internal is it to me? I always use the example of you wake up in the morning when the alarm clock goes off and you turn the alarm clock off. You put it onto Snooze and you go back into a dream state. When you’re in the gogic-liminal state you can have a whole dream sequence.
In my book I cite the famous Alfred Maury case where he had a whole dream about the French Revolution which went on for literally weeks in his own mind and at the end of the dream he felt the guillotine hit the back of his neck as the headboard of his bed fell off and hit him in the back of the neck. So clearly here we have—you know, do we back-create time or is it something to do with consciousness itself?
I’m intrigued, for instance, by the implications of the work of somebody you’ve had on the show before, Dean Radin, when he did work with Dick Bierman on the way in which it seems that human consciousness can monitor the contents of its immediate future. How they did this was they wired up subjects with material that could actually measure the electrical conductivity of the skin. The skin apparently reacts if you’re in fear. There is a slight change in the electrical impulses in the skin.
What they did was they had individuals sit in a darkened room looking at a series of pictures which would be a fluffy pussycat, things that were nice and gentle. But then within these pictures would be a horrific photograph of a car crash or something awful. And consistently the individual’s skin reacted around about 0.4, 0.5 of a second before the photographs were shown.
Now this very much reinforces some of the work that was done earlier with something called the Pfi Phenomenon whereby it seems that again we either buffer information before it’s presented to consciousness or we can see the future in a slight way. So clearly time is not what it seems and there’s more and more information about the way in which the nature of time—in fact, there is an English mathematical physicist called Julian Barbour who’s written a book called, The End of Time, and he takes the model that time actually doesn’t exist at all. It’s consciousness that actually makes time what it is.
Alex Tsakiris: Right. Well, you know, we just had Daryl Bem on the show and you’re probably familiar with his work. He made quite a splash last year. This takes the whole time thing in another direction, right? His experiment with these college students was hey, memorize these words and now after the fact go study the words and we find out that the words that you studied after the fact affected your score before. So the relationship there between time is completely backwards in a way we don’t understand.
So with all that, Tony, what does that mean? We’re here discussing this in this consensus reality that we have. So you and I and our listeners are all saying, “Okay, I can play with those concepts but I can only do it for another 30 minutes because I have to go get lunch or do whatever.” There is this consensus reality where we’re operating inside of this time dimension that we call can feel and experience and relate to other people. But what’s really going on here?
Anthony Peake: It’s an interesting point. You say that we all exist within this consensual reality and time is part of that consensual reality but you and I both know, of course, that if you actually apply some elements of quantum physics to this and you apply the idea of the implications of the Copenhagen interpretation in the sense that the act of observation actually collapses the wave function into a point- particle, which actively suggests that the act of observation by a conscious mind literally creates the universe around you.
So in which case your time has been created by you because your time exists within your “phaneron” as Charles Peirce called it. You know, the idea of this is your worldview and my worldview is totally different so my phaneron is over-riding yours for the moment. But our concept of consensual reality only overlaps as long as our minds are in tune, as it were, resonating with each other, I suppose. So there is the argument that you could, in effect, be living within a three-dimensional computer program for want of a better term that all the time that you experience and everything within that time is all part and parcel of the creation of your own mind, as it were. So it can get quite deep.
And these are the things that I’m doing in my books. I’m now playing around with the idea of how consciousness relates to reality. Is there a link between brain chemicals? My latest book that I’m working on now is I’m working on the pineal gland and the idea that the pineal gland internally generates DynaMatrix and effectively that brings about the creation of the reality you perceive. So time itself suddenly—it’s suddenly one of these very, very weird concepts that are very difficult to nail down.
But what I suggest is that you know we discussed the idea of materialism and we discussed the idea of idealism, for want of a better term, of the approach. But effectively I believe that dualism has had its day in the sense that there is a deeper reality. There’s a deeper reality that could be what Stuart Hameroff touches upon in his ORCH ideas that there is a reality behind the reality in which everything that we perceive has a deeper level and things can be explained about that level, if that makes sense.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, I think it makes sense but I’m trying to pull it in a little bit closer where I can start tying it down to other things that we’ve talked about. Also, I guess, I’m trying to pull it in in a way that it has meaning for me in my life, okay? So what does it mean? What would I do differently?
And then #2, how can I test that against other things that I think I know, which I think would be very interesting to talk to you about. In particular we can talk about near-death experience, out-of-body experience, the reinterpretation you have of what’s going on there. I think also the psychedelic experience I’d love to hear what you think is going on there, as well.
So why don’t we try and do that? Let’s go down this path with you, Tony. What are we going to do differently and then how are we going to test whether or not we’re on the right path?
Anthony Peake: Okay, where I’m coming from or where I’m going to which is probably a more accurate reference, is that when I wrote my first book I didn’t expect anybody to actually buy it and expect to have a publisher. Now I’m sitting back and 40,000 copy sales later and I still pinch myself and find it hard to believe what happened.
It seems to be developmental and I’m never quite sure where I’m going with a lot of the work I do. My books do seem to be interesting and they do seem to be following a pattern. The pattern seems to be going down the route that what we consider to be consensual reality is really being created by information that’s being drawn up from somewhere else.
In other words, the visual world that we perceive, the phenomenal world of experience, is actually internally generated by the brain. Well, by the brain is the wrong term. Even by saying it’s the brain suggests that consciousness is an active phenomena of the brain. Consciousness exists in a field and what the brain does is it eschews into that field.
Alex Tsakiris: But even there, don’t we have to be careful with that? I mean, I love that analogy but it breaks down at certain levels which is the problem we’re always going to run into. The whole field thing, we don’t know enough about consciousness to say that it truly acts like a field. We don’t know how fields work in general, right?
Anthony Peake: No, we don’t.
Alex Tsakiris: We don’t know how morphogenic fields work or any of these fields work. So isn’t it dangerous territory there? And we certainly don’t know that the interactive effect between brain and consciousness. So again, where do we grab onto this? How do we start talking about it in a way that we can make it useful to us in our lives and how to live our lives?
Anthony Peake: I suppose I’m in the wonderful position, I suppose, for you to criticize me. It’s enough that they can. But because I’m not an academic and I don’t have academic tenure anywhere I can play with ideas and throw them around and try to see if they fit. That’s what I’ve been doing in my books. I always say to people, “Please, please, please just because I come to these conclusions now doesn’t necessarily mean that in six months’ time somebody won’t come along and give me another bit of information that I can put into the mixture that will actually change my ideas and concepts.”
Let’s go back to the idea of living your life again in this three-dimensional recreation. Let’s go back to that and go back to the idea of if you’re living your life again in a recreation of your life, can you change that second life that you’re living? I know that on your forum people were saying that what Anthony Peake is talking about is the eternal return and the eternal returns, which in fact it is. But it’s an updated version of this.
The idea that—gosh, where do I even start? If it is possible that everything that you perceive and everything that you encounter in your life is buffered by consciousness or buffered by some kind of recording mechanism in the brain, which is what the Bierman/Radin idea postulates is that if it is buffered it has to be recorded and if it is recorded it has to be recorded somewhere and kept somewhere. Now what I suggest is that this recording is downloaded for want of a better term, into the zero-point field, the Akashic field, the Akashic record, which very much—an associate of mine, Ervin Laszlo, has been building a model for some time now.
Now this zero-point field record has a downloading of all the experiences recorded by all living beings and it’s like a huge database, a huge computer program. What is more, if you take the ever as many worlds in circulation as possible in physics or you take the later versions with alliterations of this such as the work being done by Stephen Hawking and his associate Tom Hertog at the moment, or indeed if you take the John Cramer viewpoint of quantum physics, all of these are suggesting that everything that can happen is encoded out there. It already exists. It is already there to be experienced.
So if this is the case it means that if you are living your life again within this matrix-like recreation of your life, something I call the Bohmian I-Max, you can change this. So in effect, if you lived your life the last time around and you made a particular mistake, a particular error, you can change it once you are aware of the fact of what happened last time around. The analogy works rather similarly to a first-person computer game when you are playing the game and you follow your avatar sprite that’s on the screen until the sprite comes up on a circumstance where it gets killed. Then you go back to the beginning of the game.
Now what I suggest is that we are existing in a computer game and what is happening here is that there is a part of you, which I call the Daemon which I know you want to touch on, and the Daemon is the game-player. The Daemon is the person who remembers the game the last time you played it. Now what then happens is you’re going through the game as your lower self, which I call the Eidolon, which is the sprite on the screen for want of a better word.
As you travel along in the game, the Daemon will remember that something profoundly difficult or dangerous happened here. This is where you get the examples where people turn around and say, “I just felt something was wrong. I felt something was dangerous. A voice in my head warned me. I had an inkling. I had a sensation. I had a feeling.” That’s the Daemon.
And if you act upon what the Daemon’s warning you, you change the program. You don’t go down that particular corridor where you meet the dangerous creature that kills you. As the game-player does on a computer game, it takes you off on another direction.
Now, this becomes quite intriguing because this could explain why it is that as we get older the instances of déjà vu sensations drop off. It could be that as we progress through life there will be a Daemon-induced change in your life that puts you and the Daemon off on a new course which you haven’t experienced before. In which case there will be no opportunity for recognition necessarily. So there will be no danger or sensations because you wouldn’t remember it.
But of course, if you are living your life and you’re still living the same life you lived last time around, you would recognize things because you did recognize them. So I argue—and this is pure supposition and it’s nothing more so please don’t say it’s anything other than this—that we live these lives many, many times. Because at the end of the next life you will then fall out of time at the moment of death again and again you will live the life again and again and again.
I use the analogy of the movie, Groundhog Day because Phil Connors in the movie lives the same day over and over again. What he does over many, many days, literally thousands of them as Danny Rubin has told me who was the writer of the movie, he starts to do good for good’s sake. Initially he does all the negative things but then he starts doing good things. By doing the good things you live the perfect life. By living the perfect life you then are allowed to move on to whatever it is that is beyond this life.
Remember, all of these things, all the things I’ve described, have been what I call the Bohmian I-Max, which by the way is a recast done down at Cartesian Theatre. It’s my little dig at reductionist materialism in terms of the Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained. In the Bohmian I-Max you live your life over and over again and then you live the perfect life.
So it’s completely hypothetical but it has an inner sense to it. Danny Rubin, who was the scriptwriter, tells me that he’s bought a copy of my first book for most of his friends saying, “This guy has done the philosophy of my movie,” and I’ve absolutely delighted in that.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s fascinating. And let’s jump in there because I like your playing of the supposition, hypothetical theorizing game because as I said, I think you’re very thoughtful about the way you approach it and you do try and tie it to some very important science.
So let’s start again with saying that the first conclusion that you come to that I’m totally with you on is that materialism just falls apart really quickly as soon as we start incorporating any of the most recent interesting work on consciousness. Materialism just doesn’t hold up. So we’re together on that. We come over to this other side.
I guess I do feel a need. I want to push on a couple of these things because I want to try and understand them the best way we can. The best way for me to do that is to push a little bit. I guess one place I’d start is with your interpretation of the near-death experience in this idea that we are then reliving our life in a real-death experience. I just want to tie that to a couple of observations I’ve made from some of the other guests I’ve had on, particularly Jeff Long and Dr. Pim Van Lommel.
What I couldn’t square with your explanation is the continuity of experience of the near-death experiencers, right? What these folks say over and over again is, “Hey, I remember I was in the helicopter being air-vaced out and I was bleeding really bad and then boom! I was outside of the helicopter and I saw my body and I saw it land. Then I was in Heaven and then I was back.”
There is this continuity of extraordinary conscious experiences that seem very “this worldly.” This time frame oriented, if you will. So what I mean is their perception of time was really pretty accurate, you know? They can tell you pretty specifically how long they were gone in that other world because they know because we have a record of it in terms of how long they were dead before they were resuscitated. So what do you make of the continuity of the experience of the near-death experience?
Anthony Peake: Well, I suppose the issue is coming down to time perception. My reading of many of the cases of near-death experience, including individuals I’ve spoken to having had near-death experiences, is wherever they go during the near-death experience it is a place that is timeless. It’s one of the things that I think is consistently reported that, “I felt that the place I was existing in, time did not exist.”
Alex Tsakiris: Right.
Anthony Peake: Now, there are cases where individuals go away and they go to whatever place they go towards the light, and in the light they meet relatives, they meet friends. They discuss issues with people. Some people even claim that they go to some form of trial situation or something, or they’re shown parts of their past.
Now these all take place in many cases in a very, very short time period, not a very, very long time period. So relative to that it takes a very, very long time. So they feel they’ve been away for a considerable amount of time whereas when they come back into their body, only a few minutes have taken place, you know? They’re still in resuscitation or somebody is still pressing down on their chest trying to bring them to.
Alex Tsakiris: Exactly, but would that really fit into your model? That’s much like a dream, right? Especially a very deep dream. We can have that same experience of timelessness. I’m with you that that is consistently reported by the near-death experiencers. I’m just not sure how that fits in with your model of what’s going on at the moment of death. In particular, and I’m sure you’ve read these accounts, you have people that go in and out of these other dimensions, right?
“So I went up into Heaven and then I came back down and I was outside of my body and then I went back up to Heaven again and then I came back and finally I was thrown inside of my body.” So there doesn’t seem to be this connection with this dimension, this world, that I’m not sure from my reading of it, that could really fit into your model.
Anthony Peake: Well, I think when it comes down to it we will take different points of view. I know from reading your previous interviews on this, I still argue that these people when they have near-death experiences, are having near-death experiences, not actual death experiences in that they do come back. They do come back to this place and they do come back and exist in this place and survive in this place. They come back to be able to tell us of the experience that they had.
Whereas I would argue in a real-death experience, when they don’t come back. And that’s the problem with my overall hypothesis because in order for it to happen, they don’t come back, in which case I could never ever prove it, I suppose. But when we ascribe the near-death experiences that are recorded within the annals of various books on near-death experience, there are individuals that come back. They have incredible experiences; they have obviously clearly no ethic experiences and experiences in many ways to me that parallels many of the experiences that people when they have dimethyltryptamine and various other substances.
So clearly it is sort of brain generated but not and that’s the danger of the trap we’re falling into of assuming that because these things are caused by brain chemicals therefore it is proof that it is just an epi-phenomenon of the brain. I’d argue that the brain chemicals facilitates a wider experience of reality than you would get if you were embodied, as it were. But I suppose the issue still comes down to me that the commonality of the way in which individuals do say they have their life flash before their very eyes.
I have an example of this. There’s an associate of mine who had a drowning experience and hypothermia at the South of England. What was interesting with his experience was that he had three-dimensional flash-backs to incidents in his life. Like one example was an amazing one where—he’s called Bill Murtha, by the way, and he’s written a book called, Dying for Change.
But in it he finds himself running across the street in East London when he was about nine years old and he looks up and he sees a car coming at him. The car hits him and it was something that happened to him when he was nine years old. Suddenly he feels himself pulled out of his body again and the next minute he’s looking down at somebody’s leg and the leg’s wearing stockings and there’s a ladder in the stocking and he sees the fingers of the person playing around with the ladder in the stocking.
Then the person looks up and he sees through the eyes and he realizes she’s driving a car and he then sees a little boy run across the street and the person hits the kid. He realizes he was then feeling all the tragedy and the horror that the woman felt when she knocked him over. He actually was with her as she gets out of the car and sees his body in the road, crumpled and unconscious.
But the weird thing is then he shoots out again and he finds himself at the point of position at the top of the stairs of his house and he hears a knock on the door and he sees his wife and two daughters go to the door. The door is opened and there’s a policeman standing there. The policeman announces that her husband or their father, his body has been washed to shore in Dawlish. The children of this hypothetical future that could happen or probably did happen in an alternate universe whereby he actually ends up being saved.
In fact, I won’t ruin the story of how he was saved but it’s incredible. But he ends up being saved and he ends up changing his life. He’s now fulfilling a life that he feels he would not have fulfilled had the accident not taken place in the first place.
So here we have all these alternative realities playing around within the near-death experience. I know that certain people have near-death experiences where they see alternative futures—the futures that could have been. It’s almost like A Christmas Carol, you know, where Scrooge sees all the alternative futures and the alternative pasts. I believe that is what is taking place where actually in this place where we’re downloading information from this huge field of information that is partially our life and the lives of other people as well. How I will ever prove it I don’t know. But that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment.
I do take your point that in many near-death experiences there is the continuity of experience that people discuss and I do accept that as a fair point.
Alex Tsakiris: I guess where I’m really going, the broader issue for me is I’ve come to the conclusion that you can only take this information so far. I respect and appreciate people like you who want to take it further and take it in another direction and see if it fits over here or if it can be done over there. But it seems to me, what I keep coming to, is there’s some limit to our knowing that is even part of the experience because so many people say they reach this level and they are all-knowing.
And yet when they come back into this body, this dimension, that all-knowing is just a faint memory. I guess it also ties back, to me, which is something you just mentioned in this latest story that you just talked about which sounds fascinating, but there does seem to be this moral imperative God involved here. And I think that’s the big take-away. I do get frustrated sometimes and I don’t really know what your position on this is, but when we skirt around the spiritual issues, because no matter where you start on this stuff I think you pretty quickly come to the spiritual issues.
Then I think you also have to look at how those spiritual issues then fit. That’s another direction that I think you go off in and say, “Hey, the spiritual implications of this are quite significant.” How does this fit with the religion of my upbringing? Other people’s religions? Other spiritual traditions that I generally read about? So what do you make of that? And is there a certain limit to what God wants us to know about all of this, if I can put it in prosaic terms?
Anthony Peake: That’s a fascinating point of view and an interesting one. One of the things that I’ve always tried to do in my writing is to keep an open mind on religion. Like yourself, I know you’re from a Greek Orthodox background. I’m from a Catholic background, not that I’m religious anymore. Like most people I’ve actually become broader-minded than all that.
But as I get older—I’m in my late 50s now—and I’m starting to move back to a more spiritual viewpoint, I suppose, in the sense that I’m fascinated by the writing of a physicist by the name of Bernard Haisch and his idea of what God could be and how everything overlaps into itself. Haisch very much takes a similar viewpoint to Bill Hicks in Bill Hicks’ famous monologue where one guy takes some LSD and he suddenly realizes that he’s a consciousness perceiving itself subjectively.
The overall argument that—it’s always going back to the Buddhist idea that God is everything in many, many ways and the idea that there is an overall plan and it’s to do with the zero-point field. Bernard very much goes on about the idea of the collective unconscious, the collective unconsciousness. We are all part of a greater something that is experiencing itself, for want of a better term.
Now again, this is all hypothetical but the developments that they’re working on now in terms of trying to take information from the zero-point field, understanding exactly what zero-point energy is and what it implies and what it implies for consciousness. I think a model can be built here between the zero-point energy, the ideas of both sides condensates within the brain, the idea of mini-black holes.
There’s a lot of these areas that can be drawn together neurologically which actually states—and again, I don’t know if you’ve read my book on the out-of-body experience but what I suggest in the out-of-body experience is what we’re doing is traveling internally and we’re actually traveling internally within the structures of the zero-point field.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s another point I want to touch on briefly because I was fascinated by your interpretation of what’s going on in the out-of-body experience. But I have another point that I want to push a little bit on. You don’t seem very convinced that there is a reality to the veridical perceptions that people have and the data they bring back. My read of that research suggests that there’s some pretty good examples where that data has been pretty firmly established.
And you focus on the fact that sometimes it’s not clear. I think certainly in the precognitive dreaming and in the remote viewing there is this kind of fogginess but a lot of it particularly in the near-death experience, the research I’m most familiar with, Jeff Long and Jan Holden is another researcher from the University of North Texas who we just had on recently. The statistical analysis of the amount of information that comes back that is confirmed is really high. It’s in the 90% area. So any thoughts on…
Anthony Peake: Yeah, this intrigues me. By the way, Jan actually writes the Foreword and I’ve co-edited a book called, Making Sense of Near-Death Experiences, with two Australian consultant psychiatrists, Mahendra Perera and Karuppiah Jagadheesan. Jan kindly did the Foreword for that one which I thought I’d drop as an aside. I’d like to thank her if she has any chance of listening in on this.
I was desperate to find evidence of veridical perceptions outside of the body. I have to admit, I was very disappointed in the information that I actually found because I was going at it very, very open-minded because this is the approach I take. I went back to many of the cases. The Pam Reynolds case is a classic example. When I started to really go into what really happened—when I went back to the original papers that were written—it’s not quite as convincing as it so seems. I was profoundly disappointed about this.
I started looking at the work of Charles Tart and the work he did, I think it was with Miss Z, and the way in which supposedly she was able to read a six-digit number and get outside of her body. But you look into it in closer detail and it doesn’t quite stack up somehow. I’m very happy to accept if there is information out there that people have got what you would term 95% absolute proof that they had experiences and they saw things that they could not have possibly seen or could not have pulled together by other means, and…
Alex Tsakiris: See, that’s where it gets tricky. This is the territory that skeptics like to tread in. I’m certainly not claiming that you’re in that camp or debunking because I think you’re really coming at it from an honest, open-minded perception. I think the other factor we have to incorporate in is the idea of memory, right?
So in particular, in some of the out-of-body experiencers I’ve spoken with and just recently I spoke with Joe McMoneagle, who is a remote viewer and psychic spy in the Army’s Stargate Project. Fascinating, fascinating guy. He talks about the different methodologies and modalities of remote viewing and how that relates to being psychic and out-of-body experience. The factor that I think has to be incorporated in is memory. Just the fact that you can go out and perceive these things doesn’t mean that you’re going to perfectly recall them.
The data that I’m most familiar with is in the near-death experience and I like the methodology of that research which is to say, “Okay, here’s what you remember. Now go and confirm that and see how much of that is true.” People come back and say, “A very, very high percentage of that, in the 90s, is true.”
Now you can assail that data with all sorts of are you incorporating in all the little facts and this and that. But again, from a memory standpoint and from a personal experience standpoint, I think most of us would accept that if I saw something and then I go talk to somebody, I’m able to figure out whether it really matches my perception. I think we’re all pretty good natural-born skeptics, anyway, so I’m inclined to believe these people when they say, “Hey, I went and confirmed my out-of-body experience and yes, it was in fact accurate.”
Anthony Peake: I think I suppose the point is that we have to go back to extraordinary claims and extraordinary proofs, which I think is a fairly reasonable approach. Now, if we are in a position, and it’s one of the things I really make my points all the time is we’re all on the same side here. In order for us to convince—if we want to convince the serious Reductionists—but in order to validate our position we have to be sure of our facts and we have to approach it with a fair degree of not necessarily skepticism because that’s not the correct approach.
But open-minded skepticism to say, “Could there be another circumstance that this person could have perceived something?” This is very much the approach I take and I try to be as careful as I can be on this in the sense that I didn’t have the experience and that’s always my point. I did not have the experience, therefore I can’t necessarily criticize somebody by what they recall.
Because memory is a fractured thing and if you are having a traumatic experience and an out-of-body experience or a near-death experience, you’re not necessarily going to be focusing on the fact that there might be a computer with a random-generated number on the top of the cupboard as you fly over it. You’re actually experiencing something so extraordinary that your mind is going to be thinking things, and I do accept that.
But my model is that I believe when people have out-of-body experiences they are focusing in on another reality that is very close to this reality but not quite. In my book on out-of-body experience I cite many, many examples of individuals that seem to get it about 80% right. This has always intrigued me because for me, if I get out of my body and I go and walk into my living room, I should see everything that’s in that living room. Whatever the perception is and whatever the way I’m perceiving things is under the point because there is the argument that if I don’t have the organs of sight and hearing, how am I perceiving things? But that’s beside the point.
Alex Tsakiris: But is it? I mean, I can argue just the opposite. That is the point. When you talk about open-minded skepticism I’m with you all the way but it seems that sometimes we become skeptical about the wrong kinds of things. I’d relate to your point. The big thing about out-of-body experiences and near-death experiences is these people don’t have a brain in the way we normally think about having a brain. So we have to come up with a whole different model.
I realize you’re trying to do that, but we have to have a whole different model of what it means to be conscious. In the same way, if you have a sight organ or a hearing faculty that is somehow disassociated with your body, we are in a whole different world. So I’m willing to accept the evidence that we do have.
Again, I’d cite Jan Holden and Penny Sartori who say, “Okay, let’s go talk to these people that recall being resuscitated and when they’re statistically significantly more likely to give accurate information about the resuscitation if they had a near-death experience than if they didn’t, well then I think that’s pretty important data as just the starting point.
Anthony Peake: Oh no, no. I agree with you totally in the sense that if these individuals do perceive and they clearly are having some form of sensory input, instead of saying it doesn’t actually fit in with our paradigm therefore we ignore it, that’s bad science. The whole world empirical means being from experience so we have to take into account what individuals perceive as being important. How the process they perceive is beside the point.
The point I was making though is if I go into another room and I see the things in the room but they’re slightly different—I cite the example of Robert Monroe when he goes over to visit Charles Tart when he’s in and out of body. I mean, he got 50% or 60% of Charles Tart’s new house right. The carpet was the wrong color or something and the people in the room were incorrect. It’s as if it’s a kind of 50% facsimile.
Now if you talk to people who Shamanic travel or people who do these kinds of things, they will always argue that the reality that impinges upon our reality—the reality you go to when you are in these states is a facsimile reality of this. Now this would explain why the errors take place. This would explain why there are inconsistencies, because we’re viewing something that’s not quite this place. It’s a place that adjoins this place but it’s just as real when you’re in it.
If you look into some of the Kabbalah and other esoteric belief systems there’s this argument all the time that there are different vibrational realities and you move within them when you’re in certain states. Now what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to do the science of this. I’m trying to say it’s all well and good to be saying these things, but can we devise a model that is based upon modern scientific understanding of the working of the brain and then adding something to do with the experiential actions and experiences of individuals such as near-death experiencers, such as out-of-body experiencers, such as distance viewers.
Lucid dreamers. I know you’ve had a friend of mine, Robert Waggoner, on the show here. You discussed with Robert about when he goes lucid dreaming. He knows that the lucid dreaming place he goes is real. There’s the instant where he knocks the hats off the individuals and one of the individuals holds the hat on as if it had motivations in its own right.
I think what is happening here is we are perceiving only a very, very small part of a huge reality, a massive reality. We’re just seeing a tiny bit of it and we’re trying to interpret it using our scientific methods which effectively all of our science is based upon lenses and perceiving things through lenses in different ways. Whereas in fact the grand state of reality is probably nearer based on light and this kind of thing.
I know I’m getting into something much more esoteric but I genuinely believe that bridges can be built but the problem is with bridges is you start ending up on a bridge and both sides shoot at you. I’ve been accused of scientism. Someone’s actually accused me of being a Materialist Reductionist.
Alex Tsakiris: Wow. So you are getting it from both sides, then, huh?
Anthony Peake: People call me an absolute woo-woo.
Alex Tsakiris: And you’re a Scientism advocate. Hey, Tony, tell people a little bit about where they can get The Labyrinth of Time: The Illusion of the Past, Present, and Future. I know it’s out in the UK. Is there going to be a U.S. edition? How do people in the U.S. get ahold of it?
Anthony Peake: It will be out in the U.S. and it will be coming out on Kindle. If you want to order advance copies before it’s in America, by all means if you just go onto my website which is www.anthonypeake.com, you can buy it direct off my website. I’ve just taken delivery of the new book. All my books are available off my website but you can get them on Amazon. I know you can get them in bookshops in the U.S.A. because people are buying them in the U.S. and I get feedback quite regularly.
What I’d also like to say is that I’m on a journey here and my journey is involving a lot of people. If there are people out there who think what I’m talking is a lot of rubbish, that’s great. Contact me. Let’s discuss it. Bring your ideas to the table. This isn’t written in stone. Far from it. It’s an alliterative progression of ideas.
I’m regularly on Facebook. There’s also a forum that discusses my work called cheatingtheferryman.com. So come in and get involved. I think that the work you’re doing very much reflects my own. As I say, the amount of information you’ve already gotten in the discussions you have on your site are phenomenal. I’ve said to my associates on Facebook, “Log into this site. Have a look at it because it’s so refreshing.”
Alex Tsakiris: Well, that’s great. That’s really nice of you to say. I welcome that. Let’s make your journey and my journey, let’s have them intersect. I think one way to do that is the forum. I’m going to encourage folks at the end of this interview. I always encourage folks to come check out the Skeptiko forum but let’s also go over and visit Anthony’s forum at www.cheatingtheferryman.com and see if we can share some ideas and join in this journey together. That’s a wonderful way that I’ve always described the Skeptiko project, as well, because I do see it as a personal journey.
Anthony, it’s been just great having you on. Thanks so much for joining me.
Anthony Peake: Thanks very much, Alex. It’s been a wonderful discussion. Thank you.