Dr. Dean Radin’s interest in psi phenomena is leading him to scientifically investigate magical practices.
photo by: Skeptiko
Today we welcome Dr. Dean Radin back to Skeptiko. Dean is, of course, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, as well as a bestselling, award-winning author.
Dean is truly a scientist, as most of you know, because most of you are familiar with his work, and I have a little photo here of the video of him actually in a lab, with a very, very interesting experiment that I think is just fundamental to how we understand consciousness and science, but it’s not even an experiment we’re going to talk about today, because today we’re going to talk about Dean’s new book, Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe.
Alex Tsakiris: So, the book is out April 10th of 2018, and it’s titled, Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe. A title only an agent or a publicist or a publisher could really come up with, right?
Dr. Dean Radin: You got it.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, it’s awesome to have you back and to reconnect with you. You know, if we could, I obviously want to talk about the book a lot, but I really wanted to start with another subject, and a subject that, I don’t know, you’re a pretty humble guy, so I don’t know how you’re going to feel about this, but it’s really the topic of legacy. I’m sure you’ve thought about this a little bit.
I remember way back, to when I interviewed you, many, many years ago when I was starting this show, and I wrote a book a couple of years ago on consciousness and the first chapter of the book opens with this little vignette of me talking to you and I’m asking you about these scientists, two pretty respected scientists, Ray Hyman, from the University of Oregon and Steve Novella, from Yale, Neurology. These guys are laughing at you, they’re actually laughing at Dean Radin and the kind of work that he does and the kind of research that he does, and I just can’t help but think how interesting this history is going to look. Because, when we write this history, there’s no way you’re not right in the middle of it, and if this paradigm change that is happening, we can’t even say it’s about to happen, it’s happening, I mean the materialistic, dopey, mind equals brain, there is no consciousness, I mean that science is gone or is leaving the station for all, except the very diehards.
What’s it going to look like Dean? How do you think you are going to be viewed in the longer lens of science history?
Dr. Dean Radin: It’s been said of Sibelius, I think actually Sibelius, the composer said this, that he was severely criticized during his musical career and he simply responded that, “No one has ever erected a statue to a critic.”
So, from a historical perspective, every advancement in every domain of human performance, of any type, has always attracted severe criticism. So, I take some comfort in reading about the great figures of history and basically all of them are attacked. So, it’s simply par for the course. Some people can take it and other can’t. I guess, I can take it.
Alex Tsakiris: How have you been able to take it? Because I think a lot of people, looking from the outside, you keep a very calm demeanor about you, but there had to be moments when, especially in this age where people freak out at any Twitter post or Facebook comment or anything like that, I mean, from your peers, this kind of stuff. And you had the goods on these guys, for 20 years you’ve known that they’re bullshitting. How have you maintained the ability to, kind of, keep your cool?
Dr. Dean Radin: Well, partially it’s by not reacting instantly. It’s all about impulse control. An adolescent has no impulse control and they just lash out immediately. So, I have, of course, had those same feelings when I read something that I know is false, but you just wait for a while and then you can think about how you want to respond.
In some cases, I don’t respond at all because what’s being said is just nonsense. In other cases, I do respond, but typically in writing. I’ve given up on debates. People sometimes want a live debate, between me and sombody who has a different opinion, and I don’t do that, because it’s a false equivalency for one thing, and the debate is really just a matter of entertainment, and I’m not that interested in entertainment.
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s be clear, it’s a false equivalency when you argue with someone who doesn’t have any evidence, doesn’t have a handle on the data and is just, kind of, expressing an opinion versus you, who’ve replicated an experiment 50 times. I mean, that’s not really a debate is it?
Dr. Dean Radin: Right, and it might be fun for people to watch, but I have no interest in doing that. So, it’s a false equivalency, in terms of the degree of confidence on each side of the debate.
Alex Tsakiris: One more question on this legacy thing. Let’s speculate for a minute, let’s, kind of, project into the future, because I think it’s fun and I think it’s valid to do so at this point. What do you think the writing of this chapter of history, this post-materialism chapter, is going to look like?
I always think back, a long, long time ago, you told me your version of the famous thing about how truth passes through three phases, first it’s ridiculed and then it’s violently opposed and then finally, and the way that you put it, which is a little bit different than the normal way I hear it, but I love the spin, is that, then everyone comes out of the closet and says, “Oh, well if you just carefully read my paper you’ll see that that’s what I was really saying all along,” kind of thing. Do you want to expand on that a little bit?
Dr. Dean Radin: Well actually, you see this repeated through history. Schopenhauer was probably one of the few who said it initially, and it’s been copied in many different ways. The ending of that is that the former skeptics will then start saying, “Oh well, I thought of it first.” That’s the end game.
But again, in looking at the history, especially through the sociology of science lens, you see this again and again. So, you can easily get caught up into the heat of the moment, but I tend to take a long view of everything and from that perspective, I can then see myself as a player in a long game.
So, you asked about post-materialism. Post-materialism, as a word, actually isn’t very good, because it’s a promissory note. So, the way I would put it, is you have to see what’s happening in historical context, that there’s a pre-materialism and then a materialism and then a post-materialism.
So, this evolutionary strand is that pre-materialism, we can think of as before the middle-ages, where everything was considered supernatural and everything was created by Gods and so on, that was before science, so there wasn’t any way of grasping, in any detail, what was going on. So, everything was supernatural.
When science began, it flourished, say in the enlightenment, between the 1500s and the 1700s. In that period a method was developed which allowed us to look, in much more detail, at the nature of nature, and that is materialism. It’s both a philosophical stance and a set of tools to be able to understand things, and we know that it works really great, because it allows us to make things like this, which has more computing power, than any computer in the world 20 years ago, and that will continue. So, it becomes very seductive to imagine that everything can be explained using that philosophical basis.
But what’s happening now is that, and this is largely driven by puzzles about the nature of consciousness, that the materialism is really good at looking at the world from the outside, it’s good at objectivity, both from quantum mechanics and now also in philosophy and mathematics and in physics in general, is this puzzle of how does a material object give rise to an interiority? How does all of this objective stuff that we see and feel, have an inside experience that doesn’t seem to be physical?
Well, there are people who are trying to come up with ideas that say how matter can turn into mind, but a growing number of scientists and scholars are saying, “Maybe not,” and this is why ideas like panpsychism are becoming more popular now. It’s very difficult to figure out how a three-pound lump of tissue in there is giving rise to what amounts to our entire experience, including all of our ideas about the way that the universe is, all of our laws, all of our physical laws, everything is due to the inside here that is somehow coming out of this matter.
So, post-materialism is saying, “Maybe we’ve jumped the gun a little bit and set aside consciousness as an epiphenomenon that wasn’t very meaningful, and actually it looks like it might be way more meaningful than we originally thought.”
So, post-materialism is moving science and scholarship into the direction where consciousness is now seen as something that deserves a very serious look, that is not simply the neuroscience approach, but many different approaches.
So, that’s a very long-winded description of what post-materialism is, but I think, seeing it in context makes it easier to understand.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, I think it does too, and I think it particularly makes it easier. Well, I don’t know if it does make it easier, because in typical Dean Radin fashion, what you’ve done now is jumped way past that, two or three steps, and have published this new book, Real Magic. And what you’re saying in this book, straight out, is psi, that is the ongoing investigation that you’ve done in trying to take this post-materialistic understanding of consciousness, that you were just talking about, for the last 30, maybe 40 years, I don’t want to date you too much, but what you’ve done is taken that alternative idea and brought it into the lab, put it under this thing called parapsychology, under this umbrella we call psi, and have investigated it, and now in this book you’re saying psi is really magic. I mean, we have to start there. What is this book about? What are you saying when you say psi is magic?
Dr. Dean Radin: Well, when we use the word ‘magic’ people think of Harry Potter first and Harry Houdini second and that’s not what we’re talking about. Both of those are fun and interesting and embellishments of the third kind of magic, which is the real magic.
So, real magic is talking about the esoteric traditions, most of which were prescientific and they go all the way back to shamanism. And we know them as [unclear 00:13:11] as the kabbalah, and in Neoplatonism, more modern times, the rosicrucians, the freemasons, theosophy, on and on and on, all the way up the present day.
So, the reason why I started thinking of this is that when you are trying to figure out, how do you explain psi? Let’s just simply assume that the laboratory evidence is strong enough that psychic phenomena exists, that we simply take that as a starting point. And now you’re saying, well how do we explain this in a scientific way? Well, to do it, wearing the hat of a conventional scientist today, it has to be done within the scientific worldview, which is materialism.
So, many efforts have been taken to develop theories that would be called scientific, based on materialism, to describe how psi works. You see this again and again, that somebody who hasn’t been involved in parapsychology but is interested in the phenomena, will say, “Well, I had this theory about telepathy, it’s because the brain is an electrical thing and the electromagnetics are broadcasting out and so somebody else is those electromagnetic waves and decoding it somehow and that’s how telepathy works. So, this idea of mental radio has been around for a very long time and has been tested up the wazoo and it doesn’t work. We know that it’s not an electromagnetic phenomenon.
Other theories have either looked at the quantum mechanics as a possible way of thinking about it, and of course quantum mechanics would be a big stretch to say that this is materialism in the classical sense, it’s a very odd space that it describes. But nevertheless, it’s taking something within the existing worldview and trying to shove psi into it, or shoehorn an explanation that way.
All of those theories don’t work. If they worked, then people would be accepting psi today and they generally don’t work.
So, what else do we do? We’re faced with a puzzle where we have phenomena that we can demonstrate in the laboratory and people talk about it and experience it all the time, that our scientific worldview does not accommodate very well.
So, I decided to look for other clues about what’s going on and the most obvious clue is the esoteric traditions and when you start looking at that, and of course I had read a bunch of books about the various kinds of esoteric ideas over many years, but I never really seriously tried to synthesize what was going on.
So, I took off about six months and read probably hundreds of books and thousands of articles on this to see if I could create a synthesis and I did, which is what I write about in the book, and the bottom line comes down to, essentially that consciousness is fundamental, consciousness is more fundamental than the physical world. That’s the philosophical stance of idealism and there are now a number of contemporary philosophers and scientists who are beginning to think that idealism is actually a better worldview than materialism and they have good reasons for that, which I also talk about that in the book.
If that is true, that idealism is a better way of thinking about the nature of reality, then suddenly all of the stories about magic and psi make perfect sense, it’s no longer difficult to figure out how those things would work, it’s simply part of the mix.
So, the magic I’m talking about then, it falls into three categories and this is all based on what you see again and again over thousands of years, one category of magic is divination. So, we think of it as tarot cards, crystal ball gazing and so on. That’s exactly what we call precognition and clairvoyance in the psi world.
The other type, in magical terms, we call force of will, which in psi terms we call psychokinesis, so, mind over matter affects, and the third type in the magical tradition would be called theurgy, which in the psi world would be evidence for survival after bodily death.
So, in each of the traditional magical concepts, parapsychology has been studying these phenomena for over a century and has verified that there’s evidence that such things exist, in which case traditional magical ideas also exist.
So again, a long-winded answer and, of course, it took a book actually to flush it out in enough detail to make, what I just said, to be crystal clear, but that’s the essence of it.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, I don’t think it’s long-winded at all, as a matter of fact I’m going to return to the topic we keep pounding on over and over again, and that is consciousness, because I think, when you say consciousness is fundamental, I guess that is such a huge paradigm shift, as you just talked about, and this is the point of your book and the point that you just made there, but I want to give people a sense for just where mainstream science and then frontier science and the scientists that they’re likely to encounter are on this topic.
I ran across, I want to play for you this clip from my buddy, I think he’s one of the great nitwit scientists of our time, of course Neil deGrasse Tyson, and here he is being interviewed by Larry King. Now, this is a recent interview, and here’s what he has to say about consciousness. Let me play this for you and see if you can hear it.
Larry King: You’re not conscious and that’s for eternity right?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: There’s no evidence of any consciousness of anything, and by the way, is that so weird? Did you have consciousness before you born? Were you saying, “How come I’m not on earth? My gosh, I need to be on earth,” or “Where am I?”
I wouldn’t say, I know what Tyson says about this, and he’s not a nitwit, he’s an articulate spokesman for the prevailing scientific worldview.
Alex Tsakiris: A nitwit is too strong and name calling never does anybody any good and then it gets everyone off track, but what he’s saying, it’s just silliness. If you deconstruct it, even at the simplest level, it’s silliness and I was going to play this next clip, but I’m going to have to send this one to you, because as you can see on the screen, it’s two people who really have studied consciousness, right? So, the problem with Neil deGrasse Tyson, which is a problem with science in general, especially media scientists, is they can’t resist answering any question that’s thrown their way, even if they have no qualifications for and certainly Neil deGrasse Tyson has zero qualifications in terms of consciousness, he just doesn’t, he doesn’t know anything about it.
At least in this one, and for the benefit of you Dean, since you can hear this, I’ll play it for our audience. It’s a conversation between Sam Harris and David Chalmers. David Chalmers being one of the, I guess you’d say, foremost public consciousness researchers in the last 20 years, and Sam Harris is really just a neuroscience guy, and, kind of, this public figure, atheist guy, who’s been engaged, at least, in the consciousness, kind of, debate. I’ll play this for people and then if you’ll allow me I’ll tell you what they said.
Sam Harris: …everything, there is something seeming to happen, and that seeming is all you need to assert the absolute undeniable reality of consciousness. I mean, that is the fact of consciousness, every bit as much as any other case in which you might assert its existence. So, I just don’t see how a claim that consciousness itself as an illusion can ever fly.
David Chalmers: Yeah, I’m with you on this. I think Dan’s view has actually evolved a bit over the years.
Alex Tsakiris: Again, my apologies Dean. I wanted to play that in, so I can have it in the video, but let me explain for you the short version of what he says.
So, Sam Harris says, he’s kind of talking to Chalmers and he’s going, “I know Dan Dennett has said consciousness is an illusion and these other people”, and he goes, “but that’s a non-starter, right?” I mean, this is Sam Harris, he’s doing a complete 180, he’s going, “We can’t really hold onto the consciousness as an illusion thing anymore, I mean, it doesn’t work as a starter just philosophically, because we know we are, so it’s kind of a non-starter.”
Then they talk about interiority and all the stuff that you were talking about and then Chalmers pipes in and says, “Yeah, I agree, I mean, I don’t know where Dan was at, but that’s kind of a non-starter.”
So, let’s talk for a minute and contrast, because I think this is, kind of, a good story arc of where we’re going. So, we still have Neil deGrasse Tyson and Larry King holding the party line, “Well of course consciousness is an illusion,” and then we have people who are reeling on the cutting edge of consciousness research saying, “We can really even pretend like that’s… whatever it is, it’s not an illusion.”
You’ve spoken already in this interview to that shift, what do you think of the players on the field and where they’re going to stand now and in the future, and how this thing is going to play out? And in particular, again, put in the context of your book, Real Magic, where you’re just jumping two steps ahead and going, “Hey, it’s game over and we have to start looking beyond all of this stuff we’ve been talking about. We have to start looking at the esoteric traditions, we have to start looking at things like magic. It just no longer makes any sense to talk about this stuff, in terms of the way we’ve been talking about it.”
Dr. Dean Radin: Well, I think it’s important, first of all, to not view either consciousness or magic as a regression to the past, we’re not backwards to a prescientific domain. We’re instead advancing science into an area where it has stiff-armed for many years, and the notion that consciousness is an illusion is just as silly as behaviorism was, but it nevertheless held the academic world spellbound for 50 years, where consciousness was denied.
So, how do we move forward? Well, one of the reasons why academics are so resistant to this idea, and, by the way, to anything about parapsychology, is a phrase that I’ve heard many times, which is, “What you’re doing can’t be correct, because if it is, we have to throw away all the text books and start over again.” So, that’s an expression of fear. It’s fear that we’ve spent our entire career doing something and it turns out that it’s not true.
So, I would say there’s some merit to that argument, because when you look at the way textbooks advance. Pretty much, from a textbook 20 years to today, there’s so overlap, but a lot of it has changed, because science is a dynamically moving target. So, we’re already throwing away the textbooks, so this is not a big issue, but there’s an underlying fear about, “Maybe what I’m doing is not correct and it has to be correct because my whole career depends on it.”
So, how do we prevent that fear from stopping further advancements? To say nothing of, we have very high confidence that some disciplines, especially engineering disciplines must be correct, because otherwise our technologies wouldn’t work, it doesn’t make sense to start over again.
So, what I propose then, and I talk about this in the book, the way out of it is to do what science has always done. It starts with a couple of core things that we have high confidence are correct, and we simply expand it, and it becomes more comprehensive, just like classical physics became quantum physics. It’s the same stuff, quantum physics predicts the same stuff that classical physics does, but it has a more comprehensive worldview.
So, we do the same for science overall and rather than somehow mysteriously consciousness is arising out of matter in some way that nobody can explain, you simply start with a different philosophical base, where instead of putting physics at the bottom of our knowledge pyramid, we put consciousness, and this essentially is what idealism is all about anyway. Idealism doesn’t say that the world doesn’t have a certain law for regularities that we call science, it’s saying that the notion of what we think consciousness is, is mistaken.
So, I then go through this exercise in the book, on the theory element, where, if you imagine that you carve up the world through scientific disciplines and you put it in the form of a pyramid, where the base of a pyramid is physics and then on top of that is chemistry and then biology and then psychology and so on. According to the prevailing view, consciousness somehow pops out at the top of that pyramid, which means it has to be made out of matter, because everything in the pyramid is matter and energy.
Well, what if that’s wrong, and what if actually is going on, which is what all of the esoteric traditions say, is that the pyramid is actually sitting on a layer below, which is awareness or consciousness, that permeates everything, and, because it’s below physics, it means it’s prior to space time, matter and energy before that. Everything we know about the physical world emerges out of awareness in some way.
So, from that perspective, just like electrons in the physical layer, permeate everything above, we know that there are electrons on in our brain, well if consciousness is at the bottom, then we know that awareness permeates everything above. This is essentially what panpsychism is all about, that consciousness is simply a part of the fabric of reality and it’s in everything.
Alex Tsakiris: Let me just interject, because you have a couple of times, kind of, interchanged panpsychism and idealism, and I mean, a lot of folks who’ve looked at this a long time, like I do, kind of feel like panpsychism is the, kind of, last bastion for recovering materialists. It doesn’t really make any sense, any more than super-psi makes any sense, and now we’re really talking inside baseball. Panpsychism, does that really work? Idealism works, but does panpsychism really work?
Dr. Dean Radin: Well, it’s a bridge, right? You don’t want to push people…
Alex Tsakiris: It’s a bridge for people, it’s a bridge for reluctant belief systems.
Dr. Dean Radin: Yes, it’s a bridge because you don’t want to push people’s belief systems too fast, because all they’ll do is resist it and the harder you push, the more they’ll resist.
So, if we need to go through panpsychism for a while, so be it. But ultimately, it’s about idealism.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay. Speaking of pushing and how far we push and how fast we push, I’ve got to push on you a little bit, this is Skeptiko after all.
Theurgy, and this idea of spirits, is something you deal with in the book quite a bit, but I feel like you’re not really engaging with the esoteric literature and the esoteric traditions. I mean, Dean, they’re saying spirits are at the core of all magic. They’re saying, this is what magic is, so you can break it into these categories, however you want, they’re saying, “We are marshalling the forces of the spirit world to do our bidding.” That is their claim, and can we really just step away from that and go, “Well, you know, we’re not really sure about that scientifically,” but then how are we really engaging with the magical hypothesis, the magical paradigm, the magical worldview? What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Dean Radin: Theurgy actually is just one third approximately, one third of the magical traditions. It’s all about evoking spirits and so on, but there is definitely a separate category of divination, which may or may not have anything to do with spirits at all, and the same goes for force of will.
From a magical ceremonial perspective, you can create spells and so on, where you ask for spirits to intervene on your behalf, but it’s not necessary, and it’s not found in all esoteric traditions.
The reason that I mention it is because it’s unavoidable within the esoteric literature that the whole idea about spirits is clearly there, and if you adopt an idealistic viewpoint or you see that consciousness is simply out there and it can express itself in many different ways, then suddenly the notion of being human, like we’re a body that’s enlivened in some way by this primordial consciousness, so human awareness then becomes only one form in which awareness can express itself. In which case, you could have an infinite number of forms, a giant gasbag could be conscious, or an invisible hunk of energy could be conscious, and I can see very easily then, for people who are sensitive to such things, that they would then call it spirits.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, but I’ve still got to push on this a little bit, because I feel the same way when I talk to Buddhist atheists, which I’ve done several times on the show, some of them are scholars, Harvard University professors who’ve written these books and it’s just craziness. I mean, you talk to people who are true Buddhist scholars, I mean, the Buddha, whether a real historical figure or not, was totally enmeshed in a culture and a belief system that believed in spirit beings, believed in a larger consciousness, believed in a hierarchy of consciousness, I mean, that was the belief system, and the same goes here for magic.
So, even if you say divination or tarot reading isn’t directly trying to marshal the energy of a spirit, yeah, but it’s completely enmeshed in their belief system that there is this realm and there are these entities that exist that are running the show. Is it not?
Dr. Dean Radin: Well, remember we’re not doing a regression backwards, we’re trying to take the best of the ideas from the esoteric traditions and actually use science as best as we can, to refine our understanding of what was going on.
For example, we know, and when we do something in the laboratory involving precognition, we’re not inviting spirits to help us, it’s completely based on the individual doing an experiment in the laboratory, and there’s no discussion about spirits at all, and yet it works. So, we know right off the get-go that divination does not require the concept of independent external spirits.
Exactly the same can be said for psychokinesis, in which case force of will spells do not require spirits.
This is, I think, one of the reasons why, in the book I’m making a case that a resurrection of magical concepts is actually the frontier of science, because magic is really just a synonym for, “We don’t know why it worked,” and so in some cases there are some embodied spirits that are helping in some way, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think we need to take a more modern view of what’s happening here, but also, at exactly the same time, to consider the possibility that what we’re seeing in things like mediumship does involve some kind of independent entity.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, I love that answer, “We’re not aiming towards regression, we’re aiming towards moving forward.” Great.
I do have to, let me play this clip and again, I appreciate that you can’t hear it, and I’ll figure out that technical problem. So, it’s about a one-minute clip and then I’ll have to explain it to you a little bit, about what it says. But, it’s from Dr. Stephen Skinner, who is truly an academic, published academic, but also a practicing magician. I played this clip in an interview that I recently did with Gordon White, who is another practicing magician and someone you reference in the book, and I want to try and refine our understanding of this worldview clash. So, again, I apologize, but let me play this clip for the listeners.
Gordon White: You need to get the implements that are needed, such as the sharp knife to draw the circle, otherwise, with just a chalk circle it’s not going to work. You need to get the most appropriate incense for what you plan to do, and you need to get them ready on a particular day, and on that particular day you need to prepare yourself by ritually asperging or preferably bathing beforehand, and most people are not prepared to do that, or they take the view, “I can just do this in my lounge room, when the kids have gone to bed.”
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, so let me jump in there. I’ll cut Dr. Skinner off a little bit early, but I think you know where I’m going with this. Or you probably don’t, because I’m going to remind people of a little story that you tell many times, and it’s a great story. Do you still have the bent spoon on your desk?
Dr. Dean Radin: Yeah.
Alex Tsakiris: So, Dr. Radin had a spoon that is bent in a very unusual way, that you can’t normally bend, and you can probably imagine how that spoon is bent that way, he went to a spoon bending party. So, this is psychokinesis and we’ve seen it demonstrated many times, and I love the fact that you have that on your desk, because it’s like a reminder of, “Not everything explainable, even though I investigate it.” I’m sure you have moments where you want to, kind of, move away from a particular mindset, but hey, that spoon on your desk is going to remind you of it.
Look, Stephen Skinner, who I just played the clip of, is a very interesting guy, kind of a strange guy, in that he talks about these magical practices that he does and he talks about how the knife needs to be sharpened a particular way and the circle needs to be drawn carefully. I’ve got to say, all the while I was listening to that Dean, I was thinking of you, I was thinking of your lab, and I was thinking, “Okay, Dean’s going to get this guy into the lab and he’ll go, ‘Okay, let’s just try it with a dull sword this time, okay? Let’s just try it with a dull sword, right?’” These are the controls I could see you applying.
But if you listen through to the end of Dr. Skinner’s story, he talks about one such ceremonial magic session that he does, with apparently a number of people observing it, where he summoned up these crows and these crows fly down the chimney and they shit all over the place and then they leave and he’s left with a bunch of crow crap all over and feathers and everything.
So, I’m listening to the story and this is the bent spoon moment for me, even though I wasn’t there, but it’s like, “What is Dean going to do with the crow shit?” Because that’s the bent spoon, right? I mean, it’s one thing to say, “Hey, you’re crazy with this sharpening of the sword thing,” but it’s another thing when you’ve got that crow crap on the floor.
Have you thought about what that looks like, in terms of bringing magic into the lab? And if we’re to believe any of the accounts, what awaits you are some extremely, extremely strange experiences.
Dr. Dean Radin: To which I say, bring it on. I’m not surprised that ritual, that ceremonial magic is all about ritual and theatre. I’m not surprised that it has bigger results than we generally see in the laboratory, because ritual is a way of focusing, not only one mind typically, but a bunch of minds in a very emotional way.
We know, just from the literature that large scale spontaneous psi occurs with highly focused minds in an emotional state. That’s ritual.
The question is, is the ritual literally evoking spirits who are making crows do things, or bending spoons? Well, maybe, but that’s why, exactly why I want to use scientific methods to test if, in fact, that’s what’s going on, because we have thousands of years of people doing ceremonial magic, and it worked, it worked well enough for the traditions to continue, but they also didn’t have very good ways, or maybe they weren’t interested in testing what works and what doesn’t work.
And by the way, what I’m saying is not a new idea, it’s exactly what Aleister Crowley was saying, or Peter Carroll was saying. These are magicians in modern era, who are basically saying, “Use scientific methods to begin to refine what we think is important in ceremonial magic, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe 99% of it is simply ceremony and theatre.
So, that’s the approach that I’m taking on this and again, exactly why I’m saying that using science to begin to refine and actually understand what is going on here is important, because again, if we assume that idealism is a better way of thinking about reality, and in some respects a refined mind can make anything happen that is imaginable, like you really do become only limited by your imagination. So, if the ceremony is all about getting crows to appear and so on, he could easily do that, that’s not even that difficult. Now, will they take on a certain independence? You don’t want the crows pooping on you, but maybe when you evoke it, it has its own independent existence, you’ve literally manifested the thing.
Of course, there’s lots of stories in the literature, in the magic literature, about creating entities out of mud. The Buddhists have it, there’s a long Jewish tradition about this, where they accidentally take on a life of their own, and then you may not have much control over it.
So, when I talk about theurgy in the book, I’m mainly talking about things like near-death experience and a few other areas of parapsychology. I talk about the possibility of independent entities, but when it comes to actually doing theurgy, doing ceremonial magic, I, among other things, tell the reader that this is not something that you should start doing because you read something in a book, we’re dealing right on the edge of something which can be extremely dangerous for an individual. So, I tell people, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you? I do not recommend that you do this unless you know what you’re doing.”
Alex Tsakiris: Dean, that’s awesome. The whole things awesome and we’re kind of heading into the home stretch, I want to let you know, I appreciate it.
Let’s try and fix, you’re getting even a little bit more washed out here, can you maybe try and pull… on you on like an iMac or a Mac?
Dr. Dean Radin: No, it’s a desktop.
Alex Tsakiris: Oh, it’s a desktop, it’s a PC. Can you try and pull the monitor with the webcam a little bit closer to you and see if that changes the…
Dr. Dean Radin: I can sit closer to it. Yeah, I’m pretty washed out, I’m turning into a ghost.
Alex Tsakiris: Well then, move back, let’s see what that does.
Dr. Dean Radin: Let’s see, all the way back. Yeah, I’m very, very pale. Actually, just think of it as I am glowing. I have, like an internal light. Yes, there is kind of a glow happening. I do see that. I guess something’s going wrong with my webcam.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, we’ll probably find a way to… don’t worry about it. It’s great, great stuff.
Dr. Dean Radin: I have to say that the whole spirit thing, this has by far been the most difficult piece for me to begin to think about, because it’s so far away from the world that I was brought up in, even though the parapsychology that I’ve done, but I kind of have been forced to accept the possibility that such things actually do exist, this is a result of doing all of this research and thinking about the consequences of an idealistic model.
Alex Tsakiris: Fair enough. Let me poke you again, one more time, and that’s on NDE science, near-death experience science and you just mentioned it a minute ago.
I just don’t think you quite have it right in the book, and I think you’re leaning a little bit, in my investigation of it and talking to so many near-death experience researchers, you’re kind of falling for the materialistic claptrap that’s out there about NDE science, and there’s just too much good evidence of it.
I’m going to play for people, and then we’ll talk about it a little bit, but if you’ll allow me to play a one minute clip from Dr. Jeffrey Long, who is from the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation, but is a practicing radiologist, works with dying people, works with people under anesthesia all the time and here’s what he had to say about some of his research. And again Dean, you won’t hear this for about one minute.
Dr. Jeffrey Long: When you’re under general anesthesia, it should be impossible to have a lucid organized remembrance at that time. In fact, under anesthesia, you’re typically so far under, with general anesthesia, they often have to breath for you, I mean, you’re literally brain shutdown to the level of the brain stem and at that point in time some people have a cardiac arrest, their heart stops, and of course, that’s very well documented. They monitor people very carefully that are having general anesthesia. So, I have dozens and dozens of near-death experiences that occurred under general anesthesia and at this time, it should be, if you will, doubly impossible to have a conscious remembrance, and yet they do have near-death experiences at this time, and they’re typical near-death experiences, they have the same elements and appear to have them in the same order as near-death experiences occurring under all other…
Alex Tsakiris: Again, there’s so much frustration from people who have really looked at near-death experiences, because every half-assed explanation that mainstream science comes up with, the rats at the University of Michigan, or the coma patients and all this. Number one, they’ve never studied near-death experience and they don’t even study near-death experience in their research, and yet they try to make all of these leaps and conclusions.
What Dr. Long is explaining here is, “Let’s go with what we already know.” For example, when someone’s under anesthesia, particular really deep anesthesia, anesthesia is so deep sometimes that we have to manage the heartbeat of people, because their heart literally stops, they’re so far that deep in anesthesia.
Well, we have a long history of understanding brain activity, memories and all the formation of thoughts and ideas under that medication, and we know it doesn’t exist.
So, again, near-death experience is real, consciousness survives death, is the Occam’s razor explanation for what’s happening. If someone wants to invent an entirely new model of neurology, of how the brain works, I mean, if that’s what we’re doing, well then great, but until you, kind of, flash out that theory, you’ve got to follow this data where it goes, and I, kind of, felt like you were giving a little bit too much credence to the skeptical view of near-death experience, in terms of it not being the evidence for survival of consciousness that virtually every near-death experience researcher thinks it is.
So, what say you Dr. Radin?
Dr. Dean Radin: The problem is that we don’t know when the near-death experience occurs, that’s the problem. I’m not discounting that strange, perhaps psychic effects are going on, and I don’t think a materialistic perspective explains those experiences. But what I do say is, that when somebody reports that they’re out of their body or that something happened and that later is verified, we don’t know when and because we know that precognition exists and of course we know that psi perception is very slippery in time, well maybe their entire experience occurs in a flash from our conventional perspective, just before they go into anesthesia, or just after they come out of coma. And until we have a way of knowing when the experience occurs…
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah but Dean, let me interject there. I just interviewed again Dr. Penny Sartori, and this is research that’s been published for 20 years. I also interviewed Dr. Jan Holden from North Texas, who just published a few years ago with Bruce Greyson, I don’t know, The Definitive Compilation of Near-Death Experience Research. We do know. We do know. I mean, the very simple way we know is they do interviews with people and they ask them to recount their resuscitation procedure and they have a control group of people who didn’t have a near-death experience and then they have another group that did have a near-death experience, and when they go and ask the control group, the control group goes, “What do you mean? I was dead. I don’t recall being resuscitated.” And then you have the group that did have the near-death experience and they go, “Oh, yeah. The cart was wheeled in and…” “What about the paddles?” “No, there were no paddles,” and like Dr. Sartori will tell you, when you force people to guess in this situation they’ll go, “Oh, well, okay, well then they put paddles on me,” and she said that’s one of the telltale signs, is in this hospital that she was doing it in, paddles were very infrequently used.
So, there some detail data points that they can collect and compare and say, “Clearly, this group has a recollection of their resuscitation that is, one, unexplainable, but two, answers this timeline question of, at least to the best we can.
Dr. Dean Radin: But that’s the rub isn’t it. We don’t actually know when it occurs. We don’t. I have talked to Joe McMoneagle about he does remote viewing as an example, and he said that he knows that next Tuesday somebody’s going to hand him a photograph and he needs to describe it. Well, the moment he knows that that’s a task in the future, he has the answer already and he has it in full detail. He describes a submarine nine month in advance in great gory detail.
So, the idea that somebody can describe a sequence of events in the future that is veridically correct, is well established as a psi phenomenon that people can do, and there’s no better way of getting into a psi conducive state than having your body go away for a while.
So, I would say then that, yes, I completely understand the counterarguments, but I am not persuaded. I’m not persuaded until we get to a point where we have a way of communicating in some fashion to the person, when they are in fact dead, and the only way I can think of doing that at this point, and maybe it’s through mediumship, but even in mediumship we don’t know where the information comes from.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, but if we’re going to play this consensus reality game, which at some point if consciousness is fundamental, if everything is, as you were eluding to before, if everything is a thought form, if we are creating our reality literally and creating some of the entities that we interact with, if we’re creating those crows, well then really all bets are off anyway.
Dr. Dean Radin: Right.
Alex Tsakiris: So, the idea of bringing any of this into the lab, what is a lab? Measuring it. What is measuring? All that stuff goes out the window.
Dr. Dean Radin: No, no, no, no. See, it’s very important not to do a regression to the past. You don’t simply want to accept something because that may be the explanation that makes us feel good. I’d love to think that consciousness persists in some way, as I think most people would, but I also wear a scientist hat.
Alex Tsakiris: You should know. Let’s just make sure we’re talking about the same thing. I’m saying, every experiment in your lab can be explained by spirit intervention that you’re not aware of, that you will never be aware of, because if spirits have this power to present themselves or not present themselves or, to believe the accounts, deceive or not deceive, then you will have no way of knowing. You’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope. There’s an order of intelligence that I’m just hypothesizing here, which is much greater. So, the idea that you’re somehow going to be able to measure that, if we’re going to go down that path, we can always pull that card out, in the same way that you’re pulling out that card with near-death experience science. I mean, at some point we have to say, “Okay, we’re going to play this game of consensus reality, a science game, that we can collect, and we can measure,” but in another level we can’t collect, we can’t measure. That’s the idea that consciousness is [unclear 00:53:10] and everything is a thought form.
Dr. Dean Radin: So, the question then is, can we approach magical concepts, let’s say, can we approach those ideas in a way which is not dependent on faith? Because what I’m hearing you saying is basically, we basically make a religion about it. That is a regression, in my viewpoint.
I don’t know whether humans in our current form are clever enough to be able to figure out how to answer these questions, but if you ask people a thousand years ago, how are they going to make an iPhone, they wouldn’t even know what you were talking about.
So, we are clever, we need to figure out ways, of assuming that there’s a larger reality, and figure out how to understand it in ways that has the same level of power that materialism has had to allow us to build the technologies that we have today.
So, maybe it’s true that homo sapiens are not sufficiently intelligent to do it, it’s possible. Maybe we need our artificial intelligence overlords, who will be more intelligent than us, that can figure out ways of probing that domain. But, that’s what I see is the future of science. I’m not interested in simply accepting things because we’re not clever enough to figure out what to do with it.
Alex Tsakiris: What a wonderful answer. You end the book with this, “Magic is real, let’s deal with it,” but I can’t think of a better way to add to that than what you’ve already said. I think it’s wonderful. I don’t quite agree with you, but I think it’s the best answer I’ve heard.
So, Dean, again this book, and again, folks, our guest has been Dr. Dean Radin. His new book, Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe is going to be out April 10th, right?
What can people expect along with the book? What kind of appearances are you going to do? Are you putting out any videos? Is there any follow up to the book that you have planned?
Dr. Dean Radin: I do have a videographer who is making a, kind of, cartoon graphic novel version of it. It will be a video. Mostly though, I’m doing lots of podcasts and radio shows and that sort of thing. I’m going to a number of conferences and talking about it, and if past history serves me, I’ll probably end up doing about 50 talks in various forms, per month, for the remainder of this year.
Alex Tsakiris: Well great. I’m really glad you did this talk. It was great connecting with you again, and congratulations, I wish you, of course all the best with Real Magic. But with your work in general it’s so awesome that you have come along during this time, during our time in history and have done what you’ve done. Again, as we started this show talking about the legacy, we won’t fully appreciate it until maybe our kids or something, looking back. But it’s just amazing what you’ve done with your career. I mean that wholeheartedly.
So, Dean, thanks for joining me today and best of luck with Real Magic.
Dr. Dean Radin: Thank you… One last thing I’ll mention, showing that maybe the world is changing a little bit, I’ve been invited to a conference that [unclear 00:58:34] Pharmaceutical is putting on. Not the US version of [unclear 00:58:41] which is profit orientated and a bad thing, but the German version and they’re having, I believe, their 350th anniversary and having a big science conference on it and there’s four or five [unclear 00:58:53] laureates speaking and people who have won the Marconi Award and blah, blah, blah, and so I said, “Well, what are you inviting me to talk about?” and they said, “Well, what do you want to talk about?” I said, “Well, I can talk about my new book on Magic,” and they said, “Great, talk about magic.” So, I’ll be in the same venue with a bunch of Nobel Laureates talking about magic.
Alex Tsakiris: You know Dean, you manage to always get these belly-of-the-beast kind of invitations that nobody else on the frontier gets. I think it’s two things, it’s your demeanor, but more importantly, it’s because the work that you do is rock solid, and people do look and investigate, and they go, “There’s nothing I can say, he’s right,” and I think that still matters.
Dr. Dean Radin: It matters to somebody in Germany. So yeah.
More From Skeptiko
- Dr. Christopher White traces multidimensional science concepts through spiritual thinking. photo by: Skeptiko I keep having these vivid dreams like thinking weird things. What sorts of things? If you’re watching any popular TV shows or movies about the future of …
- Conner Habib is a sex workers’ rights advocate with a rigorously intellectual take on spirituality. photo by: Skeptiko Charlie Chaplin, The Great Emperor: “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. I don’t want to rule or conquer …
- Robert Schwartz is a hypnotherapist who believes patients can discover their pre-life plan. photo by: Skeptiko … scientists tell us that the giant tsunami wave that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004 wasn’t as big as we usually imagine. It’s not …
- Ed Opperman is a private investigator turned podcaster who changed my beliefs, but not his own. photo by: Skeptiko … today’s show is about changing your mind changing, your beliefs, but as often happens on these shows it turned into …
- Marisa Ryan has undergone rigorous testing of her skills as a medium, so what does she know about the big stuff? photo by: Skeptiko …On this episode you’re going to hear from a medium who is really really good. I …
- Mark Booth’s view of our secret history looks way beyond churchy Christianity. photo by: Skeptiko Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Mark Booth to Skeptiko. Mark is probably best known as the author of The Secret History of the World, an …
- Jan Van Ysslestyne is the foremost expert on classical shamanism of the Ulichi. photo by: Skeptiko Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Jan van Ysslestyne to Skeptiko. Jan has written a very impressive new book titled Spirits from the Edge of …