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 international bestseller from 2008, that really changed the way we think and talk about esoteric wisdom, secret societies, mystery schools, and it was also a book, I think, that has played a part in weakening the grip of this kind of soul-crushing, scientific materialism that we talk about so much on this show.
Mark, it’s great to have you here, thank so much for joining me.
Mark Booth: I’m so pleased to be on your show, I admire it enormously and I admire your cast of mind. You’re curious about everything, but you don’t want to be stupid, and I think, if there is a God, he doesn’t want us to be stupid. So, that’s a very sensible attitude to take.
Alex Tsakiris: Right-on to that, and in that spirit, I really want to have, what I like to call a level-3 kind of discussion here because level-1 is, as our culture would say, “Why would you listen to Mark Booth? I mean, that’s just ridiculous, don’t even pay any attention.” Then, level-2 is the people who just admire and so greatly are inspired by your work, as they should be, and say, “Yes, we must believe everything that Mark says.” Then, it’s level-3, that we don’t have enough of, where it says, “Gee, this a wonderful dialogue to engage in.”
Here is someone I truly believe is a hero, to have stepped forward and fought these tremendous cultural forces that you just have stacked yourself against, but let’s dig into it a little bit further. That’s my speech, that’s where we’re going to go, so if any time you think I’m poking you too hard, let me know. We need to have that next level of discussion.
Start 35:59 Alex Tsakiris: So, there’s all of these different viewpoints about this extended consciousness, which is again this level-3, getting past the idiocy of the Neil deGrasse Tyson, Joe Rogan, “Oh, it’s all bullshit,” kind of thing. Then, kind of looking at it more deeply, I just don’t see where Christianity, for the most part, in the general sense, is willing to embrace that in a way of saying, “Okay, let’s look at all of that stuff and try and make it make sense to us,” in terms of answering the questions about how we should live our lives, you know?
Mark Booth: I think if you’re saying that you would expect to find answers to questions about LSD experience and after-death experiences in the bible, that’s a little unfair. I think that really, Christianity is part of an evolving dialogue, which involves the other religions and the other mystical traditions and traditions which are outside all organized religion and it’s not a static thing. It’s evolving also, partly because the spiritual realms themselves are evolving.
One of the things I write in the book is, I think there’s a very good reason why people’s accounts of what happened after death in Old Testament times are very different from accounts of what happened in medieval times, and that’s because the other realms evolve just as ours does.
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about current events, what do we think about the current Pope? A little bit too much association with known pedophiles for my liking. What are we to do with that? We can process it as, in the spirit of what you were saying before of, “Hey, this is part of the plan,” or we can process it from another way. I know you don’t like to go the conspiratorial angle, but this is something that’s been in play for a while, it seems like in culture, as a way to kind of debase culture, as a way to kind of shape culture, in a way that maybe we don’t understand. What are we make of the pedo Pope?
Mark Booth: I think that kind of churcy, Christianity has served its purpose. I think it’s decadent now. I go to Ireland quite a lot to visit my visionary friend, Lorna Byrne. Ireland is not a religious country anymore. The pedophile priests, they’ve turned that nation off, Christianity. The Church is being punished for all of that, as it should be. I’m not going to defend that.
Alex Tsakiris: Part of the plan? Part of the plan or something we should actively…?
Mark Booth: No, it’s outlived its usefulness, and of course, I’m not saying we should actively fight it, and of course, I’m not saying that there aren’t evil conspiracies.
Of course, there are cabals of mostly old men who get together and plot to do things for their own advantage that they shouldn’t do. Of course, of course that goes on. In my publishing work, I’ve met a guy from the Special Forces and also Spooks and a lot of the time the worst thing you could possibly imagine them doing, they are in fact doing.
Alex Tsakiris: How do you understand? How do you map that evil? If we stare into the abyss and agree that we’re not going to stare too long and that the secret of the ascent is to look up and to be positive and to enliven us with light, but if we look into the abyss for a moment, what do you make of the nature of that evil? Where is it coming from? I like how you divide it up, that we have the Spooks, the people who are doing things, who maybe their intention or their belief system is that they’re doing it for good, if you will. But we also have people who are doing it for evil, who have just an evil intent and have somehow absorbed that into their belief system. How do you process that?
Mark Booth: I have to say that sometimes I think that Spooks and Special Forces are working to prevent bombs going off in city centers, on both sides of the Atlantic, so that’s for the good. Where you have, something that the French are particularly guilty of, is using espionage services, secret services to promote commercial interests, I think that is wrong. Where you have groups of powerful men, be they priests or politicians or businessmen, being sexually exploitative of children and others, that is awful and that is evil, that is an influx of evil operating in the world.
Alex Tsakiris: I know you believe in God, so you believe in a hierarchy, what’s your best guess as to some of the topological features of these extended realms?
Mark Booth: I think there are different orders of angels. I think that they need us. I think that we have free will, because we are inside physical bodies and our access to higher realms and God is limited and filtered. I think that these angels don’t have free will, in the same that we do. I think that they create the conditions which make life possible. I think they find it quite hard to influence physical events, but they are adept at moving minds, and I think that there is also another side. There are evil forces waiting to step in, if we let our mind go down a certain path, and I think that’s dangerous.
I worry about people, I know you’ve discussed in the past on your show, practitioners of magic, people who perform magical ceremonies, I kind of worry about that a bit and I’m going to be saying something which is not popular with many of your listeners. But I think that history tends to show that if you practice magic with a view to pursuing selfish ends, if you make an agreement with the kind of forces that are going to help you achieve those ends, things are probably not going to go too well with you.
Alex Tsakiris: I think the important thing that the magical community has brought forward, in a positive way, is to help us understand that this interaction we have with the spiritual world, with the spirit world is in play and should be taken seriously and not merely defined from one particular viewpoint, because I think a lot of times Christians are quick to dismiss all this talk and not realize that they’re practicing magic.
Mark Booth: Yes, of course.
Alex Tsakiris: Right. If you’re a Christian and you’re praying to the Virgin Mary, where is that coming from? You’re praying to a spirit that you think can have influence in this world. So, totally with what you’re saying, but I also want to acknowledge the important contribution that I think the magical community makes there.
I think you’re completely right and as I’ve said on this show many times, I think the hierarchy is the key to follow there and I think the data takes us there. Just taking the data that we know, in terms of near-death experience, out-of-body experience, all of this different knowledge of after-death communication, everyone says there’s a hierarchy, right? So, we can look past that and say, “Well, I don’t believe there’s a hierarchy, there’s this kind of amorphous blob of consciousness and you can, “Do what thou wilt,” Crowleyism, kind of thing. It’s like, “The data doesn’t support that, so I don’t know where you’re coming from.”
Mark Booth: No, I agree with you.
Alex Tsakiris: I think they’re serving a purpose for certain people who want to influence culture in a certain way and I don’t want to get super, hyper conspiratorial, because as you said, that leads you down some silliness. But on the other hand, I think to suppose that people who have power and influence are choosing not to exercise that power and influence in a certain particular way, to get what they want, is incredibly naive. Of course, if you have the money, if you have the power, if you have the influence, you’re going to use it to get what you want. I think Dawkins represents that.
Alex Tsakiris: What do you make of this idea that we’re living in a matrix like reality or that AI, strong AI is something that we should, if not fear be very cautious of because it could penetrate these extended realms that we’re talking about. What do you think about that?
Mark Booth: I think there is a danger in that. I did a couple of books a few years ago with a leading developer of artificial intelligence, Kevin Warwick, and one of the things he was doing was implanting microchips in his body and then also in his wife’s body. The effect of that was that, he did some experiments, he found that if he had a pain, his wife could feel the pain. You take it to the next step; he has an emotion, his wife has an emotion. He has an image in his head, his wife has that image. That could go a long way to being very similar to the sorts of abilities that very spiritual people have.
I think that is a danger and I think that technology is being developed in Silicon Valley to download human consciousness, so that it achieves immortality in that way. Well, how does that sit, if your soul and spirit left the body, and they want eternal life in a natural way? I think there are dangers in that.
Alex Tsakiris: There are certainly questions, aren’t there? It has the potential of redefining our understanding of spirituality and soul and I wonder if your work, the body of your work speaks not only to the dangers of that but the reality of that. Do you believe personally that such a technological transformation would lead to a genuine spiritual transformation or are we looking at a counterfeited spirituality in some of this stuff?
Mark Booth: I think there’s a great danger of that counterfeit spirituality. I think the problem is, at the moment, with some notable exceptions like Rupert Sheldrake, who you mentioned earlier, science is in the hands of militant atheists, and I think a lot of them would really like… I’m not sure it’s a big conspiracy, but as a matter of temperamental preference, they would just like to see all spirits squeezed out of the cosmos and that is a danger, and I think they have performed a sort of trick on us. I that that materialist philosophy, materialist science has performed a trick on us, which is that we think that it’s unreasonable to hold spiritual beliefs, and that’s just a trick.
I wanted to ask you a question. I wanted to ask you a question which the scientific community would say there is one obvious answer to. Can we just try a little experiment and see if you think, you’ll be able to tell what the answer is they want you to give, but just tell me if you think this is the right one.
Is it more plausible that all the matter in the universe organized itself along intelligent lines sometime after the beginning of the universe, or is it more likely that this intelligence was already inherent in it in the beginning?
Alex Tsakiris: I think that’s a trick question, but I definitely think that intelligence permeates everything in the form of consciousness. So, I’m with you, in terms of idealism, and it just seems to me that the way the data falls, it’s consciousness first, matter second, which kind of makes the whole thing, kind of an upside-down question.
Mark Booth: That’s interesting, because more and more scientists, cosmologists, are moving towards panpsychism, which is that view.
Alex Tsakiris: Which is the poor man’s idealism, for folks who are still not willing to make the leap, kind of a resting stone along the river there.
Mark Booth: Can I ask you another question? If the universe is a self-organizing structure, what do we mean by self?
Alex Tsakiris: Yes.
Mark Booth: Is human intelligence a freak accident in a dead universe or a natural growth in a living universe?
Alex Tsakiris: These are great questions. A couple of years ago I wrote a book and Rupert actually wrote the foreword to it, it was called, Why Science is Wrong About Almost Everything.
Mark Booth: Fantastic.
Alex Tsakiris: The premise of the book, which Rupert, he was super sweet to write the foreword, but he had to say, “I have to kind of back off this a little bit because I still have to have some legitimacy in the scientific community.” But the premise was, if you get consciousness wrong, which science has, there’s no question, they’ve just gotten it wrong, in terms of science being an epiphenomenon of the brain, that’s just out of the question now, it’s just been proven. So, if you get that wrong, it’s hard to get anything right.
So, I think you could generate a thousand questions like this and the answer to all of them is the same, it’s like, until you get the consciousness question correct, you’re just looking through the wrong end of the telescope here and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Mark Booth: Yeah. You see, I think Richard Dawkins would say, he would tell you that the answers to those three questions, there is an obvious choice in each one, but I think any reasonable person, dwelling on those questions a little while could see it’s not obvious, it’s not obvious which is the right answer.
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