Mark Gober went from investment banking to writing a book that dives deep into consciousness anomalies.
photo by: Skeptiko
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Mark Gober to Skeptiko. Mark is a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist and strategist turned author. He has a terrific book, An End to Upside Down Thinking, which is certainly right up our alley here on Skeptiko. Mark, thanks so much for joining me.
Mark Gober: Thank you for having me Alex.
Alex Tsakiris: So I met you through my friend Rick Archer who I can never give enough praise to for his very excellent show Buddha at the Gas Pump, which I think has really set the tone for so many of these questions about consciousness and transcending that consciousness, which your book is precursor to. I mean you have to at least be able to address the topics you’re talking about, in terms of materialism and scientific materialism in particular, but I thought Rick did a great job and then I was super excited in this interview to kind of extend that and see where we might take that beyond that. So awesome.
Mark Gober: Sounds good.
Alex Tsakiris: So I like playing this little game that I call Skeptiko Jeopardy and I particularly like it in this case because as I mentioned, so many of the topics you’ve covered in your book, we’ve covered a million times on Skeptiko, a billion times with a million guests and a lot of the same people you’ve talked to as well.
So really, I think the cool thing about that is it’s an opportunity to kind of move past that and dig into some of the deeper questions in terms of the implications of An End To Upside Down Thinking beyond the proof.
Alex Tsakiris: But before we get there, you do have an interesting background and I’m sure people would love to hear more about that. So tell folks a little bit about this. You’re a super smart guy, a Princeton guy, and then also this outstanding tennis player. I mean Silicon Valley, you’ve kind of got it all, the whole package. Why do you want to throw it all away and pursue the spiritual path?
Mark Gober: Well, this was not planned. This is all actually pretty new for me. After I graduated from Princeton, I worked in investment banking in New York during the financial crisis, so that was 2008 to 2010. I wasn’t thinking about consciousness then at all. I left Wall Street and joined my current firm, it’s called Sherpa Technology Group, now based in Silicon Valley. I’m a partner at the firm and we advise companies on business strategy and intellectual property matters. So when innovation is involved and patents in particular, we help companies with strategy and helping them transact assets. That’s what I do by day.
It was in about August of 2016 when I first started hearing podcasts that exposed me to topics related to consciousness that I had never heard about before in any serious way, and at first I wasn’t, it didn’t like change my life or anything but I started to hear enough independent accounts that a lightbulb kind of went off, where I said, “Wait a second. If these people are all not lying and if they’re all not delusional, then I need to reconsider things,” and the more I looked, the more I realized that my paradigm was completely wrong and that was really the paradigm of materialism, and it was because I hadn’t been exposed to any of the evidence that I was now seeing.
So after being exposed to new evidence, I had to rethink the paradigm and it was a pretty disorienting period for me in 2016. I think I’m still recovering from that, of just a completely new worldview and I was basically obsessed with learning and I think I still am. So I spent a full year just researching as much as I could, listening to podcasts, listening to your podcast and many others and reading books and reading scientific papers.
And it was at the end of that year, the summer of 2017 where I said, “Why don’t I just put this on paper and into a book?” And then I said, “I don’t want to do that, that’s going to be too much and I don’t want to put my name out there.”
So I kind of went back and forth in my head for a few weeks and then a few buddies actually kind of pushed me over the edge and said, “Hey, why don’t you try to do it?” This was in June of 2017, and I said, “Okay. I’m going to take the 4th of July weekend,” which that year was a long weekend and just kind of pull an investment banking style work all night as much as I can for a few days and ended up finishing a significant portion of the manuscript that weekend. So over the period of July 2017 I ended up finishing a first draft of the manuscript and now here we are in 2019.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s awesome. So you’re balancing these two worlds, I incorrectly said venture capital but investment banking, you’re in Silicon Valley and you’re doing IP stuff, it’s all venture stuff anyway.
But you know, there’s interesting things there that we can get into later. I mean that’s kind of my background, kind of my world, not the investment banking part, but more the entrepreneur high-tech part, you know, they all kind of crossover. I think it’s an interesting background because I think it grounds us in a way that other people can’t get past, in terms of the other side of materialism which is connected, but I’m pulling a lot of different threads. Let’s forget all that. Lets play Skeptiko Jeopardy.
Mark, I want you to pick our first topic and I’m going to read for people, in case they’re not watching this on YouTube, I have up on the Skeptiko Jeopardy board, Mind = Brain, Shut-Up and Calculate, Level 1, 2, 3, Wizards & Saints, How, Where is My Mind, Observer, Believers, Silos. Mark what pick you?
Mark Gober: Tough choices. I’m going to go with Mind = Brain, the first one top left.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, good pick, stick with the basics. So here’s, I guess, one of the questions that your book makes the case that mind is more than brain. What do you think is your strongest evidence from the book? The listeners of this show are going to know the whole case, but let me point out, you make an outstanding job of it in the book, in terms of laying everything out.
And for people who are listening to this show, one of the reasons you’re going to want to pick up this book is this might be the best book to hand to somebody who is kind of a normie in the regular world and is really wondering whether they can step past this mind = brain stuff, because you really lay out the evidence in a very, very compelling way.
What do you think is your strongest piece of evidence that you go to for people right from the beginning?
Mark Gober: Thank you for saying that Alex. I did write it for a person who might not be familiar with these topics. So. I’m glad that you felt that way as well.
In terms of the the strongest evidence, to me it’s actually not one piece of evidence, it’s the fact there is so much in independent areas. The fact that we have psi phenomena, like telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, remote viewing and survival phenomena, like near-death experiences, children with past life memories, mediumship and after-death communications.
When you put it all together, combined with many of the arguments that people like Dr Bernardo Castro make, which is kind of a philosophical argument that we could never verify the existence of anything outside of consciousness. So a more skeptical perspective is actually one which starts with consciousness as the foundation. When you put it together, that to me makes a strong case.
But within those categories, I think there are maybe two that I would give you that I think are the strongest, that I would probably start with, actually three. Number one, the fact the US government ran a program for more than 20 years and spent over $20 million on remote viewing and had successes. I think that is really important and that tends to strike people when I tell them that if they’re new to this.
But a recent paper that came out in 2018 by Dr Etzel Cardeña, an American psychologist, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association. It’s a meta-analysis of many psi phenomena and after decades of controversy American psychologists published this article, that to me is really significant.
Third is veridical out-of-body experiences in the near-death experience phenomenon, where a person has cardiac arrest for example, and we know from cardiac arrest studies that blood stops flowing to the brain. Sometimes people report being outside of their body and they report things that those who are not in a near-death experience state verifies being accurate.
Sam Parnia had a study in 2014 in Resuscitation Journal which documents one particularly striking case of that and it’s very difficult to explain unless there is a functioning consciousness outside of a functioning brain, because there isn’t a functioning brain.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. Well said. Let’s go back to the board.
Mark Gober: I know your audience is very familiar, so that was the super quick version.
Alex Tsakiris: No, great. That’s great. Great stuff, great stuff. So, I’ll tell you what, where should we go next?
Mark Gober: What about How?
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s go to How. This is the question I think that I get from people, whether they are able to articulate it or whether you just see it brewing in the back of their mind is, how can this be? And I’m sure you run into this a ton in your world, a lot of successful people, “I’m there, I’ve made everything. I’m in New York, I’m in Silicon Valley. I’m successful. My career is going well. My family is going well. I would know about this if it was true.”
You know, when you talk about your story Mark, I love the way you talk it so matter-of-factly, but you have to realize at this point that that is rare. It is rare that people confront evidence that contradicts their belief and then they go, “Well gee, I guess I have to get to the bottom of it or I have to change my beliefs.” Most people don’t go there. Most people are stuck in the, how can this be mode. At least that’s my experience. What do you think and then how do people get over this?
Mark Gober: I think it’s always important to remember how little we know. Throughout history we’ve seen people kind of develop almost an arrogance, thinking that they know more than they do. We have example after example of this. We can talk about germ theory for example, the notion that microscopic bacteria or viruses could make you sick or kill you, that was a ludicrous idea at one point. And then with the advent of the microscope, now it’s common knowledge. Galileo versus the church, we’ve seen paradigms shift.
So I think this is just part of the human condition, but it’s also pretty inconvenient to shift one’s paradigm and I can say that from personal experience. It was not easy, it took a lot of effort and it really rattled me. Not everyone would necessarily want to go through that.
So actually having gone through the experience myself I can understand why it would be difficult for people to make the shift and actually it’s been interesting for me to watch those close, in my circle, friends and family, because not all of them dove in as much as I did, but they’ve been taking things in piecemeal and I’ve seen their transformation happen in a much slower manner.
And that might be what’s happening throughout society as you get a piece of data and then you kind of forget about it, it’s like, “Oh wow, the US government ran this program and there are declassified documents that say it’s real. That’s interesting,” and then you go about your job and then there’s this back and forth that I was doing at a really rapid pace, but maybe other people are doing it more slowly. So it might just account for a shift that will take a long time.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, I think what you say really has truth there that I’ve experienced. One thing I’ve always said is that in some ways I think people are smarter than they sometimes appear, in some ways they’re a lot dumber than they sometimes appear. But in some ways they’re smarter in that a lot of times people run across this information and they’ve really run the traps in their mind and they’ve said, “You know, this really collapses everything that I’m about, it changes my religion, it’s probably going to change my relationship with some of the people I’m closest to. No don’t go there.” And they put on a front and they give some kind of lame excuse, but they’ve kind of thought through that they don’t need to touch this stuff. Have you experienced that in other people at all or what do you think?
Mark Gober: Yeah, a close friend of mine, a doctor, I talked about some of the evidence with him, this was a few years ago, and he said, “Mark. I have a feeling you’re probably right. But my life’s pretty good and I don’t want to go there.” I said, “Okay. I respect that.”
My personal view is that if we don’t align with reality, reality will come around to rock us at some point. So my perspective is, let me learn as much as I can about reality and align with it and see what happens.
Alex Tsakiris: Right on, right on, right on. Okay, let’s see what we’ve got next. Now, let me let me take us some place, I get to pick next. Where Is My Mind? Mark, what if I wanted to find a podcast out there, I needed another podcast , are there any podcasts that have interviewed all of these people that I’ve listed on the screen here, many many impressive… Dean Radin, Bruce Greyson, Stephan Schwartz, Brian Josephson, Jim Tucker, on and on and on, Eben Alexander. I can’t go through the list. If you’re watching it online you can see. Where might I find a podcast like that?
Mark Gober: Well, I would refer people to Skeptiko and Buddha at the Gas Pump for sure and there’s also a new one which is called Where Is My Mind. It is my podcast where I’ve interviewed many people that I speak about in my book, many of the researchers that have been on this show and others.
The show actually has two formats to it. One is the raw interview, just like the conversation that we’re having here, and those will be available on my website. But the main event is something that was inspired by my buddy from high school who I reached out to around the time that my book was launched, and I was thinking about doing a podcast. He works in the sports TV industry, the only guy I know in media and I said, “I’m thinking about doing a podcast,” and we started talking about it more and he said, “Mark, don’t just put out interviews, let’s try to make this really mainstream. Trust me.”
And I was like chomping at the bit to get the interviews out a few years ago, but he said, “Let’s do something like Serial or This American Life where it’s like an eight-episode series, almost like what you would get on Netflix, but audio where you’re narrating a season, but you use clips from the interviews that you’ve conducted to back your points up.
And even more than that, this show is a conversation between me and my friend the producer Matt, and he’s kind of playing the lay person who isn’t familiar with these topics, almost a skeptic, and we’re having a conversation and then we use clips from, “Oh well, here’s more on telepathy with Dr Dean Radin,” and a clip played. So that’s what’s on the way.
Alex Tsakiris: Outstanding. I can’t wait to hear that. I’m glad, I am glad I asked because I think somebody has to do that, somebody has to add the production value to this to bring people along. So great, I’m really looking forward to that.
Mark Gober: So the podcast is called Where Is My Mind. It’s available on all major podcast players now with the trailer and as of August 8th 2019 episodes will be released.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. Okay, where should we go next? Now that we’ve picked off some of the easy ones, it might get a little bit harder after this.
Mark Gober: Wizards & Saints.
Alex Tsakiris: Wizards and Saints it is. So, we just talked about the things that challenge people and I think one of the things that is challenging about this, and it always has been really, we’ve just kind of kept it under the rug little bit, is that if we accept this extended consciousness, well first we have to accept consciousness, which is what your book is all about.
But then if we start getting into extended consciousness, we do have a sense that there may be some other entities out there in that realm and realms that we don’t necessarily want to engage with or even want to try and understand how we would engage with. Demons, ghosts, fairies, angels, ETs, spirits.
Do people have concerns, do they come to you after reading the book or before reading the book with concerns that they’re opening themselves up to maybe some things that they fear are out there and they don’t want to mess around with?
Mark Gober: I think this is a really important topic because once we accept the reality of these extended realms, there, I think, can be a tendency to become glamorized by it and to see things that seem miraculous or to see someone channeling an entity that is clearly not the physical body and say, “Wow, there must be something there,” and almost kind of worship whatever is said. I think there’s a danger of the unseen because we don’t know what we’re getting and this is, I think, a multi-dimensional universe, something that’s probably beyond all comprehension.
So when we’re dealing with entities that are reported throughout history, but also many people in modern-day, some of whom I’ve interviewed on my show, Where Is My Mind, who channel themselves, beings come through them, I think we have to be as discerning as we can be about the information that’s coming through.
I’ll give an example from Dr David Hawkins. I love his books. He’s famous for his Scale of Consciousness using kinesiology, and I’m not as familiar with the methodology there, but I’m very interested in his perspectives on enlightened states of consciousness that he apparently achieved.
What he always says about this topic is, he says it’s not that it’s not real, these extended realms and these types of entities; there are different names for them, it’s not that it’s not real, but just don’t go there, because it’s too difficult to discern what’s good and what’s not. And I think it’s a caution that we should all have. It’s interesting to explore but we should just be wary because we don’t always know what we’re getting.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah. I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure how that fits with the first part of what you said, which is that we have to understand reality the best we can or reality will smack us in the face. You know, Dean Radin, Dr Dean Radin, someone both you and I respect a lot, I recently had him on the show. He’s now very much into researching spirits. At the same time he’s somebody who says, “Up until a year ago, that wasn’t even in my awareness, in terms of understanding what spirits might be.”
I just wonder how we get there, if we don’t take on the challenge of trying to understand the mapping of that territory, which is the extended realms, and can we really just sit back and say… I mean, isn’t it just as troubling or problematic to say, “Don’t go there,” as it is to say, “Oh, grab your Ouija board and jump in.” I mean, it’s almost like they’re saying the same thing in two different ways. Like, “I know what that extended reality is and here’s what you should do. Don’t go there.” “I know what that extended reality is and here’s what you should do, go channel the demon.”
Mark Gober: I think you’re totally right and there’s a middle ground. But I’m raising the kind of cautionary point because there can be a tendency to dive in and we should just be mindful of what’s there, but I’m super interested in it too. Interviewing Helané Wahbeh from The Institute of Noetic Sciences was one of my favorite interviews. She studies people who channel and they bring forth entities from many different realms and the messages that come through have consistency. So that is interesting that independent people are bringing through messages that are very similar.
So I think short answer is yeah, I’m super-interested. We should be discerning but I think we should be exploring it.
Alex Tsakiris: Awesome. I’m tempted to follow up there. I’m like you man, I love the scientific method even though it’s been consistently misapplied. I think we have to go back to it. What patterns are emerging that you see that you find most interesting there in that mapping of the extended realms?
Mark Gober: It’s interesting, I was just looking back through the transcript of my interview with Helané Wahbeh who studies channels and we were talking about that exact topic. What she reports in speaking to many different channels is that the message is usually about an evolution of consciousness that we are kind of moving through collectively on this planet, but also as part of something much bigger on a universal scale, as in intelligence that’s beyond this planet, whether it’s other dimensions or other planets. That’s what seems to be coming through and that we are on a path towards evolution.
This is actually reminding me of my conversation with Paul Selig who channels himself and when we spoke he channels live. If your listeners aren’t familiar with him, there are plenty of videos on YouTube, a very unique way of channeling, where he hears the information and then kind of mumbles it and then repeats it.
I asked him in the interview who these guys that were coming through, these beings, what their incentive was. Why is it that they care about helping us to evolve because that’s what the message was coming through consistently? And they said, “We’re doing it out of selfishness,” or something along those lines, “because there’s an interconnectedness and therefore your progress is our progress,” and that to me is fascinating.
Alex Tsakiris: Awesome, Mark awesome stuff. Love it. Okay, where do we go next?
Mark Gober: Shut Up Calculate.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. One of my favorites. So let me ask you this as a Silicon Valley investment banker guy. Can’t you make the case that this sidestepping of the philosophical implications of consciousness has helped clear the path for technology development? Maybe this, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a bad way to keep the trains running on time. And if that’s too much shorthand for people, let me just backtrack a little bit.
This is stuff that you know is part and parcel of your book, but you do a nice job in the book of talking about the turn of the 20th century physicist Schrodinger, Niels Bohr, all the rest of them and they’re saying, “Hey, we’re doing the best we can with this quantum physics stuff, but we’ve bumped up against this thing called consciousness, and that seems to be the primary driver, that seems to be fundamental, that seems to be the source not matter.
And then the next step is, and it’s always attributed to Richard Feynman, although I’m not sure that’s where the quote really originates but it’s the idea of, “Well, shut up and calculate. We have some useful models that have fallen out of this understanding of quantum physics that might allow us to develop all this wonderful technology and isn’t that really a better way to spend our time and let’s engineer that and see what we get?”
So you understand what I’m talking about, I just want to make sure our audience does. What do you think? Isn’t there some advantage to just bypassing the philosophical implications than just building stuff?
Mark Gober: To me this is really a question about creativity and the nature of creativity and I see this a lot because of the field that I work in in Silicon Valley where we see innovations and especially with a patent.
If you get a patent, that means you’ve done something that is both novel and non-obvious, relative to whatever has been done in the past, known as the prior art.
So how does an idea emerge that is novel and non-obvious? Sometimes that occurs in a nonlinear way where you have an idea. That is not a shut up and calculate methodology. However, the implementation of the creativity that comes in can be through calculation and logic.
So I think there is this combination of a nonlinear creativity that we can’t fully explain always and the logic of calculation and programming. So the creativity might be the instigator and then the implementation comes with what we are seeing a lot in Silicon Valley.
So I think by sidestepping the implications we might have been shutting down some of the creativity and that might not have been such a good thing.
Alex Tsakiris: I understand where you’re going with that only the one challenge I have with that is that, you know, in particular I remember in your dialogue with Rick Archer on Buddha at the Gas Pump, you guys talked about, it gets a little bit kind of love and light, “Oh, isn’t this going to be great once everybody gets onboard with extended consciousness, mind equals more than brain? Aren’t things going to be better?” And I don’t know.
I mean if Niels Bohr and Schroedinger had their way would we have an iPhone, would we have an internet? You could make the argument that we wouldn’t. I mean that isn’t the direction, that wasn’t their passion after realizing that consciousness is somehow fundamental. I mean, they’re like Thomas Edison and Gary Schwartz today. They’re looking at a soul phone, right?
Thomas Edison, famously, one of his lifelong failures, but something he was interested in, is technology that will allow us to connect with the deceased. Gary Schwartz, someone you’ve interviewed at the University of Arizona, is still interested in that. That’s a different kind of… Maybe that’s a different spin on the shut up and calculate thing. I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Mark Gober: I really don’t know because we don’t know what kind of information would be obtained. If there were more kind of alignments with consciousness it maybe would have steered us in those directions too, with people who have that passion or those unique skill sets to be able to shut up and calculate.
So I think it’s a great point you raise. I just don’t know. It’s hard to know what would have happened.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, that’s fair enough. It’s actually an excellent point on your part. So Okay, Mark. What’s next?
Mark Gober: What have we not done yet? How about Level 1, Level 2, Level 3?
Alex Tsakiris: Nice. It’s what I wanted to do too. So you’ve written an awesome book that if I would have had a few years ago would have trimmed years off of my Skeptiko journey, saved me a bunch of interview time. It’s so well put together, it’s so well organized and documented.
But one of the things, I guess I stumbled into and I’d love to get your thoughts on this is that there’s this level 1, 2, 3 thing, what I call, is that follow the data. Your book, your journey, my journey is the first part of that, which is what do the best scientists say? What do the best minds say? Where are the anomalies and how are they best resolved? And I come to the same conclusion that you do, is that it points towards a new understanding of consciousness that has been completely missed by science as we know it.
But at some point I kind of came to the realization that there’s a conspiratorial aspect of that, kind of cooked right into the cake, and that is, like you mentioned, remote viewing was one of your first go-to topics, in terms of evidence that you found most compelling for mind not equal brain and I always credit my friend Gordon White for being the first one to wake me up to this.
But if you look at that research and you look at all the other stuff that was going on at Stanford Research Institute, and Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ, hey man, they were way past materialism, and these were two of the brightest scientists in the world and they weren’t alone.
There was a significant group within the government, the hidden college if you will, that understood that this materialism and this limited view of consciousness was nowhere close to anything that was real and was useful for building these things but wasn’t true to the ultimate reality.
So that’s the level 2 discussion, so what’s really going on with those guys who know better than to kind of pitch this materialism? And then maybe we can get to level 3 which we already have touchdown, which is I think the real payoff at the end of the day, if you sort through that and you say, “Okay, there’s one group that knows more than everybody else.” Well, what’s really the game? And then I think you have to ask, you know, how does this fit into the larger question of how I should live my life, you know, is there a good and bad, is there a moral imperative and all those other things?
But take me through your understanding of this level 1, level 2, level 3 thing.
Mark Gober: I’m really glad you framed it this way and it’s sort of how I was thinking about the book is that the book would hopefully serve as a gateway for people to open the door to the really, really interesting questions, which I know you’ve been exploring a lot and I personally explore them too.
But without level 1, without understanding that it’s not mind equals brain, these other topics don’t make sense. So one would potentially just be closed off to them entirely and I think that’s what we have right now, a lot of really smart people who are not looking at those topics because they’re still in mind equals brain, so why go to levels 2 and 3?
So I think that’s the critical step, is kind of dispelling that myth and I think there’s substantial evidence for that.
Level 2 and 3, those are ones I still think about all the time. Level 2 conspiracies, why is it that this information isn’t as well known in a society where there is so much access to information? I mean I’ve heard ideas that there are kind of forces that are trying to suppress the information. I honestly don’t know as much about that. I’ve kind of heard that as a theory.
What I’ve heard more about is kind of suppression based almost on ego, of people not wanting to be wrong. And this actually came up in some of my interviews with scientists who would talk to a mainstream scientist who would say, “Well if what you’re doing is right,” meaning these extended consciousness realms, “if that’s right, then everything that I’ve done in my career would be wrong. And that is, I guess, difficult for some people to take.
Alex Tsakiris: I totally agree with you on one hand and I think your assessment of the situation or your telling of those stories is important, because I think people can relate to that and if you can’t, you know, just imagine your entire career being shattered right in front of your eyes. I mean, most of us would be a little bit resistant to that, even though we think science should play by some different set of rules, and it doesn’t, because they’re just people.
And in the slide that I brought up earlier, I always remember interviewing Dr Henry Bauer from Virginia Tech who has written a couple of really fantastic books trying to understand why science is so broken in this way and can’t get past itself.
And I do have to return to the conspiracy for a minute because I think even what you’re saying is part of the conspiracy, and I know people hate that word but there’s no other way to describe it. I mean, we’ve built a system that props up this kind of third grade fallacy, ridiculousness that consciousness is an illusion and you can, and I’ve played it on this show before, go and listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson who is, talk about propped up, propped up as one of the leading scientific figures in the United States or the world, or however you want to say it, and you’ll hear him say, “I think what we’re going to find, you may find, consciousness, there’s really nothing there.”
This is insane, absurd idea that doesn’t pass a high schooler certainly, I said third grade, but certainly a high schooler’s understanding of philosophy. You mentioned Bernardo Kastrup. We had a good chuckle on the show when we talked about that.
How this idea is perpetuated and held up is hard to understand without understanding conspiracy. But then if you go like I did and you investigate, the pushback that comes in waves whenever anyone seriously challenges it, it’s hard to just chalk it up as just, “Oh, two guys out there arguing.”
Take Eben Alexander who you’ve referenced in the book. The wave of criticism that this Harvard neurosurgeon got when he came out and said, “Hey, I almost died and I had a near-death experience and here’s what happened.” There was an organized systematic pushback on that, that I don’t think can be explained without acknowledging that there is a group, whatever that group is, that is opposed to these ideas going forward. And the only conclusion I can come to is that, if you want to run the world then maybe the system that they have in place, the limited thinking, scientific materialism which extends into personal materialism; go buy stuff, go be happy with the things that you have. That, someone has decided, is a better way to run the world than what you’re proposing.
So I want to kind of dive back into that conspiracy thing and see if that might not make sense to you as a possible motivation for why we’re stuck with such a just silly paradigm.
Mark Gober: I’m certainly open to it. I just don’t, I haven’t studied the mechanics behind that enough, but I’ve seen data points that would fit with it. Some of which you describe where there’s kind of, there seems to be a suppression, thinking back to some conversations I’ve had with scientists who say they’ll submit an article to a scientific journal and the journal will reject the article, not because of the methodology, but because what’s being studied is impossible and that’s just a complete stonewalling.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, great. Tell you what, let’s leave it at that. Okay, Mark, where do we go from here?
Mark Gober: Believers.
Alex Tsakiris: You know, the number one pushback that I get when I take this, you’re more than your brain thing, and I guess this would be a valid pushback for you again because I’m referencing the excellent interview you did with Rick on Buddha at the Gas Pump and you’ve done many interviews. You’ve been very generous with your time in promoting this book and as we all know there’s not like this huge financial incentive like you’re going to sell millions and millions of these kind of books. It just doesn’t work that way. So your motivations can only be of the highest kind, I just have to assume that they are, and you’re to be commended for that.
But here’s the pushback I get. People say, “Yada, yada, yada. Mind equals brain.” The vast majority of people, 90% believe that there’s some kind of higher power. Therefore, they already reject the idea of mind equals brain. Has that really made the world any better, safer? You’re kind of painting this Pollyanna future of when people realize the greater consciousness. Go and tell the folks in Iran that. I’m just picking on Iran because they’re in the news. Go and tell all of the radical Muslim countries that we love to hate, who are very… they don’t believe mind equals brain.
Or pick on fundy Christians or pick on any fundy religious group you want, they’re not mine equal brain. Are they making the world better? And if not, then aren’t you just peddling another version of your religion, your picture of how everyone should be?
Mark Gober: I think it’s a great point and a great question. It brings me back, I think, to our level 1, level 2, level 3 discussion. To me the Mind equals brain, dispelling that myth is almost step 1, but getting to the topics that you’ve become very interested in, that I’m interested in is, what does it all mean? What are the other realms? How should we live? That part I think is maybe less well explored.
So the post mind equals brain paradigm, after we get to kind of extended consciousness realm paradigm, then we have to understand reality to another level and to understand what it all means and what the system is, and I think it’s when we get there that we might advance.
So I agree with you that just flipping the paradigm on its own will not do it. It has to be more than that.
Alex Tsakiris: Excellent Mark, great stuff.
Mark Gober: And actually I want to mention something that’s come up a lot in my recent studies and comes up with my podcast on this topic. Phenomenon reported in the near-death experience called the life review, which is reported very often. I spoke with a man named Dannion Brinkley who’s famous for having had multiple near-death experiences.
What’s unique about his experiences is that he had a life review each time, which is not always reported, and he has had four life reviews. And this is where a person claims to have experienced his or her whole life in a flash where the events are experienced through the eyes of the people affected.
So let’s say in the case of Dannion Brinkley, he was in Vietnam. He told me he killed many people and that he was vicious in combat. So during his life review each time, he relived the deaths of the people that he killed through their eyes and not only that he felt the indirect effects. He felt the effects of the child who no longer had a father because he had killed the father.
So it’s details like that, whether these things are part of the fabric of the universe that could ship one’s perspective very drastically, but to even explore the life review wouldn’t make sense until we accept extended consciousness realms.
Alex Tsakiris: Awesome, I totally agree. There’s really nothing I could add to that. So I’m going to move on.
Okay. There’s only a couple left, so I challenge you to remember all the ones we’ve talked about. Let’s talk about the Observer, and we’ve been talking around this for a while. And the last point you made about the life review, I think leads us right into that. If I’m not a biological robot in a meaningless universe, if I’m more than mind equals brain, then what am I? And am I the observer of my experience? Am I what Eckhart Tolle says, what Michael Singer, Untethered Soul, says what my buddy Jeffrey Martin who’s gone and studied in a social science, Harvard social science kind of way, the most awakened people that he could find.
Am I the observer of my experience, is that where level 1 leads me?
Mark Gober: I think it leads in that direction for sure and it’s something I still ponder all of the time. It’s the nature of identity, really. What is it that I am? Am I my body or am I that which experiences the body? And if the latter is the case then does that mean I am not physical, then what is it that I am? And it becomes a very introspective subjective experience.
I think where I come out on it is that my identity is not Mark, but I am that which experiences Mark.
Alex Tsakiris: And that’s challenging. That’s been challenging for thousands of years while people have contemplated it. And one of the challenging parts of it that doesn’t get talked about a lot is that there are pitfalls associated with that.
Following that path is not an easy path, even if we look at the NDE science, you look at Dr PMH Atwater, who I think you’ve referenced in the book? Not sure.
Mark Gober: I don’t believe I did.
Alex Tsakiris: So her research looked at the problems that folks have in integrating in the near-death experience. Higher divorce rate, way higher than normal. Higher suicide rate, way higher than normal, which is surprising.
If you jump over and look at Dr jeffery Martin, who I just referenced and talked about who’s studied this scientifically, in terms of this awakening, this realization that I am the observer, that I am consciousness, again it’s difficult to integrate in. Amotivational is one of the things that falls out. Why am I going to kind of do all the doing that I do if I am the one observing? It’s not that I don’t do anything, but it’s like I can’t get quite as excited about the things that other people are excited about.
And that leads to problems in relationships, again this higher divorce rate, this higher ability to relate to other people. So I think this is something that is super-duper important and isn’t being fully addressed and it’s another one of those things that I think people are running the traps in their head and they’re saying, “I’m not sure I want to be the yogi on the mountain. Even if that is reality, I’m not sure I want that reality.” And the flip side of that is as we’ve talked about, do you really want a non-reality?
So what about the pitfalls with I am the observer of my experience?
Mark Gober: Yeah, these are things I think about all the time too. It’s ultimately, how should we be living? I think that’s where we fundamentally get, because that informs the decisions we make about what to do about our identity if we are not our bodies. And at least to me, my hypothesis at the moment is that the fact that we are in a body indicates that we probably should be doing something here and not just escaping the world completely, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. That’s just kind of the logic that I see in my own mind.
So we have to balance it. It’s, we’re in a body yet we are not a body, we are experiencing the body and then it moves to, well then what do we do here, what is the what is the best use of our time here?
I don’t know the answer to that exactly yet, but going back to the research on channeling, and what we get for many people who have been to extended realms, there seems to be a theme around the evolution of consciousness, around evolving our own consciousness, which is significant because we’re connected and helping to evolve the collective.
So that seems to be achievable through being together in physical forms and not necessarily escaping the world. That’s kind of where my head is now and it could change.
Alex Tsakiris: I love that Mark, beautifully said I think, and I really appreciate the way that you’re struggling with that and at the same time trying to find a coherent path, because you don’t have the certainty, no one could have the certainty, because I think one of the things that falls out of this work or this understanding is that we’re on the wrong end of the telescope to of any kind of certainty. We’re just a small little part of some larger smear of consciousness.
Again, I love this, that’s a Gordon White quote. But, you know, this smear of consciousness that’s put into this time space dimension that we can understand and comprehend, but as soon as we understand it, it’s much larger than that, then we have to kind of throw up our hands and say, “Okay, everything I have to say is provisional.”
And I want to circle back to something else you said because a little quote that I kind of use a lot in and is meaningful to be is from Amma the hugging Saint, if people are familiar with her. This Indian woman who is incredible and is one of these great beings we have to believe who has somehow ascended along this spiritual consciousness path in a way that we look at and say, “There’s something there that is to be studied and understood.”
But the quote of hers is, Amma is someone who works tirelessly, 18, 20 hours a day helping the poor out there in India with a shovel digging latrines, you know leading women’s groups in, you know, all these amazing ways and then having these meetings were she’s constantly hugging people, hugging people 18 hours a day. And one of her devotees goes up to Amma and says, “Amma, you work so hard for this world and yet you tell us to look beyond this world,” and she’s reported to have said, “World? What world?” And to me that…
You’re chuckling because you get it. It’s like, if Amma can keep those two complete contradictions going in her head, then maybe that’s what we have to do as well, in order to make any sense of this.
Mark Gober: Yeah. Well, we see kind of the opposite end of the spectrum with someone like Ramana Maharshi, a famous enlightened sage from India who said that the world as we see it doesn’t even exist. And he spent his life kind of in isolation, people would come and see him and he was a master, but he wasn’t as integrated in the world.
So the question is, how can we have that mindset, which I think is probably accurate, just technically, but still be in the world? And that’s maybe the human struggle, is to try to balance the two, to be in the physical but also have our understanding beyond what we can perceive with our senses.
Alex Tsakiris: Oh, we’re going back to the bible of this world, in this world but not of it, right? That is from the bible, isn’t it?
Mark Gober: I don’t know. It might be.
Alex Tsakiris: I’m not a good biblical scholar. Okay, there’s one more I think that we haven’t covered and that’s Silos. So let’s bring that up, and the question for me and this is kind of a very, very Skeptiko kind of question, and that is, what are we responsible for knowing?
I really, really have enjoyed the discussion we’ve had so far because everywhere I push, you’re willing to go there and I’m consistently surprised at the people who are not willing to go there. Even people on the edge supposedly.
Dr Jeffrey Kripal is a genius and he’s fantastic and Jeff has blazed new ground and is really an innovator. But I always remember the interview that I had with him and I think the subject came up with non-human intelligence, which to me is like fundamental. You know, you’ve got to look at non-human intelligence if you’re going to look at consciousness because it keeps popping up and you can’t just bury these anomalies and say, “Well, you know,” but that’s what he says. He says, “Hey look, you know, as a responsible intellectual, you know, you don’t talk about things you know about,” and I always see that as the other way around. “Hey, you are responsible for knowing everything that is in your domain and if you’re in the conscious domain, you better have an opinion about ET, you better have an opinion about non-human intelligence.
It’s like the other day, I interviewed this guy and he wrote this academic… A fine guy, a wonderful guy, but he’s written this big book and he’s a philosophy professor in England, a big book on the evolution of consciousness. And the first thing is, you know, “I do a search in your book for near-death experience, there’s nothing there. I do a search in your book for parapsychology, there’s nothing there.” So this is just a rant, but let’s pull you into this discussion.
I feel like we have these silos of knowledge still, even in this kind of little tribe that we’ve created who’s interested in consciousness and in extended consciousness. People aren’t willing to go there there, if you bring up conspiracy, “Oh no, don’t go there.” If you bring up on non-human intelligence, “Oh, don’t go there.” If you bring up channeling., “No, don’t go there.”
I don’t know, I think that inhibits our ability to get to that level 3. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Mark Gober: I think the two of us are in a unique position because we’re not academics, so we might have just more openness because we’re not used to the restrictions imposed in an academic setting and there might be more risk for an academic or someone who’s been in that setting to go outside of their little silo.
My personal perspective seems to be similar to yours, which is, I will go everywhere because if it’s occurring I want to understand why it’s occurring whether it’s real or not. Why? If someone’s talking about something consistently, what’s the reason for that? Is it a delusion or is it not, is there some truth to it?
So I’m always willing to explore everything and I think it’s part of my just deep quest to understand reality, like we talked about the beginning, because the more we can align with reality, I think probably the better off we are, and I’m just a curious person.
So my perspective is, one, at least for me, is to go everywhere but to be discerning, I think that’s really important, not just to take everything in as fact, and that’s why I mentioned that point earlier, and also to acknowledge what we don’t know.
So for example, with regard to conspiracies, it’s something that I’ve seen pop up. I haven’t researched the details behind the mechanics of it. I’m open to that possibility, but I really can’t speak to the details because I haven’t researched it. So I think it’s just being clear on where our limitations are.
Alex Tsakiris: Mark you’re awesome at this game. I don’t know but you would be the all-time champ right now. Alex Trebek would have you up in the Hall of Fame. So you’ve successfully run the gauntlet of Skeptiko Jeopardy.
Let’s talk about what else is going on, this book, where you’re going with that, what else is happening with that, and then you’ve already told us about this exciting new podcast. What else is going on for Mark Gober? Where do you go with this stuff?
Mark Gober: I ask myself that every day. I don’t exactly know where it’s going to go, that’s how the journey started for me. It was all just out of curiosity and passion. So I try to follow the passion where it leads.
At the moment I’m in the final editing stages of the podcast. So that’s kind of consuming a lot of what I’m doing, but I’m always researching, I’m still listening to podcasts or reading books and very interested in these extended realms, the experiences reported by people who have reached elevated states of consciousness, the messages coming in through channeling, forms of beings that are coming through and have been reported as more people have an interaction or are channeled.
So I’m interested in many topics. I also recently joined the board of The Institute of Noetic Sciences. I love the work that they’re doing. You mentioned Dean Radin, he’s the chief scientist there. But they’re one of the few places in the world that has a concerted effort towards studying topics like this.
So I give them a ton of credit and also the University of Virginia, their division of perceptual studies, I give them a ton of credit because they’re in an academic institution, studying these topics too.
But I think my work at IONS, that’s going to keep me pretty busy because I love what they’re doing and I want to help in any way I can.
Alex Tsakiris: Awesome Mark. Are you into the consciousness hack thing? Do you try and hack your consciousness? I heard you mention that you don’t have a “spiritual” practice. I’ve got a probe that a little bit. What does that mean to you or what does not having that mean to you? And any consciousness hacks, either technology consciousness hacks? I do ice baths on a regular basis to remind me that I am not my body. I do all sorts of hacks, yogi hacks. How about you?
Mark Gober: I’ve tried a lot of different things. Meditation techniques, binaural beats, flotation tanks. I highly recommend that for your listeners. Flotation tanks, they’re sensory deprivation.
So, for me at least, I like turning off the lights and having no music and you’re basically just floating. So it’s an anti-gravity environment. You’re not taking in sensory input, so it’s a way for you to calm your mind, I think, pretty easily even if you’re thinking you’re still not taking in sensory input.
So I found that it’s a really good way to get creative insights. Before going into the tank I might have a question and then I’ll come out of the tank with more clarity. Sometimes memories pop in. So it’s kind of, some people say it’s meditation on steroids.
Alex Tsakiris: Where are you on the spirit guide kind of thing, or do you have any personal experiences with direct contact with spirit entities that are somehow influencing you in any way?
Mark Gober: A great question. I know many people who have direct experiences. I haven’t had like a visual encounter or anything like that. So I haven’t had a direct experience like that.
Alex Tsakiris: At all? Because the reason I push is because I’m very dense, I guess you would say, I haven’t had any, you know, firework kind of experiences even though I’ve done yoga for 35 years and meditate and do all that stuff. But when I look back, I’ve had a ton of smaller experiences and some a little bit more than smaller experiences, that kind of nudge me further along the path. Not enough where I could go out there and proclaim, you know, “I’m channeling,” or anything like that, but I guess I’m pushing because I think anyone who takes the path, I think very quickly has something that is a little bit non-ordinary. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Mark Gober: I think my life over the last three years is pretty non-ordinary. I can just look at what’s happened and I can’t really explain it, how it all happened so quickly, it’s pretty mind-blowing to look at the details of it. But I haven’t had like the encounter with an interdimensional being that some people will report, with the visual auditory experience. I haven’t had anything like that.
But maybe we have to wonder, the subtle nudges that we get when we have an idea to do something or where all of a sudden I said, “Maybe I should write a book,” when I never had planned on something like that and I wrote the book very quickly. I don’t I know.
Alex Tsakiris: I love the way you put that man, which is like, “Hey, isn’t this non-ordinary enough?” and I think you’re right, that’s an Amma world, “What world?” It’s like, look at my look at my life, you know, read into it what you will.
Mark, it’s just been awesome, awesome, awesome getting to know you and getting to know you in this little way, that is so cool that I can call up somebody who I so admire their work and have this kind of dialogue. Best of luck in the future.
Tell us, anything else, or tell us where people should go to stay in touch with you or to reach out to you or follow-up on what you’re doing.
Mark Gober: My website, which is just my name, markgober.com has more information on me and my book, my podcast. And then the name of the podcast is Where Is My Mind. And I think, hopefully that will open the minds of many people who are not as familiar with these topics, and for those who are familiar with it, it’s a new way to hear a lot of voices you’ve heard before.
So I’m excited about those projects and Alex, I want to thank you for all the work that you do. You were cited in my book, both Skeptiko and your book. Your work has been influential in my journey, so, you really… I mean, the age of content today, it’s so easy for people to learn information, and you never know who’s going to hear an interview. So I want to just commend you on what you’re doing.
Alex Tsakiris: Oh, thanks, Mark, that’s very nice of you to say. Well tell you what, we’ll have to reconnect and I’m definitely looking forward to listening to this podcast, and we’ll have to update people on how that goes. So very good. Thanks again for joining me Mark and take care.
Mark Gober: It was fun. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
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