Dr. Mona Sobhani, Neuroscience and the Spiritual |575|

Dr. Mona Sobhani is a cognitive neuroscientist with 14+ years of experience and an author of Proof of Spiritual Phenomena about her  transformation from a diehard scientific materialist to an open-minded spiritual seeker, and the excruciating identity crisis that ensued.


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[00:00:00] Alex Tsakiris: On this episode of skeptical. A show about changing someone’s mind.

[00:00:08] Clip: What are you doing changing? SOS Mike, you can buy me 20 seconds. No, me. 20. You trust me. Okay. You, you. Hi.

[00:00:19] Alex Tsakiris: And how it almost never works.

[00:00:24] Mona Sobhani: Much like me, before I had this crisis, you could not engage me in a conversation on this stuff.

And you can’t force people to be interested in things they’re not interested in.

, I find myself frustrated sometimes that, , I get confronted with these extremely limited, frankly, lazy explanations about materialism from other scientists and, you know, I just try to think back to myself and you know, I could present them a huge reading list, but are they really gonna go read it?


[00:00:50] Alex Tsakiris: That first clip was from arrival 2016. And the second one was from today’s guest. Dr. Mona Savani.

Who I think you’re really going to like, as much as I do because she presents such an honest and open account of just how hard it is to change our own mind. Let alone change someone. Else’s. Stick around. It’s a good one. I think you’ll like

Welcome to Skeptical, Where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics.

I’m your host, Alex Harrison. Today we welcome Dr. Mona Siani to Skeptical to talk about her excellent new book, Proof of Spiritual Phenomena, a Neuroscientist Discovery of The Ineffable Mysteries of the Universe.

By the way. , Dr. Mona, does the, uh, audible version of this too, which I listen to. And I always love that when the author does the narration.

Cause you just can’t help but get different points of emphasis. So kudos to you for doing that, and it was a great listen. Really, really enjoyed the book. Let me tell you a little bit about, Dr. Siani. First of all. Super smart, super duper smart. , pre-med U C S D right down the road from me. PhD, Neuroscience, USC MacArthur Foundation, post-doc Fellowship case.

You don’t know, they don’t just hand those out every day. She got that Vanderbilt University following up on her research, from what I understand, her dissertation, we won’t really be talking a lot about it, but I throw it out there cuz it might be interesting to some people looking at like neuro correlates and serial killers and law and what that might mean in nature versus nurture and all that good stuff.

Neuroscientist, you know, who was already at that point doing this kind of crossover integrated stuff. The question that should be in your mind, if you listen to skeptical, if you know this, why does she go throw it all away? with this, with this book that she’s down this track. She’s going in the direction everyone wants her to go.

And then she writes this book with, uh, let me, uh, read to you the description of the book. This is from her very excellent website. And here is the description on the book. With this book, I tell the story of my transformation from a diehard scientific materialist to an open-minded spiritual seeker and the excruciating identity crisis that ensued.

It’s a book about my search for both scientific and personal proof in quotes, that there is more to the cosmos, an unseen dimension to life, that the mysteries of human experience go far beyond what the present scientific paradigm can comprehend. It leaves open the possibility of a participatory, meaningful universe.

Awesome, awesome stuff. Thank you so much for joining me, Dr. Siani. It’s great to have you here.

[00:04:08] Mona Sobhani: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

[00:04:12] Alex Tsakiris: So tell us more about, you know, and there’s so many places we could start, you know, you kind of hint at some things like this existential crisis kind of thing, which the book documents in a way, in terms of just what it’s like to be hardcore material, a scientist doing everything you’re supposed to do and then doing that.

Tell people, maybe just in a nutshell of that whole experience.

[00:04:40] Mona Sobhani: , it’s interesting how these things happen to us, I guess. But, , I, yeah, I was li I was, uh, I did all the things I was supposed to do and had a job that I, that I liked.

, and I thought it was pretty good , research scientist, , doing interesting research. But for whatever reason I wasn’t very happy. And like I started, , it was after your PhD when, when you’re working on your PhD, you’re very focused, you know, you’re, you’re tired, you’re so busy, you don’t have a lot of time to think about the meaning of life and you, you’re purpose driven.

And then once that’s over, I think in like, after doing a lot of reflection, , I think that, , , the dip and meaning started happening after that. And , so I, you know, I tried to just focus on the work and what I was doing, but after a while I would, I would wake up and kind of just keep, kept thinking, found myself thinking, What is the point of all of this?

, like what, like, is this it? Like we just, we, And even though I liked my work, , I still found myself thinking that, and that was troublesome to me cuz I thought, , for a long time, you know, you find the thing you’re supposed to do, you’re gonna enjoy it, you find a, a good job and it’s, it’s all gonna be great.

And then it kind of wasn’t . And, um, but the funny thing is I wasn’t super aware of that. I was sort of aware, but I was in denial. So it’s a, it’s weird. Um, but then what happened was I, the way that all of this other stuff came into my life and it all kind of converged, you know, in, at one point in time. , was that, So I’m Persian.

My cultural heritage is Persian. My parents are from Iran and we have in our culture a a practice of divination and we use, , coffee grounds. I mean, you can use anything, you can use Tara, but my grandmother used to use when she was alive would use coffee grounds. And it’s like this thicker kind of coffee.

, it’s often called Armenian, Turkish or Greek coffee. And you drink it, you leave the grounds and the cup flip it over, it dries and there’s pictures emerge. And if you’re lucky to have a reader, they can look at it, intuit things. And so my grandmother was apparently legendary. , I never got a reading cuz uh, she passed away before I was of coffee drinking age with her.

, and my, my, but my mother learned the skills and, and my, this was always going on in the background of our, you know, family parties and, um, just all the time in our house. And I never. Registered it just cause it was just there, you know, Never really thought about it. , until grad school, when I started going home on the weekends to spend time with my parents, my mom would make coffee for me and we’d have it together and then she would just flip it over and start reading.

And I remember thinking, okay, you know, and it’s my mom. I’m not like, I wasn’t hostile towards her. So , I was like, Okay, I’ll just listen and whatever. And over time I realized that the things that she said would come true. , and then I started taking notes, you know, cause I a good scientist, so I was like, well let me just take notes.

Maybe I’m remembering it, um, incorrectly or maybe I’m making of self-fulfilling prophecy. So I started taking notes and I did this for over 10 years and tracked it really carefully.

[00:07:43] Alex Tsakiris: Interject now as a scientist. Cause Mona right, you take notes, we get that you took notes for 10 years.

Add your recording stuff down. I mean, that’s, that’s pretty,

[00:07:55] Mona Sobhani: Yeah. I still have them I still do it actually, I still write everything she says down.

[00:08:01] Alex Tsakiris: So, Cause I, lemme just, lemme just interject something else cuz this is how the book, , starts. Like, uh, and, but what I wanna jump ahead and let people know is, and what’s so fantastic really about the book is that you’re kind of leading us on this journey.

And I wanna talk about how, where that’s coming from too, because I gotta wonder if part of it, for me, part of, cuz I have two girls and two boys and two, my girls are in college, so they’re, they’re closer in age to you than they are to me. Let’s put it in that way. Yeah. And I thought, this is so. This is so cool.

I would love my girls to read this because it’s such a, a next generation scientific, very scientific woman, and the perspective that you’re bringing and , the really, the bravery to, to, to talk like this, to talk like this, which is what the book is about, is say, Yeah, I, I, I did have this existential crisis that we all have, You know?

Okay, I had it and then I leaned on this thing that you’re gonna think is like, Sounds kind of wacky. And you even say when you are also, cuz you’re in this other world, like you say, you know, you’re a, you know, your parents are from Miranda, you’re, but you’re in this la melting pot and you’re a Chelsea handler LA girl and you’re very much that we can tell by reading the book, but you’re like integrating all this stuff in an attempt to resolve it from a scientific perspective cuz you’re a very legit neuroscientist.

And I think that’s such a cool part of this story. So I, I want you to, to pick up on the coffee grind reading, but I mean, and that’s why I was kind of teasing you a little bit about the 10 years of notes. I mean, do you dive into this thing with just a ferocity of, of this scientist that you are and you’re immediately kind of hitting stuff that goes, Hey, this doesn’t fly with what I’ve been taught and I’m not gonna let

[00:10:03] Mona Sobhani: go.

Right. Yeah. And, and that’s what you can do. It’s all I could do. And I think for a while I ignored it, right? So I was like, Oh, these readings, um, she’s able to, you know, know things about the future and even she’s even better at just the current situation. Like she could tell you about things going on in your life at the current situation with like, incredible detail.

And I couldn’t explain it with science, they don’t give you any framework to explain that. Um, you know, it goes against our, our concepts of time and how it moves forward. So I remember initially at the beginning of grad school, I was kind of thinking about like, Oh, how would this possibly work? And I remember reading, Quantums papers and stuff, but then grad school took off and I didn’t have time for that anymore.

So I, um, you know, I just did the best I could and lived in cognitive dissonance and kept them, and kept them separate. And, um, it’s, it’s, I, I took them seriously. Like if she said pick her, you know, like I say in the book, um, she. Warned me about losing money. I would be careful with my money and I would check my bills cuz she was usually right.

, I couldn’t really explain it, but, , but it worked and I, I kind of, I mean, it was just a part of life and not a big deal, just a part of everything. And then I had two big emotional events happened that were related to the coffee. , and then that was, these were around the time of when I was kind, you know, like not feeling great about, or waking up thinking what was the meaning of all this.

And that was the tipping point for all this. So the first one was she kept seeing something in the cup that was, , for five, six weeks in advance. And my mom’s always, you know, she actually, not that she avoids bad news from the cup, but she. She’ll, you know, breeze over it, quickly and just say, Don’t worry about it too much.

I’m not always right, you know, whatever. But this one, she got very serious and she was like, You know, I wasn’t gonna tell you . She was like, But it keeps coming up. So I feel like I just need to warn you that you may be getting some bad news. And, and then she wouldn’t tell me what it was. And it was, it was frustrating.

And then I lived like in terror for five weeks. Like, what, what’s gonna, what’s gonna happen? What am I gonna find out? Um, and then I found out that one of our professors at USC that had helped me on one of my dissertation experiments was killed by one of the students in our program. And it was dev obviously devastating.

, but what creeped me out was that she had seen that, and I think the difference was that it was, it was a death, right? It was a life or death thing, whereas all the things before that, Or you know, like you might lose money, You might , I don’t know, you have a project at work or something. This one was death.

And so for me, it really shook me and I couldn’t understand how the information about someone’s death could be available beforehand and what that meant, you know? And I, I kept thinking was, is there such thing as fade or destiny? I had never thought about that before. Um, but I was like, But if the information was available ahead of time, is it possible that it was meant to be?

I don’t know. Like I had all these kinds of thoughts, but I didn’t have time. Again, I was busy. I didn’t have time to think about it. And I was in grief for a while, and so I didn’t do anything and. And then a couple years later, she saw this relationship coming into my life and, um, looked like it was gonna be positive and good.

And it, it was, it was fine. It just, but it ended. And so I was like, Mom, you were wrong. Like, it wasn’t positive , you know, I mean, now I can see why it was positive in the long run, but, um, and so that, that one though, and I always, I think of it now as like, um, I had like a stool, like, and the legs were just being knocked out and that was the last leg of the stool.

That was it. I was like, done . I was emotionally, um, like I just fell into a depression. Like I felt despair for the first time. I had no hope or optimism for the future. And I was just like, I just didn’t wanna exist anymore because I was like, I just don’t understand why we have to do this. And so it was dark like that for a long time.

And then, then I finally was like, um, what is it about these readings? Um, you know, I wanted to look at. Part of my story and see you. Okay. Um, what does it mean and is there any truth in this? Or did I make this, You know, did I create meaning was, is neuroscience, right? Did what they taught us about how we create meaning out of everything in our brains.

Did I do this to myself? Um, and so then I started this, um, this, you know, journey with, or initially started with my friends as a fun just for ourselves. They were like, We know this really good psychic, she’ll turn you away if she can’t read your energy. Like, if you wanna try someone, try someone else, we’ll take you.

So we started doing that. Um, we would go together, we’d switch notes to see if it was true or not. Cause I’d never actually had readings from anyone else. It was just my mom. Um, so we did that for a while and we realized, you know, this is like me as a scientist. I, and I remember they would say things that would be from my past for my childhood, um, with.

You know, um, uh, like seven variables correct from this, you know, obscure thing for my childhood. And I’d be sitting there like, man, like this is, this is hard to brush off . And I know we’re supposed to, like, even as a scientist, I was trying to be skeptical cuz I don’t know these people, I’m paying them. So it’s different, it’s different relationship than with my mom.

And I’m like, but I just don’t see how that could be guesswork. Like, it’s not vague, you know? And people always, Oh my God, I’ve spent so much time hearing all the criticisms and psychic readings obviously are not the best forum for, to prove something scientifically, but, so it was just for fun. It was just for

[00:15:39] Alex Tsakiris: us.

Maybe, maybe not. I mean, because as you take us on the journey in the book, you know, There’s a lot to be said for, , mediumistic readings. And then, you know, just let me interject something else, because again, you tell this story in an awesome way, and I think it’s very relatable, but I want people to know that you then, Dr.

You go as a scientist all the way. So like you find your way to, , Dr. Julie Shaw’s door at the Wind Bridge Institute, and you go, Okay, Quin Tipple blind, uh, controlled after death communication by a PhD in pharmacology. Who knows how to run that. And she comes up with, , four Sigma or whatever result that blows the doors off.

So it’s, it’s, you’re constantly bouncing back and forth between like you’re saying, Hey, can I trust this reading? And oh, by the way, there’s, there’s this. There’s this evidence, and again, as you point out in the book folks, I want you to understand you will get a lot out of this book if you’re very science minded.

[00:16:39] Mona Sobhani: It’s great. Yeah. Yeah. And I, um, So, yeah, it started like that for fun. And then later I, I did end up digging deep into the, to the scientific literature, which I didn’t think existed. Otherwise I would’ve looked at that first, but I just didn’t even think that existed outside.

There’s no way no one has studied this because it’s so outside of our purview. Like we don’t learn about that. And so I never bothered to look. But um, so I did that with my, Yeah, I did that with my friends for a while and, , I was, Should I tell my Chelsea handler story? ?

[00:17:13] Alex Tsakiris: Yes, yes. You’re just, you’re just like so many of the rest of us, you know what I mean?

[00:17:21] Mona Sobhani: Yeah, yeah, please. Yeah. So, so we were going to these readings and we were, you know, it was very casual, like, not forefront of my mind, but. And I wasn’t listening to anything spiritual at the time. And in the readings they, they would say things to me like, This is, um, uh, a, like someone from your soul group, or This is a carmic thing, a past life thing.

And I didn’t believe in any of that. At first of all, I didn’t even know what they were saying half the time. I was like, I would just write it down, but I didn’t know what soul group or anything meant. And I would, and then I would just brush it off cuz I was like, I don’t believe in that. So whatever. Um, But I had heard it and so it kind of had planted a seed in my head.

And so I wasn’t listening to anything spiritual. Um, but I listened to, I read Chelsea Handler’s book, Life Will Be The Death of Me, and then she had a podcast, like a limited series podcast with a few episodes. Most of it was about. The engram and personality and therapy and stuff. And then she had in one episode with Laura Lynn Jackson on who’s a psychic medium.

And I, and Chelsea was a skeptic, and so I was like, What is this , Laura Lynn Jackson, Why she have a psychic medium on her podcast? Um, but it was like the podcast that changed my life. Um, and so Laura Ly Jackson starts, uh, telling the, the spirit describing that spiritual framework that the Intuitives had mentioned.

And she’s like, Oh, we come to Earth to learn lessons and we have soul groups and um, you know, there’s karma and all this stuff. And I. Just perked up and I was like, Oh my God, this sounds familiar. This is what, And so I started writing it down so that I could, you know, look about, look it up or think about it later.

Um, but I was like, Oh, that’s so weird. Do all psychics believe in this framework? And I’ve never even heard, you know, I’ve heard of reincarnation, but I didn’t know that there was a whole framework behind it, . Um, and so, so she got my attention there. And then she mentioned the Wind Bridge Institute cuz she had been certified by them and, and been tested.

Um, they had done bra, um, EEG studies on her. Um, so I was, you know, made a note to look them up. Um, and then her and Chelsea discussed, uh, the book, Many labs, any masters by, uh, Dr. Brian Weiss. Um, and they didn’t say what it was about. They just kinda said, Oh, it’s a great book. It’s about a psychiatrist case study.

, and Chelsea tells the story of how she got in a fight with someone, , like over dinner, a friend who told her to read the book and she was like, Oh, I’m never gonna read this. And then gets on a plane to fly home that night. And the book is in the. Pocket of the seat in front of her, and she reads it lands, and it’s like, everyone has to read this book.

So of course I was like, All right, I’m gonna order this book immediately, and it arrives, and

[00:19:48] Alex Tsakiris: I, And then you, and then you become one of those people, Right? You start distributing this book. I did. Yeah. Which is, which is great. Which is great.

[00:19:56] Mona Sobhani: I, yeah. I, yeah. The book, what’s interesting because it’s, it’s a short book.

It’s, you know, it’s a story. It’s, um, he is a, An atheist, I think he’s, uh, skeptic. He didn’t believe in anything paranormal trained, psychiatrist trained at like Yale and Columbia. And he just stumbles across Pasti progression in his, um, in his practice. , but finds out that very healing. And then through the sessions he describes the spiritual framework again, He’s like, gets messages from, um, these master spirits and they described the same exact thing.

So when I was reading the book, I just remember thinking, this is just the weirdest thing. I’ve never heard of this. And now I’m like getting it from all angles. And I’m like, and now it’s from a psychiatrist who, you know, and I was all about prestige then. So I was like, Oh, what? Look at his credentials. , and it got, it just got my attention,

[00:20:45] Alex Tsakiris: And, and, and I’ll just, I’ll just throw in a couple little tidbits here too because later on in the book, like, you follow all these threats again, it’s a great story. It’s a very personal story, very open story. You’re just very, very. Brave to be just this open, being kind of the person you’re, you are supposed to be, you know who we’re supposed to hear, but.

As you point out in the book, what’s interesting is when you look, uh, Weiss’s experience isn’t unique. There’s been many other hypnotherapist that literally stumble across this. And the way they do it, and you describe this in the book, is they regress people in the way they’ve been trained to regress people.

Like, Oh, I have a spirit fear of spiders. Okay, go back to the first time. Remember, I was two years. Oh, okay. I’m not afraid of spiders anymore. So they get the, it’s always the same story with all, you know, it’s the same thing with, uh, Newton, , in Newton’s case, the guy who’s very well known for the between lives research, but it all fits together.

He’s has a guy who has a shoulder injury and all the doctors in LA. Dude, it’s in your head, right? Quit coming into our office and he goes and sees him and it’s a tough case. And he goes, Okay. Further back, further back, further back. And boom, he’s on a field of, uh, a battlefield, you know, and he’s describing all the things.

So as you point out in the book and document again, cuz this is a book that is filled with substance and important research and she’s a neuroscientist and later on we’ll talk about maybe all the neuro to the spiritual experience. And she’s got all this research that she cites and more than you’ll be able to kind of absorb and you’ll have a long reading list when you

get done with this. But the point being just like this small example, she doesn’t leave it there. She goes and says, Okay, isn’t it interesting that these independent hypnotherapist who are just following a pretty well known, well, you know, ordained, I mean, they get paid, the insurance company pays ’em for it, and they stumble into this past life thing.

Isn’t that interesting? So, I’m sorry.

[00:22:47] Mona Sobhani: Pick up your story. Yeah. And, and I found that really, really fascinating because from a purely like even neuroscience mental health perspective, because I’m, I did, I went and read not just all of his books, but Michael Newton, Roger Vulgar, um, some Dolores can, a lot of the pasti progression therapists because, and then I, you know, I tried to read other, um, psychology books too, to see, but of course they just don’t even touch it.

, but. Yeah. And I just thought it was so au like, so if you put somebody in a regressed state, , and ask them to describe spiritual framework, that’s the one they usually describe enough so that like these, these practitioners have had thousands of patients, thousands of cases, like put all together and they all say similar things so that they can write these books and give you these summaries.

Like to me, that’s just insane. still, I still think it’s so interesting because as a phenomenon, it’s like, what, where is this coming from? It’s not even a, you know, western culture. It’s not even, I didn’t even know what it was. It’s not a popular, it’s, it’s more popular now, I think. But, um, a lot of these practitioners were from the seventies, the eighties, you know, no internet.

, and so I just really couldn’t get, I couldn’t get over that and I just kept wondering. I just like, as I say in the book, I just kept thinking. You know, is it some like, you know, biological thing, But, but, but I don’t know, like, I just kept coming back to, maybe it’s spiritual , like it was really hard for me, but I just kept like, it just kept coming up in my head like, well, maybe, well, maybe, you know, like, I don’t know, maybe you should open your mind.

But, so then that’s when I really was like, Let me just keep reading. And then I was like, Let me reach out to the Wind Bridge Institute and talk to them because, you know, um, as you mentioned, Julie Al as a, as a PhD and, you know, they seem to be doing good research. I spoke to them. And then, um, the co-founder gave me a, a huge reading list and he was like, um, he’s like, I think you need to do some reading.

Mark. Yeah, Mark. Mark. Uh, he was like, I think you need to do some reading in a nice way. But yeah. But he gave me a huge list and then I went off to

[00:24:56] Alex Tsakiris: do, And Mark gave you another little, , Easter egg too. that you explore and will explore. And when we talk about he goes, And you’re not only is this research, repressed, but it’s suppressed.

And when you go and do a Google search on this doesn’t come up, go over to Duck dot go, and it does come. Hmm.

[00:25:18] Mona Sobhani: I use Google Scholar for, um, most to find academic publications. And when I went to look up some of the papers that he mentioned, um, I couldn’t find them unless I put the exact like, title, exact authors.

Like I had to have everything exactly right for it to come up. It was really hard to find. And it was anything that was, um, I’m trying to, I think Society for Psych Research, like the Journal for that or, um, some of the other ones. But they were, yeah, they didn’t come up. It took me a while to find them and I was like, Oh my God, he’s right.

They’re not indexed like easily to be easily found. Um, and so that was, I mean, that was annoying just frankly, it was just really, um, labor intensive to even find the research. And then to be able to read through it and, and everything. But, but I did it and then I became more and more curious and then I started reaching out to, to more people.

Um, and I read about Stargate and reached out to Hal, put off and Edward May, and spoke to them and, and read all their papers. And then by then of that I was like, Okay, psychic phenomena is real . It’s like I read enough, like there was, there was so much evidence,

[00:26:27] Alex Tsakiris: you know, a big part of this story and it’s so awesome again, that you approach, this, you, the phrase you use is, science made me feel valuable.

Mm-hmm. , And a lot of your story is kind of deconstructing that on that existential level. And also, so you, you, cuz you have, like you’re saying, you, you have these things that. We all encounter, you know, on various levels, the loss, the grief, you know, And it doesn’t have to be somebody in your immediate family.

It can be somebody who you just know and have a friendship and a kinship with, like you do of your professor, and suddenly you’re confronted with death. And then it can be a breakup, you know? And like it’s so easy to dismiss those things. Oh, you know, especially in our culture, you know? No, it’s your heart, you know?

And your heart. Your heart breaks and it grieves. And I think you do just an awesome and unique job of helping us understand how you have to separate out. The head game, , the trip that scientific materialism has taken you on that prevents you from connecting with these feelings and Yes. One of the things that I love is this science made me feel valuable.

And that’s something really, really hard to give up, especially cuz you’re a woman and you, you, you fought so hard to be felt valuable in this gray-haired men’s world, you know, and you’re an Iranian woman. All the rest of that stuff, you know, it’s like, Talk about that cause you talk about it eloquently in the book.

[00:28:00] Mona Sobhani: Yes. Yeah. That. Man. And that’s, that’s the part that was hard. Or actually it was. Um, so what was hard was I was reading all this evidence and I just, as I was talking to you, I said, Oh, psychic phenomena is real. But it was not that easy for me in the moment. It was a battle every single day, waking up thinking, I’ve been fooled.

That was the thought that kept coming up was a, you’ve been fool, you’re stupid. You fell for it. Those were the three thoughts that kept coming up. And I couldn’t recognize them as thoughts, right? That were not, that were me, They were me. I’m telling myself that. But I couldn’t get that. And because of that, it was just a continuous struggle of back and forth reading something, even having all this personal experience I had that already should have proved it to me.

But then, okay, finding scientific papers, but every morning waking up, you’ve been fooled, you’re stupid, you, um, they’re not gonna respect you. Um, your degree is for nothing. Like, you know, those are the things that come up. But I, it, it took a lot of. Self work or whatever, , like a lot of, um, and they don’t teach you anything about psychology and our culture teaches you nothing about taking care of yourself and your emotions or your psychology.

So I had to do, go learn all of that, um, along the way. And that’s when I started to notice, um, you know, these thoughts that were, I was like, like what is preventing me from. Enjoying the spirituality. Why can’t I just ex, why can’t I just accept it? I would look at people who are spiritual with envy. Like, Oh God, I’m so like jealous that you you can just accept it and take comfort from it.

Like why can’t I? , and actually I wish I could say that I came to it on my own. I did notice the thoughts, but it was actually this, um, person that I spoke to who he’s a, he was a therapist and then he, his, um, psychic ability opened up like midlife. So, Abandoned being a therapist to be a psychic. Um, but he’s still trained in it.

So I was, I knew him through a friend and he told me, I told him, I was like, Can you just tell me what my problem is? I don’t care. I don’t wanna a psycho, I don’t wanna come to it on my own. I just tell me what it is, . And then, and he told me, and he’s like, Oh, it’s just because, or he is like, Well, I’m sorry I have a lot of problems.

But he, he pointed out, he said it, , he’s like, You know, your your thing, you’re, you’re, the point of the sticking point here is, is that you can’t let go of the intellect and the science because it’s made you feel valuable for whatever reason. And. And I remember when he told me, I was like, That’s not true.

And you know, I had to go off for months and like meditate on that and realize how it was true. Then I could, then I started hearing the thoughts and I was like, Oh my God, he’s right. . But he, you know, he pointed out to me and I thought, Oh my goodness, this is so true. Like, you want to be accepted too. Like you, like you said, you, it’s, and it’s really hard as a woman in science, like you’re always worried about what you’re wearing, how much makeup you’re wearing, how you sound.

, but no one is taking you seriously sexual harassment left and right, like it’s real as it is in many fields. , and all you want is to be taken seriously. And, , I do feel like, uh, along the way you start suppressing parts of yourself, right? Like, Parts of self expression. You change the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you do your makeup, the, the things you talk about, the things you admit to being interested in.

All of those things change. So that by, so no wonder by the end of grad school, I was not happy .

[00:31:22] Alex Tsakiris: take that, , , one step further. And again, it’s something unique you bring to this because you have a, , an extra layer of sensitivity to that. But then you start deconstructing this larger question of scientific materialism.

You go, ge, this is ridiculous. There’s overwhelming evidence from all these different fields. Even when I look at the cutting edge, , work that’s being done in physics and quantum physics, it’s all pointing in the same direction. What’s going on here? And then you are equipped to look at scientists who you talk to.

So you. Say that this book then leads you to interviewing many leading thinkers, Scientists, and their ideas and thoughts work their way into the book, but you’re then trying to understand and you do understand why they can’t do it, cuz they’re doing, they’re doing the same game you’re doing. And I, that’s how I took it.

You can see

[00:32:12] Mona Sobhani: it scared. Yeah. Scared. Scared . Yeah. And yeah, we’re just all scared. And,

[00:32:18] Alex Tsakiris: um, and, and what are they scared of specifically? Cuz like, you, like you say, you know, you feel good about being smart and being this smart scientific woman and then you find that they’re scared about the same thing and they’re also scared about, you know, what will their colleagues say in the cafeteria if they find out that they wrote an article or even made a blog post, or, you know, or what will happen to my funding and, you know, can I really do that inside of an environment where we all know what the head of the department thinks?

You know? So Yeah, you just tuned into that when you talk to these guys, you’re like, I get that. I know that

[00:32:53] Mona Sobhani: deal. Yeah. Yeah. And they, I think that, yeah, when I, when I spoke to my scientist colleagues, I was, it was when I was going through my, my second, my identity crisis when I was like, Am I. Who am I? Am I not a scientist anymore?

Do what do other scientists believe in? Do they, are they spiritual? Are they religious? Are they, do they believe in anything paranormal? And, , yeah, I just spoke to a, one of my, um, advisors actually, and then a lot of my, , just colleagues and friends who were, Now in great, you know, high positions, , in academia and elsewhere in companies, and all of them were actually, and the, and the truth is, like any scientist in, that’s what I say in the book, Like in confidentially they’ll tell you like, we know the limits of science, so we can’t possibly know everything with science.

We can’t use the scientific method for everything. , and also were limited by time, right? Like we, we just haven’t figured a lot of stuff out yet. And a lot of them were interested in, um, kind of this paranormal phenomena or like, they had read, uh, Dean Raven’s books, or one of ’em had even bought dousing rods.

One, one of ’em had was like, Oh, I went into neuroscience, um, because I was interested in philosophy, but, and these bigger questions about life, you know, And he’s like, I love ghost stories and stuff. So all of them were, you know, human. But I, we had never talked about these things together, so it made me feel so much better, first of all, just to establish that I was like, Okay, I’m not alone.

Like, we’re all human, I think, at the end of the day. Um, but yeah, when it comes to taking it public, you know, some of them were like, Well, you know, I would never talk about this, like at a faculty meeting, , ,

[00:34:27] Alex Tsakiris: there’s also a deeper level of denial that I think you, you get to because you are so open and truly just digging through this stuff personally that comes through in the book.

And in a way I think you kind of let ’em off the hook a little too easily moment cuz they kind of give some explanations that don’t, just don’t stand up to scrutiny in the kind of scrutiny that you do in the, in the book. And you just kind of give ’em a pass like we do people. And you, you gotta give people a little bit of a pass.

But what you do is you just deconstruct materialism as just untenable versus the evidence. And you do it in the book and you do it over and over again. And I think you could even go one step further because, and, and, and you rigorously go through this. But , if we cannot measure because we don’t know what time is.

And if we cannot measure because we don’t know the influence of consciousness and that we know that consciousness is always in play and we know the observer effect and the experimenter effect is always in play, then we don’t really have a science that we can hold onto. And we can still say, like you do in the book, that, well, we still have the scientific method and it’s still valuable, yada yada, True to a certain extent, but we can kind of reorder the whole thing and put everything under engineering.

You know, if you can put it on an iPhone and we can use it, that’s great. Otherwise don’t go slacking on your, you know, about how you could do this and do that. You can’t do shit really. You can just approximate and if that’s good enough to make something better. But yeah,

[00:35:59] Mona Sobhani: well, I don’t, I don’t think they’re doing that on a day to day basis, and I don’t think a lot of them are. Yeah. I just don’t think that they engage with these questions on a day to day basis.

Like when I, like much like me, before I had this crisis, you could not engage me in a conversation on this stuff. Like, I would be too busy, I’m too tired, I have too many other things to read and do and think about. And it’s like, you try to talk to me about that. I’d be like, I don’t have time for this. You know, like, I’m not interested in this.

So I think if, if, and you can’t force people to be interested in things they’re not interested in. So I think. When it comes, you know, it takes like a perfect storm of these things to open you up to things. And that’s, that’s what I try to keep in mind. Um, because, and I just always, like, I wrote the book like that about old me, new me, cuz I, I just, now I find myself in that position of exactly what you, you were saying.

Like, I find myself frustrated sometimes that, um, I get confronted with these extremely limited, frankly, lazy explanations about materialism from other scientists and, you know, I just try to think back to myself and you know, I could present them a huge reading list, but are they really gonna go read it?

Like they’re not, they’re busy. Um, they’re just gonna fall back on their lazy arguments and I’m gonna go on my way, but you know, until it comes a day when they need, need it or something happens to them, as Jeff Crile writes in his excellent book, The Flip when something Happens and the worldview is flipped and then they’ll come calling

[00:37:27] Alex Tsakiris: , very interesting because, you know, both through skeptical, and I’ve been at this for a long time, but it took me a long time to realize this. You know, your book is as much in exercise in why people believe weird things as it is anything else. And it’s about belief systems and worldviews and how those change.

And essentially, and importantly, how you can go about. Being the, uh, master of that process as you are, because that’s what you do. You take on that, that job. So any thoughts on number one, kind of looking out, and it’s brutal, but it’s true. You know, why do people get stuck in these belief system ruts that don’t serve them?

And in particular, now we’re talking about the scientific materialistic worldviews that don’t serve them. And then number two, how do you, how do you reengineer that? How do you, how do you go through that process?

[00:38:27] Mona Sobhani: Mm-hmm. second one’s hard. Uh, the, the first one is, , yeah, I think that I, I think, and you know, I’m not, I don’t know if I, if I know enough, this is just my, but my experience, it does come back to our needs as people.

And I feel like, things serve you as long as they fill some need that you have. Like for me, I needed to feel valuable. Science filled that need. So for a while that worked for me. , and then it didn’t anymore. And I think that, I think that that’s, for whatever reason, you know, people are born into belief systems or whatever, whatever, however they land on their belief systems, it’s various paths for different people.

It must be fulfilling a need for you if it wasn’t working for you. , I think that’s when you do hit crisis like I did. , and that’s when it pushes you to, to, to look and to change. Something is not working for you, then you have to do something. But so long as it fulfills needs and you’re not pushed to that crisis point.

, I just think humans don’t voluntarily want to transform. Right? Like, who wants to go through a crisis like that? I don’t think I would’ve, , I think I was forced to. So, , and how to do it. I mean, you know, I’ve thought a lot about that because as I’ve gone through it, I’ve, I’ve thought about the beginning when I struggled against it, and then ultimately how did it become easier for me?

And it really was just letting go and, which sounds easy, but is not at all easy, but like letting go and surrendering and, and then continuously asking myself, But what if you’re wrong? And, um, and stay radically curious because I think also once I finally was like, Okay, you know what? I don’t know what the real, I don’t know what reality is.

I don’t know what the universe is. All I know is materialism. Is not it and or is not working for me, and it doesn’t explain a lot of my experiences in other people’s experiences. , But I, you know, not ready to commit to another one now cuz I’m like, I, I thought I was so right. Oh man, I thought I was it, I thought I had it and I was so, you know, wrong or, but it ended up flipping, so now I’m careful and try not to clinging.

, and try to stay open-minded and just re I, I think of it like data sets now. I think of all of us as having limited data sets or like an Excel sheet. And I think of it as like I had an Excel sheet of my worldview and it was locked and I was like, No more information please. I am good. I have the correct worldview.

, and then of course I opened up added data to it and now I’m always thinking, I never wanna lock the sheet again. I just wanna keep adding data. And that’s how I think of it when I relate to other people too, that they have different data sets. Like, so if I’m referring to something that they don’t have in their data set, they’re just not gonna get it

[00:41:20] Alex Tsakiris: . Again, I have to wonder if you’re being overly generous there, but because in the book you kind of do reveal some of the secret sauce, I mean, you become a meditator and you actively do that.

Oh, yeah. You jump into these experiences, you do pass life regression. Oh yes, you do. You do. , and you continue to get, you continue to get readings. You even are open about having, , an LSD experience, you know, hallucinogenic experience, which I gotta tell you, you know, at this point, so many people have, but very, very few people right about it and say, Yep, this happened, and here’s how I integrated it in, and all the rest of that.

So, yeah, I, I’m curious. , if I can really kind of jump that to the end. Mm-hmm. is, what do you think about kind of this right action, non-dualism. You said rom dos is one of your Yeah. Spiritual, guideposts, , you know, have you read much of named Carly Baba and, you know, I mean, and some of all Ram Dasa stories are with named Curly Baba.

Yeah. So are you down the, non-dual right. Action.

[00:42:32] Mona Sobhani: Oh yeah, definitely . Okay. So, yes, and I, so for me it was a lot of, um, I mean, and I wish this for the world. I do wish, I wish, like I wish our society focused more on. Self actualization and like psychology just of like, what do you know? What do we need to express ourselves to be happy?

Cuz I feel like, um, a lot of that is what led me to this. I don’t know, despair point. But yeah, I got curious about consciousness. I got curious about spirituality and I found that these altered states of consciousness, whether it’s hypnotic regression or psychedelics or breath work or meditation, um, they really help you get out of your everyday head and out of these social constructs, these things, these, I should be doing this.

I’m supposed to be this, this is my identity. They get you out of that space. I actually now think of them too, as these points where the spiritual, the paranormal, and personal healing all converge. Cuz in those experiences you can have all of ’em, right? Like I can see the future, I can see a past life. Um, I can, it could, you know, heal me in some way if it’s a passive progression or whatever.

Or with lsd, I had an insight, um, you know, I asked a person a question, a personal development question. I think it was what’s my biggest problem right now? And got a very, very, very clear answer. , like a whole, like not just a cognitive, like it was a, I felt that it was like, you don’t let yourself be you.

Like you, you, you know, you trying to project, oh smartness, you’re trying to project who you think. Thinks you’re supposed to be, but you’ve forgotten. Like, and I saw like images from my childhood and you know, like, Oh, you forgot this girl. You forgot this person. And so I feel like these, I mean, if I had, Yeah, one wish is that everybody would embrace these altered states or just go get yeah.

Readings. Like I invite scientists in the book to go get a reading. I mean, like, what’s the big deal? You know, it’s like 30 minutes, maybe they’ll impress you, maybe they won’t. But to touch the mystical and the spiritual, because I, I just truly think it’s very healing and enlightening and it really does help open your mind to other experiences.

And most of the population, uh, believes in this stuff and, um, engages with it in some way. And so it could help put, you know, at least for scientists, like put us on even foot. A little more anyway.

[00:44:57] Alex Tsakiris: Okay. Uh, the skeptical portion of the interview begins Now, , so you mentioned the Russell th how put off SRI stuff.

We’ve covered that a lot on this show. They’re MK Ultra guys, right? I mean, that program is under the MK Ultra Program. RO dos when he’s at Harvard, he’s working in an MK Ultra program. MK Ultra is not pretty, it’s not nice, it’s evil. I mean, they also have at the same time programs going on with Demonology, you know, Hey, can we, do they have, , you know, kind of this weaponizing disillusion of identity disorder, right?

Like, uh, Whitley Streamer, we’ve interviewed on the show, you know, let’s lock up these little nine year old kids in , infer day cages. Oh yeah. And cut, Cut the throat of a bunny in front of them and see do they, do they disassociate and can we then inhabit, you know, take possession of that? So, Evil matters.

I wrote a book a couple years ago Why Evil Matters and, , Evil in Deception has to be a part of this equation cuz it seems to be part of this collage that we’re painting together. What do you think, I just talked to Bernardo Castro, I think last week and, you know, I had to put him, put, put him on the grill and he was like, I can’t dismiss the definite reality that seems to be of the angels and demons.

Seems to be real. You know, do Yeah. You don’t really, you don’t really go

[00:46:25] Mona Sobhani: there too much. No, no, I don’t. I try not to think about that, but I think that the, um, I mean, I do think the nature of the uni universe is, is, um, I as actually in one of my psychedelic trips, I’ve I experienced the duality of like, the universe of like, light is dark and dark is light and, um, and that, so I, I mean, I recognize.

That , I don’t know that much about MK Ultra, and I haven’t dug into it as much as Stargate, but I mean, I do think,

[00:47:01] Alex Tsakiris: I, just to make the point, just to make the point again, I won’t pound on it. Stargate is a part of MK Ultra. Yeah. So, Right.

[00:47:08] Mona Sobhani: Oh, wow. Yeah. Um, but what, what can I ask? What is your exact question? ,

[00:47:17] Alex Tsakiris: So, , Few years ago I interviewed this woman and it really kind of changed the show a bit. Her name is Anika Lucas and I kind of connected her through the yoga thing cause I’ve been in into yoga for a long time and she now runs this amazing program for women who are incarcerated in New York and does yoga with him and stuff like that.

Oh, that’s lovely. It’s lovely. Anika was sold into a satanic ritual cult in Belgium, , connected to the, , Dutrow cult that was, you know, exposed in the newspapers and had all these high ranking officials. She was sold into a satanic cult, six years old, raped hundreds and hundreds of times.

And you know, Satanic like I asked her that at one point and she goes, Yes, that’s what they are, you know, so, If, if we’re going to go there with all the rest of this stuff, one of the questions that’s on the table is why are people attempting to tap into that energy? But more importantly, from a kind of scientific perspective, what, what does the agency of these other realms mean?

And, uh, I, cuz I think it brings into focus some of the other questions that you ask in terms of, you ask political questions at the end and questions about our society. And then I think that naturally leads to, this is us. This is what we did, we did this and we did this to other countries, but we did this to American citizens all under the, the umbrella of, uh, keep us safe.

You know, don’t, don’t tell us anymore. You know, So I think this stuff matters.

[00:49:02] Mona Sobhani: Yeah, I, I was sort of thinking about something similar the other day about, , I mean, I don’t have an answer. I don’t know that anyone does. But I think, I think one part of it is, is control. I mean, humans love power and controller because we, but it all goes back to fear because we’re afraid of dying and not having control, you know, over our environments.

We can’t protect ourselves. We can’t, um, we’re vulnerable in a lot of ways and I think that we try to grasp and control for control and power however we can. Um, but you know, the, and the, the way to counter that, it, I mean, to some extent you can’t cuz we are just, we are vulnerable , it is our nature. Um, but you know, in psychology, they, that’s what they talk about, child development.

It’s, it’s about making them feel safe and secure so that they don’t have to develop these other, um, mechanisms to, to control their environment or manipulate the people around them or whatever it is. Um, so it’s like in a perfect world, maybe if we all grew up, uh, You know, feeling safe and secure and we’re raised in that way, but like, do I think that’s gonna be possible?

I’m not that much of an idealist, .

[00:50:11] Alex Tsakiris: The other thing, I wonder what you think about this, because I think what the book points to, and we don’t quite close the loop, but maybe you can do it here, is you start with pretty quickly realizing it’s all about love. It’s all about the light. The light is always shining.

You know, just look up. And we don’t let the light shine through for a ton of reasons, and we all get that, you know, But the light is always there. The light is always shining, and you kind of end the book on that too. But you feel the necessity to go through this long journey. I, I’m right there with you.

I’m on that journey too. But maybe the answer is, Name Carol Baba. Love everyone and tell the truth. Maybe the answer is, it doesn’t matter what those motherfuckers do, it doesn’t really matter. We don’t have to make sense of it. They have to make sense of it when they die, when they face their soul journey, and they have to face experiencing themselves what they did and the impact of that.

We don’t have to, we don’t necessarily have to process all that evil. And that’s why I think the mistake is made, but people are wanna shy away from evil. Like, we have to fix something. We don’t have to fix it. We just have to be the light. And that’s what I think you’re, you’re, you say at the beginning and then you say at the end,

[00:51:35] Mona Sobhani: right?

Yes. Yeah, I did the practice that Right. And I, I feel like, um, I feel like I’m still transitioning into that. I don’t feel like I was that at all before my, like, old me. I don’t think I, I was very conditioned, you know, from our cultured. And I, I didn’t think about other people in that way. And I, I think I talk about in the book, I was very, um, arrogant and condescending and retaliatory and like, I felt a lot of emotional, you know, um, uh, just upset when when somebody didn’t agree with me, , like had a different opinion than me or whatnot.

And now I know, oh, it’s cuz I felt whatever my value was threatened. Okay, great. Um, and that’s why I cut material is so much slack now, or any, everyone really is, I really just tried to, it’s like I. It really is just letting go because old me would’ve been like, No, you have to see. And I would’ve been angry, and I’ve been like, You need to understand.

You need to get caught up. You need to read the papers, you need to. But, um, like I said, I don’t, I just don’t think that that works. Um, with people knowing human psychology, like , I just don’t think that even works. And I think really the better way is to let go surrender and to live. And like you said, shine your light.

And when they see you living well, they, and then if, you know, they’re not, they might ask themselves, um, what’s the difference here? And what could I, what could I do differently? So I really do think all you can do is, is yeah, live. Live your piece. Live your truth.

[00:53:04] Alex Tsakiris: Awesome.

So Dr. Siani, where are we going with this book? Proof of Spiritual Phenomena, A Neuroscientist Discovery of the Ineffable Mysteries of the Universe. You got a, a great publisher behind you and you’re rolling it out. How’s all that going? What do you hope to accomplish? And then what are you gonna do next?

[00:53:29] Mona Sobhani: Gosh, you know, I used to, I’m such a type A, I used to plan everything and I’m trying a new thing where I don’t do that , so I’m kind of just taking it day by day and, um, I mean, I started, uh, thinking about, and like col doing research for a second book. But, um, I don’t know. I’m just enjoying this one. And, uh, I’m still exploring a lot of different altered states and, um, healing modalities.

So I’m still on that journey. Um, Uh oh. Oh, I guess I can mention this. I haven’t picked a date yet, but I am. There’s two things. One is, um, a collaborator and I are going to the Society for Neuroscience Conference and we’re having a sat, which is like the biggest conference in neuroscience. Um, and we have a little satellite event for science and spirituality, but it’s really for any scientist who’s ever experienced anything that they couldn’t explain, um, to come join us.

And so that’s one thing. And then next year we’re going to plan a retreat where I wanna, you know, in the book, I invite scientists to come engage the mystical. Um, and so we wanna, um, organize a retreat where we, where we allow that to happen, like a one day where we haven’t figured out the details yet.

There might be a one day, one in LA and another one in a retreat center, but where they can come and we can, we’ll ha they can get readings, We can present, um, the evidence from the psychic research in like a really succinct format, uh, where we can talk about the scientific paradigm and experimental, uh, formats, like different ones going forward.

Like if, you know, materialism isn’t the whole story. Um, so yeah. So those are some of the things I’m, I’m working on and thinking about.

[00:55:08] Alex Tsakiris: Excellent. That’s great stuff. Great stuff. , , congratulations again on the book. It’s fantastic. Really encourage everyone to check it out if you can do the audible, it’s, it’s great.

It’s great. Listen, so thank you. Thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:55:23] Mona Sobhani: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

[00:55:26] Alex Tsakiris: Thanks again to Dr. Savani for joining me to dance kept co the one question I tee up from this interview and it kind of relates to some of the recent episodes of skeptical is. What does it take to change your mind? And what does it take in your experience? To change someone else’s mind.

Let me know your thoughts, love to hear from you, especially if you have that next level level, especially have you have that level three sensibility. In talking about these topics, I’d love for you to join me on the skeptical forum or attract be down. Otherwise that’s going to do it for today.

Until next time, take care. And bye for now.


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