Transcript for Dr. Rupert Sheldrake – Science and Spiritual Practices

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this one my guest for today is dr.

Rupert Sheldrake he is a biologist and

author of more than eighty-five

scientific papers and nine books many of

his books have gone bestseller worldwide

he was ranked among the top 100 global

thought leaders in the world for 2013 he

studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge

University philosophy and history of

science at Harvard University and then

returned to Cambridge to achieve his PhD

in biochemistry his most recent book is

science and spiritual practices

transformative experiences and their

effects on our bodies brains and health

which delves into a variety of spiritual

practices the scientific research that

has studied them and the possible

benefits that they may bring to our

modern lives dr. Sheldrick it’s a

pleasure welcome to hxp good to be here

dr. dr. Sheldrake I’ve been trying to

get you on the show for how long it’s

been how many emails have I saying you

know I think it’s been five years I’ve

been sending you emails probably once a

month yes we’ve got you here I’m very

excited I’ve got the book in my hand I I

really want to bring sort of people into

the framework of what you talked about

so I’d like to I’d like to talk about

morphic resonance that seems to be the a

body of work that people recognize the

most in association with your name so

you’re an India when you were coming up

with morphic resonance right no it

wasn’t actually I came up with the idea

in Cambridge I was working in Cambridge

on the development of plants plant form

Andrew leaves and flowers and and roots

take up their shape and I worked on

plant hormones and chemical controls of

plant form but I got interested in the

idea of morphic genetic fields form

shaping fields which is a

well-established an idea in

developmental biology and I came up with

the idea of morphic resonance a kind of

memory in nature in Cambridge I went on

developing the idea in India it was

there was eight years between thinking

of it and publishing my first book on it

a new science of life so some of the

maturation of the idea occurred in India

but basically it grew out of scientific

problems in Cambridge out of Western

science and Western philosophy rather

than Eastern science and Eastern

philosophy okay and so tell us tell us

about the theory this idea that things

are connected well it’s really the idea

there’s a kind of memory in nature you

see the standard idea that we’ve all

grown up with and take for granted is

that nature is governed by the laws of

nature eternal laws that were all there

at the moment of the Big Bang that never

change this I think is a hangover from

the kind of platonic philosophy in

ancient Greece the idea doesn’t

completely changeless realm we live in

fact in a radically evolutionary

universe the Big Bang about fourteen

billion years ago took place when the

world was very very small very hot the

universe has been expanding ever since

and the idea that all the laws of nature

were all fixed at the moment of the Big

Bang the standard view seems to me well

first of all it’s unprovable and

secondly it seems improbable what I’m

suggesting instead is that the so-called

laws of nature are more like habits that


evolved as the universe evolves and that

there’s a kind of memory in nature and

what that works out as in each species

each kind of animal or plant it means

that the kind of collective memory each

individual draws on it and contributes

to it and this is a testable hypothesis

if you train rats to learn a new trick

in New York then rats all around the

world should be able to learn it quicker

just because those rats have learned it

in New York similar kinds of rats are

similar trick the same trick they should

get it quicker because it’s now part of

the collective memory of rats and the

transfer of information based on

similarity across space and time is the

process I call morphic resonance

it’s a resonance on the basis of

similarity and the word morphic means

form or shape it’s on the basis of

similar patterns of organization or

activity so that’s basically the

hypothesis there’s a kind of memory in

nature instead of nature being a music

and governed by eternal laws so so this

memory it that we can connect to it and

all things are connected to it animals

plants nature and other humans as well

oh yes what I’m saying is that you know

when you inherit say a hedgehog grows up

or a squirrel as it’s an embryo

it’s inheriting the form of its species

by morphic resonance from previous

hedgehogs or squirrels it’s it’s the

usual viewers it’s all coded in the

genes but actually I don’t think genes

do most of the things that many people

assume they do what they do do is code

for the sequence of ammonium acids and


it’s rather restricted role and I think

the shape of animals and plants and the

instincts of animals are inherited

primarily by morphic resonance through a

kind of collective memory of form and

behavior within each species the genes

play a part they play a part in enabling

the organism to make the right proteins

from this point of view genes have been

grossly overrated and a lot of

inheritance depends on collective memory

okay so I mean you say you say in your

work that the the paranormal is more

normal than we think I mean more people

are experiencing telepathy then we kind

of acknowledge why I mean do you agree

that this this pair of rays oh yes I

mean dude well I don’t think for the

paranormal as paranormal I think it is

normal own telepathy for example occurs

most commonly in the modern world among

humans in connection with telephone

calls people think of someone who then

rings and they say oh that’s funny I was

just thinking about you or they know

who’s calling before they look at the

caller ID or pick up the phone and the

usual explanation for that it’s a very

common experience more than 80% of the

population of had it according to

surveys in Britain Europe Germany the

United States Argentina and other

countries very common the usual

explanation is say oh well that’s just

because people think about other people

all the time and if one of them rings

they falsely imagine it’s telepathy and

they just forget all the times they’re

wrong that’s the standard way of

explaining it away but the people who

say that haven’t got any evidence has

been no scientific tests and when I

discovered that this so-called skeptical

argument was untested I devised a test

so it could be tested in my tests on

telephone telepathy somebody gives me or

my assistant the names of four people

they might be telepathic with usually

people they know well and their phone

numbers they sit at home with a mobile

phone over the landline phone being

filmed no caller ID display and we pick

one of the four callers at random and

ask them to call they call the phone

rings they can’t know who it is by

knowing that the people’s patterns of

activity because we paid

call her a random and before they answer

the phone they say to the camera who’s

calling I think it’s John they may sail

and they pick it up hi John they’re

right or they’re wrong and if it was

just guessing they’d be right 25% of the

time in fact in these experiments in

hundreds of trials they’re right about

45 percent of the time it’s a very

significant effect statistically and

these tests have now been widely

replicated and I think the evidence for

telepathy is very good it happens to

most people it’s very common it happens

all around the world and I think what’s

paranormal really is the way that some

kind of skeptic groups are so

passionately against it and and simply

won’t believe the evidence of their own

senses and their inexperience and of

scientific tests and persist in

believing it’s make-believe its

non-existence and so forth that’s

puzzling until you realize they’re

motivated to say what they say by a kind

of belief system that says – that is

impossible but if we take the normal as

what really happens in the world it’s

perfectly normal most people have had

this experience and it happens quite

frequently for some people on a daily

basis I mean do you think that people

are get becoming more paranormal more

paranormal thinking do you think that

telekinesis is on the rise do you think

that anything is changing in this regard

I mean because I can I can pick up the

phone and give you a call for example

whereas maybe before before the

invention of telephones we were

communicating telepathically more

readily well yes I think it is on the

rise actually the this phenomenon of

telephone telepathy obviously couldn’t

exist until telephones appeared and now

more people have more telephones and use

them more often than ever before so I

think it’s increasing along with the use

of telephones and a very similar


occurs in connection with SMS messages

text messages and also in connection

with emails and I and my colleagues have

done experiments on these as well and

shown that people can telepathically

anticipate who is sending them an email

out of four people or who’s sending a

text message it’s not just guessing they

can they can pick this up well above the

trance level I mean if I was just gonna

say if if I mean if this is happening

more than we think then why why is your

work so challenged in the mainstream and

why is this regarded as pseudoscience

well the thing is that what a lot of

people don’t realize is how ideological

a lot of science is at the moment the

institutional science is working on a

paradigm a model of reality which is

basically the philosophy of mechanistic

materialism that means the belief that

nature is the chemical machine like that

matter is unconscious that human brains

are just made up of unconscious matter

that consciousness is just a kind of

byproduct of the physical activity of

the brain and minds are therefore all

inside heads so the idea that a thought

in your mind or mine could influence

somebody a hundred miles away from this

point of view is completely impossible

it’s make-believe its woowoo it’s

pseudoscience it’s it’s superstition

it’s credulity you know you name it the

the pejorative word and it’s a taboo

this shouldn’t happen because it doesn’t

fit with that particular materialist

philosophy therefore doesn’t attempt by

so-called skeptics who are not real

skeptics they’re really defenders of a

kind of worldview advocacy groups ready

to say that there’s no evidence for this

anyone who believes it is a pseudo

scientist or foolish or they’re

superstitious or this

stupid or they can’t think critically or

something like that

an attempt to demean and dismiss this

because it doesn’t fit in with their

worldview now that’s exactly what

happens in the history of science when

Thomas Kuhn wrote his book about the

structure of scientific revolutions he

showed that at any given time in science

there’s usually a dominant model or

paradigm is the word he used anything

doesn’t fit in with that model is simply

dismissed ignored ridiculed and that’s

exactly the kind of behavior we see in

defenders of this worldview in relation

to phenomena like telepathy they’re

branded paranormal supernatural woowoo

and people who do research on them often

attacks from their point of view you see

and when I do experiments and get

positive results for the telepathy they

truly believe these phenomena are

impossible and that means in their eyes

I must be a fraud and so most other

people who get these results either I’m

a fool or a fraud and they therefore

feel justified in attacking through

editing Wikipedia or through attacks in

the media me and other people who do

research on this kind of thing because

it just doesn’t fit their worldview and

they sincerely believe most of them that

it’s therefore completely impossible but

that is the problem you see that they’re

victims of a dogmatic framework of

thinking and as I shown in my book

sunset free the the the whole of science

has got sort of boxed in with this kind

of dogmatism at the moment many people

outside the scientific worldview are

well aware of how dogmatic scientists

can be many people within that dogmatic

framework of belief don’t see it that

way at all they think of themselves as

as as being open to evidence even though

they actually dismiss evidence that goes

against what they believe in so it’s

really a sociological question and it’s

it’s very much to do with the dynamics


scientific paradigms and the sociology

of science I mean it’s really

interesting and you know in in your book

the science and spiritual practices

there’s there’s a portion in the

introduction of your book where you you

call you sort of call out these atheists

and these materialists and I mean the

there you even say that they are

teaching their own sort of method of

spirituality but do you regard this as

ironic or sort of hypocritical well

there’s been a very interesting shift

most atheists materialists not all of

them I mean but most of the kind of

common or garden atheists that you and I

are likely to meet is usually a believer

in scientific materialism they believe

that nature is autonomous the whole

universe is like a machine made of

unconscious matter governed by eternal

laws mathematical laws functioning

through a purposelessly

evolutions happening as a result of

chance there’s no design no pathos no

consciousness in nature and therefore no

God the idea that there’s a God out

there is simply doesn’t there’s no place

for God in this materialistic worldview

so they’re atheists and they think that

this is a scientific view until recently

old-school atheists just rejected

everything to do with religion and

spirituality is rubbish and we were

nonsense and make-believe and

superstition and so forth what’s

interesting is there’s now been a lot of

scientific research on spiritual and

religious practices and what this

research shows is that these practices

are generally speaking good for people

they make people happier healthier and

live longer so the converse must also be

true people who don’t do these practices

are likely to be unhappy err unhealthier

and live shorter so it’s precisely

because spiritual practices have such

benefits that a number of atheists have

now taken them up themselves

I mean Sam Harris for example who’s an


atheist in the United States who know

one of the so called new atheists is now

giving online meditation courses and

here in Britain Susan Blackmore who’s at

a prominent public atheist skeptic and

materialist has written a book about Zen

meditation which she practices herself

so what’s interesting is that the the

ground the debate has shifted it used to


atheists against everything spiritual

and religious now the new generation of

atheists are taking up a range of

spiritual practices themselves I mean

principally meditation and now what

they’re saying is oh yes well spiritual

practices are good for you yes there is

some point in them yes there is evidence

that they work and can help people make

them happier and healthier and less

stressed and and and so on all that’s

true but the experience people are

getting through these practices is not

about connecting with some kind of

consciousness out there it’s all just

happening inside their brains it’s all a

matter of changes in the patterns of

nervous activity release of dopamine or

other neurotransmitters and so forth so

it’s all inside the head now I suspect

that a lot of atheists who take up

meditation and probably millions have

done I mean this is big I mean this is

not just a tiny minority it’s quite

common I think that many of them take up

meditation starting off with that kind

of belief and I rather suspect that

through the experiences they have they

may change their view about reality and

based on their own experience I know

some people have done if I did myself I

mean I myself was an atheist and a

materialist as I described in the

introduction to my book science and

spiritual practices and you know as

education as a scientist I did research

and taught at Cambridge University

and at Harvard I adopted the standard

sort of atheist scientific worldview my

own view of reality was very much opened

up first by traveling in India which

gave me a completely new perspective on

the world being in a completely

different culture secondly through

taking LSD which in around 1971 which

gave me a completely different view of

the nature of consciousness and of the

mind and as a result of that I got

interested in exploring consciousness

without drugs and started doing

Transcendental Meditation this was

around 1971 while I was still an atheist

I didn’t I liked that you didn’t have to

believe in anything to do this you just

did it and it was based on experience

but my experiences through meditation

and yoga which I also took on it led me

gradually to move to a very different

view of consciousness and and to move

beyond this kind of atheist rather

dogmatic Atheist worldview that I had

and I think for many people direct

experiences spiritual experiences

through spiritual practices can and do

lead them into a different kind of

worldview after all spiritual worldviews

and all religions are based on the idea

they’re all about consciousness they’re

about the idea of the reforms of

consciousness beyond the human level

with which we can consciously connect

that’s what spiritual and religious

practices are about and these practices

like meditation are ways of entering

into these different realms of

experience and not reading about them

not thinking about them but actually

experiencing them directly and it’s

experience that really has the most

effect on us and that of course is

something we can study scientifically

and in fact the word experience in Greek

is in mp rose at the word empirical

is dealing with experienced scientist

empirical because it’s based on

experience and service spiritual

practices their empirical because

they’re based on experience and in fact

in French the word experience means both

experience and experiment so that’s why

I think there’s a kind of convergence of

science when we look at spiritual

practices of convergence of science and

spirituality and that’s one reason I

wrote this book science and spiritual

practices yeah so I mean was there a

single experience for you that converted

you from atheism into believing in

something higher I don’t think there was

a single experience I mean I’ve had a

number of mystical type experiences

where I felt myself connected with

something higher and I think probably

one of the first of those was in India

in 1968 when I was up in the Himalayas I

was staying with a friend in an

anthropologist in a remote village we

were walked went for a walk we ran into

the local holy man who was sitting in

his cave near a flow rapidly flowing

river in the foothills of the Himalayas

who invited us to settle with him in his

cave so we joined him he produced

something he called a Chilam and invited

me to smoke out of it I didn’t really

know what it was and it turned out to be

a very strong form of cannabis really so

it described a Shiva’s holy plant

because in India is taken as a spiritual

devotion or practice by some of these

Saudis these holy men in orange robes so

I hadn’t taken cannabis before and this

was it was very powerful and it had a

huge effect on me and I I just felt

completely open to this presence of the

divine and I stepped out of the cave

into the sunlight let alight and there

were all these snow-capped Himalayan

mountains the Sun

the river the greenery of the vegetation

I just felt I was in a totally blessed

world I was in paradise and I had this

feeling of complete connection and I

would say that was one of the first kind

of epiphanies senses of there’s

something more than just what’s

happening in my brain now of course the

cannabis head shall cause changes in the

brain is after all a drug that effects

cannabinoid receptors and biochemical

mechanisms inside the brain so obviously

the brains involved but the experience

went so much beyond that and you know I

tried to persuade myself it’s nothing

that chemical changes in the brain but

the experience for the experience was so

powerful that it made me think well why

would I just believe that it seems that

I am in contact with a greater form of

conscious that really is a greater form

of consciousness in the universe and

then I thought well why not I mean

that’s what most people throughout most

of human history have believed on the

basis of experiencing it not on the

basis of dogma and in fact I thought it

was more dogmatic to deny my own

experience than to accept it is a very

interesting story and I mean the link to

the usage of these compounds these plant

medicines plant teachers you would call

them it there seems to be a strong link

here between the the entry point of

consciousness and these other

experiences and these plant compounds I

mean we just had just had Graham Hancock

on the show and he was making a link

between ayahuasca DMT and the the

origins of the spread of these types of

ancient civilizations so I mean would

you record regard a link here as well

with your work and and what you’re doing

well yes i I’ve got a new book out it’s

not out yet in the US but it will be

soon called ways to go beyond and why

they work it’s a sequel to science and

spiritual practices and in it I have a

chapter on cannabis and psychedelics and

I mean I agree with Graham that had a

simply effect

that in in a number of cultures in the

world psychedelics have played a very

important part in their religious and

ritual lives

ayahuasca in the regions in wide regions

of the Amazon in Berger in West Africa

mushrooms in Mexico psychedelics have

played an important part in many

cultures I won’t I don’t go so far as to

claim all cultures and all religions are

based on psychedelics I mean I not

suggesting that Jesus was taking DMT he

might have done but or mushrooms or

anything like that all that Muhammad was

stoned when he channeled the Quran I’m

not saying that I’m I think that there

are other of the whole point of my books

is that there are lots of different

spiritual practices I think psychedelics

are one of them but there are other ways

of entering altered states of

consciousness including fasting

meditation and a number of other

spiritual practices prayer science and

cultures people spend long times in

darkness in Tibetan in Tibet there are

some of the Tibetan Yogi’s then weeks

months in dark caves and if you’re in

complete sensory deprivation in the

absence of light you have visionary

States almost psychedelic type visionary

states according to those who’ve done it

so again you don’t need actual drugs to

have visionary States you can enter them

from a variety of other through a

variety of other practices so I’m just

saying that drugs may have played a part

in some cultures and they certainly play

a part in the spiritual explorations of

quite a lot of people today but not

everybody and it’s certainly not the

only way so I mean one of the things

that you bring up in this book is

meditation and the importance of it I

mean it seems like we live such

stressful lives I mean it’s a it’s an

impact that we sort of go through every

day that everything seems so busy that

we take this moment out to just sort of

quiet the mind

silence the thoughts or at least slow

them down why is meditation so important

to this connection do something greater

larger than us well I think there’s

there’s there’s several answers to that

I mean I personally do it every day I

find it very helpful I do it in the

mornings usually before I start work

soon after getting up well the the

scientific studies on meditation and

there have now been literally thousands

of scientific papers on meditation in

scientific journals they show first of

all that sitting quietly and meditating

either by using a mantra which is one

way of meditating or by paying attention

to breathing in sensations in the body

so called mindfulness techniques another

way of meditating that’s without a

mantra both these forms of meditation

have the effect of leading to reduction

in blood pressure lower levels of stress

hormones a feeling of relaxation

activation of the parasympathetic

nervous system which is to do with

feeling relaxed and open as opposed to

the sympathetic nervous system which is

not about sympathy but about

fight-or-flight you know fear and

responding to emergencies and danger the

parasympathetic nervous system is more

about feeling relaxed and calming down

and meditation helps in all those ways

it helps calm down the chatter of the

mind which in terms of brain scans is

associated with the activity of the

default mode Network a series of brain

regions that are linked up together that

are active when you’re ruminating or

worrying or thinking or engaging in

internal dialogue and what happens in

meditation I’m sure many people

listening to us have meditated and won’t

need me to tell them but what happens is

is is through having a focus for

concentration on the mantra

or on the breathing or sensations in the

body it sort of pulls the attention away

from this chattering this thought that’s

going on the activity of the default

mode Network the ruminations the worries

and the fantasies and so on it provides

an out of focus for attention and it’s

sort of drains energy away from the the

catering mind and instead of being

completely immersed in that that

activity of the mind wants more detached

from it and and that activity can slow

down become less intrusive less

encompassing and where and there are

moments when one can be free of it and

those are often moments of great peace

calm joy and people often feel connected

to a greater consciousness and their own

now I think that’s why people develop

meditation techniques in the first place

within India within the Buddhist

tradition within the Sufi tradition

within the Christian contemplative

tradition in monasteries starting around

450 ad there were people withdrawing to

monasteries or Hermitage –es spending

hours a day in spiritual practices

various forms of meditation and what

they were doing was going into the very

basis of consciousness itself the basis

of one’s own mind

the consciousness within which thoughts

move the thoughts as it were passed

through the consciousness that we all

have a bit like clouds going through the

sky the the thoughts are not the mind

they’re in the mind just like the clouds

are not the sky they’re in the sky and

the more one becomes aware of one’s

connection with the ground of

consciousness like the sky as opposed to

the clouds the more one’s part of

something much bigger than oneself and

the Hindus who were the people who

probably are some of the third

to develop a deep understanding of

meditation the riff is the Hindu seers

who spent years in caves and the

Himalayas and elsewhere in India

meditating realized that the basis of

our own consciousness is none other than

the basis of the consciousness of the

whole universe each of our minds is like

a kind of fractal of the divine

consciousness that underlies everything

every consciousness in universe is a

reflection of that one of their

favourite illustrations is thinking of

buckets of water which at night are

reflecting the moon and if you look in

all these buckets of water you see in

each of them the moon it’s a reflection

of the moon hundreds of different

reflections of the moon they all look as

if they’re separate things but actually

they’re all reflections of the one moon

and their idea is that all of us all our

minds all our consciousness is and the

consciousness is of all other conscious

beings and universe reflections of the

ultimate consciousness the one

consciousness that underlies all things

so the purpose of meditation is to link

to that consciousness and because one of

the properties of the ultimate

consciousness in all religious

traditions is joy the more one’s

connected to it the more joyful one is

which is why very often mystical or

spiritual experiences are experienced as

intensely joyful now I want to go back

to a little bit to your experiences in

India and the Hindu concept of the

Brahman can you talk a little bit more

about the connection to the mystical and

how ancient people were using meditation

as a way to connect into the divine and

how how the Hindu concept of the Brahman

relates to the Holy Trinity in

Christianity please yes well this is a

very important point you see that they

in many religions there’s the idea

there’s a divine consciousness and

ultimate consciousness

underlying the universe and everything

within it and the but it’s not just seen

as kind of some fuzzy one consciousness

it has a structure there’s a pattern to

the nature of the ultimate mind and it’s

basically threefold and and the Hindus

think of it in all sorts of different

trinity models one of them is in terms

of three different gods

there’s Brahma they creator

there’s Shiva the destroyer and the and

who creates through destroying the Brahm

is the source of everything and then

Vishnu is the preserver keeping things

going and so vision is more dynamic more

more more preserving and Shiva’s more

about change and creativity but the

probably the deepest model in the

advaithic tradition in Hindu thought and

in most Hindu philosophy is that the

ultimate consciousness has the threefold

nature which they call sat-chit-ananda

and Sat is the ground of being the

ground of consciousness itself conscious

being the ability to have ideas thoughts

it’s the ground of all things the

conscious ground of all things

ouch it is to do with the contents of

consciousness that which can be known

names and forms were the Hindus call

numer Rupa and names and forms so that

with your mind they mean our minds

affect our versions of the ultimate mind

I mean right now I can look around me

and I can see plants trees out of the

window pens on desk chairs books all

sorts of things pictures on the wall all

of those are names and forms there in my

consciousness but the consciousness is

greater than all the things that are

within it so trich is about what can

all the many forms in nature animals

plants everything that can be known

words can be known they have forms and

structures and then the ananda is means

joy and the third principle of the

ultimate mind is on one hand a principle

of movement or change or flow on the

other hand it’s one of joys of joyful

flow and so the idea is that within the

ultimate consciousness there’s an error

there’s that which is known and there’s

the connection between them kind of love

joy or flow now there’s a very similar

model of ultimate reality in the

Christian conception of God I mean a lot

of atheists imagine that Christians

think God’s an old man with a white

beard sitting on a cloud where there’s I

mean a few children may think that but

that’s certainly not the traditional

view the traditional view of God in

Christianity is as the Holy Trinity

which is the official doctrine of the

nature of God in almost all churches and

the Holy Trinity means God has three

aspects and the Father is the Father the

Son and the Holy Spirit the father is

the ground of being or consciousness and

in the Old Testament first revealed when

God says to Moses who encounters him in

the burning bush and says who are you

God says I am Who I am so that’s really

a statement of God as conscious being

the ground of being I am conscious being

in the present the logos the Sun or the

logos the word

the Greek word for word is in this

context his logos is all the things the

forms the patterns the names it’s numer

rooper it’s like the engines called name

and form and in Greek philosophy that

was in Plato’s philosophy it was the

world of ideas the world of forms

the contents of consciousness that which

can be known that’s the second person of

the Trinity and the third person the

Holy Spirit is breath or wind or the

flow of things pictured in terms of

breathing the flare of the wind the flow

of water the flow of fire the flight of

birds it’s a dynamical principle and the

the Christian model of God is primarily

based on the metaphor of speech so when

I’m speaking now I’m the speaker but my

speech has two aspects on the one hand

as the words which is what you’re

hearing which have forms shaped

structures meanings interconnections and

so forth each word has a different form

or shape or structure you can reveal it

on us sonna graph you can see the

different vibratory patterns of each

word each has a form and this the flow

of words and the connection of words has

meaning and at least I hope it does and

but those are words but for them to be

heard for them to have been manifested

in the world there has to be the outward

flow of my breath

so as I’m speaking now I’m breathing out

sure and the breath the flow of the

breath out words a central part of the

speech so you could you can say you can

have the words without the the breath I

can think the words in my mind and it’s

silent when I do that there’s no

manifestation of the words I can breathe

out without the words there’s a flow of

air which has a kind of white noise to

it but no structural form or meaning but

when I’m speaking when you’re speaking

when anyone speaking you have both the

flow and a structural pattern of the

flow and the Christian model is that the

ultimate nature of divine reality is

like that there’s a ground of being a

source of both the words and of the flow

and then as the words and the flow which

go together and these three as

Effects of the ultimate reality or of

our own reality as as beings in the

image of God it doesn’t mean God looks

like a giant man it means we share in

the divine consciousness news is a kind

of fractal version of the divine and the

same would go for you know birds and

animals and plants that each of them has

form the form of a plant the shapes of

the leaves the petals they do and so on

that’s a form but they have a flow of

energy through them through the sunlight

that they photosynthesize through the

metabolism goes on within them and these

have a common source so the the

traditional Christian theological view

which was taught in all the medieval

universities in Europe was very similar

in those ways to the Hindu view of the

threefold nature of the divine and even

completely different thought systems

like terrorism in China again have a

kind of threefold model you have the

polarity of the polar interplay of the

yin and the yang the masculine the

feminine the light and the dark but it’s

not a duality it’s not just two things

it’s two things within a higher unity

the DAO in those diagrams of the


the dow is the circle that includes them

both the wholeness within which this

polarity exists so that’s a kind of

Trinitarian model as well anyway I think

what happens is that when we look at

these the deeper meaning of these

theological doctrines we see models of

consciousness and when we look at

spiritual practices like meditation we

see practices that tap into the nature

of consciousness reveal more about our

end consciousness and our connection

with the divine consciousness through

doing the practices I mean would you say

would you say that that ancient

religions I mean

they you talk about ritual and would you

say that it’s a type of passage a rite

of passage to incorporate ritual into

this sort of practice well yes I think

that the rituals and occur in all

religions and in all secular societies –

and what rituals do there’s several

kinds there’s rites of passage which are

about passing from one state of being to


and there’s rituals of remembrance which

are about going back to the original

foundation story of a social group and

re-enacting it the American Thanksgiving

dinner is an example of that you know

it’s a national ritual that re-enacts

the Thanksgiving dinner of the first

settlers in New England the first

European settlers in New England the

Jewish Passover is a ritual reenactment

of the Passover dinner in Egypt when the

Jewish people escaped from slavery in

Egypt and started on their journey

through the wilderness to the promised


and the Christian Holy Communion is a

reenactment of the Last Supper of Jesus

with his disciples so these are all

reenactment rituals and there are also

rituals which are rites of passage the

reenactment rituals are usually

conservative and use ritual languages

ritual forms that are done the same way

as before and I think that’s they’re

done because they’re consciously trying

to connect with all those who’ve done

them before and I think those are

exactly the conditions that would mean

they would as it were resonate with

those who’ve done them before by morphic

resonance which we talked about earlier

and which I think happens on the basis

of similarity and that’s why rituals are

done in a similar way every time because

that creates this connection across time

a presence of the past but rites of

passage are about entering different

states of being social being or

consciousness and some rites of

initiation particularly those that

happened on the threshold

of manhood or womanhood and maturity

rights a passage from adolescence or

people becoming inducted into a more

mature or adult state of being often

have imagery of dying to your old self

and being born again in a new way

American Native American vision quests

often had that form people went into the

wilderness fasting in conditions of

great danger and you know they could die

some did die but they went through a

kind of trial by ordeal and came back

having faced death and being born in a

new way and I think that some rites of

passage actually involved near-death

experiences and we know as I shown my

book science and spiritual practices we

know more today about near-death

experiences than anyone’s ever known

before because they’re more common than

they’ve ever been before and they’ve

been studied scientifically in the past

someone who had a heart attack

or a major medical emergency would

usually have just died now they’re often

resuscitated thanks to modern medicine

so far larger numbers of people in

modern world have nearly died than ever

in the past in the past they actually

died for the most part so in some people

who’ve nearly died who’ve died and come

back to life again

have had what are called near-death

experiences very often these involved

traveling out of the body going through

a kind of tunnel coming into light

feeling a state of great connection

blessedness love sometimes meeting

deceased relatives or beings of light

Christ’s angels or other beings of light

and then because it’s a near-death

experience they had to go back into the

body but for many people these

spontaneous near-death experiences

changed their lives even though they

only last a few minutes they change

people’s lives completely often making

them more spiritual they often say

they’ve lost the fear of death they

often become more caring and considerate

to others their behavior changes for the

better and I think that some rites of

passage actually are based on inducing

near-death experiences and I think the

one was most common in hiding in plain

sight in European and American culture

is baptism in the according to the New

Testament we read that John the Baptist

was baptizing people on an almost

industrial scale in the river Jordan

they were flocking to the Jordan to be

baptized by John and what he did was

held them under it by total immersion

Heldman to the water and then brought

them up again and people who’d had that

experience were transformed by it the

first realization Jesus had of his

demurrer walking with God which came

about through a deep mystical experience

induced by baptism by John as he came up

from the River Jordan after being held

under now what I think was probably

going on there is that John was inducing

near-death experiences by drowning if he

held people under long enough they would

have a near-death experience through

drowning the usual view is that this was

just symbolic of death by drowning and

then coming back to life again

but you know why have something just

symbolic when you can have the real

thing and you know only take a minute or

two longer it was very quick the whole

thing so I I think for just that people

would have lined up on the bank of the

Jordan John would have stood there in

the Jordan baptized them by holding them

under getting the

he would obviously have to have

experience he could have got it wrong

that was when he started out he might

have lost a few but it he obviously was

a experienced and if he got it just

right what would happen is he could

reliably induce near-death experiences

in people and when people came up and

then they were resuscitated from this

experience many of them would have had

the experience of dying and being born

again which is exactly what people say

about that person by total emotion yeah

and so I think that in the early church

there soon turned into infant baptism

sprinkling water on their head and it

did become just symbolic but at the

Reformation in the 16th century in

Europe the most radical Reformation

people reinstated baptism by total

immersion they were called anabaptists

meaning baptism again and they gave rise

to the Baptist and the Mennonite

churches that in a still says strong in

the United States and they were all

based on an experience of being immersed

held under and feeling they died and

being born again and it’s the Baptists

who go around saying they’ve been born

again and in the 16th century this made

them very unpopular regular churches

were more about having everything

properly ordered with priests and so on

whereas Baptists were going round filled

with this kind of mystical vision and

sense of direct personal revelation

they’d had through dying and being born

again and makes total sense if what was

happening is that they were having

near-death experiences they really would

have been transformed they really would

have felt they’d seen the light died and

been born again and when we hear these

phrases from from Southern Baptists and

others today most people just dismiss

them contemptuously as if these are

foolishly deluded people but I think

that behind these phrases and they are

deep mystical

and I think that the home of that

movement and the whole of what was going

on in the John the Baptist time makes

sense if we see these as rites of

passage that involve near-death

experiences I never connected the dots

with baptism that makes so much sense

now that you put it that way it seems

like there’s an interconnectedness to

these mystical States you know through

religion through the usage of plants and

I mean it seems to be everywhere well I

think so I mean it’s true in all

religions you see I mean all religions

have had a range of mystical and

spiritual practices and another one I

discussed in my book science and

spiritual practices is singing chanting

and that and and the ritual use of music

like dancing

well this again you see can give

tremendously altered states of

consciousness in shamanic cultures it’s

always used I mean they all have singing

dancing chanting and if you look at the

sort of raves and modern forms of

collective ecstasy which we have in in

in the modern world many people in in

the world today

achieve altered states of consciousness

through singing music dancing and these

are all about opening the mind from

beyond our narrow personal concerns to a

sense of greater connection with other

people and with greater forms of

consciousness that exists out there in

the universe so I think that when we see

religions as being rooted in that and

mostly being about inducing those

experiences it’s a very very different

picture from the standard atheist model

of religious people being people who’ve

been brainwashed or indoctrinated with

with dogmas and which had completely

irrational and unscientific and

religions are all rooted primarily in

experience and they all still have them

I mean they they all still have singing

chanting and rituals and many have

fasting I mean right now it’s Ramadan

and Muslims are fasting during two

as many questions cast during Lent and

some traditional religious and shamanic

practices involve altered states of

consciousness through psychedelics as we

just discussed so there’s a whole range

of ways in which spiritual practices

both within and outside religions

because you can also of course do these

things outside a religious context as

many people do today people are

spiritual but not religious are all ways

of connecting with these greater forms

of consciousness yeah a really good

question popped up from Christian over

our project mindfulness he asks do does

that mean that every introspective

journey will lead to the same the

quote-unquote same experience of

divinity well that’s I wouldn’t say

every introspective journey and I

wouldn’t say that they all lead to the

same experience you see as we were just

discussing I think that the the

consciousness ultimate consciousness

according to you know Hinduism

Christianity the Sufi tradition in Islam

and so on these are a conscious and in

Buddhism to ultimate the ultimate

reality is a conscious reality it’s not

unconscious so these different spiritual

practices I think can connect us with

different aspects so meditation I think

primarily connects us with the sight of

saturation and oh you know the the

experience of the ground of

consciousness itself but one of the

chapters in my book science and

spiritual practices is on plants and the

beauty of flowers and appreciating the

beauty of flowers and how relating to

plants can be a kind of spiritual

practice again in all religions flowers

seen as emblems of divine beauty and you

know in Hindu temples and Buddhist

temples people make offerings of flowers

in Christian churches they always have

darzee’s of flowers or there is like a

kind of flower offering that people just

take it for granted but flowers are a

key part and when we’re appreciating

flowers and beauty of flowers all the

beauty of buildings all the beauty of

art that can have a spiritual dimension

and what we’re dealing there with is

more with the realm of the spirit which

is a Pichette aspect of sat-chit-ananda

to do with names and forms it’s the

beauty of the form it’s not going beyond

all form its appreciating the nature of

forms themselves and beauty of forms and

their relationships that underlies the

spiritual aspect of appreciating flowers

or any other kind of visual beauty and

when we have spiritual expenses that

involve music song dance again I have a

chapter on that singing chanting in the

power of music in my book then I think

we’re connecting more with the aspect of

the Spirit which is the moving principle

the dynamical principle of the divine

being so I wouldn’t say that all

spiritual experiences lead to the same

experience of the divine it’s possible

that people meditating in Hindu Buddhist

Christian Sufi traditions have similar

experiences of the ultimate ground of

being but not all spiritual practices

lead to the same kinds of experience and

all religions combine different kinds of

spiritual practice they all have their

own selection of them and none of them

based on just one okay I mean we’ve

talked about a number of different

things here dr. Sheldrake’s

I know your time is limited you know how

would you wrap this up for people who

are listening I mean what were your

conclusions when you were writing this

book I realizing what what you

discovered I mean

this connection between religion

meditation plant medicine and all these

things and E’s they all seem to be

connected so now how can we wrap this up

for the people listening well I think

that what the important thing for me was

because I’m both a scientist and and

interested in spiritual practices and

practices and myself is first of all

it’s very liberating to find that

science and these practices are not like

at war with each other they’re not

contradictory they’re not polar

opposites in fact through the scientific

study of spiritual practices science can

help illuminate spiritual practices and

spiritual practices can help in luminate

science because they can illuminate the

nature of consciousness which is one of

the things that science is least good at

understanding at the moment although

consciousness studies is now a major

part of science one of the more

interesting parts I think secondly I

think that looking at these practices

and especially looking through

scientific lens enables us to see that

they have a lot in common between

different traditions that all different

religious traditions have their

spiritual practices and they’re

primarily based on experience and on

practice and the these practices from

all different traditions in the world

enable us to be more tolerant and open

to these different traditions and also

more appreciative of them because after

all there are millions of people about

eighteen million people in the United

States alone who now meditate on a

regular basis and probably at least 10

million who do yoga on the regular basis

well these are things that have mainly

been learned from Eastern cultures

within the last generation or two I mean

go back 200 years and most people in the

US and in Europe would never have heard

of yoga and certainly wouldn’t have

known about mantra based meditation

unless they happen to be Christian

mystics living in monasteries

so or Russians there was a stronger

mystical tradition in Russia among they

people but the and of course in the

Kabbalah tradition among Jewish people

they’ve always been mystical

undercurrents but what we have now is a

situation where practices from all the

whole world from all the different

cultural and spiritual traditions of the

world are now available to us so this is

a new situation a beginning of a new

phase of spiritual evolution I think and

so I think these practices can help us

all and they as soon as you think in

terms of practice and experience you go

beyond as sterile arguments based on

chairing it religious beliefs or sort of

attacking scientific dogmatism and stuff

I mean you can have polemical attacks

one way or the other but this is about

not being about polemics or trying to

score points it’s actually trying to a

deepen our in experience and

understanding through experience and

that’s the reason at the end of every

one of the seven chapters about

practices in in my books and some

spiritual practices I suggest two simple

ways in which anyone can try these

practices for themselves and so it’s a

book that’s not just about thinking

about it or studying the history or the

evolutionary significance or and so on

or the comparative religion but actually

adopting these practices or if one

already has the practices like singing

and chanting or meditation understanding

them more deeply and seeing how they fit

in with a wider pattern of cultures and

so it’s a practical book as well as a

theoretical one and one which I hope

will actually help people to explore

these practices for themselves yeah I

think so and you know I really wanted to

bring up the the flow of gratitude and

in your chapter that you dedicated to

the idea of gratitude and being grateful

for things that we have in our lives

what’s what’s happening in as a

practice what’s what’s happening in our

our brains when we practice gratitude

well I’m not sure there have been that

many studies on the brain effects of

gratitude but they’ve certainly been a

lot of studies my positive psychologists

on the effects of gratitude in

experiments where people do gratitude

exercises they they turn out to be

measurably happier for example in one of

the experiments that’s now been done

widely by positive psychologists that

means psychologists studying the nature

of happiness and how to be happy rather

than most of psychology’s about what

makes people miserable this is about

what makes people happy they find that

in in an experiment a typical experiment

they divide a group of people into three

sub groups at random one of those sub

groups is asked to write a short story

about something as found in the previous

week another group of people are asked

to make a list of the hassles they’ve

experienced in the previous week things

that have upset them and the third group

is asked to make a list of things in the

previous week for which they feel

grateful in which they appreciate and it

turns out that people who just spend 10

15 minutes making a list of things

they’re grateful for a measurably

happier for several days afterwards

being grateful makes people happier and

I think it does so because it makes them

more part of a flow being grateful is

acknowledging that a lot of what we have

is given to us I mean our very life is

given to us and we didn’t ask our Father

another to have us we they had us and

and they or other people cared for us

when we were babies and brought us up

and there are other people who make our

clothes and the whole earth provides the

fuels that power our cars and planes and

you know as people make computers in

factories and other people looking after

the electricity supply and other people

make sure we have regular food supplies

people cook our meals we looked after by

people in our families there are so many

things that our lives depend upon and

when we instead of taking it for granted

which is the opposite of gratitude is

just taking things for granted or

feeling entitled as soon as we recognize

that we are part of a flow we’re part of

the process and we’re connected to many

many other people we’re all connected to

Gaia the earth and the Earth’s connected

to the solar system and the galaxy and

the universe we’re part of something

vastly greater than ourselves and when

we recognize that when we become

consciously aware of it when we give

thanks for that we become part of a

process of flow and connection and being

happy is all about being part of a

connected being part of the flow and

part of a sense of connection with

something greater than ourselves being

miserable is about feeling disconnected

alienated cut off separated dissin

disenchanted disgruntled complaining and

gratitude as people who practice it are

happier and not just happier but more

popular they it’s nicer to hang out with

somebody who’s grateful and happy than

somebody who’s feels entitled and spends

most of their time complaining and that

in turn of course maybe people who are

appreciated and more popular because

they’re grateful and and they’re happier

that makes them happier still so it’s a

virtuous circle the opposite of a

vicious circle it’s by being grateful

and appreciative life gets better and of

course all religions encourage that and

Christian services start with thanks and

prayers of Thanksgiving in hymns of

Thanksgiving and so on and you know all

traditions have ways of giving thanks

and one of the practices well I suggest

two practices in my chapter one is to

practice gratitude or daily or weekly

think about or make it

things for which you feel grateful

another is to do something very very

traditional which is to give thanks

before meals and in all traditional

societies people give thanks before they

eat and hundred years ago probably every

family in America would have given

thanks before they eat together and

nowadays a great many don’t because they

are sort of modern and secular and they

just stop doing it or they don’t even

sit down together because they’re all

sort of grazing at different times from

food counters so but that sense of

giving thanks together

all traditional societies do it in my

college in Cambridge founded in 1326

before every meal in the evenings Gong

rings everyone stands up eating in the

Great Hall and there’s a long Latin

grace this happens they happening in in

few minutes time this is every day and

this is a traditional practice it’s the

way things always were and people may

not have paid that much attention to it

but it provided a space where you could

give thanks before meals in my own

family we always have a pause for giving

thanks before we eat if it’s just the

family we usually sit hold hands around

the table and have a period of silence

when we give thanks in our own way or if

it’s more people than someone says our

grace or when we have a larger gathering

like at Christmas or in birthdays or in

other groups of friends around we sing a

grace together we sing it as a as a

round and and doing that just that

simple thing brings everyone together

changes the atmosphere and makes the

meal more enjoyable and just we all feel

more connected such a simple thing and

it cost nothing and it was always used

to be done and you know doing that even

if one’s on one’s own

just having a pause to give thanks

before meals makes a big difference

dr. Sheldrake I know your time is short

I think it could sit here and talk to

you listen to you talk all day I have a

lot of gratitude for you for making the

time to do this interview where can I

mean you’ve influenced my own learning

for many many years as I mentioned at

the beginning of the show I’ve been

emailing you for a long time just to

appear on the show on on the show here

where can people find to your book

science and spiritual practices well

it’s obviously available online on

Amazon Barnes & Noble and other online

bookstores it’s also available as an

audiobook read by me inaudible on Amazon

and throughout a audiobook outlets and

as an e-book and in fact all my books

well they’re not all available in audio

format they’re all available in print

and and he may even work formats and

there’s also a lot of information about

my work

lots of youtubes lots of podcasts and so

on on my website which is Sheldrake dot


there are also some experiments people

can take part in which will help my

research and if anyone’s interested in

knowing more there’s a newsletter they

can sign up for which talks about my

workshops and lectures and giving one in

in july 2019 in california institute of

noetic sciences conference and i give a

workshop every summer at hollyhock on

cortisone in british columbia canada

with my two sons brennan and cosmo on

science and spiritual practices the very

themes we’ve been talking about today

and that is the end of July beginning of

August at hollyhock and their website is

hollyhock dot the CA in canada so anyone

who wants to find out more can easily do

so guys you heard it here my guests name

is dr. Rupert Sheldrake the book is

called science and spiritual practices

transformative experiences and their

effects on our body’s brains and health

we are going to get out of here you will

hear from us next week thank you so much

for tuning in if you like the show

please subscribe click the bell to be

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much for your presence we’ll see you

next week.

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