By Freddy Drabble
The curious person’s guide to all things mind!
Have you ever wondered how it is that your thoughts and feelings relate to the grey matter in your head? How space and time came to be out of nothing? How what life means to us influences our day-to-day struggles with mental health?
In conversation with experts in physics, psychology, neuroscience and philosophy, Chasing Consciousness will take you to the very fringes of reality and share with you the groundbreaking discoveries that are dramatically changing the way we relate to the world, the future, and our own minds.
Have you ever wondered how it is that your thoughts and feelings relate to the grey matter in your head? How space and time came to be out of nothing? How what life means to us influences our day-to-day struggles with mental health?
In conversation with experts in physics, psychology, neuroscience and philosophy, Chasing Consciousness will take you to the very fringes of reality and share with you the groundbreaking discoveries that are dramatically changing the way we relate to the world, the future, and our own minds.
Dr. Iain McGilchrist - NAVIGATING BEYOND MATERIALISM
What would a post physicalist world look like? So in this episode we’re going to evaluate the evidence presented by psychiatrist and author Dr. Iain McGilchrist, from his extensive analysis of split-brain studies, that support a broader understanding of the mind and reality. One that pushes beyond the traditional reductionist materialist worldview, to include the implicit, the context dependent and the consciousness dependent. He’s just released an epic two part book to clarify all of this, ‘The matter with things: Our brains, our delusions and the unmaking of the world’ in which he asks how we should understand consciousness, space, time and matter, given the apparent over-emphasis on Left hemisphere interpretation of the world. Iain is an associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford; he’s a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; a Consultant Emeritus of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, London; a former research Fellow in Neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, in Baltimore. And he now lives on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of North West Scotland. He has published original research as well as original articles in papers and journals, including the British Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatry & Psychology, The BMJ, The Lancet, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times on topics in literature, medicine, psychiatry and philosophy. He has taken part in many radio and TV programmes and documentaries, including for the BBC, NPR, and ABC and also took part in a Canadian full-length feature film about his work called The Divided Brain. This interview was recorded at the start of last year, so the new book is not covered in so much detail. What we discuss in this episode: 00:00 In communication with the world itself 06:30 Taking the implicit apart and out of context: disembodying it 12:00 John Cutting: noticing consequences of right hemisphere damage 14:40 The differences between the hemispheres shown in many studies 27:00 The Left Brain Interpreter: Denial and invention by the right hemisphere 29:15 Scientism: the belief that science can explain everything 30:48 Imagination and intuition in scientific discovery 33:10 Reason suggests there are immaterial things 37:40 We only know about matter because of consciousness 42:00 Navigating beyond materialism PART 2 55:00 Implications of the Observer Effect and Quantum Entanglement 57:30 The world changes depending on your attention 58:00 Panpsychism on the up in Anglo-American Analytic philosophy: Galen Strawson and Christian De Quincy etc. 01:14:00 Cells have intelligent novel reactions to the environment, genes store the map 01:19:00 Iain’s new book “The Matter with Things: Our brains, our delusions and the unmaking of the world 01:22:00 Why the drop in happiness despite a rise in standard of living? References: “The Matter with Things: Our brains, our delusions, and the unmaking of the world” “Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World” Maurice Merleau-Ponty - Philosopher and neurologist John Cutting - psychiatrist Galen Strawson - philosopher Barbara McKintoch - molecular biologist
December 1, 2021
Dr. Christoph Le Mouel - JUNG'S SYNCHRONICITY EXPLAINED
Can Physics shed light on how synchronicity might work? “Synchronicity: A meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” C.J. Jung, from ‘Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principal’ The majority of us have experienced some meaningful coincidences in our lives - perhaps the right person to help with a problem got in touch out of the blue at just the right time to help solve it, or the right book randomly ended up in front of you when you have hit a block with a certain question, or a disaster happened that created total upheaval in your life which in retrospect turned out that without that disaster you would never have arrived at a certain really important change in your life. Of course there is no way of scientifically testing or falsifying either a potential coordination between the causally unconnected events, nor the meaning of those coincidences to the individual. Despite that, the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung thought that meaning could be as rigorous and objective as logical deduction, setting apart synchronicities from mere statistical coincidences. So, firmly planting ourselves on the subjective, experience based side of the scientific fence, today we’re going to be exploring what Jung meant by a synchronicity and the evidence in physics that might help to explain at least the possibility of a non-local connection across space and time, or between the ‘inter-psychic world’ as Stanislaf Grof puts it, and material reality. We talked to psychologist Monika Wikman in episode #6 about Jung’s Collective Unconscious concept, so please listeners go back to that episode if you’d like to familiarise with that crucial idea too. So who better to explain the relevant physics than the executive director of the Los Angeles ‘C.G.Jung Institute’ and theoretical physicist, Christoph Le Mouel. Having moved out of high energy quantum physics when he moved to USA in 2007, he is passionate about the connections between physics and psychology and incredibly knowledgable about the history of science. What we discuss in this episode: 00:00 Superhero scientists and poems from the unconscious 12:30 Einstein and Jung have dinner: Relativity between space and time and between the psyche and the outside world 13:30 Quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli asked Jung to write about synchronicity 16:30 Synchronicity: ‘Meaningful equivalence’ between causally unconnected events 19:40 Symbols appearing widely without previous knowledge of them by the patients 24:55 Is it impossible to investigate synchronicity with science despite the acausality? 26:45 Wolfgang Pauli sought therapy from Jung 34:00 The incompleteness of quantum mechanics according to Einstein and Pauli 35:00 Pauli wanted a neutral language with analogies to connect quantum mechanics with psychology 37:45 They discussed the unobservable parts of reality, strange numbers and other realities PART 2 48:45 The implications of the proof of acausality in quantum mechanics 55:00 Science cannot deal with meaning, despite statistical significance beyond chance 01:06:20 Uncertainty in quantum mechanics leaves space for creativity and meaning 01:10:00 Jung’s Brain as a transformer idea: transforming ‘Infinite intensity’ of the psyche into extension and frequencies. References: Carl Jung ‘Synchronicity: An causal connecting principal’ C.G.Jung, Wolfgang Pauli ‘Atom and Archetypes: The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-58’ David Bohm’s impilcate and explicate order
November 15, 2021
David Lorimer - EXAMINING THE ASSUMPTIONS OF WESTERN SCIENCE
Are our scientific assumptions justified? In this episode we’re going to be examining the assumptions of Western Science. All science is based on assumptions. In order to isolate systems in experiments and standardise measurements of the target data, other variables need to be pinned down so scientists can form precise mathematical models, that can then be repeated accurately in the peer review process. Today we’re going to look at these assumptions, and establish if they indeed have become standard, fixed and unquestioned as some critics claim. One of those critics is Cambridge educated biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who gave a TED talk in 2013 about the assumptions of western science, which was banned by TED’s anonymous board of scientific advisors for not being a ‘fair description of scientific assumptions’. Far from quieting the controversy, the ban caused outcries of censorship, and the ripped video was seen many millions of times on You Tube, probably many times more than had it been left to stand as one scientists opinion. Today I want to examine just how fair his description was. To help us examine his claims is one of Rupert’s old friends and supporters, a specialist in the history and philosophy of science, an author and the program director of the Scientific and Medical Network, David Lorimer. He is also President of Wrekin Trust and Chief Consultant of Character Education Scotland. He is also a former President of the Swedenborg Society, and Vice-President of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Originally a merchant banker then a teacher of philosophy and modern languages at Winchester College, he is the author and editor of over a dozen books, most recently ‘The Protein Crunch’ (with Jason Drew) and ‘A New Renaissance’, and out this year his new book ‘a quest for wisdom’. He is the originator of the Inspire-Aspire Values Poster Programmes, which this year involved over 25,000 young people. What we discuss in this episode: 00:00 Compulsory philosophy and death 07:32 Examining Rupert Sheldrake’s 10 claimed assumptions of western science 09:10 The ‘Life and nature are mechanistic’ assumption 19:30 The ‘Matter is unconscious’ assumption 29:40 ‘The laws of nature are constant’ assumption 38:26 The Galileo Commission - get everyone to look though the telescope 43:00 Reality is relational not relative - Apilla Colorado and Leroy Little bear 44:45 The ‘Nature is Purposeless’ assumption - teleology 52:30 ‘Biological heredity is only physical’ and ‘memory is in your Brain’ assumptions 55:00 Morphogenetic fields and memories of previous lives and birthmarks 1:01:45 ‘Your mind is in your head, your consciousness is correlated to your brain activity’ assumption 1:05:30 ‘Psychic phenomena and telepathy are impossible’ assumption FOR PART 2 TIME CODES AND THE MANY MORE REFERENCES FROM THIS EPISODE PLEASE VISIT: https://www.chasingconsciousness.net/episode-13-assumptions-of-science-david-lorimer References: Rupert Sheldrake ‘Science set free’ David Lorimer ‘A Quest for Wisdom’ David Lorimer ‘Thinking Beyond the Brain’ The Galileo Commission - get everyone to look though the telescope The Scientific and Medical Network
November 1, 2021
Dr. Garret Moddel - THE EXPERIMENTER EFFECT AND THE SCIENCE OF INTENTION
Can intention, attention or expectation affect random physical events? In this episode we’re going to be exploring the subtleties of an odd phenomenon: the Experimenter Effect, where the expectations of the scientist doing an experiment appear to affect the results measured. This is hugely important for the right practice of science, and for understanding why some experiments that seem watertight methodologically can only be reproduced by scientists who expect the same results and not by sceptics of the hypothesis. Who better to discuss this with than a scientist who ran into this while trying to disprove the the influence of consciousness in a physical system, Professor Garret Moddel; Dr. Moddel is Professor of Electrical and Quantum engineering at Colorado University, specialising in Solar cells, metal-insulator technology and geometric diodes, and optoelectronics among other extraordinary technologies. He also runs a separate psi phenomena lab. He is also one of the former presidents of the groundbreaking research organisation the Society of Scientific Exploration. PART 1 01:04 The Experimenter effect explained 01:06 The difference between the effect in Psychology and in Physics 19:00 RNGs: Helmut Schmitt and atomic decay Random Number Generator experiments 25:00 1000’s of scientists in a data driven, peer reviewed field of science, in underground labs at top universities; totally unacknowledged by the rest of science 27:30 Garrett didn’t believe it till he read the literature 55:55 Standford Research Institute’s 1970’s-1990’s military psychic spy Remote Viewing experiments 01:03:30 Jessica Utts: The statistical analysis of SRI’s remote viewing research PART 2 01:08:00 The Observer Effect: simply observing interacts with quantum systems 01:11:00 Wigner Von Neumann and the ‘collapse of the wave function’ 01:15:00 Our intention does affect random phenomena, incontrovertibly in the literature References: (please note the reported bias towards criticism over support on the wiki entries; the supporters of this science try constantly to re-edit these entries to represent credible support as well as criticism, only for moderators to edit back. Why the need for such disproportional criticism?) Schmidt, Helmut. Paper "Collapse of the state vector and psychokinetic effect." Foundations of Physics 12.6 (1982): 565-581. The Society for Scientific Exploration Dean Radin at IONS Radin, Dean, et al. paper "Psychophysical interactions with a double-slit interference pattern: Exploratory evidence of a causal influence." Physics Essays 34.1 (2021): 79-88. Robert Jahn, Dean of Engineering at Princeton and founder of PEAR Labs Princeton Robert Jahn, Brenda Dunne paper, ”On the quantum mechanics of consciousness, with application to anomalous phenomena." Foundations of Physics 16.8 (1986): 721-772. Roger Nelson, Director of PEAR Labs Princeton Bernie Haisch’s and Garret Moddel’s Zero point energy patent Garret Moddel et al, paper on Zero-point research
October 14, 2021
Dr. Joseph Le Doux - FEAR, EMOTIONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
In episode #11 we explore the way emotions work, and particularly fear - the way it’s triggered, what happens in the brain and how much we are conscious of what’s going on. I think this is really relevant as we appear to be an extremely fearful, defensive and argumentative society in general, and perhaps if we understood what was happening inside us we might be able to limit some of the damage these kind of encounters produce. We also look at the the Limbic System and Triune Brain theories of emotions and the evolution of the brain, and find out why these hugely popular theories in Psychology are no longer really considered true by neuroscientists. Perhaps we can salvage something useful from these theories for psychology, as some really effective therapies have been based on them in the past. So who better to help us clarify all this than emotion and fear specialist, neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux. Dr Le Doux is the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at NYU in New York in the Center for Neural Science, and he directs the Emotional Brain Institute of NYU and the Nathan Kline Institute. He is also a Professor of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical School. His work is focused on the brain mechanisms of memory and emotion and he is the author of The Emotional Brain, Synaptic Self, and Anxious and his most recent book that we’ll be talking mostly about today “Deep History of Ourselves and the evolution of consciousness”. He has received loads of awards, including prizes from the Association for Psychological Science, the American Philosophical Society, the IPSEN Foundation and the American Psychological Association. His book Anxious received the 2016 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association. Awesomely, he is also the lead singer and songwriter in the rock band, The Amygdaloids and performs with Colin Dempsey as the acoustic duo So We Are. Jo’s new book “The Deep History of Ourselves: the 4 billion year sorry of how we got conscious brains” What we discuss in this episode: PART 1 05:16 Jo joined Mike Gazzaniga’s lab in the late 60’s 07:00 The neuroscience of being afraid and under threat 09:00 Left Brain Interpreter: Consciousness is a narration making sense of our behaviour (See Episode #3) 16:45 The Amygdala: Raised heart rate and sweaty palms are not the emotion of fear 33:00 A criticism of Paul MacLean’s Limbic system and Triune Brain theories 40:00 The Amygdala is misunderstood when associated with fear rather than threat stimuli processing 45:45 We should keep mental state terms and behaviour terms separate 47:00 Threat hormones like cortisol can affect rational thinking in the frontal cortex PART 2: 52:00 The conscious experience of anxiety and fear is often where the problem lies, not the physiological mechanisms the medication is treating 59:30 3 types of noetic consciousness: breaking it down to try and learn more 1:14:00 Contrary to darwinism, cognition came before emotions 1:15:30 Reconciling the disconnect between experiences and brain activity 1:24:00 W.H.Auden "The age of anxiety" poem 1:27:00 Focussing on improving how we feel over how we behave References: Leon Festinger’s theory of Cognitive Dissonance Endel Tulving - 3 types of noetic consciousness Steve Flemming UCL - subjective self awareness in the frontal pole area
September 30, 2021
Specialist Panel - MEDICALISATION AND RECIPROCITY IN PSYCHEDELIC TREATMENT @Medicine Festival '21
'Psychedelics in a changing World: medicalisation, reciprocity and planetary healing' With: Ben Sessa, Gabriel Amezcua, Nick von Christierson, David Luke, Andrea Langlois & Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner. This is a recording of a fascinating panel chaired by Chasing Consciousness in the talks tent of Medicine Festival programmed by Ruby Reed. It included psychologists, psychiatrists, psychedelic entrepreneurs and activists at the top of their field. The panel gave a nuanced and positive overview of the issues associated with the now inevitable medicalisation of these psychedelic compounds. With great sensitivity they approached the very difficult issue of how to honour the roots of this therapy in indigenous shamanism, without reducing it to just money or token indigenous board members. Despite positive predictions for the future it became clear by the end of the talk just how complex the issue of reciprocity is. You can check our interview with Ashleigh Murphy Beiner of the Imperial College team on 'Testing psychedelics for depression' here. And look out for future interviews with panelists Dr. Ben Sessa and David Luke to come soon! 00:00 Introduction to the speakers 02:49 Medicalisation: Just a success story or are there shadows to call out early in the process? 03:10 Ben Sessa: safe, effective medicines as alternatives to long term pharmaceutical 05:00 Getting to the root cause of the problem rather than papering over the symptoms 06:40 'A psychiatric renaissance' 09:20 Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner: Learning from the shadow to confront worldwide depression 15:40 Designing ethical psychedelic treatment models that match its uniqueness 16:15 David Luke: Biomedical model VS subjective psychological model 18:00 Bio-Psycho-social-spiritual models may not work with medicalisation 21:00 Nick Van Christiersen of Woven Science 22:00 Being inspired by Indigenous models: Diagnosis, preparation, peak experience, integration in community 23:00 Psychedelic treatment is a threat to big pharma 24:00 Andrea Langlois: Keeping the door more widely open than just to medicalisation 25:00 Gabriel Amezcua: Accessibility, decolonisation, inclusion of indigenous people in the medical process 28:00 Andrea Langlois: The indigenous idea of Reciprocity. The ailments of modern society like depression and climate change are a call to come back into a relationship of reciprocity with Gaia 31:00 Risk of hijacking of reciprocity, to green wash profiteering 32:00 Gabriel Amezcua: Giving and getting, participation, engagement, respect not money 36:00 Do you think they really want to be ‘preserved’!? 39:00 Nick Van Christiersen: reparations before reciprocity 42:00 David Luke: Is it our right to give them to have a seat at the table!? 45:00 Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner: We have so much to learn and adapt from the indigenous methodology 47:00 The newly founded Association for Psychedelic Therapies 48:00 Ben Sessa: Reciprocity between carer and patient 53:00 Andrea Langlois: Indigenous knowledge should be understood as science and decriminalised 59:00 Ben Sessa: Getting it over the line - decriminalisation 1:01:50 David Luke: Changing our whole world view through psychedelics, to reboot the culture of a species in crisis 1:06:00 Gabriel Amezcua: Psychedelics are confined mostly to privileged white people when they are most needed by vulnerable minorities 1:08:00 De-Regulation of substances, accessibility for poor communities with trauma and PTSD 1:11:00 Andrea Langlois: Earth practice and our own western relationship with plants and the natural world 1:18:00 Closing comments
September 24, 2021
Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner - TESTING PSYCHEDELICS FOR DEPRESSION
Can psychedelic therapy help depression? We are now in the middle of the first psychedelic resurgence since the last bout of research in the 60’s and 70’s led by legends of the psychedelic movement like Dr. Stan Grof at Harvard. This resurgence is taking place on two fronts: Firstly, following promising results from Imperial College’s Psidep 1 study into the use of Psilocybin, the active ingredient in Magic Mushrooms, to treat treatment-resistant depression; there has been a host of studies around the world at leading universities like Harvard investigating many other compounds as well as Psilocybin like famous rave drug MDMA and horse tranquilliser Ketamine. This is an odd turn of events for compounds that have been systematically demonised by governments and accused of worsening mental health conditions. Secondly, we are seeing a a massive increase in the participation of Ahyuasca rituals, whose active ingredient is DMT, one of the most hallucinogenic compounds in the world, to the point that it has become a fashion among the funky philosophical Burning Man style community. The world of medicine and personal transformation seem to be converging. But we need a specialist to clarify the details here before we get ahead of ourselves. So who better to help us navigate this new territory than assistant psychologist on Imperial’s most recent psilocybin study, Ashleigh Murphy Beiner. Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Practitioner. She is a member of the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London. She is also a scientific researcher and has published research investigating the therapeutic use of ayahuasca. Her research has found changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility after ayahuasca use which both play a role in psychological wellbeing. What we discuss: 00:00 Inequality and suffering and how to deal with that experience 05:20 Victor Frankel and thriving from the fundamental quest for human meaning 07:49 Treatment resistant depression, ruminating about the past and social disconnection 14:00 Psychedelics reduce rumination (DMN) and increase plasticity 16:00 Mazatec and North American Indian traditions of healing using hallucinogens 17:30 Plants have their own agency in the indigenous worldview 18:30 Imperial Colleges 2nd Psilocybin Study for depression explained 28:00 The results and how they compared to Psidep1, the first study 31:00 No magic answer to long-term effectiveness challenges against Depression 33:00 ‘Restoring a quality of life’ despite persistent depression symptoms 34:12 Dr. Rosalind Watts’ ACE (Accept, Connect, Embody) Model of treatment and post traumatic growth 36:30 Avoidance to acceptance, and disconnection from others, themselves and the world to connection to those things 39:00 Embody: allowing yourself to feel the pain 43:30 Yohann Hari and the wider systemic issues of inequality leading to depression 45:30 How it feels to publish your first scientific paper 46:00 Ashleigh’s study of Ahyuasca’s effects on cognition 49:00 The commercialisation of Ahyuasca and reciprocity 53:00 Common threads of between Ahyuasca, NDE and psilocybin experiences 56:20 The value of studying altered states of consciousness 1:00:00 Evidence that trauma is stored in the body References: Victor Frankel Dr. Gabor Mate documentary Yohann Hari book 'Lost Connections'
September 15, 2021
Dr. Jonas Kaplan - THE BACKFIRE EFFECT EXPLAINED
In this episode we want to understand how easy it is to change our beliefs when we receive new information, a process that can be really uncomfortable and lead to great resistance in the psyche. The scientific community, whilst educated to update their world view based on new information and theory, are by no means immune to this resistance; today we’ll find out to what extent it is just a human trait we have to accept. Now that the scientific method has become more water-tight from our biases than ever, and data collection is more sophisticated than ever, the difference between hard data and the opinion we draw from that data should also be more clear. However, the introduction of the internet and the separation of the population by social media algorithms into tribal bubbles of like-minded people, has mixed together data and opinion, confusing the scientific community and the lay population alike. So understanding the biology of belief, our discomfort and resistance to new information, and how beliefs play a part in our sense of self can really help us stay open to new data and to update our world view to match it with the necessary flexibility demanded by the sheer speed of change of our current era’s technological revolution; in my opinion this awareness offers essential tools for navigating the next few decades. So who better to help us navigate this mine-field of human behaviour than cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Jonas Kaplan. His research focuses on the neural basis of consciousness, self, empathy, social relationships, action perception and creativity. Using a combination of fMRI neuro-imaging and behavioural studies he aims to examine the neural mechanisms that underlie our experience of resonating with other people and being aware of ourselves. He is the assistant Research Professor of Psychology at University of South California’s ‘Brain and Creativity Institut’e and Co-Director of the Dana and David Dornslife Cognitive Neuroimaging centre. Today’s chat will begin discussing his research with Sarah Gimbel and Sam Harris into a possible Backfire Effect when faced with new data. What we discuss in this episode: 00:00 Split brains and 2 separate consciousness’ in one head 07:10 The Backfire Effect explained 09:00 Why do we find it so difficult to change our minds about things that we care about? 12:40 Less flexibility to changing mind associated with activated Amygdala and Insular cortices 16:00 Avoidance of situations that will challenge us to change our minds 18:15 The evolutionary intertwining between emotion and cognition 23:30 The difference between Cognitive Dissonance and The Backfire effect 25:30 Reason is coloured by underlying motivation 29:00 Sam Harris and the neural basis of belief 31:45 The algorithmic belief bubbles of a post internet world 37:20 The Default Mode Network’s narrative about self, is less active in meditators 40:00 Utilitarian values VS idealogical/sacred values 45:00 The Left Brain interpreter and making up narratives to keep our world view consistent PART 2 58:00 What is self and is it an illusion? 1:01:30 Demasio’s ‘Core’ and ‘Autobiographical’ self 1:04:00 Mental concepts are useful provisional illusions in some sense 1:08:00 The blur between ‘self’ and ‘other’ 1:11:50 Belonging and social group membership and it’s influence on beliefs 1:21:00 Self is a narrative about ourselves 1:22:00 Exceptional experience revealing the illusion of self and the fear of ego death 1:26:45 The biology of belief: the mind body connection References: The left Brain Interpreter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-brain_interpreter Antonio Demasio ‘Descartes Error’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descartes'_Error Jonas' new podcast
August 31, 2021
Dr. Carla Stang - THE HERO'S JOURNEY
How important is story to to human understanding? Today we take a step away from science per se, to look at the role of story in the formation of our world views, for generations our only method alongside direct experience of understanding the world, as opposed the more modern method of hard data from scientific research that we tend to examine on Chasing Consciousness. So we’re continuing the all important job of our first series: to establish the limits of what science can know. And today we’re going to start understanding how some of the story like information found in the psyche, and perhaps in the way our lives unfold, can give us clues to the nature of human reality and so support our scientific research in psychology. So who better to help us navigate this troublesome academic area than award winning social anthropologist Dr Carla Stang! Carla earned her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. She has held the position of Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and Associate Researcher at the University of Sydney, and was awarded the Frank Bell Memorial Prize for Anthropology from Cambridge. Based on her fieldwork with the Mehinaku, Carla wrote a book called “A Walk to the River in Amazonia” which we’ll be talking about in a bit. She writes for the Dark Mountain collective which advocates ‘uncivilisation’, and has created a mysterious new project ‘Imaginal Futures’. Most recently she co-created the first Masters of Philosophy at Schumacher College, and is currently at work on a new book, an ecological, cross-disciplinary and collaborative project. What we discuss in this episode: Part 1 00:00 Tarzan of Greystoke 10:00 How much of a problem is our propensity for narrative over fact? 14:00 Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey or Monomyth examined 24:00 Critiquing the destructive power and domination of others presented in the mono myth 40:00 The uninitiated: we’re a society of children 49:00 The Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdoch and healing the wounded feminine 55:00 Different types of ‘events of consciousness’ and mythos Part 2 1:05:30 The importance of interdisciplinary research to get big picture understanding 1:17:00 What’s quotidian Amazonian life like; ‘A Walk to the River in Amazonia’ Carla’s 2011 book 1:53:00 Imagining the stories of the future we want, we can form the world References: Carla Stang ‘A Walk to the River in Amazonia’ Imaginal Futures created by Carla Stang, Rachel Flemming and Emma George William James quote, ‘Live life to the fullest’ Ben Okri quote ‘We are story beings’ Eugène (Eugeniusz) Minkowski 'Vers une cosmologie. Fragments philosophiques' Joseph Campbell quote ‘follow your bliss’ Sonu Shamdasani Historian and Redbook publisher 'Lament of the Dead' James Hillman Jung scholar and founder of the field of 'Archetypal Psychology' Freddy’s ‘Rites of Passage’ podcast show Maureen Murdoch 'The Heroines Journey' Henri Corbin - 'Mundis Imaginalis' Sean Kane - a place telling a tale through human beings
July 14, 2021
Moheb Costandi - NEUROPLASTICITY EXPLAINED
How easy is it to change our Habits? Today we have the important job of working out what neuroplasticity is all about. 50 years ago we thought the adult brain remained the same after reaching maturity. Now since the discovery that in fact our neural networks remain ‘plastic’, which means adaptable, a host of research has opened up fuelled by our desire to thrive and improve rather than just survive. Along with that knowledge, as so often with popular science, has come a host of exaggerations and quick fix claims, that prey on the wishful thinker, and today we’re aiming to sort the facts form the fiction and really understand what can change in our neural networks in adulthood and perhaps even offer some tools to facilitate that. Who better to discuss this with than developmental neurobiologist turned freelance science writer Moheb Costandi. He writes stories and articles for various popular publications like New Scientist and the Guardian, is often cited from his Neurophilosophy blog, and is the author of the books Neuroplasticity and 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know. Things we discuss in this episode: 00:00 A good psychology teacher 04:30 The controversial history of neuroplasticity 11:46 Longterm potentiation (LTP) 12:41 Stem Cells and the tipping point for neuroplasticity 14:47 What’s the significance of neuro-genesis? 16:00 What actually happens when neurons adapt? 18:00 Electro-chemical neurocommunication at high speed 22:00 Are there neurons all over the body? 23:30 The gut’s enteric nervous system (ENS) 25:00 Calling out spurious false rumours about neuroplasticity 31:40 ‘Awareness of plasticity doesn’t empower us in any way’ 33:00 The wellness, self help and new age industries have manipulated neuroplasticity to exploit the public 37:05 Can we use plasticity to reprogram negative habits? 40:30 The bidirectional link between brain and behaviour. 44:00 The longer we have a particular behaviour the stronger those pathways become 47:00 Stress hormones stimulate plasticity. Negative emotions encode memories more strongly. 50:00 Microglia: the brain’s immune cells 53:00 Plasticity even in white matter tracts of myelin 55.00 Mitigating age-related cognitive decline using plasticity 01:01:00 Learning a musical instrument or new language can help mitigate dementia 1:05:00 Are there any limits to how plastic the mind can be? 1:12:00 Are brain computer-interfaces going to cause a plasticity adaptation in the brain? 1:16:00 Technology could cause a lowering of brain function rather than a bionic super race References: ‘Neuroplasticity’ by Moheb Costandi ’Neurophilosophy’ Mo’s blog Charles Darwin - Dissent of Man Santiago Ramone Cahall and Camill Gogi - Nobel prize The Raticularists Paul Bach-y-Rita Longterm potentiation LTP Microglia: the brain’s immune cells
June 30, 2021
Dr. Monika Wikman - JUNG'S COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS
How much of our consciousness is shared? In this episode we have the fascinating job of trying to get to get to grips with Jung’s concept of the Collective unconscious. I’ve always loved Jung and I think his ideas can offer a brilliant framework in which to maximise our mental health, to use life’s challenges to harvest meaningful lessons, and just to navigate the subjective experience of being alive. But this is a science podcast, so we do want to get clear on what is just a useful idea and what is a scientifically proven reality. Jung was very shy to speak about scientifically unprovable ideas because he was a rigorous academic, but as his career progressed he was encouraged more and more to elaborate on the tools he was using with his patients; and as we’ll discuss today he felt there was a huge value in acknowledging the active role of what lies outside of the sphere of testable knowledge, rather than just dismissing it as non-existent. So I am extremely happy to have Jungian analyst Dr Monika Wikman with us to help locate the threshold between these two very different fields of knowledge and to explain in detail the collective unconscious. Monika is the author of ‘Alchemy and the Rebirth of consciousness’ and received her PHD in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and then deepened her knowledge of Jungian Analysis at the Jung-Von Franz Center for Depth psychology in Zurich. She is an expert on topics including the anima mundi and environmental issues of our time, archetypal phenomena surrounding death, dreams, active imagination, and alchemy. Her work with the dying culminated in a research project called ‘Dreams of the Dying’ at UC San Diego Medical Center, which is the foundation of her most recent book, Alchemy of Life, Death and the Wedding Veil. What we discuss in this Episode: Part 1 12:20 The humility of the ego to identify suffering that creates an opening for us to grow: Dissent, the renewal of consciousness 14:30 What is the Collective Unconscious? 19:00 How can motif’s from ancient myths appear in the minds of those who’ve never learned about these myths? 20:00 The healing function of connecting with this archetypal strata of consciousness 29:00 The importance of dreams to scientific discovery 40:00 Monika’s ‘2 weeks to live to cancer free overnight’ experience 50:00 Ego consciousness making a bridge to the symbolic field of the collective unconscious Part 2 1:03:00 How do we use knowledge of the collective unconscious in therapy? 1:11:20 Chaos as a catalyst forcibly setting off a chain reaction of transformation 1:15:00 The Implicate and Explicate order, David Bohm and the big question about where does all this information reside 1:27:30 ‘Exploring Holotropic Breathing’ 1:35:00 Peak experiences, psychedelics and the dangers of getting hooked on transformation References: ‘Pregnant Darkness; alchemy and the rebirth of consciousness’ Monika Wikman ‘Exploring Holotropic Breathing’ Monika Wikman Monika’s presentation ‘Refining you inner bullshit detector’ Monikawikman.weebly.com ‘On dream and death’ by Marie- Louise Von Franz ‘The order disorder paradox’ by Nathan Schwarz Stan Grof’s Holotropic Breathing and Grof Transpersonal Psychology training
June 14, 2021
Dr. Stephen Porges - POLYVAGAL THEORY EXPLAINED
What's the importance of safety to health? In this episode we’re going to be talking about the neuroscience of safety and how our sense of safety can be hugely important to the way we communicate and learn. Research shows that when we perceive threat, we go into a hyper-vigilant state and certain circuits of the brain shut down to focus on self-protection. If we can become aware of this as it’s happening we can not only use certain tools to mediate it, but we can also help others not end up in that state too. We are extremely lucky today to go straight to the horses mouth so to speak of this research, speaking with the founder of Polyvagal Theory himself, Dr Stephen Porges. Dr. Porges is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium at Indiana University. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across several disciplines including, biomedical engineering, neurology, neuroscience, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, and substance abuse. In this episode we’ll be unpacking his Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behaviour. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms operating in several behavioural, psychiatric, and physical disorders. He is the author of several books which we’ll be mentioning in the interview and you can find links to in the show notes. What we discuss in this episode? 06:29 What’s going on inside people’s heads? 09:00 If your body is in a state of threat you can’t access certain areas of your brain 12:49 What does the Vagal nerve do? 17:00 Facial expression and tone of voice broadcast our physiological state via the Vagal nerve 22:30 Co-regulation between parent and child 24:00 Polyvagal Theory explained by its founder 28:00 Bidirectionality: feedback between physiological state and mental state 32:00 Trauma, making ourselves numb, disassociation and turning off your body 35:00 Co-regulation VS co-exacerbation between individual and collective systems 40:30 Dan Siegal’s ‘window of tolerance’ 43:00 Error in thinking about trauma, of focusing on event and not on bodily reaction and feelings 45:30 Stephen’s new book ‘Polyvagal safety: attachment, communication, self-regulation’ 48:00 Physical and mental illness are the same, but medical professionals aren’t taught this 51:45 Vagal metrics to help explain ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ 57:00 Moving beyond Paul McLean’s outdated concepts of the Triune brain and the Limbic system 54:00 ‘Neural exercise’ (play and social interaction) should be a fundamental part of a healthy education 1:04:34 Being listened to is crucial to feeling safe 1:07:30 Voice cues for safety have been critical to man’s survival 1:07:40 The ‘Safe and Sound’ protocol for inducing clam and safety 1:12:00 Tools from Polyvagal theory for bypassing trauma triggers 1:13:45 Listen to your body don’t hack it. References and books mentioned: Dr. Stephen Porges ‘The pocket guide to Polyvagal Theory: the transformative power of feeling safe?’ https://www.stephenporges.com/books Dr. Stephen Porges ‘Polyvagal safety: attachment, communication, self-regulation’ https://wwnorton.com/books/9781324016274 Dan Siegal’s ‘window of tolerance’ concept https://www.stmichaelshospital.com/pdf/programs/mast/mast-session1.pdf Stephenporges.com Polyvagalinstitute.org Safe and Sound protocol™ https://integratedlistening.com/porges/
May 31, 2021
Dr. Chris Fields - QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT
What does entanglement actually mean? So in this episode we’re going to be trying to get our heads around one of the most extraordinary phenomena ever recorded in subatomic physics: Quantum Entanglement. Famously dismissed by Einstein as ‘Spooky action at a distance’, it has been proved to exist in the lab over and over again since then. This non-local phenomenon is when sub-atomic particles remain connected so that the physical properties of one will affect the other, no matter what the distance is between them. It’s been in the news a lot recently not only because it has been photographed by a team at the University of Glasgow, but also because of a host of successful so called ‘Teleportation’ experiments, in which entanglement has been used to send information instantaneously between two computer chips that have no causal connection between them whatsoever. I believe the implications of this non-local phenomenon are among the most important scientific discoveries of our time, most importantly to update our purely classical ‘cause-and-effect’ understanding of the world. But it also begs the question, through what medium is that information passing between those two entangled particles, if not through Space and over time? To help us get our heads around this mind-bending reality is theoretical Physicist Dr Chris Fields, an independent scientist interested in both the physics and the cognitive neuroscience underlying that human perception of matter in space and time. Chris began his career as an experimental physicist, obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Science at the University of Colorado and was an early developer of automated DNA sequence analysis tools at the Human Genome Project. He has published over 130 peer reviewed papers in nuclear physics, artificial intelligence, molecular biology and cognitive psychology. What we discuss in this episode: 00:00 The Human Genome Project 07:00 What is Entanglement? 15:30 “Spooky action at a distance” 16:24 Einstein’s mission to remove non-locality from physics 20:00 Quantum theory challenges all classical intuitions 22:30 Re-think what we mean by locality 22:42 Is the intuition of separability false? 26:24 What Is spin? 29:12 The difficulty of using classical analogies for quantum concepts 31:06 The difference between quantities and qualities of information 35:00 John Wheeler and the way you ask questions changing the answers you get. 37:00 The interaction of information exchanging systems as a model for panpsychism 41:00 Hiding the distinction between Semantics and Syntax in information theory 43:36 Predictability VS Meaning 44:30 Observation is interaction 47:50 Is objectivity achievable? Intersubjective agreement. 50:00 The disaster of ‘Shut up and calculate’ 52:00 John Wheeler’s ‘Participatory Universe’ bridging the gap 53:00 Physical systems are question askers and answer receivers 54:00 Was Wheeler a panpsychist? Part 2: 58:00 The implications of Entanglement 1:02:00 What does it mean to give and receive information to and from the world? 1:10:00 Are the observer and the system they are interacting with not in fact one and the same thing? 1:17:00 La Place: Non-local forces like gravity imply that all the information about the system must be uniformly available to the whole system. 1:23:00 What effect will quantum understanding have on the general world view of society in the future? 1:28 Does Meditation lead to a non-separate world view? 1:34 Moving attention and interest away from the self References: ‘Meditation if you’re doing it you’re doing it right’ Alison Tinsley and Chris Fields
May 14, 2021
Dr. Mike Gazzaniga - THE LEFT BRAIN INTERPRETER
Do we realise we invent explanations? In this episode we look at the extraordinary phenomena of the Left Brain Interpreter, in which a part of the left hemisphere tends to literally invent an explanation for something we’ve perceived or done based on past experience, sometimes in a completely mistaken way. This is a very important phenomena to our first series as we introduce the cognitive limits of our brains, as it shows just how tricky our so called rational mind can be, and begs questions about the authority and validity of our conscious faculties and how much is the result of previous bias. The most interesting part about this is that the subject has no idea cognitively that this is an invention and thinks that this is true information and not a deduction. But before we jump to any conclusions, in order to understand this properly we need to speak to a legend in the relatively young field of neuroscience, the person who actually discovered this phenomena in the first place, Dr Mike Gazzaniga. He is the founder of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at both the University of California and Dartmouth College. He is also a proficient author of books for both the general public and the more specialised field. Some of his titles include: ‘The Ethical Brain’, ‘Who’s in Charge? Free will and the science of the brain’, and most recently, which we’ll be discussing today, ‘The Consciousness instinct: unravelling the the mystery of how the brain makes mind’. He made is name in the field as one of the pioneers in split-brain research, which led to the bulk of his early work on what the functions of each hemisphere of the brain are, and and how the left and right hemispheres communicate with each other. So who better to answer our questions and doubts about this tricky area. He’s also, unlike many scientists who prefer to stick to hard observable evidence, not afraid to write about the ethics and philosophy of these discoveries. What we discuss in this episode: 04:40 The ‘What the hell is going on?’ question. 09:23 The early split brain discoveries 15:44 The differences between the two hemispheres. 19:45 Mythbusting the Left and right brain. 22:54 The Left Brain Interpreter explained by its discoverer. 31:30 The connection between the interpreter and confirmation bias 34:00 Solutions through awareness of the interpreter, the difficulty of changing opinion 36:00 Facing the resistance of dogma in science 37:00 ‘How do we go from matter to mattering?’ 38:00 ‘The Consciousness instinct' 43:00 Complimentarity, the wave particle duality, Howard H Pattee and his paper ‘how does a molecule become a message?’ 48:00 Mike’s ‘babbling brook’ analogy for consciousness. 53:00 My theory of your consciousness is better than my theory of my own consciousness. 54:00 Free Will and personal responsibility Referenced in this episode: John Doyle at Caltech, Bioengineer, https://www.bbe.caltech.edu/people/john-c-doyle Howard H Pattee, Biologist and philosopher - How does a molecule become a message? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279377526_How_Does_a_Molecule_Become_a_Message Nils Bohr - Complimentarity - complimentary features which can’t all be measured simultaneously https://www.britannica.com/science/complementarity-principle William James - The Conscious Whole Sebastian Seung - the Connectome https://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_seung_i_am_my_connectome?language=en
April 30, 2021
Dr. Jon Butterworth - THE WAVE PARTICLE DUALITY
Wave or Particle? So in this episode we have the interesting job of trying to get to the bottom of the famous mystery of the Wave Particle duality, and seeing if along the way we can’t bust a few myths about it. We’re also aiming to better understand whether Quantum mechanics can or can’t help us get closer to a complete theory of reality or not, and hopefully find out of it can give us some clues about how matter and consciousness are related. We’re also going to trace the developments and discoveries in Quantum Theory throughout its relatively young 100 or so year history. So who better to speak to about all this than physicist Dr Jon Butterworth one of Britain’s most experienced sub-atomic particle physicists and a professor who’s much loved for his gift of making physics accessible. Jon was born in Manchester but is currently a Professor of Physics at UCL in London and he’s worked for years a the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. He tells the story their long search for the Higgs Boson particle at CERN In his book ‘Smashing Physics’ if you’re interested. He often speaks publicly about particle physics, with some brilliant talks that you can find on Your Tube at the Royal Institution, and he also appears regularly on TV including the BBC’s Newsnight, Channel 4 and Al Jazeera. His new book ‘Atomland’, which we’ll be talking about came out in 2018. In this episode we discuss: 03:40 Jon’s book Atomland and the history of quantum mechanical discoveries throughout the 20th Century 05:00 High Frequency and high energy corresponds to higher resolution and allows you to see smaller things 07:40 Particles which, until now cannot be broken down into any smaller components, they’re provisionally fundamental 09:10 Gravity, space and time have still not been incorporated into the standard model of Quantum Mechanics 11:15 The Uncertainty Principle 17:40 The Wave Particle Duality Explained 22:30 Quantum Electro Dynamics, the Copenhagen interpretation and the inherent randomness in nature 28:20 James Clarke-Maxwell, Faraday, humility in the face of the unknown and different ideas of ‘clean’ maths and explanations changing over time 31:00 The Many Worlds Interpretation 33:15 the division between observer and observed and wave function ‘collapse’ 33:50 Schroedinger's Cat and the observer interfering in a system 41:00 The mathematical explanation of Quantum Field Theory; unpacking what we mean by waves and particles 42:20 Matter is energy 46:30 Working quantum level up rather than quantising down form the classical world 52:45 Jon’s opinion on the implications of the Wave Particle Duality 54:30 Jon’s response to famous quotes on consciousness by physicists 57:52 Wheeler’s ‘participatory universe’ and the things that are real are only definable relative to other things 59:30 Einstein’s ‘Wave function of the universe’ solution to the observer/observed paradox 1:02:30 Implications of Entanglement (See Episode #4 for the full episode on Entanglement and non-locality) References: Jon’s book Atomland https://lifeandphysics.com/a-map-of-the-invisible/ Jon’s Website www.lifeandphysics.com Jon’s science blog on Cosmic Shambles https://cosmicshambles.com/words/blogs/jonbutterworth Jon’s Book Smashing physics https://lifeandphysics.com/smashing-physics/ Jon’s Youtube channel with all the Royal Institution talks and others: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcKio4sab2JCETsSAhy0Q6Q Richard Feynman’s book QED https://www.amazon.co.uk/QED-Strange-Theory-Penguin-Science/dp/0140125051
April 14, 2021
Dr. Susan Blackmore - THE HARD PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Subjective or Objective? In this Episode we’re going to be introducing one of the oldest and most talked about problems in philosophy, the problem of consciousness. Just how does our subjective experience as humans relate to our existence as human bodies with brains? For most of the 20th century you couldn’t really talk about this as a serious scientist without being laughed at and told to study something useful. But since the 90’s, with the advancement of MRI brain imaging in neuroscience, and the coining the term The ‘Hard Problem’ by funky philosopher David Chalmers, Consciousness studies have blossomed back into mainstream science. To kick off the podcast with a bang, and explain the mystery that perhaps underlies all mysteries is psychologist and author and visiting Professor at Plymouth University, Dr Susan Blackmore. Best known for her books The Meme Machine, Zen and the Art of Consciousness, Consciousness: An Introduction, and Seeing Myself, Sue’s work spans across hundreds of publications in over 20 different languages, making huge contributions in the fields of psychology, memetics, religion, philosophy of mind, supernatural experience, and many other areas. It is no surprise to find her ranked amongst 2013’s 30 Most Influential Psychologists Working Today and 2015’s Top 100 Global Minds. In this episode we discuss: 09:12 How do we define consciousness? 15:00 Is dualism an unrealistic position? 18:00 The Hard Problem explained 23:00 Sue’s Out of Body and ‘oneness with the universe’ experience 36:00 Explaining OBE’s biochemically 45:00 the importance of Body Schema 50:00 introducing the various theories of consciousness from materialism to idealism 51:00 Dan Dennet on consciousness 56:00 Illusionism: the belief that consciousness is an illusion 57:00 Galen Strawson and the attraction of panpsychism 58:00 the importance of the 'don’t know' mind for studying consciousness 1:05:00 Zen, the self and non-duality 1:14:00 What would a post-self society look like? Books and References: Sue Blackmore - Consciousness - A very short introduction https://www.susanblackmore.uk/seeing-myself-2/ Sue Blackmore - Conversations on Consciousness https://www.susanblackmore.uk/conversations-on-consciousness/ Dan Dennett - Consciousness Explained https://www.amazon.it/Consciousness-Explained-Daniel-C-Dennett/dp/0316180661 Sue Blackmore - Zen and the Art of Consciousness https://www.susanblackmore.uk/ten-zen-questions-zen-art-of-consciousness/ Sue’s Son, illustrator for many of her books, Jolyon Troscianko http://www.jolyon.co.uk/
March 31, 2021
TRAILER - What's the Chasing Consciousness podcast all about?
See www.chasingconsciousness.net/episodes for the full program. Here host Freddy Drabble introduces what he'll be covering with his guests in the first 15 part series. Please subscribe and leave a rating and review if you like what you hear.
March 15, 2021