Deepak Chopra: My guest is Duane Elgin, the author of the new book The Living Universe . Duane, who is also a good friend of mine, is an author, speaker, educator, consultant, and a media activist. For more than three decades he has defined the cutting edge in consciousness research in the ecology movement and in future studies. He pioneered the voluntary simplicity movement with his now classic first book titled by the same name, published in the 1980s. The book provided an exploration of the practical and philosophical meaning of simplicity as well as the comprehensive overview of the precarious ecological predicament of our planet. His current activist agenda is to transform the media, particularly television, which he sees as our greatest environmental risk factor because violent programming has a devastating effect on human consciousness and behavior. Duane has co-founded three non-profit organizations concerned with media accountability. He’s also helping me and others with a new effort that we’re calling Evolutionary Leaders. He has worked a senior social scientist with the think tank SRI International where he co-authored numerous studies on the long range future of government agencies such as the National Science Foundation. I could go on about his credentials, but I actually want to talk more about his new book which is called The Living Universe. Duane, good morning.
Duane Elgin: Good morning.
DC: So where are you this morning? In California?
DE: I’m in California just north of San Francisco, it’s a sunny morning. It’s a beautiful day.
DC: Everyone is having a sunny morning except us in New York.
DC: (laughs). Listen I got your book, yesterday in fact and it looks very nice. Of course I had read it before and it seems to have come a long way nicely.
DE: Thank you.
DC: So let’s talk about it. Your major thesis in this book is that the universe is a living, biological organism with consciousness.
DE: Well I would say it’s a unique kind of living system. I wouldn’t say so much biological, but rather there’s a deep aliveness that permeates and sustains the universe. And so we are more than biological beings, we are beings that also partake of the aliveness of the living universe.
DC: But you imply of course that the universe is imbued with consciousness.
DE: Indeed. So the aliveness of the universe is not simply a neutral energy. It is also the energy of consciousness, of a reflective capacity that permeates the universe. So throughout the universe it appears that systems at every level from the atomic up to the human and beyond are using the consciousness that’s at the foundation of the universe to organize themselves and intensify themselves into animate beings and life forms.
DC: You know I, several years ago when I wrote my book How to Know God, I had the good fortune of meeting a scientist in Holland by the name of Herms Romijn. And I dedicated my book to him. Herms has since passed away, but he wrote some very seminal papers on the origins of consciousness. He was a neuroscientist, quantum physicist, and unlike most neuroscientists who happen to be reductionists he actually had a very holistic view of the nature of consciousness. He was inspired by David Bohm. But, one of his papers that I read and I still have and would be happy to share it with you was about the fact that photons seem to be the carriers of all the information in the universe. Right now for example we are communicating with each other and with lots of people all over the world by using electromagnetic disturbances of the cosmos which essentially are virtual photons. But he was saying this was right in the 1990s, that when you have a thought, the thought also is carried, at least in your nervous system, through electromagnetic energy. And so photons are not only the carriers of what we call objective information but also subjective information. And since photons permeate the whole universe, the whole cosmos, he suggested in his paper which was published in a neuroscience journal in Holland. Since photons are the carriers of all information, subjective and objective, this implies that the universe is imbued with subjectivity.
DE: Ah, indeed.
DC: Which is a very fascinating idea and that we are part of that subjectivity in the sense that we are contained in that subjectivity.
DE: I think that’s such a key insight that the universe is imbued with subjectivity. So many people feel alone in the universe now. Feel cut off, feel like there’s no deeper connection or aliveness sustaining them. And if we can once again feel that aliveness that the universe is imbued with its own subjectivity that welcomes us if we will welcome it. And as you say in the foreword to this book “Talk to the universe”. George Washington Carver, the wonderful botanist said that if you love anything enough it will talk to you. And so just as you said Deepak if we engage the universe it will speak back to us. And for too long I feel that we have disregarded the universe and we now have gone this path of exploitation of the Earth rather than reverence for the Earth and reverence for the universe and this sacred home that we have.
DC: So, where are we, who are we, where are we going? So where are we Duane?
DE: What we’re discovering through both the lens of science and spirituality is that the universe is not a non-living machine, it is a living subjective presence and what we are doing is learning how to live in a living system. This living universe. So as the human family has this extraordinary journey before us. And it’s a common journey of discovery using all the tools we have, both science and spirituality to inquire into this extraordinary home that we have.
DC: You know the current issue of Scientific American, I don’t know if you’ve seen it but it has Einstein on the cover and the title says “Was Einstein Wrong,” and of course they’re trying to account for the fact that the universe at its most fundamental level seems to be non-local. It’s kind of spooky. Of course Einstein called it spooky action at a distance. He could never reconcile with the idea that we could have non-locality. ‘How could a fist in Des Moines, Iowa smash a nose in New York without disturbing anything in between? ‘ is how they pose the question. Then they go on in this particular article, and it’s the cover story, to say that non-locality is now a fact and that when you go deeper into understanding non-locality, this is in fact the universal mind which is simultaneously everywhere, which is synchronistic, which is infinitely creative, always continuously evolving, where everything is inseparable from everything else. Where uncertainty prevails and that uncertainty is the basis of all the creativity that comes out of there. If we could start to align ourselves with this kind of synchronistic intelligence which is the basis of all information: energy, space time, and all the objects of our universe, we would definitely be moving to the next stage of our own evolution.
DE: Indeed. And it simply is to come back to home, to rediscover the home that’s around us, the original home, the living universe.
DC: So tell us a little bit more about The Living Universe book, what can our readers expect to get from this?
DE: They can go to my website awakeningearth.org and they can get more information about it there. The book really looks at three core themes: where are we, is the universe dead or alive, and it says the evidence says its alive, it’s a living system, this is very exciting. The second theme is, who are we? Are we biological beings and that’s it, or are we more than that? And what it says again and again is we are beings with a cosmic connection. Our consciousness connects into the subjectivity of the living universe. And then the third theme is, where are we going? If we are beings that live in a living universe then where are we going? Well, we’re collectively learning how to live in that living universe and we’re on a heroic journey of discovery as a species. We’re just growing up and growing into this understanding of this subjective cosmic home that we live in. So those are the three core themes that orient the book.
DC: And even as we speak we are seeing war and terrorism and abominable acts in Pakistan and Afghanistan recently with all those slayings. We are seeing prejudice, we are seeing economic systems collapse. Do you think this is some kind of death and resurrection?
DE: Well I think we’re going through a rite of passage and into our early adulthood as a human family. And just like any adolescence, when you go through that rite of passage, that time of initiation to go into adulthood you go through the fire. And we as a human family are going to go through the fire before we come out the other side as a whole human family not only in name but in spirit, in feeling, in knowing that we’ve gone through this together and we have some extraordinary work to do together to come out the other side as a whole species civilization on this larger journey of learning to live in the universe.
DC: And you’ve been very active in this new evolutionary leaders movement that we’re all part of and you feel very strongly that the media especially has a big role to play in bringing us out of that fire.
DE: As the media goes, so goes the future. As we think, so we become, because the media is the thinking machine of our civilization. What it’s telling us to think about is how to be good consumers. Not good citizens of an endangered Earth. So we absolutely require the collective mind of the mass media to reflect back to us stories, and images, and themes, and ideas for a sustainable and promising future. And currently it’s reflecting back stories and images and ideas about being a satisfied consumer in such a diminished, impoverished view of who we are that is diminishing our evolutionary vision as a civilization.
DC: Right and we need a new mythology don’t we?
DE: Indeed we do.
DC: And we new media, new news stories, new music, new entertainment, all of this sort of…
DE: It’s exciting…There’s a short video that people can see on my website: awakeningearth.org.
DC: Duane wonderful talking to you and I hope to be speaking to you again, having you on the show again, and also working with you as part of Evolutionary Leaders.
DE: Thank you.