Interview on Pentamental Hosted by John & Thomas Maguire


Pentamental_ep4I was interviewed about my book What is Science? by hosts John and Thomas Maguire on their podcast Pentamental.


To describe the Pentamental podcast, I cite from their site:

“Pentamental is a dialogue-based show that elucidates the intersection(s) between synchronicity, science, culture, & psychonautics. Through the medium of open-minded dialogue, we explore the possibility that the only way out, is in.”

I really like that: “the only way out, is in“.  I couldn’t agree more!

We had a great discussion that fit really well with their focus on “…science, culture, and psychonautics”.   Both John and Tommy were really great hosts.  They were both very well-informed and had deep understanding about a diversity of topics.  This made for a fluid, nuanced, and interesting discussion.

They gave me the opportunity to speak at length about What is Science?  We also discussed psychedelics, some of the ideas in my ebook Experience about what motivates a person to take yoga seriously, and a variety of other interesting topics.

Here is a link to the audio file of the interview (right click to Save As… if you want to download to your hard drive).

I strongly recommend you check out their site and give a listen to their other interviews. They are new at the moment, with only four shows.  I anticipate Pentamental will become a serious forum for intelligent discussion and debate about ideas and approaches that go way outside of the box.

My special thanks to John and Tommy for the wonderful opportunity to speak on their show!

UPDATE: John Maguire has opened a message thread to discuss the interview at the message boards: link to discussion board thread.

Please note you have to sign up to post at Skeptiko.  I am a member there and can vouch for it being a cool and lively intellectual environment.


8 thoughts on “Interview on Pentamental Hosted by John & Thomas Maguire

      • kashyap vasavada

        I enjoyed listening to your interview. Yes. I also feel strongly that there is something in this ancient wisdom.

      • Thank you, Sir! That is very kind of you to take the time to listen, and also to comment. Have you read I.K. Taimni’s The Science of Yoga? If not, I suggest you give it a try. It is his commentary on the Yoga Sutras. Taimni was a PhD chemist and tried hard to link the ancient Hindu ideas to modern physics and chemistry. I think he opened a lot of doors that could be productive and fruitfully developed into real science. His book is an amazing source for ideas for professional scientists like you and I. What I learned there helped me formulate the nonlinear theory of cell injury I am currently working on (link is to a current review article). The logic was this: if all manifestation consists of dynamical patterns (e.g. the gunas) then why can’t an injured cell be conceptualized as a dynamical system? So, I have already found direct benefit from Taimni’s inspiration.

      • Hey Don,

        Because I am listening to these ideas of Raja Yoga, I somewhat feel that I am in unchartered territory, although I have some knowledge of yoga. You go deep, quickly, in this interview!

        I love your explanation of levels. It very much resonates with my intuition, or understanding of the cosmos so far. There is so much correspondence between schools of thought that I am forever returning to the notion that what is very much needed, and perhaps to some extent happening, are bridges, where correspondence is obvious, between different schools of thought.

        One of the remarkable insights of James Hillman was the need to de-literalize schools of thought, whether religious , political or cultural. Hillman takes Jung’s ideas to another level, more specific, in terms of working within the images presented, whether through language, dreams, art, poetry, alchemy, religion.

        Yoga as a method of joining fits well with my intuition of everything! When life, on any level can be seen as motion or flow of perception that we grasp through patterns, it becomes obvious that there’s a background of consciousness, or awareness to the foreground, or spotlight way of perceiving.

        Right, we cannot capture the background, or ground of being, but we are often fooled into seeing and understanding the world as if it were static.

        With this understanding in mind, it’s not to say that thoughts are meaningless and useless. It’s the specificity that leads out (educates?) to the general, which is where a reconciliation, peace and joy find us.

        For some background on my travels that have enhanced my intuitions and understanding, years ago I was very involved in the church of Ananda, where I learned a very intense method of meditation. I practiced for a few years which culminated in an emotional breakdown of sorts, that led me to participate in a Jungian analysis. I needed to find the means and capacity to express a lifetime of intuitions in order to find some groundedness.

        Anyway, I had a fantastic analysis which led me to incorporate a lot of dream work while continuing to meditate. Without even being aware of what a kundalini experience is, I woke up from a dream while in the midst of having this amazing electrical surge shoot up my spine and into my head. I thought I was going to die. In a sense I did. It’s very difficult to articulate the subsequent changes over the next few years, but my perception deepened, language, thought and ideas were seen through and understood as referents and I began to have a heightened intuition about things that to this day I continue to express through writing, music and engaging the world.

        Rather than say that our perceptions are not real, I would rather see that they are arbitrary, attempts to make the flow static, and in that sense are limited, based on the referents, culture, and belief systems that have us in their sway. I do think that the spell of any particular structure can and is broken when one understands their nature. But, I am not quite ready to say that we can ever be structure free; free of the human limitations that the filtering of consciousness that embodied experience necessitates. I am leary of any thought structure that seeks to denigrate this particular world structure as something to transcend. I think it serves a purpose, although I am not able to say what that purpose is.

        Anyway, thank you for inviting a great conversation! I look forward to hearing more about Raja yoga and your thoughts on it. I am especially interested in lucid dreams having had quite a number of them myself. I am sure that in a lucid dream I am somewhere else. Even in some non-lucid dreams I sense that I am somewhere else. It seems more of a leap to another dimension though rather than another location.

        Happy New Year!

      • Hi Debra

        Happy New Year to you too! Hope you have a great one! Wow! Thank you for the great comment! You mention a lot of things so I will reply to the ones that popped out at me.

        I read one Hillman book a long time ago. It was excellent. He applies Jung in a very practical fashion. I strongly recommend his writings to anyone interested in the types of ideas we are discussing.

        You raise a good point that ideas often make static what is really dynamic and changing. It takes some time, I think, to get over this. It is very much a habit to see the world as made of stable things. Even if all the people one knows age, one still sees them as the same people. People want to “cling to the past” or go back to the “golden age”. But it just won’t happen. One has to train themselves to see and accept the ever-changing nature of things. It is difficult to do, and many people never do it. Indeed, it is the background of consciousness, or being, that creates the illusion of stability. Since being and consciousness do not change, as Krishnananda says, people project this onto the flux of things. The essence of Maya.

        > it’s not to say that thoughts are meaningless and useless
        You got me here. Truly I am unsure on this front. My thinking is a lot like Jay Lakhani in that video I posted of him: we don’t know why we are here or what any of this is all about. It immediately gets to the deep questions about the meaning of our existence. I like Jay’s approach. He says not to waffle, to just admit we don’t know what the hell is going on. Then, if one is lucky, out of the resulting confusion and uncertainty, is the beginning of the journey. When one is sure they know the truth, then the journey won’t start. So, like Jay, I say I don’t have the slightest clue. I also like his thought about how the pure consciousness is in its pristine purity, but then why does it appear in such a crass form “out here” where we are always getting whacked left, right, and center? All I can say is: WTF!! 🙂

        I very much like your characterization of thoughts as “arbitrary”. I think it maintains a nice balance. Because it is a truism that we think and our thoughts exist, at least for a time. But each thought is only a facet, a cross-section through something that defies all thought and idea. This is actually espoused in the Yoga Sutras when thoughts are identified as “sabda” or mere sounds. At this level, the thoughts are only pointers, or referents, as you say, pointing to the thing signified. Luckily one can go deeper with the mind, which are the jnana and artha aspects of thought, which I discussed here in What Is Science? We didn’t even get to this topic in the Pentamental interview.

        You also hit on another tricky topic: if we can be “structure-free” or not. Logically it is pretty straight-forward. Being human means occupying certain levels of structure. Period. If we take our consciousness beyond these structures then, and I get this from Krishnananda, it’s not my original idea, then we are no longer human. This is why he calls (6th paragraph) Yoga a process that transcends our human-ness. I like this idea because it speaks to the freedom of consciousness. We – you and I – we are consciousness. We just happen to be consciousness formed into these particular human structures at the moment. But we are not fated or forced into this condition. At some level, consciousness freely assumes this form, and at some other level, consciousness can freely leave the form and assume any form, or no form at all. It is a consoling thought.

        Again, Debra, thanks so much for sharing such great thoughts here. I appreciate it very much and look forward to many more such conversations!



  1. Hi Don,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply with such a detailed response!

    All you say here resonates deeply with me. Your question below is a great one:

    “I also like his thought about how the pure consciousness is in its pristine purity, but then why does it appear in such a crass form “out here” where we are always getting whacked left, right, and center?”

    Perhaps this is one of the fascinating, to my mind anyway, things to wonder about. I fully admit to that wondering. It’s the question that keeps showing up, no matter what ideas I am entertaining. I can’t pretend to have an answer, but I do enjoy applying different scenarios to our existence that might suggest what is going on.

    My favorite scenario is that consciousness itself makes, or creates the world, and that one manifestation leads to another. There is an underlying intelligence to pure consciousness that seeks expression. So, what could that expression be for? If it’s the underlying intelligence, doesn’t it already have, or is (language is inadequate here), all that is? Here’s where any answer give falls short. Of course we cannot experience the fullness of what consciousness is. But maybe consciousness chooses manifestation because it allows itself to get caught, to congeal into beingness for the joy and pleasure of it. Or, maybe there is something being created that indeed changes the nature of pure consciousness.

    Either way, or without purpose, I do enjoy the ride. The pattern of human life in which most of us find ourselves in, where early in our life we experience an overwhelming sense of being trapped within a body, suffering aloneness without an ability to contextualize our life and circumstance, that sometimes transforms into levels of awareness that free us from suffering from suffering, to a suffering that transforms through deeply experiencing what it tells us, can be a game changer. It has for me anyway.

    Resisting the nature of life, our feelings, limitations, folly, or even love, when suffered in a way that we eventually come to recognize that it is our resistance to these very human senses and circumstances that keep us from experiencing first hand the one thing we are most intimate with; our experience. Ugh, does that make any sense?

    I’ll stop before complete incomprehensibility takes over… 🙂

    Okay, I also look forward to reading your book, What is Science? and to more conversation here, as time allows.


    • Thanks, Debra, it’s a real delight to have you shine your sunlight here! Take care and I will very much look forward to future conversations!

      All my best,


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