- We've been asking for millennia, "What is life, what is consciousness?"
- How do you turn the waters of the brain into the wine of our conscious experience?
- Consciousness is, before everything, an experience.
- Meditation is the true course for understanding the mind, and psilocybin is the crash course.
- What happens when we die?
There's a deeper mystery here.
♪ ♪ - The question is how much of reality you can take.
announcer: "Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness," now only on Independent Lens.
♪ ♪ [somber string music] ♪ ♪ - There's a deeper mystery here, and it's really the mystery of consciousness.
And it's the mystery of what we don't understand about the nature of this conscious experience that we're living in.
♪ ♪ There's this existential wonder about what's really going on here?
What's the meaning of life?
What happens when we die?
Why are we awake?
How is it that we're aware that we're aware?
♪ ♪ - We've been asking for millennia, "What is life?"
Isn't that what we all want to know?
What is life?
What is consciousness?
We answer one, we find the other.
Consciousness is the essence of life, to me.
♪ ♪ To think that at one point there was this one first cell.
And basically, everything that needed to be known was in there.
Because from there, everything else just emerged.
How did the one little cell know how to become this?
You cannot not be in awe of life in all its forms.
♪ ♪ - [speaking Spanish] - My own personal goal before I die is to understand how consciousness fits into the universe, how it's compatible with the laws of physics and biology that have been so successful at describing everything else around it.
I'm dedicated to cortex.
It's what I have on my body.
Few scientists have that.
[moody music] ♪ ♪ Consciousness is any experience, any feeling.
It feels like something to be angry.
It feels like something to remember something.
It feels like something to see red.
Common to them all is subjectivity.
I'm here to direct this large institute of 300 people focusing on trying to understand the cortex, accelerating neuroscience by building these large observatories to peer at the brain.
- How's it going?
- Very well.
- This is mouse.
- We have this project here at the Allen Institute.
It's a wiring layout of the brain that involves taking a tiny grain of brain matter, literally one cubic millimeter.
So it's like quinoa, a grain of quinoa, one by one by one millimeter, cutting it into 30 nanometer-thin slices, 25,000 of them at the level of electron microscopy.
And then using modern machine learning techniques where I can automatically reconstruct the precise wiring.
Because in this piece of quinoa grain, there are roughly 50,000 cells.
And there's a few kilometers of wiring.
And once I understand which neuron is wired to which, I really understand a whole lot more about what makes this matter so special.
So those are mitochondria?
- Yeah, some mitochondria.
This is a synapse-- - And that's a micrometer or what?
Or half a micrometer?
- This will be a micrometer, something like that.
- Can you go all the way to layer one here?
- How does layer one look?
It looks beautiful everywhere.
At this point, it is not clear whether at this level, you can distinguish whether it's a human brain or a mouse brain.
And the point I always make that the basic hardware of all of us is the same.
Whether we are a mouse, or a dog, or monkey, or human, or whale, at this level, it's all very similar.
The brain is the most highly organized and complex piece of matter in the known universe.
I always get a, you know, shiver down my back.
Yeah, because I get to see this vast untold complexity upon complexity upon complexity.
Each brain is unique and different, right?
And you can go back to a famous example when it comes to consciousness that Leibniz made in his mill examples 350 years ago.
Because he said, "You can never find consciousness even if you go into a mill as it were."
That was his analogy at the time.
And you zoom in inside the mill, you see nothing but levers moving.
And then same thing here with respect to consciousness.
You go inside, you say, "Well, where is consciousness?
I don't see consciousness."
I see synapses and I see mechanisms, right?
That was the point of Leibniz.
All of these mechanisms, and somewhere out of this emerges consciousness.
[atmospheric music] ♪ ♪ What is it about this piece of goo, of gray goo, that gives rise to the feeling of love?
Because if I look at, in physics, if I look at the foundational theories of physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, there's no "love" there.
There's no experience.
There's no pain and pleasure.
If I look at the periodic table of the elements, again, there's no consciousness in there.
There's no feelings and love and hate and dreams and desires.
If I look at the endless AT-GC chart in my genes, there isn't anything there.
But here, every day I open my eyes in the morning and I have feelings of love, of pain, of sadness.
And so the big question, the heart of the-- of this ancient mind/body problem is really how do you make-- how do you turn the waters of the brain into the wine of our conscious experience?
[bells dinging] [bells continue dinging] [moody music] ♪ ♪ [bells dinging, background chatter] - Consciousness is, before everything, an experience.
I think most neuroscientists who work on consciousness, they know very well you could track to the last neurons of the 100 billion neurons, make a complete map of everything that takes place when you see red or feel anger or love.
But unless you know what experience is by the first person, it tells you nothing about what it is to be and to experience.
Sometimes people ask me, "You were a scientist"-- I did a PhD in cell genetics-- "Why suddenly you left all that, supposedly a promising career?"
I don't know.
Might have been a complete flop, but anyway, it was going okay until I finished my PhD, to become a Buddhist practitioner first, and then when I was 30, I became a monk, yes.
Well, first of all, I didn't slam the door on science.
I didn't leave science.
Because for me, science is the rigorous pursuit of knowledge.
I was trying to know more about the mind and what it is to achieve inner freedom from mental poisons, a different science.
After so many years, I'm certainly not enlightened.
But I have a real clear picture of how the mind works.
So I just changed the field of application.
[bells dinging, horns blowing] [chanting and drumming] [bells dinging, horns blowing] [drumming, chanting continues] We speak of a horizon that cannot be reached.
It's the idea of studying consciousness from the outside.
Now from the inside, there's no such problem.
Because you are not trying to step out of consciousness.
You go so deep within consciousness that actually, you can experience pure consciousness, the bare faculty to know.
There is something at the depth of consciousness that is pure awareness.
You can't get deeper than that.
Meditation aims at getting an aspect of the mind that is perfectly lucid, perfectly clear, like a blue, perfectly immaculate sky.
It's getting to the very core of the basic nature of consciousness.
- The key difference between the Western way of looking at consciousness and the Buddhist way that they've primarily focused on the inside view.
We, by and large in the West, since particularly Galileo, scientific revolution.
We said, "Let's remove subjective from the world."
That was the step of Galileo.
And that give rise to science.
Because let's just focus on the objective things we can all agree on.
I have two conflicting impulses.
[in German] Two souls live in my breast.
Very much so.
So on the one hand, I was very much a scientist.
I love science.
I love looking and finding confirmation of order in the natural universe.
That's why I'm a scientist, ultimately.
Because I do believe that by rational posits, we can understand what this universe is made out of and what are we made out of and why are we here?
On the other hand, I grew up as a devout believer.
And I wanted to reconcile... those are obviously conflicting things, and I wanted to reconcile them.
So on the one hand, I thought, "Well, consciousness, science is going to-- "is not going to be able to explain that finally "and then finally have a justification for why I believe in a soul."
But then as I did it more and more and thought about it more and more, I said, "No, this isn't-- I don't need a soul.
"I don't need the classical sort of, you know, traditional and religious Cartesian soul."
I think you can explain the strange aspect of consciousness, you know, the subjectivity, using physical natural laws without removing this wonderful aspect of conscience that it is a feeling.
It cannot just be reduced to my neurons in my brain.
[atmospheric music] ♪ ♪ - We have learnt, over the last few decades, that under the ground, a forest like this, these trees will be connected and will be talking right now.
Probably whispering about what I'm talking about.
[animal calls] [animal calls] The field of bioacoustic is just at its infancy and we still know very little.
But we know that trees and plants are not only able to detect sounds from their environment but would also produce their own sounds.
The incredible amount of data that is emerging in the field of plant behavior and communication is obviously pointing at more uncomfortable questions of whether plants are actually sentient, intelligent, conscious.
To be sentient means that you are perceiving, sensing, responding subjectively.
And that is the key word.
We have plenty of data to show that plants perceive, sense, respond.
So they definitely do that.
And the real question that I often ask myself is like, "Can you do this in any other way that is not subjective?"
Because to do it non-subjectively means that you're doing it "objectively," which really means that you're an object.
But object don't feel, don't perceive, don't respond.
The new lab that I'm setting up here at the University of Sydney, it's called the BI lab.
And it stands for biological intelligence.
And really is my little smirk to the AI people, so artificial intelligence.
We are kind of comfortable in considering technology as becoming intelligent and even conscious.
We talk about robots as if they are alive.
And yet we are not prepared to talk about plants as if they are alive.
It's definitely not considering the question of intelligence or consciousness for these others worthy of discussion.
My pea is out.
[lilting notes] ♪ ♪ - Yep.
- That's touch.
- So we're going to set up the EPG, which is equivalent to the EEG for the little pea.
There it is.
What are you doing?
[both laugh] - I'm not touching it.
That's amazing, though.
- I was a few centimeters away.
- So that's seeing you.
So one other experiment I did is testing Pavlovian learning in plants, specifically peas.
And it's following pretty much the same testing protocol that we use in animals, and specifically the Pavlovian protocol with the dog.
So in the case of Pavlov, he used a bell, which was always preceding the arrival of dinner.
And in response to that, the dog would salivate because it's very excited about the arrival of dinner.
But repeating this long enough or times enough, the bell on its own, even when there is no dinner coming, will make the dog salivate.
Now, plants don't salivate.
And I didn't use a bell.
But instead of a bell, I used a little fan.
And instead of dinner, I used light.
Now this is actually blue light because the peas really like that.
And what they do, a blue light, they grow towards it, so they bend.
If you repeat this enough times, in this case for three days, you will find that the fan alone, without the light even arriving, will make the pea bend in the right direction.
The fan didn't mean anything but the plant somehow has learned the association between these two.
And just like the dog, the pea is passing the test with flying colors.
[quiet music] ♪ ♪ My first experiment was received with great resistance.
Because it was really the first one to show that yeah, plants can learn.
And they can tick all the same boxes that we would expect from an animal.
A lot of the comments that I received were never about the data.
Which is the, you know, that's the foundation of science.
Because nobody ever actually said to me, "You did this experiment wrong.
The data are no good."
It was always about, "This cannot be."
The--the concept, even the idea that a plant could learn, it was almost disturbing.
So what is it about brain and neurons that is so special that without them you can't be conscious?
What brain and neurons are really doing is passing through signals of electrical nature.
Well, plants are really good at electrical signaling.
So does that mean that plants are more conscious?
I think that they have more genes that are coded for that kind of exchange of information internally.
So does it mean that they are even better than we are at this consciousness business?
[sweeping music] ♪ ♪ - [quietly speaking Spanish] [speaking softly in Spanish] [subdued music] ♪ ♪ - When we launched our first psilocybin study, no such study had been done for decades.
Psilocybin is the active principle in the so-called "magic mushroom."
And it is a classic psychedelic or a hallucinogenic drug used for thousands of years by indigenous cultures for religious or divinatory or healing purposes.
These drugs provide a very unique window into the nature of consciousness.
[music continues] ♪ ♪ - The lights are super bright.
I'm seeing kind of like a metronome for keeping time, keeping track.
And as that metronome swings up and down, I'm bouncing backwards into time.
[music intensifies] ♪ ♪ There's a woman, a native woman that I know I've encountered.
She has long dark hair, and I can see her face.
And to me it looks very familiar.
She knows me and I know her.
I feel very peaceful.
And not scared.
Like I'm being connected to, a collective knowledge base and that I'm learning about myself and about what is.
- These experiences look like experiences that have been reported over the ages by mystics and religious figures.
There's a sense of unity of all people and things.
The sense that everything is interconnected.
And that's accompanied by a sense of deep reverence for that experience.
Some people describe it as homecoming.
There's something that they knew to be true all along and it's a remembering.
And that's one of the powerful pieces of the truth value of this experience.
When we say it's more real and more true than everyday waking consciousness.
- You ready for a few ratings?
- Zero, not at all, ten being the strongest imaginable.
Distance from normal reality?
- Pure being and pure awareness?
- She's doing great.
- Yeah, I mean look at...
Pure being and pure awareness, five.
Fusion of your personal self into a larger whole, four.
Sense of reverence or sacredness, five.
Eight for timelessness.
- So, yeah, so we may have some touch of a mystical experience here.
- We brought people back a month later or two months later and interviewed them.
We have anywhere from 70 to 80% of people saying that this is in the top five most meaningful experiences of their life.
With respect to spiritual significance, in our first study, we had 30% of people saying it was the single most spiritually significant experiences of their entire life.
And when you'd ask, "Well, what does that mean?
"You know, you're saying this is in the top five.
What does that really mean to you?"
People would kind of look off and say, "You know, "when my first child was born, that changed my entire life.
"You know, my life would never be the same.
"And--and my father recently passed away and that's hugely moving."
They'd say, "You know, it's kind of like that."
And so that's the metric that they're using.
These huge experiences that-- that everyone has, but this is occurring in a single six-hour session in a session room at Johns Hopkins.
- In one of my most meaningful sessions that I had in the study, I felt the energy of people that have been close to me that have passed away in a way that it's maybe hard to describe, but it was very convincing to me that it was these certain people.
So that's one way that it really strengthened my belief in the afterlife.
Whatever that means.
You know, whether that means your energy cannot be ever destroyed.
And that's a part of that connective thread that... is binding all of us in the world, all people and things.
I felt as though the experience was preparing me for things that I know will happen in my life that will be tough.
[thunder rumbling] I'm being pushed on a gurney down a hallway.
What I can see is ceiling tiles going by very, very quickly.
And industrial lights.
And I know I'm in a hospital and something is not-- is not right.
I could smell the anesthetic hospital smell.
And things are very chaotic around me.
Just commotion and concern.
But all I can feel is safety and the loving feeling that's cradling me in that moment.
And I know I'm learning now for an experience in the future.
And that I'm being prepared that when that happens, when that moment happens, I'll remember this, remember that I'm safe and it'll be okay.
♪ ♪ - Since we began this work, we have conducted research in over 600 psilocybin sessions.
Just recently, our group at Johns Hopkins and a group at New York University co-published studies in which we administered a moderately high dose of psilocybin to cancer patients who met clinical criteria for very significant anxiety or depression.
And most importantly, the measures of depression go markedly down.
And for the most part, people felt much more comfortable with the prospect of facing death.
And these effects appear to endure.
People do not come out of that experience saying, "Oh, now I believe in heaven," you know.
"Now I believe in life after death."
But it's not uncommon for people to come out entertaining, in a way that they perhaps didn't previously, that there's-- there could possibly be continuity of something.
[ambient music] ♪ ♪ [bells dinging] - Sometimes when Western visitors come here, they expect that all our young monks in the school would meditate.
But basically, meditation is not considered something for beginners.
Meditation means "cultivating" in Sanskrit.
Cultivating altruistic love, loving kindness, compassion.
So it's not just sitting there and looking in the sky and emptying your mind.
[speaking in Nepali] ♪ ♪ - When you see the sacred dance, the rituals are not just magic rituals.
They're actually guided meditation.
First is the dance to purify the ground from all graspings and mental clinging.
When you see a dancer with a sword that cuts an effigy, it's just cutting the clinging to ego.
[dramatic chords, drumming] ♪ ♪ Grasping to the self could be a source of hatred, obsessive craving, arrogance, jealousy, distortion of reality.
What would be the result of that?
So unless you deconstruct the notion of ego, those things will continue to appear.
[bells dinging, horns blowing, rhythmic clanking] ♪ ♪ - Meditation is the tried and true course for understanding the nature of mind.
And psilocybin is the crash course.
We often speak in terms of ego and self being dissolved acutely by psilocybin in some of these meditation practices.
That's actually the objective of most Buddhist practices, to recognize that you are not the self.
And so often in our cultures we've come to identify ourself with that voice in our head that says, "I'm gonna get up.
I see the morning."
As one meditates more deeply, it becomes very apparent that that sense of self can drop away.
And that experience alone can be totally transformative.
- So we'll have this top over your head.
It's like an antenna.
- Hey Jane, Roland.
Just wanted to know how you're doing in there.
- Actually pretty great.
It's actually pretty comfy.
- [chuckles] Okay.
That's what we want to hear.
[chuckles] - It's like a spa.
- One perspective on what happens with psychedelics, from a neuroscience point of view, is the influence of psychedelics on something called the "default mode network," a function of brain that underlies ego or sense of self.
People with clinical depression have increased sense of "ego."
And one of the things that psychedelics do, psilocybin and LSD, is to decrease functioning in default mode network.
In other words, decrease egoic function.
There can be a sense of the melting away of a sense of "self" or personality, if you will, and emerging with something greater than that.
So acutely, you'll get decreases in the sense of self but concurrently, a much greater interconnectivity in the brain.
And the opportunity for rewiring and new connections forming, is really quite substantial.
One of the common features of this decreased sense of self is just a greater openness and a greater freedom of choice.
And so that emerges from psychedelics.
It emerges in meditation.
Because one of the characteristics is an open-mindedness and a freedom from habitual response.
And it looks very much like patterns that we see in childhood before those narratives get locked in and that sense of "self" gets locked in.
So this openness has huge implications for healing.
- I wouldn't hesitate a second to say that the Hopkins experiment was a completely life-changing experience.
Why would something synthesized by mushrooms do something so dramatic to the human brain?
And in fact, "what does it do?"
was the question in part.
I participated about ten years ago in a study which gave a small number of subjects like me various concentrations of psilocybin in a very controlled environment in which we were coached to be open to whatever happened in our brain.
Ten years later, I still regard it as, in fact even more so, regard it as the most significant experience I've ever had.
At the time I did this, I was in the more or less immediate aftermath of a really tragic death.
My son died by suicide.
He went through different forms of drugs from alcohol, to ecstasy, to LSD, to cocaine, to heroin.
And one night, I just got a call that he had shot himself to death.
My son's death had left me so raw and so in need of working through certain things.
So I regarded the whole psilocybin experiment as, at least potentially, a way to come to some further terms with that.
I went into it with a good deal of skepticism.
I wasn't in any, certainly not in any institutional way, religious nor really a believer in much of any sense.
As a philosopher, as a professor of philosophy, I knew a lot about the history of theology but didn't feel a great deal of personal participation in it.
So I went into the whole thing quite prepared for a big zero on the spiritual side.
- All right, so sheet... - Roland and Mary coached me a lot regarding the whole experience as a kind of space traveler, kind of astronaut, where you're going to get blasted out into some possibly scary place by yourself.
So Rick, just begin by taking a couple of deep breaths.
In and out.
In and out.
- It really felt like a journey through some kind of cosmic roller coaster.
A deep sea diver descending into the ocean depths.
I even had the illusion of pressure and darkness.
And I was so gratified to feel the touch of Mary's hand.
Although it felt as though she's in some little boat hundreds of feet, if not miles above me.
But even that didn't suffice to orient me.
I seriously wondered, "Am I alive or am I dead?"
I couldn't make out.
And at one point, I thought, "Oh, my God.
"I've become a heroin addict myself.
"I'm in some kind of mania "of sympathy and grief for Oliver's death.
"I have experimented with drugs and here I am in some kind of overdose."
[gripping music] ♪ ♪ But I maintained a weird clarity of mind at the same time, as I was able to observe from some position that was undisturbed, while the rest of my entire reality fell apart.
I felt at times as though I was hearing music for the first time.
It felt like the heartbeat of reality itself.
- What remains if ego or self dissolves completely?
What remains is this sense of awareness.
This sense of witness.
This sense of awakenedness.
And so ego can dissolve entirely.
Sense of self can dissolve entirely.
And yet, you can be fully aware that you're aware.
And there's something sacred about that.
Some people might describe it as a void.
Some people might describe it as a white light.
But there's this state of pure awareness.
And we're leaning deeply, as deeply as we can, into this existential mystery of what it is that we're doing here.
[soft music] ♪ ♪ - I changed my research direction and my career really, because of something that happened in the field with my fish.
I was trained as a marine scientist and I did most of my early research with coral reef fishes.
And then one day, as part of my experiment, I was in the water and after spending months with these particular individuals, you know, which I knew personally I would say, as one-on-one, relationships built over time.
That day, fish, that just until the day before would come inside my hand and I could close my hands around them, and they were like, "We know this is just Monica.
She comes every day.
And it's all good."
That day, nobody came out.
And the only thing that was different that day was that I went in the water with the thought of finishing my experiments and collecting them all.
Which obviously, it wasn't a good ending for them.
In that moment, when nobody came out to greet me as they did for days and days for months, I just realized that these fish knew about me much more than I knew about me.
They showed me what it really means to have empathic relationships.
In that moment, I realized that there are no boundaries.
That we think we have our private lives inside our minds.
But in reality, we are immersed in this ocean where all boundaries are quite fictitious.
That experience for me changed my entire career.
Because I realized that there was no questions that I could ask that would be important enough or special enough to justify me taking someone else's life.
That's when the plants came and rescued the scientist in me.
We see the world as separate from us.
And we see things, not beings.
And so the moment we appreciate what consciousness really is, this one big ocean that expresses itself through different forms and shapes, then, as the plants have taught me many times, what you see is just you.
You wouldn't hurt yourself.
You wouldn't kill yourself.
You wouldn't destroy anything.
You wouldn't be able as we do in our environments, because that is you too.
♪ ♪ - [speaking Spanish] - I'm now a panpsychist.
So panpsychist comes from the word "pan," "everywhere" and "psyche," "soul."
And it's an ancient faith, so many philosophers in the Western tradition have had it, including Plato and Spinoza and Schopenhauer.
But of course, it's very prevalent if you look, for example, in Buddhist faith that many more creatures may be ensouled than we think.
Most people are willing to say "Okay, a monkey is conscious and maybe a cat and a dog."
But it peters out very quickly after that.
Squid, probably not.
Bees, heaven's sake, they're just bugs, right?
But we really don't know.
A bee has a brain that's roughly a million neurons.
Far smaller than us.
Although its complexity, it's much denser.
Ten times denser than the neurons in the human brain.
Many biologists particularly, who think about consciousness, believe it's an emergent property.
The classical one is wetness of water.
I can take a liquid like water and it's wet.
You know, I can pour it over my clothes and I know what wet is.
Now if I ask, "Is one molecule of H2O?"
Isn't wet, it doesn't have those properties, "Or two molecules of H2O?"
But at some point, if you put enough molecules together, they have this property "wetness."
They cling to surfaces and they have tension, et cetera.
So people think, "Well, you have one or two neurons, "you don't get consciousness.
42, you don't.
"But you know, if you have a billion you get some.
"And if you have two billion, you get more.
So it's just an emergent property."
I used to think that.
But then, consciousness is just too radically different from anything else I know.
Consciousness explains subjectivity.
Feelings are too radically different from anything else in the universe for me to accept that it just emerges.
Max Planck, the father of quantum physics, said in the late '20s, "I regard consciousness as fundamental."
It's not something-- first, you have physics, and then if you have enough physics, then somehow you get consciousness.
Consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe.
♪ ♪ - Does the fish know that they're in water?
Do we really recognize that we're swimming in this sea of consciousness all the time?
In our culture, often that's not the case.
We're so caught up in achievement and our own stories and acquisition of material objects that define us, that we lose track of the fact that we're afloat in this sea of consciousness.
Psilocybin is one very powerful doorway into that recognition.
Some people, they're already awake to the vastness and the wonder but other people, it's their first awakening to a different way of experiencing and being in the world.
- It's not the drug.
The drug helps you to open the door.
But the drug isn't what's outside the door.
The question is how much of reality you can take.
Ordinarily, the function of our mental apparatus is to close down the opening, like closing down the aperture of a camera to the tightest, most restrictive aperture so that you're not flooded, so you're not overwhelmed.
And psilocybin is an aperture opener.
It massively exposes.
I felt like I was being miraculously exposed to my own life.
I had enormously powerful experiences visually of what seemed to be an immensity of space.
Then the experience would reopen as if you're already at the infinite.
And suddenly, that would open again to an infinite beyond the infinite.
And that was the moment when the astronaut metaphor came back.
And I thought, "Yeah.
"Something like exploration.
"Something like the pure adventure "of going out with as open eyes as possible, to drink in what is new and strange."
That's the whole purpose and aim of our existence.
Consciousness is nothing but this openness.
Traditionally, we think of God as the endpoint of the journey.
God is the destination.
And it suddenly rolls over me again.
"No, God is not the destination.
"God is the journey."
It's the openness itself that is divine.
Which then led me to this massive realization that God is seeing through our eyes.
That God's on the adventure.
That God in a certain sense, is the ultimate astronaut Himself.
That without us seeing these strange visions, He doesn't get to see anything.
That without us feeling things, He doesn't feel anything.
Without us going through the experiences of life, He doesn't go through life.
In other words, that we are the proxies for God's own life.
And this was a-- to me, so new a perspective that I was kind of shocked by it.
And I realized, if God truly grants freedom, He doesn't know the outcome of those free acts.
He is on the adventure more than anyone.
The gift of freedom necessitates that God is truly open to whatever's going to come out.
And it also made me realize, of course, this is the only possible meaning of love.
Love is such an adventure, a freedom, where you take the risk of openness to the other.
Including the possibility of being disappointed, of being wounded.
In another rushing over me of a revelation, I thought of my son.
He came to me.
And not just his presence but a kind of electric, vivid, intense presence.
I could not but imagine it alive... and imagine it as his core being.
In his absence, in this ultimate absence, I found him again.
It came to me to realize that maybe in this sense, nothing ever dies.
- For me, the work with psychedelic plants is a moment of communion with the infinite.
Just the same as maybe the poets would have written about forever.
Anybody who has had those experiences knows exactly what they are.
And they touch our soul so deeply that the mind has no chance to try to explain.
The heart is listening and the heart already knows.
When we're having these mystical experiences, whether it's, like, through meditation, or psychoactive plants or yoga, the place that we are touching is always the same because there is only one place here.
That's what I would call consciousness.
It's not a thing.
It's a space.
And that's where we go when we allow it.
I think this ability to directly connect with this universal consciousness, whatever we want to call it-- God-- is actually not a special thing, but it's our heritage.
It's not something that only some people can achieve.
It's our heritage as human beings.
And it's again, just a matter of choices.
But it's--we are all the same.
We are--we have-- we are made of the same, we come from the same.
We are the same.
And so we all have exactly the same opportunity for the same choices if we want them too.
Which is of course, compared to what a religious system would offer, it will be exactly the opposite: Someone has the control of your experience, of yourself, as God.
I had dreams in my home in Australia pointing to specific places and people.
Then I went and looked for them.
[rooster crowing distantly] I traveled to this very remote area of Mexico to learn from the Huicholes because they are such an ancient culture and their entire culture is founded and closely related to one psychedelic plant, the peyote.
[background chatter] Their relationship with this plant seems fundamental for them to survive in these remote regions, not just physically, but also spiritually, and find the direct connection to their divine essence.
- [chanting in Uzo-Aztecan language family] [chanting continues] [chanting fades] - And now I had to deal with my conflict.
I see a stressed animal that knows exactly what is going to happen.
And, um... and I actually really hope he's going to fight.
And it's actually interesting because just like in our society, I don't feel I have a choice that I can stand just on my own and stop this.
It's going to happen regardless.
And I have to let it happen.
This is where my conflict is.
Under all of these layers, I'm actually wearing a T-shirt that says, "Tread lightly.
It's like it's-- this is seriously a really funny joke from life.
- [chanting] [overlapping chatter] [cow lowing] [cow grunting] - There's a Buddhist saying which I think physicists will agree that, "A million causes cannot bring to existence something that does not exist in any way, out of nothing."
There's always a past formation.
So according to the Buddhist way of seeing things, the stream, the continuum of consciousness can only be beginningless and endless.
Now, what will happen when we die?
The atoms of my body will disintegrate, but they are not going to disappear.
So similarly, the stream of consciousness made of moments of consciousness, being a continuum, unbroken continuum, but without entity traveling.
Me, you know, I'm traveling there.
The young Matthieu now become the old Matthieu.
I'm going to die.
Maybe reincarnate in a little cow.
So--but something is still Matthieu in that cow and all of that, okay.
So that's-- Buddhism doesn't accept that.
There's no self, autonomous and permanent, that travels along the consciousness.
There is just the successions of moments that is never interrupted.
It's like a stream, the Mississippi River, the Rhine River.
There's no something, a core that is really the essence of the Rhine River.
It's just the endless succession of flow of the river that you call Rhine.
And rightly so because it's not the same as the Ganges.
- This question about the nature of awareness, the nature of this sense of the interconnectedness and the sacredness of that, this is not going to be answered in my lifetime.
It's not going to be answered in my grandchild's lifetime.
This is a much deeper question.
It may never be answerable.
But boy, do I love contemplating that.
Do I love studying that.
And I think that a deeper understanding of that has very profound implications for how we're going to end up treating one another and how we're going to survive as a species.
- This mechanistic view is dying and we really need to move into a more unifying view.
And inevitably, I think the message is always the same.
It's like, just remember that you are a part of this.
And you're--the illusion that you are separate from this, it's just that, an illusion.
And actually, I think what is really beautiful about it is that that longing, that feeling of aloneness that most of us carry, and those moments just really disappears because you're not alone.
You never were and you are-- you cannot be alone.
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