“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you” – Werner Heisenberg
Throughout history, science and spirituality never sat well with one another. Respected scientists cringe at the thought of entering the subjective, wishy-washy world of spirituality. Most attempts from spiritualists to explain the mystical realm through science end up sounding like woo-woo nonsense. Every once in a while, an individual comes around that is able to bridge the gap between these two seemingly disparate worlds.
Enter Robert Lanza. Named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, and described by the New York Times as one of the three most important scientists alive today.
Lanza’s most notably recognized as a pioneer in the field of human embryonic stem cell research, but for today we focus in on his groundbreaking book Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe.
It’s a mind-bending adventure that attempts to explain how consciousness creates the universe as we know it today. Here’s Amazon’s description:
“Every now and then a simple yet radical idea shakes the very foundations of knowledge. The startling discovery that the world was not flat challenged and ultimately changed the way people perceived themselves and their relationship with the world. For most humans of the 15th century, the notion of Earth as ball of rock was nonsense. The whole of Western, natural philosophy is undergoing a sea change again, increasingly being forced upon us by the experimental findings of quantum theory, and at the same time, towards doubt and uncertainty in the physical explanations of the universe’s genesis and structure. Biocentrism completes this shift in worldview, turning the planet upside down again with the revolutionary view that life creates the universe instead of the other way around.
In this paradigm, life is not an accidental byproduct of the laws of physics. Biocentrism takes the reader on a seemingly improbable but ultimately inescapable journey through a foreign universe—our own—from the viewpoints of an acclaimed biologist and a leading astronomer. Switching perspective from physics to biology unlocks the cages in which Western science has unwittingly managed to confine itself. Biocentrism will shatter the reader’s ideas of life—time and space, and even death. At the same time it will release us from the dull worldview of life being merely the activity of an admixture of carbon and a few other elements; it suggests the exhilarating possibility that life is fundamentally immortal.”
In today’s article, I’m going to provide you with the cliff-notes version of Biocentrism, outlining its seven key principles. Here’s a few insights you’ll learn:
- Why your brain constantly hallucinates your conscious reality
- How consciousness shapes the world around you
- If the Big Bang was just 1 part in a million more powerful, the cosmos as you know it wouldn’t exist
- How the actions of the present influence the past
- And more
1. What we perceive as reality is a process that involves our consciousness.
From an early age, our culture places most of us into what spiritual teacher Ram Dass calls “somebody training.” You are told that you are special, independent entity living in the world made up other somebodys and somethings.
You are a somebody. Your dog is a somebody. The screen you are reading this on is a something. If you weren’t around to experience these things, the world would as you know it would continue to go on and operate as normal. Yet Lanza starts of Biocentrism challenging us to question this widely accepted paradigm.
Consider the age-old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to listen, does it make a sound?” Most wouldn’t think twice about the question and would confidently answer “Of course the tree would make a sound, regardless if I’m there to experience it or not.”
Let’s examine what actually happens when that tree falls onto the ground. As the tree crashes to the forest floor, pulses of air vibrate around the tree. As the atoms and molecules in the air vibrate, this further vibrates the surrounding air. As this domino effect continues, these pulses of air spread outward.
If you were standing next to the tree as it fell, those air pulses would eventually reach the narrow passageway of your ear canal. These signals reach your auditory nerve, which then translates the data into electrical signals sent to the brain’s auditory cortex which interprets the data as sound.
If you weren’t there to receive those pulses of air, the experience of “sound” doesn’t actually exist. Lanza writes:
The pulses of air by themselves do not constitute any sort of sound, which is obvious because 15-pulse air puffs remain silent no matter how many ears are present. Only when a specific range of pulses are present is the ear’s neural architecture designed to let human consciousness conjure the noise experience. In short, an observer, an ear, and a brain are every bit as necessary for the experience of sound as are the air pulses. The external world and consciousness are correlative. And a tree that falls in an empty forest creates only silent air pulses—tiny puffs of wind.”
This is true for anything you experience – whether that’s seeing the vibrant purples and oranges of a sunset in a Balinese beach, or tasting the sweet flavor of Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Your consciousness is just as necessary as the sunset or the ice cream to experience their sight and taste.
2. Our external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined. They are different sides of the same coin and cannot be separated.
Most people look at their world through the lens of dualism. They believe that reality is divided into two separate and distinct entities: ourselves and that which is outside of ourselves. They view the dividing line separating these worlds are at the skin level. Everything from your skin inwards is you, and everything outside of this border is the non-you. The second law of biocentrism challenges this widely held assumption.
Let’s go back to our example of enjoying a beautiful sunset on a Balinese beach. As the sun begins to fall below the horizon, you see bold, rich colors painted onto the sky. You see the metallic colored water lapping all around you. You hear the calming waves hitting the sandy shore. As beautiful as you may believe the outside world is, in reality this scene is a construction in your mind. Billions of neurons in the brain are actively working together to create and feed you the perception of this sunset. Without your mind, there would be no sunset.
“The brain doesn’t hear sound or see light,” neuroscientist Anil Seth states in his viral TED talk titled Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality. “What we perceive is its best guess of what’s out there in the world.” Your perception of reality is the product of an active process going on in your mind on a moment to moment basis. When your brain takes in sensory data from your environment, it combines this information with internal predictions of the outside world. Out of this is your perception of a sunset. Seth later goes on to to say that “We don’t just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in.”
If you want to dive into this idea a bit further, check out Warrior Radio Episode 37: DMT, Machine Elves, and Traveling To Higher Dimensions of Reality – with Andrew Gallimore PhD. Gallimore has an excellent explanation of how the brain constructs our reality. Here’s a clip:
3. The behavior of subatomic particles—indeed all particles and objects—is inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.
If our goal is to better understand the nature of the universe, then quantum mechanics is one of the best tools we can use to guide us in this pursuit. If you’ve never been introduced to the bizarre world of quantum mechanics, it essentially attempts to uncover the building blocks of the universe. It studies our world at the tiniest of levels including atoms, subatomic particles, and beyond.
When we zoom into the most microscopic of levels, the conventions of our everyday life get thrown out the window, and we begin to enter what feels like a twilight zone. The more we zoom in, the stranger things get, and the more we realize how little we know. The Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman famously stated:
“I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” because you will go “down the drain” into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped.”
One of the strangest findings in the world of quantum mechanics is how the mere act of observing something, actually changes it on a subatomic level. Lanza writes:
“When studying subatomic particles, the observer appears to alter and determine what is perceived. The presence and methodology of the experimenter is hopelessly entangled with whatever he is attempting to observe and what results he gets. An electron turns out to be both a particle and a wave, but how and, more importantly, where such a particle will be located remains dependent upon the very act of observation.”
Scientists have come to this conclusion through a now-famous test called the Double Slit Experiment. Before we dive into this, watch this video which explains it’s all about.
As the video explains, a laser is shot between two slits. The photons of the laser behave like a wave when nobody’s watching, causing multiple lines of light to be shown on a board:
But when the laser was observed by a human, the photons of light behaved strangely differently – like a particle, which causes only two lines of light shown on the board:
The only difference between the two instances of the experiment was a participant viewing the system. As bizarre as this may sound, they found that quantum objects such as photons from a laser behave differently based on the mere act of observation.
These demonstrations lead us to the freaky conclusion that consciousness itself directly affects the reality that we experience.
4. Without consciousness, “matter” dwells in an undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state.
Dr. Dean Radin from The Institute of Noetic Sciences took the double-slit experiment one step further. Instead of having participants view the laser, they were asked to simply think of the system in their minds. One would think that since no one is physically viewing the laser, it would behave as such.
Surprisingly, by directing their attention to the system, the same effect occurred as if the participant observed it with their eyes – the photons of light behaved like a particle. Even more fascinating is the fact that this result didn’t require the person to be near the laser.
A person could be thousands of miles away from the system simply thinking of it in their mind, and the photons of light will behave as if it were being watched. 1 2 3 Before the act of observation, the particles of the laser acted as a probabilistic state. Only through observation (or in this case, thinking), the photos collapse into a defined state.
Think of your kitchen. After you’ve enjoyed your breakfast in the morning, you go to your bathroom to wash up and get ready for the day. As you stand in front of the mirror brushing your teeth, you’re convinced that when you left the kitchen, all the objects in it like your microwave or countertops assume their familiar form. Yet quantum theory suggests otherwise. Not only are those objects “not there” in a finite state, they exist in a state of probability. Lanza writes:
“But consider: the refrigerator, stove, and everything else are composed of a shimmering swarm of matter/energy. Quantum theory, to which we will devote two full chapters, tells us that not a single one of those subatomic particles actually exists in a definite place. Rather, they merely exist as a range of probabilities that are unmanifest. In the presence of an observer—that is, when you go back in to get a drink of water—each one’s wave function collapses and it assumes an actual position, a physical reality. Until then, it’s merely a swarm of possibilities.”
5. The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The “universe” is simply the complete spatiotemporal logic of the self.
Remember the fairly tale of Goldilocks and the Three bears? Goldilocks tastes three different bowls of porridge, and finds that one is too hot, one is too cold, and one was just the right temperature. Scientists view the stuff that make up the universe in the same way. All the elements of the universe have just the right properties to support life. If something like gravity was “too this” or “too that”, then the universe as we know it wouldn’t exist. Lanza writes:
“No matter which logic one adopts, one has to come to terms with the fact that we are living in a very peculiar cosmos.
By the late sixties, it had become clear that if the Big Bang had been just one part in a million more powerful, the cosmos would have blown outward too fast to allow stars and worlds to form. Result: no us. Even more coincidentally, the universe’s four forces and all of its constants are just perfectly set up for atomic interactions, the existence of atoms and elements, planets, liquid water, and life. Tweak any of them and you never existed.”
Constants such as the mass of an electron, elementary charge, or the speed of light in a vacuum all have just the right set of properties to create a universe built for life.
This isn’t to say that biocentrism adopts the idea of “intelligent design”, the theory commonly held by religious zealots arguing that life and the universe was created by some intelligent entity (better known as God). Biocentrism neither adopts the other end of the table where most contemporary scientists sit, which is to think that the universe (with all its properties perfectly suited for life), simply came out of nothingness.
A great analogy to view the incredible, almost magical nature of the universe, is by the Philosopher John Leslie. Lanza writes:
“Philosopher John Leslie, in his 1989 book Universes (there is a 1996 reprint edition), says, “A man in front of a firing squad of one hundred riflemen is going to be pretty surprised if every bullet misses him. Sure he could say to himself, ‘Of course they all missed; that makes perfect sense, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to wonder why they all missed.’ But anyone in his or her right mind is going to want to know how such an unlikely event occurred.”
So why did all the shots miss in the creation of a life-supporting universe?
One compelling argument to explain this is called the “Participatory Anthropic Principle” from the American theoretical physicist John Wheeler. He argues that the universe requires a conscious observer for the universe to even exist. Without an observer, the universe would only exist in a probabilistic state. Yet when you add an observer to the equation, the universe collapses into a defined state that has all the right elements finely tuned for the act of observation to exist in the first place.
6. Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes in the universe.
Over twenty-five hundred years ago, the greek philosopher Zeno of Elea came up with a list of paradoxes that has ever since bended the minds of physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers. One of this paradoxes known as “The Arrow” is of particular importance to our exploration of consciousness and the nature of reality. It goes as follows.
Picture an archer shooting an arrow out into the distance.
The time it takes for the arrow to launch from the archer’s bow to its target is composed of a set of moments. At any one of those moments, the arrow is in a single location. Zeno argued that if the arrow is in only one location during any moment in its flight, then the arrow must be at rest. The paradox is the following: anything that moves, is always at rest.
Biocentrism looks at time in a similar fashion. The forward motion of time is akin to the forward motion of the arrow. Like the arrow’s flight, our lives are made up of a series of moments. The transition from one moment to the next creates the perception of time. It’s as if each moment of our lives is a slide in a movie projector. Each slide alone doesn’t create the illusion of a movie, but the changing of one slide to the next.
Our minds are essentially the projector. Without the projector, there would be no movie. And without the mind, there would be no perception of time. Lanza writes:
“Such endless unanswerables and seeming absurdities come to a blissful end, however, when time’s nature is seen for what it is—a biocentric fabrication, a biologic creation that is solely a practical operating aid in the mental circuitry of some living organisms, to help with specific functioning activities.”
Quantum physicists are deconstructing our culture’s rigidly held beliefs around the idea of time. For example, most believe that time exists much like the arrow. It’s as if we’re experiencing life from the tip of the arrow’s flight. Whatever happened in the past is set in stone, unable to be changed. However, recent experiments suggest otherwise.
Scientists set up an experiment to send photons of light into an apparatus, where the photon had to decide whether it was going to be a particle or wave. After it passed this apparatus, it continued along its path and passed a second apparatus. Only this time, the experimenter could flip a switch and decide how the particle functioned. 4
Here’s where things get weird. By deciding how the particle behaved in the present, it actually changed the outcome of what happened when the particle passed the first apparatus. The present actually changed the past.
7. Space, like time, is not an object or a thing. Space is another form of our animal understanding and does not have an independent reality. We carry space and time around with us like turtles with shells. Thus, there is no absolute self-existing matrix in which physical events occur independent of life.
The last principle of Biocentrism is that space (like time), isn’t a concrete object in reality, but merely a construction of the mind. Without the mind, space doesn’t exist.
A common report of those who’ve been fortunate enough to have a transcendent experience (whether through psychedelics, meditation, or otherwise) is a dissolving of space. The edges between you and your environment begin to melt away, leaving you with a profound feeling of unity and interconnection.
The field of neurotheology is beginning to verify these findings by investigating what goes on during the brain during these peak experiences. Dr. Andrew Newberg is a trailblazer in this field whose studied the brains of Franciscan nuns and Tibetan buddhists using advanced brain scanning technology like fMR (functional magnetic resonance imaging) or SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scanners. In the book Stealing Fire, author Steven Kotler writes about these new discoveries:
“The scans showed significant deactivation in the right parietal lobe, a key component in the brain’s navigation system. This part of the brain helps us move through space by judging angles and distances. But, to make these judgments, this region must first decide where our own body ends and the rest of the world begins, essentially drawing a boundary line between self and other.
It’s an important boundary. People who suffer a stroke or brain damage to this area struggle to sit down on a couch because they don’t know where their leg ends and the sofa begins. It’s also a flexible boundary. When race car drivers feel the road beneath their pedals, or blind people feel the sidewalk through the tips of their cane—or, for that matter, when SEALs merge with their team on a night op—it is partially the result of the right parietal lobe blurring the boundary of self.
What Newberg discovered is that extreme concentration can cause the right parietal lobe to shut down. “It’s an efficiency exchange,” he explains. “During ecstatic prayer or meditation, energy normally used for drawing the boundary of self gets reallocated for attention. When this happens, we can no longer distinguish self from other. At that moment, as far as the brain can tell, you are one with everything.” 5
Before we dive into the experiment, we need to cover a concept called quantum entanglement. The idea is that when two particles interact in a certain way, their properties are intimately linked, so that the action of one instantly influence that of the other. Quantum physicists have done so by sending light into a special type of crystal. Two photons of light come out of this crystal, which are an entangled pair. These entangled particles share a wave-function.
So if one of these particles are observed and the wave-function collapses, so too will the other. As Lanza describes it, “If one particle is observed to have an up spin, the other instantly goes from being a mere probably wave to an actual particle with the opposite spin.”
Quantum physicists have found that if these particles are separated by great distances, they could still instantaneously affect each other. In 1997 the Swiss physicist Nicholas Gisin set up an experiment that sent two entangled particles seven miles apart using optical fibers. One of the particles went through an interferometer which randomly sent it on one of two paths.
They found that whatever option the photon ending up taking, the other entangled particle would instantly be affected. In fact, the second photon’s reaction occurred, even faster than the speed of light if it traveled the distance of the two photons. Theoretically, the same results would be shown if the two particles were separated even greater distances, even at the width of the universe itself.
Findings like this make a compelling case that we need to redefine our definition of space. That ideas like locality are just that, abstract constructions of the mind that don’t exist in a true reality outside of consciousness.
Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism is a groundbreaking book that could radically change the way you view the world around you. It makes compelling arguments that consciousness is an intrinsic ingredient needed in the pot of reality.
I’m still trying to pick the pieces of my brain bits scattered throughout the floor after I’ve read the book, as it’s forced me to redefine the most basic assumptions I’ve had about the world including space, time, and consciousness itself.
I’ve had a few guests on Warrior Radio tell me that this is one of the few books they find themselves continually revisiting throughout the years, continually chewing on its reality-bending ideas. I can’t say I’ll be any different.
- 📖 Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe
- 📺 Robert Lanza: The Theory of Biocentrism Part 1 & Part 2
- Radin, Dean, et al. “Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern: Six experiments.” Physics Essays 25.2 (2012).
- Radin, Dean, et al. “Psychophysical interactions with a double-slit interference pattern.” Physics essays 26.4 (2013): 553-566.
- Radin, Dean, et al. “Psychophysical interactions with a single-photon double-slit optical system.” Quantum 6.1 (2015): 82-98.
- Jacques, Vincent, et al. “Experimental realization of Wheeler’s delayed-choice gedanken experiment.” Science 315.5814 (2007): 966-968.
- Kotler, Steven, et al. Stealing Fire Spitzenleistungen Aus Dem Labor: Das Geheimnis Von Silicon Valley, Navy Seals Und Vielen Mehr. Plassen Verlag, 2018.