Our Upside Down Reality
- What happens when we die? Are we humans alone in the universe? Are some people really psychic?
- Author Mark Gober searches for answers to these questions and more. He argues that if some “paranormal” phenomena (like UFOs and ESP) turn out to be real, our entire “paradigm of reality” will shift.
- Mark talks about the framework for writing his “Upside Down” book series as well as what neuroscience might suggest about the nature of consciousness.
Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, a pioneer of quantum physics, once said: “It is my personal opinion that in the science of the future, reality will neither be psychic nor physical, but somehow both and somehow neither.”
As we grapple with the new realities of rapidly evolving AI and the possibility of unidentified aerial phenomena being — well, identified — Pauli’s prediction seems more salient than ever.
Mark Gober knows what it’s like to exist on both sides of a paradigm and emerge with a distinct point of view. He was the varsity tennis team captain at Princeton, where he studied economics and psychology. He did a stint at UBS on Wall Street, then served as a partner at Sherpa Technology Group in Silicon Valley. But before he left that role, he had an awakening that led to one of the most radical career pivots I’ve seen.
Mark had just begun listening to podcasts when he discovered the holistic wellness show Extreme Health Radio. On one episode, he heard a guest talk about “spiritual dimensions of reality she was personally experiencing,” he recalls. The show led him to seek more podcasts that cover alternative healing and spiritual/esoteric topics. He grew to realize that his perceptions of human existence aren’t the only ones that exist.
“I started to ask questions — like, that maybe the way I looked at life before was not correct,” he says. “That maybe I needed to rethink my worldview.”
He was struck by the sheer amount of anecdotal, yet compelling, evidence of unconnected individuals with similar parapsychological experiences.
“It was enough to get me interested,” he adds. “Then I started to read books and scientific papers and realized there’s a whole body of science, even peer-reviewed science, I had never heard of.”
Taken as a whole, his project is to explore the great mysteries of human existence, like “who we are … why are we here, what should we be doing — and more specifically, who am I, why am I here, what should I be doing,” he says.
Read on for highlights of Mark’s wide-ranging discussion with David Dorr on the latest Galactic Macro edition of Top Traders Unplugged.
A holistic revolution
Since 2016, Mark says he has been on a journey of “flipping my worldview upside down.”
Over the last seven years, he wrote five books on “life’s challenging questions” and produced a podcast series on consciousness called “Where Is My Mind?”. He also joined the boards of two nonprofits dedicated to alternative medicine and other less-than-mainstream disciplines. One is the School of Wholeness and Enlightenment, an online educational platform and a retreat center under construction outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
The other organization is better known, though only by a few outside the circles in which David and Mark dwell.
Founded by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1973, the Institute of Noetic Sciences is “devoted to exploring psychic phenomena and the role of consciousness in the cosmos.” Mitchell launched the institute after he had a “mystical experience” during the moon mission, in which he achieved a state of meditative consciousness and oneness with the universe.
(Coincidentally enough, Mitchell was born in Roswell, New Mexico, so he has insights into the infamous 1940s incident and believes that “a lot has been concealed,” Mark notes.)
The Institute of Noetic Sciences isn’t the only organization that applies rigorous research methods to the stuff of “X-Files” episodes. The now-shuttered Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory at Princeton University led studies on ESP for nearly 30 years. When Mark was an undergrad there in the mid-2000s, he had no idea it existed.
At another august institution, the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia Medical School investigates the survival of consciousness after bodily death, including reports of reincarnation and near-death experiences.
One can argue that a quote from DOPS’ website could also describe the trajectory of Mark’s career: “We believe that a revolution in intellectual history is taking shape, and we have a unique role to play in bringing it to fruition.”
What’s ‘normal,’ anyway?
David is no stranger to studying subjects that many consider “fringe,” including paranormal phenomena.
He thinks people tend to fall into one of two camps: “They’re into natural health and spirit and consciousness … or that stuff just seems really outlandish and they’re into … ‘normal’ things.”
David commends Mark for blending his Wall Street and Silicon Valley background with his research on the unexplained in a way that’s accessible for people who may not be comfortable with “woo-woo” topics.
Mark explains that when he began exploring alternative medicine and metaphysics, he felt very much alone.
“I didn’t know who to talk to,” he says. “Most people in my network were not familiar with this sort of thing.” He thinks his research and writing initially arose from “a survival instinct … to translate this stuff so I didn’t feel as isolated.”
He hoped that with his traditional business background, he could appeal to those who dismiss the study of consciousness (including its relationship with the unexplained and the spiritual) as pseudoscience. Mark’s first book, “An End to Upside Down Thinking,” is “a science book” in which he collects and explains the research of “many brave people.”
His argument in a nutshell: If any one of the many cases of unexplained phenomena is real (aka the “paranormal”), our “paradigm of reality needs to shift.”
For the record, he dislikes the term “paranormal” because it “presumes we know what normal is.”
His next four books tackle everything from politics to economics and UFOs with the same logic-based approach, meant to appeal to people who might not typically be open to learning about fringe/controversial ideas.
The cornerstone of Mark’s research is the study of consciousness — which touches disciplines like psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics, among others.
David thinks many people don’t even think about consciousness other than to suppose “conscious” is the opposite of “asleep.” He asks Mark why it’s such a vital theme for us to understand.
“Well, let’s define it,” Mark replies. “It’s a difficult term to define because it’s not a physical thing. I can touch my chair. I can touch my body. But I can’t touch my consciousness. So we’re talking about an abstraction.”
His personal definition of consciousness is “our subjective inner awareness” and tells David: “When I am speaking to you, the ‘I’ in that sentence is what I mean by consciousness.”
Without consciousness, we “wouldn’t even be able to ask questions about free market capitalism or the nature of reality — or what should I do today,” he adds. “Consciousness is the fundamental aspect of our lives that allows us to experience and ask questions. So it needs to be understood.”
Let’s get metaphysical
When Mark began researching the topic in 2016, he was “shocked to learn that science did not understand consciousness.”
Having studied psychology and thus a bit of neuroscience in college, the concept of consciousness didn’t arise very often. There’s a reason for that: “It’s called the hard problem of consciousness,” Mark explains. “Which is that our body is physical [and] we live in a physical world but our consciousness is not physical.”
Essentially, that paradox leads us to question how something non-physical like consciousness can come out of something physical like a brain. And he notes that in neuroscience, there’s a strong correlation between brain activity and our conscious experience. If someone injures the part of the brain responsible for eyesight, they’ll likely have a corresponding change in their vision.
“We can do this with all kinds of neural correlates of consciousness,” says Mark. “Change the brain, change the consciousness.”
So does that mean we know that the brain creates consciousness? Not necessarily. Correlation does not imply causation. Causation indicates that one event results from the occurrence of the other event, while correlation merely means that two events relate to one another.
Mark cites an analogy from Dr. Bernardo Kastrup: Imagine a small fire breaking out; firefighters arrive at the scene and extinguish the fire. Now, picture a five-alarm fire. There are inevitably more firefighters at the scene. There’s a solid correlation between the size of the fire and the number of firefighters dispatched to the fire.
“Should we then conclude that the firefighters caused the fire?” Mark asks.
“No, there’s another way to explain the relationship between firefighters and the fire,” he explains. “The argument I make, which is really kind of repackaging the arguments many others have made, is that there’s another way to explain the relationship between the brain and consciousness.”
Perhaps the brain doesn’t produce our capacity for experience, but instead, it acts as “a filtering mechanism for a broader reality that’s way beyond our bodies,” Mark suggests. “Another way to look at it — which I don’t think is as precise — is to say the brain is like an antenna, a receiver, a transmitter; that it’s actually ‘picking up’ something beyond the body.”
If consciousness emanates from the brain, then when someone dies, their consciousness ends as well. But if consciousness is “stuck” in the brain, there can be no consciousness outside one’s body; it can’t float (so to speak) through space and time. However, if consciousness can exist beyond the body, “things like psychic phenomena, survival of bodily death, reincarnation even — these are not paranormal; they’re at least possible.”
For context, Mark shares another of Dr. Kastrup’s analogies: “We can envision reality as … an infinite stream, where water is analogous to consciousness. Each of us is a whirlpool within that broader stream, meaning we have a sense of being an individual — but we’re connected, part of an interconnected consciousness beyond our individuality.”
Extending that analogy further, Mark argues that “if some of the water from my whirlpool gets into your whirlpool — some of my consciousness gets into your consciousness — that’s psychic ability. This model could predict … let’s say, ‘other dimensions of reality’ that just exist beyond our whirlpool.”
Many hospice workers observe a phenomenon in which, as patients near the time of death, even patients with brain damage or diseases like Alzheimer’s “snap back into clarity” before they pass away shortly thereafter. That’s fascinating to Mark because it challenges the view that the brain creates consciousness.
“Terminal lucidity, a damaged brain and then normal consciousness,” he says. “That’s a little bit strange.”
He notes that emerging research on psychedelic drugs suggest that “during an enriched state of consciousness [a ‘trip’], there are certain reductions in brain functioning. Less brain, more consciousness.”
Mark points out that near-death experiences function much the same way (“the brain is completely off or barely functional and the person describes something that is real-er than real.”) Savant syndrome (which saw its best-known pop culture depiction in the movie “Rain Man”) is yet another example of this paradox. Individuals with savant syndrome “have a damaged brain in certain ways,” he notes. “Less brain, more consciousness. … These phenomena point to the idea that the brain is getting in the way of reality, not actually creating it.”
That’s why the titles of Mark’s books all begin with “An End to Upside Down…” In his analysis, reversing our thinking can prove illuminating — even briefly, as we read a book about a formerly taboo concept. In that way, our reflexive perceptions of reality are like a blindfold, he says: “When you get the blindfold out of the way, there’s a lot more to be experienced outside the individual whirlpool.”
This is based on an episode of Top Traders Unplugged, a bi-weekly podcast with the most interesting and experienced investors, economists, traders and thought leaders in the world. Sign up to our Newsletter or Subscribe on your preferred podcast platform so that you don’t miss out on future episodes.
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