On Monday evening, I went into Manhattan to hear a lecture by author Anthony Peake. The daughter of one of my co-workers was organizing the event, and the author was going to discuss a new theory of consciousness based on psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, and quantum physics. As this all sounds terribly interesting to me, I decided to go.
Peake’s theory of consciousness is fascinating, and if his concept isn’t entirely unique, his spin on the concept might be unique. Peake talks about the theological idea of “eternal return”, which he distinguishes from theories of reincarnation. What he is suggesting is that we actually never die—at least our consciousness doesn’t— and we live our lives over and over again, and that we already know where our lives were headed, because we’ve lived them before. He refers to a “higher” and “lower” self, citing examples from various cultures. Peake prefers the Gnostic terminology, using “daemon” for the former, and “eidolon” for the latter. Research on the functioning of the temporal lobes of the brain, and studies of certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and temporal lobe epilepsy give some weight to the idea. The daemon is the part of you that has lived your life before, as it were, and “tells” through a sort of pre-cognitive intuition about what will happen in your future, or how to avoid a problem situation in the future.
Research on the functioning of the temporal lobes suggests that we retain everything about our past, even if we don’t consciously remember doing so. He also ties the idea into multiple worlds theory, which suggests that all possibilities for our lives are happening simultaneously in a multiplicity of universes. One thing he mentioned early on that was of great interest to me was a conversation he had with a particle physicist about multiple worlds theory. The physicist told him that they now believe they have a way to experiment and test the validity of multiple worlds theory. I find this very exciting, because it’s a remarkable theory, but I have never been able to wrap my mind around exactly HOW such a thing could be tested and proven. Peake promises to write a paper on this new development, and I am certainly looking forward to that.
Peake gave a lot of examples of pre-cognition and the apparent presence of a “daemon” in various public figures (politicians and writers in particular). He admits that “personal experience” doesn’t really hold up scientifically, so he is actively working to validate the theory through mathematics, physics, and neuroscience. (One of the banes of psychology and psychological research is that much of the qualitative data obtained doesn’t carry the same weight as many scientific studies and experiments with very tangible results).
The thrust of Peake’s theory is that if we are eternally returning, our lives can be like a kind of “Groundhog’s Day”—at some point we can manipulate negative outcomes and make them positive ones, if we are aware, and have awareness of the guidance of our daemon.
I have yet to read Peake’s book on the Daemon, so what sounds a little strange on the surface may not be so farfetched once I’m able to read the evidence. On a personal level, it doesn’t seem farfetched at all, though I am more of a reincarnationist, and don’t think we live the same life over and over, though we may meet people we’ve known before, and may run into situations we’ve encountered before.
I have no trouble with the idea of a daemon. I’ve always experienced that. He describes it as a “voice”, I’d say it’s more like a loud thought. Maybe that could be considered a voice, but I tend to think of voices as external phenomena, and if it’s internal, it can only be so in a metaphorical way. I can say that I’ve always had some kind of internal guidance about things, even to the point of serious, on-point precognition at times. Now that I meditate regularly, it happens almost all the time. The first time I really remember that extra-loud thought was before I got married. The thought was, “Don’t do this—you’re making a mistake.” Well, I ignored the thought, in spite of it getting to be more and more like an insistent voice, and I regretted it for the next 7 ½ years. Finally, though, I had another loud thought in June 2001—“time to get divorced.” I listened this time, and ended up being very happy as a result.
One thing about the “daemon”, if we accept that this is what’s going on, is that its message is often accompanied by a flurry of synchronicities. I’ll have the thought, and suddenly everywhere I turn, there are external references to that very thing. The more urgent and important the thought, the more synchronicities occur, and I will have precognitive dreams as well. I have dreamed entire conversations with people I’ve never met, and then when I suddenly meet them and have the conversation—well, it’s really weird. A recent example—I dreamt about having a conversation with someone, a relative of someone I know. I’d never met or seen a photo of this relative. Just a couple of weeks ago, I finally saw this person—and they matched the person I saw in the dream. I was a tad freaked out, though I didn’t say anything to anyone about it.
Peake extends the daemon idea to creativity and creative output, and I could see this as well. He cited an example of a (Percy Bysshe)Shelley poem written shortly before he died, that outlined the circumstances of his death. Just yesterday I was reviewing some of the short stories I’d written last summer, and realized that the characters—and their conversations—actually happened within the last month. Not all the stories, nor the whole story in any case, but just certain bits. It was enough to make me feel just a little creepy.
So, I am definitely intrigued by this theory, especially if Peake has found some solid scientific evidence for what seems like a kind of nutty phenomena. I don’t think that this sort of thing is connected with mental illness per se, though a mental illness could break down normal barriers to this kind of experience. In Jungian terminology, the “daemon” could almost be identified with the “unconscious”, maybe even the “collective unconscious”. In one of my graduate courses on Jung, I remember the professor describing schizophrenia as the condition of being totally overwhelmed by the unconscious. Similarly, Peake describes schizophrenia as the condition of seeing reality in all its facets and being totally overwhelmed by it. The brain is designed to keep a lot of stimuli OUT, to regulate what comes in. In the final analysis, I think it’s important to be able to open that door, but also to close it again when necessary.