A Personal Revelation
In my new novel Deep Spirit, a wise and highly informed dolphin, called Darwin, communicates with scientists, helping them to “crack the noetic code” — a new way of knowing that could pull humanity back from the brink of chaos. It’s a story about the evolution of consciousness — and how to realize our visions for a viable future.
One of the first people to finish reading Deep Spirit, a woman named Melissa, asked whether I have any evidence for dolphins communicating with humans. “What,” she wondered, “makes you feel it is either plausible or real?”
What an interesting — and challenging — question! I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. But her question was heartfelt, so I wanted to try.
First, I don’t expect readers to accept that communication between species, in human language, is either plausible or real. I simply leave that possibility open. However, I do hope the dialogue makes sense within the story.
That said, the question of “evidence” is complicated, subtle, and complex. One of the key themes in Deep Spirit is the value of cultivating alternative states of consciousness — beyond our everyday rational minds. I don’t expect much, if any, successful interspecies communication, or evolution of human consciousness, can occur without it.
By far the most compelling source of evidence I have for feeling confident that the narrative device of a telepathic dolphin is more than a mere “narrative” or a “device” arises from personal experience. (Here comes the revelation . . .)
An Unexpected Encounter
A few years ago, after I had completed the first draft of Deep Spirit (in a two-week creative burst, more than 400 pages poured out), I participated in a shamanic journey with a bona fide South American shaman. Without going into details, I can report that during a session lasting between 8 to 12 hours, with profound shifts in consciousness, I experienced communicating with a dolphin. (For obvious reasons, as someone who values my role as a philosopher and academic, this is not an experience I have readily shared. But the question posed by Melissa has prompted me to tackle this issue head on. It’s time to take a stand for authenticity and non-ordinary ways of knowing.)
What I discovered during that session has changed my life. “Darwin,” the dolphin character I thought I had created, seems in some inexplicable way very real indeed and exists independently of my invention. In our dialogue, he revealed he was using me — because of my openness, caring, and compassion for the plight of cetaceans (and other animals) — as a “mouthpiece” for the cause of dolphins and whales. I came away from that session with a strong conviction that rather than being a character I invented, Darwin was working through me to communicate something he and his species wanted humans to know.
Because it was an alternative state, much of the detail of that session is accessible now only as fragments in my “normal” state of consciousness. However, one point remains crystal clear: Darwin expressed deep grief for the plight of dolphins and whales, a sorrow shared by all of them. It’s not just that humans are hunting and killing these highly intelligent species, or even that we are poisoning their oceans. No, what concerns them most of all is that humans, with very few exceptions, are no longer open or interested in communicating with them.
They need us to connect with them to evolve to the fullest of our collective intelligence. (I’m sure this applies to other species as well — the great apes, elephants, parrots, octopus, and, dare I say it, coral — but that’s another story). In a phrase: Humans are preventing dolphins and whales from being fully who they are, or could be. We are keeping them stuck. We are a drag on evolution. Of course, this deeply impacts our own development, too. We carry the collective grief of alienation deep in our psyches and in the tissues of our bodies.
Now, in my “normal” state of consciousness, I am very aware how “off the chart” this can sound — especially to my colleagues in philosophy and science. I should add that during that session I didn’t actually see Darwin, or even hear him. I felt his presence, and all the meaning of our communication flowed from that. It was palpable, exceptionally clear, vivid, and real far beyond anything I have ever experienced before or since. In that state, this mode of consciousness had the quality of a shallow dream. By comparison, that experience was veridical, deep, and authentic.
Before publishing Deep Spirit, I considered describing my encounter with Darwin in a Foreword, but decided against it. I wanted the story to stand by itself. However, I now see that I need to stand behind the story and its unusual origin because, as Melissa implied, it raises important questions about the nature of knowledge, and the difference between reality and illusion.
How Do We Know What is Real?
My shamanic experience does make me think twice about the nature of evidence. Of course, neither what I experienced, nor my report of it, can count as objective evidence that Darwin really exists. However, we cannot simply dismiss it as subjective fantasy, either.
Without exception, every piece of so-called objective evidence must be experienced, first of all, in someone’s subjective mind. All evidence must be experienced by someone. What, then, makes some experiences “real” and others not? Shouldn’t all experiences count as evidence?
What about hallucinations? How are these different from visions? I do think it is useful to be able to tell the difference between a visionary experience of reality and a mere hallucination. Conventionally, hallucinations occur in the privacy of someone’s mind — and only there. We may believe something exists beyond our own experience, when in actual fact it does not — at least, not according to what other people report. Hallucinations are private experiences misinterpreted. By definition, their content has no other existence. But how can we test that? How do we decide which interpretations are likely to match reality?
Well, quite simply, we communicate. We share our stories. We discover what, collectively, we hold in common. We test our stories against shared experience. This is precisely how science works.
However, beyond sharing our stories through the medium of language, we can also share experiences directly — through shared feelings, through engaging each others’ presence in intersubjective communion. In short, telepathically. This, typically, involves alternative states of consciousness. And this is precisely how shamanism works.
Was my conversation with Darwin “real” or a kind of hallucination? Well, at that time, it came with remarkable clarity and conviction. But, right now, I cannot be so sure. One of the most disconcerting, yet liberating, realizations we can have is that the feeling of certainty does not mean something is true. Private conviction is not the same as truth, and does not count as evidence.
On the other hand, just because no-one else witnessed or shared my encounter with Darwin doesn’t mean he isn’t real. Remember this important scientific slogan: “Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.”
Ultimately, all we ever have to go on are our own experiences — and it is wise to share and compare them with others’. The best we can do is pay attention as openly, as honestly, and as authentically as we can. And then examine our experiences using the “Four Gifts of Knowing” (senses, reason, feeling, and intuition) to see how they coalesce. Guided by experiences with the greatest clarity and coherence, we arrive at what seems to be the most “likely story” — our best shot at expressing what is real.
If I have learned anything in life it is this: Uncertainty pulses in the heart of every certainty. Beyond the light of knowledge shines the dark luminance of inexhaustible, always beckoning, mystery.
I invite you to read Deep Spirit and discover for yourself the mysterious interplay between reality and dreams — one man’s (or one dolphin’s) “best shot” at the power of story to transform the world and create a brighter future.
Intelligence seeks expression.
Expressing it is wisdom.
Praise for Deep Spirit
“Fact or fiction? Deep Spirit is an ingenious and imaginative story about the evolution of consciousness, alien intelligence, and the transformative power of dreams. It explores ultimate questions about life and death, and takes you on a roller-coaster ride through the mysteries of science and spirituality—guided by a truly believable shamanic dolphin. Whether you’re a scientist or mystic, a lover of quiet wisdom or action and suspense, Christian de Quincey’s visionary tale will take you into realms beyond imagination. Fast-paced and easy to read, this is a book to take to the beach, to read on the train or plane, to curl up with in bed. Pick it up, and you won’t put it down. Rich with images and characters that leap off the page, I can easily see Deep Spirit transformed into Spiritual Cinema. But don’t wait for the movie—read the book first.”
Producer Somewhere in Time,
What Dreams May Come, and Indigo
“Deep Spirit breaks new ground in the genre of “visionary faction.” It’s the first book to cross sophisticated mainstream adventure story with new age wisdom. Few other books, fiction or nonfiction, have so successfully popularized a thoughtful blending of modern science, shamanic wisdom, mind-body philosophy, and mystical experience. One thing is certain: The conventional scientific view of consciousness is pitifully limited. Deep Spirit is a fabulous way of using the power of story to reveal new ideas about the origins, destiny, and reach of the mind.”
—Larry Dossey, MD, author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things
“Deep Spirit is far more than fiction. It is a call for a higher consciousness, and ends with one of the most lucid descriptions of unity consciousness I have read for a long time. Deep Spirit is the thinking person’s Celestine Prophecy. Christian de Quincey writes with an easy style; and his insights are both grounded in science and reflect the perennial philosophy of mystics from time immemorial.”
—Peter Russell, author of From Science to God, and The Global Brain