Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Elisabet Sahtouris
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D. (, is an American/Greek evolutionary biologist, futurist, and U.N. consultant on indigenous peoples. She is a popular lecturer, television and radio personality, author of EarthDance, A Walk through Time: From Stardust to Us, and coauthor with Willis Harman of Biology Revisioned. Dr. Sahtouris has taught at the University of Massachusetts, M.I.T., and was a science writer for the Nova/Horizon TV series. Her vision is the sustainable health and well-being of humanity within the larger living systems of Earth and cosmos.

We asked Elisabet about how science has influenced our view of divine intelligence. “Western science is built on assumptions that we live in a non-living universe,” she observes. “That’s an unproven basic assumption, a mere belief. You assume that the universe is non-living because you believe that to be the case. Only our culture thought up this concept of non-life within which life has to emerge. There’s logic behind choosing to see Nature as non-living mechanics because European men had invented machinery and if the universe were non-living and were mechanical, then it would be easy for them to understand it. So they projected their machine-making creativity onto God himself; they called God the ‘grand engineer of the machinery of nature.’ And then they said it was the other way around, of course, that men were created in God’s image so that they too could create machinery.

“Western scientists abstract those elements of nature that can be described mechanically and ignore the rest, which is why they are not comfortable talking about things like consciousness – because they can’t put a yardstick on it. It’s not quantifiable. No matter how far inward or outward we go, we don’t seem to find limits to human consciousness. I find it peculiar that our own minds are ignored. Scientists talk about models of science as existing apart from us – objective. Yet many experiments demonstrate that objectivity is a myth and that experimenters’ intentions actually influence the outcomes of their experiments. We’re in a participatory universe, and no human being – scientist or not – has ever had an experience outside of our consciousness. It seems like scientists should have to take that into account and at least state that anything we come up with is a model of the universe as perceived through human consciousness. We see our world through the lens of our consciousness, and there’s no other lens that we can see through. We have to interpret our perceptions through our human consciousness to make sense of them.

“By contrast, in the Vedic view of things everything is consciousness. Within consciousness, ideas form and ideas become material realities in material worlds. They can do that; thoughts can condense into matter. The soul is our fundamental consciousness, but we also have bodies and there’s no distinction between body and soul. Think of a piano keyboard: the low notes would be what we perceive as matter, and the high notes would be what we perceive as mind/spirit/consciousness. But the piano is one entity. You can’t have low notes without high notes and still call it a piano, right? To take it a little further, when you die you only play on the upper parts of the keyboard, so to speak. You leave behind the matter and it can be recycled into other things. Because it’s all consciousness and it’s all transformable.

“In Western religions we tend to have gods that stand outside Nature, creating it. Whereas in Eastern religions, usually Nature is synonymous with God – Nature itself is the creative process. In some cultures, ‘soul’ is also synonymous with ‘body,’ but I personally believe that our minds are separable from the physical. I’ve been out of body. I’ve had that experience. People can relocate the center of their awareness away from their physical body. They do it all the time when they daydream.” Elisabet laughed, “Some people don’t spend much time in their bodies!

“I have adopted a definition of life known as ‘autopoiesis.’ Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela are best known for their Santiago theory of cognition, that the universe is a big mind. It’s very much the Vedic view, but modernized and put into Western terminology. Varela and Maturana also formulated this concept of autopoiesis – that a living entity creates itself continually in relation to its environment. I feel this nicely distinguishes between mechanism and organism, because a machine doesn’t invent itself; it requires an outside inventor. I like to refer to machinery as ‘alopoietic,’ rather than autopoietic.”

Elisabet offers some interesting ideas on the recently controversial subject of evolution. “There is an arrow of evolution, I believe, toward complexity, and there’s a cycle of evolution that begins with individuation from some unity. Whether it’s a Big Bang giving life to lots of little dancing atoms, or a world egg hatching into lots of creatures, or a god or goddess creating life from dust, classic creation stories are about individuation. In biological evolution, you find that young pioneer species are very grabby, taking all the resources and territory they can to establish themselves and knock out their competition. At some point in a long process, they learn that collaboration is more efficient than hostile competition. You don’t find that insight in Darwinian theory. Darwin took his theory from Thomas Robert Malthus, leading him to say that everything in Nature is an endless struggle in scarcity. Even though Darwin himself observed a lot of cooperation, he didn’t put that into his theory.

“It was necessary for humanity to go through this competitive stage – this ‘childhood,’ if you will - so that a new kind of collaboration or ‘adulthood’ could emerge. We’re at the stage that the ancient bacteria were after two billion years of hostilities, when they formed the nucleated cell as a cooperative thousands of times bigger than a single bacterium. It was so successful that we never had to reinvent or re-evolve another cell in two billion years. That happened at the midpoint in our past evolution. Now I think that globalization is exactly that same kind of process, where we find out that collaborating, even feeding your enemy, is more efficient, cheaper, and better for everybody than hostile competition. That is the real flip.

“In my view, the whole universe is a self-creating, living geometry. I’ve made a 180-degree turn from believing that consciousness is a late emergent product of material evolution, to believing that consciousness is primary and all material evolution follows from it—which is really the Vedic or Eastern perspective. It’s a huge shift, and a lot of Western scientists have made it. You will find us at conferences instead of graduate schools. I’ve come to think of those conferences as alternative ‘mini-course’ graduate schools where people vote with their money to hear the new story, rather than the old story, of science. And I think that this is amounting to a quiet revolution.

“In a sense, my own spirituality was really given back to me. As a child, I just intuitively worshipped nature. So when I started working with indigenous people, I had no problem hearing them talk about the Great Spirit and Nature as deity. That felt very comfortable to me. Now I like to say that I’m a reverse-missionizing case. I’ve come to see Nature as a vastly creative enterprise of self-organizing life.

“Unfortunately, in the creation versus evolution debate, we’re seeing many scientists become as fundamentalist as the creationists – digging in their heels defensively rather than seeing that the scientific creation story, which is in two basic parts – physics and biology – is missing the second half in both cases. Physics says we live in a non-living universe running down by entropy – which inspired people to think, ‘No purpose, no meaning, and get what you can while you can because it’s all going to pot.’ And then there’s biology, in which Darwin neglected to talk about cooperation in his theory.

“The microcosm that exists inside of our own bodies is awesome – this superbly worked-out community of cells in which everything contributes to the whole and everything benefits from the whole, and unhealthy competition is minimized. We don’t have, for example, our livers trying to turn our hearts into another liver. Our nervous system is in service to the whole, to keep everything functioning cooperatively. The technologies for extending life right now don’t understand this aspect of life. The technologies of genetic engineering don’t fully understand it, either. These disciplines think in terms of simple mechanics. Insert here, remove there. They don’t understand that genomes are constantly cleaning up damage done to them. We would deteriorate if the human genome were not constantly on duty cleaning itself up. There is more going on here than simple mechanics.”

Still, Elisabet has hope for the eventual spiritualization of science. “I think we will come to a modern version of Vedic science integrated with Western science that shows balanced physics and balanced biology and the sacredness of the whole. Because everything starts with consciousness, with awareness, with mind. That’s what people have called ‘God’ throughout history. So, I believe that we will perceive all nature as sacred, alive, and participatory with ourselves as co-creators. Hopefully, we’ll have a little more humility than to think we’re superior to everything else that has evolved over billions of years longer than us, or our own billions of years of evolution.

“I call myself a creationist evolution biologist. My view of intelligent design is autopoietic, while the fundamentalists’ view is alopoietic. But that difference is not as vast as the divide between creationists and evolutionists. Intelligent design integrates creationism and evolution. Evolution is the creative process.”



The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

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