Parallel Universes, Alien Religions and Carl Jung: An Interview With Clifford Pickover

by Joseph Matheny on July 10, 2007

An Interview With Clifford Pickover

Jason Lubyk

If you aren’t familiar with the books and website of Clifford Pickover yet I recommend you drop whatever you’re doing and go check them out for a intelligence boost, as the quick scan of the latest horrifying and stupid news websites I just did while eating my Subway sub hammered the point home yet again that this planet needs more and better ideas now, and the more people stretching their minds the better.


Cliff chatted to us via email about some of the topics in his fascinating tome Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves, a veritable smörgåsbord of far-out ideas (I mean, just check out the table of contents …) We talked about creating optimized languages, parallel universes, alien religions, DMT and Carl Jung. What’s not to love ..?

Jason Lubyk: You state in Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves that “if certain computer languages are more suited for modularity, size, speed or ease of use, could certain human languages be optimized for human growth potential, creativity, memorability, or for communicating one thoughts and emotions.” Have you ever speculated what forms these languages would take, what would differentiate them from our existing languages?

Clifford Pickover: If language and words do shape our thoughts and tickle our neuronal circuits in interesting ways, I sometimes wonder how a child would develop if reared using an “invented” language that was somehow optimized for mind-expansion, emotion, logic, or some other attribute. Perhaps our current language, which evolved chaotically through the millennia, may not be the most “optimal” language for thinking big thoughts or reasoning beyond the limits of our own intuition.

I am not certain what form these special languages would take. However, such languages would probably be most effective if introduced when a child is young – at a time when language acquisition seems to take place more efficiently and effectively. This is a fascinating area of contemplation, given that debates still take place as to whether the biological contribution to our language abilities includes language-specific capacities, such as a universal grammar, which may constrain us. I also wonder if we would need different languages for the differing purposes of memorabilty, creativity, empathy and so forth. Incidentally, we already know that mathematical “languages” can help us reason more clearly – at least for some kinds of mathematical contemplations — than traditional languages.

Because adults will not be fluent in this new language, they might not be good teachers of the language to children. Perhaps artificial entities will be required for the teaching task.

JL: You talk about future-life progression and the experiences of those who undergo them. Have you ever come across people who have undergone the same experiences with their other selves in parallel universes? Parallel universe therapy or whatever you want to call it? Is this within the realms of the possible?

CP: I remain skeptical about future-life progression until scientists are able to rigorously verify that this approach can be used to recover actual information from the future. You did ask about parallel universes. Some scientists today feel that the interference pattern produced by single photons, as they go through one or another side-by-side slit, is due to the interference with a photon in a parallel universe. I don’t know about “parallel universe therapy,” but isn’t it wild to speculate about what it would be like if there were some kind of subtle interactions between ourselves in this universe and in neighboring ones?

JL: There are many ruminations and investigations into religion in the book, as well as what can be described for better for worse as “aliens.” Do you think aliens have what could be described as religions? Any ideas on what form they would take? Could we be the source of their adoration, in the same way the some cultures think certain animals divine?

CP: If highly intelligent, space-faring creatures exist, they would have tried to make sense out of the senseless and to find meaning and patterns during their evolution over long periods of time. This would have led them to something like religion.

Let’s consider brown dwarf priests and the religions that might evolve on a brown dwarf. As background, stars are not necessary to support life or produce light. For example, light may be emitted by chemical processes on a planet far away from a sun. A more intriguing idea is the possibility of life on brown dwarfs — warm planet-like objects far away from suns and therefore without sunlight.

A brown dwarf is an astronomical object intermediate between a planet and a star. Brown dwarfs have a mass less than eight one-hundredths the sun’s mass, and their surface temperatures are below 2,200 degrees Celsius. Sometimes described as failed stars, brown dwarfs probably form like stars when interstellar clouds contract into smaller, denser clouds. Unlike stars, however, brown dwarfs do not have sufficient mass to generate the internal heat that in stars ignites hydrogen and creates thermonuclear fusion reactions, the source of stellar powerhouses. Though they generate some heat and some light, brown dwarfs also cool rapidly and shrink. Brown dwarfs look like high-mass planets and may be may be distinguishable from planets only in their formation mechanism. A brown dwarf is formed directly from a collapsing gas cloud — a stellar process — rather than from the accretion of dust and gas that gives birth to planets.

How could life evolve and survive on bodies with no sunlight? Earthly life can be quite happy without light, and how the first life forms on Earth may not have needed light at all. However, although there is no “visible” light available to life on brown dwarfs, warm dwarfs glow brightly in the deep infrared, and this might be exploited by organisms, both for vision and photosynthesis — the manufacture of carbohydrates by plants. While photosynthesis as we know it would be impossible without sunlight, a different form of energy capture could take place in the absence of sunlight. Moreover, lightning discharges that may have played a role in chemical evolution on Earth would be present on brown dwarfs to provide an abundant energy source.

The nearest life beyond the solar system may not be on a planet orbiting a star but on one of these lonely bodies not married to any sun. Scattered throughout the universe are probably countless bodies of this sort, possibly with water, and ripe for some form of life. It’s difficult for astronomers on Earth to detect brown dwarfs because they are intrinsically faint objects. However, in 1995, a cool brown dwarf named Glise 229B was discovered by scientists using the 60-inch Palomar telescope specially fitted with a coronagraph, a device usually used to study stars. Tiede 1, a dim object in the Pleiades star cluster, is also generally accepted to be a young brown dwarf. Numerous other possible brown dwarfs have been discovered since then. A dwarf 10 times the size of Jupiter would produce the right amount of heat for liquid water.

What strange biologies and strange religions might develop in the absence of the light in the violet-to-red range on brown dwarfs or other dark worlds? Creatures could “see” using vibration and electrical sensors such as exhibited by the electric eel and mormyrids — elephant fish that have a larger brain per body weight than man. Creatures in the dark might also sense pressure differentials. As an example, consider the fishes that live in caves on Earth. They can orient themselves, like most other fishes, by their lateral line sense, moderated by the organ that runs along their sides and registers the surrounding environment by sensitivity to its differential pressures.

The lateral line organs of fishes function as distance receptors. Bundles of nerves in these grooves register the differential pressures of the surrounding water and thus enable the fish to perceive objects within a certain range. This kind of sensory organ might also serve a creature that lives on land or in the atmosphere by registering differential air pressures. Perhaps these creatures would also evolve some kind of communication by controlling ambient air pressure, for example by shooting puffs of air at different velocities. Sophisticated communication by tactile means is also possible. For example, consider the case of author Helen Keller who learned to interpret human messages normally conveyed through sight, sound, and speech through a system of direct touch. Although, Braille is a typical example of Earthly communication through finger touch, we can easily imagine our letters of the alphabet conveyed through 26 touch points on the body.

Aliens on dark worlds might develop a very keen sense of temperature and use this for both communication and exploring their environment. While humans can sense gross changes in temperature, some animals on Earth posses thermal sensors far finer than ours. For example, the mosquito can register differences of as little as one five-hundredths of a degree centigrade at a distance of 1 centimeter. Some fish such as the sole respond to temperature changes in the water of as little as 0.03 degrees Centigrade. The bedbug can crawl along a wall of a bedroom, sense a tiny area of exposed skin, and jump to it.

Humans sense relative temperatures. We know that one glass of tea is hotter than another. But we can’t tell say precisely how hot it is. Other creatures on Earth sense absolute temperature. For example, some fish can be trained to recognize a particular temperature within 1 degree of accuracy irrespective of whether the fish came out of a previously warmer or colder environment. Some birds have the ability to maintain their nests at a precise temperature and make small alterations to the nest if it becomes a degree too hot or cold.

To better understand possible alien worlds, consider the analogy of a painting. When we see a painting we see many different hues not seen by a color-blind animal. (Incidentally, many mammals are color blind.) In the same way we see reds, greens, blues and all the shades in between, aliens on dark worlds may “see” the world with distinct temperatures. An alien with this ability would perceive and give names to 100, 101 and 102 degrees in the same way we perceive different colors and name them red, purple, and maroon. Their Leonardo da Vinci might hang a plate with different temperature regions conjuring up the same emotions as our Leonardo does with his Mona Lisa. Their traffic lights might be hot, warm, and cold instead of red, yellow, and green. Their sexy magazines might arouse inhabitants with thermal profiles in the same way that a Marilyn Monroe photo in Playboy can excite and titillate. Their holy books may contain thermal profiles of their gods.

What would happen if we could visit aliens on a dark world and shine an ordinary flashlight at them? Perhaps the aliens would fear a bright light, if they could perceive it, making light a symbol of great evil or holiness. If they could not perceive it, might they still wonder about other modes of perception? Do brown-dwarf priests dream of white light in the same way theologians conjure indescribable visions of God? Can creatures dream of things beyond their sensory capacity? Whatever their God is like, it is probably formed in their own image.

JL: You quote Rick Strassman M.D. as stating that “if indeed we made more
DMT in the past, this may have to do with the increase in artificial
light that has come upon us in the past 1000 years or so.” Do you
think this could be a factor why many UFO, paranormal, or just plain
weird experiences happen in the dead of night? Any connection?

CP: Researchers have discovered similarities between alien abductions and sleep paralysis. The majority of the abduction experiences occur at night, and almost 60% of the most intense reports seemed to be sleep related. Of the intense experiences, 25% involved symptoms similar to sleep paralysis. Thus, some scientists suggest that the abduction experience somehow grows from the experience of sleep paralysis.

My colleagues point out that we have always feared the night because our sense of sight is diminished, and real dangers have lurked in the night since the dawn of humans. We don’t want to be eaten. It’s also possible that during the night, when one’s sense of sight is diminished, various false patterns emerge. We are pattern-creating machines, sometimes apt to create patterns when none exist to fill the gaps in our sensorium.

JL: You do mention Jung in passing, but I can’t recall if you have ever discussed his theory of the archetypes. What do you think of the theory? Any advantage from an evolutionary standpoint? Any biological

CP: Let us assume for the moment that some kind of collective unconscious could be present in most people. If this is so, it is also possible that it has had adaptive value for our humans during the course of evolution. Some have speculated that if we subconsciously knew how to relate to other people and social types, this kind of knowledge would help us adapt to the complex cultural milieu, Thus, archetypes and “collective memories” could in principle reduce misunderstandings and fatal aggressive acts due to our shared memory vault – our treasure chest of ideas and emotional responses.


Thanaton July 11, 2007 at 6:24 pm

You know,
I’ve been into all things weirdness for a long time and yet somehow never heard of this guy. Not super impressed with this interview. Once again, a scientist worships at the cult of conventionality fundamentally ignoring the glaring flaws in popular scientific thought. Namely, the pretentious idea that and objective universe exists somewhere outside of our own subjective consciousness? Really, prove that with your science. Yeah, everything you say is coming from a human perspective and that’s all you know and will ever know as long as you retain your humanity. When exactly has anyone ventured outside of themselves into this objective reality? We don’t live in one world but 8 billion internal ones. The physical world is merely a holographic projection created by our own perception of it. Hard concept to accept I know, although it shouldn’t be. Is a hermit crab’s world the same as a human’s?

“Can creatures dream of things beyond their sensory capacity?”

Yes, this is what Terrence Mckenna referred to as the transcendent other. I’ve personally experienced many things in my dreams and hallucinations that have no basis in physical reality. There is so much art out there effectively recreating this kind of phenomenon that it’s difficult to make an argument otherwise.

Then he further irked me by comparing sleep paralysis and alien abduction phenomenon. As an experiencer/sufferer of sleep paralysis for years I can say that what I’ve gone through, and it’s been crazy weird, is nothing like what supposed abductees report. What would the religions of creatures on a brown dwarf stars be like? Would they have television? Fucking retarded. God, it’s a slow day at work.

Animals March 4, 2011 at 8:40 pm

“can creatures dream of ….” My take on it is no, us humans have a tendency to think we know it all, and if dont know it we can definitely learn it, well something are way beyond our span of understand in my humble opinion.

Perditor July 12, 2007 at 12:13 pm

@Thornaton: its true that those pretentious scientists can’t prove that there is an objective reality; however, you can no more prove that an objective reality exists than you can prove that it doesn’t exist. The only thing any of us can do is assume that it does exist, and considering the mountain of subjective experiences I’ve had throughout my life, it doesn’t seem like that not much of a leap. For example, I challenge anyone to espouse solipsism being tortured, acid is pouring onto your skin, or perhaps while their digits being forcibly removed with a pair of pliers. Don’t get me wrong, I love solipsism, but its basically useless you’re tripping with a friend.

I do have to agree, however, with your overall estimate of this Cliff fella — as intelligent as he may appear, he also seems an equal part douche bag.

Perditor July 12, 2007 at 12:28 pm

I apologize for the truly atrocious grammar used near the end of my previous post. Something went wrong during my editing process. Below is a slightly more reader-friendly version of what I initially had meant to say:

For example, I challenge anyone to espouse solipsism while being tortured — with acid pouring onto your skin, or perhaps with your digits being forcibly removed using a pair of pliers it becomes far more difficult to write off reality. Don’t get me wrong, I love solipsism, but it is basically useless (unless you plan on bringing it up between bong hits during a philosophical discussion with a friend.)

I do have to agree, however, with your overall estimate of this Cliff fella — as intelligent as he may appear to be, he also seems an equal part douche bag.

Evan Martin September 3, 2007 at 3:28 am

I dunno…
I confronted the sleep paralysis entities consistently from age 7 to 27 – then I found the other dreaming people. I also learned many lifelong lessons from dozens of pipe-DMT entities. Plus, astrobiology will be one of the most exiting fields of science for at least the next few centuries.
I liked what he said. Then again, I am inebriated.

wish May 3, 2008 at 1:56 am


I bet that if I blow your brains out with a shotgun the universe won’t collapse.

Matt January 5, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Is this guy proposing that life might live on the surface of brown dwarfs? I thought they were just giant balls of gas. Not as hot as the sun but still too hot for life to exist. With an average mass of about 75 Jupiters the gravity would be crushing. If he was talking about moons of a brown dwarf then I suppose that could be possible.

Anima January 6, 2009 at 9:22 am

I pretty much agree completely with Thanaton. I thought Pickover was actually paradigmatically intelligent and not another constipated materialist academic but with an abnormal awareness of SOME of the many interesting bizzare things a human can experience in his case. But I guess Yale is another church which preaches the same obsolete materialistic BS the otherwise highly regarded university I attended for 7 years does. I mean he’s a physicist and yet M-theory and the implications of holographic information and non-locality amongst the implicate order did not make it into this email conversation, despite the topics being relevant. And yeah alien religions? WTF!? who’s to say ‘aliens’ are anything like us cognitively and emotionally, perhaps they don’t even have the category we call ‘religion’ in their collective mind space. The logic of their subjective experience could be completely transcendent by our standards, they could experience unity consciousness at will hence knowing we are all manifestations of the same consciousness (as any half-witted human psychedelic explorer/’with it’ QFT physicist will elaborate upon), the possibilities are fairly limitless and it is barely intelligent to speak in the language of human scientific English to even speculate, for our concepts are born out of our evolution, the logic of which could be completely different to any said ETs or EDs or even EBEs despite a similarity to us. Modally speaking Pickover is making aliens anthropocentic from our biological perspective when he has little evidence to do so from a paradigmatically non-naive perspective. Moreover, suggesting that their god would be anthropocentric to them, well this is an obvious consequence of thinking the way WE think, not the way aliens may think, this kind of speculation should be left for science fiction or otherwise paradigmatically elite discussions, aliens could have as their perceptual array the fractalized patterns of pure consciousness segregated into geometrical divisions of possible-world experience for all we know. Sure there could be many EBE species out there that are similar to us and describable using biological English, but speculation in regards to them having a religion is arbitrary. As far as sleep paralysis goes, well I’ve experienced it many times in the past and found it to be highly traumatic (not being able to move or breath for 20 seconds and nearly suffocating to death), but it was never a perceptually distorted experience for me, purely physiological.

Anima January 6, 2009 at 9:28 am

No the universe wont collapse but a subject point of consciousness will withdraw from this world, hence solopscism being cool.

Joel February 24, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Nice, finally found the article, looked for this all over the site

RaiulBaztepo March 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
See you!
Your, Raiul Baztepo

Carl Jung May 12, 2009 at 5:40 pm

We all have access to the collective unconscious. By understanding the archetypes, we understand the different parts of our psyche. And then we can understand the others too.

sam July 2, 2009 at 5:20 pm

mr clifford pickover,i read your piece with nova.humans have wrinkled brains and mental limitations,[time travel]i can help,,,3d-infinityand images,thease are 3 keys that will let you acess information times infinity have u ever wanted to know how someone contacts anothe person in different diminsions u will fecieve info at a faster speed than us so the info will be bent or blured,,u want mor answers ,let me know

m s dinakar March 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Nice interview but Pickover has not been ‘picked over’ thoroughly or sufficiently!
Clifford Pickover is one of the few interesting polymathic thinkers whose books have been treasures for philomaths around the globe.
His writings on hyperspace and hyperdimensions have been lucid, captivating and anecdotal.
Science is not about the ‘ultimate truth’. Why should one assume there is an ultimate truth. Its role is being ‘approximately functional’. So far, science has done a fantastic job.
All our experiences are subjective and our expressions could be deemed to be representing the ‘objective’ though it should be conceded that an expression of an experience is not the experience per se.
Our best efforts to comprehend through graphics all the dimensions beyond our 3-D is still within the 3-D matrix. Yet, our intuitive capabilities through the art of visualization enable us to sense what is beyond however abstract it might be.
To conclude: thank you for the interview and Clifford Pickover has taught a number of abstract ideas in a lucid and colorful manner for the laypersons curious about hyperphysics and hypermaths through his fascinating books.Bye!

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