Karen Andersen: “Anton, ok, so I noticed that in your recent articles you had a few things to say about the idea of free will. Have you read Daniel Dennett’s recent rebuttal argument to Sam Harris’s book Free Will?”
Anton Drake: “Yes, I’ve actually read about two thirds of it so far; as I think I’ve told you I am something of a slow reader but I am reading it. I can say that I am extremely impressed with that article, with the writing as well as the arguments presented. I actually haven’t read any of Daniel Dennett’s books till now, but I’ve just bought his Intuition Pumps audio book on Audible and I’m really looking forward to listening to it. To this point I’ve only been exposed to Daniel Dennett through the ‘Four Horsemen’ videos, and honestly I guess because he was the least telegenic of the four, and possibly because he was also somewhat out of his element talking about religion and atheism, I suppose I overlooked him somewhat. I have had some peripheral exposure to his ideas, for instance on the Richard Dawkins forums when they were open or in researching the philosophy of consciousness, but I haven’t as of yet sat down and read any of his books. Again, though, I was extremely impressed with this recent article and I think I can learn a lot from him.”
Karen Andersen: “What did you think of the Four Horsemen overall?
Anton Drake: “Wow, I mean I always really looked up to those guys [Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens]. They were very influential on me; up until around 2006 or 2007 I still had what I’d describe as a somewhat mystical outlook on life: I’d been hardcore into yoga for more than twenty years with excellent but more or less traditional teachers, and I’d actually lived in an ashram for several years in my early twenties, so, even though I considered myself as having a very scientific mindset and as being a very logical computer programmer guy, I definitely had this level of yogic or meditative mysticism in my psyche that I hadn’t fully considered. Listening to Hitchens and Dawkins led me very quickly to explicit atheism, and from there I gradually began to work on the task of unraveling the many overlooked mystical assumptions of my own inner world; I found I had deeply internalized a lot of eastern or mystical concepts and suppositions about reality, about yoga, about enlightenment and gurus, about my inner self, about meditation, about my body, about my experiences… and I had to work hard in order to figure things out for myself and to put everything into good mental order, because I had had a lot of experiences in yoga that were very out of the ordinary and I knew from experience how powerfully effective yoga could be. So while I wanted to uproot every bit of faith and irrationality from within myself, in order to be authentic I also had to do the homework and find a way to make sense of my life experiences without just signing on to ‘atheism’ as if it were a new kind of religion. As it happens, from about 2003 forward I had been very obsessed with studying psychology, via the works of primary sources like Freud and Jung, and that turned out to be a major key that helped me to synthesize the teachings and concepts of yoga with my newfound atheist worldview; amazingly I found that this direction actually deepened and improved my yoga practice significantly on a lot of different levels. Eventually my research and inner work crystallized into the Atheist Yoga book, my second, which can hopefully help some people simultaneously add a bit of extra rigor and clarity to their atheism while at the same time picking up some hard won understanding about high-level yoga practice.”
Karen Andersen: “So which of the Four Horsemen did you like best?”
Anton Drake: “I mean it’s gotta be Hitchens, just because of the influence he had on my writing and my overall mental development. But Richard Dawkins was also (more…)