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(Adapted from Chapter 1 of I Am With You: The Earth Speaks to Us.)

Q: I read your biography, Sten, but I want to know more. For example, how did your childhood and younger years prepare you for this experience of communicating with the Earth?

Sten: Having grown up both in Asia and Sweden, I was exposed to various cultures, traditions and belief systems early in my life. I realized that the Western culture I was born into, with its beliefs and world view, was one of many, and that what I was brought up to believe was not written in stone; also, that our Western world view, which seems so rational and true, is just a snapshot of what is currently thought to be a correct interpretation of who we are and how the world around us functions. What is considered true in one generation is replaced by entirely different and often opposite “truths” in the next one.

Q: Can you give me an example?

Sten: Well, take the physical world around us. The “objective” theories of the world I encountered in my studies of physics and science in general did not satisfy my wish to understand the world we live in, for the world itself seemed not to have anything to do with me and my life, nor those of others. It was a world in which we are all surrounded by dead matter we can manipulate, but which will remain forever dead.

According to this view, we are far and wide the only living, conscious beings – except for animals, which are simply primitive versions of ourselves, so we cannot expect any intelligent answers from them. We seem to be encapsulated in a world that is indifferent to us, and only other humans share our fate. We are forever out of touch with the rest of the Universe, at least until any ET’s arrive or until we manage to find them somewhere, but that will probably take a few more centuries. Even then we can’t be sure they won’t simply kill us and take all our money.

Q: Getting away from the ETs and back to physics for a moment, what was your reaction to what they were teaching you in the university?

Sten: My studies of physics dealt with the nature of the material world around us, the nature of matter – of which all our bodies are made – and ultimately the nature of the atom. So what was the innermost insight about what matter is that science had found out, even proved? It was that matter is made of atoms, which are made of protons, neutrons and electrons, which are made of quarks and leptons held together by bosons…. Yes, yes, but what are they? The kind of answers I got was always an abstraction, such as: They are “probability functions.” Pardon? To me, they might just as well have told me that matter consists of “maybe valleys.” It didn’t resonate with anything within me at all. Ultimately, I was told to just do my math like everybody else.

Q: And did you?

Sten: No. I switched in midstream from studying theoretical physics to geophysics and  heaved a great sigh of relief. Now I was dealing with the Earth, with clouds and lightning, earthquakes and tsunamis, rock formations and minerals, rivers and oceans, jungles, deserts and swamps, plate tectonics and the inner movement of molten lava within the bowels of the Earth. Although what I learned was purely scientific, the Earth came alive to me.

Q: Did that finally satisfy you?

Sten: Only temporarily.

Q: So what happend?

Sten: My quest continued. Who are we? Who am I? Some said I was an individual human being. Period. I was born, I lived, and then I died. Again period. What about humanity? I was a part of humanity, and humanity somehow existed as a being, a species that evolved but did not really have a consciousness of its own. It was more like a school of fish that seemed to act like a living being, but in reality was just the result of the biological programming that evolution had hardwired into each individual. So when we all do the same thing, all of us together seem to act as one being. Although we aren’t. The unfathomable enormity of the Universe around me and the incredible tininess of viruses, atoms, protons, quarks and gluons were just the final icing on the cake, compounding my ignorance.

Q: So much for science…

Sten: Well, actually, on the whole I respect and admire science, and I usually find it highly satisfying. In a sense I will always be a scientist. But the way science has defined itself so far, it necessarily limits its area of competence.

There is, for example, the whole spiritual overlay. Again, who are we? Do we have souls? Do we reincarnate? Are there Gods or Goddesses? Are the mountains alive with spirits? Is a river holy? Was Mohammed the prophet of God? How was I to know?

Then there was the Christian religion that seemed at least to be based on love, forgiveness, hope and redemption. Nice as those qualities were, in history the followers of Christianity seemed not to have read those parts.

Then there was my father, an avowed atheist, whose attitude toward Christianity could be summed up in his statement, “Have you heard what they say: ‘In the beginning was the Word?’ I’ve never heard anything so stupid.”

Q: It seems you were seeking answers to the deepest questions of existence.

Sten: But that’s not unusual. I think most people, especially the young, at some point go through a phase when they seriously try to understand who they are and what’s up in the world. But these questions remained with me – some would probably say a bit longer than was healthy.

Q: At this point I assume you’re out of university and working?

Sten: For a year or two, yes. But by now other things were bothering me. I increasingly realized my own inner feelings and well-being were largely determined by my own emotional structures; and I felt I had little control over them. This was not nice at all, especially since I was pretty depressed and did not know what to do with my life. Sure, I could look around me and see that others were not really so different from me, but that was scant comfort. At least they seemed to have accepted or didn’t care less about the explanations about who we are and the meaning and purpose of it all, and were prepared to simply find their place in society. For some reason, that did not work for me.

I knew I had to do something pretty radical to clear up the combination of restlessness and depression that kept me like a revved-up engine with the brakes applied. Changing that was a prerequisite for anything else I wanted to do.

Q: So what did you do?

Sten: I decided to join a radical community in Austria. It was not a New Age community, but rather a place which threw out the old “nuclear family” values in search of a more alive, actionist and artistic lifestyle – with common property, “free sexuality” and spontaneous, expressive theater. After three, for me tumultuous, years, which included going through the community’s own brand of Reichian therapy and intense energetic emotional work to clear out my system, I left the community feeling liberated and free of my chronic inner turmoil.

Q: And what did you take away from that community experience?

Sten: I came away with the feeling that the attempt to create societal structures that emphasized the importance of community was important, and that any viable future will need to find ways to satisfy the basic human needs that throughout history were fulfilled by tribes, clans and extended families and today are sorely unfulfilled in Western society and increasingly everywhere on Earth. On the other hand, collective structures often risk sacrificing individual autonomy and free thinking, and this was certainly the case in the community I was a part of. Overall, my stay there definitely had its light and dark sides.

Q: What other experiences would you say had a major impact on your life?

Sten: When I fell in love. Two times. The first time was when I was in the middle of my, for me uninspiring, physics studies. It came out of left field and within five minutes – at 1 a.m. on May 3, 1973 –, I fell in love, and my life changed. The next day I decided to quit my studies, began to write poetry and make short movies, drank gin and generally walked around on clouds. The second time was at the Austrian commune, where I had an “analyst” whom I really liked a lot. At one point they decided it was a good idea for the “patient” to fall in love with his/her analyst and use that as a motivation for their “healing.” That was an easy task for me, and it cracked my armor; again I walked the clouds. These peak experiences did not last for more than a few months, but they set me off on new directions in life.

Q: And what direction did your life take after leaving the community?

Sten: I began work arranging for patents and marketing new ecological inventions in the U.S., where I spent several years traveling, visiting psychics and healers, people sensitive to earthquakes, and other researchers involved in unorthodox studies of matter and the living world. I studied the work of Nicolai Tesla and Viktor Schauberger and began what was to become a thirty-year collaboration with the late Alfred Wakeman, a little known artist and industrial designer who developed a fluid dynamic theory of the Universe he called Energy Synthesis.

Q: Can you briefly explain Energy Synthesis?

Sten: Not briefly, no. I’d like to leave that for another time, maybe another book.

Q: Okay, then tell me what happened when you joined the German social experiment mentioned in your book.

Sten: Well, there I focused on various aspects of consciousness research. Within the framework of the Free University at the community project, I sought out and invited the most interesting people I could find to come and speak about their work in lectures and workshops, and sometimes share their insight through hands-on experimentation.

One such visitor was Peter Caddy, the founder of the Scottish spiritual community of Findhorn, which became known because their contact with plant “devas” or spirits had guided them to grow vegetables in the sands of Scotland so exceptionally large that the BBC decided to do a six-program series about them.

Then there was Cleve Backster, originally a lie detector expert working for the CIA, who discovered that plants reacted to human thoughts and emotions. His work, although disputed by some, also showed that cells taken from humans and kept alive at great distances from the person reacted synchronously with the person’s other cells.

Also on the visitors’ list was Jim Nollman, whose continuing work with interspecies communication has made great strides toward understanding how dolphins, orcas and whales communicate with each other, and how we in turn can communicate and commune with them using, among other things, music as the medium. This kind of participatory research helps to reintegrate science into life itself, making it relevant to all of us.

Rupert Sheldrake was a guest as well, and his theory of morphogenetic fields and research on the non-physical connection between pets and their keepers also expanded my view that we are living in a world that is alive and communicating, with a network of communication “waiting” for us to take our rightful place.

Q: But I also heard you got involved in researching “past lives”…

Sten: Yes, I did. Having more or less by chance stumbled across my ability to regress people in hypnotic trances to “remember past lives,” I traveled widely to determine if the descriptions of these past lifetimes were historically accurate. In several cases the detailed information I had written down from these sessions proved to be factual far beyond what anyone could have invented or checked out in advance. To me this did not represent definitive proof we have lived before, for there were several possible alternative explanations as to how this information could have been accessed.

Q: So you don’t believe these were actually “past lives”….

Sten: Ultimately, I came to believe that yes, we probably have lived before. However, I believe that the “we” that experiences this is not the normal everyday “we,” but a part of ourselves we rarely include in our daily definition of who we are, and whose memory we only access under extraordinary circumstances, for example after a great deal of practice or through wisely designed ceremonies. Based on my experience, I am also convinced a great many reports of “previous lifetimes” are simply inventions of the subconscious mind.

Q: So when it was all said and done, what value did your research into “past lives” have?

Sten: After facilitating over one hundred such “reincarnation trances,” including many within the German project, a number of fascinating interrelations came to light. For example, if taken at face value, they indicate that we often spend time with the same people in different lifetimes, as if together we have taken on certain issues to work on through several lives; and that groups of people somehow “decide” to come together at different times in history to continue their work together.

Q: Can you give me an example…

Sten:  In one instance a man and a woman provided detailed complementary versions of a relationship they had in Carthage over two thousand years ago. They did this without having knowledge of what the other person had said, since I conducted the trances back to back without the presence of the other person.

Another interesting experience – not directly involved with a past life – involved sending a ghost on its way, who, it seemed, had decided to hang out in the cellar of the house where we lived. For several months a two-year-old in the community had claimed there was a man in a black cloak in the cellar who “beat the horses.” I took the child on my arm and went down to the cellar, and as I approached the corner where the child said the “man” was standing, something hit my chest and fell to the floor. It turned out to be a glass button, and I have no idea where it came from. I was taken aback, sent the child upstairs and confronted the ghost, ultimately telling him he was dead, and that I could help him continue on his evolutionary path. I spoke aloud in German and received hair-raising, perfectly timed answers in the form of loud knocking sounds in the plumbing pipes in the cellar. Having just read accounts of similar work, I called on beings who could help him navigate the transition to other realms and I fused their energies with his and sent them off. The knocking sounds stopped. After that the child told me the “man” was gone and never came back. A few months later we heard that the cellar was the oldest part of the building, having been built several centuries ago, and it had been used as stables for horses.

For me personally, these experiences served to expand my view of who we are, but were not necessary or even productive when it came to dealing with issues in everyday life.

Q: So you didn’t pursue this line of research?

Sten: That’s not really true. I kept at it for a while, because my search for answers was always accompanied by new and interesting experiences. For example, I attended “spoon bending parties” in Washington D.C., arranged by a U.S. Army colonel, where I saw four-year-olds gleefully bending long strong steel spoons and forks like spaghetti. The shock of seeing this impossible feat made me suspend my disbelief, and when I gently pressed on the spoon I had spent half an hour trying to infuse with energy, it suddenly felt like putty in my hands and curled up.

In another instance I invited Dr. Willard Fuller, an American spiritual healer specializing on healing teeth, to come to Switzerland, and during public sessions he allowed me to stand directly behind him as he did his work. Right before my eyes, I saw amalgam fillings slowly turn into gold fillings.

Q: Did you actually believe what you were seeing?

Sten: Yes, I believed in the things that I experienced and especially the ones that involved permanent changes that could not be attributed to what we call “natural causes”. But I also saw how powerful disbelief is, and how fear of the unknown can directly affect reality. A friend of mine and I were playing with a Ouija board in an apartment close to Monte Carlo and were thinking of gambling at the casino. When we asked about this, we were told to “find money.” Since we had borrowed the apartment, we couldn’t very well ransack the place for money, so I asked facetiously if I could find the money in my wallet. We got a clear “yes.” Taking the answer at face value, I got my wallet where we knew I had exactly 300 French Francs that we had exchanged the same day at the border. Together with my friend, I checked the money, counting first a one hundred Franc note, then a second one. The third one, however, was a 500 Franc note. I thought, “This is not possible.” I looked up into the eyes of my friend and realized he had seen exactly the same thing. My mind started to reel, and as I looked back down at the money in my hand, I saw the number 500 slowly fade into being 100. I knew at that moment it was fear that had made us revert back to a reality that did not allow for such miracles.

Q: So with all these interesting experiences, why did you leave this path of research?

Sten: Because my real interest lay more in the idea of a living world from which I felt we are cut off. So I pursued developments that led me toward a world view based on wholeness instead of separation, process instead of static existence, interaction instead of action/reaction, emergence instead of causation, and self-organization as opposed to hierarchy and control. Here, mainstream science had made great strides. The quantum physicist David Bohm’s concept of the implicate order, Ilya Prigogine’s insights into self-organizing systems, and even quantum physics’ unusual claim that any observation affects the system being observed, regardless of the specific method used for observation, all opened my mind to a new way of seeing reality. Add to this the research that has been done on how living systems constantly communicate and interact with each other, even on a non-physical level, and that even our definition of life and consciousness is constantly expanding.

Q: Can you explain this “new way of seeing reality” in a sentence or two?

Sten: Taken together, for me these ideas and insights illuminated the many ways that, in terms of consciousness and communication, the “dead” world around us is not dead at all. Nor is it dead to what we do, feel and think. What seems to be dead is we ourselves, dead to our senses and to the impulses that our bodies, minds and souls – as well as those of others and the entire living world – are constantly sending to us.

All in all, I believe we are now approaching breakthrough expansions of our scientific paradigm to include the dimensions of sentience, consciousness, thoughts and emotions as being as real as the material world, ultimately recognizing that they are different expressions of the same “stuff”, and that they interact with each other intimately.

Q: So you were open to the possibility of the Earth being alive and conscious?

Sten: Ever since I was a child growing up in different countries, I had a global outlook on life, and I always had a feeling for where I was on Earth. When I was asked to facilitate a project for the protection of the Arctic, I realized the importance and fragility of this area of the Earth. I also began to feel the Earth is more alive than we tend to give it credit for, and reacts not so much to what we do to it physically as to the intent behind our actions, similar to Backster’s conclusion from his work with plants and to how we ourselves react.

Later, my many years on the Sweet Medicine Sundance Path – a spiritual-shamanic path of studies that I followed from 1992 to 2010 – opened me up to first-hand experiences of how we can interact from within with the energies and beings of the living world. The teachings and ceremonies of this Path are designed to awaken internal knowledge through direct experience, and they went a long way to reconnect me with a world where not only animals and plants, but stones, landscapes, planets and stars come alive. I had innumerable experiences that showed me that our normal take on reality reflects but a small part of the spectrum of the living world surrounding us all the time; and that we are all so much more than we are taught to believe.

Q: Do you think that’s why the Earth chose you for the job of writing this book?

Sten: Nothing I did, no experience I ever had,  indicated I would be communicating on a more or less daily basis with the entire planet. I am well aware that vast numbers of people experience conscious contact with our living “Mother Earth” every day, and have been doing so for millennia. My experiences are thus not that unusual. Yet on the one hand I have promised to publish what I received during my communications with the Earth, and on the other hand I feel a need to share my experiences simply out of a feeling of excitement and awe at what to me is real and amazing. I also believe it is only a matter of time before the consciousness and sentience of the Earth become fully accepted by mainstream society, contributing to a transformation of our understanding not only of the Earth and the Universe, but of who we ourselves are as human beings.