The Tim Ferriss Show: Sam Harris, PhD, on Spirituality, Neuroscience, Meditation, and More (#14)

Sam Harris, Ph.D.
Sam Harris, Ph.D.

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Ep. 14: Sam Harris, PhD - Spirituality, Neuroscience, Meditation, and More

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by Bluehost, which I used for my first WordPress blog, and I still use them for sites today. Click here for a special offer!

Now, on to our guest… Sam Harris.

Sam Harris is a neuroscience Ph.D. and the author of the bestselling books, The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, and Waking Up. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals.

In this episode, we explore the science of lying, uses and types of meditation, psychedelic drug uses and risks, spiritual experiences, and more. It’s really a discussion of the human experience, and how to optimize it without harming others.

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Once you’ve listening to this episode, let Sam (@samharrisorg) know on Twitter what you found most valuable or compelling.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Show Notes and Select Links (Resources, Books, Etc.) from Ep 14

  • Where Tim and Sam first met, and why shaking hands was not required…or really an option.
  • What are fMRI machines, and how does Sam use them for his studies of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty?
  • The faults of traditional lie detectors and the future of belief detectors.
  • Why “micro-expression” analysis is probably overstated.
  • Using meditation or pharmacology (drugs) to help present-state awareness and well-being.
  • What types of meditation Sam recommends and why.
  • Sam’s most controversial beliefs (or perhaps positions) of the last several years.
  • Why Malala Yousafzai should have won the Nobel Peace Prize…but why it’s probably a good thing she didn’t.
  • Are self-righteous but guilt-ridden white males ruining freedom of speech?
  • Examining self-transcendence and love.
  • Psychedelic drugs as an important rite of passage for human beings.
  • Which psychedelic drugs Sam has found most therapeutically valuable.
  • What are the powers and liabilities (or risks) of psychedelic drugs?
  • Why the only way to ensure you don’t have a bad trip is not to take a trip at all…
  • Debated by Tim and Sam — Is it only possible to truly hit the center of the spirituality bullseye through meditation (a.k.a. “try rugs, not drugs”)?


Who is Lucius Annaeus Seneca?

Sam Harris’s Blog

Paul Ekman’s work on Micro Expressions

Who is Malala Yousafzai?

Who is Ayann Hirsi Ali?

Brandeis University controversy with regards to Ayann Hirsi Ali

On the “freedom to offend an imaginary god” blog post

Vipassana meditation

How to meditate — blog post

Drugs and the Meaning of life — blog post

6 Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea

The Riddle of the Gun — blog post


Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion – by Sam Harris

End of Faith – by Sam Harris 

Lying – by Sam Harris

Mindfulness in Plain English – by Bhante Gunaratana

The Experience of Insight – by Joseph Goldstein

Wherever You go, There You are – by Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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95 Replies to “The Tim Ferriss Show: Sam Harris, PhD, on Spirituality, Neuroscience, Meditation, and More (#14)”

  1. Tim, i think you could have easily improved the podcast if you asked the interviewee to record their voice, so that we wouldn’t have to endure the quality dissonance.

    1. I’ll work on it, thanks. Alas, I think “easily” is relative. This is a passion project for now, and I’m still learning the ropes. Suffice to say, I’m trying to keep it low-labor enough that I keep doing the episodes. Sorry if the quality wasn’t ideal.

      1. Not to discourage Van or anyone to offer suggestions for improvement, but I totally hear you Tim.

        You often do these passion driven, high value projects at no cost to your audience. I just wanted to remind you that there are plenty people who really appreciate what you do.

        Please keep it fun and low-labor for yourself, first and foremost, and the rest will follow.



      2. Agreed. Some of the best and most popular shows in the podcastosphere have less-than-perfect audio. Content over ear bud clarity.

  2. Tim it would be interesting to see a lie detection report from one of the analyst companies you mentioned on the Edward Snowden NBC interview from Russia!

  3. Dr. Harris should also emphasize the significant consequence of full human internal alchemy on the scientifically predictable attainment of profound and sustained states of higher consciousness. Mindfulness is but one initial step that activates certain parts of the energetic process which ultimately leads to a body-centric raising of consciousness.

    Mindfulness meditation can be harnessed to properly initiate the process of body-centric energetic unfoldment and growth, by taking into account the locations of energy centers in the body and the manner in which they function within the larger process of alchemical change. Specifically, one needs to focus mental intention and tactile sense on the lower dantien during meditation, to activate the conversion of vitality into qi/energy.

    Truly, to become a Superhuman, like the title of Tims book, one needs to activate ones energetic growth by jump-starting the primary storage center, the lower dantien, and by practicing the very specific alchemical exercises discovered and verified by so many true Taoist and Yogic practitioners.

    Simply performing mindfulness meditation or taking psychedelics, one gets out of the starting blocks, but it leads to a mind-centric ‘enlightenment’ that falls short without the energetic foundations established by a proper internal alchemical practice. I suggest looking at Yan Xin for a truly scientific verification of human energetics, and reading ‘Opening the Dragon Gate’ on the training of Wang Liping.

    1. I think Sam might have a problem emphasizing a lot of the things you mentioned because they’re bullshit and he has a very good “bullshit detector”.

    2. @John: What the hell are you talking about? You just mix words together to describe stuff that doesn`t exist.

      “body-centric raising of consciousness” – What?

      ” body-centric energetic unfoldment”

      “activate the conversion of vitality into qi/energy” – What kind of energy are you talking about? Electric energy? How is it measured? How do we know that there really exists some kind of energy when nobody ever proofed it?

      ” truly scientific verification” – in contrast to just normal scientific verification which doesn`t include woo-woo and bullshit?

      I am certain in his vast research Sam came across some of the stuff you are talking about and disregarded it as there is not the least reliable scientific evidence for any of the phenomenons you tried to describe like “human internal alchemy” (which sounds as bogus as the other alchemy but works as a buzzword for laypeople).

  4. Sounds like Sam is one of those guys that you could have a long slow dinner with and never scratch the surface of his depth of knowledge. I do hope you have another podcast with him soon. I felt like it was just getting stared and then suddenly finished.

    Tim, as a long time Yerba Mate(your non-Argentine pronunciation of it kills me “cher-ba”) drinker myself I find the real way of drinking it is 100x better than the crap in bottles or even mate cocido(tea bags). Based on the analogy drawn do you find yourself getting more out of consumables, whatever they may be, that has a ritual associated with it? Is it the staging that elevates the experience?

  5. Hi Tim,

    Psychology and neuroscience are passions of mine, so you know I enjoyed this episode. For a second conversation, I would recommend asking about Your friend Nassim Taleb’s extreme skeptism of neuroscience and his criticism of atheism. Or better yet, have him participate in the discussion. Also, I’d suggest having Dr. Richard Davidson on a future podcast. Thanks! Jeff

    1. I would love to see this interview with Nassim Taleb. I love, love, and love Taleb. It would give a great comparison of brilliant men with a bold view. Unfortunately, Sam Harris doesn’t excite me as he like posed as rational man but he is pretty irrational and contradictory in many areas. Taleb will balance this out and providing a maybe pardigam-shift thinking

      1. Joe – I think you should provide some examples of Harris being contradictory and explain exactly how it is, in fact, contradictory. Throwing around “pretty irrational” and “contradictory” without specifics is half-baked defamation.

      2. @Pat, In order to be a rational, intelligent and well rounded thinker it is absolutely paramount that you’ve got a strong foreign accent; else you’re just a self righteous, egotistical typical American. But seriously, Nassim Taleb is your idea of an intellectual?

  6. Sam Harris is super. He’s a real inspiration for those who enjoy thinking. Thanks Tim for featuring this interview with Sam. I wonder what tripping under LSD with Sam Harris would be like. Freedom from self, or freedom from ego. I think of it as the latter.

  7. I’m Half Pakistani & Half European or white as you guys call it in the USA. A lot of what Sam Harris is talking about does hold truth in my experience about Islam, although I must admit I am not a muslim myself.

    If it weren’t for Islam the Western Civilization would have never advanced. There was a time in Islam in Islamised Spain where Arts, Science, Mathematics, Philosophy were revolutionary and changed the world. However, in short, religious extremism (through various Dictators) destroyed this from continuing and the islamic world stopped advancing.

    As far as religious extremism is concerned, unfortunately, what was not mentioned in the PodCast was poverty & education. People that are being recruited into the Taliban and other terrorist organisations are usually the poor and uneducated. Poverty & Education need to be tackled as well as promotion of a new breed of modern Muslim leaders who aren’t afraid to change the muslim status quo.

    How can we change this?

    While we’re trying to be get rich, have great families, go to great schools and live peaceful lives it’s scary to know that there are people on the other side of the world who want to kill us at any cost. That’s my 2cents.

    1. “If it weren’t for Islam the Western Civilization would have never advanced.” No evidence for that claim. True, some knowledge would have been lost but the majority of scientific and societal advance didn`t come from Islam (and even stands against islamic (or christian) “knowledge” like women rights, model of our universe, evolution,…)

      1. There actually is evidence supporting that claim. If you read up on the moorish conquest of Spain and the Islamic Age of Enlightenment you will see how concepts which shape our western society today were developed by the Muslims.

        What I didn’t mention was that I’m half Greek as well so I agree that the model of our universe was shaped by Greek philosophers. Religion in itself has had very little role in women’s rights, and is not “Christian Knowledge”. Religion has been used to conquer and divide by those in power. FYI, I’m not biased in any way when addressing this issue.

      2. We can’t overlook the fundamental injustices that extremist Muslims are committing but we can’t classify all Muslims into that subclass of people. It’s like classifying every German or every Anglo Saxon as a racist for their ancestors actions against Jews and against the black slave. Every great religion speaks great truths and specific followers of Islam have to make progress into the modern world which includes respecting the Christ consciousness. But is fighting and war the answer?

  8. The “download” link doesn’t appear to be an actual download link: It’s not a simple URL pointer to a playable media file, so you can’t do a “Save As…” Is there something I missed?

    1. Ron, if you want that kind of functionality you can download the podcast from iTunes. Tim’s blog only streams the episodes.

      1. I take that back – obviously I didn’t bother to check and see if there actually is a download link until now. On my iPhone, when I click that link it plays the file in QuickTime.

        But I guess that still doesn’t really address your question, does it? Ah, minutiae. Let’s call a meeting to figure out what to do.

  9. Sam (or Tim), are you familiar with Napoleon Hill’s concept of “Infinite Intelligence” (from Think and Grow Rich) and “The Other Self” (from Outwitting the Devil) or Maxwell Maltz’s concept of the “Automatic Success Mechanism” and “Theater of the Mind” (from Psycho-Cybernetics)?

    I’ve been searching for my own alternative to traditional religion and after reading those three books my view of God transformed from an old guy with a beard to more of an interconnected universal energy force. Once I had that change in perspective, huge chunks of the varying religious dogmas and even scientific theory, all began to complement each other, rather than contrast.

    Hill and Maltz (re)discovered success principles that are currently embraced by our secular/modern, sports and business worlds. At their core, they aren’t much different than things in the New Testament, Proverbs or Ancient Eastern Philosophy. You can even grab a glass of wine on a Sunday night and throw on some Cosmos and feel good when Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about how we are all just atoms of star dust, destined to return to star dust. Nothing comes crashing down, it just makes more sense.

    I think Jesus was misquoted when asked if he was God. He never denied that he was God, but I think the truer story was that he was teaching that we are ALL God. Each of us with an ability to tap back into the Source (connected universal energy)(This is where the teachings of the Wayne Dyers of the world, also start to complement the idea). So whether it’s prayer to a Saint, Meditation at a Dojo or Theater of the Mind in a locker room at half time, I think they are rooted in the same “something” (that “something” is still too abstract for me to articulate).

    Anyway, I think Hill and Maltz teachings are the key bridge from the secular world into the more spiritual philosophies, if you are looking for one. (There are probably others, but those two seem to be the Godfather’s everyone else spun from).

    Would love to hear your thoughts if you have time to give them. (this is my first time connecting and articulating these abstract thoughts in my head so everything above is far from my Dogma, more like my current jumping off point, into future discovery)

    1. This is so articulate – you are spot on, and you’re not the only one who feels this way but you have definitely broken the door of the hold society likes to have on us. Things will be changing even more for you Steve. thank you for writing this up! I am sharing it on my FB wall.. too good not to 🙂 – Nida

    2. You are just equivocating words until they are meaningless…

      Also, why throw around names like “Jesus” to add legitimacy to your ideas? It seems completely irrelevant. Especially when you just put words in his mouth.

      1. Sam specifically mentions Jesus in his talk. I was addressing that part of the podcast. Did you listen to it?

        Also, I didn’t put words in his mouth. I pointed out that the text from the Bible is often misquoted. Much in the same way people go around saying “Money is the root of all evil” when the actual quote is “Love of money is the root of all evil”.

    3. Based on what you’ve described here, there’s no reason to subscribe to those theories, as there is not evidence to support it. The lack of contradiction, or the inability to disprove an idea, is not sufficient to believe in it. Supportive evidence that can be tested is the reason to believe anything.

      Lacking much for unified belief systems, the need for evidence is likely the most common thread among the secular world, so I would doubt that these fellas are the ‘key bridge.’

      As for Sam Harris, my understanding from his writings is that he also finds evidence to be a requirement for belief.

      1. In reply to stevebuschta –

        Apologies, I cannot reply to your post, as there is no reply link available for whatever reason.

        I have read Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich, and know only a bit about Maltz.

        However, their specific works are not the big issue in your post. You appear to be tying together multiple different ideas, beliefs, and authors whose claims are mutually exclusive and contradictory, which have lingering holes in their claims about the world, which can be explained within the natural world without the need for metaphysical elements, which have no evidence to support the notion, and appear to be mangling semantics in a way that co-opts or distorts the language’s actual meaning. There’s ‘energy,’ as you’re apparently using it, and then energy as as scientifically educated people know/utilize it, and they are not the same.

        Long story short: Making unsupported claims about the world is problematic enough. But believing in multiple mutually exclusive claims suggests that you aren’t fully fluent in the origin belief systems, or you wouldn’t be trying to marry them together. Not without evidence for each and every claim.

  10. I really enjoyed the discussion of islam and religion. I was troubled by the discussion of using illegal drugs, reality vs legality should be emphasized — that is, if drugs help the person somehow, the legality risks should keep everyone away.

  11. A very thought provoking episode…

    Just one disclaimer I would add for those inspired to go out and try psychedelics, especially the synthetic variety…

    Don’t forget about possible contaminants or impurities – a friend’s sister died from her second use of ecstasy, and apparently she had been doing everything the “right” way (hydration, proper dose etc.)

    According to the police, it was found that the pills had been laced with pesticides.

  12. Tim I would like to know what a neuroscientist like Sam Harris thinks of your old product Brainquicken.

  13. This is great Tim/Sam. However Tim we spotted your ‘lie’ while introducing Sam. No one believes you’d forgotten you met him in the urinal

  14. Tim, I love your show and thank you for doing it. I clicked on this episode because it resonated with me on the subject of “Spirituality, Neuroscience, Meditation” – What I did not expect was for Sam to berate a religion thoroughly based on the actions of extremists who are clearly the results of poverty and illiteracy – although I am not a practicing Muslim for the most part, I did grow up in it and most of what he talks about is an issue totally separate from the actual religion.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, its been an AMAZING show so far, but my humble suggestion; religious and political rants are not the theme I’ve been getting from your show. Those are touchy subjects and I couldn’t listen to the show beyond his rant, It was a total turn off.

    1. I don’t think you listened properly Nida. SH explained about extremists,he has nothing against Muslims. He points out the difference between extreme Janists and extreme muslims and why one is dangerous and not the other.

      1. @ Margaret Johnson. Have you actually ever met a Janist or for that matter a Muslim? I mean properly talked with them and actually made a real effort to understand them? Because Sam Harris probably hasn’t, that’s why he makes these ignorant comments.

        Other than skin colour and few other differences all human beings are the same. Science fact, all of humanity comes from one woman, scientists call her Mitochondrial Eve, look it up. That’s right every single one of us is related.

        There are extremists and crazy’s in every nation, including the US. Black people in America were enslaved and murdered by “extremists”. Native Americans also suffered at the hands of “extremists”, as did Japanese Americans, the victims of gun shootings and many more.

        It’s easy to judge others who are different to us, but when we get to know each other we realise, we are all the same. They are not superior to us nor are we superior to them.

    2. "...most of what he talks about is an issue totally separate from the actual religion."

      Good point, Nida. I felt Sam should have at least included other significant factors s.a. poverty, illiteracy, or military intervention.

      In any case, it seems this discussion came about more or less accidentally. Tim usually starts off these interviews by asking his guests about their work, and in this case Sam ended up talking about some of the most controversial topics he’d written about. As intended by Tim, the discussion did eventually shift towards meditation and spirituality, something they’ll likely continue to talk about in a follow-up episode.

      In an interview with Dave Asprey (which can be found in the previous blog post), Tim mentions that, when interviewing, he basically asks the same questions as described in the 4-Hour Chef when trying to become world-class at a certain skill. So I think it’s safe to assume that future episodes of this podcast, like his blog and books, will always be centered around practical topics s.a. Lifestyle Design, Hacking the Human Body, Learning, etc.

      1. Sam doesn`t deny that poverty, imperialism, politics,… also has an influence (even a significant one).

        But what he says is that Islam gives people perfect reasons to act in such an evil way that in other religions wouldn`t be possible (he cites the Jaines, where the extremer someone gets the more peaceful he gets, something that`s not true for the abrahamic religions).

        And the treatment of women in Arabia/Pakistan,… has nothing to do with poverty and is based on their scripture. Also the stoning of adulters, death penalty for leaving Islam,… are doctrines, which exist and can`t be denied (luckily most muslims simply ignore them).

      2. Tim S.- when I hear such statements about Islam, it is evident that it is not Islam being discussed but rather the cultural and societal effects of what is in simple terms “not understanding the religion, making complete BS out of it in an attempt to control others, turned into a hot mess of what is now thought across the world as Islamic Terrorism.” Christianity and hinduisim has a long history of evils done in its name, none of which is in the actual religion.

        Everything these terrorists and extremists do is plainly and clearly denounced in Islam. here’s the crazy part, for example, there is no such thing as head covering or Hijaab in Islam, the only thing it suggests for females AND males is modesty as a means of self respect. Anything that came after the Quran, is written by human beings who by the way are no more or less intelligent than you and I, so therefore wrote “doctrines” in “the name of Islam” but that which has no relation to it in reality. To this day it is done to control the masses from a fear based angle. Its rather brilliant, it clearly works.

        Its like saying guns kill people rather than the people holding the guns choosing to pull the trigger. or the “war on drugs”. These fools are just using Islam as a scapegoat so when Sam suggests that Islam is a religion worth worrying about, I suggest its illiteracy, poverty, poor social economic conditions that we need to focus on.

      3. Apparently it has only taken me years to finally understand the point Sam was trying to make here. Many of my views have changed on this and other “touchy” subjects thanks to Sam Harris, and so I’ve become a supporter of his podcast. I’d also recommend the book he co-authored with Maajid Nawaz -“Islam and the Future of Tolerance” – to anyone who is open to reading an honest and constructive discussion on this very important matter.

    3. Nida, please do elaborate on the “poverty and illiteracy” of the Saudi hijackers who flew those planes.

      And as to the “actual religion” you might wish to reread the Koran and explain how the following directives, found in the Koran and which the Koran is laced with, are “totally separate” from the behavior seen in the world today perpetrated by those who proudly proclaim their adherence and submission to Islam and loudly proclaim acting in the name of it, Allahu Akbar:

      Koran 4:89: “Take not unbelievers as friends until they fly in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, seize them, kill them wherever you find them”

      Koran 8:12: “Instil terror in the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike off their heads and cut off fingers and toes.”

      Koran 9:5: “Fight and kill the disbelievers”

      1. “Everything becomes so much easier for the Anti-Islamists when they remove the context”

        It seems that quote is taken completely out of context. for example the first verse you gave was revealed at a time when Muslims of Madinah were under constant attack from the Makkans such as when the Makkans conducted the public crucifixion of the companion of the Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an clearly prohibits aggression. The verses explain that fighting is only for self-defense.

        “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors. And kill them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for persecution and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, kill them. Such is the reward of those who reject faith. But if they cease, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression”

      2. And as to your comment regarding poverty and illiteracy, let me redirect you to close to home to the Timothy McVeigh oklahoma bombing. “According to the United States Government it was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11 attacks and remains the most serious act of domestic terrorism in United States history.”

        This is just one example of domestic terrorism – and this kid was a result of divorced parents but had a fairly normal life and he went to this length.

        Poor parents in third world countries are approached by these terrorist ringleaders/recruiters who tell them that they will feed, clothe and educate their children for free. these poor parents think to themselves that they certainly can’t provide a future beyond poverty for their children and allow these recruiters to take their children who while they are taken care of are also brainwashed into their own agenda. These kids who grow up to “hijack planes” have no idea what they are doing. They are literally brainwashed into believing that this is the way life should be and if they don’t they will be shot to death, or their mothers/sisters will be raped and killed. So death by shame or death by what they are told is “honor”. If you haven’t experienced the environment of extreme poverty, you can’t possibly imagine how easy it is to brainwash and manipulate people.

        hell we’ve still got people in this country who think smoking is healthy for ya 🙂

    4. Osama Bin Laden was from a family of billionaires… I consider myself similar to Sam, I have nothing against anyone for their colour, or in fact their beliefs as long as the beliefs don’t cause them to be intolerant; but having been interested in religions all my life and studied them I came to the conclusion that Islamic terrorists are just following to the letter what the Koran and Mohammed recommend, to put the world under the control of Islam, including Sharia law, and by violence if necessary. I don’t know of any other religion that has such an aim, most religions are more interested in spiritual matters and so not such a threat. I started off with no animosity towards Islam at all, but ended up feeling worried about it due to studying it. Also, if anyone who criticises it is wrong and is racist, then a lot of well-educated ex-Muslims are wrong and racist.

  15. This is incredible for me because I’ve been running into a ton of ayahuasca discussion lately & wondering if it’s pointing to something. I’ll be super interested in follow up from your experience should you choose to divulge. Also, you may be interested in a program I’m learning about right now The Nature Process by Tabi Jayne. I believe it’s her dissertation project but anyhow we’re in the middle of a 5 week program. [Moderator: link removed.] So far, it’s been amazing and has greatly enhanced my mediation practice. 🙂 I think you’re doing a great job via podcast.

  16. You’ve been pushing that line lately and finally went off the deep end with the drug talk my friend. Sadly I’ll be moving my readership elsewhere

    1. Sam Harris has been such an insufferable jerk about religion, I won’t even bother listening. He’s okay at what he does and great at selling it but, like most scientists, pretends his discipline has no limitations. Then add that smirk and you’ve got the whole package.

      1. You must be confusing him with another Sam Harris. I’ve never heard him make the claim that he, or science, has no limitations.

    2. If I were you I would take 10 minutes to focus on your predispositions towards drugs. This blog is about experiments. If you have never ingested a psychedelic yourself, maybe consider the possibilities that insights about the nature of self have benefited Tim. It is easy to immediately put up blinders and a wall once any drugs are discussed. This is not a matter drugging out and escaping reality, it is a way to find tools that help you come back and experience a deeper sense of meaning.

  17. What’s up with the lie detector question? Are you going rogue? Is your Borne Identity going to be revealed??

    Great guest!! 🌟

    1. I like to think Tim’s real reason for doing this podcast is to get info on how to be a spy.

      “My, eh, audience want to know—how do you make a fake passport?”

      “Starrett, what flexibility drills should I do if I wanted to fold myself into a suitcase? It’s for the podcast”

  18. Very interesting and insightful podcast. I really enjoyed it along with the previous one with Sam Harris. I was glad to hear Sam’s insight into meditation and how he thought he was doing it right and then he noticed he had just been thinking while sitting cross-legged the whole time. I’ve often thought that, and I’ve asked myself whether I was doing it right or just wasting time, so I read 3 books on meditation just to make sure. I haven’t had any long lasting experiences such as the ones described from psychedelics, but I’ve had some very interesting seconds of seeing something wonderful out of something so mundane. The first time was after I did my meditation, sitting in lotus on a chair in front of my desk, I opened my eyes slowly and I noticed the grain on my wooden desk, it seemed extraordinary somehow. As quick as it came, it left…my mind had to kick in and start talking, it said “What the hell!” Then the grain was just your typical grain. Another time it happened during the meditation. I close my eyes when I meditate, as opposed to the Zen style that instructs you to have your eyes slightly open and out of focus. If you pay attention to your eyes when meditating, you’ll notice that you have rapid eye movement when you are thinking, just like in REM sleep. So I noticed it, tried to control it, and when my eyes stopped moving, I stopped thinking. Then I started paying attention to what my eyes where “seeing.” They were closed so you might say I wasn’t seeing anything, but I think it’s impossible to see nothing, there’s always something there to see unless your unconscious or sleeping. So I started noticing what I was “seeing” and the patterns seemed to flow like waves moving to my heart beat and breathing, and then the mind kicked in again and it was gone.

    So now I’ll look into Vipassana and try it. Thank you.

  19. Dr. Harris’s take on a particular religion shows how narrow minded even a learned scholar can be. One can’t reason with someone who has already deemed a religion and it’s followers as terrorists or bigoted. Disgusted!

    1. I think Dr. Harris’ point is well taken. You are construing it to bigotry probably because you cannot even consider his point of view. In your world view of what Dr. Harris said and your belief in Islam cannot coexist. The only way for you to resolve the dissonance is call him a bigot (or question the perfection of your religion). In the end the bigotry is on you. YOU are maligning Dr. Harris he only ever made the point that there are more peaceful belief systems than Islam. And that most belief systems are more peaceful than Islam. Either address that argument or take your bigotry somewhere else.

      1. @jaredmjohnson, Do you even know what a bigotry is? Let me help you, “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” It is borne out of prejudice, which in itself is defined as “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason”.

        Let me ask you a couple of questions. If you were sick, you’d go to a doctor, not a priest, right? If you are on your deathbed and wanted absolution (assuming you are Christian), you’d ask for a priest, not a doctor, right? Each field has it’s appropriate experts. Agreed?

        With all that said why would you consider Sam Harris a theological expert, who is able to competently comment on Islam let alone any religion? Which comes back to the word prejudice “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason”. This is exactly what Sam Harris has done.

        BTW – It’s more accurately known as “cognitive dissonance”. Also you stated “YOU are maligning Dr. Harris he only ever made the point that there are more peaceful belief systems than Islam. And that most belief systems are more peaceful than Islam. Either address that argument or take your bigotry somewhere else.” Clearly you agree with him, care to prove this statement? FYI – The onus of proving this is on Sam Harris (or you) since he made the statement. E.g. If I said aliens existed, well I need to prove it, you don’t need to prove me wrong.

      2. No, A priest is usually only an expert in upholding dogma through willful ignorance. Sam Harris is more a theological expert than any priest I’ve heard or read.

        And yes, I know what cognitive dissonance is. It’s exactly what I described. I have no idea how you think you’re being more accurate by acting like you understand it because you can put a name on it.

        And no, the onus is not on me. Look at ISIS look at so many atrocities done in the name of Islam. The memes (as Dawkins presented them–not cats) are there for exploiting by the violent. It doesn’t matter how you think they should be interpreted or whatever ‘peaceful’ Sunni leaders say. The violence is there, sewn into the fabric or the religion, seemingly irrevocably. Are you going to continue practicing willful ignorance to uphold dogma? That seems to be all the religious are expertly good at.

  20. Here we go again, another rant by a fanatic hater. It’s ironic how the people in this world like Sam Harris who are always so critical of others for being fanatics and haters are themselves exactly that.

    Comments are cheap and it’s funny how the people who criticise others never even make an effort to understand them. As Steven Covey said first understand then be understood.

    Sam Harris needs to join the 21st century and the real world. Most people, believers, atheists and whoever just live life with each other without judgement.

    What Sam Harris shares with all these fanatics he criticises and the root cause of their hate is arrogance. An arrogant belief they are completely right and better than the other person.

    1. Again I think you missed SH’s point (and mine). His comment was that the Muslim religion breeds extemists who are more dangerous to society than Janist extremists.

      I have friends of both faiths.

      1. Care to prove that point? What is the basis of your and Sam Harris’s belief? The newspapers? Some friends said so? Or maybe you just feel it? I assume you are both intelligent people so why not take a minute to question why you “feel” or “know” this to be true. You might be surprised by what you discover.

        Extremists of any kind are never a good thing. They exist everywhere, it doesn’t mean a religion or way of life should be summarily condemned. If you open your eyes you’ll find extremists everywhere, including in your own backyard. Hitler was German, so are we to assume that the German culture/people breed more extremists than say English culture/people. ? Of course not. I’m assuming your friends from the two faiths are not extremists. It’s easy to blame others and feel superior of oneself. I’m not saying you are doing that, but I believe Sam Harris is doing just that.

  21. Sam’s got some interesting ideas, and I tried to sift through the uncomfortable parts to take away the good from the interview.

    This was easier said than done. It’s not so much that Sam is bigoted or racist. It’s more that he’s ethnocentric. The Muslim world right now is hurting, that’s for sure. But it isn’t hurting because of the doctrine. Any text can be twisted and perverted until it leads to harm.

    The problem in Islam today is in the sanctification of a certain set of rules created by a Sunni majority, particularly those created by the so-called “Ulama” or the “Learned Ones”, which you can think of as the Supreme Court Justices of Islam. These are the rulings that can lead to some very barbaric and backwards behaviour, and unfortunately many Muslims see these rulings as synonymous with faith.

    But Islam is far from a monolith. It’s a very nuanced religion, and when Sam says he doesn’t insult “Muslims” or think poorly of them, but rather criticizes the doctrine… he reveals a fundamental and *deeply* ethnocentric understanding of the Islamic world.

    The core text *itself* is holy. To attack it is to attack a Muslim’s sense of self. If he does indeed understand this, then what is the purpose of criticizing the doctrine?

    To try to solve the problem? Doubtful. You don’t persuade people by pissing them off. As a person with an understanding of marketing, Tim, I’m sure you’re well aware of that. You piss people off if you want to draw those close to you even closer. But to draw in new people? To persuade them?

    That would be foolish. Sam doesn’t strike me as foolish. So tell me, what’s the purpose of his messages?

    To inform? Why inform? For the sake of it? That would puzzle me. Sam is a deliberate man and he appears to choose his words so carefully that he returns to them to point out when journalists have misquoted him. He is so easily misquoted because context is everything with Sam.

    Tim, when you quoted Sam’s passage on psychedelics, he was very careful to point out that there are caveats and that you must read the article as a whole to understand the context.

    So Sam’s messages about Islam must serve a purpose within the context of his other messages. The only one purpose that makes sense to me is his belief that religion, and Islam in particular, drives people to madness that should be feared. He can claim that the fear is rational, given how many extremists have taken control of countries at gun point in the name of religion.

    A bit of a comical conclusion to draw though, considering that the people of those countries (many of whom are Muslim) are only taken at gun point because they *don’t have guns* and prefer peace and prayer to guns and lesser jihad.

    But anyway, I see how someone might observe the correlation and draw the conclusion that the problem must be the God part. Or at the very least, the “belief” part.

    But if you really do believe that, then it’s not the “doctrine” that’s at issue here, but the people interpreting it.

    What kills me is that this is lost on a man who is constantly, repeatedly misquoted by the media. Take for example the story of how people said he was advocating for a first strike against the Muslim world. That wasn’t really what he said. His context clarifies that, based on his *fear* of a group of people unafraid of death, it would make sense to be prepared for a scenario where they attain sufficient weaponry to be of danger.

    He points back to his *own work* his *doctrine* to demonstrate that that’s not what he said. The context matters.

    And yet people are constantly pulling quotes out of the Qur’an and doing the exact same thing. It’s not the doctrine… it’s the people.

    What many do not understand about the Qur’an is that it is not a stand-alone text and was never, ever designed to be. In fact, the Qur’an was collated long after the death of the Prophet.

    To understand the Qur’an, you absolutely *must* understand the context. The problem is that to rewrite the Qur’an to take that context into account is theologically impossible. Different people take the Qur’an (which you can think of as God’s answers to problems of the day) and the circumstances which brought about the verses therin, and conclude with different answers.

    So Islam’s problem isn’t the doctrine. It’s the education of the people. It’s *Muslims*.

    Muslims are the problem. Many are uneducated, and the ones who are, are given a black and white understanding of the Qur’an that is built more upon the life of the Prophet (and a reverence of him) that can be argued to be inconsistent with a core tenant of the text: no man should be worshipped.

    You’ll find that many of these very educated men who wind up running the Taliban or heading up ISIS don’t worship God. They worship the image of the prophet Muhammad, whom they view as the perfect man.

    These are not doctrinal problems. These are people problems.

    Anyway, I’ve said my piece. I’ve made religion a life-long study and have explored Islam, Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Atheism (not a formal religion, but an aspect of religious study), Hinduism and a variety of other faiths. I see in them potential for harm just as I see in them potential for great good. These religions contain metaphors for understanding life and death, and guidelines for good behaviour.

    To fully grasp these metaphors, knowledge of language is important. I am not fluent in any of the languages for these religions or philosophies (except English, but there are few faiths with texts that originate in English). However, each time I extend my knowledge of a language, I understand things I didn’t grasp before. I see more commonalities than differences, and it’s allowed me to reach this conclusion:

    It’s not “organized religion” that’s bad. It’s “human systematization without challenge” that’s bad.

    A system must contain within it a mechanism for challenge. The problem is that we give up the right to “challenge” when we are told that the system is in danger. We can’t defeat the ‘outside’ if we’re fighting from within, so we must unite!

    To do so, we hush up our dissent. We kill the system by valuing its preservation more than its growth. This happens *everywhere*.

    So do I disagree with Sam? Not entirely. I just think his focus has been misplaced.

    1. I felt that you could have done more to challenge or push back on his more controversial ideas Tim. I can see that you didn’t want to turn the whole podcast into a debate on Islam, but just saying “That makes a lot of sense” (which we’re learned is a Ferriss catchphrase) after his lengthy diatribe lowered you in my estimation (although I can’t imagine that’ll keep you awake at night!). Perhaps “I can see why that would be controversial” would have been more appropriate in this case.

    2. His point is you don’t have to twist or pervert Islam to create something dangerous, just to take the Koran and Hadiths very literally and fanatically, which in fact Islam encourages because the Koran is taught to be word for word perfect and Mohammed to be the perfect man. That’s the problem. Muslims who are moderate and who integrate well in western democracies and are friendly towards non-Muslims are just less fanatical and don’t apply the bits that don’t fit their modern, tolerant morals. But if you are a fanatic and fundamentalist of some religion with no violence or intolerance in its texts then you would be harmless.

      1. Orlando, this is not quite accurate.

        When the Qur’an was revealed, it was presented as poetically superior to any other form of poetry that existed at the time. From the very *start* it was verse, and filled with simile, metaphor, and other very flexible language.

        Where things went awry isn’t in merely the literalist interpretation of the Qur’an. If you were to literally interpret the Qur’an it would become rife with contradictions that cannot be explained with a *more* literal interpretation.

        Instead, the literalists are the ones who must cut out the bits that don’t fit their dogma.

        The version of Islam that exists today *is* twisted and perverted, not because the Qur’an and Hadith have somehow become more literally interpreted, but rather because the freedom to debated and discuss the finer points of faith have been closed off.

        A culture of repression has become the norm, and anyone who “interprets” the Qur’an in a way that differs from what a specific set of *scholars* have said is said to be an innovator of religion (a concept with a very negative connotation).

        The rulings of these orthodox scholars (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali, etc.) are often more easily understood and adhered to than the Qur’an itself. The language is more accessible, especially since the evolution of Arabic literature and the general literacy rate of the Arab world has been on the decline.

        The result is a Muslim community dominated by an Orthodox sect of the religion that is determined to focus on the fear of hell as punishment (which, in the Qur’an, is temporary unless a truly heinous crime is perpetrated) instead of the forgiveness of God.

        I frankly believe Sam Harris to be naive. I think he sees the structure of religion as the root of all evil because he perceives it as an invention and not a natural outcome of our human instincts. He takes religion as a predefined concept and rather than look at it’s general structure and recognize in it the very same structures that exist in a secular political environment, boxes it on its own and says “this is religion and it is bad.”

        What Harris identifies as a problem of religion, I identify as a problem of politics. Harris’s biggest issue with religion isn’t what it does for its followers, it’s what its followers do on behalf of it. That’s an issue of politics, and in fact most of the criticisms Harris has of Islam come from the fact that it is a religion uniquely intertwined with politics at such a deep level that it’s hard for many to imagine a non-political Islam.

        Anyway, I’ve run long, but just some additional thoughts to consider.

  22. Hi Tim,

    I’ve just started listening to your podcasts. I swear they’re more addictive than anything pharmacological you may have mentioned: Outstanding work – hugely appreciated.

    On the topic of mediation, one link you have probably already come across, but just in case it’s new to you – check out Andy Puddicombe at It has been the most effortless introduction to meditation for me. I use the iPhone App – plug in headphones and have a transformational experience on my daily commute.

    Andy is an Englishman from very typical working class toots – he then spent years training as a monk in Asia- before returning to the UK where he has utterly demistified mindfulness with a bite sized series of sequential guided meditations that span a full year.

    Very easy, very fun, very effective. Actually – he might be a good person for you to interview, too. (Please note, I have absolutely nothing to do with Andy – so there is nothing for me to gain by sending you this – just sharing!)

    Do please keep up the good work. It’s much appreciated (and yes, I went out and bought your books on the back of the podcast – so it is ‘passive income’ generating for you, too).

    Warmest regards from London,


  23. Hi Tim, you seem to be hip to the neuroscience community. I’m wondering what are your thoughts on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)? Have you ever tried it or talked to neuroscientists who are familiar with it?

  24. LSD use, under the correct set and setting, can be one of the most profound experiences you can have in your life. It’s like seeing the Matrix.

    Explore your mind. We need more people to speak up about this wonderful “drug” because the benefit it could provide to humanity is immense.

  25. Odd request – Love the podcast and every single interview you’ve done so far as sparked ideas and fascinated me. However, I listen to the cast mostly on my phone when walking, and I’ve noted the volume is noticeably lower than some of the other podcasts I listen to – so much so that I missing things due to traffic/noises on the bus. Any chance you could boost the audio a notch or two without losing quality?

  26. Have thoroughly enjoyed these podcasts, but this one was a disappointment. It’s a shame that someone so intelligent and refined, such as Sam, has such a twisted view of Islam. It’s one thing to disagree with others’ religious beliefs, even vehemently, but it’s another when one uses their position of intellectual authority to spread information that is not an honest analysis of belief/doctrine, but a critique on the modern Muslim world in all of it’s disaster, chaos, and despair.

    I’m all for controversial statements and ideas, but they should be interesting and new; not grounded on the same old talking points of tea-party politicians and self-interested fear mongers.

    All in all, just a really surprising topic to be raised on a podcast that brings really cool topics to the foreground.Glad to see Tim didn’t join into the rant. This was the silver lining of the podcast. Much respect.

  27. Thank you for your pursuit of truth. Its really cool that you were willing to have this guest.


    PS Ive read all your books, watched your tv show ect.

    thank you for everything. You have changed my life..

  28. Tim,

    your podcasts, posts, books, experiments, etc. etc. encourage my hope (one of those old connotative words, huh?) for the intelligent advancement of humanity. Your influence has increased the amount of action I take towards improving the quality of human life… as well as reduced my anxiety in relationship to doing important tasks.

    Basically, I cannot reasonably quantify my gratitude for your existence, missions, activities, postings, teachings, etc

    Thank you! so fucking much

  29. From a Peace loving Muslim: Dr Harris addresses points on Islam some of which are unfortunately misinformed due to cultural practices which are not Islamic. Islam mean tolerance and peace and is considered a universal religion. Such a religion cannot be called peaceful or tolerant if it promotes violence or states that there is a death penalty for apostasy in Islam which is simply not true one is free to enter and leave Islam as they wish with no penalty incurred.

    Jihad means to strive against one’s own sins and to fight the inner battle against one’s own satan.

    The permission to fight to protect one’s own religion and defend one’s faith was only granted once in the history of Islam during the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) time and this was only after some 13 years of persecution under the meccans and then divine permission was granted. Since then no further divine permission has been granted for the use of violence and today is the time for the pen not the sword.

    Additionally Martyrdom is not the only way to heaven and you do not have to be a muslim to enter heaven but are judged upon your own good deeds and merits.

    Let me add that Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) was a peace loving prophet who in his life established peace amongst the Arabs and amongst religions take the covenant of granting protection and other privileges to the monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

    For further info please look at and go to the IslamicFAQ/askislam/ library section for further questions

  30. This was the fourth or fifth Tim Ferriss Show podcast I’ve listened to so far. They have all been ace, and have given me so much stuff to think about and explore. However, this was the first one I had to press play on again the moment it finished in case I missed anything the first time. I’ve spent a whole evening on this episode and I think that after the dust settles that I will have fundamentally changed the way I think about more than one of the topics covered.

    Tim, thank you so much for introducing me to Sam Harris, he is intelligent and astute and brave and thoughtful and articulate in a top-tenth-of-a-percent-of-the-population kinda way. It’s easy to see why you guys get on 😉

    I saw your latest random show earlier on today too (girlfriend is away for the weekend so I’ve been catching up!) ..I hope you’re feeling better buddy, if not then get well soon.

    This might be the first time I’ve commented on anything on your site (I’m really sorry!), but I love most everything you’ve done. Thank you so much. Honestly I can’t thank you enough. You are really an inspiration and a doer of great things.

    I’m gushing, but you know how it is, it’s late, girlfriend’s away, you’ve been told you shouldn’t masturbate…… Just kidding 😛

    Get well amigo, take care

  31. You mentioned you’ve been spending time with Adam Gazzaley at the Sandler Neuroscience building @ UCSF. Can you tell us what you and Adam are up to? (side note: I used to work at UCSF and edited a medical journal called the Annals of Neurology; I published Sam Harris’s first research article from his PhD work). -Adam Stewart, former Managing Editor of the Annals of Neurology

  32. Sam Harris is not credible. He did not double check his sources when he ridiculed Pope Francis for suggesting dogs can go to heaven. Francis never said that but Harris jumped on it. His views are suspect and are not believable.

  33. Whilst Sam is an intelligent and engaging guest I found his views on Islam troubling and misguided. For instance female genital mutilation is not an Islamic issue – in Niger, for instance, Christian women are more than 25 times more likely to sugger this than Muslim women. Additionally creating a direct link between militant Islam as being representative of the religion is akin to saying the IRA represent all Catholics – intellectually weak but easy to sell as a concept

  34. Sam Harris is completely off base and some what of a hypocrite. He’s actually very dangerous and the amount of people he is able to reach makes him more so.

    He espouses his own form of good news just like a fundamental religious person. He is using the same drug that a bible belter or an extremist muslim uses when ranting about their belief structure. There is no difference between him and the people he marginalizes.

    He participates in his own form of organized religion where spiritual beliefs and connection are replaced by technology.

    Yes Islam began with a conquest but it was not about spreading religion it was about an arabic royal family gaining control and wealth.

    Most wars have been fought under the flag of religion but with the intention of power and control. Most knights fought in the crusades for the riches they heard about.

    He should not be taken seriously. He is as ridiculous has any raving religious adherent speaking in definites about their belief structure.

    I enjoy many works from atheist’s who keep it an open forum. He demonizes whether he thinks he is or isn’t.

    He is the opposite of evolution. I do believe organized religion is on its way out. And I do believe technology is the next step in human evolution.

    But tolerance is something that is crucial to evolution.

    I love you Tim, you have changed my life drastically. I enjoy just about everything you do. But I am disappointed that you give creadance to what I believe is a calm zen like mad man in Sam Harris. I’ll never stop listening to the podcast, I just felt compelled to say something. LOL The show with Rick Rubin was great as he was a hero of mine growing up. Keep up the good work and it’s great to hear passion on the daily while I work on my internet business which you inspired into creation.

  35. Tim, I asked my cousin Doug who has been practicing TM for 40 years about Vipassana and here is what he said: Yes, I do know a bit about Vipassana. I practiced it in college. In fact, right now I am in Kathmandu Nepal where there are a number of Vipassana Meditation Centers. Unfortunately, there is no “unbroken line of teachers originating from Lord Buddha”, as described in the website. What has evolved today is as varied as there are meditation enthusiasts. And as the website says: “The course requires hard, serious work.”

    I know that some TM meditators have found some fascinating benefits from Vipassana, but only when the techniques are practiced in tandem. Unfortunately without TM, Vipassana can be difficult and uninspiring. The emphasis is on intent concentration and contemplation. The scientific research indicates that the benefits are somewhat less than the placebo effect. However, for someone at a high stage of awakening, it can bring some good focus. Otherwise, the benefits quickly diminish after the 10 day session.

    Personally I love that you are so keen and alert to opportunities to expand consciousness. That’s the key. Keep your attention on the highest goal. There are many paths. Personally, I think that you’re doing great with your 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. 🙂

  36. Harris’s comments on Islam are classic, tired bigotry. He’s cherry-picking extremist perspectives and claiming they are doctrine, but Islam has no authoritative doctrine, only a vast collection of competing claims to authoritative religious opinion and a billion ways to engage those opinions. His disregard for a large moderate Islamic voice indicates bias, not serious consideration of a complex religious landscape. Speaking from a place of privilege and emphasizing false assumptions, he makes sweeping skewed negative judgements on the beliefs of a billion and a half people that just happen to be mostly brown and under-privileged. And he’s surprised that his blunt claims have racial implications? That surpise laughable, irksome, and suggestive of a social ingorance that is a convenient form of intellectual and moral laziness among the socially priviledged.

  37. I really enjoy Sam Harris’s view on meditation, and spirituality in general. I remember listening to the audio book version of “Waking Up” and feeling like a lot of the key points were going over my head… simply because he throws such mind bending concepts at you.

    I’ll have to reread the book in text format haha.

    But part of the reason I like Sam so much is that he puts everything in non-religious, “woo-woo” terms. I personally am unsure of my spiritual beliefs, but I definitely don’t need religion to access any divinity that may be present in this world.

    And while there are many Buddhist ideas that are very useful, at it’s heart, one does not need to have any faith in a god or even a Buddha in order to reap benefits from meditation.

    So, thank you Sam for bringing meditation into a more secular context, and thank you Tim for bringing Sam on this show and sharing this content with us for free! 🙂

  38. Hey Tim, love that you put the topics covered with links below the podcasts. “Wait, dudes just discussed Blood Meridian? I’m in,” or “Wait, dudes just discussed Seneca? I am in,” is my usual response. Keep up the good work, brotha, great podcast.

  39. Tim

    Thank you for sharing – reading Tools which I got at your ny show and reviewing podcasts most of which I have listened to and taken notes – have you written

    /expressed your own thoughts when guests have had contradictory viewpoints – Sam Harris very critical of Frances Collins , author of book recommended by Dom Dagastino – or on a slightly less worldly level Pavels love of the kettle bell swing and Charles Poliqiuns distaste for it – struggling myself more with the former but would be interested in your take.

    1. I think if people here really want to “expand their consciousness”, etc., they’ll immediately read “Ironclad Evidence Billy Meier UFO Case Real”, which is not only still ongoing – for over 75 years – but far more about the spiritual teaching than the singularly authentic UFO evidence.

      At the very least, should you confirm its authenticity for yourself, you might wonder why you never knew about it before. And then ponder what you’ll do about it now that you know.