Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guests Beverly Knauer and Dr. Murray H. Rosenthal, authors of The Exigent Earth.
Murray is a world-renowned, board certified psychiatrist, researcher, and lecturer. Currently, he is managing a farm in Fiji and mentoring young entrepreneurs in the medical arena. He thrives on adventure and travels extensively, including trekking throughout Southeast Asia, and more recently sailing around the world.
Beverly is a multi-award-winning author and is devoted to giving her readers fiction novels that stimulate out-of-the-box, thought-provoking content that expands the mind and imagination. During her career as chief of rehabilitation services for the county of San Diego, she administered and managed a program that provides physical and occupational therapy services for children with physical disabilities. She has authored two previous novels, The Line Between and The Soul's Hope.
Norm: Good day Murray and Beverly and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you two get together and decide to write The Exigent Earth?
As a follow up, why did you choose to write the book as science fiction?
Murray: I’ve carried this story (originally; A Message from Mother) around for 20 years. Initially I envisioned it as a movie and began writing down what I saw. After working on it intermittently for years, I’d set it aside until we embarked upon our round the world sailing adventure. With hours and days on the high sea, I became re-inspired. As new experiences unfolded, I began to alter or add to the story-line.
I reached a point where I knew that help was needed if I was ever to have my vision become a reality. Scientific papers I could write, but I had no experience at novel writing. With a version in hand that was close to complete, I contacted a few potential ghost/co-writers, but none seemed to fit. Due to my involvement with multiple projects, I needed an author who was willing and able to commit the time and who had the talent to bring the characters to life.
Sometime the simplest answers are right in front of us. My wife, Janet had read various drafts of my story and suggested I consider her lifelong friend; Beverly. She’s been a part of our family from the start and was already a successful author and could bring the details to life and more fully develop the characters. For me it was a great fit as, Olivia’s character fit right in with Beverly’s published books in the visionary fiction genre. Having a woman coauthor also brought balance to dynamic between science and the spiritual.
Beverly: When I was offered the opportunity to co-author what is now titled The Exigent Earth with Murray, I felt honored and privileged. Once I read the story-line, I loved it, finding myself resonating with the theme and the underlying messages. With that in mind, I felt I could develop the story. Around fifty-eight drafts later, I felt satisfied, and I’m pleased with our collaboration and how it all came together.
The reason why we wrote the book as science fiction is because that’s how Murray envisioned the story. The main character is a scientist born of parents who are scientists. The story deals with scientific principles, scientific experiments, space and spacecraft along with the exciting element of something mystical. Science fiction is the best genre to speculate and speak to the question of “what if” that underlies this book.
Science fiction is a genre of limitless possibilities and of course it has literary tropes like other genres. Examples of sci fi tropes might include: robots, interstellar space travel, time travel, aliens, and post apocalyptic worlds. I think The Exigent Earth falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction, more soft science fiction than hard. Instead of delving deep into the technical aspects of the story (hard sci fi), the main focus of our story (soft sci fi) is on the reactions of the characters due to changes in science and technology in their world as well as the social consequences of those situations.
Norm: Which came first for you, an interest in science fiction or one in science?
Murray: There was no term, ’geek’ when I was a kid. Early in my life I gravitated toward science and science fiction. At 13 years of age, I took third prize over all in a county science fair, doing photomicroscopy. (pretty geeky).
By 16, I was working in a lipid lab at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. My life has been spent doing research, lecturing and writing in science. Even today, supposedly retired, I consult with several medical startups and have even begun exploring a medical patent idea I have for treating chronic illnesses. Personally, science made me think and science fiction allowed me to dream; they were intertwined.
Beverly: Definitely science fiction due to my love of certain TV shows of my time. The Jetsons, in the early 60’s, fascinated me. I also loved The Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, Lost in Space, and Star Trek.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Murray: My belief is that stories come through you. They have been used through the ages to pass on information and give guidance. My personal intention is that this story resonates with readers, stimulates them to think and ask questions. I feel pleased with the result. It is interesting, and I’m sure this is true for Beverly as well, when you hand someone your story, there’s a kind of Zen letting go. For Beverly, I’m sure it weighed on her as well as a responsibility. If one embraces that delivering the message is the primary goal, we achieved it.
Beverly: My goal is to thoroughly engage the reader in the story to raise consciousness through entertainment. I love writing fiction with thought provoking messages. Walking a mile in another person’s fictional shoes allows the reader to quietly trespass into the minds and the lives of others while vicariously playing out the consequences of the character’s decisions and life lessons without having to live with the actual ramifications of the choices they make. The deeper we become enmeshed in the lives of the characters, the more we find their stories can generate strong emotions and even inspire action. I hope this story is heard as a call to action. Was that goal achieved? That’s up to the readers to determine.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Murray: As I’ve said, I am not a writer of fiction. Everyone who initially read the story encouraged me to push on and complete it. Storytelling has always been a part of my life so I was comfortable that it touched those who read it. But, when I reached a point where the story felt complete, I needed Beverly’s skills to translate and integrate the scientific information into a cogent story and give deeper insights into how science and consciousness might balance each other.
Beverly: After writing two prior books as a solo author, I can say it’s more difficult to co-author a book. Murray laid out the initial story concepts, so I had to find a way to develop the characters (even add a couple), remediate some plot holes, update some of the science and technology, add additional story-line, dialogue, and descriptions, develop the personalities of the characters and add my twist at the end, while still staying true to the original concepts.
My foremost concern was how to add my ideas and concepts and still preserve Murray’s wonderful vision and layout of the story. As I developed the personality of the characters and their relationships, I kept wondering if what I wrote would match with how Murray visualized them. Combining Murray’s ideas and concepts with mine, yet keeping close to the original vision, was my greatest challenge and concern. Thankfully, Murray was accepting of what I brought to the table and that was a huge weight off of my shoulders.
Another aspect of writing the book that was more tedious than difficult, was doing hours of research to assimilate accuracy into the fictional story-line. There were times it took three to four hours of research only to boil the findings down to one sentence in the book.
Norm: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Murray: I recall I was 11 when Einstein died and clearly remember discussions as to how he’d changed our understanding of time and space. Over the years, I’ve read and reread the notion of Quantum Entanglement. That concept, for example, is fundamental to how the boxes on Earth, the satellite and in deeper space communicate. Not sure how you reference that. I drew upon my experiences with primitive cultures, knowledge of science and what had been revealed in the dreams. Beverly, spent the better part of a year adding depth through detailed research on the story line. It’s personally fascinating that many parts of a story conceived 20 years ago have come full circle.
For example, a recent TED talk on Quantum Biology addressed the notion of unlocking cellular energy. Zac and Brian, sailing through the Panama Canal and, eventually to the Marquesas was something I actually did. Years ago we walked with the Masi in Kenya. Gabriel, our guide stopped by a dung heap, pulled out a dung beetle and proceeded to describe how it was responsible for the ecosystem thru which we were walking. What better example than that to teach how everything is interconnected.
Beverly: The other day I noticed that I’ve bookmarked over 800 articles I had used for research from a variety of different sources including YouTube lectures and Ted Talks, to support various topics in the book ranging from the body language of horses all the way to “Science Daily’s” article on Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction. For hours, I plowed through articles on Russian cultural tea traditions, Native American shamanism, Russian immigration laws, The Genesis Project, medicine drum making, the history of the Puli, navigating the sea by sexton, and how to build a Tesla coil. There was an article, FBI Finally Releases Nikola Tesla’s Documents They Seized 73 Years Ago, Nikola Tesla’s Invention For Collecting The Unlimited Energy, and The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla.
Each detail needed to be researched ranging from what life is like on Tahuata in the Marquesas to the status of the coral reefs of the Red Sea. Other articles include The Gaia Theory, Understanding the Bioterrorist Threat: Facts and Figures, Designing a Space Probe by National Geographic Society, North Korea Bioweapons Program from Business Insider, Trance and Shamanic States of Consciousness, How Particle Accelerators Work, UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming, It’s Actually Worse Than That, from the Intelligencer, as well as scalar weapons… I could go on and on…
Norm: Did the story come first, or the world it operates in?
Murray: Personally, I believe what drove me back to the story is what we saw sailing around the world. Overfishing, the presence of plastics well out to sea, bleaching reefs that were dying, and developed as well as underdeveloped countries using the ocean as a waste receptacle. Add to this the disturbing news of bees dying en masse, the destruction of our rain forests, and people were reporting climate change wherever we went. Initially, the story was my ‘Rachel Carson’ moment. It took years to recognize how that the story was unfolding all around us.
Beverly: Murray explained it perfectly.
Norm: Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those.
Murray: I defer to my resident wordsmith; Beverly
Beverly: Virginia and Nikolai discuss mitochondria when they are in the lab together, so allow me to give a definition for that word. Mitochondria are parts of our cells known as the powerhouses of the cell of almost all living things with complex cell structures. They are organelles, and it is their job to keep the cell full of energy. They even contain their own DNA sequence, which is different from the cell they are located in. Humans inherit mitochondria from the mother.
Zac and Brian and Zac and the reporter speak about quantum entanglement. It’s a complex term to define, but the easiest way is to say it’s when two particles become mysteriously linked. For example, if you know the spin of one particle, you will know what the spin of its partner is. Even if one is on the other side of the world. To represent the particles, imagine two coins. If you separately spin two coins (the particles) on the table, you don’t know which side will land up. Say those coins become entangled. When one lands, if it comes up tails, when the other one lands, it will come up heads. They are like two parts of a whole with some kind of mysterious cosmic connection. This mysterious link continues to persist when particles are separated. It’s like a bridge that links distant points in space.
Norm: What is the most important thing that people don't know about your subject, that they need to know?
Murray: There is a dilemma here. Those that already know will use their own experiences as a frame of reference and, by association, embrace the heart of the message. Those I hope to touch are people who either sit on the fence or are agnostic to the changes around us. If the story draws them in and gives them a moment of reflection, a reason to ask questions and a desire to know more; job done.
I have done lots of teaching in my life and my personal bias comes out of A S Neil’s ‘Summerhill’. Make the process of learning fun and they will learn.
Beverly: People lead full lives and they have to choose their priorities on how to live each minute of their very busy days. There are so many routine things —life maintenance tasks, I call them—that have to be carried out that it is often hard to sit down and do the research on other issues that don’t seem to be an imminent threat to them and the well-being of their family.
We often procrastinate taking action until something is immediately negatively impacting us. In terms of protecting our life on earth, we don’t want to wait until that point to take action because then it’s too late. The negative changes on earth are developing very quickly now and more and more people are starting to see the impact of the planetary changes. I think what people need to know is that we are underestimating the urgency. There are those who are simply uninformed, thinking because we might have heavy snowstorms and bitter cold weather that global warming isn’t real.
Actually, some experts say that climate change is not the problem. Climate change is the expression of the problem. Climate change is the feedback of the system of the planet earth telling us what’s happening, what’s going on. The actual problem is global warming as a result of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.
Currently, there are processes that people are working on to mitigate the issues, and there are many solutions that are feasible and being put into place right now. However, the thing we all must recognize is we need to do more and we need to do it faster, much faster, because it is an urgent, an exigent, situation.
Norm: How did you go about creating the character of Zac Sparkman?
Murray: Zac’s whole being was an act of synchronicity. The stage had to be set for him to come into the world and not be in the shadow of a father who was world renowned. I saw Zac as struggling and growing into his gifts. We often draw misconceptions in childhood about disconnected events. Zac is a metaphor for the child who blames himself for events that impact his life which he concludes he’s a cause or at fault.
Another dynamic that was important to Zac’s development was mentorship. As I’ve told my own children, parents are like Moses. We can take you to the river Jordan, but it’s mentors that bring you to the promised land. His three mentors, Olivia, Brian and Avram (a character Beverly added as an important bridge back to Zac’s father) each gave guidance in some unique way. By suffering loss, confusion, uncertainty and struggling with his gifts, Zac never took them for granted. It was critical for me that a hard-core scientist have doubt and need the spiritual guidance of a loving shaman. His life was filled with as much love as there was loss. In the end, he brought the world to the same river and left it up to them as to how to find the promised land.
Beverly: In a way, I view it that both Murray and I “gave birth” to Zac. Murray laid the foundation for Zac’s life from birth to adulthood and the psychological components of his life journey. I added storyline by way of situations that would allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about the personality characteristics that Murray identified. I added scenarios, relationship details, and dialogue that showed the reader Zac’s emotions, his passions and fears, his struggles, as well as his intense love for the important people in his life. Situations that revealed his personality characteristics helped to breathe the spark of life into the character of Zac.
One of my favorite scenes in the story was when Zac reunited with his “old friend” White Cloud, the horse. The scene is soul satisfying to me because it shows the extraordinary power of release and letting go. It’s what Murray referred to where Zac walked his childhood path carrying an underlying guilt until he was able to allow an important transition, in an explosive cathartic moment, to take place with a resultant willingness to change his self-imposed story.
Norm: A major theme in The Exigent Earth is the value of spiritual concepts such as traditional wisdom and shamanic healing. How do you reconcile this with your career as a scientific researcher, anchored in a fact-based world?
Murray: Ashrams in India, spiritual healers in South Africa, working with heart transplant patients who had near death experiences and my own personal experience with my mother’s death have shown me that there is another dimension to life. I’ve seen ‘facts’ conveniently bent to fit the needs of others and science bastardize for profit. We physicians have our roots in shamanism, just like the JudeoChristian faiths have theirs in paganism. (Joseph Campbell). Critical thinking appears to be lacking in this fact based world and we have downplayed empirical observation/experiences.
My training was a bridge between the classical areas of psychological theory and contemporary psychopharmacology. One area I have consistently lectured about is the interaction between medical conditions and the emotions. This has been an attempt to get medically oriented docs to think about what’s behind disease. Lastly, my personal journey of rehabbing myself following 6 back surgeries to the point where I’ve been able to have all of these experiences is a story of synchronicity and ‘guides’ showing up at the right time to help me heal at all levels.
My mother’s death shifted my experience of life forever. She’d been ill in Florida and I flew her to San Diego in an attempt to save her, but to no avail. Janet and I were in her room as she was in the last moments of her life when something told me the final moment was near. Gently picking up her head, I cradled it in my arms and against my chest, when something unexplainable happened. She passed thru me the moment she died, and that moment I understood and was at peace. How does one quantify that?
Beverly: I’m not a science researcher, but my training and career was based on the sciences and fact-driven research based on scientific theory. My goal with this book was to show how ancient teachings, spirituality, and science are not so far apart in scope as people think. I try to show throughout the book the contrasting approaches and eventual melding of these concepts in the characters. The prime example is Virginia with her very scientific outlook on life versus Olivia, whose core resonates with ancient wisdom and teachings. Olivia believes Zac is a child of light. Virginia thinks he is the result of a science experiment. In the beach scene in the book where Olivia and Virginia are talking to Zac, Virginia represents the scientific side as she talks about the beach shells and Olivia speaks to the spirituality of the shells. Zac is brought up enmeshed in both concepts with his uncle’s scientific mind and Olivia with her ancient wisdom.
There are people that label the merging of ‘spirituality and science’ as pseudoscience; however, spiritual concepts of our ancient world are directly intertwined with modern-day science, particularly with quantum physics. Two scientists that I greatly respect, Einstein and Nikolai Tesla, were able to embrace both concepts.
Tesla was knowledgeable in ancient teachings and he understood the correlation it had with the science projects he worked on. Nikola Tesla said it best, “the day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
Some people aren’t aware that Tesla had established a friendship with an Indian Hindu monk, Swami V. Tesla had metaphysical leanings, and he was greatly interested in Vedanta philosophy’s teachings on energy and matter. Eventually, it led him to the basis for the wireless transmission of electrical power. Tesla was aware of ancient concepts and the correlation they had with the science he was working on.
Some well-known scientists wholeheartedly embraced both spirituality and science. When we combine today’s modern scientific facts with ancient spiritual teachings we start getting the whole truth to surface. Many of the great scientists have believed that they would never truly know what they would consider the whole truth if they continued to view only one perspective and unwillingness to let go of preconceived notions.
Norm: Do you believe that natural disasters are a way for the Earth to get the attention of mankind?
Murray: So, for me, there is an internal paradox in the question. What is a ‘natural’ disaster. Earthquakes in Oklahoma are not natural. Before fracking, there had been little or no activity. Personally, I believe the lines are becoming blurred between what is a ‘natural’ disaster and those amplified by what man is doing to the planet. Notice in the story, even when warned and with experience to back it up, people were reluctant to embrace the message. This is a critical point in the story. What does it take to shift consciousness? This is exactly why the story ends with an open ended question. Zac has done all he can, if he stays, he’s either vilified or deified. Either way mankind is off the hook. Zac must leave so that humanity makes the collective choice to make peace (if it’s not too late) with earth.
Beverly: I agree with Murray about the paradox in the question of what is a natural disaster. I think the changes that are going on in our environment are the result of an earth that is out of balance, attempting to sustain homeostasis. I don’t think earth is judging. The earth in this story is not angry or mean-spirited. I don’t view Earth as a warrior who fights back. In fact, those are negative human traits and Earth would benefit if humankind were to change those traits.
In our story, Earth is sending out urgent warnings to humankind. ‘Exigent’ means requiring immediate action or aid. Conditions on the planet are altering quickly. For us as humans, when the body is starved of oxygen, our bodies seek to regulate the issue. If we hyperventilate and have too much oxygen the brainstem neurons slow down our breathing. When we get cold, sensors in the brain turn on causing us to shiver and generate heat to warm ourselves. Our bodily systems change things to maintain proper balance. That is something similar to what the earth does too. Like our bodies, Earth is also continually making adjustments to maintain constant conditions to sustain life.
Perhaps our planet is simply acting in response to what is happening on the earth through negative feedback loops to keep environmental conditions in an optimal state to support life. As Earth senses environmental threats to life on the planet, perhaps it changes and adjusts to reduce those threats. In this view, the earth is neither fragile, nor mean and vindictive. As it’s been said, humanity’s fingerprints are all over the warming of the planet. If we continue to abuse the earth in extreme ways, the adjustments Earth has to use may end up disastrous for sustaining human life. What choice will humankind make? When, and if, will people assume responsibility and take action?
Norm: In your novel you refer to some of Nikola Tesla's theories, how could some of his ideas be relevant to modern science today?
Murray: While Beverly did most of the in depth research on Tesla’s theories for the book, I am actually the medical advisor to a group that has developed a pulse magnetic energy device based upon the Tesla coil. So, yes they ideas are not only relevant but finding new traction. You probably don’t want a treatise on this here, but here’s a very brief history.
At the turn of the 20th century, there was deep and broad interest in electrical applications to health. Between the Flexner Report and the birth of the pharmaceutical industry, we made a right turn toward medicines and University control of medicine.
The resurgence of Asian medicine, such as Indian Ayurvedic, Chinese acupuncture, etc caused us to reexamine our approach to the body. Robert Becker’s The Body Electric and Countercurrents looked at the electrical fields he was uncovering and their connection to meridians and acupuncture points. Tesla was not bound by conventional ‘medical wisdom’. He clearly saw the connections between the body’s electrochemical system and that of the world around him.
Beverly: Most of us were not taught about Tesla in school; however, his work has changed all our lives, and his ideas are still very relevant to modern science today. He was the explorer of new ideas and the inventor of many things that changed the world. Most of us take the high tech conveniences we have for granted like the cell phone and television that Tesla laid the foundation for. His induction motor paved the path for the electric car while his wireless work led to the cell phones we use today. His work on remote controlled robotics includes the basis for the garage door opener, the TV remote, and robotics. There are even those who credit him with the invention of the first radio and devising a means to distribute electric power that is used worldwide.
We don’t even know the full extent of his impact as he had obtained about 300 patents. He clearly left his footprints in our modern world.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and The Exigent Earth?
Murray: Sorry, but I left social media years ago. My email is in the book and I’d be happy to answer question
Norm: What is next for Beverly Knauer and Murray Rosenthal?
Murray: Do well by doing good. I’m working to bring better nondrug treatments for chronic pain into reality, helping in the develop a compound that, as an adjunctive treatment, will have a positive impact on neurodegenerative diseases and develop my own idea for treating certain chronic illnesses. Of course, Janet and I will continue to have travel adventures and our next is in Bhutan and Northern India in March. Regarding the book and how it ends, well, let’s first see how it’s received.
Beverly: There are several stages to the production of a book: the writing, publishing and promotion. In order to get the story with its message out into the world, potential readers have to know about the book, and that involves promotion. So that’s the next step for us in regards to the book. So thank you for the opportunity to talk about a story we feel passionate about.
As for me, I want to continue on my path of consciousness raising to encourage people to challenge their belief systems, to take opportunities to think out of the box, and to encourage others to promote a better world for us all as well as future generations to come.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Murray:Thus far there haven’t been any. A dear friend who read the book did ask if I was reflected in Zac. No! I always saw Zac as a combination of Moses, Christ and Buddha. His journey is one of suffering, betrayal and loss, but also love and, to some degree redemption. In the end he shuns power and hands it back to mankind. Buried in these statements there are plenty of questions.
Beverly: No one has yet asked me this question: what role can I play in this? What, as an individual, can I do to help sustain quality life on this planet? How can I reduce global warming?
I find that people often feel powerless to take on an agenda that is so large in scope. However, each individual plays a very important role. First they need to educate themselves so they have an understanding of what is happening and spread the word to educate others. They can empower themselves by joining forces with organizations that inspire their passions. They can vote like their life depends upon it, because it does.
There are the things that many people are already aware of to reduce global warming like rooftop solar panels, electric cars, carpooling, recycling, reducing water use, replacing fossil fuels, etc., but one of the issues people may not be familiar with is the role food plays. Every person can contribute to helping the planet by what they consume. The more we eat a plant rich diet (not necessarily vegan or vegetarian) the more we will decrease meat consumption. In the United States, around 42 percent of agricultural emissions come from animal agriculture.
In developed countries like the US, one of the major factors we can change is our waste of food! This is something we can all work on. Around one third of all food produced isn’t eaten, and waste of food is around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the developed world, it’s the consumers that waste food and it ends up in the landfills where it emits methane as it decomposes. There is something every individual can do.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.