An Interview

with Ryan DeMares

By Celeste Adams

If a dolphin comes to you in a dream, it was not a dream. The dolphin has really come.

--A Maori saying


Ryan DeMares holds a doctorate in interspecies communication. Her emphasis is on transpersonal consciousness, the human-nonhuman animal bond, and bioethics. Her interest in the psycho-spiritual effects of animals has led to pioneering work that bridges scientific knowledge and intuitive wisdom.

Adams: You are the first person with Ph.D. in Interspecies Communication. How do you define that field of study?

DeMares: I’ve defined it in a specific way. My interest has been the transpersonal aspect of communication, away from our small self into a larger sense of the world -- that unity of cosmic consciousness that some people have. It's an understanding beyond words that moves us beyond our language base, which is so object oriented. For me, interspecies communication is about understanding higher levels of experience, which is communion, not just language.

Adams: When you talk about communion, are you also talking about telepathic communication with other species?

DeMares: If we look at the meaning of the word telepathy; telos means distance, pathy means feeling and suffering. In the strictest sense of the term, we're really looking at feeling over distance and that relates to the sense of communion. Telepathic communication is part of strong emotional bonds.

Rupert Sheldrake explains this in terms of morphic fields, which makes a lot of sense to me. These are fields that form between members of a social group, whether it’s animal, human or crossover, interspecies. That relates back to interspecies communications at a higher level.

Adams: Why are dolphins here on this planet?

DeMares: From an anthropocentric point of view, I think they're here to teach us different values because they've been evolving here much longer than humans. They've taken a different track of evolution and they access a different set of possibilities in life. If we were to contemplate their track, it might help to enlighten us in our track. From the point of view that is not human-centered, they are here for the same reason all life is here, as a unique manifestation of the creative principle of the universe.

Adams: What do you think of John Lilly’s idea for the Cetacean Nation and for having a Cetacean ambassador at the United Nations?

DeMares: John Lilly was extremely visionary and I certainly think that in some parallel existence a Cetacean Nation is possible. I think that it's impossible for it to happen at this time, but that's not to say that can’t change, in the foreseeable future.

The concept of a Cetacean Nation and having dolphins represented in the United Nations was first proposed several decades ago. I don't know how exactly it would happen but because it has been proposed, the idea is in the collective consciousness.

Adams: Can you explain what you mean by getting to know dolphins by "becoming the other."

DeMares: That's one of my favorite concepts in interspecies communication. In order to become the other you have to be able to really identify with the other. Then you begin to anticipate in the way that the other would anticipate.

The shamans have experiences with becoming the other, and this may be manifest in shapeshifting. Also, in dreams, we can become the other. Animal trackers, in order to be very successful at what they do, need to become the other. In that state, they think like the animals and so can predict what they did or will do.

Through breathwork, we can transcend our egocentric consciousness. Shamanic journeying, breathwork, and dreamwork can help us to move beyond our egocentric consciousness. That's where we have these experiences of empathizing with and experiencing another.

Adams: Can you explain how dolphins breathe?

DeMares: Dolphins are conscious breathers and are always consciously aware of their breath, while humans are rarely aware of their breath. A dolphin has a nervous system that requires it to be fully awake and aware in order to breathe. This was discovered when Lilly anesthetized a dolphin to do an experiment and it died. Half of their brain is always awake, and always has conscious control over their breathing.

Adams: Do you think it’s important for people to become conscious breathers?

DeMares: In my nonprofit organization, The Dolphin Institute, my colleague Chris Peknic is the person who specializes in breathwork. He has a MSW degree and is also a marine biologist. His concept is to bring together marine biology and transpersonal psychology. I have participated in breathwork activities, but I am not the person in The Dolphin Institute who is focusing on this concept. But I do know that awareness of the breath is an important part of an individual’s development and is an important spiritual exercise. In noticing our breath we can more easily bring ourselves back to center. The idea that my colleague is putting forth is that as we become more aware of breath we begin to enter into a new kind of consciousness. That new kind of consciousness helps us connect with the other, in this case the dolphins.

Adams: What can we learn from dolphin emotions that would help humans with their own emotions?

DeMares: It's been my observation that all animals live in the present. Through my interspecies work, I've begun to consciously try to be like them in that respect. Dolphins have highly developed cognitive processes and are our aquatic peers. The dolphins have a marvelous way of flowing with the moment -- focusing on play or sex or foraging for food. If you watch a wild dolphin, you would have the impression that it flows through the day in a joyous ongoing existence. We can all envy this.

Adams: Why do dolphins have such extraordinary healing capacities for humans?

DeMares: That question will take a long time to be fully answered. I think that people who are drawn to dolphins are in need of healing, and are ready to take that next step. I think dolphins have a strong catalytic effect on people. They’re very unique because of their aquatic evolutionary path. Most people only see dolphins in movies or on TV, but to be with them is quite a unique event that in the best circumstances can become a cathartic interaction.

It's been noted that dolphins know how to 'push a person’s buttons', a good way to describe how they can really get to that person. How they know what those buttons are I don't really know, but I’ve seen it happen on the swims. The dolphins often bring out what is needed to effect changes in some way.

Adams: In your book you describe a beautiful peak experience that you had with dolphins.

To be in the presence of dolphins is always a special event, but there is one particular encounter that comes to mind when I am asked about my own peak experiences. One day, while swimming in a bay in Hawaii, I saw the bobbing forms of three swimmers coming toward me through the swells. Thinking I might know someone in the group, I began to swim toward them. As the distance between us closed, I suddenly realized dolphins were accompanying them. By then, I was just yards away from the group, and I could see half a dozen dolphins circling the swimmers. Soon dolphins began to circle me as well. Sometimes I found myself in the midst of the pod. At other moments, I glimpsed the animals as they darted past.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by at least a dozen dolphins. One singled itself out from the pod and swam straight toward me. Our eyes locked in a gaze. I faced the dolphin squarely and, with as powerful of a kick of my flippers as I could manage without clumsily splashing the surface and perhaps frightening it away, I propelled myself downward through the water. Matching my angle and speed precisely, the dolphin swam alongside me.

Like me, it was rolled slightly sideways, a belly toward me, for a full view of its swimming partner. A distance of less than a foot separated us as we moved along together in a perfect harmony of motion. Had I reached out, I could have easily touched its sleek body. In a rush of emotions, I felt an unprecedented joyfulness, a sense of unity with the creature, a feeling of ecstasy. I even had the sudden, irrational thought that I could have died at that very moment, feeling fully satisfied with life. This experience, in itself, seemed enough. Time no longer existed. The dolphin and I seemed to be mirrors of each other.

DeMares: I've been told that when I enter the water I'm totally transformed and connected. Of course, I cannot see myself, so this is secondhand, but when people see me in the water, they comment on the beauty of the movements and when I come out I'm glowing. I suspect what this means is that I'm not so connected on land. In a way, that makes sense to me, since all my life I've sensed that the water is my element.

Adams: Why are so many children dreaming about dolphins?

DeMares: There’re probably several factors. They might be seeing them on TV, and it gets into their subconscious. But that's only one explanation. I believe that dolphins are calling to many people, at this point in our history.

Children are very open to animals and open to psychic experiences. As we get older, we tend to shut down pyschically and shut off emotionally, and also we become conditioned by our culture to diminish animals. Dolphins do a great job of cutting through all of this. They seem to be calling to all of humanity on the unconscious level, but it makes sense that children are going to be receiving some of that message, even children who have never seen or thought previously about dolphins, since they are so open psychically.

We do get stories of children who believe they were dolphins in earlier lifetimes and some of them, even as children, are becoming advocates for dolphins. I don’t know what that really signifies, but we can hope they will continue in that way of thinking as they become adults, and remain proactive on dolphin causes.

Among the growing number of people in Western culture who are feeling called by the dolphins are some who believe themselves to be dolphins in human form. This believe, which is reminiscent of the indigenous peoples’ traditions, is now emerging even among children, some of whom become aware of their cetacean connection through dreams. Jeremy Taylor, a professional dream worker, is among those who have noticed dolphins appearing increasingly in childrens’ dreams. "I have met one young lad who dreams of dolphins so often that he is convinced he is a reincarnated dolphin, coming back in human form to do something about the human decimation of the wild dolphin population"….

The former Soviet Union is the cradle of the reemergence in modern culture of the Homo delphinus mythology. From there, word of a new kind of aquatic human has spread to other parts of the industrialized world - myths of babies and children who live in the water. These children are said to sleep on the bottoms of swimming pools and come up for air about once in every six mintutes, dolphinlike. Yet, no references to Homo delphinus are to be found in the scientific journals. Nor do the journals mention dolphin midwifery, which is a folk practice.

Adams: Can you describe the myth of Homo delphinus?

DeMares: Homo delphinus is one of my favorite dolphin myths, if you want to use the word myth. When I talk about a myth, I talk about the way we view the world. What I mean by the myth of Homo delphinus is the belief that we are co-evolving and possibly converging with dolphins, which would be that humans will acquire a more dolphinlike nature.

A few scientists have seriously proposed that the primate lineage from which we humans branched off was at one time partially aquatic. Now, in humanity’s collective conscious, a mythology is emerging to point us back to the ocean - the mythology of Homo delphinus, a new species of human, literally, human-dolphin. Though the species is new, the concept is as old as humankind. A close relationship between humans and dolphins is portrayed in the mythologies of many cultures, starting with the oldest culture of all, that of the Australian aborigines. In certain tribes of contemporary Australian aborigines, the mythology of a shared ancestry between humans and dolphins lives on, and some aborigines continue to retain their traditional belief in the transmigration of souls between humans and dolphins.

Adams: What about the Golden Dolphin?

DeMares: That’s a fascinating legend. The legend of the Golden Dolphin had its origin in the 70s when a small group of people tried to live and swim in proximity to dolphins in Australia. I don't know exactly how they accomplished that. They also tried to have dolphins with them during conception, and again I don’t know exactly how that worked. Reportedly, at least one woman became pregnant.

Ten days before the birth in 1976, the father had a powerful psychic experience, and channeled what turned out to be an epic saga. The writing went on until the child’s birth. The story that emerged from the writing became known as the legend of the Golden Dolphin. It described the dolphins' journey from another star system, Sirius, and how the dolphins began to teach the inhabitants of earth. This has interesting corollations with the Dogon tradition of North Africa, which has legends of coming from that very star system.

The person who channeled this epic still lives in Australia with his family. I am told he lives a reclusive life and is not capitalizing on this experience. The legend, however, has been passed on and others tell it orally.

Adams: Why is it so powerful to look into the eye of a dolphin?

DeMares: I think eye contact is very powerful and it is certainly seems crucial to having a peak experience involving an animal. If we look at various paths, there is a lot of emphasis put on eye contact. It allows a transmission, as in darshan.

I don't attribute mystical powers to the dolphin, but some people do. I don’t emotionally connect with them any differently than any other species. It's that life force energy that we really are connecting with. There are people that think the dolphins are ascended masters. I would be interested to know how they define the term. I guess they've channeled that information, but I don’t make that connection.

I believe there are some among them who may be more evolved in their individual consciousnesses, just as there are humans who are more evolved. In fact, you could probably take any of the species we normally associate with, and perhaps even some we don't normally consider or encounter, and single out some individual who are more altruistic or more conscious in some defined way. Certainly, I've heard of dogs, cats, and horses like that, and there also are savant birds.

Adams: Why is the government continuing to use sonar in the water when it threatens their existence?

DeMares: I have met Navy radar technicians who talk about how they personally love the dolphins. One of them told me he and his crewmates love it when the dolphins ride on their boat's pressure waves, and they communicate with them through the hull (by tapping). It's usually not the individual who is so callous. When we talk about the government, we are talking about this amorphous body that is the government. Who is it? Then we get the military in there and they have one mission, and it is national defense.

Very recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service granted the Navy the right to do dolphin "takes" during its passive sonar deployment. This was the last step in opening the door for Low Frequency Sonar to be deployed. Now, it is possible for the military to do whatever it wants with regard to other species if training is going on. If there are endangered species in a bombing range it doesn't matter, they can still carry out their activities. The military is supreme and they want to take further measures to insure their supremacy. In this climate of terrorism, it has been difficult to counteract that.

Adams: Do you think that dolphins will become extinct or do you think that they’ll be able to survive polluted oceans and sonar testing.

DeMares: I don't want to say that they will be extinct, because we don't know. There are a lot of reasons that they could become extinct. We know too well the reality of the extinction of species, and the large mammals are especially threatened because they compete with us for territory and food.

The dolphins are unique in that they are in the ocean and not on the land. The dolphins are threatened by toxins in the ocean, sonar, and because dolphins follow the tuna schools, they are victims of the tuna industry. A lot of dolphins are caught every year by tuna fisherman, and that’s an important factor that over the years has added up to many hundreds of thousands of dolphins.

So, while I don't know if they'll be extinct, I’m looking at the things that are happening and I’m very concerned. I feel very sad about any species that becomes endangered or extinct.

Adams: I found it comforting when you wrote about the holographic concept that we’ll hold in our mind if dolphins should become extinct on this planet.

If the dolphins and whales leave, and many of the other sea creatures follow them, the sea will become a lonely place for me. Traditional native American belief holds that species that become extinct still exist in the archetypal realms, a possibility that gives me some comfort. So I am sometimes able to transmute the ominous forecast of the dolphins’ departure into a visual metaphor of transcendence and beauty.

My icon for this transformation is an image created by the visionary artist John Pitre. The painting hangs in a gallery in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, Hawaii. Every time I lead a dolphin encounter group on the Kona Coast, I stop by the gallery to view the painting. The scene it depicts always brings tears to my eyes, but, along with those tears, I also feel filled with a quiet peace. The image shows a tropical ocean filled with dolphins who are ascending from the sea to the sky through a circular rainbow. This symbol of transformation is the vision I hold in my heart for the dolphins.

Adams: How can people help save the dolphins?

DeMares: The answer is on several levels. They can stay informed about the issues, and continue to bring pressure on Congress whenever it is needed. They can write their Congress people to express opposition to Low Frequency Sonar deployment. With the recent deployment of the Low Frequency Active Sonar, some dolphin activists are saying that the next step is to form a group like Greenpeace that is dedicated to putting people in the water between the Navy ships and the pods. Also, people can stop buying tuna even though certain brands claim to be dolphin free. From the material that I’ve received, it’s very hard to tell and it's so easy for companies to sell their brands in a misleading way. So I personally don't eat tuna at all.

Helping to prevent toxic pollution of the ocean is another big one. Whatever happens to the oceans will happen to us. We’re already seeing the effects of it. It's not just dolphins. The oceans are the lifeblood of the planet. When you talk about effectively making a difference in these issues, you’re really talking about the entire planet.

Adams: What do you want most to accomplish in your work with dolphins?

DeMares: I think dreams change with time. Maybe some people have one static dream for their life, but for me, my vision evolves with time. I find myself moving into a space where I'm very concerned with making the connection from the voice of the dolphins in the ocean, to humanity and human transformation.

At first, when I started writing my book, I was writing about a transformation on a personal level, which is a transformation that leads to a stronger sense of our real self, and personal empowerment. But my writing quickly evolved to writing about personal transformation as a stepping stone to transformation at a cultural level. We can become more empathic with other species, so that we can move towards a better world. Then of course there's the planetary transformation, where we can come into harmony in our environment. This latter aspect of transformation has become a particularly conscious dream or goal of mine in recent months, perhaps because an earlier phase of my work, the book, helped to crystallize it. Now, with the book done, I am freer to turn my energies more fully toward doing my part to help it to become a reality.

This interview was conducted on July 12, 2002

All quotes are from Ryan’s new book Dolphins, Myths and Transformation.
You can order this book through your local bookstore starting September 1, or purchase it now through her website or by writing to:

The Dolphin Institute Press
P.O. Box 1093
Boulder, CO 80306-1093

Tel: 720 771 9963

If you are interested in swimming with dolphins, or watching dolphins and snorkeling, you can contact Ryan DeMares at the address listed above. Please see her website for more information about The Dolphin Institute, the subject of interspecies communication, dolphin advocacy, and seminars.

This article appeared in The Spirit of Ma'at Magazine



Copyright © 2002, Celeste Allegrea Adams

All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, transmitted, or translated in any form whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations referenced in critical articles.