Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Ultimate Skeptic's head Trip (Part 4)

Here is the last of this particular head trip, although more will be forthcoming on this blog and elsewhere. In Parts 1-3, I've highlighted what psychedelics reveal about the brain and mind and a bit of their role in history, religion, art and science.
` It's quite fascinating stuff, starting here -- you ought to know it before pushing ahead into the last and longest-winded post of them all.

This time, we'll be merrily tripping into slightly different territory -- more on what psychedelics reveal about the self, and how quickly that self can change. I will also share my thoughts on how this relates to why these drugs are banned in much of the world.
` In Parts 1-3, I have also included descriptions of psychedelic experiences from people such as Jennifer Ouellette, Sam Harris, and many others (some anonymous).
` This time, I am employing descriptions from psychologist Timothy Leary, the neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris, the ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna -- and more -- for specific reasons which will become clear as we travel down the rabbit hole to the inner wonderland that is usually invisible.

I will discuss two main aspects of psychedelic trips -- their uniqueness and their utility. Although, for those who have expressed curiosity as to what they are like after reading the first three parts, I will start with a visual tour of the various depths of psychedelic experience that can be achieved.
` Here's a short video on the agreed-upon intensity levels of psychedelic experiences, which are classified as 1 through 5. If you'd rather skip it, or can't play it, I've summarized the levels below:

* Level 1 -- Clear-headed, although at the same time "high" as with marijuana; extremely dilated pupils and apparent visual enhancement; music seems to have a spatial quality.
* Level 2 -- Open eye visuals where objects appear to move and breathe; closed eye visuals of two dimensional patterns; noticeably elevated levels of abstract thought.
* Level 3 -- Open eye visuals of patterns, etc. on surfaces; complex, three-dimensional closed eye visuals; increased suggestibility; synesthesia, such as seeing and feeling sounds as colorful shapes and patterns. Though there seems to be much more clarity and connection with one's mind, the connection with motor control becomes a bit 'drunken' at this point.
* Level 4 -- Strong hallucinations that put WETA Workshop to shame; Closed-eye visuals of extremely complex moving patterns that seem to defy geometry; Destruction/division of the ego; Senses blend and sensory input becomes more difficult to process; Seemingly ESP-like phenomena.
* Level 5 -- Complete disconnection with vision and body; feeling as though reality is a computer simulation; immersion in an alternate kaleidoscopic dimension; obtaining what seems to be universal knowledge; encountering super-intelligent entities or an all-knowing presence.
` Despite being physically incapacitated by the 'virtual reality' at this level, one can still retain one's ability to think about what is happening to them in a fairly rational manner. (i.e. "Where has this chemical substance taken me now!?" or as Terrence McKenna has said, "Good grief, I've really done it this time!")

This may be a useful way of categorizing these experiences, although by no means can it communicate the reality, value, or utility of the subjective and neurological effects. Flashy graphics can clue people in on some of the visuals, but these cannot portray the most transformative aspects.
` So far in this series, I've included plenty about how classic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, can be used to bring about very definite ego dissolution, and help people to see how their brains construct their own personal narrative and perception of everyday reality.

The self, we know, is a process, which one's awareness can observe. From the "outside", it is possible to witness the 'selfing' occurring in your own brain. For those who are looking for a description of what this is like, alas, words can only get one so far into terra incognita:
` As I have also pointed out, the 'haves' consider a trip (especially above a level 1) outright impossible to convey to the 'have-nots': Those who are about to open the doors of perception for the first time have no idea where the doors are located, much less what can be perceived through them.

If you know more than one language, you will have had the pleasure of explaining the meaning of some phrases and words which cannot be translated directly. You will also have found that the exact sense of the meaning can still be difficult even when explaining translations.
` A much more extreme example of untranslateability is sometimes known in the psychedelic community as "translating down" experiences from the expanded mind into everyday language.
` These go so far beyond language itself that they are not possible to describe with ordinary terminology, or even art. As they say, you'd have to be there to understand it.

Various psychedelic phenomena are so alien that even if more precise language was developed to describe them, a 'have-not' would still be unable to grasp the meaning of the new words. Think of the futility in describing vision to someone who doesn't even know what seeing is like:
` You can use words such as 'yellow' or 'shaded', but they will not understand what it really 'looks like'. And what happens if you try to explain those concepts with other words? There's no real substitute, is there?

It is a psychedelic truism that when one is so far into inner space, looking back onto the tight funnel of ordinary consciousness, it is apparent that language is a blunt instrument, unable to express the richness of such inner life.
` From here, the dimness and distortions of language can seem like a cage, or to have more potential at spinning delusional narratives than clarity. Those who study language, influence, rhetoric and manipulation, who can see how easily our sense of reality is directed by linguistic constructs, may well agree here.

Despite the impossibility factor, psychedelic researchers do their darnedest to put these experiences into everyday language. Robin Carhart-Harris, the first scientist to be legally permitted to study psychedelics since the widespread ban, is one among a growing handful today.
` He has tried describing psychedelic experiences in another video, which I shall save for the bottom of the page. For now, I shall paraphrase his way of "translating down" for the have-nots:

The brain activity of our "everyday" baseline consciousness actively inhibits novel experiences and screens out sights, sounds and smells to which we don't normally give much attention. This probably reduces surprise and uncertainty to the lowest level, thus keeping us in a narrow worldview we may consider to be comfortable. (After all, reducing distractions is helpful to our survival.)

Psychedelic trips are like shaking up the snowdome of this suppression, loosening up connections of overly-reinforced behaviors. This effect helps people to question their assumptions on a large scale, and even allows for a massive reassembly of the mind into a different pattern.
` Effectively, it helps people to change the 'programming' that shapes their perception, or what I sometimes call the 'operating assumptions system'. This programming comes from socialization, cultural conditioning, and models of the world that we build up in our heads.
` These constraints can cause our view of our own lives to become so rigid that many of our surrounding sensory elements, opportunities, and thought loops escape our notice. (If they weren't so filtered, we might easily be overwhelmed by so much input!)

These drugs can actually allow one to see how we are constructing our perception of reality, and how our ego-defense mechanisms rationalize our behavior and solve cognitive dissonance. By reducing activity in the ego circuitry, one's awareness is 'taken back' to a state of evolution when we thought more primalistically, without the contrivances of culture.
` During this time, it's possible to see one's own schema, or metaframe, of how one thinks things are, and can more easily spot destructive and irrational behavioral/thought cycles within it. From this position it becomes much easier to recognize the unconscious processes that elicit emotions, and to effectively deal with trauma.
` Without one's "everyday" ego defenses, a person can be more honest with themselves. People can see what they've been hiding from their ego, understand what is bothering them, and then file it away in a new place. In doing this, they can efficiently re-organize their priorities and values, and put traumatic memories in a secure location.

Those who feel depressed have a reinforced pessimistic pattern, with less openness than others. Psychedelics can break up destructive thought loops and disturb overly-reinforced behaviors, including depression, alcoholism, and anxiety.
` All this moving and shaking makes one's mind more supple, allowing one to literally think outside the rigid box of their usual patterns. As Timothy Leary might put it, you can find new possibilities by expanding and changing your "reality tunnel".
` Psychological traits such as openness can permanently increase, which can have profound impacts on one's life. Carhart-Harris points out some research indicating that high openness correlates with high economic success as well.

Weakening the mental restraints and increasing neural connectivity allows more potential for inner change and creativity, which various musical and visual artists are well aware. (That shall be a future topic for this blog -- the Ultimate Artist's Head Trip.)
` On their inner journey, people can so vividly sense their mental life that they can "re-live" their memories, says Carhart-Harris. I would like to add that this mental perception enhancement is probably also why one can "see" what they can imagine as though they had some sort of "holodeck-like" simulation in their heads.
` This is part of how scientists, engineers and philosophers have used their expanded imagination 'space' to help them model a new theory, idea, or even blueprint. Another aspect that helps with problem-solving is the increased connectivity of the brain that occurs:

I would like to mention the Petri, Expert, et al, analysis of the fMRI of brain connectivity in people under the influence of psilocybin versus a placebo. Their research shows that psilocybin reduces brain activity and synchonizes brain regions that are normally not connected.
` According to their most recent paper, the brain really does make new connections, synchronizing certain parts of the brain that were not previously. Most of these connections are fleeting, but some of them are fairly stable.
` This is part of what makes these experiences so earth-shattering and bursting with insight, and may explain why they are also synesthesia-filled. A LiveScience article about this paper repeats what I've explained before -- with a sufficient dose at least, one can never be the same again:
Many people report intensely spiritual experiences while taking the drug, and some studies even suggest that one transcendent trip can alter people's personalities on a long-term basis, making those individuals more open to new experiences and more appreciative of art, curiosity and emotion. 
People who experiment with psilocybin "report it as one of the most profound experiences they've had in their lives, even comparing it to the birth of their children," Expert told Live Science.
Even for the average person with no particular problems, puzzles to solve, or art to create, such psychedelic rearrangement can be described as a "reset button" for their normal routine (especially stress buildup from one's 'daily grind') in order to create spontaneity and personal growth.
` In other words, there's always room for improvement. Plus, sufficient doses can be used for discovering joys of geometrically impossible synesthesia, virtual reality headspaces, and the ability to see in multiple directions with "inner eyes" -- which can be a fun exploration for anyone.

If such therapeutic and otherwise enjoyable trips are so highly recommended by those who have had them, should people be legally permitted to have them outside of therapy?
` Carhart-Harris says that it would be unfair to legally limit these experiences to the psychologically unwell. Like other psychedelics advocates, he says that use outside of therapy sessions also should be mediated, because some people wind up terrifying themselves, and/or don't learn anything.

I should mention, there is no such thing as purely recreational use of such powerful drugs, which is why 'recreational use' is more likely to lead to disaster. This is why it is important to have a guide to steer a person over the rough patches, even if they don't need to do much other than give brief reassurances.

As neuroscientist Sam Harris points out in his book Waking Up, the expanded view of one's mind is a more accurate perception of what your 'ego' or 'self' really is: It is just a construct, separate from your awareness -- and even a moderate dose is enough to bring this sharply into focus.
` Not everyone who takes these drugs pays attention to these aspects of the experience, instead focusing on being over-awed by what has been described by an anonymous tripper as a "a circus-like cacophony of synesthesia and maelstrom of art."
` Personally, I can think of a few morally and intellectually challenged individuals who love taking LSD and have no real concept of the ideas I'm expressing here.

However, those who are curious about the brain and mind -- especially those who study it in great detail -- cannot help but be astounded at how psychedelics can so eye-openingly reveal the mind's inner workings.
` Although Harris is considered a juggernaut in the atheist community, he points out that experiences such as psychedelic ones are so unique and powerful that the only way to describe them is with words such as 'spiritual' or 'mystical' or 'transcendent'.
` He says that scientists and philosophers commonly seem to think that any type of 'spiritual' experiences are merely deep emotions of love and awe, because they have never had the real thing. Thus, they dismiss them as not much beyond what they can imagine or are familiar with.

This is one reason that psychedelic therapy, and similarly mind-altering practices have been so undervalued in this culture. These can so drastically change people's values and lives that dismissing them as some way "for other people" to occupy their time is to ignore one of the most worthwhile treasures of humanity.
` As demonstrated by research with these drugs and other ways of drastically warping minds, such transcendent inner events are just as extraordinary as they are real. Though interpretations vary widely, 'spiritual' experiences themselves are not to be written off as trivial, nor associated with belief in spirits.

For example, many people who have had near-death experiences say that it seemed much more vivid and real than everyday life, so therefore heaven must be real. One can say the same thing about a strong psychedelic trip, which is often described as death and resurrection as a new person.
` Although Jennifer Ouellette said (based on one LSD trip) that your ego merely expands but does not dissolve, a Level 5 can completely dissolve one's identification, or even memory of being an individual -- as with Sam Harris' extremely heroic dose on the lake.
` When done in a good headspace, this is said to be like a blissful nirvana where there is only awareness, the 'true' self. However, one need not take such an extreme dose in order to understand how the ego peels away to reveal the non-cultural programming of the underlying primate consciousness.

You may know intellectually from neuroscience and psychology that we are essentially "zombies" which mostly operate via unconscious processes. This fact becomes experienced reality during a psychedelic awakening when one is able to see the automatic processes that are normally hidden from one's awareness.
` This sobering revelation is what makes it obvious to people that they play their everyday lives in the same way as games, which have rules and roles that they are automatically playing by. I will argue here that this is one reason why so many religious and government authorities discourage psychedelic use.

Spreading these drugs and knowledge about how to "turn on" your mind is, apparently, why psychologist Timothy Leary was imprisoned on dubious charges (and escaped) so many times. I haven't read nearly enough of his work yet, although I have been impressed with what I have seen.
` Last August, I read an excerpt from Timothy Leary: The Harvard Years: Early Writings on LSD and Psilocybin. I shall reproduce much of it here, as it relevant to this post.

Leary's ideas run counter to the predominating behaviorist view of the 1960's where conscious experience is completely ignored. He argued that the best way to change behavior is from within one's experiences.
` He also found that the fastest way by far is with mind-expanding drugs. More reliably than any other method, this allows people to see the 'game' they play in social life, politics, religion, etc. so they can reprogram themselves into new roles:
All behavior involves learned games. But only that rare Westerner we call “mystic” or who has had a visionary experience of some sort sees clearly the game structure of behavior. Most of the rest of us spend our time struggling with roles and rules and goals and concepts of games which are implicit and confusedly not seen as games, trying to apply the roles and rules and rituals of one game to other games. 
Worst of all is the not knowing that it is a game. Baseball is a clean and successful game because it is seen as a game. You can shift positions. You know the game is limited in space and in time. You know how you are doing. You sign your contract. You renew your contract. You can quit, start a new game.
And yet, the games of 'real life' are not so easy to get outside of, or even find the limits to.
Culturally, stability is maintained by keeping the members of any cultural group from seeing that the roles, rules, goals, rituals, language, and values are game structures. The family game is treated by most cultures as far more than a game, with its implicit contracts, limited in time and space. The nationality game. It is treason not to play. The racial game. The religious game. And that most treacherous and tragic game of all, the game of individuality, the ego game. The Timothy Leary game. Ridiculous how we confuse this game, overplay it. Our own mystics and the Eastern philosophers have been warning us about this danger for centuries. 
Cultural institutions encourage the delusion that the games of life are inevitable givens involving natural laws of behavior. These fixed delusions tend to rigidify behavior patterns. This rigidity, as Professor Osgood pointed out in his significant opening address of the Copenhagen Congress, now threatens the very survival of the human species itself (Osgood, 1962). 
This refers to the ruts that governments have gotten into which have led to threatening one another with nuclear weapons. In the next paragraph, Leary begins on the importance of keeping the locus of control inside of a person, as a player in the game, rather than outside of them, in an authority figure.
So now we come to behavior change. The currently popular method of behavior change is called psychotherapy. A medical game. A curing of the psyche. Psychotherapy interprets confusion and inefficiency in game playing as illness. We call it sickness and attempt to cure it employing the medical game. Consider the football player who doesn’t know the rules. Perhaps he picks up the ball and runs off the field. He is punished for not playing the game correctly. He feels badly. [sic] Shall we pronounce him sick and call the doctor? 
The failure to understand the game nature of behavior leads to confusion and eventually to helplessness. ...
Though it is not the case for everyone, I have been to dozens of therapists about my decades of trauma, but most either abused me or turned me away. I found only one cognitive-behavioral therapist who was willing to help help me, but alas, I wasn't able to connect to him as a human being.
` He remained an authority figure with no real idea of my inner life, and I remained feeling inadequate because I wasn't able to do what he told me to do. Thus, I wound up feeling more helpless rather than empowered.
` The first time I was ever able to find help with my life's traumas was with someone who understands the concept of games, the influence of language, and who was able to connect with me on a human level.
` That was when I first learned that PTSD and conversion disorder are a cluster of behaviors that I'm doing to myself -- and can stop! -- thus marking the beginning of a huge shift in my recovery.
The basic aim of physical science is to reduce human helplessness in the face of the physical environment. Physical science has other goals, of course: to understand, explain, control, measure, predict. But certainly these are ends rather than means. Why explain? Why predict? To lessen fearful ignorance. ...
Do they not stem from the same survival motive? And the social technologies—psychiatry, social work, applied psychology—is not their goal the reduction of confusion and the increase in human freedom? 
Judged by these criteria the game of Western science has not been a glorious success. Our helplessness in the face of physical disease has certainly diminished. Our control over natural forces has given us a sense of mastery. We live longer and healthier lives. Good. 
We have created a game model—the subject-object model—which allows us on the one hand to dominate “object” but which has created a world full of human objects. ...
The science game, the healing game, the knowledge game are magnificent human structures. They are our proudest game accomplishments. But they are great only as long as they are seen as game. When they go beyond this point the trouble begins—claims to a nongame reality status: the emergence of experts, professionals, priests, status-favored authorities; claims to power and control and priority. ... At this point you will find that games which began with the goal of decreasing human helplessness end up increasing it. 
Human beings inhabiting those areas of the globe which the geographic game calls East are, for the most part, well aware of the foregoing issues. It’s hard for Westerners to back away, and see the artifactual game structures. We are so close to our games. We have been born into them. And we are born into a philosophic system which glorifies hierarchical expertise on the one hand and helplessness on the other: monotheism, the Judaic-Christian tradition. 
Monotheism, that game started by a few persecuted outcasts (game losers) in the Mid-Eastern desert: the subject-object game; the false duality game; the manipulating, predicting, controlling game. Monotheism breeding helplessness.
Now, let’s apply this general discussion of helplessness and the behavior game to the issue of behavior change. In spite of our apparent executive control over nature we have had small success in developing behavior change games. Indeed most of our attempts to change behavior increase human helplessness, lessen human freedom and thereby exaggerate the problem we set out to solve. Our behavior change games invariably set up structures which give more power to the few and less power to the many, invidious role models: doctor-patient; professor-student; inequitable rules involving secrecy and control; the one-upmanship language we call jargon. 
When people come to us and ask us to change their behavior, why can’t we do it? Why can’t we teach them to see the game structure of human society? The problem seems simple enough. Why can’t we find out what games they are caught up in? Find out what games they want to commit themselves to? Make them explicit? Help them discover the rules of the game, the role, the rituals, the goals, the concepts? Expose them to models of successful game playing; encourage them to practice; feed back objective appraisals of their performance; care for them and their game struggles? How do you care for them? You share time and space with them. Nothing else can substitute. 
We have little else to offer. If we don’t, they’ll learn the games of those who do share time and space. If they’re prisoners, then who will teach them behavior games? Who shares the most time and space with prisoners? That’s right, the other prisoners, older criminals and younger criminals. So who influences behavior in what direction? And who shares the most amount of time and space with prisoners? That’s right, the prison guards who, in most American prisons, teach them how to play the role of robber in the game of “cops and robbers.” And we professional middle-class experts? How much time and space do we share with the prisoners? An hour a week on the medical ward? 
O.K. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Just show people that their social identity and their entire cultural commitment is a game. They aren’t aware of it. Sure, just tell them.
Yes, you smile when I say this. It’s not quite that easy, is it? Here’s the rub. Few people, a very few people (and we Westerners call them mystics) are willing and able to admit that the game is a game. Most of our people become upset and even angry when the game is identified—the game of “I-and-all-I-stand-for.” 
At this point when you hear the word “mystic” you may be uneasily wondering if you are going to be subjected to a vague metaphysical discourse on general principles. Perhaps you will be surprised to hear me suggest the hypothesis that the most effective approach to the “practical” games of life is that of applied mysticism. Identify the game structure of the event. Make sure that you do not apply the rules and concepts of other games to this situation. Move directly to solve the problem avoiding abstractions and irrelevant rituals. ...
How can we make the point? How can we learn the lesson? How can we Westerners come to see that our own consciousness is infinitely greater than our little egos and the ego games into which we are so blindly caught up? That the universe within our skulls is infinitely more than the flimsy game world which our words and minds create? 
Put in a sentence—the task is to see that the mind is a tiny fragment of the brain-body complex. It is the game-playing fragment—a useful and entertaining tool but quite irrelevant to survival, and indeed usually antagonistic to well-being. 
The process of getting beyond the game structure, beyond the subject-object commitments, the dualities—this process is called the mystic experience. The visionary experience is the nongame, metagame experience. Change in behavior can occur with dramatic spontaneity once the game structure of behavior is seen. The visionary experience is the key to behavior change. 
So, how is this done? Well, he says, you can pretend to be crazy, you can endure terrible traumas, live in another culture for a year, lock yourself up in a monastic cell, or try sensory deprivation. Even flashing lights or an orgasm can bring a person beyond the game. However:
The most efficient way to cut through the game structure of Western life is the use of drugs, consciousness-expanding drugs. ...
Now the reaction of the Western world to consciousness-expanding drugs is extremely interesting. We tend to apply our familiar game roles, rituals, goals, rules, concepts to the non-game experience produced by these substances.
One could project one's game rules onto non-game experiences, that is why so many seem to be into these powerful experiences for their entertainment value. The important part is not to give into astonishment, but to use these tools to be aware of one's reality tunnel.
Those of you who have not had the shattering exposure to such old and worshipped plants as peyote and the sacred mushroom and cannabis or such startling newcomers as psilocybin* and lysergic acid will wonder at this point about the nature of these experiences. What do these substances do? 
... The answer from the inside (from the awareness of the subject) can be cast in countless metaphors. Let’s try a physiological analogy. Let’s assume that the cortex, the seat of consciousness, is a millionfold network of neurons, a fantastic computing machine. Cultural learning has imposed a few, pitifully small programs on the cortex. These programs may activate perhaps one-tenth or one one-hundredth of the potential neural connections. All the learned games of life can be seen as programs which select, censor, alert and thus drastically limit the available cortical response (Mr. Aldous Huxley’s reducing valves). 
The CE (i.e., consciousness-expanding) drugs unplug these narrow programs. They unplug the ego, the game machinery, and the mind (that cluster of game concepts). And with the ego and mind unplugged, what is left? Not the “id”; no dark, evil impulses. These alleged negative “forces” are, of course, part of the game, being simply anti-rules. What is left is something that Western culture knows little about: the open brain, the uncensored cortex—alert and open to a broad sweep. Huxley and Dr. Barron have told you in their own words what is left, and there is no need to add my lumbering prose. 
There is need, however, to ask another question. Why is this ecstatic, brain-opening experience so strange and horrid to Western culture? Why have our ancestors and our colleagues tended to ignore and even to oppose the visionary experience? Mr. R. Gordon Wasson, banker, mycologist, anthropologist, gentleman-scholar turned mystic, has traced the persecution of the divine and divinatory mushroom back through the millennia. Why the irrational fear so often aroused by research on CE drugs even to this day? Perhaps because our Western world is committed to overplaying the objective, external behavior game. 
In particular we overvalue the mind—that flimsy collection of learned words and verbal connections; the mind, that system of paranoid delusions with the learned self as center. And we eschew the non-mind, non-game intuitive insight outlook which is the key to the religious experience, to the love experience. 
We seem to oppose any process which puts the game of here and now onto the long evolutionary timetable. This is a natural opposition and a healthy one. It is the greatest game of “the game” versus the “nongame.” Behavior versus consciousness. The universal brain-body versus the cultural mind. The ego versus the species. A dialogue old and holy, like the dialogue of sea against land. 
But this old game should be made explicit if it is to be fun. Unfortunately, the West has no concepts for thinking and talking about this basic dialogue. There is no ritual for mystical experience, for the mindless vision. What should provoke intense and cheerful competition too often evokes suspicion, anger, and impatience. What can be holy and intensely educational in the action of CE drugs on the cortex finds no ritual for application. This is to me one of the greatest challenges of our times. 
The nongame visionary experiences are, I submit, the key to behavior change—drug-induced satori. In three hours under the right circumstances the cortex can be cleared. The games that frustrate and torment can be seen in the cosmic dimension. But the West has no ritual, no game to handle the CE drug experience. 
In the absence of relevant rituals we can only impose our familiar games, the politics of the nervous system, the mind controlling the brain. Physicians seek to impose their game of control and prescription. The bohemians naturally strive to impose their games of back-alley secrecy. The police, the third member of the happy, symbiotic drug triangle, naturally move in to control and prosecute. 
Clearly we need new rituals, new goals, new rules, new concepts to apply and use these precious substances for man’s welfare, to give the brain back to the species. ...
This much is clear. The theory of the new game will be simple and basic. Space and time will be among the few variables required. Human equality will be a central principle, for the mystic experience tells us that the game differences between men are infinitely small compared with the age-old species similarities. 
What I think he is referring to here is the ability for the drugs to strip people of their cultural programming, "clearing" the cortex, to see how they are deep down, on an animal level. When your awareness is free to expand beyond the power structure game, there is nothing to keep it under anyone else's control.
` Or as the ethno-botanist Terrence McKenna put it, you realize that "only our bodies and nature exist", whereas meaning and social structures are not in any way 'out there' in the world.

Here it's important to remember the MKUltra military experiments, especially the one where they tried to make 'super soldiers' by giving them LSD. That completely backfired because the men realized that, in reality, no one had any authority over them.
` They refused to play the role of soldier, laughing at orders because they could see that their superiors were actually equals. Indeed, this experiment was just as much of a failure as the Project Stargate attempts at finding military targets via psychic powers.

Can you see why those in power could be terrified of the idea of people having psychedelics? If the populace experienced the reality that countries and laws are an illusion that humans had no concept of before inventing them (much like God and religion), they would be less inclined to recognize authority and instead play by their own rules.
` There are more than just therapeutic effects in realizing how many of your problems are self-made, but also in realizing that the feeling of submission to those in power is just a mindset. Nobody owns you, and your ID papers have no meaning outside of the game.

This is, of course, why so many millions in the 1960's were rebelling against the government and the absurd atrocities of the Viet Nam war. Psychedelics fueled their perception of the fact that there is no dividing line that makes any one person so fundamentally different from another. We are all one.

Next, Leary talks about a couple of important experiments which he was involved in:
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of psilocybin when administered in a naturalistic, supportive setting, to observe the rituals and language imposed by Americans on an experience quite alien to their culture. One hundred and sixty-seven subjects were given the mushrooms, 43 female and 124 male. Of these, 26 were internationally distinguished intellectuals, scholars, artists; 10 were medical doctors, 73 were professional intellectuals, 21 nonprofessional normals, 27 were drug addicts (psychological or physical), and 10 were inmates in a state prison. 
The eleven principles for the human contract led to the following operations:  1. Participants alternated roles of observer and subject, i.e., the researchers took the drug with the subjects. The humanizing effect of this procedure cannot be overestimated. Among other things the subject-object issue is clearly settled. 
2. Participants were given all available information about the drug. An atmosphere of mystery and secret experimentation was avoided. 3. Participants were given control of their own dosage. A maximum dosage was determined by the research team and this maximum number of tablets was given to the subject and he was free to dose himself at the rate and amount desired.
4. A comfortable, homelike environment was employed. The sterile impersonality of the laboratory was avoided. 5. Subjects were allowed to bring a relative or friend. No subject took the drug in a group where he was a stranger. 
...While the results of this study are too extensive to summarize at this point, a few major conclusions can be stated: The psilocybin experience is pleasant and educational; seventy-three percent of our subjects reported the experience as “very pleasant” or ecstatic; ninety-five percent thought the experience had changed their lives for the better.
Three out of four subjects reported happy and insightful reactions. When we recall that the drug was given only once under informal circumstances, with no attempt to be therapeutic or problem-oriented, these data stimulate thoughts about the healing-educational possibilities of psilocybin. But how do these changes come about? 
The most common reaction reported is the sudden perception of the effect of abstractions, rituals, learned-game routines—ecstatic pleasure at being temporarily freed from these limitations, a game-free honesty. 
Set and suggestive contexts account for ninety-nine percent of the specific response to the drug. Thus, you cannot sensibly talk about the effects of psilocybin. It’s always the set and suggestive context triggered off by the drug. 
A fascinating tension between these two factors—set and context—inevitably develops. If both are positive and holy then a shatteringly sacred experience results. If both are negative then a hellish encounter ensues. 
There is, of course, the tendency for people to impose their familiar games on to the psilocybin experience. The more rigidly committed to the game, the stronger this tendency. If the drug-giving person is secure, flexible, supportive, then the experience is almost guaranteed to be pleasant and therapeutic. Intensely deep communication occurs. Deep insights of a personal, social, and philosophic nature take place.
Though Leary knew the potential good that could come of these drugs, he seemed naive about the damage they could do. For example, if someone has already steered themselves deep into a destructive or fanatical reality tunnel, they could wind up entrenching their beliefs even more deeply.
` Even worse, a psychopath could wind up realizing that since meaning doesn't exist 'out there' in the universe, then there is no real reason to not hurt people: Although psychedelics seem to strengthen one's empathy, that does not apply to those who don't experience empathy.

It is just as true that drugs like psilocybin can be used to rehabilitate criminals -- presumably ones who are not psychopaths:
For many people one or two psilocybin experiences can accomplish the goals of a long and successful psychotherapy, a deep understanding and game-free collaboration between participants plus insight. But what then? People vary tremendously in their readiness to move forward from this point.
Many of the 167 subjects in our naturalistic study were able to exploit the close, honest relationship and the insight. They were already involved in rewarding games to which they could return with renewed vision and energy.
But many of our subjects came through the psilocybin experience with the knowledge that they were involved in nonrewarding games, caught in routines which they disliked. Some realized that they had no games they wanted to play. The “therapeutic” effect of the experience did not last for these subjects. Expanded consciousness narrowed back. They were left with pleasant memories of their visionary journey and nothing more.
After insight comes the deeper question as to the meaning of life: What games to play? Behavior change must follow change in consciousness.
Leary's research group changed even their own perceptions on how to rehabilitate and empower prisoners:
Ten volunteer prisoners. A maximum security prison. The recidivism rate is eighty percent. Eight of the ten would be expected back in prison a year after release. In baseball terms, eighty percent is the error percentage our team attempted to lower.
After three orientation meetings with the prisoners, the drug was given. I was the first one to take the drug in that bare hospital room behind barred windows. Three inmates joined me. Two psychologists and the other inmates served as observers—taking the drug three hours later. The psilocybin session was followed by three discussions, then another drug session, then more discussions. At this point the inmates had taken the drug an average of four times. There had been not one moment of friction or tension in some forty hours of egoless interaction.
Pre-post testing has demonstrated marked changes on both objective and projective instruments: dramatic decreases in hostility, cynicism, depression, schizoid ideation; definite increases in optimism, planfulness, flexibility, tolerance, sociability.
The group has become a workshop for planning future games. Some prisoners are being trained to take over the functions of research assistants. They are performing the tasks of a vocational guidance clinic—preparing occupational brochures for inmates about to be released, making plans to act as rehabilitation workers after their release, for organizing a halfway house for ex-convicts. Other prisoners are using their time to prepare for the games to which they will return—the family game, their old job.
The psilocybin experience made these men aware of the stereotyped games in which they had been involved, the game of “cops and robbers,” the game of being a tough guy, the game of outwitting the law, the game of resentful cynicism. “My whole life came tumbling down and I was sitting happily in the rubble.” But insight is the beginning, and the more demanding task is to help these men choose new games, help them learn the rules, the roles, the concepts, the rituals of the new game—practical, collaborative reality education. ...
A final word of clarification: Those of us who talk and write about the games of life are invariably misunderstood. We are seen as frivolous, or cynical anarchists tearing down the social structure. This is an unfortunate misapprehension. Actually, only those who see culture as a game, only those who take this evolutionary point of view can appreciate and treasure the exquisitely complex magnificence of what human beings do and have done. To see it all as “serious, taken-for-granted reality” is to miss the point, is to derogate with bland passivity the greatness of the games we learn.
Those of us who play the game of “applied mysticism” respect and support good gamesmanship. You pick out your game. You learn the rules, rituals, concepts. You play fairly and cleanly. You don’t confuse your games with other games. You do not impose your game rituals on others’ games. You win today’s game with humility. You lose tomorrow’s game with dignity. Anger and anxiety are irrelevant because you see your small game in the context of the great evolutionary game which no one can win and no one can lose.
While current science continues to demonstrate Leary's insights, they are still not widely known or valued in Western culture. Here we run into a dilemma that might be especially interesting to those of the Skeptic community:

Those who have had such life-changing experiences would probably take for granted that Leary has accurately described the reality and possibilities of psychedelic therapy.
` An interesting corollary; it is only those who have not had such experiences that have the choice of dismissing them or playing them down as something that can be achieved without drugs.

It is a tragedy when they do so: If you are blind and dismiss what others tell you of what it's like to see as "mere anecdote" or "personal opinion" what does that say about you?
` How do you think the sighted would regard your argument from ignorance? With cruel irony, they could still never explain to you what seeing was like, so you couldn't know that they were right.

Many have used these drugs to see through the power structure, to know that they are equal in power to bullies and/or authority figures. They can see that others can't control them with words unless they play the role of the subject.
` This includes the government. When seeing games from the outside, one can notice that structures such as governments, laws and countries only exist in the same way that religions do -- through belief. People may structure their lives around their beliefs collectively, but these are still just beliefs, not reality.

John Lennon almost had it when he wrote "imagine there's no countries", but in reality the words should be "stop imagining there's countries", and religion too! Thus, there is no such thing as a president, and Richard Nixon apparently had a real problem with this.
` Is it any wonder that he described Leary as "the most dangerous man in America" for spreading his mind-freeing ideas?

Although I said I wouldn't include any more emails to our lucky skeptic (George Hrab) on this subject, this here is a slightly modified Facebook message I sent him last June -- also largely consisting of quotes because it is easier to cut and paste than type with an iPhone:

"Someone just sent me this link about Amber Lyon, who won an Emmy for her CNN news correspondenceness, and who was also horribly traumatized by her experiences as an immersive journalist in war-torn areas. Until she tried psychedelic therapies, that is.

She says:
I invite you to take a step back and clear your mind of decades of false propaganda.  Governments worldwide lied to us about the medicinal benefits of marijuana. The public has also been misled about psychedelics. 
These non-addictive substances- MDMA, ayahuasca, ibogaine, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and many more- are proven to rapidly and effectively help people heal from trauma, PTSD, anxiety, addiction and depression.
...If I had any reservations, doubts, or disbeliefs, they were quickly expelled shortly after my first ayahuasca experience. The foul-tasting tea vibrated through my veins and into my brain as the medicine scanned my body. My field of vision became engulfed with fierce colors and geometric patterns. ... The vividly introspective movie played in my mind as I relived my most painful scenes- 
...  The ayahuasca enabled me to reprocess these events, detaching the fear and emotion from the memories. The experience was akin to ten years of therapy in one eight-hour ayahuasca session.
This is a fairly typical reaction, if myriad reports and research papers are to be believed. Amber said that she was beyond amazed and continued to immerse herself in investigating these drugs. Psilocybin mushrooms were next:
"Perhaps most astounding, the mushrooms silenced the self-critical part of my mind long enough for me to reprocess memories without fear or emotion. "
...As I relived each moment of the detainment, I reprocessed each memory moving it from the “fear” folder to its new permanent home in the “safe” folder in my brain’s hard drive.
Five ceremonies with psilocybin mushrooms cured my anxiety and PTSD symptoms.   The butterflies that had a constant home in my stomach have flown away. 
...I still have to work to maintain the healing with the use of floatation tanks, meditation, and yoga."
Keeping your head in your daily life afterwards is key to maintaining one's post-PTSD health -- it helps especially to live in a peaceful environment, as I have learned from repeatedly returning to a disruptive and abusive environment after purging my own symptoms.
` In fact, living in such a stressful environment is exactly the sort of thing that brings back our learned helplessness.
"This very world that glamorizes war, violence, commercialism, environmental destruction, and suffering has outlawed some of the most profound keys to inner peace.   The War on Drugs is not based on science. If it was, two of the most deadly drugs on earth-alcohol and tobacco- would be illegal. Those suffering from trauma have become victims of this failed war and have lost one of the most effective ways to heal.
Humanity has gone mad as a result.... 
...Trauma rests in the violent criminal, the cheating spouse, the corrupt politician, those suffering from mental illness, addictions, inside those too fearful to take risks and reach their full potential. 
If it’s not adequately processed and purged, trauma becomes cemented onto the hard drive of the mind, growing into a dark parasite that rears its ugly head throughout a person’s entire life. The wounds keep us locked in a grid of fear, trapped behind a personality not true to the soul, working a mundane job rather than following a passion, repeating a cycle of abuse, destroying the environment, harming one another. The most common and severe suffering is inflicted during childhood and hijacks the driver’s seat into adulthood, steering an individual down a road deprived of happiness....” 
..."It’s a human rights crisis psychedelics are not accessible to the general population.  It’s insane that governments worldwide have outlawed the very medicines that can emancipate our souls from suffering. 
It’s time we stop the madness."
I would add that although it is insane, it makes sense for people in power to take away the very things that hinder their ability to control the population via propaganda. Why do you think that such a crucial life skill as critical thinking is not generally taught in public schools, although obedience is?

It is very obvious to me why these drugs would be outlawed by corrupt sociopaths in charge of ruling us all with guns and wanting us to support wars."

That's certainly something to think about, and it would explain the government propaganda that tells us all to "just say no to drugs", as though all drugs are bad. Psilocybin and LSD, the most popular psychedelics, are neither toxic nor very intoxicating, and should not be lumped into the same category as heroin or cocaine.

Speaking of Facebook, I have elicited dramatically negative reactions just by posting psychedelic items on my timeline. Up next is a copy-paste example of the type of "psychedelic denialism" from those of the skeptical community that I've described in Parts 1-3.
` This was after posting a video of ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna speaking about how culture is not your friend, i.e. culture is selfish like Richard Dawkins' "selfish gene". Just as genes apparently use living things as a way to replicate themselves, memes use minds in the same way.
` Using Dawkins' terminology, culture is a memeplex -- or a worldview of ideas, which perpetuate themselves without regard to the individual's well-being, spreading like a virus. Some memes are healthy for us and others aren't, yet we know that many unhealthy memes have no problem finding hosts.

The key here is that the memes are replicated, regardless of whether they are good for people to believe. Submission to authority and not asking questions are two mechanisms in which harmful cultural memes can be passed on in spite of themselves.
` In this way, blind adherence to various cultural elements are a destructive habit. Psychedelics of course disrupt this process, which is what McKenna was describing in the video. I was interested to note that Sam Harris had this to say on page 236 of his book Waking Up:
Terrence McKenna is one person I regret not getting to know. Unfortunately, he died from brain cancer in 2000, at the age of fifty-three. His books are well worth reading, but he was, above all, an amazing speaker. It is true that his eloquence often led him to adopt positions that can only be described (charitably) as "wacky," but he was undeniably brilliant and always worth listening to.
In the main text of his book, Harris quotes one of McKenna's descriptions of a DMT trip in order to demonstrate its similarity to the descriptions of "the afterlife" as according to the neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, who wrote the book "Proof of Heaven".
` Alexander insists that the psychedelic experience is "not even in the right ballpark" as his own near-death experience, which he claims occurred while his brain was offline -- therefore, heaven must be real. As expected, Harris convincingly argues the opposite.

As I have mentioned previously in this series, there is plenty of archaeological and historical evidence that psychedelic mushrooms and plants were once important to many of the world's religions. This history, however, seems to go back very far.
` For example, there are 7,000-9,000 year old caves painting in Algeria showing mushroom offerings and even bizarre figures covered in what appear to be mushrooms. There are also mushroom shaman cave art depicted in Libya, Chad, Egypt, and even in the Swedish bronze age. (Some of it can be viewed on this page.)

McKenna, who studied with the shamans of Tibet and South America, argued that it is these vivid, hyper-real psychedelic experiences which probably prompted the rise of the first religions. This is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility, although conclusive evidence has been lost in time.
` He also referred to responsible psychedelic use as "practicing shamanism", in much the same way that Timothy Leary described "applied mysticism". I lifted this quote from McKenna's Wikipedia page:
What I think happened is that in the world of prehistory all religion was experiential, and it was based on the pursuit of ecstasy through plants. And at some time, very early, a group interposed itself between people and direct experience of the 'Other.' This created hierarchies, priesthoods, theological systems, castes, ritual, taboos. Shamanism, on the other hand, is an experiential science that deals with an area where we know nothing. It is important to remember that our epistemological tools have developed very unevenly in the West. We know a tremendous amount about what is going on in the heart of the atom, but we know absolutely nothing about the nature of the mind.
The first comment was from a well-established member of the skeptical community who has had some psychedelic experiences and who thought this video to be interesting. He asked what shamans would know about fixing the problems of capitalism -- a fair question indeed!
` Shamans in this context refer to people who have experienced the meta-game, who have pulled themselves out of games like capitalism and can look at them from the outside. However, the second commenter, Ed Clint, had no clue at all what Terrence was on about. He wrote:

  • This seems like 100% woo bullshit. Shamanism? using drugs to "reset" in your mind? Yeah minds don't really work that way, and nobody on shrooms ever made any amazing breakthrough in knowledge or understanding. 

    Culture isn't in any sense our "operating system", and it isn't a prison either. Quite the contrary, culture, with its flaws and problems also allows for progress. 

    Shamans are just a mix of storyteller, magician, and fraud. They have no special knowledge or insights.
  • Robert von Schryvers You know that's not an argument, right? 

  • Spoony Quine lol exactly.

    Ed, look up Francis Crick LSD , and other scientists who used psychedelics, and check out research about psychedelics 'resetting' one's beliefs about the world and sense of self, which is partly culturally programmed.

I did not have much interest being pulled into another Facebook comment war, so I did not elaborate, although I will reiterate here what I've said in previous parts of the Ultimate Skeptic's Head Trip:

The person's mind and inclination shapes their psychedelic experience -- these drugs do not make people smarter. However, they can be used as a powerful tool. As I've mentioned, artists can experience visions, music, sound, and concepts in such an alien way that can spark inspiration.

I've also explained that some scientists and philosophers have used psychedelics to increase their ability to visualize and conceptualize, in order to solve problems they doubt they would have been able to solve otherwise. (Kary Mullis also credits his Nobel prize to his use of LSD, etc.)
` This is not anything like receiving knowledge, but rather using the expanded mind like a sort of computer program that can do a lot of the work using the models that they already know and building from there. In other words, re-organizing the information in novel ways.

Unfortunately, Ed was similarly unenthusiastic about searching the internet for such information, and completely misinterpreted what I had meant.

  • Ed Clint Scientists having used psychedelics is not proof that they *cause* better ideas. I have a degree in psychology, and I have never heard of any such research. Google only turns up woo-woo sites not scientific papers.

    More basically speaking, the last thing a researcher usually needs is to have their beliefs about the world reset. To think this is key to science is to not understand what doing research is like, or what is required. There are times you need to get fresh perspectives and new ideas. But most of the time, you need to understand the ideas out there already. To have clarity and focus. To build on the knowledge of others. 

    See we need a framework to understand anything. Francis Crick co-discovered DNA. But Crick would never have known to look for a mechanism of heredity if Gregor Mendel hadn't already came up with that idea, nor if Darwin did not discover how it works in nature. Crick needed the cultural "programming", he needed those beliefs, that knowledge or he never would have done anything. 

    Meticulous researchers cure diseases and build space programs. No shaman yet has done more than swindle, entertain, and comfort.

I'll point out here that Francis Crick did not co-discover DNA, he figured out that it had a double helix structure, and credits LSD with his ability to have figured it out. (Another Nobel there!)
` While high on LSD, Crick said he created a representation of the molecules (something like a computer model), based on what he knew about how the atoms fit together. He discovered that the model in his head had a double helix.
` So, Francis Crick saw the double helix on LSD, which was later confirmed in real life. Many other scientific and technological visionaries have seen their visions of computer chips or sound engineering during similar types of experiences.

  • Robert von Schryvers What does McKenna mean by shaman in this context. Does everyone with a psych degree agree with you. Is argument from.authority valid. Can we claim to know what crick may never have known. Did the founder of Apple computer lie about this? Has every internet search besides yours resulted in the same conclusion. (Taboo subject, right?) Has anyone asserted that cultural beliefs are unnecessary. Are all frameworks (schemas, metaframes) equally valid and useful. Does not ever hearing of such research prove this does not happen, or that there is no research What so ever ( shifting burden of proof)
  • Ed Clint 1. Ask him yourself if you are curious. 2. Not relevant. Absolute questions about "all" are unhelpful. 3. I made no argument from authority. 4. Yes. Scientific knowledge is progressive. 5. No idea what you're talking about. 6. Another absolute/extreme question "every". Unhelpful. I've made no claims about"every" anything, please do not reply as if I did. 7. No, nor did I claim that. The idea I am refuting is that "resetting" is key to discovery. 8. No. 9. I never claimed it did not happen or that there isn't any. Since I am not the one making claims, the burden of proof is not, and never has been, mine.
  • Robert von Schryvers He's dead, so we can't ask, but his writings seem to be a modern interpretation of shaman. Resetting is just reframing, with the help of psychotropics, creative insight can be had by this. the scientific method is certainly better for discovery, although I don't think led zeppelin or the Beatles were scientists.

This is the Amber Lyon article, quoted above, which also contains some interesting links to other articles -- some of them more reliable than others.

  • Ed Clint That link is to a report about the therapeutic value of narcotics. I was not commenting on such a use.

  • Spoony Quine Ed, you have no idea what type of reset I am referring to.
    As far as shamans go, he means something like those who knows how to get into someone's head.

    ... I have somewhere to go, be back when I have The time 

I would like to point out Ed's use of the word 'narcotics', which is a term of art, or weasel word, having a misleading and derogatory meaning. It used to mean a drug with a sedative effect (narco = sleep), but now means any illegal drug.
` So, for example, tobacco is illegal in Bhutan, therefore it is a narcotic -- but only in that jurisdiction! The same can be said for alcohol in countries such as Bangaladesh, Iran and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It's a meaningless word that is used specifically to invoke prejudice.

  • Ed Clint In the first ~2 minutes or so, the video narrator talks about how it is important in "aboriginal" societies (I would like to know which, I study anthropology as well, but none are named) for them to use drugs in order to shed their cultural beliefs, which are replaced with something primal from the"animal soul" or some such; and only subsequent to this can we start to ask meaningful questions about human nature and the human condition.

    This is just mysticism. The promotion of the incorrect idea that nature is good and society is bad (naturalistic fallacy), that the "aboriginal" peoples hold hidden wisdom and special knowledge. No, they don't. They believe in mad things, like that their particular ethnic group has existed since the (recent) dawn of creation and that disease is caused by ghosts, that the sun is a god, etc.., 

    I'm really not generally interested in arguing about mysticism, psychics, etc.., I'm just surprised this showed up on my FB at all. I am not defriending because I am angry or hold any ill will, you've always seemed perfectly nice and I remember having fun chatting with you at the Del Mar the TAM before last. Nothing personal, I just don't want this stuff in my newsfeed.

It should be thoroughly clear by now that I do not actually hold nor promote the beliefs that Ed has projected onto me and then used the straw man as an excuse to un-friend me. (He could simply remove my posts from his newsfeed without doing so, but that wouldn't be passive-aggressive enough.)
` Terrence McKenna didn't believe in souls, he was using the word metaphorically, as with the term 'soul music'. I am not at all convinced of ESP or souls, nor that primitive cultures hold special knowledge, yet this is the kind of knee-jerk defensive accusation I get from people who have no clue or curiosity about my position.

Note also that Ed dismissed this all as 'just mysticism.' Can you guess what Sam Harris might have to say about that?

The shedding of the ego puts one's cultural programming at arm's length, or in the case of a Level 5, can utterly blast it away temporarily. Much work of mental rearrangement can be done while one's ego is reassembling, as I've described throughout this series.
` Underneath the cultural programming is the witness, the conscious observer, which is not identical to the ego. Without the trappings of culture, one can experience themselves as they are without this indoctrination -- as an animal, nothing more contrived than a primate.
` With the cultural distortions cleared, one can have a real idea of what a human being is outside of culture, what its true nature is. How do we make assumptions about what is basic to our nature when every human being is enmeshed in some culture or other?
` It is one thing to catalog cross-cultural behavior as 'basic human nature', and another thing to see our cultural beliefs as they exist -- apart from our 'true' nature. How do we really know what influence culture has on one individual in particular if we cannot remove it and view ourselves without it?

Timothy Leary called these drugs 'deconditioning agents', which are so powerful that Charles Manson's cult and others, such as Aum Shimrikyo, found them useful in brainwashing their followers into group loyalty and committing atrocious acts against humanity.
` Indeed, for thousands of years psychedelics have been used in promoting tribal solidarity and delusional beliefs -- think of the ancient Mayans sacrificing people each day so that the sun would rise. Yet, they worshipped psilocybin and Amanita muscaria mushrooms!
` Psychedelics do not give us wisdom, they only give us the opportunity to explore our minds more deeply, to reprogram ourselves, and to use our minds in ways that one may not otherwise know were possible. They are powerful tools that can be misused -- much like nuclear energy.

  • Scot Bastian I side with Ed on most of this. I wouldn't want a complete reset of my brain. I would lose my capacity for language, for one thing. Isn't language a product of culture? I don't think that aboriginals have any particular monopoly on wisdom and nice, empty labels like "shaman" are unhelpful. How can you identify a wise shaman? Is James Randi a good Shaman? How about Jim Jones? This in no way implies that we shouldn't be open to new ideas, but you have to be careful, as they say, that your mind isn't so open that your brains fall out.

Certainly psychedelics have not caused anyone to lose their language capacity -- although perhaps he was implying that resetting one's brain doesn't happen. Here, "resetting" only refers to erasing harmful beliefs and clearing away the 'mental grimy imput'. Without these impediments, one's skills and capacity for communication can actually be quite improved.

Resetting involves the dissolution of the ego and the everyday habits and assumptions ("operating system"), and the realization that you are not your thoughts or behaviors. Thus, you can control these thoughts and behaviors.
` Your habits in the past do not dictate your habits in the future, if you wish to change them. They disassemble, yes, but they are not exactly erased: Once you disconnect yourself from them, you can rearrange them into a more useful structure, and get rid of the parts you don't want.
` As for the word 'shaman' in this case, it refers to people who have had visionary experiences, the 'mystics' Leary was talking about, who have a deeper understanding of the nature of self than do the 'have-nots'.

  • Nicholas Temple I learned this and more over the past 10+ years studying the training and practices of shamans over the world. Thanks for sharing, Spoony.

    Nicholas Temple's photo.

I was glad for this comment. Might I point out that the skeptic psychedelic user and the person who has studied with shamans find what Terrence McKenna says to be compelling, but these other two have no reference. Rob also commented once more from his phone:

  • Robert von Schryvers Defrending, is not an argument.
    McKenna really does venture into woo land, probably for poetic reasons. I think a bigger exposure to his works gives a contextual perspective that is lost within a single video. He uses unusual metaphors and so the lis
    tener is tempted to take a literal interpretation. But to be fair, these kinds of ineffable experiences are quite the terra incognita, as it is impossible to describe adequately without art and poetry. 
    As an asside, psylocybin is not a narcotic, anyone with access to mere Wikipedia knows that.

I think that's enough Facebook comments for now, and hope I have left my readers bubbling with questions such as:
` How does your mind appear from from an angle? What exactly do five-dimensional kaleidoscopic universes look like, anyway? What is it like to be an instrument through which music streams and becomes technicolor visual-spatial structures that course through one's body?

At least the first question can be somewhat answered by Robin Carhart Harris, in this video, as promised. Although I have found the background graphics to be more distracting than helpful, his verbal description nevertheless seems solid.

I hope that the have-nots have learned a little more about this subject. Perhaps they have even learned enough to understand what Terrence McKenna was saying in his video. I've done enough embedding for one post, so here's the link:

Terrence McKenna -- Culture is not your friend

"It's fun to think this way, because it shows you don't have to be the victim of your culture, it's not like your eye color or your heighth or your gender, it's fragile. It can be remade, if you wish it to be. And then the question is, how does one download a new operating system?... You can put a lot of things in the trash and have them just disappear with a psilocybin upgrade. ..." 
"I think we should all aspire to make this upgrade. It's very important that you have all the bells and whistles on your operating system, otherwise somebody is going to be able to get a leg up on you."
If you can see the game from the shamanic visionary perspective, you have an advantage. You can see how your own mind works, you are free from your cultural roles in life. You can see through the power structure. You know it's just a game.
` Understanding that it's all a game, to me, is the highest and most freeing level of all skepticism -- why else would so many people in power consider these drugs to be such a threat?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I want to know what you're thinking! Please tell me -- you don't need to sign up, just go!