Saturday, 13 April 2013

The 'on consciousness' JREF thread; psychedelics are to the study of consciousness what the telescope is to the study of astronomy.

To explain my propensity for posting psychedelic material in the thread about consciousness, which resulted in several warnings for 'hijacking the thread', despite the whole point of psychedelics propensity to peturb consciousness being one of the most fruitful ways to study consciousness and will remain so in the future via the rapidly evolving discipline of psycho-pharmacology, I feel I should explain in more detail what I posted and why; since the psychedelics link to consciousness seemed lost on most members, which is seemingly why the dubious hijack cautions were issued. I actually rarely posted on the forum about psychoactives as other forums always seemed more suitable, and rarely, if ever, advocated their use, unless their medicinal value had been clinically proven. Until I am made aware of the length of the suspension and the reason for it my musings on that thread will be posted here, to try to summarize why I posted what I did. Some of this next paragraph is paraphrased from Mckenna.

With psychedelics as they relate to consciousness people seem confused by what is going on. Taking legal psychedelics has a certain measure of chiqueness about it. And you can get into the club by merely saying you took it, so the way to get into the club without paying your dues is to take some piss all amount and go around raving about that. So when we talked about the psychedelic experience its not clear we are all talking about the same thing, its sort of like talking about France to the people that moved their for a week an stayed in the airport and then talking to the people that moved their for twenty years and learned the language and studied the culture. I could relate to quarky and a few others on many matters as he has had many of the experiences I have had, whereas people like Pixy and most others had absolutely no points of reference for them to comprehend what I was saying.

There are thousands of altered states, we know them, orgasm, indigestion, two cappuccinos, sleep, where tequila takes you, where depression takes you, where anti depressants or adderal takes you. There are endless altered states in our culture, and I'm not interested in them particularly any more than anyone else is, I mean they are part of life. What I am interested in, as an experimentalist, as a connoisseur of nature, somebody who loves fossils, butterflies, rainbows, astronomy that kind of thing, is this family of compounds called the indole hallucinogens. And they cause hallucination. The reason I am so academically fascinated by hallucinations relationship to the science of consciousness is because to my mind when you are hallucinating you have an kind of indirect proof that you are not generating this material. It's not funny ideas. It's not racing thoughts. It's not insight into what your girlfriend really meant yesterday. That kind of thing we can do by just inspecting our own mind. 

Even the word hallucination is another term that people seem to be confused about. There are threshold hallucinations or level five experience hallucinations. However a true breakthrough hallucination is to be in the presence of that which previously could not be imagined. If it could previously not be imagined then there is no reason to believe that you generated it out of yourself. You know whats in your cupboard, you know whats in your chest of drawers, for Gods sake you ought to know whats in your own mind. So if something comes forward and you have to say 'thats not mine, that is not in my inventory, that's beyond even my imagination' then then you have a kind of proof that this is coming from somewhere else. And then you have the question: Where? Well we can set off into that, but opinions differ; no one has an empirical truth on it.

A reductionist or materialist, somebody who likely didn't like these substances or never tried them, will say that it's just neurological chaos, it's just you have interrupted the functioning of good brain chemicals and evil brain chemicals are giving a sense of chaos. Well that just doesn't cut the mustard. I mean that type of stuff might work on people who have never experienced it or on the troops, but not if you are talking to anyone who has ever been there. I know what a neurological chaos would look like, it would look like random bright lights, moving colors, physical seizures, etc. It would not be ruins, never before imagined landscapes, machines, paintings, works of art, building plans, weapons, bits of manufactured technological detritus; these things are too coherent. They're objects in some kind of superstructure of the mind.
I didn't get into this enterprise by being an airhead or a hippie. My attitude is if it's a real experience it can take the pressure. I am not saying psychedelic experiences are real in the sense of contacting aliens or entities; that leads to all sorts of epistemic complications, but the congruency of the experiences of totally disparate hallucinogens points to something totally inexplicable by typical molecular biology and neuroscience as it relates to conscious experience. You don't have to sidestep round the real thing, if people are telling you you should avert your gaze or or plug your ears, then you are probably in the presence of crap.

I tried buddhism and yoga in the East in Thailand, I looked into meditation, looked briefly into Christianity with the UDV, I was fast shuffled by beady eyed little mean in goatee's; I know the whole spiritual supermarket and rigmarole. Yet I find nothing there to interest me on the level of five grams of dried mushrooms in silent darkness. Thats where the pedal meets the metal. Thats where the rubber meets the road.

The inspiration for me to post in the consciousness thread about this simply comes from the fact that I can not believe that this could be culturally kept under raps despite the concrete science into the subject the way it has. In my opinion the psychedelic experience is as central to understanding your humanness as having sex, or having a child, or having responsibilities, or having hopes and dreams. And yet it is illegal. We are infantalized, we are told you can wander around within the sanctioned playpen of ordinary consciousness, and we have some intoxicants over here if you want to mess yourselves up, some scotch and some tobacco, red meat and sugar; but these boundary dissolving hallucinogens that give you a sense of unity with your fellow man and nature are somehow forbidden. This is an outrage, its a sign of cultural immaturity, and the fact that we tolerate it is a sign that we are living in a society as oppressed as any culture in the past.

I would never post this following information on the forum, thus why I never shared my subjective methods of using psychedelics in the past on the forum, but since it is now off forum I can. The way I recommend taking psychedelics is in perfect darkness, in silence, and with as little input from other people as possible, as recommended now in the clinical trials of psilocybin therapy, although they use a therapist in the same room with as little input as possible. I say alone if you are experienced, and if that gives you pause, and you must have a sitter, and lets call it a sitter, not guide, my god no-ones guiding you anywhere, they have no more idea where you are than we know where Santa Claus is at this point.

My idea of the perfect sitter is you have a little bell by your side, and the sitter is three rooms away, and if the sitter is needed you ring the bell, the sitter comes in and says 'its cool, lay down' and do that. When the experience is internalized in this manner the experience you get is totally different to doing it in a social environment, you close your eyes and you get an internal trip with closed eye visuals; which can be the most vivid and profoundly congruent  scenery, introspections into life, and as indicated with the new psilocybin studies one dose alone can provide what all subjects described as 'a deeply spiritual experience' that stays with people for a lifetime. 30% of people in the studies said that when they were administered psilocybin in a clinical setting the experience was the single most important and meaningful experience of their life.

Let me get this straight: My thing is not about my opinion, what I saw in Africa, or anything like that, get it straight, this is about an experience. Not my experience, your experience. It's about an experience which you have. Like getting laid or going to Africa. You must do the experience, else its just whistling past the graveyard. And we are not talking about something like being born again or meeting the flying saucers, no; if you take a sufficient dose of a safe active psychedelic compound with a high LD50 it will deliver itself to you on the money. If it doesn't work, take more; that is what LD50's are for! No one should be in a position to dismiss this just because it didn't work for them on one or two occasions.

This is an art, its something you coax into existence. I mean you have to learn to make love you have to learn to speak English, anything worth doing is an art, this is part of our birthright, perhaps the most important part of our birthright, these substances will deliver, it is the confoundment of psychology and science generally. And that's why it's so touchy for cultural institutions; but you are not a cultural institution, you are a free an independent human being and these things have your name written on them in big gold letters.

Something that has confounded modern science in general for the last 40 years was never going to be an easy thing to post about in the science section. I've tried my best but I had to choose my words very carefully. It's like trying to make your argument while having half your vocabulary removed by the use of rule one as it applies to psychoactives, thus why I tried to only talk about legal and natural ones. The reason I often brought up DMT was simply because it was in the body of every person that posted in that thread, so provided a window of opportunity to try to clarify the neurophysiological importance of these psychoactives on consciousness. 

If meditation is the best known and respected path for introspection, then the psychedelics cheat by putting you on the motorway, where you are more likely to crash. 

I don't think you could discover consciousness if you didn't perturb it, because as Marshall McClune said, "whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn't a fish". Well, we are fish swimming in consciousness; and yet we know it's there. Well, the reason we know it's there is because if you perturb it, then you see it; and you perturb it by perturbing the engine which generates it, which is the mind/brain system resting behind your eyebrows. If you swap out the ordinary chemicals that are running that system in an invisible fashion, then you see: it's like dropping ink into a bowl of clear water -- suddenly the convection currents operating in the clear water become visible, because you see the particles of ink tracing out the previously invisible dynamics of the standing water. The mind is precisely like that, and the psychedelic is like a dye-marker being dropped into this aqueous system.

When I personally say psychedelic I have something very specific in mind that a substance or a plant should do. It should not inhibit clarity, in other words not episodes of forgetfulness, lack of memory, passing out or confusion. It shouldn’t interfere with that at all, and it should transform thought and be accompanied by visual hallucinations with eyes closed. The CEVs are what it's all about. They can be evoked simply by shutting your eyes and staring at the inside of your eyelids with the expectation of seeing something. The closest thing I can think of to explain the visuals you see is it can be like a lucid dream caught just on the concrescence between hypnagogia and deep sleep.

The biggest danger with psychedelics is not reading about them online on a forum, it's that while you are in that open state having used it some moron will mess with you.

At bedrock, the universe is more like a DMT flash than it is like an 18th century garden party, as we were previously assured by the clockwork mechanist practitioners of science. An incredible ability to not register radical change seems to be a precondition of existing in the presence of radical change.

The psychedelic community is cleverly invisible. Because our choices in gender expression, fashion, and so on have, by crypto-osmosis, come to dominate the values of the culture, we can no longer tell ourselves from straight people.

Basically, when you smoke DMT what happens is pure confoundment. DMT does not provide ‘an’ experience which you analyze. Nothing so tidy goes on. The syntactical machinery of description undergoes some kind of hyperdimensional inflation, instantly. And then you cannot tell yourself what it is that you understand. In other words, what DMT does can’t be downloaded into as low dimensional a language as English.

One toke of DMT away is this absolutely reality-dissolving, category-reconstructing, mind-boggling possibility. And I feel like this is a truth that has to be told

Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.

When you see these people, like Daniel Dennet or any of these talk show materialists so many look up to, it's a shame. As these people haven't gotten the news that's coming out of quantum physics, or they have, but they don't understand it's implications. 

Let me describe the state of play here. The way science works is that science respects fidelity of theory to experimental results. What really thrills a scientist is when a theory makes predictions down to 4 or 5 decimal points and then you perform and experiment and it's spot on, so now everyone involved is fairly confident they are on the right track. But only one science is ever that good to that many sig fig; physics (macrophysics). Shortly following is chemistry, it's good, but its not that good. Then we have biology, ecology, demography, etc, these are pretty loose. Sociology is even looser. And this is how science has been structured for several thousand years starting with Gallileo and physics, it's been a pyramid of envy directed towards the paradigmatic science of physics that can produce this unrivaled congruence between theory and experimental data. 

So physics continues to charge forward into matter, asking deeper questions. But when you pass the atomic level, where leptons like electrons, baryons and mesons, etc, are the fundamental forms of matter, things change. It's like smoking DMT. Utter madness breaks out in the properties of matter. Whereas before you had these wonderfully exact models you now have backwards flowing time, quantum entanglement, bell non locality, superposition, quantum teleportation, wave particle duality arising in different situations depending on the observer, singularities. The best definition for a singularity is a point where all the rules cancel because you don't know what the hell else to do, same applies for the singularities evoked in the center of black holes. Nature does not make zero dimensional points we can study, or singularities in black holes with 'infinite mass/dimensions/etc'. These are placeholders revealing shortcomings with theories rather than actual real things, any attempt to give a dimensionless point properties is nothing more than hypostatization, and is evidence of the lack of understanding by many between a metaphysical mathematical like a point and the magnitude of physically testable things.

It used to be in physics there was only one singularity; The Big Bang. And so one singularity is OK, essentially science said, give us one free miracle, and we can run it from there onwards. Then relativity came along and introduced the concept of black holes, also not helped by the extraneous extrapolation of perturbation theory derived masses of bodies in our solar system to the cosmos at large. And what do black holes have in the center of them? A singularity. And how many black holes are there in the universe? Something like 10^14, at a guess. That's a lot of singularities for a theory that at first only wanted one to use as a springboard to overcome the cause and effect problem and for a theory that should be trying to avoid producing singularities. In effect 10^14 singularities is an admission of total intellectual defeat. If there are 10^14 singularities your not even doing science, you certainly can't deduce anything meaningful about their properties, you might as well be channeling atlantis or something.

So it troubles me because I think this quantum mechanics is rich, physics is feeding back, and a model of consciousness will eventually come out of studying the properties of the deeper levels of matter. But the conclusions are all going to support the non scientific non rational fasions; in other words bell nonlocality is real, all matter in the universe is in contact with all other matter through some sort of entanglement of higher space based on their original connectivity, quantum teleportation is a possibility, these violations of backwards flowing time and rational casuistry are all real, superposition and the same particle being in multiple locations at the same time is real. 

In other words science/physics prosecuted its agenda of deconstructing nature to the point where it let loose the elves of madness, paradox, peculiarity and contradiction. And in terms of something relating to consciousness that can relate to these confounding properties, it would have to be DMT and psychedelics. There appears to be sketchy blueprint of a bridge between quantum physics and a more realistic model of consciousness being constructed based on the similarities between the peculiarity, paradox and contradictions of a DMT experience and the madness, paradox, peculiarity and contradiction and quantum theory. Penrose et al have made a noble start already. 

Matter is not lacking in magic, when you get down to quantum levels; matter is magic. When you get to the bedrock of it all, reality seems far more congruent with a DMT flash than a mechanical clockwork machine. 


  1. Its true that some decades ago, on early impression - some research on effects of psychedelics suggested they "are to the study of consciousness what the telescope is to the study of astronomy" (S. Grof, and Masters & Houston, most notably).

    One little catch in that analogy, taken too far, has seldom been remarked upon - a fatal flaw in its ointment:

    The world around us, tangible and physically detectable by instrumented readings, is one we all share. From the very small (microscopic), to the big and way far away (telescopic) — optic instruments look at the outer reality, not individually personal, psychological phenomena.

    Opposite consideration applies when we turn LSDscope on its realm, the deep mind. That doesn't look out at the external physical reality we all have in common - its a look inward, at individually differentiated, mental phenomena. One take psychedelics and get into depths of one's own mind, their own psyche — nobody else's. Each of us has our own inner realm, unlike the outer physical universe in which we all share.

    And I suggest that poses a major categorical contradiction - an ‘apples and oranges’ problem - for comparing psychedelics with optical instruments to aid the naked eye. Analogies have their limits, and the one you've touted can't cross that gap.

  2. That was a good summary Brian, thanks. A side effect of consciousness seems to be, as you said, you get a universe sized object inside of you, which to paraphrase from you "doesn't look out at the external physical reality we all have in common - its a look inward, at individually differentiated, mental phenomena".

    I could not agree more. It's a sad state of affairs that many people live their lives not knowing what internal landscapes they possess, apart from maybe when they dream.

    Brushing aside these altered states as illusory is all very good and well, but they happen. They are as real as reality itself in that sense. Dreams are real, they happen. Just as perception is real, it happens when you are awake. The same is true for psychedelic experiences.

  3. I have written another article on the taxonomy of illusion, of which psychedelic illusions are on a large spectrum of other illusions such as cultural and materialist illusions. I may post it here soon.