I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".

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I want to respond to this more elaborately, unfortunately I do not have the time right now to do so. What you've expressed is a common cynical point-of-view of those who've not have such experiences. I know you've admitted to not having any psychedelic experience, and you say you're not a "drug guy," but Dennis McKenna would respond to that statement by saying, "Well I'm here to tell you that all experience is a drug experience. We're all on drugs, all the time. That's largely because we're MADE of drugs." In other words, what issues out of this biochemical process, all these neurotransmitters and hormones moving around our brain. It's drugs.

So, it wouldn't make any sense to say "I'm not a drug guy," but I understand your inference. You're saying that you're one not to engage in the intake of exogenous substances. I suppose briefly I'd just like to point out one simple thing before I return to this for a more contemplative response, and that is do not let the word "mystical" in the term "mystical experience" mislead you. That is not to say that there is some kind supernatural occurrence here. This is simply a term that refers to this phenomenon, whatever it may be, and to whatever method may induce it.

I think the chances would be slim that you'd simply write it off as a "hallucination" or "drug-induced experience," I admit in one aspect it is that, but there may be more to this picture going on that is not being pointed out, as in your example of the "unicorn," as I pointed out in my previous post that hallucination isn't simply a projected object into space-time, as in the case of the unicorn. There is, instead, an even more powerful impression that what is being experienced is somehow the very fountain from which all possibilities spring from. So, this "unicorn" is simply one aspect of infinite inside these tryptamine-based hallucinations. I mentioned Alan Watts use of "ultimate consciousness," and there is this powerful impression that a kind of end state in consciousness in which there are no longer any possibilities to conceive of. You're sort of witness to the infinite spectrum, as it were, and I believe that's why it's such a challenge to attempt to describe this experience. It's almost as though the English language itself is too dimensionally low a language to even begin to speak about such an experience, because it's all based on tense. Past, present, future tense, etc. Well, it seems as though all those boundaries are dissolved in this very peculiar experience. Well, I'll return to this for a more elaborate response, but in the meantime I'll leave a couple of links. In the one with Watts, there's the piece where he uses this term "ultimate consciousness," and I'd also listen out for "final Self," because this is his attempt to describe what I feel anyone who does have such an experience is at great pains when trying to wordify this experience.

Alan Watts - What Buddhism is About

Sam Harris on "Mystical Experience"

On the Sam Harris video, I'm linking to the 1h34m24s mark, but if it doesn't begin there because of the ads (I have an ad blocker), just skip to that point.

Don't get me wrong, I do agree the bio-chemistry and configuration of our brains produce the output we experience. I just tend to think the need for better and better data (data more consistent with reality) was an evolutionary advantage and other drugs simply interfere with that process ...which is not to say it's not good to interfere with such data at times, or that it is bad to, but rather that such wouldn't be a measure that we can utilize to parse reality. 

I also think drugs can be quite helpful (I'm certainly not anti-drug in any way and use over the counter all the time). They can reduce or stop pain, assist with depression, help with ailments (e.g. nausea), increase creativity, and much more. 

I am. however, fairly sure I would write off a psychedelic experience as a "hallucination" or "drug-induced experience" ...though I'm sure I'd probably think it could be a "cool" or "fun" experience. But like I said, I actually experienced leaving my body and seeing it on my bed. I experienced a sensation I'd never experienced before. Yet today I write it off as a lucid dream because when I look at it through a more rational lens I can recognize it as such.

BTW...I used to consider myself a Buddhist at one point as well (just no more).

I do want to read Sam Harris's new book but haven't gotten around to it yet (read most of his others). I've seen that interview you linked. :)

 I know you only say this because you've no experience. Try reducing it to that after that fact. ;-)

Perhaps. I just know my epistemological standard very well. Experience is one thing, being able to verify experience intersubjectively (consensus reality?) is something else. It also needs to be filterable through logical consistency for me. If, for example, I experience something that, afterward is (by it's very nature) a contradiction - then it is more likely that the experience itself was faulty. I don't put a lot of weight into individual experience. There are people who truly feel they have experienced god, ghosts, and so on...and even some who think they see leprechauns, fairies, and a load of other things. But just because they experience it and truly feel it's true, doesn't mean it is.

So though "reality" itself is only modeled by our brain states, there are methods that are more consistent, reliable, verifiable, and measurable than others.

Interesting thoughts however.

I don't put a lot of weight into individual experience. There are people who truly feel they have experienced god, ghosts, and so on...and even some who think they see leprechauns, fairies, and a load of other things. But just because they experience it and truly feel it's true, doesn't mean it is.

So though "reality" itself is only modeled by our brain states, there are methods that are more consistent, reliable, verifiable, and measurable than others.



I'm not sure if you've read or heard about Dr. Rick Strassman's book "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," but he records his findings in his book that he gathered by intravenously dosing dozens of volunteers with pharmacologically pure dimethyltryptamine. While these altered states are not as easily manageable as our comparisons with verifiable data in "consensus reality," nevertheless there is a kind of consensus that is met. In other words, when each volunteer was interviewed very closely after the experience, there were striking overlaps in the descriptions of these experiences or "places."

I think people who've no experience with these substances tend to assume a Freudian model, that the hallucinations are some kind of projection of the personal unconscious. I sort of had this impression when you typed, "I don't put a lot of weight on individual experiences," that perhaps you shared this point-of-view, as well. It can be filtered through your personal experience, but I believe it transcends the detritus of the personal unconscious. These experiences are often described as being impersonal or transpersonal in that the content of the experience doesn't necessarily relate to the individual, there are motifs and thematic archetypes within the experience itself that cannot be reduced to the individual.

It seems to exhibit something more of Jung's "collective unconscious," but even that concept seems insufficient. It seems to illuminate a universal phenomenon rather than an experience that is unique to each individual. Although, the individual does have a unique personality in which these experiences are being filtered, the experience itself nevertheless seems to be a universal phenomenon, and I believeStrassman's work, the work done with psilocybin atJohn Hopkins University have shown this to be true.

So, it's not necessarily projecting the detritus of the personal unconscious, but rather that it seems to be because we all share the same substrate in which these chemicals interact with, i.e. brain, it's some kind of illumination of the substrate that is then projected into consciousness in quite a universal way. You know, Christian mystics who'd enter into these altered states would even refer to this state as "Christ consciousness."

So, I don't think it's necessarily that what is seen on these substances is "untrue," as in your example of the leprechauns and fairies, it's more to the point that these substances illuminate consciousness in a very similar fashion that dropping ink into a bowl of water would illuminate or reveal the convection currents operating within the standing water. So, instead of the dynamics of the water being completely invisible, the ink would allow us to see how the water operates by tracing out the physics of trajectories within the water. Well, the psychedelics work precisely like that, and they're like a dye-marker being dropped into the aqueous system of mind, and I believe what they reveal in that sense can be considered to be true.

It's not like a random display of chaos, where memories and abstract thoughts are rolling in some kind of visual kaleidoscope of nonsense. To the contrary, there is a beautiful order to these hallucinations which, relative to tryptamine-based hallucinogens, often take the form of iridescent fractals which move about in a very logical manner. In fact, Jason Padgett, a person who was an average joe until he was brutally mugged one day and suffered a severe concussion that caused brain damage that forced his brain to overcompensate in other areas of the brain that are usually dormant in most people, is now a mathematical savant as a result of this ordeal. He sees fractals in every direction that he looks.

Now, people in Strassman's book who describe their DMT experience often report fractals. Of course, some of them don't say it like that. This is what I mean by while the experience is universal, the unique personality that it's being filtered through is not. For example, if you're not familiar with the concept or word "fractal," then you might reach for synonymous diction as in "geometric pattern." And people often do. They'll say mandalic or kaleidoscopic or geometric pattern, but truly, this visual phenomena is fractal. Even Jason Padgett admits it took him a while to realize what he was staring at were fractals. Prior to his injury, he had no idea what a fractal was.

Strange phenomenon, indeed. I'm not sure as to why the brain would generate these fractals, but perhaps it's no surprise since the surface of the brain is fractal within its structure itself. So, it goes back to substrate, and this where I think psychedelics can reveal something that is "true." It's truth relative to the inner workings of the brain rather than the critic's point-of-view where the leprechaun doesn't exist in consensus reality, and therefore is untrue. That's not the argument, that's missing the point, but unfortunately that is the common cynical point-of-view and people's attitudes towards these things are based on that, so their natural reaction is, of course, to laugh whenever someone is talking about "truth" relative to psychedelics.

"In other words, when each volunteer was interviewed very closely after the experience, there were striking overlaps in the descriptions of these experiences or "places."

I have no doubt that a similar drug could often produce a similar experience. 

But even in our "non-drug" world there are people with very similar accounts of aliens and  abductions (not to mention just about every crazy thing). But without multiple people seeing the same alien at the same time, and verifying that it really is an alien and not some guy in a mask, these accounts just aren't credible even if they truly feel they have experienced one.

Perhaps if I saw an alien myself I might think what I saw was real. It may even fool me enough that I won't skeptically understand that it could be in my mind or something else.  But even me "changing my mind" wouldn't make it true if it's not. I'd just be lowering my standards.

So saying that "if I experienced it" I may change my mind could in fact be true...but even if it was, it doesn't really say much about what I changed my mind on really being true.

Indeed, if there is any chance it would change my mind, I think I'd be better of not doing it, as the only way for it to do so would be to lower the rigor on my methods.

I'm also not really that fascinated with fractals. ;)

And don't get me wrong. I'm not laughing at you or anyone else who decides that psychedelics helps in understand things. I also believe it could be "mind expanding" to have such an experience - especially in the creative realm. It's just not something a person "like me" has any real desire to do - but take that as no disrespect for anyone who does.

Perhaps one day some will be brought to me and I'll be like - sure...why not try. ;-)

But without multiple people seeing the same alien at the same time, and verifying that it really is an alien and not some guy in a mask, these accounts just aren't credible even if they truly feel they have experienced one.

Strassman speculates in his book that perhaps what the extraterrestrial encounter may be is a natural induction of N,N-DMT. Of course, like I said, it's being filtered through the unique personality of the individual, so if you're not familiar with fractals, and say you're obsessed with UFOs, then there's a strong possibility you could call this "fractal intelligence" an extraterrestrial. Just as a religious person might think it "God."

Of course, if you haven't the concepts of "God" or "extraterrestrial" in your background, then the less likely you are to describe your experience as "God" or "extraterrestrial." 

Perhaps if I saw an alien myself I might think what I saw was real. It may even fool me enough that I won't skeptically understand that it could be in my mind or something else.  But even me "changing my mind" wouldn't make it true if it's not. I'd just be lowering my standards.

Sure, but just don't let the typical depiction of the alien as the anthropoidal form of the big head, wide and dark lenticular eyes, and the human-like body bombard you with pre-conceived notions about the "alien." I mean, it may be completely alien in the very sense of the word, meaning that it would be unrecognizable to you. It won't come on as a humanoid, but rather self-dribbling jeweled geometric basketballs perhaps. In other words, there's other possibilities to consider here. If Strassman's speculation holds any weight, then it may be the "alien abduction" is just another way of describing the DMT experience. Terence McKenna used to say something as to break the barriers in people's minds in relationship to their pre-conceived notions about extraterrestrials. He would joke about an alien race that looked as though it was about to invade Earth, but pointed out that an extraterrestrial race would disguise themselves as an alien invasion as to not alarm people as to what's really going on.

I'm also not really that fascinated with fractals. ;)

You know, neither was I. It wasn't until I had a psychedelic experience that I found fractals to be very fascinating. In fact, in my first experience with psilocybin-containing mushrooms, when I was viewing these fractals, I didn't know what fractals were. I thought I was looking at tribal patterns that seem to have a transparent overlay of whatever I'd look at. It wasn't later that I'd realize what I was looking at were fractals. In Sacred Geometry, if you look into the so-called "Flower of Life," you'll see that within these concentric circles, any pattern can be drawn out of this geometric grid. Now, don't let the word "sacred," once again, throw you off or mislead you. It's simply a word for reverence, not to imply anything "supernatural" as most people tend to think.

So, out of this geometric pattern, all patterns in nature can be drawn out. That's why I like the analogy of the television set. In the very same way that your TV is capable of projecting so many patterns by turning off signals here and leaving them on there, it then portrays the current image on the screen. So, the potential to display, say, "The Walking Dead" is already possible within the physics of the TV even before the show is filmed. It's simply by virtue of physics and logistics that it's necessary that the show is filmed first before the debut episode of the new season is aired, and so the TV then can display these "new patterns."

Well, the implication being that consciousness works very similarly, that you can travel to Jupiter, and your brain will then reflect the light on a specific geographic area of that planet, and so you'll have the experience of "walking on Jupiter," because your mind will project the patterns that give way to that experience. But you see, the brain's capability, the brain's potential to do this had always been there in the very same way that the TV's potential to display the "Walking Dead Show" had always been there, but in order to cast this projection of the reflection of light, you first need to stand on Jupiter to make it happen. Unless, I don't know, you have a dream that perfectly simulates that experience, which may or may not be possible, but if it is possible, then of course it'd be highly unlikely.

So, what happens when you turn on all possible RGB signals on your TV? You get a "white light." I'm not saying that perhaps this is what people are talking about in reporting a "white light" in the near-death experience, but it's an interesting way of looking at it. This is what I think happens when someone takes a "heroic dose" of psychedelics, it's like turning on all the neural pathways of the brain, and what you are left with is the challenge of trying to describe an experience that, in some sense, contains the entire gamut of experience happening at once. You're turning on all possible patterns. 

This is what "sacred geometry" is talking about, a kind of intrinsic pattern in nature that contains or can produce any possible pattern, and some, if not all, of the natural phenomena in nature are based on these golden meanphi, and fibonacci sequences which express themselves fractally. While you may not be interested in such things, these basic sequences interpenetrate all aspects of nature.

Perhaps one day some will be brought to me and I'll be like - sure...why not try. ;-)

You know, prior to psychedelics, I really had no interest in any of these things, fractals, determinism, religion, atheism, altered states, etc. Now, as a result of these psychedelic experiences, I've become obsessed with all these topics. A side-effect of DMT, you might say, is the inability to shut up about DMT. Terence McKenna once said that, “The less intelligent you are, the less challenging the psychedelic experience becomes because the less capable of entertaining the implications you are. It has to do with your own intelligence... Truly stupid people aren’t interested in psychedelics because they can’t figure out what the point of it is. It feeds off intelligence. It’s a consciousness-expanding drug. If you don’t have any consciousness you can’t expand it.” Someone else phrased that, "The more mind you have, the more fun it is to perturb it with LSD." I think you'd be a perfect candidate for this experience, especially when your intense interest in the topic of determinism. If you ever are offered the opportunity to have this experience, I'd love to hear your take on it, because as of right now, the only people experimenting with mushrooms nowadays seem to be inarticulate teenagers living in trailers playing XBOX. However, I don't think that's the case with ayahuasca.

I'm not sure if you've ever visited the "EgoDeath" website I linked to earlier, but the concept there according the Hoffman, is the whole notion of this phenomenon of "ego death" which psychedelics induce as the revelation of determinism. The revelation of "no free will." 

I whole-heartedly disagree. The so-called diatribe is basically the point-of-view or consensus in the psychedelic community. These things are seen as great tools for exploring consciousness. These substances aren't for everyone, and I do not recommend them. I feel if you're curious enough, you'll probably naturally find your way to them or stumble upon them in some fashion or the other. And I describe what sense it is taken as "fact," because this whole enterprise is entirely misunderstood.

That long post you see above this one is my attempt at describing what this experience is like to someone who's never had this experience. That's why it's so prolix, because you first have to tear down pre-conceived notions that everyone has. It's not dancing mice, it's not pink elephants or prancing leprechauns. It's nothing of that sort. It's instead something a little more mind-boggling to wrap your understanding around, and that post is basically my shot at describing how a "heroic dose" of a psychedelic compound can colossally alter your state of consciousness.

Okay, this is precisely what I'm talking about when it comes to misconceptions and pre-conceived notions. -_-

First of all, psychedelics aren't addictive substances, they do not create addiction. In fact, most people try 'em once, and that's enough, because they experiencing something so frightening and terrifying that they never return to it. I've only had a handful of these experiences myself spanning across years. So, what you've said here doesn't make sense and instead simply proves my point.

Moreover, you say I'm losing control. This would imply I have free will. However, if I don't possess free will, how could I lose control?

The fact that you think these things are not beneficial is simply prejudice on your part, because a) you've never tried these substances and b) you're completely unaware of all the current research going on these days that are showing how beneficial these substances truly are.

If Alan Watts and McKenna are proposing psychedelic experiences are truth, then they don't know anything about Buddhism.

Depends on how you're defining truth here. I'm not sure if you've read the dialogue between Trick and I, but I describe in what sense can a psychedelic experience be related to truth. 

What Alan Watts, McKenna, and Strassman are speculating upon is that the psychedelic experience is quite akin to the states of mind as described in eastern philosophy, nirvana, samadhi, satori, sunyata, etc. Likewise, as described in many other forms of mysticism. This is not baseless speculation, and in fact, there's now evidence that proves that this is so, and it continues to pile on. That psychedelics do have the potential to launch you into these classically described mystical altered states of consciousness.

Please, Jonathan, take a listen, if you will.



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