Posted: Oct 16, 2014 3:48 pm
by Kafei
Fenrir wrote:When I think of seizures I think "explainable by material cause".

Why? Well because every instance which has been explained has turned out to be caused by humdrum ordinary material causes. Treatments which moderate epilepsy and reduce the incidence of seizure are humdrum material interventions.

Full stop. End of story. No amount of fluffy nebulous claims will move me. What you need to gain my interest is actual credible evidence that these events are people actually experiencing an actual, falsifiable, independently repeatable reality.

I'm not denying that it may be ultimately material, however I'm not sure that's the "End of story." I mean, like I mentioned before, consciousness isn't a fully explained phenomenon. There are some physicists, in fact, that believe that consciousness cannot be explained solely through materialism. After all, string theorists or M-theorists believe that in order to even explain the universe/multiverse, you have to posit not only our three-dimensional universe, but several spatial dimensions higher. Hence, you have the concept of 11-dimensional hyperspace in M-theory. So, physicsts like David Bohm believed that consciousness may be intertwined with the claims of string theory. Full stop? End of story? Not quite yet. However, even if it were the case that it's ultimately explained off by materialism, that still doesn't detract what I've been trying to say here.

Will S wrote:To try to put it in a few words: if mystical experiences were experiences of something, then isn't it reasonable to expect the experiencers to be able to bring us solid, verifiable information about the 'something' which they are experiencing

I'm supposing that you haven't checked that Reddit post there, yet. Well, yes, I believe that the experiencers are bringing back "information" from this experience. In other words, it is an experience of "something." I mention the work of Dr. Rick Strassman. He believes that what the mystical experience may ultimately be is a natural induction of N,N-DMT which our own body makes. There's heavily grounded speculation that this neurotransmitter may be produced in the pineal gland. So, what he did was intravenously dose dozens of volunteers with pharmalogically pure N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. Lo and behold, when these volunteers had the threshold dose, they all came back with not a personal projection of their subconscious, a "personal story," but it was almost as though they shared a universal experience. They came back with overlapping metaphors. The phrases "fourth dimensional" and "beyond dimensionality" were common amongst the volunteers in describing the experience. Now, maybe it's more that it's something natural within the substrate, the brain itself, rather than the personal detritus of their subconscious and personal memories. Fractal hallucinations were also common, and the surface of the brain itself is fractal, and so perhaps that has something to do with it. Again, these things haven't been properly studied to the point where we could verify any of this. However, the substances reliably induce this, they induce this universal phenomena that the similarities in each individual's experience are such that you could say, metaphorically, "they all go to the same place." It is credible evidence that these events are people actually experiencing an actual, falsifiable, independently repeatable reality.

There's also the work done at John Hopkins University done with psilocybin, a near relative of N,N-DMT, psilocybin is O-phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine or 4-PO-DMT, that has shown also at the threshold dose, is perfectly capable of inducing a classical mystical experience as described in various religion.

So, what I mean by experience of "something," and I want to quote Terence McKenna, because I believe his analogy may shed some light on what I'm at pains to express here:

I mean, think about… and I don’t think you could discover consciousness if you didn’t perturb it, because as Marshall McLuhan 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. And then you say, “Oh, I see – it works like this… and like this.”

You see, DMT is a neurotransmitter which attaches itself to serotonergic receptor sites throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. If you were to excite the neuronal activity throughout these areas of the brains, it could very easily, experientially, give you an impression of a panesthesia. In other words, it's possible to have the impression that you're experiencing all experience to be experienced at once. I believe people often describe this experience as "being one with everything." It's colossal and and titanic altered state. It's sometimes accompanied by what I could only call agapé, this is a Christian word that means "the love Christ felt," which is supposed to be spiritual in nature and not sexual, or if you don't like the word spiritual, then maternal. It's that so-called "Bible love," infinite, unconditional, without judgement, etc. There are moments when this massive love and bliss is experienced, and you can have the impression that the entire world is emotionally asleep. It's not something I ever exhibited in an ordinary state of consciousness. Now, I'm not trying to tie this in with Christianity, I'm simply borrowing the term because there is no word in common English that I believe that could describe a love so profound. I mean, in this state, it's quite easily to be moved to tears, you could probably murder someone dear to me, and I'd still forgive you. I mean, I say this to try and give you an idea of how profound this love is. Perhaps this is what truly Jesus felt, perhaps he had a physiological configuration that allowed to always act from this state of mind, while most people only glimpse it temporarily in a brief mystical experience.

Sam Harris thought that maybe because DMT is a serotonergic compound, meaning that it has an affinity to the serotonergic receptors and competes with serotonin for the serotonergic receptor site, and serotonin being the neurotransmitter neuroscientists most associate with our emotions that perhaps what DMT is doing is a kind of overhaul of the receptor site that causes these profound feelings of love and bliss. However, like I said, these things especially concerning psilocybin or N,N-DMT haven't been properly studied by neuroscience, so their effects on the brain are still somewhat of a mystery.

What I'm essentially saying here is obviously these areas of the brain are being filled with "information." So, instead of a neurological chaos, what I think may be happening, to connect this to Perennial Philosophy and if Strassman is right that DMT is behind this phenomenon, then it's as though we're given a glimpse into a state of mind in which the connectivity of neural pathways are being lit up to such a degree that the experiential content becomes seemingly incomprehensible. In other words, it may be our own minds, but our own minds lit up to such a degree that the informational content of the experience becomes seemingly incomprehensible, and it's this seemingly incomprehensibility that has been interpreted throughout the ages as "God," "Allah," Brahman," "soul," "Shekhinah," "Beatific vision," "Cosmic consciousness," "Non-duality," "ego death," etc. Well, at least that's what Perennial Philosophy is proposing.

I would not underestimate this experience. Shamans have been using "ayahuasca" for thousands of years, it's a brew which contains DMT. Joe Rogan put this way once, the impression of seeing something divine within the experience, even if you were to call it a "hallucination," there is no way to distinguish between the two experiences. This is because people, usually people who've not had this experience, tend to reduce it to materialism and hallucination. This is the common criticism of those who so obviously have never had this experience.