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One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.
We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation.
No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite discarded. How to regard them is the question—for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes, though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region, though they fail to give a map.
At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality. The mind-altering effects of LSD and similar drugs alarmed conservative America. As a result, Leary crossed paths with the U. More research into the medical uses of LSD should be done, but the medical establishment as well as medical malpractice law attorneys would likely fight it in court.
Then, as if to confound fans and critics alike, the counterculture impresario re-emerged in the late s as a proponent of Intelligent Design. The term wasn't widely used at the time, but it captures the drift of Leary's posts philosophy. He proffered to audiences attending his "stand-up philosopher" performances a teleological model of evolution, one guided by Higher Intelligence. It's time to migrate back to space, Leary proposed. The new shtick elicited mixed feedback from the old hippies, young cyberpunks, and other curiosity seekers who took the time to listen.
Leary organized his ideas about evolution into Exo-Psychology , published in , an ambitious and provocative book that modestly billed itself as "a manual on the use of the human nervous system according to the instructions of the manufacturers.
Leary had no patience for scriptural literalism, except to note sardonically that Eden was the site of the first drug bust. Instead, he looked for Higher Intelligence far from religious—and scientific—orthodoxies. The psychedelic experience had convinced him that DNA not only preserves the evolutionary past—a prescient assertion, given the recent finding that DNA is conserved across species —but also already holds in storage the evolutionary future.
Leary proposed that biological phenotypes are pre-coded into DNA. In the case of humans, modalities of mind are among the phenotypes pre-coded. His model of developmental and evolutionary psychology, based on eight "brain circuits" that are activated sequentially— during the development of an individual and species-wide during evolution —includes terrestrial and post-terrestrial stages.
The first four circuits govern the experiences of planetbound life. The last four become activated in outer space. Leary proposed that psychedelic drugs temporarily activate or emulate or simulate the extraterrestrial circuits. Although unwieldy and possibly maladaptive on Earth, the psychedelic experience delivers a preview of modes of consciousness that will be the norm among space dwellers.
Under the influence of the drugs, future evolutionary stages present themselves to the mind for perusal. The psychedelic experience will find its proper field of application and adaptation, according to Leary's model of evolution, outside the confines of gravity.
When it became clear that space colonization and post-terrestrial consciousness lay farther in the future than Leary was likely to live to see, he re-issued Exo-Psychology as Info-Psychology. A sidelining of his extraterrestrial ideals, the re-issuing appeared to be a transparent move to cash in on the personal computing boom of the s. Leary proved adept at changing lanes and wives and became an elder statesman of the cyberpunks and a video game developer at about the same time that beat novelist William Burroughs re-emerged as an impresario of the music and poetry punks.
Leary even engaged in touring debates with his old nemesis, Nixonian henchman G. Gordon Liddy. Marketing maneuvers aside, Leary's "Exo-Psychology" deserves reappraisal as a futurist manifesto.
It is relevant to the star larvae hypothesis in a number of ways: It proposes that evolution unfolds according to a program, that biology arrives on planets from space and, after planetary incubation, returns to space in a symbiosis with its technologies. Leary referred in passing to weightlessness and cosmic radiation, but he did not propose specific physical or physiological mechanisms that would trigger the final four, psychedelic, brain circuits.
Nonetheless, the retention in space brains of the circuitry that is lost when brains develop on Earth constitutes a plausible neurological mechanism for a psychedelic post-planetary consciousness. Such a consciousness, arising from an enrichment of brain tissue, will extend the trend line of human neoteny , or juvenilization. It will be psychedelic to the extent that infantile and psychedelic modes of consciousness overlap. And they seem to share a considerable ground.
The term refers to a conflation of sensory modalities, as in "hearing colors" or "seeing sounds. Baron-Cohen cites evidence of cross-referencing of the sensory modalities of infants, as in research that shows that infants exhibit more visual interest in objects that they previously had explored tactilely, or changes in heart rate that correlate with changes in intensity of auditory and visual stimuli but that are not elicited by intensity-matched stimuli.
In Baron-Cohen's words, ". Sounds trigger auditory and visual and tactile experiences. A truly psychedelic state, and all natural—no illegal substances play a role. A neuroanatomical explanation of this phenomenon is at hand. Researchers have found transient connections among the visual, auditory, somatosensory, and motor cortices in the brains of kittens and baby hamsters, Baron-Cohen points out, and he cites evidence that something similar occurs in human infants.
It would seem then that the sensorium is less differentiated in infants than in adults. And it would follow that a retention of juvenile brain structures— neurological neoteny —a retardation of development, would tend to preserve the otherwise transient connections among the various cortices of the brain. As a result, the normally transient sensory modality of synesthesia would become a permanent feature of extraterrestrial psychology.
To adapt Stephen Jay Gould's phrasing concerning morphological neoteny, the juvenilization of extraterrestrial brains will establish a matrix within which all trends in the evolution of extraterrestrial psychology must be assessed. Synesthesia is an evident area of overlap between psychedelic and juvenile modes of experience.
As much as psychedelics juvenilize, juvenilization should psychedelicize. Another, more general, area of overlap between the infantile and the psychedelic, albeit one that is hard to characterize precisely, might be described as unconditioned experience. In The Infant Mind , researcher Richard Restak illustrates by taking us inside the experiential world of a four-month-old:. Their hand is so interesting, so arresting that it captures their attention whenever it enters the visual field.
Only the infant truly appreciates the beauty of the human hand. Indeed, a baby is unable to ignore the hand, can't treat it as an object, hasn't the immediate knack of getting along with the business of grasping.
The baby will start to reach, encounter the hand, and ponder 'What's that! In The Joyous Cosmology , Buddhist scholar Alan Watts describes a similar experience, albeit in a very different context.
While strolling a wooded path he notices that,. Watts in this passage is recalling an experience that he had under the influence of a psychedelic drug. How do such mundane objects wield the power to transfix a mind? Maybe the answer has to do with the type of mind.
Adult minds typically don't react to commonplaces with concern, let alone intrigue. Adults typically will treat a log on a path or a hand at the end of an arm with indifference. But a baby hasn't yet endured the lessons of socialization. Its mind hasn't been conditioned to ignore anything; therefore, everything is novel. Starting at birth, a brain is subjected to conditioning agents that range from the physical environment which in the industrialized world might include electric sockets, hot stoves, and steep stairs , to parents, teachers, and coaches reprimands, grades and benchings , to romantic intimates, employers, mass media and various cultural totems and taboos.
The lessons of the environment, including the norms of the tribe—instilled through socialization, enculturation, and schooling—shape psychological habits. But what if the result of all this conditioning could be suspended and consciousness returned to its natural, pre-conditioned state? How does raw mind experience the world? Unfiltered by sociocultural manners, the empirical world essentially would be remade; it would revert to William James' blooming buzzing confusion.
The drugs inhibit conditioned patterns of thought and perception, rendering the drug-taker psychologically a child. And the acidhead enthralled by swirling patterns in an ashtray similarly cannot dismiss the encounter as a run-in with something mere. In early a team of researchers using various imaging techniques, including fMRI and magnetoencephalography MEG , to chart changes in the human brain that occur under the influence of LSD, reached conclusions pertinent to the foregoing analysis; namely, by corroborating the notion that under psychedelics the adult mind reverts to, or reprises, the infant mind.
The drugs temporarily suspend a lifetime's conditioning. Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacological research scientist at London's Imperial College, summarized significant results of this work: "Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialised functions, such as vision, movement and hearing - as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.
It is also related to what people sometimes call 'ego-dissolution', which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world.
This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way - and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug's effects have subsided. Dr Carhart-Harris added: "Our brains become more constrained and compartmentalised as we develop from infancy into adulthood, and we may become more focused and rigid in our thinking as we mature. In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained.
This also makes sense when we consider the hyper-emotional and imaginative nature of an infant's mind" [emphasis added]. And in that there might be therapeutic potential.
Baby consciousness is so different from adult consciousness as to constitute a mental country of its own, one from which we are expelled sometime early in adolescence. Is there a way back in? The closest we can come to visiting that foreign land as adults may be during the psychedelic journey.
This at least is the startling hypothesis of Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist and philosopher who happens to be a colleague of mine at Berkeley. The terms are meant to connote a structural and functional looseness of mind. The star larvae hypothesis considers such newly coined terms superfluous.
Psychedelics loosen whatever conditioning and imprinting shape the normal mind, and the drugs can facilitate a re-conditioning and re-imprinting of the mind. Or, as Gopnik observes,"Being inexperienced in the way of the world, the mind of the young child has comparatively few priors, or preconceptions, to guide her perceptions down the predictable tracks. Instead, the child approaches reality with the astonishment of an adult on psychedelics.
Despite differences in terminology and angle of attack, the psychedelic reflections of Gopnik and of the star larvae hypothesis dovetail into a common model of psychedelic drug effects.
But a seemingly vacant stare need not evince a dull mind. The pull of de- or unconditioned experience would seem to be an aesthetic attraction. In other words, it's not that the drugged mind finds beauty where there is none; it is rather that a mind regimented by convention fails to perceive beauty but in the narrow channels recognized by the culture.
A mind molded and lulled by cultural media has to struggle to see through its habits.
Info-Psychology: A Revision of Exo-Psychology
Metaphors of Consciousness pp Cite as. Exo-psychology is the science which studies the evolution of the nervous system in its larval and post-terrestrial phases. Primitive, pre-Einsteinian psychology — , although claiming to measure thinking, consciousness, and behavior, for the most part studied the adjustment-maladjustment of human beings to social rituals and culturally defined symbol systems. Appearing at a time when orthodox theology was losing its meaning for the growing class of semi-educated, psychology provided a comforting rationale for domestication, a soothing pseudo-scientific language for supporting the values of the middle class. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
THIS IS YOUR GOVERNMENT ON DRUGS.