Tag Archives: psychedelics

More Mushrooms

Author Simon G. Powell

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Just read a great article over at Reality Sandwich, reviewing Simon Powell’s The Psilocybin Solution: The Role of Sacred Mushrooms in the Quest for Meaning. For those with a little patience this is actually a good article even for newbies. A lot of basics are covered here, including the idea that hallucinogens don’t so much ’cause us to hallucinate, as to experience data our brain normally filters.

Considering that some people report encountering other intelligences while under the influence of psilocybin, this is pretty extreme stuff. What I like about this article is that it takes a long hard look at the possibility that such altered states allow us to, essentially, download huge amounts of information in a very short—even sudden—manner. The article further focuses on the idea that psilocybin allows users to another purer, more direct language than the one we normally use—a language of images and, even, matter.

“…language is essentially an informational system not restricted to words alone. Language, in the abstract way in which I refer to it, is a system of informational elements bearing definite relations with one another; hence a language of words, of molecules, of symbols, and so forth.”

 

Meeting of the Minds

Sam Harris

Those who’ve read Fringe-ology know I quote both David Eagleman, the neuroscientist who advances the notion of possibilianism, and Sam Harris, the new atheist neuroscientist who not only advances atheism (sort of) but advocates that we all take seriously some form of broadly defined spirituality.

David Eagleman

In short, Eagleman thinks we should enjoy considering different possible explanations of what the world holds or what the ultimate reality might be, without committing to what he calls “any particular story.” This last bit presumably applies to everything from the Bible to string theory (though of course he’d likely be a bit more admiring of string theory because it has some scientific evidence to support it).

Harris, on the other hand, is all for non-belief in God, though he criticizes use of the word atheist because we don’t have a particular word for people who don’t believe in other things—like, say, elves. What I really admire about Harris is that he puts his considerable reputation on the line to speak up for practices long associated with mysticism, from meditation and contemplative prayer to the use of certain drugs. He is also willing to consider some incredibly far out and colorful possibilities.

Check out this quote from his notes to the essay linked above:

“Many users of DMT report being thrust under its influence into an adjacent reality where they are met by alien beings who appear intent upon sharing information and demonstrating the use of inscrutable technologies. The convergence of hundreds of such reports, many from first-time users of the drug who have not been told what to expect, is certainly interesting. It is also worth noting these accounts are almost entirely free of religious imagery. One appears far more likely to meet extraterrestrials or elves on DMT than traditional saints or angels. As I have not tried DMT, and have not had an experience of the sort that its users describe, I don’t know what to make of any of this. ”

Please, before anyone feels the need to defend Harris against his own words, allow me to note that in the main body of the essay he says we should be very cautious about drawing any conclusions about the nature of reality from our subjective experiences, no matter how profound they may seem. I, however, see the spark of the possibilian in Harris and believe that’s to be encouraged. So imagine my delight when I saw this recent post in which Harris “calls out” David Eagleman and also says he wants to meet him (in the nicest possible way, or close to that, anyway).

For me Fringe-ology was a way to bring together some of the most interesting ideas and people available to us within the covers of one book. I greatly look forward to seeing the results of any conversation held between Harris and Eagleman, neither of whom can be ignored.

The Mushroom: Life-changing (And Great With Pasta)

Comedian Joe Rogan, and a new generation of scientists, are diggin' them some psychedelics.

Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of what I would consider progress.

‘Ole Tim Leary went so far with psychedelics in the 60s that the culture recoiled, and we needed a couple of generations to pass before we could take a good look at the drugs he touted.

That seems to be happening now, and lo and behold, it turns out that LSD and Magic Mushrooms are—well, let’s just say, maybe they aren’t only for stoners. This new wave of attention is making for a dynamic set of bedfellows. Comedian Joe Rogan frequently trumpets the mind-expanding virtues of psychedelics. And now the academics at Johns Hopkins are agreeing with him.

For more, check out these two pieces. The first is from the Economist, which provides a neat round-up of current and pending studies. Here’s a taste:

“The first clinical study of LSD in over 35 years, also on terminally ill patients, is expected to finish this summer. Peter Gasser, the Swiss doctor leading the experiment, says that a combination of LSD and psychotherapy reduced anxiety levels of all 12 participants in the study, though the statistical significance of the data has yet to be analysed.

“Research into LSD is not confined to medicine. Franz Vollenweider, of the Heffter Research Institute in Zurich, for example, is scanning people’s brains to try to understand how hallucinogenic drugs cause changes in consciousness.”

See the full text here:

And second, enjoy this little blast of unexpected science from the good folks at Time, describing how researchers at Johns Hopkins are using mushrooms as much more than an accompaniment to a nice pasta.

“The psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms may have lasting medical and spiritual benefits, according to new research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“The mushroom-derived hallucinogen, called psilocybin, is known to trigger transformative spiritual states, but at high doses it can also result in ‘bad trips’ marked by terror and panic. The trick is to get the dose just right, which the Johns Hopkins researchers report having accomplished.”

The article—look for the full text here—goes on to describe how the drug might prove particularly useful with terminally ill patients but seems to have a powerful, positive and lasting effect on just about everyone.

Sounds good to me. In Fringe-ology, I address the terminally ill at some length. But the book’s focus is on seeing all of us get through the night.  And in this case, finding something we can use in a field of study long-derided and left for dead fits right into my book.