On 21 Mar 2009, at 19:55, Johnathan Corgan wrote:
> On Fri, 2009-03-20 at 17:02 +1100, Kim Jones wrote:
>> Why would people dismiss the subjective experience of hallucinogens
> This is simply the observation that the action of hallucinogens on
> consciousness is often dismissed as an abberration and the potential
> scientific benefits from their objective study are therefore lost.
> Witness the popularity of the term "psychotomimetic" until fairly
> recently to automatically classify these effects as something akin to
> temporary mental illness, or the determination in the medico-legal
> context that all use is "abuse".
> What is ignored is that any theory of consciousness, or other theories
> that rely on the concept of consciousness as part of a chain of
> reasoning, must also be able to explain not only "typical"
> but also the quantitative and qualitative nature of altered states of
> consciousness. These altered states may be arrived at in a variety of
> ways (meditation, religious practices, psychoactive substances), but
> use of drugs to achieve them appears to be the way most amenable to
> controlled, scientific study. Yet there is very little of this
> happening, and what studies are in progress are aimed at establishing
> their potential health benefits (MDMA for PTSD sufferers, for
> This is not a bad goal in and of itself, but here we are trying to
> understand this enormous mystery of consciousness, and focusing on a
> narrow subset of conscious experience as the data to reason from.
You may be interested in the work of Walter Norman Pahnke, on the
relation between drugs an mystical consciousness:
A summary can be found here:
Concerning relations with death, and immortality question, here is
another paper by the same author:
It is a bit old, but still worth it, imo.
I guess you have heard about the more recent experiences, which have
shown that people can feel the benefits of psychedelic mushroom one
year after having ingest them:
>> Humans, properly fed, clothed, looked after,
>> educated will ALWAYS seek to alter their consciousness somehow by
>> using substances.
> Yes, history bears this out.
>> Millions of people drink coffee which has a powerful chemical impact
>> but nobody ever shows concern for their 1-pov experiences. Why the
>> special pleading for drugs? It's all just substance of one kind or
> Well, my earlier post in particular was singling out a specific
> class of
> substances--hallucinogens potent enough to not just alter or distort
> existing qualia, but to replace the user's entire sensorium with novel
> qualia, and by some reports, qualia in novel sensory modalities.
> report experiencing being in completely different locations,
> and participating in complex, detailed events, with a subjective sense
> that they are as real or even more real than what they experience in
> absence of the effects of the drug.
> Some hallucinogens go even further than this, and introduce an element
> of amnesia for semantic and episodic memories, such that users report
> the experience of "forgetting that I had taken a drug, that I was
> or even what being human meant." Five to twenty minutes later they
> return to baseline and report feeling completely "normal" again.
> Frankly, what astonishes me, is that these altered states even exist
> all. It would be reasonable to think that "disrupting" the physical
> processes which give rise to consciousness would merely cause it to
> fail; i.e., cause a loss of consciousness. Instead, in some cases, we
> have these fully immersive experiences with recurring, consistent
> themes, well structured, with content of unknown origin, and a lack of
> any relationship to sensory data streaming into the brain from the
> Yeah, I think their might be something worth investigating here.
I think so. What is really fascinating is the similarity and
differences between reports by different people, from different
traditions. This gives some credit to Jung's idea of collective
unconscious and archetypes (despite a lot of misuses of those ideas in
Of course all this lead to very difficult questions which touch deep
and alas still rather taboo questions. Not a long time ago, even the
very notion of consciousness or person was rather badly seen in the
"scientific" community. Vienna circle influence and behaviorism have
been attempts to make science abandoning the metaphysical inquiry.
Fortunately, today, there is a general understanding that we cannot
dismiss such type of questioning without hiding data, or dehumanizing
humans. But "altered state of consciousness" is not yet well seen, I
guess mainly for authoritative religious, or irreligious, reasons (or
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