From: Ben Goertzel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Mar 15 2004 - 07:10:43 MST
Damien wrote, about Terrence McKenna and others with a similar attitude
Because we have been there, we know we need not be afraid, or give in to
amazement, and can avoid being hypnotized by speed or pretty blinking
lights. Talking to aliens? Been there. The end of history? Been
too. Maybe all the bizarre trips that we've all had are just what we
even as humanity enters its last, strange trip.
Just a few months before he died, I went to visit Terence in Hawai'i. I
asked him to sign my copy of The Invisible Landscape, which he did. He
wrote: "Properly understood, this book is a map to the stone. As above,
The stone he referred to is the Philosopher's Stone, which could raise
materials to their highest, transcendent state. He knew that at best
constructed a metaphor, a way to conceive something inconceivable. >
Yada yada, alas. IMHO.
In my view, psychedelic experiences CAN be valuable in preparing the
mind to understand the Singularity.
But NOT because the details of what's experienced in psychedelic
experiences is similar to the details of what will happen after the
Singularity. This seems unlikely.
Rather, because, psychedelic experience compels you to appreciate the
relative and insubstantial nature of human thought and reality, in a
very visceral rather than purely intellectual way.
Getting outside of the human mind, and seeing how the human mind
constructs itself and constructs an "apparently solid" reality for
itself -- seeing that there's actually a much bigger universe out there,
beyond anything our minds or our science is capable of comprehending ...
"seeing"/perceiving this as intensely as one ordinarily perceives one's
stomach or a fork in one's hand ... This kind of "view of human reality
from the outside" definitely one of the gifts of the psychedelic
After having had this kind of experience, it's pretty EASY to believe
that a techno-Singularity could reveal some part of this trans-human
universe that one has glimpsed
However, it is very foolish to think that psychedelics let one see even
a tiny fraction of what exists outside consensus human reality. There's
a lot of possibility out there in pattern-space....
The sorts of things one should take back-to-reality from psychedelic
experiences are messages like
* there's a lot of reality beyond human reality, which we can't even
come close to understanding
* everything is connected, everything is continually manufactured by
* there's awareness and mind inside everythign
Note, these are PLATITUDES, but the significant thing about the
psychedelic experience is DEEPLY AND VISCERALLY EXPERIENCING these
platitudes rather than just realizing them intellectually
Trying to seize specific facts from psychedelic experiences -- like "the
world will end in 2012" (one of Terrence McKenna's favorites) is just
silly. It's embarrassing.
One of the peculiarities of the human mind on psychedelic drugs is a
breakdown of the distinction between symbol and signifier. Specifics
are brought into play to represent generalities, and then the mind is so
screwed by the drug that it totally confuses the specifics with the
generalities. For example (in McKenna's case), a deep and valid general
insight that human reality is bringing itself to an end is symbolized by
a specific idea that the end will occur in 2012 because that's when the
Mayan calendar ends -- and then the specific idea comes to take over the
role of the general insight (erroneously). McKenna's thinking is full
of this kind of confusion between the symbol and the signified ... Which
is very reminiscent of the shamanic traditions that he so respected ...
And probably occurred because he took psychedelics pretty much every
day, rather than letting himself get back to "consensus reality" and
reintegrate his insights into a coherent mind-state and world-view...
-- Ben G
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