>>What is the point of *anything*? How does *anything* "make a difference"?
>All of it is purely individual, and so personal, despite it seeming to be beyond the personal, that words don't seem to give the clarity it is deserving of...I feel as if we are trying to speak of ourself as separate from ourself.....and because of this, I seem to have lost the desire to talk about it.....and I wonder, if this is why it has remained hidden for so long behind the poetic metaphors written....
Trendy anti-entheogen meditation says the point of meditation is not mystic-state experiencing, but elevation of day-to-day life. That contradicts what some of the most important mystic traditions say, that the point of life and highest goal of life is the vision of God. Such a strong contradiction of what meditation or mysticism is for, and what religion is for, is worth discussion.
Existentialism also enters such a discussion, and is important for studying self-control cybernetics and gaining in personal self-management power, because cybernetics is concerned with goal attainment, and existentialism is concerned with the purpose, meaning, and value of life.
The problem with omitting mystic knowledge from modern knowledge is that the result is incomplete, and is incomplete for no valid reason. Modern knowledge is powerful enough to clearly explain and map out mystic knowledge.
Like creating the first airplane, this requires just normal genius, normal creative problem-solving: a strong and relentless desire to understand the mind, to crack the ancient allegorical puzzles, to study visionary plants and alternative techniques for accessing the mystic state, lack of gullibility, sharp discernment and a sense for the reasonable,
Mystic capacities are available to many more people by using visionary plants rather than meditation/contemplation alone, or rational study of symbology such as astrotheology alone. The average person has full mystic capacity if they combine visionary plants, contemplation, symbology, dedication to modern reason, seriousness of pursuit, and systematic model-construction.
I wish for more neutral terms than 'hallucinogen', but this culture tends to charge and ruin each term in turn, because the issue is overly charged. It doesn't matter in the end what label we choose -- hallucinogen, visionary plants, entheogens, psychedelics, visionary chemicals, cognitive loosening agents. In studying history of religion, 'visionary plants' may be most fitting.
Even without the uselessly narrow connotation of 60s culture, the term 'psychedelics' is too narrow, because an ancient visionary beverage could create an overall psychedelic effect by combining multiple plants that would fall under different categories such as deliriant (henbane), sedative (opium), mild psychedelic (cannabis) and stimulant (ephedra). Plant categorization is fuzzy and depends on usage context and combination.
Many people have found ample reason to ascribe divinity to visionary plants. Drugs are a tool that can have helpful and/or harmful effects. Potent drugs can loosen cognitive associations, providing a mystic state on-tap. Due to prohibition, study of the potential of visionary substances has been severely suppressed and distorted.
Mysticism is dangerous -- any mysticism that lacks danger is false, substitute, denatured mysticism. To the extent that any mystic technique is effective, it is dangerous. Safe and tame mysticism is no mysticism at all, just a denatured superficial spirituality veneer on ordinary life. Mysticism overlaps the realm of hallucinatory experiences.
Such experiences can be triggered by drugs, meditation, fasting, mental disorders, and many other triggers, showing that such experiences are an inherent potential in the typical mind.
Scholarship understands little about the mystic state and understands little about visionary plant states. The modern era was almost exclusively restricted to the ordinary state of consciousness. This is why modern philosophy and psychology is so limited and why scholars cannot understand the origins of Christianity.
To understand philosophy, psychology, and religion, a whole study of the mind is needed -- not just the modern study of the lower half of the mind, or the ordinary mode of mental functioning. The fatal flaw of modern knowledge is that it is incomplete and declares unreal and irrational that which it has simply failed to study. Modern knowledge specializes exclusively in studying the world from the ordinary-state point of view.
The ancients, in Platonist fashion, were equally lopsided, incomplete, and reductionist, collapsing all of life upward into the mystic state of consciousness.
There is no good reason for this half-knowledge, this half-life, this half-experience. It is not difficult to study the world from both perspectives, the ordinary state of consciousness and the mystic state. Mystic states originated from visionary plants and remain ergonomically accessible. Real science entails systematic model-construction informed by both states.
Research has barely begun to determine the extent of the use of entheogen triggers for religious states, in various eras and areas, among various groups in societies. The historical extent of use of entheogens in religion is an open question at this point.
Entheogens are a tool well-suited for the religious realm. Poor results reflect poor usage technique.
Exoteric religion results from the pointless avoidance of ergonomic methods. Meditation without entheogens is a reasonable approach as a kind of training wheels for the classic entheogenic method, which is more potent and effective than meditation alone.
The animal state of consciousness is that which is uninformed by the intense mystic altered state. Using visionary plants is easy in itself, but to accomplish anything with them requires hard work. Bunk "magazine Buddhism" or "book mysticism" condemns or accuses entheogens without an adequate defender. There are few adequate defenders of entheogens because of the oppressive state of prohibition.
The finest minds cannot step forward to defend entheogens against the false and diminishing accusations leveled against them. The bogus and ineffective, substitute path is meditation-alone, not entheogens. The truth is the opposite of what the anti-entheogen magazine Buddhists can so freely assert. When someone publishes a statement that meditation is valid and entheogens aren't, the world supports that publishing.
There are, in contrast, many reasons working against the publication of a statement that entheogens are vastly more valid and effective than meditation alone.
Meditation is safer and more predictable than entheogens because it is less effective at producing the mystic altered state. Meditation alone fails to produce much danger, unpredictability, or mental transformation (whether transient or in some way lasting).
When the use of visionary plants is not listed in a mystic's or seeker's biography, this might be because they were lacking, or because they were used but not mentioned due to prohibition.
I don't know if mystics claim to provide firm epistemological or spiritual ground -- most of them would waffle and qualify this.
What if such experiences led to a philosophical conclusion of no-free-will? Ordinary life would remain basically the same. Compare the mystic experiential realm and one's sex life. Does one base significant worldview premises on one's sex-life? Some do, some people don't. Sex life is simply part of life, and has some limited effect on the overall life.
Same with the mystic realm -- it is simply part of life, and has some limited effect on the overall life. The mystic realm is easier to access than mystics and nonmystics think, is more sure than the skeptics think, and is more limited than the mystic advocates assert.
My view is that mystic knowledge is easy to access, is sure, and is limited.
The skeptic view is that mystic knowledge is hard to access, is highly unsure, and is limited.
The conventional mystic advocate view is that mystic knowledge is hard to access, is sure, and is hardly limited. They put it on a pedestal, make it seem nearly unattainable, and glorify it as thoroughly life-changing.
Transient states of consciousness often leave lasting changes in the mental worldmodel.
Discernment of mystic-state insights seems like an intractable problem, but it is the most normal and ordinary problem that affects knowledge in general. Knowledge in general is problematic in various ways, but it comes down to judgment, reasonable paradigm selection, effective means of collecting observation data, and effective discussion and communication of theories or models.
Finding a useful means of discernment or theory selection is a problem common to many areas of research. It's not necessarily easy; there is a certain amount of work involved.
Can mystic experiences "improve the lot of humankind on earth"? If modern man remains ignorant of and baffled by the realm of the mystic altered state, solving such ignorance and bafflement would surely be some type of "improvement of the lot of humankind on earth".
To scientifically or coherently understand mysticism, use reason skillfully, together with more effective triggering of the intense mystic altered state.
To those who live almost exclusively in the ordinary state of consciousness, it is more real, legit, and relevant than the mystic altered state. The mystic state is a small part of our experience if we don't often use effective triggers for it, but even so, it potentially towers in profundity over the mundane ordinary state.
When considering experiential data from the ordinary and mystic states, the mind can form a rich mapping of the relation between self and world, seeing ways in which there is duality and ways in which there is nonduality, and experiencing both perspectives. The nondual experience is a description of a common experience in the intense mystic altered state.
It feels nondual compared to the ordinary-state feeling that is relatively more dualistic and emphasizes separateness. The mystic state emphasizes nonseparateness of self and world.
Studies of the real origin of the Jesus figure should shine light on the valuation of the mystic state, as one of the motives for constructing the Jesus figure. Without a compelling motive, the no-historical Jesus view isn't very convincing -- people are committed to the "compelling big-bang" explanation in which Jesus' charisma caused the gradual euhemeristic construction of a bigger-than-life Jesus figure.
To them, there is a compelling motive for the historical-Jesus scenario, but no compelling motive for the no-historical-Jesus scenario. Yes, a major part of the reason for constructing the Jesus figure was anti-Ruler Cult, and part was astrology, but also a compelling part was mystic experiencing -- the use of the Jesus figure to personify and convey experiential insights encountered in the intense mystic altered state.
These various reasons worked together tightly; all areas of ancient thinking were tied closely together by common reference to the mystic altered state, which almost seems like the ordinary state of consciousness for the ancients, due to their emphasis on it. Today's diminishment of the mystic state is arbitrary and simply reflects the modern failure to use the visionary plants that lie so close at hand, possibly unlike the ancient world.
>Brain scans have been used extensively to explore the mechanism involved in meditation-induced, altered states of consciousness.
>Have brain scans been used in the case of chemically-induced altered states of consciousness?
>According to Owen Flanagan "The mind/brain does its magic through the operation of neurons, with axons and dendrites that form synaptic connections, and via electrical and chemical processes that mediate attention, remembering, learning, seeing, smelling, walking, talking, love, affection, benevolence, and gratitude."
>Is there a fundamental difference in the electrical and chemical processes leading to altered states of consciousness between meditation and chemically-induced altered states?
>Has this question been explored, and if not, why not?
My specialty is a William James-like focus on cognitive phenomena, rather than hardware, though I assume the two run parallel and shine some light on each other.
The subject of entheogenic versus drug-free spirituality warrants extended skilled debate -- unlike the baseless claims and cliched assertions of the entheogen diminishers that are posed as "debate" today. I cannot at the moment comment on every point people have raised.
>What is frustrating, is the constant misinformation about religion---the confusion between reality and fantasy, literalism and symbolism and ultimately the way to allow entheogenic use to actually permeate the society in a positive, scientific way, that will allow for the reprogramming of the way humans behave on the planet.
>Give me a 1000 Osama bin ladens, George Bushes and Sadamms, neo - nazis, Buddhist Priests, catholic or Christian Priests, rabbis, Islamic leaders, hindus etc, and a thousand comforatable isolation tanks, a large supply of some excellent entheogenic material and plenty of advanced and properly prepared Multi-media and excellent devices, ----and the time to straighten them out and the whole world could change.
>If the goal is individual and group awakening intially and then actual social change at every level, arising from many individual awakenings, then that goal has not been approached, by institutionalized religion or entheogenic religion either.
>The "Mystics," who claim profound experiences without EVER using entheogens, are either liars, schizophrenics, Manics or just plain charlatans. Those who buy into them are suckers and people with misplaced idealism. This blocks any useful change in humankind and just promotes eternal sheepism. So far ALL religions have failed miserably to provide real solutions to the problems of people.
I am skeptical about the ability of entheogens to improve life as measured in ordinary terms. My strategy for success in accomplishing philosophical-religious goals is by restricting my goals: my goal is to clearly, rationally, and explicitly explain the nature of the ego death experience, and enable everyone to have a full ego death and rebirth experience according to a well-suited clear definition of ego death, easily and routinely attaining a certain specific climax and fulfillment.
Such ego death, successfully attained and understood, is a personal attainment and a cosmic achievement, but is distinct from a mid-level social shared accomplishment -- improving daily societal life. I don't promise that a theory of ego death makes measurable changes; this way, the validity of the theory does not collapse if diverse promised goals of societal reform fail to materialize.
This theory of ego death and rebirth is not a theory of social reform; that would be a distinct endeavor. It is a theory of personal metaphysics which certainly changes one's experience and worldmodel, without necessarily having any effect on daily life and society.
Allegorically we can jokingly claim that the System of Caesar has been catestrophically defeated, by cleverly conflating mystic death and rebirth with socio-political collapse of the current evil socio-political system and its replacement by that of the transcendently Good spiritual realm -- that is the old Zoroastrian apocalyptic mythic-mystic allegory formula. It is mystically true, but when posed literally, is wish-driven thinking. Societal improvement might follow mass entheogenic enlightenment, but it might not; I see no strong, reliable correlation.
I guarantee that entheogens combined with intellectual study will produce a certain kind of death and rebirth and enlightenment experience. I do not and cannot guarantee that entheogens combined with intellectual study will lead to socio-political or daily-life improvement. By only asking of enlightenment what it can most centrally deliver -- enlightenment -- the way is open to seek and obtain enlightenment.
If we jumble enlightenment thoroughly tangled with socio-political reform, without differentiation, that's the same old formula that's been tried, leading to neither enlightenment nor socio-political reform. By analyzing the problem into distinct compartments that may later be interconnected -- attaining enlightenment versus achieving social reform -- we may stand to achieve both. It requires two distinct full efforts, not a full effort at enlightenment, with hope of automatically getting for free a bonus social reform as a result of success at enlightenment.
No amount of socio-political improvement will automatically bring about enlightenment, and vice versa; they are distinct developmental threads.