February 26, 2008

A methodology for studying alternate reality

A Methodology for Studying Various Interpretations of the DMT-Induced Alternate Reality

An interesting study proposal from May 2006, but haven't been able to find any follow up. Excerpt follows:

This section discusses three interpretations of the DMT-induced alternate reality. These interpretations run the gamut from DMT being a psychoactive molecule that provides a complete hallucination (i.e. a full sensory hallucination) to DMT acting as a gateway to a co-existing alien reality. First, the DMT experience can be interpreted as a hallucination where the human subject synthesizes the elaborate experience each time DMT is administered (i.e. an inconsistent subjective reality). In this sense, the DMT-induced reality is not persistent in that the alternate reality cannot exist without the momentary perception of the DMT inebriant. Furthermore, it is inconsistent in that repeated doses of DMT do not have correlated responses within the individual human subject (e.g. recurrent experiential themes). In this case, the DMT induced perception would be akin to the states perceived while on other psychoactives such as LSD and psilocybin. However, unlike LSD and psilocybin, the subject is experiencing a complete hallucination (i.e. a purely synthetic world) and not simply a distortion of their perceptual mechanisms (e.g. ‘melting walls’ and visual trails).
Second, the alternate reality could be a consistent subjective hallucination in that the DMT experience is persistent only to the individual human subject. This means that the subject may return to the DMT-induced alternate reality and perceive recurrent themes (e.g. same beings, similar conversations), but that perception is privy only to the isolated individual and does not occur across all subjects. This interpretation could imply that there exists some subconscious mechanisms facilitating the persistent personal experience. Whether that mechanism is solely biological (e.g. stimulating particular fundamental, or low-level, areas of the brain associated with the representation of humanoid beings) or psychological (e.g. stimulating high-level cortical regions associated with one’s life experiences) are two potential sub-hypothesis of the falsification of the consistent subjective reality as being a co-existing objective alien reality.

Finally, the DMT-induced alternate reality may be an objective reality that is persistent irrespective of the perceiving individual and therefore is the same reality being experienced by all DMT inebriants (i.e. a co-existing world, a true alternate reality). Though being the most extraordinary interpretation, as will be shown, this interpretation may be the easiest to validate.
The test for the second option is two give the entities a math problem, come out of the trip, and return and get the answer. The test for the third is to go in, give the problem, come out, and then send someone else back in to get the answer. Failure seems assured.

Skeptic / experienced psychonaut James L. Kent comments:
The fact remains that DMT entities do exist, but it is my belief that they represent subjective personifications of alien archetypes within our own minds. We all have the elf/alien archetype embedded within our structure; and we utilize subconscious processes which are so autonomous and foreign to our "executive" consciousness that we cannot even identify them as "self" when we see them. Imagine, for instance, if the neural network responsible for making "snap decisions" -- a little pocket in the medial pre-frontal cortex -- suddenly took visual form due to hyperactive excitation of your visual cortex. Instead of receiving feedback counseling via internal voice or "gut feeling", that voice would suddenly have a body and a face and a costume, and perhaps a fully choreographed dance routine to go along with whatever it was telling you.
Now part of me is a sucker for the sci-fi thrills of another dimension inhabited with intelligent beings existing in the same space as our own, and I certainly think that research on inner space should be undertaken with all the seriousness of research to outer space, but with regard to the search for intelligent life...we have it all around us. Working with cetaceans - in the vein of John Lilley - should be a priority, but also hacking into other life forms, ways of being.

So, being conservative, skeptical and generally in awe of the brain and what how little we know of what it does, I'm inclined to follow Kent, above. I think consciousness is an aggregate of many processes - a society of mind, and from here to DMT elves is not such a leap. Without much reflection I'll pull in Julian Jaynes and his theory about the bicameral mind. Basically this is that long ago humans were not subjectively conscious, and heard voices in their heads giving them orders which they took to be gods, but which in fact came from the subject's own head...it's late, it's complicated, you can find more online if you want to. From what I've read I'm not convinced, although I am certain - as a naive and easily swayed layman working only with the raw material of my own experience - that consciousness is environmentally constructed, and so vastly different societies would produce vastly different minds. But keeping with Jaynes, the bicameral mind, and gods inside the head - does DMT cause a mental split, and does this produce the entitiess? We're hard-wired to find faces in clouds, why not to voices in our head? No homunculi are needed, just whispers and shadows. But at some point I'll have to write some posts about salvia.

Further comment on the study, more sympathetic to the idea of autonomous entities, can be found on another new blog, one rather more devoted to this topic than mine: psychopraxis.blogspot.com

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