A Tough Few Days — Part II: The LSD Study

An Illusion?

An Illusion?

NEAR FLAGSTAFF, AZ

April 15, 2016 10:15 AM

Yesterday I mentioned that a couple of things had thrown me for a loop: The “failure” of a theory I had, and an article I had read earlier that morning which made me question if spirituality was just a big mental illusion.

This morning, Rob resolved the first point (in the comments) by noting that my theory’s “failure” was due to a simple framing problem (physical needs confused with mental desires (a point worthy of a blog post all it’s own)), but the problem of “spirituality being all in your head” was still disturbing. 

Some key excerpts from the article, Here’s What LSD Does To The Brain:

  1. “ego dissolution: a loss of self-identity and sense of connection to the environment outside of oneself”
  2. “You don’t recognize yourself as a separate being from the universe”
  3. “It feels, in a way, like transferring the consciousness from within your body to the outside world; the focus is in the objects that surround you rather than inside.”
  4. “When they looked at the regions of the brain involved in introspection, or thinking about oneself, and sensory areas that perceive the outside world, they found that these networks were communicating more intensely than usual.”

The first three excerpts accurately describe what stepping through the Gateless Gate into enlightenment feels like. The fourth excerpt is what scared me. Excerpt #4 implies that the Witness Aspectpractically what every one of today’s nondual teachers focus on—is simply a neurobiological process inside our heads.

Let me say that more clearly:

Enlightenment—the Witness—is simply a neurobiological process inside our heads.

(WGW EDIT: I should have said: “Enlightenment—the feeling of being one with everything—is simply a neurobiological process inside our heads.” See the bottom of this post.)

And that scared me because, after reading the report, I found I agreed with it completely.

Sacrilege! I know, but I can’t deny what logic, experience, and evidence suggests:

  • LSD stimulates communication between the “me-me-me” part of the brain and the parts of the brain that perceive the outside world, leading to the FEEL/PERCEPTION of unity with the world.
  • The feeling/perception of unity with the world (not just the understanding of it) is “enlightenment” (the Witness Aspect).
  • LSD didn’t affect Ram Dass’ enlightened guru.
  • Though LSD use to affect me, since awakening, it no longer does.
  • Conclusion: Enlightenment (the Witness Aspect) is simply when communication between the “me-me-me” part of the brain and the parts of the brain that perceive the outside world “open up.”

How this “opening up” of this communications channel between the inner experience of self and the outer experience of the world happens is well beyond my education level, but I suspect it is that either a physical pathway develops/unblocks or it becomes a learned skill (like learning how to walk). I suspect both.

There are huge implications here, and things to be learned from this conclusion/theory, and I’ll cover them in upcoming posts, but is this conclusion worthy of my spiritual doubts? That all that I’ve been writing about over the years is “just inside my head?”

No.

As soon as I asked this question of myself, “Have I been wasting my time here? Has all this just been some bio-mechanical illusion?” She answered me…

Yesterday morning, after reading the article and realizing the implications and finding myself filled with doubts, I looked on my computer to see what task I had scheduled for myself for the day: “Write the topic, A Sense of Purpose, for the Soul Lessons chapter.” On my notes for this topic, I’d put a link to my post, Have I Lived True?. As I pulled up the article (go ahead and click the link I clicked on for the full effect), I’m hit with the photo Michelle had taken of one of my most memorable and powerful synchronistic experiences and “Bam!” I stepped out of my Mind and into my Heart.

I smiled and nodded in gratitude to my Beloved who so spontaneously and immediately answered my question, “Was all this for naught?” with a simple click of a mouse.

The LSD study mentioned above only applies to the Witness and I AM Aspects, the areas taught by most nondual teachers today, but it has nothing to do with the beauty and the power and the mystery of the Mystical side of Mystical Oneness: The Soul, the Mystic, the Ascetic, and the TaoGod(I) Aspects. All those lie beyond the physically perceived world of the physically constructed brain.

Evidence implies the Soul.

Siddhis imply TaoGod.

Synchronicity implies TaoGod.

All my mystical experiences (and yours) imply TaoGod.

The story behind the beautiful portrait of a red-headed woman with a third eye implies TaoGod.

I have no more doubts. Brain farts? Lots of them. But doubts?

Not a one.

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10 thoughts on “A Tough Few Days — Part II: The LSD Study

  1. ‘Conclusion: Enlightenment (the Witness Aspect) is simply when communication between the “me-me-me” part of the brain and the parts of the brain that perceive the outside world “open up.”’

    Maybe instead of “open up” it should say, “function simultaneously.” It’s a work in progress.

  2. “Excerpt #4 implies that the Witness Aspect—practically what every one of today’s nondual teachers focus on—is simply a neurobiological process inside our heads.”

    Perhaps it implies that in order to perceive/experience the Witness Aspect a head is required, and heads operate according to neurobiological processes. Could it be that the brain is the tool Tao/god utilizes to experience consciousness at the level of physical matter?

    An aside for clarification: what is meant by experience? Science tells us that dreaming is a regular part of the sleep cycle and occurs naturally provided that the sleep is not interrupted and is allowed to progress through its cycle naturally. Yet, many mornings we awaken and have no memory of dreaming. Did we dream that night? Most likely. Did we experience dreaming that night. Definitely not. We had no experience of dreaming because we have no memory of its occurrence. Thus, perceptually, it’s as if it didn’t occur at all. Thus, experience requires memory. It also requires contrast, but that’s a topic for another time.

    So, to experience the subtle (or the mystical, or the divine) requires the help of tools at the level of the physical. For us, that tool is the brain. Ken Wilber: “All interior experience is interpreted.” And my contention is that all experience is interior. There cannot be any other kind. Consider Descartes.

    So then, this brings us back to the point. Is the witness all in your head? Sure. Where else would it be?

    And LSD? (or any other hallucinogenic drug), is merely a substance capable of co-opting our brain-tool and causing it produce a certain kind of experience. (I once saw a documentary about some study being done in neuroscience, where certain areas of the brain [the same ones that lsd targets] were electrically stimulated. The subjects reported the same tenancy toward mystical or self-defined experiences of the divine. )

    Doesn’t it make sense that any state the brain can produce with the aid of drugs, it can also produce with the aid of cognitive growth, aka awakening. But whereas the experience of LSD passes, Awakening is a permanent upgrade to the brain-tool. Or so it seems to me. I could be wrong.

    Love and Aloha to all,
    Holman

  3. In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I am a professional scientist. Because in today’s post you mention scientific research, I feel compelled to point out an interesting phenomenon regarding how scientists view the results of research vs how the lay public interprets it. I want to take your statement and trace it back to its source in the scientific data.

    You read the report of the study and concluded that “Enlightenment—the Witness—is simply a neurobiological process inside our heads.” This statement implies that consciousness is “caused by” the brain. Indeed, this construct is actually discussed often in psychological research into the nature of the “agent” or sense of self. But remember, it is only a hypothesis, a guess, used to generate experiments (and grants).

    Now if we look at the article you read, we can see how it might have influenced your interpretation. Keep in mind that this was written by a reporter, not a scientist. Her underlying purpose was to generate readership (money) by creating excitement. Let’s start with the title of her report: “Here’s What LSD Does To the Brain – There’s a reason it makes people feel more connected to the universe.” The word “makes” implies causation. In the article she concludes that “While people are on acid, they start to see activity going on in the brain, which is normally suppressed from perception, … The ability to see this internal activity is likely responsible for hallucinations and visual distortions on LSD…”. You see what is happening here? She has subtly implied that LSD changes the brain and then the brain changes consciousness.

    But that is not what the actual scientific research says.

    First, the title of the study she reported on is “Increased Global Functional Connectivity CORRELATES with LSD-Induced Ego Dissolution”. A very different message than that given by her title. Notice the word “correlates” in the title. Let’s see why that is important.

    Using the link to the actual scientific journal article we see the following comments from the scientists themselves:

    “…we correlated the magnitude of regional FCD increases observed under LSD with the intensity of ego dissolution reported by the participants…”
    “…we identify those regions presenting correlations with ego dissolution scores…”
    “The frontoparietal cortex is implicated in conscious information access … even though an unequivocal link (read correlation) between frontoparietal activity and the conscious state is lacking.”
    “…… our exploratory imaging analysis revealed significant … correlations with… the one (part of the brain) that enquired about feelings of ego dissolution. That the results of these exploratory whole-brain analyses correlated selectively with ego dissolution may be significant…”
    “In conclusion, the present study aimed to explore one of the most remarkable and least understood domains of the psychedelic experience, known both colloquially and academically as “ego dissolution.” It revealed an increase in global integration within the brain …. Importantly, the increases in global integration in cortical association regions selectively correlated with subjective ratings of ego dissolution.”

    Once you see the pattern of the scientists using the word “correlation” you see it everywhere. Why is this important? Because, a fundamental axiom of science (and particularly statistics) is that CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION. Correlation means that two variables change together. Causation means the change in one variable is responsible for (totally explains) the change in another variable. There is a famous article in a scientific journal about the increase in sightings of storks in Holland correlated with increased birth rate, hence the belief that storks bring (cause) babies.

    The point of all this rambling is that your conclusion “the Witness Aspect…is simply a neurobiological process inside our heads” is a misinterpretation of the actual data (encouraged by a reporter with no skill at interpreting scientific results).

    Holman got it right when he says “Could it be that the brain is the tool Tao/god utilizes to experience consciousness at the level of physical matter?”

    Imagine, for instance, that you could gather the world’s greatest scientific minds from the early 1800s and show them a simple transistor radio. They would conduct experiments to see how moving the tuning dial correlated with different kinds of music. In so doing, they would likely hypothesize that the mysterious electrical components inside were somehow making the music and if they could just figure out how the components work, they would understand how the music was made. They would have no logical frame of reference to create the hypothesis that the music was actually created in a studio and had nothing to do with the radio.

    This is exactly what current scientists are doing with the brain. In contrast, mystics have been saying for thousands of years that the brain is just a receiver that transmits consciousness, “colored” if you will by the condition of the gray matter, but certainly not caused by it.

    Viewed in this context, you can see how silly it is to take what scientists report (or worse, reports about reports) regarding consciousness very seriously. Their primary motivation is to find a way to funding for more research (ie, their professional salaries) and to commercialization (eg, a new therapy for depression and a revenue stream from legalized psychedelic drugs). This is not a bad thing. It’s just that your primary motivation as a mystic is so different as to be incomparable.

    In summary, I don’t think the studies on LSD have anything to do with what you have been saying. The studies have done nothing more than collect data to support the hypothesis that people experience certain types of consciousness at the same time that activity occurs in certain areas of the brain. They are not saying that psychedelic drugs cause enlightenment. That’s it. Your own experience validates that there is no association between drugs and enlightenment. Nothing to get disturbed about.

  4. @Rob and Holman: Wonderfully and accurately put. Layers and layers and layers. Much of what I described was really the major quality of the Witness Aspect—why the glow and the smile and the serenity happens: The felt collapse of the barrier between the inner experience and the outer experience.

    Both of you are correct in your assessments of the deeper layers of Consciousness and of the interpretation of the report. But the felt experience of LSD, but the felt experience of the Gateless Gate, but the felt experience of Oneness, in these, the report is spot on in the explanation: Two parts of the brain that normally don’t function concurrently (at least at these levels), when they do, are felt as if the interior and exterior worlds merged. The “why’s” and the “how’s” and the chicken/egg paradox—to me—aren’t nearly as important as reading of this experience reflected in a study of the brain. (See tomorrow’s post on “someone who finally ‘gets’ you”).

  5. Sir

    let me give you just few links..and please donot forget the real World Miracles and real world synchronicities that has been witnessed by you..The endless list of real world coincidences and miracles and easing of situations is what makes the Enlightenment of the Mystic TOTALLY different than Enlightenment of “the Pill”.

    Develop Prana or Chi if its possible for you and get things done with that (physical strength)

    anyways Scientific Materialism is as far as ever to develop a Theory of Consciousness , I will leave you with two links which will strengthen you,,and from reputed 170+ IQ Scientists…(At least Roger Penrose)

    BTW I came across the same study the same time you came across…But my Life experiences with the supernatural made it just an odd amusing curiosity for me

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/28/soul-after-death-hameroff-penrose_n_2034711.html

    http://www.lionsroar.com/christof-koch-unites-buddhist-neuroscience-universal-nature-mind/

    • Yes, the key sentence from the referenced articles was this:

      “In other words, what the paper shows is that, although brain activity, as measured with MEG, has decreased, the activity that remains is more synchronized across brain regions.

      Which is exactly the point I focused on in the next few posts (activating both the inner and outer “me” portions of the brain at the same time).

      Thanks!

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