Written: January 31, 2015
I ran into a woman at a bar in Vegas who told me there is no such thing as coincidence. I’m still conflicted about this, but consider this. I run into a guy at a bar who tells me to read Hans-Georg Gadamer and Hermeneutics which tells us to think outside the scientific method and rationalism box and truth and understanding can be just as easily found in art, music, novels, and all the other “soft” stuff people study in the liberal arts. So I finally got around to reading an Introduction to Hermeneutics and I run into a woman at a bar who recommends Cosmic Serpent written by an anthropologist who trips out on Ayahuasca and tries to make a connection between shaman hallucinations of snakes and DNA. Also consider, the first guy at the bar couldn’t stop smoking in my face, and the woman at the bar had a friend I was initially talking with. That friend had to leave to smoke. If she hadn’t, I would probably never had talked to her friend who suggested the book. Shamans either hallucinate on Ayahuasca whose main ingredient is DMT or tobacco. Their tobacco, however, has more nicotine and enables you to hallucinate whereas our tobacco is laced with so much toxic garbage it gives us cancer.
Anyhow, this book is a hell of a trip. It doesn’t really get going until Chapters 9 and 10. The first chapters take you through the author’s personal journey of enlightenment where he focuses on the commonalities between the hallucinations of shamans and microbiological structures including DNA. The intertwined snake and two-headed snake are commonplace in folklore, but is it because on hallucinogens, you actually see the structure of DNA that is not visible to the naked eye? I’m a bit skeptical on this matter. It’s like the Freemason eye and triangles and pyramids. Symbols are tricky to interpret. What does get me going is when he starts to talk scientifically about how DNA emits photons, how they are similar to crystals, how “junk” DNA may actually pick up, amplify, and transmit photon messages from other DNA, how DNA may actually be conscious. I mean depending on your definition of intelligence, you could argue that any organism with DNA is intelligent, because of the sheer magnitude of information stored in DNA that is actively being disseminated and acted upon by the organism. The organism may not be intelligent enough to understand its own existence or much of its environment outside its immediate senses, but it is intelligently deciphering and acting upon the information its DNA provides it. Are we all somehow linked in a cosmic conversation through our DNA? He quotes a journalist friend, “A coherent source of light (like that transmitted by DNA), like a laser, gives the sensation of bright colors, a luminescence, and an impression of holographic depth.” Is this the source of our consciousness? How do we construct images in our heads? It is not a true reflection of light that comes from the sun and bounces off objects. The colors we see in our head come from within our head. Could the colors be transmitted by DNA reflected off the nerve signals from our eyes? Going one step further and accepting the idea that the material world is an illusion, then perhaps it is light with the impression of holographic depth. Perhaps then, the material world is nothing but the hologram? But one then must ask, by what mechanism can DNA create a holographic universe in our mind if DNA itself is not a material substance?
Having experimented with mushrooms, after a few false starts, I experienced one of the most spiritual and mind-blowing trips of my life, something that fundamentally changed me to the core, like something snapping and breaking, like a prisoner in a windowless room all your life and having the roof blown off and seeing the sky for the first time in your life. Of course, imagine if that happened. With no prior frame of reference the prisoner looks up and goes, huh, that’s an interesting new ceiling.
What does happen when you hallucinate? Hallucinating is like a very lucid dream, one in which you are aware of being awake but the sequence of events is mostly smooth. In dreams, you pop in and out of different scenarios, landscapes and people change just by focusing on them. Depending on what you use to hallucinate, you can either feel in control or not. With mushrooms, I lost most control. I could decide on whether I wanted the lights on or off, the TV on or off, music on or off, and I could walk from one room to another, but how I was seeing and experiencing seemed beyond my control. It felt like messages were coming at me whether I liked it or not. What I noticed however is that piece by piece your senses are distorted and sometimes fail. There are more than just our five basic senses. We have a sense of time (chronology), place, the position of our bodies, balance, warmth, purposeful freewill, pain, pleasure, emptiness, fullness, pressure, moisture, etc. I felt many of these senses being warped. Once I felt alienated from my limbs. Another instance I felt no freewill, that I was like the guy trapped in John Malkovich’s head (in the movie Being John Malkovich, a rather trippy movie) passively watching someone else take charge of my body. In the end, after most all of my senses had been taken away, I was left with what I felt to be an unfiltered peek at the true nature of the universe, a oneness, a cycle, a Godlike voice or presence, a gentle kindness, humor, and love. But you must ask scientifically, why a lot of people have the same experience? Why don’t we wind up realizing that some demon machine runs the world and we feel nothing but sick, gross, disgusted, violated, and offended? Why do most people wind up feeling a sense of peace and universal love? Is that the true essence of our nature? Why are violent, divisive, and destructive then? If our social instincts are a new evolutionary design, then going backwards, shedding each sense one-by-one, each new evolutionary tool, why don’t we go back to a reptilian or fish-like essence that is anti-social? Why do we just feel love? Possibly the answer is that hallucinogens are similar to serotonins and have similar effects, giving us a warm, painkiller type vibe. As social creatures, we receive pleasure from social stimulation. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin. Hugs can release endorphins. Therefore, we mistake the neurotransmitter for the prompting activity. In other words, hallucinogens release feel-good neurotransmitters. Our mind must always attach a cause to an effect. When we feel good from hugging, we attach the act of hugging to feeling good. But when we take hallucinogens our mind gets confused. It feels good, and at the same time, the senses are going haywire and breaking down, so in the end, perhaps mistakenly, we wind up believing that departing from our senses, our evolutionary tool bag to get through daily life, we find a pleasurable kingdom free from all that struggle. However, if some other drug prompted us to hallucinate and it did not make us feel good, we may have a different conclusion about the true core nature of reality. But what is it about hallucinogens that simulate serotonin that make us depart from our senses? Of course, you can also argue, sometimes the trip isn’t pleasurable, just like the probability of having a nightmare, many people have bad trips where they are menaced by demons and pain.
Now, modern scientific rationalists will argue that a hallucination is not making contact with anything greater but rather a simple neurological state which tricks you into believing that you are making contact with something greater and important. The way I see it, you can hold either view or both. You can be exclusively a scientific rationalist and believe that there is no God, no greater meaning or purpose to our lives, that once we die, it’s the end of everything, that the unimaginable improbability of our existence is just that, a statistical blip we mistake for something important but is nothing but background noise in the cosmos. There is no evidence to contradict this. It is self-supporting and logically coherent within its own definitions and standards. You can also be exclusively an experiential, spiritualistic hermeneut. You can believe that material existence is an illusion, that we are all actually spirits, that after our physical bodies fail we return to a spiritual world, that our lives are meaningful beyond our realization, that when we meet people the cosmos has placed them in front of us for a reason. You could also be both. You might argue that you cannot hold two contradictory points of view, but you can. I don’t believe we have one mind but a multitude of thought processes we mistake for a single voice. We are the accumulation of our social, emotional, and physical experiences, each giving a separate voice to our minds, and these experiences intertwine like musical notes to give rise to a chorus of different voices. Our mind when driving is different than lying in bed or working out or being at work. Therefore, one part of your mind could totally believe in spirituality while the other thinks it’s all poppycock. The important thing, however, is a concept I discovered while training for a marathon. Present perception affects future performance (via present healing). If I invested in the irrational belief that finishing a marathon was meant to be, that it was my fate, my body seemed to recover faster from soreness, stiffness, and small strains. When I started question myself logically about the odds of failure, it seemed my body become more anxious, stiff, and it took longer to recover. The question is, what point of view will serve you better? If you believe an exclusively scientific rationalist point of view will improve your life and make it fulfilling, because perhaps it frees you from the restrictions of religious dogma or something, then good for you, believe that. If you believe your material, present life is really hard and painful and there must be a better world out there after we die, and that belief makes you feel better and gets you up in the morning, then you should believe that. We only get into trouble when the radical dogmatists show up and demand that their belief can only feel real if they destroy all other belief systems and prop up their belief as the only possible, superior choice. Someone once argued that this anti-dogmatist anti-universalist approach is itself dogmatic and universalist, but I would disagree. In my ideal world, there’s countless beliefs and dogmatic universalists are just one, so that means I’m highly tolerant, and I even give room for being completely wrong. When I was training for my marathon, I didn’t need to convince anyone else that believing in a good outcome helps me heal faster. All I needed to do was believe it. Of course, the best way to reinforce belief is surrounding yourself with people with the same belief.
I would hate to think that our unexceptional lives are all there is to our experience and the cosmos, that we are no more than chimps who wake up, socialize, hunt, eat, shit, and sleep. I would like to think that our dreams, imagination, creativity, art, and social lives are more than side effects to evolution or hold evolutionary meaning and nothing more. The best way to project into the future and unknown is by looking at what happened in the past. A long time ago, some lost tribe on an island might think they are the only living beings on the planet, that the universe began with them in the center. Then we realized the entire planet is populated by humans and the sun is actually the center. Then we realized our planet was not the only one and there are billions and billions of them in billions of other galaxies. If you continue along this line, you wind up projecting that in the future, we will therefore discover other intelligent beings and other universes, that perhaps this will go on for quite some time, that there are entities greater than universes, that perhaps universes can be grouped under a greater entity and that entity has trillions and trillions of cousins that can all be grouped under an even greater entity. Likewise, the smaller you go, you keep going, smaller than atoms, than quarks, than preons. Fact is, we have never encountered a limit either inside or outside. Science is the art of implication by probability so it would be more logical to assume that we will continue finding smaller and larger things and never hit a limit. You may argue that the speed of light is a limit, but space itself can expand faster than the speed of light. There may be universes out there flying by us faster than the speed of light. There are limits to things we have discovered, like the boiling point of water, but so far there has never been a limit to scale, small or large. I like hermeneutics in that it offers us a truce between scientific rationalism and spirituality. Scientific rationalism provides us with knowledge, but it is limited. There is much more knowledge outside of science that we should view as equally valid and meaningful. In fact, science can never tell us why we exist and the value of our lives or anything for that matter. We are left with our irrational human experience to properly seek that out and find the answer through experience we cannot transform into words or numbers but pure experience. If we wanted to say understand another culture or even say a wild animal, at first, we heavily relied on our own perspectives to differentiate and criticize them. We then realized that perhaps by imbedding ourselves (like Jane Goodall) we could better understand them. But perhaps the only and best way of truly understanding them is to become them, forget our prior life, eliminate all our biases and live their life from birth to death. After death, we hold that entire experience in memory, and then remembering who we are before, the researcher, we then apply our perspective and analytics upon that memory. It is quite possible that something out there is trying to understand human life, and this is one way of doing it. http://www.amazon.com/Cosmic-Serpent…/…/ref=tmm_kin_title_0…