This week, we had to read, “It Was the Gatekeepers Who Failed: The internet doesn’t actually offer an unconstrained marketplace of ideas.” by CONOR FRIEDERSDORF and “The Big Lie at the heart of the technology revolution” by Damon Linker. Also, we were to watch Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 6: San Juniper and Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 4: Hang the DJ on Netflix. On top of that, we had to post our first draft of Project #2. Both articles mentioned the word, “gatekeeper”, which was something I’d never heard of before. In regards to the internet, a gatekeeper is considered a person or a group who control/ filter all information released to the public. For the most part, the internet is supposed to be a place where one can post almost anything openly and freely but gatekeepers make it so that such things are monitored. Therefore, things are not as free and under-controlled as we may think on the internet.
Project #2 Draft:
Can Psychedelics Positively Impact Human Consciousness?
For centuries, human beings have found it imperative to explore paradigms beyond the given structures of their minds. Concepts such as death and mortality, with out proven science, required a basis from which one could extract some understanding. Thus far, religion and spirituality have been the dominating perspectives from which humans have evolved to examine life. Whether or not based in reality, it is clear that these mediums have been used as a means of seeking a degree of certainty or understanding of the relationships humans have with our own consciousnesses, each other, and the surrounding infrastructure we call the world. In a pre-technological era, these methods were nothing short of the science of the times. With no means to fact check the truth, experience and as word-of-mouth generational beliefs provided certainty, safety, and comfort to those who probed for awareness of themselves and their surroundings. As science propels forward, so does our collective awareness, inevitably so. Along with heightened awareness and scientific advancement, comes the further understanding and development of naturally and artificially produced substances, such as psychedelics. Before further discussion can go on though, we must define the term psychedelic. A psychedelic is a drug that produces hallucinations and an expansion of consciousness. Psychoactive substances work because they eliminate the pre-existing structures of our lives and effectively reconstruct them.
In order to analyze the effects of psychedelics, we have to first take apart what it means to have an “expansion of consciousness”. When it comes to the human mind, we must take into consideration the extent at which intellectual advancement has occurred in last century. Never before have human beings been more scientifically aware of the our own consciousness’. Consciousness is defined as the state of being awake or aware of one’s surroundings, or, as the awareness by the mind of itself and the world. Simply put, to be conscious is to be aware. Often times, when one transitions from never having thought about their consciousness, to being hyper-conscious of themselves and the world around them, it may feel like a spiritual awakening has taken place. Psychedelics are almost always credited with influencing a spiritual awakening in those who experiment with them. Heightened awareness is often spilled over into the sober state once a trip is over, since we do remember most of what we have experienced once the trip comes to an end. Regardless of what type of psychedelic is inducing it, a psychedelic trip almost always leave the subject feeling more perplexed and entranced than before having tried any psychoactive substance. Whether or not the trip was “good” or “bad” is irrelevant to the point being made.
A double blind study, conducted by Walter Pahnke at Harvard University on the 20th of April, 1962, was used to determine whether psychedelics can induce “spiritual” experiences. According to the research, “He gave ten theological students niacin as an active placebo and another ten 30 mg of psilocybin…Afterward the subjects were interviewed and assessed on three difference scales used to quantify typology of mystical experiences. The overwhelming majority of the psilocybin group had mystical experiences while the control group had next to none. In a follow-up six months later, many subjects claimed that the experience resulted in an enlivening of their religious lives and an increased involvement with the problems of living and the service of others.” This proves that the effects of psychedelics are not just anecdotal, but rather scientific and consistent amongst the people who try them. However, this does not prove that the psychedelics had induced spiritual experiences, only that they had been perceived as so, and had a spiritual impact on the subjects.
Today, some of the most commonly known hallucinogens are “Mushrooms” (Psilocybin) and “Acid” (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide). Interestingly enough, the scientific world’s knowledge of hallucinatory substances goes back millenniums. According to an article written by Diana L. Stein, entitled Psychedelics and the Ancient Near East, “Our best clues regarding psychotropic plants come from actual botanical remains: liquid residues, carbonized seeds, pollen, fibers, and fiber impressions… Traces of a liquid extract from the Blue Water Lily (Nymphaea caerulea), a potent narcotic plant, were discovered in alabaster jars stored in the Annex of Tutankamun’s fourteenth-century BCE tomb in Egypt. In the courtyard of a Late Bronze Age temple at Kamid el Loz in Lebanon stood a storage jar containing 10 liters of Viper’s Bugloss (Echium Linné), another potent hallucinogen.” Although we do not have written or documented proof of these usages, archaeologists have unearthed herbs and potions used by ancient civilizations as a means of healing, and as parts of rituals.
On November 16th of 1938, a Swiss Chemist by the name if Albert Hofmann, synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) whilst attempting to create a stimulant for the circulatory system. According to an article entitled, The History of Psychedelics and Psychotherapy by Ahmed Kabil, “After experimenting further Hofmann concluded the drug would be ideal for psychotherapeutic use, and Sandoz began sending doses of LSD and another psychedelic, psilocybin, to clinics and universities across the world. A promising decade of research began, leading to breakthroughs in understanding the brain’s neurochemistry and how therapists might effectively treat mental illness.” However, research on psychedelics was short-lived and, due to the over-normalization of the drug, not often attributed to the “Hippie Movement” of the 1960’s. The high demand of LSD prompted involvement by the government to implement laws prohibiting the usage of psychoactive drugs. Up until recent years, with the reemergence of psychedelics in pop-culture, most dialogue pertaining to recreational drug usage has been clouded with an uninformed bias reliant on a taboo notion of the reality of these substances. An answer as to why the government is so adamant about keeping psychedelics out of the hands of the public is not so easily obtained. Many believe that the power of drugs such as LSD to manipulate reality is so strong, that if whole societies were permitted to obtain and use them, the notion of government would begin to be an abstract ideology to swallow. Because they offer such a radical view of the world that is so very different from the human mind’s natural state, hallucinogens can rattle the very foundational framework of one’s judgement and beliefs.
Only recently have we actually been able to visualize the effects of LSD on the brain. In 2016, researchers from Imperial College London administered LSD to 20 volunteers and used various brain scanning technologies to create an image of how the brain works when its under the influence of this potent hallucinogen. Dr. Carhart-Harros, the leader of the research team explains, “Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialized functions, such as vision, movement and hearing – as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain. Our results suggest that this effect underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during an LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call ‘ego-dissolution’, which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world.” Because of research like this, humans now have the deepest and most complex understanding we’ve ever had on the exact reasons why psychedelics seem to produce such life-altering effects on the brain. Using this knowledge is incredibly essential in furthering research on how to use psychedelics and how to tear down of these mental and societal structures, for the collective betterment of mental health.
By using tools such as psychoactive substances, we can find ways in which we can evolve the processes by which we deal with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and ptsd. Psychedelics allow us to discover ourselves from an abstract and chaotic perspective, effectively shattering the foundation of beliefs to which our minds, bodies, and souls have been accustomed. Through these substances, one gains a perspective of the world that they would have never been able to experience otherwise. One is left to ponder the sheer wonders that the mind is capable of, realizing that so much of it is uncolonized space, territory not yet discovered, not yet explored.
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Stein, Diana L. “Psychedelics and the Ancient Near East.” Microsoft Word, July 2014, https:// s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/37301470/Psychedelics_and_the_Ancien t_Near_East.pdfAWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1526944635&Signature=CbO7r23JMip5El5rdb7ZXUWxqQk%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DPsychedelics_and_the_Ancient_Near_East.pdf
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