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Physicalism: A False View of the World (Pt. 2)
Physicalism is the philosophical claim that only what is physical is real
Continued from Part 1: … reality is what is intersubjectively verifiable (that is, what can be verified, not just by one or a few people, but by many). Rainbows are real, but are not physical objects. Thus there may be other things which are real, because they are (or can be) experienced by many people, but which are not physical.
In order to experience these other things a change in brain chemistry is required. The human brain normally functions in a biochemically standard manner which is oriented toward survival in the physical world. This mode of functioning emphasizes the contributions of the outer senses (particularly sight) and motor coordination and ability (when a monkey, dashing along a path, runs into an object it must very quickly decide whether or not this is another monkey, and in either case what to do about it).
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Human brains, however, have some strange abilities, which are triggered by a change in brain chemistry. A human brain exposed to LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or some other psychedelic, functions in a way which allows forms of consciousness to arise which are radically different to everyday consciousness. Someone who has not directly experienced these alternative forms of consciousness can have only a very vague idea of them, however much they read about them. In these altered states an expanded consciousness is possible — an expansion beyond the everyday consciousness which is focused on (and largely constrained by) input from the outer bodily senses. One's mind can wander into strange realms.
Shamans are trained to do this; they do not so much "wander" as travel purposely. And in their travels they meet and communicate with spirits, which often appear to them in the form of animals. Shamans have for many millennia used psychoactive plants (peyote, datura, Amanita mushrooms, etc.) to induce states of consciousness which allow them to enter this non-ordinary reality and communicate with spirits, who impart information to them (when and where to hunt, where lost objects may be found, which plants are good for which purposes, etc.). Despite the evidence collected by anthropologists who have studied shamanic cultures, physicalists tend to deny that shamans enter a non-ordinary reality, simply because it is inconsistent with their physicalist assumptions. In this denial they are betraying their vocation as scientists, because a true scientist seeks to know all of reality, and to know it by experience and observation (supplemented by reason). To discount anthropological data because it is inconsistent with one's assumptions is clearly unscientific.
Physicalists may, if they wish, enter the same non-ordinary states that shamans do, and by the same means (although lacking in the experience and training that a shaman possesses). Despite benighted and draconian laws criminalizing the use of psychoactive substances, it is still possible to partake of the ayahuasca brew, to find psilocybin mushrooms sprouting from cow pies, and to obtain by discreet means a variety of psychedelics (since there are many people who know the value of these substances and risk their liberty in order to assist others to gain the experience of non-ordinary reality).
The most powerful psychedelic (in the experience of many people) is N,N-dimethyltryptamine (or DMT for short), a substance which allows anyone to prove to themselves the complete falsity of the physicalist assumption that all reality consists of systems of atoms, sub-atomic particles and electromagnetic radiation. DMT provides access to a realm which is so totally weird that it is inconceivable that it could be part of the physicalist's limited reality. It also allows experience of a realm inhabited by discarnate entities who are self-evidently independently existing intelligent beings, but whose place of existence clearly cannot be this physical world.
These beings have been reported by many people. It is not a matter of a few "wild-eyed crazies" muttering about "self-transforming machine-elves". By now hundreds, probably thousands, of people have experienced these entities (first brought to sustained public attention by Terence McKenna, see e.g. here), and all agree that they, and the space they inhabit, are totally weird (and the further you go the weirder it gets). Thus these entities have intersubjective validity — lots of people agree about them, or at least, that they exist. And lots more would be able to report that they exist if DMT were legal. It is mainly because psychedelic experience exposes the falsity of the mainstream definition of reality that the use of psychedelics is prohibited by those who benefit from keeping the mass of people in a state of spiritual ignorance (thereby making it easier to keep them in a state of involuntary servitude).
Terence and Dennis McKenna stated already in 1975 (in The Invisible Landscape):
The idea of the simultaneous coexistence of an alien dimension all around us is as strange an idea in the context of modern society as it must have been to the first shamans, whose experiments with psychoactive plants would have soon brought them to the same tryptamine doorway. What is the nature of the invisible landscape beyond that doorway? ... If the world beyond the doorway can be given consensual validation of the sort extended to the electron and the black hole ... then our own circumscribed historical struggle will be subject to whole new worlds of possibility.
Here's an extract from one of four reports written in 1996:
I am outside in a very futuristic patterned garden with bright colored, very small, dots over everything, which are all flowing in certain directions. No plants as such but a garden nonetheless. There is a corridor with a very tangible ambience, one can feel the space around. It now appears to be a temple structure of some futuristic sort, like some space age Hindu/Mayan temple with the walls displaying architecture similar to the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan except the walls are inverted to angle outward with the terraces reversed. It seems very real but also very fleeting, changing rapidly. There are beings that are here the whole time from the very moment I entered the trip right to the moments of trying to get out of it. They seemed to have been waiting for me. ... They were very colourful, had strange relentless grins, very slender and could move their arms around at strange angles. Despite the high-frequency quantised pulsing in which they moved, there was still a very fluid flow to it. ... These beings just kept on grinning. They knew that I knew that this was the price paid to enter their "special" world. They were very keen to show me their magic. I would try to look away but each time I tried, they … do some amazing transformational magic which I simply can't describe and [which] was so amazing that I was prevented by awe from looking away. … It was very beautiful and totally bizarre. It was as though the strength of magic taking place was way too much. Solid forms of colour and shape, way beyond the geometric forms. In your face. They kept on fanning out this magic like opening one of those decorated hand fans. They knew that this was the only place that I could experience it.
For over 200 cases of DMT users reporting encounters with intelligent entities see 340 DMT Trip Reports. These reports show that these entities are experienced as existing in some kind of space, but it is clearly not the space of ordinary experience. It has been compared to 4-dimensional space, and has been called “hyperspace” for lack of a better word. Hyperspace, and the DMT entities found within it, constitute a fundamental challenge to those philosophers who espouse physicalism in any form.
Actually it is impossible for anyone who has not experienced hyperspace to know it, however much they have read about it or talked to those who have experienced it. This level of the experience is of a nature which is radically different from everyday experience, dream experience and even most other psychedelic experience (having taken a few LSD trips does not enable one to imagine a full-on DMT experience). Thus no-one who has not experienced DMT hyperspace is qualified to say anything about it, except to discuss its philosophical implications based on the reports of those others who actually know what they are talking about. It is likely, however, that the nature of the DMT entities is, in our present state of intellectual development, totally incomprehensible by us. In the words of the renowned British biologist J.B.S. Haldane (himself a great psychonaut), they are "not only queerer than we suppose but queerer than we can suppose."
It makes sense that our physical world is actually a part of a larger reality — or is a “bubble” within a larger reality, and that our ordinary experience of physical reality is an experience entirely within that bubble and subject to limitations imposed by it, and that it is the non-physical part of that larger reality which we experience directly in the DMT state.
It is possible that this physical world is actually an incubator of souls, in the sense that, just as the womb is an incubator of our physical body, our life in this world enables the development of a mental body which can persist beyond the dissolution of the physical one; and that just as birth is a transition from the womb to a higher-dimensional and vastly more complex world, so death (if the mental body is sufficiently developed) is a transition from the world of physical life to the higher-dimensional and vastly more complex world of the DMT entities.
Or it may be that this physical world is constructed and maintained by the entities inhabiting that hyperdimensional and vastly more complex world, and that our souls (our hyperdimensional selves) pre-exist in that world and incarnate in physical bodies, returning at the death of the body to the hyperspatial world from which they came.
Galileo pioneered the foundation of physics upon observation, and he developed an early form of the telescope to view the mountains of the Moon and the moons of Jupiter, whose existence was denied a priori by the Aristotelian philosophers of his time. In this dispute two of these philosophers, Cesare Cremonini and Giulio Libri, refused even to look through Galileo's telescope. Similarly, most if not all contemporary philosophers refuse to look through the lens provided by DMT so as to perceive a reality which physicalists deny exists (just as the philosophers of Galileo's time denied the existence of the moons of Jupiter). Observations resulting from the use of DMT absolutely refute the conventional physicalist view of the world, but at present this is known only by a comparatively small number people.
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