TheHermit also wrote (among a great many other things):
>The "untenable admixture" in the fact that psychotomimetic drugs
>can induce religious experience is their apparent implicate: that
>religious disclosures are no more (disposed to speak the truth) than
>psychotic ones. For religious skeptics, this conclusion is obviously
>not untenable at all; it fits in beautifully with their thesis that all
>religion is at heart an escape from reality. Psychotics avoid reality
>by retiring into dream worlds of make-believe;
I would suggest that your characterization of psychosis as "escape into a dream-world" is terribly naive and recommend that you do more "hands-on" research with those involved (on both sides of the padded wall) before making such assumptions.
>what better evidence that religious visionaries do the same than the
>fact that identical changes in brain chemistry produces both states
You have (tried to) show here only a parallel between the states conferred by psychoactives and religious states. The link to psychosis is shaky at best. You might be closer with schizophrenia, although that might weaken your point since the label is generally acknowledged to be a "catch-all" for a great number not yet fully understood mental states.
Since the exact chemical changes involved in psychosis and schizophrenia are not presently understood with any degree of accuracy, I think assuming an "identical" brain chemistry based solely on the subjective interpretations of these states by the subjects experiencing them would be premature at best. Yet I would agree that their similarity is intriguing, especially in cases where the chemical structure of drug is very closely related to naturally occurring neuro-chemistry.
>Freud was likewise too mild. He "never doubted that religious
>phenomena are to be understood only on the model of the
>neurotic symptoms of the individual." (15) He should have
>said "psychotic symptoms."
Again, you seem to be talking about schizophrenia not psychosis.
>What about the religious believer? Convinced that religious
>experiences are not fundamentally delusory, can he admit
>that psychotomimetic drugs can occasion them? To do so
>he needs (to return to Polanyi's words) "a conceptual framework
>in which [the discoveries can] be separated from specious and
>untenable admixtures," the latter being in this case the conclusion
>that religious experiences are in general delusory.
This is neither here nor there. The question I posed was not whether the content of these "revelations" have any objective truth-value in the real world, but rather why and how they might register as more "genuine" to the individual experiencing them than other, more obvious, evidence--even long after these states have passed.
You are attacking here, with a great many words, a straw-man I specifically hoped to avoid when I brought up the topic. My original disclaimer would still seem to be valid, in part at least.
>And yes, as a youth I tried religion directly. Later I tried drugs.
>Then I tried them together. Then I decided that I liked the way
>my mind works without either and that the risks of faulty thinking
>outweighed the benefits of euphoria.
We're cut from a similar cloth, you and I. But I would question what you mean when you link "faulty thinking" with the "benefits of euphoria." Do you consider this particular euphoria in some way a form of "faulty thinking"? Or are you simply unwilling to distinguish that every mental state is only useful for achieving a limited number of goals, and that many different states my be equally useful for one with a wide range of goals?
>I can certainly report that for myself, the results of the experiments
>and more recently some experiments with TM and biofeedback have
>suggested to me that the results are indistinguishable (and that good
>thoughts lead to good experiences for those like me who would never
>use "mere" as an appropriate adjective for "happiness").
Glad to hear it. But it seemed to me that earlier you were discounting your TM, psychoactive, and religious experiences--almost claiming them irrelevant. (This was just my impression and may be incorrect.) Do you believe that you grew as a person or gained personal insights or confidence from these experiments?
It makes me think of when one reads some well written fiction and a particular passage rings so very "true" that it brings tears to your eyes. Does the fact that it is fictional make its insights resonate any less for you?
>I think I am one of these thinkers. Having experienced and generally
>enjoyed many "untrue" experiences - and knowing that they were
>caused by brain chemistry/mindset I am far more likely to both doubt
>and negate the value of subjective experience - yet I still recommend
>people to try it. Just not to exagerate its signioficance to themselves
>or to others. That is not saying that emotion is not "real". Emotion is
>"real" and one of the great motivators. In my experience though, emotion
>and reason harnessed together are even more valuable. For myself, this
>can be achieved with opera. Or even enjoying some of the more kleenex-
>oriented sections in The Sound of Music or My Fair Lady. And no, despite
>the attached stereotypes I am firmly heterosexual :-)
>If somebody thinks that Christian experience is a whole new world,
>they really should try psilocybin. Given a good mood and some nice
>music, it is pretty much guaranteed to outperform JC.
I think that passage may need to go up on my wall.
>I think I have it. Read what I said and see if you agree. But say more
>about it anyway. It is much easier to keep refining on meaning than
>to suddenly discover that the speaker's descriptions are worlds away
>from the listeners visualization.
Yes, quite. And I do think you have it. Now we just need someone to come on to the list and tell us that we are both "out-to-lunch" and then we could both refine our positions even further. ;-)
>Hope the info above gets you going. The Smith article at
>http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/lsd/hsmith.htm is especially
>good. And this is nowhere near recent. Just not politically
>correct. "E for Ecstasy" if you can lay your hands on it is
>also an interesting read. Just don't take any of these authors
>completely seriously. They all have a tendency to confuse
>navel-lint for the fundamental building blocks of the universe.
I can second that recommendation (with a similar disclaimer) and would also suggest the later works on cybernetics and culture by Timothy Leary as well. (Despite the preconceptions that might go along with his name in many peoples minds.)
>My own work on human origins suggests that collective deception is the
>essence of language, art, ritual, drama, mythology and all religion. It is
>what makes us human. Monkeys and apes may deceive, but their deceptions are
>uninspiring because they are so selfish. Only humans deceive collectively,
>rejoicing in the elaboration of their own communally empowering fantasies.
>We became human when coalitions of kin - mothers with their offspring,
>brothers and other relatives - began painting their bodies and staging
>rituals to arouse hunters to summon up their energies for the chase. Female
>dancers identified themselves with the wild beasts, constructing hunters as
>metaphorical "suitors" courting "bison-women", "antelope-maidens" and other
>wondrous beings. These were rituals of communal trickery, seductively
>harnessing the energies of the human male. But like any contemporary
>carnival, it was all a hilarious, liberating fiction with which men were
>only too happy to collude. It served their genetic interests not to resist,
>but to play along. Human gullibility served us well."
>Hmmm, debate is useful. All it is supposed to be is a structured
>discussion. But go ahead. Conversation can be good too.
A friend gave me a card last night with an interesting description she though related to me. I found it quite amusing:
"ARIES (21 March - 20 April) Be kind to the Aries and kindness will be returned ten fold. Be insensitive and he'll charge at you with every dirty word in the book, but just as quickly shut the book and throw it over his shoulder burying the anger forever, mystifying his enemy as to whether or not the Ram was hollering at the person or the ideology of the conversation."