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I’d do drugs just for the phenomenology of it.

December 17, 2012

Ah, the 1950s. An era before IRBs where scientists could do anything. Today I was linked to a YouTube video from the 1950s of a woman who was given LSD and then interviewed during her trip.

Obviously, such an experiment would not fly these days, but one comment that stuck out to me was one that a YouTube viewer quoted, and which made it as one of the top comments for the page. It was in response the questioner asking the woman to explain something she was seeing:

“If you can’t see it, you’ll never know it. I feel sorry for you”

There are a lot of experiences that I sense are like this. I think theism and religious experiences fit as part of that.

I am intrigued by people who say they have had religious experiences, but who have later come to disbelieve that they are evidence of any spiritual or supernatural realm. I am intrigued by theists who become atheists. This interestingly means that I am intrigued by many of my fellow ex-Mormons, of course.

The reason is that I can’t say I’ve ever had any particularly religious experience. So, I also can’t say I’ve ever had anything to come to disbelieve. Anything to “reconfigure.” 

I think a lot of former religious folks, atheists, etc., tend to wave away religious experiences as purely naturalistic. After all, if it can be replicated by doing certain things to the brain (whether something like a God helmet or through psychedelic drugs or whatever), then that’s a more complete explanation than the idea that it’s beamed in supernaturally.

And you know, I get that. That explanation of religious and spiritual experiences as a production of the brain seems more intuitive than the religious alternative of a spiritual radio and spiritual radio waves– where the radio waves are external to the radio, and being broadcasted all the time and at every place, but the receivers (our brains) must be specifically tuned in to process the waves.

…but I don’t get the trivialization. I mean, whether one believes the experience is evidence of a higher power or evidence of interesting workings of the brain, it seems like these experiences are pretty cool — so why not try to cultivate them?

I see part of each religion as being a way to try to cultivate these experiences. Unfortunately, I don’t think any religion has a good track record for repeatable, reliable process. They might work for some folks some of the time, but…not for everyone. (I guess that explains the diversity of religions?)

It seems that something that does have a greater success rate is drugs.

Too bad most of those aren’t legal, and many of them have nasty side effects.

Were it not for my basic risk aversion, I might try them. But I mean, I’m not likely to ever even have that option. (Let me put it this way: even to this day, I am personally skeptical that peer pressure in junior high, high school, or college is even a thing. I mean, I certainly have no idea — and had no idea back then — of where one would find any of this stuff, much less had to agonize over being offered to try any of it.)

I remarked this a while back to one of my exmo friends. He was intrigued by the idea and my reasoning — I’d try drugs for the phenomenology of the religious experience. I mean, as you probably should know if you read this blog regularly, I’m big into subjective experience. So, I mean, if something shakes my worldview…that would be interesting.

I can’t remember how exactly he phrased his inquiry, but it was something like this.

Would you have a problem with being led to believe something (e.g., in God) that you now don’t believe in, simply because of drugs?

And my answer was something like: No. How could I? If I am led to believe that such a thing is true, then who is the “me” that can have a problem with it? Where is his wherewithal to have such a problem?

…although, I suspect that my superpower is heightened resistance to radically altered states of consciousness, whether they be hypnotically, meditatively, prayerfully or chemically induced. If so, I lament at how stupid this superpower is.


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