Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Secret History of Consciousness by Gary Lachman

A Secret History of Consciousness is a fascinating book. I came across this book browsing Borders a few years back, sounded interesting, then I noticed it was written by the former bass player from Blondie. Luckily, it wasn't something that made me NOT want to read it. Plus the Intro by Colin Wilson didn't hurt.

It took a while, but eventually I sat down and started to read this. It took a while to get through the whole thing due to my reading habits of jumping from book to book, but none-the-less, I was never disappointed in this. I do think it started better than it ended, it was more, open, at the beginning. Overall it is a wide exploration of various ideas in consciousness and metaphysics. From Blavatsky to Kant to Colin Wilson, do not enter into this reading unless you have a very open mind and a willingness to at least try some very unusual ideas. It even got me to accept Julian Jaynes work a bit.

Overall, the book explores the way consciousness may have evolved over time... and for that matter, where it may be going. It suggests the various ways consciousness may have perceived reality over time, and the aspects of perception that have changed over aeons. It goes into purely speculative realms, as well as exploring things in a more scientific, or at least philosophical manner. Near the end, he seems to be trying to pull some of the stranger ideas together as a true history, and that is the only part which I feel wasn't as interesting. The ideas are speculations, interesting ones, to be sure, but just ideas. There is no reason to validate them over any others.

I think Gary does an excellent job at least engaging your ability to think about where consciousness has been, and where it may be going. Not to mention the various states of consciousness that we are already capable of, even if we aren't aware of them. I haven't read the works of people like Blavatsky and Immanuel Kant in many, many years, and, as least in the case of the latter, it reminded me of just how much I liked his work. In the case of the former, it allowed me to re-consider the value of her work, and also enlightened me to other thinkers are authors that I have not known as of yet.

Overall, this is highly recommended, and I am glad that I decided to pick this up. The thing about the physical book store, is that you can find things like this, things you weren't looking for. Things you didn't know you wanted. I love being able to find just about anything on a site like Amazon, but it is far less likely that I will come across something like this at random.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Near Death, UFO's, and The Rethinking of Reality...

“I believe there is an perichoresis, an interpenetration. It is possible, indeed, that we three are now sitting among desolate rocks, by bitter streams.

…And with what companions?”

- Arthur Machen

When most people think of Near Death Experiences, they think of a tunnel of light, meeting heavenly beings, etc. A good number of people also think it’s bullshit. Those are the people who have never actually researched the subject. Does a NDE prove life after death? No. Absolutely not. However it is a genuine mystery that a few brave scientists over the years may have finally made some headway into.

Make no mistake NDE’s are a joke among conventional scientists, not because there is nothing to them, but because they fall into that fringe that they stay far away from. That fringe starts to unravel accepted theories, and is really just inconvenient. So the mainstream scientists stay far away. There are however, doctors who often starting out as skeptical, eventually admit that there seems to be something to the experiences. Michael Sabom wrote a book back in the late 90's called, Light and Death about a particular case that can’t be explained by accepted theories. But this case is not unique, often people who are dead on the operating table find themselves hovering over their bodies and can describe in detail what was happening on the operating table, or in other rooms nearby. The standard explanation for this is that they are just hearing it and their brains are making up the rest. There was a cardiologist, whose name escapes me at the moment, who after hearing numerous stories of NDE’s, and being completely skeptical, decided to mount his own study. What he did was this, over the coarse of a year or so, every patient he worked on was asked to fill out a questionnaire. Said document asked IF the person had a NDE, as well as questions about what happened during the procedure. What he discovered after many 100’s of patients was interesting, and turned him away from being a skeptic (a common thing for cardiologists who actually do any research on the subject). He found that, as we already knew, not everyone who died had a NDE. BUT, he also discovered that some people who did not die, and weren’t even near death, DID have a NDE. He also found that the people who had NDE’s could describe in clear and precise detail what was happening in the operating room, not just conversations, but actions, tools, etc. The people who did not have NDE’s, also filled out this portion, and he found that what they thought was happening could not have been more wrong. This disproved the idea that people were just making up what was happening in the operating room or just dreaming about it. Every indication is that these people were seeing what was going on in the room, even when all brain activity had ceased. There is, of course, also the famous story of the woman who, while having a NDE, floated out of the operating room, was able to recount a conversation, that was verified, happening in the waiting room, and then finally floated outside the building. In the last part, she saw a red shoe sitting on the ledge. When she woke up and told the doctor about it, she decided to check it out. She went to where the shoe was supposed to be, and sure enough, there it was, just as described. What was more, the shoe was not in a location anyone would have been able to casually see it.

All of this, however, does not say anything about an afterlife, what it displays is the probability that consciousness can move without the body. Now that we have established certain facts about NDE’s, we have to look at other research.

There were studies done at a certain point using Ketamine, and it was shown that under certain conditions, the drug could create visions similar to NDE’s. The problem with this, however, is that there is no known mechanism for the body to create Ketamine naturally. This did not stop various skeptics from latching on to the theory that somehow Ketamine explained away NDE’s. After all, when your only goal is to dismiss something, and you have already made up your mind, any explanation will do. Skeptics don’t use facts, they use belief. The very people who did the study said that they did not believe that this explained NDE’s in any way. Yet it was sighted repeatedly as the solution to NDE’s.

On the other hand, Dr. Rick Strassman, who was the only doctor since the 70’s allowed to do research on hallucinatory drugs, found that DMT, which is naturally occurring in the human body, also created experiences similar to NDE’s. Not exact, but he theorized that the circumstances may also be a factor, and that we don’t know what a natural release of DMT may do. Some of the experiencers also reported encounters very similar to alien abduction scenarios. He was not prepared for any of this, and after years of research he finally concluded that DMT didn’t cause hallucinations, per se. He felt that what was more likely happening was that DMT was re-tuning the brain, allowing consciousness to interact with a different reality. He termed our reality, channel normal, comparing the re-tuning to a TV set. In his book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences, he shows, in detail, why he doesn’t feel that what people were experiencing on DMT were mere hallucinations. There was too much consistency between trips, and between the patients. Hallucinations simply don’t work like that.

But this makes a strange connection, that of alien abductions and NDE’s. Oddly enough, Dr. Kenneth Ring made the same connection back in his 1992 book, The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, Ufo Encounters, and Mind at Large. Originally, Dr. Ring’s research was into the NDE. In this book, he expanded his research to not only explore the after effects of the Near Death Experience, but also to explore the alien abduction phenomenon. What he found was stunning, and rather confusing. He found that the aftereffects of both experiences had similar effects on the experiencer. Dr. Ring identified various value and belief changes associated with people who have had either experience. Some of these changes in personality involve having a greater appreciation for live, higher self-esteem, more compassion, a better understanding of life, as well as a sense of purpose, a desire to learn new things, an increase in spirituality (do not confuse this with religion), and many other things, including a raising of IQ. On the other hand both experiences can also create negative effects, where people have trouble dealing with the experience and life afterwards. But what stands out in this research, aside from the similarities, are the verifiable changes in the people who experience these things. Hallucinations do not cause core changes in a person, these experiences do. The late John Mack also dealt, on the abduction side, with these personality changes in great detail. He was, of course, ostracized for even attempting to study such a field. Again, his research confirms what Dr. Ring discovered. That there are changes to the individual, and that both experiences seem to have some common core.

One of the things that Dr. Strassman did not find, were any kind of long lasting personality changes in the individual. It is possible, however, that the amount of DMT, or the setting may have been to blame. Or maybe DMT is not the catalyst. But there is more.

As I said at the start, not everyone who dies has a Near Death Experience. This would seem to be a puzzle. On explanation may be, that only some remember it. Like dreams. Everyone dreams. Everyone. However, it is not hard to find people who rarely or never remember their dreams, or who believe they do not dream. Dreaming is also an altered state of consciousness, so perhaps there is a connection. Dr. Ring’s research led him to the idea of the Encounter Prone Personality. The EPP is someone who is more likely to have a paranormal experience. Could this be connected to DMT? Dr. Strassman wonders the same thing. Could it be that some people have more DMT running through their systems than others. Or maybe some people’s bodies create DMT more easily, then allowing them to access another reality. It could even be an environmental factor that sets it off. Consider that UFO sightings often happen in flaps, or flap areas. Paul Devereux has his Earth Lights theory (Earth Lights Revelation: Ufo's and Mystery Lightform Phenomena : The Earth's Secret Energy Force), which shows that such lights, perhaps generated by the Earth itself, happen most often along fault lines. All of these things may be connected. The same mechanism that causes Earth Lights, may have an effect on certain people, whose brains then release a dose of DMT, allowing them to access another world, or have an alien abduction experience, whatever it really is. This theory seems rather effective. There is only one problem. There are many UFO encounters with physical evidence. Granted never enough to fully claim the UFO Phenomenon as real to many people, but take for instance, there was a UFO landing case, where the witnesses watched a bright object come down and land in their woods. They went out to investigate. When they got there, it shot off and disappeared. It broke some of the tree limbs, and left a white circle on the floor of the forest. The mother of the group, reached out and touched the circle, and lost all feeling in her hand. It never returned. The area where the circle was is now, still, dead, decades later. Nothing can grow there. What does this prove? Nothing but that something odd happened. There are enough of these cases, enough radar traces, and other tantalizing pieces of evidence to rule out a purely mental phenomenon. At the same time, there is no evidence that UFO sightings like this are in any way extra-terrestrial. What they are is a total mystery.

I could go on for days about examples to back up all of the above. What it boils down to, though, is that there is more going on here than we currently can comprehend. A Near Death Experience may have nothing to do with what actually happens when we die, any more than UFO’s looking like saucers mean they come from outer space. They may have more to do with each other than most suspect. There is a legitimate mystery here, and one that may need a complete reorganization of our view of reality to even begin to process.

One take could be this. These experiences allow us access to another world. Another dimension. Under the right circumstances, we can interact and access that world. The above DMT theory would allow for this to happen. However, the inhabitants of that world, may also be able to come here, maybe not fully, but just enough to create the type of odd UFO sightings and such that occur, occasionally leaving puzzling evidence. This would account for all the evidence. It is not currently provable, and may be completely wrong, but at least it takes everything into account.

Lets look at one more piece of the puzzle. In his book Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, Graham Hancock suggests that the alien abduction scenario, the fairies and elves of the past, and shamanic experiences are all of the same ilk. Jacques Vallee had previous, in Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds, and DIMENSIONS: A Casebook of Alien Contact, shown the link between fairies, UFO’s, Fatima, and more. Graham goes a bit further and shows how the ancient cave paintings are not of hunted animals, but of shamanic journeys. All of these factors collide to create a rich and varied picture. Vallee shows that this phenomenon, whatever it truly is, has been with us throughout history. Graham adds into the picture the Shamanic element, which then aligns with the DMT research. When all is said and done, we are looking at something that has interacted with and been of part of the foundation of mankind throughout time. Some, like John Keel, feel that this phenomenon may not have our best wishes at heart. Mack and Hancock show that with bad experiences, growth comes, so maybe what Keel sees as dangerous, may eventually be beneficial. Or maybe, like us, some of what is there is helpful and some is not.

So let us look again at the NDE, in this new light. What do we know? Well, the out of body experiences suggest that consciousness is not confined to the body, and MAY survive death. It does not, however, necessarily show us what death is like. This reminds me though, of another strange connection between the UFO phenomenon and NDE’s. One of the common elements of the NDE is meeting of dead relatives when they go towards or reach the light. There have been numerous abduction accounts of people on ‘ships’ meeting dead relatives aboard. Whether or not these are their actual dead relatives in either case, is an open question, but the appearance of said factor in UFO accounts is very strange. Whatever is happening has a common factor. The experiences may be different, but yet, not so much at times. The other interesting thing is the personality changes that NDE and UFO experiencers have. As mentioned above, a simple hallucination does not cause this, nor does the DMT doses that were given by Strassman. I find the raise in IQ especially interesting, as being dead should not expand your intelligence, if anything, one would think small amounts of brain damage would likely be more common. Current science can not explain any of this. Nor will it even address the subjects. Death may have nothing to do with NDE’s, but the near death state may open up doors in some people.

It is easy for the skeptic to dismiss this data, they will never accept it anyways, so proving anything to skeptics is pointless. They have made up their minds. Luckily, there are those open minded skeptics, who are willing to do open and honest research and not dismiss things out of hand. It is because of these people that we may have finally reached something NEW about these types of experiences. For the foreseeable future, I suppose we will all find out when we do die. What happens will happen. I often wonder how these closed minded skeptics (and atheists for that matter) react when they die and their consciousness continues. Do they stop and look back, realizing how ignorant they were? On the other hand, if they are right, and when you die that is it, well, we won’t know anyways, now will we. I believe that there is more than enough evidence to suggest the independent nature of consciousness without the body, as well as the idea that consciousness is not a by product of matter, but that matter is a creation of consciousness. A very eastern idea, that western science is slowly finding itself having to deal with. Ah, but that is another subject...

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

- Teilhard de Chardin

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: DMT - The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, M.D.

DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences by Rick Strassman M.D.

There are people who feel that science and the paranormal cannot co-exist, usually forgetting that many things were paranormal until explained by science. In today's world, talk of things like Alien Abductions and Near Death Experiences often get one ridiculed by people who are more, scientific. In DMT, The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Strassman proceeds in a completely scientific manor to investigate the effects of DMT on various volunteers. The results though, may help to identify certain mechanisms that may be involved in such ridiculed events such as Alien Abductions. Make no mistake, this is not a New Age book. Dr. Strassman is an accredited and peer reviewed scientist, who did not set out to deal with the subjects that he eventually did. Like any good scientist, he followed the data. It led him to very surprising places.

DMT Experiences, although often unique, also have certain common qualities to them. One of them is meeting ‘beings’, and experiencing some of what happens in an Alien Abduction. Dr. Strassman, as much as he seems to have resisted it, eventually had to admit that the experiences did not bear the markings of being just an hallucination. The fact that DMT occurs naturally in the body, being secreted by the Pineal Gland, makes it even more interesting. The book itself is very well, written, very scientific, and quite enjoyable. Just reading about all the hoops he had to jump through to get to do the research in the first place is amazing.

It has made me wonder about paranormal experiences in new ways. For example, anyone who studies UFO’s seriously will point out that DMT can’t explain multiple witness sightings, radar tracking, and physical traces. But what if we are dealing with two different things. What if the only connection between the odd lights in the sky and the alien abduction scenario is that whatever causes the ‘physical’ UFO, sets off a release of DMT in the observer, who then has an internal experience? I think this could be a potential breakthrough in the study of UFO’s. It doesn’t explain what causes the lights, but if whatever does, affects people in the right way, it may lead to an encounter that is not ‘of’ those lights. Like a heavy wind blowing open a door you didn’t know was there. The wind and the room beyond may not be directly related, but one unlocked the other. It could also be that the beings that are contacted via DMT are also trying to come here, and they do so in what appear to us as UFO’s (and possibly other unexplained phenomena).

I have never been sure what to make of implants in UFO abduction cases, but people in DMT studies receive implants. There is no physical implant in these people, but plenty of abductees have claimed to have found physical implants right where they say they were implanted. Some of these implants, when removed, seem to be, at the very least, odd. Now, as I said, I am not sure what to make of this. There isn’t enough conclusive evidence one way or another, but I would say that Dr. Strassman’s research into DMT may be a very important clue in understanding the UFO Phenomenon, as well as consciousness and the human condition in general.

If any of this even vaguely interests you, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. You can look at it as DMT causing hallucinations or as DMT tapping into another realm, either way, the book is very interesting and opens up all new avenues of questions. Personally, I believe that it retunes us to another world. How much so probably depends on the situation and amount of DMT received, either naturally or by design. Dr. Strassman uses the analogy of the brain as a television, tuned by default to ‘channel normal’. DMT tunes it to other wavelengths.

I would like to thank Dr. Rick Strassman for the courage to see this study through and the strength it took him to actually get to do it. If you read this, you will understand what I mean. His research may have broken new ground in various fields, but only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Light and the Moon...

Standing at the end of the path, fields surround. The moon, bright in the sky, casts everything in a beautiful glow. Quick moving clouds skirt across the sky, in patches dimming the glow occasionally, but none the less, there is a beauty to it all. A breeze, comes across from the West, guiding the clouds on their way. As I watch, I notice a light in one of the fields, strange that, as there is nothing out there to create a light. It is at first, though, only a passing interest. Despite my severely clear sense of consciousness, things start to happen... First a flash, like someone taking a picture. The flash is there, but without a sharp climax, and then an odd decay. Interesting, and hard to focus on, like it comes from somewhere we don't normally have access to. Then, oddness becomes outstanding. As I gaze up at the clouds starting to cover the moon, the lunar body suddenly bursts through the thick clouds and shakes wildly. Clearly a hallucination. I look away, at that odd light in the field. It blinks on and off at regular intervals. I look up and the moon is normal again, for a moment, then it starts its impossible dance. Bewildered I look away. I look inward to examine my seeming clarity of mind, and find that it still seems to be intact. That light is still there. I stare at it, and it goes out and doesn't come back on. Odd. I look at the bizarre lunar dance again, and once again, it seems like it should at first, then it performs it's convulsion. If it was an optical illusion, would that not be there as soon as I look? I notice the light is back, I look at it, trying to determine something, anything, about it. It goes out and stays out. Frustrating. I wait and it fails to relight. I look away, and from the corner of my eye, it returns. Like a game. I watch it from the corner of my eye, and it blinks on and off every seven seconds. Fine, I think, so there is a pattern to this seemingly out of place luminosity. As it ignites, I look at it, it stays on seven seconds, goes out, and does not come back... Till I look elsewhere, then it resumes it's blinking. Now how can that be. It is a good distance away, yet it seems to be interacting with me. It is not unusually bright and it stays perfectly still. What sense can be made of this. If I look when it is out, it stays out till I look away. Subtle, yet, so striking in it's action. I look up, the moon, free of clouds seems like it should, but the flashes on the landscape remain on occasion. I wonder if I should feel scared by all this? Worried about my own sanity, yet I know, this is something that is definitely there, this is not a mental hallucination.

I recall that at Fatima, the sun was said to fall from the sky and fly around. I think about our need to believe in ghosts or aliens, or something else that we can somehow fit into our idea of logic. Perhaps, though, the world does not play by those rules. Perhaps that light is always there, but it takes a certain state of mind, or state of earth, or alignment with something, somewhere, for me to see this. And there it is. And more than anything, it wants contact. And maybe it has caused these other things, the flashes and the dancing moon, only to direct my attention to it. But what then. If a person were to sit in that lonely field and wait for perhaps me to wander this way, even with some nice night vision goggles and motivation, they could not detect the slight change in my vision that provokes the light to respond. It knows when I am looking at it, and it is telling me so. The clouds are passed, and the sun is coming soon. The light remains. I bid it farewell and return from where I came, with a great sense of wonder, invigorated by something so simple, yet so profound. Not a ghost, nor an alien, nor anything else we can fully comprehend in our world of logic and order.  Perhaps, though, something that seeks contact, something so strange to us, that we can't yet see what it truly is. Perhaps we lack the facilities to, the senses to. And if it is so strange to us, how can we even guess it's motivation? It's awareness is likely to be so foreign and alien to ours that how can we hope to really communicate. We are closed minded and arrogant. Yet it tries. We can not hope to apply to something our limited views and behaviours to it and hope to make any sense of them. It has been here, trying, for as long as we know. We have assigned it different faces, angels, demons, aliens, ghosts, fairies... But these were the illusions, which we provided as it tries to get through on some level. A light in a field, where there is no light, that responds in ways it can't. It's seems so trivial and small.

Clearly, though, it is patient.