Sunday Meditation: Are Non-ordinary States “Freeing” the Brain to Truly See?


On his blog Metaphysical Speculations, Bernardo Kastrup challenges conventional psychiatric assumptions that the brain produces and controls consciousness. Kastrup cites two recent studies published in Human Brain Mapping and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that, when people are in extreme states of expanded awareness and heightened sensitivity after taking the psychedelic drug psilocybin, brain activity is reduced. Kastrup says this is part of “a broad pattern associating procedures that reduce brain activity with expanded consciousness” that includes hyperventilation, meditation, physical-psychological ordeals, gravity-induced loss of consciousness, strangulation and cardiac arrest. So then, asks Kastrup, what does all this say about the brain’s normal sense of reality and the true locus of consciousness?

In two connected posts, Kastrup argues that consciousness is not produced by the brain at all. “What if the colors, sounds, and smells you are experiencing right now are the real reality — the actual world — not ‘hallucinated’ representations within your skull? Then the necessary implication is that all of reality is in consciousness, for reality is then ‘made of’ the qualities of subjective experience. But if that is so, it is your body that is in consciousness, not consciousness in your body.”

In an earlier essay published in New Dawn, Kastrup made a case to build a “New Kind of Inquiry” institute for the study of non-ordinary states as a means to transcend normal consciousness and conventional understandings of reality.

Magic mushrooms and brain activity revisited
(Bernardo Kastrup’s Metaphysical Speculations, August 10, 2014)

The greatest contradiction of common sense (Bernardo Kastrup’s Metaphysical Speculations, August 10, 2014)

See also:

Transcending Our Brain Created Reality: A New Call to Lift Nature’s Veil (New Dawn, September 2012)

Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin (Carhart-Harris, Robin L. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. January 2012. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1119598109)

Enhanced repertoire of brain dynamical states during the psychedelic experience (Tagliazucchi, Enzo et al. Human Brain Mapping. Published online first July 2, 2014 DOI: 10.1002/hbm.22562)

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  1. “What if the colors, sounds, and smells you are experiencing right now are the real reality — the actual world — not ‘hallucinated’ representations within your skull?

    Except that some of these perceptions can be artificially triggered by brain stimulation…

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  2. This is an interesting concept to me, because after I was weaned off antipsychotics I suffered from super sensitivity manic psychosis. It took the form of an awakening to the story of my dreams, which was about how all people are connected within our dreams. And other cultures, as mentioned in the links above, also believe in this. Who knows? But I really think Western medicine / science needs to become a lot more humble, and stop proclaiming they have all the answers, when in reality there is so much the human species does not actually know yet.

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