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Notes on “Looking at Kastrup”

November 15, 2018 1 comment

I have been following the debate/feud between scientists Bernardo Kastrup, Robin Carhart-Harris, and Enzo Tagliazucchi that centers around the interpretation of brain research in psychedelics. At issue is the fine distinction between whether psychedelic states have been seen to be correlated with increased or decreased ‘brain activity’.  A decrease in brain activity would seem to support an Idealist view of consciousness while an increase in activity could give support for the materialist consensus.

In this great article, Playing with Razors… Looking at Kastrup , Q4LT gets into the details. While everyone involved is well aware that ‘increased brain activity’ is too broad of a term for deep understanding, I support Kastrup’s effort to clarify that the kind of activity that has been observed to increase is not consistent with the materialist assumption of conscious experience that is confabulated by an electrochemical phenomenon that is local to the tissue of the brain. Here are my thoughts. (Read the article and watch the videos!).

“The big conundrum at hand is as follows… gamma waves have been observed to coincide with enhanced problem solving and neuronal binding. This would seem to be an important correlation in terms of interpreting brain wave data generated by EEG. Faster oscillatory activity appears to coincide with increased processing potential.”

I can think of a reason why the “Higher pitched” gamma brain activity waves could be correlated with psychedelic/mystical experience without directly accounting for them. My conjecture is that these gamma frequency EM signatures correlate not to the florid aesthetic-semantic content of the experience, but to the intensity of them as they are localized into the personal scope of awareness. In other words, I think the gamma may not be the water coming out of the firehose of the psychedelic experience, but the buffering and caching of the experience of trying to drink from that firehose.

Just as a high pitched sound is heard as highly localized within the ear itself, high pitched brain waves might be localized to the aspects of conscious experience which are most public facing. The gamma buffering/caching might be more of a symptom of rapid and thrilling integration and organization of insights into the existing intellectual-ego framework than the expanded content of personal awareness into transpersonal states. These symptoms would be the inflection point where insights which are potentially useful to the life of the embodied personality, as opposed to the full manifestation of the experience.

“Q4LT’s perspective is that everything that is currently measurable is material.”
This seems like a very loaded proposition. Certainly science is almost synonymous with measurement in one sense, however, given that the nature of psychedelic and dream states often present aesthetic content without the tractable, waking sense of countability/measurement, we should consider the possibility that if we focus only on what can be measured with tangible instruments (extending the body into physical contact with other tangible structures), we may be looking in the wrong direction. We may be ‘drinking our own bathwater’ and begging the question of physicalism by elevating the status of physicality-tangibility from the outset.
“However, we don’t particularly enjoy taking the stance that “consciousness is everything so the details of physicality are all secondary noises that aren’t all that interesting or important”.
I completely agree, which is why I’m a Multisense Realist rather than an Idealist.
““Consciousness” is a tricky topic but our perception of it is that the closest physically measurable layer to better understand the complexity of consciousness has to do with electricity and magnetism. This is why we weren’t completely in agreement with the Kastrup/Kelly stance that blood flow changes via fMRI provided definitive proof of a counter argument against materialism.”

I agree here too about electricity and magnetism, and I have proposed that we should try looking at EM as primordial sensory-motive signaling schemas rather than blind force-field mechanisms. I suggest that EM wave/particles are not literally present in empty space, but rather they are a (slightly misguided or inverted) modeling of deeper perceptual-participatory phenomena. Electromagnetism may not be, in my view, non-stufflike-stuff-traveling-through-spacetime, but rather symptoms of the spatio-temporalizing of non-local experience into local scopes or framings.*

I think that Kastrup/Kelly are justified in wanting to make it clear that in layman’s terms, things that expand consciousness don’t make your brain ‘work harder’ in general. There is a pressing need to communicate this general insight to science writers and their audiences, so that psychedelic research, and consciousness research in general, can be understood as valid and important. It seems like it is now time to begin to spread the understanding that what has been observed about psychedelic states is that they do not suggest a physical organ working hard to produce physiological effects within the tissue itself, but rather a more subtle, quiet level of molecular activity against a background of decreasing overall blood flow/’brain activity’, especially in the regions most active during waking consciousness.

This would, for better or worse, open the door to a view in which the brain is grounded in a context that is larger than subjectivity, but not larger than consciousness-in-general. Psychedelics may, in fact, facilitate access to genuinely transpersonal, non-local experiences rather than mere ‘hallucinations in the head’. This could help recontextualize religious and spiritual views, psi, NDEs, etc as (flawed/folk) intimations of an eternal and pervasive source of subjective consciousness, rather than as an isolated, and all too mortal collection of ephemeral experiences.

*Plato’s ‘moving image of eternity’ might be seen in a more modern light, with electromagnetism as a language governing Lorentz-like, Holos-graphing transformations between public, frames of entanglement and private frames of contextuality. (See quantum entanglement vs quantum contextuality research). We may be looking at quantum mechanics and electromagnetism all wrong; as external phenomena in the physical universe, when they may, in fact, be the modulation of phenomenalization and physicalization from a deeper spectrum which transcends tangible and intangible appearences.

 

I sent a draft of this post to QLT4, and he had this to say:

“It’s good except this part… “we should consider the possibility that if we focus only on what can be measured with tangible instruments (extending the body into physical contact with other tangible structures), we may be looking in the wrong direction”.

I’m not looking in any direction in particular. Only wherever instruments that measure layers that correlate somehow with the conscious experience in an effort to better understand emotion and thought from a mechanistic perspective.
It’s obvious theres much more to life but if we are to discuss the results of scientific experiments we must immerse ourselves within this framework to a high degree. Scientific discussion is based on what is measurable… that is the focus of Q4LT. Philosophers are free to postulate outside of the scope of what is measurable. It is a different domain than what we are interested in.
My response:
Thanks, that makes sense. I agree that we have to immerse ourselves within the scientific framework, and to exhaustively measure all that we can, but what I was trying to get to is that there seems to be a specific property of anti-measure that correlates positively with the depth/purity of conscious experience. When I say that we may be looking in the wrong direction, I mean it more in a literal sense of say, trying to find our identity by adding more and smaller fingers to our hands. It may be that our most valuable tools will be things like etymology and transpersonal psychology (when correlated with measurements).

Physical existence is consciousness which has been cooked by the entropy of relative unconsciousness.

November 6, 2016 Leave a comment
LRM: Can you please explain?

Craig Weinberg Think of consciousness as the raw cookie dough which comprises the totality of nature. Nature as I’m using it includes thoughts, imagination, dreams, fiction, etc. It includes the experience of the thought “square circle” but it does not include the referent of that thought as that referent is purely artificial/unnatural/logically impossible.

To get from this raw set of experiences to experiences which are ‘physical’, i.e. which persist in a tangible sense (literally, we can experience a sense of touching them, or touching something that can touch/hold/collide with them), I propose that there is a hierarchy of layers of disconnection or dissociation in which direct experience becomes increasingly indirect.

The dream of the person is not composed of the function of the brain, rather the brain is the set of sub-personal dreams which have become partitioned off in the formation of personhood.

Think of how language begins…we have the personal experience of learning the alphabet and how to use letters to spell words. We become so good at reading letters that it eventually becomes second nature. The personal experience now evolves into an experience of taking in entire sentences of words, while the piecing together of letters to form phonemes in our internal dialogue is relegated to the sub-personal. There is now a layer of entropy…a leveling of insensitivity which insulates our direct attention from those less-relevant experiences which are nonetheless occurring at a lower level.

Extrapolating on that, imagine that over billions of lifetimes, and countless pre-biotic experiences before that, the sub-personal content has been subjected to this kind of objectification so many times that the sub-personal quality becomes impersonal…shared only through a geometrically summarized protocol of frozen touch…tangibility through quantification or maximally layered entropy of tactile sense. Visibility begins to recover some of that loss of sense by partially removing the tangibility restriction, such that there is an intangible medium for re-connecting with tangibly disconnected experiences. That intangible recovery of the disconnected tangible is the parent of space, time, and light. It is “c²”.

LRM: “So.. consciousness is a kind of sum of an increasingly indirect references??”

It is that, but it as also the direct ‘ference’ itself. Consciousness is the sole primordial absolute. It is the the necessary ingredient of any and all possible phenomena, including possibility itself.
SW: “It seems that consciousness is not so much layered through the body or the physical (though this may certainly be something that happens) but, rather, it is our conceptualizations that provide layer upon layer. I think these conceptualizations happen precisely because we are not embodied enough, like an existential terror that keeps us from fully feeling and we insulate ourselves from the terror of embodiment by adding layer upon layer upon layer of insulation between ourselves and how we experience our embodiment, primarily through conceptualization.
You use language as an example – language used to refer to the world in which we live – it was a direct representation of that world. Now language is seen in shapes that have no meaning in and of themselves except the way we string them together. “A” is completely meaningless until we give it meaning. Whereas a symbol like a tree has meaning without us doing anything to it.
Our efforts to not be embodied can be seen in virtually every aspect of society. And by embodied I mean to feel ourselves as our bodies and the chemical bath of emotions and the intuition and connectedness that comes from physical form and for this experience to have primacy over the conceptual layering we do that is driven by our inability to deal with our embodiment.
It seems to me that we are only really conscious when we are able to be in our bodies without adding layers to our experience.
Perhaps it is two sides of the same coin? I don’t know.”

Craig Weinberg Yes I think two sides of the same coin, or to try to be more precise:

Consciousness in general* creates the experience of bodies and physical matter in the first place through layering sensitivity gaps** but when we, as human beings, expand our consciousness we become more fully aware of our humanity, which includes the direct experience of the world through the body and of the body itself.

I agree with you on language, although I would not automatically assume that it begins as a way to talk about things in the world. I think before that it begins as a way of imitating each other’s natural gestures. It probably developed in both the inner and outer direction at the same time, allowing us to communicate our feelings and call and sing to each other as well as to call each others attention TO some event or condition in the shared world of our bodies.

“Our efforts to not be embodied can be seen in virtually every aspect of society”

Absolutely. I see this in a deep historical context…the swing from nature shamanism to poly and monotheism to dualism to deism to atheism/anti-theism. The pendulum swing in philosophy corresponds to the political and technological swing Westward. The rise of capitalism was concurrent with the rise of physicalism, not coincidentally, but necessarily. The dis-Orientation (Orient = East) toward the world of the body and Copernican anti-centricity has to do with converting the primacy of subjective kinds of feelings into secondary ‘properties’. This relates to the sense of property, as the proprietor herself becomes the ghostly ‘owner’ of a body and of material positions.

Here’s where the trouble begins…the immateriality of ownership is projected onto objects, the trading of which is facilitated by a super-object…”currency”. Money then becomes smaller and smaller, more and more abstract until it has reached the state of purely symbolic, immaterial disembodiment. All this to say that we don’t just want to be disembodied, we want to become money. Money is always welcome. Money is always loved and appreciated. It never goes out of style, it never cares what anyone thinks of it…it can do most anything and anything it can’t do it doesn’t value. Money is our human social counterfeit essence…our ultimately refined sense of insensitivity. Through this ‘love of money’ we seek immortality and an escape from both the body and the less-than-omnipotent mortality which comes with it.

*(Consciousness in general = what I call “pansensitivity”, and others call nondual fundamental awareness)

**(Sensitivity gaps = what I identify as the ultimate source of entropy)

A Couple of Scientific Conversations

April 17, 2015 2 comments
Quantum and the Bell

EM Imagine I set up Schroedinger’s cat and a machine that will open the box after 10 seconds and ring a bell if the cat is alive. I set it up, and wait 10 seconds, and don’t hear a bell. What’s happened to the wavefunction?

CM What happened is that a person, you, have made an observation based on an expectation that you have of a particular experiment.

EM But I didn’t interact with the apparatus. No signal was transferred between me and it.

CW If you didn’t interact with the apparatus then how do you know the bell didn’t ring?

EW Because I’ve noticed 10 seconds passing and not registering a bell ringing in that time?

CW Why would you expect to hear a bell ringing unless you know that you can hear that bell and that bell is part of the apparatus?

EM I wouldn’t do, but are you trying to say that being aware of that counts as interacting with the apparatus?

CW Of course. Does RAM exist if it’s just filled with 0s?

EM Sure, but the idea of RAM in my head isn’t RAM in reality.

CW Being able to hear a bell isn’t in your head either. Being able to hear a bell and infer a meaning to the apparatus from that sensory experience (or your unfulfilled expectation thereof) is what your interaction consists of.

EM Yes, and neither unfufilled expectation or potential ability to hear a bell are real interactions with the real apparatus.

CW They are if you can really hear a bell (which is part of the apparatus) and if you can really understand that hearing the bell constitutes a result of your experiment.

If a dead person doesn’t hear the bell is it still a valid observation?

EM As far as the mathematics was concerned, it was “observed” (decohered) by the time the bell rang. But “being able to hear the bell” is not an interaction. *Actually* hearing the bell is, but that doesn’t happen.

CW Your view takes sense for granted to the point that it denies a difference between a living observer and no observer.

As far as the mathematics was concerned”
Which proves my point. Mathematics truncates consciousness.

EM Your point is… what? Believing in single observers and WF collapse is more rational then just interpreting the mathematics that explains your results in the first place?

CW The mathematics don’t explain the results, they only diagram a skeleton of one measurement of the results. The actual experiment and results take place outside of mathematics.

Are molecules conscious?

Does polymerase have any sense when it transcribes DNA into RNA? Do ribosomes have any sense when they translate RNA into amino acids?

What we can say is that DNA, ribosomes, etc are all expressions of consciousness on a certain scale (microbio-chemo) as seen through another scale of consciousness (anthro),

There is a story, an experience going on that is represented to us as a ribosome, a molecule, etc, and we are seeing its body through our body. A facade that is filtered by another filtering facade. I call this Eigenmorphism. Form itself, like matter and energy, is relativistic. Whether a given phenomenon is a feeling or a structure depends on the distance across the frames of reference involved. Nothing is an object in its own frame of reference, including the universe. Our mistake since the Enlightenment is in Over-Copernicanising physics and dismissing the native frame of reference (sense) as an epiphenomenon or emergent property of the distant frame (physics)

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