An Autonomous Agent

exploring the noosphere

Category: psychology (Page 1 of 2)

PiKHAL: A Chemical Love Story and TiHKAL: The Continuation – Alexander and Ann Shulgin

Let me provide a context so that you may understand my amazement with the chemical explorations of Alexander Shulgin. Did you know that the two principal neurotransmitters in the human body are dopamine and serotonin? Did you know that they belong to the phenethylamine and tryptamine chemical families, respectively? I find this simple observation to be of fundamental importance in understanding the human mind/body relationship. And now consider that Ann and Alex Shulgins’ books: PiKHAL (Phenethylamines I have known and loved) and TiKHAL (Tryptamines I have known and loved) explore both these chemical families and their effects on the human mind and body. Quick summary of well-known psychedelic chemicals:

Phenethylamines Tryptamines
Dopamine Serotonin
Mescaline DMT
MDA Psilocybin
MDMA Psilocin
2C Family Ibogaine

LSD is complex and has both chemical structures, but most people emphasizes that the effects of LSD are related primarily to its tryptamine backbone and interaction with human serotonin receptors.

Ann and Alexander Shulgin’s books are a groundbreaking revelation for their accounts of psychedelic exploration, therapy, and spiritual development. They are a mix of essays and stories. You will not regret reading the books and learning about the chemicals referenced in the second half of the books.

An interesting note: In PiKHAL, the fictional character Adam Fisher is based on Leo Zeff, a talented psychotherapist who worked with MDMA; you can read all about his therapy work in The Secret Chief Revealed by Myron J. Stolaroff.

Steps to an Ecology of Mind – Gregory Bateson

The papers, essays, and lectures contained in Steps to an Ecology of Mind showcase Gregory Bateson’s incredibly unique perspective. Due to the wide range of discussion within this collection, it is very difficult to write a concise summary. There are a few points which made a lasting impact in my mind.

He explains the levels of learning and how the animal mind can “learn about learning” and “think about thinking”; concerning humans – they can reach a third and possibly fourth level in this learning recursion hierarchy. He discusses this in the context of various subjects: anthropology, psychology, evolution, information, ecology, cybernetics and epistomoglogy in general.

He emphasizes that western science should adjust the way it thinks about relationship and form and discusses how these are relavant to the study of matter and energy. He questions the western conception of mammalian emotions, aesthetics, and the ego-self. On several occasions I found myself with the desire to re-read Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. Both books I think contain some overlap in their treatment of information and the mind. Overall, Bateson was an incredible thinker and you will improve your intellect by reading this collection of work.

The Adventure of Self-Discovery – Stanislav Grof

The Adventure of Self-Discovery by Stanislav Grof is a fascinating book which introduces readers to the inner healing potential of their sub-conscious. The first half of the book builds on themes from Realms of the Human Unconscious. In the second half of the book, Grof explains the rather profound, yet simple, exercise of holotropic breathing. Holotropic breathing allows people access to the ancient tradition of entering non-ordinary states of consciousness without any recourse to the ingestion or smoking of plant material. Please read the entire book if you are interested in performing the breathing without the aid of an experienced holotropic guide. Do not attempt without a sitter.

I put together a music playlist based on Grof’s recommendations for your benefit. The songs are in random order. Let me know if I should add/remove any:

Holotropic Breathing – Beginning

Holotropic Breathing – Middle

Holotropic Breathing – End

Also, informative interview with Grof:

Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research – Dr. Stanislav Grof

Dr. Stanislav Grof’s book Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research surpassed any expectations I had when I purchased it. It truly takes the reader on a trip into the most remote depths of the human psyche. Grof’s model of the unconscious, based on more than 30 years of experience, provides incredible insight into a realm beyond anything you thought you knew. The model involves what Grof calls “Systems of Condensed Experience” (COEX Systems). In addition to these experiences,  patients typically encounter experiences classified by Grof as either perinatal or transpersonal. I suggest reading the book to learn more about this topic and the models.

In a suitable analogy, Grof declares LSD to be psychiatry’s fundamental tool; it is like the astronomer’s telescope or the biologist’s microscope.  Grof refers to the powerful ability of LSD to facilitate the revealing of deep unconscious systems like that of sonar or radar, revealing the largest and most relevant emotional disturbances beneath the surface of the unconscious ocean. It allows therapists to have a direct reading of a patient’s relevant thought systems and important experiences. Readers begin to realize how incredibly important this molecule is for the well-being of the psyche and the spiritual and mental development of humanity.

For a simple introduction, I would suggest The Holotropic Mind rather than this book. Or if you prefer an audio book, Audible has The Transpersonal Vision. I would also recommend joining the email list for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The Holographic Universe – Michael Talbot

After watching an interview with Michael Talbot on YouTube, I was eager to read his book, The Holographic Universe. Despite being published in 1991, the book contains a wide range of references and resources perfect for any reader in 2016 interested in the boundary between science and the paranormal. I recommend this book, not because it provides profound new insight, but because of the huge number of paranormal examples (if legitimate) and historical occurrences with which any reader may have a difficult time fitting into their framework of reality. Of course, it is unwise to accept anything you read as truth; however, the source material is listed and the reader can stroll down any path he/she wishes in their own personal investigation of these topics. My own path is now taking me into the work of Dr. Stanislav Grof,  Rick Strassman, etc… and topics such as LSD, DMT, NDEs and OBEs.

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