Rarely has the new neuro-reductionism been so naked in its repackaging of human experience. Nowhere in the research or the journalism does anyone suggest that heavily depressed people feel better because ketamine sends them on a first-person voyage through profound, sometimes ecstatic, and certainly mind-bending modes of transpersonal consciousness whose subjective power might itself boot the mind out of its most mirthless ruts. By sweeping such sublimities under the rug of toxic ‘side effects’, the researchers and their partners in industry want to sidestep the remarkable paradox that psychedelic substances present to brain-based reductionists: psychedelics are material molecules that frequently occasion experiences that look and feel, for all the world, like the sort of mystical or religious raptures whose unfolding cognitive content calls into question strict materialism. In other words, reductionist researchers of powerful psychedelic effects must still squirm before God — or at least before the experiential states that recall the ecstatic reports of traditional religious mystics, or of shamans making pacts with non-human entities, or of meditators seeing into the knitted web of self and world.

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A quote saved on Nov. 5, 2015.


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