“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Entheogens and Cosmos, the sequel [a lecture for ERIE @ CIIS this Sunday on psychedelics and the extended mind thesis]

The Entheogenic Research, Integration, and Education student group at the California Institute of Integral Studies has invited me to speak again about the philosophical, cosmological, and psychological significance of psychedelics. In case you missed it, here is my first talk for ERIE back in September called “The Psychedelic Eucharist–toward a pharmacological philosophy of religion”:

I attempted to link Plato and Socrates’ invention of philosophy to the psychedelic mystery cult at Eleusis, and interpreted Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as the mythic expression, not of a dualistic idealism that separates appearance from reality (what is usually called “Platonism”), but of a non-dual ontology of creative aesthesis.

My second talk for ERIE this Sunday (Jan. 25, 2015 at CIIS) will begin with a reflection upon the relationship between the work of speculative science writer of Richard Doyle on the co-evolution of psychedelic plants and human brains (see Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Nöosphere) and cognitive scientist Andy Clark (originator of the “Extended Mind Thesis” with philosopher David Chalmers) on the way computer technology augments and alters human consciousness.


Clark wrote a piece back in 2010 for the NYT philosophy column “The Stone” called “Out of Our Brains” that is well worth a read. It is easy to become so transfixed by the way our consciousness is embedded within and potentially enhanced by an increasingly ego-pandering (and potentially self-destructive) technological media environment that we entirely forget about all the psychophysiological contributions made by the far more ancient biological and astrological environments from out of which we and our toys emerged. “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious,” as Whitehead says. What is obvious is that the technoindustrial economy is situated within the dymanics of the Earth system as a whole, that all of our machines and media are ultimately subject to the cosmological energy flows coursing through our planet as it wanders around the Sun.

As Clark says, the novelties of late capitalism, like smartphones and laptops, do certainly extend and augment our our cognition. But ecological and cosmological modes of mind extension pre-date and override these more recent cognitive constructs. Our late modern consciousness may have become largely technologized, but to the extent that we remain grounded on this Earth beneath that Sky, our cognitive bills must still be paid not simply in the currency of skull-bound neurons or handheld smartphones, but in that of the ecodelic chemicals and archetypal energies we share with the other organisms in our local, planetary, and interplanetary ecologies.




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7 responses to “Entheogens and Cosmos, the sequel [a lecture for ERIE @ CIIS this Sunday on psychedelics and the extended mind thesis]”

  1. dmf Avatar

    hey mds, is there any empirical research to this “ecological and cosmological modes of mind extension pre-date and OVERRIDE these more recent cognitive constructs”, talking cosmo-logical appears to be far from Clark’s own work which seems more grounded in affordances and resistances of what is at hand?

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      It seems clear that the relationship of our body-mind to, for example, the diurnal cycles of the sun predates and overrides any relations we’ve formed with modern tech. And an experience with ayahuasca or psilocybe mushrooms, which our genus has been coevolving with for millions of years, certainly seems to augment cognition more powerfully than any smart phone I’ve come across.

  2. we3eudys@centurylink.net Avatar

    An entheogenic experience some years ago lead to thought experiment which I submitted to Stephen Hawkins and he found interesting. While the dualistic ‘both/and’ nature of quantum reality (wave vs. particle, ect) is revealed in startling and fascinating ways (quantum weirdness), the macrocosm is not so apparent. The problem arises from an a priori assumption at the foundation of relativity theory. The Michelson-Morley experiments in the 1880’s failed to demonstrate the existence of an ether (a medium through which light (a wave) could travel). The attempt to ‘discover’ the ether was subject to worldwide and exhaustive testing for years by many scientists. This failure is largely responsible for the evolution of a new paradigm in thinking introduced by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century. If space inflation initiating with the Big Bang continues (and we believe in fact is accelerating) everything remains in a strange way at singularity from the viewpoint of the total uni/multiverse.
    While mechanistically no one can argue that the physical universe is moving in a complex pattern beyond our current or even foreseeable ability to describe, etherically it remains at rest.
    This viewpoint gives one the ability to view macrocosm as demonstrating the same properties so apparent in quantum weirdness.

    From the standpoint of your thought pattern, could be seen to re-unite the divide between the pre- and post-Coperinim worlds in philosophy?
    Dan Eudy

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      You are correct that Einstein’s view of space-time is based on an a priori postulate regarding the speed of light as invariable. This postulate is usually described as an interpretation of the Michelson-Morley experiment, along with other attempts to find an ether. Problem is, the M-M and all subsequent experiments DID NOT produce null results. They just didn’t produce the values for the “ether wind” that were expected, so the smaller data points were rejected. This is typical for theories in physics: if there isn’t a theory to interpret the data, the data are ignored. This is especially the case when a theoretical model as elegant as Einstein’s exists. Are you familiar with the work of R. Cahill on this?

      As for uniting the pre- and post-Copernican views, I assume you mean bringing together the geo- and heliocentric perspectives? I think this is quite easy. If space, time, and motion are relative, then there is no “correct” frame of reference one could objectively point to/from. All frames are equally “true.” So the geo-centric and the helio-centric are each valid so long as we can translate between the two frames (which we can). In point of fact, as the followers of Hermes have known for thousands of years, “the universe is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”

  3. Psychedelics, Society, and Reality – Footnotes2Plato Avatar

    […] wonder if the religious or cognitive freedom approach might not bear more nourishing fruit (e.g., this talk on the psychedelic eucharist and this paper on psychedelics and religious studies). These issues came up in my conversation with […]

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