OPEN Foundation

Philosophy

THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

The Doors of Perception. Aldous Huxley. Vintage Publishing. ISBN: 978-0099458203

In this philosophical essay, released as a book, Huxley details his experience with mescaline over the course of one afternoon. 

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Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism

Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. Daniel Pinchbeck. Broadway Books. ISBN: 978-0767907439

Daniel Pinchbeck tells the story of the encounters between the modern consciousness of the West and psychedelic substances, including thinkers like Allen Ginsberg, Antonin Artaud, Walter Benjamin, and Terence McKenna, and the new wave present-day ethnobotanists, chemists, psychonauts and philosophers.

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Prescribing meaning: hedonistic perspectives on the therapeutic use of psychedelic-assisted meaning enhancement

Abstract

The recent renaissance in research on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is showing great promise for the treatment of many psychiatric conditions. Interestingly, therapeutic outcomes for patients undergoing these treatments are predicted by the occurrence of a mystical experience-an experience characterised in part by a sense of profound meaning. This has led to hypotheses that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is therapeutic because it enhances perception of meaning, and consequently leads to a meaning response (a therapeutic mechanism that has been well described in the philosophical literature on the placebo effect). The putative mechanism of action of psychedelics as meaning enhancers raises normative ethical questions as to whether it can be justified to pharmacologically increase the perception of meaning in order to heal patients. Using the perspectives of hedonistic moral theories, this paper argues that if psychedelics operate as meaning enhancers, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can be ethically justified. An anti-hedonistic objection is presented by applying Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment to the case of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. However, it is argued that this objection falls short for two reasons. First, even if pleasure and pain are not the only consequences which have moral value they are not morally irrelevant, therefore, therapeutic meaning enhancement can still be justified in cases of extreme suffering. Second, it is possible that psychedelic states of consciousness do not represent a false reality, hence their therapeutic meaning enhancement is not problematic according to Nozick’s standards.

Miceli McMillan R. (2021). Prescribing meaning: hedonistic perspectives on the therapeutic use of psychedelic-assisted meaning enhancement. Journal of medical ethics, 47(10), 701–705. https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2020-106619

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Psilocybin Therapeutic Research: The Present and Future Paradigm

Abstract

Psilocybin, an active component in “magic mushroom”, may have the potential to meet the therapeutic needs for a number of indications without the addictiveness and overdose risk of other mind-altering drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, alcohol, methamphetamine, and so forth. The need for new therapies is urgent because addiction, overdose, and suicide deaths have risen throughout the United States and around the world. Anecdotal and contemporary pharmacological reports have provided some indication about the therapeutic use of psilocybin for the treatment of mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder and addiction disorders. In this Viewpoint, I summarize the current state of psilocybin therapeutic research and attempt to provide some insight into future directions on which the scientific community may wish to focus.

Kargbo, R. B. (2020). Psilocybin Therapeutic Research: The Present and Future Paradigm. ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters11(4), 399-402.; 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.0c00048

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A Jamesian Response to Reductionism in the Neuropsychology of Religious Experience

Abstract

The neuroscience revolution has revived interpretations of religious experiences as wholly dependent on biological conditions. William James cautioned against allowing such neurological reductionism to overwhelm other useful perspectives. Contemporary psychologists of religion have raised similar cautions, but have failed to engage James as a full conversation partner. In this article, we present a contemporary, applied version of James’s perspective. We clarify the problem by reviewing specific James-like contemporary concerns about reductionism in the neuropsychological study of religion. Then, most centrally, we employ three of James’s conceptual tools—pragmatism, pluralism, and radical empiricism—to moderate contemporary reductionism. Finally, we point to a constructive approach through which neuroscientists might collaborate with scholars in the humanities and psychosocial sciences, which is consistent with our conclusion that it is often no longer fruitful to separate neurobiological studies from studies that are psychosocial or sociocultural.

Kime, K. G., & Snarey, J. R. (2018). A Jamesian Response to Reductionism in the Neuropsychology of Religious Experience. Archive for the Psychology of Religion40(2-3), 307-325., 10.1163/15736121-12341357
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Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Previous research suggests that classical psychedelic compounds can induce lasting changes in personality traits, attitudes and beliefs in both healthy subjects and patient populations.
AIM:
Here we sought to investigate the effects of psilocybin on nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
METHODS:
This open-label pilot study with a mixed-model design studied the effects of psilocybin on measures of nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective in patients with moderate to severe TRD ( n=7) versus age-matched non-treated healthy control subjects ( n=7). Psilocybin was administered in two oral dosing sessions (10 mg and 25 mg) 1 week apart. Main outcome measures were collected 1 week and 7-12 months after the second dosing session. Nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective were assessed using the Nature Relatedness Scale (NR-6) and Political Perspective Questionnaire (PPQ-5), respectively.
RESULTS:
Nature relatedness significantly increased ( t(6)=-4.242, p=0.003) and authoritarianism significantly decreased ( t(6)=2.120, p=0.039) for the patients 1 week after the dosing sessions. At 7-12 months post-dosing, nature relatedness remained significantly increased ( t(5)=-2.707, p=0.021) and authoritarianism remained decreased at trend level ( t(5)=-1.811, p=0.065). No differences were found on either measure for the non-treated healthy control subjects.
CONCLUSIONS:
This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.
Lyons, T., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881117748902.
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LSD Increases Primary Process Thinking via Serotonin 2A Receptor Activation

Abstract

Rationale: Stimulation of serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptors by lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and related compounds such as psilocybin has previously been shown to increase primary process thinking – an ontologically and evolutionary early, implicit, associative, and automatic mode of thinking which is typically occurring during altered states of consciousness such as dreaming. However, it is still largely unknown whether LSD induces primary process thinking under placebo-controlled, standardized experimental conditions and whether these effects are related to subjective experience and 5-HT2A receptor activation. Therefore, this study aimed to test the hypotheses that LSD increases primary process thinking and that primary process thinking depends on 5-HT2A receptor activation and is related to subjective drug effects.

Methods: Twenty-five healthy subjects performed an audio-recorded mental imagery task 7 h after drug administration during three drug conditions: placebo, LSD (100 mcg orally) and LSD together with the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg orally). The main outcome variable in this study was primary index (PI), a formal measure of primary process thinking in the imagery reports. State of consciousness was evaluated using the Altered State of Consciousness (5D-ASC) rating scale.

Results: LSD, compared with placebo, significantly increased primary index (p < 0.001, Bonferroni-corrected). The LSD-induced increase in primary index was positively correlated with LSD-induced disembodiment (p < 0.05, Bonferroni-corrected), and blissful state (p < 0.05, Bonferroni-corrected) on the 5D-ASC. Both LSD-induced increases in primary index and changes in state of consciousness were fully blocked by ketanserin.

Conclusion: LSD induces primary process thinking via activation of 5-HT2A receptors and in relation to disembodiment and blissful state. Primary process thinking appears to crucially organize inner experiences during both dreams and psychedelic states of consciousness.

Kraehenmann, R., Pokorny, D., Aicher, H., Preller, K. H., Pokorny, T., Bosch, O. G., … & Vollenweider, F. X. (2017). LSD Increases Primary Process Thinking via Serotonin 2A Receptor Activation. Frontiers in Pharmacology8, 814. 10.3389/fphar.2017.00814
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Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
This paper considers the pleasures of psychedelic drugs and proposes a Deleuzian understanding of drugged pleasures as affects. In spite of a large body of work on psychedelics, not least on their therapeutic potentials, the literature is almost completely devoid of discussions of the recreational practices and pleasures of entheogenic drugs. Yet, most people do not use psychedelics because of their curative powers, but because they are fun and enjoyable ways to alter the experience of reality.
METHODS:
In the analytical part of the paper, I examine 100 trip reports from an internet forum in order to explore the pleasures of tripping.
RESULTS:
The analyses map out how drugs such as LSD and mushrooms – in combination with contextual factors such as other people, music and nature – give rise to a set of affective modifications of the drug user’s capacities to feel, sense and act.
CONCLUSION:
In conclusion it is argued that taking seriously the large group of recreational users of hallucinogens is important not only because it broadens our understanding of how entheogenic drugs work in different bodies and settings, but also because it may enable a more productive and harm reductive transmission of knowledge between the scientific and recreational psychedelic communities.
Bøhling, F. (2017). Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping. International Journal of Drug Policy49, 133-143. 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.07.017
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Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
This paper considers the pleasures of psychedelic drugs and proposes a Deleuzian understanding of drugged pleasures as affects. In spite of a large body of work on psychedelics, not least on their therapeutic potentials, the literature is almost completely devoid of discussions of the recreational practices and pleasures of entheogenic drugs. Yet, most people do not use psychedelics because of their curative powers, but because they are fun and enjoyable ways to alter the experience of reality.
METHODS:
In the analytical part of the paper, I examine 100 trip reports from an internet forum in order to explore the pleasures of tripping.
RESULTS:
The analyses map out how drugs such as LSD and mushrooms – in combination with contextual factors such as other people, music and nature – give rise to a set of affective modifications of the drug user’s capacities to feel, sense and act.
CONCLUSION:
In conclusion it is argued that taking seriously the large group of recreational users of hallucinogens is important not only because it broadens our understanding of how entheogenic drugs work in different bodies and settings, but also because it may enable a more productive and harm reductive transmission of knowledge between the scientific and recreational psychedelic communities.
Bøhling, F. (2017). Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping. International Journal of Drug Policy49, 133-143. 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.07.017
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Entheogenesis: Toward an Expanded Worldview for Our Time

Whereas the terminology of psychedelics has acquired spurious cultural associations of “tripping,” the historically primal concept of consciousness expansion has two advantages. One, it connects psychedelic drugs with other modes of consciousness expansion, such as meditation and creative visioning; and two, it suggests contrasting comparison with the consciousness contraction involved in concentration and focus. Both expansions and contractions can be observed at the level of an individual’s states of consciousness and also at the level of the shared worldview of society. Contemporary world culture is moving toward an expanded worldview that recognizes both the material and the spiritual dimensions of our existence.
Metzner, R. (2017). Entheogenesis: Toward an Expanded Worldview for Our Time. Journal of Humanistic Psychology57(5), 443-449. 10.1177/0022167817723405
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