If you think you’re living in the real world, you’re mostly mistaken.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” ― William Blake
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m fascinated by, amongst other things, the nature of reality. It’s fairly uncontroversial to say that our perception of the world is shaped by our experiences, the survival imperative, and by the capabilities and limitations of human sensory organs ( see my notes on Deviate, by Beau Lotto, and Liminal Thinking, by Dave Gray). You might even be willing to believe that what we think is reality, is in fact just a very handy user interface for interacting with the world around us ( see The Case Against Reality, by Don Hoffman).
But if “reality” is indeed just a user interface, then what is the truth that lies behind it? If we don’t have the sensory organs to perceive it, how can we ever know it?
The good news, it seems, is that we do have ways to perceive it, to open the doors of perception — it’s just that culturally we have decided to keep the doors shut… because who knows what might happen if the truth were to get out? The fragile edifice of our exploitative, dominator-style culture would crumble, that’s what.
Okay, that was quite a leap. Let me rewind and build my case more slowly.
I recently finished reading How To Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan, also well known for The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I suppose that, in all honesty, I suppose I should also disclose the subtitle of How To Change Your Mind, in case you don’t already know it: it’s “ The New Science of Psychedelics”. I realise that the word “psychedelics” may provoke an emotional response in many readers — images of the 60s, loud swirly patterns, drug addicts, bad trips, Timothy Leary, turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. But for a moment, I’d like to invite you to set aside preconceptions, and maintain an open mind … with the opening of minds being exactly the point of this blog post. (I…