Saturday, November 10, 2007


how does it work?

what makes us think?

is it sugar, the fuel that is burned by the brain?

is it the sampling rate of discharging neurtransmitters?

is it data stored in a fluctuating matrix of neural circuits?

Just what is consciousness?

Good luck figuring that one out. Science knows more about the mechanics of our solar system than it does about the mechanics of human consciousness.

Neuroscience is probing brain matter and studying brain damage. Anthropologists study human behavior, language, and culture, the "software" of the brain. Psychologists invent incomplete theories on mental function, while psychiatrists push brain drugs on the "mentally ill" (who, thanks to psychologists, have many new "disorders" to explain abnormality, but then again, what is "normal" anyway?). And we can't forget about the philosophers, those guys and gals that raise questions and spin words around like Olympian athletes.

Many scientists spanning multiple fields are investigating the nature of human consciousness, yet no one school of thought is close to completing the big picture. Those who contemplate consciousness are generally left scratching their heads.

Enter the ethnobotanists.

Why do plants produce metabolic alkaloids like amphetamines, tryptamines, beta carbolines, opiates, and caffeines, etc., that act on organic nervous systems by binding to neural receptors designed to accomodate them?

In other words, why are mammals designed to "accept" drug alkaloids produced by plants?

Why do these metabolic alkaloids influence the mental function of humans, primates, mammals, birds, fish, insects, and spiders?

Now, being that the human brain runs on sugar, and that human consciousness is driven, among many things, by alkaloidal neurotransmitters (like serotonine, dopamine, adenosine), and being that the human nervous system is genetically equipped to accomodate plant alkaloids like opium (for this is the reason why the junky can get high in the first place), it should be clear that the biological evolution, and the mechanics, of human consciousness have been influenced by an ancient biological symbiosis that united plant developement with animal developement.

Plants produce drugs as a defensive mechanism to deter hungry pests. To the grasshopper, plant drugs like nicotine and atropine represent a danger, in the form of toxicity and behavioral handicap. The catepillar can eat plant drugs, and store them in tissue, to the dismay of the next hungry bird that decides to eat catepillar. To the deer, plant drugs can make intoxication an easy target for hunters. To the monkey, plant drugs can make swinging through trees more life threatening.

But many thousands of years ago, humans found a way to turn plant drugs in medicines and tools for speaking with the ancestral spirits. A creative explosion occured, when life became art, and the image of the SHAMAN ruled humankind. The plants themselves became gods, and a prolific religion took hold that conquered the human world. This religion gave myth to the stars, and spirit to the land. This religion provided a context for sickness, and maps for subsistence. This religion, though unique to each human community, was ubiquitous among prehistoric people. The religion is shamanism.

For more than a thousand years, "Western" cultural powers burned and chased shamanism out of European society. This process is known today as "witch burnings" and inquisition, but it happened, and it attempted to remove from European society the influences of shamanism in the manner of botanical healing and altering states of consciousness. This power was reserved for Jesus Christ, God, The Saints, and Church Clergy. No witches allowed.

Today, The U.S. is waging another War on Witches: the War on Drugs.

Today, science knows very little about how ancient humans used psychotopics plants. Science knows very little about how these plant-drugs influence consciousness, and, as is already established, science knows little about consciousness.

Yet, the reality stands: drug abuse, of illegal and legal sorts, remains a big problem for American society; governments have established standards for "normal" cognitive behavior (i.e. "drugs are bad"), yet governments certainly don't have the empirical basis to establish standards for cognitive normality!

And the reality continues: we believe in arbitrary political boundaries that don't actually exist outside of our minds; we kill in the name of ideals that don't exist; we think paper and numbers have wealth; we yell at the television when our team is losing.

Our beauty is that we dream.

Our reality is nothing more than a dream.

What is consciousness?

Whatever you want it to be.

If you're a scientist investigating human consiousness, here are some clues:

what alkaloids make people "fly" and visit ancestral spirits?

what alkaloids make people see vibrant color hues, stobbing lights, fractals, and grid patterns?

what alkaloids make people more alert?

what alkaloids make people dreamy?

what alkaloids make people find god?

what alkaloids make people feel love?

what alkaloids make people hear with their eyes, and see with their ears?

what alkaloids produce spirals, vortices, and tunnels to other worlds?

Hmm. That's a good start.


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