So I had my ketamine session on the 13th. In case you're wondering why the big time gap between then and now, it's partly because I've been so busy with other things. But the main reason is because something I saw on Facebook concerning global warming triggered really strong, negative emotions: despair and anger.
My despair was so extreme that I felt like shooting myself in the head right there and then and felt that way for the next few days.
My anger was so extreme that I had to take a break from some things such as Facebook for well over a week while I calmed down.
The fact that I saw a bunch of other things related to global warming during that time certainly didn't help.
It's extremely rare for me to get that emotional, but THE FATE OF THE WORLD HINGES ON HOW WE HANDLE GLOBAL WARMING. I know about the climate strike that happened on the 20th, but we've done such a terrible job of handling it that I fear we won't get our act together in time to save ourselves. We're close enough to the point of no return that, even under the best case scenario, the combined actions of certain people in Russia, Brazil, and the U.S. will likely end up killing off far more people over the next several decades than the combined actions of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.
This has been made possible because enough people are ignorant enough of science or close-minded enough (or both) for meaningful action to stop global warming to be stalled or thwarted, and that is truly frightening.
Even if we somehow survive it A-OK, I don't know if anything can be done to prevent future potentially apocalyptic crises from happening due to human folly. More science education probably isn't the answer since closed-minded people with superior science education typically use it to better rationalize their false beliefs. That's why fundamentalists with a college degree are less likely to agree that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Even if we created a system that worked, I could easily see future generations saying, "What do we need this for?" and then dismantling it.
We survived the Cold War, and we may survive this, but if, every century, we create two crises that each have the potential to wipe us out, it'll probably be only a matter of time before we do. And, in the meantime, we'll wipe out many species that'll get to have no say at all in any of this.
And if you're actually OK with that because you believe that will speed up The Second Coming, then what's so wrong with murder? After all, murder just sends people to their just reward in Heaven or their just punishment in Hell, right?
.....So getting to my ketamine session on the 13th, it just so happens that, during it, I thought about how much it takes to make something yet so little to break it -- whether it's a building, a system, or one's life.
It took so much to make me yet so little to break me.
It also took 10,000 years (counting from the end of the Stone Age) to get to where we are today.
.....And it could all be over in less than a century.
I would write more about how I felt specifically during my session, but it would be too much of a rehash. I always seem to go through the same thoughts about order arising from chaos and so forth.
What I'd like to focus on more this time is how I still feel terrible. I still feel I've ruined my life. I don't see much of a future for the human race thanks to global warming. I still wish I'd never been born. I still wish I were dead.
During my ketamine infusion today, I felt a sensation like floating at first. Again, I felt myself able to think more clearly. I realized that what ultimately seems to contributes to my brain getting clogged is fear. Fear of not doing well. Fear of being wrong. Going through certain thought patterns over and over again because that's my brain has become wired over the years. It's why I may always need ketamine.
That said, the session still felt underwhelming. Even right after the session was over, I found myself wanting more. It's also why my mood is almost as bad right now as it was yesterday.
In case you're wondering about what happens to comments for older posts, after some time has passed, they seem to disappear, but they actually haven't. If want to see them, click on the title for the post whose comments you want to read. (If you can't do that, then the post never had any comments in the first place.) Then scroll down, and you'll see a rectangle that has "(NULL) v". Click on it to reveal the comments. I mean to share this information earlier but kept forgetting to. Weebly simply hasn't fixed the problem in all these months.
Well, this time was a little different from previous times. Although I had some of the same thoughts about morality as I did last time, I had a few new ones.
I thought about how the universe is full of self-arranging systems. We have something called writing, which consists of symbols with no apparent intrinsic meaning but end up with meaningful sentences and how writing can be self-referential, such as “This statement is false.” Our brains are also self-referential because we’re self-aware. I’m sure I thought about this because I’m reading Gödel, Escher, Bach.
I thought about the nature of memory. What we remember says a lot about us even though it’s supposed to be a record of something empirical. We choose what to focus on. Our biases can even warp our recollection of something. Even when we retrieve memory, that seems to affect the memory itself. It often alters it rather than preventing it from fading.
That even seems to apply to overthinking. Overthinking has often gummed up the works of my brain, and I think ketamine used to help a lot with that. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I’ll ever achieve the tranquility to do anything to stop that problem. I simply can’t meditate.
Unfortunately, I have been getting worse, mood-wise, since the treatment yesterday.
During the prolonged period I went without ketamine due to my being fed up with going to San Francisco, I felt worse to the point of thinking about suicide. I eventually decided with much reluctance to go to S.F. again to get another ketamine infusion. (BTW, don’t get coverage from Kaiser Permanente if you want mental health treatment. The people in charge of running it are the worst.)
Since I felt my depression compromising my cognition, I was hopeful I’d benefit a lot from it this time. Unfortunately, it only cleared my mind a little and had no effect on my mood. But let me tell you about the experience this time.
I ended up experiencing the same things I’ve already described in this blog. Yet again I felt worse (at first) because I associate the hospital with bad memories. Yet again I felt as though I had some bird’s eye view of the world and its history and how human society has unfolded through the millennia.
The only wrinkle in the experience this time was that I also thought about game theory too. That’s probably because of this video I watched the day before. It got me thinking about whether morality is in some way connected to the Nash equilibrium point. If so, that would explain the rise of empathy, outrage, and other emotions associated with morality.
I've decided to share another fascinating article on ayahuasca, this one from the same person who recommended The Doors of Perception:
Some thoughts on it:
There are, of course, similarities between this and Sean Illing’s Vox article, but the one I found the most interesting was how both authors decided to take a second trip even though the first time cleared up their depression. Perhaps Sean also had “stubborn enemies” hiding out in his psyche.
There’s also something Salak mentions that reminds me of something I mentioned in a post of mine (my-third-session.html): directness. It seems ketamine and ayahuasca alike are good at bypassing the need for a therapist and getting directly to “the core”. Another thing that resonated with me is the suppression of emotions. I too don’t feel it’s a sign of strength and feel resentful about the fact I’ve felt the need to suppress some of my emotions related to my depression.
All that being said, I found one striking difference between Salak’s article and Illing’s: Salak’s trip seemed to be much more religious in nature. It makes me wonder if it has something to do with the fact that Salak took the drug in Peru whereas Illing took it in Costa Rica. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference between the two places?
One major component of this can be seen in a metaphorical light though the shamans don’t seem to see it that way. According to them, whenever a traumatic happens to us, we lose a part of our spirit. Unless we undergo soul retrieval, those parts will be forever lost to us. Each one contains an element of who we truly are: sense of humor, trust of others, innocence, etc.
There’s also the part mentioning the materialist angle. Salak talks about how she grew up among “fundamentalist atheists” (whatever that means). Her lack of happiness, though, drove her into the arms of shamanism. Furthermore, it’s difficult to catalog the drugs effect because it seems to affect people on three different levels: the physical, psychological, and spiritual.
However, I nevertheless agree with Benny Shanon’s take: “Under [ayahuasca’s] intoxication, people’s imagination and creative powers are greatly enhanced. Thus, their minds are prone to create the fantastic images they see with the brew” and Ralph Metzner’s observation “[Healing with ayahuasca] presumes a completely different understanding of illness and medicine than what we are accustomed to in the West.”
I don’t think the problem is materialism per se. Rather, our use of science over the centuries has sterilized the world too much for us, and we’ve lost touch with a part of what it means to be human. That’s why Joseph Campbell’s works are so popular. Like lost knowledge about sleep, we’ve lost the art of myth making. For instance, although scientists have confirmed the existence of animals like the giant squid, there seem to be no more monsters left in the world. Maybe the old will be new again.
Since I have nothing in particular to share for a while, I've decided I'd share this fascinating article on ayahuasca:
Some thoughts on this:
It's interesting to see how similar this is in some ways to Huxley's experience of taking mescaline and my experience of taking ketamine. Ayahuasca, mescaline, and ketamine are all psychedelic drugs. Huxley reported feeling dissociation when in his garden while on mescaline. I concluded years ago that the self is an abstraction although that was due to conscious contemplation, not ketamine.
The Zen quality he alludes to (namely, “And I think about how I’m going to look at my wife when I get back home, and how she’ll know I’m seeing her — really seeing her — for the first time all over again [emphasis mine].”) reminds me of the Zen quality I've mentioned before about ketamine and the one Huxley mentioned about mescaline. (fourth-session.html and fifth-post.html)
His getting to relive certain moments from his life and setting them right reminds me of my post in which I mentioned thinking about the different stages in one's life and how I felt regret that I'd missed out on so much. (february-21st-2019.html)
The heart of the article, however, is the lack of ego the author Sean Illing experiences. Ayahuasca allows him to escape his ego and, thus, observe himself as a neutral third party would. No wonder he describes it as a shortcut to what years of serious, disciplined meditation can bring you. Given how hard I find meditation, it sounds like something I'd like to try, much more so than mescaline actually.
As I’ve said before, before I left Facebook, someone recommended The Doors of Perception to me. As I read it, I could see why she. It’s similar in some ways to my experiences with ketamine. But it was also different enough that I decided to write a review, which will hopefully help the reader to see the differences and similarities between Huxley’s experience and mine.
The Doors of Perception is an essay about Aldous Huxley’s experience taking mescaline and his musings that result thereof. On May 3rd, 1953, Humphry Fortescue Osmond (referred to as an “investigator”) arrived in West Hollywood at Huxley’s house to administer mescaline to him, and Huxley’s experience was recorded on a dictating machine so as to refresh his memory of what was said.
Upon mescaline taking effect, what ensues is an odyssey centering around the way mescaline shapes the way Huxley perceives both the outscape (i.e. the physical world) and the inscape (i.e. the mind). This can be broken down into two basic qualities: an additive quality and a Zen quality.
The additive quality enables Huxley to perceive more — such as “supernaturally” brilliant colors he couldn’t see earlier -- but this isn’t limited to enhancing perception that deals with “the implied questions to which [sense organs respond]”. It also enables him to see beyond the carefully selected utilitarian material our “narrow” minds can normally perceive. It opens, as it were, the doors of perception.
For instance, measurements, locations, and even time cease to be important to Huxley, resulting in his small typing table, wicker chair, and desk appearing flattened and distorted, like still life in a Cubist painting. Thus, when Osmond asks him about space and time, he replies, “There seems to be plenty of it.” His mind is no longer concerned with measures and locations per se but with being and meaning.
He even declares, “This is how one ought to see, how things really are,” while obsessively fixating on the minutiae around him: the “labyrinth of endlessly significant complexity” made by the folds in his trousers, the “Inner Light” of some flowers, or the “miraculous tubularity” of the chair’s legs. However, he realizes that if one always saw things this way, one would never want to do anything else, and that is perhaps why our brains limit our perception. Mescaline gives access to contemplation that is incompatible with action and even the will to action.
The Zen quality is what most of Huxley’s other revelations stem from: what the Dharma-Body of the Buddha is, how one’s own mind contains mere symbols for Suchness (much as writing is symbols for objects and concepts), and what the “not-self” truly is—something made possible by the experience of dissociation, which also makes him realize what it must be like to schizophrenic. These give rise to some of the essay’s most fascinating sections.
For instance, religion, poetry, and art have placed greater importance on the “inscape” than on tangible objects as the former are supposed to have greater spiritual value because familiarity breeds contempt. Taoists and Zen Buddhists, though, are an exception. Not surprisingly, it was only in the Far East that landscape painters consciously regarded their art as religious.
Or take his observation that the urge to transcend the self is universal. Healthier "doors in the wall", or escapes, are needed than alcohol and tobacco. Some will be activity- or knowledge-based, but the need for chemical vacations will still remain. What is needed is a benign drug which will do that, and that drug, Huxley claims, is mescaline in modified form (its effects last too long in its natural form). After all, the fact that there is a worldwide connection between religion and drugs points to the fact that they are for satisfying the same needs, and one of those needs is self-transcendance. In fact, for the Native American Peyotists, religious experience is something more direct, illuminating, and spontaneous and not so much the product of the superficial, self-conscious mind. They’re also generally more industrious, temperate, and peaceable than non-Peyotists.
However, what really gets to the heart of his essay is reflections on the limits of words. Words can refer to sensations, feelings, insights, and such, but they're only an indirect way of conveying them. We can infer how the speaker might feel based on our own experiences, but we may miss important information. As such, one can never really know what it feels like to be someone else or truly understand what someone else feels. Huxley says gestalt psychologists have devised ways to help overcome the limits of language and further claims there is no interest in their methods in academia, but this is where the essay starts falling flat.
According to him, rationalists, intellectuals, educators, psychologists, philosophers, and clergy won’t give gestalt psychologists’ methods a chance because “[in] a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions.”
He also claims direct perception of the inner and outer worlds should be unsystematic. He even considers systematic reasoning to be poor at understanding the relationship of words to things! Perhaps he saw reality as a bunch of stray information and a systematic approach as something that contaminates it. However, one must have a way of sorting through that information and making sense of it in a way that doesn’t produce inconsistencies. Being systematic can help one avoid making erroneous assumption and can help one decide whether a conscious or subconscious approach is better. And it certainly isn’t at odds at understanding the limits of language.
Overall, though, I highly recommend The Doors of Perception to anyone looking to enhance his or her understanding of reality.
Unfortunately, I missed the ketamine session I was supposed to get yesterday due to some balls up. I'm now waiting for the day I don't have to keep going to San Francisco to get it.