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Issue Five: Focus on Therapy
“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” — Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (1929)
Table of Contents
Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence:
Consciousness and Literature:
Consciousness and Brain Activity:
Consciousness and Indigenous Knowledge:
Consciousness and Psychedelics:
Consciousness and Paradigms:
Consciousness and Death:
Consciousness and Ethics:
Focus on Therapy
Nuggets From The Archive
So, here we are in Issue Five. Maybe something is taking shape now. The near- to mid-term aim for The Planetary Consciousness Elevator is to become an NGO, one which is capable of creating symbiotic relationships with other organizations in the space. It will also map what we are calling The Global Consciousness Movement in ways which show both the existing, and potential, connections between the scientific, artistic, religious, alternative, and social justice aspects of those working on and with consciousness.
By calling The Elevator ‘Your bi-weekly consciousness digest’, we have limited ourselves only very slightly in terms of what content we are able to include. You might at times, as you skim through the links here, think ‘that’s a bit off-topic’. But as we know, ‘consciousness’ is a slippery subject. It may be a freak occurrence in the Universe, or, as we tend to think, might be the substrate for absolutely everything. We are thinking as much in terms of using poetry and visual art to point to ‘it’, as much as we are thinking in terms of neuroscience and quantum physics.
We are working on a White Paper which sets out what The Global Consciousness Movement is, why it is important, and how it could open the opportunity for us to create the paradigm shift which is so badly needed on our ailing planet. Once this is complete, we should see some of the threads woven together as a more coherent whole.
“As tiny parts of a huge biosphere whose essence is basically bacterial, we – with other life forms – must add up to a sort of symbiotic brain which it is beyond our capacity to comprehend or truly represent,” — Lynn Margulis
(Thanks again to Camilla Carlsen for allowing us to use her fantastic paintings. Her Instagram is here).
We don’t want to turn The Elevator into a ‘psychedelics newsletter’. But the fact is that a great many of the recent innovations in the consciousness space are currently in the orbit of ‘the psychedelic renaissance’. If you only read one article out of all those we recommend in this issue, make it this one, because as usual Jamie Wheal has his moral compass screwed on tight. You will see why I used the word ‘compass’ when you read it.
Matthew Syed applies Iain McGilchrist’s theory that the modern human is overly fixated on ‘rational’, literalist ways of thinking to industrialized society as a whole: “I wonder if we might say that western civilisation is showing growing signs of right-hemisphere damage (this is a metaphor, by the way). We are living through an increasingly context-blind, literalist age.”
IBM has developed a prototype of an analog AI chip that works like a human brain and performs complex computations in various deep neural networks (DNN) tasks. The company claims that the chip can make artificial intelligence remarkably efficient and less battery-draining for computers and smartphones, and could replace the current chips powering heavy AI applications in the future.
A clinical trial at Northwell Health's Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research has successfully restored movement and sensation to the arms and hands of a quadriplegic patient named Keith Thomas. The procedure, called a double neural bypass, uses AI, brain-computer interface (BCI) implants, external computers, and non-invasive wearable tech to reroute neural signals responsible for movement and touch.
In this fascinating and poetic article, Elvia Wilk discusses the concept of the New Weird, a literary genre that deals with the wonder and horror at the fringes of human consciousness, particularly in Jeff VanderMeer's book Annihilation. She argues that the New Weird is to science fiction what mysticism is to theology, attempting to get at something beyond the explainable. The article draws parallels between the New Weird and mystical texts of the Middle Ages, which often deal with the idea of a kind of First Contact with the divine, using William James' four hallmarks of a mystical experience.
Collective neuroscience is a growing field of research that studies how the brain waves of people synchronize when they converse or share an experience. This phenomenon is visible in the activity of the brain and is beginning to reveal new levels of richness and complexity in sociability.
A new study has found that near-death experiences can occur when doctors bring a person back to life after the heart flatlines and breathing stops, which happens when a person dies for any reason, not just during a heart attack. The study measured electrical activity in the brain and found that activity was measured at two- or three-minute intervals, when doctors had to stop chest compressions or electric shocks to see if the patient’s heart would restart. The study found that the brains of people who are going through death have flatlined, but even up to an hour into the resuscitation, there were spikes in brain electrical activity.
In a groundbreaking study, neuroscientists decoded and reconstructed music from brain activity, using data from 29 people monitored for epilepsy. Participants listened to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1," while electrodes captured their brain's responses to elements like tone and rhythm. Using machine learning, researchers managed to create a garbled but recognizable audio of the song. Published in PLOS Biology, this research extends prior efforts to reconstruct audio recordings of spoken words and visual images. The ultimate aim is to translate brain waves into human speech, aiding those unable to speak due to conditions like stroke or paralysis. Future inquiries may explore extending these models to imagined internal speech.
Ruth Burns contends that the current buzz around UAPs (Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena) overlooks Indigenous peoples' longstanding knowledge of extraterrestrial life, exemplifying Indigenous erasure. It also highlights Congressional testimony on alleged government cover-ups about aliens. She warns that ignoring Indigenous perspectives on UAPs risks incomplete understanding and perpetuates a colonial viewpoint.
Ruby Deevoy explores how psychedelics could spur quicker climate action by fostering a deep, protective bond with nature. She contends that the key to solving the climate crisis isn't new tech but a shift in human motivation. While some experts see promise in psychedelics for nurturing eco-consciousness, tangible actions for the planet are equally vital—with or without psychedelics. More research is urged to clarify these substances' potential.
This is a review of David Nutt’s book ‘Psychedelics’. Rising interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs, spearheaded by figures like neuropsychopharmacologist Nutt, sparks both excitement and caution. His work explores psychedelics for treating conditions like depression and addiction. However, risks accompany their use, and further research is essential. Concerns also persist about commercial motives in the psychedelic industry and limited access to supervised therapy.
The prevailing scientific view, Physicalist Materialism, holds that consciousness is a byproduct of physiology and dismisses concepts like nonlocal consciousness. Critics like neuroscientists Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Mario Beauregard, along with physicist Henry Stapp, challenge this, arguing it's based on outdated notions. Experimental evidence for nonlocal consciousness exists, with multiple studies boasting results that defy chance at odds greater than one in a billion.
We at The Elevator are big fans of this Instagram account, so it’s nice to read an interview with the man behind it.
“There could be a workshop after a retreat, giving you a different perspective. Exploring broader perspectives of what it means to be happy and healthy, the intrinsic relationship between individual health and the health of communities, societies, cultures and environments. Not only this individualistic, neoliberal tendency to put all the weight and responsibility on the individual— “change your lifestyle, make better personal choices, heal your trauma”.”
Clinical psychologist Lisa Miller believes that the brain might function more like an antenna, capable of sending and receiving consciousness, which holds information, love, and intelligence. She highlights scientific research that has explored this idea of shared consciousness, particularly in bonded relationships and among twins. Miller emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity, where our actions and treatment of others leave lasting imprints on a collective consciousness field. By recognizing our shared consciousness, we can live a less lonely and more mindful shared existence.
Using AI, scientists have discovered a potent new antibiotic, abaucin, effective against the superbug Acinetobacter baumannii—one of the WHO's "critical" threats. The AI rapidly sifted through thousands of compounds, identifying nine potential antibiotics, including abaucin, which showed efficacy in both mice and patient samples. This accelerates drug development at a time when antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise, killing over a million people annually. Abaucin's targeted action could minimize drug resistance and side effects. Expected to hit the market by 2030, AI-facilitated antibiotics are seen as revolutionary in combating drug resistance.
“‘The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people.... I thought it was way off…. Obviously, I no longer think that,’ Geoffrey Hinton, one of Google's top artificial intelligence scientists… said after he quit his job in April so that he can warn about the dangers of this technology.” AI experts express growing concerns over the swift advancement of artificial general intelligence (AGI), particularly the rapid evolution of conversational abilities in advanced chatbots. They warn that self-improving AI systems may soon become uncontrollable, raising questions about the wisdom of developing such technologies when control mechanisms are not yet in place.
The question of pre-birth existence is explored through philosophical and empirical lenses, referencing Plato's Meno and the concept of the eternal soul. Researchers like Jim Tucker and interviewee Susan Manewich contribute perspectives on reincarnation and personal memories before birth. The piece concludes that the idea of life before birth, supported by consistent accounts from those claiming past-life memories and ET/UFO contact, is worth serious consideration.
The case of Lucy Letby, a UK nurse found guilty of murdering seven babies, sparks debate on whether evil is innate or environmentally shaped. Philosophical perspectives vary: one camp posits humans are naturally good but corrupted by environment, while the other argues for an inherent wickedness needing environmental guidance. Despite historical arguments on both sides, the issue probably remains too complex for a definitive answer.
Grace Endries discusses the relationship between consciousness and metaphysics, arguing that consciousness is inherent to a unitary, semantic order at the foundational level of reality, which presents itself to us as matter. The article also discusses the need for precision when discussing the issue of consciousness and provides definitions for terms such as physicalism, materialism, and consciousness.
"There's no individual agent inside the body orchestrating the activities of that particular body and mind ...
Obviously, the first thing we would do if we could control our thoughts would be to choose for our thoughts to be totally okay with what's going on ... Just that should be enough to persuade anybody, everybody, that they don't control their thoughts ...
There's no entity that is responsible for a behavior. A behavior is a response that has been conditioned. The thoughts and feelings that lead to a behavior are just a result of that person's conditioning, plus genetics, plus whatever it is that conditions any single action. But, there's no individual responsible. There's no personal responsibility.
And, strangely, understanding this doesn't make us behave in irresponsible ways. It's when we believe there is personal responsibility that we find ourselves behaving in irresponsible ways. When we feel, 'I am a separate person,' it is that feeling that gives rise to irresponsible behavior ... When the sense of separation goes, our behavior is in line with the totality and serves the totality." — Rupert Spira
Focus On Therapy
Alyssa Polizzi explains that the concept of psychological projection involves perceiving situations through the lens of one's inner life and past experiences. While projections can help make new situations manageable, they become problematic when tainted by unresolved issues or distortions. Guidelines for recognizing and retracting such projections include acknowledging them, tracing their origins, and owning them. Though challenging, this process is key for advancing personal consciousness and growth.
The use of psychedelics like magic mushrooms and ayahuasca can trigger memories or visions of childhood abuse, as observed in trials involving psilocybin and MDMA. The phenomenon raises questions about the nature and validity of these memories. While some individuals, such as comedian Simon Amstell and entrepreneur Shannon Duncan, believe these experiences help uncover genuine traumatic events and facilitate healing, others doubt their reliability. This issue intersects with broader debates in mental health and legal spheres about the credibility of recovered traumatic memories, a topic that has swung from acceptance to skepticism over the years.
Ketamine has been touted as a miracle treatment for severe depression, but researchers are still unsure of how it works and how much of its benefits are due to its ability to rewire connections in the brain versus the mind-altering experience of taking it. The need to untangle the most crucial contributors to ketamine’s effectiveness is becoming increasingly acute, especially as ketamine clinics are starting to proliferate in the US, with some overpromising on what the drug can deliver. Doctors who have seen many patients helped by ketamine worry that the hype might lead to illegal use.
Anna Silman discusses the increasing popularity of ketamine as a treatment for depression, as well as its growing use as a recreational drug. While research has suggested that ketamine can be effective in treating depression, the drug is not yet officially approved for this use by the US Food and Drug Administration. Some people who have used ketamine to treat depression have become addicted to the drug, and its recreational use can also be dangerous. Despite these risks, ketamine has become a popular subject of research and investment in the field of mental health.
We mentioned this idea in an earlier issue but think it’s worth re-visiting in the context of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
“Studies have consistently found that psychedelics significantly amplify neuroplasticity, thereby acting as potential catalysts for lasting changes in neural circuitry and behavior.”
Elena Schmidt explores the potential of psychedelics to recalibrate a dysregulated nervous system and restore internal peace. In a dysregulated state, the nervous system can become stuck in chronic stress responses, producing excessive stress hormones and creating an imbalance in neurotransmitter activity. This imbalance can inhibit the brain’s ability to form new connections and may even lead to the atrophy of specific neural pathways. Psychedelics can help unwind that process by allowing individuals to access and address underlying issues that conventional therapies might not reach, while enhancing one’s ability to change through neuroplasticity.
This is a very comprehensive history of the use of music in psychedelic therapy sessions. Curated playlists and albums aim to enhance transformative experiences (there are some nice Spotify playlist links at the end). Music has always served as a vital component in psychedelic therapy, guiding the process, ensuring emotional safety, and facilitating cathartic release. It can also promote mindfulness, especially when the psychedelic journey becomes turbulent.
A UK study finds online talk therapy as effective as face-to-face sessions for treating anxiety and depression. Analyzing over 27,500 patients, the study highlights the cost-effectiveness and speed of virtual therapy. Patients receiving therapist-guided cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) online saw quicker improvements, reducing their need for additional medical care. The findings advocate for broader access to scalable, effective mental health interventions.
Psychedelic telemedicine services like Mindbloom are growing but face scrutiny over safety and efficacy. Looser COVID-19 regulations have enabled the rise of these virtual platforms, which prescribe controlled substances like ketamine. However, concerns about inadequate medical supervision and inconsistent support persist. Experts call for rigorous evaluation of these services' safety and effectiveness. The challenge lies in balancing increased accessibility with the quality of patient care.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on BetterHelp for sharing users' mental health data with companies like Facebook and Snapchat, contrary to privacy promises. The FTC plans to prohibit BetterHelp from such sharing and mandates a $7.8 million consumer settlement. BetterHelp and similar platforms like Talkspace are also criticized for unclear professionalism standards, raising questions about the qualifications of their mental health professionals.
The effects of conscious connected breathing on cortical brain activity, mood and state of consciousness in healthy adults
The Open Up project, in partnership with Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, has released a three-year study on the neurological and psychological effects of breathwork. Published on September 8, 2023, the findings are promising and have led to the development of a pilot program aimed at enhancing education through collective meaningful experiences.
Amanda, a 50-year-old with a history of alcoholism and psychiatric issues, found relief through psilocybin therapy administered in Switzerland. The treatment alleviated her depression and anxiety, and she has remained abstinent since April 2022. The case highlights the potential of psychedelics for treating mental disorders and underscores Switzerland's role in psychedelic research.
Growing interest surrounds the therapeutic use of hallucinogens like LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin for conditions such as depression and PTSD. However, safety concerns and the risk of self-medication persist, especially for vulnerable individuals. Questions also arise about measuring the effectiveness of psychedelic-assisted treatments. While optimism exists, researchers call for further studies and caution before widespread application.
The psychological immune system: four ways to bolster yours – and have a happier, calmer life | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian
The psychological immune system is the brain's mechanism for coping with adversity by assigning meaning and finding positives for the future. Four strategies to bolster this system include shifting from negative to neutral perspectives, staying present, finding meaning, and practicing acceptance. These techniques can enhance resilience and encourage risk-taking.
Adam Aronovich contends that the therapeutic focus in the use of psychedelics is too narrow, dismissing their potential for recreation, curiosity, or creativity. While therapy has its place, this shouldn't overshadow other life-enhancing aspects like joy and community.
Nuggets From The Archive
Women's spiritual entrepreneurship frames capitalism within traditionally feminine values, employing spirituality, teaching and nurturing methods to achieve success. This notion thrives in multi-level marketing, self-help products and guides, and business coaching is embodied by successful figures like Shiva Rose of beauty industry and Rachel Hollis among others.
Jules Evans takes as a starting point the Society for Psychical Research, which was founded in the 19th century to investigate unusual phenomena such as telepathy and mediums. The members of the society, including William James and Arthur Conan Doyle, gathered evidence for many phenomena that did not fit into the materialist paradigm. They believed that a new idealist paradigm, in which consciousness would be recognized as the foundation of all things, would soon replace the materialist paradigm. However, the shift has not yet happened, and Evans explores possible reasons for this, including institutional and psychological resistance, fear of change, and a lack of evidence.
Our perceptions of reality are not necessarily accurate but serve as internal simulations shaped by evolution for survival, according to Donald D. Hoffman, a cognitive science professor. These perceptions guide adaptive behaviors and filter out unnecessary information. Hoffman posits that consciousness can be mathematically described and influences our actions.
“These psychedelic artists are rad as hell.”
Video: Gnosticism Is A Spell
“After last year's Astro-Gnostic conference and some extended jungle experience, I want to revisit some comparisons between 'gnosticism' and 'animism' -whatever they happen to be.” Rune Soup explains that gnosticism offers a dual-edged map of power: it both reveals the mechanisms of control and invites transformative awakening. Characterized by a challenge to fixed realities, Gnostic times embody a drive to reshape the world.
This is an interview with philosopher Philip Goff on his theory of panpsychism, which suggests that consciousness is not just a product of the brain, but is inherent to all matter. He argues that the problem of consciousness arises from the way science was designed to exclude consciousness, and that panpsychism offers a way to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview. They also address objections to panpsychism and the difficulty of testing it.
The Posthumanism and Technology podcast delves into how Lyotard's "The Inhuman" reinterprets technology as a form of 'inscription,' affecting human perceptions of time, space, and cognition. It concludes with an examination of Lyotard's essay 'Can thought go without a body?' as a counterpoint to traditional development paradigms.
Technological Approach to Mind Everywhere: An Experimentally-Grounded Framework for Understanding Diverse Bodies and Minds
The biologist Michael Levin explains how his ‘TAME’ framework offers a novel approach to understanding cognition in unconventional substrates, leveraging synthetic biology and bioengineering. It aims to create diverse embodied cognitive systems in chimeric architectures. The framework explores the relationship between behavior and morphogenesis and its influence on evolutionary speed. This has significant implications for fields like cognitive science, evolutionary biology, regenerative medicine, and artificial intelligence. It could also be a useful framework for considering how Analytic Idealism might work at a biological level.
Bigelow Essays Part 3
Third Prize: "The Ghost in the Time Machine"
This is an essay by Dr. Leo Ruickbie, Associate of King’s College London, and Visiting Fellow in Psychology at the University of Northampton, where he is a member of the Exceptional Experiences and Consciousness Studies research group.
It delves into the question of human consciousness after death, specifically focusing on the phenomenon of ghosts. The paper is structured around what Ruickbie calls the "Scrooge Paradox," named after the skeptical character from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The paradox questions why, despite a wealth of anecdotal evidence and widespread belief in ghosts, science remains skeptical about the survival of consciousness after death. Ruickbie argues that the problem is not a lack of evidence but rather our doubt in human experience.
He explores various types of apparitions and experiences that people claim to have had, including reincarnation, crisis apparitions, and after-death communication. The essay also examines phenomena like out-of-body experiences and near-death experiences as evidence for consciousness existing independently of the body. Finally, he addresses the problems related to witnesses and the nature of reality itself.
Ruickbie's essay aims to challenge the scientific community's reluctance to consider the survival of consciousness after death as a legitimate area of inquiry.