[The Neural Correlates of Altered Consciousness:] [From Hypnosis and Meditationto DrugBased Changes] [Amir Raz, M.D.April 21, 2013] We have about 25 minutes to talkabout altered consciousness from my perspective, or a little bit of my perspective. So let me tell you just a little bit in [the] way of context.First of all, I’m very happy to be here in a conference that has the title quot;psychedelic science,quot; for all kinds of reasons that you’ll see in a few minutes. My first slide basically says that I’m a professional scientist.
Professional science is a weird profession. You get paid basically to do something you would probably do for free, not paid a lot, but paid to do something that you really love, you’re really passionate about, and I happen to be very passionate about consciousness. One thing that I do in order to study consciousness is to look at altered consciousness. When I was a graduate student, it was almost unheard of that a graduate student, at least, would say that they want to study consciousness. This was not centuries ago.
[It] was pretty recently. The scientific community in general is pretty conservative and pretty skeptical of weird stuff. Altered consciousness is considered weird stuff today. It’s slightly changing; I want toshow you a little bit how it’s changing and the kind of stuff that we need to do in order to make it change. Before that I want to show you that the approach that we take to altered consciousness is aninterdisciplinary one. My background is in computational signs and psychology and computer science, things like that. For the past 15 years or 20 years or so, I’ve been in psychiatry departments and psychology departments and neurology departments. McGill, for those of you who are not familiar with Canada, it’s a foreign but friendly country, just north of the United States.
McGill University is sort of the Harvard of Canada, or as they say in Canada, Harvard is the McGill of the south. We have labs at McGill, and some of my studies, not all of them,but some of them are dedicated to altered consciousness and I want to show you just a few things. I’d like to start with some kind of a context. So you see, in life, it’s very easy, especially when you give a 25minute presentation, it’s very easy to classify people in a caricatured way into one or two, one or the other. So, quot;do you take psychedelic drugs orquot; quot;do you not? Do you believe in psychedelic drugs or do you not?quot; quot;Are you spiritual or are you not? Are you rich or poor, a giver,quot; quot;a taker?quot; and so on. A lot of times in science, you hear things like quot;you’re not openminded enough,quot;quot;you’re not openminded,quot; or quot;you’re closeminded.quot; The fact of the matter is that this kind of dichotomy, quot;are you on this side or are you on that sidequot; becomes all the more acute when you talk about things where quantitative science has very little to offer or not enough to offer.
And then, qualitative science, which is a form of science, a legitimate form of science, is considered by some people to be very soft. By some people it’s not even considered to be science at all..
Skeptiko Alex Tsakiris JeanCharles Chabot Explores Spiritual Hypnosis
Alex Tsakiris: Today’s guest is an author,blogger, an entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in computer engineering and allaround fascinating guy,Bernardo Kastrup. Welcome to Skeptiko. Bernardo Kastrup: Thanks, Alex. It’s a pleasureto be here. Alex Tsakiris: So Bernardo, a lot of folksmight have come across you in the Skeptiko forum. I read a terrific blog post of yoursin your blog, Metaphysical Speculations. I thought it was really great. A lot of folkson the Skeptiko forum reacted very positively to it. We had a really interesting conversationgoing there. Then I delved in further and I heard fromyour publicist and I found out you have a brand new book and it’s your third in a seriesof what looks like tremendous books. So we really have a lot to talk about today andI’m looking forward to it.
Bernardo Kastrup: Sure. I’ve been lookingforward to this for quite a while, Alex. Alex Tsakiris: So where I thought we mightstart, since there are probably a lot of folks who aren’t familiar with your work, tell usa little bit about your background, your blog, and of course your books. Bernardo Kastrup: Well, I have a quite ‘scientistic’background even, and if you will, a very rationalistic background. I have a degree in computer engineering.I’ve worked as a scientist in different places, including CERN in Switzerland. I’ve livedalongside materialistic scientists and I used to think like that. In a way that was notonly who I am but in a way who I feel I represent today.
But over time, working in that environment,one becomes slowly cognizant of the hidden assumptions of the scientific paradigm. Thehidden subjective value system, the hidden assumptions about the nature of reality thatwe all make without knowing we are making them. And once you become aware of that, you can’tavoid but start pursuing different avenues of thought, different avenues of investigation,either empirical and scientific, when it’s possible, and, when it’s not possible, a philosophicalapproach to understanding the nature of reality. That’s the part I have been pursuing overthe last few years.
Alex Tsakiris: Awesome. And I think that mightnot sound like something that a lot of folks can wrap their arms around but once they readsome of your writing I think they’ll appreciate more of what you’re saying. What I get fromreading your work is that there is this philosophical bent but it’s not a purely philosophical approach.It seems to be very grounded in not only science but kind of reason and logic. With that in mind, I guess I’d like to kindof direct this into one of these blog posts that relates back to your books. I hope you’lltell us how it does tie into your books. But the blog post was on consciousness and memory.Let me give you just a little quote here and we can bounce off of that and see where wego.
quot;Consciousness may never be absent,quot; you say.quot;What we refer to as periods of unconsciousness, be they sleep, anesthesia, or fainting maybe reinterpreted as periods in which memory formation is impaired.quot; There isn’t anything supercontroversial therebut it’s really deep in terms of its implications. Can you expound on that a little bit and maybetell us some examples of how that comes into play? Bernardo Kastrup: Sure. I’ve been thinkingabout consciousness for quite a while now because it is the sore spot in the materialisticparadigm, in the current scientific paradigm; the one thing that we cannot explain, evenin principle; that we cannot deduce from anything that we know empirically in science today.The assumption we make usually is that consciousness somehow is generated by the brain. Nobodyknows how, but that’s the assumption we make.
Therefore, if the brain’s impaired becauseyou are asleep and you are not in a dream.