Monday, 19 September 2016

This physicist says consciousness could be a new state of matter 'Perceptronium'.

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Ref Source Science Altert
BEC CREW
16 SEP 2016
Consciousness isn’t something scientists like to talk about much. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and despite the best efforts of certain researchers, you can’t quantify it. And in science, if you can’t measure something, you’re going to have a tough time explaining it.
But consciousness exists, and it’s one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. And just like dark matter and dark energy have been used to fill some otherwise gaping holes in the standard model of physics, researchers have also proposed that it’s possible to consider consciousness as a new state of matter.
 
To be clear, this is just a hypothesis, and one to be taken with a huge grain of salt, because we’re squarely in the realm of the hypothetical here, and there's plenty of room for holes to be poked.
But it’s part of a quietly bubbling movement within theoretical physics and neuroscience to try and attach certain basic principles to consciousness in order to make it more observable.
The hypothesis was first put forward in 2014 by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Max Tegmark from MIT, who proposed that there’s a state of matter - just like a solid, liquid, or gas - in which atoms are arranged to process information and give rise to subjectivity, and ultimately, consciousness.
The name of this proposed state of matter? Perceptronium, of course.
As Tegmark explains in his pre-print paper:
"Generations of physicists and chemists have studied what happens when you group together vast numbers of atoms, finding that their collective behaviour depends on the pattern in which they are arranged: the key difference between a solid, a liquid, and a gas lies not in the types of atoms, but in their arrangement.
In this paper, I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness.
However, this should not preclude us from identifying, quantifying, modelling, and ultimately understanding the characteristic properties that all liquid forms of matter (or all conscious forms of matter) share."
In other words, Tegmark isn’t suggesting that there are physical clumps of perceptronium sitting somewhere in your brain and coursing through your veins to impart a sense of self-awareness.
Rather, he proposes that consciousness can be interpreted as a mathematical pattern - the result of a particular set of mathematical conditions.
Just as there are certain conditions under which various states of matter - such as steam, water, and ice - can arise, so too can various forms of consciousness, he argues.
Figuring out what it takes to produce these various states of consciousness according to observable and measurable conditions could help us get a grip on what it actually is, and what that means for a human, a monkey, a flea, or a supercomputer.
The idea was inspired by the work of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who proposed in 2008 that if you wanted to prove that something had consciousness, you had to demonstrate two specific traits.
According to his integrated information theory (IIT), the first of these traits is that a conscious being must be capable of storing, processing, and recalling large amounts of information.
"And second," explains the arXiv.org blog, "this information must be integrated in a unified whole, so that it is impossible to divide into independent parts."
This means that consciousness has to be taken as a whole, and cannot be broken down into separate components. A conscious being or system has to not only be able to store and process information, but it must do so in a way that forms a complete, indivisible whole, Tononi argued.
If it occurred to you that a supercomputer could potentially have these traits, that’s sort of what Tononi was getting at.
As George Johnson writes for The New York Times, Tononi’s hypothesis predicted - with a whole lot of maths - that "devices as simple as a thermostat or a photoelectric diode might have glimmers of consciousness - a subjective self".
In Tononi’s calculations, those "glimmers of consciousness" do not necessarily equal a conscious system, and he even came up with a unit, called phi or Φ, which he said could be used to measure how conscious a particular entity is.
Six years later, Tegmark proposed that there are two types of matter that could be considered according to the integrated information theory.
The first is 'computronium', which meets the requirements of the first trait of being able to store, process, and recall large amounts of information. And the second is 'perceptronium', which does all of the above, but in a way that forms the indivisible whole Tononi described.
In his 2014 paper, Tegmark explores what he identifies as the five basic principles that could be used to distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems such as solids, liquids, and gases - "the information, integration, independence, dynamics, and utility principles".
He then spends 30 pages or so trying to explain how his new way of thinking about consciousness could explain the unique human perspective on the Universe.
As the arXiv.org blog explains, "When we look at a glass of iced water, we perceive the liquid and the solid ice cubes as independent things even though they are intimately linked as part of the same system. How does this happen? Out of all possible outcomes, why do we perceive this solution?"
It's an incomplete thought, because Tegmark doesn't have a solution. And as you might have guessed, it's not something that his peers have been eager to take up and run with. Tegmark himself might have even hit a brick wall with it, because he's never managed to take it beyond his pre-print, non-peer-reviewed paper.
That's the problem with something like consciousness - if you can't measure your attempts to measure it, how can you be sure you've measured it at all?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
More recently, scientists have attempted to explain how human consciousness could be transferred into an artificial body - seriously, there's a start-up that wants to do this - and one group of Swiss physicists have suggested consciousness occurs in 'time slices' that are hundreds of milliseconds apart.
As Matthew Davidson, who studies the neuroscience of consciousness at Monash University in Australia, explains over at The Conversation, we still don't know much about what consciousness actually is, but it's looking more and more likely that it's something we need to consider outside the realm of humans.
"If consciousness is indeed an emergent feature of a highly integrated network, as IIT suggests, then probably all complex systems - certainly all creatures with brains - have some minimal form of consciousness," he says.
"By extension, if consciousness is defined by the amount of integrated information in a system, then we may also need to move away from any form of human exceptionalism that says consciousness is exclusive to us."
Here's Tegmark's TED talk on consciousness as a mathematical pattern:

 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Inside the Mind of Charles T. Tart

 











   
GT: Today we've managed to have a chat with one of the world's most respected researchers and commentators on altered states of consciousness (ASCs), Dr Charles Tart. I thought we might start off by "filling in the blanks" for those not familiar with his work, or even with the research into ASCs over the years.
Dr Tart was born in 1937 and grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. He was active in amateur radio and worked as a radio engineer while a teenager. He studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before electing to become a psychologist. He received his doctoral degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963, and then received postdoctoral training in hypnosis research with Professor Ernest R. Hilgard at Stanford University.
Dr Tart is internationally known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness (particularly altered states of consciousness), for his research in scientific parapsychology, and as one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology. His two classic books, ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS (1969) and TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGIES (1975), became widely used texts that were instrumental in allowing these areas to become part of modern psychology. He is currently a Core Faculty Member at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (Palo Alto, California) and a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (Sausalito, California), as well as Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Davis campus of the University of California, where he served for 28 years.
Thanks for joining us Dr Tart. First off, a little history - considering where it has led, I'd be interested in knowing what inspired the change in your early study pursuits, from Electrical Engineering to Psychology?
CT: As a teenager, electronics was my hobby and a burning interest. I was a ham radio operator, enjoying learning about and building the equipment more than the actual talking on the air with other hams, and I taught myself enough electronics to pass the government tests for a First Class Radio Telephone license. That allowed me to work as an engineer in various radio stations, responsible for keeping the equipment tuned and running. It was a great way of working my way through college, as my main job was to be there and log the meter readings every half hour, so I could study in between. Of course if anything happened that took the station off the air, I had to work fast and furious to put it back on - no broadcast, no commercials, no income! So it was natural for me to plan to become an electrical engineer. Also, I was really interested in parapsychology, but it never occurred to me that I could make a living in it - most people still can't, actually, given the lack of money in the field and the prejudice against it - nor did I realize I could become a psychologist, which would be close and fit in with all my interest in the human mind generally. I don't think my high school had anything like vocational counseling when I was there in the early 50s, or, if they did, I was already so set on electrical engineering that I paid no attention to it.
Once I became a student at MIT, though, several things happened. On the positive side, some other students and I formed a parapsychology club and I got to personally meet and correspond with some of the leading figures in the field, like J. B. Rhine, Gardner Murphy, and Eileen J. Garrett, so my interest went up enormously. Mrs. Garrett introduced me to Andrija Puharich, a parapsychologist who was "far out" even by parapsychological standards, but he seemed to have found a way to use electronic equipment (a Faraday cage system) to enhance ESP functioning, and that kind of enhancement was exactly what the field needed (and still needs). I was able to spend the summer of my sophomore year working with him as a research assistant. On the negative side, I found I didn't really have the very mathematical kind of mind that was needed for engineering, so I put these things together, found out I could become a psychologist and, with the assistance of J. B. Rhine, transferred to Duke University after my sophomore year. All in all, a very good move!
GT: That's quite an incredible list of influential contacts so early in your career, and I didn't know that you worked with Andrija Puharich. Do you think that the revolutionary work undertaken by individuals and groups in the 1950's (such as the Round Table Foundation) had an influence on the rise of the experimental "counter-culture" of the 1960's and 70's...or were they simply parts of a larger trend in the way humans thought about themselves?
CT: No, I'm sorry to say that Puharich's research has been almost totally ignored by scientific parapsychologists at the time and since then. I fear this has been a big loss. Puharich had a lot of influence in more fringy, "New Agey" circles, but that has not resulted, to my knowledge, in any solid scientific discoveries. As to the counter-culture, that was created by a combination of existential discontent with a shallow, materialistic culture, plus a desire for actual spiritual experience, not just being told what to believe, plus the introduction of oriental meditation techniques - something you could actually *do* instead of just believe - plus psychedelic drugs, which showed many, many people that there were more profound experiences possible than consumerism - to vastly oversimplify a complex historical phenomena, of course.
GT: In your work you seem to have covered basically the whole range of subjects that come under the banner 'ASC', from remote viewing, to OBEs, Psi and hallucinogens. Amongst these, do you have a favourite area of study?
CT: First an important correction. Psi, the study of telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. does not normally come under the ASC banner. You can study consciousness and ASCs without knowing anything about psi, and it's a lot "safer" careerwise because ASCs are fairly accepted in science while parapsychology, the study of psi, is strongly rejected. When I created my ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS book (1969), e.g., I deliberately avoided psi as much as possible as I knew I was pushing the prejudices of the establishment back then to think about ASCs, and if I'd done more than mention psi in passing, the automatic rejection of psi would have resulted in the ASC material being rejected, instead of it being accepted so widely. Now personally and scientifically, I know psi is an important aspect of consciousness, but I still generally keep them distinct for tactical reasons - I want to be effective in communicating, not uselessly rouse people's prejudices.
Within the ASC field, my initial research for a number of years was with hypnosis and dreams, then psychedelics, then meditation, to oversimplify a complex career. But the interesting thing is that I'm now much less interested in "exotic" altered states than in ordinary consciousness! This is because we spend most of our time in ordinary consciousness (consensus consciousness is the technical name I coined for it) and so it has enormous importance - that's usually where we mess up! - and because our understanding of ASCs implicitly assumes we already understand ordinary consciousness, which is not at all the case! My most recent book, MIND SCIENCE: MEDITATION TRAINING FOR PRACTICAL PEOPLE, teaches people the classical concentrative and insight meditation practices, but then mainly goes into how to be more mindful in the course of everyday life. I've seldom heard of anyone getting in trouble because their thoughts on the meditation cushion weren't mindful, but we sure get in trouble through mindlessness in everyday life!
GT: I know from your writings that you are a great fan of the scientific process, but you also do criticise the philosophy of physicalism, ie. the belief that reality is all reducible to certain kinds of physical entities. In the past you have suggested State Specific Sciences as a "scientific way" of researching ASCs further. Could you give a quick recap on SSS, and I would also like to ask whether you truly think that matters of consciousness can be answered by science?
CT: Science, to me, is a commitment to put DATA, what actually happens and can be observed, internal experiences as well as external observations, ahead of all your theories and beliefs, no matter how much you like them and are attached to them. That's a hard commitment to live up to, we do so fall in love with our clever ideas! Putting that on the spiritual level, one of my favorite sayings is that "There is no God but Reality. To seek Him elsewhere is the action of the Fall." Seek the highest, yes, but if you let your ideas, desires and beliefs about the highest get in the way of learning from actual experience, you have fallen into ignorance. So a basically scientific - not the scientistic approach of physicalism, but genuine science - approach to life is quite applicable to one's spiritual search. Be open to experience, try to observe it as mindfully and openly as possible, form tentative beliefs about what is, but always keep checking those tentative, working beliefs back against direct experience. Spiritual teachers I really admire, like the Buddha and Gurdjieff, have given this advice - don't believe blindly, keep open and figure things out.
One of the categories of experience is experience in various ASCs - dreaming, meditative states, emotional states, etc. That kind of experience should neither be dismissed as irrational and so ignored, nor as automatically being THE TRUTH. It's data, it's experience, and as such, just like the data of ordinary life, you form tentative, working interpretations and beliefs about it, but you keep testing these against further experience. Humility, in a big way!
It's not easy. Even with ordinary experiences, when we form a belief that makes us feel good or special, we easily tend to fix that belief into THE TRUTH and defend it from new experience. With ASC experience, which can be more intense than ordinary experience, it's easy to get fixated, so we have to be open to it - some kinds of things only make "sense" in an ASC - but not get overly attached and forget our basic humility. My proposal for state-specific sciences, in a nutshell, is to systematically apply the basic procedures of essential science (and common sense) to the unusual experiences that happen in various ASCs. The idea is still, I'm afraid, ahead of its time. Lots of people have thought it a great idea, but few have even begun the work to make it real.
Science has worked very well in many other areas, so let's try it! After all, as Henry Ford said, "Those who think they can and those who think they can't are both right." If we don't try, or try with a defeatist attitude, of course we'll get nowhere. I don't know that we'll get all the answers from science, but let's see how far we can go!
GT: You've written about this tension between science and consciousness research as a paradigm clash, which you say have historically been characterised "by bitter emotional antagonisms, and total rejection of the opponent". Is this part of the reason why you created the website journal TASTE ("The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences")?
CT: Yes. One major reason is to provide an outlet for scientists who've had transcendent experiences to express them and get the social support of being on a site with others who've had similar experiences. A second reason, why I hope as many people as possible read the experiences on TASTE, is that I want to destroy the stereotype that scientists, as it were, have no souls……. If I can help destroy that stereotype, more scientists will be able to look at these kind of experiences and help us learn more about them.
GT: Viewing TASTE, it certainly seems that a lot of scientists do have transcendent experiences, but do not talk about them publicly for fear of being ostracised. In the same respect, do you find that a larger number of scientists support the research on ASCs privately, while staying removed from the debate on a public level?
CT: Right. There can be very real consequences of "coming out" with personal transcendent experiences for a scientist, ranging from mild social ostracism at the least consequential end to losing her job (she must be a little crazy, we can't have her teaching students...) at the more consequential end of the spectrum.
GT: And as a final question: You've been at the center of consciousness and parapsychology research for around 40 years now - any thoughts of slowing down? Or is this all just too engaging to leave alone?
CT: Why would I want to stop doing something that I enjoy doing and that I think is of some service to helping others understand the mind? As long as this body holds up, there are so many interesting things to think about, research, write about, and encourage others to think about, research, and write about!
GT: Dr Tart, reading through your work has certainly inspired me not only to research further into areas of consciousness, but has also changed the way I think about myself and the world around me. Personally I'd like to thank you for all the great research you have contributed to a number of fields, and on behalf of TDG readers I'd like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for us.
[Attached is more information about the TASTE website, as well as a small description of one of the awards that TASTE has been honoured with. More information on Dr Tart, as well as other content including free publications, can be found at his personal website]
The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences (TASTE)
http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/tart/taste/ or www.issc-taste.org
Over the years many scientists, once they've realized I'm a safe person to talk to, have told me about unusual and transcendent experiences they've had. Too often I'm the first and only person they've ever spoken to about their experiences, for fear of ridicule from their colleagues and adverse, prejudicial effects on their careers. Such fears have, unfortunately, too much of a basis in fact. It's not that there are a lot of scientists with nasty intentions deliberately trying to suppress their colleagues; it's just the social conditioning of our times.
I want to change that, and I ask your help in doing so.
Scientists today often occupy a social role of "high priests," telling laypeople and each other what is and isn't "real," and, consequently, what is and isn't valuable and sane. Unfortunately, the dominant materialistic and reductionistic psychosocial climate of contemporary science (what sociologists long ago named scientism, an attitude different from the essential process of science), rejects and suppresses a priori both having and sharing transcendent, transpersonal and altered states (or "spiritual" and "psychic," to use common words, in spite of their too vague connotations) experiences.
From my perspective as a psychologist, though, this prejudicial suppression and rejection psychologically harms and distorts the transcendent (and other) potentials of both scientists and non-scientists, and also inhibits the development of a genuine scientific understanding of the full potentials of consciousness. Denial of any aspects of our nature, whatever their ultimate ontological status, is never psychologically or socially healthy.
The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences (TASTE) site that I have opened is intended to help change this restricted and pathological climate through the operation of a World Wide Web site in journal form that allows scientists from all fields - from anthropology through botany through mathematics through physics through psychology through zoology, to name just a few - to share their personal, transcendent experiences in a safe, anonymous, but quality controlled space that many people have ready access to.
TASTE:
  • Allows individual psychological growth in the contributing scientists by providing a safe means of expression of vital experiences;
  • Leads toward a more receptive climate to the full range of our humanity in the scientific professions, which, in turn, will benefit our world culture at large;
  • Provides research data on transcendent experiences in a highly articulate and conscientious population, scientists;
  • Facilitates the development of a full spectrum science of consciousness by providing both data and psychological support for the study of transcendent experiences;
  • Helps bridge the unfortunate gaps between science and the rest of culture by illustrating the humanity of scientists.
Please take a look at TASTE: the URL is http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/tart/taste or www.issc-taste.org. If you find it valuable, please pass this information on to friends and colleagues. I have no budget for advertising, so must depend on word of mouth to get this information around.
If you have a web site of your own and can add a link to TASTE, thank you! Feel free to copy one of the TASTE experiences as an example on your web site, if you like.
In terms of conventional, slower publicity, if you can recommend any journals I should send notices to, please let me know. If you are the editor of any publication, you have my permission (and thanks!) to print this notice in your publication.
And if you value The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences as much as I do and would like to make a financial contribution to help support it, email me about it. TASTE is sponsored by the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness Inc., and all contributions are fully tax deductible.
Thank you!
Charles T. Tart, Ph.D., Editor
Professor Emeritus, Psychology,
University of California at Davis
Professor, Core Faculty, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,
Palo Alto, CA
"BEST SCIENCE SOCIAL INNOVATION OF 2000
The Science Social Innovations Award 2000 goes to Professor Tart in California for The Archives of Scientist's Transcendent Experiences (TASTE) on the web (at www.issc-taste.org). Professor Tart believes that the materialistic and reductionist psychosocial climate of contemporary science has rejected and suppressed both the having and the sharing of transcendent, transpersonal, spiritual or psychic states and experiences.
The website is a safe and anonymous, quality-controlled space that scientists can contribute to and that the general public can have access to. It will lead, he hopes, to a more receptive climate within the scientific profession to the full range of our humanity.
[The Institute for Social Inventions is an educational charity founded in 1985 and based in London, with as patrons, inter alia, Brian Eno, Anita Roddick, Sir Peter Parker and Fay Weldon. Schemes around the world are drawn to the Institute's attention by its international correspondents and are judged by the directors of the Institute.]"

The Occult and music

 
 
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Aleister Crowley, who made a cameo appearance on the cover of Sgt Pepper's
Photo from Aleister Crowley Foundation

By Gary Gomes
(January 2004)

If one defines the occult as the unseen (which is technically is) then it would be easier (and less lengthy) to write an article on times that music was not affected by the unseen world than on the times it was.
In the world music tradition, we have rather extensive history (extending all the way back to the Greeks) of the use of music to induce certain states- modes were thought to have certain qualities. There is even some evidence to suggest that the Egyptians used music as a healing tool This anticipated the later utilization of these techniques by figures as diverse as Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, the Misunderstood, Rudolph Steiner, various "new age practitioners" such as Stephen Levine and the biased experiments tying plant growth to listening to classical music.1 These types of customs are utilized in Africa, India, South America and within most native cultures (shamanic cultures from Russia to the Americas to the Pacific) have some kind of tradition of sacred song to them. The links run from the Russian shamanic traditions, the Australian aborigines to East Indian Gandharva Veda and Karnatak musics to Hawaiian chanting, to perhaps the most infamous occult music tradition of all, the Yoruban culture in Africa which found its expression as Voudon (Voodoo) in Haiti and Santeria throughout most of the remainder of South America. This tradition has found its way into contemporary culture through jazz, tango, Cuban music, and of course, blues and rock and roll (more on this later). 2  Getting back to tradition, in the more mainstream religions, it is valuable to know that Moslem, Hindu and Hebrew prayer is usually chanted, not spoken, and there are literally hundreds of books in all these cultures regarding the power of chanted prayer. Balinese and Javanese Gamelan and African Joujouka are vessels for worship. And the Western church also has a tradition of its own of this type—plainsong or proportional chant, which later evolved into Gregorian chant, was one of the basic building blocks of the Western music tradition. Also, as the years progressed, every major composer from the Renaissance onward (and even before) devoted most of their output to sacred work, up to and including 20th century composers like Stravinsky (occasionally) and Messiaen (mostly). A great many composers also chose subject matter of a more obscure occult/spiritual tilt. Mozart wrote overtly about Masonic principles in his opera "The Magic Flute"; Scriabin seemed under the influence of the Theosophical movement of his day with his Prometheus Symphony; Richard Strauss "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is a piece dedicated to Nietzche but also to the misunderstood principles of the founder of the Zoroastrian religion (considered to be the first continuous monotheistic religion; in its current state it is a realtively small religion practiced pretty much exclusively in Iran and in a small colony (Parsi) in Bombay, India); Erik Satie was a Rosicrusian who applied some of the principles of this secret society to his piano pieces; Dane Rudhyar and Gustav Holst were astrologers; Olivier Messiaen wrote numerous pieces dedicated to his unique form of Roman Catholic mysticism, but borrowed from Indian ragas and birds (St. Francis of Assisi being the Catholic link) and also wrote huge works drawing on Indian and Japanese works; and Schoenberg's most ambitious work was the unfinished opera Moses and Aron. The most anti-mystical composer of the 20th century (he claimed that the imagery of the Rite of Spring was derived from the music, and the large pagan gathering that was this major piece's program was inspired by the music, not vice versa) Stravinsky, wrote at least two major sacred works—the Canticum Sacrum and the Symphony of Psalms. Among more contemporary composers, Stockhausen has written works about mantra, the creation and the archangel Michael; Penderecki has written religious works and mystical works, as has Ligeti ("Lux Eterna"), John Cage was directly inspired by Zen and Indian thought about music, while the minimal trio (Riley, Reich, and Glass) are well known for their interest in Indian music, African and Hebrew traditions, and Tibetan Buddhism, respectively. As George Crumb wrote the piece "Black Angels," there was definitely an air of foreboding in the late 1960's and early 1970- like "Tubular Bells," this piece did not start out as an "occult" piece but became one by association by virtue of its inclusion in the soundtrack to the Exorcist (an overtly occult piece like Stairway to Heaven was only marginally associated with occultism, by contrast). The mystical tradition that inspired Wagner is well-known. His finest work (also his last) is a opera called "The Comedy at the End of Time" in which the world comes to an end, prophesied by Sibyls and Anchorite monks and Lucifer is finally forgiven by God for his transgressions and accepted back into God's hands. Even Glenn Branca talks about angels and devils in his Symphonies (and I have left out a ton of composers, I know, from Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" to Handel, Haydyn, Bruckner, well…it never ends.) We'll talk about blues, jazz and rock further on.  Where do these people come up with this stuff?  First of all, as one of my friends remarked to me long ago, music, being an auditory phenomenon, is not visible, save as a representation on sheet music. It is an occult (unseen) science. It seems to come from everywhere. We interpret it in a congregation (the audience) and it has a wide variety of "secret messages" to it. We can go all the way from the meanings that people derive from lyrics or music to the truly insipid interpretation of lyrics by the "Paul is dead" mania of the late 1960's to Geraldo Rivera hearing the words "Son of Sam" in Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" to the even more stupid "backwards masked" lyrics of Led Zeppelin, among others. Before any of you ever reads too much into a song lyric again, I strongly encourage you to read Julian Jaynes' Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Brain. In it, he discusses the cross talk of schizophrenics as the model for messages from the Gods to early cultures. It is a fascinating bit of work and one that should give pause to any one who thinks they hear a message from anywhere—be it from a grizzled singer who can barely pronounce the words he is singing because of a drug-addled state or a "blues" affectation. Thankfully, apart from Geraldo and a few Beatles-maniacs in the 1960's (they are back, by the way and on the Internet), most of us don't pay too much attention to words we can't understand on records. Also, this diatribe should not be taken to mean that 1) their isn't real occult or spiritual significance to the music we enjoy or 2) that music can not be a consciousness altering experience for some people, even from sources that I would not necessarily like. Both exist; but like anything else unseen, interpretation must be made with caution.  Blues, rock, and jazz, it must be noted, are many times made in the presence of mind-altering substances. To get to the essence of this, it is always useful to recall that alcohol is called "spirits" for a reason. It has a potency that opens us up to very positive or very negative experiences. Also, the grandfather of these musics is a blend of two musics that have profound occult roots—the Yoruban and the Celtic cultures, for blues came out of Africa, jazz came out of Europe and Africa (adding sex from the whorehouses – in the old days there used to be sacred sex temples in various cultures)– and rock coming out of blues and old country. And country came out of the old Celtic folks who settled in Tennessee. Ever wonder why groups like Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull had such an easy time blending rock rhythms into these weird little English folk pieces? The blues certainly had its share of occult imagery working for it. There is of course the Robert Johnson legend of him going to the crossroads. This is a place in most cultures where demons gather or the devil appears. According to one sensationalistic television special I saw, the Allman Brothers Band used to spend time at Johnson's grave and apparently picked up some kind of a curse by hanging out there- hence the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. Pieces like "Got My Mojo Workin" or even Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell on You" are obviously huge parts of the history of rock and roll. Even the sex and drugs part of rock represent a sacred tradition, because sex, if used properly, can lead to enlightenment or power, as can alcohol or drugs—but they are considered rather dangerous for unprepared individuals, so a variety of spiritual traditions—in the far east (India with Tantra and Aghora), Shamanic cultures, and even, from what I know of the Santerian—require long periods of preparation before these substances are used for spiritual purposes. Here in the United States, all you need is a fake ID, a drug connection, and (maybe) a condom and you're all set.3 Anyone who has ever been to a rock concert sober knows the sense of power you feel from seeing thousands of fans masses… and most of us have been witness to the power of sex, either in our own lives or through proximity. Jim Jones (and many sect leaders) slept with his female devotees not only for pleasure, but for power and dominance. The Hare Krishnas (ISKCON) also had stories of rogue Western gurus who abused their positions for sexual dominance.4 The organization has made major changes over the past twenty years to ensure that the power struggles and corruption that plagued certain parts of the organization in the 1980's do not recur). And think to the recent Heaven's Gate cult—the leader, plagued by guilt or fear over his homosexuality, convinced many cult members to become Eunuchs—actually, somewhat perversely following a pattern that exists in the early Western church of eunuchs (Origen, one of the truly great early church thinkers and founders, was a Eunuch. Moving into music, it was a well-known custom in certain circles to castrate male choirboys in order to retain the high pitched purity of their voices, although this was apparently, done more for aesthetic reasons than spritual—if only they had been blessed with the falsetto control of, say, Frankie Valli. It happens in certain pagan traditions also- according to one who claimed to belong to a family of witches, Alex Sanders, ritual castration was once part of becoming a witch (he got away with a nicked scrotum, though). In India, certain dovotees of Shiva engage in surgery to eliminate sexual desire to this day, and a very bizarre group—the Harridan—go from village to village looking for male children with either deformed sexual organs or with hermaphroditic tendencies, and claim these children as part of their group. The group dress in women's clothes and have a reputation for being powerful magicians. It is rare that parents refuse their demand for a child, because of the fear of a curse. These individuals take the child, cut away all vestiges of maleness and travel the country, telling fortunes and offering magic remedies to villagers—while seeking new recruits. Power, intoxication and the creative energy of the universe (sex) are difficult to withstand. Many sects call for abstinence, for similar reasons—abstinence builds up energy in most people, which can be transmuted to satisfy the goals of the group or given proper guidance, can be channeled through the body to create higher states of consciousness.
 

Israfel, the angel of music
Artwork by Ruth Frasur
Watch an evangelical meeting sometime (or better yet a snake handling session—watch this on TV!)---you'll see, in many cases, the kind of fervor connected with a rock concert, If you witness a coven meeting (which is not as tough to do now as in the past) you will notice the same kind of energy. I have seen cabalistic and Santerian rituals (no animal sacrifice) that have similar energy. I have been part of Hindu rituals that have the same energy as a great musical experience, and I have been at concerts that have a truly sanctified feeling to them. But the experiences range from the ecstatic (Mahavishnu, Alice Coltrane, Magma, Cecil Taylor) to the oddly detached (Leo Smith and Marion Brown, or ZAJ, led by Walter Marchetti and Juan Hidalgo, two Cage disciples) to the traditional (Korean Ah Ahk Theatre, Gamelan, Hare Krishna temple celebrations, chanting, church). Some included the desire to communicate and make more money in the process- Chick Corea's move to fusion, starting with the Moreira-Purim Return to Forever through the Mahavishnu-inspired groups, coincided with his involvement in Scientology. Although it is not known how deeply involved Coryell was with spirituality after he left Sri Chinmoy's tutelage, his most successful band, the Eleventh House, was named for an astrological term. Some of the classical pieces that were inspired by spiritual concepts, like Messiaen's work ("Quartet for the End of Time" comes to mind, but there are so many more), Dane Rudhyar's pieces, Bach's religious works, Stravinsky's pieces, Penderecki (The Passion of St. Luke), Michael Tippett's The Vision of St. Augustine and King Priam (in both pieces the lead character has a vision of the totality of creation all at once; this is similar to some Hindu concept of God realization); Stockhausen's Hymnen and Mantra, and even Cage pieces inspired by Zen, are truly amazing—they are great pieces of art no matter what the context and I am not even touching upon one tenth of all the great religious pieces.  Oddly enough, because spirituality and overindulgence in sex and drugs have both produced some great music, it is tempting to look for a link—and there is. Both elements involve a loss of identity and surrender to something else… God, wine, bliss. Certain types of reggae (such as dub) and certain varieties of psychedelic (and later) rock and jazz showed some extraordinary music that would probably not have been made without the influence of intoxicants. Sometimes intoxicants precipitated a crisis that led to other things. We are all familiar of the various stories of how drugs (particularly alcohol, psychedelics, speed, and the harder drugs -- cocaine and heroin in particular have wreaked havoc on people's lived. This has brought on death (Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Keith Moon to name a select few), ruined or interrupted careers (Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, Peter Green, Skip Spence, Ginger Baker, and David O'List) or led to lame music (Eric Clapton and Lou Reed)—to name the two people I wished hadn't performed when they were on drugs) and animal abuse (accidentally on Ozzie Osbourne's part, intentionally—for which my estimation of him went down enormously—on the part of John Cale). But Santeria and Voodoo regularly engage in animal sacrifice, and many religions around the world, including Biblical Judaism and certain older sects of Hinduism, engaged in animal sacrifice. But these seem to be used for the release of energy, which I think is totally unnecessary and to be honest, repellant. Linking the pattern back to spirituality, part of the myth of Syd Barrett relates how he was interested in joining a sect of mid-Eastern mystics who practiced astral travel to planets—also practiced in India—but the group felt he was too immature to handle it. He resorted to a diet of LSD in order to produce the effect—explaining the emphasis on the first two Floyd LP's—but burned himself out from chronic use of LSD, from which he has apparently still not recovered. Syd sacrificed himself to his spiritual and material ambitions in a pattern not very different from martyrs and hasn't rock has its share of "martyrs" to its life style, such as Hendrix, Morrison, Moon, Cobain and Laughner, to name just a few?  But there are also stories of marvelous second chances, like John Coltrane's incredible rebirth and spiritual awakening in the 1960's. But these are very rare and Coltrane only had a short span of time in which to spread his new gospel. Disciples like Pharaoh Sanders and his wife Alice Coltrane, despite great initial popularity, vanished into obscurity by the late 1970's (although they re-emerged) and the ones who exceeded Coltrane's spirituality (like Ayler) were found dead in the East River in the late 1960's under bizarre circumstances. Although Coltrane really got into some incredibly mystical places (albums included titles like the churning "Meditations" (this piece sounds like one of the foundation stones for the German Free Jazz scene of Brotzmann and the late Peter Kowald), Om, Interstellar Space (homages to the planets in duets with drummer Rashied Ali) and the comparatively tame classic A Love Supreme. Ayler's entire set of work was spiritually based., from his earliest to his last lame rock-based work. Titles like "Witches and Devils," "Ghosts" and "Universal Indians" barely hint at Ayler's ecstatic virtuosity. Anybody who just thinks he was blowing straight simple themes should listen with care to, for example, "Ghost" on his Love Cry LP in which he dances in and out of the melody, dropping notes and catching them intentionally like he was using the silences as a type of spiritual counterpoint, while Milford Graves does everything he can to avoid keeping a beat and Alan Silva keens to the higher consciousness. It's an amazing, ECSTATIC performance—quite startling. Are the missing notes being played by the Ghosts? And Sun Ra's interest in Egypt, and spirituality was not just for show. When I met him and spoke with him in 1973 (it was an interview in only the loosest sense of the word—more of a Sun Ra lecture), one of the things he told me to do was to look up a book that I would be interested in at the University of California at Berkeley. The book Urantia has to be one of the strangest books ever written—it was written through a technique that would later be called "channeling" but was composed in the early twentieth century by a spirit possessing a well-placed man in an apparently well-placed group of people. If such a thing were to happen today, there would be a rush to record it or make a television series about it. But, being "well-placed" at that time meant that you would not want anyone else to know of this, so a group met and recorded the book in secret. The book purports to be a history of the universe told from the creation, and Ra was fascinated by it. In one of the chapters of the book, it spoke of Green, blue, orange people—so much so that Ra felt this was why people had distinct color preferences throughout their lives. Somebody who liked green clothing was probably a green person in previous lifetime. He also spoke freely about angels and UFO abductions he had experienced. This was in 1973, long before this kind of thing became popular. Albert Ayler also had a famous vision in which he and his brother were zapped by a flying saucer but were immune to its negative effects because they possessed holy marks. This type of dream is not dissimilar to the belief in certain Indian sects that UFO's represent highly evolved spiritual beings who are intent on deceiving humanity for their own ends the one populated by faerie, vampires, ghosts and all the occult mischief makers.5 Interestingly enough, in some meditation circles, some folks seem to encounter UFO-like characters when they start to make spiritual progress, but these characters are considered distractions, not helpers. My meeting with Sun Ra marked a time (1973) during which interest in the metaphysical and the occult was just about as strong as it is now, but most of us tend to have relatively short memories, so we tend to forget that the sixties and its expansion into drugs also led to a major concurrent interest in the occult and the spiritual life. For example, astrology was HUGELY popular in the 1960's; interest in Eastern Gurus, thanks in no small measure to the Beatles involvement with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Hare Krishna, was enormous. I can recall kids in college leaving to join spiritual groups—and interest in Wicca or White Magic was also quite high. So we had a major influence of different gurus affecting musicians who had come out of the drug culture, or even who needed a refuge. Among the folks who were disciples of different gurus were of course, the Beatles who aligned themselves with TM and ISKCON—the International Society for Krishna Consciousness appealed to John for a brief while, George died an adherent to ISKCON. "The Fool on the Hill" was originally, the story goes, dedicated to the Maharishi and most of The White Album was written in retreat in India). The Doors were into TM though Morrison was initiated into TM before the Beatles involvement: Morrison was the shaman who sacrificed himself for his vision, too in love with living on the edge to see the danger. The Beach Boys were also TM devotees, but it was too late for poor Brian Wilson, who stopped work on Smile because he was sure that his music caused some of the Topanga Canyon fires. Other followers were The Rascals whose song "It's Wonderful" is their TM tribute. There was also Pete Townshend, who devoted himself to Meher Baba- "Baba O'Riley" on Who's Next name checks him and Townshend's first solo album Who Came First was almost entirely written in dedication to him. The jazz-rock contingent seemed drawn to Sri Chinmoy as John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, Larry Coryell and Brian Auger were all devotees at one point in their lives. Chinmoy seemed to attract instrumental virtuosos while he himself is known for the thousands of songs and paintings he completed, as well as his feats of strength). And of course, there was Alice Coltrane (whose best work, Universal Consciousness, was inspired by her spiritual interests and other musicians, like the late Larry Young (Khalid Yasin) went over to Islam (as did Cat Stevens). And many AACM musicians (from Muhal Richard Abrams to Kalapurusha Maurice McIntyre) were drawn to African and Jewish spirituality. Other folks were drawn to Western Magick, like Graham Bond (who committed suicide in 1975), Robert Fripp (in the early 1970's before his involvement with Western guru J. G. Bennett and the Gurdjieff group), and of course, folks like Stevie Nicks. But what of the heavy metal tradition—the one most intimately (and publicly) connected to the "darker forces"?6 But the interest in the weird extra forces of the progressive rock world came to a head between 1971 and 1975, when : 1) Magma came to pre-eminence; 2) King Crimson became interested in Wicca (the Wetton-Cross-Bruford Group); 3) Yes composed titanic works dedicated to Theosophy (followed by Todd Rundgren just a little later.7 These are only the three most obvious. Vander actually developed his own language based upon a time when he was playing free jazz in a club. As the story goes, he was playing to an unappreciative audience; and he thought about the people who were dying to play this music (think Coltrane—Vander viewed Coltrane as his major hero according to the press of the time) and he wished the audience dead—and he was going to tell them. What came out of his mouth, if we are to believe him, was the foundation of Kobaian, the language of all of the Magma music. This concept is quite a bit like "Glossalia," or speaking in tongues when possessed by the Holy Spirit, a phenomenon documented in every religion in the world. Also, I can recall a hell of a lot of apocalyptic thinking at the time—one of the reasons that Fripp gave for disbanding King Crimson in 1975 was because he thought the world was going to undergo massive disasters in 25 years and the idea of running a group seemed frivolous to him; the story changed shortly after, to the "small mobile intelligent units" concept favored by Fripp, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno, but apocalyptic thinking was the first reason I saw in print. Not tough to see why—escalating energy prices and unemployment were starting to worry folks, and there was a real feeling of doom (perhaps fed by too much drug consumption) in the mid-1970's. The advent of Punk and Disco only seemed to make people more convinced that things would get worse and that it was time to get spiritual—in time for a variety of Gurus (eastern and Western) to fill the gaps that the cessation of drugs and partying brought. Also, pieces that had no occult origins like Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" acquired satanic connotations because of its lifting of Terry Riley's trance ideas, and, of course, its use in the film The Exorcist.  In certain areas, (mainly industrial England and heartland USA) groups with huge Marshall Amplifers, and distorted guitars realized how ominous such sounds could be. They took the basic concept of Cream, the Who and Hendrix, slowed down the beat and voila, Satanic heavy metal is born. The forerunner is probably Black Widow, an obscure English group from the late 1960's who teamed up with our friend Alex Sanders (see above) caused a minor sensation with their live shows (featuring a nude female celebrant at the end) and releasing one album which faded into obscurity because their record company wanted to push Simon and Garfunkel instead of them! So much for their association with Sanders (according to them, the most powerful man in England). Many groups, like the Crazy World of Arthur Brown (who Ritchie Unterburger correctly identified as the daddy and grand daddy of all the latter "Satanic" rockers), Atomic Rooster, Black Sabbath, Kiss, and Alice Cooper, that were essentially Hammer studios and Hollywood visions of the occult world—accidentally evil or occult at best, but entertaining for the spectacle.  The Stones, you will recall, were also involved in their earlier years—of course they had a certain number of songs and album titles in their early years.8 And of course, there was "Dancing With Mr. D" and "Sympathy for the Devil" but their real involvement was with the films of Kenneth Anger, author of Hollywood Babylon. Anger was a Luciferian satanist and also a devotee of Alesiter Crowley (who was not a Satanist) and the movies he mad with the Stones help were a bit bizarre, disturbing, and ultimately incoherent, like Bunuel/Dali on a bad day. This interest lasted a very short while for the Stones (probably 1968-1971) but the stigma stuck. But they were the bad boys- it was expected. The other fellow who exploits in this area are best known is our friend Jimmy Page. Jimmy Page was fascinated with Aleister Crowley and eastern mysticism (remember "Kashmir"?), but the interest with Crowley lasted for more than a few years. The late Aleister Crowley (aka "the Beast" because, as he remarked, his mother called him that) was born into a fundamentalist Christian family who also owned a brewing company. In his early college years, he essentially started tapping into his family's fortune and quickly spent it all. He was involved in the Golden Dawn, a group of occultists from turn of the century England who also included W. B. Yeats among its members. Crowley was invited in by McGregor Mathers one of the founders of the organization who perceived Crowley as brilliant, and tried to enlist his assistance in a battle for control of the group. After a long series of disputes within the group, Crowley was out, and formed his own lodge (Mathers was disgraced and died soon after), and the Golden Dawn turned more introspective and cautious. But Crowley was convinced of his special role in the world, engaging in sex magick, drugs, esoteric rituals and demonic possession. Although he still exhibited a high level of influence through the late 1930's (and a great deal of press as "the Most Evil Man in the World"), his influence waned through the 1940's and he passed away in 1947. Although it sounds like he was just a profligate junkie, his contributions to the "new age" movement and occultism were considerable—he was quite brilliant (although incredibly egotistical, nasty and arrogant). He wrote and "ghosted" wrote many significant works of occultism, including jobs for Evangeline Adams (who made headlines as an astrologer in the early twentieth century) and Gerald Gardner (this was the man generally regarded as leading the Wiccan revival in England in the late 1940's, when it was still against the law to be a witch). Crowley's general decline can be seen as starting when he started to get addicted to opium and heroin, among other substances. Israel Regardie, who served as his personal secretary, allegedly said that Crowley was a genius with the emotional development of a ten year old boy—which, when you come to think of it, is a good description for a great many famous rock performers. Page's involvement with the Crowley legacy extended to the purchase of one of Crowley's homes, and the symbols that adorned Led Zeppelin IV. "Stairway to Heaven" was certainly a mystical piece of music (it was praised by Kenneth Anger as being the most "luciferian" pieces of Page's work—a definite compliment if you view Lucifer, as Anger did, as a representation of truth and beauty), but Page never made it to the stage of finishing a soundtrack to Anger's movies. There are allegations that some members of the group blamed the death of John Bonham and other untoward events upon Page's involvement with Crowley; but Bonham's drinking was getting out of hand even before Page's involvement with Crowley. The break up of Led Zeppelin probably didn't end Page's involvement with Crowley, but the public knowledge and interest in this probably declined at that stage. The interesting thing is, in the late 1970's, especially with the advent of punk, a lot of groups seemed to back away from occult (particularly positive occult) involvement, but the advent of "Death Rock" or occult rock, which developed in s slow pattern through the following bands: Black Widow - Atomic Rooster - Black Sabbath Angel Witch - Venom - Pagan Altar - Widow - Witchfynde - Hell Satan - Cloven Hoof – Warhammer- Onslaught - Sabbat – Antichrist-Ragnarok - Cradle Of Filth - Megiddo Bal Sagoth - December Moon – Ewigkeit - Adorior - Hecate - Enthroned - Phantasia - Forefather - Meads Of Asphodel - Reign Of Erebus Thus Defiled - Old Forest - Annal Nathrakh. They all showed a steady but consistent interest in the underworld as a source of inspiration, although, as I indicated earlier, the evolution is part occult interest, part show biz.  Throbbing Gristle even had a bit of a run in occult circles and Genesis P. Orridge has an interest in the works of Austin Osman Spare, a contemporary of Crowley's who established the foundation of a system called Chaos magic, which draws heavily on tapping into the patterns of nature (such as repeating sets) and partially on Shamanic-inspired altered states of consciousness—which sort of fits in well with techno and other dance systems as a metaphysical delivery agent. In the progressive world, Fripp continued his involvement with discipline, Art Ensemble founder Joseph Jarman got more deeply involved with his dojo, and the Belgian groups Present and Univers Zero put out gloomy CD after gloomy CD with strong senses of foreboding. The 1980's also saw a great deal of interest in H.P. Lovecraft's work. Lovecraft was a writer from Providence, RI who was active in the 1920's and who developed intense and foreboding mythologies about the elder gods who ruled the earth before the advent of humans and who waited to seize it again. Their worshippers were snake-like races who seemed more inspired by the influx of Southern European immigrants into the Northeast during Lovecraft's time than by any recorded legends. (Lovecraft was an introverted xenophobe. But Lovecraft inspired more than a few groups, including Caravan (!), Magma, and Univers Zero.  Other groups, that emerged in the 1980's, such as Megadeath, Ministry and Slayer, had a stronger connection with the instrumental posture of groups like Black Sabbath, but the instrumental prowess greatly exceeded that of the earlier groups. Slayer, in particular, in their earlier albums, played with a frenzy close to that of free jazz, and a truly threatening vocal style that inspired folks like Rob Zombie (from the old industrial city of Lowell, Massachusetts), but that lost a lot of its bite when you see folks like Trey Parker (creator of South Park) imitating it pretty flawlessly. The difficult part of the late 1980's was that, with the advent of the PMRC and various Christian fundamental groups, and police looking for scapegoats, ANYTHING connected with mysticism or the occult was automatically tagged as SATANIC—even folks like Rush and Alan Parsons show up under the Satanic heading, much to my (and their) astonishment. The 1980's was also the period in which New Age music, a combination of ECM, Terry Riley, ethnic music, and a sprinkling of light electronics. This started to gain an enormous audience of over-stressed former hippies and baby boomers trying to find music that would transport them, but not force their heads to work harder than they already were. It was, in some ways, a search for a nice refuge from the hyper-materialistic eighties.  In the 1990's, interest in the occult and spirituality seemed to skyrocket to heights not seen since the mid-1970's. The introduction of drugs into a culture among youth seems to generate interest in alternative spirituality, but interest in Wicca seemed to run high in the 1990's—there are more Wiccans than Unitarians at this point—and the increasing diverse environment of the United States and Western Europe are bringing in many more religious traditions, including areas as diverse and dissimilar as Santero, Voodoo, Hinduism and Buddhism, these often having houses of worship or outlets in the same community.9 Millennium fever probably fueled a lot of interest in the occult, and disenchantment with mainstream religions also seemed at a peak in the mid to late 1990's. Prosperity in the United States always has seen us experimenting—we find that money doesn't buy happiness, or we start looking for new things to entertain us. Also, the Goth scene started to develop with a new intensity, becoming the hippie movement of the 1990's. This started to develop interest in alternative religions.10  In the later 1990's, as groups like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson (who is allegedly, a minister in the Church of Satan) started to gain in popularity, the middle class and fundamentalist Christianity started to get very concerned again, but the ability to confine this stuff is less easy than in the days before the internet (there must have been a great deal of gnashing of teeth when Tool thanked Satan for its Grammy award!). The ultimate ramifications of the September 11, 2001 attacks have had the interesting effect of both increasing animosity towards foreign cultures and increasing interest, while the Church's recent spate of sexual molestation cases all around the United States have increased interest in alternative religion. Madonna, for instance, is interested in the Cabala and has had a Hindu (Indian) astrology reading done for her (this is the system of astrology that I myself practice). There has been an enormous upsurge in interest in the more metaphysically oriented music of the late 1960's and early 1970's (Gong, Magma, Hawkwind, Terry Riley, etc.). But people are also a bit insecure and afraid now—it would only take one more successful terrorist attack to turn the U.S. into raging xenophobes. What does that have to do with music? Nothing and everything. Basically, even though I am not a big fan of some of the music I've discussed here, it does make the entire musical scene a whole lot more interesting. And I really don't want to listen to either basic rock'n'roll or Christian rock (although some of it sounds OK to me) or even new age stuff. I grew up in a time when virtually everything was possible in music. One of the biggest disappointments in the world as it exists today is the fact that the music scene has remained as fragmented as it was in the mid-1970's onward with segregated markets. The thing that we all have to fight is the belief that we have nothing in common with the rest of the world. The universal undercurrent in every spiritual teaching stresses our similarities—the differences are for spice and flavor, not evil.


Footnotes:
 1. Many of you may recall these experiments, conducted as far back as the early seventies, in which various experimenters "demonstrated" that plants responded more positively to Mozart than, let's say Megadeath. The hidden factor that was not explained up front, was that the first lady who conducted these experiments hated loud rock, indicating the distinct possibility of bias. Recent experiments have been less conclusive—I seem to recall that now country and western music is the best—but research also tends to indicate that plants seem to thrive if the researcher likes the music being used—so plants could, and mine have, thrive on a diet of free jazz, art rock, and noise.  [BACK TO TEXT]  2. The more insidious side of this is that science, our new religion, is expanding on the "classical" experiments and has produced "studies" that show that learners learn better to the music of Mozart—which is odd, considering the fact that Mozart was more of a burnt out party boy than Ozzy Osboune—and many subliminal learning tapes have modeled their music on a certain number of beats oer minute that are supposed to optimize learning. In fact, a friend of mine who programs funk jazz—you know, like the Yellow Jackets, and various other fusack entities—has told me that many of the lighter (yes, Virginia, there is lighter jazz than the Yellow Jackets—all kidding aside, they are good musicians whose combination of elements just happen to annoy ME) jazz stations and producers have the music calculated so it hits a certain number of beats per minute, etc. in the theory that it will sell products better. On the surface of it, it makes sense, but, IF IT WERE TRUE, we would expect, let's say, Kenny G. to be more popular than Bruce Springsteen or the Rolling Stones and this is clearly not the case. But we will be stuck with lame jazz on the airwaves because of this misconception. And we won't even get into Scientology's take on this (refer to the section on jazz rock and Chick Corea's desire to reach people). [BACK TO TEXT] 3. There is a story circulating that Shree Rajneesh, the Rolls Royce Guru, used to preside over ecstatic dancing and (allegedly) even sexual acts performed by his disciples and, in so doing, gathered tremendous Siddhi or power. [BACK TO TEXT]  4. See the interesting book Monkey on a Stick for an interesting—though some would say biased—expose of the abuses of power in this organization, especially after Srila Prabhupada passed away. [BACK TO TEXT]  5. This theory is not dissimilar to a theory put forth by John Keel , a veteran UFO and occult investigator, who sometimes felt that UFO's were the latest manifestation of history's contact with the unseen occult world. [BACK TO TEXT]  6. An odd bit of musical trivia is that the occult connection with music can be traced to the most bizarre of connections—Desi Arnaz. It seems Desi was allegedly involved in an offshoot of Santeria in Cuba and was a devotee of one of the deities in his native Cuba. "Babalu" was apparently a tribute to this deity and one Santero (Santerian Priest) I know claimed that the conga rhythms in the "I Love Lucy" theme were actually used in worship to this deity. And they were worried about Led Zeppelin and Ozzy in the seventies! (Note to lawyers in the audience: I am not claiming that Desi was a Satanist!  [BACK TO TEXT]  7. Things like the success of "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac and "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright showed mainstream acceptance of these themes. But I think "Rhiannon" in particular, pales in comparison to pieces like "Tam Lin" from Fairport Convention, a song about the evil side of the faerie folk that sent chills through me when I saw them perform it without Sandy Denny.  [BACK TO TEXT]  8. I can remember innocently doing a public relations flyer in my high school that stated "Their Satanic Majesties Request Your Presence at Our Spring Dance" and it was a spring dance for two Catholic high schools. Went over like a lead balloon but I was Episcopalian and forgiven for my error.  [BACK TO TEXT]  9. There have been increased attempts at Christian conversion in other cultures—the underhanded shenanigans that have occurred in India with the intention of drawing Hindus away from their native religion are extraordinary, deceitful, and reprehensible—but we are living in a time of cultural exchange unparalleled since the late 1800's, personally and through the use of the Internet.  [BACK TO TEXT]  10. You haven't lived until you've gone to a Goth club and been approached by somebody who hands you a card that advertises fake vampire fangs and yellow contact lenses—then flashes his fangs at you. It's an interesting experience.   [BACK TO TEXT]

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Thursday, 15 September 2016

State-Specific Sciences: Altered State Origin of the Proposal

 

 
The following is from the blog of  Dr Charles Tart in which he gives some insight into his State-Specific Science. However, Multi-Dimensional_Science  is far more advanced. See http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Multi-Dimensional_Science
 
Dr. Charles T. Tart on September 7th, 2015
State-Specific Sciences: Altered State Origin of the Proposal
Charles T. Tart
Perhaps the most important and creative idea I’ve had in my half-century career as a psychologist has been the establishment of state-specific sciences.  The basic idea is to greatly expand our ability to gain knowledge by practicing the essence of science in a variety of states of consciousness, instead of just one, and to be able to study and eventually use the unusual experiences of altered states more clearly.  Little has been done by others to actually establish such sciences as of this time (2015), and I believe that, for a variety of reasons, the idea is still ahead of its time, but I have high hopes for it.  I’m also aware that just because an idea seems exciting and plausible does not necessarily mean it is correct, so it may turn out to be an idea that is false, as some people said at the time, but we shall see…
Note on Eye Candy: Various charts from my systems approach to understanding and using Altered States of Consciousness, taken from my States of Consciousness book.
Fig 2: Factors affecting marijuana intoxication
Here’s how it came about.
By the early 1970s, I had finished my graduate degree and spent a decade focusing my empirical research primarily on the nature of hypnosis and on using posthypnotic suggestion to influence the content and processing of stage I-REM dreaming during the night.  I had also been a subject while in graduate school of a psychiatrist colleague’s (Martin Keeler) experiments with psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD and psilocybin, so I had some personal experience of the drastic changes that these kind of drugs could make to mental functioning.  And although consciousness per se was still largely a taboo topic in science back then, I was familiar with a very wide variety of early studies and reports on things like creative states, what little was known of meditation at the time, lucid dreams, and the like.
I had also, through the kindness of Michael Murphy, the founder of Esalen Institute, attended a number of human potential programs at Esalen.  One of the growth techniques I became aware of was Structural Integration, commonly known as Rolfing.  This was a therapy developed by New York physiologists Ida Rolf.  To greatly oversimplify, she observed that, probably as a result of various physical traumas through life, our body became poorly aligned within the Earth’s gravitational field, connective tissue grew into permanent tensions to try to compensate for this, and as a result a lot of physical energy was wasted or took pathological directions.  She developed a form of therapy (10 sessions) in which a Rolfing therapist, using intense physical manipulation techniques (not just fingers but elbows with full body weight behind them, e.g.) softened and broke hardened connective tissue until the body was optimally aligned vertically in the gravitational field.  Some of the Rolfing practitioners also felt that this released many psychological traumas that had been incorporated in chronic bodily tensions and practices.  I could look in the mirror and see that my posture was not all that good, and decided to go through the standard 10 sessions of Rolfing.  I was ambivalent about this, already knowing that it was usually a quite painful procedure, and I’ve always been afraid of pain.

Pain-Induced Altered States:
I was living in Davis in 1971, so drove down to San Francisco for my first Rolfing session with Seymour Carter.  My expectations of it being extremely painful work were, unfortunately, repeatedly confirmed throughout the approximately 90 minute session!  I tried to be a strong, silent manly type, but I’m sure I let out a fair number of moans and groans!  When I stood up at the end of the session, though, I felt taller and many of my bodily motions felt smoother, as if my joints had been rusty and now the rust had been removed and my joints had been oiled.
I drove straight back to Davis, and in that hour of driving all of the ideas that later came out in my proposal for establishing state-specific sciences arose in my mind, in a comprehensible and orderly manner.  I got home, grabbed my portable electric typewriter and took it to a table in my back yard (it was a pleasant afternoon) and began typing.
Almost all of the proposal came out within the hour, with no corrections or editing, and by three days later I had run off more than 100 mimeographed copies of the proposal to distribute at the Council Grove conference on consciousness that I was going to attend in Kansas in a few days.
So what was my proposal for state-specific sciences?
Stripping it down to the barest of essentials, if you ask what science is, it’s a set of procedures for (1) better observation of what happens in reality and (2) for creating, testing, and refining theories, explanations, as to why things happen the way you observed.  What is usually left out in thinking about science, though, is that the process of essential science is done by a human being, done by a creature with characteristics, both innate and acquired, that can make it more sensitive to some kinds of things, less sensitive or blind other kinds of things, able to reason and see clearly about some kinds of relationships, but not about others.
Besides characteristics inherent to all human beings, each of us has been socialized into a particular culture and so is biased to observe things and think about things in accordance with the values of that culture.  But when you look at the way the mind can change its functioning in various altered states of consciousness (ASCs), you realize that the “ordinary” or “normal” state for any particular culture has many semi-arbitrary characteristics.  So doing science in one’s ordinary state of consciousness is doing it with, as it were, a specialized instrument.
It would be, by analogy, as if all astronomy were done through telescopes whose lenses were made from a kind of glass that was inherently red.  Those telescopes would be more sensitive to certain kinds of light, less sensitive to other.  There’s nothing wrong with the observations and theories based on them made with the red-biased telescopes, of course, but it’s wrong to assume that they are the complete picture.  So what I basically proposed is that we develop detailed knowledge of various ASC’s, the strengths and weaknesses of each of those, and then practice science within each of those.  That would give us a variety of “instruments,” and so give us additional ways of observing and thinking.
Note on Eye Candy: Various charts from my systems approach to understanding and using Altered States of Consciousness, taken from my States of Consciousness book.
induction diagram
Creative Flow in the Wisdom of Hindsight:
I’ve been a student of my own, as well as others’ mental processes my whole life, and knew what had happened was quite amazing.  I was not that fluent a writer, and to have a complex proposal like that just pour out of my fingertips on to the typed page in practically final form was very unusual.  I had never experienced creativity like that, and I later reasoned that some combination of the strong physical pain from the Rolfing session, my attempts to lie still on the worktable so I could be worked on, and the many brief ASCs induced by the pain, states centered around the painful stimulation and my efforts to be quiet and manly, must have shaken up and eliminated all sorts of mental blocks in my mind.  (Induction procedures for ASC are discussed in the systems approach to consciousness in my States of Consciousness book)  As I thought about what I’d written about in the proposal, I could see that practically each individual item was something I had thought about the some extent at some time or another in my past, but these had been isolated, unconnected thoughts.  The creative miracle was them just pouring out.

I spoke briefly at the 1971 Council Grove conference on this material, and many attendees (researchers interested in consciousness) made encouraging comments, so I did a little bit of editing and submitted it to Science.  Since this was about expanding our potential uses of science in general, not just in terms of properties of ASCs, I thought it deserved to get as wider distribution in the scientific community as possible.  I feared it would be too far out for the editors of Science, but they accepted it.  Their acceptance letter included comments from two anonymous referees.  One of these referees clearly understood the revolutionary import of the proposal and thought it was an excellent idea.  Years later I found out that this referee was Elmer Green, who was uniquely knowledgeable for understanding the state-specific sciences proposal.  The second referee was, I concluded from the tenor of his remarks, probably a professor of agriculture or something pretty irrelevant to my proposal, but he went along with publishing the paper.  The paper appeared as a feature article (seven pages) in a 1973 issue of Science.

Reaction: Brilliant or Crazy?
As most of us who have published scientific articles know, the vast majority of these articles disappear with scarcely a trace, perhaps a few citations in passing in some specialty journal, and that’s it.  To my amazement, and I assume the amazement of the editor of Science, my proposal drew over 100 letters to the editor!  With journal space always being considered precious, Science only published four of them, with some balance between letters stating it was a good idea and those saying the idea was nonsense.  They sent all the rest of the letters to me, and these were not anonymous like refereeing reports, but showed the writers names and affiliations.
These letters to the editor were very interesting.  Roughly half of them said state-specific sciences were a good idea, let’s get on with developing them, we will learn a lot.  The other half said science depended on the scientist being in a normal, sane state of consciousness, any and all ASCs were obviously inferior and crazy states, you couldn’t possibly do science in any ASC, Science should not have published the article.  I recognized the names of many of the writers in the “This is crazy” category: they were prominent senior scientists in a variety of fields.  From what I could trace down of the names of the writers in the “This is wonderful” category, these were younger scientists.
The most interesting letter, or actually pair of letters, submitted to the editor, was from a psychiatrist I had met once at a conference who was just a little older than me.  His first letter was like the letters from the older scientists, this whole idea was, to use the appropriate psychiatric term, nuts!  His second letter, written a few days later, reported that he was in an altered state of consciousness one evening and he thought about the state-specific science proposal, and it made perfect sense!  He was embarrassed at having to contradict his own position, but his scientific integrity compelled him to…
This proposal for state specific sciences has been widely reprinted in many journals and books.  I was also invited to write an updated version of it for a journal I was told was the South American equivalent of Science, Ciencia e Cultura, Journal of the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science, and I was happy to report that I could see the possible beginnings of state specific sciences in several fields.  One was in mathematics, were a number of mathematicians I spoke or corresponded with about their mental state when they were actually doing creative mathematics strongly suggested they were in altered states of consciousness, and that they needed to be in that kind of state to fully comprehend other mathematicians work at times.  This was the state specific communication I talked about in the proposal.  Another was the extensive information exchanges that were going on between lucid dreamers on the World Wide Web,.  In lucid dreams a person’s state of consciousness changes drastically within a nocturnal dream, so they feel as if their mind is sharp, lucid, knowing that they are dreaming, but they can then deliberately experiment with the qualities of the state.
As I concluded in that article,
It is difficult to predict what the chances are of developing state-specific sciences. Our knowledge is still too diffuse and dependent on our normal SoCs. Yet I think it is probable that state-specific sciences can be developed for such SoCs as auto-hypnosis, various meditative states20, marijuana intoxication, LSD intoxication, self-remembering, reverie, various emotional states, and biofeedback-induced states [4], in addition to lucid dreaming. In all of these SoCs, volition seems to be retained, so that the observer can indeed carry out experiments on herself or others or both. Some SoCs, in which the wish to experiment during the state may disappear, but in which some experimentation can be carried out if special conditions are prepared before the state is entered, might be alcohol intoxication, ordinary dreaming, hypnagogic states, and high dreams [4]. Some SoCs, like those associated with NDEs, may simply be too dangerous to deliberately experiment
MINDS full system view
The original Science article:
Tart, C. T. (1972).  States of consciousness and state-specific sciences.  Science, 176, 1203-1210.
Later expanded version:
Tart, C. T. (1998).  Investigating altered states of consciousness on their own terms:  A proposal for the creation of state-specific sciences. Ciencia e Cultura, Journal of the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science50, 2/3, 103-116.
My published articles in general:
http://paradigm-sys.com/charles-t-tart-articles.html
Ongoing blog, essays:
blog.paradigm-sys.com