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In this episode we have the challenging job of getting our head around the psychology of altered states of consciousness or ‘exceptional human experiences’ as today’s specialist calls them. Are they mere illusions of the mind? Does their ability to radically change our world view and sense of meaning in the world give them a special status in psychology and mental health? And how do we talk scientifically about significant similarities between such experiences across different times and cultures that appear to imply the existence of an alternative kind of ‘reality’ what ever ‘reality’ is.


Fortunately, to navigate this bag of worms, we have a researcher who has devoted his career to the study of these experiences both psychedelic and other, Dr. David Luke. David Luke is currently a module leader of the Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience in Greenwich Universities Psychology and Counselling Department, a course he has been running since 2009.

He is also currently an Honorary Senior Lecturer for the Centre for Psychedelic Research, Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London. He was President of the Parapsychological Association between 2009 and 2011, and received the Faculty's first Inspirational Teaching Award (2016) from the University of Greenwich.

He is a prolific author and editor of books, and today we’ll be discussing his 2017 book ‘Otherworlds: Psychedelics and exceptional human experiences’ and his new book, a collections of essays he has edited called 'DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule'

He is also the co-founder of the Breaking Convention Conference on Psychedelics.

What we discuss in this episode:

00:00 Intro

04:20 Measuring subjective qualitative experiences

08:45 Psychometric questionnaires

10:00 Statistically significant results depend on the size of the effect you’re testing   

11:45 The different types of altered states of consciousness

15:20 An Eco-psycho-social model of psychology

18:00 Reduced activity in the DMN (Default Mode Network) during alternate states of consciousness, but increased brain region connectivity

21:30 Evaluating mystical experiences psychologically

26:00 Ethical concerns with psychedelic treatment for mental health, given the intense experiences induced

28:00 “In both (Johns Hopkins+ NYU) trials, the intensity of the mystical experience described by patients correlated with the degree to which their depression and anxiety decreased.”

33:00 The connection between psychedelics and telepathy - Albert Hoffman, Stan Grof, Gordon Wassum

44:00 The illusion of time and the Block Universe, related to beyond time experiences

47:00 The need to study shamanic altered states and the correlations between the ‘worlds’ shaman visit

51:30 Indigenous reports often ‘lost in translation’ - Jeremy Narby

53:30 Non-hallucinogenic altered states seem to have the same brain effects: lowered DMN and raised interconnectivity

57:00 Psychonautics - trying to map psychedelic realms and types of beings encountered

59:00 Accounting for commonalities in DMT encounters

01:02:00 What is DMT?

01:04:00 %50 drop in atheism among DMT experiencers, Johns Hopkins study

01:07:00 Endogenous psychedelic brain chemicals act like a reality thermostat

01:08:30 DMT Dialogues seminars and books and Anton Bilton the sponsor.

01:10:00 Indigenous view of non-separation between us and these other entities - Luis Eduardo Luna

01:13:00 Designing DMT studies of shared experiences and beings

01:17:45 Agnostic stance towards the imaginal realm - Jeffrey Kripel

01:20:00 Western psychological illumination VS plant medicine consumerism

01:24:00 Reciprocity and nature orientation after psychedelics

01:25:50 Love magic, sorcery and unexpected indigenous uses for Ahyuasca




David's new book DMT Dialogues: Encounters with the Spirit Molecule

William James - Radical Empiricism

During Altered states there is a reduced activity in the DMN but increased brain region connectivity

Johns Hopkins and NYU studies - Intensity of mystical experience correlated with positive clinical outcomes.

%50 drop in atheism among DMT experiencers

Stephen Szára - first DMT experiments in 1950’s

Luis Eduardo Luna - Indigenous view of non-separation between us and these other entities (See his essay in DMT Entity Encounters book)

Charles Laughlin - Polyphasic culture and transpersonal anthropology

Jeffrey Kripal - an agnostic stance on the imaginal realm (See his essay in the first DMT Dialoguess book)

Medicalisation and Reciprocity Specialists Symposium

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