Exploring Consciousness With or Without the Government’s Approval
In science, there is something called the “hard problem of consciousness”. The hard problem is the inability of science to explain why or how we experience sensations.
For example, science can identify the color red, quantify it, and explain how our brain produces a visual representation; but science cannot explain the actual experience of red. The brain is an amazing information processing center of electrochemical activity, but within it you will not find the color red anywhere.
Some believe the hard problem can be solved by assuming consciousness is nonphysical and fundamental to reality. Others believe the hard problem can be solved by assuming consciousness is a physical phenomenon created by the brain and therefore can be explained by understanding the mechanics of the brain.
(For more on this debate, read A Big Idea: Consciousness Creates Reality)
The truth is that science cannot say for sure what consciousness is. Science is a reductionist discipline and therefore is going to err on the side of a physical explanation of consciousness. This is exactly what science should do until the evidence says otherwise.
But where will this evidence come from? How do we learn more about consciousness?
Anyone can explore their own consciousness through a psychedelic experience. The psychedelic experience allows one to observe the relationship between mind and experience, providing insight into the workings of their own consciousness. While I strongly encourage everyone to explore their own consciousness, the information that is obtained by individual exploration has very little scientific value.
The only way to expand our objective knowledge of consciousness is to conduct scientific research. The most valuable studies will observe altered states of consciousness in a way that produces repeatable results.
Studies on meditation have given us insight into consciousness, but the altered states produced by meditation are difficult to reproduce. It takes many years of practice and discipline to create a severely altered state of consciousness through meditation.
Psychedelic drugs, on the other hand, create a powerful and consistent psychedelic experience without any effort. We already know the proper dosage of psychedelic drugs that will produce a consistent and measurable altered state of consciousness, giving these studies an objective starting point.
The combination of objectivity and simple methodology for inducing an altered state of consciousness make psychedelics a prime candidate for consciousness research.
Freedom to Explore
Psychedelic drugs could give us amazing insight into the mechanics of consciousness, but the government has prohibited science from carrying out these studies. In America, studies were carried out when drugs like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms were legal, but since then they have been classified as Schedule 1 illicit substances, making them extremely difficult to research.
Even with the illegal status of psychedelic drugs, studies have been done that have shown the potential of psychedelics as therapeutic tools.
Psychedelics Drugs Are Valuable
Research has shown that psychedelic drugs are extremely valuable when combined with psychological therapy to overcome depression, addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and other psychological conditions. For these practical reasons alone, the government should allow research and medicinal/therapeutic use of psychedelics to occur in America without the threat of criminal action.
If the American government adopted an open and free scientific policy, we could develop standard practices for using these drugs to treat various conditions.
We could also begin to explore the mechanisms of consciousness. The exploration of consciousness could lead to methodologies that enhance creativity, problem solving, compassion, and love. We might even find the answer to the hard problem.
Here is a list of studies on the practical uses of psychedelic drugs:
- Ecstasy Shows Promise in Relieving PTSD
- ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Can Improve Psychological Health Long Term
- DMT: The Spirit Molecule PDF
- Ibogaine Therapy for Drug Addiction
- LSD & Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Anxiety
Here is a list of groups that promote the research of psychedelic drugs:
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
- Cottonwood Research
- Heffter Research Institute
- OPEN Foundation
Why Are They Illegal?
We know psychedelic drugs have therapeutic value and they most likely can provide us insight on the “hard problem” of consciousness, yet they remain illegal.
Many people cite a combination of politics, corporate interests, and misinformation as the reason for the illegality of psychedelic drugs. It is hard to say what the exact reason is, which makes me believe that it is much more complicated then pro-drug activists would have you believe. Either way, I have heard excellent arguments on why these drugs should be legal, but I have never heard someone rationally explain why they should remain illegal.
If the government continues to take an irrational stance on psychedelic drugs, we have no choice but to continue to explore consciousness as individuals as we fight to change the laws. The best way to explore your consciousness is through the psychedelic experience, which does not require the use of illegal drugs.