“What is Looking?” by Robert McEwen, H.W., M.

“What is looking…in other words, what part of me, attitude, perspective,
 is looking?”
 
It is from where I am seeing that sees what it sees.  If I am in love I see everything bright and loving.
If I have just been betrayed, then that is another feeling.  Embrace them and release them.
And, in Truth I am not the feelings.  They come and go like clouds.
 
So, change is constant, trying different lenses on my glasses.
Yes, it is consciousness that tries all these glasses on.
That is even more constant!
 
–Robert McEwen

Biblical Series V: Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers


Bible Series V: Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers

The account of Cain and Abel is remarkable for its unique combination of brevity and depth. In a few short sentences, it outlines two diametrically opposed modes of being — both responses to the emergence of self-consciousness and the knowledge of good and evil detailed in story of Adam and Eve.

Cain’s mode of being — resentful, arrogant and murderous — arises because his sacrifices are rejected by God. This means that his attempts to give up something valuable in the present to ensure prosperity in the future are insufficient. He fails, in consequence, to thrive, as he believes he should, and becomes bitter, resentful and murderous.

Abel’s mode of being is characterized, by contrast, by proper sacrifice — by the establishment of balance between present action and future benefit. This ensures his personal and social success, accruing over time. Unfortunately, it also makes him the target of Cain’s malevolence.

This great short story is relevant personally, on the level of the family, and politically, all with equal force, all simultaneously.

Tickets for the next lecture(s) (and as for the rest of the series, as a whole) are available at http://jordanbpeterson.com/bible-series

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Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: ‘The Mind of God’ by John Williams (nytimes.com)

The neurologist and author Jay Lombard.CreditHarmony Books

June 25, 2017

In the ever-raging battle between faith and science, the neurologist Jay Lombard is one of those rare emissaries who communicate in the language of both camps. In his new book, “The Mind of God,” he uses his experience studying the brain to ask some of the largest philosophical questions: Does God exist? Does life have meaning? Are we free? Lombard writes that he is interested in a “large faith,” rather than a specific religion — “a faith invigorated and enlightened by science rather than being at odds with it.” Below he discusses the debates over brain and mind, his editor’s unpromising reaction to an early manuscript, his appreciation for Jerry Garcia and more.

When did you first get the idea to write this book?

When I was in full-time clinical practice, and some of the most unusual cases seemed to find me, these bizarre cases that made Oliver Sacks’s look mundane. The first part of the process as a neurologist is to figure out the anatomy, and structurally where the origins of behaviors come from. That’s the first dive. But from there you ask more fundamental questions about the brain and mind, and where they interface.

Trying to find the biological origins of psychiatric disease is much more difficult than for a stroke, hypertension or A.L.S. But it’s there. And you see that no matter how reduced you get, you’re left with sand going through your hands. That took me to a completely opposite place, which was to ask questions about purpose and meaning; about suffering, and about how patients themselves make sense of their suffering; and about how I make sense of it as a clinician.

I wrote a screenplay about it, a tragicomedy I still have in my drawer somewhere. It was my first attempt to make sense of it.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

How much we are dependent on our own brains for whatever form of faith we experience in our lives. How reliant we are on the physical aspects of our spiritual being.

Photo

CreditAlessandra Montalto/The New York Times

What I learned personally is that neuroscience is totally wrong. Neuroscientists don’t believe that such a thing as the mind exists. They flat-out reject the concept of mind. I find that a very scary, slippery slope. I think psychiatry has lost its mind, both literally and metaphorically. A lot of the book is about that part of our brain that connects us to our deeper, spiritual underpinnings. It’s not our rational brain; it’s our narrative brain.

Mainstream psychiatry is really just: symptom, check, this is the right medication for you. We don’t do therapy anymore as psychiatrists. If you need that, go to a psychologist. It’s kind of ludicrous. You’re taking care of people’s minds, but you don’t want to know anything about the mind.

In what way is the book you wrote different from the book you set out to write?

The whole first version of the book, a 400-page manuscript, was thrown out by Random House. I thought it was great. My editor, Gary Jansen, forced me to really understand the content of what I was trying to do and how to explain it to others, whereas the first version of the book wasn’t concrete enough for people to grasp — even though we’re talking about something that is fundamentally not concrete: spirituality. So it was a big challenge.

The question Gary had for me was: “Does neuroscience prove there’s a god?” I said, “Really? You want me to try to answer that?” And the second question was, “Does it prove there’s an afterlife?” I said, “What do I know? You’ve already given me the advance. Can I give back this money?” He asked me, “Do you know what you’re talking about?” And I started laughing, and said, “Does anybody know?”

Who is a creative person (not a writer) who has influenced you and your work?

Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. He wasn’t the greatest virtuoso guitarist, but he created such beautiful music. I’ve always wanted to express myself as a writer, all through my life. And there are a lot of writers I take inspiration from — like Milan Kundera — but from Garcia I took the idea that you can find art and beauty in imperfection, and true art is from your soul. My daughter is 15 years old and she loves the Grateful Dead. How is that possible? It’s like, “You’re a Deadhead? Oh, that’s genetic. We’ll find a gene for being a Deadhead.”

And the rabbi in college who stopped me and asked if I was Jewish. I had never stopped to consider that, and 40 years later I still have a relationship with that person. He’s the living version of Job. He’s gone through the most catastrophic events of anyone I’ve ever known, and his faith in God is completely unshakable.

Persuade someone to read “The Mind of God” in less than 50 words.

I believe we are living in a time of huge existential crisis in our society. I want people to ask themselves, first and foremost, if they have a sense of purpose. If they say yes, but they don’t know what it is, they should read the book.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

(Submitted to the BB by Bruce King.)

“Hawaii Becomes the First State to Pass a Bill in Support of Universal Basic Income” by Dom Galeon (futurism.com)

June 15, 2017
This month has shown that Hawaii may be the U.S.’s most forward-thinking state. Earlier in June, it became the first state to formally accept the provisions of the Paris Climate Accord, and now, the state congress has passed a bill that puts Hawaii on the path to universal basic income.

EYES ON THE FUTURE

Innovation and forward-thinking may be Hawaii’s two biggest exports in 2017. Earlier this month, the state earned the distinction of being the first in the U.S. to formally accept the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement after President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the nation from it, and now, Hawaii is taking the lead in embracing yet another innovative idea: universal basic income (UBI).

Today, Hawaii state representative Chris Lee wrote a Reddit post about House Concurrent Resolution 89, a bill he says he introduced in order to “start a conversation about our future.” According to Lee, “After much work and with the help of a few key colleagues, it passed both houses of the State Legislature unanimously.”

Lee also mentioned the development via Twitter:

The bill has two major provisions. First, it declares that all families in Hawaii are entitled to basic financial security. “As far as I’m told, it’s the first time any state has made such a pronouncement,” wrote Lee. The second provision establishes a number of government offices “to analyze our state’s economy and find ways to ensure all families have basic financial security, including an evaluation of different forms of a full or partial universal basic income.”

The congressman thanked “redditors” in his post, as he said the site became his first resource in considering UBI, and added a Reddit-standard TL;DR at the end: “The State of Hawaii is going to begin evaluating universal basic income.”

A STEP FORWARD

Under a UBI program, every citizen is granted a fixed income that’s not dependent on their status in life. Despite the current focus on the concept, it actually isn’t particularly new. In fact, former U.S. President Richard Nixon actually floated the idea back in 1969.

Universal Basic Income: The Answer to Automation?
Click to View Full Infographic

However, the benefits of such a program have become more appealing in light of recent technological advances, specifically, the adoption of automated systems that could result in widespread unemployment.

Proponents of UBI have highlighted how it would be an improvement on existing social welfare programs while mitigating the effects of the joblessness expected to follow automation. Critics think that UBI would encourage a more lax attitude about work and argue that funding such a system would be difficult, if not impossible.

Existing pilot programs, however, seem to indicate otherwise.

Hawaii may be the first U.S. state to pass any sort of UBI-positive legislation, but several countries around the globe are already testing the system. Finland began its two-year UBI pilot in 2016, and Germany has one as well. Canada plans to start trials in Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Ontario, while India is currently debating the merits of UBI. Several private UBI endeavors are also in the works, including one that uses blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Of course, the implementation of any major UBI program requires a great deal of political will. As Lee wrote, “Planning for the future isn’t politically sexy and won’t win anyone an election […]. But if we do it properly, we will all be much better off for it in the long run.”

“Journey to Ixtlan (The Lessons of Don Juan #3)” by Carlos Castaneda

In Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castaneda introduces readers to this new approach for the first time and explores, as he comes to experience it himself, his own final voyage into the teachings of don Juan, sharing with us what it is like to truly “stop the world” and perceive reality on his own terms.

Originally drawn to Yaqui Indian spiritual leader don Juan Matus for his knowledge of mind-altering plants, bestselling author Carlos Castaneda immersed himself in the sorcerer’s magical world entirely. Ten years after his first encounter with the shaman, Castaneda examines his field notes and comes to understand what don Juan knew all along—that these plants are merely a means to understanding the alternative realities that one cannot fully embrace on one’s own.

(Goodreads.com)

“I Tried Microdosing With Four Different Psychedelic Drugs. Here’s What Happened.” by Matthew Korfhage (wweek.com)

(Rachael Renee Levasseur)

I’ve long held that drugs should be recreational or medical only. Something about using drugs for self-improvement stirs up uncomfortable shades of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—a managed-society dystopia already evidenced in real life by the rampant overprescription of ADHD drugs designed to make lives easier for teachers, not students.

But ever since reports surfaced that Silicon Valley types were using microdoses of psychedelic drugs to juice creativity or make their lives seem meaningful, the mediascape has been inflamed with the notion that low-bore psychedelics could improve a life through chemistry.

I have no known anxiety or other clinical condition to treat, unlike many who use microdoses of these drugs. But for 10 days, I tried mini-hits of shrooms, cannabis, LSD and DMT to see if they offered enhancements to productivity or mood. Here’s my microdosed week and a half—with commentary from my colleagues.

Shrooms
Wednesday-Friday, April 5-7

I acquired ground-up cubensis mushrooms through a friend dedicated to the chemical management of his own mental and digestive states—whether with kratom, activated carbon or a host of dietary supplements that combine to smell like a dentist’s office. He’d originally bought the mushrooms for a personal microdosing experiment, which he quickly abandoned.

Ground mushrooms (WW Staff)
Ground mushrooms (WW Staff)

Psychedelics researcher  and microdosing proponent James Fadiman recommends dosing once every three days. The idea is you’ll still feel effects the second day, and can use the third day as a control to understand what the mushrooms are doing. I didn’t have enough time for the long game, however, and took mushrooms three consecutive days, which I’m told temporarily increases tolerance.

My prior experience with shrooms had been the usual loopy, college-kid sort—a gram or two of cubensis and some time spent making the room’s corners convex or concave using only my mind.

A usual microdose is anywhere between 0.15 and 0.5 grams depending on the type of mushroom, and so on the first day, I weighed out a conservative dose of 0.25 grams and ate them straight. I noticed approximately nothing all day—perhaps I was too hopped up on caffeine and deadlines—but people around me swore I was a nicer person. It got me worried, in an absent way: Maybe I am usually a terrible person.

The next day at about noon, I upped the dose to 0.4 grams and found myself in the penumbra of a high that never came—a psychic pressure system at the edges of my consciousness—before settling into a dippy and somewhat unproductive afternoon. The third day, I dropped the dose to 0.3 grams and banged out a 2,000-word article by noon: Science!

During these days, I was less likely to drink alcohol, and drank less coffee—although the anecdotal evidence that psilocybin helps you stop smoking cigarettes did not apply in my case. Was my newfound forbearance the result of the psilocybin itself, or the fact I’d become so newly attentive to my physical and mental state, like a narcissistic yoga-obsessive or auto-nutritionist? Hard to say.

Colleague reviews:
“He seemed extra limber—of body, mind and spirit. Physically, that manifested as an extra-jaunty step, and a carefree bounce as he moved around the office. He dealt with stressful situations better, and reacted well to other people’s ideas at times he sometimes snaps back.”

“Surly.”

Pleasantness rating: 7.2 out of 10
Productivity rating: 6.5

Cannabis
Saturday-Monday, April 8-10
I figured cannabis was more of a weekender, and boy was it. THC is my least-favorite drug of all drugs, which I’ve chosen to chalk up to personal chemistry rather than a moral failing in almost everyone I know. It makes me some version of tired or distracted, and after small doses—4 milligrams of edible THC from Grön, or a similar amount vaped from my favorite strain, Omega from Emerald Twist farms—I was also some combination of tired or distracted and easily frustrated. I spent 20 minutes Saturday yelling at my editor about a mild disagreement over formatting, and on Sunday, despite a decent night’s sleep, I was drowsy and useless all day.

Edible cannabis (Julie Showers)
Edible cannabis (Julie Showers)

On Monday, refusing to sacrifice a day of work, I vaped a small amount late at night and slept like a baby.

Colleague reviews:
“He was spinning his wheels and getting nowhere. He seemed to be working, but he never had anything to show for it. At one point he yelled at me for a half-hour about something he was definitely wrong about before coming up with his own workable solution.”

“Surprisingly pleasant. Handed me a book about body-positive yoga, in a nice way.”

Pleasantness rating: 6.5
Productivity rating: 3

LSD
Wednesday-Friday, April 12-14
My first personal acid experience involved dinner at Portland City Grill, where I firmly remember declaring that “while I know technically I’m the one eating, it feels like there are wolves in my mouth,” plus a very devolved bout of the famed Stripparaoke at Devils Point strip club, where the dancer had to flag me as harmless to a bouncer deeply distressed I was belting Led Zeppelin with my arm around the dancer’s shoulders.

Portland LSD (Julie Showers)
Portland LSD (Julie Showers)

Microdosed LSD is an entirely different experience. Much more so than with psilocybin, the low-dose LSD procured from the friend of a friend—I did what I believed to be a 10-microgram dose each day, about one-tenth of a standard hit—left me feeling brighter, sharper and more energized in a noticeable way, without the tooth-grinding speediness of uppers like caffeine or Adderall, which are also used in offices as productivity tools.

Psychedelics tend to operate on your serotonin centers, so this makes sense. And with LSD much more than psilocybin, I understood why Silicon Valley types might use it for an added edge. On the third day of taking LSD, however, I was stressed for external reasons—sleeplessness, competing deadlines—and was a general lout to everyone around me. And on Thursday night, I was a little loopy after a long day’s work—more “creative,” perhaps, but also noticeably weirder, as reported by co-workers. Which is to say, my moods seemed amplified, not assuaged by the drug, a confirmation of the old psychedelic saw that what you get out of LSD is, by and large, what you bring with you. I wouldn’t repeat it on a bad day—but on a good day, I could see it as a productivity tool.

As to whether I personally love the idea of routinely using drugs for productivity purposes? It fills me with an interesting moral queasiness—a Gattaca dread—that is made immediately hypocritical by the cup of coffee next to my keyboard.

Colleague reviews:
“He kind of seemed to be surfing his own wave. He didn’t react strongly, in a positive or negative way, to anything going on around him.”

“There was slightly less cross-talk in the office during this phase, generally indicating a higher level of productivity. But, on Friday, Korfhage had a small meltdown about the impending deadline for this project, so it may have all been a charade.”

Pleasantness rating: 7.1
Productivity rating: 8.3

DMT
Saturday, April 15
DMT, in high doses, is reportedly as intense a psychedelic experience as anything on offer—the news that psychonaut Terence McKenna said he was waiting for, a reversion to a pre-language self. Reportedly, DMT uses also have a strange proclivity toward perceiving fractally regenerative elf creatures. The substance is found in the chacruna shrub often used with ayahuasca—ingested ceremonially by deeply spiritual and self-realized celebrities from Sting to Tori Amos—and in some barks and toads.

Changa (Julie Showers)
Changa (Julie Showers)

I got my DMT from an acquaintance in the form of changa, a mixture with smokable barks. The actual dosage is hard to gauge, but the effects were both mild and pleasant, euphoric without attendant spaciness, an open window on a slightly more beautiful and less threatening world. I felt, primarily, interest—a proactive curiosity that is the polar opposite of depressed apathy.

Honestly, it’s my favorite drug of them all—although I couldn’t imagine using it for work that isn’t customer service. In time-compressed newspaper work, I’ve come to rely on adrenaline edge, something the DMT would quite frankly make less possible: In the words of Talking Heads, this burning keeps me alive.

Colleague reviews:
“All I know is, he took this weird Instagram-type picture under a bridge and posted it to Facebook. This is very out of character.”

“In a good mood, with a desire to explore.”

Pleasantness rating: 8
Productivity rating: 8

(Courtesy of Robert McEwen, H.W., M.)

“F.D.A. Agrees to New Trials for Ecstasy as Relief for PTSD Patients” by Dave Philipps (nytimes.com)

C.J. Hardin, a veteran who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a memorial in North Charleston, S.C. He is a patient in the study of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

November 29, 2016

CHARLESTON, S.C. — After three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, C. J. Hardin wound up hiding from the world in a backwoods cabin in North Carolina. Divorced, alcoholic and at times suicidal, he had tried almost all the accepted treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder: psychotherapy, group therapy and nearly a dozen different medications.

“Nothing worked for me, so I put aside the idea that I could get better,” said Mr. Hardin, 37. “I just pretty much became a hermit in my cabin and never went out.”

Then, in 2013, he joined a small drug trial testing whether PTSD could be treated with MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy.

“It changed my life,” he said in a recent interview in the bright, airy living room of the suburban ranch house here, where he now lives while going to college and working as an airplane mechanic. “It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward.”

Based on promising results like Mr. Hardin’s, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission Tuesday for large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials of the drug — a final step before the possible approval of Ecstasy as a prescription drug.

If successful, the trials could turn an illicit street substance into a potent treatment for PTSD.

Through a spokeswoman, the F.D.A. declined to comment, citing regulations that prohibit disclosing information about drugs that are being developed.

“I’m cautious but hopeful,” said Dr. Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, a leading PTSD researcher who was not involved in the study. “If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don’t help 30 to 40 percent of people. So we need more options.”

But he expressed concern about the potential for abuse. “It’s a feel-good drug, and we know people are prone to abuse it,” he said. “Prolonged use can lead to serious damage to the brain.”

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a small nonprofit created in 1985 to advocate the legal medical use of MDMA, LSD, marijuana and other banned drugs, sponsored six Phase 2 studies treating a total of 130 PTSD patients with the stimulant. It will also fund the Phase 3 research, which will include at least 230 patients.

Two trials here in Charleston focused on treating combat veterans, sexual assault victims, and police and firefighters with PTSD who had not responded to traditional prescription drugs or psychotherapy. Patients had, on average, struggled with symptoms for 17 years.

Photo

Dr. Michael C. Mitheofer, a psychiatrist, and his wife, Ann, a nurse, at their office in Mount Pleasant, S.C. They have studied the use of Ecstasy as a treatment for PTSD. CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

After three doses of MDMA administered under a psychiatrist’s guidance, the patients reported a 56 percent decrease of severity of symptoms on average, one study found. By the end of the study, two-thirds no longer met the criteria for having PTSD. Follow-up examinations found that improvements lasted more than a year after therapy.

“We can sometimes see this kind of remarkable improvement in traditional psychotherapy, but it can take years, if it happens at all,” said Dr. Michael C. Mithoefer, the psychiatrist who conducted the trials here. “We think it works as a catalyst that speeds the natural healing process.”

The researchers are so optimistic that they have applied for so-called breakthrough therapy status with the Food and Drug Administration, which would speed the approval process. If approved, the drug could be available by 2021.

Under the researchers’ proposal for approval, the drug would be used a limited number of times in the presence of trained psychotherapists as part of a broader course of therapy. But even in those controlled circumstances, some scientists worry that approval as a therapy could encourage more illegal recreational use.

“It sends the message that this drug will help you solve your problems, when often it just creates problems,” said Andrew Parrott, a psychologist at Swansea University in Wales who has studied the brains of chronic Ecstasy users. “This is a messy drug we know can do damage.”

Allowing doctors to administer the drug to treat a disorder, he warned, could inadvertently lead to a wave of abuse similar to the current opioid crisis.

During initial studies, patients went through 12 weeks of psychotherapy, including three eight-hour sessions in which they took MDMA. During the sessions, they lay on a futon amid candles and fresh flowers, listening to soothing music.

Dr. Mithoefer and his wife, Ann Mithoefer, and often their portly terrier mix, Flynn, sat with each patient, guiding them through traumatic memories.

“The medicine allows them to look at things from a different place and reclassify them,” said Ms. Mithoefer, a psychiatric nurse. “Honestly, we don’t have to do much. Each person has an innate ability to heal. We just create the right conditions.”

Research has shown that the drug causes the brain to release a flood of hormones and neurotransmitters that evoke feelings of trust, love and well-being, while also muting fear and negative emotional memories that can be overpowering in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients say the drug gave them heightened clarity and ability to address their problems.

For years after his combat deployments, Mr. Hardin said he was sleepless and on edge. His dreams were marked with explosions and death. The Army gave him sleeping pills and antidepressants. When they didn’t work, he turned to alcohol and began withdrawing from the world.

Photo

Ed Thompson, a former firefighter, with his children in Charleston, S.C. He took part in a study of Ecstasy as a treatment for PTSD. Without the drug, “he’d be dead,” his wife said. CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

“I just felt hopeless and in the dark,” he said. “But the MDMA sessions showed me a light I could move toward. Now I’m out of the darkness and the world is all around me.”

Since the trial, he has gone back to school and remarried.

The chemist Alexander Shulgin first realized the euphoria-inducing traits of MDMA in the 1970s, and introduced it to psychologists he knew. Under the nickname Adam, thousands of psychologists began to use it as an aid for therapy sessions. Some researchers at the time thought the drug could be helpful for anxiety disorders, including PTSD, but before formal clinical trails could start, Adam spread to dance clubs and college campuses under the name Ecstasy, and in 1985, the Drug Enforcement Administration made it a Schedule 1 drug, barring all legal use.

Since then, the number of people seeking treatment for PTSD has exploded and psychiatry has struggled to keep pace. Two drugs approved for treating the disorder worked only mildly better than placebos in trials. Current psychotherapy approaches are often slow and many patients drop out when they don’t see results. Studies have shown combat veterans are particularly hard to treat.

In interviews, study participants said MDMA therapy had not only helped them with painful memories, but also had helped them stop abusing alcohol and other drugs and put their lives back together.

On a recent evening, Edward Thompson, a former firefighter, tucked his twin 4-year-old girls into bed, turned on their night light, then joined his wife at a backyard fire.

“If it weren’t for MDMA … ” he said.

“He’d be dead,” his wife, Laura, finished.

They both nodded.

Years of responding to gory accidents left Mr. Thompson, 30, in a near constant state of panic that he had tried to numb with alcohol and prescription opiates and benzodiazepines.

By 2015, efforts at therapy had failed, and so had several family interventions. His wife had left with their children, and he was considering jumping in front of a bus.

A member of a conservative Anglican church, Mr. Thompson had never used illegal drugs. But he was struggling with addiction from his prescription drugs, so he at first rejected a suggestion by his therapist that he enter the study. “In the end, I was out of choices,” he said.

Three sessions with the drug gave him the clarity, he said, to identify his problems and begin to work through them. He does not wish to take the drug again.

“It gave me my life back, but it wasn’t a party drug,” he said. “It was a lot of work.”

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