Psychedelics as Ideagens — Seeding Our Minds in the Psychedelic Renaissance
“To be shaken out of the rut of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual”.
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception
Psychedelics’ psychotherapeutic uses are widely known; their entheogenic uses are becoming better known; but as generators of ideas ¾ ideagens ¾ they are practically unknown. I expect that their ability to generate ideas will turn out to be their biggest contribution to humanity’s future. Let’s look at psychedelics as ideagens that are seeding our minds and already flowering in the Psychedelic Renaissance (Sessa 2017).
After working in the field of psychedelics’ intellectual implications since 1972, in 2013 I coined my favorite new word —mindapps — (Roberts 2013a) to replace psychotechnologies (Roberts 2012a, 2013b). It’s an idea that’s so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to describe it: Just as we can invent digital apps and install them in our electronic devices, we can invent mindapps and install them in our brain-mind complex. Once you see this idea, it’s completely obvious, but mindapps analogy to digital apps leads on to all kinds of richer ideas (Roberts 2017, under submission).
First, mindapps can be invented; as with digital apps, there’s no practical limit to new ones. Second, when we install mindapps in our brain-minds, we can do new things with them. Third, in addition to sometimes strengthening or weakening our default mindstate’s abilities, new mindapps may contain abilities that don’t exist in our default mindbody state; previously so-called “impossible” abilities may seem that way only because they don’t reside in our default mindbody state. Fourth, we recognize that other psychoactive plants and chemicals are additional kinds of mindapps (Shulgin & Shulgin 1991, 1997, Schultes & Hofmann 1992). Fifth — and this is the big one — it prods us to ask, “Besides psychedelics and other drugs, are there other kinds of mindapps?” The “yes” response to this seed question produces …
Multistate Mind Theory
The many members of mindapps families number in the thousands: they include the many types of meditation, breathing techniques, yoga, biofeedback and neurofeedback, prayer, chanting, martial arts, exercise routines, vision quests, dreamwork, sensory deprivation and overload, brain stimulation, and more. Taken together, the whole mindapp populations combine to construct a view of our minds that includes all mindbody states, all ways of producing them, and their many resident abilities; that is, they produce multistate mind theory (Roberts 2013b, under submission).
The Singlestate Fallacy is the major theoretical impediment to Multistate Mind Theory; it is the hegemonic assumption that all worthwhile thinking takes place only in our ordinary, default mindbody state. After we discard this fallacy, we see Multistate Mind Theory’s primary concepts:
(1) Mindbody state is substituted for state of consciousness in Multistate Theory because consciousness is so ambiguous and vague.
(2) Mindapps are psychedelic and non-psychedelic methods of altering neuro and other bodily and cognitive processes.
(3) Residence is the recognition that all behavior and experience are expressions of (reside in) their respective mindbody states. Its Central Multistate Question promotes new hypotheses, research agendas, questions, and methods: How does/do _______ vary from mindbody state to mindbody state? For example, current psychedelic psychotherapy research can be reframed as: How does healing vary from mindbody state to mindbody state? And the study of religion adds: How do religion and spiritual development vary from mindbody state to mindbody state? (Roberts 2001, 2016) The same goes for everything else we consider.
(4) Ideagen is coined to express the idea that psychedelics, and by implication other mindapps, generate ideas across the intellectual spectrum. As additional groups realize psychedelics ideagenic functions, the diversity and number of people who value psychedelics will expand greatly to include them.
(5) Mind design — In addition to inventing new mindapps and importing others, recipes for combining mindapps will result in neuro-based artificial intelligence. That is, people will design synthetic mindbody states, novel (artificial) states which extend beyond current human experience and may contain unknown human capabilities. As explorers continue to invent new mindapps and combine them into new recipes, the future of the human mind is infinite.
Mind Design via neuro-based AI
From a larger perspective, what is developing now with psychedelics and other mindapps is another form of AI, (artificial intelligence), one based not on digital information processing but on neuro information processing in newly invented (artificial) mindbody states. Rather than trying to digitally emulate the most productive information processing system we know of — our brains — why not simply start with them and add to their repertoires? Augment, not model. Just as physicists have created synthetic elements, chemists synthesized new molecules, and biologists are synthesizing new organisms and using biological processes as sorts of machine tools, it is time for mind designers to synthesize new mindbody states and explore these artificial states possible resident abilities. Thanks to mindapps and multistate theory it becomes clear that we are entering and exploring a period of extending the human mind by inventing new mindapps and importing others.
On a far vaster scale, when researchers combine mindapps into new recipes, they will invent new mindbody states, artificial ones that haven’t existed before. This new kind of AI is the biggest opportunity for intellectuals and others who study the human mind and/or those who use it. There is no end of questions to ask:
- If, as Lotem et al claim, (American Friends of Tel Aviv University, 2017: 1) “We believe that, over lengthy time scales, some aspects of the brain must have changed to better accommodate the learning parameters required by various cultural activities,” will human brains adapt to a multistate culture?
- Will mindapps and Multistate Mind Theory encourage adventurous mind designers to compose novel mindbody states?
- What new experiences and abilities will reside there?
- Who dares discover what various combinations of, say, psychedelics + neuro-feedback + transcranial magnetic stimulation will produce? The possible recipes run into the hundreds of thousands.
- Is a complete map of the human mind impossible? Yes, such a map would have to include our minds in their fullest mindbody ramifications, but in the future new mindbody states will flower, so the map will go on growing. Ditto for virtual models.
- Do scholars, scientists, and others have the intellectual courage to personally explore new geographies of the mind?
There are no easy answers for these questions, and they introduce even more complex social and professional issues. While a standard best-practices model is emerging for psychotherapy —careful screening, hours of preparation, session monitoring, integration and follow-up — (Johnson, 2008) it is not at all clear what their best-practice counterparts will be for psychedelics’ entheogenic and ideagenic uses. Before institutions and individual researchers jump in head-first, these problems of policy and practice deserve close consideration (Ellens and Roberts 2015).
Calling All Scholars to the Psychedelic Renaissance
If we are to have a full Psychedelic Renaissance, as Ben Sessa’s book names it (2017) psychedelics need to inspire ideas throughout our culture. We’re off to a fairly good start. In The Pharmacology of LSD Hintzen and Passie named 14 fields in the arts, sciences, social sciences, and humanities (2010, 7). In The Psychedelic Policy Quagmire, (Ellens and Roberts 2015) 25 scholars describe psychedelic insights in their fields; even after leaving aside the richest fields of the neurosciences and anthropology, my chapter “You Have a Constitutional Right to Psychedelics” (Roberts 2015) makes a case for academic freedom by citing over 50 intellectual works from two dozen different fields. Stanislav Grof’s map of the human mind (Roberts, in press) is an especially rich vein of ideas that so far is barely mined.
Psychedelic conferences in 2017 are seeding the world of ideas beyond psychedelics’ contributions to the neurosciences and psychotherapy and are promoting these ideas via online videos (Breaking Convention 2017, Psychedelic Science 2017). If you’re reading this, you’re probably part of the full, interdisciplinary Psychedelic Renaissance that is sprouting.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University, 2017. “Cultural Activities May Influence the Way
We Think: A New Model May Explain How Culture Helped Shape Human
Cognition and Memory,” ScienceDaily, Aug. 4.
Breaking Convention, 2017. Videos.
Ellens. J. Harold, and Thomas B. Roberts, Editors. 2015. The Psychedelic Policy
Quagmire: Health, Law, Freedom, and Society. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-
Hinzen, Annelie, and Torsten Passie. 2010. The Pharmacology of LSD: A Critical
Review. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, Matthew, William Richards, and Roland Griffiths. 2008. “Human hallucinogen
research: Guidelines for safety,” Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22, no.3: 603-
Psychedelic Science, 2017. Videos. http://psychedelicscience.org/videos.
Roberts, Thomas Editor. 2012a. Spiritual Growth with Entheogens: Psychoactive
Sacramentals and Human Transformation. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.
Roberts, Thomas. 2012b. “Latin American Plants’ Contributions to Cognitive
Enhancement.” https://www.academia.edu/4604370/Latin_American_Plants_Contributions_to_Cognitive_Enhancement. “
Roberts, Thomas. 2013a. Mindapps. Apps are to devices as psychotechnologies are to
minds. Consilience on Acid. Horizons 2013 slides.
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Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values. Rochester, VT:
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Roberts, Thomas. 2015. “You Have a Constitutional Right to Psychedelics: Academic
Freedom, Personal Conscience, and Psychotechnologies.” In The Psychedelic
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Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO.
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Psychology, 48, no.1: 26-33.
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Roberts, Thomas. In press. “Freudian, Jungian, Grofian.” Journal of Transpersonal
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to Minds — Multistate Mind Theory and Psychedelics as Ideagens.
Schultes, Richard, and Albert Hofmann, 1992. Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred,
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Sessa, Ben. 2017. The Psychedelic Renaissance: Reassessing the Role of Psychedelic
Drugs in 21st Century Psychiatry and Society. London: Muswell Hill Press.
Tom Roberts taught the world’s first psychedelics course listed in a university catalog in 1981. In medicine, he is co-editor of the 2-volume Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogenic Substances as Treatments. In religion, he edited Spiritual Growth with Entheogens: Psychoactive Sacramentals and Personal Transformation and is a major contributor to J. H. Ellens’s Seeking the Sacred with Psychoactive Substances: Chemical Paths to Spirituality and God (2 volumes). In the humanities, he formulated Multistate Mind Theory in The Psychedelic Future of the Mind: How Entheogens Are Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values. Most recently, The Psychedelic Policy Quagmire: Health, Law, Freedom, and Society (co-edited) addresses the complex of issues across these fields, notably academic freedom. He is Professor Emeritus in the Honors Program and in Educational Psychology at Northern Illinois University. He originated the celebration of Bicycle Day.