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Topics - sciborg2

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1
Neural precursors of deliberate and arbitrary decisions in the study of voluntary action

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Abstract

The readiness potential (RP)—a key ERP correlate of upcoming action—is known to precede subjects’ reports of their decision to move. Some view this as evidence against a causal role for consciousness in human decision-making and thus against free-will. Yet those studies focused on arbitrary decisions—purposeless, unreasoned, and without consequences. It remains unknown to what degree the RP generalizes to deliberate, more ecological decisions. We directly compared deliberate and arbitrary decision-making during a $1000-donation task to non-profit organizations. While we found the expected RPs for arbitrary decisions, they were strikingly absent for deliberate ones. Our results and drift-diffusion model are congruent with the RP representing accumulation of noisy, random fluctuations that drive arbitrary—but not deliberate—decisions. They further point to different neural mechanisms underlying deliberate and arbitrary decisions, challenging the generalizability of studies that argue for no causal role for consciousness in decision-making to real-life decisions.


Significance Statement:

 The extent of human free will has been debated for millennia. Previous studies demonstrated that neural precursors of action—especially the readiness potential—precede subjects’ reports of deciding to move. Some viewed this as evidence against free-will. However, these experiments focused on arbitrary decisions—e.g., randomly raising the left or right hand. We directly compared deliberate (actual $1000 donations to NPOs) and arbitrary decisions, and found readiness potentials before arbitrary decisions, but—critically—not before deliberate decisions. This supports the interpretation of readiness potentials as byproducts of accumulation of random fluctuations in arbitrary but not deliberate decisions and points to different neural mechanisms underlying deliberate and arbitrary choice. Hence, it challenges the generalizability of previous results from arbitrary to deliberate decisions.

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Why the central problem in neuroscience is mirrored in physics

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In general, it seems all fundamental physical properties can be described mathematically. Galileo, the father of modern science, famously professed that the great book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Yet mathematics is a language with distinct limitations. It can only describe abstract structures and relations. For example, all we know about numbers is how they relate to the other numbers and other mathematical objects—that is, what they “do,” the rules they follow when added, multiplied, and so on. Similarly, all we know about a geometrical object such as a node in a graph is its relations to other nodes. In the same way, a purely mathematical physics can tell us only about the relations between physical entities or the rules that govern their behavior.

One might wonder how physical particles are, independently of what they do or how they relate to other things. What are physical things like in themselves, or intrinsically? Some have argued that there is nothing more to particles than their relations, but intuition rebels at this claim. For there to be a relation, there must be two things being related. Otherwise, the relation is empty—a show that goes on without performers, or a castle constructed out of thin air. In other words, physical structure must be realized or implemented by some stuff or substance that is itself not purely structural. Otherwise, there would be no clear difference between physical and mere mathematical structure, or between the concrete universe and a mere abstraction. But what could this stuff that realizes or implements physical structure be, and what are the intrinsic, non-structural properties that characterize it? This problem is a close descendant of Kant’s classic problem of knowledge of things-in-themselves. The philosopher Galen Strawson has called it the hard problem of matter.

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Philosophy & Science / Is Consciousness Fractal?
« on: February 25, 2019, 02:07:23 am »
Is Consciousness Fractal?

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“It wouldn’t come as a shock to me if consciousness is fractal,” Taylor says. “But I have no idea how that will manifest itself.”

One potential manifestation is a much-debated and controversial theory of consciousness proposed by physicist Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff in the mid-1990s. About a decade earlier, Penrose suggested that consciousness results from quantum computation taking place in the brain. Hameroff followed up on this work with the suggestion that the brain’s quantum processing happened not at the level of the neuron but in microtubules, tiny structures within neurons responsible for cell division and structural organization. Proteins inside the microtubules contain clouds of delocalized electrons whose quantum behavior can cause vibrations in the microtubules to “interfere, collapse, and resonate across scale, control neuronal firings, [and] generate consciousness.”

So where do fractals come into play? It is known that EEGs, signals correlated with conscious awareness—like Goldberger’s heartbeats—exhibit fractal dynamics in the time domain. Hameroff argues that the fractal hierarchy of the brain also exists in the vibrations that resonate across the scales of the spatial domain, from the dynamics of networks of neurons, to the neurons themselves, to the dynamics of their microtubules.

“Consciousness can move up and down the fractal hierarchy,” writes Hameroff, “like music changing octaves,” resonating across levels.
Giuseppe Vitiello, a physicist at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Italy, takes a different approach to the application of quantum physics to brain dynamics (using quantum field theory instead)—but he, too, likens it to an ordering along fractal lines. Like a magnet, he says: disordered on the microscopic level until a trigger causes the magnetic “arrows” to all point in the same direction and result in an organized macroscopic system. Vitiello showed that the advent of this coherent structure—namely, of coherent quantum states—corresponds to the way fractals are represented mathematically. In other words, underlying the brain’s fractal processes is quantum coherence.

Philosopher Kerri Welch looks at consciousness in a more holistic way, through the lens of time and memory. “I think consciousness is a temporal fractal,” she says. “We’re taking in an infinite amount of data every moment. It’s a jump in scale every time we compress that data.” According to Welch, perceived time is not a linear progression but a “layering.” A fractal.

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Scientists Release Controversial Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In High-Security Lab

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Scientists have launched a major new phase in the testing of a controversial genetically modified organism: a mosquito designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation lethal to its own species, NPR has learned.

For the first time, researchers have begun large-scale releases of the engineered insects, into a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy.

"This will really be a breakthrough experiment," says Ruth Mueller, an entomologist who runs the lab. "It's a historic moment."

The goal is to see if the mosquitoes could eventually provide a powerful new weapon to help eradicate malaria in Africa, where most cases occur.

"It's very exciting," Mueller says.

NPR was the only news organization allowed into the lab to witness the moment the releases began in early February.

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Philosophy & Science / The Philosophy of Organism
« on: February 22, 2019, 04:31:29 pm »
The Philosophy of Organism

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The philosophy of organism is the name of the metaphysics of the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Born in Kent in 1861, schooled in Dorset, Alfred headed north and taught mathematics and physics in Cambridge, where he befriended his pupil Bertrand Russell, with whom he came to collaborate on a project to develop logically unshakable foundations for mathematics. In 1914, Whitehead became Professor of Applied Mathematics at Imperial College, London. However, his passion for the underlying philosophical problems never left him, and in 1924, at the age of 63, he crossed the Atlantic to take up a position as Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1947. His intellectual journey had traversed mathematics, physics, logic, education, the philosophy of science, and matured with his profound metaphysics, a complex systematic philosophy that is most comprehensively unfolded in his 1929 book, Process and Reality.

The philosophy of organism is a form of process philosophy. This type of philosophy seeks to overcome the problems in the traditional metaphysical options of dualism, materialism, and idealism. From the perspective of process philosophy, the error of dualism is to take mind and matter to be fundamentally distinct; the error of materialism is to fall for this first error then omit mind as fundamental; the error of idealism is also to fall for the first error then to omit matter as fundamental. The philosophy of organism seeks to resolve these issues by fusing the concepts of mind and matter, thereby creating an ‘organic realism’ as Whitehead also named his philosophy. To gain an overview of this marvelous, revolutionary, yet most logical philosophy, let’s first look at what Whitehead means by ‘realism’, then at the meaning of its prefix, ‘organic’.

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Philosophy & Science / Berkeley's Suitcase
« on: January 18, 2019, 08:08:19 pm »
Berkeley's Suitcase

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Early modern philosophy hoped to explain all bodily changes as variations of atomic motions. But even if such an explanation could be given (and that still seems as unlikely today as it did in Berkeley’s day), it would not free man from his walled citadel anymore than an Emperor walks among his people because his economic advisor explains their condition to him.

Another way to put the puzzle is this. If changes in bodies are produced at the level of atomic motion, then the bodies themselves seem to be reduced to a secondary explanatory state. Material bodies are like political bodies in this sense: we may generalize about the actions of some political party, but we recognize that the party itself is really an amalgam of many individuals, and that to generalize about them all is to say something that will not do justice to any one of them.

Locke was duly troubled. He wondered whether it is consistent with the goodness of God that He reserved for Himself the true atomic knowledge of things, and gave us only the sort of knowledge we get from our senses. Locke concludes that although “a man with microscopical eyes” might see things more truly, he would see things less usefully, for with our everyday vision we can discern things on the scale which is necessary for us to live our lives (see his Essay 2.18.12). Our creator had to choose on our behalf between the true and the useful, and He chose the second. This is not very satisfying justification for God’s activities – theodicy – for surely God Himself sees both the small and the large together; but Locke does not consider why God did not make us so as to see that way too. As we will shortly appreciate, Berkeley’s suggestion is that God created us in precisely this fashion.

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Consider first the isolation brought on by following the way of ideas. The suggestion that bodies (things that cannot be in minds) must be perceived indirectly by means of ideas (things that can be in minds) hinges on the belief that bodies cannot be in minds. Now, the reason for thinking that bodies cannot be in minds is that bodies are supposed to be of a nature incompatible with being in a mind: they are material. But if their materiality is put in doubt, there would be no reason to think that bodies cannot be in minds. And then the first sort of isolation would be unnecessary: man could directly perceive the world he inhabits.

Doubting that there are material bodies does not entail doubting that there are bodies. It is rather a question of reevaluating the status of ideas. For most early modern philosophers, ideas are intermediaries which bring us information about material things. But perhaps this is like one of those fairy tales where the messenger is really the prince in disguise; and as in the tale, once the onlookers know, they can clearly discern the princely features that had been there all along, for the ideas that were considered mere intermediaries have all the features of the bodies we always supposed they represented. All the colours and smells and sounds and tastes which early modern philosophy had banished to the mind are as common sense have always supposed they are – characteristics of the thing itself. We can therefore state Berkeley’s suggestion that ideas are bodies in the sense that a combination of shape, colour, smell, taste and so on is a cake, and another combination is an apple.

What Berkeley discovered is that doubting the existence of material bodies actually removes a great many other doubts. And so what seemed to Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke a sceptical attack, is to Berkeley merely a purgative. Of course our ideas do not point to anything beyond themselves, any more than bodies point to anything beyond themselves! Or in Philonous’ final words in Berkeley’s Three Dialogues, “the same principles which at first view lead to scepticism, pursued to a certain point, bring men back to common sense.” We find ourselves once again believing what Berkeley was so ashamed to doubt – that the world is rich with colours, odours, sounds and tastes.

Without matter, the second isolation, which is brought about by scale, can also be resolved. Bodies are made of ideas; but on Berkeley’s account, the ideas are composed of atoms. Consider what you see before you. Berkeley’s argument is that if you choose an object and narrow your vision, and then repeat this process, you will soon encounter a limit beyond which you cannot gain any more clarity. You have reached a sensory minimum. The sensory minimum is Berkeley’s atom.

Berkeley redefines the atom, then. On this view, God has given us simultaneously micro- and macroscopical eyes, insofar as perception reveals large-scale bodies, and simultaneously (though we may have to narrow our attention), their sensory minima. So his redefinition is just what Locke implicitly takes to be impossible even for a good God to create. Berkeley’s account also provides an elegant answer to the question of why atoms are indivisible. They are indivisible because they are atoms of sensation; so a limit on their divisibility is also a limit on what can be sensed by us. Another consequence of this approach is that research into atoms is likely to be restricted to those fields which study sensory phenomena, for example optics. And although ideas are composed of sensory atoms, there seems to be no reason to look to the atoms rather than to complex ideas for explanations. In other words, the truth about the body of a cat is as likely to lie at the macro- as at the micro-level of perception. This is a consequence of occupying the divine adjustable point of view Berkeley opens up to us. And so Berkeley has supplied us with the tiny, indivisible composing parts of bodies, and can also give bodies a sort of explanatory priority without following the path back to Aristotelianism.


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j800SVeiS5I

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Embark on a visionary journey through the fragmented unconscious of our modern timest, and with courage face the Shadow. Through Shadow into Light.

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” -C.G. Jung

Written, Directed & Produced by Lubomir Arsov
Original Soundtrack “Age of Wake” by Starward Projections
Composited by Sheldon Lisoy
Additional Compositing by Hiram Gifford
Art Directed & Edited by Lubomir Arsov
___
'IN-SHADOW' is an entirely independently funded, not-for-profit film. If you'd like to support the artist, DONATE here: (click 'donate' tab) https://www.inshadow.net/

8
The problems of Consciousness and Causation seem like the biggest mysteries facing any attempt to produce a philosophy of science that can explain the world. So it seems natural to ask how they are related, and while this commonly runs into the "Does Consciousness cause Collapse of the Wave Function?" I think there are higher level considerations at play ->

One relation would be we need Intentionality to talk about causes, as that is how we discern the cause from the effect – by dividing the world into the human conception of the world we hold in our minds.

Another would be Consciousness and Causation concern the actual nature of the relata whereas Physicalism seems to fundamentally be about the study of their relations?

9
Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

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The Puerto Rico work is one of just a handful of studies assessing this vital issue, but those that do exist are deeply worrying. Flying insect numbers in Germany’s natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s.

“We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet,” Lister said. “It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”

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Philosophy & Science / The Benefits of Optimism Are Real
« on: January 14, 2019, 10:11:46 pm »
The Benefits of Optimism Are Real

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Far from being delusional or faith-based, having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience—how quickly people recover from adversity—but it is the most important predictor of it. People who are resilient tend to be more positive and optimistic compared to less-resilient folks; they are better able to regulate their emotions; and they are able to maintain their optimism through the most trying circumstances.

This is what Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found when he examined approximately 750 Vietnam war veterans who were held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Tortured and kept in solitary confinement, these 750 men were remarkably resilient. Unlike many fellow veterans, they did not develop depression or posttraumatic stress disorder after their release, even though they endured extreme stress. What was their secret? After extensive interviews and tests, Charney found ten characteristics that set them apart. The top one was optimism. The second was altruism. Humor and having a meaning in life—or something to live for—were also important.
For many years, psychologists, following Freud, thought that people simply needed to express their anger and anxiety—blow off some steam—to be happier. But this is wrong. Researchers, for example, asked people who were mildly-to-moderately depressed to dwell on their depression for eight minutes. The researchers found that such ruminating caused the depressed people to become significantly more depressed and for a longer period of time than people who simply distracted themselves thinking about something else. Senseless suffering—suffering that lacks a silver lining—viciously leads to more depression.

Counter-intuitively, another study found that facing down adversity by venting—hitting a punching bag or being vengeful toward someone who makes you angry— actually leads to people feeling far worse, not better. Actually, doing nothing at all in response to anger was more effective than expressing the anger in these destructive ways.

Even more effective than doing nothing is channeling your depression toward a productive, positive goal, as Pat and Pi do.

11
Study Tackles Neuroscience Claims to Have Disproved “Free Will” by Matt Shipman

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“Meanwhile, the journal articles that drew the most forceful conclusions often didn’t even assess the neural activity in question – which means their conclusions were based on speculation,” Dubljevic says. “It is crucial to critically examine whether the methods used actually support the claims being made.”

This is important because what people are told about free will can affect their behavior.

“Numerous studies suggest that fostering a belief in determinism influences behaviors like cheating,” Dubljevic says. “Promoting an unsubstantiated belief on the metaphysical position of non-existence of free will may increase the likelihood that people won’t feel responsible for their actions if they think their actions were predetermined.”

And this isn’t a problem solely within the neuroscience community. Earlier work by Dubljevic and his collaborators found challenges in how this area of research has been covered by the press and consumed by the public.

“To be clear, we’re not taking a position on free will,” Dubljevic says. “We’re just saying neuroscience hasn’t definitively proven anything one way or the other.”

12
Panpsychism: 3 Reasons Why Our World is Brimming with Sentience

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These following arguments – briefly:


that the mental cannot emerge from ‘matter’,
that ‘matter’ is but an abstraction,
and that the brain is not a necessary condition for mentality


– will be elucidated by combining and augmenting the thoughts of various thinkers. Thereafter certain reasons for the rejection of panpsychism will be considered – reasons histrionic, philosophic, cultural, and historic. Ultimately my intention is not merely to inform the reader as to what panpsychism is and why it is held, but to instill in the reader the cognizance that this mind-matter theory is not only an option that is serious, but moreover, the option most plausible.

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RPG Discussion / Sufficiently Advanced Diceless RPG
« on: January 12, 2019, 09:43:15 am »
PWYW at Drivethru RPG, I'd say check it out and if you like it show the creator some love via your wallet.

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Sufficiently Advanced is a transhuman roleplaying game of the far future.

Humanity has been reconstructed by time and technology. Wield incredible technological enhancements and thousands of years of expertise, or the ability to mold the story of the game. Play a digital intelligence with remote-controlled robot drones, a diplomatic team that shares a group-mind, a soldier infused with nanotechnology, or even a living starship. Play an Old-Worlder witnessing our fantastic universe for the first time, or a Masquerader taking on different identities each day.

This second edition runs on an entirely new diceless system. What consequences you are willing to accept in order to win? Or, when you are outmatched, can your failure help your team succeed? Use Plots and Projects to change the world, and force Complications on your characters now to warp the plot in their favor later on.

Discover five different futures: To The Stars, where you form a first-contact team reconnecting with the lost seeds of humanity. The Divide, full of espionage and intrigue, where trust is hard to find and the sides are ever shifting. The Powder Keg, a universe tumbling into a war that may mean the end of everything. Sublight, where secret societies champion their causes by transmitting their operatives across the stars. The Patent Office, where your team of Inspectors seeks to protect humanity from its own worst excesses.

The future is bright, but not without danger. Come explore it with us.

Also get the Chronotech supplement.

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Everyone wants to know the future. Now everyone can.

Build characters with Chronotech, a new Capability that brings information from the future. Use autoredactors to change sensitive information before your opponents steal it. Loop through time to line up the perfect shot or make the perfect argument. Use historical information from the future to uncover secret organizations today.

Chronotech has new material for GMs too: new civilizations and societies based around issues of time travel and foreknowledge. Learn how the universe's existing civilizations will react to the ultimate disruptive technology, and get advice on how to handle the tricky subject of time travel in your game.

Chronotech is a supplement for Sufficiently Advanced. It is focused on the second edition, but contains backwards-compatible rules for the first edition as well.

14
'Bionic mushrooms' fuse nanotech, bacteria and fungi

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In their latest feat of engineering, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have taken an ordinary white button mushroom from a grocery store and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that can collect the current.

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"In this case, our system -- this bionic mushroom -- produces electricity," said Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stevens. "By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity, with nanoscale materials capable of collecting the current, we were able to better access the unique properties of both, augment them, and create an entirely new functional bionic system."

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Opening Note: See What do we know about the risks of psychedelics? & free documentary What's in My Baggie? There is an incredible danger in thinking you can just find good psychedelics via illegal markets, I can say that from personal experience as I was attacked by a friend who thought LSD could cure his depression.

The Great God Pan is Not Dead: Alfred North Whitehead and the Psychedelic Mode of Perception

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Eternal Objects are Whitehead’s variant of Plato’s Forms, of Russell’s Universals, and of Santayana’s Essences. They are every potential form of mentality: ideas (numbers, classes, etc.), emotions (fear, joy, etc.), sensations (colours, tastes, etc.), and other human and inhuman forms. One must be careful to distinguish these potential forms of mentality from actual forms of mentality.  The latter exist in time as the subjective phases of an organism, for instance as the thoughts we harbour during the day. The former, the Eternal Objects, can exist in time when they so ingress into actuality; but they mostly subsist out of time—eternally—in their unprehended totality.

Viewed thus the objects of our mentality are eternal, though our mentality is temporal. As the reality of such metaphysical objects may seem dubious to many, let us take an example to demonstrate the reasoning. Consider the sensation whiteness as an Eternal Object, or as a Universal as Whitehead’s student, collaborator and friend Bertrand Russell calls such objects.

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Thus whiteness, colours, and all other objects of mentality are deemed metaphysical. Let us delve into the physical to examine the point. A man is seeing a patch of white. Where is this whiteness?

(1) We cannot say it is in the physical object as such, say a cloud. Here there exist the molecules constituting the cloud, which themselves are not white (akin to Berkeley’s emphasis[iv]).

(2) Further we cannot say that whiteness is in the certain reflected electromagnetic wave as

    (a) the wave without a perceiver will not be white,
    (b) the same wave can be perceived as different colours (inverted spectrum, synaesthesia), and
    (c) the same perceived colour can have different waves (metamerism).

(3) The whiteness is not actually in the anatomy of the percipient nor in its functioning. It is not in the eyes, nerves, brain: within the skull pervades darkness. The brain does not turn white when intuiting whiteness, as it does not turn triangular when intuiting a triangle.

(4) Though the object that is whiteness is correlated with activity in the brain, with the electromagnetic light wave, and with the cloud, this correlate is not thereby determined as identical to any of these. Whiteness is neither an emergent property of the brain, as such a notion commits the Emergence Category Mistake,[v] erroneously presupposing brute emergence and an analogy between nature’s otherwise physical-to-physical acts of emergence (e.g. liquidity from molecules) and a purported physical-to-mental emergence. Emergence is the magic with which materialism is spellbound.

 (5) Whiteness is thus not identical (1—–3) to its various correlates, it is not an emergent property (4) of those subvenient correlates, but nor is it simply the abstracted common feature of white objects as this would entail that those objects had the whiteness from which one could abstract it as such.

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The realm in which all Eternal Objects subsist is named by Whitehead the Primordial Nature of God. This is the transcendent aspect of Whitehead’s deity, an insentient dimension as sentience requires the ingression of the Eternal Objects into physical temporal actuality to be objects of prehension. As physical organisms, the incessant selection of Eternal Objects is conditioned by our physical needs, and thus only a fraction are positively prehended, the rest rejected through negative prehensions, to use Whitehead’s terminology. It is my contention that these negative prehensions can be eliminated in degree by the impairment of practical physiological functioning via the intake of psychedelic chemicals. Such elimination entails the integration, nay elevation, of one’s consciousness into the primordial nature of this god: apotheosis. This is a mysticism without mystical groundings.

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Hence, in the psychedelic mode of perception we push our identity with Pan through our integrated panentheism and panexperientialism. We thereby touch the eternal and the present, but what of the past? The past is not actual, potential but neither is it nothing. For Whitehead, all actualities pass into objective immortality: they are no longer subjectivities but their physical and mental forms enter into the composition of actual entities and their nexūs, forms of togetherness.

All perception involves perception of the past, memory. But again, those aspects commonly selected are those that are conducive to the practicalities of the organism. Furthermore, a memory is immortalized as an Eternal Object in the empyrean realm that is Pan. Thus these objects are never absolutely lost. Analogous to the emancipation from transmutation offered in lateral integration, the psychedelic mode of perception can allow for a backward integration. This is part of the basis for contemporary studies into the value of psychedelic therapy.

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The psychedelic mode of perception allows for a three-dimensional integration of experience: the vertical dimension upward to primordial Pan and downward into endogenous primitive pieces of perception, understood through panexperientialism. The lateral dimension is that along which we can integrate sideward into the other exogenous entities constituting our environment. The temporal dimension can push us backward to memories otherwise lost, and fragmentarily forward in terms of glimpses of future types of sentience. These dimensions offer a panopticon of Pan, nature Himself—experiences of nature otherwise masked by our practical needs. Psychedelic perception is the essence of great experience, ultimately the object of philosophy itself...


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