Psychedelic Information Theory

Shamanism in the Age of Reason

Psychedelic Information Theory : Introduction

What is Psychedelic Information Theory?

Psychedelic Information Theory (PIT) is the study of nonlinear information creation in the human imagination, particularly in states of dreaming, psychosis, and hallucination. PIT seeks to model the functional output of human perception in order to extrapolate the limits and complexity of information arising in human altered states of consciousness.

The foundation of PIT lies in novelty theory, the study of increasing complexity of information over time. Novelty theory encompasses a large time-scale, but PIT is specifically focused on the spontaneous production of complex information in the human organism, which is also known as creativity theory or generative theory. Modeling the creation of information in the human brain requires formal definitions for perception, consciousness, and information, and as such PIT is also a work of systems theory, which posits that the potential output of any system can be fully described by the functional limitations of its components. PIT also draws on control theory, which models the stability and complexity of signal processing in dynamical systems. By applying control theory and systems theory to altered states of consciousness PIT is a formal analysis of the nonlinear dynamics of hallucination and expanded states of consciousness. And finally PIT draws upon the fields of wave mechanics, neural networking, neuroplasticity, and the fundamentals of pharmacology, cognitive theory, and neural signaling as they apply to perception, memory, and consciousness; this also makes PIT a text on multidisciplinary neuroscience.

Why Psychedelic Information Theory?

The bulk of human consciousness exists in a linear range which goes from highly focused and alert to deep asleep and dreaming. Most states of consciousness are experienced uniformly and independently of each other along this linear spectrum. For instance, when you are asleep you are not awake; when you are focused you are not daydreaming; when you are anxious you are not relaxed. The fact that consciousness exists in only one state at one time is an indication that the system is linear and stable. When two distinct perceptions or states of consciousness overlap at the same time this is an indicator that the system of consciousness is unstable, and in most cases where divergent states of consciousness overlap the output is viewed as a pathology.1 State-divergent pathologies are typically treated with drugs targeted to amplify the positive traits and/or dampen the negative traits.

The term psychedelic means “mind manifesting,” which implies that all potential states of mind may be manifested under the influence of psychedelic drugs. If normal consciousness moves in a straight line along a spectrum of many possible states, psychedelics represent a unique and reversible destabilization of this linear spectrum where consciousness can assume multiple points of consciousness simultaneously. The most extreme divergent state of consciousness is described as being wide awake while simultaneously dreaming, a state clinically referred to as psychosis or hallucination. The emergence of multi-state consciousness under the influence of psychedelics represents a system that has destabilized from linear output and has become nonlinear and exponentially complex.4 Thus, in psychedelic perception the linear functions of consciousness diverge into a complex nonlinear state where multiple perspectives and analytical outputs may be experienced simultaneously.2 According to PIT, this destabilized state of nonlinear complexity is where new information is generated in the human mind. Understanding the dynamics of this unique nonlinear function is essential to understanding the informational limits and potential complexity range of all human consciousness.

What is Shamanism in the Age of Reason?

Figure 1 : The chaos star is a popular symbol of chaos magic.

PIT seeks to describe a model of psychedelic activation that can be adapted to all possible permutations of human consciousness, including group mind states, mystical states, and transpersonal awareness. The ritual of using psychedelics to generate new information, bond with peer groups, and program human belief is traditionally called shamanism, so PIT is a study of the practice of shamanism, which can also be called applied psychedelic science. The practice of using ritual techniques of spiritual transcendence to manipulate belief systems has been popularly dubbed chaos magic, which is an occult blend of neo-shamanism, cognitive theory, and social theory. (Fig. 1)3 Chaos and complexity are also popular terms applied to the study of nonlinear systems, such as fractals and cellular automata, making chaos, chaos magic, and shamanism all spiritual-scientific explorations of generative nonlinear dynamics.

While PIT focuses on physiology over mythology, it is clear that there is a fundamental human desire to achieve states of consciousness subjectively described as Gnostic or spiritually enlightening. It is the conjecture of PIT that all mystical states, including healing and regenerative states, have unique formal nonlinear qualities that can be described in physical terms close enough to make good approximations. This means that PIT is also a work of technical shamanism, neuro-theology, or spiritual neuroscience, and can be referenced in the clinical application of psychedelic drugs in shamanic ceremony, mystical ritual, or psychedelic therapy.

Generic Application, Substance Neutrality, Margin of Error

PIT does not attempt to provide precise definitions of consciousness, perception, or the psychedelic state. Instead PIT attempts to model an approximation of psychedelic consciousness based on the known functions and limits of human perception and cognition. According to PIT, if a functional reproduction of consciousness existed then it too could be made to have a psychedelic experience. This also makes PIT a text on artificial intelligence which can be tested in mechanical systems of perception. While this text may contain some assumptions and conjecture on human brain function, the fundamentals of PIT are generic enough to apply to any system of consciousness which relies on real-time frame perception for interacting with reality. Although the bulk of the text focuses on states of hallucinogenesis afforded most readily by the tryptamines LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and DMT (found in the South American brew ayahuasca), PIT strives to be generic and substance neutral, meaning that the fundamentals of PIT should apply to all drugs and techniques which produce hallucination even though they may target unique receptors and/or destabilize consciousness in a wholly unique way.

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Notes and References

[1] Some examples of pathologically divergent states of consciousness: Asleep and active is sleepwalking; excited and drowsy is narcolepsy; awake and rigid is Parkinson’s Disease; awake and dreaming is psychosis; relaxed and nervous is anxiety disorder; fulfilled and sad is depressive disorder; and so on. It would be incorrect to say that all psychopathologies are due to overlapping states of divergent consciousness, but many of them are.

[2] When a linear function diverges or bifurcates and begins plotting a range of multiple outputs for the same input, this can be called unstable, dynamic, nonlinear, complex, higher dimensional, undefined, and so on. It depends on the way you model your system.

[3] WikiPedia.org, 'Chaos Magic'. Internet Reference, 2010.

[4] WikiPedia.org, 'Nonlinear System'. Internet Reference, 2010.

Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Introduction, 'What is Psychedelic Information Theory?'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.

Keywords: psychedelics, novelty theory, consciousness, imagination, perception, nonlinear systems, chaos, chaos magic, complexity, shamanism

Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.