Tripping with Jeff Warren

Bookslut has an interview with Jeff Warren, author the excellent The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness, a book I raved about last year after having a copy thrust into my hand by Tom.

It sounds like a recipe for disaster on the surface – a guy writing about his altered states charted on a self-invented ‘wheel of consciousness’ – but it’s scientifically thorough, philosophically engaging and avoids every clich√© you think it might throw up.

The interview is great fun too, and contains some interesting points about what we prioritise, mentally or scientifically, when thinking about consciousness-warping states.

Except for one footnote, you largely avoid the question of drugs and altered consciousness…

I‚Äôm interested in drug-induced alternations of consciousness, but my feeling is they‚Äôre the really obvious shit. Too many ‚Äúinvestigators of consciousness‚Äù overlook the fine-grained shifting texture of day-to-day consciousness. It‚Äôs the difference between the big budget Hollywood blockbuster and the art house Henry James adaptation. Drug-induced alterations of consciousness have great CGI — which is fine, I mean who doesn‚Äôt appreciate form constant explosions and DMT Machine Elves? — the problem is, character development sucks, or rather, the characters — and by characters I mean the objects of consciousness — tend to be cartoons. They‚Äôre exaggerated, that‚Äôs what psychedelics do — ‚Äúnon-specific amplifiers‚Äù Stanislav Grof calls them. They expand the whole topography of the mind. It‚Äôs possible more than this is going on but that‚Äôs another story.

This expansion can be valuable for understanding consciousness since it boosts the resolution of previously discreet mental dynamics. But cartoons, of course, are caricatures. If you watch only Jerry Bruckheimer movies you risk losing your ability to appreciate — and even notice — the subtleties and complexities of real life and consciousness, which, to circle back to my original metaphor, is more like a Henry James adaptation.

Link to Bookslut interview with Jeff Warren.

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