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States of Consciousness, by Charles Tart

  States of Consciousness

    Charles T. Tart

        15.   State-Specific Communication

    "According the general opinion of the uninitiated," mused Nasrudin, as he walked along the road, "dervishes are mad. According to the sages, however, they are the true masters of the world. I would like to test one, and myself, to make sure."
    Then he saw a tall figure, robed like a Akldan dervish—reputed to be exceptionally enlightened men—coming towards him.
    "Friend," said the Mulla, "I want to perform an experiment, to test your powers of psychic penetration, and also my sanity."
    "Proceed," said the Akldan.
    Nasrudin made a sudden sweeping motion with his arm, then clenched his fist. "What have I in my hand?"
    "A horse, chariot, and driver," said the Akldan immediately.
    "That's no real test,—Nasrudin was petulant—"because you saw me pick them up." {57, p. 79}
    In d-ASCs people often claim to have exceptional and important insights about themselves or about the nature of the world that they are unable to communicate to the rest of us owing to the ineffability of the experience, the inadequacy of language, or the "lowness" of the ordinary d-SoC that makes us incapable of understanding "higher" things. The general scientific opinion, however, is that communicative ability deteriorates in various d-ASCs, such as drug-induced or mystical states. This opinion is usually based on the observation that the experimenter/observer has difficulty understanding what the person in the d-ASC is talking about; his comments make no sense by ordinary consensus reality standards.
    I suspect that sometimes this judgment is based on fear, on the semiconscious recognition that what a person in a d-ASC is saying may be all too true, but somehow unacceptable. I recall the time when a friend of mine was having a psychotic breakdown: it struck me that half the things he said were clearly crazy, in the sense of being unrelated to the social situation around him and reflecting only his own internal processes, but the other half of the things he said were such penetrating, often unflattering, observations about what other people were really feeling and doing that they were threatening to most of us. Bennett {5} makes the same observation, noting that after his wife had a cerebral hemorrhage she seemed to lose all the usual social inhibitions and said directly what she felt. This was extremely threatening to most people and was regarded as senile dementia or insanity; yet to a few who were not personally threatened by her observation, her comments were extremely penetrating. If you label someone as crazy, you need not listen to him.
    How can we decide in an objective fashion whether someone in a d-ASC is able to communicate more or less clearly? Perhaps this is the wrong question. I propose that, for at least some d-ASCs, there are significant alterations in the manner in which a person communicates. Changes in various subsystems, especially the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem, produce a new logic, so that the grammar of communication, including the nonverbal aspects of expression, constitutes a different kind of language, one that may be just as effective in communicating with someone else in the same d-ASC as ordinary communication is in the ordinary d-Soc. We must consider this possibility in an objective manner, but be careful not implicitly to equate "objectivity' with the standards of only one d-SoC.
    For a given d-ASC, then, how can we determine whether there is deterioration, improvement, or simply alteration in communication ability, or a complex combination of all three? More specifically, we must ask this question with respect to communication across d-SoCs—about communication between two persons in different d-SoCs as well as about communication between two persons in the same d-SoC. In regard to the last two situations, only theorizing is possible, for all published research deals only with the restricted situation of an experimental subject in a d-ASC and the experimenter/observer in his ordinary d-SoC.
    If the grammar of communication is altered in a d-ASC, then clearly a judge in an ordinary d-SoC cannot distinguish between the hypotheses of deterioration and of alteration in the communicative style of a person in a d-ASC. The specialized argot of a subcultural group may sound, to an outside observer, like the talk of schizophrenics. A person familiar with that subculture, on the other hand, finds the communications exchanged among the group perfectly meaningful, perhaps extraordinarily rich. In this example, contextual clues may make the outsider suspect this is a subcultural argot, but if the group is in an institutional setting and is labeled "schizophrenic," he may readily conclude that its speech has indeed deteriorated, without bothering to study the matter further.
    To judge adequately whether communicative patterns have altered (and possibly improved) rather than deteriorated, the judge must function in the same d-ASC as the communicator. Experienced marijuana smokers, for example, claim they can subtly communicate all sorts of things—especially humor—to each other while intoxicated {105}. The degree to which an observer in a different d-SoC—for example, his ordinary d-SoC—can understand the same communication is interesting, but not a valid measure of the adequacy of the communication within the d-ASC. And, as explained in earlier chapters, identification of a person as being in a particular d-ASC must be based not just on the fact that he has undergone an induction procedure (for example, taken a drug) but on actual mapping of his location in experiential space.
    Suppose the judge is in the same d-ASC as the subjects in the study, and reports that their communication is rich and meaningful, not at all deteriorated. How do we know that the judge's mental processes themselves are not deteriorated and that he is not just enjoying the illusion of understanding, rather than prosaically judging the subjects' communication? The question leads to general problems of measuring the accuracy and adequacy of communication, an area I know little about. All the work in this area has been done with respect to ordinary d-SoC communication, but I believe the techniques can be applied to this question of adequacy of communication in d-ASCs. I shall try to show this by describing one technique for rating ordinary d-SoC communication with which I am familiar that could be readily applied to judging d-ASC communication.
    It is the Cloze technique {140}. It measures, simultaneously, how well a written or verbal communication is both phrased (encoded) and how well it is understood by a receiver or judge. From a written message or a transcript of a spoken message, every fifth word is deleted. Judges then guess what the deleted words are, and the total number of words correct is a measure of the accuracy and meaningfulness of the communication. If a judge understands the communicator well, he can fill in a high proportion of the words correctly; if he does not understand him well he gets very few correct. This technique works because ordinary language is fairly redundant, so the overall context of the message allows excellent guesses about missing words. This technique can be applied to communications between subjects as judged both by a judge in the same d-ASC, thus testing adequacy of communication within the d-ASC, and by a judge in a different d-SoC, thus measuring transfer across states. We think of the different d-SoC, thus measuring transfer across states. We think of the different d-SoC as being the ordinary state, but other d-SoCs are possible, and we can eventually use this technique for a cross-comparison across all d-SoCs we know of and produce important information about both communication and the nature of various d-SoCs.
    Two problems arise in applying the Cloze technique in investigating communications in d-ASCs. One is that a particular d-ASC may be associated with a switch to more nonverbal components of communication. This difficulty could probably be remedied by making videotapes of the procedure, and systematically deleting every fifth second, and letting the judges fill in the gap. The second problem is that communication in a d-ASC may be as adequate, but less redundant, a circumstance that would artificially lower the scores on the Cloze test without adequately testing the communication. I leave this problem as a challenge to others.
    Another important methodological factor is the degree of adaptation to functioning in a particular d-ASC. I am sure techniques of the Cloze type would show deterioration in communication within d-ASCs for subjects who are relatively naive in functioning in those d-ASCs. Subjects have to adapt to the novelty of a d-ASC; they may even need specific practice in learning to communicate within it. The potential for an altered style of communication, state-specific communication, may be present and need to be developed, rather than being available immediately upon entering the d-ASC. I do not imply simply that people learn to compensate for the deterioration associated with a d-ASC, but rather that they learn the altered style of communication inherent in or more natural to that particular d-ASC.
    In Chapter 16, in which I propose the creation of state-specific sciences, I assume that communication within some d-ASCs is adequate: this is a necessary foundation for the creation of state-specific sciences. In making this assumption, I depend primarily on experiential observations by people in d-ASCs. Objective verification with the Cloze technique or similar techniques is a necessary underpinning for this. As state-specific sciences are developed, on the other hand, technique for evaluating the adequacy of communication may be developed within particular states that can be agreed upon as "scientific" techniques within that state, even though they do not necessarily make sense in the ordinary d-SoC.
    Another interesting question concerns transfer of communicative ability after the termination of a d-ASC to the ordinary (or any other) d-SoC. Experienced marijuana smokers, for example, claim that they can understand a subject intoxication on marijuana even when they are not intoxication themselves because of partial transfer of state-specific knowledge to the ordinary d-SoC. We need to study the validity of this phenomenon.
    In earlier chapters I avoid talking about "higher" states of consciousness, as the first job of science is description, not evaluation. Here, however, I want to speculate on what one relatively objective definition of the adjective higher, applied to a d-SoC, could mean with respect to communication. If we consider that understanding many communications from other people is more valuable than understanding few of their communications, then a higher d-SoC is one in which communications form a variety of d-ASCs are adequately understood; a lower d-SoC is one in which understanding is limited, perhaps to the particular lower d-SoC itself.

Chapter 16

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