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States of Consciousness, by Charles Tart

  States of Consciousness

    Charles T. Tart

        16.   State-Specific Sciences

In previous chapters I argue that the ordinary (or any) d-SoC is a semiarbitrary construction, a specialized tool, useful for some things but not for others. A consequence of this is that science is specialized, because it is a one-d-SoC science. As a method of learning science has been applied only in a limited way because it has been used in only one of many possible d-SoCs. This chapter works out the consequences of this idea in detail and proposes that if we are to understand d-ASCs adequately, as well as ourselves as human beings, we must develop state-specific sciences.[1]


Disaffection with Science

    Blackburn {7} recently noted that many of our most talented young people are "turned off" from science: as a solution, he proposed that we recognize the validity of a more sensuous-intuitive approach to nature, treating it as complementary to the classical intellectual approach.
    I have seen the same rejection of science by many of the brightest students in California, and the problem is indeed serious Blackburn's analysis is valid, but not deep enough. A more fundamental source of alienation is the widespread experience of d-ASCs by the young, coupled with the almost total rejection by the scientific establishment of the knowledge gained during the experiencing of d-ASCs. Blackburn himself exemplifies this rejection when he says: "Perhaps science has much to learn along this line from the disciplines, as distinct from the context, of Oriental religions" (my italics).
    To illustrate, a 1971 Gallup poll {41} indicated that approximately half of American college students have tried marijuana and that a large number of them use it fairly regularly. They do this at the risk of having their careers ruined and going to jail for several years. Why? Conventional research on the nature of marijuana intoxication tells us that the primary effects are a slight increase in heart rate, reddening of the eyes, some difficulty with memory, and small decrements in performance on complex psychomotor tests.
    Would you risk going to jail to experience these?
    A young marijuana smoker who hears a scientist or physician refer to these findings as the basic nature of marijuana intoxication will simply sneer and have his antiscientific attitude further reinforced. It is clear to him that the scientist has no real understanding of what marijuana intoxication is all about (see {105} for a comprehensive description of this d-ASC).
    More formally, an increasingly significant number of people are experimenting with d-ASCs in themselves and finding the experiences thus gained of extreme importance in their philosophy and style of life. The conflict between experiences in these d-ASCs and the attitudes and intellectual-emotional systems that have evolved in the ordinary d-SoC is a major factor behind the increased alienation of many people from conventional science. Experiences of ecstasy, mystical union, other dimensions, rapture, beauty, space-and-time transcendence, and transpersonal knowledge, all common in d-ASCs, are simply not treated adequately in conventional scientific approaches. These experiences will not go away if we crack down more on psychedelic drugs, for immense numbers of people now practice carious nondrug techniques for producing d-ASCs, such as meditation {39} and yoga.
    My purpose here is to show that it is possible to investigate and work with the important phenomena of d-ASCs in a manner that is perfectly compatible with the essence of scientific method. The conflict discussed above is not necessary.


States of Consciousness

    To review briefly, a d-ASC is defined as a qualitative alteration in the overall pattern of mental functioning, such that the experiencer feels his consciousness is radically different from the way it functions ordinarily. A d-SoC is defined not in terms of any particular content of consciousness or specific behavior or physiological change, but in terms of the overall patterning of psychological functioning.
    An analogy with computer functioning can clarify this definition. A computer has a complex program of many subroutines. If we reprogram it quite differently, the same sorts of input data may be handled in quite different ways; we can predict little from our knowledge of the old program about the effects of varying the input, even though old and new programs have some subroutines in common. The new program with its input-output interactions must be studied in and of itself. A d-ASC is analogous to a temporary change in the program of a computer.
    The d-ASCs experienced by almost all ordinary people are dreaming states and the hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, the transitional states between sleeping and waking. Many others experience another d-ASC, alcohol intoxication.
    The relatively new (to our culture) d-ASCs that are now having such an impact are those produced by marijuana, more powerful psychedelic drugs such as LSD, meditative states, so-called possession states, and autohypnotic states.[2]


States of Consciousness and Paradigms

    It is useful to compare this concept of a d-SoC, a qualitatively distinct organization of the pattern of mental functioning, with Kuhn's {32} concept of paradigms in science. A paradigm is an intellectual achievement that underlies normal science and attracts and guides the work of an enduring number of adherents in their scientific activity. It is a "super" theory, a formulation wide enough in scope to affect the organization of most or all of the major known phenomena of its field. Yet it is sufficiently open-ended that there still remain important problems to be solved within that framework. Examples of important paradigms in the history of science have been Copernican astronomy and Newtonian dynamics.
    Because of their tremendous success, paradigms undergo a change which, in principle, ordinary scientific theories do not undergo. An ordinary scientific theory is always subject to further questioning and testing as it is extended. A paradigm becomes an implicit framework for most scientists working within it; it is the natural way of looking at things and doing things. It does not seriously occur to the adherents of a paradigm to question it (we may ignore, for the moment, the occurrence of scientific revolutions). Theories become referred to as laws: people talk of the law of gravity, not the theory of gravity, for example.
    A paradigm serves to concentrate the attention of a researcher on sensible problem areas and to prevent him from wasting his time on what might be trivia. On the other hand, by implicitly defining some lines of research as trivial or nonsensical, a paradigm acts as a blinder. Kuhn has discussed this blinding function as a key factory in the lack of effective communications during paradigm clashes.
    The concept of a paradigm and a d-SoC are quite similar. Both constitute complex, interlocking sets of rules and theories that enable a person to interact with and interpret experiences within an environment. In both cases, the rules are largely implicit. They are not recognized as tentative working hypotheses; they operate automatically and the person feels he is doing the obvious or natural thing.


Paradigm Clash Between Straight and Hip

    Human beings become emotionally attached to the things that give them success and pleasure, and a scientist making important progress within a particular paradigm becomes emotionally attached to it. When data that make not sense in terms of the (implicit) paradigm are brought to his attention, the usual result is not a reevaluation of the paradigm, but a rejection or misperception of the data. This rejection seems rational to others sharing that paradigm and irrational or rationalizing to those committed to a different paradigm.
    The conflict now existing between those who have experienced certain d-ASCs (whose ranks include many young scientists) and those who have not is a paradigmatic conflict. For example, a subject takes LSD and tells his investigator, "You and I, we are all one, there are no separate selves." The investigator reports that his subject showed a "confused sense of identity and distorted thinking process." The subject is reporting what is obvious to him; the investigator is reporting what is obvious to him. The investigator's (implicit) paradigm, based on his scientific training, his cultural background, and his normal d-SoC, indicates that a literal interpretation of the subject's statement cannot be true and therefore the statement must be interpreted as mental dysfunction on the part of the subject. The subject, his paradigms radically changed for the moment by being in a d-ASC, not only reports what is obviously true to him, but perceives the investigator as showing mental dysfunction because he is incapable of perceiving the obvious!
    Historically, paradigm clashes have been characterized by bitter emotional antagonisms and total rejection of the opponent. Currently we see the same sort of process: the respectable psychiatrist, who would not take any of those "psychotomimetic" drugs himself or experience that crazy meditation process, carries out research to show that drug-takers and those who practice meditation are escapists. The drug-taker or meditater views the same investigator as narrow-minded, prejudiced, and repressive, and as a result drops out of the university. Communication between the two factions is almost nil.
    Must the experiencers of d-ASCs continue to see the scientists as concentrating on the irrelevant, and scientists see the experiencers as confused[3] or mentally ill? Or can science deal adequately with the experiencers of these people? The thesis I present is that we can deal with the important aspects of d-ASCs using the essence of scientific method, even though a variety of non-essentials, unfortunately identified with current science, hinder such an effort.


The Nature of Knowledge

    Science deals with knowledge. Knowledge may be defined as an immediately given experiential feeling of congruence between two different kinds of experience, a matching. One set of experiences may be regarded as perceptions of the external world, of others, of oneself; the second set may be regarded as a theory, a scheme, a system of understanding. The feeling of congruence is something immediately given in experience, although many refinements have been worked out for judging degrees of congruence.
    All knowledge, then, is basically experiential knowledge. Even my knowledge of the physical world can be reduced to this: given certain sets of experiences, which I (by assumption) attribute to activation of my sensory apparatus by the external world, I can compare them with purely internal experiences (memories, previous knowledge) and predict with a high degree of reliability other kinds of experiences, which I again attribute to the external world.
    Because science has been highly successful in dealing with the physical world, it has been historically associated with a philosophy of physicalism, the belief that reality is all reducible to certain kinds of physical entities. The vast majority of phenomena of d-ASCs have no known physical manifestations: thus to physicalistic philosophy they are epiphenomena, not worthy of study. But since science deals with knowledge, it need not restrict itself to physical kinds of knowledge.


The Essence of Scientific Method

    As satisfying as the feeling of knowing can be, we are often wrong: what seems like congruence at first, later does not match or has no generality. Man has learned that his reasoning is often faulty, his observations often incomplete or mistaken, and that emotional or other nonconscious factors can seriously distort both reasoning and observational processes. His reliance on authorities, "rationality," or elegance," are no sure criteria for achieving truth. The development of scientific method may be seen as a determined effort to systematize the process of acquiring knowledge in such a way as to minimize the pitfalls of observation and reasoning.
    There are four basic rules of scientific method to which an investigator is committed: (1) good observation, (2) the public nature of observation, (3) the necessity to theorize logically, and (4) the testing of theory by observable consequences. These constitute the scientific enterprise. I consider below the wider application of each rule to d-ASCs and indicate how unnecessary physicalistic restrictions may be dropped. I also show that all these commitments or rules can be accommodated in the development of state-specific sciences.



    The scientist is committed to observe as well as possible the phenomena of interest and to search constantly for better ways of making these observations. But his paradigmatic commitments, his d-SoCs, make him likely to observe certain parts of reality and to ignore or observe with error certain other parts of it.
    Many of the most important phenomena of d-ASCs have been observed poorly or not at all because of the physicalistic labeling of them as epiphenomena, so that they have been called "subjective," "ephemeral," "unreliable," or "unscientific." Observations of internal processes are probably much more difficult than those of external physical processes, because of their inherently greater complexity. The essence of science, however, is to observe what there is to observed, whether or not it is difficult.
    Furthermore, most of what is known about the phenomena of d-ASCs has been obtained from untrained people, almost none of whom have shared the scientist's commitment to constantly reexamine observations in greater and greater detail. This does not imply that internal phenomena are inherently unobservable or unstable; we are comparing the first observations of internal phenomena with observations of physical sciences that have undergone centuries of refinement.
    We must consider one other problem of observation. One of the traditional idols of science, the "detached observer," has no place in dealing with many internal phenomena of d-SoCs. Not only are the observer's perceptions selective, he may also affect the things he observes. We must try to understand the characteristics of each individual observer in order to compensate for them.
    A recognition of the unreality of the detached observer in the psychological sciences is becoming widespread, under the topics of experimenter bias {55} and demand characteristics {45}. A similar recognition long ago occurred in physics when it was realized that he observed was altered by the process of observation at subatomic levels. When we deal with d-ASCs where the observer is the experiencer of the d-ASC, this factor is of paramount importance. Not knowing the characteristics of the observer can also confound the process of consensual validation.


Public Nature of Observation

    Observations must be public in that they must be replicable by any properly trained observer. The experienced conditions that led to the report of certain experiences must be described in sufficient detail that others can duplicate them and consequently have experiences that meet criteria of identicality. That someone else may set up similar conditions but not have the same experiences proves that the original investigator gave an incorrect description of the conditions and observations, or that he was not aware of certain essential aspects of the conditions.
    The physicalistic accretion to this rule of consensual validation is that, physical data being the only "real" data, internal phenomena must be reduced to physiological or behavioral data to become reliable or they will be ignored entirely. I believe most physical observations to be much more readily replicable by any trained observer because they are inherently simpler phenomena than internal ones. In principle, however, consensual validation of internal phenomena by a trained observer is possible.
    The emphasis on public observations in science has had a misleading quality insofar as it implies that any intelligent man can replicate a scientists observations. This may have been true early in the history of science, but nowadays only the trained observer can replicate many observations. I cannot go into a modern physicist's laboratory and confirm his observations. Indeed, his talk of what he has found in his experiments (physicists seem to talk about innumerable invisible entities) would probably seem mystical to me, just as descriptions of internal states sound mystical to those with a background in the physical sciences.[4]
    Given the high complexity of the phenomena associated with d-ASCs, the need for replication by trained observers is exceptionally important. Since it generally takes four to ten years of intensive training to produce a scientist in any of the conventional disciplines, we should not be surprised that there has been little reliability of observations by untrained observers of d-ASC phenomena.
    Further, for the state-specific sciences I propose, we cannot specify the requirements that constitute adequate training. These can only be determined after considerable trial and error. We should also recognize that very few people may complete the training successfully. Some people do not have the necessary innate characteristics to become physicists, and some probably do not have the innate characteristics to become scientific investigators of meditative states.
    Public observation, then, always refers to a limited, specially trained public. It is only by basic agreement among those specially trained people that data become accepted as a foundation for the development of a science. That laymen cannot replicate the observations is of little relevance.
    A second problem in consensual validation arises from a phenomenon predicted by my concept of d-ASCs, but not yet empirically investigated: state-specific communication. Given that a d-ASC is an overall qualitative and quantitative shift in the complex functioning of consciousness, producing new logics and perceptions (which constitute a paradigm shift), it is quite reasonable to hypothesize that communication may take a different pattern. For two observers, both of whom, we assume, are fluent in communicating with each other in a given d-SoC, communication about some new observations may seem adequate or may be improved or deteriorated in specific ways. To an outside observer, an observer in a different d-SoC, the communication between these two observers may seem deteriorated.
    Practically all investigations of communication by persons in d-ASCs have resulted in reports of deterioration of communication abilities. In designing their studies, however, these investigators have not taken into account the fact that the pattern of communication may have changed. If I am listening to two people speaking in English, and they suddenly begin to intersperse words and phrases in Polish, I, as an outside (non-Polish-speaking) observer, note a gross deterioration in communication. Adequacy of communication between people in the same d-SoC and across d-SoCs must be empirically determined. This is discussed in Chapter 15.
    Thus consensual validation may be restricted by the fact that only observers in the same d-ASC are able to communicate adequately to each other. Someone in a different d-SoC, say normal consciousness, might find their communication incomprehensible.[5]



    A scientist may theorize about his observations as much as he wishes, but the theory he develops must consistently account for all he has observed and should have a logical structure that other scientists comprehend (but not necessarily accept).
    The requirement to theorize logically and consistently with the data is not as simply as it looks, however. Any logic consists of a basic set of assumptions and a set of rules for manipulating information based on these assumptions. Change the assumptions, or change the rules, and there may be entirely different outcomes from the same data. A paradigm, too, is a logic: it has certain assumptions and rules for working within these assumptions. By changing the paradigms, altering the d-SoC, the nature of theory-building may change radically. Thus a person in d-SoC 2 might come to a very different conclusions about the nature of the same events that he observed in d-SoC 1. An investigator in d-SoC 1 can comment on the comprehensibility of the second person's ideas form the point of view (paradigm) of d-SoC 1, but can say nothing about their inherent validity. A scientist who could enter either d-SoC 1 or d-SoC 2, however, could evaluate the comprehensibility of the other's theory and the adherence of that theory to the rules and logic of d-SoC 2. Thus, scientist trained to work in the same d-SoC can check on the logical validity of each other's theorizing. So we can have inter-observer validation of the state-specific logic underlying theorizing in various d-SoCs.


Observable Consequences

    Any theory a scientist develops must have observable consequences, it must be possible to make predictions that can be verified by observation. If such verification is not obtained, the theory must be considered invalid, regardless of its elegance, logic or other appeal.
    Ordinarily we think of empirical validation, validation in terms of testable consequences that produce physical effects, but this is misleading. Any effect, whether interpreted as physical or nonphysical, is ultimately an experience in the observer's mind. All that is essentially required to validate a theory is that it predict that when a certain experience (observed condition) has occurred, another (predicted) kind of experience will follow, under specified experiential conditions. Thus a perfectly scientific theory may be based on data that have no physical existence.


State-Specific Sciences

    We tend to envision the practice of science like this: centered around interest in some particular range of subject matter, a small number of highly selected, talented, and rigorously trained people spend considerable time making detailed observations on the subject matter of interest. They may or may not have special places (laboratories) or instruments or methods to assist them in making finer observations. They speak to one another in a special language that they feel conveys precisely the important facts of their field. Using this language, they confirm and extend each other's knowledge of certain data basic to the field. They theorize about their basic data and construct elaborate systems. They validate these by recourse to further observation. These trained people all have a long-term commitment to the constant refinement of observation and extension of theory. Their activity is frequently incomprehensible to laymen.
    This general description is equally applicable to a variety of sciences or areas that could become sciences, whether we called such areas biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, understanding of mystical states, or drug-induced enhancement of cognitive processes. The particulars of research look different, but the basic scientific method is the same.
    I propose the creation of various state-specific sciences. If such sciences can be created we will have a group of highly skilled, dedicated, and trained practitioners able to achieve certain d-SoCs, and able to agree with one another that they have attained a common state. While in that d-SoC, they can investigate other areas of interest—totally internal phenomena of that given state, the interaction of that state with external physical reality, or people in other d-SoCs.
    The fact that the experimenter can function skillfully in the d-SoC itself for a state-specific science does not necessarily mean he must always be the subject. While he may often be the subject, observer, and experimenter simultaneously, it is quite possible for him to collect data from experimental manipulations of other subjects in the d-SoC, and either be in that d-SoC himself at the time of data collection or be in that d-SoC himself for data reduction and theorizing.
    Examples of some observations made and theorizing done by a scientist in a specific d-ASC would illustrate the nature of a proposed state-specific science. But this is not possible because no state-specific sciences have yet been established.[6] Also, any example that would make good sense to the readers of this chapter (who are, presumably, all in an ordinary d-SoC) would not really illustrate the uniqueness of state-specific science. If it did make sense, it would be an example of a problem that could be approached adequately from both the d-ASC and our ordinary terms of accepted scientific procedures for our ordinary d-SoC and miss the point about the necessity for developing state-specific sciences.


State-Specific Sciences and Religion

    Some aspects of organized religion appear to resemble state-specific sciences. There are techniques that allow that believer to enter a d-ASC and then have religious experiences in that d-ASC that are proof of his religious belief. People who have had such experiences usually describe them as ineffable, not fully comprehensible in an ordinary d-SoC. Conversions at revival meetings are the most common examples of religious experiences occurring in d-ASCs induced by an intensely emotional atmosphere.
    The esoteric training systems of some religions seem to have even more resemblance to state-specific sciences. Often there are devoted specialists, complex techniques, and repeated experiencing of the d-ASCs in order to further religious knowledge.
    Nevertheless, the proposed state-specific sciences are not simply religion in a new guise. The use of d-ASCs in religion may involve the kind of commitment to searching for truth that is need for developing a state-specific science, but practically all the religions we know can mainly be defined as state-specific technologies, operated in the service of a prior belief systems. The experiencers of d-ASCs in most religious contexts have already been thoroughly indoctrinated in a particular belief system. This belief system may then mold the content of the d-ASCs to create specific experiences that reinforce or validate the belief system.
    The crucial distinction between a religion utilizing d-ASCs and a state-specific science is the commitment of the scientist to reexamine constantly his own belief system and to question the "obvious," in spite of its intellectual or emotional appeal to him. Investigators of d-ASCs will certainly encounter an immense variety of phenomena labeled religious experience or mystical revelation during the development of state-specific sciences, but they must remain committed to examining these phenomena more carefully, sharing their observations and techniques with colleagues, and subjecting the beliefs (hypotheses, theories) that result from such experiences to the requirement of leading to testable predictions. In practice, because we are aware of the immense emotional power of mystical experiences, this is a difficult task, but it is one that must be undertaken by disciplined investigators if we are to understand various d-ASCs.[7]


Relationship Between State-Specific Sciences

    Any (state-specific) science may be considered as consisting of two parts: observations and theories. The observations are what can be experienced relatively directly: the theories are the inferences about what nonobservable factors account for the observations. For example, the phenomenon of synesthesia (seeing colors as a result of hearing sounds) is a theoretical proposition for me in my ordinary d-SoC; I do not experience it and can only generate theories about what other people report about it. If I were under the influence of psychedelic drug such as LSD or marijuana {105}, I could probably experience synesthesia directly, and my descriptions of the experience would become data.
    Figure 16-1 (reprinted from C. Tart, Science, 1972, 176 1203-1210, by permission of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) demonstrates some possible relationships between three state-specific sciences. State-specific sciences 1 and 2 show considerable overlap.
    The area labeled O1O2 permits direct observation in both sciences. Area T1T2 permits theoretical inferences about common subject matter from the two perspectives. In area O1T2, by contrast, the theoretical propositions of state-specific science 2 are matters of direct observation for the scientist in d-SoC 1, and vice versa for the area T1O2. State-specific science 3 consists of a body of observation and theory exclusive to that science and has no overlap with the two other sciences: it does not confirm, contradict, or complement them.
    It would be naively reductionistic to say that the work in one state-specific science validates or invalidates the work in a second state-specific science; I prefer to say that two different state-specific sciences, where they overlap, provide quite different points of view with respect to certain kinds of theories and data, and thus complement[8] each other. The proposed creation state-specific sciences neither validates nor invalidates the activities or normal consciousness sciences. The possibility of developing certain state-specific sciences means only that certain kinds of phenomena may be handled more adequately within these potential new sciences.
    Interrelationships more complex than these illustrated in Fig. 16-1 are possible.
    The possibility of stimulating interactions between different state-specific sciences is very real. Creative breakthroughs in normal consciousness sciences have frequently been made by scientists temporarily in a d-ASC {18}. In such instances, the scientists concerned saw quite different views of their problems and performed different kinds of reasoning, conscious or nonconscious, which led to results that could be tested within their normal consciousness science.
    A current example of such interaction is the finding that in Zen meditation (a highly developed discipline in Japan) there are physiological correlates of meditative experiences, such as decreased frequency of alpha-rhythm, which can also be produced by means of instrumentally aided feedback-learning techniques {23}. This finding may elucidate some of the processes peculiar to each discipline.


Individual Differences

    A widespread and misleading assumption that hinders the development of state-specific sciences and confuses their interrelationships is the assumption that because two people are "normal" (not certified insane), their ordinary d-SoCs are essentially the same. In reality I suspect that there are enormous differences between the d-SoCs of some normal people. Because societies train people to behave and communicate along socially approved lines, these differences are obscured.
    For example, some people think in images, others in words. Some can voluntarily anesthetize parts of their body, most cannot. Some recall past events by imaging the scene and looking at the relevant details; others use complex verbal processes with no images.
    This means that person A may be able to observe certain kinds of experiential data that person B cannot experience in his ordinary d-SoC, no matter how hard B tries. There may be several consequences. Person B may think A is insane, too imaginative, or a liar, or he may feel inferior to A. Person A may also feel himself odd, if he takes B as a standard of normality.
    B may be able to enter a d-ASC and there experience the sorts of things A has reported to him. A realm of knowledge that is ordinary for A is then specific for a d-ASC for B. Similarly, some of the experiences of B in his d-ASC may not be available for direct observation by A in his ordinary d-SoC.
    The phenomenon of synesthesia can again serve as an example. Some individuals possess this ability in their ordinary d-SoC, most do not. Yet 56 percent of a sample of experienced marijuana users experienced synesthesia at least occasionally {105} while in the drug-induced d-ASC.
    Thus bits of knowledge that are specific for a d-ASC for one individual may be part of ordinary consciousness for another. Arguments over the usefulness of the concept of states of consciousness may reflect differences in the structure of the ordinary d-SoC of various investigators, as we discussed in Chapter 9.
    Another important source of individual differences, little understood at present, is the degree to which an individual can first make an observation or form a concept in one d-SoC and then reexperience or comprehend it in another d-SoC. Many items of information hat were state-specific when observed initially may be learned and somehow transferred (fully or partially) to another d-SoC. Differences across individuals, various combinations of d-SoCs, and types of experience are probably enormous.
    I have outlined only the complexities created by individuals differences in normal d-SoCs and have used the normal d-SoC as a baseline for comparison with d-ASCs, but it is evident that every d-SoC must eventually be compared against every other d-SoC.


Problems, Pitfalls, and Personal Perils

    If we use the practical experience of Western man with d-ASCs as a guide, the development of state-specific sciences will be beset by a number of difficulties. These difficulties will be of two kinds: general methodological problems stemming from the inherent nature of some d-ASCs, and those concerned with personal perils to the investigator.


State-Related Problems

    The first important problem in the proposed development of state-specific sciences is the "obvious" perception of truth. In many d-ASCs, one's experience is what one is obviously and lucidly experiencing truth directly without question. An immediate result of this may be an extinction of the desire for further questioning. Further, this experience of "obvious" truth, while not necessarily preventing the investigator from further examining his data, may not arouse his desire for consensual validation. Since one of the greatest strengths of science is its insistence on consensual validation of basic data, this can be a serious drawback. Investigators attempting to develop state-specific sciences must learn to distrust the obvious.
    A second major problem in developing state-specific sciences is that in some d-ASCs one's abilities to visualize and imagine are immensely enhanced, so that whatever one imagines seems perfectly real. Thus one can imagine that something is being observed and experience it as datum. If the scientist can conjure up anything he wishes, how can he ever get at truth?
    One approach to this problem is to consider any such vivid imaginings as potential effects: they are data in the sense that what can be vividly imagined in a d-SoC is important to know. It may be that not everything can be imagined with equal facility and relationships between what can be imagined may show a lawful pattern.
    Another approach is to realize that this problem is not unique to d-ASCs. One can have illusions and misperceptions in the ordinary d-SoC. Before the rise of modern physical science, all sorts of things were imagined about the nature of the physical world that could not be directly refuted. The same techniques that eliminated these illusions in the physical sciences can also eliminate them in state-specific sciences dealing with nonphysical data. All observations must be subjected to consensual validation and all their theoretical consequences must be examined. Those that do not show consistent patterns and cannot be replicated can be distinguished from those phenomena that do show general lawfulness across individuals.
    The effects of this enhanced vividness of imagination in some d-ASCs will be complicated further by two other problems: experimenter bias {45, 55} and the fact that one person's illusion in a given d-ASC can sometimes be communicated to another person in the same d-ASC so that a false consensual validation results. Again, the only long-term solution is the requirements that predictions based on concepts arising from various experiences be verified experientially.
    A third major problem is that state-specific sciences probably cannot be developed for all d-ASCs: some d-ASCs may depend or result from genuine deterioration of observational and reasoning abilities or from a deterioration of volition. But the development of each state-specific science should result from trial and error, and not from a priori decisions based on reasoning in the ordinary d-SoC that would rule out attempts to develop a science for some particular state.
    A fourth major problem is that of ineffability. Some experiences are ineffable in the sense that (1) a person may experience them, but be unable to express or conceptualize them adequately to himself.; (2) while a person may be able to conceptualize an experiencer to himself he may not be able to communicate it adequately to anyone else. Certain phenomena of the first type may simply be inaccessible to scientific investigation. Phenomena of the second type may be accessible to scientific investigation only insofar as we are willing to recognize that a science, in the sense of following most of the basic rules, may exist only for a single person. Since such a solitary science lacks all the advantages gained by consensual validation, we cannot expect it to have as much power and rigor as conventional scientific endeavor.
    Many phenomena that are now considered ineffable may not be so in reality. Their apparent ineffability may be a function of general lack of experience with d-ASCs and the lack of an adequate language for communicating about d-ASC phenomena. In most well-developed languages the major part of the vocabulary was developed primarily in adaptation to survival in the physical world.[9]
    Finally, various phenomena of d-ASCs may be too complex for human beings to understand. The phenomena may depend on or be affected by so many variables that we can never understand them. In the history of science, however, many phenomena that appeared too complex at first eventually became comprehensible.


Personal Perils

    The personal perils an investigator faces in attempting develop a state-specific science are of two kinds: those associated with reactions colloquially called a bad trip and a good trip.
    Bad trips, in which an extremely unpleasant emotional reaction is experienced in a d-ASC, and from which there are possible one-term adverse consequences on personal adjustment, often occur because upbringing has not prepared us to undergo radical alterations in our ordinary d-SoC. We depend on stability, we fear the unknown, and we develop personal rigidities and various kinds of personal and social taboos. It is traditional in our society to consider d-ASCs as signs of insanity; d-ASCs therefore can cause great fear in those who experience them.
    In many d-ASCs, defenses against unacceptable personal impulses become partially or wholly ineffective, so that the person feels flooded with traumatic material he cannot handle. All these things result in fear and avoidance of d-ASCs, and make it difficult or impossible for some individuals to function in a d-ASC in a way that is consistent without he development of state-specific science. Maslow {36} discusses these as pathologies of cognition that seriously interfere without the scientific enterprise in general, as well ordinary life. In principle, adequate selection and training can minimize these hazards for at least some people.
    Good trips may also endanger an investigator. A trip may produce experiences so rewarding that they interfere with the scientific activity of the investigator. The perception of "obvious" truth and its effect of eliminating the need for further investigation or consensual validation have already been mentioned. Another peril comes from the ability to imagine or create vivid experiences. They may be so highly rewarding that the investigator does not follow the rule of investigating the obvious regardless of his personal satisfaction with results. Similarly, his attachment to good feelings, ecstasy, and the like, and his refusal to consider alternative conceptualizations of these, can stifle the progress of investigation.
    These personal perils emphasize the necessity of developing adequate training programs for scientists who wish to develop state-specific sciences. Although such a training program is difficult to envision, it is evident that much conventional scientific training is contrary to what is needed to develop a state-specific science, because it tends to produce rigidity and avoidance of personal involvement with subject matter, rather than open-mindedness and flexibility. Much of the training program must be devoted to the scientist's understanding of himself so that the (unconscious) effects of his personal biases are minimized during his investigations of a d-ASC.
    There are scientists who, after becoming personally involved with d-ASCs, have subsequently become poor scientists or have experienced personal psychological crises. It is premature, however, to conclude that such unfortunate consequences cannot be avoid by proper training and discipline. In the early history of the physical sciences many scientist were fanatics who were nonobjective about their investigations. Not all experiencers of d-ASCs develop pathology as a result: indeed, many seem to become considerably more mature. Given the current social climate, we hear of the failures, but not the successes. Only from actual attempts to develop state-specific sciences can we determine the actual d-SoCs that are suitable for development and the kinds of people best suited to such work.[10]



    I believe that an examination of human history and our current situation provides the strongest argument for the need to develop state-specific sciences. Throughout history man has been influenced by the spiritual and mystical factors expressed (usually in watered-down form) in the religions that attract the masses. Spiritual and mystical experiences are primary phenomena of various d-ASCs: because of such experiences, untold numbers of both the noblest and most horrible acts of which men are capable have been committed. Yet in all the time that Western science as existed, no concerted attempt has been made to understand these d-ASC phenomena in scientific terms.
    Many hoped that religions were simply a form of superstition that would be left behind in our "rational" age. Not only has this hope failed, but our own understanding of the nature of reasoning now makes it clear that it can never be fulfilled. Reason is a tool, a tool that is yielded in the service of assumptions, beliefs and needs that are not themselves subject to reason. The irrational, or better, the arational, will not disappear from the human situation. Our immense success in the development of the physical sciences has not been particularly successful in formulating better philosophies of life or increasing our real knowledge of ourselves. The sciences we have developed to date are not very human sciences. They tell us how to do things, but give us no scientific insights on questions of what to do, what not to do, or why to do things.
    The youth of today and mature scientists are turning to meditation, Oriental religions, and personal use of psychedelic drugs in increasing numbers. The phenomena encountered in these d-ASCs provide more satisfaction and are more relevant to the formulation of philosophies of life and decisions about appropriate ways of living, than "pure reason" {40}. My own impressions are that large numbers of scientists are now personally exploring d-ASCs, but few have begun to connect this personal exploration with their scientific activities.
    It is difficult to predict the chances of delving state-specific sciences. Our knowledge is still to diffuse ad dependent on the normal d-SoC. Yet I think it is probable that state-specific sciences can be developed for such d-ASCs as autohypnosis, meditative states, lucid dreaming, marijuana intoxication, LSD intoxication, self-remembering, reverie, and biofeedback-induced states {88 or 115}. In all these d-ASCs, volition seems to be retained, so that the observer can indeed carry out experiments on himself or others or both. Some d-ASCs, in which the volition to experiment during the state may disappear, but in which some experimentation can be carried out if special conditions are prepared before the state is entered, are alcohol intoxication, ordinary dreaming, hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, and high dreams {88 or 115}. It is not clear whether other d-ASCs are suitable for developing state-specific sciences or whether mental deterioration is too great. Such questions can only be answered by experiment.
    I have nothing against religious and mystical groups. Yet I suspect that the vast majority of them have developed compelling belief systems rather than state-specific sciences. Will scientific method be extended to the development of state-specific sciences to improve our human situation? Or will the immense power of d-ASCs be left in the hands of many cults and sects?



    [1] I originally presented the proposal for state-specific sciences in an article in Science {119}. Most of it is reprinted here with the permission of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I have updated the text and terminology to fit the rest of this book. (back)
    [2] Note that a d-SoC is defined by the stable parameters of the pattern that constitute it, not by the particular technique of inducing that pattern. (back)
    [3] States of confusion and impaired functioning may certainly be aspects of some drug-induced d-ASCs for some people, but are not of primary interest here. (back)
    [4] The degree to which a science can seem incomprehensible, even ridiculous, to someone not specializing in it never ceases to astound me. I have always thought I had a good general background in science. So much so that, for example, I was able to appreciate some of the in-group humor in an article I read in Science some years ago about quarks. Quarks? Yes, quarks. To me, the article was obviously a put-on, about how physicists were hunting for particles no one had ever seen, called quarks. Much of the humor was too technical for me to understand, but I was pleased that a staid journal like Science could unbend enough to publish humor. Of course, it was not humor. Physicists are very serious about quarks, even though no one has ever detected one with certainty (at least not yet, despite an awful lot of research). (back)
    [5] A state-specific scientist might find his own work somewhat incomprehensible when he was not in his work d-ASC because of the phenomenon of state-specific memory. Not enough of his work would transfer to his ordinary d-SoC to make it comprehensible, even though it would again make perfect sense when he was again in the d-ASC in which he did his scientific work. (back)
    [6] "Ordinary consciousness science" is not a good example of a pure state-specific science because many important discoveries have occurred during d-ASCs such as reverie, dreaming, and meditative states. (back)
    [7] The idea of state-specific knowledge, introduced earlier, casts some light on an aspect of organized religions, the "dryness" of theology. Consider the feeling so many, both inside and outside organized religion, have had that theology is intellectual hair-splitting, an activity irrelevant to what religion is all about. I believe this is true in many cases, and the reason is that the essence of much religion is state-specific knowledge, knowledge that can really be known only in a d-ASC. The original founders of the religion know certain things in a d-ASC, they talk about them in the ordinary d-SoC. They realize the words are a poor reflection of the direct experiential knowledge, but the words are all they have to talk with. As the generations pass, more and more theologians who have no direct knowledge of what the words are about discuss the meaning of the words at greater and greater length, and the divergence of the words from the original state-specific knowledge becomes greater and greater.
    There are warnings in some religious literature {128} not to take the words literally, to use them only as pointers of the direction experience must go, but our culture is so fascinated with words that we seldom heed such warnings.
    So perhaps ideas like "we are all one" or "love pervades the entire universe" cannot be adequately comprehended in the ordinary d-SoC, no matter how hard we try, although they may appropriately affect our thoughts and actions in the ordinary d-SoC if we have first experienced them, understood them, in the appropriate d-ASC. (back)
    [8] The term complement is used in a technical sense here, as it is in physics, meaning that each of two explanatory systems deals well with overlapping data areas, but neither disproves the other and neither can be incorporated into some more comprehensive theoretical system as a special case. For example, the electron can be treated adequately as a wave or as a particle. The wave theory handles some kinds of data better than the particle theory, and vice versa. (back)
    [9] Note too that we are a hyperverbal culture, so ineffable essentially means not communicable in words. But there are other forms of communication. Riding a bicycle or swimming are both ineffable, in the sense that I have never seen a good verbal description of either, but they can be taught. Ornstein {47} presents convincing data that the right hemisphere of the brain specializes in nonverbal functioning, and argues that many of the seemingly exotic techniques of Eastern spiritual disciplines are actually ways of communicating and teaching in the nonverbal mode. (back)
    [10] The d-ASCs resulting from very dangerous drugs may be scientifically interesting, but the risk may be too high to warrant developing state-specific sciences for them. The personal and social issues involved in evaluating this kind of risk are beyond the scope of this book. (back)

Chapter 17

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