YouTube: The Spirit Molecule

A few months ago I posted about this movie.

It’s now up in its entirety for free at YouTube.

The usual disclaimer: I did not put it there.

It will eventually be DMCAed away, so go watch it ASAP. Then buy the DVD if you like it. Or, if you watch a few minutes and like it, go see if Netflix has it.


Filed under Movie, Video

3 responses to “YouTube: The Spirit Molecule

  1. I wanted to comment on your previous post, but didn’t manage to get around to it before being distracted by other things. This topic really fascinates me, and I managed to watch the video on YouTube over the weekend.

    I must say that I was disappointed. The most interesting aspect of it was the study that Rick Strassman conducted, but no concrete results of that study were discussed.

    Although the credibility of the research was boosted by the participation Ralph Abraham, the personal reflections of many of the subjects about their hallucinations as well as their speculations on the meaning of them were anecdotal and do not lend credibility to the serious intentions of the study’s authors.

    Frankly, some of these people would have been better off having read a book to learn something about how their brain actually works before taking part in such a study. If you know anything at all about the complex systems of inference in the brain, then you will understand that studies like this one could tell us a lot about some parts of the brain we don’t yet understand. On the other hand, you would also know that the “reality” experienced by the subjects while being drugged is no more likely to be real than the everyday reality they experienced while lucid.

    The systems of inference our brain uses to process information from the world around us have evolved for millions of years and are uniquely suited for the kind of existence we lead in our specific environment. Drugs such as DMT that perturb the way our brains interpret stimuli are not likely to allow us to “see” things we couldn’t see before. Our brains are made to interpret the input from our five senses. It’s unlikely that changing the way they work in a random way will suddenly enable us to understand the workings of the universe. More likely, just as when we dream our brains will try to make sense of random electrical signals, they will try to make sense of the perturbed signals generated by psychedelic drugs using the systems of inference that have been honed over millions of years to aid our survival.

    It’s no surprise that people will see “beings” or motion, light and movement or hear compelling sounds while taking such drugs; that’s what our brains evolved to do and do well. Just because lots of people see “beings” doesn’t mean these beings exist. Some parts of the way the brain works will undoubtedly remain functional when DMT is used, and it’s really hard to know how to account for that. This is the most difficult kind of research I know of because it is researching the thing that let’s you perceive reality, but you have no way of knowing what the true reality is, or even if there is one!

    The subjects of this study were unprepared to interpret their experiences in any objective way at all. Instead, they resorted to spiritual interpretations. That’s not surprising either if you’re a student of evolutionary neuropsychology. I recognize that recent research demonstrates that objectivity in human reasoning is somewhat of an illusion (see the books of Antonio Damasio), on the other hand one of the great successes of science has been it’s ability to discover that very fact.

    Although I don’t discount the possibility of being able to experience things differently while under the influence of DMT, I do think that methodical and specific studies are required to learn anything worthwhile from such research.

    Subjects must be adequately prepared and specific hypotheses should be formed and tested. I think this is what you suggested earlier.

    Personally, I think participating in such a study would be terrifying. When you realize that the only way we have to navigate this world is our brain, despite it’s limitations, and you appreciate the mechanisms and safe-guards it has to make sure that it presents chunks of reality that we can understand and handle, then the risk of damaging your brain becomes a risk that I for one do not take lightly. Of course, I am a product of my post 1960’s education, where health classes were designed to include a good dose of anti-drug propaganda. That, along with my scientific training, certainly biases my judgment, in the same way the judgement of those mystics and shamans was biased.

    The difference is that I am able to take a critical step back and consider a viewpoint where my biases are incorrect. Those who are ignorant of their own brains cannot.

    • mikecane

      The movie was based on a book, so some of the shortcomings of the movie might be addressed in the book itself. I’d still like to give that a go, but under controlled lab circumstances with a crash cart and trained docs at the ready!

  2. That may keep you alive if something critical happens during the experience, but if the drug has some permanent effect on your brain, that’s of no use. To use the terminology in the film, if they “lose you” and you “never come back” [to reality] then a crash cart and trained docs won’t make a damn bit of difference.

    Maybe I’ve read too many accounts of pathological brain conditions, but if the experiment leaves you incapable of experiencing the world in a way that allows you to be functional in society or impairs your ability to have fulfilling relationships with those around you, is it worth it?

    I feel different enough from everyone else as it is. There are enough things I think I understand in my head that I don’t seem to be able to find the words to communicate to those around me, that I can’t imagine doing anything to make that worse. If it were a conscious choice, and that happened, I’m not sure I could live with it.

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