By Leo Gura - March 31, 2017
I want you to rethink your notion of what hallucination is.
Various dictionaries define hallucination as:
- “Perception of objects with no reality.”
- “A sensory experience in which a person can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that is not there.”
In our culture, the label “hallucination” has a strong negative connotation because it implies a thing is unreal and hence inferior.
The problem, of course, with these definitions is that they assume a naive realist paradigm. Meaning, they don’t take seriously the possibility that nothing may exist outside of mind. How can we ever distinguish a hallucination from a normal perception, given that the only thing we have of reality is perception itself? We can never validate our perceptions by matching them up to some other facts — not even in theory — because all facts must be perceived to be known. Perceptions are the only facts we’ve got! If hallucination is defined as a perception of something which isn’t really there, then that opens the possibility that the entire world is a hallucination, because you can NEVER be sure that there is anything behind your perceptions.
And that’s exactly right! The trouble is, people don’t take this conclusion seriously. They dismiss it as some philosophical abstraction.
If you’re like the typical person, you hold hallucination as a category of experience which is separate from ordinary “real” experience. To you, hallucinations are clearly unreal and inferior to real perceptions. But now I want you to consider the radical possibility that everything is a hallucination! Consider that there are not two categories of experience, one “real” and one “hallucinatory”, but only one category: hallucination. You might wonder, “But Leo… Why call this one category hallucination instead of perception?” Because hallucination is closer to the fact. Hallucination is defined as perception without an object. Which is EXACTLY what we’ve got! Which is why mystics all around the world have referred to reality as “a dream”, “an illusion”, “Maya”, etc.
Perception = hallucination! There is nothing else behind it! There is no physical, external world behind your everyday perceptions. Which literally means that what you think of as solid, tangible, physical, material reality is just a hallucination, albeit a rather persistent one — one which is shared by most of the people in your tribe. That is, until you start to play around with altered states of consciousness or psychedelics. Then you quickly realize how intangible, unreal, and hallucinatory your everyday experience was all along.
This is exactly why psychedelics are so effective. And also exactly why they are so demonized by mainstream culture. The problem with psychedelics from the social point of view is that they reveal the distinction between “real” and “unreal” to be an artificial construction. And that’s bad for business.
The problem with people who demonize psychedelics is that they assume that they will ingest this physical chemical substance which will then alter their physical material brain, conjuring up “just” hallucinations. So why bother trying it, right? It’s just going to be some wacky fantastical delusion which has no bearing on real physical life.
But this logic makes some overlooked existential assumptions: 1) An assumption is made that the distinction between “real” and “hallucinatory” is somehow inherent to reality rather than artificially constructed by human consensus. 2) An assumption is made that psychedelic experiences are less genuine or truthful than ordinary experiences. 3) An assumption is made that things like “the brain”, “the body”, “chemicals”, “reality” are all REAL physical things, and not themselves hallucinations or conceptual constructions. 4) An assumption is made that a hallucinated chemical cannot interact with a hallucinated brain to reveal the hallucinatory nature of hallucination. But what if everything you’ve ever experienced or known, including the idea that your experience is “real”, is just a hallucination? What if you’re begging the question due to paradigm lock?
Think of it this way: if you are lying in bed sound asleep, you can dream up a hallucinated alien chasing your hallucinated body while you fight it off with a hallucinated machine gun which can puncture its hallucinated skin resulting it a hallucinated victory and even a hallucinated feeling of joy. So in a dream — precisely BECAUSE everything is a hallucination — a hallucinated weapon is very useful. Without it, you might get eaten alive!
Now, what if what you call “reality” works just like that?
That would be quite the mindfuck! Which is why so many people who casually try psychedelics get terrified. If we are familiar with the deep lessons of epistemology, that’s exactly what we should expect when people make such deep existential assumptions so carelessly. You CANNOT accurately evaluate consciousness from a naive realist paradigm! The paradigm is so deeply flawed that the only way it can be sustained is by staying far away from any possible altered states of consciousness. Your life must be designed to maintain the consistency of your experience, because literally your entire sense of reality depends upon it. So if ever such a person happens to casually ingest a psychedelic substance, they have one of two choices: reject the experience, blaming it on the evil, delusional psychedelic, or swallow their pride, admit they were deeply wrong about the nature of reality, and have their entire paradigm overthrown.
Let me be very clear what I’m saying here: reality is literally a self-interactive hallucination, whether you’re on psychedelics or not. There is no such thing as “real”. The notion of a “reality” had to be constructed by humans! How else would it exist? It exists from the human’s point of view. The reason it SEEMS so real is precisely because there’s nothing to easily contrast it with — the hallucination is so all-encompassing you can’t see its edges.
To avoid this inconvenient truth, mainstream society expends a lot of energy spinning intricate webs of belief, ideologies, and rules to construct and maintain bubbles of delusion which insist that ordinary experience is really “real”. What society must tell you is, “No! Reality is really real! It is that way! We didn’t construct it. We promise! Trust us. What, are you crazy??? Do you want us to lock you up in the loony bin?” But the truth is, the notion of “reality” is just a social convention. It is a useful convention in order to get a normative grip over the minds of the masses so they can be manipulated towards the propagation of the species.
No wonder the world is so ideologically fucked up. People are eager to kill other people over mere webs of belief because the very nature of reality and the success of the species is at stake (for them). Now that’s what you call Maya at its finest!
The irony is that this insight was revealed to me by a psychedelic.
P.S. You might still be left wondering, “But Leo… What about REAL crazy people, like those who hallucinate demons? Aren’t they really psycho?”
Well… Maybe they aren’t as psycho as they seem. After all, what is the concept “psycho” but a social convention? If you really cared about understanding “psychos”, you’d have to find a way to enter their paradigm, their reality. And if you ever did, maybe you’d agree with them
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