Our current mystical technologies are primitive, but one day, neurotheologians may find a technology that gives us permanent, blissful self-transcendence with no side effects. Should we really welcome such a development? Recall that in the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA funded research on psychedelics because of their potential as brainwashing agents and truth serums.
Even setting aside the issue of control, mystical technologies raise troubling philosophical issues. Shulgin, the psychedelic chemist, once wrote that a perfect mystical technology would bring about "the ultimate evolution, and perhaps the end of the human experiment." When I asked Shulgin to elaborate, he said that if we achieve permanent mystical bliss, there would be "no motivation, no urge to change anything, no creativity." Both science and religion aim to eliminate suffering. But if a mystical technology makes us immune to anxiety, grief, and heartache, are we still fully human? Have we gained something or lost something? In short, would a truly effective mystical technology—a God machine that works—save us, or doom us?
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
John Horgan on how to wire your brain for religious ecstasy.