In further consideration of the Rodriguez paper on how to test the reality of DMT entities, it would be instructive to consider James Kent’s essay on The Case Against DMT Elves. Rodriguez suggests that we can ask the entities to give up some information that we don’t already know, in this case the answer to a maths problem, and the entity can then tell someone else on DMT later. Trouble is, according to Kent (who has tried something similar himself), the DMT entities are not so keen on helping out, which doesn't seem very sporting…
…the more I experimented with DMT the more I found that the "elves" were merely machinations of my own mind. While under the influence I found I could think them into existence, and then think them right out of existence simply by willing it so. Sometimes I could not produce elves, and my mind would wander through all sorts of magnificent and amazing creations, but the times that I did see elves I tried very hard to press them into giving up some non-transient feature that would confirm at least a rudimentary "autonomous existence" beyond my own imagination. Of course, I could not. Whenever I tried to pull any information out of the entities regarding themselves, the data that was given up was always relevant only to me. The elves could not give me any piece of data I did not already know, nor could their existence be sustained under any kind of prolonged scrutiny. Like a dream, once you realize you are dreaming you are actually slipping into wakefulness and the dream fades. So it is with the elves as well. When you try to shine a light of reason on them they dissolve like shadows.
More of… The Case Against DMT Elves
My first casual thought is, didn't McKenna say he traded his knowledge of the mathematical structure of the I Ching for something or other off the elves? Maybe they like a bit of mysticism mixed with their maths :-)
I've not read James Kent's book, but what I've read of him makes me remember why I'm increasingly uninterested in attempts to prove or disprove the "reality" of these things, if "reality" is a basic, common sense, unexamined inheritance of the Enlightenment. "When you try to shine a light of reason on them they dissolve like shadows." Of this I've no doubt - I guess most people start out looking for something that no amount of rational thought will dispel, as the ultimate test of reality. The fact is, all you discover by applying 100% uncut rational thought is the world created by reason. A valid world, very useful, but less than "reality" (as many of reason's own fruits in neuroscience and depth psychology show).
Kent's arguments seem like a very modern verbal sorcery of reduction and explanation. Useful for cooling down the over-excited who are carried away by the "literal reality" of visionary states; but in the crossfire the most interesting, non-literal realities can get badly damaged.
I couldn't have put it better, though I'm glad someone else did. Personally, I don't really buy Kent's take on DMT entities but I thought I'd better put his piece up to have some balance in the debate, and because I think Rodriguez's point about asking the elves for evidence of their own existence seems unlikely to succeed.
Lets face it if these entities are as sentient and intelligent as they seem and they want to prove their existence then I'm sure they would have found a way to do so by now, without having to wait for human scientists or philosophers to come up with a suitable test to do so. This either means that they aren't independently sentient (as Kent would have it) or that they are sentient but don't want to prove themselves to exist, or at least they aren't bothered.
Elves being what they are - mischievous - this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Once more, the ontology of elves twists and glimmers tantalisingly in the liminal light... they remain neither real nor not. And off they dance back to Tir Na Nog.
Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality is the touchstone for me here. It's the same with UFOs. If they're "real", why do they land in the middle of Nowheresville instead of on the White House lawn? If they're "delusions", why are they so persistent and widespread? The answer is annoying and non-existent, and in-between...
Then again, reading more of that Kent piece, I like where he goes - out from the specific autonomous existence of "the elves" to admitting that there's some undeniable "other" intelligence in there of a Gaian sort (McKenna's basic thesis of course). It's an interesting tack. Maybe the focus on the "elves" is part of our anthropocentrism, honing in on something that's vaguely like us, whereas the real deal is distributed through the whole landscape of this experience.
Interesting set of posts that I'll be coming back to. It struck me that there might be some links between DMT entities and the bicameral mind, which I wrote up at http://adeeplust.blogspot.com/ .
Jaynes' stuff is great, and ahead of his time. But the problem for me with this, like the neuropsychological model for the origins of rock art (as per David Lewis-Williams), is that it's wholly based on the materialist-Cartesian framework, which is kind of solipsist.
I've just been reading Robert Wallis' forthcoming paper for Time & Mind, and Thomas Dowson's paper 'Debating Shamanism in South African Rock Art: Time To Move On' (South African Archaeological Bulletin 62 (185): 49–61, 2007). Both are trying to push the "rock art and shamanic trance" debate forward by taking seriously the animist worldviews of indigenous cultures. Of course this is rooted in the autonomous existence of "other-than-human" persons - though not necessarily anything to do with little elves popping up in literalized visions. Reading Graham Harvey's book Animism, and piecing together all I read on the subject over the years, it seems to me this worldview, as enacted by indigenous cultures, is highly sophisticated. Materialist-Cartesian dismissal of it seems to largely stem from seeing it from within that framework. "Autonomous entities" are seen as autonomous (or not), according to the materialist worldview, and when you say these non-human entities are autonomous within this framework, you get into all sorts of conceptual difficulties. If you break the whole framework down and shift your basic ontology - not just saying "these things are real!" - it's much more interesting.
Of course we can't just ditch our recent heritage, we have to build on it in some way, too. I think Jung's "psychoid" concept is worth building on (though not without its problems).
The Jaynes thing and the neuropsychology thing in rock art are both good wedges in the door that leads to animism. I think the thing that allows us to step through - within the Western tradition of thought - is phenomenology. Saying these perceived entities or forms are "in fact" generated by our brains is, in fact, creating a secondary structure of explanation that - if embraced as primary - alienates us from our direct experience. We can't just believe our direct experience literally, but if you decouple your sense of reality from literalist ideas, you can start to reconnect to your direct experience as your primary mode of being in the world.
Or something. There's a whole load of good stuff on this, I'm just starting to get into it...
Is it not true that scientists have gotten images from the Imagination?
So why put down elves then? ;)
Is it not true that Maria Sabina received knowledge of healing plants from sacred mushroom spirits?
You see there is great danger when 'ration-ality' get's too full of itself. Maybe the 'elves' disappear because of sheer boredeom when confronted with such insistent arrogance...?
'the light of reason...' I mean to say. If I were an elf I wouldn't help out such a pompous bore out of spite....
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