The Brain “Receiver of Reality”

Most of us, including the most hard-nosed neuroscientists and non-materialistic mystics, accept that the brain is a machine, the instrument of consciousness. It is a bodily organ made up of cells and tissues, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It processes raw sensory data delivered by the sense organs using electricity and chemicals.

If we accept the “receiver of reality” model for brain function, let’s compare it to another receiver with which we’re all familiar: the television. By making the analogy of the brain to the TV, it’s possible to think of how altered states of consciousness, including psychedelic ones brought about by DMT, relate to the brain as a sophisticated receiver…

What happens when the spirit molecule pulls and pushes us beyond the physical and emotional levels of awareness? We enter into invisible realms, ones we cannot normally sense and whose presence we can scarcely imagine…let’s consider the proposal that when our volunteers journeyed to the furthest bounds of DMT’s reach, when they felt as if they were somewhere else, they were indeed perceiving different levels of reality. The alternative levels are just as real as this one. It’s just that we cannot perceive them most of the time…

Returning to the TV analogy, these cases suggest that, rather than merely adjusting the brightness, contrast, and colour of the previous program, we have changed the channel…DMT provides regular, repeated, and reliable access to “other” channels. The other planes of existence are always there. In fact, they are right here, transmitting all the time! But we cannot perceive them because we are not designed to do so; our hard-wiring keeps us tuned in to Channel Normal. It takes only a second or two – the few heartbeats the spirit molecule requires to make its way to the brain – to change the channel, to open our mind to these other planes of existence…

Perhaps just the right amount of DMT is involved in the brain’s maintenance of the correct receiving properties…Too much and all manner of unusual and unexpected programs appear on the mind’s screen. Too little, and our view of the world dims and flattens…Perhaps we see and feel what we do on this level of existence because of just the right amount of endogenous DMT. It is an essential component maintaining our brain’s awareness of everyday reality. In a way, we might consider DMT to be a “reality thermostat” keeping
us in a narrow band of awareness so as to ensure our survival. (pp 311-327)

DMT elicited ideas, feelings, thoughts, and images our volunteers said they could never have imagined. Psychedelics stimulate the imagination, and thus they are logical tools to enhance creativity. The problems facing our society and planet require the use of novel ideas as much as new and more powerful technology. It’s impossible to overstate the urgent need to improve our imaginative abilities. Psychedelics may provide a powerful tool for doing so.

I’ve mentioned previously Harman’s and Fadiman’s 1960’s studies of psychedelics’ positive effects on problem solving. Research subjects, all professionals in their fields, found that many of these psychedelically enhanced solutions were quite effective. There currently are many well-characterized ways of measuring creativity, including artistic,
scientific, psychological, spiritual, and emotional. It would be relatively straightforward to renew research into psychedelics’ effects on this crucial human quality.

Many definitions of imagination refer to the divine nature of this attribute. To conceive of and produce something new allows us to share in some of God’s creative power. Our imagination extends us by thought into places where nothing previously existed. (p 341)

Strassmann. R (2001) DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Vermont. Park Street Press.


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