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October 8 2012
Graham, during the Origins of Consciousness symposium and workshop on Sunday, October 14, you’ll posit that sacramental psychoactive plants were the catalyst for the development of the modern human mind.
What I’m proposing is that the deliberate induction of altered states of consciousness -- trance states quite distinct from the alert problem-solving states of consciousness used for hunting and other day-to-day survival activities – were the catalyst for the development of the modern human mind. Ancient hunter-gatherer cultures universally developed “technologies” for inducing these altered states of consciousness and in many parts of the world these “technologies” were based on extensive knowledge and use of psychoactive plants.
But where intensely psychoactive plants were not available, or not discovered – and Australia may be an example of that – other “technologies” were used to achieve the desired altered states of consciousness, for example, fasting, sensory deprivation (e.g. in deep caves, meditation, rhythmic dancing, etc, etc). This was the case amongst the San bushmen of South Africa, where shamans used rhythmic dancing around a blazing fire to induce trance states, and I think it was likely true of the Aboriginal culture of Australia as well. To my regret, however, I have not yet had the opportunity to study Australia’s First Peoples closely. This is a gap in my knowledge that I hope to remedy in the future.
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