Psychedelics and memes

Dave Gross (
Wed, 9 Jun 1999 11:08:03 -0700 (PDT)

Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 11:08:03 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dave Gross <>
Subject: Psychedelics and memes
In-Reply-To: <>

Well, I've given some thought to this area, so I'll throw out a few
observations, although I'm worried that a discussion like this is liable
to go flying off-topic in a hurry.

First, a mention of Terence McKenna, who has done some intriguing
theorizing about the role of psychedelics in the development of language
in our species. His theory is that synesthesia, a common symptom of the
psychedelic drugs wherein the senses overlap - sounds are seen, textures
are heard, etc. - enabled hominids to share images and feelings during
psychedelic-mushroom use through the use of sound in the form of chants or
songs without syntax. Language later developed from these roots.

For more information on McKenna's theories, take a look at:

I used to be quite the psychedelic enthusiast, and although these days I
don't even smoke the killer marihuana, I still have great respect for
these monkey-wrenches of the mind.

One reason is this: the memetic perspective has led me to see many of the
ideas and fashions and such that flow through our culture as a source of
unwanted parasitization. My somewhat related hobbies of urban legend
research ( and an interest in
historical hoaxes, fakes, frauds, impostors and popular delusions
( only further inform me that human society is
swimming in an ocean of bullshit.

If my own ideas, beliefs, et cetera are the equivalent of a raging case of
cognitive crabs, psychedelic drugs are the best medical ointment yet
discovered to treat this infestation.

Psychedelics have a reputation as "hallucinogens" but in my experience
they tend to be just the opposite. They most strongly disrupt the
linguistic and cognitive structures by which a person orders the world,
while leaving the actual perception of the world more-or-less intact (with
some fireworks and oddities thrown in). These linguistic and cognitive
structures are frequently self-interested memetic parasites that don't
operate in our best interests and are even more "hallucinogenic" than the
perception-altering drugs.

This is why, I think, you have this paradox in which people take a drug
that so removes them from consensus-reality and yet they often report
feeling a closer understanding of reality after having the experience.

> > I have another area of discussion I would like to broach concerning memes.
> > What do you all think that psychedelic substances, like peyote or
> > mushrooms, play in understanding memes or creating new ones?

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