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Fri, 04 Dec 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Will you choose freedom?

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In George Orwell's classic dystopian novel "1984," protagonist Winston wonders whether he is the only person who retains a real memory and doubts the narrative of The Party. He has no way to find out whether everyone else truly believes the government-revised version of history, or simply acts like they do; discussing such matters is verboten, punishable by vaporization: deletion from history. Fortunately we are not quite at that point in the United States — no one has yet been vaporized.

However, we seem to be imprisoned by the force of social disapproval just as surely as Winston was imprisoned by the threat of instant death. Millions of lockdown opponents won't make their position known even to their closest family and friends; taking a position publicly is unthinkable — they would lose social standing, clients, and possibly even their jobs. Thanks to this dynamic, the pro-lockdown crowd enjoys the appearance of majority consensus, and everyone gets...more lockdown.


Scientists induce psychedelic-like experiences from a placebo alone

psychedelic head
New research recently published in Psychopharmacology provides evidence that inert placebo pills can induce psychedelic-like effects, including perceptual alterations. The findings highlight the importance of expectations and context when ingesting psychedelic substances. The study also sheds some light on the mystery of so-called contact highs.

"I am interested in placebos generally and in particular in maximizing their effects. When I was reading clinical trials of psychedelic drugs, I was surprised by the low placebo effects reported in many studies," said study author Jay Olson, who recently earned his PhD in psychiatry from McGill University.

"We have other evidence that people can have psychedelic-like effects without taking the drug. For example, in the case of 'contact highs' in which people feel the effects of drugs merely by being around people who have consumed the drug. Or, other people have reported having experiences after taking fake drugs, such as after consuming empty blotter paper rather than LSD. We thus thought that with the right context, we may be able to promote strong placebo psychedelic effects."

Comment: Notably the percentage of people who experienced some placebo effect correlates with studies on placebos more generally that show around 50% of people report effects experiencing some effect: Also check out SOTT radio's:

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More entitled people get angrier after experiencing bad luck

bad luck
We've all had the experience of losing our temper when being treated unfairly by someone else. And while anger isn't the most pleasant emotion, it can be a useful social tool to signal to another person that we're not happy with how they're acting towards us.

But what about when we suffer because of bad luck, rather someone else's actions? In that case it would seem to make little sense to get mad. And yet, a new study in Personality and Individual Differences finds that a certain group of people are more likely to show anger in such situations: those who feel like they are particularly entitled in the first place.

Psychological entitlement is essentially a belief that you deserve more than others. People who score highly in entitlement tend to think that others should be accommodating of their own needs and schedules, for instance, and are more likely to see themselves as being mistreated. When their high expectations aren't met, they can experience reduced wellbeing and feelings of anger.

Comment: Here we see a direct connection between high expectations and entitlement, and the natural reaction of anger when the world doesn't conform to unrealistic expectations. Everyone experiences entitlement and high expectations to varying degrees, but these things can be managed with just a bit of self reflection and observation about the world. And as far as good luck goes, fortune favors the prepared mind.

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MindMatters: Interview with Alan Francis: The Fourth Way, Taoism and Spiritual Development

alan francis
Today on MindMatters we interview Alan Francis, a longtime Fourth Way practitioner, teacher and author of the book Secrets of the Fourth Way. Alan is the founder of the Russian Center for Gurdjieff Studies as well as the International School of the Fourth Way, planned to open this coming winter. Our discussion covers a range of topics, from Alan's early life experiences that led him to the Fourth Way, basic Fourth Way topics like kundabuffer and Gurdjieff's take on kundalini, addiction, and fear, to 'powers and principalities', Taoist alchemy and its possible significance in relation to Gurdjieff's ideas and practice, concluding with a demonstration of a unique Fourth Way gymnastics exercise.

Alan's Facebook group is accessible here.

Running Time: 01:42:06

Download: MP3 — 93.5 MB


Massive study suggests dreams are really continuations of reality

Dream Study
© Alex Blăjan/Unsplash
Where do dreams come from? It's an age-old question, something people have been wondering and theorising about for millennia.

Whereas ancient civilisations may have interpreted dreams as having supernatural or spiritual origins, in modern society, we're more likely to analyse our dreams in terms of our waking life, looking for meaningful connections linking the content of dreams with lived experiences from our day-to-day existence.

"Research has repeatedly provided strong support for what sleep scientists refer to as the 'continuity hypothesis of dreams': most dreams are a continuation of what is happening in everyday life," researchers led by computer scientist Alessandro Fogli from Roma Tre University in Italy explain in a new study.

"It turns out that everyday life impacts dreaming (e.g. anxiety in life leads to dreams with negative affect) and vice versa (e.g. dreaming impacts problem-solving skills)."

These psychological theories date back to the work of Sigmund Freud and others in the 20th century, who spearheaded the notion that the hidden meanings of dreams could be unlocked when examined within the context of a person's real-world experiences.

In contemporary dream analysis, therapists attempt to help patients interpret their dreams, via the use of dream reports, looking for clues, symbols, and structures that might correspond with other parts of the dreamer's life.

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MindMatters: Dark Triad Politics: The Psychology of the Far Left and Alt Right

Narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy are the three components of what psychologists and social scientists call the 'Dark Triad' - personality traits that inform how one thinks and what one does. And dark they are because these personality features represent some of the very worst that humanity has to offer itself. As we continue to see the chaos and destruction being savaged on Western society by far left groups who claim to be fighting for justice and equality, some new studies go to show that their "liberal" sentiments belie a deeper pathology. What these activists are actually doing is acting out their Dark Triad tendencies - which fly in the face of the very values they claim to espouse and closely resemble their supposed political 'enemies' on the far right.

This week on MindMatters we delve into the world of extremist politics and entitlement to examine what really lies behind the righteous curtain of political ideology on the left and the right, and how more moderate voices are co-opted and exploited by their more radical confrères. 'Politically correct liberals', 'politically correct authoritarians', 'white identitarians': whatever the ideological mask, the root problem is the psychopathic element who influence and distort every type of belief system. When we realize that, perhaps we'll be able to get somewhere.

For the paper discussed, see here.

Running Time: 01:08:18

Download: MP3 — 62.5 MB

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What personality traits predict psychopathy and sex drive?

silhouette kiss
© Hoang Loc from Pexels
New research examines the link the "Dark Tetrad" and other characteristics.

It's a fine line between sanity and insanity, or so they say. But what about personality? How big is the difference between traits such as psychopathy and more common and socially approved ones?

New research published in the European Journal of Psychological Assessment may hold an answer. A team of psychologists led by Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia conducted a study in which they sought to map the four aspects of what is referred to as the "Dark Tetrad" to the five best-known and most widely researched dimensions of personality — that is, extraversion, openness to experience, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

Comment: See also:


New guidance on brain death

Brain Death Redefined
As part of the World Brain Death Project, an international group of doctors has written guidelines that help identify whether a person’s brain no longer functions, completely and irreversibly. That information can be used to determine when to take a patient off life support.
When your brain stops working — completely and irreversibly — you're dead. But drawing the line between life and brain death isn't always easy. A new report attempts to clarify that distinction, perhaps helping to ease the anguish of family members with a loved one whose brain has died but whose heart still beats.

Brain death has been a recognized concept in medicine for decades. But there's a lot of variation in how people define it, says Gene Sung, a neurocritical care physician at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "Showing that there is some worldwide consensus, understanding and agreement at this time will hopefully help minimize misunderstanding of what brain death is," Sung says.

As part of the World Brain Death Project, Sung and his colleagues convened doctors from professional societies around the world to forge a consensus on how to identify brain death. This group, including experts in critical care, neurology and neurosurgery, reviewed the existing research on brain death (which was slim) and used their clinical expertise to write the recommendations, published August 3 in JAMA. In addition to the main guidelines, the final product included 17 supplements that address legal and religious aspects, provide checklists and flowcharts, and even trace the history of relevant medical advances. "Basically, we wrote a book," Sung says.

The minimum requirement for determining brain death is "a good, thorough clinical examination," Sung says. Before the exam even occurs, doctors ought to verify that a person has experienced a neurological injury or condition that could cause brain death. Next, clinicians should look for other explanations, conditions that could mimic brain death but are actually reversible. Cooling the body, a procedure for treating heart attacks, can cause brain function to temporarily disappear, the report points out. So can certain drugs, alcohol and other toxins.

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Dark Triad traits and entitlement linked to both authoritarian political correctness and white nationalist beliefs

socialist protesters berkley
© Thomas Hawk
People with "dark" personality characteristics, such as psychopathy, as well as people with a greater sense of entitlement are more likely to be adherents of White Identitarianism or politically correct authoritarianism, according to new research that appears in the journal Heliyon. The findings suggest that those on the far-left and those on the far-right share some common personality dispositions.

"I became interested in the topic during my undergraduate degree. In the social psychology courses I took, it was clear that there were things you were 'allowed' to say and things you were not," said study author Jordan Moss, a medical student at Sydney Medical School.

"For instance, the blank-slate hypothesis was maintained, and any comments appreciating the genetic contribution to individual or group differences were met with incredible resistance. At the time, I became aware of Jordan Peterson in his opposition to Bill C-16, and examples of 'controversial' speakers getting 'cancelled' at university campuses were becoming more frequent."

Comment: See also:

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MindMatters: First Sight, Polyvagal Theory, and Contemplative Practices

vagus nerve
What does meditation or contemplation have to do with our physiology? And what is the possible connection between our autonomic nervous system and a coherent theory of psi? Today on MindMatters we bring together three topics: contemplative practice (see our interviews with Fr. Joseph Azize), first sight theory (see our interview with Dr. Jim Carpenter), and Stephen Porges's polyvagal theory, as discussed in a recent book by Stanley Rosenberg, Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve.

Porges's work on the two branches of the vagus nerve, and the states of consciousness they are involved in, has important implications for physical and mental health. But the connections may go even further than that, into areas considered spiritual or even paranormal. The states facilitated by ventral vagus nerve activation have a lot in common with the conditions most conducive to eliciting psi, both in the lab and in everyday life. And together they may explain certain features of contemplative states and practices.

Running Time: 01:11:32

Download: MP3 — 65.5 MB