Culturing Consciousness

I published an essay with The Side View, a new media environment focusing on philosophy as the art of perception & attention. The essay draws from Michael Pollan’s recent book on psychedelics and Thomas Metzinger’s self-model theory of subjectivity to explore the ideology behind a ‘culture of consciousness’.

From the essay:

As with most psychedelic experiences, for Pollan the sensations kindled by the toad venom were quickly overpowered by the return of ordinary consciousness. All too familiar layers of neuroses, insecurities, and anxieties again coated that raw skin of sentience, which for a moment was resplendent with wonder and gratitude. Pollan returned to his former enclosure of consciousness. In this sense, psychedelic trips are just that—trips, from which we inevitably return. But the movement between psychedelic and habitual states can also catalyze movements toward contemplative practice, toward those exercises designed to poke holes in the accumulated layers between our unexamined selves and the potent, wider terrains of consciousness they occlude. Put differently, contemplative practices, like the practice of philosophy I’m describing here, render the conscious mind, the self-model, more porous to that which it habitually filters out. It is the “I” coming to see itself in the mirror.