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A Comprehensive Analysis of Hallucinogen Induced States of Unity and Interconnectedness (revised)

I am writing this article to serve as an up to date and dedicated analysis regarding my current understanding of what I consider to be the most profound and important free-standing component within the entirety of the hallucinogenic experience.

In the past, I have already written about the experience of states of unity and interconnectedness within this article here. This piece of writing was based purely on that of detailed descriptions which I had received from friends and readers but not of my own. Over the last few months however both I and those around me have undergone a set of extremely profound and personal experiences with this state, which has in turn directly increased my level of understanding to something far beyond what it previously was and created the need for a revised and more extensive article on the same subject.

It’s worth noting before I begin this article that any statement made below is not in any way being asserted as absolute truth. I am not remotely close to fully grasping or even comprehending the logic behind this experience or its many potential consequences and I doubt that any of us ever truly will be. I am simply conveying my current understanding and have done my best to keep the information in line with a rational, sceptical and scientific perspective. It is therefore completely open to rigorous intellectual debate and I encourage all of you to point out any flaws in my reasoning by emailing me or using the comment system below.

To begin with, I will describe the specific subjective experience and consistently reported effects found within this state on a very general level. I will then begin to break it down into its separate levels in a much higher level of detail.

After this has been done I will provide examples of identical and similar states which are documented throughout humanity’s collective historical, philosophical and scientific literature as substantial evidence for the existence of this experience. Along side of this I will provide a large number of written detailed accounts and include my personal hypothesis regarding the potential neurological mechanisms and metaphysical logic underlying the very experience which I am about to explain.

The effects of the state itself start with a change in perspective which is consistently interpreted as the removal of a deeply embedded and all encompassing illusion. The destruction of this apparent illusion leads onto feelings that the tripper frequently interprets as some sort of profound “awakening” or “enlightenment”.

Once removed, the illusion feels as though it has always been in place, forcing a person’s perspective of the world into feeling as if their concept of “self”, “I” or “me” with which they identify themselves as, is assumed to intrinsically follow two fundamental rules. The first of these rules is that the self is inherently separate from the external environment and could not possibly extend into it. The second is that the self is specifically limited to not even the physical body as a whole, but exclusively a person’s internal narrative and the image of their own personality as built up through social interactions with other people.

The absence of this apparent illusion leads people into feelings which are commonly described as a state of total unity, oneness or interconnectivity between their sense of self and external concepts or systems which were previously perceived as inherently separate from ones being and identity.

Depending on the degree to which this illusion has been lifted, it can lead onto five possible levels of cognitive intensities of progressively more complex effects, each of which are perfectly capable of spontaneously sustaining their perspective for weeks, months or even years after the experience itself. These levels can be defined as…

Unity between specific external systems,

The lowest and least complex level can be referred to as a state of “unity between specific external systems”. This is the only level of intensity in which the subjective experience of unity does not involve a state of interconnectedness between the self and the external. Instead, it can be described as a perceived sense of unity between two or more systems within the external environment which in every day life, are usually perceived as separate from both the self and each other.

This effect can manifest itself in an endless number of forms but common examples of the experience often include,

  • A sense of unity between specific living things such as animals or plants and their surrounding ecosystems.
  • A sense of unity between specific human beings and the objects they are currently interacting with.
  • A sense of unity between any number of currently perceivable inanimate objects.
  • A sense of unity between humanity and nature.
  • A sense of unity between literally any combination of perceivable external systems and concepts.

Unity between the self and specific external systems,

The second of these two levels can be referred to as a state of “unity between the self and specific external systems”. It can be defined as the experience of a loss of perceived boundaries between a person’s sense of self and the specific physical systems or concepts within the perceivable external environment which are currently comprising the central point of cognitive focus.

This effect can manifest itself in an endless number of forms but common examples of the experience often include,

  • Becoming one with a specific object which you are interacting with.
  • Becoming one with a specific person which you interacting with. (particularly common if engaging in sexual or romantic activities)
  • Becoming one with the entirety of your physical body.
  • Becoming one with large crowds of people. (particularly common at raves and music festivals)
  • Becoming one with the external environment but not the people within it.

This creates a sensation which is often described by people as the experience of becoming inextricably connected to, one with, the same as or unified with whatever the perceived external system happens to be.

Unity between the self and all perceivable external systems,

The third of these five differing levels of intensity can be referred to as a state of unity between the self and all perceivable external systems. It is defined as the experience of a loss of perceived boundaries between a person’s sense of self and the entirety of the currently perceivable external environment. The experience as a whole is generally described by people as “becoming one with my surroundings”.

This is felt to be the result of a person’s central sense of self becoming attributed to not just the internal narrative of the ego, but in equal measure to the body itself and everything around it with which it is physically connected to through the senses. Once this sensation is in place, it creates the undeniable perspective that you are the external environment experiencing itself through the specific point within it that this body’s physical sensory awareness and conscious thought happens to currently reside in.

It’s at this level that a key component of the unity experience becomes an extremely noticeable factor. Once a persons sense of self has become attributed to the entirety of their surroundings, this new perspective completely changes how it feels to physically interact with what was previously felt to be an external environment. For example, when physically interacting with an object in everyday life it feels very simply that you are a central agent organizing the world around itself. However, whilst undergoing a state of unity with the currently perceivable environment, interacting with an external object consistently feel as if the system as a whole is autonomously organizing itself and that you are no longer a central agent operating the process of interaction. Instead the process suddenly feels completely decentralized and mutual across itself as the environment begins to autonomously, mechanically and harmoniously respond to itself to perform the predetermined function of the particular interaction.

Unity between the self and all external systems,

The fourth of these five differing levels of intensity can be referred to as a “state of unity between the self and all external systems”. It is defined as the experience of a loss of perceived boundaries between a persons sense of self, the perceivable external environment and all which they know to exist outside of this through their internally stored model of reality. This feels as if your sense of self has become attributed to not just the external environment but all of humanity, nature and the universe as it presently stands in its complete entirety. The experience of this is generally described by people as “becoming one with the universe”.

Once in place, this perspective creates the sudden and undeniable sensation that you are quite literally the entire universe experiencing itself, exploring itself and performing actions onto itself through the very specific point of space and time which your ego and conscious perception happens to currently reside in. This feeling is immediately and universally understood to be an innate and undeniable truth by anybody who undergoes it.

Unity between the self and the creation of all external systems,

The fifth and most experientially profound of these five differing levels of intensity can be referred to as a “state of unity between the self and the creation of all external systems”. It is defined as the experience of a loss of perceived boundaries between a persons sense of self and all external systems of behaviour. This includes not just the systems as they currently stand within the present moment but at each known point of their existence throughout all time lines past, present and future as dictated by the persons internally stored model of reality.

When experienced, this feels as if your sense of self has become attributed to all of space and time including every single past and future event such as the initial creation and eventual destruction of existence. This perspective consistently leads on to the innate revelation and sensation that the you in terms of your true self (everything) are personally and consciously responsible for the deliberate design and creation of the universe itself.

It’s at this point where multiple interlocking sub perspectives and innately extrapolated conclusions of a religious and metaphysical nature begin to come into play. These generally include but are not limited to,

  • The sudden and total acceptance of death as a fundamental component of ones life. This is because death is no longer felt to be the destruction of the self but simply the end of this specific point of conscious awareness, the vast majority of which has always existed and will continue to exist and live on through everything else in which it resides.
  • A perspective which feels personally responsible for the design, planning and implementation of every single specific detail and plot element of ones personal life, the history of humanity and the universe as a whole. This naturally includes personal culpability for humanities sufferings and its flaws but also its acts of love and its achievements.
  • The religious or spiritual realization that the persons preconceived notions behind their concept of “god” or “god-hood” can now be felt through a forced change in perspective as identical to the nature of ones true self. This realization is generally reached through the subconscious conclusion that the usually differing concepts of god-hood and self are both now identically defined as that which is the all knowing, all encompassing, all powerful creator and sustainer of this existence.

Examples of unity throughout history and culture,

After performing research into similar states or ideas of unity and how it relates to the supposedly illusory nature of our current concept of ones self, it has quickly become evident that others have been reaching consistent conclusions throughout many points within humanity’s historical and modern literature. These similar or even identical accounts can be found across a variety of religious, philosophical and psychological sources. I have done my best to collect, link and list all of these documented examples below,

  • In psychology, egolessness is a documented emotional state where one feels no ego (or self); of having no distinct being apart from the world around oneself. This is often described as feelings of oneness and being inextricably woven to the fabric of one’s surroundings or environment.
  • In philosophy, Monism is a philosophical position which argues that there is only one thing, which all things are not separate from but working together within as a unified system of behaviour.
  • In psychology, oceanic feeling is a state which is described as a sensation of an indissoluble bond, as of being connected with the external world in its integral form and considered to be the source of religious energy. From this perspective, the feeling is referred to as an entirely subjective fact and is not an article of faith.
  • In Hindu philosophy, Nondualism is an idea which states that there is no difference between the concept of Brahman (the external environment) and Ātman (the self).
  • Alan Watts, a well known philosopher who lived in recent times spoke extensively about the illusory nature of the self. His lectures are extremely informative and can be found for free on the Pirate Bay and in parts within many videos across YouTube. His book “The book on the taboo of knowing who you are” is dedicated to a formal explanation of the philosophies and logic behind this perspective and can be found within the form of a free PDF here.
  • In philosophy, Interconnectedness defines itself as part of the terminology of a world view which sees a oneness in all things. This is based upon the idea that all things are of a single underlying substance and reality, and that there is no true separation deeper than appearances.
  • In Buddhist literature, Samadhi is described as a state of mind in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object.
  • Alexander Shulgin, a well known biochemist who discovered hundreds of novel psychedelics developed a simple scale for the measurement of the subjective effect of psychoactive substances at a given dosage. This is known as the Shulgin Rating Scale and defined as a four tier levelling system of description, the highest level of which is described as a “'peak experience', a 'religious experience,' 'divine transformation,' a 'state of Samādhi'" and a "connectedness with both the interior and exterior universes, which has come about after the ingestion of a psychedelic drug”.

Along side of the previously listed formal examples of unity, a huge amount of anecdotal accounts of varying detail and legibility can be found littered throughout the many trip report databases and various psychedelic communities which exist across the internet. In my efforts to provide as many general points of data and evidence for the existence of this experience as possible, a number of trip reports written by myself, close friends and anonymous readers have been listed below,

Although such accounts do not necessarily support the validity of the metaphysical realizations found within these states, they still provide a wealth of evidence regarding the legitimate existence of this experience as a real and physical neurological process which is worthy of formal study and recognition.

Interpretation and analysis,

Although I am not asserting inherent truth behind any particular metaphysical idea I would like to express that in my opinion, claims which the universe by its very definition is comprised of a single unified substance of which we are all a part of is a very basic and logically coherent point of view. I would argue this based on the reasoning that at every level of any system of behaviours complexity, it is inextricably woven into its surrounding systems ad infinitum through mutual interdependent interactions which cannot be defined separately from each other on any basis beyond our subjective experiences of perceivable visual differences. This holds true throughout all aspects of physical existence and logically indicates that no individual system or concept can ever truly be considered as separate from the singular whole.

As a thought experiment which assumes that the realizations found within these states of unity are genuinely based on a rational and logically sound perspective. I have two potential alternate hypothesis regarding the innate inability for human beings to feel this knowledge of unity within our everyday perspective despite the fact that we can logically understand it. The truth behind this matter may well be just one of these ideas or perhaps a combination of the two.

The first of these is that perhaps this illusion of separateness formed because it is an evolutionary advantage for the ego to feel intrinsically separate from and more significant than the external environment as a means of ensuring the motivation for survival. The second of these personal hypotheses is that the illusion of separateness may well be the default evolutionary perspective through which human beings originally operated, but it has been suppressed through a purely cultural or more specifically, linguistic problem. This could potentially stem from the way that despite the many obvious benefits of language, it pays a price through completely reorganizing our thought structure and perception of the world into a system of intrinsically separate labels that in reality, are merely glimpses of a unified whole. It’s an overcoming of this deeply embedded illusion that hallucinogens and meditation could theoretically rise above by suppressing the linguistic thought structure of the ego and allowing our consciousness to see reality for what it really is.

If the universal definition of the self can be defined as “the thinker behind ones thoughts”, identifying a separate individual component besides the singular whole which serves this purpose seems to be inherently impossible on both a physical and a philosophical level. This realization has lead me onto a personal interpretation of these ideas (which may well be overly simplified or completely wrong) and this is that one is permitted to use terms such as “I”, “you”, and so on, but not because they refer to an empirical and separate self. Instead we are permitted to use them simply because they are convenient symbolic approximations or linguistic tools for use in conversation which through social interactions with others, we have been taught to believe as something so much more than what they really are.

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