Psilocybin and the Concept of Natural Intelligence
In this article, I examine some of the new modes of thinking catalysed by a traditionally esteemed shamanic agent, namely the psilocybin mushroom. I will argue that psilocybin can potentiate an eco-psychological experience in which an intelligent aspect to Nature can be directly ascertained. I will further argue that such an experience, such an insight into the intelligence inherent within Nature, has a significant curative role to play in our currently beleaguered relationship with the biosphere.
An Ivy Trail Leads the Way
Some months ago a close friend and I found ourselves camping in a wild place far from the hustle and bustle of the city. We were deep in the heart of Snowdonia, a region of Wales where there are, thankfully, many untouched areas of wilderness still to explore. As it was autumn, we had managed to pick a moderate amount of psilocybin fungi which are readily available throughout Snowdonia at that time of year. Notwithstanding British law which has effectively outlawed the mushroom, such fungi represent an astonishing eco-psychological resource. By this, I mean that psilocybin can potentiate an intimate and informative dialogue between an individual and the natural surround. Which is to say that psilocybin retunes consciousness and places one in direct contact with an instructive aspect of Nature. At any one time we are all tuned in to certain channels of information -- be that a particular TV channel, a radio channel, an internet channel, a book, a newspaper, a movie, a dialogue with another person, and so on. What psilocybin can do is tune one in to a kind of hidden broadcast channel within Nature. Becoming subject to this broadcast involves a dramatic transfer of tutorial information. The environment suddenly transforms itself as if a transcendental transmission switch had been thrown. Unbidden, patterns in one's surroundings come to life and seem to initiate a dialogue in which a flurry of new concepts and new insights coalesce. Otherwise occluded information -- highly organised and loaded with intent -- flows forth and impinges itself upon the bemushroomed psyche The overwhelming sensation is that one is communing with, and being instructed by, Nature. Like a wide-eyed and open-minded cub, one absorbs the flow and attempts to grasp whatever message is being conveyed. No doubt this kind of extraordinary learning, if we call it such, led to the high regard for the mushroom in ancient cultures. Certainly shamans have used psychedelic plants and fungi for millennia so as to commune with Nature and to utilise the knowledge so accessed for the good of their culture. The bottom line is that the tutorial aspect of the psilocybin experience is incontrovertible. New knowledge and new insights are always forthcoming.
Thus it was that on one autumn evening I found myself flat on my back in perceptual ecstasy gazing up at the stars through the gently swaying branches of a lofty Welsh silver birch tree. To one side of me was our campfire, spitting out orange sparks and periodically bombarding me with peripheral visuals. The stars were mesmerising. I saw what appeared to be patterns of filaments connecting them all together into a kind of ethereal matrix. Rather than individual sparkling points of light, all the stars were, somehow, part of one vast structure -- a stupendous solid coherency of some kind was apparent. Then my friend called me over. He was examining in close detail a large boulder not far from the campfire, a feature of our temporary home that I had noted earlier. I say boulder -- it was more like a wild royal throne. Completely draped in soft green moss and numerous other plants, this rock was exquisitely upholstered.
I gingerly wandered over in order to ascertain what part of the wild royal throne in particular was capturing my friend's attention. It turned out to be some ivy. This ivy was actually strewn throughout the forest, covering much of the ground (although not in any detrimental way that I could discern). And in looking at the ground, the vegetation began to take on the demeanour of a ‘sacred carpet'. Not only was the ground awash with myriad living organisms, they were all interwoven into a living self-organising mat that had not only completely engulfed the boulder but was also ‘lapping' over all and any rock surfaces. But most impressive of all, most captivating at that particular moment, were the ivy leaves adorning the royal throne boulder. As my friend pointed out, each individual ivy leaf, whether small or fully grown, was perfectly formed. No more than a few millimetres thick and a few centimetres long, each veined leaf looked polished. There was a healthy radiant sheen to them. And they looked printed. Well, not just printed, but perfectly printed, as if they had been printed out at maximum resolution on the finest quality glossy inkjet paper. Indeed, we began to imagine how hard it would be to print out such a leaf using conventional printer technology. Sure, you could purchase high quality glossy paper and use high quality colour ink. And you could even print on both sides of the paper. But all you would get would be a flat 2-dimensional simulacrum of a leaf. It might be glossy and radiant, it might even fool an unsuspecting observer, but it would lack the 3-dimensional biological complexity of a real ivy leaf. Even if you sandwiched some nifty wafer thin pieces of electronic circuitry between the two sides of paper, you could not hope to mimic the full compliment of bio-logic inside real leaves. Living things have a highly organised molecular complexity about them impossible to simulate artificially.
I do not recall exactly how long we remained rapt in awe over these incredible ivy leaves, but we soon began to ponder further the ability of ivy DNA to print out innumerable perfect 3-dimensional structures. It became clear that we were privy to some kind of technology wielded by Nature, a technology that for most of us goes unattested and unsung but which, through the aid of psilocybin, was becoming overwhelmingly evident. In order to produce leaves, the ivy organism had perforce to construct them one cell at a time according to some master plan held within its DNA. And it was indeed a kind of printing, albeit achieved with precisely orchestrated protein as opposed to paper and ink. Although the term ‘printing' might seem to overly stretch the definition of what it means to print something, plants really do perform a kind of printing process in that they are endowed with the technological prowess to make hundreds, or even thousands, of identical leaf structures, each leaf packed with photosynthetic machinery. Just as a 2-dimensional leaf pattern can be repeatedly printed out on a computer's printer according to a digital file, so too can a plant print out real 3-dimensional leaves according to digital DNA files residing in its genome. The two processes are analogous to the extent that specifically organised information in one form is being sequentially translated into another specific form. To be sure, human technology has now advanced to the point where the analogy strikes home more forcibly. 3D printers are now available on the market. Although severely limited in their resolution, 3D printers enable the sequential printing of actual 3-dimensional objects. According to a computer 3D model, the printer will print out one layer at a time by utilising a binder and a substrate. Printing layer by layer, eventually a 3D model will be created which is a copy of the original digital model. This can be done repeatedly.
The ability of plants to run off innumerable identical structures like leaves can be viewed as a good example of natural intelligence. In other words, it is a smart and clever kind of behaviour. This is even more the case when you have some knowledge of the biomolecular processes involved in morphogenesis and can appreciate the nanotechnological wizardry substantiated within leaves. And it really is nanotechnological wizardry. What are usually looked over as simple parts of plants are actually technological achievements of the highest order played out on a sub-visible domain. The closer you examine a piece of biological fabric like a leaf the more does its compliment of natural intelligence come to the fore. The deeper you go, the more astonishing it gets. The chain of molecular events that link DNA to protein synthesis and protein synthesis to organism construction are so full of mind-boggling nanotechnological complexity that it is safe to say that the modern science of genetics has only scratched the surface of Nature's wile and acumen. What goes on inside a biological cell is more fantastical than fiction. Indeed, the natural intelligence within the tree of life is something our best scientists and best engineers can only dream of one day mimicking.
Consider a recent biomolecular study by the Los Alamos National Laboratory that dramatically highlights natural intelligence (albeit unintentionally). Researchers attempted to model the behaviour of a single ribosome. Bear in mind that ribosomes are miniscule molecular machines (literally) residing in cells and which serve to convert DNA script into amino acids and proteins (if you read up on ribosomes, you will find that their specific behaviour is ridiculously refined). To model ribosome behaviour, one of the world's most sophisticated computer simulations was built. To be an accurate model, the physical interactions of over two and a half million atoms had to be simulated. 768 supercomputer processors were used and were left to run for 260 days. The end result of this epic information processing endeavour was a computer movie that simulated a mere two nanoseconds of the behaviour of one single microscopic ribosome. In other words, the most powerful computer systems on Earth take 260 days working at breakneck bit-crunching speed to simulate what in reality bio-logic achieves in less time than the blink of an eye (and on an invisible scale to boot).
This experiment is instructive. First off, it demonstrates in no uncertain terms the kind of natural intelligence involved in cellular processes, especially when you consider that an organism may be made up of literally trillions of cells functioning in parallel. Secondly, ask yourself this: what is more indicative of advanced intelligence -- the aforementioned computer simulation or what that simulation models? Who, or what, is smarter -- human intelligence that builds a mind-bogglingly complex computer model or the actual mind-boggling processes being modelled? How can Nature do what it does? How come Nature can ‘compute' so expertly and so far beyond the capacity of any individual to really grasp and appreciate? More importantly, how do we best appraise this kind of biological behaviour if not in terms of natural intelligence? And how do we evaluate the evolutionary capacity of Nature to engineer all this? And don't forget, ribosomes are just one part of the machinery inside a living cell. You have other wonders like the genetic code, a specific set of rules which assign specific amino acids - the building blocks of life - to specific units of tRNA. And what is tRNA? Yet another part of a whole set of nifty interlocking machinery that underlies your ability to be alive and read these words. Indeed, there are aspects of natural intelligence that we cannot even imagine yet because we are not smart enough to ask the right questions.
Different Forms of Intelligence
In ascribing intelligence to the technological achievements of bio-logic, I should here point out that this does not necessarily mean that Nature is consciously intelligent (although Nature might well have mind-like characteristics), but rather that intelligence represents a particular kind of process, or capacity, that can manifest in realms other than the human brain/mind. After all, it is routine to talk of artificial intelligence -- yet no-one suggests that cleverly behaving robots are consciously intelligent. What marks out an intelligent behaviour is that it is sensible in some kind of specific way. If your body gets too cold for instance, you will start to shiver. That makes good sense and it is therefore not untoward to see the shivering reflex as being a very basic example of mammalian natural intelligence. To gain the energy necessary for shivering, our cells combine food with oxygen and burn them in a very controlled manner via organelles called mitochondria. This too is a sensible behaviour and also worthy of being referred to in terms of natural intelligence. Similarly, the process of evolution that, through trial and error, sculpted such sophisticated systems of bio-logic can likewise be seen as natural intelligence in action. We should also bear in mind that the root meaning of intelligence is ‘to choose between'. And what is evolution through natural selection if not the continuous preservation of sensible choices? Again, this implies that evolution is a naturally intelligent process that gradually builds up naturally intelligent systems of bio-logic. The invocation of natural intelligence is essentially an apt and fitting way in which to appraise Nature's evolutionary achievements. This is exactly what became so gloriously apparent with the aforementioned ivy leaves -- my friend and I awoke to the tremendous presence of natural intelligence which was all around us and under our very feet.
A little later in the evening as I sat gazing at the fire, another astonishing feat of natural intelligence made itself known to my fortified senses. I spied a tiny spider gliding rapidly along a strand of silk that was stretched between some heather plants. Squinting, I could just make out the silk strand. It went from one part of one heather plant to another. Yet the spider sped across all the join areas with ease. Like some miniature high-wire artist, the spider was so skilled in aerial manoeuvres that it verily shot through the air on its near invisible silken wire. How could this be? How could Nature engineer such sophisticated arrangements of matter and energy? Yes, we can say that evolution has led to such a spectacle - but how do we thence judge evolution? As dumb and mindless? Or as natural intelligence in action? Indeed, is it not obvious that Nature is endowed with self-organising intelligence? The evolution of the biosphere and its wealth of living forms is surely testimony to such self-organising intelligence. As with the ivy leaves, the existence of this spider betrayed the immense wealth of natural intelligence that suffuses all of Nature.
Natural Intelligence: To Acknowledge or not to Acknowledge?
Having explored the natural intelligence paradigm for over a decade, I have come to suspect that it is precisely because we do not readily acknowledge natural intelligence that we are suffering from the current array of ecological crises afflicting the biosphere. Which brings me to the central premise of this essay - namely that the natural intelligence paradigm as conveyed by psilocybin has an important curative role to play in our relations with the rest of the biosphere. Cultures, all cultures, are lead by paradigms, by a particular way of looking at, and interpreting, the larger systems of which they are a part. A culture that holds an erroneous paradigm about the nature of the greater whole will invariably be alienated from the whole. For all cultures, all creeds, all races, the greater whole of which they are a part is, in the first instance, the biosphere. If modern culture fails to grasp the manner in which the biosphere behaves, if modern culture remains oblivious to the natural intelligence that weaves together the membrane of life, then modern culture is failing to make adequate sense of the larger system in which it is embedded. It might be able to maintain business as usual for decades, even centuries, but eventually the lack of a ‘contextual fit' with the larger systems of which it is a part will be felt.
Thus, if we view Nature as being dumb and mindless -- which is the tacit view implicit in our education systems -- then it is no wonder that we are at odds with the biosphere. If we miss the point of what the biosphere and life are about, then we will not be able to live sensibly within the biosphere. To view Nature as being devoid of intelligence, or to suggest that the contrary view is little more than foolish animism, means that Nature has no intrinsic value, sense, or purpose, and that only human intelligence has real causal significance. Or, if we view the evolution of the tree of life as nothing more than the survival of the fittest, then we can learn no more from Nature than that blunt message. Indeed, if we take science at its word and interpret evolution as no more than a change in a gene pool over time (an unfortunately common definition), then we will not accord any intelligent characteristics to the evolutionary process.
If, however, we view Nature as a system of self-organising intelligence then we may see the biosphere and its network of life in a new light. Take the aforementioned definition of evolution -- simply a change in a gene pool over time. According to the natural intelligence paradigm, evolution is better understood as a sensible change in a gene pool over time. Evolution involves a cumulative series of sensible genetic changes as opposed to any old changes. Changes in bio-logic that make sense (of some larger context) are the ones selected by Nature. So when Darwin himself defined evolution as descent with modification, it is more accurate to speak of descent by way of sensible modification. The introduction of the word ‘sensible' into discussions of evolution immediately gives evolution an inherent direction. Because there are limited ways in which to make sense (due to things like the specific laws of Nature and the specific effects of those laws), this channels evolution into specific sense-making pathways. It also explains the phenomenon of convergent evolution where we see the same sensible organ or the same sensible behaviour evolving in multiple branches of the tree of life. It is precisely this sensible aspect of genetic change that characterises the natural intelligence inherent within evolution and, in consequence, the entire biosphere.
The upshot of all this is important. For it is clear that only that which makes good sense is sustained long-term within Nature. Nature preserves sensible behaviours and eventually edits out nonsensical behaviours. In the case of leaves and spider behaviour, these and countless other biological phenomena have evolved in the manner they have precisely because they represent impressive ways of making sense. That is the way natural intelligence works. If spiders mutated such that their silk was made of non-biodegradable plastic, I'll wager they would not last long. And if leaves evolved to emit cyanide gas instead of oxygen, they too would have their days numbered. Given that Nature is geared towards the generation and sustenance of sensibly behaving systems of bio-logic, it follows that if human culture continues to make no sense in the context of the rest of the biosphere, if human culture continues to be driven by paradigms that in no way take into account the naturally intelligent infrastructure of the biosphere, Nature will inevitably see to it that, by some means or another, human culture be ‘pruned'. Through feedback and self-sensitiveness, Nature ‘minds' when something is out of place and does not fit into an already established context. Hence, we ignore natural intelligence at our peril.
Natural Intelligence as a Reconciling Concept
Although the concept of natural intelligence is pretty much unknown (a humble attempt by me to put up a definition of natural intelligence on Wikipedia was summarily rejected) and although the notion that evolution is bound up with intelligence might make some people uneasy, there is undoubtedly room for such a new way of thinking in the collective human psyche. After all, despite the passage of one and a half centuries since Charles Darwin first formulated the theory, evolution is still very much a hotly debated topic and of great interest to people from all walks of life. To be sure, the issue over the veracity of evolution as an explanation for the tree of life's existence has become markedly polarised of late. On the one hand you have the religious approach which either flatly denies biological evolution or else sees natural selection as being incapable of explaining certain complex features of bio-logic (the latter sentiments belong to the proponents of Intelligent Design, a growing movement in the USA which is basically Creationist at heart). Either way, supernatural forces are invoked to explain our existence (i.e. forces lying wholly outside of Nature). On the other hand you have the orthodox scientific approach as formidably evinced by people like Richard Dawkins. For Dawkins and his growing army of atheists, evolution and Nature are devoid of intelligence, purpose and design. Evolution just happens. Why Nature should be endowed with the potential to grow a tree of life to the point of conscious minds is not raised.
In light of this vociferous debate, I believe that the paradigm of natural intelligence represents a reconciling point of view. It does not deny what science tells us about living organisms. Rather it reinterprets the data gathered by science and views evolution as a clever and sensible process that weaves together clever and sensible systems of bio-logic. In this light, the biosphere is more than a simple label for all life on Earth. The biosphere can be seen as a global network of interlocking natural intelligence whose collective acumen has been honed over three and a half billion years. DNA can be seen as the means through which natural intelligence, in its bio-logical expression, is recorded, a gene pool being akin to a kind of organic hard-drive of learned information. The virtue of substances like psilocybin is that they allow one to directly perceive natural intelligence. Phenomena like living things that were previously overlooked, suddenly reveal their compliment of natural intelligence. Plants, for instance, come to life more under the spell of psilocybin. They are no longer inert bits of greenery but rather they radiate organic intelligence, organic purpose, organic design, and organic sophistication. The same thing happens with insects. An insect viewed under the influence of psilocybin transforms itself into a kind of futuristic micro-aircraft. In either case, intelligence of some natural yet highly refined kind is readily apparent.
So what happens once you begin to grok life in this way? What happens when you begin, as Aldous Huxley wrote, to perceive the world with non-utilitarian eyes? The answer is that you begin to see the tree of life in more objective terms, its branches and shoots made not simply of genes and cells but of natural intelligence. Just as we can view the human mind's intelligence as a flow of informational objects in mind/brain space, so too can we view natural intelligence as a flow of informational objects in 3D space. In this dazzling psychedelic light, a plant is like a living idea, or theory, underscored by DNA and constantly being tested by the rest of Nature so as to ascertain whether it makes contextual sense or not. A deciduous Oak tree represents a manifest expression of one kind of naturally intelligent theory, an evergreen pine tree represents an alternative theory. Both theories make good sense and both have withstood the test of time. The point is that life is clearly smart. Genes contain hard won wisdom, a genome being a library of such wisdom which is acted out through the medium of bio-logic. Thus, Nature authors life and Nature edits life and by so doing reflects itself, or mirrors itself, or knows itself, in evermore subtle ways. Nature is clearly not dumb and mindless as science might have us believe but rather the epitome of an ever-active intelligence. The trillions of frenetically metabolising cells that make up, say, the body and brain of Richard Dawkins, pay ample testimony to the orchestrational natural intelligence that must perforce be inherent in all living things as well as the natural forces that brought them into being.
SETI versus SATI
In speaking of natural intelligence and how advanced natural intelligence is in its various manifestations within the great tree of life, it is rather ironic that humans have long sought for it and yet failed to discern it. Consider SETI -- the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. The goal of SETI is to find signals issuing from an advanced intelligence existing in some distant solar system or some far-flung galaxy. If, say, radio signals were detected deep in space that bore some sort of non-random signature, then it would be clear evidence of some kind of advanced non-human intelligence. Such a discovery, if it ever materialises, would be dramatic to say the least. One way a signal might be deemed significant would be if it carried a series of prime numbers within it. Another way would be if a signal carried the Fibonacci series of numbers. The Fibonacci series consists of the numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89... where each successive number in the series is the sum of the two preceding numbers. SETI scientists have stated that if the Fibonacci series was detected in some radio signal from space then it would be clear evidence for an ET intelligence attempting to communicate its presence.
Remarkably, the Fibonacci series actually occurs in Nature. Both the spiralling bracts of pine cones and the spiral arrangement of sunflower seeds embody the Fibonacci series (in terms of the number of spirals). Similar patterns embodying the Fibonacci series can be found in the branching of plant shoots and even in the common daisy which generally has 34, 55, or 89 petals. The reason for Fibonacci arrangements in Nature pertains to making efficient use of space. In other words, it makes sense for bio-logic to utilise Fibonacci ratios and this is why the Fibonacci series is found in the tree of life. My point however is that this fact is not received as evidence for natural intelligence, just as the ability of plants to nanotechnologically print out 3-dimensional leaves or the ability of spiders to spin webs are not seen as expressions of natural intelligence. A radio signal from space is one thing, an earthly organism is another. And it is not hard to see why the latter is overlooked. We have an image in our minds as to what constitutes an advanced non-human intelligence. We want a being of some kind, an alien, with a definite form, perhaps even hominid-like. As with traditional conceptions of God, what we cannot seem to imagine is that intelligence is an inherent property of Nature and that it flows throughout the Universe. In fact, our very bodies are spun from natural intelligence. But since we take bio-logic for granted (until we get ill or face death) we tend to view bio-logic and the evolutionary forces which weave together systems of bio-logic as being devoid of intelligence. Which means that we look hopefully afar for signs of advanced non-human intelligence when it is actually all around us and, indeed, inside us. Thus, SETI could conceivably be replaced by SATI (The Search for Advanced Terrestrial Intelligence) and achieve much greater success.
A similar point was once made by the late psychedelic guru Terence McKenna. McKenna spoke of the psilocybin fungi (Stropharia Cubensis) that can be found growing around the base of the Arecibo Observatory, a giant radio telescope in Puerto Rico which is used to collect data for SETI. Again, we are seeking in the wrong place. We scan the heavens for signs of advanced extraterrestrial intelligence without realising that we can tune in to advanced terrestrial intelligence through a mushroom growing at our feet. And one doesn't even need to consume a psilocybin mushroom to be able to divine natural intelligence. A cursory examination of a mycological textbook soon reveals the plethora of advanced natural intelligence recorded in fungal DNA. The ability of fungi to dismantle plant detritus molecule by molecule and thence re-orchestrate those molecules into specifically behaving structures represents the art of nanotechnology at its best.
It must be admitted then that our conceptions of advanced intelligence determine how we go about seeking it and whether or not we will be able to recognise it. Until we begin to acknowledge Nature's sophisticated wealth of natural intelligence -- which is evident in both the evolutionary process and the biological structures created by evolution -- then we will continue to be blind to that which we so keenly seek. And because we are blind to natural intelligence and refuse to acknowledge it (despite ongoing genetic discoveries and such), we continue to act with a kind of blundering indifference to our actions on the planet. Our relationship with the naturally intelligent biosphere is a bit like a child running rampage in its parent's home without the slightest inkling that its parents are sustaining it. Think of how the biosphere actively maintains a healthy temperature and a healthy atmosphere for instance, facts which, despite intense work by Gaia theorist James Lovelock, have still to filter through to the masses. How many people in a busy city like New York or London ever wonder where their oxygen supply comes from? Governments don't make it. Nor do government's control the weather. Although an essential property of the biosphere, homeostatic natural intelligence seems to be completely ignored and unsung in the modern era. Well, not simply ignored but in a real sense insulted. Indeed, it seems it is business as usual for the human race regardless of the detrimental impact we are having on the biosphere. More new roads are built, more fossil fuel burning cars are made so as to drive on them, new airport runways are built, more swathes of rainforest are converted into biodiverseless palm oil biofuel farms, and so on. Despite global warming, nothing really changes. Those who really care about the biosphere as a whole, those who cherish the biodiverse expressions of natural intelligence that weave together the biosphere are, alas, in the minority.
Although optimism is always worth cultivating and although there will be a most sensible way for 7 billion humans to live healthily within the biosphere (the right kind of cultural technology included), it is extremely difficult to see how human culture can continue much longer on its current course. Indeed, as intimated, natural intelligence teaches us that only that which makes sense can prevail and be preserved. This is as much true for the behaviour of humanity as it is for the behaviour of bio-logic. The lesson here is worth reiterating: human culture needs to make sense within the larger context of which it is a component part. That larger context is, in the first instance, the biosphere which itself must perforce make sense of the context of the solar system in which it moves (seasonal growing patterns ably reflect these nested sense-making processes). Until we acknowledge that the biosphere is a system of natural intelligence formed in lawful accordance to a naturally intelligent Universe, then we will remain estranged from Nature and will continue to suffer the consequences of our own misguided and nonsensical behaviour. That is the bottom line.
Natural Intelligence: The Only Paradigm with a Future
Thankfully, I am not alone in my contention that Nature is imbued with intelligence. Others with an interest in organic psychedelics have come to similar conclusions. Renowned mycologist and psilocybin aficionado Paul Stamets for example has openly spoken of natural intelligence (albeit briefly). In one of his video lectures (accessed on Youtube), Stamets talks of the natural intelligence of fungi. Similarly, author of The Cosmic Serpent Jeremy Narby has come to similar conclusions that Nature has intelligent characteristics. According to insights gained through ayahuasca, Narby has become convinced that bio-logic, and in particular DNA systems, represents a kind of intelligence.
I cite these two researchers not simply because they have openly attested to natural intelligence but also because they were invariably led to such views through their experiences with psychedelics. Once natural intelligence is perceived directly in the psychedelic state, a conceptual door remains ajar. Whilst many people might simply look back on a psilocybin experience with awe and wonder but be unable to weigh up the experience or integrate their insights back into ‘normal reality', it seems clear enough to me that such a thing can be achieved and, moreover, that such integration requires that the concept of natural intelligence be taken on board and be fleshed out as far as possible. As far as I can see, the issue really boils down to language. Words like intelligence, technology, invention, design and creativity are typically seen as human attributes. The inference that they exist within Nature is usually branded as being an instance of anthropomorphism. But one can equally argue that to reserve words like intelligence and mind solely to ourselves is equally, if not more, anthropocentric. But if we are not permitted to speak of bio-logic in terms of natural intelligence then how else are we to adequately appraise the remarkably sophisticated behaviour of bio-logic? Psilocybin is admittedly a radical means of expanding our language and expanding our world views. It may even be one of the most radical means of change. Yet if it is not adopted and explored now at a time when the entire biosphere is under threat from global human behaviour, then when?
Simon G. Powell is the author of The Psilocybin Solution and Darwin's Unfinished Business.
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