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ÖSSZEFOGLALÓKÖZLEMÉNY

NEURO-ONTOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF
SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES*,**
Ede Frecska1, Luis Eduardo Luna2
1
National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology
2
Research Center for the Study of Psychointegrator Plants, Visionary Art and Consciousness,
Florianópolis, Brazil; Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Helsinki, Finland

A SPIRITUÁLIS ÉLMÉNYEK sel-mozgással, kimerítõ fizikai stressz-hatások-
NEURO-ONTOLÓGIAI ÉRTELMEZÉSE kal, és esetenként hallucinogén szereket haszná-
A központi idegrendszer funkcionális szervezõ- latával érnek el. Az így bekövetkezõ módosult
dése hierarchikus elvet követ, amely lefelé ha- tudatállapot tradicionális közegben integratív
ladva nem ér véget a neuroaxonális szintnél, ha- jellegû, utat nyit a „direkt-intuitív-nonlokális”
nem kiterjed a szubneurális elemekre is. Amikor információfeldolgozás felé, de rituális kontex-
az információátvitel alegységeinek nagysága na- tustól leválasztva, kultúridegen környezetben,
nométerekben mérhetõ, és elemszámuk megha- rekreációs céllal indukáltan spirituális tartalmát
ladja a neuroaxonálisét, akkor egy új minõség je- elveszti és könnyen dezintegratívvá válik.
lenhet meg az információfeldolgozásban és ez KULCSSZAVAK: módosult tudatállapotok – gon-
feltehetõleg mikrofizikai hatások érvényesülése dolkodás – sejtváz – dimetiltriptamin – etnofar-
kvantum-komputáció keretében. A kvantum-sa- makológia – hallucinogén anyagok – rituális
játosságok közül, elsõsorban a „szignál nonloka- gyógyítás
litás” az, ami releváns lehet az információfel-
vétel mély szintjén, és amelynek segítségével a
módosult tudatállapotok egyes jelenségei értel- SUMMARY
mezhetõvé válnak. The prevailing neuroscientific paradigm consid-
Az antropológiai megfigyelésekbõl és spirituális ers information processing within the central
tradíciókból ismert rituális gyógyítás számos nervous system as occurring through hierarchi-
olyan elemet tartalmaz, ami jelenlegi felfogá- cally organized and interconnected neural net-
sunkból nem interpretálható, de egy új modell works. The hierarchy of neural networks doesn’t
keretében értelmezhetõ. Ez a modell a hétközna- end at the neuroaxonal level; it incorporates sub-
pi tudatállapotra jellemzõ „perceptuális-kogni- cellular mechanisms as well. When the size of
tív-szimbolikus” megismerés mellé egy, a szig- the hierarchical components reaches the nano-
nál nonlokalitáson alapuló „direkt-intuitív-non- meter range and the number of elements exceeds
lokális” információfelvételt rendel. Az utóbbi that of the neuroaxonal system, an interface
spirituális élményekben és a módosult tudatálla- emerges for a possible transition between neuro-
potok integratív formájában érvényesülne. Az chemical and quantum physical events. “Signal
integratív forma az, amit a rituális gyógyítás al- nonlocality”, accessed by means of quantum en-
kalmaz, és elkülönül a módosult tudatállapotok tanglement is an essential feature of the quantum
dezintegratív formájától (pl. pszichózis, delíri- physical domain. The presented interface may
um). A kultúrkörünkben szokatlan rítusok köz- imply that some manifestations of altered states
vetett célja a „profán” szenzibilitás (modellünk of consciousness, unconscious/conscious shifts
szerint a „perceptuális-kognitív-szimbolikus” have quantum origin with significant psychoso-
megismerés) letörése, amelyet ritmikus ingerlés- matic implications.

* In memoriam Imre Susits
** The authors will expand the presented concepts with more details addressing the general public in a book entitled Inner Paths to
Outer Space, which is planned to be published in 2007.

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ÖSSZEFOGLALÓKÖZLEMÉNY EDEFRECSKA,LEONARDOL.LUNA

Healing methods based on altered states of con- “supernatural”. According to contemporary an-
sciousness and common in spiritual or shamanic thropological views, the breakdown of ordinary
traditions escape neuroscientific explanations sensibility/cognition is not the ultimate goal, but
based on classical cognition denoted here as the way to accomplish healing, that is psycho-
“perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” (characteristic integration in the widest sense. From the per-
of ordinary states of consciousness). Another spective of system theory, integration needs in-
channel of information processing, called “di- formation to be brought into the system. Accord-
rect-intuitive-nonlocal” (characteristic of non- ing to the presented model, when the coping ca-
ordinary states of consciousness) is required to pability of the “perceptual-cognitive-symbolic”
be introduced for interpretation. The first one is processing is exhausted in a stressful, unmanage-
capable of modeling via symbolism and is more able situation, or its influence is eliminated by
culturally bound due to its psycholinguistic fea- the use of hallucinogens or in case of transcen-
tures. The second channel lacks the symbolic dental meditation, a frame shift occurs, and the
mediation, therefore it has more transcultural “spiritual universe” opens up through the “di-
similarity and practically ineffable for the first rect-intuitive-nonlocal” channel. There is little
one, though culture specific transliteration may chance either for a psychointegrative effect, or
occur. for a meaningful „opening“ without ritual con-
Different traditional healing rituals pursue the text, and with the recreational use of mind alter-
same end: to destroy “profane” sensibility. The ing strategies.
ritual use of hallucinogens, the monotonous KEYWORDS: altered states of consciousness –
drumming, the repeated refrains, the fatigue, the cognition – cytoskeleton – dimethyltryptamine –
fasting, the dancing and so forth, create a sensory ethnopharmacology – hallucinogenic agents – rit-
condition which is wide open to the so-called ual healing

Motto: “Not facing the irrational is nating in illusion or fear of death, representing
not rational (i.e., irrational).” anxiety over ego-dissolution, and considers them
products of wishful thinking. Academical ac-
counts see spiritual practice arising from the func-
Introduction
tioning of the human mind with its supposed ten-
Ideas loosely connected under the concept of dency to seek spiritual states, or comfort in a hos-
“spirituality” have been gaining increasing popu- tile world (Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005). Ac-
larity and acceptance in the wide public. Spiritual cordingly, in worshipping spiritual beings humans
issues spill over New Age literature and appear in are just paying homage to a rarified form of them-
journals of academic interest (Emmons 2003). selves.
Facing the phenomenon “hard core” scientists are One can see that certain beliefs and experiences
left with two options at the first bifurcation of the universally crop up in spiritual practices around
decision tree: to ignore it, or not to ignore it. The the world and maintained for millennia. The em-
latter branch takes to the choice between debunk- pirically established existence of resilient com-
ing it, or not. This article takes effort to follow a monalities is remarkable. Regardless, the fact that
sympathetic approach. However, it will be seen spiritual teachings and mystical wisdom traditions
that for understanding and rationalizing spiritual share a remarkable cross-cultural similarity can be
claims one has to leave the safe ground of main- dismissed with a skeptical shrug: and explained
stream science and enter uncharted areas follow- away as projections of intrapsychic structures
ing a slippery path. common in every human being, and that misinter-
The first question to answer can be formulated pretation of universal experiences like dreams
this way: why does the idea of soul, spirit, or re- may lead to the belief in existence of spiritual
birth echo across ages, why do these concepts ap- beings (Tyler 1987). There are some elaborate
pear and reappear in widely different cultures. The explanations drawing parallels with a pathologi-
belief in spiritual forces and other worldly realms cal condition. Similarly to schizophrenia, which –
appears universal in the human species. Rational as some speculates – is a price the human race
thinking deems such concepts superstitious, origi- pays for the gift of language (Crow 1997), the

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tendency to believe in “supernatural” beings is The Anthropic Principle, neither in the “soft” nor
common in all humans, because it is an offspring in the “strong” form comes for the rescue of the in-
of creative imagination. That is, something mal- dividual person. It states that the physical con-
adaptive resides in us universally and stays with stants of our Universe predispose it to be hospita-
us persistently, because it is closely tied to an ble for human life, but the Cosmos is absolutely
adaptive trait; that is creativity in present case. indifferent toward the fate of one member of the
The most permissive, dispassionate scientific species.
approach accepts universality to be sufficient for “We have come from nothingness and will re-
establishing phenomenological reality, but leaves turn to nothingness after death.”
the question open to its ontological source (Win- This is the decree of “dust to dust”. Only the most
kelman 2004). basic components of our bodies will survive and
Skepticism has a very high value in Western continue the big circle of life.
scientific thinking. It ought to be that way to keep It is apparent to a mind trained in behavioral
knowledge-building tightly disciplined. Then why sciences that the above statements are strikingly
not use skepticism in a self-referential way, from a similar to the Beck triad. The psychiatrist Aaron
self-critical point of view? First of all, we must be Beck noticed the cognitive distortion of depressed
skeptical toward our own cultural background, subjects about self, world, and the future, calling it
which has many hidden presumptions governing the negative cognitive schema of depressive
even the supposedly objective way of answering thinking. Derogatory views of the self, the world,
questions. Setting boundaries is the essence of the and of the future are core features of the depressed
scientific method when it isolates things, sepa- individual:
rates systems in order to study them experimen- ”I am a worthless person.”
tally without confounding interferences from the ”The world is an unfriendly place.”
outside. Where is then the boundary of the scien- “My past is a tragedy, my future is catastrophic.”
tific method itself? If science has limitations, then Beck suggested that depressed people draw illogi-
it cannot be the bearer of the ultimate truth. Over- cal conclusions about situations, and these lead to
valuation of science, such as scientism, can take a distortion of reality, which manifests in the mag-
the form of cultural arrogance when it attempts to nification of negative experiences, and
explain why people of different cultures do things trivialization of neutral or positive ones. The cog-
the way they do, interpreting these costumes, nitive triad is the source of the extremely low
rituals while ignoring their own reasons behind self-esteem of depressed subjects; it can lead to
what they are doing. The issue is not about cultural micromanic delusions, manifesting as psychosis
relativism; the authors do not fall for it, just call in the extreme form.
attention for respecting the opinion of aboriginal The parallel between the theses of scientism
cultures and will use their interpretation as a start- and the Beck triad is close, and raises the follow-
ing point of the presented one. ing questions. Does the same conclusion stand for
scientific thinking as well? Is the latter illogical, or
Cognitive Schemas biased in worldview similar to that of a depressed
patient? Of course not. Science is not illogical, but
First, let us see how sound Western confidence in it may suffer from overexclusiveness. It must be
scientism really is. The basic concepts science biased in that direction in order to build rigorously
holds about the human phenomenon can be sum- a consistent, knowledge system by keeping “soft”,
marized as outlined below: poorly validated concepts outside of its domain.
“Man is the byproduct of mere chance.” Nevertheless, what lies outside of the semantic
This follows from the combination of evolution universe of “official science” today, may be part
theory with random genetic mutations. There is no of it tomorrow. There are more things in Heaven
Divine Plan, no Almighty Creator. From the cha- or Earth than are dreamt of in our current philoso-
otic movements of the material world, complex phy… Can the negative thinking of Western ratio-
systems evolved as a result of chance, so chosen nalism lead to a pathologically flawed underesti-
by natural selection. mation of the human potential akin to a psychotic
“We live in a Universe alien to us and ignorant depressive delusion? A possible answer is hidden
to our destiny.” in the cognitive schemas of seven wisdom tradi-

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tions, schemas which can be designated as unam- Table 1
The most important revelation
biguously positive:
Jesus: “The kingdom of Heaven is within (or
among) you.”
Islam: “Those who know themselves know their
Lord.”
Judaism: “He is in all, and all is in Him.”
Confucianism: “Those who know their own na-
ture, know Heaven.”
Taoism: “In the depths of the soul, one sees the
Divine, the One.”
Buddhism: “Look within, you are the Buddha.”
(Walsh 1991)
Apparently, the issue is about self-knowledge.
However, it is not about the self-knowledge fa-
vored by Western individualism. Individualism is
the Matrix, the Cosmic Internet. At the deepest
a cultural tradition of the last 200 years, and has
level of our psyche, at the bottom of our soul, we
been nurtured in the West. The cited wisdom tra-
become one with the ultimate reality. Any, even
ditions are at least 1400 years old, and all of them
the last, most unfortunate member of the human
were born in the East. The seventh statement for-
species carries the whole Cosmos inside and has
mulates most concisely the essence of all of them:
the potential to reach it, to tap into it. This is ex-
Hinduism: “Atman (individual consciousness)
actly what one may realize as the most positive
and Brahman (universal consciousness) are one.”
scheme, the most important discovery of all times.
In other words, if you descend into the depth of Sounds good. This kind of teaching definitely
your psyche you will arrive at something common soothes the soul. It would be interesting to find out
in you and in everything. One discovers this by whether the prevalence of clinical depression, an-
consistently looking inward until “within” be- xiety disorders, and suicidal behavior is lower in
comes “beyond”. In the other direction, if you cultures nurturing these teachings. Regardless of
look far and deep into the universe and dare to go their positive impact on everyday life, doubts re-
beyond, at some point you will face your self. main: Does spiritual wisdom represent wishful
There is no such thing as monotonous, infinite thinking? Does it have scientific meaning at all?
progression and regression with endless hierar- Does it have a place in our world view at the be-
chies, larger and larger supersystems on the way ginning of the 21st century?
up, or smaller and smaller elementary particles on Then, why are no less than seven wisdom tradi-
the way down. Quantum physicists have already tions so unequivocal in their basic tenets? Why do
stumbled onto the problem of conscious observer, two mystics separated by two millennia and two
and were able to find a way around it in the Copen- continents get better accord on these issues than
hagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The two scientists of the modern era on the nature of
great unification, the Theory of Everything, very Universe?
likely requires better understanding of conscious- Foolish, arbitrary thinking can hardly reach this
ness as the vehicle through which all things are degree of consensus. Ken Wilber (2001) said – not
known. As physicists struggle to tie together rela- without some sarcasm: “Eighty three hallucinat-
tivity and quantum field theory in terms of quan- ing schizophrenics couldn’t organize a trip to the
tum gravity, perhaps further insights will be ob- bathroom, let alone Japanese Zen”. Wilber re-
tained from understanding the nature of logic, ferred to the eighty three followers of Zen Master
cognition, and consciousness. The inside and out- Hakuin as sages with mystical experiences and not
side paths will eventually converge in conscious- schizophrenic subjects with perceptual distor-
ness; or in what is known as Source in Sufism, tions. The historically new rational thinking, the
Ruach in the Kabbalah, aka in Kahuna mysticism, triumph of the era of Enlightenment, is an outlier
dynamic ground in transpersonal psychology, and of the wisdom tradition, and definitely not the
is called as topological field by heterodox physi- enlightened one. If the sages are right about mysti-
cists (Table 1). Popular views may recognize it as cal enlightenment, their truth must also be correct

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in the framework of another knowledge system – would provide for a transformation into a mighty
Western science. The problem is to find a proper pyramid. That is the All-Seeing Eye, the symbol
way of translation. of spirituality. There are anthropological observa-
The purpose of this essay is to answer the above tions, Oriental descriptions, and Western anec-
questions in a scientific – well, some critics may dotal reports about successful therapies incorpo-
say pseudoscientific – way, and will attempt to rating spiritual elements. One must realize that the
cross-over between the concepts of different top is unsteady without solid layers at its base. The
worldviews. These authors are fully aware of the pyramid is just an impressive pile of rock without
pitfalls of both overinclusiveness and passionate a radiant capstone at the top. On one hand, a
thinking. Truly, the underlying methodological treatment should not be based solely on spiritual
approach has minimal experimental support; it techniques in most of the cases; on the other hand,
can rely only on neurophenomenology, model- treatments with somatic focus are mostly pallia-
making, searching for inconsistencies in rivaling tive in Western medicine.
views, and using of the dubious power of converg- Herewith, we arrived at a modified, extended
ing evidence. paradigm: the biopsycho-sociospiritual model.
Therapy sui generis is reintegration in toto on
Spiritual Dimension and the Extended biological, mental, social and spiritual levels.
Biopsychosocial Paradigm Thus far, there is nothing mystical in adding the
“spiritual” to the concept: moving from left to
As an anchoring point and clarification here is a right along the awkward term means that the
definition of spirituality: “something that I may individual identifies gradually with higher realms
not perceive, but others can; and this kind of expe- of reality: with the psyche, with the community,
rience enriches them.” This is a relatively cautious and at the end with an entity above community
approach; even people with an aversion toward (i.e., environment, nature, Universe, Mother
New Age, esoteric thinking may accept it. The In- Earth, or other deities depending on culturally
stitute of Noetic Sciences found in a survey that canonized worldviews). Meaning emerges from
about 75% of the population had at least one spiri- context; more purpose can be acquired from
tual experience in life, but 75% of individuals em- higher hierarchical perspectives. Consequently,
ployed in the healthcare and those with strong aca- spiritual orientation can provide a more meaning-
demic background had not. The revealed diver- ful life to individuals than by solely pursuing
gence calls for a second study to replicate these re- materialistic goals.
sults and has to be a wake-up call for profession- The term “sacred” refers to a sense of respect
als. for and humility toward the larger entities we are
Contemporary medicine defines human beings subordinated to, and what govern our lives. Based
in a biopsychosocial framework. The concept of on the illusion that we are in command of our
patients as biopsychosocial entities goes back to destiny, Western individualism has eroded this
George Engel (1977), and comes from the obser- concept. The historical process of individualiza-
vation that there are ailments which cannot be tion and alienation involves slicing off compo-
treated successfully by biological means only. nents of the biopsycho-sociospiritual unity step by
There also are mental disturbances where target- step from right to left; a process which began
ing the intrapsychic conflicts only (e.g., in classi- millennia ago by gradual separation from nature,
cal psychoanalysis) is not enough – the therapist by the suppression of tribal ritual traditions. This
must address the subject’s interpersonal relation- continued during modernization by destruction of
ships as well (e.g., in the form of family therapy). rural communities, then the nuclear family, and
Involving higher levels of the biopsychosocial has culminated in postmodern emotionless profes-
pyramid in healthcare may result in permanent im- sionalism. The richness of the biopsycho-socio-
provement, and palliative therapy can be replaced spiritual model of traditional societies got boiled
by curative treatment. down to the bony biorobot rationalis skeleton of
The Engelian biopsychosocial paradigm is not postmodern man.
complete. Something is missing from the top that

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Levels of Organization Relevant to Table 2
Consciousness Levels of organizations relevant to
the conscious experience
Due to the broad array of contradictory concepts,
it is beyond the scope of this paper to address con-
temporary views on consciousness and to go into
details about the emergence of the phenomenon.
For a quick overview Table 2 summarizes the lev-
els of organization supposedly involved in genera-
tion of the conscious experience. Since the topic
of consciousness is mostly ignored by mainstream
neuroscience, it is difficult to determine the opin-
ion of prominent brain researchers. The depart-
ment chairman of the first author once warned
him: “If you want to make a career, you must
avoid studying consciousness.” Despite some
positive trends in other disciplines, orthodox
neuroscientists avoid the issue, and unorthodox tations sculpted by natural selection. We are
ones use the politically correct term “awareness” nothing but a pack of computational devices
when preparing their grant proposals. Neverthe- dedicated to different tasks. We are nothing but
less, with the exception of the levels at the very top a pack of sexual neuroses. These proclama-
and at the very bottom, most neuroscientists tions, like Crick’s, are all defensible, and they
would not disagree with the assumption that all are all inadequate.”
these levels represented in Table 2 are involved in To avoid the trap of radical reductionism, one
the process. must assume that all levels are at work with bi-
Since no experimental data can be introduced in directional inter-related causative processes. Let
its support, this hypothesis is as much as anything us pay attention to the position of the dashed line
strengthened by pointing out inconsistencies with- in Table 2. One may call it the “knowledge hori-
in the current neuroscientific concepts. Again, this zon” since it divides levels based upon their as-
is not easy because one rarely hears established sumed causational role in generating the con-
neuroscientists expressing their views on con- scious experience. According to the theory of the
sciousness. If they do, they emphasize the neuro- neurological correlates of consciousness, the neu-
logical correlates of consciousness as did Francis roaxonal system has a pivotal role both in the
Crick (1995), who spelled out his radical reduc- emergence of conscious experience and in the
tionistic vision as follows: function of levels above it. In his book, The Blank
“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memo- Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Ste-
ries and your ambitions, your sense of personal ven Pinker (2003) writes, “culture is crucial, but
identity and free will, are in fact no more than culture could not exist without mental faculties
the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells that allow humans to create and learn culture to
and their associated molecules. As Lewis begin with.”
Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it, “You’re The effect of culture in shaping brain structure
nothing but a pack of neurons”.” and neuroaxonal function is also permitted. This
Science writer John Horgan (2000) criticized such means that bottom-up and top-down interactions
narrow views: are at work above the dashed line, and every level
“In a sense, Crick is right. We are nothing but a has an active role. This is not supposed to be the
pack of neurons. At the same time, neurosci- case below it: the assumption here is that sub-
ence has so far proved to be oddly unsatisfac- cellular levels are passive, subserving higher lev-
tory. Explaining the mind in terms of neurons els by permitting, but not shaping their function.
has not yielded much more insight or benefit Here the causation operates in a narrow way and
than explaining the mind in terms of quarks and only from bottom-up, but the role of top-down ef-
electrons. There are many alternative reduc- fects is not believed to operate at this level in
tionisms. We are nothing but a pack of idiosyn- mainstream neuroscientific thinking. Above the
cratic genes. We are nothing but a pack of adap- horizontal line there is a well-balanced “coopera-

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tive hierarchy”, below it “oligarchy” is the rule. Of entangled systems “sense” each other without
course, this is an arbitrary delineation with broken space and time limitations.
symmetry. For improved integrity one may postu- While the theory of quantum mechanics has
late that subcellular systems add to the experience perfect internal consistency and strong predictive
something which is a characteristic of their level. power, it has weak external consistency compared
They can also shape consciousness. Since the size to other realms of current knowledge. Neverthe-
of the subneural component is close to quantum less, it maintains consistency with the theory of
physical measures, the suggested characteristic relativity. With the help of “Heisenberg’s uncer-
subcellular levels add to consciousness is their tainty principle” the theory of relativity is not
connection to quantum reality, or “quantum violated by nonlocal actions since some vital in-
weirdness” – some physicists like to say. The most formation is scrambled during the process. Infor-
outstanding case of “quantum weirdness” is “non- mation can be transmitted nonlocally, but no one
locality”, more specifically “signal nonlocality”. can control the information in advance: bi-
directional information exchange with supra-
The End of Local Realism luminal (faster than light) speed does not occur.
Therefore, lack of local realism does not lead to
The most unusual feature of quantum reality is its what could be referred to as „spooky communica-
independence of space-time constraints of classi- tion at a distance“.
cal physics, which assume local realism and local Some interpreters – and not necessarily the
causality. Local realism is a combination of two naïve ones, or those with New Age bent – of
intuitive notions: 1) the “locality principle” stating contemporary physics suggest that nonlocality is
that physical effects have a finite propagation not an esoteric idea. On the contrary it is a very
speed; 2) the “reality principle”, which means that realistic one. According to them, nonlocality is
particle attributes have definite values independ- actually the basic principle of the Universe, mean-
ent of the act of observation. The Einstein-Po- ing that the whole Universe is an interconnected,
dolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox was first in formu- entangled totality. Based on this view, conscious-
lating the following problem: the laws of quantum ness is inherently nonlocal as well. This funda-
mechanics are not consistent with the assumptions mental nonlocality of Mind and Universe col-
of local realism. Based on the EPR paradox, Al- lapses in the ordinary state of consciousness.
bert Einstein et al. (1935) suggested that the the- Space and time are themselves manifestations of
ory of quantum mechanics was incomplete. John this breakdown, and with them the separated array
Bell’s (1964) theorem indicated that local realism of particles that dominate large areas of the uni-
requires invariants that are not present in quantum verse. In this interpretation individual conscious-
mechanics, and implied that quantum mechanics ness arises from the interplay of Mind – develop-
cannot satisfy local realism. Bell test experiments ing within the nonlocal aspect of the Universe –
(Aspect et al. 1982; Wheeler 1984) provided over- with matter, which is the localized aspect of this
whelming empirical evidence against local real- same Universe. Then where in the brain this
ism and demonstrated that under special circum- interplay does occur? What part of the brain serves
stances „spooky action at a distance“ (words of as an interface between nonlocal and local proces-
Albert Einstein) does in fact occur. ses, between the Mind and the material Universe?
Different interpretations of quantum mechanics
reject different components of local realism. In The Quantum Array Antenna of the Brain
one interpretation local realism is broken down
due to the “principle of nonlocality”, which posits After the development of quantum mechanics
that distant objects can have direct, instantaneous many physicists, and subsequently other scientists
influence on one another. The nonlocality princi- and non-scientist popularizers, were caught up in
ple derives from quantum entanglement: a set of the excited belief that quantum theory might ex-
particles that have interacted as parts of the same plain the mystery of consciousness. There exists a
quantum system maintain their interaction after precise correspondence between physical reality
separation regardless of space and time con- and logic since according to the laws of matrix
strains. To put it simply and anthropomorphically: logic (Stern 1988) those are two aspects of the
same thing. The striking similarities between the

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ÖSSZEFOGLALÓKÖZLEMÉNY EDEFRECSKA,LEONARDOL.LUNA

general quantum and the thought processes gave Figure 1
The periodic lattice of the microtubular system
rise to the quantum hypothesis of the mind. Dis- (from Stuart Hameroff)
covery of quantum computation added another
impetus, and dozens of brain models were devel-
oped based on quantum computational principles.
Among them, the most elaborated is the Penrose-
Hameroff model (Penrose 1996). Perhaps not the
entirely correct or the ultimate one. Nevertheless,
the strength of our concept is not tied to the valid-
ity of one model, but to the argumentation out-
lined in the preceding paragraphs for avoiding the
trap of radical reductionism.
Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff proposed
that consciousness emerges from biophysical pro-
cesses acting at the subcellular level involving
cytoskeletal structures. In their model, conscious-
ness is attributed to quantum computation in cyto-
computation and nonlocal information process-
skeletal proteins organized into a network of mic-
ing. `Signal nonlocality` is the recent buzzword.
rotubules within the brain’s neurons. The cyto-
Just as special relativity is a limiting case of gen-
skeleton is dynamic „scaffolding“, a network of
eral relativity, so is classical quantum mechanics
tubes and filaments providing both structural sup-
with signal locality a limiting case of post-quan-
port and means of transportation of subcellular
tum theory with signal nonlocality (Sarfatti 2005).
materials in the cell. While the cytoskeleton has
The latter is exactly what is implicit in the micro-
traditionally been associated with purely struc-
tubule model of quantum consciousness and may
tural functions, recent evidence has revealed that
help us understand, tentatively, what may happen
it is involved in signaling and information pro-
in the spiritual state of consciousness.
cessing as well. The microtubules” periodic lattice
One may notice that despite their impressive
structure (Figure 1) seems ideally suited to molec-
delicateness, microtubules may be too coarse-
ular-scale computation and possibly the source of
grained to explain the emergence of conscious-
the amazing feats of unicellular protozoa. These
ness – of who we really are. In fact, microtubules
tiny one-celled organisms swim, learn, get around
do not form the finest texture of subcellular orga-
objects, avoid predators, and find food and mates
nization. Even smaller and more subtle structures
– all without the benefit of a nervous system. In
branch and interconnect in networks which com-
multicellular organisms microtubules are con-
prise an “infoplasm”, the basic substance of living
nected to each other structurally by protein links,
material (Hameroff 1987). The most delicate
and functionally by gap junctions, self-assembl-
cytoskeletal system is the microtrabecular lattice,
ing into a nanoscale network far vaster than the
a web of microfilaments (biofibers) 4-5nm in di-
neuroaxonal system. The human brain has about
ameter. This represents the current microfrontier,
1011 neurons and 1018 microtubule units (tubu-
the “ground floor” of living material organization.
lins). The dimensions of the neuronal cell-body
If the periodic lattice of microtubules forms a net-
are measured in micrometers and the diameter of
work within a network of neurons, then the micro-
the microtubules in nanometers. Microtubules in-
trabecular lattice is a network embedded in a net-
teract with other cell structures, mechanically
work of the cytoskeleton (Figure 2)!
with the aid of proteins, chemically by ions and
A biological model of information processing
“second-messenger” signals, and electrically by
is proposed in which the microtrabecular lattice is
voltage fields. In the brain they organize synaptic
a medium of quantum holography. Cytoskeletal
connections, and regulate synaptic activity re-
systems fulfill multiple tasks in the experiences of
sponsible for memory and learning.
the human mind: they can influence learning at the
The microtubular network – with 10,000,000
macro level, shape consciousness at the micro
times more elements than neurons and with a
level, and the authors believe that the microtrabe-
component size close to the quantum physical
cular lattice network is probably immense enough
realm – is a reasonable candidate for quantum
to contain holographic information about the

150 Neuropsychopharmacologia Hungarica 2006, VIII/3; 143-153
NEURO-ONTOLOGICALINTERPRETATIONOFSPIRITUALEXPERIENCES*,** ÖSSZEFOGLALÓKÖZLEMÉNY

Figure 2. The embedded microtrabecular lattice information processing is an indirect way of
of the cytoskeleton (mf: microfilaments; arrow: achieving knowledge compared to the “direct-
microtubule) (from Stuart Hameroff)
intuitive-nonlocal” method. In accordance with
the indirect nature of its processing, this mode
splits the world into subject and object, and then
performs modeling. Its linguistic feature makes
this mode culturally bound. The “perceptual-cog-
nitive-symbolic” method of information process-
ing has been evolved evolutionally for the purpose
of task solving, represents a “coping machine” at
work, and reaches its peak in Western scientific
thinking.
The introduction of a “direct-intuitive-non-
local” channel is necessary for an ontological in-
terpretation of integrative ASCs (non-ordinary
whole Universe via nonlocal interactions. The Uni- states of consciousness), such as the shamanic
verse replicates or one may say “emulates” itself trance. Supposedly, this mode of accessing know-
within the brain’s structure. In this model, the ac- ledge is based on cytoskeletal functions, provides
tion of mind is not restricted to the brain, but ex- direct experience (no subject-object split), and is
tends to the whole Cosmos: Mind breaks out of the not bound by language or other symbols. Since the
skull. “direct-intuitive-nonlocal” channel lacks symbo-
If the brain truly contains the whole Cosmos lic-linguistic mediation, it has universal character-
like a hologram, then the perennial wisdom of “As istics, shows more transcultural similarity, practi-
above, so below”, “The kingdom of Heaven is cally ineffable, although culture-specific interpre-
within you”, or “Look within, you are the Budd- tations exist. This may be why mystics get better
ha” obtains a fresh perspective, and there is hope agreement comparing their “data” than do materi-
for their integration into Western rational think- alistic scientists.
ing. Cytoskeletal matrix can be the mediator of the David Lewis-William and David Pearce write
Jungian “collective unconscious”, and cytoskele- in their book entitled Inside the Neolithic Mind
tal quantum holography can explain a very com- (pp. 50): “In altered states of consciousness the
mon but obscure phenomenon known as “intu- nervous system itself becomes a “sixth sense”…”
ition”. We can but agree adding that it is the cytoskeletal
system which acts as a “sixth sense”. Understand-
The Direct-Intuitive-Nonlocal Mind: A Second ably, the above authors navigate to calm waters of
Foundation of Knowledge? more traditional concepts continuing this way:
“…that produces a variety of images including
Shamanic and other spiritual practices based on
entoptic phenomena. The brain attempts to recog-
the integrative forms of altered states of con-
nize, or decode, these meaningless (added by us
sciousness (ASCs) – an integrative ASC leads to
for sake of explicitness) forms as it does with
healing in contrast to a disintegrative one such as
impressions supplied by the nervous system in a
psychosis or drunkenness – seem to elude neuro-
normal state of consciousness.” No doubt, they are
scientific explanations based on classical cogni-
right, like most of the authors who emphasize the
tion. Classical cognition can be conceptualized as
“made-up“ quality of ASCs. We are not arguing
a “perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” way of infor-
here for the ontological validation of every experi-
mation processing characteristic of ordinary states
ence in ASCs, but for those few, very informative
of consciousness. This is to be contrasted with an-
ones in integrative ASCs.
other mode of information processing, based on
The “direct-intuitive-nonlocal” perception of
nonlocal connections denoted here as “direct-intu-
the world also needs rigorous training for its high-
itive-nonlocal”.
est development – common in all fields. It takes
The “perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” mode is
decades to train an indigenous shaman because the
neuroaxonally based, relies on sensory percep-
“direct-intuitive-nonlocal” route into the realm of
tion, cognitive processing, and symbolic (visual,
“non-ordinary” consciousness is seemingly capri-
verbal, logical language) mediation. This form of

Neuropsychopharmacologia Hungarica 2006, VIII/3; 143-153 151
ÖSSZEFOGLALÓKÖZLEMÉNY EDEFRECSKA,LEONARDOL.LUNA

cious, its denizens are so unpredictable, and our breakdown of ordinary cognition. Based on set
“perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” mind is so un- and setting, the outcome is not necessarily dis-
prepared, being incapable of distinguishing be- turbed, chaotic behavior, or insanity (i.e., disin-
tween what is personal and what is impersonal. tegrative ASCs) what most of us would suppose.
What can be nourished, that can be atrophied as When the coping capacity of the “perceptual-cog-
well; the latter might have happened in Western nitive-symbolic” processing is exhausted in a
civilization and the “direct-intuitive-nonlocal” stressful, unmanageable situation, when the “cop-
channel has become “The Forgotten Knowledge”. ing machine” cannot handle the situation (this
The “perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” founda- might be the hidden agenda of the Zen koans), or
tion of knowledge is a result of the brain’s interac- its influence is turned off in transcendental medi-
tions with the local aspects of the Universe. The tation or eliminated by the use of a powerful hallu-
“direct-intuitive-nonlocal” perception of the world cinogen, a shift occurs. Then the “spiritual uni-
derives from the “nonlocal” features of the Cos- verse” opens up through the “direct-intuitive-non-
mos. In other words: the local Universe of the local” channel, its particular content and form be-
classical, Newtonian worldview is the reality of ing affected, and steered toward an integrative
our ordinary consciousness, based on the “percep- form of ASCs by the proper set and setting.
tual-cognitive-symbolic” process. On the other Strassman (2000) has hypothesized that levels
hand, the Mind’s interfacing with the nonlocal of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the endogenous
Universe (revealed by modern physics) generates hallucinogenic compound of the brain, is released
the reality of the “nonordinary” states, which are in near-death experiences, religious ecstasy, or by
more readily (but not exclusively) accessible in in- means of ritual techniques (spirit quest, shamanic
tegrative ASCs. initiation). Hallucinogenic drugs in general, and
Besides stratification of reality – according to DMT in particular, are among the most powerful
different states of consciousness, another intrigu- keys to spiritual (i.e. nonlocal) realms, to Hell or
ing and corollary these hypotheses is that intuition Heaven. In proper doses these psychotropic
becomes a valid – although mostly faint in the un- agents dissolve ego boundaries. In conditions of
trained – source of information. That is, intuition total ego-loss reason recedes as the mind’s funda-
now can be liberated from being some offshoot of mental orienting function and the new compass
a multimodal, parallel-processing function of the can be faith. This is not the inflated faith of dog-
“perceptual-cognitive-symbolic” mode. matic religions, which substitutes for empirical
The outlined dualism of human knowledge re- experience. Rather, it is faith in service of the Self
sembles to Julian Jaynes” (2000) “bicameral mind”, in absence of the Ego. Reason is in service of the
but these authors are not concerned as much about body-centered, “skin-encapsulated” individual Ego,
a left-right hemispheric distribution of work, but and this companionship can barely guide someone
rather about an up-down division between neural under the influence of a powerful hallucinogen or
and cytoskeletal function. The presented dualistic in a deep ASC. As spiritual practices indicate,
nature of information processing carries con- faith and spirit guides can do a better job in non-
sequences for artificial intelligence research: there local realms, in the “Mystical Beyond”.
are efforts to model the “perceptual-cognitive- There is neither psychointegrative effect, nor
symbolic” mode, but what about the “direct-intu- meaningful “opening” with the recreational use of
itive-nonlocal” one? Where is the technology for hallucinogenic compounds. Without the solid
creating a holograph of the Universe, a “machine grounding of tribal traditions, which have been
with soul”“, a computer capable of accessing the crystallized over centuries, even millennia, a
spiritual? “culture-alien” use of mind altering techniques
results in meaningless experience, and at times in
Hallucinogens as Keys to Nonlocal Realms? mental disintegration.
Finally, after these arduous paragraphs we arrived Concluding Remarks
at the pharmacological aspect of this publication.
The ritual use of hallucinogens, the monotonous The authors are fully aware that they tried to ac-
drumming, the repeated refrains, the extreme fa- complish something pretty unconceivable: ex-
tigue, the strict fasting, the frenzied dancing and plaining something not accepted by the main-
so forth, during tribal ceremonies results in the stream with something unaccepted (yet?) by the

152 Neuropsychopharmacologia Hungarica 2006, VIII/3; 143-153
NEURO-ONTOLOGICALINTERPRETATIONOFSPIRITUALEXPERIENCES*,** ÖSSZEFOGLALÓKÖZLEMÉNY

mainstream. Certainly, this is not the best way to from a different angle with the purpose to open
get the approval of the mainstream. Many readers their colleagues mind for rational interpretation of
may think – not without good reason – that this ar- startling frontiers at the edge of science.
ticle was too much of a stretch in a professional
journal. Certainly, New Age literature is full of Address:
similar claims and statements presented in this es- Ede Frecska, MD
say. However, these authors – who have anthropo- National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology
logical and neuroscience background – have come H-1021 Budapest
Hûvösvölgyi Str. 116.
Hungary

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