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KOSMOS: A Theory of Psychedelic Experience

  by Peter Webster

      Complete Manuscript

  Through several arguments, examples, and drawing on published research, KOSMOS develops the theory that the principal - and perhaps the only important - neurocognitive effect of LSD and similar psychedelics is the amplification of perceived salience. The recent characterization of the Salience Network (1) (2) , and a few other recent papers (3 and references cited therein) that propose that the psychedelic experience is "meaning enhancing", confirm that hypotheses advanced in my early writing in the 1990s anticipated today's research developments. KOSMOS then continues with an evaluation of how psychedelics and salience enhancement might have played a role in human evolution, the rise of Greek Civilizaton, and the radicalization and protest movements of the 1960s. A few personal stories from my past 50 years' interest in psychedelics spice up the book so that it might be enjoyed by all.
(1) Menon V. (2015) Salience Network. In: Arthur W. Toga, editor. Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, vol. 2, p. 597. Academic Press: Elsevier.
(2) Steven L. Bressler and Vinod Menon: “Large-scale brain networks in cognition: emerging methods and principles” Feature Review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14 (2010) 277-290.
(3) Ido Hartogsohn: “The Meaning-Enhancing Properties of Psychedelics and Their Mediator Role in Psychedelic Therapy, Spirituality, and Creativity” Front. Neurosci., 06 March 2018

The recent renewal of the study of psychedelic drugs is a welcome but long overdue undertaking. Had such work not been interrupted for many decades, today's world might be quite different. The present work is an exposition of my own research on the subject, begun in the late 1960s and continuing sporadically ever since. I have attempted to answer not only the obvious questions about psychedelics, but to assemble a comprehensive Theory of Psychedelic Experience, an overview from several perspectives of how a psychedelic experience feels to the voyager, how and why it may affect his views and beliefs, how psychedelic perception happens on a psychological and neurological basis and why it appears to be similar or identical to states of consciousness sometimes attained spontaneously or through meditation and other age-old techniques.

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