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Thread: Ecstasy

  1. #1 Ecstasy 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Taken from New Scientist 25 January 2014, page 45

    There is a form of epilepsy that is preceded by a feeling of total ecstasy. Dostoevsky, who was epileptic, described it as :

    "A happiness unthinkable in the normal state, and unimaginable for anyone who has not experienced it. I am then in perfect harmony with myself and the entire universe."

    And

    " I would give my whole life for this one instant. Overflowing with unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest life."

    It would appear that epileptic fits are often preceded by heightened activity in the anterior insula, a specific part of the brain. The exact location has been identified when a young woman with epilepsy had electrodes inserted into the appropriate area, and a mild current induced that 'perfect happiness.'

    It is suggested that these seizures may have led some people into becoming religious mystics. Perhaps the prophets of old. It has also been suggested that many drugs like amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy may provide an effect similar to that seizure. Some people highly skilled at meditation may also achieve this.

    It occurs to me that, now we are gaining understanding of the effect, it may be possible to stimulate it, without harmful side effects. Perhaps with an implanted microchip. Perhaps with carefully designed drugs.

    What do you think of that idea? Would it bring civilisation crashing down? Would it be 'immoral'? Would it help or harm individuals? What are the implications?


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    I thought there were a couple of other conditions which had these euphoria effects. Maybe it was just different people with various forms of epilepsy.

    I'm not sure about social effects. When you think about societies generally, these effects were reserved either to specified individuals or to special occasions for everyone indulging in mushrooms or alcohol or whatever. Though some were used in constant small doses to alleviate hunger in some societies - it's a lot easier to tolerate being hungry if you just don't care about it.


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    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Taken from New Scientist 25 January 2014, page 45

    There is a form of epilepsy that is preceded by a feeling of total ecstasy. Dostoevsky, who was epileptic, described it as :

    "A happiness unthinkable in the normal state, and unimaginable for anyone who has not experienced it. I am then in perfect harmony with myself and the entire universe."

    And

    " I would give my whole life for this one instant. Overflowing with unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest life."

    It would appear that epileptic fits are often preceded by heightened activity in the anterior insula, a specific part of the brain. The exact location has been identified when a young woman with epilepsy had electrodes inserted into the appropriate area, and a mild current induced that 'perfect happiness.'

    It is suggested that these seizures may have led some people into becoming religious mystics. Perhaps the prophets of old. It has also been suggested that many drugs like amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy may provide an effect similar to that seizure. Some people highly skilled at meditation may also achieve this.

    It occurs to me that, now we are gaining understanding of the effect, it may be possible to stimulate it, without harmful side effects. Perhaps with an implanted microchip. Perhaps with carefully designed drugs.

    What do you think of that idea? Would it bring civilisation crashing down? Would it be 'immoral'? Would it help or harm individuals? What are the implications?
    There are many paths to 'euphoria', and many people search for 'happiness', 'ecstasy' or 'enlightenment', that sense of 'oneness' as they seek to find 'meaning' in their lives. Our own bodies hold the key to this pathway also, the endorphine rush experienced by many athletes has been described similarly and I once had a 'Satori' moment in working with one of my horses when I was on the verge of nervous exhaustion.

    It was absolutely brilliant, that instant of accord with a previously troubled young mare.

    I wonder if there would be any benefit to being able to induce this state at will, though. It seems to be intended by nature as a 'reward' and if rewards are over-utilized, I would think that we run the risk of desensitizing ourselves to the potentials of achievement, pleasure and satisfaction.

    There may be some benefit derived if we can find a way to stabilize moods in persons who are suffering from bi-polar, clinical depression or a myriad of other disorders if we can find more of a happy medium than complete euphoria, I'm thinking.
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    Scheherazade

    I doubt if the full impact would be a result of any form of evolution. More likely that it is a reward mechanism set up by evolution to operate at a lower level in order to reward some kind of survival behaviour. I do not know what behaviour. But a cerebral action that left the individual gazing into space in a state of uncaring euphoria does not seem to me to be something evoluton would favour.

    Mind you, 21st century humans might be rather keen on it, if it could be induced.
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    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Experiments with rats in the past showed that they will keep pushing a bar to the point of exhaustion in order to stimulate electrodes implanted in areas of the brain associated with reward or pleasure. The researchers assumed that the rats must be enjoying it, or they wouldn't keep doing it it, but the few experiments done on humans questions this assumption. Like rats, the humans did feel very compelled to keep self-stimulating, but at the same time, experienced diminishing, or strangely unsatisfying, pleasure from the experience, or something that might be described as the anticipation of pleasure without its fulfillment. ( From "We Are Our Brains" by DF Swaab)

    Apparently, it's really hard to fool mother nature.

    Bad country music often contains the lament "the whiskey ain't workin' anymore," a situation where no matter how much one drinks, he can't seem to get drunk, and although he would undoubtedly fail a road side sobriety test, the expected euphoria or relief from anxiety no longer occurs. (see Travis Tritt et al) I suspect one of the problems with any altered state is that after an extended period of time it just feels normal, and almost undetectable without a reference point.
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