Extended Perception

There is no difference in principle between sharpening perception with an external instrument, such as a microscope, and sharpening it with an internal instrument, such as one of these…drugs.

Alan Watts

If they are an affront to the dignity of the mind, the microscope is an affront to the dignity of the eye and the telephone to the dignity of the ear. Strictly speaking, these drugs do not impart wisdom at all, any more than the microscope alone gives knowledge. They provide the raw materials of wisdom, and are useful to the extent that the individual can integrate what they reveal into the whole pattern of his behavior and the whole system of his knowledge –Alan Watts1

Perception itself, according to the scientific description, can be viewed as a grand illusion where, through an unexplained and wholly mysterious process at the heart of consciousness itself (the binding problem), sensation received by the eyes (and other senses) and multi-mediated through a series of electrical and chemical processes and pathways in the brain, is stitched together seamlessly by the brain/mind and experienced by the self as “out there”: a fully convincing wraparound reality which we experience as if we were looking out through the eyes (and directing the gaze) which are actually receiving instruments.
In this light, our experience of the world, all “reality,” is virtual in one sense. Perception can be seen as the invisible interface, an illusion we participate in without a thought about the nature of the mind as projector. The mechanics of this illusion of perception are reliably stable, the projections remarkably consistent—until one alters the biochemistry of the brain-mind.

Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Back in the 1960s and early ’70s I took plenty of LSD. A lot of people were doing that in Berkeley back then. And I found it to be a mind-opening experience. It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took. –Kary Mullis

Psychedelics for some extend perception to the molecular level. Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis claims that his ability to “get down with the molecules” was learned using LSD, which enabled the development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a foundational piece of genetic technology which has enabled DNA cloning for sequencing and the diagnosis of hereditary disease, among other applications.
Mullis was no dabbler in the psychedelic realm. He was so impressed by his first (1000 mμ)35 LSD trip that he began creating, with others, new psychedelics in his chemistry lab at Berkeley, staying one step ahead of the scheduling and illegalization process.


LiveGlide, 2CB session.

The description of what is perceived under conditions of extended perception is inevitably shaped by cultural contexts and expectations. Thus the term ‘extended perception’ is used as an umbrella to cover perceptions which are given a wide variety of names depending on context and content: hallucinations, visions, and siddhis, synaesthesias and ESP. Often certain signature perceptions define one’s status in a culturally defined altered state, and come to define the landscape of a particular state of consciousness. The shaman’s flight, the bliss-body of yogic states, and the rising auditory tones of the DMT flash are three examples of perceptions that function as landmarks in ASC.

  1. Watts, A. (1962). The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness. New York, Vintage Books. []

2 Responses to “Extended Perception”

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  2. Few words and lots of clarity.

    • Antonio
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