Quantum Psychology (book excerpt)
by Robert Anton Wilson
A strong set of negative beliefs (a Loser Script) appears, to neuroscience, as an imprinted and/or conditioned and/ or learned network of bio-chemical reflexes in the cortex of the brain. Since communication exists between parts of the brain, and between the brain and other body systems, these "negative beliefs" can easily transduce into bio chemical reflexes of the organism-as-a-whole. Specifically, the "belief" reflexes in the cortex get transduced into neurochemical and hormonal processes when they pass through the hypothalamus, an ancient little part of the back brain which regulates and/or influences many body programs, including the immune system.
Among the chemical systems regulated by the hypothalamus and transduced to the immune system we find a variety of neuropeptides, including the now-famous endorphins, which act as tranquilizers and painkillers quite similar to opium.
Neuropeptides have a curious duality about them which reminds me of the photons (and electrons) of quantum mechanics. Those quantum entities (or models?), you remember by now, sometimes act as waves and sometimes as particles. Similarly, neuropeptides sometimes act as hormones (chemicals causing changes in body function) and sometimes as neurotransmitters (chemicals causing changes in brain function).
None of these little blighters ever heard of Aristotelian logic, I guess. Acting as neurotransmitters in the brain, neuropeptides perform many interesting known functions (and probably many not yet known...) Most significantly, they allow the opening and perhaps the imprinting of new neural pathways and "networks" and/or "reflexes". This means that a heavy dose of new neuropeptides in your brain, just like a dose of LSD or some other psychedelic, will cause you to perceive and "think" (organize and interpret perceptions) in new and original ways - to drop your familiar gloss and "see" through other glosses... to leave your rigid reality-tunnel and enter a multi-choice reality-labyrinth... to transcend modeltheism (dogma) and spontaneously feel-think in the manner of the "model agnosticism" of post Copenhagen physics...
Whatever metaphor from the behavioral sciences one uses, the process means, in ordinary terms, decreased rigidity, increased creativity; less compulsion, more sense of choice.
In terms of Information Theory, this appears as a dramatic increase in the amount of information processed per second. The more new circuits opened in the brain, the more new information you notice in even the simplest and most familiar objects or events. To quote Blake, "The fool sees not the same tree that the wise man sees."
A really massive rush of neuropeptides, then, will subjectively appear as "rebirth" or "seeing a whole new universe" or a transcendence of what had seemed ineluctable limitations. Many will describe this in religious metaphors and say "the Spirit overcame me," etc. Blake speaks of seeing "infinity in a grain of sand."
When they leave the brain and begin acting as hormones in the body, neuropeptides interact with all significant systems, including the immunological system. Increased neuropeptide activity, therefore, correlates with increased "resistance" to disease, an inner sense of "feeling better" and the kind of upsurge of hope that propelled Mr. Wright out of bed and set him walking about the wards chatting happily with everybody.
A few miscellaneous observations - taken, like most of the above, from Rossi, op. cit. - will illustrate these synergetic relationships somewhat further.
1. Those who respond best to placebos also register high on awareness of synchronicities. Since synchronicity only "makes sense" in a holistic or synergetic model of the universe (and appears "nonsensical" or "impossible" in a mechanistic model) such people already have an intuitive sense of holism, which makes it easier for them to "allow" holistic processes to occur in brain/body systems.
2. Those who respond least to placebos not only deny synchronicity but appear "rigid and stereotypical" in their thinking. Thus, placebos would probably not work for members of CSICOP. It almost appears that some people would rather die than allow a cure that looks to them like "magic" .
3. Memory now appears mood-dependent. When we feel happy, we sincerely remember our lives as generally happy; when we feel said, we conversely remember our lives as total disasters, etc. The "observer" who creates our experienced universes not only appears unaware of its own creativity, but re-edits everything in terms of current mood (i.e., current neurochemical activity in the brain).
4. Many studies indicate that the neuropeptide activity in the brain - reassociating, or re-glossing, or moving from a rigid reality-tunnel to a multi-choice reality labyrinth - seems as important in healing as the chemical boost that neuropeptides give to the immune system. In other words, as our ability to process more and more information increases, our resistance to unwellness (in general) also increases.
A world of many options never "feels" as dreadful as a deterministic or mechanical world.
5. The brain never "remembers" like a tape recorder or repeats like a parrot. Even the most rigid and compulsive types (Catholics, Marxists, members of CSICOP, etc.) do a lot more re-associating, re-framing and creative editing than they consciously realize.
Dr. Rossi summarizes the current evidence by saying bluntly that what judges tell witnesses to do in a court room - tell one version of experience, and stick to it, without re-editing - seems unnatural and nearly impossible for the human brain. It seems we never do that, exactly.
At best, we may convince ourselves and others that we have done it, for a short period. The attorney for the opposition can usually tear that charade apart - to the utter consternation of witnesses who have never heard of Transactional psychology or quantum logic and still believe in the Aristotelian/medieval "one objective reality."
6. Beta wave activity in the brain correlates with outer directed activity and dominance of sympathetic nervous system functions. Alpha wave activity, and lower brain frequencies, correlate with inner-directed passivity and dominance of parasympathetic nervous system functions.
Daily practice of yoga, which often correlates with improved health, decreases the total amount of beta activity / outer directed attention/sympathetic nervous system function and conversely increases alpha or theta wave activity / inner directed attention/parasympathetic nervous system functions.
Hypnosis, whatever positive suggestions it may implant in the cortex to transduce into neurochemical immunologi cal boosts, also begins with telling the patient to close her or his eyes and become more relaxed. Both closing the eyes and relaxing move the patient from beta waves/outer attention/sympathetic system to alpha-theta waves/inner attention/parasympathetic system.
(The controversial Dr. Reich, incidentally, used muscular relaxation techniques to move patients from sympathetic nervous system dominance to increased parasympathetic nervous system activity. But since Certified Government Bureaucrats condemned his ideas and burned his books, you all know he "was really" a nut, right?)
7. Since the neuropeptides travel through virtually all the body fluids (blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid etc.) as well as between neurons, the neuropeptide system acts more slowly but more holistically than the central nervous system.
The experimental attitude differs totally from "common sense" - the former accepts that we may, at any time, discover new information that will profoundly alter our model of the universe, while the latter assumes we know the basic truth already and, at worst, will only have to modify it slightly when new data appears. Thus, I do not mind confessing that I have tried faith healers on occasion, experimentally. I have enough conservatism (or cowardice) to have tried these experiments only with minor ailments that did not seem likely to become serious hazards to my survival.
The results exactly conformed to point 7 above, even though I knew nothing about neuropeptide activity until a few years ago. With each "healer", I felt nothing very dramatic during the treatment, and each time I left with a sense of disappointment and increased skepticism (about that school of faith healing, or that healer). In a few hours, I began to notice a slight decrease in symptoms and a upsurge in "new energy." Within a day, all symptoms disappeared and my health again appeared normal. I did not know how to explain this effect until I read about the slow-motion holistic activity of neuropeptides.
Perhaps, even after these neurochemical functions seem clear to the reader, an aura of "spookiness" still lingers about the whole subject. Let us look at the belief/neuro peptide/immunological loop in slow motion, then. This will perhaps appear less "spooky." According to Brain/Mind Bulletin (May 1988) John Barefoot of Duke University has found a negative correlation between suspiciousness and longevity. a sample of 500 older men and women whose health he monitored for 15 years, Barefoot discovered that:
(a) those who scored high on suspiciousness, cynicism and hostility died sooner than all others;
(b) this high mortality among those with Loser Scripts remained constant when compared by age, by sex, by previous health, by diet and even by "bad habits." (Those who smoked and remained generally optimistic lived longer than those who smoked and worried about it.)
(c) those who scored highest on hostility had a death rate more than six times higher than others.In a related study (Brain/Mind Bulletin August 1988) Shelley Taylor of UCLA and Jonathan Brown of SMU refuted the conventional idea that those who score high on "mental health" have fewer illusions than others.
Quite the reverse, according to this study: those who score high on "mental health" generally have a number of illusory beliefs. Among the most common illusions of the mentally healthy:
(a) overly positive views of themselves;
(b) convenient "forgetting" of negative facts about themselves;
(c) illusory beliefs about having more control than they do have;
(d) "unrealistic" optimism about themselves;
(e) "unrealistic" optimism about the future in general;
(f) "abnormal" cheerfulness.
Would you want to have those kinds of "illusions" or would you rather stick to "hard realism" and die sooner than those deluded fools? In closing this chapter, I would like to give another case history and a bit of self-revelation. At the age of 2 years, in 1934, I contracted polio - a rather widespread disease among children up until the Salk vaccine. Dr. Salk had not discovered the vaccine yet, in 1934, and the medical prognosis held that I would never walk again.
My parents eventually found a doctor who had decided to experimentally treat some polio patients with the "Heretical" methods of Sister Kenny, an Australian nurse who had been roundly Damned and Anathematized by the A.M.A. bureaucracy. On all sides, Americans received the message that the Sister Kenny methods did not work and that they consisted of "quackery" and "witchcraft."
The Kenny system consisted of (a) something a bit like faith healing, (b) muscle massage and (c) long soaking in hot tubs.
The "faith healing" side of Sister Kenny's technique involved flat denial of the A.M.A. dogma that those crippled by polio could never walk again. The muscle massage had a lot in common with the techniques of the infamous Dr. Reich, Damned and Anathematized in the 1950s by the same medical bureaucracy that condemned Sister Kenny in the 1930s. The hot tub idea had been popular in the 19th Century, remained popular in Europe and has become popular again in California. I have no idea whether my cure resulted from one of these factors, from two, or from all three in synergy. Empirically, I recovered and started walking again. I walk normally today, with only an occasional limp when very tired, and some pedal myoclonism at night. Most people do not guess that I spent two years as a cripple.
Those treated by orthodox A.M.A. methods in those years seem to have remained in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.
In retrospect, I wonder how much of the condemnation of Sister Kenny resulted from the facts that she did not possess male genitalia or a medical degree (i.e., in the minds of most physicians, she "was" "only" a woman and "only" a nurse...)
I suspect that some long-term effects of the Sister Kenny treatment linger with me. E.g., I have enjoyed better-than average health for the rest of my life, I retain a deep suspicion of all "Authorities" and Authoritarians (as you might have noticed), and I have never had the fashionable pessimism and ban ton despair necessary to get myself included among Serious Novelists in the judgment of New York critics. Like the people in the Taylor-Brown study, I seem "unrealistically" optimistic about myself and the future and "abnormally" cheerful. This annoys quite a few people.← Back