Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: The importance of phenomenal transparency in psychedelic transformation

Philosophy and the Mind Sciences 3 (2022)
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Abstract

What makes psychedelic psychotherapy work? Is it the induction of psychedelic experience, with its distinct patterns of hallucinations and insights, or is it the neural ‘shakeup’ that moves the brain out of its regular mode of functioning and into a more disordered state? We consider the role that attention-related phenomenological changes play in psychedelic transformation and psychotherapy. We review Letheby’s account of psychedelic psychotherapy, which appeals to increases in phenomenal opacity as the central mechanism of psychotherapeutic transformation. We argue that there is an alternative vehicle of psychedelic transformation that this account overlooks, involving radically transparent experiences. We outline the common kinds of phenomenal transparency shifts typical of psychedelic experiences, and argue that in many cases, such shifts are responsible for the psychotherapeutic benefits. This argument motivates an alternative approach to possible mechanisms of psychedelic self-transformation, and opens up a new venue of empirical research into the role of attention and phenomenology in psychedelic psychotherapy.

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Aidan Lyon
Leiden University

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References found in this work

The Tacit Dimension. --.Michael Polanyi & Amartya Sen - 1966 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
The transparency of experience.Michael G. F. Martin - 2002 - Mind and Language 17 (4):376-425.
Philosophy of Psychedelics.Chris Letheby - 2021 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Mysticism and philosophy.W. T. Stace - 1960 - New York: St. Martin's Press.

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