Viktor PETRENKO, Corresponding Member of RAS, Head of Laboratory "Psychology of communication and psychosemantics": "I think that as a working hypothesis, it is possible that forms of contacts with highly advanced civilizations are possible as a result of this profound meditation..."
It’s very difficult to speak after Professor Stepin, with his highly theoretical and abstract concepts… I’m in a rather altered state of awareness – I’m rather blocked up – and I wanted to take about altered states. I’ll rather keep to the level of certain examples.
In cognitive psychology, the basic metaphor is the computer metaphor, which means that the awareness and psyche of the person is seen as a complex computer, a processor. But this computer metaphor is defective because so far not a single technical system has been able to create elementary feelings or simple emotions. I am going to try to talk about the quantum computer with cosmic Internet as applied to the human psyche. But first a few illustrations.
A picture of the world is not created only by a very advanced yogi, but in fact any living being creates an image of the world. Depending on how far up the evolutionary ladder this being is, this world will be different, and of differing complexity.
Here is a simple example from animal psychology. When a snake hunts for frogs, the frogs jump into its mouth themselves. Initially, people thought that the snake somehow hypnotizes the frog with its gaze, to make it act in such a strange way. But in fact, if we reconstruct the picture of the frog’s world, if a snake moves slowly, and its body does not stand out, there is no degree of differentiation of neurons, to distinguish the body of a moving snake from stones, stumps etc., it is simply not perceived. But the open mouth of a snake and its forked tongue, which vibrates, is perceived by the frog as a fly or a mosquito, and it jumps to catch it, and falls into the snake’s mouth. So the world of the frog is extremely primitive compared to the world of the human being. And this world that it organizes depends on the perception models, on the cognitive map that it has.
Another example is found on the level of the human being. I once described an interesting phenomenon with my colleague and pupil Vladimir Kucherenko. If you convince a person under hypnosis that they will not see an object, for example they will not see cigarettes, and the person comes out of the state of trance and is asked to list the objects lying on the table, then they will not only not see the cigarettes, they will not see the ash tray full of cigarette butts, or the cigarette packet. They may also not see the cigarette lighter, because it is connected with the process of smoking. They may see the cigarette lighter, turn it in their hands, and say: “What is this strange cylinder… I don’t know what it is… it’s probably a validol container.” So the figural function relating to the prohibited object is retarded. An entire semantic field of objects relating to the prohibited object vanishes. The concept of “watching” and “seeing” becomes separated. Of course, the person sees these objects, but if you place a prohibition on certain values, then they will not recognize the objects that they see, they will disappear, as it were.
This is one striking example. We have studied the influence of emotions on categorization processes quite systematically – how the presence of certain emotional states changes the inner thesaurus, or how semantic spaces transform into the manifestation of these emotions. Under hypnosis, we have inculcated such simple emotional states as fear, euphoria, the more complicated feeling of guilt etc., and seen how the system of associations changes. The test subjects filled out a matrix, which we then processed using a factor analysis, cluster analysis and structural modeling, and saw how semantic spaces change under the influence of various emotions. This means the interaction between affect and intellect. In our intellect, emotional stress, affect etc. play a colossal role.
And here is another amusing example. We conducted it at the Winter psychology school, where two students lived in each room. And we carried out an experiment with one of the students, and the other student asked to be present – it is interesting to observe hypnosis. But to stop the other student from interfering, and so that our test subject was not distracted by him, we hypnotized the test subject into being unable to see this student. And indeed… First the experiment, then the filling out of the matrix. And the student who was invisible, as it were, decided that if he was invisible, then he would also be inaudible. In the evening, the students were getting ready to go to a dance. The second student took a razor and began to shave. Our test subject was completely bewildered: he heard the sound coming from the invisible student’s razor, but did not see him, and he could not understand the source of the distressing sound that he could hear. He took several steps towards the source of the sound, and the other student jumped away in fear. When he was literally a few centimeters away from the other student, he stopped and fell into a deep trance. In other words, a logical contradiction arose: on the one hand, he could see the other student, if he could not walk through him, but at the same time he did not perceive him.
Hegel explained that in feelings and emotions, the subject and the object merge, there is no gnosiological contradistinction. But if we express something in a sign-oriented form, then we can make the process of alienation from the feelings of the subject, and in the secondary sign-oriented form of perception comes awareness. That is, in order to be aware of something, and not just perceive it, but to be aware of it, we must have some sign-oriented forms. This does not necessarily have to be language, it may be symbols, it may be some ritual actions, but it must be something that has meaning and emotional content… Something that we can convey to another person, something that we can be aware of ourselves.
So we build the worlds in which we are immersed, and the awareness of them is linked with the system of values that we possess. There is also another amusing example described by ethnographers. When the Spanish galleons came to America, they cast their anchors, but the Indians did not actually see the galleons. That is, they saw them, but did not realize what they were, because they did not have any perception models, any values such as ship etc. But they did notice the fact that there was a strange transformation of the water… not waves, but ripples on the water. In other words, to distinguish something, one must have certain perception models, values etc.
This is one of the reasons that we may contemplate the great silence of space… Space does not give us any signals to show that there are sentient civilizations besides our own, with which we could establish contact etc. But after the “Big Bang”, over 6.5 billion years have gone by, and it is very naïve to expect that possible civilizations with which we could potentially make contact would be on approximately the same level as our own, and that they would fly to us in rockets wearing space suits, and we would make contact with them in this way. What is most likely, if we look at it, is that over the last 300 years, the progress of civilization has been so colossal, that when there is a spectrum of hundreds and thousands of years, the possibility of two civilizations on the same level encountering one another is extremely small.
There is one possible hypothesis, merely on the level of a hypothesis, mind you. My colleague Krichevsky, who said that space would be explored by human beings, that we would fly… not us, but our close descendants would fly to other planets, and perhaps even give birth in space, and that a space civilization would arise… I think it is doubtful that the cold, hostile expanse of space can be inhabited. What is more likely is that contacts can be made with other civilizations within our own mentality. We have little experience of techniques of changing states of consciousness. Some people have tried various meditation techniques. Nevertheless, I think that as a working hypothesis, it is possible that forms of contacts with highly advanced civilizations are possible as a result of this profound meditation, in sophisticated psychological practices, when we make a breakthrough, on the one hand, by developing a kind of system of values that is not tied down to our own specific world, and on the other hand, by developing sophisticated techniques of meditation, we will make contact with possible worlds at deep meditative levels.
That is all that I wanted to say.