Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Pill of Perfect Happiness

by Michael Grosso:

I was inspired by Michael Pollan’s new book, How to Change Your Mind, which explores  the outer limits of psychedelic consciousness.  We know it’s possible, by means of psychoactive chemicals, to change our minds in wonderful and fascinating ways.  The question is, how far are people willing to go?  How many of us are ready for transformation?  And would society be willing to support our efforts?

It might help to try a thought experiment. Imagine what would be an event of world significance: a group of neuroscientists announce the discovery of a drug that transforms consciousness, offering permanent benefit to the individual and to human society at large. One treatment is all that is required, and there are no ill side-effects.

What the drug does—called EH for ‘Effortless Happiness’—is turn off the brain mechanism responsible for the ego-sense—that pesky, intrusive thing that can mess up our every move in life. Anybody who ingests a small EH pill (about the size of a child’s aspirin) would go through a period of mild confusion and bewilderment, but by day’s end, would be morphed into a new being.  A noxious cloud is forever lifted and all experience is bathed in the light of pure consciousness.

Nobody would look different or acquire showy powers.  The only difference is that the ego-sense would be disabled. The result is a new normal, that is, constant irrepressible happiness. EH would not make us mechanical or moronic, but nuanced and compassionate; not obtuse with self-satisfaction but sensitive to all forms of life and grades of nature.

Thus, without ideological fanfare, it would be possible, cheaply and efficiently, to help human beings become sociable, peaceful, creative, happy and wise.

Suppose the evidence for the efficacy of EH was compelling, about to be mass produced and distributed to anybody who wanted it—and for free. (The creators of EH are motivated by the common good.)  But now the crucial question: How would the availability of EH, the total happiness pill, be received by the serious people and power brokers of the world?

What would happen if such a discovery were in fact made? When I think about this, , gloomy pictures come to mind. I worry about the inventors—they would, I think, immediately appear on a lot of hit lists.  In fact, I would predict: First they would be vilified, then tracked down, and finally disposed of.   

It’s easy to see why.  The creators of such a psychoactive concoction would have to be done away with, at cost of the present world-order. The world is not set up to welcome totally effortless happiness; it’s designed for the opposite, profiting from  misery and malevolence. What, for example, would Big Pharma do about the appearance of such a happiness pill?  The word that leaps to mind—panic!  It would be a mortal threat to the pharmaceutical corporations that rely on a steady stream of anxious, aching, frightened, needy, unsatisfied, unhappy human beings. The fact is that unhappiness is the cornerstone of their multi-billion dollar business. Big Pharma would be the first to think of the only realistic response to the hateful anti-capitalistic inventors of such a pill: get rid of them by any means.    

I can also imagine a ground swell of anti-EH sentiment arising from religion.  There might be some exceptions here, maybe among some enlightened tantric yogis, but more likely there would be massive resistance.  The idea of obtaining perfect happiness from a pill would surely seem like the ultimate blasphemy to most religionists.

Assume an induced brain alteration allowed people spontaneously to become enlightened. Not only would traditional ideas of God decline in importance, so would the decrees and authorities of organized religions. Religion and its quarrels and fanaticisms would vanish.   And of course lots of people would be out of a job. The need for all the symbols, rites, and intermediaries would evaporate.  We’re looking at loss of status and serious shortfalls in the banks. Therefore, expect the corrupt elements inside religion to be shopping around for ways to cause EH to disappear from the planet.  Something would have to be done, or else religion would just go out of business.

So it seems that the new alchemists, come to save our species, would run into major problems. And we’ve just touched on the antagonism our hypothetical pill would stir up.  If religion and Big Pharma are likely to resist, the same would be true for most of the helping professions.  With Effortless Happiness available to all, a massive falling away from unnecessary reliance on mainstream and much alternative medicine would ensue.

For all the medical professionals out of work there will be much to do, pro bono, of course.  They will distribute the self-perfecting pill to the poor and the needy, but only after having ingested it themselves and achieved liberation. Thus would arise a new class of enlightened beings, dedicated to promoting the benefits of psychoactive enlightenment.  

I believe the majority of established power structures would resist the onset of a new ego-shedding epoch. They would feel obliged to join religionists and Big Pharma, and get on with crushing the new happiness-for-everybody fad.

A scientifically induced revolution of consciousness, in which peace, love, justice, and beauty suddenly became the definitive living values would be deeply frightening. The prospect of the entire world at peace, the various nations and cultures in partnership, with all walls and barriers dissolved, would elicit rabid resistance from large numbers of paranoid racists, malevolent narcissists, and sundry malcontents.

If such a miracle drug were really created, the greatest resistance would come from politicians, empire-builders, bankers, militarists, lawyers, plenty of academics--professions that thrive when fear, greed, suspicion, hatred, ruthless competition, war and the will to power flourish. 

If anybody invented the perfect pill of peace and happiness, they would say it was fake news. It's an ugly fact about the 21st century. All the horrors of greed, war, and corruption; of willful ignorance and callousness; of the destruction of lives, cities, homelands, cultures--of Earth itself—all this is hugely profitable for tiny subsets of human beings who control the cash and the state apparatus. The cost of enlightenment is prohibitive in the world we have created.  


Unknown said...

Funny … as I was reading your piece, I started to wonder about how big pharma would react. If such a pill were invented, the pharmaceutical industry would do everything within its power to not only survive such development, but to take advantage of it. For example, they could re-engineer it so that its effects are short-lived. Thus, just like with lightbulbs, people would be driven to buy such pills in perpetuity. Moreover, they would adjust the pill’s chemistry to produce tolerance so that other similar pills could then be used once the old ones won’t work. And, really … no side effects? Big pharma would ensure that such pills would trigger some types of side effects, even if minor and not serious, which themselves can be alleviated with other pills that eventually would need to be bought. Oh, and that new pill should also prove to be addictive so that other pills can be invented to counter its addictive nature AND help with the outrage of politicians and religious figures. And like with tobacco, all of this would be based on an ‘empirical’ edifice of studies published in the biomedical literature by big pharma-controlled researchers whose job would be to misdirect the scientific record in ways that ultimately add to their bottom line. :)

MrAnonymous said...

I disagree

Those in power would absolutely love this. People on EH would be more homogenized than they are now. Their jobs would become much easier, and people would be happy so they really wouldn't care about the shenanigans of their leaders.

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