Anil Seth: The Science of No-Self

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The dramatic shifts in perception during psychedelic trips are often called hallucinations. 

But what if everyday perception is also a kind of hallucination? Even your sense of Self? 

Neuroscientist Anil Seth proposes that “your brain hallucinates your conscious reality” in one of TED talks most popular events, viewed by over 11 million people. 

His insights chime with mystical traditions that say the normal perception of reality and “self” is a kind of illusion. People who claim to perceive this on an ongoing basis say this can create a sense of liberation, freedom or unity with all existence. In other words, enlightenment. 

“..its the kind of understanding that makes us feel continuous with nature rather than separate from it." - Anil Seth

We've invited Anil Seth to the Psychedelic Society to discuss how his research on perception may relate to various meditative, mystical and psychedelic experiences that induce ego-dissolution. 

  • Could there be psychological and neuroscientific justification for claims to such enlightenment?
  • Is perceiving “No-Self” closer to a scientific understanding of reality?
  • In what ways might such perception be related to disorders such as depersonalisation or dissociation?
  • What correlates are there between the ego dissolution of meditators, psychonauts on those suffering from mental illness? 

The notion of "no-self" can be bewildering, and this talk may change the way you understand yourself, perception and reality. But it can also help understand ego dissolution/death experiences common during psychedelics, near-death experiences and mediation in a way that is easier to conceptualise and integrate.  

About Anil Seth

Anil Seth's groundbreaking research seeks to understand consciousness in health and in disease. As Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, and founding co-director of the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, his research bridges neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry. He has also worked extensively with playwrights, dancers and other artists to shape a truly humanistic view of consciousness and self.

Seth is the editor and co-author of the best-selling 30-Second Brain, a collection of brief and engaging neuroscience vignettes. His forthcoming book The Presence Chamber develops his unique theories of conscious selfhood within the rich historical context of the mind and brain sciences.

His TED talk is one of the most popular ever, at over 11 million views, and his interview on the Waking Up podcast is considered by Sam Harris as one the most important conversations he has recorded. 

"The idea of where we exist, how we develop that sense of self and how it can be explained in terms of the activity of brain cells, all of that is still largely the domain of philosophers rather than scientists. Anil Seth (...) wants to turn that around.” — Guardian, May 9, 2010

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