“The brain is a hierarchical system,” Carhart-Harris said. “The highest-level parts”—such as the default-mode network—“have an inhibitory influence on the lower-level parts, like emotion and memory.” He discovered that blood flow and electrical activity in the default-mode network dropped off precipitously under the influence of psychedelics, a finding that may help to explain the loss of the sense of self that volunteers reported. (The biggest dropoffs in default-mode-network activity correlated with volunteers’ reports of ego dissolution.) Just before Carhart-Harris published his results, in a 2012 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a researcher at Yale named Judson Brewer, who was using fMRI to study the brains of experienced meditators, noticed that their default-mode networks had also been quieted relative to those of novice meditators. It appears that, with the ego temporarily out of commission, the boundaries between self and world, subject and object, all dissolve. These are hallmarks of the mystical experience.
In Carhart-Harris’s view, a steep price is paid for the achievement of order and ego in the adult mind. “We give up our emotional lability,” he told me, “our ability to be open to surprises, our ability to think flexibly, and our ability to value nature.” The sovereign ego can become a despot. This is perhaps most evident in depression, when the self turns on itself and uncontrollable introspection gradually shades out reality. In “The Entropic Brain,” a paper published last year in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Carhart-Harris cites research indicating that this debilitating state, sometimes called “heavy self-consciousness,” may be the result of a “hyperactive” default-mode network.
Regarding depression, which I appear to have, yet not have by “choice” as some think it is had, or as a permanent, organic problem, as do others, but as the result of an injury sustained in treatment for the effects of abuse and trauma and then treatment for the injury that did not heal it — this is a good description of it.
In Reeducation we were, precisely taught to turn the self on itself and substitute research and recreation time with self-destructive introspection. That created this debilitating state or “heavy self-consciousness.” If you suppress reason, as we were ordered to, but also repress intuition and try to follow instructions aimed at making you “functional” in a conventional way, then you do in fact place, and maintain the sovereign ego in a despotic position.
Be that as it may, the description above is good, and the article from whence it comes is fascinating.