Mindapps is a book by Thomas B. Roberts, PhD, professor emeritus of Northern Illinois University, published this month by Park Street Press of Rochester, Vermont. Subtitled Multistate Theory and Tools for Mind Design, it is enthusiastically praised in a foreword by James Fadiman, PhD, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and teacher at the “Institute of Transpersonal Psychology” in California. There are also many blurbs and positive quotes from those engaged in the field of psychedelic studies, and evidently Professor Roberts commands the respect of his peers working in this interesting and unconventional area.
A concern however arises from the reputation of his publisher, located well beyond the mainstream of scientific thought, describing itself as “a publisher & online retailer of books on new age spirituality, the occult, ancient mysteries, new science, holistic health & more!”
Roberts explains his concept as being analogous to installing digital apps on our electronic devices, so can we construct “mindapps” and install them in our mind-brain complex. “Just as digital apps add capabilities to our devices, mindapps can expand our mental powers and creative abilities, allowing us to intentionally redesign our minds.”
Psychological jargon is employed throughout and new coinages surface, such as “metaintelligence” and “cognitive qualia.” The overall flavour is somewhat grandiose, even oxymoronic, as in quoting a source called “empirical metaphysics.” A “map of the mind” from another source is presented, resembling an updating of Freud’s old concept of id-ego-superego division.
Pervasive references to LSD as a “mindapp” reveal the conviction of the author of having perceived significant insights from his personal experiences with this substance. I thought of my psychiatry professor in medical school who, when asked whether he had tried LSD and whether he had any insights, replied that though he had experienced many insights during the session, the following day he realized they all were trivial.
Such has also been my personal view about psychedelics, as well as that of colleagues and friends who used these agents when they were first discovered a half century ago: insights yes, but only trivial ones. Roberts tellingly quotes an admonition from one source, admitting that “the sometimes overwhelming sense of truthful insight during sessions makes us susceptible to unbridled enthusiasm for our own ideas,”
One cannot deny the sincerity and intelligence of the author, but his ideas being promoted by a publisher noted for its array of pseudoscientific and “new-age” claptrap mitigate against them being taken seriously by scholars beyond those who already are confirmed psychedelic enthusiasts. He needs to address a wider audience beyond those who already share his interest in this fascinating area.
June 19, 2019