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Somafera, Madspace, and Low-Tech Transhumanism
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 Transhumanism is the belief that humankind should work to overcome our natural limitations by means of science and technology. Transhumanists seek to augment human intelligence, strength, lifespan, mood, and even beauty. Most transhumanists believe these goals can be achieved by current or emerging technologies such as artifical intelligence, cryonics, genetic engineering, cybernetics, and nanotechnology.


The problem with current transhumanism is that it relies upon ideas that are mostly science fiction. There is little or nothing that can be done right now, apparently, by most transhumanists. This need not be the case, however. Though transhumanism is a modern school of thought, it is just the latest incarnation of a drive to transcend that goes back at least as far as Gilgamesh and his quest for immortality. Since well before the dawn of recorded history techniques have been developed to augment human functioning in many areas like intelligence, insight, strength, and healing capacity.


Many so-called “primitive” societies have developed techniques, often utilizing meditation or hypnotic induction, to accomplish these aims. Some, like the Buddhist yogis and Taoist alchemists, have even developed these techniques into true sciences. After all, if the bodymind can be conceived of as a machine, then there must be better and worse ways of operating it. Many cultures have studied the bodymind extensively, experimented with different ways of affecting it. Learning how it works allowed them to apply scientific understanding to make it operate better.


Control over the bodymind through application of understanding and scientific principle was called “yoga” by many Buddhists. Taoists used terms such as nei dan. But the Ancient Greeks seem to have been the only ones to develop a term for all such practices, regardless of which culture they were from: “gymnosophy”, meaning “wisdom of the body”.


That the complex mechanism that is the human mind and body is a mechanism that can be studied and used optimally is even an idea that has captured the attention of science fiction writers. Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series, hypothesizes a future humanity that has begun to learn how to control the human mind and body so well that it is becoming posthuman. The Mentats are people trained to become human computers. They are able to look through and see patterns in enormous amounts of data, and use “the na´ve mind” (without preconception or prejudice) to extract important patterns in a mode of thinking that goes far beyond logical deduction. The Bene Gesserit are an order of women trained to so well discipline their minds that they can predict the future with a fair degree of accuracy, and even tell what other people are thinking. This is nothing to do with “psychic powers”, but instead is the result of training their minds to parallel process and become highly insightful. Sherlock Holmes is another fictional example of this sort of transhumanist development, featuring as it does a detective that uses a combination of mind enhancing drugs and mental discipline to think in a way that goes far beyond ordinary logic.


Both I and others have studied such techniques as we could find for many years, with an eye to developing (or redeveloping) ancient low-tech transhumanist techniques. What we came up with was a collection of gymnosophic techniques that could be used to induce the bodymind to start functioning in ways that are both different and better than its normal modes of operation. Because these techniques were drawn from many different cultures and many different times, even though they accomplished similar aims they had no one term describing them. So we coined the term “somafera” to describe them all. “Somafera” is a portmanteau of Greek and Latin words meaning “the body wild”.


We came to learn that there were many different types of somafera. Some were involved with making the body stronger and faster, and were beneficial for combat and hard labor. Such practices we referred to as “the berserkergang”. Some of our resources for these practices can be found here:

http://www.uppsalaonline.com/uppsala/berserk.htm

and here:

http://www.uppsalaonline.com/uppsala/somafera/somafera%20-%20the%20body%20wild.html


Other practices seemed to be more involved in boosting mental power, and accelerating learning.This is the sort of somafera that this page is dedicated to.


The benefit of being able to control our own minds to such a degree should be obvious. Having computer-like processing powers, the ability to accurately anticipate the future, the ability to tell what other people are likely thinking and doing from the smallest clues of speech and body language, the ability to solve problems that are impossible for most ordinary people to solve: anyone with such capacities would clearly have a number of distinct advantages. Is it possible to begin to develop such capacities in real life?


Yogis have for centuries developed techniques of rapid learning involving what are called “experiential realms”, wherein the yogi learn to induce visions or hallucinations that help them to learn faster than is normally possible. This seems to indicate that the development of such techniques is possible. However, yogic orders tend to guard their techniques closely, and teach them only to a few. You furthermore must adopt a whole host of beliefs and practices to learn these techniques and in any event, they were only ever developed for certain highly specific kinds of learning, and were never developed along general lines.


Fortunately, it is not necessary to study with the yogis to begin developing such mental transhuman science. The human brain is an adaptive and creative thing, and people like scientists, who try to solve complex problems routinely, have come to rely on unusual and even transcendental brain functions to solve them. Scientists have always relied on the inspiration of the eureka moment to solve the greatest problems, to formulate new theories about the world we live in. Some have claimed to learn solutions to complex mathematical problems in dreams. Though many people view scientists as relying exclusively on logic, logic actually only comes into the process of doing science rather late in the problem solving process. At the beginning, it is all creativity and inspiration.


A study of the problem-solving intuitive methods of scientists themselves, then, seems a good place to start pursuing development of such transhumanist techniques. And there are none better to study than those scientists who operate outside the conventional scientific world. Having fewer resources and assistance to fall back on than traditional scientists they must rely more on insight and inspiration. So perhaps the best place to start this study of scientific inspiration is through a study of mad scientists.