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:
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.