The Sloth is much less « lazy » than it seems. He seems to sleep, but at least his brain is working all the time! We know that he spends his time under the influence of alkaloids that he consumes in quantity. But what is he dreaming about, what are his hallucinations? Systematic studies based on nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, or on much more sophisticated techniques that will undoubtedly appear one day, will allow us to find clues.
In the meantime, let it be permitted to make hypotheses, and to reason by analogy, or by induction.
Denying its ancestral fear, does the Sloth dream of devouring jaguars or swallowing some boa?
Does he indulge in the unparalleled, dreamlike emotion of an ideal jump, a magical, Platonic leap, reaching far beyond the treetops to the uncharted sky?
Or, imitating the ever-threatening eagle, does he aspire to soar endlessly over the canopy?
Is he thinking of climbing up to the sources of rain, and even up to the sun?
Or does he have unavoidable nightmares, remembering the anguish of the baby monkey in unstable balance hanging on his mother’s back? Does he remember crashing to the ground, seized with primal fear, falling from the tallest trees in the primeval forest, his brain suddenly crackling with adrenaline and DMT?
Or is he dreaming dreams once made by countless generations of Sloths before him, and stored somewhere in a few memory trans-generational plasmids?
For the moment, what we can say is that if the Sloth is drugged day after day and sleeps so intensely, it is because his dreams must be more fascinating than his waking life. The real life of Sloth is obviously in his dreams…
He takes all the risks (and especially that of being eaten) to indulge in his vital delight: drugging himself with alkaloids and exploring day after day the power of their stimuli!
Let us apply here the principles of the great Darwin.
If Sloth still exists as a species it is because this very particular way of living by constantly taking drugs and continuously sleeping has successfully passed the great test of adaptation.
It is therefore that all the risks incurred not only do not prevent Sloth from surviving for millions of years, but that the collective memory of the species is constantly enriched by individual dreams, generation after generation, and undoubtedly helps to strengthen a memorial (and immemorial) heritage, through the intense and permanent visit and remembrance of everyone’s memories during each one’s dreams?
The Sloth is not fundamentally different from Homo Sapiens in this respect. As far as dreams are concerned, it is even superior, one might say, because he devotes himself to it so thoroughly… The Sloth dreams his life permanently, because he finds in his dreams more than what he finds in the so-called « real », everyday life.
Since he lives only very little « real » life, what he dreams of must come from somewhere else. From where?
We know that visions and hallucinations due to alkaloids cannot come directly from the activity of the molecules themselves. Albert Hofmann, the famous Swiss chemist who synthesized LSD and discovered its hallucinogenic properties by chance, has formally attested to this after years of research. The active molecules of hallucinogenic drugs are rapidly metabolized, in less than an hour, but their effects can be felt long after ingestion, up to twelve hours or more.
Therefore it is not the molecules of the alkaloids that « contain » themselves the « source » of the perceptions and hallucinations they cause. They only facilitate the disposition to perceive them.
These psychoactive molecules only unlock certain keys to open the « doors of perception » to use the expression popularized by Aldous Huxley’s book.
In the case of Sloth, which has a « real » life reduced to a minimum, the hallucinatory images can therefore only come from the immense reservoir of collective experiences of the species. For example, the countless near-death experiences (NDEs) undergone in the countless generations that have survived no less countless attacks by predators, or countless accidents, such as the fall of the baby monkey to its « imminent » and seemingly inescapable death (baby monkeys that actually die do not pass on their genetic makeup…).
Let us imagine the scene. The baby-sloth falls, he « knows » he’s going to die. He already has this knowledge in his deep memory. An adrenaline rush puts his sympathetic nervous system into action, he « knows » that he must try to hold on to some saving branch. His whole body is swarming with DMT molecules. Saved! He managed to avoid death. He underwent the nth NDE of the species, and overcame the ordeal. He is a new « initiated » Sloth now. He is going to engram this fundamental experience in his own DNA, thus reinforcing the collective memory of the Sloth. And he will also, as a daily consumer and expert of alkaloids, try to relive these primordial moments, and to try to overcome them…
Many Homo Sapiens, for tens and even hundreds of thousands of years, have had comparable experiences: both near-death experiences (life in the Paleolithic was not a long, quiet river) and hallucinatory experiences after ingestion of powerful alkaloids, in the form of hallucinogenic mushrooms or plants such as ayahuasca in Latin America, or cannabis used in soma during vedic sacrifice.
According to numerous anthropological, ethnological, historical, cultural and personal (recently mediatized) testimonies, the effects of hallucinogenic drugs can in the most remarkable cases go as far as ineffable, transcendental « visions », far beyond any preconception, and even seeming to reach the ultimate understanding of the structure of the universe, and to allow oneself to enter into the presence of the « divine », that is to say, to understand deep into one own self (and not through reported testimonies or sacred texts) the profound nature of what were the experiences of Abraham, Moses, Ezekiel, Zarathustra, Buddha, Orpheus or Plato…
These unique experiences, which have been lived again and again in a thousand different ways for thousands of generations, evoke absolutely nothing of what one might encounter in one’s usual life, in the most dreamlike dreams or in the most delirious imaginations.
The materialist skeptic will say: these experiences « are only » the subconscious transmutation of experiences already experienced, but so modified, so metamorphosed by the hallucinogenic effect, that they no longer have anything to do with the experience actually lived, although they are basically only its « transposition ».
For anyone who has gone through the mass of old and recent testimonies duly compiled, it is difficult to give credence to the positions of the materialist skeptic, given the unimaginable, unspeakable power of the visions experienced and reported.
They go far beyond the usual imagination, beyond previous experience.
Beyond the afterlife itself.
These visions cannot therefore come from the subject’s personal imagination. In no way can they come from what has been acquired in the course of normal life.
So where do they come from?
Two hypotheses :
-Either they come from the deepest part of the internal memory of the organism, not the individual memory, but the immanent memory of the human species, the collective memory that has been « engrammed » for hundreds of thousands of years, or even millions of years, if we take into account the deep memory of other previous species, which Homo Sapiens has inherited. This memory of the species is undoubtedly embedded in the DNA itself or it is expressed by epigenesis and through neurochemical processes of re-memorization, which can be transmitted from generation to generation.
-Either these visions come from « outside », the brain being then only a sort of « antenna » receiving its information from elsewhere, during the hallucinatory ecstasy. The latter hypothesis was explicitly formulated by William James in a famous text (Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrinei), and taken up by Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception), and more recently by the researcher and associate professor of clinical psychiatry Rick Strassman (DMT, the Molecule of the Mind) …
These two hypotheses are in fact not incompatible…
I will develop this point in a future article.