Origin of facial recognition

Pareidolia is the tendency to recognise faces all around us. But what causes it? And where does the phenomenon come from? Science considers facial recognition to be a cognitive bias. It means we therefore tend to emphasise our observations, interpretations, and information received as biased and incorrect. According to the researchers, pareidolia “violates the processes of normative reasoning, i.e. is contrary to a consistent and valid way of thinking.”

Although facial recognition is quite harmless as such, pareidolia is also associated with conformity (act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours to group norms, politics or being like minded), confabulation (memory error defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories), confusion of information sources (uncertainty about the origin of the information), and confirmation bias (tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information that confirms or support one’s prior personal beliefs or values). Science has not found a proper explanation for the phenomenon.

However, the hereditary defect of the human psyche provides an opportunity to explain what this bias is all about. In fact, it can be seen as a part of the child’s defense mechanism designed to help a child to stick to safe people and avoid strangers by forcing him/her to look for facial features. This is a mentally powerful restraint but apparently it has been necessary during the millions of years we have had to struggle with our lives.

Why, then, do adults have pareidolia, if it only belongs to children?

It is because those mechanisms do not disappear during adulthood even they should. This is caused by a hereditary growth defect, or a genetic defect, the same that explains many other oddities of human sensory perception and cognition. Because of this genetic defect, every adult human has a child’s psyche. The psyche of other animals, on the other hand, works normally. And it is for this very reason that it is tragic, albeit at the same time very human, that humanity considers itself to be better and more developed than other animals.

The lost cult of Eleusis

Based on decades of research and publications, I dare say that the Eleusinian mysteries in Attica, ancient Greece, were ingeniously designed to counteract the hereditary disorders of the human psyche and to minimize its harmful effects. This incredible mystery cult lasted about a thousand years, until it was banned by the intolerant Roman emperor Theodosius I in 392 AD. Everybody except the murderers and the barbarians, that is to say, you had to speak Greek to take part in the cult. In the 400s BC the participation cost 15 drachmas. The event became a mystery partly because participants had to make a promise not to reveal its contents to outsiders. Violation was punishable by death. The word “mystery” is said to have arisen from this ban on “mouth shut”.

Video showing the ruins o f ancient Eleusis in Greece.

»Demeter revealed her sacred rites
to the kings who give justice, to Triptolemos,
horse-driving Diokles, powerful Eumolpos,
and leader Kaleos, teaching her Mysteries to them all,
sacred things not to be transgressed, asked about,
or uttered: great awe of the gods stops the voice.
Blest are earth-bound mortals who have seen these rites,
but the uninitiate, who has no share in them,
never has the same log when dead in the misty darkness.»

Although the rites of the mystery were secret, the effects were quite evident. The people returned from Eleusis happy and blissful, and their fear of death had vanished. According to one tombstone, the mysteries showed that death was not evil but something good. The effects are the same as those experienced by psychedelics in the treatment of mental illness in recent years. Evidence of the significant power of psychedelics is constantly being published. The evidence is not only scientific reports but also people’s own stories in which they openly praise the care. These are indeed easy to believe.

In a book published in 1978, Robert Wasson, Albert Hofmann and Carl A. P. Puck presented the theory of ergot as an active ingredient in a Elusinian mystery drink. Ergot could be made into beer, which then worked in the same way as psychedelic substances.

But why don’t the facts convince politicians? I suppose, first and foremost, that LSD is not the answer only to those diagnosed with mental problems, but also to people who are suffering from the busy and stressful life caused by the global economy. There are people who fear that psychoactive substances will become more common and affect people’s attitudes first, then the economy, and eventually lead to lasting resistance to those in power. As early as the 1960s, it was realised that the greatest risk of the proliferation of psychedelics was precisely political. In the United States, the possession of LSD was banned in 1968, and its effect resulted in The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971. The decision was not really based on any health policy. Although the 60’s LSD evangelist and counterculture icon Timothy Leary may be considered naive and attention seeking, he may still have been farsighted that LSD should be available to everyone. That’s what the Greeks had done for more than a thousand years! They would hardly have done it if it had become a problem (except for the Roman authorities). In addition, the Kykeon drink offered in the Eleusinian mysteries is believed to have originated from ergot (which is a fungal disease of rye) the ergotamine of which is also made into LSD.

Theory of Psychedelic Experience

This needs to be studied! This is a new work from Peter Webster (co-writer in the book The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries,1978), available in Kindle. The presentation of the book:

”KOSMOS presents several arguments, examples, personal experience, and published research to develop the theory that the principal – and perhaps the only important neurocognitive effect of LSD and similar psychedelics is the amplification of perceived salience. The recent characterization of the Salience Network, and a few other recent papers that propose that the psychedelic experience is ”meaning enhancing”, confirm that hypotheses advanced in my early writing in the 1990s anticipated today’s research developments. KOSMOS continues with an evaluation of how psychedelics and salience amplification might have played a role in human evolution, the rise of Greek Civilization, and the radicalization and protest movements of the 1960s. A few personal stories from my past 50 years’ interest in psychedelics spice up the book so that it might be enjoyed by all.

The recent renewal of the study of psychedelic drugs is a welcome but long overdue undertaking. Had such work not been interrupted for many decades, today’s world might be quite different. The present work is an exposition of my own research on the subject, begun in the late 1960s and continuing sporadically ever since. I have attempted to answer not only the obvious questions about psychedelics, but to assemble a comprehensive Theory of Psychedelic Experience, an overview from several perspectives of how a psychedelic experience feels to the voyager, how and why it may affect his views and beliefs, how psychedelic perception happens on a psychological and neurological basis and why it appears to be similar or identical to states of consciousness sometimes attained spontaneously or through meditation and other age-old techniques.”