Mindstates and Memes

Conference : Mindstates VI, San Francisco, May 2005.

States of mind are not memes, but the means for inducing them may be.

Memes are habits, skills, theories, stories, songs or any other kind of information that is copied from person to person. Like genes, memes are replicators, evolving by variation and selection. So we can look at the whole of human culture as a vast set of evolving memes, our bodies as meme machines that copy and store memes, and our selves as memeplexes. States of consciousness, such as trance, tripping, deep relaxation or mystical transcendence, cannot be directly copied from person to person and for that reason are not memes – but the drugs, machines, and practices that induce them can and are. Whether for fun or for insight, we use these technologies to change our state of consciousness and so ensure the propagation of these technological memes. This is true, too, of the ultimate quest. Enlightenment is not a meme and cannot be directly copied – yet by passing on certain tricks or skills, such as meditation or mindfulness, one person may flip another into realisation.