Psychomimetic Analgesics and Torture Religious Implications, Fictional Anticipations, etc.

Tue Feb 8, 2005

This New Yorker article brought to mind something I’ve been thinking about of late. With the worldwide prospects of torture on the considerable rise, it occurs to me that the development of analgesics, perhaps subcutaneous or dental, that cause pain to be perceived as hallucinatory or what C.D. Broad calls “extraspective” images might be either being developed or at least conceptualized. The intensity of the visualizations would correspond with the intensity of the pain, so you might see something of lasting influence while having your hand boiled in Uzbekistan, for instance.

I believe I remember reading about a similar concept in a Wiliam Gibson short story published in Omni sometime in the early 80s, but I’m not prepared to track it down at the moment. I find interesting the idea of a sect of the tortured developing around the visions they experienced while under the influence of the drug and its relation to existing religious modalities. If anyone can think of fictions that employ similar ideas, let me know.