In a previous article in New Trajectories, I reviewed the Leary/Wilson writings on Circuit 7, and specifically in Info-Psychology:
Circuits 7 and 8 seemed no more specific than they had been 10 years earlier, at least as I read it then. But wait! — “the Seventh [circuit] Brain learns to control, integrate, organize Neuro-genetic signals and manipulate Chromosomes.” Emphasis mine — well hello CRISPR gene editing, 20 years later!!
In a follow-up written for Maybe Day 2022, intended as the Dispatch #1 in a series on the contemporary science of epigenetics, I explored the work of David Sloane Wilson.
Biology as practiced today can track the patterns of gene expression, known as epigenetics. Cultural change is also an evolutionary process. D.S. Wilson writes:
“Conscious evolution requires the construction of a new system of cultural inheritance capable of operating at an unprecedented spatial and temporal scale…Our ancestors found ways to suppress disruptive competition among individuals within groups so that between group selection became the primary evolutionary focus. This favored group level coordination in all its forms, including the transmission of learned information across generations. Cultural evolution began to operate alongside genetic evolution and the two processes began to interact with each other…So transgenerational human cultural change counts as an evolutionary process, similar to genetic evolution, the immune system and our capacity to learn as individuals. The slow process of genetic evolution follows the fast evolution of cultural evolution. Traces of your grandparents’ cultural evolution is within you.”
So, if all of this makes sense, how does the evolution happen on the micro level — in our own lives and cultures? …epigenetics is operating upon us all the time, and genetic options are available to us. The trick is how to access more of the unexpressed genes inside us.
In the next Epigenetics Dispatch #2, I went through the exercise of surveying the landscape of the current practice of gene editing as revolutionized by CRISPR. Based on that layman’s survey, I now present some speculations about how the science of gene editing might be put in service of human development and activation of Leary/Wilson’s 7th Circuit, or Neurogenetic Consciousness.
OUTLINE — WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS TO BE ADDRESSED
How do circuits work?
- Leary/Wilson posit that circuits are activated by drugs — must activation be followed by a “consolidation” phase, such that changes persist when chemical stimulation ends?
- Can we consider the term activation to allow other types of triggers?
How do cultural and life conditions trigger biological changes within a single generation?
- Is human behavioral change essentially an evolutionary, epigenetic process?
- What do developmental psychology theories say about physiological structures becoming active as individuals progress up the levels of human emergence?
- What are the epigenetic theories of David Sloane Wilson?
What are characteristics/benefits we seek to foster and accelerate in Circuit 7
- What types of capabilities did Leary and Wilson think would be activated in Circuit 7?
- What have other 8 Circuit explorers talked about w/r to Circuit 7?
- What are other potential strategies for epigenetic, evolutionary change?
What kind of genes can we identify as targets of action, and what technologies can be used to trigger/accelerate gene expression in those targets?
- Could they be identified in high-functioning individuals?
- Could they be “unlocked” the newly emerging techniques of gene editing?
HOW DO CIRCUITS WORK
The Leary/Wilson 8 Circuit model posits that higher circuits can be “activated” by drugs — cannabis for Circuit 5, LSD for Circuit 6. But can we also consider the term activation to allow other types of triggers, other types of biological interventions?
LSD is said to activate Circuit 6, but ongoing, non-drug practices often are required to consolidate the learnings. Developmental psychologists, like Ken Wilber, distinguish between higher states that you can visit, and higher stageswhere you live. Wilber and others often point to yoga and meditation as regular practices that “integrate” the learnings of higher states.
But we also are learning from the new generation of clinical work that LSD effects persist for some time after the initial experience, for example in neuroplasticity. (See presentation from Doug Wingate.)
That said, I am wary of some proposals, e.g., Antero Alli, that Circuits 7 and 8 can be activated by more and better drugs — ketamine, “heroic” doses of LSD, etc. Then again, CRISPR is essentially also injecting an external agent (a strand of DNA), and once injected the process spurs a long-term expression or suppression of genes within the body.
I think there is also a lesson here in that historically psychedelic research was once confined to Swiss laboratories and CIA test facilities, but then it was democratized by amateurs like Owsley, and only now is finally re-emerging in contemporary medical science. Perhaps CRISPR is the leading edge of the democratization of genetic technology not just for medical treatment but personal growth.
HOW DO CULTURAL AND LIFE CONDITIONS TRIGGER BIOLOGICAL CHANGES WITHIN A SINGLE GENERATION?
It is a principle of some developmental theories that higher stages emerge in response to life conditions. Among Leary’s peers in the 1950’s era of psychology was Clare Graves of Union College, Schenectady NY. Graves work served as a bridge between theorists like Maslow for example, who posited movements up the hierarchy of needs as the needs at each lower level are satisfied. Maslow and colleagues among the humanistic psychologists did not spend much time looking for biochemical changes or other mechanisms for how that happens, and in fact to some degree were somewhat in opposition to the prior generation of behaviorists as being overly “scientific” compared to the new paradigm of Humanistic Psychology.
But Graves was convinced that the emergence of higher level values systems during adult development would correspond to new and different “brain structures”. Graves wrote, “emergent ethical theory hypothesizes that ethical behavior develops with time and conditions through a definable series of stages. The stages are seen as pre-programmed… Each stage is dependent for its emergence, upon certain dynamical states in the brain which are released by certain life circumstances.”
In order to find some physiological corollaries to his classification scheme, Graves constructed an experiment at Union College based on unconscious word recognition timing. “In the above experiment the authors found that the speed and ease with which a subject recognized word briefly presented in a tachistoscope operates as a function of the value areas these words represent.” Graves also spoke of employing a physiological method in a later study, where he found a small number of people at the H-U (what he later called B’O’) level — “the electrical resistance of the skin changes significantly from any other level. The H-U person has incredibly different skin resistance.” (Neurological systems discussion in Graves 1971 Lecture published by ECLET, 2005.) This experiment was not written up and published, but the technique is still in use.
Contemporary researchers have access to the powerful tools of neuroimaging. In 2016, neuroimaging has been applied to update the empirical foundation of Graves’ theories. One group explicitly cited Graves as predecessor to their work and confirms his speculations:
Persons have different value preferences. Neuroimaging studies where value-based decisions in actual conflict situations were investigated suggest an important role of prefrontal and cingulate brain regions…Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with a forced-choice paradigm on word pairs representing abstract values, we show that the brain handles such decisions depending on the person’s superordinate moral concept. by focusing on abstract value systems as triggers of specific brain responses.
Graves explicitly characterized his theory as epigenetic, but as described in my Epigenetics Dispatch #1, work in developmental biology has progressed considerable over the last 50 years. Summarized in This View of Life, David Sloane Wilson, describes an evolutionary mechanism for how individuals and cultures evolve, within single lifetimes as well as over generations. So, I asked the question, “[H]ow does the evolution happen on the micro level — in our own lives and cultures? As a start, D.S. Wilson reminds us that variations in gene expression depend on life conditions — the entire gene repertoire is much greater than what we use in course of a lifetime.”
Contemporary epigenetics is defined as “The study of how age and exposure to environmental factors, such as diet, exercise, drugs, and chemicals, may cause changes in the way genes are switched on and off without changing the actual DNA sequence.” Epigenetics is also characterized by methodology, e.g. “The study of heritable changes in gene expression caused by factors such as DNA methylation rather than by a change in the sequence of base pairs in DNA itself.” This is a stepping off point for the last section of this paper on gene editing.
WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTICS/BENEFITS WE SEEK TO FOSTER IN CIRCUIT 7
Leary in the mid 1970’s was highly motivated by the idea that physical immortality of the individual human might be possible. He wrote explicitly in Exo-Psychology that in Circuit 7, “Immortality is attained through the control of DNA.” (Near the end of his life, he eschewed offers from cryogenic outfits to freeze his body in hopes of later revival.)
But one needn’t subscribe to that ultimate goal in order to explore what other effects might be sought via DNA and neurogenetic technology. Leary speculated about several possible characteristics of Circuit 7 — awareness of archetypes, tuning into the morphogenetic field, and others. From Exo Psychology (1975):
Inside the nucleus of every neuron, there “lives” a DNA master-plan which contains a record of the chain of bodily re-incarnations back to the origin of life on this planet…When the Seventh Circuit of the nervous system is activated, the signals from DNA become conscious…
This experience provides glimpses and samples of the broad design of the multi-billion year old genetic panorama…The outlines of the future DNA blueprint are also available.
We can predict the emergence of genetic wizards, DNA engineers who understand the alphabet of DNA and can decipher, write and re-write in amino acid script, the book written in the vocabulary of guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thiamine.
Interspecies — global consciousness is predicted to include all life, not just human.
Leary further expected a consequence of neurogenetic fusion to be “communication with other genetic intelligences. Interspecies symbiosis. Interspecies pro-creation — conscious and planful. The formation of interstellar groupings of species.” (Recall that space migration was also part of Leary’s focus in the 1970’s — later abandoned and re-cast as “cyberspace” when he characterized space migration as driven by his wish to escape from prison.)
The most significant of these genetic fusions will be with species more advanced than ourselves — our selves in the future.
This last formulation meant his belief that our future, higher selves were already latent in our current DNA (shades of Graves) “masked by histones” — more on this below as geneticists coming to grips with the current situation that the function of the vast majority of genetic material is yet to be understood. There’s a ways to go to achieve Leary’s prediction of “dial and tune” access to genetic signals or fields.
To complete this discussion, I surveyed the contemporary 8 Circuit community, and we have a few more speculations about what 7th Circuit, neurogenetic consciousness might look like.
First up is Antero Alli, in his The Neuropharmacology of an Eight-Circuit Brain, who names it the Genetic-Mythopoetic Trance. Among the characteristics:
The Central Nervous System receives signals from DNA; when this centre opens.
- The signals [from DNA] become conscious
- Racial and species memory (reincarnation and past lives) enters present-time awareness.
- Overwhelming sense of unity with all living things.
- Realization of the complex, interconnecting mandalic consciousness of DNA-RNA, synchronicity and what Jung called the universal archetypes
Among the catalysts for the state, Alli includes:
- religious conversion experiences
- mystical revelations
- higher doses of LSD
- kundalini awakenings (via the crown chakra)
- the chaos magick of Peter Carroll and Aleister Crowley
- Stanislav Grof’s LSD rebirthing therapy
- near-death experiences
I’m especially interested in those triggers with a bio-genetic flavor — childbirth, religious conversion (rebirth?), Grof’s rebirthing, near-death experiences, and sex magick. These are examples of our personal engagement with our somatic genetic equipment. Sex magick in particular specifically calls forth the core biological and genetic process that humans directly engage in — that of reproduction of the species.
Mike Gathers once wrote “my wild speculation is that by tapping into the power of the morphogenetic field [per Rupert Sheldrake] — the environmental field, the mystery that connects all things and everything — we can unlock our full potential by unlocking our full genetic code. Or something like that.” (Eight Dimensions of “Mind” Facebook Page, 2022)
So Mike’s statement here conflates two things — a morphogenetic field that connects all things, which seems to me of a different order from an individual’s internal genetic allotment. The latter is what I’m investigating in these articles. The former I’m trying to understand better by visiting with Sheldrake’s work.
Sheldrake talks a lot about examples of structures or behaviors that do not appear to have a basis in known genetic code, but the genetic basis actually exists in, and is transmitted from, a kind of pervasive “field.” (The Leary works from the 70’s came out before Sheldrake’s A New Science of Life in 1981; later Leary said some favorable things about Sheldrake, but I’m not aware of any systematic investigation.)
In Sheldrake’s subsequent work, he designs numerous experiments, inferring that phenomena like “the sense of being stared at” or “dogs that know when their owners are coming home” are made possible by access to the morphogenetic field. But there’s nothing in those experiments about the physics/mechanics of the field itself, and how it might be measured or observed. Thus, I think he’s vulnerable to the critics who say that essentially, he’s making the same errors as parapsychology researchers who also don’t really specify a mechanism for what’s happening, even though there may be subjective or indirect evidence. (More, however, on that in my forthcoming Quantum Dispatch #3.)
In Nonlocal Nature: The Eight Circuits of Consciousness, James Heffernan characterizes neurogenetics as Circuit 6 rather than 7 — I’m not sure I understand why, but it’s immaterial to my consideration of the effects he predicts. He also says “the higher circuits of the model are emphatically NOT evolutionary,” by which I assume he means something like epigenetics.
Heffernan refers to Sheldrake, who “knew that genes could not carry such information and therefore posited a nonlocal field, which is permitted by quantum theory.” I agree non-local is permitted in the sub-atomic world, but I think epigenetics is a better way to think about the neurogenetic stage. (I will engage on the non-local issue in my Quantum Dispatch #3.) Similarly, I don’t quite agree with equating a noosphere with the morphogenetic field, but possibly that’s just because I’m not convinced (yet) that there is such a thing as a morphogenetic field.
Consistent with Leary, Alli and others, Heffernan writes that when (his) circuit 6 is active, “the signals from DNA become conscious” and “we become conscious of the genetic script”, and I’m on board with that.
One other very important point from Heffernan also is something I agree with — “I don’t share Leary view that DNA contains the master instructions of all evolution from start to finish for one principal reason: contingency. State of earth can change dramatically — more elegant that DNA has plasticity rather than being a script.” A la Graves as I cited earlier, I am persuaded that all human emergence is open ended.
Heffernan’s Circuit Seven does read like Leary Circuit 6 — activate the circuit by increasing the energy throughput of the electric highways of nervous system thru advanced meditation, yoga and neuroelectric chemicals…do not stimulate but rather dissolve synaptic barriers which prevent large scale signal throughput.” Call it Circuit 6 or 7 as you will — either way I’m all about increasing signal throughput as a near term goal!
My main thought about non-genetic triggers for Circuit 7 is that a big characteristic of the circuit is environmental awareness and interconnectedness. The life conditions of hurricanes, floods and wildfires are gradually affecting a majority of the population, and triggering some awareness and action. Life conditions activate higher circuits, and my experience is that environmental activism, over a long term, may summon forth insights from higher states. The motivating force for engaging on climate issues is a biological one, so fits in the neurogenetic universe of Circuit 7.
WHAT KIND OF GENES CAN WE IDENTIFY AS TARGETS OF ACTION?
COULD THEY BE “UNLOCKED” THE NEWLY EMERGING TECHNIQUES OF GENE EDITING?
The following discussion looks at examples first of general editing techniques for medical treatment of some genetic diseases of the body — sickle cell anemia, etc. Then it will move to specifically neurological treatments. Then finally speculate on what I would call evolutionary applications of genetic technology.
Recap on CRISPR
The CRISPR/Cas9 technology, from Wikipedia:
CRISPR gene editing is a genetic engineering technique in molecular biology by which the genomes of living organisms may be modified. By delivering the Cas9 nuclease (an enzyme capable of cleaving the bonds between organic molecules), the cell’s genome can be cut at a desired location, allowing existing genes to be removed and/or new ones added, with relative safety compared to earlier gene editing methods. Basically, epigenetic editing has now become feasible.
Further, “Cas9 epigenetic effectors (epiCas9s) can also be used for genome-wide screening to discover novel relationships between epigenetic modifications, chromatin states, and phenotypes such as, cellular differentiation or disease progression.” For example, specific epigenetic alterations are often necessary and sufficient to drive the transformation of normal cells into cancerous cells, and play roles in later steps of carcinogenesis.
As a cautionary side note, I observe that gene therapy (like psychedelics) is hugely embraced by the pharma industry. (I have elsewhere complained of the issue of profit-seeking priorities being the driver of our health care system.) This leads to troubling headlines like “Immusoft Acquires Exclusive, Worldwide Rights to Intellectual Property for Genome Edited Primary B Cells.” Duly noted.
Thalassemia is an inherited (i.e., passed from parents to children through genes) blood disorder caused when the body doesn’t make enough of a protein called hemoglobin, an important part of red blood cells. [Fun fact — I was diagnosed with possible thalassemia because my blood tests borderline anemic. The name is derived from the Greek word “thalassa” meaning “the sea” because the condition was first described in populations living near the Mediterranean Sea.]
Thalassemia is a treatable disorder that can be well-managed with blood transfusions and chelation therapy (transfusion dependent thalassemia of TBT). A jointly developed treatment called Exa-cel has hit the market from CRISPR Therapeutics and partner Vertex. This particular treatment is targeted at children under the age of 11; not sure if this means gene therapy works better at younger ages, but probably means application helps get kids off transfusion treatments earlier.
Exa-cel, formerly known as CTX001™, is an investigational, autologous, ex vivo CRISPR/Cas9 gene-edited therapy that is being evaluated for patients with TDT or SCD, in which a patient’s own hematopoietic stem cells are edited to produce high levels of fetal hemoglobin (HbF; hemoglobin F) in red blood cells. HbF is the form of the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin that is naturally present during fetal development, which then switches to the adult form of hemoglobin after birth.
Other Physiological Applications — CRISPR Therapeutics’ other target markets include treatments for conditions such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
For purposes of stimulating higher consciousness, I’m looking for activity related to the brain (assuming most of consciousness has foundation in brain, although there is some support for body wisdom and “embodied mind.”) The gene therapy business in my survey so far mostly is not focused on the brain, but I did find a couple examples.
Neurological Disorders — Gene therapy approaches generally have been explored for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and epilepsy. These strategies deliver “therapeutic” genes to specific areas to interfere with disease processes or restore areas of pathology. “These approaches deliver robust expression of therapeutic genes, but are typically limited to the delivery of single genes and often do not manipulate the expression of the endogenous locus. In the last years, the advent of CRISPR-Cas9 technologies have revolutionized many areas of scientific research by providing novel tools that allow simple and efficient manipulation of endogenous genes.”
A recent paper discussed the use of CRISPR to “upregulate the expression of genes directly involved in neuronal and network activity, we aimed to adapt [CRISPR] technologies for the overexpression of Cnr1, the gene coding for Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1), an endocannabinoid receptor expressed pre-synaptically in both excitatory and inhibitory neurons, responsible for feedback control of neurotransmitter release (Mackie, 2006).” Endocannibinoids? Turns out, cannabinoids naturally occurring in the brain are helpful in stress recovery, regulation of motor activity, synaptic plasticity and even memory processing. “Our results show that CRISPR-Cas9 techniques could be successfully used in neurons to target overexpression of genes involved in synaptic transmission, and can potentially represent a next-generation gene therapy approach against neurological disorders.”
Alzheimer’s Disease — “Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have launched a first-in-human Phase I clinical trial to assess the safety and efficacy of a gene therapy to deliver a key protein into the brains of persons with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a condition that often precedes full-blown dementia.”
Addiction — From the NeuroEpigenetics Laboratory at the Mass General Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases: “Our research is aimed at identifying the epigenetic marks involved in the regulation of cocaine-induced alterations in gene expression in limbic nuclei. More specifically work from our laboratory focuses on determining how cocaine-induced chromatin remodeling leads to alterations in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression within the medial prefrontal cortex following exposure to cocaine.” This lab more generally is working on genetic understanding of Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as well as “assessing the pathogenic role of neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and the epigenome.”
So now, what about gene editing related to brain/mind/consciousness, and the prospects for Circuit 7 activation? First, what should be obvious, is it will be a while before we conscious evolvers get our hands on this technology. Here’s a typical opinion from a contemporary medical practitioner:
Komor of UC San Diego says a CRISPR-based treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s might also be desirable. But she cautions that editing the genomes of healthy people is ethically ambiguous and could be an unnecessary gamble for people who are otherwise well. “If I was given the opportunity to do editing of my liver cells to reduce cholesterol potentially in the future, I would probably say no,” she says. “I want to keep my genome as is, unless there’s a problem.”
No surprise there — cannabis went through a “medical use only” phase before widespread legalization. Psychedelics is still earlier on that curve — being approved only for “therapy” so far.
Also, most gene therapies entering the market now are focused on identifying and altering “mistakes” in DNA, or stimulating or repressing genes associated with various previously identified illnesses/conditions — for the thalassemia example above, “enable patients with T1D to produce their own insulin.”
But just to speculate a little bit — remember that change first happens slow, then fast. What about moving on to identify as yet unexpressed genes for 7th Circuit, higher states of consciousness? Per the earlier discussion, states being sought may be hard to identify in terms of gene expression, but here are some preliminary thoughts arranged by some of Leary’s predicted effects (in italics) of Circuit 7 activation.
Signals from DNA become conscious — I believe this is basically contemporary science — we are currently decoding the genetic code to understand those messages.
Realization of the complex, interconnecting mandalic consciousness of DNA-RNA, synchronicity and what Jung called the universal archetypes — students of Jung often point to artistic images to illustrate archetypes — e.g., Virgin Mary as the Mother archetype. Could there be a gene for artistic channeling of archetypes? What do you do once you tune into archetypes?
Racial and species memory (reincarnation and past lives) enters present-time awareness — assumes belief in reincarnation and past lives. Not personally a believer in literal reincarnation, but racial memory is also inherent in our genetic code — as Leary knew, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Again, basically science.
Overwhelming sense of unity with all living things — this is sometimes considered part of Circuit 6 peak experiences (state, not stage) — is there a gene expression that is associated with this state? Hmm.
Interspecies communication — this one popular in Leary’s day, popularized by the dolphin experiments of John Lilly. I think that a highly developed sense of the global environment incorporates a consideration of the impact of industrial life not just on humans but all life. I came partly to hold such views based on personal experiences mediated by wilderness (and I am hardly unique in that view.) Again, I wonder if there’s a gene expression that would predispose one to develop such an environmental awareness.
Immortality — Although Leary renounced cryogenics toward the end of his life, maybe this predicted effect of Circuit 7 is actually more probable. Gene expressions, or lack thereof, associated with aging are certainly being identified. It seems somewhat easy to extrapolate from the current state of the art to longer life spans at least.
Communication with ourselves in the future — As noted earlier, Leary was convinced that our DNA carries the instructions for our future evolution. He had some familiarity with 1960’s era biology, and wrote (in Spit in the Ocean #3, 1975) “Geneticists are just now discovering ‘unused’ sections of DNA, masked by histones [proteins which protect and regulate gene expression] and activated by nonhistone protein, which are thought to contain the blueprint of the future…so can the histone-masked sections of the DNA code be studied to determine the sequence of future evolution.”
That was a long time ago in the sciences. Interestingly, for a long time biologists/geneticists ignored masked sections of DNA, dismissed as “junk DNA,” but no longer.
Now, in a series of papers published in September in Nature and elsewhere, the ENCODE group has produced a stunning inventory of previously hidden switches, signals and sign posts embedded like runes throughout the entire length of human DNA. In the process, the ENCODE project is reinventing the vocabulary with which biologists study, discuss and understand human inheritance and disease…the copying of DNA into RNA seems to happen all the time — about 80 percent of the genome is actually transcribed. And there is still a raging debate about whether this large amount of transcription is a background process that’s not terribly important or whether the RNA that is being made actually does something that we don’t yet know about.
Now, it’s long way from being able to say, for example, there are masked genes that are the specific keys to triggering the perception of archetypes. But there’s a fundamental lesson from modern epigenetic science that we all carry unused genes, and they are/may be expressed at different points in a person’s life. Some gene expression is the result of childhood development, but it seems that adult development, even purposeful development, may allow expression of previously unneeded genetic traits.
Related, in an article, The case for not masking away repetitive DNA, Keith Slotkin writes “Repetitive and mobile DNA [once considered ‘junk DNA’, now called transposable elements or TE] provide a rich source of gene regulation, evolutionary flexibility and epigenetic catalysts.” And Chuong et al write, “There is a growing number of examples of TE-derived sequences that have been co-opted to regulate important biological processes in organismal development and physiology. Dysfunction of TE-derived regulatory sequences is also emerging as a potential driver of diseases including cancer and autoimmunity. Functional genomics and genome-editing technologies herald an exciting era for understanding the biological effect of TEs.”
CLOSING OR EPILOG?
In summary, I’m not saying that genetics is the only way to seek Circuit 7 consciousness, but to be true to the 8 Circuit model, I thought it was worth a try. Access to CRISPR for the rest of us is certainly a high bar at the moment, but I’m still about the democratization in the long (medium?) run.
Having mapped the human genome, it would be nice to have maps of the genomes high functioning individuals, or models of higher consciousness and see what genes are expressing that are different from average dudes.
Maybe it’s worth asking the question — is there a gene for higher consciousness?