THE NATURE OF THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE
THE STIMULATED INTUITIVE MIND
THE INNER VOICE
THE PATH TO FULFILLMENT
PEACE OF MIND
COSMIC AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
THE SPIRITUAL DEFINITION
THE MATERIALISTIC DEFINITION
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This essay is careful not to advocate the use of psychedelic drugs but to describe their effects, their possible uses, their safety, and cautions to be taken in their use.
Marijuana is the largest cash crop in the United States in part because it safely satisfies the universal need for diversion and self transcendence. This essay describes how it can also be harnessed for self exploration, situational analysis, personal growth, and creativity. It also describes some of the cosmic and religious concepts that are part of the high dose experience and how they also can be beneficial.
I have been involved in the relatively new field of psychedelic drug research for much of my adult life, both professionally as an acting psychotherapist and also casually as an interested explorer. I have had the privilege of acting as "ground control" for well over two hundred people experiencing high dose LSD sessions: normal volunteers, mental patients, and alcoholics. Over time, my colleagues and I have experienced several psychedelic sessions ourselves at low to high dosage levels. I have personally explored these realms of consciousness carefully and thoroughly within myself and by talking with others from both the psychological and the spiritual perspectives. I think that this background qualifies me as being knowledgeable in this area. This essay is in effect a summary of some of my observations and conclusions. I am in hopes that they are found to be useful to anyone seeking deeper relaxation and peace of mind with or without psychedelic stimulation, and to practitioners who assist others who are seeking the same and similar things.
I also had the privilege of having Dr. Stanislav Grof (stanislavgrof.com) as my mentor many years ago. I am focussing on his concepts of the
melted ecstasy, or the experience of perfect tranquility, and of the mental resolutions that clear the pathway to it.
In the past, psychedelic drug research has usually involved a low number of high-dose sessions. These have been found to be of value and interest, but when they are over they are over. In addition, they are very abstract in nature and not easy to remember or to put into practice in daily life. The insights gained in lower and moderate doses are much easier to remember and to practice, to cultivate, and to customize into daily life. In addition, the lower dose sessions can more easily be guided into chosen topics.
The general thrust of the essay is to show how psychedelics, including mild, safe, legal marijuana, can be used as occasional low to moderate dose "training aids" to stimulate the type of meditation that can lead to deeper relaxation, deeper peace of mind, clear rationality, nroader perspectives, and creativity. With these sorts of goals in mind, it is possible to train oneself like an athlete to reach a more contented, stress-free, and yet fully active state of being and lifestyle.
A dosage can be found that brings about stimulated meditation, deep relaxation, and yet complete control of the body. This particular level is very satisfying and requires only a low dose. Higher doses encourage more vivid introspection while very high doses reveal the inner cosmic/religious levels of abstraction.
I symbolize Dr. Grof's "melted ecstacy" as the "Emerald City" in this essay along with the "yellow brick road" as the path of adventures leading toward it. Symbols of this nature can be very helpful in communicating the broader abstractions that are dealt with while experiencing expanded consciousness.
Everyone is somewhere on the yellow brick road. Those nearest the Emerald City in the first place would tend to have pleasant, educational, and relaxing psychedelic experiences while those further away would tend to have more intense and frequent work to do. The work is almost always interesting and satisfying, so it more like a series of adventures than of hard work. One can learn a great deal about himself and as such also of the rest of the human race. When it comes to such basics as as survival and well being, we are all just alike.
I might be misusing the terms somewhat, but one model could be that psychedelics stimulate the voluntary nervous system in terms of greater focussed attention on the body and its connection to the outside world while at the same time the involuntary nervous system can be encouraged to relax its tensions and cramps. With practice it becomes possible to control and reduce most of the tensions and the cramps almost down to nothing while still staying active in the outside world. I assume that a neurologist could determine if the same psychedelic process that reduces epileptic seizures is at work when one willfully reduces tensions in his body. In any case, the practice of relaxation on the inside and the practice of precision and efficiency in relating to the outside world are the "tools" or the "guides" for progress toward the Emerald City. Whatever gets in the way on the yellow brick road to tranquility are what can be worked on. Eventually the tension areas are reduced to the point where they are either resolved or can be bypassed. This process can be done with or without psychedelic stimulation, of course, but psychedelic stimulation makes it more vivid.
Not only is it possible to more easily identify,consolidate, and resolve mental tension issues, it is also possible to discover a variety of positive mental experiences and approaches to the physical world within oneself that in turn can be cultivated into everyday life experience. For instance, the mental experience of the concept of "an inner source of positive energy" is certainly a form of peace of mind, but it can also be extended into the area of going about one's daily activities while holding the concept that the background of existence is a positive peacefulness. Having this extra degree of control over one's life drama can be more profitable than buffeting about from pillar to post in the world while simply responding to external stimuli. Being more able to grow good and new approaches within oneself is a pleasant skill.
I consider that when a tension issue has been resolved to the point where it interferes very little, if any, with tranquility, it has been "put to bed". When it interferes much more intensely but can still be avoided by using an act of will to think about something else, I can say "don't go there" to myself. When there is the choice to move toward deeper tranquillity, I think that this is the best path because tranquillity is so mentally healthy. To the extent that a person knows that tranquillity is within and accessible, he can deal with difficulties with greater ease and objectivity.
A great deal can be done with expanded consciousness that is not yet common knowledge. Since marijuana is becoming more legal, it is less necessary to be a subject in a research program to take advantage of the psychedelic experience for personal exploration and benefit. It is a form of freedom to explore as one wishes rather than being disciplined by a formal setting. I believe that this freedom is very beneficial since only the individual knows what he wants or needs to explore at any given time. He can learn to regulate his dosage level in such a way as to arrive at exactly the level of abstraction that he wants to work on.
I like the general concept of a "tension issue" because not all tension issues are conflicts. It is possible to be bothered by low-order but persistent thoughts or moods. These sorts of experiences can also sometimes be brought to the forefront to be resolved with psychedelics, and one can also practice subduing them with deep relaxation and meditation. Peace of mind and relaxation are the goals in either case.
In August, 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's multiple Emmy award winning chief medical correspondent, stated that after considerable research that he had reversed his opinion of marijuana. He now considers it as safe when used properly and as useful for a variety of medical illnesses including extremely severe and frequent epileptic seizures. I think that this presentation is a tipping point with respect to the current political and medical approaches to the marijuana issue. Directly after Dr. Gupta's presentation, the comedy TV show Two Broke Girls presented marijuana cupcakes as being safe, emotionally uplifting, and a welcome relief from menstrual cramps. Perhaps the media has also reached a tipping point.
Being the largest cash crop in the United States, surpassing even corn and wheat, marijuana is clearly useful in safely satisfying the high universal demand for relaxation, diversion, and "self transcendence" that exists in all cultures. In the right dosage range, it can also stimulate focused and penetrating meditation on chosen topics.
According to Dr. Nancy Snyderman on NBC Nightly News, mothers are finding that it manages their children's epileptic seizures. One lady that I talked to maintained that after going through all of the doctors and all of the expensive medications, marijuana was found to be the only medication that could level out the highs and the lows of her very severe bipolar disorder and that it did not interfere with her normal daily functioning. She was running a cash register while we were chatting. I am guessing that either she was very used to the experience or that she was using CBD, the extract from marijuana that does not stimulate mental activity. With higher doses, psychedelic drugs can also stimulate the experiencing and the "living" of awesome religious concepts and cosmic points of view and in this sense they could be considered as sacramental. It certainly appears that psychedelics, including marijuana, have some very positive potential uses.
Also discussed is how at higher doses the broad cosmic and religious concepts can sometimes not only be conceptualized symbolically but vividly experienced. Psychedelic experience makes the pure essence of these sorts of concepts much more vivid and as such are welcome to people on the "spiritual quest". The symbols attributed to these concepts can remain in memory after the experience has ended and can act as rational reminders of them.
After over 50 years of exposure to the area, I personally have not heard of a single case of violence, inappropriate sexual behavior, or even a car accident attributable specifically to the psychedelic experience itself. This is certainly not the case with alcohol or meth. Nor have I heard of a single case of liver damage, rotted teeth, or any other physical damage even after long-term use. If there are any problems of this nature, they must be mild and rare. The major effects of psychedelics are relaxation, meditation, and creativity. The various synthetic and naturally occurring psychedelic drugs are absolutely non-toxic and non-addicting. Back in the 1960's a gentleman whose name I do not remember took LSD every day for a month and then stopped completely in order to see if there were any aftereffects or addictions. There were none. Beside their apparent usefulness, this class of drugs appears to be statistically extremely safe.
Any naturally-occurring drug that is both safe and that at the same time that provides significant physical and mental health benefits can honestly be classified as a "healing herb" or even as a "godsend".
The high demand for drug-induced diversion and self transcendence is world-wide and has existed throughout history. Overuse of these drugs, certainly including alcohol, has led to much tragedy as exemplified by the myth of the mermaids who lured sailors to crash their ships onto the rocky shores. To the extent that safe psychedelics can satisfy this demand, they will be a blessing. A few preliminary findings already indicate that alcohol abuse and crime in general are reduced in neighborhoods that have medical marijuana distribution centers.
Satisfactory levels of deep tranquility, focussed attention, and other positive states of being can be found and cultivated with or without any drugs at all, and practicing to achieve them is a meaningful challenge and satisfying lifestyle. The practice is similar to that of the practice of any other type of skill. Psychedelic drugs can help to reveal some of these positive states of consciousness and can make their practice much more vivid. Having some concrete targets to move toward is much more efficient than random exploration.
The "training aid" approach to the use of psychedelic drugs could be used, within reason, by people at all levels of mental maturity. Even well-adjusted fully-functioning people have plenty of room to explore in such areas as the philosophical and the religious. People who already use a psychedelic primarily for diversion and pleasure could continue to do so but to add a dimension of personal benefit to their experiences. This technique could also be combined with conventional psychotherapy if so desired. There would be more material to work with, it would emerge by itself, and both goals and blocks to progress would become more vivid. Because psychedelics can be used very effectively to help train the body in deep relaxation, I am guessing that psychotherapeutic techniques similar to systematic desensitization would be effective in the treatment of phobias and similar tension issues. Since the psychedelic experience tends to be somewhat euphoric on the average, formal psychotherapy as well as personal exploration can become both pleasant as well as useful and interesting.
Since psychedelic experience is essentially a stimulation of intuitive thought, low and moderate doses of a psychedelic drug can be used for simple recreation, deep relaxation, deep meditation, self analysis, situational analysis, heightened perception, and expanded consciousness. Higher doses, with a few precautions, can be used to vividly explore cosmic and religious concepts. All of this can be done in the comfort and safety of a recliner without even a hint of a hangover.
"Stimulated meditation" is an appropriate phrase to describe the mental processes resulting from a low to moderate dosage. A single topic becomes more vivid and long-lasting. Associations will tend to remain focussed on the topic at hand rather than jumping from topic to topic. The intuitive nature of the experience provides what could be called more "experiential depth" to what is being considered. Broader perspectives provide what could be called larger "building blocks" to the thought process. The intuitive mind will tend to provide "tension issues" ranging from interesting problems up to significant personal or philosophical conflicts, all of which can be meditated upon, analyzed, and finally put to rest. The more tension issues that are resolved, the deeper becomes the background peace of mind. Spotlights can be shined on topics and held steady while they are contemplated.
Since the statistically safe psychedelic drug marijuana is becoming more accepted and more legal, I think that now would be a good time to describe the structure that I have learned regarding how psychedelics can be harnessed for personal development and benefit in addition to their provisions for recreation and diversion.
According to Bill Maher on Real Time with Bill Maher, about 88,000 people per year die of alcohol-related causes (health, violence, and accidents) while absolutely zero die from experiencing or even from overdosing on marijuana.
According to Healthy Hopes, an organization that can be researched on the Internet, 32,000 people die per year of prescription drugs, 7,600 of aspirin, and 100 of peanuts. More people die of peanuts per year than marijuana.
On March 22, 2014, there was a documentary on PBS called the PBS Newshour Weekend. It revealed that in the Netherlands, where marijuana has been legal for over 40 years, the percentage of use is 6%. In France, where it is illegal, it is 9%, in Spain it is 11% and in the United States it is 15%. Apparently legalizing marijuana does not necessarily increase its usage. Hard drug usage did not increase when marijuana was legalized in the Netherlands. I suspect this is because people who might otherwise be attracted to harder drugs can be satisfied by marijuana. According to the narrator, the atmosphere in the "coffee shops" where marijuana is bought and smoked, the atmosphere is much like that of a typical Starbucks in the United states. In other words, it is not like that of the loud bars or the loud side of restaurants.
Perhaps the first and most important point to consider regarding psychedelic drugs, including marijuana, is that in spite of the lingering concern over their safety, the fact remains that the drugs by themselves and the psychedelic experience by itself have proven themselves as being statistically almost perfectly safe. They appear safe mentally, physically, and socially. This is the "elephant in the room" within the controversy. It is an extremely tragic example of a tempest in a teapot considering the violence associated with the production and distribution of marijuana. Between 2006 and 2012, about 60,000 people have died in the Mexican drug wars and many otherwise innocent people have been jailed and their lives ruined. Assuming that my contention that marijuana is both safe and healing, one day the reefer madness myth will be recognized as one of the most deadly, cruel, and preposterous hoaxes in history. It will also be recognized as having been perpetrated by people who benefited financially from it.
These drugs by themselves are not addicting or toxic and they lead only to calm stimulated meditation or the enjoyment of low key but vivid artistic or creative activities. It is a paradox that something almost as harmless as air or water could have resulted in so many unfortunate social consequences, but these consequences are manmade and are the result of greed, prejudice, and ignorance.
There are absolutely no withdrawal symptoms from psychedelic drugs. But at least in the case of mild marijuana, the experience itself is usually pleasant and can be very interesting. No doubt some people might indulge too much for these reasons, especially at first, but I am sure that most people would moderate its use and use it with respect to the obligations of daily life. Many people can do so with alcohol, and alcohol is addicting.
After fifty years of exposure to the area, I have yet to hear or read about a single case of violence, sexual misconduct, or even a car accident attributable exclusively to marijuana or any other psychedelic drug by itself. Neither have I heard about burned out livers or rotted teeth. This is certainly not the case with alcohol or meth.
A local policeman says that when he knocks on the doors of suspected meth users, he is often greeted by vicious dogs and hostile and defensive people. When he knocks on the doors of suspected pot users, he is greeted by friendly dogs and cats and is often invited in for coffee. I think that this is an extremely important point from the psychological, sociological, and pharmaceutical perspectives. Civil behavior leads not only to peace within one's own personal sphere of influence, but it also contributes to peace on earth.
Placing a high premium on the "mellow" attitude and approach to life does not necessarily mean that a person loses his ability to stand up for himself. As an example, my coffee club met at the usual restaurant one day. The newest member was a lady who proved herself to be both slanderous and dominating. One day, she apparently did not like the men making noise laughing at their table, which was right next to hers. She started pounding on the men's table while shouting and screaming for us to move. I looked at her and said : "Iam not moving. I am happy here. You are the unhappy one. You move". This enraged her even further and she shouted out for all to hear: "Why can't you be a gentleman?". What she was really saying was, of course, was: "Why can't you capitualate to my domination with my heel at your throat?". Well, Mr. Mellow, here, responded even more loudly and more angrily: "Why can't you stop being a castrating bitch?". She said that she did not have to take that kind of treatment and started stomping out of the restaurant with great grandiosity. As she went by I shouted in my same angry tone of voice: "Have a nice day" to let her and everyone else in the restaurant know that her stomping out also failed to intimidate me. Nowadays she sits at the far end of the ladies' table and all is tranquil. The men can laugh and enjoy themselves without fear of castration.
Another example took place in the same restaurant the next day. I got there a little late so everyone was already seated. I bought my coffee at the counter and turned to walk to the table. One of the men, as big as I am, rushed up to me and said with great seriousness in a quiet high pressure of tone of voice that I should not come to the table. He implied with a gesture that there were hard feelings toward me for what I had done the previous day and that I should turn tail and skulk out of the restaurant like a wounded rat. I knew that could not possibly be true because no one objects to someone standing up to a bully. So instead I took a step forward, looked at him straight in the eye, and said very clearly and concisely: "f*** you". Then I walked around him and sat down at the table. As I suspected, there was not even a hint of any hard feelings and everyone including myself enjoyed amiable conversations. The would-be intimidator also came over, but he hung back and did not contribute to the conversations which was rare for him. He was known as the one who always needed the podium in order to orchestrate all of the conversations at the table. I guess that someone so deceitful and arrogant as he did not like the idea of someone with enough strength of character to stand up to a raging bully screaming in public to sit at his table and to threaten his self-assumed superior status. So we don't have to worry about marijuana creating a nation of zombies. Nowadays he is back on his podium but he has trouble looking into my eyes and he does not stay very long.
So pot users can be just as hard to intimidate as alcohol drinkers or anyone else even though they might appear to be somewhat more easygoing and good natured in average daily life.
The combination of enhanced perception, expanded consciousness, and a slightly euphoric mood tends to encourage a positive, constructive, and yet still realistic outlook on the world. This outlook tends to persist in normal daily consciousness since it tends to bring rewards. If a universal prevailing positive constructive attitude of this nature were to exist, we would be closer to peace on earth.
In a similar spirit to the cartoon, the following letter written by a friend appeared in the local newspaper: "While machines take over more and more of the manual labor, the manufacturing, and the office work, the "work ethic" engrained deeply in our culture will become less necessary. In the new machine age what will be needed instead will be adjustments to the overall financial system so that citizens can benefit from the output of the machines and the other services while at the same time having more time for leisure, recreation, creativity, and self improvement. The economy needs to be kept moving in spite of extensive unemployment. Activities such as those above can come to be defined as the new pursuits and the new virtues. More and more people will be freed from the historical "sweat of the brow" and the yoke of daily labor, and hopefully they will have the opportunity and the environment in which to explore some of the other benefits of being human beings. Technology could become one of our toys". It will be a whole new world, one which has never existed before.
The level of abstraction, the creativity, and the optimism expressed in this article are typical of the marijuana experience.
I think that most people would be unlikely to take much alcohol during a psychedelic experience, and I think that the "munchies" concept is somewhat overblown. In my own case, marijuana does not stimulate my appetite but if I eat anything it tastes so good that I want to keep right on eating. Don't even get me started on Girl Scout cookies.
An abstraction of a society where people are congenial, trustworthy, and helpful to each other is certainly more positive than one where they are hostile, untrustworthy, and destructive. If a person finds what appears to be a positive and constructive attitude within himself, he will be tempted to both meditate on it and even to put it into practice in relationship with his outside world in order to test it and perhaps to make it permanent. A person's overall approach to relationships with others significantly influences his relative contentment within the human drama, and we are pleasure-seeking creatures.
If a group of hostile people were to take some marijuana and to discuss the different ways that people could get along with each other, I am guessing that their "mellow" attitude combined with expanded consciousness would tend to lead to positive possibilities. I am also guessing that occasional future sessions of this nature would lead to exactly the same conclusions where they could be expanded upon and cultivated.
Jay Leno referred to the study that indicated that multiple vitamins have little health value and to others that indicate that marijuana has healing properties. He suggested that we get rid of Centrum Silver and bring in Acapulco Gold.
As an elderly person myself, I can suggest that marijuana and perhaps other mild psychedelics could be of benefit in retirement communities and for the elderly in general. They have no known detrimental medical side effects like many of the other drugs used by the elderly. In addition, a person can use them to learn and practice relaxation and contentment, to resolve emotional and philosophical "baggage" that has been accumulated throughout the years, and to explore and to find positive attitudes and approaches to life within himself. Deep relaxation is no doubt good for the joints and the muscles and can provide the same benefits as hot tubs. Psychedelics can permit the analysis of current situations and the world situation in general from broader perspectives. This can be challenging and entertaining at the same time. Current events and history can be seen from new perspectives, as can political and financial systems. Since psychedelic experience has a strong mental component, such exercises might help to keep the brain alive and functioning well. They might even help to forestall dementia and Alzheimers disease. Yet another benefit would be the pain-killing qualities of the various strains of marijuana. Another would be that psychedelics are useful for simple diversion and recreation and as such are an antidote to boredom.
I believe that boredom is another stress hormone/emotion that can be subdued with deep relaxation. It is interesting to feel that particular emotion subside and to be replaced with what Ernest Hemingway called feeling "altogether content", what Alan Watts called "sitting quietly, doing nothing", what Ramana Maharshi called "just being", and as Siddhartha sitting by the river watching the world go by. The combination of that kind of serenity with the feeling of positive energy gently radiating from the body makes for a pleasant and rejuvenating form of meditation.
Regarding the question about driving safety, Jay Leno said, "If you think that old people drive slowly now, wait until they legalize marijuana". The fact is that driving simulator tests have shown that after taking cannabis, drivers did indeed drive more slowly and more cautiously. At the same time, higher doses can cause significant inner distractions, so psychedelics are not really compatible with safe driving. I have yet to hear or read about an automobile accident caused exclusively by marijuana, which certainly is not true with alcohol.
There are plenty of problems involving corruption and violence in the production and the distribution of marijuana but only because it is classified as illegal by the federal government. One reason that the demand for marijuana is high is because people recognize that it is the one safe drug that can be used for diversion and "self transcendence" as well as for satisfying and useful deep meditation and creative activities. It can be enjoyed by the same people who put high premiums on personal health and social standing because these areas are not affected negatively as is the case with too much alcohol or meth. Marijuana is in reality a safe, useful, and valuable commodity in high demand, and different people and different factions of people would very much like to control it and make money on it. I expect that eventually enough people will become convinced of its safety and that it will be legalized and bought and sold and taxed like any other commodity with perhaps only minor restrictions associated with it. It offers pleasure, better functioning, better health, the reduction of pain and side effects of medications, and safety all at the same time so I doubt that it will be needlessly suppressed forever. Since marijuana use actually declined in Amsterdam after it was legalized, I am quite sure that it will never make us a nation of zombies.
According to Morgan Spurlock in his TV documentary Inside Man, the opposition to marijuana legalization came right after alcohol prohibition was ended and came from lobbyists representing the alcohol industry, private prisons, and rehabilitation centers. In addition, law enforcement and many political departments and career political positions would be lost without a replacement for illegal alcohol. No one wants to lose their jobs. I am wondering if the pain-killer industry is also concerned. I am sure that opposition also still comes from people who are influenced by the reefer madness myth.
In his book Marijuana Is Safer So Why Are We Driving People To Drink? Steve Fox describes in detail and with many references the social and legal forces that encourage the overuse of dangerous and deadly alcohol and the suppression of the much safer marijuana.
The "reefer madness" myth was a complete hoax, but its name suggests a possibility that might give pause under certain circumstances. An occasional verbal insight, visual image, creative inspiration, emotion, intuition, unusual way of looking at things, or fantasy springing to mind might not be the least bit threatening to a person during daily life, but a constant strong upwelling flow of such material seemingly coming from nowhere could possibly be interpreted as something alien invading consciousness. If a totally inexperienced person should accidentally take too high a dose of a psychedelic drug without knowing what to expect, this could be so threatening that it could be interpreted as madness. None of my totally inexperienced high dose clients felt the least bit threatened as their psychedelic experience took effect, but they were well prepared verbally, they knew exactly what to expect, and that was sufficient. Once a person realizes that the rational mind can stay intact right along with the upwelling intuitive material during a psychedelic experience, it seems interesting rather than threatening. In fact, when dosage is such that the rational and the intuitive sides of the mind can work in conjunction with each other, deep penetration into chosen topics is possible. The rational mind can think clearly while the intuitive mind can suggest useful insights along with the other psychedelic material.
The fact that psychedelic drugs are also classified as "hallucinogenic" could also give pause. The fact is that the hallucinations can more accurately be described as amplifications of the process of where faces and animals can be seen in clouds and in the embers of a fire. They are the visual representation of how the intuitive mind can cluster data into meaningful wholenesses. It is interesting to watch them change and they can be blinked away. There is never anything as vivid as a solid object, but an oriental carpet can become a beautiful kaleidoscope of changing colors and patterns. The faces in photographs as well as actual faces can change in identity and mood. Inner visual imagery is often quite vivid, but it goes away when the eyes are opened. This capability of the intuitive mind is very useful during meditation, self-analysis, and situational analysis, and is discussed later. Suffice it to say that a great deal can be done with expanded consciousness.
Overdoses of psychedelics are extremely rare and probably accidental. They lead to nothing but deeper meditation for longer periods of time. There will never be rehabilitation clinics for overdoses or addictions to psychedelics. Assuming that a person can accurately choose his own dosage, different comfort levels can be selected for the purposes of recreation, meditation, or the exploration of the cosmic and religious abstractions. It is easy to become courageous and euphoric and "throw caution to the winds" and overdose with alcohol, but a person knows exactly when to stop taking more of a psychedelic drug. At that point he will simply sit quietly and meditate instead of becoming boisterous and challenging or drag racing his car.
After not having any psyLSD experiences at all for a period of about thirty years, I initially got an accidental huge overdose of a marijuana pastry. The young saleslady at the medical marijuana distribution center told me that one brownie was equal to one dose like they used to be used in the past. Later I found out that it was equal to four doses. The brownie caused complete couch-lock for about four hours, but I had no trouble whatsoever with the experience itself because I was already familiar with how to handle high doses. The overdose experience did not seem much different from a regular high dose LSD experience. I just let it flow by. My rational mind was still always present when so desired. At the end of the experience there was not even a hint of a hangover and I felt better than ever. I felt that the way I had resolved my conflicts and uncertainties on the cosmic/religious level pf abstraction in the past was still valid after several years of additional earthy experience. This indicates that overdoses of psychedelics are not necessarily bad trips, that they won't kill you, and that they won't drive you crazy. I am quite sure that there will never be rehabilitation clinics for addictions to psychedelics or hospitalizations for overdoses.
More recently, a lady in Colorado got an overdose from an edible by a factor of 16. There were no lingering mental or physical aftereffects. This would be true with very few other drugs, legal or illegal. Quality control is very good at the well established pot outlets, but not everywhere. I think that much more vivid warnings need to be put on the labels of edibles for the sake of beginners. It is my understanding that one dose is about 150 milligrams of THC, but effects are so variable that each person needs to do his own evaluation of dosage.
At present there is a somewhat rare problem of a beginner accidentally taking too high a dose of an edible. So far I have heard of no lingering negative consequences for doing so even though there is one reported case of an overdose by a factor of 16. I don't know of any other drug that is that safe. If a person suddenly realizes that he has taken a much higher dose than he intended, the proper action would be to find a place to recline for at least four hours. Then lean back, relax, and let the mental activity unfold however unusual it might come to seem at times. It takes time and experience to get familiar with the content of high dose experiences and there is certainly no need for anyone to do so. Some favorite music would be a pleasant addition, but reasonably quiet and pleasant surroundings would suffice. An experienced "ground control" person nearby would also be a big plus. The tail of the experience will be quite a bit longer, but during that time is is possible to get around easily in the real world so long as the task at hand is not too complex or stressful.
An experienced person taking a high dose would probably like to use headphones for music and an eyeshade. This combination makes the inner mental imagery and actually the entire inner experience more vivid and unbothered. Relating to the outside world and considering the drama that exists out there is better done with lower doses.
I am hoping and guessing that high dose experiences might very well substitute for the binge drinking of alcohol. The extreme self-transcendence from the turbulence, difficulty, and tedium of daily would certainly be there, but instead of damage to health and social standing and a long and unpleasant sick guilty hangover, there would be something spiritually gratifying. "Living" the concepts of all-pervading space, all-pervading spirit, eternity, and infinity can be extremely satisfying and fulfilling. Hopefully such a substitution will be found to be effective in the future.
On the basis of various people that I have talked to, frequency of use of a psychedelic varies considerably from person to person. Some say that it is absolutely harmless to take it frequently and others save it for special occasions and yet others establish a discipline. I think that it will tend to be used more frequently at first because the experience is novel, fascinating, and pleasurable. Over time, however, one gets used to its novelty and he also learns to extend its relaxed pleasure and newly found outlooks into daily life. In other words, some proportion of the experience moves from a flow of new inner explorations to the domain of the body-world relationship. One tends to put into practice the relaxation, refinement, and the mindfulness that he has learned on the inside. This becomes yet another learning experience and there is much satisfying real-world material there to learn from. There are no physical cravings for the experience at all, so that is not a problem. Future experience tends to become the reinforcement and extension of the concepts and approaches that have already been formulated and the amount of inner exploration of completely new material tends to subside somewhat.
Since psychedelics broaden a person's perspective, new concepts are formed. On one hand, these broader concepts can be considered as solid and pervasive but on the other still subject to cultivation. For instance, one might at first consider alcohol to be pleasant and safe, but later on he can see that its overuse leads to tragedy. He might then experience the broader concept that moderation in all things is safest and that one ignores that concept at his own risk. A person can meditate and find examples of this concept both in his memory banks and to see them unfoldin daily life.
Moving up a notch in the level of abstraction reveals many new and useful insights and provides the opportunity to cultivate and embellish existing ones. For me, many of the insights involve ways to defuse tension areas and disagreements between myself and others and also between others. I agree with the oriental notion that peace is the deepest luxury. A peaceful flow between oneself and his environment is a goal worth cultivating.
One caution to be considered is that short term memory is affected because new mental material is continually flowing to consciousness. It is easy to leave something cooking on the stove or to be distracted while driving. Any kind of risky activity should be avoided, as is true with any mind-altering drug certainly including alcohol.
Another caution is that when thinking in terms of broad abstractions, detail work takes a lot of hard concentration. A person would not want to have to balance a checkbook while under the influence of a psychedelic drug. Thinking in broad abstractions is a pleasure in itself, so one should postpone a psychedelic session if he is facing some detailed work.
There are two significant cautions to be observed with high dose experiences. One is that it can become possible to mix up the contents of the mental inner world with the material outer world. The reason that this can take place is because the mind is a single virtual image filling a single space in awareness. It contains what appears to be a representation of an external world including the body as well as an internal mental world. The main difference between the two is the complete flexibility of the inner world. If something in the inner world becomes vivid enough, it can appear as being part of the external world and the two can become mixed together. It is for this reason that it is probably safest to experience a high dose in a recliner or on a couch rather than being involved in any complexities relating to the outer world. An extreme example would be where in the inner world a person dreams and feels that he can soar freely through space while in the real world he is near an open window. "Soaring" and "floating" are rather common themes in psychedelic experience for two reasons. One is that the person can become extremely relaxed and the other is that viewing the world from broader levels of abstraction can be like "looking down" on it. For this reason, it is very highly recommended that a person choosing a high dose experience should have an experienced companion nearby to provide a solid rational platform in the real outside world. As Max said in the Two Broke Girls TV show: "Everyone knows not to take a psychedelic drug above the second floor". So far as I know, there have only been a handful of tragedies relating to this problem with psychedelic drugs, but they are the only ones and the danger is real. Knowing that "ground control" is present to take care of any real-world problems that might arise also allows a person to let go and become completely involved with the inner experience.
There are some interesting ramifications to the point of view that we live entirely in our minds. One is that our brains, our bodies, the outside world, and even the air that we breathe are parts of a single mental experience. We can conceptualize that we are a single mind experiencing a single universe or that we are one of many minds, all sharing the same mental experience that we agree upon represents the external world. Considering existence as a mental or spiritual creation is sometimes called the
Eastern or "mind only" point of view. Such broad abstractions as this are common in psychedelic experience. Most people enjoy them, but some people can be threatened by such new and "bizarre" points of view. Knowing that they are there and that they can be experienced without negative consequences helps such people to relax and let them flow through the mind-brain. The usual ways that one sees the world solidify completely again when the drug wears off, but more food for thought might remain.
The other significant caution is the possibility of a "bad trip". I am quite sure that this is most likely to happen when an inexperienced person takes too high a dose under bad conditions or without verbal preparation. No doubt it is even more likely if that person has had a hard life. None of my high-dose clients had bad trips but they were well prepared verbally beforehand. Since the high dose experience evokes cosmic concepts, I discuss some ways to handle high-dose bad trips in the later chapter called " Bad Trips". Some of the cosmic concepts naturally have grim components, such as the fact of suffering in the human condition, the paranoid point of view, and various definitions of the afterlife, but they can all be explored from the standpoint of a calm rational student-scientist without being overwhelmed by them. An experienced "ground control" can hold a rational conversation with the student-scientist at these times and the two can verbally examine and possibly interpret parts of the experience as it flows by.
The Stimulated Intuitive Mind
This essay describes the effects of cannabis sativa, the strain of marijuana that stimulates mental activity. Cannabis indica and the extract CBD have medical healing and pain-killing properties, but they stimulate mental activity very little if at all. Occasional references are made to the high-dose LSD experience.
Good alcohol, used responsibly, can be a satisfying pleasure. However, getting stoned on it can have serious consequences. According to Bill Maher on Real Time with Bill Maher, about 88,000 people per year die of alcohol-related causes while absolutely zero die from getting stoned or even from overdoses of marijuana.
The physical nature of the psychedelic experience is generally one of relaxation and blissful feelings. With higher doses, a person tends to close his eyes and look within. In the model that I like to use, the mental side of the experience can be conceptualized as a stimulation of the intuitive side of the mind that normally works outside of awareness. The intuitive side clusters new insights out of sight while what I call the "spontaneous thought generator" converts them into rational forms that can be remembered or communicated. We have all had sudden spontaneous insights that take a little time to put into words or other symbols, and sometimes larger understandings take a great deal more time to structure. Our understandings in turn may grow depending on our future experiences. In normal daily consciousness flash insights are what are often called the "aha" insights that come to mind when completely unexpected. During psychedelic experience, the output of the intuitive mind tends of flow to consciousness on a continuous basis and takes various vivid forms such as words, visual images, music, feelings, and what I like to call "strong appreciations". In the model that I like to use, the intuitive mind also has substantial control over the involuntary tensions of the muscles of the body. From this perspective, the rational mind and the intuitive mind can work together to reduce tension and reach relaxation within the right dosage range and under the right conditions. In a recent television program with Katie Couric, a man was shown having such intense spasms of his diaphragm that he could only speak in hiccups. They were clearly visible on the outside his body. He had been through all the expensive doctors and medications. A few minutes after taking a few puffs on a marijuana cigarette, he could talk normally.
The "strong appreciations" could also be called the "living" of the invisible mental concepts in the mind on the physical and emotional level. A mental image of a loved one, for instance, might be accompanied by a strong emotional reaction in the body. A psychedelic can amplify both the visual images and the feelings in the body. Concepts such as satisfaction and contentment and all others can also be amplified. On the cosmic level, time could be viewed as stationary and eternal, as it appears in outer space, while hands continue to move on clocks here on Earth. Some of the cosmic and religious concepts are discussed later.
Learning could be conceptualized as the reordering of mental contents into broader perspectives. A "c" and an "a" and a "t" can have individual meanings, but combining them into the word "cat" creates a jump into a much broader new concept which in turn can have many new variations. The whole becomes much more than the sum of its parts, and it opens the door to even broader understandings and conceptualizations. Psychedelic drugs can stimulate this reordering and clustering process, so one can learn altogether new things simply by relaxing in a recliner and looking within. I like to think of the learning of new concepts as being the activation of new neural networks in neuroplastic space.
The overall psychedelic model that I present here starts with a "yellow brick road" that leads straight to the "Emerald City". The Emerald City stands for perfect tranquility. It is referred to as the "melted ecstasy" by my mentor, Dr. Stanislav Grof. A field of corn growing down the left side of the road represents the natural, spontaneous, and conflict-free aspects of life. It eventually connects to the poppy fields within which stands the Emerald City. The poppy fields represent the state of being where all striving ceases and is replaced by feelings of contentment in the here-and-now immediate moment regardless of whatever it might contain. The poppies give off heavenly perfumes that melt away any lingering tensions. On the right side of the road is a succession of the inner interesting mental dramas as well as the tension issues that need to be resolved or bypassed, as the case may be, in order to reach the same fields and the welcoming gates of the Emerald City. The right side also has its "rest stops" where deep relaxation of the body is practiced. Some of the dramas on the right side of the road might insist on being worked on immediately while others can be bypassed for possible future reference. Once a resolution has been found for a particular inner drama, it might still have a little drawing power, but eventually a resolution can be cultivated that will put it completely to rest. Time also helps to de-energize tension issues. A time can come when it is possible to float down the entire length of the yellow brick road to the gates of the Emerald City without being waylaid entirely even once by a single tension issue. Using this model, we are all on the yellow brick road somewhere already since we are all pleasure-seeking creatures facing the difficulties relating to personal survival and well-being.
When the "poppy field" state of relaxation has been reached, the interesting "paradox of hedonism" becomes apparent. As Aristotle said, striving for pleasure actually interferes with progress towards it. It is like the scene in Alice Through the Looking Glass where her image shrinks as she moves toward the mirror. All striving is tension and tension is the opposite of relaxations, so the task (non-task) becomes to relax the striving out of existence. One can focus on the mechanical non-emotional task of relaxing the tensions in the body and to let the luxurious pleasure find its own level. The stress hormone of needy greediness can be subdued with relaxation. It is like opening the blinds to let the light in. It is at this point where the saying that "grace is a gift" becomes apparent. I am not sure that this is entirely true because when a person has reached this particular state of relaxation he is already so skilled at willfully relaxing away from tension issues that he can often do so with even the most subtle ones. In either case, it does not really matter too much because the "poppy field" level of relaxation is entirely satisfying just as it is. If one little nit of tension is blocking the portal to the magnificent Emerald City of perfect tranquillity, maybe it is true that something outside of oneself is necessary to dissolve it. If the melted ecstasy should become a reality at this point, it is like melting into very delicious frosting on an already very delicious cake.
I suggest a useful meditation image for the "poppy field" state of being. I picture myself sitting very contentedly in an Adirondack chair on the yellow brick road with poppies growing on both sides. The poppies give off a perfume that helps to melt any remaining negative tensions associated with the survival instinct. What is left is an inner domain of contentment and tranquility. As the song says: "Let the rest of the world go by." Crossing the boundary line into this state of being is a very interesting experience that can be repeated and examined in some detail if so desired. Pursuing the pleasure of deep relaxation is an oxymoron, but simply letting go of tension is not. I look up up at the Emerald City which is at a distance and at a slightly higher elevation. I know that getting up and striving to reach greater pleasure in the city would be unproductive because of the stress involved, but that deeper relaxation would cause the chair itself to rise up and to float serenely down the yellow brick road closer and closer to the Emerald City. At the times that the chair actually reaches and passes through the portal, the body becomes completely relaxed, the quest is satisfied, but the mind can keep right on working. Of course, positive and neutral topics are chosen to meditate upon, and negativity is viewed from afar. The full experience of the full-blown melted ecstasy is fairly rare, but anywhere along the approach to it is entirely satisfying.
The first time I experienced the melted ecstasy I was under a high dose of LSD with Dr. Grof acting as ground control. We could calmly and rationally discuss the nature of the experience even while it was happening. Dr. Grof said that usually there were a few little "dents" in the body where there used to be semi-chronic muscle tensions or cramps. He was right. He had been there.
There are "venues" along the yellow brick road as it passes through the poppy field just as there are before it, but they are all very positive. In my own case they include pleasant memories, optimistic future possibilities, and exotic fantasies. Some of the fantasies include soaring cathedrals, beautiful castles, luxury cruise liners suspended inn sparkling waters, , gliding through beautiful canyons, loved ones as karmic soul mates, happy and loving children and pets, world peace, and a blissful afterlife. Various other symbols might come to mind to describe this domain of experience, and actually no symbols are necessary at all. This stretch of the yellow brick road is definitely a pleasure to explore and no doubt it is good for one's overall well-being both mentally and physically. I understand that at one time the word "influence" meant "the inward flow of God's grace".
Having experienced experiences of this nature even once can make a positive difference in a person's life. They can be remembered, meditated upon, and approached even in normal daily consciousness. Being deeply relaxed in the here-and-now moment with a clear mind is certainly not an "exotic" or "otherworldly" state of being, and it can be practiced and nurtured. Having developed the skill to do so can help to smooth out some of the rough spots in a person's daily life.
Being able to clear an inner pathway to deep tranquility seems to be a rather new concept. Perhaps it is due in part to the fact that Dr. Grof's discovery that progress can be facilitated with the proper use of psychedelic drugs and that the "melted ecstasy" actually exists as a real state of being.
Speaking poetically, the "melted ecstasy" is like a treasure found in the forest. It could also be interpreted as the goal of the knight's quest for the golden chalice or as the gleaming bar of gold that the ancient alchemists sought to purify from dull gray lead. I believe that the "quest" hormone leads ultimately to the melted ecstasy in the mental-emotional world and it explains the need for exploration in the physical world.
Once enough tension issues have been resolved sufficiently, it is possible to approach and sometimes to even reach the deep tranquillity state of being even in normal daily consciousness. Being able to do so could legitimately be considered as one hallmark of personal fulfillment or of self actualization.
In his LSD research, Dr. Grof noticed that some people experienced extreme states of physical tension while on the path to tranquility. He concluded that this was sometimes due to residual tension resulting from the trauma of birth, which can be researched on the Internet. High dose psychedelics can help to work through and resolve these tensions, but Dr. Grof has also developed methods that could be used in normal daily consciousness. These can be explored on his web page, stanislavgrof.com, in his book "Healing Our Deepest Wounds", and in others.
Once a person has discovered or approached the melted ecstasy, he can meditate on it, practice it, and cultivate it even in normal daily consciousness without any special circumstances or drugs. After all, it is nothing more than self-trained extremely deep relaxation and there is nothing magical about it.
The dictionary definition of the intuitive mind is not exactly precise, but for the sake of the model that I like to use, I consider it as (1) working outside of consciousness, (2) working to cluster life experiences into ever-broader and more inclusive concepts, (3) presenting insight-clusters to consciousness at its own volition, (4) sensitive to extreme subtleties in the outside environment, and (5) as interested in our survival and well-being as we are in everyday consciousness. When stimulated by a psychedelic drug, this type of material flows to awareness rather steadily often along with vivid visual imagery and emotional feelings in the body. There are many new worlds to explore when one's level of abstraction has been broadened.
A great deal of confusion can be avoided if it is assumed that the source of the material from the intuitive mind is ultimately a mystery. It could be from a part of the material brain or from spirit. All of existence could be God's dream. In any case, we can see it as emerging from a source outside of the familiar territory of our rational mind.
Even though the intuitive mind clusters real-life experiences and memories, the clusters themselves are new ways of looking at things. As such, the intuitive mind teaches us something new. We don't have to experience new things out in the outside world to learn some of these things, they can come from within. It is possible to learn a great deal while simply relaxing in a recliner.
Even though the intuitive mind presents information at its own volition, it is possible to interact with it. An example would be when the rational mind poses a question. The intuitive mind might present an answer almost immediately or perhaps at a later time. This can be done in normal daily consciousness, but the answers are more vivid and usually on a broader level of perspective during psychedelic experience. In any case, this is an interesting way do deal with problems and to investigate various topics.
If an inexperienced person took a psychedelic drug by accident under poor conditions, he might interpret the upward flow of intuitive material as coming from some evil source inside of himself or perhaps even from outside of himself. It would be greatly to his advantage if he could interpret it as coming from his own intuitive mind. In that case he could analyze it rationally and even interact with it rather than feeling that he was at its mercy.
It could actually be true that the material coming to mind could come from outside oneself. From the point of view that existence is God's dream, then everything is a part of it including even our thoughts. Their source could be seen as spirit or as atoms in the brain interacting with the atoms of the drug. In any case, it can generally be described as a fascinating source of mental material coming from somewhere.
The intuitive part of the mind obviously processes real-world data. Since it produces something new that we have never even thought of, it is smarter in some ways than we are up here in our normal daily consciousness. These insights are almost always useful and to our benefit, suggesting that the intuitive mind is a silent inner ally who is on our side and who is just as interested in our survival and well-being as we are. Sometimes these insights are minor, sometimes they are more general, and sometimes they are more like sweeping revelations. Sometimes the broader concepts that come to mind take quite a bit of time to "clothe" adequately in words or other symbols. No doubt many people will be happy to find out that their inner self is not necessarily a repository of repressed antisocial impulses, as has been suggested in the past.
The rational mind can watch the intuitive material emerge, get as deeply involved with it as desired, and then come back out again. With higher doses it becomes possible to become almost totally involved with the various aspects of the experience. Relating to everyday levels of abstraction takes place with low dosages, more sweeping social, mythical and archetypal abstractions at moderate levels, and cosmic and religious abstractions with high dosages. There is plenty of territory in between, one interesting area being that of self-reflection, situational analysis, and personal growth.
I would like to present here an example from my own life something that is a little heavy but I think very important from the psychedelic perspective. After a few years had passed, I finally made contact with one faction of my family over email. I noticed that the messages from everyone were quite hostile and critical and dealt with intense everyday arguments. One day with "stimulated meditation" my intuitive mind consolidated many of the abusive thoughts in the emails into the overall realization that this entire faction of my family had somehow developed a cult (culture) of mutual abuse. It could also be called a "hysterical epidemic" using sociological language or the influence of an evil spirit since it affected everyone equally. Jung suggested that a spirit could also be defined as "the spirit of the times" which I think is a good compromise. In any case, an invisible pervasive attitude of mutual abuse had descended on these people. Being invisible, these "general entities" are not as easy to spot as concrete events, but even mild psychedelics sometimes reveal them. No doubt these sorts of cultures exist and no doubt they can come to feed on themselves. They had become habitual ways of life. I started pointing out to these people that there were other approaches to life such as my own much more friendly and congenial one. I finally specifically labeled the cult of abuse for what it was and showed everyone over email that it was present in all of the generations of that faction of the family. Being the oldest of the family, I took the role of patriarch and made a suggestion: that the cult of abuse could be converted into a "cult of goodwill" where people are civil, supportive, friendly, refined, and enjoying life and each other. Positive steps to do so would include recognizing the unnecessary abuse for what it was when it happened and not responding to it in kind, practicing treating others with goodwill and respect, etc. Attacking and discussing the problem at the more general level of abstraction where it really existed rather than on the level of the hundreds of individual abusive events themselves would have a better chance of resolving it. "Bigger pictures" can be very useful. A positive neuroplastic image, such as that of a harmonious society, must first be conceptualized, meditated upon and cultivated, and then put into practice in the real world. It would include changes in the invisible attitudes, points of view, and approaches that psychedelics help to reveal, as well as in changes in practice. Even a mild psychedelic drug can facilitate the process because the larger pictures become more apparent. An individual who already personifies the new desired approach can be used as a role model. In addition, within the right dosage range, it is possible to see things from another person's point of view much more vividly. In any case, I like to assume that that Cannabilito, a hypothetical benevolent spirit in cannabis, has revealed an abstraction that has in fact made a positive difference in the world.
Even relatively trivial tension issues such as bickering with individual family members can be a significant distraction on the pathway to peace of mind. Going around and around over such troublesome "who struck John" issues can be unproductive and exhausting. Conceptualizing a larger perspective can make it possible to bypass the trivial issues altogether, to discover and find resolutions to the larger problems, and to move closer to peace of mind and relaxation.
The self-reinforcing nature of cults explains why prisoners in penitentiaries rarely become penitent. When we put a new lawbreaker into a prison we are in effect feeding the cult.
Since marijuana is slightly euphoric and since it presents broader perspectives, a person tends to see the future from an optimistic and yet realistic point of view. Seeing things in this way is much more likely to produce positive results than by seeing the world as going to Hell and that nothing can be done about it.
Morley Safer presented an excellent example of an entire town that lived by a "cult (culture) of goodwill" on Sixty Minutes. Marfa, Texas, is a town of about 2,000 people that has both a good economy and an all-pervading attitude of relaxed, simpatico interpersonal relationships between its inhabitants. Various townspeople were interviewed and it was clear that they all shared the same good-natured, humorous, and live-and-let-live attitude. There is no crime in that town.
Safer asked a rugged macho farm person what he thought about the group of artists that came to live in town. With a smile, his response was: "It is kinda like bird watchin'". If a lawbreaker were put into this kind of environment, perhaps he would learn the new attitude.
I am sure that these people reinforce each others' positive attitudes and keep them alive, hopefully forever. I am quite sure that the reason that such cultures are not very common is because of the fear and defensiveness that is built right into the survival instinct; both of which can hopefully be tamed with meditation, psychedelic experience, and by making it a better world. I noticed exactly the same positive "Marfa" attitude among the people who work at the local pot store.
I think that the important point in my story is where the scores of individual abusive events became clustered into a single overall concept. This clustering is a frequent occurrence in psychedelic experience. One could argue individual daily abusive events or any other kind of events forever and get nowhere, while looking at the same situation from a broader level of abstraction could result in many useful insights and positive methods of change that could be implemented and tested. Psychedelic experience functions to create such useful clusters, and a person can learn to do so in normal daily consciousness by simply looking for the "bigger picture". Many "big pictures" pop to mind spontaneously, and this is an example of how the intuitive and the rational minds can work together.
One way to look at this process is to separate the "pure essence" of a concept from the symbols that are chosen to describe it. On the one hand, "high quality" by itself might be an intuitive non-symbolic concept, but the spontaneous thought generator will usually eventually associate some image or images with it. Psychedelic drugs could be seen as stimulants to the pure essence of concepts. As one approaches a pure essence, the spontaneous thought generator will tend to generate symbols to describe it. These symbols could be called new verbal and visual "insights" on the rational level. If these new concepts are discovered during a psychedelic session, they can more easily be brought back to daily life if one or more symbols has been associated with them. They might be revisited later and perhaps some new symbols, based on new experience, could be associated with them at that time. Revisiting a concept makes it more distinct and vivid, and this is the natural result of such meditation. This process could be called the "cultivation" of a concept. These concepts are shared by the rational and the intuitive minds. As such, they can be carried into and out of psychedelic sessions and can be contemplated or expanded as desired in either place. Some, such as those pertaining to creativity, can be tested for authenticity in the outside world.
MRI studies with religious monks who meditate long on compassion for the human condition have been found to stimulate specific areas in their brains. I believe that meditation on any chosen concept along with one or more symbols associated with it can form something similar to these "neuroplastic images" in the mind-brains of the monks. They can act as "memory joggers" for entire points of view and states of being instead of just for words or names. As will be shown, the willful creation of these neuroplastic images can be quite useful as self-constructed guides through daily life, and they can grow with new experience.
Mentioned earlier was the fact that I never advocate the use of a psychedelic drug because any unfortunate occurrence that might happen for any reason afterwards could be blamed on the drug or on me. In addition, I might rightly feel responsible for what happened and that would result in personal guilt. I know how guilt can block the road to tranquillity, so I avoid it as much as possible.
Sometimes when reviewing a new insight, it is clear that the intuitive side of the mind can process strictly intuitive information such as subtle impressions, connections between multiple events, and underlying influences in addition to individual events at the more concrete level. It also has an excellent memory. It can remember the expressions on people's faces, nuances of gestures, and background influences as it clusters information for new insights to be formulated and presented to consciousness. Dr. Stanislav Grof (stanislavgrof.com), my mentor, refers to these clusters as COEX (condensed experience) systems.
During moderate and higher dose experiences, the intuitive material of psychedelic experience tends to flow to mind constantly with each new insight or impression quickly replacing the previous one. Some people interpret this as a loss of short term memory, which in a way it is, but I think it is also like water flowing under a bridge. These are good times to have a handheld voice recorder handy. But even if an insight might be lost downstream, it will be found to still be intact if it is revisited later because the work of clustering it together has already been done. Sometimes the spontaneous thought generator will later present one of these "flash insights" to consciousness for further scrutiny. It is difficult to backtrack a psychedelic experience as it flows by, but sometimes it is possible to remember something more abstract farther back and then to work forward again. If an insight is "bookmarked" by meditating on it for a short time, it will be more likely pop to the surface by itself later on for further scrutiny. I guess that the word "flashback" is appropriate for these revisited insights, but I am sure that they do not indicate that the psychedelic drug has confused or disrupted the mind.
This flow of mental experience, however it is defined or whatever its source is considered to be, is a clear reality during psychedelic experience. The higher the dosage, the more vivid and abstract it becomes. A peaceful mind in a relaxed body can watch and listen as this mental material spontaneously flows up to consciousness.
The information that flows to consciousness can be conceptualized as coming from spirit or as coming from the movement of atoms in the brain. A more transcendental point of view would be where God dreams the atoms.
The intuitive mind is obviously aware of the outside world because it spontaneously produces insights with reference to it. So it is always back there silently learning new things from the world just as is the rational mind.
A stimulated intuitive mind works in terms of broader and more global levels of abstraction. Doing so has the advantage of including more factors and data into each insight or concept. It is a less limited way of looking at things. The associations between similar memories bring them together into broader perspectives. Better decisions can be made at the broader levels of abstraction because bigger pictures are dealt with. It is always a pleasure to see things in a new and different way and one that is known to be both accurate and beneficial.
The higher the dosage of the psychedelic drug, the more data is included in each thought and concept that comes to mind. At lower dosages, real-world events are clustered into wholenesses. Instead of considering one unit of a person's behavior, for instance, his general behavior and its effect on the interactions within a group might be considered. At moderate dosages, even more general realities might be considered such as global warming with respect to renewable energy, technologic unemployment with respect to adjustments to the overall financial system, geographic attitudes such as red states and blue states, and the elements of civil versus those of uncivil behavior. At high dosages cosmic and religious concepts are considered. One might consider the concepts of all-pervading space, all-pervading spirit, the nature of being, causation, meaning, life itself, the afterlife, or purpose. Each of these cosmic abstractions is a broad concept covering everything and everyone in existence. Conceptualizing hundreds of billions of galaxies suspended in a seemingly boundless universe while at the same time conceptualizing the mysterious force that keeps all of its atoms organized into the structures that we know while at the same time observing that all of the atoms move in a consistent, consecutive, and appropriate fashion is an example of expanded consciousness. Everything is made of atoms including you and me, our individual body cells, the tables, the chairs, and even the air that we breathe. Changes are taking place everywhere at the same time, and this change is always appropriate and under the constraints of natural laws. The "magic" that moves all of the atoms in the universe at the same time could conceivably do so in such a way that forks could be changed into spoons and people's eyes could change color willy-nilly. But the only "exotic" events that really take place in this world are those during such times as when the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge were built. Other exotic events might be seen as when extremely unlikely (synchronous) coincidences take place. Without the universal organizing force at work, the universe would be filled with atoms in random chaotic motion like silt suspended in water. Timothy Leary (Wikipedia) described this particular observation as "the chess pieces becoming aware of the chess player". In any case, broader and broader perspectives are considered as the dosage of a psychedelic drug is increased. Below is a symbolic picture of the larger perspective.
Since free will is presumably the product of atoms moving in the brain, and since we do not know what it is that moves atoms, the extent to which free will influences the flow of events is a mystery. This point of view makes it possible to easily conceptualize at one moment that something unknown controls everything to the point of view that we are ultimately responsible for our survival and well-being. This sort of flexibility can reduce a great deal of conflict on the cosmic-philosophical level of abstraction.
Seeing things from even a slightly broader perspective can result in many new and useful insights. "looking down" on one's life from a broader perspective is another definition of "self transcendence". Such an experience can also be a refreshing relief from the mundane and mediocre aspects of daily life.
With expanded consciousness, it seems possible to "feel" another person's personality quite vividly. Hundreds of individual behaviors of that person can be clustered into an overall picture. Future relationships with that person can involve a deeper understanding. The broader abstraction of the interactions between personalities can also become more vivid.
Contemplation could be considered as simply observing something from a neutral standpoint,
musing could be considered as when the mind is free to choose its own topics, and
meditation could be considered as when the rational mind chooses a topic. All of these sorts of mental activities and others like them become more vivid with psychedelic stimulation. At times it is possible to calmly contemplate and analyze the spontaneous mental material emerging into consciousness from the intuitive mind.
While not pretending to be an expert in brain anatomy or chemistry, in the model I like to use all learning is the activation of new specific combinations of brain cells. I think this is true because during brain surgery, specific experiences emerge as different parts of the brain are stimulated. In any case, repeated experiences can energize specific areas of the brain while the clustering of experiences into new concepts will energize other new specific areas of the brain. This clustering process can take place while one is relaxing in a recliner with or without psychedelic stimulation. It could be called
Aldous Huxley (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_of_Perception) describes enhanced perception in his book The Doors of Perception. Authors and gurus who describe this experience, such as Osho at osho.com often state that it is necessary to quiet the rational mind so completely that full attention can be placed onto perception itself. All preconceptions, interpretations, classifications, value judgments, and utility judgments need to be temporarily suspended. During psychedelic experience, however, it seems that the beauty and the purity of enhanced perception is strong enough that it can coexist comfortably with the rational mind. It is another example of the intuitive and the rational minds working together. An example would be the poet who converts impressions into words. It is like being totally involved in the perceptual experience while at the same time the rational mind can "skitter" over the surface. A good trip within the right dosage range can make the world be perceived as being more vivid and awesome and as such it elicits stronger feeling-impression sensitivities. Every nerve can seem to reverberate with the vibrations of music. The vivid blending of the bliss hormones in the body seems to perfectly follow the exquisite beauty of every nuance of the music. The beauty of nature can become breathtaking. Food can become ambrosia. The most absurd and trivial can become miraculous. Walt Whitman said that the universe could be seen in a blade of grass. I would like to rephrase that a little and say that a blade of grass can be seen as sharing the same miracle of existence as the rest of the universe. Works of fine art can literally blaze with the skill and sensitivity of extremely talented people. A person feels that he is seeing "the which of which there is no whicher" or "where it is really at". Some call it "direct perception" while others refer to it as getting "hung up" on something. In our scientific industrialized intellectual culture it is probably the children, the artists, and the musicians who perceive the world from this perspective the most. Being deeply relaxed while enjoying direct perception in the here-and-now moment can be an extremely pleasant experience. Just as it is possible to generate feelings of anger and sex willfully, it is possible to remember and generate the positive feelings associated with heightened perception to a satisfactory degree during normal daily life. This can vastly improve the quality of life.
Much of the time people are engrossed in the struggle for control, survival, and well being in one way or another. Discovering enhanced perception in psychedelic experience is like finding a treasure chest of well being in the middle of the jungle of life. It is like a temporary period of exquisite luxury. Taking handfuls of gold and jewels back to civilization would be an analogy to bringing positive insights, approaches, and feelings beck from the psychedelic experience into daily life.
I recently saw a video of an extremely beautiful lady singer. By her fluid and balanced comportment and her occasional happy smile, you could tell that she was totally relaxed and enjoying herself fully as she communicated great beauty to her audience. This lady had certainly found her inner treasure. She smiled and bowed to thunderous applause. Perhaps the purpose of the human drama will be realized when everyone on Earth is that composed.
Words and other mental constructs can be conceptualized as a net that is cast over reality to describe it. These symbols are extremely useful. It is easier to move a mountain or fly to the moon with words rather in the physical world. However, they can also act as a mask for outside reality. In effect, an item in the external world can become "mentally imbued" with its associated symbols. Sometimes the outside reality can shine through the symbolic overlay when something cannot be described in words. Overlooks to Yosemite Valley in California would be an example. When seeing the world from this perspective, there is nothing that can be said about it except that the "miracle of being" is apparent.
At the right moderate dosage level, a person can harness the rational and the intuitive sides of his mind together to meditate deeply and to analyze chosen topics. With each broader level of abstraction, there can be many new insights because of the different points of view. For instance, instead of considering a single event in a person's life, a larger picture might be formed including the setting, previous influences, motivations, purposes, personalities, sensitivities, and the resulting outcomes. A fuller and more vivid picture can emerge. It becomes possible to sense and recognize where any tension issues, disconnects, and misunderstandings might have taken place and how they could be avoided or blocked in future similar situations. Productive actions can be noted more vividly. It is also possible to take advantage of this feature of psychedelic drugs to do a more in-depth analysis of current situations.
Self analysis also harnesses the ability to find a "cap" or a "resolution" to persistent tension areas. For instance if a person had been betrayed by someone he loved and respected, he could on the one hand hold resentment for the rest of his life or he could shift up a level of abstraction and see it as a very small blip in the human drama. After seeing it from the new point of view, the new view could block the old one each time it came up. Psychedelics tend to move a person's thinking into broader levels of abstraction, so many such resolutions can be found there and they do indeed help clear the pathway to tranquillity. Since new perspectives found on the more abstract level are still authentic and account for all of the data, they are not forced distortions nor do they deny the more concrete perspective. No denial or repression is necessary in order to hold an authentic broader perspective, and doing so has its advantage.
At a higher dosage, there will be a period of time where the flow of data from the intuitive mind might tend to want to have its own way, and it becomes more difficult to concentrate on the desired task at hand. Be that as it may, the flow of the more intense intuitive data is always interesting and it may in fact provide insights pertaining to the desired task. As the drug experience weakens, it once again becomes possible to concentrate more and more on the desired task and to once again get occasional spontaneous insights from the intuitive mind.
Such insights are almost always completely authentic since the intuitive mind works with real-world data, and they provide valuable information on how to help relate more smoothly to the outside world. Volumes could be written on psychotherapy, self-analysis, and situational analysis involving the rational and the intuitive sides of the mind working together. The intuitive mind can provide insights and the rational mind can analyze them. Within the right range of dosage, it is possible to bear down on a chosen topic with "stimulated meditation". Both problem solving and contemplation can take place while in this state and it can continue in normal daily consciousness. Working on chosen topics over a period of time with or without psychedelics can be meaningful in that they can take on a life of their own. I have found that such constructive meditation can take the place of periods of boredom and be of value at the same time.
Discovering the mental tension issues that block the path to tranquility is quite easy. All that is necessary to do is to practice relaxation and see what mental drama gets in the way. With a psychedelic, it is usually quite clear what the block is composed of since the intuitive mind tends to cluster data into meaningful wholenesses. The task becomes to work on the block while it is present in consciousness and at its current level of abstraction. If the block is something useful, such as a burst of creativity or good meditation on a real-world situation, it is often possible to choose whether to experience it or to move on to deeper relaxation. Resolutions are sometimes very satisfying "aha" insights. Sometimes they are more vague or general in nature and may require further work. Resolutions to complex problems can be meditated upon with the rational mind while at the same time answers and partial answers can sometimes be provided by the intuitive mind. Some resolutions might be new attitudes or ways of looking at things while others might be physical solutions to real-world problems. Just as it is possible to learn and practice this type of meditation, it is possible to learn and practice deep tranquility and to move back and forth between the two at will.
MRI research has shown that religious monks who meditate for long periods of time on compassion for the human condition stimulate activity in specific areas of their brains. I believe that with psychedelic stimulation a person can relatively quickly do something similar. It is possible to conceptualize, cultivate, and meditate upon chosen ideal concept-images in "neuroplastic space" that in turn can become pervasive central influences on one's entire personality. These states of being can be formulated, cultivated, and practiced to the extent that they can be activated immediately by an act of will, and many times they activate themselves under appropriate circumstances. I have no idea how these images work on the neural level; they may simply be newly activated memory networks, but they do in fact work and they can influence daily life in positive directions. For instance, during psychedelic experience a person might discover and meditate on periods of deep serenity, patience, and acceptance and willfully associate them with mental images of something such as Buddha images. The influences of these images will automatically pop to mind and to help him to keep calm when stressful situations arise in daily life. These images can be remembered and cultivated even in normal daily consciousness and can act as self-constructed guiding lights through the maze of life. I am quite sure that the cultivation of these images could replace unwanted habits. The surprisingly extreme influence these images can have is described in my later section called "Neuroplastic Influence". These images can become very vivid during psychedelic experience, and since they are self-chosen and good it is a pleasure to work with them and to develop them. As Jung put it, the symbol comes first.
A study of women becoming nuns, another of people who had won the lottery, and perhaps others have indicated that changes in life circumstances often have little long-lasting effects on baseline mood and approaches to life. To the extent to which this is true, desired changes might sometimes better be made on the inside through meditation rather than through actual experience in the outside world. We can envision and consider outcomes to our actions rather than testing them in reality where unexpected consequences might occur. I believe that this is possible through the discovery and cultivation of neuroplastic images and that occasional low-dose psychedelic experiences can facilitate the process. We can create and cultivate various "ego-ideal" mental images and test their validity on the inside on the basis of what we have already learned about the outside world.
In the model that I like to use, the intuitive mind works outside of awareness and in this sense it is invisible and silent. When it has clustered an insight, it sends it to the spontaneous thought generator where it is converted into some kind of rational form that can be remembered or communicated to the outside world. The conversion process could be interpreted as the psychedelic experience itself. It can include words, images, insights, general understandings, revelations, emotional feelings and what I like to call "appreciations". The flow of this material can be fascinating to say the least. With moderate and high doses it usually flows by rather steadily and constantly, so it is not always easy to present it to the outside world as it happens. Authors, poets, and people interested in personal growth would no doubt benefit from handheld voice recorders at these times. Musicians would have their instruments and recorders handy. There is a story about an artist who vowed to paint his visual imagery during his psychedelic experience but who got caught up in a single dot and had to paint later from memory.
It is not a mystery why creative people often state that they are merely the messengers of what they produce because so much of it emerges spontaneously. To be noted is that a certain percentage of the psychedelic experience is pretty much strictly on the "feeling" or "appreciation" level and that geometric or organic visual imagery is the only medium that can interpret it. Sometimes there is no rational interpretation at all, and just the feelings and the impressions flow by.
The Inner Voice
Since we normally think in words, we actually hear an inner voice much of the time. Even in normal daily consciousness, however, we can imagine that we are talking to someone else. With psychedelic stimulation, this "someone else" can become quite vivid and independent. Carl Jung refers to "autonomous complexes" where the mind can temporarily construct entire second mental personalities that can be related to in the inner world. Although common in dreams, this process can come as quite a surprise the first time it is experienced in a psychedelic session. For psychedelic experience, I like the concept of a single spontaneous thought generator that can shape-change as appropriate for what is being communicated and experienced at the moment.
As the level of abstraction increases with dosage, there can be a flow of new insights on those levels because of the new points of view. Often these insights pop to mind in verbal form. When this is done, there can be the impression that an "inner teacher" is communicating with the rational mind. In this way the spontaneous thought generator can become personified. It can take on the role associated with the information being communicated. On the low level of abstraction, it might take on the role of an actual human teacher, on the moderate level it might take on the role of a mythical wizard or a guru, and, on the cosmic level, a spirit. Even if a person feels that he is talking with God, he may be "simply" receiving insights regarding cosmic and religious concepts as the intuitive mind clusters extremely general abstractions and presents them to consciousness in a dramatic form. Of course, it is impossible to prove that it is or is not really really God Himself. In any case, the "teaching" quality of the psychedelic experience has been known for centuries. The spontaneous thought generator can also be conceptualized as a persons' "muse" which can shape-change as the situation calls for. Carlos Castanada's book The Teachings of Don Juan deals with this topic. In it, "Mescalito" is considered to be a spiritual teacher that exists within the psychedelic Mescal cactus itself. As will be discussed in a later section on cosmic and religious experience, it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of spirit or its function. Therefore, no one really knows whether the inner voice is a presentation of spirit or the output of a physical brain, but it can be conceptualized either way with equal ease and as such the question can actually be ignored if so desired.
From the cosmic-materialistic point of view, the galaxies of atoms that make up the drug in the cactus itself interact with the galaxies of atoms that make up the human brain. The atomic combination of the two in turn miraculously yield information that somehow crosses the mind-brain boundary into the mind itself. The mind is immaterial and it contains no atoms. Not being part of the material universe, it could be conceptualized as existing in some other dimension or as a representation of spirit. So even from the materialistic point of view, the new information comes from an organization of atoms in the drug and is tailored by the organization of atoms in the personal brain. From the spiritualistic-materialistic point of view, spirit moves the atoms of the brain in such a way as to create the mental image. From the strictly spiritual point of view, the entire process is God's dream. The movement of atoms might be considered as strictly materialistic, but awareness, thought, and meaning could be considered as being beyond the material and bordering on the spiritual.
In a general sense all learning, psychedelic and otherwise, could be interpreted as the conceptualization of new cluster-insights, and that the clustering process takes place outside of awareness. The clustering process could be very complex, especially when new insights regarding human relationships are being integrated. Memories of events, subtle influences, body languages, tones of voice, and even similar circumstances are all blended together into a new insight and sent to consciousness. In a similar sense, the outside world is manifesting increasingly complex structures. One example would be the succession over time of the complexity of equipment which resulted in the existence of the space station. Scientists, made of atoms, are configuring other realities, also made of atoms, into ever more complex atomic structures. Now we have stye ability to photograph a cluster of photons as it appears to move slowly across the screen and to burst when encountering something in its path. We are manipulating the "dough" of existence at the angstrom and the nanometer level of measurement and beyond.
A sarcastic and yet accurate example of self-transcendence, just for the sake of fun, would be the situation where a baseball fan would cheer ecstatically with 40,000 other fans when a man hits a ball with a stick. He gets outside himself and becomes a part of something much larger than himself, and for only $100 a seat.
Identifying with larger groups of people that have a purpose is a form of self transcendence. The groups could be benevolent, such as fund-raisers for charity or as destructive, such as terrorists blowing up innocent civilians, or anything else in between. Another example of self-transcendence would be one of my high-dose LSD clients who saw himself as floating atop magnificent snow-covered mountains. He looked down into the valley where he saw yak droppings that represented his everyday tension issues. Such an extreme transcendence of one's tension issues might provide a useful new perspective for them, but lower doses might provide the opportunity to work on resolving them but still with the advantage of expanded consciousness.
The need for self-transcendence exists in all cultures and varies from person to person. For some people it is so intense that they are willing to put their health and their social standing in jeopardy for its sake. Some conceptualize it as a spiritual quest. It can be pursued with a variety of drugs, alcohol probably being the most popular worldwide. Other methods include those suggested by the religions, sensory isolation, Dr. Dr. Grof's holotropic breathwork, fasting, extreme sports and risks, and the identification with crowd mentality at times such as when the home team wins the Super Bowl. In any case, I suggest that psychedelics would be a safe and easy way to satisfy this need in some people and could possibly avoid more arduous or dangerous methods.
Identifying with groups that have a purpose is a form of self-transcendence on all levels of society. A person can consider himself to be a member of a family, a neighborhood, a social or religious group, a loyal major sports fan, a member of a nation, or a member of any of the various "interest groups" such as those interested in the various forms of sports or entertainment. Vivid examples would be the deluge of new soccer fans when the USA competed in Brazil in 2014 or the huge crowds that celebrated the fourth of July at the mall in Washington. It is a pleasure to feel national pride again after such a negative recent national history. Even scholars can get outside of themselves when they pursue their interests; they are focussing on something larger than themselves. These sorts of activities may provide satisfactions for the need for transcendence, but there is a downside to this need. It is too easy for some people to get swept up into riots, gang wars, protests, or mob rule of various forms, even the riots at soccer games. Right now in history the ISIS and the Sunni are sweeping south through Iraq. Some of the men who lived in the invaded towns and many from other countries are joining their ranks and waving their guns and chanting right along with the rest of them. Joining a band of warriors who intend to take over an entire nation and then other countries is certainly a form of self transcendence. The wearing of masks by some soldiers could be interpreted as a purposeful loss of personal identity.
Even people from faraway countries are being attracted to this action. According to NBC News, between 70 and 100 Americans are estimated to have joined at this time even though ISIS is holding some Americans hostage. The majority of these people are young men who are misfits in their own countries. They are willing to change their religious beliefs and to risk their lives for the sake of self-transcendence.
I am guessing that a person who is seeking spiritual transcendence and combining it with the use of alcohol or some other unhealthy stimulant or practice could instead find great lasting and healthy gratification with occasional well-aimed high-dose psychedelic sessions instead. I am guessing that for some people the spiritual quest is both intense and stressful whether they label it as such or as something else. The big questions regarding why one is here and where one comes from can become somewhat paramount in a person's background mind. If a person finds solace for this tension in one drug or another, he will tend to repeat that treatment for the same kind of solace. The psychedelic experience can satisfy the "spiritual quest" tensions with the experience of various cosmic and religious concepts. Being able to "live", or "deeply identify" with these sorts of concepts during a psychedelic session, I believe, can have lasting benefit and satisfaction. It is possible to remember these concepts in daily life and to enjoy meditating on them. They include all-pervading space, all-pervading spirit, the nature of being, eternity, infinity, and the mystery of existence having emerged or continuing to emerge from nothingness. We can identify with these concepts and others both in daily life and in psychedelic experience at various dosages and intensities. Meditating on these sorts of concepts can become a pleasant background mental process rather than the experience of the excess intensity of the "quest" hormones. This is the "macro" example of putting mental keeper bars on horseshoe magnets. The magnets are still there, but their intensity is neutralized. It is a pleasure when a tension issue is "put to bed", fades into the background, and as it opens another door on the yellow brick road to tranquility.
A person might be able to relate to what he comfortably conceptualized as his own inner concept of God or with a "God's eye view" of the universe.. In other words, he would be comfortable with the concept that since spirit is a mystery he could enjoy the possibility of a real all-pervading spirit of which he is a part without nagging doubts. Carrying concepts such as these back into daily life can help to pacify not only the tantalizing "quest" hormones but also the philosophical conflicts and doubts. One tends to feel that he has already found some satisfactory and relaxing answers within himself.
To the best of my knowledge, the safest, easiest, and most satisfying method of self-transcendence in the entire world is with the psychedelic drugs. Not only can they lead to all of the satisfactions mentioned above, but even to the satisfaction of getting "wasted", or temporarily escaping completely from the turmoil, tedium, frustration, uncertainty, threat, and confusion of daily life. As such, I hope and believe that high doses of a safe psychedelic drug can come to replace some of the binge drinking and the extreme overuse of the dangerous and addicting drugs. I heard on television that the use of hard drugs, alcohol, and even marijuana has gone down in Amsterdam in the forty years since marijuana was legalized. The extremely abstract points of view at the cosmic levels can at least make conflicts and tension issues on lower levels seem less important. It would seem that the cosmic revelations associated with the high dose experience could provide some new and positive points of view. Some people find it an advantage to "maintain the cosmic perspective", as the hippies used to say. All of my early research volunteers received high doses, got "wasted", and were entirely able to return to work the next day.
I am sure that psychedelics do not "scratch the same biological itch" that results from the use of various other drugs, but they do at least provide the desired self transcendence. Perhaps for some people that would be enough.
Some of the religious experiences/concepts have already been described, such as melting into a Nirvana of spirit, conceptualizing all-pervading spirit as filling the universe, or seeing the magic of causation unfolding. Experiences of this nature and others like them can be extremely satisfying on a very deep level.
I also believe that the psychedelic drugs can be used by anyone to stimulate levels of focused deep meditation that can reveal better ways of relating to daily life and to lead to more calmness, contentment, peace of mind, and to less of a need to escape from the world at all. The broader concepts at the higher dosages are always there, and they can be explored at leisure if so desired. Knowing that the "spiritual home" concept is within one's being and that it can be experienced again can be very reassuring. Revisiting the broad conceptual levels on occasion would certainly not be a sin, and doing so would be safe. These experiences can help to satisfy the "spiritual quest" in a very positive manner even though it turns out that spirit is a mystery. Finding the path to personal growth can give considerable direction and satisfaction in life.
Practicing contentment leads to more contentment while escaping from discontent, especially with dangerous drugs, results in returns to the same level of discontent and possibly to circumstances that are even worse. It is far more productive to mentally water the flowers and to let the weeds dry up rather than to hide from the weeds and return to them repeatedly. A positive and constructive outlook on the world is certainly the desirable way to see things and it is worth working toward.
I am quite sure that the story about sailors being seduced by the songs of mermaids to crash on the rocks is meant to be an analogy to the desire for self-transcendence by means of alcohol. The story points out that sometimes people risk death for the sake of self transcendence. Perhaps it would make sense to recognize the fact that the need for self-transcendence is an extremely powerful force in society, ranging from a couple of drinks in restaurants to alcohol binges to ravishing one's body with narcotics to hurtling through space on a motorcycle. If this craving for self-transcendence could be satisfied with safe psychedelic drugs in a recliner and if a person could at the same time learn deeper peace of mind and more harmonious relationships with the outside world, it would be a win-win-win situation. All this could take place without even a hint of a hangover or a significant loss of motor control. By analogy, the sailors could find a sandy beach for their longboats and could pursue the exquisite songs of the mermaids without the suffering or the guilt associated with the possible eventual destruction of their lifestyles and their health.
Perhaps one day the pursuit of self-transcendence with a safe psychedelic drug will be regarded as a worthwhile and useful activity rather than just as a degenerative need to get high for the sake of escape and pleasure as it currently is considered with the more dangerous drugs.
Fulfillment could be defined as a combination of relating to the world with maximum sensitivity and efficiency while at the same time feeling good. This is about the best we can do while living in this world of occasional hostility, occasional demands, continuous uncertainty, ultimate incomprehensibility, and an unknown afterlife. Feeling good is covered in the next section.
At present most psychedelic research is focused on psychotherapy; in other words, on the resolution of troublesome mental or emotional tensions. But I would like to suggest that psychedelic drugs can also be used to illuminate a path that anyone can take toward more positive experiences, greater relaxation, and deeper peace of mind.
A good analogy to the path to fulfillment is the story of the Wizard of Oz. The goal is the starting point - to return home again with greater wisdom, greater peace of mind, and greater appreciation and control of life circumstances. The road to this goal can involve many adventures, much learning, and interesting experiences in both the inner and the outer worlds. Progress involves the discovery and resolution of tension issues, the discovery of positive states of being, and positive and constructive attitudes toward oneself and the outside world.
Times can come during relaxation practice when conceptual or emotional blocks to progress are encountered. Psychedelic sessions can help to resolve them and to open doors to new states of being. They can help a person "out of a rut" and onto a "yellow brick road". Some of the tension issues deal with relationships between people, and relationships can be extremely complex. When one of these sorts of problems come to the surface, many interesting twists and turns might be necessary in order to neutralize it. When the final insight that finally neutralizes the problem completely is experienced, it feels like a balloon relaxing after all of its air has been let out.
In my version of the yellow brick road, the rest stops along the way are as important as the adventures in between them, but they are used for the practice of the state of deep relaxation, peace, and contentment. This state needs to be practiced over time in the same way that an athlete trains his body.
There is the phrase
The peace that surpasses all understanding. I suggest replacing the concept of
understanding with that of mental processes in general. In other words, the deepest peace would include an inner mental concept of emptiness (no rational understandings) and that in this case there would be no tensions at all in the physical body. Outer space is an appropriate symbol for this emptiness, but even the effort to conceptualize such a symbol must disappear. What it left is the mind intuitively conceptualizing emptiness or perhaps some other cosmic concept.
Carl Jung suggested that another symbol for this process is the alchemists' attempts to purify lead into gold.
A mind at peace can also multitask. It can be aware of the blissful feelings in a deeply relaxed body while being engaged in other mental activity at the same time, but during the deepest relaxation the mind is quiet.
Refinement is a word that could be used to describe a skillful, efficient, good-natured, rational, and harmonious relationship with the outside world. An appropriate phrase could be "relaxed, effective, and dignified comportment". As described in this essay, it is possible to gradually refine any mental, emotional, and physical tensions out of one's overall state of being. As this process progresses, what is left over is more and more positive and creative energy that can be communicated to the outside world through word and deed. If a person is feeling good, for instance, he will tend to do the things that express this feeling and which keeps it flowing. Refinement of the inner world will naturally tend to express itself in the outside world. So refinement involves two tasks: finding the positive energies within oneself and learning and practicing the ways that it can be expressed in the outside world. Of course, there are times when it is necessary to be a little or even extremely aggressive, but hopefully they are rare.
One way to practice refinement is to review past life scenarios that were less than pleasant when they took place. A low dose of marijuana is very helpful in this type of meditation, one reason being that the mild euphoria that it provides, another being expanded consciousness. When negative memories emerge, there is a desire to smooth them out and put them to rest so that the euphoria can persist and so that one can feel better prepared for similar situations in the future.. As such, the negative events that took place during an unpleasant past scenario can be scrutinized with great precision. Expanded consciousness and intuitive sensitivity make it possible to sense the "atmospheres" of situations and to consider more of the factors that contribute to them such as subtleties of personality and circumstances. When the trigger to an unpleasant scenario has been found, it is sometimes possible to figure out how to defuse it or bypass it in order to keep the euphoria alive and possibly to do something similar in the outside world at a later time. Once this has been done, it is possible to mentally rerun the situation with the improved contribution as part of it. In the model that I like to use, the improved scenario activates new memory pathways in the brain which in turn are reactivated again if and when the original negative memory or a similar scenario in the outside world tries to emerge again. Learning to handle difficulties is part of maturity. Discovering a resolution of this nature can remove an obstacle on the pathway to tranquility.
The flow of personal life energy ultimately manifests itself in reality through word and deed, which in turn is dictated by thought. There are clearly countless ways in which this energy can be manifested ranging from working in the fields to sitting at a desk to dealing with complex relationships with others. Among these countless ways to express ourselves, we can choose the ones that seem to be the most positive and productive for ourselves, for others, and for the world around us in general. We certainly don't want to foul our nest with poorly placed negative energies.
Through experience we can learn that civil behavior is the most efficient way to handle most life situations. With stimulated intuition it can be possible to be sensitive to more of the nuances of behavior that influence stress levels and the ways that they do so. In this way one can learn the positive and negative behaviors that contribute the best to an effortless and friendly social life. Sometimes negative behaviors are necessary, such as when facing down a raging bully.
If a person conceptualizes and chooses to cultivate a particular approach to life, such as the "civil and refined" one described above, he at the same time can identify some of the others that exist. He can see the extent to which they influence personality. A really nasty one, for instance, is the abuse-guilt-anger-depression vicious circle. Others, described in general elsewhere, include the greedy sucking "Uncle Scrooge", the generous "Johnny Appleseed", the honorable "knight", the "wise, respectful, servant and advisor", and the healthy "yogi". With mild doses of a psychedelic, it is possible to explore the individual characteristics of these sorts of concepts more fully because of the broader perspective stimulated.
A very abstract definition of the word
sin could be
any behavior that makes one feel badly about himself on any level of abstraction. This definition transcends both the cultural and the religious definitions of sin, both of which are certainly legitimate concepts. It places the repercussions of sin on one's concrete state of being rather than on anything else. The concept is useful because these
sins make one feel badly about himself and draw him off of the path to tranquility into stressful memories and conflicts. It explains how energy is required to repress various memories and feelings. So it is useful for a person to keep an eye on and to evaluate those behaviors and to avoid them whenever possible.
I believe that sins by this definition fall into two main categories: the unjustified mistreatment of others and the unjustified mistreatment of oneself. A flow of positive energy out into the world and toward one's self is the most tension-free, the most guilt-free, and it creates a positive self-image that makes one feel worthy of the pleasure of tranquility and contentment.
Transmitting positive and constructive energy smoothly out to the outside world should make it a better place. The extent to which this might actually be true in everyday reality is a mystery and no doubt varies from person to person and from situation to situation, but at least one knows that he has done the best he could to make things better. An absence of malice hopefully means that there will be no return of malice from the outside world. As such, the person will tend to respond to and to deal with more positive actual realties in the outside world. The rubber tire seeks and finds a smoother road to ride on.
When one meditates on the body-world relationship, certain new insights can come to light. For instance, if unjustified abuse of others results in guilt, then the giving of positive energy to others through word and deed should contribute to a positive self-image and more sincere relationships with others. People tend to respond to positive energy with positive energy of their own, so it can become possible to establish reasonably good relationships even with some of the more disagreeable people because they will tend to respond in an uncharacteristically congenial manner.
With refinement, even trivial tasks can become the expression of mindfulness and flow instead of the strained expression of some nervous aspect of the survival instinct. Movements of the body can become patient, relaxed, and yet precise rather than more like controlled frantic stumbling. We all know people with greater refinement; some are entertainers in the media. Such people can be used as examples to emulate. A refined image of oneself is a good addition to include in neuroplastic space, and like all such images its positive influence can echo down through all levels of the personality and out into most life circumstances.
Peace of Mind
A friend of mine used occasional "stimulated meditation" to help resolve enough tension issues in his inner world, in his body, and in his relationships with his outer world that he could quickly and easily let go of all of them at once and drop into the luxurious "zone of tranquility". I believe that the zone is a concept that already exists in the mind and/or which can be cultivated and practiced. As such, it is a healing stress reducer as well as a state of positive hormones/emotions. It can be felt along with a clear rational mind untroubled by any negative emotional signals associated with stress or tensions in the body. A calm rational person who is feeling relaxed and good can"flow" through the maze of life most efficiently. He maintains that the first key tool in developing this skill is diligent long-term practice in relaxation of the body both with and without psychedelic stimulation. Gradually the body learns to stay relaxed out of habit. It results in a body becoming a "mobile luxury spot". The need to be occupied or entertained decreases significantly when a person can be contented while simply sitting quietly, doing nothing, and basking in the bliss hormones. The second aspect of the task was the working through of mental tension issues that disturb tranquility by finding some kind of resolution to each one of them. Tension issues are in the mind and so are their resolutions. New attitudes, points of view, approaches, and resolutions can be discovered through "stimulated meditation". The third aspect was seeking and finding positive attitudes and points of view toward life through meditation, psychedelic and otherwise. My friend considered the "zone" to be a "home base" in his world that is always there, and that all he had to do was to willfully "let go of everything" in order to fall deeply into it. No matter how turbulent things might get in the outside world, it is always possible to drop into the zone, feel good, and to think rationally about what is going on. The memories of the resolutions of the tension issues that he found during meditation acted as "keeper bars on the horseshoe magnets" that neutralized their effects and their tendency to pull him off of the path to tranquility. For example, diligent meditation on finding the best way to handle a difficult relationship could neutralize future fretting sessions about it and permit a step closer to peace of mind. Meditation often results in sudden useful insights popping up from the intuitive mind. If it bothers me that someone does not like me, I could cultivate the attitude that I don't care if he likes me or not but that I will continue to treat him in a civil manner and hope for the best. The ball is in his court. Discarding hopeless causes and finding more reachable goals increases satisfactions and diminishes discouragements. For persistent unsolvable problems, the simple conviction to continue dealing with them as well as possible helps to defuse their negative influence. Sometimes the resolve to change something in the outside world is sufficient. In any case, finding keeper bar resolutions for tension issues and refining them over time is a productive activity that helps reduce ongoing tensions in the mind-body-world system. Fretting over tension issues by itself does not help to solve them very much because of the interference of the negative hormone/emotions resulting from the tension state of the body. Rationality combined with new insights relating to them becomes a much more effective approach.
To be noted is the fact that hormone/emotions are so powerful that they can make life itself appear as a blessing at one time and as a curse at another even when circumstances have not changed appreciably. For this reason, it helps to conceptualize hormone/emotions as irrational and not necessarily exactly in keeping with circumstances. This being the case, they can often be influenced by deep relaxation or meditation on appropriate neuroplastic images.
It becomes apparent which type and amount of stress is necessary to forcefully pull one out of the zone of tranquility. That is the stress that needs to be worked on and resolved or at least "bookmarked" at the very moment that it is experienced in order that that the zone is once again accessible. With psychedelic stimulation, creative experiences in the form of new insights and possibilities can be a form of tension, but this feature is a satisfaction more than than a conflicting tension issue. Many creative people, such as Willy Nelson, Lady Gaga, and others freely admit to using marijuana for inspiration.
A time can come when just about any tension issue that can come to mind already has a resolution of some kind already worked out for it and can neutralize it or at least bypass it for the time being. This leaves the mind free to explore neutral, positive, optimistic, and creative topics. These resolutions are subject to cultivation and growth as conditions, circumstances, and maturity change. This is also true with the self-chosen neuroplastic images.
After cultivating the skill of relaxing deeply, it is found that it is effortless to enter and exit from that state of being easily and quickly. Becoming active again is as easy as moving from one activity to another. Since clear situational awareness is already present, there is no wake-up period or disorientation in the process. Having the positive zone of tranquility instantly available during the day can vastly improve the quality of life, even while waiting for stoplights. Bringing more and more relaxation into the relationship with the world is part of the lifestyle of personal growth.
Dr. Grof refers to the deepest relaxation experience as the "melted ecstasy" when it is experienced during a psychedelic session. This is in contrast to what he calls the "volcanic ecstasy", or the power trip. The power trip is very healthy because it means that one has accessed the hormone that evokes the feeling of inner strength. A person can relax better when he can feel strong and confident rather than when he feels weak and vulnerable.
Finding positive targets such as greater refinement and deeper relaxation within oneself gives a sense of direction to the growth process. The immediate blocks to progress are where the work needs to be done. There is no need to search for tension issues with psychedelics, they cluster into wholenesses and emerge into consciousness automatically. The more work that is done, the greater is the progress toward the positive targets. The "work" can be described as exercises in conflict resolution and the discovery of new points of view that keep them resolved. "Aha!" insights are permanent and remain effective. An ideal final target would be having peace of mind in a relaxed body that is enjoying the effects of bliss hormones while the body flows contentedly through daily life activities. One aspect of relaxation and bliss is that the hormones involved do not "exhaust" themselves as quickly as do the ones that cause more intense experiences. One can feel relaxed, rational, and blissful all day long whereas other feelings, positive and negative, come and go.
There is a saying that "some rain must fall" in everyone's life. In some people's lives, the rain can be considerable. Having cultivated the skill of using deep relaxation to escape from the anxiety and depression associated with negative circumstances can be a significant relief in a person's life. It is possible to take the plunge into the zone of tranquility for a temporary escape from the trials and tribulations of daily life. Using safe non-addicting psychedelic drugs to help to cultivate this skill is certainly a better alternative than using dangerous drugs to escape from negative feelings and then to return to circumstances that are even worse. Maintaining health and rationality can increase the likelihood of finding ways of improving or escaping from one's negative circumstances. Learning deeper acceptance and detachment from the "rain" in the human drama can also help.
Street cars come and street cars goPeople came and wentSitting here, watching this,Perfectly content
Behaving in a compassionate manner toward the suffering of others can not only reduce their suffering but it can also avoid any personal guilt for ignoring it or contributing to it. Resolving guilt in order to achieve peace of mind is a real challenge; so avoiding it in the first place can be a far better approach. Abusing other people is a significant source of guilt no matter how much it might be justified. Diplomacy, consideration, and respect reduce the likelihood of confrontations and the possible accumulation of guilt, and at the same time they increase the likelihood of positive relationships..
An additional benefit to having trained oneself in deep relaxation to a satisfactory degree is the lessening of the feeling of neediness for well being in daily life. Love, wealth, diversion, acceptance, and pleasant surroundings can still be enjoyed as much as ever, but the need for them is less intense. Speaking poetically, when one already has a golden egg in his pocket, he does not need to search for it in the outside world quite so frantically. Urgency can be replaced with contentment. Perhaps the person who cannot satisfy his greed or his ambition is looking in the wrong place. Yet another benefit is that during deep relaxation the stress hormones are subdued permitting rational rather than emotional evaluations of difficult situations and hopefully more effective responses to them.
Deep relaxation is a state as luxurious as anything that could be experienced at the most expensive spas or beaches in the world. Since we are pleasure-seeking creatures, we will tend to practice this state of being after we have experienced it even once. One mistake that can be made is to assume that special circumstances or drugs are necessary to achieve this state because it can actually be reached instantly and willfully in normal daily consciousness after enough practice. Being free of stress, it is a healthy and rejuvenating state of being. There are no negative emotional signals coming from a relaxed body, leaving the thought process clear, rational, and untroubled. "Reason" could be defined as a perfectly objective thought process. When relaxed, it is possible to contemplate one's life, situational problems, fantasies, and even tension issues from a cool rational perspective. Things tend to be seen in a positive light, which causes positive interpretations and possibilities to appear more vividly. Even if a person's circumstances are not exactly glowing, he can still achieve this state. The last layer of tension needs to be detected and dissolved. It can be very subtle, but once it has been found it is easier to find in the future. It opens the door to freedom from stress, mental peace, and bliss hormones flowing in the skin. Occasional light doses of marijuana under the right circumstances can help a person to find this state of being the first time and thereafter if so desired. It can also be achieved and practiced in normal daily consciousness.
As examples of the extent to which we can willfully control our reaction to stressful situations, some of the soldiers of Seal Team Six fell asleep on the flight to Bin Laden's compound. The astronauts played a game of seeing who could keep their pulse rate the slowest before liftoff. We have been trapped in this world as frail needy creatures facing hostilities, demands, tedium, confusion, and complete uncertainty while programmed by the imperative of a survival instinct with all of its fears, anxieties, and insecurities that keep us trapped here. Learning to pacify our fight or flight reactions to stress can open the door to all of the satisfactions that are unreachable otherwise. In addition, it lets us stay rational and ready to objectively think about and deal with difficult situations rather than by getting hysterical and irrational. One measure of personal growth could be defined as the ability to maintain tranquility in the face of increasingly intense circumstances.
A well-trained body can fall into this state instantly under average circumstances. It is possible to remain rational and active while still relaxed. It does not interfere with an active lifestyle in the slightest. The difference is that it is possible to relax extremely deeply when so desired and also to carry a relaxed "flow" of energy to physical activities. It is an interesting experience to be at a movie theater, to watch extreme heartbreak or violence on the screen, and then to relax completely and view the same scenes dispassionately. Drugs and any other diversions are unnecessary while in this state because the peaceful luxury combined with a focussed and steady mind is totally sufficient and satisfying in itself.
Deep tranquillity combined with meditation can be a very satisfying experience. The objective dispassionate thought process is the result of the complete quieting of any negative emotion-producing hormones. There is not even any "urgency" to get anything done. It is possible to contemplate a single mental or physical object, to let the mind "muse" as it pleases, or to focus on a chosen topic.
Any sleepless periods at night involve a luxurious body combined with calm contemplation or musing that take the place of tossing, turning, and fretting. They present the opportunity for practice in a healthy state of being as well as a form of pleasant recreation. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that deep relaxation might be a satisfactory substitute for sleep. Many dreams contain quite a bit of tension in them. When waking up from a dream, it is possible to relax completely and to feel the amount of tension that was present.
It takes a "well integrated" personality to achieve and maintain the tranquil state because all physical and mental tension issues, the everyday and the cosmic/religious, have to be resolved to the extent that they can be ignored completely or bypassed at least temporarily. Relaxation subdues stress hormones such as cortisol while bliss hormones such as serotonin and dopamine can still flow since they do not tense up the muscles of the body. Feeling relaxed and filled with an abundance of positive energy is to be preferred to feeling needy or defensive. It is a state worth practicing. From a somewhat cynical point of view, we could say that we can compensate for having been unfairly trapped into this turbulent and uncertain world, not by our own choosing, and that we remain trapped in it by our high-tension survival instinct. Speaking poetically, we can find a luxurious refuge even though we have been consigned to the turbulent human drama.
As with sex and anger hormones, bliss hormones can be stimulated willfully with the mind. They are felt mostly in the skin. The skin can feel as though it is snug, tingling, and radiating such as when sunbathing, soaking in a hot tub, being hugged, being massaged, being stroked with a fur mitten, or after sex. A song describes the feeling as "sunlight dancing on your skin". Favorite music can help to evoke the bliss hormones. The attitude of "offering oneself to the rest of the cosmos" neutralizes any survival instinct based emotions such as neediness, defensiveness, anxiety, or desperation. This is the same attitude that is felt when falling in love and "offering" one's total self to the loved one. An outgoing flow of positive energy is a good neuroplastic image to cultivate and it can be felt at will during daily life. Giving of oneself is considered to be a virtue, so absolutely no guilt is involved in this particular quest for pleasure.
The inside of the body feels hollow because there is no no stress or tension there. A skin that is bathed in tingling and radiating bliss hormones that in turn covers a stress-free hollow body and with a mind blessedly at peace is about as good as it gets in this particular world. This is a real state of being that can be willfully achieved repeatedly with relaxation practice and self exploration. It is completely healthy and natural and it does not depend on special circumstances. Speaking poetically, it is like a treasure found in the jungle.
The solar plexus can feel such things as anxiety, disgust, depression, and grief. It is good to know that relaxing that area of the body can subdue those feelings. One night my daughter was out very late and she was not answering her cell phone. In the attempt to practice what I preach, I relaxed deeply and was able to subdue the feelings of extreme worry while still being entirely aware of the gravity of the situation. At another time I was able to escape at least temporarily from extreme situational depression due to a tragedy in my family. Having a safe element of natural control over emotions associated with despair in this troubled world is definitely an asset. The "inner sanctuary" is available even under extreme stress. It is interesting to notice that the entrance to the inner sanctuary is actually a letting go of the emotional tension associated with a clinging to or an obsession with some form of negativity.
A specific experience started my interest in relaxation as an escape from stress as well as being a pleasure. Due to an extreme tragedy in my family, I became so depressed that saw no escape and reached the end of my rope. I was willing to give up all hope and go ahead and die, and the crucial moment came when I mentally let go of the rope. I gave myself completely body, mind, and soul to the horrible situation and the horrible world that I was in. Surprisingly, things very suddenly brightened considerably. No doubt this is the "rock bottom" that the alcoholic is assumed to need to hit before he can recover. In any case, I realized that relaxing deeply and "letting go" were the same thing. Some part of us seems to cling to negative hormone/emotions, possibly because they are appropriate for the situation and perhaps sometimes due to habitual neural processes in the brain. Over time I practiced this letting go, and got much better at the skill. At the times that I found myself clinging to the rope again, I could let go of it. We are pleasure-seeking creatures, and the pleasure of deep relaxation is a good incentive for practice. Even later I discovered that psychedelic drugs could facilitate the letting go of other emotional tensions also, even the more everyday ones. Eventually I reached the point where I could voluntarily pretty much let go of most tensions even without psychedelic drugs. When situations start getting tense, I now feel myself relax out of habit and am able to make more objective evaluations of what is going on and to subtract myself emotionally more completely from the situation.
Becoming more aware of hormones and the emotional experiences that they evoke can be an extremely valuable. They can be recognized as separate realities and controlled by drugs and/or acts of will to a useful degree rather than being unknown invisible influences that act on their own accord to dictate our state of being and our behavior. Within the right dosage range, a psychedelic session can even be mentally steered into an exploration of various hormone experiences. Some are intense, some are subtle, some are clear-cut and others are complex. There is much rich territory to be explored there. Music can be used to evoke a broad range of these experiences. There are many hormone-induced moods, many of which don't even have names. It is interesting to listen to favorite music and to notice how the moods are felt by the body and how flowing mental imagery is sometimes more appropriate than mere words to provide form for the sake of rational interpretations.
It is a pleasure to identify an existing subtle unpleasant hormone-emotion state and then to relax it out of existence. Returning to the zone of deep relaxation and peace of mind might not be a true apotheosis, but it is a close second best. Sometimes tension states are clearly related to current circumstances and sometimes they seem to just be there, but with practice they can often be dissolved or neutralized. A symbolic representation of this process could be the point in the movie where Dorothy steps out of her humble black-and-white house after the tornado into the glorious color of Oz.
Very encouraging research is taking place testing the relatively new synthetic drug MDMA. Combined with psychotherapy, it is measurably effective in the control of post-traumatic stress disorder. I understand that it could be compared to a combination of a psychedelic drug and a euphoriant, and that it causes changes in brain functioning that are visible with MRI machines. This combination of drug effects would seem to facilitate the discovery of positive experiences within oneself. In a video produced by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, it is stated that the hormones associated with trust, empathy, and bonding are increased while those associated with defensiveness and fear are decreased. A person seems to learn and cultivate new attitudes. The science of the finer control of the hormone system will hopefully continue to make great strides.
I believe that psychedelics can make it possible for a person to first explore hormone-induced mood-attitudes and then to choose ones that he would like to make more a part of his personality. Creating one or more appropriate neuroplastic images for each one is of benefit because is is much easier to remember a neuroplastic mental image than to quickly change one's entire emotional and philosophic outlook into a more vague mood-attitude during daily life. Meditating on these images and mood-attitudes with and without psychedelic stimulation can make them more vivid and permanent. Such a process would help a person out of an emotional rut. For instance, a person trapped in a posttraumatic stress scenario might be able to find within himself a new way to flow through life with greater ease and contentment. The old and the new points of view could be associated with neuroplastic images that represented them. Each of these broad abstractions could represent completely coherent clusters of individual events and feelings as perceived on the less abstract level. Rather than dealing with scattered memories and the associated feelings, they are all clustered into a single global attitude which can be solidly identified and dealt with. One or more neuroplastic images could be associated with a new attitude, which in turn could then be cultivated and put into practice. Once experienced, a new neuroplastic image can be remembered and cultivated in daily life even though it exists on a higher than normal mental level of abstraction.
Not to belabor a point too much, I believe that the clustering process and the expansion of levels of abstraction with their corresponding new insights are significant benefits of expanded consciousness. For instance, my own vivid psychedelic experience of a possible positive afterlife significantly replaced my previous one of scary dark cemeteries at night. The new one was intensely experienced in my own head and body and it increased my daily life level of optimism and decreased my "life of quiet desperation" to significant degrees. There may be no such thing as a positive afterlife, or any afterlife at all, but having a vivid conceptual experience of such a thing even one time makes it seem more possible. I have also had a vivid experience of the worst possible afterlife, but I can recognize it as nothing more than a mental concept and choose to ignore it. At the very least I recognize them as concepts that can be experienced vividly but not necessary as representing realities anywhere else. Of course, we are free to believe whatever we wish since all of existence is a mystery. Being able to manipulate neuroplastic broad abstractions of this nature provides a greater element of control over the same hormone-emotion systems that exist at much more scattered degrees at the lower levels of abstraction. In the model that I like to use, pure mental energy can be withdrawn from one neuroplastic abstraction in the mind-brain system and channeled into another with meditation and practice. The old abstraction stays there in rational form, but it is less often visited, is of lower intensity, and perhaps involves fewer brain cells. The new image can become more vivid and visited more often. If the source of the mind is actually spirit, then it might involve more "spirit-pixels". The concepts of brain cells and spirit-pixels are interchangeable because the source of mental activity is ultimately a mystery.
With all due respect to the miraculous complexity of the chemical-emotional hormonal process, it can at times encourage us into inappropriate or unproductive behavior. Without hormones there would be no drama in the human drama, but with them both very positive as well as very outrageous and irrational scenarios can sometimes take place. Having an element of understanding and control over the hormone system is far better than being entirely at its mercy and not even considering that it is there. For instance, if a person knew that he was temporarily under the influence of the "heartbreak" hormone, he might not be quite so convinced that his entire future life was doomed.
It is sometimes possible to mentally replay various events in one's life and to see more vividly and in more detail how outcomes might have been different if different emotional-philosophical attitudes had been taken toward them at the time. Doing so certainly doesn't change the past but it can better prepare a person for similar situations in the future. Finding smoother ways to relate to the world and to other people in various situations is one definition of "refinement".
Deep relaxation is a temporary escape from the tensions that are built right into the human condition. Although the world has its satisfactions and pleasures, the cold hard fact is that we are frail, needy, pain-sensitive, ego-sensitive creatures having been stuck into a world that is often hostile, often demanding, often chaotic, always uncertain, and ultimately incomprehensible, while facing an unknown afterlife. Our earthly situation by itself can cause a variety of tension issues that need to be worked through and resolved as well as possible. We have been trapped here not by our own choosing and are forced to make the best of it regardless of circumstances. We are trapped here by a high-tension survival instinct filled with anxieties, fears, and flight-or-fight hormones. The stress of just being here can drive people to many forms of escape including intense or even risky forms of diversion. Psychedelic drugs, used properly within the right chosen dosage ranges, can provide diversion, escape, and at the same time productive problem-solving meditation and personal growth. Put another way, they can help us to adapt more fully to the challenge of our earthly existence safely and without side effects.
The mind can create all sorts of mental material including the full range of everyday, mythical, cosmic, and religious concepts. There is plenty of inner territory to explore in there. With increasing dosage of a psychedelic it becomes possible to become more and more deeply immersed into each concept up to the point where it is almost "lived". The trick in exploring these particular areas is to recognize each of these points of view as only personal inner concepts rather than as ultimate facts in reality. For instance, existence can be seen as an all-pervading manifestation of spirit at one time and as atoms in all-pervading space at another.
The majesty and the grandeur of experiences at the cosmic and religious level of abstraction are described in the next section. This section deals with an extremely important overall aspect of these experiences and concepts. It will no doubt seem quite controversial to some people.
The central key to these experiences is the fact that no one knows how or why our existence emerged from nothingness. Both religion and science hit a wall when they try to explain this astounding miracle. As such, existence is a complete mystery through and through. The existence of a single blade of grass or a single wisp of human thought is as mysterious and miraculous as is that of the rest of the universe. If a person accepts the concept that existence is a complete mystery, he can see all religions, big and small, as specific collections of various assumptions regarding the nature of being. People who agree to accept one of these collections of assumptions become the adherents of that particular religion. Each of us lives by our own set of assumptions regarding the nature of existence, even if we never rationalize them . However, we can find meaning and structure on lower levels of abstraction that are closer to the daily life level of the flow of discrete events.
I believe that the key to comfortable exploration of the cosmic/religious level of abstraction is to accept and relax in the fact that our existence is ultimately a complete mystery even though countless assumptions have been proposed throughout history to explain it or parts of it. No matter how forceful an assumption might be presented or how much assumed "authority" is claimed to be behind it, it is still an assumption. Even though we have been programmed with assumptions that appear as
given to us, they are nevertheless still assumptions. There is not a shred of evidence to explain exactly how, why, or even when the universe was created, and this is the absolute core of the controversy. God could have created the universe five thousand years ago and made it to look much older. On the other hand, He could have created the singularity that exploded into the big bang thirteen billion years ago. It is impossible to explain how it could have emerged from nothingness. If the big bang theory is correct, it still is not known where the singularity that exploded came from. If God made the universe it is not known how He could have emerged from nothingness to do so. If the
mind only theory is correct, you might be the only dreamer of existence or God could have us all sharing the same dreamed universe. Recognizing the mysterious quality of existence makes it much easier to explore the various different points of view without conflict. Any of these assumptions can be spectacular experiences and points of view in themselves because each one serves to explain everything. Although existence is a mystery on the highest of abstraction, we can still find all the meaning, purpose, and structure that we need on the lower levels such as those that pertain to our personal life dramas. These would include such things as survival, well being,family life, soscial life, occupation, learning, religious practices, etc.
It can be interesting challenge to try to conceptualize nothingness. There is not even any time, space, or spirit there. In fact, there is not even any there there. There is nowhere to stick a label because it simply does not exist. And yet God and the universe are assumed to have emerged from it because they certainly did not emerge from anything that already exists. Quite clearly, how or why they did so is a mystery.
Cosmic-religious level concepts include creation, all-pervading space, all-pervading spirit, the nature of being, causation, free will, life itself, awareness, the mind-brain boundary, the afterlife, karma, the effectiveness of prayer and ritual, purpose, and meaning. They are cosmic in the sense that they encompass everything and everyone. This level of abstraction fully reveals the mystery of existence because there is no single provable answer or explanation for any one of these concepts, only assumptions. Ultimately, this is because no one can explain how or why this existence emerged from nothingness. From the personal level a person's life may have significant meaning, but from the cosmic/religious level it is a complete mystery. This is extremely important territory to explore especially when considering that so much of the controversy in the human drama is the result of differing cosmic assumptions and beliefs. A vivid example would be the World Trade Center disaster. Not everyone believes that Allah wants all of the infidels in the world to be killed. Others would be the inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the Holocaust, the Jim Jones community, and the Heavens Gate community. It seems inconsistent that people can believe so fervently in assumptions that have no basis in fact that they would be willing to kill others or themselves for their sake alone. Everyone knows down deep that unjustified abuse of others causes guilt and that guilt is a significant barrier to self respect and to tranquility. Anyone who believed that the existence of spirit is ultimately a total mystery and that even if it does exist its nature would still be a mystery would be less likely to jump to such destructive conclusions.
If indeed spirit really exists and if it has considerable influence over the flow of events, then history itself would be the best indication of His will. History is so complex that a variety of conclusions could be drawn even from that. At least two things seem obvious: human nature has its violent side and technology becomes ever more complex and effective.
Even the atheistic point of view is an assumption since it is impossible to prove that God does not exist. The assumption that God and existence are mysteries is the default global point of view since none of the others can be proved or disproved. I think it is important to note that various groups of people cling to specific cosmic assumptions because their members reinforce each other's attitudes. This is as true with positive cultures as well as negative ones. I believe that expanded consciousness makes big pictures such as these more vivid, and it makes it possible to compare points of view on this level of abstraction. An advantage to this freedom is that a person can become more comfortable in his own chosen system of beliefs, or he could consider changes to it. "Global" interpretations of existence no doubt change by themselves just because we age and gain experience.
Student: Oh great guru, what is the meaning of life?
Guru: Life is a wheel
Student: Do you mean that I crossed the burning deserts
and climbed these rugged mountains only to hear that life is a wheel?
Guru: Do you mean that life is not a wheel?
Faith is defined as believing in something that has never been proved, but if all of existence is a mystery then we can choose the things we want to believe in and have faith in. We use our faiths to structure our existence. If existence is a complete mystery, we might as well choose faiths and beliefs that seem authentic and are beneficial to ourselves and to others and thereby to live happier and more productive lives. For instance, if diversity were considered natural and to be expected in nature instead of sinful or dangerous, everyone could relax a little.
One of my first cosmic insights with a high-dose LSD experience was that there is no way to explain the mystery of existence because even the explanation of it is part of it. A finger cannot point to itself. Seeing mystery everywhere seemed to make it easier to explore points of view that were unfamiliar to me. For instance, the various assumptions regarding the nature of the afterlife can exist and be believed in simply by virtue of the fact that the afterlife is a complete mystery. At the same time, each one can be more vividly conceptualized and "experienced" with psychedelic stimulation even tough they are very different from each other. Part of this global insight regarding the nature of being was the realization that no one can explain how or why or even when this existence emerged from nothingness. God could have created it 5,000 years ago and made it to look much older. No one can prove that they are not the only dreamer of existence.
The cosmic/religious area of the mind-brain covers much territory. In order to keep my bearings in it, I like to conceptualize a spreadsheet with the cosmic concepts as column headings and with the assumptions that attempt to explain each one filling the cells of each of the corresponding columns. I list "free will" as a separate column heading because it has so many implications and assumptions, but it also fits under the column heading of "causation" because we do not know the extent to which free will, if it exists at all, influences the flow of events. I also like the concept of the "mind-brain" to resolve the conflict between the source of mental contents. The mind is an immaterial ephemeral virtual image, it is where we live, and its contents come either from atomic processes in the brain, from spirit, or from something else altogether. Since their source it a mystery, I think it best to refer to the mind-brain in that general fashion. It could also be conceptualized as pure energy moving by itself but not moving anything material. Even conceptualizing it as a disembodied awareness suspended in space with spirit as the source of its contents is not quite accurate because space is part of the assumed material universe. No matter how we twist and turn, the mystery of existence remains.
Accepting the point of view that God and existence are both mysteries makes it possible for us to continue to live just as we have before, and we can actually ignore the fact that we live by assumptions alone. The only time this issue becomes important is when we see someone acting on the basis of a negative assumption and causing suffering or damage as a result. If that person were to suddenly become aware of the fact that he was acting on the basis of an assumption, he might stop behaving in that manner. Decisions could be made with more objectivity, less prejudice, and with a greater focus on moral value and productive outcomes.
Psychedelics facilitate the exploration of cosmic concepts and assumptions because even a person who clings tightly to a particular point of view realizes that he is dealing with a mental abstraction inside his own head rather than necessarily with any concrete outside reality. A very deeply religious person, for instance, could more easily explore the concept that existence unfolds exclusively on the basis of natural laws and a universal network of immutable interlocking cause-effect relationships where each effect is the cause of the next effect. A materialist could more easily explore the concept that God is an all-pervading intelligent spirit who influences reality and causation.
An example of cosmic conflicts regarding a single cosmic concept would be the one where on one side the pursuit of inner and outer peace is the goal and on the other that life is designed as a never-ending battle. Individuals who live by one of these principles are much different that those who live by the other. In the extreme, it is the holy man compared to the warrior. Another conflict would be the attitude that we should engorge ourselves of our resources, come what may, versus the attitude that we should use our resources prudently and wisely in order to preserve them for as long as possible. THis is similar to the question regarding whether we should follow our survival instinct and live exclusively for our own well being or whether we should live for the group. It is interesting that it is possible to mentally move back and forth between these points of view even though they are opposites. Identification with one point of view does not necessarily mean that others are denied and cannot be experienced whenever it is so desired. A strong understanding of another person's point of view is most likely to promote a joining of minds and cultures.
Jay Leno once commented on the flexibility of thought that one can experience during a psychedelic session. He mentioned that at Washington State University they were studying the possibility that we live in a simulated world like in the movie The Matrix. Then he said: "By the way, did I mention that they legalized marijuana up there?"
It is tempting to add morals to the list of cosmic concepts because there is so much controversy regarding them, but they are manmade and as such vary with different situations and circumstances.
In is book "Why Does the World Exist?" Jim Holt reviews many of the proposed answers to cosmic concepts as suggested by famous and intelligent people throughout history and shows how none of them be validated to even the slightest extent. The ultimate reason why they cannot be validated is because it is impossible to explain the most basic and all-encompassing aspects of existence: how or why it was created or is being created out of nothingness. If it is assumed that God created the universe, the question becomes how God came into being. One of the more mind bending suggestions was that since God is all powerful He could create Himself. Another is that He is so pure that He does not even have to exist. At least one person suggests that there are different levels of nothingness. I would like to toss in my two cents in here with tongue in cheek and suggest that maybe even God wonders where He came from.
Apparently people need structure on the cosmic level so badly that they are sometimes willing to defend with their lives what ultimately amounts to be nothing but assumptions. Christopher Hitchens (www.dailyhitchens.com) would call them "superstitions". Hitchens was appalled at the fact that people would seize upon and internalize cruel, violent, or even deadly superstitions out of blind faith alone even though they had no more substance than guesses made out of thin air. I am quite sure that Hitchens would call them "hot air" because these fraudulent claims are sometimes perpetrated by angry and hateful people. One example would be the actions taken by terrorists. To my knowledge, Hitchens never took the next step to point out that since all cosmic assumptions have no more substance than guesses, the entire cosmos is actually a mystery and that we should recognize all cosmic assumptions for what they really are. Of course, there is nothing harmful with positive cosmic assumptions such as the golden rule or the ten commandments. A positive and humanistic set of assumptions regarding the nature and purpose of existence is certainly to be preferred over a negative one.
In the unlikely event that everyone could rest comfortably in the fact that the cosmos is a mystery, it would seem that decisions could be reached much more easily and objectively than by crashing passenger jets into the World Trade Center. It would seem that the universal resolution to reduce suffering and to increase well being everywhere by taking rational steps to do so should be the prime directive of the human drama. Grappling endlessly with conflicting and abstract cosmic assumptions leads nowhere. No one will ever know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Positive pragmatic practices can be tested in the material world, and such an approach should provide sufficient structure of existence for anyone.
Of course, holding any cosmic assumptions or even fantasies that successfully bring structure, peace, solace, or hope to a person would certainly not be a sin.
Spirit is obviously a mystery because there are so many assumptions regarding its being, its nature, its will, its degree of influence over daily life, and why it allows the suffering. If it were not a mystery, it would have only a single definition.
An illustration of the mystery of causation could involve Proteus, the hypothetical god of change. He was first conceptualized as the force that changed the sea, but over time his responsibility expanded to include the weather, the crops, births, deaths, and sometimes everything. If a god were responsible for all change, he would need to be aware of the location of every single atom in the universe at the same time, to keep them all organized into the structures that we know, and to move them all in such a way as to cause appropriate and coherent change to take place everywhere. Something really does cluster the atoms of the universe into the structures that we know, including stars, planets, tables, chairs, and our bodies. Without this clustering effect, the universe would be atoms in chaos like silt suspended in water. This process becomes extremely complex when it is working within the cells of our body and in the functioning of our brains. If it were possible to see the atomic process taking place inside of a single human brain cell, it would look like countless galaxies of energy-particles blending and transforming, all in exactly the right way as to magically keep the structure of the cell intact, to keep it alive, and at the same time to contribute to the production of our immaterial thoughts. Our mind is an immaterial virtual image and is not even composed of atoms. As such is not not even part of the material universe. In that sense, it is "the ghost in the machine" and as such closer to spirit in nature if not spirit itself. As the Dalai Lama put it, "How does the brain know what thought to think next?".
The discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle at the Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border theoretically explains how mass can have gravity. Supposedly, the space around the particle becomes "sticky" and holds other particles in place. But why it does so is still not known and it is still not known how atoms get clustered into the structures that we know such as brain cells. Extending this concept, the universe could be seen as a single volume of latent energy. This energy manifests as matter by some magical process, goes through continual change, and then dissolves back into its latent state. As Lao-Tze said in the 6th century: "All things emerge from the tao, all things return to it". Cosmic/religious concepts such as this can be "lived" with expanded consciousness.
Whether Proteus is a machine running strictly on natural laws or is a spirit with awareness and intelligence or some combination of the two or something else altogether, is a mystery. Proteus himself is only hypothetical, but the function that he represents is really taking place. Some kind of unknown magic is really organizing the atoms of the universe and moving them in such a way as to cause endlessly changing configurations including those that produce the human drama. Conceptualizing change as taking place throughout the universe under the direction of a single magical force is certainly a cosmic/religious point of view. Experiencing this concept with expanded consciousness can be quite awesome, especially when realizing that modern telescopes have revealed that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe as well as that there are countless biological cells here on Earth in which countless galaxies of atoms are in constant motion. The extent to which we influence causation with our apparent free will is a mystery. The magic that moves the physical atoms of the entire universe might also move them in our brain, but in such a way as to give the illusion in our immaterial mind that we have free will.
Since the contribution of spirit or natural law or something else to destiny in general and to our own personal destiny in particular is a mystery, we are left not knowing the extent to which we are responsible for our actions. A purely fatalistic attitude or a totally responsible attitude could result in unfortunate circumstances since neither of them can be proved to be the case. If we let choices that are moral and that are most likely to result in positive results dictate our behavior, we can ignore the mystery of causation and at the same time to unblock the path to tranquility.
Timothy Leary (Wikipedia) referred to this concept as "the chess pieces becoming aware of the chess player". I agree with him that the entire process is "magic" but I think another term for it might be the existence of an "organizing force". When I think of it as "God" I superimpose a personality onto it and I am not quite sure that is the most accurate thing to do. I can't quite understand how a God with a single personality could treat the different people of the world so extremely differently. Perhaps both the spiritual and the materialistic models are inadequate and that some other model, perhaps one that our limited mind-brains cannot even comprehend, explains the super-complex unfolding if the human drama.
The mysterious organizing force of the universe is obviously a reality. Without it the universe would be atoms in chaos. At the same time, the organizing force must have an intimate knowledge of drama because the movement of the atoms that constitute the human drama certainly constitute a drama.
It would seem that the magic that can organize the flow of atoms in the entire universe could also organize a world at peace. As Woody Allen put it, "The only negative thing you can say about God is that He is an underachiever".
If our here-and-now experience is conceptualized strictly as a product of mind instead of as a product of an atomic process, then Proteus is conceptualized as purely spiritual. If Proteus is conceptualized as dreaming the atoms, then both points of view can be blended and the conflict resolved. This demonstrates how the nature of being is a mystery and how the mystery of existence can be found at all levels of abstraction. It also demonstrates how a broader abstraction can resolve conflicts at a lower level. The most abstract resolution to all cosmic conflicts is that they are all a mystery. I am quite sure that Carl Jung would call this particular concept the highest possible resolution of opposites. He considered that it is the resolution of opposites that permits further personal conceptual growth.
An interesting point of view regarding the mystery of being is exemplified by the tunneling diod, an electronic component. It takes advantage of the fact that an atomic particle can exist on one side of an impenetrable barrier, suddenly appear outside of it, and then back again. This would seem to indicate that atomic particles are created and recreated on a continuing basis and not necessarily in exactly the same location. Atomic particles have been found to appear and disappear in outer space. If this is true of all atomic particles, then the entire material universe is in a continual state of creation and recreation.
If a person conceptualizes causation as being a mystery, then he holds the concepts that what happens simply happens. He can still freely use his apparent free will because it, too, just happens.
The "meta-concept" that all of the cosmic concepts are mysteries resolves all of the conflicts between and, as such, it can bring an element of peace of mind to anyone who is grappling with any one of them. Psychedelics can facilitate this process because they expand the mind to the same level of abstraction where these concepts exist. I am personally quite comfortable with the concept that existence is a mystery and it makes me sympathetic toward people who cling desperately to a particular cosmic assumption and experiencing all of the conflicts associated with such a narrow viewpoint. It seems much easier to simply relax and let meaning emerge by itself on the basis of one's true nature, his intuitive mind, and the sum of his past experiences.
The only thing that is provable is the consequence of living by one set of cosmic assumption rather than another. For example, a person who lives by the ten commandments will treat the world far differently from one who lives as a terrorist.
With respect to the mystery of meaning and purpose, a student once asked Ramana Maharshi (ramanamaharshi.com)if it was his duty to join the military in order to protect his country. Ramana answered: "Your only duty is to be". In other words, we have been stuck here, not by our own choice, by am unknown force. From this point of view, our only reason for being here is our being here. Since all of our atoms are exchanged with the environment in a period not exceeding seven years, our existence here is a continuing miracle of continuous restoration and by itself might be its own justification for being. What it is that maintains our individuality as these atoms flow through through our body might be another definition of the word "soul". In terms of complexity, we are still the highest beings in the known universe.
Beyond this, however, we are free to choose from any number of secondary meanings and purposes from the everyday level of abstraction as it suits us. For instance, we can pursue survival, well being, and knowledge while at the same time knowing that our overall cosmic purpose is really still a mystery. We do not need to feel obligated to discover any overall meaning or purpose to existence but instead that we are free to pursue whatever naturally captures our interest. This concept is a valuable asset for at least three reasons. One is because it frees a person from grappling with insolvable mysteries on the cosmic and religious levels. Understanding the great mystery of existence is simply not part of our job description. One can find and follow his own passions without doubting their authenticity. Another reason is because it makes conflict between secondary purposes unnecessary. A person is free to develop any meaningful realities that are found satisfying to him regardless of the activities that other people might be seen to choose. The third reason is that sitting contentedly doing nothing becomes as noble a pastime as being productive. Practicing and cultivating the most pleasant and healthy state of being, luxurious deep relaxation combined with an untroubled mind, is not necessarily a shameful waste of time. Combining this concept with an efficient relationship with the outside world would be a pleasant way of flowing through the maze of life. It would certainly be better than Thoreau's (thoreau.com) "life of quiet desperation"
In Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, Siddhartha's noble virtues were his ability to fast, wait, and listen. But I suspect that Ramana would consider that "simply being" would not include the tension of waiting or listening for something in the future, but instead would place the emphasis on acceptance and "just being" in the here-and-now immediate moment.
Structure on the everyday level has some advantages. We all need structure in this incomprehensible mystery of existence, but structure on the everyday level is concrete and useful while structure on the cosmic level can be conflicting, confusing, and in fact pure and useless guesswork. Meditating on how to refine and optimize one's relationship with the world and how to make it a better world can be far more rewarding than agonizing endlessly over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or how existence came into being. In this way a person can enjoy the structure that he needs while at the same time being comfortable in the concept that the big picture is still a mystery. In this way it remains possible and satisfying to explore and identify with the cosmic concepts. "Eternal bliss" is one of the good ones.
There are good and useful cosmic concepts, such as that our cosmic purpose is to grow and to learn more about ourselves and the outside world, or that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. These sorts of assumptions are still assumptions, but they can nevertheless bring us structure, direction. and greater peace of mind. In addition, we can choose the concepts that seem truly authentic to us as individuals and still to be free to explore others.
As mentioned elsewhere, conflicts are possible at the mental cosmic level as well as at the personal level but of course they are at different levels of abstraction. An example would be the opposite cosmic concepts of determinism and free will. If destiny is predetermined or if God causes everything to happen, then no one is responsible for anything that they do. If, on the other hand, we have free will and if we misuse it, perhaps there may or may not be associated justified retribution for it somewhere down the line. So when a jury condemns or acquits a person in court, certain cosmic assumptions need to be made and agreed upon by everyone in the room. It is people who agree on the same set of cosmic assumptions that make up a culture.
It can be imagined how the resolution of a somewhat similar cosmic conflict might make it unnecessary for a person to take high risks in order to prove to himself whether fate is on his side or not. He would no longer need to either trust or to defy the hypothetical cosmic/mythical "powers that be" within his cosmic conceptual realm. Instead he could relax, let come what may, and to deal with his fate as it actually unfolds as well as possible. He would no longer have to hurtle through space on a motorcycle or bet the entire farm on something in order to find out if the powers that be will really protect him or not. Instead, he could see the opposing concepts of doubt and trust of fate existing only in his own mind, see them as equal and opposite mental forces, and as such see the whole issue as a combination of balanced forces that could be resolved and set aside. There is no way for anyone to know what fate has in store for us, so the best answer is to take it as it comes and deal with it the best way possible rather than to tempt or defy it. Any future leanings toward one or the other approaches on the lower level abstractions would hopefully evoke the memory of the resolution and nullify any conflict that might try to get started.
The religious experiences are the most abstract, the highest, and the most exalted of all of the mental concepts. One can become deeply embedded in any one of them. There are no words to describe their grandeur. The emotions felt while experiencing them include those of breathtaking awe, reverence, and wonder. The mind becomes capable of conceptualizing and becoming fully immersed in such abstractions as pure all-pervading space and all-pervading spirit. It can also conceptualize the astounding complexity of the countless galaxies of atoms that need to be organized, either by spirit or otherwise, in order to create our bodies and our here-and-now environment, and then to be constantly rearranged in order to generate endless meaningful change coherently taking place everywhere. Also to be recognized is the unity of the body, the mind, and all-pervading space and/or spirit. One can sense absolute cosmic purity and an overwhelming approval of existence in all of its wholeness. When a person who has experienced this state and claims to be God, he is really saying that he has convincingly experienced the broad mental abstraction that everything is God.
There is substantial literature in this area contributed by people of many different cultures who have had the same sorts of experiences with and without psychedelic drugs. They describe these experiences in the words of the day.
Although the religious experience is overwhelmingly convincing, there is no way to prove that it actually reflects reality. Modern MRI research has supposedly revealed a "God spot" in the brain that is activated during religious experience. This can be researched on the Internet. It does not prove that the religious experience is nothing but an inner subjective experience, however, because it is always possible that God activates that part of the brain Himself during those experiences or even that all of reality is actually His dream. In any case, it is an obvious fact that something holds this universe together and continually changes its structure.
The mystery of existence remains fully intact in spite of the religious experience. In my own personal experience, God (or what might only be my concept of God) is not offended by being considered as mysterious because He wants it that way in the first place , and doing so does not cause any conflict anywhere in the mental realm of cosmic concepts.
I am quite sure that anyone who chooses to explore the cosmic regions of the psychedelic experience will eventually end up concluding that even though existence is miraculous and magnificent, it is nevertheless absolutely mysterious. No one can explain where it came from or why it is here or why it unfolds the way that it does. I once asked my "hypothetical supreme inner spiritual teacher" (no offense intended, Lord) if He were really God or just my imagination. What came back was the answer "You don't know, do you?" To me, that says it all. Of course, everyone is free to reach their own conclusions regarding matters of spirit. I personally consider that paying homage to the miraculous and majestic quality of existence, however it came into being and whatever its nature, is in itself a form of worship. It is easy to see why psychedelic drugs have been considered as sacramental by many cultures down through the centuries.
There are two general ways to define existence: the materialistic and the spiritualistic. Since all of existence is a mystery, there is no sense agonizing too much over the degree to which either one is valid or even if there could be yet another answer that is beyond our comprehension. Each of these concepts can be experienced quite vividly both in psychedelic experience and in daily life, but a vivid experience and understanding of a single concept is not proof that it is valid. For instance, at one time it might seem very clear that "what will be will be", while at another time free will might seem to be a self-evident truth. At yet another time, it may seem that God arranges and rearranges the atoms of existence as He pleases. This ambiguity can be frustrating, but the overarching concept that all of existence is a mystery resolves any conflict.
The Spiritual Definition
The most clear-cut spiritual perspective is that an all-pervading God controls the position of every atom in the universe at every single moment. The whole process is His including the smallest wisp of every human thought. Things get much more complex when it is considered that He might control specific parts of it at different times but that He leaves the rest to unfolding natural laws that He has already created and to the free will that He permits us to exercise. This complexity can create considerable confusion and conflict both within a single individual and between people. A person's "philosophy of life" in this regard dictates how he relates to the world, and naturally different people relate to the world very differently. At this point in history, the Muslim perspective and the more democratic perspectives, although nothing but invisible immaterial inner concepts, are causing bloodshed in the streets. I propose that if everyone agreed that existence is a mystery and that the most practical approach to it is to try to make it a better world, we would be closer to peace on Earth. Bloodshed in the streets will never prove either point of view, and it certainly does not contribute to peace on Earth.
In his book When the Impossible Happens, Dr. Stanislav Grof discusses one of the interesting implications of the point of view that spirit takes at least partial control over the flow of events. Sometimes in our lives we witness meaningful coincidences so incredibly unlikely (synchronicity) that it seems that only an intelligence could have made them happen. Stan suggests that such synchronous events are hints from spirit that it does indeed exist and that it is aware of the flow of the human drama.
Many other assumptions need to be made if the spiritual definition of existence is assumed: Why and how did God create the universe? Was it created once or is creation a continuous process? What is its purpose? Why are we here? What system of morals does He want us to live by? Do our thoughts emerge from a material brain or does He create them? Does He listen to prayers? Do rituals influence future events? Why does He let so many terrible things happen? Did He give us free will? Is evolution a reality? Many assumed answers have been proposed regarding these sorts of questions and others like them throughout history, but none of them can be proved or disproved to even the slightest extent. It is possible to experience and contemplate these sorts of questions and proposed answers during a high-dose psychedelic experience and it is possible to see how the answers can conflict with one another. Considering how much effort that highly intelligent people have put into finding answers in these areas, it is clear that there is a strong human need for structure in these areas. I am convinced that sufficient exploration of these areas will eventually convince anyone that the answer is that there is no answer. We are trapped in a "philosophical void" in this regard, but recognizing the miraculous and the magnificent aspects of existence and its complexity on the atomic level helps to compensate for our inability to comprehend or to know its source, nature, or purpose. Until some form of proof comes to light, if ever, the most authentic definition of existence would be that it is a fantastic mystery. Appreciation of its scope and miraculous and magnificent nature makes up for not having answers to it.
Appreciating this awesome reality is, to me, a form of worship. "Order out of chaos" is an interesting concept that can be meditated upon from several different levels of abstraction. One example is how we started by digging up clay to build mud houses, and how we now we fabricate microchips to steer our spaceships.
The model that I like to use is that it is possible to hold beliefs on lower levels of abstraction while at the same time accepting that ultimately they are improvable. We can believe that our own existence has a purpose while also believing at the same time that ultimately purpose is a mystery. In effect, we can mentally make an assumption into a useful mental reality while remembering at the same time that we did so. Working with psychedelics seems to make it more clear that it is possible to hold one point of view at one time and then another at another time while at the same time being aware of both of them and while not experiencing conflict in choosing the one or the other to consider at any given moment. Different structures can be used to explain the same realities, examples being the wave theory and the particle theory of light, the liberal and the conservative definitions of politics, and the financial justification for exploring space.
The biblical story of the Tower of Babel suggested that people could not communicate because of differences in language, but in effect we also have a great deal of trouble communicating with each other because of different believed answers regarding the great mystery of existence. One only needs to listen to politicians or people from different religions in the same culture argue to get a glimpse of this fact. Some of the different assumptive points of view might be vividly experienced during a high dose experience, but a time can come when it appears as though they are all incomplete but necessary methods to give structure to something that is ultimately impossible to define with certainty.
The only really solid footholds that we have in this existence are the absolutely reliable natural laws and the more general cause-effect relationships that result from the interactions between them. For instance, nurturing a plant to health almost always works, but the process involves countless natural laws. Our mission in life seems to be to learn these relationships insofar as possible and to use them productively.
As the spiritualistic Depak Chopra (www.depakchopra.com) puts it, existence is God's dream, we are dreamers within His dream, and we project the dream out into what appears to be an outside world. Existence is a unity in the sense that all of it is God's single universal dream.
The religious concepts can be extremely powerful and beautiful. For instance, there is the concept that the universe is filled with all-pervading spirit:
Suspended in the bliss of NirvanaTouched by a tentative thoughtThen merged gain with the infinite seaBrought home, again, to Thee
Another is that the universe is made up of all-pervading perfectly pure space:
With perfect precision and finite divisionsThis delicate filigreeWith lines so fine they start to combineWith celestial purity
Whether or not a person chooses to consider these sorts of experiences as reflecting realities or not does not seem to matter. They still satisfy the "spiritual hunger" that some people feel. No doubt they are the broadest concepts that we can conceptualize since they both include everything.
Sometimes the intricacies and the complexities of the inner visual imagery are so astounding and so beautiful that they boggle the mind. It is hard to imagine that our far more limited mind used in daily life could be induced to produce such beauty and complexity under the right psychedelic conditions. I think in general that the form of the spontaneous visual and/or verbal imagery represents the overall state of being of the mind and the body. For instance the words "joy of creativity" and/or a visual image of a work of art might come to mind while the mind and the body might be feeling the urge to create at the same time. One can appreciate how Willie Nelson and Lady Gaga must feel when they generate their work.
The Materialistic Definition Probably the most popular materialistic point of view regarding creation would be the big bang theory. In this case, all of the matter, energy, space, and time in the universe somehow exploded out of nothingness. The physical universe is seen as being made entirely of atoms that move and combine exclusively under the influence of natural laws. This being the case, it would follow that the entire universe is exclusively under the influence of perfectly reliable natural laws since it is composed of atoms and nothing else. When viewing the world from this perspective, it looks as if everything is happening by itself including even one's own thought process. With an assumed intelligent spirit out of the picture, natural laws by themselves somehow continue to move the atoms of existence in such a way as to produce all structures and scenarios in the universe. The discovery of the Higgs-Boson subatomic particle might indeed explain how mass has gravity, but it will shed little light on the mystery of how atoms are moved in such a way as to produce the human drama.
One implication to this point of view is that destiny is predetermined since natural laws are absolutely fixed in their expression and no other influences are present. Another implication is that free will is an illusion since the atoms in our brains are processing information strictly according to atomic natural laws. I am sure that Einstein had a great respect for natural laws, and he said that he did not like the idea that God played dice with the universe, but I am not sure of the degree to which he considered God to be responsible for causation. But even if he thought that God did not contribute at all to causation and that material laws ruled the universe, it would seem that he still would have to concede that the universe had to come from somewhere.
One rather exotic way to structure this particular concept would be to assume that the entire history of the universe is stored in memory somehow. As it flows through the current moment, our experience is generated. Some have suggested that the universe is a very long "tape loop" that plays over and over. A slightly different point of view it that the current moment generates history. What happened one second ago is already history. At the same time, the future generates a new current moment. What will happen one second from now becomes now. There is a flow of experience through the current moment. This could be symbolized by Hesse's image of Siddhartha sitting in perfectly dispassionate luxurious meditation while watching the passage of history flowing by as represented by images in the water. A person sitting in perfectly dispassionate nonjudgmental meditation while contentedly watching the river of life flow by would represent a kind of a baseline standard state of consciousness within this turbulent existence. An extension to this point of view would be that that even one's body and his personal mental processes are part of the flowing river of life. It is all one cosmic river.
From the physical perspective, a physical existence emerged from or is emerging from nothingness. From the mental perspective, our personal existence consists of nothing but mental contents emerging from the background of an empty mind. The material universe is a projection of mind from this perspective. From the strictly spiritual perspective, existence is composed of noshing but spirit. In any case, how and why existence came into being, or is coming into being, and why it unfolds the way it does, are both ultimately complete mysteries.
The conflict between the concepts of free will and determinism can also be resolved by recognizing that the answer is a mystery. Once that it done, the conflict can be ignored and it is possible to relax and simply do what seems to be right moment by moment. If we agree that our current relationship with the outside world is based on our entire past experience, the current assumptions that are made regarding its nature can be trusted to be at least as accurate and as safe as they had been in the past. If we assume that other influences are at work, we can trust that those influences are leading us to more experience and deeper understanding.
If the super-complex creative energy process is not seen as unfolding exclusively by itself but instead by some percentage of an intelligent influence, then a gradation from a materialistic to a spiritualistic points of view can become apparent. The assumed percentage of intelligent influence of causation becomes the big question. It could be that all causation is the result of a spiritual prime mover or it could be the result of all natural laws, or some combination of the two or something else we cannot even conceptualize. Anyone who believes in the effectiveness of prayer or rituals believes that there is a degree of flexibility in the flow of destiny.
In any case, the unfolding universe is a monumental process of data management. Without the mysterious cosmic "organizing principle" at work, the universe would be atoms in chaos. We may not be able to prove if God does or does not exist, but we can definitely see the organizing principle at work every minute of the day. As walking units of organized topsoil atoms, we are integral parts of the process.
An overall perspective could be that it is "magic" that moves the atoms of existence. It can be defined as acting on along a continuum ranging from the materialistic on the one end to the spiritualistic on the other end. We can choose any point on this spectrum as an answer to the mystery of causation and move around on it as we wish or as circumstances dictate. We can also choose the center point and ignore the entire conceptual polarity and conclude that what is simply is what is.
I think that this flexibility of thought can reduce a lot of tension on the mental level of cosmic abstractions and can permit another step forward toward peace of mind. To be completely peaceful, it is necessary to be able to "let things be" exactly as they are.
In other words, causation can be conceptualized as a mystery, and relaxing in a mystery is less stressful than agonizing over an unsolvable conflict.
If the mysterious energy and atomic energy-particles that unfold the destiny of the universe were to be conceptualized as existing within a universal all-pervading space, then this pure space by itself would be considered as the background for existence. This image can be conceptualized mentally and cultivated in neuroplastic space as a symbol of perfect peace and purity if so desired:
The eternal vastness of spaceA silent witness is seeingNo disturbance anyplaceOnly perfect Being
When all hormone/emotions have been completely subdued and the body has been completely relaxed, what is left is an inner awareness of perfect purity. There is no flow of energy whatsoever in what Dr. Grof refers to as the "melted ecstasy". Sri Aurobindo (www.aurobindo.net) referred to this particular concept as being so pure that it does not even need a ripple in it in order to exist. This concept can be practiced, approached and perhaps sometimes even experienced deeply with and without psychedelic stimulation. It has the advantage of being stress free. A symbol of a placid mountain lake is appropriate, but even the energy needed to generate that particular mental image goes to zero.
I believe that accepting the fact that existence and spirit are complete mysteries and that we mere mortals are simply not privileged to know the answers is the one of the most comfortable approaches to take if one chooses to explore the cosmic and religious levels of the psychedelic experience. This is also true with the same explorations in normal daily consciousness. It is possible to explore and become involved with any of the assumed answers without running into significant conflicts except in areas where our own personal assumptions have reached the level of beliefs. At those points our individual beliefs will likely be seen as being only one of many different possibilities but nevertheless the ones we have chosen to live by. Examples would be all of the different definitions of the afterlife, all of the different guesses regarding God's motives and agenda, the purpose of existence, and the proper system of morals to live by. The assumption that everything is a mystery neutralizes all of the conflicts, and yet we are still free to abide by the assumptions that seem most plausible and authentic to us on the daily life level of abstraction and the ones that we are most comfortable to live by. No doubt our choices are based mostly on our own personal real-life experiences, and they change very little even after multiple high doses psychedelic experiences and even then still by choice. Each of us only sees a portion of the world, so we naturally draw our conclusions on the basis of what we have seen. Psychedelics do not brainwash a person into a specific set of values, but they provide a great deal of new flexibility of perspective. When we do run into conflicts at the cosmic level of abstraction, the trapdoor concept that everything is a mystery is always available. It is on a higher level of abstraction and as such it transcends all of the conflicts on the lower levels of abstraction. One "looks down" on all of the conflicts on all the lower levels.
Carl Jung assumed that all emotional conflicts have their roots on this level of abstraction. If this is the case and if psychedelic experience can help to resolve them, the process should be very therapeutic. I believe that this is indeed the case. Perhaps Mother Theresa would not have had to endure her crisis of faith if she had accepted the fact that it is ultimately impossible to even prove or to disprove the existence of a mysterious God. If on the cosmic level a person accepted the concept that we are responsible for each other rather than accepting the concept of society being dog-eat-dog, this concept would radiate down through the more basic levels of abstraction. On the political level he would tend to be more liberal. On the daily life level he would tend to have more concern for the little guy because "we are all one flesh". We are all one flesh in the same sense that one dandelion can propagate itself to an entire yard and then reproduce itself for the rest of eternity.
If a person were betrayed by a loved one, he might consider the cosmic image of Jesus on the cross asking God: "why hast thou forsaken me?". In other words, betrayal is a pervasive quality of the human drama and it sometimes even results in death. If a person recognized this concept vividly, perhaps his own individual betrayal might seem less significant and he might be less emotionally devastated by it.
The great religions of the world claim to know some of the cosmic answers to existence, but since none of these answers can be proved or disproved, their claims have yet to be validated. Of course, many of the assumed answers are eminently useful, such as those pertaining to moral behavior and those that bring hope, comfort, and structure to a person's life.
The religious experience can not only sometimes be reached with a high dose of a psychedelic drug, it can also be remembered and approached later with much lower doses and even in normal daily consciousness. It is basically a single concept: that existence is an absolutely mysterious unity of being composed of all-pervading space, spirit, or some combination of the two, and that everything and each of us is part of it. Actually we are trapped inside of existence, we are part of it, and as such we cannot establish an external frame of reference to it. This explains the koan that a eye cannot see itself. In addition, our personal awareness is a unity and so is the field of experience that we are aware of: the "trinity" of mind, body, and outside world.
If a scientist, made of doughTook a ruler made of doughAnd measured objects made of doughWhat exactly would he know?
He would still not know how or why it came into existence, but at least he could investigate its characteristics and he could strive to mold it into the most rewarding configurations possible.
A resolution to the opposites of the physical and the spiritual definitions of existence could start with the concept that we actually live only in our minds, and that our immediate mental experience is our only provable reality. However the word "mind" implies the output of a physical brain, so if there really is no physical brain because the entire physical world is all in our mind or a part of spirit, then another word is needed to take its place. The word "experience" does so. We experience (verb) nothing but our own experience (noun) and we know that it really exists. This is as far as we can go and remain logically authentic. Any other assumptions regarding its source or the basic nature of its being goes beyond the data. As the Zen philosopher Alan Watts put it in his book This is It: "This is it and this is all there is" and "The immediate, everyday, and present experience is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe." Experience itself is not made out of atoms and we cannot prove that it is or is not an expression of spirit. Only the most general phrases such as "being is" or "I think therefore I am" are appropriate for this point of view. don't know the best word to describe this particular concept, but "experiential" comes close. It transcends even the spiritual and the physical concepts and it is nevertheless a legitimate and authentic way of conceptualizing the nature of being. "Living" these sorts of concepts (spiritual, materialistic, and experiental) with high doses of psychedelic drugs are profound experiences, but being able to comfortably move from one to the other would be a case of maximum flexibility in the conceptualization of our most fundamental and basic views and definitions of existence.
The next higher level of abstraction would be where all of the imimmediate moments of awareness of all aware creatures are part of a single overall dream. It is a dream in the sense that it is not made of atoms, but of dreamed atoms. It is a seamless mosaic of all individual personal dreams.
Even though we might be trapped in our here-and-now limited range of experience, there must still be a great deal more to existence than what we can perceive. For instance, it is still possible that a material world exists outside of our mental representation of it, that the whole thing is an expression of spirit, or even that we live in a simulation generated by superior beings on another level of reality. Our existence had to come from somewhere outside of our existence. It certainly could not come from inside itself and it is hard to imagine that it emerged from nothingness. Lao Tzu (6th century BC)suggested that all things emerge from the tao and return to it, implying a nothingness with creative potential as well as that the creative and the destructive forces are always at work. Of course, the source of the creative potential is still a mystery. No matter how we twist and turn, the mystery remains.
I believe that some people could become somewhat confused during a high dose psychedelic session when suddenly seeing things vividly from uncommon perspectives such as the "experiential" one above. For this reason, I suggest that experience with lower doses of a psychedelic drug and getting used to different ways of seeing things is to be be preferred. Baby steps. These different perspectives can appear as being very real and legitimate by themselves with high dose experiences, and they certainly do not all agree with each other except in the respect that they are all mysteries. Once these different definitions of existence are all seen as mysteries, a person is freed up from being trapped in any one of them and he is also freed from conflicts between them. In the final analysis, no one can explain how or why existence emerged or is emerging from nothingness. This in turn means stat we are trapped in a mystery from top to bottom and the best we can do is relax and to take advantage of the concept. Being able to relax and to even feel good while maneuvering ourselves through this complex mystery of existence is a plus. So the "experiential" point of view permits another degree of influence over our immediate state of being.
On the one hand, the concept that existence is a mystery is a philosophical void, but it has two significant advantages. One is that it resolves all conflicts between assumptions regarding the source and nature of existence, some of which can lead to considerable conflict both within oneself, between people, and even between entire societies. On the other hand, one is not trapped by any given assumptions and is free to find and to live by the ones that prove in practice to be the most authentic and productive.
Mentioned earlier was the fact that MRI research has revealed that religious monks who meditate long on compassion for the human condition activate specific areas of their brains. I have discovered that something similar takes place when selected concept-images are contemplated and cultivated both during psychedelic experience and daily life, but I really have no knowledge of their corresponding neuroplastic changes in the brain. In any case, I like to refer to them as neuroplastic images for the sake of simplicity. They certainly involve the activation of new neural networks and they can be cultivated and embellished upon. With repetition and meditation these concept-attitude-images can become quite vivid and real mentally, and they can influence daily life to a surprising extent. The rational mind can select the most pleasant and the most useful images to cultivate. They could also be referred to as "ego ideals". Just as memory-joggers can remind us of names or words, neuroplastic images can remind us of entire experiences including attitudes and states of being. It can be satisfying and interesting to refine these images during stimulated meditation.
A time comes where one feels a particular emotional response toward an event in the outside world but finds it automatically blocked by a reaction from the neuroplastic image that had been created. The reward for a better thought-out response to the world is self-reinforcing. I still remember the time I was about to bite someone's head off and the "diplomat" neuroplastic image stepped in between us all by itself and automatically responded in a calm, rational, civil, wise, and constructive manner.
It is possible to cultivate positive habits in neuroplastic space. As an example, I used to be bothered occasionally by sudden unpleasant or embarrassing memories. Usually something triggered them. I noticed once that the corresponding emotion of chagrin or shame was more or less felt by my entire body, and that once attention was put on it, it could willfully be changed into relaxation. Now, after just a little practice, when one of those memories pops to mind, I immediately get flooded with relaxation. It is a good habit.
The effects of a neuroplastic image can be significantly intense and very important mentally and emotionally. As an example, about thirty years ago I had a high dose LSD experience in which I found myself identifying with a woman wandering lost in a blizzard. I was carrying my baby who had already died of the cold. I don't pretend to know where these little "vignettes" come from in the mind-brain, but they are always spontaneous, detailed, and realistic, and they reveal unusual circumstances as seen through another person's eyes. I consider them as being produced by the intuitive mind in order to communicate complex insights in dramatic form. They are not always negative in quality; they can also be quite positive. In this story, I finally sat down in the snow to accept death. I felt that at least I had my faith in God and in heaven, but when I tipped my head forward and closed my eyes, all I could see was a preposterous inner cartoonland. My life had been a complete absurd farce. Between the biting cold and my dead baby on the outside and the cartoonland on the inside, the only relief in sight seemed to be the peaceful darkness of approaching death.
When the peaceful darkness flowed over me, I surrendered to it completely. It is easy to surrender to something positive. I saw how death is the ultimate act of letting go. It is when the entire body, the mind, and the spirit are voluntarily given back to the universe. However, when a person lets go to such a high degree while still alive in a human body, a cascade of bliss hormones can take place due to the extremely deep relaxation of the body. This can make death seem like an extremely positive experience. On the physical level the body becomes totally relaxed and blissful and on the mental/spiritual level the mind was freed from all earthly concerns and becomes blended completely with the mental concept of eternal perfect bliss and purity. The expression "pure light" is appropriate to express this particular experience. I am quite sure that the expression "Heaven on Earth" was intended to describe it. It did not occur to me at the time, but the expression "ego death" used by some people probably referred to this experience also. To paraphrase Robert Frost: "One could do worse than to vividly experience the concept of eternal bliss". In point of fact, it is not easy to imagine anything much "higher" than this particular experience while we are still here on this Earth.
My old concept of death involved dead bodies moldering underground in scary cemeteries at night with werewolves howling at the moon. The new one was considerably better. Even though it might have been nothing more than a fraudulent brainwashing by a chemical, it was a good one. This concept became the basis of a new neuroplastic image that I still meditate upon with pleasure. Fortunately, you don't have to be dead or even stoned to enjoy a satisfyingly deep level of this particular concept and experience. The world looks different when its "background" is conceptualized as blissful rather than as negative.
Discovering that the loss of the tension in the body and of the conflict in the mind can be positive is also the discovery that the forsaking of all earthly attachements, good and bad, is not necessarily a bad thing. The emptiness, purity, and blissfulness of this experience is what seems to be the "background" of existence itself, and it takes a lot of the sting out of the fear of death.
There are many such concept-experiences within unexplored neuroplastic space, some much more connected to the everyday level. For instance, the concept that unjustified abuse of others leads to guilt is both all-pervading and personal. It is possible to traverse this entire concept vividly from an objective point of view and to experience many insights along the way. It seems that some of these concepts are already built in, and that others we sculpt on the basis of our own personal life experience. In any case, this is how we can gain both knowledge and experience while simply seated comfortably in an armchair.
I have been close to two deaths recently, one in my own family and one in that of a friend. Although I was fully aware of the tragedy of the situations and of the grieving of family members, I quite naturally maintained emotional calmness, rationality, and the ability to be fully reassuring to the grieved. This is one of the positive benefits of personal exploration.
A challenge that I took up was to see how slow I could make my heart rate by meditating on the completely relaxed blissfulness. I would relax almost to the point of losing complete awareness of my body and then check my stop watch. Foolish, perhaps, but effective. I can get it down into the low 50's regularly and once I got it down to 48 even without psychedelic stimulation. The absence of stress always feels very healthy both mentally and physically and being able to relax deeply and quickly during the day is very refreshing. I am quite sure that relaxation is very good for the blood pressure and no doubt for the heart itself.
I am not completely sure that a cause-effect relationship exists, but I notice that on the very rare occasions that I catch a cold that it is just as intense as always but that it lasts only a day or two instead of a couple of weeks. It is easy to imagine that a person experiencing some consent level of stress would be weakened and more vulnerable to certain diseases. I am not exactly sure how this could be tested, but I suspect that a relationship really does exist and that a relaxed person really tends to have a stronger immune system. I am also quite sure that a relaxed person experiences a more positive repertoire of emotional states than a tense person.
When a person has experienced the concept of the "positive psychedelic death" where he is temporarily liberated from all earthly cares, the human drama can be seen as something not as necessary to be overly involved with. We are currently physically trapped in it and we need to be involved with it to some degree, but we can be careful where we place our attachments. The expression "Be in but not of this world" is appropriate for this more objective view of our human drama. The concept that our eventual sacrifice of all earthly attachments will be done so for the sake of something even more positive is reassuring. The opposite concept, that we must desperately claw for survival in this world until the last second, is tension provoking. "Going to a better place" is a positive neuroplastic image. Another positive image is that of a person who leaves a clean picnic ground rather than leaving trash.
From a broad point of view, an experience of this nature could be conceptualized as an inner experience of "cosmic deliverance". This means escaping from the cosmic concepts of a hostile world and a negative death, and finding instead inner positive concepts promoting deep relaxation and peace of mind. This in turn would mean living in a more positive mental and physical existence. It could also be conceptualized as mental energy having been rerouted to more positive concepts and also as the resolution of a significant tension issues along the yellow brick road to tranquillity. Setting the concept of death aside as a critical issue and accepting its true nature as being mysterious can be a satisfying relief. We can also hope and have faith that when we let go at the last moment, it will be to something positive.
I noticed in the days that followed my "positive death experience" that my anxiety level associated with my survival instinct was much reduced. The "life of quiet desperation" that Thoreau referred to diminished significantly and life became much brighter. I was surprised to discover how much of daily life actually dealt with the survival and well-being concerns and in one way or another. Examples would be competition in the workplace, efforts to maintain health, ambition, greed, and crime. Even reading the newspaper is a form of vigilance toward possible threats. Death is such a pervasive overarching reality in daily life that a positive attitude toward it makes a big difference in attitude and mood.
Tragedy can strike at any moment as we dangle by a thread here over the great abyss in every single here-and-now moment. But if we have a strong mental concept of a possible positive or at least a neutral afterlife, we can take the time to look for the positive and the productive while dangling. If that concept is weak, then the concept of a negative afterlife can be more prevalent and the dangling can be filled with more anxiety, The positive concept commands at least equal time with the negative one being that they are both "nothing more" than concepts in the mind. Being able to cultivate and strengthen positive concepts in the mind can greatly increase the quality of life. The process could be considered as the activation of special neural networks, the inactivity of others, or as steps forward in spiritual growth. One positive concept is that we are here to make the world a better place and ourselves better people.
Much more recently my doctor called and told me that I had cancer. I was instantly fully prepared for the heavy hit of high anxiety in my solar plexus, but absolutely nothing happened. The information went through my mind like a laser image through mist. The first thought that sprung to mind was the "neuroplastic positive image" of "eternal purity". This demonstrates, at least for me, the significant power of neuroplastic images. This one was stronger than my survival instinct, and no doubt the survival instinct is deeply imbedded in our biology. Later, after surgery, I was pronounced cancer free. I will not go so far as to say that I was disappointed, but I also took this news in a relatively matter-of-fact manner... "OK. A few more years".
If it were somehow possible to make this experience available to terminally ill people, it would vastly reduce their anxiety. The same would be true for their close friends and relatives. "Going to a better place" could become more of a believable possibility even if it is only a concept stimulated by a chemical. However, since the afterlife is a mystery, it could actually be true. There is always hope. Perhaps there will someday be a safe drug that promotes this or similar experiences. The psychedelic experience is somewhat unpredictable, so there is no guarantee that it would do so. At the same time, it might be possible for a terminally ill person, or anyone else for that matter, to meditate upon and cultivate a neuroplastic image of letting the body and the mind melt into peaceful eternal purity. Some people might prefer light or some other neuroplastic image, but bliss is bliss regardless of the associated image. In my own case, I use that image among others during meditation practice in order to reach the deepest possible state of relaxation and contentment, and I hold out hope that death will prove to be as positive as that. Actually experiencing something is makes more of an impression than just hearing the words that describe it.
I am sure that as time goes by science will find newer and better ways to "tweak the hormones" safely. Seeing a better attitude and approach even once can make it a target to work towards.
Deep relaxation is healthy as well as pleasant because there is no stress. The body gets a chance to heal itself and the immune system gets a chance to strengthen itself.
I still look both ways before I cross the street because I still know that the afterlife is a mystery and because the practical side of my survival instinct is still fully intact. I can still slam on the brakes as fast as anyone.
Another neuroplastic image that I have rather firmly cultivated in my mind is the "mature good-natured objective diplomat". Because I have cultivated this particular image, conciliatory words and phrases jump out of my mouth by themselves at times during the day. Another is the "relaxed housekeeper" who pleasantly flows through daily mundane chores and obligations rather than hating them the way that I used to. Each job becomes an opportunity to practice "refined comportment". I have replaced the harsh word "chore" with the phrase "productive activity". Another useful image is a giant ultramodern luxury liner standing absolutely still and suspended in the crystalline waters of a beautiful lagoon. Stillness of the body helps to maintain the serene state. The little waves that lap against the side of the ship can represent the little concerns that pop up, but they have little effect on the huge ship. A deeply relaxed person feels suspended and even floating because he lets all of his weight down on whatever is supporting him; he has no inclination to jump up and to do something. The luxurious atmosphere of the liner can permeate throughout his entire body. The sound and vibration of the powerful idling engine can generate the soothing sound of "om". The deep crystalline water and the white sandy bottom can represent a clear mind free of tensions.
The weight of the ship is precisely compensated for by the upward pressure of the water. This relationship is not measured in fractions of an ounce, but it is absolutely perfect. Considering this perfect balance, and if the ship is seen as moving gently forward through the clear water, they would combine to form an appropriate neuroplastic image for flowing gently through daily life. One of the astronauts on the National Geographic TV show Cosmos said that sleeping in microgravity is a great pleasure. I assume that this is because it is possible to relax extremely deeply when there are no pressures at all on the body and that it is perfectly suspended in space. There would certainly never be any need to toss and turn. Here on Earth we can focus on the fact that the weight of our bodies is exactly equal to the upward force of whatever it is that supporting us at the moment. We can "suspend" ourselves in this perfect relationship, relax into whatever it is that is supporting us, and to move with smooth fluidity instead of with nervous jerks.
The typical process with psychedelic drugs and also in normal daily consciousness is to first experience a spontaneous insight from the intuitive mind. The insight is thought about and meditated upon over time, thus cultivating it and putting it into practice in the outside world. I am sure that it takes Willy Nelson a certain amount of time to write a song. During this process, the intuitive mind might make some additional contributions. Spontaneous creativity cannot be forced, but it can be encouraged in a very satisfying give-and-take manner.
A mythical neuroplastic image that could be discovered and cultivated that could be made up of a cluster of positive characteristics would be the powerful gentleman or lady knight in shining armor. Shining armor represents honor as well as the ability to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Mud that people sling at a knight slides right off. Abuse and insults bounce off like ping-pong balls. A knight knows that he is honorable and that his attackers are not.
With psychedelic experience, it it possible to discover or choose a neuroplastic image and then to meditate in more vivid detail on how it would react with events from the past as well as to predict how it would react to similar situations in the future. Vivid scenarios can emerge mentally that can show outcomes to various approaches and responses to the elements of different situations. For instance, it can be seen how belittling a person might result in personal shame while encouraging that person might result in personal satisfaction and approval.
Even if his results are not always perfect, a knight knows that his intentions are always good. His sharp lance represents his sensitivity and his ability to poke around and sniff out and expose the earliest signs of corruption. Honorable people can detect corruption in its earliest stages because their approach to life is so much the opposite. A knight can use his lance as a skewer in the unfortunate case that it ever becomes necessary. He has the strength of ten because his heart is pure, while a corrupt person has at least a smattering of self doubt and guilt which in turn weakens his resolve.
An honorable knight knows that the unjust mistreatment of others is a major source of guilt and that guilt is a significant barrier on the path to self respect, well-being, and tranquility. Such behavior will lead to guilt because we know down deep how the other person feels. A clear conscience in this regard is far to be preferred. Guilt can make a person believe that he or she is not worthy of the deeper levels of peaceful well-being. From the psychedelic point of view, a "sin" could be defined as any behavior that makes a person feel badly about himself in the future. Like a magnet, guilt can pull a person off of the yellow brick road to tranquility in a persistent manner. Remembering the negative things that a person had done, considering their effects, and attempting to justify what had been done all contribute to an unpleasant tension issue.
Civil behavior is the key to harmonious societies, big and small. Proper civil behavior would include the recognition of other people's strengths and interests and their encouragement. A person can feel strong when helping others to be strong, while the the strength associated with abusivness has its underlying guilt.
Conceptualizing the nature of a knight in shining armor and cultivating that particular neuroplastic image or one like it can help to guide a person out of guilt tension issues and back to the path toward tranquility. A person can come to recognize even the subtle behaviors that make him feel badly about himself. He can learn to avoid creating any more "guilt magnets" that can pull him off of the yellow brick road to tranquility.
The knight in shining armor can appear as a highly idealized image in a psychedelic experience, but the best we can do as fallible human beings feeling our way through the maze of life in a turbulent world is to approach it as well as we can through practice.
With his mighty steed, the knight can experience the power trip whenever power is needed for the defense of himself, his loved ones, or his community. When no threat is present, he can set aside his armor and make positive contributions to the world like any other decent and responsible member of society. Two of my high-dose LSD lady clients had spontaneous experiences of this nature with a Joan of Arc figure as the central symbol. It is possible to meditate on how a person with these characteristics and others like them would have reacted to situations in one's own past and how he could do so in possible future similar situations. Within the right dosage range of a psychedelic, it is possible to create entire vivid mental "scenarios", or "dramas" of this nature and to mentally enact them on the basis of different approaches or moral viewpoints. Being able to experience scenarios such as these in the inner world instead of in the outer world saves considerable personal energy and is far safer. In other words, we can learn even while doing nothing but sitting quietly with our eyes closed and reevaluating our own life experience from broader perspectives. We can learn from inner experience, which is a storehouse of our past, as well as from recent outer experience, but we don't have to be concerned about any negative consequences with inner experience. We can "get away with murder" if that is where the experience takes us or where we take it.
The neuroplastic image of a strong, refined, and civil citizen of the world is one worth cultivating.
The "power trip" during psychedelic experience is both satisfying and therapeutic. A person can feel his full strength without being concerned about its effect on the outside world. It is pure energy, beyond even good and evil. It is stronger than "road rage" and yet does no damage whatsoever and therefore has no worldly consequences. After a person has found his strength he knows that it is there and that it can be used when daily life circumstances call for it. The adrenalin rush can help a person to lift a car off of a trapped child, for instance. This experience in turn can strengthen one's confidence and diminish his anxiety in dealing with the outside world.
A useful neuroplastic image when times are too difficult to deal with is that of a rag doll such as "Raggedy Ann". For the moment, Raggedy Ann makes no effort to change the current situation nor does she resist the influences that affect her. She hangs in there as "loose as a goose" in the current version of the human drama and lets the negative influences reveal and expend themselves. Of course, if a way of improving the here and now moment becomes clear, there is certainly no crime in doing so. Grace under fire is a virtue. Rational behavior is to be desired over hysteria in difficult situations.
A very profitable neuroplastic image is that of a yogi. A yogi follows a very heathy lifestyle and at the same time he or she is also calm, patient, good-natured, and sensitive to the needs of others. He knows that feelings of patience neutralize feelings of urgency. An image of a perfectly healthy and serene yogi enjoying life is an ideal that could act as a guiding light through the maze of life.I have an acquaintance who naturally exemplifies this image. Her eye-hand coordination needs to be extremely precise in her medical work, but she approaches it with a calm, patient, and steady concentration. Yogis naturally move smoothly because they are free of conflicting tensions. At times during the day, one might ask the question: "How would a yogi handle this situation?"
I am not exactly sure why certain behaviors and not others qualify as
sins that result in tension issues later on, but one other clear source of guilt is unjustified abuse of oneself. Reference the guilt the morning after drinking too much alcohol. Maybe the conscience is partially "hard wired" in at birth. Jung felt that this was the case but that part of the conscience is the result of cultural influences and upbringing. No doubt what behaviors are considered as sinful vary from person to person and culture to culture. In any case, when we find that certain behavior causes future mental tensions, the decision can be made to analyze and to sacrifice or alter that behavior for the sake of tranquility or to vontinue with the “sin” for the sake of whatever rewards it happens to produce. Gideon and Foulfellow enjoyed throwing bricks through windows on Pleasure Island, but it got them changed into donkeys doing hard labor in the end. As we grow and learn more about the world, we will make unintentional mistakes out of ignorance, but these do not exactly qualify as sins since they are free of malice. We cam still regret them, but we do not have to feel responsibility in the process. This is also true of decisions that were made with insufficient data or for which there was really no right answer. Since existence is a complete mystery, it is justifiable to consider the sin-guilt-redemption process as psychological or spiritual or both in nature.
In the spiritual sense, the Emerald City could be conceptualized as a spiritual state of grace while here on Earth. It could also be conceptualized from the material sense as certain neural networks functioning in the brain. All we experience is our experience and its source is ultimately a mystery. The concept of experience as a mystery transcends the concepts of its spiritual and material definitions and as such can resolve many different philosophical conflicts between them. Seeing the bigger picture helps at all levels of abstraction. I am quite sure that Jung would refer to this process as the reconciliation of opposites resulting in further mental conceptual growth.
From a poetic perspective, it is possible to extend the knight image from the mythical level to the cosmic level of abstraction. The knight lives his life on a quest for the holy grail, which could be associated with the image of the Emerald City or the religious concept of the "summon bonum" (all that it good). Choosing a lifestyle of purifying oneself toward this state of being involves learning all that is necessary to get by reasonably well in the outside world, combined with diligent meditation on ultra-deep relaxation, peace of mind, and the resolutions of the blocks to those experiences. Having been fortunate enough to approach or even deeply experience the deeply blissful state of consciousness even once gives a clear target to aim for in this lifetime. Sins can generally be defined as unjust abuse of fellow human beings. The reason for this is because we know how the other person feels since we are human beings also, and because that ugly image becomes stubbornly permanent in neuroplastic space. Neuroplastic images take turns influencing us all of the time through our hormone systems and manifest themselves in our feelings, attitudes, and approaches to life. The good ones could be called "ideals" while the negative ones could be called "barriers to the quest for tranquility". I am convinced that expanded consciousness can make the quest for the holy grail more vivid on the right levels of abstraction and that they can be explored in greater detail. At the very least, a real-world quest of this nature should result in an increasingly higher quality of life. When the Emerald City is finally in sight, the feeling of urgency diminishes and life becomes less of a quest and more of a ride in the park. Contentment can come in different degrees along the path. One interesting point is where a person feels contented enough just as he is and does not have any strong desire to pursue deeper contentment. In addition, when one approaches the tranquil state, tension issues tend to be replaced by areas of interest. Areas of interest, including creativity, do not interfere with relaxation in the same negative way that tension issues do.
A more stationary neuroplastic image that I enjoy is that of the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (see pictures below). The combination of its simplicity, durability, its utility, and elegance combine to form what I consider to represent a positive concept that could be called "high quality". This invisible concept, or "appreciation" is one of many that can be discovered and amplified with expanded consciousness. The sense of quality can be carried over into daily activities including planning, design, improvement of the environment, improvement of ourselves, in relationships, and in other forms of creativity. It also helps a person to spot "high quality" within the morass of low quality and semi-chaotic realities in this world.
The Hoover dam and its bypass bridge are certainly not on the same scale as the Large Hadron Collider, the largest machine on earth, but they are both the result of the same human impetus.
The psychedelic amplification and the "appreciation" of concepts that symbols and images serve to represent helps to explain the creative nature of the psychedelic experience. An example of how a background concept can be separate from an associated symbol could be when someone is told that that the brilliant heavenly fires blazing from a beautiful diamond are actually coming from an inexpensive cubic zirconium. The invisible concept of "value" would vanish completely from one's experience although the concept of "beauty" might remain. "Value" by itself is an invisible symbol-free mental concept, but it can be associated with a great variety of realities ranging from fine machinery to fine art to good food to good friends. It is a pleasure and a meaningful pursuit to seek, create, and relate to high quality and high value realities in this otherwise chaotic, turbulent, and indifferent world. Speaking poetically it is like separating the wheat from the chaff. The flexibility of mental concepts and the various mental and physical symbols that can be chosen for them is an excellent topic for meditation.
One interesting topic would be the fact that creation itself is a miracle, but so is the organizing force that creates people, great structures, and fine art all out of the primordial clay of the earth. It is interesting to note that dirt atoms are organized to the extent that they can even think. No scientist in the world could duplicate this process. It is also interesting to note that people had to build Hoover dam, the bypass bridge, computers, and the internet in order to bring the image below into the here and now moment and that they are all made out of dirt atoms. Even your body, your eyes, and the entire process of your perception with your immaterial mind all arise from dirt atoms. These sorts of "appreciations" can powerfully pop to consciousness during psychedelic experiences. The appreciation of such miracles of creation help to explain why psychedelics have been considered as sacramental by many cultures throughout history.
High quality realities of this nature can also be appreciated in terms of the extent of the human thought and effort and the careful organization of the "primordial clay" of existence that go into their creation. We are capable of changing raw earth into things of extreme utility and beauty. We can certainly appreciate the miracle of existence itself and we can also appreciate the accomplishments that we frail and limited human beings are capable of even though we are nothing more than units of walking topsoil. As the British say, "not to shabby". Appreciating such awesome realities that are so much larger than our individual selves is a form of self-transcendence. The workmen who continually repaint and maintain the Golden Gate Bridge refer to her as "The Lady" and they are immensely proud of her. I believe that psychedelic drugs can help to reveal such "appreciations" of existence within ourselves, not only in things but also in other people. Such appreciations can improve our mental and emotional outlook on life and are certainly more uplifting than a gloomy, defensive, or discouraged view of existence. Seeking, appreciating, relating to, and contributing to quality is certainly more pleasant than endlessly lamenting the woes of the world.
Plants grow in the topsoil, animals eat the plants, and we eat the plants and the animals. Every atom of our entire physical being emerges from the topsoil. As the song says, "Some people say that man is made out of mud, a poor man is made out of muscle and blood". The term "mud people" is sometimes used to refer to people of very low status. But the fact is that we are all made of mud, we do our dance, and then one day we return to mud. What is fantastic about the process is the magic organization of the mud atoms into super-complex human beings which in turn can think, gain knowledge, walk the earth, and fabricate amazing structures and fantastic machines. Eventually everything returns to mud once again but the magic creative process continues.
With "stimulated mediation" it becomes more possible to conceive of, experience, and cultivate mental symbols of positive goals within ourselves. These self-created "neuroplastic images" can jump to mind under appropriate circumstances in daily life and influence corresponding approaches and states of mind. They are like "memory joggers" for entire states of being rather than just the ones used just to remember forgotten words or people's names. The mind can hold a variety of these memory joggers and can act as a tool box of well thought out, well practiced, and productive approaches to various aspects of life. They can be meditated upon and improved upon with or without stimulated meditation. One of my favorites is the image of a person who relaxes, enjoys peace of mind, and who is contented and blissful while going about doing what he can to make it a better world. I call this the "Johnny Appleseed" attitude. The other two general attitudes, neediness and defensiveness, can be subdued through the spirit of giving. Neediness could be symbolized by an Uncle Scrooge and defensiveness could be symbolized by a terrorist extremest. We can see these attitudes in ourselves and in other people every day. The more people who experience a greater degree of the spirit of giving, the closer we would be to peace on earth. The fact that psychedelics can expand consciousness while at the same time stimulating mildly euphoric and optimistic feelings and attitudes permits the expansion, exploration, and testing of a more giving attitude. This attitude includes an inner upwelling fountain of positive energy, and this energy enjoys its expression in the outside world. The greedy attitude involves an inner feeling of a sucking vacuum that needs to be filled with things from the outside world and with a fortress to protect them. There is much room for meditation along this particular conceptual continuum.
Spontaneous flash insights experienced during daily life can be assigned to neuroplastic space if so desired. One day I saw that my Spanish teacher had written a very nice review of my book. A very vivid detailed image of a Mariachi singer, complete with sombrero, guitar, and a huge smile popped into my mind. He was singing "En el Rancho Grande" with great gusto. I could experience his positive emotions. The same image often pops to mind again at times when I am especially pleased with something during the day. It is amazing how the mind can instantly generate a very detailed image that can represent an entire state of consciousness, and how these images can appear spontaneously or be conjured up at will to influence one's current state of being. Psychedelic experience does not have to be involved at all, but this process can nevertheless still be structured by means of the same concepts of the intuitive mind with its ability to cluster insights, the spontaneous thought generator, which converts insights into symbolic imagery, and neuroplastic space (memory) which stores the new concepts. In other words, the psychedelic model can also provide structure to the daily life process of consciousness. Discovering and cultivating positive images/states-of-being within oneself can improve the quality of life considerably. They can jump out during the day and help to deal more productively with complex situations.
Neuroplastic images of different sorts can be associated with a variety of different states of being and their corresponding attitudes. These images represent individual clustered organizations of complete points of view, states of the body, attitudes towards oneself, the outer world, and the cosmos. They can be cultivated and improved upon over time and their influence can be observed and felt in daily life.
I believe that self-chosen positive neuroplastic images of this nature can act not only to replace any already-existing negative ones, but also to act as "guiding lights" through the maze of life.
One point of view that is helpful in dealing with bad trips is that we live in a sea of atoms that make up the earth and the biosphere and includes even the air that we breath. We are made of the same stuff that this sea is made of. Everything is atoms, and this includes the atoms that make up our brain cells. Somehow out of this sea of atoms awareness emerges. Awareness, or the mind, is beyond material atoms and is immaterial. It is the "ghost" in the machine". What it is that moves all of these atoms is a mystery, but we can watch them being moved with our awareness as they create the structures that we know, Assumedly, atoms moving in the brain somehow result in immaterial mental images. So both in daily life and psychedelic experience, the contents of our minds are created, or organized, by the same magic that moves the rest of the atoms in the universe. No one knows why the magic unfolds the way that it does because causation is a mystery. We know that free will is somewhere in the mix even though it too is a mystery. The bad trip can be conceptualized as the unfolding magic as that was intended to be. Of course, that is true with the best of good trips also. In fact, it is also true for all contents of consciousness including those of daily life. Speaking poetically, we are immaterial awarenesses floating in a sea of atoms.
Since the mind is immaterial and since it exists in a space that is not part of the material universe, it comes pretty close to our definition of spirit. This in turn is not too far from the concept that spirit provides the contents of consciousness and that existence is God's dream while we are dreamers within the dream. This means that neuroplastic space can be conceptualized as spiritual or as the product of a physical brain.
As Lewis Carroll described this concept:
"Don't wake up the red king" said Tweedledum.
"Why not?" asked Alice.
"Because he is dreaming" answered Tweeldedum.
"So what?" asked Alice.
"Because we are his dream" answered Tweedledum.
"But I am real!" cried Alice with tears in her eyes.
I have had enough bad trips that I think I see a pattern. I think that I have become more sensitive to the multiple forms of human suffering than I would have been otherwise. As such, I feel that I naturally do the things that I can to reduce the suffering of others, even in subtle personal relationships. I see this as a moral, peaceful and productive approach to life in general.
At times during a high-dose trip the intuitive material can can insist on asserting itself overwhelmingly and sometimes it does so with negative material. At these times the rational mind can still watch and learn. Unfortunately, there is much suffering in the human drama, and contemplating its various forms can be both unpleasant and educational at the same time. Bad trips are better handled with moderate dosages because they permits a higher contribution of rationality to the otherwise spontaneous experience. A good neuroplastic image to develop overall is the "scientist" or the "detached observer" within us.
The psychedelic experience usually tends to be expansive and positive, but there is always the the possibility of a "bad trip" at times. For this reason, it is good for anyone exploring the high dose experience to be ready to handle one if it should start to take place. It helps to remember rationally that psychedelics can cause a vivid amplification of any number of philosophic points of view combined with their corresponding emotions, and that they can be negative as well as positive. A person should see himself as exploring various philosophies and emotional concepts on an abstract level of mental experience rather than as viewing what might sometimes appear to be realities. Imagining oneself as detached and watching a movie screen can help to maintain the rational perspective. I think that the rational perspective as always available but that it is also easy to become totally involved in the psychedelic experience itself if so desired. Learning to let negative content emerge in the mind while at the same time not resisting it is probably the most tension-free method of letting it exhaust itself. The high dose experience is cosmic in content, and if allowed to flow, in a continual state of change. "This too shall pass" can be a good mantra at these times. The stress hormones tend to exhaust themselves rather quickly while the bliss hormones tend to persist longer because they use very little energy. As will be discussed, it also helps to use the rational mind to analyze and structure negative experience because a rational resolution can often neutralize the emotional effects of the experience. One time I got lost in some kind of preposterous but emotionally intense point of view. I told my ground control (Dr. Grof). His response was: "I am sure that you don't really believe that". That brought me right back. An experienced "ground controller" can offer the rational perspective at any time, thus bringing the person "back to earth" at least for the moment and longer if desired.
One of the useful cosmic concepts is where a person experiences a complete acceptance of his current moment: mind, body, and soul, regardless of what its contents might be. This degree of "letting go" can be experienced even in daily life, and it can be totally relaxing.
One fairly bad trip can be to observe the cosmic fact that we live as "lost souls" in a huge mysterious universe. We do not know how we got here, why we are here, how the entire universe got here, or what exactly we should be doing, if anything. This observation can be accompanied by feelings of bleakness, being at sea, "lost in space", far from home, and not even knowing if there is such a thing as a "home" out there for us at all. Psychedelic experience can magnify these "lost"feelings. I am quite sure that many people feel these feelings, sometimes very strongly, especially when certain life situations justify them such as the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job. In any case, while working with this bad trip at one time, I remembered a college bar we used to go to where we would have a few beers and then join in with the perpetual singing of: "We're here because we're here because we're here", etc., sung happily and loudly to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. The words of the song indicated that we were lost in existence and did not know how or why we got here, but the few beers made it possible to accept that cosmic fact with an attitude of boisterous hilarity. This indicates that it is possible to take altogether different attitudes toward exactly the same realities. I am quite sure that the negative emotional feelings just described and others like them are what sometimes drive a person to drink, and that learning to identify them rationally, to accept them, and to find new attitudes to replace them are steps forward on the yellow brick road to tranquility. I am also quite sure that a little safe marijuana at the right times can help to reveal and reinforce the same mental bypass to a tension issue, and without a hangover. Now I can usually accept the same cosmic fact myself without any beer or marijuana at all, and the magnetic quality of this particular concept no longer pulls me off of the yellow brick road to tranquillity even though I know it is still there.
One topic that can be contemplated in depth with psychedelic experience could be called the "mortification of the flesh". When Evel Knievel hurtled through space on his motorcycle or when Elvis Presley overdosed on narcotics, they were both exemplifying the attitude of a distain for being trapped in a mortal biological body in a less-than-pleasant world. They were "tickling the dragon's tail". They were toying with the idea of escaping from the world while at the same time being trapped in it by the survival instinct. Pervasive attitudes such as this can be examined in detail and if so desired new ones can be explored. On the other side of the coin, the desired bliss that might be anticipated after an escape from the body and the world can be naturally trained right into the body through the practice of deep relaxation. I believe that psychedelics can help in this process to a very great extent. The bliss associated with deep relaxation involves a detachment from the cares of the world and of the body. In other words it is an "out of body" and "out of world" experience. This might be a sufficiently satisfying experience for anyone who would otherwise be toying with some variation of the concept of the mortification of the flesh in order to reach the same goal. Knowing that this experience is almost instantly available naturally, and to a sufficient level of depth, should be reassuring to these people. A totally relaxed body cannot feel any physical or mental stress.
I have a young acquaintance whose life is extremely dramatic due to the use of a variety of drugs. When I asked her what they did for her, she said the main motivations were the escape from the world and the bliss. I wonder if a person such as this, perhaps with the help of psychedelics, could train herself to find these states of being naturally. Since most people can at least temporarily achieve these states of being at a spa, it seems that with diligent practice it should be possible in daily lfe. Of course, some life coaching on how to flow comfortably through the maze of life would be helpful in some cases. Learning to become a civil and productive citizen in a civil society would reduce a lot of tension. Tickling the dragon's tail, in one form of drama or another, cannot be exactly relaxing. As mentioned elsewhere, I believe that expanded consciousness can help a person to discover new "ego ideals" or "neuroplastic images" within himself, to cultivate them, and to put them into practice.
It is good to know that completely rational and authentic different attitudes can be taken toward the same realities, and that expanded consciousness can help to find them within oneself. They can be cultivated and embellished just like neuroplastic images.
Another fairly bad trip is where the intuitive mind continues to generate nothing but some form of absurd nonsense that seems to be leading nowhere. A person who needs structure might find an experience of this nature somewhat threatening. Low dose experiences can usually be steered into chosen topics, but with a high dose there is sometimes little control over the nature of she material that emerges. After paying close attention, I learned to spot the instant that the peak intensity of the psychedelic experience passed, and I took note of how the quality of the experience on each side of it was different. In general, the experience before the peak was of increasingly high precision at very refined levels of abstraction, while that after the peak the experience started to lose structure and looked like it could eventually end up in chaos. I think that a good trick in this area is to purposefully conceptualize chaos as positive. There is no tension or conflict in perfect chaos and in that respect it is next to the concept of purity and bliss in terms of freedom of tension. A perfectly relaxed body is bathed in bliss hormones and so tension-free chaos is good. But at the the same time, there can be significant feelings of loss as one conceptualizes lower and lower levels of structure, so there is much there to be explored. One of my friends once said that coming down from a psychedelic experience was like going back to the garbage. At that time, neither of us has explored the possibility that garbage was next to chaos and that chaos was next to a blissful tension-free existence. We also did not realize that by giving oneself to the here and now moment regardless of circumstances that grasping and defensive attitudes diminish and are replaced by feelings of contentment..
At the right time in a "trip" and within the right dosage range there can be a Yin-Yang combination (a resolution) of the concepts of the sublime and the ridiculous side by side. The sublime is the experiencing of very precise broad cosmic and religious abstractions while the ridiculous, in my case at least at this time on my path, is a friendly hilarious attitude coming from cartoonland directed toward the futile attempts made to structure something that is ultimately a mystery. Cartoon land might be random, chaotic, and even threatening to some people, but it can also be fun, friendly, and funny. The trick is to resist the temptation to make too much sense of it and to indulge in the various positive hormone experiences that can be found there. With respect to the emotional component of this range of experience, I think it is safe to assume that a low-intensity ever-changing combination of hormones is in process. A single hormone might produce a distinct experience and we might have a name for it, but the experiences produced by combinations of hormones are more complex and often don't have names at all. For instance, it might be possible to feel satisfaction, hilarity, and smugness all at the same time, and then to have the experience morph quickly into something different but equally complex. Perhaps the spontaneous thought generator produces what symbols it can to represent these changing subtle emotional experiences.
I personally had some trouble working through the feelings of nonsense, chaos, meaninglessness, and the philosophies that surround them, so finally being able to see meaning on the ultimate cosmic level as a mystery was actually a relief. No one knows how or why existence emerged from nothingness in the first place, no matter what anyone says, so creation and meaning are both mysteries through and through. If no one else has ever figured it out, it certainly is not in my job description to do so. Even on the strictly rational level, this fact is obvious. Meaning can still be found on lower levels of abstraction, such as in the quest for survival, well-being, health, knowledge, success, and diversion, but the overall cosmic picture can still be seen as a mystery. Nothing can emerge from nothingness because, by definition, there is no such thing as nothingness. Grappling with a cosmic mystery is an exercise in futility. Accepting the overall mystery of existence for what it is resolves all of the conceptual conflicts in the cosmic/religious domain of abstraction even though it is somewhat humbling. It is interesting that the pure essence of these concepts can be explored and lived vividly with a psychedelic drug. One example would be the comparison of the cosmic philosophies of the terrorist and those of the philanthropist with respect to the cosmic concept of the value of life. Another would be a comparison of the greedy person grasping resources from the world for his own use and the generous person who believes that resources should be shared with respect to the cosmic concept of the amount of responsibility we have for each other. There are many shades of gray with concepts such as these, and each person can find his own comfort level among them.
I am sure that the best way to handle any bad trip is to relax insofar as possible and to let the experience exhaust itself rather than to fight it or run from it. It also helps to take the rational perspective and analyze the experience for useful information as it flows by. In the psychedelic dream, let the threatening entities do their worst. The self-sacrifice of oneself to the concepts of threatening mental spirits, human suffering, mythical beings and animals, assumed conspiracies, evil supernatural forces, chaos, etc., is on a higher moral plane than the more primitive energies of the threatening experiences themselves. There is a story about how the Buddha, as a rabbit in a previous incarnation, jumped into a fire so that a holy man would not have to go hungry. Finding the heart of one of these negative experiences can be a satisfying relief and even educational. Being relaxed enough to examine a bad trip can reinforce the virtue of grace under fire.
Freud assumed that the mind is constantly seeking homeostasis, or equilibrium. I think that this is true and that it does so by working with and working through tension issues. With the advent of psychedelics, I suggests that the word
homeostasis be changed to
tranquility and that tranquility brings with it the pleasant state of sell-being.
Surrendering can become a very "Yin" experience. It can be like conceptualizing oneself as untouchable as a ghost while floating through mythical representations of the mortal conflicts within the human drama. It can also be conceptualized as the total offering of oneself to the emerging experience without any resistance. "Yin" is a neuroplastic image worth cultivating because "she" is like a goddess that is so yielding that she cannot be touched by anything in the mental or the material worlds. By analogy, it is impossible to stab and damage water with a knife because it is totally yielding. It can crash through rapids and over waterfalls without being damaged in the least. They say that when a drunk falls off of a wagon he is not hurt because he is so relaxed. When identifying deeply with Yin, the mind becomes more clear and empty and the body becomes more relaxed. If Yin fills the physical body, and the body is perfectly relaxed, the mind can still conceptualize and picture hellish scenes, but the relaxed body will not supply negative hormones to the process. Instead of seeing oneself only as suffering eternally in an agonizing Hell, a parallel concept of Yin learning to yield to stronger negativity is present. I have never experienced it fully, but speaking poetically I assume that a perfect concept of Yin could float through one's personal concept of the core of Hell absolutely untouched. Deep relaxation can neutralize the emotional reaction to many internal and external threats. With all due respect to the complexity of the hormone system, it can be a significant advantage to gain some control over it.
Yin can also float through the most positive of experiences. Yielding, surrendering, and offering oneself to the rest of the cosmos facilitates deep relaxation of the body which in turn facilitates the release of serotonin and dopamine hormones which in turn stimulate what Dr. Grof refers to as the "melted ecstasy" experience. Refining the experiential pathway to this particular concept/experience could also be conceptualized as the resolution of any tension issues that might be in the way. These tension issues can be found to exist on the everyday level, the level of the more sweeping social realities, and the cosmic/religious levels of abstraction. I believe that psychedelics can help to reveal the latter two levels more vividly than normal and to afford the opportunity to better "smooth things out" there. This in turn further opens the experiential pathway to what could be symbolized as the Emerald City on the physical level, the "holy Grail" on the mythical level, or as the "summum bonum" on the cosmic/religious level. In other words, it could be interpreted as "melted ecstasy" on the physical level and "giving oneself to the rest of the cosmos" on the cosmic/religious level. I believe that being a "moral" person and being careful not to accumulate tension issues on any of the mental levels of abstraction reflects in the personal comportment of an honorable member of society. Personal honor is a requirement for peace of mind. Guilt is a substantial barrier to it.
The unfortunate fact is that there is plenty of negativity in the human drama, so unavoidable meditation on how to handle and solve various everyday problems of varying intensity can be expected at times. This is less of a problem with low to moderate doses of a psychedelic drug because the expanded rational mind and the sensitive intuitive mind can work together very calmly and effectively to find legitimate answers to existing everyday situations. This kind of meditation can actually be very satisfying, pleasant, and gratifying even though the content can be less than pretty.
I believe that the really bad trip (the "bummer") is almost always due to an inexperienced person taking too high a dose under poor circumstances. I consider the bummer to include the loss of the observing rational thought process and the complete identification with the negative material emanating from the intuitive mind. The higher dose causes the experience to deal with abstract "cosmic" issues rather than daily life issues, so it would be helpful if anyone acting as ground control were familiar with this level of abstraction in order that he could help the person to find and maintain the rational perspective. I also believe that these bad experiences will tend to take place at the beginning of the trip because it can look as though something extremely dangerous is coming from nowhere and overwhelming the mind. Therefore, it would be a good practice to gain experience with lower doses under positive circumstances if one makes the choice to dabble with psychedelics at all, especially at the high dose cosmic level. If an experienced person should run into a bad trip, he would be far more able to maintain the rational perspective and flow through it while it happened. He would know that it would pass. These sorts of trips can be quite al both in terms of psychology itself and in terms of facing, dealing with, and accepting real negative aspects in the human drama that can and do reflect themselves in our personal life dramas.
Ground control can ask questions that at the same time give good advice and help to maintain the rational perspective. Helpful questions are those such as "Is there visual imagery?", "Can you verbalize the nature of the apparent threat?", "Can you relax and let the experience flow by?", "Does there seem to be a core or a source to this experience?", "Can you go through the source and resolve it?", etc.
From a strictly rational and objective viewpoint, the human condition has a significant downside, so sometimes parts of psychedelic trips can be a little grim. Denying the negative aspects of the human condition would be self-delusion and exploring them would expand a person's breadth of human knowledge, his compassion for others, and his ability to face, accept, and endure unpleasant facts in daily life.
We find ourselves having been inserted here, not by our own choice, into these frail, needy, pain-sensitive human bodies living in a world that is often hostile and demanding, always uncertain, and ultimately incomprehensible. We know that tragedy can strike at any moment. The maze of life can be quite challenging, overwhelming, and bewildering at times, but both the positive and negative psychedelic experiences can help to learn how to best handle it.
We don't know how we got here, why we are here, or how or why this place exists at all. We know that we will eventually leave it and we can only guess what comes afterwards. The religious monks who change the neuroplastic configuration of their brains through meditation on compassion toward the human drama certainly have plenty to work with.
It is an unfortunate fact that this world has its share of mortal combat, corruption, natural disasters, disease, confusion, and suffering in general. However, the acceptance of our situation does not block the path to tranquillity as does fear, outrage, or despair. Deep tranquillity can be a personal refuge and a sanctuary if experiencing difficulties in this less-than-perfect world.
The best we can hope for in this fleeting lifetime is an average state of reasonably positive well-being and as harmonious a relationship with the outside world as possible. We can strive and do what is necessary to make progress toward these goals. Psychedelic experience can help by providing intuitive sensitivity and broader perspectives to the process.
Humphrey Osmond came up with a poem that is rather famous in the psychedelic world:
To fathom Hell or soar angelicJust take a pinch of psychedelic
It is good to realize that there is not one scintilla of evidence that either Heaven or Hell even exist. The afterlife is part of the great mystery of existence. At the same time, they are very real concepts that can be both imagined and vividly experienced. This might mean that these concepts are hardwired into the brain along with many others. One of the more pleasant and common ones, for instance, is the one of peacefully floating through the air. In any case, it helps to keep one's bearings if it is remembered that these concepts are only mental constructions and that they have no provable reality in the material world or anywhere else. If a person believes that the core of Hell that he is experiencing is a reality and that he will be consigned there forever when he dies, that is one thing, but if he recognizes that it is only a mental concept that he is temporary experiencing,it is much easier to endure and go through. I am not exactly sure of all the reasons, but having gone through negative experiences of this nature at least once takes a lot of the "sting" out of them. Average daily life free-floating anxiety and feelings of impending doom can be noticeably reduced, so in this sense they can be therapeutic.
Another approach to bad trips is to encourage the experience "do its worst". Either it will eventually die out or the "heart" of it will be found. I remember in my own case that the heart of one bad trip was symbolized by the rather exotic image of a bush being blown by the wind into the shape of a human face expressing agony. I could see that it represented the fact that we are all trapped and rooted here, not in a bush but in the here-and-now moment regardless of what it might contain. In addition, there are people all around the world every day who are trapped in constant extreme negative circumstances. There is no shortage of pain, despair, neediness, or hopelessness in this world. Finding a resolution to this extremely tragic cosmic fact without being outraged, frightened, or repulsed by it took quite a bit of work on both the mundane and the cosmic levels of abstraction. I saw the entire human race as treading water struggling to stay afloat and many people being unable to do so and going under. We watch our friends and relatives go under. Eventually everyone goes under. From the spiritual point of view, I had to accept that God lets terrible things happen. From the materialistic point of view, I had to accept that terrible things were programmed into a predetermined destiny driven by fixed natural laws and that we are stuck in a cosmic storybook that has some very grizzly chapters. Compassion for the suffering became the dominant attitude toward this unfortunate part of reality instead of the conflicting attempts to fix the blame for it. Contemplating the various forms of suffering in the human drama is certainly a bad trip.
Resolving to make efforts to reduce my own suffering and that of the people I encounter in my daily life to the extent possible was a partial solution to this particular tension issue in my case. Reducing suffering is a higher moral activity than is ignoring it, fretting about it, or contributing to it. Opportunities to reduce various forms of suffering, mild or extreme, can occur continuously in everyday life. Another part of the solution was the resolution to contribute to the upside of the human drama insofar as possible by treating people with goodwill, good humor, and respect. Psychologically this combination is a win-win situation because negativity is reduced in both the inner and the outer worlds. If a person is doing what he can to increase the upside and decrease the downside within his own sphere of influence, he knows that at least he is helping to move things into positive directions and he can feel good about it.
The broad cosmic assumption that finally emerged that significantly helped to resolve the problem of suffering was the "Yin-Yang" transcendental concept that in order for existence to exist at all, the forces of creation and the forces of destruction need to be in balance. These forces could also be interpreted as good versus evil or organization versus chaos. Although the flow of destiny can be seen as the continual rearrangement of atoms, it can also be seen as atoms being arranged in creative and destructive fashions. From this point of view, the creative forces and the destructive forces need to be equal since they are both part of the same process. If the forces of creation dominated, eventually everything would be created in one way or another and change would cease. If the destructive forces dominated, eventually the universe would reduce to atoms in chaos. The Yin-Yang principle seems to be true in the cosmos with respect to the birth and death of stars, and it seems true here on Earth where all life eventually dies and gets recycled through the topsoil. The super-complex creation of life on Earth, as seen from the perspective of the "magical" forces that organize the atoms that make up all of existence, might need a compensating "disorganizing" aspect that could ultimately account for the suffering in the human drama. Even the process of our aging contains creative and destructive aspects. Perhaps the creative leap forward that resulted in cell phones and the internet coming into existence was partially compensated for by the slaughter in the streets during the Arab Spring. Accurate or not, this particular balancing concept helped to resolve my mental tension on the cosmic level of mental abstraction and to permit another step toward peace of mind. Instead of feeling outrage toward ruthless dictators who massacre their own citizens in the streets, such suffering could be explained and accepted in a more neutral fashion as a necessary condition in order for the big picture to exist at all. It is not too far from the God-Devil concept except that it does not necessarily include the mystery of sin and punishment. Sin and punishment are certainly mysteries because we see bad things happening to good people and vice versa all of the time. The mysteries of the transmigration of souls and karma are also not necessarily included. The cosmic resolution is appropriate because the troubling negative emotions that would exist by lamenting the suffering serve no objective purpose anyway. What is is what is warts and all and the best we can do is to try to make it better.
The forces of creation and those of destruction, when viewed from the atomic level, are seen as nothing more than rearrangement of the mindless atoms thet make up all of existence. Since it seems that our free will has considerable influence over this process here within the human drama, perhaps we can learn to use it on such a level of abstraction that sweeping social influences could be detected and hopefully improved upon. Psychedelics can help in this clustering effect of abstractions. A mythical "god" could be defined as an actual spirit that effects many people all at one time while an "influence" could be defined as a general force in the material world. Jung suggested an intermediate concept: the "spirit of the times". Perhaps the forces (gods) of destruction could be channeled into processes that minimize suffering as much as possible. One example would certainly be the contributions of medical science. Another example would be a solution to the problem presented by the TV program The Rise of the Machines presented by NOVA. The machines taking over the production of goods and services could be compared to a mythical god of technology or, from another point of view, a god of unemployment. Even now these forces are forcing more and more people into poverty and being unable to afford even the excesses produced by the machines. These people will need an income that is not necessarily associated with some direct form of production in order to keep the economy in motion. Otherwise this subgroup will grow, thus spreading the suffering. We will need to adjust the current method of income distribution or to build many more bridges for these people to sleep under. The answer to this problem would have to involve the adjustment of the "work ethic", a cultural norm that is deeply imbedded and which no doubt would change slowly. People would eventually find that they could get by with an income that is at least in part accumulated during leisure time because the machines are doing the work instead of themselves. The versatile god of technology could also make leisure time as profitable, healthy, educational, and entertaining as one might wish at any given time. Enjoying such leisure would be guilt-free because machines don't care that they have been consigned to a lifetime of work and drudgery. The suffering associated with both work and unemployment would be replaced by mindless machines, leaving people with more free time to maximize their personal potentials. All of this could be done with a minimal effect on the carbon footprint. The gods of technology and unemployment would be harnessed into productive work on the material level of existence, and everyone would benefit.
Productive leisure time could include such things as experiencing better personal health, more relaxation and contentment, learning more about the world, getting along better with each other, providing better care for the disadvantaged, relating more efficiently to the environment, experiencing more gratifying activities, etc.
People could buy the goods and services , but that money needs to be recirculated back to them somehow so that they can continue buying. Maybe people could be paid for the extent to which they use their leisure time productively, with new definitions for the word
productive. Since technological advancement is a major theme of the human drama, perhaps it is gradually destined to reach a point where humans are freed from digging ditches and filing folders. Maybe the machines will do more and more of the major burden of the work and we humans will be freed to find better and more gratifying things to do with our time.
Thinking on these broader levels of abstraction can be more productive than focussing only on individual events alone. In many situations the intensity of the individual events themselves can hamper more abstract thought. The psychedelics can help to stimulate these broader levels of abstraction and in some cases to make them easier to to work with and benefit from.
In the model that I like to use, the top level of mental abstraction regarding the nature of existence is pure, infinite, eternal, all-pervading space. Next down is all-pervading space shared with all-pervading spirit. Next down is the creation of atoms, either emerging or having emerged from space or from spirit or from both. Next down is the magical process of the continuous arrangement and rearrangement of the atoms that make up the structures that we know such as suns, planets, you, and me. Next down is the yin-yang concept where the unfolding process of existence at the atomic level is conceptually divided into the two equal forces of creation and destruction in all of their complexity. The destructive forces include wear and damage, both of which can involve suffering. The next level down is where a person thinks about events, patterns, and influences in his daily life. The lowest level of abstraction is the actual here-and-now involvement in the flow of individual events that make up daily life.
Viewing existence from a transcendental viewpoint such as its miraculous quality can have a psychological benefit. The trivial, absurd, and other unpleasant aspects of existence can become more easily tolerated and can be replaced with a more tension-free mental acceptance and appreciation of them. The human drama and one's own personal drama can be viewed from a more objective and a less emotional perspective.
Assuming that it is true that psychedelics can lead to greater psychological satisfaction and fulfillment, they would represent a constructive force in society. To the extent that they can compensate for the destructive forces of anxiety, depression, hostility, confusion, and greed in society, their influence will have plenty of room to grow.
Once I accepted the transcendental "Yin-Yang" assumption as a possibility to explain suffering, my bad trip lost steam and moved on to a much more positive topic: if the constructive and the destructive forces of the cosmos were to conceptually cancel each other out completely, what would be left would be a concept of pure, empty, tension-free peaceful, infinite, and eternal space which in turn equates to perfect peace of mind. Peace of mind in turn equates to a relaxed body experiencing bliss hormones and a positive state of being in the here-and-now moment. This is an example of how conflicts at even the cosmic level of abstraction can be resolved with even broader concepts just as is the case on the mythical and more everyday levels of abstraction.
The paranoid experience is one where the threats in existence are conceptualized as conspiratorial or supernatural or both. Even in normal daily consciousness it is not too hard to conceptualize that a hypothetical "god of war" or a collusion of hawkish conspirators influenced the rush to war with Iraq. On the cosmic level of psychedelic experience such hypothetical influences can appear much more vivid, personal, and real due to the clustering effects of stimulated intuitive thought. In any case, the most effective way to deal with these experiences is the same as with all other "bad trips": let them do their worst. The mind actually seems to desire to finally face the heart of a negative experience and to get it over with and to neutralize it. During psychedelic experience, the real-world reality of the perceived threat is not the main issue. The issue is to face it squarely in the mental world regardless of its corresponding degree of reality in the material world. The evaluation of the objective reality of the threat in the material world can be postponed until the emotional and expanded amplifications stimulated by the psychedelic drug are over.
It is possible to handle a bad trip by finding its heart, surrendering to it, and going through it. It can be a significant learning experience. As one of my clients put it: "Once you have been eaten by one mouth, you have been eaten by all of them". Revisiting the same areas in the future can be on a much more objective level and can actually be doorways to new areas of exploration. For instance, it can become possible to investigate practical ways to reduce the downside of the human drama and to contribute to its upside even within one's little corner of the world.
If a person having a bad trip recognized that he was actually in a temporary hormonal/chemical state of being, he might also have the motivation to take the opportunity of exploring it to some extent while it lasted. There is a great deal to learn about how hormones can prejudice our perceptions.
Sometimes it might take more than one psychedelic session and perhaps some daily meditation in order to find the heart of a tension issue. Conflicts can exist on both the everyday and the cosmic levels of abstraction and everywhere else in between. Resolutions can be found on each level, the highest being the concept that all of existence is a mystery.
If ground control is present, as it should be during high dose sessions, and if it can offer reassurances of current safety, encourage endurance and surrender, and at the same time to promote the rational perspective.
Since existence is uncertain, one never knows how vigilant and cautious to be. What appears to be too much fear, anxiety, and caution might at times be just enough, but during a psychedelic session in good surroundings with a trusted and experienced companion, negative experience can be revealed as strictly irrational, not real, and something that can be dealt with since it is only chemically-induced mental imagination and hormone reactions. It is possible to recognize bad trips for what they are and to let them go right on by.
Letting bad trips go right on by is a form of good practice for letting negative situations in daily life go right on by. Challenges can be faced and dealt with on a more objective level and with less frantic anxiety. To put it poetically, once a person has faced his own concept of the core of Hell, all other threats pale in significance. Endurance and patience can be practiced as useful forms of strength to deal with the downside of the human drama.
When the badness of HellMeets the goodness of HeavenIn the center of psychic spaceThey may start to entwineOr even combineIn a kind of a cosmic embrace
From the religious point of view, a person could accept God's world just as it is while from the materialistic point of view a person could accept that what is is what is. In both cases, acceptance has less tension than fighting, and doing what can be done to make things better is a honorable approach.
As the song says, our lives are filled with tears and laughter. On the atomic level, the universe is constantly in motion under the influence of constructive and destructive organizational forces, and these forces manifest themselves as organizations and movement of atoms.
I am quite sure that Jung would refer to an experience of this nature as a resolution of opposites at a very broad level of abstraction. Accepting the fact that one has been consigned to a temporary mysterious existence that includes both heavenly and hellish experiences can reduce tension, but experiencing both sides and their resolution from the vivid psychedelic perspective, I believe, helps to deepen one's objectivity toward the issue. The suffering is still apparent, but it does not unnecessarily pull one off of the yellow brick road to tranquillity the way a magnet attracts a paper clip. The magnet has a keeper-bar on it that neutralizes its energy. One can walk by it while still recognizing that it is there. Getting involved with it on the philosophical or the emotional level is certainly a diversion from the Emerald City. What is is what is and the best we can do is to try to make things better no matter what they are now and let it go at that.
Accepting the fact that the human drama is both a comedy and a tragedy at the same time can reduce tension, but there is yet a higher abstraction possible. If there is indeed a single higher force that moves the atoms in our cells and the stars in the heavens, then everything is exactly as it should be. Every single atom in the universe is exactly where it is intended to be. The concept of the tragicomedy of our existence is one thing, but seeing it as perfect is another. This is another example of how a broader abstraction can resolve polar sets of opposites.
Ultra-deep relaxation is a luxurious escape from physical, mental, and emotional stress. It is a personal sanctuary. The body can be trained to relax just as an athlete can train his own to perform difficult tasks. Occasional low doses of a psychedelic such as marijuana can facilitate the training process for the reasons already described. Stress is inevitable since we are frail, needy, pain-sensitive and ego-sensitive creatures living in a world that is often hostile and demanding, sometimes tedious, always uncertain, and ultimately incomprehensible. As such, diligent practice in relaxation can greatly improve the quality of daily life through the reduction of stress. Not only does it include the physical pleasure itself, it also includes positive mental concepts such as rationality, peace, and contentment. The culmination of this practice could be poetically defined as Dr. Grof's "melted ecstasy", the "Emerald City", the "golden chalice", or the alchemist's purified gold. It can be experienced very vividly with psychedelic stimulation and, with practice, experienced to a completely satisfactory degree during daily life activities.
It seems ironic that deep relaxation, the absence of any effort at all, can resolve the entire range of mental tension issues while all other problems require some form of effort to solve.
When relaxed and feeling good, creative ideas often emerge pertaining on how to bring something positive into the material world. One is tempted to do so in order to establish them in reality and to thereby prolong the positive feelings for realistic reasons.
The single concept that all of existence is a total mystery can be a welcome relief from philosophical conflicts on the cosmic and religious levels of abstraction. It is a fact that no one knows how or why this existence emerged from nothingness, so it is a mystery through and through. Every blade of grass is as miraculous and mysterious as the rest of the universe. Anyone who was comfortable in the concept that all of existence is a mystery would never fly a passenger plane into the World Trade Center to prove a point. All scientists and theologians hit a wall when they try to explain this mystery, but some go ahead and make and believe assumptions without proof for the sake of some sort of structure. The many assumptions that attempt to solve different aspects of this mystery and the differences between them causes considerable conflict, sometimes violent, within the human drama. We are certainly free to hold our own comfortable beliefs regarding such things as spirit, creation, causation, the afterlife, the nature of being, the meaning, and the purpose on the everyday level of abstraction while at the same time realizing that on the cosmic level all is still a mystery. At one time a terrorist hijacked a passenger jet and dove it into the ocean. On the way down, he was screaming "Allah is great" over and over into the cockpit voice recorder. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Down deep this person probably realized that he was acting on the basis of an assumption created out of nothing but thin air and he was trying to convince himself that he was doing the right thing anyway. Not everyone believes that Allah wants all infidels to die. Right now in history the Sunni are sweeping over Iraq, murdering thousands as they go, in order to prove that their religious assumptions are the only true facts.
In the same vein, the members of the Branch Davidian, Heaven's Gate. and Jonestown communities bet their very lives on assumptions perpetrated by their charismatic leaders. In addition, they were willing to accept the claimed supernatural knowledge of these charlatans without even a shred of concrete evidence. Apparently for some people the need for structure on the cosmic/religious level of abstraction is stronger than the personal survival instinct and the need for real-world confirmation of it is minimal.
Psychedelics can help to reveal the truly mysterious quality of existence and to make it possible to meditate on the fact that all of the assumptions that are made to explain it and its various aspects are indeed nothing more than improvable assumptions. Expanded consciousness makes it possible to range far and wide mentally looking for real-world confirmation for various points of view. In the case of supernatural claims, none can be found. Of course, assumptions regarding the nature of proper moral civil behavior will prove themselves as profitable, useful, and good in practice. Assumptions regarding cause-effect relationships in the external material world can be verified through practice and testing. So there is plenty of structure on the abstract levels of existence closer to daily life.
Accepting another person's assumptions has been compared to a camel kneeling down to accept a heavy load loaded onto his back. Such an assumption could dictate a person's outlook and behavior for the rest of his life, so being aware of assumptions and choosing them carefully is an advantage.
Back in the sixties I had a lawyer friend who would periodically go into seclusion and take high oses of LSD. When I asked him what it did for him he said that he liked to think about all of that "God stuff". He maintained that seeing the universe from the perspective of (1) being composed of all-pervading space and all-pervading spirit or (2) that everything in one’s existence boils down to nothing more than the contents of his own personal mind. The mind includes concepts, other thoughts, and a representation of what appears to be an outside world. Personal awareness itself is the single overarching reality that is aware of all these contents and it too is a mystery. My friend could dwell on such deep concepts one day and return to his very complex occupation the next with no problems. This would seem to indicate a lack of conflict between the various levels of abstraction. It might be those who experience "spiritual hunger" who would find gratification in experiences of this nature. Experiences such as these can be remembered in normal daily consciousness, experienced again at a lower intensity with a low dose of a psychedelic, and essentially "relived" with high doses.
Expanded consciousness allows situations and scenarios to be seen from the perspective of "bigger pictures" or "broader abstractions". Such points of view include more data and are therefore more comprehensive. It becomes possible to look down on tension areas as greater wholeness as well as too see possible solutions to them. Decisions based on more data are more likely to be more accurate and constructive. A person can learn from psychedelics to look for bigger pictures and to benefit from them in daily life also. The word "high" refers to more than just drug intoxication. It also describes thought processes on a broader level of abstraction.
Self exploration can result in enough resolution of emotional and philosophical inner tension areas that it can become possible to reach much deeper levels of tranquility quickly and at will. Sometimes this process is referred to as "self purification". With psychedelics, we find an inner spontaneous intuitive intelligence that is motivated to maximize our survival and well-being both on the mental and the physical level.
The "highest" state of being that we humans could expect to experience would be where the body is totally relaxed in the "melted ecstasy" and is bathed in the corresponding bliss hormones. The mind would be freed from all earthly cares, good and bad, and would be blended with the internal bliss. Of course, this is a very highly ideal state and is rarely reached to perfection for any great length of time in this turbulent world. However with sufficient practice, psychedelic and otherwise, it can be held out as an ideal and approached to satisfactory degrees in a variety of situations.
Lines of wisdom from a few classic songs suggest productive approaches that can be taken toward our earthly situation and which will facilitate peace of mind. These different approaches, and others, can be experienced and examined vividly with psychedelic experience.
"I am just a weary pilgrim, plodding through this world of sin", and "pushing through the darkness yet another mile" suggest attitudes of acceptance, endurance, and determination in the face of difficulties in an unknown fate. To the extent that a person can relax in the fact that he has been temporarily consigned to this world in a human body that is frail, needy, and pain-sensitive while living in a world that is sometimes hostile and demanding, sometimes confusing, sometimes tedious, always uncertain, and ultimately incomprehensible, he can endure the more negative circumstances of life more easily and thereby enjoy deeper peace of mind. At the same time he is still free to enjoy the diversions, challenges, and satisfactions that life has to offer, hopefully in abundant measure.
"All day I face the barren waste without a taste of water" compares ourselves as craving the "spiritual home", or the goal of the spiritual quest. The next best thing to a spiritual home could be symbolized by the Emerald City of perfect tranquility and contentment. With proper practice, psychedelic and otherwise, this state of being can at least be approached while still living in human bodies in the material world.
"Some people say that a man's made of mud" acknowledges the fact that we all emerge from Mother Earth and that at least our bodies will return to her one day.
"Waiting for that big city where the saints go marching in", "I believe in angels", and "where the angels wait to join us" suggests the hope for a positive afterlife once we leave this temporary mysterious place. To the extent that we can assume or believe that where we are going is positive or at least neutral, we can calm the insecurity, anxiety,fear, defensiveness, and anger that is built right into our survival instinct.
"Life is like a mountain railway, with an engineer that's brave," suggests that courage is the desired attitude when dealing with challenges.
" If this is all there is to life, then I'll just keep on dancing," and "Rollin' with the flow" suggest a contented, happy, and graceful flow through the maze of life".
"Like sunlight dancing on your skin" refers to the blissful feelings associated with deep relaxation.
"We both got tired of chasing rainbows, here we are" represents the boundary line between striving and contentment.
These sorts of positive attitudes and approaches to life and others like them can be found, explored, and cultivated both during psychedelic experience and during daily life.
Conceptualizing the incredible magnificence and the miraculousness nature of existence in its wholeness that the high dose psychedelic experience can help to reveal can also provide a greater peace of mind. One conceptually becomes an integral subsystem of atoms within a huge atomic machine, or, alternatively, as a spiritual awareness in a universe composed of spirit. Either one can be experienced as a cosmic version of "belongingness". It is a satisfaction to the spiritual quest.
Bringing new and useful concepts into our mental world can be as productive and satisfying as bringing new and useful objects into our material world.
Faith might be defined as believing something that has never been proved, but if it brings greater tranquility, structure, and peace of mind, it is certainly is not a sin. I have faith in that perspective.
Personal growth and understanding with or without the stimulation of psychedelic experience is a meaningful and satisfying lifestyle. It gives direction and increases the quality of life.
In the long run, I think that psychedelics can help to move a person away from the mindset of an "Uncle Scrooge" frantically clawing at the world for various forms of sustenance and pleasure, or of battling a hostile world that appears threatening, to that of a Johnny Appleseed who selflessly and contentedly distributes his endless supply of positive time, energy, goodwill, and resources to the world as he goes along. Of course, his rational mind still chooses his actual behavior in the world, but the attitude of giving neutralizes the attitudes of neediness and defensiveness that come from the survival instinct. Just patting a person on the back at the right time is a flow of positive energy. So is offering a better way of doing something and helping to do it. A "giving" person has an emotional feeling of an abundance of inner positive resources instead of one of sucking neediness or of needing to defend himself against a threatening world. Giving of oneself to make it a better and happier world while still doing what is necessary for personal survival and well-being can be combined. One's relationship with the world can become a delicate yin-yang balance between giving and taking. This orientation, or approach, has the least tension and the most pleasant energy flow when compared to the others. It is positive, and it may very well be the most effective and efficient approach o the outer world. It would be like being a wealthy philanthropist in the emotional sense, doing good deeds and enjoying the positive returns. We have all known giving people and selfish people and we can understand their emotional worlds.
Developing the mindset of a giving person has the additional positive effect of resolving guilt. When enough events of personal giving are stored in memory, neuroplastic space changes its global perspective from that of someone who sees himself as "not a good person" to "someone who has become a good person". Acts of giving do not have to be so profound that they change the whole world; the hundreds of little things that we do in our own little sphere of influence every day can include multiple acts of giving. As presented in the ten commandments, it is the unjustified mistreatment of others that creates guilt. Guilt cannot be carried into the Emerald City of tranquility and must be resolved first. Repentance, remorse, making restitution, and confession are not easy, but they can help to resolve certain tension areas. Guilt can snare a person from the path to tranquillity and cause obsessive ruminations.
I believe that chronic negative feelings emerging from the survival instinct are often due to an unnecessary continuing habitual excess of the hormones associated with them and that they can be tamed through relaxation practice and meditation, psychedelic and otherwise. One can become more impervious to things that were previously considered to be threatening. Speaking poetically, it is possible to sooth the savage beast and to replace it with an inner source of relaxed positive energy that can flow out into the world with a generous attitude similar to that of Johnny Appleseed's. There are no artificial or contrived aspects to this change in attitude. It is "organic" in the sense that the pursuit of well-being is part and parcel of the natural and already-present survival instinct which in turn is buried deep in our biology.
A useful meditative technique with both mental and physical attributes is to conceptualize "chi", a hypothetical invisible highly refined fluid that can flow smoothly throughout the body. It can dissolve tensions as it flows and then to flow out into the world through the actions of the body. Although it is mental and imaginary, it can be felt in the body even during normal daily consciousness and it is amplified during psychedelic stimulation. Its flow can be formally smoothed and strengthened through the practice of tai-chi, yoga, mindfully-practiced sports, and chosen dance or exercise movements. Even while relaxed and sitting quietly, it can be felt as flowing out through the skin while activating the tingling, snug, and radiating feelings associated with serotonin and dopamine. It can also be conceptualized as flowing through the mind, dissolving mental tensions and replacing them with the concepts of peace and contentment. With practice and meditation, it can be trained to flow more and more into daily life activities. Psychedelics can facilitate the discovery, activation, and implementation of the inner source of "chi".
Freud once conceptualized the id as being the point where food, air, and water combine to produce the basic life energy that flows through the body and out to the world through word and deed. In the model that I like to use, a deeply relaxed body will experience a positive flow of this energy from the id due to the addition of bliss hormones. This life energy, like all life energy, can be channeled into chosen directions and can be cultivated into chosen realities both in the inner world and in the outer world. Conceptualizing it as a distinct entity, such as "chi" helps to channel it in a more focused manner.
To the extent that a person can find and identify with the concept of an inner source of positive creative energy, he will not need to claw at the world for the satisfactions that are found in the various stimulants, intoxicants, adrenalin-inducing extreme activities, or other forms of entertainment or comfort. He will not emotionally feel these needs because he already feels satisfaction and contentment within. He will seek to engineer his outside world in such a way that it reflects and reinforces his contented attitude, which could also be called making the world a better world.
The concept of an upward flow of positive inner energy ("id" or "chi") is one interpretation of Jung's concept of the archetypal image of the "upwelling fountain" that exists in all cultures. An inner abundant fountain of clear and clean energy is certainly to be desired over one being filled with negative emotional hormones. This essay suggests methods of purifying the pollution, with or without psychedelic stimulation. In addition, it shows how deep relaxation can help to add bliss hormones into the source of our upwelling life energy. Doing so results in a global improvement in one's personal existence.
One side-benefit to the state of deep relaxation and peace of mind is that of extreme patience. Feelings of urgency while waiting can become feelings of contentment in the immediate moment. Frustrations to progress can come to just sit there to be worked with or around rather than things to fight with. Others are the states of greater selflessness and mindfulness, both of which can be researched on Wikipedia and experienced both in normal daily consciousness and in amplified form with psychedelic stimulation. Others are greater frustration tolerance and deeper meditation possibilities in normal daily consciousness. Yet another is a sense of "cosmic security". As Caroline Channing put it in the Two Broke Girls TV show, "The universe will take care of us". Part of this attitude is due to an appropriate philosophy on the cosmic/religious level of abstraction and part is due to low anxiety. One can become more sensitive to messages from the intuitive mind and a calm rational mind can process information more objectively. A strong inner concept of tranquility can neutralize obnoxious stimulation from the outside world. The barking dog in the outer world evokes no inner emotional response whatsoever and is unable to disturb the tranquility. When feelings of urgency are diminished, movements of the body become less jerky and more fluid, and one "dances" with the world in a smooth give-and-take manner rather than desperately reacting to it. There is much positive material to be explored within in the neuroplastic image of tranquility.
Moving back and forth between an inner concept of peace and an outer concept of a a deeply relaxed body in the world is an excellent and pleasurable topic of meditation. It helps to prolong the "zone" of tranquility. The verbal thought process can continue in this state, but it disturbs the physical tranquillity no more than underwater holograms would disturb a still lake. Contemplation, musing, and meditation are all possible. In addition, the thought process is at a moderate tempo, clear, and concise. This state is excellent for problem solving, and creativity.
One mental quest that can be chosen is the inner search for the "melted ecsstacy", or perfect tranquility. Another can be the search for an inner source of fpositive energy.
A flow of positive and constructive energy from the self to the outside world through word and deed is a pleasure. It is good for mental health, it makes the world a better place, and it maximizes the likelihood of a future return of positive circumstances. We tend to reap what we sow. In addition, flowing positive energy out into the world helps to keep the same energy emerging from within. When we are feeling good, we are feeling good, pure and simple. When we are feeling good we are most patient, efficient, and oriented toward making things better. To the extent that we can see ourselves as producers of positive energy that goes out to benefit the world, we will lose our defensiveness, insecurity, fear of loss, and our self-doubt.
If everyone were civil, we would have peace on earth.
It might be wishful thinking, but maybe the ultimate purpose, meaning, and goal of the human drama will be reached when everyone on earth is healthy and happy.
A mind at peace in a body that is well-trained to relax deeply is a pleasure when times are good. It is also a healthy, convenient, pleasant, cost-free and rational alternative to stress reactions when times are not so good. An overall positive attitude toward oneself and the world can prevail even as circumstances change. President Nelson Mandela, one of the "high" people of the modern age, and after 27 years of imprisonment, is an example of this fact.