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
MANAGING BAD TRIPS
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.
The general thrust of the essay is to show how psychedelics, including mild marijuana, can be used as occasional low-dose "training aids" to stimulate and guide oneself in the practice of deeper relaxation, deeper peace of mind, cool rationality, and creativity. A great deal can be done with expanded consciousness that is not common knowledge. Since marijuana is becoming more legal, it is no longer necessary to be a subject in a research program to take advantage of the psychedelic experience for personal exploration.
Psychedelic drugs, as a class, have been found to have significant medical benefits. For instance, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has been found to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder and marijuana by itself has been found to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
Being the largest cash crop in the United States ($35 billion), 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, they can stimulate focused and penetrating meditation on a chosen topic. With higher doses, psychedelic drugs can also be a stimulation of awesome religious concepts and cosmic points of view and in this sense they could be considered as sacramental.
This essay discusses how it is possible to use occasional sessions with mild legal marijuana as "training aids" in stimulated meditation to more vividly conceptualize and move toward chosen mental and emotional states of being. In other words, a person can train himself into a new and better place. He can become relaxed and feeling good rather than tense, anxious, or depressed.
Also discussed is how the broad cosmic and religious concepts can not only be conceptualized but vividly experienced.
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. Nor have I heard of a single case of liver damage, rotted teeth, or any other physical damage. If there are any problems of this nature, they are very 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 60'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 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 physical and mental 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, 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 points.
Satisfactory levels of deep tranquility can be cultivated with or without any drugs at all, and practicing to achieve them is a meaningful challenge and satisfying lifestyle. Many have done so and are doing so. These states can be used as natural escapes from the turbulence, stress, and tedium of daily life and at the same time can provide the pleasure and satisfactions associated with them. Psychedelic drugs can safely and easily reveal some of the deeper levels of positive experience that are possible and thereby facilitate the practice. Having concrete targets to move toward is more efficient than random exploration.
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 they are very interesting, 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, cultivate, and customize in daily life. In addition, the lower dose sessions can more easily be guided into chosen topics.
For instance, a person might discover a deeper physical relaxation and a deeper peace of mind during a psychedelic session. If he were to practice that state of being during daily life and perhaps during future psychedelic sessions, it could become more and more of a part of his personality. He would know that such experiences exists within himself and that they can be a targets to aim for and to cultivate. A known target can help to organize mental forces that otherwise might remain dispersed. As will be shown, there are many other states of being, useful personal insights, and productive attitudes that are often revealed by expanded consciousness that can become cultivated and customized as parts of daily life.
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 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 growth can become both pleasant as well as useful and interesting.
I have been involved in the relatively new field of psychedelic drug research for much of my adult life, both professionally as a 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 from both the psychological and the spiritual perspectives with different natural and synthetic psychedelic drugs.
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.
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 developmenth and benefit in addition to recreation and diversion.
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. This scenario may one day be considered as one of the most cruel and deadly fiascos in history.
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 man-made and are the result of prejudice and ignorance.
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.
Meth users tend to become abusive personalities. 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. Perhaps it is an exaggeration, but if everyone in the world had personalities more like the pot users described above, there would be peace on earth. I once met an ex-policeman who was still using meth. He was discharged from the police force for shooting someone in the shoulder without sufficient cause.
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.
There are plenty of problems involving corruption and violence in the production and the distribution of marijuana 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 "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 factors 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 like any other commodity with only minor restrictions associated with it. It offers pleasure, education, better functioning, better health, and safety all at the same time so I doubt that it will be needlessly suppressed forever.
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 insight, visual image, inspiration, emotion, intuition, unusual way of looking at something, 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 could possibly be interpreted as something coming from nowhere and invading consciousness. If a totally inexperienced person should accidentally take a high 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 and knew exactly what to expect. 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 occasionally and unexpectedly float useful insights up to consciousness 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 where faces and animals are seen in clouds and in the embers of a fire. 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. This is a good visual representation of the clustering process of the intuitive mind at work. The faces in photographs and actual faces can change 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 and self-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.
After not having any psychedelic 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. Later I found out that it was equal to four doses. The brownie caused complete couchlock 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 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. 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.
I am hoping and guessing that high dose experiences might very well substitute for the binge drinking of alcohol. The extreme self-transcendence and the escape from the world 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 my own experience and that of people who I have known, frequency of use of psychedelics tends to diminish over time. The relaxation, meditation, abstract levels of thought, and creativity that they offer come more naturally even in daily life. Eventually, occasional low-dose sessions tend to become "short vacations" as well as reinforcement and elaboration of what has already been learned. A person who has learned to reach a reasonable level of peace of mind will probably find it even deeper without taking any psychedelic drugs whatsoever because the intuitive side of the mind has not been stimulated. As mentioned elsewhere, a body well-trained in deep relaxation has no stress hormones circulating in it to stir things up.
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 real outer world. The reason that this can take place is because the mind is a single virtual image filling a single awareness. It contains what appears to be a representation of an external reality 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 complexities relating to the outer world. An extreme example would be where in the inner world a person dreams that he can soar freely through space while in the real world he is near an open window. 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. 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 world.
While considering this point of view, one might devote some energy into meditating on how to improve the nature of the part of his mind that represents the relationship between his body and the outside world. In figuring out how to make improvements and then putting them into practice, within the constraints of natural law, of course, he is not only improving the quality of his inner mental existence but also that of the apparent outside material world.
There are many interesting ramifications to the point of view that we live entirely in our minds.
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 a high 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 "Managing 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
The physical nature of the psychedelic experience is generally one of relaxation and blissful feelings. In the model that I like to use, the mental side 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 to rational forms that can be remembered or communicated. We have all had sudden insights that take a little time to put into words. In normal daily consciousness these insights are what are often called the "aha" insights that pop to mind when completely unexpected as does other creative material. During psychedelic experience, the output of the intuitive mind flows to consciousness on a continuous basis and takes various forms such as words, visual images, music, feelings, and what I like to call "strong appreciations".
At first this flow of material to consciousness might seem to come from something not oneself. This could actually be true; if existence is God's dream, then the contents of our mind come from Him. On the other hand, it could be seen as a newly discovered inner well of fascinating mental material. Its source could be seen as spirit or as atoms in the brain interacting with the atoms of the drug, but it could legitimately be described as a fascinating miracle of mental organization regardless of its source.
The intuitive part of the mind that puts together spontaneous insights works outside of awareness and it 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 rational minds. 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 filled with 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 insert here something that is a little lengthy but very important. I was in contact with one faction of my family over email. One day with "stimulated meditation" I consolidated many of the thoughts in the emails into the realization that they had somehow developed a culture of abusing each other. It became a way of life. I started inserting subtle email suggestions on how the culture could be improved into something better, but they regarded them as interference. So the many thoughts in the emails became consolidated into three more general clusters: their hostile culture, my picture of something better, and the fact that these two processes could not merge. I am guessing but I am quite sure that if one of my family members experienced "stimulated meditation", he could see the situation from the same more abstract point of view that I held, he would be more flexible in his viewpoints, and that constructive choices could be made on that level. Being able to process data on that level of abstraction holds many advantages over dealing with countless individual events.
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 doses, 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 more 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 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.
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 intuitive mind can be legitimately conceptualized as a source of pre-existing information and also a plastic mental domain where new ideas, concepts, and attitudes can be planted and cultivated. This cultivation can take place with or without psychedelic stimulation, but the psychedelic stimulation makes the process more vivid and I am assuming faster.
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 it 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. Better decisions scan be made at the broader levels of abstraction because bigger pictures are dealt with. 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 person's opinion, for instance, it would be possible to consider and compare several opinions. It would be possible to compare clear images of where each person is "coming from". At moderate dosages, more sweeping concepts such as trends, influences, personalities, archetypes, and myths come to mind. One might consider the concept of charity itself rather than a single charitable act by itself. At high dosages cosmic and religious concepts are considered. One might consider the concept of all-pervading space, all-pervading spirit, or eternal time. Each of these is a broad concept of everything and everyone in existence. Conceptualizing hundreds of billions of galaxies filling a boundless universe as well as conceptualizing the mysterious force that keeps all of the atoms organized can be an awesome experience.
With expanded consciousness, it seems possible to "feel" another person's personality quite vividly. The meditation process takes on the additional feature of "appreciating" another person's overall personality. Future relationships with that person can permit a deeper understanding. Meditation on relationships between people can become the observation of individual groupings of events into larger abstractions. The broader abstraction of the interaction between personalities becomes more vivid.
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,and value 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. The world is 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 beauty of nature can become breathtaking. Food can become ambrosia. The most absurd and trivial can become miraculous. A blade of grass can be seen to share the same miracle of existence as the entire 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 best. Being deeply relaxed while enjoying direct perception in the here-and-now moment can be extremely refreshing.
One day recently while enjoying normal daily consciousness while waiting for my food in a restaurant, the very commonplace items on the table and the table itself suddenly took on the aspect of an extremely exquisite piece of still life art. In his book You Can't Go Home Again Thomas Wolfe refers to the advantage of being able to "see something as it really is" at least once a day,
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.
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. Within the right range of dosage, it is possible to bear down on a chosen topic with "stimulated meditation". Much problem solving can take place while in this state and it can continue in normal daily consciousness.
Discovering the mental tension issues that block the path to tranquility is quite easy. All that is necessary is to practice relaxation and see what 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 topics 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.
A study of women becoming nuns, another of people who had won the lottery, and perhaps others have indicated that changes in circumstances often have little long-lasting effects on baseline mood and approaches to life. To the extent to which this is true, such changes might better be made on the inside. 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.
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 realistic, 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 rational 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 itself interact with the galaxies of atoms that make up the brain, the combination of the two which in turn miraculously yield something new and meaningful in the immaterial, virtual, three-dimensional image that we call our mind. So even from the materialistic point of view, the new information comes from the drug as tailored by 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 image. From the strictly spiritual point of view, the entire process is God's dream. While the movement of atoms might be considered as strictly materialistic, awareness, thought, and meaning could be considered as being beyond the material and bordering on the spiritual.
I like to use the phrase "self-transcendence" to describe the experiences ranging from a pleasant "high" up to the deepest involvement with the broadest of cosmic and spiritual abstractions. They all refer to conceptually experiencing a broader level of abstraction than the "concrete" level, which is the flow of personal events in everyday life. Psychedelics could be classified as "level of abstraction amplifiers" resulting in the new and useful insights that are found in the process.
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 put their health and their social standing in jeopardy for its sake. Some conceptualize at 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, 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.
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 a few 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" these concepts intensely 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, 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 the paramount background mental process rather than the experience of the excess intensity of the "quest" hormones. This is the "macro" example of putting keeper bars on horseshoe magnets. The magnets are still there, but their intensity is neutralized. It is a pleasure when a tension issue is "satisfied", fades into the background, and 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 at the same time as possibly with God Himself. In other words, he would be comfortable with the concept that since spirit is a mystery he could enjoy the concept of a real all-pervading spirit without recriminations.
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, 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. 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". All of my early research volunteers received high doses, got "wasted", and were able to return to work the next day.
I am guessing and hoping that psychedelics could serve the purpose of satisfying the need for self-transcendence in people who would otherwise gravitate toward the more dangerous drugs for the same purpose. In other words, they could act as the opposite of "gateway" drugs. One newspaper article I read said that alcohol use went down in neighborhoods that had a medical marijuana cooperative.
I am sure that psychedelics do not "scratch the same biological itch" that results from the withdrawals from 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. Feeling good is covered in the next section. 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.
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 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 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".
In my version of the yellow brick road, the rest stops along the way are as important as the adventures between them, but they are used for the practice of the state of deep relaxation, peace, and contentment. Words such as "peace" and "contentment" can be used as mantras to help to encounter, deepen, and prolong the tranquil state. The Emerald City represents the goal, the deepest level of peace and tranquility. Speaking poetically, it is a place where the heavy armor and the weapons can be hung up, all hormone-emotion feelings of neediness or defensiveness emerging from the survival instinct are put to rest, and an opulent robe, such as that worn by a Magi, can be put on. Then it is possible to float serenely up to the highest minaret in the city where the entire landscape of Oz can be viewed from a dispassionate and yet focussed blissful perspective. To the extent that a person practices this state of being through meditation and relaxation, any kind of drug used to facilitate the process will become less and less necessary. It helps to remember that the relaxed body facilitates peace of mind and vice versa.
A mind at peace can multitask. It can be aware of the blissful feelings in a deeply relaxed body while being engaged in some other activity at the same time.
Refinement is a word sometimes used to describe a skillful and harmonious relationship with the outside world. An appropriate phrase could be "relaxed, effective, and dignified comportment". Another could be "a smooth relationship between the self and the way things are anyway" One of my acquaintances, a poised, elegant, and good-natured lady, once told me that she used an occasional session of "stimulated meditation" strictly to focus her continuous lifestyle practice of what she called "refining her comportment with the world". She considered mental experience as being extremely important but that the rubber really meets the road where the body meets the world. She felt that by refining and adjusting her attitudes and approaches to the world she would experience more pleasure and less stress. Her explanation was that if a person were to interact with the outside world with both her rational and her intuitive faculties of mind, she would be relating to it more completely, and with more sensitivity and effectiveness than she would if she used her rational mind alone. She says it is like using more of her mind to experience the world. Her practice involves an analysis of her recent world drama to see if any insights relating to making things more positive come to mind. She practices "feeling the world right through her skin" while her rational intellect continues to participate in the process but with the advantage of additional data. She practices an extra "sixth sense" with which to become aware of profound but more subtle realities in the outside world and in relationships. She more quickly and more accurately can tell where a person is "coming from" in terms of personality, motivation, and philosophy of life. She experiences a global "feel" for another person's entire personality. She puts two and two together and finds patterns more often because of her larger perspective. She "feels" people, places, and things and new possibilities with a calmer and stronger focused attention and with what she calls "much finer precision with respect to the give-and-take moment-by-moment relationship with the world". She feels that she can detect the "atmosphere" of situations more vividly. Daily life becomes the practice of refinement. Attention is placed on the entire mind-brain-body-outside world process. Being a conduit for positive, productive, and benevolent energy from the self to the outside world by means of word and deed is a satisfying state of being, far better than inner neediness or defensiveness, and it is the one most likely to result in positive consequences.
She states that it takes a great deal of personal refinement for a person to become totally poised and relaxed and to feel the positive feelings associated with deep relaxation radiating from the skin all over her entire body. She considers that state of being as one of her favorites and practices it day by day.
Of course, these sorts of explorations and practices are not restricted to women only.
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 a series of jerks. We all know people with greater refinement; some are entertainers in the media. Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn come to mind. 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 into most circumstances.
After discovering a new attitude during psychedelic experience, it is possible to meditate on its possible effects on relationships to the outside world. During daily life, the new attitude can be tested for effectiveness. For instance, discovering new ways in which a soft answer can "turneth away wrath" and testing it in daily life could lead to more refined relationships. It becomes possible to debate with more objectivity despite the intensity of the mood of the debate partner.
Peace of Mind
Another acquaintance 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". He could enjoy the blissful feelings associated with deep relaxation along with a clear rational mind untroubled by any emotional signals associated with stress or tensions in the body. He maintains that the first key tool in developing this skill was diligent long-term practice in relaxation both with and without psychedelic stimulation, and that it has resulted in his body becoming a "mobile luxury spot". 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 of them. The third aspect was seeking and finding positive attitudes and positive points of view through meditation, psychedelic and otherwise. He considered the zone to be a "home base" that was always there, and that all he had to do was to willfully "let go of everything" in order to fall deeply into it. 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. For example, diligent meditation on finding a new 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. Discarding hopeless causes and finding more reachable goals increases satisfactions and diminishes discouragements. For persistent unsolvable problems, the 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 hormone-emotions. Rationality combined with the perception of events along with new insights relating to them becomes a much more effective mode of meditation.
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 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.
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. This leaves the mind free to explore neutral, positive 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 feels 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.
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.
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 form of mild euphoria. 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 memories, current circumstances, and future prospects are not exactly glowing, he can still drop into this state. In a similar manner, Tiger Woods could perform as a well-trained athlete in spite of a complicated life situation. A person who practices the state of relaxed well-being might be considered to be a self-absorbed seeker of pleasure, but certainly no more more so than any person who practices sports or any other form of healthy activity.
As examples of the extent to which we can willfully control our reaction to stressful situations, some of the soldiers of Seal Team 6 fell asleep on the flight to their target. The astronauts played a game of seeing who could keep their pulse rate the slowest before liftoff. We have been consigned to this world as frail needy creatures facing hostilities, demands, confusion, and complete uncertainty while programmed by a "curse" of a survival instinct with all of its fears, anxieties, and insecurities that keep us trapped here. Learning to pacify our fear and anger 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 how to handle situations rather than by getting hysterical and irrational. Psychedelic experience can make it possible to practice deep relaxation, and this practice can be continued in daily consciousness.
A well-trained body can fall into this state instantly under most circumstances. Situational awareness is not affected. A return to activity is also instantaneous and involves no disorientation. It can be done at a stoplight. 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. 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 diversions are unnecessary while in this state because the peaceful luxury is totally sufficient and satisfying in itself.
The mind continues to work, but in a very clear, precise, and peaceful manner. It can be freed to ramble on its own or individual topics can be chosen for objective scrutinization. Useful insights can flow to consciousness and be recognized as such even without psychedelic stimulation. It is possible to contemplate and cultivate neuroplastic images. The neuroplastic images pertaining to peace, such as the starry sky, the desert, or blissful darkness will leave the mind-body system in a state very close to perfect peace. I believe that allowing the mind to more or less move on its own from topic to topic and back again isa the most relaxing, but at the same time that very focussed and useful meditation is also possible.
Combining healthy stress-free relaxation with the laser clarity of rational thought uninfluenced by negative emotions, and with useful insights emerging from the intuitive mind, and with a body experiencing blissful pleasure, all combine to become a pleasant way to pass the time of day. Any sleepless periods at night involve a luxurious body combined with calm contemplation that take the place of tossing, turning, and fretting. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that deep relaxation can be a complete substitute for sleep.
It takes a "well integrated" personality to achieve and maintain the tranquil state because all physical and mental tension issues 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 consigned to this turbulent world, trapped by our terrifying survival instinct, and not by our own choosing. Speaking poetically, we can still come up smelling like a rose even though we have been mistreated.
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 massaged, or being stroked with an fur mitten. The inside of the body feels hollow because there is no no stress or tension there. A skin bathed in bliss hormones covering a stress-free hollow body with a mind blessedly at peace is about as good as it gets in this particular world. Even better might be the addition of the hormone that produces the joie de vivre (joy of life) emotion.
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 still available even under extreme stress.
Becoming more aware of hormones and the emotional experiences that they evoke can be an extremely valuable education. They can be recognized as separate realities and controlled by drugs and 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 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 rationalize it and give it form for the sake of rational consciousness.
It is a pleasure to identify an existing subtle 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 these 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 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 posttraumatic 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 finding 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 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 an appropriate neurooplastic image 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. 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 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 psychedelic experience. For instance, my own vivid psychedelic experience of a possible positive afterlife vastly intensified my previous one of far distant ephemeral clouds and angels. The new one was intensely experienced in my own head 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, 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 choose to ignore that one. 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. The old abstraction stays there, but it is less often visited, 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 fewer 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 doesn't change the past but it can better prepare a person for similar events 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 an 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 creatures having been stuck into a world that is often hostile and demanding, always uncertain, ultimately incomprehensible, while facing an unknown afterlife. 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 or at least diversion. Psychedelic drugs, used within the right chosen dosage ranges, can provide diversion, escape, and productive meditation.
The mind can create all sorts of mental material including the full range of mundane, 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 themselves. 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 magnificence, significance, and the grandeur of cosmic and religious experiences are described in the next section. This section deals with other important aspects of these experiences and concepts. The observations and conclusions discussed are the result of considerable experience. I m quite sure that no one could cover all of this territory with a single or maybe even several high dose experiences. I amy be wrong, but I am quite sure that anyone who diligently explores these areas with the intention of reducing them to the rational level would eventually reach the essentially same conclusions that I have.
It is significant that when vividly conceptualizing existence from one cosmic or religious concept and then changing to another, it is like "living in a whole different world". This can be somewhat disconcerting until one gets used to it.
Cosmic-religious level concepts include all-pervading space, all-pervading spirit, creation, the nature of being, causation, awareness, the mind-brain boundary, the afterlife, karma, 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. 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. Anyone who believed that the existence of spirit is a mystery and that if it existed its nature would also be a mystery would be less likely to jump to such conclusions. Even the atheistic point of view is an assumption since it is impossible to prove that God does not exist. The assumption that God is a mystery is the default point of view since none of the others can be proved or disproved.
The cosmic/religious area of the mind-brain is very spacious. 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 associated with each one filling each of the columns. I also like the concept of the "mind-brain" to resolve the conflict between the source of its 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 its source it a mystery, I think it best to refer to it in general terms.
Accepting the point of view that God and existence are both mysteries makes it possible to continue to live as before but to ignore the issue of living by assumptions altogether. 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 doing it. Decisions could be made with more objectivity, less prejudice, and with a greater focus on 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.
Jay Leno once commented on this flexibility of thought during a psychedelic experience. 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 are a somewhat separate topic.
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 here and suggest that maybe even God does not know how He came into being.
Apparently people need structure on the cosmic level so badly that they are sometimes willing to defend with their lives what ultimately amount 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 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.
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 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. 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 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 and to keep it alive. This process is truly a miracle and a mystery. A similar process takes place in our brains and presumably results in our thoughts being created. Our thoughts are immaterial virtual images and are not even composed of atoms. As such they are not even part of the material universe. In that sense, they are "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?".
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. Without this clustering function taking place, the universe would be nothing but atoms in chaos like silt suspended on water. 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, but since free will seems to be a reality it is our responsibility to use it well. The more things we take into consideration when we make a decision, the more likely it will be a good one. The more impulsively we act the more likely will be the unexpected consequences.
Since the contribution of spirit or natural law or something else to destiny in general and 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 circumstances dictate our behavior, we can ignore the mystery of causation and at the same tie 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 different people 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.
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 as a virtual projection 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. 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 concept the highest possible resolution of opposites.
A possible resolution to the mystery of causation might be on the conceptual continuum ranging from the existence of free will on the one end to the concept that God controls every atom in the universe at the other. The extent to which God controls the universe, if at all, is a mystery. At the dead center of this conceptual continuum is the point where the conflict is not even an issue. Things simply happen whether their impetus is spirit, free will, some combination of the two, or something else altogether. Finding this center point is another example of how conflicts can be resolved on the cosmic level of abstraction. Resolutions of this nature are more difficult on the everyday level of abstraction because on that level we tend to think in terms of bits and pieces and individual events rather than in terms of global perspectives.
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 frantically to a cosmic assumption such as regarding the meaning of their lives and experiencing all of the conflicts associated with it. 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 his past experiences.
The only thing that is provable is the consequence of living by one 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.
The mind-brain boundary is a mystery because it is impossible to know how a brain, that operates with physical chemicals made of atoms, could produce a three-dimensional virtual image that has no substance whatsoever. The mind is not even part of the material universe and as such is the closest thing to spirit that we can experience if not spirit itself.
With respect to the mystery of meaning and purpose, a student once asked Ramana Maharshi 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 unknown forces. As such, our only known 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 complexity and by itself might be its own justification for being. In terms of complexity, we are the highest beings in the known universe. Beyond this, however, we are free to choose from any number of secondary meanings and purposes as it suits us. For instance, we could become devoted to the purpose of learning as much as possible about a certain topic or perfecting a particular skill 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. As such, a person is better able to focus attention on creating meaningful structures on the level of daily life. He 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 structures 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 "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 contentment in the here-and-now 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 can be far more rewarding than agonizing endlessly over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or how creation 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.
This is certainly not to say that assumptions on the cosmic level are all bad. There are good and useful ones, 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 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 ones that seem truly authentic to us as individuals and to ignore any that someone else tries to impose on us.
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 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 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 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 concepts. 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 organize our bodies and our here-and-now environment, and then to be constantly rearranged in order to generate endless change taking place everywhere. Also to be recognized is the unity of the body, the mind, and all-pervading space and/or spirit. One senses 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 cultures who have had the same sorts of experiences with and without psychedelic drugs.
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 keeps changing 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, and doing so does not cause any conflict 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. 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, is a form of worship.
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 "accurate" or even if there is yet another answer that is beyond our comprehension. In fact, there is little reason to agonize over anything that is an unsolvable mystery. Clearly, the here-and-now moment is all that exists, and from the materialistic viewpoint it is made entirely of atoms arranged in space. What it is that keeps these atoms organized is a mystery, so I would just as soon call it "magic" to avoid conflicts between the spiritualistic and the materialistic definitions of causation. A broader abstraction of this nature smooths out the flow of mental energy throughout the mental cosmic abstractions at lower levels, neutralizes conflicts between the various "cosmic assumptions", and permits another step forward toward peace of mind.
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. A more complex perspective is that He controls specific parts of it on occasion but leaves the rest to the unfolding natural laws that He has already created and to the free will that He permits us to exercise. The materialistic point of view is that natural laws by themselves cause existence to unfold as it does. If each atom moves according to natural laws and the universe is made of atoms then natural laws are in effect everywhere. Since none of these points of view can be proven, the point of view that spirit is a mystery would seem to be most appropriate. These points of view can become very vivid and experienced very deeply during high-dose psychedelic sessions, and their ramifications can be examined.
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 them. 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.
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 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 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 experiences can be extremely beautiful:
Suspended in the bliss of NirvanaTouched by a tentative thoughtThen merged gain with the infinite seaBrought home, again, to Thee
With perfect precision and finite divisionsThis delicate filigreeWith lines so fine they start to combineWith celestial purity
Sometimes the intricacies and the complexities of the inner visual imagery are so astounding and 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 under the right psychedelic conditions.
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. Existence 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 natural laws since it is composed of nothing but atoms. 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 everything in the universe. The discovery of the Higgs-Boson 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 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 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 the current moment moves through it, our experience is generated. Some have suggested that the universe is a very long "tape loop" that plays over and over.
The conflict between the concepts of free will and determinism is 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. What seems to be right is based on our entire past experience, so the current assumptions that are made can be trusted to be at least as productive as they had been in the past.
If this super-complex energy process is not seen as unfolding exclusively by itself but instead by some percentage of 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 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.
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" 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 shut off, what would be left would be absolutely pure infinite and eternal space with no energy-atoms present. This image can be conceptualized mentally and cultivated in neuroplastic space as a symbol of perfect peace and purity if so desired:
The endless vastness of spaceA silent witness is seeingNo disturbance anyplaceOnly perfect Being
The cosmic concept of pure empty space involves perfect peace of mind and a perfectly relaxed body. Sri Aurobindo (www.aurobindo.net) referred to this particular concept as being so pure that it does not even a ripple in it in order to exist.
Everything in our material existence is permeated through and through with a single volume of invisible space. Vibrating "principles" move through this single volume of space thus creating what appears to us as atoms moving along their paths. The "principles" move through space like laser images move through mist without disturbing the position of the droplets in the least. Space itself is imperturbable except for the presence or the absence of vibrating energy-atoms. Seeing points of view such as this can come as a surprise during psychedelic experience and, as always, are a mystery.
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. 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 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 prove or to disprove the existence of a mysterious God.
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.
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 it and 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?
At least he could investigate the cause-effect relationships that exist within the dough and he could strive to mold it into the most rewarding configurations possible. But no matter how many measurements he took, or how much he molded the dough, he still would not know where it came from.
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 is not made out of atoms and we cannot prove that it is an expression of spirit. I 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 seeing things. "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 of existence.
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. 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 and the best we can do is relax in the concept. There is no way to establish an external frame of reference to existence because we are trapped inside of it. This explains the koan that the eye cannot see itself.
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 any corresponding neuroplastic changes in the brain. In any case, I like to refer to them as neuroplastic images for the sake of simplicity. 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. Meditation can be used to select the most pleasant and the most useful images to cultivate in neuroplastic space. 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. With enough cultivation, they can even become sources of diversion during meditation periods. As an example, I would like to describe the most spectacular neuroplastic concept-image that I have ever experienced.
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 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. Death is the ultimate act of letting go. However, when a person lets go to such a high degree while still alive in the real world, a cascade of bliss hormones can take place due to the extremely deep relaxation. This can make death seem like an extremely positive experience. It was like being a disembodied mind liberated of all earthly cares suspended in a domain of perfect peace, bliss, and purity. It is easy to surrender to something positive. 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. It became the basis of a new neuroplastic image that I still meditate upon. Fortunately, you don't have to be dead to enjoy some deep level of this particular experience.
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.
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 death. 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.
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 blissful darkness. 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.
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 is a giant ultramodern luxury cruise 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 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 cruise 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.
A neuroplastic image with many interesting aspects is a knight in shining armor. The shining armor represents honor and the ability to defend against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Mud that people sling slides right off of shiny armor. His sharp lance represents the ability to detect and neutralize threats before they can be effective. An honorable knight knows that the mistreatment of others leads to guilt and that guilt is a significant barrier on the path to tranquility. Inner emptiness and purity in this regard is to be preferred. With his mighty steed, the knight can still experience the power trip whenever power is needed for the defense of himself or his loved ones. It is possible to meditate on how a knight with these features would have reacted to situations in the past how he would do so in anticipated situations in the future.
These sorts of images and others like them can jump to mind under appropriate circumstances in daily life and influence corresponding attitudes and states of mind. They are like "memory joggers" for entire states of being rather than the ones used just to remember forgotten words or people's names. The mind can hold a variety of each type of these different kinds of memory joggers.
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 provide elements of objective control over any existing negative ones, but also to act as "guiding lights" through the maze of life.
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 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 concepts on an abstract level of mental experience rather than as viewing what might sometimes appear to be realities especially at higher doses. As will be demonstrated, it also helps to use the rational mind to analyze and structure of the experience because a rational resolution can often neutralize the emotional effects of the experience.
One 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. I finally concluded that this particular experience might take place when the "organizing function" of the intuitive mind became exhausted and was taking a break. It typically comes after the peak of the experience whereas before the peak everything is precise, clear-cut, and seems to be a "trip" that leads somewhere. I figured that if the mind could take a break, so could my body. It seemed to be true; during these experiences it was possible to relax my body very deeply. The deeper I relaxed, the more pleasant the visual imagery became, but it still did not make any sense. I consider deep relaxation practice to be a valuable pastime because it leads to what Dr. Grof, my mentor, calls the "melted ecstasy", or perfect relaxation combined with its associated bliss. Being able to willfully enjoy deep relaxation during daily life is a healthy asset. Another aspect of nonsense is the fact that meaning and purpose are ultimately mysteries. No one knows why existence emerged from nothingness. As such, seeing existence as nonsensical is one of the many different legitimate alternative ways of seeing it. Getting used to that particular point of view and not wasting energy avoiding it or grappling with it has its advantages in terms of helping to clear the pathway to peace of mind. I find the mantra "nonsense is good" to be very relaxing during these episodes while at the same time providing global structure to the experience. The rational mind remains intact although it still tends to think in terms broad abstractions rather than in details. Meditation on this level is still quite satisfying and productive. In addition, the stimulated physical benefits of psychedelic experience are still available, such as the enjoyment of music, savory snacks, walks in nature, dance, hugging a loved one, etc. In other words, it is possible to move the psychedelic stimulation from the mental world to the body-world relationship. It is possible to focus on the process "where the rubber meets the road" and to practice "refined comportment" there.
At the right time in a "trip" and within the right dosage range there can be a Yin-Yang combination of the concepts of the sublime and the ridiculous side by side. The sublime is the experiencing of very broad cosmic and religious abstractions while the ridiculous, in my case at least, is a friendly hilarious attitude coming from cartoon land toward the attempts to structure something that is ultimately a mystery. Cartoon land might be random and chaotic, but it can also be fun and funny.
I personally had some trouble working through the feelings of nonsense and meaninglessness and the philosophies that are associated them, so finally being able to see meaning on the 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. Reasonable meaning can still be found on lower levels of abstraction, such as the quest for health, love, security, knowledge, and well being, but the overall cosmic picture is still a mystery. Grappling with a cosmic mystery is an exercise in futility. Accepting a cosmic mystery for what it is resolves many conflicts at the lower levels of abstraction and is a giant step toward tranquility.
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. In the psychedelic dream, let the threatening entities do their worst. The self-sacrifice of oneself to the threatening mental spirits, to human suffering, mythical beings and animals, assumed conspiracies, chaos, etc., is on a higher moral plane than the more primitive energies of the threat itself. 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 be educational.
Surrendering can become a very "Yin" experience. It can be like becoming as untouchable as a ghost while floating through mythical representations of the mortal conflicts within the human drama. "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. 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. 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 the personal concept of Hell absolutely untouched. Deep relaxation can neutralize the emotional reaction to many internal and external threats.
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 and profitable.
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 educational 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.
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.
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
Another approach 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. The wind whipped the bush 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. 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 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 in his own little corner of the world, he knows that at least he is moving some 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 chaotic. 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 be 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 inn 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.
A way to handle this fact of reality would be to channel the inevitable forces of destruction into ways that minimize the suffering that can be associated with them. Many efforts have already been made in this direction. Medical science is an example as are the attempts to create equitable and benevolent political and economic systems within countries. We all still age and die, but the process has made much more tolerable with medicines, artificial joints, and other procedures. Democratic forms of government allow peaceful change whereas dictatorships sometimes result in massacre in the streets. Family planning involves a degree of sacrifice, but it would clearly involve less suffering than poverty, overcrowding, or battles for territory or resources. Adjusting the definition of work and the appropriate compensation for it could reduce the suffering associated with technological unemployment and unemployment due to other reasons. If a person were compensated for "productive potential" through education as well as for actual production, he would be motivated to remain educated for possible later contributions to society while not actually being productive at the time. He would be motivated to advance his education and to remain well-rounded instead of giving up and living under a bridge. If society and technology could somehow guarantee a reasonable basic subsistence living for people for whom homelessness would be the only alternative, perhaps the extent of desperate greedy behavior by the already-wealthy to assure personal survival at high secure levels would be reduced and inequities in the financial system would be fewer. Job failure would not be as threatening, so stepping on other people's fingers would not be as necessary. Using technology to recycle and to utilize renewable energy resources reduces shortages of non-renewable natural resources and the suffering that results from them. Methods of achieving greater relaxation and peace of mind, such as those suggested here and elsewhere, could reduce the tensions associated with having been stuck into this sometimes-hostile, always uncertain, and ultimately incomprehensible world while at the same time being programmed with intense survival emotions. An ideal pie-in-the-sky situation would be where all of the inevitable forces of destruction could be channeled into areas of minimal suffering.
As computers drive more and more of the machines that provide our goods and services, the worldwide historical stressful struggle for survival and security should diminish. More satisfying and fulfilling pastimes and activities for humanity could hopefully be found as the machines continued to do their work. We would not have to spend so much time hunting for food in the jungle or the modern equivalent thereof. It seems that the marketplace and the various political systems should adjust naturally and hopefully painlessly to this new and growing blessing in the history of mankind. All of this sort conjecture could be conceptualized as being on the sweeping social, mythical, or archetypal level. Perhaps "stimulated meditation" would help to find positive solutions on this level. No doubt alcohol has contributed to some very unproductive decisions.
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, and individual human cells. 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.
The top six levels of abstraction are strictly mental, so there is plenty to explore in those regions. For instance, contemplating the top level can lead to deeper peace of mind and tranquility. Contemplating the second and third levels can stimulate a deeper appreciation for the miracle and the mystery of creation emerging from nothingness. Contemplating the fourth level down can stimulate an appreciation of such magic as how the atoms making up a single human cell can extract exactly the right atoms from the bloodstream, process them in exactly the right way to keep the cell alive, and then to release them back into the bloodstream in transformed configurations. This process would be equivalent to galaxies merging and intermingling. Contemplating the fifth level down can help to explain the existence and nature of suffering. Everything that is created including living beings, structures, and empires must eventually be changed or destroyed in one way or another. Purposefully engineering the most peaceful possible change under all possible circumstances would be desirable. Contemplating the daily life level on the sixth mental level can help us to figure out ways to maximize the likelihood of well-being and to minimize the many various forms of discontent which exist on the seventh level, the experience of the individual events of 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 in the mythical and 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 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.
I believe that there is a strong correlation between the depth of physical relaxation and the proportion of mental rational thought both during psychedelic experience and otherwise. When deeply relaxed and with no hormonal signals coming from the body, the rational mind becomes very sharp and very objective. This is an excellent state of mind for any kind of analytical thought. In the model that I like to use, the stimulation of the psychedelic drug moves from the intuitive side of the mind and the body to rational thought itself where the pop insights, the broader perspectives, and the clustering of data effects can still take place. One can contemplate the elements of a complex situation and see it from a broader perspective and with a new insight by simply relaxing his body deeply and meditating on it. When I saw the suffering of the human drama from the broader cosmic perspective - psychedelic "heaven" and psychedelic "hell" mentally resolved into a concept of the two blended together in existence - it lost some of its emotional "sting". It became more like the serene accepting view of existence as taken by the Buddha or Siddhartha. From this point of view, contributing to the positive side of existence while yielding to the negative side instead of fighting it results in deeper peace of mind. Contributing something positive to the world is much less stressful than fighting the negativity in it. From this point of view, yielding to the negative in the human drama while presenting positive influences is the most efficient way to improve circumstances.
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, so much the better.
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
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 it. 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. Objectivity and dispassion helps to clear the path to tranquility. Emotions such as fear, disgust, and outrage definitely block the path. What is is what is and the best we can do is to try to make things better and let it go at that.
Just as deep relaxation can be an escape from physical, mental, and emotional stress, the concept that all of existence is a mystery can be an escape from philosophical conflict at the cosmic and religious levels of abstraction. Both can be cultivated and deepened with meditation, psychedelic and otherwise.
Lines from a few classic songs suggest productive approaches that can be taken toward our earthly situation that will facilitate peace of mind.
"I am just a weary pilgrim, plodding through this world of sin," suggests attitudes of acceptance, endurance, and determination in the face of difficulties in an unknown fate. To the extent that a person can accept the fact that he has been temporarily consigned here in a human body that is frail, needy, and pain-sensitive while living in a world that is sometimes hostile and demanding, sometimes confusing, 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.
"Waiting for that big city where the saints go marching in," and "I believe in angels" 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".
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 offer can also provide a greater peace of mind.
Seeing ourselves as very small parts of something of such grandeur can make our daily life difficulties seem much less significant.[>
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 and peace of mind, it is certainly is not a sin.
Personal growth with or without the stimulation of psychedelic experience is a meaningful and satisfying lifestyle. It 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 or of battling a hostile world that appears threatening to that of a Johnny Appleseed contentedly distributing positive time, energy, and resources to the world as he goes along.
An emotional feeling of an abundance of positive energy within oneself to be shared with the world through word and deed is certainly an improvement over a feeling of desperate sucking neediness to fill an inner void of insecurity, or feeling the anger and defensiveness against a seemingly hostile world. I believe that chronic feelings emerging from the survival instinct are often due to an unnecessary continuing excess of the hormones associated with them and that they can be tamed through relaxation practice and meditation, psychedelic and otherwise. Speaking poetically, it is possible to sooth the savage beast and to replace it with an inner reservoir of relaxed positive energy that can flow out to the world in a manner similar to that of Johnny Appleseed's.
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 return of positive circumstances. We tend to reap what we sow.
To the extent that the rational and the intuitive sides of the mind can work together smoothly, there will be an efficient relationship with the world.
A mind at peace in a body that is well-trained to relax is a pleasure when times are good and a healthy, convenient, satisfying, and rational personal escape and sanctuary when times are not so good.