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I read a great interview in The Sun with a Czech doctor who was a pioneer in the early LSD trials in psychiatry back in the 50’s (many thanks to T-Huggs for this!). It got me really amped up to the point that I hate to write about it.
Anyone who’s consumed psilocybin mushrooms or LSD knows about it’s transformative potential. This has been heralded in art and literature, but has kept its distance from the realm of modern Western science. It is a silly drug, used by silly hippies. This is ironic because we embrace less transformative, more addictive and harmful substances with the aim of improving mental health. In fact, when it comes to LSD, anyone with a scientific mind is expected to be closed off to any greater truth that could come from these experiences – a huge travesty. In the article, Dr. Grof traces the early experiments and outcomes, and how he has worked with patients since the outlawing of LSD in America – through deep breathing work that can bring people to altered states. However Grof concludes this is no substitute for the unlimited potential of LSD. Citing examples such as scientist Francis Crick who admitted he discovered the helix structure of DNA with the help of LSD, he makes an excellent case for its responsible use. Under the guidance of experts such as Grof, people can make great strides in personal development. When they started doing clinical trials in the 50’s, doctors found that psychiatric patients were able to make more progress in one session using LSD than they were over a period of 10-20 sessions. I remember reading about a study with mentally ill people who became very coherent about articulating their inner world and receptive to new modes of being while on LSD. This is not something that needs to be recreated again and again, sometimes 1 or 2 experiences are all you need. Using it in a semi-clinical setting could also ensure the purity of these substances, which is also important.
The amazing thing is, the detrimental effects of these drugs are nothing compared to use of the more FDA friendly oxycotin, lithium or the plethora of other side-effect riddled psycho-pharmaceuticals.
For a long time, I was skeptical of the benefits of LSD. Psilocybin mushrooms are organic, a naturally occurring compound that you can digest, and this made sense to me. LSD is an isolated chemical from a laboratory and this was “bad”. But I changed my mind after my experience with it. The mushroom experience is a very organic one, enabling you to connect in a new way to the earth, your physical body and others (with a deep understanding of the inter-connectedness). It primarily engages the 4 lower chakras, perhaps because of the digestive element. LSD also gives you the ability to connect to the earth and other humans, but it is lighter and primarily engages the higher chakras; producing more intense third-eye hallucinations, psychic experiences and multi-dimensional landscapes through sound and light. I have come to decide that LSD is one outstanding example for the human potential of spiritual transformation through technology. It’s easy to make jokes about hippies opening their minds through psychedelics, but if one gives themselves over to the experience of psychedelics – they will see the world in a fundamentally different way; inevitably more textured, more multi-dimensional, more compassionate.
Of course, everyone’s experience is different. But most ‘bad trips’ are a product of bad psychology, rather than bad pharmacology. And if there is one undeniable truth it is that these experiences are deeply individual and bring buried things to the surface. This is why they have been used successfully in psychiatry. And just like ordinary life – who you are with and the environment you take them in changes everything, except this is magnified 10-fold. Everyone who has done it knows that the first couple times it is helpful to have a ‘guide’ see you through the experience. It can be jarring and mind-blowing when what you thought was important no longer seems important, and what you overlooked is now suddenly clear. Your understanding of reality shattered and slowly reassembled!! The cold and impermeable 1-dimensional understanding of an ‘objective reality’ is now painfully elementary, possibly hilarious. I’ve had powerful healing experiences and aided others in healing with mushrooms. I’ve guided others, been guided, and had creative breakthroughs. The union with my higher self and the glimpses of unlimited potentiality continue to motivate me to improve myself daily. Not everybody has these experiences, but I believe the potential is there. If used responsibly, it is my belief that this could truly be a rite of passage in a society that is bereft of ritual.
I have had experience with other drugs, such as Ecstasy (MDMA), and I would say the inherent potential of these kinds of drugs is not as beneficial for the average person as it is with LSD and mushrooms.
Obviously psychedelics are not the only way we can experience “non-ordinary states of consciousness” and we should explore other options. Mushrooms and LSD are to be used with great care and and must be respected as a sacrament of knowledge. When you take them you have to trust yourself and your body, and surrender yourself to the unknown. That is very difficult for most of us, and in itself a great exercise.
All this potential, and we can’t even get trials on this amazing psycho-active substance back into our clinical settings. What scares people is the dynamism of the drug – reactions are unpredictable and this is not acceptable from the standpoint of Western medicine. Psychedelics engage and mold with your personal psychology thus it defies our understanding of “medicine”. This is why people like Grof are needed to guide us. We cannot let cultural taboos [read: unfounded fear] inhibit the progress of human kind.
If you’re at all interested in what I have written here, I really encourage you to read the article in The Sun – All Across the Universe. It is far more articulate and enlightening than what I’ve babbled about here. Also some good info on the Wikipedia entry. If you’re looking for less substance and more entertainment, then I highly recommend my brother’s song LSD currently up on MySpace 🙂