These were my favorite passages from an interesting book by Dr. Oscar Janiger,M.D.
“Seven of the volunteers were social workers in the fields of rehabilitation and youth counseling or were state consultants or training advisors. There were 2 chiropractors as well. Eleven scientists included mathematicians, physicists, computer programmers, logistics specialists, communications/space technology workers, and postdoctoral researchers. Other professionals represented were philosophers, interns, a library administrator, a radio news analyst, nurses, a geologist, a translator, an ophthalmologist, and a hypnotist.”
“Among business people were found salesmen, real estate brokers, storekeepers, accountants, a chain-store executive, and publishers and advertisers. Other businesspeople included an insurance claims adjuster, a florist, a beauty-shop owner, a jeweler, a model, secretaries, a clerk-typist, a hospital administrator, a theater administrator, a freight-rate clerk, a duplicating operator, a retired government clerk, and a madam (prostitute). There were business managers in sales, personnel, restaurants, banks, and offices. There were manufacturers of business materials, ladies’ apparel, and office supplies. Three contractors in the electrical and building trades also volunteered.”
“Among the 106 people in the artists group were painters, muralists, sculptors, writers, actors, musicians, and composers, a motion-picture producer, a movie director, a photographer, a stage designer and manager, a film editor, a cartoonist, and a singer. There were four civil servants, including a fireman, a deputy sheriff, a postal handler, and a parole agent. Additionally, there were laboratory technicians and 17 laborers, including mechanics, assemblers, waiters, gardeners, welders, a flight attendant, and a pressman.
Some volunteers sought insight into their behavior or to explore and clarify their personal problems. Others wanted relief from crippling inhibitions, such as perfectionism, critical acuity, or insecurity. Others wanted to have mystical experiences—to experience oneness with the universe—to enhance their creativity, or to become more sensitive as writers. Others wanted to expand their consciousness. Some wanted a deeper understanding of themselves and reality. Others wanted to find out who they really were and to gain insight, understanding, and purpose in life. A few wanted release from a long-held resentment against another person.
Some of the volunteers were curious to see how the LSD differed from another drug, such as mescaline or peyote. Others had a scientific interest and curiosity. A few wanted a new emotional and visual experience, more free visualization and response. Another wanted to find a reason for his stuttering. One writer wanted “chemical Christianity” to overcome spiritual poverty. Some wanted a deeper sense of place in relationship to others in the world. One woman wanted to be very happy. Another woman wanted to control her obesity. Several volunteers believed that LSD might help them with marital problems. One woman wanted to quit smoking. Another man had a desire to stop drinking. A man wanted to discover and recall significant traumatic formative experiences in his life. Another woman wanted spiritual enlightenment. Another wanted to gain insight into the creative process. A woman wanted to understand her fear of men. Another wanted to release memory blocks and emotional expression. One man had an interest in extrasensory perception.
There is abundant anthropological evidence that human beings have long sought to experience altered mental states in order to find supernatural solace or direction, learn about their environment, and achieve social cohesion in society.
Alterations in Thinking. At a subjective level, varying disturbances in concentration, attention, memory, and judgment occur, with a possible decrease in reflective awareness. 2. Disturbed Time Sense. The sense of time and chronology alters; people may feel a sense of timelessness, or time may be experienced as either slowing down or accelerating. Time may also seem to be infinite or unbelievably short in its duration. 3. Loss of control. People may show an initial fear of losing their grip on reality or else losing self-control. They may offer some resistance to experiencing an altered state of consciousness or may willingly wish to enter this state, especially if they live in a society characterized by beliefs that they can experience divinity or become mouthpieces for a god or gods through such activity. 4. Change in Emotional Expression. People display emotional extremes ranging in degree from ecstasy and orgiastic equivalents to profound fear and depression. 5. Changes in Perception of Body. People frequently report various body-image distortions that refer to their perceived boundaries in space and their relationships with others. Some individuals experience a profound sense of depersonalization or a schism between body and mind. Others report a dissolution of the boundaries that separate themselves from others, the world, or the universe. These body changes are seen as strange and even frightening. People may report dizziness, vision blurring, numbness, and lack of pain. 6. Perceptual Distortions. There is increased visual imagery, hyperacuteness of perceptions, and illusions. 7. Change in Life’s Meaning or Significance. Many people exhibit a strong tendency to attach special significance to experiences, ideas, or perceptions that develop while they are in an altered state. In the wake of such experiences people report great insight or profound feelings or meaning 8. Sense of the Ineffable. After experiencing such states people report a difficulty in communicating the nature of it to someone who is uninitiated. They find the experience to be too overwhelming to be expressed or described in words, although they don’t hesitate to try to do so! 9. Feelings of Rejuvenation. In the wake of the experience often comes a new sense of hope, rejuvenation, or rebirth. 10. Hypersuggestibility. There is an increased likelihood that people will uncritically accept or respond to specific statements or nonspecific cues in order to seek support or guidance to relieve some of the anxiety associated with loss of control. Thus the suggestions of a person guiding the session may be wholly relied upon without reflection.
Another volunteer, in a positive appraisal, wrote:“In the aftermath, I think this has been the most wonderful experience of my life. It is certainly the one in which I have experienced the world most intensely. The world has a touch of magic about it now. It is more real than it has ever seemed before.”
They reported feeling much more creative. Some saw wasted effort in life. A shift in values from material to nonmaterial often occurred. Their comments included the following:“The most important things in the world right now are my thoughts. Everything seems to have a symbolic meaning in it. Only now do I really see the point of existence. Objects seem more real. I seem to be seeing myself as I am.” One volunteer wrote:“I value LSD primarily as an extraordinarily effective releasing agent. I continue to experience a residual feeling of release, exhilaration and extended perception. I am curious and responsive to all phases of nature.”
It was a great emotional shock for me….As a result of LSD, I like myself better. I’m doing more for myself in many little ways.” Another volunteer gained significant personality insights into himself.” He wrote:“I chose forever to give up ideas of power over myself and others in exchange for the feeling of well-being and humor.”
A woman volunteer wrote that LSD stripped her to the naked core of her own particular actions and reactions, a stripping to the bone of her basic thinking and behavior patterns that with proper conditioning might establish new reactions and insight. She compared her experience to hypnosis, which she had recently undergone, reflecting that both made her feel that she was observing herself apart from her being. She wrote: “I believe both hypnotism and LSD work on the subconscious through suggestion and conditioning, if a person were to be brought to a hypnotic state and then given LSD, the power of the drug would really tell.”
Ludwig argues for understanding both the benefits and dangers of the altered state of consciousness. The reader, by now, has noted the overwhelming nature of negative experiences reported by volunteers, even in the larger context of enlightening artistic, spiritual, or therapeutic breakthroughs. While at first blush this appears to be paradoxical, the phenomenon of abreacton, or catharsis, is clearly occurring here.
we see instances in which moral values were affirmed, emotional conflicts were resolved, and participants appear to have been better able to cope with human predicaments.
It seems easier to express things I ordinarily keep hidden. I feel like talking about things I’d never talked about before. I like to talk about what I am seeing or feeling. I feel terrible about what I’m thinking. I feel more myself than I ever was before.
Wanting to express certain things but feeling I shouldn’t. The effect of LSD seemed to remove my reluctance to discuss or even think about certain phases of my experiences. I began to experience a mounting excitement, which reminded me of childish emotions. I described my state as one of “psychic incontinence.” Giggling grotesquely while inside of me were locked up sane and reasonable thoughts. I would not have ordinarily blurted out my feelings so easily.
reference points to cling to, no absolutes, no fixed basis for the usual rules of living. A feeling of not really being in the room. At the same time, everything seemed so real, so vivid. Much of the experience seemed artificial, the visual experiences were too gaudy, too lacking in substance. No longer in this world. A lot of what happened during the experience seems unreal. I feel that in normal everyday living there is much that is being withheld from us, that there actually is another dimension that we can’t ordinarily get into. No purpose to the nature of things as they really are. The foundations are washed out from under everything that seemed fundamental or important. I find myself in another dimension, in a new, entirely different dimension. What is meaning? verbal? sensory? physiological or what? The touch of someone’s hand helps to bring me back when I’m far out.
Everything has a sense of awesomeness, amazement and wonder about it. I feel I am in contact with the unknown.
My mind seems greatly improved. A feeling of excitement and anticipation, like when something very important is about to happen. I can remember very clearly everything that happened to me during the experience. There’s a feeling of seeing things more clearly. I could see miles away even noticing the detailed markings of birds in flight from afar. I could figure out anything and felt that nothing was complicated and I understood everything so clearly. I was aware of myself to the roots of my hair. My thinking seemed much clearer.
I can understand some things far better than before. Not the usual verbal conscious changes in attitudes and feelings, but something much deeper. I know now that many things in life are shallow. I can see that there’s a lot of wasted effort in my life. I know better what to do in the future. There seems to be a shift in values from material to non-material.
Everything somehow seems more real. Objects seem more real. Significance’s become more apparent. I know more now what is real. A passionate desire for something, but I don’t know what. This experience is showing me an aspect of reality I’ve never seen before. I seem to be seeing myself as I am. It seems unusually fitting to observe the usual customs and rituals of everyday living.
My aesthetic appreciation seems improved. I can understand the structure and meaning of music as never before. LSD opened up a whole new world of appreciation and beauty. There’s a new tonal sharpness to music. The music is compellingly beautiful.
Relaxation and Quiet A certain inner quietness, instead of all the mixed-up jumble of everyday life. I feel more relaxed than usual. The physical symptoms I had when I came in seemed to have cleared up. I feel a general philosophical sadness over things which cannot be altered. I feel serene, content, knowing. I have no desire to move. Now, I know that everything is going to work out all right. All of the petty incidents of everyday life, which tended to irritate me, seem relieved, seem not to bother me any more. There is a deeper awareness of the general fitness of things, of the acceptance of things as they are. Such complete relaxation, so much enjoyment. A number of things that had been bothering me suddenly seemed solved. I feel much calmer than usual. I seem to be much quieter than usual. I now have a new kind of philosophic attitude. I feel a sense of relaxation and a lack of urgency about doing anything. Life, problems, people, pain, so what? No bother, it all makes no difference. I just want to sit and keep looking at an object for hours on end. I just like to sit and meditate with my eyes closed, seeing what happens and not stopping it.
I don’t want to open my eyes. I was in my own private world, glowingly warm, wonderfully silent and I wanted to stay there forever. A feeling of both exhilaration and peace with the world. I preferred most of all to contemplate and to look at the wondrous visions that crossed my lowered eyelids. A relaxed lack of concern with the world.
I can see to the roots of other peoples’ personalities and understand what basically motivates them. I feel at one with people around me. I find it enjoyable when certain people are with me. I have become very conscious of subtle interpersonal relationships. The touch of someone’s hand is comforting. I feel that the people here understand me.
perception very much slowed, falling objects seem to drift slowly to the floor. Time seems to have become one of the dimensions of space. Time seems to be so fleeting. An odd, remote timelessness. Time seemed to have come to a complete standstill. Three long years into one horrible few minutes. A disorientation in time and all events seemed to take longer to perform than in reality. Every minute seemed hours and time was dragging.
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It left me with a wonderful relief from tension that had been building up. It left me with an increased sense of humor, an ability to laugh and enjoy laughing like I hadn’t had for months. It left me with a sense of renewed energy and enthusiasm. It left me tired and worn out. I feel I was helped by it, but nothing earth shaking. It left me feeling happy afterwards. It left me feeling confused about life. It left me feeling not so much in a hurry. It left me feeling shaken. It left me feeling more sure of myself than I was before. It left me with such an untroubled feeling afterwards.
Finally, the volunteers were asked if LSD should be used by individuals, in general, in order to help them become aware of themselves, to gain new meaning in life, and to help them understand each other better.
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One participant, for example, had brought along jazz and classical music and told the interviewer that LSD intensified his hearing acuity. His concentration was increased as well, and the music sounded profoundly beautiful. One man said taking LSD was “the most extraordinary experience of [his] entire life. Nothing before or since has ever come near it.” He said it was “like the first time you taste[d] chocolate or the first time you ha[d] an orgasm.” He described it as “a genuine peak experience.”
My personal experience is that I’ve opened the door to some other extension of my mind. Or my sensory equipment or perceptual apparatus. Whatever you want to call it. That gave me access to a kind of world that was vastly enlarged, vastly expanded. And my senses were most acute. My mental capacity of thinking led me to think in terms of breaking away from the familiar, what I called obligatory reality, where I had to be a certain way. It was the first time I clearly saw the influence of society and culture on my development. In other words, I saw how I was literally molded into the person that I was, by being told subtly what to see, what to think, what to feel. And the culture did that subtly.
At the time of his LSD experience, he had been promoted from machinist to researcher—despite having no formal training in this area—because he didn’t make mistakes. After participating in Janiger’s study, however, he found that he could put his mind right into problems that called for insight and intuition, as nobody really knew anything about them and no one had experience with the materials they were using or developing.
The LSD changed the way this participant focused on things and enhanced his problem-solving capabilities. Another man switched his career track from high school physical education to writing metaphysical books and going on lecture tours with Alan Watts.
A clergyman changed his focus and subsequently worked for thirty-five years in human consciousness areas.
FROM THE BEGINNING, many people suspected that LSD could heighten the creative capacity of the individual. Certainly, many participants in LSD studies report believing that their own creative abilities were enhanced. Moreover, some artists participating in Janiger’s early study concluded that their LSD-inspired art had great aesthetic value—comparable to their other work.
To him, something that is artistic is inspirational. It has within it the potential for people to see and develop a variety of things that feed the individual’s fantasies and whatever their definition of art is. In this sense, art is inciting while creativity—unique as a creative product may be—need not be, and artists are those creative people among us who dedicate their energies to reworking that which comes to them by inspiration, polishing and editing until it communicates to others.
As early as 1955 a study of the effects of mescaline and LSD on four nationally-known visual artists revealed impairment of finger-tapping efficiency and muscular steadiness, but all were able to complete paintings. Pertinently, a panel of art critics judged the resulting paintings as having “greater aesthetic value” than the artists’ usual work. They found that the lines were bolder and the use of color was more vivid (see Janiger and de Rios 1989).
Interestingly, all of the artists who participated in Janiger’s project said that LSD not only radically changed their style but also gave them new depths to understand the use of color, form, light, or the way these things are viewed in a frame of reference. Their art, they claimed, changed its essential character as a consequence of their experiences.
Janiger decided to use the same symbolically rich artifact, the deer kachina of the Pueblo Indians, that attracted the first artist. In a standard procedure, Janiger asked volunteers to paint or sketch the kachina doll at least once, about an hour after taking the LSD, in an art studio in Wilton Place. If he or she were willing, the artist was also encouraged to render the doll one hour before they ingested LSD, thus providing a map of the visual and perceptual directions that artists took in moving from one state of consciousness to another. In addition to these renderings, some artists drew self-portraits or attempted
to capture their internal imagery while taking LSD. For Janiger, mapping the volunteers’ visual and perceptual changes was a most important way to look at LSD-inspired changes in perception and to understand the mechanism of creativity. Janiger hypothesized that by shifting perceptions the artists would shift their ability to extend their choices in how to render objects either in their environment or their inner images. Certainly, LSD facilitated a rush of new permutations, thoughts, and ideas, which served as a data bank of new information that the artist could draw upon. As the artists demonstrated, some people are gifted in organizing this flood of stimuli coming to conscious awareness at a fast pace and are able to hold on to the edge.
Hertel believed that it would have been a better design, not available to the study, to conduct longitudinal studies of individual artists before and after the experimental period, to evaluate the long-term effects of LSD on their work.
Comparing the artists’ work prior to and after ingesting LSD, Hertel found the most predominant changes were in the following categories: dominant style, color, line, and texture. When he focused on the representative changes in the dominant style category, he noted first that ten of the twenty artists were classifiable as predominantly representational in their customary approach to the subject matter. Their primary motive lay in representing the object as it presents itself to the eye. Of course, there was a great deal of individual variation within the representational approach. Four of these ten artists changed their style under the influence of LSD to a noticeably expressionist one.
In those cases where technical proficiency appeared deficient in the pre-LSD state, a certain increase in the volunteer’s ability to articulate or show confidence was seen due to the freedom apparently provided by the drug experience.
Additionally, he found synesthesias, the sharpening of color perception, remarkable attention to detail, the accessibility of past impressions, memories, heightened emotional excitement, a sense of direct and intrinsic awareness, and the propensity for the environment to compose itself into perfect tableaux and harmonious compositions.
Hertel characterized the alterations in perception as follows: 1. Relative size, expansion. The artists’ work tends to fill all available space and resists being contained within its borders, although the size of the image may vary. 2. Involution. Objects shrink down or fill less space. They become more compact or are imbedded in a matrix. 3. Alteration of figure/ground or shift to a circular viewpoint. 4. Alteration of boundaries. Figure and ground may be considered a continuum. The object tends to merge with the surroundings, with observer and observed not rigorously delineated, with less differential between the object and the subject. 5. Movement. The object or environment is in continuous movement with greater vibrancy and emotion. 6. Greater intensity of color and light. 7. Oversimplification. There is an elimination of detail and extraneous elements. 8. Objects may be depicted symbolically or as essences. 9. Objects are depicted as abstractions. 10. Fragmentation and disorganization. 11. Distortion.
The artists themselves, however, had no reluctance to speak their minds.
Paint became like shining liquid metal and ink like expanding jewels. I was capable of attention only in the area of my brush and it seemed impossible to attend to the composing of an area larger than two or three square inches. The excitement of the materials and the surfaces became overwhelming. After working for a certain amount of time, I became more conscious of space and area and application of paint became like great explosions, strokes always radiating from a center, then trailing or swirling off to radiate from another. The brushes seemed too small, and I moved to a three-inch house brush. Before long I was dipping into the paint cans with my hands and pouring colored inks from the bottles. Color and form vibrated and moved with the music being played and waves of joy and excitement flooded through me. The universe manifested itself in the spreading of ink on soft paper and color fusing became like the exploding gasses on the surface of the sun. Sheet after sheet of paper was used, chip, matte, and illustration boards—anything I could get my hands on. Subject matter began to enter the work, but changed with the new suggestion of each new stroke. The themes of sunflower, flying horse, playful dragons and exploding flowers dominated in the avalanche of suggestion.
My hand bearing down on this paper with this pen seems unconnected to me, or the paper, lovely sensation, eyes feel washed. I’m smiling.
No image shifting, distortion, just marvelous clarity. Color is clean, clear, eyes so cleaned. Objects startlingly there. I see space. It shimmers like heat waves, as exciting to see as objects, all separate, all belonging. I belong.
This first experience was beyond personal emotional or intellectual concepts, yet still a part of it. He wanted to lovingly embrace the universe as it correspondingly embraced him. This was the essence of the unself- consciousness of his experience.
I am again struck by a certain restraint and rigidity in my drawing. Will the LSD liberate my hand so that I may achieve a kind of free and easy expression as opposed to what may be called rather “stiff?”
In terms of the drug as it affects one’s creativity, I would say that it doesn’t make me any more or less creative than I already am. It doesn’t liberate thoughts that were supposedly deep down inside just bursting to come forth. However, it seems to me that even if I am coherent long enough that whatever comes out will probably be distorted. I am conscious of that basic core of reason and the “critical observer” beneath the flux.
“The box of pastels became a thing of such monumental beauty, a container of the most fantastically glowing colors. For him, the selection of one color became almost impossible. However, once he did make the selection, the putting down of a line on the rough drawing paper became so utterly pleasurable and an experience of such intense beauty that to follow with another line was almost a negation of the first. The instant that it took him to form a line became prolonged. It was possible for him to see the line form, to watch the pastel form on the paper, to see it leave the stick and become the line. It was like being a first hand witness of creation. No artist would be able to create if he saw his medium form itself into the art which he was working.”
Colors were no longer merely exterior reflections of light. They were a part of him—or he was a part of them. When he studied a color, warm as well as cool by this time, he felt he was seeing a new depth of color. He became the color. He identified himself with the color; it became an absolutely personal thing. He experienced the LSD as waves of sensation, which became less and less intense as time wore on.
C.L. I feel artists should have this LSD experience to free preconceived ideas of art and facilitate their ability to express themselves. It gives greater understanding and feeling of the creative experience. My creative process was intensified by LSD.
“The next day I finished a painting I had been working on for a week, unifying it in a matter of two hours. What had happened? The answer lies in the area of experience. I had witnessed the unity of the Universe and could now paint with this knowledge. This knowledge might prompt the subtlest change in line or color or attitude on my part, but it is just this kind of fine adjustment that can make a painting “work” in terms of color or movement or meaning. It means that I have adopted a new, higher criteria. It doesn’t mean that magic will gush from my brush, but rather that I will paint and paint some more until the painting arrives at what I want it to be.
L.B. There was love in everything. The brushes, the paper, the paints, they were all alive with good, happy vibrations. . . . There was a tremendous feeling of joy and love surrounding me. As I painted, I felt a closeness to my materials that I had never experienced before, as if they were joined, every color vibrated. All were intensified. It didn’t seem to matter what color I used, or where my brush stroke traveled. As soon as the color reached the paper, or the stroke was completed, it became right, harmonious and meaningful, part of the plan. There was such pleasure and joy in every stroke.”
“When I cried, the tears flowed through the brush onto the face of the girl I painted. My tears were her tears.”
C.A. I came into a room here with a mountain of complexities and in a short hour, I was reduced down to the essence and essentials of painting for me. COLOR. Right there. No doubt about it. Just color. No form, no line. Space was not important, ideas could go to hell! All that began to exist was color, pure and brilliant. It was like walking into a room with a cobweb full of ideas, doubts, thoughts about painting, and then just leaving them all way behind you and being reduced down to the essence of it all. The “why” of painting. And, this was plenty in itself. In fact, it became everything.
When I painted under LSD, color became the most important thing. It was reduced to its essence, itself. There was no compromise, no reference. The color alone was enough. Almost too much. The LSD was a most rewarding and revealing experience. Today I see things differently than I did yesterday. It in some ways could be termed a mystical or religious experience. I feel in accord now, more than ever, with the world I live in. My vision is sharper. It has changed me. I appreciate now the worlds of other painters more because before I had naturally liked painters who I felt were close to my world. LSD opened up other painters, e.g., Matta, Parker, Gorky, Rothko, etc.
F.L. LSD is a great aid in finding one’s own nature. To understand the meaning of the symbols they use, by studying their work not painted under LSD as well as painting done under LSD. To enrich them and their views, to paint with responsibility to themselves and the viewers. LSD can show the ordinary person a greater view of things, which may make them more appreciative of art forms and manners previously passed over without consideration. It gave more purpose to my role as an artist. It concentrated my ability to sum up the essence of a subject.
L.G. For me, LSD opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities both in art and in my life. I became more daring and more willing to venture into the unknown, into the mysterious. It helped free me from the pressures of false reality, which imprisoned a heightened sense of imagination. Again, I would say it stimulated my imaginative reaction to life. I began to create a mythological world of my own out of shapeless materials. Under LSD, I focused for a while on the Kachina doll, but then I became the child with the terrifying burden of the fear of isolation—a painfully separate person with nothing to lean on. That was the beginning of faith for me. For in faith, I was no longer alone.
Alive, fiery, pagan, evil, and very dumb. Anyhow, to hold a brush while on LSD was something else—like it was a magic wand and I could create any kind of image I wanted. Each stroke was an experience which added up to the total painting, but to me it was not the finished painting that was important but much more important was the joy in painting itself.
Q.M. I feel that artists should have this experience. It will give them greater awareness of themselves and to life. An artist must travel through all the doors of this earth and LSD is one of the greatest doors to perception I have witnessed. Regarding if LSD can be used as an approach to understanding or enhancement of creativity, if one’s mind is capable of leaving its own shell he may transpose himself into that of the artist’s work he is seeing or listening to—if he is moved by the experience, then he will understand the content of the work and probably touch upon the artist’s identity as well. LSD did not make me more creative—however it did open up new avenues for me to do further research in color as well as black and white. I have always believed that a truly creative being is always high—childlike and yet philosophical. With my first introduction to LSD, I found my already hypersensitive being become kinetically more so. A new dimension opened itself before me.
R.O., a psychologist and writer Having always had difficulty with myopia as well as limited color vision, I now found myself describing color and form in a most unusual detail. I was able to look into the heart of a blossom and see the most minute changes and alterations in structure and movement. It was simply a feast of the senses and as I turned to observe people and broader aspects of the scene I was enraptured by a series of tableaux which were similar to paintings. I observed . . . a Breughel painting in which the colors and shapes astounded me by their clarity. I felt a great surge of perceptual power.
This Bartok quartet—in one organic process—was searching for a kind of perfection which could be described in quite precise scientific musicological terms. And I perceived that it was not something illusory at the time of listening, because it is still with me. I bring it back to my workaday reality and I know that quartet. It belongs to me now in a way that it did not before.
P.R., a secretary and music student Everything became alive and beautiful. Brilliant colors, shimmering golds and greens, blazing purples and reds sparkled everywhere. The beauty and truth of one object would have been enough to keep me fascinated and awed for a lifetime. The whole world was magnificent.
Smiling like an idiot, I had a fine time; the only thing I objected to was me. It seemed as if I were a very little girl. When I got home even my mother was beautiful and she didn’t annoy me at all (fantastic!). It was hard sleeping that night. LSD made me very high and gave me a sense of freedom I never felt before. This experience had a great effect on my voice. I haven’t sung so freely with all 31⁄2 octaves in over two years. All constrictions of the throat disappeared and I enjoyed singing tremendously. I still sound good. This proves that my troubles with singing are purely psychological.
It just confirmed my feelings that it’s not the world that is so horrible but my feelings about it. I am much less angry—I have a great deal more control over it and I can put it aside. My depression lifted, and afterwards I could sing again full voice.
In some manner, the LSD process also wrenches people loose from their well-established conceptual moorings and sets them adrift in strange, exotic, and fantastically improbable waters.
They provide a rapidity of thought that accelerates creative thought processes. • They provide a basic emotional excitement and sense of significance. • They widen consciousness to include both broad cosmic ideas and yet sharpen perception to see significance in the tiniest details. • They provide greater accessibility to past experiences and buried memories. • They cause things to appear to compose themselves into natural harmony.
- They intensify colors so that everything appears brilliantly illuminated from within.
They free the individual from preconceptions. • They fuse the individual with the object perceived—a phenomenon that Picasso says is the most important feature of looking at things creatively. When you paint an apple, you should be an apple.
Nevertheless, the contrast between artists’“before” and “after” works is striking. The “before” renderings of the colorful kachina were often realistic, predictable, and drawn to scale. But the LSD-inspired drawings were more abstract, symbolic, brighter, more emotional and aesthetically adventuresome, and non-representational, and they tended to use all available space on the canvas.
Many of the artists reported synesthesia in which the senses are flooded, mix together, and cross over. Sounds, for example, seemed to be colors. Elements were recombined in a new way. Thus LSD moves in the same direction that the imagination does, by springing connections that may be latent but that are not normally noticed.
Moreover, it gave them a sense of great significance, excitement, and a deep desire to discover and invent. It fired them up with contagious enthusiasm so that they were moved to weave their vision of truth for people who had never perceived it. In short, the majority of artists
Unlike the religious mystic who may continue to seek enlightenment continually after such an initial experience, the heightened memory for the LSD experience appears not to fade away with time nor does it follow a standard forgetting curve.
which is the direct perception of connectedness or oneness. Thus in mystical states there is a complete lack of differentiation between the self and the object of awe and reverence, and boundaries dissolve. Opposites such as good and evil, justice and injustice, and god and humanity disappear, and all things tend toward a unified, undifferentiated oneness.
For many, the sense of unity or awe is one of the most arresting aspects of a mystical-religious experience, as Wallace points out in his discussion of the physical manipulation of psychological states.
Subject and object merge and boundaries to the self are weakened. Reality itself is perceived as oneness. Attached to this experience is a profound and intrinsic sense of underlying beauty and goodness. That is, the universe is perceived as whole, good, and purposeful. When people leave this state, they do not perceive it as having been an illusion, hallucination, or delusion. Rather, they see it as the fundamental reality that underlies all reality.
Structural anthropology in the first half of the century furthered this work by describing and validating the diversity of cultural patterns of kinship, myths, and rituals. In so doing, anthropologists challenged Western science’s xenocentric assumptions of normalcy as belonging only to Western society. Over time, anthropologists became “adamant that what is normal is defined within the context of the particular society”
“Drugs appear able to induce religious experiences; it is less evident that they can produce religious lives”
Working with Eugene D’Aquili, radiologist Andrew Newberg has used X-ray technology to map the brain activity of Tibetan Buddhists and Franciscan nuns during moments of peak spiritual experience. The researchers found that both deep meditation and intensely spiritual moments of prayer produced definable patterns of neural activity in the regions of the brain that govern attention, emotions, and our sense of orientation in time and space. Taken together, these patterns can account for the characteristics of mystical experiences: oneness, transcendence, objectivity, sacredness, positive mood, ineffability, and timelessness (2001).
Given his attention to the secular setting, his care to avoid influencing his volunteers’ mind-sets, and his preexisting belief that LSD does not inherently produce mystical experiences, Janiger could not have predicted that 24 percent of his volunteers’ reports would resonate so closely with classic descriptions of spiritual transcendence. Let’s turn now to a sampling of personal accounts from those volunteers who did.
I.P., a musician In a report written five weeks later after LSD ingestion, this musician reported his effects six to seven hours into the experience. He had entered a “New Dimension of Meaning.” I mean these last words to be taken in an absolutely literal way. Entering this New Dimension can be compared only to the reaction of a man, blind from birth, who suddenly gains his sight and for the first time, experiences color. Five weeks later, of course, the danger exists—and I take what precautions I can against it—of superimposing onto this experience a layer of rational thought. While thought can help to organize the mass of raw material one has accumulated, there is a risk that this very rationality, coming from a lower, more ordinary part of our awareness, may reduce the experience to what can be understood from an ordinary state, discolor what one has seen with all the old conditioning and opinionation [sic] and thus debase the essential quality of the New Dimension to which one has been granted admission. The LSD produced in me an essentially religious experience.
That this is the cheapest kind of mental side-show provided by the Mephistophelian medicine-man and his little blue pills which are producing this psychically phenomenal slight-of-mind performance, this phony circus of sensations and hallucinations, monstrously parading under the name of spiritual experience; that somehow a state of mystical ecstasy should have a sense of dignity, of exaltation, and inner quiet, not this raging river of special effects.
My reaction to these pieces began with the conventional response but gradually took on a new character. It was as though the remaining ecstasy that flowed through me has washed away my patience with the exterior posturing of music. I felt that I saw directly into its heart and was interested only in what the music was really saying, remaining totally indifferent to how it was dressed. The feelings were so intense and were so much from this New Dimension of feeling that there is very little I can say except to report them. Their intensity was almost unbearable, their nature unknown and indescribable. They seemed to have to do with a kind of love we cannot experience as we are. For a few moments I understood them and would recognize them as Truth. Now I can only remember that I understood for a moment. The understanding is gone, with only the memory of it remaining.
It was an unbelievable, a totally unexpected journey. One has been there and back, but the nature of the traveling of the destination remains a haunting enigma. One is galvanized into attention, attention to a fantastic adventure which shatters, sears and exalts one’s entire being and yet which one cannot depict with even one really true word. Even after this all too brief voyage, however, it becomes clear to me that this new dimension and the nature of its reality is somehow related to Man’s reason for existing on the earth; and that any life lived without a constant inner need to “be” in relation to this dimension is a life without meaning.
“LSD overthrows the normal thought process based upon sensory perception where if one sense is involved in an experience of importance, unusual, painful or pleasurable, it obtains or commands the attention of the brain while the other senses sink into the background or more truthfully perhaps, attempt to cooperate in providing additional information on the experience at hand. Under the influence of LSD, a sense of sight seems to be driven inwardly into its own storehouse of experience and undergoes a forced regurgitation of images, colors and textures at the same time that it distorts whatever visual stimuli it is willing to receive from the outside. The imagination, fired by a new freedom and basing itself mostly on the heightened sense of sight, turns into a vision of Dionysian proportions.”
“After quite some time of this, the realization came to me that in all this welter of emotion, I had not experienced the emotion of anger or hate. This seemed strange to me, that in the uncontrollable experience of all sorts of feeling I was feeling no anger, and I asked myself, “where was the hate,” and I tried to dig up the feeling of hate, but I could not. As I searched for it, I became finally convinced that there wasn’t any to find, and I said aloud: There isn’t any hate, I can’t find any hate. I couldn’t understand it but I was convinced of the truth of it, for I had no ability to repress anything. Later that day, I made some sense out of it.
The volunteer had no hallucinations; nothing changed in the least. The entire experience was completely emotional in nature. He had no feelings of self-rejection. He experienced himself as just another poor human creature doing his best to find his way through life.
S.W. The overriding feeling of the LSD experience was one of wholeness, unity and a kind of unutterable joy and contentment. Everything that I saw was incomparably beautiful, soft and serene. The colors were all soothing pastels, greens, flesh tints—they were exquisitely soft. The visions were infinite. At one time, I watched a fountain and gradually became the fountain itself, or rather—I became the actual flow of the water. It was an extraordinarily joyous experience. Several times I felt disembodied. This was strongest when I was watching monastery steps appear. I seemed to float two or three inches above myself. I had a feeling of wholeness and completeness that I have only seen described in the experience of mystics undergoing illumination. The feeling of oneness with the entire world seems to me the most essential and dominant part of my feelings. It was persistent and clings to me now, several days later.
First, I went over vast, vast, vast regions of desert with absolutely no sign of life. Then I began the upward journey into the light. I entered the light. A white light, not yellow like fire, or lamplight or sunlight. As I entered more and more it seemed to pin me, penetrate me, through every cell. I was aware of it entering every part of me. This feeling of being surrounded and penetrated by Light lasted what appeared to be a long, wonderfully long time. I was perfectly relaxed in body, and I felt indescribable joy, something even much stronger. I became one with the light. I was the Light. I saw the most intricate beautiful meshing of what we might describe as gears in geometric designs so complex and complicated that I was amazed and awed. I merged with these workings and became them. Then, I was in an unearthly world of more and more and more pure, pure beauty. The colors and forms were again unknown, the beauty excruciating. The intensity of the experience faded. My conclusions: a tremendous awe and respect and a great sense of well being, a nothing-can-ever-matter- too-much-again feeling after having experienced and seen what I believe to be the workings of the Cosmos. I do not wish to seem conceited but I believe that a part of me was transported to the Godhead. An intense realization of the importance of Order and Beauty. In the I Am state, there is no such thing as love, hate, duty obligation, etc. I can no longer think of God in the old way, as Our Father, but instead it must be Very God of Very God, or Light of Lights.”
“Some of those gardens in front of the houses were beautiful beyond description. The beautiful blending of the colors of rose and grass, of willow-grays and flaming scarlets, of buff yellows and deep purples. I took a blossom of scarlet thistledown. . . . It was revelationary [sic]. To look at the individual tendrils of that beautiful delicate blossom and to see the richness and the fulfillment that was there. Each one of those delicate tendrils shoots out in a tremendously livid scarlet color and then is capped by a beautiful crown of gold.”
“A day later the volunteer recorded further insights. I return from this experience, humbled even as I am exalted and inspired. The humility and the exaltation become one as I perceive that in order to encompass the Infinite, I must be absorbed by the Infinite. Yet, even as I realize this, I also realize that it is not a case of losing my identity in the absorption. Rather I now know that in my absorption in the Infinite I find my identity of individuality for the first time. For in being absorbed, I have expanded to comprehend.”
Then he went to the beach. The ocean was an incredible sight. He could see for miles. He noticed the detailed markings of birds in flight from afar. He was aware of the slow rhythm of the ocean’s ebb and flow and conscious of some large pulsation of the earth. He felt himself to be part of them.
We are sensual. We hear mockingbirds sing like a feathered choir of angels. We see the sidewalks glitter with stones of fire. We see the animistic world living, breathing, walls inhaling, oil paintings with living skin moving with muscles under the surface; we know what Heraclitous [sic] meant; Pan is alive. We close our eyes and we see fireworks, skyrockets opening with a sigh and dropping flowers of fire lighting up the night.
There is a feeling of nowness. There is no past and no future. This moment, this ecstasy, this awareness is all- important. Happiness is not something to be experienced sometimes in the future, on the weekend, on vacation, after retirement. It is now. And you would not change a thing. • There is a feeling of warmth, goodness, love, benevolence—but not in the solemn sense—in the sense of fun—of laughter, great grinning at everything, as if your personality were the Cheshire cat and everything about it had disappeared except this uncontainable smile.
It is loving, as the sun shines, inevitably, inexorably and with infinite fun. • There is a feeling of continuum, of flow, as if we were as individuals, no more than whirlpools in a river—but whirlpools with wills, and we can will that two whirlpools can come together and join as one, or that we disappear and join the river. Once you feel the continuum flowing in you, you are no longer troubled with yourself for you know it isn’t separated from anything else. • There is an ability to distinguish between the real and the unimportant. And all things, which are symbols of the real—as a car is a symbol of power—a mink [coat] is a symbol of love—these become unimportant. That which is immediate, intense, ecstatic and satisfying, is real; that which is indirect, symbolic, postponed, tending toward separateness, is unimportant.
Z.I. LSD as a spiritual releasing agent produced much the same experience I previously underwent during intense yoga practices and meditation in the Himalayas of India. There is no doubt that LSD affects a person in the same way as meditation in its advanced stages. But LSD does not seem to leave permanent after-effects. One must return to the normal state of his mind or to the advanced state of mind if he is already established in it. However LSD can be useful as a spiritual agent. It encourages one to try to explore more in the higher regions of consciousness and to experience more inner power or even experience self-awareness for temporary periods. It gives a shifting or variety of experiences rather than one true pointed establishment. Before using LSD, a person should have a strong nervous system. A weak nervous system may receive a bad reaction. A man should have some power at least of emotional retention. Secondly it should be used only for those who wish to better themselves and not for those who want to use these powers for degeneration. The ancient Vedas of the Hindus have mentioned three basic ways to mystical experience: l) meditation (higher), 2) yoga practices (middle), 3) herbs or medicine (lower).
By extension, he believed there to be nothing inherently spiritual about the LSD experience, and he carefully refrained from providing a spiritual context in his research.
“Second, the effects of psychedelic substances are notoriously influenced by setting and set. As chapter 7 will illustrate, in tribal societies where psychedelics are believed to be sacred and used ritually after extensive preparation, they perform reliably as tools for accessing spiritual realms.”
second explanation is that the dissolution of their egos, the part of the self to which Westerners cling so tightly, literally scared the hell out of them. Rather than experiencing the melting away of the “I” as a unity experience of merging into the universe, as people in Hindu societies or contemplative traditions very well might, some in the strictly American study population experienced fear and panic. It is here that we can most clearly see the crucial role played by the prepared mind.
First, de Rios’s findings show indigenous peoples highly value psychedelic plants for their access to supernatural power and the unitive experience.
Janiger himself was very clear about the potential dangers of the LSD experience for people who lack strongly organized egos, as his attention to screening candidates indicates. Even in the midst of potential spiritual revelation, such people might suddenly panic as their sense of self dissolved and they lost their “hidden observer.” Spreading out into the environment, feeling that they were not themselves, and knowing that they were not as secure or organized about themselves as when they had a certainty of the world around them, they might well respond with terror rather than reverence.
With Western culture’s stress on individualism, it is not surprising that Janiger sought to reveal the idiosyncratic effects of LSD on his volunteers, nor is it surprising that the data revealed a marked pattern of idiosyncrasy, in which volunteers viewed the psychophysiological effects of LSD through private lenses of their own life histories.
but it is also evident in the Vedic tradition, which prioritizes meditation and yoga over medicine as legitimate routes to mystical experience.
Death and resurrection were also common themes in de Rios’s research. Possibly connected to the dissolution of ego boundaries provoked by high doses of plant psychedelics, members of tribal societies commonly report a unity or mystical experience of oneness, conferring upon them a sense of continuity with everything that is. Called the oceanic experience by Freud, this unity may be symbolized by means of the motif of death and resurrection and may be culturally programmed by shamanic activity in traditional societies of the world. Shamans seek to induce such experiences, especially with regard to animal spirits to obtain the power and acuity that animals possess, for example, the vision of an eagle, the hunting skill of a noiseless boa constrictor moving along the forest floor, or the fertilization ability of a hummingbird. Considering the mystical experiences of Janiger’s volunteers and recent evidence from neurotheologists, it seems certain that psychedelics can evoke patterns of brain activity conducive to manifesting spiritual consciousness.
In some ceremonies psychedelics created an amnesiac state that caused individuals to have a death-and-rebirth experience, serving cultural goals of getting people to join together to be of one heart. Thus the young people would feel as if they died in their role as children and were reborn again as fully participating adult members of
society, bonded with others in their age group, fully productive and eligible for marriage. More importantly, the bonding that took place during the psychedelic state ensured that participants would be generous with one other and turn to each other for help.
During peyote rituals, it is common to hear testimonial accounts of various psychological, physical, and emotional maladies being lifted by the healing powers of the ceremony. Members report altered states of consciousness that provide a fast-paced educational and redemptive experience, and youth learn community values, beliefs, and their religious traditions.
cathartic expression and breaks down systems of denial. Further, peyote and like substances are “psychointegrator plants,” which integrate mind, body, spirit, and emotion
Ironically, given the ban on peyote use since 1997 when the Supreme Court overturned the Religious Freedom Restitution Act, psychiatrist Karl Menninger’s early comments went unnoticed when he wrote that peyote was not harmful to Native Americans, but was “beneficial, comforting, inspiring and spiritually nourishing”
Recent Mexican government action has intended to legitimize peyote use in Huichol religion and ritual. The decree would guarantee the Huichol unrestricted access to more than 182,000 acres in San Luis Potosi for gathering the plant and for holding peyote ceremonies in sacred places.
Life-story interviews revealed that eleven of the fifteen individuals believed that the ritual use of hoasca had had a profound impact on the course of their lives. Many reported an experience in common: While in induced altered states of consciousness, they saw themselves on a self-destructive path that would lead to their demise unless they radically changed their personal conduct and orientation.
Not only did they report discontinuing alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs, but they also emphatically stated that their daily conduct and orientation to the world around them had undergone radical restructuring. They practiced good deeds, watched their words, and had developed a respect for nature. Overall, the participants reported that they had gained a profound sense of meaning and coherence in their lives.
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