From John Weir Perry’s The Far Side of Madness on cultural renewal and how institutionalizing the mystical vision slowly kills it:
“What begins as the drive to make communicable the good news that the mystic vision is there and can be reached, becomes in time a need to gather a following. There is a contagious quality along with the communicability; souls are touched with fire, and a blaze of enthusiasm spreads rapidly, with a tremendous uprush of energy. Paul’s church spreads rapidly over the Mediterranean world, Hung’s columns march toward the Manchu capital to overthrow the dynasty, or in contrast, George Fox’s followers take their stand in numbers against the Wars of the Commonwealth; and in the train of experiences of the great mystics in the late medieval church, droves of men and women take vows in innumerable monasteries founded by those dynamic souls.
With a following comes also the requirement for structuring and codifying, or institutionalized form and doctrine, and on the heels of that, the distinguishing of true and false following in the form of orthodoxy and heresy. Finally the generally agreed conventions congeal, and we have the authoritarian “establishment” as the final plight.
Such is the evolution of the vision over the years, from an original, raw, affective, and fluid experience into a cold and static institution frozen in formalities. In time, too many questions which arise find no answers.
These are the circumstances in which the collective psyche becomes restless. The culture is ready for renewal and reinvigoration through fresh original experiences once more. Souls sensitive to the pressures and movements of the collective psyche feel these impulses toward renewal, and make the mystical journey, often in consequence transforming the religious authority or cultural canon.”
From Stan & Christina Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork:
Very few people, including most scientists, realize that we have absolutely no proof that consciousness is actually produced in the brain and by the brain. There is no doubt that there exists vast clinical and experimental evidence showing significant interconnections and correlations between the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the brain, on the one hand, and states of consciousness, on the other. However, it represents a major logical jump to infer from the available data that these correlations represent a proof that the brain is actually the source of consciousness. Such a deduction would be tantamount to the conclusion that the TV program is generated in the TV set, because there is a close correlation between functioning or malfunctioning of its components and the quality of the sound and picture. It should be obvious from this example that the close connection between cerebral activity and consciousness does not exclude the possibility that the brain mediates consciousness, but does not actually generate it. The research of holotropic states has amassed ample evidence for this alternative.
Tom Shroder recently took psilocybin mushrooms for the first time in 35 years and wrote an excellent trip report on his experience. He’s the author of Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal (book review), and a speaker at the Horizons conference in New York in October 2014; he also recently wrote a great long-form article on psychedelic science and history.
Here’s a quote from the write-up of his first ‘shroom trip in 35 years:
“I can’t think of any other way to put this but to say the sky opened, and grace poured down all around me. Light itself had transformed into a palpable substance, spilling down as if from a fountain. But it was more than light. It was blessings of every kind, goodness incarnate, flowing inexhaustible and immutable from above. I didn’t say to myself, “What is this?” I didn’t guess. I knew, I saw, I was in the presence of God. This wasn’t a God with whom I could have a conversation, at least not two-way. I think I said, or shouted, “Ok, I am DEFINITELY not an atheist,” but God was mute, or rather, I understood, or perceived, that the only response God would ever make was the boundless bounty of beauty cascading over me.”
Read the full trip report here!
(Header credit: shazbot on Flickr)
This week, I wrote about the remarkable parallels between contemporary Christmas tradition and the mythologies of Amanita-using pre-Christian indigenous Siberian and North European cultures. Check it out here! The article draws heavily from a 2003 Cannabis Culture article and the references contained therein.
To complement my article on trip sitting, this week I wrote a brief guide with seven things you should think about if you’re considering taking psychedelics. Among them, the seeming paradox of setting intention while not having expectations; cleaning up your setting; and setting aside the following day for reflection and integration. Check it out here!
For more reading, you should check out Myron Stolaroff’s “Using Psychedelics Wisely”, hosted on Erowid and also appearing as chapter 8 of Charles Grob’s “Hallucinogens: a reader“.
illustration: Sam Jones
This week, I wrote about MDMA research, and the story of Nicholas Blackston, whom I had the pleasure of seeing speak at the Horizons 2014 conference in New York. He is a two-time Iraq war veteran who returned from his deployments with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After failing to find relief through available treatment, he was admitted into a study using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat victims of PTSD. This therapy was successful in giving him the healing he needed. Read the article!
While you’re at it, you should also check out the fantastic Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Their page on MDMA research can be found here.
graphic: Sam Jones
Based on last week’s article, a friend started a conversation with me about how they could best support their friend who would soon be doing magic mushrooms, to ensure all went well and that they benefited from their experience. After a lengthy conversation on trip sitting, I decided it’d make a great topic for an article! So here you go, a short how-to on facilitating your friend’s psychedelic experiences. Hopefully you and your friends find it useful!
illustration: Madeleine Gendreau
Today I published my first article in The Link! Titled “A Psychedelic Renaissance,” it goes over the need for people to become more educated about the drugs that surround them:
The word “drug” itself often keeps us from developing a more nuanced understanding of these substances. This is a term that places cannabis, heroin and MDMA into the same category, despite their radically different effects and harm profiles.
In political dialogue, the term “drugs” is Orwellian; it’s a scare-tactic word that lumps the good with the bad and the ugly.
. . .
The mindset regarding drugs is similar to sex: if we’re not well-informed, the first thing to do is educate ourselves in order to sort the facts from the stigma and sensational preconceived notions—and to ensure our safety.
Seek out information on substances that you’re curious about; ask friends that have experience with these substances, or spend some time reading the endless trip reports that exist on sites like Erowid to get a better idea of what the subjective experience is like on a particular substance.
The article also gives a brief overview of some exciting recent and ongoing psychedelic research. To check it out, click here!