ACCELER8OR

Feb 19 2012

LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6

Some time in 1986, I walked into Cody’s Books in Berkeley and saw a book on prominent display titled Acid  Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond by Martin Lee and Bruce Schlain.   Containing an impulse to start dancing around the aisles, I grabbed a copy and bought it.

I think it’s fair to say that nothing fascinates psychedelic aficionados as much as the connection between acid and the US intelligence and military establishments during the 1950s and ’60s.  For those who had profound and important experiences  — and perhaps more to the point — for those who had subversive experiences that made them doubt the very existence of nation states and their borderlines amongst other antiestablishment insights, the notion that not only did the powerful view these substances as tools for war but that we all might be “useful idiots” in some psychologically and spiritually heightened Machiavellian war on consciousness was… yes… frightening, but even more, intriguing.

We were able to catch Martin Lee in San Francisco — who, at that time lived in Washington D.C. — while he was on his book tour.   Jeff Mark aka Severe Tire Damage (“I was the one with the car”) and I had the pleasure of interviewing Marty over dinner.

As Queen Mu and I batted around ideas for an introduction to the q&a, it transpired that she was not wholly satisfied with what we had extracted from Marty about the possible conspiracies with nefarious sorts and we got on the phone with him.

That phone call was — as Mu was inclined to put it — utterly fascinating, and it did turn out that Lee harbored some suspicions that he hadn’t included in the book.  This resulted in an introduction by Mu in which she wrote:

“In a recent telephone conversation, Marty continues to speculate — on the connections between Italian Fascist philosopher Julius Evola with his ‘spiritual warrior elite,’ Rene Guenon (the French Esotericist) and mescaline; on the reported fascination with psychedelics by Sartre, Maurice Merleau Ponti and Henri Michaux. The links are intriguing if difficult to pin down.  Clearly though, by the 1930s, an awareness of hallucinogens had spread through artistic and literary circles in Berlin and other European capitals.

“All this merely contextualizes the real heavy-duty experimentation with psychedelics which Joseph Borkin stumbled on while researching The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. A discovery which Borkin left out of the book was that I.G. Farben maintained, throughout the ’30s, a special secret division devoted to research on psychotomimetic agents. In Acid Dreams, Martin Lee detailed Nazi mind control experiments with mescaline carried out by Nazi doctors in Dachau. Here he raises the interesting point that LSD, first synthesized in 1938, actually fell into the ambit of I.G. Farben when they gobbled up Sandoz that same year. Curiouser and curiouser!”

This is a segment of the very long conversation between Martin Lee, R.U. Sirius and Jeff Mark and it involves a wide range of topics, including:

  • The mystical implications of the LSD experience
  • CIA, LSD and the counterculture in the 1960s
  • Secret societies amongst the ruling elite
  • Using psychoactive drugs as chemical weapons

The recording is a bit rough to hear in spots… but you can make out pretty much everything Marty says, and that’s the important part.

Listen to the audio now:

 

Download Martin Lee discussing LSD, the CIA, and 1960s counterculture.

Jan 08 2012

2012 And The Failure Of Imagination

Advocates of psychedelic drugs often claim that psychedelics expand consciousness and stimulate the imagination. To demonstrate this point a few famous examples are often repeated, such as Francis Crick envisioning the spiral shape of DNA while high on LSD; Kerry Mullis coming up with his Nobel Prize winning PCR DNA replication method while high on LSD; or Steve Jobs seeing a world of people connected by Apple computers while high on LSD. There is some truth to these few examples, enough truth to make hipster comedian Bill Maher exclaim that taking LSD makes you a genius in a rant about how putting LSD in Halloween candy might actually be a good thing. After decades of bad press and public mockery, it seems that psychedelics have finally escaped the fringes and are ready to be embraced by the mainstream as miracle cures. More and more average people are reading about the healing properties of psychedelics, and more public figures are warming to the notion that psychedelics can create powerful and lasting spiritual experiences. Scientific publishing in psychedelic research is at an all time high. And then there is something about Mayans and 2012.

Whatever else you have to say about psychedelics, the meme of 2012 is now inseparable from psychedelic thought. Just like the term “entheogen” has replaced the term “hallucinogen,” the meme of a catastrophic or epic evolution in human culture has now replaced peace, love, and unity. Concepts of freeing your mind and seeking inner peace have morphed over the decades into dramatic tales of impending apocalypse and revolution, ending in a singularity that will engulf and change history forever. And this event may or may not happen on December 21, 2012, which happens to be at the end of the great cycle of the Mayan calendar, which coincides with our sun aligning with the galactic equator during the winter solstice, which only happens once every 26,000 years, or so the mythology goes. But the exact science doesn’t matter. What matters is that instead of eating mushrooms and having a good time, or imagining a cure for cancer, or visualizing a cleaner car engine, you instead get pulled through a singularity and come out thinking your an immortal astral shaman waiting for reality to fold inward on itself at the end of time. And then you think you have discovered the biggest secret in all of human history and you call yourself a genius, and become obnoxious about how prescient you are. And then you think you might be crazy, but then read a dozen trip reports just like yours on Erowid or The Shroomery and you wonder if everyone else has already taken mushrooms and seen this movie. And the answer is yes; we have already seen this movie.

It is easy to point to Terence McKenna as the originator of the modern psychedelic 2012 myth; his Timewave Zero idea was first introduced in “The Invisible Landscape” in 1975. McKenna’s idea came from a mushroom trip in La Chorrera, Columbia, in 1971, and was mostly ignored as insanity for many years. When McKenna’s popularity peaked twenty years later in the mid 1990s, the 2012 meme had already been adopted by Jose Arguelles and John Major Jenkins, and the Mayan connection kicked the meme out of the psychedelic underground and into astrological and New Age subculture. By the time of McKenna’s death in 2000 the 2012 mythology had become so firmly embedded in fringe culture it was even mentioned in the 2002 X-Files TV finale as the date of the impending alien invasion, the hidden secret root of all evil government conspiracies. Even though the details of the 2012 singularity, or the Eschaton, were never well defined, the apocalyptic tinge of the mythology took on a life of its own. The doomsday prophecy is a common theme in human history, and the 2012 myth fit easily into recycled bits from other ancient doomsday prophecies that people are still waiting for. 2012 is a fascinating piece of modern mythology, fascinating enough to be taken seriously by a large group of people. Fascinating enough to become a global meme.

Popular psychedelic mythology may be fun and exciting, but analyzing the worth of the 2012 meme poses some hard problems. For instance, instead of studying physics or biology or computer science and making Nobel prize winning breakthroughs in biochemistry, like the examples mentioned above, many geniuses in the psychedelic underground turned instead to studying Mayan calendars, UFOs, and crop circles, and look everywhere for signs of the end times. This is what I call the first failure of imagination. Instead of following the paths of the few rare individuals who took psychedelics and produced discoveries of great scientific importance, young psychedelic explorers turned instead to tales of stoned apes, machine elves, mushroom aliens, Mayans, 2012, and the transcendent hyperdimensional object at the end of time, as if these were matters of great importance. If taking psychedelics is supposed to turn you into a genius, then all the geniuses taking psychedelics should have been able to distinguish scientific reality from the quasi-spiritual historical fiction comprising the 2012 mythology. It’s not enough that psychedelic imagination starts with the discovery of DNA and ends with everyone connected by iPads — that is not enough. There must also be a global paradigm shift. We won’t be happy unless we get our global paradigm shift. And the global paradigm shift must be so dramatic that it renders all previous human history as obsolete. And we want it to come on an exact date, in an exact year. And it will play out just like revelations with famines and floods and plagues and catastrophic global upheaval.

Which brings us to the second failure of imagination, which can be blamed on the media and popular culture in general. Of all the memes to come out of modern psychedelic thought none has gotten more popular traction than the meme of 2012 and the “end” of the Mayan calendar on December 21st, 2012. Talk shows and news programs run stories on 2012 and the Mayan calendar; conspiracy theorists pick up whatever thread they want and tie it to 2012, and prophets point to 2012 as a time of transcendence, when the impoverished illiterate masses of the world will spontaneously realize we are an enlightened tribe of mushroom children all dancing to the same cosmic drummer. There was a movie about 2012 called 2012 that was horrible, and all the documentaries on History or Discovery channel are so obsessed with apocalypse its hard to tell which end-time prophecy they wish would hit us in the face first. What does this say about the quality of intellectual property coming from the psychedelic meme pool? Of all the progress that has been made in psychedelic research, of all the shamanic exploration through the rainforest, the thing that gets the most imaginative play is how we will destroy ourselves when the big dial on the Mayan calendar clicks over to the next pictogram? Pinning your mythology on an arbitrary, rarely occurring cosmological event seems like a desperate move to me, the kind of thing you pull out of your ass when you’ve run out of good ideas.

If you remember back to the early days of psychedelic experimentation, there was a period of time before McKenna where taking psychedelics was for fun. People turned on, tuned in, dropped out, listened to music, partied, had sex, freaked out, had bummers, got crazy, and found their inner freaky flower child. Now people take psychedelics and get serious; they seek the shamanic cure to every modern malady, or that hole at the end of time where all of history collapses and everything happens all at once. Earnest psychedelic advocates preach about the coming evolution in global consciousness where paradigms shift and the planet transcends into utopia or chaos, or the technological singularity ushers in dystopia or immortality, or something along those lines. For a group of people who used to be so focused on “being here now,” the psychedelic community morphed into a group of New Age future watchers always getting hooked on the next big hype that can never quite live up to its promise. And the biggest hype of them all is 2012. We’ve lived with the promise of 2012 for so many years, how can anything less than elves of chaos erupting out of fractal wormholes possibly satisfy us? Is there any way 2012 can possibly deliver on the outlandish promise of the prophecy?

When McKenna first presented the Timewave Zero meme it was a novelty, it actually came in a package marked “Novelty Theory.” And for many years the 2012 meme was fun and interesting because it was like a thought experiment; it was something you could fiddle with like an algorithm or a piece of software. The 2012 meme allowed all kinds of people to have quibbling discussions over the i Ching and mathematics and Mayan prophecy and Bible prophecy and ancient aliens and so on. The 2012 meme lived on past McKenna’s death and was recycled by New Age writers looking for a new hook into astrology, spirituality, prophecy, movie screenplays, and so on. The 2012 meme was such a convenient hook that people didn’t need to use their imaginations anymore — the screenplay for the future had already been written. That is fine for a thought experiment or for a whim of the popular imagination, but now it is actually the year 2012 and it will be the year 2012 all year long. I was sick of the year 2012 fifteen years ago. I’m not sure how much more 2012 I can take. The closer the December date becomes the more fixated the public consciousness will become on what it all means. The inventory on the shelves of our modern mythology cannot move forward until then, our imaginations are stamped with an expiration date, and we will be forced to eat the same old 2012 apocalypse transformation meme over and over again until it expires at the end of the year. No new memes are allowed until then. There is a singularity in time blocking any planning forward into 2013. It is a blurry space clouded by the dark side of the Force. All we can do is ride out this disaster movie until it’s over, and then its over. When 2012 passes without major incident the public imagination will be bankrupt, our modern mythology will be devoid of meaning, and we will be forced to think about what happens next. And that is scarier than having to deal with any singularity.

Latching on to a science fiction end-times prophecy is not genius. It is not expanded consciousness. And it is not a triumph of imagination. 2012 is lazy thinking and empty ideological fatalism with no hope of delivering on its promise. The 2012 meme represents the most infantile aspect of psychedelic thought; the wish to get something for nothing, believing that major change will happen by doing nothing more than waiting for a date on the calendar. By adopting the 2012 meme the psychedelic community went from being that tie-dyed hippie saying “Peace and Love” to that tattooed burner with a sign reading “The End is Near” in under two decades. That a group so fascinated with love and peace would adopt such a nihilistic and grandiose mythology and that the public consciousness would be attracted to this meme over any other offering from the psychedelic community demonstrates a fundamental failure of public imagination. It is impossible to say how many millions of people have taken psychedelics in the past few decades, but if the 2012 meme is the fittest idea to come of the psychedelic community since 1971 than we are in trouble. The mushroom’s gift to humanity has trapped us in an end-time prophecy awaiting the impending singularity. That is just embarrassing. The mushrooms clearly need new writers. But that’s too bad, because new ideas are embargoed until 2013, when our imaginations can go back to work. We’ll need a bunch of new memes for the rest of the 21st century. Our old memes have expired.

Nov 06 2011

The Seeker: A Psychedelic Suburban Youth Doesn’t Find It Tripping. An Interview with Peter Bebergal

 

“Psychedelic music  functions as tool for exploring all the myriad aspects of the psychedelic experience; the bliss, the dread, the melancholy of coming down, and the joy of having felt as though you have glimpsed the infinite.”

 

I could have quibbled with Peter Bebergal about the purpose and value of psychedelic drugs and psychedelic culture, but I decided to just let him share his experience and views.

Bebergal has written a deeply personal and very moving story about seeking god and transcendence through psychedelic drugs and mysticism in the cosmic desert that was late ‘70s/early ‘80s suburban youth culture.  Too Much To Dream: a psychedelic american boyhood takes us from the innocence of a young pothead learning mystic secrets from a likely schizophrenic old tripster while working at his job in the mall through happy acid flashes and big bummers; through hanging with ‘80s punks in Boston, and eventually through hard drug addiction and finally sobriety. All the while, Bebergal seeks spiritual satisfaction and understanding.

Bebergal also encloses satisfying bits of psychedelic history and a manifest love for psychedelic music that will make you want to punch up Sid Barrett on Pandora and absorb all the influences.

RU SIRIUS:  Yours is a very interior story of psychedelic seeking, despite some cultural referents.  My experience – in turning 18 in 1970 – was more like, “Oh yeah.  I caught a glimpse of the infinite divine again last night.  That’s cool… but on with the revolution!”   I wonder if the focus on finding god is peculiar to you or peculiar to the times you found yourself coming of age in.

PETER BEBERGAL: My generation was certainly lacking a cohesive counterculture. Even the punks couldn’t agree on what we were actually fighting for. The only thing we knew for sure was that the hippies failed. Charles Manson and Kent State were the ubiquitous images of the sixties when I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s. Along with these dark shadows was a restless spiritual need. The aquarian age never materialized and the normative Judeo/Christian teachings felt hypocritical and empty. There were no teachers, no gurus, no grown ups we felt we could really trust. For many, myself included, this resulted in an overreaching for meaning. Looking for spiritual insight, it was impossible not to find yourself browsing through the Occult/New Age section of the bookstore. What was there but more overreaching?… a kind of schizophrenic brew; Carlos Castaneda, The Tao of Physics, the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, and Chariots of the Gods.

Nevertheless, I also think there is something peculiar to the makeup of the addict/alcoholic, an underlying feeling of disconnection and loneliness; a deep need for divine communion of some kind. Sadly it often results in desperation towards self-destruction. So this combined with my generation’s own lack of social/spiritual authenticity meant I was essentially doomed.

RU:  It strikes me that psychedelics are both an enhancer and distorter of
pattern recognition.  It’s like once the mind becomes too conscious and too obsessive about pattern recognition, it becomes delusional.

PB:  This is probably the most succinct way of putting it I have heard. It’s essentially what we see happen with Phillip K. Dick. It’s part of the reason why no matter how non-addicting psychedelics might be from a chemical point-of-view, the capacity for the human mind to compulsively search for the same connection/insight over and over again is boundless. This same phenomena can be seen with a certain kind of occultism. Hermeticism can become an exercise in endless connection making and it’s amazing how even the most thoughtful occultists can become conspiracy theorists overnight. Psychedelics, and other forms of non-ordinary consciousness, can readily show that there is more to the human mind, and possibly the universe, than we can perceive normally, but when we lose the ability to critically distance ourselves from these experiences, the danger for delusion is great.

RU:  Could you say something about what your peak experience was with psychedelics… and then… without it?

PB:  Sadly, despite my best efforts, I never had what I call a peak experience with psychedelics. They always seemed just out of reach. I would have glimpses, moments where I could literally feel certain doorways open, but they would snap shut if I tried to walk over the threshold. During one trip I felt deeply connected to the woods I was in. It was an autumn day and the leaves rose up and applauded, winking and dancing all around me. I felt a spirit of the world moving around me and I was ready for a true communion, but of course some giggling friend I was with took me out of the reverie. I was trapped in the suburbs. The holy places for me were the copse of trees adjacent to the golf course or a rooftop overlooking the train tracks. But for whatever reason they did not signify deeply enough, and I was always looking around the corner of my experiences for something deeper.

Without psychedelics, I have had what I could call essential peak experiences, but they were more about immanence than transcendence; watching my mother die in the arms of my father as the cancer took her. I felt the spirit of the universe descend into the room that night and I believe I experienced a profound state of non-ordinary consciousness, brought on by the amazing chemistry of deep sadness and wonder. Similarly watching my son being born, and then in even more subtle moments, as when a giant blue heron flew along the window of a train as I looked out.

RU:  It always struck me as interesting that psychedelics can be used as a cure for addiction and yet — in a certain percentage of trippers — it seems to bring out the addictive personality.  How would you describe that seeming contradiction or odd contrast?

PB:  When used a cure, psychedelics are administered in a very specific context by a therapist or within a ritual context as in the Native American Church who use peyote and see a dramatic decrease of alcoholism. I cannot imagine someone getting to the other side of their addiction self-dosing and tripping on their own, but you never know. Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous used LSD after meeting Humphrey Osmond who believed that LSD could induce states akin to delerium tremems and possibly scare alcoholics away from booze. But Wilson saw another potential, a way of bringing about a spiritual experience that he believed was essential for a drunk hoping to get sober. He eventually had to give up the experiments for the overall good of AA, and later was said to have remarked that even though he had deep insights on LSD, that he also discovered there was no escaping from himself. Real recovery was going to have to be a slower, more deliberate process after all.

RU: Throughout the book you talk about a love for psychedelic rock music, which could only have emerged from the street use of psychedelic drugs, even if some who play it didn’t – or don’t imbibe.  What would you say about what this music evokes and do you feel some ambiguity about your love for it?

PB: Music has become one of the most important sources I have for experiencing and recreating current and past altered states. Psychedelic music in particular functions as tool for exploring all the myriad aspects of the psychedelic experience; the bliss, the dread, the melancholy of coming down, and the joy of having felt as though you have glimpsed the infinite. Music is capable of containing so much and it’s the best “language” I know for expressing the psychedelic experience.

It was music that started me on the path of writing this book. I found myself collecting psychedelic music again and uncovering an entirely new generation of artists working with these tropes. From the psych folk of Woods, Blithe Sons, and United Bible Studies to the dangerous stoner rock of Black Mountain to the transcendent groove of White Rainbow. And all these artists are doing something remarkable. They are, for the most part, looking inward, towards a more immanent and pantheistic notion of divinity at least musically if not personally.

As for ambiguity, I only wish that I had the sense to listen to more Stooges and Soft Machine than all that bloody Syd Barrett when I was a kid.

RU:  You remain interested in the psychedelic movement even though you feel you can’t risk taking them yourself.  What do you hope for people today who take psychedelic drugs in a way that is conscious of set and setting and so forth?

PB: I have come to believe in the absolute necessity of ritual and community, whether it’s the Native American Church or your local OTO lodge. However you can find it, try to access a group of people that share your spiritual/psychological sensibilities and that hopefully have a few seasoned elders and teachers. This is not to say there aren’t those that can handle the solitary journey, but I still think however one can position oneself into a larger context with its own myths and symbols can only be a good thing.

But more importantly I hope that those who use these drugs will see them not as a path but as doorway towards a spiritual/conscious way of life. As Alan Watts is often quoted as saying, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.”

RU:  Was it difficult writing this personally revealing book and do you hear from other American suburbanites who resonate with your experience?

PB: Writing this book was a challenge because it forced me to do away with how I had continued to romanticize my past and at the same time see that I was not unique, that I was just a kid doing the best I could during a time of great spiritual and social confusion. Being predisposed to addiction made my experience a little more dramatic than some, but in the end, I was a teenager trying to negotiate something very human that had revealed itself to me at an early age in a very intense way; there is meaning to be found beyond the conventional, beyond the mainstream. I am so glad I learned this. I have kept it close to my heart my whole life. Despite it all, I am glad to be one of the freaks.

I have some very nice conversations with others who identified with this journey, and who also see that while drugs can reveal some interesting and important things, at the end of the day we must trudge a road without special aid, with merely our own malleable and precious consciousness and that music, art, meditation, a little fasting here and there, and people to share our stories with is a path that can take us to places we never could have imagined.

 

Jul 06 2011

Transcending the Medical Frontiers: Exploring the Future of Psychedelic Drug Research

When I was in graduate school studying behavioral neuroscience I wanted nothing more than to be able to conduct psychedelic drug research. However, in the mid-1980s, this was impossible to do at any academic institution on Earth. There wasn’t a single government on the entire planet that legally allowed clinical research with psychedelic drugs. However, this worldwide research ban started to recede in the early 1990s, and we’re currently witnessing a renaissance of medical research into psychedelic drugs.

Working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for the past four years as their guest editor has been an extremely exciting and tremendously fruitful endeavor for me. It’s a great joy to see how MDMA can help people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), how LSD can help advanced-stage cancer patients come to peace with the dying process, and how ibogaine can help opiate addicts overcome their addiction. There appears to be enormous potential for the development of psychedelic drugs into effective treatments for a whole range of difficult-to-treat psychiatric disorders.

However, as thrilled as I am by all the new clinical studies exploring the medical potential of psychedelic drugs, I still long for the day when our best minds and resources can be applied to the study of these extraordinary substances with an eye that looks beyond their medical applications, toward their ability to enhance human potential and explore new realities.

This article explores these possibilities. But first, let’s take a look at how we got to be where we are.

A Brief History of Time-Dilation Studies


Contemporary Western psychedelic drug research began in 1897, when the German chemist Arthur Heffter first isolated mescaline, the primary psychoactive compound in the peyote cactus. In 1943 Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel while studying ergot, a fungus that grows on rye. Then, 15 years later, in 1958, he was the first to isolate psilocybin and psilocin — the psychoactive components of the Mexican “magic mushroom,” Psilocybe mexicana.

Before 1972, nearly 700 studies with LSD and other psychedelic drugs were conducted. This research suggested that LSD has remarkable medical potential. LSD-assisted psychotherapy was shown to safely reduce the anxiety of terminal cancer patients, alcoholism, and the symptoms of many difficult-to-treat psychiatric illnesses.

Between 1972 and 1990 there were no human studies with psychedelic drugs. Their disappearance was the result of a political backlash that followed the promotion of these drugs by the 1960s counterculture. This reaction not only made these substances illegal for personal use, but also made it extremely difficult for researchers to get government approval to study them.

The New Wave of Psychedelic Drug Research
The political climate began to change in 1990, with the approval of Rick Strassman’s DMT study at the University of New Mexico. According to public policy expert and MAPS president Rick Doblin this change occurred because, “open-minded regulators at the FDA decided to put science before politics when it came to psychedelic and medical marijuana research. FDA openness to research is really the key factor. Also, senior researchers who were influenced by psychedelics in the sixties now are speaking up before they retire and have earned credibility.”

The past 18 years have seen a bold resurgence of psychedelic drug research, as scientists all over the world have come to recognize the long-underappreciated potential of these drugs. In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA, ibogaine and ketamine.

Current studies are focusing on psychedelic treatments for cluster headaches, PTSD, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), severe anxiety in terminal cancer patients, alcoholism, and opiate addiction. The results so far look quite promising, and more studies are being planned by MAPS and other private psychedelic research organizations, with the eventual goal of turning MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics into legally available prescription drugs.

As excited as I am that psychedelic drugs are finally being studied for their medical and healing potential, I’m eagerly anticipating the day when psychedelic drug research can really take off, and move beyond its therapeutic applications in medicine. I look forward to the day when researchers can explore the potential of psychedelics as advanced learning tools, relationship builders, creativity enhancers, pleasure magnifiers, vehicles for self-improvement, reliable catalysts for spiritual or mystical experiences, a stimulus for telepathy and other psychic abilities, windows into other dimensions, and for their ability to possibly shed light on the reality of parallel universes and nonhuman entity contact.

Let’s take a look at some of these exciting possibilities.

The Science of Pleasure
Almost all medical research to date has been focused on curing diseases and treating illnesses, while little attention has been paid to increasing human potential, let alone to the enhancement of pleasure. However, one can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when we will have cured all of our most challenging physical ailments and have more time and resources on our hands to explore post-survival activities. It’s likely that we’ll then focus our research efforts on discovering new ways to improve our physical and mental performance.

A science devoted purely to enhancing pleasure might come next, and psychedelics could play a major role in this new field. Maverick physicist Nick Herbert’s “Pleasure Dome” project seeks to explore this possibility, and although this is little more than an idea at this point, it may be the first step toward turning the enhancement of pleasure into a true science.

According to surveys done by the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, the number one reason why people do LSD is because “it’s fun.” Tim Leary helped to popularize the use of LSD with the help of the word “ecstasy,” and sex expert Annie Sprinkle has been outspoken about the ecstatic possibilities available from combining sex and psychedelics. Countless psychedelic trip reports have described long periods of appreciating extraordinary beauty and savoring ecstatic bliss, experiences that were many orders of magnitude more intense than the subjects previously thought possible.

With all the current research emphasis on the medical applications and therapeutic potential of psychedelics, the unspoken and obvious truth about these extraordinary substances is that, when done properly, they’re generally safe and healthy ways to have an enormous amount of fun. There’s good reason why, they’re so popular recreationally, despite their illegality.

When psychedelic research begins to integrate with applied neuroscience and advanced nanotechnology in the future, we can begin to establish a serious science of pleasure and fun. Most likely this would begin with a study of sensory enhancement and time dilation, which are two of the primary effects that psychedelics reliably produce.

Perhaps one day our brightest researchers and best resources will be devoted to finding new ways to enhance sexual, auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile sensations, and create undreamed of new pleasures and truly unearthly delights. Scientific studies could explore ways to improve sexual performance and enhance sensory sensitivity, elongate and intensify our orgasms, enlarge the spectrum of our perceptions, and deepen every dimension of our experience. Massage therapy, Tantra, music, culinary crafting, and other pleasure-producing techniques could be systematically explored with psychedelics, and universities could have applied research centers devoted to the study of ecstasy, tickling, and laughter.

The neurochemistry of aesthetic appreciation, happiness, humor, euphoria, and bliss could be carefully explored with an eye toward improvement. Serious research and development could be used to create new drugs, and integrate neurochemically heightened states with enhanced environments, such as technologically advanced amusement parks and extraordinary virtual realities. In this area of research, it seems that psychedelics may prove to be extremely useful, and countless new psychedelic drugs are just waiting to be discovered.

In addition to enhancing pleasure, psychedelics also stimulate the imagination in extraordinary ways.

Creativity & Problem-Solving
A number of early studies suggest that psychedelic drugs may stimulate creativity and improve problem-solving abilities. In 1955, Louis Berlin investigated the effects of mescaline and LSD on the painting abilities of four nationally recognized graphic artists. Although the study showed that there was some impairment of technical ability among the artists, a panel of independent art critics judged the experimental paintings as having “greater aesthetic value” than the artists’ usual work.

In 1959, Los Angeles psychiatrist Oscar Janiger asked sixty prominent artists to paint a Native American doll before taking LSD and then again while under its influence. A panel of independent art critics and historians then evaluated these 120 paintings. As with Berlin’s study, there was a general agreement by the judges that the craftsmanship of the LSD paintings suffered; however many received higher marks for imagination than the pre-LSD paintings.

In 1965, at San Francisco State College, James Fadiman and Willis Harman administered mescaline to professional workers in various fields to explore its creative problem-solving abilities. The subjects were instructed to bring a professional problem requiring a creative solution to their sessions. After some psychological preparation, subjects worked individually on their problem throughout their mescaline session. The creative output of each subject was evaluated by psychological tests, subjective reports, and the eventual industrial or commercial validation and acceptance of the finished product or final solution. Virtually all subjects produced solutions judged highly creative and satisfactory by these standards.

In addition to the scientific studies that have been conducted there are also a number of compelling anecdotal examples that suggest a link between creativity and psychedelic drugs. For example, architect Kyosho Izumi’s LSD-inspired design of the ideal psychiatric hospital won him a commendation for outstanding achievement from the American Psychiatric Association, and Apple cofounder Steve Jobs attributes some of the insights which lead to the development of the personal computer to his use of LSD. Additionally, a number of renowned scientists have personally attributed their breakthrough scientific insights to their use of psychedelic drugs — including Nobel Prize winners Francis Crick and Kary Mullis.

There hasn’t been a formal creativity study with psychedelics since 1965, although there are countless anecdotal reports of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other people who attribute a portion of their creativity and inspiration to their use of psychedelics. This is an area that is more than ripe for study. Anecdotal reports suggest that very low doses of LSD — threshold level doses, around 20 micrograms — are especially effective as creativity enhancers. For example, Francis Crick was reported to be using low doses of LSD when he discovered the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule.

I’d love to see a whole series of new studies exploring how cannabis, LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline can enhance the imagination, improve problem-solving abilities, and stimulate creativity. As advances in robotics automates more of our activities, I suspect that creativity will eventually become the most valuable commodity of all. Much of the creativity in Hollywood and Silicon Valley is already fueled by psychedelics and research into how these extraordinary tools could enhance creativity even more effectively may become a booming enterprise in the not-too-distant future.

However, creativity isn’t the only valuable psychological ability that psychedelics appear to enhance.

ESP & Psychic Phenomena

Few people are aware that there have been numerous, carefully-controlled scientific experiments with telepathy, psychokinesis, remote viewing, and other types of psychic phenomena, which have consistently produced compelling, statistically significant results that conventional science is at a loss to explain. Even most scientists, are currently unaware of the vast abundance of compelling scientific evidence for psychic phenomena, which has resulted from over a century of parapsychological research. Hundreds of carefully controlled studies — in which psi researchers continuously redesigned experiments to address the comments from their critics — have produced results that demonstrate small, but statistically significant effects for psi phenomena, such as telepathy, precognition, and psychokinesis.

According to Dean Radin, a meta-analysis of this research demonstrates that the positive results from these studies are significant with odds in the order of many billions to one. Princeton University, the Stanford Research Institute, Duke University, the Institute of Noetic Science, the U.S. and Russian governments, and many other respectable institutions, have spent years researching these mysterious phenomena, and conventional science is at a loss to explain the results. This research is summarized Radin’s remarkable book The Conscious Universe.

Just as fascinating as the research into psychic phenomena is the controversy that surrounds it. In my own experience researching the possibility of telepathy in animals, and other unexplained phenomena with British biologist Rupert Sheldrake, I discovered that many people are eager to share personal anecdotes about psychic events in their life — such as remarkable coincidences, uncanny premonitions, precognitive dreams, and seemingly telepathic communications. In these cases, the scientific studies simply confirm life experiences. Yet many scientists that I’ve spoken with haven’t reviewed the evidence, and remain doubtful that there is any reality to psychic phenomenon. However, surveys conducted by British biologist Rupert Sheldrake and myself reveal that around 78% of the population has had unexplainable “psychic” experiences, and the scientific evidence supports the validity of these experiences.

It’s also interesting to note that many people have reported experiencing meaningful psychic experiences with psychedelics — not to mention a wide range of paranormal events and synchronicities, which seem extremely difficult to explain by means of conventional reasoning.

A questionnaire study conducted by psychologist Charles Tart, Ph.D. of 150 experienced marijuana users found that 76% believed in extrasensory perception (ESP), with frequent reports of experiences while intoxicated that were interpreted as psychic. Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, M.D., and psychologist Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., have collected numerous anecdotes about psychic phenomena that were reported by people under the influence of psychedelics, and several small scientific studies have looked at how LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline might effect telepathy and remote viewing.

For example, according to psychologist Jean Millay, Ph.D., in 1997, students at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands did research to establish whether or not the use of psilocybin could influence remote viewing. This was a small experiment, with only 12 test-subjects, but the results of the study indicated that those subjects who were under the influence of psilocybin achieved a success rate of 58.3 percent, which was statistically significant.

A great review article by Krippner and psychologist David Luke, Ph.D. that summarizes all of the psychedelic research into psychic phenomena can be found in the Spring, 2011 MAPS Bulletin that I edited about psychedelics and the mind/body connection. This article can be found here.

When I conducted the California-based research for two of Sheldrake’s books about unexplained phenomena in science, Dogs That Know When Their Owner’s Are Coming Home and The Sense of Being Stared At, one of the experiments that I ran involved testing blindfolded subjects to see if they could sense being stared at from behind. One of the subjects that I worked with reported an unusually high number of correct trials while under the influence of MDMA. I’d love to run a whole study to see if MDMA-sensitized subjects are more aware of when they’re being stared at.

It is especially common for people to report experiences with telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, remote viewing, and psychokinesis while using ayahuasca, the potent hallucinogenic jungle juice from the Amazon. There have only been several studies with ayahuasca which demonstrate health benefits, but this is an area that is just crying out to be explored carefully and in depth. Future studies could examine ayahuasca’s potential and accuracy as a catalyst for psychic phenomena, and all of the traditional studies that have been done with psychic phenomena, which generated positive results, could be redone with subjects dosed with different psychedelics to see if test scores can be improved.

Increasing our psychic abilities may open up the human mind to new, unimagined possibilities–and if you think that harnessing telepathic and clairvoyant abilities is pretty wild, then hold on to your hats for what’s likely to come next.

 

Higher Dimensions & Nonhuman Entity Contact
A primary ingredient in ayahuasca is DMT, and users claim that this remarkable substance has the extraordinary power to open up an interdimensional portal into another universe. Some of the most fascinating psychedelic research has been done with this incredible compound.

DMT is a mystery. One of the strangest puzzles in all of nature — in the same league as questions like “What existed before the Big Bang?” and “How did life begin?” —revolves around the fact that the unusually powerful psychedelic DMT is naturally found in the human body, as well as in many species of animals and plants, and nobody knows what it does, or what function it might serve, in any of these places.

Because natural DMT levels tend to rise while we’re asleep at night, it has been suggested that it may have a role in dreaming. But this is pure speculation, and even if true, it may do much more. Because of its endogenous status and unusually potent effects, many people have considered DMT to be the quintessential psychedelic. DMT has effects of such strength and magnitude that it easily dwarfs the titanic quality of even the most powerful LSD trips, and it appears to transport one into an entirely new world — a world that seems more bizarre than our wildest imaginings, yet, somehow, is also strangely familiar.

Psychiatric researcher Rick Strassman, Ph.D., who conducted a five year study with DMT at the University of New Mexico, has suggested that naturally elevated DMT levels in the brain may be responsible for such unexplained mental phenomena as spontaneous mystical experiences, near-death experiences, nonhuman entity contact, and schizophrenia. Strassman and others have even gone so far as to speculate about the possibility that elevated DMT levels in the brain might be responsible for ushering the soul into the body before birth, and out of the body after death.

But perhaps what’s most interesting about DMT is that, with great consistency, it appears to allow human beings to communicate with other intelligent life forms. When I interviewed Strassman, I asked him if he thought that there was an objective reality to the worlds visited by people when they’re under the influence of DMT, and if he thought that the entities that so many people have encountered on DMT actually have an independent existence or not. Rick replied:

I myself think so. My colleagues think I’ve gone woolly-brained over this, but I think it’s as good a working hypothesis as any other. I tried all other hypotheses with our volunteers, and with myself. The “this is your brain on drugs” model; the Freudian “this is your unconscious playing out repressed wishes and fears;” the Jungian “these are archetypal images symbolizing your unmet potential;” the “this is a dream;” etc. Volunteers had powerful objections to all of these explanatory models — and they were a very sophisticated group of volunteers, with decades of psychotherapy, spiritual practice, and previous psychedelic experiences. I tried a thought-experiment, asking myself, “What if these were real worlds, and real entities? Where would they reside, and why would they care to interact with us?” This led me to some interesting speculations about parallel universes, dark matter, etc. All because we can’t prove these ideas right now (lacking the proper technology) doesn’t mean they should be dismissed out of hand as incorrect.

A 2006 scientific paper by computer scientist Marko A. Rodriguez called  “A Methodology for Studying Various Interpretations of the N,N-dimethyltryptamine-Induced Alternate Reality” explores how to possibly determine if the entities experienced by people on DMT are indeed independently existing intelligent beings or just projections of our hallucinating brains. Rodriguez suggests a test that involves asking the entities to perform a complex mathematical task involving prime numbers to verify their independent existence. While it seems like a long shot that this method could lead to fruitful results, I think that any serious speculation about establishing communication channels with these mysterious beings is constructive.

Strassman’s work could represent the very beginning of a scientific field that systematically explores the possibility of communicating with higher dimensional entities, and this might prove to be a more fruitful endeavor for establishing extraterrestrial contact than the SETI project. What they can teach us, we can only imagine.

My own experiences with DMT lead me to suspect that Strassman’s studies would have yielded far more fruitful results had the subjects been dosed with harmaline prior to receiving their DMT injections. Harmaline is an MAO-inhibiting enzyme that is found in a number of plants. It’s found in the famous South American vine known as Banisteriopsis cappi, which composes half of the mixture in the sacred hallucinogenic jungle juice ayahuasca, which has been used for healing purposes by indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin for thousands of years. Harmaline is widely known as the chemical that allows the DMT in other plants, like Psychotria viridis, to become orally active.

Orally-consumed DMT is destroyed in the stomach by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO), which harmaline inhibits. However, it does much more than just make the DMT orally active. I’ve discovered that drinking a tea made from Syrian rue seeds–which also contain harmaline–two hours prior to smoking DMT dramatically alters the experience. Harmaline has interesting psychoactive properties of its own that are somewhat psychedelic, and it slows down the speed of the DMT experience considerably, rendering it more comprehensible, less frightening, and easier to understand. For thousands of years indigenous peoples in the Amazon jungles combined harmaline and DMT, and this long history has cultivated a powerful synergism between how the two molecules react in our body.

In future studies harmaline could be used in conjunction with DMT, to more accurately simulate the ayahuasca experience that strikes such a powerful primordial cord in our species. This would allow for the experience to become much more comprehensible, and last for a greater duration of time, which would allow for more ability to examine the phenomenon of nonhuman entity communication.

Some readers may have noticed that this article has loosely followed a Christian theological progression, from the ego death and bodily resurrection of the medical studies with psychedelics, to the paradisiacal pleasures of Heaven, where we discovered our godlike powers and met with the angels. Ultimately, it appears, this research will lead us to the source of divinity itself.

The Study of Divine Intelligence
Perhaps the most vital function of psychedelics is their ability to reliably produce spiritual or mystical experiences. These transpersonal experiences of inseparability often result in an increased sense of ecological awareness, a greater sense of interconnection, a transcendence of the fear of death, a sense of the sacred or divine, and identification with something much larger than one’s body or personal life.

Many people suspect that this experience lies at the heart of the healing potential of psychedelics —and they believe that making this experience available to people is essential for the survival of our species. I agree that we need a compassionate vision of our interconnection with the biosphere to guide our technological evolution and without it we might destroy ourselves.

In his book The Physics of Immortality, physicist Frank Tipler introduces the idea that if a conscious designing intelligence is genuinely a part of this universe, then ultimately religion — or the study of this designer intelligence — will become a branch of physics. Psychedelic drug research may offer one pathway toward establishing this future science.

Recent studies by Roland Griffiths and colleagues at Johns Hopkins have confirmed that psilocybin can indeed cause religious experiences that are indistinguishable from religious experiences reported by mystics throughout the ages — and that substantial health benefits can result from these experiences.

These new studies echo the findings of an earlier study done in 1962 by Walter Pahnke of the Harvard Divinity School, and it’s certainly not news to anyone who has had a full-blown psychedelic experience. R.U. Sirius responded to this seemingly redundant research by saying that “Wow! Scientists Discover Ass Not Elbow!” Nonetheless, this may represent the beginning of a whole new field of academic inquiry, which explores those realms that have been previously declared off-limits to science.

It appears that the integration of science and spirituality could be the next event horizon — our next adventure as a species. Our future evolution may depend on it. Without a transpersonal perspective of interconnection to guide our evolutionary direction, we seem to be firmly set on a path toward inevitable self-destruction. I personally believe psychedelics can help us get back on track, and help us heal the damage that we’ve done to ourselves and to the Earth. This is why I believe so strongly in psychedelic drug research.

There isn’t much time left before our biosphere starts to unravel, and we may only have a small window of opportunity to save our fragile world. I think that MAPS — and sister organizations, like the Beckley Foundation and the Heffter Research Institute — are industrialized society’s best hope for transforming the planet’s ancient shamanic plants into the respectable scientific medicines of tomorrows and, in so doing, bring psychedelic therapy to all who need it. This may not only help to heal a number of difficult-to-treat medical disorders, and increase ecological harmony on the planet, but it may also open up a doorway to untold and unimagined new worlds of possibility.