The Psychedelic State
(c) 1992 Henry A. Flynt, Jr.
1. This psychology of the psychedelic experience is a review of a session of my own, and of sophisticated, detailed accounts of experimentation by five of my acquaintances.
As for my own experience, I took an LSD-like drug over a decade ago; exactly what drug was uncertain. I was alone in my residence during the "active" episode. I understand that my very restricted exposure to psychedelics does not allow me to set the limits of what is possible in psychedelic episodes. On the other hand, no supplementary experience can nullify what already happened--and there were lessons of great value to me in that one experience. (And, as I shall note below, my trip was markedly unlike what my acquaintances told me to expect; why couldn't that be so again?) I documented my episode extensively at the time in a taped memoir. I also have vague mental memories of the experience. In some cases, my taped memoir belies my persisting vague mental memory.
My own experiment, then, came after the psychedelic craze of the Sixties and Seventies was over. But I was already philosophically curious about psychedelics. In 1975, I began to assemble a private archive documenting other peoples' psychedelic experimentation. I have detailed written and oral (recorded) reports on the drug experimentation of five acquaintances--together with various ancillary materials. In particular, there is my 1978 journal of a visit to a house of drop-outs in Lawrence, Kansas who were acid-heads. Christer Hennix furnished ideas for a theoretical grammar of illuminatory experience, which I set to paper in 1979 and 1981.
2. Before I launch into my original investigation, I must comment on psychedelics as a mass hysteria in the Sixties and Seventies. The Great Psychedelic Craze of the twentieth century got its start in the Fifties. Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception appeared in 1954. At that time, the academic assumption was that LSD's use was in psychiatry; and research on the use of LSD in psychiatry was extensive. Concurrently, extensive research began to be done by anthropologists on the peyote cult in Mexico. Psychedelic shamanism, the velada, is in fact a topic in its own right; and I will include a note on it as an appendix.
The simultaneous appearance of rock-'n'-roll and the beat poets prefigured a social-historical shift in the U.S. toward plebeianism and bohemianism. Also, D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts were forerunners of a subsequent Eastern mysticism craze. Psychedelics were seized on by the beat writers, then by defrocked psychologists such as Leary and Alpert (subsequently Baba Ram Das), and finally by rock musicians.
Psychedelics became a craze of immense proportions, ranging through entertainment, psychiatry, religion, art, anthropology, politics, and so forth. Not only did psychedelics become pervasive in the so-called youth culture; wide experimentation went on in academic circles. A full context for my study here would require a comprehensive history of that craze. And yet it is not my role to write such a history. (Ironically, when it became possible to draw a balance sheet of the craze, in the Eighties, interest in psychedelic books waned--and so it seems that no comprehensive history has been published.)
American English acquired a new slang: trip, tripping, freak-out, turn on, drop acid, drop a tab, microdot, stoned, downer, bad trip, bummer, acid test, trails, flash, acid head, head, electric kool-aid, orange sunshine, purple haze, White Rabbit, white light, acid rock, go with the flow, let it all hang out. The craze also had its own pigment: fluorescent paint, or Day-Glo.
The hysteria was promoted, as a hysteria, by publicity-hungry, sensationalizing hustlers. A claim to converse with plants, to have acquired superhuman sexual powers, and to have become God was the passport into these circles.
The hysteria shaded, via rock, over into the New Left and terrorism. (Hence the material on Charles Manson and Susan Stern in the References).
Acid stimulated a genre of music. In acid rock, the ingestion of LSD led groups to play bubble-gum music in meandering improvisations, uncoordinated, replete with rhythmic loose ends and wrong notes.
Acid also swept the visual arts, with art nouveau being recycled as the official stoned art-style. Other ubiquitous novelties were tie-dyed T-shirts, Day-Glo, and Paisley patterns.
A series of feature films depicted drug use: Blow Up (1966); The Trip (1967); Midnight Cowboy (1969); Performance (1970).
The peyote cult of Mexico was turned into a vast craze by the anthropological charlatan Carlos Castaneda, whose Ph.D. dissertation was published in a magazine of men's fashion.
If the reader wonders why I dwell on these bygone follies, it is because the hustlers had an irrevocable warping effect on public consciousness--I will define it below--and I refuse to allow that effect to be covered up. To put it the other way around, I refuse to allow a sanitized memory of the Craze to be deployed to belittle my research.
The Psychedelic Craze produced its own series of impressionistic studies of psychedelic experience, aimed at civilian adventurers. (These books had a distinctly different tone from professional medical studies, which I will consider below.) Masters and Houston's The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience (1966) served as a bible of what civilian adventurers could expect. Also to be mentioned are Ralph Metzner, The Ecstatic Adventure (1968); G. Weil and Timothy Leary, The Psychedelic Reader (1965); David Solomon, LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug (1964); and a special piece, Leary, Metzner, and Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964). These books established a pattern which would dominate interpretation of the psychedelic experience for civilian adventurers. The psychedelic trip had to be conceived under the aegis of a few specific doctrines which possessed ready-made authority. My term for these mandatory protocols of interpretation is the acid-craze hermeneutic.
First, there was pop medical biology. Laypeople picked up a few scientific notions about how LSD worked, and refracted those notions into their own perceptions. Section B, below, treats that in detail.
Secondly, the content of the psychedelic experience was to be explained by the Freudian theory of the unconscious. (Anything was true, of course, if the famous Freud said it.) There was, in fact, a field of LSD psychoanalysis on the boundary between medicine and bohemian occultism--associated, for example, with Stanislav Grof.
Thirdly, the LSD experience was assimilated to religion; and was presumed to be a verification in experience of tenets of established religions. Becoming God was required to receive a grade of A. One had to come back from the trip claiming to have verified the existence of God in immediate experience to be counted an initiate. Not only that, but adventurers were quick to construe the psychedelic experience as a verification of the Eastern mysticisms that were flooding the U.S. Alan Watts had already staked a position for Zen. Richard Alpert opted for Hatha (Tantric) Yoga; Allen Ginsberg for Tibetan Buddhism. Leary committed to the aforementioned Tibetan Book of the Dead and then to Taoism.
Ready-made meanings for trips were also provided by the romantic-literary tradition of intoxication and delirium; and by art nouveau.
The hysteria was conditioned by the juvenile mystique of hipness. Bohemianism has a long history, dating from writers such as Rabelais and Villon. What directly affected the Psychedelic Craze, though, was the version of hipness which crystallized in the Fifties, based on Existentialism, the Angry Young Men, jazz, and above all the beats. Camus; James Dean; Jack Kerouac; Allen Ginsberg; Timothy Leary; Jerry Rubin. What we must understand is the burden of false values and specifically political misdirection that "hip" carries. Hipsters, like the Existentialists before them, depended on personal appearance and norms of fashion to signal how evolved a person was. An evolved person dedicated his or her life ostensibly to dissipation--jumping from one thrill to another. As beats were replaced by hippies, hipness became an ever more juvenile posture. A giggling and naughty approach to life.
A younger relative of mine was familiar with the scene and knew a number of women who took hallucinogens. These women tripped because it was an initiation which they could not avoid. For one young woman in particular, her first trip was like a serious illness in which she lay in bed and was comforted by friends until she recovered. I realize that the whole picture is not this negative; still, my relative's anecdotes contain a valuable lesson about hipness.
Realistically, hipness was bohemian allure and dissipation. Relative to purportedly abstruse layers of the established culture, being "hip" either made you petulantly and impotently dismissive of those layers.--Or, in the case of those who maintained intellectual pretensions, made you even more of an apologist for the established culture. The attempt to extract a revolutionary terrorism from hipness led to the milieu described in Susan Stern's With the Weathermen.
In 1990, Ken Kesey's The Further Inquiry appeared. Recycling the hippie-psychedelic fusion in what amounted to a tie-dyed book, this piece sold an image as stereotyped as a Marlboro commercial.
The Craze was characterized, as well, by a daredevil psychology and a "Can you top this?" frenzy. Peer pressure encouraged experimenters to construe any unusual perceptions as evidence that they had acquired comic-book-like superhuman powers. Beyond that, the experimenter was encouraged to report the trip as an experiential verification of the creed of one or another religion.
There is an account of two mescalin sessions from long before the Sixties which I wish to mention. According to Simone de Beauvoir in The Prime of Life, pp. 169-70, Sartre had a medically supervised mescalin injection in 1935. de Beauvoir relays a report of Sartre's experiences; and a (brief) report of a trip by an intern whom Sartre met. Sartre reported lobsters, orangutans, houses gnashing their jaws; the intern reported romping through meadows full of nymphs. Sartre's report is a unique object-lesson, because he was putatively a leader in phenomenological philosophy--subsequently to be awarded the Nobel Prize. I invite the reader to compare Sartre's account with my theory of private experience in B below, and with my account of my own session in C and D. I judge both of the reports relayed by de Beauvoir to be posturing trash. (Sartre's posturing, in particular, may reflect a romantic-literary mystique of intoxication; I don't want to pursue that here.)
3. My first thesis in this study is that the Great Psychedelic Craze--a episode of social psychology--was far more influential and powerful (in some sense) than anyone's unmediated experience of ingesting the drug. The coercion of fashion overwhelmed the population, telling people what psychedelics were and what they meant. My "Kansas City Journal" of 1978 records my scathing reaction to a house of acidheads. Acid and music?--it had to be the uncoordinated, ragged banality of "the Dead" and their groupies (the Deadheads). Acid and art?--it had to be art nouveau. The trip itself?--The Tibetan Book of the Dead had to be its geography; and beware that you did not come back speaking classical Tibetan. What is more, an acid trip impelled the experimenter to action: he had to go out and sell himself as Lord Jesus of the Fools.
It is the leaders of the Craze who catch my attention. To them, the drug seems to have been an ancillary, a source of sensations by which to hoodwink people. The dominating factors were the conformist intellectual myths; and the meretricious personal ambitions which they imposed on the drug. In addition, we should ask what the drug meant to the followers. People who had put in no work of their own, who had no philosophical insight, could now get an instant "cosmic" experience from a pill. They had done nothing to deserve this opportunity. This isolation of "revelation" from merit is a bizarre triumph of technology. The followers' response was to treat the opportunity as entertainment.
Nothing that a drug could do in itself could ever approach the power of the Craze, with its fame-grabbing leaders and its armies of musicians and artists seeking to turn psychedelic style into lucrative careers. (Not to mention Castaneda's lucrative anthropology.) Not "the medium is the message"; the mercenary frenzy was the message. No drug could freak you as profoundly as the Craze freaked its exploiters and dupes.
Let me repeat why I make such an issue of this. The hustlers had an irrevocable warping effect, and I will not accept the minimizing of that effect. To put it the other way around, I refuse to allow a sanitized memory of the Craze to be deployed to belittle my research.
4. During the Psychedelic Craze--and more significantly, before the Craze--psychedelic drugs were the subject of disciplined medical study. T.X. Barber's LSD, Marihuana, Yoga, and Hypnosis (1970) is a useful example of this literature. Let me mention also Heinrich Klüver's Mescal and Mechanisms of Hallucinations (1966); and Grinspoon and Bakalar's Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered (1979). Even this literature, incidentally, is not sealed off from the kicks-oriented phenomenologies. Barber, for example, cites Huxley (1954) and Masters and Houston (1966) as source evidence.
It is welcome to have information on the psychedelic experience which is not sensationialistic. However, from my point of view, the legitimate studies have vitiating drawbacks of another sort. Their view of psychology does not involve first-hand experience. Indeed, they are committed to studying a subjective phenomenon solely from outside, for mundane careerist purposes, in terms of effects on statistical samples of average people. The scientists' ideology of reality has absolute authority over the venture--and first-hand experience enters only in terms of snippets from reports by subjects--so that whatever happens is collapsed to the scientists' ideology.
The result is that the psychedelic experience cannot itself "speak." If I had had no information but these studies, I would have concluded that psychedelic drugs merely impair perception, and serve only to confirm fools in their folly. I would not have become interested in the drug. To take Klüver as a case in point, he sought to be mercilessly clinical about minute details of perception. Given his framework, though, what he provided amounted to tedious hearsay about unobservable events. That sort of work is too dull to motivate me to a response.
Let us consider what the public conception of a "standard" psychedelic experience was. I recorded a long conversation with an acquaintance a week after my own episode. Over and over, as I described some occurrence during my trip, the acquaintance said, "everybody reports that." I couldn't disagree more. If we assess people's trips by their consequent behavior, then I couldn't have had the same experiences as the public figures of the Great Psychedelic Craze. Nothing in my experience remotely told me to become a fame-crazed hustler, or a tycoon of kitsch, or a terrorist on behalf of some demented political perspective. Nor did I jump out of a window. Nor was I encouraged to live as I had found the acidheads in Lawrence, Kansas living: to become a Deadhead (or any of the rest of it). In fact, I have waited for twelve years to take this next step in exploration.
Aside from the acting-out after a trip, published personal reports of trips are a basis to judge what a "standard trip" is. "Phenomenological" studies of the psychedelic experience established a protocol by quoting one-paragraph snippets from experimental subjects' reports. This practice is found in studies ranging from the relatively more civilian Masters and Houston (1966) to the relatively more medical Grinspoon and Bakalar (1979).
As I have intimated, in appraising the "phenomenological" literature for civilian adventurers, the most instructive term in the slang is acid test. Drug taking was a daredevil act, a game of chicken; and the payoff was a "Can you top this?" tale. One was required to become God (if not to become greater than God) to get an A. (Leary said, "start your own religion"; he might have said, "become your own God.")
The reports in Grinspoon and Bakalar, as befits their status as Harvard Medical School professors, are more restrained. Nevertheless, these reports also reflect the acid-craze hermeneutic. All of this reporting of private experiences, indeed, needs unsparing critiques. Let me give a sketchy anticiaption of what I will say in the next section. I judge a case-study report of an acid trip on the basis of
1) evidence in the text, the prose itself;
2) my cumulated experience as a philosopher regarding how ideology and covetousness shape perception.
I find that published reports of acid trips are pervasively compromised by
- ideologically supplied hyperbole;That is my assessment when, for example, I read in Masters and Houston that you have to become God to get an A; or when I read (in pieces following on Leary, Metzner, and Alpert) that the tripper retraced every underworld journey in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
- lack of training in recognizing imputed contexts of objectivity;
- self-glorifying falsification.
B. An Epistemology of Private Experience
1. Let me turn to the concerns of this study: my first-hand experience, and the sophisticated and detailed documentation of psychedelic experimentation by five of my acquaintances. In order to throw into relief the features of psychedelics which make them important to me, I must restate and considerabley extend the epistemology underlying my psychology. (Nothing less than a sketch of a treatise is required.)
Here we are concerned with realms of experience which amount to private worlds--experiences in modalities which are interpersonally shared, whose specific contents are not interpersonally shared. In this area, my investigations do not accept weighty implications supported solely by hearsay. Only if the modality of the phenomenon can be interpersonally replicated will the phenomenon be allowed evidentiary weight.
The depositions which I compiled on psychedelic experimentation warrant more respect than the published snippets reporting trips. My informants were not the sort to lie deliberately to gain fame or to glorify themselves (or simply to strike a pose, as Sartre did). Nor were they drawn from the ranks of the gullible and the intellectually unsophisticated. My interviewees' reports are far more literal and astute (not to mention extensive) than the published "case studies." Even so, an entire branch of my investigation consists of scrutiny of the cognitive strategies implicit in these depositions. The depositions need to be criticized unsparingly.
2. Upon ingesting psychedelics, one does have anomalous perceptions, and unnaturally vivid fantasies. One has experiences of "melting" of the self; and one has visions which lend themselves to being construed as clairvoyant. One has visions with identifiable mythological contents. One can, while on LSD, accept a deluded thesis--a thesis which in hindsight will be disprovable. Delusion-making is a defining effect of psychedelics. And one may experience a progression of revelations of attitude.
An entire phenomena-zone emerges for which natural language has no vocabulary. Reporting one of my own experiences, I resort to saying "the air was twinkling." Or, one may have to say "I'm not all here." But the problem is also already present in alert waking experiences such as ringing in the ears or seeing spots.
Let me point out that anomalous experiences which have come to the forefront because of acid experimentation have analogues in un-drugged life.
- Intermediate-zone perceptions: ringing in the ears.
- The touch of a person at whom you are angry will burn.
- Loss of self (of centered presence and activation) during a fever.
- In a great personal crisis, having a "vision" (an overwhelming "daydream") which invites being taken as clairvoyant.
- Seeing a "cloud" of white light around a person who removes an emotionally important difficulty for oneself. A "nimbus."
- There may be an occurrence which is rich in that through it, I sourmount the dread of being cheated by death. (A "radient" occurrence.) To locate such an experience in a time-series of events is beside the point; hence, an "out-of-time experience." A phenomenon of the domination of temporality by mood and morale.
Another point is that there are un-drugged experiences which go far beyond the psychedelic experience in breaking up the self. In dreams, one can exist as an altogether different person; and one can see oneself from an outside vantage-point. What is crucial about such experiences is that one does not know, while they occur, that one is dreaming. Such modal classification is a judgment which is made only in subsequent waking life.
With respect to reports of private experience, most people, having an out-of-compartment experience in a social milieu of mandatory hyperbole and aggrandizement, will use language corruptly, and carelessly give an aggrandized report of their perceptions. It is necessary in my psychology to insist that the descriptions are aggrandized. But equally, I insist that something unusual did happen. By allowing, in the waking state, what we already know from dreams--each person seeing a different and scientifically unordered world--psychedelic experience undercuts the principle of objects which subsist independently in interpersonally shared observation fields. What we approach here is an operative exhibition that the proof of the existence of the common objective world is a vicious circle. LSD may be, after all, a threat to the conformist consensus.
There are many points in the reports at which I speculate that subjects carelessly aggrandize unusual private perceptions in the act of interpreting and codifying them verbally. They construe their experiences in delusive, reckless ways. Critical training would lead them to interpret and verbalize a given sensation differently. As an example, under continued questioning, one of my informants retreated from wildly hyperbolic reports to reports in which the modes of the apparitions were far more understandable.
People have no training, and no motivation, to use language up to the limit of its potential for literalness. And, again, they have no training in recognizing imputed contexts of objectivity.
A psychedelic episode may involve intermediate-zone perceptions which natural language does not provide for, and which have to be described via verbal improvisations. But granting that, natural language has a potential for restraint, for modal attribution, and even for literalness, far beyond what the psychedelic experimenters learned to use.
3. There is no honored philosophy which has a place for hallucinatory experience (when reported up to the potential of natural language for literalness, and without self-glorifying falsification). The whole point of the enterprise of philosophy, traditionally, was to deny attention to experience which was avowedly subjective (and nonanalytical). (Plato said it all: philosophy follows geometry.) Avowedly subjective and nonanalytical experience is excluded--on the grounds that it leads the knower away from the single Absolute.
The alternative to philosophy and natural science posited by philosophy and by the culture is irrationalism and superstition. Thus, when private hallucinatory experience becomes a topic, there is overwhelming encouragement to conceive and interpret it as evidence of acquired supernatural powers and verification of religious doctrine.
4. I cannot have other people's experiences for them. And we would be cheated of what other people have to teach by captious and patronizing dissections of their reports. Nevertheless, reports of private experience--which might be thought to be beyond dispute by an outsider--admit a surprising degree of critical testing. Here are seven junctures of warranted criticism of another person's report of a private experience.
The test of consistency can be devastatingly powerful, especially if the subject is inteviewed at separated times without being told that his or her consistency is under review.
A subject might lie unintentionally because of lack of the detachment to judge a delusion as such. That is the only way I could understand a claim to have held a conversation with an insect or a cabbage, for example--if it was not a deliberate and detectable lie.
The more frequent application of this test concerns the subject who claims a miraculous increase in perceptual powers, such as seeing clock hands stand still, or seeing whirling tape reels in slow motion, or seeing individual molecules of objects, or seeing through another person's flesh. (And yet I had some sort of increase in sensitivity when I saw steam rising from lukewarm liquid as if the room were freezing.)
5. The possibility of criticizing reports of private experience from without introduces an even weightier issue. When a subject reports a life-episode in detail, the discourse will be found to embody a tacit philosophical anthropology (to use the quaint, pedantic term). And--the subject's interpretation of his or her experience cannot be more lucid than the philosophical anthropology which the subject's deposition embodies or expresses.
I am speaking generically of states which are private experiences. But there is a great distinction in conventional thought between a psychedelic epidode and a dream. A psychedelic trip occurs in the waking state, and it is a variation on the enduring waking self and the accoutrements of "the" world. A dream may seem utterly real as it occurs, but upon waking, conventional thought does not claim that any part whatever of the dream-world is actual. The dream's protagonist may have an entirely different persona from my waking self, even though I remember it as "me" upon awaking. (There is the paradoxical question of how the dreamed ego and its speech can be "real," given that the "world" they unfold in is not.) One may analyze how we know "time" in terms of organization of memory, etc. See A.9 and B.3 below. These structrues are quite vivid in dreams. Yet we judge the "time" thus cognized to be pure illusion.
The subject's implicit philosophical anthropology will imply framing questions. The subject will probably resist raising those questions, and will not have answers for them. The reason that I list the questions here is not to demand that we give them yes or no answers. It is to show how burdened the subject's testimony is.
A.1. Do I and other people have minds? What is the location of minds in reality? Physically inside bodies? See A.8 below.
A.2. Are minds mere illusions in material reality? In that case, how can phenomena confined to a single mind be a topic of knowledge?
A.3. Is reality comprised by the multiplicity of minds--so that their shared observation-field engenders the material world?
A.4. What is the significance of deep unconsciousness for the way a mind endures in reality? Does the mind have a continuous identity which jump-cuts?
A.5. Can consciousness be defined in terms of things?--i.e. a defintion in terms of neural circuits?
A.6. How is it that I can acquire truths about other people's minds by looking into my own mind? Is it because all minds are structurally the same? More advanced: If one has a conception of persons as objectivities, from what vantage-point does one posit this conception? (Surely not from a first-person vantage-point, because that is subjective.)
A.7. What is the structure of subjective existence?--is it "my mind counterposed to world"? If so, is this "world" a subjective world of my observing, or is it supposed to be "the" (autonomous) world?
A.8. If the structure of my existence is indeed "mind counterposed to world," where does my body ("the somatic") fit in this dichotomy? Is a sore foot mind or world?
A.9. If there is supposed to be such a thing as time passing faster or slower, how is time's rate constituted experientially?
A.10. How is my mental life divided? Into consciousness and self-consciousness?
The preceding questions can be challenged by making an issue of dreams and private experience--as I began to do in an earlier paragraph. A probing treatment will not simply accept common sense, but will ask the informant to explicitly define the comparative reality-types of
(i) the world of my waking life;
(ii) the worlds of my dreams.
B.1. If waking and dreaming are held to have the same reality-type, does that mean that no event I observe or experience in waking life is consequential for another person? (What would that say for an action which begins in a dream and is carried on as I awaken?)
B.2. The other side: Are the events I observe or experience in my dreams consequential for other people, as those in my waking life are?
B.3. In the psychedelic state, is the entire episode "hermetic," as a dream is? Or can you clearly distinguish anomalous imagery, or hallucinations, superimposed on a continuation of alert waking life? (In the psychedelic state, when you go out onto the street, does the street objectively exist for other people?)
B.4. If a dream has a lesser reality than waking life, what is the source of its script?
B.5. If anomalies in the psychedelic state are "hallucinations" like dreams, what is the source of their script?
B.6. Is the protagonist in my dreams objectively a continuation of my self? Is my self an invariant under hallucination?
B.7. If a dream is a private hallucination, how can my use of my native language therein be objectively meaningful? Is language an invariant under hallucination?
B.8. When courses of events loom in a dream, but do not realize, are the courses of events possible in a substantive sense?
Beyond even these questions, a report of a trip implicitly poses such questions as:
C.1. How do I know day after day, year after year, that I am still I?
C.2. Which of the following portions of my mental life is the most reliable embodiment of my self's continuity?
- perceiving and thinking
- episodic memory
C.3. Is my experience of time in fact an experience of a pattern of memory (and anticipation)? If so, state the construction of time's flow from memory.
6. Again, we are concerned with realms of experience which amount to private worlds--experiences in modalities which are interpersonally shared, whose specific contents are not interpersonally shared.
When people are describing private experiences to each other, communication equals verification. That is, there is no defense against deliberate lies (in a polite relationship).
My psychology's position here is that the purpose is to increase the subject's self-understanding. The introspective vantage-point is therefore primary. The motive for honesty in verbalizing one's experience must be that one who is dishonest cheats oneself.
The dominant, or reliable, source of cognition--according to the philosophical tradition--is common-sense objects.
objects which subsist, independently of observation, in an interpersonally shared observation-field
(Two unimpaired people in the alert waking state standing side-by-side and gazing at a chair.) Since the phenomena of dreams, hallucinations, etc., don't fit that paradigm, the tradition classifies them as private illusions, and excludes them as sources of cognition.
But the objects "which subsist independently of observation" are given through personal observation--first-hand observation in the case of me, second-hand observation when I entertain testimony, third-hand observation when testimony is quoted to me. All a posteriori knowledge runs up against the impenetrability of private experience.
Already, the distinction of first- and second-hand reminds us that we are concerned with linguistic vantage-points which move among speakers, effecting a paradoxical transformation of the first-hand into the second-hand and vice versa.
"I see the chair."
"No, I see the chair; you say that you see the chair."
From this transformation of vantage-points--from a parallelism of personal observations--metaphysics infers the independent existence of external objects. But the transformation of vantage-points and the parallelism of personal observations are not merely spontaneous. It is not "spontaneity" that leads the members of a nation all to speak the same natural language. And the inculcation of that language accompanies an inculcation of standard perceptual routines--in matters even as elementary as the ranges of color-names.
7. We have seen that reports of psychedelic trips embody unmastered philosophical anthropologies. We have seen that the philosophical tradition, and modern science, have no basis to respect avowedly subjective and nonanalytical experience. That leads me to the role of personhood theory in this investigation.
Personhood theory equates "reality" with a personal microcosm; and then investigates the personal microcosm generically. Assuredly this departure is problematic; in fact, by inherited conformist norms, it is quasi-solipsistic insanity. But just this "insanity" is needed to get beyond philosophical anthropology, and to respect avowedly subjective and nonanalytical experience. Only personhood theory dares to be "crazy" enough to be "true." My last founding manuscripts on personhood theory, "Personhood IV" from 1984, and "Studies in the Person-World" from 1985-6, were concered with addressing the issue of a generic analysis of the personal microcosm head-on.
I shall not restate the "devolutional" strategy of personhood theory here. What I shall do is to mention the aspects of psychedelic experience which motivate an appeal to personhood theory. Beyond that, I shall here presuppose my founding manuscripts on personhood theory.
Already, for meta-technological purposes, I had pondered the reporting of out-of-compartment perceptions; had discerned imputed contexts of objectivity; had acknowledged involuntary daydreams; had pondered the evaluational processing of dreamed episodes, etc. I had considered the cognitive integration of self in the study which I call the "Choice Chronology Project." I had attacked acquiescence to crass life: which sustains the prevailing culture.
Personhood theory provides a novel center for these piecemeal investigations. In everyday life, a person actively integrates a regular self/objectivities configuration. (The process is retrievable via introspection.)
- The configuration involves a "radial hierarchy," from wanting and willing to thing-zone perceptions.
- It involves a "vertical" hierarchy, from morale and esteem to, again, thing-zone perceptions.
- And I introduce a third, epistemological hierarchy--the effect on the microcosm's boundary of a decrease of credulity.
Personhood theory provides a phenomenal analysis of introspectively retrievable integration of the self/objectivities configuration.
If you commit to neurophysiology, making yourself into a neural automaton, then you can't respect your introspectively ascertainable integrating of the self/objectivities configuration. You have to treat your own conscious existence as an illusion derived from some inanimate micro-mechanical operation. Personhood theory suspends thingist knowledges such as biochemistry and neurophysiology--assessing them as mythologies to which one is attached by a life-long panic, as it were.
Moreover, we need a framework for viewing "intoxicated consciousness" which does not carry a burden of religious legend. (Eastern religion's legends, after all, didn't even possess the comfort of being culturally familiar in our milieu. American youths found themselves trying to believe in demons whose classical Tibetan names they couldn't even pronounce.)
We need a framework which acknowledges the dimensions of an everyday self: past, future, mental zone, external zone, observing, choosing, acting, etc. We need a framework which acknowledges one's active integrating of the regular self-world configuration in everyday life. That is because the psychedelic experience produces anomalous variations in exactly the "postures" and "ongoing integrations" which comprise personhood.
Nothing better teaches you what "self" is than to have centered presence and activation turned off like a light, without somatic debilitation. Nothing better teaches you what willfulness is than to have it turned off like a light. Then, the perceptual zone between self and things gets amplified--so that experiences in the "zone" of "seeing spots" or "ears ringing" move to the foreground. Finally, psychedelics operate on mood and morale, in ways integrated with perceptual anomaly.
Personhood theory was conceived to address such contents forthrightly. In addition, interpersonal communication is constrained by the embedding of the "shared" language in individual personhoods. These embeddings are the basis of severe divergences regarding meanings. (A test question is whether it is semantically possible to be supernaturally exalted and at the same time accept a debased life. People defend opposite answers to such questions. My aim is to force such questions into the open.) These divergences, which warp the shared language severely, cannot even be portrayed without the apparatus of personhood theory.
8. Let me conclude this section with a more extended look at how perception can be shaped by ideology while it occurs--and about how the ideological distortion of the anomalous perception can be demonstrated by analysis of the experimenter's deposition, the experimenter's text.
Two of my acquaintances were fans of contemporary neuroscience. They report their experiences in verbalizations which are distorted in that they do not distinguish perception from scientific mythology.
My acquaintances' reports were filled with statements like:
The garbage can looked as if my post-ocular inhibition
of my fovea magnification was blocked at my synapses.
The reason why this is preposterous is that nobody observes the synapse-by-synapse blocking of the post-ocular inhibition of their fovea magnification.--Just as nobody observes a neutrino. And yet my acquaintances were using this sort of fantasy to specify the appearance of a garbage can. Actually, if my acquaintances had claimed such a miracle as seeing a neutrino, that would have discredited them as scientific cognoscenti--and that is not what they really wanted.
Actually, the injection of scientific mythology into perception went deeper than this for my informants. They tried to explain what they were seing by deriving it directly from pop neurophysiology. So, for example, one subject had a suspension-of-time experience "because the volume of sensations was greater than normal, causing time to slow down." The subject linked this to Einstein relativity. And yet I propose that the out-of-time experience could stem as much from altered mood as from change in sensations' rate. I have to wonder if my informant denied the contribution of his altered mood--in his determination to give his out-of-time experience an explanation in terms of mechanical flux.
9. You cannot directly meet a drug unless your cognitive orientation has been unburdened. Lacking that, what one encounters after ingesting the substance is one's enslaved character (not to say one's crass character); and the superstitious beliefs which one has acquired from the culture. Long before subjects ever "take a drug," they substitute propaganda into their own perceptions. That is, they apprehend a perceptual field which could be made to evaporate by dispelling their ideology. If a lunatic believes that he is King Henry VIII, then he may be compelled to turn an ordinary chair into a royal throne at some point between sensation and reporting what he sees. That is what is at issue here.
On the other hand, once my acquaintances' reports are unburdened via the critical methods I have just explained, we are left which testimony which raises extraordinary issues. I will turn to these issues after I have reviewed my own first-hand experience.
C. The Inception of My Episode
1. In 1958 or so, reports from the beat front in California informed us that bohemians were experimenting with mind-altering drugs. In 1961, I was living in Cambridge, and heard about Timothy Leary's experiments from a college classmate who was around them. From then on, I was badgered by the psychedelic craze. My Kansas City Journal has scathing comments about a house of acidheads I visited in Lawrence in 1978. I had, of course, heard the stories about people believing they could fly, or committing suicide, upon taking LSD.
A month or two before my experiment, this wave of rumor became personal when a few of my acquaintances began to tell me what my episode would be and what I should do. They sought to pre-indoctrinate me and to co-opt my episode. More than they realized, they made it a dare, a game of chicken.
They judged me from their vantage-point as believers in the mystique of "hip." Although they had seen some of my work, they could not see any farther than the species of writing it belonged to. "Philosophy" could not but be a musty rationalism which would not survive the arrival of anomalous perceptions. So I was an old square. They told me that a trip would knock me flat, that it would discredit my philosophy.
One acquaintance said that I must not take the drug in my residence, as my residence was too dingy. (That urging, in fact, expressed a bias as to the quality of preferred, heightened experience: such experience must be pristine and polished. I will return to this below.)
Another acquaintance said that I would see the walls melt. I debriefed with him several days after my trip. He said that the trip had been wasted because I did not have him as a guide. He warned me not to generalize from one trip--yet let it slip that he had only taken LSD once himself. He invited me to agree that LSD use is trivial, since it's unnecessary to repeat seeing the walls melt. (He didn't seem to notice that I wasn't agreeing that it's trivial--and, what could he know of repeated use if he only did it once?)
In general, my acquaintances invoked their priority to inflate their importance, and showed a troubling eagerness to use their priority to acquire control.
I judge that the warnings seriously affected my trip, especially at the beginning. My first impression of what was happening was that it was like having a fever, without the bodily debilitation of fever. There was a weakening or debilitation of my self, of centered presence and activation. But in addition to that, I was anxious: thinking anxious thoughts about whether I would be in this ego-debilitated state for the rest of my life; and feeling queasy.
In my judgment, the anxiety-discomfort was completely unnecessary, and merely cheated me during the beginning of the trip. It was the result of the warnings of my acquaintances. It showed how much such influence had cheated me. In a culture which does not know what to do with psychedelic drugs, which insists on pre-empting their meaning in reprehensible ways, it is desirable, I think, for one to find one's own way--shielded from the officiousness of one's acquaintances.
Let us note that the psychedelic experience does not of itself erase or counteract the menacing rumors. You have to compose yourself, to settle yourself. The drug is not an intrinsic euphoriac.
2. A question which began to intrude as the trip progressed was whether my reactions were the orthodox ones for the psychedelic I thought I had taken. I wondered insistently: if I don't see the walls melt, and don't imagine I can fly, is the drug not LSD?--or am I abnormal?
I engaged in the sort of thinking one does when one is trying to assess a malaise medically, or better, when one is wondering if one is responding to a medication in the predicted way. In contrast, I have taken non-hallucinogenic pyschotropic drugs, and have immediately committed to the euphoria--without any impulse to medical introspection. Again, part of the malaise may have been the warnings I had received from my acquaintances.
But I may also tentatively generalize that psychedelic drugs attach you to medical introspection. You mentally reach for any authoritative doctrine which might explain your malaise. Further, it becomes a major issue whether you received a different drug from what you were told, or whether you are having reactions to the drug which are unorthodox. And yet in the specific instance, the opportunity to establish in the laboratory what you took may be lost. Which drug you took is then left as a guess.
Psychedelic drugs attach you to medico-biologic introspection, evoking active concern with your biochemistry, etc. (In contrast, when psychic energizers kick in, they lessen anxiety, and you welcome their effect without reservation.) It is difficult to refrain from probing for unseen (material) causes. You view yourself as a medico-biologic experiment. This is both a defining feature of the drug, and a liability.
I wondered at the time if the uncertainty about what I took should be an occasion for astute hypocracy's selective withdrawal of credulity. Since in the actual course of events it ceased to be possible to assay forensically what I ingested, one could shift to a phenomenal view of experience, and hold that what mattered was the modulations of my ongoing world-integration (and not what hypothecated material causes brought me to those modulations). If one were serious, then one would have to view everything--dying of cancer, say--in the same clinically phenomenal way: the sensations, the cross-temporal judgments, the ego-modulation, etc. I realize that toying with this posture would seem insane to medical biologists, given that they deal routinely with agents whose effects are microscopic, and which take years to have clinically observable effects. (Thalidomide)
I must also mention that from my description of the effects to an acquaintance days after my trip, he was able to make an astute guess as to what I had taken. So the identity of the drug wasn't all that impenetrable.
At one point, Hennix briefly proposed a science which would lie between phenomenology and physical chemistry--ascertaining the "physics" of a chemical during and via the altered consciousness it produced. A brainstorm which was never developed to any degree.
3. A pervasive feature of my trip was that my mood became hypersensitive; and that I lost my tolerance of annoyance. Common human tawdriness and irritating cultural artifacts such as grating music now threatened to make me rabid. What may have been involved was not only the stimulus qua noise, like a tree branch tapping a window, but my judgment of the human qualities behind the stimulus: human tawdriness and insensitivity.
To the extent that other people were around--because I had neighbors, or when I walked in the Village on Saturday midnight to buy a snack--they were a downer. They were only a source of tawdriness, stupidity, and grotesqueness.
When my acquaintances told me that I would see solid objects melt, or that I would find that 2+2 no longer equalled 4, they could not have been more wrong. In fact, I know from experience--or am told--that there are drugs which do act powerfully on logical judgment and on object-gestalts. (Atropine; truth serum.) They are not in the psychedelic family proper. For me, interesting as the psychedelic drug's effect was in the zone of visual and aural apparition, it had no effect on logic. Its most significant action was on mood and morale.
In the "late middle" of the trip, feelings of elation, accompanying activities I was carrying on, heightened to embrace "the world." In one case, visual aspects of sunlight contributed to transform my elation into a glow of illumination.
The drug put various cognitive preoccupations in the light of the ridiculous. It also provided a drifting relish or illumination relative to musical improvisation. It showed how to attend ecstatically to a fascinating stimulus--to pursue in a drifting, floating way--letting a direction emerge with subtlety, without being forced. Elation--drifting, fascinated. (Without engagement in intellectual content, problem-solving--without a goal, without contention--without addressing the specificity, the detail, of another person's identity.)
In all of my experiences with psychoactive drugs, I took what are considered weak doses. Dexamyl, a drug I have considerable experience with, diminishes hunger. Otherwise, I found it to spur sensual appetites. And it spurred striving, energetic concentration on a task. Dexamyl flooded my mind with philosophical ideas. The strongest doses of dexamyl produced episodes which ended with my pace of work slowing, leaving me in an outwardly passive insight-phase. Therein, I had seeming insights about my past--vaguely of a psychoanalytic sort.
As compared with dexamyl, psychedelics provide the ability to drift in fascination. One feels that the latter is the higher lesson. Be-ing, rather than striving.
The time-sequence of the moments of the episode mattered to me in recollection because they comprised a progression in illumination. The episode was a journey--passing through the grandly ridiculous--which had a palpable destination, a floating away in light. And there were two after-endings: the Halloween grotesqueness of my walk in the Village on Saturday midnight; and listening to the recording I had made in sunlight, later that night, in the dark. (Floating in the light no longer had the visual cue; it became glowing sounds in blackness.)
To repeat, my confidants disapproved of what I wanted to do with the drug. I learned more about their disapproval after the trip. And they expected that I would be crushed by the drug, or would come away disapproving it.
But on the contrary. I have reservations about the psychedelic experience, and will present them in detail. Nevertheless, the psychedelic experience shows what it means to relish the destination. And from the other side, the psychedelic experience becomes a searchlight on everyday life, exposing it as pedestrian, barren, grating--as a rat race to uphold contemptible identities and win contemptible prizes.
The episode made me a staunch advocate of psychedelic drug use. In fact, it meant more to me than to most of my acquaintances, not less. And yet psychedelics already had innumerable advocates--and I found them reprehensible, not to say incomprehensible. To the acid hustlers, the drug seems to have been a minor ancillary, a source of sensations by which to hoodwink people. The dominating factors were the conformist intellectual myths; and the meretricious personal ambitions which they imposed on the drug. Again, no drug could freak people as profoundly as the Craze did. I marvel that LSD is so powerless in the important dimensions that its users can disgrace it, or come away with only vapid lessons.
After the trip was over, I was more impatient than I ever had been with the public's obdurate insensitivity. For days afterward, I thought that I should live half of the rest of my days in seclusion, tripping.
Instead, I never repeated the trip. One consideration was that I could not afford to become unworldly and vulnerable--I had too many mundane problems. Also, I felt that I could not lift myself far enough out of the world's sordidness to honor the experience, to assimilate it in tranquility. Psychedelic intoxication is a vulnerability. It doesn't provide a measured, mastering self. A third consideration was that for months afterward, I experienced occasional visual anomalies, color streaks accompanying motion of my vision. The drug was, in fact, too effective; I didn't want involuntary anomalies superimposed on my everyday perceptions.
As for honoring the experience, there is no support system in mundane life, in "society," for ecstatic exploration. But the observation that one had best deny oneself, that "society" indeed does not support the experience, became the strongest of all indictments of the social order. (And yet the Weathermen found LSD use compatible with quasi-Stalinist goals. )
D. The Balance of My Episode
1. At the outset, the episode had two constituents: the drug, and myself the person. That was not enough: it felt like having a fever without somatic debilitation. I was fidgety and bored. I couldn't be drowsy. I needed more stimulation than that. So I turned to a third, "cultural" input; and shaped the balance of the trip through that means.
I began trying listening to "trance" music (on a small cassette player). The Dagar brothers singing irritated me. I tried Hennix's Electric Harpsichord #1. I had found it exhilarating when straight or on other drugs. But now I heard a different layer of it, getting the "Smoke Alarm Philharmonic" or "insect" effect, and it irritated me.
I found that my Celestial Power fit in and was complementary to the experience (buoyant and spacey). The only prolonged version which I had prepared was the four-track. I found it too hurried and cluttered. The two-track version would have been ideal.
The technical flaws on the recording are much more noticeable and irritating when high. "Grit" evokes instant annoyance, even rage. So, then, there is a warrant for the purist esthetic, the esthetic of surface perfection (that Hennix advocated). One wants a glow on everything, undisturbed by grit.
The first perceptual anomaly appeared as I listened to Celestial Power. I heard my own voice singing (in the sliding guitar chords). But that had been well prepared before taking the drug. I was familiar with my singing voice from listening to "Graduation." (Rather high and penetrating.) I had already experienced a hint of hearing my singing voice in Hoedown when listening to it at my mother's house in North Carolina. And, when listening to Glissando #1 at the Kitchen in 1979, I had heard a hint of singing in the massed, resonated strings. The difference now was that it was more than a suggestion; I couldn't not hear my voice.
There appeared my first impulse during the trip to construe my enriched perception as clairvoyant, or as an intuitive penetration. Already, hearing myself singing in Hoedown, I had imagined that my perception had become a "lens" furnishing a truth about the music, about how intimately the taped fiddle sounds voiced my own personality. It was the same every time when I heard my voice in my recordings during the trip. I imagined that I was clairvoyantly sensing the music's intimate expression of me.
I experienced alterations of light and color. White light was brighter. A strip of sunlight in the room glowed, and jumped out. The room suddenly dimmed; perhaps a passing cloud, but as dramatic as an eclipse. Swirling water suddenly flashed blue. I imagine that I saw rainbow streaks when I swiveled my head; but my memoir does not say that. Subsequently, I switched the music. Now, looking across the room to the opposite wall, it was as if my interior self was attenuated, and the objects at the opposite wall were attenuated, and what was foregrounded was the intermediate zone. Light: the air twinkles. The effect was weak in the sense that it needed the cultural artifact, the music, to induce it.
On the back of a folding wooden chair, there were flecks of orange paint on the front of the back seat, and on the legs. Now I saw the entire chair as orange. The mass of jars on top of my refrigerator looked all green or all blue. Involuntarily, in perception, I spread color highlights over surfaces.
I felt a need to compare what I was seeing to my memory of the regular appearances. A need to suspect the new apparitions of pathology. Again, the drug induces you to suspect your medical soundness. That attaches you, decreases your commitment to the present. diminishes the experience.
I had been told that the drug gives the ability to see in slow motion. I watched the sprockets of a fast winding audio cassette while shining a flashlight on them. I saw the normal blur. I had no power to slow it down visually. On the other hand, I saw steam rising from lukewarm liquid, as if the room were freezing. At times, it seemed that time slowed relative to my kinesthetic activity, i.e. I felt that I could perform more acts in a given duration.
In certain respects my perception became dulled. There must have been volume distortion when I played Glissando #1 on the cassette player. I didn't notice it; and, notably, wasn't annoyed by it. Also I failed to hear a cassette run out on rewind.
I had no interest in reading anything. (A big difference from dexamyl, which concentrates my mental energy and makes me theoretical.) I had no interest in talking into the tape recorder which I had set up.
I had hoped that I would experience logically impossible perceptions, or altered logical judgments. Such perceptions can be enabled by drugs--as when a dental surgeon started me on an IV narcotic in 1979, and I saw the waterfall illusion (the room is swimming). But although I underwent changed attitudes to logic during the episode, the answers to logical questions underwent no change whatever. I mentally questioned myself on arithmetic and always got the regular answers. What changed was that now I didn't care; I was answering by rote and not by conviction.
But I didn't get a new answer. Nor did my perceptions involve the concurrent presence of mutually exclusive qualities. I did not try the waterfall illusion or the crossed fingers illusion. I did not have available the illusion-supports by which I challenge logic. [Necker cubes; facing mirrors, the counting stand, the electric motor clock hand] I only checked whether the cliché protocol was affected by the drug; whether I would get altered answers without exercising my own ingenuity. As far as that query is concerned, I concluded that psychedelics are not about logical anomalies.
I became more careful, rather than reckless, in dealing with heights and other risky situations. I prepared a meal and ate, in complete normality. I carried out a tedious chore of making tape copies without difficulty.
2. It was now, several hours into the episode, that notable moments began to occur. After eating, I decided again to test 2+2=4, and I did so with toothpicks on the bathtub cover. The answer was still the same. But I had a sudden revelation: it was hilarious that I was pushing toothpicks around on the kitchen bathtub cover to investigate whether 2+2 was still 4. A big grin. It was vastly funny, vastly absurd, that I was doing this.
The point was not one of fact but of attitude. Some slight impulse of mood or morale evidently was amplified by the drug. The drug did not enable me to obtain a new answer. Rather, it gave me a sense of hilarity that I was trying to do so.
At that moment, I felt a world-embracing hiliarity about worrying about 2+2=4 at the toothpick level as a revelation. In hindsight, it is at this point that my reservations begin. I found a problem preposterous because it didn't lead to an ethereal, sensuous glow. But that is a danger: you are seduced by "fulfillment now," by contentedness. You no longer take seriously the digging, the cerebral examination that must take place before the world will change to support ecstatic experience. It's like putting on sunglasses and deciding that you are unscathed by the sordidness of society because you are cool. You're laughing at yourself for worrying about intellectual structure, you're telling yourself that it is more important to relish the destination than to strive. But in fact, the palpable, unforced escape from the sordidness of the world will end in a few hours. To challenge the logic you have been inculcated with is not stupid, is not to be scorned. The cognitive disillusionment--and even more, the new logical experiences such as are gained via my illusion-supports--offer a wondrousness which is different from the psychedelic glow. And here you grapple with the structures blocking receptiveness to ecstatic experience.
3. Partway through the episode, I changed the music to Glissando #1, a trance piece which is cold, brooding and ominous.
Let me address the divergence of views between myself and Hennix--prior to the trip--over the quality one should seek in ecstatic experience. Hennix: it should be all sunny, polished, beautiful, joyful, pure and constant. HF: I am willing to accept a clouded, ominous, somber experience -- cold and dense, brooding, foreboding -- if it is significant. I have, off and on, kept a dream diary. My dreams are often brooding and ominous. I recall dense, morose dreams I had when I had fevers in the Seventies. I don't resent that.
Listening, to Glissando #1, I heard my voice in the massed strings of the music, now approximately repeating what I had heard faintly at the Kitchen.
The cold, brooding, ominous mood of Glissando #1 had a much stronger effect on my perception and fantasy than Celestial Power had. (Of course, it was also later in the session.) This is when I saw the chairs as orange; and the mass of jars as all green or all blue. Involuntarily, in perception, I spread color highlights over surfaces.
At one point, my recorded memoir of the next day is at variance with what I think should have happened. I was reclining with my eyes closed, and I easily saw colored images flash on a black field. I have had this experience as a hypnopompic vision, seeing what are like brightly colored license plates. My memory says that my ability to see these bright plaque-like apparitions was greatly intensified by the drug. But what my taped memoir says is that I saw faint, small images: little birds or ducks or glass figures on a black background. Here is a case of a documented personal experience which my mental memory cannot confirm. The tape, then, becomes my objectified memory with no mental episodic support. (Choice Chronology paradigm)
Continuing to recline and listen to Glissando #1, I closed my eyes and began to have unbidden "daydreams." The last daydream took on a life of its own, turning into a hallucination. My resistance to this fantasy came into play. I didn't like where the fantasy was going. I was able to curtail the fantasy by opening my eyes, arising, turning off the music, and engaging in a chore (vacuuming and mopping the floor).
One can curtail imagery that threatens to take on a life of its own, to become a hallucination. It is possible to resist psychedelic hallucinations.
Seven hours after the vision took this unwanted turn, I felt strong embarrassment about what had happened. (My embarrassment came when the drug was wearing off, lingering?) I felt compelled to evaluate the daydream, the vision (which included religious imagery), along Freudian lines, as an upwelling of denied and long-past emotional turmoil stored in my unconscious mind.
Visions appear which seem to demand Freudian explanations: they seem to comprise the surfacing of a repressed agenda of emotional conflict. I was moved to accept Freudian speculation as palpable knowing. My conclusion here is that the drug drives you to medical and psychological self-assessments--based on established biologies and psychologies. You mentally reach for your mythologies. To me, it is a liability when a state of consciousness induces you to grasp at causal ideologies.
On the other hand, these phases must be admitted in giving the hypothesis of the unconscious mind a hearing. I do that in other chapters in this work.
Something rather different happens with a substantial dose of dexamyl. Early on, there are likely to be spontaneous cerebral insights of disillusionment. Then you may reach a cruising altitude in which you experience a revelation about your life and motivation. But it is likely to be rationally more plausible, without daydreams having a "supernatural" cachet.
Assessing those features today, the visions and other phenomena which can appear in the alert waking state need to be inventoried first. I did that in B.2 above. At the level of sensation, these phenomena are utterly palpable. The philosophical tradition denies attention to them on the grounds that the conclusions they stimulate are not veridical. As I detailed in Section B, I advance to a new perspective relative to which traditional philosophy's treatment is crude.
Returning to my psychedelic "involuntary daydream of mythological content," it more or less forced a depth-psychological explanation on me. My own recorded composition--a conducive cultural stimulus--induced a partially repressed emotional agenda to well up as an enhancement of my perceptions (verging on visions, if not outright hallucinations). At the same time, I was tempted to construe these emotionally important contents as clairvoyant. The "knowledge" provided seems of purely sentimental significance.
In hindsight, the visionary surmises turn out to be false--literally, to be delusions. (I do not claim, any more than traditional philosophy, that "visions" are objectively consequential.)
During the last active phase of my episode, I recorded a forty-five minute electric violin improvisation with the Celestial Power guitars as accompaniment. I had already made experiments in adding a line to Celestial Power, including notably having Peter Gordon add a saxophone solo to it. Christer's perspective of making cultural stimuli to experience during trips helped impel me to do this. Also, I wanted a way to portray my trip objectively.
The activity of playing the violin was entirely different from what it had ever been. Usually, playing the violin was tense work for me. I tended to work in formats shorter than ten minutes, and had to make repeated takes to achieve an acceptable one. Only the energy generated by having exceptionally conducive accompanists had impelled me to do long, single-take improvisations. This time, my improvisation was as I had already planned it when experimenting with this piece--flute-like, tonal, melodic. But I passed immediately to a daring, ranging style--pieced together from long glissandos, harmonics, and "illicit" techniques such as "soft-stopping" and legato on the bridge. Instead of being tense work, playing was an unhurried exploration. Everything I was doing was fascinating; I was confident that everything I was doing was interesting. I recorded a single forty-five minute take. Realistically, of course, I already had a planned format for the piece; and I had been developing my genre of electric hillbilly fiddle for two decades.
While playing, it seemed that I was achieving miraculous effects, such as causing an ordinary stopped note to sound an octave above itself. In fact, I was using legato on the bridge to isolate harmonics, probably aided by the amplification, which tends to make overtones more prominent. No doubt the drug helped with the bow-sensitivity and steadiness needed to achieve this effect.
The late afternoon sun was streaming in the window; and I saw a glow, a nimbus, on the fingerboard of the violin. Sublime relish, the glow of illumination. Fascination, floating, drifting away in light.
I ceased to be conscious of the somatic exertion of playing the violin and only attended to what I wanted to hear and my relish of what I heard. Yet that somatic exertion of improvising a new piece was indispensable. (Without a thematic stimulus perfectly matched to the occasion, one is left fidgety or vegetating thoughtlessly.)
I felt a sensuous but not sensual relish. A relish of the destination, as opposed to anxious striving. Seemingly effortless action without calculation. One finds, then, that there is a state of elevated mood and morale--here in the guise of relish of the destination, floating in light. Withdrawal of belief, in the alert waking state, does not of itself achieve this state.
One comes upon this ethereal joy, which momentarily seems to be preferred of all experiences. Anxious striving, and intellectual examination, are made to seem like foolishness. I have reservations about this attitude, which are as I stated in D.2 above.
And yet, the moment was a profound lesson, an illumination. (It would be a sad comment on human psychology if one could not accommodate the destination, accommodate tranquility.) As personhood theory and my dialogue with Hennix developed, I had to attend not just to withdrawal of credulity, but to "consecration."
Speaking as before about different qualities of hallucinatory experience, one can infer different effects from the cold and densely brooding experiences as opposed to pristine and unvarying elation. Cold and densely brooding visions are anxious, driving you to seek an exit. Pristine and unvarying elation is tranquil, an embraceable destination.
In the evening, I listened to the recording I had made. I no longer heard my voice in the music; but the sounds glowed in blackness. At midnight, I left my residence to buy a snack, walking on Bleecker St. I thought the drug had worn off by then. But I certainly saw the people in a markedly different way from before. Before, they might have seemed annoyingly tawdry and garish, but now they seemed stunted and grotesque and maliciously obnoxious, like gargoyles.
Once again, there is an unanswerable question whether this perception stemmed from still being intoxicated; or from Saturday midnight in the Village itself, seen in the in the contrast with my earlier illumination.
Whatever the influence of the drug, I was tempted to believe that I was now seeing these people clairvoyantly and truly. Perhaps the drug had given me a lens to see them truly. Since this extremely pronounced perception of people eventually wore off, one has to infer in hindsight that the drug must have contributed to it.
My assumption that the recording would be able to convey to anybody what I had done and what it had meant to me was shattered when I played it to the girlfriend of a classical violinist a few years later. I thought I was doing her a favor; but she found it to be aimless scraping. Once again, the drug is found to be an insignificant component; it is nothing compared to character and socially inculcated values.
Something I could not know when I recorded my memoir of a day later: for about a year afterward, I would have an occasional anomalous visual perception which would echo the drug episode. Notably, when I would swivel my head, I would see a rainbow streak out of the corner of my eyes. I also saw color streaks in swirling water for some time afterward.
E. Topics Beyond My Experiment
1. Why would people take psychedelics in company, when the presumed effect is to privatize experience and lessen communication? Also, the drug amplifies mood and impression, so that it would seemingly amplify suggestibility, paranoia, and nightmare. Why risk this?
After a day on the drug, the people on the street seemed to me like mentally defective gargoyles. Not only that, but my impression invited being taken as a truer perception. What if the drug interrupts communication and causes the other person to seem stupid, grotesque, etc.? What if a clash of wills which you could contain while straight turns into paranoia and nightmare?
I can understand taking the drug with someone you already enjoy a positive wordless communion with. One assumes that the wordless communion will still obtain, and will be enhanced by the drug. People will be a positive "stimulus" for each other that will direct the drug experience, which will then enhance the communion. But this presupposes that "straight" interpersonal relating will dominate, outweigh the drug, and its ability to give unshared and unanticipated impressions.
I can understand why one might seek a session in which a drugged performer played for a drugged audience. Is it assurred that the result would be positive?
A Note on Psychedelic Shamanism
What are the "preliterate" people doing with psychedelic shamanism? The translated, published chants of the shamans are cliché, and rather skimpy and inconsequential. Not even as spicy as the content of some Tantric texts, or of recorded case studies of schizophrenics--not to mention ingenious schemes of cosmology or being. If these are bona fide drug visions, then the people involved are not letting themselves see anything sui generis.
Contrast with Pran Nath, who communicates with a musical language which is manifestly of the highest sophistication. (Recordings; class instruction.) The manifest language is like a map of the psyche's deep content.
The authority figures which the shaman Sabina saw in her vision, that conferred shamanship on her, were in the guise of Mexican provincial officials. No, municipal officials, síndico, municipal president. Spaniards or Indians? Also admixture of Roman Catholicism.
If the purpose is for the shaman to exercise power over the participants--i.e. if roles in the session are not supposed to be peer roles, but to follow an authoritarian polarity--then in fact it would be to the shaman's advantage to not actually take the drug, but to fake taking it and then fake an ecstasy through which the shaman would manipulate people as she wished.
The psychedelic shaman is valued primarily as a physician in the preliterate culture.
A possibility that peyote is so weak compared to social and peer pressure that it is more of a prop than a genuine supplier of content. [No, it's not that weak.]
LSD psychiatrists do give the drug and then, straight, hector the subject. Why shouldn't this be considered manipulative and evil?
Alvaro Estrada, María Sabina: Her Life and Chants (1981)
Henry Munn, "The Mushrooms of Language," in Hallucinogens and Shamanism, ed. Michael Harner (1973)
Fernando Benitez, In the Magic Land of Peyote (1975)
Joan Halifax, Shamanic Voices (1979)
Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1964)
Barbara G. Meyerhoff, Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (1974)
R. Gordon Wasson, The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica (1980)
Mushroom Ceremony of the Mazatec Indians of Mexico (Folkways FR 8975)
Bernard Aaronson and H. Osmond, ed., Psychedelics (1971) BF 207. C6
Bernard Aaronson and H. Osmond, LSD: It's Uses and Implications
Harold A. Abramson, ed., The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism (1967) RC 483.5.L9.I5
Antonin Artaud, "The Peyote Dance," in Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (1976); also The Peyote Dance (New York, 1976)
T.X. Barber, LSD, Marihuana, Yoga, and Hypnosis (1970)
H.L. Barr et al., LSD: Personality and Experience (1972)
F.X. Barron, LSD, Man and Society (1967)
Charles Baudelaire, Artificial Paradises (translation 1971, by Ellen Fox) -- not in Bobst
Fernando Benitez, In the Magic Land of Peyote (1975)
Simone de Beauvoir, The Prime of Life (1962), pp. 169-70 -- Sartre's 1935 mescalin experience
Richard Blum et al., Utopiates (1964)
Walter Benjamin, "Hashish in Marseilles," in Walter Benjamin, Reflections (tr. 1978)
Richard M. Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness (1923)
W.V. Caldwell, LSD Psychotherapy (1968)
Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juán (1968)
Jean Cocteau, Opium (originally 1930; translation 1990)
Bruce Cook, The Beat Generation
R. Crocket et al., eds., Hallucinogenic Drugs and Their Psychotherapeutic Use (1963)
R.C. De Bold and R.C. Leaf, LSD, Man and Society (1967)
D.H. Efron, ed., Psychotomimetic Drugs RM315.P77
Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1964)
Alvaro Estrada, María Sabina: Her Life and Chants (1981)
Peter Furst, Hallocinogens and Culture (1976) -- primitive people and drug cults
Ignacio L. Götz, The Psychedelic Teacher (1972) HV 5804.G64 -- LSD and religion
Intoxication in Literature (Yale French Studies #50, 1974)
Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar, Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered (New York, 1979)
Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar, ed., Psychedelic Reflections (1983)
Stanislav Grof, LSD Psychotherapy (1980)
Stanislav Grof, Realms of the Human Unconsciousness: Observations from LSD Research (1976) BF 209
Joan Halifax, Shamanic Voices (1979)
A. Hoffer and H. Osmond, The Hallucinogins (1967) RC 483.5
Albert Hofmann, LSD, My Problem Child (1983)
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954) RM666. P48.H9
Barry L. Jacobs, ed., Hallucinogins (1984) RM 315. H334
Ken Kesey, Kesey's Garage Sale (1973)
Ken Kesey, The Further Inquiry (Viking, 1990) tie-dyed book
Wolfram Keup, ed., Origin and Mechanisms of Hallucinations (1970)
Heinrich Klüver, Mescal and Mechanisms of Hallucinations (1966; original 1928, 1942) antique HV 5801.K58
Stanley Krippner, "Psychedelics and the Artist," Ikon (No. 5), March 1968
Weston La Barre, The Peyote Cult (1969) GN 21. L2P4
Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy (1968)
Timothy Leary, Start Your Own Religion (Millbrook, NY, 1967) 27 pp.
Timothy Leary, Psychedelic Prayers After the Tao Tê Ching (1966)
Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience: a Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964)
Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner, The Psychedelic Experience: a Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1976)
Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams (Grove, 1985)
R.E.L. Masters and Jean Houston, The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience (1st ed., New York, 1966)
R.E.L. Masters and Jean Houston, Psychedelic Art (New York,1968)
R.E.L. Masters and Jean Houston, New Ways of Being (1971)
David McAllester, Peyote Music (1949)
Ralph Metzner, ed., The Ecstatic Adventure (1968)/The Ecstatic Experrience (Macmillan)
Ralph Metzner, Maps of Consciousness (1971)
Barbara G. Meyerhoff, Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (1974)
Henri Michaux, Miserable Miracle: Mescaline (orig. 1956, tr. 1967)
Henri Michaux, Turbulent Infinity (1957)
Henri Michaux, Paix dans les brisements (1959)
Richard de Mille, Castaneda's Journey (1976) F1221.Y3
Richard de Mille, ed., The Don Juan Papers (1980)
Henry Munn, "The Mushrooms of Language," in Hallucinogens and Shamanism, ed. Michael Harner (1973)
Constance A. Newland, My Self and I (1962) -- women's LSD therapy
Glenn O'Brien, "Psychedelic Art: Flashing Back," Artforum, March 1984, p. 73
The Psychedelic Review
Baba Ram Das, Be Here Now (1971)
Ram Das, The Only Dance There Is (1974) Menninger Foundation
O. Ray & C. Ksir, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior (1990)
Ed Sanders, The Family (NY, 1971) Charles Manson
D.V. Sankar, LSD: A Total Study (1975) RC586.S36 [?]
C. Savage et al., "Therapeutic Applications of LSD" in Perry Black, ed., Drugs and the Brain (1969)
P. Schilder, Mind, Perception and Thought in their Constructive Aspects, New York, 1938 antique [magisterial psychology of 1938, boring]
Marshall Segall et al., The Influence of Culture on Visual Perception (1966)
Ronald K. Siegel & L.J. West, ed., Hallucinations (1975)
Gary Silver, ed., The Dope Chronicles 1850-1950 (San Francisco, 1979)
J. R. Smythies, "The Mescaline Phenomena," British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 1953, 339-347
David Solomon, ed., LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug (1964) -- has Sanford Unger, "LSD and Psychotherapy: A Bibliography" -- not in Bobst
Peter Stafford, Psychedelic Encyclopedia (1977) HV 5822.H25S74
Susan Stern, With the Weathermen (New York, 1975)
"Susan Stern Dies at 33," The New York Times, August 2, 1976, p. 26
Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987)
R.C. Stillman & R.E. Willette, The Psychopharmacology of Hallucinogens (1978)
M.S. Tarshis, The LSD Controversy (1972)
Charles T. Tart, ed., Altered States of Consciousness (1969)
Timothy J. Teyler, Altered States of Awareness (1972)
Sanford M. Unger et al., Psychedelic Therapy [?]
J.T. Ungerleider, ed., The Problems and Prospects of LSD (1968)
R. Gordon Wasson, The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica (1980)
Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology (1962)
David Watts, The Psychedelic Experience (1971) HV5822.H25.W38
Gunther Weil and Timothy Leary, eds., The Psychedelic Reader (1965)
Paul Weiss, Modes of Being (1958) B945.W396. M6
Brian Wells, Psychedelic Drugs (1974) HV 5801.W39
Louis Jolyon West, Hallucinations (1962)
Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) a narrative of the Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters bus tour
Norman Zinberg, ed., Alternate States of Consciousness (1977) BF311.A52
------------------------------------------------------------------old biblio., works no longer available
K. Beringer, Der Mescalinrausch (Berlin, 1927)
Macdonald Critchley, Some forms of drug addiction. Mescalism, Brit. J. Inebriety, 1931, p. 99
Havelock Ellis, "Mescal. A New Artificial Paradise," [Smithsonian Year] Annual Report Smithsonian Institute for 1897 (Washington, 1898), p. 537
Havelock Ellis, mescaline, Popular Science Monthly, 1902, vol. 61, p. 52
A. Knauer and W.J.M.A. Maloney, A Preliminary note on the psychic action of mescaline, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1913, p. 425
L. Lewin, Phantastica (New York, 1964) [discovered mescaline, 1886]
S. Weir Mitchell, Mescaline, British Medical Journal, 1896, p. 1625
H. Osmond and J. Smythies, Schizophrenia: A New Approach, J. Mental Sci., April 1952, p. 309
D.W. Prentiss and F.P. Morgan, F. P. Anhalonium Lewinii, Therap. Gazette, 1895, p. 577
A. Rouhier, La plante ...; le peyotl (Paris, 1927)
J.R. Smythies, Reply to comments by Professor H.H. Price, J. Soc. Psychical Research, January 1952, p. 557
American Journal of Psychology, vol. 34, 1923, pp. 267, 616
The Movie (Ken Kesey, 1964, never released)
Blow Up (1966, Antonioni)
The Trip (1967, Corman)
Midnight Cowboy (1969, Schlesinger)
Performance (1970, Nicolas Roeg)
Woodstock (1970, Michael Wadleigh)
Gimme Shelter (1970, David Maysles)
The Doors (1991, Oliver Stone)
 There were, of course, traditions of drug experimentation antedating the Fifties. Cf. H. Klüver, Mescal and Mechanisms of Hallucinations (orig. 1928); Simone de Beauvoir, The Prime of Life, pp. 169-70. It would take me far afield to survey this literature.
 The "References" for this chapter give a sense of the breadth of the craze; yet I do not attempt a comprehensive psychedelic bibliography, which would be voluminous.
 For Castaneda's charlatanism, see Castaneda's Journey and The Don Juan Papers by Richard de Mille.
 An academic treatment is Marshall Segall et al., The Influence of Culture on Visual Perception. Indeed, social science has made too much of this one study. For my approach, see "Determination of an Objectivity by Reciprocal Subjectivity"; "Hypnosis and the Delusiveness of Normal Perception and Logic"; etc.
 This acquaintance had already told me of taking LSD with a girlfriend, years before, and psychically "killing" her by browbeating her. He found browbeating her exhilarating.
 Susan Stern, With the Weathermen.
 For my theory of such phenomena, see "Introduction to the Logic of Contradictions."
 Again, see "Introduction to the Logic of Contradictions."
 Alvaro Estrada, María Sabina: Her Life and Chants (1981), pp. 198, 201.