This is an interesting article. I think that pyscho-active compounds which interact with neuro-receptors change the pattern of neural activity which we perceive in these mind altering subjective experiences. These experiences have the effect of knocking one off their comfort zones. They have the implicit psychological message that the world is not quite what we think it is. What this can do is to cause one to step back with respect to certain problems one is working on and to see them in a new way. I will say that an LSD trip will not give you added analytical smarts, and trying to solve mathematical problems while on an LSD trip is not very productive. On the other hand discussing these matters with somebody else on an acid trip is interesting.
This is the case with all psycho-active compounds, which can include alcohol. Of course excessive drinking leads to a life of grogginess that has few insights, and much the same holds for all of these compounds. I have known people who lived constantly on an LSD trip, and that leads in my opinion to being stupid. I have also known many people who use marijuana all the time, and frankly that just makes you a stone-head. On the other hand occasional use of marijuana has a way of changing how you see things.
The quotes by Einstein in this article are worth remembering. We do get trapped in our little world views, and this is particularly the case with thought systems (memes) which tend to support their presumed truth by self-referentially stating its truth. These things are the most dominant form of thought and communication which fills our world, and half the people who believe them are morons and lunatics. Maybe the occasional LSD trip might minimize the number of people who get lobotomized by these things.
Most members of post-industrial societies perceive themselves as happenstance cogs in a clockwork universe, and consequently, exhibit a profound and increasingly dangerous alienation. The dissociation of self is so fundamental that bioregions are sub-divided into tract housing, resources into quarterly earnings, and people into one-percenters and the rest.
In surveys administered shortly after their LSD-enhanced creativity sessions, the study volunteers, some of the best and brightest in their fields, sounded like tripped-out neopagans at a backwoods gathering. Their minds, they said, had blossomed and contracted with the universe. They’d beheld irregular but clean geometrical patterns glistening into infinity, felt a rightness before solutions manifested, and even shapeshifted into relevant formulas, concepts, and raw materials.
After their 5HT2A neural receptors simmered down, they remained firm: LSD absolutely had helped them solve their complex, seemingly intractable problems. And the establishment agreed. The 26 men unleashed a slew of widely embraced innovations shortly after their LSD experiences, including a mathematical theorem for NOR gate circuits, a conceptual model of a photon, a linear electron accelerator beam-steering device, a new design for the vibratory microtome, a technical improvement of the magnetic tape recorder, blueprints for a private residency and an arts-and-crafts shopping plaza, and a space probe experiment designed to measure solar properties.
Francis Crick confessed that he was tripping the first time he envisioned the double helix. Steve Jobs called LSD “one of the two or three most important things” he’d experienced. And Bill Wilson claimed it helped to facilitate breakthroughs of a more soulful variety: Decades after co-founding Alcoholics Anonymous, he tried LSD, said it tuned him in to the same spiritual awareness that made sobriety possible, and pitched its therapeutic use—unsuccessfully—to the AA board. So perhaps the music never really died. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say instead that the music got much softer. And the ones who were still listening had to pretend they couldn’t hear anything at all.
What happens in serious psychedelic work,” Fadiman said to the people before him, “is there’s a sudden reframing of massive amounts of worldview. We don’t know much about what that learning means, but we sure can see the results.”
The discovery of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, is a fairly known tale, at least in certain circles. As war ravaged Europe, Dr. Albert Hofmann hunkered down in his lab in Basel, Switzerland, and synthesized dozens of compounds from ergot, a grain-attacking fungus, in an effort to create a medicinal blood stimulator. In 1943, he accidentally (or, as he has claimed, synchronistically) absorbed a few potent drops from the 25th variety, soon thereafter experiencing a “not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition.”
What’s less commonly known, even in certain circles, is what should or shouldn’t be done with this potent discovery, which Hofmann has referred to as “my problem child.” During a second, entirely intentional exposure, his problem child unleashed upon him a slew of hellish and terrifying visions, severely compromising both his short-term sanity and his ability to navigate the physical world.
In your personal lives you are going to be looking at”—left ascending three invisible steps—“yourself, science, and the Divine. And so it’s important to know, what is necessary for the safest, most successful, and potentially sacred experience? The answer is, very simply, six items.”
These six items are, perhaps simply enough, factors that determine the quality of a psychedelic experience, as well as its specific nature. They are:
- Set: the mental attitude of a would-be psychedelic voyager
- Setting: the surroundings in which a psychedelic substance is ingested
- Guide: a person experienced with non-ordinary states of consciousness who helps to mitigate challenges and channel insights
- Substance: the type and quantity of psychedelic agent
- Session: the entirety of a psychedelic trip, including all activities or rituals
- Situation: the environment, people, and culture from which a person comes to a session and returns afterward.
You don’t go to the airport and say, ‘I want to fly a plane.’ And a pilot says, ‘Here’s the keys, pick one of those, and give it a shot.’”
Even the most positive LSD experiences often involve disturbing visions and moments of paranoia. Most of us still managed to do OK during our first time, maybe even were steered toward an epiphany. But some of us didn’t. Some of us crash-landed and injured ourselves or others, or were overpowered by unresolved subconscious conflicts, or, in extremely rare cases, unleashed a latent psychosis.
In one anecdote that made the cut, he recounts a night spent with Ken Kesey on a feral embankment between the shoreline and the town dump of sleepy Pescadaro, Calif. Peaking on a relatively high dose of LSD shortly before dawn, Dorothy, one of Ken’s girlfriends, lay down in the dirt to better observe one particular wild violet. Stardust waltzed off its purple petals into the embankment, the ocean, even the dump. Stranger still, the violet budded, blossomed, withered, and died, both forward in time and in reverse.
When Dorothy tried to explain it all to James, he didn’t scoff. Instead he got down beside her and, utilizing insights he’d developed as an IFAS guide, urged her deeper into the experience. Dorothy became aware that stardust was also coursing through her neural network. The universe wasn’t random chance, she thought that morning, but ebullient choice. She didn’t need to go anywhere because she was everywhere.
If you ask her today, she’ll tell you the effects from her trip lasted long after she came down. For starters, she’d say, this was the pivotal moment that led her to become a filmmaker. (Her short documentaries have earned numerous accolades, including an Emmy, an Oscar nomination, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Gold Medal.) But, she’d add, that’s not all. That morning, she ditched Hunky Ken for Interstellar James, and for 47 years and counting, they’ve lived together in an open marriage.
What happened to Dorothy Fadiman that morning? How about Francis Crick and the people with cancer in the anxiety studies? Staunch materialists might argue that exogenous, psychotropic molecules had simply transformed their three pounds of gelatinous gray head muscle into funhouses for a few hours. But Ms. Fadiman, Crick, and most study volunteers say something quite different—that the psychedelics they ingested acted as a sort of antenna, allowing them to receive rather profound transmissions that they couldn’t typically access during their ordinary states of consciousness. Such a claim is not without precedent.
Ever since people first altered their surroundings with celestially aligned rocks, they’ve also been altering their inner landscapes. Though Albert Hofmann’s recipe is entirely modern, tribes and other pre-industrial societies from Australia to Mesopotamia have long been mixing the medicine into brews, snuffs, and powders. In rituals, often of a collective nature, they’ve ingested these substances and then sung, drummed, and channeled to access insights, archetypal beings, and alternate realities. While these societies are as eclectic as orchids, they share at least one characteristic: Their rituals have served as an axis mundi, a psychic compass that simultaneously situates and provides direction to both individual and community. As a result, matter and consciousness are experienced as entwined, purposeful, and sacred.
The urge to connect with the numinous remains strong throughout the world, including the West—even as medical experts pathologize it, monotheistic bureaucrats neuter it, and Madison Avenue spellcasters exploit it. Of course psychoactive plants, fungi, and synthetics aren’t the only way to sate this urge: Sufis spin, musicians riff, and physicists formulate. And sometimes psychedelics just get in the way, according to religious scholar Huston Smith.
Albert Einstein, who navigated the twilight turf between consciousness and matter for much of his life, argued that “Man” suffers from an “optical delusion of consciousness” as he “experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest.” His cure? Get some n/um. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,” he said. “It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: His eyes are closed.”
Though scientists are more typically seen as killers of myth, not its creators, Einstein and many of his more visionary contemporaries sound as trippy as any of yesterday’s mystics. They say that the time-space continuum warps like the surface of a trampoline. They say that we are stardust. That there is no “in the beginning.” That things are not things at all, but relations. That the observer tweaks the observed, at least on a sub-atomic level, just by observing.
Who knows, their latest findings may one day affirm some ancient hypotheses. If reality isn’t shaped with the psychically aware, self-organizing units that Giordano Bruno called monads in the sixteenth century, then perhaps it’s woven with Indra’s net, the jeweled nodes of which stretch into infinity, each one a reflection of all others. To entertain such ontologies is to re-contextualize one’s self as a marvelous conduit in a timeless whole, through which molecules and meaning flow, from nebulae to neurons and back again. If certain of these molecules connect with our serotonin receptors like a key in a pin tumbler, and open a door to extraordinary vistas, why shouldn’t we peek?
Despite the 45-year government ban, Fadiman had never stopped longing to tinker with LSD, to catalogue what we might be capable of with this byproduct of mold. Of all the possible forays into this psychic terra incognita, he was most eager to explore micro-dosing—specifically its long-term effects. And he didn’t have another 45 years for the feds to get hip to the plan.
Fadiman claims the “normal range” of an LSD dose varies, based on whether one is seeking a recreational experience (50 mcg), creative boost (100 mcg), therapeutic session (100-250 mcg) or face-to-face with “the Divine” (400 mcg). But, he cautions, a higher dose is a riskier dose.
First things first: Fadiman defines a micro-dose as 10 micrograms of LSD (or one-fifth the usual dose of mushrooms). Because he cannot set up perfect lab conditions due to the likelihood of criminal prosecution, he has instead crafted a study in which volunteers self-administer and self-report. Which means that they must acquire their own supply of the Schedule 1 drug and separate a standard hit of 50 to 100 micrograms into micro-doses. (Hint: LSD is entirely water-soluble.)
Beginning in 2010, an unspecified but growing number of volunteers have taken a micro-dose every third day, while conducting their typical daily routines and maintaining logbooks of their observations. Study enrollment may last for several weeks or longer: There doesn’t appear to be a brightly drawn finish line. After several weeks (or, um…), participants send their logbooks to an email address on Fadiman’s personal website, preferably accompanied by a summary of their overall impressions.
“Micro-dosing turns out to be a totally different world,” Fadiman extolled. “As someone said, the rocks don’t glow, even a little bit. But what many people are reporting is, at the end of the day, they say, ‘That was a really good day.’ You know, that kind of day when things kind of work. You’re doing a task you normally couldn’t stand for two hours, but you do it for three or four. You eat properly. Maybe you do one more set of reps. Just a good day. That seems to be what we’re discovering.”
Elsewhere Fadiman has been more specific about the logbooks he’s received. One physician reported that micro-dosing got him “in touch with a deep place of ease and beauty.” A vocalist said she could better hear and channel music. In general, study participants functioned normally in their work and relationships, Fadiman has said, but with increased focus, creativity, and emotional clarity. Until he releases his data archive in a comprehensive manner, it is, of course, not possible to scrutinize the validity of his claim.
If these ideas seem far out to you, that’s precisely the problem. Or so thought Einstein. Capitalism, he argued, simultaneously creates a “huge community of producers” who are “unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor” and an “oligarchy” that “cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized society.” He believes this subjugation is largely accomplished “not by force” but because “the privileged class” had long ago established a “system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.”
We’re always evolving, one way or another, as we play for keeps on what William James called the “field of consciousness.” While countless questions remain as to the parameters of this field, one thing is certain. Fadiman and his far-flung colleagues have provided the means through which contemporary Westerners can visit areas once thought to be out-of-bounds, or accessible only to a select few, through divine grace, a near-death experience, or 10,000 hours of meditation. Under the right circumstances, these psychic dérives are far less dangerous than, say, a lunar landing, and may ultimately prove as rewarding, if not more so. Jesus is said to have overturned moneychangers’ tables in the name of sacred turf. Just imagine what a critical mass of formerly upright citizens might do if they suddenly saw the whole earth as a temple. “No wonder,” Fadiman writes, “enlightenment is always a crime.”
Previous text shows some mind’s possibilities. The last paragraph shows the rest. I.V.