The Ecstatic Adventure
Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World
Chapter 12 From Character Disorder to Mystical Philosopher
AMONG THE MEXICAN mountain tribes who use psychedelic mushrooms or morning-glory seeds, the most frequent reason for taking them is to diagnose or to cure. Since its discovery LSD has been tried, with varying success depending on the sophistication and experience of the therapist, in the "treatment" of alcoholism, frigidity, psychopathy, psychosomatic disorders, infantile autism, obsessional neurosis, schizophrenia, drug addiction and many other illnesses. Of course many persons have taken LSD and have experienced remarkable enhancement of their sense of well-being, a freeing from blocks and inhibitions and positive changes in life style and attitude, without considering the experience "therapeutic."
To undergo therapy one must first define oneself, or be defined, as sick. Some psychiatrists very early saw the remarkable potential of LSD for telescoping many weary hours of psychotherapy into a brief intense experience. Others preferred to think of LSD as a mild "adjuvant" to traditional therapy; usually small doses were used. The experiences recounted here took place in this kind of setting. The sessions were held in the out-patient facility of a large London hospital. The patient came in the afternoon, was released late that night and was back at work the next morning. A therapist or nurse was always on call. Two or three times during the session, Ritalin was given intravenously. This central nervous system stimulant and euphoriant is given for the purpose of reducing anxiety and facilitating the flow of associations.
In this particular series of sessions the main focus of interest gradually changes. Beginning with the goal of solving certain interpersonal difficulties, it gradually changes to a religious quest. The patient describes merging into impersonal consciousness and cannot decide which is more importantthe understanding of childhood sexual fantasies or "the knowledge that one is organically connected with reality as a whole." As the sessions progress they become more and more concerned with questions of awareness, existence, reality, God, love, etc., and less and less with the confusing psychosexual patterns of thought and fantasy.
Alone the insights and perspectives that this interview sheds on the whole psychoanalytic theory of neurosis make it worthy of attentive study.
A MARRIED COUPLE with two young children came under care in 1959 complaining of a complex and unhappy relationship. For various reasons the wife elected to have treatment first. They have both gained great insight and the marriage is much happier.
This chapter is concerned with the experiences of the husband, aged 45, holding a combined academic and administrative post.
He was the second of two children. His father was the Minister of a Nonconformist chapel in Wales and on the surface the parents' marriage was reasonably happy. Both parents were Welsh.
He won a scholarship to a minor public school and subsequently took a first in Philosophy. During the War he was employed on security work in the R.A.F. and got great satisfaction out of the company of his "longhaired fellow intellectuals," to quote his own words.
Since the War he has been engaged in various academic posts and has done well in his career. He married at age 36 and prior to this never felt he wanted to settle down.
He is a man of great charm and personality with a fine mastery of English. He is very widely read in academic and contemporary philosophy and before treatment had read a good deal of dynamic psychology.
His treatment was spread over a year during which he had 18 sessions with an average dose Of 75 gamma of LSD and 30 mgms. and 10 mgms. of Ritalin.
His notes after each session were extremely lengthy and involved, and it was considered that a tape-recorded interview would present a more accurate account of his experiences than an attempt to summarise his own reports. The following is the record of the interview:
PSYCHIATRIST: In your case I had the opportunity of helping your wife to start with. Was that the reason that led you to have this treatment?
PATIENT: Yes, we heard in 1959 from our family doctor regarding the efficacy of LSD in some cases of marital difficulties, and we both spontaneously felt that it would be an enormous advantage to us to understand ourselves and each other. My wife, being very much younger than I am more or less insisted on having treatment first, I think quite rightly. I am glad that she did. I think it was much easier for me to accommodate myself to her emotional disturbances than it would have been the other way round.
PSYCHIATRIST: Perhaps you would care to outline what sort of person you were before your treatment?
PATIENT: Why, yes, certainly. First of all there was a great deal of assimilation to be done and that was why I did not want to be in a hurry over the treatment. Obviously a lot of what I understand now about myself is hindsight, because what I now know about myself throws enormous light on what I was like then, but I knew, and have always known, that I lived far too much within myself, and that real emotional relationships were not in effect with the outside world but with the contents of my own mind. I lived largely on my own sublimations, mostly music, academic and contemplative philosophy.
PSYCHIATRIST: What do you mean by contemplative philosophy?
PATIENT: Well, by this I mean that I had no doubt, and still have no doubt in my own mind, as to what I believed about the nature of my own existence. My real failure was to communicate it through my personality. There was an absolute gap between my social behaviour and my innermost beliefs. My emotional understanding of this gap has been tremendously broadened and deepened so that there is no longer any real gap at all.
I have found my LSD experiences extremely easy to assimilate because it all seemed to fit into what I had read and intuited about existence but my real difficulty was a sort of encapsulationa narcissistic myth of self-sufficiency.
I was too self-sufficient, I lived too much within myself. I didn't marry until I was thirty-six anyway, and I failed to communicate the sincerity of my real feelings about life by reason of my own defences. My social adaptations, necessarily false, got me involved with people who, had they known what I was really like, would probably not have involved themselves with me. It is difficult to explain. I had a very artificial and very over-adapted exterior which was completely at variance with my unconscious inner life.
PSYCHIATRIST: Which is a facade, or persona, isn't it, like the Greek masks?
PATIENT: Yes, very much so. I find the word "persona" very evocative, very useful. I would say that my persona was in direct conflict with my imago, as I think you would say. Now, they have fused. I realise that I've not only deceived other people, but have certainly deceived myself by supposing that I could keep the things that I really felt deeply to myself and live among other people without communicating with them. I think one of the fundamental features was that I felt an awful disinclination to hawk my wares in the market place. I felt somehow that all the things that were very important to me had somehow not to be communicated. I think also that my relation to the things that really mattered was rather passive, because the appreciation of music, which meant an enormous amount to me, is a very passive activity. One has to open one's self to it rather than manipulate it. My other difficulty was that my chief defence mechanism was in the habit of manipulating other people orally, through a kind of pseudo-intimacy. I made a very direct and rapid relationship with people, but nevertheless it has been basically a false relationship. It is an intimacy which is designed to keep them ultimately at arm's length I think.
PSYCHIATRIST: Allegedly a characteristic of your race?
PATIENT: Well, I think so, yes, undoubtedly. The Welsh. It's very odd I've often accused other people of being secretive but I appreciate that the Welsh are secretive in a much more radical sense than the English. There is a kind of racial mystical inclination, which particularly in my case, my father having been a clergyman with strong mystical leanings, makes one disinclined to advertise one's deepest feelings.
PSYCHIATRIST: Well, your formative years were in a Welsh chapel atmosphere, were they not?
PATIENT: Well, my first six, which are of course formative from the psychological point of view, were spent entirely in that atmosphere.
PSYCHIATRIST: Did you see a great deal under LSD in the relationship between you and your father?
PATIENT: Yes. Well that was the thing that was most deeply repressed, and LSD showed me absolutely conclusively that I had identified myself with my mother. It took me a considerable proportion of the sessions to realise that the identification with my mother did not mean that I loved her; on the contrary, that I identified myself with her in order to be made love to by my father.
It was a rather surprising revelation, in a way. I had this very deep involvement with my father, which was a difficult one because he was a very very neurotic man indeed. He was a chronic asthmatic, had a terribly strong dependence on other people, and a yearning to be loved, which he expressed by switching on with great facility attacks of asthma whenever he felt slighted or unappreciated. Thus my infant life was lived in an atmosphere of psychological menace. At the same time my father's awful yearning for love from his own mother, who was a very cold woman, produced a sort of telephathic resonance in me. I was attracted and repelled by it simultaneously, so that, as I discovered under LSD, this deep yearning need [arose] for my father, which frightened me.
One also discovers obviously under LSD, or presumably any other form of analysis, that it's one's deepest urges that one most strongly represses. I also find that the easy things come up first in any particular relationship.
As regards my relation to my father, I recovered the need and love for my father and only towards the end of treatment did I experience the infantile guilt and hostility associated with this feeling.
I would say that basically my problem was not a sexual one in the physical sense, but a lack of genuine spontaneity and warmth. I realised under treatment that I had a pseudowarmth and a false animation that I have since recognised in other members of my race.
PSYCHIATRIST: Your race has no monopoly of this, my friend.
PATIENT: I quite agree. I don't think that these racial attitudes are profoundly important but there are culturally determined attitudes as well as purely family determined attitudes. I am much more concerned with the enormous relief, which I have [had] only in the last two sessions. I realised that what I had really done was to repress this central need for my father, which came tip so clearly. All the events under LSD are undoubtedly sexual, and it seemed to me that I had repressed the knowledge, or if you like, the phantasy, that I needed my father's penis in order to become effective as a man.
I had taken refuge in identification with my mother, I think as a flight from this enormous involvement with my father, and partly also, because if I identified with my mother I could become the focal point of my father's love. I had a tremendous early session in which I bated my father for having access to my mother's body. It seemed very central. But right through LSD every single emotion has been absolutely ambivalent. I've bated and loved everybody in rapid alternation.
PSYCHIATRIST: Of course, with your academic background and your wide reading sceptics might say that you are just reproducing some of the pages of Freud.
PATIENT: Ah, they might, and they'd be perfectly justified. That hasn't worried me at all; this is almost the first thing that occurred to me when I started doing LSD, The answer to that is that the storehouse in which all one's experiences persist is not organised. Dreams are surely the best proof, aren't they? The unconscious helps itself to what it finds lying about in the preconscious, and the answer to that is that this applies to anybody who has explored their unconscious under LSD. The vocabulary with which one describes one's experiences is absolutely secondary, I think. it happened in my experience,
After all, I've read Freud and I've read Jung. At one time I was very much inclined to veer towards Jung. My feeling at the moment is that, as a result of all I have experienced under LSD, as compared with Freud, Jung represents an almost total flight from sexuality. A marvellous man, marvellous intuitions, but I think nevertheless the Freudian approach is anchored in physical reality and the physical events in themselves symbolise something which probably cannot be expressed verbally or even symbolically other than in physical terms.
I am not worried myself by this objection. I take the line that the unconscious has absolute validity of its own, there's no question of it. I think that the psyche as a whole is a selfregulatory mechanism and that the object of self-understanding is to produce free communication between the conscious and the unconscious. As you know, under LSD, time and time again I emerged into a totally impersonal consciousness, which seemed somehow to include me but not to belong to me in any way; this has been very important. I find it very difficult to judge at this stage which was the more important, the actual clinical self-understanding that comes up from these sexual events or this incredible release that arises from the knowledge that one is organically connected with reality as a whole. To me that is almost the more important side of the whole process.
PSYCHIATRIST: Would you say that you are no longer encapsulated?
PATIENT: Correct. I was, admittedly, yes. Not entirely, perhaps, but visà-vis certainly some people. This raises, of course, the whole question of underlying homosexuality. I have never denied that my relationship with men was invariably more intimate that with women.
PSYCHIATRIST: Emotionally intimate, you mean?
PATIENT: Well, yes, I think that I might have disguised this slightly from myself. I was always very much aware of the fact that I needed male companionship, but I had always thought this was culturally determined in a way. After all, men are more active, more educated by and large, more diffuse in their training. One can discuss all manner of things with men that one can't obviously discuss in the same terms with women. That was my limitation, in a way, a definite unconscious homosexuality.
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you think you have become more heterosexual as a result of your experiences?
PATIENT: More polymorphous, I should prefer to say. I haven't the faintest inclination now to homosexuality. One's relationships with reality are intrinsically physical, and that's all there is to it. I think that heterosexuality, as I am anatomically equipped as a male, is the only logical relationship with human reality. I never did have any feelings of particular shame or rejection of homosexuality. It's always struck me that life is necessarily bisexual on the whole. I've never really had any overt homosexual relationships, except when I was away at school, and I regard that as virtually normal.
On the other hand, I did have a lot of homosexual phantasies under LSD. Of course I learned that my father's repressed homosexuality was a very strong force, and I think this is important because of the link between my father and myself. Then I had this breast-feeding experience which was also very important. My mother had what was presumably puerperal psychosis, anyway, a so-called nervous breakdown when I was born.
PSYCHIATRIST: Did you see this under LSD or was it part of the family tradition?
PATIENT: No, I saw and felt this terribly clearly. All I had learnt from my mother before I ever had treatment was that she was ill for some months after my birth. Under LSD I had the experience of birth. First I felt myself in the womb and later I felt being outside, but a discarded object.
PSYCHIATRIST: This feeling of being discarded was after your birth?
PATIENT: Just after birth, yes. I was very much aware of the shifting analogies between excretion and giving birth. I felt like an abandoned faeces, as well as an abandoned baby, and it seemed to me that I heard my mother saying "Oh God, I don't care, take him away," and so forth. Then I felt, either in that session or in a later one, that my mother was in a state of acute suicidal depression. It was at about that point that I began to realise that my mother, who is still alive, 79, well-adapted, nevertheless had an absolutely excessive unconscious need for her father's penis which dominated her and has dominated me in fourteen out of the sixteen LSD sessions I've had. Quite fantastic.
I don't think that there is the faintest hope of establishing that anything one attributes to one's parents or grandparents is true at all because as one approaches the end of treatment, it is quite obvious that one is using parent substitute figures to project conflicts which are one's own and nobody else's. I think that's terribly important. I got stuck for several sessions when I was supposing that it was my grandfather who wanted to rape my mother. In practice as it turns out, the infantile phase of one's development is quite extraordinary, because one is both one's mother and one's self, one's father and one's self. All the attitudes that one attributes to one's parents are also one's own attitudes towards them and vice versa; there are no boundaries to the ego at this particular stage.
I did ultimately realise that what I had thought of as my grandfather's unconscious sadistic desire to rape his daughter was also my unconscious sadistic desire to punish my mother for having no milk in her breasts, and even though you may think that my attitude is infected by Freud I can assure you that it has helped enormously for me to experience this under treatment. No one, I think, can deny that the structure of the ego is determined by its early physiological experiences, and I know beyond any doubt that the absence of milk in my mother's breasts was of enormous importance to me.
PSYCHIATRIST: Was it a frightening experience to you, or a depressing one?
PATIENT: Distressing, I think is the word. I can't say that I was depressed. I had one short depression in the whole course of LSD which was relieved by a dream that night. I have found that whenever I got a block or a depression, that by admitting its existence, and thinking about it, it usually relieved itself in a very telling dream on the same night. I have never had what I would call pathological depression lasting more than a few hours.
As I have often said in my notes, I have this so-called manic defence, which is an awful liability perhaps in certain ways, but which turned out quite useful as far as LSD was concerned. I had a very optimistic view about LSD from the beginning. I've felt absolutely convinced all along that I was being released with wave upon wave of release from all sort of misunderstandings.
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you think you are a very different sort of person now?
PATIENT: Certainly, entirely different. LSD hasn't done any violence to sense of selfhood; in fact it has eliminated certain basic blockages in my self-awareness. I feel able to communicate with other people, I feel that I don't need this instinctive defence mechanism, this awful compulsive oral defence which I used immediately to put up between myself and other people. And the disturbing thing about this particular defence was that it didn't really defend me, but it involved me with people in the wrong sort of way. It was a very curious vicious circle, anyway.
PSYCHIATRIST: In your academic work, do you feel that your capacities have changed very much as a result of your experiences?
PATIENT: That's a tricky question because my work doesn't take up very much of my time and I have always, for some reason, been surrounded by willing helpers. My secretaries are always very devoted and efficient, and my staff are always happy and cooperative. As a matter of fact I have never had any difficulty in my work at all.
PSYCHIATRIST: Am I right in saying you had an element of restlessness about you?
PATIENT: That has been resolved by the treatment. I knew, in fact, that I was doing a job which involved a small fraction of my energies and certainly a minute fraction of my abilities. Now this proves to be an advantage because I am able to use my leisure which my work gives me to write and to organize my thought and it has enabled me to start writing again with enormous creativeness. I know at last what it was that prevented me from writing, really. I did write for a time, intermittently, poems and articles on music and things of that kind. I stopped about ten years ago, simply feeling that none of these activities was essentially what I wanted to do, that there was something more central that I needed to learn about before I could really start writing creatively.
PSYCHIATRIST: You had what we call a writer's block, really, didn't you?
PATIENT: I had a block, yes. But I don't regard myself as a writer. I never have.
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you now?
PATIENT: No. I regard myself as a person who has something to communicate, which has arisen out of my experiences under LSD. It won't necessarily be about LSD, I think it might partly be. Basically I am temperamentally in another culture. I would have been a mystical philosopher, probably.
PSYCHIATRIST: You would like to be a mystical philosopher now, d'you think?
PATIENT: I won't say that I would like to have been, I think I simply would have been, that's all. In a way, though, it may not be an advantage. I have never had the faintest flicker of ambition to be anything other than what I am, but inevitably I have been affected by the ambition of those about me. I have been urged all my life to do this and be that but none of the things I have been urged to do have been very relevant. Now I think I can communicate.
PSYCHIATRIST: Because of the release?
PATIENT: Because of the release, I can do what I consider to be my business, which is communicating intuition of reality, not necessarily original but at least genuine and sincere. It was a lack of sincerity, it's very difficult to define, but I think that there was a very deep fear of humiliation, a fear that what I had to say would be rejected. Ah yes, this does of course raise the whole issue of my faeces. I had a very telling session about half way through the treatment. It had come up once or twice intermittently, connected with the fact that my faeces were invariably removed by my nurse and never reached my mother and this proved to be terribly important emotionally. Yes, I did know about it before intellectually and as an analytic theory certainly, but I don't think this is necessarily very relevant. It was enormously important. I wept and wept and wept because I think it is terribly important that faeces is the first piece of the infant body that detaches itself. This in itself was a significant emotional experience. They were my products and I wanted my mother to have them and she never got them. They were discarded.
PSYCHIATRIST: Thrown down the lavatory? Earlier on you referred to a lack of milk in your mother's breasts. Was this a very basic experience for you?
PATIENT: It was. This came up very early. First of all when I was born I remember being applied to the breast. I used the dummy for these occasions while under treatment. During this session I was dismally aware of the fact that I wasn't getting anything out of the breast, and later on in further sessions I was aware of the sadistic impulses that arose from the failure of my mother's breasts and I had a vast amount of sadistic impulses towards my mother. And then in another session I had acute feeling of physical pain in my stomach, pure hunger, immediately followed by the sensation of being given the bottle, and a certain relief because I was getting some actual nourishment.
PSYCHIATRIST: Did the milk taste nice?
PATIENT: No particular taste. It was warm and gratifying, and it was a relief.
PSYCHIATRIST: Did your mother's milk taste sour at any time?
PATIENT: I got nothing as far as I can gather out of my mother's breast. I was unaware of getting anything at all, and I was acutely conscious at the time of being rejected by my mother, although it turned out later in these sessions it wasn't so much rejection as I think an almost complete psychotic withdrawal for a time on her part from reality. She was suicidally depressed.
PSYCHIATRIST: Could we just enlarge on that. Is this again what you felt and saw under LSD?
PATIENT: Yes, well my own feelings under the drug, especially when I was my mother, were of blank depression, and the depression rose directly. I was quite conscious of it in my second session. I was my mother having a tremendous phantasy about having sexual intercourse. My father was a sexually rather ineffective person, being a repressed homosexual himself, but it revolved around what may have been a phantasy about her father masturbating on her body, which may have been something that happened accidentally in bed. It could well have happened when she was a child, which seemed to be absolutely central to me.
When I was born, I felt I was then immediately my mother again. "Oh God, if only I'd had some fun, if only I'd had an orgasm, if only I'd had some pleasure out of this whole business," but I'd already known, you see, earlier in this particular session that she had not had an orgasm, was incapable of having one, and longed unconsciously, of course, for one. I spent session after session titillating my anus, which had been my mother's vagina throughout the whole treatment, as though I had inherited this awful sexual frustration of my mother's. I never bad, even in phantasy, a vaginal orgasm under LSD, but felt the need for it all along. This was resolved much later in the treatment.
PSYCHIATRIST: It linked up with your homosexual feelings, didn't it?
PATIENT: Oh, very much so, yes. Plus the fact that my father also had homosexual feelings and it linked up with a desire to be sexually assaulted by my father. All most reasonable, I felt, really. My general feeling about LSD and the formation of the ego is that there is a constant sort of interminable battle between the mucosa and the erectile tissue. I mean it doesn't matter as long as I've got a nipple or a penis in my mouth, or a penis up my rectum or in my vagina when I'm being my mother. It's immaterial, there's something absolutely basic about this. The need which can switch itself you know, from mouth to anus, without any trouble at all, but it's there, there's no doubt. Fascinating, I think.
The whole meaning of all this is that the most intense physical sensations in infancy arise from the mucous membranes, and that with these intense sensations comes an intense feeling of one's own existence.
I mean it follows that one's sense of one's own existence is proportionate to the intensity of one's own sensations, and I could feel all the way through the treatment my infant ego building itself up out of fragments of sexual excitation in various quarters. My nipples, too; oh yes, indeed.
Well, I know that I am very adipose and I've got fairly flabby pectoral muscles. Under LSD it was obvious that I was getting very erotic sensations from my nipples, and that these phantasies which I attributed to my mother were mostly about her being raped by her own father and having his penis inside her, while he manipulated her nipples.. No, I must confess I haven't had the faintest misgivings from the beginning as to the truth of this particular approach to one's own pathology or etiology, whatever you like to call it.
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you think you've matured a great deal?
PATIENT: In one respect enormously. In the past two sessions perhaps more than any before. It will take me years to assimilate all that has come up, but at last I've put my finger on the basic duplicity in my character, and that is the repression of my need for my father, which may in its turn symbolise something else, it doesn't matter terribly. I had a very significant phantasy in the last session in which my mother was sucking my penis while my father sexually assaulted me, and this absolutely resolved a number of things which had been worrying me. I realised that in this narcissistic identification with my mother I had been very one-sided in my development by excluding my father. There was a certain pleasing symmetry about having both my parents involved in this basic sexual phantasy, and after that I got up great big fountains of repressed feeling about my father and realised that I'd needed him desperately. Very crudely, my problem has been simply the lack of a viable father-figure. My attitude has been too feminine by far. It has been in many ways useful and creative to have a feminine attitude, but at the same time my father's penis symbolises in some very real way something that was lacking in my relationship with reality. In fact the role I played most of the time was as my penis. Very interesting, and this I didn't know. I came across this later on, that the attribution of a penis to one's mother is a very typical homosexual phantasy. I hadn't actually known that before.
PSYCHIATRIST: You came across this out of your own unconscious, d'you mean?
PATIENT: No. I came across it in an article in the Observer quite recently. There was a criticism of a book on Leonardo da Vinci by a psychoanalyst, and this came up in the article, but of course, obviously very true in a way. It wasn't so much that I really wanted my mother to have a penis, it was clear that I was, in fact, her penis. I got involved terribly in her castration phantasies. Her birth, by the way, figured prominently as a castration phantasy in her own mind, and this accounted for her terrible depression. When I was born she felt castrated. I had a terrible night mare between sessions, in which I felt something very menacing moving behind me in the bed, and it turned out after free association that it was my mother just after my birth, aware of having lost her penis, and she somehow wanted me to reincorporate me, reattach me.
PSYCHIATRIST: So altogether you had an enlightening year, didn't you?
PATIENT: The most enlightening year of my life. I've only talked about the quasi-psychoanalytical side of my experiences but what happens in the later part of each session has been just as important for me.
PSYCHIATRIST: Would you care to enlarge on that?
PATIENT: Certainly. From very roughly the seventh session onwards I've found that these very confused sexual experiences suddenly gave way to an incredible feeling of absolute release from these confusions. My centre of self-awareness shifted completely from these infantile involvements and I became deeply self-understanding.
It's as though all these mystical experiences had, in fact, an enormous relevance. They bring up with them in their train further personal events. Thus on one occasion the mystical, that is the impersonal release from the limitations of my own ego, started with the rediscovery of my penis. That was a very significant event, when I managed to retrace the sort of route from my anus back to my penis. I realised that all these scattered sensations were in some sense focused in my penis.
It was exactly as though I had escaped through my penis from myself entirely, and that something which might be called love took over. I think of it as love. Love as being not a demand made by one person upon another, or even a relation between people, but as a genuine order of reality in its own right. This happened again and again. On one occasion this happened about two hours after I had had another Ritalin.
On another occasion this particular event again occurred and again I lost the limitations of my normal consciousness. I felt absolutely free, without the faintest trace of conflict anywhere at all. Ultimately I became increasingly conscious of that fact; this extraordinary epiphany was happening in me. I concentrated on this to find out where in me, in what sort of myself it was happening. Of course I discovered emotionally what I have always believed intellectually, that the essence of reality is self-awarenessselfhood. I don't particularly mean egohood, but I mean that the awareness of selfhood is essential reality. It has an ontological status which seems to me to be universal. I was quite certain, and have been every time its happened that what is most personal to me is what is common to allthe whole of realityall sentient beings, in fact. I hesitate to put this forward. I've got a lot of thinking and sorting out to do, but in my own mind there's no question that there's been a tremendous metaphysical breakthrough.
PSYCHIATRIST: Your whole treatment you mean?
PATIENT: The whole experience, yes. What, however, at a strictly practical and social level is important is that I simply no longer feel the need to defend myself against other people. Of course it's perfectly obvious to me now that my defence is a form of aggression, always the best form of defence, but I don't feel the need to be aggressive any more.
PSYCHIATRIST: So far, we have discussed your personal experiences and the associated changes in your personality. Would you care to comment on your present attitude to religion, as clearly your early chapel atmosphere had an important influence on your development.
PATIENT: "Religion" is one of those heavily imprinted words like "God," that trigger off so many infantile mechanisms that it's almost impossible to answer any direct question about it without creating great waves of unconscious apprehension in the questioner. In general I should say that self-understanding never destroyed anything but delusions. If you're committed to any particular religious belief (which I'm not) LSD will undoubtedly modify your attitude towards religion by revealing the ambiguity of your motives for believing. Fixed beliefs strike me as an attempt to avoid the disturbing process of self-understanding by short-circuiting it or unloading it on to some other person or group or institution. The whole point of LSD is that it forces one to accept the entire responsibility for one's own mental processes. Anyway, conscious belief is obviously a defence against unconscious doubts, which in their turn arise from unresolved repressed conflicts. It stands to reason that in understanding one's repressed conflicts one's bound to modify the beliefs they've given rise to.
But I don't think religion is in its essence a matter of belief at all. Reality is reality, whatever you choose to believe about it, and for me, at any rate, LSD means seeing what is, not speculating about what ought to be. If you start off with fixed beliefs about the way things ought to be, you'll only prevent yourself from seeing what is.
However it seems obvious that religious beliefs and rituals are cultural accretions that ultimately obscure, rather than reveal, the central experience of reality from which religion originally arose and what LSD did for me was to take me back to an ontological experience infinitely more direct and real than any truth, however profound, that could be mediated by an established creed or ritual. As the Ch'an teachers used to say, it's like drinking a cup of cold water: you can only find out for yourself what it tastes like, and nobody else can tell you. Consequently, I can only say what LSD means for me, centrally, and in the depths of my own being.
And it really is very simple. Awareness of selfhood, as distinct from ego-awareness, cannot be mediated by the environment: neither the inner nor the outer environment. Mother and father, nipple and penis, mouth, vagina and anus do not in any case constitute selfhood. Sexual greed is activated by fear and hatred, and has nothing to do with love, nor with selfhood. Greed is a peripheral disturbance that merely distracts one from one's own central reality, which is love or God or silence or emptiness or whatever you feel like calling it. It doesn't matter what you call it, because the greed for names, too, is just part of the peripheral disturbance. Hang on to the name, and you lose the thing. My own, entirely personal, conclusion is that all opinions, religious or otherwise, and all greed, sexual or otherwise, con stitute a flight from the love and tenderness which arise from within, when one stops projecting one's fear and hatred on to other people.
So obviously, if you think your particular brand of religion is the one-and-only truth, you're unconsciously identifying yourself with a group because you feel insecure, and merely expanding your religion at the expense of non-believers, on to whom you'll inevitably project your repressed destructive impulses. And if you attach more importance to your beliefs than to self-understanding, you'll probably need an awful lot of LSD: I just can't judge what LSD will do to people who start off with strong group-identifications, religious or otherwise, but my feeling is that even LSD can't force freedom upon people whose self-awareness depends mainly upon identification with group-attitudes.
In the other hand, whatever LSD may do to people's religious beliefs, it can hardly fail to strengthen and deepen their religious intuitions: the experiences of one's own direct dependence upon an inward reality infinitely greater and more immediate than any of its outward forms. Attachment to forms is flight from reality, from love, from the self. Yes, that's it, I think. There is, ultimately, only one neurosis, one psychosis, one unhappiness: the flight from reality, from love, from selfhood, which are the same.
In the last resort I can only say that religion of any brand stands or falls, for me, by its success or failure in pointing the way to selfunderstanding, and that the effect of LSD on a patient's religious orientation is bound to be genuine in one's religion, while freeing one from what is false. I can quite honestly say that my understanding of Christianity, for example, has been immeasurably deepened, through LSD, though my natural inclination has always been, and still is, towards philosophical Tao'ism and Ch'an Buddhism.
Obviously these remarks throw more light on me than LSD, and I might as well come clean and admit that LSD has confirmed and strengthened what was already genuine in my religious intuitions, while progressively freeing me from the marginal anxieties that tended to obscure or falsify these intuitions. These anxieties arose from the unconscious delusion that my personal identity was derived from my environment, in particular from my parents. I now know that the genetic and environmental determinants of my character and personality have absolutely nothing to do with my central sense of identity, which springs directly from the heart of reality, and is not subject to birth or death. All other problems pale into insignificance by comparison with this irreducible truth, the practical consequence of which is to remove the unconscious impediments to loving. Is there any other problem, in fact?
PSYCHIATRIST: This is a very interesting concept of religion and I am glad the LSD has strengthened your basic religious feelings. Would it be true to say that you are now at peace with yourself and capable of loving deeply?
PATIENT: Yes, unbelievably so. I had a most revealing year and I am still learning more and more about myself.
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