The Ecstatic Adventure
Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World
Chapter 17 Through a Mellowness Filter
by IRWIN WUNDERMAN
IN THE FOLLOWING report by Dr. Irwin Wunderman, who is a professional engineer associated with a major California electronics laboratory, the fluid energies of the usual LSD experience are rigorously channelled in highly abstract model building.
Although the mental activity described is abstract compared to the vivid sensory imagery which fascinates the subject in the usual, non-programmed LSD state, it is interesting that Dr. Wunderman himself considered the model so concrete as to appear "ridiculous" and felt almost 11 ashamed to reveal it." Consistently, the tendency of LSD seems to be to switch the operations of the mind from the verbal-associative stream of thought to intuitive perception of images and forms. in terms of the computer analogy, the brain seems to move from predominantly digital to analog operation.
Also interesting in this account is the fact that Dr. Wunderman himself was skeptical about the enhancement of creativity through LSD; he was surprised by the "intensity of concentration, the forcefulness and exuberance" with which he could work. These results, which are consistent in this project and in similar studies where the experience is specifically "programmed" in a particular direction, show that the oft-expressed fear of contemplative inactivity with LSD is probably relevant not to the drug per se, but to the manner in which it is used. The experiences of the engineers, physicists, architects and designers of this study demonstrate clearly that LSD can be used actively, if it is specifically planned that way.
Note, however, that the dosages used in the study are relatively small (200 Mg. of mescaline, which is approximately equivalent to 100 mcg. of LSD) and that the first three hours, the most intense part, were spent in pure receptivity.
The technical aspects of this experience led to the development of a rigorous theoretical model, described by Dr. Wunderman in a paper entitled "A Kinetic Theory of Photoconductivity Decay Processes."
REACTIONS DURING INITIAL three-hour period:
1. Gradual awareness of reduced inputs from tactual senses. Numbness in extremities which could be overcome by deciding to move and executing same.
2. Feeling of trying to minimize extraneous inputs concerned with contemporary surroundings. Noted that I allowed my body to gradually relax to its "lowest energy" position. Suggest this occurs to other individuals.
3. Was keenly desirous to remember all sensations and report them to the Foundation.
4. Many relatively simple observations which I analyzed and subsequently understood appeared as more significant revelations at the time than they really were. For example, when the hymnlike music came on, I realized the religious significance of the pictures on the walls. It appeared that this was a basic understanding I did not comprehend before, yet it seems quite obvious looking back.
5. The central theme of my thoughts was
a. Worldly inputs were gradually decreasing.
b. My nose, ears, and eyes still retained moderate to high sensibilities, but the inputs were not "automatically" communicated to me unless I thought about them.
c. My mental capabilities were relatively unaffected, but due to reduced normal inputs, my mind seemed to wander into various thoughts.
d. I realized that in the limit all contemporary stimulus would be cut off (or desensitized) so that I could devote my entire thought processes to things remote from current reality. I tried to minimize disturbing inputs and maximize the conditions of the new circumstances, thereby permitting my thoughts to drift.
e. Imagined that all local inputs were cut off; only my mind, the music and the universe were present.
f. I tried to mentally move my mind around the universe and explore what could be seen with the ability of this new tool.
g. The universe was totally black and, to distinguish it in my mind, was a tiny white speck about which everything was radially symmetrical.
h. I placed the music within this universe, and it was either pervading everywhere or emanating from another speck which was also radially symmetrical.
i. I was aware that all my thoughts were not dreams in that I had control, applied logic, etc.; it was like thinking to myself under the influence of a trancelike drug.
j. My conclusions, after attempting to let my mind drift around the universe, were that without the perceptual senses, I would not be able to perceive and everything would be blackness.
k. I concluded that an introspective view of my mind would be more appropriate and revealing under the circumstances.
l. I questioned the method of locomotion used to allow my mind to propel in the preceding thought (j). Could not envision any propulsion mechanism and noted that I simply imagined it to drift through space.
m. In looking at my mind, I was aware of the effect that the preceding discussions (prior to lying down) had on my current thoughts.
n. H.C.'s quoting Mach on "intellectual enemies being a great corrective force on an individual since no one else would take the time required to be a good critic" led me to acknowledge that the outside antagonistic world which normally provides the interplay for my thoughts was no longer present. I was aware that the effect of the drug was to provide a great "self-consistency" about my thoughts, and that to be objective under its influence, I had better give selfscrutiny to that which I might consider valid. Accordingly, most everything which might appear controversial was to be objectively considered before adapting its validity.
6. I thought of many different things and was aware that I could not possibly remember them all to communicate them after the experience.
a. My breathing and train of thought had a strong correlation with the music. With other inputs gone, it appeared to dominate bodily control functions. Thoughts would tend to diffuse away with the ends of passages even though I desired to continue them. Many would return somewhat later and be continued.
7. I considered B.H.'s comment about the Shockley theory of creativity and asked myself (in line with the preceding discussion) if "the music was just a single-valued function of time." It seemed multidimensional, very beautiful, and to contain really more than the relatively few bits per second that I knew could represent it. I was aware that my inability to describe it simply was a weakness of communication on my own part. I made the analog of describing a function over the entire complex plane by simply denoting the presence of poles or zeroes at a few singular points. This enormously complex pattern in space could be described by so few bits if the analyticity (or whatever ruling code prevailed) was understood. Similarly, my inability to describe the music in its most elegant simplicity was due to lack of comprehension of the basic code, and so it appeared much more complex than had I been able to describe it in a more advantageous frame of reference.
8. In assessing how the music sounded and how my other inputs were affected, it seemed as though the best simple description was "having passed through a mellowness filter."
9. I was aware that I had not seen any vivid colors nor had any hallucinations,, and had tried hard to imagine things in color (my involuntary thoughts were in black or white). I could not make apparent anything but normal color perception.
10. When the music stopped, I got up and entered into a discussion with the others.
11. My short-term memory and ability to express myself was quite poor.
12. I felt that the power of suggestion under the drug was exceedingly strong. I agreed verbally once or twice with things that were said, although I basically disagreed. I felt a compulsion to eat because the others did, although I was not hungry.
We took the art and geometric figure tests.
13. My sense of smell was exceedingly keen and lovely.
14. The discussion of each of our experiences that followed was very interesting. I felt in an exceedingly contented mood.
15. I was amazed at the four hours that passed and would have guessed that it was only one and one-half hours.
16. I noted that while listening to the music I could not mentally mark time (i.e. one second, two seconds, three seconds), except by comparison with memory of musical note timing.
17. Was not interested in starting work on my problems, being quite content with the discussion and my thoughts.
18. On finally attempting my basic problem, I found many obstacles and decided to try a simpler one.
19. I intrinsically felt that my creativity would be basically unaltered as a result of the drug.
20. Considered a problem in which I visualized the result I wanted and subsequently brought the variables into play which could bring that result about. I had great visual (mental) perceptibility; I could imagine what was wanted, needed or not possible with almost no effort. In what seemed like ten minutes, I had completed the problem, having what I considered (and still consider) a classic solution. However, I gerrymandered the boundaries of the problem somewhat to make this solution possible. I decided to be more pragmatic about the problem and insist that the real constraint of practicality be imposed. I found that I was much less willing to consider that. I had solved one with optimum efficiency, was unwilling to compromiseQ.E.D. I was amazed at my idealism, my visual perception, and the rapidity with which I could operate.
21. Scrutinized the modus operandi with which I attacked the problem. Realized that my mind was working like a computer, and although I could not visualize the 1ocallevel" operation, all known constraints about the problem were simultaneously imposed as I hunted for possible solutions. It was like an analog computer whose output could not deviate from what was desired, and whose input was continually perturbed with the inclination toward achieving the output. (The term "computer" is used nominally here for lack of a better description.)
22. I was impressed with the intensity of concentration, the forcefulness and exuberance with which I could proceed toward the problem.
23. I then left the room with B.H. and discussed the results to that point. He suggested I return to the original problem and see what could be done.
24. I went back and considered the process of photoconductivity. I found I was unable to visualize what happened when light was absorbed in a photoconductor. I kept asking myself, "What is light?" and subsequently, "What is a photon?" The latter question I repeated literally to myself several hundred times till it was being said automatically in synchronism with each breath. I probably never in my life pressured myself as intently with a question as I did with this one. I began visualizing all the properties known to me that a photon possesses and attempted to make a model for a photon. The process took a long time and was exasperating, but I gradually built up a model of a photon which satisfied the constraints I knew. The photon was comprised of an electron and a positron (positive electron) cloud moving together in an intermeshed synchronized helical orbit. The positron had a negative mass equal in magnitude to an electron.
This model was reduced for visualization purposes to a black and white ball propagating in a screwlike fashion through space. I kept putting the model through all sorts of known tests, instantaneous E-field requirements, diffraction gratings, dielectric refractors, generating photons in incandescing bodies, absorbing them in solids and in a reverse biased photodiode, etc. Each test modified it or left it unaltered until I had put it through all the tests I could think of.
I thought of the ridiculousness of the situation. The model was very crude; I had not set out to find a model for a photon, it had been exceedingly difficult to derive and ended up superficially simple and not very much in tune with what I had previously considered a photon to be. I felt almost ashamed to reveal it and asked myself what good it was even if it satisfied the various tests. My reasoning and my answer only served to drive me on harder. If this model satisfied all constraints known to me about a photon, it was as real as anything else I knew. Sure I realized black and white balls rotating through space were a simplified picture, but if they satisfied all the constraints, that was the model to use. This was no different than anything else in reality. The model was right for the application, regardless of what I or the rest of the world thought of it personally.
This latter rationalization was particularly important to me at the time. Even now, I consider it a significant argument against deterring inhibitions for conceptualizing something which is abstract but self-consistent.
After many hours of developing the model (and many attempts at applying it to a photoconductor only to be rejected by my mind), I began to consider it satisfactory. Now I had to go through the same process for a semiconductor. I developed a valence and conduction-band picture with positrons and electrons as the entities of importance (analogous to conventional holes and electrons); I added impurity states for acceptors and donors in the same framework and was busy putting my model for the semiconductors through various tests when I was engaged in the external discussion.
We recorded on tape our various observations. Far too much had gone on in my mind to communicate it in the hour that followed. I felt somewhat embarrassed for being so far off my intended track (never really having gotten to the problem of photoconductivity). There was also a sense of guilt in that I had really not thought about the photoconductivity problem for almost three years. I had intended to refresh my memory by reading my old notes prior to taking the drug, but had not done so. (This was probably the reason I had to fundamentalize the problem so much before I could grapple with it.)
I considered my method of working at various stages.
25. In treating the problem to this point, one factor was obvious: I had not made one single assumption which I did not force myself to prove if there was any question of doubt. Normally I would overlook many more trivial points for the sake of expediency, but under the drug, time seemed unimportant. I faced every possible questionable issue square in the face. Indeed, I was continually searching for errors, fallacies, etc.
26. A second noteworthy observation: I would not have believed what transpired had it not really occurred to me. Good, bad, or indifferent, the results were beyond my expectations.
27. After the group discussion, we were driven home. I spent almost an hour relating the events of the day to the family. I then lay down in bed and continued working on the problem.
28. The development of the semiconductor model was completed with much effort, and I finally put the photon model to the test by absorbing it in a photoconductor.
29. Many trials and tribulations ensued. I worked until four in the morning and was highly motivated to continue, but I was limited by a very severe headache that developed. The headache was so severe, I sincerely felt that mental damage might result if I continued working on the problem. I had a hard time not thinking about it, however, in that I kept drifting back to where I left off.
30. Several conclusions about the photoconductor model were resolved that evening.
a. Basically the model is correct, but one cannot ascertain all the desired characteristics of the photoconductor without bringing in additional phenomena to the reaction kinetics I considered.
b. An exciton population (of electrons and holes) comprises the majority of the photoexcited carriers. These carriers do not participate directly in the conductivity mechanism but dominate the recombination processes. Accordingly this population is difficult to measure though it is very important in determining observed results. I feel that this point is perhaps the only real contribution made under the drug toward the model's development, and the possibility of this being so was recognized before. However, the assurance of this point is now far more apparent.
31. There are other conclusions about the effect of the drug which are noteworthy.
a. I feel the drug has great potential for either good or evil. I can now understand how one's personality is more amenable to change under its influence. In my own phraseology, by attenuating the functions of the normal sensory inputs to the mind, the inputs which are available take greater dominance. (e.g., the music literally could control my thought-process rate.) The drug should be treated with great respect and care until its properties are more accurately determined.
b. An individual's creativity (or any other facility on which he positively focused attention) could probably be markedly altered. I felt that nothing was done under the influence of the drug that could not have been done without it but in several orders of magnitude more time. (There is some reservation about this statement with regard to the development of the model for the photon. I may never have been motivated to go through all the effort for something of such abstract value.)
c. I have not found any flaws to date in the concepts derived under the influence of the drug. However, I have not spent much time since looking for same. The photon model is academically interesting, but I am not really in a position, nor do I have the time, to establish its value. Perhaps an important observation is that the drug appears to maintain motivation to pursue what is aesthetically intriguing to a point far beyond what I would normally do. In general one is so engrossed in everyday activities that there is insufficient time to academize on what is intellectually stimulating. The drug enables pursuit of these endeavors.
d. At all times I had complete control of my faculties. I saw no unrealities atypical of those I can and do imagine at various times.
e. I feel that there has been a general improvement, maintained to date in my
(1) Ability to concentrate on specific problems.
(2) Motivation toward my short-and long-range goals in life (drive).
(3) Visual perceptibility of problems.
(4) Tolerance toward what I consider incompetence and viewpoints significantly different from mine.
(5) Ability to work without getting tired. For example, I have sat down and written this in just a few consecutive hours.
(6) Ability to get into a creative mood by remembering the conditions that prevailed under the drug. Note: this is similar to what I normally did, so that this is more a verification than a revelation.
(7) A general reduction of inhibitions where society has established codes contrary to my basic personal philosophy. For example, I would normally feel embarrassed about discussing with my peers such a model of a photon, derived under such extraordinary circumstances and so superficial in appearance. Yet I have great confidence that this silly model will not easily be proven invalid.
f. On general principle, I would like to evaluate this experience at a later date. Except for the bad headache in the evening, all other effects appear to be good. Yet I cannot help but tell myself, "You must have lost something, there is compromise in everything." Perhaps I have lost a portion of my memory? If I did I would not so remember and have no way of checking.
Secondly, there is a real concern of becoming psychologically addicted to something which appears all of positive value and has a great self-consistency about it. (Almost everywhere under the influence of the drug, the reassurance of self-consistency was required.)
The entire experience was exceedingly interesting.
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