There is a central human experience which alters all other experiences. It has been called satori in Japanese Zen, moksha in Hinduism, religious enlightenment or cosmic consciousness in the West. .. [It] is not just an experience among others, but rather the very heart of human experience. It is the center that gives understanding to the whole... Once found, life is altered because the very root of human identity has been deepened... The drug LSD appears to facilitate the discovery of this apparently ancient and universal experience.
Wilson Van Dusen, "LSD and the Enlightenment of Zen"
Countless persons desire self-transcendence and would be glad to find it in church. But, alas, "the hungry sheep look up and are not fed." They take part in rites, they listen to sermons, they repeat prayers-but the thirst remains unassuaged. The sole religious experience is that state of uninhibited and belligerent euphoria which follows the ingestion of the third cocktail.
... given the right set and setting, the drugs can induce religious experiences indistinguishable from ones that occur spontaneously. Nor need set and setting be exceptional. The way the statistics are currently running, it looks as if from one-fourth to one-third of the general population will have religious experiences if they take the drugs under naturalistic conditions, meaning by this conditions in which the researcher supports the subject but doesn't try to influence the direction his experience will take. Among subjects who have strong religious inclinations to begin with, the proportion of those having religious experiences jumps to three-quarters. If they take them in settings which are religious, too, the ratio soars to nine out of ten.
After an admittedly short follow-up period of only six months, life-enhancing and life-enriching effects, similar to some of those claimed by mystics, were shown by the higher scores of the experimental subjects when compared to the controls. In addition, after four hours of follow-up interviews with each subject, the experimenter was left with the impression that the experience had made a profound impact (especially in terms of religious feeling and thinking) on the lives of eight out of ten of the subjects who had been given psilocybin.... the direction of change was toward more integrated, self-actualizing attitudes and behavior in life.
With respect to the new drugs, Professor R. C. Zaehner has drawn the line emphatically. "The importance of Huxley's Doors of Perception," he writes, "is that in it the author clearly makes the claim that what he experienced under the influence of mescaline is closely comparable to a genuine mystical experience. If he is right... the conclusions... are alarming." Zaehner thinks that Huxley is not right, but Zaehner is mistaken.
When we write [such questions] just like that, it is hard not to see how [they] reflect the values and fears of our particular culture, age, and situation... let me ask them again in a less obvious way...Some traditional church-goers are finding it quite possible to accept the psychedelic "religious experience" as valid, once they have seen the evidence. In their framework the experience "corresponds almost exactly [in Alan Watts' words] to the theological concept of a sacrament or means of gracean unmerited gift of spiritual power whose lasting effects depend upon the use made of it in subsequent action." In elaborating this concept, Watts gives the explanation which is being accepted as organized religion's apologia for interest in the psychedelics:
Is it authentic? How can I be sure that I'll get the real thing? Will the experience I have be just like the one that happened to Moses, Paul, Gotama, or Tzu?...
Is it natural? Isn't there something insipid about planning to have an enlightenment experience on a particular day and hour? Isn't it like planning to fall in love at ten o'clock on Thursday evening?...
Is it fair? This is the other side of "Is it natural?" What about the poor monk who spends all his life seeking satori and never gets it, and then some junkie comes by claiming to have it in a bottle? Few of us can tolerate the idea of something for nothing, especially when someone else is getting it. Call it grace, freely given, undeserved, and people will agree with you, but they won't believe it. Even Jesus was hard put to get this point across.
Catholic theology also recognizes those so-called "extraordinary" graces, often of mystical insight, which descend spontaneously outside the ordinary or regular means that the Church provides through the sacraments and the disciplines of prayer. It seems to me that only special pleading can maintain that the graces mediated through mushrooms, cactus plants, and scientists are artificial and spurious in contrast with those which come through religious discipline.
I have always said that my husband was gay and full of humour, and that is exactly what he is now. I used to be afraid when I first heard about his having LSD that he would emerge from it (if he ever did at all) a totally different personality, but instead of that his true personality has been able to break through the shell that imprisoned it. I also thought it might destroy his religious faith, but there is no need for me to say anything about that... he has expressed far better than I can how greatly his faith has been strengthened and deepened.
Whether the current chapter of man's religiousness is being written more in the church or on the college campus, more in the halls of ecumenical councils or in the amorphous groupings of the Youth Revolution is a question whose answer is blowing in the wind.
Prof. Huston Smith, "The Religious Significance of Artificially Induced Religious Experiences"
It is just possible that God, in His inscrutable Grace, may wish to shatter all our Pharisaic pretensions, and through these remarkable chemical substances gracefully provide glimpses of the realm of the Spirit precisely to those whose path would otherwise never have come near it....
Seldom has the demand for the rethinking of the nature of mystical, experiential religion been so insistent. And this demand rests with unusual weight upon the Society of Friends, because of its claim to be a religion of immediate experience, of the inward Christ.
Joseph Havens, "A Memo to Quakers on the Consciousness-Changing Drugs."
Undoubtedly it would be the supreme irony of the history of religion should it be proved that the ordinary person could by the swallowing of a pill attain to those states of exalted consciousness a lifetime of spiritual exercises rarely brings to the most ardent and adept seeker of mystical enlightenment. Considering the present rapid assimilation on a mass cultural level of new discoveries, therapies, and ideologies, it then might not be long before the vested religious interests would finally have to close up shop.
R.E.L. Masters and Jean Houston, "Religious and Mystical Experience."
(From The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience.)
Through the psychedelic experience persons tend to accept beliefs which are at variance with the usual conception of the "scientific world view." In a current study [by C. Savage, W. Harman, J. Fadiman, and E. Savage] the subjects were given, prior to and immediately after the LSD session, a collection of 100 belief and value statements to rank according to the extent they felt the statements expressed their views. Subsequent personality and behavior-pattern changes were evaluated by standard clinical instruments and independent interviews. It was found that therapeutic consequences of the LSD session were predictable on the basis of the extent to which subjects indicated increased belief in statements such as the following:
"I believe that I exist not only in the familiar world of space and time, but also in a realm having a timeless, eternal quality.
"Behind the apparent multiplicity of things in the world of science and common sense there is a single reality in which all things are united.
"It is quite possible for people to communicate telepathically, without any use of sight or hearing, since deep down our minds are all connected.
"Of course the real self exists on after the death of the body.
"When one turns his attention inward, he discovers a world of 'inner space' which is as vast and as real as the external, physical world.
"Man is, in essence, eternal and infinite.
"Somehow, I feel I have always existed and always will. "Although this may sound absurd, I have the feeling that somehow I have participated in the creation of everything around me.
"I feel that the mountains and the sea and the stars are all part of me, and my soul is in touch with the souls of all creatures.
"Each of us potentially has access to vast realms of knowledge through his own mind, including secrets of the universe known so far only to a very few."
Note that in accepting these statements the individual is in effect saying that he is convinced of the possibility of gaining valid knowledge through an extrasensory mode of perception. Thus, the person who feels a compulsion to explain away all ESP data will also find the LSD subject to be the victim of delusion and hallucination.
J.L.C. is a man of average intelligence, has a moderate amount of formal education but only a passing interest in cultural matters, history or contemporary problems. He is in his late thirties and is of an easygoing, pleasant disposition. J.L.C. took LSD merely because it was suggested that he might like what it would do for him. His two companions, who acted as guides, had extensive and responsible experience in giving the drug and had had it several times themselves. Both were college graduates and were professionally involved in the liberal arts.The chance that J.L.C. was familiar with this piece of history, even in schooldays, is remote. On the-other hand, the various explanations that come to mind, if indeed the "hallucination" did not arise from shelved knowledge, are unmistakably psi m content. Was J.L.C. possibly King Philip in a former life? Might he have been reading his guides' minds? Was he delving into Jung's collective unconscious? What else might explain it?
In the third hour of J.L.C.'s drug session, he suddenly began to exclaim that he was seeing "all kinds of things and people from the past." This was extremely vivid, and when asked if he himself was among the people, he replied with some anxiety, "Yes, I am the King of Belgiumyet I'm a Spaniard. There is a helluva clattering of wooden shoes! Joan's around too. She's my wife. But her name is something elsenot Joan. Juana? I'm very concerned about the situationeverything. This was all a long time ago. I get it in the 1 5th century. My clothes look like that. But it is happening now."
Following the session, one of J.L.C.'s guides, vaguely recalled that J.L.C.'s "vision" had a basis in historical fact. Upon checking in various encyclopedias, it was discovered that King Philip I of Spain ( 1478-1506) fit J.L.C.'s description very closely, and that his Queen was Joanna. Philip had inherited the Netherlands (Low Countries ) from his mother, Mary of Burgundy, and it was during his reign that the "Wooden Shoe Uprising" took place, after which he was held a "virtual prisoner" in Ghent for eleven years.
Another occurrence (but of a slightly different sort) which points very persuasively at ESP came about when a young man, R.H., with strong mediumistic abilities, took mescaline. During his session, he decided to visit a friend who lived in another part of town and telephoned to announce that he and his guide were on their way. Before their arrival, however, his hostess received an unexpected visit from a guest she knew very slightly, a person completely unknown to R.H.The third example comes from a painter who described, when taking LSD for the first time, a beautiful painting which he was "seeing":
Hardly was R.H. in the door, before he asked the guest if he were a sailor. The guest replied that he was a writer, but that he was "fond of sailing as a hobby." Not long after, R.H. rose abruptly and said that he had to go. But within the hour he telephoned his hostess, informing her that he had left because of her caller. He said he had "seen" the man on a boat, and had gotten a definite impression that her visitor had murdered someone there.
His hostess was very disturbed and rather angry that R.H. would say such a thing and immediately promised she would check with mutual friends to see what she could find out. Three of those she consulted reported that the "sailor" had been aboard a boat several years before when someone had "mysteriously" disappeared, never to be seen again, and that at the time the finger of suspicion had been on the man in question, although nothing was ever done to determine whether he had been responsible.
The painting, in very intense, sparkling color, was of an unusual fishing vessel, rather like those which might be found in the South Seas, yet different. The waters on which the boat drifted were "of marvelous luminosity" and the nets "glistened with jewel-like drops." The side oars were of an odd shape, such as the painter (S.R.) had never seen before, and the sun pictured was of a color which he "longed to duplicate" as soon as he could get to his paints. After the drug wore off, S.R. still thought the painting "very remarkable," making a preliminary sketch of it some days later.The next episode might suggest "coincidental hallucination" or reincarnation. It occurred early in an LSD experience and is told by H.S., a young businesswoman:
About six months thereafter, S.R. was in the market for a house, and upon being shown through one up for sale, saw in reality the painting he had "seen" under LSD. It hung in the owner's living room, and when S.R. inquired about the artist, he was told that the woman who had painted it "had died in May, just after it was finished." Startled, S.R. asked for the exact date of the artist's death, and learned that it was the very same day of his first LSD session, during which the vision of the painting had come to him.
"All of a sudden I had a great intuitive flash of familiarity and a scene created itself, a l9th century European court, only for some reason it was assembled around a flight of steps in endless, fountained, formal gardens. I, myself, was off at some distance from the group of key figures and was kneeling among a group of petty officers of the military. As I stared toward the people in the foreground (the royal family), I experienced feelings of devotion, patriotism and of secret longing. This was all directed toward the woman in the tableau, and I instinctively knew she was very far above me, was indeed my queen.
"The 'queen' was wearing a dress cut in the empire style made of white satin and midnight blue velvet, the folds of which fell gracefully about her splendidly formed body. She had very pale blonde hair and was wearing a small crown. As I looked at her, I realized it was Alfreda, my guide. 'Why, I know who you are!' I cried aloud, as if there had been some mystery about who she was before. 'You're that queen in that paintingthe one they use for an ad for Courvoisier brandy! On the back of The New Yorker.'
"Alfreda tells me that she exclaimed, 'How's that again, honey?' but I did not know that she hador why she haduntil moments and visions later....
" 'All right, all right,' Alfreda was saying, 'but just tell me again about that queen in the ad on the back of The New Yorker.'
"For an instant the vision from the l9th century painting came back, then it flashed off. But I remembered it all. 'Did I tell you how stylized that painting of you was?' I asked. 'You were much more beautiful than that, actually, so much more delicately made, so graceful, and you had such infinite gentleness, kindness. And your clothes were so different from those he had you wearing in the painting. Blue and white'
"'Good Lord,' she said sharply. 'How on earth could you have known about this? Who were you?'
"'I was a soldier. A Prussian officer, I think. A member of the petty nobility. And you were my queen, and I loved you too. Maybe had a secret crush on youI felt all of that very strongly.'
"Then Alfreda told me the astonishing secret about herself which I had stumbled upon: all of her life she had identified with the Prussian Empress Louise, the 'queen' in the painting I had seen. Alfreda told me that her clothes when a child had been copied from those Louise had worn as a child, and when Alfreda married the only piece of furniture she had chosen to take with her from her ancestral schloss in Prussia was the escritoire which had once belonged to the empress Louise.
"There was a good basis for Alfreda's avid interest in this person. (Louise's chief claim to fame was that she had tried to negotiate with Napoleon, standing in for her husband who lacked the wits and diplomacy to do so, in an effort to save Prussia. The painting in question, a detail of which is used by Courvoisier as an ad, was titled 'Napoleon at Tilsit.') Alfreda was distantly related to Louise and Alfreda's grandmother headed a group of several hundred German noblewomen who were curiously dedicated to the memory of the Empress and who had formed a Louise 'cult' which they pursued as regularly as any ordinary club interests. Just why this was, Alfreda did not quite know and agreed that it was rather extraordinary, for none of the women so busily keeping Louise's memory alive could have possibly known her.
"Yes, as I say, there was a basis for Alfreda's interest in the Empress Louise, but there was none whatsoever for my having seen the depth of this interest. I could not have known that all Alfreda's life she had secretly thought of herself as this woman. My friendship with Alfreda was a fairly recent one; I was an American, had never been to Germany, had no interest whatsoever in the minutiae and obscurities of German history. Further, when I saw the Courvoisier ad again some weeks later, I was more baffled than ever that I had ever made the connection between Alfreda and the Empress. Aside from being German, blonde and amply proportioned, Alfreda in no way resembled the woman in the painting. It was curious, too, that I had seen her costume as blue and white, which Alfreda verified as having been Louise's favorite color combination, for in the painting she was dressed in white and wine red. When I had said the painting therefore was 'stylized' compared to the 'real' thingat least 'LSD real'I was putting it lightly indeed. There was simply nothing in the painting to which I could have consciously linked Alfreda."
When we consider the origin of the mythologies and cults related to drug plants, we should surely ask ourselves which, after all, was more likely to happen first: the spontaneously generated idea of an afterlife in which the disembodied soul, liberated from the restrictions of time and space, experiences eternal bliss, or the accidental discovery of hallucinogenic plants that give a sense of euphoria, dislocate the center of consciousness, and distort time and space, making them balloon outward in greatly expanded vistas?
Perhaps the old theories are right, but we have to remember that the drug plants were there, waiting to give men a new idea based on a new experience. The experience might have had, I should think, an almost explosive effect on the largely dormant minds of men, causing them to think of things they had never thought of before. This, if you like, is divine revelation...All these speculations are open to debate. Because they are so unusual to the accepted order of things, we approach them with caution and mistrust. Dr. Humphry Osmond, speaking of an LSD experiment involving "a major, witnessed thought transference," tells of a reaction which, typically, brings such experimentation to an end: "Unluckily we had no recording equipment and our observer became acutely panicky because he said it was uncanny."
Looking at the matter coldly, unintoxicated and unentranced, I am willing to prophesy that fifty theobotanists working for fifty years would make the current theories concerning the origins of much mythology and theology as out-of-date as pre-Copernican astronomy.
What happened to me between 12:30 and 4 o'clock on Friday, December 2, 1955? After brooding about it for several months, I still think my first, astonishing conviction was rightthat on many occasions that afternoon I existed outside time.The television camera could not photograph Mayhew's mind, of course, so he felt it necessary to explain at length what he thought had occurred to him. His experience, which began with color hallucinations, soon gave way to a preoccupation with the very strange "behavior" of time: it kept slipping out of sequencei.e., he would see a cup at his lips before he actually removed it from the tableand he could never tell how far along he was in the experience. His watch did not help either, for, although his eyes registered various clock times, the hours were not in proper sequence and he would see two-thirty after he had already seen three o'clock. It was only the increasing recurrence of certain objects which had arrived late in the experience that enabled him to realize that the session was coming to an end.
I don't mean this metaphorically, but literally. l mean that the essential part of me... had an existence quite conscious of itself... in a timeless order of reality outside the world as we know it....
I would become unaware of my surroundings, and enjoy an existence conscious of myself, in a state of breathless wonderment and complete bliss, for a period of time whichfor mesimply did not end at all. It did not last for minutes or hours, but apparently for years....These "time phenomena," unheard of as they are in normal everyday consciousness, seemed totally convincingnot "hallucinations" but another part of reality. Mayhew, like others who have used psychedelics, is definite on this:
For several days afterwards, I remembered the afternoon of December 2 not as so many hours spent in my drawing-room interrupted by these strange "excursions," but as countless years of complete bliss interrupted by short spells in the drawing-room ...
On the first occasion when I "came back" in this way from an excursion I assumed that a vast period of time had elapsed and exclaimed, in astonishment, to the film team: "Are you still there?" Their patience in waiting seemed extraordinary: but in fact, of course, no time had elapsed, and they had not been waiting at all....
The common-sense explanation is that since events in our drawing-room actually happened in a normal time sequence (with plenty of witnesses, including the camera, to prove it), I just couldn't have experienced them in some other order, so I must have merely thought I didI was deluded.Mayhew's account is of particular significance because it has been so well documented and comes from such an estimable source. The drug was administered by a foremost authority, Dr. Humphry Osmond, given to a distinguished man, and witnessed by reliable observers. There are countless persons who claim to have had equally memorable experiences under the drug, but since these did not occur within the framework of scientific experiment, they cannot be recorded "officially." As they did not have acceptable documentation which could be demonstrated, they have remained in private, hearsay circulation, or at best they have been published in apologetic, confessional tones. Authoritative accounts by people of recognized integrity (Mayhew, Watts, Huxley, Smith and Pahnke), but outside the field of psychotherapists, lend credence to the claims which the ordinary enthusiasts make. Taken together, they tend to remove some of the ill-repute surrounding the "drug experience." Thus the limits of the framework of acceptability are being expanded.
For anyone else than myself, this must be easy to believe; but for me, it is impossible. I am notI repeatsaying that events happened in the wrong order, only that I experienced them in the wrong order. And on this point I cannot doubt my own judgment.
For an aspiring mystic to revert, in the present state of knowledge, to prolonged fasting and violent self-flagellation would be as senseless as it would be for an aspiring cook to behave like Charles Lamb's Chinaman, who burned down the house in order to roast a pig.