May 14, 2011

LSD Visit To "Inner Space"

LSD - The Consciousness-Expanding Drug is the title of a classic anthology compiled by David Solomon in the mid-Sixties, that contained informative articles on the subject of LSD use by a cross-section of intellectuals and pop-culture figures of the day, including Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, and William S. Burroughs. It became a best-seller; partly because it was itself a reactionary text written at a time when mainstream LSD use was coming under fire from the police, government, and the media, and partly because of the number of articles written by doctors and other experts that reported the amazing therapeutic effects of LSD use in psychotherapy as well as the treatment and care of alcoholism and other mental disorders. The Hippie revolution was in full swing, and people looked to comprehensive and authoritative-sounding work in order to justify their use of the drug as well as engage with others in debate and discussion. 

Solomon, in his preface, speak of his own LSD usage as well as experiments with mescaline and psylocybin:

"My first psychedelic experience was triggered by 400 milligrams of mescaline sulfate. It did indeed induce a flight, but instead of fleeing from reality, I flew more deeply into it. I had never before seen, touched, tasted, heard, smelled and felt so profound a personal unity and involvement with the concrete material world. My psychedelically accelerated mind did not merely grasp the symbolic poetic import, the utter simplicity and truth of William Blake's ecstatic vision: for the first time in my life I literally saw "the world in a grain of sand." My exponentially heightened awareness saw through the static, one-dimensional, ego-constricted, false front which is the consciousness-contracted reality of the everyday world. This was no evasive flight from, but a deep probe into reality."
One article by Houston Smith in the book discusses the religious import of LSD usage, and asks whether Prof. R. C. Zaehner's criticism of LSD-induced religious hallucinations as being of an inferior quality to the apparently genuine nature of 'authentic' religious visionary experience, is justified. I like the way he rebuts the question by, after briefly describing mystical drug usage in other religions, suggesting that to consider the phenomenology of the experience was more important than the ontology, fully aware of the limits of scientific research at the time and leaving it as an open question to be answered by future research.

The text also contains a rather long and experiential account of LSD intoxication by Alan Harrington, entitled 'A Visit to the Inner Space', after he embarked on a marathon trip with two friends:

"A twelve-hour session under the influence of the mind-dilating compound LSD-25 dispatched me on a trip through the cosmos inside my head. LSD enables everyone to become an astronaut of himself. During this flight beyond time into the depths of consciousness, to what must be the memory source of humanity, each of us can explore an inward universe filled with both violent and peaceful revelations ... Seventy-two hours after the night voyage, the emotional effect begins to fade. But details of the experience remain clear. Things seen by one's dilated eyes and the mind's eye will not be forgotten. Some of the more intellectual insights remain, too. I am speaking here of only one session—the initial, shocking one. You may be able to take off on other, much more easy, inward journeys. Unlike the first trip, these can be "programmed" to orbit you around a given life problem.
"A single LSD session will not be likely to produce a great and lasting change in one's life. But it shows the way to change. My first experience opened up paths of thinking that I never knew existed. I know that the vision revealed by psycho-chemicals can help overcome feelings of alienation and loneliness; it can make death appear somewhat less fearful. The common vision of immortality, revealed in one way or another to most people under LSD, indicates the possibility of my survival in some form, my ever-returning to life ... It began with a salty taste in my mouth, and my vision started to become prismatic. (One's pupils actually dilate and appear to be the size of quarters.) There was a pressure in my head. The curtains seemed to billow. There might be somebody behind them. The air crackled silently. I had a feeling of colored musical notes floating about, and the scene, I can remark now, was quite like a Klee drawing. I felt a bit queasy, but it passed. The music was louder and the guitar strings beautifully separated. Ralph was looking at me, and I began to laugh. I was going to flip on my tape recorder! What a ridiculous, hilarious thing to do! Why not, though? "Why not?" Frank said, and we both laughed. I couldn't stop. Everything that I could think about was insanely and pitifully funny. The world. The universe. All the poor sweet pitiful people I knew. Myself. What a scene! Filled with noble, ridiculous people! The world, the world!
"This reaction which is Cosmic Laughter was different from any way of laughing I had known. It came out of me as though propelled by a force much larger than the person laughing. It came right up from the center of my being. The force continued throughout the major part of the experience, no matter what I was feeling. It resembled both a mild and sustained electric shock passing through the body and spirit, and a mild and incomplete and continuing orgasm. A throbbing and rhythmic current which for want of a fresh image—and one is no longer afraid of being banal—could be described as the life force shakes you, as if you might be aboard or bestride, or being carried along with, the force that penetrates and then fills all being."
A lot of interesting things in this classic book, which may result in further articles here.

See Reality Studio for more information on David Solomon.

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