For all of human time we’ve been bound to the systems of Nature—as it should be, because we are Nature. But we are creatures of Nature who, by a mixed blessing, have developed intellect, and with it a sense of our own importance that makes us imagine that we’re separate, and that we function above and apart from the mysterious intelligence of the natural world. Unfortunately, that self-centered illusion and its rigid constructs of "reality" are the very source of our collective and individual woes. I am separate from this world and its mysteries…woe is my idea of me.
Modern medicine, particularly in the field of pharmacology, has grown into a vast industry that services the whole range of human aches and pains—from injuries and diseases, to existential anxiety and despair—by furthering this illusion of separateness with "scientific" solutions, counterattacks, and means of managing our pain and depression. Yet, even in this misguided scientific sense, our true path to healing is leading us back to an authentic 'magical' natural reality; to an intuitive science of magical dimensions, and a natural recovery that can deliver us from the downward spiral of our own “superiority.”
When Albert Hofmann, a Swiss research scientist, accidentally happened upon the psychoactive effects of LSD in 1943, he didn't discover a popular way for hippies to "tune in, turn on, and drop out," instead he rediscovered a means to engage humanity's most enduring and effective "alternative" medical solutions. These were approaches of profound therapeutic potential to a variety of ailments, because they didn't only treat the surface aspects of an illness or condition, but the source of the dysfunction at its deepest, what you may call psychic and spiritual origins.
At that time, there was a great deal of excitement around the discovery of psychoactive compounds, as researchers began exploring their efficacy as pharmacological tools for analytical psychotherapy. Hofmann (who went on to isolate and name psilocybin), and other pioneers of the field, like the German, Louis Lewin, began 'discovering' naturally occurring entheogenic agents, like mescaline (peyote cactus), "sacred datura" (Jimson weed), Ibogaine (from the iboga plant), and DMT (ayahuasca), and to synthesize other euphoric and empathogenic agents, like MDMA (ecstasy), opening the doors to their possible therapeutic applications.
This was nothing new to the oldest cultures among us. The unique effectiveness of these naturally-occurring agents in opening the human psyche to transformation was (and is) appropriately venerated and employed by indigenous shamen ("witch doctors") through the entirety of human history. They are considered to be plant teachers, sacred gifts to humanity from the gods; and human beings are quite literally wired for their use. When administered judiciously and appropriately, these generally non-toxic, non-addictive agents of change inspire action along neural pathways unique to what are known as "mystic" experiences of profound religious, or spiritual realization, and are almost miraculously effective in the treatment of many of our most painful human conditions—particularly those that engage our feelings or fears (in other words, all of them).
The English psychiatrist, Humphry Osmond (who even invented the term, psychedelic), while seeking to find the link between these new "psychotomimetic" substances and various states of psychosis, began giving experimental dosages of LSD to hopeless alcoholics, but instead of simply showing a similarity between drug-induced psychic states and destructive alcohol psychosis, the experiment produced an entirely unexpected result. The alcoholics did something they could never do before—they quit drinking. Through the magic of their therapeutically induced mystical experiences, they had discovered a power in their life that was greater, and more beneficially medicinal, to them than alcohol could ever be. (This is the basic principle behind the 12-Step recovery movement started by Alcoholics Anonymous, whose primary creator, Bill Wilson, was one of Dr. Humphry's patients.)
Humphry had changed the direction of treatment of psychiatric disorders from "aversive counter-conditioning" to psychopharmacological therapeutic mysticism. Western medicine was being merged back into shamanic healing.
But, as is the practice with our predominant institutions of politics, science, business, and militarism, whose power has been largely derived from the perpetuation of false solutions, the discovery of the magical effectiveness of these sacred substances led only to the desire to control them, analyze them, exploit them, or weaponize them. Applying that twisted reason resulted in their suppression and criminalization. The studies were halted in the early '60s. The solutions were redefined as "problems." The naturally divine was officially proclaimed as socially evil, and, using the over-zealous recreational misuse and proselytizing of a handful of irresponsible experimenters as justification, all of these sacred substances were classified as "Schedule 1, Controlled Substances," the classification of the most dangerous, and addictive substances known to society. Meanwhile, the truly most damaging and addictive substances, like nicotine and alcohol, for example, remain completely unscheduled, and their abuses marketed and profited from. Funny how that works, ain't it?
In the same way we are rapidly returning to the realization that the sun, the wind, and the tides are clearer, cleaner, more naturally effective providers of power, and that unprocessed, organic, naturally-grown foods are better providers of our real nutritional needs, we are finally being returned to a place of divine sanity, where these totally natural solutions to some of our healthcare crises are finally being reconsidered, and more importantly, funded for research efforts.
A new school of medicinal psychedelic research, focusing on therapeutic 'mystical' states engendered by carefully administered and mediated doses of psychoactive drugs, is demonstrating the amazing effectiveness of these treatments in the most pernicious cases of 'terminal diagnosis anxiety,' depression, alcoholism, and addiction; or what one of the movements younger proponents, Dr. Stephen Ross of the NYU Psilocybin Project, terms: "Orders of spiritual distress."
Following the lead of past pioneers, like Drs. Stanislav Grof, Bill Richards, and Walter Pahnke at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, and leading to studies at Johns Hopkins, led by Dr. Roland Griffiths, Dr. Ross detailed the results of all the studies at a talk given recently at The New York Open Center's Art of Dying Conference. The results are pretty far out, man.
In controlled experiments, 80% of patients suffering from depression and profound end-of-life anxieties caused by terminal cancer diagnoses (mostly mature women with breast cancer, who had no prior experience with psychedelics), reported dramatic increases in well-being. Zero patients reported little or no improvement. What's more, 70% of patients called it "one of the top five most important life experiences" they'd ever had, right up there with the birth of a child, or the death of a parent. And to top it off, unlike the comparatively short-lived benefits of other treatments, the effects—foremost among them being a new and profound sense of relief and understanding, and feelings of acceptance and unity—do not wear off over time.
This realization of a new reality, of a previously unperceived dimension of spiritual healing, appears to engender a permanent psychic shift for the better. And often, these remarkable healings can take place after just one treatment session.
So what’s really at work here? Let's go back to the top, where I suggested that our rigid model of the world and our own self-importance is the underlying cause of all of our troubles. Psychedelics reproduce, or invoke, a mystical, spiritual experience that can smash apart those delusional constraints—the rigid, demanding models of the 'real' world that we, as imperfect natural creatures, can never hope to live up to. They break through the patient's victimized ego, and reveal to them the absolute unity of all life, and the nature and purpose of their very source, which is Love. In the light of this transcendent realization, the patient's new spiritual mentality allows an entirely different, healthier vision of their life and circumstances. Perceptions change, emotions rise, and life takes on new and profound meaning. Fear and depression lose their power – for good.
“Psychedelics are not a substitute for faith. They are a door to authentic faith, born of encountering directly the sacred dimension of everyday experience.”
Rick Doblin, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
At last, this return to a ‘new,’ natural reality, and means of eliciting mystical experience to find health and balance is happening all over. From the street clinics of Vancouver, to the Peruvian “traditional medicine” recovery community Takiwasi, Ayahuasca, or DMT has been used in the therapeutic treatment of addicts and alcoholics with great success. Skillfully mediated doses open patients up, introducing them to an extra-dimensional spirituality that can gently expose the simple realities of their life experience, and let them deal with their problems. Living from that transcendent power, their substance abuse is rendered completely unnecessary.
MDMA (ecstasy) is being studied as an agent of terminal relief for cancer patients at Harvard; and is being used very successfully in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, where the drug inspires feelings of trust and acceptance sufficient to allow the reexamination of the events that were the cause of the original trauma. More progress can be made in one day, than could be made in weeks of traditional therapy.
These are only a couple examples of the efficacy of psychedelics in treating life’s existential dis-eases. A quick visit to the website of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) can supply you with lots of information about ongoing studies and their remarkable results, as well as events, publications, items in the news, and even the opportunity to support these very worthwhile causes.
…[Mescalito] changes everything…he teaches us the right way to live. He helps and protects those who know him.”
Don Juan Matus, A Separate Reality
As a kid growing up in the Sixties on the outskirts of San Diego near the Mexican border (and having read plenty of Carlos Castaneda), I had my opportunities to experiment with various psychedelics, and—always in the cradle of nature—I took them. I continued through an eventful (often very painful) life, survived three near death experiences, and ultimately became a dedicated meditator. Aside from all that, I’m a very normal guy, I promise. I’ve personally found that those three types of experiences: psychedelics, NDEs, and meditation, all share some spiritually-curative (extra-dimensional) aspects of recovery and healing:
· They teach the unity and connectedness of our shared consciousness.
· One is given a true sense of reverence, and the sacredness of Life.
· One becomes fully aware of the existence of an ultimate reality, beyond our everyday lives (Love).
· One becomes much more positive, joyful, and loving.
· Time and space are transcended, with everything distilled within each moment.
Now, I don’t recommend that everyone run out and take drugs—these are sacred substances and experiences that require a responsible approach—proper dosage, and skilled mediation. And, naturally, I can’t recommend having three near death experiences, either, as happened to yours truly. But if you want to realize this spiritual dimension where healing and wholeness are always alive, take my advice and just meditate on it. If that doesn’t quite do it, consider a sacred teacher. It may really just take one moment of divine clarity to heal a lifetime of pain.
“Give us one free miracle, and we’ll explain the rest.”
The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!