By Various Authors, 1964
By R.Crockett, R.A. Sandison & A. Walk
This volume, the Proceedings of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association
in London, 1961, is proably the best discussion of LSD therapy to date. A wide range of views is presented, ranging from the enthusiastic to the sarcastic, and there is an extremely interesting discussion of the moral, social and religious significance of hallucinogenic drug experiences.
An introductory section deals briefly with the pharmacology and physiology of hallucinogenic drugs. The most interesting paper in this section is the one by Bradley and Key, summarizing their conditioning experiments with LSD. They conclude that LSD:
"has a site of action closely related to the neurophysiological mechanisms concerned with the filtering and integration of sensory in-formation" (p. 10).
The contributions to the main theme of the volume, the therapeutic uses of hallucinogens, can be divided into three groups. The first group are analysts who are in the main sceptical of the drugs, even when they have used them on patients.
The second group are existentially oriented psychotherapists who emphasize the phenomenology of the experience, its effects on the relationship between therapist and patient, the importance of a nurturing setting and the emergence of repressed material. The third group represents a kind of standard,
empirical, psychiatric approach to these drugs where LSD becomes just another treatment to be tried out, like electroshock, hypnosis or anything else.
The paper by Michael Fordham, the eminent Jungian analyst, may be taken as representative of the first group. On the basis of contact with three patients who had taken LSD in another setting, he concludes (pp. 12930) that "lasting therapeutic effect of the drug is slight," that "by far the strongest therapeutic agent is the transference," that "essential aspects of it [the transference] cannot be worked through" (although at least two other English Jungians claim that they can), and that "the transference illusion of... cure... experienced by patients can be participated in by the therapist."
The second group of therapists is exemplified in papers by Sandison (one of the earliest LSD pioneers), by Eisner, Spencer, Cameron, Arendsen-Hein and Lake. Sandison's paper is an extremely balanced presentation. LSD is seen as facilitating insight through the release of unconscious material, both on the personal and on the archetypal level. The importance of environment and special training of therapists is stressed.
Sandison also points out that statistical proof of the efficacy of LSD treatment is still lacking, and that religious and ethical considerations may bias the evaluation of this approach. Spencer's paper on permissive group therapy with LSD in schizophrenic women describes methods similar to those developed for the treatment of alcoholics in Canada and for the rehabilitation of convicts in the United States.
The approach consists in creating a completely secure, supportive environment, with minimum interference by the therapists, and letting the patients work out their own problems with the aid of the expanded insight produced by the LSD.
Papers by Arenctsen-Hein on criminal psychopaths and by Cameron on disturbed adolescents are essentially similar in their methods. Betty G. Eisner discusses the important uses of non-verbal communication between LSD-patient and therapist ; this technique has been further extended in the work of Gary Fisher and Lauretta Bender with autistic and schizophrenic children.
Perhaps the most subtle presentation in the book is the discussion by Dr. Frank Lake of Nottingham. He is the only one to recognize the clear similarity of LSD experiences to the goal-states of Hindu and Buddhist yoga:
"Six years of work with LSD have driven me to a sort of analogy between the nine months of intrauterine life and the nine months of life after birth... Just as at the end of nine months you can take away the body, so to speak, which was mother's once, and when the cord is cut you come into a dichotomy; so in the realm of the spirit the child at birth is only a potential unit or ego which may respond to relationships. But the normal formulation of these, as being primarily a matter of the mouth-breast relationship, simply does not tie up with LSD experience. This has something to do with being itself, and being itself has something to do with the umbilical cord of the distance receptors, of sight and of hearing... And the constant experience one has is that the infant after birth is dependent for being itself, for its very humanity, for the growth of personality, on the availability of this relationship, on the fact that the mother always comes down to where the infant is and lifts it up to herself" (p. 152).
The third group of therapists give one the impression of having missed the main point of what they were about. For example, in a paper by Delay and his associates the point is made that psilocybin can be used as a diagnostic procedure because, under the drug, the neurosis is revealed in exaggerated form, as in a caricature.
"In a case of a typical depression of a year's duration, a marked melancholic reaction appeared under the influence of the drug, and cure by E.C.T. confirmed the diagnosis" (p. 40).
Shorvon, in a paper on therapy through brain-washing, states that:
"My experience and that of some of my colleagues in the use of LSD is limited, but I think we have seen enough to question the more grandiose claims advanced by some. I have used the drug for abreactive purposes, but do not think it was quite as effective as abreactions obtained under methedrine and ether" (p. 77).
De Groot, discussing the treatment of patients with "depersonalization syndromes", states:
"They received hallucinogens in varying combinations and doses. Cannabis indica, lysergic acid diethylamide and an experimental hallucinogen. The LSD was given orally and parenterally in two of the patients and was even tried in combination with E.C.T. Two of these patients have not benefited from their treatment. The third eventually discharged herself and later, in the face of difficulty, committed suicide" (p. 99).
Ismond Rosen describes a psychotic patient who was given twenty LSD treatments, all of which consisted of the "living out of aggressive desires" and guilt. When her therapist went on vacation she regressed, became suicidal and depressed:
"She refused further psychotherapy and LSD. Lencotomy, which released primitive aggressive feelings, was then performed. With further psychotherapy she improved, and for the past three years she has lived in a private home and worked satisfactorily. Her LSD and psychotherapy appear to have contributed materially towards this" (p, 138).
It seems clear from these papers that the therapist's personal experience with LSD seems to be the crucial variable that separates successful from unsuccessful treatment. Without this, the LSD is simply assimilated to some other technique, such as either, or E.C.T., and consequently misused.
Two reports are presented of the use of phencyclidine (Sernyl) an analgesic, hallucinogenic agent. It has been used with some success in neurosis of various kinds. It apparently differs from LSD in being of shorter duration, and in not producing increased powers of self-observation. Other comparisons are hard to make, since no experiential data are given. Marked changes in body image and hallucinations do occur.
For the general reader, the discussion on the significance of the drug experiences is likely to prove the most valuable. G. Rattray Taylor, author and journalist, explores the question of the content of hallucinations, which is generally left untouched by the psychiatric discussions.
What kind of memory mechanisms must the brain have to store these fantastic images? Is not the "depersonalization" of the psychiatrists identical with the loss of individuality described by the mystics? Diffusion of ego-boundaries has social implications.
"If... a weakening of ego boundaries makes for a sense of brotherhood, and a strengthening of them makes for a sense of separation, then, clearly, social peace and cooperation may be related to this psychological parameter. So—if one can make a wild speculation—what might happen if one took hallucinogenic drugs in very small doses over a protracted period, so as slightly to shift the balance in one's brain, a degree of hardening of the ego limits, as it were?"
This "wild speculation" has of course been the subject of utopian experimentation in several centers in the USA and Canada.
Christopher Mayhew presents a fascinating description of his mescaline experiences. They included states of "complete bliss" lasting several years which, in terms of clock time, did not take up more than a few seconds (to the outside observer).
"We have a broad choice. We can either say that the experience certainly happened, but lasted for only a fraction of a second, and that during this time a powerful hallucination, besides producing an overwhelming emotional impact, deluded me into thinking I was conscious for a very long period; or we can say the experience certainly happened, but took place outside time" (p. 173).
Francis Huxley, a social anthropologist, nephew of Aldous Huxley, writes of the casting-off of conventional role-playing in LSD experiences; we can see it:
"as an effort of consciousness to rid itself of false identifications and experience its own ever-changing identity" (p.176).
One of the most fascinating experiences to be gained under LSD is that during which the subject-object distinction is done away with. It is replaced not by that state imputed to infants unable to distinguish things in the outside world from themselves, but by a recognition that nothing that exists and is experienced can be properly classified as "an object" since the very act of experiencing it makes it a part of yourself and therefore of your subjectivity.
Strangely enough, however, this recognition does not necessarily destroy the thing's individuality: it remains itself however much it also becomes a vehicle for the awareness of yourself. This very curious sensation is made even more astonishing when what you experience is another person: you then find that this vehicle for your self-awareness is at the same time using you as a vehicle for his self-awareness.
I would not like to talk about the implications of this experience: besides, Dante has done it in the Paradiso. It is interesting to speculate whether such a symposium could be held in the United States at the present time.
In this reviewer's opinion, the parties in the disputes here are already too alienated from each other even to talk. England, on the other hand, is a small country with a geographical center for the intellectual elite. Debates are always being carried one, the personalities are known, the dialogue is more highly valued than the resolution. The present volume reflects this situation. The book is available from: . Springfield, III. : Charles C. Thomas, 1963. Pp. xiii & 192. $7.50 R.M.
Ecstasy: A Study Of Some
Secular And Religious
By Marghanita Laski.
One of the wholesome corrections of our times is the upsurge of interest in what loosely may be called "the psychedelic experience". In such a context the term would include not merely experiences stimulated with the help of drugs but also mystical and artistic states of mind in general which transcend the ordinary perceptions of everyday reality in order to carry the individual seemingly beyond himself.
One may hope that the inheritance of the Enlightenment, which has restricted the Western world too narrowly to the evidences of reason, will be balanced by that respect for the fruits of the non-rational necessary to deepen and enrich our culture.
The volume under review is one indication of the trend. The author tells us in the introduction that, having written a novel featuring an ecstatic experience, she later began to question her basis in reality and so was led to study the phenomeon as systematically as she was able.
The results she sets down in the volume. The study can hardly be called truly scientific, and doubtless many social scientists will dismiss it as a very sloppy performance. It is full of speculation, fruit of the insights and often the prejudices of the author. On the other hand, it is her intuitions that give the work significance, while it is the attempt to systematize her observations that makes the book to some degree scientific. Thus it is neither science nor art but a happy combination of the two, which will commend itself to perceptive scholars and critics.
Her method was first to find 60 subjects who could testify to ecstatic experience and were willing to fill out a questionnaire. For this she had to circulate but 63 questionnaires, of which she discarded three negative or doubtful cases.
To this she added 27 cases of literary descriptions of ecstasies from such pens as those of Wordsworth, Tennyson, Virginia Woolf, and C. P. Snow; and 22 accounts of religious ecstasy mostly from classical mystics lace Teresa of Avila, van Ruysbroeck, Plotinus, and Augustine. From these protocols she then examines ecstatic experience for such things as its "triggers" and its general characteristics.
From the same data, she has derived her criteria of ecstasy. First of all, the description of the experience must be characterized to some extent by spontaneity.
Then it must contain at least two expressions of feelings of gain such as unity, joy, salvation, or new knowledge; and either an expression of loss, such as loss of time, worldliness, or sin; or a "quasi-physical" feeling such as light, heat, enlargement, or peace. That these criteria are very idiosyncratic she herself seems to recognize, for she confesses that she cannot equate her criteria with anyone else's (p. 46).
Miss Laski must be commended for her precision in her definition of ecstasy. She derives it more or less empirically, though selectively, and thus makes clear to the reader what she means by the term and so to what state of mind her conclusions pertain. Her criteria, however, seem unnecessarily narrowing. For one thing, she confines ecstasy to the pleasant and
constructive and excludes the shattering, the horrifying, the painful, or the belittling.
This means that it would be difficult to reconcile her rubrics with those of Rudolf Otto, for example, whose Idea of the Holy defines religious ecstasy in such a way as partly to overlap Miss Laski's and yet includes the awe-inspiring "mysteriuni tremendurn".
In this way we can understand Miss Laski's rejecting drug-influenced experiences as ecstasies. She documents her case in a chapter in which she examines the descriptions of six persons who describe experiences with mescaline and one with LSD. Two of these persons (one being Aldous Huxley) evaluate their experiences positively, two negatively, with the others somewhat in between.
It is pointed out that the drug experiences differ from those of Miss Laski's cases in being of greater duration, having fewer "up-expressions", often revealing incongruity, involving more criticism, often creating panic, and sometimes making humanity seem ridiculous and contemptible. One might well differ from Miss Laslci's depreciation of such outcomes, particularly when she makes the point that while ecstasy frequently has the effect of intensifying one's appreciation of what one has regarded as superior, under the psychedelics beauty and meaning are often seen in the commonplace.
One may remark simply that the latter is a matter of opinion. Much of Wordsworth's poetry would refute her, to give just one example. Also, when she objects to the fact that the psychedelics may stimulate the hellish and the frightening, it could be pointed out that subjects who have experienced such reactions often report afterwards that results prove to be deeply meaningful and helpful. Also one is a little puzzled at Miss Laski's identifying alcohol as the "chosen drug" of the West that, she says, leads to activity, while other drugs are more Eastern and lead to passivity (p. 259).
Most of those who have had the psychedelics would be inclined to reverse these roles, at least so far as the psychedelics and alcohol go. One has a feeling that the author is just a bit prejudiced in these chapters. Miss Laski's criticism would be considerably more persuasive if she, like Professor Zaehner, had given the psychedelics a trial herself.
We must not, however, let our criticism get out of focus and condemn the whole book because a few chapters seem unsound. There are very few people, no matter how scholarly, who appear to be able to view the psychedelics dispassionately, whether in favor or against. Doubtless at least some of the objections to them may be a reaction to those who seem to be proposing them as a good in themselves rather than simply as instruments. They are valuable insofar as they tell us something of the mind and, depending on how they are handled, may or may not be useful in the "production" of better religion, better art, and better psychotherapy.
Miss Laski seems to have been more of a participant in her own kind of ecstasy, and it is in this area where she has made herself into something of an expert. Consequently it is in the rest of the book rather than when she talks about drugs that she is more illuminating.
Certainly the book is significant for critics and students of art, religion, and literature, as it will be also for psychologists studying religion and esthetics. The general subject matter
of the ecstasy, both as covered by Miss Laski and also when it touches neighboring areas, requires to be taken more seriously, both in study and, so far as possible, in practice. It is with this in mind that we commend this original and interesting volume. The book is available from: Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961, Pp. xiv & 544. $10.00 Walter Houston Clark
By Roger Heim
The botanical world has Icing waited for such a handy, yet authoritative, work on poisonous and hallucinogenic mushrooms. Heim, Director of the Museum National d'Histoire Natorelle
in Paris and a member of the French Academie des Sciences
, is one of the world's outstanding mycologists, specializing in fungi of the tropics, and, without a doubt, stands alone as the mycological authority on poisonous and narcotic mushrooms.
Author of a number of books and many technical papers, Heim has recently, in collaboration with the American ethnomycologists, R. G. and V. P. Wasson and the Swiss pharmaceutical chemist, A. Hofmann, been instrumental in presenting the extraordinary picture of the use in Mexico of sundry sacred, hallucinogenic mushrooms in religious rites.
An appreciation of the extraordinary range of topics in this little volume may be had from a brief examination of what it covers. The 14 chapters treat:
- Poisoning by Fungi through the Ages
- Survey of Fungal Poisoning in the Tropics and
- Classification of Poisonous Mushrooms and Syndromes
- Syndromes caused by Poisonous Amanitas; V. Syndromes caused by Lepiotes rosissantes and Cortihorius orellanus
- Muscarine Intoxications
- Inconstant or Conditional Intoxications
- Mushrooms Poisonous when Raw
- European Mushrooms causing Gastro-Intestinal Upsets
- Various Intoxications
- Hallucinogenic Mushrooms with Psychotonic Action;
- Hallucinogenic Mushrooms with Psychodysleptic Action
- Hallucinogenic Mushrooms with Psycholeptic Action
In these compact 328 pages one can find adequately discussed the botany, chemistry, physiological activity, toxicology, history, and ethnology of the poisonous mushrooms of the world. The indices (botanical and chemical) unlock much of the wealth of the book with a minimum of effort.
The format is pleasing. The type is easy to read and is printed on a good quality paper. The drawings are clear and bold in style. The binding is strong and the jacket interesting and attractive. All in all, Heim has given us a book which will go far beyond the mycologist in its appeal. It will long stand as the most up-to-date and inclusive book in a fascinating field. The book is available from: Paris: N. Boubee & Cie., 1963. Pp. 328, figs. 40, graphs 3, maps 3, 42 F ($8.58). Richard Evans Schultes.
By Henri Michaux
"This book is an exploration. By means of words, signs, drawings. Mescaline, the subject explored... How to describe it t It would require a picturesque style which I do not possess, made up of surprises, of nonsense, of sudden flashes, of bounds and rebounds, an unstable style, tobogganing and prankish. In this book, the margins, filled with what are epitomes rather than titles, suggest very inadequately the overlap pings which are an ever-present phenomenon of mescaline."
Thus Michaux introduces his own book, which is in many ways the most graphic verbal-account of psychedelic drug states which has yet appeared. Perhaps the French tradition of passionate intellectual introspection has
something to do with it.
The fragmentation of thought processes, the cascades of images, the "retinal circus" have never been more beautifully shown in words. And yet there is a curious discrepancy: in his evaluations, Michaux uses
phrases such as "tawdry spectacle", "inharmonious mescaline"; calls it "unpleasant", "terrible buffetings", "the agony of the first hour". But listen to this description:
On the edge of a tropical ocean, in a thousand reflections of the silver light of an invisible moon, among undulations of restless waters, ceaselessly changing...
Among silent breakers, the tremors of the shining surface, in the swift flux and reflux martyrizing the patches of light, in the rendings of luminous loops and arcs, and lines, in the occultations and reappearances of dancing bursts of light being decomposed, recomposed, contracted, spread out, only to be redistributed once more before me, with me, within me, drowned, and unendurably buffeted, my calm violated a thousand times by the tongues of infinity, oscillating, sinusaidally overrun by the multitude of liquid lines, enormous with a thousand folds, I was and I was not, I was caught, I was lost, I was in a state of complete ubiquity. The thousands upon thousands of rustlings were my own thousand shatterings.
An ecstatic vision. Yet the marginal notes read; "torture of undulation", "torture of what is unstable... torture of being tickled by iridescence". Torture?
That day my cells were brayed, buffeted, sabotaged, sent into convulsions. I felt them being caressed, being subjected to constant wrenchings. Mescaline wanted my full consent. To enjoy a drug One must enjoy being a subject.
This is the lesson that everyone who has ever taken a psychedelic drug learns: if you attempt to control or master the effects, you will not enjoy them, or at best you will oscillate between pleasure and torture.
In his third experiment this insight is verified:
And so that day was the day of the great opening. Forgetting the tawdry images which as a matter of fact had disappeared, I gave up struggling and let myself be traversed by the fluid which, entering me through the furrow, seemed to be coming from the ends of the earth.
I myself was torrent, I was drowned man, I was navigation... I was alone, tumultuously shaken like a dirty thread in an energetic wash. I shone, I was shattered, I shouted to the ends of the earth. I shivered, my shivering was a barking. I pressed forward, I rushed down, I plunged into transparency, I lived crystallinely.
Then Michaux describes some of the characteristics of mescaline: blinding images, crystals, sheets of colors, elongated forms, broken lines. "For anyone who has taken mescaline, even once, the arts of Mexico (Zapotec and Toltec statues; Aztec temples), with
their multiple broken lines, become eloquent, take on new significance."
The movements: tremblings, oscillations, vibrations; a four-minute systole-diastole of little death and resuscitation, shipwreck and rescue; undulations, "miniature seisms," pullulations.
Cellular autoscopy, or beyond the cellular where energies are discerned better than particles, and where the images released by an overactive mind are instantly superposed as on a screen... the phenomenon of ideas gravitating like planets is striking and easy to follow (except when they launch their dance in earnest).
An idea arrives, quickly ceases to exist. When it returns a few minutes later it seems absolutely new. Just before it disappears again you have a fugitive notion, if not of recognizing it, at least of having passed close to it before. But when? ...the apparently planetary revolutions of an accelerated universe are one of the wonders of mescaline.
Also, experimentally, mescaline creates the world of relativity. Makes a display of relativity. Suddenly, forty minutes after mescaline has been taken, the speed of the images is fantastically increased and time turned topsyturvey.
Everything is modified. Ideas are balls rather than ideas. The improbable unreality of reality is obvious, violent. The swift, shining thoughts revolve like astral bodies. Coming out of mescaline you know better than any Buddhist that everything is nothing but appearance."
Later, he describes how:
"mescaline demolished some of my effectual harriers, the ones that make me myself and not one of the others among my possible 'me's.' It took me weeks and
weeks to reconstruct them and to shut myself inside them again ... My drug is myself, which mescaline banishes."
So it seems clear—mescaline demolishes the ego; if you like being inside your ego, you dislike mescaline. But then why were the experiments repeated?
The fourth chapter is a comparison of mescaline with Indian hemp: racing car vs. pony. Hashish provokes bursts of laughter, "optical dexterity", sensation of heights, of lightness, of being suspended. There is no space here to discuss in detail the fifth chapter a fascinating and illuminating account of a mescaline psychosis.
"The innumerable waves of the mescalinian ocean" came pouring over him and knocked him down. The breakdown of the ego-structures, the ensuing panic, the hasty and devious construction of new "mad" realities. For anyone interested in the mechanisms of the psychotic process, this section contains a wealth of insight and information.
In a final set of reflections, Michaux makes two observations which to this reviewer's knowledge have not been made before and which deserve further study. One is the importance of interruptions: interruptions of thought can lead to the belief, common in psychosis, that ideas are being stolen or controlled ; interruptions of attention can lead to uncertainty as to the comings and goings ef others; interruptions of will-power can lead to feelings of weakness, vulnerability.
The second concerns rhythms as antidotes. Michaux recounts how beating out a slow rhythm with the hands leads to instantaneous relief from "repetitive jitters" under mescaline. Earlier, the soft warm touch of a rug had served the same purpose.
Also, mountain air is anti-drug. (Is it the altitude and thin air, or is it the natural grandeur that soothes? Ocean, desert, night sky, deep forest, all have similar effects). A systematic study of health-giving, ego-relaxing experiences should be made. Rhythm, primary sensations, deep breathing, natural grandeur—what do these have in common?
The efficacy of rhythm may have something to do with the spontaneously rhythmic, "breathing" character of the visions. One might also consider stroboscopes, the Russian sleep machine, and voodoo-drum trances, in this connection.
The account does not show any awareness of the larger philosophic and social implications of psychedelic experiences. Perhaps these are discussed in his other works. His Connaissance par its gouffres has recently been translated as Light Through Darkness (N.Y.: The Orion Press, 1963, $5.00) and will be reviewed in the next issue.
For verbal virtuosity and introspective acuity in describing the opened mind, this book is first-rate, and available from: Translated from the French by Louise Varese. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1963. Pp. 89. $1.95 R. M.
Three Book Roundup
Exploring Inner Space
Personal Experiences Under LSD-25.
By Jane Dunlap. Intro. & appendix by
R. S. Davidson. New York : Harcourt,
Brace & World, 1961. Pp. 216. $3.75
My Self And I
By Constance A. Newland.
Foreword by H. Greenwald. Intro. by R. A. Sandison. New York: Coward-McCann, 1962. $4.95. Signet Books. 1963, Pp. 256. $0.75
The Discovery Of Love
A Psychedelic Experience with LSD-25. By Malden Grange Bishop. Foreword by Humphry Osmond. A Torquil Book, distributed by Dodd, Mead, New York, 1963. Pp. 176. $4.00
It is now well known that a person who takes LSD undertakes a voyage the nature of which is unpredictable and indescribable, but which can so profoundly affect the person's life that he feels impelled to communicate. The research files of psychiatrists and psychologists all over the country are filled with thousands of psychedelic reports, attempts to pin down in words experiences which our linguistic apparatus does not recognize. Professional writers are especially prone to verbalize the ineffable and in the last three years, three new LSD books have appeared.
As these experiences become more common, the need for a new vocabulary will make itself acutely felt. Through the astonishing variety of hallucinations and visions, certain regularities recur: the revelations and insights begin to have patterns that one can recognize. Yet in spite of these common aspects, each voyage assumes a particular and individual character. Each mind-manifestation (if the person is prepared and open) assumes universality as it leaves the conceptual ego behind; but on its return to the talking, thinking, writing human machine, those particular features will be verbalized which fit most easily into the pre-existing order.
Thus, Aldous Huxley, the artist and seer, writes beautifully of the light, the colors and the naked immediate perception of the mescaline state. Alan Watts, the Zen interpreter, tells of the interpenetration of our experience and the world, of the playful shattering of cherished game-boundaries.
Constance Newland, the psychoanalytic patient in quest of the healthy orgasm, writes of her encounters with the Freudian symbols created by her ever-active sexual imagination. Jane Dunlap, widely read and successful author, writes colorful interior travelogues. Malden Bishop, family man and businessman, writes of the search for love and the effect which the discovery of love has on interpersonal relations .
My Self and I will undoubtedly be the most popular of the three books: the paperback edition has visual promise of pornography on the cover, and in content it is closest to the familiar Freud-dominated consciousness of intelligent Westerners. For this reason, it is furthest from the radically new possibilities of psychedelic experience. It is also the least well written of the three, abounding in clichés and even silliness of expression.
The book describes a series of sessions with small doses of LSD in a therapy room, with the regular therapist present, not analyzing or interpreting, but encouraging the deployment of fantasy and the overcoming of resistance. "The Closed-Up Clam", "The Battle of the Sphincters", "The Purple Screw", "The Purplish Poisonous Peapod", "The Slim Black Nozzle", "The Bitten-Off Nipple", etc. the whole galaxy of the Freudian psychosexual images is there, in vivid hallucinatory detail.
Each symbol is "over-determined", connected by the flexible logic of the primary process to every other symbol. With each conflict explained, another deeper layer of conflict is exposed. In the last chapters, the symbolism approaches some of Jung's archetypes, and the final resolution—fusing the masculine with the feminine component—is definitely Jungian.
Apparently the discovery of the traumatic enema nozzle was not enough. In these later explorations, "rich and extraordinary imagery appeared to me—but it was imagery which did not seem related to my specific life history." Since they do not fit into the Freudian framework, these other experiences are ignored. Another time: "... becoming a light which was All Energy. I dissolved into the Nothing which is Everything. Transcendence."
But again: "there was no climactic moment of release" so the transcendent experience, which for many people has had overwhelming life-changing effects, is shelved in favor of further analysis.
One might ask, though it is probably impossible to tell, which experiences contributed more to the "cure": those in which a frightening image is traced back to a childhood fantasy-trauma, or those in which the self merges into an ecstatic life-flow compared to which the neurosis was "a pale and paltry thing now."
For someone who has experienced LSD this book has some interest as an account of a psychedelic session that was "programmed" within one particular model of the mind—the psychoanalytic.
For someone who has not experienced LSD, this book is not recommended, since it employs a very limited perspective without bringing an awareness of this limitation to the attention of the reader.
Exploring Inner Space is a description of five LSD sessions held in the creativity research project of Dr. Oscar Janiger.
No therapy or testing was done, and the subject was left completely free as to areas explored. Her first session took her into a primitive vision of the age of reptiles, devouring, killing, fighting, destroying. "There seemed no end... to the props upon which violent emotions were hung." Asking herself why she should have had a vision of evolution, "the answer flashed into my mind. That very morning... I had flipped quickly through a magazine, and for a second my glance had fallen on the title of an article by Jimmy Michener `Violence and the Whims of Nature over Millions of Years Built a Paradise.' Now I knew that second had influenced the day..."
Minute and seemingly unimportant events or thoughts immediately preceding a session can profoundly "set" the content of the experience. "The visions of an LSD experience are relatively unimportant and merely serve as hooks upon which can be hung soul-shaking emotions."
Perhaps one could carry this one step further and say that the basic experience is not primarily' visual at all, or it is visual but not visionary. Hallucinations, visions are imposed on a formless flow of sensation, giving concrete expression to basic feelings.
What are some of the basic common experiences in deep LSD states? There is first what one may call the vision of unity:
For the first time in my life, I became aware of a wonderful oneness existing between all living things, whether plant, animal, or human, whether prehistoric, historic, or present.
Another is what can be termed the vision of inherent divinity:
I knew that God penetrated every crevice of the universe, filling every space, regardless of how small, and piercing every wall, regardless of how thick; and how both filled and surrounded every human being. Thus another conviction became a reality: to find God, we had only to look within ourselves and everywhere around us.
Third is the experience one might name after one of these titles, the discovery of love:
Only love can fill the vacuum in every heart. Love is God; the two are one. When you think you are hungry for love, it is, in reality, God you are longing for.
This revelation is often accompanied by the realization that a kind of love is possible between humans that is completely non-possessive, open and selfless.
And how is it you love? If your children, husband, or friends displease you I notice you withdraw your love quickly enough. Is love something you can jerk away at will? Real love is like the sun. It warms every heart within its radiance, not a selected few.
Fourth, there is what one might call basic energy vision:
"...an unshakable conviction that there is indeed a universal and God-created energy which expresses itself as rhythm in all things... It seemed to me that a God force, a God strength, existed not only inside me and in everything around me but was being demonstrated to me..."
These revelations, stated thus baldly and abstractly, are of course not new or original from an intellectual point of view. What all LSD explorers confirm, though, is that the revelations are not just understood intellectually, but felt, lived and experienced with overwhelming intensity.
The intensity of feeling in these LSD experiences is such that writers usually cram their sentences with superlatives, which can become monotonous if the book is read through at one sitting. This dimension of intensity, of overwhelming reality, is one of the most difficult aspects of the psychedelic experience to communicate.
Jane Dunlap's account points out clearly the difference between two kinds of "religious experience": one in which hallucinations are described and interpreted in religious language (a language perhaps better and certainly no worse than any existing alternatives in psychiatry and psychology); and one in which there is direct, mystical contact with the basic life-flow.
Most of her experiences were "religious" in the first sense, i.e., conceptually, symbolically; her "set" on entering the LSD experiments was religious. The last session described in the book falls into the second category of mystical experience.
The Discovery of Love
is probably the best introduction for someone who is interested in taking LSD but still wants another story. It is the description of one session at the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park.
The book provides considerable detail relating to the preparation and ritual surrounding the taking of LSD. Mr. Bishop also gives a rather full portrait of himself beforehand so that one can more readily appreciate the nature of his experiences under LSD. The book is written simply and clearly, without pretense or embellishments.
Even though the content of the experiences is radically different from Jane Dunlap's, the four basic visions are here too:
- Unity:" I was learning that all things are one, and all things are an essential part of my being."
- Inherent divinity: "I became one with God, when God became me, when I was in God. And I was on top, far above all the world."
- Love: "Now I know that love does not come by doing things for it You cannot cry out for love and have someone hear your cry and come and give it to you. Love does not come from without. Love comes from within ... Love is the most powerful force in the universe."
- Basic energy: "Sparks seemed to fly from my finger tips as they touched. They were like highly-charged electrodes. Between them was all the magnetic force of the universe."
Of course, this classification is rough and preliminary and eventually coding systems for the different aspects of transcendent experiences will have to be developed.
To conclude, of the three books, Exploring Inner Space
is the most readable, although The Discovery of Love
is probably the best introduction for the average interested layman. None of the three compares even remotely with the classics in the field: Huxley's Doors of Perception
and Watts' The Joyous Cosmology
. R. M.
The Religions Of The Oppressed:
A Study of Modern Messianic Cults
by Vittorio Lanternari
The chapter presently reviewed, that on "The Peyote Cult" (pp. 63113), is the longest one in a book which also treats of nativistic-religious movements in Africa, prophetic pre-peyote movements in native North America, and messianic movements in Central and South America, Melanesia, Polynesia, Asia and Indonesia.
One defect is in the order of arrangement, inasmuch as the peyote cult is dealt with earlier in the volume than the other North American native religious movement which preceded it in time and which could shed ethnological and psychological light on peyotism. Indeed, these other religious movements and those in other areas will be more unfamiliar and interesting to persons interested in primitive religion. None besides peyotism uses psychedelic substances significantly.
The discussion of peyotism is deficient in phenomenological descriptions of the peyote experience which would be of more immediate concern to psychedelic interests. As in the rest of the volume (none of it based on primary research), the approach is a socio-psychological one intended to illustrate the author's theories about the relationship between religion and revolution.
The virtues of this work lie in this area of interpretation, rather than in any contribution to our substantive knowledge. The book is available from: New York: Knopf, 1963. (Translated from the Italian by Lisa Sergio.) Pp. xx & 343. $6.95 Weston La Barre
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