Then we are moved to a larger principle and deeper dimension of reality that embraces all worldviews — the dimension where our separative limitations are overcome and where we have access to the generative energy of our common source. Religions are now challenged to release this new spiritual force, which experiences the oneness of the human community and puts spirituality to use in solving our planetary problems. This shift in consciousness may be the most important event of the times in shaping our global future, says Ashok Gangadeen, Founder of the World commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality.
The Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II call us to a moral renaissance if we are to avert the disastrous directions towards which we are headed. Such terrible acts are a violent symptom of an afflicted mental state. To respond wisely and effectively, we need to be guided by more healthy states of mind, not just to avoid feeding the flames of hatred, but also to respond skillfully. We would do well to remember that the war against hatred and terror could be waged on this, the internal front, too.
But how do we master our baser instincts and develop our more refined potentialities? The practices that originally developed in ashrams and monasteries for this purpose are now available to the secular world. Their benefits can help prepare us to be co-creators of our global future. Freed from the limits of cultural conditioning we can now identify with all humanity in all its diversity. Scientific evidence confirms the numerous benefits that can be derived from the ancient practice of meditation. These include decreased stress, increased recovery from negative reactions of anger and fear, increased awareness and mental alertness, and even physiological changes and improved immune systems.
It leads us away from splitting the world into us-versus-them mindsets and towards inclusive respect and compassion. It is a method to develop inner guidance and sensitivity, and a compassion that feels and embraces all life. Beauty and Inspiration. For some the way to the infinite is through the kind of art that moves us to the sacred and the universal within. The Earth becomes a sacred planet to be honored and celebrated rather than to be harmed and polluted.
Images have a multitude of perspectives depending on how we see. Art generated from a deep source within inspires and elevates the artist and the viewer. Beauty is the soul of life, delicate and mysterious, bringing joy and even ecstasy — a falling in love with the infinite that brings good will into our surroundings. When we are elevated to this state, loving all life is natural.
Peace reaches the inner being in silence. It whispers to the mind new thoughts filled with meaning and strength. She was highly intelligent and could articulate perfectly why being in her forties bothered her so much. She struggled to overcome this belief , which was at the heart of her depression, but made little progress. Many of us are like Adele, we live our lives and meet our challenges with the intellect, neglecting the opportunities that altered states offer.
Altered States of Consciousness | Psychology Today
Maybe we just prefer the safety and predictability of the ordinary mind and the world of thought. We feel stuck, in part, because we are relying too heavily on figuring out our problems. When we only use the ordinary mode of consciousness our problems can become self-perpetuating. We are like a person stuck in a hole who digs with a shovel rather than climbing out with a ladder.
A Pleiadian Message: A Sacred Shift of Consciousness
Not dropping the effort to get better, but giving the intellect a rest for a while. In treatments such as MBCT, healing requires getting into non-ordinary modes of mind, such as mindfulness. These alternate modes are beyond words. Whatever transpires in these states of mind does so in a different language than that of thought. After many months of processing her grief and her fears about aging in therapy, Adele gave up.
Instead she spent time creating opportunities for non-ordinary states to arise. She went on a retreat and when at home she took long walks in the woods. Props to him for bringing Michael Pollan on the show because Pollan is doing a great job speaking to the science and the experience itself. My perspective changed completely around five years ago when I grew and had my first psilocybin mushroom experience.
The proof is in the lasting behavioral changes that follow. Psilocybin spores are legal to buy and easy to grow, however once the fruits have developed it becomes a schedule 1 drug in the US, so be mindful of the laws in your jurisdiction. This was very interesting! This is not important to the theme of the interview, but it is interesting.
The Human Ecology Fund was also used for other research funding. While such a miracle drug did not arise, the powerful Personality Assessment System of John Gittinger did and was an important tool in CIA practice for many years. John Gittinger, who just wanted to talk about his Personality Assessment System, was so upset with the hearings that he retired prematurely. Having had the privilege of knowing Mr. Gittinger, this was a real loss to US capabilities.
Maybe its the Midwestern sensibility in me, but I have a lot of issues with this topic. Do you really think this would stay in a Dr. How many people would now get LSD on the street, have a bad trip and kill someone or themselves? LSD appears to re-wire your brain according to Pollan. Do you think people want their brains re-wired?
Who knows what the long term consequences of that would be? LSD is a dangerous drug, and I would have hoped Russ and his guest would have turned more heavily to some non-medicated methods to achieving their ends such as meditation and prayer. They did, but not enough in my opinion. People have been using entheogens for thousands of years before white lab coats were even invented. This is apparent in the remainder of your post. What are your premises? What is the conclusion? Entheogens are dangerous? Relative to what? Entheogens should be illegal? Not illegal, but morally frowned upon? I am also from the Midwest, and I take a bit of umbrage with you using the character of the region as cover for not researching the topic in depth and reaching a carefully considered conclusion — not Midwestern at all in my experience.
Written in , this may have been the first popular book to explore consciousness, the use of psychedelics, meditation, etc. Second, for those meditators looking for some ego dissolution, here is a nice short guided meditation with the aim of doing exactly that. This combination has a lot in common with using anesthetics in surgery: you have a reasonable treatment for the underlying problem surgery or therapy , but the process is too painful for the patient to tolerate it. However, a drug can be used to make the process bearable, and then the procedure that actually addresses the problem can be carried out successfully.
I suspect that this is also the case in therapy with psychedelic drugs, where the altered state the patient is in allows for a productive examination of problems that are otherwise too entangled and unapproachable. Thinking in terms of interests and incentives is extremely useful for protecting yourself and getting things done, but if that perspective gets too powerful it can make life miserable and undo everything it tries to achieve.
For me it is about reminding myself that the purposeful, critical perspective is flawed and is something that I can get away from when I need to. You should consider talking to Sam Harris on this. I really want to try a psychedelic or meditate now. Their trips and meditations are all about looking into their own mind. All of the connections to their surroundings stem to the meditater. There are other ways to be better human being.
Drugs and meditation are possibly an enhancer, but not a cure-all. Russ Roberts: Now for today's guest, journalist and author Michael Pollan. And I do want to let parents know--it should be obvious from the title of Michael's book or at least the subtitle--this conversation is going to deal with what are sometimes described as hallucinogenic drugs, in particular LSD [Lysergic acid diethylamide] and psilocybin. You may want to screen this episode before sharing with your kids.
This book shook me up in all kinds of ways that I hope we'll cover in our conversation, Michael. One way it shook me up is I discovered that there was serious scientific exploration of psychedelic drugs in the s and s. Give us a sketch of what that research is looking at.
Michael Pollan: Yeah. I was surprised, too, frankly. For most of us, I think the history of psychedelics begins in the s, you know, with Timothy Leary and that whole scene. But I was surprised to learn that there was a very lively, productive area of research for more than 10 years before Timothy Leary ever tried psychedelics--which doesn't happen till The drugs are--well, LSD is invented, you can either say in the s when it was synthesized, but it wasn't realized what it was till the s.
Albert Hofmann was a chemist at Sandoz, and he was looking for a new drug to treat women in childbirth, to staunch bleeding, I believe it was. He accidentally hits on this--he's working with ergotamine, which is this chemical that's produced by a fungus called ergot, which infects grain and actually has an interesting role to play in European history.
But, he realizes by accidentally ingesting a tiny bit that he's got this powerful psycho-active substance. He has no idea what to do with it, however, or what it's good for, if anything. So, Sandoz does something really unusual. They essentially crowd source a year or year research program, offering LSD, as it was known, to any researcher or therapist who agrees to report back on what they learned. So, anybody with good stationery basically could get a lot of LSD, for free, if they were willing to report back.
So, all through the s you have this effort to define what it might be good for and apply it therapeutically. And, what they discover--and this happens by about the mids--is that it seems to be effective in treating addiction, especially alcoholism; depression, anxiety, obsession. A whole range of forms of mental illness. Although they also try it on schizophrenia with somewhat less success. But this is going on in England, in Canada, in the United States. And many people in the psychiatric community think that this might be a wonder drug.
It also teaches us really interesting things about the mind. We did not really understand chemistry of the mind before LSD. And the fact that there were receptors and neurotransmitters--that whole area of research really was opened up by the study of LSD. So, it's this very important drug. It's legal, at this point. There's no stigma attached to it.
And it looks like it's going to help us treat mental illness. Michael Pollan: The Sixties. Basically, in the s the drug becomes very popular in the counterculture. Timothy Leary, who had been a scientist, kind of loses patience with science and is so excited about the possibilities of this drug--which, by the way, is an occupational hazard for just about anyone who studies it, this irrational exuberance--that he basically loses interest in treating individuals and decides he wants to treat the whole of society. Which, you know, we don't really have a paradigm for prescribing a new[?
Michael Pollan: Yes. With the exception of fluoride--that is one drug we apply to all of society. But he becomes an evangelist. But, he's not the only one.
It isn't fair to blame him for all this. He was dosed as part of a CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] research experiment in the early s, and decides also that this is a very powerful tool that everybody needs to have. And he gives it out in these acid [N. And also, even before that, Cary Grant had given an interview about his very successful treatment, as he deemed it himself, very successful treatment with LSD in Los Angeles in the s, and gives this interview where he's kind of raving about it. And that, too, is exciting public interest.
So, basically, the drug is embraced by the counterculture. It's used pretty carelessly. People are taking it at parties and taking it at concerts, and without much thought. They are dosing one another without their knowledge--which seems to me an incredibly cruel thing to do.
And, gradually what had been a great deal of support for psychedelics on the part of both the media and the psychiatric community turns into a reaction against it. A backlash. Or, a moral panic, even. And, you start hearing a lot of scare stories about people getting in trouble on the drugs: They are having psychotic episodes, they are jumping out of windows, they are staring at the sun till they go blind.
Not all of this is true. A lot of it are really scare stories. And the Press turns against it. And, by , you have this, you know, moral panic against LSD and psilocybin, that quickly results in their prohibition. Which is not complete until But in they are made illegal in California and some other states. And, the researchers basically get a little chicken about studying it. Even though they were getting good results and were very committed, I don't think they were willing to go up against this powerful public and government tide of opposition.
And so gradually the research dries up. And, by the early s, that's it. This promising avenue of research is choked off. Psilocybin is the chemical in magic mushrooms. And this is a psychedelic that is kind of widely available. These mushrooms grow in many places. And, it was not known, though, in the West, until And that's when Gordon Wasson, who was an amateur mycologist and a banker, actually, at J.
Michael Pollan: Mushroom expert. Goes to Oaxaca in Mexico. And he's heard rumors that there are mushroom cults that have survived in Mexico since the Spanish Conquest. Quite incredible. When the Spanish came to Mexico, they found the Aztecs and other native peoples using mushrooms as a sacrament.
They called it Teonanacatl--Flesh of the Gods. And they regarded this as pagan. They felt very threatened by it, because it was, in some ways a superior sacrament to their own, since you didn't really need faith to make contact with God. You just--you could actually talk to him--with mushrooms.
And so they crushed this religion. And, it went underground; and survived for years, coming back to attention with this big, page article in Life magazine, that Wasson writes in Russ Roberts: I should just mention, of course, to listeners, that many mushrooms are poisonous, will kill you.
Do not go out into the woods eating mushrooms that you don't understand. And LSD is illegal. We do not encourage anyone doing anything illegal. And that's a disclaimer I think I'll--a similar one in the front of your book. But, carry on. LSD is now illegal; and psilocybin is illegal also. However, they are--they can be used by researchers.
And they are being used in research trials. Russ Roberts: So, how did those trials come back, in scientific study? What changed after that scare in the Sixties, which I remember vividly as a teenager--that these were horrible drugs; they drove you crazy; and you shouldn't touch them. And that was very effective. Michael Pollan: It was.
It scared a lot of people off them. I mean, there still was a counterculture where they were used. But, I was scared, certainly. I didn't mess around with them at that age. I believed the horror stories. But, there was always a group of people who were faithful to psychedelics and were convinced that they had value for society, whether as spiritual aids or as therapeutic aids, or as just a means of exploring consciousness, individually or as a species.
And so, they kind of, you know, kept the fire burning. And, we had this hiatus of about 25 or 30 years, where no research takes place in the United States. And, beginning in the early s, a group of people who consisted of some therapists and some activists--some people whose lives have been changed by psychedelics in positive ways--began organizing to see if they could perhaps re-start the research. There's a series of meetings that takes place at Esalen, which is a--to call it a conference center is to kind of trivialize it. But it's this gorgeous Russ Roberts: Heh, heh, heh.
That's hilarious--but, yeah; it is a conference center. But, yeah. It's right on the coast of California in the Big Sur. It kind of leans out over the Pacific Ocean in this precarious way. And it's gorgeous. I've been there once. And so, they start having this series of meetings there; and LSD therapy had been developed there, to some extent. And, they start figuring out how they might bring it back. And, I focus on a man named Bob Jesse in my narrative, who is a computer engineer.
He had been at Oracle. He had some very meaningful psychedelic experiences in his 20s. And, he organizes a group of people-which, a range, from religious scholars to therapists to a former head of NIDA--the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And, they start, you know, coming up with some plans, of: What would you study? How would you go about it? Jesse has some money, and he raises some more money.
And he, then, approaches some researchers, and is introduced to a man at Johns Hopkins, a very prestigious, well-regarded drug researcher named Roland Griffiths, who had been studying, you know, drugs of abuse for a long time. As it happened, Roland had had a powerful mystical experience of his own in his meditation practice. He was not using psychedelics, but he was a very serious meditator, and had been exposed to some ideas about consciousness that he couldn't explain through, you know, the usual scientific explanations. So, when Bob Jesse and Roland Griffiths meet, that's really the beginning, I think, of modern research.
There's a few other things going on, too. And, a new hire there, who happens to have been a former student of Roland Griffiths', says that he will henceforth look at proposals to study psychedelics as if it were any other drug. Leaving aside its history. Leaving aside its legal status. And so that kind of opens the door; and Bob Jesse and Roland Griffiths step through it. And they revive this science after this period of dormancy.
And, really my book is the story of that renaissance. Russ Roberts: Well, that's part of your book. The part I want to turn to--and it's fascinating. The book is, it's a great read. You're a great writer. But, the reason it's a fascinating book--if it were just that history, it would be a good book.
But it's a great book, because it intersperses that history with your own experiences, which we'll talk about in a minute, along with a lot of, to me, fascinating questions about science, consciousness, materialism, and so on. One thing I think we need to make clear before we go any further is that, I think when most people, as I would have before I read your book--I mean, you say, 'Well, people are using LSD for therapy,' or to help people with addiction, or they lead to meaningful experiences--I think what people have the idea is that, the people who are evangelistic or evangelical about it are high "all the time.
But, what your book mainly highlights are experiences that people had, sometimes just once. And that many of the therapeutic applications of the drugs--for addiction, for fear of death--are just a one-time use. Which is just not just what I would have had in mind. And the second thing I think we have to make clear is what the experience is for many of these people that is often described as spiritual or religious, transcendent. Try to give us some flavor of how people report on this, and to why they become evangelical about it.
Because, if you'd told me this before I read the book, I would have said, 'Well, sure. When people get drunk, they like to have other people drink with them. Try to give the flavor of that. It's not about being high. And, what is striking about these drugs Russ Roberts: and they are not addictive. That's another crazy thing that I wasn't prepared for, right? A few things you should know about them. First: Yes. A single experience, or two, really is all we are talking about. And that experience can be so powerful that it really is transformative of people's outlooks.
“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”
And even, to some extent, their personalities. The other thing it's important to understand is that you are not just taking a pill. You are having a guided experience. So, when we talk about psychedelic therapy, we really should be saying psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. So, the way it works in a therapeutic context--and this was a context really created way back in the s--is that you are with a guide, or a therapist, the entire time.
They take great pains to prepare you for the experience. Because, it can be very disruptive. And so, they tell you what to expect. They tell you what to do if you get into trouble, if you have a period of great anxiety or you see something really scary. A lot of it involves encouraging you to surrender to whatever happens.
And that the so-called 'bad trip' is often what occurs when someone resists what they are feeling.
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Which might be a sensation of going crazy, or their ego dissolving, or, you know, that they are dying. They think they are dying. And the best advice is, 'Go with it. You go with it, it will turn into something more positive. They don't say very much, but they are present and give you a sense of safety.
Because, you are going to be in a very vulnerable situation. Your ego defenses will be disarmed completely. And so you have to feel safe, or you are going to feel very paranoid or anxious. And then, after the experience, which can go on for somewhere between 6 hours on psilocybin to 10 hours on LSD, after the experience they help you integrate it: make sense of what happened and see if you can't extract any lessons that you can apply to your life. So, this way of administering the drugs is very different than the image I think people have of recreational use of psychedelics.
The other thing you should know is: You are wearing eyeshades during the whole experience. Which encourages you to go inside. It's a very internal journey. You are not just kind of grooving on the waves on the beach or the trees in the forest. You are really examining your life. And you are going into your mind, and into your body as happens in the case of many of the cancer patients.
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So, it's important to understand that. And that, you know, it doesn't necessarily work without the therapists. It is a package that we are talking about. Even though, you know, it doesn't happen without the chemicals. But, the other interesting point about this is that, you are really prescribing an experience to someone, not just a chemical. In other words, people can have a reaction and feel like they are hallucinating and all this kind of stuff; but it really is only if you have what is sometimes referred to as a mystical experience or an ego-dissolving experience.
This sensation of your self merging into something larger. That, that appears, that experience appears to be the best predictor of a positive therapeutic outcome. And it doesn't always happen. It seems to happen in about two thirds of the people who have one of these guided journeys. Russ Roberts: Well, I want to focus on those two thirds. Because, obviously, one of the themes of the book is that it's hard to put the experience into words. Russ Roberts: Ineffable. One of my favorite words. Michael Pollan: Well, on a high-dose psychedelic journey, the most common thing is what I described earlier, which is this sense of your self dissolving.
And that you are--that, you know, what your ego is doing in everyday life is kind of like patrolling the borders between you and other people, you and the natural world, subject and object. And this is a very important function. And it gives us, it helps reinforce this idea that we are distinct individuals with some kind of continuity over time. But, to realize, as the Buddhists have been teaching us for a long time, that perhaps that is an illusion; and that it can vanish or evaporate, is a very destabilizing experience. Which can be terrifying if you are not prepared for it and you resist it.
But it can also be ecstatic. And, you know, this sense of merging into something larger is often filled with feelings of love, connection to nature. This sense of one-ness. What William James called 'unity of consciousness. And surprising.