"Thomas B. Roberts is Associate Professor in the Department of Learning and Development at Northern Illinois University. He is coauthor of The Second Centering Book and Transpersonal Psychology in Education, and has edited the anthology Four Psychologies Applied to Education: Freudian, Behavioral, Humanistic, Transpersonal." —Psychedelic Reflections
It didn't make sense. Their speech was clear, their thoughts logical, and their ideas and descriptions coherent. We were fellow graduate students in a Stanford seminar on the human potential. They were describing their first LSD trip, taken the previous Saturday. And it didn't make sense—to me—then. Like almost everyone else in the late 1960's, I had learned that LSD was a dangerous, mind-altering drug, one that sensible people didn't take; but they seemed sensible both before and after. I had learned that LSD alienated people and ruined relationships; but this young, married, graduate-student couple had shared a deep and meaningful experience that brought them closer together. They talked of increased love for each other and for humanity. I had learned that LSD makes people suicidal, jumping out of high windows and that sort of thing; yet they seemed well-grounded and down to earth. I had learned that LSD makes people hysterical and psychotic; but they seemed relaxed, rational, and reality-oriented. I learned that LSD puts one into a nightmarish hell, full of terrifying hallucinations and Goya-esque agonies; they described a feeling of overwhelming awe for the beauty surrounding them. They said things felt "more sacred, more intense, and indescribably wonder-filled." I had learned that LSD drives one mad, yet they seemed saner than ever. I had learned that LSD was an escape into unreality; yet their lives seemed to be enriched somehow. A few others in the class nodded understandingly, and exchanged words and smiles of warm recognition—even a sort of congratulation! This didn't make sense. We weren't a class of long-haired freaks. We were hard- working, high-achieving, graduate students from engineering, the social sciences, humanities, and assorted professional schools. This didn't make sense at all.
It does now. LSD helps people experience all these things, good and bad, and many more. Like most people in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I "learned" about LSD from TV, newspapers, and magazines. I "learned" that doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists were treating many patients who were suffering from "LSD psychosis." I "learned" that LSD was responsible for changes in social mores, sexual openness, political activism, and a whole cultural shift.
Since then, however, through my own experiences with psychedelics and subsequent readings stimulated by those experiences, I've learned it is easier to learn an erroneous opinion than to correct it. The popular news media prefer to focus public attention on the spectacular, bizarre, and frightening. Mental and physical health professionals see only those who have problems; sick people are their clientele. A person who took LSD with beneficial effects would hardly be likely to take the time and money to go to a doctor and report that he is well. Finally, some of the experiences one commonly has during psychedelic sessions run directly contrary to the dominant intellectual positions of the 1960s, which assumed that any deviation from our ordinary state of consciousness, especially a mystical state, is error or sickness. Today's sciences and psychologies are accommodating additional views, but in the sixties and early seventies such positions were intellectually heretical.
I followed the academic orthodoxies of the time. A son of educators, reared on the campus of a New England university, member of a highly rational Congregational church, undergraduate devotee of behavioral psychology at Hamilton College, I became a doctoral student who planned to study educational tests and measurements and computer-assisted instruction while picking up an MBA on the side. To me mind was limited to intellect, and intellect implied reason, cognition, and their verbal expression. Who would expect such a person to advocate the development of nonverbal, nonrational, and noncognitive mental abilities? I certainly wouldn't; but I certainly do. This widened definition of mind marks a major effect of my own LSD experiences. LSD has stimulated a new interest for me in examining human learning, experience, thinking, and behavior in terms of states of consciousness (SOCs). This essay exemplifies the fun of thinking in a consciousness way. (1)
NOTE TO MY STUDENTS: From my experiences and through reading, I have become increasingly respectful of the power of LSD. Like any powerful thing, it can be either destructive or constructive depending on how skillfully it is used. Among other things, it can concentrate your attention on the most vulnerable, most unpleasant parts of your mind. These should be explored only under the guidance of a qualified therapist, one who has had extensive psychedelic training. If you need help, most currently-trained mental health professionals are unlikely to be able to help you; in fact, because of their mistraining, they are likely to worsen your state. Furthermore, street dosages are of unknown strength and questionable purity. Until the time you can explore your mind using LSD of known strength and purity under qualified guidance within the law, I urge you to limit yourself to studying the literature and to working within professional and other organizations for the resumption of legal, scientific research.
Like a microscope, LSD magnifies. Instead of magnifying things outside
the body, it magnifies inner experiences. Memories, ideas, fantasies,
perceptions, thoughts, emotions, fears, hopes, sensations, bodily processes,
any one of these can in effect come to occupy a person's whole attention. This
amplification, like that of a microscope, allows the experiencer to investigate
parts of his or her mind with increased attention to the enlarged details. But,
again like a microscope, it narrows the field of perception, often temporarily
distorting the relationships among the parts. As with slide views through a
microscope, an LSD researcher must assemble a collage of close-up fragments to
obtain an overall view of his or her own mental experience, and still more
pieces for an overall map of the human mind.
This essay neither describes these fragments nor composes a collage. That has already been excellently done (e.g., Masters & Houston, 1966; Grof, 1975); and the research is surveyed by Grinspoon and Bakalar (1979). My purpose is to look at the influence of psychedelic experiences on myself and to speculate about the implications of these experiences for the world of learning. The essay assumes that studies done to date will be confirmed by additional research. If past experiences is any guide, some will be and others won't. The sooner we are clear about which ones, the better off we will be.
One thing is clear: LSD (I am using "LSD" as shorthand for the whole class of psychedelic drugs) raises exciting and important questions. As an amateur psychologist, I am interested in what LSD indicates about the mind. As an educational psychologist, I am curious about the implications for learning and development. As a human being and a citizen of my country and my planet, I wonder what insights it provides for culture and society. This essay is an attempt to think about these issues rather than to solve them; to bring them forward for open, intelligent discussion rather than to keep them buried in an intellectual underground-to encourage additional careful, legal research and its open communication rather than clandestine, illegal research and word-of-mouth rumor. Although this essay is based on my own experiences, it reflects more than my individual case. Most of the ideas are common currency among my consciousness colleagues. The essay is more collection than creation.
I've titled this essay "New Learning" for several reasons. As an educational psychologist, I'm interested in the implications of LSD research for the study of human learning and for further human development. Through LSD experiences I have learned to look at myself and society in a new way. These experiences have been, in effect, an additional higher education for me, equal in impact, effort, knowledge, beauty, and scope to obtaining a doctorate at Stanford. I value both sets of experiences highly. To me, the LSD-Stanford comparison shines brightly in both directions. Besides, this is a book written largely by and for educators and others who want to increase learning. Finally, I use the gerund to connote a continuing process. The educational topics, philosophical issues, intellectual questions, and personal insights which evolved from my LSD experiences and subsequent investigations are a continuing source of growth. They have piqued my curiosity about areas of literature, religion, anthropology, and philosophy that I underrated before. The sciences, social sciences, and arts have taken on additional coloration and deeper meanings. In a very real sense, LSD experiences resemble a liberal education.
I developed an interest in this essay's ideas directly through my psychedelic experiences and indirectly through reading largely stimulated by these experiences. This is not to say that LSD is the only road to such ideas. Clearly, it isn't. But in my experience and in the experiences of some of my friends and colleagues, LSD was our road.
Stanislav Grof may well be the living Western psychologist with the
widest and deepest sample of human psychological behavior. He, his patients,
and co-experimenters have crossed and recrossed the mental terrain. Their
combined observations have strength not only because of their own diversity
(other mapmakers have used diverse populations) but primarily because they have
systematically mapped previously excluded regions. From a sample of
approximately 4,000 LSD sessions with a wide range of psychotics, neurotics,
and normals, he describes a four-level mindcollage in Realms of the Human
Unconscious. The shallowest level consists of current thoughts and perceptions,
the "Abstract and Aesthetic Level," as Grof calls it. The second
level consists of experiences and fantasies of the person's life. Most
therapies focus on this level, and Grof calls this the "Psychodynamic or
Freudian Level." Below this is the "Perinatal Level," having to
do with experiences at or around birth; this level is associated with the work
of Otto Rank. These three levels all have to do with experiences of the person.
Beyond this is a region where personal identity, time, and space become
variables. This is the "Transpersonal Level."
If Grof's map served only in therapy and simply as a phenomenological record of LSD experiences, it would be a useful curiosity, but otherwise unimportant for the world of learning. But the map is also congruent with the mindmaps of powerful thinkers from several fields, notably the humanities, who draw on many cultures for their evidence. (2) This convergence of disciplines presents a view of the human mind in agreement with current views in some particulars, but at variance in others.
The disciplinary regularities described by these authors and the general worldview they present were derived from large-scale surveys of their fields. Grof's LSD research goes beyond this to experimental verification which confirms their findings. Humanistic studies in turn help to corroborate psychedelic observations. Psychedelic research's roomy additions to the house of intellect make it possible to found new disciplinary specialties that hybridize science and the humanities, for example, experimental symbolism and "experiential philosophy." All the books mentioned in Figure 1 explicitly derive their ideas from altered states of consciousness, yet our academic community is predominantly consciousness-naive. Studies of human nature and the human mind which omit non-ordinary states are clearly incomplete.
A decade ago I, too, had learned the standard scientific orthodoxy on
mysticism: I despised and caricatured mysticism as a view that the world is
basically unknowable and that reason and observation are useless, probably
confusing. What would I, as a rational human being, have to do with this
holdover from the Dark Ages? What good was a psychology that valued such trash?
After experiencing mystical states several times and reading a bit about them, I now realize that I failed to make an important distinction. Mysticism as a philosophical stand on what can be known and how it can be known differs greatly from the study of mystical events as psychological experiences. My rejection of philosophical mysticism had led me blindly to reject the psychological study of mystical experiences.
Several current psychotechnologies, including LSD, increase the likelihood of mystical experiences. Now that we can stimulate them, we can begin to bring to bear scientific experimentation. Richards' dissertation, Counseling, Peak Experiences and the Human Encounter with Death: An Empirical Study of the Efficacy of DPT-assisted Counseling in Enhancing the Quality of Life of Persons with Terminal Cancer and Their Closest Family Members (1975), illustrates the scientific study of mystical states. His work includes a survey of the literature on experimental mysticism, repeatable treatment, standardized observations, and confirmable/disconfirmable hypotheses and conclusions. The study is replicable.
When science expands, education follows. With consciousness pioneers opening access to new territories, whole ranges of human abilities are already beginning to be developed. For example, in the 1960s I was taught that people could not voluntarily control the autonomic nervous system—the "vegetative nervous system," as my biology text pejoratively called it. In 1980 we teach that one can learn to control this system by biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and various uses of imagery. As with biofeedback learned states of consciousness, the study of psychedelic-stimulated SOCs is, in principle, not opposed to science and reason. On the contrary, the refusal to study them is both unreasonable and antiscientific.
What did Richards and others discover across the Appalachians of the
Mind? When the travelers returned, had they been driven crazy? Neurotic?
Psychotic? Were they out of touch with reality? Did they withdraw from family,
friends, and loved ones? "Yes," said the stay-at-homes, clutching
their psychoanalytic maps. "Beyond these mountains live fearful beasts. Let
no one enter there."
The travelers and their guides, however, told different stories. Some alcoholics and addicts dropped their dependencies. Suicidal patients discovered a love of life. Some who departed neurotic and psychotic returned improved, although many needed several additional trips. Patients with terminal diseases felt less fear of death, and their general anxiety was lowered. Most of all, they related honestly, lovingly, and openly with their families and closest friends (Grof, 1975, 1981; Grof & Halifax, 1978; Richards, 1975; summarized in Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1979).
If mystical experiences are integrated into the personality, they are highly therapeutic. Single-state scholars and theoreticians are hard-pressed to explain this therapeutic value. Denial is easier. But if an enlarged map of reality includes altered states of consciousness, then experiencing such states logically leads to a fuller view of reality, and therapists tell us that a fuller view of reality is therapeutic.
Bits of observation may fall together in unexpected ways when a new
methodology presents a new data or a new way of thinking reorganizes existing
observations. Looked at from a consciousness perspective, some issues
surrounding moral development combine in a startling way. Four bits of
information are linked together:
First, mystical experiences, or peak experiences, are by their nature non-ego states, i.e., transpersonal states. It is not surprising that people who experience this state report a decrease in such ego needs as the neurotic accumulation of wealth or power. In Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences, Maslow reports this value-shift during peak experiences (1964), and Huxley claims it is part of most major philosophical traditions (1944).
Second, during peak or mystical experiences, people directly experience what Maslow calls "being values, " and what Kohlberg calls "universal moral principles. " These include such things as the sanctity of life and compassion.
Third, these qualities then act as goals or motivations for future actions. Personal compassion, social responsibility, global awareness, and a cosmic perspective grow.
Fourth, LSD, the new therapies, and other psychotechnologies can trigger, or at least facilitate, peak or mystical experiences.
Putting these four together we have a sequence from the new therapies to mystical experiences to "being values" to moral action. Have we unintentionally, blindly, and unknowingly stumbled onto another path of moral improvement? Have we discovered rapid, even chemically-induced moral development? My emotional reaction is an indignant "No, it can't be!" Yet, that is what some of the evidence suggests. In any case, the relationship between mystical states and morality is my nomination as the most-needed piece of consciousness research.
Because it is based on the study of many states of consciousness, the psychology of consciousness includes a greater number and wider variety of observations than a single-state psychology. It offers a source of hypotheses and research designs. However, we should remember that many early findings are probably inaccurate. Great contributions and great mistakes are twins of new paradigms. Because of the newness of consciousness research, some variables are probably still hidden. This speeds up the frequency of disconfirmations, and slows confirmations. An organized research agenda, regular dissemination channels, research conferences, and so forth are now appropriate for this field and will help separate false hopes from hot leads.
The greatest advances in civilization, science, and learning often
result from new ways of doing things, new methodologies. In my judgment the
most important thing about psychedelics is that they give us a powerful and
broadly applicable research methodology. (3)
The typical Western approach to studying the mind is to look at its activities and products and to infer its structure and functions from them. Studying the great religions, philosophies, and psychologies of the world, what similarities do we find? What do language and literature indicate about the human mind? This is the research method of many of the authors in Figure 1. One minor benefit of psychedelic research is that it adds a few novel boulders to the mountain of human experience. A larger contribution is that psychedelic insights offer ways to categorize some of these observations and ways to specify relationships among them.
The second major Western way to study the mind is to look at abnormal behavior to see what it indicates. Here, too, the evidence is largely descriptive, although current therapeutic interventions add some clinical and experimental notes. Psychedelic and psycholytic therapies add to the knowledge we receive via this route. Because psychedelics were developed and used in recent history for therapy rather than for intellectual research, a misleading connotation of mental illness as their only appropriate domain blinds people to their research potentials elsewhere. Instead of inferring the structure of the mind from its surface geography and from occasional interventions, psychedelic methodology provides direct access to the underground veins and strata, the deep structures and processes where thoughts, feelings, and motivation originate.
Fortunately for researchers, sometimes in these states it is possible to alternate between deep mental experience and a close-to-normal state. They can even happen simultaneously. For example, once toward the end of a psychedelic session I remembered a group of childhood nightmares. At the time they had the quality of immediate experience rather than memory. Every few minutes, I got up from bed to make notes on these experiences, then returned again to re-experience them. The period of alternating states lasted about 20 minutes, and I was able to recall and record "childhood nightmares" which included the name of a playmate whom I hadn't thought of for over a quarter of a century. Some of these dreams came from very early childhood and perhaps infancy. From this experience, I hypothesized that some early childhood nightmares are birth memories. This was not a new idea, but it was newly credible to me.
As I look at my colleagues' professional contributions, I find, rightly or wrongly, that I evaluate most highly the ideas of those who are experienced in various states of consciousness or who are at least familiar with the research from reading. Within the consciousness group, I trust the theories and hypotheses of psychedelic researchers more than those of LSD-naive researchers. Researchers with knowledge of several states have an even greater advantage. This is not to say that all good research is psychedelic nor that all psychedelic research is good research. Obviously, this isn't the case. But as a general rule, it is preferable to generalize from diverse observations rather than from a narrower field. I predict that by the end of this decade, psychologists, philosophers, and educators, as well as mental and physical health practitioners who are unfamiliar with consciousness research will be as out-of-date as they would be today if they were unfamiliar with Freud, Skinner, or Piaget.
The work of Harman et al. (1966) indicates that psychedelics may be a useful methodology in the incubation and illumination stages of creative problem-solving. Most of the engineers, physicists, mathematicians, architects, and designers in his samples reported valuable solutions to their professional problems from psychedelic acceleration of creativity. This synthesis-facilitating use of psychedelics is different from the mind-research mentioned above. We need more systematic research on how to do psychedelic research. An unfortunate side-effect of psychedelics' illegality is that the publication and sharing of the methods and findings is discouraged.
When consciousness (the overall pattern of mental functioning) is seen as a group of variables, cognition, perception, affect, and so on, are seen as psychological processes embedded in SOCs with each other and with other psychological processes. All our cognitive structures and mental processes seem to vary from one state of overall psychological functioning to another. How much variation in thinking is there from state to state? What alternate forms of thinking exist in alternate patterns of mental functioning? What, if any, uses might they have for humanity?
Present ideas of the mind are almost wholly derived from our ordinary
state's experience and cognition and are for use within it. Although
contributions to them may well have been aided by reverie or other nearby SOCs,
we ignore these origins.
We are largely hunter-gatherers of the mind. Its civilization has just begun. We trim and prune here and there. We espalier diverse facts with convenient theories. From a consciousness perspective, increased harvests depend on acknowledging thought's deep roots in other SOCs. A mind cultivator not only weeds the surface ideas, but also tends the conceptual and preconceptual soils.
The idea that such inner-directed attention is narcissistic is a peculiar one. While they may be stimulated by external events, aesthetic creation and awareness, problem-finding and problem-solving, judgments of quality, spiritual experiences, intellectual and other mental processes are all internal events, processes happening "inside the head." Calling inner-directed attention "narcissistic" or "me-oriented" is inaccurate, anti-intellectual, and just plain ignorant.
Can one intentionally improve inner processes? Some improvement comes
from better ideas, that is, more accurate, useful, and varied concepts. Focusing
on better cognitive strategies to process or manipulate the content, cognitive
psychology asks a higher, second-level question: whether there are more efficient
ways of thinking. Consciousness studies ask a third-level question: How do
cognitive strategies and cognition vary from state to state? From a cognitive
perspective, different states of consciousness are, among other things, radical
reorganizations of information processing systems and strategies. Different
states of consciousness also provide different "strategies" of
perception, abilities, memory, emotion, etc.
At each level, the degree of mental freedom increases. It is no accident that mystical experiences are associated with an open-minded tolerance for ambiguity (Thomas & Cooper, 1980). This kind of tolerance is also correlated with abstract thought, creativity, decreased prejudice, and low authoritarianism. From a consciousness perspective, the first pair are associated with higher stages of mental development, the latter pair with decreased ego involvement. The two occur together.
Before LSD drew my attention to state of consciousness as a variable, I
accepted the usual cognitive goals of education: knowing more facts and
learning to think better, avoiding fallacies, moving up Piaget's stages of
intellectual development, finding more useful concepts and theories, matching
theory with observations, and so forth. While I still value these aims, I now
see them in a different context.
The items below are discussed more thoroughly in Consciousness, Psychology, and Education (Roberts, 1980a).
First, education has focused almost entirely on developing the cognitive skills of our ordinary state. I am not suggesting that we change this, at least not yet. But we should be aware that this is a policy decision, not a necessary "given." What forms does cognition take in other states?
Second, human abilities and disabilities depend on various broader patterns of overall mental functioning, states of consciousness. As SOC's change, certain skills are enhanced and others are diminished. Previously rare or unusual abilities, such as parapsychological abilities and the placebo ability, may be learnable by providing access to the states of consciousness where they reside. Many human physical and mental disabilities seem to be best treated in unusual states of consciousness such as hypnosis, meditation, and psychedelic therapy. So-called "spontaneous remission," "miraculous" cures, and "therapeutic touch" all seem to be associated with changes in SOC. In institutions other than schools (and perhaps some day in schools) people may want to explore and develop the capacities manifested in these states of consciousness.
Third, abstract formal operations do not necessarily represent the highest type of intellectual development. That may be true for our ordinary state (including suggested stages beyond Piaget's); but other (perhaps more advanced) forms of intellectual development with stages of their own may await us in other states.
Fourth, educators and psychologists need not define intelligence solely in ordinary-state ways. Intelligence may also be seen as the general ability to use a large number of mental patterns (states of consciousness), as the ability to select and enter the most appropriate SOC for the task at hand, or as the optimum use of each specific SOC. In this last sense the meaning of "intelligence" varies from state to state (Roberts, 1980b).
Fifth, there is a contextual broadening best described from a psychoanalytic perspective. This view sees secondary process thinking (rational, adult thinking) as optimal. It now seems to me that there is at least tertiary thinking, which consists of selecting one's overall pattern of mental functioning. This is a higher ability than learning to use any specific pattern or one of its resident abilities.
Sixth, education in our usual state and all the research and development surrounding it become additionally important viewed in this context. Current educational goals, objectives, methods, curricula, tests and measurements, developmental stages, taxonomies, philosophies, and practices may all have analogues in other states. How do we adapt our ideas about our current SOC and its education to other SOCs?
As its name indicates, liberal education is an education for freedom: freedom from the accidents of locale, group, time, class, and so on. It offers the freedom to develop one's mind fully. Consistent with these objectives, consciousness education adds the great states of consciousness to the great ideas and great thinkers. The historic role of SOCs in the humanities, arts, and sciences is neglected in current education, even as content, despite an occasional titillating exception such as Kubla Khan, bacchanalia, or a maligned saint's misconstrued ecstasy. These are used more to enliven classes than to teach about the further reaches of mind. A truly liberal education should teach students about this part of themselves and our civilizations, and should also give them rudimentary experience with selected states and their resident capacities. Enriched by a consciousness perspective, liberal education can extend freedom and mental refinement far beyond the parochialism of single-state learning.
We use a misnomer when we speak of "the placebo effect." "Effect"
attributes improvement to spurious treatments which are selected precisely
because of their lack of effect. The label is not only a logical inconsistency
which explains nothing, but a barrier to research.
If "placebo-ing" is seen as something we do, rather than something that happens to us, it becomes an ability like any other human ability, one which might be learned and practiced. Regimens such as prayer, visualization, deep relaxation, and an assortment of religious and psychological practices make good "placeboing" sense. Physical educators should help their students learn to assist their own natural immune mechanisms, which are part of the placebo ability. Wellness and illness are largely long-term physical performances. We know they can be learned and unlearned, but we do not yet know the extent of this learning.
What makes a discipline and differentiates it from other disciplines? At
least the following: separate theories and concepts, specific problems
addressed, explanations of observations not otherwise explained, applications
to life, a distinctive research methodology, a separate literature, and an
identifiable group of people who share interests, professional organizations,
publications, and a system of information flow. By these criteria, Consciousness
Studies will soon deserve its own place in the academic world.
Consciousness methodologies include traditional and new ways of altering consciousness. Accepting both outside, objective evidence and inner, subjective evidence, it offers a larger data base than either of these alone. Correlating the two is an important type of research. Training in subjective research methods, for example through meditation or LSD, is as cognitively demanding as traditional statistics, research design, and instrumentation. As Needleman (1975) says:
In our modern world it has always been assumed... that in order to observe oneself all that is required is for a person to "look within. " No one even imagines that self-observation may be a highly disciplined skill which requires longer training than any other skill we know....The...bad reputation of "introspection" ...results from the particular notion that all by himself.. . a man can come to accurate and unmixed observations of his own thought and perception.... the heart of the psychological disciplines in the East and the ancient Western world consists of training at self-study.
Consciousness Studies form its related fields. Parts of the scientific community have difficulty accepting data from other SOCs, just as our ancestors found it hard to accept observations from the telescope and microscope. If it is done properly, consciousness research can meet the requirements of scientific method: observation, free communication, replicability, theorizing, and confirmation/disconfirmation (Tart, 1975).
By providing a more accurate and complete view of our psychological apparatus, our mind, consciousness research can aid other disciplines too. As Kubie (1954) points out:
A discipline comes of age and a student of that discipline reaches maturity when it becomes possible to recognize, estimate, and allow for the errors of their tools....Yet there is one instrument which every discipline uses without checking its errors, tacitly assuming that the instrument is error-free. This, of course, is the human psychological apparatus.
Like statistical methods, consciousness methods, as well as the particular findings themselves, may help other researchers sophisticate their procedures and analyses.
A final reason to consider Consciousness Studies a separate discipline is the subjective feelings of those in the field. Consciousness colleagues in a variety of universities, departments, and nonacademic occupations feel as much akin to one another as to their departmental colleagues, if not more so. This feeling of shared interests and perspectives is a powerful uniting force which undercuts disciplinary differences. Although there is little institutional structure reflecting these shared ideas and values, the trust, common interests, and enjoyment form an invisible Department of Consciousness Studies.
Mindpower is more fascinating than machine power. Such books as the Carlos Castenada series and works by Tart, Ornstein, and Grof surprised their publishers by selling well in a hitherto unseen market. Best sellers such as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Edwards, 1979) are introducing consciousness education to teachers and parents. Anatomy of an Illness (Cousins, 1979) illustrates this interest in (holistic) health and wellness. I don't want to make my case seem stronger than it is; I'm not satying that consciousness culture is now dominant, only that it will be if current trends continue. For the present, it is a clear cultural leitmotiv.
What new organizations and industries may evolve? Prophecy is not my line, but enough is clear now to spot a few needs.
Introduction of consciousness teaching in classrooms, as content as well as practice. Rewriting textbooks and curricula to include consciousness ideas.
Adding consciousness teaching techniques in colleges of education.
Research institutes to study consciousness on both applied and basic levels, a consciousness think-tank.
Foundations, institutes, and professional organizations to develop these possibilities.
HEALTH AND THERAPY
Research institutes to examine the relationships of SOCs to mental and physical health. Consciousness treatment and development centers, to apply what is found in research, e.g., psychedelic treatment centers and mind development centers.
Professional training institutes to teach this new specialty and to retrain existing professionals.
Certification and licensure, standards, boards, agencies, and professional standards committees.
Holistic health centers. Many are already thriving.
New centers and/or programs to train consciousness counselors and therapists. Rewriting and republishing of therapy books to include consciousness.
INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS
Biofeedback instruments, e.g., Kirlian biofeedback devices need to be invented. Centers to teach executives, engineers, etc., to use their consciousness capacities. Consciousness exploration as motivation, transcendence as a need beyond self-actualization in Maslow's hierarchy.
Long-range planning seminars and institutes.
The use of consciousness as a criterion for laws, regulations, licenses.
Recognition of a consciousness constituency.
Funding of research on consciousness and possible benefits, and on problems coming from its development.
What role does LSD play in this? As the most powerful of many consciousness techniques, it dramatically draws attention to these needs. As it has been officially neglected and misunderstood, it points to our neglect and misunderstanding of the whole consciousness area. As a stimulator of consciousness research in the academic and mental health communities, it is likely to encourage development throughout our culture.
We think of peace as a political and social
phenomenon, seldom recognizing that these surface experiences interact with
deep layers of the mind. Experienced LSD researchers come in touch with deep
internal responses through the drug's magnification of external events.
Conversely, experiencing a cluster of internal
feelings/memories/fantasies/thoughts colors the external world. At the
perinatal level there are two clusters (BPMs) which respond strongly to outside
stimulation and contribute to warlike feelings. Basic Perinatal Matrix II
involves feelings of constriction and helplessness; it is appropriately called
"No Exit Hell."BPM III represents enormous energy, natural and
man-made cataclysms, especially violence and wars; it is appropriately called
"Titanic Struggle. "
The wrong set of social and economic circumstances brings these BPM's to the fore. For example, Grof noticed remarkable detailed similarities between the memories of Nazi concentration camp survivors and the unconscious fantasies of people who had lived more ordinary lives (Grof, 1977). He hypothesizes that the situation within the camps, especially toward the end of the war, activated BPM's II and III, stimulating the camp guards to enact violent and sadistic urges that inhabit these clusters.
War activates these BPM's and strengthens them, just as their power is called on to justify war. As countries wind themselves up to go to war, their leaders use perinatal symbols to marshal public opinion, not consciously, but because the war-instigating symbols feel right; and they feel right because of this connection. Hitler used the BPM sequence to manipulate his people: (1) BPM I, the "Good Womb," was symbolized by tales of the past golden age of the Germanic peoples; (2) BPM II, "No Exit Hell, " was the present, constricted by external and internal enemies, intensified by economic disaster; the need to get out was expressed symbolically as the desire for expansion, lebensraum; (3) the way out was titanic struggle (BPM III), and (4) the birth of a 1,000 year Reich (BPM IV). De Mause found this imagery to be typical in nations which are preparing for war intentionally or merely blundering toward it (cited in Grof, 1977).
While the informed public recognizes shallow psychodynamic-level appeals to sexual interest, power, status, and so forth in advertising and propaganda, we are not so aware of manipulation on the perinatal level. Until we recognize this, humanity will have a short war fuse which can easily be lit by many social, economic, political, and cultural situations. Other situations can transform this destructive energy into creative, constructive, socially-beneficial actions. What are the perinatal consequences of social conditions? What are the social consequences of perinatal conditions?
As we come to understand the human mind more completely, we will naturally see its roles in war and peace more completely. The observations, speculations, and questions above suggest how war and peace studies can be enriched by a fuller understanding of mind and consciousness. This is merely one illustration of the possibilities of consciousness analysis in the social sciences.
Who has the right to control your mind? To explore it? To use it? With the invention of consciousness techniques, a new kind of freedom faces a new kind of control. People want to explore and develop their minds, and psychedelics are an efficient way to do so. This desire is part of human nature, but law and social ignorance block the way. I propose that we recognize a general human right: the right to explore, control, and develop one's mind. Other people or society at large can limit this right only to the degree they are affected. It will not be so easy to delimit this limitation.
When comparing the scientific and medical
writings on LSD with sensational newspaper, popular press, and TV accounts, a
startling observation leads to a startling conclusion. In the scientific and
medical research reports, psychological damage is almost missing; in the
popular news it is featured. During legal research the patient or client is
carefully screened and expensively prepared for the experience. The dosage and
its purity are known. The setting, which is a major influence, is chosen to
maximize safety and minimize danger. And a qualified professional is on hand to
assist. In cases that make the popular press, on the other hand, consciousness
adventurers are neither screened nor prepared. The dosage and purity are
unknown. The setting is random and often unpleasant. Professional help is
absent. These different conditions account for the rarity of serious problems
in the scientific reports and the presence of frequent tragedy in the popular
All the specific unfavorable conditions derive from one larger situation: LSD is illegal. In the legal situation, the LSD-taker can be prepared and high-risk people screened out; the dosage and its purity are assured; setting can be planned for optimum benefit. All this is difficult in illegal situations. Under present laws, it is illegal for a professional to administer LSD; and fear of police and public exposure increase psychological stress at a time when the person is most vulnerable. Given LSD's magnifying property, this fear can become psychologically overwhelming. In an unstable person it could be fatal. By driving LSD use underground, we multiply its dangers while minimizing its benefits.
Given the consistent failure of anti-LSD
legislation to stop use since the mid-sixties, what is the most responsible
course for public polity? Over-the-counter purchase and prescription by
untrained professionals are both risky. I propose centers to screen and prepare
those who need or wish to take psychedelics. We need to provide a place to
administer doses of known purity and strength under qualified,
specially-trained guidance and with optimal set and setting. Each state and
most large cities could use several psychedelic centers. Major universities,
medical schools, and research institutes would also benefit from these centers.
A professional staff training program would have to precede the establishment
of such institutions.
After incubating for a quarter of a century, after being repressed by governmental and professional restraints for a decade and a half, after struggling for recognition and acceptance, psychedelic research is finally breaking through to the clear light of evidence and reason. Intellectual curiosity, civic duty, professional obligation, humanitarian values, and moral responsibility provide grounds for further research.
For me (and I assume for some of my coauthors) my most intensely intellectually stimulating, short-term experiences have been psychedelic sessions. Psychedelics open wide the doors of learning. Where will those mind-doors lead? Only when we do additional research will we know.
Most of all, psychedelics are just one group among many consciousness methodologies. There are also certain aspects of biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, prayer and other spiritual practices, other mind-drugs, yoga and other movement disciplines, nutrition, t'ai chi and the consciousness martial arts, sex and exercise routines, training in intuition, relaxation and visualization.... The list could go on for hundreds of trainings, spiritual paths, and esoteric fields. Research might be done in cooperation with groups which practice these. What insights, if any, might they have about the human mind? Only when we do more research will we learn.
For a wandering, directionless culture the full development of our minds is a project equal in scale to pioneering west of the Appalachians or exploring outer space. A new cultural mythic ideal is emerging: the myth of the fully developed mind. It is an eminently democratic ideal. Only some can become adventurers on land or in space, but in mind exploration, everyone is at the frontier.
of any source of evidence is always treason to that ultimate
rationalism which urges forward science and philosophy alike."
—Alfred North Whitehead
I write this, not expecting you to believe what you read here just because I say so, but hoping this essay will interest you enough to examine LSD research yourself. If you apply the same research standards and spirit of open intellectual inquiry to this body of research as you apply to your own work and to the reports you read, you'll find that psychedelic research raises as many exciting questions for you, your students, and your field of expertise as it does for me and mine. For 2 decades reason; science, and philosophy have been betrayed because of our irrational rejection of psychedelic evidence. It is a professional duty to help redress this error. When you read the evidence, I think you'll see it that way, too.
(1) My apologies to
grammarians offended by the noun "consciousness" used as an
adjective. I do this because "conscious" has misleading common
usages. Avoiding grammatically correct but lengthy phrases such as "the
psychology of states of consciousness," or "education which takes
states of consciousness into account," I opt for a simple, useful, and
ungrammatical barbarism by stipulating my adjectival use of "consciousness"
to mean "pertaining to states of consciousness. " (back)
(2) In contradistinction to writings on the psychedelics which are occupied with experiences the mind can hare, the concern here is with evidence they afford as to what the mind is. Judged both by quantity of data encompassed and by the explanatory power of the hypotheses that make sense of this data, it is the most formidable evidence the psychedelics have thus far produced. The evidence to which we refer is that which has emerged through the work of Stanislav Grof. (Huston Smith, Forgotten Truth. The Primordial Tradition, p. 156). (back)
(3) "0bscurantism is the refusal to speculate freely on the limitations of traditional methods. It is more than that: it is the negation of the importance of such speculation, the insistence on incidental dangers.... Today scientific methods are dominant, and scientists are the obscurantists." (Alfred North Whitehead) (back)
Toward a Twenty-First Century Mindview
symbolism and mythology
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
symbolism and Mythology
Myths to Live By
Realms of the Human Unconscious
S. Grof & C. Grof
thanatology and anthropology
S. Grof & J. Halifax
thanatology and anthropology
The Human Encounter with Death
The Perennial Philosophy
Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences
R. Masters & J. Houston
psychology and education
The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience
abnormal psychology (schizophrenia)
Roots of Renewal in Myth and Madness
religion, philosophy, and psychology
Up From Eden
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