January 4, 2014
McKenna Mushroom Redux
Now Playing: Small Faces
In an earlier post I philosophized at length about the implications of Terence McKenna's reported bad trip on psilocybin and how it caused him to stop taking mushrooms entirely, even as he was travelling the globe preaching their wondrous effect. There was quite a bit of activity on the psychedelic circuit after this revelation from brother Dennis, and you can read more about it here:
What needs to be added now is the fact that Dennis withdraws his claim that Terence gave up psychedelics. The presumed bad trip, as a distinct event, is looking increasingly dubious too--instead Dennis offers vague general talk of 'midlife crisis' and 'doubts'. So basically the whole drama has fizzled out, and if Dennis had been a little more cautious in how he phrased this aspect of his brother's biography, it needn't ever have happned. Unfortunately I think we're going to see half-informed bozos and anti-Terence people restating the "bad shroom trip" saga for many years to come.
So just for the record: Terence McKenna did not stop using psychedelic drugs, including mushrooms, in the 1990s, and if and when he had a bad experience in the late 1980s is unknown beyond hearsay.
Let's stick to what Terence did do and did say instead. This guy, Martin W Ball, had quite a lot to say about that. It's kind of harsh and biased and egocentric, but still worth reading. Ball brings up the idea that the singing machine elfs that Terence saw in DMT space were in fact hallucinatory mirror images of himself, the great eloquent orator and trickster, singing objects in existence; a possibility that I too pointed towards in the McKenna chapter in my Psychedelia book. Ball has more to offer on St Terence, most of it negative or even contemptuous on a strangely personal, ad hominem level.
His theory or Entheogenic Paradigm is pretty interesting however, with a marked buddhist flavor rather than the shamanic perspective that tends to dominate today. Along the lines of higher mahayana teachings, Ball suggests that content-bearing visions, such as persons or places, are hallucinatory mirror images of lingering parts of the ego, meaning that visions of formless, ego-transcending, non-dual energy fields will come once the psychodynamic matter has been fully cleansed. His ideas have grown out of experiences with 5-MeO-DMT and Salvia, which contributes to his different point of view. Except for the unpleasant tone, an interesting essay: Terence on DMT: An Entheological Analysis of McKenna’s Experiences in the Tryptamine Mirror of the Self
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 21:25 CET
Updated: January 5, 2014 01:04 CET
December 26, 2013
Tim Scully skyping on embryonic LSD manufacturing
Now Playing: Constant Sound
The Breaking Convention conference featured a number of psychedelic illuminaries who were present via Skype, a modern solution which I support. Dennis McKenna spoke about the history of ayahuasca research, it was fairly introductory stuff that anyone familiar with McKenna and ayahuasca already knows. I found his observation that there are more than 100 academic papers dealing with ayahuasca in Medline for the 2000-2013 period interesting and encouraging.
Tim Scully (of Owsley and Orange Sunshine legend) also skyped in with an excerpt from his ongoing research into the early days of black market LSD, and this reading contained highly useful material which included several details that I was unaware of, and which may in fact never have been documented before. I'll let Mr Scully present the full monty in his upcoming book and restrict myself to things that complement or correct my own pre-Owsleyan LSD research in the Psychedelia book. Thus...
Government made Eli-Lillys research industrial as a response to fears of LSD manufacture behind the Iron curtain. The government code name for LSD-25: EK 7029 (poss. misheard)
Regarding "the two Bernards" who have been credited with the first ever underground LSD synthesis in 1963, Scully offered several pieces of vital data.
- Bernard Copley met the legendary LSD advocate/psychologist Oscar Janiger in the late '50s
- Bernard Roseman in turn met Copley in Joshua Tree circa 1957
- In 1958 Bernard Roseman brought with him a Dr James Grossman(?), an agriculture specialist from Philadelphia, to meet Copley--the three of them shared a peyote ceremony
- Copley & Roseman claimed to have made LSD as early as 1960 in a lab in LA where they lived at the time
- Scully refers to the "two Bernard" LSD as "impure" and "very impure" throughout
- When Copley and Roseman were arrested for selling bulk quantities of LSD, it was Myron Stolaroff who had tipped the FDA off, possibly on advise from Al Hubbard. I bring up the fact that Stolaroff's name occurs in the investigation in Psychedelia, but I did not have enough data to take it further. Scully does, however, and this casts a problematic light on Stolaroff's position and presumed service to the psychedelic field. I wonder if this old informer role is the reason why several people in recent decades have been eager to defend and exalt Stolaroff, even when he hasn't being accused of anything. I've always found this lauding of Stolaroff a mystery, not least since his book on psychedelic therapy struck me as unimpressive and almost counter-productive. It's not Stan Grof for sure.
Continuing the LSD history, Scully brings up a name that is unfamiliar to me: one Douglas George (?) in Los Angeles, who heard an early '60s lecture about LSD and how it was easy to make. He tried to synthesize LSD but failed repeatedly, until he was informed that the patent document he followed deliberately omitted a step.
After receiving the missing process instructions George manage to produce LSD . It wasn't very pure but he reasoned that since such small amounts were needed, there wouldn't be any toxic risks with the impurities. He had to triple the amount of his impure LSD to get the desired trip effect.
This occured in the Fall 1963 at Hermosa Beach, and so represents the second successful (more or less) underground LSD synthesis anywhere, preceded only by the two Bernards. Again, to my knowledge this is previously undocumented.
In late '63-64 word got around on Berkeley University, inspiring students to travel south and buy LSD from Douglas George. Among them was Owsley, who noticed the difference between George's LSD and industrial LSD, and figured he could make black market LSD that was as good as the industrial. Owsley was partly inspired by newspaper writings about the Copeman/Rosley trial.
Here my commentary ends. There are many among us who look forward to Tim Scully's book!
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 21:53 CET
Updated: December 26, 2013 22:26 CET
December 21, 2013
Breaking Convention / Psychedelic Perception of Time
Now Playing: Plastic Cloud LP
Next on the agenda is a talk on “the Role of Emotion, Attention & Neurotransmitters in Human Timing” featuring research psychologist Cathy Montgomery.
The research team works towards an understanding of how we perceive time and how this is altered in different states of consciousness, such as under drugs. Their fundamental model of time processing is that an internal metronome in the brain sends a steady stream ‘clicks’ to an accumulator, which in turn judges the time passed from the number of clicks accumulated. In animal tests, under increased dopamine levels, the frequency of clicks increase, which leads to a judgment of time that is too short vs reality. However, the team were unable to clinically reproduce this dopamine-specific effect in humans, as demonstrated by how Parkinson’s patients have no timing deficits. Montgomery concludes that dopamine plays a significant part in animal studies, but not in humans. I would add that this may seem hard to reconcile, unless one bears in mind the realization of Albert Hofmann and others, that animal studies do not work for psychedelics. At the same time, with dopamine levels clearly affected by psychedelics, it does seem odd that it has no measurable correspondence upon temporal judgment. The findings may be less confusing if one studies serotonin instead, which after all is the neurotransmitter with the strongest connection to the psychedelic compounds (tryptamines in particular).
Montgomery’s team worked primarily with other drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, where all stimulant type compounds had a ‘time-contracting’ effect, meaning that time seemed to fly by like it does when one is busy being euphoric. The cannabis drugs were the only ones to display a time-expanding quality, which seems anecdotally accurate.
The research project joined another group for a series of psilocybin experiments. Montgomery mentions the fact that psilocybin’s effect on the serotonin distribution will affect the working memory, among many other things. Regarding the perception of time they found no changes for very short durations (<2.5 seconds) but notable deviations for longer spans of time, when the assessment of how much time had passed was clearly off. It was suggested by the psilocybin researchers that this was not due to changes in ‘metronome’ frequency, but rather the effects the psilocybin had on short-term memory. Comparisons vs short memory were not reliable in the drug state, which led to the judgment of time being in error. I find this to be possibly accurate, but it does not account for that much of the temporal distortion is not retrospective, but rather occurs in real time, with a minimal or no feedback loop at all. On psychedelics you perceive time stretching out while it happens, sometimes bringing you with it, and this is a forward-oriented process that does not seem to rely on working memory for measurement.
Another hypothesis suggests that the judgment of time on psychedelics is elastic/inaccurate because time has lost its meaning to the subject, which has the effect that the metronome clicks are not checked or maybe not even generated since the mind has removed its attention. To me, this again makes sense in some ways, but the blanket statement that time in the trip space has become ‘meaningless’ is neither universal nor predictable, and so the theory rests on dubious ground. Meaningless is in fact not a proper term to describe the psychedelicist’s attitude towards time. The responses range from preoccupied disinterest to analytical fascination, and the change does not reside in a non-psychedelic ‘care/don’t care’ modality, but rather in the way that the passage of time has become externalized from the psychedelic mindstream. One is no longer able to perceive the clicks of the metronome, which takes place somewhere down in reality, yet there is still an ability to examine and brood over the passage of time if it raises one’s interest. Time will still pass in the tryptamine state, but its rigid tick-tock sequence belongs to the baseline state, while in Innerspace it has become flexible in both nature and relevance.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 17:58 CET
Updated: December 21, 2013 18:00 CET
December 18, 2013
Breaking Convention / Neuropsychological research part II
(read Part I below first)
Another possibility raised by the findings of this research team is to link the event of ego-loss to the collapse of the integrated baseline brain state. If the so-called hubs that connect and thereby integrate different brain regions show a significant reduction of access on psychedelic drugs, one can speculate that the notion of ego or 'I' is dependent on the operation of the interconnecting nodes in the cerebral structure. As the brain parts lose their baseline integration yet stay operational, one of the main things that are lost is the very epitome of integration, the idea of 'me'.
Unlike Carhart-Harris I don't believe that the brain remains in some disorganized, chaotic state after losing the hub connectivity, but rather re-organizes itself into something else, probably with larger portions of the mammalian and reptile brains in play. However, with sufficiently large doses the re-organization may not result in a different type of consciousness, but rather the loss of ego is followed by a truly transcendental state marked by profound, cosmic ideation, non-dualism, unearthly bliss and so on. Where this transcendental state (level 4 on the General Trip Model) originates in consciousness, if it indeed comes from consciousness at all, is a matter where so little is known that we don't even know what questions to ask. As for the ego-less state however, it is significant that the ego always returns as the effect of the psychedelic compound wears off; in the perspective of Nutt's and Carhart-Harris' research group, this would mark a reactivation of the connecting hubs in the cerebral network, and a re-emergence of the familiar, baseline configuration of the mind.
Finally, a few words on memory in and out of the psychedelic state. The British research team made another unexpected find here, which is that on psilocybin, the brain activity during memory access and memory processing did not primarily show in the memory parts of the brain, but rather in parts that deal with perception and emotion. Carhart-Harris explains this as the experiece of the memory being much more vivid and living whe under psychedelics than in the normal, baseline states. This seems accurate enough, both logically and experientially, but it does not explain why the revisited memory is more vivid and living in this state. One might say that it's a function of the general magnification of all perceptual and emotional processes, but the memory retrieval is an entirely internal affair to the brain which does not necessarily pass through the same perceptual-cognitive machinery as external data does. So it's not a given, even if it appears likely that internal visualizations are magnified and deepened in much the same manner as external impressions are.
Carhart-Harris mentions one subject's dramatic recollection of a (presumably suppressed) memory of importance, and how the subject stated that "...there was nothing that prompted it, it happened spontaneously." This is brought up in a manner more anecdotal than significant, but once more it appears to me a failure to understand the holistic, self-healing tendency of the higher psychedelic state. Important memories whose recognition can help untangle psycho-dynamic traumas do not appear randomly during psychedelics, just as they do not appear randomly (much less frequently) in night dreams. The drive towards psychological healing in the early stages, and spiritual healing and a teacher/guide vocation in the more advanced stages, is a governed process which I refer to as the Overseer. Anyone who has taken a few steps under the aegis of the Overseer will testify that there is nothing random or disorganized about it.
Despite my objections, I found both David Nutt's presentation and Robin Carhart-Harris' video quite valuable, which should be obvious from the amount of text they triggered. Thanks for your patience.
Nutt's presentation at Breaking Convention
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 21:53 CET
Updated: December 18, 2013 22:09 CET
Breaking Convention / Neuropsychological research part I
Now Playing: Jade Stone & Luv
British neuro-scientist David Nutt gave a presentation of his team's research into the psychophysiological effects of hallucinogens on the human brain. Working with psilocybin, this is one of the more notable research projects in progress and clear evidence that psychedelic science is finally making its way onto the mainstream arena again, after decades of moratorium and irrational fear. As I've pointed out before, brain research, neurotransmitter research, and psychedelic compound research are closely linked, and it's simply necessary for the 'illegal' substances to be present in the studies if true progress is to be made. Although I won't dwell on it here, Nutt discusses the problems and absurdities of restricted psychedelic research in his talk:
Psychedelics and the Neuroscientific Enlightenment
Nutt's team made some interesting, counter-intuitive discoveries which should be taken note of. Primarily they found that activity in the brain, measured as blood flow, actually showed an overall decrease when under the influence of psilocybin. Not only that, but "...the more the brain is switched off, the more the psychedelic effects increase". However, the down-shifting of cerebral activity was not uniformly distributed, but rather there was a reduction in the overall integration of brain processing, while the individual parts still showed activity. In other words, the harmonizing-integrating exchange of neuro-messaging across connecting hubs was notably reduced, which in practical terms should create a more scattered and distributed brain activity, as the various centers went on "doing their own thing" independently. This hypothetical state does not seem to conform very well to experiential data that refers to holistic, integrative and at times non-dualist concsiousness states. Scattered and confused experiences do exist, but not to such a degree that one can make a credible case where disjointed brain activity must cause a disjointed cognitive flow. Rather, the holistic opposite may in fact be the most common impression from Innerspace, particularly among experienced travellers.
David Nutt also comments that their various brain scans allowed specific parts of the brain that respond to psilocybin to be identified for the first time. Following up on his talk I came across an interesting video presentation (not from the conference) by one of the project scientists, one Robin Carhart-Harris:
Psilocybin & the Psychedelic State
Much like Nutt he mentions that the connecting hub(s) are turned down in the psilocybin state, and offers an analogy of an orchestra whose director has left the room, the musical result being chaotic and experimental.
However, on a phenomenological-experiential level I don't think this is an accurate description of the higher psychedelic state. I would rather say that one director (baseline) leaves the room and another one (innerspace state) enters. While known hubs and connectors may show less activity under psilocybin, the brain will still integrate its massive electro-chemical flow into a manageable unity--but this integration is semi-improvised and will happen in a different and less orthodox way than in the baseline state. The end result of this integration, as experienced a few hours into the trip, can be exceptionally powerful and creative.
Regarding visual distortions and pseudo-hallucinations in the OEV (open eye visuals) mode, Carhart-Harris talks of "a perceptual error... suppressed layers of the imaging ability are moved up in the hierarchy and made manifest" [not exact quote], which would explain those breathing walls and visions of faces. In the psychedelic state the brain "predicts appearance of faces". It is surprising to hear a modern scientist use positivist terms such as "error" and "wrong" when discussing human consciousness, but perhaps more remarkable is his disregard for the holism and intentionality that Innerspace brings forth. The way Carhart-Harris describes it, the psilocybin trip is a disjointed, chaotic experience dominated by invented visions of faces and other things that have no meaning. Again, there are trips like that, particularly among new-comers, but more than that it sounds like a low-dosage phenomenon. The research project may have produced sufficient data using only small or moderate doses of psilocybin, which could account for the incomplete view of the psychedelic experience. The most vital aspects of the tryptamine realm, such as the often radical intelligence and internal messaging faculty that my Psychedelia book refers to as the Overseer, are only encountered at full-range doses. Unless one has been through a few Innerspace trips with genuine depth, one should refrain from defining or commenting on the state. In the notes I took down when watching the video I wrote that "It seems they have too little phenomenological data, too few trip reports, and keep confusing what is typical with what is anomalous."
Harris offers some interesting input when he brings up the evolutionary aspect of the cerebral states, suggesting that "we go back to a stage in our history when we thought more primitively, magically, animistically...". Although he doesn't make the connection, this goes hand in hand with the idea of "predicted" faces that the subject tends to see in wallpaper patterns, tree foliages and such. Joining these two notions is the bio-evolutionary concept of "animacy detection", which I discussed in Psychedelia, and which refers to one of several survival mechanisms in the early hominid brain. Animacy detection entails a constant scanning of the environment to discover shapes and movement that reveal the presence of a living, physical threat, such as a predatory animal. The brain knows how to recognize a tiger hiding in the bush even when only a few parts of the animal is visible, and the animacy detection instinct matches the environment against this knowledge as part of the ongoing brain processing. Over time this ability is likely to have become epigenetic, and like its parallel ability, the agency detection, they survive to this day in the deeper parts of our brain. Based partly on the writings of anthropologist Michael Winkelman I suggest in Psychedelia that both animacy and agency detection reflexes play a part in the psychedelic visualizations, as consciousness in its unique, agitated state accesses and integrates older brain regions in order to contextualize the alien and possibly threatening state of mind. It is with this in mind that I find Carhart-Harris' comment on evolutionary retro-access during a psilocybin trip interesting.
continued in Part II above...
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 19:13 CET
Updated: December 18, 2013 22:49 CET
December 16, 2013
Three wise men but only two Santas
Now Playing: Simon Jones "Melanie and Me"
This photo dates from another psychedelic conference, long ago (late 1970s) and is previously unpublished I think. Only xerox prints survive, alas.
Alp, Ginz & The Hof
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 20:12 CET
Updated: December 16, 2013 20:37 CET
December 15, 2013
Breaking Convention / Erik Davis "Back to the Bardo"
Now Playing: Cerrone "Supernature"
After watching his 50-minute presentation, I would venture that Erik Davis maintains his position as Most Valuable Psychedelicist of the children of the '60s. He has the special Generation X ability to keep one foot inside the circle and one foot outside, moving between roles of participation and observation simply by shifting his intellectual weight around.
Erik's talk dealt primarily with a re-examination of the Psychedelic Experience book and the Bardo Thödol (Tibetan Book Of The Dead). As described in my Psychedelia and elsewhere, the Leary/Alpert/Metzner book was on one hand the only psychedelic guide that people truly used back in the 1960s, on the other hand it has aged badly enough to become an "embarrassment". Erik Davis shows how layers of Westernization created an end result which was far removed from the original Tibetan meditation instruction. The fact that people actually used it confirms the great need for guidance for virgin trippers, but except for some vague notion of Eastern death and rebirth, it's difficult to see how any acidhead could find concrete support in lines about how "the Lotos God of Dance may appear" when in fact the walls were breathing and growing hairs and your buddy ran screaming to the bathroom. On a personal anecdotal level, we pulled out the old Leary tome on a couple of trips, and I remember reading the translated Tibetan incantations with a feeling of zero relevance. Some friends tried using it to bring one head back from a negative mood, but I don't think it worked except in the sense that people cracked up when hearing the lofty lines read out loud. O friend, O beloved traveller...
However, after mentioning that he saw the concept of death as one of the key elements that the psychedelic experience casts light on, Erik Davis turns the Dharma wheel one more time, and points out that while Leary & co were wrong in a lot of ways, the fundamental notion that the Bardo Thödol and the psychedelic trip both dealt with (can deal with) death and rebirth experiences was in fact accurate. Perhaps on a purely intuitive plane, the Harvardites felt the parallels between the advanced tantric practice which the Book Of The Dead* describes and a powerful, ego-loss acid trip, even if their creative response to the Book was more wrong than right. As I point out in Psychedelia, the Bardo Thödol is primarily intended for a special 'dark cave' meditation for advanced yogis, who allow themselves to be walled in inside complete darkness, where after a few weeks, a death-like state will emerge and is to be handled in the way the ancient book describes.
Can the Bardo Thödol still be used for psychedelic purposes? Having read a modern, non-westernized translation of it, I would have to say "no". The mental state of the advanced tantric practitioner and a guy flying high on psychedelics are too dissimilar for the Tibetan tantrics to lend much use to someone getting towards the point of ego-loss and non-duality. There is so much other stuff going on in the psychedelic space (unless you are a fully realized being, but if you are, you won't be dropping LSD) as compared to the purified cognitive trickle in the 'dark cave' state, that the advise just won't apply. At least, that is the feeling I got after reading a modern translation of the (actual) Bardo Thödol, and its direct, tangible instructions. I did however get a feel of it being useful for someone in the actual state of dying, as it seemed very distinct in its presentation of the various stages one goes through near the end. If properly used, a favorable rebirth, or a good parking spot in heaven, will result.
That was my tangent rather than Erik Davis', but as usual there was not much of disagreement between the two. His presentation, done entirely without manuscript, was lively and arresting, and unlike some of the other video recordings the sound quality was quite acceptable. The first 10 minutes is a good summing up of the status of the psychedelic world right now, and the somewhat problematic span between new scientific research and surviving underground culture.
Erik Davis "Back to the Bardo" from Breaking Convention 2013
*The title 'The Tibetan Book Of The Dead' is a complete Western invention, from the early translator Evans-Wentz, who also was responsible for much of the confusion and distortion of the actual source text--while admittedly still doing a great service to adventure-minded laymen and pop culturists for many decades to follow.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 21:05 CET
Updated: January 5, 2014 01:13 CET
December 3, 2013
Psilocybin research discussed at Breaking Convention
Now Playing: Beacon St Union-1st LP
Next up on my improvised stroll through the Breaking Convention conference material was an entertaining lecture by American Katherine MacLean, who is involved in the authorized psilocybin research currently going on in the US, incidentally some of the first psychedelic studies in progress since the moratorium that went into effect around 1966-67! Read more at MAPS about the current projects and their background.
MacLean spoke enthusiastically of the research and seems an excellent spokesperson for the cause. A few comments worth preserving included:
- People who are classified as 'Open' on the classic personality matrix become even more 'Open' towards new experiences after taking psilocybin; a measurable fact. If I understood MacLean correctly, this increase in formal Open-ness has not been observed with any other psychological catalyst.
- The increase in Open-ness is positively correlated with the advent of a mystical experience during the psilocybin trip, a personality change that was still measurably present at a 14-month check-up.
- MacLean offered no hard biochemical data but mentioned that the serotonin-related process in the brain were persistently altered in people with life-long use of psychedelics, and again the Open-ness factor gave an atypically high reading.
- from her research she observed that 'high-dose' (exact figures were not offered) psilocybin trips had 70% of the subjects reporting a mystical experience, while around 30% experienced ego-death/ego-loss.
The last point raises the interesting question of the precise difference between an ego-loss trip and a mystical experience, but the short time-slot available for MacLean did not allow for detailed looks behind these examples. There can be no doubt that this psilocybin research is highly promising, an impression furthered by MacLean's spirited yet professional presentation.
"Psilocybin and Personality Change"
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 22:02 CET
Updated: December 14, 2013 23:24 CET
December 2, 2013
Michael Hoffman's entheogen theory
Expanding on the post below, a few more comments may be in order with reference to Michael Hoffman’s theories on psychedelic cognition. As he deepens his philosophical inquiries he carries the persistent idea of self-revealing artifice with him into new conceptual domains. What began as a perceptual observation grows into a mental reflex leaving its signature almost everywhere it goes. A few quotes to highlight this tendency:
“The ego-entity exists as a real set of patterns and dynamics spread across time, but the ego is not solid, continuous, or autonomously powerful in the way the mind originally imagines. The self exists as a mental construct in the form of a time-slice series...“ (This sounds very similar to buddhist cosmology, but there’s more in store): “…This mental construct exists both as the entire series and as individual time-slices, with the continuant agent’s motion and control-power mentally projected from within each time-slice. Seeing the illusory aspects of mental representation of oneself, and feeling static spacetime unity in the absence of the accustomed sense of personal solidity, can be experienced as death. This death-experience is the ending of personal existence, because the egoic-mode mind identifies one’s existence with the projected image and sensation of the moving continuant agent and its control-power."
In other words, if I understood Hoffman correctly, the cognitive self-exposing reflex is vast enough to embrace the totality of one’s person, which is (as always) found to be artificially made up in order to be ontologically presentable. The buddhist idea of discrete mental quanta as the only real basis for a thinking ego is combined with two Western notions, one which is that the perception of time (and space) correlates with the continuous flow of the ego-mind, the other which is death as an existential result of lost power and lost freedom. As the basic time-slice (quanta) nature of consciousness is revealed by our own reflexive scrutiny, the foundation for existence dissolves, since the notion of a solid, continuous ego existing in time, turned out to be false. The end result is the psychedelic ego-death, a familiar event given an interesting context by Hoffman’s theory.
I am not sure what he means by “This mental construct exists both as the entire series and as individual time-slices, with the continuant agent’s motion and control-power mentally projected from within each time-slice”, but it seems to address a problem similar to that in Buddhist metaphysics, concerning the initial creation of ego-awareness when there’s nothing that exists except the energy quanta. The buddhists have, to my knowledge, not truly solved this rather central philosophical dilemma, settling for the invocation of transitional solutions such as ‘store consciousness’ in order to avoid getting stuck. Although these questions of individual existence and awareness appear very vital to the Western mind, the Buddhists (and possibly Hindus too) do not linger upon them with any particular fervor; except for the Abidhamma it is difficult to find existential topics covered at all. It is therefore not surprising that Michael Hoffman’s detailed exposition of mental time-slices is his own invention, even if the basic idea of the quanta came from the East.
When Hoffman states that “This mental construct exists both as the entire series and as individual time-slices”, we are dealing with a psychedelic philosophy that should be treated on its own terms, because there are no such ideas expressed in Buddhism. There is a certain affinity to the 'monads' of Leibniz, including Leibniz' use of the concept of 'necessity' but again the impression is of inspiration rather than true influence. Hoffman's model would have been well served by a lengthier description, but appears to mean that each time-slice aquires a self-awareness that clarifies its subordinate role in the total cosmology. These atomic time-slices contribute in the way that “the continuant agent’s motion and control-power [is] mentally projected from within each time-slice”. I e: from the aggregated attributes of all time-slices there arises the notion of a solid and continuous ego, which unfortunately does not know that it is artificial and phony until its physical vessel takes a psychedelic trip. Under psychedelics, the constructed, artificial nature of the coherent ego is revealed and the illusion is scaled back to reveal the underlying sequence of discrete timeslices instead.
Assuming that I understood this right, I think it’s an interesting model that goes some way to maintain its internal consistency. There is a formal elegance in how the same reflexive meta-analysis is applied first on the epistemological level of Plato and Kant, and then on the ontological level of Buddhist-inspired existentialism. There is however an aspect to the model which I cannot follow in full, and which concerns the event when the presumed ego realizes its nature as a timeslice only. The realization comes as an effect of freeing the consciousness through psychedelic drugs, where among other things the reflexive self-scrutiny and insight follows. This sounds like a perfectly possible thing to occur during an acid trip, but again its hard to see it as a generalized model experience. Does it happen every time, to everyone? One might also object that an understanding of the ego’s illusory nature can come about in several ways, including the meditative paths the Buddhists prescribe, and not only as the distinct process that Hoffman describes. Once more, it is useful to look at actual psychedelic experiences for a helpful ‘acid test’.
Mapped against a real-world experience of ego-loss (my preferred term for ego-death), there is an interesting parallel between Hoffman’s suggested revelation of the true, discontinuous self, and an often reported trip vision in which the subject visualizes him or herself pass through a variety of “roles” or “personalities” that make up the totality of the ego. This sequence, which again is familiar from Eastern thought (Hesse describes it in Siddharta), has received a memorable presentation by Richard Alpert in a passage concerning his earliest psychedelic experience (see Be Here Now, or Jay Stevens’ Storming Heaven). As the various personas that made up the totality of Alpert one by one fell away, he was left with what he considered the essence of his being, the fundamental ‘Alpertness’, and as this too began to fall away, he began to panick. But rather than dying or passing out, a voice in his head asked him ‘Who’s minding the store?’, proving that the mindstream continued even when all the fundamental elements of the ego had been removed. For Alpert this experience was an obvious step towards Eastern spirituality which he would take on in full a few years later.
What Alpert/Ram Dass found was in a sense the opposite of what Hoffman describes—beyond all the layers and ornaments that made up the totality of his personality there existed something that was larger than them all, and which maintained an individual existence; a thought which incidentally is decidedly non-Buddhist. Michael Hoffman on the other hand seems to say that once the psychedelically iluminated mind has realized its inferior position as one of many timeslices in a sequence which maintains the false illusion of a continuous and solid ego, the idea of the existing ego and its presence in spacetime collapses (ego-loss/ego-death), leaving no higher order residuals behind. What exactly is left behind after the false-ego revelation in Hoffman’s model? The notion of one-self as an atomic timeslice, powerless in its predetermined course through time and space? Or does the collapse of the maintained ego illusion put one in a nirvanic void? None of these variants seem to match observed effects of psychedelic ego-loss very well.
In the introduction to his main essay Hoffman has added that after the revelation, “Experiencing this model of control and time initially destabilizes self-control power, and amounts to the death of the self that was conceived of as an autonomous control-agent. Self-control stability is restored upon transforming one's mental model to take into account the dependence of personal control on a hidden, separate thought-source, such as Necessity or a divine level that transcends Necessity.” However, the possible transformation of the subordinate time-slice state into an allegiance to some form of intellectual supra-state (much like the voice Alpert heard) is never elaborated upon in the actual essay, leaving the issue unresolved on any finer level.
The classic description of psychedelic ego-loss is a period of bliss in a space completely free from attributes and dualism, from which one is ultimately returned back to the 3-dimensional ego realm, usually in an exhilarating mood. If the effect of this elusive event infallably or frequently would be what Hoffman describes, the state should come with warning signs attached, as it looks rather much like a nihilist-determinist inversion of the joyous breakthrough that Alpert and others have reported. I feel confident that Michael Hoffman and others familiar with his theories can clarify the “what happens next?” issue that I’m raising so there is a better understanding. For now, my view is the same as I stated above regarding the purely epistemological aspect of Hoffman’s model: the model seems to me a fully credible description of a cognitive process that can occur during a psychedelic session, but I do not consider it to be the standard or most common development of the trip.
Read more here: http://egodeath.com/EntheogenTheoryOfReligion.htm
*Note that I have not addressed the extensive use Hoffman makes of Christian history and Graeco-Roman mythology in his writings, mainly because they do not seem germane to his arguments and may even distract more than inform.
**Hoffman refers to Salvia Divinorum as his entheogenic guide, which may account for some discrepancies visavi the classic psychedelic experiences, as Salvia belongs to a phytochemical and experiential class of hallucinogens all of its own
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 20:55 CET
Updated: December 14, 2013 23:29 CET
December 1, 2013
Psychedelic phenomenology, some notes
Now Playing: East Of The River Ganges psybient
I've finally found time to go through the material produced during the past Summer's psychedelic gathering in England, 'Breaking Convention'. I was unable to attend (I really wish these conferences would upgrade their tech strategy to include Skype and video conferencing) but clearly it was an impressive round-up of hallucinogenists of all ages. Videos of many presentations are now uploaded, and I intend to go through a number of them and comment as time permits.
First off was "Seeing and Believing; The Cognitive Phenomenology of Mind Manifestation" by Joseph Bicknell. Ostensibly about psychedelic phenomenology, it does not deal with the classic Husserlian phenomenology to any real extent, but still covers some useful ground. A few minutes are spent on the semantics of the word 'psychedelic' which is both common knowledge and not terribly important. Bicknell then introduces a few familiar metaphors (such as Plato's cave analogy) to give an idea of what the psychedelic experience is like, and while these are agreeable enough, the use of metaphors would seem to pull in the opposite direction from phenomenology, which is the objective observation of mental events. I feel we need fewer metaphors within Psychedelia, not more.
Bicknell mentions the prevalence of empirical data such as trip reports on the net and in the psychedelic literature, but does not offer any concrete conclusions from having studied these. Moving on to a famous 1955 passage concerning Aldous Huxley's trousers, Bicknell observes that Huxley assigns the living, organic quality of the folded fabric not to his own psychedelicized mind, but to the actual trousers themselves, which is an interesting point. Without expanding on this, it is suggested that the hallucinogen undermines the solidity and stability that we find in the baseline reality, a statement hard to disagree with.
The most interesting passage deals with a reference to the psychedelic researcher Michael Hoffman (egodeath.com, Salvia magazine, etc). According to Bicknell and Hoffman, one main effect of the psychedelic state is a new level of self-awareness in the mind, by which the subject gains insight into his or her own representational machinery. In the baseline mind, we are offered streamlined representations which we take as ‘reality’, but when tripping we can see what goes on behind the facade; the process and mechanisms that create these representations. The Platonic-Kantian realization that what we see is not the elusive, underlying source object brings a sense of artificiality to the whole cognitive enterprise. Our consciousness shows us that what we thought was actual was in fact manipulated, but it does not, at least not immediately, show us what is truly original and actual.
As far as I can tell, Bicknell and Hoffman offer no analytical proof or empirical sources for this model of cognitive processing. The reader can instead gauge its usefulness by mapping it onto his or her own repository of psychedelic experiences and knowledge. The suggestion that the baseline world takes on a slightly cartoonish or unreal quality after the cognitive skin-shedding has taken place is a relevant point, but other aspects I find harder to swallow. The revelation of artificiality seems to me just one possible psychedelic effect among several others; not the only one, and hardly a truly fundamental one. Understanding the dualistic split between platonic forms and objects is not a very profound revelation, it may in fact have been one of the main purposes of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
On the General Trip Model scale a normal ‘2’ is a sufficient degree of psychedelization to enter the level of abstract thought where the mind is able to look back upon its own mechanisms. Some may find this discovery fascinating or disturbing, and for psychological reasons attach significant value to it, but it should be obvious that the reality-obliterating experiences in store as one reaches deeper into Innerspace are of a more radical order than the notion of Kant’s “ding-an-sich”. To understand how close Hoffman’s model is to classic epistemology, this quote may suffice: “The representation layer is present to awareness like a tangible painting, while the referent layer is a remote, speculative realm that is pointed to but is perceptually absent, like a foreign country one has never directly seen”.
The further discussion of this psychedelic revelation has a certain undertone of negativity to it, as though the dualistic self-insight might anger or depress the subject. The situation may take on an existential sheen: “A person lives their entire subjectively experienced life inside a simulation that their own mind produces by presenting mental constructs to awareness. In metaperception, personal control-power and personal movement through space and time appear as synthetic mental constructs” (M Hoffman, 1996). The scope of the “metaperception” is here broadened to its maximum range, offering a potential crisis when the phoniness in its totality is understood, not just as a conventional epistemological dilemma, but artificiality that cuts across the whole human situation. Again, this is credible as the description of an occasional acid trip one might have, but as a generalized model for psychedelic cognition and enlightenment, it appears overstated and in great need of an intellectual foundation.
Joseph Bicknell’s 15-minute presentation does not extend beyond this, and in view of its contents would have been better served by a heading related to “epistemology” rather than phenomenology, the latter of which there is very little in the material. That said, I appreciate any discourse on subjects like these, of which there are far too few in the psychedelic field in relation to their relevance. The natural link to Michael Hoffman’s intriguing research was another positive I gathered.
Hopefully I will be able to post more comments on the Breaking Convention material shortly.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 21:00 CET
Updated: December 14, 2013 23:26 CET
September 30, 2013
September 18, 2013
Psychedelic mind map for book about psychedelic mind maps
Now Playing: Once "Hush" private press LP
After a false start, I realized that nothing readable would come from the "Psychedelia" project unless I had some kind of structure to carry the contents. Winging it as one goes along wasn't going to work this time. Somewhat reluctantly I went through a pre-production phase which aimed to identify and delineate individual chapters, and then arrange them in an effective sequence. The earliest step towards this goal was a mindmap of sorts, available in larger format here.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 00:06 MEST
Updated: December 17, 2013 23:06 CET
July 28, 2013
Ayahuasca vision journey: two excerpts
Now Playing: Kristyl LP
My ayahuasca trip report turned out to be several pages long and contained several references to other vision experiences in the past, and so it will have to be published in a more suitable environment, possibly a future book. However, I'd like to post a few excerpts for those interested. Nothing earth-shaking but good clean weirdness and a bit of shamanic training, as it should be.
30 gram Chacruna, 4 grams Syrian Rue; 5 extraction cycles over 10 hours resulting in 2.5 cup of Chacruna tea; the Rue Harmala was swallowed as-is with a little water.
Excerpt #1--The Jaguar
...Next up was the Jaguar! This development startled me, as I've never given this shamanic animal spirit much thought, concentrating instead mainly on the Serpent mythologies. I didn’t expect to encounter an animal spirit again after being swallowed by the Boa in journey #1, but here he was. At first the Jaguar was visible only as a head, as if peeking out from a dark jungle. As common with ayahuasca, the design was semi-cartoonish rather than naturalistic. He came closer, or the head grew bigger, and after curbing my surprise I tried to get a reading on the situation. Was this to be a shamanic ‘eat or be eaten’ type initiation as with the Serpent, or a more conventional power struggle?
The Jaguar looked straight at me, menacing and determined, and I interpreted it as an archetypal intimidation scene, or staring contest. It crouched on the ground about 5 or 6 metres in front of me, watching me intently. I sent it a thought-message, declaring that ‘I do not fear you. I respect you, but I do not fear you’. Which was true at that moment; I felt oddly secure. After a little while, the Jaguar got up and strode around in a circle while still watching me, before walking away with a sullen growl. The vision sequence was completed in 10 seconds or less, even if my description may sound like it lasted for minutes. In the tryptamine realm, each time-slice is loaded with information where no attributes are random or unimportant; paying utmost attention is essential. Gauging the vibe in Innerspace after this archetypal encounter, it seemed the moment had been properly handled.
Excerpt #2--Physical Healing with Mini-Me
I saw myself shrunk to maybe 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) height and able to move around inside my own body. I watched myself climb up the individual ribs of my ribcage as though it was a ladder, and while more amusing than unpleasant, there was a certain realism to the blood- covered bones and tissue around me. The scene was peculiar because I seemed to have two parallel perspectives; with my normal eyes I could see my 1-inch double inside the left part of my torso, climbing and jumping, but I was also being fed images of how it looked from the point-of-view of the 1-inch climber.
The brevity of earlier visions urged me to try and make this body expedition useful before it disappeared. Continuing upwards the ribcage the 1-inch Me reached my heart, which (I realize today) most likely was his/its intention all along, since the body exploration began at the left-hand bottom part of my ribs. Reaching my heart, a memory of a preceding ayahuasca journey surfaced, wherein two angels had come gliding down to open a tiny double-door in my heart, out of which had streamed a puff of foul-smelling black smoke. This had seemed to mean that my heart had been cleaned of ‘bad air’, such as negativity or ugliness, and I had wondered ever since why I hadn’t noticed much improvement in my affairs of the heart after this presumed purification. It is not ayahuasca’s style to provide visions loaded with such significance randomly and without consequences.
The 1-inch Me was finally able to solve the riddle. After reaching my heart, I asked him if the double-door that the angels had opened two years before was still there. It was still there, in fact it stood wide open. And from this I now realized what had eluded me—the ayahuasca angels may assist in ridding my heart from some of the bad stuff, but they weren’t going to fill my heart with new content to replace the bad. This was my task; a most typical assignment from the Overseer of yagé Innerspace. I had failed to understand that after the angelic intervention, my heart contained empty space ready to be filled [...].
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 22:15 MEST
Updated: July 28, 2013 22:42 MEST
July 27, 2013
Youth, Psychedelia & Youth's Psychedelic Youth
Now Playing: Inland Empire 60s vol 2 -- CDR comp
After a dry spell on the review front I wondered if the Psychedelia buzz was fading already, but a Google Quest netted a brand new and very welcome review of the book written by none other than 'Youth', legendary UK musician and scenemaker with Killing Joke and the influential Dragonfly label. Youth's review in Classic Rock magazine is something else and needs to be read even without the Psychedelia aspects, as he goes off on several trips down acid memory lane with entertaining results. An autobiography or at least a lengthy interview with the man seems warranted.
As for the actual critique, Youth is quite enthusiastic over the book and awards it 9 out of 10, which is the best rating so far, along with those at Amazon.com. However, the favorable view doesn't mean that he doesn't have objections to certain aspects to Psychedelia, which he prefaces with a sort of apology, which certainly makes me appreciate the guy. I tried to attach a note to say thanks and bring a brief point up, but the 'Comments' section at the website was turned off, so I'll do it here instead.
First off, thanks Youth! Secondly, among the criticisms voiced I can definitely accept some of them without comments (such as the music section leaning 'too much' towards American acid rock sounds), but a couple need to be addressed. The Pretty Things' "£.S.d" is NOT an early acid tune, but is a song about money: Pounds, Shillings and whatever. This is a frequent misunderstanding, but if someone doubts me, ask any Pretties specialist and they'll confirm that there was nothing psychedelic about that 45. Of course, the band did get acidized later on with glorious results.
Secondly, I'm not sure I agree that the Ibiza connection is poorly covered--pages 399-403 cover the development from Ibiza '87 via acid house and onto Goa Trance, and it should be sufficient in a non-specialized book like mine. To a reader it may be possible to miss the first Ibiza paragraph which stands a few pages apart from the other London club scene coverage, but it's there alright, with a million tabs of MDMA on top. Although the purpose of that chapter was introductory rather than comprehensive, I regret not mentioning Dragonfly somewhere, not least since I have several of their early releases here.
Two reviewers have taken offense by my questioning of the psychedelic qualities of some early Pink Floyd recordings, so for clarity's sake: I love a good 2/3rds of the Syd era Floyd recordings, and the book praises tracks like "Matilda Mother" and even the obscure "Julia Dream". It's all there on page 315:
...While fulfilling the basic qualities of Psychedelia, Floyd’s recurring depictions of space travel seem to lack the inviting human presence found in old Space Exotica records or "Dark Star", and they deprive the listener of a crucial step towards his or her full immersion in the experience. Instead, Pink Floyd’s music finds its most effectively psychedelic form on tracks in which the human element is clearly pronounced...
This view is not something I've pulled out of thin air, but is based on discussions with fellow acid heads/record collectors, several of whom have found the Floyd material to lose a little of its sheen over time. I make a comparison between "Dark Star" and "Interstellar Overdrive" to clarify my point--that there is at times a lack of human warmth in the Floydian music. I also bring in an excellent quote from ex-Deviants Mick Farren, who was in London at the time and sums it up better than I could:
The Floyd sang about Neptune and Titan, and setting the controls for the heart of the sun, but all was not science fiction, and I often regretted that the Floyd assumed such a crucially influential role in the London version of Psychedelia. They seemed so Oxbridge cold in their merciless cosmos: the Stephen Hawkings of rock & roll. They lacked the Earth-warmth of, say, the Grateful Dead, and things might have been a whole lot different if their sound hadn't permeated so many of those formative London nights.
Finally, Youth takes the book to task for not covering the European tradition of pastoral occultism, with witches and druids and so forth. It's true that the druid tradition is not dealt with in Psychedelia, and this may have been a mistake. I could not find convincing signs of drug-related activities, and also it seemed to me to be a regional rather than pan-European phenomenon. But I will look into this more indepth if there is a second edition, and I appreciate the comment.
Regarding the European witch tradition there is however substantial coverage, both in a lengthy section that deals specifically with this (pages 76-82), and also scattered about in other parts of the book. My viewpoint is that while a West European shamanism in the classic Mircea Eliade sense is missing, the witches and 'wise women' worked as bearers of a pre-Christian tradition of holism and pantheism, including the use of psychoactive drugs. The witch aspect is important, and I certainly hope this is clear from the book.
Youth singles out the Apocalypse Now chapter as particularly interesting, as have at least two other reviewers. I must admit that the hidden transition from Apocalypse Now to The Tempest was one of the more psychedelic things I wrote for the book, and I am delighted to see hip readers singling it out.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 22:58 MEST
Updated: July 27, 2013 23:15 MEST
July 22, 2013
The Shaman & Ayahuasca (book review)
Now Playing: Rex Foster LP
The Shaman & Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms by Don Jose Campos, Geraldine Overton, Alberto Roman and Charles Grob (2011)
This recent addition to the growing field of ayahuasca literature has collected a respectable amount of support on the internet. Humble as the book is, this may reflect the great hunger for anything with a yagé flavor as much as any immediate qualities. Or so I thought while reading the first few pages, with Western editors professing the life-changing effects of an Amazonian jungle romance, the obligatory academic testimonial from Charles Grob, and the vague spiritual exhortations of the shaman du jour.
Happily, however, the surly skepticism that lingered in me from reading half-assed ayahuasca tomes in the past soon gave way for a more positive sentiment. The shaman, Don José Campos, sounded like the real deal despite a distinct touch of Westernization, and he strives to share experiences that were neither opaquely woven into tribal mythology, nor trivialized with Western psychology. His language, translated from Spanish, is straightforward. As always I wish for more reports of specific visions and journeys, partly for the sheer thrill, but also for the purpose of accumulating maps of Innerspace, as described in my Psychedelia book. The reader does get a sense of the shamanic Otherworld from Don Jos'es words, but like a true curandero his focal point is always the healing of others. To that end, his monologues also deal with practices outside the ayahuasca sessions, including descriptions of medicinal plants, and the practice and purpose of "dieta".
Don José also takes us to meet his friend Pablo Amaringo in one of the great artist's final interviews, a worthwhile account which includes a vision description that I believe is unique to this book. Like Amaringo, Don José is well familiar with other cultures than his own, and he invokes both Western psychology and Eastern spirituality in his talks. He expresses a special interest in Buddhism and mentions the possibility that buddhist monks of old used vision plants such as Datura. Speaking of Datura, or "toé", our shaman gives the impression that it's been and still is a frequently employed additive when "drinking the plant". I think it's essential that Westerners find a way to handle Datura so that its place among the entheogens can be understood. It is abundantly clear that its shamanic role is substantial and also more widely distributed than any other vision plant. As I suggest in Psychedelia, Datura is likely to be the next frontier in psychotropic exploration.
Finally, the book does offer a couple of terrific trip reports; not from Don José but from the Western couple who befriended him. A few pages featuring an intermission of sorts recap what was clearly a couple of fully rewarding visitations from the "Madrecita". I'll leave it to the reader to absorb this material, and just observe that they are fine examples of ayahuasca's potential; beautiful, thought-provoking, and a little spooky. Kudos to the travellers who had such journeys both in this world and the Other, and went on to produce this slender but worthwhile volume.
- review by Patrick Lundborg
There is a corresponding DVD which I hope to check out in the near future.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 19:24 MEST
Updated: July 22, 2013 19:28 MEST
July 19, 2013
Ayahuasca dreamtime (prologue)
Now Playing: Kris & Jerry
I find it uninspiring to journey with the Vine Of The Dead unless it's tropical heat outside, or as close to that as we can get on these Northern shores. Hence, my yagé window is limited to 1 month per year, and last year it didn't happen at all, as I simply didn't feel up to it (had a pretty good psilocybin ride instead). This week we were gearing up towards the hottest day of the year, and with a growing psychedelic yearning in the soul, the time seemed right for a visit with the Madrecita, or Queen Of The Forest, or just plain ol' Ayahuasca.
To be technically accurate, this was to be an Anahuasca trip rather than Ayahuasca, since I had decided to replace the Caapi vine from earlier journeys with the non-Amazonian Syrian Rue (Peganum Harmala). The reason was simple--the Caapi extract tastes absolutely awful, and it requires a lot of preparatory work. With a few grams of raw Peganum Harmala seeds offering the same MAOI effect, it seemed necessary to try this hybrid shortcut, developed by Western researchers like Jonathan Ott in the 1990s. A tour on the internet gave some indications that the Harmala seeds made for a different kind of trip than the Caapi vine, but I've learned to treat these anecdotal opinions with some skepticism.
The claim that the enigmatic THH (Tetrahydroharmine -- the least present of the three harmala alkaloids) was missing entirely from the Syrian Rue and in fact offered specific catalyst action for the Amazonian brew seemed a reasonable, slightly troubling objection, not least since recent voices have pointed to THH (more than harmine or harmaline) being the alkaloid agent behind the Caapi's elusive contribution to the ayahuasca high. I could look this up in my library, but figured the issue may still remain unresolved. Instead, the best way to say for sure is the trusted auto-bioassay analysis, i e: mix it up, drink it and see what happens. So be it.
The account of the actual Ayahuasca/Anahuasca journey will follow in a separate post, as soon as I've gone over my session notes and racked my mind for any visions I forgot to take down--because this was a 'dream' (as some people call their yagé trips these days) full of quick snapshots, and not much in terms of vision sequences. Coming up shortly, meanwhile you can enjoy my home-made Ayahusca bottle labels...
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 21:40 MEST
Updated: July 19, 2013 21:53 MEST
July 17, 2013
Other Worlds, 2004 ayahuasca documentary
Now Playing: Third Estate
Jan Kounen's OTHER WORLDS is not the first and certainly not the last ayahuasca road trip movie, but due to it being made by a 'real' director it is one of the most widely distributed. The story is the usual one--young Western seeker geek is looking for aboriginal remedies to unspecified problems and brings along a camera team as he travels around Amazonia. Made with some decent financing, Kounen's images and sounds are of a higher quality than the backpacker documentaries found on Youtube, which serves the recording of icaros (shaman's spiritual songs) particularly well. There are also some very cool sequences of CGI trip images that instill a psychedelic feel--incidentally these seem to be from the same graphic repository as the long trip scene in Kounen's Renegade (aka Blueberry)*.
Kounen hangs out mostly with the Shipibo-Conibo tribe, who have raised interest with westerners not just because of their ayahuasca tradition, but also because of their beautiful design patterns, which are said to show the universe as perceived on ayahuasca. Several rituals are held and shot with night camera, which accents the spooky feeling. Kounen clearly found a genuine shamanic scene, rather than the phony or black magic vegetalistas often reported on. Images of daily life and non-entheogenic celebrations are shown with no comment, which contributes to the sense of being an outsider in an effective way. The mandatory interviews with Grob, Strassman, Narby, Grof and others are heard and are probably useful to those new to the field. Artists including Amaringo, Alex Grey and Moebius also appear, the latter is a rare and welcome interviewee in this context. Kounen reports on a successful healing after a substantial number of sessions, and the movie ends with beautiful icaros sung over suitable Amazonian images.
Compared to some similar efforts, the Western 'seeker' aspect is relatively downplayed here, which is to the film's advantage. It is still more of a case study than an overall look at ayahuasca, and once again there is too little about DMT and it's unique aspects, whether in the vegetal brew, or taken neat. The movie is made for a French production company and hence mostly in French with English subtitles.
*The 9-minute trip sequence in Kounen's Renegade is rightly famous, but somewhat annoyingly the context blends peyote and ayahuasca ritual elements; two cultures that had zero contact or connection.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 17:44 MEST
Updated: July 17, 2013 19:37 MEST
July 16, 2013
Psychedelia A-Z index
Now Playing: Black Country Gang
Been a couple of months since the last time, so here's a pointer to an extensive (19 pages) A-Z index to my Psychedelia book. It's in PDF format and can either be used on-line, or printed as a hardcopy and inserted into your book.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 16:18 MEST
July 11, 2013
"Peyote To LSD", 2008 documentary
Now Playing: Soundsations LP on Phalanx
This seems to be a TV production for the History Channel, but is available as a commercial DVD. I'm not sure what its production history is but it looks like it might have been a confused one. The bulk of it is a documentary based on Wade Davis' celebrated biography of the great ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes. Both Schultes and Davis are given plenty of space in my Psychedelia book, and there is indeed much of value in their respective stories, particularly for those with a penchant for Amazonian entheogens. A camera team follows Davis as he traces Schultes' steps from a Kiowa peyote ritual to daredevil exploits in the remotest part of the Amazon rainforest. The various psychedelic plant drugs that Schultes discovered or documented are shown in vivo and as used in rituals, while Davis professes his admiration for the great teacher.
This is all shot in a 'point and roll' manner, like a news feature, and there is no ambition whatsoever to engage the viewer in anything more than listening to Davis and watching natives. It's somewhat like the old education reels shown in class in high school--information adequately summarized. In addition to a bit of creative flair, the movie would have been served by drilling down in a couple of the native drug scenes encountered, instead of moving onwards after just a few introductory minutes. Davis arranges for rituals with various plant drugs, yet we are not shown or told anything about what goes on, instead in the next shot he's already getting into a jeep somewhere else.
Comments from Andrew Weil, Jonathan Ott, John Halpern, Jeremy Narby, Ralph Metzner and a few others are heard, but except for Weil it's just brief soundbites that could have been uttered by anyone, and the purpose is presumably to demonstrate Schultes' high standing in the psychedelic community. The greatest problem to me is the strange way that the DMT aspect is botched. There are several minutes about ayahuasca, but despite the recent production year the movie fails entirely to deal with the Western resurgence of DMT use, along with the increasingly strong ayahuasca wave of the past 20 years. I'm not even sure DMT or dimethyltryptamine was mentioned, which seems extremely odd in a documentary about a man who spent decades wrestling with the mysteries of ayahuasca. Conversely, much is made of Schultes' involvement with peyote research, a brief, early enterprise where the main scholarly responsibility soon fell upon Weston LaBarre, who is mentioned only in passing. A balanced view would reverse the time slots awarded to peyote and ayahuasca, or better yet, expand the ayahuasca segment to three times its length and included modern-day research, the Terence McKenna factor, and so on. From my view, the movie seems to have been edited by someone with a very poor understanding of the subject.
The Schultes/Wade backbone runs a little over an hour, but should have been longer. Instead a 90 minute playtime is created by inserting at various unstrategic points the standard story of LSD and the psychedelic 60s and all that crap you've heard a hundred times before. Any notion of the radical developments within the psychedelic field during the 1990s and 2000s seem to be unknown to the creators of this documentary, who instead summon up the dead horse of MK-Ultra experiments and Tim Leary's maverick ideas for another flogging. I actually had to double-check the '2008' production year because these "contextual" segments look to date from 1988 or so. A sequence of Albert Hofmann turning 100 finally convinced me.
How is it possible to make a psychedelic documentary in 2008 and not be aware of the massive wave of entheogenic awakening in progress since the late '80s? Who today needs to hear ancient info about "acid" and "the sixties" when a much broader and more profound exploration of psychedelic drugs, both organic and synthetic, is going on around the Western world?
I doubt Wade Davis is to blame for these uninformed and clichéd segments. If I were to guess, I'd say someone took a documentary that was almost exclusively about Schultes, cut out some plant drug stuff that should have been left in, and added a bunch of dated shit about LSD and hippies in order to make the movie easier to sell and promote.
I wish someone could hook up with Wade Davis for a real Schultes study, with camerawork, audio and editing that makes you feel the realness of the jungle and the madness of the yagé, passing along vital bits of info on the great man while the creativity uses its psychedelic theme in the proper manner.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 20:27 MEST
June 26, 2013
Now Playing: Brazil-Uruguay in Confederations Cup
A blog editor in Poland sent me a bunch of intelligent questions related to the Psychedelia book, which I answer to the best of my ability. Check out the brand new interview at the Magivanga blog.
Posted by Patrick at Lysergia
at 22:47 MEST
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