Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca (2017)
Dr. Richard Louis Miller et al
In case you're wondering what is meant by 'psychedelic medicine' or why a growing number of people are advocating for this research, here's the author making a case that's about as good as any I've heard so far:
"When we expand our consciousness we liberate ourselves from the slavery that is inherent in all cultural and institutional systems. The slavery derives from repetition of daily life until the behavior becomes institutionalized, thereby creating culture. Rigidified, institutionalized culture is the ultimate peer pressure, which stifles, dominates, and controls both creativity and consciousness expansion. Once a person ingests a psychedelic medicine and experiences the Deep Within and expanded consciousness, there is no going back to narrow consciousness and constricted thinking. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Once we experience alternate realities we can never again say this is the only one reality. When we experience ourselves as electrochemical beings of light, as molecules stuck together taking material form, our lives take on new meaning. Psychedelic medicine can facilitate our using the power of the mind to change our very genetic structure. We can change the slings and arrows of outrageous genetic misfortune into a Cupid's bow of a sculpted self." --from the Introduction to 'Psychedelic Medicine'Clearly Miller's strong belief in the importance of psychedelics informs his book, a collection of interviews with many of the leading psychedelic researchers of today such as ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, MAPS founder Rick Doblin and psychedelic advocate Amanda Feilding. In the interviews we hear a bit about the history of earlier research, the nature of consciousness and other interesting asides as each scholars discusses their research and its implications for the future with author Richard Miller, an American clinical psychologist, radio host and founder of the highly regarded Cokenders Alcohol and Drug Program. Recent headlines have been alerting us to the promise of psychedelic medicine for any number of applications - PTSD, mental illness, terminal illness - and this book offers a timely way to get caught up on much of this important research.
True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise (1994)
I am usually disinclined to investigate the personal lives of teachers - at least not beyond the numerous personal stories many offer to their audiences. But upon hearing numerous direct and indirect references to either this book or the events it describes, curiosity - and Terence's exceptional wordsmithery - got the better of me and I made the time to take in this story of the psychedelic adventures of the McKenna brothers at La Chorrera in the Amazon Basin.
“In the days following that first mushroom experience, the lives of my brother and I underwent a tremendous and bizarre transformation. Not until Jacques Vallee had written 'The Invisible College' (1975), noting that an absurd element is invariably a part of the situation in which contact with an alien occurs, did I find the courage to examine the events at La Chorrera and try to fit them into some general pattern. I have told various parts of our story over the years, never revealing the entire incredible structure to any one listener, knowing full well what it seems to imply about our mental condition during the time of the experiences.” ―Terence McKennaIn 2017, Dennis McKenna published his account of the La Chorrera adventures in The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss. True Hallucinations is Terence's account of these same events - and what a wonderfully told account it is. But here I should come clean and confess - I didn't read the book but listened to Terence read his book via this nice YouTube share from PhilsMind. It's a funky rendition - natural and psychedelic sound effects and folk rock songs are sprinkled throughout - which adds a touch of the fittingly surreal to the story. But best of all, it's the author reading his words as he meant them when he wrote them - always an enjoyable way to 'read' a book. (FYI - Terence appears to be reading a slightly different version of the book than is currently on the market.)
Stories Of Awakening With Psychotropics
Having come to my awakening through the use of psilocybin, I’ve had a deep interest in all things psychotropic ever since. Now that I’m wading around in the psychedelic world, I find myself a bit surprised I didn’t end up here earlier, given that psychedelics inspired so many of the artists who produced the sci-fi, gaming, digital art and etc. that I’ve delighted in all my life. But though I enjoyed what altered minds produced, personally I had bought into the cultural message that these drugs were more dangerous than helpful and so I barely explored their use myself. And when it came to stories about spiritual revelations at the hands of these drugs, my lack of firsthand knowledge let me to buy into mainstream skepticism about the ‘real’ nature of these psychedelic encounters. Then I had one – which taught me that psychotropic-induced experiences can feel just as real as sitting on a chair in front of a computer, typing out blog posts (which feels pretty darn real, I assure you). In fact, next to experiencing Source consciousness, I’d say feeling the ‘realness’ of existing outside of form and time while tripping on psilocybin was the most surprising part of awakening. (My consciousness exists apart from my body! Who knew!?)
Given the illegality of psychedelics in this country, I was doubtful I’d find many people in the public space willing to share stories of spiritual encounters while on these substances. Wrong! This doubt might have borne out ten or fifteen years ago but today, the internet is awash in content from people exploring altered states of consciousness – even of people tripping on camera (whoa!). Below are four such films, featuring more of these truly courageous and generous men and women willing to share intimate details about their lives and psychedelic experiences. After watching these films, I was better equipped with the tools to both understand my previous journey and prepare for the next. Perhaps just as importantly, recognizing many of the psychedelic experiences shared in these films gave me a sense of having found a community of fellow travelers – a wonderful gift.
“It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.” … <wink>
The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012)
I've been on a McKenna brothers kick lately, first listening to Terence inspire curiosity about the psychedelic space and then to Dennis, a well-known ethnopharmacologist, thoroughly detail the psychotropic chemistry.
“Psychedelics are not suppressed because they are dangerous to users; they’re suppressed because they provoke unconventional thought, which threatens any number of elites and institutions that would rather do our thinking for us.” ― Dennis McKenna, 'The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss'The title might suggest the book is primarily about the brothers' pivotal experience at La Chorrera since 'the Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss" was the name the McKenna's gave to the small group they joined for this trek through the Amazon. But Dennis actually treats us to a much richer tale that begins with a few good stories about the McKenna ancestors before starting with the brothers' early childhood years in Colorado (speaking of which, I love this cover photo). We don't get to the days in La Chorrera until about halfway through the book and it's worth the wait as Dennis' retelling of the event is captivating. Having heard both Terence's (True Hallucinations) and Dennis' account of that psilocybin-fueled adventure, I can only say I soooo wish I could have been a fly on the wall, so to speak, to have witnessed the wildness. It's easy to see why this experience had such a profound impact on both men.
The book goes on to describe a number of other notable happenings in the lives of the brothers - the timewave theories, ayahuasca trips and the like - before concluding with Dennis' account of his brother's death in early 2000.
An Introduction to Magic Mushrooms
I am no mushroom expert so I thought I’d start the topic off with some pretty and accurate(ish) images of psilocybin mushrooms. Fortunately for newbies like myself, the net is full of experts who can speak to the spiritual, archeological, ethnobotanical and recreational aspects of this special fungus. Here a few of the sites I’ve used to get up-to-speed on the basics – and then some.
- Wikipedia – Psilocybin – this site has a surprising amount of content on this compound, though some of the research content looks a bit dated. Wikipedia page for psilocybin mushrooms.
- PsychonautWiki – a LOT of information on a LOT of psychoactive substances, natural and synthetic.
- MAPS – Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies – a rich resource of new research on a variety of psychedelics; this link to their ‘psilocybin’ search results delivers about 100 studies, articles, interviews, and newsletters.
- The Third Wave – a website run by a group supporting informed discourse and advocating for integration of psychedelics back into the culture. They’ve pulled together a lot of basic and referenced material on all the usual psychedelics – LSD, DMT, ibogain, the lot. They’re big into microdosing and offer a number of guides on this and general usage.
- Erowid – a member-supported organization that offers a straight-forward database of information about psychoactive plants and chemicals; over 360 herbs, plants, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. And a toad. This link to their psilocybin mushroom page is a great technical resource.
The Psychedelic Experience (1964)
Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Richard Alpert
Since my awakening came by way of psychedelic mushrooms, reading up on the topic has become my new favorite past-time. It used to be gaming ... I miss gaming.
"You must be ready to accept the possibility that there is a limitless range of awareness for which we now have no words; that awareness can expand beyond range of your ego, your self, your familiar identity, beyond everything you have learned, beyond your notions of space and time, beyond the differences which usually separate people from each other and from the world around them. You must remember … millions have made this voyage." --The Psychedelic ExperienceBy now I've listened to at least a few dozen people recount their psilocybin experiences; the descriptions that have so far resonated with me most are found on the pages of this book. No surprise, perhaps, considering the group of experienced psychonauts who are the authors. They've combined their experiences to both describe the psychedelic experience and help prepare those getting ready for their own explorations. The book is only about 100 pages, which was fortunate as I was immediately hooked by the clear, practical and yet compassionate writing and couldn't stop until the end. As I read, I could feel the echoes of my own journey burbling up in the background; I'd say these three nailed something essential about the psychedelic encounter. And the way the authors set their descriptions against backdrop of the Tibetan Book of the Dead provides a nice peek into a details of that tradition. (I'm sure I encountered the essence of the Tibetan's Bodhisattva Chenrazee during my first frantic journey back to Source.) I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to prepare for their own spirit quest with a few possible spoilers on board. I will definitely be reading this book again. Free pdf version