upon a time, many years ago, on a sunny afternoon in the garden of a
Cuernavaca villa, I ate seven of the so-called sacred mushrooms which had
been given to me by a scientist from the University of Mexico. During the
next five hours, I was whirled through an experience which could be
described in many extravagant metaphors but which was, above all and
without question, the deepest religious experience of my life.
about personal reactions, however passionate, are always relative to the
speaker’s history and may have little general significance. Next come the
questions “Why?” and “So what?”
There are many
predisposing factors — intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social —
which cause one person to be ready for a dramatic mind-opening experience
and which lead another to shrink back from new levels of awareness. The
discovery that the human brain possesses an infinity of potentialities and
can operate at unexpected space-time dimensions left me feeling
exhilarated, awed, and quite convinced that I had awakened from a long
ontological sleep. This sudden flash awakening is called “turning
transcendent experience should leave in its wake a changed man and a
changed life. Since my illumination of August 1960, I have devoted most of
my energies to trying to understand the revelatory potentialities of the
human nervous system and to making these insights available to others.
I have repeated
this biochemical and (to me) sacramental ritual several hundred times, and
almost every time I have been awed by religious revelations as shattering
as the first experience. During this period I have been lucky enough to
collaborate in this work with several hundred scientists and scholars who
joined our various research projects. In our centers at Harvard, in
Mexico, and at Millbrook we have arranged transcendent experiences for
several thousand persons from all walks of life, including more than 200
full-time religious professionals, about half of whom profess the
Christian or Jewish faiths and about half of whom belong to Eastern
this roster are several divinity college deans, divinity college
presidents, university chaplains, executives of religious foundations,
prominent religious editors, and several distinguished religious
philosophers. In our research files and in certain denominational offices
there is building up a large and quite remarkable collection of reports
which will be published when the political atmosphere becomes more
tolerant. At this point it is conservative to state that over 75% of these
subjects report intense mystico-religious responses, and considerably more
than 50% claim that they have had the deepest spiritual experience of
generated by the research at Harvard led to the formation in 1962 of an
informal group of ministers, theologians and religious psychologists who
met once a month. In addition to arranging for spiritually oriented
psychedelic sessions and discussing prepared papers, this group provided
the guides for the dramatic “Good Friday” study and was the original
planning nucleus of the organizations which assumed sponsorship of our
research in consciousness expansion: IFIF (the International Federation
for Internal Freedom), 1963, the Castalia Foundation, 1963-66, and the
League for Spiritual Discovery, 1966. The generating impulse and the
original leadership of our work and play came from a seminar in religious
experience, and this fact may be related to the alarm which we have
aroused in some secular and psychiatric circles.
The Good Friday
Friday” study, which has been sensationalized recently in the press as
“The Miracle of Marsh Chapel,” deserves further elaboration not only
as an example of a serious, controlled experiment involving over 30
courageous volunteers, but also as a systematic demonstration of the
religious aspects of the psychedelic revelatory experience. This study was
the Ph.D. dissertation research of Walter Pahnke, at that time a graduate
student in the philosophy of religion at Harvard University. Pahnke, who
is, incidentally, both an M.D. and a bachelor of divinity, set out to
determine whether the transcendent experience reported during psychedelic
sessions was similar to the mystical experience reported by saints and
famous religious mystics.
The subjects in
this study were 20 divinity students selected from a group of volunteers.
The subjects were divided into five groups of four persons, and each group
met before the session for orientation and preparation. To each group were
assigned two guides with considerable psychedelic experience. The ten
guides were professors and advanced graduate students from Boston-area
took place in a small, private chapel at Boston University, beginning
about one hour before noon on Good Friday. The dean of the chapel, Howard
Thurman, who was to conduct a three-hour devotional service upstairs in
the main hall of the church, visited the subjects a few minutes before the
start of the service at noon and gave a brief inspirational talk.
Two of the
subjects in each group and one of the two guides were given a moderately
stiff dosage (i.e., 30 mg.) of psilocybin, the chemical synthesis of the
active ingredient in the “sacred mushroom” of Mexico. The remaining
two subjects and the second guide received a placebo which produced
noticeable somatic side effects but which was not psychedelic. The study
was triple blind: neither the subjects, guides, nor experimenter knew who
description of this fascinating study can be found in Pahnke’s thesis,
available from the Harvard Library. I can say, in summary,
that the results clearly support the hypothesis that, with adequate
preparation and in an environment which is supportive and religiously
meaningful, subjects who have taken the psychedelic drug report mystical
experiences significantly more than placebo controls.
naturalistic and experimental, thus demonstrate that if the expectation,
preparation, and setting are spiritual, an intense mystical or revelatory
experience can be expected in from 40 to 90 percent of subjects ingesting
psychedelic drugs. These results may be attributed to the bias of
our research group, which has taken the “far out” and rather dangerous
position that there are experiential-spiritual as well as
secular-behavioral potentialities of the nervous system. While we share
and follow the epistemology of scientific psychology (objective records),
our basic ontological assumptions are closer to Jung than to Freud, closer
to the mystics than to the theologians, closer to Einstein and Bohr than
to Newton. In order to check on this bias, let us cast a comparative
glance at the work of other research groups in this field who begin from
more conventional ontological bases.
LSD Can Produce
a Religious High
a psychiatrist, and William McGlothlin, a psychologist, have reported the
reactions of 194 psychedelic subjects. Of these, 73 took LSD as part of a
psychotherapy program and 121 were volunteers. The religious “set”
would not be expected to dominate the expectations of these subjects. The
results, which are abstracted from a paper published in the Psychedelic
Review, are as follows:
studies, one by Ditman et al., another by Savage et al., used
the same questionnaire, allowing for inter-experiment comparison. Both
Ditman and Savage are psychiatrists, but the clinical environment of the
latter’s study is definitely more religious (subjects are shown
religious articles during the session, etc.). Summarizing the religious
items of their questionnaires:
Here, then, we
have five scientific studies by qualified investigators — the four
naturalistic studies by Leary et al., Savage et al.,
Ditman et al. and Janiger-McGlothlin,
and the triple-blind study in the Harvard dissertation mentioned earlier
— yielding data which indicate that (1) if the setting is supportive but
not spiritual, between 40 to 75 percent of psychedelic subjects will
report intense and life-changing religious experiences and that (2) if the
set and setting are supportive and spiritual, then from 40 to 90 percent
of the experiences will be revelatory and mystico-religious.
It is hard to
see how these results can be disregarded by those who are concerned with
spiritual growth and religious development. These data are even more
interesting because the experiments took place at a time (1962) when
mysticism, individual religious ecstasy (as opposed to religious
behavior), was highly suspect and when the classic, direct, nonverbal
means of revelation and consciousness expansion such as meditation, yoga,
fasting, monastic withdrawal and sacramental foods and drugs were
surrounded by an aura of fear, clandestine secrecy, active social
sanction, and even imprisonment. The two hundred professional
workers in religious vocations who partook of psychedelic substances
(noted earlier) were responsible, respected, thoughtful, and moral
individuals who were grimly aware of the controversial nature of the
procedure and aware that their reputations and their jobs might be
undermined (and, as a matter of fact, have been and are today being
threatened for some of them). Still the results read: 75 percent
spiritual revelation. It may well be that the most intense religious
experience, like the finest metal, requires fire, the “heat” of police
constabulatory opposition, to produce the keenest edge. When the day comes
— as it surely will — that sacramental bio-chemicals like LSD will be
as routinely and tamely used as organ music and incense to assist in the
attainment of religious experience, it may well be that the ego-shattering
effect of the drug will be diminished. Such may be one aspect of the
paradoxical nature of religious experience.
What Is the
Experience: You are undoubtedly wondering about the meaning of this
phrase, which has been used so freely in the preceding paragraphs. May I
offer a definition?
experience is the ecstatic, incontrovertibly certain subjective discovery
of answers to seven basic spiritual questions.
There can be,
of course, absolute subjective certainty in regard to secular questions:
Is this the girl I love? Is Fidel Castro a wicked man? Are the Yankees the
best baseball team? But issues which do not involve the seven basic
questions belong to secular games, and such convictions and faiths,
however deeply held, can be distinguished from the religious. Liturgical
practices, rituals, dogmas, theological speculations, can be and too often
are secular, i.e., completely divorced from the spiritual
What are these
7 basic spiritual questions?
Ultimate Power Question
What is the
basic energy underlying the universe—the ultimate power that moves the
galaxies and nucleus of the atom? Where and how did it all begin? What is
the cosmic plan? Cosmology.
2. The Life
What is life?
Where and how did it begin? How is it evolving? Where is it going?
Genesis, biology, evolution, genetics.
3. The Human
Who is man?
Whence did he come? What is his structure and function? Anatomy and
How does man
sense, experience, know? Epistemology, neurology.
5. The Ego
Who am I? What
is my spiritual, psychological, social place in the plan? What should I do
about it? Social psychology.
What should I
feel about it? Psychiatry. Personality psychology.
Ultimate Escape Question
How do I get
out of it? Anesthesiology (amateur or professional) . Eschatology.
While one may
disagree with the wording, I think most thoughtful people — philosophers
or not — can agree on something like this list of basic issues. Do not
most of the great religious statements — Eastern or monotheistic —
speak directly to these questions?
important fact about these questions is that they are continually being
answered and re-answered, not only by all the religions of the world but
also by the data of the natural sciences. Read these questions again from
the standpoint of the goals of (1) astronomy-physics, (2) biochemistry,
genetics, paleontology, and evolutionary theory, (3) anatomy and
physiology, (4) neurology, (5) sociology, psychology, (6) psychiatry, (7)
eschatological theology and anesthesiology.
We are all
aware of the unhappy fact that both science and religion are too often
diverted toward secular-game goals. Various pressures demand that
laboratory and church forget these basic questions and instead provide
distractions, illusory protection, narcotic comfort. Most of us dread
confrontation with the answers to these basic questions, whether the
answers come from objective science or religion. But if “pure” science
and religion address themselves to the same basic questions, what is the
distinction between the two disciplines? Science is the systematic attempt
to record and measure the energy process and the sequence of energy
transformations we call life. The goal is to answer the basic questions in
terms of objective, observed, public data. Religion is the systematic
attempt to provide answers to the same questions subjectively, in
terms of direct, incontrovertible, personal experience.
Science is a
social system which evolves roles, rules, rituals, values, language,
space-time locations to further the quest for these goals, to answer these
questions objectively, externally. Religion is a social system which has
evolved its roles, rules, rituals, values, language, space-time locations
to further the pursuit of the same goals, to answer these questions
subjectively through the revelatory experience. A science which fails to
address itself to these spiritual goals, which accepts other purposes
(however popular), becomes secular, political, and tends to oppose new
data. A religion which fails to provide direct experiential answers to
these spiritual questions (which fails to produce the ecstatic high)
becomes secular, political, and tends to oppose the individual revelatory
confrontation. The Oxford orientalist R. C. Zaehner, whose formalism is
not always matched by his tolerance, has remarked that experience, when
divorced from dogma, often leads to absurd and wholly irrational excesses.
Like any statement of polarity, the opposite is equally true: dogma, when
divorced from experience, often leads to absurd and wholly rational
excesses. Those of us who have been devoting our lives to the study of
consciousness have been able to collect considerable sociological data
about the tendency of the rational mind to spin out its own
interpretations. But I shall have more to say about the political
situation in later chapters.
Science Provide Similar Answers
to the Same
At this point I
should like to advance the hypothesis that those aspects of the
psychedelic experience which subjects report to be ineffable and
ecstatically religious involve a direct awareness of the energy processes
which physicists and biochemists and physiologists and neurologists and
psychologists and psychiatrists measure.
We are treading
here on very tricky ground. When we read the reports of LSD subjects, we
are doubly limited. First, they can only speak in the vocabulary
they know, and for the most part they do not possess the lexicon and
training of energy scientists. Second, we researchers find only
what we are prepared to look for, and too often we think in crude
psychological-jargon concepts: moods, emotions, value judgments,
diagnostic categories, social pejoratives, religious clichés. Since 1962
I have talked to thousands of LSD trippers, mystics, saddhus, occultists,
saints, inquiring if their hallucinations, visions, revelations,
ecstasies, orgasms, hits, flashes, space-outs and freak-outs can be
translated into the language not just of religion, psychiatry and
psychology but also of the and biological sciences.
scientific answers to this question change constantly — Newtonian
laws, quantum indeterminacy, atomic structure, nuclear structure. Today
the basic energy is located within the nucleus. Inside the atom a
transparent sphere of emptiness, thinly populated with electrons, the
substance of the atom has shrunk to a core of unbelievable smallness:
enlarged 1000 million times, an atom would be about the size of a
football, but its nucleus would still be hardly visible — a mere speck
of dust at the center. Yet that nucleus radiates a powerful electric field
which holds and controls the electrons around it.
power and complexity operating at speeds and spatial dimensions which our
conceptual minds cannot register. Infinitely small, yet pulsating outward
through enormous networks of electrical forces — atom, molecule, cell,
planet, star: all forms dancing to the nuclear tune.
design is this network of energy whirling through space-time. More
than 15,000 million years ago the oldest known stars began to form.
Whirling disks of gas molecules (driven, of course, by that tiny,
spinning, nuclear force) — condensing clouds, further condensations —
the tangled web of spinning magnetic fields clustering into stellar forms,
and each stellar cluster hooked up in a magnetic dance with its planetary
cluster and with every other star in the galaxy, and each galaxy whirling
in synchronized relationship to the other galaxies.
million galaxies. From 100 million to 100,000 million stars in a galaxy
— that is to say, 100,000 million planetary systems per galaxy, and each
planetary system slowly wheeling through the stellar cycle that allows for
a brief time the possibility of life as we know it.
million years ago, a slow-spinning dwarf star we call the sun is the
center of a field of swirling planetary material. The planet Earth is
created. In 5,000 million years the sun’s supply of hydrogen will be
burned up; the planets will be engulfed by a final solar explosion. Then
the ashen remnants of our planetary system will spin silently
through the dark infinity of space. And then is the dance over? Hardly.
Our tiny solar light, which is one of 100,000 million suns in our galaxy,
will scarcely be missed. And our galaxy is one of 1,000 million galaxies spinning
out and up at rates which exceed the speed of light — each galaxy
eventually burning up, to be replaced by new galaxies to preserve the
Here in the
always changing data of nuclear physics and astronomy is the current
scientific answer to the first basic question — material enough indeed
for an awesome cosmology.
reports often contain phrases which seem to describe similar
phenomena, subjectively experienced.
(a) I passed in
and out of a state several times where I was so relaxed that I felt open
to a total flow, over and around and through my body (more than my body)…
All objects were dripping, streaming, with white-hot light or electricity
which flowed in the air. It was as though we were watching the world, just
having come into being, cool off, its substance and form still molten and
barely beginning to harden.
(b) Body being
destroyed after it became so heavy as to be unbearable. Mind wandering,
ambulating throughout an ecstatically lit, indescribable landscape. How
can there be so much light — layers and layers of light, light upon
light? All is illumination.
(c) I became
more and more conscious of vibrations — of the vibrations in my body,
the harp strings giving forth their individual tones. Gradually I felt
myself becoming one with the cosmic vibration… In this dimension there
were no forms, no deities or personalities — just bliss.
dominant impression was that of entering into the marrow of existence…
It was as if each of the billion atoms of experience which under normal
circumstances are summarized and averaged into crude, indiscriminate,
wholesale impressions was now being seen and savored for itself. The other
clear sense was that of cosmic relativity. Perhaps all experience never
gets summarized in any inclusive overview. Perhaps all there is, is this
everlasting congeries of an infinite number of discrete points of view,
each summarizing the whole from its perspective.
(e) I could see
the whole history and evolution along which man has come. I was moving
into the future and saw the old cycle of peace and war, good times and bad
times, starting to repeat, and I said, “The same old thing again. Oh,
God! It has changed, though, it is different,” and I thought of the rise
of man from animal to spiritual being. But I was still moving into the
future, and I saw the whole planet destroyed and all history, evolution,
and human efforts being wiped out in this one ultimate destructive act of
of participating in and merging with pure (i.e., content-free)
energy, white light; of witnessing the breakdown of macroscopic objects
into vibratory patterns, visual nets, the collapse of external structure
into wave patterns, the awareness that everything is a dance of particles,
sensing the smallness and fragility of our system, visions of the void, of
world-ending explosions, of the cyclical nature of creation and
dissolution, etc. Now I need not apologize for the flimsy inadequacy of
these words. We just don’t have a better experiential vocabulary. If God
were to permit you a brief voyage into the divine process, let you whirl
for a second into the atomic nucleus or spin you out on a light-year trip
through the galaxies, how on earth would you describe what you saw when
you got back, breathless, to your office? This metaphor may sound
farfetched or irrelevant, but just ask someone who has taken a heavy dose
2. The Life
system began over five billion years ago and has around five billion years
to go. Life as we know it dates back two billion years. In other words,
the earth spun for about 60% of its existence without life. The crust
slowly cooled and was eroded by incessant water flow. “Fertile mineral
mud was deposited… now giving… for the first time… the possibility
of harboring life.” Thunderbolts in the mud produce amino acids, the
basic building blocks of life. Then begins the ceaseless production of
protein molecules, incalculable in number, forever combining into new
forms. The variety of proteins “exceeds all the drops of water in all
the oceans of the world.” Then protoplasm. Cell. Within the cell,
incredible beauty and order.
consider the teeming activity of a modern city it is difficult to
realize that in the cells of our bodies infinitely more complicated
processes are at work — ceaseless manufacture, acquisition of food,
storage, communication and administration… All this takes place in
superb harmony, with the cooperation of all the participants of a living
system, regulated down to the smallest detail. (G. Shenk, The
History of Man, New York: Chilton, 1961, pp. 56 – 57.)
Life is the
striving cycle of repetitious, reproductive energy transformations.
Moving, twisting, devouring, changing. The unit of life is the cell. And
the blueprint is the genetic code, the two nucleic acids — the long,
intertwined, duplicating chains of DNA and the controlling regulation of
RNA — “which determine the structure of the living substance.”
And where is it
going? Exactly like the old Hindu myths of cyclical rotation, the
astrophysicists tell us that life is a temporary sequence which occurs at
a brief mid-point in the planetary cycle. Terrestrial life began around
three billion years A.B. (“after the beginning” of our solar cycle)
and will run for another two billion years or so. At that time the solar
furnace will burn so hot that the minor planets (including Earth) will
boil, bubble and burn out. In other planetary systems the time spans are
different, but the cycle is probably the same.
There comes an
intermediate stage in the temperature history of a planet which can
nourish living forms, and then life merges into the final unifying fire.
Data here, indeed, for an awesome cosmology.
The flame of
life which moves every living form, including the cell cluster you call
your self, began, we are told, as a tiny single-celled spark in the
lower Precambrian mud, then passed over in steady transformations to more
complex forms. We like to speak of higher forms, but let’s not ignore or
patronize the single-cell game. It’s still quite thriving, thank you.
Next, your ancestral fire glowed in seaweed, algae, flagellate, sponge,
coral (about one billion years ago); then fish, fern, scorpion, millipede
(about 600 million years ago). Every cell in your body traces back (about
450 million years ago) to the same light life flickering in amphibian (and
what a fateful and questionable decision to leave the sea — should we
have done it?). Then forms, multiplying in endless diversity — reptile,
insect, bird — until, one million years ago, comes the aureole glory of
Australopithecus. (The fossils of the newly discovered “Homo Habilis”
from East Africa are estimated to be 1,750,000 years old. — New York
Times, March 18, April 3 and 4, 1964. Another estimate traces human
origins back about 15 million years! — New York Times, April 12,
The torch of
life next passes on to the hand-ax culture (around 600,000 years ago), to
Pithecanthropus (can you remember watching for the charge of southern
elephants and the saber-tooth tiger?), then blazing brightly in the
radiance of our great-grandfather Neanderthal man (a mere 70,000 years
ago), suddenly flaring up in that cerebral explosion that doubled the
cortex of our grandfather Cro-Magnon man (44,000 to 10,000 years ago), and
then radiating into the full flame of recent man, our older stone age,
Neolithic brothers, our bronze and iron age selves.
What next? The
race, far from being culminated, has just begun:
development of Pre-hominines Australopithecus… to the first emergence
of the… Cromagnons lasted about… fifteen thousand human life-spans….
In this relatively short period in world history the hominid type
submitted to a positively hurricane change of form; indeed he may be
looked upon as one of the animal groups whose potentialities of
unfolding with the greatest intensity have been realized. It must,
however, by no means be expected that this natural flood of development
will dry up with Homo sapiens recens. Man will be unable to
remain man as we know him now, a modern sapiens type. He will in the
courses of the next hundreds of millennia presumably change considerably
physiologically and physically. (G. Shenk, The History of Man, p.
Psychedelic Correlates of these evolutionary and genetic concepts are
to be found in the reports of almost every LSD tripper. The experience of
being a one-celled creature tenaciously flailing, the singing, humming
sound of life exfoliating; you are the DNA code spinning out multicellular
aesthetic solutions. You directly and immediately experience invertibrate
joy; you feel your backbone forming; gills form. You are a fish with
glistening gills, the sound of ancient fetal tides murmuring the rhythm of
life. You stretch and wriggle in mammalian muscular strength, loping,
powerful, big muscles; you sense hair growing on your body as you leave
the warm broth of water and take over the earth.
experience is the Hindu-Buddha reincarnation theory experimentally
confirmed in your own nervous system. You re-experience your human
forebears, shuttle down the chain of DNA remembrance. It’s all there in
your cellular diaries. You are all the men and women who fought and fed
and met and mated — the ugly, the strong, the sly, the mean, the wise,
the beautiful. Our fathers, who art protein in heaven — within; and our
round-fleshed holy mothers, hallowed be thy names. Endless chain of
warm-blooded, sweating, perfume-smelling, tenaciously struggling primates,
each rising out of darkness to stand for one second in the sunlight and
hand on the precious electrical tissue flame of life.
What does all
that evolutionary reincarnation business have to do with you or me or LSD
or the religious experience? It might, it just might, have a lot to do
with very current events. Many, and I am just bold enough to say most, LSD
subjects say they experience early forms of racial or subhuman species
evolution during their sessions. Now the easiest interpretation is the
psychiatric: “Oh, yes, hallucinations. Everyone knows that LSD makes you
crazy, and your delusions can take any psychotic form.” But wait; not so
fast. Is it entirely inconceivable that our cortical cells or the
machinery inside the cellular nucleus “remember” back along the
unbroken chain of electrical transformations that connects every one of us
back to that original thunderbolt in the Precambrian mud? Impossible, you
say? Read a genetics text. Read and reflect about the DNA chain of complex
protein molecules that took you as a unicelled organism at the moment of
your conception and planned every stage of your development. Half of that
genetic blueprint was handed to you intact by your mother and half by your
father, and then slammed together in that incredible welding process we
ego, your good old American social self, have been trained to remember
certain crucial secular-game landmarks: your senior prom, your wedding
day. But is it not possible that others of your ten billion brain cells
“remember” other critical survival crossroads, like conception,
intrauterine events, birth? Events for which our language has few or no
descriptive terms? Every cell in your body is the current carrier of an
energy torch which traces back through millions of generation
transformations. Remember that genetic code?
recognize by now the difficulty of my task. I am trying to expand your
consciousness, break through your macroscopic, secular set, “turn you
on,” give you a faint feeling of a psychedelic moment, trying to relate
two sets of processes for which we have no words — speed-of-light energy
- transformation processes and the transcendent vision.
3. The Human
What is the
human being? Ancient riddle, usually answered from within the homocentric
limits of the parochial mind. But consider this question from the
perspective of an intelligence outside the “romantic fallacy” of man’s
superiority. Study the question from the vantage point of an outer-space
visitor, or from that of an ecstatic, objective scientist.
Let us define
man as man defines other species, by his anatomy and physiology. Man is an
evolutionary form emerging from animal-mammalian-primate stock,
characterized by this skeletal structure and these unique hematological,
endocrine, organ systems.
living creature, man is a seed carrier, a soul bearer made in one of the
forms of God. Man’s particular form is a bag of semi-hairless skin
containing a miraculously complex system of life functions which he dimly
understands in the language of physiology, functions of which he has no
Only a rare,
turned-on visionary like Buckminster Fuller can appreciate the universe of
the human body, the galactic scope of somatic experience.
individual brains have a quadrillion times a quadrillion atoms in
fantastic coordination…. I think we are all coming out of the womb of
very fundamental ignorance, mental ignorance. We talk in ways that
sometimes sound very faithful to our experience but which are many times
very imaginary… We think that we know quite a lot and are responsible
for a lot of what is going on.
“I say to
you, whatever the last meal you ate, you haven’t the slightest idea of
what you are doing with it. You aren’t consciously saying to yourself
that ‘I have designed and decided now I’m going to have a million
hairs, and they’re going to be such and such a shape and color.’ We
don’t do any of this; it is all automated. Man is more than 99%
automated, and he is only a very small fraction conscious. Whereas he
tends to suggest that he is really highly responsible for what goes on…
he is very successful despite his ignorance and vanity.
suggest that all of humanity is about to be born in an entirely new
relationship to the universe…. We’re going to have an integrity… a
good faith with the truth, whatever the truth may be. We are going to have
to really pay attention.” (Buckminster Fuller, interviewed in the San
Francisco Oracle, Vol. 1, No. 11.)
The key phrases
in this typical flash of humorous genius by Buckminster Fuller are: “faithful
to our experience,” “automated… only a very small fraction
conscious,” “pay attention.”
This is classic
psychedelic talk. One of the ecstatic horrors of the LSD experience is the
sudden confrontation with your own body, the shattering resurrection of
your body. You are capitulated into the matrix of quadrillions of cells
and somatic communication systems. Cellular flow. You are swept down the
tunnels and canals of your own waterworks. Visions of microscopic
processes. Strange, undulating tissue patterns. Pummeled down the
fantastic artistry of internal factories, recoiling with fear or shrieking
in pleasure at the incessant push, struggle, drive of the biological
machinery, clicking, clicking, endlessly, endlessly — at every moment
Your body is
the universe. The ancient wisdom of Gnostics, hermetics, Sufis, Tantric
gurus, yogis, occult healers. What is without is within. Your body is the
mirror of the macrocosm. The kingdom of heaven is within you. Within your
body, body, body. The great psychedelic philosophies of the East —
Tantra, Kundalini yoga — see the human body as the sacred temple, the
seed center, the exquisitely architectured shrine of all creation.
Hoc est corpus
systematic, disciplined awareness of body function is the basic
sacramental method of these religions. Tibetan and Indian Tantra train the
student to become faithful to somatic experience, to pay attention to the
energies and messages of the body. Breathing, control of circulation,
control of involuntary muscles and reflexes, control of digestion, control
of genital erection and ejaculation, awareness of the intricate language
of hormone and humor, the psychopharmacology of the body, the charkas.
understand the rhythms and meanings of the outer world until one has
mastered the dialects of the body.
What is man? He
is within His body. His body is his universe.
man knows is mediated by the human nervous system. Everything that man
knows about the external world and his place, his identity in it, comes
through the sense organs.
and sensory physiologists have much to tell us about the incredible
complexity of the sensory mechanisms. The eye responding to light, the
auditory system trembling to the finest variation in air vibrations, the
olfactory organs receiving and processing airborne scents, the mouth and
tongue honeycombed with taste buds. Touch. Temperature. Pain. Pressure.
I lectured once
to a group of priests and nuns about the sensory experience. “I am
holding in my hand,” I said, “the most sensual book ever written,
illustrated, too, with the most sensual pictures you ever saw.” I was
holding The Anatomy and Physiology of the Senses.
All our beliefs
and convictions about the existence of an outside world, the only threads
we have that connect our lonely solipsism to other forms of life and
energy and consciousness “out there” are based on data registered on
our sensory radar and processed by our brains.
being is a spaceship. No, each human being is a galaxy spinning lonely in
space, and the only contacts we have with other galaxies (light-years
away, really) are the flimsy flickerings of our sense organs.
And what an
ontological, epistemological leap of faith it is, really, to believe in
the existence of each other! You read this page, light hits your eyes, and
your brain sees squiggles of black and white which are words. Do you
believe that you are really reading what Timothy Leary wrote? Does this
pattern of black and white lines lead you to believe in the existence of a
seed-bearing, soul-carrying human being, Timothy Leary, who sat one New
Year’s Day at a wood-grained desk littered with notes, clippings, books,
loose tobacco, coffee cups, ashtrays, looking out a picture window at the
silver-grey expanse of the Pacific Ocean, writing these lines?
How can you be
sure that Bacon wrote Shakespeare? How can you be sure that those lines
were not arranged by a computer which (reacting to a Hooper-rating survey)
proceeded to scan and sort quadrillions of pages of past computer writing
and rearrange these lines designed to feed back exactly that level of
ignorance-superstition-word magic that will comfort and please you? Do you
accept your ocular data (this book) that Timothy Leary exists? If you
could touch me, smell me, feel my warmth, hear my voice or my smoker’s
cough, would you be more convinced that I exist?
convinces us and Dr. Johnson that something exists out there.
But the mystery
of knowing remains. And the awesome findings of biochemical neurology do
not simplify our understanding of how we know, how we become conscious.
brain, we are told, is composed of about ten billion nerve cells, any
one of which may connect with as many as 25,000 other nerve cells. The
number of interconnections which this adds up to would stagger even an
astronomer — and astronomers are used to dealing with astronomical
numbers. The number is far greater than all the atoms in the universe.
This is why physiologists remain unimpressed by computers. A computer
sophisticated enough to handle this number of interconnections would
have to be big enough to cover the earth. (R. Campbell, “The Circuits
of the Senses,” in a series on “The Human Body” (Part IV), Life,
Vol. 54, No. 27 (June 27, 1963), pp. 64 – 76b.)
matrix floods “about 100 million sensations a second from… [the]…
various senses.” And somewhere in that ten-billion-cell galaxy is a tiny
solar system of connected neurons which is aware of your social self. Your
“ego” is to your brain what the planet Earth is to our galaxy with its
100,000 million suns.
Psychedelic Answer to the awareness question should now be apparent.
There is no answer, only a bleak choice of blind hope or insightful
On the dour
side, the attentive, highly conscious person realizes that he is the
almost helpless victim of the accidental or deliberate range of
light-sound-pressure-chemical energies that impinge on his sensory nerve
endings. At one time, when we were trustingly slumbering, a selfish,
insane, power-hungry combine of exploitive conspirators suddenly moved in
and systematically censored and manipulated what was to hit our eyes,
ears, nose, mouth, skin. A well-organized conspiracy to enslave our
consciousness. A science fiction horror movie in which our captors decided
exactly which energies and sensory stimuli we could encounter. Our
ten-billion-cell nervous systems have been monopolized by these ruthless,
selfish captors. We walk around on a fake-prop television studio set that
our masters have designed — and we play the parts they assign. Using
Pavlovian conditioning of reward and punishment, our grim rulers lead us
unsuspectingly to do exactly what they wish.
combine which determines the scope and style of our consciousness (for its
own benefit) operates through our parents (themselves blind, frightened
slaves) and our educational, acculturation institutions.
We have taken
leave of our senses. We have been robbed blind. Sensory conditioning has
forced us to accept a “reality” which is a comic-tragic farce
illusion. We can never rid ourselves of the insanities deeply imprinted
during infancy and childhood on our delicate, vulnerable nervous systems.
We can never free ourselves completely.
On the bright
side, we can obtain a momentary (and even longer) release from the
neurological prison. We can come to our senses, turn off the conditioning
and experience afresh the hardly bearable ecstasy of direct energy
exploding on our nerve endings. We can become seers, hear-oes, smelling
tasters in real touch.
of the senses is the most basic aspect of the psychedelic experience. The
open eye, the naked touch, the intensification and vivification of ear and
nose and taste. This is the Zen moment of satori, the nature mystic’s
high, the sudden centering of consciousness on the sense organ, the
real-eye-zation that this is it! I am eye! I am hear! I knose! I am in
The ability to
turn on the senses, to escape the conditioned mind, to throb in harmony
with the energies radiating on the sense organs, the skillful control of
one’s senses, has for thousands of years been the mark of a sage, a holy
man, a radiant teacher.
Control of the
senses is a basic part of every enduring religious method. Control does
not mean repression or closing off. Control means the ability to turn off
the mind, ignore the enticing clamor of symbolic seduction and open the
senses like flowers, accepting like sunshine the gifts of those energies
which man’s senses are designed to receive.
5. The Ego
Who am I?
invariably and eagerly and insistently answered by social institutions.
Always for their own benefit. Every religious hierarchy can tell you who
you are — Catholic, Protestant, Jew or atheist. Right? And every
government agrees you are an American or a Russian or a Turk. Let’s see
endless, lesser, monolithic social agencies tell you who you are —
occupation, recreation, political affiliation, social class, status,
branch of service.
Now comes the
new secular state religion — psychology, with its up-to-date answers.
The great ego-identity quest. The national personality sweepstakes. The
American the question, who am I? Is answered totally in terms of
artificial social roles. What part do you play in which TV show? And are
you good or bad? How is your Hooper rating? Are you popular? Shallow,
transient, secular evasion of the physical and metaphysical identity.
Who am I? The
perspective on this question comes only when you step off the TV stage set
defined by mass-media-social-psychology-adjustment-normality. I exist at
every level of energy and every level of consciousness. Who am I? I’m
At the atomic
level I am a galaxy of nuclear-powered atoms spinning through changing
patterns. I am the universe, the center and guardian temple of all energy.
I am God of Light. Who am I? I’m you.
At the cellular
level I am the entire chain of life. I am the key rung of the DNA ladder,
center of the evolutionary process, the current guardian of the seed, the
now-eye of the two-billion-year-old uncoiling serpent. I am God of Life. I’m
At the somatic
level I am my body — the most intricate, intelligent, complex form of
energy structure. The network of my organs and tissues is the last word in
cosmic miniaturization, celestial packaging. I am the Resurrection of the
Body. I’m you.
At the sensory
level I am the divine receiving station, the sacred communications
satellite, a two-legged, trembling-tissue, Jodrell Bank radar telescope,
dancing, grumbling, sniffing Geiger counter. I am the Darwinian wiretap, a
billion sensory microphones picking up vibrations from planetary energy
systems. I am the all-time, worldwide retinal ABC, eardrum RCA,
International Smell and Tell, the consolidated General Foods taste
laboratory. I am God of Common Sense. I’m you.
an added feature. Each generation, I, the timeless God, atom bearer, seed
carrier, return in a new, improved, Detroit-model electrical-eye,
horseless, carry-all body pushed onto a new social stage set. I am an
American. I was an Irish farmer. I was a Celtic minstrel. I was this one
and that one. Each time carried onstage blinking, puking, bawling,
bewildered by the bizarre novelty of each new drama, untutored in the
language of the new script (did she say her name was Mommie?), unaware of
the plot, each time having forgotten my atomic, cellular, somatic, sensory
divinity, each time painfully being pushed and hauled into some ludicrous,
histrionic consistency known today as my personality, known yesterday as
Thus, I am the
undeniably psychological unit. A mind, a box of conditioned Pavlovian
reflexes, a social robot, here adjusted, there maladjusted, sometimes good
(approved of), sometimes bad (censored). The center of my psychological
mandala, the mainspring of my personality, is social conditioning. Reward
and punishment. What will the neighbors think? is the beginning and end of
Now, who am I?
I’m you. I’m Timothy What’s His Name. I am what the Reader’s
Digest likes and dislikes.
of ego consciousness to the social game is inevitable and cannot be
eliminated despite the poignant appeals to drop out. We cannot drop out of
society. We can only drop out of social roles and dramas which are
unloving, contracting and which distract us from the discovery of our
atomic, cellular, somatic, and sensory divinity. Spiritual appeals to
transcend the ego are vain. Like any other level of consciousness of
energy, ego is. Karma is. All we can do is center ego consciousness and
see it in proper relationship to the other “I’s.” The “social ego”
is abysmally trivial when compared to the “atomic I,” the “DNA I,”
but that’s the glorious humor of the cosmic hide-and-seek. That “social
ego” can possess such eccentric, foolish power to camouflage the other
divinities that lie beneath our skin.
So let us pray:
Almighty Ego, set I free! Almighty Ego, let my I’s see!
psychology, like modern man, does not like to face the sparse,
wrinkled-skin facts about human transcience. The personality chess game is
blown up to compelling importance. How am I doing? Modern education,
advertising, indeed the whole culture, is hooked up in a full-time
hard-sell campaign to reassure the average person that he is a good Joe, a
Then he takes
somatic inundation, cellular revelation. The plastic-doll nature of social
reality and social ego is glaringly obvious. In a word, ego discovers that
ego is a fraudulent actor in a fake show. Rubber stamp and tinsel.
that I is atomic, cellular, sensory, somatic and soon to pass on. Ego gets
frightened. Panicked. Ego cries for help. Get me a psychiatrist! Help! Get
me back to the nice, comforting TV stage.
The impact of
LSD is exactly this brutal answer to the question, who is ego? The LSD
revelation is the clear perspective. The LSD panic is the terror that the
ego is lost forever. The LSD ecstasy is the joyful discovery that ego,
with its painful shams and strivings, is only a fraction of my identity.
What should I
move toward? What direction my motion? What should I feel? The emotional
and feelings questions.
fails miserably to give us answers because there is little objective data,
and the accepted theories of emotional behavior — the psychiatric —
are naïve, inadequate, pompously trivial. The best-known theory of the
emotions, the Freudian, is a hodgepodge of platitude, banality and
All that Freud
said is that modern man and society are completely dishonest. Society lies
to the individual and forces him to lie to himself. Freud calls this
process of self-deception the unconscious. The unconscious is the hidden.
Freud (the lie detector who lied) conscientiously listed the various ways
in which man prevaricates and then developed a system of humiliating
cross-examination and spirit-breaking brainwashing which forces the rare
“successful” patient to give up his favorite pack of lies (which he
chose as being the best solution to an impossible situation) and
grovelingly to accept the psychoanalyst’s system of dishonesty. Have you
ever noticed how unbearably “dead” and juiceless psychoanalysts and
their patients are? The only cheerful fact about psychoanalysis is that
most patients don’t get cured and are stubborn enough to preserve their
own amateur and original lie in favor of the psychoanalyst’s conforming
If anyone has
any lingering doubt about the superstitious and barbarian state of
psychiatry and psychoanalysis, reflect on this fact. Today, fifty years
after Freud, the average mental hospital in the United States is a
Kafkaesque, Orwellian prison camp more terrifying than Dachau because the
captors claim to be healers. Two hundred years ago our treatment of the
village idiot and nutty old Aunt Agatha was gently utopian compared to the
intolerant savagery of the best mental hospital.
So where do we
find the scientific answer to the emotional question? Can you really bear
the lowest form of consciousness. Emotional actions are the most
contracted, narrowing, dangerous form of behavior.
poetry and fiction of the last 200 years has quite blinded us to the fact
that emotions are an active and harmful form of stupor.
Any peasant can
tell you that. Beware of emotions. Any child can tell you that. Watch out
for the emotional person. He is a lurching lunatic.
caused by biochemical secretions in the body to serve during the state of
acute emergency. An emotional person is a blind, crazed maniac. Emotions
are addictive and narcotic and stupefacient.
Do not trust
anyone who comes on emotional.
In a book
entitled Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality, written when I was
a psychologist, I presented classifications of emotions and detailed
descriptions of their moderate and extreme manifestations. Emotions are
all based on fear. Like an alcoholic or a junkie, the frightened person
reaches for his favorite escape into action.
competing, punishing, aggressing, rebelling, complaining, abasing,
submitting, placating, agreeing, fawning, flattering, giving.
person cannot think; he cannot perform any effective game action (except
in acts of physical aggression and strength). The emotional person is
turned off sensually. His body is a churning robot; he has lost all
connection with cellular wisdom or atomic revelation. The person in an
emotional state is an inflexible robot gone berserk.
psychologists call love is emotional greed and self-enhancing gluttony
based on fear.
The only state
in which we can learn, harmonize, grow, merge, join, understand is the
absence of emotion. This is called bliss or ecstasy, attained through
centering the emotions.
Moods such as
sorrow and joy accompany emotions. Like a junkie who has just scored or an
alcoholic with a bottle in hand, the emotional person feels good when he
has scored emotionally, i.e., beaten someone up or been beaten up. Won a
competitive victory. Gorged himself on person grabbing.
is not an emotion; it is serene merging with yourself, with other people,
with other forms of energy. Love cannot exist in an emotional state.
Only the person
who has been psychotic or had a deep psychedelic trip can understand what
emotions do to the human being.
The great kick
of the mystic experience, the exultant, ecstatic hit, is the sudden relief
from emotional pressure.
Did you imagine
that there could be emotions in heaven? Emotions are closely tied to ego
games. Check your emotions at the door to paradise.
Why, then, are
emotions built into the human repertoire if they are so painful, demanding
and blinding? There is a basic survival purpose. Emotions are the
emergency alarms. The organism at the point of death terror goes into a
paroxysm of frantic activity. Like a fish flipping blindly out of water.
Like a crazed, cornered animal.
There are rare
times when emotions are appropriate and relevant. The reflex biochemical
spurt. Fight or flight. There are times when emotional bluffs, like the
hair rising on a dog’s neck, are appropriate. But the sensible animal
avoids situations which elicit fear and the accompanying emotion. Your
wise animal prefers to relax or to play — using his senses, tuned into
his delicious body-organ music, closing his eyes to drift back in cellular
memory. Dogs and cats are high all the time — except when bad luck
demands emotional measures.
human being is an evolutionary drug addict continuously and recklessly
shooting himself up with adrenalin and other dark ferments. The way to
turn off the emotions is to turn on the senses, turn on to your body, turn
on to your cellular reincarnation circus, turn on to the electric glow
within and engage only in turn-on ego games.
7. The Ultimate
is: How does it end?
The answer is:
scientist (no matter which level of energy he studies), and he’ll tell
you. It keeps going. At the same beat. On. Off. On. Off.
Galaxies flash on and then off.
Species flare out and retract.
heart beats and stops. Beats and stops. The lungs inhale and exhale.
comes in waves of particles hurtling against retinal beaches. High tide,
see. Low tide, no see. The neural message dot-dashes along the nerve
fibers. Light-dark. Light-dark. Sound waves pile up on the auditory
membrane and fall back. Sound-silence. Sound-silence.
There is no
form of energy that does not come in the same rhythm. Yin. Yang. In. Out.
The galaxy itself and every structure within it is a binary business, an
oscillating dance. Start. Stop.
the biologist, the physiologist, the neurologist, knows all about the end
of the cycle at the level of energy he studies. Every scientist knows that
death is exactly symmetrical to birth at every level of energy. Even the
sociologists and historians who study the human game structure know that
social institutions start and stop.
There is only
one level of consciousness that cannot accept the universal on-off switch,
and that is the ego. The astronomer can gaze with equanimity at nova
explosions and forecast the death of the solar system, but when it comes
to his own ego chessboard, there is the illusion of enduring solidity. Ego
is unable to learn from the past or to predict the obvious events of the
future because of its deep dread of confronting mortality. Ego focuses
consciousness on the few immediately neighboring pieces of the game board
because ego knows that one glance across the game board or beyond it puts
the whole thing in perspective. Where it began and how it will end. Start
stop. On off.
loving parents tried to make sure their son would not consider the four
chess pieces that lead off the game board — sickness, age, death, and
philosophy points out that every form is an illusion. Maya. Everything at
every level of energy is a shuttling series of vibrations as apparently
solid as the whirring metal disk made by rotating fan blades. Ego resists
this notion and touches the immediate solidity of phenomena. We dislike
slowing the motion picture down because the film flickers. Annoying
reminder that we view not unbroken continuity but an off-on ribbon of
Life is an
illusion. There one second, gone the next. Now you see it, now you don’t.
equally illusory. Suicide a farce. The desire to escape is exactly as
pointless as the desire to hang onto life. How can you clutch onto or
escape from a relentless click-clack process that continues despite the
mind’s interpretation? And despite our “feelings” about it?
illusory game goes on. Ego sweats to maintain a tenacious grasp onto the
ungraspable. And then, in moments of emotional despair, decides to hide,
to quit. Hell is the conviction that the game won’t stop. Eternal game
playing. No exit. Hell is the idea that the game switch won’t turn off.
Suicide is the deluded attempt to escape from hell.
Hell is a
mistake in judgment. A bum trip idea. The ego’s stranglehold on the film
projector. Ego is caught in a repetitious loop. Over and over and over.
Suicide is the escape from ego. Only ego contemplates escape. Can you
imagine an animal killing itself in egocentric pique?
Ego attempts to
turn itself off through anesthesia. Unconsciousness. Fast suicide or slow
narcosis. Alcohol dulls the mind game and produces emotional stupor. Too
much alcohol provides the anesthetic escape. Barbiturates and
tranquilizers and sleeping pills are escape tickets bought by the frantic
Have you ever
talked to an articulate junkie? The appeal of heroin is the void. The
warm, soft cocoon of nothingness. Surcease. Easeful death. The vacuum
gamble. The game of the junkie is to nod out. To pass over the line into
unconsciousness. The last thought of the junkie as he slips away is, have
I gone too far this time? Overdose? Au revoir or good-bye?
psychedelic experience is a death-rebirth flip. You turn on to the ancient
rhythm, and you become its beat. All right, now! Are you ready? The whole
thing is about to click off.
mystic is he who goes with it. Lets it happen. Hello. Good-bye. Hello.
Good-bye. Oh, my God! You again!
The bad trip,
the LSD panic, is the terrorized reluctance to go with it. Frantic
grabbing for the intangible switch. Ego cries, keep it on!
The glory of
the psychedelic moment is the victory over life and death won by seeing
the oscillating dance of energy and yielding to it.
appeal of the psychedelic experience is its solution to the problem of
escape. The visionary revelation answers the escape question. There is no
death. Ecstatic, mirthful relief. There is nothing to avoid, nothing to
escape, nothing to fear. There is just off-on, in-out, start-stop,
oblivion, is the split-second pause. I accept the on. I accept the off.
It is of
interest that the heroin addict and the illuminated Buddha end up at the
same place. The void. The junkie is a deeply religious person. The
alcoholic is, too. Thus our physicians and psychiatrists have no luck in
“curing” addicts. If you see an addict as a social misfit, a civic
nuisance who must be rehabilitated, you completely miss the point.
To cure the
junkie and the alcoholic, you must humbly admit that he is a more deeply
spiritual person than you, and you accept the cosmic validity of his
search to transcend the game, and you help him see that blackout drugs are
just bad methodology because you just can’t keep holding the “off”
switch and that the way to reach the void is through psychedelic rather
than anesthetic experience.
Drugs Are the
Religion of the People — The Only Hope is
preceding pages I have suggested that man can become conscious of each
level of energy defined by scientists.
subjective physics, the psychology of atomic-electronic activity.
Metabiology is cellular biology. Metaphysiology is somatic psychology. The
systematic study of internal body states. Metaneurology is sensory
physiology, the systematic, introspective study of sense organs.
Metapsychology is the study of conditioning by the nervous system that has
been conditioned. Your ego unravels its own genesis. Metapsychiatry is the
systematic production and control of endocrine states within your own
body. Meta-anesthesiology is the systematic production and control of
states of unconsciousness within your own body.
become his own Einstein, his own Darwin, his own Claude Bernard, his own
Penfield, his own Pavlov, his own Freud, his own anesthesiologist.
theological standpoint, everyone must discover the seven faces of God
within his own body.
which at first glance may seem fantastically utopian, is actually very
easy to initiate because there now exist instruments which can move
consciousness to any desired level. The laboratory equipment for
experimental theology, for internal science, is of course made of the
stuff of consciousness itself, made of the same material as the data to be
studied. The instruments of systematic religion are chemicals. Drugs.
If you are
serious about your religion, if you really wish to commit yourself to the
spiritual quest, you must learn how to use psychochemicals. Drugs are the
religion of the twenty-first century. Pursuing the religious life today
without using psychedelic drugs is like studying astronomy with the naked
eye because that’s how they did it in the first century A.D., and
besides, telescopes are unnatural.
Specific Drugs to Turn On Each Level of
psychopharmacology is written and practiced by scientists who do not take
drugs (and who therefore write textbooks about events they have never
experienced). Current psychopharmacology is a superstitious form of black
magic sponsored and supported by the federal Food and Drug Administration,
a government agency about as enlightened as the Spanish Inquisition. Note
that the rapidly growing enforcement branch of the FDA uses instruments
unknown to Torquemeda — guns, wiretaps — in addition to the classic
methods of informers and provocateurs. There is thus enormous ignorance
about the science of consciousness alteration and a vigorous punitive
campaign to prevent its application.
specific drugs now easily available which can turn on each level of
consciousness. Since Americans are more familiar with and committed to
consciousness-contracting drugs, I shall list the better-known
psychochemical instruments in reverse order.
Anesthetic State is produced by narcotics, barbiturates, and large
doses of alcohol. Anyone can reach the void by self-administration of
stupefacients. Most Americans know just how to pass out.
6. The State
of Emotional Stupor is produced by moderate doses of alcohol. Three
martinis do nicely.
5. The State
of Ego Consciousness is enhanced by pep pills, energizers consumed
daily by millions of Americans. Pep pills make you feel good. Make you
feel active. They change nothing, but they propel you into game motion.
Coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola are mild versions.
4. The State
of Sensory Awareness is produced by any psychedelic drug — LSD,
mescaline, psilocybin, MDA, yagé, hashish, Sernyl, DMT — but the
specific, direct trigger for turning on the senses is marijuana.
3. The State
of Somatic Awareness is attained by any psychedelic drugs stronger
than marijuana, but the specific triggers for chakra consciousness are
hashish and MDA.
Cellular Level of Consciousness is attained by any of the stronger
psychedelics — peyote, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin.
Atomic-Electronic Level of Consciousness is produced by the most
powerful psychedelics — LSD, STP, DMT.
Try Your Own
This listing of
seven levels of consciousness is based not on revelation or poetic
metaphor but on the structure of modern science. We simply assume that
there is a different level of consciousness for each major division of
science — which, in turn, is based on the major classes of energy
The decision as
to which drugs turn on which levels of consciousness is empirical, based
on thousands of psychedelic experiences. I have personally taken drugs
which trigger off each level of consciousness hundreds of times.
But my findings
can be easily checked out. Any reader can initiate experiments of his own
with readily available chemicals.
Turn on a tape
recorder during your next cocktail party. Notice how rational ego-game
playing deteriorates and the emotional level rises in exact proportion to
the amount of booze consumed. You have moved consciousness from level 5 to
Next, turn on
your tape recorder during a pot party. Notice how the emotional level
drops, serenity increases. Observe the intensified attention to sensory
energy. The relaxation of game tension. You have moved consciousness from
level 5 to level 4.
If you are a
diligent experimental theologian, you may wish to see if you can take the
fantastic voyage down your body or down into time, using the appropriate
chemical instruments. Psychedelic yoga is not a mysterious, arcane
specialty reserved for Ph.D.’s and a scientific elite. Anyone who is
curious about the nature of God and reality can perform the experiments.
Indeed, millions of Americans have done just this in the last few years.
experience, far from being new, is man’s oldest and most classic
adventure into meaning. Every religion in world history was founded on the
basis of some flipped-out visionary trip.
Religion is the
systematic attempt at focusing man’s consciousness. Comparative religion
should concern itself less with the exoteric and academic differences and
more with studying the different levels of consciousness turned on by each
We see that
there are seven approaches employed by the great world religions. Seven dialects
1. Buddhism attempts
to transcend life and cellular manifestations and to strive toward the
white light of the void, the unitary atomic-electronic flash beyond form.
2. Hinduism is
a vegetative jungle of reincarnation imagery. Clearly cellular.
3. Tantra (Tibetan,
Bengali) focuses on somatic energy (Kundalini) and chakra consciousness.
Hasidic Judaism, Sufism, and early Christianity used methods for
centering sensual energy.
and Talmudic Judaism are the classic ego religions. Logic, hard work
and Main Street practicality will get you to heaven.
Catholicism and devil-oriented fundamentalist sects are based on the
arousal of emotion — fear.
and Death Cults
Sciences Study Different Basic Questions
Each of the
seven basic questions faced by man has been studied for thousands of years
by thoughtful individuals and by institutions, disciplines and
professions. In the last 60 years, physical and biological scientists have
pretty well agreed on a systematic and unified perspective of the wide
range of energy processes and structures. A remarkably efficient
classification of subject matter and a civilized, tolerant division of
labor have developed.
generally agree that there are definable levels of energy and, what is
most important for harmonious collaboration, agree on the relations of the
different levels of energy. The physicist knows that he studies a
different phenomenon than the behavioral psychologist. Electrons are
different from recorded emotions. Both the physicist and the psychologist
recognize that atomic processes are basic to and underlie all
physiological and psychological activities. A hierarchy of sciences
exists, based not on bureaucratic or political factors but on the nature
of the level of energy studied. The physicist studies processes which are
billions of times smaller (and larger) than those of the psychologist,
processes which are billions of times faster and older than human
psychological processes. Electrons were spun off the sun billions of years
before man’s adrenalin glands propelled him to flight.
Each Level of
Energy Requires Its Own Methods and
beings (members of a species best known for its competitive belligerence
and murderous envy), physical and biological scientists are relatively
immune to fraternal homicide. Biologists don’t war against physicists.
An American biologist might war against members of another species, or
another nationality or religion. An American bacteriologist might develop
a germ used to destroy Vietnamese people, but he does not war against
other biologists about biological issues. Indeed, American and Soviet
scientists collaborate even during times of political warfare.
The ability of
scientists to communicate, teach each other, help each other in spite of
racial and national differences is due to the fact that they share an
effective, precise language system.
and Ho say, “Peace,” they use the word quite differently. When Pope
Paul and a Buddhist monk say, “God,” who knows what they mean?
When a chemist
writes a formula, all chemists know what he means. And all physicists know
specifically or vaguely how the chemist’s molecular formula relates to
of neurology, psychology and psychiatry, however, have not yet reached a
scientific state. No satisfactory language system exists in their fields.
Neurologists quarrel with psychiatrists about the causes of mental
illness. Psychologists cannot tell us how man learns or forgets. Enormous
priesthoods have developed in these three fields which jockey for power,
funds, prestige but which fail to provide answers or even to define
study of consciousness, the religious experience itself, remains in a
state of medieval ignorance and superstition. There is no language for
describing states of awareness. Religious scholars and theologians
quarrel, not just about moral fads and ritual paraphernalia but, more
basically, about the answers to the seven basic questions.
sciences — neurology, psychology, psychiatry, psychopharmacology and the
study of consciousness (which I call religion) — require a systematic
language which will allow men to distinguish which levels of energy and
consciousness they deal with.
It is rather
unfortunate that Western man developed a language of physics and chemistry
and a highly efficient engineering based on physical-chemical
experimentation long before he developed understanding and control of his
own sense organs and neurological conditioning. Thus we now have a
situation where blind, irrational, technical robots (who understand
neither their makeup nor the purpose of life) are in control of powerful
and dangerous energies.
with Alan Watts:
what is the purpose of life?
Watts: That is
Leary: What do
purpose of life is to ask the question, what is the purpose of life?
purpose of life is the religious quest, the religious question. But you
must be careful how you put the question because the level at which you
ask is the level at which you will be answered.
suggested seven levels of energy and consciousness which are based on the
anatomy or structure of the human body and its constituent parts —
neurological, somatic, cellular, molecular. The religions of the future
must be based on these seven scientific questions. A science of
consciousness must be based on those different levels which center on the
body and the biochemicals (i.e. drugs) which alter consciousness.
changes in our child-rearing and educational practices, politics,
communications will occur as man grasps this notion of the levels of
consciousness and their alteration.
When we read
about the current findings of the energy sciences such as those I have
just reviewed, how can our reactions be other than reverent awe at the
grandeur of these observations, at the staggering complexity of the
design, the speed, the scope? Ecstatic humility before such power and
intelligence. Indeed, what a small, secular concept — intelligence —
to describe that infinitude of harmonious complexity! How impoverished our
vocabulary and how narrow our imagination!
Of course, the
findings of the pure sciences do not produce the religious reaction
we should expect. We are satiated with secular statistics, dazed into
robot dullness by the enormity of facts which we are not educated to
comprehend. Although the findings of physics, genetics, paleontology and
neurology have tremendous relevance to our life, they are of less interest
than a fall in the stock market or the status of the pennant race.
The message is
dimly grasped hypothetically, rationally, but never experienced, felt,
known. But there can be that staggering, intellectual-game ecstasy which
comes when you begin to sense the complexity of the plan. To pull back the
veil and see for a second a fragment of the energy dance, the life power.
How can you appreciate the divine unless you comprehend the smallest part
of the fantastic design? To experience (it’s always for a moment) the
answers to the seven basic spiritual questions is to me the peak of the
But how can our
ill-prepared nervous systems grasp the message? Certainly the average man
cannot master the conceptual, mathematical bead game of the physics
graduate student. Must his experiential contact with the divine process
come in watered-down symbols, sermons, hymns, robot rituals, religious
calendar art, moral-behavior sanctions eventually secular in their aim?
Fortunately the great plan has produced a happy answer and has endowed
every human being with the equipment to comprehend, to know, to experience
directly, incontrovertibly. It’s there in that network of ten billion
cells, the number of whose interconnections “is far greater than all the
atoms in the universe.”
If you can, for
the moment, throw off the grip of your learned mind, your conditioning,
and experience the message contained in the ten-billion-tube computer
which you carry behind your forehead, you would know the awe-ful truth.
Our research suggests that even the uneducated layman can experience
directly what is slowly deduced by scientists — for example, physicists,
whose heavy conceptual minds lumber along at three concepts a second,
attempting to fathom the speed-of-light processes which their beautiful
machines record and which their beautiful symbols portray.
But the brakes
can be released. Our recent studies support the hypothesis that
psychedelic foods and drugs, ingested by prepared subjects in a serious,
sacred, supportive atmosphere, can put the subject into perpetual touch
with other levels of energy exchanges. Remember the data — the Good
Friday study, the Savage study, the 200 religious professionals, 40 to 90
percent telling us they experienced “a greater awareness of God or a
higher power or an ultimate reality.”
The Language of
But to what do
these LSD subjects refer when they report spiritual reactions? Do they
obtain specific illuminations into the seven basic questions, or are their
responses simply awe and wonder at the experienced novelty? Even if the
latter were the case, could it not support the religious application of
the psychedelic substances and simply underline the need for more
sophisticated religious language coordinated with the scientific data? But
there is some evidence, phenomenological but yet haunting, that the
spiritual insights accompanying the psychedelic experience might be
subjective accounts of the objective findings of astronomy, physics,
biochemistry and neurology.
neurological and pharmacological explanations of an LSD vision are still
far from being understood. We know almost nothing about the physiology of
consciousness and the body-cortex interaction. We cannot assert that LSD
subjects are directly experiencing what particle physicists and
biochemists measure, but the evidence about the detailed complexity of the
genetic code and the astonishing design of intracellular communication
should caution us against labeling experiences outside of our current
tribal clichés as “psychotic” or abnormal. For 3,000 years our
greatest prophets and philosophers have been telling us to look within,
and today our scientific data are supporting that advice with a
humiliating finality. The limits of introspective awareness may well be
submicroscopic, cellular, molecular and even nuclear. We only see, after
all, what we are trained and predisposed to see. One of our current
research projects involves teaching subjects to recognize internal
physical processes much as we train a beginning biology student to
recognize events viewed through his microscope.
No matter how
parsimonious our explanations, we must accept the fact that LSD subjects
do claim to experience revelations into the basic questions and do
attribute life change to their visions.
We are, of
course, at the very beginning of our research into these implications. A
new experiential language and perhaps even new metaphors for the great
plan will develop. We have been working on this project for the past six
years, writing manuals which train subjects to recognize energy processes,
teaching subjects to communicate via a machine we call the experiential
typewriter and with movies of microbiological processes. And we have
continued to pose the questions to religious and philosophic groups: What
do you think? Are these biochemical visions religious?
answer, remember that God (however you define the higher power) produced
that wonderful molecule, that extraordinarily powerful organic substance
we call LSD, just as surely as He created the rose, or the sun, or the
complex cluster of molecules you insist on calling your “self.”
Priests and Theologians
Among the many
harassing complications of our research into religious experience has been
the fact that few people, even some theological professionals, have much
conception of what a religious experience really is. If asked, they tend
to become embarrassed, intellectual, evasive. The adored cartoonists of
the Renaissance portray the ultimate power as a dove, or a flaming bush,
or as a man — venerable, with a white beard, or on a cross, or as a
baby, or a sage seated in full lotus position. Are these not limiting
incarnations, temporary housings, of the great energy process?
In the fall of
1962, a minister and his wife, as a part of a courageous and dedicated
pursuit of illumination, took a psychedelic biochemical called
dimethyltriptamine. This wondrous alkaloid (which closely approximates
serotonin, the natural “lubricant” of our higher nervous system)
produces an intense psychedelic effect. In twenty-five minutes (about the
duration of the average sermon) you are whirled through the energy dance,
the cosmic process, at the highest psychedelic speed. The twenty-five
minutes are sensed as lasting for a second and for a billion-year Kalpa.
After the session, the minister complained that the experience, although
shattering and revelatory, was disappointing because it was “content-free”
— so physical, so unfamiliar, so scientific, like being beamed through
microscopic panoramas, like being oscillated through cellular functions at
radar acceleration. Well, what do you expect? If God were to take you on a
visit through His “workshop,” do you think you’d walk or go by bus?
Do you really think it would be a stroll through a Madame Tussaud
waxworks? Dear friends, the divine product is evident in every
microscopic form, in every secular event. The divine product we can see.
But the divine process operates in time dimensions which are far
beyond our routine, secular, space-time limits. Wave vibrations, energy
dance, cellular transactions. Our science describes this logically. Our
brains may be capable of dealing with these processes experientially.
So here we are.
The great process has placed in our hands a key to this direct visionary
world. Is it hard for us to accept that the key might be an organic
molecule and not a new myth or a new word?
The Politics of
And where do we
go? There are in the United States today several million persons who have
experienced what I have attempted to describe — a psychedelic, religious
revelation. There are, I would estimate, several million equally
thoughtful people who have heard the joyous tidings and who are waiting
patiently but determinedly for the prohibition to end.
There is, of
course, the expected opposition. The classic conflict of the religious
drama — always changing, always the same. The doctrine (which was
originally someone’s experience) now threatened by the new
experience. This time the administrators have assigned the inquisitorial
role to psychiatrists, whose proprietary claims to a revealed
understanding of the mind and whose antagonism to consciousness expansion
are well known to you.
The clamor over
psychedelic drugs is now reaching full crescendo. You have heard rumors
and you have read the press assaults and the slick-magazine
attacks-by-innuendo. As sophisticated adults, you have perhaps begun to
wonder: where is the evidence? As educated men with an eye for history,
you are, I trust, beginning to suspect that we’ve been through this many
In the current
hassle over psychedelic plants and drugs, you are witnessing a good,
old-fashioned, traditional religious controversy. On one side the
psychedelic visionaries, somewhat uncertain about the validity of their
revelations, embarrassedly speaking in new tongues (there never is, you
know, the satisfaction of a sound, right academic language for the new
vision of the divine), harassed by the knowledge of their own human
frailty, surrounded by the inevitable legion of eccentric would-be
followers looking for a new panacea, always in grave doubt about their own
motivation — hero? martyr? crank? crackpot? — always on the verge of
losing their material achievements — job, reputation, long-suffering
wife, conventional friends, parental approval — always under the fire of
the power holders. And on the other side the establishment (the
administrators, the police, the fund-granting foundations, the job givers)
pronouncing their familiar lines in the drama: “Danger! Madness!
Unsound! Intellectual corruption of youth! Irreparable damage! Cultism!”
The issue of chemical expansion of consciousness is hard upon us. During
the last few years, every avenue of propaganda has barraged you with the
arguments. You can hardly escape it. You are going to be pressed for a
position. Internal freedom is becoming a major religious and civil rights
How can you
decide? How can you judge? Well, it’s really quite simple. Whenever you
hear anyone sounding off on internal freedom and consciousness-expanding
foods and drugs — whether pro or con — check out these questions:
1. Is your
expert talking from direct experience, or simply repeating clichés?
Theologians and intellectuals often deprecate “experience” in favor of
fact and concept. This classic debate is falsely labeled. Most often it
becomes a case of “experience” versus “inexperience.”
2. Do his words
spring from a spiritual or from a mundane point of view? Is he motivated
by a dedicated quest for answers to basic questions, or is he protecting
his own social-psychological position, his own game investment? Is he
struggling toward sainthood, or is he maintaining his status as a
hard-boiled scientist or hard-boiled cop?
3. How would
his argument sound if it were heard in a different culture (for example,
in an African jungle hut, a ghat on the Ganges, or on another
planet inhabited by a form of life superior to ours) or in a different
time (for example, in Periclean Athens, or in a Tibetan monastery, or in a
bull session led by any one of the great religious leaders — founders
— messiahs)? Or how would it sound to other species of life on our
planet today — to dolphins, to the consciousness of a redwood tree? In
other words, try to break out of your usual tribal game set and listen
with the ears of another one of God’s creatures.
4. How would
the debate sound to you if you were fatally diseased with a week to live,
and thus less committed to mundane issues? Our research group receives
many requests a week for consciousness-expanding experiences, and some of
these come from terminal patients.
5. Is the point
of view one which opens up or closes down? Are you being urged to explore,
experience, gamble out of spiritual faith, join someone who shares your
cosmic ignorance on a collaborative voyage of discovery? Or are you being
pressured to close off, protect your gains, play it safe, accept the
authoritative voice of someone who knows best?
6. When we
speak, we say little about the subject matter and disclose mainly the
state of our own mind. Does your psychedelic expert use terms which are
positive, pro-life, spiritual, inspiring, opening, based on faith in the
future, faith in your potential, or does he betray a mind obsessed by
danger, material concern, by imaginary terrors, administrative caution or
essential distrust in your potential? Dear friends, there is nothing in
life to fear; no spiritual game can be lost.
7. If he is
against what he calls “artificial methods of illumination,” ask him
what constitutes the natural. Words? Rituals? Tribal customs? Alkaloids?
8. If he is
against biochemical assistance, where does he draw the line? Does he use
nicotine? alcohol? penicillin? vitamins? conventional sacramental
advisor is against LSD, what is he for? If he forbids you the psychedelic
key to revelation, what does he offer you instead?