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"Perhaps there is no shortcut, and our attempt to find one only leads us down a blind alley or, worse, into a dark cellar"

I learned that same lesson almost a year ago after some creepy experiences with lucid dreaming. When I was 17 years old I suffered a lot of spontain sleep paralysis episodes almost every night for more than a month, and after I managed to get over that strange fear that normally acompains the episodes I was able to induce myself to have an Out-of-body-like Experience and from there move freely and consciously in my dreams, it was so damn easy to do that I just had to fell asleep any time of the day and with a very little effort it would happen. But one day I just got blocked and I couldn`t have another of these amazing OBE`s and after some frustated attempts to get again into that state of consciousness I decided to consult a book about lucid dreaming and even though I achieved some very vivid dreams that I was able to fully recall after I waked up, it was incredibly difficult to get a real sensation of control during these dreams or to even make a simple "reality check" because they were so nonsensical and ramdon compared to my previous experiences, but still they where pretty awesome.

And one day it happened the inevitable, I had a series of nightmares where I died, and during lucid dreams the pain, the cold and the fear feels horribly real. It may sound exagerated but I couldn`t sleep well for almost a week after that, I was so scared of dreaming again that I the point I decided to abandon the whole lucid dreaming thing to never try it again but even after one year I still recall my many dreams very vividly and I have had other scary experiences. The most strange of all is something I have called a "failed OBE", it starts like a normal out of body experience but the very moment I try to raise from my bed I just SPLIT, and I suddenly feel like I am in different places at the same time, for example I could be watching my own body from a corner in my room like 2 meters away from my bed but at the same time I feel like I am just a few centimeters behind my own head and when I talk I hear my voice coming from the rigth side, sounds confusing but I can`t really explain it well in words more even less in english.

I am seriously not messing up with my mind in this way again just for fun.

You're description of a "failed OBE" actually sounds very similar to what I've heard described by those who have smoked salvia, Ade, as well as sounding similar to what some people have experienced when wearing Michael Persinger's God Helmet.

Anyway, psychedelics and their effects on consciousness are definitely an interesting area of study. Assuming the brain as a filter model of consciousness is accurate, chemicals like DMT could be seen as simply changing the "frequency" of our conscious experience and showing us a reality that we are normally incapable of perceiving. As I've suggested before, even what we see as ordinary consensus reality is really just a product of the chemical cocktail that makes up our brains, molded by natural selection in such a way that makes survival in this physical plane easier. It's easy to pass off the psychedelic experience as hallucinatory and entirely subjective, but I think these types of experiences can also be seen as evidence that reality is much more deep and complex then we are normally capable of perceiving.

Regarding Sabom's idea, we should remember that hellish NDEs, while uncommon, can still happen, and that psychedelic experiences, say the type brought on by smoking DMT, can just as likely bring on feelings of joy and spiritual ecstasy as it can frightening feelings.

Ok, you did mention that NDEs can result in unpleasant experiences, but the truth is psychedelic experiences, with some exceptions, usually turn out to be extremely positive and can also help lead to spiritual growth.

"psychedelic experiences, with some exceptions, usually turn out to be extremely positive'

That's not the impression I got from Hancock's overview of the evidence, or from his descriptions of his own personal experiments. The shamanic vision quests often involved nightmarish experiences of being vivisected and tortured, and many of the DMT-induced experiences were similar to "alien abduction" scenarios, which are usually traumatic.

"chemicals like DMT could be seen as simply changing the 'frequency' of our conscious experience and showing us a reality that we are normally incapable of perceiving"

I know. I said as much in the fourth paragraph of my post. The transmission theory is a major theme of Hancock's book, and an idea considered by Rick Strassman (the DMT expert) also. But maybe some levels (or frequencies) of reality aren't safe to explore. Maybe drugs are more likely to put us in contact with lower realms, where we will have bad experiences.

Sometimes we assume that any nonphysical realm, being "spiritual," must be superior to this universe. But maybe not. Just as Ouija boards are said to open the door to low-level entities that can cause us grief, maybe experimenting with psychoactive chemicals is more likely to put us in a bad place than in a good one.

Food for thought, anyway ...

Perhaps part of the answer to this difference lies in ourselves. Assuming for argument's sake that there is an afterlife of some descriptions it seems to me that from some accounts of this world, our perception of it, once 'there', is susceptible to our own state of mind and personality.

Is it possible that landing there in a disturbed frame of mind, unprepared and unexpectedly, or under the influence of substances or other forces alters our perception of that new reality as it does our present?

I am put in mind of a journey between airports in India at night when I worked there. It was a journey I usually made when I was expected and there were people there to meet me and take me to my destination safely. On one occasion due to circumstances out of my control I had to make the transfer under my own steam, late at night and in thick fog. Because of the change in situation there was no chaperone. It was quite a frightening and uncertain experience and travelling on an unfamiliar public transport system, when tired and stressed was intimidating, and, to be frank scary. I was convinced I was going to be robbed or worse. All in my mind of course but nonetheless scary.

Perhaps our state of mind and intentions when we enter this other world, if such it is, plays an important role in our subsequent experience, at least initially, or at least in how we interpret that experience.

Just a thought.


All the mediums I've met or read who I consider credible, make it very clear that one can encounter lowlife in Spirit - they seem to emphasise the astral plane - and that one should always take precautions (white light visualisations, requiring spirits to say whether they acknowledge Christ, for instance). My own Reiki teacher, who's an empath rather than a medium, has told me about some nasty things that happened to her when she was a teenager fooling around with a Ouija board. (I wouldn't go near one of those things; whether it's mind games or really something of the lower spiritual levels getting in, I think they're dangerous.) Similarly I wouldn't try lucid dreaming. I've heard too much about it - like Ade's experience - to want to take chances like that. I'm more than happy to do my travelling to Spirit in a purely unconscious state and remember it when I wake up, if I'm lucky. I'm never there without my soulmate, who is old enough and wise enough to offer protection if I needed it - not that we're in any regions where it would be needed. The astral sounds like the dodgy neighbourhood of Spirit, to me!

I guess I have a bit to contribute to this one.

- Because of specific incidents in my family, I will never intentionally have an OBE. A family member experienced very traumatic episodes sparked by OBE experimentation at an early age, involving otherworldly creatures and 'grays'. Several times I've awoken to find a sensation that I'm hovering above my body. I don't even fool around with it, I just 'snap' right back in without wasting any time.

- They appear at the bedside, create awareness while sleep paralysis is in effect, and proceed to examine you, and mess with you.

- A separate eyewitness had the same experience in the same location (without knowledge of the history of grays appearing in the house). She described them as "almost too cliche to be real". Think of a Doctor Who rubbery alien come-to-life.

- Had eyewitnesses also, from the nearby area, who had seen them with their waking eyes.

And now for the theories concerning this, and the rest of your article.

- Theory one is that they are an embedded aspect of our minds, and every individual is programmed to experience the same hallucination. This explains the consistency across many different people and cultures. A primitive, evolutionary quark gives us an intense fear of certain things: such as the snakes from spirit-journeys, and these insect-like creatures (greys) (potentially modeled after a prehistoric threat). A psychotropic drug somehow activates this strange part of our minds.

If this is entirely physical, it lends some weight to the difference between real and imagined spiritual experiences. Or, if NDEs are a deep part of our brains being tapped into, then why are no snakes and bug-eyed aliens present in NDE accounts?

- Theory two: These are trans-dimensional visitors. Astral of nature, they live on the other-side, have capabilities of occasionally penetrating space-time in our own reality. They are drawn to humans with OBE potential, as they are the ones who are able to bridge the gap between both worlds, so they simply "tune into" individuals who are either OBE'ing, or use mind-expanding drugs.

The problem with this theory is abductions sometimes involve PHYSICAL prodding. IE: people get opened up.

Let's analyze this through my lens-filter of spiritualism for a moment.

In the astral state, there's no real body in existence. You're more of a thought-form. During NDEs, when individuals describe themselves in this plane, they sometimes say they are a spec of light, or their flesh is made of light or is formless.

Eventually, there comes arrival in a more solid plane. From this point, mediums tell us we become physical again, although we cannot be corrupted. So, we have bones, organs, and blood flow, yet it all serves other purposes, and you cannot destroy yourself. Lower planes, however, the spiritual body is perhaps more vulnerable.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because nowhere is it possible for some creature to come along and dissect you in the other-side. It's frankly physically impossible. You cannot be corrupted, and your near-Earth sleep-state isn't even tangible enough to be interacted with. It's only possible if the operations are illusions. In which case, their only purpose is to torment you (not a nice thought either).

This leads me to theory 3.

Theory 3: Greys and similar boogeymen can appear in the physical, or non-physical, at will.

Spent a little time researching the effects of abductions, with doctors discovering objects of unidentifiable (alien) metal in abductees skin. A sort of biological metal that prevents infection. Not earth-made.

Couple that with eyewitness accounts of physically seeing the greys, etc.

What you have here is a very mysterious phenomenon: is it possible for a lifeform to exist simultaneously in both dimensions, with full capabilities to experiment on individuals, physically tamper with them, and also retreat to safety into a non-physical environment?

Or, to appear in an astral plane, and then from this staging point, materialize on Earth? Given what physical mediums allegedly accomplish, is this such a stretch?

In fact, if physical mediumship is true, which I believe it is, literally anything from the 'netherworld' has the potential to materialize in the flesh.

This is why true spiritual mediumship is a full-time job for some people. They must train themselves for years, working with their guides, to perfect their communication with only those whom they want to communicate with.

It seems like you don't want to cross-channels with some of the denizens of the dark.


I've been told that how you approach situations has an affect on what you experience. I tend to be pretty trusting and maybe a little naive. So maybe that explains what I encounter. It could be why I seem to have ghosts that look after me, like my Grandma. A parapsychologist I've worked with has referred to Al and Arthur as spirit guides or controls. I don't know what they are, but they do try to help.

As a child I had terrible nightmares. I had really bad ones about aliens and would hide in my closet at night because I was so afraid. My grandmother, who was still alive back then, told me to imagine my bedroom full of light that nothing bad could touch. She used to tell me to practise "making light". I thought it was just a game to ease my fears.

It worked really well though. The bad dreams stopped because when they happened, I would chase the bad monsters and aliens away with light. To this day, when I'm frightened the light just pours out of me. Two days ago when someone dropped a toolbox behind me in the hall at school, I got scared for just a second, I started creating light without even thinking, and the florescent light above my head went out. That makes me wonder if my imaginary lights are more real than make believe.

"Spent a little time researching the effects of abductions, with doctors discovering objects of unidentifiable (alien) metal in abductees skin. A sort of biological metal that prevents infection. Not earth-made."

Is there any good evidence for this? From what little reading I've done about alien abductions, I have the impression that some of the more flamboyant researchers, like Budd Hopkins, are not very reliable. See this article:

http://alturl.com/g3he

I would hesitate to take their claims at face value.

About Michael Sabom, obviously I do not demonize him or any of his actions. I have his works in high regard. But recently, on the "going along with the blood flow" thread, I criticized one specific phrase that he uttered in a Discovery Channel documentary. I ended up sending an email to him on that, in an open letter that I make available in the link below:

http://www.criticandokardec.com.br/open_letter_to_dr_michael_sabom.htm

Best Wishes,
Julio
_____

I love that new Garden of Eden interpretation, Michael. Brilliant.


That's not the impression I got from Hancock's overview of the evidence, or from his descriptions of his own personal experiments. The shamanic vision quests often involved nightmarish experiences of being vivisected and tortured, and many of the DMT-induced experiences were similar to "alien abduction" scenarios, which are usually traumatic.

http://www.erowid.org/experiences/subs/exp_Ayahuasca.shtml

Here's a great database where you can read many user-submitted reports of their experiences with different substances. This vault in particular deals with ayahuasca experiences. As you can see from the reports, nightmarish experiences are not uncommon, but positive experiences seem to be reported just as often.

Sam said: "psychedelic experiences, with some exceptions, usually turn out to be extremely positive'

Michael said: "That's not the impression I got from Hancock's overview of the evidence, or from his descriptions of his own personal experiments."

Michael, you're right that Hancock's experiences in the book are not generally of the clear-cut ecstatic variety. (It's been a while since I read it, so I'm not really sure about the ratio of dark to light.) But a quick look back at the book reminds me that he does say this, on page 11 of the hardcover edition:

"What was miraculous nonetheless was the dramatic turnaround in my mood that I benefitted from after my ibogaine session. . . . I hadn't expected ibogaine to make a difference, but it did. From the moment I woke up with my strength recovered I knew that it had flipped some sort of switch in me because I was no longer able to see anything in the world in the same negative and nihilistic way as I had before."

Sounds positive to me! Certainly, in its effects.

You're right, Bruce. He did say that. I guess I was more focused on the scary and disturbing content of many (most?) of the experiences reported in the book.

Sam, I'll look at the database. Thanks for posting the link.

Michael - an interesting perspective on how reality is manifested comes from John Michael Greer (The Archdruid) in his book "Circles of Power". There's a preview available on books.google although the url is too long to post here.

The book is basically a manual on the Golden Dawn system of magic. I have it at home, and although I don't practice the system (or any other form of magic) I think the way the first half of the book describes how "reality" manifests itself from spiritual unity to physical reality (and the strange entities you may find at each level) is fascinating. The second half is probably for practitioners only, though.

I never took any drugs or tried to induce a paranormal experience, but I had some scary experiences that just happened. And most people who are abducted by aliens did nothing to induce the experience. So this theory seems very wrong. I would definitely not take the Christian perspective seriously -- it was all about competing religions.

I think it is really wrong and unfair to assume shamanic or primitive religions were inferior. Do you really think that American Indians were having primarily evil experiences in their vision quests? I do not.

I think that the universe is a terrifying place, from our perspective. We are insulated and protected during our time on earth. I don't know why reported NDEs have been mostly positive. Maybe the challenging ordeal comes later on? Maybe the bad NDEs are under-reported or forgotten?

Maybe it's true that drug-induced experiences are more nightmarish. I don't know anything about that. But it's also possible that using hallucinogens for spiritual purposes requires a kind of expertise that modern humans have lost. Maybe there are ways to navigate safely in the other worlds.

There is a very long-standing animosity between Judeo-Christianity and the older pagan religions. These were political rivalries and it is a mistake to believe the propaganda.

Yes it seems on the surface that we modern humans have freed ourselves from the demonic worlds. But just look at the world we created. Has the devil ever done a better job of creating chaos on earth? Sure, we swept evil out of sight. Great.

The ancients and primitives had all kinds of magic and rituals to navigate and placate these terrifying realms and entities. They sacrificed their own children. Yes the were scared, with good reason. We aren't scared, we're just numb and dumb.

Interesting comment on sweeping evil out of sight, realpc - wasn't it Jung who said something along those lines, about humans having messed themselves up with this black/white division of evil and good, and trying to repress the evil so much? Not sure if I've got that straight, but I think that's what he said.

Yes Louise, Jung said a lot of wise things regarding the shadow. We moderns have struggled so hard to make ourselves feel safe and superior. In the process we have put ourselves in the gravest danger.

That was a very well written and interesting post, Michael.

I remember being very impressed by Huxley's "The Doors of Perception" (regarding his experiments with mescaline) when in high school in the 1970's. The idea of a drug being able to let you see the unfiltered "real" world seemed very exciting for a few days. But I now interpret that excitement mainly as part of the impressionability of the teenage mind. I was personally never tempted to try a mind altering drug, but I could understand those were interested in the experience intellectually and spiritually, like Huxley.

But as you grow up, and you see the damage different illicit drugs have on people, the idea that any natural or artificial chemical that has a hallucinatory effect can really be beneficial in the long run dwindles pretty rapidly. I mean, once you know people who start dabbling in drugs, they rarely give you the impression that the experience has been a positive thing in their life. (I don't even like what marijuana does to people - I half suspect it actually changes personality in a way that is not really understood yet.)

That said, it is interesting the way the hallucinatory imagery from certain drugs is so constant from person to person. But still, my scepticism about drugs generally makes me doubt that there is anything spiritual, or of genuine expanded consciousness, going on. It just seems more likely that the "normal" human mind will usually interpret certain signal patterns induced by certain chemicals in the brain in a way, or in a quasi narrative, that most other minds will as well. This is a curious fact, and perhaps could be used as support for a Jungian collective unconscious being "real", but the level of spiritual insight that it can bring seems very doubtful.

I would also add that I say this as a believer in the paranormal; not a pure materialist.

"It just seems more likely that the "normal" human mind will usually interpret certain signal patterns induced by certain chemicals in the brain in a way, or in a quasi narrative, that most other minds will as well."

That's the materialist myth. But these experiences are not created by chemicals. Hallucinogenic drugs disable the brain's normal blocking mechanisms, making the experience of other planes possible.

I suppose I have quite a bit to contribute to this discussion, having first had spontaneous OBEs, then having developed the ability to produce them at will and also having used peyote and psilocybe mushrooms in large doses on a number of occassions over the years.

BTW, I never had an OBE as a result - meaning while under the influence of - psychedelics. I have had amazing synchronicities, precognitions, realizations, etc as well as been simply awed at the sense of experiencing 'creation' first hand, touching infinity, etc

My sense is that much of the NDE literature and some of the OBE literature suffers from deliberate selection bias. IMO, the hellish or otherwise unpleasant experiences don't get published often because they don't sell books and/or fit with the writer's/publisher's beliefs system.

Also, let's face it, a lot of life is ugly. It should be no surprise that people who open themselves to the human soul via drugs or OBEs or whatever, are going to be as sensitive to the ugliness as they are to the beautiful. Someone who is prepared - I mean real training - physically and mentally can handle this. Someone who thrusts themselves into this realm chaotically and for the wrong reasons, can get hurt. This stuff is not a joke and think all of these here's how books on the topic are a slick disgrace.......well, that's what happens in America, money always trumps common sense and decency.

Getting back to psychedelics; there is a lot of positive to be gained from them. However, I would warn anyone thinking about using them for enlightenment that there is much danger associated with this style of use.

Real enlightenment results from living a proper life.

The drugs can enhance (temporarily) what you have already built in your soul; and give you a vision of the next level up; IF YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE THE WORK. If you haven't built the foundation in pure sobriety through hard work and discipline and mindfulness and balance the drugs will, at best, produce a madness; perhaps an interesting, madness, but madness all the same. Worse, the drugs can create deceptive delusions and, worse still, a more lasting insanity.

I agree Erich. This universe is a deeply treacherous place. People in all times and places have always known that, and developed ways to deal with it. Until here and now. Now we have modern science deceiving itself, and us, into thinking humans are in control.

realpc,

One thing that I have "seen" while under the influence of pyschedelics and, to a much lesser degree during OBEs, is that are are forces, gods?, angel like beings? that exist on a "higher" plane than us and that influence our lives; both individually and collectively. These powers (for lack of a better name) are sentient and they are not entirely benevolent. I wouldn't go so far as to say they are malevolent either. It's more like we are cattle to them. Sometimes maybe more like play things.

Sometimes I see these forces as being creations of the collective human mind, as in jungian archetypes come alive, but mostly I have come to accept the opposite; that they existed before us and may have even had a hand in our creation as living souls.

The ancients seemed to have an appreciation for this. Take a look at the Greek pantheon and all of the activities on Mt Olympus. Or the Hinu dieties and their interjections in human affairs, or Native American spiritual beings......

It is only the modern western feel good instant ego gratification mentality that fantasizes about everyone having a happy helpful gaurdian angel available to them or entering forever into a loving forgiving light upon death. Not that these beings and experiences can't or don't exist. It's just that there are other alternatives that, again, in my opinion, are at least as likely to occur.

MP,

I have spent some time with a Native American medicine man - the real deal - on the reservation. We were friends and we drank beer and fished and worked horses, but also I did ask some questions of him.

In answer to some of the questions you pose in your post, you have to understand some things. A medicine man - or shaman as you call it - deals with healing sickness, both physical and spiritual, right here on this earth. In traditional societies, sickness is seen as the result of a soul (or mind) out of balance. I agree with this perspective to a large extent.

As far as I can see, there are definitely malevolent forces on earth that cause us to be out of balance; whether these be from within the individual or external to the individual. And being out of mental balance always leads to accidents or illness or family strife. In the case of a whole community, it can lead to civil strife, war, starvation........

Thus, in order to heal the shaman first has to identify and then get down with the sickness, down with the evil. That's where he/she does their work. The work often involves taking the sickness - the evil - into themselves before expelling it. They must familiarize themselves with these forces, dance with them, (know thy enemy) and overcome them and tame them. As a result, shamanic imagery often involves the animalistic, the terrifying, the horrendous...........

This is not some priest hearing a confession and telling you to burn a candle a say five hail Marys and promising a lofty and glorious kingdom to come, some day, if you just keep the faith, if you know what I mean.

That is the difference. The shaman deals with real life spritual issues in the here and now and the priests of our culture promise a dogmatic beautiful fantasy world in the next life. The associated images reflect this difference.

Another thing to know is that psychedelics can totally blast the ego to bits. This is the terror. After the ego is destroyed it must be re-assembled for return. This is where the images of being cut open, having things inserted into the body, etc come from. You come back different (e.g. with an extra bone, or a gem stone imbedded, etc). These are ways of talking about death and rebirth and wisdom gained.

Also, to change course a little, I have never seen a snake, gnome, troll, pixy, fairy or Roswell type alien in any of my drug induced experiences nor have any of the people I know (and this is a number of very experienced individuals) who have used plant psychedelics in large doses (there are more of us out there than you'd think). When descriptions of these sorts of things started to crop up in popular literature I asked these people.

I am suspicious of these stories and I think they are mostly fabricated for the purpose of furthering some theoreticians' agenda.

"It is only the modern western feel good instant ego gratification mentality that fantasizes about everyone having a happy helpful gaurdian angel available to them or entering forever into a loving forgiving light upon death. Not that these beings and experiences can't or don't exist. It's just that there are other alternatives that, again, in my opinion, are at least as likely to occur."


Erich,

Yes I agree with all that you said in all your comments. There is so much that most people in are culture are unaware of, having been taught a sanitized version of Christianity, or else having learned to worship scientific progress. And those who can't accept either alternative become New Agers who deny the reality of evil. The only large group in our culture who acknowledge evil, and are aware of our desperate need for salvation and protection, are the born again Christians.

I think the supernatural beings you mentioned are as real as we are, and are probably much more real than we are. Modern physics says there are higher order dimensions, and that idea fits perfectly with the existence of higher, or other, planes of existence.

There were shamans, or medicine men, in all known primitive cultures and their beliefs and practices were similar. They learned how to enter worlds over or under this one, and they would find the supernatural causes of illness, bad luck and strife.

Several different perspectives converge to convince me that what you are saying, and what I have been saying for years, are probably more accurate than what the materialists or the New Agers believe.

One of these perspectives is certain ideas from contemporary physics, about higher order dimensions, quantum weirdness, etc. Another is the fact that belief in gods, ghosts, good and evil spirits, angels, demons, etc., is nearly universal in all human cultures.

And another is our own direct personal experiences.

And what reasons do we have for doubting our direct experiences, and the experiences of millions of others? We have only the wishful thinking of materialism and New Age-ism. With all the differences between these two, they both have their denial in common.

Science has proven there are no ghosts. Has it really?

I do think that we can find help on the higher levels, as people have done in all times and places. I do think that our prayers are heard and, often in strange ways, answered.

But I also think we are dangerously naive and ignorant about these things. Going to church on Sunday is not enough. What is enough? Having complete faith in Jesus Christ? I don't know, and I think that our culture as a whole doesn't know.

We don't have a medicine to ask advice. Or if we do he's a New Ager who doesn't really get it.

I very rarely run into anyone like you, in life or online, who is aware of these things. Everyone, just about, thinks we have evolved and become vastly superior to the ancients and primitives. I think it's in some ways the opposite. We are vastly inferior in our understanding of reality.

I have had the experience of losing my ego. That was the experience that taught me once and for all how pathetically ignorant we really are.

One time a born-again Christian friend told me that New Agers think of god as a big happy face in the sky. And that is so true. I used to think I was a New Ager, until I realized how fluffy and insubstantial New Age thinking had become.

It's a terrible shame that fundamentalist Christianity is now associated only with anti-abortion fanaticism and homophobia. Really really too bad, because the fundamentalists know things that the culture in general has forgotten.

I had a conversation with someone who called himself a Wiccan, or neo-Pagan, or something like that. He believed there were matriarchal goddess-worshiping cultures that were peaceful and loving. He said that we could create that kind of utopia on earth, if only the greedy violent people would stop interfering.

I told him yeah sure, but those "peaceful" goddess-worshipers were cutting the hearts out of their first born children and eating them. And the only reason you think they were peaceful is because they got beat into the dust by their neighbors who knew how to make better spears.

realpc:

"Everyone, just about, thinks we have evolved and become vastly superior to the ancients and primitives. I think it's in some ways the opposite."


Here's an amusing supporting quote I came across yesterday in The Jacques Barzun Reader, quoting James Agate (drama critic):

[Agate] reads anthropology and learns that man's brain has remained unchanged in 250,000 years: "Nonsense! I do not believe that pre-historic man was the colossal idiot that his successor has demonstrably become."

“And those who can't accept either alternative become New Agers who deny the reality of evil.”

Evil is not a reality but it is a phenomenon. All evil has as its origin ignorance. The Buddha, Socrates, and Plato taught this. Of course others have taught this aspect of evil also.

For evil to be a reality there would have to be some aspect of infinite that is evil. This cannot be if we understand the necessity of perfection for infinite to be infinite.

Do we disbelieve the Buddha or Socrates or Plato or do we just call them new agers.

To understand this aspect of evil one must come to know what the Buddha realized. Most Buddhists do not know what the Buddha realized as to the origin of our suffering.

“We don't have a medicine to ask advice. Or if we do he's a New Ager who doesn't really get it.”

For his time Jesus was as new age as you could find. Come to think of it even today if we truly understood what he taught he would be considered a new ager. If he came back he would be run out of town by most of the very people that claim to be his followers.

“One time a born-again Christian friend told me that New Agers think of god as a big happy face in the sky. And that is so true.”

While doing my research into different religions I never found one so called New Ager that thought of god as a happy face in the sky. I wonder how many Jews 2000 years ago thought of Jesus as a new ager. His teachings were and are very controversial then and today.

William,

Jesus cast out demons on more than one occassion. Jesus also went out into the wilderness on a vision quest wherein he was tempted by the devil.

I am not a christian, but if I was I would not ignore some of the NT stories in favor of others.

If there are demons and a devil then there is evil that can enter into and harm human beings on earth and, perhaps, in the afterlife.

The Buddhists also speak of demons.

Staying on topic, the image of a heard of demon possessed swine jumping off a cliff or satan teasing Jesus in the wilderness should be as terrifying/awful as anything coming out of psychedelic shamanism, but, again, we don't see this aspect of the christian faith in images. I think this is what realpc is saying.

Right Erich. Jesus was no New Ager. New Age used to mean something rational, but it has devolved into fluffy utopianism. Evil is not an illusion based on ignorance. Evil is a matter of perspective. From the perspective of an ant on the sidewalk, my foot is evil. My foot doesn't notice or care about the ant.

We have become so confused by our interpretations of Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism and Christianity are confusing to begin with. And then we confuse them even more.

Most people now days seem to think Christianity is all about being a "nice" person. But no one even knows how to define "nice."

We see the "nice" enlightened person up there on his pedestal, certain of his superiority and his invulnerability. He assures us there are no ghosts, no "evil" spirits. He "knows" that evil is merely an illusion based in ignorance.

And lucky him -- he is not ignorant and therefore evil can't touch him. And he can't do evil acts. Then he goes out and steps on an ant.

Speaking of which, I just got done doing some reading on the DMT experiments and visions of gnomes, aliens, etc.

Now that I have read more qualitative data, I think my statement implying that these are mostly fraudulent claims to further theoretical positions was overblown. Instead, I think these people may be talking about the same entities I mentioned in a comment above, but the undescribable is being talked about in terms common to modern people who a using familiar terms from fairy tales and sci-fi movies.

So, I am backing off on my harsh statement. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that people do use familiar terms to talk about that for which there are no words. These things should not be taken too literally.


”Evil is not an illusion based on ignorance.”

Where did I state that evil was an illusion? Evil is a phenomenon and therefore it exists as a temporal and transient experience (appearance). Judge not by appearances are profound teachings. You are confusing “evil spirits” with what is reality. Reality cannot be defined but we can realize some of its attributes such as infinite love, compassion and divine intelligence.

Evil is not a reality for evil to be a reality then some aspect of infinite would have to be evil and this cannot be because evil has its origin in ignorance and there is no ignorance in infinite reality only perfect awareness.

“We have become so confused by our interpretations of Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism and Christianity are confusing to begin with. And then we confuse them even more.”

Who is we? Do your research but you must seek deeply and if you do you will find that the Buddha realized that the origin of suffering is ignorance. All sin and evil acts have their home in ignorance better stated in the unawareness of their reality. Now if you don’t seek deeply you will find that most monks teach that the Buddha realized that the origin of suffering is attachment, craving, and grasping, which are symptoms of ignorance.

Now some Buddhists and I must say not the Dalai Lama think that the origin of suffering is desire. This not correct it is not desire that is the origin of our suffering but misguided desire. The special on Buddhism on public television they asked the Dalai Lama the cause of suffering and he nailed it. He also stated correctly that without desire meaning a longing for knowledge we would not advance as a soul.

This was one of my interesting discoveries with Buddhism; most Buddhist including most Buddhist monks confuse symptoms with origins, as does most of the world.

“He assures us there are no ghosts, no "evil" spirits.”

If you are referring to me as nice it is not about being nice that I make these statements but they come from my research and of course a realization and a few discoveries and a lot of help from the other side. And to set the record straight I never said there were no ghosts or evil spirits you implied that because you have yet to think deeply about the perfection of infinite reality. Infinite reality is very seldom discussed in religion or even with the paranormal folks. We in the world judge by appearances, which is phenomena, this is why the world thinks evil exists as a reality.

Must go deep into the attributes of infinite to find its perfection as being mandatory for infinite to be infinite. And in the reality of infinite there is no evil. There is Isness and Isness has no evil within it. If you think that evil exists as a reality then you are still feeling separate from this Isness most call God. The ego is very deceptive and will convince moment by moment we are separate from and not expressions of this Isness.

Think of it this way at the core of our being which is Isness there is no evil. Now ask yourself why ignorance even exists? The answer to that question will reveal much to you. One thing it will reveal is that evil is not a reality but a phenomenon.

We humans do this all the time when someone states something outside of our paradigm we immediately reject it without doing our research or meditation or asking for clarification. It is the nature of the human experience and even the soul’s experience in these lower dimensions.

"If you think that evil exists as a reality then you are still feeling separate from this Isness most call God. The ego is very deceptive and will convince moment by moment we are separate from and not expressions of this Isness."

Yes all that's true. But we need an ego to live in this world, and therefore we experience ourselves as separate. We experience conflict because each of us has our needs to fill, and our needs conflict with the needs of others, and so on.

We live in this world, even though we are expressions of the infinite. Buddhism and Christianity are world-rejecting religions. You can be a monk but you can't be successful in this world if you are a real Buddhist or Christian.

The Buddha and Jesus both said this world sucks and we are getting out as soon as possible.

I've now read a fair number of the stories posted on the link Sam provided. For those who don't remember, it's a link to a site that collects personal testimony about taking ayahuasca, a psychedelic potion made from a tropical plant.

Some of the drug-takers did indeed see elves, fairies, and aliens. In the stories I read there was no mention of snakes.

A fair number of the drug-takers found the experience valuable, though it is not always clear why. I was surprised by the number of accounts that described the experience as terrifying, nightmarish, and hellish, yet ended with the person saying he intended to take ayahuasca again.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that some of these people have a substance abuse problem. One of them remarked in passing that he normally drinks five beers at a sitting so he "can feel the alcohol." Many of them smoke pot - in some cases they smoked it right after taking the ayahuasca potion.

The physical effects of ayahuasca can be awful. I've never read so many descriptions of vomiting - vomiting into buckets, into toilets, into trash cans. Explosive diarrhea is another common side effect. One person recommended wearing adult diapers while experimenting with the drug.

A college-age girl had an allergic reaction and had to be rushed to the hospital by EMTs. Her breathing stopped, but they were able to revive her. One particularly stupid and reckless person went out driving while under the influence of ayahuasca and undoubtedly endangered himself and others.

The more negative accounts often involve the drug-taker hugging the ground and moaning for hours, obsessed by feelings of doom and hopelessness, while tormented by constant vertiginous sensations and scary imagery. He loses all sense of time, feels the agony will never end, and just wants to die.

Even the so-called "good trips" often include markedly unpleasant physical and mental experiences. And it is not clear what kind of "enlightenment" proceeds from even the best experiences. Some people claim the drug cleared up a variety of emotional problems for them and made them feel more centered and more alive. But others say the drug *caused* emotional problems. One person said that after taking ayahuasca, he suffered severe depression and chronic panic attacks, a condition that was still ongoing when he wrote his account 14 months later.

Though ayahuasca may help certain people, it seems to me that the hazards outweigh the possible benefits. Personally, I would stay as far away from this drug (or any psychedelic drug) as possible. There are other ways of raising your consciousness. Meditation works, and you don't even need adult diapers!

I agree with you, realpc. and that is what I was saying about the difference between the shamanic images and the selected pleasant NDE images.

Buddhism and christianity are pie-in-the-sky, earthly life rejecting, utopian religions. Whereas shamanism is about spirituality while propagating life on earth....it's, well, earthy. It's all about jaguars and snakes and soaring eagles and dark impulses as well as tribal catharsis and success and ecstactic experience.

Whose afraid of the big bad wolf?

Maybe some people think they are above and beyond earthly life (I once did myself, fool that I am). Maybe some are above it allI don't know. I have never personally met a person who convinced that he'she really had transcended our fleshy world completely, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Most of us are not on the monk's path. For us, there is evil for the reason RealPC mentions.

MP, I agree that those accounts read like a bunch of reckless drugies.

That style of use is, indeed, hazardous. It gives responsible use a bad name.

“The Buddha and Jesus both said this world sucks and we are getting out as soon as possible.”

The Buddha lived and taught for 45 years after his realization out of compassion for others suffering. Jesus teachings were so profound they put him to death as they would today if he returned and taught the same teachings.

Ask yourself what would the teachings of Jesus be about our materialistic culture, our 720 military bases around the world, about rich men getting into heaven, etc. the religious leaders in a flash would reject him.

The world is a schoolhouse and imperfect so were would you go to school if the world was not imperfect. We learn light from darkness. The Adam and Eve story hints at that but few in the world see the reality of yea shall be as gods knowing good from evil. What tree did they eat from and why did they need to eat from that tree to be as gods?

The earth experience has profound meaning or it would not exist. Isness does not make mistakes but if we judge by appearances it sure looks like physical life is a mistake.

“Buddhism and Christianity are pie-in-the-sky, earthly life rejecting, utopian religions”

Their teachings are anything but pie in the sky earthly life rejecting religions. Both have their place in teaching us the divine implications of our lives. Their teachings have been misunderstood to a great degree.

Almost all followers of Buddhist and the teachings of Jesus have misunderstood and often misrepresented their teachings.

I forgot to reply to this:

"most people who are abducted by aliens did nothing to induce the experience. So this theory seems very wrong." - realpc

DMT is produced naturally by the body in minute quantities, so it is at least possible that so-called abduction experiences are triggered by DMT. There's no proof of this, but the similarity of some DMT-evoked imagery to the imagery of abduction scenarios suggests a possible link.

OK. I've mostly been sitting on the sidelines during this discussion of psychedelics. But I can't any longer. Why? Because we need to talk about the one person whose work with these substances simply can't be dismissed, perhaps even by you Michael. :o) And that person is Stanislav Grof.

Michael, please, please, read one of his books: perhaps the Holotropic Mind, or the Adventure of Self Discovery, or best of all—The Cosmic Game.

In his works you'll find a beautiful balance:
• between experiences that are painful, and those that are ecstatic.
• between the psychological and the spiritual

You may not agree with him, but Grof explains why psychedelics often produce painful experiences. And why those experiences can be healing.

And you'll come to a clearer understanding of how these substances can, and are being used, by knowledgeable practitioners to further spiritual and, I would say—scientific—understanding.

I've read perhaps hundreds of books on metaphysical topics. The Cosmic Game, for me, is the clearest exposition of how it all works.

The book is not about psychedelics. It IS about altered states of consciousness. Grof has a deep understanding of how altered states have been achieved and used by civilizations of all periods and in all parts of the world. It gathers the insights of those experiences and uses them to grapple most elegantly with the "problems" of pain and evil, and why they simply have to be present, in some measure, to create a universe that provides interest, meaning, and rich opportunities for ecstatic self-discovery.

Michael, if you read the Cosmic Game and still question the spiritual value of the sorts of states engendered by psychedelics, I'll eat my hat.

And it's dirty (my hat, that is.)

William, I am sure both Jesus and Buddha would not have anything good to say about 720 military bases.

But the fact remains, despite Jesus and Buddha, we have 720 military bases and the service men and women that are stationed at them (including my son and daughter) are sometimes called to go to war; hopefully - though unfortunately not always - to defend some down trodden people that are being murdered and otherwise oppressed by some maniac aggressor or to defend our own society which, though far from ideal, is a heck of a lot better than those that have threatened it (esp WW2, for example).

I think it's asking a lot of people to accept being thrown into concentration camps and machine gunned as a "lesson" in life's schoolhouse. Most people would simply see what was happening as being evil. Period. In fact, I think it would be crule and arrogant to suggest otherwise to them.

This thing, this aphorism, "It's all a lesson", "It's all a part of God's plan"......I just can't relate. It's faith based utopianism to me. Maybe sometimes stuff just happens. Maybe sometimes we are just pawns in some higher forces' game.

This is a difference between shamanism and what I argue is utopian religion. The utopian says, "accept the suffering. It's lesson from God" and the shaman says, "let's see what powers are at play here and let's see if we can re-align so that things can be better".

Furthermore, recognizing the realities of life on earth, the shaman provides spiritual preparedness for the warrior for battle and then a cleaning of his soul post battle.

Jesus and Buddha can talk all they want to about the golden rule and peace and love, desire causing suffering, etc, etc, but I think that anyone who wouldn't pick up a weapon to defend a woman or a child is a fool and a coward.

Maybe it is the dharma of some to sit on the mountain top and contemplate while the world of men does its thing. Maybe it is the dharma of others to preach lofty ideals. I am certain that it is the dharma of others to spill blood in defense of the weak, the innocent and the decent.

Bruse, yes. Grof. That is what I am talking about. I have talked to the man and I have great respect for his work.

"Ask yourself what would the teachings of Jesus be about our materialistic culture, our 720 military bases around the world, about rich men getting into heaven, etc."

Jesus didn't teach anything about how to survive and thrive in this world. He was not interested in this world. He knew there was something beyond this world that he wanted for himself and his followers. Fine, I can sympathize with that. But don't pretend his teachings can be applied to this world. They cannot. We have military bases because if we didn't someone else would. We have terrible weapons because smart people invented them.

William, you complain that everyone who disagrees with your interpretation of Buddhism and Christianity is ignorant or hasn't thought as deeply as you. But maybe you just need to believe you understand things that no one understands. Maybe we're right and you're wrong, or maybe we're all wrong, or maybe we're all right in different ways.

"There's no proof of this, but the similarity of some DMT-evoked imagery to the imagery of abduction scenarios suggests a possible link. "

Or maybe they were really abducted.

"Jesus and Buddha can talk all they want to about the golden rule and peace and love, desire causing suffering, etc, etc, but I think that anyone who wouldn't pick up a weapon to defend a woman or a child is a fool and a coward.

Maybe it is the dharma of some to sit on the mountain top and contemplate while the world of men does its thing. Maybe it is the dharma of others to preach lofty ideals. I am certain that it is the dharma of others to spill blood in defense of the weak, the innocent and the decent."

Amen to all that Erich. The older religions accepted this life as it is and tried to deal with it. If we want to have a good experience here on earth we must be able to defend ourselves.

Jesus did not defend himself. He did not teach self defense. Yet self defense, and self love, is just as important as compassion. What good is your compassion if you allow yourself to be destroyed?

Modern Christianity is not what Jesus taught. Because what Jesus taught is not practical. We can take parts of it -- the importance of faith in God, of treating others as fairly as possible, for example.

But to be a person in this world you must defend yourself. And your nation must defend itself. Our wars are terrible mainly because humans are clever and naturally apply their cleverness to creating better weapons than the other guys.

Einstein wanted the atom bomb developed to defeat Hitler. No one can blame him for that. Afterwards he became a pacifist. But what could a pacifist have done to stop Hitler? Nothing. And there always have been and always will be Hitlers.

MP and all,

I apologize for posting so many comments. I have been putting up fencing for a new pasture all day and posting comments on breaks as I have been thinking about the topic. As the fence project finished my thoughts gelled and I'd like to present my definitive thought on the questions poese by our host.

I have been following this blog for some time now. Whenever the nature of life after death is discussed it is typically described as being much like this life, albeit more expansive to dergrees. Zerdini states that his experiences with mediumship describe a spirit world where everything we know in this life is present.

The key point is that survival post mortem is discussed as pertaining to the maintenance of the individual personality and its beliefs and thoughts and habits.

I am sure that this is true in most cases. I don't doubt what Zerdini and others say about this. I have seen some of this first hand myself.

Psychedelic shamanism is not like that at all. It is an entirely different thing; almost the antithesis. I don't think there is really a comparison to be made.

Psychedelics are about the dissolution of the ego. That is what a powerful dose of psychedelics does. It destroys the individual identity and propels what awareness remains into the abyss of infinity. Quickly and without mercy. One's habits, beliefs and attitudes are challenged, forcefully at times. At other times they are examined objectively and become the subject matter for much hilarity.

For this reason psychedelics can be very very frightening to some; worse so than death, apparently. For the same reason psychedelics can be very healing. It's a double edge sword.

Zerdini type images of the afterlife (which, again, I don't doubt are real) seem very boring and very unenlightening to me. There's some guy, who in life, worked as a fisherman and liked whiskey sours and there he is in the spirit realm drinking whiskey and catching fish. The guy is still locked into the same old ho hum mind set.

Now, take an intelligent, educated, mature and prepared individual and give him a powerful psychedelic. Under the influence he is propelled beyond the bounds of his own thoughts and beliefs. There is no stopping it. He is wide awake and cannot hide (you can't "sleep off" a psychedelic). He directly experiences something beyond his every day ho hum thought forms. He experiences something even beyond his most sophisticated and biggest thoughts. Afterward, he is able to remember something of what he experienced and is, thus, open to the possibility of real internal change and, if sufficiently possessed of energy and mental stability, can begin to strive for those new vistas that he has seen. Grof, I think, would agree with this. It is why he and I like psychedelics.

In sum, the NDE experience (and probably death itself) is just the same old person shedding his/her physical body and moving into a new realm of existance. The psychedelic experience is a shedding of the personality itself.

So, is the psychedelic experience somehow "bad" or "wrong" or "evil"?

I think not, if used by the right people, under the right circumstances, for the right reasons, in the right spirit.

It's funny that the question regarding the potential evil of psychedelics was asked because there are many people (myself included) who cannot see where the god that condemned Adam and Eve and the snake brings any enlightenment whatsoever.

The Ten Commandments are no big deal. Any mid-level civil servant tasked with increasing societal cohesion and tranquility could have come up with those. Other than that the OT offers little more than a "we are the chosen people" version of Jewish history. At best, I could care less, personally. Sometimes I think the OT is evil because it's tennants are causing war to this very day.

Then a few thousand years later we get Jesus. Cool guy, but I don't see where his message is so unique or geniuse. It is basic common sense and decency practiced by good folks all over the globe in all times and expresses the very same sentiments that are often endgendered by psychedelics and/or several other religions.

So what is this "true enlightenment" that is being lost through use of psychedelics? What are we talking about? Maybe someone can, well, enlighten me.....define the terms, please.

Are we trying to say that true enlightment only brings bliss and peace? Where does come from? Why do we accept it? How do we know it is true? Why would it be true?

Even Jesus said that following his path would cause personal strife, turn brother against brother, lead to torture and physical death.

Well said, Erich.

and a final point from me, psilocybe mushrooms do not cause vomitting or diarhea. Peyote does does cause vomitting (only) in some people in the initial onset of the experience, but not in all (I never experienced even nausea myself). LSD has neither of these effects.

I suppose that if some juvenile idiots were to eat junk food, drink a bunch of beer and ingest who knows what other drugs pior to or during the ingestion of psychedelic plants, that some physical illness would occur.

And who knows if these dolts in that database were even mixing the right things in the right ways.

I don't know anything about ayahuasca other than what I've read. It seems that even in the absence of stupid behavior unpleasant physical side effects are sometimes caused by the MAO inhibiting additives; not the DMT.

There are ample readily available published positive accounts of responsible psychedelic use that we shouldn't allow the antics of some young and dangerously silly dope heads determine our opinion on the topic.

"I have been putting up fencing for a new pasture all day"

An ironic backdrop for this discussion. For me, the essence of psychedelics is that they somehow eliminate all barriers and divisions.

"psilocybe mushrooms do not cause vomitting "

After my first 7 or 8 experiences I would have agreed with you. After my next several, I had a different opinion entirely. So (for the time being, at least) I'm an abstainer. But a fond, fond, rememberer.

Thanks for the recommendation, Bruce. I've just bought a digital copy of The Holotropic Mind. I chose that one because it was the only one of Grof's books available for my Sony Reader. I've gotten addicted to ebooks and really resist buying physical books if I can avoid it!

"There are ample readily available published positive accounts of responsible psychedelic use that we shouldn't allow the antics of some young and dangerously silly dope heads determine our opinion on the topic."

Well, that was the database that was recommended to me, so it's the one I looked at.

"Other than that the OT offers little more than a 'we are the chosen people' version of Jewish history."

I think you drastically underestimate the Hebrew prophets - Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, et al. - whose message was truly revolutionary in its day. Edith Hamilton's "Spokesmen for God" makes this case very well.

"a few thousand years later we get Jesus. Cool guy, but I don't see where his message is so unique or genius. It is basic common sense and decency"

A little historical context is required here. Look at the prevailing moral standards of the Roman Empire. It was an era of casual brutality and the naked, unashamed pursuit of power. The prevailing ethic (outside Judaism) was that the strong should take everything, and the weak deserve to suffer. We might think of it as a kind of proto-Darwinian ethic - survival of the cruelest. In the Roman world of AD 30, nothing could have been more startling or revolutionary than Jesus' teachings, or less connected to prevailing ideas of "common sense."

Some of Jesus' teaching seems like common sense today (even if it is still only inconsistently practiced) simply because of the immense cultural influence of Christianity. Though there were some strains of pagan thought (notably Stoicism) that promoted a kinder and gentler ethic, it took the success of Christianity to end practices like killing unwanted infants by exposure, feeding victims to wild animals for entertainment, forcing slaves to fight to the death in the arena, etc.

FYI, here's a nice little review of Hamilton's book:

http://tinyurl.com/29hq3u9


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