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Michael, thanks for giving this important question your best effort. Here's mine.

Each of us has to decide what to trust in this life. Above all, I choose to trust love.

I'm saying something very specific here. My standard for trusting the reality of an insight or experience is this: how much love did I feel as the event transpired?

My most profound psychedelic journeys were, without a doubt, the moments when I experienced the purest, deepest, most ecstatic love.

By a margin so large it's impossible to describe, nothing in my life has ever come close.

So whatever it was that I saw, knew, or felt on those occasions -- those are the facts of existence of which I feel most confident.

I've never shared this here before, but what follows is what I wrote the day after my first ayahuasca journey, many years ago. These are the facts that became clear to me during that sacred experience, and the love I felt then makes it impossible for me to take them lightly.

I know it now:
1. There is a state of awareness that is available to me.
2. A consciousness that, when experienced, feels somehow more real than what might be called ordinary consciousness.
3. It is a way of being that ends when I try to use words to describe it.
4. It is a realm in which there is only now.
5. It is a state of consciousness in which judgement--the notion that some things, beings, or experiences are more "desirable" than others--seems entirely ludicrous.
6. It is a way of being in which all boundaries disappear: I, You, and God, cannot be separated one from the other.
7. It is an awareness in which the notion of death evaporates.
8. It is a realm in which pain is not what it usually appears to be.
9. It is a state of being in which our everyday mode of existence appears as nothing more than a temporary circumstance: a game--not an accident, but a momentary choice we make to provide one particular viewing platform in the midst of the cosmos.
10. It is a consciousness in which joy, beauty, and meaning, are experienced as very real and very deep--the essence of all things.

Unfortunately, I left out the short preface to that list, written 20 years. It provides a bit of context, so here it is:

I feel rather sad after my first Ayahuasca journey. I want something tangible to hold on to after the grandeur I experienced, and I feel frustrated, as though what happened 24 hours ago can in no way be brought into the realm of ordinary existence.

During my journey, I laughed loud and often (as I did during my first session of primal therapy) as illusion after illusion came tumbling down.

I've decided that perhaps the biggest gift of my journey is first-hand knowledge of the state of consciousness itself. Though I was reminded during this journey that words are great deceivers, I offer this attempt at description.

Interesting compare and contrast. I have been thinking about the commonality (or lack thereof) between NDE's and intense drug trips recently as well - you might throw close encounters with ultra/extra terrestrials in there as well. They all seem to tap into the Over Mind in which the Universe apparently is nestled. In other words, the Universe is a subset of something else. When we get close to dying (when the veil is lifted) or trip intensely (or are visited by ET) we see the other shore where we are headed in the Afterlife.

Maybe I should state the logic my rational mind applies to what I said about measuring my insights against the love I felt when I received them. It runs like this.

• Source consciousness is love. NDErs and other mystics are clear about this.
• The closer to Source we get, the more we feel the love that Source radiates, and the more in touch we are with Source's truth.

So the most fundamental truths and the deepest love go hand in hand.

Of course by "close," I'm not referring to spatial, but rather psychological proximity. And the most intimate experience possible is the oft-reported one of becoming Source itself, of being "one with the light."

I suspicion that negative NDEs are the result of our own inner ideas or beliefs about death. It's sort of like roller coaster rides. Some people love them and have a great time and other folks are terrified of them and when coerced into riding a roller coaster are frozen in terror during the whole thing.

It might have to do with upbringing and what has been imprinted into our mind during childhood. If you were raised up in a fundamentalist or pentacostal church where visions of hellfire and damnation were frequently referenced or used this is buried in the subconscious - so that the least little infraction might be blown out of proportion - and during your NDE you realize you are dead but still conscious - so all these former beliefs come to the surface and you are terrified of what comes next. It's the anticipation of punishment that causes the terror.

I'm fairly certain this was what happened to Howard Storm. I have read his book about his NDE and he says in there that he thought of himself as a bad person. His own inner perception of himself was not good. He essentially conjured up his own negative NDE. Storm turned his inner conflict into demons and then did battle with them. It was only when he called out to the Light that the Light appeared.

hmmmmmmm.......so much that could be said that is critical of this line of thought. But, cutting to the heart of the matter, what makes you think that NDEs are *The* legitimate real experience in altered awareness?

In fact, I would note, as I am wont to do, that there is a lot to suggest that NDEs are not representative of anything real other than evidence that the brain does not equal mind and some form of individual existence persists after physical processes have ceased.

Afterlife descriptions from ADCs are in direct conflict with the popularized version of NDEs.

"The same is emphatically not true of drug trips, which are often frightening, upsetting, even panic-inducing, and may promote feelings of paranoia and despair . . . The fact that such a large percentage of drug trips go badly . . . "

Someone once said that a psychedelic is like a sharp-edged blade. When a homicide detective sees one, he thinks: "murder weapon." But when a surgeon looks, he sees a precious tool of his trade, a means for performing wonders.

If you're interested in a balanced view of psychedelics (and frankly, having known you for 10 years now, I question whether you are), you need to stop playing the homicide detective. Instead of googling "bad trips," you need to make a conscientious study of how psychedelics are used BY PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO USE THEM.

They're easy to find.

And how many "bad trips" will you be able to track down evidence of amongst the enormous pool of such users over the millennia and around the globe?

Well, if by "bad," you mean a trip that harms someone or that seems (to the journeyer) to have no value whatsoever, the answer is simple: very few.

In that sense (not to mention many others) psychedelic journeys are indeed like NDEs.

I left out a key paragraph near the end of my last comment. In talking about the need to examine psychedelic usage by those who know what they're doing (or are guided by such people), I want to say this:

And how many "bad trips" will you be able to track down evidence of amongst the enormous pool of such users over the millennia and around the globe?

Well, if by "bad," you mean a trip that harms someone or that seems (to the journeyer) to have no value whatsoever, the answer is simple: very few.

And how many instances of lives changed for the better, often in ways that are radical and profound? Countless.

In both those regards (not to mention many others), psychedelic journeys are indeed like NDEs.

----------------

I also want to add this thought, Michael. If you're interested in learning more about the subject, don't start your study by looking at DMT. Start with a site like this:
http://www.maps.org/

I'm quite willing to accept the idea that the insectoid beings actually exist in another dimension parallel to our own, and that the drugs open up the human mind enough that we can perceive them when we normally can't.

Try this one on for size: perhaps the inhabitants of Insect Dimension experience interactions with humans the same way we experience things like ghosts or visitations or visions. A human drug user's mind will "pop in" and appear perceivable to the Insect Beings, temporarily and ephemerally and unpredictably, but it happens over and over again. Perhaps Insect Beings tell ghost stories about us. And perhaps there are Insect Skeptics who say it is all a myth because the experiences can't be duplicated on command in an insect laboratory.

Or, put another way, perhaps the Insect Beings experience humans the same way that humans experience ETs and similar phenomenon.

Reading your post, Michael, I can't help but think about the squabbles between psychedelic explorers and Buddhist or Hindu meditation practitioners about which is the real path to enlightenment. I think using the term "shortcut" is kind of derogatory, considering the long history of human experience with what are considered plant teachers by non-European cultures. I suppose the long chanting and dancing ordeals done by African tribes (without any drug use) are also "shortcuts" as well, in your opinion. The bottom line is that humans have a desire to experience something transcendent. To some, it may be a rock concert, or sleeping out under the stars in the mountains. To others it may be participating in a Native American Church Peyote ceremony, or going to a catholic mass. I think we need to be careful about judging others spiritual experiences too harshly. You don't really know, unless you've experienced something yourself.

A little humor. Take a look at a supposed Salvia Divinorum failed trip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXLRRjpRb7A . Presumably the native shamans who use this stuff for religious experiences are a little more used to it.

Bruce: "And the most intimate experience possible is the oft-reported one of becoming Source itself, of being "one with the light.""

I guess you're talking about Cosmic Consciousness there! What a wonderful feeling it must be :)

Art: I've always thought that what we think (or believe) of death is what we find when we get there. Is like your thoughts define your immediate reality and you create your own Heaven or Hell when you get there.

Sounds "new agey" but there are some NDEs that support it. I think it's true.

Hi Bruce, your account is rather beautiful.

It is my goal to experience this during my lifetime.

Sorry if some took offense at the word "shortcut." I meant that these techniques are intended to induce a mystical experience at will, rather than waiting for one to happen on its own.

FWIW, I agree that the ego-dissolution aspect of drug trips is probably of authentic spiritual value (and may well support some kind of brain-as-filter model). The problem is, it's mixed up with so much extraneous stuff (perceptual distortions, insect creatures), which seems much more likely to be the result of misfiring neurons.

Sure, it's possible there are humanoid insects in another dimension. It just seems far more plausible that they're hallucinations conjured up by a distressed nervous system.

Alcoholics suffering from the DTs are known to see small animals like bugs and rats (though not the proverbial pink elephants). I doubt anyone would argue that the bugs and rats are really there, in some dimension only accessible to people undergoing alcohol withdrawal. Are the insect people any different?

It's true that NDEs may not be genuine spiritual experiences either, but if I'm choosing between NDEs and, say, LSD trips, I'll put my money on NDEs. Why? Well, they sometimes have veridical components, they (arguably) can take place when brain activity is virtually nil, and they make a certain kind of intuitive sense (e.g., the life review suggests that what goes around comes around) in a way that the "insectoids," reptile-men, and gargoyle clowns of some psychedelic experiences don't.

It's the same reason I'm skeptical of many OBEs, such as some reported by Robert Monroe:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2007/06/dont_tread_on_m.html

If it gets too absurd - too much like the Beatles movie "Yellow Submarine" - I'm inclined to think it's the mind playing tricks. To put it another way, if NDErs typically reported encounters with humanoid insects, semi-human reptiles, and garishly hued clowns or elves, I would probably not find NDEs metaphysically significant.

For me, alien insects, etc. aren't a "live option" (in William James's phrase). I don't think reality is like that. I could be wrong, of course, but everyone has a different boggle threshold.

That's why, as Bruce suggests, I'm not really interested in exploring the topic of psychedelics in depth. To me, it would mean wading through a great deal of superfluous weirdness just to get to perhaps a few nuggets of genuine insight. It's similar to the way I feel about materialization mediumship: there are probably a few genuine cases, but there are so many bad cases that separating the wheat from the chaff is an effort I don't want to make.

People who've seen materialization mediums, and who are convinced that what they saw was real, are understandably unhappy with my attitude, and people who've had meaningful experiences with psychedelics are similarly unhappy. I get that. It's why I probably shouldn't post too often on this subject.

Maybe such drugs trips really are nothing more than messing up the circuitry in one's brain, similar to messing up the circuitry in an old fashioned TV. In the old days (I think), this resulted in a bizarre picture being displayed on the TV, and all sorts of weird effects. What was being broadcast wasn't affected (it still appeared normal on other TVs),but it appeared completed distorted on the malfunctioning TV.

"The problem is, it's mixed up with so much extraneous stuff (perceptual distortions, insect creatures), which seems much more likely to be the result of misfiring neurons."

From years of soberly assessing evidence I am comfortable stating that ALL paranormal phenomena involves some infiltration of extraneous, weird, untrue and confusing stuff. Actually, I am comfortable stating that IMO all of life normal, paranormal or 'other' involves the same.

"it would mean wading through a great deal of superfluous weirdness just to get to perhaps a few nuggets of genuine insight"

This is a very understandable misunderstanding on your part, Michael. Lots of people that take psychedelics don't do it for the right reasons and/or in the right way. As a result, we get disturbed reports. I also believe that many reports out there are false and designed to shock or frighten - or maybe just to entertain. The internet is a perfect place to gain attention for such motivated "trip sharing".

If you look at reports from more serious people dedicated to mature consciousness exploration, the "nuggets" are right there on the surface, easily mined. MAPS is one such place.

As for misfiring neurons, this is an allusion to toxicity - as in alcohol overdose - that is not present with the psychedelics. Psychedelics are not toxic and that is a biochemical fact. I must say that this injection of materialism is interesting from someone who typically rejects such explanations (e.g. oxygen deprivation = NDE).

"I doubt anyone would argue that the bugs and rats are really there, in some dimension only accessible to people undergoing alcohol withdrawal. Are the insect people any different?"

Yes. It's different. The last time I took psychedelics I experienced an encounter with some insectoid aliens. In three decades of psychedelic use, this was a first.

Having seen alcoholics and meth users go through withdrawal right up close and personal, skin scratching to get at the "spiders" and all, I can state unequivocally that contacting insectoid aliens on psychedelics is not at all the same thing.

What the psychedelic experience means, I don't know. I was surprised it happened. Did I think there were actually insects aliens in my room, head, or elsewhere? No. It was more like a big self generating fantasy with visual components (eyes closed) that seemed "real" enough, but that I never believed was real in the same sense as I knew the 15ft from my balcony to the ground was real and needed to be respected as such.

"If it gets too absurd - too much like the Beatles movie "Yellow Submarine" - I'm inclined to think it's the mind playing tricks"

I don't know anyone who has used psychedelics who would agree that the "yellow submarine" is a good analogue for the experience.

"and they make a certain kind of intuitive sense (e.g., the life review suggests that what goes around comes around)"

Psychedelics do exactly that (life review/goes around comes around/we're all one/love is the answer, etc).

Finally, I should add that preliterate societies have used these substances because they work - work meaning not just having a heady experience, but, instead, delivering practical results of every day use. A very common result of mushroom use is verifiable pre-cognition (exactly one of the attributes the "natives" say it is good for).


A sensible article, thank you.

BTW. There is nothing derogatory about your use of the term "shortcut".

Luciano at some point most negative NDEs turn positive. When Howard Storm called out to God He appeared. Storm expected God to appear, and He appeared as Light. Perhaps that is why it says "God is Light" in 1st John. Mark H in his NDERF.org NDE description said he thought of a mountain he had seen while alive and there it was the Mountain! A.J.Ayers, a famous atheist, made the statement "it was strange my thoughts became people." Bill Clinton said that he saw Chelsea and Hillary's faces during his open heart surgery.

"what makes you think that NDEs are *The* legitimate real experience in altered awareness?"

Are you asking me, no one? If so, you'll notice I mentioned NDErs "and other mystics. " But if I have to pinpoint a single category of mystical experience as being the most consistently interesting, it would be the NDE.

"there is a lot to suggest that NDEs are not representative of anything real other than evidence that the brain does not equal mind and some form of individual existence persists after physical processes have ceased."

If you consider this to be a real possibility, then we are so far apart on this matter, I wouldn't know where to begin. Especially after all the years of discussion we've had here.

"your account is rather beautiful"

Thanks, Luciano.

"I'm quite willing to accept the idea that the insectoid beings actually exist in another dimension parallel to our own, and that the drugs open up the human mind enough that we can perceive them when we normally can't."

Me too, Mr. President.

"I think using the term "shortcut" is kind of derogatory,"

Agreed, Steven.

On that subject, Michael: suppose a desperate man tries to kill himself, fails, has a profound NDE (as has happened), and manages to turn his life around.

Does the fact that he was looking for a quick solution to his problems--a shortcut, as you say--make his experience counterfeit, or cheapen it? Does it make his transformation less inspirational?

I doubt you would look at it that way.

Now consider someone who reads up on ayahuasca, understands both its challenges and potential rewards, and travels to Peru to ingest it with a guide. (If you don't already know this, the "work" involved in experiencing an ayahuasca journey can be heroic.)

Then he too has a life-changing encounter with the spiritual. All things being equal, is his experience less worthy of respect than the NDEr-by-suicide?

And here's a final way to think about this. If there were a genuine, age-old, proven, safe, short cut to experiencing enduring spiritual bliss here on earth--wouldn't you take it? (I'm not saying there is.)

And what would be wrong with that, other than it conflicting with your work ethic?

"That's why, as Bruce suggests, I'm not really interested in exploring the topic of psychedelics in depth."

Thanks for acknowledging this.

"To me, it would mean wading through a great deal of superfluous weirdness just to get to perhaps a few nuggets of genuine insight."

Not true at all, if you know where to look. The site I suggested earlier is weirdness-free. Even you might feel comfortable on it. :)
http://www.maps.org/

As a recovering addict (almost 7 years now), I have the same issues with psychedelics. It seems too much like more of a justification for the "escape" that any mind altering substance provides my crowd of folks. For me, it makes the "true" experiences seem even less credible, like the mind truly is reliant on the brain. Although I'd to think the many "drunken stupors" I put myself in were "eye opening mystical experiences", and probably thought they were at the time, I can't imagine going back to that state of mind. It was a great powerful feeling, but only because I altered my brain chemistry.

Another thought - re; insectoid visions - is that insects are among the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, including more than a million described species and representing more than half of all known living organisms. The number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million, and potentially represent over 90% of the differing animal life forms on Earth. Most animal life on the planet is insect. Any experience that involves merging with other consciousnesses would sooner or later have to involve insects; which would appear quite alien to our human minds.

"As for misfiring neurons, this is an allusion to toxicity - as in alcohol overdose - that is not present with the psychedelics. Psychedelics are not toxic and that is a biochemical fact. I must say that this injection of materialism is interesting from someone who typically rejects such explanations (e.g. oxygen deprivation = NDE)."

Well, "misfiring neurons" was probably the wrong word choice. I just meant it seems more likely that these perceptions are grounded in brain chemistry. As for NDEs, what's interesting about them is that it appears brain chemistry can't explain them, since in some cases brain activity is minimal or effectively nonexistent. If there were a lot of brain activity during NDEs, as there is during psychedelic trips, then naturally brain activity would be the most obvious explanation for the subjective experiences that are reported.

"Now consider someone who reads up on ayahuasca, understands both its challenges and potential rewards, and travels to Peru to ingest it with a guide."

Yes, I see your point. But I still think it can be seen as shortcut in the (non-pejorative) sense that it allegedly makes possible a sudden exposure to spiritual insights that otherwise might never eventuate. The whole point of the trek to Peru, as I understand it, is that ayahuasca ostensibly makes it possible to take a rapid leap forward on the path of spiritual development.

However, if people object to "shortcut," I'm sure an alternative term can be found.

"If there were a genuine, age-old, proven, safe, short cut to experiencing enduring spiritual bliss here on earth--wouldn't you take it?"

Yes, but I'm not at all persuaded that psychedelics are proven, safe, or likely to lead to enduring spiritual bliss. But I think there may be a small misunderstanding here. I don't object to taking shortcuts per se (in fact, being a very lazy person, I take them all the time). I called psychedelics a shortcut only to help explain why they would appeal to people who are seeking enlightenment and unwilling to wait for it happen on its own. Nothing wrong with that, just as there's nothing wrong with visiting a medium rather than hoping an afterlife message comes to you directly. The problem, though, is that just as there are a lot of bad mediums, there also seems to be a lot of bad info coming through these psychedelic experiences. In the case of mediumship, it's possible to be somewhat objective by testing mediums according to the accuracy of their readings (under controlled conditions). In the case of psychedelics, I don't know how one would separate the signal from the noise.

Maybe the MAPS site will tell me. I'll check it out.

\\"what makes you think that NDEs are *The* legitimate real experience in altered awareness?" - no one//
------------------------

Because people who have NDEs come back from their experience and describe where they were in terminology that sounds exactly like what one might expect if one were living on the original holographic film from which our Universe is projected from.

They describe the place they visited as a place of oneness and connectedness, literally feeling like they are everywhere in the Universe at once, having 360 degree vision, having all knowledge, overwhelming love, communicating telepathically, buildings made out of knowledge, being realer than real, or more real than normal, (in a holographic projection there is a certain inherent degree of blurriness - which doesn't exist in the original holographic film hence the "realer than real" aspect of heaven). The Life Review is a holographic experience par excellence, actually feeling like you become the people you interacted with in life.

Seeing your whole life played back in 3 dimensional holography, and being able to feel the emotions and feelings and thoughts of everyone you interacted with life. It is all downloaded as a "bolus of information" instantaneously - which has to do with that connected and oneness thing.

I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, it can be no accident that many physicists believe our universe to have the characteristics of a holographic projection and near death experiencers describing their experience in terminology that fits exactly with that theory.

The soul simply transitions back into the original holographic film after completing or finishing what it came here to accomplish. It merges from the projection back to the original holographic film.

Bruce \\"what makes you think that NDEs are *The* legitimate real experience in altered awareness?"

Are you asking me, no one? If so, you'll notice I mentioned NDErs "and other mystics. " But if I have to pinpoint a single category of mystical experience as being the most consistently interesting, it would be the NDE.//

I was asking Michael, but I think your answer probably parallels what Michael would say. I too think NDEs are interesting, but I also think that only a subset are looked at in America. The few NDEs I've read from other cultures, such as Hindus, can be quite different than the western ones and they involve elements that could be considered "weird" by western NDE standards. I don't think this takes away from NDEs as a meaningful phenomena, but it does suggest that any afterlife facts they point towards are far more malleable than some want it to be.

As far as "dead" goes, I like ADCs and cases suggestive of reincarnation better. It doesn't matter to me because I am not looking for a religion or belief system. The fact that we continue is on is sufficient as far as I'm concerned. I have my own beliefs/values based on my own experiences and I'm only mildly interested in adjusting based on something that's published in a book or the internet; even if a lot of people agree with whatever it is. IMO, that's the best one can do at a certain stage in life.

\\If you consider this to be a real possibility, then we are so far apart on this matter, I wouldn't know where to begin. Especially after all the years of discussion we've had here.//

See my response above.

\\"your account is rather beautiful"

Thanks, Luciano.//

And thank you, Bruce. You are an eloquent spokesman for the psychedelic experience and I agree 100% with all you say on its behalf. I try to be the reasonable devil's advocate for the other side sometimes, but my heart's not in it. If you're not experienced you simply can't understand because there's no other equivalent to psychedelics; the miserable fails of idiots notwithstanding.

As an aside it bothers me deeply when mores, laws, rules and general understanding of things are based the behavior and stupidity of the lowest common denominator. It seems this is where society is heading - we have to be infantilized and bubble wrapped because some subset of morons can't handle individual responsibility.

Certainly if some mindless jackass ingests a large dose of a psychedelic, like it's a party drug, and goes out to a club to "party", there is a likelihood that things are going to get weird, as opposed to beautiful, and s/he is going to bug out. There is conflict between an off kilter ego and the deeper soul that is trying to come out and say "hello" when a psychedelic is ingested. If the conflict is not resolved amicably,then a "bad trip" results.


There are so many examples of idiots doing dangerous things, resulting in disaster, where most people do it right, that almost any human activity could be pilloried if we were to focus on the jackasses' examples. The whole line of argumentation leaves me completely unimpressed.

Some fools can't seem to light a BBQ grill without inflicting grievous bodily harm and all sorts of mandated changes to lighter fluid and lighter fluid containers have been implemented to protect them from immolating themselves; yet they still manage to do it. I imagine some of the negative trip stories come from these same people.

It would be easy to assemble a menagerie of BBQ horror stories - 18,000 people sent to the ER for BBQ F-ups....... http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38047717/ns/health-health_care/t/great-balls-fire-grill-injuries-can-ruin-your-cookout/#.U8C-VPfD9y0

Clearly the restaurant steak experience is the valid one because the home version.....well it's fraught with risk! And it imitates the way grunting savage - and probably stupid -preliterates cooked meat! I resort to hyperbole, of course, but, I hope, a valid point is in there.

\\My most profound psychedelic journeys were, without a doubt, the moments when I experienced the purest, deepest, most ecstatic love.

By a margin so large it's impossible to describe, nothing in my life has ever come close.//

Yep.

\\I know it now......[the whole list points 1 - 10]//

Absolutely.

Psychedelics bring about cohesion, unity, peace and harmony - of the mind and of the community. Again, I sometimes emphasize the tough parts - like when the mushroom, necessarily, breaks down the overly stolid ego - but it needs to be said that, afterwards, it gives the power of love in place of the love of power. Once the ego has been laid down, there is no desire to do harm to anything or anyone. One becomes hyper sensitive to the feelings of all things. One becomes acutely aware of how one has failed to love others and is filled with the desire to do better in that regard. I don't think it's going to far to say that psychedelics engender the spirit of the "being of light" itself. How is that NOT like the core message of the NDE?

"But I still think it can be seen as shortcut in the (non-pejorative) sense that it allegedly makes possible a sudden exposure to spiritual insights that otherwise might never eventuate."

Yes. This is where I agree with you Michael and my enthusiasm is tempered a bit more than some others. One *must* be prepared. One must have done the background work. One must be interested in truth and one must have a balance psyche and one must know why s/he is doing this. Otherwise it's a roll of the dice; which is not a good thing.

\\I called psychedelics a shortcut only to help explain why they would appeal to people who are seeking enlightenment and unwilling to wait for it happen on its own.//

The lord helps those who helps themselves?

"The problem, though, is that just as there are a lot of bad mediums, there also seems to be a lot of bad info coming through these psychedelic experiences."

I understand that there's a lot of info that seems bad to you.

But this seems certain to me: something extremely valuable must be coming through for trusted spiritual guides around the world to have been using psychedelics for healing purposes for thousands of years, right up through the present.

And for other people to make comments like these:

[LSD] is “one of the two or three most important things I’ve done in my life” – Steve Jobs

he had actually given me 300 micrograms of LSD . . . afterward I realized that this was the most important and most transformative experience of my life -- Kenneth Ring

With one of my experiences with LSD I also had a mystical experience by which I mean a sense of unity with all beings, all things. After the second of my LSD experiences I passed three days in perfect serenity. . . Mescaline could not improve my vision, but it vastly bettered my appreciation of what I saw. The beauty of the colors that I inwardly saw under the influence of mescaline made me ever afterward far more sensitive to color both in nature and in art than I had been before . . . I believe that many persons could benefit as much as I did through taking psychedelic drugs -- Ian Stevenson

"Back in the 1960s and early '70s I took plenty of LSD . . . It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took." -- Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize Winner in chemistry

I myself made some observations on . . . nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. -- William James

Great post to get this particular discussion going! I am 80% with Bruce and no one, 20% with Michael on this. I think there is an explanation, however, that sorts it all out rather simply.

I've never done psychedelics, but I've had experiences similar to those of Bruce and no one from dreaming, OBEs, and meditation.

I think psychedelics, dreaming, OBEs, and meditation can send someone to a variety of places:

• An indeterminate state. A lot of bad trips on Erowid I've read about involve people feeling that they are in an infinite loop and/or they've gone insane forever. They are not necessarily experiencing bad things or presences. This may indeed be a case of messing with the neurons so that a person feels trapped, alone, etc.

• Your own headspace. You could just experience a different form of consciousness and not necessarily "travel" anywhere. Some drugs like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, etc., do not seem to really cause "trips" but instead just make one feel a certain way based on human physiology (that doesn't mean they don't affect vibrational state, however; it's seems generally agreed upon that alcohol lowers one's vibration).

• The void. The zeroth dimension. A lot of meditation, especially Buddhist, seems focused on this.

• The etheric, or low-vibration 3D. This could be a source of nasty trips as you hang out with lower forms of consciousness and just plain nasty vibes.

• 3D. Our universe. Traveling about.

• 3D. Another universe. Other "real" worlds.

• 4D. The Astral. My guess is that the vast majority of trips, dreams, and OBEs go here. It's a world of thoughtforms, but it's unstable. Anything you can imagine can appear. Content can be negative, but this comes from those in the dimension and not the dimension itself. Thus, bad dreams (and probably most bad trips) are projections of one's own internal negativity.

• 5D. The basic level of the human afterlife. This is a dimension that is almost entirely positive (there can still be attachment perhaps that causes someone to reincarnate, etc.). This is where NDErs go. It is also a stable dimension, unlike the Astral, so experiences end up feeling "real" (hyperreal, in fact) and not dreamlike.

• Even higher dimensions. Bruce's and no one's key experiences, for example.

Getting to 5D or higher via psychedelics is not a given, so I agree with Michael in that they are certainly not for everyone. The shamans had rituals and other preparations for using these substances. They didn't just trip out for fun (based on my readings).

After much sturm und drang, I woke up this morning and the answer to the NDE versus psychedelic false dichotomy was right there; just popped into my head with clarity.

When you have an NDE you are dead. Your ego is instantly and just about totally annihilated and you are instantly and totally exposed to the resulting reality.

When you take a psychedelic, the effect on your ego is less quick and can be less total depending on a lot of factors; dose, mind-set and setting being among them. So there is a period between the first effects of the drug and the full effects of the drug when the ego is still partially intact. Over the course of an hour or so the ego finds itself losing its habitual control and, not only does it become frightened (freakout), it can fight back by causing all sorts of distorted interpretations (that later get reported on websites). If the dosage isn't sufficient, the trip may not move beyond the ego employing tactics to remain in the forefront.

However, if the dosage is sufficient and the set and setting are conducive, then the ego lets go and the type of experience that Bruce describes emerges - and what Bruce describes (which I 100% agree with) is why we do this and it contains the same insights as the NDE.

It's all about degree of ego control and degree ego loss.

Michael said, “To me, it would mean wading through a great deal of superfluous weirdness just to get to perhaps a few nuggets of genuine insight.”

Possibly, but according to Graham Hancock, the insights are well worth it in the case of Ayahuasca taken respectfully. Remember his banned TED talk – here’s a short version of his views:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyknp9-6p8c

Regarding insectoids/reptilians, earth insects are just as real as earth humans, so why should spirit insects not be as real as spirit humans? I would expect the vast majority of non-physical worlds to be inhabited by non-humanoids. Especially in the lower worlds, where the more malicious or jerk spirits live.

Maybe this is a way of punishing people who reach too far for things they are not ready to possess. The universe is set up in such a way where one cannot gain without giving something up. One cannot gain the Truth without giving up the illusion of the separate self, and when people want both that's like trying to put two north pole magnets together – it just doesn't work. There's a reason people train for decades in preparation for genuine mystical insight, and why only a few thousand people at any one time really put the effort into it at all. It would take the average person possibly billions of years in lower spiritual worlds (which may be very nice heavenly worlds by earth standards, but they're still illusions, just nice illusions) before being able to ascend to the higher formless worlds. When people try to get the Truth all at once without doing the work of preparing their minds to accept it maybe a mechanism is in place to bring forth these more horrific entities. They still get shown the Truth, or as much as they can take in, but they also get kicked in the teeth for trying to fly too close to the sun.

The Truth is itself very traumatic to anyone who is not prepared to receive it. In many of the stories of bad trips the people are all heavily invested in the ego, they all want to pursue a life of sensory gratification, of worldliness, and at the same time they go and reach for the Truth, but the Truth is not material, it is not worldly. People are traumatized to suddenly experience that this life isn't real, that the separate self is a fiction the mind creates, that all this egoic worldly stuff is a lie. It's completely natural to feel broken down, like your life is worthless, when you see you've been going in the wrong direction all along, running in circles, chasing after illusions. It takes a lot of training to basically get over yourself enough to make the mind ready to accept the Truth, and to have the ego boundary shattered all at once, while being heavily invested in the lie, is going to be painful.

This has absolutely nothing to do with what we are talking about but it is a hoot! I thought I'd share. It describes me perfectly. Maybe some of you can relate?

13 Things Homebodies Say And What They Actually Mean

http://thoughtcatalog.com/christopher-hudspeth/2014/07/13-things-homebodies-say-and-what-they-actually-mean/

Assuming the brain mediates the mind and consciousness for a moment (a la the transmission model); in effect isn't taking psychedelics a bit like fiddling with the tuner on the TV? You may get a coherent picture from a different channel, or simply garbage or a combination. You may bust the TV set. The person taking the psychedelic may *know* it's a valid experience but proving it is to someone else is a different thing it seems to me - unless of course there is some veridical element to it.

Subjective experiences and one's evaluation of them appear to me a very uncertain basis for making any claims about the validity of an experience when under the influence of mind/perception altering substances.

I don't have a personal view on psychedelics although I wouldn't consider taking them myself unless I had a problem that I knew they could address. Ie medicinally. If an adult decides to try them and understands the pros and cons then that's a personal decision as far as I am concerned. The key is to understand the risk involved.

"I don't think it's going too far to say that psychedelics engender the spirit of the 'being of light' itself. How is that NOT like the core message of the NDE?"

Exactly. Though I might have changed that to "psychedelics have the potential to engender" because so much depends on how one goes about using them.

"The lord helps those who helps themselves"

The perfect response to Michael's gripe about people "who are unwilling to wait for [enlightenment] to happen on its own."

We ingest food every day of our lives because we know, from long experience, that eating the right foods, at the the right time, in the right way, produces consistently healthful results for body and mind.

When I was a kid, my mother told me to eat lots of fish because it's brain food, and carrots because they're good for the eyes.

Is that so very different from eating magic mushrooms, that can be good for the soul?

By the way, I felt a little vulnerable sharing my experience as I did. It's precious to me, and I appreciate the support I feel from a number of commenters here, including no one, Matt, and others.

A few words added to my last comment would have been nice:

We ingest food every day of our lives because we know, from long experience, that eating the right foods, at the the right time, in the right way, produces consistently healthful results for body and mind. Not a single person questions that we ourselves have to take the initiative to make that nourishment happen.

(And though we are cautioned about the extreme dangers of eating the wrong substances, or even the right ones in the wrong quantities, no one considers the possibility of giving up food altogether.)

Matt, \\I think psychedelics, dreaming, OBEs, and meditation can send someone to a variety of places//

I generally agree with what you propose. Also, see what I said this morning about the degree and immediacy of ego loss. The NDE is a giant knock out punch to the ego, whereas the slower onset of the psychedelic gives the ego time to resist and fight back, causing panic attacks and distorted dial-in-between-stations perceptions.

I am really struggling to understand why the NDE is to be considered the gold standard paranormal experience against which all others must be judged. Art says it is because the NDE shows a holographic universe, but that just means it confirms his preconceived notions about things (though I have read some holographic psychedelic accounts too). Bruce seems to think the NDE (as reported in the US) is the gold standard because it confirms his biases that the universe is all about love, but then he likes psychedelics because they take him to the same place - something I don't disagree with, though I would insert the caveat that loveless voids and lower astral realms are also real and potential way stations on the trip across the universe. I'm not entirely sure why Michael asserts the NDE as the gold standard paranormal experience other than he seems to think it is cool and lends itself to scientific study with results that confirm a benign universe and life after death; all of which concur with his biases (I think).

Why would accessing other dimensions - like the ones Matt outlines - not be "real" or as desirable to the seeker as accessing what American NDErs access?

Here are some foreign NDEs and they don't seem to contain the elements that Michael, Bruce and Art deem to be the ultimate:

http://www.near-death.com/hindu.html

http://www.shaktitechnology.com/thaindes.htm

So are NDEs potentially as variable as psychedelic experiences? There seems to be reason to think that they might be. So, gold standard or not?

"I felt a little vulnerable sharing my experience as I did. It's precious to me, and I appreciate the support I feel from a number of commenters."

I also appreciate your sharing your experience, Bruce. And I think your comment about the preciousness of the experience goes to the heart of the controversy here. People who've taken psychedelics and had a life-changing experience regard it as perhaps the peak experience of their lives. To hear it suggested that the experience may have been "counterfeit" spirituality is, no doubt, extremely galling. I fully understand this.

On the other hand, looking at it as objectively as possible, I'd note that the importance people ascribe to an experience does not necessarily correlate with its validity. Some people say their whole outlook on life was changed by an episode of alien abduction, or by hypnotic regression that uncovered hidden memories of satanic abuse, or by attending a materialization seance, etc. Nevertheless, an outsider, who did not share these experiences, is justified in maintaining a certain skepticism, which would be as frustrating to those individuals as my skepticism about psychedelics is to Bruce, No One, and others.

Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about it, short of experimenting with psychedelics myself - which, for reasons I've indicated, I'm not going to do.

"I'm not entirely sure why Michael asserts the NDE as the gold standard paranormal experience other than he seems to think it is cool and lends itself to scientific study with results that confirm a benign universe and life after death; all of which concur with his biases (I think)."

I'd say NDEs are more likely to be genuine spiritual experiences because 1) they sometimes include veridical elements that are very hard to explain non-paranormally; 2) they seem to occur when the brain is largely or almost entirely shut down, which would seem to rule out brain chemistry as an explanation (though this, of course, remains controversial, as witness the post about an electrical surge in the brain that I published right after this one); and 3) they exhibit a general consistency of features and patterns (despite some cultural and personal variations) and seem to make intuitive sense, at least to me.

If the veridical observations could be explained normally, and the brain were determined to be active even during apparent "clinical death," then, for me, NDEs would lose their appeal as evidence for a spiritual realm or for paranormal abilities.

In the case of psychedelic experiments, I don't know of any documented veridical observations that would defy normal explanation, and certainly the brain is not inactive; if anything, it is probably hyperactive, at least in some regions.

So I don't see any overlap, in evidential terms, between the two sets of phenomena. The evidential aspects of NDEs are entirely absent from psychedelic trips, as far as I can see.

As much as I like to speculate about an information-based universe or reincarnation, in the end, for me, it comes down to testable evidence. Otherwise we're in the position of believing pretty much everything, and we could end up like, um, this guy:

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/10/17/david-ickes-theory-of-the-reptilian-human-hybrid-apocalypse/

To which I can only say: Ick!

;-)

I'm not announcing that I'm writing a book. I know better than that after suffering the embarrassment of beginning a book about precognitive dreams, letting everyone know about it, and then discovering I don't have the time or energy to write it while still earning my living.

But I can dream, can't I? If I could work on a book today, here's how it might begin:

PSYCHEDELICS IN MY LIFE

In this book I will tell the story of how psychedelics have made possible what I consider to be the most meaningful, loving--and yes, sacred--experiences of my life.

(Note that I am including marijuana under the broad heading of psychedelics.)

I will also make clear why I have not taken psychedelics for many years, nor do I recommend their use to others (even apart from any potential legal considerations).

It's equally true that I don't tell others *not* to use them.

It boils down to this. As I see it, psychedelics usage has substantial potential benefits as well as dangers. I can't be in your skin, so how can I possibly know what's right for you?

All I can do is tell my story as honestly and plainly as I can, and let you decide for yourself.

--------------

Maybe, in the not-too-distant future, I can continue this. :)

As always, I left out something REALLY important from my previous comment.

After this paragraph:

. . . I will tell the story of how psychedelics have made possible what I consider to be the most meaningful, loving--and yes, sacred--experiences of my life.

Should be this one:

And also, how, on certain occasions, psychedelics usage led directly to what may be the bravest, smartest, most life-changing decisions I have ever made.

\\"Art says it is because the NDE shows a holographic universe, but that just means it confirms his preconceived notions about things (though I have read some holographic psychedelic accounts too)." - No one//
-----------------------------------------

If you are on a jury in a trial in a courtroom and you have a thousand witnesses who don't know each other and all give the exact same consistent testimony wouldn't you tend to believe that the story they are telling you is most likely the truth?

Well that is what NDEs, mystical experiences, and many physicists who have evidence for the holographic nature of our Universe are. They are witnesses for the holographic nature of our Universe.

It is the same story being told over and over and over again by people from many different walks of life. Talking about oneness and connectedness, feeling like you are literally everywhere at the same time, buildings made out of knowledge, realer than real, etc. are telling us.

OK. I should have been more specific:

And also, how, on two occasions, while under the influence of a psychedelic, I made what are surely two of the bravest, sanest, most life-changing decisions I have ever made.

Using drugs for spiritual experiences might be a lot like drinking alcohol: if you know what you're doing, it can be a pleasant experience, but if you're not careful, it can turn into a nightmare.

DMT, psychedelics, etc. may act almost like a slingshot into the spiritual dimensions, which, for the sake of this idea, are represented like this:

Higher realms (Heaven, God, etc.)

Astral plane (dreams, thought forms, really bizarre stuff)

Earth (You are here)

If you take mushrooms, DMT, psychedelics, etc. you're put in a slingshot and fired straight upwards with no idea where you're going to land. You may fall into the higher realms and experience God, love, etc., but you can also land in the astral ream, which, from what I understand, is a mish-mash of individual spirits and thought forms all packed together, some of it beautiful, and some of it terrifying.

Personally, I think it's unwise to use drugs for any reason other than medically, and that to try and gain enlightenment from using carries a big risk. Whether it's worth it or not is up to the individual using it.

"In the case of psychedelic experiments, I don't know of any documented veridical observations that would defy normal explanation, and certainly the brain is not inactive; if anything, it is probably hyperactive, at least in some regions."

Actually, it's more complicated than that. The brain seems to be LESS active during psychedelic experiences (as I understand it). That would tie in with the notion that when the brain's ability to serve as a filter is compromised, mind-at-large seeps in.

Bernardo Kastrup talks at length about certain recent experiments that show this reduced brain activity, and their implications. Some googling might lead you to his posts.

Michael,\\The evidential aspects of NDEs are entirely absent from psychedelic trips, as far as I can see. //

I understand your emphasis on NDEs for reason of scientific evidence.

Psychedelics very often produce reliable psi of various types, and there is much anecdotal testimony to this. I am personally convinced of it, but I'm just some joker on the internet. I think most people who have used psychedelics for growth and exploration could share pretty convincing incidents of psychedelic induced synchronicities and psi (especially precognition with psilocybe mushrooms). Paul Stamets, PhD (considered one of the leading authorities on the genus psilocybe) relates a very typical mushroom induced precognitive event on pages 6 and 7 in the introduction in this book: http://worldtracker.org/media/library/Truth/Psilocybin%20Mushrooms%20of%20the%20World%20%20-%20Paul%20Stamets.pdf

As far as lab experiments in this area go, Dean Radin says this:

"Other than a telepathy experiment with psilocybin, conducted in The Netherlands, I'm not aware of any legally sanctioned, controlled psi experiments conducted in recent times. There are certainly lots of stories and persistent lore suggesting that something interesting does happen that enhances psi perception, but combining psi with psychedelics is an explosive combination, and most people (especially scientists) tend to shy away from those kinds of fireworks."

Here's a link to the Netherlands study:


http://www.uniamsterdam.nl/D.J.Bierman/PUBS/2000/psychotropic_GF.pdf

Finally the CIA MKultra project, aspects of which eventually morphed into Stargate (remote viewing and other psychic espionage), contained a strong focus on LSD and psilocybin as facilitators of psi ability. That the project (under various names) continued (and may or may not continue to date) for 4 decades says a least a little about the CIA's assessment of the drugs' ability to produce veridical psi. Warning: a tough subject to research due to vast volumes of conspiracy theorist lit out there (some of it true!) and the CIA denials/minimizations also likely to pop up (some it true as well) .

"By the way, I felt a little vulnerable sharing my experience as I did. It's precious to me, and I appreciate the support I feel from a number of commenters here, including no one, Matt, and others."

I know what you mean, Bruce. I've done the same thing here too many times. I think that speaks to the quality of the company.

I will always support you - even when I disagree with you (um...Nanci D.? ;-) - because, I have always sensed that you are a really decent cool guy. I am glad we don't disagree in any significant way on psychedelics. Why would we - we've both been there. It's nice to be implicitly understood sometimes.

Nice comments from everyone!

Another issue, that of "genuineness." That opens up a whole can of worms.

Every experience we have is genuine, to be sure. I think the real question is how that experience relates to Reality. For example, presumably the DMT insects are not something we will have to deal with in the "long run," whereas perhaps we can expect eventually to inhabit the world described by NDErs. Perhaps, the argument would go, the insects are not "real," are a mere product of the brain, whereas the NDE world is "real."

This is a fair point. Pretty much everything in the Astral is a thoughtform of a visitor or inhabitant (it's not clear that anyone can live there "forever"). If commit a crime in a dream (i.e., in the Astral), that isn't "real" and I don't have to worry about repercussions. Nevertheless, that dream was a real experience.

I would be wary of saying that NDEs are the only experience on our list here that have produced veridical evidence. Certainly OBEs have done so, as have precognitive dreams (they have for me, though I couldn't convince a skeptic). I can only assume the psychedelic trips have done so as well on occasion.

Here's another psi + psychedelics, this time from an old friend of ours - http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/2014/04/psi-and-psychedelics.html

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