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Ward himself used this account as evidence that LSD experiences do not create the same transcendent feelings of union with God that mystical experiences can produce.

Charles Tart, who maintains the http://www.issc-taste.org/index.shtml>TASTE website of scientist's mystical experiences, published a paper in The Journal of Conciousness Studies in 1998 along with Allan Smith, http://www.paradigm-sys.com/ctt_articles2.cfm?id=19>Cosmic Consciousness Experience and Psychedelic Experiences: A First Person Comparison.

Smith, who holds a medical degree, had experienced the spontaneous onset of Cosmic Consciousness in 1976. He subsequently experimented with LSD in the hopes of replicating the former experience. His experiences and conclusions are fully explored in the linked paper. His conclusion was, in essence:

There are numerous apparent similarities between LSD and CC. However, based on my personal experience, I believe that they are two very different 'states' of consciousness.

In any case, Michael's excerpt contains many of the aspects that are common to those who have experienced the underlying consciousness. The mention of "the indescribable sensation in the spine" is suggestive of the "Kundalini awakening" event, for one.

It's also interesting to compare the following statements. First, Ward's report:

I stood, filled to the brim with this wonderful realisation, that whatever we may have to endure of pain, sickness, grief and man's inhumanity to man, there is still something perfect within all created things, that ultimately they live by it, and that nothing else matters . . .

Now Richard Bucke's, in his introduction to Cosmic Consciousness:

Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of every one is in the long run absolutely certain.

Bucke may have moved a touch higher on the 'consciousness continuum', but the consistency of these events throughout history go well beyond mere coincidence.

In Brazil, some natives use a substance (I believe it's named "ayahuasca") to experience mystical feelings and, specially, to had out of the body experiences. It's a induced form of OBEs experiences.

It's a plant, but natives prepare it in one specific way to produce the above effects.

It seems that some substances have the property to eject the "etheric body" out of the physical body during these experiences. (A materialist explanaition would be that all these are delusions caused by chemical-induced hallucination)

I think the same principle can apply to LSD. However, I think that in the case of ayahuasca, it offers the possibility of a empirical verification during the OBEs (but in the case of mystical experiences, only a subjetive validation with the "eye of contemplation" seems possible)

I don't know if "Vitor" has more information about ayahuasca.

No, I don't. :-)

Are you Vitor Moura? I thought in him when I wrote "Vitor".

Any other person from Brazil could be of help.

:-)

Erowid has a pretty extensive http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/ayahuasca/ayahuasca.shtml>Ayahuasca page, if you're interested in resources, ZC. Some DMT experiences are pretty profound as I understand it, though they can be disorienting and often terrifying.

I happen to be someone who thinks that psychedelics do open the consciousness to genuine transpersonal experiences, but I also think that absolute truth will remain forever in the realm of subjective realization. As Ward speculated, and Smith confirms in the paper linked above, the experiential aspects of the two experiences are orders of magnitude removed from one another. The psychedelic experience is seen as a powerful experience, but the CC event is always perceived as completely life-changing.

> Ward himself used this account as evidence that LSD experiences do not create the same transcendent feelings of union with God that mystical experiences can produce.

Interesting post, Michael. But as one who is profoundly grateful for my own experiences with what Fritjof Capra calls "power plants," I agree with Michael H. Here's a quote from Ward's "A Drug-Taker's Notes".

"Indeed I was fairly sure that lysergic acid experience, an aid to self-knowledge though it might incidentally be, in some way precluded the attainment of the kind of altered consciousness of which A's record spoke, and that it precluded it precisely because it involved no personal effort to move up the scale of consciousness."

But there's a problem with this logic. Some of the most powerful and life-changing mystical events are those described by near-death experiencers. And where exactly is the "personal effort" involved in nearly drowning, or having a heart attack, or failing in an effort to commit suicide?

My guess is that William James (among others) would agree with me. If not for his own experimentation with nitrous oxide, I doubt he would have written "Varieties of Religious Experience," a good chunk of which is devoted to mysticism.

"Even as I thought this, the pain disappeared ... and the sensation of 'rising up within' began.."

"..it had to be deliberately put away, or the 'rising up' began to be a 'falling down'"

I get this often with indigestion. Will it be a belch or a fart?

Haha Ben :)

Michael H said: I happen to be someone who thinks that psychedelics do open the consciousness to genuine transpersonal experiences, but I also think that absolute truth will remain forever in the realm of subjective realization.

I agree with Michael, I think drugs can open some doors but full understanding is not possible through them. It can also close doors and create huge confusion which happens in most cases. I experimented a little with mushrooms when I was younger and we had this very cosmic experience one day where we realised we just had to sit in silence and be.
So we did that for hours, just sitting in peace. But after the trip I just couldn't take it very serious, I took something external, it did something to me, it could very well be an hallucination and I didn't understood it at all but it felt somewhere truthfull. Then years later I experienced the same thing in meditation and even deeper, and only then I understood what happened to me during that shroom experience. With meditation it came on a natural way and the realisation is uncomparable with the dope experience.
The effect that meditation experience had on the rest of my life was huge and well the rest of my life.

The big mistake some drug users make is that these experiences are in their view only possible through drugs and just take more and more to try to get the same experience or to deepen their understanding which is a big error. Because you always begin these trips with taking something external, seeking something external... Seeking Truth through something external.
They start to mix these partly genuine experiences with all the other stuff from their trips, all the confusion, subconscious imagery, trying to find something real in it. And that is just making room for more and more confusion.

greets,
Filip

From what I understand, our brains make a certain amount of DMT.

If it's hallucinogen, than does that mean everything we experience is an hallucination?

Some have speculated that it's what keeps us 'tuned in' to what we consider our 'normal' environment, and if we ingest more, then perhaps it allows us to perceive things we normally couldn't?

"If it's hallucinogen, than does that mean everything we experience is an hallucination?"

some would suggest that everything is an illusion until we merge with oneness with full understanding.

And where exactly is the "personal effort" involved in nearly drowning, or having a heart attack, or failing in an effort to commit suicide?

Good point, Bruce. The thing about CC onset is that it doesn't involve personal effort either: it is a passive event that occurs spontaneously. The descriptions are consistent with the descriptions of samadhi, but are unique in that they often happen to individuals who haven't been engaged in any specific or dedicated spiritual practice. Smith mentions this in his case, and Bucke also referred to it in his classic book on the topic. I don't do meditative practice myself, but those who do achieve the deepest levels often relate that the effort involved in non-effort, which could be understood as induced passivity.

If it's hallucinogen, than does that mean everything we experience is an hallucination?

It's an interesting question, isn't it Tony? Many of the esoteric traditions state that our 'normal' realty is not the true reality. There is an excellent National Geographic http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0603/features/peru.html>feature on the Ayahuasca experience that suggests the same thing in some ways. The writer relates a wide range of experiences, from terror to bliss, and comments at one point that the shaman she was with assisted her in navigating through the darkest realms; writing that he was literally and physically there with her in the midst of her experience. She concludes the article with this statement:

"It would be easier for me to call it all a dream, a grand hallucination. Then I could have my old world back, in which I thought I knew what was real and unreal, true and untrue. Now the problem is, I don't know anything."

She does say, though, that her experience permanently resolved a constant depression that had plagued her since childhood. It also reversed her atheistic worldview.

Finally, Smith's description of his peak during the CC event has deep implications regarding the entire nature of reality:

"At this point, I merged with the light and everything, including myself, became one unified whole. There was no separation between myself and the rest of the universe. In fact, to say that there was a universe, a self, or any 'thing' would be misleading - it would be an equally correct description to say that there was 'nothing' as to say that there was 'everything'. To say that subject merged with object might be almost adequate as a description of the entrance into CC, but during CC there was neither 'subject' nor 'object'. All words or discursive thinking had stopped and there was no sense of an 'observer' to comment or to categorize what was 'happening'. In fact, there were no discrete events to 'happen' - just a timeless, unitary state of being."

So what does this say about reality? If one reaches the perspective where all that remains is a "timeless, unitary state of being", without subject or object, doesn't that suggest that all other perspectives to the contrary are not entirely real? What we accept as reality might be more accurately described as a very big, very vivid dream.

Charles Tart, who maintains the TASTE website of scientist's mystical experiences, - Michael H
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I love that website. My absolute favorite story from there is called Riding the Dragon, written by a Medical Doctor, that he experienced while at a Medical conference. I'm betting he was "zoning out" when it happened. I can kind of relate because this has happened to me a couple of times in my life. - Art

Riding the Dragon:
http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00070&ss=1

What we accept as reality might be more accurately described as a very big, very vivid dream.

Or not.

EXCERPT FROM A CONVERSATION WITH A MEDIUM:

On to some other things, ... don't worry yourself regarding people commenting on things not being reality, or us not existing. I understand where people are coming from when saying such things, and to put it as simply as I can think how to, ... If you think of when you are dreaming, it's all going on in your mind, ... but whilst you're in it, it is as good as this reality to you in the moment. You can touch, taste, smell, see, hear, you have perception and you can experience it on par with your waking perception. Some see this ability to so completely immerse ourselves in the thoughts of our mind as a reality as being equal to what we are doing when we are awake, ... that we are just experiencing a different set of perceptions and buying in to them. They therefore follow the thought that if we are buying in to one reality which is an illusion (dreams) then we could too be buying in to another illusion - our waking existence. That one has tripped my mind for a bit in the past, so I hope that explaining where such comments that others have said come from does not do a mind job on you, ... but the important thing to get a grip on here is firstly that it's an out there way of perceiving things, we can just as easily call it two realities rather than two illusions, or we could just say we live in this life and we dream - simple as that, no need to make it all complex with concepts. I think it is the experiencing in each moment that counts rather than trying to pull our entire existence to pieces and put it in to neatly labelled boxes. In the end, whatever anyone wants to think about that one, as the saying goes, "I think, therefore I am", ... and you are! Could we be having this discussion if neither of us existed and neither of us thought? Of course we couldn't. You've just got to ground yourself in the reality of your present experience and get on with it or trust me, you'll do your head in. From my involvement with spirits, I've never encountered one who said anything about this world being an illusion or "dreamlike", it is always the opposite of this out there way of thinking.

some would suggest that everything is an illusion until we merge with oneness with full understanding.

And a great many more that would not suggest this, regarding twoness becoming oneness thus forming isness.

Strange thing--I read this post, which is, for me, about the transformative power of positive thinking, not about drugs, and I think "what a wonderful thing the internet is: I get exposed to ideas and resources I never would have had any other way!", and then I read the next post down, where you rip into the internet for providing a venue for "nerds" to ventilate.

Michael P, I wouldn't have seen those downer comments except that you put them up in front of me. I think you need to pay more serious attention to Ward's quote! :-)

Michael D:
Michael P wasn't ripping into the internet, he was ripping into nerd (or herd) mentality.
Subtle difference!

Ripping:it's negative, no matter who you're doing it to.

the transformative power of positive thinking

I don't know if I'm in favor of positive thinking. It seems to me that it can blind us to some important, if unpalatable, realities.

I once knew a woman who was very interested in positive thinking. I was somewhat appalled when I learned that during the Gulf War of 1991, she had absolutely no idea there was a war going on! She never read newspapers because she didn't want any negativity in her life ...

The thing about CC onset is that it doesn't involve personal effort either: it is a passive event that occurs spontaneously.

Colin Wilson has a somewhat different take on this. See this page of his two-part article "Below the Iceberg," especially the section titled "Snowbound."

That’s a great link from Wilson, Michael.

Yet, he describes the heightened awareness as occurring following his period of intense concentration due to the snowstorm, when he writes, “it was possible to relax and drive normally again. And it was now that I realized that I was full of a sense of power and concentration.”

The experience Wilson relates does have parallels with the Zen emphasis on intense concentration on the moment, which is encapsulated in the familiar phrase, “Chop wood, carry water”. It also reminded me of one of the http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00017&ss=1>accounts at TASTE that I read just last night. Ann DeBaldo, PhD, relates her experience of intensified concentration during an auto accident and the resulting effects:

Suddenly, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, the red car's passenger door was directly in front of me just inches from the front bumper of my car, having come from the left between the three lanes of parked cars...a place where if I had had any time at all to think about it, it would have been impossible for a car to be! Direct impact, no time for any reaction with brake or horn!

Then...a dark place filled with Light, seemingly pure energy beyond interpretation or solidification (by my mind) into gross matter! Nothing and totally empty, yet every-thing was in that "place" which was dimensionless in both time and space. Then, a tiny niggling little thought intruded into the space and began to grow and proliferate as my intellect reasserted itself... "is this all there is? "where is this?" "do I like this or not?" and I became aware of my car quietly rolling to a stop onto the grass at the edge of the road. (Perhaps I should interject here that there was no evidence of any physical trauma to my person nor did I experience any stiffness or pain as a result of the "accident.") As I climbed out and surveyed the damage, I was in a state of total peace and calm that I can only call Bliss. This unworldly Bliss persisted through the arrival of the police and the ticketing of the young lady whose car was demolished (fortunately neither she nor her passenger were injured), then for several weeks afterwards before it gradually faded. Although the full Blissfulness has abated, I have noticed that deep within a place that had previously felt empty, there is now a center of Peace and Calm, which never seems to waver.

As I look back on my experience, it seems to me that my mind stopped, perhaps due to the sudden shock of sensing (no time for thoughts to be generated!) imminent impact and possible physical annihilation. "Stopping the mind" to allow perception of the real Self, which lies obscured by the intellect with its layers of thoughts, is a common theme underlying most Eastern and Western meditation practices.

Her footnote is interesting too, especially considering that she, like all the TASTE contributors, is employed in the field of science:

The scientific method is extremely useful as far as it goes, but at this time in history it stops short of being able to expand human knowledge of "non-empirical" events, states, and conditions that occur far too frequently to be dismissed as just products of the human imagination. Thus, I firmly believe that a "new science," yet to be envisioned, must eventually take over where the old one leaves off . . . Perhaps most importantly, I have become fully aware that there is really no such thing as "scientific objectivity" when a human being is involved as the scientist.

In any case, one comment Wilson made jumped off the page when he writes:

It is, of course, deeply frustrating that we cannot learn how to contact these depths "below the iceberg" at will. Yet-as I have tried to show-it is not as difficult as it sounds.

The conclusion I have reached over the years are as follows. The romantics of the nineteenth century had many of these "glimpses," because they knew how to "relax." . . . But because these romantics were inclined to weakness-like Samuel Beckett most of them could see no reason for getting out of bed-they failed to grasp the most important clue: that such experiences bring a feeling of strength, and that the best way to achieve them is certainly not to indulge in weakness and self-pity. Abraham Maslow, who called such moments "peak experiences," discovered that his "peakers" were usually strong and healthy people who coped well with their lives.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that our culture is still in a place where too many are still focused on arguing about whether the “below the iceberg” experiences are genuine or not. The reductionist still argues that these are simply biochemical events that will be explained away in time, while the theologians ignore the testimony because it often conflicts with their doctrines. The New Agers see these things as justification for the idea that they “create their reality”, which is nothing but the most recent incarnation of the “power of positive thinking.” Almost no one appears to be willing to look beyond all of their concepts and interpretations, except for people like Wilson, Smith and DeBaldo who’ve actually had the experiences. And they can’t explain it to in conceptual terms to others, because the experiences arise from the aspect of consciousness that precedes concepts. So it goes.

Nothing and totally empty, yet every-thing was in that "place" which was dimensionless in both time and space. - Anne DeBaldo, PhD
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome to the Holographic Universe!

"Unlike normal photographs, every part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole. The "whole in every part" nature of a hologram provides us with an entirely new way of understanding organization and order.......At its deeper level reality is a sort of superhologram in which the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously." excerpt from The Holographic Universe, http://www.earthportals.com/hologram.html#zine

some would suggest that everything is an illusion until we merge with oneness with full understanding.

And a great many more that would not suggest this, regarding twoness becoming oneness thus forming isness.

It seems to me that there are many people who attempt to interpret suggestions such as ‘existence is a vivid dream’ or ‘it’s all an illusion’ conceptually.

Those who accept these suggestions as valid conceptually and then adopt them without any experiential understanding, do appear to be ‘out there’. I’ve had plenty of conversations with New Age types who have absolutely no personal presence as they drift along discussing esoteric spirituality with no basis in personal fact. The “I create my reality” crowd often appears to think they do so on the level of the ego. They’re missing the point.

Those who resist these ideas are also attempting to interpret them conceptually, and reach the conclusion that the message is that existence, or reality, is somehow false. They seem to interpret the message as “reality is unreal”. They consider that idea as ridiculous, which it is. But, they are also missing the point.

These ideas can never be properly understood on a conceptual level. They need to be grasped through direct subjective experience; there is no other way to understand them. The essence of the understanding is that ‘reality’ is not static, but a sort of sliding scale that correlates to their own mind; that their own consciousness is deeply involved in ‘reality interpretation’. When one sees that for themselves, they understand not that reality is ‘false’, or that their prior experiences are invalid, but that there is a “realer” reality of infinite depth: 'reality' is God itself in magnificent disguise.

Those who experience particularly deep levels of the realer reality, either through the spontaneous onset of Cosmic Consciousness, the depths of meditation the Hindus refer to as Samadhi, or the condition Christian mystics call the State of Grace, realize that the realer reality has always existed within, but that it had been hidden behind all of the concepts they had previously filtered reality through. As they ascend into ‘knowingness’, they are immersed in the overwhelming feelings of gratitude, compassion and unconditional love that is inherent to what I call Cosmic Consciousness and others call God. At his moment, they recognize that their prior concepts of existence were not correct. When they try to explain it to others, they resort to terms such as illusion, delusion, vivid dream, unity, Oneness, state of Being, Isness, Nothingness, timelessness, the moment, merger of subject and object, and on and on and on. None of these things can be grasped conceptually, because they can only be understood from the perspective that exists beyond concepts.

The first excerpt from the invisible poster contains a very valid point:

“I think it is the experiencing in each moment that counts rather than trying to pull our entire existence to pieces and put it in to neatly labelled boxes . . . You've just got to ground yourself in the reality of your present experience and get on with it or trust me, you'll do your head in.”

Anyone who discovers the vortex that exists in the depths of every moment of their present experience will return from that vortex with the understanding that everything is ultimately real, while every interpretation of reality is ultimately false. They will fully understand that their prior experiences were of the nature of a vivid dream, which they are existing within, and they will know that they are forever fully alive and fully eternal within it. They will understand that the dream is the reality, and that reality is the dream. They can't leave the dream, but they can awaken within it and make it a lucid dream. They’ll also know that the dream doesn’t belong to them, and they won’t claim ownership. If they do, they haven’t yet realized it; they’ve turned it into a concept instead.

Truth remains forever transcendent and forever ineffable; yet remains forever available to any individual at any moment in time. It’s in the realm of seeing, not believing, and it is always in the present moment.

"The “I create my reality” crowd often appears to think they do so on the level of the ego. They’re missing the point."

I agree with this. Whilst positive thinking is obviously better than negative thinking, it is essentially dualistic, and so cannot be sustained indefinitely. At some point the pendulum may swing back. Can we suppress or repress negative thoughts forever? If this bold attempt at self-reliance fails, there will be a strong tendency to consider oneself a failure: weak and lacking.

One has to consider motivation, too. If the aim of positive thinking is self-aggrandisement or self-promotion in any way, is this selfishness? Is it ‘self’ at the expense of ‘other’? Will ‘other’ suffer if we overlook or ignore it?

In the new paradigm, I think we will have to see self as an organic part of our whole environment. Sensitivity to what is going on around us will be important. We get a lot of clues and signals about our purpose in life from the environment. If we adopt an insensitive, one-track approach, can we really be happy? In our present society, those who have achieved material or social success are frequently not spiritually fulfilled.

I was reflecting on the Colin Wilson piece MP linked earlier and the implications for the 'passivity factor' in transcendent experience.

I think the passivity that's involved is in the sense of 'not looking for or anticipating' any sort of experience. It just sort of happens, out of the blue. As Wilson points out, though, passivity in the sense of a lackadaisical approach to life itself is precisely the opposite of what appears to be required. Focused engagement and deep relaxation each appear to be common triggers.

I guess if we knew how to naturally uncover the hidden aspects of the self at will, we'd no longer call them mystical experiences, would we?

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