Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 07:44:53 AM EST
Is there a place for mysticism on the European Tribune?
Well, I had every intention to post a review of last weekends "LSD Symposium"...but I am just too one track minded these days, it seems. Anyway, better late than never. So to begin with, here is a news report after the first day of the event, that Fran Posted in the Monday European Breakfast, from the Times Online Day trip to say 'happy birthday' to centenarian who made LSD
In trying to figure out how to best describe a very full 3 day conference (many hours had 4 seminars at once), I will give what I found to be key discussion points below the fold. But I will add this: in writing about this topic I acknowledge that the subject of psychedelic use is controversial, for these substances can indeed be dangerous when taken by the wrong person, and/or taken at the wrong time and/or in the wrong conditions. Psychedelics are a medicine with great potential, and in certain rarer circumstances, can open doors to a vast new consciousness...which can be a glimpse of vast opportunities. But...it can open doors to hell realms too, if a person has some dark secrets or instabilities. It can be a fantastic tool for psychotherapy, and has been used down through the milleniums by traditional shamans as a spiritual tool.
But there is also another viewpoint, as a number of more libertarian types noted at the conference, which goes something like this: "what government has the right to tell us whether we have the right or not to alter our consciousness, whether that be for therapy, spirituality, or plainly for inebriation purposes (as long as it is not hurting others)?" Or as one anthropolgist noted: "The Cro-Magnin man had more freedom to alter their consciousness than I do...that pisses me off". I will leave this for you to decide.
My quote from Monday's European Breakfast comment thread:
...the LSD Symposium was three days of listening to discussions about chemistry, shamans, mythology, alchemy, anthropology, consciousness, botany, ethnobotany, art, humor, parapsychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, brain and meditation research, psychedelics research today, legal issues about psychedelic research, beatnicks, hippies,and the underground scene (and the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, and all the others who played roles)...and the history that surrounds all these....plus more. I found the event rewarding, rich, interesting, inspiring, at times overwhelming, and at times causing much internal introspection... I could say a lot about it. And seeing how vital and alive Albert Hofmann is at age 100 was just sweet. All the topics and personalities created a fertile ground for many varied and interesting discussions.
Hofmann's discovery has influenced things in our culture and society in ways you cannot even imagine...and his discovery was a "mistake", or as he said it, "LSD found me, I didn't find it", as in the strictest of lab conditions, he still managed to somehow ingest a small amount of LSD, leading to his now famous psychedelic bike ride home. The rest is history...which is still being made.
Below are some interesting quotes or ideas gathered during the course of this conference:
One point that came up throughout the weekend, that I found intriguing, was the fact that many of the original users and researchers (including Hofmann) bemoanng the fact that LSD and other psychedlics (and Hofmann ended up studying and synthesizing many other psychedelics) had "gotten loose to the streets". But there were also dissenting voices...the Bohemian/Beat/Hippies...who retorted that that view is elitarian, and they were in fact quite happy that it had "gotten loose", for the changes that occurred in our Western society and culture as a result. So there's sort of a class argument there.
Also, there was a big discussion (and disagreement) about how psychedelics should be used: most can agree that these medicines should be researched and used in safe, structured settings (and right now, LSD has a world ban on it, mainly due to politics, and cannot be even researched...even though scientists believe it can have important medical uses). But another viewpoint is that consciousness is individual, and it should left to the individual...not regulated by any state (with the exception of limits for the purpose of public safety, i.e., like not driving under the influence, and so forth).
Another interesting piece of information that I did not know, is that the government of Switzerland has taken the singularly unique stance that psychedelics, while illegal, should be researched...and so is the one place in the world where serious academic research is being conducted (ex: University of Zurich). Apparently the US is about to allow some new research, since there is evidence that LSD and psilocybin are very effective for treatment of cluster headaches, and that MDMA is very effective as a therapeutic treatment with PTSD, among other things.
Thee was much discussion about indigenous shamanic knowledge, and how there was a coming together of science and this shamanic world, when one Gordon Wasson (who was an anthrolopologist/ethnobotanist), participated in 1955 as the first known western scientist in a Mexican shamanic ritual using "magic mushrooms" with Maria Sabina, a Oaxacan Curandera. Wasson eventually brought mushrooms to Hofmann, who studied their active ingredients for a few years, eventually synthesizing psilocybin and psilocin. Dr Hofmann then gave the psilocybin to Maria Sabina, who reported "no difference" between the mushrooms and the medicine, as far as her practices were concerened. So the traditions connected...and ancient knowledge and practices were integrated with science. And to this day, the knowledge of Shamans is gaining increasing influence in the field of consciousness studies and science.
There were many discussions about European shamanistic roots, traditions and practices (including psychedelics), and the impact on such areas as mythology and alchemy. And there was an acknowledgement that there now needs to be a more serious opening up to, and integration of, the knowledge and traditional culture of the southern hemisphere (South America and Africa).
It was noted that "wasn't it interesting that LSD was discovered during World War II, at the same time that atomic fusion occurred". What a contrast in consciousness.
The CIA was the biggest user of LSD in the 1950s, as they believed it was the greatest torture drug ever invented...they would dose people and tell them they would keep them in that stae unless the person revealed secrets. The CIA also did a lot of awful research using LSD...very dark...there is actually a book on this, based on FOIA documents gotten by one researcher. (Acid Dreams by Lee)
There has also been a lot of research on mystics and mysticism, including studies of psychedelics, medittation and the brain going on in University of Zurich today. There has also been a good deal of research conducted in Switzerland on psychedelics for psychoterapeutic puroses. Also, there was a huge body of very important research done on the therapeutic uses of LSD in Prague (led by one Stanislov Grof)in the early to mid-1960s, where it was used to treat alcoholism, used to help people who were dying (it appears that LSD and other psychedelics lessens pain experienced while dying), used to make psychotherapy more effective, and so on.
Ralph Metzner discussed four paradigms of consciousness: 1) the medical/materialistic (all is merely subjective); 2) Shamanic - which believes that we live in many and multiple levels of realities, all equally real, all different, inhabited by real beings, which we can access. This is inclusive of the Materialistic view. 3)The religious/ceremonial 4) A current development, which integrates shamanic and psychological knowledge and practices. This includes the use of altered states, which can be achieved 1) through the use of psycedelic medinces, or 2) through the use of rhythmic drumming and singing
That perhaps the biggest danger we face in today's world is the loss of meaning and the loss of connection with, and respect for, nature. That it is imperative to restore our connection and respect for nature.
Anyway...these notes are just from the first half of the first day, and I have been at this for over an hour...and I have 3 days of notes, so will stop here. I will say that I personally found the whole conference of immense interest, and personally inspiring. I may add some other pieces of the conference in comments below, if there is interest..but at least I shared a taste of this with you...and hope it at least gets you to thinking...and I will be curious for any comments.