July 12, 2006

"Pure awareness... merging with ultimate reality, a transcendence of time and space, a feeling of sacredness or awe..."

Funded by the federal government, scientists study the effects of psilocybin:
Psilocybin's effects lasted for up to six hours, [said Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine]. Twenty-two of the 36 volunteers reported having a "complete" mystical experience, compared to four of those getting methylphenidate [Ritalin].

That experience included such things as a sense of pure awareness and a merging with ultimate reality, a transcendence of time and space, a feeling of sacredness or awe, and deeply felt positive mood like joy, peace and love. People say "they can't possibly put it into words," Griffiths said.

Two months later, 24 of the participants filled out a questionnaire. Two-thirds called their reaction to psilocybin one of the five top most meaningful experiences of their lives. On another measure, one-third called it the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, with another 40 percent ranking it in the top five.

About 80 percent said that because of the psilocybin experience, they still had a sense of well-being or life satisfaction that was raised either "moderately" or "very much."
So legalize it. Don't you care about religious freedom? Don't you think that at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Griffith, I should note, is very clear that your should absolutely not use this drug on your own. Its very power is the reason why you can't be trusted. Maybe you'd better be refrain from thinking about God and life and death on your own too. You know, it can be frightening even in a very controlled setting.

100 comments:

brylin said...

They have "Smart Shops" in Amsterdam that sell psilocybin mushrooms. I was there last month and I can confirm the existence of these shops but I can't say that I've tried the stuff.

Isn't there another study that says the effects of psychedelics remain even after 6 months? And Dr. Timothy Leary's life experience certainly isn't a testament to mental stability.

Sounds like pretty potent and dangerous stuff - especially if you want to keep yourself solidly based in reality.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sounds like pretty potent and dangerous stuff - especially if you want to keep yourself solidly based in reality."

Wouldn't you say that about religion?

Buddy Larsen said...

There must be some distinction. I always meant to read Aldous Huxley on the topic. "Doors of Perception" was it?

AJD said...

Can a law professor really be this bad at analogies? Honestly.

Which would you rather encounter on the highway: a car coming in the other direction driven by a religious fanatic or one driven by someone on psilocybin?

I guess you see no difference.

paulfrommpls said...

All these psychedelics and whatever can be dangerous for someone tending psychotic. Uniquely dangerous? Enough to affect legality? I don't know. But Ann, I'm sure you knew some hippie psychos for whom the drugs seemed to be a central part of the mix.

On the other hand they're also not exactly addictive for a person more in control of himself. At least in my experience. Mescaline or acid or mushrooms are not things most people would want to do every day or every week, although some fall into that.

TWM said...

Brylin says: "Sounds like pretty potent and dangerous stuff - especially if you want to keep yourself solidly based in reality."

Ann says: "Wouldn't you say that about religion?"

Isn't the difference that the drug alters your physical ability to stay based in reality? Not sure I am asking that correctly, so I hope you get my point.

Buddy Larsen said...

ajd, go deeper--the analogy would be someone "on" the drug and a religious fanatic deep in a prayer trance.

The topic is the psychological state of being.

You sleep, eat hot dogs, take showers, and drive, but you don't do them all at the same time.

P. Froward said...

"Lime and limpid green
The sounds surrounds the icy waters underground..."


Something about this stuff was in the news lately, wasn't it? Can't quite put my finger on it...

37383938393839383938383 said...

It shoulds like we should mandate its taking.

chuck b. said...

These seems like a good place to say I love the new profile photo.

Ann Althouse said...

"Which would you rather encounter on the highway: a car coming in the other direction driven by a religious fanatic or one driven by someone on psilocybin?"

Definitely, the religious fanatic, because he could do that whole Jesus, take the wheel thing.

Alan said...

Jeezus, why not try surfing or kite surfing?...or hell, Trikking? I can't for the life of me understand how someone can "do" a drug and consider it one of their best life experiences.

I'm all for freedom and legalization but actually living life can be pretty darn cool--including rubbernecking. :)

Simon said...

"Don't you think that 'at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life'?"

I think that such vacuous, sanctimonious (and frankly nauseating) tripe "is really more than one should have to bear."

(Kennedy's use of the language in Lawrence quoted his own nonsense from Casey, and I think Scalia's slightly queasy response still stands as the most apt response).

Freeman Hunt said...

Psilocybin induces schizophrenia-like psychosis in humans via a serotonin-2 agonist action.

So no, I do not think that drug use and religious involvement are activities with equivalent risks.

I am, however, in favor of drug legalization.

Bissage said...

Hmmm, government sponsored, psilocybin dispensing, mental health clinics. Who'd have thunk it? Sounds like the thin edge of a large wedge. Socialized medicine, here we come!

Hey, I'll even vote for Kerry if it means I'll get "deeply felt positive mood." Sounds like Engrish.

Freeman Hunt said...

Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia or early onset mental illness should be extremely careful because mushrooms have been known to trigger latent psychological and mental problems.

This is exactly what happened to a relative of mine. Psilocybin mushrooms triggered her latent schizophrenia, and decades later she is still being treated for it. Not a good recreational drug... if there is such a thing.

Gerry said...

Thinking back to college days...

If there was a way to keep people off the road on this stuff, I would be very pro-legalization.

SteveR said...

My experience with Christianity is pretty reality based, how to deal with your fellow man, what's "right" or wrong", how to get through challenges, etc. Not too many trance like conversations with God. Usually he speaks through others.

In any event, I've got things to do, and responsibilities.

I would wonder what the peopel were like going into this and how that predidted what they came out of it with.

FXKLM said...

My only drug experience in high school was with LSD. I took way too much and freaked out so my friend suggested that maybe going for a drive would calm me down. So we drove down the street a bit to a grocery store. When we came out, I saw the car was sprawled across three parking spots and the doors were wide open. I have no idea how I managed not to get arrested or killed.

I still think legalization is probably a good idea, but I wholeheartedly agree that driving on the stuff is a REALLY bad idea.

P. Froward said...

Regarding the religious fanatic and the hippie behind the wheel, which of those two cars will become entirely unguided in event of Rapture?

Hmm?

HA! Gotcha there, cowboy.

Sigivald said...

Alan: Well, I imagine that the experience is exactly the point.

Surfing or hiking are not just things you experience, but activities; pray don't fall into the trap of supposing that an enjoyable (to not even touch the issue of meaningfulness or spiritual significance, which was what was reported) experience must involve a lot of physical activity, or even any.

(After all, reading a specific book at a specific time might well be the most meaningful event in someone's life - but the suggestion that they go surfing instead sounds odd, does it not? I'm not sure how a drug trip is really any different, in terms of potential meaningfulness or spiritual significance.)

Remember, the criterion were "meaningful" or "spiritually significant", not "enjoyable". It could be they might enjoy going surfing more... but would it likely be more meaningful or spiritually significant? It seems unlikely, to say the least.

Gerry: Doesn't that same logic apply identically to every intoxicant?

It seems very illiberal to give, as a rationale for banning a substance, the fact that someone might otherwise be stupid enough to drive while high. The world manages to survive with alcohol being legal, while it's illegal to drive drunk. I suspect the world would equally survive people being able to eat some psilocybin, while it's illegal to drive while high.

(Most if not all states, after all, consider the crime to be "driving while impaired" or "...intoxicated", not limiting the offense to being caused by any specific substance.)

Ann Althouse said...

chuck b. said..."These seems like a good place to say I love the new profile photo."

Far out, man.

Justin said...

Why do drug legalization discussions always come down to someone saying 'but what if someone was doing it and driving?' But alcohol's legal, folks, because our society makes the cost/benefit analysis that yes, people are going to die from drunk driving accidents, but we're willing to accept that because drinking's fun/relaxing/whatever enough. We need to think of drug legalization in terms of its costs and benefits, and the argument that there exists a circumstance where legalization of a drug might lead to a death can't lead to per se criminalization. How many people out there wish alcohol were illegal? Not me, certainly. Just because the pig shouldn't be in the parlor, doesn't mean we should kill it: we should just do what we can to keep it in the barnyard...

Ann Althouse said...

Alan said..."Jeezus, why not try surfing or kite surfing?...or hell, Trikking?"

Alan, haven't you heard about the canyons of your mind?

Buddy Larsen said...

Or the white-water rapids of your psyche?

Gerry said...

"Gerry: Doesn't that same logic apply identically to every intoxicant?"

Again thinking back to college days...

We are talking matters of degrees.

I would rather share the road with someone who was high on pot than someone who had taken ecstacy.

I would rather someone on E than someone on quaaludes.

I would rather someone on ludes than someone who was fitshased drunk.

I would rather someone drunk than someone tripping, unless it is the mildest of trips.

I'd rather not share the road with any of them, though. I'd rather that people would use their heads, so that we could all have a bit more freedom.

Seven Machos said...

I am so glad that, since mushrooms and cocaine and marijuana and various other drugs are illegal, no one drives while using those substances.

Having said that, my favorite book in the world is The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test -- for many, many reasons. Tom Wolfe is at the top of his game, and in some ways I would love to have been a Merry Prankster. On the other hand, the subtext of the book, if you consider it at all, is that people who take acid and mushrooms and do a ton of drugs, they go insane or their minds just turn to mush or they simply flame out and stop contributing to society in any meaningful way.

Is it really that hard to get illegal drugs and consume them if you want them? Maybe the situation we have now isn't so bad.

altoids1306 said...

From a strictly secular perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to legalize at least some form of this drug. It's been clinically shown to make people substantially happier for sustained periods of time with no observed ill effect. The mind is nothing more than neurons firing anyway. We should have federal funding to isolate and extract the active ingredient. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - by chemical means. Why not?

But, unfortunately, since I don't have a completely secular perspective, I have some reservations about chemical stimulation.

Buddy Larsen said...

Machos has a point--Aldous Huxley's experiments led him to have his "Brave New World" hero banished even the Soma society, to exile in Iceland. P froward's Pink Floyd 'ice' quote--from another psychedelic adventurer (just RIP yesterday) who spent decades a recluse after his deep penetration of his own psyche. Ice, isolation, solipsism, the universe inside can sure forget all about the universe outside.

A certain percentage of Austin's Merry Pranksters are still down there on Guadalupe Street, been there since 1969, trying to find the end of that string.

However, for those who can handle it, it's something very interesting indeed. I guess that's the 'acid test'--can you, or can't you, only one way to find out.

J said...

"So legalize it. Don't you care about religious freedom?"

Jerry: Booze is not a religion.
Elaine: Tell that to my father.

Actually, I'm with you on legalization - of this and every other drug. But first, I want every vestige of the concept of diminished capacity removed from our legal system. In fact, I'd go beyond that and legally define harm resulting from the intentional use of any intoxicant (yes, that includes alcohol) while under it's influence as intentional and premeditated.

"Don't you think that at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life"

If those things have objective definitions, no.

The opportunity to acheive total conciousness without first caddying for the Dalai Lama seems like a wonderful discovery. I'm just not sure how accurate the user's perception is.

price said...

Psilocybin sounds powerful! Maybe people should only take this drug once a week or so. To be safe, we could all do it as a group in a common building. There can be wooden bleachers and cool, psychedelic windows and singing and everything. Let's do it on Sundays so that by Monday we're back to reality and going to work.

Pogo said...

I understand the impetus to achieve a state of bliss, and really, how could one oppose such a state? Drugs are an easy salve for the irreducible pain of human existance.

But after the ecstacy, there's the laundry, and feeding the cat, and the rent is due. Yeah, reality doesn't hold a candle to fantasy, so it takes a certain amount of courage to get up every day and face it all over again, until you die.

The "pure awareness" of psilocybin is bunk. What are they actually aware of? Sacredness and awe... over what? Bullsh**. It's fake. It comes from and leads to nothing. It's all just a chemically-induced return to the womb.

But now, if you could get this in the drinking water at the local islamofascist mosque preaching suicide, well, now you're talking.

JohnK said...

Its ironic that this study came out on the same day that Sid Barrett's death was reported. If you have mental problems and self medicate with psychodelic drugs, you can have real problems. For a normal well adjusted person, these drugs can give fabulous and even life changing experiences. For someone who suffers from mental illness, these drugs can be miracle cures or nightmares. It is my understanding that clinical psychiatrists were doing very promising work with using LSD as a treatment for mental illness only to see their work outlawed by the drug warriors after the hippies got ahold of it. It is a real shame.

P. Froward said...

altoids1306,

From a strictly secular perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to legalize at least some form of this drug.

Huh? What's the religious argument against it? The secular argument against it is fairly obvious:

It's certainly easier to buy something and eat it than to live a worthwhile life, but I think those who have at least a mild horror at happiness-by-lobotomy (chemical or otherwise) are on the right track. As a society, we have a legitimate interest in people living worthwhile lives rather than retreating into their own heads and smiling all day.

We weren't put here to be happy. Feeling good right now is not a rational adult's primary concern. Have you met any middle-aged ex-hippies? They're gray-haired children, aren't they? Case closed.

What you mean is that there isn't a libertarian argument against it, but that's true by definition.


Banning drugs doesn't make them go away, but banning murder never quite worked, either. That's not an argument against trying to minimize murder.

Of course there may be other arguments against trying to minimize one thing or another, and you can argue about the worth of particular laws until your jaw falls off.


And what pogo said, too.

JohnK said...

"But after the ecstacy, there's the laundry, and feeding the cat, and the rent is due. Yeah, reality doesn't hold a candle to fantasy, so it takes a certain amount of courage to get up every day and face it all over again, until you die."

Pogo, that is why people get addicted to drugs; it is an easy way not to have to face your problems. That is the heart of all addiction. People just want a way to avoid the hassles of real life for a while. The problem is that once you start doing it, it is really hard to stop. Eventually you loose your ability to face reality and reality has become a mess even if you could face it. That is why people who are addicted ussually have to hit rock bottom with no other choice but to quit or die before they will quite for good.

Chum said...

'The opportunity to acheive total conciousness without first caddying for the Dalai Lama seems like a wonderful discovery. I'm just not sure how accurate the user's perception is.'

I like your DL analogy. Few of us are drawn to a life of devotion/mysticism so the experience as described here doesn't occur naturally. That it can be achieved via natural means is incredibly useful. 'Accuracy' is moot though. It is what it is (for the individual), the value of which is, once having achieved such a state of being, impossible to imagine in every day life, it stays with the individual forever as a reminder/goal/whatever.

As for driving. Anyone taking the drug for the reasons outlined in the article isn't interested in driving or even interacting with other people.

John R Henry said...

AJD said:

Which would you rather encounter on the highway: a car coming in the other direction driven by a religious fanatic or one driven by someone on psilocybin?

I don't know about psilocybin but I have heard similar arguments made about MJ. I view them as demonstrating ignorance on the commentor's part.

Is the commenter aware of any studies showing that Psilocybin has negative effects on driving ability?

In the case of MJ, the US Dept of Transportation, NHTA, has conducted three studies that I am aware of. I've read all three reports. None found any significant difference in driver safety between high and non-high. One found a slight, but probably not statistically significant, improvement.

I understand that the British and Australian governments have also done studies with similar results. I have read about them but have not read them.

So, do you have any basis for your remark about psilocybin? Studies? research? Anything?

John Henry

altoids1306 said...

The secular argument against it is fairly obvious:

As a society, we have a legitimate interest in people living worthwhile lives rather than retreating into their own heads and smiling all day.


And why is that? Don't worry, I agree with you, I just think the "mild horror" you describe cannot be explained through purely secular means.

P. Froward said...

altoids,

We (many of us, anyway) experience varying degrees of perfectly non-religious horror at all kinds of counterproductive behavior. It's an attenuated version of the more immediate and visceral feeling you get when the guy at the next gas pump hauls out a pack of Kools.

Why do we feel this way? Dunno. But a culture that loses it is done for. If religion tends to sustain it, then religion sounds like a handy thing to have around — in fact, that might imaginably explain the remarkable rarity of cultures that've survived without religion for more than a few generations.

Wouldn't surprise me if the Nosey Old Lady Impulse is an important survival trait. That would be a good laugh on Robert Heinlein, if nothing else. Damn tough to prove, though.

Buddy Larsen said...

interesting question--what does the Bible say about drug use--or of course, withdrawal into the self--?

Gahrie said...

It is an undeniable fact that humans enjoy altering their mental state. Whether it be caffiene, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, chocolate or even exercise (endorphin high). Other animals do also, even in the wild.

The problem is, a significant part of the population cannot use certain of these methods responsibly. Anyone who has ever used any of these mind altering substances knows that some people can use them with no, or few, ill effects and others who can't. Society reacts by legislating to the LCD, and bans certain of these methods for everyone.

What is enraging however is the hypocrisy. There are many mind altering substances that have been banned that are far less destructive and damaging than alcohol and tobacco.

Pogo said...

Any society that begins to reject reality in significant numbers must be one that is dying.

I can't imagine a legitimate purpose for this research except
(1) relieving chronic pain, e.g. cancer, or
(2) military psyops.

PatCA said...

Griffiths is apparently active on the policy front as well, favoring some legalization of drugs, so I think what we have here is a study--like studies on women's behavior as you have remarked on several times--where it's okay to report the results as long as they're favorable.

http://fas.org/drugs/Principles.htm

Abraham said...

I just think the "mild horror" you describe cannot be explained through purely secular means.

Oh, I do. Start with the premise that the fundamental defining characteristic of Man is his ability to reason. Empirically, it is only through the power of rational thought that Man has preserved and enhanced his life, and increased his power. For man, instinct is insufficient; rational thought is necessary for life. Thus, to the extent that one wants to live, thinking is a helpful act, and not thinking is a harmful act. Mapping this into ethical terms, if the goal of ethics is to give us rules for living, rational thinking is itself a moral act, and a necessary prerequisite for all other moral acts, while not thinking is at best amoral, and may be positively immoral. Thus, a secular argument that acts which deliberately sabotage the ability to reason are immoral.

paulfrommpls said...

I'm gonna go home and listen to Anthem of the Sun.

Buddy Larsen said...

That 'nosey syndrome' as a societal survival mechanism may account for the strange phenomena of the radical fringes lately becoming so demanding of an expanded definition of individualism. Core western value, being turned against itself.

amba said...

I guess that's the 'acid test'--can you, or can't you, only one way to find out.

Only one way to find out if you have a latent vulnerability to schizophrenia? Sheesh.

It was a kind of neurochemical Russian roulette, back in the Sixties. A percentage of people became permanently mentally. It wasn't necessarily the ones who took hundreds of acid trips, either.

I'd gladly try it if I had no responsibilities to anyone else, like if I was on my deathbed.

amba said...

mentally ill, that is.

Buddy Larsen said...

you're right, amba--it flourished with a rare cohort--and 'rare' doesn't mean anything but 'rare'.

Elizabeth said...

Buddy, yes, that's Huxley, but it gets it from William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite." from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

I read this article today, or one covering the same material. What seemed most important to me is that part of the point of this research--what we ought to mean when we say "experimenting with drugs"--is using psychedelics to help with depression, for example, in late-stage cancer patients, or others with painful or debilitating illnesses. I favor finding out more about that. I also favor legalizing drug use, but that's another topic.

Elizabeth said...

Any society that begins to reject reality in significant numbers must be one that is dying.

Pogo, I don't share that worry. Our history is full of efforts to explore other parts of our consciousness, with help from outside agents. Yet, we endure. I think there's a different between desire to obliterate reality, to somatize oneself, and the desire to use physical, chemical and emotional means to explore other dimensions.

Buddy Larsen said...

ha--with William Blake, who needs acid?

amba said...

JohnK: psychedelics aren't addictive -- at least not any more than videogames are. Maybe they are even less physiologically addictive than videogames.

But any experience that was so great you seek it over and over tends to become less and less great, and eventually nightmarish. If you did this once and then "integrated the insights," as they used to say, into your ordinary life, it sounds like a pretty good thing. You'd have to regard it as a sacrament and use it sparingly and reverence, which is not the American way. Freedom is excess, wit' us.

Pogo said...

Elizabeth, I can't help but think that the attempt to explore other dimensions is merely a mask for the desire to obliterate reality. That is, it mistakes ecstacy for said dimensions, which don't exist at all.

I worry when large numbers of people turn into the self, as has occurred in the West over the past century. Whole populations seeking a permanent vacation can't be good.

That said, does psilocybin scare off your thetans, or do they just get all trancey at the same time you do? And who's more likely to know: Cruise, or Travolta?

Pastor_Jeff said...

Buddy asked,
"What does the Bible say about drug use--or of course, withdrawal into the self--?"

Well, the part about withdrawal into self is pretty obvious. That way lies death. The Bible exhorts us in many ways to look beyond ourselves and find joy in serving, giving, and living for something greater than the ego.

The part about drugs is perhaps less clear, but really interesting. In the New Testament, the "withcraft" which is condemned (for example in Galatians 5:20) is the Greek word pharmakeia (hence, our 'pharmaceutical'). The ancients used drugs to achieve altered states of consciousness as part of their worship...

You may fill in the blanks from there. I have a meeting to run to.

amba said...

Another story on the subject from "edge" website Unknowncountry.com:

Psilocybin Creates Consistent Mystical Experience

An unusually rigorous study carried out at Johns Hopkins has confirmed that DMT, the active substance in sacred mushrooms, causes all subjects to hallucinate the same environment and have the same mystical experiences.

This was also the finding in an earlier study by Dr. Richard Strassman, Dreamland guest and author of DMT, the Spirit Molecule. Dr. Strassman speculates that the drug may be enabling subjects to actually see into a parallel universe. He suggests this not only because of the consistency involved in what is seen, but also because time seems to pass in the visionary world between observations under DMT.

The Johns Hopkins researchers do not speculate in this direction. Study leader Roland Griffiths, PhD, warned about the dangers of unsupervised psylocibin use, saying that a third of the study subjects reported 'significant fear' and some also experienced transient feelings of paranoia. . . .

More here.

Ben Masel said...

Advice for the 1st time user of psilocybin or other psychedelics...

Go to the woods with one or more folks you like and trust. Ideally, deep enough into the National Forest that no-one will care if you take your clothes off.

At least one of the group should not consume. Only this individual should carry a cell phone.

Start with 1/4 of the suggested dose, wait to see your reaction, then, if favorable, take the rest.

Just because your first trip was wonderful, do not repeat the experience inmmediately. Space by at least a month.

amba said...

The same website asks: did Shakespeare smoke dope? Get the munchies?

Ann Althouse said...

"Is it really that hard to get illegal drugs and consume them if you want them?"

I'm offended by this question. If personal freedom, including religious freedom, and the right to dominance over one's own mind and body justify access to this drug, why should anyone have to commit a crime to have it? Why should only people who are willing to commit crimes have access to the drugs? That's a ridiculous place to draw the line deciding who can have it and who can't. If drugs are illegal, only criminals can use drugs.

Chum said...

Amba:'like if I was on my deathbed.'
Didn't Huxley do just this? I know he talked about it, don't know if he actually did it at the end.

and,

'You'd have to regard it as a sacrament and use it sparingly and reverence'

Which is how I understand shamans use it.

Pogo:
'I can't imagine a legitimate purpose for this research except
(1) relieving chronic pain, e.g. cancer, or
(2) military psyops'

from the article..The researchers suggest the drug someday may help drug addicts kick their habit or aid terminally ill patients struggling with anxiety and depression.

This isn't a feel good party drug nor is it used to replace reality. It would be impossible to take a drug like this and go about the business of daily life at the same time. It's value is it gives the user a perspective that is rarely achieved via any other means, for those that find that helpful.

This turning into a very Carlos Castenda thread. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Simon Kenton said...

John Henry said:

"Is the commenter aware of any studies showing that Psilocybin has negative effects on driving ability?"

I ran part of the San Juan River on high water gobbling mushrooms. We were all gobbling them and saying, "You got took, John. Whatever you paid. These are Amanita placebonis, the inert variety. I'm not feeling a thing. Gimme that bag again. Gimme some a that candy, while you're at it." And kept saying that until we suddenly and belatedly realized that they actually worked and we had been insensibly converted into "Debbie and the Organics," an acapella rock group that bombed down the minor rapids of the San Juan, hooting, cackling, wailing, and doo-wopping.

I ran a fine boat, psylocybin or not, and nobody saw God - unless God's intrinsically the Nylons or the Platters.

wlnkgotl

Ann Althouse said...

Ben Masel! Thanks for dropping by.

Meade said...

Pastor_Jeff said...
Buddy asked,
"What does the Bible say about drug use--or of course, withdrawal into the self--?"

Well, the part about withdrawal into self is pretty obvious. That way lies death


I think Aldous Huxley would have agreed.
He, along with most of the LSD experimenters in the 50's, wasn't seeking ecstasy, pleasure, or recreation. He was seeking an expansion of consciousness, a trip, not for getting high but to go even deeper into reality.

Also, Huxley's use of psychedelics was under the guidance of a medical doctor and took place at a time before those particular substances were made illegal. He was profoundly saddened, just before his death in 1963, by the tragic reports of young people destroying their health and lives while carelessly using LSD for recreational purposes.


from Wikipedia: "Huxley's satirical, dystopian, and utopian novels seldom fail to stimulate thought. The same may be said for his essays and essay collections. Perhaps his main message is the tragedy that frequently follows from egocentrism, self-centredness, and selfishness"

Island, Huxley's final novel, describes the use of "moksha (liberation) medicine" and tantric sex. It's not a bad read.

Upon his deathbed, his reported final words: "Try to be a little kinder."

P. Froward said...

Elizabeth,

I think there's a differen[ce] between desire to obliterate reality, to somatize oneself, and the desire to use physical, chemical and emotional means to explore other dimensions.

"Other dimensions"? What do you mean, "other dimensions"?

Are you suggesting that the crawling sensation on the skin experienced by somebody with delerium tremens is caused by actual insects, but they're from the fourth dimension or the astral plane or something?

Or is it only some drugs whose effects are legitimately interdimensional? How can you tell which? Is it just a matter of personal preference? Some dimensions are "real for me", others are "real for you"? How do you work a double-blind experiment with this stuff? Or is it one of those phenomena, like pychic powers, that stops working in the presence of the scientific method? The psychic phenomena con-artists used to call that "the Shyness Effect". I've got a different word for it.

Perfect, unrelieved nonsense.

A few beers may be an escape, but it's temporary (barring alcoholism). Kidding yourself into believing that you're "exploring other dimensions" when you're simply getting blasted to forget your troubles is an additional obliteration of reality on top of the drugs, and a more serious and permanent one in my view.

If life's easier for you to take when you pretend to live in a magic land of make-believe, knock yourself out, but don't ask the rest of us to take you seriously.

Buddy Larsen said...

I thought she meant 'other dimensions' of a point-of-view, as in, a new take on some knot in one's life, or a different way of feeling about something.

amba said...

personal freedom [ ... ] and the right to dominance over one's own mind and body

Ann, you sound like that other Ayn. The notion that one can actually dominate one's own mind and body is hubris and may invite an Icarian comeuppance. The right to sovereignty over them, you mean? The right to take risks of self-destruction? That's something else again.

amba said...

It would be interesting to give the drug to p.froward . . . with his (?) consent, of course.

amba said...

(yes, I'm heavily hanging out here . . . TypePad's been down all afternoon.)

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: "nobody saw God - unless God's intrinsically the Nylons or the Platters."

You've got to watch the movie "Touching the Void." Key quote: "Bloody hell... I'm gonna die to Boney M."

Meade said...

amba, I think she may have meant "dominion." ?

PatCA said...

In actual practice, the freedom to control one's body and mind would soon translate into a mess akin to the SF pot clubs.

Even if it were available only in a controlled setting, how soon do you think it would be before a "civil rights" suit broke down the restrictions?

IMO the only use for exploring a drug-induced dimension is for people who live in a permanently drug-induced state. We live in one dimension and ought not forsake it lightly. Try instead meditation or prayer--no black market pushers involved.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: I agree that "sovereignty" is the better word choice. And let me say that I've never read Ayn Rand, except for "Anthem," which was forced upon me by a high school friend and which I don't remember.

Buddy Larsen said...

Carlos Casteneda, Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand. Faaaar out!

brylin said...

I'm getting back a little late to respond to Ann's question about religion in the second comment, but I was within a few feet of the stage at the Dickey Betts concert last night and I had a religious reaffirming moment (sans intoxicants) while watching and listening to him play: only God could have created such beauty!

Meade said...

PatCA: Only one dimension? You sure? I'd agree many of the pot clubbers might live in only one, but the rest of us live in at least, what, three? And then what about Up Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon by the Fifth Dimension?

Sorry.

Einstein said that his greatest insights came to him not through his rational mind... and he was a certified genius (albeit, no String Theorist), right?

downtownlad said...

cxeod
Of course it should be legalized. The government has no reason to ban this, except to deny people pleasure.

I've never used drugs myself. And after reading that this brings about feelings of "joy, peace, and love" I'm pretty sure I won't be using this one!

Alan said...

"haven't you heard about the canyons of your mind?"

Like the regions of the mind "Professor" Barrett reaches for when he practices critical thinking? :)

Gerry said...

Ah, Rand. Love her or hate her. Very few are in between. And even those who love her skip most of John Galt's speech.

My guess, Ann, is that you would hate The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Seven Machos said...

Ann Althouse: If a community wants to have certain laws and live a certain way, it should be able to have those laws and be able to live that way. There are very often meta-reasons why societies have certain laws. Any individual getting high one time, for example, isn't hurting the community. But a large percentage of the population getting high every day for two decades, that will hurt the community, quite severely. It is good and right for societies to prohibit actions which, over time, can cause harm to society.

If you disagree with the laws of society, you can in good faith not follow those laws. You might be right to do so. You might be wrong. And you do so at your own peril.

What's at issue, I think, is the loaded term "criminal." I don't view it as "criminal" to use drugs, or to jaywalk, or to speed. No one does. They are merely actions that the State prohibits and penalizes. (Certain actions are both illegal and always or almost always wrong, and not really subject to discretion.)

Kirk Parker said...

Seven,

"Is it really that hard to get illegal drugs and consume them if you want them? Maybe the situation we have now isn't so bad."

Well, I look at the horrible corrupting influence on the police of things like asset forfeiture, heavy reliance on questionable informants, militaristic tactics like no-knock raids, and answer, "Yes, what we have now is pretty bad."

Elizabeth said...

Yes, Buddy, that's a fair explanation of what I meant. Thanks. I'm not sure how, or even whether, to reply to P. Froward and Pogo. Both seem to have a deeply emotional response, and I respect that. I take exception to their characterizations, though.

Brylin--music brings me the most exceptional spiritual experience, as a listener and as a performer. I no longer sing, but there were times I've sung in well-honed choral groups when I've felt like I'd left my own body and had become one with the other voices. I have no idea what's real or unreal about that, and I don't care.

P. Froward said...

How do these people know that the positive experiences are the genuinely mystical ones? What, it's real because it's nice? On what planet is that a reasonable assumption?

Why shouldn't something like severe depression be considered a "mystical experience" instead? Or is "mystical" just being used to signify "highly enjoyable"?


Elizabeth,

If you promise not to mistake an annoying prose style for strong emotion, I promise not to make any more remarks about mistaking appearance for substance.


amba,

It would be interesting to give the drug to p.froward... with his (?) consent, of course.

"His", yeah. Fat chance on the drug, though. I'm annoying enough already.


Buddy Larsen,

I thought she meant 'other dimensions' of a point-of-view...

Er. Hm. You may be right. My bad, then, if so.

Seven Machos said...

I should point out that I think the drug laws are ridiculous as well. However, a lot of people must think drugs are bad or you'd think we would see different laws.

Buddy Larsen said...

I'd say, if "mystical" isn't an adjective describing a personal, subjective experience, then nothing is.

Wide-open legalization--because we're urbanized and largely invulnerable, and don't drive farm tractors, drove steers, pay much attention to concepts of sin, or have Aunt Maggie in the house, I'm afraid we'd lose a lot more people to dependence.

As for me, I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre frontal lobotomy.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Abraham,

Well argued. Here's a counterpoint. It doesn't disprove anything you said. It's just a counterpoint.

Giving your life for another is not rational. In fact, all heroism and self-sacrifice is irrational, because it is based on mystical stuff like honor and glory and afterlife, or translife - the idea that it matters what you do, that your spirit, or the spirit of your clan or tribe, is something real that matters, something transcendent.

All societies value honor and glory and translife. In purely evolutionary terms the reason for this is that these values helped humans survive. But that means in reality they are pure horsehit. It means that for you as an autonomous being, it is stupid to give up your life for anyone other than your offspring because there is no honor or glory. The only translife is genetic.

But I've never met anyone who believes that. I've met lots of people who say they believe it. But I don't think they do.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Translife: The fun new monthly for the transexual and transgendered community!

Elizabeth said...

P., sounds like a good agreement.

I'm also not going to venture into trying to answer questions about what is real, and what is mystical, to your satisfaction. I can't answer them for myself, either. The only good a BA in philosophy did me was to convince me I don't know much about that stuff.

John in Nashville said...

Our blog hostess said:

"'Sounds like pretty potent and dangerous stuff - especially if you want to keep yourself solidly based in reality.'

"Wouldn't you say that about religion?"

Now, which presidential administration has shamelessly pandered to fundamentalists and spoken contemptuously of those in "the reality-based community"?

I'd say that, taking the voting behavior of its adherents into account, fundamentalism has the more dangerous side effects.

Verification word: "mmhohrlr" Mmmm--holy roller?

Ann Althouse said...

P. Froward said..."How do these people know that the positive experiences are the genuinely mystical ones? What, it's real because it's nice? On what planet is that a reasonable assumption?"

But you can say the same thing about religion. The question is whether the government should be making the decision to bar us from taking this route. It doesn't stop us from praying and meditating in search of God or in search of some mystical experience. It doesn't prevent us from doing all sorts of other escapist things that aren't even profound, like playing video games and seeing fantasy movies.

Simon said...

"If personal freedom, including religious freedom, and the right to dominance over one's own mind and body justify access to this drug, why should anyone have to commit a crime to have it? Why should only people who are willing to commit crimes have access to the drugs?"

"We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition ... But to say that a nondiscriminatory religious-practice exemption is permitted, or even that it is desirable, is not to say that it is constitutionally required, and that the appropriate occasions for its creation can be discerned by the courts. It may fairly be said that leaving accommodation to the political process will place at a relative disadvantage those religious practices that are not widely engaged in; but that unavoidable consequence of democratic government must be preferred to a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself or in which judges weigh the social importance of all laws against the centrality of all religious beliefs." Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. at 879, 890.

Seven Machos said...

John -- Show me the part where George W. Bush or his paid lackeys has "spoken contemptuously of those in "the reality-based community."

I'll take it in quotes, please.

Or are you simply making things up?

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: That's no answer to my point. I'm not saying there's a right under the current interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause (or even the pre-Smith interpretation). I'm not even really talking about constitutional law. I'm just making a philosophical or policy argument.

madawaskan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John in Nashville said...

Seven, please excuse my having presupposed your familiarity with an idiom that has circulated all over the blogosphere. Although I don't know whether you merely feign ignorance or are in fact that sheltered, I shan't make that mistake again.

My reference was to an article entitled "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush", written by Ron Suskind and published in the New York Time Magazine on October 17, 2004. The author described a meeting with someone whom he identified, not by name, but as "a senior advier to Bush". The context obviously referred to the current President Bush.

Mr. Suskind wrote:

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'" [Ellipsis in original]

Seven, before you next suggest, by means of a rhetorical question, that I am "simply making things up", please first withdraw your head from your hindquarters.

Seven Machos said...

John -- Anyway, show me the part where George W. Bush or his paid lackeys has "spoken contemptuously of those in "the reality-based community."

I should have stipulated that I would like the name of the individual. "Senior Bush adviser" + New York Times = Jayson Blairland. Is "senior Bush adviser" paid? Is "senior Bush adviser" real?

Meanwhile, you can get that evenhanded classic "The Price of Loyalty" for $0.86 on Amazon. However, I bet if you get negotiate a little, you can get the seller to pay you upwards of 30 cents to take it off their hands.

Deena said...

P. Froward:

How do these people know that the positive experiences are the genuinely mystical ones? What, it's real because it's nice? On what planet is that a reasonable assumption?

Why shouldn't something like severe depression be considered a "mystical experience" instead? Or is "mystical" just being used to signify "highly enjoyable"?


For what it's worth, there are plenty of historical anecdotes about mystical experiences that were absolutely horrible. For instance, Martin Luther believed he had encountered Satan (something we can classify as both spiritual and mystical, no?) and found the experience as harrowing as one might expect.

I suspect that people who use psychedelic drugs occasionally find "bad trips" to be interesting, life-changing, and perhaps even a stimulus to useful insight. I'm not sure that people are attracted to psychedelic drugs solely for the promise of bliss. Escape and enjoyment are certainly among the common motives, but there's often more to it than that. People take the risks involved with doing drugs for more than just fun and denial.

Pogo said...

Elizabeth,

I'll admit to a hair-triggered emotional repsonse on this issue. And to misinterpreting "other dimensions" as "beyond the 3 dimnensional world" instead of the intended meaning, "other points of view".

I spend a good chunk of my week cleaning up the mess made by excessive drug use. It's enough to make anyone admire Stoicism. I would be intrigued if these drugs offer any hope for chronic pain or mental illness (and I predict the former but not the latter application to prove fruitful).

I also fear that this approach will in fact be used to avoid reality, and if done regularly even at the margins of society, we would experience a severe downside, and erosion of those margins over time (i.e., its use would increase).

The "other dimensions" phrasing immediately correlated to Timothy Leary (or, at least songs about him, the 'flying an astral plane' nonsense), in my mind. A mistake, it appears.

Now that it has been established I cannot read terribly well, nor can I write very well, I soon will come to fear speaking. Perhaps if I used hand puppets instead?

tjl said...

John in Nashville said,

"Now, which presidential administration has shamelessly pandered to fundamentalists and spoken contemptuously of those in "the reality-based community."

Amazing how any topic, no matter how remote from politics, can serve some obsessed people as a vehicle to attack their bete noir, George Bush, sole author of all evil in the universe.

Simon Kenton said,
"I ran part of the San Juan River on high water gobbling mushrooms."

Totally cool. I was on the Rio Grande last week and the water was so low a few mushrooms would have helped a lot.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am a bit surprised that the Rio Grande is already played out for the season. We seem to still have plenty of water running in a lot of our rivers here in CO. Rafting and kayaking are still going strong, and this year will probably come in second as far as its death toll for the state. The Denver papers are still running what seem like weekly articles on near drownings, etc. across the state.

tjl said...

Bruce-
It was in NM below the Taos Box.