ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
S. I. Hayakawa, editor
December 1965, "Special Issue on the Psychedelic Experience"
MEANING AND THE MIND-DRUGS
RICHARD P. MARSH
MANY READERS of the Sunday supplements are familiar with the names, if not the operational characteristics, of at least three of the new "brain-changing" drugs: LSD-25, psilocybin (popularized as "the magic mushroom"), and mescaline, a derivative of the now-notorious peyote plant used by members of the Native American (Indian) Church in their religious ceremonies. These three drugs have been publicized, often in lurid prose, by journalists more interested in their news value than in their chemical properties.
The sensation-seeking reader has been told that a cult of suburban intellectuals and city-dwelling beatniks has grown up around these drugs. He knows that the drugs have the power of producing strange visions, and he suspects them of producing strange forms of behavior. What he does not suspect is that there is a serious possibility that the drugs will one day be a boon to mankind.
Whether they will or not remains to be seen. Meanwhile, among serious students of the drugs, a war rages over the question which may prove to be among the most critical in history.
One group claims big things. Thanks to the drugs and their capacity for expanding human consciousness, they say, psychiatry is at a turning point, and Utopia itself may be upon us before we know it. 1 Another group is darkly dubious. The new drugs will lead us, they fear, not into Utopia but into psychosis, and in a pinch could be used by a future dictator as an insidious adjunct to thought control. 2
This division of opinion, as so often happens, is reflected in a division of terminology. Early experimenters with the drugs, hypothesizing that they had the power of inducing in an ingestant a short-term model psychosis complete with hallucinations and paranoid delusions of grandeur and persecution, dubbed them "psychotomimetic." Experience showed, however, that some ingestants persistently refused to retreat into psychosis, even on a short-term basis, but instead blossomed out with a variety of positively healthy symptoms and began to report extraordinary spontaneous increases in self-insight. So eventually the word "psychedelic" was coined3 as an alternative to "psychotomimetic." "Psychedelic," by way of its Greek origins, means simply "mind-manifesting." It implies that the new drugs do not so much drive an ingestant into a state of psychosis as to open out his mind, whatever its characteristics, making it available for inspection.
Whether the new drugs are psychotomimetic or psychedelic, then—whether they diminish or enlarge—is the issue. If they reduce us to the condition of crazy men, they may possess limited value in carefully controlled psychiatric research, but they are scarcely promising as a vehicle for mass liberation. If, however, they endow us with self-knowledge, manifesting to us our own minds, their promise is great.
Broadly, the commentators on the new drugs have tended to be either psychotomimeticists or psychedelicists. They have tended either to view the drugs with suspicion as potentially dangerous sources of mental disturbance or to view them optimistically as useful, almost magical means to self-discovery and self-actualization. In-between positions have been taken, of course, but perhaps not so frequently as the facts warrant.
THERE ARE at least three reasons, all of them semantic, for the prevalence of this two-valued attitude. First, there is the fact that the language available for talking about the drug experience is simply not equal to the task. Dr. Timothy Leary has written about this elsewhere in this issue of ETC. The essence of the problem, in the opinion of the present writer, is that a process cannot be stored in a box. The static, subject-predicate, thing-and-properties language we have inherited from our culture does not easily contain the shifting, dynamic, flowing experience undergone by the drug ingestant. The experience is nondual and infinitely valued. Language is dualistic and two-valued. Attempting to express the drug experience in language is like trying to stuff the cosmos into a trunk.
Then there is the prevailing Western attitude toward the body, one of Puritan distrust. We tend to feel that things of the mind and spirit should be somehow remote and unbodied. To suggest that the mind is a function of the brain and can therefore be unlocked by a drug is to suggest the vaguely indecent. What is good for us should not be come by too easily and should not be quite pleasant. Furthermore, the spirit should be kept clear of the body or else ignored altogether.
Finally, we are confronted by a special form of guilt-by-association. A certain number of "far out, beat" people have obtained black market supplies of the new brain-changing drugs and taken them for kicks. Some have then talked about their experiences in a jazzy, flippant way. As a result many responsible people have felt both repelled and threatened, consequently falling into the semantic trap of imputing to the drugs the characteristics of the consumers and condemning the drugs themselves as intrinsically bad.
For these three reasons and others, objectivity about the drugs is difficult. The drugs are extraordinarily difficult to talk about. This is unfortunate, since the way they are talked about determines to a large extent the way they operate, whether they are positively psychedelic or negatively psychotomimetic.
MANY responsible investigators emphasize the importance of "set and setting" in determining the effects of the drugs.4 The subject's expectations, his mood at the time of drug ingestion, and the physical and social environment apparently determine, to a considerable extent, the nature of the subjective experience. If the experience is approached in an attitude of scientific curiosity combined with a sort of reverence for the possibilities of human inwardness, the results will be quite different from what they will be if one takes the drug as though he were going on a binge. Since one's attitudes are shaped so much by one's language and may even be inseparable from it, it matters how one chooses to speak about the experience before, during, and afterward.5 It matters also whether one takes the drug with the half-guilty expectation of going out of his mind or in the serene confidence that he will be brought to himself.
In short, the drug experience is like any experience: its meaning lies primarily within the person, not within the drug, which merely liberates. What it liberates into, insanity or ecstatic insight, depends on the subject and the circumstances.
Thus the drug experience is a semantic experience. It is the experience of creating and discovering meanings. There is perhaps no more fruitful way of looking at it than this: that it sheds a good deal of light on the communication process and on the discipline of general semantics. There is an extraordinary number of ways in which it does this, but, owing to lack of space, only seven will be discussed.
1. The release of the symbolizing function. The incredible human capacity for symbol and image production is driven home forcibly to many people who consume one of the drugs or browse in the literature. Huxley, Watts, Leary, Dunlap, Newland, and others have written vividly and sometimes eloquently about this. The present author, at the time of his first LSD-ingestion, was stunned to discover the fantastic fertility of his own image- and symbol-producing centers under the impact of the drug. He underwent the experience of birth, felt himself transformed into mythological persons, floated graciously through lovely caverns of sparkling ice and splendid gold-encrusted Gothic cathedrals, and watched in awe as jeweled patterns formed and reformed in an endless variety of living mandalar shapes, fourfold marvels of incredible beauty modulating into endless variations of themselves, dissolving into spinning galaxies of infinite dimension and significance, or lapsing into marvelously unique free-forms dancing in total spontaneity through unpredictable patterns of absolute wonder.
Above all, there was the experience of light. This appeared in many forms: as a "diamond center" of incredible luster (and somehow, too, of incredible significance); as patterned living flame, shaping itself into fourfold configurations in a sort of visual equivalent to the music coming from the phonograph; as music itself visible, apprehended directly by the inner eye in the form of three-dimensional shapes glowing from within; and as shining fields, banks, walls, fortresses, trees and rivers of living gems and jewels.
We are here led directly into the problem of intensionality. Obviously, this internal splendor was not, as Korzybski would say, extensional. It was not available for public inspection and verification. No one except the author looked on to confirm the reality of the spectacle. And yet its reality seemed beyond dispute; it seemed even to be a reality of a higher order than the extensional reality of the public world. It seemed, too, to have a higher meaning—or rather to be meaning itself, to be not so much a symbolization of another reality as the very act of symbolization; not precisely to mean something, but actually to mean meaning as such.
KENNETH BOULDING has said that man's capacity to proliferate internal images is at once his chief glory and his greatest hazard.6 It enables him to elaborate those roadmaps which get him through life meaningfully, but also those deceptive roadmaps which lose him in the jungle. In other words, it helps him to extensionalize as well as to intensionalize. Extensionalization and intensionalization, the public and the private, play into each other. The raw, given facts of the universe are chaotic and meaningless until some sort of structure is imposed on them, and then they take on meaning and order.7 Then they serve as a useful roadmap to get us through life in a sufficiently rewarding way.
The meaning of things, however, lies not in the things nor entirely in us, but rather in a fluent traffic between inner and outer—with particular emphasis on the inner. More precisely, meanings appear to be discovered but in fact are manufactured. Under LSD, we seem to come up against that part of our inner world where meanings are made, where the patterning process operates in its pure form. It is a startling experience. One who has known it is not likely to forget it, and we may speculate that, having once seen his own intensionality in an isolated form, one will thereafter be better equipped to persuade it to serve him and less likely to be misled by it to create maps for which there are no territories.
2. The experience of unity. One of the most startling features of the drug experience is that, while one remembers the names of things with perfect clarity, they no longer seem to him appropriate. This object is called a table and that one is called a chair, just as before, but there is now seen to be something richly amusing about the process of labeling them. One's eyes are opened. The difference between the table and the chair is still perceived as real enough, but it is also perceived as entirely arbitrary, a conventional distinction that could well be replaced by an infinity of other distinctions equally conventional.
The unity of all things becomes suddenly apparent with blazing simplicity. The opposites rush together like a clap of thunder. Each separate quality, normally perceptible only by contrast with its opposite, is still perceptible as a separate quality, only now the illusoriness of its separateness is apparent. Big and little, wet and dry, pain and pleasure are no longer seen as polar pairs but rather as points on a continuum. So, likewise, are ugliness and beauty, love and hate, femininity and masculinity, and all the rest. So, most particularly, are sameness and otherness, the LSD experient discovering to his amazement and joy that the separateness that divides him from others is a masquerade for the identity that connects him
This may be interpreted as a mystical doctrine, to be sure and as such it will be sufficiently annoying or meaningless to the more rigidly positivistic. But the more flexibly inclined will recognize the semantic soundness of the perception that the things and qualities which fill our lives are, to some extent at least, verbal constructions that are capable of passing away with the passing away of the names that gave them birth.
3. Seeing through the game. Of all the benefits of the drug experience, this is perhaps the greatest and the most long-lasting. The author, a college professor, remembers during his third LSD experience staring at the physician who had administered the drug with the awed and liberating awareness that the man was no more a doctor than he himself was a professor. Both the "professor" and the "doctor," although duly certificated by the proper authorities, were, it now appeared, manifestly frauds. What's more, the discovery proved liberating and refreshing in the extreme. Two game-players, one hiding behind the doctor role, the other playing at being a professor, had come out from their costumes, abandoned the game, and, thanks to LSD, now sat confronting each other in a condition of headlong and naked reality. The feeling of lightness and release was incredible.
TIMOTHY LEARY is among those who have emphasized the game-like nature of most human behavior as well as LSD's capacity for liberating one from the tyranny of games. He has defined a game as an acquired cultural sequence characterized by roles, rules, goals, rituals, language, values, and strategies.8 This is a very comprehensive definition which covers virtually every form of human behavior, especially those not shared with other animals. Leary has been attacked for this by critics who object that to abandon one's games would be to abandon most meaningful human activity including, for example, the "game" of science.
Actually, of course, one does not abandon the "scientific game" or any other "acquired cultural sequence" provided it is serviceable. But, if he is wise, one does attempt to see through the games he plays and continually to ask the question: Is this game now the best one to play in order to actualize my human possibilities? To reject all games, to reject all "roles, rules, goals, rituals, language, values, and strategies," is to reject civilization itself, along with sanity, maturity, meaning, and all possibility of being human instead of merely animal. But to take them all seriously is equally destructive or more so. There are arguments for both conservatism and liberalism, and one can choose between dying the death of ossification and dying the death of formlessness. On the whole, however, the first seems the more terrifying prospect.
In any case, six hours' freedom from the tyranny of the ego, a holiday enjoyed by many who have consumed LSD, is likely to predispose one unfavorably against ever again granting it the absolute sway to which it is accustomed. The ego is the social game par excellence, absolutely necessary to our survival and yet tyrannously opposed to our growth and our deepest satisfaction. Jay Haley has amusingly yet incisively exposed its infinitely subtle maneuvers in that ongoing game of one- upmanship called psychoanalysis.9 The ego, he says, is the organ of one-upmanship, always striving to get one-up or stay one-up, and hence always restless and anxious. Following an anonymous English scholar, Haley suggests that the analysis will be spontaneously and successfully terminated when the patient reaches the "point where he doesn't really care whether the analyst is in control of the relationship or whether he is in control."10 At that point the patient is cured. He has seen through the game, and though his ego still functions as the integrative principle which holds his personality together, it has become transparent and no longer dominates the self.
Prolonged psychotherapy is no doubt necessary before the ego will permanently accept its role as servant instead of master of the self. The LSD experience, however, can give the ingestant a startling glimpse of what life would be like if the ego could be persuaded to relax its grip. This might well facilitate the process of therapy, just as the process of therapy serves to make the LSD experience richer and deeper. In any case the game-like, linguistic, and conventional nature of the ego is often lucidly apparent to the LSD ingestant.
4. Receptivity. All points in the communication cycle are important, but perhaps in our anxious age it is the reception of messages which gives particular trouble. Most of us encode willingly enough, but we are not, as a rule particularly interested in decoding. We talk, but we don't listen. We turn on the radio, then ignore it. We are eager to impress others, but not to hear them.
Under LSD many people learn, for the first time, what it means to be absolutely present. Since they have temporarily renounced their games and seen through their own need to be one-up, they can afford to be aware of whatever the environment, external or internal, may happen to present without wishing to change it. For the moment, at least, they have nothing to lose by listening. They may even dare listen to themselves, perhaps for the first time.
Under these conditions, extraordinary things can occur. Other people may be seen as precious, infinitely complex, and quite miraculous. The physical environment may become altogether startling. One may feel that he is looking not at a book, a table, or a chair, but at The Book, The Table, or The Chair. To paraphrase Aldous Huxley, the Absolute seems to blaze forth from all around one.11 Music becomes incredible: Old warhorses like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony become fresh and powerful again. A record of a choir hunched around a microphone in a remote recording studio quite literally fills the room with angels. The music becomes textured and alive. It may even become visible and glow with an inner light.
Paintings move and open up to reveal new dimensions. Colors become intense and preternaturally vibrant. Objects in nature, such as mountains and trees, shine with beauty and drip with significance. One's internal world opens up to one, both the repressed world of the personal unconscious and the pre-existent, archetypal realm of the collective unconscious. One looks in upon what Huxley calls the "antipodes of the mind," i.e., the world of Visionary Experience.12 The creatures, the gardens, the pools of light he sees there fill him with awe and peace.
SEMANTICALLY, the condition of being absolutely present to the outer and the inner reality has at least two advantages. First, it allows a person to tune in on that feedback, both external and internal, which enables him to correct his own errors in encoding. He is able to reduce the noise level in the various communication systems in which he is involved by re-encoding his message streams until they convey the meanings that he intends them to convey. Secondly, it allows a person to inhabit the world of the actual, the world of fact, instead of the unreal and empty world of the prefabricated abstraction. It allows him to experience the world instead of merely thinking about it and hence, perhaps, to begin to live in it at last. In Huxley's words:
To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally . . . this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.13
5. Awareness of the shadow. This Jungian expression is used because of its vividness. In Jung's conception, the shadow is the repressed, dark side of the personality, a countertype of the collective, adapted side, which is bathed in the "light" of consciousness, so to speak. It is the source of much that is awkward and "evil" in human behavior, although paradoxically its liberation may result in a certain amount of "good." This is because the shadow contains within it not only the destructive and vicious elements of the personality but also much that only appears wicked and Satanic but which is, in fact, merely unknown, untried, and unaccepted. In theological symbolism, God is at a loss without the eager, if fiery, cooperation of Satan, as Genesis, the Book of Job, the story of Jesus' temptations, that of the temptation of Buddha by Mara, and other religious myths and documents attest.
Under LSD, the shadow may be explosively liberated. Indeed, this is one of the hazards of the drug, and it is one reason why its administration should be selective and controlled. The few recorded instances in which LSD has been harmful, precipitating severe depression, psychosis, and even suicide, are probably cases in which either there has been a "shadow problem," or something has been amiss with set and setting, or both. If the shadow is poorly integrated with the ego and the rest of the personality, its liberation—the upsurge of repressed materials from the unconscious—may cause a more or less irreversible panic leading to the disintegration of the self. On the other hand, if the subject's expectations are unhealthy or if the environment contains threatening or forbidding elements, then the release of the shadow even in a reasonably well integrated person may be more than he can cope with.
But if all candidates for LSD consumption are carefully screened, and if the drug is administered under optimum conditions, there appears to be virtually no danger. In any case, one who has experienced a conscious uprush of shadow material will not soon forget it, whether it be mild or fierce. The author's reliving of the birth experience (an event which, in Jung's language, may have been an archetypal experience as well as a shadow experience) is a case in point: It was mild in the sense of not being unduly alarming, and yet it was quite unforgettable. Similarly impressed on the author's memory is the transformation by which a physician monitoring the LSD experiment became alternately brutal devil and shining saint and, on another occasion, that by which a handsome middle-aged woman became alternately a dewy young virgin and a menacing, toothless witch.
The confrontation with the shadow, however, may be fierce rather than mild. It may produce intense anxiety or even wild terror.14 The subject may feel helplessly cut off from the rest of the world, or he may people it with monsters of his own creation. Perfectly benign companions who have only the welfare of the subject in mind may appear to be degenerate criminals from whom there is no escape. One may feel as though he is trapped in some diabolical plot engineered by malevolent Beings in a corrupt back alley of the universe. It is not surprising that under these circumstances subjects have been known to attempt violence or flight.
And yet, from the semantic standpoint at least, there is genuine value in such paranoid experiences, provided they are successfully lived through. This value lies in the confirmation they provide for the reality of projection. The dramatic alteration in appearance undergone by the physician and the woman previously mentioned was a purely semantic phenomenon. The changes in no sense occurred within the two people but rather in him who experienced the change. They were entirely changes in themeaning of the people as that meaning was created and then externalized by their observer. Similarly, the more alarming kinds of experience alluded to, such as the transformation of friendly helpers into degenerate monsters, are likewise purely the result of projection, a fact which becomes dazzlingly apparent after the effects of the drug recede.
A CURIOUS PROPERTY of LSD and the other new drugs is that the perceptual alterations they produce do not ordinarily reach the level of hallucination. The ingestant typically retains awareness throughout of the altered nature of his perceptions. Public reality continues to be his reference point. Thus he is able to inspect his own projections as they occur. In extreme cases, however, the ingestant may move in and out of hallucination so that recognition of his own projections must be deferred. In either case the ingestant normally completes the experience with a heightened awareness of his own capacity for creating meanings that superficially appear to be external to him.
In addition, of course, there are the changes of meaning one discovers in one's inner world. The retrieval of unconscious material by psychoanalytical methods may be easily interpreted as a semantic process, a clarification of inner awareness and evaluation. For permanence of results, the psychoanalytical method may be superior to the method of LSD—though this is far from certain—but the method of LSD is vastly superior in the respect that the uprush of imagery it provokes is so dramatic and startling as to be unforgettable.
6. The discovery of love. People who have taken LSD do not "know all the answers," nor have they automatically solved all their problems by virtue of having consumed the drug. But they often feel peculiarly at ease in one another's presence—a phenomenon which, when perceived by others, is sometimes a source of annoyance because it is liable to be mistakenly interpreted as a sign of clannishness. The reason for the easiness frequently felt by LSD-ingesters in one another's company is simply this: Because they have seen through the game, briefly at least, and because they sense that they are in the presence of others who have seen through the game, they feel not only less impelled to attack but also relatively immune from attack. They feel relatively free to drop their defenses and the other claptrap supporting the ego and simply stand freely and openly in one another's presence.
But there is more than this. Under LSD they have felt love—perhaps for the first time. The quality of the love they have felt is unusual. Thanks to their experience with the shadow and the uprush of forbidden material from that realm, they have seen the continuity, the essential unity, of love and hate, and they have (ideally, at least) accepted that unity. In short, they have accepted their feelings—not the "nice" ones only, but the awkward, "bad," embarrassing feelings as well—and they are comfortable about it. Because they have allowed themselves to hate, they can now allow themselves to love. Because they have admitted that they are afraid, they can now stand quietly secure in each other's presence. Still more remarkable than this, however, is the fact that they remember what it is like to feel love without jealousy or the necessity of possession. Having seen through the game and having found out that bare-faced liar, the ego, they have, at least a little, renounced the need to be one-up and junked at least some of the apparatus by which the ego maintains itself.
The ego dies hard, of course, but he is perversely intelligent and his aid may be enlisted in the campaign to subdue himself. People do not consciously wish to suffer, and so the ego may let go its grip a little when it is convinced that to do so is in its own best interests. The ego, having seen its own unreality, begins to relax: How can I feel jealous of you or rejected by you, how can I wish to possess you, or be possessed by you, if I am you? If my separateness from you is a name and my identity with you the reality, what do I fear?
7. The attainment of the Self. Implicit in the foregoing is a rudimentary theory of personality. Grossly oversimplified its main features would be these: Some LSD-ingestants feel that they have acquired knowledge, through direct experience, of an aspect of the self other than the one they are familiar with. It is as though they had discovered a second self. This second self is perceived as a kind of Unitary Self, while the familiar, daily self could be called the game- self.
The Unitary Self quite literally shimmers and dazzles. It consists of a set of apparently endless dimensions not evident to ordinary consciousness but sometimes awesomely present to the consciousness liberated by LSD. Because of its apparent endlessness, the ingestant may feel that it connects him with all other people and creatures. Hence the term Unitary.
The game-self, on the other hand, consists of the accumulated roles, rules, rituals, goals, language systems, values, and strategies inherited from one's culture Instead of being unitary in its action, the game-self tends to be separative. It is the organ of one-upmanship. While the Unitary Self unites the individual with other individuals, the game-self sets him against them in a subtle contest for social supremacy.
When the ingestant discovers his game-self he is liable to be somewhat contemptuous of it. He may feel, under the influence of the drug, that he wishes to devote his life to the service of the Unitary Self. Yet, as the effects of the drug ebb away he feels the game-self slowly reassert itself. The chief effects of the LSD experience are perhaps due to the interplay of these two selves.
If, following a drug session, the game-self reasserts itself totally, then the LSD experience has provided kicks and a rather haunting memory, but little more. If the game-self does not reassert itself sufficiently, then the ingestant is lost to society or he has slipped over into psychosis. If, however, the game-self and the Unitary Self have to some extent interpenetrated, so to speak, producing a degree of transformation in the ingestant's self-concept, then the ingestant has taken a step toward that condition of individuality-within-relationship which is the true meaning of psychological maturity. An ingestant who achieves this feels himself to be part of society as a whole, even part of the total cosmos, and yet uniquely himself and valuable in his uniqueness.
THE BLISS experienced by some LSD-ingestants results from the experience of unity with the cosmos. The ingestant feels essentially one with what he sees as an incredibly glorious whole. On the other hand, the terror experienced by some ingestants results from their clinging to the game-self, whose partly fraudulent nature has been exposed by the action of the drug and whose continued existence in its present form has been threatened.
This is a point at which psychosis may seem imminent. Let us, therefore, ask our central question once again, the answer to which may be so crucial to the future of the race: Are the new drugs psychotomimetic or are they psychedelic, psychosis mimicking or mind-manifesting? Which?
The answer is conditional on circumstances. Whoever has experienced the expansion of consciousness and the unveiling of the Unitary Self resulting from one of the drugs can have no doubts: They are unmistakably psychedelic in their effects. But whoever has skirted a psychotic episode—with its accompaniments of paranoid terror, violence, flight, and suicidal depression—knows that the drugs are quite capable of being psychotomimetic (and suspects that perhaps they may even be psychotogenetic or psychosis-producing) in their impact.
But, as usual, a two-valued orientation is inadequate to the facts. Not "either-or" but "both-and" expresses the truth of the matter. It is essential to be multi-valued in approaching the new drugs, which are so profound and subtle in their operations within the psyche. Not only are they psychedelic, but also they are psychotomimetic. Even more, they are psychedelic because they are psychotomimetic, and psychotomimetic because they are psychedelic. To be shown the truth about ourselves, to be shown that we are all, to some extent, frauds and pretenders, strategy-ridden game-players intent on getting one-up on our fellow game-players, is an alarming experience. And this is the experience the new drugs may give us. They psychedelically show us what we are, and we may psychotomimetically react with terror. In such a case the terror results from the fact that to cease identifying exclusively with the game-self and instead to identify a little more with the Unitary Self is, in a psychological sense, to die to what we have been in order to be born to what we are capable of becoming. It is not surprising that some ingestants, in the face of this threat of imminent death, suddenly panic.
And yet there is value even in panic, psychedelic benefit in psychotomimetic terror. "Hell," as Joe K. Adams has pointed out, "is at least as instructive as heaven."15 One who has been surprised in the act of furtively playing with his own excrements might as well relax and stop putting on airs in public. Having been exposed as a confirmed coprophiliac, he need have no further fear of detection. Similarly, the public disclosure, as the result of a drug session, that one harbors within oneself not only a field of shining jewels but also a nest of scorpions is most liberating. One's defenses drop away. There is no longer any need to pretend. It becomes easier to admit publicly that one is aggressive, hostile, fearful, competitive, slightly paranoid, and utterly addicted to the game of one-upmanship. And this in turn opens up the possibility that one may take steps to bring about a change.
IT IS a medical truism that sometimes the patient must get worse in order to get better. Many people in psychotherapy report increased anxiety as a prelude to decreased anxiety. One reason for this is that psychotherapy is, in part, a shock treatment for forcing the patient to see through his own faulty assumptions about the meaning of his behavior, to drop his defenses. The treatment hurts, but it is essential to growth. LSD and the other new drugs may accomplish similar results in a startling way and with incredible speed.
They may also, of course, fail to do so. They may even, unless their administration is properly managed, be harmful to the ingestant. The chief problem appears to be to bring about the conditions that create trust. If this trust falters, the ingestant may perceive the temporary loss of the game-self as a loss of identity and so slip into panic. On the other hand, if there is no loss of trust he may feel that he has come into his own true identity at last.
This "true identity," this Self, is what lies beyond all names and games. Nameless and unknowable, it is felt simply as that which knows, a kind of totally uncategorized, spontaneously integrating principle of creative unity. It is consciousness itself: the Tao, the Nameless, the Way that cannot be "wayed," the Name that cannot be named, the "I Am" that cannot be conjugated. Whatever it is that moves spontaneously and freely to give shape and pattern and meaning—this is what the LSD-ingestant may perceive himself to be.
Without trust, on the other hand, without confidence in himself, in his immediate situation, and even in the cosmos as a whole, he may see himself and others as monstrous and threatening. His situation then will be, in a heightened form, that of the ordinary man under ordinary circumstances: He must achieve faith in the processes of life or perish.
1. The operations of the International Federation for Internal Freedom at Zihuatanejo, Mexico, which terminated abruptly on June 16 1963, and which were luridly but inaccurately reported by much of the Mexican and American press, were perhaps utopian in goal but not, at first, in form. Until the final, confused weeks, when the operations of the Federation were interfered with by an alarmed and threatened community, a rather systematic attempt was made by the members of IFIF to work out, pragmatically, a sensible, controlled modus operandi for investigating the social and psychological usefulness, if any, of LSD-ingestion under suitable conditions. The author was present in Zihuatanejo during the concluding days of the experiment and was involved in events which qualify him to offer the foregoing opinion as well as opinions asserted in this paper. (back)
2. Cf. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York: Bantam, 1960), Chapter VIII, "Chemical Persuasion." A more skeptical scholar pooh-poohs the use of LSD as a mind- manipulant: J. A. C. Brown, Techniques of Persuasion (London: Penguin, 1964) Chapter 8, "Scientific Mind-Changing," especially pp. 211-212. The terrifying prospect that LSD may be an effective military weapon is examined in: Sidney Cohen, M.D., The Beyond Within (New York: Atheneum, 1964), Chapter 11, "War Without Death."(back)
3. Humphry Osmond, DPM, in "A Review of the Clinical Effects of Psychotomimetic Agents," LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug ed. David Solomon (New York: Putnam, 1964), tells why he felt impelled to coin the word psychedelic. (back)
4. Harold A. Abramson, M.D., "Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy with LSD,' The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy, ed. Harold A. Abramson, M.D. (New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1960). Also Cohen, op. cit., pp. 84-85 and 99-101.
5. Languages Thought and Reality: Selected Writings of B. L. Whorf, ed. John B. Carroll (New York: Wiley, 1956).
6. Kenneth Boulding, The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1961), p. 26.
7. David K. Berlo, The Process of Communication (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960), Chapters 7-10.
8. Dr. Leary's definitions of the word vary slightly. This represents an average of several and contains the most frequently recurring elements. More extended definitions are found in "How to Change Behavior," Solomon, op. cit., and in Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience (New Hyde Park: University Books, 1964), p. 13 et passim. (back)
9. Jay Haley, "The Art of Psychoanalysis," The Use and Misuse of Language, ed. S. I. Hayakawa (New York: Fawcett, 1962).
11. Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (New York: Harper, 1963), P 40
12. Aldous Huxley, Heaven and Hell (New York: Harper, 1963), p. 85.
13. Huxley, The Doors of Perception, p. 73.
14. Cohen, op. cit., Chapter 10, "The Dangers to the Patient—and the Therapist."
15. Joe K. Adams, "Psychosis: 'Experimental' and Real," The Psychedelic Review, I (Fall 1963), p. 129.