etymology, formed from psyche1 + Greek dēlos ‘clear, manifest’ + -ic.
World’s First LSD Imaging Study Shows How Psychedelics Reduce Brain-Rigidity & Restore a Child-like State of Imagination
Dr Carhart-Harris added:
Ph.D. student Mendel Kaelen added:
This acuity of thought, this vigor of sense and spirit, has at all times appeared to man as the highest good. For this reason, purely for his immediate enjoyment, without troubling himself about the limitations imposed by his constitution, he has searched in the world of physical and of pharmaceutical science, among the grossest decoctions and the most subtle perfumes, in all climates and at all times, for the means of leaving, if only for a few moments, his habitation of mud and of transporting himself to paradise in a single swoop.
Alas! Man's vices, horrible as they are supposed to be, contain the positive proof of his taste for the infinite. Baudelaire
Around the same time, we had a seminar in San Diego attended by many seekers and LSD users. It seemed to us that the LSD people are almost like a new race, a race of people that have been reborn in bodies that already existed. Those who use psychedelics are different in many respects from those who have had no psychedelic experience. Their feelings are different. Their relationships are different. They are closer to some people, but at the same time they have created a gap between themselves and society. It is a gap of loneliness, because the breach between the inner consciousness and the external world has become so great that they have only themselves to depend upon. The degree of success of this dependence is another story, which brings us into the subject of yoga. We cannot say that the psychedelic experience in itself is either good or bad. It is enough to say that it is an experience that has occurred to thousands of people.
These ideas I am sharing with you are not so much for the psychedelic people as for those who have not had the psychedelic experience. I do not encourage you to go through it. Rather, I would encourage you to continue with the slower process of yoga. But I want to awaken you to the fact that there is this new group of people living with us. Their approach to life is entirely different from the one which you may have. Their perception generally is entirely different. Some of these people can look into your mind and even read your thoughts. Those who have not had psychedelic experiences will have to learn to adjust to the psychedelic consciousness. Likewise, those who use these drugs, if they ever stop, will have to learn to adjust their thinking again to the normal conscious-plane way of doing things.
I believe that the gap which has been created between "turned on people" and "turned off people" can best be bridged through meditation, gaining control of the mind so that the individual can become master of himself. When you become master of yourself, you truly stand alone in completeness, not in loneliness. In doing so, you are able to bring forth knowledge and wisdom from yourself through the process of meditation, through being able to sit down and think through a problem, ultimately seeing it in full, superconscious perspective and bring forth an answer, a workable answer filled with life. Meditation is a dynamic process. It is much more than just sitting around and waiting. It creates a highly individualistic type of mind.
- Desperate states of mind are disturbing many people these days. They are caught in emotional turmoil and entanglement, scarcely knowing how to get themselves out of it, or even fully realizing what state they are in. This condition, which often deteriorates as the years go by until nervous difficulties and mental illnesses set in, can be alleviated by the simple practice of meditation. Those who are content to live in a mesh of mental conflict, which is not only conscious but subconscious, will never get around to meditation or even the preliminary step: concentration. But a person who is wise enough to struggle with his own mind to try to gain the mastery of his mind will learn the vital practice of meditation. Just a few moments each morning or evening enables him to cut the entangled conditions that creep into the conscious mind during the day. The consistent practice of meditation allows him to live in higher states of consciousness with increasing awareness and perception as the years go by.
– Joseph Campbell
Appreciating how the world exists depends on how well you can see and interpret it. Life is basically just trying to understand the state of how things actually are and attempting to respond in the best way suited. This requires recognizing various environmental stimuli, analyzing them, and initiating some response sequence. There are countless factors involved in making any decision, in humans the most variable is how each individual thinks they should respond. But we take for granted the basic, and seemingly autonomous, nature of our sensory system, and leave it to do its own thing. For the most part, people have the appropriate amount of eyes and comparable amounts of rods and cones within them. But what if you could see more, or hear more?
Traditionally, people that claim to hear or see more are classified as deluded or schizophrenic, but it may be possible to increase your input bandwidth to provide you with a more representative worldview. Psychedelics show us our world in a different light, but are they showing us something that we are missing, something that is real?
The sensory system and the brain have evolved into a fine-tuned machine. This machine is unlike any other machine in that it changes, bends and skews all the data that comes in based on previous experience, biases, attention, current state of sobriety, mood, etc. and imbues it with all the rich textures that create our reality. However, in terms of objective bookkeeping, the brain is the most unreliable machine that could have ever evolved. Our perception of the world around us is merely an abstraction, far from the objective replication we consider it to be. Our world has been filtered through a system with some bits truncated, others stretched and some excised completely. The agents of this prejudice are the memories created by our experience and the subsequent tailoring of our sensory systems to optimize behavioural output. Learning is a dynamic process that relies on memory to encode, store and retrieve previous experiences in order to optimize this output. And, focused attention pushes irrelevant stimuli to the margins further still. You don’t need an update of the osmolarity of your lymphatic fluids when reading a novel, nor would you want to know how many leaves are on a tree while hunted by some godless killing machine. Yet although, at some level, your brain is privy to this information, evolution has deemed your consciousness too easily distracted to deal with it.
Although we are not aware of it, the pruned information looms in our subconscious (or unconscious). It can seemingly rise from the dead in the form of dreams when we lie down to sleep at night. Many studies show that our brain is more aware of this unconscious information than we think, and altered states allow slivers of this otherwise inaccessible information to shine through.
So what is our conscious awareness left with? The bandwidth of the eye is approximately 1000 bits of information per second and the ear 10000 bits per second. Most importantly, the bandwidth of the brain is much lower than that of the sensory systems. The vast majority of sensory information is distilled out of the system at a peripheral level to accommodate the limits of the brain. It is important to note that just because data input is reduced, that does not mean that it loses resolution per se. The loss of detail is then fortified by the emotional resolution of the past and present to give it tone and flavour. Therefore, the brain is not simply a recording device attached to a camera.
Our sensory system relies on both ‘Bottom-Up’ and ‘Top-Down’ strategies. Basic sensory input refers to the ‘Bottom’ and information from the ‘Top’ is related to experience and thought. It could be goal driven, knowledge-based and/or expectation-driven and it requires attention and filtering. Reality, therefore, is an internal perceptual idea of our world generated by neural processes in our brain, which get their information from both internal (top-down) and external (bottom-up) receptors.by Lucy Brown
Many subjective accounts claim that visual and auditory perception increases with the administration of psychedelic compounds. Seeing brighter colours, better hearing and noticing patterns are commonly reported. Subjective reports indicate that psychedelics may increase auditory or synesthetic sensitivity to electromagnetic noise as well. What makes research difficult is that most of these effects arequalitative, making it difficult to measure. Underquantitative scrutiny in a laboratory setting many of these claims are not replicated, although some interesting results have been shown. One of the more interesting experiments was the ‘Hollow-Mask’ study in which subjects looked at pictures of a mask, with the inside (concave) and outside (convex) being virtually the same. For ‘normal’ subjects, the inside of the mask is perceived as the outside since they are more likely to see an outside of the mask than an inside of one. However, schizophrenic subjects and subjects on LSD can consistently differentiate between the two. This implies that the mind’s ‘Top-Down’ conceptualization dominates the evaluation of reality in normal situations and that in non-ordinary states of consciousness we are more likely to adopt a ‘Bottom-Up’ strategy from our actual senses. This means we can temporarily suspend our brain’s normal filtering process and actually perceive the world as it is, not as we expect it to be.
The inhibiting of our ‘Top-Down’ filtering mechanism also explains why in the psychedelic state we tend to see patterns in our natural world. The concept of ‘stochastic smoothing’ is the ability to find patterns in otherwise random noise, which is amplified in the psychedelic state by increasing feedback excitation by disinhibiting our filtering mechanism. In this excited state, the brain can recognize and ‘create’ elaborate patterns on any field of noisy data, such as TV static and other textures. Most systems that appear around us in the world are actually driven by patterns, like fractals and self-similarity, which are ubiquitous throughout nature.
Tryptamine psychedelics, like LSD and psilocybin, usurp the brain’s serotonin system, which is one of the most diverse and diffuse neurotransmitter systems in the brain. These compounds bind specifically to the 5-HT2A receptor subtypes, which are the densest in the feedback circuits of the sensory processing pathways. These pathways are integral for information processing and the generation and maintenance of consciousness.
The Human Connectome Project identifies 12 hub-regions in the brain that connect areas of the brain to one another. The largest and most studied of these hubs is the thalamus, through which the sensory systems relay. Its major functions are transmitting sensory signals and the regulation of consciousness through feedback circuits between itself and the cortex. The thalamus is densely innervated with inhibitory neurons, which serve to dampen the multitude of signals coming into the brain. The feedback connections from the thalamus to the cortex are necessary for sensory perception and the progressive build-up of feedback interactions that result in our conscious awareness.
After the psychedelic compounds are ingested the result is a disinhibited thalamic filter that allows more signals through than it normally would. This, in turn, promotes excitatory feedback within the brain’s circuitry and pushes perception to its operational limit; overwhelming the network to its fullest analytical potential. The increased feedback excitation between thalamus and cortex is the direct cause of perceptual distortions, hallucinatory form constants, seeing patterns and expanded states of consciousness associated with hallucination. Psychedelics act as perceptual amplifiers creating the fullest sensory experience possible.
When a psychedelic binds to the surface receptor protein it initiates a response sequence within the cell. This sequence may change the cell, pass on information to another cell, it may cause the cell to divide or it may cause the cell to die. Our receptors can be viewed as self-similar units of ourselves on our planet, as proteins on the surface of the earth we take information from our reality and can change ourselves, change others, divide or die. The more accurate our comprehension of the world around us is, the more likely it is that our behaviours will benefit ourselves, others and the planet as a whole.
A shadowy organization that kept the hippies dosed at the height of the '60s counterculture is brought to the light of day in this entertaining documentary.
Then he put on an eye mask and headphones and lay down on a couch. Soon, images flew by like shooting stars: a spinning world that looked like a blue-green chessboard; himself on a stretcher in front of a hospital; his parents, gazing at him with aching sadness as he reached out to them, suffused with childlike love.
Psilocybin has been illegal in the United States for more than 40 years. But Mr. Mihai, who had just finished treatment for Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was participating in a study looking at whether the drug can reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Throughout that eight-hour session, a psychiatrist and a social worker from NYU Langone Medical Center stayed by his side.
Published Thursday, the results from that study, and a similar small, controlled trial, were striking. About 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in both psychological disorders, a response sustained some seven months after the single dose. Side effects were minimal.
In both trials, the intensity of the mystical experience described by patients correlated with the degree to which their depression and anxiety decreased.
The studies, by researchers at New York University, with 29 patients, and at Johns Hopkins University, with 51, were released concurrently in The Journal of Psychopharmacology. They proceeded after arduous review by regulators and are the largest and most meticulous among a handful of trials to explore the possible therapeutic benefit of psilocybin.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Dr. Daniel Shalev of the New York State Psychiatric Institute are among leaders in psychiatry, addiction medicine and palliative care who endorsed the work. The studies, they wrote, are “a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”
If research restrictions could be eased, they continued, “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.”
Although cancer patients will not have access to therapeutically administered psilocybin anytime soon, the findings add vigor to applications to expand research in a multicenter trial with hundreds of participants.
Some medical professionals held the studies at arm’s length. Dr. William Breitbart, chairman of the psychiatry department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, questioned this use of cancer patients. “Medical marijuana got its foot in the door by making the appeal that ‘cancer patients are suffering, they’re near death, so for compassionate purposes, let’s make it available,’ ” he said. “And then you’re able to extend this drug to other purposes.”
Psilocybin trials are underway in the United States and Europe for alcoholism, tobacco addiction and treatment-resistant depression. Other hallucinogens are also being studied for clinical application. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a large-scale trial investigating MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy, for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cancer-related psychological distress, which afflicts up to 40 percent of patients, can be resistant to conventional therapy. Mr. Mihai’s anxiety began when doctors finally told him he was in remission
He would keep touching the nodules on his neck, where the cancer had announced itself. He flew to Europe to celebrate the end of treatment and his graduation from college, but abruptly returned to New York, terrified to be away from oncologists. He began drinking daily, hard, jeopardizing his fragile health.
Alarmed, doctors suggested the psilocybin study.
He took the capsule and began tripping. After seeing himself on a hospital stretcher, he recalled: “I had an epiphany.”
“Why are you letting yourself be terrorized by cancer coming back? This is dumb. It’s in your power to get rid of the fear,” he told himself. “That’s when I saw black smoke rising from my body. And it felt great.”
Three years later, Mr. Mihai, now 25 and a physician assistant in Las Vegas, said, “I’m not anxious about cancer anymore. I’m not anxious about dying.” The session, he added, “has made my life richer.”
In the 1940s and 1950s, hallucinogens were studied in hundreds of trials. But by 1970, when those drugs were placed in the most restricted regulatory category, research ground to a near halt.
Since about 2000, investigators have begun studying them, mostly with private funding. These two studies built on a 2011 UCLA psilocybin pilot project with 12 cancer patients.
Both share similarities. All volunteers had diagnoses of cancer-related anxiety or depression. Patients were randomly given a placebo or synthetic psilocybin, and not told which. Within seven weeks, they were given the other sample.
All patients were educated about the drug, monitored by two people throughout the placebo and psilocybin sessions, and seen for follow-up evaluation.
Researchers created seven-hour music playlists, paced to the anticipated rhythms of the drug reaction. N.Y.U. leaned toward New Age and world music — Brian Eno; sitars; didgeridoos. Johns Hopkins favored Western classical.
At N.Y.U., psychotherapists tried to layer the session into patients’ memories by asking them to write about their visions in a journal and discuss the experience in meetings. The Johns Hopkins study, led by Roland R. Griffiths, a psychopharmacologist, had monitors who urged participants to “trust, let go and be open.”
The N.Y.U. researchers assessed patients the next day and found the effects to be immediate in most of them.
Dr. Stephen Ross, the lead investigator and chief of addiction psychiatry at N.Y.U., pointed out that antidepressants, by contrast, can take weeks to show benefit.
“Cancer patients with anxiety and depression need help immediately,” he said, “especially if you consider that they are at elevated risk for completed suicide.”
Some experts questioned the reliability of the results. Dr. Breitbart said that because diagnoses ranged from early-stage cancer to imminent terminal illness, it was impossible to know which patients might have come through their psychological ordeal without psilocybin — whether some might have adapted to the new norms of their disease; felt stronger once chemotherapyside effects, including depression, had abated; or even experienced an improvement in health.
None of those possibilities fit Kevin, who had a bone-marrow transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. It sent his cancer into remission, but left him with graft-versus-host disease.
Suffering from chronic pain and fatigue, Kevin, 57, who lives in central Michigan and asked that his last name be withheld because he had been in law enforcement, had to retire. Four years after the transplant, he despaired.
“Going through a near-death illness is similar to returning from combat,” he said. “It damages who you are, to the core of what it is to be human.”
“I was hoping to get out of this funk of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he added. “You’re looking up to the heavens, saying ‘What else can I try?’ ”
In 2013, Kevin entered the Johns Hopkins trial. During his session, he saw spirals of iridescent spheres that folded in on themselves.
The experience did not restore him to his former life, he said, “but I have a greater sense of peace of what might come. I’m very grateful, beyond words, for this trial. But you have to approach the session with the right intentions of why you’re doing it. Because you’re going to meet yourself. ”
Researchers do not know why psilocybin has worked in these settings. Neuroimaging scans of healthy volunteers show areas of the brain lighting up or resting during dosing. Hallucinogens activate a serotonin receptor that can lead to the alterations of consciousness reported routinely.
One theory is that psilocybin interrupts the circuitry of self-absorbed thinking that is so pronounced in depressed people, making way for a mystical experience of selfless unity.
The studies received funding from the Heffter Research Institute, an alliance of scientists interested in the medical study of hallucinogens. Dr. George Greer, the co-founder of Heffter, does not see a commercial future for psilocybin, even if it is eventually approved for therapeutic use, because these patients needed only one dose.
Instead, he envisions a nonprofit manufacturer, with distribution restricted to specialized clinics.
Researchers were emphatic that these results should not be interpreted as condoning hallucinogenic mushrooms for self-treatment. Dr. Griffiths noted that patients received extensive support, which may have deepened and secured their life-affirming transformations.
“People will take psilocybin at a rave or at Burning Man” — the art and performance desert festival — “but the effect,” he said, “evaporates like water running through their hands.”
"I once read somewhere that a monkey ate a mushroom and then wondered about God, the heavens, and the stars... thus becoming human."
I once had a book on the origins of consciousness, it proffered the likelihood of hallucinogens being an implicit part in the development of speech and other abstractions; tools, art, medicinal herbs. LSD , psilocybin, mescaline, et al. resemble serotonin's chemical construction/composition (chemical cousins); a neural transmitter active in the brain's dream state, and many other regulatory responsibilities. In a sense, ingesting hallucinogens is like dreaming in a waking state. I don't advocate such experimentation, though I did so partake quite heavily.
It doesn't require much imagination to see that these substances must have played a part in the developing evolving mind. Undeniably inadvertently this must have transpired in the quest for what was edible (nourishing) and what was poisonous. Often a side effect of poisoning is hallucinations (auto intoxication). These imaginary dream states indubitably led to exciting albeit frightening visions. A similar state of mind is recorded in the Bible as Agape, an ecstatic state of wonder.
Three Generations of Psychonauts
psychonaut: somone who navigates the psyche by the aid of psychoactive plants given by nature, or synthetic compounds produced in the laboratory. Term proposed by Ernst Junger. Wikipedia:
psychonautics: the practice and technique of exploring altered states of consciousness; a mode of cultural-cognitive expression, comparable to physics, esthetics, ethics, etc.
The term "psychedelic" is derived from the Ancient Greek words psychē (ψυχή, "soul") and dēloun (δηλοῦν, "to make visible, to reveal"), translating to "soul-revealing".