Thomas Bradford Roberts
From: Psychedelic Reflections, Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar
©Human Sciences Press, 1983.
"Thomas B. Roberts is Associate Professor in the
Department of Learning and Development at Northern Illinois
University. He is coauthor of The Second Centering Book
and Transpersonal Psychology in Education, and has edited
the anthology Four Psychologies Applied to Education:
Freudian, Behavioral, Humanistic, Transpersonal." Psychedelic
It didn't make sense. Their speech was clear, their thoughts
logical, and their ideas and descriptions coherent. We were
fellow graduate students in a Stanford seminar on the human
potential. They were describing their first LSD trip, taken the
previous Saturday. And it didn't make senseto methen.
Like almost everyone else in the late 1960's, I had learned that
LSD was a dangerous, mind-altering drug, one that sensible people
didn't take; but they seemed sensible both before and after. I
had learned that LSD alienated people and ruined relationships;
but this young, married, graduate-student couple had shared a
deep and meaningful experience that brought them closer together.
They talked of increased love for each other and for humanity. I
had learned that LSD makes people suicidal, jumping out of high
windows and that sort of thing; yet they seemed well-grounded and
down to earth. I had learned that LSD makes people hysterical and
psychotic; but they seemed relaxed, rational, and
reality-oriented. I learned that LSD puts one into a nightmarish
hell, full of terrifying hallucinations and Goya-esque agonies;
they described a feeling of overwhelming awe for the beauty
surrounding them. They said things felt "more sacred, more
intense, and indescribably wonder-filled." I had learned
that LSD drives one mad, yet they seemed saner than ever. I had
learned that LSD was an escape into unreality; yet their lives
seemed to be enriched somehow. A few others in the class nodded
understandingly, and exchanged words and smiles of warm
recognitioneven a sort of congratulation! This didn't make
sense. We weren't a class of long-haired freaks. We were hard-
working, high-achieving, graduate students from engineering, the
social sciences, humanities, and assorted professional schools.
This didn't make sense at all.
It does now. LSD helps people experience all these things,
good and bad, and many more. Like most people in the late 1960s
and early 1970s, I "learned" about LSD from TV,
newspapers, and magazines. I "learned" that doctors,
psychiatrists, and psychologists were treating many patients who
were suffering from "LSD psychosis." I
"learned" that LSD was responsible for changes in
social mores, sexual openness, political activism, and a whole
Since then, however, through my own experiences with
psychedelics and subsequent readings stimulated by those
experiences, I've learned it is easier to learn an erroneous
opinion than to correct it. The popular news media prefer to
focus public attention on the spectacular, bizarre, and
frightening. Mental and physical health professionals see only
those who have problems; sick people are their clientele. A
person who took LSD with beneficial effects would hardly be
likely to take the time and money to go to a doctor and report
that he is well. Finally, some of the experiences one commonly
has during psychedelic sessions run directly contrary to the
dominant intellectual positions of the 1960s, which assumed that
any deviation from our ordinary state of consciousness,
especially a mystical state, is error or sickness. Today's
sciences and psychologies are accommodating additional views, but
in the sixties and early seventies such positions were
I followed the academic orthodoxies of the time. A son of
educators, reared on the campus of a New England university,
member of a highly rational Congregational church, undergraduate
devotee of behavioral psychology at Hamilton College, I became a
doctoral student who planned to study educational tests and
measurements and computer-assisted instruction while picking up
an MBA on the side. To me mind was limited to intellect, and
intellect implied reason, cognition, and their verbal expression.
Who would expect such a person to advocate the development of
nonverbal, nonrational, and noncognitive mental abilities? I
certainly wouldn't; but I certainly do. This widened definition
of mind marks a major effect of my own LSD experiences. LSD has
stimulated a new interest for me in examining human learning,
experience, thinking, and behavior in terms of states of
consciousness (SOCs). This essay exemplifies the fun of thinking
in a consciousness way. (1)
NOTE TO MY STUDENTS: From my experiences and through
reading, I have become increasingly respectful of the power
of LSD. Like any powerful thing, it can be either destructive
or constructive depending on how skillfully it is used. Among
other things, it can concentrate your attention on the most
vulnerable, most unpleasant parts of your mind. These should
be explored only under the guidance of a qualified therapist,
one who has had extensive psychedelic training. If you need
help, most currently-trained mental health professionals are
unlikely to be able to help you; in fact, because of their
mistraining, they are likely to worsen your state.
Furthermore, street dosages are of unknown strength and
questionable purity. Until the time you can explore your mind
using LSD of known strength and purity under qualified
guidance within the law, I urge you to limit yourself to
studying the literature and to working within professional
and other organizations for the resumption of legal,
Like a microscope, LSD magnifies. Instead of magnifying
things outside the body, it magnifies inner experiences.
Memories, ideas, fantasies, perceptions, thoughts, emotions,
fears, hopes, sensations, bodily processes, any one of these can
in effect come to occupy a person's whole attention. This
amplification, like that of a microscope, allows the experiencer
to investigate parts of his or her mind with increased attention
to the enlarged details. But, again like a microscope, it narrows
the field of perception, often temporarily distorting the
relationships among the parts. As with slide views through a
microscope, an LSD researcher must assemble a collage of close-up
fragments to obtain an overall view of his or her own mental
experience, and still more pieces for an overall map of the human
This essay neither describes these fragments nor composes a
collage. That has already been excellently done (e.g., Masters
& Houston, 1966; Grof, 1975); and the research is surveyed by
Grinspoon and Bakalar (1979). My purpose is to look at the
influence of psychedelic experiences on myself and to speculate
about the implications of these experiences for the world of
learning. The essay assumes that studies done to date will be
confirmed by additional research. If past experiences is any
guide, some will be and others won't. The sooner we are clear
about which ones, the better off we will be.
One thing is clear: LSD (I am using "LSD" as
shorthand for the whole class of psychedelic drugs) raises
exciting and important questions. As an amateur psychologist, I
am interested in what LSD indicates about the mind. As an
educational psychologist, I am curious about the implications for
learning and development. As a human being and a citizen of my
country and my planet, I wonder what insights it provides for
culture and society. This essay is an attempt to think about
these issues rather than to solve them; to bring them forward for
open, intelligent discussion rather than to keep them buried in
an intellectual underground-to encourage additional careful,
legal research and its open communication rather than
clandestine, illegal research and word-of-mouth rumor. Although
this essay is based on my own experiences, it reflects more than
my individual case. Most of the ideas are common currency among
my consciousness colleagues. The essay is more collection than
I've titled this essay "New Learning" for several
reasons. As an educational psychologist, I'm interested in the
implications of LSD research for the study of human learning and
for further human development. Through LSD experiences I have
learned to look at myself and society in a new way. These
experiences have been, in effect, an additional higher education
for me, equal in impact, effort, knowledge, beauty, and scope to
obtaining a doctorate at Stanford. I value both sets of
experiences highly. To me, the LSD-Stanford comparison shines
brightly in both directions. Besides, this is a book written
largely by and for educators and others who want to increase
learning. Finally, I use the gerund to connote a continuing
process. The educational topics, philosophical issues,
intellectual questions, and personal insights which evolved from
my LSD experiences and subsequent investigations are a continuing
source of growth. They have piqued my curiosity about areas of
literature, religion, anthropology, and philosophy that I
underrated before. The sciences, social sciences, and arts have
taken on additional coloration and deeper meanings. In a very
real sense, LSD experiences resemble a liberal education.
ISSUES, TOPICS, AND QUESTIONS
I developed an interest in this essay's ideas directly
through my psychedelic experiences and indirectly through reading
largely stimulated by these experiences. This is not to say that
LSD is the only road to such ideas. Clearly, it isn't. But in my
experience and in the experiences of some of my friends and
colleagues, LSD was our road.
MINDMAP, MYSTICISM, MORALITY, AND METHODOLOGY
Redrawing the Mindmap
Stanislav Grof may well be the living Western psychologist
with the widest and deepest sample of human psychological
behavior. He, his patients, and co-experimenters have crossed and
recrossed the mental terrain. Their combined observations have
strength not only because of their own diversity (other mapmakers
have used diverse populations) but primarily because they have
systematically mapped previously excluded regions. From a sample
of approximately 4,000 LSD sessions with a wide range of
psychotics, neurotics, and normals, he describes a four-level
mindcollage in Realms of the Human Unconscious. The
shallowest level consists of current thoughts and perceptions,
the "Abstract and Aesthetic Level," as Grof calls it.
The second level consists of experiences and fantasies of the
person's life. Most therapies focus on this level, and Grof calls
this the "Psychodynamic or Freudian Level." Below this
is the "Perinatal Level," having to do with experiences
at or around birth; this level is associated with the work of
Otto Rank. These three levels all have to do with experiences of
the person. Beyond this is a region where personal identity,
time, and space become variables. This is the "Transpersonal
If Grof's map served only in therapy and simply as a
phenomenological record of LSD experiences, it would be a useful
curiosity, but otherwise unimportant for the world of learning.
But the map is also congruent with the mindmaps of powerful
thinkers from several fields, notably the humanities, who draw on
many cultures for their evidence. (2) This convergence of disciplines presents a
view of the human mind in agreement with current views in some
particulars, but at variance in others.
The disciplinary regularities described by these authors and
the general worldview they present were derived from large-scale
surveys of their fields. Grof's LSD research goes beyond this to
experimental verification which confirms their findings.
Humanistic studies in turn help to corroborate psychedelic
observations. Psychedelic research's roomy additions to the house
of intellect make it possible to found new disciplinary
specialties that hybridize science and the humanities, for
example, experimental symbolism and "experiential
philosophy." All the books mentioned in Figure 1 explicitly derive their ideas from
altered states of consciousness, yet our academic community is
predominantly consciousness-naive. Studies of human nature and
the human mind which omit non-ordinary states are clearly
Mysticism and Mysticism
A decade ago I, too, had learned the standard scientific
orthodoxy on mysticism: I despised and caricatured mysticism as a
view that the world is basically unknowable and that reason and
observation are useless, probably confusing. What would I, as a
rational human being, have to do with this holdover from the Dark
Ages? What good was a psychology that valued such trash?
After experiencing mystical states several times and reading
a bit about them, I now realize that I failed to make an
important distinction. Mysticism as a philosophical stand
on what can be known and how it can be known differs greatly from
the study of mystical events as psychological experiences.
My rejection of philosophical mysticism had led me blindly to
reject the psychological study of mystical experiences.
Several current psychotechnologies, including LSD, increase
the likelihood of mystical experiences. Now that we can stimulate
them, we can begin to bring to bear scientific experimentation.
Richards' dissertation, Counseling, Peak Experiences and the
Human Encounter with Death: An Empirical Study of the Efficacy of
DPT-assisted Counseling in Enhancing the Quality of Life of
Persons with Terminal Cancer and Their Closest Family Members
(1975), illustrates the scientific study of mystical states. His
work includes a survey of the literature on experimental
mysticism, repeatable treatment, standardized observations, and
confirmable/disconfirmable hypotheses and conclusions. The study
A Science Growth-Spur
When science expands, education follows. With consciousness
pioneers opening access to new territories, whole ranges of human
abilities are already beginning to be developed. For example, in
the 1960s I was taught that people could not voluntarily control
the autonomic nervous systemthe "vegetative nervous
system," as my biology text pejoratively called it. In 1980
we teach that one can learn to control this system by
biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and various uses of imagery. As
with biofeedback learned states of consciousness, the study of
psychedelic-stimulated SOCs is, in principle, not opposed to
science and reason. On the contrary, the refusal to study them is
both unreasonable and antiscientific.
The Therapeutic Effect of Mystical Experiences
What did Richards and others discover across the Appalachians
of the Mind? When the travelers returned, had they been driven
crazy? Neurotic? Psychotic? Were they out of touch with reality?
Did they withdraw from family, friends, and loved ones?
"Yes," said the stay-at-homes, clutching their
psychoanalytic maps. "Beyond these mountains live fearful
beasts. Let no one enter there."
The travelers and their guides, however, told different
stories. Some alcoholics and addicts dropped their dependencies.
Suicidal patients discovered a love of life. Some who departed
neurotic and psychotic returned improved, although many needed
several additional trips. Patients with terminal diseases felt
less fear of death, and their general anxiety was lowered. Most
of all, they related honestly, lovingly, and openly with their
families and closest friends (Grof, 1975, 1981; Grof &
Halifax, 1978; Richards, 1975; summarized in Grinspoon &
If mystical experiences are integrated into the personality,
they are highly therapeutic. Single-state scholars and
theoreticians are hard-pressed to explain this therapeutic value.
Denial is easier. But if an enlarged map of reality includes
altered states of consciousness, then experiencing such states
logically leads to a fuller view of reality, and therapists tell
us that a fuller view of reality is therapeutic.
Moral Development: A Second Path?
Bits of observation may fall together in unexpected ways when
a new methodology presents a new data or a new way of thinking
reorganizes existing observations. Looked at from a consciousness
perspective, some issues surrounding moral development combine in
a startling way. Four bits of information are linked together:
First, mystical experiences, or peak experiences, are by
their nature non-ego states, i.e., transpersonal states. It is
not surprising that people who experience this state report a
decrease in such ego needs as the neurotic accumulation of wealth
or power. In Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences,
Maslow reports this value-shift during peak experiences (1964),
and Huxley claims it is part of most major philosophical
Second, during peak or mystical experiences, people directly
experience what Maslow calls "being values, " and what
Kohlberg calls "universal moral principles. " These
include such things as the sanctity of life and compassion.
Third, these qualities then act as goals or motivations for
future actions. Personal compassion, social responsibility,
global awareness, and a cosmic perspective grow.
Fourth, LSD, the new therapies, and other psychotechnologies
can trigger, or at least facilitate, peak or mystical
Putting these four together we have a sequence from the new
therapies to mystical experiences to "being values" to
moral action. Have we unintentionally, blindly, and unknowingly
stumbled onto another path of moral improvement? Have we
discovered rapid, even chemically-induced moral development? My
emotional reaction is an indignant "No, it can't be!"
Yet, that is what some of the evidence suggests. In any case, the
relationship between mystical states and morality is my
nomination as the most-needed piece of consciousness research.
Because it is based on the study of many states of
consciousness, the psychology of consciousness includes a greater
number and wider variety of observations than a single-state
psychology. It offers a source of hypotheses and research
designs. However, we should remember that many early findings are
probably inaccurate. Great contributions and great mistakes are
twins of new paradigms. Because of the newness of consciousness
research, some variables are probably still hidden. This speeds
up the frequency of disconfirmations, and slows confirmations. An
organized research agenda, regular dissemination channels,
research conferences, and so forth are now appropriate for this
field and will help separate false hopes from hot leads.
MethodologyDown the Mind Mine
The greatest advances in civilization, science, and learning
often result from new ways of doing things, new methodologies. In
my judgment the most important thing about psychedelics is that
they give us a powerful and broadly applicable research
The typical Western approach to studying the mind is to look
at its activities and products and to infer its structure and
functions from them. Studying the great religions, philosophies,
and psychologies of the world, what similarities do we find? What
do language and literature indicate about the human mind? This is
the research method of many of the authors in Figure 1. One minor
benefit of psychedelic research is that it adds a few novel
boulders to the mountain of human experience. A larger
contribution is that psychedelic insights offer ways to
categorize some of these observations and ways to specify
relationships among them.
The second major Western way to study the mind is to look at
abnormal behavior to see what it indicates. Here, too, the
evidence is largely descriptive, although current therapeutic
interventions add some clinical and experimental notes.
Psychedelic and psycholytic therapies add to the knowledge we
receive via this route. Because psychedelics were developed and
used in recent history for therapy rather than for intellectual
research, a misleading connotation of mental illness as their
only appropriate domain blinds people to their research
potentials elsewhere. Instead of inferring the structure of the
mind from its surface geography and from occasional
interventions, psychedelic methodology provides direct access to
the underground veins and strata, the deep structures and
processes where thoughts, feelings, and motivation originate.
Fortunately for researchers, sometimes in these states it is
possible to alternate between deep mental experience and a
close-to-normal state. They can even happen simultaneously. For
example, once toward the end of a psychedelic session I
remembered a group of childhood nightmares. At the time they had
the quality of immediate experience rather than memory. Every few
minutes, I got up from bed to make notes on these experiences,
then returned again to re-experience them. The period of
alternating states lasted about 20 minutes, and I was able to
recall and record "childhood nightmares" which included
the name of a playmate whom I hadn't thought of for over a
quarter of a century. Some of these dreams came from very early
childhood and perhaps infancy. From this experience, I
hypothesized that some early childhood nightmares are birth
memories. This was not a new idea, but it was newly credible to
As I look at my colleagues' professional contributions, I
find, rightly or wrongly, that I evaluate most highly the ideas
of those who are experienced in various states of consciousness
or who are at least familiar with the research from reading.
Within the consciousness group, I trust the theories and
hypotheses of psychedelic researchers more than those of
LSD-naive researchers. Researchers with knowledge of several
states have an even greater advantage. This is not to say that
all good research is psychedelic nor that all psychedelic
research is good research. Obviously, this isn't the case. But as
a general rule, it is preferable to generalize from diverse
observations rather than from a narrower field. I predict that by
the end of this decade, psychologists, philosophers, and
educators, as well as mental and physical health practitioners
who are unfamiliar with consciousness research will be as
out-of-date as they would be today if they were unfamiliar with
Freud, Skinner, or Piaget.
work of Harman et al. (1966) indicates that psychedelics may
be a useful methodology in the incubation and illumination stages
of creative problem-solving. Most of the engineers, physicists,
mathematicians, architects, and designers in his samples reported
valuable solutions to their professional problems from
psychedelic acceleration of creativity. This
synthesis-facilitating use of psychedelics is different from the
mind-research mentioned above. We need more systematic research
on how to do psychedelic research. An unfortunate side-effect of
psychedelics' illegality is that the publication and sharing of
the methods and findings is discouraged.
EDUCATIONAL FUTURES IN A CONSCIOUSNESS CONTEXT
Consciousness Roots of Mental Fruit
When consciousness (the overall pattern of mental
functioning) is seen as a group of variables, cognition,
perception, affect, and so on, are seen as psychological
processes embedded in SOCs with each other and with other
psychological processes. All our cognitive structures and mental
processes seem to vary from one state of overall psychological
functioning to another. How much variation in thinking is there
from state to state? What alternate forms of thinking exist in
alternate patterns of mental functioning? What, if any, uses
might they have for humanity?
Failure to Recognize the Primacy of States of Consciousness
> Present ideas of the mind are almost wholly derived from our
ordinary state's experience and cognition and are for use within
it. Although contributions to them may well have been aided by
reverie or other nearby SOCs, we ignore these origins.
Is the Major Intellectual Error of our Times
We are largely hunter-gatherers of the mind. Its civilization
has just begun. We trim and prune here and there. We espalier
diverse facts with convenient theories. From a consciousness
perspective, increased harvests depend on acknowledging thought's
deep roots in other SOCs. A mind cultivator not only weeds the
surface ideas, but also tends the conceptual and preconceptual
The idea that such inner-directed attention is narcissistic
is a peculiar one. While they may be stimulated by external
events, aesthetic creation and awareness, problem-finding and
problem-solving, judgments of quality, spiritual experiences,
intellectual and other mental processes are all internal events,
processes happening "inside the head." Calling
inner-directed attention "narcissistic" or
"me-oriented" is inaccurate, anti-intellectual, and
just plain ignorant.
Cognition and Consciousness
Can one intentionally improve inner processes? Some
improvement comes from better ideas, that is, more accurate,
useful, and varied concepts. Focusing on better cognitive
strategies to process or manipulate the content, cognitive
psychology asks a higher, second-level question: whether there
are more efficient ways of thinking. Consciousness studies ask a
third-level question: How do cognitive strategies and cognition
vary from state to state? From a cognitive perspective, different
states of consciousness are, among other things, radical
reorganizations of information processing systems and strategies.
Different states of consciousness also provide different
"strategies" of perception, abilities, memory, emotion,
At each level, the degree of mental freedom increases. It is
no accident that mystical experiences are associated with an
open-minded tolerance for ambiguity (Thomas & Cooper, 1980).
This kind of tolerance is also correlated with abstract thought,
creativity, decreased prejudice, and low authoritarianism. From a
consciousness perspective, the first pair are associated with
higher stages of mental development, the latter pair with
decreased ego involvement. The two occur together.
Before LSD drew my attention to state of consciousness as a
variable, I accepted the usual cognitive goals of education:
knowing more facts and learning to think better, avoiding
fallacies, moving up Piaget's stages of intellectual development,
finding more useful concepts and theories, matching theory with
observations, and so forth. While I still value these aims, I now
see them in a different context.
The items below are discussed more thoroughly in Consciousness,
Psychology, and Education (Roberts, 1980a).
First, education has focused almost entirely on developing
the cognitive skills of our ordinary state. I am not suggesting
that we change this, at least not yet. But we should be aware
that this is a policy decision, not a necessary
"given." What forms does cognition take in other
Second, human abilities and disabilities depend on various
broader patterns of overall mental functioning, states of
consciousness. As SOC's change, certain skills are enhanced and
others are diminished. Previously rare or unusual abilities, such
as parapsychological abilities and the placebo ability, may be
learnable by providing access to the states of consciousness
where they reside. Many human physical and mental disabilities
seem to be best treated in unusual states of consciousness such
as hypnosis, meditation, and psychedelic therapy. So-called
"spontaneous remission," "miraculous" cures,
and "therapeutic touch" all seem to be associated with
changes in SOC. In institutions other than schools (and perhaps
some day in schools) people may want to explore and develop the
capacities manifested in these states of consciousness.
Third, abstract formal operations do not necessarily
represent the highest type of intellectual development. That may
be true for our ordinary state (including suggested stages beyond
Piaget's); but other (perhaps more advanced) forms of
intellectual development with stages of their own may await us in
Fourth, educators and psychologists need not define
intelligence solely in ordinary-state ways. Intelligence may also
be seen as the general ability to use a large number of mental
patterns (states of consciousness), as the ability to select and
enter the most appropriate SOC for the task at hand, or as the
optimum use of each specific SOC. In this last sense the meaning
of "intelligence" varies from state to state (Roberts,
Fifth, there is a contextual broadening best described from a
psychoanalytic perspective. This view sees secondary process
thinking (rational, adult thinking) as optimal. It now seems to
me that there is at least tertiary thinking, which consists of
selecting one's overall pattern of mental functioning. This is a
higher ability than learning to use any specific pattern or one
of its resident abilities.
Sixth, education in our usual state and all the research and
development surrounding it become additionally important viewed
in this context. Current educational goals, objectives, methods,
curricula, tests and measurements, developmental stages,
taxonomies, philosophies, and practices may all have analogues in
other states. How do we adapt our ideas about our current SOC and
its education to other SOCs?
As its name indicates, liberal education is an education for
freedom: freedom from the accidents of locale, group, time,
class, and so on. It offers the freedom to develop one's mind
fully. Consistent with these objectives, consciousness education
adds the great states of consciousness to the great ideas and
great thinkers. The historic role of SOCs in the humanities,
arts, and sciences is neglected in current education, even as
content, despite an occasional titillating exception such as Kubla
Khan, bacchanalia, or a maligned saint's misconstrued
ecstasy. These are used more to enliven classes than to teach
about the further reaches of mind. A truly liberal education
should teach students about this part of themselves and our
civilizations, and should also give them rudimentary experience
with selected states and their resident capacities. Enriched by a
consciousness perspective, liberal education can extend freedom
and mental refinement far beyond the parochialism of single-state
We use a misnomer when we speak of "the placebo
effect." "Effect" attributes improvement to
spurious treatments which are selected precisely because of their
lack of effect. The label is not only a logical inconsistency
which explains nothing, but a barrier to research.
If "placebo-ing" is seen as something we do, rather
than something that happens to us, it becomes an ability like any
other human ability, one which might be learned and practiced.
Regimens such as prayer, visualization, deep relaxation, and an
assortment of religious and psychological practices make good
"placeboing" sense. Physical educators should help
their students learn to assist their own natural immune
mechanisms, which are part of the placebo ability. Wellness and
illness are largely long-term physical performances. We know they
can be learned and unlearned, but we do not yet know the extent
of this learning.
Consciousness Studies, a New Discipline
What makes a discipline and differentiates it from other
disciplines? At least the following: separate theories and
concepts, specific problems addressed, explanations of
observations not otherwise explained, applications to life, a
distinctive research methodology, a separate literature, and an
identifiable group of people who share interests, professional
organizations, publications, and a system of information flow. By
these criteria, Consciousness Studies will soon deserve its own
place in the academic world.
Consciousness methodologies include traditional and new ways
of altering consciousness. Accepting both outside, objective
evidence and inner, subjective evidence, it offers a larger data
base than either of these alone. Correlating the two is an
important type of research. Training in subjective research
methods, for example through meditation or LSD, is as cognitively
demanding as traditional statistics, research design, and
instrumentation. As Needleman (1975) says:
In our modern world it has always been assumed... that
in order to observe oneself all that is required is for a
person to "look within. " No one even imagines that
self-observation may be a highly disciplined skill which
requires longer training than any other skill we
know....The...bad reputation of "introspection"
...results from the particular notion that all by himself..
. a man can come to accurate and unmixed observations of his
own thought and perception.... the heart of the
psychological disciplines in the East and the ancient Western
world consists of training at self-study.
Consciousness Studies form its related fields. Parts of the
scientific community have difficulty accepting data from other
SOCs, just as our ancestors found it hard to accept observations
from the telescope and microscope. If it is done properly,
consciousness research can meet the requirements of scientific
method: observation, free communication, replicability,
theorizing, and confirmation/disconfirmation (Tart, 1975).
By providing a more accurate and complete view of our
psychological apparatus, our mind, consciousness research can aid
other disciplines too. As Kubie (1954) points out:
A discipline comes of age and a student of that discipline
reaches maturity when it becomes possible to recognize,
estimate, and allow for the errors of their tools....Yet
there is one instrument which every discipline uses without
checking its errors, tacitly assuming that the instrument is
error-free. This, of course, is the human psychological
Like statistical methods, consciousness methods, as well as
the particular findings themselves, may help other researchers
sophisticate their procedures and analyses.
A final reason to consider Consciousness Studies a separate
discipline is the subjective feelings of those in the field.
Consciousness colleagues in a variety of universities,
departments, and nonacademic occupations feel as much akin to one
another as to their departmental colleagues, if not more so. This
feeling of shared interests and perspectives is a powerful
uniting force which undercuts disciplinary differences. Although
there is little institutional structure reflecting these shared
ideas and values, the trust, common interests, and enjoyment form
an invisible Department of Consciousness Studies.
Mindpower is more fascinating than machine power. Such books
as the Carlos Castenada series and works by Tart, Ornstein, and
Grof surprised their publishers by selling well in a hitherto
unseen market. Best sellers such as Drawing on the Right Side of
the Brain (Edwards, 1979) are introducing consciousness education
to teachers and parents. Anatomy of an Illness (Cousins, 1979)
illustrates this interest in (holistic) health and wellness. I
don't want to make my case seem stronger than it is; I'm not
satying that consciousness culture is now dominant, only that it
will be if current trends continue. For the present, it is a
clear cultural leitmotiv.
What new organizations and industries may evolve? Prophecy is
not my line, but enough is clear now to spot a few needs.
Introduction of consciousness teaching in classrooms, as
content as well as practice. Rewriting textbooks and
curricula to include consciousness ideas.
Adding consciousness teaching techniques in colleges of
Research institutes to study consciousness on both applied
and basic levels, a consciousness think-tank.
Foundations, institutes, and professional organizations to
develop these possibilities.
HEALTH AND THERAPY
Research institutes to examine the relationships of SOCs
to mental and physical health. Consciousness treatment and
development centers, to apply what is found in research,
e.g., psychedelic treatment centers and mind development
Professional training institutes to teach this new
specialty and to retrain existing professionals.
Certification and licensure, standards, boards, agencies,
and professional standards committees.
Holistic health centers. Many are already thriving.
New centers and/or programs to train consciousness
counselors and therapists. Rewriting and republishing of
therapy books to include consciousness.
INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS
Biofeedback instruments, e.g., Kirlian biofeedback devices
need to be invented. Centers to teach executives, engineers,
etc., to use their consciousness capacities. Consciousness
exploration as motivation, transcendence as a need beyond
self-actualization in Maslow's hierarchy.
Long-range planning seminars and institutes.
The use of consciousness as a criterion for laws,
Recognition of a consciousness constituency.
Funding of research on consciousness and possible
benefits, and on problems coming from its development.
What role does LSD play in this? As the most powerful of many
consciousness techniques, it dramatically draws attention to
these needs. As it has been officially neglected and
misunderstood, it points to our neglect and misunderstanding of
the whole consciousness area. As a stimulator of consciousness
research in the academic and mental health communities, it is
likely to encourage development throughout our culture.
We think of peace as a political and social phenomenon,
seldom recognizing that these surface experiences interact with
deep layers of the mind. Experienced LSD researchers come in
touch with deep internal responses through the drug's
magnification of external events. Conversely, experiencing a
cluster of internal feelings/memories/fantasies/thoughts colors
the external world. At the perinatal level there are two clusters
(BPMs) which respond strongly to outside stimulation and
contribute to warlike feelings. Basic Perinatal Matrix II
involves feelings of constriction and helplessness; it is
appropriately called "No Exit Hell."BPM III represents
enormous energy, natural and man-made cataclysms, especially
violence and wars; it is appropriately called "Titanic
The wrong set of social and economic circumstances brings
these BPM's to the fore. For example, Grof noticed remarkable
detailed similarities between the memories of Nazi concentration
camp survivors and the unconscious fantasies of people who had
lived more ordinary lives (Grof, 1977). He hypothesizes that the
situation within the camps, especially toward the end of the war,
activated BPM's II and III, stimulating the camp guards to enact
violent and sadistic urges that inhabit these clusters.
War activates these BPM's and strengthens them, just as their
power is called on to justify war. As countries wind themselves
up to go to war, their leaders use perinatal symbols to marshal
public opinion, not consciously, but because the war-instigating
symbols feel right; and they feel right because of this
connection. Hitler used the BPM sequence to manipulate his
people: (1) BPM I, the "Good Womb," was symbolized by
tales of the past golden age of the Germanic peoples; (2) BPM II,
"No Exit Hell, " was the present, constricted by
external and internal enemies, intensified by economic disaster;
the need to get out was expressed symbolically as the desire for
expansion, lebensraum; (3) the way out was titanic
struggle (BPM III), and (4) the birth of a 1,000 year Reich (BPM
IV). De Mause found this imagery to be typical in nations which
are preparing for war intentionally or merely blundering toward
it (cited in Grof, 1977).
While the informed public recognizes shallow
psychodynamic-level appeals to sexual interest, power, status,
and so forth in advertising and propaganda, we are not so aware
of manipulation on the perinatal level. Until we recognize this,
humanity will have a short war fuse which can easily be lit by
many social, economic, political, and cultural situations. Other
situations can transform this destructive energy into creative,
constructive, socially-beneficial actions. What are the perinatal
consequences of social conditions? What are the social
consequences of perinatal conditions?
As we come to understand the human mind more completely, we
will naturally see its roles in war and peace more completely.
The observations, speculations, and questions above suggest how
war and peace studies can be enriched by a fuller understanding
of mind and consciousness. This is merely one illustration of the
possibilities of consciousness analysis in the social sciences.
Freedom of the Mind
Who has the right to control your mind? To explore it? To use
it? With the invention of consciousness techniques, a new kind of
freedom faces a new kind of control. People want to explore and
develop their minds, and psychedelics are an efficient way to do
so. This desire is part of human nature, but law and social
ignorance block the way. I propose that we recognize a general
human right: the right to explore, control, and develop one's
mind. Other people or society at large can limit this right only
to the degree they are affected. It will not be so easy to
delimit this limitation.
The High Cost of Bad Law
When comparing the scientific and medical writings on LSD
with sensational newspaper, popular press, and TV accounts, a
startling observation leads to a startling conclusion. In the
scientific and medical research reports, psychological damage is
almost missing; in the popular news it is featured. During legal
research the patient or client is carefully screened and
expensively prepared for the experience. The dosage and its
purity are known. The setting, which is a major influence, is
chosen to maximize safety and minimize danger. And a qualified
professional is on hand to assist. In cases that make the popular
press, on the other hand, consciousness adventurers are neither
screened nor prepared. The dosage and purity are unknown. The
setting is random and often unpleasant. Professional help is
absent. These different conditions account for the rarity of
serious problems in the scientific reports and the presence of
frequent tragedy in the popular reports.
All the specific unfavorable conditions derive from one
larger situation: LSD is illegal. In the legal situation, the
LSD-taker can be prepared and high-risk people screened out; the
dosage and its purity are assured; setting can be planned for
optimum benefit. All this is difficult in illegal situations.
Under present laws, it is illegal for a professional to
administer LSD; and fear of police and public exposure increase
psychological stress at a time when the person is most
vulnerable. Given LSD's magnifying property, this fear can become
psychologically overwhelming. In an unstable person it could be
fatal. By driving LSD use underground, we multiply its dangers
while minimizing its benefits.
Given the consistent failure of anti-LSD legislation to stop
use since the mid-sixties, what is the most responsible course
for public polity? Over-the-counter purchase and prescription by
untrained professionals are both risky. I propose centers to
screen and prepare those who need or wish to take psychedelics.
We need to provide a place to administer doses of known purity
and strength under qualified, specially-trained guidance and with
optimal set and setting. Each state and most large cities could
use several psychedelic centers. Major universities, medical
schools, and research institutes would also benefit from these
centers. A professional staff training program would have to
precede the establishment of such institutions.
After incubating for a quarter of a century, after being
repressed by governmental and professional restraints for a
decade and a half, after struggling for recognition and
acceptance, psychedelic research is finally breaking through to
the clear light of evidence and reason. Intellectual curiosity,
civic duty, professional obligation, humanitarian values, and
moral responsibility provide grounds for further research.
For me (and I assume for some of my coauthors) my most
intensely intellectually stimulating, short-term experiences have
been psychedelic sessions. Psychedelics open wide the doors of
learning. Where will those mind-doors lead? Only when we do
additional research will we know.
Most of all, psychedelics are just one group among many
consciousness methodologies. There are also certain aspects of
biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, prayer and other spiritual
practices, other mind-drugs, yoga and other movement disciplines,
nutrition, t'ai chi and the consciousness martial arts,
sex and exercise routines, training in intuition, relaxation and
visualization.... The list could go on for hundreds of trainings,
spiritual paths, and esoteric fields. Research might be done in
cooperation with groups which practice these. What insights, if
any, might they have about the human mind? Only when we do more
research will we learn.
For a wandering, directionless culture the full development
of our minds is a project equal in scale to pioneering west of
the Appalachians or exploring outer space. A new cultural mythic
ideal is emerging: the myth of the fully developed mind. It is an
eminently democratic ideal. Only some can become adventurers on
land or in space, but in mind exploration, everyone is at the
Note to My Colleagues
"The rejection of any source of evidence is
always treason to that ultimate
which urges forward science and philosophy alike."
Alfred North Whitehead
I write this, not expecting you to believe what you read here
just because I say so, but hoping this essay will interest you
enough to examine LSD research yourself. If you apply the same
research standards and spirit of open intellectual inquiry to
this body of research as you apply to your own work and to the
reports you read, you'll find that psychedelic research raises as
many exciting questions for you, your students, and your field of
expertise as it does for me and mine. For 2 decades reason;
science, and philosophy have been betrayed because of our
irrational rejection of psychedelic evidence. It is a
professional duty to help redress this error. When you read the
evidence, I think you'll see it that way, too.
(1) My apologies to grammarians offended
by the noun "consciousness" used as an adjective. I do
this because "conscious" has misleading common usages.
Avoiding grammatically correct but lengthy phrases such as
"the psychology of states of consciousness," or
"education which takes states of consciousness into
account," I opt for a simple, useful, and ungrammatical
barbarism by stipulating my adjectival use of
"consciousness" to mean "pertaining to states of
consciousness. " (back)
(2) In contradistinction to writings on
the psychedelics which are occupied with experiences the mind can
hare, the concern here is with evidence they afford as to what
the mind is. Judged both by quantity of data encompassed and by
the explanatory power of the hypotheses that make sense of this
data, it is the most formidable evidence the psychedelics have
thus far produced. The evidence to which we refer is that which
has emerged through the work of Stanislav Grof. (Huston Smith,
Forgotten Truth. The Primordial Tradition, p. 156). (back)
(3) "0bscurantism is the refusal to
speculate freely on the limitations of traditional methods. It is
more than that: it is the negation of the importance of such
speculation, the insistence on incidental dangers.... Today
scientific methods are dominant, and scientists are the
obscurantists." (Alfred North Whitehead) (back)
Toward a Twenty-First Century Mindview
||symbolism and mythology
||The Hero with a Thousand Faces
||symbolism and Mythology
||Myths to Live By
||Realms of the Human Unconscious
|S. Grof & C. Grof
||thanatology and anthropology
|S. Grof & J. Halifax
||thanatology and anthropology
||The Human Encounter with Death
||The Perennial Philosophy
||Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences
|R. Masters & J. Houston
||psychology and education
||The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience
||abnormal psychology (schizophrenia)
||Roots of Renewal in Myth and Madness
||religion, philosophy, and psychology
||Up From Eden
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