[Vision2020] Psychedelic Drugs and Mystical Experiences

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Thu Dec 13 00:14:35 PST 2018


Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
On Sat, Dec 8, 2018 at 5:37 PM Nicholas Gier <ngier006 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Greetings:
> For those who do not get the DNews, you will find my Thursday column right
> below.
> For over 20 years I've been trying to set the record straight on the
> meaning of mysticism.  It started with a presentation at a physics
> conference at the UI in 1998. (Read why contemporary physics is not
> mystical at webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/mysticism.htm.) The physicists in
> attendance were really relieved to hear that the Tao of Physics and Dancing
> Wu Li Masters, while valuable in so many respects, were wrong about the
> spiritual connections.
> May your Christmas season be mysterious and magical, and perhaps a few of
> you might have some mystical experiences, but I doubt it.
> Nick
> *Psychedelic Drugs and Mystical Experiences *
>  Nick Gier
> Not month goes by that I don’t run across yet another misuse of the word
> “mystical.” I just finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da
> Vinci, and I cringed when he described Mona Lisa’s smile as “mystical.” The
> right words are either “enigmatic” or “mysterious,” and after reading his
> analysis of the painting the smile is a little less so.
> The Oxford English Dictionary defines the “mystical” as “spiritual union
> with God transcending human comprehension.” This definition needs to be
> revised to include those mystics (primarily in India) who claim union with
> an impersonal Divine One. While each name ultimate reality differently,
> they all agree that the mystical experience is ineffable.
> St. Catherine of Genoa, a medieval mystic, speaks of the dissolution of
> the self into God in the following way: “My Me is God, nor do I recognize
> any other Me except my God Himself.”
> This is essentially the same as Paul’s phrase “Not I, but Christ,” the
> Hindu saying “Not I, but Atman-Brahman),” or the later Buddhist saying “Not
> I, but the Buddha nature.”
> Those under the influence of psychedelics have intense perceptions and
> strong ecstatic feelings, but Catherine experiences none of these: “When
> the soul is naughted and transformed, then of herself she neither works nor
> speaks nor wills, nor feels nor hears nor understands.”
> In 1943, Albert Hoffman, the Swiss biochemist who first synthesized LSD,
> describes his first trip as follows: “I perceived an uninterrupted stream
> of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic
> play of colors.”
> In his classic work *The Doors of Perception *Aldous Huxley describes an
> experience he had with mescaline in great detail. Remarkably similar to
> Hoffman’s LSD trip, Huxley found his outer world richly and vividly
> colored: his books “were like flowers, they glowed when I looked at them.
> Red books, like rubies; emerald books; books bound in white jade. . .
> intense, so intrinsically meaningful.”
> In contrast to the mystical experience, Huxley’s visions were fully
> differentiated and particularized. “Pure Being” is “a bundle of minute,
> unique particulars.” Also different from mystical experiences, which are
> reported as outside of time and space, Huxley’s visions and others on
> psychedelics were in time and space, although it was not clock time (oddly
> “there was plenty of it”) and space was wonderfully distorted.
> In a later essay “Heaven and Hell” Huxley admits that “mystical experience
> is beyond the realm of opposites. Visionary experience is still within that
> realm.” He also speculates that an “infinitesimal minority are capable of
> immediate union with the Divine Ground,” but a few more may be able to
> experience the “visionary bliss of heaven.”
>  In his new book *How to Change Your Mind *Michael Pollan claims that
> psychedelic drugs can produce mystical experiences. A close look, however,
> of his accounts reveals that they are, by and large, vivid perceptions or
> visions not mystical union.
> When Pollan ingested a huge psilocybin mushroom, he found that his self
> was “spread over the landscape like paint, or butter, thinly coating a wide
> expanse of the world with a substance I recognized as me.” Note that this
> self, although wildly distorted, is still allowing him to perceive and to
> describe his experience. This is not the total dissolution of all sense of
> self and feelings reported by St. Catherine.
> Pollan suggests that he experienced what Huxley called “Mind at Large”
> from his own mescaline trip. He speculates that this might be “a universal,
> shareable form of consciousness unbonded by a any single brain,” what
> others have called “cosmic consciousness, the Oversoul, or Universal Mind.”
> Among all the wonderous discoveries of astrophysics, evidence for a cosmic
> consciousness has not appeared nor should we expect there to be any.
> Consciousness is an attribute of large-brained animals and possible
> extraterrestrial beings.
> Huxley’s vision of “a bundle of minute, unique particulars” is more in
> line with the exotic world of particle physics. Using playful words such as
> “colored” quarks and the “beauty baryon” (containing three quarks),
> physicists are expressing awe and wonder about a world that they find
> difficult to express but try to measure anyway.
> Although I believe as a philosopher that it is important to get the
> meaning of words straight, some may think that this debate is just
> academic. Therefore, I want to conclude with praise for Pollan for
> imparting important information about how psychedelic drugs have helped
> patients with addiction, depression, and anxiety. Pollan shows that before
> LSD was banned in 1966, extensive studies proved the effectiveness of these
> drugs, and these alternative treatments are now coming back as restrictions
> have been eased.
> Nick Gier of Moscow taught religion and philosophy at the University of
> Idaho for 31 years. Email him at ngier006 at gmail.com.
> --
> A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
> shall never sit in.
> -Greek proverb
> “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
> Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
> from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
> lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
> guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
> understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.
> --Immanuel Kant
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