by Benjamin Martinez
LSD, DMT, Iboga, Magic Mushrooms, and Ayahuasca. These are a few of the drugs or substances included in the ever-expanding list of psychedelics. Psychedelics, first popularized in the 1960’s by LSD’s chief promoter Timothy Leary, work with the human psyche to cause altered states of mind or consciousness. These altered states, or more commonly called trips, have benefited the development of the human brain, culture, and religion.
Two of the most pondered questions about psychedelics are: What do they do? and, How do they do it? From a scientific standpoint it is simple, these psychedelic drugs cause “dilated pupils, elevated body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, appetite loss, sleeplessness, tremors, headaches, nausea, sweating, heart palpitations, blurring of vision, memory loss, trembling and itching”. But surely there is a reason that, despite all these seemingly unwanted side effects, psychedelic drugs are still ingested illegally and legally across the United States and elsewhere. “To convey the varieties of psychedelic experience is to experience the only partially descriptive capacity of words”. This partially descriptive quote by Phil Wolfson from the Institute for Labor and Mental Health may provide the best insight into the mind of the psychonaut (“psychedelic astronaut”).
This gives way to a tremendous thought or concept, giving psychedelic drugs themselves the upper hand to any form of read trip report or description. These descriptions, although underhanded, hold a sense of beauty and wonderment when paired with a visual, creative mind. The following is a report from a volunteer of Dr. Rick Strassman, who conducted “the first new research in the United States in over twenty years on the effects of psychedelic, or hallucinogenic, drugs on humans”. “I felt the DMT go in and it burned in my vein, It was hard to breathe into it. Then the patterns began. I said to myself, “Let me go through you.” At that point it opened, and I was very much somewhere else. I believe it was at that point that I went out, into the universe – being, dancing with, a star system. I asked myself, “Why am I doing this to myself?” And then there was, “This is what you’ve always been searching for. This is what all of you has always been searching for”. Psychedelics have been known for overwhelming visuals, patterns, and hallucinations but the scientific and biological implications could be equally if not more astounding than the psychedelic effects that not even words can properly represent.
“Hallucinogenic drugs act initially on the serotonin system, which sends into motion a pattern of complex action potentials and activity”. Serotonin has been theorized to be a sort of emotion chemical, regulating mood, appetite, as well as sleep. “The monoamines, which include serotonin and dopamine, help to regulate mood, among other functions. Psychiatric drugs such as Prozac and Thorazine affect monoamines, as do psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline, which can produce mystical visions”. Serotonin has a tryptamine core, tryptamine being “a derivative of tryptophan, an amino acid present in our diet.” other tryptamine based atomic compounds include DMT (A endogenous fast acting psychedelic found in mammal and in plant life), LSD, Ibogaine (a psychedelic rootbark found in the west africa, used by the local Bwiti Tribe), Psilocybin and psilocin (The active ingredient in “Magic Mushrooms”), 5-methoxy-DMT (Also endogenous in many forms of plant and animal life), and finally melatonin, the chemical responsible for regulating sleep, as well as stress. The atomic similarities between the monoamines and psychedelic drugs is no coincidence, as any psychonaut would inform you of the incredible emotional effects hallucinogenic drugs can bring; ranging from a bad trip through the darkest corridors of the mind, to an enlightening discovery of Atman, Brahman, Nirvana, or Yahweh.
Melatonin, the best that science can figure, is produced by the pineal gland, a small solitary part of the brain system, solitary meaning it has no symmetrical pair, as the other parts of the brain do (Left frontal lobe, Right frontal lobe, etc). It is this small gland, Strassman believes, that produces much DMT; during birth, death, or near-death experiences, as well as mystical states (Meditation, Prayer) “The Pineal gland abounds both in chemical precursors of DMT, such as tryptophan, and in beta-carbolines, the same compounds that render DMT orally active in the South American brew Ayahuasca by counteracting the enzyme in the gut that breaks down DMT”. This makes Strassman’s theory extremely plausibe, though still not proven. Rene Descartes, the famous french philosopher proposed that the pineal gland was the “Seat of the soul…. being the connection between spiritual and physical”. An accusation made undoubtedly before endogenous DMT had been linked to the spot. “The pineal gland of evolutionarily older animals, such as lizards and amphibians, is also called the “Third” eye. Just like the two seeing eyes, the third eye possesses a lens, cornea, and retina”. The pineal gland of humans is in its own way a “Third eye” corresponding to the third eye of eastern religious tradition, the pineal gland is also light sensitive, odd for an organ so deep in our heads. In eastern, as well as some western, mysticism the third eye relates to other timeless realms of being or consciousness. Through the third eye, Gurus can “see” pantheons of Gods around a godhead in Hinduism, Tibetan Monks feel the overwhelming serenity of nirvana in Buddhism, or Israelite prophets may receive visions from Yahweh. In many religious traditions time is spoken of as non-linear. This is true in Jesus’ teaching to not be anxious for the things to come and the Buddha’s advice to live wisely in the present moment. “Such a perspective is identical to the mystical or shamanic understanding of reality. It matches the Hopi perspective on time, in which “All time is present now,”.
While in the thralls of a psychedelic experience, or even through exercises such as meditation and prayer, many people find themselves in a timeless state, feeling as if large amounts of time have passed in relatively short stints. “Louis de Broglie wrote: In space-time everything wich for each of us constitutes the past, the present, and the future is given en bloc…. Each observer, as his time passes, discovers, so to speak, new slices of space-time which appear to him as successive aspects of the material world, though in reality the ensemble of events constituting space-time exist prior to his knowledge of him”. This is a view expressed by the thoughts and feelings of religious, psychedelic, and scientific experience, but the linear time model is still used primarily in today’s worldview. Another similarity between psychedelics, spirituality, and science is a view of interconnectedness. Brahman, Nirvana, Buddha Nature, Gods Grace, Love: many names for the underlying essence of everything. “All things originate with God.” Many Hippies in the sixties sought boundary dissolution and “ego death” two aspects of psychology brought by psychedelic drugs that are echoed in the teaching of “Do unto others as you would do unto yourself”. if a complete interconnectedness was thought to exist this would be the only logical path to follow, as hurting someone else is the same as hurting yourself. This interconnectedness, while scoffed at by many, is also shown by quantum physics : “The perceiving subject could no longer be separated from the objects under investigation. The physicist Werner Heisenberg codified this understanding in his Uncertainty Principle: With quantum objects such as photons and electrons, it was impossible to determine both their position and their momentum. If the scientist chose to observe momentum, the quantum object appeared as a wave. If the scientist chose to determine position, the quantum object appeared as a particle” this shows a direct correlation between mind and matter, as the scientists thought processes interfered directly with the building blocks of everything.
“In the world of “quantum strangeness” revealed by quantum mechanics, time, space, and consciousness are intimately interrelated and inseparable, and there exists a higher dimension, outside our perceptions of space-time, in which everything is interconnected”. The implications brought by the psychedelic DMT, the small pineal gland, and the effects of psychedelic substance may be a little shocking or even controversial when partnered with religious experience. But if DMT and other psychedelics are not the driving force behind religious vision, they may have other significance in our collective human history and evolutionary processes. To be frank, they may have a tremendous impact on how we view the world today, as well as how we might go about viewing the future.
“In the Sixties, Roland Fisher at the National Institute of Mental Health gave graduate students psilocybin and then a battery of eye tests. His results indicated that edges were visually detected more readily if a bit of psilocybin was present in the students body. Well, edge detection is exactly what hunting animals in the grassland environments use to observe distant prey! So here you have this chemical factor; when added to the diet, it results in greater success in hunting that in turn results in greater success in child rearing and so increases the size of the next generation”. This is taken from an interview with psychedelic enthusiast and professional psychonaut Terence Mckenna, who claims that psilocybin filled mushrooms, helped our ancestors get a foot up on the other life forms. Not at all improbable. Evolutionary theory says “small adaptive changes become genetically scripted into a species”. These maybe minute changes in the psychology of early mankind may have lead to an exponential evolutionary growth. LSD, already shown to be structurally similar to psilocybin, “Demonstrated a powerfully beneficial effect on creativity” when tested on scientists. If in any way the benefits of increased problem solving or creativity were to be transferred to early man by way of the psilocybin mushrooms it could have in and of itself skyrocketed human evolution; the creative, problem solving process becomes a little easier, early man eats more and more of the psychedelic substance, entranced in reverie, he is slowly changing and adapting to become more successful in the hunt, mating, and tool-making; the whole evolutionary process. As Daniel Pinchbeck puts it: “It is my thesis that the rapid development of technology and the destruction of the biosphere are material by-products of a psycho-spiritual process taking place on a planetary scale”. Relating to the evolution of now, Daniel speaks of the DMT we all share, the monoamines of emotion, the planetary scale because no one is left out. If you are human, you possess and create these tryptamine-based compounds.
These theories, while controversial, are logically sound and agree with scientific studies in the areas of biology, psychology, and chemistry; even quantum physics and superstring theory. Sadly though, theories remain theories and in no way can psychedelic drugs impact on culture, religion, and the human brain be “proven.”Self research and contemplation on the topic is highly recommended to any being who happens across this essay. And please, open your mind to new possibilities, “I can’t stomach the human tragedy of somebody going to the grave ignorant of what is possible”.
Ebbit, Alicia. The Effects of hallucinogenic Drugs on The brain. 1/26/2008. Serendip’s Exchange.
Web. 1/20/2012. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1880
Horgan, John. The God Experiments. Discover. December 2006. MAS Ultra School Edition. web.
Timothy Francis Leary. Columbia University Press. 11/1/2011. Literary reference center
Miller, Sukie. Zimberhoff, Tom. Terence Mckenna. Omni. May 93’. MAS Ultra. Web. 1/27/2012
Wolfson, Phil. Psychedelics, Spirituality, and Transformation. Institute for Labor and Mental Health. Jan 2011.
All the images are google downloads(I wish it could have been taken by me though)