Chapter 05: Psychedelic Information Theory
In this chapter I would briefly like to go over what I call "The Psychedelic Rules." While these are not hard scientific rules they are in large part agreed upon to be true by people familiar with the psychedelics, and some have become basic axioms of the psychedelic experience. Many of these rules will be invoked in later chapters to discuss anomalies and seeming contradictions in the types of experiences people can have on a psychedelic journey. Listed in no specific order, the Rules of Psychedelia are as follows:
1. A single drug can do many things. If there is one rule you need to know above all about psychedelics, this is the big one. It is difficult to explain how utterly true this statement is, but the range of experience produced by psychedelic drugs is almost limitless. Every possible facet of human emotion and experience is accessible within the psychedelic experience, and even facets that you never dreamed of can pop right out of nowhere. While practice can get you familiar with the territory, no one really knows exactly what they are going to get when they enter into a psychedelic voyage. Tears, laughter, mania, joy, catharsis, sleep, visions, voices, paranoia, peace, exalted bliss, torturous hell, close encounters with aliens, devils, angels, visits from strange and unknown entities... All are possible outcomes of the psychedelic trip, and you may experience them all within the course of a single psychedelic session. It is truly a roller coaster ride into the unknown. Do not take this path unless you know the rules up front. Which brings us to...
2. Psychedelics are Non-Specific Amplifiers. In "LSD Psychotherapy", Stanislav Grof, M.D. wrote, "LSD and other psychedelics function more or less as nonspecific catalysts and amplifiers of the psyche." This is a truism held-over from the heyday of psychedelic research in the late 1950s and early '60s and is still widely accepted as true and accurate to this day. What this means is that psychedelics have the power to amplify any specific facet of the human psyche depending solely on the situational context or some combination of both the conscious and subconscious focus, desires, and intent of the user. I hope to demonstrate within the course of this book how this amplification actually takes place within the mind and brain, how it can actually be controlled by the user as it happens, and how it can either enhance or delude perception based on the subjective context. Which brings us to:
3. It all comes down to ingestion context, or: "Dose, Set, and Setting." I've already discussed Dr. Leary's observation of this very important rule, but it cannot be over-emphasized. The tone and content of each psychedelic session all comes down to the amount of the particular drug you're taking (Dose), the frame of mind or mental state you're in when you take it (Set), and where you happen to be and who you are with when it starts to kick in (Setting). By paying careful attention to each of these details a user can attempt to program the boundaries and desired outcome of the trip, thus minimizing bummers, freak-outs, or messy intrusions that could move a psychedelic trip into sour territory. But nobody can foresee everything, and sometimes even the best planned trip can go into unknown territory and get very weird very quickly. So it is important to remember...
4. Psychedelics Dissolve Boundaries. It's no secret why the '60s counterculture picked up on the "acid" part of lysergic-acid diethylamide (or LSD) as the slang handle for the drug. LSD was said to dissolve boundaries, all kinds of boundaries: class boundaries, race boundaries, gender boundaries, and even more abstract things like the boundary between self and other, subject and object, waking and dreaming, the ego and the transpersonal self, even the boundaries between life and death. Under the influence of a boundary-dissolving psychedelic the concept of the "ego" or "independent self" slowly vanishes as consciousness grapples with heavy concepts like "the illusion of self" or "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things" (or ICOAT for short). For people seeking communion with a higher mind this is a good thing, for other people the dissolution of personal boundaries and the vanishing of the self is the scariest part of the experience. The ability to cope with this fundamental aspect of the trip (boundary dissolution, the transcendence of the self) may very well be at the heart of all "positive" psychedelic trips, and the fear of this specific experience (letting go, loosing control) may underlie all "bummers" or negative trips. Which is why you need to...
5. Relax, Submit to the Experience. When things get crazy there's no use fighting it, you're in it for the long haul and you did it to yourself. Trying to struggle against an uncomfortable experience will only make it worse. The sooner you learn to relax and just go with the flow the better off you'll be. Just because it is weird beyond belief doesn't mean there is any reason to be uncomfortable with what you are feeling or seeing, you should just let it do it's thing and try not to get in the way. Some people have a natural resistance to giving up control of the experience, but it's for the best, really. If you get scared just sit still and wait it out. Since psychedelics are non-specific amplifiers, if you choose to fight an experience your mind may exaggerate the conflict or amplify the source of anxiety, thus putting you in an aggressive/paranoid feedback loop. Should you choose to relax, your sensations of peace and calm will only be enhanced by the psychedelic. So whatever you do...
6. Don't Freak Out. No matter how weird it gets you must not give into to the urge to totally freak out, like yelling and screaming and getting violent, especially if you happen to be in an unsafe and uncontrolled environment. Freaking out will just land you in the emergency room and that is the last place you want to be in this state. The main trick to warding of bad trips is simply remembering to stay calm, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and push through whatever is giving your grief. You can feel fear, pain, paranoia, danger, menace, death, nothingness... but as long as you stay calm and keep breathing you'll be just fine. If you focus your attention on your own breathing and autonomic systems you'll find that the slower and deeper you breath, the more calm and relaxed you will feel. This is all you need to know to undo even the most hellish downward spirals. Take a deep breath, relax. Clear your mind. Take another one. See, you're feeling better already, and remember...
7. It Will Eventually End. No matter how much it may seem so at the time, you will not be stuck in the psychedelic state forever. Like all things the psychedelic state is fleeting and generally cannot be maintained for long periods of time. The time it takes to have a trip may feel like a lifetime, and the memory of the experience will stay with you forever, but the truly odd perceptual bits in the middle, those will fade away in a few hours, I promise. It is extremely rare for people to have any lingering perceptual effects from a psychedelic trip, even the notorious flashbacks are extremely rare if downright mythical. While some people with psychotic tendencies are more at risk for having severe adverse reactions, the average person recovers from a psychedelic trip quite quickly. So don't worry, just try to get something out of it while it lasts.
The only thing I would like to add in summation to these rules is that the key to getting the most out of psychedelics is to be safe and have some kind of intent for the trip. Having a pre-planned focus or ritual for the trip is not essential, but it does help set the tone for whatever will come next. I have also found it helpful in early experiences to find a "ground object" like a watch, or a photo, a polished stone, or anything small and interesting you can return your focus to when things start to get beyond your grasp. The ground object may be a childish notion like a trail of breadcrumbs to keep from getting lost in the forest but it can be like a little piece of the "old world" you cling to when everything else falls apart and the "new world" unfolds before your very eyes. It may sound silly now, but if you know what I mean, well, you know how important the little things can be when the foundation of reality starts to come entirely apart.
And believe it or not, that is it. That is all the rules. Within these boundaries just about any outcome you can think of is possible.
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Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2005-02-16 00:00:00