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Psychedelics are substances that alter cognition and perception.


They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong. – Terence McKenna
  • Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you might jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structure and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.
  • Terence's pivotal, existential crisis came abruptly, some time in '88 or '89. Everything that happened after that event was fallout. I don't know exactly when it happened, and I don't know exactly what happened; I am piecing it together from what Kat has told me, and she has volunteered few details, and I am reluctant to probe.

    It happened when they were living for a time on the big island, and it was a mushroom trip they shared that was absolutely terrifying for Terence. It was terrifying because, for some reason, the mushroom turned on him. The gentle, wise, humorous mushroom spirit that he had come to know and trust as an ally and teacher ripped back the facade to reveal an abyss of utter existential despair. Terence kept saying, so Kat told me, that it was "a lack of all meaning, a lack of all meaning." And this induced panic in Terence, and probably, I speculate, a feeling he was going mad. He couldn't deal with it. Kat's efforts to reassure him were fruitless. After that experience, he never again took mushrooms, and he took other psychedelics, such as DMT and ayahuasca, only on rare occasions and with great reluctance.

    Whatever the specific content of the psychedelic experience might have been that triggered the cognitive collapse of Terence's worldview and precipitated his existential crisis, what was most remarkable was that he did not see it coming.

    • Dennis McKenna: The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terence McKenna (unpublished manuscript) [1]
  • It has been many years since I took psychedelics myself, and my abstinence is born of a healthy respect for the risks involved. … My "bad trips" were, without question, the most harrowing hours I have ever endured, and they make the notion of hell—as a metaphor if not an actual destination—seem perfectly apt. … Have you ever traveled, beyond all mere metaphors, to the Mountain of Shame and stayed for a thousand years? I do not recommend it.
  • Hamilton Morris: I had a very traumatic and formative experience myself. My best friend had a psychotic break while I was with him tripping, so I have seen this firsthand. I know exactly what it looks like.
    Joe Rogan: Yeah, I've had friends have really bad experiences too with screaming and yelling and disassociation, and afterwards, become very strange and have a really hard time with reality for a bit. I've never seen someone have a complete psychotic break.
    Hamilton Morris: This was that. He never recovered.
    Joe Rogan: Never?
    Hamilton Morris: He never recovered. He was my best friend at the time, and he never recovered.
    Joe Rogan: So he was fine before the psychedelics?
    Hamilton Morris: Yes.
    Joe Rogan: Jesus Christ. So now, he's still fucked?
    Hamilton Morris: Yes.
    Joe Rogan: Damn.
I see LSD as a positive, important life experience for me, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. – Robert Crumb
  • I took some bad acid in November of 1965, and the after effect left me crazy and helpless for six months. My mind would drift into a place that was very electrical and crackly, filled with harsh, abrasive, low grade, cartoony, tawdry carnival visions. … LSD put me somewhere else. I wasn't sure where. All I know is, it was a strange place. Psychedelic drugs broke me out of my social programming. It was a good thing for me, traumatic though, and I may have been permanently damaged by the whole thing, I'm not sure. I see LSD as a positive, important life experience for me, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.
    • Robert Crumb, in The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 132
  • Psychotropics have never been enjoyable to me, ever. … Every single one of them was a challenge in its own way. Some would make you sleepy, some would make you nervous, some would make you lethargic, some would absolutely impair your ability to walk and talk. Everything has its own little quirks, and none of them made me feel good. I like being clear, sober-minded, and aware and conscious. That is my favorite state. And the only reason I ever did any of those substances was to get a glimpse of those spaces that are not normally available in sober, normal consciousness.
If you get the message, hang up the phone. – Alan Watts
  • If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with his eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen.
    • Alan Watts: The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness. (This statement was redacted from later editions.)
  • I believe that with the advent of acid, we discovered a new way to think, and it has to do with piecing together new thoughts in your mind. Why is it that people think it's so evil? What is it about it that scares people so deeply, even the guy that invented it? What is it? Because they're afraid that there's more to reality than they have ever confronted, that there are doors that they're afraid to go in. And they don't want us to go in there either, because if we go in, we might learn something that they don't know. And that makes us a little out of their control.
    • Ken Kesey, in BBC documentary The Beyond Within: The Rise and Fall of LSD (1987)
  • The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.
  • Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell as well as Alan Watts' The Joyous Cosmology spoke eloquently of the dimensions the psychedelics open up.
    • Nina Graboi: One Foot in the Future: A Woman's Spiritual Journey (2000), ch. 22
  • I came of age at a magical time. … Our consciousness was raised by Zen, and also by LSD. … Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there's another side to the coin, and you can't remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.
Our society values alert, problem-solving consciousness, and it devalues all other states of consciousness. – Graham Hancock
  • Our society values alert, problem-solving consciousness, and it devalues all other states of consciousness. Any kind of consciousness that is not related to the production or consumption of material goods is stigmatized in our society today. Of course, we accept drunkenness. We allow people some brief respite from the material grind. A society that subscribes to that model is a society that is going to condemn the states of consciousness that have nothing to do with the alert, problem-solving mentality.

    And if you go back to the 1960s, when there was a tremendous upsurge of exploration of psychedelics, I would say the huge backlash that followed that had to do with a fear on the part of the powers that be: that if enough people went into those realms and those experiences, the very fabric of the society we have today would be picked apart—and, most importantly, those in power at the top would not be in power at the top anymore.

  • Psychedelics are not suppressed because they are dangerous to users; they're suppressed because they provoke unconventional thought, which threatens any number of elites and institutions that would rather do our thinking for us. Historically, those in power have always sought to suppress free thought, whether bluntly or subtly, because it poses an inherent challenge to their rule. That's no less true today, in an age when corporate, political, and religious interests form a global bloc whose interests threaten all earthly life, including human life.
    • Dennis McKenna: The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terence McKenna
  • I ask that you suspend any opinions, either negative or positive, about these compounds. Whatever you believe their value to be, they continue to have profound effects wherever we find their use, whether it's contemporary Western culture or in the Amazon rainforest.
  • The hope that LSD-inspired mental states might ever be domesticated for science presupposes that there are certain epistemically privileged sorts of awareness. … Empirical research suggests this optimism is at best naïve. … Shuffling around syntactic tokens in our everyday mental ghetto may amount to futile shadow-chasing. So one's sense of understanding the LSD story may be illusory. The raw feels and the semantic primitives are lacking.
  • … the vast majority of these alien state-spaces of consciousness latent in organised matter haven't been recruited by natural selection for information-tracking purposes. So "psychonauts" don't yet have the conceptual equipment to navigate these alien state-spaces of consciousness in even a pseudo-public language, let alone integrate them in any kind of overarching conceptual framework.
  • … psychedelic drug investigators may imagine superintelligence as a Great Arch-Chemist opening up unknown state-space of consciousness.
  • The last item—the occasional trip into realms labeled madness—can mean, especially if you are a writer, that you are given to telling the unvarnished, brutal, searing truth, whether society likes it or not. And not the Sylvia Plath look-at-me kinds of truth, but the spiritual-seer and mad-shaman types of truth, the truths that really hurt, the truths that get into society's craw and stick there, causing festering metaphysical sores indicative of social cancers or worse—but also the types of truth that speak to you deeply, authentically, radiantly, if you have the courage to listen.
  • We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the Sixties. Uppers are going out of style. This was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously. After West Point and the Priesthood, LSD must have seemed entirely logical to him … but there is not much satisfaction in knowing that he blew it very badly for himself, because he took too many others down with him. Not that they didn't deserve it: No doubt they all Got What Was Coming To Them. All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole lifestyle that he helped to create … a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force—is tending that Light at the end of the tunnel.
  • I think there's a degree of luck and intellect involved in giving up things that hurt you. The drug and alcohol thing, it seems to me, comes down to this: drugs and these things are wonderful. They're wonderful when you try them first. They're not around for all these millenia for no reason. First time: mostly pleasure, very little pain. Maybe a hangover. And as you increase and keep using whatever it is, the pleasure part decreases, and the pain part—the price you pay—increases, until the balance is completely the other way, and it's almost all pain, and there's hardly any pleasure. At that point, you would hope that the intellect says: "Oh! This doesn't work anymore. I'm going to die! And I'll do something." But you need people around you who can help you, and you need something to live for. You have to have something to look forward to, to bring you out of it.
  • Designer synthetics are really nasty. There are chemical cannabinoid structures. There are stimulants and hallucinogens. Then you have hallucinogens that act as stimulants, and stimulants that act like hallucinogens, and the list goes on. You have no idea where that pill came from or where that powder came from. You don't know the lab environment in which it was manufactured. You don't know the contents. You don't know what's in it.
  • The "war on drugs" has been lost and should never have been waged. I can think of no right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one's own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time.

See also

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