"One of the few major psychedelics conferences during the dark age of the “Just Say No” Reagan regime was the Psychedelics and Spirituality Conference (aka Psychedelic Conference II), held on the campus of UC-Santa Barbara on May 13-14, 1983.
The speakers were a “who’s who” of drug discoverers and researchers: Albert Hofmann, Humphry Osmond, Ralph Metzner, Alexander Shulgin, Walter Houston Clark, Terence McKenna, Andrew Weil, Carl Ruck and Jonathan Ott.
It was at this conference that Sasha Shulgin announced his discovery of 2C-B and delivered one of his greatest talks, “Drugs of Perception.” It was also here that Terence McKenna (in his brother Dennis’ words) “marked his emergence as a public persona with his talk ‘Hallucinogens: Monkeys Discover Hyperspace, aka Return to the Logos.’”
Sasha Shulgin had a vision. Here is Shulgin's emotional speech, followed by Terence McKenna.
When I was first asked by Robert Gordon-McCutcheon to come here tonight and talk about whatever I wished in the area of the psychedelic drugs, my first inclination was to decline.
After all, I am a student of chemistry and pharmacology, not of philosophy or religion, and I felt that I had contributed as much as I could at last year's meeting, with a review of the correlation between chemical structure and psychological activity.
But my wife intervened: "Why not tell them just why you do the work you do?"
This launched me onto an interesting question. Just why have I, for the last twenty-five years or so, conducted a persistent search into the design, the preparation, and the evaluation of new and different psychotropic drugs, be they hallucinogenic, psychedelic, dissociative or merely intoxicating?
The flippant answer was right there at hand: one does it because it is there to be done. Like the answer to the question, "Why do you climb Mt. Everest?" "Because it is there to be climbed." But that is not the reason that I conduct the research I do.
Whenever this question would come up during a seminar or panel appearance within the academic environment, I would place special emphasis on the word, "psychotomimetic," a term often applied by the scientific community to refer to the psychedelic drugs. In its origin, it is a blend of the prefix, "psychoto," from psychosis, and "mimesis," meaning: to imitate. Thus, the term described one of the earliest properties assigned to these materials — that they could, to some measure, duplicate the syndrome of mental illness and, as such, might serve as exploratory tools in the study of some forms of psychosis and of sensory disorder. As an explanation of why I do what I do, this was both systematic and safe.
The explanation is systematic in that most of the many psychedelics that are known, currently about two hundred, can be classified by their structural backbone into two groups, one of them called the phenethylamines, and the other called the tryptamines. In the phenethylamine group, there are fifty or so relatives of mescaline, and some equal number of methyl homologues with the chemical chain of amphetamine. In the tryptamine group there is an equal number again, some of them quite simple with varying ring, chain or nitrogen substitution patterns; some of them condensed into more complex structures such as the 13-carbolines (for example, harmaline) and the ergolines (for example, LSD).
The two principal neurotransmitters in the brain just happen also to be a phenethylamine (dopamine) and a tryptamine (serotonin).
This explanation is safe, because it is unthreatening and easily accepted by the academic community as well as by those who must decide who will receive government grants.
Link: Implications of the
Harrison Act and the White-Slave Trade Act
Let me lay a little background to establish a framework for these tools, in part to define them, and in part to give emphasis to the urgency that I feel is associated with them.
I firmly believe that there is a most remarkable balance being maintained between all aspects of the human theater. When there seems to be the development of a move that-a-way, there springs forth a compensatory and balancing development that effects a move this-a-way. If there must be a dichotomization of concepts into "good" and "evil," then the balance is maintained by the good containing a small but real quantity of unexpressed evil, and the evil containing a corresponding amount of unexpressed good. Within the human mind there must co-exist the Eros, the life-loving and self-perpetuating force, with the Thanatos, the self-destructive death-wish. Both are present in each of us, but they are usually separated by the difficult-to-penetrate wall of the unconscious.
Link: Dr. Gabor Maté, M.D., discusses how ayahuasca offers addicts insight into self-destructive behaviors
One definition of the tools I seek is that they should be words in a vocabulary, a vocabulary that might allow each human being to more consciously — and more clearly — communicate with the interior of his own mind and psyche. This might be called a vocabulary of awareness. A person who becomes increasingly aware of, and so begins to acknowledge, the existence of the two opposite contributors to his motives and decisions, may begin to make choices that are knowledgeable. And the learning path that follows such choices is the path that leads to wisdom.
But, just as there is a balance within the mind that needs to be established, there is an interesting parallel reality in society. Look for a few minutes at the record, the coincidences in history that have kept our human race in precarious balance.
Throughout the early centuries of this current millennium, there were carried out the most viciously inhuman wars known to man, all in the name of the forces of religion. The horrors of the Inquisition, with its lethal intolerance of heresy, are well-documented. And yet, it was during these dark years that the structure of alchemy was established — not to change base metals into noble ones, as has often been thought — but to acquire knowledge through the study of matter.
The work of the alchemists extended up to the Age of Enlightenment, with its newly expressed urges of rationalism and skepticism. The alchemists' labors were always directed toward the learning process. The oft-quoted goal of transmutation of lead to gold was not what was being sought. The value of the quest was in the doing and the redoing, and yet again redoing, of the processes of distillation, sublimation and precipitation. It would be only by a more exact understanding of these processes that there might emerge a synthesis, a union, between the physical world and the spiritual world.
It was the doing and the redoing that was its own reward. It was the learning of the discipline that established the vital balance in each individual.
In the last 100 years or so, this learning process has evolved into what we now call "science." But with this evolution there has been a subtle shift from the process itself, to the results of the process. In this current age of science, it is only the end-result, the "gold" that really matters. It is not the act of achieving, but the final achievement that brings one the acknowledgment of one's peers. And with that, one can be recognized by the outside world, together with the wealth and influence and power that comes with that recognition. But these achievements, these end-results, all show that same yin-yang structure of good and evil, with each containing a bit of the other. This has been our history of the past centuries. One has been taught to say that the fruits of science are devoid of the colors of ethics or morality, and that there is no intrinsic good or evil in the objective world of academic scientific inquiry. And of course that there is no meaning to the idea of a need for maintaining some sort of balance. But, still, I would like to illustrate some rather incredible coincidences of timing.
For example, in 1895, Wilheim von Roentgen observed that, when electricity was applied to an evacuated tube that contained certain gases, a nearby plate covered with an unusual inorganic film emitted a visible glow. And the next year, in 1896, Antoine Henri Becqueril found that these same metal-penetrating emanations, producing areas of light and color on the platinocyanide-covered plate, were being emitted from uranium.
Radioactivity had been discovered.
But it was just the following year, at 11:45 AM on the 23rd of November, 1897, that Arthur Heffter consumed an alkaloid that he had isolated from the "dumpling cactus" brought to the western world by the irrepressible pharmacologist, Louis Lewin. As Heffter wrote in his notes, following the ingestion of 150 milligrams:
"From time to time, dots with the most brilliant colors floated across the field of vision. Later on, landscapes, halls, architectural scenes also appeared...."
Mescaline had been discovered.
During the 1920s and 1930s, both worlds — that of the physical sciences, involving radiation, and that of the psychopharmacological, involving psychotropic materials — continued to develop without any clear sense of polarity, without the "mine is good, and yours is evil" duality that was soon to come. Radioactivity and radiation were becoming mainstays in medicine. X-ray photography was invaluable in diagnosis, and radium therapy was broadly used in treatment. Controlled and localized radiation could destroy malignant tissue, while sparing the host.
And in the area of psychology, there were parallel developments. The theories of Freud and Jung were being developed into increasingly useful clinical approaches to mental illness, and the basis of experimental psychology was laid down in the pioneering studies of Pavlov.
Link: Carl Jung, Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous, and LSD
There was another coincidence of timing, which in retrospect was the beginning of the, division of science into two diverging pathways, that occurred during World War II. In late 1942, Enrico Fermi and several other scientists at the University of Chicago demonstrated — for the first time ever — that nuclear fission could be achieved and controlled by man. The age of "unlimited power, and freedom from dependency on our dwindling fossil reserves" had begun.
The next year, at 4:20 PM on the 19th of April, Albert Hofmann consumed a measured amount of a compound which he had first synthesized some five years earlier. As Hofmann subsequently reported, in a quotation following 250 micrograms:
"[After the crisis of confusion and despair] I began to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and closing themselves in circles and spirals...."
LSD had also been discovered.
But still, then, and up until the last decade, it was the rich promise of the nuclear age, first with the power and the potential of fission and later, with the virtually limitless potential of fusion energy, that carried the banner of the hopes of man, and the area of the hallucinogens was categorized as being negative, psychosis-imitating or psychotomimetic. It was not until sometime in the 1970s that a strange, fascinating and frightening reversal of roles took place.
The knowledge of nuclear fission and fusion took on a death-loving aspect, with country after country joining the fraternity of those skilled in the capacity for eradicating the human experiment. To have such power leads to the threat to use such power. Which will, in time, lead to the actual use of this power.
But, as I have said earlier, when one thing develops, there seems to spring forth a balancing, compensatory counterpart. This balance was realized with the evolution of the very negative psychotomimetic drugs into the role of being completely positive psychedelic drugs. What had been simply tools for the study of psychosis (at best) or escapist self-gratification (at worst), suddenly assumed the character of tools of enlightenment, and of some form of transcendental communication.
If Man's alter-ego, his Thanatos, has been entrusted with the in perpetuo knowledge of how he can completely destroy himself and this experiment in life and love, then some development will, must occur at the Eros side of his psyche that will, that must afford the learning of how to live with the perpetual knowledge. It is the communication between these two sides of the mind that requires an extraordinary vocabulary.
Where do these words of vocabulary come from? They come from an intimate insight into the workings of the human mind, but this may be approached in many ways.
Hypnosis, meditation, trance dancing, all can provide a path of learning but, in my view, can become also a retreat and, hence, an abandonment of any search. The efforts to amalgamate the two sides of the mind, as seen in the Tao of Physics and in the rich findings of parallelism between the Eastern and Western philosophies, may eventually explain all, and allow some unification of the human purpose. But I feel — along with many others — that the efforts being invested in the technology of destruction do not allow sufficient time. It is pos sible that only with the psychedelic drugs can these needed words of vocabulary be established, words which might tunnel through the unconscious, between these conflicting aspects of mind and psyche.
It is in the crafting of these essential words that I feel my skills lie, and this is exactly why I do the work I do.
Where do we stand, as of today? In the last handful of years, the forces of government and nationalism have amassed an unprecedented arsenal of destructive power. If the current arsenals of the world were to be restructured into Hiroshima-strength weapons, there is the nuclear fuel to detonate one bomb every minute, on the minute, night and day, for the next two years. And the rationalized need to do so is becoming manifest at a frightening pace.
Link: Psychology Study Explains Psychedelic Ethics
But in the last few years, the number of tools of communication have been increasing at a like rate. There are currently some two hundred psychedelic drugs known and described, some touching at one, some at another, of the fibers that unify our minds. By learning each of these structures of sensory extraordinary communication in turn, we might find a form of language that would disarm our destructive compulsion.
And, indeed, what forms of tools are now available to us? Some of the tools that are available, or rather, have been available, are the widely publicized drugs of psychopharmacology, such as mescaline, psilocybin, DOM (aka: STP), and LSD. These drugs have helped to define the transition that has occurred from drugs being seen simply as instruments of entertainment, escape and turn-ons, to drugs being acknowledged as instructive vehicles for learning, enlightenment, and insight. But this was at quite a price. They had a high profile at the time the Controlled Substance Act was written, and were made illegal. They are thus no longer available.
However, in their place there are now many, many other materials, some more limited in their instructive capacity, and some perhaps even richer. And for every one today, there will be ten tomorrow. Let me describe a small sampling of the recently born materials in a bit more detail.
DIPT is the abbreviation of N,N-diisopropyltryptamine, a drug unique among the psychedelics, in that it causes a distortion in, or to an extent a synthesis with, the processes of auditory integrity. Many of its very close relatives, those with different substituents blending the structures of DMT and psilocin, are certainly sensory distortants, but they lead primarily to changes in visual integrity. Here you have one of the less available of the five senses, the sense of hearing, that is teased apart for special study.
An interesting difference between endogenous schizophrenia and a chemically induced model of schizophrenia is that most of the hallucinations in the former are auditory, and most in the latter are visual. An anonymous quotation following 20 milligrams of DIPT:
"The telephone sounds partly underwater.... There are signs of a pitch change on the radio. The absolute pitch down a major third. Chord on the piano sounds out of tune, quite flat. Music terrible, unlistenable. The other senses seem in no way affected. If I were deaf, I would have thought this an inactive compound."
Seven hours after ingesting the material, this note: "Hearing normal. Piano back in tune."
MDMA, or Ecstasy, is the abbreviation for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, a tool of communication that has shown, in recent years, an extraordinary utility in opening communication between individuals. This has promoted its use in psychotherapy, and it has given promise as a vehicle for interpersonal communication, and communication with one's self as well. This particular drug has been used in clinical applications which today number in the thousands, and it has commanded a remarkably good record of positive results. An anonymous quotation following 120 milligrams:
"We kept up a lively conversation, covering many interesting aspects of our various family relationships. The conversation was unusually insightful and free of defensiveness." And, with a 40 milligram supplement: "Jean (his wife) glowed with energy, became very beautiful. We talked freely and openly.... Every bush and plant looks utterly alive.... I am entranced by a large rock. As I look at its surface, I see the surface of a planet, with mountains, valleys ... little crystals of mica are like jewels."
2C-B is the abbreviation for 2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine, a tool and word of vocabulary that ties the mental process directly and constructively into the physical soma. The analgesic effects experienced with many, if not most, psychedelic drugs are not present with 2C-B. On the contrary, there is an increase in body awareness of every kind, including skin sensitivity, heightened responsiveness to smells, tastes and sexual stimulation. One experiences a heightened perception of physical health and energy, or — on the other hand — an immediate knowing of any bodily imbalance or discomfort. 2C-B allows rich visual imagery and intense eyes-closed fantasy, without the cluttering up of the mental field with too much elaboration. An anonymous quotation following 20 milligrams:
"Along with the awareness of the body, and the ability to deeply enjoy the fact that one is a physical, as well as a spiritual, being, the experience of 2C-B allows exploration as far as one needs to go. There is at all times full connection with all parts of one's self— the emotional and the intellectual, the intuitive and the instinctual."
It is a superb tool for learning and for growth. It allows the recovery of baseline within six to eight hours. A maximum dose is 25 milligrams, but more usual are those in the area of 18 to 20 milligrams.
Ketamine is the abbreviation for (RS)-2-(2-Chlorophenyl)-2-(methylamino) cyclohexanone, the antithesis of 2C-B in that it effectively separates the mind and the body. This allows the mind a separate and constructive state, apart from the physical groundings of body. Although the primary clinical application of Ketamine is as a dissociative anesthetic, an increasingly important direction of study is now being directed to the psychological loosening that it allows.
MAL and CPM are abbreviations for two compounds that are fascinating analogues of mescaline, namely: 4-methallyloxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine, and 4-cyclopropylmethoxy-3,5- dimethoxyphenethylamine, two compounds that activate opposite sides of the sensorium. The former invokes an intense visual distortion at the retinal level, with consequential bizarre interpretations. The latter displays its effectiveness in the fantasy counterpart, seen only with the eyes closed. An anonymous quotation following 65 milligrams of MAL:
"Within two hours, intense effects. Beautiful. Also diuretic. Good connections between parts of myself. Continual fantasy and imagery. Lovely experience of the erotic with husband. Around 12 hours, excellent, solid sleep with clear, balancing dreams."
Following 70 milligrams of CPM:
"At two hours, strong effects but no visual. Wonderful locking in to music. Deep loving, erotic, very good. With eyes closed, intense, colorful fantasy, much like LSD at times. No sleep before 18 hours."
Lest anyone has the impression, by the way, that research in this area leads always to God, and to insight, and to a deeper experience of loving, I will mention a material called 4-TASB, which is the abbreviation for 4-thioethyl-3-ethoxy-5-methoxyphenethylamine. An anonymous quotation following a 100 milligram exposure:
"At about 2 hours, pleasant and positive, good sex and peaceful feeling; very good humored. Sleep was impossible until early morning, and then only about 2 hours. All next day, could not rest or sleep. Feeling of nerve-endings raw and active. Anxiety over heartbeat. Frightening effect on nervous system. Depression, back of neck sore from tension. My first experience of being able to detect what felt like continual electrical impulses between nerve-endings. Had the impression that, if I allowed the wrong sequence of images to flow in my mind, I might, experience some sort of convulsion, or at least a kind of mental shock or shorting-out. When I tried to sleep, eyes-closed fantasies became intensely negative and threatening. I could not smooth out the nervous system. Felt very vulnerable. DO NOT REPEAT."
Alpha-O-DMS is the abbreviation for 5-methoxy-α-methyltryptamine, an analogue of the neurotransmitter serotonin — that has been tailored chemically to allow entry to the brain. It is a very potent indole psychedelic that touches closely on those areas involved with primal energies.
Several researchers experienced dreams of catastrophic events, after exploring this material. One researcher, however, had a dream which evolved as a complete science-fiction scenario. He found it absolutely enjoyable, and is still thinking of writing it up and sending it to a publisher.
These are only a half dozen or so of many score of fascinating compounds that are now available for the study of this developing vocabulary. This is where we are at the moment. Some materials show incredible promise; some suggest caution.
But what might we expect to emerge in the future? Let us look at the past history of other areas of psychotropic chemistry.
A few decades ago, it was considered marvelous that drugs such as the opiates, including morphine, heroin and meperidine, could have such an exacting influence on the brain's integrity. Then it became known that there were natural factors in the brain that had these actions, and that there were specific sites in the brain that were pre-designed to respond to them. There were the enkephalins and their fragmented portions, known as the endorphins, which were derived from the cephalic process, and related to morphine; these met the person's need for the suppression of pain.
Perhaps there are the enkedelics (from the psychedelics) and the specific enescalines (from mescaline) yet to be discovered, that are related to these communication factors. They may be natural and normal, and may be found, same day, to be associated with the receptor sites involved with transcendental communication. Here are the fascinating systems that may connect the human brain with the human mind. The structures of these compounds, if they exist, may someday be known. Their function may someday be understood.
But extend your viewing, for a moment, from the human mind to the human soul or spirit.
These all coexist in all of us, but there is a central blockade between these inner worlds, which i truly feel can be penetrated only with the words and the tools, and the understanding that may be most easily obtained through the area of psychedelic experiences.
William Blake said in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:
"Man has no body distinct from his soul. For that called 'body' is a portion of the soul, discerned by the five senses - the chief inlets of soul in this age. Energy is the only life, and is from the body, and reason is the bound or outward circumference of energy. Energy is eternal delight."
These are responses to a heart-felt need for some vocabulary, to allow the establishment of a dialogue that might defuse the accelerating mad moves towards extinction. My personal philosophy might well be lifted directly from Blake;
'I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's.'
I may be wrong, but I must do what I'm doing. And... I will do what I can... as fast as I can.
To the right is a 7 minute video screened at a MAPS tribute dinner for Ann & Sasha Shulgin; San José, California, April 17th 2010. Sasha passed away June 2, 2014 at the age of 88.