tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

Vague and maybe relevant thoughts about hallucinogens

Last night I dreamed about lambs. Not in the frolicking through daffodils kind of way, but in the pasture management of pregnant ewes kind of way. But I still insist that it's the first tiny sign of spring speaking from my cellular seasonal recognition sector, like a crocus sticking through the snow. Or it could just be wishful thinking optimism brought on by the return of ferrouswheel.

Happiness is: waking to the alarm, crawling out of bed to turn it off, thinking "Wow it'll be great when he gets back", then crawling back into bed and realising he is back. ;-)

It's formulating in my mind, and I don't know what it is. It has no cohesion or logical argument, but my hindbrain thinks it's important. I can't really even outline it - it's just a whole bunch of things I have seen/read/heard about/learned, that are throwing up flags of connection. The key hasn't appeared yet, but there's something and my mind is playing with it, groping for something to hook into.

These are the things that are flagging at me:

What The Dormouse Said. I haven't read this, but it's apparently (amongst other things) about the role of LSD in the development of personal computers/AI technology.

Zeitgeist. Finally got to watching this yesterday - I found it intersting, scary, agenda-laden, conspiracy-theory-oriented. It contained a lot of stuff I already knew and some I didn't. I felt I was being manipulated, mostly because anything that has a message is only going to give you the info that it wants you to have in order to give you that message - but because the movie was essentially about the way people are manipulated by being given a specific message to further an agenda, well.. my mile-wide rebellious streak may have been a little miffed at it. Right at the end, there's a recording of Richard Alpert speaking about consciousness. Who's Richard Alpert? He's the guy who got sacked from Harvard in 1963 along with Timothy Leary for using hallucinogens with students in an effort to explore their potential as entheogens.

The book I'm reading at the moment: Breaking Open The Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. It's about a guy's search for spirituality in the throes of an existential crisis brought on by his feeling of separation from the divine. There's a quote in there from Ralph Waldo Emerson that leaped off the page and grabbed my brain in a stranglehold:

"Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?"

Similar thoughts emerging from having read The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley. These guys were not druggie stoner loser hipsters trying to get a kick. They were intelligent, articulate people whose thoughts were not coloured by a moral objection to altered states of consciousness.

My utter failure to find any solid evidence of harm related to the use of hallucinogenic substances in my research for the last essay I wrote. I managed to write the essay in a relatively objective way, and concluded that banning LSD was the sensible approach for the government of the time based on the information they had*, in the context of scientific positivism that ruled the construction of knowledge in those times (and had since the so-called Enlightenment) - and still does. However, that essay was about the construction of knowledge, not about the rights and wrongs of freedom of thought, and stuff about what happened with LSD still niggles me.

* The information about MKULTRA was not declassified until after LSD had been banned worldwide for over 5 years. The government of the day was acting on information from the CIA that held LSD to be 'too dangerous' for public use, without any details as to what they had done to reach that conclusion. Meanwhile, Leary and Alpert's work had been discredited due to their sacking from Harvard, and research was unable to provide 'scientific proof' that LSD had any medical benefits, while the potential drawbacks were well-documented. Most improvements in people's lives were considered subjective, and qualitative evidence at the time was given short shrift compared with quantitative - witness the way in which creativity was measured in the Janiger studies.

Anyway, all this stuff is milling around in my head, trying to settle somewhere and formulate into something cohesive. All I have right now is a feeling, that LSD is important. Not so much for what it is, but for what it represents, and for what happened with it in the context of the time in which it came along. I wonder, if in the way of the world to move in cycles, that time will come again, and whether it'll be dealt with differently when that happens, and if I can be part of that.

Meanwhile I'm very interested in the way knowledge about this substance has continued to grow and proliferate in an underground environment of unofficial, unsanctioned passing of information. Scientific research pretty much ceased in 1971, yet the qualitative, unmeasurable, unofficial and illegal research continued, and that body of knowledge has grown. There are as many people taking LSD today as there were in the Summer of Love, yet these days you don't have daily reports about people jumping out of windows 'thinking they can fly'* - why is that? Is it possible that people have learned to use it safely in the context of having to hide it? And what role has the internet played in the construction of unofficial knowledge about LSD (and other hallucinogens)? Has the use of hallucinogens reached a stable level, and the knowledge reached a point where these things ought to be looked at again, officially? Will qualitative evidence ever be given equal status with quantitative? Was LSD a catalyst that just came along too soon, and made things appear to be changing too fast?

I want to know.

* Go look up Snopes using 'LSD makes you think you can fly' as a search term for a rundown on how that story developed.

Meanwhile, I'll just keep reading, keep letting these related-but-not things drop into my life, keep paying attention. I.. don't know if it'll lead to anything, but it feels like it should.
Tags: lsd, make it make sense, serendipity, the labyrinth that is my brain
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