Most if not all of the world’s human troubles stem from our profound and seemingly irremediable sense of isolation. The self is alone, unknowable to others, as we can never truly know anyone else. Attempts to escape that terrifying loneliness lead us to any number of self-destructive behaviors, most notably the hierarchical religions and other self-abasing belief systems that promise a sense of community in return for subjugation.
The quest can also lead to more tempered approaches, meditation and mysticism, and in some cultures blurring of The Self with The One through use of psychedelics. The work of Carl Jung let us understand that Perception Is Reality; the teachings of Tim Leary let us see that Perception Can Be Altered, and by doing so we can deliberately alter our reality.
Psychedelics aren’t for everyone. Some people are much happier grounded in the here-and-now, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that; each of us must take the best path for our own feet. But for many, a controlled experience with one or another of the true psychedelics allows them for the first time to be relieved from the anxiety of Alone, to sense not so much a Oneness as it is often described but rather to be set at ease, to understand profoundly that the “aloneness” is just a perception, a reflection of our limitation and not a real truth that needs to be a concern. We are one with the universe, whether we want to be or not, from before our beginning and into infinity, forever and ever, amen.
I was introduced to LSD at Berkeley in the summer of 1964, and since then I’ve taken it hundreds of times. The lesser psychedelics, like MDMA and its analogs, a hundred times or so. Psilocybin and mescaline scores of times, jimson weed once which was quite enough to convince me that was a high not worth the unpleasant side effects. Aside from that Datura, I’ve only had two experiences that were unpleasant and both were due to accidental LSD overdose. Even then, as an experienced user I was coherent enough to know that in time the intensity would diminish and it did; the second half of the trip was pleasant indeed.
But times have changed from the days when Owsley and his disciples cooked up acid as a public service, paying attention to process and purity and dose reliability. These days, every con artist looking for a fast buck will sell you every kind of poisonous shit imaginable and I would no more buy psychedelics on the street than I would play Russian Roulette. Which brings us to the modern-day San Francisco Bay Area, the once and still center of the psychedelic experience.
For the last several days a thousand or so people gathered at the south end of the Bay in San Jose for the first Psychedelic Science Conference, to discuss new research and expanded investigation into psychedelics, done legally for the first time in a long, long time. The emphasis was on rigid controls, detailed psychological and physiological effects documentation, defining what future research should look like, and the need for pharmaceutical grade materials to eliminate the dangers of the street. All of the reports were positive, in terms of the outcomes seen in the target study groups.
From dying cancer patients to those with intractable pain and myriad psychological disorders, taking a “trip” into their own headspace with the assistance of one drug or another relieved anxiety, brought peace and alleviated our greatest fear of all, that of being alone. When the conference was over the audience stood and applauded, themselves and each other, for having the courage and compassion to keep pursuing what has been so incessantly demonized when it should be widely embraced; the pursuit of inner peace.
Long-time researcher Amanda Fielding stated:
People are terrified of drugs. Drugs are linked to inner cities and crime — not mystical states. But with diligent and serious science, we can learn about all the wonderful ways that these compounds can help a stressed and troubled species.
Science is the best way forward. I always felt science is the key to overcome the taboo of these substances. It opens a key to learn about consciousness and transform us into more complete and happy people.
We are an irrepressible force for the good. It is a very exciting time.
Pretty exciting also at the other end of the Bay, at the Cow Palace in Daly City just south of San Francisco, where for the first time ever in the US a trade show featured a legal pot-smoking area. The 2010 International Cannabis and Hemp Expo last Sunday drew 15,000 participants, with discussion groups on how-to just about everything pot–related from growing to cleaning to the latest in smokeless smoking devices to cooking and candy-making and a hundred booths selling anything a dedicated user might desire.
It took the organizers four years of searching and negotiations to find a venue that would allow a toke-zone, but the political climate has changed enough that the Cow Palace management was willing to work with local law enforcement and sort out the legal. This fall there will be a new Marijuana legalization measure on the CA ballot, and the prospects right now look pretty good for passage.
The feel-good high aside, pot is far and away the best thing going for relief of the minor aches and pains of advancing age. As a trained researcher not afraid to use myself as a test subject, I can report that years of careful experimentation show irrefutably that pot is more efficacious than any over-the-counter tablet for arthritic pain and muscle soreness. It is also an effective tranquilizer and sleep aid, with no hangover or residual drowsiness. All of those attributes are, of course, serious threats to the cash-cow products pushed by America’s pharmaceutical giants on TV advertising, as well as to the alcohol industry which relies on legal self-medication for its immense profits.
If the aging Baby Boomers knew how effective pot is for the nagging discomforts that plague us all as we age, the demand for legalization would be overwhelming. Hopefully, sensible judgment will soon take hold.
As Randolf Hencken, MAPS Director of Communications and organizer of the Psychedelics Conference puts it:
We’re not counterculture; we are part of the culture.