Psychedelic Trips

For those who wish to discuss the purely scientific aspects of sleep and dreams, including new research and future technologies.
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Summerlander
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Psychedelic Trips

Postby Summerlander » 15 Jan 2014 19:16

In my early twenties I experimented with psychedelic drugs. My favourite recreational drug, insofar as psychedelic intensity went, was psilocybin in the form of “magic” mushrooms. Note how the psilocybin molecule is quite similar in structure and composition to DMT, whose endogenous form is suspected to play an important role in, not only dreams, but waking world perception too. (The psilocybin molecule includes DMT plus phosphorus and four oxygen atoms.) One could say that our perception of the real world is a very elaborate "hallucination" which makes an interpretation of what goes on externally.

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My first experience was spiritually profound and my friend Carlo at the time explained to me that the intensifier was having them in boiling hot tea. The first sign of psilocybin taking effect was visual distortion.

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I found myself looking at my melting reflection in a mirror, which soon began to resemble a comical demonic figure with bright red eyes. I looked around and distinctly felt that I was part of a chaotic world from which order inevitably arose. The more I thought about it in that altered state, the stronger an epiphanic sense grew. I felt that I knew something about reality but paradoxically could not figure out what. I was lucid dreaming awake, quite literally, with a few differences: I did not seem to be able to control my moods; had no power over the distortions and hallucinations that partially overcast perception of the objective world; and had no need to perform deepening and maintaining techniques (commonly used to preserve lucid dreams) as my chemically imbalanced state dictated the impossibility of a "foul" (undesired exit from the lucid dream world).

I began to pay attention to cause and effect in the world, and regarded closely those things that were deemed trivial in my normal state. I’d euphonically laugh at the strange delusion that I was somehow an incarnate deistic god who had seeded the reality “circus” for personal amusement. I had become temporarily, yet lucidly, insane. It was very much like a chemically induced lucid dream in which waking state functions dominated. As I walked with my friends out of the university campus and into neighbouring parklands I felt like I had stepped into a new world. A new reality where the sky was fraught with angels and the mystical forests that surrounded us harboured many wonders.

Strange beings lurked in the shadows; a train resembled a futuristic land rocket of some sort; statues moved and winked at me (making me feel privileged); there was electricity and luminous plasma in the air; intricate patterns adorned every surface I focused on; people’s faces swirled like the clouds of Jupiter; dodgems at a promenade resembled giant anacondas; I felt like John Travolta on the dance floor and my confidence attracted a lot of female attention; I perceived a buzzing aura of energy around my head; and I literally perceived myself to be 7ft tall. Magic mushrooms certainly seemed to have expanded my mind at the time.

The case was different with salvia divinorum, where the initial rollercoaster is brief but particularly shocking for the unprepared. Vivid nightmares, at least in my case, were occasional post trips and there were definitely “flashbacks” in dreams. My first salvia rush caught me off guard. It violated what I thought I knew about the world. It has to be said that, despite the differences, both experiences have a degree of ineffability. But there are similarities, too, in terms of mood and perceiving the world. Salvia showed me how indifferent the universe is to all my earthly attachments. It took me to uncomfortable and extremely alien realms whereupon I appeared to hang on the edge of my existence. I uncomfortably understood, then, that there is no purpose or meaning to anything and that we, by necessity, make it all up.

Reflecting on the salvia-induced psychedelic experience makes teleology seem absurd to me. Still, it is not all chaos and if you’re going to experiment with such drugs you are better off being in a pleasant state of mind. The lucid dream state will always provide better and safer experiences. Avoiding or overcoming mental barriers will improve practice and it is best not to focus on inhibitory experiences. There is nothing the practitioner can’t do in a lucid dream. In fact, lucid dreaming has the potential to sensorially outdo reality and to concoct forms that exist only in imagination.

From the worldly information that it has already gathered, the mind can conjoin impressions and create its own art. Its abstractionism leads to surreal worlds that the lucid dreamer can consciously explore - and these awesome, mental worlds can influence new ideas for more wonder waiting to be born. That’s the beauty of it! The lucid dreamland has a tendency to be idealistic and this may be tied to its subjective nature.

In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that even when it turns nightmarish, it isn’t just ideal in the opportunities it presents. The lucid nightmare also has the potential to be ideal in its appearance and impression. It can be surrealistically powerful in exactly what it is. Despite the lucid dream state, there are times when we get scared, when there is doubt that it is all in our heads. We might ask, “What if that demonic figure is another sentient being?” And if that figure comes for us in a terrifying manner, there may be a masochistic side to us that will allow the lucid nightmare to thrive. The awesomeness of how terrifying the bogeyman could look, something that special effects artists could take inspiration from whilst working in a horror film set. All we have is our minds and we certainly love to play with them. The mind is everything for us only in the sense that all perception happens in the mind.

There are other profound materialistic predications to be found in the scientific and philosophical works of intellectuals like Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett. The latter, as a cognitive scientist, has suggested that the self is an illusion. Note that this does not imply that the self doesn’t exist, just that it may not be what it seems. The observer could be illusory, like the centre of gravity of objects in space, just a necessary or convenient abstraction. Such ideas of no real self go back to the days of David Hume, who put forth the bundle theory, although some may argue that the Buddha was the first bundle theorist. In “Guide To The Middle Way,” Chandrakirti says: “The self is like a cart, which is not other than its parts, not non-other, and does not possess them. It is not within its parts, and its parts are not within it. It is not the mere collection, and it is not the shape.”

If consciousness is indeed an illusion, this illusion certainly has different degrees of intensity. This becomes very apparent when we record and reflect upon unstable lucid dreams. There is certainly a natural force weighing against consciousness in the lucid state as this one tends to fluctuate. This is why Raduga promotes the weapons of deepening, maintaining, and managing such hybrid cerebral state. There is a struggle to stay on top of things in that realm, so to speak, but with practice one can attain more familiarity and success. An expert may still get the odd misguided, bizarre reasoning - even during the most lucid of lucid dreams where lucidity appears to be at its best - but irrationality can certainly be reduced. Do not get complacent, though, so, maintain your practice.

A plan of action can also keep you focused as well as making it easier to remember the experience afterwards. I would also add that allowing abstract thought once in a while may also work in your favour in waking life as it can promote new perspective for new ideas - but then again, you can get this from ordinary dreaming. False awakenings can occur often when one undertakes the practice of lucid dreaming. They are sometimes called “pre-lucid dreams,” although I think potential “post-lucid dreams” seems to be more appropriate. They are also part of the hybrid phase state responsible for lucid dreams but the difference is that you don’t know that you are in it as you mistake the environment for reality. You may say, “Well, don’t we do this in ordinary dreaming, too?” Indeed we do, but in a false awakening your mental faculties are superior and you are more there, as it were. You just have the wrong interpretation in such instances.

In a way, OOBEs interpreted as objective experiences - like Robert Monroe with his Locale I (equivalent to the physical world) - have something in common with false awakenings: the phantom environment is believed to be the real world. Most scientists will say this view is erroneous in its reasoning and I agree. It is all subjective, in the mind, and since sensory input from the external world is constrained during sleep, the phantom environment is completely made up from accumulated mental information. Because of this, lucid dreaming is the supreme form of the hybrid phase state between waking and dreaming - simply because the practitioner correctly interprets his/her experience while it happens. Hence: “I am dreaming!” Once this perspective is adopted, the individual can more effectively tackle those illusions that are so strong to the point of creating barriers that can knock one’s confidence. That can happen.

And sometimes such illusions can be used to one’s advantage. I once took off and flew over a city (in a lucid dream). I had bird’s eye view and decided to touch the vitreous roof of a particular building. Suddenly, it was like I had a giant hand or the city was now a miniature. My index dwarfed the roof. I removed my hand and began to descend in order to explore the building’s interior. Somehow, as I approached to land, the building underwent a size reversion and soon I was inside it to mingle with some curious dream figures at a jamboree. Comparing the dream body with the surroundings helps. I also think using grand illusions in the lucid dream world can aid our battle against mental barriers that tend to arise from our periodical exposure to the mundane in waking life. I’d also add that such illusions of impossibility can provide shortcuts.
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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